Skateboarder Patrik Wallner snuck some video footage of North Korea around the time of the 100th birthday celebrations for its deceased ruler Kim Il-Sung. His footage shines a vivid and personal light on what’s otherwise a very concealed and distant nation.
Sam Tanenhaus asks, What do this season’s political books tell us about the election? As he puts it, “Election-year analyses always seem to arrive too late or too soon. They are useful nonetheless. The mistakes and misapprehensions — what the authors thought they knew — mirror the broader thinking of their moment.” Pair with this Millions essay on politics and excessive language.
The word “cool” has been cool for more than 70 years. At Slate, Carl Wilson examines why this slang stuck, and how it’s evolved from being used by beatniks to smartphone companies. “Cool is an attitude that allows detached assessment, but one that prizes an air of knowingness over specific knowledge. I think that’s why it doesn’t become dated, unlike hotter-running expressions of enthusiasm like groovy or rad.” Pair with: Michael Agger’s essay on why we love the “cool story, bro” meme.
Chances are you’ve bragged about the size of your library. The number of books you own is a point of pride for many readers. But at what point does collecting books — which few people would say is a bad thing– turn into a problem? At what point, in other words, does it become hoarding? Pair with: Rebecca Rego-Barry on hunting for rare books at college library book sales.
For the most part, Alexis de Tocqueville had good things to say about the young United States in his book Democracy in America, which is probably why we tend to forget that he thought Americans weren’t funny. What de Tocqueville missed, according to a new history of American humor, is the extent to which American funniness emerged from subversive groups of outsiders. In Bookforum, Ben Schwartz takes stock of the arguments in American Fun.