It was the age of levitations and decapitations, of ghostly apparitions and sudden vanishings, as if the tottering Hapsburg Empire were revealing through the medium of its magicians its secret desire for annihilation.” So writes Pulitzer Prize–winning author Steven Millhauser in “Eisenheim the Illusionist,” one of the finest stories in his 1990 collection The Barnum Museum.
The first act of the satirical comedy Little Miss Sunshine has an affable scattershot loopiness. Frank (Steve Carell), an English professor hospitalized after a suicide attempt (he broke down upon losing his male grad-student lover to an academic rival), is released into the hands of his sister, Sheryl (Toni Collette).
If you’ve never seen a film written and directed by Woody Allen, then you’ve missed about one a year for a biblical generation. Those who have seen them all are like the old-timers in the congregation of a long-serving minister: they know that Allen is apt to repeat his standard themes, retell his favorite jokes and rely on a well-worn bag of tricks.
When it was announced that Oliver Stone would be directing a film about the downing of the twin towers on 9/11, there was a collective gasp. Would Stone focus on one of the many conspiracy theories about the disaster, as he did in JFK? Would he transform the story into a mythical tale of good versus evil, as in Platoon?
Even after years living with the blind, guide dogs continue gazing into the dead fish of their owner’s eyes. The dogs are not stupid. They simply see what eyes can’t see behind the bloodless husk of facts. And soon enough, their guileless trust awakens something in the blind: not sight, exactly, but the cognizance that they are seen—which is another kind of seeing—call it faith, blind faith.
A professor of the theory and practice of social media, Clay Shirky, doesn’t let his students use electronic devices in his classes. It’s not just that he can’t compete with the hardware or the software. Studies show that multitasking is bad for the kind of cognitive work required in a classroom. It has a negative effect on memory and recall. One study showed that students who multitasked in class scored lower than those who didn’t. The presence of electronic devices also distracts those who aren’t using them. “I’m coming to see student focus as a collaborative process,” Shirky said (Washington Post, September 25).