A Seymour Hersh piece from tomorrow's New Yorker about the Bush Administration's plan for Iran. Amazingly enough, Bush is using the same tactics he did to wage war in Iraq. This time, instead of Iraq = Al-Qaeda, it's Iran = Iraq.
In a series of public statements in recent months, President Bush and members of his Administration have redefined the war in Iraq, to an increasing degree, as a strategic battle between the United States and Iran. "Shia extremists, backed by Iran, are training Iraqis to carry out attacks on our forces and the Iraqi people," Bush told the national convention of the American Legion in August. "The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased... The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And, until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops." He then concluded, to applause, "I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities."
Will we fall for it again?
Radiohead has a new album coming out called In Rainbows. It's only available from their site for now, either as a download (released Oct 10) or as a "discbox" that includes the CD, a bonus CD, two records, and assorted photos, books, etc. (released Dec 3). (via rex)
Update: Also, Radiohead is letting the buyer choose his/own price for the online album. This has been done before, notably by Magnatune, who offers albums for between $5 and $18 with a recommended price of $8...and people often pay more than the recommended. (thx, greg)
Update: Singer Jane Siberry does variable pricing for her music as well. Siberry also cleverly lists what other people are paying (currently $1.18 per song, a bit more than the recommended $0.99). Freakonomics explains. (thx, phil)
The line of succession to the British Throne, which has on it 1286 members. AKA, the thing you should show someone should they ask you the definition of "thorough".
For the past few months, I've been closely following the activities of FFFFOUND!, a social bookmarking web site and one of my favorite finds of the past year. The technology and presentation are fairly straightforward. Site participants select images to bookmark and the images show up on the site along with the related URL. Users can also bookmark images that other users have already bookmarked, which creates connections between images and users, allowing FFFFOUND!'s software to build recommendation lists (e.g. if you like this image, you may also like...). And then people like me who aren't participants can just sit back and view people's image streams. Mike Migurski wrote a nice introduction to the site and its capabilities back in July.
But the thing that makes the site work is that the current participants have really good taste in imagery. The project appears to have been started by Yugo Nakamura, who old school web folks may remember as one of the first true Flash artist wizards (see Mona Lisa matrix, MONO*crafts, and Industrious Clock, for example), and has expanded slowly while in beta; each participant gets only a single invite to pass along. The site's slow expansion from Nakamura and a small group of his art/design pals & associates has kept the quality high and focused. I hope the quality can remain high as the site gains in popularity and weathers the eventual opening up of participation to the web at large.
PS. I know you're probably just supposed to pronounce it like "found" but I've been favoring "fuh-fuh-fuh-found", even though that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.
Update: I do not have any invitations for FFFFOUND! Sorry.
The story about how drummer and web designer Mark Robohm completely renovated his Chelsea studio for only $11,600 is both inspirational and hilarious.
Ms. Doucette found Mr. Robohm's office chair on Park Avenue. Before taking it, she called him up to describe it. "I asked her what the name was and she said, 'Herman Miller,'" Mr. Robohm said. "I was like, 'Grab that chair and run for your life.'"
The audio slideshow is worth a look as well.
Errol Morris writes several hundred words about two iconic photos taken by Roger Fenton during the Crimean War, during which he explores the interplay between "clear" evidence and the interpretation of that evidence by people with different agendas and ideas.
As I've said elsewhere: Nothing is so obvious that it's obvious. When someone says that something is obvious, it seems almost certain that it is anything but obvious - even to them. The use of the word "obvious" indicates the absence of a logical argument - an attempt to convince the reader by asserting the truth of something by saying it a little louder.
This might be the best blog post I've ever read. I can't wait to see Standard Operating Procedure, Morris' upcoming documentary on Abu Ghraib and, from what it sounds like, the culmination of his exploration of truth in photography.
Look, I know it's Friday you're just looking for some fun stuff to end the work week with, but we've got a pressing matter to discuss. Let's say you're a new father and a movie fan. When your child is of an appropriate age to start watching movies, in which order will you show him/her the six Star Wars movies? By original release date (Star Wars, Empire, Jedi, Phantom Menace, Clones, Sith) or according to the intra-movie chronology (Phantom Menace, Clones, Sith, Star Wars, Empire, Jedi)?
We're currently leaning toward by original release date, but I can see the advantages of the other way around too. At dinner the other night, a friend asserted that not only was original release date the way to go, but that viewing the original versions on VHS was essential as well. I believe the relevant tapes and a cheapo VCR have been stashed away for this purpose already.
What do you think? How would you approach this? (thx to rehan for the suggested topic)
Amazon just sent me an email about my preorder of The Wire season 4 DVD. They say the shipping date has slipped a little, but the page still says it'll be out on Dec 4. Anyway, they made me verify the "change"; if I hadn't, they would have canceled the order, which seems a less-than-optimal solution to the problem. If you preordered, you might want to watch your inbox.
I'm loving the new 1.1.1 update to the iPhone. Best new features for me: the double-tap of the Home button to go to your address book favorites (first suggested by Steven Johnson shortly after the phone's introduction) and more alert ringtone choices for when a new text message comes in. I still wish I could set that alert volume independently from the main ringtone volume, but this is a good start...I'll be able to hear my texts coming in again.
Fritz Kahn's Man As Industrial Palace.
Kahn's modernist visualization of the digestive and respiratory system as "industrial palace," really a chemical plant, was conceived in a period when the German chemical industry was the world's most advanced.
Be sure to check out the larger version.
I'm thoroughly enjoying Kanye West's new album, Graduation. Standout tracks so far: Stronger and Homecoming, although it took me much longer than it should have to recognize Chris Martin's vocals on the latter.
I love the idea of conservation of concentration conveyed in this piece about Roger Federer, that we've got only so much intense focus to go around and successful athletes like Federer are really good at saving it up for the big moments.
A couple of times during press conferences, I noticed something kind of interesting about Roger Federer. I'll get to it in a minute, but let me describe the scene first. Players enter Interview Room One, where all of the Rajah's pressers take place, at the corner diagonally opposite from where the players enter. The players come in and turn right, to take their seat behind the microphone on the little dais or stage. Most players look to their left as they enter, just gauging the room and who is in it and how full it is. Federer, though, always keeps his head down and eyes averted, until he sits and begins to answer questions, when he makes direct eye contact with each questioner.
Anyway, a couple of times during his press conferences, someone's cell phone went off, each time with an annoyingly loud ring tone. Both times, everyone turned, first to locate and then to glare at the culprit: have you no shame? And both times, I noticed, Roger kept his eyes locked on his interlocutor, never glancing in the direction of the phone. I'm sure he was conscious, on one level, that there was an interruption occurring, but he had decided to ignore it. Not even a darting of the eyes towards the irritant. Both coming in the room with his head down and refusing to allow himself to be distracted or interrupted seemed to convey the same thing: he chooses to focus selectively, and focuses intensely once he does.
It was difficult to keep the quoting down to those two paragraphs...just go read the whole thing. (And of course, this ties into my continuing fascination with relaxed concentration and the battle with the self as the true struggle in life.)
Not sure why Mas warranted so many negative comments on this Chowhound thread about the worst nice restaurants in NYC. We were there last night for my birthday and everything was great: service, wine, and food. It was our 5th or 6th visit over the past 3 years and nothing's ever been amiss.
Mesmerizing video of basketball dribbling drills (with two balls at a time). Be sure to keep the volume on...the sound of 12 basketballs intensely bouncing is an odd one. (via truehoop)
Hotel Chevalier, the short film by Wes Anderson that takes place before the action in The Darjeeling Limited, is available at the iTunes Music Store for free.
Is lazy reporting hurting the visual arts? Jonathan Jones argues that almost all reporting about art takes one of six forms: expensive art, graffiti, plagiarism, earth-shattering discoveries, and restoration. Looking back through kottke.org's art tag page, I am guilty of linking to stories of all those types. Eep.
Without the associated covers, this list of the AIGA's 50 Books/50 Covers winners for "outstanding book and book cover design produced in 2006" is pretty useless.
(Anyone want to track all of these covers down? I'll host (or link to) the results on kottke.org.)
Update: Photos of the covers and books are all available on the AIGA Design Archives site. No permalink tho. :( (thx, tbit)
The Guardian has been collecting the best interviews from the past century. Interviewees include John Lennon, Marlon Brando, Adolf Hitler, and Marilyn Monroe. An impressive trove.
Dr. Jay Parkinson M.D. emailed in to tell me about his new medical practice in Williamsburg. He's got no office (housecalls only), takes appointment requests via SMS, email, or IM, handles some follow-ups over video chat, and specializes in the 18-40 age group without traditional health insurance. The goal, states Parkinson, is to "mix the service of an old-time, small town doctor with the latest technology to keep you and your bank account healthy".
To give you an idea of how the practice operates, here's a recap of his first day on the job:
Yesterday went quite well and I was very happy with the amount of money I kept out of the hands of companies that attempt to take advantage of how difficult it is to find prices for medications and healthcare services. For example, the first patient I saw needed a medication that Walgreens offered for $60. I called my tried and true Williamsburg mom-and-pop pharmacy only a few blocks from Walgreens and talked to Arthur the Pharmacist who said he sells it for $15. "Thanks Arthur." "No thank you Jay." The way it should be done.
My second patient was getting a certain medication for years every month by mail from Walgreens that costs $63 per month. I knew where she could get the same medication for $42 a month. I just saved her $252 per year. After she made her $200 down payment on my services via PayPal, her monthly fee for my services is now only $17 a month. But I just saved her $21 a month on her monthly mail order medication. She's essentially getting the rest of the year of my services for free. Not bad.
Sounds fantastic. If only every doctor was this much of an advocate for his patients.
P.S. Parkinson also happens to be a heck of a photographer (@ Flickr). Some photos NSFW. I linked to this interview about his photography between him and Joerg Colberg last May.
