Best of the Moment
Lynnley Browning | Newsweek | 11th October 2013
Profile of Ashley Madison, hook-up agency for married people. Slogan: "Life is short — have an affair". Sample detail: "In the United States the top cheating city is Washington, D.C., where 6.18 percent of all residents have paid memberships ... 70 percent of the paid members are males over 40, and of that group, 84 percent are married ... There are four times as many 39-year-old men on the site as there are 38-year-olds"
John Banville | New York Review Of Books | 11th October 2013
Review of the second and third volumes of Reiner Stach's Kafka biography; the first has been held up in the hope of new papers from Max Brod's archive. "This is one of the great literary biographies, to be set up there with, or perhaps placed on an even higher shelf than, Richard Ellmann’s James Joyce, George Painter’s Marcel Proust, and Leon Edel’s Henry James". Also discussed: Franz Kafka: Poet of Shame and Guilt, by Saul Friedländer
Justin Fox | Harvard Business Review | 4th October 2013
On the game theory of the American government shutdown; why we have brinksmanship rather than equilibrium. "It’s an interaction among agents who base their decisions on limited information about actions of other agents in the recent past." To quote Thomas Schelling: "If I say 'Row, or I’ll tip the boat over and drown us both', you’ll say you don’t believe me. But if I rock the boat so that it may tip over, you’ll be more impressed"
Venkatesh Rao | Ribbonfarm | 11th October 2013
Humans have relied on natural language for communication and thinking since the dawn of the species. But now there is a rival soft technology: computing. "The difference is that computing can as yet only handle the simpler cases covered by natural language. But it serves those cases much better than natural language". Is this the biggest technological disruption in world history? Only electricity, as a replacement for fire, comes close
J.K. Appleseed | McSweeney's | 10th October 2013
Apple weaponised product launch with the 1984 Super Bowl commercial for the Mac. Now its capacity to arouse and manage expectations means that enthusiasts will queue for a week in the street just to get their hands on an updated iPhone. Here's what it's like to be working in the store when a launch day comes around. "I’m walking past the line. Deja Vu. There are folding chairs, sleeping bags, coolers, and interesting smells"
Sameer Rahim | Telegraph | 6th October 2013
Historian talks about his new translation of Herodotus, and the problems of piecing together ancient history from scattered fragments. "Herodotus tells us how the Egyptians developed scruples about having sex in temples, and why they shaved their eyebrows when a cat died. He is our best source for the burial process in which the brain was removed through the nostrils with an iron hook" (Metered paywall)
Thought for the day:
"If rationality were the criterion for things being allowed to exist, the world would be one gigantic field of soya beans"— Tom Stoppard