Category Archives: Media & Society

This category scoops up topics like booksmusic and movies, politics and sciencephilosophy and language, and the world of work and productivity.

Too soon?

The coronavirus outbreak continues apace, but has China turned the corner?

With its epidemic slowing, China tries to get back to workThe Economist
So along with reporting the number of new infections every day, officials are now reporting on the number of reopened businesses in their territories. The province of Zhejiang, a manufacturing powerhouse and home to Yiwu, leads the country so far, with 90% of its large industrial enterprises having restarted. But many of these are running at low capacities. Jason Wang is a manager with a clothing company that sells winter coats at Yiwu International Trade City. His factory started up again but only half of his employees have returned. “The government, enterprises, workers—everyone is making a gamble in restarting. But we have no choice, we have to make a living,” he says.

Meanwhile.

China pushes all-out production of face masks in virus fightNikkei Asian Review
Companies ranging from state-owned carmakers to oil producers are installing production lines as the government aims to raise output by at least 70%. But it will not be easy to meet demand from 1.4 billion people desperate for a measure of protection against infection.

Iran’s Deputy Health Minister has tested positive for coronavirusBuzzFeed News
Iraj Harirchi, the head of Iran’s anti-coronavirus task force, tested positive a day after a news conference where he appeared visibly sick. He wasn’t wearing a mask.

Coronavirus has now spread to every continent except AntarcticaCNN
Public health officials warned Wednesday that the spread of the novel coronavirus is inching closer toward meeting the definition of a global pandemic, as the number of cases outside mainland China continues to grow, including in South Korea where a US soldier has tested positive for the virus.

Rush Limbaugh: Coronavirus is being ‘weaponized’ by Chinese communists to ‘bring down’ TrumpMediaite
“It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump,” claimed Limbaugh. “I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus…. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.”

Pianist Yuja Wang issues emotional reply after critics shame her for wearing glasses on stageClassic FM
“Humiliated” after being detained at the airport, Yuja Wang says she delivered the recital in sunglasses to hide her tears.

How the coronavirus revealed authoritarianism’s fatal flawThe Atlantic
China’s use of surveillance and censorship makes it harder for Xi Jinping to know what’s going on in his own country.

Mass coronavirus testing to be launched in Britain to uncover how far disease has spreadThe Telegraph
Thousands of Britons will be tested by GPs for coronavirus, amid fears that the explosion of cases in Europe means there could be far more cases in the UK than are known about.

Facebook is banning ads that promise to cure the coronavirusBusiness Insider
In a statement, a spokesperson told Business Insider: “We recently implemented a policy to prohibit ads that refer to the coronavirus and create a sense of urgency, like implying a limited supply, or guaranteeing a cure or prevention.”

I’ll just share this here, too.

An authentic 16th century plague doctor mask preserved and on display at the German Museum of Medical HistoryDesign You Trust
The mask had glass openings in the eyes and a curved beak shaped like a bird’s beak with straps that held the beak in front of the doctor’s nose. The mask had two small nose holes and was a type of respirator which contained aromatic items. The beak could hold dried flowers (including roses and carnations), herbs (including mint), spices, camphor, or a vinegar sponge.

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Unforeseen Brexit impact #641

This could get interesting.

Brexit could be about to totally mess up the UK’s time zonesWired UK
In March 2019 the European Parliament approved a proposal that spelled the end of clock changes within the EU. From 2021, EU member states will have to choose whether to stick to summer or winter time for good, with no more springing forward or falling back.

London two hours behind Paris? Two different time zones each side of the border in Ireland? Not to worry, though, I’m sure the government has it all under control. Er …

Although the government has made it clear that it doesn’t want to follow the EU’s example, it hasn’t been exactly forthcoming on what will happen if when we fall out of step with the rest of the EU. In an effort to prod them into action, the House of Lords has released a report analysing what will happen if the UK opts to keep the clock change – with the potential for chaos on the Northern Ireland border and trade with Europe.

It’s all relative

That guy from Amazon has been out shopping.

