advertisement
advertisement

Percentile Dysfunction, Bat Man, Balancing Act

Very Short List delivers one excellent item to your inbox, daily: Books, films, music, web-things, and dispatches on science and technology. This week, see death-defying stunts, meet a real-life Batman, and read a compelling memoir about American education and ruling class entitlement.

advertisement

VERY SHORT LIST

Percentile dysfunction
The Unbinding This Side of Paradise Lost Illusions
venn diagram

 

thumbnail

MEMOIR
Lost in the Meritocracy

Walter Kirn’s new memoir, Lost in the Meritocracy, recounts one man’s efforts to escape his home state (of Minnesota) and join the ranks of the Eastern Establishment (at Princeton). Regrets? He has a few.

Kirn — who is now a successful novelist and critic — found Princeton to be a bastion of rich-kid snobbery and academic groupthink. But that didn’t stop the author from turning himself into an Ivy League automaton: “The essence of my training was to confuse the approval of my trainers with my own happiness,” Kirn writes. At the end of his journey, Kirn realized that instead of an education, what he’d received was an invitation to join America’s ruling class; decades later, the bad taste still lingers in his mouth.

BUY Lost in the Meritocracy (Doubleday; hardcover; 224 pages)

READ the Atlantic article that Lost in the Meritocracy is based on

Browse the VeryShortList.com archive

advertisement


VSL:SCIENCE

Bat man
Helen Keller Sonar Thomas Nagel
venn diagram

 

thumbnail

ARTICLE
“Echo Vision”

Thirty-five years ago, Thomas Nagel wrote a famous philosophy paper called “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” Last month, a psychologist named Daniel Kish published a fascinating reply.

Blind since infancy, Kish makes loud clicks with his tongue, listens for the echo, and uses it to map his environment. The skill, which he calls “human sonar,” enables him to ride bicycles, climb trees, and detect downward slopes (from the way sound waves angle away from him). “The readiness with which people learn sonar suggests to me it may be an inbuilt skill,” Kish writes. And in 2001, he started a nonprofit that helps other visually impaired people “step away from the idea that their perception of the environment need be limited to the length of a stick, or to someone else’s eyes.”

READ “Echo Vision”

WATCH Daniel Kish explain “human sonar”

Browse the VeryShortList.com archive

advertisement


VSL:WEB

Balancing act
Vertigo Harry Houdini Man on Wire
venn diagram

 

thumbnail

VIDEOS
Eskil Rønningsbakken’s globalbalancing channel

Eskil Rønningsbakken calls himself an “educated balancing performer.” Translation? He walks the fine line between extreme courage and total stupidity.

The clips you’ll find on Rønningsbakken’s YouTube channel can be difficult to watch — and impossible to tear yourself away from: He dangles from a hot-air balloon, does handstands on the edge of a cliff, and balances his mountain bike on a board that’s teetering out over Europe’s highest vertical mountain wall. The 29-year-old Norwegian doesn’t wear a safety harness. So what’s next? He has said that he likes the “look” of the world’s tallest manmade structure — the Burj skyscraper in Dubai.

WATCH Eskil Rønningsbakken’s globalbalancing channel

Browse the VeryShortList.com archive

VSL finds cool stuff so you don’t have to. Click here to sign up for our FREE daily email.