To celebrate being back at my apartment before 3 p.m. (it feels deliciously indulgent to be able to relax on a Monday afternoon), here are some excerpts from around my world wide web for you to be equally indulgent for the rest of the week, or in one sitting:
Washington Post: ‘The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy,’ reviewed by Michael Dirda [link]
Life is tolerable when doing mundane tasks, it is unbearable when left to think / Admiration for genius can withstand martial misery: Tolstoy had just let his sheltered, 18-year-old bride read his own youthful diaries, in which he described his gambling, drunkenness and debaucheries. … Whenever Sofia shows a little spirit or playfulness, Tolstoy finds her “stupid and irritating.” She starts to copy his manuscripts for him — she would go on to transcribe the manuscript of “War and Peace” over and over, parts of it seven times — and there she does find a kind of peace: “As I copy I experience a whole new world of emotions, thoughts and impressions. Nothing touches me so deeply as his ideas, his genius.”
Intelligent Life: An Urban Laboratory [link]
BMW and the Guggenheim Foundation have come together for something called the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a six-year initiative to “engage a new generation of leaders in architecture, art, science, design, technology, and education, who will address the challenges of the cities of tomorrow by examining the realities of the cities of today.” The Lab is ultimately an attractive mobile unit for sharing ideas and solutions about urban environments, which will start in North America in late summer 2011 before moving on to cities in Europe and Asia. The plan is to promote a multidisciplinary forum for exploring new approaches that balance our desire for “urban comfort” with our need to be more environmentally responsible.
New Yorker: What does procrastination tell us about ourselves? [link]
I definitely stepped away a few times while reading this. On procrastination and why we do it — it is not just ignorance of the consequences of prolonging tasks at hand, but an ongoing battle between our two selves: Procrastination, in this reading, is the result of a bargaining process gone wrong.
The Guardian: Being Wrong – Adventures in the Margin of Error [link]
Why the experience of being wrong helps to make us better people, with richer lives: To be wrong, after all, is to depart from the facts into creativity, to become artists in our own lives. Error may feel like despair, but it is more akin to hope: “We get things wrong because we have an enduring confidence in our own minds; and we face up to that wrongness in the faith that, having learned something, we will get it right next time.” That may be no consolation to the patient who loses a healthy limb or the pilot whose mistake chucks a 747 into the Atlantic, but for those of us whose errors are less disastrous it’s a cheering perspective.
National Post: Westerners vs. the World – We are the WEIRD ones [link]
Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic (WEIRD) people are, in fact, weird: After analyzing reams of data from earlier studies, the UBC team found that WEIRD people reacted differently from others in experiment after experiment involving measures of fairness, anti-social punishment and co-operation, as well as visual illusions and questions of individualism and conformity. … Moreover, WEIRD people do not simply react to the world differently, according to the paper, they perceive it differently to begin with. … “This is a serious problem because psychology varies across cultures and chemistry doesn’t,” says Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist at the University of Virginia.
The National Interest: Punditry at the Drive-Thru [link]
Punditry is the intellectual food equivalent of a meal at Burger King or Taco bell: At first bite, tasty, appealing and seemingly complete; in the end, bloating, cloying and empty of genuine intellectual fortification. More specifically, David Rieff on Peter Beinart’s propensity to conflate issues and provide narrow arguments about US hubris. While Beinart writes as a historian, and makes no claims to being a psychologist, the almost-total focus in his book on ideas and their effects on personalities, and the lack of suitable attention paid to the question of whether economic motives and pressures were the principle drivers in the hubristic policy decisions he chronicles, make it hard to take Beinart’s conclusions seriously. … Beinart has no obligation to accept the darker view of U.S. motives; he does, however, have an obligation to treat it seriously in a book (a column is something else), just as someone whose prejudice is to see America’s motives as fundamentally imperial must entertain seriously the question of the role of American idealism.
Here are the rest that I am too lazy, at the moment, to summarize/quote —
Boston Globe: How to shrink a city, Not every great metropolis is going to make a comeback. Planners consider some radical ways to embrace decline. [link]
American: Urban Plight – Vanishing Upward Mobility, Boosters still maintain that big cities remain unique centers for social uplift, but evidence suggests this is increasingly no longer the case [link]
Chronicle: Revalorizing the Trades, For the 10th-anniversary issue of The Chronicle Review, we asked scholars and illustrators to answer this question: What will be the defining idea of the coming decade, and why? [link]
Guernica: The Frugal Superpower, From his new book, Michael Mandelbaum lays out the challenge of the U.S.’s activist foreign policy, including an expensive war on terror, in an age of economic retraction and pending entitlements [link]
American Spectator: Can’t Live With Them… “IRVING KRISTOL ONCE DEFINED an intellectual as someone who “knows a little bit about everything.” And, as he was quick to add, he did not mean that disparagingly.” [link]
Spiked: How to ask awkward questions and annoy people, In his endless, often exasperating pursuit of Truth, Socrates made many enemies. Yet his ideas and his questioning outlook remain invaluable to understanding the present [link]