Swiveling frenetically, they analyzed digital images of items scattered randomly on a swiftly moving conveyor belt and picked up the items using suction cups that blow air in and out at their tips. They then worked together to place line up the items in rows inside boxes.
Sad news. Guitar Hero 3 and I have broken up. Sure, we might hook up occasionally when I’m lonely at night, but our relationship is effectively over. I can play every song1 without effort on Easy mode but can barely make it through any on Medium after dozens of tries. So so lame. I’ve hit the wall and my pinky is to blame…the damn thing just won’t work properly and I’m unwilling to try playing with just three fingers (a la Clapton) because that seems like a dead end once Mr. Orange Button comes into play.
But the real reason is that because I don’t have a natural talent for the game, the only way to get better is through deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice entails more than simply repeating a task — playing a C-minor scale 100 times, for instance, or hitting tennis serves until your shoulder pops out of its socket. Rather, it involves setting specific goals, obtaining immediate feedback and concentrating as much on technique as on outcome.
Deliberate practice…sounds like fun! Yeah, no. No doubt I could master the game with enough focused effort, but when games stop being fun and become deliberate, that’s where I get off. Back to the surprising depth of Desktop TD.
 When relationships end, that’s when the lies start. The one song I still can’t play all the way through is Slayer’s Raining Blood. That damn song is just random notes as far I can can tell. ↩
The most encouraging word we have so far had about television came from a grade-school principal we encountered the other afternoon.
“They say it’s going to bring back vaudeville,” he said, “but I think it’s going to bring back the book.”
Before television, he told us, his pupils never read; that is, they knew how to read and could do it in school, but their reading ended there. Their entertainment was predominantly pictorial and auditory — movies, comic books, radio.
Now, the principal said, news summaries are typed out and displayed on the television screen to the accompaniment of soothing music, the opening pages of dramatized novels are shown, words are written on blackboards in quiz and panel programs, commercials are spelled out in letters made up of dancing cigarettes, and even the packages of cleansers and breakfast foods and the announcers exhibit for identification bear printed messages.
It’s only a question of time, our principal felt, before the new literacy of the television audience reaches the point where whole books can be held up to the screen and all their pages slowly turned.
If you stop thinking of TV in the specific sense as a box on which ABC, CBS, and NBC are shown and instead imagine it in the general sense as a service that pipes content into the home to be shown on a screen, the prediction hits pretty close to the mark. The experience of using the web is not so different than reading pages of words that are “held up to the screen” while we scroll slowly through them. If we can imagine that what Paul Otlet and Vannevar Bush described as the “televised book” and the “memex” corresponds to today’s web, why not give our high school principal here the same benefit of the doubt?
You believe in freedom of speech, until someone says something that offends you. You suddenly give a damn about border integrity, because the automated voice system at your pharmacy asked you to press 9 for Spanish. You cling to every scrap of bullshit you can find to support your ludicrous belief system, and reject all empirical evidence to the contrary. You know the difference between patriotism and nationalism — it’s nationalism when foreigners do it. You hate anyone who seems smarter than you. You care more about zygotes than actual people. You love to blame people for their misfortunes, even if it means screwing yourself over.
Burton is offering a $5000 prize for the best snowboarding video taken at one of the three remaining US ski areas (Alta, Taos, Deer Valley, Mad River Glen) that don’t allow snowboarding. The intro video is the perfect explanation for why these four areas don’t allow snowboards.
That question hits an important point in my work (and pet peeve), because many people are always interested in how I get work out there, financially. And it’s quite simple. If there’s something I really believe in, I just find a way to make it happen. No daily Starbucks (US$4) or cigs ($8) or dining out ($20), and before you know it you’ve got the money to do something.
Poker, a game of “constant pricing and repricing of risk”, is fast becoming a younger and more lucrative game. To wit: a 19-yo Norwegian woman won the most recent World Series of Poker and $2 million (to add to her $800,000 in internet poker winnings). Also of interest: John Wayne once won Lassie at a poker game. (??!) The article mentioned 3-time poker champ Stu “The Kid” Ungar (most poker players seem to have nicknames); his Wikipedia page and NY Times profile are interesting reads.
Ungar won or finished high in so many gin tournaments that several casinos asked him to not play in them because many players said they would not enter if they knew Ungar was playing. Ungar later said in his biography that he loved seeing his opponent slowly break down over the course of a match, realizing he could not win and eventually get a look of desperation on his face. “It was fucking beautiful,” he noted.
Tell Brak seems to have grown from the outside in. In the south, cities began as a central settlement — under a single authority — that grew outward. But Ur’s field survey shows that Tell Brak started as a central community ringed by smaller satellite settlements that expanded inward. “There isn’t a very tight control over these surrounding villages, at least at this beginning period,” says Ur. “So the assumption that we’re making is that people were coming in under their own volition.”
Ms. Bhutto, 54, returned to Pakistan this year at a time of great volatility in a state that has been under military rule for eight years. She was the leader of the country’s largest opposition political party, founded by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, one of Pakistan’s most flamboyant and democratically inclined prime ministers.
With the new season right around the corner, Heaven and Here, an excellent group blog about The Wire, is starting back up again. The latest two posts are about season two, the most underrated season IMO.
The Indian letter writing industry (for those who are unable to write themselves) is all but extinct because of near-ubiquitous mobile phones and text messaging.
Mr. Sawant mourns the demise of the letter culture. After dropping a letter in the box, he used to imagine its winding journey. Someone far away would open what he had written on someone else’s behalf; the reader would savor its kind words or its little secrets, then maybe file it away in a box, and perhaps revisit it weeks later in a burst of nostalgia.
But even Sawant admits that ringing his daughter on his mobile is much easier than writing a letter.
