Best of the Week
Mac McClelland | Modern Farmer | 17th April 2013
If you're going to eat beef, you should watch a cow die first. So: A visit to Prather Ranch Meat Company of California and its abattoir. Perhaps against expectations, the news from here — and from most American farms — is relatively good. "Prather doesn’t just give cows the best life possible, but the best death possible. There is hardly an animal in nature — humans included — that dies as quickly and painlessly as Prather’s herd"
David Johnson | Boston Review | 17th April 2013
Writer Larissa McFarquhar talks about her current work on cases of extreme moral virtue — for example, a person who donates a kidney to a stranger; a Boston couple that give away almost all their money. "To me, the compelling question here was not extremity as such, but whether there is any limit to what can be morally required of us, and whether there’s anything wrong with a life that’s lived according to extreme moral principles"
Rafia Zakaria | Guernica | 17th April 2013
Why do three deaths in Boston move us more than hundreds of civilian deaths in Pakistan or Iraq? "It is this greater poignancy of attacks in America that begs the question of whether the world’s allocations of sympathy are determined not by the magnitude of a tragedy — the numbers dead and injured — but by the contrast between a society’s normal and the cruel aftermath of a terrorist event"
Keith Houston | Shady Characters | 16th April 2013
"Writing in ancient Greece was broken by neither marks nor spaces. Lines of closely-packed letters ran left to right across the page and back again like a farmer ploughing a field. The sole aid to the reader was the paragraphos, a simple horizontal stroke in the margin that indicated something of interest on the corresponding line. It was up to the reader to work out what, exactly, had been highlighted in this fashion"
John Quiggin | National Interest | 16th April 2013
Bitcoin is "perhaps the finest example of a pure bubble", beating out even the text book classic, 18C South Sea Bubble, because at least the promoters of the South Sea Company purported to have a plan. Bitcoin claims no intrinsic source of value. As such, it drives a coach and horses through the efficient markets hypothesis. "Bitcoins will attain their true value of zero sooner or later, but it is impossible to say when"
Jonas Hassen Khemiri | Asymptote | 15th April 2013
Swedish novelist challenges Swedish justice minister to sample racial prejudice: "For twenty-four hours we'll borrow each other's bodies. First I'll be in your body to understand what it's like to be a woman in the patriarchal world of politics. Then you can borrow my skin to understand that when you go out into the street, down into the subway, into the shopping center, and see the policeman standing there, it brings back memories"
Steve Kandell | Buzzfeed | 12th April 2013
Long and loving profile. If you are of a certain age and disposition, prepare for a treat. "Roth is the ur-rock star, the embodiment of everything splendorous and stupid about that term, as responsible as anyone for establishing, defining, and cementing the debauched libertine, hotel room-trashing, groupie-defiling caricature." He is also an emergency medical technician and a student of Japanese. "I'm the drunk who won the lottery"
Shyamant Behal | Open | 14th April 2013
"As in other parts of Mumbai, many families live on the footpaths outside Tata Memorial Hospital too. But these are cancer patients and their relatives. If you look closely, you can make this out. A balding child with a mask on his face; a man whose face has been operated upon and has a tube through his nose to consume milk; a woman with a dash of vermillion on her upper forehead even though she has no hair"
Thought for the week:
"That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history" — Aldous Huxley