Outside Reading — Paku-Paku-Paku edition

pac man operator

Pac-Man, The Japanese Game That Took Over The World, Turns 40 by Matt Alt

On the occasion of the fortieth birthday of the yellow fellow originally known as Puck-Man, Matt Alt writes a brief history of the arcade game sensation. It’s filled with fascinating details about the game’s genesis, including the stealthy ways some Japanese cultural touchstones slipped in with the chomping hero and his ghostly adversaries. I remember well how thoroughly Pac-Man took over in the nineteen-eighties, and Alt captures the scene incredibly well.



To Compare an Apple to a Submarine by Caity Weaver

Among the many reasons to value The New York Times, there is the wonderful circumstance that the nation’s most important and venerable newspaper allows some goofball genius writers to run with whatever cockamamie idea pops into their head. Case in point: Caity Weaver takes a doltish comment spat out by Jeffrey Katzenberg in defense of the laughably soft launch if his Quibi endeavor and uses it as a prompt for a meticulous examination of whether there is an acceptable methodology to use in comparing apples and submarines. Consistently amusing without ever reducing the journalistic endeavor to a mere joke, Weaver’s article is a happy relief amidst the steady thrum of dreadful news.


ninth street

Ninth Street Women (2018) by Mary Gabriel

This hefty tome is a corrective to the history of mid–twentieth century U.S. art history that overwhelmingly favors male painters while ignoring the women who were creating equally revolutionary works. Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler are the primary subjects of Mary Gabriel’s artful shared biography, but the book generously expands to cover almost the entirety of the New York art scene in the years before, during, and after World War II. Gabriel is exhaustive in her details, providing a tactile sense of what is was like to be in the midst of this astonishing eddy of artistic invention. Much as Gabriel wants to keep the focus on the artists who align with the third word of the title Ninth Street Women, the dudes can’t help but intrude. Most notably, Krasner’s spouse, Jackson Pollock, dominates at times, proving just as unavoidable an axis point for the book as he was for the booming art field at the time and ever since.

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