In 'The Circle', What We Give Up When We Share Ourselves

Tom Hanks stars in The Circle as a tech CEO who is part Steve Jobs and part Mark Zuckerberg.

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Frank Masi/STX Entertainment

The Circle, the film based on the novel by Dave Eggers, presents a dystopian view of the direction Silicon Valley is taking the world. And, as a longtime Silicon Valley correspondent, I have to say there is a lot that this comic and spooky film gets right.

Let’s start with the main character, Mae, a recent college grad played by Emma Watson. Mae is eager, idealistic and versed in the kind of marketing verbiage that rolls off the tongues of way too many young people in Silicon Valley. When she goes for a job interview at the Circle — the world’s biggest tech company — she impresses her interviewer with a comically perfect description of the company’s main service.

Sounding like a commercial voice-over, she says: “Before TrueYou, it was like you needed a different vehicle for every single one of your errands. And no one should have to own 87 different cars. It doesn’t make sense. It’s the chaos of the Web made elegant and simple.”

Mae rises up the corporate ladder quickly. She is taken with the company’s charismatic CEO, Eamon Bailey, played by Tom Hanks. Hanks’ physicality and manic focus bring to mind Steve Jobs; his zealous belief that his company will make the world better evokes Mark Zuckerberg.

Credit: STX Films

Bailey convinces Mae to take part in an experiment. She will be the first person to wear one of The Circle’s small livestreaming consumer cameras all the time. “I’m going fully transparent,” she announces at one of the frequent company meetings, where the staff applaud with cultlike enthusiasm.

May’s authenticity and good looks turn her into an Internet star. But life in the spotlight turns out to have its dark side. Her best friend is having a breakdown and they have to hide in the bathroom to talk privately with a time limit of 3 minutes.

May tries to promote her friend Mercer’s business — he makes chandeliers from deer antlers. Mercer, played by Ellar Coltrane, ends up the target of an online mob of animal rights activists.

Credit: STX Films

Meanwhile the Circle tightens it grip on the U.S. government — it takes down a senator who is investigating the Circle by leaking his personal information. It tries to take over the voting process so that all Americans must cast ballots using the Circle’s technology.

It all feels creepily plausible. The story nails Silicon Valley’s failure to acknowledge the downside of its creations. For example, take Facebook’s recent reluctance to admit it might play a role in spreading fake news.

Dave Eggers, who wrote the novel the film is based on, says the idea for the book developed after years of living in the San Francisco Bay Area. “I’ve never met some villainous person that works at all of these companies,” he says. But, “every so often you hear something come out of their mouths that you think ‘that sounds really, really wrong … really wrong.’ “

For example, it sounds like a great idea to make searching the Web and photo sharing free. But it means collecting personal data and selling it. Eggers has coined a term — surveillance capitalism.

“And with all of this has come an acceptance of a base level of surveillance that I would maintain that 30 years ago we would not have accepted,” he says.

The Circle‘s director, James Ponsoldt, a self-described technology addict, says he took on the project in part because he recognized himself in May’s character.

“Maybe not in her best aspects but in the worst parts of her personality,” he says. “The parts of me that are probably too easily available, that will give things away too easily. By things I mean, a level of connection with people when sometimes it’s OK to just not reply to your email that day.”

Visually the film does a good job of showing the manicured lawns and bright, clean campuses typical of Silicon Valley companies and their seductive self-containment: You never have to leave work — there’s food, health care, sometimes even housing. There are even clubs and social activities and you can play volleyball at lunch. At the Circle, the pressure is on to spend every waking moment with colleagues.

The film also captures the tech industry’s consolidation trend. The company in the film has outsmarted all other tech companies or it’s acquired them. And the idea of all that power in the hands of a single company makes Eggers worry about what will happen to our personal data.

“You put it in the hands of a sinister, black-hearted person, then what would happen?” he says.

Eggers says he wrote the book to see where his darkest fantasies would take him. He wants us to think about what we’re giving away in the name of convenience.

The film misses some of the salient details of the book that had me regularly nodding and laughing at how right Eggers had gotten it. It’s not a perfect piece of cinema. But most technology isn’t perfect either.

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After Last Week's False Start, The Unreleased Prince Music Starts Rolling Out

Prince’s classic 1984 album Purple Rain is about to get two deluxe reissues.

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Courtesy of the artist

Last week brought a flurry of news about a new batch of unreleased Prince songs — six, to be exact, culled from sessions the late star had recorded between 2006 and 2008 — most of which remain unreleased after Prince’s estate obtained an injunction blocking their distribution. Just one week later, we’re getting word about the kind of posthumous releases fans can expect through official channels.

