Big Dumb Objects: Science Fiction's Most Mysterious MacGuffins by Damien Walter [The Guardian] “When the unknown is also alien, the mystery only grows more magnetic. Think of that iconic opening to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey: a family of apes wake one morning to find a black monolith looming over them; that had its origins in Arthur C Clarke’s short story The Sentinel. Did some super-advanced civilisation intercede in the early evolution of intelligent life on earth? Or was the monolith just filming a very special edition of Life on Earth? We don’t know, and never find out. But this shiny, looming thing is just one of many Big Dumb Objects [wiki] that have turned up in science fiction over the decades.”
As South Sudan tries to restabilize after the shaky resolution of the 2013 civil war, The Guardian turned over their African coverage to Sudanese and South Sudanese journalists to talk about more than just violence. [more inside]
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Celebration Reel [YouTube] Go behind the scenes with the cast and crew of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. [more inside]
Man Who Claimed to Have Escaped Auschwitz Admits He Lied for Years [The Guardian] Joseph Hirt said he fabricated story of being sent to camp and meeting Nazi doctor Josef Mengele to ‘keep memories alive’ about history of the Holocaust. [more inside]
The Guardian presents a 5-part video series about people redefining how to live in busy urban centres. Listed: Toyko, New York City, London, Constitucion (Chile), Los Angeles.
Artist Anna Hoyle paints imaginary satirical book covers. (slTheGruaniad) [more inside]
X-Rays Reveal 1,300-Year-Old Writings Inside Later Bookbindings [The Guardian] The words of the 8th-century Saint Bede are among those that have been found by detecting iron, copper and zinc – constituents of medieval ink. Medieval manuscripts that have been hidden from view for centuries could reveal their secrets for the first time, thanks to new technology. Dutch scientists and other academics are using an x-ray technique to read fragments of manuscripts that have been reused as bookbindings and which cannot be deciphered with the naked eye. After the middle ages manuscripts were recycled, with pages pasted inside bindings to strengthen them. Those fragments may be the unique remains of certain works.
Mumbai is home to an estimated 20 million people ... and 21 leopards. The 250,000 residents with homes inside the boundary of Sanjay Gandhi National Park find a way to live with their big-cat neighbours.
TS Eliot's rejection of Orwell's Animal Farm [The Guardian] Digitised for the first time by the British Library, Eliot’s rejection is now available to read alongside others including Virginia Woolf’s to James Joyce. Eliot’s letter is one of more than 300 items which have been digitised by the British Library, a mixture of drafts, diaries, letters and notebooks by authors ranging from Virginia Woolf to Angela Carter and Ted Hughes. The literary archive reveals that Orwell was not the only major writer to suffer a series of rejections: the British Library has also digitised a host of rejections for James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, showing how his patron Harriet Shaw Weaver attempted to find a printer for the novel she had published in serialised form in The Egoist. [more inside]
Long before Edward Snowden went public, John Crane was a top Pentagon official fighting to protect NSA whistleblowers. Instead their lives were ruined – and so was his. [more inside]
How Technology Is Changing Our Hands by Darian Leader [The Guardian] Doctors predict that our increasing use of computers and mobile phones will permanently alter our hands. What will this mean for the way we touch, feel and communicate? [more inside]
Kafkaesque: A Word So Overused It Has Lost All Meaning? by Alison Flood [The Guardian] On Monday night, Han Kang’s strange, disturbing, brilliant novel The Vegetarian won the Man Booker International prize. Shortly afterwards, dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster announced that searches for the word “Kafkaesque” had “spiked dramatically” in the wake of her win, because the novel “has been described by its British publishers (and by a number of reviewers) as Kafkaesque”.
