Fela Kuti, Superstition, Talmud, Intel, Robert Rauschenberg, Sound

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Vagabonds In Power

Ayo Alli | Nation Of Billions | 24th April 2017

Profile of Fela Kuti, musician and social revolutionary. “Fela was a lifetime in his own legend. Like Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and John Lennon rolled into one. But he was more than that. He was braver than all three put together”. He was arrested and jailed more than 300 times by various Nigerian regimes. The army killed his mother by throwing her out of a window. “It’s fair to say he was never the same again. And neither was his music. It took on a darker, more sombre edge” (4,300 words)

The Jew With The Gold Coin

Ewa Tartakowsky | Books And Ideas | 24th April 2017

Many Poles believe that hanging a caricature of a Jew to the left of the front door will bring wealth to the house. As a result, “the Jewish population of Poland today is mainly composed of wooden or clay figurines, magnets and other kitsch pictures. The Jew should be wearing a skullcap and holding a gold coin or counting coins. The picture must be equipped with two hooks. Slip a coin of one grosz behind the frame and turn the Jew upside down every Saturday” (4,090 words)

When You Buy A Cow

Adam Kirsch | Tablet | 25th April 2017

What the Talmud says about buying and selling. With digressions concerning ships, yokes, oxen, giant fish, severed sheep-heads, the castrating of one Leviathan and the salting of another. “If you agreed to buy my used car for $1 million, you couldn’t sue me and claim that you were deceived about the actual value of the car, since everyone knows a used car isn’t worth that much. The law considers that you must have intended to overpay, out of generosity or from some other motive” (1,600 words)

How Intel makes A Chip

Ian King & Max Chafkin | Bloomberg Businessweek | 9th June 2016

Engineering made fascinating. In the course of fabrication, silicon chips are washed “using a form of water so pure it isn’t found in nature. It’s so pure it’s lethal. If you drank enough of it, it would pull essential minerals out of your cells and kill you”. A chip designer “must somehow fit the equivalent of the world’s population into 1 square inch, and arrange everything in such a way that the computer has access to each individual transistor 3 billion times per second” (3,600 words)

The Confidence Man Of American Art

Jed Perl | New York Review Of Books | 25th April 2017

Robert Rauschenberg was “a showman, a trickster, a shaman, and a charmer”, but he lacked the discipline necessary to be a great artist. “However monumental or panoramic a work of art may be, there must always be some acknowledgment of the limits of the artist’s vision. Rauschenberg didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘limits’. There was something of the outrageousness of a Ponzi scheme in the way he took this or that avant-garde idea and inflated it—over and over again” (3,900 words)

The Science Of Listening

Robert Gloy et al | Technologist | 24th April 2017

Updates on speech recognition, concert-hall acoustics, hearing aids, headphones, and city noise. On concert halls: “Ideal reverberation time is between 1.9 and 2.3 seconds depending on the volume of the hall, the size of the audience and the type of music. For optimal sound, we calculate 10 audience members per musician and 10 cubic metres per audience member, so 100 cubic metres per musician. The more musicians there are, the bigger the hall must be” (4,400 words)

Video of the day: Still Life

What to expect:

Shape-shifting fruits and vegetables. By Mike Pelletier (4’05”)

Thought for the day

They say ignorance is bliss. They’re wrong
Franz Kafka

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