Knowing What’s Out There

new york review cover
IMHO, The New York Review of Books is the single best source on what’s out there. It is published biweekly and does more than what the title says. The publication describes itself as a “journal of intellectual currents.” It contains articles on literature, culture, economics, science and current affairs. The book reviews span the publishing world (see the cover shot above) and each article is an education in itself. And, BTW, the writing is excellent.


Often two related books are covered in a given article. But you get more than a simple review. The authors put the books in context.


Susan Halpern New York Review of Books
Sue Halpern’s article, listed on the cover as “There Is Now Another You” and inside as “They Have, Right Now, Another You,” is a delightful example. Yes, she does review Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy (Cathy O’Neil) and Virtual Competition: The Promise and Perils of the Algorithm-Driven Economy (Ariel Ezrachi and Maurice E. Stuckey). But she also discusses the 98 data points Facebook collects on each of its nearly 2 billion users. “Among this ninety-eight are ethnicity, income, net worth, home value, if you are a mom, if you are a soccer mom, if you are married, the number of lines of credit you have, if you are interested in Ramadan, when you bought your car, and on and on and on.”


Using herself as an case in point, she describes the erroneous—and laughable—profiles that can be generated. (You really should read this article!)


In addition, I learned some interesting—and sometimes disturbing—bits of info. For example, FB follows users across the Internet, disregarding their “do not track” settings. It knows every time a user visits a website that has a FB page. There are some 5,000 data brokers worldwide who comb public records and sell the info to public and private buyers. I concluded that FB isn’t really free to users; we are paying for it by getting the ads targeting our profile. “These ad references are the coin of the Facebook realm; the company made $2.3 billion in the third quarter of 2016 alone…”


To paraphrase TV pitches, “But wait! There’s more!” NYRB contains ads from big name publishers, university presses, and indie publishers, the book pix usually accompanied by blurbs to entice you to the bookstore—or to put your name on the waiting list at the local library!


Readers of NYRB get a glimpse of what’s showing in museums, galleries, and theaters from San Francisco to Chicago, from DC to New York. Some people actually visit those places specifically to see such shows and exhibits. Maybe someday I’ll be one of them. Oh, sigh.


Virginia ad New York Review of Books
BOTTOM LINE: the NYRB provides info on What’s Out There, and sometimes it’s even local.

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