Anatomy of a Computer Virus: A 3.5 Minute Primer

Last week, Cit­i­group admit­ted that hack­ers exposed the pri­vate finan­cial data of more than 360,000 cus­tomer accounts. Mean­while, in an unre­lat­ed attack, Lulz Secu­ri­ty man­aged to bring down the CIA web­site, and this week they’ve declared war on gov­ern­ment agen­cies around the world.

Now might be a good time to beef up on your knowl­edge of mal­ware, cyber­crime, and cyber­war­fare, start­ing with Stuxnet, a com­put­er virus that was launched against Iran­ian nuclear infra­struc­tures in 2010 (most like­ly by the U.S.). For a quick primer on Stuxnet, check out Anato­my of a Com­put­er Virus. It’s only three and a half min­utes long, but you’ll learn enough to decide whether or not to set your lap­top on fire, sell every­thing you own, and run scream­ing for the Yukon.

For a more detailed explo­ration of the virus, watch Crack­ing Stuxnet, A 21st-Cen­tu­ry Cyber Weapon, a TED talk by cyber-secu­ri­ty expert Ralph Langn­er. Dis­claimer: It won’t nec­es­sar­i­ly put you at ease — the pre­sen­ter clos­es by thank­ing Mr. Langn­er for “scar­ing the liv­ing day­lights out of us.”

Via PopTech and Hun­gry Beast

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly.

New Fiction by Jonathan Lethem in the Paris Review

Best­selling writer Jonathan Lethem — author of one of my favorite con­tem­po­rary nov­els Moth­er­less Brook­lyn — has a new short sto­ry fea­tured in the sum­mer edi­tion of the Paris Review. The sto­ry is called “The Emp­ty Room,” and, once again, the back­ground, child­hood, moves to the fore­ground. It begins:

Ear­li­est mem­o­ry: father trip­ping on strewn toys, hop­ping with toe out­raged, mother’s rolling eyes. For my father had toys him­self. He once brought a traf­fic light home to our apart­ment on the thir­ty-some­thingth floor of the tow­er on Colum­bus Avenue. The light, its taxi yel­low gone mat­te from pen­du­lum-years above some pol­lut­ed inter­sec­tion and crack­led like a Ming vase’s glaze where bolts had been over­tight­ened and then eased, sat to one side of the cof­fee table it was meant to replace as soon as my father found an appro­pri­ate top. In fact, the traf­fic light would fol­low us up the Hud­son, to Dar­by, to the house with the emp­ty room. There it nev­er escaped the garage.

Anoth­er mem­o­ry: my play­mate Max’s par­ents had bor­rowed, from mine, a spare set of chi­na plates. I spent a lot of time vis­it­ing with Max and, when he let us inside his room, Max’s old­er broth­er. So I was present the after­noon my father destroyed the chi­na set. Max’s fam­i­ly lived in a duplex, the base­ment and par­lor floor of a brown­stone, a palace of abun­dance . . . Max and his broth­er had sep­a­rate rooms, and a back­yard. All this would pale beside the spa­cious­ness of our Dar­by farm­house. That was the point.

You can read the full text here. And please note: the Paris Review has just launched its first dig­i­tal edi­tion, let­ting you read the famous lit­er­ary jour­nal on your com­put­er, iPad or mobile device. More on that here. H/T Bib­liok­lept

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Paris Review Inter­views Now Online

Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free

The Black Cab Sessions: One Song, One Take, One Cab

Talk about an inti­mate venue. A group of friends in Eng­land have built an unlike­ly enter­tain­ment fran­chise, film­ing per­for­mances by the musi­cians they admire–in the back­seat of a Lon­don taxi­cab. The project is called “The Black Cab Ses­sions,” and the method is sim­ple: “One Song. One Take. One Cab.”

It start­ed in 2007 as some­thing of a lark–an impro­vised col­lab­o­ra­tion between mem­bers of a music pro­mo­tion com­pa­ny, Hid­den Fruit, and a film com­pa­ny, Just So Films–but the project soon took on a life of its own. Musi­cians respond­ed enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly, embrac­ing the whim­sy and chal­lenge of play­ing in such cramped, unsteady quar­ters. Now there are per­for­mances by about 100 artists on the Black Cab Ses­sions web­site.  Most of the musi­cians are young indie acts, but there are some vet­er­an per­form­ers as well, includ­ing Martha Wain­wright, Richard Thomp­son and Bri­an Wil­son. There are some famous groups, like Weez­er, Mum­ford and Sons, My Morn­ing Jack­et and (yes, of course!) Death Cab for Cutie, but many of the most inspired per­for­mances are by musi­cians you might not have heard about.

