Archive for the ‘Brainiacal’ Category

Daily Office:

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009


Matins: Tyler Cowen’s thoughts about Swiss minarets are appropriately complex. Referendums are deplorable, because they open the door as nothing else does to prejudice. “…knowing how and when to defuse an issue is one very large part of political wisdom.  The Swiss usually pass this test but this time they failed it.” (Marginal Revolution)

Lauds: The painter Francis Bacon could write well enough, but, John Richardson informs us, he could not draw. (NYRB; via 3 Quarks Daily)

Prime: Felix Salmon, with the help of a commenter called Dan, advances a new theory of investing — one that is market- (and liquidity- !) shy.

Tierce: 350 years of important publications by the Royal Society, celebrated at a new site, Trailblazing. (MetaFilter)

Sext: In the rarefied world of dissertation-land, is one woman’s prudence another man’s paranoia? (Chron Higher Ed; via The Morning News)

Nones: The Vatican continues to regard its affairs as lying beyond the writ and ken of civil authorities. “The Vatican should apologise for failing to co-operate with an inquiry into sex abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland, a Dublin bishop has said.” (BBC News)

Vespers: The Clutter murder, 50 years on. (Ed Pilkington at the Guardian)

Compline: Shock and Awl: Choire and Balk both driven batty by current events. Choire returns from Thanksgiving weekend viscerally alert to the Idiocracy afoot in the land. “Craziness: it’s not just for wingnuts anymore.” Meanwhile, Alex has Lady Gaga issues.

Although both pieces are nicely funny, the two pieces are salt and pepper as to coherence. Choire, slightly hysterical perhaps, nevertheless sticks to his topic. Balk, in contrast, is almost grotesquely inconsequent. But that’s why we love him!

Daily Office:

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009


Matins: “Terrifyingly cavalier” — we expect that Elizabeth Kolbert is right to respond to SuperFreakonomics with alarm. Shooting SO2 aerosols into the atmosphere through an eighteen-mile hose does not sound like a promising solution to the problem of global warming. The Two Steves look to be in need of adult supervision! (The New Yorker)

Lauds: In the future, will the great nudes of fine art sport fig leaves and other coverings that, as the spectator desires, may be made to fall away? Does Marcel Duchamp’s rather nasty peepshow, Étant Donnés, cap a Renaissance tradition? Blake Gopnik’s second blush. (Washington Post; via Arts Journal)

Prime: Steve Tobak addresses a home truth: “Don’t Make Your Customers Deal With Your Problems.” He’s talking to business people, of course, but we substitute “readers” for “customers” and go from there. (Corner Office)

Tierce: Eric Patton writes about the trip to Rome that he took with his parents last month. (It was last month, wasn’t it?) (SORE AFRAID)

Sext: Rudolph Delson has been making his way through the library of vice-presidential memoirs. Yesterday, he reached Tricky Dick. (The Awl)

Nones: It isn’t very neighborly of Cambodia’s Hun Sen to welcome Thai renegade (and former prime minister) Thaksin Shinawatra into his cabinet, as an economic adviser — and on the eve of a regional summit, at that! Thailand has recalled its ambassador, and its government “has expressed anger and embarrassment over the deal.” (BBC News)

Vespers: Aleksandar Hemon fumes and steams about the posthumous publication of Nabokovian fragments. We can see why: the great writer intended for unfinished works to be destroyed at his death (in 1977). But the intentions were very naive, and possibly insincere: surely Nabokov was capable of destroying them himself after realizing that he would not live to finish his last project. (Slate; via Arts Journal)

Compline: Simon Baron-Cohen argues that the elimination of a distinct Asperger syndrome diagnosis from the next edition of the standard psychiatric handbook (the DSM) — a move under consideration by the editors — would be premature at best. (NYT)

Daily Office:

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009


Matins: Paul Krugman addresses our most dangerous problem: the growing power of a right-wing rump without any interest in governing and with every intention of preventing others from governing: “the GOP has been taken over by the people it used to exploit. (NYT)

Lauds: Duran Duran bassist John Taylor, who “became a teenager in 1972,” fears that the Internet has not been a positive force for popular culture. He seems troubled by the fact that it makes too much old stuff too easy to get, thus reducing the need for new stuff. (BBC News; via Arts Journal)

Prime: Felix Salmon disagrees with Wall Street Journal writers on the subject of Ken Lewis’s “mettle.”

