Christmas Eve links

December 24, 2022

I'm listening to the Lessons and Carols service from King's College Cambridge this morning, as I post these. The bleak midwinter is a good time to be reminded of hope, for sure.

Good critique of the preliminary Jan 6 report just released—not for what it says, which is entirely reasonable about people encouraging sedition, don’t get me started—but for what it doesn’t say, about the failures of intelligence, perhaps the most egregious failure of US intelligence (and law enforcement) since 9/11.


How It’s a Wonderful Life became a Christmas classic—by entering the public realm. 


Branko Milanovic on why rejections of globalization are, for the West, unrealistic, among other things.


How much The Epic of Gilgamesh has done for us in the past 150 years.  A nice piece on the ways we have processed it:  

“The literary critic Matthew Reynolds has coined the term prismatic translation to describe the way multiple translations of a single work tend to diffract the many aspects that are contained within that work. Think of a beam of white light being split by a prism into a rainbowlike display. All these colors were contained in the original white ray: the prism has merely revealed them. So it is with translations and transmedial retellings, which amplify one or another feature of their source. Gilgamesh is a perfect illustration of this phenomenon. Some retellings focus on the hero’s fear of death and desire for immortality; others on his love for another man, or his grief when that man dies, or his instinctive violence, or his soft-hearted tenderness. Still others bring out the themes of kingship, or community, or storytelling, or the human tendency to violate our natural environment. This list goes on and on, and every theme is contained, in one form or the other, in the original stories about Gilgamesh.”


Interesting piece on how reading habits changed during the pandemic.


A smart reflection on Walter Lippmann’s Public Opinion, written on the centenary of the book’s publication.  Why is this book important, you ask? How about this: “Lippmann’s book stands as the first attempt to comprehensively explain how individual psychology, political and social movements, and the mass media both create and unravel shared experiences of reality.” Given how important Lippmann was to Dewey, and arguably Habermas, it is a deeply under-valued book. This essay helps explain some of its construction, and ambition.


This is a really cool piece about how some skilled UVA workers employed centuries old techniques to keep historical buildings that UVA in good shape.


Between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley civilization there was a land known in Sumeria as “Elam,” about which we know very little.  The scripts from Elam has evaded decipherment for a century.  Now perhaps there is some hope for understanding one of the scripts—“Linear Elamite”.  Very interesting.  (Though I'm still waiting for the Indus Valley scripts to be deciphered, if they are really "scripts".)


Merry Christmas, one and all!