Entries for October 2007 (November 2007 »    December 2007 »    January 2008 »    Archives)



Yes, the NBA season started last night, and we have Halloween tonight (we're going as Mahna Mahna Muppets), but the BIG DAY is tomorrow: start of National Novel Writing Month.

Douglas WolkJOEL TURNIPSEED  ·  OCT 31

OK, short intro: Douglas Wolk is smart, funny, and if you have any interest in comics whatsoever you should absolutely check out his Reading Comics. Great stuff. This is a long interview, but every time I tried to cut it, I thought, "Nope, not that—too smart." So here you go. Comments turned on, normal rules apply—enjoy.

JT: The opening of one of Robert Warshow's essays, on Krazy Kat, is worth quoting at length, if only because it could be a sort of manifesto of sorts for blogging, writ-large:

"On the underside of our society, there are those who have no real stake at all in respectable culture. These are the open enemies of culture.... these are the readers of pulp magazines and comic books, potential book-burners, unhappy patrons of astrologers and communicants of lunatic sects, the hopelessly alienated and outclassed.... But their distance from the center gives them in the mass a degree of independence that the rest of us can achieve only individually and by discipline... when this lumpen culture displays itself in mass art forms, it can occasionally take on a purity and freshness that would almost surely be smothered higher up on the cultural scale."

We'll get to comics, but I wonder if this doesn't perfectly capture some of the anarchism, snark, and general weirdness of a lot that comes across the blogosphere? Insofar as blogging remains a kind of private, gift-exchange of woe and rant and fanatical interest, isn't this what makes blogs so much fun? So vital?

DW: There's still a pernicious kind of defensive class-consciousness to what Warshow's writing here, a sense of "purity and freshness" from noble savages ("potential book-burners"? same to you, buddy!), a sense that everybody knows what the cultural scale is and that it's self-evidently immutable. That's not really the case any more, and it hasn't been the case for a long time. And the phrase "respectable culture" suggests that what's at stake here maybe isn't even culture as much as respect—the respect owed to the individual, disciplined "rest of us" by "them in the mass." That, as they say, is a mug's game.

To put it another way: "distance from the center" presumes not only that everybody agrees on what that center is, but that one is either near to it or far from it, and that being far from it can confer some kind of ironic virtue. This is the same kind of mindset that valorizes "outsider art" for the straw dangling from the corner of its mouth rather than for itself. What's fun and vital about the blogosphere is not that it doesn't speak with the questionably unified ("smothered"?) voice of mass culture, but that individual bloggers only need to speak for themselves and about their own personal interests, and don't need to triangulate themselves against any distinct or nebulous center; it doesn't matter who's paying attention and who isn't, even when lots of people are paying attention! Each blogger is a gravitational center, great or small, but there's no sun they're all orbiting around.

JT: In Reading Comics, you write "The blessing and the curse of comics as a medium is that there is such a thing as 'comics culture.'" It's unfair to ask, but can you give a shorter summary of this than you give in this chapter of your book ("What's Good About Bad Comics and What's Bad About Good Comics")? How are these cultures changing—or spreading—as mainstream literary writers like Chabon and Lethem enter the fray & magazines and journals like The Virginia Quarterly Review and The New York Times Magazine have begun featuring comics regularly (or that we now have a Best American Comics)? Is the imprimatur of "official culture" the mark of death for comics culture?

DW: "Comics culture" has always been a little bit tough for me to grapple with, partly because I'm looking at it from the inside. It's a culture that's immersed in comics and their history and economics and formal conventions, to the point where it can be difficult to read comics casually: you almost have to adopt (or work around) a certain cultural mode to pick up something with words and pictures and read it for pleasure, and that's annoying. On the other hand, the culture of comics-readers does privilege deep knowledge, and in its eccentric way it's deeply committed to being hospitable to newcomers; we care about this stuff a lot, and we like the feeling of being a community.

As for the second half of your question, why would an influx of public attention, talent and money possibly mark the death of comics? If people start buying books by Jaime Hernandez and Megan Kelso because they've seen their work in the Times Magazine, I'm all for that—believe me, there's nobody who's attached to the idea of the best cartoonists remaining some kind of subcultural secret. It's interesting to see the the way the new streams of creators are affecting comics, though—I'm particularly fond of cartoonists with backgrounds in design or contemporary visual art who've come to comics because they've gotten interested in narrative. In the last few years, there's also been a bit of a trend of celebrity writers in the comics mainstream, some of whom have adapted easily to the different sort of writing that works in combination with drawings, and some of whom are still writing as if the images in comics are just ancillary illustrations of the important (verbal) part. But that doesn't mean that something important has been lost, just that there's fresh blood and sometimes a learning curve—there are more English-language comics in print now than there have ever been before, and more good stuff available than ever before.

JT: A quick Google search for "comics blogs" returns about 58 million results. Are there notable blogs out there that manifest these two sides of comics culture? Is there a killer spandex fanboy site? A Pitchfork for comics?

DW: Oh, absolutely. I'd like to say that if there's a Pitchfork for comics, it's The Savage Critic(s), to which I occasionally contribute—my two favorite comics critics, Joe "Jog" McCulloch and Abhay Khosla, both write for it. The best spandex sites these days, as far as I'm concerned, are Chris's Invincible Super-Blog, Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun!, The Absorbascon and Myriad Issues, with extra credit to Funnybook Babylon for "Downcounting," their weekly savaging of DC's "Countdown" series. And then there are great generalist blogs—the Comics Reporter is one of the first things I read every morning, and I really like the newish Picture Poetry, too.

JT: Even though I included 20 pages of graphic novel in my own book, I don't really have a big collection: Joe Sacco's books, Spiegelman's
Maus books, Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan, a couple of Eisner's, Alan Moore, Marjane Satrapi's memoirs, Clowes, Pekar, and Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics—basically: no superhero comics whatsoever. Am I just totally dropping the ball on the superhero and other serial comics?

DW: There are a bunch of worthwhile serial comics at the moment, and some of them are superhero comics—although superhero comics are very much grounded in a shared set of conventions, there are an awful lot of them, and even a lot of the best ones require a willingness to figure out how they fit into the "continuity" context of thousands of others. If you don't like the idea of gigantic metaphors in brightly colored outfits, don't force yourself. That said, on the superhero front right now I'm loving Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's "All-Star Superman" (which is deliberately un-linked to continuity) and Greg Pak, John Romita, Jr., and Klaus Janson's "World War Hulk" (which is very heavily enmeshed with continuity), and I think a lot of Brian Michael Bendis's "New Avengers"/"Mighty Avengers"/"Illuminati" work is really interesting--it fails as often as it works, but he's pushing himself really hard.

The best non-superhero serial comics right now? Eric Shanower's "Age of Bronze," "Y: The Last Man," "DMZ," and I suppose "Love and Rockets" counts! Skipping serials on principle means you're missing out in pretty much the same way that you're missing out if you only watch movies and don't bother with "The Wire" or "Lost" or "Arrested Development"...

JT: Given the fanatical culture of comics, it seems natural that there are a ton of comics blogs (and that a lot of comics artists would have blogs), but the comic and the graphic novel don't really work as an online medium, do they? I tried keeping up with the New York Times Magazine's comics section when I dropped my print subscription, but they serialize them on the Web as PDFs—and even then, they don't read very well on my 15" MacBook Pro. Is this a fundamental nature of the beast? Or are there people out there making it work? Is there a Henry Darger out there in the blogosphere? The next Harvey Pekar (as if the current one weren't handful enough)?

DW: Scott McCloud's whole thing about the limitless potential of online comics hasn't quite been borne out yet, but it's still a very new medium. I agree that the Times's PDFs are a dreadful idea, but there are a lot of Web-comics that have enormous readerships; it seems, in general, like daily humor strips are the format that work best so far. I love Achewood and Diesel Sweeties, in particular; as far as non-humor strips go, Dicebox is pretty wonderful. The real problem is that there's presently no way for a cartoonist to make any money at all, let alone make a living, doing online comics (that whole "micropayment" thing seems to have fizzled); the few people whose sole employment seems to be doing them are actually making their money selling related merchandise. I this an insurmountable problem? Probably not—but nobody's sure how to fix it yet. At least people doing print comics have a tangible object that can be exchanged for money.

As for the Darger/Pekar question, I'm not sure what you mean—when you say Henry Darger, I think of a crazed sexually obsessed hyperproductive fantasist working in total isolation (hence not somebody who'd be in the blogosphere, by definition); when you say Harvey Pekar, I think of a compulsive self-documenter (hence... everybody in the blogosphere).


There's a great piece in the new MIT Technology Review [free reg. req'd], "The Blow-Up," on the role of quants in this summer's credit meltdown:

For Richard Bookstaber, a quant who has managed hedge funds and risk for companies like Salomon Brothers and Morgan Stanley, the August downturn proved that concerns he'd long harbored were well founded.... Today, he is very worried about the tools and the methods of the quants. In particular, he frets about complexity and what he calls "tight coupling," an engineer's term for systems in which small errors can compound quickly, as they do in nuclear plants. The quants' tools, he feels, have became so complicated that they have escaped their creators. "We have gotten to the point where even professionals may not understand the instruments," he says.


A nice write-up in The Washington Post yesterday about Brijit, a start-up that hopes to make finding good magazine articles an easier task by creating a site that posts abstracts and ratings:

Brijit, Brosowsky said, aims to be "everyone's best-read friend."

Now on Brijit are summations of articles in current issues of GQ, Wired, Mother Jones, ESPN the Magazine, the Economist, Smithsonian and more than 50 other magazines. Even if you never read the entire article, just scanning Brijit could make you the smartest person at your next cocktail party.

Call me 'mildly interested.' It's not a bad idea. And I agree with David Foster Wallace's great opening essay in this year's Best American Essays, & also with Jason's reaction to it: namely, that we need editors a lot more than we think & now more than ever.

But, between the actual magazines and the individual styles, tastes, and voices of the blogs and group blogs that I already read to find what I've missed, where's room for Brijit? Maybe Brijit will reach critical mass and become a single-stop clearing-house for bloggers with more specialized tastes? One thing they'll have to do for certain is expand their currently-limited scope: if you look at their source list, a large number of the journals and magazines from which this year's crop of Best American Essays came are missing--including many that do post their content online & without a paywall.

Iconic Moments of the 20th CenturyJOEL TURNIPSEED  ·  OCT 30

Euro art collective Henry VIII's Wives recreate iconic 20th century photographs using Glaswegian pensioners as models, all posed outside their housing complex in Glasgow. A real glaswegian kiss to the complacent gaze with which the original photos are too-easily met.

(thx, joseph)

Jessica HagyJOEL TURNIPSEED  ·  OCT 30

If you haven't seen them yet (and chances are you have), Jessica Hagy's index cards are little marvels of wit and wisdom. They've also netted her world-wide acclaim and a book deal with Penguin. Her book, Indexed, comes out next year. While she's not the first blogger with a book deal, I love her cards so much I asked her to chat with me about how she started blogging--as well as how her blog got her a book deal and more. But first, here's one of my all-time favorite Jessica Hagy index cards:

Hagy Hell

JT: So, you're sitting around at work one day saying, "Yeah, I am like Roz Chast--but only her if maybe she worked as a McKinsey consultant, and, yes, I am going to start a blog posting my index cards, dammit!" Or did it start out a little differently?

JH: I read somewhere that 'every writer needs a blog' but I didn't want to do one of those "Here's what I had for breakfast. Here's what I did at school" blogs. I'd had a few really lame advertising jobs, and was going back to school, and I felt like I had to do something--anything--that was remotely creative so my head wouldn't explode. I never thought anyone would find the thing, actually. It was just my little, goofy project.

JT: Your cards are a run-away hit on the blogosphere, including their regular feature in the Freakonomics blog: did it take a while to build up? What other opportunities have grown out of your blog? Are you a full-time 3x5-er now?

JH: About a week after I posted the first batch last August, somebody linked the blog to Metafilter. Whoever you are, thank you! That's how my agent (it's still strange to me that I have an honest-to-god agent) found me, and from there, it just sort of took off.

I'm working on the full-timing. The Indexed book comes out on Feb 28th (one day before leap day). Indexed was a Webby honoree and is on a bunch of "best blogs' lists. Right now, the cards are on Freakonomics and run in Plenty Magazine. They ran in GOOD magazine, on the BBC Magazine Online, and JibJab commissioned a bunch of them. Current TV is going to film me drawing about a dozen of them and turn that into TV interstitials.

I've had a few offers to sell the whole thing, but none seemed to be great fits. Syndication is the next thing we're going after.

I'm super, super, super lucky.

JT: It's blog-2-book madness these days--how did your book come about?

JH: My incredibly cool editor at Pengiun emailed me about turning the blog into a book in February. I forwarded his email to my agent. They talked to each other. I talked to them. And off we went. I love the Internet.

JT: I can't wait for your book--but in the meantime, I hope whoever you get as a publicist uses this video of your work. How did that come about?

