When did Samuel Beckett’s “fail better” become the motto of Silicon Valley? At Slate, our own Mark O’Connell traces the history of the phrase. “Fail Better, with its TEDishly counterintuitive feel, is the literary takeaway par excellence; it’s usefully suggestive, too, of the corporate propaganda of productivity, with its appeals to ‘think different’ or ‘work smarter’ or ‘just do it.'”
The Washington Post reports that Spanish writer and Cervantes Prize winner Juan Goytisolo has died at age 86. Bruna Dantas Lobato wrote about Goytisolo’s 1970 novel of dispossession Count Julian for us, noting that “[j]ust like the nature of exile itself, the narrative offers no relief, no place of rest: just fragment after fragment of dry landscapes, lonely characters, and rooms in disarray.”
Some videos just make you want to write. Joe Capra‘s stunning timelapse video of Iceland’s “midnight sun” is one of them.
“Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience. In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.” The Associated Press addresses the term “alt-right.”
David Foster Wallace wrote the best bitter takedown (PDF) of the cruise ship industry ever, but he only had to endure a 7-night vacation. Imagine his horror, then, if he had been forced to spend significant time on The World, a $20,000+/month ship that continuously circumnavigates the world and has permanent passengers in its 165 private residences. For a more detailed glimpse at life on board the ship, check out Anthony Bourdain’s Gourmet piece on his 2003 visit.
We’ve been back from our holiday travels for a few days, and I’ve finally had some time to catch up with some online reading. Here are some articles and links that caught my eye. (Several of these come from Arts and Letters Daily)From Scientific American, a look at last year’s tsunami and how scientists have used this real life event to validate and augment various previously untested theories about these rare, cataclysmic events.The 2005 Dubious Data Awards: the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) at George Mason University highlights several examples of overhyped news stories based on dubious numbers.From Wired: Will the impending bird-flu pandemic be a global version of “the boy who cried wolf?” Scientists are trying to assess the real danger using supercomputers to play out fantastically complicated simulations that remind me of SimCity.In the Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley “reconsiders” C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower saga. He suggests Beat to Quarters as the best in the series.I’ve definitely become very interested in the business of newspapers in the last few years. Mike Hughlett’s article in the Chicago Tribune is a little “inside baseball,” but it lays out how important classified ads are to newspapers, and explains why newspapers aren’t as imperiled in the in online classified arena as some might suggest.Another tough business is opening a coffee shop. Michael Idov shares the harrowing details of his experience at Slate.A no-frills list of the bestselling books from 1900 to 1998, year by year.