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Archive of posts filed under the Literature category.

“Chatting with the Tea Party”

I got an email last month offering two free tickets to the preview of a new play, Chatting with the Tea Party, described as “a documentary-style play about a New York playwright’s year attending Tea Party meetings around the country and interviewing local leaders. Nothing the Tea Party people in the play say has been […]

My namesake doesn’t seem to understand the principles of decision analysis

It says “Never miss another deadline.” But if you really could never miss your deadlines, you’d just set your deadlines earlier, no? It’s statics vs. dynamics all over again. That said, this advice seems reasonable: The author has also developed a foolproof method of structuring your writing, so that you make effective use of your […]

Grizzly Adams is an object of the class Weekend at Bernies

It just came to me when I saw his obit.

Mars 1, This American Life 0

Palko points to the ultimate takedown of Mars One, courtesy of Sydney Do and Andrew Owens. At this point, shooting down the financials of Mars One seems a bit of overkill, something comparable to debunking the statistical expertise of Satoshi Kanazawa or Daryl Bem, or questioning the quality of publications with the name “Edward Wegman” […]

Comedy book with surefire can’t-miss formula, misses

The other day at the library I noticed a pink-covered book, “We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy.” It was filled with interviews. Cool! I checked it out and . . . jeez was it boring. It’s hard to imagine you could interview a bunch of comedians and come up with something so […]

“David Brooks And Jeremy Paxman To Judge The Golden Giraffes”

I don’t think I have much of a chance here, not because of the judging—I’d trust Brooks and Paxman to recognize good writing—but because the competition includes some heavy hitters, including Dan Davies with a meta-blog-post called The Verjus Manifesto, Sara Paretsky on The Detective As Speech, and Charles Pierce with . . . well, […]

Don’t miss this one: “Modern Physics from an Elementary Point of View”

I was googling *back of the envelope* for a recent post and I came across these lecture notes by Victor Weisskopf from 1969. I can no longer really follow this sort of thing—I really really wish this had been my textbook back when I was studying physics. If they’d taught us this stuff, I might’ve […]

Top 5 movies about scientists

In this NYT interview, Philip “Stanford Prison Experiment” Zimbardo gives his list: 1. “Madame Curie,” 1943 2. “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution,” 1976 3. “Awakenings,” 1990 4. “The Insider,” 1999 5. “The Imitation Game,” 2014. Not a very impressive list. But that’s the point, I guess: there haven’t been many good movies about scientists. I was racking […]

Annals of Spam

OK, explain to me this email: God day, How are you? My name is **. I came across your contact email at the University of Cyprus, Department of Economics. I seek for a private Economics teacher for my Daughter. I would like to know if you would be available for job. If you would be […]

Erdos bio for kids

Chris Gittins recommends the book, “The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos,” by Deborah Heiligman. Gittins reports: We read it with our soon-to-be-first-grader this evening. She liked it and so did we. I knew a little about Erdos but the book probably quadrupled my knowledge. Thought it might be of interest […]

Review of The Martian

I actually read this a couple months ago after Bob recommended it to me. I don’t know why I did this, given that the last book Bob recommended to me, I hated, but in this case I made a good choice. The Martian was excellent and was indeed hard to set down. Recently I’ve been […]

Being polite vs. saying what we really think

We recently discussed an article by Isabel Scott and Nicholas Pound entitled, “Menstrual Cycle Phase Does Not Predict Political Conservatism,” in which Scott and Pound definitively shot down some research that was so ridiculous it never even deserved the dignity of being shot down. The trouble is, the original article, “The Fluctuating Female Vote: Politics, […]

Irwin Shaw: “I might mistrust intellectuals, but I’d mistrust nonintellectuals even more.”

A few weeks ago I picked up a paperback of stories by Irwin Shaw, printed in the late 1950s. I love these little pocket books—but this one was a bit too disposable: after about 50 pages the spine gave out and the pages started to fall out, which was a bit irritating because then I […]

Harry S. Truman, Jesus H. Christ, Roy G. Biv

Are there any others?

This sentence by Thomas Mallon would make Barry N. Malzberg spin in his grave, except that he’s still alive so it would just make him spin in his retirement

Don’t get me wrong, I think Thomas Mallon is great. But what was he thinking when he wrote this: I know the New Yorker doesn’t do fact-checking anymore, but still. The funny thing is, Malzberg has similarities with Mailer both in style and subject matter. I’m guessing that in his statement Mallon is trying to […]

Ripped from the pages of a George Pelecanos novel

Did anyone else notice that this DC multiple-murder case seems just like a Pelecanos story? Check out the latest headline, “D.C. Mansion Murder Suspect Is Innocent Because He Hates Pizza, Lawyer Says”: Robin Flicker, a lawyer who has represented suspect Wint in the past but has not been officially hired as his defense attorney, says […]

“17 Baby Names You Didn’t Know Were Totally Made Up”

From Laura Wattenberg: Want to drive the baby-naming public up the wall? Tell them you’re naming your daughter Renesmee. Author Stephenie Meyer invented the name for the half-vampire child in her wildly popular Twilight series. In the story it’s simply an homage to the child’s two grandmothers, Renee and Esmé. To the traditional-minded, though, Renesmee […]

Wikipedia is the best

“It is not readily apparent whether Boo-Boo is a juvenile bear with a precocious intellect or simply an adult bear who is short of stature.”

“History is the prediction of the present”

Ethan Bolker sent me an email with the above title and wrote: That’s the first sentence of a Louis Menand book review in the March 30 New Yorker. It touches on some ideas you play with. If you haven’t seen it, you might put it on your (long?) queue of things to read, maybe blog […]

What’s the worst joke you’ve ever heard?

When I say worst, I mean worst. A joke with no redeeming qualities. Here’s my contender, from the book “1000 Knock-Knock Jokes for Kids”: – Knock Knock. – Who’s there? – Ann – Ann who? – An apple fell on my head. There’s something beautiful about this one. It’s the clerihew of jokes. Zero cleverness. […]