Jeff Bezos Sets Record With $165 Million Beverly Hills Home PurchaseBloomberg
News of the sale emerged just days after filings showed Bezos cashed out $4.1 billion of Amazon shares and comes amid reports that he’s also entered the art market. He reportedly set a record for artist Ed Ruscha at a Christie’s auction with a $52.5 million purchase of “Hurting the Word Radio #2” in November and also bought “Vignette 19” by Kerry James Marshall for $18.5 million.

Sounds like a lot of money, right?

Jeff Bezos bought the most expensive property in LA with an eighth of a percent of his net worthThe Verge
It is literally impossible to imagine just how rich the wealthiest people on the planet are. The difference between their bank accounts and yours — yes, you, the person reading this — is that they can spend the monthly interest on their holdings and buy things like airplanes and islands. It is probably important to note here that Amazon paid zero dollars in federal income tax on $11 billion in before-tax profit in 2018; this year, it will pay out $162 million on $13.3 billion in profit — a whopping 1.2 percent effective tax rate.

An eighth of a percent? It’s all relative, as this interactive graphic from The Washington Post, very cleverly demonstrates.

What Michael Bloomberg’s $11 million Super Bowl ad would cost you on your budgetWashington Post
Very few of us can comprehend what it’s like to be uber-wealthy like Mike Bloomberg, one of the richest people in the world and a Democratic presidential candidate. For example, the former New York mayor spent $11 million of his own money on a 60-second Super Bowl ad. How much money would that mean to you? Let’s put the finances of the ultra-rich into the context of everyday life.

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(via FlowingData)

Better Valentine alternatives

If you don’t want to send your sweetheart a Vinegar Valentine’s card, you could always try something a little different, like– a Valentine’s wall?

Say it with Banksy? Valentine’s gift catapults house to street art fameThe Guardian
She said: “We really want to preserve it, but he’s given us a bit of a headache. First thing’s first is to maybe get some Perspex to preserve it so everyone can enjoy it and then try to get some professional advice. It has been a crazy day, with lots of people being able to come and enjoy it and we want people to be able to continue doing that.

“I just kept like squealing and I’ve not stopped smiling all day. It’s just so special. They are calling it the Valentine’s Day Banksy.”

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It’s nice to see that Banksy has since confirmed it’s one of his.

OK, so sending someone some street art might not be very practical. Pen and paper it is, then.

Grab a pen. It’s time to revive the love letter.The Lily
Unlike digital messages, they’re concrete; we can feel their weight in our hands. (“Will we ever glow when we open an email folder?” Simon Garfield writes in a book celebrating letter writing. “Emails are a poke, but letters are a caress, and letters stick around to be newly discovered.”) Months, years, decades in the future, they prove we lived and loved, savored and felt sorrow. They allow us to grasp at immortality.

Enduring love: how greetings cards are surviving the smartphone eraThe Guardian
“The real growth we’re seeing is among people sending a message to cheer someone up,” says Fergusson, explaining that there has been a huge rise in “No occasion” cards. She believes millennials and gen Z are buying these cards because they are more powerful than social media messages. Hare calls her new range “contemporary sentiments” – one card says, “Just be your beautiful self”, while another reads: “Proud of you.” In 2019, the online retailer Moonpig launched a collection with the Samaritans – personalised cards were emblazoned with messages such as: “Matthew, I’m not sure how to help but if you need me, I’m here.” Fergusson says there has been a recent rise in “man-to-man” sending, but GCA research suggests 85% of cards are bought by women.

Alternatively…

Poundland sells 40,000 engagement rings ahead of Valentine’s DayBBC News
The £1 “Bling Rings” and “Man Bands” are meant to be used as “placeholders” for proper rings, it said. But one analyst described such promotions as “increasingly desperate”.

And here’s a modern take on that Vinegar Valentine idea.

Name a cockroach after your ex and watch an animal eat it on Valentine’s DayCNN
For just $5, zoo staff will name a cockroach after your former lover and feed it to an animal at their “Cry Me a Cockroach” event on Valentine’s Day. And if your ex-boo was an especially snakey one, pay $20 more to have them name a rat and feed it to a reptile instead.

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Update 20/02/2020

Sadly/inevitably, that Banksy Valentine’s Day graffiti has been graffiti-ed, which raises a number of interesting questions (including is it even possible to actually damage Banksy’s artwork, given that it itself is criminal damage, in law).

