Self Suck

Discovery_36.3_nikolopoulosby Angelo Nikolopoulos in Boston Review:

Maybe more’s not merrier but messier,
since you can be your own

object and taste of desire, both surrender
and control in one wet exchange,

intimacy’s frontbend: the torso strong-
armed against wall or swivel-chair

until the sex dips into the same body’s
mouth. It’s like watering

and being watered at the same time.
Fall seven times,

and you’ll stand up full. Slippery logic:
the snake who ate its tail.

Maybe it’s the true preservationism,
cutting out the middleman—

him or her—making it local and organic,
pleasure’s Trader Joe’s.

But sustainability’s never sexy,
canvas clad in its carbon-cock-blocking.

If you can’t save the penguins please yourself,
Objectivism’s golden rule.

To be volition and validation, lover and lovee,
a recipient handing himself money.

But a party of one’s no fun—
even auto-eroticism’s depressing.

Like a return to the wellspring of childhood,
where we confronted it face-first,

our awful club scout truth:
that we enter the valley unchartered and alone,

and we must leave it this way too.

The Nominees for the 2011 3QD Prize in Science Are:

Alphabetical list of blog names followed by the blog post title:

(Please report any problems with links in the comments section below.)

For prize details, click here.

And after looking around, click here to vote.

  1. (((1/f))): A Sunday Afternoon Watching Symmetry Break
  2. A Primate of Modern Aspect: Penis Spines, Pearly Papules, and Pope Benedict’s Balls
  3. Aetiology: Pigs with Ebola Zaire: a whole new can o’ worms
  4. Anthropology in Practice: Power, Confidence, and High-Heels
  5. Babble: D-MER and the Breastfeeding Blues
  6. Bad Astronomy: Most distant object ever seen… maybe
  7. Bering in Mind: One Reason Why Humans Are Special and Unique: We Masturbate. A Lot
  8. Biodiversity in Focus: The Fly Tree of Life – Big Science, Big Results?
  9. Bishnu Marasini: Cholera in Haiti and Association to South Asia and Scientific Study to Reduce Recurrence
  10. Body Horrors: Blood Money: Hookworm Economics in the Postbellum South
  11. BoingBoing: Nuclear Energy 101: Inside the “Black Box” of Power Plants
  12. Byte Size Biology: But did you correct your results using a dead salmon?
  13. Centauri Dreams: ‘Blue Stragglers’ in the Galactic Bulge
  14. Communicate Science: Is Féidir Linn: Obama was right
  15. Convergence: Ocean Acidifi-WHAT?!
  16. Cosmic Variance: Physics and the Immortality of the Soul
  17. Cosmic Variance: The Fine Structure Constant is Probably Constant
  18. Cosmology Science Blog: International Astronomical Union has no definition for Big Bang
  19. Critical Twenties: How a college student can derive the RNA world hypothesis from scratch
  20. Culturing Science: Can seabirds overfish a resource? The case of cormorants in Estonia
  21. Culturing Science: Reflections on 2010: humans as biological machine and “love” (whatever!)
  22. Culturing Science: When Adaptation Doesn’t Happen
  23. Deep Sea News: Quantifying Outreach to the Cult of Science
  24. Deep Sea News: This is clearly an important species we’re dealing with
  25. Dinner Party Science: Is the World Real?
  26. Dinner Party Science: Tycho’s drunken moose and other stories
  27. Doctor Stu’s Blog: The Future of Nuclear Power after Fukushima: Thorium Reactors?
  28. Dot.Physics: Where Does the Carbon Come From?
  29. Dr. Carin Bondar: Sacrifice on the Serengeti
  30. Edible Geography: Fueling Mexico City: A Grain Revolution
  31. Empirical Zeal: Blind Fish in Dark Caves Shed Light on the Evolution of Sleep
  32. Empirical Zeal: When Nice Guys Finish First: A Lesson From Tiny Robots
  33. Empirical Zeal: Why Moths Lost Their Spots, and Cats Don’t Like Milk
  34. ERV: Barnyard Week: White Chickens Are ERV Mutants
