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Posts Tagged ‘Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’

The Vast Beast-Whistle of Space

January 23, 2015 | by

The literature of the fear of flying.

Photo: Corey Mitchell, via Flickr

Before takeoff, when the flight attendants are acting out the ways we’ll save ourselves in the event of a catastrophe, the same thought always occurs to me: it is possible not to fly. Plenty of people with enviable careers, even careers that require frequent travel, have managed it. The NFL’s John Madden travels across the country in his “Madden Cruiser,” a customized coach bus. Liz McClarnon, the British pop singer and member of the Atomic Kittens, hasn’t been on a plane in four years. Sean Bean (Game of Thrones’s Ned Stark) drives to all of his European film locations. He was finally forced onto a plane to shoot The Lord of the Rings in New Zealand, though he refused the helicopter ride to top of the mountain where they were filming, forcing the rest of the cast to wait while he walked up.

Those of us with aviophobia know that flying is safe—it just doesn’t feel safe. During takeoff, the plane forces itself diagonally into the air, pinning us to our seats. We feel the strain as the engines grind, trying to lift an enormous, metal, bird-shaped machine packed with humans into the sky. Why did anyone ever think this was a good idea? The air is not our natural element; the first powered plane only stayed up for twelve seconds. At thirty thousand feet, the sounds are unnerving. The poet James Dickey wrote, “There is faintly coming in / Somewhere the vast beast-whistle of space.” It’s hard to think of any sound more terrifying. Read More »

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Siri Hates Her, and Other News

January 7, 2014 | by

hal-2001

HAL 9000—still the standard-bearer for baneful artificial intelligences.

  • Eschewing received wisdom and millions of high school syllabi, one writer dares to contend that Charlotte Brontë’s Villette trumps Jane Eyre.
  • Spike Jonze wrote the screenplay for Her, which features a honey-tongued operating system named Samantha, well before Siri came into this world—but surely you can see the connection. Siri can’t. Ask her about Her and you’ll get some guff: “I think she gives artificial intelligence a bad name.”
  • As the New York Times prepares to debut its new home page, this helpful gif shows how the site has evolved since 2001. (“The New York Times on the Web,” it said then—as if to congratulate itself for having arrived.)
  • Fan art for The Catcher in the Rye. Highest honors go to that left-handed fielder’s mitt.
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince becomes an art exhibit.
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    Crime, Punishment, and Chess

    May 17, 2012 | by

  • The link between chess and writing.
  • An excised page of The Little Prince goes on the block.
  • Live out your fantasies in the penthouses that serve as the setting for Fifty Shades of Grey.
  • Speaking of fantasies … hot authors.
  • A Bay Area judge allows a prisoner to go free—provided he reads an hour a day and completes book reports.
  • Meanwhile, a white-collar criminal is ordered to write a book. (The author considered, and rejected, the opening line, “Call me a Schlemiel.”)
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