Some years ago an engineer at Google told me why Google wasn't collecting information linked to people's names. It's not just about Big Data.
Not long ago, I was at a dinner with the chief executive of a large bank. Not long ago, a woman in Tacoma, Wash., received a suggestion from Facebook that she "friend" another woman. Not long ago, I sent a dozen friends an electronic invitation to a party.
The crossword puzzle can seem utterly authorless. If you haven't caught the documentary Wordplay, or bothered to look up the name that appears in tiny agate type below the grid in The New York Times, you might join many others in assuming that the crossword is written by editor Will Shortz. Or volunteers. Or a computer.
In fact, crosswords are made by people (called constructors) whose status is roughly equivalent to freelance writers—that is to say, low. Puzzles are sent on spec to editors, who buy them or turn them down, and who fine-tune the ones they accept without, as a nearly universal rule, consulting the constructor. Submissions may sit [...]
"The ants are savage, relentless, capturing as many as 30,000 prey items in a single day. They scale trees to pull down giant scorpions, raid wasps’ nests and overwhelm the defenses of even the most violent Africanized bees. Any life form lying in the ants’ path knows its only chance is to try to leap away—and the antbirds know it, too. The birds swoop down and pick off as many of the harrowed menu items as they can get away with, a kleptoparasitism that ends up reducing the ants’ hunting success by one-sixth. Each of the three types of antbird makes its grab from a particular position around the [...]
Gore Vidal despised the New York Times through and through and would barely have stomached his obituary in that paper today, as credit-giving and realistic and praising as it is. Charles McGrath notes some of the impetus for this hatred in the obituary itself: the fallout from his 1948 book The City and the Pillar: "Mr. Vidal later claimed that the literary and critical establishment, The New York Times especially, had blacklisted him because of the book, and he may have been right." Oh, that "may have" would have done him in.
Writing in the New York Times in 1977—nearly thirty years after The City and the Pillar!—the very [...]
“[That] anti-establishment, sticking-it-to-the-man mentality. They’re the ones saying, ‘I’m going to butcher a whole pig and serve you its face, and if you don’t like it, too bad.’” —Lollapalooza culinary director Graham Elliot, on how celebrity chefs are the new rock stars. You know, for the most part, I am okay with the cultural ascendance of food in America. I like food and I like it to be good, and if silly fetishization and despicable words like "foodie" are the price to pay for an increase in the quality and availability of things for me to eat, fine. But this is all starting to feel like a [...]
"Are 18- to 34-year-olds too young to be nostalgic? Evidently not. Starting next Monday, TeenNick, part of the Nickelodeon family of cable channels for children, will start rebroadcasting old series from the 1990s that are considered classics by young adults. That’s right: classics from the 1990s."
I am surprised that the New York Timesfinds this surprising. My sophomore year of college, 1991, this guy I knew threw an '80s Party. Where people dressed up in '80s fashions and danced to '80s music. The early '80s held sway, apparently: pastel leg-warmers and off-the-shoulder Flashdance sweatshirts, Flock of Seagulls and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I didn't go to [...]
Mid-East peace. The China-Japan Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute. Diabetes. A desire for a Manhattan apartment. Living in New York. The European bank crisis. A personal dream of opening a Mediterranean restaurant. Unsolved cases of lost New York cell phones. Climate change for Republicans. Equity for Libyan women. American social issues. Playwright Jon Fosse’s career. Carrots. The Aquada, an amphibious sports car. Quota reform at the IMF to alleviate Eurocentrism. A dictum that interior designer David Wiseman once heard: ‘Ask the material what it would like to be.’ A plan to install a floating shelf. What to do with the millions of Palestinians.
The national editor, Sam Sifton, rejected the argument. “There’s a lot of reasonable disagreement on both sides,” he said. One side says there’s not significant voter fraud; the other side says there’s not significant voter suppression. “It’s not our job to litigate it in the paper,” Mr. Sifton said. “We need to state what each side says.”
