Readers Live Forever, and Other News


On the Shelf

Look, son! Health!

  • Premise one: all your free time can be monetized. Premise two: in the future or maybe even tomorrow, really ordinary sounds from our day-to-day lives will be interesting to someone. Conclusion: you should buy yourself a microphone rig and become a “sound hunter,” one of those “who roam city streets and remote countrysides to capture the dramatic and unusual as well as the plain but underappreciated noises that surround us. Some of them release albums and even play concerts.” The most prominent of these is Chris Watson, whose latest field recording included “the noise of the insect known as the water boatman in the moor’s pond, said to be the loudest animal relative to its body size. ‘It’s the sound of them rubbing their penises beneath their abdomens to sing to attract females,’ Mr. Watson said with a boyish smile.”
  • Today in haircuts: academic research has at last confirmed what many have suspected for years—rich white dudes have no truck with the barbershop. Instead they favor upmarket salons, where someone is around to file your nails and there’s none of that pesky male companionship. As Kristen (ahem) Barber writes, “The young licensed barbers working in these salons also seemed disenchanted with the old school barbershop. They saw these newer men’s salons as a ‘resurgence’ of ‘a men-only place’ that provides more ‘care’ to clients than the ‘dirty little barbershop.’ And those barbershops that are sticking around, one barber told me, are ‘trying to be a little more upscale’ by repainting and adding flat screen TVs … Barbershops, they said, are for old men with little hair to worry about or young boys who don’t have anyone to impress.”
  • Frederick Olmsted literally changed the landscape of American parks—but he did so, as Nathaniel Rich notices, with a strange sleight of hand. “An unmistakable irony creeps vinelike through Olmsted’s landscape theory: It takes a lot of artifice to create convincing ‘natural’ scenery. Everything in Central Park is man-made; the same is true of most of Olmsted’s designs. They are not imitations of nature so much as idealizations, like the landscape paintings of the Hudson River School. Each Olmsted creation was the product of painstaking sleight of hand, requiring enormous amounts of labor and expense. In his notes on Central Park, Olmsted called for thinning forests, creating artificially winding and uneven paths, and clearing away ‘indifferent plants,’ ugly rocks, and inconvenient hillocks and depressions—all in order to ‘induce the formation … of natural landscape scenery.’ He complained to his superintendents when his parks appeared ‘too gardenlike’ and constantly demanded that they ‘be made more natural.’ ”