Entries for January 2008 (February 2008 »    March 2008 »    April 2008 »    Archives)


The oil sands of Alberta have createdJAN 31

The oil sands of Alberta have created an oil boom in the Canadian province.

And how much oil is there? Estimates bounced around for years until 1999, when Alberta got serious about determining its potential. Based on data from 56,000 wells and 6,000 core samples, the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) came up with an astonishing figure: The amount of oil that could be recovered with existing technology totalled 175 billion barrels, enough to cover U.S. consumption for more than 50 years. With the new math, Canada slipped quietly into second place behind Saudi Arabia's 265 billion barrels in oil reserves, followed by Iran and Iraq.

Edward Burtynsky took some photos of the oil sands to accompany the piece. (thx, marshall)

Update: VBS.tv did a report on the oil sands as part of the Toxic Series. Elizabeth Kolbert wrote about the oil sands for the New Yorker late last year; unfortunately only an abstract of the article is available online. (thx, meg, ben, sanj, and greg)

Guillermo del Toro, director of the acclaimedJAN 31

Guillermo del Toro, director of the acclaimed Pan's Labyrinth (and the meh Hellboy), is set to direct the two Hobbit movies for Peter Jackson and New Line.

Some more really good advertisements.JAN 31

Some more really good advertisements.

Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules. SawJAN 31

Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules. Saw this on FFFFOUND! the other day and was too lazy to type it up...I'm glad Mike is less so.

6. Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There is only make.

7. The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It's the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch on to things.

There is only make. Love that.

Update: The list above is likely not by Sister Corita Kent but John Cage or a variety of folks connected with the Whole Earth Catalog. (thx, zach & richard)

Cynical-C shares some of the more interestingJAN 31

Cynical-C shares some of the more interesting complaints received by the FCC about television programming. One viewer complains about The Family Guy:

The show has no redeeming/moral value what so ever. The show actually had the gall to show GOD in bed with a young woman ready to have sexual intercourse and the dialogue to go with that event, including the use of condoms. They also had Jesus and his earthly father Joseph having an argument. Along with portraying the total disrespect of family values Stewie hitting his mother, the father and son ganging up on the wife/mother, there was also a male sexual predator in this episode as well.; The whole show was quite revolting. It should be taken off the air.

Just purchased: Jonny Greenwood's There Will BeJAN 31

Just purchased: Jonny Greenwood's There Will Be Blood soundtrack on the recommendation of Alex Ross in the New Yorker.

Greenwood is better understood as a composer who has crossed over into rock. Trained as a violist, he worked seriously at writing music in his youth, and had just embarked on studies at Oxford Brookes University when, in 1991, Radiohead was signed by the EMI record label. He dropped out of college to join the band on tour.

Hell Yeah The Plane Takes Off shirtsJAN 31

As requested in the airplane on a conveyor belt thread, a t-shirt commemorating this great event:

Plane Takes Off Shirt

Now available at CafePress in men's plain white ($18), women's plain white ($18), fitted white ($20), and organic cotton white ($21).

Big Think has a series of interviewJAN 31

Big Think has a series of interview videos with New Yorker editor David Remnick.

Check out these "flair" typefaces from the 70JAN 31

Check out these "flair" typefaces from the 70s.

They were very big around 1970 or so. Bookman set the example, even though it's from much earlier. By the mid-seventies, they were adding Bookman-style swashes to everything. They were usually called Whateverthefontwascalled Flair.

Scroll down the page for samples of Univers Flair, Franklin Gothic Flair, etc.

The Curly Tail Grub holds the topJAN 31

The Curly Tail Grub holds the top slot in the list of the 50 greatest fishing lures of all time.

Mythbusters, airplane on a conveyor beltJAN 30

Starting in about 40 minutes, I'll be liveblogging the Mythbusters episode where they take on the infamous airplane on a conveyor belt problem. Updates will be reverse chronological (newest at the top) so don't scroll down if you're DVRing the episode for later viewing or otherwise don't want anything spoiled.

Fair warning? Ok here we go.

10:32p I've turned comments on. Why not!!

The plane took off so easily. The laws of physics are proven correct once again. But I'm not sure this is going to settle anything. I'm getting email as we speak that the test was unfair. Plane was too light. Tarp was pulled too slowly. Etc. But the thing is, it doesn't matter how large the plane is...given enough runway and a strong enough conveyor belt, it will still take off. Ditto for the speed of the treadmill...it doesn't matter how fast the treadmill is moving. It could be going 300 mph in the opposite direction and as long as the bearings in the plane's wheels don't melt, it's gonna take off. (For an explanation, try this one by my friend Mouser, who has a MIT Ph.D in Physics Sc.D. in Nuclear Science and Engineering.)

The Plane Takes Off

Update: Due to popular demand, the above graphic is available on a t-shirt at CafePress. Prices start at $18 and they're available in men's and women's sizes.

Heeeeeeeere we go.

The pilot flying the ultralight is predicting that he won't be able to take off.

Orville Wright died 60 years ago today.

Cockroach mini-myth: cockroaches would survive a nuclear blast longer than humans but there were other kinds of bugs that fared better. Another commercial.

Back to the shaving cream in the car prank. Now they're going to use A-B foam...they're trying to fill all the space in the car and perhaps explode it. Totally worked.

Expedia commercial. Nice synergistic placement. Good work, Discovery Channel's ad sales team.

Ok, to do the large-scale plane test, they're using a 2000 foot tarp and a 400 pound ultralight. Tarp is pulled in one direction and the plane tries to take off in the other direction. The wind is picking up and blowing the tarp runway all over the place. They're also having problems with punching holes in the tarp. They're going to try again after we hear some more about radioactive cockroaches. Aaaand, another commercial.

Second mini-myth: if you freeze a can of shaving cream, cut it open, and then put the foam in a car, it will heat and expand to fill the car. One can did almost nothing. 50 cans didn't do too much either.

Off to commercial again. Macbook Air ad. I don't understand all the whining about how expensive and underpowered it is. You can't get by with an 80 GB hard drive? Come on.

Now a bit of explanation from the boys. (Things are moving faster now, which is welcome.) The thrust from the airplane acts upon the air so it doesn't matter too much what the runway is doing to the plane's wheels. And then back to the roach thing. They irradiated them (and some other bugs) and most of the roaches died. Still pending...

Ok, they're dragging paper behind a Segway and trying to take off with the model airplane in the opposite direction. IT JUST TOOK OFF.

Back to the roach thing. More recapping and a little bit more setup. I don't see how people can watch this show...it's sooooo slooooow. And now another commercial break. Hello picture-in-picture.

As expected, the model airplane "flew" off the end of the exercise treadmill. It didn't have enough room to take off, but if it stayed straight, it probably would have.

First recap...they took a solid minute to explain what they've already done. Ugh.

Going into the first commercial, we've caught a glimpse of how they're going to test the main myth. They're going to drag a huge plastic sheet long the ground and have the plane sit on the plastic and being going the other way attempting to take off. A reasonable substitute for the treadmill.

They're starting off small with a model airplane on an exercise treadmill. They're showing the two hosts learning how to fly the tiny airplane. One of them is riding around on a Segway. Oh, and they're also doing two other mini-myths during the episode. They just switched gears to the first mini-myth: can a cockroach survive a nuclear blast?

And we're off. They're calling it "the moment we've all been waiting for". My guess: the plane will take off.

I've only watched one other episode of Mythbusters before today. I found the show to be a little slow and very repetitive; 8 minutes of material stretched into 45 minutes of show. Unfortunately, this practice seems to be common among science programs on television.

Watching Family Guy as a warmup. The one with the nudist family. Good stuff.

Preemptive answer for the inevitable "Do you realize how boring/stupid/goofy it is to liveblog this?" Most definitely.

All but a few of the titleJAN 30

All but a few of the title sequences of Woody Allen's films are set in one typeface: white Windsor on a black background.

Grant Barrett researches the origins of theJAN 30

Grant Barrett researches the origins of the word "w00t" and determines that it probably originated from the "whoot/whoomp there it is" dance craze of the early 90s and not from the hacker/gaming community. Which conclusion provoked a little nerdfury in the comments. (via waxy)

Duncan Watts' research is challenging the theoryJAN 30

Duncan Watts' research is challenging the theory that a small group of influential people are responsible for triggering trends as explained in Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point.

"If society is ready to embrace a trend, almost anyone can start one--and if it isn't, then almost no one can," Watts concludes. To succeed with a new product, it's less a matter of finding the perfect hipster to infect and more a matter of gauging the public's mood. Sure, there'll always be a first mover in a trend. But since she generally stumbles into that role by chance, she is, in Watts's terminology, an "accidental Influential."

Perhaps the problem with viral marketing is that the disease metaphor is misleading. Watts thinks trends are more like forest fires: There are thousands a year, but only a few become roaring monsters. That's because in those rare situations, the landscape was ripe: sparse rain, dry woods, badly equipped fire departments. If these conditions exist, any old match will do. "And nobody," Watts says wryly, "will go around talking about the exceptional properties of the spark that started the fire."

I've previously covered some of what Clive talks about in the article.

Fireball in your handJAN 30

How to make a fireball you can hold in your hand. Sweet Jesus, that's cool.

Update: According to the commenters at Boing Boing, this may or may not be a hoax. As usual, use caution when attempting to hold fire in your hand. (thx, seuss)

Philip Morris is releasing some new productsJAN 30

Philip Morris is releasing some new products for smokers, especially those in emerging markets, e.g. markets with more smokers and less regulation than the US or Europe.

The Heatbar - a hand-held electronic smoking device that emits 90% less smoke than a regular cigarette, hence less second hand smoke. Only $118 for 1 year of service (2 cartons of cigarettes included)

Update: Altria has indeed spun off Philip Morris International, freeing PMI to pursue their fortune in the wider world. (thx, mau)

Update: Here's a more extensive story from the WSJ, the likely source of the above summary.

The Incompatible Food Triad. Are there threeJAN 30

The Incompatible Food Triad. Are there three foods that don't taste good together but every pair of them does?

There are many ways to interpret this "going together" but an example solution would be three pizza toppings -- A, B, and C -- such that a pizza with A and B is good, and a pizza with A and C is good, and a pizza with B and C is good, but a pizza with A, B, and C is bad. Or you might find three different spices or other ingredients which do not go together in some recipe yet any pair of them is fine.

(via josh)

Noted food scientist Harold McGee takes aJAN 30

Noted food scientist Harold McGee takes a look at the microbiological consequences of double dipping a chip into a bowl of dip.

Prof. Paul L. Dawson, a food microbiologist, proposed it after he saw a rerun of a 1993 "Seinfeld" show in which George Costanza is confronted at a funeral reception by Timmy, his girlfriend's brother, after dipping the same chip twice.

I CAN'T stop laughing at this laughing shark.JAN 30

I CAN'T stop laughing at this laughing shark.

Did you enter the New Yorker's EustaceJAN 29

Did you enter the New Yorker's Eustace Tilley contest? If so, check your Flickr Mail to see if you've won!

Tyler Cowen on invisible competition and howJAN 29

Tyler Cowen on invisible competition and how it differs from competing with those around you.

Let's look at individuals. Human beings evolved in small groups and hunter-gatherer societies, in which virtually all competition was face to face. That is the environment most of us are biologically and emotionally geared to succeed in, and it explains why our adrenalin surges when a rival wins the boss's favor or flirts with our special someone. But in the new arena, with its faceless and anonymous competitors, those who are driven to action mostly by adrenalin will not fare well. If that's what they need to get things done, they will become too passive and others will overtake them.

To me, the most interesting challenge is maintaining motivation in the absence of visible competition. How do you win a race you might not even know you're running?

New York Works is an audio portraitJAN 29

New York Works is an audio portrait of a vanishing city. From a knife sharpener who still makes house calls to one of Brooklyn's last commercial fisherman, New York Works tells the stories of those who keep the city's past alive.

(thx, paolo)

With his review of trees, Steven FrankJAN 29

With his review of trees, Steven Frank cleverly skewers what passes for culture/tech trend writing these days.

Trees. It seems like you see them everywhere these days. But are trees viable in the long-term, or just another flash-in-the-pan fad for the under-30 crowd?

(via chris glass)

Addictive game alert: Chain Factor. (you suck,JAN 29

Addictive game alert: Chain Factor. (you suck, tien)

Update: The Chain Factor game was part of a larger ARG that had to do with the TV show Numb3rs. (ARG = alternate reality game.) The game was produced by area/code here in NYC. (thx, andy)

Photos of the living rooms of GermanJAN 29

Photos of the living rooms of German DJs. Lots and lots of records.

Update: Photos of the bedrooms in German brothels. Lots and lots of garish colors. (via things)

Ten quirky baseball rules and oddities, includingJAN 29

Ten quirky baseball rules and oddities, including a list of the 23 ways to get a man on first base. (via subtraction)

The NY Times gets all nostalgic aboutJAN 29

The NY Times gets all nostalgic about VHS and the upcoming releases of Be Kind Rewind and Son of Rambow.

The generation that came of age in the '80s, as the VCR was becoming a staple, is especially prone to VHS nostalgia, a manifestation of the broader retro culture that has accounted for untold hours of programming on VH1.

In December, Adam Lisagor wrote a similar piece on VHS nostalgia and the movies for kottke.org:

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.

Guitar Zero is a band that hasJAN 29

Guitar Zero is a band that has repurposed the Guitar Hero game controllers to make real music with them. Even better: they've posted the instructions so you can make your own. (thx, nick)

Remember The Remedi Project?JAN 28

Remember The Remedi Project?

