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At the Museum of London earlier this year was an exhibit titled “The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die.” As a long-time Sherlock Holmes enthusiast as well as a practicing philosopher, I know this to be true. Since his first appearance in 1887, the great detective has been memorialized by over a hundred actors in dozens of plays, films, radio, and television adaptations, as well as in countless works of fiction. In the last few years alone, Holmes’s immortality has been demonstrated in original television series like Sherlock and Elementary and in highly imaginative movies like the blockbuster action series Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey, Jr., and the poignant elegiac Mr. Holmes, starring Ian McKellen.

What lies behind our enduring fascination with this character and this surge of current interest in particular?

Holmes offers Watson a number of rules for what directs his work as a detective. I have extracted these rules from his stories and novels as follows:
More… “The Many Minds of Sherlock Holmes”

Fred J. Abbate is a professor in the Pennoni Honors College at Drexel University. He has written several books and numerous articles on philosophy, as well as a mystery novel.
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Presenting your news!
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There’s a Steve Jobs movie coming out — yes, another. Here’s a review. And in case you missed them, here’s a list of (most of) the artistic depictions of the iCon.

Fans of JK Rowling rejoice! Humanity is getting closer to a scalable invisibility cloak, according to a study published in the journal Science.

In the age of the iPhone photographer, Wolfgang Tillman is leveraging technology to help him stand out from the crowd. His latest show, “PCR”, is full of photographs that “would not have been possible ten years ago.” •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.
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“Does it matter?”

The 1940s film Portrait of Jennie begins up in the clouds, with questions: “What is time?” asks a voice. “What is space? What is life? What is death?” A quote from Euripides comes onscreen to the strains of Debussy:

WHO KNOWETH IF TO DIE BE BUT TO LIVE … AND THAT CALLED LIFE BY MORTALS BE BUT DEATH?

Stefany Anne Golberg is a writer and multi-media artist. She has written for The Washington Post (Outlook), Lapham’s Quarterly, New England Review, and others. Stefany is currently a columnist for The Smart Set and Critic-in-Residence at Drexel University. A book of Stefany’s selected essays can be found here. She can be reached at stefanyanne@gmail.com.

Blind (1916) by Paul Strand

One lure of taking photographs is that you get to hide behind a machine and safely observe the world. You get to look, without being seen. This was especially true in the early days of photography when photographic equipment was bulky and when exposing the film or plate required a dark area at the back of the camera. The dark area was created with a black hood. The experience of taking a picture meant getting under that black hood and entering another world from which you could watch the real world outside. The pleasure of it must have been like being in a pillow fort as a child. You are in a safe and hidden space, but you get to peer out through the cracks between the pillows in order to see what all the adults are doing.

Penetrating to the dark things hidden beneath

All is not well. But we do not see that at first. The white house and the white picket fence are in perfect order. The sky is blue and bright. The flowers are red and yellow. The grass is green. We’re surrounded by primary colors and clarity.

“David Lynch: The Unified Field” Through January 11, 2015. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA

The man watering his lawn doesn’t notice the kink in the hose. The water pressure is building. The pressure in his neck builds, too. Suddenly, the man grabs his neck and falls to the ground. He is having a heart attack, or a stroke. The water from the hose shoots into the air as he falls. The man’s little dog bites ferociously at the stream. The camera pans down into the grass, into the muck… More…

From Technicolor to Topeka

Salman Rushdie wrote an amusing little book in 1992. The title of the book is The Wizard of Oz. It’s about the famous movie with Judy Garland’s Dorothy and Toto and the Wicked Witches, East and West. The movie The Wizard of Oz is celebrating its 75-year anniversary this month. For three-quarters of a century, this unusual movie has been infecting the brains of young people all over the world. Rushdie was one of them. At age ten, Rushdie wrote his first story. He called it “Over the Rainbow.” Strange to think that there is a direct line from The Wizard of Oz to Rushdie’s now-classic tale of the partition of India, Midnight’s Children (1980). 

Morgan Meis has a PhD in Philosophy and is a founding member of Flux Factory, an arts collective in New… More…

Barbie's front cover debut

It was headline news a couple months ago. Barbie, the doll, was featured in this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, part of a tribute for the fifty-year anniversary celebration of the magazine’s most popular annual issue. The New York Times, Forbes, CNN, and the Washington Post covered the story; dozens more articles appeared in online publications. “At age fifty-five,” quipped the accompanying feature article in Sports Illustrated, Barbie was the magazine’s oldest “rookie” model but “we’re not buying her ‘no plastic surgery’ claim.” In the days that followed, there was so much negative buzz flying through cyberspace about her appearance in the magazine that Mattel, Barbie’s representative, tweeted that Barbie was #unapologetic about her posing in the Swimsuit issue. Sports Illustrated followed, echoing the same sentiment.

A few weeks later, it was announced that the Girl Scouts was severing its partnership with Barbie, since she no longer lives up to… More…

A calchi.

Sometime during the late summer, or perhaps the early fall, of the year 79 C.E., Mount Vesuvius erupted near Naples. The result was instant death for the people, plants, and animals in the Roman town of Pompeii, which is about five miles from Mount Vesuvius. A Volcanologist named Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo recently (2010) published a definitive study of death in Pompeii. The living things, he concluded, died from the intense heat of the volcanic blast. Basically, they were flash fried. In one of the multiple pyroclastic surges produced by the eruption,“temperatures outdoors — and indoors,” wrote Mastrolorenza, “rose up to 570°F and more, enough to kill hundreds of people in a fraction of a second.”

The ash and the volcanic mud came a little later. Pompeii was buried under this ash and volcanic matter, preserving the town in the instant in which it had been flash fried. The world then gradually… More…

1930-2014

The curious career of Maximilian Schell ended last month when he died at the age of 83. Maximilian Schell was most famous for playing Nazis. But he spent the other half of his career playing Jews. After the Second World War, there was no shortage of film and television roles for German-speaking actors. An actor could play, for instance, the classic psychopathic wartime Nazi; the quiet concealed postwar Nazi; the subversive Nazi; the sympathetic confused Nazi; the hilarious bumbling Nazi. The world could not satisfy its hunger for watching Nazis onscreen. We wanted to see them cross-examined, punished, caught in the act. We wanted to bear witness to them, see them doing anything at all — shine their shoes, perform the most unexceptional tasks. We wanted to see the Jews too — brave, downtrodden and then, in later years, compromised, lost. Maximilian Schell had everything the roles required — he… More…

They're not talking to you

The Coen Brothers are no help and never will be. Go ahead and ask them. Fresh Air’s Terry Gross recently tried. She asked them how they write their films. “It’s mostly napping,” Ethan Coen answered. The Coen Brothers have been evading answers for about 30 years now, since Blood Simple came out in 1984. Asked about The Big Lebowski a few years ago, Joel Coen said, “That movie has more of an enduring fascination for other people than it does for us.” This is a game, and the Coen Brothers play it well. Other artists have played the same game at even higher stakes. Thomas Pynchon has been in hiding for 40 years. J. D. Salinger hid for about 50, until his death a couple of years ago. The Coen Brothers simply hide in plain sight. They answer by not answering.

More…