Reading Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto Watched Page Eight (2011)

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.

Grapefruits are weird

2020-10-12

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

2020-10-12

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

2020-10-12

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

2020-10-06

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

2020-10-05

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

The Internet Is For End Users

2020-10-05

Many who participate in the IETF are most comfortable making what we believe to be purely technical decisions; our process favors technical merit through our well-known mantra of “rough consensus and running code.”

Nevertheless, the running code that results from our process (when things work well) inevitably has an impact beyond technical considerations, because the underlying decisions afford some uses while discouraging others. While we believe we are making only technical decisions, in reality, we are defining (in some degree) what is possible on the Internet itself.

This impact has become significant. As the Internet increasingly mediates essential functions in societies, it has unavoidably become profoundly political; it has helped people overthrow governments, revolutionize social orders, swing elections, control populations, collect data about individuals, and reveal secrets. It has created wealth for some individuals and companies while destroying that of others.

mdash; The Internet Is For End Users, Mark Nottingham in Internet Architecture Board RFCs

Chinese women's writing

2020-10-03

Jiangyong Nüshu is essentially premised on the simplification and stylization of standard Chinese characters. The women who created it chose one character to stand for one sound in their language (in contrast to standard Sinographic writing, where one sound may be represented by dozens or scores of discrete characters. In this way, the memory load on the users of the script was much reduced.

In addition, Nüshu adheres to the principle of what I call “rhomboidization”, whereby the square shapes of Sinographs are tilted diagonally. Another noticeable feature of Nüshu is its exaggeratedly long, curved strokes to suit the particular medium they may be using, e.g., embroidery, one of the chief forms in which the script is practiced.

In some respects, Jiangyong Nüshu is distinctive, but it is not an utterly unique specimen of a script that was originally used primarily by women. Another is the Japanese cursive syllabary called hiragana, which was also known as onnade 女手 (“women’s hand / writing”). Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji), one of the great novels of the world, written in the early 11th century by the noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu, was written in hiragana.

Women’s writing: dead or alive, Victor Mair in Language Log

V. Krishna and the making of an English-Kannada dictionary

2020-09-29

V. Krishna and Narasimhamurthy, KaGaPa’s proprietor, spoke passionately about Kannada literature and digitisation projects in the quaint little office room, surrounded by stacks of old Kannada books and literature. It was the perfect setting. Then, the extremely soft-spoken and mild-mannered V. Krishna fired up a computer and showed us his lifelong side project, his Kannada-English dictionary. Researched and written over a period of more than 40 years, 150,000+ Kannada words and 240,000+ English definitions, all neatly typed up in a Word document, complete with parts of speech tags and phonetic notations with diacritics for Kannada words. The ambition of the project, its scholarly quality, the depth of the data, the culmination of one man’s passion, perseverance, and tenacity over a lifetime, all lying in obscurity, stumbled upon by sheer coincidence. Absolutely mind blowing.

He offered V. Krishna a perpetual, unconditional monthly stipend to support his passion, working on his dictionary. Here is the kicker—he is now working on an English-Kannada dictionary and has recently completed all the “A” words.

Alar: The making of an open source dictionary, Kailash Nadh, CTO of Zerodha

The New York Accent

2020-09-24

To begin with, White reminds us, the original Americans always pronounced r, as the British did in colonial times. Only in the late 18th century did the British stop pronouncing r after a vowel. Not surprisingly, the colonists who remained in the big East Coast seaports and had regular contact with London adopted the new British pronunciation. But those who settled inland retained the old r and never lost it. (As White says, this means that Shakespeare’s accent was probably more like standard American today than Received Pronunciation.)

Tawk of the Town, Patricia T O' Conner in Literary Review