Lengthy radio interview with Michael Lewis about The Blind Side. Available in RealAudio and MP3 formats. (thx, steve)
Alan Fletcher: "I'd sooner do the same on Monday or Wednesday as I do on a Saturday or Sunday. I don't divide my life between labour and pleasure."
David Roth got a job at Topps writing for the backs of baseball cards and finds that it's pretty much like any other job for a large, soulless corporation. "Baseball cards, it turned out, are not made in a card-cluttered candy land. Rather, they are created by ordinary men and women who are generally unawed by their proximity to a central part of American boyhood." (thx, patricio)
Short Rolling Stone interview with The Wire's David Simon, part of a longer interview from the magazine. "I thought Katrina was literally America having to pause for a moment and contemplate the other America that somehow, tragically, Americans forgot. It's like America looking across the chasm saying, 'Oh, are you still here? Oh, and you're wet. And you're angry.'"
Images of the dashed line in use (as hidden geometry, movement, paths, ephemeral material, etc.). "I've had trouble justifying my excitement about this intricate visual detail, so I thought it would be good to collect a bunch of examples from over fifty years of information design history, to show it as a powerful visual element in ubicomp situations." (via migurski)
Brooke Greenberg is the girl who won't grow up. She's 12 years old but is physically and behaviorally stuck as a nine-month-old.
Chris Spurgeon reports on an "astonishing art installation" going on right now in London called Bridge by Michael Cross. It's a flooded church with carefully placed stones that let you walk on water across the room.
Speaking of ecological footprints, Personal Kyoto lets your track your energy usage and reduce it according to the Kyoto Protocol. It only works for NYC residents...just grab your ConEd bill, punch in your account number, and PK will display your energy usage for the last year, along with averages and your Kyoto goal.
Update: PK's creator tells me that he's looking to bring the project to cities other than NYC. Good stuff.
Ecological footprints: if we all lived Tom Cruise's lifestyle, how many earths would we need to maintain that level of consumption? A: 2700 earths. (Well, sort of. Go read the post for the actual answer.) Find out your ecological footprint.
Trailer for Steven Johnson's new book, The Ghost Map. If it's uncool to love book trailers, so be it. Also, I've read the book (review forthcoming); it's as interesting as it sounds in the trailer. (via sbj)
Typography language pedantry: font vs. typeface. "'Fonts' and 'typefaces' are different things. Graphic designers choose typefaces for their projects but use fonts to create the finished art."
"From September 27th - October 21 the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators will host '30 Years of Fantagraphics,' a retrospective art exhibition of over 100 pieces of original art published by the Seattle underground giant." Artists in the exhibition include Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Robert Crumb.
How a new perfume gets created: perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena makes a new scent for Hermes.
Why does Ze Frank's face fill the entire screen on The Show? According to experiments described in The Media Equation, when participants were shown a series of photographs of people shot from different distances from the camera, "the faces that had the most impact on the viewers were the ones with screen-filling faces and that seemed 'closer' to the viewer, those with the least interpersonal distance".
Michael Kinsley: do newspapers have a future? "Newspapers on paper are on the way out. Whether newspaper companies are on the way out too depends."
A paleontology grad student, while idly inspecting a bronze cast of a dinosaur skeleton on the wall of the subway station, notices that the dinosaur in question was not cannibalistic as previously believed. Man, good science can be done *anywhere*.
Richard Dawkins' latest book is out: The God Delusion. (Guess what it's about!) Here's a clip of Dawkins discussing the book where he namechecks the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And here's a recent presentation Dawkins gave at TED.
Jargon watch: dog whistle politics.
Update: The Double-Tongued Dictionary has more on the etymology of this phrase. (thx, grant)
Huge gallery of unusual cloud formation photos. Personal weirdest cloud story: late afternoon in the Wisconsin fall, clouds covered perfectly one half of the sky while the other half was completely clear blue.
Interview with John Hodgman. Funniest computer spokesman/former literary agent/blogger/writer/Daily Show correspondent ever?
Space tourist Anousheh Ansari is Flickring photos from the International Space Station. NASA reportedly spent 250,000 man-hours building a module to upload snapshots from space via the Flickr API.
Update: That NASA man-hours stat is a joke, sorry. NASA is not that absurdly wasteful. I have no idea how she's getting the photos on Flickr. Do they have web access on the ISS?
Update: Ansari called Larry Page today and reported that there's no internet access on the ISS. Email is delivered in batches...so she's either emailing them to Flickr or someone's uploading them for her. BTW, the first kottke.org reader in space...could you give me a call when you get there? (thx, terrell)
Update: According to Ansari's blog (from space!), email is sent from the ISS three times per day.
Update: Edward Copeland also does The Wire recaps.
A collection of snapshots by Andy Warhol of his friends from a recently published book, Warhol's World.
Photo cans SEP 26
If you asked me today to choose a medium in which to focus my future artistic energies, I'd have to go with the photo can. After finding this great Photojojo tutorial yesterday on using tin cans and glass jars as photo frames, I selected three recent pictures I'd taken and made this can triptych:
So cool! And simple too. I didn't follow Photojojo's directions exactly and I have a few observations to offer for those looking to play around with this:
- Paper quality. I just used regular old printer paper, not glossy photo paper or anything like that. This made the photos look more like actual cheap labels. I also didn't worry too much about being careful with the glue. Again, a little mistake here and there actually enhances the effect.