Update: The WSJ Health blog has a short interview with Parkinson, followed by a lengthy comment thread.
Psychology Today talks with psychologist Robert Epstein about his book, The Case Against Adolescence:
In every mammalian species, immediately upon reaching puberty, animals function as adults, often having offspring. We call our offspring "children" well past puberty. The trend started a hundred years ago and now extends childhood well into the 20s. The age at which Americans reach adulthood is increasing -- 30 is the new 20 -- and most Americans now believe a person isn't an adult until age 26.
The whole culture collaborates in artificially extending childhood, primarily through the school system and restrictions on labor. The two systems evolved together in the late 19th-century; the advocates of compulsory-education laws also pushed for child-labor laws, restricting the ways young people could work, in part to protect them from the abuses of the new factories. The juvenile justice system came into being at the same time. All of these systems isolate teens from adults, often in problematic ways.
Epstein says the infantilization of adolescents creates a lot of conflict and isolation on both sides of the divide. Over at Marginal Revolution, economist Tyler Cowen adds:
The problem, of course, is that a contemporary wise and moderate 33 year old is looking to climb the career ladder, find a mate, or raise his babies. He doesn't have a great desire to educate unruly fifteen year olds and indeed he can insulate himself from them almost completely. He doesn't need a teenager to carry his net on the elephant hunt. Efficient capitalist production and rising wage rates lead to an increased sorting by age and the moral education of teens takes a hit.
You can read the first chapter of the book at The Radical Academy.
Update: Bryan writes to recommend Neil Postman's The Disappearance of Childhood, saying that "Postman argues that the idea of childhood is a cultural phenomena that comes and goes through the ages". (thx, bryan)
Speaking of Weegee, I stumbled across some photos he made based on his well-known portrait of Marilyn Monroe.
He created the funhouse photos by manipulating negatives and distorting the light falling on the photographic paper from the enlarger. They remind me of images captured by OS X's Photo Booth with the distortion filters on.
(Photo credits, L to R: Blueberry Pony, Spullara, Winstonavich, Thelastminute, Mysistersabarista)
In the 1970s, Japanese photograhper Kohei Yoshiyuki stumbled upon a couple in a park engaged in sexual activity in the darkness and, somewhat more curiously, two men creeping towards the couple, watching them. Over many months, he followed these voyeurs in the park, befriended them, and outfitted his camera with an infrared flash so as to blend into the crowded darkness. The result is a fantastic series of photos called The Park. As you can see in the photo below, Yoshiyuki even caught some of the peeping toms touching their "visual prey".
Yoshiyuki's photographs explore the boundaries of privacy, an increasingly rare commodity. Ironically, we may reluctantly accommodate ourselves to being watched at the A.T.M., the airport, in stores, but our appetite for observing people in extremely personal circumstances doesn't seem to wane.
The NY Times has an audio slideshow of some images from The Park, which is on display at the Yossi Milo gallery in NYC until October 20 (more photos). A book of Yoshiyuki's photography is available at Amazon.
The Times article mentions several photographers whose work is similar to Yoshiyuki's. Merry Alpern took photographs through a window of prostitutes plying their trade with Wall Street businessmen. Weegee used an infrared flash to capture kissing couples at the movie theater (although it seems that particular shot was staged) and on the beach at Coney Island (last photo here). Walker Evans photographed people on the subway without their knowledge.
Amazon has launched their mp3 music store. Files are in mp3 format, no DRM, high bitrate (high quality), and songs are mostly 89-99 cents. A compelling alternative to Apple's iTMS.
As part of a 2006 Shuttle mission, researchers sent salmonella germs into space to see how they were affected. The result: 167 genes changed in the salmonella during the short trip and "mice fed the space germs were three times more likely to get sick and died quicker than others fed identical germs that had remained behind on Earth." Holy crap!
Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York is an exhibition at The Municipal Art Society of New York.
Coming at a time of unprecedented growth and redevelopment in the city, this exhibit aims to encourage New Yorkers to observe the city closely and to empower them, with a combination of tools and resources, to take an active role in advocating for a more livable city.
The exhibit runs from Sept 25 through Jan 5, 2008.
Update: A review of the exhibition in the NY Times (slideshow). Among the artifacts at the show is a letter sent by Robert Moses to Jacobs' publisher: "I am returning the book you sent me. Aside from the fact that it is intemperate and inaccurate, it is also libelous."
A subjective list -- is there any other kind? -- of the top 10 issues of McSweeney's magazine.
New York magazine takes Wes Anderson's spiritual temperature on the eve of the release of The Darjeeling Limited, his fifth film.
That we happen to be traveling by train to discuss a movie that takes place on a train was not part of the original plan, though I'm starting to think of it as yet another example of Anderson's knack for retouching reality with an idiosyncratic gloss. (It may be connected to his fear of flying as well; until recently, Anderson traveled to Europe by boat, and he far prefers trains and automobiles to anything airborne.) Also somewhat peculiar is the fact that buried in one of Anderson's monogrammed suitcases is 10,000 euros in cash -- about $14,000 -- an amount that may or may not be legal to carry, and that was given to the director by Bill Murray, who asked that the money be "delivered to Luigi."
The 2007 batch of MacArthur Fellows (AKA the $500,000 genius grantees) includes tinkerer Saul Griffith. Tim O'Reilly has written a long appreciation of Saul and his projects.
Vanilla-tini (vanilla vodka)
Espresso-tini (coffee liqueur + espresso)
Key Lime-tini (key lime)
Valen-tini (tequila rose)
Nutty-tini (amaretto + hazelnut liqueur)
Crescendo-tini (at the orchestra)
Moe-tini (at Moe's Restaurant)
Franklin-tini (for Ben Franklin's 300th birthday)
Tut-tini (King Tut exhibition)
Mex-tini (orange vodka + tequila)
Ginger-tini (grapefruit + ginger + pomegranate)
Spa-tini (at the spa)
Blue Glow-tini (with glowing ice cubes)
Free-tini (no charge)
Sex-tini (Asian sex tonic + x-rated vodka)
Flu-tini (vodka + cold medicine)
Red Lobster Butter-Tini (butterscotch schnapps + half and half + Bailey's)
Bikini-tini (low calorie)
Caramel Apple Pie-tini (applesauce + caramel syrup)
Red Hot Santa-tini (chili peppers + whipped cream)
Fall-tini (apple cider)
Insomnia-tini (energy drink)
Jello-tini (lime Jello)
Peep-tini (Peeps candy)
Diamond-tini (1.06 carat diamond)
Influential Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni listens to the sounds of Manhattan waking up in the morning. "The sheets of metal. A short clatter, like gunfire. A train passes, perhaps the elevated. A peal, prolonged, and then the siren, abrupt. Gone. The sounds change in a moment, they arise and die again immediately. The hum reasserts itself, advancing like a camouflaged army, approaches, closes in, on the alert, ready to take over completely." The hum reasserts. I hear that one all the time as traffic ebbs and flows outside our apartment.
Remember the Transformers movie from this summer? Those were fun times. Here's a letter to Optimus Prime from his Geico auto insurance agent. "Mr. Prime, I am going to remind you again: Your policy with GEICO only reimburses you for accidents that occur while you are engaged in the reasonable use of your truck and trailer. As I told you when you originally purchased the policy, GEICO does not offer Megatron coverage, Starscream coverage, Soundwave coverage, Decepticon coverage, or Energon-blast coverage. Those are just not the types of damages we would expect from reasonable use."
The Lonely Candidate blog is tracking political candidates who attempt to differentiate themselves from their opposition by claiming things like "I am the only candidate with the experience to get things done for our community".
What is the world's longest novel? Richard Grossman has been working on a novel for over 35 years and its currently 3 million pages long; he's planning on printing just 6 copies of the book, each of which will comprise 4000 750-page volumes.
After a complaint that the photos on Flickr are "just all conventional, it's all cliches, it's just one visual convention after another", Alec Soth asks where all the good photos are and gets a bunch of responses.
Lampoon of an hilariously crappy maintenance request web app at University of Pennsylvania.
Yes, I know that it says "Search Criteria Required!" at the top of the screen, in red letters, with an exclamation point. But that's just to fool you into thinking that search criteria are required. In fact, the only thing that's required (or even permitted!) for you to do at this point is to click on the large button labelled "Insert" at the top of the page.
Anagram menu items:
Broccoli rabe with cool crab brie.
A steak and skate duo.
Melon and lemon sorbet.
Legendary mime Marcel Marceau died Saturday at age 84.
Michael Jackson borrowed his famous "moonwalk" from a Marceau sketch, "Walking Against the Wind."
I tried to find video of that sketch but came up empty.
Update: Here's some video of Marceau teaching wind walking to a class...and miming with Michael Jackson. (thx, andy & mike)
Update: Here's a better video of Marceau doing his wind walk, from a Mel Brooks movie no less. (thx, manuel)
Teaser trailer for Alinea's cookbook, which is due out in Autumn 2008 and will contain 600 recipes. Pre-orders through the site will get signed copies and early access to a companion web site which will contain more recipes, demo videos, and behind the scenes videos. I'm really appreciating the effort these top chefs and restaurants make to open source their recipes and process...it sounds like between the book and web site, one could open a restaurant serving Alinea's menu. (Whether that restaurant would be successful or not would depend mostly on the 90% of the stuff involved with running a restaurant that doesn't rely on the ability to read a cookbook.)
Update: Jason Fried says businesses could learn a lot from chefs giving their secrets away.
