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In the News 14.06.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 14.06.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 14.06.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 14.06.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

How the World’s Most Interesting Man Befriended the World’s Most Powerful Man

“Damn,” he said in a half-hushed whisper. “This guy’s good.”

I could hear President Obama as he walked up the path behind me and spied the multiple arrows I had placed, undetected, in the bull’s-eye. I waited until I could sense him close by. Then, with the casual swagger that had become my calling card, I turned, and feigning annoyance, delivered the line I had prepared:

“What took you so long?”

Obama, recognizing me immediately, clapped his hands and doubled over in laughter. There’s no way he could have been as happy and amazed as I was to be there.

It was August 2011 and “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” the absurdly debonair character I played on the Dos Equis beer commercials, had become an international cultural phenomenon. Finally, after decades of trying to break through in Hollywood, I was a recognizable star with my meme-ready line, “Stay thirsty, my friends.” The character’s nearly mythical traits, recounted by a narrator in a nearly endless string of deliciously funny one-liners—“His personality is so magnetic, he is unable to carry credit cards,” and “He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels”—had generated a cult following. I had millions of fans all around the world. One of them happened to live in the White House.

Read the rest of this article at: Politico

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Remembering the Murder You Didn’t Commit

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When Ada JoAnn Taylor is tense, she thinks she can feel the fabric of a throw pillow in the pads of her fingers. Taylor has suffered from tactile flashbacks for three decades. She imagines herself in a small apartment in Beatrice, Nebraska. She is gripping the edges of a pillow, more tightly than she means to, and suffocating a sixty-eight-year-old widow. “I feel for her,” Taylor told me recently. “She was my grandmother’s age.”

Taylor confessed to the woman’s murder in 1989 and for two decades believed that she was guilty. She served more than nineteen years for the crime before she was pardoned. She was one of six people accused of the murder, five of whom took pleas; two had internalized their guilt so deeply that, even after being freed, they still had vivid memories of committing the crime. In no other case in the United States have false memories of guilt endured so long. The situation is a study in the malleability of memory: an implausible notion, doubted at first, grows into a firmly held belief that reshapes one’s autobiography and sense of identity.

Eli Chesen, a Nebraska psychiatrist who evaluated Taylor and her co-defendants after their release, told me, “They still believed to varying degrees that they had blood on their hands.” He compared the case with the Jonestown Massacre, in 1978, when a cult leader persuaded more than nine hundred people to commit suicide in Guyana. “You have a group of people who are led to share the same delusion, at the same time, with major consequences,” he said. “Their new beliefs superseded their previous life experiences, like paper covering a rock.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

Why You Can’t Help But Act Your Age

In 1979, psychologist Ellen Langer and her students carefully refurbished an old monastery in Peterborough, New Hampshire, to resemble a place that would have existed two decades earlier. They invited a group of elderly men in their late 70s and early 80s to spend a week with them and live as they did in 1959, “a time when an IBM computer filled a whole room and panty hose had just been introduced to U.S. women,” Langer wrote. Her idea was to return the men, at least in their minds, to a time when they were younger and healthier—and to see if it had physiological consequences.

Every day Langer and her students met with the men to discuss “current” events. They talked about the first United States satellite launch, Fidel Castro entering Havana after his march across Cuba, and the Baltimore Colts winning the NFL championship game. They discussed “current” books: Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger and Leon Uris’ Exodus. They watched Ed Sullivan and Jack Benny and Jackie Gleason on a black-and-white TV, listened to Nat King Cole on the radio, and saw Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot. Everything was transporting the men back to 1959.

Read the rest of this article at: Nautilus

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The Fake Hermit

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In April 1963, when American writer Thomas Pynchon published his first novel, V., critic George Plimpton tried to describe the author in the New York Times: “Pynchon is in his early twenties; he writes in Mexico City – a recluse. It is hard to find out anything more about him.” That month the Beatles song Please Please Me, exploded on the radio waves and Martin Luther King Jr. published his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in Alabama, preaching peaceful struggle against racism. The critics compared 26-year-old Pynchon to Saul Bellow, Jack Kerouac, and other literary greats. “There is at work a young writer of staggering promise,” Plimpton predicted.

In V., Benny Profane, following a recent Navy hitch, does unglamorous odd jobs In Manhattan, like hunting alligators in the sewers. One day he crosses paths with Herbert Stencil, an itinerant Jew who refers to himself in the third person and is in search of V., a woman called Victoria or Veronica, who may not even be a woman, but a concept. The author’s acid humor and vast erudition drew glowing reviews.

Read the rest of this article at: piauí

A Sociology of the Smartphone

Smartphones have altered the texture of everyday life, digesting many longstanding spaces and rituals, and transforming others beyond recognition.

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They are the last thing we look at before sleep each night, and the first thing we reach for upon waking.

The smartphone is the signature artifact of our age. Less than a decade old, this protean object has become the universal, all-but-indispensable mediator of everyday life. Very few manufactured objects have ever been as ubiquitous as these glowing slabs of polycarbonate.

For many of us, they are the last thing we look at before sleep each night, and the first thing we reach for upon waking. We use them to meet people, to communicate, to entertain ourselves, and to find our way around. We buy and sell things with them. We rely on them to document the places we go, the things we do and the company we keep; we count on them to fill the dead spaces, the still moments and silences that used to occupy so much of our lives.

They have altered the texture of everyday life just about everywhere, digesting many longstanding spaces and rituals in their entirety, and transforming others beyond recognition. At this juncture in history, it simply isn’t possible to understand the ways in which we know and use the world around us without having some sense for the way the smartphone works, and the various infrastructures it depends on.

For all its ubiquity, though, the smartphone is not a simple thing. We use it so often that we don’t see it clearly; it appeared in our lives so suddenly and totally that the scale and force of the changes it has occasioned have largely receded from conscious awareness. In order to truly take the measure of these changes, we need to take a step or two back, to the very last historical moment in which we negotiated the world without smartphone in hand.

There are few better guides to the pre-smartphone everyday than a well-documented body of ethnographic research carried out circa 2005, by researchers working for Keio University and Intel Corporation’s People and Practices group. Undertaken in London, Tokyo and Los Angeles, the study aimed to identify broad patterns in the things people carried in their wallets, pockets and purses on a daily basis. It found a striking degree of consistency in what Londoners, Angelenos and Tokyoites thought of as being necessary to the successful negotiation of the day’s challenges:

Pictures, firstly, and similar mementoes of family, friends and loved ones. Icons, charms and other totems of religious or spiritual significance. Snacks. Personal hygiene items, breath mints, chewing gum—things, in other words, that we might use to manage the bodily dimensions of the presentation of self. Things we used to gain access of one sort or another: keys, identity cards, farecards and transit passes. Generally, a mobile phone, which at the time the research was conducted was just that, something used for voice communication and perhaps text messaging. And invariably, money in one or more of its various forms.

If the Intel/Keio study found in the stuff of wallets and handbags nothing less than circa-2005 in microcosm, its detailed accounting provides us with a useful and even a poignant way of assessing just how much has changed in the intervening years. We find that a great many of the things city dwellers once relied upon to manage everyday life as recently as ten years ago have by now been subsumed by a single object, the mobile phone. This single platform swallowed most all the other things people once had floating around in their pockets and purses, and in so doing it became something else entirely.

Read the rest of this article at: Longreads

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @belleannee; @elolora; @violetgrey