February 19, 2004

Of Camel Racing and Risk Factors

Regular readers of this blog are probably aware that I'm a fan of the writer Michael Dirda, given how often I link to his articles. I'm also quite fond of the work of another nonfiction writer, Cullen Murphy--the current acting editor of The Atlantic and the author of a monthly column in that magazine. You can get a sense of Murphy's eclectic interests by looking at some of his writing: he's the co-author of a book on the archaeology of garbage, the sole author of a book on feminist biblical scholarship, and the writer of the comic strip Prince Valiant. One of my favorite Murphy articles is this 1999 piece about camel racing in Saudi Arabia.

I've been planning to link to a Murphy article for a while now, but I haven't had a good opportunity. Today, however, I noticed that the Atlantic has made the articles from its last issue available online, including this Murphy essay on risks. Here's how it begins:

Toward the end of the James Bond movie The World Is Not Enough there is a scene where Bond and his sidekick, a physicist played by Denise Richards, are trapped in a nuclear submarine submerged in the Bosporus. The submarine's reactor is about to explode, killing all aboard and turning Istanbul into Chernobyl. But maybe, if Bond can hold his breath for a really long time, and swim underwater through a series of balky bulkheads, and then twirl some dials in exactly the right way—maybe, just maybe, everything will be okay. Should he give it a try? Denise Richards weighs the options—certain death in seconds versus a slender reed of hope—and declares, "James, it's too risky."

This essay wasn't Murphy's best, but how can you not like a writer who begins his articles this way? Besides, it's loaded with fun facts. Did you know that some English scientist thinks that men who don't shave every day face an increased chance of stroke? The world, it seems, is a risky place!

Other links worth looking at today include:

  • This January/FebruaryAtlantic article entitled "I was Kim Jong Il's Chef" may not be completely accurate, but it's a fun read.
  • The latest issue of The Boston Review is now available online, complete with articles on false beliefs and cognitive science and on the contemporary lessons of colonial public life.
  • Dan Kennedy discusses "sex, lies, and Republicans" in The Boston Phoenix.
  • Dorothy Rabinowitz describes the History Channel's recent documentary on LBJ's supposed involvement in the Kennedy assassination in The Wall Street Journal.
  • How did the writer Malcolm Lowry die? The Times Literary Supplement reports.
  • What happened to the Russians who didn't leave Afghanistan after the war? IWPR reports. (via Brian Ulrich)
  • English history is loaded with fun stories on the deaths of kings, and even when these stories aren't true, Charlotte Allen points out, they can say something interesting about the world of the medieval chroniclers.

More substance to come later!

Posted by Ed at February 19, 2004 12:52 PM


Does a week-old blog have "regular readers" =)

Posted by: Brian Ulrich at February 19, 2004 06:42 PM
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