It is painful for me to have to write the following lines. I cannot conceive of writing my autobiography. It seems to me that those who can do so are those who have led purely public and exterior lives, or those who can successfully conceal from themselves what they prefer not to know about themselves – there may be a few persons who can write about themselves because they are truly blameless and innocent. In my experience, there is much for which one cannot find words even in the confessional; much which springs from weakness, irresolution and timidity, from petty self-centredness rather than from inclination towards evil or cruelty, from error rather than ill-nature. I shall be as brief as I can.
I think it’s fair to say that for anyone interested in the life of T. S. Eliot, this is a thunderbolt coming from beyond the grave. There has been much speculation about Eliot’s relationship with Emily Hale, and as far as I know, this is the first time that any such statement from Eliot has been seen.
Most books about business are written by people involved in creating and managing companies: founders, CEOs, or venture capitalists. They are able to leverage their unique experience building businesses because they have been in the thick of things. But this approach can also lead to a certain type of tunnel vision: looking at something from the inside can often make it difficult to see how something actually operates.
Gillian Tett, author of The Silo Effect, comes to business from an interesting background: she trained as an anthropologist, earning a PhD from Cambridge University. Her experience studying social groups gives her a different point of view from those who have only looked at businesses from within, and this allows her to examine the way companies are structured without the preconceptions that most executives have. She is also a high-level executive with The Financial Times, so she can look at companies from both perspectives.
I listen to audiobooks often, and sometimes I would like to be able to listen to them on my Apple Watch, via AirPods, rather than have to have my iPhone with me when I go walking. Audible’s app for the Apple Watch is pathetically bad; not only is it nearly impossible to sync audiobooks to the device (I discuss that in this article), but if do you manage to do so, it doesn’t correctly sync its position, so if you go back to another device to listen, you lose your place. (See this Reddit thread.)
In watchOS 6, which will be released on September 19, and for which the golden master (the final version released to developers) is now available, there is a new Audiobooks app. But this app can only play audiobooks you’ve purchased from Apple. Even if you sync audiobooks from Audible or audiobooks you may have ripped from CDs, you cannot sync them to the Apple Watch.
I would think that most regular audiobook listeners are Audible subscribers, since their subscription model makes books much cheaper than what Apple charges. Since you can sync them to the Books app on the iPhone, it’s odd that you cannot put them on the Apple Watch. This might have something to do with the different DRM that is used for Audible content, but if Apple can play these books in their app on iOS, it shouldn’t be any different on watchOS. It’s worth noting that the Audible app on iOS can see and play books in the Books app, if they are from Audible.
The new Audiobooks app says it syncs up to five hours of a book to the Apple Watch, which is problematic. I understand that most people won’t be listening to, say, an eight-hour audiobook on their watch, but some might want to, such as if they’re on a long flight. Since the new Apple Watch contains 32 GB storage, it should be able to hold more than this. (The Series 4 which I have currently has 16 GB.)
Audiobooks are just audio content, and should be easy enough to sync to the Apple Watch. Apple has had a long relationship with Audible; not only is the company the only one – other than Apple – whose DRM-protected content is playable in iTunes, but Audible also provides Apple with the audiobooks that the latter company sells. Granted, Apple wants people to buy audiobooks from them rather than Audible, if possible, but preventing people from listening to audiobooks they haven’t purchased from Apple seems unfair.
Amazon has just started shipping a new model, which differs from the 2017 model by having a few more LEDs to light the display, and it now offers a warmth setting, allowing you to change the tone of the device. I like this idea, something that is common on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac, because as the day gets later and the light changes, you can have the screen change from a bluish tint to an orangish hue. I find that, in the evening, reading my Kindle Oasis without this setting feels a bit uncomfortable on my eyes. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)
The body of the device is identical, and it works with the same magnetic case as the previous Oasis. The device comes with multiple storage capacities, and with and without cellular access, and is also available in a champagne gold color. (I got graphite.) It has 25 LEDs, compared to 12 for the previous model, and at first glance, this wasn’t very noticeable, but when I started reading on the Kindle, it was clear that the extra lighting made the fonts seem a bit crisper. I used to read my Oasis with the bold setting at the second level; I have lowered it on this one to the first level.
