Cornell

Short Cuts

Robert Altman: The Oral Biography By Mitchell Zuckoff (Knopf, 592 pp., $35) Here is your exam question: who is the last American movie director who made thirty-nine films but never won the Oscar for best director? Name the film by that director that cost the most money, and name the film of his that earned the most. Clue: The Departed, which must have been around Martin Scorsese’s thirtieth picture, and did win the directing Oscar, cost $90 million (four times as much as any of this man’s films cost)--so don’t go that way.

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Is it really possible to suck out thousands of tons of carbon-dioxide from the air simply by stirring some charcoal into the soil? Or is so-called "biochar" just a crazy idea that's too good to be true? The Economist recently reported from the North American Biochar Conference in Boulder, Colorado, and the research sounded pretty promising, though there were some heavy caveats thrown in. The basic concept behind biochar is pretty simple. Plants, as every eighth-grader knows, absorb carbon-dioxide as they grow and then release it back into the air when they die and decompose.

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In my review about the resurgence of Ayn Rand-ism on the right, I cited an op-ed by Cornell economist Robert Frank. I called Frank's central point, that luck plays a huge role in success, "seemingly banal." It occurs to me -- I haven't heard from Frank or anybody about this point -- that that line sounded dismissive. I didn't intend it that way at all. Sometimes very bvious points nonetheless go unmentioned in a public debate, and Frank usefully brought that one to the surface. I also referred briefly to his subsequent appearance on Fox to defend his op-ed.

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Arguing (cheekily, one hopes) that "Palin had a point," Mickey links to this guy, a Cornell Law Professor named William Jacobson, who offers an embarassingly lame defense of Sarah Palin's use of the phrase "death panel," in quotation marks, in her Facebook attack on Obama's health care plan. Quoth the legal scholar: Palin put that term in quotation marks to signify the concept of medical decisions based on the perceived societal worth of an individual, not literally a "death panel." Oh! Not literally a death panel!

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Arguing (cheekily, one hopes) that "Palin had a point," Mickey links to this guy, a Cornell Law Professor named William Jacobson, who offers an embarassingly lame defense of Sarah Palin's use of the phrase "death panel," in quotation marks, in her Facebook attack on Obama's health care plan. Quoth the legal scholar: Palin put that term in quotation marks to signify the concept of medical decisions based on the perceived societal worth of an individual, not literally a "death panel." Oh! Not literally a death panel!

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Last Sunday was the fortieth anniversary of the famous Cornell Takeover, when black students took over a building demanding a black studies program among, other things. There were guns involved - first when white students attempted to wrest control of the building, then when the black protesters armed themselves in protection. Debra Dickerson had some interesting insights on the psychology behind that episode in her last book, while Thomas Sowell, who was on the scene as a professor at the time, memorably recounts how it all looked through his eyes in his autobiography.

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Private Lives

'Giorgio Morandi, 1890-1964' -- Metropolitan Museum of Art 'Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting 1927-1937' -- Museum of Modern Art 'Mary Heilmann: To Be Someone' -- New Museum 'Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton' -- New Museum 'Douglas Blau' -- Institute of Contemporary Art I. What will be the impact of the financial crisis on artists, galleries, and auction houses?

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The Pleasures of Reaction

They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons By Jacob Heilbrunn (Doubleday, 320 pp., $26) Can I get a show of hands?

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