JH: That was an email from Clemens Kogler, an Austrian filmmaker, just saying he liked the stuff and could he use it in a film. That sounded fun to me, and the result was Le Grand Content. It was featured on the front page of YouTube on Superbowl Sunday, and having worked in advertising for years and never gotten a decent TV spot produced, that felt like a creative victory of sorts, to have that show up there when it did.

JT: Finally, care to leave us with a card about blogs?


Hagy Kottke

OK, comments are turned on: be interesting or nice or both.

The State We're InJOEL TURNIPSEED  ·  OCT 30

OK, Joel Turnipseed here. I'll be doing some of the usual curatorial work that Jason does so well, but I also want to take this week to have a look at how blogs are changing how we create, disseminate, and critique our culture these days. In a world in which an Eau Claire Area Teen can post something to Digg and bring as much attention to it as an article in The New Yorker or The Atlantic (both of whom are heavy into blogging themselves these days), this seems like a good thing to do. For better or worse, blogs seem to be the new dispensation. But what, really, are they good for--or: what are they really good for--and what don't they do very well? Helping me out this week will be:

Jessica Hagy, blogger and author of forthcoming Indexed
Douglas Wolk, music and comics critic and author of Reading Comics
Ted Genoways, poet and editor of The Virginia Quarterly Review
Yochai Benkler, law professor and author of The Wealth of Networks
Steven Berlin Johnson, outside.in & author, most-recently, of The Ghost Map
Jane Ciabattari, journalist, critic, and NBCC board member
Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing blogger and author of, most-recently, Overclocked

I'll be posting short interviews with these fine folks throughout the week.

Transit Maps of the WorldOCT 29

Transit Maps of the World

Subway map geeks rejoice:

Transit Maps of the World is the first and only comprehensive collection of historic and current maps of every rapid-transit system on earth. Using glorious, colorful graphics, Mark Ovenden traces the history of mass transit-including rare and historic maps, diagrams, and photographs, some available for the first time since their original publication. Transit Maps is the graphic designer's new bible, the transport enthusiast's dream collection, and a coffee-table essential for everyone who's ever traveled in a city.

Found out about this from Boing Boing, where Cory has a quick review.

This week on kottke.org: Joel TurnipseedOCT 29

In the interest of growing the site beyond its current boundaries (i.e. me having to be seated in front of a computer 24/7/365), I'm trying something new on kottke.org. Starting tomorrow and continuing through next Tuesday, Joel Turnipseed will be editing the site. Joel is a writer living in Minneapolis, has previously run a software company, and is the author of Baghdad Express, a memoir of his experience as a US Marine in the first Gulf War. His writing has appeared in Granta, GQ, and The New York Times. For the week, Joel will be posting links, interviews, and entries loosely organized around a theme; he'll introduce himself and explain exactly what's going tomorrow. I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with.

(And yeah, this is the result of my help wanted post from earlier in the month.)

A list of thirty illnesses, sorted accordingOCT 29

A list of thirty illnesses, sorted according to whether or not you can eat the victims. Oh McSweeney's lists, we've been parted too long.

A good but not great profile ofOCT 29

A good but not great profile of Steve Nash in Play, the NY Times' occasional sports magazine.

My first and second years in the N.B.A., I used to get really nervous in a tight game. But now I wait for that moment when things are really close -- that's what I really love. Having the ball in my hands and the responsibility makes me feel calm and open. Not to have that, not to get to that point in a game, would feel really...really confining.

I also liked how he involved not-so-good players on his college team:

If he had a guy on the right wing in transition who he knew couldn't shoot the ball, he'd throw a pass that was just good enough to include the guy in the fast break, but just bad enough that the guy wasn't in a position to get off a shot and would have to pass the ball back.

As a supplement to Alex Ross' musicalOCT 29

As a supplement to Alex Ross' musical recommendations, a reader recommends NPR's list of 50 essential classical music CDs and Jazz 100, a list of the best jazz on CD. (thx, john)

Hilarious interview with a pair of flairOCT 29

Hilarious interview with a pair of flair bartenders. So what is flair bartending?

A lot of people don't know what it is. They think we're just bottle flippers. There's a bar here called Front Page, and they have a channel with extreme sports-snowboarding and a couple of other sports. And I think flair actually falls into the same category. You can get hurt really badly. Like I was practicing at home and a bottle fell down on this bone [points to ankle] and I went straight to the floor. I stopped practicing for at least 30 minutes. But flair is a passion. Once you get in it, it's very addictive.

I poked around on YouTube and found some flair bartending videos...looks like (fairly unimpressive) bottle flipping to me. (thx, catherine)

Project Orcon was a WWII-era effort toOCT 29

Project Orcon was a WWII-era effort to find a non-jammable guidance system for missiles; pigeons were one of the things they tried. Loaded into a missile, the pigeons were to tap on the image of the target to correct the missile's trajectory.

Trainee pigeons were started out in the primary trainer pecking at slowly moving targets. They were rewarded with corn for each hit and quickly learned that good pecking meant more food. Eventually pigeons were able to track a target jumping back and forth at five inches per second for 80 seconds, without a break. Peck frequency turned out to be four per second, and more than 80 percent of the pecks were within a quarter inch of the target. The training conditions simulated missile-flight speeds of about 400 miles per hour.

More information at Wikipedia, including some interesting see alsos: bat bomb and anti-tank dog. (thx, dan)

Pretty amusing interview with a 9-year-old aboutOCT 29

Pretty amusing interview with a 9-year-old about music, file sharing, and DRM.

Q: When you started using LimeWire, did anyone ever mention that if you did certain things you might be breaking some laws?

A: Why would they put [music] on the internet and invent mp3 players if it was against the law?

(thx, mark)

The Warhol EconomyOCT 29

The Warhol Economy

Two quick reviews of Elizabeth Currid's book, The Warhol Economy, which argues that New York's "vibrant creative social scene" is what makes the city go. First, James Surowiecki in the New Yorker:

Of course, everyone knows that art and culture help make New York a great place to live. But Currid goes much further, showing that the culture industry creates tremendous economic value in its own right. It is the city's fourth-largest employer, and generates billions of dollars a year in revenue. More important, New York has no real global rival for dominance in the culture industry. Using an economic-analysis tool called a "location quotient," Currid calculates that New York matters far more to fashion, art, and culture than to finance. To exaggerate a bit, if New York suddenly disappeared, stock markets could keep functioning, but we would not be able to dress ourselves or find art to put on the wall. Currid suggests that, in the fight among cities for business, being the center of fashion and art constitutes New York's true "competitive advantage."

And from The Economist:

New York's cultural economy has reached a critical juncture, argues Ms Currid, threatened by, of all things, prosperity. The bleak economic conditions of the 1970s allowed artists to flock into dirt-cheap apartments and ushered in the East Village scene of the early 1980s. The boom of the past decade, by contrast, has priced budding Basquiats out of Manhattan, pushing them across the water to Brooklyn and New Jersey. Studio flats meant for artists-in-residence get snapped up by bankers. The closure last year of CBGB, a bar that became a punk and art-rock laboratory in the 1970s (and whose founder, Hilly Kristal, died last month) came to symbolise this squeeze.

Ms Currid sees this expulsion of talent as a serious problem. The solution, she argues, lies in a series of well-aimed public-policy measures: tax incentives, zoning that helps nightlife districts, more subsidised housing and studio space for up-and-coming artists, and more.

The first chapter of the book is available on the Princeton University Press site.

A tshirt featuring a subway map representationOCT 28

A tshirt featuring a subway map representation of the human gastrointestinal system. (thx, sami)

Update: Oh, and I plumb forgot the Threadless Metropolitan Cardiac Authority tshirt. (thx, sam)

A list of seven topics to avoidOCT 28

A list of seven topics to avoid talking about so as to not seem boring, including "the route you took to get here".

What do these subjects have in common? The listener has nothing to add. He or she must just hear you describe your experience.

I'm particularly sensitive to the "recent changes in your child's nap schedule" one these days. I remember how bored I was as a non-parent with the tendency for baby-talk to completely dominate conversations.

Nintendo-themed rap music video: Buy Mii aOCT 28

Nintendo-themed rap music video: Buy Mii a Wii. My favorite part is when he rhymes Nintendo with Shigeru Miyamoto. (thx, undulattice)

140-character recipes on Twitter. (via jimr.ay)OCT 26

140-character recipes on Twitter. (via jimr.ay)

GOOD Magazine lists seven instances in whichOCT 26

GOOD Magazine lists seven instances in which the old-fashioned way still works best, including the use of maggots for cleaning wounds, beekeeping, and letterpress printing.

The basic idea of beekeeping is still the same as it was in the 1800s. The Langstroth hive is named after the scientist who first discovered what we called bee space-three eighths of an inch. That's their travel space, they won't junk it up with honey or anything. Beekeepers take advantage of that, and that's how the hives work.

Bee space!

FFFFOUND!, art curating for the massesOCT 26

Alexander Bohn wrote a glowing review of FFFFOUND! at Speak Up the other day. My FFFFOUND! fandom is documented elsewhere, so I'll comment instead on an observation Bohn made in his initial paragraph:

Graphic design might not work in the white cube, but it flourishes on a white background. A new mutated strain of design blog has evolved: The Randomly Curated Other People's Images White Background Site, or RCOPIWS. Sites like Manystuff, Monoscope, Your Daily Awesome, and VVORK (among countless others) offer designers and design aficionados a constant flood of typographic morsels, interesting photos, arresting new art, and the like. One such site sets itself apart, notably, from the other RCOPIWSes: the collaborative image-bookmarking site ffffound.comallegedly, but unconfirmed, initiated by online fiend Yugo Nakamura.

Among the many things that the internet has democratized is curating, a task once more or less exclusive to editors (magazine, book, and newspaper), art gallery owners, media executives (music, TV, and film), and museum curators. They choose the art you see on a museum's wall, the shows you see on TV, the movies that get made, and the stories you read in the newspaper. The ease and low cost of publishing on the web coupled with the abundance of sample-ready media has made the curating process available to many more people. Smashing Telly is David Galbraith's rolling film festival (or TV channel). By simply listening to the music that you like, Last.fm allows anyone to put together their own radio station to share with others. kottke.org is essentially a table of contents for a magazine I wish existed. Shorpy has freed old photography from the nearly impenetrable Library of Congress web site and presented it in a compelling blog-like fashion.

In the case of FFFFOUND! and other RCOPIWSs, I would argue that these sites showcase a new form of art curating. The pace is faster, you don't need a physical gallery or museum, and you don't need to worry about crossing arbitrary boundaries of style or media. Nor do you need to concern yourself with questions like "is this person an artist or an outsider artist?" If a particular piece is good or compelling or noteworthy, in it goes. The last week's output at Monoscope would make a pretty good show in a Chelsea art gallery, no? It'll be interesting to see how this grassroots art curating will affect the art/design/photography world at large. Jen Bekman, who has roots in the internet industry, is already exploring this new frontier with her nimble gallery and the Hey, Hot Shot! competition. Others are sure to follow.

A visual history of giant spheres.OCT 26

A visual history of giant spheres.

1850: Baron Haussmann and engineer Eugene Belgrand design the modern Paris sewer system.The sewers are regularly cleaned using large wooden spheres just smaller than the system's tubular tunnels. The buildup of water pressure behind the balls forces them through the tunnel network until they emerge somewhere downstream pushing a mass of filthy sludge.

(via i like)

A list of fast food menu itemsOCT 26

A list of fast food menu items that are really high in trans fats. The list is a bit misleading as no attempt is made to normalize portions (the top two items are multi-portion side orders) but still handy, especially for the list of places that had no items on the list (Subway, Pizza Hut, Wendy's, In-N-Out, etc.). (via serious eats)

Update: Many Eyes user Michael created two charts to accompany the list above: a bar chart and a treemap. (thx, michael)

If you're overwhelmed by the thought ofOCT 26

If you're overwhelmed by the thought of switching to an organic diet, here's five easy organic foods you can introduce into your household with minimal fuss and maximum impact.

Potatoes are a staple of the American diet -- one survey found they account for 30 percent of our overall vegetable consumption. A simple switch to organic potatoes has the potential to have a big impact because commercially-farmed potatoes are some of the most pesticide-contaminated vegetables.

Mormon teens interviewedOCT 26

Sarah Hepola has a pair of interviews up on her site with two Mormon teens (first interview, second interview).

Joseph Smith was evil incarnate -- a little insane, but more evil. Sort of like Charles Manson, only slightly better looking.

I hereby declare the interviewees the two most articulate teenagers on the internet. (via the morning news)

Ben Tesch is about to launch aOCT 26

Ben Tesch is about to launch a collaborative weather site called cumul.us. It'll aggregate weather information and harness the wisdom of crowds to see if they can make better weather predictions than the experts.

Will this all work? Who knows, but it only took me two months to make, and I wanted to find out.

Unlike so many other types of information, the web has had little impact on how weather reporting is done (the Weather Channel stuff is still rudimentary), so it'll be interesting to see if this works.

Ursine is a new series of photosOCT 26

Ursine is a new series of photos by Jill Greenberg, who previously did monkey portraiture and crying children, the latter of which provoked some controversy in the blogosphere.

