Results filed under: “read”
Can you name the five categories in which a Nobel Prize is given out each year? Everybody knows Peace. People have probably heard of Literature, Physics, and Chemistry. There is also one for Medicine. But in addition to these prizes, the Swedish central bank has established a sixth prize: the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.Note that the Nobel for Economics is not technically a Nobel prize, but it is given out at the same ceremony and generally regarded the same as its peers. I guess you could say its separate but equal.
The elevation of economics to the level of the other Nobel categories might seem strange to some, but I would argue that economics is just as important to our understanding of the modern world as chemistry or physics. To grasp that, you need to first understand that economics refers to more than just the economy. Economics is the study of motivations and behavior, of how and why decisions are made. It is part math, part psychology, and part statistics.
In his book "The Undercover Economist", Tim Harford explores how economics shapes the world around us. And in doing so, he gives readers insights on making better, more informed decisions. Everyday questions like why does Starbucks charge so much, why do supermarkets have coupons, and what role government should play in the economy are tackled in a rigorous, yet easily understood fashion.
More importantly, the book is fun. Reading the book is like having Harford pull back a curtain on a hidden part of how our society functions. In addition to the book, Harford writes an online blog
and, to my delight, an advice column
, where you can see for yourself before diving into a whole book how insightful and fun Harford is to read. In his column, Harford brings economic theory to bear on such diverse subjects as choosing a wine on a date, parenting, traffic, and sports.
The greatest compliment I can give Harford is that I would never try to write a "Somebody Else's Business" based on one of his columns - his advice is always unimpeachable.
[This is part one of my look back at Moneyball, the era-defining 2002 book on baseball by Michael Lewis. Look for part two tomorrow.]
Moneyball is a gripping, well-written, exciting book about, of all things, baseball statistics. Michael Lewis is perhaps the best non-fiction author working today, and uses his access to Oakland's front office to lay bare the inner workings of one of the most successful franchises of the last 10 years. There's just one problem: Moneyball is more embarrassing to look back on than a high school yearbook.
Sometime since it came out in 2002, Moneyball stopped being a title and instead became an adjective. Moneyball the adjective could be used to describe a team or a player. A Moneyball team employed Moneyball players. A Moneyball player had three important attributes: he drew lots of walks, he saw lots of pitches in an at-bat, and he never stole a base.
It's interesting to revisit this book now for two reasons, the first of which we will examine today. The brief Moneyball era of baseball is coming to an end. To understand why, you need to understand the intertwined effects of Moneyball style baseball and steroids.
Lately, I've grown used to terrible news sources, especially cable news but also newspapers. Seriously, ever looked at the Houston Chronicle's editorials? But lately the Houston Press has been doing this kick-ass new thing I've never seen before. Get this, they're using their resources to do a long, in-depth investigation into areas of society that most people don't know about, and then 'report' back to the viewers. I think they call it 'journalism', but don't quote me on that.
This article in particular, while old, is a great example. I can't think of any article in a real newspaper that comes close to being as informative. It's a bit long for work reading, so save it for your lunch break or evening reading.
Perhaps if places like the Washington Post would spend less time whining about blogs and more time doing actual reporting, they would find themselves in a position of providing a service that not every retard with a Typepad account could do just as well. I was going to link a delightful ABC news article that spent four solid pages actively misleading its readers about marginal tax rates. Unfortunately, the many blogs that savaged it got there before I could, and it's been sort of corrected. It was absolutely glorious in its idiocy, I recommend the second link (The New Republic) for a pithy takedown.
Blood Meridian is a western as imagined by lunatic and written by a poet. That is to say it is violence and mayhem written in stunning, beautiful prose. We travel with the kid as he leaves Tennessee, joins the army, is almost slaughtered by indians, joins a mercenary group, slaughters some indians, is almost slaughtered by indians again... lets just say there is alot of slaughtering.
McCarthy writes about an ugly chapter in American history without judging. He's like a naturalist, observing animals hunting and killing and eating each other in the wild. There is no morality to it; that is just what animals do. This is embodied, ironically, by a character with no name; he is only called the judge. He is 7 feet tall, powerfully strong, and completely bald. I only mention his physique because McCarthy mentions it dozens of times, often having him stroll around naked. He is a philosopher, a scientist, and a supremely efficient killer. He observes the world and the men around him but is not of them. To him, they are all animals. I'm not sure, but I think he might be the devil? Surely if the devil were on earth this is the place he would call home.
I am a fast reader, but I slogged through this book like my feet were in mud. That is not to say I didn't enjoy it; quite the contrary. I read and reread sentences and passages, marveling in the spectacle and the craft. I kept a dictionary next to me for easy reference, because it turns out there are a whole lot of words that Cormac McCarthy knows, but I don't.
I read this book last spring but didn't recommend it then because it was not a summer book, not a book to be enjoyed on the beach in the warmth and the sun. Blood Meridian is a book for winter, cold and dark and beautiful.
If the Golden Girls had a blog, it would suck compared to what these two gals are up to.[Disclaimer: While it is entirely possible that Margaret, Helen, Margaret's husband Harold, and Helens' three dogs are entirely the fiction of someone's imagination, I am okay with that. Because if it is true, then that person is still a genius.]