Banksy: what happens when someone vandalises graffiti – and who owns it anyway?The Conversation
Where graffiti has been applied to the wall of a property, that physical piece of “art” belongs to the owners of the property, who may choose to lawfully remove it or to protect it. If the property is rented – as is reportedly the case for the Valentine’s mural – the graffiti becomes part of the fabric of that building and belongs to the property owner, not the tenants. Ownership of the intangible rights to the artwork (the copyright), however, will remain the property of Banksy as the artist.

Our everyday dystopia

Inhumans Of Late Capitalism Facebook page posts pics that show the dark side of consumerismDesign You Trust
“Recording the slow collapse of humanity”—that’s how the Inhumans of Late Capitalism Facebook page explains its mission in life. The page documents just how bizarrely inhumane and immoral life in modern capitalist societies can be by collecting depressingly hilarious pictures from all over the internet.

Whereas I’m a little wary of some of the assumptions and theories behind a few of the posts on their Facebook page, the team at Design You Trust have managed to pick out quite a few thought-provoking and amusing images.

(Not to be confused with Humans of Late Capitalism. Learn more from a recent Quartz Obsession.)

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Less is more, more, more

We’re surrounded by stuff, let’s get rid of it all. Jia Tolentino reviews The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism by Kyle Chayka, and wonders whether, beneath the vision of “less” as a life style, there is a path to something more profound.

The pitfalls and the potential of the new minimalismThe New Yorker
It is rarely acknowledged, by either the life-hack-minded authors or the proponents of minimalist design, that many people have minimalism forced upon them by circumstances that render impossible a serene, jewel-box life style. Nor do they mention that poverty and trauma can make frivolous possessions seem like a lifeline rather than a burden. Many of today’s gurus maintain that minimalism can be useful no matter one’s income, but the audience they target is implicitly affluent—the pitch is never about making do with less because you have no choice. Millburn and Nicodemus frequently describe their past lives as spiritually empty twentysomethings with six-figure incomes. McKeown pitches his insights at people who have a surplus of options as a consequence of success. Kondo recently launched an online store, suggesting that the left hand might declutter while the right hand buys a seventy-five-dollar rose-quartz tuning fork. […]

“The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism,” a new book by the journalist and critic Kyle Chayka, arrives not as an addition to the minimalist canon but as a corrective to it. Chayka aims to find something deeper within the tradition than an Instagram-friendly aesthetic and the “saccharine and predigested” advice of self-help literature. Writing in search of the things that popular minimalism sweeps out of the frame—the void, transience, messiness, uncertainty—he surveys minimalist figures in art, music, and philosophy, searching for a “minimalism of ideas rather than things.”

Along the way, he offers sharp critiques of thing-oriented minimalism. The sleek, simple devices produced by Apple, which encourage us to seamlessly glide through the day by tapping and swiping on pocket-size screens, rely on a hidden “maximalist assemblage,” Chayka writes: “server farms absorbing massive amounts of electricity, Chinese factories where workers die by suicide, devastated mud pit mines that produce tin.” Also, he points out, the glass walls in Apple’s headquarters were marked with Post-it notes to keep employees from smacking into them, like birds.

It’s not just a critique of style over substance, though.

The self-help minimalists say that keeping expenses low and purchases to a minimum can help create a life that is clear and streamlined. This practice can also lead to the conclusion that there is not only too much stuff in your apartment but too much stuff in the world—that there is, you might say, an epidemic of overproduction. If you did say this, you would be quoting Karl Marx, who declared that this was the case in 1848, when he and Friedrich Engels published “The Communist Manifesto.” Comparing a “society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange” to “the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells,” they contended that there was “too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce.” Hence, they suggested, the boom-and-bust cycle of capitalism, which brings the periodic “destruction of a mass of productive forces”—as, perhaps, we experienced in 2008, before the rise of Kondo and company.

