Wednesday, 31 December 2014
Charles Euchner, The Boston Globe
In this lively, scholarly work, Warner surveys centuries of fairy tales and academic research about them. She ties these tales to virtually every aspect of culture — mythology, art, music, movies, games, and psychology. We need them, she says, to make sense of the world.
Elisabeth Denison, New Yorker
Tuesday, 30 December 2014
Terri Schlichenmeyer, Times Record
For about the last century, the average lifespan for North Americans has increased. Modern medicine taught doctors how to save lives but, until relatively recently, it didn’t teach them how to deal with life’s end.
Mitch Smith, New York Times
Here in southwest Kansas, where small communities have struggled since the Dust Bowl to retain businesses and residents, a town’s viability is measured by what has not yet closed. Losing a post office is considered the kiss of death. Losing a school can be a terminal diagnosis.
But losing a grocery store, as Plains did in 2001, is a problem that, while not necessarily lethal, is most certainly cause for concern.
Michal Lev-Ram, Fortune
Bob Iger has spent much of his near decade at Disney wearing an additional corporate hat: CTO. The result? He has brought the coolest innovations from Lucasfilm, Pixar, Marvel, and ESPN into a single galaxy.
Monday, 29 December 2014
David Sedaris, New Yorker
Ways to have fun at the beach.
Carol Rumens, The Guardian
Yolande Knell, BBC
Christmas comes but once a year - unless you live in Bethlehem, where three different Christian denominations celebrate on three different days.
Tim Wu, New Yorker
The conditions of carriage may lack the importance of other, more pressing social issues. But when an airline like JetBlue is punished for merely trying to treat all of its passengers decently, something isn’t right.
Paul Ford, Medium
What my toddler told me about making websites.
Sunday, 28 December 2014
Peter Kaplan, The Stacks
The comedian who can make it on television is the one who can preside over the talk show landscape. He's the comedian who can keep things going and react to the traffic of guests sitting down on and leaving a couch; he's the comedian who represents security and durability to a network. Who knows, who even cares anymore, whether Johnny Carson is actually funny? We know that we like to laugh with him, but who knows whether he actually pushes the catch lever that leads to the joy-pain spasm? He is, more than anything, a triumphant and reassuring habit; he can react and act with the flow of the society, and because of that he's worth more than any eight sitcoms.
Kelly J. Baker, The Rumpus
I’m reminded that we all struggle with our stories and sometimes we need more than words to tell them. Tattoo by tattoo, the contributors share their stories and so much more.
Saturday, 27 December 2014
Daneet Steffens, The Boston Globe
“Die Again’’ is smart and tightly strung, densely action-packed and full of canny, unsettling observations — like Rizzoli realizing over a dinner-table steak that, “Whether it comes from a cow or human, we are all fresh meat” — as well as a fascinating theory of a possible evolutionary connection between early man and leopards.
Jon Gertner, New York Times
Have you ever wondered why flash photography led to antipoverty programs at the turn of the 20th century? Or how the invention of the laser contributed to the decline of mom-and-pop stores? Of course you haven’t, because you didn’t really stop to think — wait, check that; I didn’t really stop to think — how the invention of flash photography finally allowed Jacob Riis to capture the images of dismal tenement life on New York’s Lower East Side that he had already been writing about, with little impact, for years. Or how the laser begat the bar code that, in turn, gave an efficiency advantage to stores like Target and Walmart. “How We Got to Now” is full of nifty connections like these — stories that illustrate obscure chains of causality that shaped the modern world.
Hirsh Sawhney, New York Times
“The Lives of Others” is a sophisticated meditation on suffering that invites empathy for characters who embrace violent ideologies as a result of injustice without ever vindicating the horrific violence they commit. Likewise, it demonstrates how oppressive socio-economic structures brutalize people while showing that brutality can sometimes be random, and its causes ultimately elusive.
Friday, 26 December 2014
Maureen Corrigan, Washington Post
In addition to intricate plotting, Rowland’s consistent strength throughout her series has been the authority she brings to her portraits of her idiosyncratic characters and their world.
Craig Silverman, Digg
This Christmas, while many of us enjoy time with our families and exchange gifts, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will sit at the head of a long, exquisite table, eating his way through plates of Emmentaler and guzzling cobra wine. Or maybe he'll be pondering which relative he should feed to a pack of starving, bloodthirsty hounds.
Actually, we have no idea what Jong-un's holiday will look like.
