Archive for The New Yorker

Hitch’s tricks

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2020 by xi'an

As I was watching the first minutes of the 1944 under-rated Lifeboat by Alfred Hitchcock (and John Steinbeck as the script writer!), a series of objects floating by the lifeboat to convey the preliminary mutual sinking of an Allied boat and a Nazi U-boat contained a cover of the New Yorker. Which while being iconic sounds like a weird inclusion, given that this is the very first issue of the magazine, in February 1925, hardly the first thing I would carry across the Atlantic at war time! Maybe being iconic was the reason to keep this issue rather than a more recent one, another mystery about the great Hitch allusions and clues interseeded throughout his films.

America in line [& the world in the balance]

Posted in Books, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2020 by xi'an

if then [reading a book self-review]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2020 by xi'an

Nature of 17 September 2020 has a somewhat surprising comment section where an author, Jill Lepore from Harvard University, actually summarises her own book, If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation invented the Future. This book is the (hi)story of a precursor of Big Data Analytics, Simulmatics, which used as early as 1959 clustering and simulation to predict election results and if possible figure out discriminant variables. Which apparently contributed to John F. Kennedy’ s victory over Richard Nixon in 1960. Rather than admiring the analytic abilities of such precursors (!), the author is blaming them for election interference. A criticism that could apply to any kind of polling, properly or improperly conducted. The article also describes how Simulmatics went into advertising, econometrics and counter-insurgency, vainly trying to predict the occurence and location of riots (at home) and revolutions (abroad). And argues in a all-encompassing critique against any form of data-analytics applied to human behaviour. And praises the wisdom of 1968 protesters over current Silicon Valley researchers (whose bosses may have been among these 1968 protesters!)… (Stressing again that my comments come from reading and reacting to the above Nature article, not the book itself!)

my neighbourhood in the New Yorker

Posted in Books, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2020 by xi'an

While I was reading (part of) a recent issue of The New Yorker over breakfast, I was surprised to find my neighbourhood city of Bourg-la-Reine (twin city, Kenilworth!) mentioned in a tribune! It was about interviewing the local authors of a boardgame called Kapital! which is presented there as a form of (French) anti-Monopoly, authors who were both CNRS researchers in sociology until they retired. And who produced (even) more militant ouput since then, including this boardgame. The (unintended?) fun in the tribune is the opposition between the May 68 style class warfare denounced by the authors and their apparently well-off conditions (no BBQ in the street there!).

classy New Yorker cover

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on October 5, 2020 by xi'an