Amazon fixes Valentine’s Day blues

Sure, shopping on Amazon is not without its issues…

Amazon Choice label is being ‘gamed to promote poor products’The Guardian
Which? highlighted a number of examples of manipulation that seemed to lead to unwarranted selection as an Amazon’s Choice product, including a car dashcam that had at least 24 written reviews mentioning the offer of a free SD card in exchange for a positive review, and a pair of wireless headphones that had close to 2,000 reviews thanks to the use of a feature called product merging – the majority of the positive reviews were about unrelated products including acne cream and razor blades.

… but if you’re worried about feeling a little left out next Friday, Amazon’s got your back. 1

Amazon Dating: The Future of Dating
Hot singles near you starting at $4.99 with Prime delivery.

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With a range of ages, styles and price points, there’s bound to be something for everyone.

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Footnote

  1. Before you all reach for your credit cards, Amazon’s not got your back.

Bach’s perfect prelude

It’s an iconic piece of classical music, and even if you’re not a fan of the genre you’ve probably come across it before now—Bach’s prelude from his Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major. It’s only a couple of minutes long, depending on who’s playing it (and on what instrument), but it’s perfectly constructed. To understand why, let’s take a closer look with Alisa Weilerstein. (via Kottke)

Bach’s G major prelude, deconstructedVox
If you hear the first few measures you’ll likely recognize it. A simple G major arpeggiated chord played expressively on the cello opens a short, but harmonically and melodically rich, 42 measures of music. Bach makes a single instrument sound like a full ensemble. How does he do it?

It’s simple, really (to some, perhaps!), just the tonic key G and the dominant key D playing off each other.

That famous cello prelude, deconstructedYouTube

I could listen to this over and over. Wonderful music. I just need someone to go through the rest of it.

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(I wish I had stuck with it now.)

Just what we need, more news

Via a Ben Evans newsletter, news of a new news aggregator from News Corp called ‘Knewz’.

Start spreadin’ the KnewzNews Corp
“Knewz is unique in that readers can, at a single glance, see multiple sources. It is not egregious aggregation but generous aggregation. There are mastheads from across the political and regional spectrum, and premium publishers will not be relegated in the rankings,” said Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp.

Knewz.com works by combining cutting edge, proprietary artificial intelligence with experienced editors. The technology constantly scans hundreds of real news sources, and editors curate a selection of headlines that provide a broad perspective on stories of the day.

Of course they mention artificial intelligence. But there’s more.

“Readers will have access to publishers large and small, niche and general, located in all 50 states,” said Mr. Thomson. “We live in a world of vexatious verticals, of crass clickbait, of polarized perspectives and fallacious, fact-free feeds – Knewz is knowing and needed. Knewz nous is in the house.”

Do people really talk like that? I guess they’re trying to compete with Google News, but I think the look of it is a bit shouty and off-putting.

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So, farewell then, EU

My first post tagged Brexit was in 2016, looking at the higher education angle. Since then, I’ve shared nearly 40 more, and here we are, our final day as members of the European Union, spending our 50p coins on tea towels.

The full story didn’t start in 2016, however. This comprehensive yet accessible look at the history of this struggle—how to balance control and influence—starts with Atlee in the 60s, and continues with Thatcher in the 70s and 80s, and Maastricht in the 90s.

Why Britain BrexitedThe Atlantic
The conservative British-American historian Niall Ferguson regards Brexit as beginning not with the 2016 referendum but with this period, with Britain’s decision not to follow much of the rest of the EU into the euro. “Britain was an equal and voluntary member of a very loose and voluntary confederation until European leaders tried to turn it into something more like a federation,” he told me. “Brexit was a logical conclusion.” Anand Menon, a professor of European politics and foreign affairs at King’s College London, agrees: “Britain emerged [from Maastricht] having secured exceptions from those bits of the treaty it most opposed. Yet Maastricht represented a turning point in our relationship with European integration and contributed, albeit indirectly, to our decision to leave.”

So what happens now? All change? Not so much, at first.

Brexit explained: how it happened and what comes nextThe Guardian
British passport holders will continue to be able to travel and work in the EU because the country remains in the single market for the transition period up to 31 December and the freedom of movement of goods, people, services and capital over borders applies until then.

Give it a few months, though, and Brexit will be all over the news once more.

Brexit: here’s what happens nextThe Conversation
By the end of June we will have had the first major dilemma: whether to extend the transition period or not. The withdrawal agreement includes the option to extend the negotiation period for one or two years but that decision must be made by July. Johnson has also already said he does not intend to extend.

