October 10, 2014
October 9, 2014
Maple may be the new coconut when it comes to "low-calorie, natural" drinks, reports Gloria Dawson in The Wall Street Journal (10/8/14). Sap from maple trees "may call to mind a sticky substance like syrup, but it is actually a sweet water tapped from trees — similar to coconut water, a beverage that is flying off shelves." Maple farmers have been drinking the stuff "for years" and maple water "is popular in South Korea." The drink contains "about 2% sugar and tastes faintly of syrup."
Two companies — Vertical Water and Happy Tree — hope that maple water will join the mainstream of beverage choices. After all, coconut water had US sales of about $400 million last year, "up from basically nothing a decade ago, according to Euromonitor." "There’s no reason maple water’s rise can’t be quicker than that because it’s right here in our backyard," says Happy Tree founder Ari Tolwin. Coconut water, by comparison, mostly "comes from Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines."
Maple water typically sells for "about $3 for 16 ounces." Vertical Water, based in New York’s Catskills, is already "sold in 40 states in stores such as Whole Foods and Sprouts." Happy Tree, out of Grahamsville, New York, "is sold in Whole Foods in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, at yoga and health studios around New York City, and is served in a cocktail at the restaurant BLT Prime." There is certainly no shortage of potential supply, as currently only "about one percent of the usable maple trees in New York state are tapped."
October 9, 2014
A cross between ping-pong and soccer is gaining popularity in Germany, reports Shirley S. Wang in The Wall Street Journal (10/1/14). Known as Headis, Rene Wegner, hit upon the concept in 2006 "as a university student, when he would want to play soccer but found the fields too crowded. Public ping-pong tables, on the other hand, sat abandoned … fed up, he and a friend borrowed a child’s small rubber ball and started heading the ball back and forth." He put a video of the game on YouTube, "and the video became a hit."
"In the beginning, people were like, what are you doing, you idiots?" says Rene. However, Headis "is now played in 20 universities — and is growing in popularity in other parts of Europe as well, particularly among soccer players and skateboarders. About 2,000 Headis balls, which are softer than soccer balls, have been sold so far this year compared with a total of 1,300 last year, according to Rene, who sells them," and "is trying to build the game into a business and a lasting sport." Rene is "getting a PhD in strategic sports marketing."
The game’s quirkiness suggests a laid-back personality, "but it seems to bring out the inner fighter in players, who adopt nicknames (e.g., Headonis, Headi Potter and Sunhead) and different styles of play." In addition to tournaments and "weekly informal league matches … the game has become popular on playgrounds of primary schools in Germany." It has also spawned "an offshoot known as Street Headis, where people play in city settings and head the ball into basketball hoops and trash cans."
October 8, 2014
Mark Bellissimo "is redefining the landscape of equestrian sports," reports Pia Catton in The Wall Street Journal (9/20/14). Key to this re-definition is to make the sport less elitist and central to it is a horse show in New York’s Central Park. The latter hadn’t happened previously because other would-be organizers imagined the show on the park’s Great Lawn. This never happened because of the "potential damage to grass and private use of public space." Mark’s workaround was to place the show in the Park’s skating rink.
The Trump Rink was perfect because it offers "33,000 square feet of grass-free ground that goes unused during the early fall." The "pop-up venue" can accommodate 2,000 people and host "demonstrations including dressage, Shetland pony racing and even vaulting, a form of gymnastics on horseback." The Central Park Horse Show builds on Mark’s acquisition of a magazine "to leverage the sport’s fan base." He is also building a resort in Tyron, NC, anchored by a new equestrian center including "several riding arenas."
Mark has also turned the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, "into a more accessible event, with attractions such as tiki bars and event tents." He also hopes to turn his Central Park event into "a major fundraiser for charities." While tickets to evening events are set at about $270, daytime tickets go for $30 and tickets for "charities focusing on children are free." Mark says the sport may be niche, but can be inclusive: "It’s not a private party for an elite group of people in the park," he says.
October 8, 2014
For most women, "dress is a tool they learn to deploy around the same time they are taught to use a knife and fork," writes Sasha Weiss in a New York Times review of Women In Clothes, by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton and 639 others. Based on a survey of "more than 600 women," the book "is part advice manual, part anthropological study, part feminist document." It also features interviews with young girls, old women and famous women, and "contains hundreds of stories."