- Glue. I removed the original label from the can and glued the photo directly to the can itself. Instead of rubber cement, I used a glue stick with acid-free acrylic emulsion. The glue stick made application really easy. And I didn't apply the glue all the way around the can. I just glued down one end to the can, waited for that to dry, wrapped the photo around the can, pulled it tight, and glued the underside of that end to the end already affixed to the can. (When I tore the existing label off the can, I noticed that's how it was glued on there, so I tried the same thing and it worked.)
- Can size, etc. Shopping in the canned food aisle of the supermarket takes on a different meaning when you're not attempting to find green beans for dinner but trying to find aesthetically pleasing art supplies. I went with a larger can, one with stewed tomatoes; its proportions seemed more pleasing than those of a soup can. The problem was that when I got it home, it was almost 13 inches around, meaning that 8 1/2" x 11" paper wasn't going to work. (I ended up getting some 8 1/2" x 14" paper.) So bring your tape measure to the grocery store with you to make sure the desired can will work with your paper size.
- No pop-tops. A lot of soup cans now feature pop-tops. Get the old fashioned kind instead...the last thing you want is Uncle Steve lifting your photo can off of the coffee table, fiddling with the pop-top, and, hey!, Chunky Vegetable three years past its expiration date all over the place.
- Botulism? Speaking of past the expiration date, what's the shelf life of your artwork? The answer seems to be almost indefinitely when kept at temperatures at or below 75 degrees F, but I wouldn't advise eating anything from your photo cans after a year or two. The risk of botulism is almost nonexistent in contemporary commercially canned food, but if you see any of your art swelling up, throw it out. In addition, botulism dislikes acidic environments, so you're probably better off selecting cans with acidic food items in them, like tomatoes, fruits (without sweet syrups), and sauerkraut. But be careful not to get items that are too acidic...over a long period of time, the acid may eat through the can.
John Moe, liberal, changed his music playlist, stopped hanging out at Starbucks, ate steak whenever possible -- basically spending thirty days as a conservative -- and lived to write a book about it: Conservatize Me. "What would happen if a lifelong, dyed-in-the-wool, recycling liberal immersed himself entirely in conservative thought, culture, and rhetoric for one month?"
Several episodes of Carl Sagan's Cosmos series are available on Google Video. They were all there at some point, but it looks like some got taken down.
Barnaby Furnas' "flood" paintings are quite impressive in person...check them out at the Boesky Gallery in Chelsea through Oct 18. Their sheer size and the degree to which their creation must have been out of the artist's control is intriguing.
Deron Bauman on design language: "What I am beginning to suspect however is that contemporary designers are spending more time creating products that reflect the design language of the brand than are perpetuating beauty. For instance, it seems more important to create a car that looks like a Pontiac than to create a Pontiac that is beautiful."
Short profile of designer Paula Scher in Fast Company. "I'm not going to put on a party dress and play nicey-nicey because Laura Bush is having tea with people she doesn't know who the hell they are anyway."
Surprisingly good list of the top 10 Web 2.0 losers. It's too early to pass judgement on Netscape (the site has shot to the top of Google search results for current events keywords because of the site's high PageRank) and SixApart's inclusion is wrong. The top four spots are right on; the Odeo situation is sad (I thought they were really onto something), but Flock, Edgeio, and Squidoo seemed not quite equal to the hype right from the beginning.
More on Big Mike SEP 25
Over the weekend, my thoughts kept returning to Michael Lewis' story about Michael Oher, a former homeless kid who may soon be headed for a sizeable NFL paycheck. Checking around online for reaction reveals a wide range of responses to the story. Uplifting sports story was the most common reaction, while others found it disturbing (my initial reaction), with one or two folks even accusing Lewis and the Times of overt racism. While Lewis left the story intentionally open-ended (that is, he didn't attempt to present any explicit lessons in the text itself), I believe he meant for us to find the story disturbing (or at least thought-provoking).
Just look at the way Lewis tells Oher's story. Oher is never directly quoted; it's unclear if he was even interviewed for this piece (although it's possible he was for another part of the book). Instead he is spoken about and for by his coaches, teachers, and new family...and as much as the article focuses on him, we don't get a sense of who Oher really is or what he wants out of life. (An exception is the great "put him on the bus" story near the end.) He's playing football, was adopted by a rich, white family, graduated from high school, and is attending college, but all that was decided for him and we never learn what Oher wants. Religion is referred to as a driving factor in his adopted family's efforts to help him. Again, no choice there...not even his family or school had any say in the matter, God told them they *had* to save this kid.
Then there's the sports angle, the parallels between Oher's lack of control over his own life and how professional athletes, many from poor economic backgrounds, are treated by their respective teams, leagues, owners, and fans. At one point, Lewis compares Oher's lack of enthusiasm for football's aggression to that of Ferdinand the Bull, a veiled reference to the perception of the professional athlete as an animal whose worth is measured in how big, strong, and fast he is.
So what you've got is a story about rich white people from the American South using religion to justify taking a potentially valuable black man from his natural environment and deciding the course of his life for him. Sound familiar? Perhaps I'm being a little melodramatic, but this can't just be an accident on Lewis' part. As I see it, Oher is Lewis' "blank slate" in a parable of contemporary America, a one-dimensional character representing black America who is, depending on your perspective, either manipulated, exploited, or saved by white America. Not that it's bad that Oher has a home, an education, and a family who obviously cares about him, but does the outcome justify the means? And could Oher even have contributed significantly to his direction in life when all this was happening? Who are we to meddle in another person's life so completely? Conversely, who are we to stand idly by when there are people who need help and we have the means to help them?
