Links: eBooks, dubious love stories, polaroids, drinking, state-sanctioned murder, and more

* “The eBook – Déjà Vu All Over Again?” Make sure you read to at least the fourth full paragraph, which is where the punchline hits.

* “Before Sexting, There Was Polaroid: The arrival of instant film meant the end of snooping photo-lab technicians—which, in turn, homemade porn for everyone.”

* Women who drink; sounds like a fun essay collection.

* If “The Bipartisan Security Ratchet” doesn’t scare you, it should:

The United States government, under two opposed increasingly indistinguishable political parties, asserts the right to kill anyone on the face of the earth in the name of the War on Terror. It asserts the right to detain anyone on the face of the earth in the name of the War on Terror, and to do so based on undisclosed facts applied to undisclosed standards in undisclosed locations under undisclosed conditions for however long it wants, all without judicial review.

* Someone found this blog by searching for “pretentious fountain pens.” I would be more interested in an unpretentious fountain pen, if such a thing is possible in this age of rollerballs. Another person found it, although I doubt what they’re looking for, via “fucking asshole girl.”

* “[. . .] for all the valid complaints that one hears about the state of American college education, there’s a clear demand for it on the international stage so we must be doing something right.

* “Former NFL cheerleader, teen reportedly find ‘happiness.’” When I was in high school, I doubt I had a tenth of the game this kid must have.

* The Best Writing Teachers Are Writers Themselves.

* The Millions interviews Daniel Mendelsohn:

The Millions: There is a formula for criticism in the piece which says that knowledge + taste = meaningful judgment, with an emphasis on meaningful. What makes a critique meaningful? As you point out, a lot of people have opinions who are not really critics and there are lots of people who are experts on subjects who don’t write good criticism. If everyone is not really a critic, where is the magic?

DM: It’s a very interesting question. It is magic, it’s a kind of alchemy. We all have opinions, and many people have intelligent opinions. But that’s not the same. Nor is it the case that great experts are good critics. I come out of an academic background so I’m very familiar with that end of the spectrum of knowledge. I spent a lot of my journalistic career as a professional explainer of the Classics—when I first started writing whenever there was some Greek toga-and-sandals movie they would always call me in—so I developed the sense of what it means to mediate between expertise and accessibility.

Notice that word: “meaningful.” It’s not whether a critical take is positive or negative, good or bad; it’s above that, or beyond it, or some other spatial-reckoning metaphor. This is also what I strive to offer when I read my friends’ work, whether fiction or non.

Links: Teen sex attitudes, writing lessons, sentence origins, math, cities, tea, languages, and more

* Parents Just Don’t Understand: A sociologist says American moms and dads are in denial about their kids’ sexual lives. See also: “ Sex? Not my kid! A new book explores parental delusions about their teens’ sexuality.” Notice this: “[S]exual threats are seen [by parents] as ever present — from someone else’s sex-crazed kid, someone else’s corruptive parental influence, someone else’s perversion. Rarely do parents attribute the risk to their own child’s sexual desire or agency. Surprise, surprise.”

* The Most Important Writing Lesson I Ever Learned; unfortunately, I think most academics either never learn or forget this:

When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, your mind becomes powerfully concentrated. You begin to understand that writing/reading is, above all, a transaction. The reader donates his time and attention, which are supremely valuable commodities. In return, you the writer, must give him something worthy of his gift to you.

* Where do sentences come from?

* “[A]lgebra isn’t harder than other subjects, it’s more objective. Therefore, it tends to make educational fraud more visible. People rarely fail algebra and succeed in other subjects; they fail in all subjects and algebra is the only one where it can’t be ignored any longer.”

* How communities are banding together to create high-speed, affordable broadband access.

* Allen Wyler’s Dead Ringer unintentionally shows the importance of creative writing classes. The novel starts: “A dark, ill-formed premonition punched Lucas McRae in the guy so hard it stole his breath.” But premonitions don’t punch people in the gut—other people do. “A second later it vanished, leaving only a lingering vague sense of foreboding.” We don’t need “lingering” and “vague” one word will do, and the phrase itself is a cliche anyway. This is the sort of stuff college sophomores discuss in “Introduction to Writing the Novel.”

* Survival Lessons From an Ancient Failed City:

Today’s sprawling cities expanded in a period of mild weather too, with no anticipation that seas might rise or energy resources could be depleted. Angkor and modern cities resemble one another in that they were built to survive in only the most benign weather regimes. The roads, sewers and the like of the modern suburb are based on an assumption of mild weather and cheap energy. Recent events like Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and subsequent Midwestern intense storms show how poorly modern infrastructure performs in extreme weather.

