Saturday, 30 November, 2013
Kurt Andersen, Vanity Fair
David Hockney and others have speculated—controversially—that a camera obscura could have helped the Dutch painter Vermeer achieve his photo-realistic effects in the 1600s. But no one understood exactly how such a device might actually have been used to paint masterpieces. An inventor in Texas—the subject of a new documentary by the magicians Penn & Teller—may have solved the riddle.
Bob Garfield, New York Times
Finally, in an online world of gratuitous snark, one courageous editor has displayed the vision to give thumbs down to thumbs down. You read that right: no negative reviews.
Friday, 29 November, 2013
PD Smith, The Guardian
Helmreich admits that "you have to be a little crazy to explore the city as I did". But big cities do that to you. Their scale and Babel-like hubris seem to demand an extreme response.
Thursday, 28 November, 2013
Kevin Roose, New York Magazine
For most people, the economy is a dreaded subject. It's dry. It's hard to understand, even for experts. Lucky for you, when your Uncle Chad (and it's always Uncle Chad) starts talking about the stock market, the deficit, or Ben Bernanke's money-printing machine, these handy talking points will help.
Janet Maslin, New York Times
Gigi Levangie’s latest black comedy is a set of scathing parables about the seven deadly sins, which are made a bit deadlier by the filthy-rich Beverly Hills ambience that the author can skewer so well.
Michael D. Shear, New York Times
There are plenty of people who will find that Pages does not meet their needs (more on that later). But the company, based in Cupertino, Calif., has rethought its approach to the most boring of computer applications — the word processor — with some impressive results. It particularly shines in three areas: appearance, compatibility and sharing.
Wednesday, 27 November, 2013
Phil Simon, The Huffington Post
Tuesday, 26 November, 2013
Kelefa Sanneh, New Yorker
Who needs hits?
James Polchin, The Smart Set
The naked woman in art isn’t unusual, but we have trouble viewing the male body as a sexual, or artistic, object.
David Pierce, The Verge
In an hour and a half, the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots will kick off one of the most important and most anticipated games of the young NFL season. Aikman will stand next to Thom Brennaman, his play-by-play partner for the day, and call the game for an audience that will total 26.7 million viewers. The game will be decided on a last-second desperation pass, will shape one quarterback's legacy and two teams' seasons, and will be endlessly discussed and replayed in the days and weeks to come.
But Aikman’s not worried about any of that. For him, and the entire Fox Sports NFL crew in the annals of the stadium below, it’s just another Sunday.
Monday, 25 November, 2013
Jeremy Reimer, Ars Technica
It was a cloudy Seattle day in late 1980, and Bill Gates, the young chairman of a tiny company called Microsoft, had an appointment with IBM that would shape the destiny of the industry for decades to come.
Carol Rumens, The Guardian
Sunday, 24 November, 2013
Alok Jha, The Guardian
There is something lovely about a book that takes on so many disciplines and tackles them with confidence.
Alex Lemon, Dallas Morning News
But the vastness here has little to do with page number. It is about the hugeness of Sontag’s intellect and the passionate rigor and vitality with which she attends to her wonderfully ranging topics.
Phil Angelo, The Daily Journal
In one sense, this is the American dream. You move up and out. You gain the educational and financial freedom to do things your parents may have only hoped of doing. In another sense, it's sad, as a separate identity fades.
Elizabeth Renzetti, The Globe And Mail
In the West, we live faster, higher in the air, farther from our workplaces, and more singly than at any time in the past. Social scientists will be struggling to understand the consequences of these transformations for decades to come, but one thing is clear: Loneliness is our baggage, a huge and largely unacknowledged cultural failing.
Saturday, 23 November, 2013
Kevin Baker, New York Times
It was the summer — if one allows “summer” to occasionally include parts of both spring and fall — that Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs, much of the country was engulfed by a catastrophic flood, Jack Dempsey lost the famous “long count” fight to Gene Tunney, Calvin Coolidge announced he wouldn’t run for another term, the world’s leading bankers made the policy adjustment that would do so much to bring down Wall Street in 1929, “The Jazz Singer” was released, radio and tabloid culture came into their own, an American audience got its first public demonstration of television, work started on Mount Rushmore, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed, and Henry Ford stopped making Model T’s. And oh, yes, most of the world went mad over a 25-year-old prodigy named Charles Lindbergh, who flew a flimsy plane to Paris from New York.