I was going to shoot grizzly bears because they're safer than bloggers.

A complete series of photos are available on Greenberg's web site, sadly buried in an inscrutable Flash interface.

Comet Holmes brightened a millionfold late thisOCT 26

Comet Holmes brightened a millionfold late this week and has become visible to the naked eye, even in bright cities. The second chart on this page shows how quickly the comet shot up in brightness.

If anyone steals a base during theOCT 25

If anyone steals a base during the World Series, Taco Bell is going to give everyone in the US a free taco. They did something similar last year and the terms and conditions of the offer were pretty amusing.

For my future reference, How-to: Proper GMailOCT 25

For my future reference, How-to: Proper GMail IMAP for iPhone and Apple Mail.

Jackson, Mississippi's Frank Melton is the worstOCT 25

Jackson, Mississippi's Frank Melton is the worst mayor in America. He carries concealed weapons without authority or permit, shuts down businesses without cause or warrant, and, my favorite:

He once bulldozed an elderly woman's house, promising to build her a better one. He then forgot to build it.

Short video piece about fonts and typography,OCT 25

Short video piece about fonts and typography, featuring Steven Heller, Jonathan Hoefler, Tobias Frere-Jones. (via quipsologies)

Pixar is releasing a DVD with aOCT 25

Pixar is releasing a DVD with a bunch of their short films on it. (via jimr.ay)

Wes Anderson is racist.OCT 25

Wes Anderson is racist.
Dr. James Watson is racist.
Tyler Perry critics are racist.
The fashion industry is racist.
Halle Berry is racist.
The Department of Homeland Security is racist.
Indie rock is racist.
Global warming is racist.
Martin Amis is racist.
Iggy Pop is racist.
Pixar is racist.
Michael Bay is racist.

William Safire, who now does the OnOCT 25

William Safire, who now does the On Language column for the NY Times, wrote a speech for President Nixon in 1969 in the event that something happened during the Apollo 11 mission to strand the astronauts on the moon.

Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

(via cyn-c)

10 questions that are illegal to ask duringOCT 25

10 questions that are illegal to ask during a job interview, including Where were you born? and Do you have children?

A story by J. Robert Lennon usingOCT 24

A story by J. Robert Lennon using only words from The Cat In The Hat.

I have to say one thing here: it is not fun to be with me. I like books and things. Tame: that is I. I get no kicks, fly no kites, play no games. Hops and pot are not my things. If you are here, I want you to go away. So what should this dish, this fox want out of me? I sat and picked at the fish and looked at those hands, so white.

Anagrams for "Ann Coulter" include "Rectal Noun", "OCT 24

Anagrams for "Ann Coulter" include "Rectal Noun", "Loaner Cunt", "Real Con Nut", and "Unclean Rot".

The director of the Rotterdam Natural HistoryOCT 24

The director of the Rotterdam Natural History Museum is looking for someone to donate pubic lice, which lice are difficult to find these days, possibly because of a decrease in pubic hair due to waxing.

When the bamboo forests that the Giant Panda lives in were cut down, the bear became threatened with extinction. Pubic lice can't live without pubic hair.

A pair of Lego skyscrapers (made from 250,000OCT 24

A pair of Lego skyscrapers (made from 250,000 pieces and inhabited by 1000 Lego people) are on display at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in NYC through November 24. Dennis Crowley's got some pictures and a short movie. Details include a wee Banksy piece on the side of the building and tiny iPod ads. Here's a timelapse video of the construction. (thx, dens)

There are indications that Google is changingOCT 24

There are indications that Google is changing their PageRank algorithm, possibly to penalize sites running paid links or too many cross-promotional links across blog networks. Affected sites include Engadget, Forbes, and Washington Post. Even Boing Boing, which I think had been at 9, is down to 7. You can check a site's PR here.

Depending on the site, 30-40% of a site's total traffic can come from search engines, much of that from Google. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact the PR drop will have on their traffic and revenue. (thx, my moon my mann)

Update: Just got the following from the editor of a site that got its PR bumped down. He says:

Two weeks ago I lost 80% of my search traffic due to, I believe, using ads from Text-Link-Ads, which does not permit the "nofollow" attribute on link ads. That meant an overall drop of more than 44% of my total traffic. It also meant a 65%-95% drop in Google AdSense earnings per day and a loss of PageRank from 7 to 6.

He has removed the text links from his site and is negotiating with Google for reinstatement but estimates a loss in revenue of $10,000 for the year due to this change. And this is for a relatively small site...the Engadget folks must be freaking out.

Stopping underground coal fires would significantly reduceOCT 24

Stopping underground coal fires would significantly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere.

Underground coal fires in China alone produce as much carbon dioxide annually as all the cars and light trucks in the United States.

A coal fire near Centralia, PA has been burning continuously since 1962 and prompted the permanent evacuation of the townspeople.

Cool anatomical drawing of a balloon animal.OCT 24

Cool anatomical drawing of a balloon animal. See also: drawings of skeletal systems of cartoon characters by Michael Paulus, which are available as prints. (via ffffound!)

Withnail and I, reunited.OCT 24

Withnail and I, reunited.

Errol Morris finale on the Roger Fenton photographsOCT 24

Errol Morris has posted the third and final installment of his quest to find out which of two Roger Fenton photographs taken during the Crimean War came first. It is as excellent (and lengthy) as the first and second parts. Morris asks "How can the real world be recovered from the simulacrum?" and arrives at a compelling answer (which I won't give away here) via sun-maps, shadow experts, The Wisconsin Death-Trip Effect, and ultimately, the Dust-Plunging-Straight-Down Test.

It is insane, but I would like to make the claim that the meaning of photography is contained in these two images. By thinking about the Fenton photographs we are essentially thinking about some of the most vexing issues in photography -- about posing, about the intentions of the photographer, about the nature of photographic evidence -- about the relationship between photographs and reality.

Morris' posts make me a bit sad though. Yes, because the series is concluded but also for two other reasons:

1. Morris' investigation sticks out like a sore thumb, especially compared to most popular media (newspapers, magazines, blogs, TV news). Why isn't Morris' level of skepticism and doggedness the norm rather than the delightful exception? Choosing the easy answer or the first answer that seems right enough is certainly compelling, especially under limited time constraints. Once acquired, that easy answer often becomes tied up with the ego of the person holding the belief...i.e. "this answer is correct because I think it's right because I'm smart and not easily duped and it proves the point I'm trying to make and therefore this answer is correct". Morris encountered dozens of easy and plausibly correct answers and rejected them all based on a lack of evidence, which allowed him to finally arrive at a correct answer supported by compelling physical evidence.

2. At the same time, lessons in photography and philosophy aside, what did we really learn? In the course of this investigation, Morris spent dozens of hours, wrote thousands of words, flew to Ukraine, enlisted the help of several experts, and probably spent thousands of dollars. Based on seemingly insignificant details, he was able to determine that one photograph was taken slightly before another photograph. If so much energy was put into the discovery of that one small fact, how are we actually supposed to learn anything truthful about larger and more significant events like the Iraq War or global warming. Presumably there's more evidence to go on, but that's not always helpful. Does this completely bum anyone else the fuck out?

Tip for reading long online articles withOCT 24

Tip for reading long online articles with footnotes: open the article in two browser windows, one for reading and the other for the footnotes.

Apple = the new evil empire?OCT 24

Apple's market capitalization now exceeds that of Intel and IBM. The faithful are in a celebratory mood. But I predict that we'll soon see an uptick in stories and blog posts asking some variation of the following question: "Now that Apple is 1) a huge company, 2) no longer a scrappy underdog, and 3) basically dominates an industry like, dare I say it, Microsoft, will those free-thinking Mac fanatics who desperately wanted the company to survive its lean years now turn on them because giant multinational corporations who use DRM and are in bed with the music and cellphone industries are evil?" This will likely be abbreviated: "Is Apple the new Microsoft?"

Answers will range from yes, no, maybe, it depends, you're asking the wrong question, I love Apple so SHUT UP, and, from Anil, Microsoft was never that bad and Apple has always been rotten and thank God those fanatics finally woke up about it and I was right all along. And....go!

Kris Holm, extreme unicyclist. (via that's how it happened)OCT 23

Kris Holm, extreme unicyclist. (via that's how it happened)

Order your Dumbledore pride tshirts, now availableOCT 22

Order your Dumbledore pride tshirts, now available in rainbow "I always knew" and "Wizards Are Gay" varieties.

Opening credits for Down to Earth, aOCT 22

Opening credits for Down to Earth, a show on TBS in the early 80s (it was their first original series). The opening jingle was so catchy that I can still sing most of it even though I haven't heard it in 20 years.

An appreciation of Star Trek II: TheOCT 22

An appreciation of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and William Shatner.

This Kirk is a melancholy man who feels older than he looks. "Gallavanting around the galaxy is a game for the young, Doctor," he tells McCoy. His voice and gait confirm that his best days are behind him. En route to the Enterprise to conduct a training mission, he can hardly contain his disdain for his new job. "I hate inspections," he tells his helmsman. He steps aboard his old starship a shadow of his warrior self, a sad figurehead trapped in a small world of his own making. Redemption is coming, but it will cost him.

New York has a decreasing number ofOCT 22

New York has a decreasing number of Jewish delis, but the reopened Second Avenue Deli will be among them.

Federman said that his clientele has gone from "95 percent Jewish to 50-50" and that changing with the times is part of business. (He now sells three varieties of tofu "cream cheese.") "I think Second Avenue Deli, Katz's, us, we're all making our little sphere of the world a better place," he said. "Doctors and lawyers basically live off other people's misery. Part of the perk of working here is people coming in and being so happy."

The deli's general manager recalled his favorite customers at the old location:

But my favorite was when we had five nuns eating matzoh balls served by a Lebanese waiter -- in a kosher deli. That's New York.

See also a writeup of a panel on Jewish Cuisine and the Evolution of the Jewish Deli on Serious Eats.

What will air travel in the USOCT 22

What will air travel in the US look like in ten years? Five industry insiders respond.

NYC's Chinatown is Hillary Clinton country.OCT 22

NYC's Chinatown is Hillary Clinton country.

In April, a single [Clinton] fundraiser in an area long known for its gritty urban poverty yielded a whopping $380,000. When Sen. John F. Kerry ran for president in 2004, he received $24,000 from Chinatown.

Hot in Japan: wearable hiding places.OCT 22

Hot in Japan: wearable hiding places.

By holding the sheet open and stepping to the side of the road, she showed how a woman walking alone could elude pursuers -- by disguising herself as a vending machine.

The manhole bag is my favorite..."a purse that can hide your valuables by unfolding to look like a round sewer cover".

Arsenals of FollyOCT 22

Arsenals of Folly

Richard Rhodes' Arsenals of Folly is the third book in what is now a series of "Making of" books about the atomic age, picking up where The Making of the Atomic Bomb (for which Rhodes won the Pulitzer) and Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb (which should have won a Pulitzer and is one of my favorite non-fiction books ever) left off.

In a narrative that reads like a thriller, Rhodes reveals how the Reagan administration's unprecedented arms buildup in the early 1980s led ailing Soviet leader Yuri Andropov to conclude that Reagan must be preparing for a nuclear war. In the fall of 1983, when NATO staged a larger than usual series of field exercises that included, uniquely, a practice run-up to a nuclear attack, the Soviet military came very close to launching a defensive first strike on Europe and North America. With Soviet aircraft loaded with nuclear bombs warming up on East German runways, U.S. intelligence organizations finally realized the danger.

Random House has posted a portion of the first chapter from which I won't quote because Rhodes' storytelling style is nigh impossible to excerpt; he starts the story on page one and doesn't relent until the final paragraphs. Like the above quote says, his nonfiction reads like a novel...reminds me of Tom Clancy's books but meticulously researched and true.

Aleksandra Mir's Newsroom 1986-2000 project features hugeOCT 22

Aleksandra Mir's Newsroom 1986-2000 project features huge hand-drawn reproductions of tabloid front pages. Show is up through Oct 27 in NYC. (via quipsologies)

Rita Skeeter J.K. Rowling: OCT 21

Rita Skeeter J.K. Rowling:

Albus Dumbledore is gay and had fallen in love with fellow wizard and friend, Gellert Grindelwald.

Fan fiction writers, you know what to do.

A Florida scientist has trained a brainOCT 19

A Florida scientist has trained a brain consisting of cultured rat cells to fly a simulated F-22 fighter jet. [Insert "I, for one, welcome our new rat brain pilot overlords" joke here.]

To control the simulated aircraft, the neurons first receive information from the computer about flight conditions: whether the plane is flying straight and level or is tilted to the left or to the right. The neurons then analyze the data and respond by sending signals to the plane's controls. Those signals alter the flight path and new information is sent to the neurons, creating a feedback system.

FYI, this story is a couple of years old...if that matters to you.

Museum citiesOCT 19

On the SuperSpatial blog, Martin Gittins reviews a TV series on Venice, Italy, "the city destroyed by its own beauty".