Whether or not Johnson sticks to that pledge matters deeply. If there is no extension, then the rest of 2020 will become a race to conclude as much of an agreement as possible before the December 31 deadline. Given the Christmas break, that means getting to a text by mid-December, so that it can begin a provisional implementation. This means allowing much of the agreement to come into effect, while the ratification by both sides trundles on in the background.

Since this truncated timeline makes it harder to reach a comprehensive relationship, businesses and citizens will have to think about preparing themselves for a marked change of circumstances at the year’s end. In the worst case, with no agreement at all, that might look a lot like the no-deal scenarios that were much-discussed in 2019. Only Northern Ireland will have a cushion.

The road to Brexit: the lols and the lowsYouTube

Twitter news echoes

Grumpy old man alert! I know everyone uses Twitter to find news these days, but I can do without news organisations passing off as news what’s simply a report on what’s been said on Twitter. Hashtag: lazy-journalism-question-mark; hashtag: these-are-not-slow-news-days-after-all; hashtag: 24-hour-news-filler-I-can-do-without; hashtag: yes-I-know-hashtags-don’t-work-like-this.

Trump’s new Space Force logo looks awfully familiar to Star Trek fansThe Verge
Although, as one user on Twitter noted, the designers did seem to take some cues from the NASA logo, predominantly the exact placement of the stars that appear to have been copied over directly.

Philip Pullman calls for boycott of Brexit 50p coin over ‘missing’ Oxford commaThe Guardian
“The ‘Brexit’ 50p coin is missing an Oxford comma, and should be boycotted by all literate people,” wrote the novelist on Twitter, while Times Literary Supplement editor Stig Abell wrote that, while it was “not perhaps the only objection” to the Brexit-celebrating coin, “the lack of a comma after ‘prosperity’ is killing me”.

Broadcasters speak up for Alastair Stewart after ITV News exitBBC News
ITV presenter Julie Etchingham wrote on Twitter: “So sad to learn this – we have worked on many big stories together & Al is a trusted friend and guide to many of us.”

A few lines about where I live

First, some contour lines that let you turn the world into a Joy Division album cover.

Peak map
This website allows you to pick any region of the world and print its high points in artistic, joyful manner.

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And these lines show that all roads don’t always lead to Rome.

City roads
This website renders every single road within a city.

Here’s Leeds, Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom. My Leeds.

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This is Leeds, Jefferson County, Alabama, United States of America. Not my Leeds.

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Lines of a different kind now. Centre the map on any location for a few lines of poetry.

OpenStreetMap Haiku

Some are quite poignant, like this poem centred on a nearby children’s hospital.

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Others would make interesting advertising campaigns.

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It’s a fascinating way of humanising geography. And quite addictive, too.

OpenStreetMap Haiku: Using OSM and Overpass for generative poetrySatellite Studio
Here’s what’s happening: we automated making haikus about places. Looking at every aspect of the surroundings of a point, we can generate a poem about any place in the world. The result is sometimes fun, often weird, most of the time pretty terrible. Also probably horrifying for haiku purists (sorry). Go ahead and give it a try.

Packed your school bag, kids?

There are other collections of school exercise books around, but this one is fully online and looks to be vast, with hundreds of children’s exercise books from across the globe, from the 1700s to 2000s.

Exercise Book Archive
The Exercise Book Archive is an ever-growing collection of old exercise books from all over the world. Everybody is invited to discover the history, education, and daily life of the children and young people of the past through this unique material.

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The Boeing. France, March 31, 1973

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3rd year of school 1943-44. Austria, September 1943

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My Friend. United Kingdom, March 7, 1936

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The blizzard at Honey Brook. United States of America, February 1899

Happy Robot Day!

They come in all shapes and sizes, but they’re all 99 years old today, kind of.

Today in History 1921: The word ‘Robot’ enters the English languageBoing Boing
On January 25, 1921 the Czech play Rossum’s Universal Robots premiered, entering the word into the Science Fiction vocabulary.

