Progressing through Poetry

The late 19th and early 20th century gave birth to some of our world’s favorite poets and poetry, something that could be written off as simple proximity, but we at Core believe what makes these writers so important was not only the still resonating effects of political and societal changes they commented on but also because of the interconnectivity of the poets of that time, a connectivity that breached the rest of the 20th century and still has not come to an end.

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Critiquing Picasso

To provide a comprehensive, honest profile of an artist can be a demanding task, to say the least, especially to create an unbiased, even critical profile of someone so loved and honored. Especially someone as complicated and genius as Picasso. That is exactly what John Banville believes TJ Clark is capable of doing as Banville explains in this article.

TJ Clark is that odd combination, a Marxist and a Nietzschean; he is also a great critic. His love for and understanding of Picasso’s work is evident in every line of this book, which is based on the text of the Mellon Lectures delivered at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. He is an incomparably close reader of paintings, and the acuity of his thought, allied to a sweeping breadth of reference, makes him the ideal interrogator of Picasso and his achievement.

Nothing is more excellent than to hear intelligent people speak about art, of any type, with a certain intelligence and insight no one else can provide:

“I cannot avoid the conviction that somewhere at the heart of Picasso’s understanding of life . . . lay an unshakeable commitment to the space of a small or middle-sized room and the little possessions laid out on its table. His world was of property arranged in an interior: maybe erotic property . . . but always with bodies imagined in terms that equate them with, or transpose them into, familiar instruments and treasures.”
Banville quotes Clark
How we at Core wish we could attend such a lecture.

This may seem typical artists criticism, but Clark goes deeper and is not afraid to criticize despite popular opinion of this excellent artist in order to provide a truer view, a task not to be taken lightly considering the wealth of people sure to write a critic off for negatively commenting on an old great such as Picasso.

So let us know what you think! Have we found THE voice on Picasso or is Banville just hyping us up? Leave us a comment below.

Event: The Co-Evolution of the Geosphere and Biosphere


The Co-Evolution of the Geosphere and Biosphere

A talk by Robert M. Hazen

Senior Staff Scientist, Geophysical Laboratory

Executive Director, Deep Carbon Observatory

Washington, DC

Hosted by Scott Morr

Part of the Systems Biology Seminar Series

Sponsored by the Bioinformatics Graduate Program Boston University

Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 12:45 PM

Located at LSEB 103 (24 Cummington Mall)

Alumnus Ben Howe & his Core-themed brewery



Ben Howe (CAS ’07), an entrepreneurial Core Curriculum alumnus, has opened a nano brewery and appropriately named it Enlightenment Ales!

To our delight, the titles of his individual ales are, in our minds, very much Core-themed: Cosmos, Illumination, Enlightenment.

As Ben describes on the company website, the nano brewery makes Bière de Champagne.

For the laymen in brewery terminology:

  • Nanobrewery - a type of very small brewery operation, often culturally defined by a less than 4 US beer barrels brew system.
  • Bière de Champagne - one of the newest and most interesting styles of beer. It has much potential within the beer industry as a top-shelf crossover beer. Primarily brewed in Belgium, these beers typically undergo a lengthy maturation. Most are delicate, high in alcohol, highly carbonated and sometimes spiced. Color can range from very pale to dark hues.

Ben (left) at Enlightenment Ales' first official tasting, 2012 ACBF.

Ben (left) at Enlightenment Ales’ first official tasting, 2012 ACBF.

The Edible Boston magazine recently wrote up a profile for Enlightenment Ales, giving it the attention it deserves. Here is an extract:

Upon graduating from Boston University in 2007, Howe’s homebrewing experience earned him a volunteer position at the Northampton Brewery and, several months later, a part-time job at the Cambridge Brewing Company (CBC). He learned fast and continued to homebrew as much as possible, and in 2010 he received a scholarship to study brewing science and engineering at the American Brewers Guild in Vermont.

