Broken Time

Steve Silberman’s deep-dive into Bill Evans, one of the most enigmatic figures in jazz, is a fantastic read that examines the intersection of what happens when virtuosic talent inexplicably falls short. Silberman also probes his own obsession with ‘Nardis,’ a complex arrangement which Miles Davis, who employed Evans as a member of his sextet, said the pianist could play “the way it was meant to be played.”

Source: The Believer
Published: Aug 1, 2018
Length: 24 minutes (6,184 words)

The Sketchbook of Susan Kare, the Artist Who Gave Computing a Face

Kare’s first assignment was developing fonts for the Mac OS. At the time, digital typefaces were monospaced, meaning that both a narrow I and a broad M were wedged into the same bitmapped real estate — a vestigial legacy of the way that a typewriter platen advances, one space at a time. Jobs was determined to come up with something better for his sleek new machine, having been impressed by the grace of finely wrought letterforms in calligraphy classes he audited at Reed College, taught by the Trappist monk Robert Palladino, a disciple of master calligrapher Lloyd Reynolds. (The lasting impact of Reynolds’ instruction can also be seen in the playful cursive of the seminal West Coast Beat poets Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen, making Reynolds and Palladino the human hyperlinks between desktop publishing and Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums.)

For the Mac, Kare designed the first proportionally spaced digital font family that allowed text to breathe as naturally on the Mac’s white screen as it does in the pages of a book. The distinctive Jobs touch was upgrading the original monikers of these elegant typefaces from the names of train stations near Philadelphia — like Rosemont and Ardmore — to those of world-class cities like Geneva, Chicago, and New York.

Source: PLoS
Published: Nov 22, 2011
Length: 7 minutes (1,763 words)

Orphans

My father and I would take an annual walk on the sandbars in Provincetown to take stock of our lives together. After feeling that he was my nemesis for years, I began to appreciate how similar we were. He became more affectionate and emotionally expressive. By the late ’80s, his own mother and father were dead, and sometimes he would burst into tears, crying that he had become “an orphan.” He began talking about mortality, predicting that he would die at the same age as his father, 69. He told me that he didn’t believe in an afterlife and would be “annihilated” after his death, which seemed like an oddly vivid choice of words, as if he was describing the obliteration of atomic particles or an entire city. But his worst fear was becoming an invalid. If I’m ever a vegetable, he would say, just pull the plug.

Source: Fray
Published: Nov 10, 2011
Length: 10 minutes (2,570 words)

What Kind of Buddhist was Steve Jobs, Really?

It’s intriguing, if depressing, to imagine what the digital world would have been like if Kobun had given Jobs the opposite advice, along the lines of Jobs’ own now-infamous challenge to Pepsi CEO John Sculley: “Do you want to sell stylish electronic gadgets for the rest of your life, or come with me and vow to save all sentient beings from suffering?”

Source: PLoS
Published: Oct 28, 2011
Length: 14 minutes (3,625 words)

What’s the Most Important Lesson You Learned from a Teacher?

In 1988 when my biology teacher told me to see if I could find any information about Henrietta, neither one of us could have imagined that more than twenty years later, I’d publish a book about her having spent most of my adult life looking to answer a question he inspired in that classroom. Before my book came out, I tracked down that biology teacher, now long retired, and sent him a note: “Dear Mr. Defler, here’s my extra credit project. It’s 22 years late, but I have a good excuse: No one knew anything about her.” He was shocked. I was just one of thousands of students he’d taught in countless huge auditoriums, most of us (myself included) looking disaffected and half asleep. He didn’t remember that moment in class when he first told me about Henrietta, but I did. Which is an amazing thing about classrooms: You never know what random sentence from a teacher will change a student’s life.

Source: PLoS
Published: Oct 5, 2011
Length: 28 minutes (7,063 words)

Woof! John Elder Robison, Living Boldly as a ‘Free-Range Aspergian’

John Elder Robison would stand out in a crowd even if he didn’t have Asperger syndrome. A gruff, powerfully built, tirelessly curious, blue-eyed bear of a man, he hurtles down a San Diego sidewalk toward a promising Mexican restaurant like an unstoppable force of nature. ”What’s keepin’ you stragglers?” he calls back to the shorter-legged ambulators dawdling in his wake.

Source: PLoS
Published: May 18, 2011
Length: 18 minutes (4,658 words)

The Plot to Turn On the World: The Leary/Ginsberg Acid Conspiracy

As the public faces of the psychedelic revolution, Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary made a dynamic duo. The charming, boyish, Irish Harvard professor and the ecstatic, boldly gay, Hebraically-bearded Jersey bard became the de facto gurus of the movement they’d helped create — father figures for a generation of lysergic pilgrims who temporarily jettisoned their own fathers in their quest for renewable revelation.

Source: PLoS
Published: Apr 21, 2011
Length: 17 minutes (4,373 words)

Want to Prevent Gay Teen Suicide? Legalize Marriage Equality

Growing up as a gay kid, life is a difficult puzzle. You keep getting crushes on the wrong people. If you’re a girl, you’re supposed to be going all gooey inside for Matt and Jason, the hotties on the lacrosse team. And if you’re Matt, you’re supposed to be pining for Ashley or Jessica — not yearning to run away to a jam-band festival with Jason.

Source: PLoS
Published: Sep 30, 2010
Length: 7 minutes (1,980 words)

Placebos Are Getting More Effective. Drugmakers Are Desperate to Know Why.

Merck was in trouble. In 2002, the pharmaceutical giant was falling behind its rivals in sales. Even worse, patents on five blockbuster drugs were about to expire, which would allow cheaper generics to flood the market. The company hadn’t introduced a truly new product in three years, and its stock price was plummeting.

Source: Wired
Published: Aug 24, 2009
Length: 17 minutes (4,481 words)