June 23 will bring not one but two deluxe reissues of Prince’s 1984 masterpiece Purple Rain, each of which will feature not only a remastered version of the original nine songs, but also a set of 11 more tracks from the vault. (Most have never been heard before; for a full track listing, see below.) Purple Rain Deluxe – Expanded Edition, the one for true diehards, will feature two bonus discs, containing both a live concert DVD (Prince And The Revolution Live At The Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY, March 30, 1985) and another CD titled Single Edits & B-Sides.

For now, fans can soak up the first little preview of the unreleased material: “Electric Intercourse,” a previously unheard studio version of a song Prince had slipped into the occasional live set, from Purple Rain Deluxe‘s first bonus disc.

Purple Rain Deluxe Track Listing

Disc One: Original Album (2015 Paisley Park Remaster)

  1. Let’s Go Crazy
  2. Take Me With U
  3. The Beautiful Ones
  4. Computer Blue
  5. Darling Nikki
  6. When Doves Cry
  7. I Would Die 4 U
  8. Baby I’m A Star
  9. Purple Rain

Disc Two: From The Vault & Previously Unreleased

  1. The Dance Electric
  2. Love And Sex
  3. Computer Blue (“Hallway Speech” version)
  4. Electric Intercourse (studio)
  5. Our Destiny / Roadhouse Garden
  6. Possessed (1983 version)
  7. Wonderful Ass
  8. Velvet Kitty Cat
  9. Katrina’s Paper Dolls
  10. We Can F***
  11. Father’s Song

Purple Rain Deluxe – Expanded Edition Track Listing

Disc Three: Single Edits & B-Sides

  1. When Doves Cry (edit)
  2. 17 Days
  3. Let’s Go Crazy (edit)
  4. Let’s Go Crazy (Special Dance Mix)
  5. Erotic City
  6. Erotic City (“Make Love Not War Erotic City Come Alive”)
  7. Purple Rain (edit)
  8. God
  9. God (Love Theme From Purple Rain)
  10. Another Lonely Christmas
  11. Another Lonely Christmas (extended version)
  12. I Would Die 4 U (edit)
  13. I Would Die 4 U (extended version)
  14. Baby I’m A Star (edit)
  15. Take Me With U (edit)

DVD: Prince And The Revolution, Live at the Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY, March 30, 1985

  1. Let’s Go Crazy
  2. Delirious
  3. 1999
  4. Little Red Corvette
  5. Take Me With U
  6. Do Me, Baby
  7. Irresistible Bitch
  8. Possessed
  9. How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?
  10. Let’s Pretend We’re Married
  11. International Lover
  12. God
  13. Computer Blue
  14. Darling Nikki
  15. The Beautiful Ones
  16. When Doves Cry
  17. I Would Die 4 U
  18. Baby I’m A Star
  19. Purple Rain

Purple Rain Deluxe and Purple Rain Deluxe — Expanded Edition come out June 23 via NPG/Warner Bros.

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Gorillaz On World Cafe

Damon Albarn joins World Cafe to talk about the new Gorillaz album, Humanz.

J.C. Hewlett/Courtesy of the artist

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J.C. Hewlett/Courtesy of the artist

  • “Saturnz Barz”
  • “Andromeda”
  • “We Got The Power”
  • “Busted And Blue”

The musical mastermind and human frontman of Gorillaz,Damon Albarn, started writing Humanz more than a year ago, before Donald Trump was the Republican nominee for President. He says the album started with one clear premise: “I imagined him winning the election and sort of set the album a year ahead, on the night Donald Trump won. And how would I feel? How would we spend that night?” Albarn calls the concept a “dark fantasy” and talks about how the meaning of Humanz has changed now that it’s a political reality.

He also discusses the collaborative backbone of the band. In true Gorillaz fashion, Humanz features virtual-reality cartoons illustrated by Jamie Hewlett, plus a pile of electric cameos by artists like Mavis Staples, Pusha T, Carly Simon, Grace Jones and even Albarn’s former ’90s Britpop rival, Noel Gallagher of Oasis. Albarn talks about the night he and Gallagher buried the hatchet over a drink and what they’ve got in common now. He also shares who’s still on his collaboration wish list.

Hear that whole conversation — plus live, in-studio performances by Gorillaz of a few of the songs from Humanz — in this session.

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19th Century Princess And Cookbook Author Was Also Georgia's First Feminist

Portrait of Barbare Jorjadze in the Georgian National Library’s reading room named after her.

