Childbirth, Sound, Münchausen Syndrome, Missing People, Raymond Loewy

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The Manner Born

Bee Wilson | Times Literary Supplement | 7th September 2016

On the narrative conventions of pregnancy and childbirth, versus the realities. “A typical birth scene, like a sports movie, is all about the finish. The mother arrives at hospital in a state of blind panic, after a series of comic mishaps, but still immaculately made up. She lies flat in bed, screaming and cursing, yet prettily covered by blue or pink sheets, surrounded by friends. Then, suddenly, she is handed a perfect baby – who looks at least six months old – the prize for her labours” (2,400 words)


Pauline LeVen | Bryn Mawr Classical Review | 15th December 2016

What were the sounds of Ancient Greece? What did the poets hear in their heads as they wrote? Sean Alexander Gurd explores these questions in his “thrilling” new book, Dissonance, a work of “sensuous scholarship” for the mind and ears. “It is only silent at night. The rising sun sets the air popping and sizzling. Goats and sheep bleat, cows raise a clamor, bulls bellow. Cicadas sing, as do birds. The earth is split by thunder. Where there is sound, there is danger, disruption, agony, or worse.” (1,975 words)

The Murder of Münchausen

Michelle Dean | Buzzfeed | 19th August 2016

Shocking, and horrifying, and gripping to read. A mother insists that her daughter suffers from cancer, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy, and innumerable other conditions. She subjects the girl to twenty years of non-stop surgery and drugs at the hands of compliant doctors. Yet the daughter is not ill. In medical terms it is the mother who is sick, with Münchausen’s disease by proxy. But she is no longer around to be diagnosed, because her daughter eventually killed her, and went to prison for it (8,500 words)

Japan’s “Evaporated People”

Maureen Callahan | New York Post | 10th December 2016

At least 100,000 Japanese men and women vanish each year, abandoning homes and jobs and families to live in other towns under other names. They are known as “evaporated people”, and they are typically fleeing from “indignities large and small” such as divorce, debt, job loss or even just failing an exam. They can pay specialist contractors to make “disappearances look like abductions, homes look like they’ve been robbed”, and erase paper trails that might tip off relatives or creditors (1,900 words)

The Four-Letter Code To Sell Anything

Derek Thompson | Atlantic | 15th December 2016

The prolific industrial designer Raymond Loewy “affected the daily life of more Americans than any man of his time”, claimed Cosmopolitan with forgivable exaggeration. He designed tractors for International Harvester, cookers for General Electric, a livery for Air Force One. He thought consumers were curious about new things but also fearful; so the optimal new products had to be “bold, but instantly comprehensible”, a condition for which he coined the acronym “maya”, meaning, “most advanced yet acceptable” (2,900 words)

Video of the day: The Machinists Of The New York Times

What to expect:

Conversations with the repairmen who keep the printing presses rolling at the New York Times ( 9’14”)

Thought for the day

There’s no sense in being precise when you don’t even know what you’re talking about
John von Neumann

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