Tierce: Meryl Gordon’s discussions with some of the Marshall Trial jurors makes for fascinating reading at Vanity Fair.

Sext: Choire Sicha remembers “vividly” where he was when The Wall Fell — although he didn’t know a thing about it at the time. (The Awl)

Nones: George Packer reminds us why the Wall fell when it did, in a piece about the uniqueness of 1989 in Europe. (The New Yorker)

Vespers: Tim Adams talks about Alan Bennett‘s new play, The Habit of Art — a little. Mostly he appreciates a writer who, against all the odds, has become a beloved fixture in Britain. (Guardian)

Compline: Jonah Lehrer registers a new study about the “privileged” sense of smell. (Frontal Cortex)

Daily Office:

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009


¶ Matins: The editors of The Awl analyze today’s NYC ballot, and render a nice distinction between “douchebaggery” and “dickslappery.” By Frank Rich’s account, things were much more exciting upstate — until just before his column went to press. (NYT)

¶ Lauds: Two sensationally (if unintentionally) amusing write-ups for coming art shows downtown: Avant-Guide to NYC: Discovering Absence and Crotalus Atrox (Or Fat Over Lean).  (ArtCat)

¶ Prime: The economics of Swedish meat balls — which we share for the woo-hoo fun of being in completely over our heads! (Marginal Revolution)

¶ Tierce: Eric Patton sighs over the beauty of Italian, while collecting a nice armload of local street signs for you to puzzle out. (SORE AFRAID)

¶ Sext: In case David Drzal’s Book Review rave didn’t convince you that William Grimes’s Appetite City is an absolute must-read, we’re sure that Jonathan Taylor’s more expansive review at Emdashes will do the job.

¶ Nones: Did they settle that thing in Honduras? Maybe yes, maybe no. But one thing is certain: the Micheletti coup did a number on Honduran business. (NYT)

(At first, we believed that ousted president Manuel Zelaya was an idiot. Over time, we came to appreciate the fact that Roberto Micheletti used to be his mentor.)

¶ Vespers: Daniel Menaker considers Tim Page’s Parallel Play, an expansion of the New Yorker piece in which Mr Page shared his relief at finally having been diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome. (Barnes & Noble Review; via  The Second Pass)

¶ Compline: Being a terrible driver may mean that you’re not going to develop Parkinson’s! (Wired Science; via The Morning News)

Daily Office:

Thursday, October 1st, 2009


Matins: Jebediah Reed complains about some insidiously sexy energy ads, at The Infrastructurist.

Lauds: Jon Henley considers the French tradition of treating artists as out-of-the-ordinary — à propos Roman Polanski’s arrest in Switzerland.

Prime: Oops! Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand appears to have hidden the Prisoner’s Dilemma — from Alan Greenspan, at least. John Cassidy at The New Yorker.

Tierce: A library/staircase, in London, at Apartment Therapy. (via

Sext: How to make… (are you sitting down?)… Bacon Mayonnaise. And we don’t mean mayonnaise with bits of bacon broken up in it. We mean mayonnaise made with over a cup of bacon fat! (At How to Cook Like Your Grandmother.)

Nones: Honduras’ Geneeral Romeo Vasquez thinks that it’s time  to come to terms. As the man who oversaw the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya, he may be listened to.

Vespers: Patrick Kurp connects two great Italian modernists, Giorgio Morandi and Eugenio Montale.

Compline: Arthur Krystal’s essay, “When Writers Speak,” reminded us that, even though we can make no properly scientific claims in our support, everything that Steven Pinker says about language seems not so much wrong as tone-deaf.  


Daily Office:

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009


Matins: Jonah Lehrer meditates, briefly but beautifully, on a connection between the recent findings about social networks (the viral spread of obesity, &c) and free will.

Lauds: Barbra Streisand sings some great songs  (for a change) at a great venue — how like “the good old days” is that? (via Speakeasy)

Prime: A disturbing report finds that the profession of journalism is no longer open to the children of working-class families. (via MetaFilter)

Tierce: In the ancient port of Muscat, a photograph stabs an expatriate with nostalgic longing.

Sext: The McFarthest Map, at Strange Maps.

Nones: The decision to shut down two media outlets, already regretted by the Micheletti government, makes the fairness of the 29 November elections even less likely.

Vespers: James Wood aims his gimlet glance at the novels of Richard Powers. A bit of ouch, what?