In a short post yesterday about where writers do their business, I mentioned that Witold Rybczynski had written about the writing room of a famous author that was purposely set away from the rest of his house. I grabbed my copy of The Most Beautiful House in the World off the shelf just now and found that I'd turned down the page containing the relevant passage back when I read the book a few years ago. The author I was thinking of was George Bernard Shaw; here is Rybczynski's description of his writing room:
But Shaw too was a builder, and the writing room that he erected in his garden was a Shavian combination of simplicity, convenience, and novelty. He called it "the Shelter," but it was really a shed, only eight feet square. It contained the essentials of the writer's trade -- a plank desk, an electric lamp, a wicker chair, a bookcase, and a wastepaper basket. Beside the desk was a shelf for his Remington portable -- like [Samuel] Clemens, Shaw was an early amateur of the typewriter. There was also a telephone (modified to refuse incoming calls), a thermometer, and an alarm clock (to remind him when it was time for lunch).
Shaw's writing hut had one other curious feature: the entire building was mounted on a pipe so that it could be rotated to take advantage of the sun's warmth at different times of the day. But the tiny building was so loaded down with books and furniture that the feature was probably never used. Pictures and more on Shaw's writing hut at BBC News, the National Trust, and Cool Tools.
Rybczynski also mentions that Samuel Clemens wrote most often in a hilltop gazebo he'd constructed for that purpose away from his luxurious house..
Some recent research on the wrist bones of the so-called hobbit skeleton suggests that Flores man is an ancestor of modern humans and not just diseased homo sapiens. The debate continues. (via npr)
Raul Gutierrez tells a great NYC story about his late night adventure with a bunch of strangers.
After a few minutes a very tall girl with long brown hair who I would later learn was a Parsons design student, broke social convention, turned to her fellow benchmates, and said, "My God, wasn't today beautiful." At first she just got a few quiet affirmations,"yeah, gorgeous", "best day yet" etc, but then a young woman in a business suit again broke social convention and revealed personal information: "It was so nice, when I woke up I decided I didn't want to feel miserable about anything, and broke up with my boyfriend. I ditched him at 7:30 in the morning. He didn't know what hit him."
The case of the Jena 6 is finally starting to get national attention. Buzzfeed has a nice collection of links to the coverage.
Eugene de Salignac was the official photographer for the NYC Department of Bridges from 1906 to 1934. His collection of photographs was recently uncovered and, as it turns out, de Salignac was a great photographer and his photographs charted the progress of New York growing into a big city. The New Yorker has a slideshow of some of his photos and there's an exhibit of his work at the Museum of the City of New York until Oct 28. (thx, stacy)
Michael Bierut dug his 1979 design portfolio out of the closet, which portfolio he used only once to get the last job he ever had to look for.
Jack Spade held an impromptu fashion show in Bryant Park outside the giant tent where Fashion Week was happening, enlisting passersby to carry Jack Spade bags up and back on the sidewalk. Wonderful stuff. (via design observer)
The newly designed US$5 bill is the worst one yet...the phrase "typographic train wreck" comes to mind. The purple 5 in the lower right, while useful, is one of the most amateur design choices I've seen on something that's destined for such a wide market. (thx, tom)
While poking around in the newly opened archives of the New York Times yesterday, I stumbled upon an article called How We Dine (full text in PDF) from January 1, 1859. I'm not well versed in the history of food criticism, but I believe this is perhaps the first restaurant review to appear in the Times and that the unnamed gentleman who wrote it (the byline is "by the Strong-Minded Reporter of the Times") is the progenitor of the paper's later reviewers like Ruth Reichl, Mimi Sheraton, and Frank Bruni.
The article starts off with a directive from the editor-in-chief to "go and dine":
"Very well," replied the editor-in-chief. "Dine somewhere else to-day and somewhere else to-morrow. I wish you to dine everywhere, -- from the Astor House Restaurant to the smallest description of dining saloon in the City, in order that you may furnish an account of all these places. The cashier will pay your expenses."
Before starting on his quest, the reporter differentiates eating from dining -- noting that many believe "whereas all people know how to eat, it is only the French who know how to dine" -- and defines what he means by an American dinner (as opposed to a French one). Here's his list of the types of American dinner to be found in New York, from most comfortable to least:
1. The Family dinner at home.
2. The Stetsonian dinner.
3. The Delmonican, or French dinner.
4. The Minor dinner of the Stetsonian principle.
5. The Eating-house dinner, so called.
6. The Second-class Eating-house dinner.
7. The Third-class Eating-house feed.
The remainder of the article is devoted to descriptions of what a diner might find at each of these types of establishments. Among the places he dined was Delmonico's, where dining in America is said to have originated:
Once let Delmonico have your order, and you are safe. You may repose in peace up to the very moment when you sit down with your guests. No nobleman of England -- no Marquis of the ancienne nobless -- was ever better served or waited on in greater style that you will be in a private room at Delmonico's. The lights will be brilliant, the waiters will be curled and perfumed and gloved, the dishes will be strictly en règle and the wines will come with precision of clock-work that has been duly wound up. If you "pay your money like a gentleman," you will be fed like a gentleman, and no mistake... The cookery, however, will be superb, and the attendance will be good. If you make the ordinary mistakes of a untraveled man, and call for dishes in unusual progression, the waiter will perhaps sneer almost imperceptibly, but he will go no further, if you don't try his feelings too harshly, or put your knife into your mouth.
According to a series of articles by Joe O'Connell, Delmonico's was the first restaurant in the US when it opened in 1830 and invented Eggs Benedict, Oysters Rockefeller, Baked Alaska, Lobster Newberg, and the term "86'd", used when the popular Delmonico Steak (#86 on menu) was sold out, or so the story goes. O'Connell's history of Delmonico's provides us with some context for the How We Dine piece:
The restaurant was a novelty in New York. There were new foods, a courteous staff, and cooking that was unknown at the homes of even the wealthiest New Yorkers. The restaurant was open for lunch and dinner.
The restaurant featured a bill of fare, which was itself new. Those who dined at inns were fed on a set meal for a set price. As a result, everyone was fed the same meal and were charged the same price, whether they ate little or much. In Paris, however, restaurants offered their patrons a "bill of fare", a carte, which listed separate dishes with individual prices. Each patron could choose a combination of dishes which was different from the other patrons. Each dish was priced separately. Thus, the restaurant was able to accommodate the tastes and hunger of each individual. The various dishes and their prices were listed on a carte or (the English translation) "bill of fare". Today, we call it a menu.
And from Delmonico's developed many different types of dining establishments, which the Strong-Minded Reporter set out to document thirty years later. Contrast his visit to Delmonico's with the experience in the "sandwich-room" at Browne's Auction Hotel, an eating-house:
The habitués of the place are rarely questioned at all. The man who has eaten a sandwich every day for the past ten years at the Auction Hotel no sooner takes his seat than a sandwich is set before him. The man who has for the same period indulged daily in pie or hard boiled eggs (there are some men with amazing digestion) is similarly treated. The occasional visitor, however, is briefly questioned by the attendant before whom he takes his place. "Sandwich?" or "Pie?" If he say "Sandwich," in reply, the little man laconically inquires, "Mustard?" The customer nods, and is served. If his mission be pie, instead, a little square morsel of cheese is invariably presented to him. Why such a custom should prevail at these places, no amount of research has yet enabled me to ascertain. Nothing can be more incongruous to pie than cheese, which, according to rule and common sense, is only admissible after pie, as a digester. But the guests at the Auction Hotel invariably take them together, and with strict fairness -- a bite at the pie, and a bite at the cheese, again the pie, and again the cheese, and so on until both are finished.
The experience of being a regular has barely changed in 150 years. And finally, our intrepid reporter visits an unnamed third class eating-house:
The noise in the dining hall is terrific. A guest has no sooner seated himself than a plate is literally flung at him by an irritated and perspiring waiter, loosely habited in an unbuttoned shirt whereof the varying color is, I am given to understand, white on Sunday, and daily darkening until Saturday, when it is mixed white and black -- black predominating. The jerking of the plate is closely followed up by a similar performance with a knife and a steel fork, and immediately succeeding these harmless missiles come a fearful shout from the waiter demanding in hasty tones, "What do you want now?" Having mildly stated what you desire to be served with, the waiter echoes your words in a voice of thunder, goes through the same ceremony with the next man and the next, through an infinite series, and rushes frantically from your presence. Presently returning, he appears with a column of dishes whereof the base is in one hand and the extreme edge of the capital is artfully secured under his chin. He passes down the aisle of guests, and, as he goes, deals out the dishes as he would cards, until the last is served, when he commences again Da Capo. The disgusting manner in which the individuals who dine at this place, thrust their food into their mouths with the blades of their knives, makes you tremble with apprehensions of suicide...
The entire article is well worth the read...one of the most interesting things I've found online in awhile.
Update: According to their web site, a restaurant in New Orleans named Antoine's claims that they invented Oysters Rockefeller. Another tidbit: from what I can gather, the Delmonico's that now exists in lower Manhattan has little to do with the original Delmonico's (even though they claim otherwise), sort of like the various Ray's Pizza places sprinkled about Manhattan. (thx, everyone who sent this in)
NY Times columnist Paul Krugman writes, in the introduction to his new blog:
The story of modern America is, in large part, the story of the fall and rise of inequality.
Note that he says "fall" and then "rise", not the other way around. A graph in the post illustrates his point nicely.
The Guardian has an extensive list of writers and the rooms in which they write (with photos and descriptions by the authors). For whatever reason, I became very interested in writers' rooms after reading Witold Rybczynski's The Most Beautiful House in the World, in which he describes several rooms built by writers specifically for working in, including one author who built a completely separate room apart from his house which combined his need for solitude with a short commute. (thx, youngna)
Hoax or art? Or both? Artist Xu Zhen climbed Mt. Everest and shaved off almost 2 meters of the top of the mountain, the literal peak of Everest, and is displaying it as art.
Audiences may not believe that this is real, which is similar to how people rarely question whether the height of Everest truly is 8848 meters. This relationship between belief and doubt has to deal with questions of standard, height, reality, and borders.
(via daily awesome)
Twelve essential photographic facts, formulas, and rules of thumb.
