New Yorker May 16
Another “Innovators Issue”. Fell a little behind in my reading, but this is a good issue with some great pieces.
A Whole New Ball Game. There’s a little robot ball called Sphero which can be used to teach kids programming and such. Although this proves challenging when the kids are young and would prefer to play with something that also makes a great toy. Learning can (should) be fun, but I’d say they’re aiming a little young when all the code that gets written is “Roll 3 seconds”. And of course the resemblance to the (wholly unnecessary) BB-8 Star Wars droid drives more demand. How much do kids really learn, or is this just tossing money at the latest fad? There’s a rather unsubstantiated claim at the end that recreating a solar system with Spheros means students are “doing really advanced math”. But what does that mean? Are they driving them in plain circles, or is it a real nine body gravity simulation? Tricking students into solving the latter, without even knowing it, would be amazing indeed.
High Maintenance is a light hearted but nevertheless very serious take on the long term effects of high heels.
Dance, Off is an old man complaining about dancing.
Call Me Crazy is a hilarious sendup of conference calls. Start with an email, agree to a conference call, spend an hour dicking about, then finally agree to exchange ideas via email. I’ve only had the pleasure of being on a few conference calls, though I believe I batted about .800 getting an urgent update to the access code five minutes before show time.
Telling Tales questions whether we’re better off with fiction, or if a strictly literal world without liars would be an improvement.
Seeing Double looks at the effect mirrors have on our daily behavior, always trying to maintain our best appearance. How much time is wasted preening? I was surprised there’s no mention of selfie culture, which seems like the next step.
Bad Character considers the effect that long term language stability has on culture. Beowulf is unreadable to modern English readers, but ancient Chinese texts remain readable. I’m somewhat skeptical, but at least I learned that by detaching characters from phonetics, the written language doesn’t lag behind the spoken language.
To the Class of 2050. I loved this. Commencement speeches always have the same optimistic formula about pushing forward and things turning out unexpectedly, but still ok. What if it’s really not going to be ok?
Happy Together. Grownups, or millennial facsimiles thereof, living in dorms because sometimes mom isn’t there to vacuum the living room. Having a lease sounds entirely too much like responsibility, but when you call it a membership that’s just awesome. A good fit for what Aziz calls “the dicking around and having brunch stage” and best of all, no curfew like the Barbizon.
Play Ground. A look at the new Governors Island park. It sounds like a great place to visit. It’s been some years since I’ve been to the island. The last visit involved a food truck festival of sorts, basically hipster heaven, but alas even the most talented taco truck chef isn’t quick enough at making artisinal tortas with love to keep up with the rate at which a ferry disgorges passengers. I really like the Highline Park; I’m excited to see what’s been done here.
There’s fiction about a guy who feels bad for using Backpage. I guess it’s topical since they’re back in the news again.
One claimant for the title of inventor of the novel, or modern novel, or something, is Samuel Richardson. I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to pick up a copy of Clarissa, which is twice as long as War and Peace and sounds many times as preachy.
Show Them the Money. You sell more movie tickets by promoting the stars, not the story. Similarly for sports stars. There’s also some evidence to suggest that the irrationality of the sports fan is not a unique sports mania, but actually normal human behavior.
Ha, in a great parting shot, a review for Captain America quotes Thomas Hobbes. “There are some that are not pleased with fiction, unless it be bold, not only to exceed the work, but also the possibility of nature: they would have impenetrable armors, enchanted castles, invulnerable bodies, iron men, flying horses, and a thousand other such things, which are easily feigned by them that dare.”