My Advice to the Occupy Wall Street Protesters

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone:

Main…for me this is a deeply personal thing, because this issue of how to combat Wall Street corruption has consumed my life for years now, and it's hard for me not to see where Occupy Wall Street could be better and more dangerous. I'm guessing, for instance, that the banks were secretly thrilled in the early going of the protests, sure they'd won round one of the messaging war.

Why? Because after a decade of unparalleled thievery and corruption, with tens of millions entering the ranks of the hungry thanks to artificially inflated commodity prices, and millions more displaced from their homes by corruption in the mortgage markets, the headline from the first week of protests against the financial-services sector was an old cop macing a quartet of college girls.

That, to me, speaks volumes about the primary challenge of opposing the 50-headed hydra of Wall Street corruption, which is that it's extremely difficult to explain the crimes of the modern financial elite in a simple visual. The essence of this particular sort of oligarchic power is its complexity and day-to-day invisibility: Its worst crimes, from bribery and insider trading and market manipulation, to backroom dominance of government and the usurping of the regulatory structure from within, simply can't be seen by the public or put on TV. There just isn't going to be an iconic “Running Girl” photo with Goldman Sachs, Citigroup or Bank of America – just 62 million Americans with zero or negative net worth, scratching their heads and wondering where the hell all their money went and why their votes seem to count less and less each and every year.

No matter what, I'll be supporting Occupy Wall Street. And I think the movement's basic strategy – to build numbers and stay in the fight, rather than tying itself to any particular set of principles – makes a lot of sense early on. But the time is rapidly approaching when the movement is going to have to offer concrete solutions to the problems posed by Wall Street. To do that, it will need a short but powerful list of demands. There are thousands one could make, but I'd suggest focusing on five…

More here.

The Deaths Map

800px-US-border-noticeJeremy Harding in the LRB (photo from Wikimedia Commons):

Migration is said to be good for host cultures. Geographers, demographers and business people believe it is, especially in the US, where one migrant group after another – Jews, Poles, Italians, Irish – has auditioned for a role in the great musical of American identity. The competition has been bitter, especially between newcomers and predecessors, and the typecasting has been crude, yet sooner or later every minority earns its place in the chorus. Nonetheless there’s a growing sense in some parts of the US that enough is enough, the stage is full to capacity and the show can no longer go on as it has. The source of this impatience is illegal immigration from Mexico, which is no longer seen primarily as a supply of service employees, farm labour and building workers, but as a threat to an indebted nation still embroiled in distant wars, with land borders to north and south that it can’t patrol as effectively as it would like and unemployment hovering at around 9 per cent. The US already has more than 11 million unauthorised migrants. About six and a half million are from Mexico and another two million from other parts of Latin America. Every year, many thousands more are crossing from Mexico without permission, to swell their ranks. Roughly 500,000 Hispanics – 8 per cent of the population of the state – are living in Arizona without authorisation. Arizona has become an operational front in yet another desert conflict.

The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating even as Obama draws down the numbers abroad. Despite war-weariness at home, war has remained the model for curbing illegal immigration; territorial integrity and the preservation of national identity are the goals.

Good Evening, Beautiful Deep

Sorrow-gondola-coverDavid Wojahn on Tomas Tranströmer’s Sorrow Gondola, in Blackbird (also see J. M. Tyree's post from a year ago):

The great subject of the poetry of Tomas Tranströmer—sometimes it seems as though it is his only subject—is liminality. He is a poet almost helplessly drawn to enter and inhabit those in-between states that form the borderlines between waking and sleeping, the conscious and the unconscious, ecstasy and terror, the public self and the interior self. Again and again his poems allude to border checkpoints, boundaries, crossroads: they teeter upon thresholds of every sort—be they the brink of sleep or the brink of death, a door about to open or a door about to close. These thresholds are often ensorcelated places, where a stone can miraculously pass through a window and leave it undamaged, where the dreams of a sleeping couple (in Robin Robertson’s translation of the lines) “will meet as colours meet / and bleed into each other / in the dampened pages of a child’s painting-book.” Indeed, in his finest individual collection, called Sanningsbarriaren in its original Swedish and The Truth-Barrier in most English translations, he concocts a neologism which perfectly encapsulates his lifelong fixation with the liminal. Yet this inhabitant of borderlands and denizen of thresholds is also deeply suspicious of binaries and dichotomies, of Manichaeism in any form.

