It was wonderful to discover that there is indeed an annual prize for the worst sex scenes in literature, the Literary Review Bad Sex in Literature Awards. And apparently the list of nominees traditionally included more male writers than female ones. Among this year’s are Stephen King, David Guterson and Lee Child. Rowan Pelling investigates why male writers are worse at sex scenes.
“One well known author and broadcaster was fairly representative when he told me: ‘I can write about sex, but only if it’s bad, comedic, absurd, embarrassing or downright disgusting. I can’t begin to write about ‘making love’ because the very thought makes my toes curl.’”
— From London.
A report by the High Pay Commission in Britain triggered a debate here about excessive executive pay that has brought some astonishing details to light. The report concluded that because some executive pay moved from 13.6 times the average salary at a firm in 1980 to 75 times today, it hurts the economy as employees are less likely to cooperate with their bosses.
The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland invited readers to play a game: Guess how much the head of human resources at chocolate maker Cadbury made in 2008 and then try to stay on your chair when he tells you how much it really is.
Bob Stack, former HR of Cadbury, received a total package of $5.9 billion, including $3 billion in share options.
Freedland then goes on: “Most people have long accepted that there will be a differential in pay that, in the hoary example, the brain surgeon will earn more than the dustman. People understand that some skills are rare and therefore command a greater premium. They even accept that this can result in extreme outcomes, with the likes of Wayne Rooney trousering £250,000 a week. But none of that logic applies to the current state of corporate pay.
Rooney is truly a one in a hundred million talent; there might be just two dozen people in the world who could match his skills. But with all due respect to Bob Stack, that is not true of him. Nor can it possibly be true of the 2,800 staff in 27 UK-based banks who, according to the Financial Services Authority, received more than £1m each in 2009. Whatever these people are able to do, it’s clearly not rare.”
I guess it also comes down to how much someone like Stack helped to earn his company and its shareholders. But the bottom line is that there is no reason for the gap between average salary and executive pay to have widened that much in 30 years.
— From London.
You’ll have to forgive me, I’m new to Quora. I read a question about atheism today, and the answers (often written by atheists), seemed to be filled with half-truths about what it means not to believe in God, and completely beside the point. I think there’s much more confusion about the whole topic than is strictly necessary. These are big questions, but there’s much too much judging going on between the two camps. I feel there may be a simple answer to it all, one I did not come up with on my own, but one I could attempt to clarify… Let me give it a go, I’ll try to stay rigorous.
Science can test the veracity of the stories as they are told in the Bible. Adam and Eve, to take the most obvious. There is scientific evidence that the world was not created in seven days. It’s called Evolution. Contrary to what the most strident amongst believers will have you think, many people of faith understand and accept this reality. They are not threatened by it, much the opposite. What this does is allow for the power of the parable to be unleashed. Parables are important, necessary. Every culture needs a narrative to explain its moral imperatives. Taking parables literally doesn’t help that. I’d go as far as to say that it hinders learning and comprehension.
But I digress. As I was saying, science is able to test the veracity of the stories. In fact, it has already disproved many of them, in so far as we assume them to pertain to the physical world. But God is much larger than the Bible, which is at best an imperfect account of religious history, written by man. God may have inspired the Bible, but He is not the Bible. So. These stories aren’t literally true. Is this evidence that God does not exist?
I’ll say it, as a proud atheist: it isn’t. Just as the Bible has no way of proving the existence of God, science has no way of disproving it. It can explain how we got here, from the Big Bang to the 21st century on Earth, but it cannot explain why. Has a higher entity willed the Universe and Humanity into being? Is there an almighty Creator at the origin of it all? Science can say: “from what we know, it seems unlikely.” It cannot say: “We know for sure that there is not.”
I heard Richard Dawkins say once that the day he learned about Evolution, he stopped believing in God. Why? Because Adam and Eve didn’t really happen? All this tells me is that he gives, even as an atheist, the same importance to the Bible as any literal-minded Christian, but from the other end of the spectrum. The very nature of science, and its greatness, is its ability to admit what we know and don’t know, and recognise what we can and cannot prove. With that remark, I felt Dawkins had betrayed that very principle, and demonstrated a very limited, very basic understanding of religion.
So let’s think about it dispassionately: what is atheism? Some define it as the absence of faith. I’ve certainly experienced it as a void, an empty spot where my spirituality would’ve been. However, if we stick to strict scientific reasoning, if we remain intellectually honest, and if we block the noise from outside, we must humbly admit: we cannot know. But we are human: every gap in knowledge we like to fill with hypotheses.
People of faith cannot prove the existence of God. Atheists cannot disprove it. From this perspective, atheism is a belief: the belief that God does not exist. It is just another kind of faith.
If you think about it like that, neither spiritual people nor atheists are right. And, what is more, they are not even wrong.
You can argue about all the ways faith manifests (or should manifest) itself. They will change from country to country, culture to culture. You can argue about all the interpretations of a given text. You can argue about all the miracles and parables and everything else. What you cannot argue about, or even judge each other on, is that deeply private, deeply personal thing: faith.
— From SF.
David Brooks says it like it is.
Remember when I wrote the European crisis concerns you? Yesterday, Fitch warned U.S. banks against Europe’s worst-case scenario. This week, The Economist quoted a central banker pondering the implications of it all, because the largest conflicts of the 20th century were made possible by profound economic unbalance in Europe (1920s German hyperinflation, anyone?). Everywhere you look there are interactive charts explaining the mechanisms of contagion.
You’re going to be voting a year from now. Forget the GOP clowns, here’s what you need to know: the names of all European leaders, their position on the Euro, and how they go about rescuing it.
I’m just saying, people. I’m just saying.
— From SF.
That is a very good question, Room for Debate of the NYTimes.com. If the humblest immigrant can nail a test Newt Gingrich could never pass, should the latter even be allowed to run?
I say no.
— From SF.
Joan Didion, yesterday at the Herbst Theater, on how a job becomes more than a job.
This quote will come as no surprise if you’ve read Where I Was From, The Year of Magical Thinking, or Blue Nights. Listening to her last night made it even clearer to me why she’s had such an impact in literature and journalism.
She is so deeply rooted in reality, so acutely aware of what it does to her, and so determined to understand it. “I have no ability to think in the abstract,” she said. Her prowess is to have embraced this “shortcoming” and turned it into her work’s defining trait. Hers is one of the most powerful voices in the English-speaking world today.
It isn’t just the precise way in which she looks at the string of events that make life. It’s the commitment with which she identifies and describes their context, and her categorical refusal to remove herself from any of it. It’s about figuring it out. She’s the Queen of No-Nonsense. She’s the quintessential Anti-Know-It-All. She’s complacency’s fiercest enemy.
Her interviewer was Vendela Vida, who could’ve done a much better job of the opportunity she was afforded. Still, it was a treat to watch Didion step onto the stage, as was the chance to contrast her highly breakable frame with the strength, wit, and wisdom of her words.
The act of doing it.
— From SF.
Robert Hughes, the hour-long documentary The Curse of the Mona Lisa, about the ways in which art and its experience changed when money became an essential factor in the equation.
Julia wrote about it a few days ago. Make the time to see it. It matters. Wealth and ignorance are a deadly combination.
— From SF.
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
— From London.