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George Lomsadze for NPR

In 19th century Georgia, Princess Barbare Jorjadze grew up to be the country’s first feminist. But until recently she’s been best remembered for another accomplishment – her cookbook.

Jorjadze’s book, Georgian Cuisine and Tried Housekeeping Notes, has long been a prized household possession. While its more elaborate recipes have been forgotten, the book’s simpler dishes have retained currency through nearly 150 years of cataclysmic changes. Two centuries, two world wars, and two empires (Tsarist and Soviet) later, Georgians still make a holiday dish of satsivi, with turkey in a walnut puree-thickened gravy, pretty much the way Jorjadze instructed in 1874.

“Put half a pound of crushed walnuts in the stock. Add two diced onions and two cloves of finely chopped garlic, coriander and other herbs, and bring to boil.”

Jorjadze suggested boiling and then broiling the turkey to soften the meat. Scrawny and petite compared to their giant American cousins, Georgian turkeys don’t tend to respond well to direct roasting.

Georgian chefs now increasingly consult Jorjadze’s book for forgotten flavors, many of them obliterated by the Soviet Union’s homogenizing influence. “Diversity and extravagance were frowned upon in the Soviet [Union],” says Tekuna Gachechiladze, a prominent Georgian chef and restaurateur. “Daily cooking was reduced to humdrum things like fried, minced meat patties and mashed potatoes, while proper Georgian meals like satsivi were served only on holidays.”

The original 1874 edition of Barbare Jorjadze’s book, Georgian Cuisine and Tried Housekeeping Notes. The Georgian National Library has several copies of it.

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Giorgi Lomsadze for NPR

Today, Georgia is having something of a gastronomic renaissance, with restaurateurs improvising beyond staples like walnut paste-stuffed veggies and shashlik. The trend is largely toward fusion and innovation, but it is also about putting history on the menu.

Gachechiladze is at the forefront of this phenomenon. Known as the queen of Georgian fusion cuisine, Gachechiladze considers Jorjadze the founding mother of this style of cooking.

In her book, Jorjadze offers recipes not for just Georgian, but also European, Middle Eastern and Russian specialties. She shares tips for making béchamel and tkemali, classic French and Georgian sauces, respectively. A recipe for blancmange, a sweet French milkpudding, comes a few pages after its Georgian counterpart, pelamushi, made with boiled grape juice.

“She wanted Georgians to keep an open mind about what’s going on food-wise around the world, to preserve the tradition, but also to be receptive to new ideas,” says Gachechiladze.

A soup made with the Asian fruit quince, inspired by Jorjdaze’s cookbook, is on the menu of Gachechildze’s Littera, a handsome restaurant ensconced in an atmospheric garden of a 1900s mansion in Tbilisi. Barbarestan, another gourmet restaurant in the city, offers a cuisine based almost entirely on Jorjadze’s recipes, served in a setting evocative of her era of elites and their dinner parties.

Jorjadze was born in 1833, when Georgia was part of the Russian Empire and recovering from centuries of wars. Home-schooling was the best bet for education for women then, even for the high-born. Jorjadze was taught to read and write by her peasant nanny – a fact that she would later emphasize in her writings about women’s role in the Georgian society: “Women had been the custodians of knowledge and champions of literacy when men held to their weapons and fought to defend the homeland.”

A daughter of Prince Davit Eristavi, Jorjadze was married off at the age of 12, an experience she would recall with bitterness. “I was so young at my wedding that I thought it was some sort of game,” she later told a younger writer, Mariam Demuria, who recalled it in a letter published in a local newspaper. When a bat flew into the church, Jorjadze nearly went chasing after it, interrupting the ceremony.

In her writings, she barely mentions her husband, Zakaria Jorjadze, an obscure military officer and spendthrift. But as evidenced by her correspondence with her friends, she was very close to her brother Rapiel Eristavi, a poet, historian and prominent member of Georgian literati circle. Jorjadze became the first woman to force her way into this snobbishcircle of men, by publishing her writings in the popular literary magazine Tsiskari, and asserting a place for herself as poet, playwright and essayist.

Jorjadze used both prose and verse to call for respect and equality for women. In a letter published in Kvali magazine in 1893, “A Few Words to the Attention of Young Men,” she offered a caustic response to men criticizing women for their supposed preoccupation with soiree and gossip.

“From a very young age, we are told, ‘since god made you a woman, you must sit silently, look at nobody, go nowhere, shut your ears and your eyes, and just sit there. Education and learning of languages is none of your concern.’… Now you tell me, if this creature, kept uneducated and confined, ends up being less than perfect, who is to blame?” Jorjadze wrote in her j’accuse, now regarded by gender historians as the nation’s first feminist manifesto.

