A fellow Brit in The New Yorker perfectly sums up the difference between the two cultures:
What most of these (American) commentators fail to recognize, in any case, is that English people enjoy complaining about things, and that the content of any particular English person’s complaint is rarely anything more than a pretext for the act of complaining. From Mr. Woodhouse to Basil Fawlty, complaining about things—the weather, the food, the trains—is what the English have always done best, and with the greatest eloquence and esprit.
– a new book, The Believing Brain, by Michael Shermer looks interesting as he finds out what modern cognitive research has to say about belief:
As a back-of-the-envelope calculation within an order-of-magnitude accuracy, we can safely say that over the past ten thousand years of history humans have created about ten thousand different religions and about one thousand gods,” Mr. Shermer writes. He lists more than a dozen gods, from Amon Ra to Zeus, and wonders how one of them can be true and the rest false. “As skeptics like to say, everyone is an atheist about these gods; some of us just go one god further. (Reason.com)
My favourites from the highlights of each book :
What is a family? Is it just a genetic chain, parents and offspring, people like me? Or is it a social construct, an economic unit, optimal for child rearing and divisions of labor? Or is it something else entirely: a store of shared memories, say? An ambit of love? A reach across the void?
No, what’s troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics—the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our seeming inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem. (Reading Matters)
The last seems particularly apt given the events of this week.