News 24.05.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

News 24.05.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web
News 24.05.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web
News 24.05.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

If you’ve been enjoying these curated article summaries that dive into cultural, creative, and technological currents, you may find the discussions and analyses on our Substack page worthwhile as well. There, I explore themes and ideas that often intersect with the subjects covered in the articles I come across during my curation process.

While this curation simply aims to surface compelling pieces, our Substack writings delve deeper into topics that have piqued our curiosity over time. From examining the manifestation of language shaping our reality to unpacking philosophical undercurrents in society, our Substack serves as an outlet to unpack our perspectives on the notable trends and undercurrents reflected in these curated readings.

So if any of the articles here have stoked your intellectual interests, I invite you to carry that engagement over to our Substack, where we discuss related matters in more depth. Consider it an extension of the curation – a space to further engage with the fascinating ideas these pieces have surfaced.


There are many reasons not to read a book. One, because you don’t want to. Two, because you started reading, crawled to page 17, and gave up. Three, because the idea of reading never crosses your mind. (If so, lucky you. That way contentment lies.) Four, because it’s Friday, which means that “W.W.E. SmackDown” is on Fox, which in turn means that Marilynne Robinson’s beatific new exegetical study of the Book of Genesis must, for now, be gently laid aside. Five, because reading a book is, you know, so lame. Only losers do it. And, six, because you simply don’t have the time.

But what if the need to read won’t go away? In a spasm of initiative and a sudden flush of guilt, you buy a Kindle and download “The House of the Seven Gables,” fully intending to complete, on the subway, what you left unfinished in college. Three weeks in, though, and you still haven’t got as far as Gable No. 1. You toy with joining a local book club, on the principle that having to read something, to keep pace with your fellow-clubbers, will be a fruitful challenge; what holds you back is a fear that the conversation will swiftly turn to campus protests. Before you know it, people will be throwing glasses of Chardonnay and slapping one another on the base of the skull with copies of “Getting to Yes.”

The most potent enemy of reading, it goes without saying, is the small, flat box that you carry in your pocket. In terms of addictive properties, it might as well be stuffed with meth. There’s no point in grinding through a whole book—a chewy bunch of words arranged into a narrative or, heaven preserve us, an argument—when you can pick up your iPhone, touch the Times app, skip the news and commentary, head straight to Wordle, and give yourself an instant hit of euphoria and pride by taking just three guesses to reach a triumphant guano. Imagine, however, that your foe were to become your literate friend. Imagine getting hooked on a book, or on something recognizably book-esque, without averting your eyes from the screen. This is where Blinkist comes in.

Blinkist is an app. If I had to summarize what it does, I would say that it summarizes like crazy. It takes an existing book and crunches it down to a series of what are called Blinks. On average, these amount to around two thousand words. Some of the books that get Blinked are gleamingly new, such as “Leading with Light,” by Jennifer Mulholland and Jeff Shuck, which was published in March; other books are so old that they were written by people whose idea of a short-haul flight involved feathers and wax. In the realm of nonfiction alone, more than six and a half thousand works have been subjected to the Blinkist treatment. Across all platforms, there have been thirty-one million downloads on the app. Right now, there will be somebody musing over Blinks of “Biohack Your Brain,” “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin,” or “The Power of Going All-In,” which is, I am sorry to report, yet another study of successful leadership. Given the title, I was hoping that it might be about breakfast buffets, or the best way to behave yourself at an orgy.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

I met Raqib Naik, a journalist who had fled his native India, at a coffee shop in suburban Maryland. We sat at the same metal table where he once discussed the prospect of his assassination with FBI agents.

Naik is a Muslim from Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state. In August 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the state’s longstanding self-determination rights and temporarily imposed martial law. Indian officials arbitrarily detained thousands of Kashmiris, including many journalists. Through it all, Naik did his best to convey the reality in Kashmir to the outside world — a firsthand account of what was really going on in what’s often termed “the world’s largest democracy.”