With the indigenous population dwindling to less than 50,000, and the oldest average age in Europe, da Mosto worries for the future of the city, as he brings his children up in what has become essentially a theme park for the hordes of visitors that cross the bridge link into the city, or pull up in the huge cruise ships that stop-over in Venice.

The danger for a city as a theatre or theme-park is that it becomes a stage set, a backdrop. This inevitably treats citizens as actors, there for others amusement. This leads to a simulated city as Baudrillard would have it, a city of the hyperreal as Umberto Eco might tell us. What happens when the audience is not there?

I've never visited Venice, but Paris shares some of the same traits. Obviously Paris is a large cosmopolity with much more than tourism going on, but the central tourist part of the city always feels a lot like a museum to me, moreso than other large cities I've visted. The city is simultaneously Paris -- the capital of France, host to international corporations, home to an increasingly diverse 2.1 million people, cultural center -- and also Ah, Paris™, an experience comprised of a certain style of architecture, cafes spilling out into tiny streets, romantic walks along the Seine, the French waiter, macaroons, the Notre Dame, les bouquinistes, baguettes, etc. That the two identities coexist in the same space and time, one within the other (Paris as cultural hypercube?), creates the potential for some real cognitive dissonance for the frequent tourist or long-term visitor attempting to straddle both worlds.

The Erowid Experience Vaults are chock fullOCT 19

The Erowid Experience Vaults are chock full of people describing their drug experiences; all stories are reviewed by editors. This fellow ingested mushrooms and a bunch of mescaline:

At this point, with all the Canadian biting flys and other insects accumulating on my face, I experienced death and went through several stages such as decomposition, becoming earth, growth into new plants, and spiritual reincarnation in the depths of outer-space as almost a gasseous thought floating around and observing all the cycles of everything in, on or about earth. I at once understood everything. In the middle of the night I realized that I was myself again, and bluntly stated, 'I'm done.' to the other members of the group. They welcomed me back and I appologized for anything I may have said or done.

Wait, you can get high on nutmeg?

Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu hasOCT 19

Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu has written a really interesting 5-part series on Slate about "the laws we are allowed to break in America and why".

Tolerated lawbreaking is almost always a response to a political failure -- the inability of our political institutions to adapt to social change or reach a rational compromise that reflects the interests of the nation and all concerned parties. That's why the American statutes are full of laws that no one wants to see fully enforced -- or even enforced at all.

Topics include copyright, obsenity, and drug legalization.

How to make clear ice cubes: boilOCT 19

How to make clear ice cubes: boil filtered water twice to eliminate dissolved air and minerals.

This week's Layer Tennis match between NazOCT 19

This week's Layer Tennis match between Naz Hamid and Chris Glass is just starting. Rosecrans Baldwin commentating.

Online shoe seller Zappos demonstrates how toOCT 19

Online shoe seller Zappos demonstrates how to provide customer service on a human level:

I was just back and not ready to deal with that, so I replied that my mom had died but that I'd send the shoes as soon as I could. They emailed back that they had arranged with UPS to pick up the shoes, so I wouldn't have to take the time to do it myself. I was so touched. That's going against corporate policy.

And that's not even the best part...read down to the end. (via 37signals)

Chuck Adams is one of the fewOCT 19

Chuck Adams is one of the few remaining Morse code aficionados in the world. Adams records audiobooks in Morse, chats with others in Morse via ham radio, and can transcribe Morse at 140 words/minute.

Earlier this year, Mr. Adams sent Barry Kutner, a 50-year-old ophthalmologist from Newtown, Pa., and another world-class coder, a 100-words-per-minute version of the book. To Mr. Adams's chagrin, Mr. Kutner wrote an email back pointing out that the gap between words was eight dits long, instead of the prescribed seven. At that pace, a dit lasts 1.2 one-thousandths of a second.

See also: Tales of the telegraph.

Yanksfan vs Soxfan mines the NY TimesOCT 19

Yanksfan vs Soxfan mines the NY Times archive and turns up a 1914 article that mentions a youngster named Babe Ruth:

"Babe" Ruth, a youngster, opposed the Giants, who made nine hits off him. Four double plays, all started by Claude Derrick, who handled twelve outs of the thirteen chances, kept the Giants from scoring more runs.

YvS and Soccer Dad also found a series that the Times did on another youngster, Manny Ramirez, back when Manny being Manny meant hitting .650 in his senior year in high school.

This video features a nerdy-looking Seattle SonicsOCT 19

This video features a nerdy-looking Seattle Sonics fan rapping about Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, and Steve Nash. I know that doesn't sound very funny, but it somehow is. Very. (via truehoop)

Lagerfeld Confidential is a documentary film aboutOCT 19

Lagerfeld Confidential is a documentary film about Karl Lagerfeld, the first such film done with Lagerfeld's authorization. It's playing at Film Forum in NYC later this month.

Photograph of the graves of Vincent andOCT 18

Photograph of the graves of Vincent and Theodore van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise, France. (Don't quite know why I'm posting this...it just struck me is all.)

It's worth sitting through the first severalOCT 18

It's worth sitting through the first several minutes of this documentary on the speech patterns of Edwardian-era Britons to hear Joan Washington, the host and an accent expert, speak with several different British accents.

David Pogue has been keeping a listOCT 18

David Pogue has been keeping a list of questions that he doesn't have answers for; some of them are pretty interesting.

* Why is Wi-Fi free at cheap hotels, but $14 a night at expensive ones?
* Do P.R. people really expect anyone to believe that the standard, stilted, second-paragraph C.E.O. quote was really uttered by a human being?
* Why doesn't someone start a cellphone company that bills you only for what you use? That model works O.K. for the electricity, gas and water companies -- and people would beat a path to its door.
* Why doesn't everyone have lights that turn off automatically when the room is empty?

Tattoos for blind people can be madeOCT 18

Tattoos for blind people can be made by placing implants under the skin to create embossed text on the skin.

Update: Somewhat related is braille graffiti. (thx, jake)

Improv Everywhere's latest mission: 111 topless men shoppingOCT 18

Improv Everywhere's latest mission: 111 topless men shopping at Abercrombie and Fitch, a store that features a shirtless male greeter and tons of shirtless male advertising.

A pair of well-to-do auto enthusiasts namedOCT 18

A pair of well-to-do auto enthusiasts named Alex Roy and Dave Maher set the unofficial record for crossing the US by car: 31 hours, 4 minutes, faster than the old record of 32 hours, 7 minutes.

According to Yates and his fellow Cannonballers, trying to beat that record today is pointless. Their argument goes something like this: Cannonball records were set back when the free-wheelin' '70s hooked up with the greed-is-good '80s for fat lines of cocaine and unprotected sex. But these, brother, are Patriot Act days - executive-privilege end times in which no rogue deed goes untracked, no E-ZPass unlogged, no roaming cell phone unmonitored by perihelion satellite. Big Brother is definitely watching. Big Speed, the old Cannonballers say, is a quaint, 20th-century idea, like pay phones or print magazines.

Roy was inspired to take up fast driving by the short film C'était un Rendez-vous, where Claude Lelouch races through Paris at breakneck speeds to meet his sweetheart in Montmartre. Here's the route they took, another piece on the record in the NY Times, and a book by Roy on his exploits. This is the sort of thing that is really, really cool up until the moment Roy's tricked out BMW makes contact with a family minivan at 120mph...and then, not so much.

Update: Here's a video of the pair zooming along on the freeway. Comment on YouTube:

Those guys look like they're doing about 90-95... BFD. You see that all the time going up and down I-5 and I-95.. I once was doing about 90 down I-95 and got passed by a HOUSE on a flatbed truck. (yawn)

iRobot, the makers of the Roomba roboticOCT 18

iRobot, the makers of the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner, also makes a pool cleaning robot.

A review of the script for WhereOCT 18

A review of the script for Where the Wild Things Are, written by Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze (the script, not the review):

Where the Wild Things Are is filled with richly imagined psychological detail, and the screenplay for this live-action film simply becomes a longer and more moving version of what Maurice Sendak's book has always been at heart: a book about a lonely boy leaving the emotional terrain of boyhood behind.

Second trailer for the could-be-amazing I'm NotOCT 18

Second trailer for the could-be-amazing I'm Not There, a movie about Bob Dylan, starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchett, and three other actors as Bob Dylan. Not very related: would any of Christian Bale's characters be any good in bed?

The half-life of irregular verbs scales withOCT 17

The half-life of irregular verbs scales with the square root of usage frequency. "Be" and "have" will be irregular for a long time but "dive", "sting", and "wring" have less time before they're regularized.

The past-tense of regular verbs end in "ed." For example, the past-tense of chide was chode, but has now regularized into chided.

Another recent study has found that the evolution of words decreases with usage. Nature has the abstract of the paper and the NY Times has a short piece as well.

"Bird," for example, takes many disparate forms across other Indo-European languages: oiseau in French, vogel in German and so on. But other words, like the word for the number after one, have hardly evolved at all: two, deux (French) and dos (Spanish) are very similar, derived from the same ancestral sound.

In the ongoing battle between the iTunesOCT 17

In the ongoing battle between the iTunes Music Store and Amazon's MP3 store, Amazon is giving a 20% referral fee to their associates for each song sold through the end of the year. Wow. That's $1.80 on a $8.99 album...I wonder if Amazon's selling these for below cost (like they did with Harry Potter.) (via nelson)

According to the person who filed aOCT 17

According to the person who filed a re-examination request, the US Patent Office has rejected a number of broad claims related to Amazon's one-click patent.

In its Office Action released 9 October 2007, the Patent Office found that the prior art I found and submitted completely anticipated the broadest claims of the patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,960,411.

The patent is not off the books yet...Amazon has a chance to respond before that happens. People have been waiting for this for a long time. (via marginal revolution)

The NYC Dept of Transportation is introducingOCT 17

The NYC Dept of Transportation is introducing compass decals to be placed on sidewalks at subway exits to help orient disembarking passengers. I thought I'd posted a link about this idea before on kottke.org, but the only reference I can find is a discussion about compasses on manhole covers. (thx, erik)

Update: Aha, here's the entry. John has more.

3x3 video mashup call and response oldOCT 17

3x3 video mashup call and response old commercial row row row your boat. Oh, just go watch it, it's cool, especially if you like The Clapper and Christian Marclay. (via waxy, from whom I'm detecting signs of life re: his blog)

A comparison of the Last.fm chartOCT 17

A comparison of the Last.fm chart and the official UK downloads chart after Radiohead's In Rainbows was released online last week. The top 10 on Last.fm: all Radiohead. Official chart: nada. (via adactio)

Dr. James Watson, Nobel laureate:OCT 17

Dr. James Watson, Nobel laureate:

He says that he is "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really", and I know that this "hot potato" is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true". He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because "there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don't promote them when they haven't succeeded at the lower level". He writes that "there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so".

Watson's comments have caused some controversy. (thx, demetrice, who says "this makes Wes Anderson look like Medgar Evers")

Two bits (bites? har har) of AppleOCT 17

Two bits (bites? har har) of Apple news:

1. Steve Jobs has announced that an SDK will be available for the iPhone and iPod touch in February. No more hacking your phone to put applications on it.

2. You can now preorder OS X 10.5 (Leopard) at Amazon for $109...that's $20 off the retail price. The offer comes with a pre-order price guarantee; if the price drops before it ships, you get it for the lower price.

Do you make a distinction between typosOCT 17

Do you make a distinction between typos and misspellings, or is that just me? For example, "regualr" is a typo while "refridgerator" is a misspelling. The former is a mechanical error while the latter demonstrates a lack of specific knowledge. Both are signs of sloppy writing which might be why people don't often distinguish the two.

Whereas Mario Batali says to spare theOCT 17

Whereas Mario Batali says to spare the sauce on your pasta so that you can taste the pasta, Mark Bittman suggests the opposite: the pasta adds little flavor or nutrition so use more sauce, vegetables, and meat. Who's right? Who cares! Have it one way one night, do it the other way some other night.

The Boston Red Sox's designated hitter, DavidOCT 17

The Boston Red Sox's designated hitter, David Ortiz, makes extensive use of video replays during games. He reviews at-bats right after they happen and can watch every pitch he's ever seen from the pitcher that he's facing, on demand. (via collision detection)

What if the Google homepage were optimizedOCT 17

What if the Google homepage were optimized for Google? (via magnetbox)

As they did last year, Poptech isOCT 16

As they did last year, Poptech is streaming their entire conference live on the web for free. October 18-20. They also take questions from the web audience, several of which they used last year on stage.

Is the new NYC taxi logo anyOCT 16

Is the new NYC taxi logo any good? More here. (thx, red)

Historical photo detection sounds like an interestingOCT 16

Historical photo detection sounds like an interesting profession.

Maureen Taylor has dated a photograph to 1913 by studying the size and shape of a Lion touring car's headlamps. Armed with her collection of 19th-century fashion magazines, she can pinpoint the brief period when Victorian women wore their bangs in tight curls rather than swept back. Using a technique borrowed from the CIA, she identified a photo of Jesse James by examining the shape of his right ear.

