Highlights

These are interesting excerpts I’ve clipped from articles online. If you want to see what’s in my queue to read next, I’ve got the articles I’ve saved to Pocket mirrored here. I also have the articles I’ve favourited in Feedbin and a directory of links (not necessarily articles) that are worth returning to.

The New York Public Library archives

But the real gem of the library, in Lannon’s view, is the stuff that you can find only in boxes like the ones now strewn across the table. “You can get a book anywhere,” he said. “An archive exists in one location.” The room we’re standing in is the only place that you can read, say, the week’s worth of journal entries in which New York Times editor Abe Rosenthal contemplates publishing the Pentagon Papers. It’s the only place where you can read the collected papers of Robert Moses, or a letter T.S. Eliot wrote about Ulysses to James Joyce’s Paris publisher, Sylvia Beach.

These collections aren’t digitized. The only way to find out what’s inside them is to ask for a particular box — often with just a vague notion of what will be in it — and to hold the old papers in your hands. “I don’t know how one could be interested in libraries and not archives,” Lannon told me. They tell you “the stories behind things,” he said, “the unpublished, the hard to find, the true story.” This, I began to see, is why someone might have been inclined to call Lannon the most interesting man in the world: it’s because he knows so many of these stories himself, including stories that no one else knows, because they are only told here.

That is the paradox of being an archivist. The reason an archivist should know something, Lannon said, is to help others to know it. But it’s not really the archivist’s place to impose his knowledge on anyone else. Indeed, if the field could be said to have a creed, it’s that archivists aren’t there to tell you what’s important. Historically momentous documents are to be left in folders next to the trivial and the mundane — because who’s to say what’s actually mundane or not?

Keepers of the Secrets, James Somers in The Village Voice

The demographics of early UNIX users

But the most recurrent complaint was that it was too text-oriented. People really hated the command line, with all the utilities, obscure flags, and arguments they had to memorize. They hated all the typing. One mislaid character and you had to start over. Interestingly, this complaint came most often from users of the GUI-laden Macintosh or Windows platforms. People who had slaved away on DOS batch scripts or spent their days on character-based terminals of multiuser non-UNIX machines were less likely to express the same grievance.

Though I understood how people might be put off by having to remember such willfully obscure utility names like cat and grep, I continued to be puzzled at why they resented typing. Then I realized I could connect the complaint with the scores of “intellectual elite” (as my manager described them) in UNIX shops. The common thread was wordsmithing; a suspiciously high proportion of my UNIX colleagues had already developed, in some prior career, a comfort and fluency with text and printed words. They were adept readers and writers, and UNIX played handily to those strengths. UNIX was, in some sense, literature to them. Suddenly the overrepresentation of polyglots, liberal-arts types, and voracious readers in the UNIX community didn’t seem so mysterious, and pointed the way to a deeper issue: in a world increasingly dominated by image culture (TV, movies, .jpg files), UNIX remains rooted in the culture of the word.

The Elements of Style: UNIX as Literature, Thomas Scoville

The daily paper in e-ink

Remember, the device has no buttons and is not a touch screen; it only shows the front page of the paper. But that’s enough to get the gist of what’s going on in the world, and if I want to continue reading an article that caught my attention, I use the Times app (most of the time it’s somewhere near the top of the app as well).

Every morning, I wake up to a fresh edition of the Times on my wall. I find it wonderful to hover for a bit with a cup of coffee, scanning the headlines or reading an article. Mission accomplished and I am one satisfied news junkie.

An updated daily front page of The New York Times as artwork on your wall, Alexander Klöpping

Why is there a cluster of tall buildings in the City of London?

At present more than 60 City buildings exceed 75m in height and nine exceed 150m. Several more are on the drawing board. Most of the new batch are located inside an approximate triangle bounded by Liverpool Street station, Fenchurch Street station and Leadenhall Market. None are targeted for the western half of the City, nor anywhere near the river.

Why is there a cluster of tall buildings in the City of London?, in Diamond Geezer

How I became a drag king in the Scottish folk scene

There is a saying that “the suit makes the man.” When I was finished dressing and looked at myself in the mirror, I felt complete. Finally, the inner persona I was projecting as a performer was reflected externally.

To Feel Right, Amanda Chemeche in Popula

Grapefruits are weird

With the exception of those weirdos like the finger lime, all other citrus fruits are derived from natural and, before long, artificial crossbreeding, and then crossbreeding the crossbreeds, and so on, of those three fruits. Mix certain pomelos and certain mandarins and you get a sour orange. Cross that sour orange with a citron and you get a lemon. It’s a little bit like blending and reblending primary colors. Grapefruit is a mix between the pomelo—a base fruit—and a sweet orange, which itself is a hybrid of pomelo and mandarin.

Because those base fruits are all native to Asia, the vast majority of hybrid citrus fruits are also from Asia. Grapefruit, however, is not. In fact, the grapefruit was first found a world away, in Barbados, probably in the mid-1600s. The early days of the grapefruit are plagued by mystery. Citrus trees had been planted casually by Europeans all over the West Indies, with hybrids springing up all over the place, and very little documentation of who planted what, and which mixed with which. Citrus, see, naturally hybridizes when two varieties are planted near each other. Careful growers, even back in the 1600s, used tactics like spacing and grafting (in which part of one tree is attached to the rootstock of another) to avoid hybridizing. In the West Indies, at the time, nobody bothered. They just planted stuff.

