Unraveling an Ancient Code Written In Strings


You might remember the alien language in the movie ‘Arrival’. One of our ancient cultures might have used code written in strings which has not yet been deciphered.

This raises a host of questions. Were these logosyllabic khipus a local phenomenon influenced by contact with Spanish writing, or do they have far-reaching roots in the pre-Columbian Andean past? Do the other types of khipus that were used in the central Andes until the 20th century, such as those for accounting, share features with phonetic khipus? What are the implications of a three-dimensional writing system, in which the sense of touch plays as important a role as sight, and how does this expand our understanding of what “writing” is?

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Sabine Hyland — Sapiens

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Do Supervillains say something about the current state of our society?

Some striking commonalities appear across our two early heroes’ comics. First, physical “flaws” are a critical feature. These deformities are regularly referenced, whether disability, scarring, or just a ghastly smile. Second, virtually all of these villains are genius-level intellects who use science to pursue selfish goals. And finally, among the villains, superpowers are at best a secondary feature, suggesting a close tie between physical health, desirability, and moral superiority. Danto’s aesthetic categories of “disgusting” and “offensive” certainly ring true here.

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Albert Hawks, Jr. — JHI Blog

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The heel originated as a practical and functional feature, and perhaps surprisingly it was men who started the trend. For centuries, men from western and central Asia had been wearing heeled footwear, enabling the foot to sit securely in the stirrup while riding, assisting their equestrian skills and fighting ability. Associated foremost with military might and masculinity, heels were enthusiastically adopted by European men during the second half of the 16th century. However, heels soon became purely fashionable, and upper-class women and children took to wearing them. Heels were of course alluringly impractical: their tendency to sink into the mud and to limit mobility served to declare the wearer as belonging to the upper echelons of society, with no concern for such normalities of life as working or indeed walking.

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Helen Persson — R/D

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The Walkman Was a Machine for Daydreaming


Remembering the Walkman.

I can’t help missing that clunky old device. There’s something more human about technologies that have an intuitive connection between what they look like and what they do. When the tape ribbon moves, the music plays; when the ribbon is wrinkled, the music sounds garbled. This logic is the logic of our own bodies, with organs and limbs whose motions are connected to their functions, and which are susceptible to injury and gradual breakdown.

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Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow — Lenny

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Hugh Hefner (1926–2017): A literary legacy of sex-supported fiction publishing


An obituary. Many of us don’t realize this, but Playboy has published some solid literary pieces from great writers.

Early on, as Josh Lambert reported in Tablet in 2010, Hef was frustrated and disappointed by anti-semitism and stifled by the hiring practices at Esquire. In response, he happily hired some of the country’s top Jewish editors: Nat LehrmanSheldon WaxArthur Kretchmer, and August Comte Spectorsky. But Playboy didn’t become a prestigious venue for literary writing until the sixties, under the eye of editor Robie Macauley, who attracted bylines from some of the greatest science fiction writers of the day — Arthur C. ClarkeRay BradburyIsaac Assimov, and many others. With numerous Nebula nominations and wins, Playboy became synonymous with quality sci-fi.

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Peter Clark — Melville House

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It’s not just that the rise of emerging economies is shifting the dynamics of global luxury consumption. Nor that young Indian designers are exposed to global influences and produce collections that deftly integrate these. It’s also that in fact because of the weighty history of misperception as well as moral ideas regarding restraint versus excess, emerging Indian designers are driven to produce something with a peculiarly unique alchemy for global fashion audiences, beyond cliches and speaking an exciting language of the now.

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Dr Phyllida Jay — Vestoj

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Bastards and Game of Thrones


Now that we are all waiting for the next season of Game of Thrones which will only air next year, here is an article on the categories of bastards in medieval Europe.

Much as in Medieval Europe, there are several different kinds of bastards in Game of Thrones, falling into sometimes overlapping categories. The first and most obvious type of bastard is one born to a known “highborn” father who recognizes the child as his but whose mother is either unknown or known to be low status. Here the most memorable example is Jon Snow, Snow being the surname for Northern bastards of this type (though of course — spoiler alert — Jon’s parentage turns out to be more complicated, and extremely throneworthy regardless of any niceties of marriage law), or Sand, Sand being the surname for bastards from the south. It is quite clearly better to be a Sand than a Snow, with the warm sunny climate of the south both more openly licentious than the restrained north, and more tolerant of children born to extramarital sex.

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Sara McDougall — OUPblog

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