Anatomical gray card. Metering off an 18-percent neutral gray card is a good way to get a midtone reading that will give you a good overall exposure of a scene. Forgot your gray card? Hold your open hand up so it's facing the light, take a reading off your palm, open up one stop, and shoot. (Various skin tones rarely account for even a full-stop difference.)
From the letters to the editor in the Sept 24 issue of the New Yorker, a letter from John Yohalem, New York City:
I enjoyed reading Tim Page's essay on living with Asperger's syndrome: the insomnia, the social puzzlement, the obsession with various subjects to the exclusion of more common ones -- all are very familiar to me. ("Parallel Play," August 20th). Then came this description: "In the late nineteen-seventies, I saw a ragged, haunted man who spent urgent hours dodging the New York transit police to trace the dates and lineage of the Hapsburg nobility on the walls of the subway stations." I was the gentleman in question; although I didn't care about clothes, I don't think I was that ragged. I want to assure Mr. Page that I was never homeless or institutionalized (as he guessed), and I got only one ticket. Mr. Page and I had other things in common; like him, I was at the première of Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians" at Town Hall. Unlike Mr. Page, I did not find this particular music's structure all-engrossing; I preferred to dance to it. At one performance of Reich's music at the U.S. Custom House, I danced alone around and around the central musicians. For someone as acutely self-conscious as I had been, this seemed a moment of glorious emergence, of living my own life in everyone else's world.
Here's Tim Page's piece on what it was like growing up with Asperger's syndrome.
So preoccupied are we with our inner imperatives that the outer world may overwhelm and confuse. What anguished pity I used to feel for pinatas at birthday parties, those papier-mache donkeys with their amiable smiles about to be shattered by little brutes with bats. On at least one occasion, I begged for a stay of execution and eventually had to be taken home, weeping, convinced that I had just witnessed the braining of a new and sympathetic acquaintance.
Of course Yohalem has a blog -- the 21st century equivalent to scribbling Hapsburg lineages on subway walls -- which has a more complete version of the above posted there.
A photo album created by an SS officer stationed at Auschwitz has been donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The unique album shows the life and activities of officers at the camp. Compare the SS officer photographs with photographs from an album showing prisoners arriving at the camp. (via nytimes)
Now that the NY Times has discontinued their Times Select subscription program and made much more of their 150+ years of content available for anyone to read and link to, let's take a look at some of the more notable items that the non-subscriber has been missing.
- Access to the last two years-worth of columns from the NY Times' noted Op-Ed columnists, including Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd, David Brooks, and Paul Krugman.
- The first mention of the World Wide Web in the Times in February 1993. According to the article, the purpose of the web is "[to make] available physicists' research from many locations". Also notable are this John Markoff article on the internet being overwhelmed by heavy traffic and growth...in 1993, and a piece, also by Markoff, on the Mosaic web browser.
- Early report of Lincoln's assassination..."The President Still Alive at Last Accounts".
- A report on Custer's Last Stand a couple of weeks after the occurance (I couldn't find anything sooner). The coverage of Native Americans is notable for the racism, both thinly veiled and overt, displayed in the writing, e.g. a story from September 1872 titled The Hostile Savages.
- From the first year of publication, a listing of the principle events of 1851.
- An article about the confirmation of Einstein's theory of gravity by a 1919 expedition led by Arthur Eddington to measure the bending of starlight by the sun during an eclipse.
- A front page report on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, including a seismograph of the quake which the Times labeled "EARTHQUAKE'S AUTOGRAPH AS IT WROTE IT 3,000 MILES AWAY".
- The first mention of television (as a concept) in the Times, from February 1907. "The new 'telephotograph' invention of Dr. Arthur Korn, Professor of Physics in Munich University, is a distinct step nearer the realization of all this, and he assures us that 'television,' or seeing by telegraph, is merely a question of a year or two with certain improvements in apparatus."
- First mention of Harry Potter. Before it became a phenomenon, it was just another children's book on the fiction best-seller list.
- Some of the output by prolific Times reporter R.W. Apple is available (after 1981, pre-1981).
- A report during the First World War of the Germans using mustard gas. Lots more reporting about WWI is available in the Times archive.
- Not a lot is available from the WWII era, which is a shame. For instance, I wish this article about the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima was available in the Times archive. Nothing about the moon landing, Kennedy's assassination, Watergate, etc. etc. either. :(
- On The Table, Michael Pollan's blog from last summer about food soon after the publication of The Omnivore's Dilemma.
- Urban Planet, a blog about cities from Steven Johnson, author of The Ghost Map.
- Oddly, The Principles of Uncertainty, an illustrated blog by Maira Kalman isn't available anymore. Update: Kalman's blog is probably unavailable because it's due to be published in book form in October. (thx, rafia) Further update: Kalman's blog is back online and wonderful. The culprit was a misconfiguration at the Times' end. (thx, rich)
- Several other previously unavailable blogs are listed here and here.
- It looks like most of the links to old NY Times articles I (and countless other early bloggers) posted in the late 90s and early 00s now work. Tens of thousands of broken links fixed in one pass. Huzzah!
I'll also note that this move by the Times puts them in a much better position to win the Long Bet between Dave Winer and the Times' Martin Nisenholtz at the end of this year.
In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times' Web site.
As of the end of 2005, the Times was not faring very well against blogs.
Update: One more: a report on the sinking of the Titanic. A small mention of the sinking was published in the paper the previous day.
An examination and celebration of the Leica by Anthony Lane in this week's New Yorker.
Asked how he thought of the Leica, Cartier-Bresson said that it felt like "a big warm kiss, like a shot from a revolver, and like the psychoanalyst's couch." At this point, five thousand dollars begins to look like a bargain.
Exploring the Leica web site after reading the article, I was intrigued to learn of Leica's á la carte program for customizing an MP or M7. Tempted... There's also a limited edition titanium M7 that retailed for ~10,000 euros.
The lyrics for Around the World by Daft Punk.
Around the world, around the world
Around the world, around the world
Around the world, around the world
Around the world, around the world
Etc., etc., and so on. (via chris)
Both Katz's deli and Shake Shack have had "Z" malfunctions on their signs. Something in the NYC water?
The third paragraph from a New Yorker profile of Donatella Versace (not online):
The trouble began when, between appointments, Donatella repaired to an outdoor terrace to smoke. Seated at a wrought-iron table, she thumbed open a pack of "special DV Marlboro Reds" (so called because her staff in Milan is instructed to cover the customary "Smoking Kills" label on every pack with a sticker bearing a DV monogram in medieval script).
...and that's as far as I read before deciding that reading yet another article about someone wealthy enough to have a staff helping them opt out of reality is a waste of my time, no matter how well written the article.
It seems as though the only people who put out manifestos these days are designers and serial killers. 50 manifestos from such designers as Zaha Hadid, Stefan Sagmeister, Rem Koolhaas, and John Maeda.
Detailed satellite photo of the northern polar ice cap showing that for the first time in recorded history, the Northwest passage (the orange line) is open to sea traffic. The passage was a subject of intense interest to the European powers from the late 1400s, who wanted to find a way to Asia by boat that didn't involve sailing around Africa. (via ben)
Question of the day:
You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and your mass is proportionally reduced so as to maintain your original density. You are then thrown into an empty glass blender. The blades will start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?
The obvious answer is "die", but I don't think that's they're after here. I have an idea...but what say you?
From the abstract of a new paper on the influence of the Ku Klux Klan by Roland Fryer and Steven Levitt:
Surprisingly, we find few tangible social or political impacts of the Klan. There is little evidence that the Klan had an effect on black or foreign born residential mobility, or on lynching patterns. Historians have argued that the Klan was successful in getting candidates they favored elected. Statistical analysis, however, suggests that any direct impact of the Klan was likely to be small. Furthermore, those who were elected had little discernible effect on legislation passed.
The full paper is available on Fryer's web site. (via mr)
A history and analysis of the Batman logo from 1939 to the present, in five parts: 1, 2, 3. 4, 5. More logo studies by the same fellow here. (thx, david)
Anthony Bourdain's menu of overrated, trendy items. (via eater)
When the water sommelier comes over, I reach for my gun.
No more Times Select. The NY Times finally admits what everyone else knew two years ago and stops charging for their content. Additionally, all content from 1987 to the present and from 1851 to 1922 will be offered free of charge.
What changed, The Times said, was that many more readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to NYTimes.com.
How did that change not happen for the Times when it happened to the entire rest of the web 3-4 years ago?
Using adaptive optics, which corrects for atmospheric distortion, some astronomers have modified a ground telescope to yield sharper images than the Hubble.
Hubble's optics provide greater detail over a wider angle, while the Lucky camera as used at Palomar gives ultra-high resolution only for a tiny slice of the sky at one time.
Trailer for No Country For Old Men, a film by the Coen Brothers based on a book by Cormac McCarthy.
Statetris: "Instead of positioning the typical Tetris blocks, you position states/countries at their proper location." There are versions for the US, Africa, Europe, the UK, and more.
The New Yorker's Nancy Franklin pans Ken Burns' The War.
They’ve taken a subject that is inexhaustible and made it merely exhausting. Scene by scene, interview by interview, the series doesn’t bore, if you are of the school that believes that everyone’s experiences are at least somewhat interesting, and that the experiences of those who went through the Second World War are more interesting than most.
Steven Levitt notes a passage from Edward Conlon's Blue Blood about the difference in pay between the police and homeless panhandling heroin addicts. The answer might surprise you.
On finding your true self in a peer vacuum:
To move to a city where you are not afraid to try something new because all the people that labeled who THEY think you are (parents, childhood friends) are not their to say "that's not you" or "you've changed". Well, maybe that person didn't change but finally became who they really are.
Video of a bunch of TV production company logos...you know, the ones that usually follow the shows, "sit Ubu sit, good dog" and the like.
Speaking of cool Etsy shops, elastiCo is selling pillows and tshirts with the most popular Google News search terms printed on them.
Michael Lewis on a new way in which insurance companies are evaluating risk with respect to natural catastrophes.
