From new Silicon Valley-funded startups in the thicket of Calcutta slums to ramen shops in Kansas City, globalism as both concept and an everyday fact of life is embraced by today’s well-minded liberal body. So if that’s the case, if the argument for globalism is so water-tight and damn-near irreproachable, why in the area of literature does one find so many supposedly progressive voices constantly bashing the very books that come out of the cauldron of heterogeneity?
In a culture where fast replies, constant stimulation and the omnipresence of social media rule the day, you might not expect that boredom is a booming business. Yet it is true: scholars from philosophy, psychology, art history, sociology and history—among others—have all tossed in their two cents on this suddenly fashionable subject, and not just by boring their own students.
Let’s start with how you don’t learn to think. A study by a team of researchers at Stanford came out a couple of months ago. The investigators wanted to figure out how today’s college students were able to multitask so much more effectively than adults. How do they manage to do it, the researchers asked? The answer, they discovered—and this is by no means what they expected—is that they don’t.
Six thousand years ago wild horses roamed the plains and steppes of the world. They were like many prey: fleet of foot, alert to threats and largely unaggressive. Then, in the Copper Age, the Botai people east of the Urals found a way to hunt them—for their meat and skins—and, later, to domesticate them. In horses, the Botai and succeeding civilisations found the best of partners. Horses are seen to be quick-witted and forgiving.
What does the act of committing words to paper do? Initially it was assumed this simply happened through catharsis, that people felt better because they’d let out their pent-up feelings. But then Pennebaker began looking in detail at the language people used in their writing.
Maps are an abstraction, which means information is lost in order to save space. So perhaps the most important thing we can do before reading a map is to stop and consider what choices have been made in the representation before us.
The standard heat rating scale for peppers is called the Scoville Scale after its inventor, Wilbur Scoville, an early twentieth century pharmacist and pepper aficionado. The scale ranges from 0- 15 million Scoville units. A Scoville Score represents the ratio of pepper to water that is detectable to a taster.
When George Orwell was born in 1903, a young Winston Churchill had just begun building a career for himself in politics; his “finest hour,” as Prime Minister of Britain during the Second World War, was still some thirty years to come. By the end of Orwell’s brief life, Churchill had become, along with Hitler and Stalin, among the most important figures of the 20th Century.
In his irreverent 1906 masterpiece, The Devil’s Dictionary, the 19th-century American writer Ambrose Bierce took aim at all manner of human hypocrisies, sins and shortcomings by penning a lexicon of cynical word definitions for a cynical age. In the latest instalment of The Devil’s Guide, we channel Bierce’s sardonic spirit to explore the true meanings of the jargon and fancy Latin terms that litter the landscape of the law.
This May should also be remembered for its cornucopia of outlandish riches — $900 billion in China’s save-the-world-from-poverty investment, a $350 billion envelope to President Trump to help Muslims defeat each other, and a $250 billion Indian plan to turn its traders into manufacturers of sophisticated weapons.