Some Paths to the True Knowledge[*] - "Attention conservation notice: A 5000+ word attempt to provide real ancestors and support for an imaginary ideology I don't actually accept, drawing on fields in which I am in no way an expert. Contains long quotations from even-longer-dead writers, reckless extrapolation from arcane scientific theories, and an unwarranted tone of patiently explaining harsh, basic truths. Altogether, academic in one of the worst senses. Also, spoilers for several of MacLeod's novels, notably but not just The Cassini Division. Written for, and cross-posted to, Crooked Timber's seminar on MacLeod, where I will not be reading the comments."
“People have this idea, because it’s a ‘community’ garden, you’ll have a bunch of people sitting around holding hands, singing ‘Kumbaya,’” says Julie Beals, executive director of the Los Angeles Community Garden Council (LACGC ). “Have you seen an actual community?”
Paul Krugman: Monetary and Fiscal Implications of Secular Stagnation Crooked Timber: If this is “secular stagnation”, I want my old job back The Global Bezzle – whence it came, where it went and why it matters (repost from 2011) [more inside]
"Often the protagonist of an Important Novel of the Latter Half of The 20th Century is male, and is a thinly veiled version of the author. So thin of a veil. A veil so thin is it possible to discern whether the author was circumcised. Also, he often displays a particular stomach-turning combination. He regards women as, one the one hand a mere necessary evil, not things one would be inclined to befriend or discuss life with, and on the other hand, beings of terrible power that make one very angry indeed." -- Belle Waring takes aim at a particular kind of novelist, the canonical important American late 20th century novelist and his 21st century would-be heir. (More background: it's all Jonathan Franzen's fault.)
"If I was to die, today or tomorrow, I do not think I would die satisfied till you tell me you will try and marry some good, smart man that will take care of you and the children"
Author Jon Meacham has a new book out on Thomas Jefferson. It is reviewed in the New York Times: Cultivating Control in a Nation’s Crucible
But this book does not address its principal concern, power, until Jefferson has accrued some. When it comes to the force that he wielded as a slaveholder, Mr. Meacham finds ways to suggest that thoughts of abolition would have been premature; that it was not uncommon for white heads of households to be waited on by slaves who bore family resemblances to their masters; and that since Jefferson treated slavery as a blind spot, the book can too.[more inside]
As part of Crooked Timber's Seminar on Francis Spufford's work of speculative fiction "Red Plenty." Cosma Shalizi has posted "7800 words about optimal planning for a socialist economy and its intersection with computational complexity theory."
Crooked Timber's online seminar on David Graeber's Debt: The First 5000 Years (previously, previously, previously and previously). [more inside]
The Guardian has launched what they term "Bankers: An Anthropological Study." One of their first discoveries? People really hate bankers. Daniel Davies - Left of Center Finance Guy, Twitterer, and Crooked Timber Blogger attempts a defense. "But who's the real criminal? Its me, isn't it?"
Six or seven stances science fiction movies take towards science. From John Holbo at Crooked Timber. [more inside]
Best opening (or closing) paragraphs of academic works, a discussion at Crooked Timber. (This is of course different from first lines of novels, as discussed here, there, and elsewhere.
Problems in infinite decision theory [pdf]. You are in hell and facing an eternity of torment, but the devil offers you a way out, which you can take once and only once at any time from now on. Today, if you ask him to, the devil will toss a fair coin once and if it comes up heads you are free (but if tails then you face eternal torment with no possibility of reprieve). You don’t have to play today, though, because tomorrow the devil will make the deal slightly more favourable to you (and you know this): he’ll toss the coin twice but just one head will free you. The day after, the offer will improve further: 3 tosses with just one head needed. And so on (4 tosses, 5 tosses, ….1000 tosses …) for the rest of time if needed. So, given that the devil will give you better odds on every day after this one, but that you want to escape from hell some time, when should accept his offer? More discussion here.