"A silky thread that links the stories is clothing as an expression of private waywardness. Dressing is a way to live doubly: There is a self-assembled for the public, and then there are the secrets kept and marked with clothes." For example: "Molly Murray talks about subtly altering every article of clothing she has ever bought, cutting off embellishments, changing a hemline, ripping out labels … Clothing is as much a means for defiance and privacy as it is a vehicle for pleasing and self-presentation."
Monica Bill Barnes, a choreographer comments: "As soon as you present yourself as really pretty onstage, you lose a certain amount of power. You’re safer. You’re admired. And then people feel comfortable with you." This, and the book’s other observations, give "women permission to improvise, to show their mistakes, to share information. Pushing against the prevailing rules that have governed women’s self-presentation for thousands of years, they say: Be voluble, grandiose, experimental, wild. Be imperfect."
October 7, 2014
Charlotte Moorman, "the topless cellist, proclaimed that music should be fun and free," reports Norman Lebrecht in a Wall Street Journal review of Topless Cellist by Joan Rothfuss (10/4/14). Ms. Moorman, who died in 1991, "won a beauty prize before she took up the cello in earnest … a run of successful auditions got her regular concert work," but she "was never going to settle with being orchestral rank-and-file." Everything changed when she met Yoko Ono (before Yoko met John Lennon), along with John Cage and other avant-garde artists.
In 1963, Charlotte rented a hall in New York City "to put on an avant-garde festival at her own expense." The festival became "an annual fixture for the next 15 years," and gained special notice when Charlotte "took off her dress before playing her cello. She also played wearing see-through cellophane … heady, crazy events, harbingers of a new concept of public performances." In 1967, she was arrested for performing in nothing but electric lights, and "her air-brushed image raced around the world’s press."
Her collaborations with Yoko Ono had her playing cello while seated on a toilet bowl, and sitting "impassively on the floor while audience members cut off her clothes." Charlotte continued to play throughout her life, and "confronted the onset of breast cancer full-on in 1979 with a set of post-mastectomy photographs." She was not "an outright feminist," but "applied herself to the liberation of the female body from clothes, of music from old rules and of a performer’s life from the dull realities of having to earn a living."
October 7, 2014
"Unlike humor, wit is a speed game," writes Benjamin Errett in The Elements of Wit, reviewed by Dave Shiflett in The Wall Street Journal (10/4/14). Humor "is often nothing more than regurgitating stale jokes or spewing sarcasm and glibness." Wit, however, is "spontaneous creativity" that connects "disparate ideas to create delight." It is a product of accumulated knowledge and sometimes a whiff of alcohol. As Mark Twain quipped: "I find that about two glasses of champagne are an admirable stimulant to the tongue."
Quick wits do have their tricks, "stocking their mental file cabinets with material that can be retrieved at clutch moments." For example: "Lady Astor once told Winston Churchill that if she were married to him, she would poison his coffee. ‘If I were married to you,’ he responded,’I would drink it." The secret is that Churchill’s response was based on something he’d read in a joke column. "Sir Winston grasped the essential truth that quoting without attribution can make one seem all the cleverer."
Benjamin’s favorite wits include not only Twain and Churchill, but also "Groucho Marx, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Levant, who said of a politician that ‘he’ll double-cross that bridge when he comes to it’ and of a banker: ‘He’s a self-made man. Who else would help?" The author favors "a softer, gentler wit" that simply makes people more interesting, without being mean. Of course, it’s often the dark streak that cuts through, as "a sharp tongue bites like a smiling serpent," as Lady Astor discovered, to "wit’s eternal glory."
October 6, 2014
"Much of today’s slang has older and more venerable roots than most people realize," writes Kory Stamper in The New York Times (10/4/14). For example, "swag … sounds new, but the informal use goes way back. It’s generally taken to be a shortened version of swagger" and its use has been documented back to the year 1589. Swag, as slang, "evolved out of standard English, but there’s also slang that is slang born and raised. As it moves through successive generations, it may morph — but without losing its cred."
‘Hipsters’ has been in use since 1941, and ‘dude’, "predates the Dude of ‘The Big Lebowski’ fame by over 100 years. Cops have been ‘nailing’ suspects since the early 1700s. Even the seemingly up-to-the minute ‘bae,’ a word that means babe or baby … has a print trail back to the early 2000s … Slang often falls prey to what linguists call the ‘recency illusion': I don’t remember hearing or using this word before, therefore the word is new."
