Angels and Demons

by Kieran Healy on April 11, 2006

Continuing my tradition of being several years behind (I find it easier as time goes by), someone gave me a copy of Dan Brown’s _Angels and Demons_ to read on a flight. I knew about the Da Vinci Code and all that but hadn’t read anything by him. The result was very nearly as painful as “my attempt to read”: _Cryptonomicon_ last year. _Cryptonomicon_ consisted of nerdish Mary Sues afloat in a sea of Cliffs Notes for popular science books. _Angels and Demons_ retains the nerd protagonists but adds a layer of cack-handed James Bond stuff. I mean, can you believe this shit:

Descending from the chopper in her khaki shorts and white sleeveless top, Vittoria Vetra looked nothing like the bookish physicist he had expected. Lithe and graceful, she was tall with chestnut skin and long black hair that swirled in the backwind of the rotors. Her face was unmistakably Italian–not overly beautiful, but possessing full, earthy features that even at twenty yards seemed to exude raw sensuality. As the air currents buffeted her body, her clothes clung, accentuating her slender torso and small breasts.

“Ms Vetra is a woman of tremendous personal strength,” Kohler said … “She spends months working in dangerous ecological systems. She is a strict vegetarian and CERN’s resident guru of Hatha yoga.” …She turned to Langdon, holding out a slender hand. “My name is Vittoria Vetra. You’re from Interpol, I assume?” Langdon took her hand, momentarily spellbound by the depth of her watery gaze.

I imagine it was the air currents from the chopper that were making her eyes water. My own eyes were doing the same by this point. I didn’t get much further, but I suppose it was worth it for the image of Harvard (the protagonist is “professor of religious iconology” there) and CERN (much like Dr Evil’s Island, apparently, except for being in Switzerland).

Visiting Cornell

by Eszter Hargittai on April 11, 2006

I’m on my way to Cornell to give a talk in the Information Science Colloquium tomorrow. There are several great people at Cornell across numerous departments studying IT-related topics so this should be a fun trip.

It’s been almost 15 years since I’ve been to Ithaca. That first visit was for the Cornell Summer College Program for high school students. I still have very fond memories of it and one of my closest friends to this day is someone I met that summer in 1991. Unfortunately, the program no longer offers full scholarships for international students. Bummer.

As a side note, I would like to recommend the Cornell campus-to-campus shuttle from NYC. It’s not only comfortable, it has wifi. I’ve never blogged from a bus before, it’s a nice option to have.

Vae victoribus

by Henry on April 11, 2006

“Matthew Yglesias”: and “Mark Kleiman”: both express the hope that the narrow leftwing victory in Italy’s general elections will lead to a dismantling of Berlusconi’s near-monopoly over Italian broadcast media. This is probably true in the sense that the state owned channels won’t be under Berlusconi’s direct control any more, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up too high. The last time that the left was in power they seemed more interested in internecine squabbles over how the spoils should be divided than in the root-and-branch reform of Italian broadcasting regulation that is certainly necessary. I’d like to hope that things will be different this time around, but I certainly don’t expect it. On the other hand, I’m a little more optimistic about Laura Rozen’s “suggestion”: that more might emerge about the role of Italian intelligence in the Niger forgeries scandal. One of the few things likely to unite the various parties in the Union, which range from Prodi-style former Christian Democrats to Fausto Bertinotti’s Stalinoids is dislike of the George W. Bush administration – a real inquiry might seem just the ticket for uniting the left parties and embarrassing the right.