What is music? There’s no end to the parade of philosophers who have wondered about this, but most of us feel confident saying: ‘I know it when I hear it.’ Still, judgments of musicality are notoriously malleable.
On my morning bus into town, every teenager and every grown-up sits there staring into their little infinity machine: a pocket-sized window onto more words than any of us could ever read, more music than we could ever listen to, more pictures of people getting naked than we could ever get off to.
On my desk stands a miniature of an Easter Island moai, carved for me by a Rapa Nui craftsman. It’s precious to me, hewn from the same stone his ancestors used for the world-famous monoliths, textured with the tiny air-bubbles of millennia-old lava, and carrying memories of the friends I made on my voyage there.
Heavy-set, with a soft-jowled face, King has a distinctly ursine air about him. We first meet at a Wendy’s in downtown Brooklyn, his teddy-bearishness rounded out by a plushy layer of cocoa-coloured velour tracksuit with a matching hoodie, T-shirt, and beanie hat.
What follows is an account of an instance where I, a person of relatively sound mind and body, could not believe the evidence before my own eyes.
On a summer afternoon, the scene near the top of Washington’s Sauk Mountain appears utterly serene. Open meadows sweep downward, overrun with wildflowers and humming with snowberry checkerspot and silvery blue butterflies.
My greatest fear growing up in the wilds of the French countryside, south of the Loire Valley, was that my English mother would speak to me in her native tongue and do so loudly.
The history of sport is full of suffering. In 1973, the boxer Muhammad Ali fought with a broken jaw for at least four rounds during his first historic bout with Ken Norton.
A few months ago, my son, who is in second grade, went on a field trip. As the class assembled in the parking lot, a new child joined in.
At the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, snowdrifts piled up outside shuttered T-shirt shops, and wind and whitecaps lashed vessels tethered to empty piers in the harbour.
Willy hated dirty things. Dusty cans of Coke in small shops, stained tables at noodle diners: they reminded him of the small-town poverty of Anhui, his home province, where he’d started work at 13 and earned his way to university before moving to Beijing.
The only popular thought about beauty today, the one that has the widest currency in the world, is the idea that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.
The planet is going to hell in a hand basket. Population grows exponentially, the air is toxic, and there simply aren’t enough resources to go around.
The faces and forms of oppression are many, but nearly all of them flow from injustice, the treatment of people otherwise than they deserve.
In Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle (1987), Stephen Jay Gould tells the story of one John Playfair, who in 1788 accompanied the great British geologist James Hutton to see an ‘unconformity’ at Siccar Point in Scotland.
Have we reached the end of progress? Today, this lodestar of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution is shining less brightly than at any time in the past 200 years.
As a young boy, I was fascinated by romantic tragedies such as Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1856) and Amos Oz’s My Michael (1968).
Perched on a rocky point along the Maine coast, the snowy owl is languid, a predator without country or concern.
Ever since I read Richard Dawkins’s book The God Delusion (2006), one thing has stayed with me above all the fiery polemics.
Do you ever stop to imagine what your great grandchildren will consider to be the defining cultural output of the early 21st century?