See also last week's post on forensic genealogy.

The Rest is NoiseOCT 16

The Rest is Noise

Alex Ross is the music critic for the New Yorker and the author of a new book, The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, "a history of the twentieth century through its music". My interest in music skews toward the contemporary popular, so I recently took the opportunity to ask Ross a few questions about classical music from the novice-but-interested music listener's perspective.

Jason Kottke: I've enjoyed classical music whenever I've heard it, but I don't know too much about it. Where might I begin to explore further?

Alex Ross: My big thing is that classical music doesn't really exist. When you have a repertory that goes from Hildegard von Bingen's medieval chant to Vivaldi's bustling Baroque concertos to Wagner's five-hour music dramas to John Cage's chance-produced electronic noise to Steve Reich's West African-influenced "Drumming," you're not talking about a single sound. Whatever variety of noise you desire, we've got it at the classical emporium. I'd suggest plunging it at various ends of the spectrum - some Vivaldi or Bach, the Beethoven "Eroica" or some other big-shouldered nineteenth-century classic, Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" (which foreshadows so much pop music to come), and Reich or Philip Glass. The idea is to get a feeling for what composers were trying to express at any given time, and, of course, deciding whether you want to follow them. There's no correct path through the labyrinth.

Kottke: I just received a copy of your book in the mail, and it's got a "Suggested Listening" section following the endnotes with 10 recommended recordings and 20 more if you make it through those. How did you go about choosing those? Narrowing the 20th century musical landscape down to 30 recordings...that's pretty cheeky.

Ross: It's very hard, not to mention cheeky, picking recommended recordings, because so often it's a matter of personal taste, both in terms of what works really "matter" and also in terms of which recordings are best. The almighty "Rite of Spring" has received any number of brilliant recordings over the years. Having picked one of Stravinsky's own versions - he had such a great feeling for rhythm as a conductor - I immediately wondered whether I should have chosen the recent Esa-Pekka Salonen/LA Philharmonic version on DG, which is in gleaming modern sound and is as rock-solid as any "Rite" of modern times. So it's subjective and leads to endless argument. But I was simply recommending a bunch of starting points, not the be-all end-all ultimate Top 10 of all time. I favored recordings that were cheap, that covered a lot of ground in 60 or 70 minutes. People can listen to excerpts on iTunes and Amazon and see if they really want to plunk down the cash. One thing's for sure: you do need to own the "Rite," no matter what kind of music you love. It's the original sexy.

Kottke: Related to the first question, when I go to Amazon and search for "Beethoven", there are over 10,000 results just in the classical music category. There are even more results for Bach. Are there significant differences between all the different versions of their music? How does the bewildered beginner pick the "right" version of Bach's works to listen to? Should you look for brand names (e.g. Yo-Yo Ma), only buy music recorded by major symphonies or put out by certain record labels, or just get whatever is cheapest?

Ross: It's definitely overwhelming - a serious glut. I've been reviewing for fifteen years and in the last year or two I seem to be getting twice as many CDs as ever - not to mention all the MP3s that composers and ensembles have put up on the Internet. There are definitely some significant differences among recordings. You have a lot of expert but boring renditions and then you have the ones that touch perfection or posses exceptional emotional power. Listen to Lorrane Hunt Lieberson singing the Bach cantatas and everyone else will sound a little wan. Certain people are always reliable - Yo-Yo Ma is ever eloquent, Mitsuko Uchida is a great pianist, Claudio Abbado makes one great or near-great orchestral recording after another. You can tell from Amazon reviews when a recording has really knocked people sideways. But live concerts are always better! I'm sometimes more moved by a not great but heartfelt live performance than by a world-class recording. In the hall you feel the weight of the cellos, the resonances of tones in space, the response of the crowd, all those intangibles. Tickets are less expensive than you may think. Particularly if you're a student, you can get amazing deals - $12 tickets for the New York Philharmonic, for example.

Kottke: One of the things I've noticed about classical music recordings is how reasonably priced they are, particularly the pre-20th century music. Have you read any of Discover Your Inner Economist by Tyler Cowen? In it, he suggests that to get the most value out of your music buying dollar, you should pay more attention to music that hasn't been recently released, the idea being that there are more gems to be found in the last 200 years of music than in this week's Billboard lists. I have a feeling you might agree with that view.

Ross: That's an interesting theory. If you buy Maria Callas's recording of "Tosca," chances are it's probably still going to deliver the goods twenty years from now, if CDs or MP3s still exist then. Fergie is maybe a riskier long-term bet. Also interesting is Chris Anderson's Long Tail concept, which suggests that there's more hidden commercial power in these thousands upon thousands of classical recordings than anyone suspected, even if they sell only a few times a year. The Naxos label says it gets 30-40% of total digital sales from albums that are downloaded 4 times a month or less. In any case, there's now a huge catalogue of classical CDs that go for $10 or less. The Tashi recording of Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time," one of my top 10 picks, goes for $8 on Amazon. The Amazon download site was for a while offering Wagner's entire sixteen-hour "Ring" cycle for $13.98. This turned out to be a clerical error, but enough classical-heads converged on the bargain that for a day or two Richard Wagner was the #1 downloaded artist on Amazon, beating out Kanye West. That amused me. Watch out for these classical guys - they start slow but beat you in the end.

Kottke: Let's say you're still around 80 years from now, writing a sequel to The Rest is Noise about music from 1980 to 2080. What contemporary music (circa 1980-2007) will still be important and relevant in 2080?

Ross: That's a tough question! Critics often turn out to be very wrong about what's truly important in their own time. George Bernard Shaw, for example, considered Hermann Goetz a great composer, a worthy successor to Beethoven. Though is "wrong" the right word? If Shaw had deep feelings about that music, he was, within his personal frame of reference, absolutely right. In classical music we maybe focus too much on the idea that the opinion of posterity is the only one that matters. In any case, here are twelve works that I believe will still matter to me, at least, if by some medical miracle I'm still around in 2080:

Steve Reich, Different Trains
John Adams, Nixon in China
Kaija Saariaho, L'Amour de loin
Sofia Gubaidulina, Offertorium
Gérard Grisey, Les Espaces acoustiques
Arvo Pärt, Da pacem domine
Louis Andriessen, De Stijl
Thomas Ades, Asyla
Georg Friedrich Haas, in vain
Michael Gordon, Decasia
Magnus Lindberg, Kraft
Osvaldo Golijov, St. Mark Passion


Thanks, Alex. We'll be checking back with you in 2080 to see how you fared. Ross has a piece out in the New Yorker this week about classical music and the internet that's related to our conversation above. He's also constructed a fantastic enhanced bibliography for the book that includes audio samples of some of the music written discussed in the book, presumably to reduce the dancing about architecture effect.

Geoff of BLDGBLOG makes a passionate caseOCT 16

Geoff of BLDGBLOG makes a passionate case for Los Angeles being the greatest city in America.

The whole thing is ridiculous. It's the most ridiculous city in the world - but everyone who lives there knows that. No one thinks that L.A. "works," or that it's well-designed, or that it's perfectly functional, or even that it makes sense to have put it there in the first place; they just think it's interesting. And they have fun there. And the huge irony is that Southern California is where you can actually do what you want to do; you can just relax and be ridiculous. In L.A. you don't have to be embarrassed by yourself.

I'm not sure I agree, but seeing as I've only been to LA for 24 hours in my whole life, my objections don't carry much weight.

Reaganomics Finally Trickles Down To Area Man.OCT 16

Reaganomics Finally Trickles Down To Area Man.

The $10 began its long journey into Kellener's wallet in 1983, when a beefed-up national defense budget of $210 billion enabled the military to purchase advanced warhead-delivery systems from aerospace manufacturer Lockheed. Buoyed by a multimillion-dollar bonus, then-CEO Martin Lawler bought a house on a 5,000-acre plot in Montana....

Mario Batali on how to sauce pasta.OCT 16

Mario Batali on how to sauce pasta.

What you want to eat when you eat a bowl of pasta...is pasta. Americans overdress their pasta 99.9 percent of the time. It should never be a bowl of soup. It should be noodles, with a little stuff.

Related to the dentistry post from theOCT 16

Related to the dentistry post from the other day, comes word from England that even with socialized medicine, six percent of people questioned in a survey "admitted they had resorted to self-treatment using pliers and glue".

A photo series of people and theirOCT 16

A photo series of people and their breakfasts. I've often thought that a photo series of people and their favorite condiment would reveal much about contemporary American society.

Comic David Cross replies to Larry theOCT 16

Comic David Cross replies to Larry the Cable Guy's criticism in an open letter.

As for being a multi-millionaire in disguise, that's just merely a matter of personal taste for me. I do not begrudge you your money at all, it is sincerely hard earned and you deserve whatever people want to give to you. What sticks in my craw about that stuff is the blatant and (again, personal taste) gross marketing and selling of this bullshit character to your beloved fans. Now look, if someone wants to pay top dollar to come to one of your shows and then drop a couple hundred more on "Git-R-Done" lighters and hats and t-shirts and windshield stickers and trailer hitches and beer koozies and fishing hats and shot glasses etc, then good for you. I just think it's a little crass and belies the "good ole boy" blue collar thing you represent.

Some information on apple cider doughnuts, includingOCT 15

Some information on apple cider doughnuts, including a recipe. Looks like the cider is substituted for the water in the dough recipe. We bought some of these while apple picking in NJ this weekend. So good.

The Hype Machine is doing something cleverOCT 15

The Hype Machine is doing something clever with the new version of their site. They're opening the beta up to the public but not until they get a "crowd" of 10,000 people with their browsers open to this page.

The recollections of the CIA operative whoOCT 15

The recollections of the CIA operative who interrogated Che Guevara after his capture in Bolivia and shortly before his death.

Felix Rodriguez received the order from the Bolivian military high command. There was a simple code: 500 meant Che Guevara, 600 dead, 700 alive. 500 - 600 was the command.

Wes Anderson and the movies he makesOCT 15

Wes Anderson and the movies he makes are racist. Point. Point. Counterpoint. Reminds me of the hubbub about the alleged racism in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation.

Every once in awhile, my friend MattOCT 15

Every once in awhile, my friend Matt takes a photo of the whiteboard at Orbital Comics in London. The most recent one features a list of the top 10 greatest moments in movies from comics. Orbital's MySpace page has more of their whiteboard lists.

Design, Wit, and the Creative Act, aOCT 15

Design, Wit, and the Creative Act, a half-day event put on by Core77.

How do designers employ wit, irony -- even subversion -- in the service of making a connection with their audience, and how can they replicate these connections across a body of work? Are there limits to commercializing this kind of design, or are we seeing new opportunities for the provocateur in an ever-commoditized world? What is the role of the brand in this context, and to what degree does a sly exchange between designer and user create a new kind of brand experience?

Featuring Ze Frank, Steven Heller, and others...Nov 9 in NYC.

Long profile of David Simon and TheOCT 15

Long profile of David Simon and The Wire in the New Yorker this week. Haven't read it yet, but digging in now.

Update: Ok, all done. I thought this observation about the two main groups of fans of the show (urban poor and media critics) was canny:

Sometimes the fan base of "The Wire" seems like the demographics of many American cities -- mainly the urban poor and the affluent elite, with the middle class hollowed out.

The last bit of the article talks about a new show that Simon's thinking of doing for HBO about New Orleans musicians.

A very interesting extinction timeline from 1950-2050.OCT 15

A very interesting extinction timeline from 1950-2050. Blogging is predicted to die out around 2023, the same time as Web 2.0, The Maldives, and spelling. The last to go? Death. It's based on the creator's book, Future Files: A History of the Next 50 Years.

File this under odd jobs: Dr. JanaOCT 15

File this under odd jobs: Dr. Jana Klauer is an off-the-menu nutritionist for the wealthy.

"For my patients with heavy entertaining schedules, I go over the menus of restaurants they're expected to attend, say, in the upcoming week and tell them what to order," says Klauer, also known as the Park Avenue Nutritionist. "That way, there's no guesswork. Before they even step foot inside a restaurant, they know what they're going to eat."

That's a bit misleading however...it's only a small part of what Klauer does.

A short video appreciation of the 22ndOCT 12

A short video appreciation of the 22nd Amendment of the US Constitution...or, why there's only ~460 days left of our collective national nightmare. (via quipsologies)

Doris Lessing's reaction after winning of the 2007OCT 12

Doris Lessing's reaction after winning of the 2007 Nobel Prize for literature:

Oh Christ! ... I couldn't care less.

Everyone plays the media's game these days, so it's nice to see someone who doesn't.

Clay Shirky: good design requires a balanceOCT 12

Clay Shirky: good design requires a balance of arrogance and humility.

The iPod is an unanswerable repudiation to people who don't believe design is arrogance; MySpace demonstrates that users prize participation, even at the expense of clarity.

Just a gentle reminder: I'll be commentingOCT 12

Just a gentle reminder: I'll be commenting on today's Layer Tennis match between Chuck Anderson and Steven Harrington. Things get underway in just under an hour (3pm ET).

rating: 4.5 stars

The Darjeeling LimitedOCT 12

The Darjeeling Limited is the first Wes Anderson movie since Rushmore that I've really liked after seeing it for the first time. The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic both took another viewing (and now I love them both).

