Glaucon’s Porcine Preference for the Advanced Polis

I never particularly liked Glaucon. His responses to Socrates‘ description, in Plato‘s Republic (372 (a-d)), of the basic polis are a good reminder of why. Socrates quoth: First of all, then, let us consider what will be the manner of life of men thus provided. Will they not make bread and wine and garments and shoes?Continue reading “Glaucon’s Porcine Preference for the Advanced Polis”

Professorship and ‘The Perennial Taker of Courses’

In ‘In Greenwich, There Are Many Gravelled Walks‘ Hortense Calisher writes, Robert was a perennial taker of courses–one of those non-matriculated students of indefinable age and income, some of whom pursued, with monkish zeal and no apparent regard for time, this or that freakishly peripheral research project of their own conception, and others of whom, like Robert,Continue reading “Professorship and ‘The Perennial Taker of Courses’”

Walking the City: Random Walks Through Manhattan Streets

In Street Life: Becoming Part of the City, Joseph Mitchell wrote: What I really like to do is wander aimlessly in the city. I like the walk the streets by day and by night. It is more than a liking, a simple liking–it is an aberration. Every so often, for example, around nine in theContinue reading “Walking the City: Random Walks Through Manhattan Streets”

Why The Talking Dead is a Bad Idea

Last night, I declined to watch the Oscars and chose The Walking Dead instead. If you’re going to watch zombies, why not watch a more interesting group of them? Snark aside, I had not seen most of last year’s crop of nominees, other than the mildly diverting Argo, and more to the point, I’ve burned outContinue reading “Why The Talking Dead is a Bad Idea”

Op-Eds and the Social Context of Science

A few years ago, I taught the third of four special interdisciplinary seminars that students of the CUNY Honors College are required to complete during the course of their degrees. The CHC3 seminar is titled Science and Technology in New York City, a moniker that is open, and subject to, broad interpretation by any facultyContinue reading “Op-Eds and the Social Context of Science”

Walking, Head Down, on a Damp and Grey Day: How Virtuous It Is

On days like this, many residents of the US eastern seaboard are apt to question their decision to ever inhabit these spaces. The temperature is in the thirties (that’s just a couple of degrees above freezing point for all the folks living in Celsius-land); a steady, persistent drizzle is falling; and the most familiar colorContinue reading “Walking, Head Down, on a Damp and Grey Day: How Virtuous It Is”

‘If It’s Dead, Kill It’: The Second Compendium of the Walking Dead

Last year, I discovered The Walking Dead (the television series and the comic book). Like most fans of the television series, I’m all caught up now with the second half of the third season. Given the disappointing nature of the first two episodes of the second half, I’m glad that I have something else toContinue reading “‘If It’s Dead, Kill It’: The Second Compendium of the Walking Dead”

The Mad Men Are Serious Downers

I’m only three episodes deep into Mad Men, and I’m already struck by how grim the show is. There’s misogyny, sexism, racial and ethnic prejudice, sexual prudery (of a kind), depressing suburban life, loveless marriages, loveless affairs, rigid gender roles, corporate language, the vapidity of advertising, and smoking indoors. And alcohol, lots of it. MainlyContinue reading “The Mad Men Are Serious Downers”

O. Henry on the South (Mainly Nashville)

I’ve only read a couple of short stories by O. Henry but have long owned an omnibus collection of them (presented to me on my twenty-eighth birthday). I’ve finally taken a gander at it, and stumbled on his classic A Municipal Report. Henry was a Southerner transplanted to the East Coast, so I find the narrator’s voice–aContinue reading “O. Henry on the South (Mainly Nashville)”

The Nightmare of the Lost Semester

It has just come to my notice that the New York Review of Books has been running a series on dreams. Thus far, entries include Georges Perec’s “Fifty Kilos of Quality Meat,” Charles Simic’s “Dreams I’ve Had (and Some I Haven’t),”Michael Chabon’s “Why I Hate Dreams” and Nicholson Baker’s ‘On the Stovetop of Sleep.’ Inspired byContinue reading “The Nightmare of the Lost Semester”