Friday, April 11th, 2014
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"Get the measles vaccine, and you won’t get the measles—or give it to anyone else. Right? Well, not always. A person fully vaccinated against measles has contracted the disease and passed it on to others. The startling case study contradicts received wisdom about the vaccine and suggests that a recent swell of measles outbreaks in developed nations could mean more illnesses even among the vaccinated."

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Giving An 'F': Rewriting The History Of FSG

My understanding of what it means to be a publisher has been skewed ever since I first heard the word. My mom was reading A Wrinkle in Time to me—I must have been around 8—when she explained that my great-grandfather had published the book. She told me how Madeleine L'Engle had taken the story of Meg Murry, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe to publisher after publisher, only to repeatedly be rejected. After being turned down by 26 or so houses, the book came to my mom’s grandfather, who read it and loved it, but "was afraid of it," L'Engle later said. He did say he would buy the book, but as I recall my mother telling me—and this may be invented or misremembered—only if L’Engle made certain changes. Whether that’s true or not, publishing an apparently despised hybrid fantasy-science-fiction book written by a woman and targeted at young girls in 1962 was a risk. It was one that paid off for Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Growing up, I continued to believe that a publisher was not only the person who read and edited the books, but the person who takes chances on books too. In other words, I thought that a publisher was more like an editor. That was a rather fateful confusion, one that would eventually land me in a not insignificant amount of debt, because I was also convinced that the people who picked and edited the books were the ones who ran the company as well. It wasn’t a dream that formed in my head back in second or third grade, but this curiosity in my long-dead relative eventually turned into a very particular career goal: I wanted to be a publisher like my great-grandfather was a publisher. That is, a publisher-editor.

What began as an interest in the man who realized how rad the tesseract was morphed as I grew older and developed as a reader. The more I read, the more I learned of the league of famous writers that were published by the house that John Farrar and Roger Straus co-founded in 1946. But the stories I collected from family members over the years did less to give shape to the man who died a decade before I was born than form a string of moments—some contradictory, some telling—that never seemed to form a cohesive narrative.

There was the shy bookworm my mother described, and the charismatic young literary star who drank with F. Scott Fitzgerald my uncle remembered being told stories about. The Skull and Bones member. The World War II spy. The man who took Carl Jung’s hand at an open window in his study and astral projected over the skies of Manhattan. The short-tempered redhead. The gay, closeted alcoholic. The failed poet. The fading not-quite retiree who read manuscripts at his apartment on 96th Street until he died.

Finding more than anecdotes and remembrances of John Farrar has been difficult. Despite his initial appearing on the spines of numerous Pulitzer- and Nobel-winning books, Farrar’s role in starting and building the house that bears his name has been pushed aside. Roger Straus has long dominated the narrative of FSG. READ MORE

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"The only way the loss-making venture-backed economy can keep chugging along is if there is a constant supply of new money coming in at ever-higher valuations, subsidizing low prices and making earlier investors whole."

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Talking to Nick Frost About Dance, Passion, and 'Cuban Fury'

Nick Frost is putting himself out there. Just as his Cornetto Trilogy collaborators Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg are working on their own individual projects, Frost stars in his first solo lead role in the new romantic comedy Cuban Fury, a warm underdog story emphasizing the importance of passion and the value of challenging oneself.

Frost also lives the movie's message by taking on a technically-demanding role: Cuban Fury is a dance movie, and Frost plays Bruce Garrett, a former child salsa prodigy bullied into giving up his dream now living a safe adult life working for an industrial manufacturing company. Dance is a painful memory pushed firmly out of sight, until Bruce learns his charming American boss Julie (played by Rashida Jones) is into salsa. He dusts off his shoes and dons his sequined shirt once more but not without some significant stumbles.

Directed by James Griffiths, known for directing episodes of TV comedies like Up All Night and Episodes, Cuban Fury also features Chris O'Dowd as Bruce's thoroughly punchable rival for Julie's affections and Ian McShane as a seasoned salsa guru and Bruce's once-mentor.

