Mental Yoga Sunday / 5 Favorite Long Form Reads of the Week / Issue No. 13

Police Dog, Tess, January 29, 1935 by Sam Hood
The city takes a breath on Sunday. Of all that’s lost with the pursuit of what’s next, I hope we don’t lose that…
— Hawksley Workman

Mental Yoga Sunday is a callback to those lazy mornings and afternoons spent reading the newspaper or finishing up a dog eared novel. Days lost in long shadow in a hidden corner full of nothing but quiet and weak wifi. Immerse yourself for a spell in something longer than a text string but shorter than a binge marathon. Here are my favorite long form reads this week.

A recording of an internal briefing at Apple earlier this month obtained by The Outline sheds new light on how far the most valuable company in the world will go to prevent leaks about new products.

The briefing, titled “Stopping Leakers - Keeping Confidential at Apple,” was led by Director of Global Security David Rice, Director of Worldwide Investigations Lee Freedman, and Jenny Hubbert, who works on the Global Security communications and training team.

According to the hour-long presentation, Apple’s Global Security team employs an undisclosed number of investigators around the world to prevent information from reaching competitors, counterfeiters, and the press, as well as hunt down the source when leaks do occur. Some of these investigators have previously worked at U.S. intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA), law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service, and in the U.S. military.

The briefing, which offers a revealing window into the company’s obsession with secrecy, was the first of many Apple is planning to host for employees. In it, Rice and Freedman speak candidly about Apple’s efforts to prevent leaks, discuss how previous leakers got caught, and take questions from the approximately 100 attendees.

The presentation starts and ends with videos, spliced with shots of Tim Cook presenting a new product at one of Apple’s keynotes, that stress the primacy of secrecy at Apple. “When I see a leak in the press, for me, it’s gut-wrenching,” an Apple employee says in the first video. “It really makes me sick to my stomach.” Another employee adds, “When you leak this information, you’re letting all of us down. It’s our company, the reputation of the company, the hard work of the different teams that work on this stuff.” - FULL ARTICLE


Why My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Washington Post)

The convention couldn’t sound less rock-and-roll — the National Association of Music Merchants Show. But when the doors open at the Anaheim Convention Center, people stream in to scour rows of Fenders, Les Pauls and the oddball, custom-built creations such as the 5-foot-4-inch mermaid guitar crafted of 15 kinds of wood.

Standing in the center of the biggest, six-string candy store in the United States, you can almost believe all is well within the guitar world.

Except if, like George Gruhn, you know better. The 71-year-old Nashville dealer has sold guitars to Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift. Walking through NAMM with Gruhn is like shadowing Bill Belichick at the NFL Scouting Combine. There is great love for the product and great skepticism. What others might see as a boom — the seemingly endless line of manufacturers showcasing instruments — Gruhn sees as two trains on a collision course.

“There are more makers now than ever before in the history of the instrument, but the market is not growing,” Gruhn says in a voice that flutters between a groan and a grumble. “I’m not all doomsday, but this — this is not sustainable.”

The numbers back him up. In the past decade, electric guitar sales have plummeted, from about 1.5 million sold annually to just over 1 million. The two biggest companies, Gibson and Fender, are in debt, and a third, PRS Guitars, had to cut staff and expand production of cheaper guitars. In April, Moody’s downgraded Guitar Center, the largest chain retailer, as it faces $1.6 billion in debt. And at, the online retailer, a brand-new, interest-free Fender can be had for as little as $8 a month.

What worries Gruhn is not simply that profits are down. That happens in business. He’s concerned by the “why” behind the sales decline. When he opened his store 46 years ago, everyone wanted to be a guitar god, inspired by the men who roamed the concert stage, including Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and Jimmy Page. Now those boomers are retiring, downsizing and adjusting to fixed incomes. They’re looking to shed, not add to, their collections, and the younger generation isn’t stepping in to replace them.

Gruhn knows why.

“What we need is guitar heroes,” he says. - FULL ARTICLE

In Norway, there sits a literary time capsule that is slowly filling with the unread manuscripts of the world’s best authors. Margaret Atwood was the first to submit her unpublished novel — Scribbler Moon — to this experiment, dubbed the Future Library Project, back in 2014. David Mitchell followed a year later, and the Icelandic poet Sjón after that. If all goes according to plan, a new author will submit a work every year, until the capsule is opened in 2114. Many of these authors will never live to see the reception to what could be their greatest work.

