- “Sting’s brain scan pointed us to several connections between pieces of music that I know well but had never seen as related before…” → Don’t scan so close to me: McGill researcher scans Sting’s musical brain. Also: the full paper, “Measuring the representational space of music with fMRI: a case study with Sting”. Thanks, Reader M.
- Book Critics vs. Food Critics.
- Bryan Alexander—futurist, writer, teacher and fellow bookworm—is rounding up a near-future science fiction reading group of sorts. Strong readers, loosely joined, with great book choices so far. Join in!
- Following on our earlier link to the Mother Jones expose on private prisons comes news that the Justice Department will stop using them.
- “Stationery options are so plentiful that a designated paper concierge is on hand to advise customers on selecting the just-right weight, texture, shade, sheen, and thickness.” → A 100-year-old Japanese stationery store lets customers design the perfect, custom notebook
- From heavy metal bassist (including appearance in the cult film Heavy Metal Parking Lot) to devout Hasidic luthier. → The story of Z.Z. Ludwick.
- A lagniappe: (with the right font), UPSIDE DOWN can be spelled upside down using letters that are right-side up: umop apisdn
- The Long History of Olympic Typography: A Debate
- These Surreal Ancient Alchemy Manuscripts Are Terrifyingly Cool
- Today in 1979, Alexander Godunov—principal dancer in the Bolshoi Ballet and well-known (in the USSR) actor—defects to the United States while on tour in New York City. Godunov’s defection would indirectly spark an international incident when his wife and fellow dancer, Lyudmila Vlasova, was detained at the airport until U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev intervened and Carter was convinced she was returning willingly. Godunov would serve as principal dancer for American Ballet Theater, which was directed by his friend and fellow defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, and then play a few well-known roles, including a memorable turn in Peter Weir’s film Witness and battling with Bruce Willis in Die Hard. In 1987, Godunov became an American citizen, celebrating with a burger stuffed with caviar. Sadly, Gudonov’s life was cut short by complications from hepatitis and alcoholism. He died in 1997.
It looks like embroidery, but Jasmin Sian’s art is composed of ink, graphite and cut-outs from paper lunch bags. Click through and then zoom in. Amazing. [Thanks, Reader S.!]
After he had defeated the Egyptians in battle and accepted their surrender, Harun-in’-Rashid decided to teach his new subjects a lesson. “Egypt’s rulers called themselves gods,” he said, “and so they were arrogant enough to challenge me. Now they will be ruled by the lowest of my slaves,” and he made Khosaib, a stupid negro, Egypt’s new governor. Khosaib, however, was so stupid that when a group of farmers came to him for help because the cotton they’d planted on the banks of the Nile had been destroyed by heavy rains, he replied, “You should have planted wool instead.”
A pious man heard what Khosaib said and recited these lines:
If knowledge were the measure of all wealth,
the ignorant would live in poverty.
Yet here is a man who should be starving,
and his prosperity leaves the wise speechless-
which proves that getting rich is not a skill,
and who knows why God granted him such luck?
It happens: Sages must stand aside like beggars
for stupid men who are given royal robes.
If an alchemist dies bitter in his failure,
know that somewhere a fool found gold in the trash.
—Sa’di (trans. by Richard Jeffrey Newman)
—found in Selections from Saadi’s Gulistan
- This week’s link cluster: the brain. First, the fascinating and sad story of Henry Molaison, the “man who couldn’t remember” and the research into—and ultimately custody of—his brain (Thanks, Reader B.!). Then, a unique brain of a different kind, that of the world’s greatest free-climber, Alex Honnold, who essentially doesn’t feel fear (I become nauseated watching him climb on video). Finally, a glimpse at the plasticity of the brain and a bright future for some victims of paralysis: ‘Brain training’ technique restores feeling and movement to paraplegic patients.
- And, Reader B. strikes again with CuratedAI, “A literary magazine written by machines, for people.”
- It just might be that book lovers live longer. But if you’re smart, you should be watching more trashy films. How to find the time? Maybe I’ll just stick with the benefits of being bad-tempered and pessimistic.
- Which hip hop artists have the largest vocabularies…and how do they shape up against Shakespeare? You might be surprised…
- The UC Berkeley Chancellor spent $9000 on an “escape hatch” to “provide egress” from student protestors.
- A nice bit about commonplace books (everyone should keep one!) and a picture of an interesting historical example with hand-cut alphabetical tabs → Commonplace Books and Uncommon Readers [Thanks, Reader C.]
- A weird case: an artist being sued in order to be forced to claim he is the creator of a painting.
- The Strangers Project is a collection of over 20,000 anonymous handwritten “journal entries” shared spontaneously by passing strangers. I ask people to write about anything they want—as long as it’s true. [Thanks, Reader G!]
- American naturalist and Alaska explorer Robert Kennicott’s death was a mystery; 150 years later, his skeleton helped solve it.
- Today in 1784, Russian fur trader Grigory Shelikhov founds Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island, the first permanent Russian settlement in Alaska. From this base, the Russians would explore the Alaskan mainland and assert their claim over the territory they would later sell to the United States for $7.2 million dollars…or two cents per acre.
1920’s Surrealist Erotica is Amazingly NSFW. Astonishing photography by Olga Solarics (1896 – 1969) of the Atelier Manassé.