News 01.07.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

News 01.07.24: 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.


Procrastination, or the art of doing the wrong things at one specifically wrong time, has become a bugbear of our productivity-obsessed era. Wasting resources? Everybody’s doing it! But wasting time? God forbid. Schemes to keep ourselves in efficiency mode—the rebranding of rest into self-care, and of hobbies into side hustles—have made procrastinating a tic that people are desperate to dispel; “life hacks” now govern life. As the anti-productivity champion Oliver Burkeman once put it, “Today’s cacophony of anti-procrastination advice seems rather sinister: a subtle way of inducing conformity, to get you to do what you ‘should’ be doing.” By that measure, the procrastinator is doing something revolutionary: using their time without aim. Take to the barricades, soldiers, and when you get there, do absolutely nothing!

The novel has been sniffily maligned throughout its history as a particularly potent vehicle for wasting time—unless, of course, it improves the reader in some way. (See: the 19th-century trend of silly female characters contracting brain rot from reading, which Jane Austen hilariously skewered with Northanger Abbey’s Catherine Morland.) Which makes Rosalind Brown’s tight, sly debut, Practice, a welcome gift for those who dither about their dithering. It presents procrastination as a vital, life-affirming antidote to the cult of self-discipline, while also giving the reader a delicious text with which to while away her leisure time.


In Practice, Annabel, a second-year Oxford student, wakes long before sunrise on a misty Sunday morning “at the worn-out end of January.” The day holds only one task—to write a paper on Shakespeare’s sonnets—but Annabel is a routinized being and must act accordingly: “The things she does, she does properly.” So first she makes herself tea (coffee will rattle her stomach) and leaves the radiator turned off to keep the room “cold and dim and full of quiet.” She settles in with a plan: a morning spent reading and note-taking, a lunch of raw veggies, a solo yoga session in the afternoon, writing, a perfectly timed post-dinner bowel movement. A day, in short, that is brimming with possibilities for producing an optimized self. Except that self keeps getting in its own way: Her mind and body, those dueling forces that alternately grab at our attention, repeatedly turn her away from Shakespeare. Very little writing actually takes place in Practice; Annabel’s vaunted self-discipline encounters barrier after barrier. She wants to “thicken her own concentration,” but instead she takes walks, pees, fidgets, ambles down the unkept byways of her mind. She procrastinates like a champ.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

What was the World Wide Web like at the start? Long before it became the place we think and work and talk, the air that we (and the bots) now breathe no matter how polluted it’s become? So much of the old web has rotted away fthat it can be hard to say; even the great Internet Archive‘s Wayback Machine only goes back to 1996. But try browsing farther back in time, and you can start to see in those weird, formative years some surprising signs of what the web would be, and what it could be.

In 1994, the modern Internet (which you always capitalized and sometimes called just “Internet”) was itself only 11 years old, mostly the domain of researchers and hobbyists and hackers and geeks, who used an array of globe-spanning services for communicating (email and Usenet newsgroups, in addition to local BBS and IRC) and for downloading files via FTP and for searching for documents and texts with services like Gopher and WAIS.

The Web was a relatively new addition to the mix that tied a few of these systems together, with a twist. Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at CERN in Geneva, had built it in 1989 to organize the lab’s sprawling pool of physics research by combining three technologies he’d invented: a language (HTML), a protocol (HTTP), and a way to locate things on the network (URLs). Now, the Web was growing rapidly, in part because it was free. In April 1993, shortly after the University of Minnesota decided to charge licensing fees for servers that used its Gopher protocol, managers at CERN chose to put the Web’s source code in the public domain and make it available on a royalty-free basis. That opened it to anyone who wanted to set up their own server.

The Web was also increasingly popular because it was easy to use and to look at, and even relatively easy to make. Instead of navigating folder hierarchies and plaintext files, users could browse pages with clickable hypertext. Now, anyone who could use a keyboard and mouse could traverse cyberspace. And by January 1994, when then-Vice President Al Gore presided over a summit at UCLA to hail the possibilities of the new “information superhighway,” millions of people suddenly had a slick new ride.

The previous year, Marc Andreessen, a fresh graduate of the University of Illinois, released “Mosaic” together with Eric Bina, an engineer he’d met at the university’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NSCA). It was the first major “graphical” web browser, capable of displaying images within pages rather than requiring separate windows. In November, they ported it to Windows and Mac computers. Suddenly, out on the austere frontier of text-only how-tos (see the first Web page), researchers’ websites, and community pages that had spilled over from Usenet and BBS, colorful, eye-popping pixels began to appear. With images and and an easy-to-use interface, Mosaic was turning the internet into a new medium, what Berners-Lee called “hypermedia,” displaying a universe of information that had previously only appeared on interactive CD-ROMs like Microsoft Encarta. Unlike CDs, however, the Internet was never-ending and always changing. And increasingly, it looked less like a computer terminal and more like a glossy magazine.

