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Culture Wars. J.K. Rowling’s Christmas Present to You Is More Harry Potter Stories. Study Reveals Earth is Moving Towards an Extinction 'Danger' Zone. The Danger The Planet Faces Because Human Instinct Overpowers Human Reason  The numbers are in. 2014 was the hottest year on Earth ever recorded (records go back to 1888).

The Danger The Planet Faces Because Human Instinct Overpowers Human Reason 

December finished it off as the hottest month ever. 6 of the months last year, in fact, hold that record. The last time a 'coldest month ever' was recorded, was 1916. Human Pressure on Earth Has Reached Extinction Danger Critical Level. First proposed by a group of Earth system and environmental scientists, planetary boundaries is an Earth system framework designed to define “safe operating space for humanity.”

Human Pressure on Earth Has Reached Extinction Danger Critical Level

According to Wikipedia, this framework was designed for governments at all levels, international organizations, the scientific community, private sector and civil society, and is based on research that has shown that human activities have become the main driver of global environmental change since the Industrial Revolution. Once these planetary boundaries have been transgressed, there is a risk of “irreversible and abrupt environmental change” according to the authors of the original report. Behind Tomb Connected to Alexander the Great, Intrigue Worthy of "Game of Thrones" Suspense is rising as archaeologists sift for clues to the identity of the person buried with pomp and circumstance in the mysterious Amphipolis tomb in what is now northern Greece.

Behind Tomb Connected to Alexander the Great, Intrigue Worthy of "Game of Thrones"

The research team thinks the tomb was built for someone very close to Alexander the Great—his mother, Olympias; one of his wives, Roxane; one of his favorite generals; or possibly his childhood friend and lover, Hephaestion. Over the past three months, archaeologist Katerina Peristeri and her team have made a series of tantalizing discoveries in the tomb, from columns sculpted masterfully in the shapes of young women to a mosaic floor depicting the abduction of the Greek goddess Persephone. The tomb's costly artwork all dates to the tumultuous time around the death of Alexander the Great, and points to the presence of an important person.

Future Library, Dan Piepenbring. Right now, one thousand new trees are growing about twenty minutes outside Oslo.

Future Library, Dan Piepenbring

In the city’s new library, a window from a quiet room on the fifth floor faces out onto the nascent forest, which you can see across the harbor. These—those trees, this room—are the basic components of the Scottish artist Katie Paterson’s Future Library, a century-long project that contemplates the full scale of the publishing process, with its many tangibles and intangibles: It will be 100 years before the trees are cut down to provide the paper for an anthology of books—a Future Library for the city of Oslo—read for the first time in 2114 … Every year from 2014 to 2114, a writer will be commissioned to contribute a new text to a growing collection of unpublished, unread manuscripts held in trust in a specially designed room in the new Deichmanske Public Library in Bjørvika until their publication in 2114.

New Books by Midlife Women: December. Mrs.

New Books by Midlife Women: December

Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon (Houghton Mifflin) The thrice-married Manhattan socialite Brooke Astor — she wed John Dryden Kuser at 17, Charles "Buddie" Marshall at 31 and finally, at 52, fur trade and real-estate heir Vincent Astor — had a lot to show for her unions, including acting as chairwoman for the Vincent Astor Foundation. She bore only one child, Anthony Marshall. What most Manhattanites — and perhaps most of the nation — will remember about Astor, who died in 2007 at age 105, are the headlines splashed across newspapers in her final days: her dutiful grandson Philip had sued his father for neglecting his grandmother, and Anthony Marshall was later arrested on charges of looting her estate.

Damn Interesting. Gender Matters? Swedish Picture Books and Gender Ambiguity. Back in June, Laura Reiko Simeon wrote about how race is handled in Swedish picture books.

Gender Matters? Swedish Picture Books and Gender Ambiguity

We’re thrilled to host Laura again as she sheds light on how Swedish picture books handle gender and gender-ambiguous characters. You sit down with your favorite 4-year-old to read a sweet, wordless picture book featuring a little duck swimming down the river. White Girls (paperback) - The McSweeney's Store. White Girls, Hilton Als’s first book since The Women sixteen years ago, finds one of the New Yorker’s boldest cultural critics deftly weaving together his brilliant analyses of literature, art, and music with fearless insights on race, gender, and history.

White Girls (paperback) - The McSweeney's Store

The result is an extraordinary, complex portrait of “white girls,” as Als dubs them—an expansive but precise category that encompasses figures as diverse as Truman Capote and Louise Brooks, Michael Jackson and Flannery O’Connor. In pieces that hairpin between critique and meditation, fiction and nonfiction, high culture and low, the theoretical and the deeply personal, Als presents a stunning portrait of a writer by way of his subjects, and an invaluable guide to the culture of our time. The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht. Masterfully Woven Tapestry THE TIGER'S WIFE by Téa Obreht ?????

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht

Unbelievably good first novel! Ms. Obreht is going to be fun to watch over the coming years. Initially, I turned down an advanced reader copy of this one because the plot sounded a little chaotic to me. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan. A strong defense of the skeptical paradigm.

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan

Sagan is a generally good writer, and in this now-classic book he penned a strong and usually compelling defense of the skeptical paradigm. The book is replete with good examples, and has several chapters well worth reading for those who are either budding skeptics, or are interested in learning about how to think critically and scientifically. The man, to be sure, understood science and was a solid critical thinker. We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger's Daughter by Rachael Hanel. Book Review: 'Angelica's Smile' The Inspector Montalbano books, by Italian author Andrea Camilleri, supply everything I need for the beach.

Book Review: 'Angelica's Smile'

A good mystery. An exotic location — in this case, the beaches and piazzas of Sicily. And great writing that wears its fineness lightly, and keeps the pages turning. The Barbarians: An Essay On the Mutation of Culture: Alessandro Baricco, Stephen Sartarelli: 9780847842919: Amazon.com: Books. Catalog your books online.

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