Monday, 16 May 2016

More trivial items for you to enjoy

June, Moon, Tune: What is this thing called love?
via Arts & Letters Daily: Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker
Sonnets and songs about love capture the real commonality of the experience while flattering our sense of its singularity.
On a freezing noon hour in April, people gather in Central Park, as they do each year, to read and listen to Shakespeare’s sonnets, complete, out loud, and in sequence. Together, the readers narrate, episodically, one of the strangest love stories on record. First, the poet urges a handsome young man to get married and have sex with a woman not from love or even lust, the woman remaining unnamed and unpictured, but, weirdly, from a selfish desire to make more kids as good-looking as he is. Then the poet confesses that he is in love with the young man, while trying to convince himself that good looks have a good moral effect in the world. The next set is all about the poet wanting desperately to have sex with a dark-haired woman—but then, having done it, the poet feels so insanely guilty about it that he doesn’t enjoy it anymore, or enjoys it only as he is actually doing it, while before and after he feels awful.
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Why Employers Should Choose to Install Nap Rooms Over Coffee Makers
via Big Think by Natalie Shoemaker
The benefits of naps cannot be overstated. Past studies have shown a nap can help us recuperate lost hours of sleep and restore our worn-out synapses. Scientists from the University of Michigan are looking to add to this body of research with their latest study, which argues the benefits of naps during office hours.
Continue reading (some interesting links)

Robert Goodwin on 16th-century Spain
via Prospero

Robert Goodwin is research fellow at University College London and author of Crossing the Continent 1527-1540 (2009) and Spain: The Centre of the World, 1519-1682 (2015)
“Centre of the World”? Really?
I’m going to quote my book here: “On Halloween, 1519, a lone carrack reached the shores of southern Spain and sailed up the Guadalquivir, the Great River of the Moors, to Seville, capital of Andalusia, a region known to medieval Arab poets as paradise on earth. The first ship to reach Europe from the newly conquered coast of Mexico, the little Santa María had 'so much gold on board that there was no other ballast than gold,' or so it was reported to King Charles. At that moment, the modern Western world was born and globalization began.”
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The Campus Crusaders
via Arts & Letters Daily: David Brooks in The New York Times
Every generation has an opportunity to change the world. Right now, college campuses around the country are home to a moral movement that seeks to reverse centuries of historic wrongs.
This movement is led by students forced to live with the legacy of sexism, with the threat, and sometimes the experience, of sexual assault. It is led by students whose lives have been marred by racism and bigotry. It is led by people who want to secure equal rights for gays, lesbians and other historically marginalized groups.
I could almost hear the “but” in those two paragraphs. It’s not long coming!
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How do we remember the Battle of Waterloo?
via OUP Blog by Alan Forrest
From the moment the news of the victory was announced in London, Waterloo was hailed as a victory of special significance, all the more precious for being won on land against England’s oldest rival, France. Press and politicians alike built Waterloo into something exceptional. Castlereagh in Parliament would claim, for instance, that Waterloo was Wellington’s victory over Napoleon and that ‘it was an achievement of such high merit, of such pre-eminent importance, as had never perhaps graced the annals of this or any other country till now’. It had been a decisive victory, perhaps even an iconic victory, and certainly, in the British public’s eyes, a British one. In the moment of victory Waterloo was hailed as a national triumph and a testimony to British martial qualities of grit and stoicism in the face of the enemy. The contribution of the other nations that contributed to the Allied army (Dutch, Belgians, Hanoverians, Nassauers, even the Prussians) was singularly overlooked.
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Mind Your Own Business
via 3 Quarks Daily: Barbara Ehrenreich in The Baffler (image by Lisa Haney)
At about the beginning of this decade, mass-market mindfulness rolled out of the Bay Area like a brand new app. Very much like an app, in fact, or a whole swarm of apps. Previous self-improvement trends had been transmitted via books, inspirational speakers, and CDs; now, mindfulness could be carried around on a smartphone. There are hundreds of them, these mindfulness apps, bearing names like Smiling Mind and Buddhify. A typical example features timed stretches of meditation, as brief as one minute, accompanied by soothing voices, soporific music, and images of forests and waterfalls.
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Before Wolf Hall: How Sir Walter Scott invented historical fiction
via OUP Blog by Kathryn Sutherland
Historical fiction, the form Walter Scott is credited with inventing, is currently experiencing something of a renaissance. It has always been popular, of course, but it rarely enjoys high critical esteem. Now, however, thanks to Hilary Mantel’s controversial portraits of Thomas Cromwell (in Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies), James Robertson’s multi-faceted studies of Scotland’s past (in The Fanatic and And the Land Lay Still), and Richard Flanagan’s Narrow Road to the Deep North, winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize, the genre has recovered serious ground, shrugging off the dubious associations of bag-wig, bodice, and the dressing-up box.
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The Adventures of Sir Thomas Browne
via 3 Quarks Daily: Claire Preston at Literary Review
When Thomas Browne, physician and natural philosopher, went hunting in the 1650s in books, on beaches, and in hedgerows for quincunxes in nature and culture, he discovered them in the structure of pine cones, the battle formations of the Greeks, the angles of incidence of light upon the retina, and the planting patterns of orchards. It turns out the quincunx (imagine the corners of a diamond with a dot in the middle) is everywhere.
Three and a half centuries later, on a psychogeographic Brownean pilgrimage between Bury and Norwich, Hugh Aldersey-Williams found in those same hedgerows quincuncial hubcaps, which in turn prompted a meditation on that most modern of molecules, the pentagonal buckminsterfullerene. Browne’s apparently eccentric observational exercise amounts to a rule in nature, one he was able to identify with an indifferent set of magnifying lenses, the naked eye, and shanks’s pony. The instruments were primitive, but his slender quincuncial essay The Garden of Cyrus (1658) (its first known reader called it “no ordinary book”) epitomises the imagination of this most intellectually open and adventurous of Renaissance polymaths.
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I had to hunt through the archives for the article but I thought it was worth it.

Hard not to see
via Arts & Letters Daily: James Panero in The New Criterion
On the new Whitney Museum, designed by Renzo Piano

View from the Hudson River. Photographed by Karin Jobst, 2014.
For many years, the French writer Guy de Maupassant insisted on eating lunch every day at the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. The reason, he explained, was simple: the restaurant offered the only spot in Paris where he could look out and not have to see the Eiffel Tower.
Such a thought may come to mind when sitting on the bank of couches overlooking the Hudson River from the fifth floor of the new downtown home of the Whitney Museum of American Art. With uninterrupted panoramic views through eighteen-foot-high floor-to-ceiling windows, sixty feet above the West Side Highway, one cannot help but feel a sense of awe at watching the sun arch over the passing ships, illuminating the buildings on the opposite shore and sweeping across America unfurling to the west. But the greatest satisfaction of these front-row seats may come from the knowledge that, unlike those people on the streets and sidewalks and ships below, or the museum-goers behind us, from here we may look out and never see the new Whitney Museum of American Art.
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10 Books About Love Everyone Should Read At Least Once In Their Life
via Lifehack by Casey Imafidon
What books trigger the lover in you? The best love stories are the classics. They offer a logical and lucid angle on the topic, offering you not just the thrill, but also a better understanding of love.
Continue reading and find out what Casey has included as the other nine books to read.

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