The Remedi Project, launched in 1997, is an online interactive art gallery. Over the course of its five year lifespan, 12 exhibitions have presented experimental work from over 60 digital artists from around the world. The Remedi Project, now ended, continues online through this site.

Multitasking is BSJAN 28

I was never a big believer in multitasking. One of the many realizations of having a kid is that true multitasking is a pipe dream. Watching Ollie and doing anything requiring more concentration than breathing or maintaining a heartbeat is just plain impossible. Conversation with others has become clipped and disjointed as the part of my brain responsible for speech is rerouted to help keep pointy objects out of his reach and remembering when he last ate.

Beautiful, beautiful slow-motion skate video intro byJAN 28

Beautiful, beautiful slow-motion skate video intro by Spike Jonze. The video it's taken from isn't too shoddy either...here's a typical glowing review. (via avenues)

A cache of photographic negatives taken byJAN 28

A cache of photographic negatives taken by Robert Capa that was presumed lost during WWII has been recently located and recovered.

Capa established a mode and the method of depicting war in these photographs, of the photographer not being an observer but being in the battle, and that became the standard that audiences and editors from then on demanded. Anything else, and it looked like you were just sitting on the sidelines. And that visual revolution he embodied took place right here, in these early pictures.

The negatives could change the way we regard Capa and his photos. There's even speculation that they may prove or disprove that he staged his most famous photo. Here's a close-up look at one of the suitcases and the hand-lettered negative descriptions. (thx, tammy)

Resolutions 2008, a found list. Reminds me ofJAN 28

Resolutions 2008, a found list. Reminds me of Hemingway's six word story ("For sale: baby shoes, never worn.") in that so few words can tell a big story.

The 5 Whys: just keep asking "Why?" untilJAN 28

The 5 Whys: just keep asking "Why?" until you get to the true cause of a particular situation or problem.

The technique was originally developed by Sakichi Toyoda and was later used within Toyota Motor Corporation during the evolution of their manufacturing methodologies. It is a critical component of problem solving training delivered as part of the induction into the Toyota Production System. The architect of the Toyota Production System, Taiichi Ohno, described the 5 whys method as "... the basis of Toyota's scientific approach ... by repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear."

(via migurski)

The Earth without peopleJAN 28

What would happen to planet earth if the human race were to suddenly disappear forever? Would ecosystems thrive? What remnants of our industrialized world would survive? What would crumble fastest? From the ruins of ancient civilizations to present day cities devastated by natural disasters, history gives us clues to these questions and many more.

The upshot of Life After People is that, with the exception of some domesticated animals, our planet would be better off without us. Waaaay better off. Like if Mother Nature sat us down for a talk and said, "listen, you're really shitting on the rest of the planet, its residents, its ecosystems, etc. and, by the way, you're killing me slowly and painfully" and the only honorable thing to do would be to jump in a rocketship to colonize Mars or commit mass suicide so everything else could live in peace.

The other interesting thing about the show is how little is left of humans after a few thousand years of absence. Roads, buildings, cars, bridges; they all break down. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The Great Pyramid at Giza might still be around in another ten thousand years, but it may be covered in sand. The Great Wall of China and Hoover Dam could survive for awhile longer. Mount Rushmore, caved out of solid granite, may last for 200,000 years or more. They didn't mention anything about cut & diamonds or objects made from platimun or titanium, but I imagine that they would last millions of years, if not practically forever.

Which leads you to wonder: if the Earth supported an advanced civilization that died out over 500,000 years ago, would we have any way of knowing they even existed? Small cut gemstones and platinum artifacts left behind by such a civilization would be difficult to discover unless they were of sufficient size. Fossils would certainly survive in some form and we could perhaps make some guesses as to their intelligence based on morphology. Would that be enough to detect them?

Update: Two other possible advanced civilization detectors: chemical and geological changes caused might show up in mineral layers and long-lasting nuclear waste. (thx, jordan & leonard)

An attempt to decode the sex diariesJAN 28

An attempt to decode the sex diaries of noted economist John Maynard Keynes. Keynes kept two diaries related to his sexual activities. The first was a straightforward listing of who/where/when.

The other sex diary is more puzzling and, in a way, more informative. An economist to the core, Keynes organized the second sex diary also year-by-year, but this time in quarterly increments.

Unfortunately for us, however, this second sex diary is in code. And as far as I know, no one yet has been prurient enough to crack it.

Here's what Keynes' tabulation looks like. For every quarter-year from 1906 to 1915, he tallies up his sexual activities and totals them under three categories: C, A, and W.

For each of these headings, he records the number of times each activity occurred, and also when. For example, between May and August, 1911, he performed (if that's the right word) C sixteen times, A four times, and W five times.

A photographic tour of some unique letteringJAN 28

A photographic tour of some unique lettering and signage in Brooklyn. Seems to have skipped Dumbo & Vinegar Hill though. Here's another collection of old NYC signage. And don't forget Forgotten NY (via quipsologies)

Julian Dibbell's seminal and out-of-print My TinyJAN 28

Julian Dibbell's seminal and out-of-print My Tiny Life is once again available through Lulu as a $18 paperbakc and a completely free PDF. Dibbell wanted to release it under a Creative Commons license but didn't have the worldwide rights fully secured.

Imperfectly interestingJAN 28

Chuck Klosterman writes that the New England Patriots would be better off losing the Super Bowl than compiling a perfect 19-0 season; the final game loss would make them more interesting.

But if they lose -- especially if they lose late -- the New England Patriots will be the most memorable collection of individuals in the history of pro football. They will prove that nothing in this world is guaranteed, that past returns do not guarantee future results, that failure is what ultimately defines us and that Gisele will probably date a bunch of other dudes in her life, because man is eternally fallible.

Jill Lepore would likely agree with Klosterman. In her recent New Yorker article on Benjamin Franklin (the patron saint of bloggers, BTW), she argues that he failed to follow many of his aphoristic writings and in doing so became more interesting.

He carried with him a little book in which he kept track, day by day, of whether he had lived according to thirteen virtues, including Silence, which he hoped to cultivate "to break a Habit I was getting into of Prattling, Punning and Joking." What made Franklin great was how nobly he strived for perfection; what makes him almost impossibly interesting is how far short he fell of it.

It's also worth noting that, per Aristotle and Shakespeare, the hero in a tragedy always has a fatal flaw; it's what makes him a hero and the story worth listening to.

For real this time: Mythbusters will airJAN 28

For real this time: Mythbusters will air their challenge of the airplane on a conveyor belt puzzle this Wednesday at 9pm ET. (thx, darin)

Pixar's Toy Story 3 will be produced in 3JAN 25

Pixar's Toy Story 3 will be produced in 3-D. I like Pixar a lot but 3-D has never been anything but a gimmick, so I don't know. TS3 will be out in June 2010. (2010! We'll go together in my hovercar!)

Web Trend Map 2008 Beta, which is basically 300JAN 25

Web Trend Map 2008 Beta, which is basically 300 influential web sites mapped onto a Tokyo train map. It's very pretty, but once again, kottke.org gets no love.

Update: A general trend map for 2008, this one modeled on the Shanghai subway map. (via mass custom., thx maaike)

How camera lenses are madeJAN 25

A video demonstrating how camera lenses are made. (via jimray)

Using "favorite books" data from Facebook andJAN 25

Using "favorite books" data from Facebook and the average SAT/ACT scores from the colleges the people in the data set attend, Virgil Griffith plotted a graph of "books that make you dumb". Lolita, 100 Years of Solitude, and Crime and Punishment were the "smartest" books while the Zane erotica books are the "dumbest". (via o'reilly radar)

Clever smugglers have been using trucks adornedJAN 25

Clever smugglers have been using trucks adorned with FedEx, Wal-Mart, and other familiar logos in order to spirit drugs, money, and illegal aliens across the US/Mexican border.

In another case, a truck painted with DirecTV and other markings was pulled over in a routine traffic stop in Mississippi and discovered to be carrying 786 pounds of cocaine. Police said they became suspicious because the truck carried the markings or DirecTV and several of its rivals. An 800 number on the truck's rear to report bad driving referred callers to an adult sex chat line.

Passage, a tiny game that takes 5 minutesJAN 25

Passage, a tiny game that takes 5 minutes or an entire lifetime to play. It's much better if you play it once and then read the creator's statement. I didn't know a game (and such a tiny one at that) could be so poignant. (via clusterflock)

Update: Here's an article in the WSJ today about Passage.

Over at Slice (the pizza blog!), AdamJAN 25

Over at Slice (the pizza blog!), Adam Kuban has compiled a list of all the different pizza styles found in the US.

Once the Italian immigrants brought their Naples-style pies to the States, it evolved a bit in the Italian neighborhoods of New York to something I've seen referred to as "New York-Neapolitan." This is basically what all the coal-oven pizzerias of New York serve. It follows the tenets of Neapolitan style in that it's thin-crusted, cooked in an ultra-hot oven, and uses a judicious amount of cheese and sauce (sauce which is typically fresh San Marzano tomatoes, as in Naples). It deviates from Naples-style in that it's typically larger, a tad thinner, and more crisp.

There's a surprising number of styles.

The New Yorker's Eustace Tilley Contest justJAN 25

The New Yorker's Eustace Tilley Contest just ended. Contestants were asked to design their own version of the New Yorker's monocled mascot; here are all the entries. The winner will be announced on Feb 4. (via waxy)

Build your own Apple Store. Oobject trackedJAN 24

Build your own Apple Store. Oobject tracked down the materials, furniture, fixtures, and finishes used in the Apple Stores, giving anyone enough information to turn their living room into one.

The true meaning of George W. Bush'sJAN 24

The true meaning of George W. Bush's favorite painting. Quoting Inigo Montoya, "I do not think it means what you think it means". (via conscientious)

Observation effectsJAN 24

A recent study shows that when Tiger Woods plays in a golf tournament, the other players perform worse than they do when he doesn't play.

Analyzing data from round-by-round scores from all PGA tournaments between 2002 and 2006 (over 20,000 player-rounds of golf), Brown finds that competitors fare less well -- about an extra stroke per tournament -- when Tiger is playing. How can we be sure this is because of Tiger? A few features of the findings lend them plausibility. The effect is stronger for the better, "exempt" players than for the nonexempt players, who have almost no chance of beating Tiger anyway. (Tiger's presence doesn't mean much to you if the best you can reasonably expect to finish is about 35th-there's not much difference between the prize for 35th and 36th place.) The effect is also stronger during Tiger's hot streaks, when his competitors' prospects are more clearly dimmed. When Tiger is on, his competitors' scores were elevated by nearly two strokes when he entered a tournament. And the converse is also true: During Tiger's well-publicized slump of 2003 and 2004, when he went winless in major events, exempt competitors' scores were unaffected by Tiger's presence.

Research papers with a woman as the primary author are more likely to published if the author's gender is unknown.

Double-blind peer review, in which neither author nor reviewer identity are revealed, is rarely practised in ecology or evolution journals. However, in 2001, double-blind review was introduced by the journal Behavioral Ecology. Following this policy change, there was a significant increase in female first-authored papers, a pattern not observed in a very similar journal that provides reviewers with author information. No negative effects could be identified, suggesting that double-blind review should be considered by other journals.

When watched, squirrels fool would-be nut thieves by pretending to bury nuts.

In the journal Animal Behaviour, biologist Michael Steele at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania examines squirrels' caching of nuts. While the furry-tailed creatures made a show of digging a hole in the ground and covering it with dirt and leaves when watched, one time out of five they were faking and nothing was buried.

The squirrels' deception increased after their nut caches were raided.

List of 19 awfully good advertisements.JAN 24

List of 19 awfully good advertisements.

A human being should be able toJAN 24

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

So sayeth Robert Heinlein's character Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love. (via avenues)

Info visualizations of the social networks andJAN 24

Info visualizations of the social networks and cross references in the Bible.

Art Grand Slam would be the perfectJAN 24

Art Grand Slam would be the perfect name for a web site showcasing the tennis-related art of Martina Navratilova. And so it is.

Almost 20 years since her last grand slam singles title, Martina Navratilova is back in action on the circuit -- only this time she is turning tennis strokes into brush strokes as she helps to create a new form of contemporary art.

In its crudest and, perhaps, most joyful expression, it involves the player hitting paint-covered tennis balls at a canvas, usually marked with court lines and prepared to resemble a playing surface: clay, grass or artificial.

(via quipsologies)

A video and accompanying text from EdwardJAN 24

A video and accompanying text from Edward Tufte on Interface Design and the iPhone.

Update: Christopher Fahey posted a thoughtful critique of Tufte's iPhone thoughts.

I feel like this happens to aJAN 24

I feel like this happens to a lot of authors...the covers of their books end up being the opposite of what they should be.

Stamen teamed up with MySociety to produceJAN 23

Stamen teamed up with MySociety to produce some lovely travel-time maps of London. My favorite is the interactive travel + housing prices map:

Next, it is clearly no good to be told that a location is very convenient for your work if you can't afford to live there. So we have produced some interactive maps that allow users to set both the maximum time they're willing to commute, and the median house price they're willing or able to pay.

The commute time slider makes a lovely Mandelbrot-esque pattern as you pinch the times together. (via o'reilly radar)

A list of the 100 books every childJAN 23

A list of the 100 books every child should read. No Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and probably a little Brit-heavy for those in other countries but otherwise solid. Plenty of Roald Dahl (I still occasionally reread Danny, the Champion of the World).

How does the GDP of the USJAN 23

How does the GDP of the US today compare with that of other countries in the past?