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The Czech play that gave us the word ‘Robot’The MIT Press Reader
Thus, “R.U.R.,” which gave birth to the robot, was a critique of mechanization and the ways it can dehumanize people. The word itself derives from the Czech word “robota,” or forced labor, as done by serfs. Its Slavic linguistic root, “rab,” means “slave.” The original word for robots more accurately defines androids, then, in that they were neither metallic nor mechanical.

The contrast between robots as mechanical slaves and potentially rebellious destroyers of their human makers echoes Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and helps set the tone for later Western characterizations of robots as slaves straining against their lot, ready to burst out of control. The duality echoes throughout the twentieth century: Terminator, HAL 9000, Blade Runner’s replicants.

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Machine Morality and Human ResponsibilityThe New Atlantis
This year [2011] marks the ninetieth anniversary of the first performance of the play from which we get the term “robot.” The Czech playwright Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. premiered in Prague on January 25, 1921. Physically, Čapek’s robots were not the kind of things to which we now apply the term: they were biological rather than mechanical, and humanlike in appearance. But their behavior should be familiar from its echoes in later science fiction — for Čapek’s robots ultimately bring about the destruction of the human race.

Before R.U.R., artificially created anthropoids, like Frankenstein’s monster or modern versions of the Jewish legend of the golem, might have acted destructively on a small scale; but Čapek seems to have been the first to see robots as an extension of the Industrial Revolution, and hence to grant them a reach capable of global transformation. Though his robots are closer to what we now might call androids, only a pedant would refuse Čapek honors as the father of the robot apocalypse.

I hope someone’s planning a big celebration next year.

The need for collective action

Whilst we might agree with the impassioned speeches from Davos on the desperate need to address the climate emergency, we might struggle to think what we can do, as individuals, to help.

This rallying cry from Tom Oliver, Professor of Applied Ecology at University of Reading and author of The Self Delusion: The Surprising Science of How We Are Connected and Why That Matters, suggests a way forward.

Climate crisis: we are not individuals fighting a faceless system – we are the system that needs to changeThe Conversation
To gain all these benefits, we need a change of mindset. It is often said that when we are young and optimistic, we strive to change the world around us, but when we are older and wiser, we realise the futility of this and aspire to change ourselves instead.

Yet to solve the major environmental problems the world now faces, we actually need to do both – to change the world and ourselves. In fact, it is even more nuanced than that – because changing ourselves is a prerequisite for changing the world. Realising the true nature of our human connectedness actually engenders more ethical and environmentally responsible behaviours.

Don’t keep it to yourself

I read quite a lot, as most of us do—from books and newspapers, screens and  phones. But when was the last time you read aloud? Or had something read aloud to you?

As Meghan Cox Gurdon explains, in this extract from her book The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud In the Age of Distraction, reading aloud is something that goes way back.

Rediscovering the lost power of reading aloudLiterary Hub
So far as we can tell, starting in Paleolithic times, in every place where there are or have been people, there has been narrative. Here is Gilgamesh, the Sumerian epic recorded on clay tablets in cuneiform script 1,500 years before Homer. Here are the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, vast Sanskrit poems dating from the 9th and 8th centuries BC. Here too is the thousand-year-old Anglo-Saxon legend Beowulf, the Icelandic Völsunga saga, the Malian epic Sundiata, the Welsh Mabinogion, the Persian, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian ferment of The Thousand and One Nights, and the 19th-century Finnish and Karelian epic the Kalevala. This list is necessarily partial.

Once upon a time, none of these stories had yet been fixed on a page (or a clay tablet), but were carried in the physical bodies of the people who committed them to memory. Long before Johannes Gutenberg and his printing press, and 1,000 years before cloistered monks and their illuminated manuscripts, the principal storage facility for history, poetry, and folktales was the human head. And the chief means of transmitting that cultural wealth, from generation to generation, was the human voice.

World on fire

The extent of the wildfires in Australia recently has been heartbreaking, even if some of the images that were doing the rounds were a little ambiguous.

Australia fires: Misleading maps and pictures go viralBBC News
One image shared widely by Twitter users, including by singer Rihanna, was interpreted as a map showing the live extent of fire spread, with large sections of the Australian coastline molten-red and fiery.