I recently talked with Frost about the film, his rigorous dance training, and the challenge of embracing one's passion. READ MORE

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Kevin Drew, "Mexican Aftershow Party"


It may be hard for younger readers to remember this but for a brief moment a little more than a decade ago there was a flurry of interest in the music coming out of Canada, a country which had previously been associated mostly with tediousness, monotony, and the occasional worrying placidity epidemic. At the center of this fleeting perception that there might be more to our neighbor to the north than vast acres of empty wilderness and a geniality so torpid that even boredom grew weary of itself was the collective Broken Social Scene and its album You Forgot It In People, a record which would on reflection prove so precisely attuned to its time that listening to it now is an almost whiplash-inducing rocket ride back to the early part of this century. Anyway, Kevin Drew was a big part of this band and here's a new video by him, it's pretty good, I mean I like it at least maybe you will too enjoy. [Via]

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I Wonder How Many People Tripped And Fell While Watching This On Their Phones


"What would happen if 1,500 pedestrians walked across the famous crossing in front of Tokyo’s Shibuya Station while using their smartphones? Only 36 percent would make it to the other side because many would bump into each other or fall, according to a computer simulation by NTT Docomo Inc. that is generating a buzz on the Internet."

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Interactive Theater Comes Into Its Own

This is the second installment in a three-part series on the history of interactive theater, presented by Heineken. Check out the first post here.

Interactive theater has always been with us, but the form bloomed into a dozen variations in the 20th Century. Heineken’s "The Guest of Honor" is an example of the cutting edge of the art, a conglomeration of play, funhouse, and role-playing game.  But to get here, many strains of participatory entertainment had to converge over the last hundred years. 

People who experience events at The McKittrick Hotel, as seen in the video above, often come away comparing it to a haunted house attraction. This form of entertainment, and its sister amusement, the fun house, began in the early 1900s, with ghosts, monsters, killers and oddities interacting with audiences who moved through the attraction at their own pace. READ MORE

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“Dogs are better! Look at Toliver! He’s great, except he snores a lot. He even has his own Instagram. A dog is easier to transport than a child. It’s less final than having a child.”
—"More young women choosing dogs over motherhood"

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"A sharp subway rider warned Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials about a 'skimming' device on a MetroCard machine at the Columbus Circle 1 train station on Wednesday night. The illegal setups are made to blend in with the MetroCard vending machine and its surroundings. They grab electronic information from a debit or credit card when it is swiped to make a payment, and a separate hidden camera catches the PIN number riders enter. On Wednesday, 'an unidentified customer noticed the device, removed it from the machine and brought it to the station agent on duty. The New York Police Department is investigating the device,' MTA officials said."
—Wouldn't it just be easier if they set up an address where I could send all my money in one shot instead of waiting for the various scams and system insecurities to gradually drain it from my account?

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"The author Sue Townsend, whose most popular character Adrian Mole defined a generation, has died at the age of 68. She was best known for the fictional diaries of Adrian Mole, who began confiding his deepest desires and ambitions in the Seceret Diary of Adrian Mole 13 3/4 in 1982. His teenage years were recounted in the Growing Pains of Adrian Mole and further novels dealt with married life and middle age. Townsend died on Thursday evening after a stroke."
This is also good.

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"People always bring up that Huffington Post article. What I think is missed in that discussion is that that article is super useful. Every year I need to know when the Super Bowl is. I always forget. I often find that article. It tells me exactly what time the Super Bowl is."

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Item In News + Other Item In News = Comedy Traffic Goldmine

This is a very interesting piece on how the New Yorker is thinking about digital and the future. Here is what seems to me like a very true thing: "Readers are more likely to read and finish long stories on their phones than on their computers."

But then also I did a search on this article's page for "Borowitz" and didn't find anything?

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The Life Cycle Of A Pop Song

Conception Phase
The song is born in a basement, a warehouse, or among buskers on the street or subway station. The song may not be entirely finished yet.

Underground Phase
The song is played to a small crowd of 3 – 20 friends, mostly drunk, incoherent, and incapable of judging its quality.

Ambivalent Phase
You hear it in concert and no one cares. It’s not worth bragging to your friends, even if you secretly like the song.

Connected Phase
You hear the song and it’s so refined that it’s good. Your first thoughts are, “Is this real? Am I hearing this?” This is the great “aha” effect that every artistically mastered song aims to achieve on its audience. The listener can get this effect at any stage, but it usually comes before the listener becomes aware of the popularity level or corporate label attached to the band.

Indie Phase
You hear the song at a professional “indie” level, whether it’s on an indie soundtrack, on an indie station, at an indie music venue, or from an indie record label. The song is independent of capitalist gains and the artist maintains maximum control of production, but for how long is the question.

What now, Grimes?

Hipster Phase
This phase is when the song is still indie but with an added element of pretension. You may hear it in concert before everybody else does. However if you say, “I heard this before anyone else,” people may call you a hipster and a “hipster” is deemed bad, so please use the line with discretion.