Compline: Arthur Krystal’s essay, “When Writers Speak,” reminded us of a Bloomsbury anecdote.


Daily Office:

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009


Matins: In an important editorial, the Times argues that corporations ought not to have the same set of constitutional rights as human beings.

Lauds: At The Best Part, four terrific photographs that William Eggleston did not take — but clearly inspired John Johnston to take.

Prime: The Netflix Prize — a million dollars to whomever improves the performance of its Cinematch engine by ten percent — is not really about the money.

Tierce: Devin Friedman decides to have more black friends, runs ad in Craiglist… the beginning of quite the project. “Will you be my black friend?“, at GQ.

Sext: Three things that V X Sterne would rather chat about than “So, What Do You Do?

Nones: In what seems like a turn from Il Trovatore, ousted Honduras president Manuel Zelaya steals back into Tegucigalpa, where he takes refuge at the Brazilian Embassy.

Vespers: Alan Gopnik reviews Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol — but not in the back of the book. As the lead Talk piece instead. Ho-ho-ho.

Compline: Nige takes the week off, bumps around Norfolk with an old friend, and visits a famous French cathedral. We are so living on the wrong continent.


Daily Office:

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009


Matins: Jonah Lehrer proposes a molecular theory of curiosity: don’t worry, it’s easily grasped.

Lauds: David Denby’s unfavorable review of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds makes sense to us — which confirms our suspicion that it is an old-man view of things.

Prime: Felix Salmon reads that crazy story about the guy with the $25,000 certified check in his briefcase, and contemplates a depressing conclusion.

Tierce: Why rock stars ought to die young: “eccentric-looking old man” spooks renters, turns out to be Bob Dylan. (via The Morning News)

Sext: A “Good Food Manifesto for America”, from former basketball pro Will Allen. (via How to Cook Like Your Grandmother)

Nones: Turkey struck an interesting agreement with Iraq last week: more water (for Iraq) in exchange for tougher crackdowns on PKK rebels active near the Turkish border. (via Good)

Vespers: Not so hypothetical: what if you could teach only one novel in a literature class that would probably constitute your students’ only contact with great fiction? A reader asks the editors of The Millions.

Compline: Two former policemen argue for legalizing narcotics. (via reddit)


Daily Office:

Thursday, August 13th, 2009


Matins: Great news! Our trade deficit widened, as we imported yet more junk in June! That must mean that our economy is doing better, right?

Lauds: A new artists’ colony — this one just for composers — will start up in Westchester next month. (via Arts Journal)

Prime: The shipping news: Los Angeles/Long Beach would rank as the world’s fifth busiest container port, if they were tabulated together.

Tierce: The case that has everything keeps on giving. Subway stabbings! (Almost.)

Sext: Can powdered wigs be far behind? The spoofsters at Being Tyler Brûlé staff the eponymous (amd still fictional) airline.

Nones: Hugo Chávez declares that golf is not a sport; officials move to close courses.

Vespers: Now that everybody seems to be reading The Age of Wonder, Richard Holmes’s book about a handful of scientists working between the heydays of Enlightenment and Romanticism, we are ever more mindful that science, however bound to numbers (rightly so!), is practiced by messy human minds.

Compline: Jonah Lehrer on the self: a ghost that runs the machine. “The self feels like a singular thing – I am me – and yet it comes from no single brain area…”


Daily Office:

Friday, August 7th, 2009


Matins: Food for thought this weekend: Alain de Botton proposes “A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success,” in a presentation at TED. The main point: make sure that your idea of success is your own idea.

Lauds: Every time Jeremy Denk adds a new bit of music appreciation to his blog, the technical support gets better. Now, we think, it has caught up, in a piece about one of Brahms’s three sonatas for violin and piano (all beauties).

Prime: Felix Salmon: “When Stretching the Accordion Makes Sense.” Makes sense! It sounds like the best idea ever. But it does pit one idea of growth against another.

Tierce: Meet Judy Natkins — you can see her in court.

Sext: For those of you who haven’t seen Elizabeth Moss off the Mad Men screen, there’s Amy Heckerling’s Intervention parody.

Nones: We thought it might be Iran aiming to shut down Twitter, but it was more likely Russia and Georgia, trying to shut down one another — propaganda-wise, at least.

Vespers: Some Friday fun from Tao Lin, at The Stranger. “The Levels of Greatness a Fiction Writer Can Achieve in America (From Lowest to Highest).”

