The Sunday Post for November 27, 2016

How Visionary Chef Sean Brock Nearly Went Blind

Sean Brock is a James Beard-winning chef with a string of successful restaurants, a killer guitar collection, and a connoisseur's taste for bourbon. He also has a little-understood condition that's stealing his eyesight—and the cost goes up each time he walks into a kitchen. This profile by Brett Martin is heartwrenching, and telling about what we value.

There are approximately 16,000 photos on Brock's iPhone. By rough estimation, about 10 percent of those are of various iterations of matsutake and cobia. Another 20 percent are of Ruby, his French bulldog. And the rest are of eyes.

There are bruised eyes. Battered eyes. Eyes leaking actual tears of bright red blood. There are eyes with stitches and eyes with bandages. Eyes drooping as though dragged down by fishhooks and eyes goggling in a grotesque simulation of surprise. Eyes hidden behind patches, shielded by stained gauze, buried beneath great sockfuls of ice.

All of them are Brock's eyes.

Mourning Through Horror Movies

Aaron Orbey on how terror on the screen keeps real-life horror at bay.

We say of most tragedies that enough time will distance us. As the years have elapsed, I’ve continued searching for the worst I can witness onscreen, testing myself with images of agony that seem crueller than my own, worlds in which the unthinkable is valid. I’ve never gotten around to seeing “Forrest Gump,” but I’ve savored “The Forest,” in which an American woman tracks her troubled twin sister to the haunted woods of Aokigahara. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is still on my list of films to see, but I rather liked “Dead Snow,” in which Nazi zombies terrorize seven Norwegian vacationers on the slopes of Øksfjord. No carnage can startle me these days, but smaller sights—a toddler asleep, slanted on his dad’s chest—might bring me to tears. When I Google my father, the Turkish word for murder auto-fills after his name.
When Not to Translate

Tim Parks rejects the chance to translate the Decameron into modern English in deference to a colleague who's been dead four hundred years. A smart and self-deprecating poke at the assumption that modern translations are best for the modern ear.

Reading this, I experienced exactly the pleasures I feel reading Boccaccio in Italian. Albeit nearly three hundred years after the original was written, Florio still moves in a world where the whole thing makes sense, doesn’t need to be quaint. And he is a supreme stylist too. He can find exactly the idiom in the English of his time. However good a translator might be today, I doubt whether the same level of conviction is possible. Certainly, I didn’t feel I could achieve it.

Why we're saying 'white nationalism' instead of 'alt-right'

Still in post-election shock, the media is in a frenzy of self-examination, both defensive and recriminatory, over its role in Donald Trump's victory. Here are two very different takes.

First, an excellent dive into how fake news gets created from the New York Times. It's easy to demonize social media, but any digital enterprise that drives profit through clicks should be thinking just as hard about its ethical firewalls as its paywalls right now.

Second, an example of exactly the right kind of soul-searching from Seattle NPR station KUOW, on the decision to reject the term "alt-right":

Yiannopoulous insists that just 2 to 3 percent of people identifying with the alt-right are truly racist. But others who identify as alt-right disagree with him – they are REAL racists, they repeat, who don’t like Jews and don’t believe in the Holocaust. They have ridiculed Yiannopoulous, who is gay, and whose mother is Jewish.

Which is why we are avoiding "alt-right" in favor of white supremacy or white nationalism.

Her Code Got Humans on the Moon—And Invented Software Itself

On a happier note, Margaret Hamilton, the software engineer whose code helped take Apollo to the moon and back, was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week. In a detailed piece from last year, Robert McMillan tells the story of Hamilton's last-minute save:

Right around Christmas 1968—five days into the historic Apollo 8 flight, which brought astronauts to the moon for the first-ever manned orbit—the astronaut Jim Lovell inadvertently selected P01 during flight. Hamilton was in the second-floor conference room at the Instrumentation Laboratory when the call came in from Houston. Launching the P01 program had wiped out all the navigation data Lovell had been collecting. That was a problem. Without that data, the Apollo computer wouldn’t be able to figure out how to get the astronauts home. Hamilton and the MIT coders needed to come up with a fix; and it needed to be perfect.