However, the “warmth” setting is interesting. By default, the new Oasis display is a bit warmer than the previous model; you can see it here: the 2017 model is on the left, the 2019 model on the right.
I’ve tried to get these colors as precise as possible. Since the screen emits light, it’s hard to get them to look exactly right, but the difference is quite visible.
The Warmth setting is available in the same place as the brightness setting. Here’s a series of photos showing the warmth at different levels, from off to the warmest possible setting.
Again, I’ve tried to get the colors as precise as possible, but it’s hard to really convey just how odd the warmest color is. It’s almost the color of a fake tan. However, upping the warmth just a bit looks very comfortable, and will make for excellent reading, though if you did like the bluish tint of the Kindle, then you might be disappointed. And if you look at both models in sunlight, with the backlighting off, the new Kindle looks a bit greenish compared to the previous model.
In practice, I found that I was comfortable with the warmth setting just up one notch. Any more than that, and it started seeming artificial. Since the default coloring of the screen is already a bit warm, it doesn’t need much more to be comfortable; however, it would simply be weird to want to put it all the way up.
It’s worth noting that I have the original fabric cover by Amazon, that was discontinued a few months after the 2017 Kindle Oasis was released. This held the device with magnets front and back. On the new Kindle, it doesn’t stick on the back, but does on the front. The current case that Amazon offers is a shell case, which I find defeats the purpose of the one-handed design of the device. To grip it correctly with one hand, you have to remove it from the case shell. So if you do have that original cover like I do, you can use it with the new Oasis, but you can’t use it as a stand (it’s Amazon’s “origami” cover that folds), since it doesn’t stick to the back of the device.
It’s fair to say that this is a very minor upgrade. If you already have and like the Kindle Oasis, you probably don’t need to upgrade. But if the addition of the warmth setting is something you find useful, and if you want some slightly sharper fonts due to the better lighting, you might want to check out the new Kindle Oasis. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)
Many high-concept business books present amorphous ideas about how to succeed in business, but Growth IQ by bestselling author, Tiffani Bova, is extremely concrete. This is not a book about turning your company upside down or inside out using trendy new concepts from a TED talk, but rather a book that looks at the way businesses really work and how to achieve growth.
The ten growth paths, a list “built on the back of long-standing management thinking and frameworks ” are all practical and applicable to all sorts of businesses. However, this is no quick-fix book: the ideas here call for a long-term approach.
It started with six pieces of Lego. Dan Lyons, former Newsweek technology editor, as well as writer on the HBO series Silicon Valley (and former Fake Steve Jobs), meets a Lego “Serious Play” trainer who asked him to make a duck in 30 seconds. He fretted, then worried, wondering if it was all a trick, before finally presenting his duck to her. It turned out that it didn’t matter what he did, that it was all just a game, a way to jump-start conversation. And that left him rattled.
In his book, Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us, New York Times bestselling author Dan Lyons critiques how this sort of “Serious Play” activity is all the rage in Silicon Valley, as startups and tech companies mess with the heads of their employees. He criticizes how it looks like a “cult of happiness,” which is facilitated through a new way of working.
And if you’re not in Silicon Valley, it’s coming soon to a company near you.
I got three interesting new photobooks this week, and rather than review each of them separately, here are some notes about each of them.
The Landscape, by Don McCullin
Known for his work as a war photographer, Don McCullin has also long shot landscapes, notably near his home in Somerset, in the UK. This book contains five sections. The first contains photos taken in a number of locations, the second photos from Somerset and elsewhere in the UK; the third consists of photos taken in India and the Middle East; the fourth returns to Somerset; and the final section contains photos of Somerset, Northern England, Scotland, and France. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)
These photos are all dark; not just black and white, but they contain brooding tones, often with stark clouds, tangled trees, and lots of water (photos of flooding in Somerset). There is a unity among the style of the photos, which cover several decades of work, though not all are really landscapes. Many of the photos from India are of people in a landscape; there are photos of ruins in Palmyra; and there are a few photos of grimy cityscapes in the UK.