Read the rest of this article at: Fast Company

News 01.07.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

A few miles off the highway in Hempstead, Long Island, on a gently curving street of tidy two-story homes and raked lawns, there is a sprawling ranch house with a back yard, a pool, and a large, netted enclosure, like an aviary, built to house seventeen cats. But when I drove there, on a bright, chilly fall day, I had not come to see the cats. I pulled in to the driveway, a screen door opened, and two small white dogs emerged, attached by harnesses and long leashes to John Mendola, a retired police officer in his fifties with a mild manner and a broad, kind face. (The house is his mother’s; he lives in a smaller place nearby.) He introduced me to the dogs, Princess Ariel and Princess Jasmine. They were named for a deceased, much mourned dog named Princess—part Shih Tzu, part Lhasa Apso—whom they strongly resemble. As they should: they are Princess’s clones.

Mendola took me inside and sat on a sofa, a new Princess on each side, while he told me about their forebear, a stray who was brought into the police precinct when he was on duty one day in 2006. “We had animals my whole life,” he said. “I never had one that was so affectionate. She’d look at me and give me that soulful eye.” He gave a sigh of satisfaction. “It was a special bond.” As he spoke, he reached out and stroked Princess Jasmine reflexively.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 01.07.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

A lex Neville was one of those boys who was always in costume, wearing his obsessions on his sleeve. At three, he went around dressed as a mummy, earnestly explaining the embalming process to children in Aliso Viejo, a town in Orange County, California. At seven, he was SoCal’s shortest Civil War junkie, dragging his father to local reenactments of the Battle of Gettysburg. It was at one of those events that he met his great hero: a tall, bearded schnook playing Abe Lincoln. “Alex was speechless when he shook ‘Abe’s’ hand,” says his father, Aaron Neville. “For him, it was like meeting Beyoncé!”

But for all his little-professor chi, Alex was a boy’s boy through and through. He ran with his wolf pack of free-range kids from kindergarten on. They boogie-boarded riptides and stunt-jumped skate bowls, anything for a G-pass from gravity. It was hard being one of the brightest kids in class, though, when his brain kept overheating. “We knew two things about him early on,” says his mom, Amy Neville, a heart-faced woman with the watchful zen of a longtime yoga instructor. “One, he was borderline genius — at least. Two, he had ADD. Or something.”

Alex couldn’t sit still or manage his moods; the smallest things triggered eruptions. “As we found out from his therapist, he had a ‘ring of fire’ brain; it never switched off,” says Amy. Alex lived at the whims of his central nervous system, and the first thing that tamed it was weed. “He smoked in seventh grade. For him, it was like, ‘Where have you been?!’”

How does Amy know this? Because Alex told her everything that passed between his ears. He gave his mom the blow-by-blow on his middle school romances. When he broke his word and smoked weed again, he confessed that, too. And when weed wasn’t enough, and he bought his first pills online, then got hooked on what he thought was Oxycontin, he went to his terrified parents and told all: A dealer I met on Snapchat. He taught me to use PayPal. I’ve been using for the last seven days.

Read the rest of this article at: Rolling Stone

News 01.07.24: Five Essential Articles from Around the Web

Paul Cézanne always knew he wanted to be an artist. His father compelled him to enter law school, but after two desultory years he withdrew. In 1861, at the age of 22, he went to Paris to pursue his artistic dreams but was rejected by the École des Beaux-Arts, struggled as a painter, and retreated back to his hometown in the south of France, where he worked as a clerk in his father’s bank.

He returned to Paris the next year and was turned down again by the École. His paintings were rejected by the Salon de Paris every year from 1864 to 1869. He continued to submit paintings until 1882, but none were accepted. He joined with the Impressionists, many of whose works were also being rejected, but soon stopped showing with them as well.

By middle age, he was discouraged. He wrote to a friend, “On this matter I must tell you that the numerous studies to which I devoted myself having produced only negative results, and dreading criticism that is only too justified, I have resolved to work in silence, until the day when I should feel capable of defending theoretically the results of my endeavors.” No Cézanne paintings were put on public display when he was between 46 and 56, the prime years for many artists, including some of Cézanne’s most prominent contemporaries.

In 1886, when Cézanne was 47, the celebrated writer Émile Zola, the artist’s closest friend since adolescence, published a novel called The Oeuvre. It was about two young men, one who grows up to be a famous author and the other who grows up to be a failed painter and commits suicide. The painter character was based, at least in part, on Cézanne. (“I had grown up almost in the same cradle as my friend, my brother, Paul Cézanne,” Zola would later write in a French newspaper, “in whom one begins to realize only today the touches of genius of a great painter come to nothing.”) Upon publication of the novel, Zola sent a copy to Cézanne, who responded with a short, polite reply. After that, they rarely communicated.

Things began to turn around in 1895, when, at the age of 56, Cézanne had his first one-man show. Two years later, one of his paintings was purchased by a museum in Berlin, the first time any museum had shown that kind of interest in his work. By the time he was 60, his paintings had started selling, though for much lower prices than those fetched by Manet or Renoir. Soon he was famous, revered. Fellow artists made pilgrimages to watch him work.

What drove the man through all those decades of setbacks and obscurity? One biographer attributed it to his “inquiétude”—his drive, restlessness, anxiety. He just kept pushing himself to get better.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic