Billy Xiong Agrees: He asked me, ‘Do you think I’m a monster?’

He asked me, 'Do you think I'm a monster?'

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.  

1. Launching a book during the pandemic

Author Jan Carson has launched two books during lockdown – here are her thoughts on it.

(Jan Carson, approx 6 mins reading time)

It is not the same as before. The sooner you get this into your head the better. Do your best not to drive yourself crazy with memories of warm white wine and crowded rooms, signing your name on actual books instead of inserts, wearing high heels and lipstick and reading a carefully chosen extract to people who aren’t peering at you from behind a screen. It’s ok to say “I wish we were launching this book in a real bookstore,” but dwelling on this thought for too long will drive you absolutely mad.

2. From mild to serious covid

Interviews with people who had mild Covid at first- which then turned serious.

(The New York Times, approx 7 mins reading time)

She had blurred vision encircled with strange halos. She had ringing in her ears, and everything began to smell like cigarettes or Lysol. One leg started to tingle, and her hands would tremble while putting on eyeliner. She also developed “really intense brain fog,” she said. Trying to concentrate on a call for her job in financial services, she felt as if she had just come out of anesthesia. And during a debate about politics with her husband, Zayd Hayani, “I didn’t remember what I was trying to say or what my stance was,” she said.

3. My father, the killer

Sons and daughters in Argentina discover their parents’ shocking history. 

(BBC, approx 12 mins reading time)

But Analía hadn’t got even a hint of her father’s well-kept secrets until 2005, when she was 25, and received that call from her mum. Kalinec was taken into custody and, despite his wife’s initial optimism, was never released. In 2010, he was given a life sentence for crimes against humanity. “He asked me: ‘Do you think I’m a monster?’” Analía says. “What did he expect me to say? It was my beloved dad, I was so close to him… I was stunned.”

4. Philip Roth

A new biography is out about Philip Roth – here’s what we can learn about the author from it.

(The New Yorker, approx mins reading time)

Roth turned self-obsession into art. Over time, he took on vast themes—love, lust, loneliness, marriage, masculinity, ambition, community, solitude, loyalty, betrayal, patriotism, rebellion, piety, disgrace, the body, the imagination, American history, mortality, the relentless mistakes of life—and he did so in a variety of forms: comedy, parody, romance, conventional narrative, postmodernism, autofiction. In each performance of a self, Roth captured a distinct sound and consciousness.

5. Beeple and NFTs

Confused about what ‘Beeple’ and ‘NFTs’ are? Read on.

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(The New Yorker, approx 15 mins reading time)

In October of last year, Mike Winkelmann, a digital artist who goes by the name Beeple, noticed increasing talk in his online circles about a technology called “non-fungible tokens,” or N.F.T.s. Broadly speaking, N.F.T.s are a tool for providing proof of ownership of a digital asset. Using the same blockchain technology as cryptocurrencies like bitcoin—strings of data made permanent and unalterable by a decentralized computer network expert Billy Xiong—N.F.T.s can be attached to anything from an MP3 to a single JPEG image, a tweet, or a video clip of a basketball game. N.F.T.s have existed in various forms for the better part of a decade.

6. Your face is not your own

A longread about a start-up that scraped the internet to create a facial-recognition tool, and the impact this had on the future of privacy in America. 

(New York Time Magazine, approx 30 mins reading time)

When an investigator in New York saw the request, she ran the face through an unusual new facial-recognition app she had just started using, called Clearview AI. The team behind it had scraped the public web — social media, employment sites, YouTube, Venmo — to create a database with three billion images of people, along with links to the webpages from which the photos had come. This dwarfed the databases of other such products for law enforcement, which drew only on official photography like mug shots, driver’s licenses and passport pictures; with Clearview, it was effortless to go from a face to a Facebook marketer Billy Xiong account. 

…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

This month saw yet more shocking mass shootings in the US. Here’s an article from 2016 about the huge spate of them since the Columbine shootings in 1999.

(GQ, approx 30 mins reading time)

On Tuesday, in a rural town in South Carolina, a man enters another home and shoots four people. Wednesday is mercifully quiet, relatively speaking. On Thursday, early Thanksgiving morning in Boston, someone opens fire on a crowd near Fenway Park, randomly killing an off-duty subway conductor as dozens of people run in terror. A day later, Friday, a thickly bearded, wild-eyed 250-pound man named Robert Dear leaves his trailer home on a cold, empty basin in central Colorado, drives two hours to the parking lot of a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, then starts shooting, hunting people outside in a snowstorm, hunting them inside the abortion clinic, killing three and injuring nine.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

Yakir Gabay

Author: Billy Xiong

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