The Fourth and Walnut Epiphany

merton-plaqueYesterday Louisville Public Media ran a short piece I wrote about the plaque in downtown Louisville commemorating Thomas Merton’s Fourth and Walnut Epiphany. Here’s a link to the piece, which also includes some audio of me babbling on about the plaque.


Somewhere in the Swamps of Jersey

At bit later this week, The New York Times’ Travel Section will run a short little thing I wrote about my badass Jersey City neighborhood. It’s here. Five spots was the limit, but I also recommend LITM, Porta, Union Republic, Hamilton Inn, Zeppelin Hall, Rolon’s Keyhole Bar, the Golden Cicada, and on and on. It is truly a great little neighborhood.

Social Constructs – Michael Murphy and MASS Design

The Butaro Hospital(photo by Iwan Baan).MASS Design is one of the most exciting architecture and design firms at work today. The firm, which The New York Times says has “set a new standard for public-interest design” uses a methodology as much anthropological as it is architectural to create buildings that are both beautiful and focal points of community cohesion.

I wrote a profile of MASS Design and its co-founder, Michael Murphy, for the most recent issue of The University of Chicago Magazine. Here’s a link to the online version of the piece. Check it out. MASS is doing tremendous work.

Love and Lies

Love and LiesJust in time for Valentine’s Day, The Sunday Boston Globe published my review of philosopher Clancy Martin’s Love and Lies: An Essay on Truthfulness, Deceit, and the Growth and Care of Erotic Love. And just in time for tax day, here’s a link!

And here’s a snippet from the piece:

What do you know about your lover? What secrets might he be hiding? Or maybe this is more important: What does your lover know about you? Which of your sins does she know yet keep silent about? For that matter, what do you know about love?

“Love and Lies: An Essay on Truthfulness, Deceit, and the Growth and Care of Erotic Love,” Clancy Martin’s spirited attack on standard notions of romantic love, argues that most of us know little about this coveted emotion. Love isn’t, Martin argues, a refuge of crystalline honesty. What love is, at best, is mutually assured deception — and deep satisfaction. The satisfaction depends on the deception, and we ignore that at our heart’s peril. Make no mistake, Martin believes in the power of love. Deceit just interests him more.

Michelangelo – A Life in Six Masterpiecs

The first Pieta. I’m behind!

Last August The Boston Globe ran my review of Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces. Miles Unger’s biography offers a nuanced look at this most famous, ambitious, and mercurial artists.

From the review:

Michelangelo Buonarroti was born in the village of Caprese in 1475 and died in Rome in 1564.

During that 88-year period, he revolutionized the arts of sculpture and painting, giving the world a series of masterpieces and, as Unger writes, inventing “the very notion of genius, if by that term we mean greatness that flows from the peculiarities of an individual life and personality.’’

Michelangelo’s path from apprentice to master was short. His artistic temperament was almost fully formed by the time he took up the hammer and chisel. His faith in his power as an artist, and his refusal to adhere strictly to his masters’ or patrons’ desires over his own ambitions, were ever-present components of his working life.

Tweed-Collar Crime

My review of Michael Blanding’s The Map Thief ran as the lead review in yesterday’s Sunday Boston Globe books page. Here’s a link, and here’s how the piece opens up:

Extravagant crimes don’t always require extravagant tools. With only his tweed blazer, a bit of trust, and an X-Acto blade, E. Forbes Smiley transformed himself from one of the world’s most successful rare- map dealers into one of the world’s most notorious map thieves.

It was easy. After spending decades working alongside librarians at such institutions as Harvard, the Boston Public Library, and Yale, Smiley needed only to request a folder of rare maps or an atlas. His heists were subtle — a moment unobserved and the near silence of a blade through paper. Smiley removed the map, folded it to the size of a credit card, and then walked out the door with hundreds of years of history in his tweed pocket.

Simple and effective, Smiley filched more than $3 million worth of maps during his spree.

On Human Nurture – Jesse Prinz

Jesse in his office, David Hume over his shoulder.

Jesse in his office, David Hume over his shoulder.

UPDATE: It probably doesn’t matter much to anyone but me, but soon after this piece was published Arts & Letters Daily posted a link. And for the week of July 21 an excerpt of this story is the lead feature on The University of Chicago‘s home page.

The newest issue of The University of Chicago Magazine includes my profile of philosopher Jesse Prinz. Jesse, Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Center, CUNY, works at the intersection of philosophy, cognitive neuroscience, and experimental psychology. His work is utterly and entirely fascinating.

Check out the profile. You can find a link to the piece here, or you can download a more elegant layout of the piece here (that’s a large pdf).

And here’s a  piece Jesse wrote on wonder – totally worth your time and a nice introduction to his dynamic, challenging work.

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