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Daily Briefing

Deep buzz for the content-deprived

Every weekday, while you get showered and dressed, we pluck these dewy- fresh, breaking stories from the info-clogged byways of the datasphere. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and stoke up on everything you need to know, or at least enough to fake it.

This Man Was Shocked When His Chimpanzee Sued Him
Jacqui Goddard, The Daily Beast | This Man Was Shocked When His Chimpanzee Sued Him | December 3, 2013

In a string of landmark cases to be filed this week, four chimpanzees will fight for the right to retire to sanctuaries. Could dolphins be next on the docket?...

How We Made Mary Poppins
Anna Tims, The Guardian | How We Made Mary Poppins | December 3, 2013

"Uncle Walt, as I called him, was determined that although I was an eight-year-old working on a film, I should still have a magical time. He flew my mother and two sisters to the US to be with me during the nine months of filming. Whenever we had a free weekend, he'd lend us his plane – called Mickey Mouse – and we would go down to his ranch in Santa Barbara. I was a nervous flyer so he had the plane done out like a sweetshop. When the seatbelt sign went off, we could sell candy to our mum..."

Andre Schiffrin, Publishing Force And A Founder Of New Press, Is Dead At 78
Robert D. McFadden, The New York Times | Andre Schiffrin, Publishing Force And A Founder Of New Press, Is Dead At 78 | December 3, 2013

André Schiffrin, a publishing force for 50 years, whose passion for editorial independence produced shelves of serious books, a titanic collision with a conglomerate that forced him out to stem losses, and a late-in-life comeback as a nonprofit publisher, died in Paris on Sunday. He was 78...

The Making Of 'Alpha House'
Jonathan Alter, Politico | The Making Of 'Alpha House' | December 2, 2013

The first thing I learned about shooting a TV series on location in Washington is that you can’t. While news crews freely roam Senate hallways and committee rooms, films and TV shows are barred from working anywhere on the Capitol grounds. That meant that Alpha House, the new Amazon series centering on four senators that I’m helping to produce, was going to have to create its own Senate.

But where? Strict congressional rules and a shortage of soundstages and tax breaks in Washington mean that political shows are generally filmed in Los Angeles (Scandal, The West Wing), Baltimore (Veep, House of Cards) or New York. We chose New York for no other reason than that the show’s creator, Garry Trudeau of “Doonesbury” fame, and I live there, and our other executive producer, Elliot Webb, likes to visit...

Best Books 2013: Slate Staff Picks
Slate Staff, Slate | Best Books 2013: Slate Staff Picks | December 1, 2013

Monday: Slate staffers pick their favorite books of 2013.
Tuesday: The overlooked books of 2013.
Wednesday: The best lines of 2013, and the best poetry of 2013.
Thursday: Dan Kois’ 15 favorite books.
Friday: The Slate Book Review Top 10...

Reverse-Engineering A Genius (Has A Vermeer Mystery Been Solved?)
Kurt Anderson, Vanity Fair | Reverse-Engineering A Genius (Has A Vermeer Mystery Been Solved?) | December 1, 2013

David Hockney and others have speculated—controversially—that a camera obscura could have helped the Dutch painter Vermeer achieve his photo-realistic effects in the 1600s. But no one understood exactly how such a device might actually have been used to paint masterpieces. An inventor in Texas—the subject of a new documentary by the magicians Penn & Teller—may have solved the riddle...

Wired: Putting A Writer And Readers To A Test
Jennifer Schuessler, The New York Times | Wired: Putting A Writer And Readers To A Test | November 30, 2013

Writers working on new books often complain about the pressure. But on a recent evening, the Dutch novelist Arnon Grunberg was sitting at a cluttered desk in his shoe-box apartment in Midtown Manhattan, with more reason to kvetch than most.

First, there was the novella he was trying to get off the ground, the latest in a string of more than a dozen books that have made him, at 42, perhaps his country’s most celebrated novelist and a literary star in Europe.

But more pressing — quite literally — was his headgear, a sort of bathing cap affixed with 28 electrodes that made him look like an extra in a mermaid mash-up of “A Clockwork Orange.”...

Portland Pre-Pilgraim
Martin Cizmar, Willamette Week | Portland, Pre-Pilgrim | November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving 1621 found Portlanders eating camas, wapato, salmon -- and maybe a passing seal...

What Really Happened At The First Thanksgiving? The Wampanoag Side Of The Tale
Gale Courety Toensing, Indian Country Today | What Really Happened At The First Thankgiving? | November 30, 2013

When you hear about the Pilgrims and “the Indians” harmoniously sharing the “first Thanksgiving” meal in 1621, the Indians referred to so generically are the ancestors of the contemporary members of the Wampanoag Nation...

America's First Book
Casey N. Cep, The New Yorker | America's First Book | November 27, 2013

Today, Sotheby’s will auction a copy of the first English-language book printed in America. “The Whole Booke of Psalmes,” or the Bay Psalm Book, as it is now known, is expected to sell for between fifteen and thirty million dollars, which would make it the most expensive book in the world.

The current record for the highest-priced printed book is not a Gutenberg Bible or a First Folio of Shakespeare but a copy of John James Audubon’s “Birds of America,” which sold for $11.5 million in 2010. The Bay Psalm Book is older and now rarer than Audubon’s catalogue of fowl; only eleven of the original seventeen hundred copies survive...