Roughly three years into his career in beer and newly equipped with a wealth of technical knowledge and money he’d saved while waiting tables, Howe decided to go it alone. A bottle of beer inspired him to start his own company. And as luck would have it, Will Meyers, the brewmaster at CBC who had hired him, offered nothing but encouragement. “Ben is a very talented and creative brewer,” Meyers explains, “hard working, unafraid of putting in the long hours required in honoring the term hand-crafting. I think the light bulb went off after drinking some DeuS, which I may or may not have given him as a Christmas present.”

Those of you over 21: be sure to check out these Core-themed ales!

The Downsides of Everyone Being a Critic

Not everyone is as lucky as those of us in Core. Very few can boast such an encompassing grasp of great works as we can; even less learn how to talk about these works, yet we, also, are able to hold a conversation with the best of them concerning Suicide, The Republic, any of the books we read in however many semesters of Core we take.

Yet we are the minority. Yes, more of the population than ever now attends university (rough estimate of 21.8 million students nation wide in 2013 an increase of over 6 million students since 2000), but many of these students will go their entire college careers without reading any Dante or without even knowing what the Daodejing is. All of which is perfectly fine, of course. For many of these students, the idea that every person should be “well-read” was never reinforced, and the books they read in high school seemed more a chore than a joy helping them educate and enlighten themselves. This applies even more to those who never went to college, although avid readers pop up everywhere, single-handedly keeping libraries and used book stores in business. Without a doubt, the literary world is not the hot topic entertainment source of one hundred, even fifty, years ago.
And as I said, this is ok. Despite many of our personal feelings on the increasingly small literary sphere, no one can be faulted for mass societal changes; no one can fight shows like Breaking Bad or Downton Abbey. Who would even want to? Some things need to be accepted. The real problem comes with the growing idea that being well-read is an elitist pursuit of the pretentious. I remember growing up, if you liked to read you were a bookworm or a nerd (although the title rarely mattered because the books you read provided such assurance of your later success)…

But now we have snobbish. As Laura Miller puts it in this wonderful article about the supposed elitism of the literary world:

Intellectual insecurity is, alas, a pervasive problem in the literary world. You can find it among fans of easy-to-read commercial fiction who insist (on very little evidence) that the higher-brow stuff is uniformly fraudulent and dull, and you can find it among those mandarin bibliophiles who dismiss whole genres (on equally thin evidence) out of hand. One of the favorite gambits of people secretly uncertain about their own taste is identifying some popular book of incontestably lower quality than their own favorites and then running all over the Internet posting extravagant takedowns of it and taunting its fans. Yeah, I’m not crazy about “Fifty Shades of Grey,” either, but I’m not going to invest that much energy in proclaiming this sentiment to the world. To do so suggests you’re less interested in championing good writing than you are in grabbing any chance to feel superior to somebody else.

So there it is, the new question. Is literature becoming more pretentious or are people simply less attuned to it? Let us know what you think in the comments below, and as always, have a wonderful weekend!

Gulliver’s Kingdom Theme Park

Gulliver Haikyo 9001

CC202 started off the academic year with Gulliver’s Travels – an apt text for students who start the semester feeling like giants in one class and like Lilliputians in another.

Michael John Grist describes, on his website, what used to be a Gulliver’s Kingdom Theme Park in Japan:

Gulliver once rested in the shadow of Mt.Fuji, bound and nailed to the ground by the hair. His giant body was the main attraction of the now defunct and dismembered Gulliver’s Kingdom Theme Park in the shadow of Mt. Fuji, built in 1997, closed in 2001 due to defaulting bank loans, and demolished around 2007.

Perhaps a contributing factor to its ultimate failure was the proximity of Kamikuishiki- a small village that was the main base for the cult Aum Shinrikyo at the time of their deadly 1995 Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway. Tourists on a day-trip with the kids to a theme-park would have been likely to steer clear. Now every reminder of the place is gone, the village has been rezoned, and the name Kamikuishiki removed from all maps.

Gulliver Haikyo 90013

Have you been to a Core-related theme park? Let us know, in the comments section below!

“It’s over, book… you’re an inferior technology”

An amusing comic strip, on how we choose to read:



An interesting read may be our article From Scroll to Screen.

Notes from the February 2014 EnCore Book Club: What is Life?