On August 15, 10 days after the crackdown in Kashmir began, Naik received the first of three visits from Indian military intelligence officers who interrogated him about his reporting. The harassment forced him underground; he eventually fled to the United States in the summer of 2020.

But Modi wouldn’t let him go that easily.

In September 2020, an Indian military official sent Naik a message saying “i have invited your father for a cup of tea.” In November 2020, a second intelligence officer said he too had contacted Naik’s father, vowing that he and Naik would “meet in person” even though Naik had moved to America. While traveling in another country in June 2022, Naik received an anonymous text message saying “you are being tracked and will be prosecuted.” He flew back to the US as quickly as possible.

Naik has also received a torrent of hateful messages and threats on social media. When Naik met with the FBI to discuss his safety in October 2023, they told him that they were taking the situation very seriously.

Naik, who continues to track human rights abuses in India, received his green card in February. When he called his family to share the good news, his father revealed that, a few months earlier, he had been summoned to a military camp and interrogated about his son’s activities.

At one point, the officer suggested to Naik’s father that his son should write nicer articles about India.

I have spent the past several months investigating stories like Naik’s: critics of India who say the Indian government has reached across the Pacific Ocean to harass them on American soil.

Interviews with political figures, experts, and activists revealed a sustained campaign where Narendra Modi’s government threatens American citizens and permanent residents who dare speak out on the declining state of the country’s democracy. This campaign has not been described publicly until now because many people in the community  — even prominent ones — are too afraid to talk about it. (The Indian government did not respond to repeated and detailed requests for comment.)


Read the rest of this article at: Vox

News 24.05.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

By the time I was seven or eight years old, I was keenly aware of my father’s drug use. He didn’t snort pills in front of me yet—he saved that for my teen years—but he talked about pills freely and I knew he took them. He was meaner than usual when he couldn’t get his pills, and I learned to recognize the signs of withdrawal long before I ever heard that term. Any hope for stability in our lives probably vanished before I could walk. And by the time I became an adult, everyone in my nuclear family—and plenty of my extended family members—was struggling to cope with the impacts of violence, incarceration, and addiction.

I grew up in Appalachian Eastern Kentucky, where systemic poverty has been a challenge for many decades. We always joked that Kentucky was 20 years behind the rest of the country but as a kid, I didn’t understand what we really faced: underfunded schools, inadequate transportation systems, poor healthcare, unreliable utilities. Prescription pain pills flooded into our region and did nothing to cure our collective pain, but instead exacerbated the personal and social struggles that the region is often associated with.

Read the rest of this article at: Time

News 24.05.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

The subject of “Megalopolis,” Francis Ford Coppola’s first feature in thirteen years, is time. The movie begins with an image of a large city clock, and Coppola repeatedly invokes time’s relentless forward march. Yet the very nature of the movie, which is by turns aggressively heady, stubbornly illogical, and beguilingly optimistic, is to question our understanding of time as a finite resource. It muses about how we as people—designers, builders, inventors, artists—might succeed in circumventing time and bring about a utopia that resists the natural slide toward entropy.

Coppola’s protagonist is a controversial architect and designer named Cesar Catilina (Adam Driver), who has the ability to pause time. “Time, stop!” he says, and everything freezes: people, cars, the clouds in the sky, even the crumbling of a public-housing development that was being demolished on Cesar’s own orders. But his supernatural powers are limited. Eventually, he must allow time to start up again, with a reluctant snap of his fingers. (The film is laden with references to Shakespeare, Emerson, and Sapphic poetry, but the temporal gimmickry reminded me, irresistibly, of the late-eighties sitcom “Out of This World.”)

