The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Wikipedia’

The Devil’s Close-up, and Other News

July 8, 2015 | by


A detail of the devil from the thirteenth-century Codex Gigas.

  • The owner of the most famous wheelbarrow in literature finally gets his due. Williams Carlos Williams was inspired in 1938 by the image of Thaddeus Marshall’s humble gardening implement left out in the rain, next to a flock of white chickens, and wrote the sixteen-word poem “Red Wheelbarrow.”
  • Wikipedia? It’s been done. Diderot spent more than twenty years writing and editing his Encyclopédie, a French translation of one of the first English-language encyclopedias. Diderot, however, transformed the original by conceiving of his “as a fully interactive text,” complete with footnotes and appendices that serve the era’s “version of hyperlinks, cross-listings, which take the reader to other ‘sites’ in the encyclopedia.”
  • Experimental composer Conlon Nancarrow utilized the player piano for his musical studies because “he was drawn to the technical possibilities of the machine, which can play faster and with greater precision than the most virtuosic pianist.” He applied congruent ratios to separate tempos and hand-punched cards while creating his unplayable, weirdly enjoyable tunes.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson may have been an egomaniac and brilliant fantasist, but he was also quite ill throughout his life. While visiting him in Samoa, where he would be buried at forty-four, historian Henry Adams said of Stevenson, “Imagine a man so thin and emaciated that he looked like a bundle of sticks in a bag, with a head and eyes morbidly intelligent and restless.”
  • All hail the Devil’s Bible, a thirteeth-century, wood-bound anomaly that is more than three feet long and comprises 620 pages. Officially named the Codex Gigas, it’s fabled to have been written by a banished monk, who resolved “to write the world’s biggest book in one night. To do so, he naturally required the help of the Devil.” Their deal? “All the monk had to do was paint a full-page portrait of Beelzebub in the Codex and hand over his mortal soul.”


Printing Wikipedia “from Aaaaa! to ZZZap!,” and Other News

June 19, 2015 | by

Image via Denny Gallery

  • Today in Sisyphean undertakings for the greater good: Michael Mandiberg, an interdisciplinary artist, is “transforming the English-language Wikipedia into an old-fashioned print reference set running to 7,600 volumes … [He] describes the project as half utilitarian data visualization project, half absurdist poetic gesture.” You can watch him transfer the digital files to a printer in real time at Denny Gallery, on the Lower East Side, where an exhibition, “From Aaaaa! to ZZZap!,” began yesterday.
  • Joshua Cohen on Dostoevsky’s The Double, whose hero Golyadakin “doesn’t know how to present himself socially—or, in a contemporary phrasing, he doesn’t know which self to present, struggling as he is with a decaying class system, stagnant bureaucracy, Godlessness, materialism, precarity, and dread—all of which have rendered him incapable of appropriate behavior, or even of defining appropriate behavior, in front of friends, lovers, colleagues, the church, the state, himself. And I think we’re living in a culture like that today.”
  • Alan Hollinghurst’s first chapbook, 1982’s Confidential Chats with Boys, is prized among collectors, but Hollinghurst seldom talks about it. A new interview finds him looking back at those early poems: “I suppose I always had the idea that gay sexuality was essentially innocent, even though it’s almost universally been stigmatized and criminalized. But actually it was innocent and natural … what you’re writing about might in a conventional sense be ‘hard-core’ because you’re writing very explicitly about sex, but actually it was something to which no opprobrious moral definition could be applied.”
  • In 2013, Mark Strand reviewed a show of Edward Hopper’s paintings at the Whitney, and the handwritten text was rediscovered after Strand’s death last year. “My own encounters with this elusive element in Hopper’s work began when I would commute from Croton-on-Hudson to New York each Saturday … I would look out from the train window onto the rows of tenements whose windows I could look into and try to imagine what living in one of those apartments would be like … It was thrilling to suddenly go underground, travel in the dark, and be delivered to the masses of people milling about in the cavernous terminal. Years later, when I saw Approaching a City for the first time, I instantly recalled those trips into Manhattan and have ever since. And Hopper, for me, has always been associated with New York, a New York glimpsed in passing, sweetened with nostalgia, a city lodged in memory.”
  • Are nature writers “just fiddling while the agrochemicals burn”? “The real danger is that nature writing becomes a literature of consolation that distracts us from the truth of our fallen countryside, or—just as bad—that it becomes a space for us to talk to ourselves about ourselves, with nature relegated to the background as an attractive green wash. The project of re-enchantment might restore to us a canon of lost writings about the eeriness and mystery of our landscape.”

