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Monthly Archives: April 2010

nyrb "Each time I discover a book [in the series] it’s like being privy to something that is almost a secret—almost like a fraternity or sorority for folks who hate the idea of fraternities," Leonard Fleisig, a Washington, D.C., fan of NYRB Classics says. "The imprint is very eclectic and you don’t find yourself mired in a particular genre. I quickly determined their editorial staff has an eye for the quirky and overlooked."

via A Meaningful Publisher « Forbes.com’s Booked.

An effervescent account of NYRB Classics, a publisher that has the rare virtue of success in a struggling book market.  They  succeed by providing a valuable product in addition to just the value created by the author.  How rare in the literary world to come across a publisher that adds value in how it selects, embellishes and prints books.

This article tempts me to buy every book they’ve ever published just to reward them for daring to be different in a market full of low quality production values and rare attention to detail.

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Once you have been a monk, it is very difficult to kill a man. But sometimes it can be your duty to do so.

via The Paris Review – The Monk’s Tale.

A fascinating interview with a buddhist monk who joined the resistance movement after the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

I have serious reservations argument that you can kill to prevent another committing a serious sin, and so transfer his wrong into your wrong as a form of acceptable sacrifice. At the same time, it resonates with similar arguments in Hinduism (with which Buddhism has a shared cultural heritage) which accept that non-violence can only be satisfied by self-violence rather than violence to the dharma of others.

ashoka Hindu philosophy (which I’m reading about in Prof. Wendy Doniger’s fascinating The Hindus: An Alternative History) divides life in to three dimensions: dharma, artha and kama.

Dharma means righteous duty or any virtuous path.  A persons dharma is affected by a person’s age, class, occupation, and gender. 

Artha is the path to achieving widespread fame, garnering wealth and having an elevated social standing.  It is about how society sees them, and how they should see society.

Kama refers to the aesthetic and sensual pleasures of life.  It embodies the leisured private life.

These three dimensions are affirmed in a wide variety of texts.  There are many dharmashastras.  There is only one Arthashastra by Kautilya (Max Weber called Machiavelli’s The Prince ‘harmless’ compared to the Arthashastra).  There is also only one Kamasutra. 

It says a lot about our society that the only well known text is the Kamasutra.  Even when your culture is thousands of years old, it seems that only the sexy part sells.

A quantitative content analysis of 20 James Bond films assessed portrayals of 195 female characters. Key findings include a trend of more sexual activity and greater harm to females over time, but few significant across-time differences in demographic characteristics of Bond women. Sexual activity is predicted by race, attractiveness, size of role, and aggressive behaviors. Being a target of weapons is predicted by size of role, sexual activity, and weapon use, while being harmed is predicted principally by role. End-of-film mortality is predicted by sexual activity, ethical status (good vs. bad), and attempting to kill Bond. This identification of a link between sexuality and violent behavior is noted as a contribution to the media and sex roles literatures.

Source: “Shaken and Stirred: A Content Analysis of Women’s Portrayals in James Bond Film” from the journal “Sex Roles”, 2009

via What do Bond girls have in common? – Barking up the wrong tree.

I’m not sure it required a scientific study to determine that trying to kill Bond doesn’t ends well.

In every prosperous democracy that features universal health care, job and retirement security, and low levels of social ills such as homicide, incarceration, juvenile and adult mortality, divorce and so forth, the middle-class majority has abandoned the churches in droves because they no longer feel the need to seek the protection and assistance of supernatural powers.

via Why Belief in God Is Not Innate – WSJ.com.

Suppose humans were born with magical buttons on their foreheads. When someone else pushes your button, it makes you very happy. But like tickling, it only works when someone else presses it. Imagine it’s easy to use. You just reach over, press it once, and the other person becomes wildly happy for a few minutes.

What would happen in such a world?

You could imagine that everyone in the world would be happy just about all the time. People would make agreements with each other to push each other’s buttons on a regular basis, thus guaranteeing the complete and utter happiness of all humans.

No, I can’t imagine that either.

via Scott Adams Blog: Happiness Button 04/05/2010.

Beautiful thought experiment played out by Scott Adams with some crisp insight into the human condition (and incidentally a parable about sex).

Buddha was assailed by doubters, who kept asking for more precise details about nirvana before they would start down the path to enlightenment.

Buddha likened them to the inhabitants of a burning house, asking their rescuers what house they will get in exchange if they agreed to leave this one behind.

2000 years ago, the writer of the Lotus Sutra set down this parable on the obstinate nature of the human being.

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The compass is so true that it is hard to be anything but enthused by his moral clarity.  It is refreshing to encounter such a firm purpose, so in tune with both the ethos and the actions of the saviour in who’s faith he garbs himself.

In the grey twilight before dark thoughts, I see there is more to the compass’ story than unearthly alignment.  The compass knows evil.  It gnaws itself in self-doubt at critical moments.  Its triumph is because weighing the two alternatives, he unfailingly chooses to remain true.

In darker moments, I admit disillusionment.  Such purity of purpose is naive.  To navigate the world with nothing to call to your aid but a belief in the goodness of God, a good heart and the love of good people is reckless. It is insanity.

Or so I tell myself. The truth is I would surrender heaven and earth to possess a share of that moral courage.

My blogging has divided itself into two over the last few months with  law on one hand, and personal writings on the other. As a result I’m finding it odd to have them both appearing on the one site.

Since WordPress will let me create as many blogs as I want with no difficulty, I have decided to take advantage of that opportunity to divide my writings.

Henceforth, you’ll find all my writing on international investment law, and my occasional digression in to the Jessup on the ICSID Blog. I hope you’ll take a look there too once in a while if those are topics that might interest you.