Daily Briefing

Deep buzz for the content-deprived

Every weekday, while you get showered and dressed, we pluck these dewy- fresh, breaking stories from the info-clogged byways of the datasphere. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and stoke up on everything you need to know, or at least enough to fake it.

Wired: Putting A Writer And Readers To A Test
Jennifer Schuessler, The New York Times | Wired: Putting A Writer And Readers To A Test | November 30, 2013

Writers working on new books often complain about the pressure. But on a recent evening, the Dutch novelist Arnon Grunberg was sitting at a cluttered desk in his shoe-box apartment in Midtown Manhattan, with more reason to kvetch than most.

First, there was the novella he was trying to get off the ground, the latest in a string of more than a dozen books that have made him, at 42, perhaps his country’s most celebrated novelist and a literary star in Europe.

But more pressing — quite literally — was his headgear, a sort of bathing cap affixed with 28 electrodes that made him look like an extra in a mermaid mash-up of “A Clockwork Orange.”...

Portland Pre-Pilgraim
Martin Cizmar, Willamette Week | Portland, Pre-Pilgrim | November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving 1621 found Portlanders eating camas, wapato, salmon -- and maybe a passing seal...

What Really Happened At The First Thanksgiving? The Wampanoag Side Of The Tale
Gale Courety Toensing, Indian Country Today | What Really Happened At The First Thankgiving? | November 30, 2013

When you hear about the Pilgrims and “the Indians” harmoniously sharing the “first Thanksgiving” meal in 1621, the Indians referred to so generically are the ancestors of the contemporary members of the Wampanoag Nation...

America's First Book
Casey N. Cep, The New Yorker | America's First Book | November 27, 2013

Today, Sotheby’s will auction a copy of the first English-language book printed in America. “The Whole Booke of Psalmes,” or the Bay Psalm Book, as it is now known, is expected to sell for between fifteen and thirty million dollars, which would make it the most expensive book in the world.

The current record for the highest-priced printed book is not a Gutenberg Bible or a First Folio of Shakespeare but a copy of John James Audubon’s “Birds of America,” which sold for $11.5 million in 2010. The Bay Psalm Book is older and now rarer than Audubon’s catalogue of fowl; only eleven of the original seventeen hundred copies survive...

Comet Nears Sun, Offering Planetary Clues
Kenneth Chang, The International New York Times | Comet Nears Sun, Offering Planetary Clues | November 27, 2013

A comet that spent the first 4.5 billion years of its existence in the farthest reaches of the solar system will almost graze the furnace of the sun on Thursday. Comet ISON’s close approach — and its possible demise, from the sun’s heat and gravitational forces — will give scientists an unprecedented look at the ingredients that came together to form the planets.

“It’s a dinosaur bone of solar system formation,” said Carey M. Lisse, a senior research scientist at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, during a NASA news conference on Tuesday...

The Rise Of The New New Left
Peter Beinart, The Daily Beast | The Rise Of The New New Left | November 27, 2013

Maybe Bill de Blasio got lucky. Maybe he only won because he cut a sweet ad featuring his biracial son. Or because his rivals were either spectacularly boring, spectacularly pathological, or running for Michael Bloomberg’s fourth term. But I don’t think so. The deeper you look, the stronger the evidence that de Blasio’s victory is an omen of what may become the defining story of America’s next political era: the challenge, to both parties, from the left. It’s a challenge Hillary Clinton should start worrying about now.

To understand why that challenge may prove so destabilizing, start with this core truth: For the past two decades, American politics has been largely a contest between Reaganism and Clintonism...

Brian, The Dog From Family Guy: An Obituary
Stuart Jeffries, The Guardian | The Dog From Family Guy: An Obituary | November 26, 2013

He might have been just an eight-year-old animated labrador to some, but to devotees of the show, Brian Griffin was top dog in the world of cartoon canines and will be sorely missed.

Of all the world's many talking cartoon dogs (think: Deputy Dawg, Hong Kong Phooey, Roobarb from Roobarb and Custard), Brian Griffin was the most sophisticated. The beloved labrador from the US cartoon series Family Guy could walk upright, spoke French and a little Spanish, was a Mensa member, could order drinks ("Hey, bar- keep? Whose leg do you have to hump to get a dry martini around here?" became his catchphrase), drove a Prius with the licence plate BRI-DOG, was on the electoral roll (he voted, damn him, McCain in 2012) and dug John Coltrane. He even had a credit card, proving that banks are still unfit to decide their own lending parameters....

The Fall Of India's Consciencd
Tunk Varadarajan, The Daily Beast | The Fall Of India's Conscience | November 26, 2013

The biggest story in India right now is that one of the country's most famous and controversial journalists stands accused of sexual assault. How did a man known for skewering the powerful end up this way?...

Death of a Professor
L.V. Anderson, Slate | Death Of A Professor | November 26, 2013

On Friday, Aug. 16, Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct French professor who’d recently lost her job at Duquesne University at the age of 83, suffered a cardiac arrest on a street corner in Homestead, Pa.* Vojtko collapsed yards from the house where she had lived almost her entire life. She was rushed to the hospital, but she never regained consciousness. Vojtko died on Sunday, Sept. 1.

Two and a half weeks later, Vojtko’s lawyer, Daniel Kovalik, published an op-ed about Vojtko called “Death of an Adjunct” in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Kovalik wrote that “unlike a well-paid tenured professor, Margaret Mary worked on a contract basis from semester to semester, with no job security, no benefits, and with a salary of $3,000 to $3,500 per three-credit course.” (In fact, for many years, she’d earned less—only $2,556 per course.) She’d been receiving cancer treatment, he said, and she’d become essentially homeless over the winter because she couldn’t afford to maintain and heat her house...

Confessions Of A Right-Wing Shock Jock
Jack Hunter, Politico | Confessions Of A Right-Wing Shock Jock | November 25, 2013

I'm not a racist; I just played on eon the radio.

In July, the neoconservative website Washington Free Beacon published an article with the headline “Rebel Yell: Rand Paul aide has history of neo-Confederate sympathies, inflammatory statements.” The subject was a peculiar one—a staffer for Sen. Paul (R-Ky.) who had worked as a radio shock jock with the nickname “Southern Avenger” while wearing a Confederate-flag wrestling mask.

The Southern Avenger had said some pretty atrocious things. He toasted John Wilkes Booth’s birthday each year and believed that Lincoln “would have had a romantic relationship with Adolf Hitler if the two met.” He worried about “racial double standards for white people” and that “a non-white majority America would simply cease to be America.”


That Rand Paul aide was me...