Never gets old: Actual one-star Amazon reviews of literary classics.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1955) “I am obsessed with Survivor, so I thought it would be fun. WRONG!!! It is incredibly boring and disgusting. I was very much disturbed when I found young children killing each other. I think that anyone with a conscience would agree with me.”
Chessboxing is almost exactly what you probably think it is.
Chessboxing at the Scala was a strange mix of spectacle and sport; the evening started with Bambi, a young woman clad in a silver spangly bustier and torn fishnet stockings who pranced around the ring to Rihanna’s “Only Girl In The World,” put a lit cigarette out on her tongue, and hammered a nail up her nose. But the crowd response to Bambi was tepid. They were here for the chessboxing, although they weren’t entirely sure what that meant—for many, this was their first time.
The New Yorker, with help from Aaron Swartz and Kevin Poulsen, has launched a thing called Strongbox so people can anonymously send them files.
Strongbox is a simple thing in its conception: in one sense, it’s just an extension of the mailing address we printed in small type on the inside cover of the first issue of the magazine, in 1925, later joined by a phone number (in 1928—it was BRyant 6300) and e-mail address (in 1998). Readers and sources have long sent documents to the magazine and its reporters, from letters of complaint to classified papers. (Joshua Rothman has written about that history and the magazine’s record of investigative journalism.) But, over the years, it’s also become easier to trace the senders, even when they don’t want to be found. Strongbox addresses that; as it’s set up, even we won’t be able to figure out where files sent to us come from. If anyone asks us, we won’t be able to tell them.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are wed.
GIL: Marriage is play.
ROSE: Marriage is an errand.
GIL: The Judge said it was the most reasonable ransom note he’d ever read.
ROSE: It was a license for marriage that we both did sign.
GIL: True that.
ROSE: And you have the rings?
GIL: You mean nooses.
ROSE: That’s a borrowed cliché.
I’m a fan of a lot of Morozov’s writing, but this criticism isn’t wrong. (Also, if you do follow him on Twitter, which I did for awhile, you definitely start to think he’s kind of a dick.)
But Morozov’s criticism seems to me to be neither complex, nor realistic, nor moral. He is anything but a dialectician. He has little respect for anyone whose opinion deviates from his own—surely the first quality required of a real scholar. He maintains a pyrotechnically unfortunate Twitter feed, wherein he will totally yell at and abuse anybody who contradicts him: to my mind that reflects very badly on Morozov, and not at all on his targets. For a person who seemingly wants to be congratulated on his scholarship, you’d think he would adhere to the most basic obligations of scholarship, like paying close attention to the arguments you are attacking, giving your opponent his due, representing his ideas fairly and accurately, listening to his responses and attending to them respectfully, and so on. Ha! Well. This book!—basically, it’s a glorious victory over an army of straw men.
Can chess become the next poker?
The commentators were no Marv Alberts, but they nevertheless managed to liven up the games. Grandmaster Nigel Short and International Master Lawrence Trent had some particularly snappy badinage: “I think it’s matey-matey!” “Ooh, that’s a bit ticklish.” “It’s smelly for black.” “Ahh, you Petrosian lover… That’s a rubbish rook!”
HAMLET My excellent good friends! How do ye four?
ROSENCRANTZ As the indifferent children of the earth.
GUILDENSTERN Happy, in that we are not over-happy; On fortune’s cap we are not the very button.
HALL Mmmm, yeah. Mmmm, yeah, hey.
HAMLET There is a kind of confession in your looks Which your modesties have not craft enough to colour: I know the good king and queen have sent for you.
HALL Don’t you know That it’s wrong to take What he’s giving you; You can get along If you try to be strong But you’ll never be strong.
HAMLET (long pause) I… sure.
Secular humanism and the new, post-Dawkins atheists.