She went on to call on men to “abandon pride and envy, and let your sisters have an equal access to education and tutoring … and the new generation of women will spare no labor and energy to contribute their share to progress.”

Her experience as a self-made intellectual is believed to have driven Jorjadze to push for universal education. She even put together a Georgian language children’s primer.

Participants attend a discussion of late 19th century, early 20th century female politicians in Georgia at the Barbare Jorjadze reading room.

George Lomsadze for NPR

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George Lomsadze for NPR

Lasha Bakradze, the director of the Georgian Literature Museum, is convinced that Jorjadze’s cookbook was a patriotic endeavor, a product of her zeal to enlighten. “Cookery and household management books were then fashionable in England, and the trend was picked up in Russia,” says Bakradze. “Jorjadze must have believed that Georgia, just as any self-respecting nation, should have its own guidebook on cooking and running the household.”

Researchers believe that Jorjadze’s cookbook was influenced by two best-sellers: the English writer Isabella Beeton’s Book of Household Management and her Russian counterpart Elena Molokhovets’ Gift to Young Housewives. Jorjadze’s book was also snapped up by the thousands.

In what was then de rigueur for the genre, Jorjardze offered not just cooking advice, but also tips on dining etiquette, duly gender-divided. “The man of the house offers wine to the guests, the lady of the house offers fruit, coffee and tea,” she wrote. She also provided some housekeeping how-tos, tips for exterminating flies, ants and mice, and removing stain from cloth.

A doting mother of three, Jorjadze saw motherhood and family as ultimately the responsibility of women – a view shared by most Georgians to this day. Perhaps it’s no surprise that her non-culinary oeuvre was left to gather dust in libraries. And so, a writer who pushed hard for women to have a life beyond the kitchen came to beremembered only for her prowess in the kitchen.

Gender researcher Tamta Melashvili blames this on sexism in history studies. “At the end of the day, men made decisions on what bits of history should be highlighted and what is best left sitting on the library shelves,” she says.

In recent years, however, gender researchers have promoted Jorjadze as an unsung hero. She took to the pen not just to advise on the perfect khachapuri, a Georgian cheese pie, but also to call for a greater public role for women.

This year, the Georgian National Library, which has original copies of her cookbook, opened a reading room named after Jorjadze. The room has become the gathering place for discussing Georgian women who made history. “We call this the first feminist reading room in Georgia,” says Melashvili.

The room’s murals depict Jorjadze and a generation of female writers, activists and politicians whom she paved the way for. She is portrayed as a grand dame draped in traditional Georgian attire. Words pour out of a pitcher in her hands, as she looks on at activists and researchers gathered in the room.

Jorjadze’s ability to effectively combine work, activism and domesticity offers important lessons for modern-day Georgian women, who also grapple with the same issues, says Lela Gaprindashvili, a professor of philosophy at Tbilisi State University and the chair of a nonprofit called Women’s Initiative for Equality.

“We … need to be informed by our own history of emancipation,” she says. “There are no simple, quick solutions to the issues women face today. But it is important for us to study and remember the women, who, like Jorjadze, were the first to make a difference, to propose a recipe.”


Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, Georgia.

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Sufjan Stevens' New Dance Score Set To Premiere At New York City Ballet

New York City BalletYouTube

Sufjan Stevens is already an icon among indie rock fans. Justin Peck of the New York City Ballet (NYCB) has had a meteoric rise from dancer into one of the world’s most sought-after choreographers. They’ve already done several collaborations together — and they’re hoping for another hit with their newest partnership, The Decalogue.

A piece for solo piano and ten dancers, The Decalogue will be premiered on May 12 with additional performances through May 20. It’s part of a program of four works that, aside from Stevens’ new score, otherwise leans heavily on Baroque music by Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Biber and Geminiani. The Decalogue‘s premiere is part of the company’s Here/Now Festival, which runs through May 21.

This is Stevens’ third collaboration with NYCB, following 2012’sYear of the Rabbitand 2014’s Everywhere We Go.

