von Sternberg, Breasts, Moby Dick, Lovelace, Transplants


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Where Credit Is Due

Farran Smith Nehme | Criterion | 2nd July 2018

On the tyrannical genius of film director Josef von Sternberg. “Film is a collaborative medium, or so people say, unless by ‘people’ we mean Josef von Sternberg. To become a director is, more often than not, to reveal yourself as a control freak, but von Sternberg was the original micromanager, and his arrogance was legendary. The story of von Sternberg and his colleagues can be difficult to tease out, because von Sternberg was almost pathologically incapable of sharing credit”. He referred to Marlene Dietrich, the star of his greatest films, as his “assistant” (4,100 words)

A Few Words About Fake Breasts

Nell Boeschenstein | Granta | 20th August 2018

Memoir of a double mastectomy, which the writer elected to undergo after discovering that she had inherited a genetic susceptibility to breast and ovarian cancer. “Ever since that phone call you have been afraid to touch them. You have been afraid of what unfun your funbags might contain. One day, trying to conquer this fear, you feel a lump and go rushing to your doctor who palpates the breast and professes she cannot feel a thing. You are beginning to wonder whether this new knowledge is starting to drive you a little mad. You decide to cut them off” (6,400 words)

Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick

D.H. Lawrence | Berfrois | 6th August 2018

Not so much a piece of literary criticism, more a series of brilliant interjections about Melville and his masterpiece. “It reads like journalism. It seems spurious. You feel Melville is trying to put something over you. He preaches and holds forth because he’s not sure of himself. But he was a deep, great artist. He was a real American in that he always felt his audience in front of him. But when he ceases to be American, when he forgets all audience, and gives us his sheer apprehension of the world, then he is wonderful, his book commands a stillness in the soul, an awe” (6,080 words)

What Did Ada Lovelace’s Program Actually Do?

Sinclair Target | Two-Bit History | 18th August 2018

A close look at Ada Lovelace’s algorithm for calculating Bernoulli numbers, written for Babbage’s Analytical Engine in 1843, and widely considered the first-ever computer program. “Her program was specified with a degree of rigor that far surpassed anything that came before. She thought carefully about how operations could be organized into groups that could be repeated, thereby inventing the loop. She realized how important it was to track the state of variables as they changed. I’m startled to see how much of what Lovelace was doing resembles the experience of writing software today” (4,076 words)

Katie’s Face Transplant

Joanna Connors | National Geographic | 20th August 2018

Gruelling, enthralling tale of a young woman who blows off her own face with a rifle bullet in a failed suicide attempt, lives for three years with a protective graft of flesh where her face used to be, then receives a new face, transplanted in its entirety from a dead donor. Generously illustrated with photographs of the surgical procedures at the Cleveland Clinic, which are, as National Geographic says, in something of an understatement, “difficult to look at”. The US Army paid for the operation, as research into the use of facial transplants for treating disfigured soldiers (11,700 words)

Video of the day The King’s Singers

What to expect:

NPR Tiny Desk concert. Four songs from the King’s Singers, now in their fiftieth year (17m 30s)

Thought for the day

It is not certain that everything is uncertain
Blaise Pascal

Podcast Theranos | Stay Tuned With Preet

John Carreyrou talks to Preet Bharara about the rise and fall of healthcare start-up Theranos
(1h 7m)

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