April 14, 2017 / From the Editor
In a moment when so much information is unreliable and even more distressing, we feel …
January 2, 2015
Each Friday we compile a list of interesting links and articles our editors find from across the web. Here’s what’s catching our eye the past two weeks.
The nation’s largest restaurant chains have made a big deal in recent years about introducing smaller portion sizes. McDonald’s eliminated the Supersize menu, while T.G.I. Fridays and others have introduced small-plate items. Yet the restaurants have also been doing something else, with less fanfare: continuing to add dishes so rich that a single meal often contains a full day’s worth of calories.
Vyvyan Evans at Aeon explains that language is not instinctive:
Imagine you’re a traveller in a strange land. A local approaches you and starts jabbering away in an unfamiliar language. He seems earnest, and is pointing off somewhere. But you can’t decipher the words, no matter how hard you try. That’s pretty much the position of a young child when she first encounters language. In fact, she would seem to be in an even more challenging position. Not only is her world full of ceaseless gobbledygook; unlike our hypothetical traveller, she isn’t even aware that these people are attempting to communicate. And yet, by the age of four, every cognitively normal child on the planet has been transformed into a linguistic genius: this before formal schooling, before they can ride bicycles, tie their own shoelaces or do rudimentary addition and subtraction. It seems like a miracle. The task of explaining this miracle has been, arguably, the central concern of the scientific study of language for more than 50 years.
Will people actually fight for online privacy?
What kind of privacy will you have 10 years from now? Will you have given up trying to keep secrets and be willingly sharing all your personal information online? Or will new tools and laws give you control over your private data, allowing you to pick and choose what to share, even sell? A new survey on the future of privacy finds that experts are split fairly evenly between these two visions of the future. But one thing they do agree on is the present: We are already living under constant surveillance, willingly offering up chunks of personal information online, where it is collected, tracked and used to make money.
Rowan Williams says fairy tales are more important than ever:
In 1947, J R R Tolkien published a celebrated essay on fairy tales in which he insisted that their association with childhood was recent and unfortunate; it misled us into thinking that the genre was not worth serious analysis, not something to “think with”. Marina Warner’s wide-ranging and handsomely produced book Once Upon a Time will reinforce Tolkien’s insistence that these stories are very far from being a simple style of narrative to be outgrown. She surveys the literary history of the fairy tale, from the elegant fables of 17th-century French aristocrats to Angela Carter and beyond, discusses the feminist move to reclaim women’s agency from generations of patronising images of languishing princesses, and offers a particularly interesting analysis of recent film treatments of the classic tales. Her conclusion is that “fairy tales are gradually turning into myths”: paradoxically, in our day, it is adults who seem most to need and use them, because they are just about the only stories we have in common with which to think through deep dilemmas and to keep alive registers of emotion and imagination otherwise being eroded. The fairy tale now has to carry an unprecedented burden of significance, and it is not surprising that modern versions – retellings or radical rewritings, like those of Angela Carter – produce a darker, more complex, less resolved narrative environment than hitherto.
The New York Times’ Masha Gessen reviews new translations of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina:
What difference is there between being repelled, being repulsed, being disgusted and being offended? Not much, perhaps, but consider the scene: Anna Karenina has taken a sip of coffee and raised her eyes to look at Vronsky, her lover, who is watching her. After hundreds of pages of love, lust, passion, fear, exhilaration, disappointment, exhaustion, aggression and, probably most important, jealousy, they are having their final fight. Leo Tolstoy is describing Anna ascribing an emotion to a man whose love she needs so desperately that she is convinced he has stopped loving her. Consider also this: When she lifted her coffee cup, she extended her pinkie away from it — a precious gesture that signals just how far this domesticated, miserable Anna has come from the glamorous young woman she was at the beginning of the novel; she made a sound with her lips — and she realized this when she lifted her gaze and saw Vronsky looking at her. She saw the most painful thing a woman can see: a lover who is turned off by her physical being.
The Verge asks “Does Gremlins hold up?”
A good summary of the mythology behind Lord of the Rings trilogy:
Found via kottke.org.
David A. Garner