Compline: The weekend must-read: Jonah Lehrer’s “The Truth About Grit.” At last, a truly cogent demolition job on IQ testing (and testing in general).

Bon weekend à tous!


Big Idea:
Angels and Idiots

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009


Here’s a notion that I should like to see laid to rest, interred with the bones of the Dubyas: that human beings are what the Vegan posing as Ellie Arroway’s Dad, in Contact, calls “an interesting mix.” Capable of both great good and great wickedness, yadda yadda yadda. This is nothing but the tired old Great Chain of Being idea: that men and women, uniquely among sublunary creatures, possess quintessential souls, partaking of the divine ether — but that they also, as mortal beings, are corruptly composed of clay and dust. Get it? If we were all quintessence, we’d be good all the time, but thanks to our quintessential souls, we’re not bad all the time. We’re what Plato and Aristotle never dreamed of being cool enough to call “an interesting mix.” Even though they thought it.

(If none of this chatter makes any sense to you, congratulate yourself: you’re as yet uncorrupted!)

The idea that we’re both as noble as angels and as base as tarantulas — an insult to tarantulas — persists. And why not, as long as we recognize that the conceit is altogether human. We’re the ones who have decided that we’re an admixture of spirits and beasts. It’s our way of saying that we’re good, we’re bad, and we can’t help it.

Maybe we can’t help it, but we can stop thinking of ourselves as “an interesting mix.” In fact, there are no angels on hand to make us look stupid, and no animals capable of acknowledging, in so many words, our superiority. Let’s just give it up and accept our uncomplicated starkness, as the smartest things that this little planet of ours has to offer. And let’s just try to live up to that.

Daily Office:

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008


Matins: Call it Serene Socialism: the Crown Estate, which administers land belonging to the Queen of England, will match investments in deep-water wind turbines.

The decision by the Crown Estate to pay up to half of all pre-construction development costs has brought a huge surge in applications for the latest round of licensing, with almost 100 companies wanting to build wind farms far into the North Sea.

Prime: Comes now Michel McGee, laid-off trader, in Laid off by Lehman. Now that he’s “salt of the earth,” he’s thinking of maybe working at Starbucks, which is a special joke all by itself. (Merci, Édouard)

Tierce: Our current copyright laws create issues that swarm like mayflies at the intersection of politics and property law. What happens when everything that a candidate tells a reporter is copyrighted and, through a narrow reading of the “fair use” doctrine, made unavailable for use by his or her opponent? When — much worse — those remarks remain unknown to everyone who doesn’t buy the reporter’s employer’s product, whatever it might be? Lawrence Lessig opines.

Sext: From Sunday’s Times Magazine (which I never got to), a truly heartwarming story about schooling autistic teenaged boys. Melissa Fay Green reports.

Because the goal of D.I.R./Floortime is the kindling of a student’s curiosity, intelligence, playfulness and energy, the lessons can take on a spontaneous, electric quality. I have seen sessions with young children during which the child and his or her therapist or parent tumbled across the house, behind the sofa, into closets or onto the porch, picking up balls, puppets, costumes, books and snacks along the way. At T.C.S., classes can look like debates between equals; school days can include board games, sports, plays, science experiments, music, art, ropes courses or rafting trips in which all students and teachers playfully compete, contribute and perform. All the boys at the school probably have average or better intelligence. Onlookers might call a few “high functioning” (though that adjective has no clinical meaning), and T.C.S. is an accredited high school and middle school, offering college prep and high-school courses to students able to complete a conventionally rigorous course of study. (Other students pursue less-demanding tracks oriented toward getting a G.E.D., attaining job skills or developing independent-living skills.) So it’s not all fun and social time. But rote learning is never the goal; the goal is that the students should be able to think, to feel, to communicate and to learn. Most of the kids are making the first friends of their lives here.


Daily Office:

Monday, October 13th, 2008


Matins: Any lingering doubt that No Child Left Behind was a screw put to public education by arrogant Bushies whose only acquaintance with public schools is via their servants’ children will be quashed by Sam Dillon’s report.

Tierce: The news from Thailand is weirdly familiar: city-dwellers — and not just the people of Bangkok — feel that rural voters are uneducated and ill-informed. They go further, proposing that rural votes be seriously diluted by interest-group appointments to Parliament — something that looks like the old Catholic idea of corporatism. Aside from that, however, it all sounds just like the American polarization of “flyover” areas — the Continental heartland — and the passengers flying from one Coast to the other. Seth Mydans reports.