I'm not saying Lewis' story has any of the answers to these questions, but I would suggest that in a country where racial differences still matter and the economic gap between the rich and poor is growing, this is more than just an uplifting sports story.
Fifty ways a manager can get his good employees to quit. "Talk more than you listen" and "Mandate a new policy without consulting a single person that will have to live with it" are good tips. (via wider angle)
From Anya Kamenetz's recent HuffPo piece on The Wire, we learn about a group blog on The Wire called Heaven and Here, a pretty meaty exploration of the show. Show creator David Simon checked in recently.
Letters to George W. Bush from German citizens attempting to affirm their rights to moon land they have purchased for $19.99 an acre. "If you intend to use my area within the bounds of your intention, to build a moon base or something else on, over, or under the surface of this moon area, you have to contact me personally. This must be absolutely, to clear up under which special conditions I will leave the rights of use to you or the United States of America."
Tough art history quiz: who did ths painting...an elephant, an artist, or a preschooler? I play a similar game when I go to contemporary art museums: art or fire extinguisher? (via cyn-c)
The Ballad of Big Mike, the most intriguing story of a future NFL left tackle you're likely to read. The piece is adapted from Michael Lewis' upcoming book on football, The Blind Side. Lewis previously wrote Moneyball.
Update: Gladwell has read The Blind Side and loved it. "The Blind Side is as insightful and moving a meditation on class inequality in America as I have ever read."
Marathon runners, remember this name: Gabriel Sherman. Mr. Sherman runs marathons (6!) but doesn't want you to run in any, believing that you slow johnnys-come-lately to the scene have ruined the marathon:
Among autumn's sporting rituals there is one tradition that fills me with mounting dread: the return of marathon season. If you've been to the gym or attended a cocktail party recently, you know what I mean. Chances are you've bumped into a newly devoted runner who's all too happy to tell you about his heart-rate monitor and split times and the looming, character-building challenge of running 26.2 miles. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a slovenly couch potato who abhors exercise. I'm an avid runner with six marathons under my New Balance trainers. But this growing army of giddy marathon rookies is so irksome that I'm about ready to retire my racing shoes and pick up bridge.
Several people I know have either run a marathon or are training for an upcoming one and, while it may sound trite, the experience has made them better people in a way that the "elevated sense of self-worth" that Mr. Sherman sniffs about in the article doesn't begin to describe. (What's more, those that have run a marathon are training smartly to beat their previous time.) Mr. Sherman rightly notes the health problems that running a marathon holds for the ill-prepared, but why exclude from a marathon people who are avid, well-trained runners who happen to be slow? Why should the almighty institution of The Marathon™ be more important than the people running in it? And why doesn't he want more people to enjoy a sport that he loves? Should we implore Mr. Sherman to stop writing because he's ruining journalism with his shallow, insubstantial articles? Hell no! Keep writing, Mr. Sherman...we'll keep reading in the hopes that you'll one day improve and recognize the importance of, every once in awhile, doing something for which you're not ideally suited because you *want* to.
Each week at Slate, writer Alex Kotlowitz and Steve James (director of Hoop Dreams) dissect the week's episode from the fourth season of The Wire. Warning: they are unabashed fans of the show. AOL recently interviewed The Wire creator David Simon. (via dj) Negro Please is posting fourth season episode
synopsiseses summaries...here's 4.2.
Update: Season four of The Wire scored a 98/100 on Metacritic, the highest score for a TV show on the site.
Photos of a piece by artist Sharon Baker, a full-sized replica of herself made of dough and then baked. At the show she cut it up and served herself to guests. (An obvious move with a name like Baker.)
Pilot episode of the Family Guy. "Daddy only drank so the Statue of Liberty would take her clothes off..."
Ben Folds cover of Such Great Heights by The Postal Service using found percussion instruments (like a champagne glass and a plastic mail bin). (thx, james)
Stylus magazine has a list of their top 100 favorite videos, complete with embedded YouTube clips of the videos themselves for your instant gratification. Ok, now let's fight about what was excluded and how wrong that is... (via paul)
Using 100% of the profits from his airline and transportation companies, Richard Branson pledges $3 billion to fight global warming over the next decade. Will the billionaire philanthropists save us from ourselves? BTW, this happened at the Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting; there's a live webcast (+podcasts) if you want to watch from home.
On the perfection of Tiffany's "little blue box" and how other luxury labels have failed to follow its seductive packaging lead. While Apple isn't strictly a luxury brand (they're more of an everyday luxury brand like Ikea or Muji...the luxury of well-designed items but without the price), but they definitely pay a lot of attention to their packaging. (via nickbaum)
Will people need to know how to read and write in the near future? Emails and texts are already not exactly literature and in 10 years, text-to-speech will be good enough that you can listen to anything you want. On the flipside, text holds a lot of advantages over "icons and audio prompts". A quick survey of the modern workplace reveals slow progress on the paperless office, so I'm skeptical that this no-text future is soon to arrive. (via 3qd)
The trailer for 49 Up, the latest in a series of documentary films in which the same group of people (from varying socio-economic backgrounds) are interviewed every seven years. The first movie, Seven Up!, was released in 1964 when the participants were seven years old. "The premise of the film was taken from the Jesuit motto 'Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.'"
