Sunday, 20 July 2008

Behind the Times

Coping with jetlag, and avoiding vast piles of mail after my travels in recent months, I've been catching up on some reading. Here are the highlights.

From the New York Times:
On reintroducing worms
On low birthrates
On quoting Bob Dylan in legal opinions
On energy-efficient production in Japan
On suicide prevention, and survivors
On why 'We have to have a talk about Barack Obama'
On the (exceptional) American practice of excluding evidence
On satire, and the New Yorker cover

Olivia Judson's NYT-hosted blog also has an excellent post on getting rid of the term 'Darwinism', for the sake of evolutionary studies. This is the third in a series celebrating Charles Darwin: the first and second posts are also good.

From Leszek Kolakowski (thanks, Laurence, for the link):
How to be a Conservative-Liberal-Socialist

And from the London Review of Books:
Hugh Pennington on why the unburied dead don't spread disease, and why it's harmful that people (and governments) believe that they do

The subscription section also includes Rosemary Hill's review of the recently published translation of Hermann Muthesius' 1904-05 Das englische Haus , which is an excellent read; and Muthesius sounds full of insights.
Why, Muthesius wonders, do the English leave town planning to be ‘handed over to the lowest order of intelligence’, creating incoherent city centres? Why do they bother to experiment with blocks of flats which don’t suit the national temperament and would, if multiplied, mean ‘the demise of one of the best aspects of the English heritage’? English children will never thrive in them. Today, as the Modernist-inspired tower blocks come down and public housing looks again to low-rise and terraces, and as Birmingham, Manchester and other cities attempt to redeem their centres from the ravages of the postwar planners, it is the great-grandchildren of Muthesius’s subjects and indeed the great-grandchildren of their cooks and butlers who are remaking the English house. We watch property programmes on television night after night ...

1 comment:

Earwicker said...

(Third attempt at posting - my apologies if this leads to repetition.)

Thanks for these, Bruce. There are some excellent pieces. I especially like the NYT articles on suicide and the illegal evidence rule.

As for the suicide article, its conclusions are not what I would naturally have thought, though once you read the article, many of its points seem obvious.

As for the illegal evidence rule (which I was aware of), it is an example of how the US leaves to the courts matters which would be treated as legislative in many other western countries. My view on this phenomenon is: (1) this is not widely understood by those who compare US and other western polities (e.g. it is often said that the US is less heavily regulated than other western countries - a point which often neglects the amount of regulation exercised by the courts); (2) the tendency among other western countries (certainly in the UK) is towards, rather than away from, the US approach, and this is not desirable; (3) this tendency is in many cases being driven by those who would otherwise be opposed to americanisation.