Recommendations for February 8, 2013

8 Feb

 

We’ll start this week off with some music, and then some stuff to read, and finally some pictures to look at.
Album/Mix: “0181” by Four Tet
This is a collection of early Four Tet tracks, either unreleased or unavailable for a long time. If you go to the Soundcloud page for the set, you can download it for free.
Song: “Retrograde” by James Blake
I couldn’t find anywhere that would let me embed this song, so you will have to follow the link, but it’s really good. I have not always been 100% sold on James Blake; basically I think he is inconsistent. But when he’s good, he’s very good.
Website/Article: TYPE FUN01 by Will Ryan
A brief, very clear introduction to the basic principles of typography and type design. That’s either immediately interesting to you or it’s not, but there are few things that affect the experience of taking in new information more than this. Plus you can learn a bunch of fun new technical vocabulary, like “leading” and “x-height.”
Article: “Bill Gates Says There Is Something Perverse in College Ratings” by Luisa Kroll
Bill Gates makes what should be an obvious point: college rankings, including the famous U.S. News and World Report annual list, privilege those schools that accept only the best prepared, most successful students— i.e., the students that are the easiest to work with and whose success is most likely to begin with. We should also pay attention to schools that take kids who have done less well in high school, or who have fewer advantages generally, and do a good job of preparing them for successful careers anyway—including trade schools and community colleges. You might even argue that those are two completely different sets of tasks; in any case, it is worth thinking about if only because most kids (as in, over 90% of college students) do not go to one of the top-ranked schools.
Article: “Gerard De Villiers, the Spy Novelist  Who Knows Too Much”
This is a fascinating story which seems, on the face of it, totally implausible. Gerard De Villiers is a French spy novelist, author of the S.A.S. series, of which there are nearly 200 titles and of which over 100 million copies have been sold. I personally am always struck when, in our ostensibly “flat,” globalizing world, something can be that popular in Europe and almost unknown in the U.S. The most interesting aspect of the story, though, is the fact that De Villiers has deep connections in various intelligence agencies around the world— the French service in particular— and as a result of this his books contain significant amounts of very accurate information about real events, threats, and people. For instance, one of his novels published a to ally real and accurate list of the people thought to be involved in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the Prime Minister of Lebanon. It seems insane to me that this guy is able to publish this stuff and continue to have access to these people and their information. His explanation is that the people who tell him things do so because they want the information made public, for one reason or another, but still— wouldn’t you expect that this guy would have been bumped off or thrown in a deep dark hole somewhere decades ago? Yet, here he is, 83 years old, publishing five novels a year (!), and continuing to make significant revelations. More evidence that the world remains a big, weird place.
Photos: Sony World Photography Awards Shortlist on The Atlantic InFocus
I suppose any big, international prize that has enough name-brand prestige or a big enough prize to attract tens of thousands of entrants is going to get some great images. This one does.
My favorites: Number 11 and Number 38

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