Salonen, Viola and Tristan

In collaboration with L’Opéra National de Paris, Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic will join director Peter Sellars and video artist Bill Viola, to recreate Tristan and Isolde for the 21st century. The concert staging will be presented one act per night in December 2004. This is slow art supreme. Viola has apparently developed a technique which slows down video 80-fold to create the set design.

Mind Map

“The final frontier lies not in outer space but inside your skull. Understanding the matter of the mind preoccupies today’s most brilliant brains, some of whom have concluded that the secret of its subtle complexity may forever elude our own grey cells. Ironically, self-understanding may be impossible for the smartest animal on the planet. Perhaps wisely then, Steven Johnson steers clear of the ultimate questions about consciousness. Instead he focuses on the practical advances being made by neuroscientists in mapping the ‘brain’s inner geography’ and tries to discover what neuroscience can tell him about his own mental landscape.” PD Smith reviews Mind Wide Open: One Man’s Journey into the Workings of His Brain by Steven Johnson here in The Guardian.

And here is an interview with Steven Johnson on NPR.

Danger to Human Dignity: the Revival of Disgust and Shame in the Law

“The law, most of us would agree, should be society’s protection against prejudice. That does not imply that emotions play no legitimate role in legal affairs, for often emotions help people to see a situation clearly, doing justice to the concerns that ought to be addressed. The compassion of judge and jurors during the penalty phase of a criminal trial, for example, has been held to be an essential part of criminal justice, a way of connecting to the life story of a defendant whose experience seems remote to those who sit in judgment. Emotions are not intrinsically opposed to reason, for they involve pictures of the world and evaluations. But there are some emotions whose role in the law has always been more controversial. Disgust and shame are two of those. And disgust and shame are enjoying a remarkable revival in our society, after years during which their role in the law was widely criticized.” Article by Martha C. Nussbaum here in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

New York Gastronomically

My own New York imaginary contains a signification portion given over to eating. A good Marxist, I generally work towards eliminating the middle class of restaurants from my itinerary, preferring the low and the high. Examples: once a week I visit Zaragoza Grocery, a Mexican deli, really, where a rotating selection of tacos prepared by the proprietor’s wife puts all four hundred other East Village taco spots to shame. Shame! All of Zaragoza’s tacos are exellent, but if they have the tongue, the goat, or the lamb, thank the lord. As with much that is sublime, there are few components: just a braised meat, some onion, cilantro, salsa and a lime wedge on two tortillas. The service evinces a strong desire to see you enjoy your eating. That infectious stance, combined with stupendous food, is all I want from a place. On the higher side, I nominate the “Cuban” sandwich at Schiller’s Liquor Bar, which is quite inauthentic but still fantastic, containing local cheese, ham, and Gus’s pickles, and served with french fries that prove Keith’s effortless superiority in the competition between the brothers McNally. The careful thought and algorithmic craft put into making sure a kitchen unfailingly delivers perfectly peanut-oil fried, sea-salt seasoned frites demonstrates that you’re in a place where someone cares, cares to realize a place that ranks the importance of profit motives beneath (albeit slightly) the love of a world of good things to eat.

Thursday, August 5, 2004

New York Imaginary

New York has always inspired the imaginary. This has made itself felt in urban utopian projects of every variety. A nice article in last Sunday’s New York Times captures some of the exhuberance. This site has some further info about past projects and abandoned dreams. And for today’s utopian dreamer, the arcologists aren’t exactly thinking small.
Finally, for you hopeless pessimists on the far Left, there is always Mike Davis as your companion in doom.

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Sam Tanenhaus, new editor of the NY Times Book Review

sam“Authors tend to think of The New York Times Book Review with a mixture of awe, fear, and reverence. One writer recently compared the Review to the Soviet-era Kremlin: a tremendously powerful institution with often inscrutable methods and protocols.

Thus it was big news earlier this year when editor Chip McGrath announced he was planning to leave the section. Soon thereafter, two top Times editors—including then-recently arrived executive editor Bill Keller—revealed in an interview that book coverage in both the Sunday section and the daily paper would likely move to ’emphasize nonfiction books, demote literary fiction, promote (judiciously) commercial novels.’ Across the country, writerly jaws dropped.

Enter Sam Tanenhaus, who took the helm of the Book Review in April after working for many years as a writer, reporter, and editor. He was most recently a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, and he was also a Pulitzer finalist in 1998 for his biography of Whittaker Chambers.”

Interview with Tanenhaus by David S. Hirschman here.

