Written by

Chris Gonzales


Marcus dePaula

Welcome to this week’s edition of our Friday Quality Linkage column. Please enjoy this week’s collection of interesting and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee, find a comfortable place, and relax.

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Photo/Illustration: Michelle Rial, BuzzFeed

Photo/Illustration: Michelle Rial, BuzzFeed

The Man Who’s Trying to Build a Better Apple »

No, not that Apple. Stephanie M. Lee of BuzzFeed profiled Neal Carter, who has invented an apple that never browns, dubbed the “Arctic”:

But the race to create the world’s most convenient apple — a race that fundamentally blurs the distinction between natural and unnatural — won’t be won without a fight, and getting to the Arctic was far from easy. Browning is a natural and common mechanism in fruit, one that has evolved over millennia; counteracting it isn’t exactly like flipping a switch. And even if the science had been simple, Carter would still have had to contend with forces arguably stronger: a vocal movement against genetically modified organisms in general and the Arctic in particular, and a slew of competitors also hoping to make the apple more attractive to consumers.

These statistics later in the article made my jaw drop, though I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised (bolded emphasis mine):

In the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, more fruits and vegetables are lost or wasted than consumed across the supply chain, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. A study in the Journal of Consumer Affairs estimated that $15 billion in fresh and processed fruit was lost from the U.S. food supply in 2008 — about $9 billion at the consumer level and the rest at the retail level. Apples, the second-most consumed fresh fruit in the U.S. behind bananas, make up a good chunk of that waste: an estimated 1.3 billion pounds every year, or a $1.4 billion loss, with a sizable yet unknown portion due to off-coloring or soft spots.


Photo: Christian Petersen-Clausen, *Vice News* (← This article is also worth reading.)

Photo: Christian Petersen-Clausen, Vice News (← This article is also worth reading.)

Conversations with North Koreans »

Christopher Carothers — a Ph.D student in government at Harvard who happens to speak Korean — wrote for NK News about his recent trip to North Korea, where he had some fascinating conversations with the locals:

“What do people like me do in the South?” she asked.

This was the first time someone had opened up to me with such a question, and I felt a lot of pressure to answer it well. We were walking alone, some distance behind my tour group. I tried my best to convey the luxurious lifestyle of Seoulites. I said that the North was very poor by comparison.

“When West and East Germany unified, it was a 4-to-1 economic gap. Between the Koreas, it’s more like 20-to-1.”

“Do I look poor to you?” she asked, incredulously. She looked nice, in fact. I struggled for what to say while she looked hurt. When we parted, she said I was “very honest.” It was probably not a compliment.

Photo:  The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, Santa Rosa, California.

Photo: The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, Santa Rosa, California.

Charlie Brown Never Found His Little Red-Haired Girl, but We Did »

Darryn King of Vanity Fair managed to track down Donna Wold, the real-life inspiration for “the little girl with the red hair” from the Peanuts comic strip:

For the remainder of the 17,897 Peanuts strips that Charles M. Schulz drew between 1950 and 1999, Charlie Brown pined for the little girl with the red hair. Like the yanked-away football and the kite-eating tree, the unattainable Little Red-Haired Girl, who shows little sign of knowing Charlie Brown exists, became a recurring motif of the character’s misery. The first definitive Schulz biography linked the character to Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved and the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets; Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson pointed to the importance of the “perpetual theme of unrequited love” in the strip (along with its “bleak undercurrent of cruelty, loneliness and failure”). In “Sartre and Peanuts,” one philosophical essayist suggested that Charlie Brown’s predicament was the essence of existentialism: “The very possibility that he could go over and talk to her is far more distressing than its impossibility would be.”

The timing of this article was perfect for me. I read it just before seeing The Peanuts Movie the other day, which itself was a charming film I recommend everyone go see — and I’m saying this as someone who isn’t normally much of a Charlie Brown fan.

Animation: Eleanor Lutz

Gasp! A Breathing Puzzle (or, How Insects Breathe) »

Aatish Bhatia and Robert Krulwich of the excellent science blog Noticing examine the strange breathing patterns of insects compared to ours:

Well, here’s the weird answer: A grasshopper, it turns out, breathes with its entire body. [Illustrator Eleanor Lutz] illustrates this in her graphic by making the whole grasshopper flush yellow. And it isn’t just grasshoppers we’re talking about.