The logic of catastrophe is very different: either no one is affected or vast numbers of people are. After an earthquake flattens Tokyo, a Japanese earthquake insurer is in deep trouble: millions of customers file claims. If there were a great number of rich cities scattered across the planet that might plausibly be destroyed by an earthquake, the insurer could spread its exposure to the losses by selling earthquake insurance to all of them. The losses it suffered in Tokyo would be offset by the gains it made from the cities not destroyed by an earthquake. But the financial risk from earthquakes -- and hurricanes -- is highly concentrated in a few places. There were insurance problems that were beyond the insurance industry's means. Yet insurers continued to cover them, sometimes unenthusiastically, sometimes recklessly.
Being sent to Mordor:
Hardware techies at Apple are regularly sent from California for intense two-week shifts to the city-sized FoxConn factory in Shenzhen, China where iPods are made and tested. Internally at Apple this is known as "being sent to Mordor."
Jessica Lagunas' Return to Puberty, an artwork consisting of a "video close-up of my pubis in a static single shot, in which I depilate most of my pubic hair with a pair of tweezers continuously for one hour". It's like the female version of Empire. NSFW.
This New Yorker article on light pollution makes mention of the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, which is a measure of how bright the stars are in a particular part of the sky.
In Galileo's time, nighttime skies all over the world would have merited the darkest Bortle ranking, Class 1. Today, the sky above New York City is Class 9, at the other extreme of the scale, and American suburban skies are typically Class 5, 6, or 7. The very darkest places in the continental United States today are almost never darker than Class 2, and are increasingly threatened. For someone standing on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on a moonless night, the brightest feature of the sky is not the Milky Way but the glow of Las Vegas, a hundred and seventy-five miles away. To see skies truly comparable to those which Galileo knew, you would have to travel to such places as the Australian outback and the mountains of Peru.
Video of a Japanese game show where contestants have to clear hurdles while running on treadmills. There's something Sisyphean about their task. No word on whether any of the contestants were able to take off.
Video of a Charlie Rose interview with Pixar's John Lasseter and Steve Jobs. This was about a year after Toy Story had been released and a few months before Apple bought Jobs' NeXT.
From an article about teen Christians campaigning against pop culture:
"At one point in Jared Hutchins' young life, the Beatles were a big problem. 'I had to stop listening to them for a while,' said Hutchins, who lives in Cumming, Georgia, and plays the piano, guitar and harmonica. He said the group's world view 'had a negative effect on me,' and made him irritable and angry."
"'We're fighting for those who don't know they have a voice, that are being manipulated by our pop culture indulging in things that, really, they're not mature enough to be thinking about yet,' Luce told CNN. 'Kids are hurting,' he said. And of those who he feels inflict these moral wounds, Luce said, 'We call them terrorists, virtue terrorists, that are destroying our kids. They're raping virgin teenage America on the sidewalk, and everybody's walking by and acting like everything's OK. And it's just not OK.'"
"Virtue terrorists raping virgin teenage America" is quite the turn-of-phrase.
The top 100 greatest beatdowns in history, most of them related to sports. #1 is Secretariat's 31-length victory at Belmont, the footage of which is well worth a look if you haven't seen it. That horse so totally pours it on down the stretch that it gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. (thx, david)
Get Lost is a collection of maps of downtown Manhattan drawn by a variety of artists.
What sort of people buy bespoke suits: "the extremely wealthy, the status-crazed, and those so minutely particular in their needs that no preexisting suit will do". The author finds that during the course of writing the article, he may have turned into the minutely particular sort of bespoke suit buyer.
"The most famous [status detail on a bespoke suit] is working cuff holes. On most off-the-rack suits, that row of buttons on your cuff is simply sewn on, because this way you can move them up or down during alterations; once you've cut the buttonholes, you can't make the sleeve shorter or longer without screwing up the look. Another area of obsession is the stitching. On the front buttonholes and the flower loop, it shouldn't be too even; on the lapels, staggered 'pick stitching' is a big plus. When laymen claim they can smell bespoke from a mile away, most tend to mean these little signatures. But focusing on flourishes betrays the big idea. That idea is that you can ask for anything -- 40 pockets, a sewn-in gun holster, a third leg -- and, to a certain type of person, anything else is tyranny of the designer."
See also: English Cut, the blog of a bespoke Saville Row tailor.
The Paleolithic Diet "is the diet that man evolved on, the diet that is coded for in our genes". The diet consists of avoiding grains, beans, dairy, sugar, etc.; eating meat/chicken/fish, eggs, fruit, veggies, nuts, etc.; and increasing your intake of root veggies and organ meats like liver.
The personal lives of CEOs have come under scrutiny lately because what a CEO does in his off-hours seems to have a bearing on how well his company's stock performs. "It found that on average, the stocks of companies run by leaders who buy or build megamansions sharply underperform the market. The researchers don't claim to know why. They theorize that some of these executives might be focused more on enjoying their wealth and less on working hard." (via mr)
Also, I loved that the WSJ published the nickname of "Frederick E. 'Shad' Rowe Jr." Shad Rowe!
Arecibo Observatory, the world's largest radio telescope, is in danger of being shut down due to budget cuts. Arecibo could run for almost two years for the cost of a single F-16 fighter jet...to say nothing of the small fraction of the cost of the War in Iraq required.
The Morning News has a gallery of pages from Hand Job (@ Amazon), a collection of hand drawn type, and a short interview with its author, Michael Perry. It looks like a gorgeous book; you can find more images from it on Perry's web site, which is sure to get an unusual influx of visitors searching for non-typography-oriented happy endings..
I'm intrigued by Marc Hedlund's differentiation of Impressionist bloggers from Realist bloggers. My interpretation of this difference (which might not be what Marc meant by it) is that Realist blog posts are self-contained, -explanatory, and -evident entities while a post on an Impressionist blog serves to complement the whole, much like the dots making up a Seurat painting aren't that interesting until you stand back to see the whole thing.
The downside for Impressionist blogs is that their individual posts don't work that well outside of their intended context. If you run across a single post from an Impressionist blog in your River of News, a remixed Yahoo Pipes RSS feed, in del.icio.us, or an item in a Google search results set, it might not make a whole lot of sense. Impressionist blog posts are less likely to get Dugg or bookmarked in del.icio.us or linked around much at all. Fewer incoming links, big or small, to individual pages means fewer pageviews, which makes it more difficult to run an Impressionist blog as a business that relies on advertising revenue. If you look at most of the big blog sites, they're all non-Impressionist blogs. All the sites whose posts are featured on the front page of Digg are non-Impressionist...those posts/articles are designed to float self-contained around the web. The blogosphere is dominated by non-Impressionist blogs and the sort of content they produce...which is sad for me because, like Marc, I value Impressionism in a weblog.
Fun photo spread from the July 2007 issue of Vogue Italia called Super Mods Enter Rehab. I love all of the over-the-top no-underwear shots of models exiting cars.
things magazine on living in simulation: "There's a lack of depth on the internet, a world with an atmosphere just one pixel thick that has reached out across all forms of media and turned everything into a vast, shallow pool that stretches as far as the eye can see. All visual culture is instantly at our fingertips, with the thrill of discovery superseded by a high fructose corn syrup buzz that comes from near-constant, 30fps stimulation."
Even though a Rubik's Cube has about 43 quintillion (that's 43000000000000000000) possible configurations, it's been proven possible to solve a cube starting in any one of those configurations in 26 moves or less. "Most researchers believe that just 20 steps are enough to solve any Rubik's Cube, but no one has proved it yet."
Courtesy of Wikipedia, a timeline of the world's most important inventions, from 2.4 million years ago to the present.
A really small car from 1924. "The license plate is almost as large as her automobile, but Miss Mary Bay likes her car because it is easy to park."
Update: I corrected the above statement about Perl et. al. not existing and modified it to read that they didn't make the list. Perl, Ruby, nd Java all existed in one form or another in 1995. (thx to everyone who sent this in)
Page address: http://ambrosiasw.com/utilities/itoner/
Description: Woke up to the alarm at 6:30 am. Got my son out of his crib, handed him to my wife. OJ + medication + forgot to take my multivitamin. Checked my email, Twitter, etc. Did a couple posts. Showered but didn't shave. Took care of my son while my wife went to the gym. He played on the floor a bit, we laughed and giggled together a lot. Good times. Then he got hungry so I fed him while watching Honey I Shrunk the Kids on cable. When my wife got home around 10am, I put him down for a nap, packed up my bag, and left for work. N train to Canal then a 5 minute walk to the office. Worked on some PHP for a couple of hours, making less progress than I would have liked. Caught a baby mouse in a drinking glass at the office. Went to get lunch with the gang. First and second choices no good, but ended up at an Italian bakery/deli on Mott. Turkey and provolone on a roll with mayo and lettuce, Pepsi, and potato chips (sour cream and onion). Gave leftover sandwich to the baby mouse, AKA "Feedy". Sat back down at my desk. Selected "iToner" from bookmarks list and waited. Error number NSURLErrorDomain:-1005.
Currently enjoying Diplo's Pitchfork Mix 02 (track list). Also worth tracking down is Diplo vs. Shadow, the Megatroid Mix.
Graph of the movie poster colors of the top-grossing movies, from the brightly colored G-rated movies to the dark and fleshy NC-17 films.
Natalie Angier's short appreciation of water, which, before you scoff, is a pretty amazing substance despite its ubiquity. "Pulled together by hydrogen bonds, water molecules become mature and stable, able to absorb huge amounts of energy before pulling a radical phase shift and changing from ice to liquid or liquid to gas. As a result, water has surprisingly high boiling and freezing points, and a strikingly generous gap between the two. For a substance with only three atoms, and two of them tiny little hydrogens, Dr. Richmond said, you'd expect water to vaporize into a gas at something like minus 90 degrees Fahrenheit, to freeze a mere 40 degrees below its boiling point, and to show scant inclination to linger in a liquid phase."