According to Joerg Colberg, Thomas Weinberger makes his photos with two long exposures, once in daylight and once at night. The result is these spooky washed-out photos, a kind of analog HDR effect.
Nobel Prize winning physicist Gerard 't Hooft on how to become a good theoretical physicist. He lists the subjects you need to learn (from languages to quantum field theory) and resources (both online and off) for learning them. A note on the 't in his name.
A transcript of a speech by Al Gore at the NYU Law School on September 18th. In it, he made some suggestions for how to address the global warming problem. More on Gore's speech from the NY TImes.
If you need to read any literature from Krypton (Superman's home planet), here's the 118 letter alphabet you'll need to know.
Eating cheaply in NYC SEP 21
A reader dropped an interesting question into my inbox yesterday, and I thought I would open it up to the group. Darko writes that he's in NYC for the next two weeks but doesn't have a lot of money to spend because he lives and works in Serbia. So, he's wondering a) what to eat on a daily basis that doesn't cost a whole lot, and b) where to go for a splurge meal, a place with "really glorious food" that's $80-100 for two.
Cheap everyday food has been the subject of many pieces online, including this kottke.org thread from Feb 2003, New York magazine's Cheap Eats 2004, New York magazine's Cheap Eats 2005, New York magazine's Cheap Eats 2006, Eating Pleasure. Price: $2, and Delicious for a Dollar?
My recommendations would be: bagels, Chinatown (the five-for-a-buck dumpling places as well as some other restaurants), pizza ($2/slice anywhere in the city), street carts (particularly the hot dogs and pretzels, check out the best street food in NYC), sandwiches from a deli (although some delis can be expensive, particularly in Manhattan...anyone know of any cheap places?), Curry Hill (Indian food around Lexington and & 28th), getting out of the touristy places in Manhattan (head for the East Village or the Lower East Side), or getting out of Manhattan entirely (cheaper eats in Brooklyn, etc.). And to drink, New York City tap water is free and better than Evian.
The splurge meal is a bit tougher, although if you forsake having wine, you can eat pretty well for $50/person. It might be best to seek out this meal in Brooklyn...there are some great places there and you don't have to pay the Manhattan premium. Going at lunchtime is another good option...you often get the same calibre of food at a lower price than dinner. Gotham Bar and Grill near Union Square has a prix fixe lunch for $25 (or used to...you should call ahead). I think Eleven Madison Park also has a similarly priced prix fixe at lunch (prix fixe = fixed price). Anyone have any other suggestions, particularly about good places in Brooklyn?
On TV tonight: Ric Burns documentary on Andy Warhol. Part 2 tomorrow night.
A recent study concludes that in terms of life expectancy, there are eight different Americas, all with differing levels of health. "In 2001, 15-year-old blacks in high-risk city areas were three to four times more likely than Asians to die before age 60, and four to five times more likely before age 45. In fact, young black men living in poor, high-crime urban America have death risks similar to people living in Russia or sub-Saharan Africa." If I'm reading this right, it's interesting that geography or income doesn't have that big of an impact on the life expectancy of Asians; it's their Asian-ness (either cultural, genetic, or both) that's the key factor. Here's the study itself. (via 3qd)
Sam Brown has written a nice remembrance of his recently deceased Powerbook G4. "Last fall it got to the point where i thought that my powerbook had finally died for good. so i went to the apple store to purchase a new computer. only to get home and find out that the powerbook still worked. it just took it an hour or more to turn on once you hit the power button. so after that i was very careful about turning it off." (via mark)
Lewis and Clark: What Else Happened is a contemporary reblogging of Lewis and Clark's expedition of the Louisiana Purchase. The blog finishes up this Saturday, on the 200 year anniversary of the end of their trip.
Austria in pictures SEP 20
Some photos from a recent trip to Austria, featuring shots from near Linz, Salzburg, and Innsbruck. I went so crazy with the photos in Austria that I didn't take a single picture once we got to Zurich...I was all photographed out.
Witold Rybczynski on the problem with underground architecture...it's not the seamless hidden-away experience that one might think.
According to data from an annual FBI study, New York City was the safest large city in the US in 2005. Least safe big city: Dallas.
Scott McCloud, who wrote Understanding Comics, is taking an unusual approach to the education of his two daughters. Over the next year, the family will be traveling the US doing talks and presentations, with the daughters taking an active role in speaking, doing research, and recording the talks in various formats. Here's their travel blog on LJ. (via snarkmarket)
Megnut's got the scoop: Gourmet magazine has named Alinea the best restaurant in the US, amazing considering its only been open a little more than a year. "[Grant Achatz] is redefining the American restaurant once again for an entirely new generation. And that -- more than his gorgeous, inventive, and delicious food -- is what makes Alinea the got-to-go-to restaurant in the country right now." (I would argue that the food is the real reason to go, but whatever...)
Last year, a Japanese company had Sotheby's and Christie's play Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide which company would handle the firm's art auction. Christie's consulted some tween players before the sudden death match and went with scissors, correctly assuming that Sotheby's wouldn't play the obvious rock. (via girlhacker)
The seminal Icelandic band, The Sugarcubes, will perform one last time on November 17 in Reykjavik. How will the concert hall hold all of Bjork's fans?
