The best arts and literature reads, including sound advice for poets, what every spy story is secretly about, and how the Bitcoin is changing the art market.

What do conductors actually do?
James McConnachie | Spectator | 20 July 2013
Review of Inside Conducting by Christopher Seaman. “The conductor’s work is not often discussed in such plain detail. Conducting is ‘like riding a horse not driving a car’. A tighter grip on the baton produces a harder tone. Keeping the arms moving upward very slowly can restrain an audience’s desire to rush to clap after a quiet ending. The conductor acts as the ‘artistic conscience’ of the orchestra and its human face.”

To steal a mockingbird?
Mark Seal | Vanity Fair | 22 July 2013
Harper Lee, reclusive author of one of the great American novels, To Kill a Mockingbird, finds herself, at 87, pushed into a courtroom battle against her agent, Samuel Pinkus, who allegedly duped her into assigning him the copyright to her masterpiece. A scandal with publishing legends at every turn.

Principles for responsible media moguls
Seth Godin | 21 July 2013
Useful checklist for any journalist or publisher. Plain and simple stuff, but that’s the point of checklists. Here’s principle number one: “Establish your standard for truth, and don’t vary it. Are you okay reporting rumor or innuendo in order to get attention? How about rushing to judgment so you can beat everyone else to the punch? People will put up with a lot as long as you don’t become inconsistent.”

The constant traveller
Brian Philips | Grantland | 18 July 2013
“In the same way that the detective movie is a fantasy about city life, the spy movie is a fantasy about tourism. The elements of travel we ourselves find exhausting and stressful have been magically made easy for the spy. The spy never worries about not understanding a language; whatever it is, he already speaks it. Instead of sitting around in train stations, the spy procures a car, or a helicopter, or a speedboat.”

Art as the sophisticated man’s Bitcoin
Izabella Kaminska | FT Alphaville  | 18 July 2013
Rethinking the art market in the light of Bitcoin. “Just as the Bitcoin market depends on the Emperor’s New Clothes effect, so does the art market. If we — art dealers, collectors, writers and experts — all agree a particular work has value, it surely does, irrespective of its cost of production, utility and purpose. In that sense a lot of the art market fuses the core characteristics of both Bitcoin and the gold market.”

The Frankfurt School at war
William Scheuerman | Foreign Affairs | 18th July 2013
How Wild Bill Donovan, head of US espionage in World War II, hired emigré German Jewish Marxist intellectuals to explain Nazi culture to Washington. “The Frankfurters argued that the Nazis’ radical anti-Semitism was an attempt to guarantee the complicity of the broadest possible swath of the populace in Nazi crimes. With their hands dripping with blood, most Germans would likely see no real choice but to fight to the death against the Allies.”

Do not use the word ‘gyre’
Michael Caines | TLS Blog | 16 July 2013
Sound advice for poets. Don't use a quote from Dante as an epigraph. And never use the word ‘desolate’. Or ‘gyre’. Especially ‘gyre’. W.B. Yeats can be blamed for the rise of ‘gyre’ as a noun; Lewis Carroll made it popularly quotable as a verb. They have a lot to answer for.

What the Ћ?
Keith Houston | Shady Characters | 15th July 2013
Punctuation and typography pedants enjoy; others pass by. Should we adopt the typographical symbol ‘Ћ’ as an abbreviation for ‘the’? It’s a plausible idea. We have ‘&’ for ‘and’. Why not ‘Ћ’ for ‘the’? One problem: The ‘Ћ’ symbol is already in current use, for the uppercase Cyrillic letter tshe, pronounced ‘ch’, albeit only in Serbian. A better choice might be the Old English letter ‘þ’, called the ‘thorn’, and pronounced ‘th’.

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