Give the Heimlich in Style, and Other News

July 30, 2014 | by


The artist Lara Antal’s custom-designed choking poster for Sunshine Co. Image via Maryland Institute College of Art

  • At the New York Public Library, a copy of Ideal Marriage: Its Physiology and Technique (1926), once known as “the best-selling sex manual of all time,” was returned nearly fifty-four years late. Carnal knowledge takes time.
  • New York City requires its restaurants to “have posted in a conspicuous place, easily accessible to all employees and customers, a sign graphically depicting the Heimlich maneuver,” but the city’s official poster isn’t exactly pleasing to an aesthetic eye. “Restaurants citywide are increasingly turning to boutique posters to blend in with their overall look, so far without drawing the ire of health inspectors.” Graphic designers sell these for as much as eighty bucks.
  • The paranoid logic of the censoring mentality” makes sense only if one believes that readers are morons.
  • “The Internet has been the most dramatic change in the lives of blind people since the invention of Braille. I can still remember having to go into a bank to ask the teller to read my bank balances to me, cringing as she read them in a very loud, slow voice … tech-savvy blind people were early Internet adopters. In the 1980s, as a kid with a 2400-baud modem, I’d make expensive international calls from New Zealand to a bulletin-board system in Pittsburgh that had been established specifically to bring blind people together. My hankering for information, inspiration, and fellowship meant that even as a cash-strapped student, I felt the price of the calls was worth paying.”
  • In 2008, a seventeen-year-old changed the Wikipedia entry on the coati, a kind of raccoon that he claimed is also known as “a Brazilian aardvark.” References to this fabricated nickname “have since appeared in the Independent, the Daily Mail, and even in a book published by the University of Chicago … [The claim] still remains on its Wikipedia entry, only now it cites a 2010 article in the Telegraph as evidence … This kind of feedback loop—wherein an error that appears on Wikipedia then trickles to sources that Wikipedia considers authoritative, which are in turn used as evidence for the original falsehood—is a documented phenomenon. There’s even a Wikipedia article describing it.”


Printing Wikipedia, and Other News

April 3, 2014 | by


“Printers,” from the Trousset encyclopedia, Paris, 1886–1891.



The First-Ever Fuck, and Other News

February 12, 2014 | by


Image via io9

  • Behold: the first written use of fuck, from 1528, inscribed by a monk who seems to have been pretty pissed off with an abbot.
  • “Kicking against the pricks becomes rather less impressive when the pricks have melted away.” Taking a hatchet to the Hatchet Job of the Year.
  • Wes Anderson’s new film, Grand Budapest Hotel, is by his own admission “more or a less a plagiarism” of the works of Stefan Zweig. Will the movie renew American interest in Zweig’s writing?
  • An “edit-a-thon” aims to close the gender gap on Wikipedia, to which far more men contribute than women. Though as the Newsweek reporter Katie Baker tweeted, “Maybe few women edit Wikipedia because they do enough thankless unpaid labor already.”
  • “Emptying the Skies,” Jonathan Franzen’s 2010 essay on the poaching of migratory songbirds, is soon to be a documentary.
  • Toby Barlow’s Write-a-House, a residency program that gives houses to writers, is still a bit shy of its fundraising goal, but there’s a week left in the campaign—help out.



Visualize It

February 6, 2014 | by

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 6.01.42 PM

Many thanks to Ed Summers, who writes code for libraries—the Library of Congress among them—and who has generated this impressive visualization of authors, their Paris Review interviews, and their links to one another. More specifically, this charts the way our interviews interact with Wikipedia—that is, which Wikipedia articles cite our interviews. As you can see, it’s … complicated.

Ed has written about his methods here. Apparently all but forty of our interviews are linked to Wikipedia in some capacity. From this I can only infer that we’re headed inexorably toward a state of total Internet domination, and that anyone who stands in our way will be crushed under the weight of our burgeoning link-connection-web-computer-sphere-thing.