* Everyone loves smut, says Patty Marks of Ellora’s Cave, who turned kinky fiction into millions before E.L. James.

* How to start an online tea business. My best guess: don’t.

* Bryan Caplan: “To understand why Americans don’t learn foreign languages, simply reverse this reasoning. We don’t learn foreign languages because foreign languages rarely helps us get good jobs, meet interesting people, or enjoy culture.” I approve of learning foreign languages and admire people who do, but I doubt the typically American derives much benefit because the typical American has to travel too far to make use of the foreign language. For most people, learning programming languages is probably far more useful in terms of both job skills and “learning how to think.” This view is close to David Henderson’s point: “Thoughts on Second Language.” Here is a counterpoint. It is possible that foreign languages would be much more useful from a very young age, but then the same could be said of Python. It’s possible that I haven’t seen foreign language benefits in my life because I haven’t learned enough of a foreign language to receive real benefits.

* You’ll never be Chinese.

Links: The death of safe sex?, hypocrites in many forms, law school, Nikon, birth rates and female conscientiousness, liberal arts, and more

* “The Death of Safe Sex“? (The question mark is mine).

* Law schools increasingly look like scams; see here for more.

* The Cowboy and the Welfare State, concerning “an area of Minnesota where people inveigh against the welfare state, despite being inextricably tied to it.” Filed under: hypocrisy.

* The War on Cameras, which actually concerns whether police are accountable to the public or to no one, a la The Wire.

* My Last Day: Le Bernardin’s Pastry Chef Reflects on 8 Long Years.

* How Nikon is killing camera repair.

* For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage. This quote from the article: “Ms. Strader said her boyfriend was so dependent that she had to buy his cigarettes. Marrying him never entered her mind” reminds me of Bryan Caplan’s post “Poverty, Conscientiousness, and Broken Families,” where he says, “even when [the authors] are talking about men, low female conscientiousness is implicit. After all, conscientious women wouldn’t associate with habitually unemployed men in the first place – not to mention alcoholics, addicts, or criminals.”

* When to be meek.

* Skills and the liberal arts.

* The Real Defense Budget.

* James Fallows on tricks of the interview trade. I want to find an excerpt but the piece has too many to choose one.

* Mag Lights are still made in the USA.

* “A school suspended a teacher for using the racial epithet in an educational context. Now he’s suing his district. Why is this considered hate speech?” The school’s reaction here is inane; you can’t teach books like Huck Finn without using the word “nigger” (for that matter, it would be hard to discuss, say, the lyrics of Jay-Z—or community cohesion and The Wire—without using it). Racially derogatory terms can’t be magically excised from the language, and to pretend they don’t exist is to ignore a vital avenue of discussion.

Tax day links: Gender stereotypes, sexual mores, universities, and more

* Why men don’t listen. Except they do, as this post into the pseudo science of gender brain differences shows.

* “Generation Scold: Why millennials are so judgmental about promiscuity.” Of course, what people say and what they do are still separate, as we know from descriptions of the Puritan practice called “bundling.”

* Why are novels the length they are? And, implicitly, how will technology change that length over time?

* Where professors get their politics.

* Why humanity loves and needs cities.

* A Defense of Abortion is a fascinating thought experiment in moral philosophy.

* On healthcare nationally and in Massachusetts:

When Massachusetts rolled out its coverage program in 2007, many more people signed up for the new heavily subsidized insurance than was originally predicted by budget officials. Almost immediately, costs far exceeded what had been budgeted, forcing state officials to scramble to find cuts elsewhere in government and other sources of revenue.

After three years, no real progress has been made on rising costs. The program remains well over budget, with no end in sight. Further, state residents who now must buy state-sanctioned coverage are bristling at their rising premiums and the inability to find coverage which covers less and thus costs less.

* Along the same lines as above: For every doctor, there are five people performing health care administrative support. This may be part of our national problem, like the growth of administrators relative to professors in academia. (Hat tip Tyler Cowen.)

* Universities set their prices based on what people will pay. Consequently, they raise their sticker price and then offer discounts to woo top students.

* D.G. Myers’ suggestions for the Library of America, (apropos of the kerfuffle discussed here):

Novelists with large untapped bodies of work, and who are likely candidates, are fewer and farther between, although I would make a case for Stanley Elkin and (less passionately) for Wright Morris. But a two-volume set of New York Jewish novels, including The Rise of David Levinsky (1917), Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers (1925), Call It Sleep, and Daniel Fuchs’s Summer in Williamsburg (1934), would be a terrific addition.

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