Sunday, April 17, 2011

Gary Taubes: "Is Sugar Toxic?"

Another finding courtesy of Farnum Street (otherwise I would have had to wait until I read the NYT tomorrow morning). Gary Taubes writes again on a topic for which he has become a bit of a crusader. However, unlike the negative connotation of that term, I think he does have a righteous cause. His crusade is based on science, its weaknesses and its strengths. Readers of this blog will note that I've written about his work before, and I highly recommend this newest article. It will give you pause. Should I drink that fruit juice? Should I have a piece of pie or a dish of ice cream? I think that the answer, as Taubes provides it, will prove quite challenging, for me at least. Also, although I'm just beginning to watch it, this talk by Dr. Lustig sounds like it will prove quite eye-opening. Enjoy--the article and that sugary delight--or not--at your own peril.

P.S. I found a < 9 minute interview with Lustig on Nightline that I think summarizes (as only network tv can do) his position.

Farnum Street on Best Books Not Well Known

First of all, although this particular post isn't especially representative, I should give a shout out to Farnum Street, an excellent blog site. It's an aggregator (little original material), but it harvests some of the most interesting pieces on the web about the blog's interests. What are those interests? The blogger describes his project:

I'm a no-name guy who started Farnam Street back in 2009 with the goal of posting the best articles from around the internet that relate to psychology, behavioral economics, human misjudgment, persuasion, and other subjects of intellectual interest.

If you're in my business (advocacy & living life on Earth), you'll likely find something relevant to your life and work here.

As to this post, I can't pass by a good book list. How do I know it's a good list? Because I've read some of the books on it: Tuchman's The Guns of August, Richardson's Mind on Fire, Manand's Metaphysical Club, and Campbell's Grammatical Man. All of these were excellent books. So, a fun list to consider.

Nick Morgan on King's "I Have a Dream" Speech

Public speaking coach Nick Morgan writes about MLK’s “I Have a Dream Speech” which he considers perhaps the greatest speech of the twentieth century. (Competitors? Perhaps Churchill’s oratory, although I’m not sure which one. Others?) What I find interesting about the discussion in this particular post goes to King’s movement away from a prepared text to ad-lib (apparently the peroration was not in the text, or so I understand from this blog). How amazing! Did King pull a rabbit out of the hat? Well, no, or least he’d practiced doing so on many occasions as an African-American preacher (where boring “homilies” are not tolerated). Practice, practice, practice: oratory, writing, chess, tennis, or whatever: if you think about it and then practice it relentlessly and mindfully, sometimes you feel it and perform in a whole new sphere, as King did that day.

Garry Wills: Augustine's Confessions: A Biography

Garry Wills continues his life-long fascination and scholarship about St. Augustine with the publication of this new book. Wills has already written a brief biography of Augustine of the Penguin Brief Lives edition, and he's translated the Confessions. Thus, Wills is a veteran of the Augustine scene. The fact that he receives accolades from the premiere Augustine biographer Peter Brown and fellow biographer and Augustine scholar James O'Donnell reinforces my belief that Wills knows whereof he speaks when it comes to Augustine (and on most topics he chooses to write about, for that matter).

Augustine is the seminal figure in the development of Western Christianity. From his life in Late Antiquity, except for St. Paul, Augustine probably had the greatest influence on the development of Western Christianity. The Confessions tells the story of Augustine's conversion (very slow in coming) and his attempt to understand the texts of the Bible, especially those of the Creation in Genesis. Wills points out a couple of very interesting thing about Augustine's work that I found unique in this volume:
1. How he wrote. Augustine worked by dictation. As someone who writes by dictation, I have to admire this. My work usually needs extensive revision if the topic is at all complex or lengthy. How you do this with papyrus—well, you don’t. I thought revising with a typewriter was bad. So the work was difficult, yet he wrote a huge amount.
2. Augustine didn’t first learn about silent reading from Ambrose. Silent reading was not a new invention at that time. Another urban legend bites the dust.
3. Now, something important: The Confessions (or Testimony, as Wills prefers to translate the title) is not the first autobiography. Rather, it is an extended prayer. This gives the book a different look and feel when you think of it that way.
4. Wills addresses the reputation of the Confessions since its writing, even into contemporary times. Among those who have written about Augustine, he notes, is Hannah Arendt. I had an intellectual crush on Arendt during my youth. She wrote her dissertation about Augustine and called him “the only true philosopher the Romans ever had”. I wrote a undergraduate paper on Augustine’s concept of community. Thus, I’ve found this conjunction between two of my favorite authors intriguing. Their mutual admiration of Augustine reinforces my own perception of him as a powerful figure in our tradition. Not always right or edifying, but quite a challenging figure. This short book by Wills adds the significant literature on this amazing figure. Highly recommended.