The Weekender, May 25, 2018

1) “An Open Letter to Wikipedia” by Philip Roth (The New Yorker, 11 minutes, September 2012). Roth, a great American author, passed away earlier this week. In 2012, he tried to update the Wikipedia entry for one of his books, The Human Stain. It didn’t go well because of Wikipedia’s “citation needed” policies, basically. So, e created a third-party source that Wikipedia could use as a citation in the best way possible.

I am Philip Roth. I had reason recently to read for the first time the Wikipedia entry discussing my novel “The Human Stain.” The entry contains a serious misstatement that I would like to ask to have removed. This item entered Wikipedia not from the world of truthfulness but from the babble of literary gossip—there is no truth in it at all.

Yet when, through an official interlocutor, I recently petitioned Wikipedia to delete this misstatement, along with two others, my interlocutor was told by the “English Wikipedia Administrator”—in a letter dated August 25th and addressed to my interlocutor—that I, Roth, was not a credible source: “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,” writes the Wikipedia Administrator—“but we require secondary sources.”

Thus was created the occasion for this open letter. After failing to get a change made through the usual channels, I don’t know how else to proceed.

2) Win a World Traveler Starter Pack! I’ve partnered with about a half-dozen other newsletters to put together a really neat prize package — valued at about $2,000 — seen below. It’s free to enter; just click here. And good luck!

3) “The Day Treva Throneberry Disappeared” (Texas Monthly, 40 minutes, March 2002). In the 1980s, a Texas high school student vanished without a trace. About a decade later, she re-emerged in Washington, under a different name, but still as a high schooler.

4) The Now I Know Week in Review:

Monday: How Strawberries with Sugar Ravaged Portugal — No actual fruit was involved.

TuesdayA Ghastly Version of a Common Rideshare Scam — It’s a generic scam, plus zombies.

Wednesday: An Indian Village’s Unique Strategy to Hold Alcoholism in Check — I was thrown off a bit by the hero’s name in this one; I said his first name went unreported. That’s not quite right. Here’s an explanation courtesy of a helpful reader.

ThursdayHow The Dead Brought Death To Norway — Yes, in the bonus fact, I said Scotland was south of England. I know better than that. It’s fixed on the archived version.

5) “In Search of the Living, Purring, Singing Heart of the Online Cat-Industrial Complex” (Wired, 26 minutes, March 2012). This is a bit old, by Internet measures, but it’s still great.​

The Internet’s preference for cats runs so deep that when Google’s secretive X Lab showed a string of 10 million YouTube images to a neural network of 16,000 computer processors for machine learning, the first thing the network did was invent the concept of a cat. America might have inflated the Internet-feline bubble—the Cheezburger Network raised $30 million last year in venture funding, and the Bible has been translated into Lolcat—but Japan was where the Internet-feline market began, and persists, as a quiet, domestic cattage industry. If you want to know why the Internet chose cats, you must go to Japan.

6) “The Things They Leave Behind: Artifacts From the Vietnam Veterans Memorial” (Washingtonian, 24 minutes, October 2012). The subhead: “When the Vietnam Veterans Memorial opened 30 years ago this month, something unexpected happened: People started leaving things at the wall. One veteran has spent decades cataloging the letters, mementos, and other artifacts of loss—all 400,000 of them.”

Have a great weekend!