"At the heart of the illusion lies a misbegotten belief that English is a static and uniform language, a mighty mountain of lexical stability," Kory writes. "Upon this monument, slang falls like acid rain, eroding and degrading the linguistic landscape. It’s the wrong metaphor," he continues. "English is fluid and enduring: not a mountain but an ocean. A word may drift down through time from one current of English … to another. Slang words are quicksilver flashes of cool in the great stream."
October 6, 2014
The digital age was invented by an unlikely ecosystem of "hackers, hippies, hobbyists" and the military, suggests Steven Shapin in a Wall Street Journal review of The Innovators by Walter Isaacson (10/4/14). "The Pentagon and the anti-Vietnam War radicals had different visions of how digital technology should develop, but they were oddly coupled together in inspiring the Digital Revolution." This odd fact makes a large point about the genesis of modern technology, and the collaborative nature of innovation itself.
Indeed, Steve Jobs told Walter that his "role model" was "Robert Oppenheimer, who at wartime Los Alamos so effectively found ways of getting scientists with radically different skills and personalities to work together in designing the atomic bomb." Walter Issacson "reckons that the biographical genre exaggerates the contributions of individuals and vastly underestimates incremental improvements over time and the creative interactions that individuals have with each other."
It is "creative teams — groups whose ideas arose from exchanges among its members and whose inventiveness flowed from their differences in knowledge, skills, styles of working and temperament" that ultimately made the difference. The digital ecosystem also extends to the venture capitalists and universities — as well as the designers who determine the aesthetics of digital devices, the researchers who predict "what consumers did not yet know they wanted" and the marketers who "make them want those things."
October 6, 2014
In How We Got to Now, Steven Johnson outlines "six innovations that made the modern world," reports Philip Delves Broughton in The Wall Street Journal (9/30/14). Steven’s overall point is that innovation is about "collaboration and context," that innovation unfolds over time, often in unexpected or unintended ways. His six innovations are: glass, cold, sound, clean, time and light. The first of these – glass – starts with the invention of the printing press, which "sparked a revolution in lens making," so people "could read more easily."
"Better lenses led to better telescopes, which revolutionized our knowledge of space, and eventually to better microscopes, which transformed biology. Along the way, the investigations into glass initiated by lens-makers led to the discovery of fiberglass and eventually fiber-optic cables, as well as mirrors and cameras and thus to the phenomenon of the selfie. In a chapter on ‘cold,’" Steven cites Clarence Birdseye, whose observation that fish that froze quickly tasted better when cooked led to "a revolution in frozen food."
As Steven writes: "It was not a sudden epiphany or lightbulb moment, but something much more leisurely, an idea taking shape piece by piece over time. It was what I like to call a ‘slow hunch’ — the ‘anti-lightbulb moment,’ the idea that comes into focus over decades, not seconds." In the chapter on light, Steven "links the discovery of neon lighting to the growth of Las Vegas and then to the post-modernist movement in American art and architecture." In other words, you may not like Facebook now, for example, but who knows where it will lead?
October 3, 2014
Calculating the return-on-effort at retail is the key to shopper engagement. A Hub White Paper by Tyler Murray of TracyLocke. When was the last time you actually participated in a shopper program, entered a promotion, or visited a branded microsite? It has probably been a while. The reason is not likely for lack of exposure; we’re exposed to what feels like hundreds of programs weekly. The reality, of course, is that we usually don’t participate because participation takes time and energy, which are highly limited resources.
Yet through the rise of omni-channel marketing, ‘participation’ is a common objective. This shift to focusing on participation as opposed to settling for attention alone is creating new challenges and expectations. That’s not to say that getting attention isn’t a worthy cause. Attention has always been a solid objective in a busy store environment, where disrupting the shopper’s path could lead to an impromptu sale. Read The Rest of The White Paper.
October 3, 2014
Unlike Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana may soon be the one asking the questions, reports Alan Schwarz in The New York Times (9/29/14). It’s all part of Microsoft’s efforts to address the growing deficiencies of landline telephones as a polling technology, and follows the company’s "relatively quiet 2012 polling experiment with …. its Xbox video game console." (link) While the sample "was overwhelming male and heavily young, Microsoft researchers were able to weight the answers to produce an outcome generally in line with major exit polls."