Rankin’s Eyescapes photos are great. One of my favorite things to do with Ollie is stare into his eyes and see all the wonderful whirls of color. I also like his One Dress project. (Rankin’s project, not Ollie’s.)
I have never been more panicked in my whole life. Once your lungs are empty and collapsed and they start to draw fluid it is simply all over. You know you are dead and it’s too late. Involuntary and total panic. There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. It would be like telling you not to blink while I stuck a hot needle in your eye. At the time my lungs emptied and I began to draw water, I would have sold my children to escape. There was no choice, or chance, and willpower was not involved. I never felt anything like it, and this was self-inflicted with a watering can, where I was in total control and never in any danger. And I understood.
Why can we not get better quality snack items for our coach customers? One customer recently compared the generic pretzel nubs we serve to the fish food you buy in a .25 gumball machine at any zoo or park.
I like the openness policy of the US Airways CEO…the “employees are going to talk about it anyway” line is exactly right.
I kind of feel like Rudy [Giuliani] thinks 9/11 is his birthday. He gets that excited look on his face and buys himself a cake and lights two candles and watches them burn down. And then he looks around and says, “What do I get?” And his advisors are like “$15 million in speaking fees!” and he’s like, “That’s even better than last 9/11!”
I have a sweet technique I use for finding the great images from a shoot that really tends to piss-off the editors: I edit the film without reading the story. This helps me tune into which images have the most impact on me and which ones transcend subject matter and become forces in their own right.
Non-profit writing organization 826NYC is holding a Scrabble for Cheaters competition on January 19th with the proceeds going to benefit their programs and students. The more money a team raises, the more they can cheat. Here are some of the cheats:
Flip a letter over and make it blank: $100 Add Q, Z, or X to any word, anywhere: $200 Passport: play a word in any language: $250 Reject another team’s word: $450 Invent a word (must have a definition): $500
Rex has released his list of the Best Blogs of 2007 That You’re (Maybe) Not Reading over at Fimoculous. Like last year, he’s focused his best-of-blogs list on lesser-known sites instead of the biggies, a strategy I applaud. In fact, he doesn’t even need to qualify the list as the best unknown blogs; many of the well-known blogs that usually make best-of lists, much of the Technorati Top 100, and most multi-author plastered-with-ads blogs are unremarkable…too much volume, too calculated, too focused on filling post and pageview quotas, and limited passion. If you look at the sites on Rex’s list, you’ll see a lot of blogs done by people who are passionate about something, not writing for a paycheck.
Rex’s #1 choice is an inspired one and absolutely right on…Twitter and Tumblr revitalized personal publishing in the eyes of many who had either tired of blogging or had never seen the point in it in the first place. My only complaint about the list is that there are too many one-hit wonders on it, sites that are worth a chuckle or squee! when you first see them but don’t hold up over time unless you really really like, say, snowclones. Oh, and Vulture…I really wanted to like it but really didn’t get it. (Oh oh, and and Jezebel? Being against a thing is not the same as standing for something.)
The offspring of expensive stallions owe their success more to how they are reared, trained and ridden than good genes, a study has found. Only 10% of a horse’s lifetime winnings can be attributed to their bloodline, research in Biology Letters shows.
That suggests, a la Moneyball, that buying horses with so-so lineages and training them really well could make for a better return on investment.
There is complete silence. Even my son is staring slackjawed, like he does in church during communion, not understanding the content of the ritual but understanding the tone and sacredness of the space. At just over 6 minutes, the song becomes even more ludicrous. While actually playing it will ever remain for me an uncrossable gap, I am enough a student of the form to recognize the crux. He is Lance Armstrong approaching the bottom of Alpe D’Huez: Will he attack? Kyle has yet to use the Star Power crutch he has carried throughout his meditation. He continues to ignore it.
Leung began his career as a part of hammer & tongs, the creative team behind many influential music videos as well as the movies Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, on which he acted as 2nd unit director and title sequence director, and the upcoming Son of Rambow, which he edited. (via antville)
Unlike the belongings of artists who fade gradually from view, which are sometimes scattered, pilfered or lost, Arbus’s effects were in some ways frozen in time when she committed suicide at 48. Quickly her life began to acquire a cult status paralleling that of her photography.
When Theresa Duncan, 40, took her own life on July 10, followed a week later by her boyfriend, Jeremy Blake, 35, their friends were stunned and the press was fascinated: what had destroyed this glamorous couple, stars of New York’s multi-media art world, still madly in love after 12 years?
Anyone in a coining mood? If one doesn’t already exist, there needs to be a term for writing a blog comment or Twitter update, thinking better of it, and then discarding it by closing the browser tab without clicking “Post”. As in: “Jason, I would have responded to this post in the comments, but I ________ it instead.” Any ideas?
However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world’s leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolf Hitler’s threat: “They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent.”
So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.
How America Lost the War on Drugs, a history of the United States government’s efforts to stop its citizens from using illegal substances, primarily crack, heroin, and methamphetamines. Quite long but worth the read.
All told, the United States has spent an estimated $500 billion to fight drugs - with very little to show for it. Cocaine is now as cheap as it was when Escobar died and more heavily used. Methamphetamine, barely a presence in 1993, is now used by 1.5 million Americans and may be more addictive than crack. We have nearly 500,000 people behind bars for drug crimes - a twelvefold increase since 1980 - with no discernible effect on the drug traffic.
It’s not that hard to see how things got off the rails here. Dealing with the supply of drugs is ineffective (it’s too lucrative for people to stop selling and too easy to find countries which seek to profit from it) but provides the illusion of action while attacking the problem from the demand side, which appears to be more effective, comes with messy and complex social problems. What a waste. The bits about meth & the lobbying efforts by the pharmaceutical industry and the medical marijuana crackdowns are particularly maddening.
