Category Archives: lists

Some Posts Just Write Themselves, Umberto Eco Edition

This interview in the German daily der Spiegel with the famous author of Foucault’s Pendulum has this gem:

Eco: The people from the Louvre approached me and asked whether I’d like to curate an exhibition there, and they asked me to come up with a program of events. Just the idea of working in a museum was appealing to me. I was there alone recently, and I felt like a character in a Dan Brown novel.

The irony of Eco commenting on Dan Brown is too wonderful to miss. The article by the way is interesting throughout and Eco has brilliant things to say on the origin of culture and lists.

Edit: Just for the record, I don’t think I could ever say something nearly as nice about Dan Brown.

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Quick Literature Bleg

Carolyn Kellogg at the LA Times blogs about the 61 essential reads of postmodern literature. I’ve read some of the list and here’s my take.

Margaret Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin” is a wonderful book, probably her best. Calvino’s “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler” is romantic and Calvino is one of the unique sensibilities in all of literature. I liked Umberto Eco’s “The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana” but found it a little too densely allusive; I prefer “Name of the Rose”. Dave Egger’s “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” is always recommended. Faulkner’s “Absalom! Absalom!” is difficult to read but Faulkner is always worth the effort; it is worth noting that Faulkner is one of the few authors who is truly inventive with language. “Hamlet” and “Metamorphosis” are of course two centerpieces of all literature.  Nabokov’s “Pale Fire” is Nabokov at his wittiest, and of course Nabokov is unbelievably lyrical, a master the language dance.  Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow” is difficult but beautiful. And “Slaughterhouse Five” is a must read from Vonnegut.

I might add a few, like Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon”, or more Faulkner, or Nabokov, or Atwood, or Joyce, but the list is an excellent one as is. Here is Bookslut, one of my favorite literary blogs.

Words from Nabokov

Some words I found in Nabokov’s Ada or Ardor: fubsy, joggle, glebe, harridan, lavabo, crepitated, oriflamme.

Next week: love words.

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What I’m Reading Lately

1. The irrepressible Brian Leiter ranks law schools by SSRN downloads. Dream school U. Chicago is #1 to Harvard in per capita downloads. Yale is #8. I shouldn’t be surprised at the strength of a number of large state schools, but I kinda am.

2. Roger Martin in the Financial Times argues for ending the use of shareholder value theory and stock-based compensation alignment theory, which incentivize executives to game the expectations market at the expense of real market performance. Registration may be required. HT: Shawn Borich.

3. Grad students use computer program to successfully submit spoof paper to academic journal. Link here.

4. Research in everything: This blog trolls the dark abysses of PubMed, looking for those research papers that are at least a little strange/silly/weird/etc. Well worth the break from whatever you’re doing. Also useful if you doubt your research ideas might be worth funding.

5. I want to watch the rest of this movie.

6. NBER Economic Indicators.

A List for Today

1. I am currently reading, among others, Harold Bloom’s ‘Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds‘. I am finding it to be an extremely erudite and accessible compendium of great minds, from Shakespeare to Tolstoy and beyond. There are some excellent excerpts that I’ll share in a later post.

2. Candidate for line of the day: “… of the kind of pre-linguistic jouissance that could launch a thousand Julia Kristeva dissertations.” From a discussion on Pitchfork.

3. My friend Eric and I are tentatively going to a blind beer tasting Sunday at 3 at Sycamore Restaurant here in Columbia. The theme is stouts.

4. Brad Delong on Paul Krugman on Greg Mankiw, here. Money line: “To me, the thing to note about the economists–the Mankiws, the Lucases, the Beckers, the Barros, and all the rest–who have pledged allegiance to the Republican Party this year is how much they hagve stopped thinking like economists.”

Some Quick Links

What I’m reading/seeing lately:

1. The National Spelling Bee is on Twitter! This is Bee Week in DC and they’re live tweeting the competition. My brother, George, won the National Spelling Bee in 2000 and I have several other siblings who have placed highly at Nationals. As an aside, why don’t I have a wikipedia entry?

2. A friend and budding viticulturist, Tammy Jones, is visiting wine country in the Rhone Valley. You can read her blog here. Of particular note is her visit to the Barruol estate in Gigondas; Louis and Cherry Barruol are well respected negotiants and made a phenomal 2007 Cotes-du-Rhone rouge from 100% syrah that is one of the best wines I’ve tasted in the past year.

3. Sotomayor’s legal history reviewed in the NYT. Of particular note is the discussion about how female judges are “more sensitive to claims that strip searches of young girls are unduly intrusive”. It is an implicit argument that diversity in the judiciary is good. It also provides a good paradigm for thinking about Obama’s comments on how a good judge displays traits like ’empathy’ and ‘compassion’ and when it matters.

4. On a related note, the Republican party is scrambling to attract women and minorities. I have long argued that though it’s not the case that the Republican party hates women (or for that matter, black people), it is the case that they are really indifferent to the concerns of people who don’t have money.

5. From Paul Krugman, why the military wasn’t involved in Katrina rescue efforts (turns out Rumsfeld didn’t think it was necessary). Money quote from Bush: “Rumsfeld, what the hell is going on there? Are you watching what’s on television? Is that the United States of America or some Third World nation I’m watching? What the hell are you doing?”

6. From Tyler Cowen, the relative value of health care. Key line (from Ralph Sisson): “Two economists working at Dartmouth, Katherine Baicker and Amitabh Chandra, found that the more money Medicare spent per person in a given state the lower that state’s quality ranking tended to be. In fact, the four states with the highest levels of spending—Louisiana, Texas, California, and Florida—were near the bottom of the national rankings on the quality of patient care.” Perhaps the best way to control healthcare spending is to stop spending money on healthcare?