I’ve been neglecting this space for over two months. Unfortunately for my capacity to keep up with the world in written words, they have been two very interesting months. Had I posted a bag of links on a weekly basis—and this is already the laziest of projects, the most modest of ambitions I have ever had for this journal—the entries for the latter half of April and the first half of May could have been expended entirely on the British general election (with an inset for Thailand’s redshirt revolt) and still failed to capture the play-by-play thrills on the ground.
Somewhere along the way, I penned a dissertation of sorts, but let’s not talk about that. Here is the crust of readings that has built up in the meantime. There are more, but the list below was becoming rather overgrown and at some point I had to stop.
- Two of the great figures in things I care about passed away in May, both of them at ripe old ages after leading fulfilling lives: jazz pianist Hank Jones at 91; mathematical popularizer and Lewis Carroll expert Martin Gardner at 95. I came to both Jones’ and Gardner’s works late in life but quickly—very quickly—came to understand their immeasurable impacts on music and mathematics, respectively, which I had previously felt secondhand without being aware of it. More on Jones here and here; more on Gardner here and here.
- It speaks volumes for how long I’ve been away from saturating this page with hyperlinks that sitting atop the pile in my draft box is an ominous article by Dominic Lawson on David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s public-school upbringings at Eton and Westminster, written the week of the first televised debate.
- IBM has developed a Jeopardy!-playing computer. Observe the promotional video. From an AI perspective, this is orders of magnitude more exciting than Deep Blue, and takes us deep into Turing Test territory. I hope to say more about this should I find the time.
- One of the disadvantages of being in the United Kingdom—indeed, the most serious one I have yet encountered apart from the absence of fine, extravagant steaks—is that for the first time since 1998, I was unable to see a new Pixar film on or before the date of its release. Two Pixar films of note, in fact: Toy Story 3 and the accompanying Teddy Newton short Day and Night. That hasn’t stopped me from following the resurgence of coverage of Pixar’s process of perfection in this Wired piece and this interview with Lee Unkrich.
- Typesetting matters, folks. Just ask the consummate professionals behind these two book-size online resources: Typography for Lawyers, and LaTeX for Logicians.
- Everyone with an interest in the romance of modern international affairs has read it already, but Raffi Khatchadourian’s profile of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is an outstanding piece of storytelling, if also one that tends towards the making of myth.
- And while on the subject of journalism and international intrigue, here is the Rolling Stone feature on Stanley McChrystal that led him to be sacked from command in Afghanistan.
- Civilization V is on its way, but there’s still plenty to say about Civilization IV. Troy Goodfellow shares a letter from Christopher Tin about composing music for the game. Kotaku asks lead designer Soren Johnson about the mathematization of religion.
- Jeremy Parish reflects on this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) and calls out much of the game industry for the creative bankruptcy of video game violence.
- Neil Swidey of The Boston Globe courageously explores the mind of the anonymous comment-box troll.
- As this year’s graduate session at Singularity University gets underway, The New York Times talks to Ray Kurzweil and gang about the posthuman lifestyle.
- John Naughton writes in The Guardian about what the Internet has really changed.
- England has been swept up in the pathos and misery of football fever, as usual, and one may as well get some World Cup readings out of the way before the Three Lions have truly met with yet another ignominious doom. (Or, preferably, they could win.) Tim de Lisle enquires into the origins of spectator sport’s global draw. And then there’s this article on the North Korean national team, published in timely fashion just before Portugal blanked them 7-0.
- Finally, the only thing that can stop this asteroid is your liberal arts degree.