The Handmaid’s Tale


thehandmaids-tale-615x284

I just finished the book. Sharing a 1986 review of the book.

The author has carefully drawn her projections from current trends. As she has said elsewhere, there is nothing here that has not been anticipated in the United States of America that we already know. Perhaps that is the trouble: the projections are too neatly penciled in. The details, including a Wall (as in Berlin, but also, as in the Middle Ages, a place where executed malefactors are displayed), all raise their hands announcing themselves present. At the same time, the Republic of Gilead itself, whatever in it that is not a projection, is insufficiently imagined. The Aunts are a good invention, though I cannot picture them as belonging to any future; unlike Big Brother, they are more part of the past – our schoolteachers.

The complete article

Mary McCarthy — The New York Times

Image source

How Christians Destroyed the Ancient World


the-darkening-age

A book review of – THE DARKENING AGE The Christian Destruction of the Classical World By Catherine Nixey

Actions were extreme because paganism was considered not just a psychological but a physical miasma. Christianity appeared on a planet that had been, for at least 70,000 years, animist. (Asking the women and men of antiquity whether they believed in spirits, nymphs, djinns would have been as odd as asking them whether they believed in the sea.) But for Christians, the food that pagans produced, the bathwater they washed in, their very breaths were thought to be infected by demons. Pollution was said to make its way into the lungs of bystanders during animal sacrifice. And once Christianity became championed by Rome, one of the most militaristic civilizations the world has known, philosophical discussions on the nature of good and evil became martial instructions for purges and pugilism.

The complete article

Bettany Hughes — The New York Times

Image source

I Downloaded the Information That Facebook Has on Me. Yikes.


facebook-faq-470-new_0

Everyone is now really looking into how much data these big companies have about you. You will be surprised, to say the least.

With a few clicks, I learned that about 500 advertisers — many that I had never heard of, like Bad Dad, a motorcycle parts store, and Space Jesus, an electronica band — had my contact information, which could include my email address, phone number and full name. Facebook also had my entire phone book, including the number to ring my apartment buzzer. The social network had even kept a permanent record of the roughly 100 people I had deleted from my friends list over the last 14 years, including my exes.

The complete article

Brian X. Chen — The New York Times

Image source

Hunting — and Haunted by — a Serial Killer


dark-1-0

This is for people who like to read about or watch true crime stories.

The research consumed her, and began to weigh on her. She suffered from insomnia and anxiety. Once, she panicked because she woke up to a scraping sound: A neighbor was dragging his trash can to the curb in the middle of the night, Oswalt said. Another time, when Oswalt tiptoed into their bedroom, trying not to wake her, she mistook him for an intruder and jumped out of bed and swung a lamp at his head. She felt an obligation to solve the case, and was devastated each time she developed a promising theory or zeroed in on a suspect but failed to find sufficient evidence.

The complete article

Alexandra Alter — Medium

The image source

28 Days, 28 Films for Black History Month


watermelonwoman1

An essential list. Recommended by Ankit.

When African-Americans in Hollywood were not singing or dancing, they were often cast as maids, butlers, porters or other servile, peripheral figures. There are exceptions, including “Imitation of Life,” a 1930s melodrama with a storyline about a black character who “passes” for white, as well as “Intruder in the Dust,” a 1940s parable of white conscience. Both are worth viewing because of the power and integrity of their featured black actors — Louise Beavers, Fredi Washington and Juano Hernandez — who with the humanity of their performances challenge and movingly subvert the mainstream industry’s racism.

The complete article

Manhola Dargis & A.O.Scott — The New York Times

Image source

Vivian Maier, Through a Clearer Lens


vivian-maier

But stories — like snapshots — are shaped by people, and for particular purposes. There’s always an angle. A new biography, “Vivian Maier: A Photographer’s Life and Afterlife,” by Pamela Bannos, strives to rescue Maier all over again, this time from the men who promulgated the Maier myth and profited off her work; chiefly Maloof, who controlled her copyright for a time. After a legal battle — “the Vivian Mire,” one critic called it — her estate passed into a trust last year, where it will be held for possible heirs and eventually released into the public domain.

The complete article

Parul Sehgal — The New York Times

Image source

Student Debt’s Grip on the Economy


126829_story__0327studentloan630420

American student loan debt has gotten out of control. New research from the Federal Reserve is reviewed in this article showing just how bad the situation is.

Total student debt — $1.3 trillion — is more than double what it was as recently as 2008 and is more than Americans have racked up for cars or credit cards.
But wages for college-­educated workers have only recently shown gains. They rose 6.6 percent from 2014 to 2016, as the labor market improved, but that still leaves them a mere 4.5 percent above where they were in 2002. Wage gains would have to be considerably more robust to handle rising debt burdens.

The New York Times

Image source

If Every Day is a Rainy Day, What Am I Saving For?


burning-money-e1340332352315

What’s it like grow up poor and remain poor as an adult? Samantha Irby offers an interesting perspective.

I know I should have invested in a sturdy pair of those bootstraps people who speak at graduation ceremonies are always talking about, but what does that even mean? Pay the rent, throw some cash at the phone bill, sprinkle a little change on the light bill, divide the remaining 20 bucks between the laundromat and a stock portfolio? It all seemed so unmanageable. And the years of being deprived or feeling stressed about money didn’t make me want to save; they made me want to spend, to immediately enjoy the fruits of the $7.25 an hour I made listening to people talk down to me in a customer service job.

The New York Times

Image source

Can Facebook Fix Its Own Worst Bug?


30cover-superjumbo

Has Facebook reached its peak with 2 billion people using it every month? If it has then there is only one way to go if Facebook does not deal with its problems and reinvent itself. Clickbaits, fake news, violent and suicide videos are being spread through Facebook’s news feed. How is Facebook trying to solve these issues?

If a human editor ran News Feed, she would look at the clickbait scourge and make simple, intuitive fixes: Turn down the Upworthy knob. But Facebook approaches the feed as an engineering project rather than an editorial one. When it makes alterations in the code that powers News Feed, it’s often only because it has found some clear signal in its data that users are demanding the change. In this sense, clickbait was a riddle. In surveys, people kept telling Facebook that they hated teasing headlines. But if that was true, why were they clicking on them? Was there something Facebook’s algorithm was missing, some signal that would show that despite the clicks, clickbait was really sickening users?

The complete article

Farhad Manjoo — The New York Times

Image source

Chasing the Higgs Boson


god-particle-2-638

Physics can be really humbling. Success does not come easy. You do thousand runs of experiments (and a lot of them are failed ones) before you are able to establish a fact. I wonder what keeps these scientists driven?

I share with you a brilliant piece by The New York Times describing the Hunt for ‘The God Particle‘.

For all their equipment and brainy multitudes, physicists would never be able to hold the Higgs Boson in their hands. As soon as it was created, it would disintegrate in a shower of lesser particles — sometimes, for example, in a flash of gamma rays, or into a spray of lightweight particles.

“Afterward he marveled at how attitudes toward physics had changed from a few years earlier, when some people feared the new collider would destroy Earth. That and the ‘God particle’ talk had gotten the public’s attention, he had to admit: ‘Once neighbors find out that Sharma is involved in that black hole thing, the dog doesn’t pee in my yard anymore.’”

By then they had already collected as many collisions — some 400 trillion — as they had the entire previous year

Chasing the Higgs Boson

Image source

NB: This article was a finalist for Pulitzer Prize(2014)