Friday, December 11, 2009

Around the Web

For the week of Saturday, December 5 through Friday, December 11.

1) On Robert Schumann's Symphony No. 4 in D minor (and the issue of orchestration) at Peter Gutmann's Classical Notes.

2) On the constitutionality of a personal mandate to buy health insurance, from Randy Barnett at The Volokh Conspiracy

3) Ilya Shapiro and Travis Cushman at The American look at the constitutionality of the "Public Company Accounting Oversight Board."

4) At Big Hollywood, Mark Tapson's, "ZINN 101: A Radical’s History of the United States."

5) Carolyn See at The Washington Post reviews, "The Lexicographer's Dilemma: The Evolution of 'Proper' English from Shakespeare to 'South Park'" by Jack Lynch.

6) In the WSJ, Robert Greskovic on George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker" at The New York City Ballet.

7) At Slate, Witold Rybczynski on the "enduring influence of architect Christopher Alexander, author of 'A Pattern of Language.'"
Alexander argued that the standardized, mass-produced way in which buildings are designed and built today is wrongheaded, and to demonstrate an alternative he started to build himself. . .
Alexander's ideas have taken root in unexpected places. His early books, especially Notes on the Synthesis of Form and A Pattern Language, influenced computer scientists, who found useful parallels between building design and software design. The New Urbanism movement also owes him a debt, as a new book by Andres Duany and Jeff Speck makes clear. The Smart Growth Manual consists of 148 principles—patterns, really—that add up to a language for community design, from entire regions to neighborhood streets. "We believe that new places should be designed in the manner of existing places that work," the authors write, a concept straight out of Alexander. Curiously, the one place that Alexander, a lifelong professor, has had the least influence is in academia. The theories that are taught in architecture schools today are of a different sort, and in the belief that the field of architecture should be grounded in intellectual speculation, rather than pragmatic observation, students are more likely to be assigned French post-structuralist texts than A Pattern Language. Which is a shame.
8) "I.M. Pei's National Gallery of Art East Building: An Ultramodern Building Shows Signs of Age" by Catesby Leigh in the WSJ. (from the article, "It seems pretty clear that the architect's 'technological breakthrough in the construction of masonry walls' was more of an experiment than he realized.")

9) In City Journal, Michael Knox Beran reviews, "The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science" by Richard Holmes.
But Holmes is concerned less with particular discoveries than with the mentality of the discoverers. The wonder revealed by science is not, finally, severable from the mind of the wonderer. Holmes cites Richard Feynman’s belief that science is “driven by a continual dialogue between skeptical enquiry and the sense of inexplicable mystery,” and that if either is permitted to get the upper hand, “true science” will be “destroyed.”

Even as he studies the outer world, the Romantic scientist is preoccupied with the secret of his inward existence. Banks observing the customs of the Tahitians, Davy on laughing gas, Mary Shelley wondering “in what sense Frankenstein’s ‘Creature’ would be human”: all remained perplexed by the mysteriousness of man. What laws govern his being? How do changing conditions affect his nature? Is he a creature created on purpose or a mere material accident?

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