Microsoft was able to achieve such accuracy because while "the sample had very few members of some demographic groups — Hispanic women over 50, for example — it did have enough Hispanics, women and people over 50 for the researchers to learn about those groups’ leanings more broadly." This fall, the company is launching a site, Microsoft Prediction Lab, "where users can submit their views and predictions regarding politics, sports and other subjects." This is expected to attract "respondents from different demographic groups."
This technique may be skewed by respondents who are "far more interested in a given issue than most people," but the benefit is that it will enable tracking of the same people over time. For example, the NFL "could track how men and women react as more evidence emerges in scandals like the Ray Rice domestic abuse case." Microsoft has not yet announced when Cortana might start asking questions of its users, but Microsoft’s David Rothschild says it should happen "in the near term."
October 2, 2014
Scientists are arguing over "the reliability of research results," reports F.D. Flam in The New York Times (10/2/14). This is actually more interesting than it seems. "Statistics sounds like this dry, technical subject, but it draws on deep philosophical debates about the nature of reality," says Edwin Turner, a Princeton astrophysicist. On one side of this debate are the "frequentists," who basically "apply probability to data." On the other are the Bayesians — an approach pioneered by Thomas Bayes, an 18th century Presbyterian minister.
A "frequentist" would check the probability of a particular outcome by calculating the improbability of that outcome. The Bayesian instead goes "straight for the probability of the hypothesis, factoring in" both available data as well as other known factors. For example, a Bayesian calculation miraculously helped find a man lost at sea last year, by factoring in "prevailing currents, and places search helicopters had already flown," among other details. The calculations were inexact, but narrowed "down the most promising places to search."
That Rev. Bayes apparently hoped "to calculate the probability of God’s existence" helps explain his affection for relatively soft metrics. Today’s formidable computing power is reviving interest in his concept. Astrophysicist David Hogg says Bayesian statistics helped refine "the age of the universe" by "factoring in supernova explosions, the distribution of galaxies" and other data. Frequentists counter that their approach, when applied properly, distinguishes "real effects from chance" and prevents "scientists from fooling themselves."
October 2, 2014
"When you put a regulated substance into a foodstuff, it’s exciting," says Michael Krondl in a Wall Street Journal piece by Kara Newman (9/23/14). Michael is "a chef, restaurant consultant and author of a book on the history of dessert," the the regulated substance of which he speaks is alcohol and the foodstuff is sweets of various kinds. It seems that "a small but growing number of new dessert spots in the New York area" are "catering to adults who like their sweets with an alcoholic kick, from rum-glazed doughnuts to ale-soaked churros."
Millennials are said to be driving the trend, as it "allows 25-year-olds to play at being adults, but it also has this tang of nostalgia," says Michael. The treats can be buzz-inducing, as the liquor is added after the baking, so it retains its potency. At the Prohibition Bakery, the "mini cupcakes contain about 5% alcohol by volume — compared with between 4% and 10% for most beers." "Just don’t ask how many cupcakes it takes to get buzzed," says Leslie Feinberg, the bakery’s co-founder and owner. "We get asked that a lot."
In Brooklyn, Spirited calls itself a "dessert speakeasy," where specialties include "sundaes drizzled with a sauce made with limoncello and Sorel," and and a rum-raisin brownie. The STK Steakhouse chain meanwhile offers Drunkin Donuts: "raspberry Chambord jelly-filled doughnuts topped with a rum glaze and served with alcohol-based dipping sauces." Most such bakeries don’t admit anyone under 21, not only for legal reasons but also because "it’s not feasible to … eat a piece of cake in front of a child and they won’t scream."
October 1, 2014
Glenn Roberts compares the rise of craft popcorn to the advent of craft beer, reports Kim Severson in The New York Times (10/1/14). "People are awakening their palates to something that has more flavor and complexity," says Glenn, founder of Anson Mills in South Carolina, which "sells almost 400 pounds of Appalachian heirloom sweet flint popping corn a week. Chefs are his biggest customers, drawn in part by his corn’s sweet, slightly floral taste. But home cooks, too, are re-discovering the joys of making popcorn on the stove."
