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In the News 24.04.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 24.04.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 24.04.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 24.04.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The Deep Space of Digital Reading

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In A History of Reading, the Canadian novelist and essayist Alberto Manguel describes a remarkable transformation of human consciousness, which took place around the 10th century A.D.: the advent of silent reading. Human beings have been reading for thousands of years, but in antiquity, the normal thing was to read aloud. When Augustine (the future St. Augustine) went to see his teacher, Ambrose, in Milan, in 384 A.D., he was stunned to see him looking at a book and not saying anything. With the advent of silent reading, Manguel writes,

… the reader was at last able to establish an unrestricted relationship with the book and the words. The words no longer needed to occupy the time required to pronounce them. They could exist in interior space, rushing on or barely begun, fully deciphered or only half-said, while the reader’s thoughts inspected them at leisure, drawing new notions from them, allowing comparisons from memory or from other books left open for simultaneous perusal.

To read silently is to free your mind to reflect, to remember, to question and compare. The cognitive scientist Maryanne Wolf calls this freedom “the secret gift of time to think”: When the reading brain becomes able to process written symbols automatically, the thinking brain, the I, has time to go beyond those symbols, to develop itself and the culture in which it lives.

Read the rest of this article at Nautilus

Irving Penn: An Oral History

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NEW YORK, United States — Irving Penn’s 1950 photograph of Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, his wife and muse, is quietly complicated. There’s the absolute stillness and triangular proportion of her gravity-defying pose, which is seemingly undulating and uncomfortable, homage perhaps to the rigorous Edwardian S-silhouette, yet simultaneously weightless and zen. The structured Rochas gown and translucent chiffon shawl is offset by soft, murky daylight, however a shadow looms in the top left corner, akin to a stormy Renaissance landscape dramatically orchestrated by a divine hand. And beyond all the high-chic froideur, the trappings of the studio are consciously present as a pertinent reminder of the photographer’s visual craftsmanship — this is not just an ideal; it’s real, Penn seems to be stressing. The result is a powerful image with a depth and formality imbued with the reality of post-war life; a quintessential mid-century fashion photograph.

Penn was clearly not just a fashion photographer and his oeuvre was unrestricted by genre. Such was the brilliance of his eye that Edna Woolman Chase, the white-gloved editor of American Vogue during the first half of the 20th century, said that his photos “burned through the page”— and she didn’t mean it as a compliment. Decades later, Penn’s mentor and friend Alexander Liberman, editorial director of Condé Nast from 1962 to 1994, described his singular images as “stoppers” — images so visually arresting that they stopped you from turning the page. Beyond the regal couture-clad models in Balenciaga and Dior, however, the New Jersey-born photographer’s innovations were countless and his sympathetic Rolleiflex lens would cast a blue-collar craftsperson and an indigenous native in the same fascinating light as a Hollywood star or illustrious literati.

Read the rest of this article at BOF

Cooking Lessons

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A little over a year ago, in a small building at the corner of East 103rd Street and Anzac Avenue in South Los Angeles, chef Daniel Patterson zigzagged among trainees in the bright clean kitchen of what was about to become Locol, the fast-food restaurant with a mission. Patterson was 47 years old, bone-pale and wiry, and among the most creative American chefs of his generation. He owned five restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area and had another on the way. He was also one of the cool kids of international fine dining, invited to speak at the most prestigious culinary conferences and part of a circle of friends that includes the Italian chef Massimo Bottura, the Danish chef René Redzepi, and the Australian chef Ben Shewry, owners of, respectively, the restaurants currently ranked first, fifth, and 33rd in the world.

Patterson’s trainees were almost entirely from Jordan Downs, the 714-unit public housing project in Watts. Many had never been employed before, and those with prior cooking experience had worked mostly in conventional fast food or prison cafeterias. They paid rapt attention as Patterson showed them how to weigh out patty-size balls of Locol’s signature burger blend, a pale pink combination of ground beef, tofu, barley, quinoa, and seaweed.

Read the rest of this article at The California Sunday Magazine




Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria

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You were going to get one-click access to the full text of nearly every book that’s ever been published. Books still in print you’d have to pay for, but everything else—a collection slated to grow larger than the holdings at the Library of Congress, Harvard, the University of Michigan, at any of the great national libraries of Europe—would have been available for free at terminals that were going to be placed in every local library that wanted one.

At the terminal you were going to be able to search tens of millions of books and read every page of any book you found. You’d be able to highlight passages and make annotations and share them; for the first time, you’d be able to pinpoint an idea somewhere inside the vastness of the printed record, and send somebody straight to it with a link. Books would become as instantly available, searchable, copy-pasteable—as alive in the digital world—as web pages.

It was to be the realization of a long-held dream. “The universal library has been talked about for millennia,” Richard Ovenden, the head of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries, has said. “It was possible to think in the Renaissance that you might be able to amass the whole of published knowledge in a single room or a single institution.” In the spring of 2011, it seemed we’d amassed it in a terminal small enough to fit on a desk.

Read the rest of this article at The Atlantic

How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All

Will you pay more for those shoes before 7 p.m.? Would the price tag be different if you lived in the suburbs? Standard prices and simple discounts are giving way to far more exotic strategies, designed to extract every last dollar from the consumer.

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As christmas approached in 2015, the price of pumpkin-pie spice went wild. It didn’t soar, as an economics textbook might suggest. Nor did it crash. It just started vibrating between two quantum states. Amazon’s price for a one-ounce jar was either $4.49 or $8.99, depending on when you looked. Nearly a year later, as Thanksgiving 2016 approached, the price again began whipsawing between two different points, this time $3.36 and $4.69.

We live in the age of the variable airfare, the surge-priced ride, the pay-what-you-want Radiohead album, and other novel price developments. But what was this? Some weird computer glitch? More like a deliberate glitch, it seems. “It’s most likely a strategy to get more data and test the right price,” Guru Hariharan explained, after I had sketched the pattern on a whiteboard.

The right price—the one that will extract the most profit from consumers’ wallets—has become the fixation of a large and growing number of quantitative types, many of them economists who have left academia for Silicon Valley. It’s also the preoccupation of Boomerang Commerce, a five-year-old start-up founded by Hariharan, an Amazon alum. He says these sorts of price experiments have become a routine part of finding that right price—and refinding it, because the right price can change by the day or even by the hour. (Amazon says its price changes are not attempts to gather data on customers’ spending habits, but rather to give shoppers the lowest price out there.)

It may come as a surprise that, in buying a seasonal pie ingredient, you might be participating in a carefully designed social-science experiment. But this is what online comparison shopping hath wrought. Simply put: Our ability to know the price of anything, anytime, anywhere, has given us, the consumers, so much power that retailers—in a desperate effort to regain the upper hand, or at least avoid extinction—are now staring back through the screen. They are comparison shopping us.

They have ample means to do so: the immense data trail you leave behind whenever you place something in your online shopping cart or swipe your rewards card at a store register, top economists and data scientists capable of turning this information into useful price strategies, and what one tech economist calls “the ability to experiment on a scale that’s unparalleled in the history of economics.” In mid-March, Amazon alone had 59 listings for economists on its job site, and a website dedicated to recruiting them.

Read the rest of this article at The Arlantic

CREDITS

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @monalogue; @mylondonfairytales; wsjmag