When the UK gambling industry is deregulated next year, it will be legal for gamblers to use a tiny device to cheat at roulette. The device works by listening to the wheel and how the ball bounces to predict roughly where the ball will land, reducing the odds from 1 in 38 to something a bit more manageable. (via spurgeonblog)
A list of the 50 worst things ever to happen to music, from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (#50) to Suge Knight (#2)...I won't spoil #1.
The 2006 crop of MacArthur "genius" fellows announced. Names I recognized include George Saunders, David Macaulay, and Atul Gawande. I know I say this every year, but no web/internet folks on the list.
Update: Several readers pointed out that Luis von Ahn (co-inventor of the CAPTCHA) and James Fruchterman both qualitfy as web folks. I guess I was thinking more along the lines of someone who uses the internet to produce medium-specific art or literature or has shaped the social space of the internet. Ward Cunningham for wikis, Justin Hall for links.net (if that was still active), even Dave Winer for his work on blogs, RSS, and podcasting.
A gay couple on a recent American Airlines flight was told by a flight attendant to stop kissing and touching, then got the run-around from the chief flight attendant (who first told them that their behavior was perfectly fine and then reversed her stance after being asked if their sexuality is at issue), and was finally told by the captain to behave the plane will be diverted. The whole "shut up or you'll get the full you're-a-terrorist treatment with no recourse" vibe on the plane creeps me out. Something tells me this won't get coverage in American Way next month.
Profile of Michel Gondry, director of the upcoming The Science of Sleep. An exhibition at the Jeffrey Deitch gallery in Manhattan accompanies the film's opening. View some of Gondry's short work (commercials, music videos) on YouTube.
Sources cited by The Independent say that George W. Bush is planning "astonishing U-turn" on his global warming policies, which, as Elizabeth Kolbert notes in this week's New Yorker, have been anything but helpful. Those who oppose Bush will give him a lot of crap for doing this just so he can salvage something from his shoddy Presidency, but if something genuinely gets done on the issue, I'll be happy...who gets credit for what and when needs to take a backseat here.
Last month I covered the hubbub surrounding the still-potential proof of the Poincare conjecture. The best take on the situation was a New Yorker article by Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber, detailing the barest glimpse of the behind-the-scenes workings of the mathematics community, particularly those involving Grigory Perelman, a recluse Russian mathematician who unveiled his potential Poincare proof in 2002 and Shing-Tung Yau, a Chinese mathematician who, the article suggested, was out for more than his fair share of the credit in this matter.
After declining the Fields Medal, the Nobel Prize of mathematics, Perelman has quit mathematics and lives quietly in his native Russia. Yau, however, is upset at his portrayal (both literally and literary) in the New Yorker article and has written a letter to the New Yorker asking them to make a prominent correction and apologize for an illustration of Yau that accompanied the article. From the letter:
I write in the hope of enlisting your immediate assistance, as well as the assistance of The New Yorker, in undoing, to the extent possible, the literally world-wide damage done to Dr. Yau's reputation as a result of the publication of your article. I also write to outline for you, on a preliminary basis, but in some detail, several of the more egregious and actionable errors which you made in the article, and the demonstrably shoddy "journalism" which resulted in their publication.
The letter, addressed to the two authors as well as the fact-checker on the article and CC'd to David Remnick and the New Yorker's general counsel, runs 12 pages, so you may want to have a look at the press release instead. A webcast discussing all the details of the letter is being held at noon on September 20...information on how to tune in will be available at Dr. Yau's web site. (thx, david)
Job board SEP 18
Every week, I get 3 or 4 inquiries from people looking for jobs in the web design/technology area or for employees (happily, it's more the latter than the former these days). When I hear about someone who needs some work done and I have a friend or friend of a friend who's available, I'm glad to make the connection. For the past couple of years, I've wanted to build a job board for kottke.org to make more of these connections possible, but I never got around to it. So when Jason Fried asked me if I wanted to put a link to the simple, focused 37signals Job Board on kottke.org (you'll find it on every page of the site, below The Deck ad), that seemed to be the next best thing to building my own. I've been referring people there anyway, so a stronger connection makes sense.
A new book, Heil Hitler, The Pig is Dead, deals with humor during Hitler's reign in Germany. "From an early stage, Germans were well aware of their government's brutality. And the country wasn't possessed by 'evil spirits' nor was it hypnotised by the Nazis' brilliant propaganda, he says. Hypnotized people don't crack jokes."
Handbrake is an OS X application that will, among other things, rip DVD video to a files that will play on an iPod (how to). However, I've found that this takes an absurd amount of time...2.5 hours for a 1.5 hour-long movie (on a 1.67 Ghz Powerbook with 2 GB RAM). Are there faster options out there?
The London Science Museum will hold a video game exhibition starting in October. Visitors will be able to play vintage video games, including Spacewar, the world's first computer game.
A weblog about "architectures of control in design", an ongoing exploration of products "designed with features that intentionally restrict the way the user can behave, or enforce certain modes of behaviour".
Dan Osman climbs mountains really fast; watch him scramble up 400+ feet in 4.5 minutes. Insane.
Update: Osman died in 1999 making some crazy jump. Kids, don't try this at home. (thx, graham)
For those unlucky enough not to get a slot, running in a marathon can be achieved by buying somone else's bib or just photocopying a friend's. Bibs for the upcoming NYC marathon are going for a few hundred dollars on eBay and Craigslist. (via clusterflock)
The wives and girlfriends of gang members in one of Colombia's most violent cities are taking part in a "strike of crossed legs", withholding sex from their men until they vow to give up their violent ways.