Thursday, 25 December 2014
Heather Havrilesky, Bookforum
How two decades of nonfiction best sellers teem with fake self-assurance—and testosterone.
Emma Brockes, The Guardian
The entire point of Christmas is that it’s supposed to be boring; you get an hour of excitement first thing and then the day devolves into an endless cycle of cooking, small talk, snoring relatives, over-heated rooms with no escape and – in England, at least – the Queen’s Speech, an annual lowlight that reminds you of the virtue of every other day of the calendar year when you are not made privy to Her Majesty’s thoughts.
Jeanne Marie Laskas, GQ
He was a war-hero fighter pilot. He was an MIT rocket scientist. He was a lot of impressive things, and then Buzz Aldrin went to the moon, which is maybe all you know about one of the most famous men on earth—a guy who's been frozen, like a footprint in lunar dust, in America's mind for forty-five years now. But the thing about Buzz is that he still wants way more than the moon.
Jena Tesse Fox, Playbill
From chorus kids to Broadway stars, New Yorkers to tourists, the no-frills diner known for its characteristically brusque New York service and Jewish comfort food was the culinary crossroads of the theatrical world.
David Wong, Cracked
Let's say we find out an asteroid is going to hit the earth at some point over the next three months. It may kill all of us, it may kill some of us, it may splash harmlessly into the ocean -- but there is no stopping it. All we can do is hunker down and see what happens. How would you react? How would humanity as a whole react? Well, I know how: we would prepare as best we could, and then we would surround ourselves with the people we love most and party our asses off. We would do it, because we would realize it might be our last chance. I know this, because we have Christmas.
Nick Romeo, The Boston Globe
“Skylight’’ is a fascinating and startlingly mature work, one that would merit publication even if its author had never written another book. The many hints of the styles and themes of his later novels add interest, but the book is a gem in its own right.
Wednesday, 24 December 2014
Clea Simon, The Boston Globe
On an island, there’s only so far you can go before you find yourself back where you started. That’s one of the themes circulating through Icelandic author Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir’s quirky and enchanting novel, “Butterflies in November.”
Adam Rogers, Wired
Jonathan Coulton loves cruise ships. He loves the weird artificial mall running down the middle, and he loves staring off the back of the ship into infinity. That’s not to say that David Foster Wallace’s famously dark assessment of shipboard vacationing (“There is something about a mass-market Luxury Cruise that’s unbearably sad”) is unfamiliar. The lanyard that holds a laser-cut wooden JoCo Cruise name tag around my neck came printed with the phrase “A supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again.” Inside jokes are the coin of the realm around here.
We’re sitting in the courtyard of a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, hotel; our ship departs tomorrow morning. Around us, other cruise-bound performers are gathering—Grant Imahara of MythBusters is introducing himself to NPR host Peter Sagal. The comedian Paul F. Tompkins is filling a plate with nachos at the buffet. This trip, Coulton says, he might break his rule not to go Jet Skiing, but he’s not sure what he’ll do with his glasses.
Shiv Malik, Ali Younes, Spencer Ackerman and Mustafa Khalili, The Guardian
The American aid worker was killed by his Isis captors on 16 November. Here, for the first time, is the story of an extraordinary effort to secure his release, which involved a radical New York lawyer, the US government, and the world’s most revered jihadi scholar.
J. Bryan Lowder, Slate
Boiling used to be the default vegetable cooking method. We attempt to trace the shift from stovetop to oven.
Tuesday, 23 December 2014
Janet Maslin, New York Times
In her closing acknowledgments, Ms. Harrison addresses the Mormon community in which she lives, saying she hopes she has done justice to the complexity of its doctrine and culture. “As Linda says, this is my Mormonism,” she writes. It is her hope that any readers will see “how smart, thoughtful, kind and powerful Mormon women can be, even if they seem to be following a traditionally feminine path.”
Erica Klarreich, Wired
“It’s a very obvious question, one of the first you might ever ask about primes,” said Andrew Granville, a number theorist at the University of Montreal. “But the answer has been more or less stuck for almost 80 years.”
Monday, 22 December 2014
Brian Greene, Smithsonian Magazine
Evidence that the universe is made of strings has been elusive for 30 years, but the theory's mathematical insights continue to have an alluring pull.
Sunday, 21 December 2014
Ellen Silverman, Medium
Often taking a picture led to a conversation, which added a richness and depth to my images. I have traveled the country from east to west, mesmerized by the color, texture, and rhythm of everything that I saw.