China and India combined to produce nearly half the world's economic output in 1820 compared to just 1.8% for the U.S. Our remarkable growth since 1820 has benefited from democratic institutions, a belief in capitalism, private property rights, an entrepreneurial culture, abundant resources, openness to foreign investment, the best universities, immigration and relatively transparent markets.

Emigre is posting some essays from theJAN 23

Emigre is posting some essays from the back issues of its dearly departed magazine.

If you're curious as to what designersJAN 23

If you're curious as to what designers mean when they talk about design, check out Paola Antonelli's talk from last year's TED conference. (BTW, TED has made publicly available a great number of talks from their conferences...like 40-50 hours of material.)

The week before Warner announced that theyJAN 23

The week before Warner announced that they were dropping support for HD DVD and backing the Blu-ray format, sales for players for the two formats were running roughly 50/50. The week after the announcement? Blu-ray players outsold HD DVD players more than 12 to 1. Blu-ray discs also saw a large increase in sales.

Will Ashford takes used books and createsJAN 23

Will Ashford takes used books and creates art and new meanings out of them.

At some unpredictable point along the way, in my mind, the images start to invent themselves. Using colored vellums, graphite and or India ink to highlight or obscure my words; I create the image of that invention. Though I strive to make each document visually engaging I find it is the words that I value most.

(via monoscope)

Update: Ashford's work is quite similar to Tom Phillips' A Humument, which was first published in 1970. (thx, joel)

Long-exposure photo of two people having sexJAN 22

Long-exposure photo of two people having sex on a bed. (It's mostly safe for work, believe it or not.) This reminds me of two things: the timelapse threesome scene in A Clockwork Orange and Jason Salavon's work, specifically 76 Blowjobs and Every Playboy Centerfold. Those last tow links probably NSFW. (via the h line)

Update: Atta Kim's work is similar too, particularly his "Sex Series". (thx, jeff)

From a site that tracks "false words,JAN 22

From a site that tracks "false words, usages, or expressions", the definition of Michael Bayesian Filters:

1. a series of computer based filters, trained over time through an artificial intelligence process, which allow computer controlled motion picture cameras to automatically record high budget action sequences in the style of producer/director Michael Bay.

2. a method of filtering email spam that relies on producer/director Michael Bay to manually read and sort all incoming messages.

I can't think of Michael Bay without humming this song. (via crazymonk)

Customer serviceJAN 22

1. Usually when you order meat or cheese at the deli counter (e.g. "I'll have a 1/2 pound of pastrami, please"), the person behind the counter tries to get as close as they can to the weight you ordered but it's often a little over and you're charged for the overage. I've noticed that what they do at Whole Foods is that they only charge you for what you asked for but they give you the little extra for free. So yesterday I asked for a 1/2 pound of roast beef, but it came out to 0.57 when he weighed it. He lifted a bit of the meat off the scale until it read 0.50, printed the ticket, and put the little extra back on the scale. It's a nice gesture and a good example of using customer service instead of marketing or advertising to give a current customer a warm and fuzzy feeling about the company...and it only costs them 20 cents-worth of roast beef.

2. We went out to eat with some friends the other night but the restaurant was tiny, packed, and didn't have anywhere to put Ollie's stroller. So the owner took the stroller and put it in the back of his truck that was parked out in front of the restaurant. (While there, we dined on a cheese plate with, like, 30 to 40 different cheeses on it, some of which were made by the stroller valet himself.)

The Atlantic Monthly tore down the paywallJAN 22

The Atlantic Monthly tore down the paywall on its web site today:

Beginning today, TheAtlantic.com is dropping its subscriber registration requirement and making the site free to all visitors.

Now, in addition to such offerings as blogs, author dispatches, slideshows, interviews, and videos, readers can also browse issues going back to 1995, along with hundreds of articles dating as far back as 1857, the year The Atlantic was founded.

Update: Still no RSS though. Bollocks.

White House Redux is a contest toJAN 22

White House Redux is a contest to design a new residence for the President of the United States. First prize is $5000 and a free trip to NYC. A fine jury too. (via bldgblog)

Yay! Today is sub-prime mortgage day onJAN 22

Yay! Today is sub-prime mortgage day on kottke.org, I guess. The collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market took everyone on Wall Street by surprise...except Goldman Sachs, which earned $11.6 billion in 2007 when everyone else lost money. How'd they do it? Michael Lewis says that Goldman went against the flow in shorting sub-prime mortgages by assuming that the entire rest of the industry, including their own expert and extremely well-paid traders, were, as Lewis puts it, "a bunch of idiots".

Update: Here's the WSJ article mentioned by Lewis in the above piece. (thx, andy)

The Oscar nominations are out. Surprises includeJAN 22

The Oscar nominations are out. Surprises include Juno for Best Picture and Cate Blanchett for Best Actress for Elizabeth: The Golden Age, a movie that received mixed reviews at best. And I'm thinking that Daniel Day-Lewis is pretty much a lock for Best Actor, no?

Update: Most of the Oscar nominated animated shorts are available online.

(I saw these mentioned in a fewJAN 22

(I saw these mentioned in a few places online a week or two ago but could never get to the web site. Looks like the site is back up.)

Annnnnnnnnyway. Alison Jackson takes fake what-if paparazzi photos: George Bush pumping gas, Bill Gates dancing around with an iPod, and Marilyn Monroe masturbating. A bit NSFW. (via the year in pictures, a recent discovery that's going right into the daily reading list)

n+1 magazine has a fascinating Interview withJAN 22

n+1 magazine has a fascinating Interview with a Hedge Fund Manager. Topics of conversation include the sub-prime mortgage crisis. I gotta admit that I didn't understand some of this, but most of it was pretty interesting. (via snarkmarket)

This happened while Choire was minding theJAN 21

This happened while Choire was minding the store so apologies if you've seen it already, but Flickr's new Commons program is quite interesting. For a start, the Library of Congress has put 1500 photos with "no known copyright restrictions" up on Flickr for people to tag and annotate. The LoC's extensive online image repository has always been exceedingly difficult to use so making images available on the easy-to-use Flickr is a great step forward. The response so far has been pretty good.

The tales of Kobe beef cattle beingJAN 21

The tales of Kobe beef cattle being raised in comfort with massages and the occasional beer might be a stretch of the truth: Kobe is expensive, delicious, but inhumanely raised beef.

From the time they are a week old until they are three and a half years old, these steers are commonly kept in a lean-to behind someone's house where they get bored and go off their feed. Their gut stops working. The best way to start their gut working again is to give them a bottle of beer.

Grading the world's flags. Gambia is aJAN 21

Grading the world's flags. Gambia is a surprise #1. (via marginal revolution)

Let's talk Antarctica blogs.JAN 21

Let's talk Antarctica blogs.

Antarctic Journal is one of the best; it's written by a grad student studying penguin ecology. Big Dead Place is also great (but not strictly a blog); check out the stories and interviews section. Also of note but of varying quality and timeliness are a blog by the British Antarctic Survey, John Bean's Antarctica blog, a U of Delaware blog, Antarctic Blog, and Antarctica Blog.

I'm still looking forward to the SOUTH expedition blog whenever that happens.

Update: One more: 75 Degrees South. Very nice photos, as in this post. (thx, pete)

Update: More Antarctica blogs and such: UAB in Antarctica, Blog Rogers (which includes info about the book, Antarctica: Life on the Ice), Nathan Duke, elisfanclub, Concordia Base, Base Dumont d'Urville, Mr Rose Géophy CZT45, and Andrill. (thx, everyone)

Who wins the Super Bowl of Food:JAN 21

Who wins the Super Bowl of Food: New York City or Boston? Ed Levine says it's no contest: New York all the way.

What has Boston bestowed upon us, foodwise? Brown bread, baked beans, Boston cream pie, and Parker House rolls. Pretty slim pickins', don't you think? How far would you go out of your way for some baked beans or some brown bread? I'd only go a block or two at the most. Now if you expanded the geographic food purview of the Patriots to all of New England, that might be an interesting discussion, because then New England clam chowder, lobster rolls, and fried clams would enter into the fray.

Ed's a bit hard on Boston here...there's some excellent food to be found in the city and its surrounds.

Very interesting paper on the economics ofJAN 21

Very interesting paper on the economics of prostitution by Steven Levitt and Sudhir Venkatesh.

The transaction-level data we collected suggests that street prostitution yields an average wage of $27 per hour. Given the relatively limited hours that active prostitutes work, this generates less than $20,000 annually for a women working year round in prostitution. While the wage of a prostitute is four times greater than the non-prostitution earnings these women report (approximately $7 per hour), there are tremendous risks associated with life as a prostitute. According to our estimates, a woman working as a prostitute would expect an annual average of a dozen incidents of violence and 300 instances of unprotected sex.

The authors also noted that a prostitute was "more likely to have sex with a police officer than to get officially arrested by one". (via marginal revolution)

This summer's big public art project inJAN 21

This summer's big public art project in NYC: 4 large waterfalls falling into the East River and New York Harbor, including one falling from the Brooklyn Bridge. Olafur Eliasson is the responsible party...he's done a couple previous waterfall pieces.

Update: Eliasson's work will also be on display at MoMA and P.S. 1 this summer, April 20 through June 30, 2008. (thx, praveen)

SteelJAN 21

Steel is one of the most easily and extensively recycled materials on earth:

There are two ways to make steel: one is to create virgin steel from iron ore and coke, and the other is to melt down used steel and recycle it. Recycled steel is just as strong as virgin steel. Unlike paper and plastic, steel can be melted down and recast indefinitely; it has no structural memory. Making recycled steel, in electric-arc furnaces, or E.A.F.s, requires less capital investment than making virgin steel, which is manufactured in huge integrated mills; it also saves energy, and is easier on the environment, because not so much ore has to be mined. The only disadvantage of recycling is that it can be hard to know exactly what's in your raw material -- the steelamker must rely on the scrap dealer's ability to separate out other metals, particularly copper, which can weaken the steel. In 2006, two out of every three tons of steel made in the U.S. came from recycled steel.

That's from John Seabrook's recent article on the scrap metal industry for The New Yorker (not online).

Steel production began far earlier than is commonly known...around 1400 BC in East Africa. Steel was also produced in China, India, Spain/Portugal, and other places before 1000 AD. The Bessemer Process was the first inexpensive industrial process for mass-producing high quality steel; that was in the 1850s.

In 1901, J.P. Morgan founded US Steel, which at one point made 67 percent of all steel produced in the US and was part of the Dow Jones Industrial Average from 1901 to 1991. US Steel was once the largest corporation in the world, a title now held by (depending on how you define "largest") Wal-Mart, a company that sells fewer and fewer things made of steel, or PetroChina with its $1 trillion market cap. It's too bad oil can't be effectively recycled after use; it's a stretch to think of elevating our atmosphere's carbon dioxide levels for the purpose of warming some parts of the world as recycling.

Two-hour special on the History Channel calledJAN 21

Two-hour special on the History Channel called Life After People, 9pm tonight and rerunning throughout the week.

What would happen to planet earth if the human race were to suddenly disappear forever? Would ecosystems thrive? What remnants of our industrialized world would survive? What would crumble fastest? From the ruins of ancient civilizations to present day cities devastated by natural disasters, history gives us clues to these questions and many more.

This appears to be unrelated to Alan Weisman's well-reviewed The World Without Us. If it comes down to watching this or Killer of Sheep, watch Sheep.

Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep, a 1977 filmJAN 21

Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep, a 1977 film that was selected as one of the 100 essential films of all time by the National Society of Film Critics but was just recently released in theaters, will be shown on TCM today at 8pm and early tomorrow morning at 12:30am. Set your DVRs for this one. (big thx, max)

An apt visual metaphor from the worldJAN 20

An apt visual metaphor from the world of sports for the client/designer relationship.

Short teaser for Generation Kill, David SimonJAN 20

Short teaser for Generation Kill, David Simon and Ed Burns' next project for HBO about the Iraq War. It's from October but I hadn't seen it until now so maybe you hadn't either? The 7-hour miniseries is based on Evan Wright's book of the same name. This video discusses the book and its subject matter. (thx, david)

When I heard that chess champion BobbyJAN 20

When I heard that chess champion Bobby Fischer had died, I immediately went searching for some of that "sprawling New Yorker shit" on Fischer. Sure enough, the New Yorker ran a piece on Fischer back in 1957, when he was 14 and still "Robert". Also from their archives, a 2004 review of a book about the 1972 Spassky/Fischer match. The NY Times has extensive coverage of the hometown boy from past and present, including the annoucement of his victory against Spassky.

The I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!!! scene fromJAN 20

The I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!!! scene from There Will Be Blood. If you haven't seen the movie, don't watch this...it's from a scene near the end. (P.S. DRAINAGE!!!)

Mark Gaberman on what it's like toJAN 19

Mark Gaberman on what it's like to write for Jeopardy, which he's been doing for 7 years.

I've had Alex Trebek rap Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice" -- he had his mind on his money and his money on his mind that day. Did a category called "Death and Texas" just because I liked the title (and finding stuff about people dying and/or getting killed in Texas turned out to be remarkably easy). I've learned about Jean Sibelius, and word to the wise, if you see "blah blah blah this Finnish composer blah blah blah...", Jean Sibelius might not be your worst guess. Well, at least if I wrote it. I'm just not that up on my Finnish composers.