Somewhat related is a 9-part series from VBS about scopolamine, one of the world’s scariest drugs (via fimoculous). Just blowing the powder into someone’s face is sufficient for them to enter a wakeful zombie state and become the perfect rape or crime victim.
The last thing Andrea Fernandez recalls before being drugged is holding her newborn baby on a Bogota city bus. Police found her three days later, muttering to herself and wandering topless along the median strip of a busy highway. Her face was badly beaten and her son was gone.
From the outside, the effect is surreal. The wasp does not paralyze the cockroach. In fact, the roach is able to lift up its front legs again and walk. But now it cannot move of its own accord. The wasp takes hold of one of the roach’s antennae and leads it — in the words of Israeli scientists who study Ampulex — like a dog on a leash.
I wonder if the chemical reactions are similar in both cases.
Others grouse about another side effect, price pressure: The competition is so intense on the site that new crafters can’t break out, and some established ones feel they cannot raise their prices. That’s a particularly thorny problem if part of your sales pitch is that you’ve made a thing yourself; a careful artisan can’t respond to lower prices with greater volume.
Artisanship doesn’t scale, apprentices take time to train, and people buy products based on price. How do artisans compete?
“The Victorian freak show never went away,” Millman rails in a soliloquy that serves as a climax of the “Extras” final episode and a moment of redemption for the character, whose life and friendships have been corrupted by fame. “Now it’s called ‘Big Brother’ or ‘American Idol,’ where in the preliminary rounds we wheel out the bewildered to be sniggered at by multimillionaires.”
To the networks, he says: “You can’t wash your hands of this. You can’t keep going, ‘Oh, it’s exploitation, but it’s what the public wants.’ No.”
To the audience watching at home, he says: “Shame on you. And shame on me. I’m the worst of all. Cause I’m one of these people that goes, ‘I’m an entertainer, it’s in my blood.’ Yeah, it’s in my blood because a real job’s too hard.”
A few months back a producer from the Simpsons contacted Carly about using her song ‘everyday’ for an upcoming episode in which they were going to parody my video. She was negotiating a rate for the song, until they never got back to her. No fee was agreed on, no contracts signed.
Maybe they decided since it was parody they didn’t need permission? I don’t find that likely since what little I know about Hollywood/TV is that they’re really concerned about clearing rights. (thx, slava)
In light of the Mitchell Report, Yanksfan vs Soxfan has proposed a record book annotation system so that sports fans can tell which records were set under the influence of which substances. The asterisk is for straight-up steroids and some of the other marks are as follows:
! = Amphetamines $ = Gambling || = Cocaine ~ = Alcohol . = Dead ball era ∞ = Wore glasses † = Crazy religious freak X = General douchebag
Trying stuff is cheaper than deciding whether to try it. (Compare the cost of paying and feeding someone to do a few weeks of [Perl or PHP] hacking to the full cost of the meetings that went into a big company decision.) Don’t overplan something. Just do it half-assed to start with, then throw more people at it to fix it if it works.
New York’s pigeon clubs, loosely organized by geography and custom, are a cross between an urban sportsman’s lodge and a time capsule of immigrant, working-class New York. Even as recently as a generation back, fleets of racing pigeons swirled above New York like pulsing gray clouds, but the numbers of racers and birds have thinned, with not enough new fliers to replace the old.
The Moon has been a stabilizing factor for the axis of rotation of the Earth. If you look at Mars, for instance, that planet has wobbled quite dramatically on its axis over time due to the gravitational influence of all the other planets in the solar system. Because of this obliquity change, the ice that is now at the poles on Mars would sometimes drift to the equator. But the Earth’s moon has helped stabilize our planet so that its axis of rotation stays in the same direction. For this reason, we had much less climatic change than if the Earth had been alone. And this has changed the way life evolved on Earth, allowing for the emergence of more complex multi-cellular organisms compared to a planet where drastic climatic change would allow only small, robust organisms to survive.
This photo of lower Manhattan taken from the Statue of Liberty in 1901 is plenty interesting, especially what I believe is the beginnings of the Manhattan Bridge under construction behind the Brooklyn Bridge.
Update: The bridge under construction is most likely the Williamsburg Bridge, not the Manhattan Bridge. (thx, jake)
Like indoor plumbing and toga parties, Trajan hails from Rome. Matter of fact, you can find almost 2,000-year-old inscriptions on Trajan’s column, where they have totally off-the-leash keggers on Saturdays… Russell Crowe has co-starred with Trajan three times now.
This reminds me of Red is Not Funny, J. Tyler Helms’ illustration of the wide use of bold red letters in distinctly unfunny comedies. (via cameron hunt)
This was a very typical time. I was single. All you needed was a cup of tea, a light, and your stereo, you know, and that’s what I had.
This was right in the thick of Lisa/Macintosh development; I bet Jobs didn’t spend a whole lot of time at home. Note: there’s some bad Exif data that prevents the display of this photo in Safari (ironic, eh?)…try Firefox instead. (thx, mark)
The brisk rate of human selection occurred for two reasons, Dr. Moyzis’ team says. One was that the population started to grow, first in Africa and then in the rest of the world after the first modern humans left Africa. The larger size of the population meant that there were more mutations for natural selection to work on. The second reason for the accelerated evolution was that the expanding human populations in Africa and Eurasia were encountering climates and diseases to which they had to adapt genetically. The extra mutations in their growing populations allowed them to do so.
Dr. Moyzis said it was widely assumed that once people developed culture, they protected themselves from the environment and from the forces of natural selection. But people also had to adapt to the environments that their culture created, and the new analysis shows that evolution continued even faster than before.
