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1000 Black Lines

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Weekly reading

I recently completed an essay (soon to be published) where I challenged the idea of reading a broad range of subjects and literature and made a case for focused reading on a particular subject or topic. So, what do I find myself doing? Reading a variety of subjects and topics. Enjoy the links and excerpts!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the following links and excerpts are not necessarily those of 1000 Black Lines, but sure makes for some stimulating reading.

The Christian roots of capitalism: The Victory of Reason By Rodney Stark Reviewed by Jean E. Barker for the San Francisco Chronicle
"Stark defines his terms carefully and contends that hypotheses such as geography and technology 'are part of what needs to be explained: why did Europeans excel at metallurgy, shipbuilding, or farming? The most convincing answer to these questions attributes Western dominance to the rise of capitalism, which also took place only in Europe.' He traces the origins of capitalism to the belief in reason, which he in turn locates uniquely in Christian theology: 'While the other world religions emphasized mystery and intuition, Christianity alone embraced reason and logic as the primary guide to religious truth.'"

The artist as a young mandarin: David Barber for The Boston Globe
"Any diligent student of writerly posterity-and none was more diligent than Eliot himself-might have seen it coming. Giants must be cut down to size; icons must be toppled. In Eliot's case, the literary-industrial complex that sprang up in order to explain him now seems to exist largely to vivisect him, intent on exposing him as all too human."

The Betty I knew : Germaine Greer for the Guardian
"Betty was disconcerted by lesbianism, leery of abortion and ultimately concerned for the men whose ancient privileges she feared were being eroded. Betty was actually very feminine, very keen on pretty clothes and very responsive to male attention, of which she got rather more than you might think. The world will be a tamer place without her."

Robert Conquest's realities and delusions: The Dragons of Expectation by Robert Conquest reviewed by Christopher Hitchens for The Time Online
"The human desire to imagine a better world may be the root of much idiocy and crime, but it does seem to be innate and it might, like religion, be ineradicable. Having followed Conquest’s work over many decades, and having gathered that he is not himself a believer, I could wish that he had written explicitly rather than latently about 'faith', and about the relationship between secular and theological forms of the millennial. One of his favourite terms of disapprobation is 'righteous', which gives us a clue. But he also coins a useful term – 'the nonempirical clerisy' – to encompass that class of intellectuals who seem neither to know nor care what their fellow-countrymen think or feel."

From Surmise to Sunrise: By Jonathan Weiner for Scientific American
"One trivial factor has to do with mathematics. There's a publishing rule that every formula you use in a book cuts your potential readership in half. In Origin, Darwin was able to write profoundly about evolution without using a single formula. In Principia, on the other hand, Isaac Newton used so many formulas that if that publishing rule is correct, according to my rough calculations, the book shouldn't even have been read by Newton."

Time for the last post: By Trevor Butterworth for the Financial Times
"That such established journalists were blogging gave the revolution a dose of credibility that it might not have had if it were in the hands of true outsiders. And then, just before the presidential election in 2004, blogging had its Battleship Potemkin moment, when swarms of partisan bloggers rose up to sink CBS’s iron-jawed leviathan Dan Rather for peddling supposedly fake memos about Bush’s national guard service.

"This seemed to prove one of blogging’s biggest selling points - that the collective intelligence of the media’s audience was greater than the collective intelligence of any news programme or newspaper."

Blowing the Whistle on Forced Prostitution: AP/Reuters article from Der Spiegel
"Estimates as to the number of additional prostitutes that may travel to Germany for the month-long tournament go as high as 40,000. But while many doubt that Germany's 400,000 legal prostitutes will need that much backup, nobody doubts that human trafficking -- a problem in the EU -- will be magnified by the World Cup."

Plagiary, It's Crawling All Over Me: By Joseph Epstein for The Weekly Standard
"I have myself always been terrified of plagiarism--of being accused of it, that is. Every writer is a thief, though some of us are more clever than others at disguising our robberies. The reason writers are such slow readers is that we are ceaselessly searching for things we can steal and then pass off as our own: a natty bit of syntax, a seamless transition, a metaphor that jumps to its target like an arrow shot from an aluminum crossbow."

Free Markets and the End of History: Interview with New Perspectives Quarterly
"In the US, the problem now is primary and secondary education. We’ve had such an increase in inequality because a quarter of American kids don’t finish high school! In the current world, with the skills needed, those dropouts are condemned to being members of the underclass. In my view, this is a fault of the American school system, which is a government monopoly."

Pythagoras: By Robert P Crease for Physics World
"One may wonder what there is to gain by proving a theorem over and over again in different ways. The answer lies in our desire not merely to discover, but to view a discovery from as many angles as possible. But what is it that is so fascinating about Pythagoras's theorem in particular? First, the theorem is important. It helps to describe the space around us and is essential not only in construction but - suitably adapted - in equations of thermodynamics and general relativity. Second, it is simple. The Hindu mathematician Bhaskara was so enamoured of the visual simplicity of one proof that he redid it as a simple diagram - and instead of an explanation wrote a single word of instruction: 'See'.

"Third, it makes the visceral thrill of discovery easily accessible. In an autobiographical essay, Einstein wrote of the 'wonder' and 'indescribable impression' left by his first encounter with Euclidean plane geometry as a child, when he proved Pythagoras's theorem for himself based on the similarity of triangles. '[F]or anyone who experiences [these feelings] for the first time,' Einstein wrote, 'it is marvellous enough that man is capable at all to reach such a degree of certainty and purity in pure thinking.'"

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