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By bringing works by the likes of Diebenkorn, Thomas, and Albers, as well as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Louise Nevelson, into the White House, Obama is symbolically ridding the executive mansion—and, by extension, the U.S. Presidency—of the xenophobia that has informed the American rejection of abstraction. Our national fear of abstract art— “I don’t get it”—and the anger that it can provoke—“You call that art?”—are, at least in large part, vestiges of the anti-foreigner attitudes of the forties and fifties, which informed those fundamentalist congressional objections to abstractionism, and gave rise to such blots on our history as the House Un-American Activities Committee, McCarthyism, and the electrocution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. –“White Canvas House,” Rachel Somerstein, Guernica
Now that the hype surrounding the 40th anniversary of the Moon landings has come and gone, we are faced with the grim reality that if we want to send humans back to the Moon the investment is likely to run in excess of $150 billion. The cost to get to Mars could easily be two to four times that, if it is possible at all. This is the issue being wrestled with by a NASA panel, convened this year and led by Norman Augustine, a former chief executive of Lockheed Martin, that will in the coming weeks present President Obama with options for the near-term future of human spaceflight. It is quickly becoming clear that going to the Moon or Mars in the next decade or two will be impossible without a much bigger budget than has so far been allocated. Is it worth it? The most challenging impediment to human travel to Mars does not seem to involve the complicated launching, propulsion, guidance or landing technologies but something far more mundane: the radiation emanating from the Sun’s cosmic rays. The shielding necessary to ensure the astronauts do not get a lethal dose of solar radiation on a round trip to Mars may very well make the spacecraft so heavy that the amount of fuel needed becomes prohibitive. There is, however, a way to surmount this problem while reducing the cost and technical requirements, but it demands that we ask this vexing question: Why are we so interested in bringing the Mars astronauts home again? –“A One-Way Ticket to Mars,” Lawrence M. Krauss, the New York Times
See also: “‘Spirit of the Lone Eagle’: an audacious program for a manned Mars landing”, which appeared in the November 2006 Readings section
The series of events and coincidences that would change my entire life began on April 27, 1975, when Sibel happened to spot a purse designed by the famous Jenny Colon in a shopwindow as we were walking along Valikonagi Avenue, enjoying the cool spring evening. Our formal engagement was not far off; we were tipsy and in high spirits. We’d just been to Fuaye, a posh new restaurant in Nisantasi; over dinner with my parents, we’d discussed at length the preparations for the engagement party, which was scheduled for the middle of June, so that Nurcihan, Sibel’s friend since her days at the Lycée Notre Dame de Sion, in Paris, could come from France to attend. Sibel had long ago arranged for her engagement dress to be made by Silky Ismet, who was then the most expensive and sought-after dressmaker in Istanbul, and that evening Sibel and my mother discussed how they might sew on the pearls that my mother had given her for the dress. It was my future father-in-law’s express wish that his only daughter’s engagement party be as extravagant as a wedding, and my mother was delighted to help fulfill that wish as best she could. As for my father, he was charmed enough by the prospect of a daughter-in-law who had “studied at the Sorbonne,” as was said in those days among the Istanbul bourgeoisie of any girl who had gone to Paris for any kind of education. –“Distant Relations,” Orhan Pamuk, The New Yorker
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”