Two more Wes Anderson/Dareeling things and then I think we're done for awhile. Marc Jacobs created the luggage and the fashion "look" for Darjeeling:

The result is a large set of tawny luggage and a trio of suits with matching back belts and angled cuffs for the three main characters, played by onscreen brothers Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman. Once again, as in Anderson's previous films like "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbaums," the cast wears one look throughout the film. "I like actors to have costumes that help them to get into character," says Anderson. "Whether it's a good idea or not, I tend to give them uniforms."

See also How to Dress Like a Tenenbaum from Esquire in 2002. The Onion A/V Club recently interviewed Anderson. His response near the end about his commercial work is interesting.

How does it feel to die? NewOCT 12

How does it feel to die? New Scientist looks at several different ways to die, such as hanging, drowning, heart attack, and fire.

Sigur Ros seems like the type ofOCT 12

Sigur Ros seems like the type of band that would give really bad interviews...and guess what? I dare you to sit through the whole thing. (thx, justin)

Wow, Vimeo has videos in HD...theOCT 12

Wow, Vimeo has videos in HD...the best quality I've seen from one of the big video sites. You get so used to watching crappy quality stuff on YouTube that you forget how nice it can look.

Al Gore won a share of the 2007OCT 12

Al Gore won a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for what is essentially a PowerPoint presentation. More info here.

Update: Yes, yes, I know Al Gore uses Keynote and not Powerpoint. Hence the "essentially". (thx, everyone in the world)

Update: Amazingly, Al Gore now has an Emmy, an Oscar, and now a Nobel Prize. All he needs is a Grammy for the full Gore. (thx, brent)

Update: Man, you folks are testy today. When I say that Gore won a Nobel Prize for a Powerpoint presentation (again, "essentially"), I'm not being derogatory towards Gore. I like Gore...I've written several posts about him. But whatever his other accomplishments regarding the environment, he won the Nobel for An Inconvenient Truth. No movie, no prize. Period. Suppose someone had told you two years ago that someone would win a Nobel Peace Prize for a Hollywood film of a Powerpoint presentation...you'd have laughed in their face and every other part of their body!

Marginal Revolution and CNN (and New YorkOCT 11

Marginal Revolution and CNN (and New York magazine and Reddit and etc.) asked their respective readers: how much did you pay for In Rainbows, Radiohead's new album which is only available as a pay-what-you-want download. I paid around £8.50 (~ US$17), which splits the difference between a typical album price in the UK and the US. (Actually, what I did was download it from elsewhere because Radiohead's online store was down yesterday morning and then went back to pay for it just now.)

"The full Ginsburg" is the term forOCT 11

"The full Ginsburg" is the term for appearing on all five of the big Sunday morning political shows: This Week, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday, and Late Edition. The term is named after William Ginsburg, Monica Lewinsky's attorney and the first person to complete this political Pokemon collection. According to Wikipedia, four individuals have completed the full circuit: Ginsburg, Dick Cheney, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton. Source: Brouhahaha, The New Yorker.

Kevin Kelly has a rave review ofOCT 11

Kevin Kelly has a rave review of a slide/negative scanning company called Scan Cafe. Here's how it works: send off your slides and negatives to Scan Cafe, they catalog and send them off to India to be scanned, you go online to choose the which negatives/slides you want final scans of, and in a few weeks, you get your originals and a DVD containing 3000 dpi scans of your photos. Kelly says:

Some people are very concerned about sending their precious originals to India -- or anywhere for that matter. They should not be. ScanCafe has a very elaborate tracking and shipping system that would work even if you were shipping jewels. Their scanning facilities in Bangalore (description and photos here) are more organized than you are. I have more trust in this system than I would handing them over to any neighborhood scanner.

Spinning dance optical illusionOCT 11

I've been obsessing over this optical illusion ever since I ran across it yesterday.


Is she spinning clockwise or counterclockwise? Or both...and how is that even possible? It's a left-brain vs. right-brain test...which way she spins for you determines which side of your brain is more dominant. (Tip: if you're having trouble getting her to switch directions, focus on a point a couple of inches below her feet...that seems to do it for me.)

Update: Neuralogica Blog debunked the left/right-brain explanation in this post.

This news article, like many others, ignores the true source of this optical illusion and instead claims it is a quick test to see if you use more of your right brain or left brain. This is utter nonsense, but the "right-brain/left brain" thing is in the public consciousness and won't be going away anytime soon. Sure, we have two hemispheres that operate fine independently and have different abilities, but they are massively interconnected and work together as a seamless whole (providing you have never had surgery to cut your corpus callosum).

(via @danielpunkass)

A feature I would like on myOCT 11

A feature I would like on my iPhone: every single call gets recorded (at a low bitrate to conserve storage space) and stored on the phone for a short period of time. Playback works like the visual voicemail feature.

Update: I've gotten a couple of emails from people saying that this feature is illegal. Which is true in some states (California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington). My feeling is that the recording of voice communication is a legacy thing that should go away. If you write me a letter, send me an email, IM me a note, or send a SMS, I get to keep a copy of your correspondence. Why the different standard for a phone call? I believe this difference will eventually go away...after all, it's trivial to record a Skype call.

As dentists push their fees higher andOCT 11

As dentists push their fees higher and make more money on high-end services like cosmetic dentistry, a growing number of people cannot afford treatment for even minor work like fillings. And even though the dentists won't treat those patients who can't pay, the ADA has "fought efforts to use dental hygienists and other non-dentists to provide basic care to people who do not have access to dentists".

"Most dentists consider themselves to be in the business of dentistry rather than the practice of dentistry," said Dr. David A. Nash, a professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of Kentucky. "I'm a cynic about my profession, but the data are there. It's embarrassing.

Photo by Joao Silva that made theOCT 11

Photo by Joao Silva that made the front page of the NY Times yesterday.

An Iraqi boy peered Tuesday inside a car that was towed to a Baghdad police station after two women inside were killed.

As I was rushing late to an appointment yesterday, I saw this on the newsstand and had to stop for a long look. An arresting image.

When celebrities have heart attacks, they goOCT 10

When celebrities have heart attacks, they go to *two* hospitals.

Brown had severe chest pains Tuesday night and was taken to two hospitals.

I wish Mr. Brown a speedy recovery and hope he isn't required to visit too many more hospitals before receiving the care he needs.

From the always excellent xkcd, this comicOCT 10

From the always excellent xkcd, this comic absolutely drips hilarious nerdiness and nerdy hilariousness all over the place. "Oh yes, Little Bobby Tables, we call him."

The total area taken up by allOCT 10

The total area taken up by all the Wal-Marts in the world is bigger than Manhattan.

I've been remiss in not pointing youOCT 10

I've been remiss in not pointing you to the last two Layer Tennis matches: Inman vs. Cornell and Duerden vs. Thomas.

(Very quickly, Layer Tennis pits two designers against each other. The competitors volley a single Photoshop file back and forth, modifying it in turn in an attempt to outdo one another.)

I will be doing the commentary for the next match, which takes place at 3pm ET on Friday and features Chuck Anderson and Steven Harrington. Come by and watch all the exciting action on Friday!

A glossary of cheese terms.OCT 10

A glossary of cheese terms.

Giganti: A very large style of Provolone, typically weighing 200 to 600 pounds and measuring up to approximately 7 feet in length.

There's a surprising amount of language around cheese.

The story of Tom Murphy, currently homelessOCT 10

The story of Tom Murphy, currently homeless and one of the best chess hustlers (and tournament players) in the US.

Never mind that I'd declined his offer of a lesson, Murphy had gone ahead and transformed our discussion into a formal chess tutorial to which a ticking meter was attached. When the talk wound down, he presented me with a verbal invoice for $20, his standard teaching rate. The chess instruction aside, the $20 I spent taught me an even more memorable lesson about Murphy: When you are in his company, there is often a second, invisible chess game taking place, one that can easily conclude with Murphy's rooks advancing on your wallet.

(thx, flip)

BLDGBLOG talks with experimental architect Lebbeus WoodsOCT 10

BLDGBLOG talks with experimental architect Lebbeus Woods about his work, starting with an image he made of Manhattan with dams on the Hudson and East Rivers, which reveals a deep canyon between lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Tyler Cowen mentioned "green accounting" and WilliamOCT 10

Tyler Cowen mentioned "green accounting" and William Nordhaus in a post the other day so I went looking for more information on the subject. Here's one of the more succinct descriptions I found of the problem that green accounting aims to address:

When a majestic, 300-year-old red-wood is cut down and turned into picnic tables, the logging and picnic table-building activities add to the gross domestic product (GDP), while no deduction is made for the loss of that tree and all the nonmarket services it provides. When a paper mill dumps dioxin-laden wastes into a river, the paper-making boosts the GDP, but no deduction is made for the costs associated with the water pollution. Conversely, no addition is made to the GDP for the air and water cleaned by wetlands or old-growth forests.

If you're keen on learning more about green accounting and William Nordhaus' contributions, check out Nature's Numbers and the perhaps not-so-riveting Recommendations to The Bureau of Economic Analysis On Improving the National Economic Accounts. (I will also humbly note that this relates to something I wrote for WorldChanging last December. "The global economy is driven by nature, and yet it's not usually found on the accountant's balance sheet.")

Hitotoki, short stories about New York..."shortOCT 10

Hitotoki, short stories about New York..."short narratives describing pivotal moments of elation, confusion, absurdity, love or grief -- or anything in between -- inseparably tied to a specific place". Also available in the original Tokyo flavor.

As promised, a list of films thatOCT 09

As promised, a list of films that were influenced by Wes Anderson, including Little Miss Sunshine, Napoleon Dynamite, and Garden State.

Glenn from Coolfer took a spin throughOCT 09

Glenn from Coolfer took a spin through the NY Times recently opened online archive and highlighted some interesting news about the music industry, notably about how technology and the Internet changed the game in the late-90s/early-00s.

If someone likes an artist, they're going to buy the CD. The number of those who download and opt against buying the CD is very small. There are plenty of libraries in this country, yet people still buy books. The Napster opponents underestimate the American fascination with ownership.

RU Sirius asks: Is the net goodOCT 09

RU Sirius asks: Is the net good for writers? Ten professional writers weigh in.

I like to develop topics, approach them from different, often contradictory angles, and most of all, I like to polish the shit out of them so that the flow and the prose shine and bedazzle. On and offline, I find the internet-driven pressure to make pieces short, data-dense, and crisply opinionated -- as opposed to thoughtful, multi-perspectival, and lyrical -- rather oppressive, leading to a certain kind of superficial smugness as well as general submission to the forces of reference over reflection. I do enjoy writing 125-word record reviews though!

My favorite aspect of the piece is the interspersed American Apparel ads...they add a little texture to the discussion.

Interrotron!OCT 09

I was interviewed using an Interrotron today. The Interrotron is an interviewing machine developed by Errol Morris for use in his documentary films and commercials. It allows an interviewer and interviewee to look each other in the eye while recording a straight-on view of the interviewee.

Would it frighten people? Would they run out of the studio screaming? Who could say? I used it for the first time in Fast, cheap and out of control. And it worked like a charm. People loved the Interrotron.

I loved it too, although I probably embarrassed myself by nerding out about it a little too much.

Set thy TiVos: 49 Up, the latest inOCT 09

Set thy TiVos: 49 Up, the latest in a series of documentary films in which the same group of people are interviewed every seven years, is on PBS tonight.

It's a cruel trick to confront people with the cold reality of the past. Despite that, some enjoy being in the film and claim it as a thing to treasure; others take part under sufferance, persuaded that the films are unique and we should finish what we started. I thank them all for their generosity and courage in making these films possible.

Watch the trailer. (thx, mark)

This fellow is exceptional at stacking diceOCT 09

This fellow is exceptional at stacking dice with a cup.

(via focus group on think tanks)

I'm no Yankees fan, but I gotOCT 09

I'm no Yankees fan, but I got a little sad reading this article about Joe Torre's possible departure from the team after 12 years. It seems like the individual leader gets too much credit for successes and is assigned too much blame for failures these days. Surely the team's poor hitting and pitching was a big contributing factor that Torre couldn't do much about?

(Last night's game was great, BTW. The way those fans almost willed the Yankees back into the game while Cleveland held fast was fascinating to watch.)

A bunch of climbers took a portableOCT 09

A bunch of climbers took a portable jacuzzi up to the top of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in the Alps, and took a soak. The photos are crazy. (via stupid)

The forensic genealogy quiz offers a weeklyOCT 09

The forensic genealogy quiz offers a weekly test of sleuthing skills. The viewer is presented with a single photo and two questions to answer about that photo. This week's quiz is a photo of a 32-cent stamp about child labor reform and the challenge is to name the girl pictured in the photo along with her photographer. Read more on forensic genealogy. (thx, derrick)

The Onion AV Club tracks which filmsOCT 09

The Onion AV Club tracks which films and directors have had the most influence on Wes Anderson, including The Graduate, Peter Bogdanovich, and Francois Truffaut.