Gene and Lynn Mealhow are riding this popcorn boomlet, with corn from seeds his "family can trace back to the 1950s. The small, pearly flint corn has never been genetically modified or hybridized. Its only purpose is to pop into small, crisp puffs that taste of pure toasted corn." Their popcorn is sold under the Tiny but Mighty brand at Whole Foods, and Gene all but fashions himself as the anti-Redenbacher. "Orville produced a giant popcorn to be a delivery vehicle for butter and salt," he says. "But it doesn’t taste like anything."
When the pure corny goodness of the Mealhows’ kernels isn’t enough, chefs and others have been known to dust it with herbs, spices or flavors, like rosemary, garam masala or sriracha. Using a stovetop may be too much trouble for those accustomed to microwaved popcorn, but for others that’s exactly the point. "There’s a real DIY feel to it," says Melissa Abbott of the Hartman Group. Popcorn also appeals to "the weight-conscious, the gluten-free and those looking for healthier snacks." The Mealhows will soon introduce a microwave version.
October 1, 2014
Far from rendering public libraries irrelevant, "technology and digitized information has had the opposite effect," reports Loretta Waldman in The Wall Street Journal (9/30/14). Nowhere is this more true than at the Westport, Connecticut Public Library, which recently acquired a pair of "humanoid" robots that will "teach the kind of coding and computer-programming skills required to animate such machines." The Westport Library was also among the first in Connecticut "to acquire a 3-D printer and to create a ‘maker’ space."
The robots, named Vincent and Nancy, were "made by the French robotics firm Aldebaran," cost about $8,000 each and were privately funded. Among other things, the robots "have blinking eyes and an unnerving way of looking quizzically in the direction of whoever is speaking." They "can recognize faces" and have a "’fall manager,’ that helps them right themselves after a tumble … grunts and all. They can even ‘touch’ and ‘feel’ with the help of tactile and pressure sensors."
Maxine Bleiweis, the library’s executive director, says Vincent and Nancy are about more than just novelty, however. "Robotics is the next disruptive technology … and we felt it was important to make it available to people so they could learn about it," she says. "From an economic development perspective and job- and career-development perspective, it’s so important." The robots will also help "patrons locate books" and greet "elementary-school groups that visit the library." Vincent and Nancy will make their library debut on Oct. 11.
September 30, 2014
The Des Moines Register hopes virtual reality will reinvent the news experience, reports Lukas I. Alpert in The Wall Street Journal (9/22/14). The newspaper is "incorporating the technology of Oculus VR, computerized game platforms and 360-degree cameras." In this way, a story about "how a sixth-generation Iowa farming family is struggling to maintain its traditions in an increasingly globalized world of agribusiness … takes a viewer into a computerized world of cows, soybeans and grain silos."
Basically, the reader gets a sense of "roaming around a farm in Page County, Iowa." This does require "strapping on Oculus’s virtual-reality headset," but it allows viewers to "walk up to the family’s machine shop and click on an icon that places them inside a 3-D video feature about maintaining high-tech farming equipment," for example. They "can view the information in any order," not unlike a videogame. If they don’t have an Oculus helmet, they can still interact in 2-D "on any computer."
Roy Peter Clark of Poynter Institute says it has limitations. "Although we call it multimedia, most of these stories are hybrids that use the visual elements to amplify the underlying narrative," he says. "You can take a virtual tour of a building where an event occurred, but that is a different thing than having characters who are fully explained." Other limitations are that the "virtual-reality technology" makes some people dizzy, and currently only 125,000 Oculus headsets are in circulation.
September 30, 2014
A "stealthy newcomer" named Amelia "embodies a new approach to artificial intelligence," reports Christopher Mims in The Wall Street Journal (9/29/14). Similar to IBM’s Watson, Amelia "is the product of an attempt to understand how people think, rather than to copy the means by which they do it. Many traditional AI efforts try to map the human brain … But Amelia is all about turning what psychologists know about how thinking happens … rather than how it’s carried out by our neurons."
"We didn’t achieve powered flight by copying birds," says Chetan Dube of IP Soft, developers of Amelia. "First we had to understand the principles of flight." Amelia "learns from textbooks, transcriptions of conversations, email chains and just about any other text. As long as the answer appears in the data she gets, she can solve problems." She is now being tested in call centers, where the "goal is consistency — every time anyone calls, that person should get the same, correct answer," which is based on correct answers previously supplied by humans. (video)
The larger goal, of course, is to replace humans, "especially in a customer support type of situation." However, Amelia "remains, like all synthetic intelligences, merely a clever way to automate tasks" and "has no free will." She does have feelings, though. If you tell Amelia you hate her, "the three variables that define her emotional state — arousal, dominance and pleasure — are negatively affected." "Our goal here is not to just model emotions, but to use what we detect of those sentiments in decision making," says Ergun Ekici, Amelia’s lead architect.