Tony Wright, horticulturalist, broke the unofficial world record by going without sleep for more than 11 days. His trick was, when the left side of his brain tired, to switch to the right side. And then back again after the left had recovered and so on.
These audio clips from the World Livestock Auctioneer Championships are fun to listen to. The newest ones have the best audio quality. (thx, mlarson)
So, whoa. The commonly accepted wisdom is that Vannevar Bush's seminal As We May Think, published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1945, was the first time anyone had described something like the modern desktop computer and the World Wide Web. Not so, says Alex Wright in Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages (@ Amazon). A Belgian chap named Paul Otlet described something called the "radiated library" -- or the "televised book" -- in 1934:
Here, the workspace is no longer cluttered with any books. In their place, a screen and a telephone within reach. Over there, in an immense edifice, are all the books and information. From there, the page to be read, in order to know the answer to the question asked by telephone, is made to appear on the screen. The screen could be divided in half, by four, or even ten if multiple texts and documents had to be consulted simultaneously. There would be a loudspeaker if the image had to be complemented by oral data and this improvement could continue to the automating the call for onscreen data. Cinema, phonographs, radio, television: these instruments, taken as substitutes for the book, will in fact become the new book, the most powerful works for the diffusion of human thought. This will be the radiated library and the televised book.
Sweet fancy Macintosh, if that's not what we're all doing right here on the web all day.
Much of the section in the book on Otlet was first published by Wright in a Boxes and Arrows essay called Forgotten Father: Paul Otlet. Wright's extensive online bibliography for Glut should keep you busy for a few hours when you're done with that. (I wish all the books I read were accompanied by such bibliographies.) I'll also recommend a related read and one of my favorite technology books, The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage (@ Amazon):
It points out the features common to the telegraph networks of the nineteenth century and the internet of today: hype, skepticism, hackers, on-line romances and weddings, chat-rooms, flame wars, information overload, predictions of imminent world peace, and so on. In the process, I get to make fun of the internet, by showing that even such a quintessentially modern technology actually has roots going back a long way (in this case, to a bunch of electrified monks in 1746).
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to my televised book.
A few years ago, I posted an entry about a Manhattan coffee and donut vendor who let his customers make their own change.
When an environment of trust is created, good things start happening. Ralph can serve twice as many customers. People get their coffee in half the time. Due to this time savings, people become regulars. Regulars provide Ralph's business with stability, a good reputation, and with customers who have an interest in making correct change (to keep the line moving and keep Ralph in business). Lots of customers who make correct change increase Ralph's profit margin. Etc. Etc. And what did Ralph have to pay for all this? A bit of change here and there.
I get my occasional donut in another part of town now, but I noticed something similar with my new guy. Last Friday, the woman in front of me didn't order anything but threw down a $20, received a coffee with two sugars a moment after she'd stepped to the window, and no change. As they chatted, I learned that the woman pays for her coffee in advance. The coffee guy asked her if she was sure she owed today. "Yep," she replied, "It's payday today; I get paid, you get paid." Handy little arrangement.
Now you can buy a house modeled after one of Martha Stewart's three houses. People love these houses so much that sales are bucking the downturn in new home sales. Says a representative for the company building the homes: "It's our version of the iPhone. It illustrates the power of something different with a brand tied to it."
A collection of the best 150 documentaries as determined by Kevin Kelly. Kelly's got good taste in movies -- or at least it jibes with mine -- and True Films is a fine guide for those looking to introduce more documentary films into their media diet.
Over at Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok is advocating a game show called So You Think You Can Be President? instead of debates to better educate voters about presidential candidates. "Presidential candidates have 12 hours to get a bitterly divorcing couple to divide their assets in a mutually agreeable manner. (Bonus points are awarded if the candidate convinces the couple to stay together.)" Awesome.
Laurel over at TV Picks noticed that the conjoined twins documentary I mentioned the other day is on the Discovery Health Channel tonight at 9pm and 12am ET. DVR, set. (thx, laurel)
BTW, TV Picks looks like the rare useful entertainment site that's not just absolutely plastered with ads and attitude. It's a daily one-pager about what's new, good, and notable on TV that day.
Oscar the cat lives at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Oscar possesses a peculiar talent...he knows when the residents there are going to die and curls up with them for comfort before they pass.
Making his way back up the hallway, Oscar arrives at Room 313. The door is open, and he proceeds inside. Mrs. K. is resting peacefully in her bed, her breathing steady but shallow. She is surrounded by photographs of her grandchildren and one from her wedding day. Despite these keepsakes, she is alone. Oscar jumps onto her bed and again sniffs the air. He pauses to consider the situation, and then turns around twice before curling up beside Mrs. K.
One hour passes. Oscar waits. A nurse walks into the room to check on her patient. She pauses to note Oscar's presence. Concerned, she hurriedly leaves the room and returns to her desk. She grabs Mrs. K.'s chart off the medical-records rack and begins to make phone calls.
Within a half hour the family starts to arrive. Chairs are brought into the room, where the relatives begin their vigil. The priest is called to deliver last rites. And still, Oscar has not budged, instead purring and gently nuzzling Mrs. K. A young grandson asks his mother, "What is the cat doing here?" The mother, fighting back tears, tells him, "He is here to help Grandma get to heaven." Thirty minutes later, Mrs. K. takes her last earthly breath. With this, Oscar sits up, looks around, then departs the room so quietly that the grieving family barely notices.
Meg and I were getting ready to go out to breakfast at some obscenely early hour on Sunday morning. I retrieved a pair of jeans from the floor.
J: Hey, there's some change in these pants.
M: Breakfast is on you, then.
J: Yeah, if we're going to eat, like, 68 cents-worth of breakfast.
Then I reached into the pocket to find out how much was actually in there...from some purchase I don't recall making. 68 cents exactly. In olden times, that would have been taken as a harbinger of something, that virgins would need to be sacrificed on mountaintops to appease the gods. Meg shrugs and says, "you should post that to your blog."
Also, Grey Dog on University has the best hash browns I've ever eaten.
Title of the upcoming Indiana Jones film: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.
It's been a few weeks since I saw the movie, but I still can't get the Rhubarb Pie song out of my head:
But one little thing can revive a guy,
And that is home-made rhubarb pie.
Serve it up, nice and hot.
Maybe things aren't as futile as you thought.
Mama's little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb,
Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.
Mama's little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb,
Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.
Related "fascinating" facts:
Garrison Keillor got the idea for doing A Prairie Home Companion (the radio show) after writing an article for the New Yorker about the Grand Old Opry in 1974.
While driving in unfamiliar territory in an episode of The Wire, Bodie Broadus ends up listening to A Prairie Home Companion on the radio when he can't find any hip-hop.
The title essay of George Saunders' The Braindead Megaphone invites the reader to imagine a person at a party with a megaphone. Megaphone Guy might not have much to say, but he's got a megaphone and so he is heard, his utterances setting the agenda for the entire party, the party's collective intelligence (its crowd-like wisdom if you want to put it that way) determined by the intelligence of Megaphone Guy. Before long, it ruins the party because the other guests will stop being guests and become passive "reactors-to-the-Guy".
Now imagine, metaphorically speaking, that the Megaphone Guy is the media and we, the audience of the media, are the party guests. Not all that hard to imagine because the following segment can be seen every hour on every TV news channel in the nation:
Last night on the local news I watched a young reporter standing in front of our mall, obviously freezing his ass off. The essence of his report was: Malls Tend to Get Busier at Christmas! Then he reported the local implications of his investigation: (1) This Also True At Our Mall! (2) When Our Mall More Busy, More Cars Present (3) The More Cars, the Longer it Takes Shoppers to Park! and (shockingly): (4) Yet People Still Are Shopping, Due to, it is Christmas!
It sounded like information, basically. He signed off crisply, nobody back at NewsCenter8 or wherever laughed at him. And across our fair city, people sat there and took it, and I believe that, generally, they weren't laughing at him either. They, like us in our house, were used to it, and consented to the idea that Informing had just occurred. Although what we had been told, we already knew, although it had been told in banal language, revved up with that strange TV news emphasis ("cold WEATHer leads SOME motorISTS to drive less, CARrie!"), we took it and, I would say, it did something to us: made us dumber and more accepting of slop.
Furthermore, I suspect, it subtly degraded our ability to make bold, meaningful sentences, or laugh at stupid, ill-considered ones. The next time we feel tempted to say something like, "Wow, at Christmas the malls sure do get busier due to more people shop at Christmas because at Christmas so many people go out to buy things at malls due to Christmas being a holiday on which gifts are given by some to others" -- we might actually say it, this sentiment having been elevated by our having seen it all dressed-up on television, in its fancy faux-informational clothing.
Sure, the details of the story change but the Braindead Megaphone drones on. The rest of Saunders' essay explores this idea further, keenly skewering the media *and* the people who listen to it. A fun and thought-provoking read.
Slightly related: Without exception, everytime I look at the book's cover photo -- an amalgam of three newsreaders (one black, one white, and one Asian) formed into one person -- I see Barack Obama.
Profile of designer Josh Davis on Apple's web site. "The most complex print I've done had 120,000 layers in Illustrator. The printer called and said, 'How did you do this? How long did it take?' And I said, 'Oh, five minutes.'"
Oh, so you like the addictive games, eh? Gameaholic? Imbibe too much gameahol on occasion? Behold, Bloxorz.
Update: Here's a walkthrough for the game, including passwords for each level so you can skip around. And here's a direct link to the Flash file for full-screen playing. (thx, peter)
Cadaeic Cadenza is a 3834-word story by Mike Keith where each word in sequence has the same number of letters as the corresponding digit in pi. (thx, mark, who has more info on constrained writing) Related: The Feynman point is the sequence of six 9s which begins 762 digits into pi. "[Feynman] once stated during a lecture he would like to memorize the digits of pi until that point, so he could recite them and quip 'nine nine nine nine nine nine and so on.'"
