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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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How technology disrupted the truth (On social media, ‘truth’ equals ‘likes’)

July 18, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Technology

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Illustration: Sébastien Thibault in The Guardian

Algorithms such as the one that powers Facebook’s news feed are designed to give us more of what they think we want – which means that the version of the world we encounter every day in our own personal stream has been invisibly curated to reinforce our pre-existing beliefs. When Eli Pariser, the co-founder of Upworthy, coined the term “filter bubble” in 2011, he was talking about how the personalised web – and in particular Google’s personalised search function, which means that no two people’s Google searches are the same – means that we are less likely to be exposed to information that challenges us or broadens our worldview, and less likely to encounter facts that disprove false information that others have shared.

Pariser’s plea, at the time, was that those running social media platforms should ensure that “their algorithms prioritise countervailing views and news that’s important, not just the stuff that’s most popular or most self-validating”. But in less than five years, thanks to the incredible power of a few social platforms, the filter bubble that Pariser described has become much more extreme.

Read Katharine Viner’s essay in the Guardian.

Congratulations to the winner of our GoT Moleskine contest

July 17, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Contest, Television

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That’s abcabc’s canine housemate, who looks like a handsome young Chewbacca.

Where are my glasses?

July 15, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Clothing, Design

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Chus gave me this book, which he found at Dia de Libro this year (at Ayala Triangle, where Instituto Cervantes has moved).

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It’s a picture book for adults who keep forgetting where they left their glasses. (The solution is to have several pairs of glasses, so you can put one on to find the missing pair.)

The easiest way to get into Tolstoy’s War and Peace

July 13, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television

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There have been many film and TV adaptations of War and Peace, but the 2016 BBC series written by Andrew Davies and directed by Tom Harper is especially accessible to the contemporary audience. In this case accessible is a good thing because it will drive viewers to the source. The Louise and Aylmer Maude translation, okay, we have learned our lesson.

The novel is huge and sprawling and this version is abridged to fit into six one-hour episodes. It makes short work of those pages and pages of scheming relatives trying to keep Pierre from his inheritance. You get just enough of a taste of the good stuff: Pierre getting roped into marriage with Helene who sleeps around, the dashing Prince Andrei who is sick of life, the lovely Natasha pining for her fiancé and seduced by that terrible Kuragin, the battles of Austerlitz and Borodino, Helene’s comeuppance, the heartbreaking dog. The cast is wonderful: Paul Dano as Pierre, James Norton (now the frontrunner in the betting for the next James Bond) as Andrei, Stephen Rea as Prince Vassily and Gillian Anderson as Princess Scherer.

Of course everything depends on our falling in love with Natasha, and Lily James has to compete with the ghost of Audrey Hepburn, but she acquits herself gracefully. That ballroom scene: we really, really want Andrei to ask her to dance.

And like Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, which also takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, the Rostov matriarch is the one who worries about money.

How to get back into reading when you have been distracted by the outside world

July 11, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Music

Method reading!

This has been my worst reading year so far. For many years I’ve read at least one book a week to keep my brain running; in the last six months I’ve finished exactly three (The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild—very amusing, Gun Dealers’ Daughter by Gina Apostol—required reading on the last years of martial law, and the Modiano. Almost forgot Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, which is a very short novel). In that time I started but abandoned A Little Life, My Brilliant Friend, The Three Body Problem and City on Fire. I will go back to them, but for now I just want to get back into the habit.

So method reading. Like method acting, but not so extreme. Just pick a soundtrack for the novel, and maybe food and drink. It’s all about the mood.

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Patrick Modiano writes short (120pp), intense novels about memory and identity, very “French” in that nothing much happens outwardly and he doesn’t go for great stylistic effects but you feel wrecked afterwards and wonder how he did it.

Pair with the Elevator to the Gallows soundtrack by Miles Davis, and Pernod.

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Noah Hawley is the creator of TV’s Fargo, which is better than any movie I’ve seen at the theatre this year. I’m looking forward to this thriller.

Pair with the Fargo season 2 soundtrack, and whiskey.

Update: Riveting. It’s a lot like Fargo season 2, in which every character is the protagonist of her own story, and then all their stories collide and we try to make sense of the rich randomness of life. Before the Fall starts with a literal bang: a private jet takes off from Martha’s Vineyard (which reminds me of JFK Jr) and crashes into the water minutes later. Was it an accident, or was it a crime? The Bill O’Reilly-like TV host thinks it’s terrorism because the passengers included the head of a cable news network who routinely receives death threats and a Wall street guy who deals with blacklisted governments. The only survivors are a four-year-old boy and a failed artist whose canvases, unfortunately for him, portray the aftermaths of disaster. Especially recommended for long-haul flights.

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Emma Cline’s novel is about a girl who joins a cult led by a Charles Manson-like character in late 60s California.

Pair with California Dreamin’ by The Mamas and The Papas. Do not read while eating a chicken sandwich (Look it up, children).

Update: Compelling and evocative. Transforms the reader into a 14-year-old girl in California in 1969. Evie is living with her divorcee mom who is on a perpetual quest to find herself and bouncing from one terrible boyfriend to the next, fed all the cliches about how girls are supposed to be, and raised to believe that a female is nothing if she does not get male attention. One day she sees a girl not much older than herself, who seems to be perfectly comfortable in her own skin. She gets drawn into the cult. The descriptions of the filth and squalor of the cult’s ranch made me want to boil myself. The Girls is both seductive and repulsive: you can’t stop reading it; you know the horror that is coming and you want details. It makes a snuff movie voyeur out of you, and as good as the novel is you find yourself asking why this oft-told story had to be repeated.

Nicholas Hoult is playing J.D. Salinger

July 10, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies

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in Rebel in the Rye, a biopic directed by Jonathan from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

1. Hate the title.
2. Nicholas is too good-looking, but it’s a movie.
3. J.D. Salinger would certainly not approve, but he’s dead.
4. Didn’t see the earlier documentary.
5. Have the biography it’s based on, haven’t read it.
6. So no one can make a movie of Salinger’s books, but his life is up for grabs.
7. I would still watch it in order to complain about it, and also because Hoult was terrific in Mad Max Fury Road, turning his cannon fodder character into the emotional center of the movie.