Economist, author, podcaster and radio presenter Tim Harford (previously) has a fantastic new podcast: Cautionary Tales, which Tim describes as "Eight stories of mishaps, fiascos and disasters - served with a twist of nerdy social science."
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Debbie Urbanski's story "An Incomplete Timeline of What We Tried" for Motherboard takes the improbable form of a list of failed strategies for coping with the incipient, climate-driven uninhabitability of the Earth, and it works beautifully.
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I haven't read a novel in ages and the internet, in its succession of increasingly short content forms, reduced my attention span to the first sentence of a tweet. But what more do I need to read in order to know what I have felt? From beyond the semiotic grave claws Umberto Eco, offering (via a review of Pierre Bayard's How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read ) barbed comfort to those of us who suffer reference anxiety. On Unread Books.
... critical context is Bayard’s crucial point. He declares without shame that he has never read James Joyce’s Ulysses, but that he can talk about it by alluding to the fact that it’s a retelling of the Odyssey, which he also admits never having read in its entirety, that it is based on an internal monologue, that the action unfolds in Dublin during a single day, et cetera. “As a result,” he writes, “I often find myself alluding to Joyce without the slightest anxiety.” Knowing a book’s relationship to other books often means you know more about it than you do on actually reading it. ... An intriguing aspect of this book, which is less paradoxical than it might seem, is that we also forget a very large percentage of the books we have actually read, and indeed we build a sort of virtual picture of them that consists not so much of what they say but what they have conjured up in our mind.
And now we do this with the news, too. Read the rest
Andy at The Jerx (previously) describes a surprisingly effective tactic for putting a heckler in his place during the performance of a magic trick. Read the rest
Andy from The Jerx (previously) continues to develop the theory of "audience-centered magic" with an excellent post on the deficiencies of snapping one's fingers to mark the moment at which some magic effect is meant to be happening. Read the rest
For decades, the Japanese magic trick company Tenyo has delighted amateur conjurers with their little magic gimmicks, which can be very clever indeed, but which are nearly guaranteed to fall flat when performed for friends and strangers. Read the rest
For many years, Tenyo's clever "self-performing" magic gimmicks have been a delight to amateur magicians and a bugaboo of professionals, who sneered at them as being obvious, hackneyed and, well, gimmicky. Read the rest
If you're like me, you've learned a few "everyday magic" tricks that you can do with things normal humans carry around in their pockets, and if you're like me, you've discovered that it's hard to casually do an awesome, perfectly practiced trick without being kind of socially awkward and dorky. Read the rest
On The Jerx (previously), "Andy" describes a fantastic magic trick that you can only pull off under very special circumstances: a day at the beach. Read the rest
The Jerx is an anonymous, iconoclastic blog written by a heterodox magician who holds his fellow magicians in disdain for their terrible storytelling skills. Read the rest
People often say they are enthusiastic about games because "they can tell stories", or because they enable narrative moments not possible in other media. But although there are numerous flashes of brilliance in games, this potential often feels like something they circle, but never attain. Read the rest
Sean Williams sez, "Best-sellers and award-winners Isobelle Carmody, Robert Shearman, Marianne De Pierres, Kim Wilkins, Mark Leslie, Mindy Klasky, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and many, many others, including me, have signed up to write choose-your-own-adventure stories that will play out in real life, in real cities via smartphones and QR codes. Rewards include guided tours, printed versions, tuckerizations, author-led adventures in their cities, and even the chance to have a CYOA written in a town of your choice, in person."
They're trying to raise AUD26,000. At AUD10, you get a pair of the adventures as PDFs. Read the rest
I have never killed anyone, but I have certainly wanted to. I may have a disorder, but I am not crazy. In a world filled with gloomy, mediocre nothings populating a go-nowhere rat race, people are attracted to my exceptionalism like moths to a flame. This is my story.
That's the beginning of an essay about sociopathy written from the perspective of a sociopath. The author, M.E. Thomas, recently published a book about her experience being a sociopath. The name is a pseudonym and it's not totally clear how much of this story you can trust. For instance, whether Thomas' sociopathy is actually professionally diagnosed or not seemed unclear to me. Another example: At one point in the essay, she says she wasn't an abused child — then goes on to describe a childhood with a father who once beat apart a bathroom door to get at her and a mother who nearly let her die from appendicitis to avoid the medical bills ... and then blamed Thomas for her own illness. It's all a little weird.
That said, there's value in the "interesting, if true" sort of read that this is. At the very least, I've never seen an actual sociopath describe their own condition before. So, if that's what's actually going on here, it's a tour of a very different way of thinking. I'm not sure whether the fact that it all comes across as very manipulative is evidence in favor of, or against, the purported origins of the narrative. Read the rest
Tim Harford (Undercover Economist, guest blogger, statistical superhero) has a new show on BBC Radio 4, called Pop Up Economics: well-told tales about the dismal science. The inaugural episode (MP3) is a beautiful parable about innovation and invention. Read the rest