Spotify, Libya, Goethe, Potatoes, Samurai

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The Problem With Muzak

Liz Pelly | Baffler | 9th December 2017

Spotify’s business model is gradually turning all music into Muzak. Listeners default to playlists associated loosely with mood or activity. They want comfort music, “emotional wallpaper” — so that is what the music industry provides. “The more vanilla the release, the better it works for Spotify. If Spotify is just feeding easy music to everybody, where does the art form go? Is anybody going to be able to push boundaries and break through to a wide audience anymore?” (4,046 words)

Diary Of An Oil-Company Lawyer

William Carter | LRB | 7th December 2017

Attempting corporate governance in lawless Libya. “My company’s store of nuclear materials was kept in a bunker designed to withstand the force of a massive explosion and was normally heavily protected by specially trained troops. Now the bunker lay completely unguarded. The employees believed that it was only a matter of time before this bunker was overrun and plundered. What should they do to make the materials safe? Should they try and smuggle them out of the country?” (4,450 words)

Super Goethe

Ferdinand Mount | New York Review Of Books | 10th December 2017

The great man’s work was exemplary; much of his life was not. “Goethe’s company could be exhausting. One minute he would be reciting Scottish ballads, quoting long snatches from Voltaire, or declaiming a love poem he had just made up; the next, he would be smashing the crockery or climbing the Brocken mountain through the fog. This Goethe had to be cleaned up quite a bit to become the national poet of the resurgent Germany of the later nineteenth century” (5,200 words)

Empire Of The Spud

Gwynn Guilford | Quartzy | 8th December 2017

Potatoes brought from South America to Spain provided Europe with the cheap nourishment needed to support a vast expansion in population from 126 million in 1750 to 300 million by 1900. A single acre of potatoes, together with one cow for milk, could feed an entire family. The potato primed Europe with the wealth and manpower needed for the Industrial Revolution. “Without potatoes, Germany could not have become the leading industrial and military power of Europe after 1848″ (1,650 words)

Exquisite And Grotesque

Michael Caines | TLS | 5th December 2017

A short history of Japanese samurai and their accoutrements. By the late 18th century they were scarcely needed as soldiers, and on the point of disappearing as a caste. Their main responsibilities were to fight fires and collect taxes. But they still sported the armour and swords of their ancestors five hundred years before. “It was useful to keep up the ideological pressure by reminding the populace as a whole that these were really noble warriors and not simply glorified bureaucrats” (3,800 words)

Video of the day Transient

What to expect:

A compilation of shots from chasing storms in 2017, by Dustin Farrell (3’17”)

Thought for the day

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom
Søren Kierkegaard

Podcast of the day The Ticket Market | Freakonomics Radio

Stephen Dubner and guests discuss the politics and economics of pricing tickets for live events

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