In responding to a possibly sexist interview question, Claire Messud offers a beautiful definition of great literature.
Also see how ignorance fuels science.
Seth Godin and other cultural mavens on the psychology and sociology of branding.
Legendary album designer Storm Thorgerson, whom we lost at the age of 69, on what it was like to work with Pink Floyd and create some of history’s most iconic vinyl covers. Find his era-defining work in For the Love of Vinyl: The Album Art of Hipgnosis.
A lot of people have an idea of [the Superman] character as boring, as the ultimate boy scout, as goody-goody, as not relatable, as too powerful. So when I took a look at this character the course of the 75 years, you see that everything about this character changes except for one thing, and that’s his motivation. His motivation is at once the simplest of all motivations. He’s a hero, which means, A, he puts the needs of others over those of himself and, B, he never gives up. Simple but it’s the hardest to unpack because it’s an unquestioned kind of heroism that has driven him for years and years.
“It’s irrelevant to me who they are,” he says. “All that matters is if it’s a good picture or a bad picture. That’s all I care about.”
A good picture for him revolves around a moment. A glance, a breath. Something that peels back the façade and reveals the personality of the subject.
“Photography is just the technique, it’s the grammar, but it’s never the content,” he says.
It’s really hard to get funding for pure science just for the sake of figuring out how things work. It’s a lot easier to get funded if you have a practical application for things. … The more you realize you don’t know very much, and there isn’t an end point. So there’s always more to be done — there’s just not as much funding for it anymore.
Mary Roach, whose latest masterpiece of provocative popular science, Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, is out this month, echoes Marie Curie (“One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done…”) in this interview on The Millions.
Complement with Alexander Flexner’s indispensable 1939 meditation on the usefulness of useless knowledge.
Amy Webb, author of the fascinating Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match, talks to Debbie Millman about how the very design of online dating profile questionnaires sabotages your odds of finding your soulmate.
Does it matter that what you’ve achieved, with your online special and your tour can’t be replicated by other performers who don’t have the visibility or fan base that you do?
Why do you think those people don’t have the same resources that I have, the same visibility or relationship? What’s different between me and them?
You have the platform. You have the level of recognition.
So why do I have the platform and the recognition?
At this point you’ve put in the time.
There you go. There’s no way around that. There’s people that say: “It’s not fair. You have all that stuff.” I wasn’t born with it. It was a horrible process to get to this. It took me my whole life. If you’re new at this — and by “new at it,” I mean 15 years in, or even 20 — you’re just starting to get traction. Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous, and anything that’s in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s, you picked up a guitar? Give it a minute.