The music ranges widely–from Delta blues to beat­box, and from hip hop to Pagani­ni. One of the most pop­u­lar ses­sions isn’t music at all, in the strictest sense, but a mes­mer­iz­ing poet­ry per­for­mance by Ben­jamin Zepha­ni­ah. The one rule, accord­ing to Black Cab Ses­sions co-founder Jono Stevens, is that the film­mak­ers love the artists’ work. “Big or small,” Stevens said in a TV inter­view, “It real­ly does­n’t mat­ter. It’s about some­one we real­ly, real­ly feel pas­sion­ate about.”

There’s a lot to dis­cov­er on the Black Cab Ses­sions web­site. You can dive right into the col­lec­tion here, or start by sam­pling a few of our favorites, includ­ing Death Cab for Cutie singing No Sun­light above, and:

Lykke Li
Aman­da Palmer
Lang­horne Slim
Kil­la Kela
Sea­sick Steve
Beach House
Ben­jamin Zepha­ni­ah
Char­lie Siem
My Morn­ing Jack­et

Vintage Australian Mugshots from the 1920s

It was anoth­er time, anoth­er place, a moment when crim­i­nals were invit­ed to pose for the cam­era. The mugshot as an art form.

Above we have one of 2500 “spe­cial pho­tographs” tak­en by pho­tog­ra­phers from the New South Wales Police Depart­ment between 1910 and 1930. The four men (Hamp­ton Hirscham, Cor­nel­lius Joseph Keevil, William Thomas O’Brien and James O’Brien) were arrest­ed on charges of bur­glar­iz­ing the home of a book­ie — one Regi­nald Cat­ton — in April 1921. O’Brien was let off the hook, but the oth­er three dap­per ones weren’t so lucky.

You can find 30 vin­tage mugshots nice­ly curat­ed by Twist­ed Sifter. Or you can sift through a larg­er col­lec­tion housed by the Nation­al Library of Aus­tralia. H/T

Give us a fol­low on Face­book and Twit­ter. We’ll send more intel­li­gent media your way…

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The Animals of Costa Rica, Up Close

Over at Escape Into Life, Luke Grundy directs us to a mar­velous short film that is as decep­tive­ly sim­ple as its title would sug­gest.  At first view­ing we thought the effect of LA film­mak­er Dou­glas Bur­gof­f’s “Ani­mals” should be cred­it­ed most­ly to the haunt­ing music by famed British com­pos­er Michael Nyman. But then we watched it again with the sound off, and we were just as impressed as before, if not more so. Just take a look at the series of close-ups on the mon­key’s face between the 1:54 and 2:14 marks.

via Matthias Rasch­er

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly.

Norman Mailer & Martin Amis, No Strangers to Controversy, Talk in 1991

Mar­tin Amis will nev­er win a pop­u­lar­i­ty con­test. Nor did Nor­man Mail­er. Back in 1960, Mail­er famous­ly stabbed his wife after a din­ner par­ty in New York City, and even when things weren’t so extreme, he was often behav­ing bad­ly. Take for exam­ple this appear­ance on The Dick Cavett Show with Gore Vidal in 1971. It’s hard to find a less sym­pa­thet­ic fig­ure, at least dur­ing his ear­ly years.

As for Amis, he has nev­er worked hard to make friends, stak­ing out con­tro­ver­sial posi­tions on Mus­lims and euthana­sia and then, ear­li­er this year, going out of his way to mock writ­ing for chil­dren: “Peo­ple ask me if I ever thought of writ­ing a chil­dren’s book. I say, if I had a seri­ous brain injury I might well write a chil­dren’s book, but oth­er­wise the idea of being con­scious of who you’re direct­ing the sto­ry to is anath­e­ma to me, because, in my view, fic­tion is free­dom and any restraints on that are intol­er­a­ble.” You get the drift.