First up, for those concerned that this story has been cancelled, don’t worry, planes on a conveyer belt has been filmed, is spectacular, and will be part of what us Mythbusters refer to as ‘episode 97’. Currently that is due to air on January 30th.
Secondly, for those very aggrieved fans feeling “duped” into watching tonight’s show, I can only apologise. I’m not sure why the listings / internet advertised that tonight’s show contained POCB. I will endeavour to find out an answer but for those conspiracy theorists amongst you, I can assure you that it will have just been an honest mistake.
Not sure that’s going to quench the nerdfury, but I’m glad the piece will air in January.
An article about Lord Lambton (“Lord Louche, sex king of Chiantishire”, News Review, January 7) falsely stated that his son Ned (now Lord Durham) and daughter Catherine held a party at Lord Lambton’s villa, Cetinale, in 1997, which degenerated into such an orgy that Lord Lambton banned them from Cetinale for years. In fact, Lord Durham does not have a sister called Catherine (that is the name of his former wife), there has not been any orgiastic party of any kind and Lord Lambton did not ban him (or Catherine) from Cetinale at all.
Duelity is a split-screen movie with one half of the screen showing the six-day creation of the earth & man in scientific terms and the other half showing the Big Bang/evolution origin of the universe as it might have been written in the Bible. (Click on “watch” then “duelity” to get the full effect.) Nice use of infographics and illustration. (thx, slava)
Their purpose is a bizarre reversal of a large optical telescope, taking an internal view of the the universe and projecting it on a dome, rather than creating a view from peering outside of one, but the aesthetic is somewhat similar. Another curious similarity is how much they look like some early satellites.
Look, I have got a rule. As an intelligence officer, your responsibility is to tell me what you know. Tell me what you don’t know. Then you’re allowed to tell me what you think. But you always keep those three separated.
Abbott rightly comments that that’s good advice for journalists and bloggers.
Ten incredible sound recordings, including those of a castrato (a man who was forcibly castrated so that he would retain his boyish soprano), the first recorded human voice from 1878, and the last 30 minutes of audio from the Jonestown Massacre.
For some of Gill’s fans, even looking at his work became impossible. Most problematically, he was a Catholic convert who created some of the most popular devotional art of his era, such as the Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral, where worshippers pray at each panel depicting the suffering of Jesus.
Eight years ago, in the bastions of the “liberal media” that were supposed to love Gore — The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, CNN — he was variously described as “repellent,” “delusional,” a vote-rigger, a man who “lies like a rug,” “Pinocchio.” Eric Pooley, who covered him for Time magazine, says, “He brought out the creative-writing student in so many reporters… Everybody kind of let loose on the guy.”
I want to believe that news outlets are in the business of news, not entertainment, but it’s just not true in most cases. Even more depressing is that blogs, especially political blogs, are even worse in this regard.
Our great-grandparents may have been perfectly intelligent. But they would have done poorly on I.Q. tests because they did not participate in the twentieth century’s great cognitive revolution, in which we learned to sort experience according to a new set of abstract categories. In Flynn’s phrase, we have now had to put on “scientific spectacles,” which enable us to make sense of the WISC questions about similarities. To say that Dutch I.Q. scores rose substantially between 1952 and 1982 was another way of saying that the Netherlands in 1982 was, in at least certain respects, much more cognitively demanding than the Netherlands in 1952. An I.Q., in other words, measures not so much how smart we are as how modern we are.
Most important, we know that interventions at every age from infancy to college can reduce racial gaps in both I.Q. and academic achievement, sometimes by substantial amounts in surprisingly little time. This mutability is further evidence that the I.Q. difference has environmental, not genetic, causes. And it should encourage us, as a society, to see that all children receive ample opportunity to develop their minds.
Infinite Jest once again proved finite, although it’s taken me since August to get through it. This book was such a revelation the first time through that I was afraid of a reread letdown but I enjoyed it even more this time around…and got much more out of the experience too.
MICHAEL SILVERBLATT: I don’t know how, exactly, to talk about this book, so I’m going to be reliant upon you to kind of guide me. But something came into my head that may be entirely imaginary, which seemed to be that the book was written in fractals.
DAVID FOSTER WALLACE: Expand on that.
MS: It occurred to me that the way in which the material is presented allows for a subject to be announced in a small form, then there seems to be a fan of subject matter, other subjects, and then it comes back in a second form containing the other subjects in small, and then comes back again as if what were being described were — and I don’t know this kind of science, but it just — I said to myself this must be fractals.
DFW: It’s — I’ve heard you were an acute reader. That’s one of the things, structurally, that’s going on. It’s actually structured like something called a Sierpinski Gasket, which is a very primitive kind of pyramidical fractal, although what was structured as a Sierpinski Gasket was the first- was the draft that I delivered to Michael in ‘94, and it went through some I think ‘mercy cuts’, so it’s probably kind of a lopsided Sierpinski Gasket now. But it’s interesting, that’s one of the structural ways that it’s supposed to kind of come together.
MS: “Michael” is Michael Pietsche, the editor at Little, Brown. What is a Sierpinski Gasket?
DFW: It would be almost im- … I would almost have to show you. It’s kind of a design that a man named Sierpinski I believe developed — it was quite a bit before the introduction of fractals and before any of the kind of technologies that fractals are a really useful metaphor for. But it looks basically like a pyramid on acid —
To answer Silverblatt’s question, a Sierpinski Gasket is constructed by taking a triangle, removing a triangle-shaped piece out of the middle, then doing the same for the remaining pieces, and so on and so forth, like so:
The result is an object of infinite boundary and zero area — almost literally everything and nothing at the same time. A Sierpinski Gasket is also self-similar…any smaller triangular portion is an exact replica of the whole gasket. You can see why Wallace would have wanted to structure his novel in this fashion.