This comes from a blog called Why We Write, a collection of essays by TV and film writers who are currently out of work due to the Writer's Guild strike. My favorite part of the site is the placement of two spaces after a period instead of the HTML default of one. View the source to check out the crazy markup they use to accomplish that little bit of fussiness. (thx, mark)

Oof, I so hate to go outCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 18

Oof, I so hate to go out here with a whimper rather than a bang, but I'm BEAT. The jig is up! The thing about not having a job is that 1. You will take any and all irregular work that comes your way, and 2. You then have to do it until it's done, no matter what ("what" being "3 a.m." or "dental work" or even "laziness"). Plus I gotta get up in the morning and drive to South Carolina. Hellloooo, Mr. Obama! Thanks so much to Mr. Kottke for letting me muddy up his rec room this week—it was a good reboot for me, and also it didn't drive away all the readers, each of whom seems, judging from the inbox, particularly lovely and intelligent and amusing and polite. So yay you! Your reward is that your regularly-scheduled programming returns shortly.

Update: Thanks, Choire! Enjoy your time with Mr. Obama in SC. -jkottke

"Is it too early to feel nostalgia for the 1990s?"CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 18

New York-based films at Sundance include "The Wackness," otherwise known as "eww, that movie where Mary-Kate Olsen makes out with Ben Kingsley."

Is it too early to feel nostalgia for the 1990s? Apparently not. "As the world starts to move faster, you can do period pieces of times closer to the present," said Jonathan Levine, the director-writer of an adolescent coming-of-age story set against the Giuliani era in New York....To transform the city to its less gentrified self, the filmmakers threw more garbage on the street, sprayed some more graffiti, painted a mural to Kurt Cobain and obtained a "Forrest Gump" bus poster.

Well I'm pretty sure the 90s were characterized by a feeling of already-arrived auto-nostalgia, but.

Why Does New York Perform So Many Abortions Per Person?CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 18

Though its abortion rate fell 13%, California still leads the nation by far in the number of abortions, with more than 208,000 in 2005. But that looks like it's solely due to population.

New York came in second, with more than 155,000. And while New York has around 53% of the population that California does, it has only 25% or so fewer abortions than California. (I'm doing math with lots of round numbers here.)

California has 13 million more people than Texas, and Texas has 4 million more people than New York—but Texas has a bit more than half the number of abortions of New York.

Similarly, Florida has just a million fewer people than New York, but Florida has only about 60% of the number of abortions that New York does. I can understand why there might be fewer abortions in the south—but why more abortions in New York per person than elsewhere? (Uh, if I'm doing math right.) What gives?

Reconsidered!CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 18

One of the problems of criticism is—what happens when it takes you just forever to realize that something is totally great? It took me until this week, and lots of it cropping up on shuffle, to realize that the latest PJ Harvey album, "White Chalk," is absolutely her best. (Okay, second best—maybe nothing will ever be as cool as "Rid Of Me," if only because who writes rock music in 5/4? ) Back in September, Pitchfork gave "White Chalk" a 6.8, and I would have given it a worse score even as recently as December. But of course, what does anyone know? "Uh Huh Her" got a 7.6, her Peel Sessions got a 7.9, "Stories from the City..." got a 5.5 and "Is This Desire?" got an Pitchfork 8.

Whoops! I'm a bad blogger, sorry toCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 18

Whoops! I'm a bad blogger, sorry to skip out. Had to go see the new Will Ferrell movie ("Semi-Pro") this morning, which means, well, don't ever let your freelance writer friends claim they have a rough life. Yeah, poor me, I had to go to a funny movie on a Friday morning instead of filling out TPS reports. I'd rarely say anything about a movie this far in advance (it opens February 29) so as not to totally enrage the movie's publicists, so, in short: freakin' hilarious. Made me love Will Ferrell all over again. (My Ferrell top five performances, in case anyone ever needs to know, in order: Stranger Than Fiction, The Producers, Anchorman, Zoolander, Talladega Nights.) And I don't even usually like the current strain of all-boy, comedy-star, period-shtick set-up movies mostly because, well, I like actual live women in my movies.

Why Is Apple On The Starbucks Model?CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 18

Does it make sense for Apple to build a fourth store in Manhattan, hot on the heels of their new Meatpacking District outpost? Retail saturation schemes work for Dunkin' Donuts. But in what way would the incredible overhead and costly building prices of the Apple temples serve the company? Surely there's a good business reason for it—even though one doesn't come to mind.

"Jake Shears" of the Scissor Sisters isCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 18

"Jake Shears" of the Scissor Sisters is working with Jeff Whitty (of "Avenue Q") (both former go-go boys!) on a musical of "Tales of the City." Musical theater just somehow got a whole lot gayer!

My movie-going pal Sara Vilkomerson agrees aboutCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 18

My movie-going pal Sara Vilkomerson agrees about the difficulties of "Cloverfield":

After seeing I am Legend, with the haunted empty Manhattan streets, and the rabid virus-mutated zombies, and the German Shepherd, etc., you might think you'd be prepared to watch Cloverfield.

And you'd think wrong!

And the Times review is brutal.

Emma Goldman on Maxim Gorky, 1914:We inCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 18

Emma Goldman on Maxim Gorky, 1914:

We in America are conversant with tramp literature. A number of writers of considerable note have described what is commonly called the underworld, among them Josiah Flynt and Jack London, who have ably interpreted the life and psychology of the outcast. But with all due respect for their ability, it must be said that, after all, they wrote only as onlookers, as observers. They were not tramps themselves, in the real sense of the word. In "The Children of the Abyss" Jack London relates that when he stood in the breadline, he had money, a room in a good hotel, and a change of linen at hand. He was therefore not an integral part of the underworld, of the homeless and hopeless.

What If They Had A Big Blow-Out Benefit But Didn't Want Your Money?CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 17

On 8 p.m. on Friday the 18th—hey, that's tomorrow!—there'll be a totally fun-nuts-sounding anti-war cabaret party-performance at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square Park South, New York City. The organizers promise nudity, beer, song, dance—and no donation requested. (This is highly unusual!) Performers include Larry Krone, Julian Fleisher, Miguel Gutierrez, Kenny Mellman and something called the "Channels of Blessings Choir." (Added bonus: I should be there with my hair down, having finally thrown off the shackles of the tyrant blog-emperor Kottke.)

Uncomfortable Goggle-Eyed Staring Silence Plus Finger Gesture Oddness MemeCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 17

While you were having a life, this was taking place quite rapidly on the tubenets.

The T.V. Might As Well Be An Answering Machine At This PointCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 17

I've turned my T.V. on just one time in 2008. I rarely miss it at all, except for a very few moments when it's like missing heroin. (Some relief coming: eight episodes of "Lost," beginning January 31; ten episodes of "Battlestar Galactica" coming in March.) Yesterday for a job I was talking with two bigwigs, an actor and an actor-director; they said they were both in a weird state of both crunch and inactivity because of both the Writer's Guild strike and the maybe-upcoming Screen Actor's Guild strike, which I had totally forgotten about. (That 120,000+ member union may strike in June, over the same issues—profit from new media—that sent the Writers Guild out more than two months ago.) That's when I realized: I can't take a world without actors! Sure, they're not as useful as deli owners or baristas to my life. But I like looking at them! Maybe it'll be averted: The Directors Guild is close-ish to a settlement, which might be a template for the writers, which might be sort of a template for the actors. In any event, I asked the nice Oscar-winning lady what sort of things she liked about working: "I have health insurance, that's enough," she said. Mm, I should get a union then! Some health insurance sounds good right about now.

"Junkies are roaming the streets uprooting flower beds"CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 17

Letter to the editor, New York Times, August 25, 1993:

The East Village is awash in criminal activity and antisocial behavior, which blatantly occurs all through the day and escalates as the sun goes down. At 7 A.M., when I walk my dog, the area looks like a war zone. Crack vials, human feces, used condoms and hypodermic needles litter the sidewalks, building entryways, halls and stoops. Junkies are roaming the streets uprooting flower beds to look for the drugs they hurriedly stashed the night before.

(Yes; today you are all being the victims of a project for which I'm urgently neck-deep in research.)

Tompkins Square Park, 20 Years LaterCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 17

This summer will be the 20th anniversary of the Tompkins Square Park riot. From the New York Times, August 6, 1993:

In a playground off Avenue A, Gerry Griffin watched Emily, her 18-month-old towheaded daughter, run after flying bubbles. Ms. Griffin said she enjoys the renovated Tompkins Square Park.

"For people with kids, it's a dream come true," she said. "I was against what they were doing, but I am really enjoying the effects of it." [...]

"They said they tore down the bandshell because people slept in it," said Ruth Silber, who has lived near the park for 26 years. "Pretty soon they're going to destroy all the subways because homeless people sleep in the subways." [...]

Farther up Avenue A, two officers on mopeds sat inside the locked gate, talking about Saturday, the fifth anniversary of the 1988 battle. They told visitors to come back then if they wanted to see some action.

Do they expect trouble? "I hope so," one officer said as he rode off.

Things That Sounded Crazy In 1993CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 17

Letter to the editor, New York Times, June 23, 1993:

If landlords could double or triple the rent on vacant apartments, it would be a compelling incentive for them to try to drive current tenants out by any means necessary. (During the East Village's gentrification in the 1980's, my landlords neglected or cut off heat and hot water, called us late at night to tell us to leave, let crack addicts stay in warehoused apartments and rented storefronts to drug dealers.)

Under luxury decontrol, what would stop them from renting only to tenants who make more than $100,000 a year to get apartments permanently deregulated? Warehousing would burgeon as landlords kept apartments vacant for months waiting for a sucker to pay top market rent.

The Early '90s New York City Real Estate SlumpCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 17

New York Times, September 29, 1991:

She began asking $132,000 for her studio in 1988 and has since lowered the asking price to $115,00, but has not had a bid.

Another owner in the Christadora House bought her 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment for $270,000 in 1986 has been trying to sell it for 14 months. She first asked $305,000 and has lowered her price to $260,000. Her only offer so far, which she rejected six months ago, was for $220,000.

Two blocks away, on 11th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B, the owner of a two-bedroom co-op on the top floor of a renovated five-story tenement has received a bigger blow. He paid $186,000 for it a year ago and has been trying to sell it for four months at $89,000. So far, no takers.

1994 Rick Moody ProfileCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 17

New York Times, October 23, 1994:

These days you can walk into the St. Marks Bookshop and find his second novel, "The Ice Storm," on the same shelf as James Michener and Cormac McCarthy, thanks to alphabetical order.... [H]e makes nearly all of his income from writing. And lives in a state of at least intermittent dread. "This minute I'm sitting here being interviewed," he mused, "and in five years I won't be able to get published."

Are Americans Too Happy-Obsessed?CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 17

Most hide behind a smile because they are afraid of facing the world's complexity, its vagueness, its terrible beauties. If we stay safely ensconced behind our painted grins, then we won't have to encounter the insecurities attendant upon dwelling in possibility, those anxious moments when one doesn't know this from that, when one could suddenly become almost anything at all. Even though this anxiety, usually over death, is in the end exhilarating, a call to be creative, it is in the beginning rather horrifying, a feeling of hovering in an unpredictable abyss. Most of us habitually flee from that state of mind, try to lose ourselves in distraction and good cheer.

In Praise of Melancholy.

Management DifferencesCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 17

Two major media companies issued statements about workplace values in the last 24 hours or so. From New York Times owner Arthur Sulzberger's in-house "diversity and inclusion" reminder email this morning: "Our Company is committed to diversity and inclusion, and our goal is to provide a stimulating, supportive environment where employees can thrive and grow, sharing their many experiences, attitudes, cultures and viewpoints." Okay, fine!

But here's from new Tribune Company owner Sam Zell: "Discrimination based on gender, age, race, religion, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, or any other characteristic not related to performance, ability or attitude, protected by federal or state law, or not protected (such as inability to tell a joke, the occasional poor wardrobe choice or bad hair day), is strictly prohibited.... Working at Tribune means accepting that sometimes you might hear a word that you, personally, might not use. You might experience an attitude that you don't share." Wow. (PDF download, via LA Observed.)

And there's also this in the new Tribune manual: "Under Rule #1, you may want to think twice before you enter into an intimate relationship with a co-worker. When you start, it might seem like a good idea. It's when you stop, or the wrong people find out (and they will) that you could discover that perhaps it wasn't." That is THE BEST ADVICE EVER. Does Sam Zell live... in the real world? Also in the new Tribune Manual: "It's good judgment not to put in writing what you don't want printed on the front page of a newspaper. Or posted on a web site. Or heard on the news." This thing reads like it came out of some wacky internet startup. (Disclosure: I'm taking money from both companies. Uh, for now!)

"In what will be history's largest gatheringCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 17

"In what will be history's largest gathering of U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Iraqi and Afghan survivors, eyewitnesses will share their experiences in a public investigation." Washington, D.C., March 13 - 16, 2008.

The Kronos Quartet is playing at CarnegieCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 16

The Kronos Quartet is playing at Carnegie Hall late next month—and on the program is Clint Mansell's "Requiem for a Dream Suite," which is its New York premiere, sort of.

Too Soon/Not Too SoonCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 16

I had to go uptown to interview some people this afternoon and Laurie Anderson's "Live in New York" came on the headphones on the way, which made me think about "Cloverfield" and 9/11 and "too soon" again. "Live in New York" was recorded at Town Hall on September 19 and 20, 2001. Is it in my mind, or does she sound uncomfortable singing "I feel like I am in a burning building and I gotta go" on "Let X=X" (iTunes link)? Nexis doesn't deliver any useful accounts of the concert—just a review from Newsday which is appreciative but not very descriptive. (Also, though, now we know that the name "Laurie Anderson" has appeared in the New York Times an astonishing 799 times, and, yes, nearly all of them are her.) Also I'm not convinced she doesn't get choked up during (iTunes link ahoy) "Slip Away." ("What's this? A little dust in my eye.") Anyway, somehow that wasn't too soon.

