Mildly Malevolent

"So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information." --George Orwell

"Anbody can make history. Only a great man can write it."--Oscar Wilde

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Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a useful run-down of the debate over a review board for government-funded area studies centers.

Monday, February 02, 2004

And now, at long last, the unveiling of the mysterious "project" I've mentioned: I've joined a new group blog of University of Chicago students called Gnostical Turpitude. The blog will focus on academia and things academic; its three co-bloggers are a high-energy physicist, a cancer biologist, and a Soviet history specialist (me). Most of my entries, not surprisingly, will deal with things like history, historiography, academia, books, and politics. Check it out!

I'm currently debating exactly how I'll be blogging in the future. One likely possibility is that I'll continue to maintain this site (with short entries providing links and commentary), with longer, essay-style entries at Gnostical Turpitude. It's also possible that I'll retire this site. Who knows? For the next couple weeks, I expect that I'll focus more on Gnostical Turpitude (in part to ensure that it gets off to a smooth start, and in part because it may take less time to work on the other blog while I'm finishing my dissertation proposal.) Do continue to visit this site, however: I'll definitely continue updating this site (though perhaps to a lesser extent.)

In case you're curious about the name of the new blog, we decided to pick a name from Nabokov. A friend of ours suggested that "Fire of My Loins" would be a good Nabokovian name, but somehow I couldn't convince Susan and Matt to agree with this suggestion!

How good is DNA evidence?

Expect an announcement here sometime soon--probably tomorrow or Wednesday.

The Guardian discusses the "hypnotic" way that Charles Dickens performed at public readings--and asks whether these performances shortened his life. (via ArtsJournal)

Sunday, February 01, 2004

An interesting Chicago Tribune article discusses a controversy here at the University of Chicago that I wasn't aware of: the university's Muslim students consider the swimming pool at the new athletic center unusable, since it's visible from outside (and therefore violates the Muslim religious tenet of modesty.)

A. O. Scott has written a fun retrospective on the history of New Testament cinema, beginning with Mel Gibson's Passion and going backwards in time.

The Economist discusses the only bookshop in the southern Sudan--and the circumstances under which an obscure Victorian comic novel became a bestseller there. (via ArtsJournal)

Sorry for the brevity of today's posts. As I mentioned earlier, blogging will be light until early this week, when another project of mine gets under way. (More details coming soon...) And then, of course, there's the pesky matter of my dissertation proposal!

How hard is it to fake your way into a mental institution? The Guardian reports. (Via Crooked Timber)

Sir Walter Raleigh was an interesting guy.

Rick Perlstein reviews Alonzo Hamby's new book on FDR.

The New York Times looks at the economics of the Superbowl. The Boston Globe looks at the statistics of the big game.

Also in The New York Times, Jeffrey Rosen looks at social bonding between presidents and Supreme Court justices.

Russell Baker looks at the career of Warren Harding in this New York Review essay on John Dean's new harding biography. (It's a decent overview of Harding's life and career, though I'd have liked more on the biography itself.)

From The Guardian:

  • Did Alfred Lord Tennyson plan to cut the most famous sections of "The Charge of the Light Brigade"?
  • Thomas Kenneally thinks he's written his best book yet, but this reviewer finds his new novel about a dictator "a mere slip of a thing."
  • A new book examines the motives of the artists who fell under the spell of the "true-crime heroine" Beatrice Cenci.

Fun stuff!

Michael Dirda discusses Sheridan Le Fanu's classic 1864 "romance of terror," Uncle Silas.

Massachusetts: the Stigma State?

Something I didn't know: the sociologist Robert Merton was responsible for the terms "self-fulfilling prophect," "role model," and "focus group." Now his book The Travels and Adventures of Serendipity is being published posthumously. (He's also the author of a really charming book called On The Shoulders of Giants, which is only noted in passing in the Boston Globe ideas article I've linked to.)

Also in the ideas section: this book on pseudonyms sounds cool.