Saturday, 20 December 2014
Patricia Crain, New York Times
A good alphabet book is like a raucous playroom for language, persuading children to internalize the ABCs by turning the letters into toys. Rhymes and rhythm, metaphor and simile, alliteration, assonance and consonance — the ABC book’s verbal gymnastics match the alphabet’s inherently visual nature, making the genre not just a feast for young readers but a rewarding medium for illustrators and designers too.
Stephanie Rosenbloom, New York Times
But just when you think walking these interminable avenues is for East Coast chumps, something makes you smile.
Adam Frank, New York Times
More than evolution, more than inexhaustible arguments over God’s existence, the real fault line between science and religion runs through the nature of consciousness. Carefully unpacking that contentious question, and exploring what Buddhism offers its investigation, is the subject of Evan Thompson’s new book, “Waking, Dreaming, Being.”
Friday, 19 December 2014
Pico Iyer, Lapham's Quarterly
To be a foreigner is to be perpetually detached, but it is also to be continually surprised.
Charlie Warzel, BuzzFeed
Autcraft is one of hundreds of thousands of active Minecraft servers, but one of only a few that caters exclusively to children, young adults, and parents of children with autism and Asperger’s. Painstakingly moderated by a team of dutiful (and intensely vetted) volunteers, Autcraft is a safe haven to 5,000 players from all over the world and arguably one of the best communities on the internet.
Thursday, 18 December 2014
Joao Medeiros, Wired UK
"The more we observed him and listened to his concerns, the more it dawned on us that what he was really asking, in addition to improving how fast he could communicate, was for new features that would let him interact better with his computer," says Nachman.
Janet Maslin, New York Times
The time is right for “The David Foster Wallace Reader,” an anthology meant to serve different purposes for different readers.
J.D. Biersdorfer, New York Times
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Maria Konnikova, New Yorker
By now, everyone knows that a headline determines how many people will read a piece, particularly in this era of social media. But, more interesting, a headline changes the way people read an article and the way they remember it. The headline frames the rest of the experience. A headline can tell you what kind of article you’re about to read—news, opinion, research, LOLcats—and it sets the tone for what follows.
Nicholas Carlson, New York Times
She believed it could again become a top-tier tech firm that enjoyed enormous growth and competed for top talent. And two years in, Mayer, who has a tendency to compare herself with Steve Jobs, wasn’t about to abandon her turnaround plan.
Joseph Peschel, Washington Post
Murakami does lapse into bouts of over-playfulness, but whether he is writing for adults or children, he remains a suspenseful and fantastical storyteller.
Tim Carmody, Medium
Our humanity is capacious enough to extend to other beings (including those we have made with our own hands). We also have perspective enough to nuke the things we’ve made from orbit when it’s necessary to save lives. We are craven beings, but that’s not all we are. Even an orphan, a marine, an android, and a badass warrant officer turned surrogate mom can become a kind of family.
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Jessamyn West, Medium
Enforcing artificial scarcity is a bad role for a public institution.
Sarah Baird, Medium
The awkward second life of restaurant chain buildings.
Monday, 15 December 2014
Carol Rumen's, The Guardian
Mary Beard, The Spectator
In 1787 critics of the Paris Salon were scandalised by a painting exhibited by Mme Vigée Le Brun. The subject was conventional enough: a self-portrait of the artist cradling her small daughter. The problem was that Vigée Le Brun was depicted smiling. You could even see her teeth. This was, as one critic put it, ‘an affectation which artists, connoisseurs and people of good taste are unanimous in condemning’.
Patrick Anderson, Washington Post
In “Irene,” violence ups the ante, and tough-minded writing carries the day.
Sunday, 14 December 2014
John Pomfret, Washington Post
It’s natural that this new sobriety should affect not simply how China is viewed today but also how its past is depicted. The best history is not written in an ivory tower, after all; it’s done with an eye on today. And that brings us to Richard Bernstein’s excellent “China 1945.”
Judith Martin, Washington Post
Who could ever have been so blind and bigoted as to believe that only women attended parties, had children, wore clothes, lived in homes and ate food?
Certainly not those of us who worked there. We lived with that section head because the women’s department was where the jobs were — we could see how few women were advancing elsewhere in the news business — and because it was an exciting place to work.
William H. Pritchard, The Boston Globe
He concludes the list by noting that “One day, of course, no one will remember what I remember.” A fine book of remembering all sorts of things past, “Essays After Eighty” is to be treasured.
