The Tri-X Factor

In praise of Kodak Tri-X, the black-and-white film beloved by old-school photographers for its “grainy” and “dirty” tones. It was “flexible and forgiving”: you could muff the exposure and still get a decent shot. Devotees included Henri Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Don McCullin. When Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012, Anton Corbijn bought thousands of rolls of Tri-X and stuffed them in the fridge (3,830 words)

How Teams Really Work

What makes for a great sports team? “From a management perspective, the challenge is to establish two distinct but overlapping majorities: a majority of strong characters who have the ability to carry people with them, and a majority of players in form on any given day. A subtler kind of majority is also needed for long-term victory: a core of team-spirited players. The story of good teams is really the story of good senior players” (950 words)

Sleeping With The Enemy

Letters found in a Paris flea market recount a love story between a German soldier and a French secretary during the occupation of France. “Leather, cotton and wool had all but vanished. The clacking of wooden soles on Parisian cobbles was becoming the defining sound of occupation. But Johann had access to luxuries. A relationship between occupied and occupier, complicated, perilous, seductive, was starting to ensnare them all” (5,700 words)

Think Similar

On the nouning and adverbing of adjectives. It’s OK. “Advertisers love to push at the edges of taste in language. If this slogan — ‘Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should’ — from 1954, doesn’t bother you, you’re like most modern folks. But every educated Anglophone knew, when this came out, that ‘like’ couldn’t be used as a conjunction, and that this should be ‘Tastes good, as a cigarette should’” (730 words)

Stumbling Over The Past

Strange, beautiful, sad, admirable. Across Berlin and other European cities, 40,000 small brass plates embedded in front of buildings remember residents who died in the Holocaust. These are called Stolpersteine — “stumbling stones”. You might think this a government project, but it is a private initiative run by an artist, Gunter Demnig, who was born in Berlin and now lives in Cologne. You choose the subject; he makes the stone (3,182 words)

The Best Philosophy Is Hume’s Scepticism

“In theory, we have all learned Hume’s lesson, because a modest scepticism is the official philosophy of the modern sciences. In fact, we have not learned his lesson. Nobody has time to wait and see whether yesterday’s experiment will still stand several decades from now. Life is short and writers have deadlines. So scepticism is a philosophy that is not easy to live up to. But who would want a philosophy that was?” (392 words)

A Delicate Operation

Urologist specialising in prostate cancer contracts prostate cancer, opts for surgery. “Professor Dasgupta places his colleague’s gland on a piece of gauze and prods and stretches it. It is dark-reddish, grainy and meaty, and if I hadn’t just seen it functioning inside a human being I would have thought it as benign as a piece of chicken tikka” (3,786 words)

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