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In the News 01.05.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 01.05.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 01.05.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 01.05.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Ernest Hemingway, The Art of Fiction No. 21

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Ernest Hemingway writes in the bedroom of his house in the Havana suburb of San Francisco de Paula. He has a special workroom prepared for him in a square tower at the southwest corner of the house, but prefers to work in his bedroom, climbing to the tower room only when “characters” drive him up there.

The bedroom is on the ground floor and connects with the main room of the house. The door between the two is kept ajar by a heavy volume listing and describing The World’s Aircraft Engines. The bedroom is large, sunny, the windows facing east and south letting in the day’s light on white walls and a yellow-tinged tile floor.

The room is divided into two alcoves by a pair of chest-high bookcases that stand out into the room at right angles from opposite walls. A large and low double bed dominates one section, oversized slippers and loafers neatly arranged at the foot, the two bedside tables at the head piled seven-high with books. In the other alcove stands a massive flat-top desk with a chair at either side, its surface an ordered clutter of papers and mementos. Beyond it, at the far end of the room, is an armoire with a leopard skin draped across the top. The other walls are lined with white-painted bookcases from which books overflow to the floor, and are piled on top among old newspapers, bullfight journals, and stacks of letters bound together by rubber bands.

Read the rest of this article at the Paris Review




Can Facebook Fix
Its Own Worst Bug?

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In early January, I went to see Mark Zuckerberg at MPK20, a concrete-and-steel building on the campus of Facebook’s headquarters, which sits across a desolate highway from the marshy salt flats of Menlo Park, Calif. The Frank Gehry-designed building has a pristine nine-acre rooftop garden, yet much of the interior — a meandering open-plan hallway — appears unfinished. There are exposed air ducts and I-beams scribbled with contractors’ marks. Many of the internal walls are unpainted plywood. The space looks less like the headquarters of one of the world’s wealthiest companies and more like a Chipotle with standing desks. It’s an aesthetic meant to reflect — and perhaps also inspire employee allegiance to — one of Facebook’s founding ideologies: that things are never quite finished, that nothing is permanent, that you should always look for a chance to take an ax to your surroundings.

The mood in overwhelmingly liberal Silicon Valley at the time, days before Donald Trump’s inauguration, was grim. But Zuckerberg, who had recently returned from his 700-acre estate on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, is preternaturally unable to look anything other than excited about the future. “Hey, guys!” he beamed, greeting me and Mike Isaac, a Times colleague who covers Facebook. Zuckerberg wore a short-sleeve gray T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, which is his Steve Jobsian daily uniform: Indoor Zuck.

Read the rest of this article at The New York Times

Mexico’s Revenge

When donald trump first made sport of thumping Mexico—when he accused America’s neighbor of exporting rapists and “bad hombres,” when he deemed the country such a threat that it should be contained by a wall and so clueless that it could be suckered into paying for its own encasement—its president responded with strange equilibrium. Enrique Peña Nieto treated the humiliation like a meteorological disturbance. Relations with the United States would soon return to normal, if only he grinned his way through the painful episode.

In August, Peña Nieto invited Trump to Mexico City, based on the then-contrarian notion that Trump might actually become president. Instead of branding Trump a toxic threat to Mexico’s well-being, he lavished the Republican nominee with legitimacy. Peña Nieto paid a severe, perhaps mortal, reputational cost for his magnanimity. Before the meeting, former President Vicente Fox had warned Peña Nieto that if he went soft on Trump, history would remember him as a “traitor.” In the months following the meeting, his approval rating plummeted, falling as low as 12 percent in one poll—which put his popularity on par with Trump’s own popularity among Mexicans. The political lesson was clear enough: No Mexican leader could abide Trump’s imprecations and hope to thrive. Since then, the Mexican political elite has begun to ponder retaliatory measures that would reassert the country’s dignity, and perhaps even cause the Trump administration to reverse its hostile course. With a presidential election in just over a year—and Peña Nieto prevented by term limits from running again—vehement responses to Trump are considered an electoral necessity. Memos outlining policies that could wound the United States have begun flying around Mexico City. These show that Trump has committed the bully’s error of underestimating the target of his gibes. As it turns out, Mexico could hurt the United States very badly.

Read the rest of this article at The Atlantic

Calligraffiti

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The boxy red-brick buildings of Cairo’s Manshiyat Naser district are uniform in colour but slightly different in size and shape. Tightly packed together with a ramshackle appearance, they stand along narrow alleyways, where green and white sacks stuffed with rubbish lie in malodorous heaps. More bulging bags spill over balcony rails or pile up on rooftops beside dusty satellite dishes. One of Cairo’s poorest neighbourhoods and home to the city’s rubbish collectors, Manshiyat Naser is the unlikely canvas on which French-Tunisian artist eL Seed chose to paint “Perception”, a sprawling mural spanning more than 50 buildings.

Odd corners and asymmetrical patches of brickwork have been daubed with blue, orange and white paint, startlingly bright amid the adhesive dust and dirt. On a flat, earth-covered rooftop on which a herd of sheep mills calmly several storeys above the ground, two segments of the low wall have been whitewashed and covered with uneven orange triangles fringed with black. They seem abstract and random. But stand in the cafeteria on top of Mokattam, a nearby hill, and all these mismatched patches of paint suddenly come together, forming a single phrase written in Arabic calligraphy and thus transforming a collection of ugly buildings into a poem that celebrates the neighbourhood’s history and culture.

Read the rest of this article at 1843

Against Flow

In the myth of flow, the performer soars when the music starts. But it’s grit and self-analysis until the very last bar

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When I was a student at the San Francisco Ballet School, I loved watching the advanced dancers in the class before mine. Their soaring leaps, their whirlwind turns, their command over everything from the sweep of their arms to the delicate placement of their heels – so easy did they make it all seem that I sometimes wondered if these beauteous creatures were made, not out of flesh and blood, but from dance itself.

I was therefore surprised one day to come upon a member of the class, facing the barre, working diligently on her battement tendus. A tendu is one of the first exercises you learn as a child taking ballet. It’s simple: starting from a standing position, you move one leg out to the side, point the foot on the floor, then bring it back to your starting position. Why did this supernal being need to practise such an easy step? What could possibly be improved?

Years later I realised that the answer to this question is: everything. There can be more articulation of the toes; rotation can be made more extreme; even that ineffable quality of artistry can be developed. It’s often thought that the greater your prowess, the easier your performance becomes. However, as I progressed upward through the ranks of the ballet world, I saw that this wasn’t the case. Rather, as my dancing improved, I developed both higher standards for what counts as excellence and an enhanced ability to evaluate my technique. What was once facile became difficult; what was once flawless revealed myriad imperfections; and, in certain instances, what was once enjoyable turned into a nightmarish trial.

That under the appearance of grace lies an abundance of grit is a hard-won truth running counter to the popular concept of ‘flow’: the seductive idea that when it’s time to perform – be it on stage or green, in the operating theatre or around the boardroom table – the true virtuoso leaves all striving behind. On this model of expertise, there is no intervention of conscious control, let alone doubt or indecision. Performance simply occurs, one movement after the other, with the inevitability of water running downstream. There is no need to search for ideas, because the ideas find you; there is no need to try, instead you just do.

Read the rest of this article at aeon

Credits

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: all by @janicejoostemaa