What-is-Life-coverThis month, EnCore book club attendees struggled with Erwin Schrodinger’s slim volume, What is Life?, a book that, as quoted in Goodreads, was “written for the layman, but proved to be one of the spurs to the birth of molecular biology and the subsequent discovery of DNA.”

Erwin Schrodinger is an inescapable figure in Core’s Natural Science course, CC105; the Austrian physicist was instrumental to the study of quantum mechanics, and he is most well known for the paradoxical thought experiment that carries his name (and is efficiently summarized here). We were all intrigued as to what would it be like to read about biology from a physicist’s perspective.

The result was a bit lackluster. Why were most attendees less than enthusiastic? Was it simply a language barrier (Schrodinger himself apologizes for his English in the text)? Or perhaps it had to do with the nature of science writing in general? How simple is too reductive, and how complicated is too dense and difficult? Does a science writer need to relate every phenomenon to everyday life?

The EnCore book club is sending out request; please let us know what are the science books that you have most enjoyed, and that you would most recommend to the layman. Let us know, and join us next month at book club!

Next meeting, on March 5th, we shall be reading Sir Christopher Rick’s work, Milton’s Grand Style. Whether you get to read/finish/open the book at all or not, join us for free food and discussion at the Core office; don’t forget to BYOB if you are of age!

Dante For Kids

Recently, someone had the idea that if Dante’s description of an eternal blazing netherworld were reprinted in comic sans, alongside understandably disturbing yet cartoonish illustrations, it might be more accessible to children. Consequently, a series of picture books based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, titled “Dante for Fun”, was published. Originally in Italian, the books simplify each of the three installments in the epic poem (one per book) for young readers.


From reading this review–and simply from viewing sample pages of the books–”Dante for Fun” doesn’t quite seem fitting for a child. Then again, this is exactly the creepy, back-of-the-library kind of book that I remember being secretly captivated by as a kid.

What do you think of these picture books? Are you or a young’un you know enthralled by images of diviners with their heads on the wrong way, crying into their butt cracks? Let us know in the comments.

Ancient seals & amulets found in Turkey!

Late Babylonian seal depicting a praying man in front of divine symbols Source: Forschungsstelle Asia Minor

Late Babylonian seal depicting a praying man in front of divine symbols
Source: Forschungsstelle Asia Minor

Most Core students start off with Classical antiquity and its myriad cultures.

Integral to those cultures is their art, and we keep digging up more of it! Take, for example, the massive discovery of more than six hundred ancient seals and amulets in a sanctuary in Turkey, at the sacred site of the storm and weather god Jupiter Dolichenus.

“Such large amounts of seal consecrations are unheard-of in any comparable sanctuary”, said excavation director Prof. Dr. Engelbert Winter and archaeologist Dr. Michael Blömer at the end of the excavation season. In this respect, the finding of numerous pieces from the 7th to the 4th centuries B.C. close to the ancient city of Doliche is unparalleled.

“The amazingly large number proves how important seals and amulets were for the worshipping of the god to whom they were consecrated as votive offerings”, according to Classical scholar Prof. Winter. Many pieces show scenes of adoration. “Thus, they provide a surprisingly vivid and detailed insight into the faith of the time.” The stamp seals and cylinder seals as well as scarabs, made of glass, stone and quartz ceramics, were mostly crafted in a high-quality manner. Following the restoration work, the finds were handed over to the relevant museum in Gaziantep in Turkey.

Up to now, the researchers were able to identify late Babylonian, local Syrian Achaemenid and Levantine seals. “The large find provides new impetus for research to answer unsolved questions of cult practices, cult continuity and cult extension – above all, these are important for the understanding of the early history of the sanctuary in the 1st millennium B.C., which had been unknown until recently”, according to Prof. Winter. Later, in the 2nd century A.D., Jupiter Dolichenus turned into one of the most important deities of the Roman Empire.

To read on, visit the full article.

Also: don’t forget that your BU ID grants you free entry into the MFA (a mere 20 minute walk away from campus), where you can experience treasures such as the ones described above.