News 03.22.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 03.22.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 03.22.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 03.22.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

My Father’s Stack of Books

When I was a child, the grownup books in my house were arranged according to two principles. One of these, which governed the downstairs books, was instituted by my mother, and involved achieving a remarkable harmony—one that anyone who has ever tried to organize a home library would envy—among thematic, alphabetic, and aesthetic demands. The other, which governed the upstairs books, was instituted by my father, and was based on the conviction that it is very nice to have everything you’ve recently read near at hand, in case you get the urge to consult any of it again; and also that it is a pain in the neck to put those books away, especially when the shelves on which they belong are so exquisitely organized that returning one to its appropriate slot requires not only a card catalogue but a crowbar.

It was this pair of convictions that led to the development of the Stack. I can’t remember it in its early days, because in its early days it wasn’t memorable. I suppose back then it was just a modest little pile of stray books, the kind that many readers have lying around in the living room or next to the bed. But by the time I was in my early teens it was the case—and seemed by then to have always been the case—that my parents’ bedroom was home to the Mt. Kilimanjaro of books. Or perhaps more aptly the Mt. St. Helens of books, since it seemed possible that at any moment some subterranean shift in it might cause a cataclysm.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 03.22.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

We’re All In This Together

News 03.22.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

TELL YOUR FELLOW AMERICANS that you plan to cross the United States by train, and their reactions will range from amusement at your spellbinding eccentricity to naked horror that they, through some fatal social miscalculation, have become acquainted with a person who would plan to cross the United States by train. Depending how you slice it — time or money — there are either 61 or 960 immediate reasons not to travel by Amtrak trains from New York City to Los Angeles. Those are the extra hours and dollars, respectively, that you might reasonably expect to forfeit if you forgo a six-hour $129 nonstop flight and opt instead for an Amtrak sleeper car. Covering the interjacent 2,448.8 miles can easily consume some 67 hours for a mind-boggling $1,089.

Of course, you might remind your quote-unquote fellows, any form of modern engine-based transport, even Amtrak, is preposterously fast compared with the method that Homo sapiens employed to move ourselves and, more important, our tchotchkes for most of our species’ 300,000-year history, which is walking. Crossing the stretch of land where roughly half the Donner party starved, froze or, in the case of the group’s two Miwok guides, were shot to death for food — an overland journey that took the party about five months to complete in 1847 — could be done in under two hours by a Honda Accord today, assuming normal traffic, while a plane from Springfield, Ill., their starting point, to Sacramento would zoom over their whole route in half a day, including layover. Because of this ability to effectively teleport between locations, 21st-century Americans have become flippant about transcontinental voyaging. To truly appreciate the size of the landmass (the third-largest country in the world by land area) and the variety of its terrain (rain forests, deserts, prairies, Margaritaville, etc.), you have to see it from the ground.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times Magazine

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Instagram Is the Internet’s
New Home for Hate

By Monday, there were five videos of the Christchurch attack posted by meme pages in my feed. Four of them are still up, and on Tuesday, another was surfaced at the top of my feed. The captions on all the videos question the validity of the attack and claim that it was a false flag carried out by the U.S. government.

The top of my Instagram Explore page also featured a racist caricature of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, exaggerating her features and darkening her skin; a post about Hillary Clinton being a pedophile; a 4chan screenshot talking about a “beta Jew”; and yet another Christchurch false-flag post. My Explore page was littered with posts containing hashtags such as #PedoVore, #TheGreatAwakening, #WWG1WGA, #QAnon, #Spygate, #Pizzagate, and #TheStorm.

Given the velocity of the recommendation algorithm, the power of hashtagging, and the nature of the posts, it’s easy to see how Instagram can serve as an entry point into the internet’s darkest corners. Instagram “memes pages and humor is a really effective way to introduce people to extremist content,” says Becca Lewis, a doctoral student at Stanford and a research affiliate at the Data and Society Research Institute. “It’s easy, on Instagram, to attach certain hashtags to certain memes and get high visibility.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 03.22.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Ricky Gervais on Provocation,
Picking Targets and Outrage Culture

News 03.22.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In Ricky Gervais’s new Netflix show, “After Life,” he plays a small-town journalist who, after being widowed, abandons all the rote politesse the rest of us rely on to get comfortably through our days. As is always the case with Gervais’s work — he’s probably still best known as the co-creator and star of the original “The Office” — some deeply cringe-inducing comedic moments ensue. “Anything you do that’s the slightest bit interesting,” Gervais said, “as many people are going to hate it as love it.” Indeed, since “The Office,” which debuted in 2001, Gervais’s output — whether television, film or stand-up — has been divisive, at times drawing criticism for being smug or mawkish but never at any detriment to his popularity. “There’s no objectivity about comedy,” said the 57-year-old, a frequent Twitter lightning rod. “You’ve just got to own your emotions.”

Has social media changed the way the public perceives your work? Yes, and here’s an example: 20 years ago, if you saw something on TV that offended you and you wanted to let someone know, you would’ve had to get a pen and paper and write, “Dear BBC, I’m bothered.” But you didn’t do it because it was too much trouble. Now with Twitter, you can just go, “[Expletive] you!” to a comedian who’s offended you. Then a journalist will see that and say, “So-and-so said a thing and people are furious.” No. The rest of us don’t give a [expletive] and wouldn’t have heard about it if it hadn’t been made a headline. Everything is exaggerated. But everything’s also an illusion. No one would talk to you in the street like they do on Twitter. They’d never come up and say, “Your articles stink.” They’d never do that because they’re normal, but they’re not normal on Twitter because there’s no nuance, no irony, no conversation there.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times Magazine

 The Senseless Logic of the Wild

News 03.22.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

THE WHALE SIGHTING HAPPENED right away, minutes into Day 1. Jon, Dave and I had just been dropped off on a remote Alaskan shoreline, an hour and a half by boat from the closest speck of a town. Jon was working as a sea-kayaking guide that summer in Glacier Bay National Park, and he had invited us up for a seven-day excursion during his week off. As the boat that delivered us vanished, the drone of its engine dampening into a murmur and then finally trailing off, it became unthinkably quiet on the beach, and the largeness and strangeness of our surroundings were suddenly apparent. It was a familiar phenomenon for Jon from the start of all his trips: a moment that people instinctually paused to soak in. To me, it felt like those scenes of astronauts who, having finally rattled free of the earth’s atmosphere, slip into the stillness of space. Except we weren’t in space. We were on earth — finally, really on earth.

We were only starting to move around again, packing our gear into the kayaks, when we heard the first huff of a blowhole, not far offshore.

Jon was ecstatic. It seemed to him as if the animal were putting on a show, swimming playfully in the kelp, diving, resurfacing, then plowing its open mouth across the surface to feed. He took it as a good omen. Though I had no idea at the time, he was anxious that Dave and I might feel intimidated about making the trip; such a big payoff, so quickly, would get us excited and defuse any apprehensions.

For Dave, the whale-sighting had exactly the opposite effect. Once, when he was a kid, his dad took him scuba diving with dolphins. They were friendly, awe-inspiring creatures, purportedly, but they terrified Dave instead. He could still conjure the feeling of hanging defenselessly in that water while the animals deftly swirled around him, less like solid objects than flashes of reflected light, while he could move only in comparative slow-motion. Ever since, he had harbored a fear of large sea creatures — a niche phobia, particularly for a young man who lived in the Bronx, but a genuine one still. And so, even as Dave understood that a chance to see whales up close like this was a major draw of a kayaking trip in Alaska, and though he feigned being thrilled, some second thoughts were kicking in: We were going out there, he realized.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times Magazine

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