  35. Furahan Biology and Allied Matters: Size matters, but so does gravity II
  36. Georneys: Word of the Week: O is for Ophiolite
  37. Highly Allochthonous: Levees and the Illusion of Flood Control
  38. Hudson Valley Geologist: SuperMoon
  39. In the Dark: No Cox please, we’re British
  40. Is This Your Homework: A Plethora of Planets
  41. Laelaps: The Pelican’s Beak – Success and Evolutionary Stasis
  42. Lindau Nobel Community: Seeking Inspiration
  43. Lounge of the Lab Lemming: Dear Hypothesis
  44. Matt Soniak: Shell Games: The Social and Behavioral Aspects of Hermit Crab Real Estate
  45. Matthew Herper: The First Child Saved By DNA Sequencing
  46. Neuron Culture: Free Science, One Paper at a Time
  47. Neuron Culture: The Tight Collar: The New Science of Choking Under Pressure
  48. Neutrino Blog: Four Neutrinos? But You Said There Were Just Three!
  49. Observations of a Nerd: How Do You ID a Dead Osama Anyway?
  50. Observations of a Nerd: Reflections on the Gulf Oil Spill: Conversations With My Grandpa
  51. Observations of a Nerd: Why do women cry? Obviously it’s so they don’t get laid
  52. Oh, For the Love of Science: Bufotoxin Tolerance in Keelback Snakes: Recent Adaptation to a New Threat, or Preadaptation From An Ancient Foe?
  53. Oh, For the Love of Science: Prehistoric Clues Provide Insight into Climate’s Future Impact on Oceans
  54. Opinionator: Morals Withoud God?
  55. Oscillatory Thoughts: Why we don’t need a brain
  56. Past Horizons: The Bones of Martyrs?
  57. Puff the Mutant Dragon: Bubonic Plague in America, Part I: LA Outbreak
  58. Quantum Tantra: Fun With an Argon Atom
  59. Ravindra Jadhav’s Blog: Graphene Wonder
  60. Resonaances: Theorists vs. the CDF bump
  61. Risk Science Blog: Finding My Tears For Japan: When 1 Is Worse Than 10,000
  62. Scientific American Guest Blog: Seratonin and Sexual Preference: Is It Really That Simple?
  63. Scientific American Observations: Circadian clock without DNA–History and the power of metaphor
  64. Screeds and Quibbles: The performativity of epidemiology: how smoking bans could increase death rates
  65. Smells Like Science: Field Notes From A Maya Ruin
  66. Smells Like Science: The Psychology of Killing and the Origins of War
  67. Southern Fried Science: Back from the Brink: Victories in Conservation
  68. Starts With A Bang: Where Is Everybody?
  69. Surprising Science: Rare Earth Elements Not Rare, Just Playing Hard to Get
  70. Tetrapod Zoology: Heinrich’s digital Kentrosaurus: the SJG Stegosaur special, Part II
  71. The Art in Science: Who the heck is The Vitruvian Man?
  72. The Artful Amoeba: Bombardier Beetles, Bee Purple, and the Sirens of the Night
  73. The Artful Amoeba: The Fungus and Virus that Rot Bee Brains
  74. The Astronomist: The Universe and Life is Asymmetric: Chirality
  75. The International NanoScience Community: At the Bleeding Edge: Benchmarking Next-Gen NanoTox Protocols
  76. The Loom: The Human Lake
  77. The Mother Geek: How “Boner” Is Misleading: The Science Behind an Erect Penis
  78. The Mouse Trap: Dicotomies; or Psychology in a nutshell
  79. The Physics arXiv Blog: First Observation of the Dynamical Casimir Effect
  80. The Soft Anonymous: Book Review: Logicomix
  81. The Thoughtful Animal: Defending Your Territory: Is Peeing on the Wall Just for the Dogs?
  82. The Thoughtful Animal: Is Pedagogy Specific to Humans? Teaching in the Animal World
  83. The Thoughtful Animal: Need A Date? Take a Cue From the Birds
  84. The Thoughtful Animal: Perseverating on Perseverative Error: What does the “A-not-B” Error Really Tell Us About Infant Cognition?
  85. Uncertain Principles: Measuring Gravity: Ain’t Nothin’ but a G Thing
  86. Urban Astronomer: Are the universal constants changing?
  87. ViXra Log: New luminosity record for LHC + Injector Chain

