I have been hacking up a lung the past few days and thinking I need a vacation. Maybe you do, too. This would do nicely: Explore France’s Loire Valley in the footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci: “Five centuries after his death, visitors can pay homage to the artist at these sites in central France where he spent his final years.”
In search of British husbands: “The daughters of the American rich who invaded London in quest of titled mates tended to be spirited and good company, not milksops like the general run of British debutantes. Whatever their other attractions, the ‘buccaneer belles’ have inspired a social history par excellence.”
Company claims that it has made a text generator that is too dangerous to be released: “Researchers at the non-profit AI research group OpenAI just wanted to train their new text generation software to predict the next word in a sentence. It blew away all of their expectations and was so good at mimicking writing by humans they’ve decided to pump the brakes on the research while they explore the damage it could do.”
Rachel Hadas reviews a handful of books on Stoicism, including A. A. Long’s How to Be Free: An Ancient Guide to the Stoic Life: “Perhaps more than his fellow Stoic writers, Epictetus is perennially useful and relevant not only in his guidance toward a life free of anxiety, fear, or anger, but in the practicality of his applications and illustrations. Many of his tropes remain fresh and compelling. To cite only a few: any situation has two handles by which it can be grasped; treat life as a banquet where you shouldn’t be greedy, or as a play where you didn’t control the casting but must act your part as well as you can; don’t stray too far from the ship, even if you’re picking up pretty shells, for the captain may call at any moment. ‘Captain’ is glossed by Long as ‘Metaphor for the Stoics’ providential divinity,’ but surely part of the beauty of metaphors is that they allow some leeway of interpretation. Each of us has his or her own captain. A sensible piece of advice is drily humorous: ‘If you are told that someone is talking badly of you, don’t defend yourself against the story but reply: “Obviously he didn’t know my other faults, or he would have mentioned them as well.”’ These vivid and often wry nuggets come across clearly in Long; and it’s admittedly useful to be able to consult the crisp, brisk Greek on the left-hand side of each page, if you know Greek. But it’s safe to say that many of Epictetus’ numerous readers in the past few centuries have not known Greek. And one conclusion reading Long leads to is that it isn’t necessary to read the Greek; nor, indeed, does translation seem to make much difference. As with the Parables and the Four Noble Truths, the insights aren’t dependent on phrasing.”
Kissing Sailor has died: “George Mendonsa, who maintained for decades that he was the sailor in an iconic 1945 Times Square photo, dubbed ‘The Kiss,’ that came to symbolize the end of World War II, has died, his family says. He was 95.”
Ursula K. Le Guin’s worlds: “Her first Earthsea fantasy novel began with a map of islands that she drew for herself in a paper-and-ink archipelago, which offered her the freedom to imagine who might live there. Real places inspired not only her realistic but also her speculative fiction, where the situations were imaginary but the emotionally charged landscapes were often based on ones she knew and loved. In the new documentary Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, she tells director Arwen Curry, ‘I don’t feel so much as if I were “making it up”; I know I am, but that’s not what it feels like. It feels like being there and looking around, and listening.’”
Essay of the Day:
In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Cal Newport argues that professors (and perhaps other people) should get rid of email:
“In 2014, the Boise State anthropologist John Ziker released the results of a faculty time-use study, which found that the average professor spent a little over 60 hours a week working, with 30 percent of that time dedicated to email and meetings. Anecdotal reports hint that this allocation has only gotten worse over the past five years. ‘The days of the ivory tower are a distant memory,’ concludes Ziker, and many burnt-out professors agree. Until recently, I would have as well. Now I’m not so sure.
“On his website, [Donald] Knuth offers the following explanation for his refusal to use email: ‘Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things.’ The idea that the life of a professor should be radically different than other professions, and that universities should take far-reaching steps to allow faculty members to be ‘on the bottom of things’ is easy to dismiss as eccentric utopianism. But the time has come to take Knuth’s vision seriously.”
Poem: Suzanne Edgar, “Interwoven”
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