"Because technology plays such a huge part in our lives, we might think a little more carefully about how our course is being set by a small number of narrowly self-interested parties. Is the future being planned in a way that benefits our society, our culture and our economy? Or are those responsible mostly mindful of the chance of a solid-gold exit strategy?"
In 1914 Max Beerbohm wrote to Vyvyan Holland, the younger son of Oscar and Constance Wilde, on the occasion of Holland's wedding. Beerbohm sent his regrets for not having been able to attend the wedding, together with a present.
It has the advantage of being easily breakable if you don't like it. The glasses are (you will be relieved to hear) of British manufacture, but I can't tell you just when they were made. I asked the old man in the shop to tell me the date of them. Whereat he stroked his chin and, looking at me over his spectacles, said "Well, Sir, what would you say to [...]
David: So, had your mind blown in a very understated way by any octogenarian restaurant critics lately?
Maria: Yes, and marveled at their sangfroid, also.
David: If we will all remember this past week as the one in which Marilyn Hagerty, elderly journalist in Grand Forks, North Dakota, became famous for a very factual review of a new Olive Garden—and was then punished for it by having to talk to Piers Morgan on CNN, as she will be tonight—it's still a little unclear how she and we got here. That is, I'm still trying to figure out what The Internet thought about all this. It had some [...]
Romance fiction is widely reckoned to be a very low form of literature. Maybe the lowest, if we're not counting the writing at Groupon, or on Splenda packets. Romance fiction: probably the worst! An addictive, absurd, unintellectual literature, literature for nonreaders, literature for stupid people—literature for women! Books Just For Her!
Low or not, romance is by far the most popular and lucrative genre in American publishing, with over $1.35 billion in revenues estimated in 2010. That is a little less than twice the size of the mystery genre, almost exactly twice that of science fiction/fantasy, and nearly three times the size of the market for classic/literary fiction, according to [...]
On July 16, 1945, the first atomic bomb test took place in the Tularosa Basin of the Jornada del Muerto desert near Socorro, New Mexico. Just three weeks later, Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be bombed: the only time nuclear weapons have ever been used in war. The test was code-named Trinity, and it forced a radical shift in the way that human beings came to regard their place on earth; from that day onward, for almost seventy years, we've lived in the uneasy knowledge that a very few people might gain the power to destroy all civilization—all life, even. The events of this day produced the chief wellspring of [...]
Having gabbed at some length regarding Hollywood's abject betrayal of our cultural hunger for narrative, Elmo Keep and Maria Bustillos repaired to the movies to remedy the defects in their Summer Blockbuster education this weekend. Keep took in The Amazing Spider-Man, and Bustillos, Prometheus.
EK: I quite enjoyed the Spider-Movie!
MB: NO, Elmo.
EK: Tell me why this new one fails. It is pretty audacious I guess. You could not call something "The Amazing Prometheus."
MB: They're trying to be retro. And FAILING to be retro. O the terrible heart-clutching betrayal of this new Spider-Man.
MB: Here's the thing. The myth of Spider-Man is that he's an [...]
Here is a tweet that Gawker writer Max Read retweeted a few days ago.
— max read (@max_read) May 23, 2012
So, sort of a backstory, to begin. Last week brought us two Internet rumpuses regarding and/or demonstrating an especially privileged kind of blindness/obliviousness/ridiculousness. One was TED curator Chris Anderson's flabbergasting decision to withdraw a TED speech about wealth inequality on the grounds that it was "too political." The other, John Scalzi's head-patting essays on Kotaku, comparing [...]
"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."—Oscar Wilde, "The Critic as Artist"
An old friend once told me a story about her son Edison and this other kid he grew up with, Brendan. It seems that when they were really little, like six or so, the boys were on a soccer team, they were playing soccer and Edison fell and was hurt. And everybody clustered round and was all ooh, ahh, to make sure he was okay. Straightaway, Brendan totally faked an injury of his own, thumped to earth and started wailing, so that [...]
February marked the twenty-first anniversary of the publication of a book of poems by the gifted actor Ally Sheedy. It was called Yesterday I Saw the Sun, and she was famously excoriated for it. Sheedy was then 28 years old and coming off a very bad patch, including a stint at Hazelden; she had picked up an addiction to Halcion during an ill-fated fling with Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, and her friend Demi Moore is said to have scooped up the remains of Sheedy and posted them to rehab by way of an intervention. Terrible business, but the braying press went after her anyway. "Ally Sheedy from bad to [...]
