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On Marcel Duchamp, Mad Libs, and conceptual writing online

Rebecca Bates at The Paris Review: In a 1964 interview between The New Yorker’s Calvin Tomkins and Duchamp, the latter remarked, “The artist produces nothing until the onlooker has said, ‘You have produced something marvelous.’ The onlooker has the last word in it.” This is also a tidy summary of Duchamp’s short lecture “The Creative Act,” given in Houston in 1957, in which he calls the artist a “mediumistic being,” one whose “decisions in the artistic execution of the work … cannot be translated into a self-analysis.” Analysis is the work of the spectator, who “brings the work in contact with the external world.” Posterity decides if an artist’s works are deserving enough of an extended solo show at the Whitney, or should be reprinted in every iteration of the Norton Anthology until the end of time.

With LHC collider set to reboot, physicists look beyond the Higgs

Alvin Powell in the Harvard Gazette: Though the Higgs boson completes the Standard Model, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to find — far from it.

Porn in the Middle East – The Elephant in The Room

William Smith in Raseef22: But while people may publically express their aversion and opposition to Internet pornography, their private viewing habits suggest something quite different.

Changing Pakistan after Peshawar: The Role of the State

Ali Minai in Brown Pundits: Three long, agonizing days have passed since the unspeakable events in Peshawar on December 16.

‘Ardor,’ by Roberto Calasso

Pankaj Mishra at The New York Times: To this philosophical skepticism about modernity, Calasso has contributed a bracing genealogy of ideas, which transcends many contemporary conceits about literature and philosophy: Proust becomes a Vedic seer, and Prajapati, the Vedic deity of procreation, emerges as the predecessor of Kafka’s K in his form-defying books.


Tyler Curtis at The Quarterly Conversation: This persistence of language in spite of its logic, in spite of itself, is not unique to Gass by any measure.

Saturday Poem

Mileva Maric …you will not expect any intimacy… nor will you reproach me in any way… She’s the physicist whose cabbage soup And lint brush gave Einstein the time to solve Time and also for Elsa and Miss S, His stray eurekas in the dark, principles He illuminated with apple-falling grasp While she waited up with the clock like one Of those observers on railroad platforms.

The Norton Anthology of World Religions

Karen Armstrong in The New York Times: At a time when religious faith is coming under intense scrutiny, “The Norton Anthology of World Religions” is presenting a documentary history of six major faiths with sufficient editorial explanation to make their major texts intelligible across the barriers of time and space.

It wasn’t the final atrocity

Pervez Hoodbhoy in Dawn: THE gut-wrenching massacre in Peshawar’s Army Public School has left Pakistan aghast and sickened.

Is String Theory About to Unravel?

Brian Greene at The Smithsonian: I began learning the mathematical underpinnings of string theory during an intense period in the spring and summer of 1985.

Bonnard’s Sidewalk Theater

Bridget Alsdorf at nonsite: Every morning before breakfast, sketchpad in hand, Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) went for a walk to observe and absorb his surroundings.

on recently discovered street photographer vivian maier

Imogen Sara Smith at Threepenny Review: Finding Vivian Maier investigates the case of a provokingly secretive woman who took thousands of photographs but kept them locked away, never showing or selling them during her lifetime.

Nationalism as antonym of communalism

Faisal Devji in The Hindu: Image via Time One of the peculiarities of Indian political debate is that everyone claims to be secular while accusing others of not being so.

National Geographic Photo Contest Winners 2014

More here.

Chip Sebens on the Many-Interacting-Worlds Approach to Quantum Mechanics

Sean Carroll in Preposterous Universe: I got to know Charles “Chip” Sebens back in 2012, when he emailed to ask if he could spend the summer at Caltech.

Friday Poem

Bully  In the school auditorium, the Theodore Roosevelt statue is nostalgic for the Spanish-American war each fist lonely for a saber, or the reins of anguish-eyed horses, or a podium to clatter with speeches glorying in the malaria of conquest.

Doctor to the body politic: The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke

David Marquand in New Statesman: For Burke, Bromwich tells us, the relationship between the people and the political elite was that of patient to doctor.

Mutations need help from aging tissue to cause leukemia

From Medical Xpress: Why are older people at higher risk for developing cancer? Prevailing opinion holds that, over time, your body's cells accumulate DNA damage and that eventually this damage catches up with the body in a way that causes cancer.

Why Volatility Signals Stability, and 
Vice Versa

Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Gregory F. Treverton in Foreign Affairs: Even as protests spread across the Middle East in early 2011, the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria appeared immune from the upheaval.