More on Sidney

getimage“Friends and colleagues gathered yesterday at 201 East Broadway for the funeral of Columbia University philosopher Sidney Morgenbesser, who died over the weekend at age 82. The John Dewey Professor emeritus of philosophy, who began teaching at Columbia in 1954, was known for his wit, erudition, and blunt conversational style. A writer once likened him to a cross between Spinoza and Groucho Marx.” More here from the NY Sun.

Why We Lie

“David Livingston Smith’s Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind follows in the tradition of Steven Pinker’s How the Mind Works, Matt Ridley’s The Origins of Virtue and Robert Wright’s The Moral Animal. Like those books, Why We Lie is well-written and likely to be embraced by fans of evolutionary psychology (as the blurbs on the back of the hardcover suggest).” Here is a book review by Alex Sager.

Real Ultimate Power

There are many sites about Ninjas to be found on the web but I think you’ll agree that Real Ultimate Power is the best. The site was put together by Robert, who informs us that “My name is Robert and I can’t stop thinking about ninjas.” Indeed, he cannot. The site cannot be fully appreciated without browsing the hate mail section. Pay particular note to the script Robert has written in response to the letter from the ‘angry single mother of three’.

Photo legend Henri Cartier-Bresson dies

vert.story.cartierSorry to make this site so somber, but HC-B was one of my favorite photographers.

Cartier-Bresson shot for Life, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar magazines, and his work inspired generations of photographers. Cartier-Bresson became a French national treasure, though he was famously averse to having his own picture taken or to giving interviews.

“He was perhaps the greatest photographer of the 20th century,” said John Morris, who first met Cartier-Bresson at the door of Paris’ Hotel Scribe five days after the Germans left the city at the end of World War II.

More here from CNN. And here is the obituary from the NY Times that Asad pointed out in his comment on this post.

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Behavioral Economics: The new science of decision making. It’s not as rational as you think.

“For all its intellectual power and its empirical success as a creator of wealth, free-market economics rests on a fallacy, which economists have politely agreed among themselves to overlook. This is the belief that people apply rational calculations to economic decisions, ruling their lives by economic models… The new paradigm sweeping the field, under the rubric of ‘behavioral economics,’ holds that studying what people actually do is at least as valuable as deriving equations for what they should do.” More here from Newsweek International.

Sidney Morgenbesser, 1921-2004

MorgenbesserI was deeply saddened to find out today that Sidney Morgenbesser had died on Sunday morning. Services were held yesterday.

Sidney Morgenbesser was a legend in American philosophy. Having published very little, he nonetheless influenced many of the best philosophical minds of the day. He held the John Dewey Chair in Philiosophy at Columbia for many years. Arthur Danto once called him the “conscience of American philosophy”. Morgenbesser was deeply kind, occassionally irascible, always witty (see here check out the radio obituary with Arthur Danto and Leon Botstein, here, here, and here), and intensely brilliant. The philosopher Robert Nozick once said that he had gotten his Ph.D. in Morgenbesser. I know that there are many who feel a similar sentiment.

Those of us at 3 quarks daily, who did have the fortune of knowing Morgenbesser during our grad school days and of having been touched by his kind heart and keen mind, will miss him dearly.

Update: The New York Times has an obituary today, August 4.

Barack Obama generating more excitement among Democrats than John Kerry

“Earlier this year an East African newspaper sent a reporter to the region of Siaya, in Kenya, near Lake Victoria, where the father of a forty-three-year-old Chicago Democrat named Barack Obama was born. News that the younger Obama was emerging as one of the brightest lights in American politics had only recently reached the area.” More here from The Atlantic Monthly.

Monday, August 2, 2004

Bill Mitchell on Campus Design

Professor Bill Mitchell gave an excellent talk today in Cambridge on campus design and how it is changing with the spread of new communication technologies like WiFi. He shared a great quote by Charles Moore when showing Gehry’s new MIT Stata Centre: “the fundamental principle of campus design should be to figure out the exact spot that the next revolution should begin.”

For more see the notes on Mitchell’s talk (thanks to blackbeltjones).

Déjà vu through the ages

“During the past two decades… a few hardy souls have reopened the scientific study of déjà vu. They hope to nail down a persuasive explanation of the phenomenon, as well as shed light on some fundamental elements of memory and cognition. In the new book The Déjà Vu Experience: Essays in Cognitive Psychology, Alan S. Brown, a professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University, surveys the fledgling subfield. ‘What we can try to do is zero in on it from a variety of different angles,’ he says.” From the Chronicle of Higher Education.