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New Yorker, Dec 24 2012

A week late, but it’s a double issue for Dec. 31. Whew!

Zombie Art

Where does art go when it dies? Apparently, when a piece of art is considered a total loss (damaged by water/fire/shipping, but not physically eradicated), it goes into a warehouse never to be seen again, while the owner gets a check from the insurance company. There’s an exhibit of such art at Columbia, accompanied by letters describing the nature of the damage. “The box looked like it was used as an accordion.” I would have assumed that such art would then be completely destroyed by the insurance company. Unfortunately the article is rather short and doesn’t really go into much detail about who now owns the pieces.

In Funds We Trust?

Social Security is supposed to be self funding, via special payroll taxes. The motivation for and consequences of this and the potential for the program to go bankrupt have resulted in political arguments peculiar to entitlement programs that don’t apply to programs paid for by general funds. As the article points out, nobody seems to worry or talk about the Army going bankrupt.

Recall of the Wild

The Oostvaardersplassen nature preserve in the Netherlands has too much nature. Created by pushing back the sea and draining a lake and populated with close as we can get authentic prehistoric species, it’s an interesting experiment in preservation. Instead of just trying to keep things the way they are, the keepers are trying to roll back the clock. On the downside, people don’t like seeing pictures of starving herbivores in the winter and want various culling programs implemented. An interesting question. If, as alleged, it’s cruel to leave nature to its course, then what’s the right amount of intervention? Also, Nazi super cows.

Utopian for Beginners

Found it online

I loved this article. Mostly, it follows John Quijada and his invented language Ithkuil, but also covers the history of other constructed languages including Esperanto and Loglan. Lots of interesting facts here, like George Soros grew up speaking Esperanto. One thing I know from casual linguistics study is that many claims about what a certain language can or cannot express are exaggerated. Native speakers may not choose to express an idea in a certain way, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are unable to express it. Even so, fascinating stuff, with lots of references to follow up for more info. And then the story really goes off the rails at the end when Quijada and the author attend a conference in Kiev.

Polar Express

A cargo ship takes a load of iron ore from Russia to China via the Arctic Ocean. I liked the history of the various attempts at navigating the Northern Sea Route. Life on a cargo ship is what you may expect, but still interesting to read about. Interesting fact: Russia has a fleet of six nuclear powered icebreakers. Also interesting: Nobody really knows how much iron ore is aboard the ship. They estimate by measuring how the low the ship sits in the water, though obviously with some imprecision, as the measurement in China indicates they somehow gained 200 tons of ore during the voyage.

Shirley Temple Three

A woman gets an illegal cloned dwarf mammoth from her son and has to care for it. Like Jurassic Park, but not even close. I think the story is supposed to symbolize something, but it was meaningless to me.

Posted 01 Jan 2013 00:20 by tedu Updated: 01 Jan 2013 00:20
Tagged: language magreview