Fantastic and necessary: Neil deGrasse Tyson on your ego and the cosmic perspective
Mental health break: To promote summer reading, a group of students teamed up with the Seattle Public Library and built the world’s largest domino chain made of books. It took 2,131 books, 27 volunteers, and 112 slices of pizza.
The loveliest thing since this booktastic stop-motion rainbow.
As Open Culture explains, this rare 1924 recording of Joyce reading from the Aeolus episode of the novel was arranged and financed by his friend and publisher Sylvia Beach, who brought him by taxi to the HMV (His Master’s Voice) gramophone studio in the Paris suburb of Billancourt. She writes in her memoir, Shakespeare & Company:
Joyce had chosen the speech in the Aeolus episode, the only passage that could be lifted out of Ulysses, he said, and the only one that was “declamatory” and therefore suitable for recital. He had made up his mind, he told me, that this would be his only reading from Ulysses.
I have an idea that it was not for declamatory reasons alone that he chose this passage from Aeolus. I believe that it expressed something he wanted said and preserved in his own voice. As it rings out–”he lifted his voice above it boldly”–it is more, one feels, than mere oratory.
Pair with these rare 1935 illustrations for Ulysses by none other than Henri Matisse.
50 years ago today, in the heat of the Space Race, Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space — two whole decades before the late Sally Ride made history as the first American woman in space and the youngest astronaut to ever launch into the cosmos.
All humor involves playing with what linguists call scripts (also referred to as frames). Basically, scripts are hypotheses about the world and how it works based on our previous life experiences. Consider what happens when a friend suggests meeting at a restaurant. Instantaneously our brains configure a scenario involving waiters or waitresses, menus, a sequence of eatables set out in order from appetizer to dessert, followed by a bill and the computation of a tip. This process, highly compressed and applicable to almost any kind of restaurant, works largely outside conscious awareness. And because our scripts are so generalized and compressed, we tend to make unwarranted assumptions based on them. Humor takes advantage of this tendency.
It is the brain’s frontal lobes that make sense of the discrepancy between the script and the situation described by the joke or illustrated by the cartoon. This ability is unique to our species. Though apes can engage in play and tease each other by initiating false alarm calls accompanied by laughter, they cannot shift back and forth between multiple mental interpretations of a situation. Only we can do this because—thanks to the larger size of our frontal lobes compared with other species—we are the only creatures that possess a highly evolved working memory, which by creating and storing scripts allows us to appreciate sophisticated and subtle forms of humor. Neuroscientists often compare working memory to mental juggling. To appreciate a cartoon or a joke, you have to keep in mind at least two possible scenarios: your initial assumptions, created and stored over a lifetime in the temporal lobes, along with the alternative explanations that are worked out with the aid of the frontal lobes.
Though these Guardian infographics on the optimal number of children for literary success are meant as lighthearted commentary on literary prizes and parenting, the two juxtaposed above bespeak a worrisome pattern: Whether or not literature may have a “women problem,” women seem to have a literature problem – successful women of letters procreate significantly less than successful men of letters, suggesting that the cost of parenting is far greater for a female literary career than a male one.
Even with society’s evolving ideas about parenthood and what defines a family, parenting in still more vocationally perilous for mothers than it is for fathers. No wonder a number of female writers choose not to have children.
Maya Angelou put it best in her fantastic 1973 conversation with Bill Moyers, considering the laziness of stereotypes:
All you have to do is put a label on somebody. And then you don’t have to deal with the physical fact. You don’t have to wonder if they are waiting for the Easter bunny or love Christmas, or, you know, love their parents and hate small kids and are fearful of dogs. If you say, oh, that’s a junkie, that’s a nigger, that’s a kike, that’s a Jew, that’s a honkie, that’s a — you just — that’s the end of it.