The Bee Gees were pop music geniuses whose work in 1978 "accounted for 2 percent of the entire record industry’s profits." Yet they were still underappreciated—and also still capable of making ill-conceived creative decisions.
PUBLISHED: July 18, 2014
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2817 words)
Five stories about summer from The New Yorker, The Rumpus, Flavorwire, The Paris Review, and Autostraddle.
Steve Coll examines Brad Stone’s The Everything Store, and Amazon’s impact on publishing:
Toward the end of his account, Stone asks the essential question: “Will antitrust authorities eventually come to scrutinize Amazon and its market power?” His answer: “Yes, I believe that is likely.” It is “clear that Amazon has helped damage or destroy competitors small and large,” in Stone’s judgment.
In view of Amazon’s recent treatment of The Everything Store, Stone may now end up as a courtroom witness. Yet there are reasons to be wary about who will prevail in such a contest, if it ever takes place. As Stone notes, “Amazon is a masterly navigator of the law.” And crucially, as in so many other fields of economic policy, antitrust law has been reshaped in recent decades by the spread of free-market fundamentalism. Judges and legislators have reinterpreted antitrust law to emphasize above all the promotion of low prices for consumers, which Amazon delivers, rather than the interests of producers—whether these are authors, book publishers, or mom-and-pop grocery stores—that are threatened by giants.
PUBLISHED: June 23, 2014
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4294 words)
Brain-controlled prosthetics and computers may help paralyzed people in the future:
Scheuermann, who says that in her dreams she is not disabled, underwent brain surgery in 2012 after seeing a video of another paralyzed patient controlling a robotic arm with his thoughts. She immediately applied to join the study. During the surgery, doctors used an air gun to fire the two tiny beds of silicon needles, called the Utah Electrode Array, into her motor cortex, the slim strip of brain that runs over the top of the head to the jaws and controls voluntary movement. She awoke from the surgery with a pounding headache and “the worst case of buyer’s remorse.” She couldn’t believe she’d had voluntary brain surgery. “I thought, Please, God, don’t let this be for nothing. My greatest fear was that it wouldn’t work,” she says. But within days, she was controlling the robotic arm, and with unexpected success: “I was moving something in my environment for the first time in years. It was gasp-inducing and exciting. The researchers couldn’t wipe the smile off their faces for weeks either.”
PUBLISHED: June 17, 2014
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3790 words)
Magazine nerds, here we go: A starter collection of 27 behind-the-scenes stories from some of your most beloved magazines, including The New Yorker, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair and the New York Review of Books, plus now-defunct publications like Might, George, Sassy and Wigwag.
From 1990: George Plimpton interviews the acclaimed poet, who died Wednesday at age 86:
When I finish maybe fifty pages and read them—fifty acceptable pages—it’s not too bad. I’ve had the same editor since 1967. Many times he has said to me over the years or asked me, Why would you use a semicolon instead of a colon? And many times over the years I have said to him things like: I will never speak to you again. Forever. Goodbye. That is it. Thank you very much. And I leave. Then I read the piece and I think of his suggestions. I send him a telegram that says, OK, so you’re right. So what? Don’t ever mention this to me again. If you do, I will never speak to you again. About two years ago I was visiting him and his wife in the Hamptons. I was at the end of a dining room table with a sit-down dinner of about fourteen people. Way at the end I said to someone, I sent him telegrams over the years. From the other end of the table he said, And I’ve kept every one! Brute! But the editing, one’s own editing, before the editor sees it, is the most important.
PUBLISHED: May 28, 2014
LENGTH: 26 minutes (6569 words)
A legendary American tech company faces new challenges, and new competition, in areas where it once dominated:
It would have been better to walk away. As the Government Accountability Office reviewed the award, documents showed the CIA’s opinion of IBM was tepid at best. The agency had “grave” concerns about the ability of IBM technology to scale up and down in response to usage spikes, and it rated the company’s technical demo as “marginal.” Overall, the CIA concluded, IBM was a high-risk choice. In a court filing, Amazon blasted the elder company as a “late entrant to the cloud computing market” with an “uncompetitive, materially deficient proposal.” A federal judge agreed, ruling in October that with the “overall inferiority of its proposal,” IBM “lacked any chance of winning” the contract. The corporate cliché of the 1970s and ’80s, that no one ever got fired for buying IBM, had never seemed less true. IBM withdrew its challenge.
PUBLISHED: May 23, 2014
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3251 words)
Determined to quit his tired government job, one D.C. office drone saves $25,000 by renting his apartment nightly and secretly sleeping on the office floor.
I was on track, according to a slap-dash Excel budget, to resign in a year. An extra $1,350 a month was flowing into my coffers. Although it wasn’t raining cash, I was matching what I made with what I saved by paring down my lifestyle expenses. The final factor in my favor was that my plan coincided with Airbnb’s asymptote-like upsurge in popularity. After receiving my first batch of positive reviews, the reservations poured in. Sleep came easier on my camping mat, and I dreamed in eighties montages about being a runaway Airbnb success story.
But there is a reason it’s not called Murphy’s Theory.
PUBLISHED: May 22, 2014
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3550 words)
Maria Bustillos reviews Chipotle’s new literary series, curated by Jonathan Safran Foer:
Jonathan Safran Foer’s new Cultivating Thought: Author Series at Chipotle has a slightly uncomfortable name. It suggests that we Chipotle patrons had just kind of been sitting here, mowing down our lunches, blankly existing, uncultivated, thought-less, until Foer came along with his “brainchild”: to provide us all with short works from famous writers printed right on our soda cups and burrito bags. But so many literary lions participated that I was instantly wild to read Chipotle’s whole catalog. I have now done so, and will review each publication below.
PUBLISHED: May 20, 2014
LENGTH: 6 minutes (1672 words)