Forecast Advisor tracks how accurate the major weather forecasting companies are in predicting temperature and precipitation. Results vary based on what part of the country you're in (the weather in Honoulu is easier to forecast than that of Minneapolis), but overall the forecasters have an accuracy rate of around 72%.
A Pocket Guide to China, distributed to US troops during WWII, included a helpful cartoon called How to Spot a Jap, useful for telling enemy soldiers apart from "our Oriental allies", the Chinese. See also All Look Same. (thx, tabs)
Female Tech has combined her love of technology and an artistic sensibility to create photos of herself posing with various gadgets: a stratgically placed PSP, Sega Genesis cuddle, and GameCube piggyback. Reminds me somewhat of a certain Palm parody from back in the day. NSFW.
The first interview with James Frey since all that unpleasantness with A Million Little Pieces. Lots of choice quotes in this one, but I'm going to go for: "My agent said her integrity was questioned, but it wasn't questioned enough for her to stop taking the money."
John Gruber's latest piece contains a keen insight on Steve Jobs and his legendary reality distortion field. "Jobs, in my opinion, is a terrible liar and a poor actor. When he's able to convince people of things that aren't true, or that are exaggerations of the truth, it's because he believes what's he saying. The reality distortion field isn't something he projects willfully; it's an extension of his own certainty."
A positive review of Idiocracy, Mike Judge's "new" movie, a film that Fox has been loath to release and promote. One to look for on DVD, I guess.
Tutorial on adding surprisingly realistic beards to people with Photoshop. (via photojojo, who's having a contest for the best bearded woman)
Slate's Jacob Weisberg on The Wire: "no other program has ever done anything remotely like what this one does, namely to portray the social, political, and economic life of an American city with the scope, observational precision, and moral vision of great literature".
O students! Pray teachers! Behold: a Shakespeare search engine.
What an honest pre-flight announcement would sound like. "We might as well add that space helmets and anti-gravity belts should also be removed, since even to mention the use of the slides as rafts is to enter the realm of science fiction." Cutting through institutional rhetoric seems to be a reoccuring theme this week, see also honest advice to incoming college freshman and how design works.
By asking for "for the next sheet of paper that he or she would have written on", Jonathan Safran Foer collected emtpy sheets of paper from a group of writers, building "a museum of pure potential". (thx, matt)
Season four of The Wire just started, but I've got a season five wishlist item to share. I'd love to see an entire season that flashes back to Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale establishng their operation, say 5-6 years before the start of season one. Maybe we'd also get to see McNulty's days in the Western with Bunny, Daniels' dark days, Bubs getting hooked on the junk, some backstory on The Greek, a bit of the Sobotka clan, and more Omar (there's never enough Omar). This isn't unprecendented; The Godfather: Part II followed the first movie's saga of an aging gangster and his three sons with a look at how Vito Corleone's operation came to be. With the way they've handled The Wire so far, I think the show's creators could pull off something similar in effect and acclaim.
(Now that I think about it, they're sort of doing that this season anyway. Marlo is kind of a young Avon and in the young school kids, we get a look at drug dealers in the making. Not related at all, but the best line of the series so far is from Clay Davis in the second episode of the 4th season: "Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiiit." Laughed my ass off.)
George Lucas, having run out of Star Wars movies he wants to make, continues to sell us the same movie we've seen 70 times in yet another format. Here's the original theatrical version of Star Wars on DVD (in quaint Dolby 2.0!) so you can prove to your lesser nerd buddies that Han indeed shoots first. Empire and Jedi are also available.
Synecdoche, New York script SEP 14
Jay Fernandez of the LA Times gets his hands on the screenplay for Charlie Kaufman's new movie, Synecdoche, New York -- which Charlie will also be directing (in the absence of Spike Jonze) -- and loves it. "No one has ever written a screenplay like this. It's questionable whether cinema is even capable of handling the thematic, tonal and narrative weight of a story this ambitious." Incidentally, synecdoche.
Scans of video game magazine advertisements from 1982. My favorite features George Plimpton in an ad for Intellivision, which John Hodgman parodies in a new ad for his book.
Like a babysitter for your weblog. "blogsitter.net is the platform for bloggers who need caring people to sit their blogs." (thx, drx)
Wurst vacation ever SEP 13
For some, a trip to Austria steers their gastronomic attention to wiener schnitzel, but for me, it's all about the wurst.1 Following the good advice of a reader to ignore the sausages on offer in cafes and restaurants, we hit up every lunchtime sausage stand we could find during our visit for the real deal.
In Salzburg, the typical stand offers 8-10 different kinds of wurst, from the familiar frankfurter to the spicy pusztakrainer. You can get your wurst on a plate with mustard and a piece of bread or as a "hot dog" (in a bun with mustard and ketchup). For my first wurst, I had a kasekrainer, hot dog-style with ketchup, and it turned out to be my favorite of the trip. Melted cheese (kase) filled the sausage and the bun was perfectly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Meg sampled a burenwurst. The next day, we hit up another stand; I tried the frankfurter while Meg had a delicately flavored weisswurst (her favorite of the trip). She speculated they didn't grill the weisswurst because it would interfere with mild flavor; the spicer wursts seemed to be grilled.