In Tranströmer’s universe, conditions are too much in flux, too subject to sudden and radical change, to ever permit dualistic thinking: every emotion can without warning turn into its opposite, every perception of what Whitehead called “the withness of the body” can turn into an out-of-the body experience. In one of his best-known poems, “The Open Window,” composed in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, we first glimpse the speaker shaving to the lulling purr of his electric razor, but suddenly the razor becomes a helicopter, and the speaker is looking down from its cockpit to the distant earth below. “‘Keep your eyes open!’” says the helicopter pilot in Robert Bly’s translation of the poem, “‘You’re seeing all this for the last time.’” How does ones one return to reality and sanity after experiencing a vision as apocalyptic as this?

Frank Kameny, 1925-2011

KAMENYWPJonathan Capehart in over at the Washington Post:

Few people who set out to change the world actually succeed. Frank Kameny was one of those few. You most likely have never heard of him. But for gay Americans, he’s a Founding Father of the historic movement that pulled us out of the closet and into greater acceptance in the United States. What made Kameny a hero was that he demanded equity and fairness when it was literally him against the world. He was 86 and lived in Washington.

I can’t remember the first time I met Kameny. But I’ll never forget the impression he left on me. Feisty. Determined. What impressed me most about Kameny, though, was his unapologetic pragmatism. While he was “stubborn and impatient,” as D.C. Council Member David Catania (I-At Large) told The Post, Kameny understood that he, and eventually the movement that grew around him, had to make big leaps to get society as a whole to take the incremental steps need to move toward equality for gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered Americans. And what leaps he made.

Thursday Poem

Chingwa Ne Maruva

My belly wakes me again
Ndomuka nafour dze makuseni
Ndoenda kumsika
The life of a vendor
Selling rape and tomatoes
And tomatoes and rape ’cause every day is rape
And stolen dignity
Ask me for my ID and vending licence
Is that not violence?
Do I need a licence to live
Is life theirs to give?

Chingwa ne maruva
Bread and roses, mama
Chingwa ne maruva
Bread and roses, mama

He smashes the tomatoes
Uses baton sticks for avocados
All he knows is how to break
’Cause he breaks for the law’s sake
It’s a neverending process of cleaning
Like a frenzy
Mai vake vanotengesa maveggie
But she sells them in a council place
So she should be legal and safe
So smash tomotaoes
Crush avocados
Destroy the table
Destroy what’s illegal
Smash tomatoes
Crush avocados
Destroy the table
Destroy what’s illegal

Chingwa ne maruva
Bread and roses, mama
Chingwa ne maruva
Bread and roses, mama

Here come the forces of good
Those who wage war on food
I thought ours was the land and the fruits
Now crushed by these blind boots
Saying my food is dirty
No, my food is dignity
It sends my children to school you see
Chinobhadara mabills angu ne renti
From now on handichatengese maveggie
You’ll see me in the streets demanding two things
Love and dignity
‘Cause I’m a mother gone wild
Today my fruits were destroyed by my own child

by Comrade Fatso
from House of Hunger, © 2008

Editor's Note:
Chingwa ne maruva = Bread and roses
Ndomuka nafour dze makuseni / Ndoenda kumsika = I wake at four in the morning / And go to the market
Rape = traditional vegetable
Mai vake vanotengesa maveggie = His mother sells vegetables
Chinobhadara mabills angu ne renti / From now on handichatengese maveggie = It pays my bills and my rent / From now on I will no longer sell vegetables

the rousseau option


Leo Strauss’s Rousseau chapter in Natural Right and History is perhaps the most neglected aspect of the book.1 This is surprising because Strauss himself paid Rousseau the considerable compliment of taking him seriously. At a time when Rousseau was dismissed as either a crank outside the philosophical canon or as a dangerous obscurantist responsible for the radical politics of the French Revolution, Strauss helped to revive a serious interest in his philosophical thought.2 The Rousseau chapter is titled “The Crisis of Modern Natural Right” and begins: “The first crisis of modernity occurred in the thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau” (252). The crisis initiated by Rousseau, ironically, took the form of a return to antiquity. Rousseau, Strauss tells us, attacked modernity in the name of two classical ideas: virtue and the city, on the one hand, and nature, on the other. Rousseau appealed to the polis and the ancient conception of the citizen (as opposed to the modern state and its characteristic inhabitant, the bourgeois) and at the same time he appealed to the classical conception of natural right, however attenuated, as the standard by which society should be judged. Strauss notes that later thinkers – Kant, Fichte, Hegel – may have “clarified” Rousseau’s vision, but “one must wonder whether they preserved [its] breadth” (252).

more from at Steven B. Smith at The Art of Theory here.

Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux


Once upon a time, when provinces still existed, an ambitious young provincial would now and again attempt to take the capital by storm: Midwesterners arriving in New York; Balzacian youths plotting their onslaught on the metropolis (‘à nous deux, maintenant!’); eloquent Irishmen getting a reputation in London; and Scandinavians – Ibsen, Georg Brandes, Strindberg, Munch – descending on Berlin to find a culture missing in the bigoted countryside. So also Henrik Pontoppidan’s hero, an unhappy clergyman’s son who flees the windswept coasts of Jutland for a capital city which is itself narrow-minded and provincial in comparison with the bustling centres of Europe. Denmark has just lost a war, and an important territory, to Prussia: one in ‘a long row of national humiliations’ in ‘a doomed country that, in the course of one man’s life, had fallen into ruin, wasted away to a pale and flabby limb on Europe’s body swelling with power’. Denmark itself is to Europe as Jutland is to Copenhagen; and we must never underestimate the degree to which that ‘national misery’, which is secretly a part of every national history and identity, is also part and parcel of the personal or psychic identity of its inhabitants.

more from Frederic Jameson at the LRB here.

the roman kids


There is remarkably little good poetry about very small children. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep that does it; for the first few months it’s hard to remember to put out the bins, let alone write poems. Perhaps the first writer to make a serious attempt to evoke the world of earliest childhood was the Latin poet Statius, a contemporary of the Roman emperor Domitian (ad 81–96). In one of his most remarkable poems, Statius describes taking a newborn baby boy in his arms, “as he demanded the novel air with trembling wails”. Bit by bit, he learned to interpret the child’s inarticulate complaints and to soothe his “hidden wounds” (vulnera caeca). Later still, once the baby had learned to crawl, Statius would pick him up and kiss him, until bit by bit, cradled in the poet’s arms, he would drop off to sleep. Statius’s name was the toddler’s first word, and Statius’s face served as “his first plaything”. How many other poets, in any language, have described the experience of having their face yanked around by a fascinated baby? It comes, then, as a rude shock to discover that the baby was not Statius’s son, but his slave. “He was not of my stock, nor did he carry my name or features; I was not his father . . . . I was not one to love some chatterbox plaything bought from an Egyptian slave-ship – no, he was mine, my own.” This little boy was a verna, “house-reared”, the child of two of Statius’s own household slaves.

more from Peter Thonemann at the TLS here.

What is the State of Critique Today?

JohannsenAnders Johansson, Sharon Rider and Malin Rönnblom discuss in Eurozine:

Leila Brännström: In our societies, critical thinking is often seen as an ideal. Critical thinking and a critical perspective is, for example, seen as an important skill at all levels of education. The question is, however, what critical thinking and a critical perspective means. How is critical thinking related to the capacity to conduct critique of ideology? Ideology in the sense of conceptions which hold a hegemonic position in society, which are “engraved” into institutions, and which are upheld by people both in institutionalised contexts and in everyday life.

Anders Johansson: Unfortunately the critical ability – both of ideology and literature – is rather limited today. There is a certain type of commentary, thinking and writing which is both perceived and sees itself as critical thinking, without actually being either critical or thinking (literary critique in which the feelings of the reviewer is understood as the truth, academic research which is only restating an existing doxa, predictable moves in media debates which only confirm current positions).

Critical thinking is by definition dialectical: to critique an object is to split it, to show that what appears to be whole and self-identical is always compound and contradictory. But critical thinking isn't only about seeing an object from a subjective yet critical perspective, but also vice versa: to separate the objective in oneself as well as the subjective in the object, to highlight how the one is always mediated by the other. In other words: on the one hand to realise that my preferences are not just mine, but a product of all possible more or less common circumstances and structures, and on the other hand to trust one's subjective judgement because the “thing-in-itself” is not accessible in any other way.