David: I need a haircut, Maria. I look like a duckling right now.
Maria: And a stiff drink, if you listened to that radio interview with Caitlin Flanagan, like we were supposed to. Evidently the women of America had calmed down too much since her last book, To Hell With All That, caused such a ruckus over what was widely perceived as the author's throwback and essentialist anti-feminist ideology. So not content to get people in a stir with Atlantic Monthly and New Yorker appearances, she's written a new one, Girl Land. Even the cover of which is pretty provoking.
All these moms are fine [...]
Data from StatCounter.
Did you know that most of Firefox's budget comes from Google? That is because Google pays the Mozilla Corporation, the for-profit arm of the Mozilla Foundation, a share of ad revenue gained by displaying Google as the default Firefox search engine. By most, really, one means "almost all": in 2010, 84% of Mozilla's royalty revenue came from Google, and royalties counted for $121 million of the Foundation's $123 million in income. Pretty good sugar.
The agreement expired in November. (It first expired in 2006, was renewed through 2008 and then again through 2011.) The rapid growth of Google's Chrome browser threatened the survival [...]
In June of 1889, Andrew Carnegie published his essay "Wealth" in the North American Review: a famous document, as remarkable for the author’s delusional self-regard as it is for the case he makes for private philanthropy. The steel baron launched his argument with the dumbfounding claim that until "the past few hundred years [of human history] there was little difference between the dwelling, dress, food, environment of the chief and those of his retainers." He then sails blithely along to insist that we should all welcome the changes in society that make violent wealth inequality inevitable, because the benefits of wealth must inevitably trickle down to the least [...]
Almost exactly a year ago I spoke via email with ex-WikiLeaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg. He and the four or five others who'd defected from WikiLeaks in September of 2010 were already at work on OpenLeaks, a successor organization with the same basic goal: to maintain a secure platform where sensitive documents of interest to the public can be uploaded by whistleblowers and anonymously distributed to the press.
Now OpenLeaks is just about ready to launch. Domscheit-Berg gave a presentation on the project some days ago at the Share 2 conference in Belgrade, and I just had to get over there to hear it. (I don't know! All [...]
If I could award a prize for the best chapter title ever given in a work of fiction, I would bestow it at once on British author Ernest Bramah for the title of Chapter III of Kai Lung's Golden Hours (1922): "The Degraded Persistence of the Effete Ming-Shu." Bramah is better known for his blind detective, Max Carrados, but to my mind the comic tales of Kai Lung (most of them free on Project Gutenberg) are his best. They are sublime, particularly if you enjoy a rococo, antiquated, kooky imitation-Chinese English style:
"It has been said," he began at length, withdrawing his eyes reluctantly from an unusually large [...]
In early 2003, when evidence emerged that plans for war against Iraq were not merely afoot, but were looking more and more like a fait accompli, the French advised the luridly stupid and prevaricating administration of Bush II against an invasion. This sound suggestion was roundly condemned by nearly every Republican who could get in front of a microphone, culminating in possibly the dumbest episode of the run-up to the war: the announcement of Representatives Robert W. Ney and Walter B. Jones, Jr. that thenceforth the various House restaurants would be serving "freedom fries," rather than French fries. "This action today is a small but symbolic effort to show [...]
The Times and a host of other publications heralded last week's new study extolling the lifelong money-earning benefits of having a good primary/middle-school teacher. Oh, yay! Let's do what these economists from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggest, right?
Actually, ugh, no. What economists Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah Rockoff of Columbia want to do, apparently, is to identify and fire "weaker" teachers, for the sake of a barely perceptible increase in students' "lifetime income." Nobody has actually tried this yet; the report doesn't describe an experiment. It's just the conclusion they draw from their analysis of massive amounts [...]
David Roth: A film about Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung and ostensibly weird sex, from a director who has spent his career making films about how terrified/fascinated/aroused/disgusted/disgusto-roused humans are by their bodies and what they do and the horrible things that come out of them. So why, Maria Bustillos, would the two things I remember most from A Dangerous Method be 1) how cruel my female friends were about Keira Knightley's breasts and 2) the nagging question of whether David Cronenberg is trying to make interesting movies anymore?
Maria Bustillos: A film worth seeing, I thought—though not one worth talking about until after, so I'm glad we waited. I [...]