Six Books We Could and Should All Write – The Paris Review

Source: Six Books We Could and Should All Write – The Paris Review, by Anthony Madrid

1. The Diary of Samuel Pepys
2. Aubrey’s Brief Lives
3. Palgrave’s Golden Treasury
4. Flaubert’s Dictionary of Received Ideas
5. The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon
6. Li Zhi’s A Book to Burn

Six books anybody could write. You wouldn’t need any talent to produce these. All you’d have to do is stick with it.

Just to refresh: I’m saying one should compose (1) a book about oneself, (2) a book about others, (3) an anthology of favorites, (4) a book about words, and now I’m adding (5) a book of lists. [(6) a book of completely unacceptable views]

Still Friends? The trouble with old sitcoms

Source: Still Friends? The trouble with old sitcoms

As 90s sitcom Friends faces a backlash for alleged homophobia and sexism, we ask, was it ever thus?

“Homophobia, racism and misogyny are not and have never been acceptable [but] if it’s 20 years old, why on earth are you surprised if it’s different? If it makes you uncomfortable, why on earth are you watching it?”

— James Baldock

“And there’s a bit of arrogance – thinking we’re so perfect now. Not that I endorse the old attitudes, but I suspect if you fast forward 50 years into the future you could put people in front of the TV now and people will cringe as we do.”

— Mike Ward

Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria – The Atlantic

“Somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25 million books and nobody is allowed to read them.”

There’s actually a long tradition of technology companies disregarding intellectual-property rights as they invent new ways to distribute content.

An advocacy group called the Authors Guild, and several book authors, filed a class action lawsuit against Google on behalf of everyone with a U.S. copyright interest in a book. (A group of publishers filed their own lawsuit but joined the Authors Guild class action shortly thereafter.) … it was “perhaps the most adventuresome class action settlement ever attempted.”

The DOJ objections left the settlement in a double bind: Focus the deal on Google and you get accused of being anticompetitive. Try to open it up and you get accused of stretching the law governing class actions. The lawyers who had crafted the settlement tried to thread the needle.

Many of the objectors indeed thought that there would be some other way to get to the same outcome without any of the ickiness of a class action settlement. A refrain throughout the fairness hearing was that releasing the rights of out-of-print books for mass digitization was more properly “a matter for Congress.” … Of course, nearly a decade later, nothing of the sort has actually happened.

People have been trying to build a library like this for ages—to do so, they’ve said, would be to erect one of the great humanitarian artifacts of all time—and here we’ve done the work to make it real and we were about to give it to the world and now, instead, it’s 50 or 60 petabytes on disk, and the only people who can see it are half a dozen engineers on the project who happen to have access because they’re the ones responsible for locking it up.

Source: Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria – The Atlantic

The Regrettable Decline of Space Utopias | Culture & Politics | Current Affairs

Why is it only the libertarians who fantasize about space these days?

our species hasn’t been around terribly long, in the grand scheme of things, and if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us haven’t exactly been doing our utmost to better the world we live in.

my general feeling is that our fondness for dystopian narratives is a pretty nasty indulgence, especially for those of us who live mostly comfortable lives, far-removed from the visceral realities of human suffering. … Immersing ourselves in narratives where 99% of the characters are totally selfish also engrains a kind of fashionable faux-cynicism that feels worldly, but is in fact simply lazy. I say faux-cynicism because I don’t believe that most people who profess to be pessimists truly believe that humanity is doomed, at least not in their lifetimes, or in their particular geographic purviews … telling yourself that everything is awful, and nothing can be fixed, is a marvelously expedient way to absolve yourself of personal responsibility. There is, happily, nothing about an apocalyptic worldview that obligates you to give up any of the comforts and conveniences that have accrued to you as a consequence of global injustice; and you get to feel superior to all those tender fools who still believe that a kinder world is possible! It’s a very satisfying form of moral escapism.

We have come to view utopian narratives as inherently hokey, and preachy. But dystopias are, of course, their own form of preaching; they are preaching another hypothesis about humanity, which, due to moody lighting and oblique dialogue, has an entirely undeserved appearance of profundity, and the illusory farsightedness of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Make utopias popular again. Fictional narratives are a huge factor in shaping our expectations of what is possible.

Source: The Regrettable Decline of Space Utopias | Culture & Politics | Current Affairs by Brianna Rennix

How Music Evolved: Billboard’s Hot 100, 1958 – 2016

Every top 5 song, from 1958 – 2016, so we can stop arguing about when music was still good

Source: How Music Evolved: Billboard’s Hot 100, 1958 – 2016


Yet another amazing “visual essay” by The Pudding and Polygraph:

Some ideas are too complex to discuss with prose alone. We use code, animation, and data visualization to explore topics that, otherwise, might get lost in a 10,000-word story.