How to Prevent a Depression

Pa1125c_thumb3Nouriel Roubini in Project Syndicate:

The latest economic data suggests that recession is returning to most advanced economies, with financial markets now reaching levels of stress unseen since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. The risks of an economic and financial crisis even worse than the previous one – now involving not just the private sector, but also near-insolvent sovereigns – are significant. So, what can be done to minimize the fallout of another economic contraction and prevent a deeper depression and financial meltdown?

First, we must accept that austerity measures, necessary to avoid a fiscal train wreck, have recessionary effects on output. So, if countries in the eurozone’s periphery are forced to undertake fiscal austerity, countries able to provide short-term stimulus should do so and postpone their own austerity efforts. These countries include the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the core of the eurozone, and Japan. Infrastructure banks that finance needed public infrastructure should be created as well.

Second, while monetary policy has limited impact when the problems are excessive debt and insolvency rather than illiquidity, credit easing, rather than just quantitative easing, can be helpful. The European Central Bank should reverse its mistaken decision to hike interest rates. More monetary and credit easing is also required for the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of England, and the Swiss National Bank. Inflation will soon be the last problem that central banks will fear, as renewed slack in goods, labor, real estate, and commodity markets feeds disinflationary pressures.

A New Crisis for Egypt’s Copts

Joshua Hammer in Smithsonian Magazine:

ScreenHunter_06 Oct. 12 15.59The Coptic branch of Christianity dates to the first century A.D. when, scholars say, St. Mark the Evangelist converted some Jews in Alexandria, the great Greco-Roman city on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast. (The name Copt derives from the Arabic word Qubt, meaning Egyptian.) Copts now make up between 7 percent and 10 percent of the country’s population, or 7 million to 11 million people, and are an integral part of Egypt’s business, cultural and intellectual life. Yet they have long suffered from discrimination by the Muslim majority. Violent incidents have increased alarmingly during the wave of Islamic fanaticism that has swept the Middle East.

On New Year’s Day 2011, a bomb exploded in the birthplace of the Coptic faith, Alexandria, in front of al-Qiddissin church, the largest of the city’s 60 Coptic churches, as worshipers were leaving midnight Mass. Twenty-one died. “We all rushed into the street and saw the carnage,” said Father Makkar Fawzi, the church’s priest for 24 years. “Those who had gone downstairs ahead of the rest were killed.” Alexandria “has become a focal point of the [Islamic fundamentalists], a breeding ground of violence,” says Youssef Sidhom, the editor of Watani (Homeland), a Coptic newspaper in Cairo.

Since the New Year’s Day bombing, sectarian attacks against Egypt’s Copts have escalated. Forty Egyptians died in 22 incidents in the first half of this year; 15 died in all of 2010. Human rights groups say the breakdown of law and order in the first months after Mubarak’s ouster is partly to blame. Another factor has been the emergence of the ultraconservative Salafist Muslim sect, which had been suppressed during the Mubarak dictatorship. Salafists have called for jihad against the West and the creation of a pure Islamic state in Egypt.

More here.

Nouriel Roubini and Ian Bremmer let fly on Occupy Wall Street

Benjamin Pauker in Foreign Policy:

ScreenHunter_05 Oct. 12 15.43Foreign Policy: What do you think of the Occupy Wall Street protests? Have you been down to see them?

Nouriel Roubini: I stopped by. My view of it is that it is a symptom of the economic malaise that we're facing not just in the United States, but all over the world. It started with the Arab Spring, and of course, poverty, unemployment, corruption, inequality eventually leads to people becoming restless. But now, you have middle-class people in Israel saying we cannot afford homes; you have middle-class students in Chile saying we don't have education; you have riots in London; people smashing Mercedes and BMWs of fat cats in Berlin and Frankfurt; you have an anti-corruption movement in India. It takes a lot of different manifestations, but we live in a world with a lot of economic insecurity, of worries about the future, of inequality, poverty, of concerns about jobs. And [Occupy Wall Street] is the manifestation in the U.S.

In 2009, [President Barack] Obama told the bankers, “I'm the only one who's standing between you and the pitchforks.” The bankers got the bailouts; they were supposed to extend credit, extend mortgages. They did pretty much nothing, and they went back to the same actions as before: making money through trading. At this point, I think people are fed up with it. Rightly or wrongly, there's a huge amount of anger.

More here.

Mason Crumpacker and the Hitchens reading list

Jerry Coyne in Why Evolution Is True:

When Christopher Hitchens got the Dawkins Award in Houston, I posted the following report from

Masons-listThough [Hitchens] was asked a variety of questions from the audience, none appeared to elicit more interest than the one asked by eight-year-old Mason Crumpacker, who wanted to know what books she should read. In response, Hitchens first asked where her mother was and the girl indicated that she was siting beside her. He then asked to see them once the presentation was over so that he could give her a list.

As the event drew to a close, Mason and her mom, Anne Crumpacker of Dallas, followed him out. Surrounded by attendees wanting a glance of the famed author, Hitchens sat on a table just outside of the ballroom and spent about 15 minutes recommending books to Mason.

If you read the comments after that original post, you’ll know that Anne Crumpacker, apparently a reader here, added a few observations. She’s now sent me a scan of the reading list that Hitchens recommended to Mason, as well as a beautiful thank-you note that Mason wrote to Hitchens. I’ve had it forwarded to Christopher via Richard [Dawkins], and post it here with Mason’s permission. Finally, at my request Anne wrote her own account of the incident:

First, the reading list, about which Anne says, “Most of the notes were written by me, but he took my pen to write ‘Tale of Two Cities’ and ‘Sunset at Blandings’.”

More here.

Wednesday Poem

Wild Dreams of a New Beginning

There’s a breathless hush on the freeway tonight
Beyond the ledges of concrete
restaurants fall into dreams
with candlelight couples
Lost Alexandria still burns
in a billion lightbulbs
Lives cross lives
idling at stoplights
Beyond the cloverleaf turnoffs
‘Souls eat souls in the general emptiness’
A piano concerto comes out a kitchen window
A yogi speaks at Ojai
‘It’s all taking place in one mind’
On the lawn among the trees
lovers are listening
for the master to tell them they are one
with the universe
Eyes smell flowers and become them
There’s a deathless hush
on the freeway tonight
as a Pacific tidal wave a mile high
………………………………….. sweeps in
Los Angeles breathes its last gas
and sinks into the sea like the Titanic all lights lit
Nine minutes later Willa Cather’s Nebraska
……………………………………….. sinks with it
The seas come in over Utah
Mormon tabernacles washed away like salt
Coyotes are confounded & swim nowhere
An orchestra onstage in Omaha
keeps on playing Handel’s Water Music
Horns fill with water
and bass players float away on their instruments
clutching them like lovers horizontal
Chicago’s Loop becomes a rollercoaster
Skyscrapers filled like water glasses
Great Lakes mixed with Buddhist brine
Great Books watered down in Evanston
Milwaukee beer topped with sea foam
Beau Fleuve of Buffalo suddenly become salt
Manhattan Island swept clean in sixteen seconds
buried masts of New Amsterdam arise
as the great wave sweeps on Eastward
to wash away over-age Camembert Europe
Mannahatta steaming in sea-vines
the washed land awakes again to wilderness
the only sound a vast thrumming of crickets
a cry of seabirds high over
in empty eternity
as the Hudson retakes its thickets
and Indians reclaim their canoes

by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
from Wild Dreams of a New Beginning

the wrong moral revolution


The world is a sad place, a tragic place, but it is not as sad or as tragic as that. In one of the concluding sentences of his book, Barnett writes, “Faith is required to imagine an always elusive humanity, to persevere despite the onslaught of disappointment and the cascade of evidence of humanity’s failings.” But here Barnett gives far, far too little credit to the relief workers with whom, at the beginning of Empire of Humanity, he proclaims he had fallen in love. The grandeur of the humanitarian enterprise lies precisely in its determination to persevere, knowing full well that, too often, it will be able to accomplish tragically little; to persevere, moreover, under no illusions about the cruelties of the world, not because of some faith in progress, as Barnett would have it (the question that haunts him, which is whether that faith is reasonable or not, is actually far less important than he imagines), and not out of compassion, the underlying mot clef to which he continually returns, but rather out of solidarity, a word largely absent from his consideration. It would have been interesting if Barnett had spoken not of humanitarianism but of relief work. Would it have seemed as reasonable to ascribe to relief work the same mystical or, as he would say, transcendent qualities that he attributes to humanitarianism? And would he have remained so persuaded that, when all is said and done, while what relief workers accomplish on the ground is tremendously important, the needs of relief workers are almost as important—and, more crucially from the moralistic perspective that is Barnett’s default position, that to be an aid worker is an ethically exemplary act? Humanitarianism, he writes, “exists to attend to the needs of the giver and not only to those of the receiver,” and its purpose is “intertwined with the desire to demonstrate and create a global spirit.” I am all for self-fulfillment in the workplace but, with the best will in the world, this is ridiculous!