September 29, 2014
Alan Turing created a test to prove that machines could think the way humans do, writes Walter Isaacson in The Wall Street Journal (9/27/14). "His test, now usually called the Turing Test, was a simple imitation game. An interrogator sends written questions to a human and a machine in another room and tries to determine which is which. If the output of a machine is indistinguishable from that of a human brain, he argued, then it makes no sense to deny that the machine is ‘thinking’." The year was 1950.
Based on this test, Mr. Turing "predicted that in 50 years there would be machines that, for five minutes, could fool a human questioner 30 percent of the time." Sixty years later, this hasn’t yet happened. Even if it did, "philosophers led by Berkeley professor John Searle contend that it would be wrong to ascribe intentions and consciousness and ‘thinking’ to a machine, even if it could fool 100 percent of questioners indefinitely." Mr. Turing was challenged on this very point during a debate against a brain surgeon, Sir Geoffrey Jefferson.
Sir Geoffrey’s said he wouldn’t believe a machine "could think until he saw it touch the leg of a female machine" and "make a fool of himself." In other words, it is "appetites, desires, drives, instincts" that set machines and people apart, not just how well they answer questions. Mr. Turing’s personal life ultimately amplified Sir Geoffrey’s point. Having been arrested because he was gay, and forced to take hormones as treatment, he killed himself by eating a poisoned apple. As Walter Isaacson concludes: "Was that something a machine would have done?"
September 29, 2014
A French diplomat is opening a bookstore "inside the French Embassy’s Fifth Avenue mansion," reports Jennifer Maloney in The Wall Street Journal (9/25/14). Antonin Baudry "has served in New York as the cultural counselor since 2010" and envisions this bookstore — called Albertine — after a character from a Proust novel — "as a public reading room … a place where Francophiles and book lovers of all stripes can discover new works, in both French and English."
"The good bookshops," says Antonin, "are not only bookshops," but rather a place where visitors can linger "for four hours and read books. Nobody is going to push them to buy anything." Antonin is "designed in the style of a grand private library … The store’s ceiling is painted with an arresting blue-and-gold starscape inspired by the 16th-century ceilings of Lorenzo de’Medici. It is meant to evoke the Renaissance idea that the pursuit of knowledge encompassed science, math, literature and the arts."
Albertine will open "with a six-day festival … curated by the cultural critic and author Greil Marcus" and featuring "speakers including ‘Mad Men’ creator Matthew Weiner and Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz." The bookstore is backed by sponsors including "LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton … and Air France." The location — in the embassy — is itself liberating. "There is no rent," says Antonin. "We have the freedom to show the books we love." New York’s only other French bookstore, the Librairie de France, closed in 2009.
A dive bar in Brooklyn is doubling as a "short-story workshop" for unknown authors, reports Sheila McClear in The New York Times (9/28/14). Unknown — literally. Authors of submitted short stories remain anonymous. Some are famous writers but others are not. Each Sunday — known as Literate Sunday — Matthew D’Abate "puts out a new crop of five stories … during his bartending shift" at the Plank, in Williamsburg, from 2 pm to 10 pm. Patrons can enjoy the stories along with $3 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and offer their critique.
"The point of Literate Sunday is to remove, if not subvert, the idea of fame, removing the ego and the names from the pieces so the stories can speak for themselves," says Matthew. The anonymity is important for another reason: "There is this real fear through social media and through the experience of growing up online of being very conscious of what’s linked to your name," says Kara Rota, who has submitted pieces. "I think there’s a real value to be found in doing something creative anonymously that gives you a freedom you don’t have a lot anymore."
Those in-the-know can access the stories anytime, as Matthew keeps a stash of about 100 pieces in a chest in the back of the bar. While he steadfastly refuses to name any of the writers, he does disclose that they include authors of bestselling books and contributors to Paris Review and McSweeney’s. Matthew also makes stories available to subscribers of an email list, currently numbering about 500 people in 12 countries. "It’s about the writer being free," says Matthew, adding: "All the greats have come from outside the system."