Christopher Hitchens in The Atlantic on the collected letters of Philip Larkin to Monica Jones
It is inescapable that we should wonder how and why poetry manages to transmute the dross of existence into magic or gold, and the contrast in Larkin’s case is a specially acute one. Having quit Belfast, he removed himself forever to Hull, a rugged coastal city facing toward Scandinavia that, even if it was once represented in Parliament by Andrew Marvell, in point of warmth and amenity runs Belfast a pretty close second. Here he brooded biliously and even spitefully on his lack of privacy, the success of his happier friends Amis and Conquest, the decline of standards at the university he served, the general bloodiness of pub lunches and academic sherry parties, the frumpy manipulativeness of womenfolk, and the petrifying imminence of death. (Might one say that Hull was other people?)
Cameron Koczon on A List Apart, on 'orbital content'
We are on the cusp of a complete overhaul of the way in which we interact with online content, and I think you should be a hell of a lot more excited than you currently are. Bookmarklet apps like Instapaper, Svpply, and Readability are pointing us toward a future in which content is no longer entrenched in websites, but floats in orbit around users. This transformation of our relationship with content will force us to rethink existing reputation, distribution, and monetization models—and all for the better.
James Gleick in the Smithsonian Magazine on memes (long long long, but my own pick for today)
In Isaac Newton’s lifetime, no more than a few thousand people had any idea what he looked like, even though he was one of England’s most famous men. Yet now millions of people have quite a clear idea—based on replicas of copies of rather poorly painted portraits. Even more pervasive and indelible are the smile of Mona Lisa, The Scream of Edvard Munch and the silhouettes of various fictional extraterrestrials. These are memes, living a life of their own, independent of any physical reality. “This may not be what George Washington looked like then,” a tour guide was overheard saying of the Gilbert Stuart portrait at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “but this is what he looks like now.” Exactly.
Memes emerge in brains and travel outward, establishing beachheads on paper and celluloid and silicon and anywhere else information can go. They are not to be thought of as elementary particles but as organisms. The number three is not a meme; nor is the color blue, nor any simple thought, any more than a single nucleotide can be a gene. Memes are complex units, distinct and memorable—units with staying power.