Novelist (and former "Jeopardy" champion?) Arthur PhillipsCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 16

Novelist (and former "Jeopardy" champion?) Arthur Phillips talks to Robert Birnbaum:

RB: I haven't managed to read writers who I now see as cultish-Proust and Wodehouse.

AP: I have enjoyed him enormously. I don't know that I'd read all 95 or 150 or 300 books or whatever it is-

RB: There's an example of productivity or hypergraphia.

AP: There is a famous story-I'm going to get the details wrong, but he was in New York for a while and someone asked if he was hanging out at the Algonquin and he said, "I don't know how those guys get any work done." That's the problem with Brooklyn-you have to really try not to meet other writers.

The audience at Saturday's not-quite-Wu-Tang but stillCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 16

The audience at Saturday's not-quite-Wu-Tang but still Clan show (it was minus RZA) was "almost uniformly white."

Saw a screening of "Cloverfield" last night.CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 16

Saw a screening of "Cloverfield" last night. New Yorkers say "too soon!" sarcastically a lot—but you know what? If we—me and another downtown Manhattan-residing friend—spent half an hour after the movie talking about what we did on 9/11, then it's not imaginary that the film actively, consciously, and ill-advisedly uses such imagery. What's weirder is that it was, like, the cast of "The O.C." doing 9/11. Debate on this is ongoing on various internets. But also the movie is totally rad, in an amusement park/horrorshow way. CONFUSING.

Why Does H.I.V. Harm Reduction Still Frighten Public Health Officials?CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 16

Harm reduction programs, in which health workers work to reduce dangerous behaviors with both education and materials as near in time and space as possible to those behaviors, still get opposition in health departments. But for years we've known that teenagers who join abstinence-only programs are actually less likely to use condoms when they do have sex, and that they have STD rates nearly equal to teens who do not. Just last month, needle exchange was legalized in D.C., ludicrously late.

Yesterday afternoon, I talked to Joshua Volle. For the past few years he's been the New York City Department of Health director of HIV community prevention programs; his last day at work was Friday. (We talked for a column I wrote for today's New York Observer about the ongoing rise in new H.I.V. cases among young gay men, and it probably isn't something most of you here want to read, as it is lewd, crude and sarcastic, so maybe don't!) Volle, 50, left DPH largely because he has become a minister, but also: "I wasn't in a place, in a position, where I could speak the truth that I know from my experience," he said. "I was basically a bureaucrat middle manager, and that's not my personality—nor is that why God sent me on this planet."

There are still, Volle indicated, policy camps in conflict in the Health Department over HIV prevention policies. New York State has something called the Sanitary Code; in the City, it is still used to shutter gay sex establishments from which reports of unsafe sex are received. But in the rest of the state, closure is used as a threat—and establishments are not closed if such places work in cooperation with community-based organizations that promote safe sex on-site.

The City is now assessing its current policy, and is in receipt of recommendations from "a local alliance of health professionals, activists and club owners."

"I don't know if I've ever seen an incidence where a government has been able to control people's behavior," Volle said. He used Prohibition and drug laws as an example of how government crackdowns push people to the margins, away from the reach of harm reduction workers. Now, in New York City, private sex parties have become ever more difficult for health workers to find and enter. (Volle stressed that he was a fan of his former boss, Department of Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, and called him a smart man who obviously cared deeply about the health of New Yorkers.)

"We are still seeing an increase in HIV," he said, "so if the Sanitary Code was actually working, wouldn't we not be seeing that increase? If we try going in full force with our community partners, to do risk reduction, maybe we could get a handle on this epidemic. But we don't know, because we've never been given a chance. "

"What we'd like to see is sex venues be kind of certified by the Department of Health, if they have these partnerships set up by community-based organizations," he said. "And those that refuse? Guess what, you're still out on a limb, you could be shut down, because the law is still on the record."

"Rent," the worst musical in the historyCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 16

"Rent," the worst musical in the history of musicals, grossed more than $280 million dollars on Broadway since April, 1996—and grossed another $330 million in national tours. (The 2005 movie version of "Rent," by the way, only grossed $31 million worldwide.) Because I'm a terrible judge of everything, I was convinced at the time that it would close in workshops. Now, at last, "Rent" will close on Broadway this June. Too late!

I may or may not be headedCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 16

I may or may not be headed out to South Carolina this weekend—their Democratic primary takes place on January 26th—and the new way of learning about places before ya go is YouTube tourism. Apparently there is a lot of hunting (yikes!), fishing, and drag queens in blackface (double yikes). And then, on a much more serious note, there's this short video of "Jared trying to live it up a few days before being sent to basic training at Fort Jackson, SC." It's posted a woman who wrote that "I am twenty years old..believe it or not. I am missing my husband terribly. He is at basic training in Fort Jackson, SC. He will be graduating in March. I can't wait!"

Joe MacLeod, America's best newspaper columnist, takesCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 16

Joe MacLeod, America's best newspaper columnist, takes the art of phoning-it-in to dizzying new heights in today's Baltimore City Paper:

Hey! It's time to run a whole year of my every-other-weekly "column" through the "AutoSummarize" tool on Microsoft Word. This year it's 20,684 words, boiled down to 4 percent of original size. Fun!

Klaus Nomi, Still KickingCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 16

Apparently there is a new (and exceedingly posthumous) Klaus Nomi album; there are three way-out mp3s from it on this site. Today's Village Voice published a little oral history of the East Village legend. There is also this incredible performance on YouTube—which, oddly, is of quite nearly exactly the music (or at least the harmonic progressions) from Michael Nyman's "Memorial" from "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover"... which came out in 1989, though it was apparently first performed in 1985; Nomi died in 1983. Update: Ah ha! Rumors on the internet say the tune is based on Purcell.

In their ongoing quest to be theCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 15

In their ongoing quest to be the world's greatest sports website—heck, the world's greatest anything website—The Wizznutzz "found" some "never-before-seen personal letters from Pres. Richard Nixon written to Kevin Loughery shortly after the Washington Bullets lost in the 1971 Finals to the Bucks." There's a long meditative section on watching crows in a field in winter that is particularly stellar.

There will be troubleCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 15

uh oh

Jenny Holzer says it all. Any day with a trip to the oral surgeon is a day of ill omens. Hey, good news though! We're getting Olafur Eliasson waterfalls on the East River! Here's one of his 1998 waterfalls.

Gmail released a new mobile version. ItCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 15

Gmail released a new mobile version. It is bulky, slow to load, and pretty yet irritating on the iPhone. I couldn't be less happy about it, and had a fit in midtown last night trying to get my email. I suppose, like all new things, I will grow accustomed to it.

Vanity Fair's Proust questionnaire, February, 2008:CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 15

Vanity Fair's Proust questionnaire, February, 2008:

Vanity Fair: "Which words or phrases do you most overuse?"

Karl Rove: "'Fabulous!' After that, 'Look...' followed by an explanation."

The JobsNote is going on right now&CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 15

The JobsNote is going on right now—ooh, shiny new Apple things. So far they've announced a movie rental program for your iPhone but there is still no cut and paste?

The Mania Over Gay Flesh-Eating Super-StaphCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 15

People are going whole-hog bananas today over a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, in which gay men arriving at hospitals and clinics in San Francisco and Boston were showing high incidences of truly nasty drug-resistant staph infections. Let's panic! After all, Matt Drudge is teasing the story with an invented quote: "STRAIN OF SUPERBUG 'MAY BE NEW HIV'..." But that language doesn't actually appear anywhere, much less in the Reuters summary to which he links; it does not even appear in this story that uses that phrase as a headline. Mmm, fake horror! The study began sampling patients four years ago. If this was the new super-plague, we'd all be neck-deep in boils already.

91-year-old NPR man Daniel Schorr has hadCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 15

91-year-old NPR man Daniel Schorr has had it up to here with you kids and your internets. [Warning, print link to avoid stupid registration window.]

Q: In some commentaries, you touch on the latest journalistic trends, sometimes in not so complimentary a way. Such as blogs and citizen journalism. Is this a form of news gathering that you embrace?

A: I can't embrace it. Not after what I've been through at the hands of the copy editors' desks. I have suffered many, many arguments about what I've wanted to say -- whether it was grammatically correct, factually correct and all of that -- and I want everybody to have to experience what I experienced. But today, your blogger is totally free. He is his own reporter, his own editor, his own publisher, and he can do whatever he wants.

A person like me who believes in the tradition of a discipline in journalism can only rue the day we've arrived at where we don't need discipline or anything. All you need is a keyboard.

He suffered, so you should too, you undisciplined mouthers-off! Update: A reader writes: "You are not giving the man the respect he deserves. He did not suffer--he honed his craft in an environment that expected professionalism, balance and honesty. What is unfortunate today is that today's professional media are not held to the same standards. Most, if not all bloggers, do not rise to the quality of a Daniel Schorr. Unfortunately, neither do most of his younger colleagues."

Can You Explain How To Get Rich Quick?CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 15

Hedge fund manager John Paulson and investor Jeff Greene both became insanely wealthy over the subprime mortgage crisis. But how? (Parsing the Wall Street Journal is hard!) So Paulson "had to think up a technical way to bet against the housing and mortgage markets." His guys bought up "collateralized debt obligation" slices, which are repackaged mortgage securities. (Kind of lost already!) His firm also bought up "credit-default swaps." Paulson then opened a hedge fund shop, taking $150-million in mostly European money to back his scheme. Then he hung on. Now "he tells investors 'it's still not too late' to bet on economic troubles." Neat! Paulson's ex-friend Greene did much the same thing, getting an investment bank's participation for assets for the swap. Then... something happened and he bought three jets and a 145-foot yacht. Finance for idiots explanations eagerly sought! (And is there any small-scale way to do such things? Or do the abilities of regular people to make money on a crisis stop at short-selling and investing in Halliburton?)

WTF, America! Apparently they have banned driversCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 15

WTF, America! Apparently they have banned drivers younger than 18 in the greater Chicago area after 11 p.m. on weekend nights. (That this then dismantled a program of teen-aged designated drivers is sad-hilarious.) I spent the vast majority of my 16th and 17th years in Chicago in either Paule's giant boat-mobile or in the backseat of Ajay's slick little number. And we were responsible! For instance, from what I can hazily recall, we usually tried to drink or smoke up while the car was not actually in motion. (Hey, it was the 80s, man.) Anyway, guess such laws make sense in a country where you can come home from Iraq and still have to get someone to buy your beer for you at the 7-11 in Vegas. Update: A reader named Fred writes: "Jason, please tell this 'genius' that is babysitting your blog this week to do a little research before she posts. The law she sarcastically wrote about is a state statute that took effect January 1st and covers the complete state of Illinois, not just the Chicago area. It is an intelligent response to a serious problem of teenage drivers dying from more than just drunk driving accidents.... While I believe in anyone voicing their opinion on something, I believe that they should make sure their facts are correct before they spout off. She didn't bother to check her facts, and that makes you look bad since she's posting on your blog." Oh, wow.

MoMA's "Multiplex"CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 15

the bad germansSo I ditched out of "work" early yesterday for MoMA, because it was the last day of the Martin Puryear show. (This is why everyone everywhere should quit his job!) Elsewhere in the museum—on view through July—is a sprawling collection show called "Multiplex," which is apparently about art since 1970 and, according to the opaque curator's text, the flowering of, um, a "complicated artistic terrain." (Yeah. Well, it's been almost 40 years, go figure.) There are three groupings of work: abstraction, mutability, and provocation. (I dunno either!) There's a Gursky that's really one of the worst, an incredible Tacita Dean painted photograph, and a Julie Mehretu painting that is just wowza. (Seriously, you should go see that one.) Also, I'd never seen this Clemens von Wedemeyer video "Big Business," a two-channel wingding that's technically a remake of a Laurel and Hardy film, but which, more importantly, stars two really hot German guys destroying a house. It is all kinds of awesome! I wanted to watch it twice more! But that (and some other nice items) doesn't mean this show isn't a bizarro mess. There's a whole lotta wall text to make their gussied up case. And the tiny end section, "provocation," contains some of the least provocative contemporary art going. (There's a mild Philip Guston painting from 1972! Huh?) Is it that MoMA's collection just doesn't have work down in the basement that could deliver some incitement?

I have finally found the guy ICHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 15

I have finally found the guy I want to marry. Seriously, this is my favorite YouTube video right now, and I'm not even sure that I can explain why. Something about the soft color, and the quiet. And he's so sensitive. (I sure hope he's 18 or older or I'm gonna feel real bad inside.)

Every gay in America (okay, in coastalCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 14

Every gay in America (okay, in coastal America) is flapping his hands today over the New! Magnetic Fields! Album! that is apparently out tomorrow; Pitchfork gave it an 8.0 today. According to my gays, it is streaming on the MySpace. I hope the Magnetic Fields MySpace is not taunting teenagers to death though.

"I Was Walkin' Along The Street"CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 14

I've gotten totally re-obsessed with Kathy Acker, the East Village writer who died in 1997. It started with this recording of Acker reading a poem [Warning: audio, 2 minutes, 28 seconds, and not really safe for work!] that was released in 1980 on the LP "Sugar, Alcohol & Meat" by Giorno Poetry Systems and recently digitized by UbuWeb. Her New York accent is one that has largely disappeared since; she sounds amazing. Then I found this, which is an incredibly long mp3, the first 3/4s of which is a Michael Brownstein reading. The end, though, is a monologue which then becomes a stageplay by Acker about a woman, her suicide, her grandmother, and her psychiatrist. It is absolutely not safe for work, what with its endless use of a certain word for ladyparts that goes over well in Scotland but not at all (yet!) in the U.S.

