Put almost any group of people in a room together, and they’ll eventually start talking about how dumb everyone else is.
Put a group of people with above-average intelligence in a room together, and they’ll start talking about what intelligence means — when they first started to realize they were “gifted,” how they tried to measure and quantify their intellectual gifts, and how little those scores really tell us.
If this sounds self-congratulatory, that’s because it is.
At some point in that conversation, someone will jump in and say, “Well, here’s how I can tell when somebody’s smart…”
In the midst of all these fun articles, I’ve been working on a bigger project: a novel set in ancient Mesopotamia.
Well, maybe “novel” isn’t exactly right — it’s a collection of short stories set in the same area, all linked to each other by themes, characters, legends, and so on. Together, the stories form a narrative that reaches far back into the ancient past.
How my friend’s art connects Hollywood and ancient Egypt
Last weekend, I took a trip up to Milan. My friends and I hit all the usual sightseeing spots — the big famous Gothic cathedral, the sprawling neoclassical shopping mall known as the Galleria — but I had one special destination in mind.
We’ve all gotten pulled into one of those conversations at one party or another: “Art is on the decline! No ones creates original work anymore! Music is produced by robots and armies of slave children! All we do is take selfies and mindlessly share them!”
That’s how art critic Jonathan Jones reacted to the above painting by artist James Needham this week. Needham is shocked — shocked — that this painting has gotten almost a million shares on Imgur. “It washes out all aesthetic ambition,” Jones wails in The Guardian, “and reduces the 600 years of art history since the Renaissance to the level of a glorified selfie.”
This entire story is completely true. Every single thing in it actually happened.
It’s hard for me, sometimes, to believe that things like these can really exist on this planet. As I was writing about them, I felt as if I was writing fiction — something deliriously imaginative to shock and entertain my audience.
They’re called Roma, they’re intriguing, and “gypsy” is a slur.
All right my friends, let me tell you about “Gypsies” — or as they’re actually called, the Romani people, or simply the Roma.
They’ve been in the news a few times lately for child abductions. They’ve got a reputation as musicians and fortune-tellers at best; or as thieves, pickpockets and kidnappers at worst. They’re probably from Romania, right? They must have something to do with the Romanians.
The estate where we live is not in the slums. It’s a nice middle-class neighborhood — about ten acres with a big stone wall around them, and a whole community of small shops and apartments and houses and cow-grazing patches inside, all connected by winding dirt trails that run through the scrub.
The long low buildings are communal houses where Swahili people live. The little shacks with signs outside are stores — butcher shops, beauty salons, convenience stores, phone top-up stands. Everything you want, you can find within the estate, sold by your neighbors.
Night can make you feel like a stranger, even when you’re home
Last night, when the power had been out for twelve hours and the sun finally set and left me in the dark, and someone knocked on my door to hand me candles, and I lit the candles and sat on the bed and listened to the shouting outside — that was when I realized how alone I was.