Category Intellectuals

An approaching Singularity?

When Ray Kurzweil published his bestseller, The Singularity is Near, in 2005, the skeptical response reverberated widely, but his track record when it comes to having made accurate predictions has been uncanny.  In the late 1980’s it was Kurzweil who anticipated that soon a computer could be programmed to defeat a human opponent in chess; […]

Remembering Harold Pinter

Several of the obituaries for Harold Pinter, the Nobel prize winning playwright who died on Christmas Eve, see the puzzle of his life as centered on the question of how so happy a person could remain so consistently angry.  The sense of anger, or perhaps sullenness is the better word, arises mainly from the diffidence […]

Counting the humanities

Last week the American Academy of Arts and Sciences released a long-anticipated prototype of its Humanities Indicators project.  The initiative – organized a decade ago by the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Humanities Alliance, and funded by the Hewlett and Mellon Foundations – responds to the […]

When social science is painful

The latest issue of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (#621, January 2009) is wholly focused on the report authored in 1965 (read it here) by Daniel Patrick Moynihan focused on the status of black families, “the most famous piece of social scientific analysis never published” (Massey and Sampson, pg. […]

Claude Levi-Strauss at 100

On Friday, November 28, Claude Levi-Strauss turned 100, an event that set loose a series of worldwide commemorations.  As one might expect, an intellectual of such enormous influence provoked competing reactions.  In London, the Guardian dismissed Levi-Strauss (“the intricacies of the structural anthropology he propounded now seem dated… [and] he has become the celebrated object […]

William Eggleston invented color

The Whitney in New York has just opened a major retrospective of William Eggleston’s long career as an innovator in photography (William Eggleston:  Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008), which perhaps brings full circle a journey that has been mainly centered in the American south and the Mississippi Delta (Memphis most of all) but that […]

The other Williams Ayers

Driving to work yesterday I heard one of Atlanta’s conservative talk radio hosts announce with a mixture of pride and wistfulness that, as a concession to Barack Obama’s victory, he had thrown out all his “research” on William Ayers, whose violent past he had been preaching for months.  Now that Obama has been chosen by […]

Paula Vogel’s “How I learned to drive”

Tonight I had the opportunity see Paula Vogel’s remarkable Pulitzer Prize-winning “How I Learned to Drive” in production at the Georgia State University theatre.  The show relies on a very small cast, only five in all, a fact that lends some irony to the fact that three of them play multiple roles described in the […]

On the relevance of Lionel Trilling

I am aware of no specific anniversary that has prompted the spat of recently revitalized interest in the life work of Lionel Trilling, the legendary Columbia University professor and author most famously of The Liberal Imagination (1950).  But suddenly his writing has sprung back into intellectual circulation:  the first third of an unfinished novel, The […]

When humanistic scholarship is not beautiful

When Pablo Picasso first exhibited his work at the young age of eighteen, the reviews were not very promising.  His friends had found him a gallery space he could use for free, but there were also no funds available to properly mount the (mostly) bohemian portraits.  So the canvases were literally pinned to the walls, […]

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