Lawyer-DanceCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 14

Dying to see this video now showing in Chelsea of a dance performed by lawyers, including John Sloss, a film attorney, and Scott Rosenberg, who I think is with Legal Aid. It's playing with another video, of four day laborers hired to create an earthwork on the beach; both are by Ann Carlson and Mary Ellen Strom.

Useful Incremental Advances In The State Of JournalismCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 14

When I go back and read journalism from the '70s and '80s, I can see that there has been little, if any, innovation in the form since. But! While they may not be drastically "new," there are at least two bits of excitement in internet journalism today that seem somewhat radical. First, Brian Lam at Gizmodo talks overtly about the twisted relationship between tech companies and journalists. ("As one reporter put it while chiding me, 'Journalists are guests in the houses of these companies.' Not first and foremost! We are the auditors of companies and their gadgets on behalf of the readers.") And over on another Gawker Media blog (my former employer, and one that I have deeply conflicted feelings about), Jezebel's Tracie Egan writes an astounding and reallly not for the faint-of-heart (or crotch) account of schtupping this guy she met in Vegas. It's BANANAS. And probably NSFW. And a great read.

For a long time, I wanted to write a profile of the designer Tom Ford—and I realized the only way to do so properly would be to have sex with him and write about it. I sent an emissary to him; he declined the opportunity. I was relieved.

"Where's Andy Warhol?"CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 14

In 1984, Maureen Dowd, now an op-ed columnist, was a reporter on the "Metropolitan staff" of the New York Times. This excerpt (from a 5112-word piece) ran in the Times magazine on November 4, 1984, with the headline "9PM TO 5AM." (It's behind the paywall here.)

On Monday nights, Area offers ''obsession'' nights—with fixations such as sex, pets and body oddities. At a recent ''sex evening,'' nude jugglers and whip dancers moved in and out of the crowd while an ex-nun heard sexual confessions in the ladies' room and an old man played with inflatable dolls in a pool.

This evening, the theme is ''confinement,'' and the club is decorated with dolls in pajamas chained under water, a caged rabbit and go-go dancers armed with guns and dressed in Army fatigues.

''Where's Andy Warhol?'' asks a young punk, dragging on a joint and scanning the crowd. ''I want to get a good look at him.''

''I think he went to Limelight,'' says his friend. At Limelight, a church- turned-club on the Avenue of the Americas at 20th Street, halolike arcs of light stream from stained-glass windows.

''We should go there,'' says someone else.

''We should go there immediately,'' says another.

They scurry off to Limelight, unaware that their quarry, wearing corduroys and a backpack, is standing unobtrusively at the bar.

''This is the best bar in town,'' Andy Warhol says. ''You could take everything out and put it in a gallery.''

Matt Dillon, Vincent Spano and Mickey Rourke, each confident in his role as a teen idol, make their separate ways through the crowd, as young girls reach out to touch their arms, backs, anything. Director Francis Ford Coppola is talking to the actress Diane Lane.

Nearby, Don Marino, an up-and-coming actor, is talking to Brian Jones, an up-and-coming director. ''L.A. is a whole different world,'' the actor says. ''You go to the A party, the B party and you are home in bed by 11 for your 5 o' clock call the next morning. In New York, you've got to be seen at night, you've got to get around.''

The young director scans the room. ''I know people Coppola knows,'' he says. ''I wonder if I could go say hi.''

Stats.org presents their list of WorstCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 14

Stats.org presents their list of Worst Science Stories of 2007. Topping the list: San Francisco's confusion of phthalates with polyethylene terephthalate, which resulted in a ban on plastic water bottles. Gosh yes, I make that mistake all the time too! (via Romenesko)

Update: Okay, lots of mail about Stats and how they're some secret evil thinktank that takes scary libertarian money. Well, that's true! Here's from the editor of Stats, Trevor Butterworth: "STATS is, like CMPA, an affiliate of GMU. But as I live in New York, and write about whatever I want, so what? Yes, the University's Mercatus Center is a citadel of free market economic theory - and again, no big secret there. Do I do Mercatus's bidding or take industry money. No. Does STATS take industry money? It's not our policy. We're sure as hell not rich. And we are affiliated with the Communications department and the math department. Make of that what you will. As for chemical exposure, it's the topic of the year - and one that is riddled with error. The rest of the worst stories concern sex, race, and drugs." Disclosure: I have been out for a drink with Trevor one time.

Jeff Jarvis rightly recommends following Time.com'sCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 14

Jeff Jarvis rightly recommends following Time.com's Ana Marie Cox's Twitter feed as she follows the Republican Presidential candidates around the country. A recent, uh, tweet: "Myrtle Beach: McCain staffers very excited and pleased about the prospect of 'Team McCain: California' jackets." These are the sort of details I wish made it to publication, but Twitter is, I suppose, a publication of its own, right?

Hey, New Yorker classical music critic (andCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 14

Hey, New Yorker classical music critic (and blogger, and my summer neighbor, and Kottke interviewee) Alex Ross was quite rightly nominated for a National Book Critics Award over the weekend. (How could any book blurbed by Bjork not be?)

MySpace Press Conference On 'Internet Safety' TodayCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 14

MySpace is having "a press conference to make a major announcement in regards to Internet safety" today at the Sheraton in New York at 11 a.m. EST, according to their press office. (If you want to listen in, citizen journalist, you can dial it up and listen in at 800-895-0231 or 785-424-1054, with conference ID: ABCDE.) Quite possibly related: Today, the New Yorker takes on the so-called "MySpace Suicide Hoax," in which 13-year-old Megan Meier hanged herself after being taunted by neighbors posing on MySpace as a teen boy. In the neighborhood drama that ensued, an innocent foosball table was also destroyed.

Mark Zuckerberg On '60 Minutes'CHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 14

Lesley Stahl of '60 Minutes' did a big piece last night on Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (It followed Anderson Cooper's horrifying story on rape in Congo and the spillover of Rwandan terror into the country; unreal.)

The worst part (about 3 minutes in, on the online video) came when Stahl said Facebook was the new Google. "You seem to be replacing [Google co-founders] Larry and Sergey as the people out here who everyone's talking about," she said. Zuckerberg didn't say anything. "You're just staring at me," she said, almost immediately. "Is that a question?" he asked her. Then: "We were warned he could be awkward," she said in a voice-over. Actually no, Lesley, that was a savvy response to a terrible, no-win question.

In 2007, 30-year-old New York City-based graphic designerCHOIRE SICHA  ·  JAN 14

feltonIn 2007, 30-year-old New York City-based graphic designer Nicholas Felton had 58 vacation days, performed 2 karaoke songs, spent 4.7 days on planes, read 26% more book pages than he did in 2006, ran 190.5 miles, and thought Josh & Ellen's wedding was the best of the year. You may view his annual report here; the print version costs a mere $5 and ships in February. In this year's report, just as in his 2006 report, Felton noted he may have consumed alcoholic drinks that went unrecorded. CHEATER.


Good morning, and thank you for attending. Should you have advice or ideas for me this week, I can be reached at choire [at] choire sicha [dot] com. I love mail. A brief moment of self-referentiality follows. Over the last nearly-decade, Kottke (the work product, not so much the actual person) has become incredibly (sometimes overly) smoothed and honed. When I first wrote a story for the New York Times, a very wise editor there told me this: That it was not the paper that made writers sound Timesey; instead, writers most often made themselves Timesey in anticipation of the venue's expectations. That was usually a bad thing! But in the case of Kottke (the site), perhaps a good amount of impersonation of or loyalty to its conventions is in order, don't you think? (That effort may fail as this week progresses.) So to those who are pre-gagging over my appearance here this week, I can only offer the same response that Joan Didion offered a letter by John Romano in the New York Review of Books on October 11, 1979.

This week on kottke.org: Choire SichaJAN 13

Fresh off his exit from Gawker and covering last week's New Hampshire primary for the New York Observer, Choire Sicha will be handling a slightly easier, less glamourous, and potentially more spiritually rewarding job: editing kottke.org for the next week.

Choire has written for Gawker (on two non-consecutive occasions, making him Gawker Media's Grover Cleveland), the NY Times, the Observer, and a host of other publications, but I remember him mostly from from the olden days of the blogosphere. He was one half of the tandem that wrote the now-defunct East/West, an early blog detailing the lives of two friends who live on opposite ends of the US. He's also done a bunch of other stuff but I'll let him share or not share about all that. Welcome, Choire!

Modern big wave surfing requires a knowledgeJAN 13

Modern big wave surfing requires a knowledge of oceanography and wave dynamics...and quick wits out on the water.

After committing to a wave, the surfer must confront the sheer tonnage of hurtling water and hit a 10-foot-wide slot of the best spot to launch a ride with pinpoint timing, a maneuver that Washburn has described as akin to "trying to place a Dixie cup on the horn of a charging rhino."

PETA -- that's People for the EthicalJAN 13

PETA -- that's People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- recently revealed that in 2006, they put to death more than 97 percent of the cats, dogs, and other animals they took in for adoption.

The scale of PETA's hypocrisy is simply staggering.

And somehow that seems like an understatement. (via wider angle)

Update: This press release was put out by the Center for Consumer Freedom, a group that holds some questionable views:

The Center for Consumer Freedom has drawn criticism from several groups for its startup funding from the Philip Morris tobacco company. It has been described as an astroturf group that portrays itself as a grassroots organization while actually being funded by the fast food, meat, and tobacco industries. It is also criticized its efforts to portray groups such as the Humane Society of the United States as "violent" and "extreme", and for its opposition to banning the use of trans fats. The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has also campaigned against the CCF's validity as a non-profit tax exempt charitable organization, filing an IRS complaint in 2004 attacking CCF's claims that its advocacy campaigns were "educational" in nature. Some corporations, including PepsiCo and Kraft Foods, have declined to work with CCF, saying they do not agree with some of the group's arguments or its approach to advocacy.

A factsheet on PETA's site says they are in favor of animal euthanasia is some cases.

Because of the high number of unwanted companion animals and the lack of good homes, sometimes the most humane thing that a shelter worker can do is give an animal a peaceful release from a world in which dogs and cats are often considered "surplus" and unwanted. PETA, The American Veterinary Medical Association, and The Humane Society of the United States concur that an intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital administered by a trained professional is the kindest, most compassionate method of euthanizing animals. The American Humane Association considers this to be the only acceptable method of euthanasia for cats and dogs in animal shelters.

Some other stuff I read online indicated that PETA rescues pets who were going to be euthanized under inhumane circumstances in order to provide them with more compassionate deaths. A complicated situation, to be sure...not sure what to think. (thx, gwen, chris, and jason)

Michael Oher, the subject of Michael Lewis'JAN 13

Michael Oher, the subject of Michael Lewis' book, The Blind Side, is undecided about declaring for the NFL draft after his junior year.

Oher was named to the all-Southeastern Conference first team after the season and is considered one of the top offensive linemen prospects in the country. He has already shown the promise scouts predicted when he was a homeless 16-year-old who didn't know how to play football.

Meanwhile, the movie adaptation of The Blind Side is proceeding...word on the street is that Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, and George Clooney are interested in starring.

Update: Oher declared for the draft. (thx, michael)

Update: On second thought, Oher reconsidered and is remaining at Ole Miss for another year. (thx, michael)

Ten recurring economic fallacies, 1774-2004.JAN 13

Ten recurring economic fallacies, 1774-2004.

One of the most persistent is that of the broken window -- one breaks and this is celebrated as a boon to the economy: the window manufacturer gets an order; the hardware store sells a window; a carpenter is hired to install it; money circulates; jobs are created; the GDP goes up. In truth, of course, the economy is no better off at all.

The online scrapbooking community was thrown intoJAN 12

The online scrapbooking community was thrown into chaos when an avant-garde scrapbooker, part of a group known for expressing "their loneliness, narcissism and rage" with their scrapbooks, inadvertently broke the rules by using a photograph taken by someone else in her prizewinning entry. (thx, lane)

For the first time since 1982, an NBAJAN 11

For the first time since 1982, an NBA team has won a game protest and the next time the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat meet, they'll replay the final 51.9 seconds of the disputed game before playing the scheduled full game.

Attention American parents: Mobile phones and textJAN 11

Attention American parents: Mobile phones and text messages are sexually molesting our children!!! Ah, CNN...

Eugene Mirman reports from the New HampshireJAN 11

Eugene Mirman reports from the New Hampshire primaries in front of Wal-Mart's, Burger Kings, and other live locations.

I saw Mitt Romney speak yesterday and at the time I was, like, I don't really like this and then when I woke up, I HATED it.

(via mr john hodgman)

The Sound of Young America's Jesse ThornJAN 11

The Sound of Young America's Jesse Thorn interviews Wendell Pierce and Andre Royo, who play The Bunk and Bubbles on The Wire. (thx, jesse)

Rich Kid Syndrome...how do you properlyJAN 11

Rich Kid Syndrome...how do you properly raise a kid who flies private jets everywhere and stands to inherit millions of dollars when he turns 25?

America's burgeoning money culture is producing a record number of heirs -- but handing down values is harder than handing down wealth.

(via andrea harner)

Dave Pell, peanut butter expert, has foundJAN 11

Dave Pell, peanut butter expert, has found the best peanut butter in the world.

I love peanut butter. But more importantly for the statement you are about to read here, I know peanut butter. I know peanut butter the way Da Vinci knew fluid mechanics, the way Einstein knew physics, the way Grand Master Flash knows a turntable, the way Tom Brady knows how to perfectly balance throwing touchdowns and humping supermodels. I have eaten it. I have coddled it. I inhaled. What can I say? That's how I spread.