What, if anything, do these newer atheists have to say? In previous generations, the atheist was keen to insist that non-believers can be just as moral as believers. These days, this is more or less taken for granted. What distinguishes the newer atheist is his admission that non-believers can be just as immoral as believers. Rejecting religion is no sure path to virtue; it is more likely to lead to complacent self-regard, or ideological arrogance.
In 2001, researcher Frédéric Brochet invited 54 wine experts to give their opinions on what were ostensibly two glasses of different wine: one red, and one white. In actuality, the two wines were identical, with one exception: the “red” wine had been dyed with food coloring.
The experts described the “red” wine in language typically reserved for characterizing reds. They called it “jammy,” for example, and noted the flavors imparted by its “crushed red fruit.” Not one of the 54 experts surveyed noticed that it was, in fact a white wine.
Just so you know, the photos of your junk that you send via SnapChat aren’t actually deleted a few seconds later. And for $300–$500, a company will extract them from people’s phones.
The reason the photos don’t vanish appears to be due to the way the makers of Snapchat designed the program. Hickman said that rather than have the program delete the files, it affixes the file extension “.NOMEDIA.”
That extension makes the pictures unviewable to most people, but Hickman said forensics experts have the capability to simply take the files out of the phone and change the .NOMEDIA extension. The pictures are then viewable once again.
Pornography is increasingly becoming a topic of academic study.
Most of my students were born in the early-to-mid-1990s; they hit puberty under the influence of two conflicting social realities: the widespread availability of broadband and the Bush-era abstinence-only sex education policies. The latter deprived far too many of them of accurate, comprehensive, pleasure-based information about sex; increasing access to the former meant that Internet pornography became the primary and ubiquitous source of information about the birds and the bees. What was designed to arouse and entertain now is expected to educate as well. As Deen put it when he spoke to my students, “It’s as if instead of offering driver’s ed, we taught you how to operate a car by showing you a James Bond movie.”
David Denby’s review of The Great Gatsby. Spoiler: he doesn’t love it.
Fitzgerald wrote of Jay Gatsby, “He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that—and he must be about His Father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty.” Gatsby’s excess—his house, his clothes, his celebrity guests—is designed to win over his beloved Daisy. Luhrmann’s vulgarity is designed to win over the young audience, and it suggests that he’s less a filmmaker than a music-video director with endless resources and a stunning absence of taste.
The story of how Instagram ended up getting $1-billion from Facebook. (Titled “The Money Shot.” And in Vanity Fair, no less.)
“They got a lot of traffic from Facebook,” Zuckerberg says. “And it occurred to me we could be one company.” Presumably, it also occurred to him that the then little Instagram could pose a very real threat to Facebook. It was not an idle worry: Instagram was hip, elegant, fun, and “mobile-first,” and moving to mobile was a burgeoning problem for the largely desktop-bound Facebook.
Most of all, Instagram represented the constant fear that even the greatest of Internet giants fret about daily: in Silicon Valley, the young can sometimes eat the old, instead of the other way around.
Yet so many people seem enchanted enough by the decadence described in Fitzgerald’s book to ignore its fairly obvious message of condemnation. Gatsby parties can be found all over town. They are staples of spring on many Ivy League campuses and a frequent theme of galas in Manhattan. Just the other day, vacation rental startup Airbnb sent out invitations to a “Gatsby-inspired soiree” at a multi-million-dollar home on Long Island, seemingly oblivious to the novel’s undertones.
It’s like throwing a Lolita-themed children’s birthday party.
Why does asparagus make your pee smell funny?
Asparagusic acid, as the name implies, is (to our knowledge) only found in asparagus. When our bodies digest the vegetable, they break down this chemical into a group of related sulfur-containing compounds with long, complicated names (including dimethyl sulfide, dimethyl disulfide, dimethyl sulfoxide and dimethyl sulfone). As with many other substances that include sulfur—such as garlic, skunk spray and odorized natural gas—these sulfur-containing molecules convey a powerful, typically unpleasant scent.
Previously: Why does coffee make you poop?
