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Daily Briefing

Deep buzz for the content-deprived

Every weekday, while you get showered and dressed, we pluck these dewy- fresh, breaking stories from the info-clogged byways of the datasphere. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and stoke up on everything you need to know, or at least enough to fake it.

Oscars 2014: Why Are Special Effects Wizards Planning To Protest At The Ceremony?
Lily Rothman, Time Magazine | Life After Pi | March 1, 2014

If you catch a glimpse of something not quite normal on the red carpet outside Sunday’s Oscar ceremony, here’s what you’re likely to be looking at: the March in March, a protest by members of Hollywood’s visual effects industry.

That’s because — even though a hefty portion of today’s movies rely on the on-screen magic they can make — America’s effects industry is in big trouble...

The Realist: Obama's A Cold Warrior Indeed
Fred Kaplan, Politico | The Realist | February 28, 2014

In a little-noticed passage in Robert Gates’s new memoir, the former defense secretary recounts a trip he took to Azerbaijan in the spring of 2010. His mission was to hand the reigning dictator, Ilham Aliyev, a note from President Barack Obama, hailing the importance of the two countries’ relations. Aliyev had been grousing about the U.S. military using his land as a stopover along the supply route to Afghanistan. Just “showing up” brought him back in line, Gates writes, adding, approvingly, “Neither the letter nor I mentioned human rights.”

More than five years into Obama’s presidency, the single word that best sums up his foreign policy is “realist”—in some cases, as one former adviser told me, “hard-nosed,” even “cold” realist...

Inside Japan's Bitcoin Heist
Jake Adelstein, The Daily Beast | Bitcoin Incompetence | February 28, 2014

Bitcoin, the virtual currency that has been racing toward acceptance as a genuine currency, had a colossal setback this past Tuesday, when a major Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, based in Tokyo, went off-line.  Thousands of customers are unable to withdraw deposits and CEO Mark Karpeles is not talking to the press about what happened. Fears about the virtual currency’s security have multiplied with the closing of Mt. Gox. It appears that the theft of several hundred thousand Bitcoins from the company forced it to close the exchange. Speculation is rampant as to what exactly happened...

Hail To Helvetica: Mike Parker 1929-2014
CNN | Font God | February 28, 2014

Look at the letters in these words. Really look at them: the shape of the circle that makes the "o" and the roundness of the "c." Look at how wide and tall they are. Look at the spaces between them. How do the lowercase letters make you feel? HOW ABOUT THE CAPITALS? A lot of consideration goes into designing a font...

Creative Writing, Via A Workshop Or The Big City
Dwight Garner, The New York Times Book Review | MFA vs NYC | February 27, 2014

The four most influential young literary magazines in America, each founded within a few years of the turn of this century, are n + 1, based in Brooklyn; McSweeney’s and its sibling The Believer, both based in San Francisco; and Tin House, based in Portland, Ore. Tell me which you prefer, and I will, more or less, tell you who you are...

Abolitionist Or Terrorist?
Douglas R. Egerton, The New York Times | Abolitionist Or Terrorist? | February 27, 2014

On Feb. 14, a group of activists in Charleston, S.C., unveiled a life-size statue of Denmark Vesey, a black abolitionist who was executed in 1822 for leading a failed slave rebellion in the city.

For many people, Vesey was a freedom fighter and a proto-civil rights leader. But the statue, the work of nearly two decades, brought out furious counterattacks; one recent critic called him a “terrorist,” and a historian denounced him as “a man determined to create mayhem.”...

This Old Man: Life In The Nineties
Roger Angell, The New Yorker | This Old Man | February 26, 2014

Check me out. The top two knuckles of my left hand look as if I’d been worked over by the K.G.B. No, it’s more as if I’d been a catcher for the Hall of Fame pitcher Candy Cummings, the inventor of the curveball, who retired from the game in 1877. To put this another way, if I pointed that hand at you like a pistol and fired at your nose, the bullet would nail you in the left knee. Arthritis. Now, still facing you, if I cover my left, or better, eye with one hand, what I see is a blurry encircling version of the ceiling and floor and walls or windows to our right and left but no sign of your face or head: nothing in the middle. But cheer up: if I reverse things and cover my right eye, there you are, back again...

Scientists Look In Chicken's Eye And Discover Weird New State Of Matter
The Huffington Post | Disordered Hyperuniformity | February 26, 2014

Gaze deeply into the eye of a chicken, and what do you see? Some see terrifying stupidity. But researchers at Princeton University and Washington University in St. Louis say they see in the bird's eye the first known biological occurrence of a strange state of matter known as "disordered hyperuniformity."...

Six Reasons You Should Own A Survival Bow & Arrow
Creek Stewart, via The Art of Manliness | Survival Bow & Arrow | February 26, 2014

I am a big fan of the bow and arrow for a variety of reasons, and I personally think that anyone who has an interest in primitive survival skills or modern urban survival should seriously consider purchasing a good bow and arrow and become proficient in using it. There are hundreds of bows to choose from, but my particular bow of choice is an October Mountain Blue Ridge Hunter Take Down Recurve Bow. Below are six reasons why you should consider owning a similar survival take-down bow...

How To Get A Job At Google
Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times Op Ed | How To Get A Job At Google | February 23, 2014

Last June, in an interview with Adam Bryant of The Times, Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google — i.e., the guy in charge of hiring for one of the world’s most successful companies — noted that Google had determined that “G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless. ... We found that they don’t predict anything.” He also noted that the “proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time” — now as high as 14 percent on some teams. At a time when many people are asking, “How’s my kid gonna get a job?” I thought it would be useful to visit Google and hear how Bock would answer...