Charlie Jane Anders, Tor.com
Lee Weston Sabo, Bright Lights Film Journal
Do the Right Thing wasn’t ahead of its time. It was behind its time, and it’s ahead of ours.
Saturday, 13 December 2014
Tricia Rose, New York Times
The dramatic changes spurred by the civil rights movement and other 1960s social upheavals are often chronicled as a time line of catalytic legal victories that ended anti-black segregation. Jeff Chang’s “Who We Be: The Colorization of America” claims that cultural changes were equally important in transforming American society, and that both the legal and cultural forms of desegregation faced a sustained hostile response that continues today.
Matthew Specktor, New York Times
So much of its complexity, pleasure and occasional difficulty stems from its sequence of omissions and its non-chronological presentation.
Molly Eichel, The A.V. Club
As it mourned Mr. Hooper, the show found strength in honesty.
Ryan Lizza, New Yorker
Hughes addressed the group by speakerphone. “How are we going to produce the issue?” he asked.
Bruce Buschel, Medium
“It was there and then it wasn’t there. Like a mandala. Sort of perfect.”
“But there was no plan for this to blow away,” I said.
“Of course there was,” he said.
“What are you talking about?”
“It was chalk on a chalkboard, dad.”
“How obvious does impermanence have to be?”
“Then why am I crying?”
“Because you’re an idiot.”
Friday, 12 December 2014
Laura Miller, Salon
It's time to stop fetishizing books as sacred objects and start happily defacing them.
Charlotte Runcie, The Telegraph
Authors themselves may be horrified to learn that the heartbreaking denouement they slaved over for months has been skipped by their readers. But they have to earn the right to our sustained attention, and we’re perfectly entitled to disagree with them about when to cut and run. Sometimes the result is better all around.
Iwan Rhys Morus, Aeon
Social progress, high-speed transport and electricity everywhere – how the Victorians invented the future.
Andrew Bomford, BBC
He weighs 260kg, has a bone-crushing bite and paws the size of dinner plates, but Phevos the tiger is the latest victim of Greece's economic crisis - and this week he left the country for a new home on other side of the world.
Thursday, 11 December 2014
Justin Peters, Slate
What’s more important to the paper of record, reporting the news or protecting its readers’ delicate sensibilities?
Feargus O'Sullivan, Next City
This city of 23,000 was founded for one reason only: to mine an apparently bottomless seam of iron ore located in Sweden’s northern wilds. This resource made the town prosperous, but it also sounded the death knell of Kiruna as its citizens now know it. If extraction is to continue, the mine must burrow to a depth of 1.3 kilometers, so far beneath the earth on which Kiruna stands that the town’s very foundations are at risk. Kirunans faced a stark choice: Give up on the mine or move the city.
Wednesday, 10 December 2014
Ian Jack, The Guardian
Why is Boris Johnson publishing a breezy book about Churchill? The answer depends on your view of his political calculation.
Dwight Garner, New York Times
This is a poet who can’t abide pretension. Reading her poems reminded me of an observation I’ve always prized, though I can’t recall (nor can I find out on Google) who wrote it: “Tell those potatoes to take off their parsley, we know them.”
Tuesday, 9 December 2014
Edward Austin Hall, Paste
The ways he remakes themes familiar from such 20th-century classics as “The Library of Babel” leaves me with one ineluctable truth: Lev Grossman is our Borges.
Laura Collins-Hughes, The Boston Globe
“All My Puny Sorrows” is about many things, including the right to die and the ruinous legacy of suicide. But it is ultimately about learning the very tricky art of survival: how to go on, arm in arm, leaning hard on each other to struggle through.
Rachel Pieh Jones, The Smart Set
A week in the life of a food vendor in Djibouti.
Monday, 8 December 2014
Linda Tirado, Slate
Because our lives seem so unstable, poor people are often seen as being basically incompetent at managing their lives. That is, it’s assumed that we’re not unstable because we’re poor, we’re poor because we’re unstable. So let’s just talk about how impossible it is to keep your life from spiraling out of control when you have no financial cushion whatsoever. And let’s also talk about the ways in which money advice is geared only toward people who actually have money in the first place.
Chérmelle Edwards, The Guardian
But the question for independents, and those who love them, is whether the big chain can spur more of the coffee-drinking public to consider buying not just a different cup of coffee ... but a great cup off coffee.
