2013 recommendations

Recommendations for October 25, 2013

Looks like mostly text this time around. I will try to come up with some music for next week, but for now, here are some things worth reading:

Article: “The Brave New World of Biohacking” by Jessica Firger

Am I surprised, really, that there are groups of people who spend time building electronic or computerized devices to embed in or otherwise “enhance” their bodies? No, not really. The appeal of the cyborg, be it practical, philosophical, or aesthetic, is not new. And, on one level, I completely understand it; it’s about making ourselves better. In general, that’s a good impulse to have, and there’s only so much you can do by taking classes or hitting the gym. That said, there is a part of me that recoils at the idea of placing, into the tissue of my forearm, a device “slightly smaller than a credit card but thicker than the average paperback”— particularly for no greater purpose than taking my temperature.

 

Article: “The Sprawling, Obsessive Career of Fritz Lang” by Noel Murray (no single-page link available)

I have seen Metropolis; I knew that a movie called M existed. That was all I had on Fritz Lang. Turns out he had a long and highly varied career in both Europe and the United States, making everything from epic parables like Metropolis to, all in all, pretty standard Westerns. It’s an interesting story about somebody who had definite ideas he wanted to convey (perhaps, it must be said, over and over again), but who was required by circumstances financial and political to work within structures that were only sporadically amenable to his attempts to do so.

 

Photos: Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners on The Atlantic’s “In Focus” blog; photos by multiple photographers.

It is no surprise that a contest that has been running since 1964, and has the sponsorship of both the BBC and the British Museum of Natural History, attracts some pretty fierce competition. This is only a small selection of winning images, but they are all pretty remarkable. My personal favorite is below, but you should definitely take a look at all of them.

 

Article: “Vaccine Deniers: Inside the Dumb, Dangerous New Fad” by Lessley Anderson

I have said it before and I will say it again: these people are going to kill us all. With that out of the way, Anderson actually provides a much more nuanced view here of the anti-vaccination crowd than I just did (while still concluding that what they are doing will cause more harm than good). There’s actually a wide range, form those who shun vaccination altogether to those who avoid only those for less-dangerous diseases like chicken pox to those who simply delay vaccination until their child is older and, they believe, equipped with a more robust immune system. Those who believe that vaccinations cause autism are also, thankfully, a small minority. None of this means that I’m changing my mind about this, but it’s good to be reminded that almost everything is more complicated than you think.

 

Article: “The Many Lives of Iron Mountain” by Joshua Rothman

On my train ride to work every day, I pass a large warehouse run by the Iron Mountain document storage company (at least, I assume it’s a warehouse; I don’t actually know). It turns out that the company is named after an old iron mine in upstate New York, which was their first storage facility and is still in use today. Rothman is allowed to tour the mine, which sounds amazing, and there are great anecdotes about some of the many things that have been stored there over the decades, as well as a handful of historical photos. Rothman also wonders how a company like Iron Mountain will respond to the progressive digitization of the kind of data they have long specialized in, which opens up all kinds of interesting questions about data formats and durability and the double fold and whatnot. Mostly, though, I am just enamored of the idea that I can hire somebody to take all my paper away and place it, very nearly literally, under a mountain.

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