Insects (which means the majority of animals on Earth) don’t have lungs. In a sense, they are lungs. You could think of every insect as a walking, flying, hopping lung. […]

In contrast, our bodies have a circulatory system pumping blood to get oxygen from our lungs to our cells. But in insects, there’s no blood involved in oxygen’s journey. Instead, the oxygen just floats all the way, right up to the cells’ doorsteps.

And you know what? The passage I quoted above isn’t even the weirdest part.

Star Wars Characters Reimagined as Ancient Greek Statues »

French artist Travis Durden digitally sculpted five Greek statues with the heads of famous Star Wars characters. Here’s Kate Sierzputowski of Colossal describing Durden’s work:

The heads of each of the sculptures are pulled directly from the movie franchise, while the bodies are sourced from statues found within Paris’s Louvre. The new amalgamations display a softer side to the characters, Darth Vader now sporting tendrils of hair that fall from his once menacing mask, and a stormtrooper casually reads from an ancient text. […]

His Star Wars sculptures are his newest works, and can be seen in the exhibition “Contre Attaque,” or counter attack, currently at Galerie Sakura in Paris. Prints are available on Galerie Sakura’s website here.

Photo: Jamie Ellul, Dads and Design

Photo: Jamie Ellul, Dads and Design

All Aboard the Creativity Train »

Jamie Ellul of Dads and Design writes of rediscovering the joy of being creative for creativity’s sake while playing with his son (and eventually working on a typeface based on wooden train track shapes):

My five year old son has never been that into drawing, but he’s obsessed with how things work and how they’re made. So making physical stuff is how he gets his creative kicks. He’s always had an infatuation with trains and a few years ago we bought him a classic Brio style wooden train track. It was one morning at s*** o’clock (Dads all know what time that is) when we were putting together one of our tracks for the 100th time, that I realised you could create type from the tracks. I mentioned it to my son Joschka and so we decided to try to spell out his name in track. Not having enough track to do it in one go, we had to do it one letter at a time and then photograph it (snap below). It was fun to do and a nice tight design brief to work with a limited set of shapes – plus it almost made being up at an ungodly hour quite bearable.

Cool idea.

Photo: Charlie Gray, Evening Standard

Photo: Charlie Gray, Evening Standard

The Sartorialist (aka Scott Schuman) on Being a Street Style Pioneer and Making a Million Dollars a Year »

Although it’s been a couple years since I last visited The Sartorialist, I enjoyed this recent interview with Scott Schuman, the man behind the camera, by Richard Godwin of Evening Standard. I’ve taken the liberty of inserting line breaks into the passage below for easier reading1:

[Schuman] sees his photos as comprising four elements: the light, the character, the posture and the clothes. “I wasn’t trying to report what the person was wearing; I’d try to capture how I felt about what that person was wearing,” he says. For my money, what Schuman is really good at is simply noticing — the roll of a sleeve, the most enchanting print clashes, or the way a schoolboy subtly subverts his uniform. And in turn his photos make you notice things, too.

I’m pretty sure his images of dapper Italians riding around Florence on mopeds helped make the tassel loafer ubiquitous, and I have a hunch his fondness for long bare female legs may have dented global nylon sales.

But for many jaded stylistas, the pleasure of both his blog and his Instagram feed lies in the images taken miles away from any fashion centres: an Hasidic Jew who has tipped his hat in a rakish way; a couple of veiled female cyclists in Delhi. He cites the National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry as his main influence but hesitates to call himself a photojournalist.

“When I take these pictures, I don’t want to know the facts. I want to imagine my own story,” he says. He keeps his captions minimal (never mentioning anything vulgar such as labels or prices) leaving you wondering: Who is this person? Where are they going? What are they thinking?

Illustration: Matthew Inman, The Oatmeal

Illustration: Matthew Inman, The Oatmeal

“It’s Going to Be Okay” »

Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal recently posted this comic telling a touching story that I honestly don’t want to spoil at all. Just go read it, it’ll only take a minute or two.

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Got any suggestions for articles, videos, stories, photographs, and any other links you think we should be posting in our weekly Quality Linkage? Please do let us know on Twitter.