The Sunday Post for June 4, 2017

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles good for slow consumption over a cup of coffee (or tea, if that's your pleasure). Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives.

The Loneliness of Donald Trump

E. B. White said despots should fear drunken poets more than eloquent writers preaching freedom, but I don’t know; I’d be scared of the eloquent Rebecca Solnit if I were Donald Trump. And who knows: maybe she was drunk when she wrote this piercing essay — brilliantly, dazzlingly lit with the power of words to deflate our hot air balloon of a president.

A man who wished to become the most powerful man in the world, and by happenstance and intervention and a series of disasters was granted his wish. Surely he must have imagined that more power meant more flattery, a grander image, a greater hall of mirrors reflecting back his magnificence. But he misunderstood power and prominence. This man had bullied friends and acquaintances, wives and servants, and he bullied facts and truths, insistent that he was more than they were, than it is, that it too must yield to his will. It did not.
How Over A Million Christians Have Opted Out Of Health Insurance

The US discussion of health insurance gets heated over the ACA vs. the AHCA and hopes for/dread of a single-payer system (cf. California, June 2017). Laura Turner takes a look at an alternate system: faith-based sharing ministries, in many ways similar to standard insurance but with less family planning, more uncertainty, and the potential to destabilize health care for all of us.

Luckily, Zain was healthy. But Bet and Erik took him to the doctor for a general checkup when they arrived home, and as a precaution the pediatrician ordered a panel of blood tests recommended for international adoptees by the University of Minnesota. The tests cost around $6,000, a sizeable portion of their annual income, and Erik and Bet set about submitting their need to Samaritan. “God blessed our family by giving us a beautiful boy from Ethiopia!” they wrote on their need processing form to Samaritan. “We had to have some medical testing done. All recommended international adoption medical testing came back normal and healthy. Praise God!”

Samaritan declined to share their need.

Shakespeare’s Genius Is Nonsense

Did Stephen Booth (swoon) invent modern cognitive science as a byway of close Shakespearean study? We tend to think we’re in the driver’s seat when we read, but maybe, Jillian Hinchliffe and and Seth Frey say, it’s language that’s behind the wheel. This one’s for people care a lot about literary style or care a lot how the brain works — or both, of course. (Also enjoy, or not, the classically academic trolling in the comments.)

A cognitive scientist looking at Booth’s explanation of Shakespearean effects would spot many concepts from her own discipline. Those include priming—when, after hearing a word, we tend more readily to recognize words that are related to it; expectation—the influence of higher-level reasoning on word recognition; and depth of processing—how varying levels of attention affect the extent of our engagement with a statement. (Shallow processing explains our predisposition to miss the problem of whether a man should be allowed to marry his widow’s sister.)

The consonances are surprising, considering that when Booth established his method of criticism, the prevailing school of linguistics had no room for such ideas.

The Icelandic publisher that only prints books during a full moon — then burns them

Why not. But good cognac is key.

One topic they do take (somewhat) seriously is the artistic nature of their book burnings. At their sole incineration outside Iceland — in Basel, Switzerland — they had a difficult time persuading the locals that this was “a poetic act, not a political one”.

They assure me that they burn books “with a lot of care and respect, using only first-grade French cognac to help to fuel the flames”.