Ascent of the A-Word
By Geoffrey Nunberg
It first surfaced in the gripes of GIs during World War II and was captured early on by the typewriter of a young Norman Mailer. Within a generation it had become a basic notion of our everyday moral life, replacing older reproaches like lout and heel with a single inclusive category--a staple of country outlaw songs, Neil Simon plays, and Woody Allen movies. Feminists made it their stock rebuke for male insensitivity, the est movement used it for those who didn't"get it,&rdquo and Dirty Harry applied it evenhandedly to both his officious superiors and the punks he manhandled. The asshole has become a focus of collective fascination for us, just as the phony was for Holden Caulfield and the cad was for Anthony Trollope. From Donald Trump to Ann Coulter, from Mel Gibson to Anthony Weiner, from the reality TV prima donnas to the internet trolls and flamers, assholism has become the characteristic form of modern incivility, which implicitly expresses our deepest values about class, relationships, authenticity, and fairness. We have conflicting attitudes about the A-word--when a presidential candidate unwittingly uttered it on a live mic in 2000, it confirmed to some that he was a man of the people and to others that he was a boor. But considering how much the word does for us, and to us, it hasn't gotten nearly the attention it deserves--at least until now.
Ancient Gonzo Wisdom
By Anita Thompson, Christopher Hitchens
Bristling with inspired observations and wild anecdotes, this first collection offers a unique insight into the voice and mind of the inimitable Hunter S. Thompson, as recorded in the pages of Playboy , The Paris Review , Esquire , and elsewhere. Fearless and unsparing, the interviews detail some of the most storied episodes of Thompson's life: a savage beating at the hands of the Hells Angels, talking football with Nixon on the 1972 Campaign Trail ( the only time in 20 years of listening to the treacherous bastard that I knew he wasn't lying"), and his unlikely run for sheriff of Aspen. Elsewhere, passionate tirades about journalism, culture, guns, drugs, and the law showcase Thompson's voice at its fiercest. Arranged chronologically, and prefaced with Anita Thompson's moving account of her husband's last years, the interviews present Hunter in all his fractured brilliance and provide an exceptional portrait of his times.
By Adel Iskandar, Mohammed El-nawawy
Al-Jazeera, the independent, all-Arab television news network based in Qatar, emerged as ambassador to the Arab world in the events following September 11, 2001. Arabic for "the island," Al-Jazeera has "scooped" the western media conglomerates many times. With its exclusive access to Osama Bin Laden and members of the Taliban, its reputation was burnished quickly through its exposure on CNN. During the 2003 war in Iraq, Al-Jazeera seemed to be everywhere, reporting dramatic stories and images, even as it strived to maintain its independence as an international free press news network. Al-Jazeera sheds light on the background of the network: how it operates, the programs it broadcasts, its effects on Arab viewers, the reactions of the West and Arab states, the implications for the future of news broadcasting in the Middle East, and its struggle for a free press and public opinion in the Arab world.
The Atoms Of Language
By Mark C. Baker
Whether all human languages are fundamentally the same or different has been a subject of debate for ages. This problem has deep philosophical implications: If languages are all the same, it implies a fundamental commonality- and thus mutual intelligibility- of human thought.We are now on the verge of solving this problem. Using a twenty-year-old theory proposed by the world's greatest living linguist, Noam Chomsky, researchers have found that the similarities among languages are more profound than the differences. Languages whose grammars seem completely incompatible may in fact be structurally almost identical, except for a difference in one simple rule. The discovery of these rules and how they may vary promises to yield a linguistic equivalent of the Periodic Table of the Elements: a single framework by which we can understand the fundamental structure of all human language. This is a landmark breakthrough both within linguistics, which will herewith finally become a full-fledged science, and in our understanding of the human mind.
By James Bailey
Through the first fifty years of the computer revolution, scientists have been trying to program electronic circuits to process information the same way humans do. Doing so has reassured us all that underlying every new computer capability, no matter how miraculously fast or complex, are human thought processes and logic. But cutting-edge computer scientists are coming to see that electronic circuits really are alien, that the difference between the human mind and computer capability is not merely one of degree (how fast), but of kind(how). The author suggests that computers think" best when their thoughts" are allowed to emerge from the interplay of millions of tiny operations all interacting with each other in parallel. Why then, if computers bring to the table such very different strengths and weaknesses, are we still trying to program them to think like humans? A work that ranges widely over the history of ideas from Galileo to Newton to Darwin yet is just as comfortable in the cutting-edge world of parallel processing that is at this very moment yielding a new form of intelligence, After Thought describes why the real computer age is just beginning.