Silicon Valley Ruined Work Culture


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Offices used to be gulags, but at least they had a clear purpose. You wouldn’t hang out in a cubicle farm, let alone spend time there on the weekends. Then companies like Google came along and reinvented the rat race into something with purpose and, along the way, confused work with the rest of life. Now, your coworkers are supposed to feel like a family. Hierarchies have been flattened, conventional job titles replaced by ones like “wizard” and “ninja.” The vacation days are unlimited (not that you’d ever take them). And forget about work-life balance. It’s all about work-life integration. Why else would the office have on-site acupuncture, nap pods, and free dinner after 7 pm?

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Arielle Pardes — Wired

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Wikipedia Is the Last Best Place on the Internet


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I would have used Wiki countless times. I like the structure of the articles. You know what to find where. Wikipedia is also a proof that not for profit good intentions can work on a scale.

In its first decade of life, the website appeared in as many punch lines as headlines. The Office‘s Michael Scott called it “the best thing ever,” because “anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject—so you know you are getting the best possible information.” Praising Wikipedia, by restating its mission, meant self-identifying as an idiot.

That was in 2007. Today, Wikipedia is the eighth-most-visited site in the world. The English-language version recently surpassed 6 million articles and 3.5 billion words; edits materialize at a rate of 1.8 per second. But perhaps more remarkable than Wikipedia’s success is how little its reputation has changed. It was criticized as it rose, and now makes its final ascent to … muted criticism. To confess that you’ve just repeated a fact you learned on Wikipedia is still to admit something mildly shameful. It’s as though all those questions that used to pepper think pieces in the mid-2000s—Will it work? Can it be trusted? Is it better than Encyclopedia Britannica?—are still rhetorical, when they have already been answered, time and again, in the affirmative.

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Richard Cooke – Wired

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THE NORWEGIAN NOVEL THAT DIVIDED A FAMILY AND CAPTIVATED A COUNTRY


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Reality literature.

Remember how divisive reality television was, before it became just television? In Norway, an intense debate is taking place about virkelighetslitteratur, or “reality literature,” a putatively fictional strain of writing that draws on identifiable characters and events. Critics of reality television complained that it was overproduced; the argument against reality literature is that it is insufficiently artificial, exposing and misrepresenting people who never consented to be a part of it. The country’s most flagrant transgressor of the code of plausible disclaimability is Vigdis Hjorth, whose prickly, persuasive novel “Will and Testament” came out in Norway in 2016, and has just been published in English, by Verso. Earlier this month, the translation, by Charlotte Barslund, was long-listed for the National Book Award for Translated Literature.

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Lauren Collins — The New Yorker

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Morgan Freeman Takes Off


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An old article published in 1988.

Walking along 42nd Street, Morgan Freeman talks about the performances he most admires—not the Orson Welles of Citizen Kane but the Orson Welles of Touch of Evil; not the Laurence Olivier of Hamlet but the Laurence Olivier of Khartoum. He stops on the sidewalk, raises his right hand to his forehead in a snappy salute. “Now, that’s the level of performance you strive for.”

Like Freeman’s performance in Street Smart. Vicious yet charming, scary yet seductive, menacing yet amiable, the kind of guy who can hold a gun to your throat, then slowly smile, pat you on the cheek, and say, “Come on. I’ll buy you a cuppa coffee.” Freeman’s Fast Black has all the oxymorons you’d expect in a routinely first-rate portrayal of a pimp. But he takes them to a level deeper, playing a man so tautly in control he could snap into psychosis at any second, a man, most of all, who knows that a large part of being a successful pimp is being a gifted actor.

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Ross Wetzsteon — Bronx Banter

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To Catch A Thief: A Rare Book Expert on His Literary Obsessions


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Collectors Weekly: How do you determine the rarity of a book?

Sanders: It’s the old law of supply and demand. From 1920s to the 1940s, Idaho Press and Caxton Press published a lot of Vardis Fisher’s limited edition, signed Morocco-leather-bound books, and they produced tiny editions of as few as 10 copies, but they’re not books that anybody cares about. They might be really hard to find, but no one wants them. So on a rarity scale, it’s hard to get much rarer, but you’re not going to have the same success selling even Vardis Fisher’s books versus limited signed Steinbecks and Hemingways.

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Maribeth Keane and Anne Galloway — Collectors Weekly

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Kobe Bryant: Sheen of self-perfectionism


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If you want to watch something moving, if you want to see him play basketball but don’t know where to start, try the last three minutes of his last ever game – you can find them on YouTube. Bryant, ageing, tiring, balding, sweating, sucking air, is determined to score as many points as he can, and somehow, against the odds, starts winning – total focus, total exhaustion on his face, while the crowds chant KOBE KOBE KOBE, with his wife and two of his daughters in the front row. It’s a happy scene, almost implausibly celebratory, people are laughing in the stands as each ridiculous shot goes in, though you also get the sense that for them it’s only a game, and that nobody else is taking it quite as seriously.

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Benjamin Markovits — TLS

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Asimov’s Empire, Asimov’s Wall


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After the war, his reputation as a groper became a running joke among science fiction fans. The writer and editor Judith Merril recalled that Asimov was known in the 1940s as “the man with a hundred hands,” and that he “apparently felt obliged to leer, ogle, pat, and proposition as an act of sociability.” Asimov, in turn, described Merril as “the kind of girl who, when her rear end was patted by a man, patted the rear end of the patter,” although she remembered the episode rather differently: “The third or fourth time his hand patted my rear end, I reached out to clutch his crotch.”

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Alec Nevala-Lee — JSTOR Daily

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