young benjamin


Benjamin was not just young when he wrote the pieces in this book; as an activist in the German Youth Movement, he was, one might say, professionally young. The youth movement was a loosely organized phenomenon with many tendencies—its adherents were interested in curriculum reform, sexual liberation, and nationalist renewal, among other causes, and there is a definite flavor of the 1960s in its vague, tumultuous commitment to change. Benjamin was exposed to it starting at 13, when he began to attend the Free School Community—an experimental, progressive school founded by the prominent reformer Gustav Wyneken, who became his mentor. Until the outbreak of the First World War, Benjamin was active in youth organizations—he was president of the Berlin University chapter of the Independent Students’ Association, and several of the essays in the book first appeared in movement journals. In these pieces, we sometimes find Benjamin writing as a muckraker, holding the German education system up to ridicule for its pedantry and mindless authoritarianism. In “Teaching and Valuation,” he complains of the “pious reiteration or regurgitation of unrelated or superficially related facts” and offers a “blacklist” of teacherly philistinism: “Apropos of Horace: ‘We have to read Horace in this class. It doesn’t matter whether we like it or not; it’s on the syllabus.’ ” When Benjamin quotes a teacher at a classical Gymnasium telling a student, “Please don’t think that anyone believes this enthusiasm of yours for the ancient world,” it’s hard to avoid suspecting that he himself was the student.

more from Adam Kirsch at Tablet here.

I do not possess any understanding of this world


I have said this before: I do not possess a superior understanding of the world. In fact, I do not possess any understanding of this world, let alone a superior one. I do not understand the world. I do not understand. That is why I write, because I do not understand. As for the price, it was not worth anything. A person’s suffering, life itself, is the most precious thing there is. Nothing justifies the degradation of another, nothing justifies someone wanting to look at a zoo, to stand in front of a cage and think “I am more sensitive and have an extraordinary mind and I watch the common people to see how they behave.” I haven’t a clue. I belong among those in the cage, I am not standing outside the bars watching. I don’t even understand what I have done. When I was in Romania, if I started every night to think about what had happened during the day, I couldn’t get my head round it. I couldn’t even afford to think within a wider time span. The exact, tiny things which kept accumulating were enough for me. I couldn’t think, I had to cope, and this absorbed everything I could come up with in my head. I think literature too is a way of searching. What is this existence of ours? We are all a mystery, even in our own body: we do not know how long we will live, which body organs will fail us, when our mind will go. So this is enough. That is why it was so tragic, because alongside all these existential problems, which automatically concern us all, the dictatorship introduced the political surveillance that you had to fight against. I didn’t understand a thing. That’s why I keep trying to ask myself: what happened back then? All I have understood is that freedom is important.

more from an interview between Herta Müller and Gabriel Liiceanu at Eurozine here.

playing the human game


‘I belong to no tribe,’ says Alfred Brendel, taking tea at his home in Hampstead, surrounded by some of the books that constitute his vast library. ‘I follow no creed, subscribe to no ideology, and I despise nationalism. I have lived in many places but wherever I go I am a paying guest.’ If you wanted a single statement to do justice to this extraordinary man, that would do pretty well. It is the expression of a well-travelled, well-read, well-versed man in language that is by turns serious and playful. With his immense learning, worn lightly, and a highly developed sense of irony and absurdity, Brendel is every inch a central European. He may have lived in London for four of his eight decades, and be a honorary knight of the realm, but nobody has ever taken him for an Englishman. In the most important sense, though, Brendel does belong to a tribe: the kingdom of artists. Like Goethe, of whom it was said that he represented a culture in himself, Brendel takes nourishment from all aspects of European civilisation. One of the supreme pianists of the past century, who retired from the concert platform three years ago, he was a painter in his youth, ‘and I’m still looking at paintings, most gratefully’. He has written brilliantly around the subject of music in several collections of essays, and is an acclaimed poet. Harold Pinter read six poems at Brendel’s 70th birthday celebrations ten years ago, and last year saw the publication of his collected work, Playing the Human Game.

more from Michael Henderson at The Spectator here.

