TV Drama, T.S.Eliot, Cancer, Mandarins, Eugenics


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Epic Television

Adam Kotsko | An Und Für Sich | 28th January 2016

Aristotle praised tragedy for its "naturally unfolding story", while faulting Homeric epic for its episodic structure. But he misunderstood epic. “The episodes aren’t a distraction, they’re the whole point”. The trick is “to keep the framing narrative thin enough to allow for rich side-trips but compelling enough that you don’t get impatient.” Television serial drama is epic in the Aristotelian sense. It doesn’t always succeed, but nor did Homer (624 words)

A Different T.S. Eliot

Edward Mendelson | New York Review of Books | 28th January 2016

Posterity seems set to remember T.S. Eliot as a great poet but a flawed critic. A "massively annotated" edition of Eliot's complete poems edited by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue, and a new biography by Robert Crawford, tie together the man and the work. "Eliot was a graceful dancer and expert sailor but was self-conscious about his protuberant ears and a congenital hernia that required him to wear a truss" (4,390 words)

The Man Who Would Cure Cancer

John Steele | Nautilus | 28th January 2016

Interview with Patrick Soon-Shiong, leader of a high-powered American consortium aiming to discover a new science of cancer. "Cancer is actually a part of your physiological normal self. There’s a process called apoptosis by which your normal cells die, like the autumn leaves going brown. Cancer is not just an out-of-control growth — it’s a prevention of death, meaning the cells refuse to die when they should" (2,600 words)

Potent, Permanent, Elusive

Andy Beckett | Guardian | 28th January 2016

Profile of Sir Jeremy Heywood, "the most powerful person in Britain that most people have never heard of". As cabinet secretary, "He is the person who is always in the room with the prime minister". As head of the civil service, he has 390,000 subordinates. “Jeremy’s like a drug. People get addicted to him quite quickly. Prime ministers are not sure about him at first. Then they say, ‘Umm, that’s rather good. I need that’” (6,200 words)

Progressives And Eugenics

Tyler Cowen | Marginal Revolution | 28th January 2016

Late 19C and early 20C progressives were "often quite appalling racists and eugenicists". Racism was "built into the professional structure of economics in a fairly fundamental way". We can relativise such behaviour as a product of its time and alien to us now. But advances in genetics are forcing societies to confront basic questions of eugenics once again, and with better science. What are our moral arguments this time? (530 words)

Video of the day: Brian Eno & Steven Johnson

What to expect: Discussion. What makes art compelling? (5'27")

Thought for the day

If a given science reached its goal, this would by no means stop the workers in the field
Hannah Arendt

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