Saturday, June 30, 2012

Eating to be free...

Until I can get my act together to post on The Emperor of All Maldies, The Master, and, Echo House, I'm going to direct your attention to an interview that John Donohue did with Tamar Adler on her book An Everlasting Meal over at Page-Turner.  I found the conversation simultaneously down-to-earth and inspiring, in fact, I'm so inspired I'm going to cook right now while it is still cool out.  Poached salmon with fennel to eat cold for dinner this eve.
I don’t know what “foodie” means, but it seems to me to mean something unbalanced. There is a difference, and should be, between being in the know about “in” restaurants, chefs, food trends and liking and feeling able to eat well. One thing that really matters is feeling as though one, and often only oneself, is able to completely freely satisfy one’s own appetite. That is a good reason to know how to cook.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Frisky collage maker

One of my favorite poets, Dan Chiasson, posts a beautiful appreciation of The Collective Writings of Joe Brainard, recently published by the Library of America, at Page-Turner.
Brainard is one of those figures—in his art, his writing, and, one gathers, his person—whose primary genius was to give long-sought relief from overbearing works of art, pieces of writing, and people. For their friendliness, their air of openness, their distaste for guile and pretense, Brainard’s productions have a soothing quality; the other “New York School” writers and artists seem almost reverent and self-serious next to him.

He is better known as an artist: a maker of frisky collages, a painter of exquisite male nudes, an assembler of miniatures. But he wrote beautifully, especially in his iconic connect-the-dots memoir, “I Remember.”
Now who could possibly make Frank O'Hara seem reverent?!  I am going to have to find a copy of I Remember today.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dan Sudran has created something great called Community Science Workshops.  They offer low-income youth living in communities where educational infrastructure has been eroded exposure to science through lessons and activities in after school programs as well as weekend and summer workshops.  This kind of grass-roots level programming to create understanding of science makes my heart glad. 

Check out the story on All Things Considered.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sanity: a key to the good life? (Books - Going Sane by Adam Phillips) The Tyranny of Positive Thinking II

I read Adam Phillips's Going Sane (Harper Perennial, 2007) as part of my project looking at America's obsession with feeling good.  This idea that one needs to be continually happy or positive in order to sell a product, audition for a role, deliver the news, teach, provide care, or otherwise live productively mystifies me.  "I have to try to be positive," people say to me.  Really?  Why?  It's fine to be genuinely satisfied, I like going there myself, but that such a state is possible or desirable when we are frightened, angry, or bereaved, that it is indeed the antidote to physical illness, or negative experience is a denial of our psyche's expression of want or dissatisfaction.  It cuts off an aspect of our humanity.  Not only do we demand this false positivity of ourselves, we want negativity-free politics, sweet things that add no calories, scientific experiments that only produce positive results and lead directly to cures, and if we don't have non-stop economic gain year-in and year-out we think something is wrong with the market.  The only thing we seem content to go down are our taxes. The fault is not in the market, to paraphrase Cassius in Julius Caesar, but in ourselves.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Meeting the stranger in oneself (Books - Be Near Me by Andrew O'Hagan)

The subject matter of a book is often what determines whether or not I read it.  Who and what it is about leads us to anticipate our interest in its events or identification with its protagonist.  The more we read, the more experienced we imagine we become at such predictions, but then every so often we get a surprise. I picked Andrew O'Hagan's Be Near Me off the recommended books table at a favorite bookstore a week back only to find out it is about an Oxford educated Catholic priest engaged to lead a parish in an economically depressed village in Scotland.  That was not at all what I was interested in for my next read and yet this novel about encountering strangers - particularly the stranger in oneself  - turned out to be the most involving, probing, and beautifully written novel I have read this year.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Collect data, test, revise theory, repeat....

Carlo Rovelli, theoretical physicist and author (The First Scientist) is excellent on how science works at Edge.

Science is not about certainty. Science is about finding the most reliable way of thinking, at the present level of knowledge. Science is extremely reliable; it's not certain. In fact, not only it's not certain, but it's the lack of certainty that grounds it. Scientific ideas are credible not because they are sure, but because they are the ones that have survived all the possible past critiques, and they are the most credible because they were put on the table for everybody's criticism.

Collect data, test, organize results in a theory, collect more data, test, revise theory, repeat.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Unlive a little.

Psychoanalyst and writer Adam Phillips (On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored, Going Sane) a sensible and erudite thinker about the human mind its products has a new book out: Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life and so is profiled in the Guardian
"I'm not on the side of frustration exactly, so much as the idea that one has to be able to bear frustration in order for satisfaction to be realistic. I'm interested in how the culture of consumer capitalism depends on the idea that we can't bear frustration, so that every time we feel a bit restless or bored or irritable, we eat, say, or we shop."
He's great at where culture meets feelings.  And there is a picture of his bookshelves.

Hat tip: Bookslut

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The adventure of filling the gap (Books - Remarkble Creatures by Sean B. Carroll)

Molecular biologist Sean B. Carroll wrote Remarkable Creatures (Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009) to both capture the excitement of scientific discoveries and communicate their meaning within the context of evolutionary biology. In relating the journeys of scientists in this National Book Award finalist, he acknowledges a debt to authors C. W. Ceram - Gods, Graves, and Scholars, a classic work about archeology - and Paul de Kruif - Microbe Hunters, mini-biographies of pioneers in microbiology, a work to which I owe my initial love of science.

Remarkable Creatures is a clearly written and passionate account of how field science gets done.  Its subject may not seem as relevant to the average reader as popular works about healthcare or how our brains learn, but one could say it is of even greater significance