Sunday, 7 December 2014
Hirato Renkichi, Asymptote
Ian C. Smith, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore
Christopher Barzak, Uncanny Magazine
Saturday, 6 December 2014
Angelina Adams, Smart Pop Books
By reading one book, my life had taken a direction and been filled with people I never could have imagined. Those offhand words weren’t just a clever disregard for the effect time has on a physical appearance; “the rest changes without notice” was life. Without my noticing what was happening, Anne managed to reach out and make profound changes in my life.
Heller McAlpin, NPR
Can a book be both linguistically playful and dead serious? Structurally innovative and reader-friendly? Mournful and joyful? Brainy and moving? Ali Smith's How To Be Both, which recently won the prestigious, all-Brit two-year-old Goldsmiths prize for being a truly novel novel, is all of the above — and then some.
Stephen King, New York Times
When the performance was over, after less than two minutes of high-tension rock ’n’ roll, she said softly, wonderingly, “I think that young man is crazy.” Then she added, almost to herself, “But he can play the piano like the Devil lit his behind on fire.”
Yes. Just like that. And although Rick Bragg belabors the point, it makes this overlong biography worth reading.
Friday, 5 December 2014
Adam Gopnik, New Yorker
Shopping, tourism, and the changing face of luxury.
Michael Hanlon, Aeon
Some of our greatest cultural and technological achievements took place between 1945 and 1971. Why has progress stalled?
Thursday, 4 December 2014
Jazmine Hughes, The Hairpin
A trail of weather emojis, dancing in the snow.
Chris Chafin, Brooklyn Magazine
“The secret is, nobody knows what they’re doing online,” says Maura Johnston, one of the founding editors of music blog Idolator, and, later, the music editor of The Village Voice. This is especially clear in music blogging, where lone people working in their spare time built thriving sites with loyal followings, only to have them destroyed by well-organized companies supposedly skilled in business.
Marielle Wakim, Los Angeles Magazine
Conan O’Brien’s boasts a PS2, which guests can play while sitting in Zero Gravity massage chairs from Brookstone. Fallon is known to have his stocked with freshly baked cookies from the acclaimed New York bakery Momofuku Milk Bar. Seth Meyers’s has a perfectly positioned photo booth for celebrity selfies (Anna Kendrick! Nick Cannon!). The Late Show with David Letterman even offers personalized creature comforts.
Wednesday, 3 December 2014
Ron Charles, Washington Post
Ali Smith’s playfully brilliant new novel makes me both excited and wary of recommending it. This gender-blending, genre-blurring story, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, bounces across centuries, tossing off profound reflections on art and grief, without getting tangled in its own postmodern wires. It’s the sort of death-defying storytelling acrobatics that don’t seem entirely possible — How did she get here from there? — but you’ve got to be willing to hang on.
Adelle Waldman, New Yorker
Before we rush to condemn the novel’s supposedly obsolete conventions, we ought to look at what they do well.
Tina Chase Gillmor, Medium
I’m just a person who weirdly pays attention to this stuff. I know only what I’ve come to glean over the years of watching credits roll by and perusing a few legal documents on the Internet. I’m not a lawyer, and I’m not in the movie business. I’m sure you all will sort this out and set me straight. In fact, I’m counting on it so I can sleep soundly again knowing the next time I read movie credits everything will be normal again. But this one — this one is bothering me.
Tuesday, 2 December 2014
James Sullivan, The Boston Globe
In “Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free,” the science-fiction author and Internet advocate lays out a convincing case on behalf of the net benefits of a free and open digital culture.
Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, New York Times
When we recall our own memories, we are not extracting a perfect record of our experiences and playing it back verbatim. Most people believe that memory works this way, but it doesn’t. Instead, we are effectively whispering a message from our past to our present, reconstructing it on the fly each time.
Olga Oksman, The Guardian
Running a successful restaurant isn’t even about nickels and dimes; it is all about the pennies.
Monday, 1 December 2014
Clea Simon, Boston Globe
Life is weird. If J. Robert Lennon has one point to make in this fresh and funny collection of 14 short stories, it is this: People are strange and unpredictable, and no matter what the universe throws at them — and in his stories, there are a considerable number of curveballs — nothing comes close to the oddities we ourselves conjure up.
David Cole, The New York Review Of Books
Just Mercy is every bit as moving as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so. Although it reads like a novel, it’s a true story and, in that sense, is infinitely more troubling. It’s set not in the distant Jim Crow South, a time when we now acknowledge these kinds of injustices were legion, but in the new South, which claims to have moved on. And while Stevenson’s account is not as naive as Scout’s, he brings to its telling a faith in the human spirit that, like Scout’s narrative, casts in sharp relief the cruel injustices they relate.