Links for the weekend [updated]

10th November 2012

The big background story of the week has to be how big data helped Obama win big. Start with Michael Scherer’s fascinating piece for Time, Inside the secret world of the data crunchers who helped Obama win. What Scherer describes is ‘a massive data effort that helped Obama raise $1 billion, remade the process of targeting TV ads and created detailed models of swing-state voters.’ It’s also worth comparing with the Romney campaign’s inept data work – see Inside Orca – how the Romney campaign suppressed its own vote by Joel B Pollak for Breitback. And as for the prediction stuff, How did Nate Silver predict the US election by Bob O’Hara for the Guardian is very good. The image, incidentally, is the website that the Romney campaign had ready for when their guy won.

There is more good stuff below – with thanks for tips this week to @BiblioOdyssey, @MediaIndustries, @emmafgreen, @silent_london, and @TheBrowser (as so often).

• Another major US story this week was the death of composer Elliott Carter at the age of 103. See the Guardian obituary by Ivan Hewett and The New York Times one by Allan Kozinn, Elliott Carter, Composer Who Decisively Snapped Tradition, Dies at 103. From the same paper comes an appraisal by Antony Tommasini, Elliott Carter, Master of Complexity and Radio 3’s excellent Fifty Modern Classics podcasts has a very good downloadable piece about the composer’s String Quartet no 3 (scroll down the index page to find it).

What happened to Michelle in Forest Hills: … is one of those truly extraordinary true-crime chronicles that no one does better than Janet Malcolm (here, for The New York Review of Books).

Blood, sweat and Piers: even if that headline is almost the best thing about it, this is an engaging profile by Sarah Ellison for Vanity Fair of CNN’s ‘Great Brit hope’, Piers Morgan.

The newsreel man: an engaging Luke McKernan post about Terence Gallacher, a veteran of newsreels who is now documenting his working life online, mainly at his blog Terence Gallacher’s recollections of his life in film.

How YouTube is leaving amateurs behind: Aymar Jean Christian at on fears that the video sharing site ‘will soon go the way of radio, broadcast, and cable before it’.

‘We do not have Hollywood on the outskirts of Warsaw’ – what Poland can teach us about circulation (part one): a stimulating piece by Henry Jenkins who talks to Polish media researchers Mirek Filiciak,  Justyna Hofmokl, and Alek Tarkowski about ‘sharing cultures’ and ‘informal media economies’ in Eastern Europe.

The Great British Bake-off and the exceptional bake: Sarah Cardwell at CST Online is rather good on the particular qualities of a series that is ‘contentedly middle-brow, simply structured, modest light entertainment’.

The power of auteurs and the last man standing: in the new Brights Lights Film Journal Norman Ball reflects on ‘Adam Curtis’ documentary nightmares’ – it’s a strong analysis of this most original and important of media makers.

The passion of the critic – on Hoberman, Kracauer and the future of film: Phillip Maciak in the Los Angeles Review of Books responds to J Hoberman’s Film after Film and its ideas of ‘New Realness’ by reading the book alongside Siegfried Kracauer’s writing of seventy years back.

Behind the lies of the ‘Skyfall: see it in IMAX’ advertising campaign: “lies” is a bit strong, but Brendon Connelly’s piece for Bleeding Cool is a really interesting piece on one of my favourite topics – film frame ratios.

Fassbinder (an essay in thirteen scenes): Charlie Fox on the frieze blog on a great filmmaker insufficiently celebrated these days.

The silent films of Anthony Asquith: to mark the 110th anniversary of the British directors birth, Bristol Silents posts a terrific paper written back in 2004 by Kelly Robinson for Le Giornate Del Cinema Muto.

How do you solve a problem like Potemkin?: Michael Brooke at the BFI blog on a subject that really is more interesting than you might think – the question of frame rates for silent films on Blu-ray.

Bloc heads: Louis Menand in The New Yorker is well worth reading on Anne Appelbaum’s new book, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe.

Fallout shelter – designing for civil defense in the Cold War: taking her cue from a new book of this title by David Monteyne, Regine at we make money not art muses on the architectural imaginary of nuclear bunkers.

Lebbeus Woods, 1940-2012: a heartfelt tribute to the radical architectural thinker from Geoff Manaugh at BLDG BLOG.

The new tonality: Philip Clark at Gramophone is really interesting as he asks, what are today’s composers to do with tonality?

In cold type: great piece by Douglas McCollam for Columbia Journalism Review about Truman Capote interviewing Marlon Brando in 1957.

Loss & gain, or the weight of the book: Anthony Daniels kicks off a ‘Digital Challenge’ series for The New Criterion and puts into words ideas with which I feel a great sympathy:

I buy more books than I read, though always with the intention of reading them… I derive a certain comfort from looking over, and being surrounded by, my laden [book]shelves. They are my refuge from a world that I have found difficult to negotiate… The shelves are an elaborate hieroglyph of my life that only I can read, and that will be destroyed after my death.

• There’s a meaty dialogue worth your attention on the Los Angeles Review of Bookswebsite. Stephen Marche kicked it off with Literature is not data – against digital humanities reflecting on what he sees as the inhumanity of approaching literature via algoriths. In response Scott Selisker has weighed in with The digital inhumanities as has Holger S Syme with Imaginary targets (you have to scroll down a bit).

• Red velvet: Lolita Chakrabathi’s play about the nineteenth-century African-American actor Ira Aldridge prompts a provocative piece by Peter J Smith for Times Higher Education about ‘the racial politics of theatrical representation on the Victorian stage and today.’

Dreaming of westerns… more video essays: … and finally, let’s be grateful once more for the energy and resourcefulness of Catherine Grant and her Film Studies for Free web site, which this week highlighted a new selection of video essays about the cinematic western (a first group is here, Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’), including Tag Gallagher’s compelling study of John Ford’s Stagecoach which I can happily embed – it’s  25 minutes’ long, but most definitely worth the time.


  1. D Hartley says:

    John, just to say thanks for another excellent compilation of fascinating material. I’m sure it must take a lot of time and care to put together, but it’s much appreciated!

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