But it is actually artist Anthony Hearsey’s visualisation of one month of data of locations where fire was detected, collected by Nasa’s Fire Information for Resource Management System.

“The scale is a little exaggerated due to the render’s glow, but it is generally true to the info from the Nasa website. Also note that not all the areas are still burning, and this is a compilation,” Mr Hearsey wrote on Instagram in response to criticism by viewers that the image was misleading.

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But is this just a taste of things to come?

Analysis confirms that climate change is making wildfires worseNew Scientist
In light of the ongoing wildfire crisis in Australia, Richard Betts at the UK Met Office in Exeter and his colleagues reviewed 57 peer-reviewed studies about the link between climate change and wildfire risk.

All the studies found that climate change increases the frequency or severity of fire-favourable weather conditions.

The review found that fire weather seasons have lengthened globally between 1979 and 2013. Fire weather generally involves hot temperatures, low humidity, low rainfall in the preceding days and weeks, and windy conditions.

So what can be done? We’re hearing more and more about carbon offsetting, with not-even-slightly-green companies like Shell and JetBlue getting in on the act.

Do carbon offsets really work? It depends on the detailsWired
[S]ome critics worry the programs are an excuse to not take tougher measures to curb climate change. If not done right, the purchase of offsets can act as a marketing campaign that ends up providing cover for companies’ climate-harming practices.

When a company buys offsets, it helps fund projects elsewhere to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as planting trees in Indonesia or installing giant machines inside California dairies that suck up the methane produced by burping and farting cows and turn it into a usable biofuel. What offsets don’t do is force their buyer to change any of its operations. […]

“What would JetBlue have done if they couldn’t buy offsets?” Haya says. “Would they have put money into efficiency of the planes, or invested in future biofuels to create a long-term alternative to fossil fuels? That’s the fundamental question we have to ask for voluntary offsets: How much is it taking the place of real long-term solutions?”

Talking to myself

Yesterday’s post from Jeremy in Hong Kong was about William Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life, a book that shows how ancient Stoic philosophy is still relevant and needed today. And yesterday’s Wintergatan Wednesday video also included a review of William Irvine’s book, coincidentally.

Intrigued, I knew I had this book on my Kindle somewhere, so I thought I should re-read it and maybe blog a review of this book myself.

But then I realised I already had, back in 2013.

Once again, surprised Present Me thanks diligent Past Me for all his help with forgetful Future Me.

Things are on the up!

Well I, at least, can take a positive spin on this.

The mid-life crisis is real, study suggests, as economist pinpoints age of peak misery as 47.2The Telegraph
“Something very natural is going on here… maybe there’s something in the genes,” he said. “When you have this pattern in 132 countries, the reality is, it was really hard to not find it.”

In his paper entitled: ‘Is happiness U-shaped everywhere?’ and published yesterday by the National Bureau for Economic Research (NBER), Professor Blanchflower said that averaging across 257 individual country estimates from developing countries gives an age minimum of 48.2 for well-being, and doing the same across the 187 country estimates for advanced countries gives a similar minimum of 47.2.

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As a 47.8 year old, I’ve officially passed the nadir so can look forward to a continuing surge in happiness levels from now on!

Update 21/01/2020

Just parking this opposing article here, in case I need to refer to it later…

How to stave off depression in later lifePatient
Whether it’s moving from work into retirement or dealing with the loss of a loved one, it’s evident that the stresses and feelings of isolation in later life can take their toll. And it may come as little surprise that nearly half of all adults aged 55 and over said they had experienced depression, according to a recent survey by Age UK.

A mysterious seismic hum

That really faint noise? For me, it’s a quiet, high-frequency tone that seems to be coming from the centre of my head. For that guy in Arizona, it was a low-pitched drone coming from a neighbouring data centre. But these other unexplained low-frequency rumbles, heard around the world, could be much more elemental.

Ear-pleasing new report confirms volcanic source of mysterious global humSyfy Wire
Now a German scientific team has apparently solved the mystery of a strange seismic humming experienced around the globe since it was first detected in late 2018. And despite many believing it was some alien doomsday device warming up to unleash its planet-killing spores, it appears to be caused by a massive underwater volcano forming just off the coast of Madagascar.