A Raging Appetite

BloodBonesButter Joanna Scutts reviews Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef in Open Letters Monthly:

In B. R. Myers’ recent Atlantic article ‘The Moral Crusade Against Foodies,’ Gabrielle Hamilton – and her tough, vivid memoir – come in for a beating for belonging to the Anthony Bourdain school of macho food writing: ‘it’s quite something to go bare-handed up an animal’s ass… Its viscera came out with an easy tug; a small palmful of livery, bloody jewels that I tossed out into the yard.’ Driven by a passionate defense of animal rights, flavored with Catholic guilt and vegetarian revulsion, Myers eviscerates the foodie, that particular modern version of the gourmand of years past. He argues that for all the Michael Pollan sanctimony about looking an animal you’re going to eat right in the eye as a kind of atonement, this is just glorified gluttony – a deadly sin, if we hadn’t all forgotten? Furthermore, despite the hype about locavore sustainability as a social good, foodie-ism remains a marker of elite social status: “It has always been crucial to the gourmet’s pleasure that he eat in ways the mainstream cannot afford.” Foodies have the money and leisure to turn a bodily need into a sensual desire, and then, often, to write about it, for a community of like-minded, like-walleted readers.

At the other end of the moralizing spectrum, however, Eric Schlosser, author of the 2000 exposé Fast Food Nation, recently argued in the Washington Post that the elitist tag is a bait and switch. Dismissing those who pay a premium for organic-this and local-that as effete, arugula-munching liberals obscures the fact that the real elites are, as always, the billionaires: in this case, the owners of the massive agribusiness conglomerates that dominate America’s food production. The sinful elites are those currently pushing through a bill in Iowa to ban photographs of industrial farming operations, not Michelle Obama and her vegetable garden, or the diners at Brooklyn farm-to-table restaurants. The latter might be easier to satirize, but our moral outrage should be directed at those who keep fresh, healthy food out of the hands of the poor and poison the landscape while they’re at it.

In this fraught argument over the proper way to understand, appreciate, and write about food, the foodie memoir has a peculiar status. On the one hand, it participates in larger debates over food by advocating a particular way of eating – usually slowly, thoughtfully, with family and friends, using local ingredients, and if possible while watching the sunset over a Tuscan hillside. There are variations on this theme, and the occasional admission of a guilty pleasure in something mass-produced, but nobody has yet gotten rich writing My Life in Twinkies. On the other hand, the foodie memoir is necessarily personal – what is more intimate than a rumbling stomach, or tastebuds dancing in response to a perfect mouthful? The British food columnist Nigel Slater’s excellent Toast, for instance, is subtitled The Story of a Boy’s Hunger. How is that hunger, and its sating, to be shared? Foodie memoirs have long taken their cue from the lyrical Francophile M.F.K. Fisher, and tend to combine elements of the elegiac and the therapeutic. Often the writer is trying to recapture and recreate an idyllic, delicious childhood kitchen (Ruth Reichl), and sometimes to escape an upbringing of frozen dinners (Nigel Slater.) Healing journeys abound (Julie Powell) and more often than not there is some revelatory time spent absorbing the food and life lessons of different cultures, most often France or Italy, where the foodie memoir merges with the travelogue (Eat, Pray, Love.)

Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter combines plenty of these tropes on its journey from mythical childhood kitchen to thriving restaurant (she owns and runs Prune, in Manhattan’s East Village.)

Gil Scott-Heron, R.I.P.

