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« Unintended Consequences As The Foundation of Constitutional Rights | Main | Visual Google »

February 08, 2004


Dear Friedrich --

* Helen Fisher talks to Carlene Bauer about how to interpret romance, love and sex from an evo-bio point of view, here. (Link found thanks to the Human Nature Daily Review, here.) Do you know Fisher's work? I've enjoyed a couple of her books. She's down to earth and frank, and much less afraid of generalizing from her findings than many scientists are. Perhaps that means that she's more pop-y than she should be; but it also means that she's fun and accessible. Fascinating passage:

I think we have a real misunderstanding in this culture of the intensity of male romantic love ... Three out of four people who kill themselves after a love relationship has ended are men, not women. Men are much more likely because they have fewer friends -- so they put more into relationships than women.

Which reminds me of an exchange in one of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies -- "Top Hat," maybe. Fred's falling for Ginger; Ginger hasn't decided about him yet; he's sulking. She tells him something like "Oh, for pete's sake, stop pining." And he says to her, "Men don't pine. Men suffer."

* Most stories about the music business and recent digi-developments -- piracy, file-sharing, downloading -- have focused on what might and will happen to the music corporations and the star acts. The Washington Post's David Segal writes here about the impact these changes are already having on retailers and record stores. A dramatic and engrossing piece of reporting.

* Forager23 makes some useful and amusing distinctions between "left-ish" people and "leftist" people, here.

* A new issue of the New Criterion is out, and the magazine has put a generous sampling of its contents on the web. I enjoyed -- to the max -- the two pieces I've gotten to so far: Anthony ("Theodore Dalrymple") Daniels on Somerset Maugham (here), and Denis Dutton on Charles Murray's new book about human accomplishment (here) -- Dutton's terrific on the question of what kinds of conditions promote creative achievement. For the Washington Post, here, Dutton reviews a new book about doubt and skepticism. Good line: "Freud may have claimed that a healthy, mature psyche needs to embrace disbelief, but he wasn't about to apply that principle to his own theories."

Have you ever read Maugham, by the way? I've read only one of his novels, and I enjoyed it so much that I'm ashamed I've never gotten around to reading another. A clear and ironic writer, and a tremendous storyteller -- proof-more-than-positive that there was never anything necessary or inevitable about modernism in literature. A nice passage from Daniels on Maugham:

He is not avant but arrière garde, a literary reactionary, though no one who uses the term “avant garde” as a term of praise in relation to art ever quite explains what the final goal of art is: victory, perhaps, but over what exactly? A liking for stories?

* John Kerry has been railing against "special interests," it seems -- thereby handing the NYTimes' David Brooks one heckuva juicy target. Brooks tears Kerry first in halves, then in quarters ... By the end of the column (here), Kerry's ethical stature is so much confetti. "Kerry has raised more money from Washington lobbyists than any other senator," writes Brooks. "He's raised over $30 million over the past nine years, and you just ask the folks in the telecom industry if he doesn't make them feel special."

* Terry Teachout, who has just turned 48 (here), is under the impression that he's the gray-est of cultureblogging graybeards. What do you think? Shall we set him straight? Or shall we let the young whippersnapper enjoy his illusion?



posted by Michael at February 8, 2004


Teachout, a mere stripling of 48 winters, dares to claim the status of Internet cultural greybeard? Fie on his o'erweening ambition. I say we set the lad straight. (Not his fault, really; insufficient life experience, no doubt.)

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on February 8, 2004 11:53 AM

Maugham has been on my "to read" list for some time, and I still haven't gotten to him. He and I share the same birthday, January 25. Virginia Woolf also has the same birthday, and she is also on my "to read" list. As for "leftish" vs "leftist", sister falls under the latter catagory. There is no such thing as a rational debate with her. 50-something years old, and has the debating skills of 11-year-old brat on a playground at recess! She's a "Deaniac", of course.

Posted by: Michael Serafin on February 8, 2004 01:34 PM

Almost forgot: reading Maugham, I'd probably begin with "Razor's Edge". With Woolf, either the "Virginia Woolf Reader" or "Mrs. Dalloway".

Posted by: Michael Serafin on February 8, 2004 01:36 PM

Maugham's description of a crowd in a bar, "a lovely load of human litter", was probably the first literary quote to engrave itself upon my memory without being required for use in an school exam.
Alas, today Maugham would be forced to update his description, making use of a considerably harsher vocabulary than previously employed - "a violent, greasy heap of bloody stinking human garbage wearing filthy plastic draw-string bags" - or words to that effect, maybe.
How times change. Gosh.

Posted by: sj baldwin on February 8, 2004 02:51 PM

I've been rereading Maugham's "The Summing Up" for a couple of weeks now. Which isn't fiction, but a kind of autobiography, or better a record of the wisdom he had accumalated when he was 62.

It is a good read, and I still can see why I went through a lot of trouble to get it, and the days before Internet bookshops.

But it is impossible to read more than a couple of pages every sitting. There's too much salt in it maybe; as it clearly numbs the taste buds after a while.

Posted by: ijsbrand on February 8, 2004 03:32 PM

Suffering indeed. Two days ago I saw her, eating, as I walked by. I got it in my mind to talk to her while I was waiting for my food. My head started throbbing, couldn't think, couldn't breathe, felt like I had some sort of hemorrhage. She was gone before my food was ready, but it took a few hours before the pressure inside my skull subsided. I think there was serious physiological damage. Makes me wonder if anyone has ever died just from looking on someone.

Posted by: . on February 8, 2004 03:47 PM


A couple of days ago one of my friends made an off-hand reference to having to leave soon to go to a party at J-'s house. I suddenly felt a surge of what was quite literally panic, and asked a question fervently hoping the answer was no.
"J- S-?"
"Yeah, she's living with her grandparents now, she lost her job in the dorms."
And I just turned around and stared into space for a while. Not only do I not see her anymore, but she seems much happier now. In fact, she's become the person I recommended to her that she become. And now I don't see her, and there are incredibly important new details of her life that I'm not aware of. This put an emptiness in my chest that I hadn't felt since it became obvious that she and I had to break up.

Selfish, isn't it?

Posted by: Cryptic Ned on February 8, 2004 11:56 PM

I highly recommend Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence. The links on this post aren't active. Intentional?

Posted by: JT on February 9, 2004 01:56 PM

Links actually do work. We're a little eccentric -- we use the word "here" to indicate a link. When you move your pointer over the various "here"s you'll see it turn into a hand. I'd underline and bold them too, but for some reason underline and bold don't work when I'm using my Imac. Apologies if it's confusing. But do enjoy the pieces I've linked to -- they're all fun.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 9, 2004 02:09 PM

Maugham is great. He's got a reputation as stodgy these days, wholly undeserved. I'm halfway through Of Human Bondage right now, which is actually my least favorite of his work I've read. I recommend The Razor's Edge or his collected Ashenden stories.

Posted by: Daze on February 14, 2004 12:34 AM

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