Thursday, 31 July, 2014
Kristin Ohlson, Aeon
Our first three years are usually a blur and we don’t remember much before age seven. What are we hiding from ourselves?
Wednesday, 30 July, 2014
Jefrey T. Schnapp and Matthew Battles, Slate
Forget the Dewey Decimal system. Libraries should be lawless.
Moira Hodgson, Wall Street Journal
People talk about the dinner they had last week and the dinner they'll have next week as they photograph the dinner they're having now.
Tuesday, 29 July, 2014
Rebecca Flint Marx, New York Times
Smaller cities are increasingly attractive for New York chefs; they find savvy audiences who support innovative restaurants. It’s yet another sign of the change in food culture in the last decade, in which people everywhere are more interested in where ingredients come from and the creative possibilities of how they are prepared.
Monday, 28 July, 2014
Ed Cumming, The Guardian
Prescience can be tedious for science-fiction writers. Being proven right about a piece of technology or a trend distracts from the main aim of the work: to show us how we live now. William Gibson knows this as well as anyone. Since the late 70s, the American-born novelist has been pulling at the loose threads of our culture to imagine what will come out. He has been right about a great deal, but mainly about the shape of the internet and how it filters down to the lowest strata of society.
Sadie Stein, The Paris Review
Perhaps that is the point, after all. Maybe I can re-animate those adventures. Maybe, sometimes, “Wish You Were Here” is actually enough.
Zadie Smith, The Paris Review
Stephen Cave, Aeon
It seems to me quite reasonable to think that the death of the fly is entirely insignificant and that it is at the same time a kind of catastrophe. To entertain such contradictions is always uncomfortable, but in this case the dissonance echoes far and wide, bouncing off countless other decisions about what to buy, what to eat – what to kill; highlighting the inconsistencies in our philosophies, our attempts to make sense of our place in the world and our relations to our co‑inhabitants on Earth. The reality is that we do not know what to think about death: not that of a fly, or of a dog or a pig, or of ourselves.
Sunday, 27 July, 2014
Denis betzholz, Spiegel
During Ramadan, Muslims fast until the sun goes down. But what if you live in a place where there is no sunset? The believers in Tromsø, Norway spent years searching for a solution to that conundrum. Now that they have found one, new problems have arisen.
Philip Ball, The Guardian
In a single sentence Plato tells us what many subsequent stories of invisibility would reiterate at length about the desires that the dream of invisibility feeds: they are about sex, wealth and death.
Elizabeth Green, New York Times
The Americans might have invented the world’s best methods for teaching math to children, but it was difficult to find anyone actually using them.
Nicola Twilley, New York Times
Of all the shifts in lifestyle that threaten the planet right now, perhaps not one is as important as the changing way that Chinese people eat.
Saturday, 26 July, 2014
John Branch, New York Times
Every year, as steady as the tides, lifeless bodies are pulled from the cold, restless water along the rugged coastline north of San Francisco.
Most of the victims are middle-aged men. They wear black wet suits, usually hooded. They are often found in small coves framed by crescents of jagged rocks. An abandoned float tube sometimes bobs about nearby. Almost without exception, the victims are found wearing weighted belts that help them sink.
The bodies are those of abalone divers.
Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic
A journey into the mysterious origins of the pre-arranged table.
Friday, 25 July, 2014
Devin Leonard, Bloomberg Businessweek
These days, however, Burger King is behaving more like a startup than a typical burger chain.
Thursday, 24 July, 2014
Julie Scelfo, New York Times
There are many good reasons why restaurants cast off their classics: Chefs tire of making the same things over and over. Costs rise. Banh mi (or crudo or kale) go in, then out of fashion. But diners like me, left with nothing but memories and longing, often have a hard time letting go.
Jenny Diski, London Review Of Books
The subtitle of Nikil Saval’s book is curiously inapt. Cubed is not a ‘secret history of the workplace’, but the not (entirely) secret history of a very particular kind of workplace. The main title is intended to pull that particular workplace into focus, I suppose, to narrow the vast number of possible workplaces down to a single square box (or latterly a three-walled lidless box) that will inevitably bring to mind the environment of the white-collar pen-pusher, although it has been a very long time since office workers reliably wore white collars or pushed pens to fulfil their duties. But even if we allow ‘the workplace’ to stand for ‘the office’, ‘the history of a secret workplace’ would have been a more accurate subtitle. What happens there? People can be said to ‘work in an office’ and no further explanation is required, but there’s no real clue to what they do, unlike people who work in other places, who make things in a factory, mine in a mine, teach in a school, sell things in a shop. What are the millions of children who since the late 19th century have increasingly been told that one (or both) of their parents is ‘at the office’ to understand by that? At least that nothing is made, mined, taught or sold.