“I do some of my best work to his music. I just find it very inspiring on a personal level,” Peck, who has also collaborated with other musicians like Dan Deacon and Bryce Dessner, told Vanity Fair in 2016. By contrast, as Stevens told theNew York Times in 2014, it took the musician a while to fall in love with ballet:

“Ballet seemed so anachronistic, so formal and classical and archaic and irrelevant to pop culture, the world of YouTube and reality television. I didn’t understand it. But when Justin invited me to do the Rabbit ballet, he persuaded me to have an education and kind of curated my experience … There is no pandering, there is nothing coy about it — it is so distilled and perfect, immaculate. That’s what convinced me that ballet was important. It is all about absence of self — there is no ego in it, even though there is extreme self-consciousness. Ballet is like proof of the existence of God, whereas my art is proof of the existence of me. It made me understand how selfish and boring it can be to make art that is all about yourself.”

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Congress Passes Stopgap Measure To Fund Government, Averting Shutdown

Congress has approved a stopgap measure to fund the government for one more week and prevented a shutdown of the federal government.

This gives lawmakers until Friday, May 5, to settle on a bill that will fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September.

At the beginning of the week, it looked like a high-stakes showdown might happen on Capitol Hill.

President Trump was demanding funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, and with Democrats united in opposition, the prospect of a government shutdown loomed.

But Trump quickly backed down from that position.

Now, the eventual spending plan for the rest of the fiscal year appears to be much more routine.

But negotiators aren’t quite done piecing it together.

So Congress is passing this weeklong stopgap bill, to fund the government for another week while talks continues. When lawmakers return to Washington next week, they’ll do this all one more time.

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Rufus Wainwright Sings Stevie Wonder, Because Why Not?

Rufus Wainwright has always been keen to tackle the classics — this is, after all, a guy whose most recent album, 2016’s Take All My Loves, reinterprets Shakespeare sonnets — and his stylistic palette has remained broad enough to encompass, among many other things, an opera. So it’s not a huge surprise to hear that his latest song, released today, is a cover of Stevie Wonder‘s indelible 1970 all-timer “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours).”

Rufus Wainwright has just released a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” to support a charity called The Art Of Elysium.

Barry J. Holmes/Courtesy of the artist

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Barry J. Holmes/Courtesy of the artist

Released to support an L.A.-based charity and artistic endeavor called The Art Of Elysium, Wainwright’s cover — and the accompanying video, which features Wainwright and dancers John Corso, Malachi Middleton, Ryan Page and Sam Wentz — is part of a project in which assorted artists and performers tackle the Wonder classic. (Wainwright’s take is dubbed “Chapter: Love,” with visuals that reference Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2.)

Even without the video, Wainwright’s version of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” is worth hearing for its expert mix of jauntiness and melancholy. Accompanied by pianist Thomas Bartlett (a.k.a Doveman), Wainwright takes a perfect song and finds a new angle on it, while never losing his air of reverence toward the source material.

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France's New Far-Right Leader Quits Over Alleged Holocaust Denial

French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen’s National Front party now has a new interim leader, after Jean-Francois Jalkh, right, stepped down over comments about the Holocaust. The two are seen here at the Elysee in 2014.

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Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

Jean-François Jalkh has stepped down as the leader of France’s far-right National Front party, after controversy over his remarks about Nazi Germany’s use of Zyklon B gas to kill Jews during World War II. Jalkh had taken over from presidential candidate Marine Le Pen just three days ago.

With Le Pen in a tight race against centrist Emmanuel Macron ahead of next weekend’s election, accusations of Holocaust denial in her party’s leadership have stirred memories of its founder, her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, whose xenophobic and anti-Semitic outbursts led her to oust him from the party in 2015.

Jalkh “feels that there isn’t the necessary serenity for him to to perform this interim role,” National Front vice president Louis Aliot told TV station BFM Friday. Aliot, who is also Le Pen’s longtime partner, said Jalkh plans to defend himself from allegations that he denied the reality of the Holocaust — an act that’s illegal in France.

Jalkh’s resignation came days after a 2000 interview was resurfaced by journalist Laurent de Boissieu, who said on Twitter that he found it in an academic paper that was later republished. In that interview, Jalkh was quoted discussing skepticism over the feasibility of using Zyklon B gas to carry out mass exterminations; he also cited Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson.

.@JFJalkh Le propos serait une citation de Faurisson et non un propos direct de Jalkh Voici le début (avant un “il dit” sans fermeture/ouverture de “) pic.twitter.com/wpEI3afxum

— Laurent de Boissieu (@ldeboissieu) April 25, 2017

Questions about Jalkh’s views this week prompted Le Monde to note that in 1991, he attended a commemoration of the anniversary of the death of Marshal Petain, who was branded as a Nazi collaborator and convicted of treason after heading German-occupied France’s government during World War II.

The National Front will now be led by interim president Steeve Briois, a mayor of the northern city of Henin-Beaumont.

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