Now that Sony's on board, all fourJAN 11

Now that Sony's on board, all four of the major music labels are selling DRM-free music on Amazon's MP3 store. Amazon's giving Apple a real run for its money here.

Not sure how this became Blu-ray centralJAN 11

Not sure how this became Blu-ray central all of a sudden, but here's a bit more news. NBC Universal and Paramount might be "opening the door" for a switch to Blu-ray.

These studios have commitments to release some discs this year in HD DVD, but both have ended their exclusive commitment to that format, which is backed by a group led by Toshiba.

Edmund Hillary has died at age 88. HeJAN 10

Edmund Hillary has died at age 88. He and Tenzing Norgay were the first people to climb to the top of Mount Everest.

The Hubble telescope recently captured an imageJAN 10

The Hubble telescope recently captured an image of a double Einstein Ring.

An Einstein Ring happens when two galaxies are perfectly aligned. The closer galaxy acts as a lens, magnifying and distorting the view of a more distant galaxy. But today astronomers announced that they've discovered a double Einstein Ring: three galaxies are perfectly aligned, creating a double ring around the lensing galaxy.

On the occasion of Tom Brady's incredibleJAN 10

On the occasion of Tom Brady's incredible season, ESPN compiles a list of the 25 greatest individual seasons in sports history.

On the eve of shooting his eighthJAN 10

On the eve of shooting his eighth film, Zach and Miri Make a Porno, Kevin Smith recounts his experiences with the actors and rehearsals on his seven previous films.

It's weird to work one way for so long, and slowly realize it's not necessary anymore; that it was just something you did when you didn't know any better. I hired pros; aside from on-set tweaking and an extra take or two, they don't need to be broken like wild horses or worked like puppets. Those days are behind me now. Now I spend more time thinking about/working on what the flick's gonna look like -- which, I guess, should be the primary job of the director.

Planes, trains, and automobiles in Europe.JAN 10

Planes, trains, and automobiles in Europe.

Could European airlines such as Air France-KLM, Lufthansa or Ryanair lose business as high-speed rail service expands? After all, the Eurostar now carries more than 70 percent of passenger traffic between London and Paris. And air service between Paris and Brussels has ended altogether now that trains connect those cities in 1 hour and 20 minutes.

(via short schrift)

Fantastic and disturbing Esquire article about DatelineJAN 10

Fantastic and disturbing Esquire article about Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator" series in which people are lured to a house with the prospect of sex with minors, ambushed by a camera crew, and then arrested when they attempt to leave. I can't say much about the article without spoiling it, but a friend who has watched the show says there's nothing redeeming about any of the people on the show, from the show's host on down to the would-be molesters...and how the whole thing is orchestrated off-camera makes it seem even worse. More from Esquire about the article and NBC's rebuttal.

Big wave surfing at Cortes BankJAN 10

Recent Pacific storms have resulted in some epic big wave surfing at Cortes Bank, a seamount located 105 miles off the California coast.

Big wave surfing at Cortes Bank

The NY Times has a nice overview:

With a second major storm bearing down, four of the most experienced big-wave surfers in the world launched a boat and two Jet Skis toward Cortes Bank, an underwater mountain range whose tallest peak rises 4,000 feet from the ocean floor to within about four feet of the surface. The perilous spot, about 100 miles off the coast of Southern California, had been surfed only a handful of times in the past decade. With just the right conditions, its shallow waters turn huge ocean swells into giant, perfect breaking waves.

On a big wave site set up by Billabong, one of the riders said that 100-foot waves will be ridden out there:

Cortes Bank veteran Mike Parsons returned from the voyage absolutely certain that larger sea monsters are awaiting around the spooky open-ocean shoal. "It's getting closer and closer now...I guarantee you there will be a 100-foot-wave ridden out there," said Parsons. "For sure. There were several big peaks that jumped up at the top of the reef outside of us that could not have been too far off that size. If you put yourself in the right place at the right time, it will happen. It's only a matter of time now."

For photos and a nice audio feature with the crew that took the trip out there, head on over to Surfline.

Does one's choice of typeface affect theJAN 10

Does one's choice of typeface affect the grade you get on a college paper? Papers written with Georgia and Times New Roman (serifs) got As while those with Trebuchet (sans serif) got Bs.

Wired has a longish article about howJAN 10

Wired has a longish article about how the iPhone came about. I wish this story had more direct quotes and explicit references...it's hard to read it and not take the whole thing with a huge grain of salt.

Graffiti Research Lab built their own cameraJAN 09

Graffiti Research Lab built their own camera rig to capture bullet time photography (a la The Matrix) for $5000-$8000. Here are the instructions to build your own and the music video they made using the rig.

Matt Stuart shoots photos of visual puns and coincidences.JAN 09

Matt Stuart shoots photos of visual puns and coincidences.

A taxonomy of animals that are mascotsJAN 09

A taxonomy of animals that are mascots or logos of companies.

A fine AV Club interview with theJAN 09

A fine AV Club interview with the surprisingly down-to-earth Anthony Bourdain...much of it isn't even about food. On selling out and endorsements:

Yeah, I've been offered cookware lines, some really gruesome reality shows that would have made me boatloads of money. The usual endorsements. I don't know. Maybe it goes back to the heroin thing. I know what it's like to wake up in the morning and feel ashamed of what you did yesterday. I'm just having a hard time crossing that line. I'd like to sell out. I really would!

I also learned that he writes crime novels.

A World of Warcraft player is attemptingJAN 09

A World of Warcraft player is attempting to level up two characters in the game without intentionally killing anything or anyone.

Both my priest and my rogue try not to hit anything, although there's always a chance of a misclick when trying to open a quest item with mobs fighting near it. Both of them always wield a fishing rod, so any accidental hits won't increase their weapon skills. Neither of them will do quests where they have to kill things.

(via clusterflock)

Sudhir Venkatesh recently sat down with someJAN 09

Sudhir Venkatesh recently sat down with some real gang members to watch some episodes of the The Wire.

The greatest uproar occurred when the upstart Marlo challenged the veteran Prop Joe in the co-op meeting. "If Prop Joe had balls, he'd be dead in 24 hours!" Orlando shouted. "But white folks [who write the series] always love to keep these uppity [characters] alive. No way he'd survive in East New York more than a minute!" A series of bets then took place. All told, roughly $8,000 was wagered on the timing of Marlo's death. The bettors asked me -- as the neutral party -- to hold the money. I delicately replied that my piggy bank was filled up already.

(thx, matt)

The Star Wars Guide to the 2008 PresidentialJAN 09

The Star Wars Guide to the 2008 Presidential candidates featuring Grand Moff Giuliani, Obi-ron Paul-obi, Hillando Clintrissian, and Wicket Huckabee.

Man, I tell you what...you read Admiral Akbar's resume, take a look at his long career, his credentials, and it's amazingly clear how qualified he is to run a major government. What about his prescient snap evaluation..."It's a trap!" We sure could have used that in Iraq.

The work of Charles and Ray EamesJAN 09

The work of Charles and Ray Eames will be honored with a set of 16 US stamps later this year. (via chris glass)

Todd Levin begins a series on videoJAN 09

Todd Levin begins a series on video game systems he has known. He starts off with a Radio Shack Pong knockoff and the Atari 2600. As you may remember, there were some differences between the arcade version of Pac-Man and and the Atari version:

But most disorienting of all was the hero: Pac-Man had been re-imagined as an octagon with a constantly chomping, greedy slot for a mouth, and designed so large he could scarcely squeeze through the maze. Because of Pac-Man's macrocephalic condition, he was incapable of rounding corners, but Atari found a brilliant workaround: Pac-Man would always face west. When pushing the joystick to the right, Pac-Man simply backed into dots and energy blocks, his mouth still opening and closing rhythmically, as if crying in pain from shoving things into his rectum. Underscoring Atari Pac-Man's overall cognitive disorder, the home game replaced the familiar rhythmic dot-munching soundtrack with a flat, repeating "bonk" note -- its own digital Tourrette's bark.

Todd Gallagher explores the myth of grabbingJAN 08

Todd Gallagher explores the myth of grabbing a dollar bill off the top of a basketball backboard and tries to find someone who can do it.

The legend of touching the top of the backboard has gone on for years, and it has been excitedly attributed to so many different players that it's commonly assumed any number of guys in the NBA can do it. But in a sport where any individual achievement is promoted ad nauseam, we've never seen any proof of it actually being done.

Check out these videos of his leading candidate, James White: White doing a between-the-legs dunk from the free throw line and his dunks from the 2006 NCAA dunk contest.

Video interview with Michael Bierut about typographyJAN 08

Video interview with Michael Bierut about typography and design. (via typographica)

On an upcoming servicing mission scheduled forJAN 08

On an upcoming servicing mission scheduled for August 2008, NASA plans to upgrade the Hubble telescope to be 90 times as powerful as it currently is. 90 times!

Two powerful new instruments will be installed on the mission. The Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) will allow Hubble to see fainter and more distant galaxies than anything it has seen before, shedding light on the early universe. This could allow Hubble to see galaxies so far away that we see them as they were just 400 million years after the big bang.

The $27,000 Apple computerJAN 08

Apple announced newer faster Mac Pros today. They start at $2799 but you can configure them up to several thousand dollars (including software and accessories).

$27000 Apple

The really expensive bits are the 32 GB of RAM ($9100), the NVIDIA Quadro FX 5600 video card ($2850), the four 15,000 RPM hard drives ($800 each), the two 30" Cinema Displays ($1700 each), a Fibre Channel Card ($1000), and an unlimited-client copy of Mac OS X Server ($999).

That's a lot of money but you've got to remember that in addition to satisfying your computing needs well into the next decade, this baby will heat your entire house and provide a metal cooktop surface hot enough to prepare meals on. Mmm, 15,000 RPM omelettes! (thx, jake)

Update: Wow, configuring the new Xserve is even more expensive; adding all the possible options runs the price to over $83,000, which includes a $12,000 RAID array and $50,000 Mac OS X Server software support. $50K for support? Does Jobs come fix it himself?

Screencaps comparing the DVD and HD versionsJAN 08

Screencaps comparing the DVD and HD versions of LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring (roll over to toggle the images). Quite a difference. (thx, alex)

Gephyrophobia, a fear of bridges. One womanJAN 08

Gephyrophobia, a fear of bridges. One woman was stranded on Staten Island for 13 years because of her fear of crossing bridges. (One assumes she didn't want to take the boat either.)

In the New York region, the New York Thruway Authority will lead bridge phobics over the Tappan Zee, the longest span in the state. A reluctant driver can call the authority in advance and arrange to be driven across the bridge in his or her own car by a patrol operator. The authority receives a half dozen such requests a year, officials there say.

Ramesh Mehta, a division director for the authority, said the service helped prevent situations in which a phobic driver might get stuck mid-span. "It is very dangerous to stop the car right there on the bridge, because the traffic is so great and somebody can get rear-ended," he said.

(via girlhacker)

Three body language analysts studied two recentJAN 08

Three body language analysts studied two recent Roger Clemens interviews about his alleged steroid use and found that maybe he's not telling the whole truth.

In the "60 Minutes" interview, for example, the analysts noticed that Clemens swallowed hard, looked down, and licked and pursed his lips when answering questions - all signs, they said, that he might not have been telling the truth. "That's indicative of deception, that's indicative of stress," said Joe Navarro, a retired F.B.I. agent who trains intelligence officers and employees for banks and insurance companies.

The article also notes that these experts are only right about half the time and that the technique is used as a tool to evaluate if further investigation is warranted and not to determine truth.

MonsterhoodiesJAN 08


Monsterhoodies. When the hood is up, it looks like a shark, dinosaur, or monster is biting your head off. Rrwar!!

Finding Nemo on Blu-ray might push meJAN 08

Finding Nemo on Blu-ray might push me over the buy-a-player edge more than Warner's plans to support the format.

If you were still on vacation lastJAN 07

If you were still on vacation last week, you might want to check out my list of the best links of 2007. I guarantee you'll find something to get your mind off of that looming deadline.

The goal of Oded Ezer's Typosperma Project "JAN 07

The goal of Oded Ezer's Typosperma Project "was to create some sort of new transgenic creatures, half (human) sperm, half letter". (via buzzfeed)

Where is Spore?JAN 07

It's been awhile since I've heard anything about Spore, Will Wright's long zoom supergame. Last summer the word was that EA's promo machine had gotten started too early and that the game wasn't quite ready for primetime because it wasn't "fun":

The unofficial word from someone on the development team is that Spore the system is almost ready but Spore the game isn't all that much fun yet. A recent round of user testing didn't go so well. Hence, the delay.

EA said at the time that the release date would be after March 2008, which still seems to be the case. In an October 2007 interview, Will Wright said the game was about six months away from release, which means April 2008. Even so, Wired made Spore the #2 pick on their Vaporware 2007 list. Anyone have any better intel on a release date or if the game is more fun now? Hit me on my burner.

Video of people describing their split-screened counterparts.JAN 07

Video of people describing their split-screened counterparts. Give this one a shot...it's better than I made it sound. Simple, restrained, and thoughtfully made. (via snarkmarket)

Gelf Magazine, curators of always-entertaining Blurb Racket,JAN 07

Gelf Magazine, curators of always-entertaining Blurb Racket, list their picks for the worst blurbs used by movie advertisements in 2007. For instance, in reference to Live Free or Die Hard, film critic Jack Mathews actually said "the action in this fast-paced, hysterically overproduced and surprisingly entertaining film is as realistic as a Road Runner cartoon" but was quoted by 20th Century Fox as saying that the movie was "hysterically ... entertaining".

Clever shower design; the water pipe alsoJAN 07

Clever shower design; the water pipe also holds the curtain up.

