Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Summer time tip: Mystery at Geneva

If you are looking for something different to listen to during long Summer days, whether on vacation or on dreary office days, you might consider listening to a piece of ironic narration from the public domain. Breakaway fro a moment from the lectures, the panel discussions and the interviews.

I was mesmerized by Mystery at Geneva: An Improbable Tale of Singular Happenings, written by Dame Rose Macaulay and skillfully read to us by Cathy Barratt at Librivox (feed)

Henry Beechtree is a British journalist who attends a session of the League of Nations in the early twenties and tries to solve the disappearance of the president of the League. Soon enough Beechtree not only gets into trouble, he also gets involved in the case. While on the surface the story evolves around the mystery plot, some of the best stuff Macaulay has to offer is not related to the plot, but rather the elegant irony with which she describes the machinations of international politics, lobbyists and journalists. In that respect the story is just as relevant today as it was in the 1920s and it can apply just as much to the buzz around UN sessions as the activities around Capitol Hill or any other political power center for that matter.

More Librivox:
Beyond Good and Evil,
Bhagavad Gita,
History of Holland.

Listening ideas for 17 August 2011

New Books in Psychoanalysis
Susie Orbach, “Bodies”
“Why is the body the site of so much ongoing, current and growing attention in the West”? asks the feminist psychoanalyst and public intellectual Susie Orbach in her book Bodies (Picador, 2009). In this interview, the groundbreaking author of Fat is a Feminist Issue (inter alia) speaks to New Books in Psychoanalysis about how the body is “no longer a place we live from” but rather a place where the capitalist marketplace has hit a sort of pay dirt. From trendy diets to vaginal recalibration to liposuction, the body is big business. Indeed, as women and men feel a greater and greater need to control their bodies, losing touch with our natural appetites, and attempting to look a certain way, the market that exploits our fears and anxieties is making a fortune.
(review, feed)

New Books in Language
David Crystal, “Just a Phrase I’m Going Through: My Life in Language”
In an enormously prolific writing and editing career, David Crystal has excelled in supplying volumes hitherto missing from the field: here a balanced and accessible introduction to general linguistics, there a lucid specialised textbook in an emerging field. With this memoir, Just a Phrase I’m Going Through: My Life in Language (Routledge, 2009), he fills another gap, and offers a vivid picture of the working life of a professional linguist.
(review, feed)

New Books in Philosophy
Susan Schneider, “The Language of Thought: A New Philosophical Direction”
In 1975, Jerry Fodor published a book entitled The Language of Thought, which is aptly considered one of the most important books in philosophy of mind and cognitive science of the last 50 years or so. This book helped launch what became known as the classical computational theory of the mind, in which thinking was theorized as the manipulation of symbols according to rules. Fodor argued that certain features of human thought required that any human-like computational cognitive system had to have a structured format analogous to the structure that sentences have in natural languages. That is, according to Fodor, we must think in a Language of Thought, sometimes also called Mentalese.
(review, feed)