B.B. King, Brexit, Shazam, Weather Forecasting, Iraq, David Letterman, Accidents


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Happiness Blues

Ted Scheinman | Oxford American | 8th May 2015

B.B. King freed the blues from tragedy. The songs might be sad bur the singer was "hosting a party. King "created celebratory art ... separating himself from the hoodoo baggage that attended Robert Johnson". You could see the new mood in his raconteur’s stage-banter and that "perennially cheerful visage". But mainly you can hear it "in the playful yelp of his guitar, Lucille". (795 words)

Brexit: The UK And Europe

Alex Barker & George Parker | Financial Times | 21st May 2015 | | Read with 1Pass

Britain's new Conservative government prepares for a promised referendum on UK membership of the European Union, probably next year. David Cameron may well secure most of the concessions that he wants from the EU as the price of supporting continued membership. But even then, the vote could go either way; and a British success could incite more EU countries to demand special treatment (1,560 words)

The Shazam Effect

Derek Thompson | Atlantic | 1st December 2014

A smartphone app called Shazam sets off "a revolution in the recording industry". Play Shazam a fragment of music and it will identify the title and performer. Twenty million searches every day provide a goldmine of real-time data to music industry agents and scouts, who can see which songs are catching on and where. “We can see when a song is going to break out months before most people have even heard of it” (2,500 words)

Watchers Of The Skies

Richard Hamblyn | TLS | 20th May 2015

Dismayed by a storm in 1859 that sank 133 ships, Robert FitzRoy, first head of the British government's Meteorological Department, "took it upon himself to issue bespoke weather warnings, for which he coined the term forecasts.” It did not go well. The forecasts attracted so much derision in the press that FitzRoy despaired. "On a spring morning in 1865, he locked himself in his dressing room and cut his throat with a razor" (1,414 words)

ISIS And The Shia Revival In Iraq

Nicholas Pelham | New York Review Of Books | 18th May 2015

Letter from Baghdad. The city "feels uncannily lacking in trauma", despite the consolidation of the Islamic State to the north. The Iraqi army and Shiite militias continue the fight to drive out ISIS and reunify the country. But as the south of Iraq rebuilds and prospers, the chasm with the north widens, and the attractions of formal partition can only grow. Why bleed for a north that is mostly desert and "feuding tribes"? (4,200 words)

That Joke Has Everything

Peter Kaplan | Deadspin | 18th December 2014

Prescient Esquire profile of David Letterman from 1981, before Late Night made its debut, when he was seen as heir-apparent to Johnny Carson on the Tonight show. "Like Carson, he knows that the long run is left to those who know to hold off and save it for the stretch. When he works an audience, Letterman works at half speed so that he can generate while he goes; it's the broadcast tradition of the talker" (6,100 words)

Havoc: A Life In Accidents

Tim Winton | The Monthly | 21st May 2015

As a policeman, Dad spends his time dealing with other people's tragedies — until one comes his way. "Sometime during that long convalescence, I came upon the helmet Dad had been wearing when he was hit. Inside it smelt of my father, but it was as if you could almost sniff death on the outside. This flimsy artefact had held my father’s living head, his brain, his memory, all his jokes; it was all that had stood between him and the void" (7,600 words)

Video of the day: How Bees Are Born

What to expect: Time-lapse documentary film of baby bees emerging from eggs (1'04")

Thought for the day

Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed
Bertrand Russell (http://www.openculture.com/2013/03/bertrand_russells_ten_commandments_for_living_in_a_healthy_democracy.html)

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