This isn’t to mention all the other fascinating characters Bill Bryson brings splendidly to life in “One Summer” — people like Al Capone and Dorothy Parker; Philo T. Farnsworth, the young man who played a critical role in inventing the television; and the New York Times reporter Richards Vidmer, who married a rajah’s daughter and was “also perhaps the most memorably dreadful sportswriter ever.”
Jeffrey Goldberg, Bloomberg
Kiribati is a flyspeck of a United Nations member state, a collection of 33 islands necklaced across the central Pacific. Thirty-two of the islands are low-lying atolls; the 33rd, called Banaba, is a raised coral island that long ago was strip-mined for its seabird-guano-derived phosphates. If scientists are correct, the ocean will swallow most of Kiribati before the end of the century, and perhaps much sooner than that.
Thursday, 21 November, 2013
Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times
I was cured of my conspiracy-theory fever forever. A single book was the antidote.
Richard Lea, The Guardian
I blame Proust, or at least last week's tributes to his massive achievement. But after waxing lyrical over the pleasures of a novel big enough to contain the world, I was brought up short by Aristotle's bold assertion in the Poetics that when it comes to writing, bigger is better.
Maryn McKena, Medium
After 85 years, antibiotics are growing impotent. So what will medicine, agriculture and everyday life look like if we lose these drugs entirely?
Steven Kurutz, New York Times
In a city like New York, where residents live in such close proximity, nudity is an often unavoidable part of domestic life.
Wednesday, 20 November, 2013
Robin McKie, The Guardian
The difficulty of trying to explain the hunt for the Higgs boson shows that nature will not be so easily defined.
Tuesday, 19 November, 2013
Amy Tan, The Guardian
I could now see what there had been in the flawed 13-page story, with its dozen beginnings and voices. I wrote a new story, this one called "The Joy Luck Club", about a woman whose mother has just died and who regrets that she never knew who she truly was. The stories poured out. They were what I felt and had to say before it was too late. I had found my reason to write.
Amir Alexander, New York Times
The story of his professional triumph against heavy odds is deeply satisfying, especially when he is given the opportunity to confront his former tormentors during a seminar at M.I.T. But his true answer to the bigotry he encountered in his youth lies in his passion for mathematics — the “love” of the book’s title.
Monday, 18 November, 2013
Les Murray, The Paris Review
Burkhard Bilger, New Yorker
Has the self-driving car at last arrived?
Sunday, 17 November, 2013
Graham Robb, The New York Review Of Books
Readers of Richard Holmes’s biographies and essays will occasionally have caught glimpses of him in autobiographical vignettes, motorcycling along narrow country lanes or yachting on the North Sea. They will not be surprised to learn, from his history of ballooning, that he himself has made several ascents in a basket attached to a “silken cloud.” Once, he landed in a field of “distinctly inhospitable” pigs in his home county of Norfolk in eastern England; on another occasion, he was a passenger in a balloon whose pilot attempted to land “on the trim lawns of the National Parliament building” in Canberra, “until waved away by a genial security officer who threatened to give us a parking ticket.” Holmes shares the sense of wonder of the balloonists whose “dreamlike stories and romantic adventures” he recounts. He also shares their mischievousness. Falling Upwards opens with a premonitory tableau of the four-year-old Holmes at a village fête. His uncle, an RAF pilot, had tied a helium-filled party balloon to the top button of his aertex shirt: “It tugged me impatiently towards the sky, and I began to feel unsteady on my feet. I felt that I was falling—upwards.”
Daniel Menaker, Vulture
“Right—so the P-and-L probably won’t work. So we have to adjust the figures. But remember, you can’t change the returns percentage.”
“Increase the first printing to 15,000 and the second printing to 7,500?”
“That ought to do it. Isn’t this scientific?”
Saturday, 16 November, 2013
Mike Brown, Washington Post
This book is sweeping in scope, from the creation of the coal belts in Pennsylvania to the moving details of a single canoe trip across the Canadian wilderness. In these juxtapositions, Billings performs a brilliant sleight of hand, in which you suddenly find yourself as emotionally connected to the seemingly abstract fate of Earth over the next few eons as you are to the tangible prospects of a husband and father struggling against early cancer.
Ian Bogost, The Atlantic
Yet, the McRib’s perversity is not a defect, but a feature. The purpose of the McRib is to make the McNugget seem normal.
