I’m a Gibson groupie, but Pattern Recognition was a bit been there, done that. He’s got competition for the Arthur C Clarke, what with Greg Bear and Neal Stephenson also on the shortlist.

“We understand how the secret name works, and that it must and will be treated with respect. Who would not be careful in the face of the Ineffable? Who would invert Pascal’s wager, and walk into the Holy of Holies, and utter The Name? Someone, perhaps, but not you or I.” David Mamet on the power of names.

What Was The Bard’s SAT Math Scores, Again?

Frank Kermode: Looking for problems to talk about in a lecture, I lit upon the duel at the end of Hamlet. Relaying Claudius?s challenge to Hamlet, Osric tells him that the King has

?laid on twelve for nine? (in terms of ?hits?) in favour of Laertes. But nobody (including Arden editor Harold Jenkins, in an extremely long note) seems to have figured out the odds.

Serendipity is one of those words that instinctively makes me flinch. Michael Dirda explains why: “In his closing reflections, Merton laments that serendipity has now become ‘little more than a Disneylike expression of pleasure, good feeling, joy, or happiness. For those who have consulted dictionaries for the word, its typical appearance between serenade and serene may bring a sense of tranquility and unruffled repose. In any case, no longer a niche-word filling a semantic gap, the vogue word becomes a vague word.'”

Jared Diamond gave a talk at Princeton University recently. (Link via Emergic.)

Orientalism is dead, long live Occidentalism, somewhat fuzzily defined by Ian Buruma: “Occidentalism is a revolt against rationalism (the cold, mechanical West, the machine civilization) and secularism, but also against individualism. European colonialism provoked Occidentalism, and so does global capitalism today. But one can speak of Occidentalism only when the revolt against the West becomes a form of pure destruction, when the West is depicted as less than human, when rebellion means murder.”

The Babu admires the graceful economy with which Ravi Dayal puts the knife in: “Such a complete collection could have been a treasure. Alas, the present volume is shoddily put together. It is too fat and looks ugly and squat and the pages don?t remain open, which makes reading difficult. They have also not been consecutively numbered and, because the text is merely reproduced without any resetting, it is a messy mix of typefaces. The contents? list has no page numbers either, making it difficult to locate anything.”

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