Grapefruit Is One of the Weirdest Fruits on the Planet, Dan Nosowitz in Atlas Obscura

Signs your story is classist

We’ve all seen sporadically employed heroes go home to expensive digs. Jessica Jones lives in Manhattan and, like any noir PI, struggles to get paid. Yet somehow she has an apartment that would cost several thousand a month all to herself. Angel does his unpaid rescue work in Los Angeles and gets an entire hotel for his operation. In the recent Picard show, Raffi complains about being poor but lives in an appealing future rustic home in a scenic park.

Sometimes popular stories come with explanations for how the hero can afford to live where they do. For instance, in the Daredevil Netflix show, supposedly Matt Murdock got his gorgeous apartment at a discount because of glowing billboards right outside the windows. But even when these explanations are realistic, storytellers are still choosing to carve out an exception that lets characters live beyond the means of real people in their income bracket.

These unrealistic depictions encourage inequality from two different angles. First, they deny the reality of high housing prices and insufficient wages in many cities. It’s easier to ignore how unaffordable housing is when the lower-income people in our stories all have plenty of space and privacy. Second, they deny meaningful representation to lower-income people. People who share a small apartment with several roommates or, gasp, live in their parent’s basement deserve to see that lifestyle in their stories.

Five signs your story is classist, Chris Winkle in Mythcreants

Mask misinformation

The article then quotes a doctor named David Eisenman as saying, “I think people see a mask and they see an illusion of protection.” Though Eisenman’s quote does not quite support the subheading on the article, I reached out to him to see whether he still stands by his interview.

In short, he does not. “These things come back and haunt you,” Eisenman, a professor-in-residence at UCLA, told me. “Science recommendations have evolved. Now I would say that the evidence is very much in favor of masks as an important protector in the spread of COVID-19.”

Eisenman says the article was widely read. People occasionally tweet at him asking how he can be recommending masks now when he didn’t six months ago. He explains that the science changed, and so did his advice, but according to him, “it doesn’t seem to satisfy anybody.”

The “masks make you sicker” idea underscores how online misinformation is like an ocean liner: Once it’s headed in one direction, it’s difficult to turn around. The advice on masks changed seven months ago, but some people have stuck with what experts were saying in the confusing early days. One doctor’s criticisms of masks—which he now recants—live on in Twitter threads. And as people find new ways to share incorrect information, through posts, photos, and videos, social-media platforms are struggling to catch and remove all the hokum. Before long, the conspiracy theories break free of Facebook and infect reality.

How a bizarre claim about masks has lived on for months, Olga Khazan in The Atlantic

Evicted in the pandemic

Due to the health crisis, support from neighbors in the absence of a family or other social network to fall back on could become rarer, said Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “Usually when people get evicted, they pull something together. They either stay with family or someone lets them stay for a while, and then they move on to someplace else. Most commonly, even among low-income people, they do eventually get into housing, in normal times,” she said. But for those who aren’t able to figure something out, “it could be the beginning of a downward spiral that ends in homelessness.”

Ty’s possessions stayed locked in his former apartment. To retrieve his things, he would have to call the property’s landlord and eviction lawyers, he was told on the day he was evicted. When he reached them a few days later, they demanded $1,100 to get back into his apartment — money he didn’t have. He had just been paid at work and had only $700 in his bank account. “If I had $1,100, I would have paid for another month’s rent and had a roof over my head for another 30 days,” he said.

Without any other outlet for his anger, he tweeted about his eviction, which caught the attention of a few people whom he had coached in high school football long ago. They reached out to Ty and some other former players and quickly collected the $1,100 he needed to retrieve the rest of his belongings.

His Landlord Evicted Him During The Pandemic And Then Demanded $1,100 For Him To Get His Belongings, Vanessa Wong in BuzzFeed News

Artemisia Gentileschi

Increasingly, Artemisia is celebrated less for her handling of private trauma than for her adept management of her public persona. Throughout her career, she demonstrated a sophisticated comprehension of the way her unusual status as a woman added to the value of her paintings. On a formal level, her representation of herself in the guise of different characters and genders prefigures such postmodern artists as Cindy Sherman. Unlike Sherman, however, Artemisia had few female peers. She was not the only woman working as an artist during the early seventeenth century: a slightly older contemporary was the northern-Italian portraitist Fede Galizia, born in 1578, whose father, like Artemisia’s, was also a painter. But Artemisia must often have felt singular. In a series of letters written to one of her most important patrons, the collector Antonio Ruffo, she wittily referred to her gender: “A woman’s name raises doubts until her work is seen,” and, regarding a work in progress, “I will show Your Illustrious Lordship what a woman can do.” In 2001, the scholar Elizabeth Cropper wrote, “We will never understand Artemisia Gentileschi as a painter if we cannot accept that she was not supposed to be a painter at all, and that her own sense of herself — not to mention others’ views of her — as an independent woman, as a marvel, a stupor mundi, as worthy of immortal fame and historical celebration, was entirely justified.” On art-adjacent blogs, Artemisia’s strength and occasionally obnoxious self-assurance are held forth as her most essential qualities.

A Fuller Picture of Artemisia Gentileschi, Rebecca Mead in The New Yorker