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In the News 19.12.14 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets


In the News 19.12.14 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets



1. The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie

IN THE WORLD of early-20th-century African-American music and people obsessed by it, who can appear from one angle like a clique of pale and misanthropic scholar-gatherers and from another like a sizable chunk of the human population, there exist no ghosts more vexing than a couple of women identified on three ultrarare records made in 1930 and ’31 as Elvie Thomas and Geeshie Wiley. There are musicians as obscure as Wiley and Thomas, and musicians as great, but in none does the Venn diagram of greatness and lostness reveal such vast and bewildering co-extent. In the spring of 1930, in a damp and dimly lit studio, in a small Wisconsin village on the western shore of Lake Michigan, the duo recorded a batch of songs that for more than half a century have been numbered among the masterpieces of prewar American music, in particular two, Elvie’s “Motherless Child Blues” and Geeshie’s “Last Kind Words Blues,” twin Alps of their tiny oeuvre, inspiring essays and novels and films and cover versions, a classical arrangement.

Read the rest of this article at The New York Times



2. A Tourist in North Korea

“While its goals are grand, North Korea’s tourism industry has gradually grown since it first opened up in the late 1980s, and the nation is no longer the world’s least-visited country (Libya, Afghanistan, and Moldova, among others, receive fewer foreign tourists). Nowadays, for all North Korea’s diplomatic isolation—not to mention its recent arrests of tourists—it is surprisingly easy to go. Western tour operators estimate that the Hermit Kingdom gets 100,000 or more yearly visitors (about the same as Bhutan), the vast majority from China. And in addition to frequenting North Korea’s conventional tourist stops like monuments, war museums, and mass athletic performances, tour operators can increasingly go off the beaten path (though always as part of an official tour), offering cycling, golfing, and hiking. In July, the country’s pristine coastlines saw some of their first surfers.

Read the rest of this article at The Atlantic



3. The Paradox of Choice, 10 Years Later

“Ten years have passed since the publication of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, a highly influential book written by the psychologist Barry Schwartz. If the title doesn’t sound familiar, the idea behind Schwartz’s argument should: Instead of increasing our sense of well-being, an abundance of choice is increasing our levels of anxiety, depression, and wasted time. Whether you’re deliberating between breakfast cereals, TV shows, career paths, pension plans, or lifetime partners, the amount of options out there can be overwhelming. In modern America, however, the freedom to decide who you are and who you’re going to be is mandatory.”

Read the rest of this article at Pacific Standard



4. The Empathy Exams

“Medical acting works like this: you get a script and a paper gown. You get $13.50 an hour. Our scripts are ten to twelve pages long. They outline what’s wrong with us—not just what hurts but how to express it. They tell us how much to give away, and when. We are supposed to unfurl the answers according to specific protocols. The scripts dig deep into our fictive lives: the ages of our children and the diseases of our parents, the names of our husbands’ real-estate and graphic-design firms, the amount of weight we’ve lost in the past year, the amount of alcohol we drink each week.”

Read the rest of this article at Believer



5. Don’t Fear Artificial Intelligence

“If AI becomes an existential threat, it won’t be the first one. Humanity was introduced to existential risk when I was a child sitting under my desk during the civil-­defense drills of the 1950s. Since then we have encountered comparable specters, like the possibility of a bioterrorist creating a new virus for which humankind has no defense. Technology has always been a double-edged sword, since fire kept us warm but also burned down our villages.”

Read the rest of this article at Time


P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.



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