The "uniforms" he outfits his characters in are like a variation on Charlie Brown's zigzag shirt and Lucy's blue dress, and there's an atmosphere of wistful melancholy common to Peanuts cartoons and Anderson's seriocomedies. A Boy Named Charlie Brown echoes Anderson's persistent "sic transit gloria" theme, as Charlie Brown blazes through the rounds of a local spelling bee, then washes out at the nationals. When he returns home to a group of friends who accept him as much as they mock him, he might as well be walking in slow motion, while "Ooh La La" plays on the soundtrack.

And today they're going to run a list of films which were influenced by Anderson...I'll have that link a bit later.

A Delhi man is doing a boomingOCT 09

A Delhi man is doing a booming business in virtual airplane flights. Indians who have never been on an airplane before come from miles around and, for a small fee, experience the interior of an Airbus 300 and meal service.

As on an ordinary aircraft, customers buckle themselves in and watch a safety demonstration. But when they look out of the windows, the landscape never changes. Even if "Captain" Gupta wanted to get off the ground, the plane would not go far: it only has one wing and a large part of the tail is missing.

(thx, catherine)

Season 1 of The Wire is currently showingOCT 09

Season 1 of The Wire is currently showing on HBO OnDemand. I presume seasons 2-4 will follow as the January premiere of season 5 approaches. (thx, michael)

Speaking of, here's a short teaser promo for season 5. (thx, gary)

Update: The post originally said that season 2 was OnDemand...I corrected it to read "season 1".

I wrangled myself an invitation to FfffoundOCT 09

I wrangled myself an invitation to Ffffound and have been enjoying it so far. Here's my Ffffound page.

Update: DO NOT email me asking for an invite. I DON'T HAVE ANY.

After posting about needing some help forOCT 08

After posting about needing some help for a kottke.org project, I was overwhelmed with responses. So much so that I'm looking for an intern to sort through all the replies. (Just kidding.) Thanks to everyone who applied and for your patience...I'll be getting back to everyone soon.

Parkour in New YorkOCT 08

As part of this weekend's New Yorker Festival, a parkour demonstration was held at Javits Plaza. Before the demonstration, Alex Wilkinson talked with David Belle, the inventor of parkour and the subject of Wilkinson's NYer article about parkour from April. In the interview and the Q&A that followed the demonstration, Belle explained that parkour is not about competition or showing off or being reckless. It's a test of self, of control, of deliberate practice. The journey is the point, not the sometimes spectacular results.

The demonstration consisted of a group of about 20-30 parkour practitioners, beginners and experts alike from all over the country. It seemed as though they included anyone with parkour experience who showed up and wanted to participate, and instead of a highly polished display of high skill (which is what I think the audience might have been expecting), we were treated to a more authenic look at the sport. The first five minutes were taken up with calisthenics and stretching in preparation of the jumps and vaults to come. After warming up properly, they began running through the course, each participant picking his way through the course according to desire and ability.

Experimentation was the rule of the day, not performance. With each pass, you could see the group learning the particulars of the course, where the good holds were, finding smoother combinations, and, much of the time, trying and failing. And then trying again until they got it. There was a single woman participant, one of several beginners in the group. When she had some trouble with an obstacle, Belle and his "lieutenant" stopped to show her some moves, a moment that revealed more about parkour than Belle's jump across a ten-foot gap twenty feet off the ground. Belle himself didn't do too much during the performance -- a couple of high jumps -- and had to be coaxed during the Q&A to perform one last big move for the audience. He shrugged off the applause and attention as he back-flipped down to the concrete, knowing that the true parkour had taken place earlier.

A Missouri man recently rented out theOCT 07

A Missouri man recently rented out the theater where he first watched Star Wars and invited a bunch of friends to watch it with him again, thirty years later. (thx, amos)

My wife requested that I get theOCT 05

My wife requested that I get the picture of the crab further down the page. So, a lorem ipsum chaser.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

The facinating story of Aicuña,OCT 05

The facinating story of Aicuña, a small Argentinean town that's been closed off from the outside world, has an unusually high percentage of albino residents, and where 8 out of 10 people share the same last name. (via 3qd)

Giant coconut crabOCT 05

I'm not usually one to get squeamish, but this wigged me the hell out:

Coconut Crab

That fellow is a coconut crab and not, as you might initially suspect, a rubber B-movie prop.

Update: Just to be clear, I did not take this photo...I just found it somewhere online.

I've said it before, anyone using theOCT 05

I've said it before, anyone using the term Web 3.0 gets poked in the eye. My dance card is filling up.

In hopes of solving a mystery aboutOCT 05

In hopes of solving a mystery about two photographs taken by Roger Fenton during the Crimean War (which I mentioned last week), Errol Morris travels to Crimea to track down the spot at which Fenton took the photos, aided by Olga, a guide who had once led the Duke of Edinburgh around the area.

Furthermore, what do the shadows on a cannonball, a Crimean cannonball, circa 1850, really look like -- not in a Fenton photograph but sitting alone, unadorned in the Valley of the Shadow of Death 150 years later? Olga seemed amused. I am not a great believer in certainty, but I am pretty certain the Duke of Edinburgh never asked to go to the Panorama Museum to borrow a Crimean War cannonball.

Nick Park and Aardman Animations are doingOCT 05

Nick Park and Aardman Animations are doing a new Wallace & Gromit film called Trouble At' Mill (pronounced Trouble At The Mill). Unlike Chicken Run or Were-Rabbit, it'll be a 30-minute film made for TV, like A Close Shave or The Wrong Trousers.

Wallace and Gromit have a brand new business. The conversion of 62 West Wallaby Street is complete and impressive, the whole house is now a granary with ovens and robotic kneading arms. Huge mixing bowls are all over the place and everything is covered with a layer of flour. On the roof is a 'Wallace patent-pending' old-fashioned windmill.

Video montage of all the handjob referencesOCT 05

Video montage of all the handjob references from Rushmore. (via fimoculous, which I can finally spell without looking it up on Google)

How to increase your tips as aOCT 05

How to increase your tips as a stripper: dance while ovulating and stop taking your birth control pill.

Dancers made about $70 an hour during their peak period of fertility, versus about $35 while menstruating and $50 in between.

The fake subtitles for this movie clipOCT 04

The fake subtitles for this movie clip make it seem as though Adolf Hitler is banned from playing iSketch, an online drawing game like Pictionary.

I just got my new Wacom! I have the stylus right here! This tablet has more than 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity!

My Fuhrer, iSketch doesn't support pressure sensitivity!

FUCK YOU! It does if I say so!!

Hilarious. (via conscientious)

Update: There are quite a few different Hitler/subtitle mashups on YouTube. This one about him being banned from XBox Live is the most popular one but this one about his car being stolen predates it. The iSketch one is still the best one, I think. (thx, everyone)

The last we heard from Malcolm Gladwell,OCT 04

The last we heard from Malcolm Gladwell, he wrote about Enron and information overload, got hammered by his blog audience about it, and then stopped blogging and wrote nothing more for the New Yorker for the next 10 months. Rumor is that he's busy working on a new book, not shellshocked from the feedback. Anyway, the Globe and Mail interviewed Gladwell the other day about the "working future".

You're going to have to create internal structures that will help people grow into positions; that's really where the real opportunity is going to be. That's what we're going to have to do. That means being more patient with people, being willing to experiment with people, and being willing to nurture people. Those are three things we're reluctant to do at the moment.

No place for childrenOCT 04

We're running a bit behind in watching The War; we stopped the other night right before D-Day. The series is quite good so far, even with all its flaws. The last section we watched dealt with the Battle of Monte Cassino and the related Battle of Anzio in Italy. With the Germans holding the high ground, these battles were some of toughest of the war for the Allies. During one particularly difficult moment, an American soldier yelled out a prayer (I'm paraphrasing slightly): "Oh God, where are you? We really could use your help down here. And don't send Jesus, come down here yourself. This ain't no place for children."

Everything is open for negotiationOCT 04

Everything is open for negotiation and for three months, Tom Chiarella tried to get deals on everything, from a hot dog to a gallon of gas to a TiVo.

Within weeks I discovered that restaurants will typically give you four desserts for the price of three if you ask for a sampler. That a draft beer is generally good for a free refill with a little prodding. That you can get an extra 20 percent off at Ikea by pressing past the cashiers, past the floor salespeople, up into the bottommost managerial rungs, by comparing the price of one perfectly well priced dresser with its slightly less well priced but better-sized counterpart one floor down.

Update: Bargainist has a piece about how to haggle that's worth a look.

An extensive collection of human anatomical atlases,OCT 04

An extensive collection of human anatomical atlases, all scanned for your online viewing pleasure. Lots of wonderful images...all in the public domain, BTW.

I missed the trailer for Be KindOCT 04

I missed the trailer for Be Kind Rewind, Michel Gondry's upcoming film starring Mos Def and Jack Black, when it came out back in August...perhaps you did too? The gist of the film: two video store clerks find all the tapes in the store are blank and set out to refilm all of the movies themselves.

A 13-step guide for buying a carOCT 04

A 13-step guide for buying a car while controlling the sale and the price.

It works only if you truly are willing to walk away...and then refuse to bend when they try to put you off or change the terms. Stay civil, do not let any emotion in. You are on a mission, Marine!

Fantastic advice. My dad is a skilled car buyer and on one particular occasion, spend two grueling hours dinkering with a used car saleman over a junky but good-running truck. He walked out at least twice and kept escalating up to the manager before getting the price down from $2300 to around $400.

Pixar: no female leadsOCT 04

Michael Hanscom notes that Pixar has not made a movie with a lead female character and this unfortunate trend looks to continue with Wall-E.

What's been frustrating so far is simply that in many of Pixar's prior films, there's no particular reason why one or another of their characters couldn't be female rather than male -- would Ratatouille have been any less well done if he were a she? Would the rescue of the ant colony be less spectacular if Julia Louis-Dreyfus had voiced Flik against Dave Foley's Prince Atta?

Jennifer Daniel has a nice one-page portfolioOCT 04

Jennifer Daniel has a nice one-page portfolio of design and illustration work.

rating: 3.5 stars

The Sixth SenseOCT 03

Not nearly as much fun when you know the secret.

Ratatouille is due out on DVD onOCT 03

Ratatouille is due out on DVD on Nov 6. That was fast.

Wikipedia articles about unusual places, names, people,OCT 03

Wikipedia articles about unusual places, names, people, and cultural artifacts. This could keep Boing Boing running for years.

For my own future reference: an explanationOCT 03

For my own future reference: an explanation of SQL joins using Venn diagrams.

Update: Another crack at the Venn diagram thing.

Help wantedOCT 03

I'm looking for a writer/blogger** to work on a short-duration kottke.org project. You must be available from 10/30 to 11/6, not counting the weekend. There's a small budget available if you wish to be financially compensated. The resulting project will be featured on the front page of kottke.org with full credit to the author...this isn't some behind-the-scenes thing. Apologies if all that's intentionally vague, but I'll share the full details with the applicants.

If you're interested in applying, send an email to jason@kottke.org containing: 1) a subject line of "kottke.org feedback - Oct project", 2) a one-paragraph cover "letter" of no more than 6-7 sentences, and 3) links to your resume (if you have one), your blog (ditto), and any applicable writing/editing/blogging samples. Use your own discretion as to what to reveal about yourself. Any email with attachments or excessive paragraphs will be deleted unread or will be read and then mocked. Publicly. Those who enjoy reading kottke.org but are unlike me, demographically speaking, are particularly encouraged to apply. Thanks!

** Update: To clarify slightly, I don't necessarily need someone who is a writer or blogger professionally, just someone who can write or blog, no matter their training or profession.

Update: Hi, I think I've got all the applicants I need for now. Thanks to all for your interest.

Mental Floss has an ongoing feature calledOCT 03

Mental Floss has an ongoing feature called The First Time News Was Fit To Print, which chronicles the first mentions of famous people, places, and events in the NY Times. Among the topics covered so far: The Simpsons, Kobe Bryant, and Starbucks.

A reader of New York's Grub StreetOCT 03

A reader of New York's Grub Street blog recenty wrote in, saying that he was about to have surgery that might permanently impair his sense of taste and he was looking for recommendations of places to go for his potential last few meals. Hearing of his plight, Eric Ripert agreed to cook the fellow a special Doomsday Menu at his 4-star restaurant, Le Bernardin.

Louisiana pastor Eddie Thompson feels that theOCT 03

Louisiana pastor Eddie Thompson feels that the media and activists have gotten the story wrong about the Jena Six. In this article, he attempts to correct some of the misconceptions and erroneous statements made about the case.

The actions of the three white students who hung the nooses demonstrate prejudice and bigotry. However, they were not just given "two days suspension" as reported by national news agencies. After first being expelled, then upon appeal, being allowed to re-enter the school system, they were sent to an alternative school, off-campus, for an extended period of time. They underwent investigations by Federal and Sate authorities. They were given psychological evaluations. Even when they were eventually allowed back on campus they were not allowed to be a part of the general population for weeks.