Just outside Oslo, a forest is growing with 1,000 spruce trees — near saplings that, by the time the project finishes, will have filled out enough to be cut down and turned into print editions of the time-capsuled books for future generations of readers. The question is: Will the books printed from this forest — or the words inside their pages — be recognizable? So much has changed in the last century, both thanks to the rapid rate of technological advancement and shifting demographics. OZY imagines how those things could continue to define language and literature 97 years down the road. - FULL ARTICLE


Supertasters Among The Dreaming Spires (1843 Magazine)

Are wine connoisseurs scientists or charlatans? Dan Rosenheck experiments with the Oxford and Cambridge wine-tasting teams

It smells like sweaty cheese in here,” thunders Domen Presern, a chemistry PhD student, announcing his presence at a second-floor Thai restaurant in Oxford. “Something with lactate crystals. Manchego?” “No,” retorts Janice Wang, on a break from her psychology dissertation. “This is definitely Morbier.” A few seconds later, she reconsiders. “I can see where you’re coming from,” she says, “but it just shows you’re not attuned to Asian flavours. Asians know it smells like fish sauce.”

The room didn’t smell like much of anything to me. Then again, I haven’t been training to become a human bloodhound. By contrast, the noses of Wang and Presern were on top form: they had just wrapped up their penultimate training session for the Varsity match, an annual blind wine-tasting contest held between teams from Oxford and Cambridge since 1953. They had spent the previous three hours simulating the actual event with two flights of unidentified wines – six whites and six reds. They filled out sheets guessing the age, grape varietal and geographic origin of each, alongside notes describing subtleties of scent and structure that made distinguishing Manchego from Morbier look as easy as apples from oranges. At “the Varsity”, as competitors dub it, experienced judges mark the submissions anony­mously. The team with the higher score gets to represent Britain at a taste-off in France, and the top taster receives a £300 ($375) magnum bottle of Cuvée Winston Churchill, a Champagne made by Pol Roger, the event’s sponsor.

This Varsity match is less well known than the Boat Race contested by the two universities’ rowing teams, but the blind wine-tasting societies have no trouble luring reinforcements at freshers’ fairs. Most recruits will lack the keen palate and dogged devotion needed to identify and memorise the flavour and aromas of dozens of varietals from hundreds of appellations. But those that do often have a bright future in the British wine trade: prominent critics like Oz Clarke and Jasper Morris cut their teeth in the contest.

Depending on your perspective, the Varsity is either an exercise in futility or a potent rejoinder to conventional wisdom. One academic study after another has found little scientific basis for wine criticism. Everyone has read florid promises of “gobs of ripe cassis”, “pillowy tannins”, and “seductive hints of garrigue”. Yet the relationships between such mumbo-jumbo and the chemical composition of a wine, between one taster’s use of it and another’s, and even between the same drinker’s notes on the same wine on different occasions tend to be faint at best. Articles arguing that, as Robbie Gonzalez of the blog i09 pithily put it, “wine tasting is bullshit” have become reliable clickbait. - FULL ARTICLE

Elvis or Ken?

Elvis or Ken?

For decades, he achieved icon status by being a basic, buff, blue-eyed bro. And for years, that was enough. No longer! Starting today, as part of a wide-ranging relaunch, Ken has cornrows. And he’s Asian. And he’s skinny. Or sometimes even fat (sorry, “broad”). Caity Weaver went deep into the valley (and design center) of the dolls to get an exclusive glimpse of Mattel’s new take on the all-American male.

Meet Ken: He is a beefy Asian man with 20/40 vision who frequently works out of doors.

And, meet Ken: He is a young record executive who expresses himself through bold sneaker attire while simultaneously being an African-American man of average build.

And, meet Ken: Against the better angels of his nature, he has bleached his hair peroxide blond, and now is determined to travel on an airplane in comfort and style.

And, meet Ken: He has a man bun, and that’s his whole thing.

In a condition of affairs at worst disastrous, at best depraved, Ken, Ken, Ken, and Ken are all dating the same woman.

Her name is Barbie. - FULL ARTICLE