GilScot-Heron_Press.3 Greg Tate in the Village Voice:

You know why Gil never had much love for that ill-conceived Godfather of Rap tag. If you're already your own genre, you don't need the weak currency offered by another. If you're a one-off, why would you want to bask in the reflected glory of knock-offs? If you're already Odin, being proclaimed the decrepit sire of Thor and Loki just ain't gonna rock your world.

Gil knew he wasn't bigger than hip-hop—he knew he was just better. Like Jimi was better than heavy metal, Coltrane better than bebop, Malcolm better than the Nation of Islam, Marley better than the King James Bible. Better as in deeper—emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, politically, ancestrally, hell, probably even genetically. Mama was a Harlem opera singer; papa was a Jamaican footballer (rendering rolling stone redundant); grandmama played the blues records in Kentucky. So grit shit and mother wit Gil had in abundance, and like any Aries Man worth his saltiness he capped it off with flavor, finesse and a funky gypsy attitude.

He was also better in the sense that any major brujo who can stand alone always impresses more than those who need an army in front of them to look bad, jump bad, and mostly have other people to do the killing. George Clinton once said Sly Stone's interviews were better than most cats' albums; Gil clearing his throat coughed up more gravitas than many gruff MCs' tuffest 16 bars. Being a bona fide griot and Orisha-ascendant will do that; being a truth-teller, soothsayer, word-magician, and acerbic musical op-ed columnist will do that. Gil is who and what Rakim was really talking about when he rhymed, “This is a lifetime mission: vision a prison.” Shouldering the task of carrying Langston Hughes, Billie Holiday, Paul Robeson and The Black Arts Movement's legacies into the 1970s world of African-American popular song will do that too. The Revolution came and went so fast on April 4, 1968, that even most Black people missed it.

Does reading great books make you a better person?

From Salon:

Jane It began when a professor forced him to read “Emma.” Balky at first, Deresiewicz was soon thunderstruck by the revelation that Austen had “not been writing about everyday things because she couldn't think of anything else to talk about. She had been writing about them because she wanted to show how important they really are.” Each chapter in this fusion of memoir and literary criticism reflects on how one Austen novel helped Deresiewicz reach a fuller understanding of some important aspect of life: common courtesy, learning, the importance of character over charm, social status, friendship and love. He makes a good case; Austen is a profoundly moral novelist and surely meant her readers to glean some insights on how best to live from reading her books. I do not doubt that Deresiewicz improved a lot while reading them. It's the causal relationship between the two phenomena that I doubt.

Does reading great literature make you a better person? I've not seen much evidence for this common belief. Some of the best-read people I know are thoroughgoing jerks, and some of the kindest and noblest verge on the illiterate — which is admittedly an anecdotal argument, but then, when it comes to this topic, what isn't? There's a theory, vaguely associated with evolutionary psychology, maintaining that fiction builds empathy, and therefore morality, by inviting us into the minds, hearts and experiences of others. This is what the British children's book author Michael Morpurgo implied recently in the Observer newspaper, when he claimed that “developing in young children a love of poems and stories” might someday render the human-rights organization Amnesty International obsolete.

More here.

Researchers uncover how the brain processes faces

From PhysOrg:

Face Each time you see a person that you know, your brain rapidly and seemingly effortlessly recognizes that person by his or her face. “Faces are among the most compelling visual stimulation that we encounter, and recognizing faces taxes our visual perception system to the hilt. Carnegie Mellon has a longstanding history for embracing a full-system account of the brain. We have the computational tools and technology to push further into looking past one single brain region. And, that is what we did here to discover that there are multiple cortical areas working together to recognize faces,” she said.

For the study, participants were shown images of faces while in a (MRI) scanner. Their task was to recognize different facial identities with varying . Using dynamic multivariate mapping, the research team examined the functional MRI (fMRI) data and found a network of fusiform and anterior temporal regions that respond with distinct patterns to different identities. Furthermore, they found that the information is evenly distributed among the anterior regions and that the right fusiform region plays a central role within the network. “Not only do we have a more clearly defined architectural model of the brain, but we were able to determine the involvement of multiple brain areas in face recognition as well as in other types of processes, such as visual word recognition,” Behrmann said.

More here.