A selection of our best article links of the week, plus featured FiveBooks interviews, videos, quotations and more.
Best of the Week
Alex Harvey | LA Review Of Books | 29 December 2012
On the life and music of Tom Waits, steeped in the sleaze of Los Angeles. A friend looking for beer in Waits's motel fridge found "a claw hammer, a small jar of artichoke hearts, an old parking ticket and a can of roof cement"
Mark Liberman | Language Log | 3 January 2013
"My intuition, for what it's worth, says that you can shoot someone dead, and you can shoot someone in the head, but you can't shoot them dead in the head, no matter how much noun-phrase-shifting you do"
Mary Beard | London Review Of Books | 2 January 2013
"Walk down the main streets in Pompeii or Herculaneum and you feel comfortably at home in what seems recognisably close to a modern cityscape: bars and cafés and shops." But what exactly did they sell, and to whom?
Matt Ridley | Rational Optimist | 2 January 2013
"A global optimist can be a regional pessimist. We Europeans seem intent on making our future as bad as we can. It is entirely possible that ten years from now the world will be 50% richer, but Europeans will be 50% poorer."
Jason Miklian | Foreign Policy | 1 January 2013
How the Indian city of Surat captured the world's diamond-cutting trade. Cheap, efficient, informal, amoral. Conflict diamonds, blood diamonds all welcome. "Paperwork is frowned upon. This $40 billion economy runs on Post-it notes."
Adam Green | New Yorker | 31 December 2012
Apollo Robbins is a pickpocket of almost supernatural ability, except that he entertains crowds rather than steals for real. "When Apollo walks onstage, he takes a low crime and turns it into an art form." Here's how he does it
Charles Mann | Vanity Fair | 19 December 2012
Murder by smartphone: Hack the victim's pacemaker. "You don’t have to know anything about medical devices’ software to attack them remotely. You simply call them repeatedly, waking them up so many times they exhaust their batteries"
Alex Worsnip | Prospect | 29 December 2012
What is pragmatism, and do we really want our politicians to be pragmatic? We think it means non-ideological, in a good way, but does it? Can it be used against us, against a tactic, in an attempt to disqualify dissent?