On Visiting a Prison

I first saw a jail–and its inhabitants–as a child. Our family car had been broken into and some of its contents stolen, so we drove to a police station to file a report. While seated in the waiting room outside the police officer’s den, I could see what must have been a holding cell, occupiedContinue reading “On Visiting a Prison”

Social Media From Beyond the Grave

Charles Simic describes an ingenious and profitable aspiration for immortality: [The] poet Mark Strand…told me excitedly one day that he had invented a new kind of gravestone that….would include…a slot where a coin could be inserted, that would activate a tape machine built into it, and play the deceased’s favorite songs, jokes…whatever else they findContinue reading “Social Media From Beyond the Grave”

Philip Roth and Writing for One’s ‘Community’

In reviewing Claudia Roth Pierpont‘s Roth Unbound: A Writer and his Books, Adam Mars-Jones writes: Letting Go…hadn’t yet been published when Roth was given a hostile reception at a symposium organised by Yeshiva University….The topic was ‘The Crisis of Conscience in Minority Writers of Fiction’, and the idea seemed to be, if he didn’t alreadyContinue reading “Philip Roth and Writing for One’s ‘Community’”

The Killing and the Death That Dare Not Speak Its Name

One important feature of AMC’s The Killing, (the subject of yesterday’s post), which it inherits from the Danish original Forbrydelsen, is its focus on the effect of the central murder on the victim’s family. In so doing, the show manages to be, besides the imperfect police procedural, a painful examination of the most commonly ignoredContinue reading “The Killing and the Death That Dare Not Speak Its Name”

The Killing as Cautionary Police Procedural

If Wikipedia’s entry for “police procedural” is any indicator, AMC’s The Killing is not commonly thought of as one. But despite being a traditional whodunit, it has many of the features of that genre; it depicts “a number of police-related topics such as forensics, autopsies, the gathering of evidence, the use of search warrants andContinue reading “The Killing as Cautionary Police Procedural”

Tom Friedman Has Joined Google’s HR Department

Tom Friedman is moonlighting by writing advertising copy for Google’s Human Resources Department; this talent is on display in his latest Op-Ed titled–appropriately enough “How To Get a Job at Google”. Perhaps staff at the Career Services offices of the nation’s major universities can print out this press release from Google HR and distribute itContinue reading “Tom Friedman Has Joined Google’s HR Department”

Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion: Portrait of the Apocalypse

If you find speculation about post-apocalyptic situations interesting, then you should find speculation about the progression of an apocalypse interesting too. Steve Soderbergh‘s Contagion is a fine cinematic take on this eventuality. The movie’s plot is simple: a deadly new virus jumps the animal-human barrier, and is transmitted quickly by contact. The virus’ first appearance occursContinue reading “Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion: Portrait of the Apocalypse”

History as Chronicle of the Inevitable

From Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America: [A]s Lindbergh’s election couldn’t have made clearer to me, the unfolding of the unforeseen was everything. Turned wrong way round, the relentless unforeseen was what we schoolchildren studied as “History,” harmless history, where everything unexpected in its own time is chronicled on the page as inevitable.  The terrorContinue reading “History as Chronicle of the Inevitable”

A Stutterer and His Cure

In the seventh grade, at the age of eleven, I began to stutter. It began without apparent reason; all too suddenly, I found myself tripping over consonants and unable to begin speaking words that began with vowels. When asked to speak up in class, I found I needed a visible act of physical exertion toContinue reading “A Stutterer and His Cure”

How Best to Introduce Scientific Reasoning

A couple of days ago on Facebook, by way of crowd-sourcing syllabi preparation for an undergraduate critical thinking course that includes a unit–three to six class sessions–on scientific reasoning, David Grober-Morrow threw out the following query What do you most wish that undergraduates (science and non-science majors) understood about scientific reasoning? This is a veryContinue reading “How Best to Introduce Scientific Reasoning”