Nones: Jolly good news: Paul Krugman has won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. An economist whose Times columns are models of lucidity! Even better: the guy from the University of Chicago, Eugene Fama, didn’t win.


Daily Office:

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008


Matins: “The athlete is on the floor”: listening to Warren Buffett discuss the credit crunch with Charlie Rose. The American economy is a great athlete, but it has suffered cardiac arrest. The only thing to do is to get it back up and running. That will involve convalescence in the form a two-year recession.

I piously wish that everyone in the country could listen to Mr Buffett’s remarks and, wherever necessary, have them explained just as clearly.

Tierce: Brent Staples writes concisely about the flummery surrounding college-entrance exams. Schools aren’t the only institutions whose reliance on test scores is lazy.

Sext: Except for brief and urgent messages, I refuse to have cell phone conversations with people who are driving. Here’s why.

Vespers: David M Herszenhorn files an interesting report about senatorial dissent to the rescue package, “A Curious Coalition Opposed Bailout Bill.”  


Daily Office:

Thursday, September 25th, 2008


Matins:  I was worried about voting machine chicanery — I hope that it’s clear by now that Republican Party operatives will stop at nothing, short of outright putsch — but I’m dismayed to see that the states with the most foreclosures — and thereby address-less, disqualified voters — are either solidly Democratic or important swing states.

Lauds: Louis Menand writes about Lionel Trilling, The New Yorker. As current cultural history, it doesn’t get any better.

Tierce: As regular readers know, I was never a partisan of either Democratic Party contender for the nomination. I could see the appeal of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and both were clearly cut of presidential timber. Right now, though, I’m wishing that the lady had gotten the job, and the lead Times editorial this morning will tell you why. Hillary is more of a leader than anyone anywhere currently on the scene.

Sext: We can only hope that Ronald Fryer will turn up something interesting in his “rigorous” study of theories of education.


Daily Office:

Thursday, September 18th, 2008


Matins: At the surgeon’s this morning, I did not even think of asking about the consequences of doing nothing. First of all, it would have been grotesquely histrionic. If you’re dying, maybe it’s all right to say “Let me go.” But my cancer is still stuck on my scalp, from which it will probably be removed without incident.

Lauds: Ben Brantley said something yesterday that threw me for a complete loop:

All artists steal from others. But if the resulting work holds your attention, you don’t consider its sources while you’re watching it.

Wow! Is that ever crazy wrong!

Tierce: I am crazy about Gail Collins.

And since McCain’s willingness to make speeches that have nothing to do with his actual beliefs is not matched by an ability to give them, he wound up sounding like Bob Dole impersonating Huey Long.

Dang, I wish I’d written that!

Nones: There are a lot of things that I’d like to see parents jailed for permitting, but truancy is probably a good start.

Compline: A recent British survey suggests that parents in only one family in three are reading to children. In my book, not reading to children isn’t just child abuse but antisocial behavior. (more…)

Daily Office:

Monday, September 15th, 2008


Matins: Why do we all feel that the failure of Lehman Brothers is so much worse than everything that has happened before, from Black Monday (1987) to the collapse of Enron? Why do we suspect that, this time, the disaster may engulf us?

Tierce: Floyd Norris on lax financial regulation:

Those who were complaining, only months ago, that excessive regulation was making American markets uncompetitive, had it exactly wrong. It was a lack of regulation of the shadow financial system and its players that allowed this to happen. The regulators might not have gotten it right if they had tried to put limits on leverage, or assure that it was clear what risks were being taken, in the world of derivatives and securitizations. But deciding not to even try, and assuming that risks traded secretly would somehow end up in the hands of those most able to bear them, reflected ideology, not analysis.

Sext: Read about Palisade Prep, a new public high school in Yonkers, funded in part by the Gates Foundation, that aims to send every student to college.

Rosa Kastsaridis, whose 15-year-old son, Frank, is a ninth grader at the school, said the available counseling was an important factor in her decision to take a chance on a promising — but untested — school.

“I graduated from the Yonkers school system 17 years ago and wasn’t able to get a scholarship because the guidance counselor at that time was not educated enough to help me,” she said.

Compline: Today’s one of those days when reading about the horreurs du jour through the elegant francophonie of Jean Ruaud’s Mnémoglyphes is like a comfort from the Psalms.


