March 29, 2004

Assorted Reading

A special edition focusing on deflating the over-inflating, because I'm a negative, destructive, snarky guy, who likes to see his betters nibbled to death by small rodents. (At least when I'm also teaching myself basic graphics programming in Java.)

William Dalrymple politely corrects V. S. Naipaul on the history of Islam in India, and related matters. (Cache.)

Sasha Issenberg has fun showing up David Brooks as a lazy purveyor of dumb cliches. (Cache.) Ruy Texieira and Timothy Burke provide good commentary. Teixeira points to two older pieces (1,2) of his, contra Brooks, which I can now finally delete from my to-be-blogged folder. Here's some earlier Brooks bashing from Balkin. (Via Wonkette.) Update, 30 March 2004: Uncertain Principles weighs in. He's right about Montgomery County --- and I say that as someone who grew up there, comfortably within the social stratum which does shop at White Flint Mall.

Note: This juxtaposition should not be taken to indicate that I hold Naipaul and Brooks in similar esteem. One of them is a gifted writer and social observer with unfortunate political views, and the other is a Conintern hack.

Kitabkhana is a very nice blog on books, literary life and the Indian scene, which I found when Moorish Girl quoted this wonderful paragraph:

The thing is, Atal Behari Vajpayee is an honourable man. A while back, he'd obliquely criticised people who banned books and ravaged libraries, suggesting that they might choose to table their objections in more intellectual fashion. The thing is, it's the elections and he's campaigning in Maharashtra, also known as I Love Shivaji Central. The thing is, Laine hasn't said anything defamatory, or even especially inflamatory, about Shivaji, in his book. The thing is, our honourable PM has done the crowd-pulling bit and slammed Laine in general, foreign scholars in particular, just to get that applause going. The thing is, if anyone else had pulled a volte face like that, I'd have had no hesitation in calling him a two-faced wuss who lacked the courage of his convictions and was only too happy to sell intellectual freedom down the river in pursuit of votes. But the thing is, we're talking about Atal Behari Vajpayee here, and as everyone knows, AB Vajpayee is an honourable man. Isn't he?

(For some background on this controversy, see here [link also poached from MoorishGirl], and for a review of the book in question, see Danny Yee.)

Mark A. R. Kleiman on Ceremonial Deism in Classical Times, Mrs. Tilton on the not-unrelated topic of atheists for religion for others.

Which brings us to: Brad DeLong on "The House of Kristol Divided Against Itself". Michael Bérubé on Mel Gibson's contributions to ecumenical understanding. Garry Wills delivers a two-fer on Gibson's movie and a scary, secretive, ultra-conservative Catholic order (cache).

Thanks to Arts and Letters Daily, everyone and their dog read, and blogged, Lauren Slater's Opening Skinner's Box, or at least the parts, excerpted in the Guardian, where she described David Rosenham's experiment, in the 1970s, on how easy it was to fake insanity in mental hospitals, and her attempt to replicate it recently. Respectful of Otters provided a link to an archived version, and some sensible, indeed properly annoyed, comments. It now develops (see R.o.O.'s Lauren Slater, Liar) that Slater seems to have made up a whole bunch of the most juicy quotes in that chapter, among others, and to have related a whole slew of easily-refuted legends about B. F. Skinner and his daughter Deborah. For instance, Deborah not raised in an operant-conditioning box, she did not shoot herself in a bowling alley in Billings, Montana, she is alive, she has never been to Montana, and she seems to be a perfectly ordinary professional painter. I eagerly await Arts and Letters Daily demonstrating its sense of fair play, and even-handed taste for juicy controversy, by reporting something of this. (Respectful of Otters has too many good posts for me to mention them all; I'll point to this one as well, and recommend her archives to you.) Update, 12 April 2004: A&LD now notices the controversy. I am appeased.

MetaMirror points out an interesting review of a new book on the costs of having too many choices and options (cache). This leads to Cass Sunstein's idea of libertarian paternalism.

Since Respectful of Otters and MetaMirror are both written by psychiatrists, this is as good a place as any to mention the Project Gutenberg edition of Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.

Timothy Burke reads Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival, and is unimpressed.

Scott Martens (who has recently discovered some long-lost relatives) lays into Samuel Huntington's latest folly, in three parts (1, 2, 3). People whose opinion I respect tell me that some of Huntington's work from the 1960s and 1970s, on third-world politics, really is worthwhile, but at least since the foolish Clash of Civilizations book he seems to have become, in Scott's words, "an ignorant twit". (There are annihilating take-downs of Clash in both Yahya Sadowski's The Myth of Global Chaos, and Lewis and Wigen's The Myth of Continents. These are both excellent works of scholarship, combining careful reasoning with a scrupulous respect for facts, and to recommend them merely as antidotes to rubbish is a bit of an insult; but I've been meaning to write reviews of them both for years, and probably will never get around to it.)

Leon Kass: silly ass or reactionary moral degenerate? (Why take sides?, I ask.)

Islam; Linkage; The Commonwealth of Letters; The Continuing Crisis; The Running-Dogs of Reaction

Posted at March 29, 2004 17:57 | permanent link

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