Paul Goldberger, Vanity Fair
At Sotheby’s New York this November, the world will get a unique tutorial from two masters of design. Collaborating for the first time, Apple’s Jonathan Ive and his chum, the equally acclaimed Marc Newson, have selected or made more than 40 objects for an auction to benefit Bono’s Product (Red) anti-H.I.V. campaign.
Ben Blatt, Slate
If Margie had applied a few principles of game theory, she could have planted a big kiss on Bob Barker’s cheek, and maybe have gone home with … a new car!
Thursday, 14 November, 2013
Tim Parks, The New York Review Of Books
Wednesday, 13 November, 2013
Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian
Bilton tells the story with verve. But the most interesting thing about all this bickering is how irrelevant it seems to have been to Twitter as a cultural phenomenon.
Tuesday, 12 November, 2013
Seamus Perry, The Times Literary Supplement
I t is so manifestly an excellent thing to have Lawrence’s many poems brought together, edited by so punctilious and expert a scholar – and to have them presented in handsome volumes that do such credit to their publisher – that it feels the keener ingratitude to admit that the experience of reading them all through is, well, a bit of a slog. Mildly reassuring, then, to learn that D. J. Enright felt a similar mixture of gratitude and weariness when he reviewed the edition of Vivian de Sola Pinto and Warren Roberts (1964) which these volumes now triumphantly supplant.
Charles Arthur, The Guardian
ComScore's data suggests though that comparatively few iPhone owners actually take the trouble to use Google's maps rather than Apple's - in part because Apple's maps are the default for any driving directions or map-related search on iOS 6 and above.
Monday, 11 November, 2013
Emily Bazelon, Slate
How the corpses of Hitler's victims are still haunting modern science—and American abortion politics.
Simon Baldwin, The Guardian
NFC has struggled because it de-personalises any transaction, isn't wholly trusted and is little understood (hands up who has heard of NFC outside the industry's techies?). It also requires the cooperation of the credit card companies to make it work. Crucially, the iBeacon doesn't. All you'll need is an Apple account. You can bank on it.
Jeffrey Eugenides, New Yorker
Paul Gregory, New York Times
Hours after the Kennedy assassination, my parents and I experienced the shared horror of realizing that the Lee Oswald we knew, the one who had been in our house and sat at our dinner table, was the same man who had just been accused of killing the president.
Sunday, 10 November, 2013
David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times
Hilton Als' "White Girls" is as much about white girls as the author's previous effort "The Women" was about femininity — which is to say quite a lot and not at all. Like its predecessor, "White Girls" is an inquiry into otherness, and by extension, commonality, what keeps us apart and also what brings us close.
Saturday, 9 November, 2013
Glyn Maxwell, The Guardian
Isabel Hilton, The Guardian
This quest for love between two cultures examines Chinese-American identity and mother-daughter relationships.
Julia Moskin, New York Times
But it wasn’t his damp jeans, bleeding finger or lack of sleep that were bothering him. It was that, with one shotgun shell and no hunting experience, he was poised to bring down a deer or wild pig that his guide said would surely cross through this particular stand of trees, where the forest floor is thick with acorns.
Tim Parks, The New York Review Of Books
What is literary style and why is it bound to change as the novel rapidly goes global?
Edward Lewine, New York Times
Strasser has reimagined the Cuban missile crisis and set “Fallout” in a realistic John F. Kennedy America. Mickey Mantle plays hero for the Yankees. Nikita Khrushchev plays villain for the Reds. Dads go to work and read Playboy. Moms keep house and smoke. The one unhistorical detail is that in this story the Soviets don’t back down. They strike.
Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times
New York Times tech columnist Nick Bilton's new book, "Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal," offers an inside account of the Silicon Valley screw-ups who stumbled, bickered and betrayed their way into creating a media empire.
Ron Charles, Washington Post
Deception and misperception are the stock in trade of the sex business — and of this story, too, which stretches over four generations and thousands of miles. The valley of “The Valley of Amazement” is very deep, indeed, an arduous journey of fraud, kidnapping and ritualized rape.
Friday, 8 November, 2013
Alex French, GQ
I never thought of myself as the type of guy who would be at a playground in the middle of a workday, but there I was, just the moms and their strollers and me: a stay-at-home dad. It was a brisk November Tuesday in Brooklyn, and Jack, my busy little 18-month-old, ran up a short flight of steps, carefully shuffled across a wobbly bridge, and streaked down the slide on his belly, feet first. He was still figuring it out. So was I.
