From the archives: Assorted links

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Suggested reading, recollected edition

Monday, 8 March 2010 — 12:01pm | Assorted links, Classical, Computing, Harry Potter, Hockey, Literature, Music, Pianism, Science, Video games

Fall away from the Internet for a week or two and the Internet falls on you. Here’s some of what I saw when I succumbed to its gelatinous reach:

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Suggested reading: faster/higher/stronger edition

Monday, 15 February 2010 — 11:13pm | Assorted links, Canadiana, Science

I missed most of the live broadcast of the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, but from what I saw it was quite the Canada-fest. Someone should look into how it compares to the way Calgary presented the country in 1988. As someone who grew up in Calgary in the decade following the Olympics, I can attest that it had a permanent transformative effect on the city and its sporting culture, and its legacy can still be felt there today.

But let’s begin with some links. I read up on much of what I missed via this article by Paul Wells, who saw the opening from inside GM Place. Jonathon Narvey and Adrian MacNair made photographic excursions to capture the early protests, which they described as scattered in a plurality of marginally coherent agendas; that was before things turned violent. For an alternative look at the political counter-programming, my friend and former schoolmate Meera Bai visited the Poverty Olympics in the Downtown Eastside. The political dimension of the Olympics doesn’t interest me all that much, to be honest, but the stories and pictures are flavourful.

I have a lumbering giant of a feature article in the works that will hopefully see the light of day soon. Until then, content yourself with some further reading:

  • Kevin Brown of Geographicus wrote a comprehensive introduction to authenticating rare and antique maps—a must-read for the cartographically inclined.

  • And while on the subject of maps, Google incorporated aerial images from World War II into Google Earth.

  • Roger Ebert took a mental walk around London. Like most of the personal recollections Mr Ebert has put in writing of late, it’s a beautiful piece—and near the end he comes by my present stomping grounds in Cambridge and Grantchester.

  • Terrence Deacon raises some problems with the theory that language is a product of natural selection.

  • When David Ben-Gurion was Prime Minister of Israel, he considered Albert Einstein for President. Einstein declined.

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Suggested reading, bowled-over edition

Monday, 8 February 2010 — 11:23pm | Assorted links, Comics, Computing, Jazz, Literature, Music, Science, Video games

I don’t follow American football whatsoever and would probably be unable to name any former or current NFL player that hasn’t been involved in a highly publicized criminal investigation, but you don’t need to know football to enjoy the Super Bowl pieces in McSweeney’s. The two that stuck out for me, both from a few years back: “NFL Players Whose Names Sound Vaguely Dickensian, and the Characters They Would Be in an Actual Dickens Novel” and “Famous Authors Predict the Winner of Super Bowl XLII”.

This week’s bag of links:

  • In a rare sighting of the man behind Calvin and Hobbes, Cleveland newspaper The Plain Dealer interviews Bill Watterson fifteen years after the legendary comic strip ended its run.

  • Peter Hum ruminates on the “ugly beauty” of avant-garde jazz.

  • The big news coming out of Barack Obama’s 2011 budget was the abandonment of NASA’s plan for the resumption of manned spaceflight to the moon. has the analysis.

  • Jonathan McCalmont, caught between the debate over high/low culture and his vehement dislike of the popular video game Bayonetta (“a game so dumb that it makes a weekend spent masturbating and sniffing glue seem like an animated discussion of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921)”), spun it all into a compelling essay on hypnotism and lowbrow art.

  • This Charles Petersen piece in The New York Review of Books is one of the better histories you will find of where Facebook came from and how it has transformed, and offers a thorough look at the content-pushing pressures facing the social-network model of a nominally private Internet.

  • Mark Sarvas identifies some common problems of debut novels from the perspective of a prize-committee veteran.

  • In The Guardian, Darrel Ince implores scientists who rely on internally developed software to publish their source code.

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Suggested reading, goddam phony edition

Monday, 1 February 2010 — 11:32pm | Assorted links, Classical, Jazz, Literature, Music, Video games

In a way, the media frenzy over the death of J.D. Salinger can be understood as a kind of cathartic relief—i.e. now that he’s croaked, we can finally talk about him without feeling like we’re intruding on something. It has, at least, made for some very good reading about one of literature’s most enigmatic figures. Rather than collect the obituaries myself—I haven’t had time to read them all—I’ll link to the links at Bookninja here and here.

Serious aficionados should take a look at this 1957 letter by Salinger explaining why he saw The Catcher in the Rye as unfilmable. Really dedicated junkies of all things Salinger may even go as far as perusing Joyce Maynard’s 1972 article, “An 18-Year-Old Looks Back On Life”, which led her to drop out of Yale and live with the author for a year. (I personally find it nigh on unreadable, but it’s evidence that the cliché anxiety about settling down with 2.2 kids has been around for nearly four decades at least.)

And now for something completely different:

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Suggested reading, sophomoric edition

Monday, 25 January 2010 — 4:30pm | Animation, Assorted links, Computing, Film, Literature, Science

Here’s your grab bag for the week:

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