Prints, Plunges, Pomskies, People, Pop

The Print, The Book, The Screen

Jörg Colberg | Conscientious | 15th June 2020

Advice to aspiring photographers on understanding the workings of the art market. “Photographs have no meaning on their own. They take on some meaning through the way they are produced and used. They also take on a value or aura based on what carrier they appear on. In the world of photography, the value is almost entirely based on commerce and on a generally unspoken and widely shared sense of elitism. If you want to show your photographs to someone, you will have to think about how to do that” (3,200 words)

Taking The Plunge

Iris Murdoch | New York Review Of Books | 4th March 1993

Ridiculously enjoyable essay about the history and culture of swimming. Never a dull sentence. “The world high-dive record is still held by Alick Wickham, a Solomon Islander who in 1918 dived 205 feet 9 inches from a cliff above the Yarra River in South Australia. He was not so much bothered by the height or water depth as by the chances of hitting the opposite bank. He was successful, although his bathing costumes were ripped off by the impact and he lay in a coma for a week” (2,900 words)

How To Breed A Pomsky

Pradeep Mutalik | Quanta | 18th June 2020

A conjecture about pandemics and sexual reproduction, elegantly structured as a series of puzzles about dog breeding and Brahminy blind snakes. First puzzle: “Dax is 56% Siberian husky and 44% Pomeranian. Given that a cross between two purebreds is nominally considered to have an equal genetic mixture of both breeds, how is Dax’s unusual genetic makeup produced? What is the smallest number of generations needed to produce his genetic makeup to the nearest percentage point?” (1,700 words)

Eyes In The Sky

Monica Jha | Rest Of World | 23rd June 2020

Dizzying report on the skills and technologies needed to manage crowds of up to eleven million people per day attending Magh Mela, a Hindu festival held each January and February on the banks of the Ganges in Uttar Pradesh, northern India. The festival occupies an area “about 30% bigger than Monaco”. The infrastructure includes five hospitals, five power stations and 13 police stations. Most of it has to be built afresh each autumn, after the summer monsoons, when the Ganges floods the land (3,700 words)

Pop Physics

Adam Kirsch | Tablet | 9th June 2020

Entertaining critique of “pop cosmology”, the genre of high-concept scientific blockbusters spawned by the huge success of Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time in 1988. “Physics revokes the metaphysical promise of the Bible, which says that the world was created for man to rule it, and also the promise of philosophy, which believed since Protagoras that ‘man is the measure of all things’. Popular physics writing is best understood as therapy for this torment — as metaphysical self-help” (2,400 words)

Video: Giant Tap-Dancing Noses | Royal Opera House. Opening scene from Shostakovich’s first opera, The Nose, based on a story by Gogol (3m 30s)

Audio: The Lost World of the LP | The Essay. David Hepworth discusses the unexpected longevity of vinyl records, which were thought technically obsolete almost fifty years ago (13m 39s)

”Two-thirds of my energies go in trying to save one-third for work”
— Katherine Anne Porter

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