From thence to Innsbruck in the Austrian Alps. At 10,000 feet above sea level, we had an unspecifed wurst (the restaurant called it, basically, "the sausage of the day") that ranks among the best food I've ever tasted, but that assessment may have been colored by the fact that we'd hiked up a glacier to get it. On our last day in Innsbruck, we surrendered to the comfort of cafe chairs and had bratwurst (mit sauerkraut und mustard) at a small place in the old town. After a hard day of walking, it beats eating standing up, which is how it works at the wurst stand.
Our final link in the sausage trail was Zurich, which is not in Austria but in the section of Switzerland near Austria and Germany. From a stand by the lake, we shared a pork-based sausage I forget the name of and another beloved weisswurst. Based on the relative unavailability of the wurst there, I get the feeling that the Swiss don't take their sausages as seriously as the Austrians, at least in cosmopolitan Zurich. Not that the Swiss wurst wasn't good; they just have other things to worry about...like fondue.2
But to focus entirely on the wurst is to ignore the equally fantastic brot (bread) that accompanies it and many other Austrian dishes. My favorite bread growing up in Wisconsin was called "Vienna bread" and I had always assumed that the cheap loaves we got at the local chain supermarket approximated something found in the Austrian capital. We didn't get to Vienna, but the Austrian bread we had was indeed like the bread of my childhood...except about 1000 times better. The small, crisp roll we got with our wurst, called a semmel, was not unlike what's called a roll or kaiser roll at an NYC deli. These rolls, accompanied by some richly flavorful butter, were also available at the complementary breakfast served at our hotel and I was tempted to violate the no-taking-food-from-the-breakfast-area rule and cram my bag full of them. If the bread at our hotel was that good, I can't imagine what the best bakeries of the region have to offer. The French, whom I've always considered the champions of all things bread, might have something to worry about from Austria. Clearly, more delicious research is called for.
 Not that the rest of Austrian cuisine wasn't uniformly excellent. I had a pork dish with spatzle in a creamy mushroom sauce at a Salzburg restaurant that I will crave for months to come. And that garlic soup at Ottoburg in Innsbruck! ↩
 I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize for the title of this post (the other option was "It was the wurst of times"). But count your blessings that you're not reading an article on the yummy fondue we had in Zurich entitled "You're damned if you fondue, and you're damned if you fondon't". (I know what you're thinking: "oh no, he fondidn't...") ↩
The Guardian has a nice profile/interview of David Remnick. Incidentally, Remnick has a monster 25-page profile of Bill Clinton in this week's New Yorker...well worth reading if you can track down a copy of the magazine; consider this Q&A with Remnick about the article a tasty snack.
David Sedaris, plagued as usual by language problems, has a taxing time at a French doctor's office. "It's funny the things that run through your mind when you're sitting in your underpants in front of a pair of strangers."
Oh, rejoice and be glad...there will be a season five of The Wire. "Balancing small audiences again critical acclaim, HBO has picked up a fifth season of drama The Wire." The season may focus on the media's role in politics. (thx, mark)
HD TiVo, way too expensive SEP 12
I didn't see this one in the FAQ, so I'll ask the question here: Can someone explain to me why the just-released Series3 TiVo (aka TiVo HD) costs $800? (!!) I've been waiting for this damn thing for months/years now, but I just can't justify spending that much money when Time Warner's (admittedly inferior in many ways) HD DVR is $7/mo. Hell, we only get ~12 HD channels in this backwater burg anyway, so downgrading to a regular cable box and hooking up the old TiVo is an option as well.
TiVo's next priciest box is the 180-hour Series2 for $130.1 What's in that box that's worth the extra $670? Is it the dual HD tuners? The THX? (Maybe Lucas charges exorbitant sums of money for THX certification?) The extra hard drive space for the additional 170 hours of programming? The CableCard inputs? The backlit remote? What?
 Although the Series2's service fee is $20/mo versus $13/mo for the Series3, based on a 1-year contract. On a three-year contract, the S2's service drops to $17/mo while the S# would still be $13/mo. Over three years, that brings the total price of the S3 to
~$1270 compared to ~$740 for the S2, a difference of $530. ↩
Old news, but the copy of Edvard Munch's The Scream stolen two years ago from an Oslo museum has been recovered. M&M's will honor their offer of 2 million M&M's for the safe recovery of the painting. No word on whether the reward was responsible for the recovery.
What happens to a blog when its editor goes on vacation? Glenn Reynolds: "I need a vacation more than I care about the traffic."
The National Park Service has made some of their map symbols and patterns (lava/reef, sand, swamp, and tree) freely available for download in PDF and Illustrator formats. (via peterme)
MacRumors has live coverage of the "September 12th Apple Media Event" (exciting name!). Announced so far: new smaller iPods (but with more storage), iTunes 7, and games for sale at the iTunes Music Store.
Bill Simmons, who writes at ESPN and is one of my favorite sports writers, recently penned a rave review of The Wire (scroll all the way down at the bottom). "Omar might be my favorite HBO villain since Adebici. And that's saying something." He also sings the praises of David Foster Wallace's article on Roger Federer.
Todd Deutsch's photo gallery, Gamers, contains photos of video game enthusiasts and the (non-virtual) world they inhabit.
Honest advice to incoming college freshman from a former college president. "After paying (and receiving) all this money, please finish up and get out. Colleges like Laudable are escalators; even if you stand still, they will move you upward toward greater economic opportunity. Once you leave us, you'll have a better chance for a good job and a way to pay off your debt and to give us more money when we call on you as alumni."