(thx, james)

Remember Dove's Evolution video of a fashionOCT 03

Remember Dove's Evolution video of a fashion model going from drab to fabulous with the help of makeup and Photoshop? They've got a new video out called Onslaught in which we see the barrage of images that are directed at young girls each day. BTW, Dove's parent company makes all sorts of products that may contibute to the problem that Dove is attacking here. (via debbie millman)

Scott Aaronson, Ph.D: Australian actresses areOCT 03

Scott Aaronson, Ph.D: Australian actresses are plagiarizing my quantum mechanics lecture to sell printers. Here's a video of the printer commercial and the lecture notes from which the dialogue is taken.

Bad news, Deadwood fans. Ian McShane saysOCT 02

Bad news, Deadwood fans. Ian McShane says that the two Deadwood movies are not going to happen. Cocksucker! (via david)

Update: Here's a letter from HBO dated 9/27/07 that outlines their decision to not go forward with Deadwood and John From Cincinnati. (thx, marshall)

Dozens of stills from The Simpsons thatOCT 02

Dozens of stills from The Simpsons that make references to famous scenes in movies.

A fixie of hipsters: the perfect collectiveOCT 02

A fixie of hipsters: the perfect collective noun for two or more hipsters. Coined by Erika Hall on Flickr. Fixie is slang for a fixed gear bicycle, increasingly the urban 20-something's conveyance of choice. Other favorite collective nouns: a murder of crows, a blessing of unicorns, and shimmer of hummingbirds.

Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and ArtistsOCT 02

Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists

Casey Reas and Ben Fry, inventors of the Processing programming language (that's Proce55ing to you old schoolers), have just come out with a book on the topic that looks fantastic. In addition to programming tutorials are essays and interviews with other heavy hitters in the programmatic arts like Golan Levin, Alex Galloway, Auriea Harvey, and Jared Tarbell. The site for the book features a table of contents, sample chapters, and every single code example in the book, freely available for download. Amazon's got the book but they're saying it's 4-6 weeks for delivery so I suggest hoofing it over to your local bookstore for a look-see instead.

This past weekend, Tobias Frere-Jones led aOCT 02

This past weekend, Tobias Frere-Jones led a typography tour of lower Manhattan for the AIGA, which I'm sad I missed (out of town guests + didn't get a ticket in time). Luckily several people have uploaded photos from the tour (set 1, set 2, set 3, set 4), including a shot of one of my favorite lunchtime destinations, the Cup & Saucer. Love that sign (see close up).

In his latest opinion piece, 9/11 Is Over,OCT 02

In his latest opinion piece, 9/11 Is Over, Thomas Friedman leads off with a description of an Onion article and then gets in some zingers of his own:

We don't need another president of 9/11. We need a president for 9/12.

9/11 has made us stupid.

Guantanamo Bay is the anti-Statue of Liberty.

Those who don't visit us, don't know us.

Fly from Zurich's ultramodern airport to La Guardia's dump. It is like flying from the Jetsons to the Flintstones.

The Best American Essays 2007OCT 02

The Best American Essays 2007

I've had this damn thing up in a browser tab for literally months1 and finally got around to reading it, "this damn thing" being editor David Foster Wallace's introduction to The Best American Essays 2007. In it, Wallace describes his role in compiling the essays collection as that of The Decider. As in, he Deciders what goes into the book according to his subjective view and not necessarily because the essays are "Best", "American", or even "Essays".

Which, yes, all right, entitles you to ask what 'value' means here and whether it's any kind of improvement, in specificity and traction, over the cover's 'Best.' I'm not sure that it's finally better or less slippery than 'Best,' but I do know it's different. 'Value' sidesteps some of the metaphysics that makes pure aesthetics such a headache, for one thing. It's also more openly, candidly subjective: since things have value only to people, the idea of some limited, subjective human doing the valuing is sort of built right into the term. That all seems tidy and uncontroversial so far -- although there's still the question of just what this limited human actually means by 'value' as a criterion.

One thing I'm sure it means is that this year's BAE does not necessarily comprise the twenty-two very best-written or most beautiful essays published in 2006. Some of the book's essays are quite beautiful indeed, and most are extremely well written and/or show a masterly awareness of craft (whatever exactly that is). But others aren't, don't, especially - but they have other virtues that make them valuable. And I know that many of these virtues have to do with the ways in which the pieces handle and respond to the tsunami of available fact, context, and perspective that constitutes Total Noise. This claim might itself look slippery, because of course any published essay is a burst of information and context that is by definition part of 2007's overall roar of info and context. But it is possible for something to be both a quantum of information and a vector of meaning. Think, for instance, of the two distinct but related senses of 'informative.' Several of this year's most valuable essays are informative in both senses; they are at once informational and instructive. That is, they serve as models and guides for how large or complex sets of facts can be sifted, culled, and arranged in meaningful ways - ways that yield and illuminate truth instead of just adding more noise to the overall roar.

Although there are some differences between what Wallace and I consider valuable, the Decidering process detailed in his essay is a dead-on description of what I do on kottke.org every day. I guess you could say that it resonated with me as valuable, so much so that were I editing an end-of-the-year book comprised of the most interesting links from 2007, I would likely include it, right up front.

Oh, and I got a kick out of the third footnote, combined here with the associated main text sentences:

I am acting as an evaluative filter, winnowing a very large field of possibilities down to a manageable, absorbable Best for your delectation. Thinking about this kind of Decidering is interesting in all kinds of different ways. For example, from the perspective of Information Theory, the bulk of the Decider's labor actually consists of excluding nominees from the final prize collection, which puts the Decider in exactly the position of Maxwell's Demon or any other kind of entropy-reducing info processor, since the really expensive, energy-intensive part of such processing is always deleting/discarding/resetting.

My talk at Ars Electronica 2006 on the topic of simplicity touched on similar themes and the main point was that the more stuff I can sift through (and throw away), the better the end result can be.

From this it follows that the more effective the aggregator is at effectively determining what the group thinks, the better the end result will be. But somewhat paradoxically, the quality of the end result can also improve as the complexity of the group increases. In constructing kottke.org, something that I hope is a simple, coherent aggregation of the world rushing past me, this complexity is my closest ally. Keeping up with so many diverse, independent, decentralized sources makes my job as an aggregator difficult -- reading 300 sites a day (plus all the other stuff) is no picnic -- but it makes kottke.org much better than it would be if I only read Newsweek and watched Hitchcock movies. As artists, designers, and corporations race to embrace simplicity, they might do well to widen their purview and, in doing so, embrace the related complexity as well.

Welcome the chaos because there's lots of good stuff to be found therein. I also attempted to tie the abundance of information (what Wallace refers to as "Total Noise") and the simplification process of editing/aggregating/blogging into Claude Shannon's definition of information and information theory but failed due to time contraints and a lack of imagination. It sounded good in my head though.

Anyway, if you're wondering what I do all day, the answer is: throwing stuff out. kottke.org is not so much what's on the site as what is not chosen for inclusion.

[1] In actual fact, I closed that browser tab weeks ago and pasted the URL into a "must-read items" text file I maintain. But it's been open in a browser tab in my mind for months, literally. That and I couldn't resist putting a footnote in this entry, because, you know, DFW.

A gorgeous wall-sized map showing the preciseOCT 02

A gorgeous wall-sized map showing the precise territory of the United States by Bill Rankin, proprietor of Radical Cartography. Check out some of Rankin's other recent work.

Update: Oops, that didn't take long. RC is a little slow right now because everyone's trying to d/l the 3.8 MB png file of the map. Maybe check back a little later?

NASA and researchers at Carnegie Mellon haveOCT 01

NASA and researchers at Carnegie Mellon have developed a robotic camera mount that enables ordinary digital cameras to take gigapixel panoramic images (like these).

Ass bottle rocketOCT 01

This may be the funniest YouTube video of all time. Keywords: fireworks, no pants, NSFW, and "Rectum? It nearly killed 'em!"

Update: Of course YouTube pulled the video, but here's an alternate link. (thx, ryan)

A few cost-cutting recommendations for restaurants, focusingOCT 01

A few cost-cutting recommendations for restaurants, focusing on discontinuing "several practices that have been introduced to impress rather than to deliver value".

I also think that the array of amuse-bouches, breads and petits fours that an ambitious restaurant now makes an integral part of the meal has got completely out of hand.

(via bruni)

Wall-E updateOCT 01

Wall-E is Pixar's next movie, to be released in June 2008. A new teaser trailer is due to be released today at 8pm ET, although a French site has jumped the gun and is displaying it now (much better HD version). Does it make sense even if you don't speak French? Yes, because the movie isn't going to have any dialogue. Says director Andrew Stanton: "I'm basically making R2-D2: The Movie". At least it's not in Aramaic. And talkies are overrated anyway, right?

Pixar has also launched a promotional web site for the film. The site was formerly just a placeholder but is now faux-corporate brochureware for Buy n Large, maker of the Wall-E robot. The site is full of ridiculous corporate-speak like "by visiting the Buy n Large web site you instantaneously relinquish all claims against the Buy n Large corporation and any of its vendors or strategic partners." Check out the Nanc-E under Robotics/Robot Models for a chuckle. (thx, david)

Update: The English trailer is now available at Yahoo in HD (480p, 720p and 1080p).

A list of 15 of the top smallOCT 01

A list of 15 of the top small workplaces of 2007. If you run a small company, there are lot of good examples to follow here.

The story of the Jena Six revealsOCT 01

The story of the Jena Six reveals only a small part of the discrimination in the American justice system.

The Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group, released a state-by-state study of prison populations that identified where blacks endured the highest rates of incarceration. The top four states were South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Vermont; the top ten included Utah, Montana, and Colorado -- not places renowned for their African-American subcultures. In the United States today, driving while black -- or shoplifting while black, or taking illegal drugs, or hitting schoolmates -- often carries the greatest risk of incarceration, in comparison to the risk faced by whites, in states where people of color are rare, including a few states that are liberal, prosperous, and not a little self-satisfied. Ex-slave states that are relatively poor and have large African-American populations, such as Louisiana, display less racial disparity.

How to Read the BibleOCT 01

How to Read the Bible

James Kugel is a former professor of Hebrew Studies at Harvard and an Orthodox Jew whose current book, How to Read the Bible, is getting really good reviews. From a NY Times piece on the book:

Most unsettling to religious Jews and Christians may be Kugel's chapters about the origins of God and his chosen people. Kugel says that there is essentially no evidence -- archaeological, historical, cultural -- for the events in the Torah. No sign of an exodus from Egypt; no proof that Israelites ever invaded, much less conquered, Canaan; no indication that Jericho was ever sacked. In fact, quite the contrary: current evidence suggests that the Israelites were probably Canaanites themselves, semi-nomadic highlanders or fleeing city dwellers who gradually separated from their mother culture, established a distinct identity and invented a mythical past.

A first chapter of the book is also available:

In going through the Bible, however, this book will focus not only on what the text says but on the larger question of what a modern reader is to make of it, how it is to be read. This will mean examining two quite different ways of understanding the Bible, those of modern biblical scholars and of ancient interpreters.

(via mr, where the normally unreserved Tyler Cowen says of the book, "[it's] so good I don't know what to say about [it]")

The story behind an iconic photo ofOCT 01

The story behind an iconic photo of Elizabeth Ekford, one of the Little Rock Nine on her way to the newly desegregated Central High School. Oddly, she became friends with the white girl in the photograph who yelled "Go home, nigger! Go back to Africa!" at her. Even stranger is the fact that Central High is *still* segregated, more or less:

Central High School looks as imposing as ever, but over the past 50 years, its innards have changed unimaginably: the school is now more than half black. It's all misleading, of course, because Central is really two different schools, separate and unequal, under one roof. The blacks go to different classes, sit on separate sides of the cafeteria, have different, and far lower, levels of performance and expectations.

David Remnick on the current state ofOCT 01

David Remnick on the current state of Russian politics and the head of the tiny anti-Putin movement, former chess champion Garry Kasparov.

In recent years, Putin has insured that nearly all power in Russia is Presidential. The legislature, the State Duma, is only marginally more independent than the Supreme Soviet was under Leonid Brezhnev. The governors of Russia's more than eighty regions are no longer elected, as they were under Yeltsin; since a Presidential decree in 2004, they have all been appointed by the Kremlin. Putin even appoints the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg. The federal television networks, by far the main instrument of news and information in Russia, are neo-Soviet in their absolute obeisance to Kremlin power.

There's also an audio interview of Kasparov by Remnick.

Fashion & Style? I don't know... (via matt)OCT 01

Fashion & Style? I don't know... (via matt)

L'Epicerie sells all kinds of supplies forOCT 01

L'Epicerie sells all kinds of supplies for the molecular gastronomy cook, including dehydrated strawberry powder, xantham gum, and agar agar.

Update: Bryan Zupon is a likely L'Epicerie shopper. The college senior runs an underground restaurant out of his campus apartment that specializes in molecular gastronomy techniques and cuisine.

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