I was born a Lakota and I shall die a Lakota. Before the white man came to our country, the Lakotas were a free people. They made their own laws and governed themselves as it seemed good to them. The priests and ministers tell us that we lived wickedly when we lived before the white man came among us. Whose fault was this? We lived right as we were taught it was right. Shall we be punished for this? I am not sure that what these people tell me is true.
Red Cloud was among the top Lakota leaders in the late 1800s, commanding his people against rival tribes & the US government. He also successfully made the transition from leading his people in war to guiding and lobbying for them in peace. He died six years after making the above speech.
The NY Times Magazine is out with its annual Year in Ideas issue. 2007 was the year of green — green energy, green manufacturing, and even a green Nobel Prize for Al Gore — and environmentalism featured heavily on the Times’ list. But I found some of the other items on the list more interesting.
Ambiguity Promotes Liking. Sometimes the more you learn about a person or a situation, the more likely you are to be disappointed:
Why? For starters, initial information is open to interpretation. “And people are so motivated to find somebody they like that they read things into the profiles,” Norton says. If a man writes that he likes the outdoors, his would-be mate imagines her perfect skiing companion, but when she learns more, she discovers “the outdoors” refers to nude beaches. And “once you see one dissimilarity, everything you learn afterward gets colored by that,” Norton says.
I’m an optimistic pessimist by nature; I believe everything in my life will eventually average out for the better but I assume the worst of individual situations for the reasons proposed in the article above. That way, when I assume something isn’t going to work out, I’m rarely disappointed.
The best method, called “mirror bees,” entails sending a group of small satellites equipped with mirrors 30 to 100 feet wide into space to “swarm” around an asteroid and trail it, Vasile explains. The mirrors would be tilted to reflect sunlight onto the asteroid, vaporizing one spot and releasing a stream of gases that would slowly move it off course. Vasile says this method is especially appealing because it could be scaled easily: 25 to 5,000 satellites could be used, depending on the size of the rock.
What an elegant and easily implemented solution. But Armageddon and Deep Impact would have been a whole lot less entertaining using Dr. Vasile’s approach.
The Cat-Lady Conundrum. More than 60 million Americans are infected with Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that most people get from their cats. And it’s not exactly harmless:
Jaroslav Flegr, an evolutionary biologist at Charles University in the Czech Republic, is looking into it. He has spent years studying Toxo’s impact on human behavior. (He found, for example, that people infected with Toxo have slower reflexes and are 2.5 times as likely to get into car accidents.)
This may explain why I can’t seem to get past “Easy” on Guitar Hero.
The Honeycomb Vase is actually made by bees. One unintended consequence of having a vase made out of beeswax is that flowers last longer in it:
Libertiny is convinced that flowers last longer in them, because beeswax contains propolis, an antibacterial agent that protects against biological decay. “We found out by accident,” he explains. “We had a bouquet, which was too big for the beeswax vase, so we put half of the flowers in a glass vase. We noticed the difference after a week or so.
[Officer Tommy Ray] made his own deck of cards, each bearing information about a different local criminal case that had gone cold. He distributed the decks in the Polk County jail. His hunch was that prisoners would gossip about the cases during card games, and somehow clues or breaks would emerge and make their way to the authorities. The plan worked. Two months in, as a result of a tip from a card-playing informant, two men were charged with a 2004 murder in a case that had gone cold.
It leans off to one side, rocks to and fro as if gathering strength and then, presto, tips itself back into a “standing” position as if by magic. It doesn’t have a hidden counterweight inside that helps it perform this trick, like an inflatable punching-bag doll that uses ballast to bob upright after you whack it. No, the Gomboc is something new: the world’s first self-righting object.
Update: The Gomboc is available for sale but it doesn’t come cheap. The €80 version is basically a paperweight with a Gomboc shape carved out of it. It’s €1000+ for a real Gomboc, which is ridiculous. (thx, nick)
I was intrigued as the next guy by the list of 53 Places we’re supposed to go in 2008, then I realized that almost without exception, the “reason” to go is the opening at long last of that destination’s first “luxury” accommodations. Which seems about the dumbest reason I can think of for choosing where to travel.
Next up: Jamie Foxx. The actor was near the bar, giving a woman a massage, and saw the crowd now gathered around Alex. Foxx offered to buy him a drink. What do you want, little boy? “A pina colada,” Alex said. The crowd laughed, and he got one, virgin.
Alex’s adventure ended hours later, at Nobu, where the pool crowd had migrated to feast on junket sushi. He had been chatting up Venus and Serena Williams at a nearby table, and mugging for cameras with a cigar hanging from his lips while eating a bowl of ice cream. Then the faces at his table went blank. Alex looked up and saw what they saw. His mother.
The NFL, in their infinitesimal wisdom and utilizing their stupid scheduling/blackout policy, has ensured that the best game of the weekend (Steelers vs. Patriots) will not be shown on TV in the New York City area. We get the hapless Jets instead…a team that not even Jets fans care about at this point in their 3-9 season. Our cable provider doesn’t carry any NFL stations and we don’t really want to trek out to a sports bar with the kiddo. Are there any other options? An illicit online broadcast? Anything?
Update: We ended up watching the game online — poor quality, dropped frames, and all. Better than braving the rain and sports bar. (thx to everyone who wrote in, especially kunal)
This Chrismukkah, why not save some space by celebrating with a treenorah? (Is it called Chrismukkah anymore, now that The OC is off the air? I wonder what Gossip Girl would call it if there were any Jews on Gossip Girl.)
Two more movies on my horizon, both about outsiders in the music business:
The trailer for Young @ Heart that nearly brought me to tears last night can’t yet be found online, and the clip available at Channel4, where the film originally aired in the UK is a bit dry. Instead, you’ll find info on the film and two great clips at The Documentary Blog, including a heart-wrenching performance of the Young @ Heart chorus of elderly people (average age 80) performing Coldplay, part of a repertoire including The Clash, The Ramones, and Sonic Youth.