One Day U Note:
Insiders & Outsiders

Thursday, August 14th, 2008


The second of the lectures at the 19 July session of One Day University here in New York, delivered by Stephanos Bibas, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, did not promise to teach me anything that I hadn’t learned in Criminal Procedure, the first-year law course that Mr Bibas teaches now. But “Law and Justice in America — A 250 Year History” had nothing to do with the intricate pleasures of law school. If anything, it was a presentation befitting a courtroom — not surprising, perhaps, given the Mr Bibas’s experience as a federal prosecutor. “When ninety-five percent of criminal charges are disposed of by plea bargains,” he intoned, “the criminal justice system is broken.”

That may sound like a vaguely interesting topic to you, but Mr Bibas placed it within such a soundly-based historical context that he wound up explaining a great deal more than what’s wrong with criminal justice in America.


One Day U Note:
On Genius

Monday, July 28th, 2008


When I was thinking about attending One Day University, Craig Wright’s lecture on Mozart was the big draw. You might think it perverse, but I was not out to learn more about the interesting life and ineffable work of the Austrian prodigy. Rather, I intended to use my own accumulated knowledge of the composer as a yardstick against which to measure what Professor Wright had to say to laymen. If I came away feeling that we “students” were being talked down to (however agreeably), I would know that ODU was not for me.

What I got instead was a new way of thinking about genius generally and Mozart’s genius in particular. I must make it clear at the outset that a lot of what Professor Wright had to say slipped into a mind that was prepared not only to hear it but to amplify it. Bach and Beethoven were not discussed — I don’t think that they were even mentioned — but I found myself contrasting their genius, as enlightened by Professor Wright’s template, with Mozart’s. Even before the lecture was over, I understood, as I have never understood before, why music-lovers who prize the “Three B’s” (Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms) are either chilly about Mozart or convinced that it is Mozart who is chilly. (more…)

One Day U Note:
The Program

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Times Center, One Day U’s New York City venue. Couldn’t be nicer.

The typical One Day University Program, I gather, consists of four lectures, each about an hour long, separated by breaks and, between the second and third, a box lunch provided by ODU. Last Saturday’s program began at nine-thirty and ended at around four o’clock.

The Times Center,* with its rear wall of glass, graced by the stand of birch trees in the atrium just beyond, makes an ideal venue for a midday of insightful talk. To the illusion of being on the campus of a major university, ODU and the Center add distinctly uncollegiate comfort and convenience. Coffee and rolls on arrival; Times Center personnel to watch over the auditorium during breaks; stout notebooks designed for writing on laps — it would probably be inappropriate for a genuine university to be so thoughtful. Steven Schragis, who runs One Day U with John Galvin, is quite frank about the fact that ODU is a “fake university.” The “students” don’t do any work and they don’t earn any degrees. It will not be the worst thing in the world if this new institution, once it establishes itself, finds a new name, because the idea of a “university” is something of a red herring here, even if the professors are indeed gifted teachers from the best schools. I shall enlarge on that statement in this and succeeding notes.  

Saturday’s program was as follows:

  • Music: The Remarkable Genius of Mozart/Craig Wright, Yale
  • Law: Criminal Justice in America — A 250 Year History/Stephanos Bibas, Penn
  • Art History: Lies, Propaganda, and Truth in Photography/Robin Kelsey, Harvard
  • Psychology: Understanding America’s Depression Epidemic/Shelley Carson, Harvard

Now, because I wanted to see what One Day University itself was like, I didn’t let the familiarity of these topics persuade me to wait for another lineup. Rather, I made a virtue of that familiarity.

  • I have thought about Mozart for most of my life, for the simple reason that his music has been a source of unending and astonishing beauty. (How lucky I’ve been to live after him!)
  • In law school, I learned that the study of criminal justice in this country involves very little black-letter law, but concerns itself chiefly with Constitutionally-sanctioned procedures.
  • As for clinical depression, I have first-hand (family-member) familiarity with its unimaginable desolation.

The only one of the four lectures that promised to break new mental ground was the third, and even there I would be bringing the thoughts inspired by Susan Sontag’s On Photography. In other words, “familiarity” was something of an understatement. If ODU’s professors could make any of this material fresh for me, I’d be mightily impressed.

Reader, they all did. I said this yesterday, and I’ll say it again: the more you know about the world, the more you’re going to get out of One Day U.

Next up: Craig Wright’s remarkable thoughts about genius — and about why Mozart’s genius was remarkable.