Trumping, Reading, Fear, Russian TV, Waiting

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Trump Card

William Germano | Lingua Franca | 25th August 2015

When you look at the etymology and meanings of the word trump, it is as though centuries of usage in many languages all converge on the present political moment. "Trump can be derived from Italian trionfi and so related to English triumph, or through High German to a cognate of the English trumpet, or through French to the verb tromper, meaning to deceive. A trump can be a person of outstanding excellence (OED) — or a fraud" (650 words)

The Rise Of Phone Reading

Jennifer Maloney | Wall Street Journal | 14th August 2015

Smartphones are overtaking Kindles and tablets as the most popular way to read digital books. It's partly a matter of convenience: “The best device to read on is the one you have with you”. But it's a also a function of screen size and resolution: "The average smartphone screen in 2014 was 5.1 inches—compared with a 3.9-inch average in 2011". The use of dedicated e-readers — Kindles, Kobos and the like — is falling fast (1,920 words)

Sheldon Solomon On Fear Of Death

Sophie Roell | Five Books | 22nd August 2015

Interview with the developer of "terror management theory", which holds that the main imperative in human psychology is to suppress the fear of death. Merely to remind people of their mortality can change their behaviour in predictable ways: "We flash the word death so fast on a computer, for 28 milliseconds, that you don't even see it. Then you dislike someone who is different, and like someone who shares your beliefs more" (6,860 words)

How Russian TV Propaganda Is Made

Dmitry Sidorov | Open Democracy | 25th August 2015

Russian broadcasters tell how they manage coverage of the war in Ukraine; and how the Kremlin manages the broadcasters. "There was no competition now. A directive came from the Presidential Administration saying: Stop trying to outdo each other, stop showing who's got the best exclusives. Everything became a single whole. Different holding companies, different media organisations — a united propaganda body emerged" (5,500 words)

How Singer Won The Sewing Machine War

Alex Palmer | Smithsonian | 14th July 2015

The sewing machine revolutionised not only household economics, but also American business strategy. Four companies were making rival machines in the mid-19C. Each had patented two or three vital features. A lawyer called Orlando Potter proposed a "patent pool": the companies would share the patents, allowing each to produce the optimal machine. Singer came to dominate because it was better at selling (1,200 words)

Dinner And Deception

Edward Frame | New York Times | 22nd August 2015

Ex-waiter at three-star New York restaurant describes psychology and mechanics of the job. "First table gets seated at 5:31. I print and scan the chit, a digital dossier we keep on every guest, new or old. Who are these people? V.I.P.? (Soigné is the preferred term.) It’s the first seating, so I know they’re not, but I check anyway. Have they been here before? Do they have a water preference? Spend big on wine?" (Metered Paywall) (2,400 words)

Video of the day: Karl Popper On Falsification

What to expect: Animated explainer of Popper on the scientific method, written by Nigel Warburton and narrated by Aidan Turner (1'50")

Thought for the day

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew
Jack Gilbert (

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