What’s the best age gap in a relationship?


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Have you heard of “half their age plus seven” test? This is the convention around the age gap between partners that is considered okay.

What evidence there is, therefore, vindicates the choices of OKCupid’s users: women should pick men who are as close as possible in age to them, while men should look for younger women. A true economist, however, would look for better evidence, perhaps by comparing the marital bliss of random couples with varying age differences. Unfortunately for them, but luckily for the rest of us, people make their own choices – and are free to ignore silly rules of thumb.

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Soumaya Keynes — 1843

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The Obsessions of Hitchcock, Welles, and Kubrick


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Today’s needull is a book review of The Extraordinary Image: Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, and the Reimagining of Cinema by Robert P. Kolker. Kolker is known for his extensive studies in cinema and is a very well respected figure.

The treatment of women in Kubrick’s films can (and has) filled volumes—that astonishing scene in Killer’s Kiss (1955), in which scores of mute, naked female mannequins are mutilated in the midst of a fight between two men wildly swinging axes and spears can be read as a summary of every charge of misogyny ever leveled at film noir. And the connection between sex and death in Kubrick films goes back at least as far as Paths of Glory (1957), when one soldier realizes that he hasn’t had a “single sexual thought” since learning he had been condemned to face a firing squad. But once again The Extraordinary Image more commonly gestures than investigates. A summary of the sexual banter between Joker and Cowboy in Full Metal Jacket (1987), for example, was particularly unfulfilling, as this reader at least has always struggled with how to read that scene. Regrettably, Kolker does little more than describe the action. Yes, Joker’s sexually aggressive banter is accompanied, (incidentally and subtly), by “the fly on his shorts coming open,” but is this indicating a sexual relationship between the two men? The film (and this book) doesn’t say.

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Jonathan Kirshner — Boston Review

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The Boundaries of Artificial Emotional Intelligence


Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina (2015).

Is it possible for AI to have emotional intelligence? Is it even important?

We’ve long been thinking about how AI might be able to take over some of this work, whether it’s tending to the mysteries of the human heart or the existential, daily burdens of an unjust society. Robot therapists, butlers, maids, nurses, and sex dolls are familiar components of the techno-utopian future fantasy, where dutiful machines perform all our undesirable chores, while we enjoy lives of leisure. But these familiar dynamics may actually be about nurturance and care just as much, and perhaps even more, than they are about service or labor.

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Leigh Alexander — How we get to next

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FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT: A FORCE OF NATURE


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It is said that the character of Howard Roark in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead was inspired by the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright. “The self-proclaimed “world’s greatest architect” was an inspired talent-spotter, employing brilliant female assistants”. Today’s needull talks about this aspect of Wright.

Driven by big ideas and a desire to reach nationwide audiences, Wright mastered any number of presentation techniques, from coloured pencil drawings to books, magazines, exhibitions, monographs, films, radio and television. He even appeared on the popular TV quiz show, What’s My Line? He also knew—the MoMA exhibition is very good on this—how to attract talented young assistants, some straight from high school, who, quite simply, drew beautifully. In fact, the MoMA exhibition reveals many of the set-piece Wright drawings to be the work of assistants, notably Jack Howe, known as “the pencil in FLW’s hand”, who, joining the studio in 1932 aged 19, was its chief draughtsman from 1937 when Fallingwater in Pennsylvania—one of the most renowned of all US buildings—was under construction.

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Jonathan Glancey — The Art Newspaper

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Deconstructing Edvard Munch’s famous painting


Today’s needull looks at Munch’s famous painting “The Scream”. There is something about the painting which is timeless. In today’s world of hyper connectivity and noise, this painting has a meaning for me.

The Scream by Edvard Munch, 1893

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India’s Illiberal Democracy


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A critical piece.

It is also true that, no matter how horrifying the news from India is, the country remains for many commentators in the West a mostly cuddly democracy and “rising” economic power. A recent article in the New York Review of Books was not untypical in this regard. “In Narendra Modi, India now has dynamic leadership for the first time in many years,” wrote Jessica T. Mathews, the former president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. After nodding briefly to criticism of Modi for restricting civil liberties, Mathews added, offering no evidence whatsoever, that “Modi may be consolidating enough political strength to force through long-needed reforms in New Delhi.”

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Pankaj Mishra — Bloomberg

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The Once-Common Practice of Communal Sleeping


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Would you be comfortable sleeping on the same bed with a stranger? Communal sleeping sounds such a weird idea today. But, today’s needull discusses how communal sleeping used to be a common practice till very recently.

It was not uncommon for strangers and traveling companions to share a bed while on the road. Etiquette dictated that to ensure relative tranquility when sharing a bed with strangers, a bedmate was to lie still, not hog the blankets, and generally keep to one’s self. But that didn’t always work. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams spent a night sharing a bed at a New Jersey inn which was largely passed bickering over whether to keep the window open or closed.

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Adee Braun — Atlas Obscura

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