Insider Baseball by Joan Didion (New York Review Of Books): This essay just nails the ways in which politics is basically upmarket reality TV (in that almost everything about what most people see and read about politics is content which has been deliberately manufactured to fill in TV newstime), where the journalists and politicians have an unspoken knowledge of the rules of the game. All of which prevents outsiders (e.g., large swathes of the 99%) from having much of a say in the political process, and prevents important issues from being debated. And it’s exactly the same in Australia. [via Jay Rosen, who also has interesting/related things to say about coverage of the US Republican primaries]
Test of Time: In Defense Of A Game That Lasts Five Days by Wright Thompson (ESPN): The form of cricket called ‘test cricket’ is a very strange thing: a game lasts for five whole days, and quite often ends in a draw. And a game where, though the point is to score runs by hitting balls, there are batsmen who are earnestly praised for their ability to not hit the balls. Though for something so strange, it’s extremely popular right now in Australia - it’s more or less the biggest news story going between Christmas and mid-January. I was watching a test between Australia and India the other day, and where other games have cheerleaders and sirens and so forth, this game had artists stationed around the stadium, some of whom drew impressionist pieces of the game. Anyway, Thompson is an American who is baffled by the appeal of this very strange game (which I do love and have strong opinions about), and who goes to all five days of a test to try and understand how such a game could possibly survive into the 21st century. In the end, he seems to think that test cricket is basically a form of Zen.
Our Selves, Other Cells by Jena Pincott (Boing Boing): When you’re a foetus, inside your mother’s belly, you swap cells with your mother. By the end of pregnancy, about 6 percent of the DNA in your mother’s bloodstream comes from the fetus. And some of the cells in your body, to this day, actually have your mother’s DNA. Which is amazing when you think about it, and may well explain things like babybrain.
Anesthesia May Leave Patients Conscious - And Finally Show Consciousness In The Brain by Vaughan Bell (The Crux): Doctors assume that patients are unconscious if they do not respond to prodding or talking. This is not always the case - perhaps 1 in 1000 people who go under don’t actually go fully under. And such phenomena may say very interesting things about the workings of the mind. (Though the examples of people who are not fully unconscious that Bell gives here seem much more like people dreaming than people who are semi-conscious - or is that the idea?)
The Prime Minister Who Disappeared by Mike Dash (Past Imperfect): In 1967, an Australian Prime Minister named Harold Holt literally disappeared. He went for a swim on a beach (somewhat foolhardily, considering) and drowned; his body was sucked under the water and he was never seen again. Of course, there were conspiracy theories about him boarding a Chinese submarine. Sadly, Dash’s article forgets to mention the existence in Melbourne of the Harold Holt Swim Centre, a suburban public pool, named in somewhat poor taste (but possibly typical Australian humour).
Violinists Can’t Tell The Difference Between Stradivarius Violins And New Ones by Ed Yong (Not Exactly Rocket Science): Of course they can’t - it’s all placebo effect. I’m very curious to see if guitar nerds can actually tell the difference between the tones of the various electric guitars and amps that they talk about at such length. (Maybe I should do a study on this?)