August 19, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Today in nomenclature: having lived for years in total ignorance of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), I was at last moved to pay attention, because the names of our cheeses—the entire foundation of our nation’s fragile relationship with dairy—are in jeopardy. Mark Hay explains: “Deep within the bowels of the treaty, there’s one clause that could have a profound effect on everyday American life — by making it illegal for U.S. cheese makers to use common names rooted in regional European culinary traditions like feta, muenster, or parmesan … And the U.S. has officially pushed back, arguing that EU producers can just file trademark applications for protection in the U.S. Just like under the EU’s system, this would prevent people other than the trademark holders or licensed users from labeling their cheese with specific names in America … But for Europeans that’s not enough; the trademark for Parmigiano-Reggiano doesn’t extend to parmesan, which to them is a synonym, not a generic genus term.”
- People love to be protected from rattlesnakes—that’s just so typical of us! But no one asks about the snakes. Do they want to be protected from the people? We’ve been murdering them with impunity for centuries now. It’s time to make amends. And so I give you Rattlesnake Island, a new snake place. Christopher Benfey writes, “Timber Rattlesnakes, nostalgically recorded in local place names like Rattlesnake Gutter … and Rattlesnake Knob, once thrived in New England. Not anymore. They have been wholly exterminated in Maine and Rhode Island, and it is estimated that not more than two hundred survive in a few disparate colonies … Under the circumstances, it seemed reasonable to conservationists and herpetologists to find an uninhabited island, outfitted with the belowground dens essential to snake survival in the winter, and slowly introduce a small colony of rattlesnakes, one by one, equipped with monitors to track their location. Mount Zion is large enough, at 1,350 acres, that snakes, according to experts, ‘would have little motivation to leave.’ ”
- Elif Batuman has been reading Psychobook, a new collection of what can only be described as vintage psychological tests. The book is designed for many things, but not to make its readers feel sane: “No less than the many tests in its pages, Psychobook is itself a kind of inkblot, certain to evoke different emotions and associations from different people. For this reader, one recurring sensation was that of a deeply American beleaguerment, with some Eastern European overtones. I thought again and again of the immigrant woman, landing like Kafka’s hero on American shores after a long and, one feels, psychically taxing boat ride, facing the first of many new puzzles in a strange new land … It’s not immediately clear why this book exists, but it would probably look great in a therapist’s waiting room.”
- Today in junk that might also be art—or, at least, junk that you could soon own: Tekserve, a computer-support shop not far from the Review’s offices in Chelsea, ended its twenty-nine-year run this week. As a kind of progenitor of the Apple store, the business amassed a lot of obsolete technology over the decades, and now you can buy that stuff at auction. Have you had your eye on a Philco Predicta TV? An early “magic lantern” slide projector? A Braille display processor? A Nagra 4.2 portable mono tape recorder? Or perhaps the storied “Mac Museum,” “which comprises thirty-five computers that represent the development of Apple from 1984 to 2004”?
- Since 1982, the London Review of Books has had featured writers from all over the world for their Diary column. Until this week, no one could say which corners of the globe, exactly, had been represented in the LRB’s pages—but now they’ve gone ahead and marked all eight hundred of their contributors on a map. Note the presences, of course, but also the absences. No one has ever filed a diary from Mongolia or Indonesia, for instance—book your flights now and refine your pitches from thirty thousand feet.