Google On The L Train: Sci-fi, Wifi And The MTA

Last week, gracious youngsters from Google, Inc. were stationed below 14th Street, handing cards to commuters. The cards confirmed that those wireless signal bars appearing on certain subway platforms weren’t phishing expeditions by identity thieves or digital phantoms. Rather, they were the fruit borne of a partnership between Google and a wireless Internet provider named Boingo. Log in to their hotspot and get a summer of free Wi-Fi access all over New York City. In return, Google gets to hoard the information they generate, assembling an accurate picture of who exactly was passing through the station and when.

Memory Scraped onto Landscape with Smell

So horrid and bright to open his eyes. So much better to stay enshrouded in ruddy dark. But other signals were… penetrating too. His gullet came unfastened, pulsing and melting, and a sour bulge of liquid rose and – oh fuck, he sat up too late – popped and disgorged into his cupped hands. He cradled this liquid inch; it had weight and mass, and the gluey but slippery consistency of watered cornstarch. Sweet artificial scents of partially digested alcohol rose from its glistening surface. How much like an offering this was, with its bobbing rice grains and bilious yellow tint (he was bent on his knees in the sand). The smell intensified. A nostril twitched. Revulsion clenched him, and he flung his slop into the fire pit.

Our First Expatriate President

Pundits on the right and left have described President Barack Obama as having a distant attitude toward the United States – on the right they call it narcissism and hint at secret agendas and question his patriotism, while on the left they wonder darkly whether he might be “too brainy to be president.” I think it is something else. I have never met President Obama, but our lives have converged in unusual ways. Perhaps unpacking my own intense and complex relationship with the United States might shed some light into what might at first seem like an aloof and distant attitude toward our homeland.

Nobody Wins

PULITZER prizes are better known for honoring American journalism than fiction. Their heft in literary circles is far outweighed by the Nobel prize or MacArthur Fellowship. Yet the Pulitzer remains one of the few literary honours that can substantially increase an author’s sales in America. The Pulitzer prize for fiction last year boosted sales of Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by an order of magnitude. Publishers had been keen on a similar revenue injection this year, in light of disappointing sales and a looming (and costly) anti-trust decision on digital rights.

Kim Jong-un Contemplates His Failed Launch

The rocket had failed. Kim Jong-un snapped off his the monitor and turned to face his advisors. What could they possibly tell him? This was total failure. Five ashen men in uniform glittered in the gloom. They groveled and made excuses. Kim lifted a hand and batted the air as if to shoo a fly, and the men backed away slowly, heads bowed deeply in shame. He waited for them to leave and left the control room for his private chambers. The hallway smelled of sandalwood and cognac.

GSAS Superscript – The Other side of Inequality

The widening gap between rich and poor is the central focus of the Occupy movement, and one of the most press- ing issues in the upcoming presidential election. Contrary to how it may feel on the ground, however, the gap is widening not because of spiraling poverty, but because of increas- ing wealth. From 1979 to 2007, the income of the richest 1 percent of American households increased by 224 percent, with the income of the richest .1 percent increasing by 390 percent; conversely, over the same period of time, the bottom 90 percent of Americans experi- enced income growth of 5 percent. This period of growing inequality has challenged sociologists, since many of the traditional barriers to wealth and status such as class, gender and race, have become more permeable. Today’s elite look different from those of the 1960s. What, then, is happening?

Translit is neither new nor subversive

As a strategy “Translit” is not new. This so-called new genre sounds an awful lot like Moby Dick, minus the throbbing heartbeat of Captain Ahab pursuing his white whale; or the multi-faceted storytelling of a Thousand-and-One Nights. But all novels are a soup of partially digested hanks of literary matter. A typical chapter is a hybrid of drama, description and transcribed speech. And this soupiness is probably the reason why novels have defied easy categorization into genre since they evolved from the golden triad of Greek drama, tragedy and comedy. But it’s certainly fun to try nail it down and coin a new term. What is disturbing about this trumpeting of “Translit,” however, is Coupland’s suggestion that it is an effective strategy for dealing with “interconnectivity across time and space, just as interconnectedness defines the here and now.”

Diabolical women

“THE Vanishers” is basically a novel of “girl-on-girl psychic violence,” says Heidi Julavits of her new book. The story begins at an exclusive workshop in a bucolic village in New Hampshire, where promising students come to learn how to channel their psychic energies.”

The Different Dialects of Serial Murder

I do not follow contemporary cinema, but with the Oscars looming, I felt obliged to weigh in on the moving image as I experience it. Since I do not own a television and lack the sophistication and desire to sift through darknets and peer-to-peer file-sharing networks hunting for shows to download, I have resorted to Youtube’s never-ending supply of serial killer documentaries.

WILL THE MAINE COON BECOME AN AMERICAN ICON?

“The most masculine of cats,” tout defenders of the breed, and they are indeed rugged, solid creatures who look as if they ought to be de-mousing a lighthouse on the stormy coast of Maine rather than sprawling on the settee. That is, after all, what they were probably bred for. Picture a cat, a large one, with tufted ears and a lumbering gait and a cheerful disposition; a coat with an undercoat of insulation, and oversized paws fit for trampling snow or scurrying up a tree trunk. Drooping whiskers, a propensity to sprout extra toes on his feet, an unusually expressive tail, and a dour, owlish expression that is almost a pout complete the Maine Coon, a creature on the cusp of entering America’s national pantheon of icons.