“Shakespeare”, by Ungry Young Man

Macbeth is a creepy play.

Actors have long been superstitious about acting in it. That’s partly because performances have been riddled with accidents and fatalities; indeed, actors consider it bad luck to even utter the name of the play. (They call it “The Scottish Tragedy”.) And it’s partly because the basic substance of the plot is eldritch: You’ve got black magic, witches, a gore-flecked ghost and walking forests.

But fans of Macbeth often say its freaky qualities are deeper than just the plot devices and characters. For centuries, people been unsettled by the very language of the play.

Actors and…

A wren’s nest, illustrated by Susan Ogilvy in “Nests”

It’s Monday.


I’ve got your back! Behold my weekly Monday “Linkfest”, filled with highly distracting yet utterly edifying material I scavenged online, just pour vous.

To begin …

1) 🐦 Gorgeous paintings of bird nests

The artist Susan Ogilvy discovered an abandoned bird nest in her garden, and was astonished at its beauty — as well as its meticulous engineering. Birds are amazing architects and inveterate up-cyclers, using everything from natural materials (like twigs and grass) to human-created materials, like newspapers and string.

Ogilvy began painting nests, and has just released a collection of those: Nests. I’m ordering a copy — it…

“Winter snow storm” by superkar

We often worry that AI and automation will take our jobs — that software will do work so efficiently and cheaply that corporations will chuck their humans aside. That certainly can happen; bank tellers are in steep decline, to pick just one example.

But the more I’ve reported on the impact of tech on work, I’ve noticed another pattern that’s more complex, if just as unsettling.

In situations I’m seeing more often, AI and automation don’t necessarily destroy jobs. In fact, sometimes they create more work.

The problem is, these new jobs suck — often precisely because of how AI…

“La bataille d’Austerlitz”, by François Gérard, via Wikimedia

Back in 2014, I wrote this essay about reading massive novels on a teensy screen.

It originally ran on BookRiot, but vanished in linkrot a few years ago. So now I’m resuscitating here on Medium: When I reread it, everything I discussed still seems pretty relevant!

This is the story about how I read War and Peace on my iPhone.

According to some scholars and pundits, I probably shouldn’t have done this. These days, critics of digital reading worry that serious literature sort of can’t be adequately read on high-tech devices. Screens, they fear, are inherently inferior to print. Phones…

Monday hath arrived.

So: You need a break!

I patiently assembled this weekly Linkfest of crackling reading-material just pour vous.

To begin …

1) 🦟 “The world’s most beautiful mosquito”

Gil Wizen took that photo (above) of the Sabethes — which the BBC suggests might be “the world’s most beautiful mosquito”.

I’d agree! Though as they point out, it also carries some nasty tropical diseases. Wizen says taking pictures of mosquitos isn’t easy …

“The mosquito responds to the tiniest of movements and to changes in light intensity,” he told me.

“This means you must stay very still while attempting to photograph it, and also be prepared…


Hey nerds: I recently stumbled across “Marginalia Search”. It’s a search engine with a fascinating design — rather than give you exactly what you’re looking for, it tries to surprise you.

How does it do this? By up-ranking web sites that are text-heavy, and downranking ones that are highly visual, loaded with modern web cruft, and SEO-optimized.

The upshot, as the creator suggests, is that you wind up with a lot of weird results very different from the usual fare coughed up by Google or Bing or even DuckDuckGo. Marginalia is doing …

… in a sense the opposite of…

It’s Monday again. Just like … last week, right?

Since you’re clearly not ready to do any work yet, chill out with this week’s Linkfest — the finest surfings I could locate, just for you.

Let us begin …

1) 🏒The first photo of women’s hockey, from 1890

Lord Stanley, the sixth Governor-General of Canada, was a big proponent of hockey; it’s where “The Stanley Cup” comes from.

He was also a big supporter of women’s hockey, and at Rideau Hall — the official residence for the Governor General in Ottawa — he set up a rink for women to play.

Behold Facebook’s new Ray-Ban “smart” glasses — with two cameras, so you can feed pix to their feed all day long

Over a decade ago, I began reporting on “wearable computing”. Back in the 90s and 00s, this meant interviewing DIY hardware hackers who’d built their own rigs.

They discovered some pretty cool uses for a head-mounted computer. Often they used their wearable as a form of “extended memory” — they’d jot down notes on the fly and retrieve them when needed, even years later, peering into their tiny eye-level screens. They also liked to engage in ambient, floating text-chat with friends. Wearables, they all told me, could amplify your cognition.

But the one thing nearly everyone told me?

If you…

Every new form of entertainment brings a moral panic.

In recent years, parents and authority figures have freaked out over violent video games (they’ll make you a remorseless killer), casual video games (they’ll get you addicted and waste your time), or visual social-media like Tik Tok or Instagram (they’ll make you narcissistic), to pick just a few.

And hey, these critiques are always partly correct! Casual games really can be compulsive; game companies spend billions making sure of it. Social media, with its relentless casinofied mechanics of seduction, really can lure us in for hours of mindless scrolling. …

Yesterday, I skipped my usual Monday pub-date for the Linkfest, because in the US here I was on holiday!

But I couldn’t leave you folks all stranded. So here’s a good fun hour’s worth of intriguing reading material …

1) 📚 Tiny pocket books

Isolarii is a press that produces these adorably tiny paperback books. I’m a fan of really small paperbacks — back in 2013 I wrote a piece for Smithsonian magazine about how “pocket books” of the 1940s were the hot entertainment tech of the day, and how they presaged our love of portability with today’s smartphones.

If you subscribe to Isolarii, they…

Clive Thompson

I write three times a week about tech, science, culture — and how those collide. Writer for NYT mag/Wired; author of “Coders” and “Smarter Than You Think”

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