What We’re Reading | 12.2.12

Each week, members of the WFPL news team spotlight interesting stories we’ve read and enjoyed, for your weekend reading pleasure:

Gabe Bullard: It’s gift-giving time, and just like every holiday season for the last 15 years, I have no reason to purchase or hope for Nerf. But, ever since I got a Nerf blaster for Christmas in the mid-90s, I’ve associated the neon darts with the holly (sorry for all the broken decorations, Mom). One thing I never thought of is how Nerf toys are designed. Wired has a look into the design process, and one of the most surprising takeaways is the arms race the company is in against its own fans, who share power-enhancing hacks for Nerf weapons online. Read “How Nerf Became the World’s Best Purveyor of Big Guns for Kids.”  

Bonus: Also, Bill Murray gave an interview. He’s playing FDR in a movie, but he’s also Bill Murray. So it’s worth a read. Read “Bill Murray, Star of Hyde Park on Hudson.”

Patrick DeSpain:  I was recently forced into a fresh bout of existential naval-gazing by Michael Hanlon’s article, which explores theories of the multiverse and attempts to reconcile quantum physics with gravity via string theory. Perhaps not everyone is intrigued by the prospect of alternate realities.  Though, if the theories in Hanlon’s essay are true, there is a version of each of us somewhere that has already enjoyed reading it. Read “World Next Door.”

Laura Ellis:  Heather Fleming used to be the wig designer for Actors Theatre of Louisville, and when she left Actors she founded the Custom Wig Company, which makes wigs for historical performers of all kinds—re-enactors, impersonators, etc. Having gone through some class photos of her grandma Kate and Kate’s classmates from the 1920s, she’s writing a series of blog posts explaining the hairstyles and how they’re done. Not newsy, but when I’m not in the newsroom I play Prohibition-era jazz, so to me, this is gold for me. Read “Hairstyles in History.”

Devin Katayama: This week I started reading ”Zeitoun” (zay-toon) by Dave Eggers, who creates yet another narrative-creative-non-fiction (if you have an opinion one way or another please tell). The story is about one family’s experience (the Zeitoun’s) during Hurricane Katrina. A couple years ago I read Eggers’ “What is the What” and had discussions with several friends and colleagues about the process and journalism that went into writing the book. This go-around, I’m more cognizant of how Eggers might have questioned his subjects to develop the narrative, which makes me reconsider my techniques to bring better visuals to the radio.

Erin Keane: Novelist Ann Patchett opens up about the beginnings of her 2-year-old Nashville store Parnassus Books, which she created in a defunct nail salon with two publishing professionals after the last bookstores in the city – both profitable, by the way – had closed. What Patchett and her partners have found is that independent bookstores still have a vital role to play in communities, and having been to Parnassus, I can say that they’re on the right track. Parnassus reminds me of Carmichael’s, Louisville’s indie book outposts that are so beloved and do their jobs so well they can support two locations a mere two miles apart – the employees read and love books, the store is cheerful, warm and focused on books (not coffee or whimsical tote bags), and they have a well-stocked local books section that contains literature in addition to the expected coffee table photography books and cookbooks. Patchett says never mind the hype, the small bookstore is not obsolete, and she has the numbers to prove it: “The business model may be antiquated, but it’s the one I like, and so far it’s the one that’s working.” Read “The Bookstore Strikes Again.”

Joseph Lord: These days, it’s difficult to imagine living in a city with more than a single daily newspaper. Now try imagining a city with a multitude of them — New York, before a crippling newspaper strike in the 1960s. Vanity Fair explores that strike, and its long-lasting ramifications. Read “The Long Goodbye.”

Bonus: OK, much less heady, but the “best of 2012″ lists are rolling out. Here’s my favorite so far. Read “The 32 Best New Memes of 2012.”

Joseph Lord

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.

@joseph_Lord

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