Demo of VideoTrace, "a system for interactivelyJAN 07

Demo of VideoTrace, "a system for interactively generating realistic 3D models of objects from video -- models that might be inserted into a video game, a simulation environment, or another video sequence". Starts off slow but gets interesting with the one-click truck cloning. (thx, lance)

James Gleick on the value of objectsJAN 07

James Gleick on the value of objects in contemporary society. Mass produced and virtual items are getting ever cheaper while items like an original copy of the Magna Carta are getting more and more expensive.

Just when digital reproduction makes it possible to create a "Rembrandt" good enough to fool the eye, the "real" Rembrandt becomes more expensive than ever. Why? Because the same free flow that makes information cheap and reproducible helps us treasure the sight of information that is not. A story gains power from its attachment, however tenuous, to a physical object. The object gains power from the story. The abstract version may flash by on a screen, but the worn parchment and the fading ink make us pause. The extreme of scarcity is intensified by the extreme of ubiquity.

Gleick doesn't adequately nail the "why?" here somehow...seems there's more to it than just objects with attached stories.

Update: See also The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin. (thx, finn)

rating: 4.5 stars

There Will Be BloodJAN 07

Daniel Day-Lewis is flat-out amazing in this film; I can't think of when I've seen a better performance. But with this movie and No Country For Old Men, both of which top many people's lists of the best movies of 2007, I found them really good but not great. Not sure why. Maybe I'll have better luck with Juno or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

Living in Three Centuries, Mark Story's photosJAN 07

Living in Three Centuries, Mark Story's photos of centenarians and other aged people. (via clusterflock)

It looks as though we finally mightJAN 06

It looks as though we finally might have a winner in the race for the high-definition successor to DVDs: Blu-ray.

With Warner on board, Blu-ray now has about 70 percent of the market locked up; Walt Disney, 20th Century Fox, MGM, Lionsgate and, of course, Sony are all on Blu-ray's team. Warner Brothers has some of the bigger releases in 2008, including "Speed Racer," the Batman sequel "The Dark Knight" and the sixth Harry Potter installment.

I feel like maybe I can actually buy an HD player now...

The last part of this video featuringJAN 04

The last part of this video featuring Conan O'Brien singing The Beastie Boys' Sabotage as Edith Bunker from All in the Family makes me laugh over and over and over.

One of these days, I should learn how to type.JAN 04

One of these days, I should learn how to type.

I think that there is far tooJAN 04

I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached.

Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness.

Posters and billboards modified to look asJAN 04

Posters and billboards modified to look as though the people in them have been decapitated. (thx, colossus)

David Lynch does an iPhone commercial, not really. (via andre)JAN 04

David Lynch does an iPhone commercial, not really. (via andre)

From Rodcorp's series on how people work,JAN 04

From Rodcorp's series on how people work, here's author Philip Pullman's workspace and process.

I write three pages every day (one side of the paper only). That's about 1100 words. Then I stop, having made sure to write the first sentence on the next page, so I never have a blank page facing me in the morning.

Pullman used to work in a writing shed but gave it to a friend when he moved on the condition that the friend would pass it along to another writer when he'd finished with it. Pullman's shed reminds me of George Bernard Shaw's rotating writing room.

A collection of rap, hip hop, andJAN 04

A collection of rap, hip hop, and roller-disco flyers from the 70s and 80s.

ThinkGeek is selling a WiFi alarm clockJAN 04

ThinkGeek is selling a WiFi alarm clock that donates money to an organization you hate every time you hit the snooze bar. I believe this is some sort of joke, but what an idea! (via magnetbox)

Hilariously bad knockoffs of Pixar's Ratatouille andJAN 03

Hilariously bad knockoffs of Pixar's Ratatouille and Cars called Ratatoing and The Little Cars. (via waxy)

With The Wire final season premiere approachingJAN 03

With The Wire final season premiere approaching rapidly (the episode is already on HBO OnDemand and the first two are on BitTorrent), news outlets everywhere are covering and reviewing the show. My favorite article -- because it's something different and critical for a change -- is a profile of David Simon by Mark Bowden in the Atlantic Monthly. He starts out slow with a comparison of fiction and nonfiction in telling stories:

Fiction can explain things that journalism cannot. It allows you to enter the lives and motivations of characters with far more intimacy than is typically possible in nonfiction. In the case of The Wire, fiction allows you to wander around inside a violent, criminal subculture, and inside an entrenched official bureaucracy, in a way that most reporters can only dream about. And it frees you from concerns about libel and cruelty. It frees you to be unfair.

But then you get to the part describing Simon's vindictiveness and how it has shaped him, which adds some depth to the earlier fiction/nonfiction comparison. Worth a read.

Also of note is that the full text of The Believer conversation between Simon and Nick Hornby has been put online.

Cherry Blossoms is a project by AlyssaJAN 03

Cherry Blossoms is a project by Alyssa Wright:

Cherry Blossoms is a backpack that uses a small microcontroller and a GPS unit. Recent news of bombings in Iraq are downloaded to the unit every night, and their relative location to the center of the city are superimposed on a map of Boston. If the wearer walks in a space in Boston that correlates to a site of violence in Baghdad, the backpack detonates and releases a compressed air cloud of confetti, looking for all the world like smoke and shrapnel. Each piece of confetti is inscribed with the name of a civilian who died in the war, and the circumstances of their death.

Movie trailer for Untraceable, which features aJAN 03

Movie trailer for Untraceable, which features a serial killer who live-broadcasts his murders online so that his victims are killed faster as more people visit the site. From the looks of it, the movie features every single bad computer-related movie cliche all in one neat package. Either that or it's a clever metaphor for what the web is doing to our culture. (via fimoculous)

Photos of the construction of the parkJAN 03

Photos of the construction of the park on the High Line in Manhattan. Here's an accompanying article. (thx, marshall)

A pair of videos showing off WiiJAN 03

A pair of videos showing off Wii Fit, a balance board device for the Wii. Looks pretty interesting, although if it's marketed as exercise equipment, I fear it may not do so well. The board and a Wiimote in each hand could make for a pretty convincing skiing experience.

Update: Hmm, the Honda Fit and Wii Fit logos look pretty similar. (thx, dave)

The Edge Annual Question of 2008 is: WhatJAN 03

The Edge Annual Question of 2008 is: What have you changed your mind about? Why? Lots of fascinating responses from interesting people, mostly science-related. My response would be a bit more personal: I've changed my mind about wanting to be a dad. I never thought much about having kids and didn't see the point of it, fulfillment-wise. I'm sure my life without Ollie would have been nice but nothing compared to this. (Happy 6 mo. bday, little guy!)

The 2007 installment of the BBC's list of 100JAN 03

The 2007 installment of the BBC's list of 100 things we didn't know last year.

31. There is mobile phone reception from the summit of Mount Everest.

Here's the lists for 2006, 2005, and 2004.

2007: The Year in Pictures from the NY Times.JAN 03

2007: The Year in Pictures from the NY Times.

The Best Links 2007JAN 02

For the fourth year running, here are some of my favorite articles, videos, games, photography, discussions, and design pieces that I linked to in 2007. After you're done with these, try the lists from 2004, 2005, and 2006.

The streets of Portland are an ice skating rink for cars in this video.

Reconsidering the original three Star Wars movies in light of the prequels. R2D2 = top rebel spy.

Adam Gadahn's journey from rural California teen and death metal fan to a trusted member of Osama bin Laden's team of operatives.

Chris Jordan's photo series, Running the Numbers.

Michael Poliza's aerial photos of Africa. More here.

Malcolm Gladwell on Enron and the difference between puzzles and mysteries, investigationally speaking.

Smashing Telly, a collection of TV on the web, with an emphasis on documentaries and factual programs. I liked David's post on Zeitgeist and FEBLs.

Video of an autistic person describing the language she uses to communicate with her surroundings.

Good People, a short story by David Foster Wallace.

Nicholas Felton's personal annual report for 2006.

A pair of posts from Neatorama on photography: 13 Photographs That Changed the World and The Wonderful World of Early Photography.

The 51 Smartest, Prettiest, Coolest, Funniest, Most Influential, Most Necessary, Most Important, Most Essential Magazines Ever.

Susan Orlean on Robert Lang, former physicist and current world-class origami master. Here's my post on Lang.

A Line Rider masterpiece. (Line Rider?)

Kremlin Inc., a story of Vladimir Putin's de facto dictatorship of Russia.

2007 was the year of book art: Thomas Allen's pulp cutouts, Cara Barer's water-crumpled books, Nina Katchadourian's Sorted Books whose spines tell small stories, and Brian Dettmer's book sculptures.

Joel Johnson's great post on Gizmodo scolding the site's writers, gadget makers, and the site's readers "for supporting the disgusting cycle of gadget whoring".

Denis Darzacq's photographs of people seemingly floating above the pavement.

Panoramic photos from the Apollo missions. These are stunning.

Michael Pollan on the rise of nutritionism. His advice for healthy eating: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Desktop Tower Defense. This would top my Ten Best Games of the Year list if I'd done one.

On Conscientious, several photographers answer the question "What makes a great photo?"

Shorpy, a photoblog of old photographs, and FFFFOUND!, an image bookmarking site. Neither is probably legal in the strict sense, but they're both great online curated galleries.

Alberto Forero has collected a staggering amount of photography and design imagery and posted it to his Flickr account.

Social Explorer, interactive demographic maps.

Hypermilers try to wring as many miles per gallon out of their cars as they can. (My post.)

Darwin's God. Are humans biologically wired to believe in God?

Dan Hill reviews Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, a film that follows soccer star Zinedine Zidane through a single game.

Minority Kart, possibly the GAGOAT (greatest animated gif of all time).

Miranda July's wonderful handcrafted web site for her book No One Belongs Here More Than You.

An article on commuting, this crazy thing that most Americans do too much of.

The graph of US home prices from 1890 to the present as a rollercoaster.

As a social experiment, the Washington Post arranged for internationally acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell to play outside a DC subway station. Would anyone notice?

The New Yorker on David Belle and parkour, the sport he invented.

Maciej Ceglowski reports on the Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel.

NB: Studio's map of London constructed entirely out of type.

Trulia Hindsight, a map of property development through time.

Movies showing a closeup view of the Sun's surface.

Video footage of Joseph Kittenger's record jump from 102,800 feet up. Photo from Life magazine and a Boards of Canada music video that uses the footage.

Alex Reisner's site, especially the baseball section. (My post.)

Interview with journalist Jonathan Rauch.

The greatest long tracking shots in cinema, including those in Touch of Evil and Children of Men.

Meg Hourihan took a bunch of different chocolate chip recipes, averaged the ingredients, and made cookies from the resulting meta-recipe.

The infamous four guys humping an ottoman video.

Does the Piraha language upend the theory of universal grammar?

Vimeo's sign in page is lovely.

Tim Knowles' drawings by trees. (My post. And more.)

How a woman randomly bumped into the person that stole her identity and chased her around until the police showed up to apprehend her.

Portraits of breaking sculpture by Martin Klimas.

Photo gallery that shows families from around the world and the amount of food they eat in the course of a week.

Errol Morris' investigation of a pair of Roger Fenton photographs in three wonderful parts.

Roger Federer's conservation of energy and attention helps him perform when it counts.

Jay Parkinson M.D. makes house calls, visits with patients via IM, and is generally trying to find new ways of doctoring.

Anthony Lane's appreciation of the Leica.

Kohei Yoshiyuki's photos of voyeurs watching lovers in a Japanese park. (My post.)

A restaurant review from the NY Times, circa 1859. My post about the review and lots more from the archives of the Times.

The story of Oscar the Cat, who comforts the dying at a Rhode Island nursing home.

Portraits of bears by Jill Greenberg. More photos at Greenberg's site.

Long New Yorker profile of David Simon and The Wire.

Elizabeth Kolbert on bees and colony collapse disorder. And bee space.

Photoshopped pictures of people's faces combined.

A video round (turn on the sound).

Optical illusion: is the woman rotating clockwise or counterclockwise?

From the excellent xkcd web comic: Little Bobby Tables.

Aicuña is a small secluded town in Argentina with an extremely high percentage of albino residents.

David Foster Wallace's wonderful introduction to The Best American Essays 2007.

Video depicting several ways to melt a chocolate bunny.

Tyler Cowen on some of the opportunity costs of the war in Iraq.

Beautifully terrifying photos of nuclear tests in French Polynesia.

Standing witness to a Guitar Hero wunderkind playing the game's most difficult song on expert level.

How America Lost the War on Drugs.

God's Eye View is an art project by The Glue Society depicting four Biblical scenes as they would have been captured by Google Earth.

The best way to deflect an asteroid turns out to be reflecting sunlight on it with a swarm of mirror bees.

Paul Otlet presages the web in 1934, calling it the "radiated library" or "televised book". (More context.)

This was my favorite post of the year. I hope you'll excuse the self-link.

Oh, and maybe the best thing I didn't link to this year: Daft Hands.

Thanks for reading kottke.org for the past year. Happy new year to you and yours.

My Year in Cities, 2007JAN 01

Here are all the places I visited last year...much less travel than in previous years. Having a baby will do that to your schedule. For a few months there, I don't think I left a 20-block radius of Manhattan.

New York City, NY*
Rochester, VT
Boston, MA*
Orange, MA*
Waitsfield, VT*
San Francisco, CA
McMinnville, OR
Portland, OR

One or more nights spent in each place. Those cities marked with an * were visited multiple times on non-consecutive days. Here are my lists from 2005 and 2006.

Archives    December 2007 »    November 2007 »    October 2007 »

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