Melville, as Stimulant and Soporific

by John Holbo on May 27, 2011

Ta-Nehisi Coates really likes Moby Dick, apparently the first paragraph in particular.

But not everyone feels the same. Reminds me of that great scene in Bone, vol. 5, when they are being attacked by the Stupid Rat Creatures … [click to continue…]

Ghostwriters of Science

by Henry Farrell on May 27, 2011

Via Randolph Fritz, a “very interesting article”: about how extensive the pharmaceuticals ghostwriting industry is:

bq. The planning companies are paid to implement high-impact publication strategies for specific drugs. They target the most influential academics to act as authors, draft the articles, and ensure that these include clearly-defined branding messages and appear in the most prestigious journals. … There are now at least 250 different companies engaged in the business of planning clinical publications for the pharmaceutical industry … Current Medical Directions, a medical communications company based in New York, promises to create “scientific content in support of our clients’ messages”. … n a flow-chart drawn up by Eric Crown, publications manager at Merck (the company that sold the controversial painkiller Vioxx), the determination of authorship appears as the fourth stage of the article preparation procedure. That is, only after company employees have presented clinical study data, discussed the findings, finalised “tactical plans” and identified where the article should be published. … “We’ve never done ghostwriting, per se, as I’d define it”, says John Romankiewicz, president of Scientific Therapeutics Information, the New Jersey firm that helped Merck promote Vioxx with a series of positive articles in medical journals. “We may have written a paper, but the people we work with have to have some input and approve it.”

I used to think that political scientists were lucky, in that no-one cared enough about what we had to say to try to suborn our reputations via dubious endorsements. And then I read about the “Gadaffi and political science scandal …”:

Sunnyside IV: The Phenomenon of Fame

by robert_hanks on May 27, 2011

One of the snags with really great artists is that they feed the illusion that the past is comprehensible: reading Jane Austen or listening to Beethoven, I can register a different set of manners and assumptions without feeling that there’s something utterly alien going on. (Critics generally settle for the adjective “timeless”.) Watching Charlie Chaplin, on the other hand, I’m always conscious of the chasm between then and now, how different modern times are from anything that went before. I don’t think this sense of strangeness has much to do with the question of whether we find him funny or not (the idea that Chaplin isn’t funny has fallen out of fashion in recent years, and I think it’s generally recognised that some of the time he’s very funny). But leaving aside Chaplin’s astoundingly deft comic shtick, the whole emotional world of the films seems primitive and impenetrable; I have trouble swallowing the Little Tramp himself as a sympathetic character, though the audiences a century back don’t seem to have felt any ambivalence.

I’m leading up to a proposition: that Chaplin has slipped out of our grasp. [click to continue…]