A new study shows that if a person's friends become obese, that person is at a great risk of obesity themselves. For close mutual friends, the risk factor for transmitted obesity increased by 171%.
Update: Dr. Jonathan Robison calls the above study "junk science". "How does one conclude a direct causal relationship from an observational study? Bald men are more likely than men with a full head of hair to have a heart attack. Can we conclude from this that they should buy a toupee or begin using Rogaine lotion to lower their risk?" (thx, robby)
Update: Clive Thompson's NY Times Magazine article (Sept 2009) covers this study in more detail. In addition to obesity, the study indicates that smoking, happiness, and drinking may be contagious.
Legendary party Misshapes was held for the last time on Saturday night in NYC, its overness punctuated by an article in the NY Times on the party's conclusion. My own personal overness was punctuated by not knowing about the end of Misshapes until I read it in the Times. A Mr. Cobrasnake has photos of the final night.
Subtil, a display typeface by Hanno Bennert and Alexander Gialouris that was a winning entry in the Type Directors Club 2007 competition. Love those subtly rounded ends.
Novak Djokovic lost the US Open final to Roger Federer last night but the 20-yo Serb clearly left his -- how do I put this? -- impression on the tournament. Here's some video of Djokovic impersonating Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal at the US Open. He does several other players as well, including a fine Andy Roddick.
Update: In case you're unfamiliar with the mannerisms of the players mentioned above, here's video of Roddick, Sharapova, and Nadal. (thx, flip)
For some, the hospital is a place to go to get sick, not to get healthy. At the Veterans Affairs hospital in Pittsburgh, they're cutting down on diseases passing from patient to patient by testing arriving patients for drug-resistant bacteria, more careful use of equipment, and careful isolation of the most sick. A surgical unit in the hospital has cut their infection rate by 78% since 2001.
Kevin Smith has bundled his weblog up into a book of the same title, My Boring Ass Life: The Uncomfortably Candid Diary of Kevin Smith. Smith's an engaging writer about himself, family, and circle of friends; I've linked to his weblog several times in the past. His tale of actor Jason Mewes' (he played Jay in Clerks) drug addiciton and subsequent rehab is especially fine. Available at Amazon or through Smith himself, signed.
A must-see for football fans: NFL TV distribution maps. Check out what football games will be on in which parts of the country.
Stats (wins, losses, probability of making the playoffs, etc.) from the rest of the MLB baseball season, played a million times. "The post-season odds report was compiled by running a Monte Carlo simulation of the rest of the season one million times." (thx, david)
Microsoft's Art of Office site showcases artistic creations made with the Office suite of programs...upload your own to participate.
Paul Ford is making a difference. "That barbecue sizzle? Locally raised (ten miles from home), humanely slaughtered heirloom pandas."
Aw, man...Eliot is ceasing publication on slower.net, one of my favorite photoblogs. Ended on a great note though.
A 1993 New Yorker story by John Seabook called The Flash of Genius is being made into a movie starring Greg Kinnear. The story revolves around Bob Kearns, the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper and his struggle to get the US auto industry to pay him for infringing on his patent. "There's no question that Dr. Kearns' wiper circuit was interesting. He had a three-brush motor, with dynamic brake and intermittent on one speed only -- his system was a concatenation of a lot of different ideas. But we figured there was just no way in the world it was patentable. An electronic timing device was an obvious thing to try next. How can you patent something that is in the natural evolution of technology?"
BTW, the phrase "flash of genius" refers to a test of patentability enacted in 1941 saying that the act of invention had to be a "flash of creative genius" on the part of the inventor and not the result of tinkering. That standard was replaced in 1952 by the non-obviousness test.
Tauba Auerbach: startling starting staring string sting sing sin in i. More of her typographic work here.
Joined for Life: Abby and Brittany Turn 16 is a documentary about Abby and Brittany Hensel, conjoined twins who are essentially one physical person with two heads (as well as a few other body parts). From a review of the film by Kevin Kelly: "Endless questions ensue from this documentary about their suburban life. If each girl controls only one arm and one leg, how can they ride a bike? Hit a baseball? Swim? When they drive a car, how do they decide where to turn? And do they get one licence or two? That particular question is answered on their 16th birthday, as this film follows them to the driving test center, where they pass the driving test (both turning the wheel). Their local DMV decides to issue them each one licence."
A clip from a previous film on the girls is available on YouTube.
Langstroth's crucial insight -- "I could scarcely refrain from shouting 'Eureka!' in the open streets," he wrote of the moment of revelation -- was the concept of "bee space." He realized that while honeybees will seal up passageways that are either too large or too small, they will leave open passages that are just the right size to allow a bee to pass through comfortably. Langstroth determined that if frames were placed at this "bee-space" interval of three-eighths of an inch, bees would build honeycomb that could be lifted from the hive, rather than, as was the practice up to that point, sliced or hacked out of it. He patented L. L. Langstroth's Movable Comb Hive in 1852. Today's version consists of a number of rectangular boxes-the number is supposed to grow during the season-open at the top and at the bottom. Each box is equipped with inner lips from which frames can be hung, like folders in a filing drawer, and each frame comes with special tabs to preserve bee space.
So says Elizabeth Kolbert in an article about colony-collapse disorder, a bee disease that's wreaking havoc on beehives and food production around the US. Bee space! I'm unsure whether similar research has been done to determine the proper "human space", although the placement of houses in a suburb, tables in a restaurant, blankets at the beach, or social space in elevators might provide some clues as to the proper measurement.
But returning to the bees, a coalition of scientists working on the problem has found a correlation between bee deaths and Israeli acute paralysis virus. An infusion of bees from Australia in 2004 may also have contributed to the disorder's development. Full details are available on EurekAlert.
Determining the amount of energy it takes to bring food from farm to table is difficult, but it looks as though shipping in food from afar is, in some cases, more energy efficient than food produced locally and that the transport energy might not matter as much in comparision to the amount of energy it takes to grow the food in the first place. "And it turns out our own part in the chain is often the most damaging, since when we drive to the supermarket, we might come back with only a few of bags of food in the car boot. Such a trip is far less fuel efficient than the one taken by that same food on its way to the supermarket in a truck packed with the assistance of load-optimisation software, which determines how to stack cargo so that barely an inch of empty space is left in the back of the vehicle."
These half-n-half celebrity face mashups are unsettling. "The right half of a face has to be from one celebrity and the left half from another." The Bill/Hillary and the Cruise/Holmes ones are especially good.
Apple may have announced their ringtone strategy for the iPhone (30-second ringtones cost $1.98 to make and you must purchase songs through the iTunes Music Store), but Ambrosia Software's iToner utility lets you make ringtones from any mp3 or acc audio file with a simple drag/drop, all for $15 (free 30-day trial). iToner seems like the clear winner here.
Update: The just-released new version of iTunes (7.4) makes iToner ringtones invisible to the iPhone. Ambrosia is working on an iToner update. (thx, jim)
New web site for Hoefler & Frere-Jones, the noted and celebrated typeface designers, including a weblog. Subscribed. Oh, and the browser fonts of choice for the meticulous duo? "Lucida Grande, Lucida Sans, Verdana, Georgia, Helvetica, Arial" (thx, jonathan)
Filmmaker Errol Morris is writing a blog for the NY Times about photography. It's supposed to be Times Select only and therefore behind the Times' stupid paywall, but I can get to it just fine for some reason. His most recent post concerns the confusion over the identity of the hooded man in the iconic Abu Ghraib photograph, which topic Morris is researching for S.O.P.: Standard Operating Procedure, his upcoming film about the prison and the events that happened there.
Muji announces their NYC Soho location...it'll be on Broadway just south of Grand. The store opens in November 2007 and will carry furniture, appliances, clothes, and a bunch of other stuff (food?).
Update: No food and no cafes. (thx, armin)
Action films tend not to age well. Raiders is a happy exception. Expertly paced, a trait not shared by many contemporary films, action or otherwise.
As those of you who love slow pans over black and white photography are already aware, Ken Burns has a new documentary coming out on PBS on Sept 23. The War "explores the history and horror of World War II from an American perspective by following the fortunes of so-called ordinary men and women who became caught up in one of the greatest cataclysms in human history" in 7 episodes spanning over 15 hours. A 26-minute video preview is available on the PBS site and the DVD is already available for pre-order on Amazon.
Before the 2007 season started, mathematician Bruce Bukiet's mathematical model predicted the NY Yankees would win 110 games this year...they might win 90 based on their current pace. Related: check out how the team salary vs. performance graph is shaping up as we move into the last few weeks of the 2007 season.
A handy chart comparing various film sizes. Large format 4x5 film contains 15 times the information as 35mm film. Even Canon's new $8000, 21 megapixel, professional-grade digital camera still has a 35mm-sized sensor. (thx, jake)
Update: Jason sends this note along via email: "If you're curious about digital vs. film resolution comparisons (which can get complicated), here are two links that might be of interest": Understanding image sharpness and 4x5" Drum Scanned Film vs. 39 Megapixel Digital. Christian emailed a link to Film is digital and digital is analog.
What with the newborn taking up much of my days, I didn't have too much time to watch TV this summer. I did catch a few shows, however.
Ninja Warrior. This is my new favorite show to truly zone out to. It's an obstacle course competition program from Japan called Sasuke, repackaged by the G4 network for an American audience. This YouTube video -- featuring my favorite Ninja Warrior competitor, fisherman Makoto Nagano -- should provide you with a decent taste of the show. Wikipedia has more information than you probably want to know about the program. Time/place: G4, all hours of the day (but officially 6pm & 10pm ET).
Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? See Idiocracy. See also Miss Teen South Carolina. I couldn't click away fast enough. Time/place: not even gonna tell you.