I'm currently testing out this rule for filtering image spam messages with Mail.app. I'm hoping it works because all of the unfiltered image spam clogging my inbox is slowly killing me. Not sure it's going to work though...because of kottke.org, I get a lot of email from people who have not previously contacted me. (via matt)
The oh, don't forget site offers an easy way to send yourself (and other people) reminders to a mobile phone. An API for this would be great...you could (theoretically) send all your iCal appointment alarms to the service.
How design works SEP 12
Michael Bierut on his design process, written in plain language that the client never gets to hear (but maybe they should):
When I do a design project, I begin by listening carefully to you as you talk about your problem and read whatever background material I can find that relates to the issues you face. If you're lucky, I have also accidentally acquired some firsthand experience with your situation. Somewhere along the way an idea for the design pops into my head from out of the blue. I can't really explain that part; it's like magic. Sometimes it even happens before you have a chance to tell me that much about your problem! Now, if it's a good idea, I try to figure out some strategic justification for the solution so I can explain it to you without relying on good taste you may or may not have. Along the way, I may add some other ideas, either because you made me agree to do so at the outset, or because I'm not sure of the first idea. At any rate, in the earlier phases hopefully I will have gained your trust so that by this point you're inclined to take my advice. I don't have any clue how you'd go about proving that my advice is any good except that other people - at least the ones I've told you about - have taken my advice in the past and prospered. In other words, could you just sort of, you know...trust me?
It is like magic. Reminds me of something Jeff Veen wrote last year on his process:
And I sort of realized that I do design that way. I build up a tremendous amount of background data, let it synthesize, then "blink" it out as a fully-formed solution. It typically works like this:
- Talk to everybody I possibly can about the problem.
- Read everything that would even be remotely related to what I'm doing. Hang charts, graphs, diagrams, and screenshots all over my office.
- Observe user research; recall past research.
- Stew in it all, panic as deadline approaches, stop sleeping, stop eating.
- Be struck with an epiphany. Instantly see the solution. Curse my tools for being too slow as I frantically get it all down in a document.
- Sleep for three days.
Like I said when I first read Jeff's piece, in my experience, a designer gets the job done in any way she can and then figures out how to sell it to the client, typically by coming up with an effective (and hopefully at least partially truthful) backstory that's crammed into a 5-step iterative process, charts of which are ubiquitous in design firm pitches.
Bill Stumpf, designer of the Aeron chair, passed away late last month at age 70. "I work best when I'm pushed to the edge, when I'm at the point where my pride is subdued, where I'm an innocent again." (via matt)
Lonely Planet is releasing a book on the micronations of the world. Not Andorra or Liechtenstein, but more like Molossia, a micronation based in Nevada whose currency is "pegged to the value of the Pillsbury cookie dough". The book is available on Amazon. More on Molossia from Wikipedia.
State of Emergency photo shoot from the September 2006 issue of Vogue Italia. The editorial of these fashion photos exceeds that of much photography found in more conventional US news media. (via bb)
The Wire influenced a Baltimore hip-hop producer to make a mix tape called Hampsterdam and now season four of the show will be featuring more of the local music scene there. (thx, doug)
A video tour of all the "on SEP 11
A video tour of all the "on a stick" foods available at the Minnesota State Fair. Photos of fair foods here. Mmmm, deep-fried Twinkie. And hot dish on a sitck! (thx, michael and lia)
Wal-Mart wants to sell 100 million CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs) in the next 12 months. "Compact fluorescents emit the same light as classic incandescents but use 75% or 80% less electricity." Between this and the organic food, Wal-Mart is agressively pursuing green initiatives. (thx, brock)
Fun list of typical blog posts from some well-known blogs. The kottke.org one is pretty spot on.
Adrian Holovaty, who works at the Washington Post, has some advice for how the news media should function: "newspapers need to stop the story-centric worldview". Holovaty argues for more structured data to be offered, not just the typical written story. Matt Thompson previously argued that the press needs a new paradigm, a shift from searching for hidden information (a la Watergate) to interpreting the massive amounts of publicly available data for patterns and stories (a la Enron/WorldCom/etc).
This is old news, but I missed it while I was gone, so apologies if you've seen this. Banksy replaced copies of Paris Hilton's new CD in stores around the UK with his own copies containing doctored album art and a 40-minute song by Gnarls Barkley's Danger Mouse. Banksy made a video of himself pulling off the stunt. Copies of the CD are on eBay for $180-1,300. An mp3 of the song contained on the doctored CD is available.
The Wire SEP 10
It's difficult to talk about The Wire without wanting to reveal all sorts of plot details, character developments, and other spoilers, so instead I'll tell you how excited I am about the season four premiere tonight on HBO. (It's been available on HBO On Demand for a week or so now, but I've been out of the country so Meg and I are watching it tonight the old fashioned way: live.) Before we left for Austria, we burned through all 37 hours of the first three seasons in about four weeks, and in my opinion, The Wire is one of the very best television shows ever.
Despite being critically acclaimed, The Wire is also unfortunately one of HBO's less appreciated shows audience-wise. So, a little plug: get the season one DVDs from Netflix (or Amazon), park your ass in front of the television, and watch it. All the seasons tend to start a little slow but stick with it and ye shall be rewarded. (I was almost bored watching the first 3-4 episodes of season three, but the the payoff in the later episodes...oh man.) Alright, get to it.
Andy on some recent baiting of people looking for sex on Craigslist. "In a staggering move, he then published every single response, unedited and uncensored, with all photos and personal information to [the web]."