Peter Matthiessen In Paradise

  Perhaps so. Rivendell Books, here in Montpelier, didn’t waste anytime putting this where it belongs, right out front. I think of Matthiessen late as I go birding, for he set the bird hook in my long ago with Wildife in America and then the African books. On down the track. I’m finding the death…

Tracking The Mystery Plane in Iran

The tracking of planes has become a kind of global sport, as largely amateur photographers post thousands of images showing arrivals and departures in their attempts to chronicle flight paths. In the case of this plane, for example, one spotter spied it leaving an airport in Zurich around the time of the World Economic Forum…

Gay Genes, Death Papers, Parasites, Neanderthals, & Anja Niedringhaus. My Reads of the Week

An Afghan walks in a river bed. Photo by the late Anja Niedringhaus

The world has lost a truly splendid photographer — Anja Niedringhaus, murdered this week in Afghanistan. This was a determined, brave journalist and an unbelievably sensitive artist, finely attuned to both the technical demands and possibilities of every image and, even more exquisitely, the humanity of those in the frame. This is a terrible, terrible loss.…

A Talk on Writing About Young Brains, Mon, April 7 at University of Vermont

Photograph by Kitra Cahana, all rights reserved.

  Monday, April 7, 5 pm, at the University of Vermont, I’ll talk about how to shape a mess of reading and reporting into a magazine story — specifically, “Beautiful Brains,” my National Geographic cover story about adolescent brain and behavior. If you’re around Burlington, come join us. Event is free and open to the public. Here’s…

Tiny Slow Sea Life Made Big Fast and Gorgeous

As someone on Twitter put it, marine invertebrates usually don’t get the glamour treatment. Here they do — amazing corals and sponges do, anyway — in Daniel Stoupin‘s splendid Slow Life .

From the filmmaker:

“Slow” marine animals show their secret life under high magnification. Corals and sponges are very mobile creatures, but their motion is only detectable at different time scales compared to ours and requires time lapses to be seen. These animals build coral reefs and play crucial roles in the biosphere, yet we know almost nothing about their daily lives.

Learn more about what you see at

Bet seen on a large screen! You won’t be able to appreciate this clip or see individual cells moving in a sponge on a smartphone.

Please do not share this clip to promote or endorse marine aquarium industry. Do not misunderstand this statement: I have no problems with aquarists or the industry. I simply want people to admire life, but not to be told to buy stuff.

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Marquis de Sade Talking Serious Trash

De Sade strikes back.

When a writer published a scathing and premature death notice about Marquis de Sade, the latter penned the withering dismissal below. This gem came to me via the invaluable Letters of Note and the incomparable Stephen Fry. (Passage transcribed below.) I think I’ll keep a copy of the last paragraph in a keystroke macro so I…

The Neuroscience of Disillusionment


The brain craze was bound to go through the usual hype cycle, so we shouldn’t be surprised that some of us are rolling back our enthusiasms for brain-based explanations of, well, everything. Welcome to those slippery slopes between the peak of inflated expectations and the slope of enlightenment. And welcome, too, to reconsiderations like that…