Thursday, 7 November, 2013
Wednesday, 6 November, 2013
Sophie Ratcliffe, The Guardian
Like any homage, it makes us think about what it means to be (and to write) beyond oneself – and about selfhood's ineffable core. Faulks's "nostalgic variation" works as a sort of counterpoint: it brings us just that little bit closer to understanding why Wodehouse, himself, was so out of this world. It is a wonderfully happy book.
Tuesday, 5 November, 2013
Dave Itzkoff, New York Times
David Letterman is not only an author of “This Land Was Made for You and Me (but Mostly Me),” a new humor book he created with Bruce McCall. He is also a target of its pointed populist satire, and he knows it.
Phil Plait, Slate
When I was a lad, we knew of nine planets. Now we have thousands, and a good idea of how many of them may turn out to be similar to our own. It seems inevitable to me that the day will come when we can take the next step, and determine which of these have life. Given these numbers, and how easily life arose on Earth, it also seems inevitable that those planets exist. We just have to find them. That’s still a Herculean task, and will require vast effort, but one well worth undertaking.
Kelly McMasters, The Paris Review
The familiar shiver of desperation creeps up my spine as I toggle between the shop’s bank account and the calendar, anticipating the holiday season. The summer crowds died down many weeks ago and I’m beginning to feel like one of those stuntmen stretched between two unhitched train cars, feet on one platform and fingertips clawing at the other.
Monday, 4 November, 2013
Anthony Lane, New Yorker
To anyone entering the offices of The New Yorker for the first time, whether as a casual visitor or as an inmate facing a long sentence, the greatest surprise is not the dearth of raised voices, the hush where the live band ought to be, or the lack of a decently stocked bar. It is the want of a cat. I mean, look at the place. There are cubicles, closets, half-empty bookshelves, tops of filing cabinets, laptops, and laps that are crying out for a shorthair. Why the post has not been advertised, let alone filled, is hard to fathom. Ideal candidates should be sleek, seductive, quick of tongue, slow to wrath, and, above all, nonhuman. They should aim, wherever possible, to be as self-combing as most of the writers; expert groomers, in the editorial department, are on hand to unpick any remaining knots. Fur balls, like dangling participles, are not welcome. Milk is in the fridge.
Victor LaValle, Washington Post
There are so many small, vivid moments in these pages, such as when an oxygen tank clanks all the way down a 1,000-foot drop in a glacier. By the end, I felt Simmons had led me on an epic journey, and I was grateful for it.
Sunday, 3 November, 2013
Patrick Marion Bardley, Washington Post
At first mention of the language barrier, it doesn’t strike me what he’s actually saying. It’s an almost foreign concept: his having real trouble just talking with his parents. But it’s the heart of his story, a story about the isolating power of a lost mother tongue and an education spent retrieving it.
Margaret Atwood, The New York Review Of Books
The outpouring of ideas is central to The Circle, as it is in part a novel of ideas. What sort of ideas? Ideas about the social construction and deconstruction of privacy, and about the increasing corporate ownership of privacy, and about the effects such ownership may have on the nature of Western democracy. Dissemination of information is power, as the old yellow-journalism newspaper proprietors knew so well. What is withheld can be as potent as what is disclosed, and who can lie publicly and get away with it is determined by gatekeepers: thus, in the Internet age, code-owners have the keys to the kingdom.
Corinne Jones, The Guardian
His travels came to an end in New York when he realised he'd found a project. "I saw all these people; this diversity, this density, and New York was perfectly suited to the type of street photography I'd fallen into."
Eavan Boland, The Guardian
Saturday, 2 November, 2013
Friday, 1 November, 2013
Fatima Bhutto, The Guardian
In Arabic, "revolution" is a feminine noun. This is fitting, as without women revolutions are sterile. They have no movement, no life, no sound. Urdu, a distorter of tongues, pilfering as it does from Persian, Hindi, but largely Arabic, uses the masculine word for coup d'etat – inqilab – for revolution, rather than the accurate feminine: thawra. Perhaps that's why the Taliban were confused. Perhaps that's why they imagined that shooting a 15-year-old girl would somehow enhance their revolution.