A regular spot to share some ideas about what’s good and what’s not on the interwebthingy. But, you know, it’s your life, so feel free to agree, disagree or ignore what follows.
What caught my attention last week
Still Fighting World War One
The always thoughtful Timothy Garton Ash has an essay in the Guardian on how World War One is still affecting our world 100 years after it began.
For all the differences, the dirty little wars of 2014 have an important connection to the horrendous “great” one that began in 1914. Many of them involve struggles of definition and control over patchwork territories left behind by the multi-ethnic empires that clashed 100 years ago.
Paying The Price of Fame
Alexandra Molotkow reviews a series of books about women who hung out with rock stars, including:
- Cynthia Powell (John Lennon)
- Pamela Des Barres (Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Keith Moon)
- Peggy Caserta (Janis Joplin)
- Pattie Boyd (George Harrison, Eric Clapton)
- Suze Rotolo (Bob Dylan)
Many stories of abuse and exploitation, certainly, but also moments of survival and transcendence.
There are consequences—financially and otherwise—to not having your own work.
A History of Ideas
A team from the University of Texas has animated a data set that records where and when people were born and died from 600 BC. Sounds a bit dull? Actually it’s both beautiful and informative, showing the flow of ideas between places over the centuries. An important caveat: the underlying data set is totally skewed towards people who were considered worth recording at the time – that is, white, male, wealthy/powerful – but it’s still a fascinating use of technology.
The animation reflects some of what was known already. Rome gave way to Paris as a cultural centre, which was eventually overtaken by Los Angeles and New York. But it also puts figures and dates on these shifts — and allows for precise comparisons. For example, the data suggest that Paris overtook Rome as a cultural hub in 1789.
Putting The Fun in Maths
Alex Bellos writes wonderfully well about mathematics, even or maybe especially for people who think they’re no good at it. Here’s an excerpt from his latest book The Grapes of Math.
Numbers are not impartial and straightforward; they have baggage.
What I’m Trying To Ignore Next Week
- Ebola – the stuff of nightmares.
- Conspiracy theories about MH370 and MH17 – actually, any conspiracy theories.
- Tiger Woods – very painful to watch this car crash in slow motion.