Nevertheless, there is something majestic about the darkness of these photos, especially the ones from Somerset, or the astounding photo of Stonehenge (below). This is a composition of vastness, of the spaces in front of his eyes, of the contrast between land and sky, which isn’t always clear. A stunning book of black and white photos.
Michael Kenna, rafu
Known for his beautiful black and white landscapes, Michael Kenna has published his first book of portraits. This slim book contains 41 photos of nude Japanese women. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)
In a short text at the end of the book, Kenna explains that he had been shooting nudes in Japan for about ten years, and these 41 photos were selected for an exhibit in Japan, and for this book, out of some 9,000 photos that he had shot.
They have the Micheal Kenna touch; they are square, use a hint of toning, and are not particularly erotic. If anything, they recall Edward Weston’s nude photos of the 1920s and 1930s.
These are subtle photographs where there is much more than the female body being shown, and this slim yet attractive book is a very interesting new aspect of Michael Kenna’s work.
Todd Hido, Bright Black World
Even for someone familiar with Todd Hido’s work, this book is a bit of a shock. In 48 large format photos – some of which fold out to double- or quadruple-size – Hido explores locations outside the United States, with a stunning level of darkness that pervades the works. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)
An epigram from Hido sets the tone: “It’s been said that Inuits have many words to describe white. As the polar snow caps melt faster than we ever imagined, I wonder how long it will be before we have as many words to describe darkness.”
There is light in some of these photos, but most of them give off a level of angst that can be overpowering. Nevertheless, this is a beautiful book that is full of moving, atmospheric photos.
Four companies are at the top of the pyramid for technology and digital media: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Each one is very different, but there are many similarities that have helped these companies become so dominant.
Amazon’s reach is extraordinary, with 64 percent of people in the United States being subscribers to Amazon Prime. Apple, while far from being the leader in smartphones, commands one of the highest profit margins in the tech sector, currently around 38 percent. Facebook has two billion users, and four of the five most popular mobile apps are owned by the company. And Google owns 92 percent of the search market.
Much has been written about the successes of these companies, and of the unique qualities of their founders: Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page. And much has also been written about how these companies strategically created or took advantage of sectors where they could disrupt existing companies.
Scott Galloway, professor at the New York University Stern School of Business, and longtime entrepreneur, looks at these “four horsemen,” as he calls them, in his book The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. In his book, he highlights many of the negative aspects of their business models, and their effects on society.
We are all familiar with the expression “timing is everything.” From ice hockey to investing, success often depends on doing things at the right time. But how do we know when it is the right time? Sometimes we can play where the puck is going, or figure out the right moment to act by a careful read of the market, but in other cases the right time depends on us; it depends on us knowing when to do things.
Daniel Pink’s new book, When: The Scientific Secrets to Perfect Timing, looks at when we should do things to be the most efficient, the most productive, and the most inspired. The “when” he discusses is the time of day, the time of the year, or even the point in a project where we should or shouldn’t do certain things.
He poses a certain number of questions early in the book:
Why do beginnings–whether we get off to a fast start or a false start–matter so much? And how can we make a fresh start if we stumble out of the starting blocks? Why does reaching the midpoint–of a project, a game, even a life–sometimes bring us down and other times fire us up? Why do endings energize us to kick harder to reach the finish line yet also inspire us to slow down and seek meaning?
We’ve all experienced flagging interest in projects, or difficulty trying to make it through the day, the week, or the month, but we generally don’t think that we might have started — or continued our projects — at the wrong time.
The nude female body as a subject has a long history in art, and in photography. In fine art, it has always been more or less sedate – though see Courbet’s L’Origine du monde – but in photography, it has often been more osé. Nude photography follows the unwritten rules of the patriarchy; in most such photos, the woman is an object, often in ludicrous positions, or in situations that serve as nothing more than backdrops to their bodies. Photo magazines are full of nude or semi-nude photos – so-called “boudoir” photography – that serve to codify the tropes of this genre: for example, a naked women in high heels in front of a waterfall. There are certainly many exceptions, and nude art photography – to distinguish it from “I know it when I see it” pornography – can be very attractive, without demeaning its subjects.