Did you get turned away from that Ratking album release show on 14th Street the other day? No amount of “knowing the venue managers” could have gotten you into that one.

READ MORE

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New York City, April 9, 2014

★★★★  Someone found it irresistible to start jackhammering in the earliest daylight. Downtown, a woman in a light dress and broad-brimmed hat posed for a photograph in the bicycle lane, after pausing for a cyclist to go by. The sun backlit the clouds into fierce whiteness–white puffy cumulus clouds and clustered white shreds, as if a whole cloud had exploded or been shot out of the sky. A brick-scattered glow filled the six o'clock streets, and the wind had a gently autumnal bite.

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With the latest volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle appearing in English soon, a flurry of Karl Ove Knausgaard coverage is bound to accompany it. As a big Karl Ove Knausgaard fan, I approve.

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What It's Like to Live in Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach moves in waves, like purple against the sea, airbrushed angels and what looks like Marilyn Monroe done up in Bedazzled cotton with denim tassels, as if to say Welcome, I’m some type of mermaid, nothing matters.

A bunch of guys with UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA shirts pound their chasers back. A volleyball hits the deck. I’ve got sand in my teeth. Something is thumping somewhere, but gets silenced the farther you get from the beachside bar, silenced by the boom of waves and the deep of the ocean horizon, a guttural clurng that you can imagine would eat steel and oar right up.

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Bus route 70 follows Sunset Drive, taking the bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway to the strip of land between the sea and the fresh water, the strip of land where we live. It stops regularly beside the remains of old business and empty lots made romantic by the palm trees and magnolia blossoms.

People start running past the bus that’s parked at the station. There’s a chunk of purple hair-extension left on the cement outside the door. I had my headphones in, so I missed whatever event just happened.

Thought we were being invaded by aliens there for a minute or something, the bus driver says. Just a couple girls fighting.

He pulls the lever to close the door before we lurch out past the crowd. Most of them are smiling as they stream through the bus station and out into the sharp light, beyond where we can see. READ MORE

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"A crime-fighting parrot has saved his owner after she was pushed to the ground in a park."

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Jamie xx, "Sleep Sound"


This works either with or without visuals, but if you watch the video make sure to read the intro on the clip, which gives things an entirely different dimension. [Via]

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"What separates Martin’s books from the pack is that his made-up world of Westeros feels more 'real' than other made-up worlds like Tolkien’s Middle Earth or Brooks’s Shannara. There’s very little magic in the series, and when something supernatural happens, everyone is freaked out and confused. The characters have sex (mostly sex that would be illegal today), get tortured, betray one another, and die incredibly easily and often for very little reason—just like real people involved in a medieval war would have. One of the first plot points is a child getting thrown off a ledge and crippled after he witnesses some nasty-ass incest; one major character gets killed on the toilet and shits all over the place as he dies. So the books are earthy, you might say. More importantly, anyone in Martin’s world who strives for nobility, honor, or any other trait lauded in traditional fantasy novels inevitably ends up impaled on a spike or crippled and humiliated by the amoral crooks who always come out on top. Like I said, this is more realistic than most epic fantasy."

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How We Think About Class


In his memoir, the late Christopher Hitchens offered the following pithy summation of class in the United States:

An old joke has an Oxford professor meeting an American former graduate student and asking him what he's working on these days. 'My thesis is on the survival of the class system in the United States.' 'Oh really, that's interesting: one didn't think there was a class system in the United States.' 'Nobody does. That's how it survives.

This should come as no surprise in the country where everyone, rich or poor, sees herself as middle class. But a recent experience reminded me that class is real, we can have strong assumptions about it, and talking about it can get heated and personal almost as quickly as talking about race.

A couple weeks ago, my girlfriend, my kids, and I were eating at a restaurant in our neighborhood in Hartford, Conn. Because our neighborhood is overwhelmingly Hispanic and Spanish-speaking, the waiter was Hispanic and Spanish-speaking, and we are Hispanic (my girlfriend) and Spanish-speaking (both of us), we ordered in Spanish. (Spanish makes up about 50% of the communication in our home and appreciably more of our interactions with neighbors and local businesses.) When my girlfriend ordered a beer, the waiter told her that there had been a delay in renewing the restaurant’s liquor license, so they couldn’t serve alcohol for a few days, but then said he could serve us but it would have to be in a cup. She said that was fine, but he ended up just bringing the bottle to the table, and we figured that was that.

READ MORE

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