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Almost two years ago I lost my cat Gattino. He was very young, still a kitten, at seven months barely an adolescent. He is probably dead but I don’t know for certain. For two weeks after he disappeared people claimed to have seen him; I trusted two of the claims because Gattino was blind in one eye, and both people told me that when they’d caught him in their headlights, only one eye shone back. One guy, who said he saw my cat trying to scavenge from a garbage can, said that he’d looked ‘really thin, like the runt of the litter’. The pathetic words struck my heart. But I heard something besides the words, something in the coarse, vibrant tone of the man’s voice that immediately made another emotional picture of the cat: back arched, face afraid but excited, brimming and ready before he jumped and ran, tail defiant, tensile and crooked. Afraid but ready; startled by a large male, that’s how he would’ve been. Even if he was weak with hunger. He had guts, this cat. –“Lost Cat,” Mary Gaitskill, Granta
Today, much as his father once did, Martin Amis occupies a position of unusual fascination in the world of British letters—and for reasons that have increasingly converged with those that saw Kingsley, in his later years, labelled a reactionary and a misogynist. I’ve written about both father and son several times for Prospect, most recently looking forward to Martin Amis’s long-awaited and long-delayed new novel; but this birthday seems as good a time as any to look backward, and to remember that there was never anything inevitable about either Amis’s success, let alone success on the scale each managed to achieve. –“Celebrating Sixty Years of Martin Amis,” Tom Chatfield, Prospect
The cassette “crisis” seems quaint when compared to the rise of the mp3. The first widespread music delivery technology to emanate from outside industry control, mp3s, flowing through peer-to-peer networks and other pathways hidden in plain sight, have performed the radical task of separating music from the music industry for the first time in a century. They have facilitated the rise of an enormous pirate infrastructure; ideologically separate from the established one, but feeding off its products, multiplying and distributing them freely, without following the century-old rules of capitalist exchange. Capitalism hasn’t gone away, of course, but mp3s have severely threatened its habits and rituals within music culture. There is nothing inherent or natural about paying for music, and the circulation of mp3s through unsanctioned networks reaffirms music as a social process driven by passion, not market logic or copyright. Yet at the same time the Internet largely freed music from its packaged-good status and opened a realm of free-exchange, it also rendered those exciting new rituals very trackable. In the same way that Facebook visually represents “having friends,” the mp3s coursing through file-sharing networks quantify the online social life of music by charting its path. The social routines that take place around online music are visible data– which makes them much more susceptible to intellectual property statutes than was the case with cassettes or CDs. –“The Social History of the MP3,” Eric Harvey, Pitchfork
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”