Once time resumes, every passing moment brings human civilization closer to ruin—a catastrophic collapse foretold by the fall of Rome. In fact, the film takes place in a city called New Rome, though it is quite visibly New York, with recurring shots of the Chrysler Building and the Statue of Liberty. (The movie was filmed, with much visual and digital trickery, in Atlanta; the cinematographer is Mihai Mălaimare, Jr.) New Rome abounds in classical motifs: Doric columns prop up buildings adorned with Latin dicta, and a remarkable number of citizens wear gold laurel leaves, even the ones who aren’t riding chariots around a mock Colosseum. The plot, a laborious but lively enough contraption, comes to us straight from the Catilinarian conspiracy of 63 B.C. Cesar is an update of the politician Lucius Sergius Catiline; his chief nemesis, Mayor Franklyn Cicero (Giancarlo Esposito), stands in for that other Cicero, the famed consul whom Catiline sought to overthrow.

The movie’s full title is “Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis: A Fable,” but Aesop might have blanched at Coppola’s weakness for overexplanation. He has made a declamatory epic, in which the actors recite as much as they perform, and meanings are not suggested but superimposed, with baldly allegorical intent, over thickets of narrative. Cesar believes that New Rome’s future rests on the construction of an experimental city, Megalopolis, which will be fashioned from a miraculous material called Megalon. By all appearances, Megalon’s chief property is a pliability that enables it to be molded into giant, trippy structures, which resemble flowers and mushrooms; picture a Frank Gehry-designed “Alice in Wonderland” and you’re halfway there. Mayor Cicero resists such costly, high-flown futurism, which prioritizes beauty over practicality. “People don’t need dreams—they need teachers, sanitation, and jobs,” he snarls at Cesar. No points for guessing whose side Coppola, now eighty-five and still one of the great dreamers in American cinema, is on.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 24.05.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

There is a singular misery to trying your very best, after months of training, only to be crushed by a 6-year-old.

Last December, I spent a cloudy day holed up at the Mechanics’ Institute, a venerable chess club in San Francisco, to play in the 22nd annual McClain Memorial Tournament. It was my first in-person chess competition, and I was full of optimism.

I faced a severe-looking child who wore a food-stained sweatshirt emblazoned with a cartoon penguin. He did not speak. He alternated between fidgeting uncontrollably and fixing me with a disconcerting death stare. He spent much of his time between moves crawling around beneath the table (an interesting psych-out technique, but not one I think I could pull off).

Early in the game, I made an amateur mistake that left me down a knight. From there it was all over, even if I didn’t immediately realize it. A checkmate soon followed.

My first game had been against a middle-aged asset manager, and we’d discussed the strangeness of us adults competing against children. (He also beat me.) After an undignified lunch of Doritos and a chocolate protein shake, I managed to eke out a win against my third opponent. A tech worker in her mid-20s, she noted she was nursing a severe hangover, and she had a helpful habit of involuntarily gasping whenever she realized she’d made a mistake. At that point, I’d take whatever modicum of dignity I could salvage.

For the first three decades of my life, I’d had fleeting phases of mild interest in chess, playing the occasional game online while procrastinating or over the board with a drink. But the game’s foreboding density and association with supreme intellect dissuaded me from going any deeper. Over the past few years, however, a drumbeat of fanfare and tabloid headlines about the seemingly staid game became inescapable. Like so many other people, I got chess-pilled., the world’s leading chess site, now regularly reports record numbers of players — it said that in February 2023 it hosted more than 1 billion games a month — sporadically crashing under the weight of demand. The pandemic’s enforced isolation and Netflix’s smash hit “The Queen’s Gambit” collectively introduced an entire generation to the game. Socialites are playing chess on “The Real Housewives of New York City.” Twitch streamers and YouTubers have racked up millions of followers and ushered in a radical new culture — meme-drenched, rapid-fire, and drama-prone.

Chess has never been more popular, but its ugly side has also never been more exposed. The same characteristics that have driven its popularity online — an easy-to-understand eight-by-eight grid, a strategy without chance or luck — have also made it a cheater’s paradise. Meanwhile, rampant sexism festers at chess’ heart.

What the hell was happening to the game of kings? To find out, I decided I needed to get better at the game and face off against everyone I talked to.

Read the rest of this article at: Business Insider