Wednesday, 23 July, 2014
Robin Sloan, Medium
And its challenge to the rest of us.
Tuesday, 22 July, 2014
Matthew Francis, Aeon
Albert Einstein was a genius, but he wasn’t the only one – why has his name come to mean something superhuman?
Jesse Barron, The New Inquiry
The suicidal veteran, who volunteered to inflict damage abroad and wound up fatally damaging himself, doesn’t usually write his own story. He leaves a note, which leaves the storytelling to others. The narratives start almost instantly.
Monday, 21 July, 2014
Elizabeth Kolbert, New Yorker
How the Paleolithic life style got trendy.
Maywa Montenegro and Terry Glavin, Seed
Scientists offer new insight into what to protect of the world's rapidly vanishing languages, cultures, and species.
Mario Cacciottolo, BBC
A container filled with millions of Lego pieces fell into the sea off Cornwall in 1997. But instead of remaining at the bottom of the ocean, they are still washing up on Cornish beaches today - offering an insight into the mysterious world of oceans and tides.
Zachary Crockett, Priceonomics
Once heralded as the time-saving successor to stairs, the fire pole is, after 150 years, sliding toward extinction. In its heyday, the pole revolutionized the way firefighters responded to alarms, accessed their trucks, and, ultimately, saved lives. But fire poles came -- and still come -- with a caveat: they have the potential to be lethal for those who descend them. A comb through archives reveals dozens of pole-related deaths, hundreds of serious injuries, and a slew of unsavory lawsuits resulting in multi-million dollar payouts. Today, an increasing number of firehouses are altogether abandoning the fire pole as they remodel old structures and re-analyze building and safety codes.
Sunday, 20 July, 2014
Erin Blakeley, The Boston Globe
Now we sit in the car while my husband hunches over his phone, tapping out our route. You’d think he was charting our course across the Atlantic, but he’s actually just searching for the best way to get to P.F. Chang’s. The P.F. Chang’s we’ve been to a million times. The one we’d be on our way to if he weren’t looking at his phone.
Tim Wu, New York Times
But the effects are real: The web has reduced professional creators to begging for scraps of attention from a spoiled public, and forced creators to be their own brand.
Saturday, 19 July, 2014
Edward Hirsch, New York Times
The Israeli writer David Grossman has crafted a strange and riveting book — partly a folk tale, partly a play, partly a novel in verse. There’s no genre to describe it.
David Lehman, New York Times
But the activity of writing them redeems itself even if it is only a gesture toward what we continue to need from literature and the humanities: an experience of mind — mediated by memorable speech — that feeds and sustains the imagination and helps us make sense of our lives.
Bernd Brunner, The Smart Set
Some thoughts on being naked in public.
Moises Velasquez-manoff, Nautilus
Antioxidant vitamins don’t stress us like plants do—and don’t have their beneficial effect.
Friday, 18 July, 2014
Jacob E. Osterhout, Newsweek
But what a novel it is! Tenacity and perseverance were the qualities that helped Hastings become a star reporter for GQ and Rolling Stone, and they inform the novel’s narrative, creating a story as engrossing as it is believable.
David Auerbach, Slate
Why are techno-futurists so freaked out by Roko’s Basilisk?
Thursday, 17 July, 2014
Steven Hyden, Grantland
As Weird Al albums go, Mandatory Fun is entertaining enough. The question is whether these songs should’ve been packaged into an album or simply released as he made them. For now, Weird Al would rather not answer that one.
Wednesday, 16 July, 2014
Maura Judkis, Washington Post
Diners are rediscovering the pleasures of a plate of velvety raw meat, as steak tartare makes a comeback (along with its Italian cousin, carpaccio).
Carl Zimmer, Mosaic
More than a century after their discovery, we still don’t really know what blood types are for. Do they really matter?
