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Linkity Roundup

From book_reviews: Stone, Kelly L: Time to Write
Oh, don't worry, the phrases "Burning Desire to Write" and "Vision of Success" still make my inner cynic smirk, but there's a helluva lot of great advice in this book, and the best thing about it is that every bit of it is made with the acknowledgment that every writer is different and therefore has different needs and drives (save for the initial "Burning Desire to Write").

How does this work? Well, partially because Stone interviewed over a 100 different writers for this book, writers of all genres--fiction and non-fiction--which therefore provides us with a variety of viewpoints and work habits. But Stone goes a step farther: we don't just get one writer saying, "Mornings are the best time to write" and another saying "Evenings are the best time to write," we get reasons WHY these writers say the things they do and then SUGGESTIONS on how to create such a schedule in your OWN life.


And the rest today are from old reliable, Arts & Letters Daily...

Dissent Magazine: The "Duke" and Democracy: On John Wayne
It's inevitable that with nearly two hundred pictures to his credit (Wayne's 1939 breakthrough, John Ford's Stagecoach was his eightieth movie), some of Wayne's roles do fit the traditional macho hero mold. But the image that persists of him seems more reinforced by things like his public support of conservative causes, as well as by his directing and starring in the pro-Vietnam War picture The Green Berets. And it's been reinforced by the fact that Wayne worked primarily in Westerns, the most frequently, and often baselessly, stereotyped of movie genres.

"John Wayne represents more force, more power than anyone else on the screen," his frequent director Howard Hawks once said. A performer who wields that kind of force, and has a physical presence to match, does not provide nuanced pleasure. But only the crudest reading would reduce the overwhelming force of Wayne's persona to gung-ho cheerleading for American right and American might. To be true to the contradictions and moral ambiguities of Wayne's best performances —
Stagecoach, Red River, The Searchers, True Grit, El Dorado — you'd have to say he stands not so much for American power as for the American experiment — and thus for the possibility that it could all go wrong.


Chronicle Review: The New Paternalism
What does a peculiar pattern on the road have to do with fixing the nation's health-care woes, protecting the environment, resolving the thorny issue of gay marriage, and increasing donations to charity? Everything, according to Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, a professor of law and political science at the University of Chicago. They are authors of a new book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (Yale University Press), in which they articulate an approach to designing social and economic policies that incorporates an understanding of people's cognitive limitations.

They call this governing philosophy "libertarian paternalism." That is not an oxymoron, they insist in their book. Rather it is a corrective to the longstanding assumption of policy makers that the average person is capable of thinking like Albert Einstein, storing as much memory as IBM's Big Blue, and exercising the willpower of Mahatma Gandhi. That is simply not how people are, they say. In reality human beings are lazy, busy, impulsive, inert, and irrational creatures highly susceptible to predictable biases and errors. That's why they can be nudged in socially desirable directions.


Los Angeles Times: Does Your Brain Have a Mind of its Own?
What gives? Why are we as a species so often so desperately poor at achieving our goals? If we are, as the selfish-gene theory would have it, organisms that exist only to serve the interests of our genes, why do we waste so much of our time doing things that are not, in any obvious way, remotely in the interest of our genes? How can one explain, for example, why a busy undergraduate would spend four weeks playing "Halo 3" rather than studying for his exams?

The selfish-gene theory doesn't, in itself, answer these questions, but there is another facet of evolution that can: The fact that evolution is entirely blind, unable to look forward, backward or to the side. As Charles Darwin observed, evolution invariably proceeds through a process called "descent with modification." In lay language, this means that Mother Nature never starts from scratch, no matter how useful an overhaul might be. Everything that evolves necessarily builds on that which came before. Our arms, to take one simple example, are adaptations of the front legs of our primate ancestors.


-The Gneech

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