Criticism leveled at Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, wife of prime minister Justin Trudeau, dismissed as ‘sexist and spiteful’ after she says she needs more staff. [The Guardian] The wife of Canada’s prime minister has sparked a fierce national debate after saying she needs more help to expand her official role and take on more public duties. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau last week told a French-language newspaper that she wanted to do more, but struggled with just one staff member. [more inside]
The retired cops investigating unsolved murders in one of America’s most violent cities. by Christopher Pomorski [The Guardian] A former murder capital of the US, Camden, New Jersey has created its first cold case squad. Can solving old killings help restore an embattled community’s trust in law and order? [more inside]
Subway Reading: Taking Fake Book Covers on the Subway [YouTube] [Video] How would you react if you saw someone reading 'Getting Away With Murder for Dummies on public transport?' Comic Scott Rogowsky (@ScottRogowsky) took some pretend, provocative book covers on an underground operation. [via: The Guardian]
Truffles and Toffee Crisps: cooks on the ‘good’ food they hate – and the ‘bad’ food they love (slTheGrauniad)
Investors are pouring money into apps that allow women to track their fertility. Can tech companies use data to change the world of women’s reproductive health? (slTheGuardian)
San Francisco had been a place where some people came out of idealism or stayed to realize an ideal: to work for social justice or teach the disabled, to write poetry or practise alternative medicine – to be part of something larger than themselves that was not a corporation, to live for something more than money. That was becoming less and less possible as rent and sale prices for homes spiralled upward. What the old-timers were afraid of losing, many of the newcomers seemed unable to recognise. (slTheGuardian)
What should we do about paedophiles? by Sophie Elmhirst [The Guardian] They have committed unspeakable crimes that demand harsh punishment. But most will eventually be set free. Are we prepared to support efforts to rehabilitate them? [more inside]
The rats who sniff out tuberculosis. by Emma Young [The Guardian] The African giant pouched rat can be trained to sniff out tuberculosis more accurately than most lab tests. So why is the medical profession still sceptical? [more inside]
The Guardian reports on an accusation by a former Muskegon County, Michigan health official claiming that a Catholic healthcare provider forced five women between August 2009 and December 2010 to undergo dangerous miscarriages by giving them no other option. Catholic hospitals must follow the Ethical Health Directives issued by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and with consolidation in health care providers, more and more Americans are affected. [more inside]
Scientists find evidence of mathematical structures in classic books. [The Guardian] James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake has been described as many things, from a masterpiece to unreadable nonsense. But it is also, according to scientists at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Poland, almost indistinguishable in its structure from a purely mathematical multifractal.
“The absolute record in terms of multifractality turned out to be Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. The results of our analysis of this text are virtually indistinguishable from ideal, purely mathematical multifractals,” said Professor Stanisław Drożdż, another author of the paper, which has just been published in the computer science journal Information Sciences.
Jamie Love has spent years battling global drug companies, unshakable in his belief that even the world’s poorest people should have access to life-saving medicines. Is it time that our own government listened to him? [slguardian]
Stephen Leather accused of cyberbullying by fellow thriller writers. by Alison Flood [The Guardian]
Over the past week, the authors Steve Mosby and Jeremy Duns have each alleged that Leather is behind websites set up to attack them. On 4 January, Mosby blogged about the launch of the site fuckstevemosby.com, which featured an exhaustive collection of the times he swore online. Mosby claims that the site was set up by Leather. Duns, the author of the Paul Dark spy novels, then blogged a lengthy analysis of the reasons why he believes Leather is behind a series of sites abusing him – including the claim that the recently established site fuckjeremyduns.com briefly redirected to Leather’s own site about his character Spider Shepherd.[more inside]
"In an age when the line between childhood and adulthood is blurrier than ever, what is it that makes people grown up?" [more inside]
"Also, by dramatising the wildness of the outside, it fetishises the cosiness of indoors." Cabin porn: why hideaways are hot right now (Jess Cartner-Morley, The Guardian) [more inside]
“My Christmas in New York” by Harper Lee, Illustrations by Bill Bragg [The Guardian]
“Several years ago, I was living in New York and working for an airline, so I never got home to Alabama for Christmas – if, indeed, I got the day off. To a displaced southerner, Christmas in New York can be rather a melancholy occasion, not because the scene is strange to one far from home, but because it is familiar: New York shoppers evince the same singleness of purpose as slow-moving southerners; Salvation Army bands and Christmas carols are alike the world over; at that time of year, New York streets shine wet with the same gentle farmer’s rain that soaks Alabama’s winter fields. I missed Christmas away from home, I thought. What I really missed was a memory, an old memory of people long since gone, of my grandparents’ house bursting with cousins, smilax and holly. I missed the sound of hunting boots, the sudden open-door gusts of chilly air that cut through the aroma of pine needles and oyster dressing. I missed my brother’s night-before-Christmas mask of rectitude and my father’s bumblebee bass humming Joy To The World.”