Great World of Sound is an Altmanesque comedy about two normal southern guys who get caught up in a record industry talent scout scheme. The trailer at Apple looks promising.
Most avid readers will speak to an emotional attachment to books through associations of the senses - the roughness of the page, the smell of ink and glue - when describing a love of reading. Filmmakers and connoisseurs of film will cite an obsession with the physical properties of the celluloid through which movies are projected.
But for a generation of filmmakers who cut their filmmaker teeth by shooting with the family camcorder and editing with two VCRs, there is a logical fixation with the object of the plastic and magnetic 1/2” VHS videocassette and the visual artifacts of its recorded image.
Two movies will be released in the next months which hold the VHS aesthetic dear. One is Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind in which two video store clerks decide to deal with a store full of accidentally erased tapes by remaking the classic movies in their own, VHS homebrew fashion.
The other paean to VHS is Son of Rambow, Garth Jennings’ film which was the darling of Sundance this year. The title is that of the homebrewed movie that two little boys make after discovering and being mindblown by a bootleg copy of Rambo: First Blood on VHS.
This begs the question: with Super-8 and VHS all but a distant memory, with MiniDV on the way to extinction, what formats will the future filmmakers obsess over and what artifacts will they attempt to reproduce for nostalgia as they grow up and the formats of their youth are phased out?
For the first time since the 1998 creation of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, the top honors have gone to girls. One of the two projects to take the $100,000 prize was the creation of a molecule to help block drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria from reproducing. The other studied the bone growth in zebra fish.
Interesting tidbits: Three-quarters of the finalists have at least one parent who is a scientist. Girls outnumbered boys in the final round for the first time. Most of the finalists were from public schools. The most popular project was from three home-schooled girls who have conceived of a Burgercam, a system for monitoring the elimination of E. coli bacteria in burgers. (via nytimes)
Tucked in among The Kinks, The Velvet Underground and Belle & Sebastian, the track behind the animated opening title sequence for the new movie Juno is All I Want is You by the children’s folk musician Barry Louis Polisar. It’s as inspired a choice for this enjoyable little movie as PT Anderson’s inclusion on the Punch Drunk Love soundtrack of He Needs Me (iTunes link), Olive Oyl’s love song from Robert Altman’s 1980 adaptation of Popeye.
Polisar was a favorite of mine as a kid. In particular, the 1978 album Naughty Songs for Boys and Girls was my undisputed favorite record. Featuring the classics Don’t Put Your Finger Up Your Nose and Never Cook Your Sister in a Frying Pan, the album has never gone out of print. Give the tracks a listen on iTunes and if you have kids, this will give them lots of laughs and teach them to rebell against their parents.
Activision is working with Nintendo on re-mastering the Guitar Hero III discs for the Wii, which have been mistakenly encoded to reproduce music in mono rather than in stereo. Once the re-mastering has been done, early next year, the company will swap out current Guitar Hero III discs for free.
I honestly hadn’t noticed the mono issue, but I’m still waiting for my replacement ‘Pet Sounds’ to ship.
The effect of ditching my Facebook account last week didn’t register as much as it may have for some (sorry about that, my nine Facebook friends with whom I never otherwise communicate), but it’s been interesting to see the currentbacklashmanifestitself. Deleting your Facebook is the new Facebook. (via hysterical paroxysm)
On the problem of the studios in the ongoing WGA negotiations:
They are owned by huge, creativity-deadening corporations and operated by lawyers and marketing executives who lord over the worst creative decline I have witnessed in a long time, particularly in films. In television, companies like GE view properties like NBC the way realtors view square footage. GE does not care what is on NBC. So long as the programming is relatively inoffensive, they want to earn as much per square foot as they can.
If you were to pit Gladiator teams from around the world against each other in one arena, make it part of the penal system and introduce a fat, homicidal tenor named Dynamo to the fray, now that’s a taping I would go to.
Color Matters examines four legal battles over color trademark infringement in packaging and branding, each decided by a test of "color functionality."
The U.S. courts denied Ambrit’s request for protection of blue, on the basis that royal blue when used to package frozen desserts was functional and could not be monopolized in a trademark. The ruling stated "Royal blue is a 'cool color;' it is suggestive of coldness and used by a multitude of ice cream and frozen dessert producers." Although the ruling acknowledged the issue of protecting the consumer from confusion, preventing a monopoly of a functional color was a greater issue.
Regarding the theory that kids are set up for disappointment and failure later in life when they value their innate gifts too highly over their ability to grow, this Scientific American article claims that the key to developing a child’s potential is teaching the child that the greatest reward comes from effort, not intelligence or ability.
The students who held a fixed mind-set, however, were concerned about looking smart with little regard for learning. They had negative views of effort, believing that having to work hard at something was a sign of low ability. They thought that a person with talent or intelligence did not need to work hard to do well. Attributing a bad grade to their own lack of ability, those with a fixed mind-set said that they would study less in the future, try never to take that subject again and consider cheating on future tests.
New episodes of The Wire, available now! Well, sort of. The Amazon page for the season 4 DVDs contains three mini prequels to the series: one with a grade school-aged Prop Joe, a teenaged Omar, and McNulty’s first day with the homicide unit.
Ross Bagdasarian refined the recording technique he later used to produce The Chipmunks albums (for which he won two engineering Grammy Awards) after having used it on his 1958 novelty song 'The Witch Doctor.' Many years and many albums later, The Chipmunks made the logical transition to punk/prog-rock for the 1980 album 'Chipmunk Punk,' produced by Ross Bagdasarian, Jr., in response to enormous demand after a radio DJ jokingly sped up a Blondie track and announced it as the next Chipmunks album. A TV commerical for the album 'Chipmunk Punk' can be seen here.