Deadwood, season one. Finally got around to checking this out after many recommendations from friends. Big fan so far, through 10 episodes. Gem Saloon owner Al Swearengen is one of the best TV characters in recent memory. Aside from the obvious -- Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, and Deadwood itself -- I was surprised to learn that many of the characters, events, and establishments in the show actually existed and took place, including Swearengen, E.B., and the Gem. I imagine there's an extensive discussion on the web somewhere about how much the show deviates from recorded history, but I'm staying away for now for fear of spoilers, having already made the mistake of learning of Wild Bill's story arc in a book about the Wild West. Time/place: HBO2 is currently rerunning season one at 8pm ET. Also available on DVD, anytime.
The Wire, seasons one, two, and three. Everyone dogs on season two of The Wire (relatively speaking), but after a second viewing, it's right up there with one and three for me. Collectively the best program ever shown on TV, case closed, next topic, I'm not even gonna discuss that with you. G.O.A.T. However, up for debate: despite being everyone's favorite character on the show (but not mine), Omar Little is actually the least realistic character on a show defined by its realism. A gay thief/killer/felon who doesn't swear and adheres to a personal code of conduct? Come on! Time/place: BET is showing episodes of season three on Thursdays at 9:30pm ET, but edited for content and with commercials. Which is like viewing Titian's nudes with all the naughty bits pixelated out and a "Sponsored by AXE Deodorant Body Spray" banner draped over it. Just get the DVDs...beg, borrow, or steal if you have to.
Planet Earth. A highly recommended nature series that originally aired on the BBC in early 2006 (with David Attenborough narrating) and jumped to the Discovery Channel earlier this year (with Sigourney Weaver narrating). We caught several episodes on Discovery HD, which is a spectacular way to watch the series. My favorite scenes depicted the symbiotic relationships that develop in the wild: snakes and fish hunting together, dolphins and birds herding fish, spiders diving for prey trapped by pitcher plants. NY Times review, Washington Post review, detailed Wikipedia entry. Time/place: Not on TV in the US anymore, as far as I know. Your best bet is on DVD or, if you have an HD player, get the full effect on HD DVD or Blu-ray. Get the Attenborough-narrated version if you can. Oh, it looks like there's a few highly pixelated complete episodes of Planet Earth on Google Video...get 'em before they get taken down.
Some Infinite Jest fashion notes: an Enfield Tennis Academy tshirt from Neighborhoodies and...
Was the designer of Infinite Jest's book cover influenced by the color palette of the Nikes that Andre Agassi wore in 1991? Compelling visual evidence is available at lonelysandwich.
My friend David Galbraith just launched a gadget site called Oobject. The gadgets are organized into hierarchically ordered collections and you can vote on the position of a particular gadget within the collection. Two of my favorite collections are the iPod knock-offs and revolting gold gadgets (it's interesting that gold makes technology look vulgar and therefore cheap).
Oh, and David's Smashing Telly is still cranking along nicely. I wish I had time to watch all the shows featured recently.
I'm a light Etsy user, but Lost Mitten has a great store: Super Mario Bros drink coasters, Katamari Damacy buttons, Bob-omb needlepoint patch, etc. I'm a proud owner of a set of Bubble Bobble coasters. She takes custom orders, will reissue sold items, and all her stuff is 20% off until Thu. (Know of any good Etsy stores? Share them in the comments.)
This is interesting. The PGA offers a non-traditional pension plan for their players that depends on how they perform throughout their careers. Tiger Woods, who performs quite well, could be eligible for almost $1 billion for his retirement if he keeps playing and winning. Billion. Wow.
Apple is holding a special event today at 10am PT to announce a new product. Or something. No one knows exactly what but it seems to have something to do with music. Popular guesses include a 3G iPhone, a different iPod nano, a touchscreen iPod, and the availability of the Beatles entire musical catalog on iTunes. MacWorld, Engadget, MacObserver, and ArsTechnica (among others) will have live coverage.
Update: Jobs announced 99-cent ringtones, new colors for iPod shuffle, new form factor for iPod nano (fat vs. thin), renamed the iPod to iPod classic, introduced new iPod touch (basically the iPhone without the phone), new mobile iTunes Music Store that will work on iPod touch and the iPhone, odd partnership with Starbucks...click to buy currently playing songs in the store and free wifi for iTMS purchases (how about free wifi, period?), and the 8GB iPhone now costs $399. !!!!! I guess Apple's plan on that was 1) gouge all the early adopters, and then 2) reduce the price to sell iPhones like crazy.
Trailer for In the Shadow of the Moon, a documentary that "brings together for the first, and possibly the last, time surviving crew members from every single Apollo mission that flew to the Moon along with visually stunning archival material re-mastered from the original NASA film footage". BOY HOWDY! Here's a review of the film from Ad/Astra, the magazine of the National Space Society.
Show creator David Simon talks with author Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, etc.) in the The August 2007 issue of The Believer. The entire interview isn't available online but one of the three best bits is:
My standard for verisimilitude is simple and I came to it when I started to write prose narrative: fuck the average reader. I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life. The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden. Fuck him. Fuck him to hell.
Simon goes on to talk about the overarching theme of The Wire: the exploration of the postmodern American city and the struggle of the individual against the city's institutions. Many of his thoughts on that particular subject are contained in this Dec 2006 interview at Slate. But in talking with Hornby, Simon draws a parallel between these city institutions and the Greek gods:
Another reason the show may feel different than a lot of television: our model is not quite so Shakespearian as other high-end HBO fare. The Sopranos and Deadwood -- two shows that I do admire -- offer a good deal of Macbeth or Richard III or Hamlet in their focus on the angst and machinations of their central characters (Tony Soprano, Al Swearingen). Much of our modern theatre seems rooted in the Shakespearian discovery of the modern mind. We're stealing instead from an earlier, less-traveled construct -- the Greeks -- lifting our thematic stance wholesale from Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides to create doomed and fated protagonists who confront a rigged game and their own mortality.
But instead of the old gods, The Wire is a Greek tragedy in which the postmodern institutions are the Olympian forces. It's the police department, or the drug economy, or the political structures, or the school administration, or the macroeconomics forces that are throwing the lightning bolts and hitting people in the ass for no reason. In much of television, and in a good deal of our stage drama, individuals are often portrayed as rising above institutions to achieve catharsis. In this drama, the institutions always prove larger, and those characters with hubris enough to challenge the postmodern construct of American empire are invariably mocked, marginalized, or crushed. Greek tragedy for the new millenium, so to speak.
The NY Times still deals in the Shakespearian and tells us the story of Donnie Andrews and Fran Boyd (thx, nirav), whom Simon and The Wire co-creator Edward Burns introduced to each other. Andrews was the inspiration for the popular Omar Little character on the show and Boyd was depicted in a previous Simon/Burns collaboration called The Corner. The Times also has their wedding announcement.
And finally, some news about season five. Sadly, instead of 12 or 13 episodes, the final season of the show will only consist of 10 episodes. The shooting of the final episode wrapped on September 1 and the season will premiere on Jan 6, 2008 (both facts courtesy of a Washington Post article about the end of the show). The season 4 DVD should be out a month or two before that. Two actors from Homicide: Life on the Street (based on a book by, you guessed it, David Simon) will appear in the final season: Clark Johnson (who also directed the final episode) and Richard Belzer, who will reprise his Homicide role as Detective John Munch.
After two months of paternity leave and mostly not posting, I'm resuming work on kottke.org today. It's been wonderful getting to know my son and gaining some much needed perspective, but I've missed doing the site too...9.5 years on and there's so much yet to do. So here we go.
Two quick notes.
1. I've saved up several links found while on leave...they'll be trickling out to the blog for the next few days. Apologies if you've seen them before (some you probably haven't), but if you've been paying attention, kottke.org isn't a place for the exclusively new and fresh. There are several other sites out there for that; they function excellently but I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with much of the blogosphere that whatever is newest is interesting to the detriment of everything else. Bollocks to the new.
2. Several people have inexplicably assumed that since I'm now a father, kottke.org is going to turn into some kind of daddyblog, and furthermore asserted that they'd like that not very much. Rest assured, not going to happen. I'm sure I'll make occasional mention of the family, but don't look for posts entitled "Umbrella Stroller Buying Guide" or "How to Buy Gender Neutral Clothing for Your Newborn (A: Don't Try, This is Nearly Impossible)". For those who want Ollie, Ollie, Ollie all the time, may I suggest checking out my Flickr stream for the occasional photo.
Today's NY Times covers virtual book tours, the increasingly popular practice of book authors touring blogs instead of touring the non-virtual bookstores of the US and staying in non-virtual and expensive hotel rooms. From the article's midst:
[Booktour.com] was founded by Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of Wired and the author of "The Long Tail"; Adam Goldstein, a 19-year-old sophomore at M.I.T.; and Kevin Smokler, a publishing expert credited with creating the first blog book tour. That was for "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" by the science writer Mary Roach, in 2003. Since then, Mr. Smokler said, "It's become de rigueur for public relations to include blogs and online media as part of regular touring."
kottke.org was one of the tour stops for the Stiff book tour (here's the entry) but I also participated in the first blog book tour more than a year earlier, for a book called Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard, written by Greg Knauss and published by So New Media, a small publishing concern lovingly run by Ben Brown and James Stegall
and now, sadly, defunct. The Rainy Day Fun... tour was the inspiration for Kevin in putting together the later tour. Not sure why the Times indicated otherwise.
And if you want to go back before most people were aware of these blog thingies, author M.J. Rose recalls participating in a virtual tour circa 2000:
So the NYT finally did an article on Author blog tours, which if memory serves, some of us have been doing for a quite a long time... in 2000 I did one that included Salon and BookReporter.com and a few other places that updated regularly and operated the way blogs do even though then we didn't call them that.
Update: So New Media is still going strong...just their old domain is no longer working. (thx, greg) And hey, Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard is still available ($5!) and still funny. I'm planning a re-read now that I'm a total bastard and soon-to-be toddler wrangler.
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