Blog Archives

‘Charlie Hebdo,’ Houellebecq, and France’s pungent satirical tradition

‘Charlie Hebdo,’ Houellebecq, and France’s pungent satirical tradition

Accompanying many of the appalling accounts of Wednesday’s massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo is a reproduction of the satirical weekly’s cover. It features a caricature of the writer Michel Houellebecq, garbed in a blue wizard’s outfit, face unshaven, jowls sagging and eyes bleary (no doubt from one glass de trop), smoke spiraling from […] … learn more→

The defense of satire is the defense of free expression

The defense of satire is the defense of free expression

In response to the terrorist attacks on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The television coverage of the terrorist attack has been quite uniform in not showing the materials that led to the attack on the magazine’s offices, and that decision seems to me to be implicitly reinforcing the point that the gunmen […] … learn more→

Banned Books Awareness: “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

Banned Books Awareness: “Their Eyes Were Watching God”

This is a republish of this article Written in 1937 by Zora Neale Hurston, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” tells the story of Janie Crawford, a 16-year-old whose grandmother decides to marry her off to a well-respected man in the community. Fellow censored author, Alice Walker, had this to say about the book: “There is […] … learn more→

Banned Books Awareness: “The Martian Chronicles”

Banned Books Awareness: “The Martian Chronicles”

This is a republish of this article The world of literature lost a legend this week when Ray Bradbury passed away. His visions of futuristic worlds set to a backdrop of present-day social commentary has inspired and enthralled readers for decades in classics such as The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Fahrenheit […] … learn more→

What is magical thinking and do we grow out of it?

What is magical thinking and do we grow out of it?

Have you ever wondered why children so easily accept that once every year, a terribly generous and presumably very wealthy gentleman travels by magic reindeer to all children across the world to deliver presents during the night? Just prior to Christmas I thought I’d outline a surprisingly common quirk of human cognition – magical thinking. […] … learn more→

Mum and dad are fighting – what should I do?

Mum and dad are fighting – what should I do?

This is a republish of the blog Resolving conflict with your partner in front of children can be a harrowing business. My parents were happy to have a domestic in front of my sister and I. When the dust settled, my parents would inevitably deny they had been fighting at all. “It was only a […] … learn more→

“Fifteen minutes of fame” and a lifetime of notoriety

“Fifteen minutes of fame” and a lifetime of notoriety

One of the effects of the rise of social media and “reality” entertainment is that we are all, in effect, in danger of becoming the topics of tabloid stories. It used to be that you had to be already famous at least to some degree for anyone to be interested in the stupid things that […] … learn more→

Waiting for the word of 2014

Waiting for the word of 2014

For 2014 there seems to be no leading candidate for Word (or Phrase) of the Year. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of candidates. Just last week, for example, the news from Washington was generously sprinkled with enhanced interrogation techniques, the disputed CIA practice for obtaining information, and cromnibus, the disputed Congressional practice for […] … learn more→

Why torture is so American!

Why torture is so American!

Every American school child knows or should know about the Salem witch trials, and part of that chapter of American history involves torture. Perhaps we should not torture our own citizens that overtly, but events as they transpired a few hundred years ago certainly represent American ingenuity so that an early form of water torture, […] … learn more→

Most noteworthy quotations of 2014

Most noteworthy quotations of 2014

Fred Shapiro, an associate director at Yale Law School’s library, has edited the Yale Book of Quotations since 2006. The book has been conceived as “the most accurate, most comprehensive, and most up-to-date major quotation dictionary”: “By using state-of-the-art research methods such as searching online collections of historical periodicals and books, the YBQ revolutionizes our […] … learn more→