Orwellian eBooks Reveal More Than We Realize


John Hurt holds a book in a scene from the film, 1984. Photograph: Atlantic Releasing Corporation/Getty Images

Although the Kindle highlights function is publicly anonymous, there are still serious privacy concerns as it allows Amazon to track and store the reading statistics of customers

For The Irish TimesSarah Gilmartin writes:

‘The book fascinated him, or more exactly it reassured him. In a sense it told him nothing that was new, but that was part of the attraction. It said what he would have said, if it had been possible for him to set his scattered thoughts in order. It was the product of a mind similar to his own, but enormously more powerful, more systematic, less fear-ridden.”

Winston Smith’s description of reading in the totalitarian world of 1984 may be satirical, but there’s also some truth to it.
We know the feeling of identifying with a book. It is one of the most satisfying aspects of reading, when a character says or does something that we ourselves think but are unable to articulate so eloquently or with an image that really expresses the sentiment.

Reading 1984 as a traditional book, I might have reached for a pen to underline that quotation. Reading it as an ebook, I have access to an enhanced version of this highlighting process. Since Amazon launched its Kindle Popular Highlights, in 2010, readers have been able to leave their own stamp on their favourite ebooks and can publicly share their insights if they want to. Tracking the scattered thoughts and similar minds of readers around the world, Amazon also gives its Kindle customers the option of viewing the most popular highlights of whatever book they’re reading.

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‘Selfie’ Pioneers: Self-Flattering 19th Century Flamboyant French Fops Got There First

Blame it on the Dandy.


For The Paris ReviewTara Isabella Burton writes:  When selfie was crowned the Word of 2013 by the Oxford Dictionaries, the media reaction ranged from apocalyptic to cautiously optimistic…

“…the ultimate emblem of the age of narcissism…”

— Jonathon Freedman, The Guardian

Honoré Daumier, Dandy, oil on canvas, 1871.

For the Calgary Herald’s Andrew Cohen, “selfie culture” represents the “critical mass” of selfish entitlement; for Navneet Alang in the Globe and Mail, selfies are inextricable from the need for self-expression, a “reminder of what it means to be human.” For the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland, the selfie is both: at once “the ultimate emblem of the age of narcissism” and a function of the “timeless human need to connect.”

Honoré Daumier, Dandy, oil on canvas, 1871.

With a few exceptions, commentators tended to converge on one point: the selfie, and the unencumbered act of self-creation it represents, is unmistakably of our time, shorthand for a whole host of cultural tropes wedded to the era of the smartphone.

“It’s hard to think of a more appropriate—or more depressing—symbol of the kind of society we have become. We are living in an age of narcissism, an age in which only our best, most attractive, most carefully constructed selves are presented to the world.”

— Jennifer O’Connell, Irish Times


 “…reminder of what it means to be human.”

— Navneet Alang, Globe & Mail

First Selfie from Space

First Selfie from Space

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BOOKS: A True Picture of Picasso


The acuity of TJ Clark’s thought, allied to his sweeping breadth of reference, makes him the ideal interrogator of Picasso, argues John Banville

Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica

For The Irish TimesJohn Banville writes:  At the heart of this wonderful book there is a telling passage in which the author quotes Picasso remarking to a friend that he preferred his painting The Three Dancers of 1925 to the later and more publicly ambitious Guernica.

5145gmodHbL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“It [the Dancers] was painted as a picture, without ulterior motive,” Picasso said. Clark finds this puzzling, and wonders if the painter meant that “the work happened essentially without him”, and calls to his aid Rimbaud on alienation from the self. Surely, however, the matter is simple. The Three Dancers is a fearsome, indeed a savage, work, but it is pure painting; Guernica, for all its violence and power, was intended as a political statement as well as a work of art, and for that reason it is, essentially, kitsch.

One does not lightly lay such a charge against one of the modern world’s most revered cultural artefacts. However, artists of Picasso’s type, few though they be, are always in danger of imagining that because they have achieved critical success and earned much money and fame, they must have profound things to say about the public life of their times. The inevitable result is either fatuity or bombast, or both. Georges Braque, co-deliverer with Picasso of the coup de grâce to traditional European painting, summed up the matter when he was asked in old age for his opinion of his friend and said, “Pablo? Oh, Pablo used to be a good painter; now he’s just a genius.”

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Father of the Great Firewall Retires

The Irish Times reports that Fang Binxing, the lead architect behind China’s “Great Firewall” who has been widely deplored by netizens, has resigned his position as
the president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications

image - businessweek.com

image – businessweek.com

“A serious illness has made me unable to stay up working late into nights any longer. I couldn’t shoulder the dual responsibilities of doing research and administration like I did before,” he told an audience of graduates in June, and his retirement came into effect last week.

Local reports say Mr Fang (53) has cancer.

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