What’s up with the New Yorker and all the fucking double consonants?
The style book gives no reason for this spelling choice. What would be the point? Nothing makes the eyes glaze over so totally as the effort to codify the rules for doubling consonants when adding suffixes.
Also: Other New Yorker style oddities.
The quiet breakdown your science teacher was having during every Bill Nye the Science Guy video he played instead of teaching.
The tape clicks into the VCR and Mr. Taylor sinks into the chair behind his desk. Bill Nye’s reveling theme song blares and his disembodied head spins past on a background of whirling planets. Mr. Taylor can still taste the stale pang of a bottle of Charles Shaw Shiraz on the back of his throat. Bar graphs pulsate and a triceratops runs by. Mr. Taylor is a bad science teacher. Mr. Taylor is aware of this.
A lament for Hotmail, which is no longer. (My first Hotmail account was back when it was still HoTMaiL. Get it? HTML? But email?)
You pioneered a business model. In your own lifetime, this awkward web service from Silicon Valley altered the world’s notion of fair exchange (and later on, what privacy we were willing to throw away). Most people didn’t know it at the time, but we had become the product. It made me feel proud to be a part of a new phase of online commerce.
Fun fact: we took cocaine out of Coke mostly because we’re racist.
Anyone with a nickel, black or white, could now drink the cocaine-infused beverage. Middle-class whites worried that soft drinks were contributing to what they saw as exploding cocaine use among African-Americans. Southern newspapers reported that “negro cocaine fiends” were raping white women, the police powerless to stop them.
What happened to the kids from Kids?
Those of us who watched Kids as adolescents, growing up in an era before iPhones, Facebook, and Tiger Moms, had our minds blown from wherever we were watching–whether it was the Angelika Film Center on the Lower East Side or our parents’ Midwestern basements. We were captivated by the entirely unsupervised teens smoking blunts, drinking forties, hooking up, running amok and reckless through the New York City streets. Simultaneously, the driving storyline highlighted the terror of HIV and AIDS, which was at its apex in the mid-nineties.
What will the Apple, iPod and iTunes legacy look like in the grand scheme of music consumption?
This wasn’t just another mass-produced corporate product; the iPod was a mode of self-expression, a revolutionary force shaping modern life, a new prism through which we perceived and understood the world. The iPod’s sex appeal was so vast and all-encompassing that iTunes — the program you had to have if you wanted to, ahem, insert your music collection into your iPod — was sultry by association.
In retrospect, the iPod turned out to be just another mass-produced corporate product. Apple’s original tagline — “1,000 songs in your pocket” — seems adorably quaint now. One thousand songs! Hot dog! Next you’ll tell me that I can watch an entire season of Game of Thrones over the course of a few weeks, so long as I mail these red envelopes back promptly!
Instapaper has been sold to Betaworks. That’s the people who currently own Digg and are supposedly working on a Google Reader replacement, which makes for an interesting convergence of products.
I’m happy to announce that I’ve sold a majority stake in Instapaper to Betaworks. We’ve structured the deal with Instapaper’s health and longevity as the top priority, with incentives to keep it going well into the future. I will continue advising the project indefinitely, while Betaworks will take over its operations, expand its staff, and develop it further.
OK Computer is a truly experimental album from a band who already pushes loads of musical boundaries. But there should be a distinction made between what the band is doing and what I think real experimentation entails. Regardless of the artist, be it Kelly Clarkson or Kraftwerk, there should be this thrill that something new and potentially frightening is happening, that the band/singer is throwing off the familiar and embracing the unknown. With Radiohead, there’s none of that, and the band are merely doing away with structure, randomly banging on their instruments and making silly noises, capturing whatever may result. In this way, their “experimentation” actually comes off less as a means of creative exploration and more of a half-hearted excuse to do something new while creating an out if it all falls to pieces. In fact, so much of their process feels like it falls into one narrow and constrictive category.