Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

The Legend of the Legend of Bunko Kelly, the Kidnapping King of Portland

In the late eighteen hundreds, the port cities of the American West were dangerous nests of sailors, prostitutes, and gangsters—none more so than Portland, Oregon. The most infamous relic of those bad old days are not the wooly beards of its male population, but the Portland Underground, the city’s network of so-called "shanghai tunnels," which tourists today are often told were used to spirit unsuspecting men, perhaps lured by a half-naked prostitute to an establishment where they were drugged and kidnapped, toward their final destination: pressed into service on a ship.

These kidnappers were known as crimps, and the "king of the crimps," according to folk legend, [...]


Who Will Rescue Time from the Physicists?

Lee Smolin thinks that time is real. If that strikes you as unusual, you haven’t spent much time with theoretical physicists, who tend to think that the passing of time is either an emergent property of the universe, or, perhaps, an illusion.

“Some of my colleagues suggest that time is an approximate description of the universe,” Smolin, a theoretical physicist at the Perimeter Institute, writes in Time Reborn. “A description that is useful on large scales but dissolves when we look too closely. Temperature is like this.” The reason that some physicists have rejected time, he argues, is that they have mistaken mathematical [...]


"The Scream" at MoMA in the Cold Digital Age

There has been a lot of wrong-headed criticism of the internet by people who ought to know better. Which is to say, by writers. I am immediately suspicious when a writer doesn’t acknowledge the obvious similarities between words on a page and the words and images on a screen. Writing itself is an isolating technology, just an older one, and reading silently, to yourself, is an isolating practice, and a relatively new one.

These technophobic screeds surface a few times a year; they’ve tailed off some, although I suppose there will always be authors masochistic enough to make their own dunce caps and parade around in them, in exchange for [...]