I’ll admit that my first real impression of Chicago architecture was as a young Wilco fan, seeing Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina City rise, in somewhat sinister form, on the cover of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I only saw the twin buildings in person for the first time last year, when I moved to Chicago. Up close, the corncob structures were bigger than I’d ever imagined, and I halted to survey their dizzying, petaled balconies. That’s the thing about concrete buildings: when executed with sculptural flair, their material, raw and tough, presents unparalleled, arresting drama.
Sometimes a book or work of art is so brilliant and simple in its concept, structure, or execution that you feel a kind of pleasurable jealousy when you experience it. It’s hard not to wish you’d thought of such works as you behold their simple elegance.
But on rarer occasions, a book or an artwork is so vital, and so particular to its time and place, that it feels touched by a genie, hard-won from its lamp. And you feel something else. Not jealousy — because you couldn’t possibly have thought of it in the first place — nor simple admiration, nor wonder, nor awe. Perhaps it’s a kind of pity for those who may never know the work. Such works wear the stains of their … Read the rest
In 1971, the USSR tried to use nuclear blasts to change the course of rivers. The scheme failed. But it had another consequence, all but forgotten until now: It set in motion the first U.S. government research on climate change — a far-reaching project that has continued into this decade. … Read the rest
This supposedly benign virus had me stuck in bed, dripping with sweat. I couldn’t tolerate any light at all, and my head pounded, filled with dark thoughts: What if this devil of a virus, which according to the World Health Organization predictions should have been eradicated long before, stole my daughter? … Read the rest
As in Kang’s mystery novel “A Beautiful Poison,” poisons play a starring role in her new nonfiction book, “Quackery.” She and her co-author, Nate Pedersen, explore some of medicine’s most bizarre theories on the uses of everything from arsenic to radium. Deborah Blum interviews her for Undark.… Read the rest
In this installment of What I Left Out — a recurring feature in which writers share a chapter that didn’t make it into their latest book — author and scientist Martin Doyle tells how a ragtag team of researchers and river guides are trying to repair the intricate food web disrupted by the Glen Canyon Dam.… Read the rest
The following video created by an archivist at Cornell University’s Library, New York, shows a 1925 copy of Rudyard Kipling's "Kim". The book appears to be a typical hard bound with a decorative spine and gilded fore edge. The person handling the book in the video then holds the block of pages between the thumb and the rest of the fingers and bends it to fan out the edges slightly. All of a sudden, a lovely painting of a landscape pops out of the book’s edge.
This form of fore-edge decoration is known as fore-edge painting, and they were very popular during the 18th century through the early 20th century. But the history of fore-edge painting goes back even further.
Both the Mafia and the Catholic Church in Sicily have effectively recognised the business opportunity represented by migrants. As with many private companies, they are pocketing government money for looking after these vulnerable people from Africa and Asia, making extra profits by cost-cutting in the quality of the food and accommodation they offer. At the same time, camps often take a hefty cut of what migrants earn through working outside as cleaners, labourers or bar staff – often as much as 50 percent of their earnings.
The Mafia-run camp in Corleone was an intriguing place to visit in this respect. This is a small village with a population of 12,000 in the province of Palermo that is famous for having given the characters in The Godfather … Read the rest