more from David Rieff at The Nation here.

Build a wall. It worked for us.


The Number 1 city bus up the Antrim Road is a leap into Belfast’s troubled past and still-turbulent present. Like all bus routes in Northern Ireland’s capital city, the Number 1 starts downtown amid glass-and-steel high-rises, trendy shops, and cafés. Locals, international business travelers, and tourists mingle on streets newly adorned with two-story-high curved copper ribs intended to evoke the city’s maritime heritage, including the building of the Titanic, launched here on May 31, 1911. Once outside these 10 blocks, however, the Number 1 crosses what might as well be an astral divide. Belfast is one of the most segregated cities in the world, an occasionally Molotov cocktail-bombed landscape of “interfaces” and “peace walls” that have grown higher, longer, and more numerous in the 13 years since the Good Friday Agreement. The 1998 settlement formally ended the three decades of violence called The Troubles. In Belfast, an interface is where Protestant and Catholic communities battle and, in the best of times, grimly turn their backs on one another. According to the Belfast Interface Project, there are at least 10 in the one-mile stretch between the place where the Number 1 starts and the city’s lone synagogue north of downtown. If you go the same distance east and west, the number of interfaces easily triples.

more from Robin Kirk at The American Scholar here.



There have been around ninety full-length lives of Dickens. As the 2012 bicentennial approaches the discriminating purchaser will be able to choose between three current frontrunners. Michael Slater’s 2009 biography, still going strong in paperback, is one. A ‘radically revised’ reissue of Peter Ackroyd’s 1990 biography is another. And, coming up fast on the outside track, we have Claire Tomalin. Each brings something distinctive to the task. Slater’s book is the distillation of fifty years’ rigorous scholarship. Ackroyd brings a novelist’s privileged insight to his subject. And Tomalin? She is a biographical big-game hunter, having already bagged Austen, Hardy, Pepys, Wollstonecraft and Mansfield. The shelf of prizes she has won testifies to her ability not just to write ‘lives’ but to bring the authors she writes about to life. Most nineteenth-century novelists hated the idea of too much being known about them. As Henry James put it: ‘My sole wish is to frustrate as utterly as possible the post-mortem exploiter’ – a species of literary vermin anatomised in The Aspern Papers.

more from John Sutherland at Literary Review here.

Curiosity drives discovery. But what, exactly, makes us curious?

Roald Hoffman in American Scientist:

150px-Roald_Hoffmann The title phrase, said with just the right intonation, could be dismissive: a polite, thinly veiled way of saying “I am not really interested.” But my concern here is with the sincere variant of the expression—particularly in science, when it is said to oneself, sotto voce. For this statement is how curiosity is stirred. And, as I will argue in a continuation of a small campaign to value the “unmathematicizable” in science (I’ve also written about the importance of metaphor and storytelling), psychological interest is a progenitor of scientific creation itself.

As a descriptor of an experiment or theory, interesting resides more or less comfortably between beautiful and strange. Aesthetic judgment, such as attribution of beauty, is generally avoided by scientists as they write—paradoxically so, I’d say, for they would like nonscientists to value not just the technological utility of their labors, but also the elegance. Is it reticence that leads one to avoid writing “this molecule is beautiful” in a scientific paper? No, I think it is a fear of the spiritual, as if calling a molecule beautiful in a paper would put one in the company of art critics. Or, God forbid, priests. And strange, when used to describe a scientific observation, can carry a hint that something might be amiss: a spectrum not quite correctly interpreted, a mistake of sign in a derivation. But interesting, when said without a veiled smirk, is very much a positive valuation. That is, as positive about other people’s work as scientists often allow themselves to be in public.

More here.