A Darth Vader waffle maker? You really shouldn’t have…by David Mitchell [The Guardian]
“Star Wars, it turns out, is the most ambitious, enterprising and impressive exercise in the marketing of crap ever conceived by man. Crap, that is, apart from the toys. I have to make an exception for the toys because, as a child, I was an enthusiastic collector of Star Wars figures and spaceships. [...] But, toys aside, it really is crap. Anyone who enjoys their Stormtrooper single duvet cover set more than watching The Empire Strikes Back is a very odd person indeed – and unlikely ever to be in the market for a Stormtrooper double duvet cover set. These are all things that you either don’t need at all or you’d be slightly better off with a non-Star Wars version. And I say that as someone whose wife once gave him an R2-D2 eggcup as a present. Because if you love eggs, and you love Star Wars… you’ll still, in general, find yourself using a normal egg cup.”
Alan Dershowitz on the Defense (His Own) by Barry Meier [The New York Times]
Last month, demonstrators at Johns Hopkins University interrupted Alan M. Dershowitz as he was giving a fiery speech defending Israel. The disruption normally would not have fazed Mr. Dershowitz, a former Harvard Law School professor who thrives on controversy and relishes taking on opponents in and out of the courtroom. The protesters, however, were not challenging his Middle East politics. Instead, they held up a sign reading, “You Are Rape Culture.” Mr. Dershowitz knew what it meant. A decade ago, he had defended a friend, a money manager named Jeffrey E. Epstein, after authorities in Palm Beach, Fla., found evidence indicating that he was paying underage girls to give him sexual massages. The lawyer led a scorched-earth attack on the girls and, with a team of high-priced lawyers, cut a plea deal for Mr. Epstein that the local police said was too lenient.[more inside]
An all-white jury convicted Daniel Holtzclaw of rape. It's almost enough. [The Guardian]
It took 45 hours over the course of four days for an all-white jury in Oklahoma City to decide whether or not they should convict former police officer Daniel Holtzclaw of sexual assault on the word of 13 black women. On Thursday night, the jury opted to believe (most of) them. There is perhaps no bigger test of how blind justice could possibly be than asking any American jury – especially one that is all white and includes eight men – to believe 13 black women over a former police officer and supposed hero football player. It’s easy enough to point to cases where the police were acquitted. And yet, against all expectations this time, justice was blind.[more inside]
Four-day marathon public reading of War and Peace begins in Russia. [The Guardian]
A marathon four-day Russian public reading of Leo Tolstoy’s vast classic novel War and Peace kicked off on Tuesday morning, with more than 1,300 people in more than 30 cities preparing to make their contributions to the record-breaking project. Coordinated by Tolstoy’s great-great-granddaughter Fekla Tolstaya, and featuring a number of cultural luminaries including the Polish film director Andrzej Wajda, the readings are being streamed by Russian state television channel Kultura. One volume of Tolstoy’s fictionalised history of Russia during the Napoleonic campaign will be read each day.
Debate erupts as Hanya Yanagihara's editor takes on critic over bad review of A Little Life. [The Guardian] The editor of Hanya Yanagihara’s bestselling novel A Little Life has taken to the pages of the New York Review of Books to defend his author from a review that claimed the novel “duped” its readers “into confusing anguish and ecstasy, pleasure and pain”. [more inside]
As Johnny Depp goes bald for Black Mass, we hail the most startling cinematic metamorphoses. [slGuardian]
Marlon James, winner of this year’s Man Booker prize, believes that writers of color are “pandering to the white woman.” [The Guardian]
The 2015 Man Booker prize winner Marlon James has slammed the publishing world, saying authors of colour too often “pander to white women” to sell books, and that he could have been published more often if he had written “middle-style prose and private ennui”.[more inside]
My son, the mass murderer: ‘What did I miss?’ [The Guardian] In 2006, Charlie Roberts walked into an Amish school in Pennsylvania and killed five young girls. His mother talks about trying to comprehend his actions.
