‘Simpler’ and ‘Simple’

From The New York Times—two new books, which exhort us to “simplify”:

SIMPLE—Conquering the Crisis of Complexity, by Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn


SIMPLER—The Future of Government, By Cass R. Sunstein

Sunstein writes that he pushed for “the use of plain language, reductions in red tape, readable summaries of complex rules, and the elimination of costly, unjustified requirements.”

I wish….

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How to Converse Properly: 18 Tips From Old Etiquette Books

From mental_floss; my favorite:

“Never ask a lady a question about anything whatever.”

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Stephen Hawking: So here’s how it all happened without God

In a speech in Pasadena, Calif., the famed physicist wonders what God was doing before the universe was created and says he’s grateful that he wasn’t subject to a church inquisition.

In the end, though, we live in a world whose end we know no better than its beginning. We live in the middle of it and still don’t know what’s going on.

We neither understand ourselves very well, nor the reasons others behave as they do. We stand and we stare, as humanity shows its many hues and its infinite number of whys.

Somehow, God or not God, scientists’ musings seem as fascinating as they are irrelevant to our everyday lives.

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The 25 Greatest Quotes About Writing

A thoughtful list from Thought Catalog—one of my favorites:

“The first draft of anything is shit.” Ernest Hemingway


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The damnation of Christopher Hitchens

From GQ, Michael Wolff beats up on the dead Christopher Hitchens:

Writer, orator and highbrow barfly Christopher Hitchens transformed, in his final years, from searing socialist showman into untouchable, saintly sage. But, asks his former media cohort, was this beatification deserved… at all?

For all his faults, I’ve always enjoyed the brilliant snarky writing of Christopher Hitchens.

Those Irritating Verbs-as-Nouns

From Opinionator—The New York Times:

“Do you have a solve for this problem?” “Let’s all focus on the build.” “That’s the take-away from today’s seminar.” Or, to quote a song that was recently a No. 1 hit in Britain, “Would you let me see beneath your beautiful?”

If you find these sentences annoying, you are not alone. Each contains an example of nominalization: a word we are used to encountering as a verb or adjective that has been transmuted into a noun. Many of us dislike reading or hearing clusters of such nouns, and associate them with legalese, bureaucracy, corporate jive, advertising or the more hollow kinds of academic prose. Writing packed with nominalizations is commonly regarded as slovenly, obfuscatory, pretentious or merely ugly.

The author of this piece, Henry Hitchings, apparently doesn’t like this writing style!

Book Review: ‘Karl Marx,’ by Jonathan Sperber

From The New York Times, A Man of His Time. The intro:

The Karl Marx depicted in Jonathan Sperber’s absorbing, meticulously researched biography will be unnervingly familiar to anyone who has had even the most fleeting acquaintance with radical politics. Here is a man never more passionate than when attacking his own side, saddled with perennial money problems and still reliant on his parents for cash, constantly plotting new, world-changing ventures yet having trouble with both deadlines and personal hygiene, living in rooms that some might call bohemian, others plain “slummy,” and who can be maddeningly inconsistent when not lapsing into elaborate flights of theory and unintelligible abstraction.

Still, it comes as a shock to realize that the ultimate leftist, the father of Communism itself, fits a recognizable pattern…If the Marx described by Sperber…were around in 2013, he would be a compulsive blogger, and picking Twitter fights with Andrew Sullivan and Naomi Klein.

Oh, no! Does this mean that there is some blogger out there about to unload a “new world order” on us all?

Colorado’s Future—Pot Central?

From GQ, a 2010 article about pot-smoking in Amsterdam.

With pot laws changing, we thought it’d be a good idea to send our weed-averse correspondent to see what life is really like in Amsterdam, the world’s cannabis capital. He took a job at a marijuana coffee shop, inhaled the best stuff on earth, and saw the totally righteous future of legalized ganja

And a related, more current article from Business Week, Q&A: Is Colorado the Napa Valley of Weed?

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What the idea of the “two cultures” is really about

From The American Scholar, a short essay by William Deresiewicz. The intro:

I’ve written several posts recently (this onethis one, and this one) about the difference between science and the humanities. Rub those terms together, and you inevitably engender a third: C. P. Snow’s famous notion of the “two cultures,” first articulated in 1959 and a commonplace of educated discourse ever since. Literary culture on the one hand, and scientific culture on the other, Snow lamented, are failing to communicate. A scientifically trained civil servant who also wrote novels (rather bad ones, apparently), Snow left no doubt as to who was to blame: “Intellectuals, in particular literary intellectuals, are natural Luddites.” A scientist would be ashamed to admit that he hadn’t read Shakespeare, but where’s the humanist who can explain the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

The breasts have been abeating ever since.

His final recommendation is perfect.

Meet the new climate deniers

From the New York Post (Hat tip: Maggie’s Farm):

There are few things sadder than the “climate denier.” He ignores the data and neglects the latest science. His rhetoric and policy proposals are dangerously disconnected from reality. He can’t recalibrate to take account of the latest evidence because, well, he’s a denier.

The new climate deniers are the liberals who, despite their obsession with climate change, have managed to miss the biggest story in climate science, which is that there hasn’t been any global warming for about a decade and a half.