So successful was the squeaky animated pop trio that it spawned a less successful knock-off, The Nutty Squirrels, a scat-singing variation on the same gag.
I once went through a painful, protracted breakup, conducted almost entirely over this LG phone. It wasn’t a bad phone, but to this day, even a picture of it is like a punch to the gut - its Major-thirds ringtone, the wallpaper mocking my heartache with its cheery blue sky. I feel a little nauseous even describing it (my description may just be nauseating, in fairness).
In 2001, I spoke to my father on this Kyocera smartphone from 8th Avenue, having run up the block from work just in time to see the first tower fall. I don’t have to go into all the emotional baggage which that implies.
Now, in my current phase, I probably don’t have enough perspective to characterize what of me is reflected in my current phone, but I think that in a while, I’ll have an idea.
Since the time began that we were never to be found without our mobile phones (or whichever portable devices, for that matter), I feel that somehow all of the memories of the current chapter of my life are being constantly averaged out and inextricably linked to the phone that I’m using.
Do you have any similar experiences to share? Do you think that linking my identity to my gadgets entails a sort of anthropomorphism? What do you think Proust would have to say about all this? (I’ve never read Proust, so I’m honestly asking.) Other insightful references to prior discussions or great thinkers would be helpful as well.
Update: Michael Leddy at orange crate art has been mining his Proust and has turned up an incredibly relevant passage to the discussion:
…a thing which we have looked at long ago, if we see it again, brings back to us, along with our original gaze, all the images which that gaze contained. This is because things -- a book in its red binding, like the rest -- at the moment we notice them, turn within us into something immaterial, akin to all the preoccupations or sensations we have at that particular time, and mingle indissolubly with them.
Update: A potential reason for the iPhone’s relatively paltry numbers is that when you email photos from the phone, it strips the exif data out which means those photos aren’t counted. I imagine many more people email photos to Flickr from the iPhone than upload them from their computers.
The database at the modeling agency Ugly NY is worth a browse, both as a showcase of an array of unique faces and as an overview of the varied ways in which people who fall outside the normal idea of beauty represent themselves commercially.
Ridley Scott and the company behind “The Devil Wears Prada” will bring the epic story of the Gucci dynasty to the screen. From Variety:
Just when Maurizio [Gucci] was on the verge of his greatest success — a daring fashion show debuting the clothes of newcomer Tom Ford — his penchant for accumulating enemies caught up with him; Maurizio was gunned down in front of his Milan apartment in 1995.
Plenty of potential for intrigue in the history of the House of Gucci in the 1970s and 80s, fleshed out by what is sure to be extravagant production design mixed with Scott’s highly-stylized aesthetic will make this an interesting project to look out for.
Avram notes that the introduction of a product to the real world based on one from the fictional world is nothing new, citing Holiday Inn hotel and Bubba Gump restaurant chains as examples. While he’s coined the term “tlönian” for this phenomenon, based on the Borges story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” a commenter suggests “defictionalization,” a Google search of which currently places the Making Light discussion as the #2 result, so I’m thinking it has staying power.
“People say, You must have been the class clown. And I say, No, I wasn’t. But I sat next to the class clown, and I studied him.”
- Dr. Allan Pearl
This is why I love my Twitter: it fulfills in me a primal urge to act out in class, in little bursts. Since having moved past school and into the working world, the class clowning urge was one I’d kept dormant. As it turns out, however, blurting out ridiculous things to a roomful of people offers every bit the dopamine jolt as an adult as it did as a kid, which turns out to be very therapeutic.
In Twitter, there is a sense of ordered play. There is no judgement. You can talk to your neighbors, stand up and give a report on what you’re doing, pass notes, make fart noises if that’s your schtick (the highest form of comedy), or sit in the back, observing. But if you do a real banger mouthfart, like where your arm gets all wet and people actually think they smell something, there’s the joy of peer approval, in the form of a “favorite.”
Oh, and an added benefit of Twitter: it helps you to develop an economy of words and conciseness of ideas. Because the longest mouthfart isn’t always the funniest one.
Influenced by his idol, Elvis Presley and the 1950s rock revolution, he rose to stardom as the main figure of the 60s musical movement known as Jovem Guarda (Young guard, in opposition to the ‘old guard’ of Brazilian music), which was the first manifestation of the Brazilian pop rock movement.
The LA Times reports on the Transportation Authority’s decision to forgo the honor system for passenger ticket-taking in hopes of earning what they estimate to be $5.5 million annually on the 5% of riders who ride without paying. The cost of installing 275 turnstiles, as proposed by the MTA, would be $30 million in installation and $1 million in annual maintenance.
The move would be a major cultural shift for L.A.’s rail system, which was designed to have a more open feel than those in eastern cities, with their gates, turnstiles and barriers.
I have to admit, I know of LA’s rail system only anecdotally at this point. For I, like most residents of Los Angeles, rely on my car for the daily commute. My own is particularly brutal, which, from East LA to the coast in Santa Monica, means an hour of road time each way. When a solution exists that doesn’t fall far short of riders’ expectations, I’ll be ready and eager to ditch my car.
The latest installment of Super Mario has received plenty of notice for its revolutionary style of gameplay. But just as striking is the intricacy of its sound design. One convention of the game is a Pull Star, a floating anchor that Mario can grab with some sort of magical, musical force which, when activated emits a creepy, almost theremin-like wail, wavering just a bit before solemnly sliding down in pitch. This sound is one of those elemental formulas for touching an emotional soft spot. The other day I was playing a level with a series of Pull Stars in succession and my girlfriend implored me to stop, as it was making her sad, and not only because I’m a grown man playing a child’s video game. Here is an example of the Wailing Pull Star (and a taste of the very Vangelis-like score scattered throughout the game).
