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Thursday Links (11/17)

Posted by Josh Rothman  November 17, 2011 11:51 AM

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Incredible shark attack stories! Seriously, read this. Maybe the best thing I've read on the Internet this year!

Can a president really fix a bad economy? The short answer is "no" -- but check out the really informative and well-designed charts. (NPR)

Is the McRib an arbitrage play?: Why does the McRib come and go intermittently, to the frustration of (self-evidently misguided) fans? Because, Will Staley speculates, McDonald's only sells the sandwich when the price of pork sinks to a low-enough level to make it profitable. "McDonald’s exploits the value differential between pork’s cash price on the commodities market and in the Quick-Service Restaurant market." The sandwich only appears "when the pork climate is favorable." Fascinating! (The Awl)

The internet as a "resentment machine": Long read, but good, about the way the internet foregrounds taste above all else. "For a comparatively small but influential group of its most dedicated users, its most important feature... is its power as an all-purpose sorting mechanism, one that separates the worthy from the unworthy—and in doing so, gives some meager semblance of purpose to generations whose lives are largely defined by purposelessness." (The New Inquiry)

A liberal reads the great conservative works: Lots of interesting, bi-directional discoveries. "One striking difference is that the iconic conservative works are about ideology. By contrast, the most influential liberal books of the era are about policy issues.... Conservatives have big appetites for ideology; liberals don’t." But talking about ideology explicitly is important, because "we can’t decide how we wish to solve policy issues without having a firm grasp on the values we are seeking to advance." (National Review)

A self-defense primer: Read this today -- bracing, informative essay by the author Sam Harris -- who, it turns out, is also a secret self-defense expert with extensive martial-arts and weapons training. "Instruction in self-defense need not consume your life. The most important preparations are mental. While I certainly recommend that you receive some physical training, merely understanding the dynamics of violence can make you much safer than you might otherwise be."

The Super: An old episode of This American Life which you must listen to. Skip right to Act 1! (This American Life)

[Image: "Watson and the Shark," by John Singleton Copley.]

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
contributors
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

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