The murderers next door. [The Guardian] In a remote corner of Romania, neighbours kill each other over tiny strips of land. Betrayed by their rulers, these rural communities have resorted to violent assertion of their rights. [more inside]
The Art of Witness by James Wood [The New Yorker] How Primo Levi survived.
“Primo Levi [wiki] did not consider it heroic to have survived eleven months in Auschwitz. Like other witnesses of the concentration camps, he lamented that the best had perished and the worst had survived. But we who have survived relatively little find it hard to believe him. How could it be anything but heroic to have entered Hell and not been swallowed up? To have witnessed it with such delicate lucidity, such reserves of irony and even equanimity? Our incomprehension and our admiration combine to simplify the writer into a needily sincere amalgam: hero, saint, witness, redeemer.”[more inside]
"There’s a long and noble tradition of literary critics misunderstanding Joseph Conrad. Partly that’s because he is such a complicated, dense and fascinating writer. Far more words have been written about him than he ever wrote himself – and not everyone can get it right all the time. Especially when you throw combustible postcolonial issues into the mix." [Sam Jordison - The Guardian] [more inside]
A serial novel written in real time by Joshua Cohen, with illustrations by Leon Chang.
PCKWCK is a reinterpretation of Charles Dickens' first serial novel, The Pickwick Papers. That's about all we know so far, because it hasn't been written yet. Beginning Monday, October 12th at 1pm EST, Joshua Cohen will write PCKWCK over five days in front of the entire internet. Every day from 1pm-6pm EST visitors to www.PCKWCK.com will be able to watch Cohen write in real time, offer feedback that may affect the outcome of the novel, and talk with Cohen and other readers in a chat room.[more inside]
Henning Mankell, Dean of Scandinavian Noir Writers, Dies at 67 [The New York Times]
Henning Mankell, the Swedish novelist and playwright best known for police procedurals that were translated into a score of languages and sold by the millions throughout the world, died Monday morning in Goteborg, Sweden. He was 67. Mr. Mankell was considered the dean of the so-called Scandinavian noir writers who gained global prominence for novels that blended edge-of-your-seat suspense with flawed, compelling protagonists and strong social themes. The genre includes Arnaldur Indridason of Iceland, Jo Nesbo of Norway and Stieg Larsson of Sweden, among others.[more inside]
"But the other thing you learn is that your fear and nervousness and insecurity is your own business, nobody else’s.”
Helen Mirren is interviewed by The Guardian.
Helen Mirren is interviewed by The Guardian.
"Julia is a do-gooder – which is to say, a human character who arouses conflicting emotions. By 'do-gooder' here I do not mean a part-time, normal do-gooder – someone who has a worthy job, or volunteers at a charity, and returns to an ordinary family life in the evenings. I mean a person who sets out to live as ethical a life as possible. I mean a person who is drawn to moral goodness for its own sake. I mean someone who commits himself wholly, beyond what seems reasonable. I mean the kind of do-gooder who makes people uneasy."
Before the law sits a gatekeeper. To this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the law. But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment. The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in later on. “It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.”Franz Kafka's Before the Law, animated as a pinscreen prologue to Orson Welles' film adaptation of Kafka's The Trial (Pop Matters review), and a stand-alone "free interpretation" short titled The Guardian by N9ve Studios. [more inside]
Not all comments are created equal: the case for ending online comments - Jessica Valenti for The Guardian. Previously: All of the commenting, none of the comments., What We Comment About When We Comment About Commenting
One lawyer’s crusade to defend extreme pornography. Myles Jackman is Britain’s leading obscenity lawyer. But he does not merely defend the accused: his life’s great plan and purpose is to rid this country once and for all of its laws criminalising extreme pornography – laws that he regards as morally and socially iniquitous. (contains descriptions of sex and pornography)