Take a Photo Here

Teju Cole on the sameness of travel photography:

The visitor to a place like the Roman Forum does not only take a photograph of the Forum; he also takes a photograph for the Forum. His photograph partly serves the narrative chosen by the Forum’s custodians. The visitor is inadvertently mesmerized not only by the site but also by the municipal or museological organization of the experience of the site.

Letter of Recommendation: Airport Layovers

I loved this essay on layovers. Airports are usually incredibly relaxing for me:

All sorts of big questions wait on the other side of the gate. Will Bill still love you when you get home? Will you make it out there at college? Will Morocco be everything you’ve always dreamed of?

But you don’t have to answer questions like that during a layover. You can’t: The whole point is that they have to wait. You have been granted a reprieve — a chance to consider life as it was before it goes away, or as it might be when it arrives.

See also: Let’s fly.

Can a Trip Ever Be ‘Authentic’? – The New York Times

Our notion of places — which is to say the romances and images we project onto them — are always less current and subtle than the places themselves. […] That disconnect is even more acute because so many travelers have been everywhere (if only on-screen), which in turn means that reality — all that is unmediated and nonvirtual — holds a greater premium than ever.

Can a Trip Ever Be ‘Authentic’? – The New York Times

The Obtuse Triangle

“I asked him, how does it feel when people say [Phil Jackson] won only because he had Jordan, Pippen, O’Neal and Bryant? He brightened. “Feels great!” he said. “I’m so glad I had those players. Made all the difference.””

The Obtuse Triangle


There are a lot of ways for a novelist to create suspense, but also really only two: one a trick, one an art.

The trick is to keep a secret. Or many secrets, even. In Lee Child’s books, Jack Reacher always has a big mystery to crack, but there are a series of smaller mysteries in the meantime, too, a new one appearing as soon as the last is resolved. J. K. Rowling is another master of this technique — Who gave Harry that Firebolt? How is Rita Skeeter getting her info?

The art, meanwhile, the thing that makes “Pride and Prejudice” so superbly suspenseful, more suspenseful than the slickest spy novel, is to write stories in which characters must make decisions.


From ‘American Sniper’ to ‘Macbeth,’ a Reporter’s Moviegoing Spree – NYTimes.com

I love this essay about a two-day bender at the movie theaters.

Henry Higgins has a song in “My Fair Lady” in which he talks about how even-keeled his life was before Eliza Doolittle came along and messed it up. That is true at the movies, too. Alone, you can respond any way you want; the only negotiation is between you and the screen. Let another person in, and everything changes. My friend was gracious, but I could tell that he wished the seats were farther back and that he was repelled by what he perceived to be the unpleasant jingoism cascading around the theater. I felt responsible, because the movie had been my idea.

That was a bummer. I began to believe that maybe art is better experienced alone, which is not a healthy belief.

And this too:

The movie was “Night at the Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb,” and it was pretty bad. It was a perfect thing to see alone, because I really liked it and would not have wanted to explain myself to anyone.

From ‘American Sniper’ to ‘Macbeth,’ a Reporter’s Moviegoing Spree – NYTimes.com

Decoding a Menu at Root & Bone – NYTimes.com

In a study of more than a million Yelp restaurant reviews, Mr. Jurafsky and the Carnegie Mellon team found that four-star reviews tended to use a narrower range of vague positive words, while one-star reviews had a more varied vocabulary. One-star reviews also had higher incidence of past tense, pronouns (especially plural pronouns) and other subtle markers that linguists have previously found in chat room discussions about the death of Princess Diana and blog posts written in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In short, Mr. Jurafsky said, authors of one-star reviews unconsciously use language much as people do in the wake of collective trauma. “They use the word ‘we’ much more than ‘I,’ as if taking solace in the fact that this bad thing happened, but it happened to us together,” he said.

Another finding: Reviews of expensive restaurants are more likely to use sexual metaphors, while the food at cheaper restaurants tends to be compared to drugs.

Decoding a Menu at Root & Bone – NYTimes.com