France, Robots, Paris, DNA, Feet

A Certain Idea Of France

Peter Hitchens | 13th March 2019 | First Things

Nominally a review of Julian Jackson’s biography of Charles de Gaulle; but a superb essay in its own right. “De Gaulle’s life would have been better lived in the 17th or 18th century, when mystical imagination, chivalry and religious fervour were more welcome than they are now. Had he not been so magnificent, he would have been ridiculous. He was filled with shining, old-fashioned beliefs about honour, courage, shame and humiliation, glory and infamy. As those who conversed with him found, he was the last great man to make it his business to know those things that it is proper for a king to know” (3,800 words)


Free Shipping

Chenoe Hart | Real Life | 14th February 2019

A cascade of ideas about how fully automated home delivery — whereby robots bring packages to the door, and into the house — will change our habits and values. If a robot can deliver things, it can as easily take things away, and deliver them elsewhere. “A robot delivery system could turn every home into a warehouse of objects offered for rent or sale. Mass consumption would be replaced by mass distribution, rendering present-day cultural distinctions between ‘new’ and ‘used’ objects a matter of the same indifference now displayed toward sleeping in hotel beds, or eating off restaurant cutlery” (3,150 words)


Paris Underground

Will Hunt | Longreads | 13th March 2019

The networks of tunnels beneath Paris have their own art, their own nightlife, even their own police. “To wander through the catacombs is to feel yourself inside of a mystery novel, full of false walls and trapdoors and secret chutes, each leading to another hidden chamber, containing another surprise. Down one passageway you might find a chamber containing a sprawling Boschian mural that cataphiles had been gradually embellishing for decades; down another, you might see a life-size sculpture of a man half inside a stone wall, as though stepping in from the beyond” (6,700 words)


Neanderthal Renaissance

Rebecca Wragg Sykes | Aeon | 13th March 2019

Neanderthals appeared as a distinct species in the fossil record 400,000 years ago and disappeared 40,000 years ago, after the emergence of Homo sapiens. Most scientists had assumed until quite recently that Neanderthals were culturally inferior to early humans, lived separately, and were driven to extinction, perhaps violently. Genetic and archaeological discoveries over the past ten years have shown this picture to be completely wrong. Neanderthals interbred with humans, and had a comparable level of culture. We are what we are as humans today, in part because we are also Neanderthals (4,400 words)


High Heels And Lotus Feet

Summer Brennan | Granta | 13th March 2019

Reflections on the old Chinese custom of foot-binding, a hideously cruel process involving the repeated smashing of bones throughout childhood. It began among courtiers in the 10th century and spread across the whole of society. Tiny, crippled feet were originally a marker of status, denoting that a woman did not need to work. Over time they became a marker of femininity, and a thing of beauty in themselves — not unlike high heels nowadays. “One has to sculpt, suffer, and reinvent to be read as female” (2,820 words)


Video: Police Logs Of Port Townsend. Local residents read police reports of actual events in Port Townsend and Jefferson County, Washington State (6m 06s)

Audio: The Economy Inside Your Head | The Indicator. Cardiff Garcia talks to Leigh Caldwell about ‘cognitive economics’ — the study of how we allocate our mental resources (9m 50s)

Afterthought:
“Less is more only when more is too much”
― Frank Lloyd Wright