Twilight Zone, Blood, Kissing, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Bibliomancy

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The Twilight Zone

J.W. McCormack | New York Review Of Books | 18th February 2018

Rod Serling’s offbeat science-fiction series, The Twilight Zone, channelled the dark side of the 1950s, when Americans “stood dazed in a no-longer-recognizable world, flooded with strange new technologies, vastly expansionist corporate or federal jurisdictions, and once-unfathomable ideologies”. It was, in its way, “a realist television show that was simply the first to grasp that life itself is outlandish, more horrific and strange than a million Martian landscapes” (2,512 words)

Circle Of Life

Thomas Morris | TLS | 16th February 2018

William Harvey proposed in the mid-17C that blood circulated around the body, propelled by the heart — thereby overturning the doctrine of the preceding 1,400 years that blood was manufactured by the liver and consumed by the other organs, with the heart playing an incidental role. Harvey’s ideas were ridiculed, most of all by his peers in the College of Physicians. But he became, in Hobbes’s words, “the only man, perhaps, that ever lived to see his own doctrine established in his lifetime” (1,100 words)

Kissing, Class, And Culture

William Jankowiak | Sapiens | 10th February 2018

Kissing feels instinctive, part of human nature. Parents kiss children almost everywhere. But romantic kissing is much less widespread. “We looked at 168 cultures and found couples kissing in only 46 percent of them. Societies with distinct social classes are usually kissers; societies with fewer or no social classes, like hunter-gatherer communities, are usually not. For some, kissing seems unpleasant, unclean, or just plain weird. Kissing is clearly a culturally variable display of affection” (890 words)

The Polite Extremist

Martin Fletcher | New Statesman | 20th February 2018

Profile of right-wing Tory MP and potential party leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, “the honourable member for the 18th century”. Posh and rich, picturesque in his top hat and tails, he could have walked out of a Wodehouse novel, but his anti-liberal, pro-Brexit views are in deadly earnest. “For the 21st-century Conservative Party Jacob Rees-Mogg would be pure hemlock. His manners are perfumed but his opinions are poison. Rees-Mogg is an unfailing, unbending, unrelenting reactionary” (3,500 words)

A Defense Of Bibliomancy

Ed Simon | Berfrois | 12th February 2018

On the art of divination known as bibliomancy, whereby the seer tells the future by means of literature. King Charles I favoured the ‘Sortes Vergilianae’ — sticking a pin through the pages of the Aeneid to find a chance phrase which would be treated as an oracular prediction; this branch of bibliomancy, using poetry, was known as rhapsodomancy. Others practised the ‘Sortes Sanctorum’, using the Bible for fortune-telling, despite the Bible’s own prohibition on magic (4,300 words)

Video of the day Where Did Time Travel Come From?

What to expect:

H.G. Wells wrote the first time-travel book. But it was Charles Darwin who made time seem exciting (6’07”)

Thought for the day

It is astonishing that so little knowledge can give us so much power
Bertrand Russell

Podcast of the day Networks, Power And Chaos

Sam Harris talks to Niall Ferguson about the role of networks and hierarchies in making history
(2h 3m 09s)

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