Helen Philpot and Margaret Schmechtman have been friends since they met in college, 60 years ago. Helen's grandson set up the blog for them, and they have been churning out their unique take on world events ever since. And I cannot get enough.
Why do I doubt they are real? Because of lines like this:
I thought it was a good debate. My hats off to Bob Shieffer... and my
blouse too if he plays his cards right. (Just don't tell my husband.)"
It seems like the author broke character for the sake of the joke. And, sure, it is a fabulous joke, but can anybody's grandmother be that awesome?
But the "ladies" really won me over with this post on, yes them again
, undecided voters:
"Oh Cecilia, bless your heart. We have only been at this for two
years, sweetheart. There were over 40 debates during the primaries
and most recently we have had three Presidential debates and one Vice
Presidential debate. Honey, I trust you can read."
As much as I enjoyed that, I enjoyed 10 times as much.
"But onto another undecided out there. So I love my Whoopi Goldberg.
And that Joy Behar makes me laugh. Barbara Walters has lost some of
her edge, but she will always have my respect for her accomplishments.
And then there is Moron Hasselbeck. Enough said. But, now there is
that other one. Cherry? Cheryl? Philmore? I don't remember her
name. She's pretty forgettable. Yesterday she announced that she was
still undecided. OK. That's it. She's a jackass. I mean this woman
is on a show called The View. What exactly is it that she
can't see? She has met, in person, all the big players in this little
card game. Talk about being spoon fed. And as a fellow plus-size gal
I know that she has had more than her share from that spoon. I am sure
qood people like Cecilia wouldn't squander such an opportunity. It's
five days away. I've got no more patience. What's her name has to go."
God, I hope these ladies are real: it gives me hope that I, too, can look forward to sunset years filled with biting, sarcastic, and hilarious blogging.
[The following is an excerpt from "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" by Haruki Murakami you may find relevant to today's climate of political discourse. -ed]
About two years after I married Kumiko, Noboru Wataya published a big, thick book. It was an economics study full of technical jargon, and I couldn't understand a thing he was trying to say in it. Not one page made sense to me. I tried, but I couldn't make any headway because I found the writing indecipherable. I couldn't even tell if this was because the contents were so difficult or the writing itself was bad. People in the field thought it was great, though. One reviewer declared that it was "an entirely new kind of economics written from an entirely new perspective." Soon the mass media began to introduce him as a "hero for a new age." Whole books appeared, interpreting his book. Two expressions he had coined, "sexual economics" and "excretory economics", became the year's buzzwords. I couldn't believe that anyone who wrote these articles understood what Noboru Wataya was saying in his book. I had doubts they even opened it. But such things were of no concern to them. Noboru Wataya was young and single and smart enough to write a book no one could understand.
Since his death in 1996, Tupac Shakur has still managed to release 8 albums. Here's hoping that Kurt Vonnegut manages to be half as prolific in death.
His first posthumous release, "Armageddon in Retrospect," is a collection of essays and previously unpublished short stories on the subject of war and peace. As with much posthumously released work, it appears in many cases unfinished and unpolished. And unlike Tupac, KV can't have Nate Dogg come in and sing the hook while he just gives us a verse or two. On their own, most of the stories fail to measure up to previously released work.
Unless you are a Vonnegut completist (which is not a bad thing to be), there are still three reasons to take a look at AiR, which are the first three pieces in the book; none of them are short stories.
The introduction by son Mark is a comical and moving look at the writing habits of Vonnegut by a son who was clearly very influenced by his father as a writer.
The intro is followed by a photographic reproduction of a letter Vonnegut sent to his family after he escaped German capture towards the end of World War II. His unit was captured when the German's briefly broke through at the Battle of the Bulge, and kept as a prisoner of war. He eventually found himself hiding in a slaughterhouse during the firebombing of Dresden, which would become the foundation for many of the stories in this volume as well as his masterpiece, Slaughterhouse-Five. Vonnegut was only 22 when he escaped capture, but this letter contains the same insight and dark humor he would retain his entire career.
Finally, we are given a transcript from a speech he wrote for the commencement ceremony for Butler University during the Year of Vonnegut in Indianapolis. The year was 2007 - he would die in April of that year. The speech was delivered in July at Clowes Hall by his son, Mark.
With prose that is both evocative and beautiful, McCarthy conjures a post-apocolyptic vision more unflinching and hopeless than any other I can think of. An unnamed man and his son travel across a dead, ash-covered world in hopes of finding some more habitable place. They scavenge for canned foods while hiding from roving bands of cannibals. The man keeps a gun that has only two bullets; they are not meant to fight off attackers, but rather to allow the man and boy to escape into death.
This is not a book for the faint of heart. The book does not paint a picture where there can be a happy ending. The only happiness to be found here is the existence of a story at all; it would have been easier for the man and his son to take the easy way out. We soon find out that is why there is no wife or mother on the journey. McCarthy paints a landscape so dark and hopeless that the light that is the relationship between the man and his son shines incredibly brightly.
Also, this one time, they see a pregnant chick with two dudes, and then later they find that the woman gave birth and chopped the baby's head off and put the baby on a spit to eat it. Yeah. This book is awesome.