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The transition within the book publishing industry from physical inventory stored in a warehouse and trucked to retailers to digital files stored in cyberspace and delivered almost anywhere on earth as quickly and cheaply as e-mail is now underway and irreversible. This historic shift will radically transform worldwide book publishing, the cultures it affects and on which it depends. Meanwhile, for quite different reasons, the genteel book business that I joined more than a half-century ago is already on edge, suffering from a gambler’s unbreakable addiction to risky, seasonal best sellers, many of which don’t recoup their costs, and the simultaneous deterioration of backlist, the vital annuity on which book publishers had in better days relied for year-to-year stability through bad times and good. The crisis of confidence reflects these intersecting shocks, an overspecialized marketplace dominated by high-risk ephemera and a technological shift orders of magnitude greater than the momentous evolution from monkish scriptoria to movable type launched in Gutenberg’s German city of Mainz six centuries ago. –“Publishing: The Revolutionary Future,” Jason Epstein, The New York Review of Books
Atlantic website redesign greatly diminishes role of individual “voices,” thus aligning website with editorial policy;
MC Guru of Gang Starr in coma;
the ladies of Mossad who smile as they kill, kill, kill
We are born alone, we die alone, and we use the Internet alone. You may gather round the screen with friends to watch a video clip (turning the Internet into a television), or hang out while you play music on Pandora (turning the Internet into a radio), or post to your blog, or “comment” on someone else’s blog (turning the Internet into a roundtable, or a bathroom wall, depending). But these are subsidiary Internet uses. The essence of the Internet, the thing it does that nothing else can do, its Internet-ness, is the search. Comedian Dave Chappelle captured this with the skit “If the Internet Were a Real Place,” in which he loitered in a seedy mall like a modern Odysseus, ransacking CD stores, ducking into curtained rooms to indulge various temptations, and running away from spammers. Wandering around the Internet, the thing we are always searching for is the door—the exit ramp off the superhighway, the way home. But it’s hard to find. How do you know when you’re done doing nothing? –“What Does the Internet Look Like?” by Christine Smallwood, The Baffler
I had the unique experience of working with a killer whale orphan. Her mother was dead and she had ended up swimming into Puget Sound. She was about three years old and a little over 1,000 pounds. We went out and did health assessments on her every week. We tried collecting various types of data and soon veterinarians were saying we needed a blood sample—we thought we’d done well enough getting a breath sample. So we basically had to develop a bond with the animal in terms of socializing with it. But we were warned by one of the veterinarians at SeaWorld that you had to be extremely cautious going down that road with the animal. In order to make sure she didn’t freak out during the sampling we did a bit of scratching her [with a scratching stick and our hands]. She then started rubbing on the bottom of the boat, so we had started on that slippery slope. They do want to bond. Obviously they’re programmed to bond with members of their own species, but they can form a bond with other animals like humans. –“Why Would a Trained Orca Kill a Human?” by Katherine Harmon interviewing Brad Hanson, Scientific American
Physicists: quantum measurers must now face the Heisenberg limit (as if sending input qubits through an interferometer wasn’t hard enough);
archaeologists: exhumed 4th-century English woman was a very wealthy black lady (via);
social scientists: the recession is leading to more baby girls;
corporate boffins: let’s shoehorn the web into a spreadsheet with Hadoop;
Touré: please blame my mysterious cousin for my Twitter slave-rape digression thxbai
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.”