Tuesday, 15 July, 2014
John Markoff, New York Times
Though the industry could radically transform entertainment, gaming and other forms of computing, it has an Achilles’ heel: Many people become queasy after pulling viewing devices over their eyes and slipping into an immersive world that blurs the line between physical reality and computer-generated imagery.
Rachel Swirsky, Apex Magazine
Monday, 14 July, 2014
Benj Edwards, The Atlantic
Rebuilding Prodigy, one screen at a time.
Maxwell Carter, Wall Street Journal
After stealing some 100 rare maps over three years, E. Forbes Smiley III was caught when he left an X-Acto knife behind at Yale.
Sunday, 13 July, 2014
Ian Brown, The Globe And Mail
There is a voodoo to lobster economics. What used to be poor man’s fare, the fallback meal of people too impoverished to afford anything else, is now a billion dollar business and a universal mark of luxury – with the result that a lobster that sells for $3.50 on the wharf can cost $60 and more on a restaurant plate in New York or Toronto or Shanghai, regardless of how many lobsters are pulled from the sea. How this happens is the life story of Larry the Lobster.
Eric Schulmiller, New York Times
I can see Ridley Scott smiling down at me from the glowing valley of advertisements in Times Square.
Richard Conniff, Yale Alumni Magazine
Dinosaurs were lumbering, stupid, scientifically boring beasts—until John Ostrom rewrote the book on them.
Saturday, 12 July, 2014
Sheenagh Pugh, The Guardian
Mona Simpson, New York Times
At the heart of Kathryn Ma’s haunting first novel, “The Year She Left Us,” is a young woman who loses her way. Ari is 18 and home from a summer in China, where she worked for a company that takes Western families with adopted Chinese girls on “heritage tours.” They visit the orphanages and, sometimes, the places where the abandoned babies were first found: police stations, department stores and random patches of dirt by the side of the road. For these orphans, their “Finding Day” may be the closest approximation to the simple commonplace most of us take for granted — a birthday.
Friday, 11 July, 2014
David Skinner, Humanities
Where did it start? What were its original components? And what, specifically, about that feeling of being transported above the small-time pettiness of the everyday, that liberating and wonderful air of amazement that would be sense number one if I were to write my own subjective definition of cool?
Michael D. Lemonick, Photographs by Mark Thiessen, National Geographic
One of the oldest questions may be answered in our lifetimes. Are we alone?
Thursday, 10 July, 2014
Cade Metz, Wired
In the past, the programming world was split in two: the fast languages and the simpler modern languages. But now, these two worlds are coming together.
S. Kirk Walsh, The Boston Globe
Three years after the enthusiastic reception of her debut novel, “The Borrower,” Rebecca Makkai returns with “The Hundred-Year House,” an entertaining, ambitious saga of secrets, ghosts, and an old mansion. Setting her story on the sprawling estate of Laurelfield on Chicago’s North Shore, the author skillfully unfurls an intricate narrative — with an expansive cast of characters — which begins in 1990 and retraces to 1900.
Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, Aeon
Why do we listen to our favourite music over and over again? Because repeated sounds work magic in our brains.
Wednesday, 9 July, 2014
Pete Wells, New York Times
Not long ago at a restaurant that regularly tweets photos of dishes as lush as one of Monet’s lily ponds, I found myself poking cautiously at perfect circles of glossy black sauce, discs of potato purée that looked like white roses and cylinders of gnocchi so tiny they seemed to have been pushed out of a drinking straw. Tiny, delicate flowers and tender sprigs of leaves gently rested here and there as if a woodland nymph had casually tossed them from a basket before running off to play hide-and-seek with a den of baby field mice. The dish was definitely ready for its close-up. It was also, by and large, very cold — no surprise given how long it must have taken to squeeze and tweeze everything into position.
Sarah Pekkanen, Washington Post
Safety advisory: If you’re planning to read Jojo Moyes’s “One Plus One” on your summer vacation, slather on plenty of SPF 50. Once you start the book, you probably won’t look up again until you’re the last one left on the beach.
Tuesday, 8 July, 2014
Brittney Cooper, Salon
These fabulous shows have made us a nation of foodies. But are they also cutting the country short?
Victorino Matus, Wall Street Journal
This is Mr. Greenberg's ultimate goal—to get us to eat the seafood from our nation's bounty. He points to the remarkable fact that, "while 91 percent of the seafood Americans eat is foreign, a third of the seafood Americans catch gets sold to foreigners."