Also: via Boing Boing Gadgets, footage from a live orchestra scoring session for the game. Mario’s creator, Shigeru Miyamoto sits aside and supervises.
Also also: I noticed that the menu for selecting levels to play is a musical instrument in its own right, allowing the player to create melody with chord changes and everything. It’s a subtle touch.
After his last movie, “Delirious” brought in only $200,000 at the box office, a dejected Tom DiCillo, “a legend in the indie film world” reached out to Roger Ebert for answers.
“To give you some indication of how disoriented I feel at the moment,” he wrote, “I am getting no real, tangible feedback from anyone. And so I’m kind of struggling on my own to make sense of how a film I put my soul into, that Buscemi put his soul into, a film that generated such strong, positive reviews, had no life in the market.”
Ebert’s most telling response was to the question of whether independent filmmakers have any chance of surviving this opening-weekend-takes-all era of distribution. “I don’t know. Maybe DVDs and Netflix and Blockbuster on Demand and cable TV and pay-per-view and especially high-quality streaming on the Internet will rescue you and your fellow independents.”
While waiting for the release of “Delirious” to video, I recommend another of DiCillo’s movies, the delicious “Box of Moonlight” (1996).
While I’m no connoisseur of energy drinks, I do appreciate a good cult comedy movie like “Idiocracy (2006)”. So it’s worth a laugh that the movie’s fictional ultrastupid energy beverage Brawndo: The Thirst Mutilator is being put on the market by an actual extreme beverage company. For those unfamiliar with “Idiocracy” (you poor bastards) Brawndo is what we will use to irrigate the crops in our inevitably stupid future because it’s got what plants crave (electrolytes).
The very Internetty commercial they’ve produced, I had assumed was created by the sketch group picnicface that hit YouTube six months ago with its tonally-identical Powerthirst commercial. There’s no mention of a connection on the picnicface site, so it makes me wonder if liberties were taken and what credit is due.
Update: The voice you hear in the Brawndo spot is confirmed to be Mark from picnicface. One and the same. Credit is given, at the end of the video. Now I can mutilate my thirst with a clear conscience.
Look out, 1897. There’s a new George Carlin in town, with a comprehensive no-no list of the things Major League Baseball players can’t say during gameplay (especially in the presence of a lady).
The Yanksfan vs. Soxfan blog has hilarious scans of the original parchment used for an official league document intended to eradicate swearing in baseball, drafted by the owner of the National League’s Cincinnati franchise. Highlights from the list:
You prick-eating bastard!
A dog must have fucked your mother when she made you!
I’ll make you suck my ass!
If the mood for obscenity strikes while on the field, players, concentrate on something else, like rewaxing the curl in your moustache or sipping on a nice, cool sasparilla ginger ale (I mixed up my old-timey beverages).
People who know me know that part of my charm is how wrong I tend to do things. Raleigh St. Clair could write books on my horrid sense of direction (I couldn’t tell you how to drive to my favorite restaurant yet I’m a totally awesome driver, curiously). Yesterday I made out-of-the-box mac n’ cheese but ruined it so royally I ended up dumping it and having an ice cream cone for lunch (no ice cream - just the cone).
So what the hell am doing guest-writing for this man, this hero of the web whom I so admire? I’d been toying with the idea of referring to Mr. Kottke only as ‘Cousin Jason’ hoping this would remove any doubt as to how I’d been put up to the task. But no, we’re not related. If we were, I’d have an easier time backing out at the last minute.
You may think, “Well, here you are, these are your words on the kottke blog, so you must’ve done something right.” I wouldn’t be so sure of that. But we’ll see if I can’t class this place up a bit while Mr. Kottke maintains his undercarriage.
For the next week, Adam Lisagor is going to be helping me out with kottke.org as I spend the week working on the site’s undercarriage, performing some long-overdue maintenance and (hopefully) finishing a couple of projects begun long ago during the Golden Age of Weblogs. As it happens, Adam worked on The Day After Tomorrow, one of my favorite movies of all time. Seriously, Adam really worked on The Day After Tomorrow and, seriously, The Day After Tomorrow is one of my favorite movies of all time. (Seriously! I’ve seen it like 20 times.)
Food and Drink
Always, Often, and Sometimes are self-explanatory. The Pending folder is for blogs that I’m trying out, Frippery is stuff that is non-kottke.org-related to be read during non-work hours (ha!), and the Infoglut folder contains a bunch of blogs that have a low signal-to-noise ratio and are too high volume to keep up with unless everything else is read (any multi-author pro blogs that I read (not many) are in here). For organizing non-long-form blogs, I use these folders:
Links contains link blogs, Yummy has a bunch of stuff from del.icio.us, Photos are photoblogs, and Tumble contains tumblelogs, FFFFOUND!, and other Randomly Curated Other People’s Images White Background Sites. And then for news, I have an NY Times folder, a Sci/Tech News folder, and a Keywords folder for Google News keyword searches.
All this folder business might seem overcomplicated, but I find that grouping feeds by mode helps greatly. And by mode, I mean when I’m reading link blogs, that’s a different style than reading/skimming long-form blogs in the Always folder. Posts from link blogs usually take a few seconds to read/evaluate/discard while the Always folder posts take longer. If they were all lumped together, I couldn’t get through them as quickly and thoroughly as I can separately. A juggling analogy will help — Wait! Don’t leave, I’m almost done! — it’s easier to juggle balls or clubs or knives than it is to juggle balls, knives, and clubs at the same time…same thing with different kinds of blog posts.