But good writ­ers rarely win pop­u­lar­i­ty con­tests. And few will deny that Mail­er and Amis have put their stamp on the Anglo-Amer­i­can lit­er­ary scene. So here you have it — Mar­tin Amis inter­view­ing Nor­man Mail­er in 1991, upon the release of Mail­er’s sprawl­ing 1400-page CIA epic, Har­lot’s Ghost. The first clip (above) starts with the nov­el, the remain­ing parts move in many dif­fer­ent direc­tions. The writ­ing life, writ­ing about homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, the state of cap­i­tal­ism, Amer­i­ca after the Cold War, Mail­er’s lega­cy — it’s part of the 40 minute con­ver­sa­tion. Find Part 2Part 3, and Part 4.

You can find this video per­ma­nent­ly list­ed in our new col­lec­tion of 235 Cul­tur­al Icons.

via Metafil­ter

What Are Your Favorite Non-Fiction Books?

A few days ago, The Guardian pub­lished its list of the 100 Great­est Non-Fic­tion Books of all time. The col­lec­tion spans biog­ra­phy, art, phi­los­o­phy, his­to­ry and sev­er­al oth­er hefty cat­e­gories, and, for the most part, there’s not much for any­one seek­ing light sum­mer read­ing, unless you’re the sort who reg­u­lar­ly brings Kant, Hume, Herodotus, and Pepys down to the sea­side. (Note: The Guardian pub­lished Fri­day The Best Hol­i­day Reads, which goes heavy on vaca­tion-wor­thy fic­tion.)

Inspired by the Guardian project, The New York Times turned to its staff and put togeth­er a list of their own favorite non-fic­tion books. Some of their choic­es are what you’d expect (Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, Joan Did­ion’s The White Album, Michael Lewis’ Mon­ey­ball), and a few oth­ers both sur­prised and delight­ed us (Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage, Adri­an Nicole LeBlanc’s Ran­dom Fam­i­ly and Please Kill Me: The Uncen­sored Oral His­to­ry of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain). But we still found the list vague­ly incom­plete.

So now, dear read­ers, we turn to you.

Sev­er­al years ago we asked you to tell us about the books that changed your life, and you deliv­ered. (Your first choice by a wide mar­gin was George Orwell’s 1984.) This time around, we want to hear your favorite non-fic­tion books, and we’ll both post your choic­es and — of course — let you know if they’re avail­able for free online.

We’ll kick it off with a few per­son­al favorites:

The Pos­sessed, by Elif Batu­man. A delight­ful rem­i­nis­cence by a recov­er­ing grad­u­ate stu­dent, in which she treats, among oth­er things, Russ­ian nov­el­ists, doomed love affairs, aca­d­e­m­ic con­fer­ences, Tur­kic poet­ry, and most­ly, the plea­sures and per­ils of lov­ing books just a lit­tle bit too much.

The Best Amer­i­can Sports Writ­ing of the Cen­tu­ry, edit­ed by David Hal­ber­stam and Glenn Stout. You don’t even need to know or care about sports, because like all great lit­er­a­ture, these essays aren’t real­ly just about what they’re about. The sub­ject may be sports, but the sto­ries are Amer­i­ca.

Your turn! Feel free to add your favorites to the com­ments sec­tion below…

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly.

Stephen Colbert Dishes Out Wisdom & Laughs at Northwestern

Conan O’Brien’s speech at Dart­mouth’s grad­u­a­tion last week­end — that’s a hard act to fol­low. But Stephen Col­bert put on a very good show Fri­day at North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty, his alma mater (Class of 1986).

Best Joke:

We did­n’t have cell phones [dur­ing my days at North­west­ern]. If you made plans to meet some­one in a snow storm and they did­n’t show up, you just assumed that they were devoured by wolves and went on with your life. And we could­n’t text, and we cer­tain­ly could­n’t sext each oth­er. If you want­ed to send some­one a pic­ture of your pri­vate parts, you had to fax it. That’s how Kinko’s got its name!

Best Advice:

In my expe­ri­ence, you will tru­ly serve only what you love, because ser­vice is love made vis­i­ble. If you love friends, you will serve your friends. If you love com­mu­ni­ty, you will serve your com­mu­ni­ty. If you love mon­ey, you will serve your mon­ey. If you love only your­self, you will serve only your­self and you will have only your­self… Try to love oth­ers and serve oth­ers, and hope­ful­ly find those who will love and serve you in return…

H/T @webacion

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