Mark Bittman, New York Times
With meat substitutes and even alternative animal protein like bugs surging in popularity — or at least media attention — it’s time to re-evaluate and finally embrace the original plant-based mock meat.
Monday, 7 July, 2014
Julie Buntin, The Atlantic
It’s been five years since my best friend from high school died, but her death happens over and over online.
Mike Berry, Salon
The timing of the release of “Mr. Mercedes” could hardly be less propitious (until we remember that “Black House,” King’s long-awaited second collaboration with fellow horror writer Peter Straub, arrived in stores on September 11, 2001). The novel’s publication date comes a little more than a week after Elliot Rodger stabbed three people to death in his apartment near UC Santa Barbara, killed three others in drive-by shootings, ran down pedestrians in his BMW and then fatally shot himself with his own gun. In the wake of the Isla Vista tragedy, this straight-ahead thriller now makes for uncomfortable reading, in a way Mr. King undoubtedly did not intend.
Karina Longworth, Slate
Hollywood not only produces illusions, it has also long operated behind at least a few layers of invention in order to allow celebrities to maintain some semblance of a private self while their images are commodified. In this industry, is it possible to live honestly without sacrificing one’s ability to make money? That’s the central question running through Sohn’s novel, which seems designed—in its intended intelectual seriousness on the one hand, and its blind-item-centric, beach-ready titillation on the other—to sit perfectly between Joan Didion’s Play it As It Lays and Jackie Collins’ Hollywood Wives.
Sunday, 6 July, 2014
Ken McKenzie, Salon
When you picture a funeral home, you probably expect silence — until suddenly all hell breaks loose.
Saturday, 5 July, 2014
Geoffrey O'Brien, New York Times
“Life Itself,” Steve James’s documentary on the life of Roger Ebert, is in many ways like a wake at which intimate acquaintances warmly recall their departed friend in all his aspects, foibles and quirks along with his talents and triumphs. Deep currents of love and sorrow flow under the succession of often funny recollections of a busy life. But it is a wake where the departed is still present.
Douglas Brinkley, New York Times
If Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” prefigured the Age of Aquarius, then Don Carpenter’s semi-autobiographical “Fridays at Enrico’s” can be read as the swan song of the entire Love Generation.
Joanna Briscoe, The Guardian
It was only after I was approached to write a novella with a supernatural aspect that I realised all my novels are haunted: by the past, by desire or by guilt. And so it took only a small shift to see that I could take this one step further.
Friday, 4 July, 2014
William Giraldi, Wall Street Journal
The first footage of a giant squid in the wild was captured in 2012, but the beast has haunted the stories of sailors for centuries.
Alex Halberstadt, New York Times
“Scientists often say that we don’t know what animals feel because they can’t speak to us and can’t report their inner states,” Virga told me. “But the thing is, they are reporting their inner states. We’re just not listening.”
Thursday, 3 July, 2014
Dana Stevens, Slate
Roger Ebert at the movies, at home, and in the hospital.
Sean Nelson, The Stranger
This time of year is about frivolity and fun and being alive and I hate it.
Linda Marsa, Aeon
Costly new longevity drugs could help the wealthy live 120 years or more – but will everyone else die young?
Wednesday, 2 July, 2014
Andrew Rice, New York Magazine
The New York real-estate market is now the premier destination for wealthy foreigners with rubles, yuan, and dollars to hide.
Tuesday, 1 July, 2014
Carl Zimmer, New York Times
Time and again, we don’t want to believe that streaks can be the result of pure chance — probably because the bias appears to be deeply ingrained in our minds, researchers say. Indeed, a new study in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition suggests that the hot hand phenomenon is so ancient that monkeys display it, too.
Joshua Wolf Shenk, The Atlantic
For centuries, the myth of the lone genius has towered over us, its shadow obscuring the way creative work really gets done. The attempts to pick apart the Lennon-McCartney partnership reveal just how misleading that myth can be, because John and Paul were so obviously more creative as a pair than as individuals, even if at times they appeared to work in opposition to each other. The lone-genius myth prevents us from grappling with a series of paradoxes about creative pairs: that distance doesn’t impede intimacy, and is often a crucial ingredient of it; that competition and collaboration are often entwined.