It’s easy to look at our media industrial complex and forget that its members were once young and hungry, that they had to hustle, grease sources and report stories within an inch of life. One can imagine these scrappers delirious just to see a byline buried on B4 or, God forbid, a sidebar. They sammy glicked their way through the newsroom. No one exited the womb a star.
Even so, these people seem to exist only in the ever-present. We see Juan Williams as Hannity’s graying foil—who sold out for the change in Roger Ailes' pocket—but not the guy who, in 1987, churned out a gorgeous profile of a [...]
"Claiborne observed everything when he was reviewing, but ultimately he judged restaurants by what came out of the kitchen. As this idea caught on, it became harder to confuse the country’s best restaurants with the ones that were merely favored by the aristocracy. A different hierarchy in dining, ordered by creativity and excellence in cuisine, was slowly taking shape under the guidance of a new aristocracy: an aristocracy of taste. Today, we call members of this aristocracy 'foodies.'” —I wish we didn't, as that word only makes me think of children's pajamas, which are distinctly unappetizing, and which I am sad to learn that they also make for adults. [...]
Here's another thing to worry about while you're up all night tossing and turning because you can't fall asleep because you're worrying about stuff too much: Norwegian researchers recently found that "people who had trouble falling asleep had a 45 percent increased relative risk of heart attack" compared to people who didn't have sleep problems. Oh, but also, scientists in Colorado have discovered the chemical secret to the healthy elasticity of python hearts, and have have had success in transferring it to lab mice. So in the future, we may prevent heart attacks by drinking the blood of giant snakes. If that helps you to relax.
"The Times newsroom, like most corporate nerve centers, is a labyrinth of intrigue, gossip, back-biting, rumor, false piety, rampant ambition, betrayal and deception. Those who play this game well are repugnant. They are also usually the people who run the place." —This is a pretty brutal take-down of the documentary Page One, written by Chris Hedges, and to be fair, the film really has it coming. It is also a pretty nasty and appropriate attack on Bill Keller, who was indeed a war cheerleader. (Never forget!) In the film, the main characters—David Carr, Brian Stelter and Captain Eye Candy, Tim Arango—come off great and are shown to their [...]
“I would call guys I was friendly with, guys who had their hands on big ad budgets, to see if they wanted to go to happy hour or get something to eat. And they’d say: ‘Are you drinking? No? Don’t worry about it.’” —On the burden of having to drink for business. You know what they say: working in ad-sales is just like being lead guitarist for the Replacements. Related, below: all the drinks of "Mad Men."
“What we’re doing is taking something like a hot dog cart that is so everyday and so mainstream, and we’re showing people that vibrators are mainstream.” —Bruce Weiss, vice president of marketing at Trojan Vibrations, discusses his company's potentially dangerous plan to distribute 10,000 free vibrators from two hot dog carts that will be wheeled around Manhattan.
"Romney is going to have to define a vision of modern capitalism. He’s going to have to separate his vision from the scandals and excesses we’ve seen over the last few years. He needs to define the kind of capitalist he is and why the country needs his virtues. Let’s face it, he’s not a heroic entrepreneur. He’s an efficiency expert. It has been the business of his life to take companies that were mediocre and sclerotic and try to make them efficient and dynamic. It has been his job to be the corporate version of a personal trainer: take people who are puffy and self-indulgent and whip them [...]
Although I’m huge on newspapers, no New York newspaper seems to fit my demographic: aging socialist who only wants to read the Sports Page and Garfield. I give up on newspapers ruthlessly and as permanently as I can. The Boston Globe and The New York Times were the first to go by the wayside. The Globe because The New York Times destroyed it, and then The Times because of their craven build-up to the Iraq War. That, and all their annoying Brooklyn trend pieces. I read the Boston Herald in Boston, minus the entire front section (except the always-enjoyable “The Inside Track,” because I want to know what Matt [...]
"Alabama’s reputation has also taken a huge hit just when it is trying to lure international businesses. No matter how officials may try to tempt foreign automakers, say, with low taxes and wages, the state is already infamous as a regional capital of xenophobia." —It's funny how times change. It was only 40 years ago that Alabama was infamous as a regional capital of racism.