links for 2009-07-14

  • "For a long time, the two worlds of Islam, the outer world of political and social action and the inner world of spiritual and moral realization, seemed entirely at odds with each other. One was angry at Islam's subordination, insistent on recognition and power, on challenging the status quo; the other was serene, introspective, and immersed in the intangible. The canvas of the first was societies and nations; of the second, the self and the individual."
  • "Smith is celebrated for his 'invisible hand' theory, which holds that when greedy people trade for their own advantage in unfettered private markets, they will often be led, as if by an invisible hand, to produce the greatest good for all. The invisible hand remains a powerful narrative, but after the recent economic wreckage, skepticism about it has grown. My prediction is that it will eventually be supplanted by a version of Darwin’s more general narrative — one that grants the invisible hand its due, but also strips it of the sweeping powers that many now ascribe to it."
  • "In reality, your brain operates on the edge of chaos. Though much of the time it runs in an orderly and stable way, every now and again it suddenly and unpredictably lurches into a blizzard of noise."
  • "One cannot help imagining what it’s like to feel comfortable, curled up in a hole with a prickly monster six times your size. Never knowing when she’s going to grab you, stuff you in her mouth, and taste."
    (tags: science)
  • "Double X is a new Web magazine, founded by women but not just for women, that Slate launched in spring 2009. The site spins off from Slate's XX Factor blog, where we started a conversation among women—about politics, sex, and culture—that both men and women listen in on. Double X takes the Slate and XX Factor sensibility and applies it to sexual politics, fashion, parenting, health, science, sex, friendship, work-life balance, and anything else you might talk about with your friends over coffee. We tackle subjects high and low with an approach that's unabashedly intellectual but not dry or condescending. The blog is at the heart of the site, but we also publish essays, reporting, and other features."
  • "The latest wave of novels and series are not like the glossy look-but-don't-touch sexuality you see in Vogue. They reflect our culture’s deep ambivalence about women's sexuality and our obsession with glorifying chastity and sexual violence."