Lots of people bemoan the sexism of bikini drenched beer ads and overtly sexual marketing. Turns out, the marketers might just be rationally exploiting a fact of the male brain:
A recent study shows that men who watched sexy videos or handled lingerie sought immediate gratification--even when they were making decisions about money, soda, and candy.
Authors Bram Van den Bergh, Siegfried DeWitte, and Luk Warlop (KULeuven, Belgium) found that the desire for immediate rewards increased in men who touched bras, looked at pictures of beautiful women, or watched video clips of young women in bikinis running through a park.
"It seems that sexual appetite causes a greater urgency to consume anything rewarding," the authors suggest. Thus, the activation of sexual desire appears to spill over into other brain systems involved in reward-seeking behaviors, even the cognitive desire for money.
Scientists have developed a method for reading a person's mind using brain scans.
Once it has been trained on an individual subject's thoughts, the computer model can analyse new brain scan images and work out which noun a person is thinking about - even with words that the model has never encountered before.
The model is based on the way nouns are associated in the brain with verbs such as see, hear, listen and taste.
Clive Thompson wonders: Why don't people invent new sports? He does find the inventor of a fun-sounding game called whiffle hurling:
Whiffle Hurling was invented in July 2005 by a Tom Russotti, an MFA grad student at Rutgers University -- and the sole practitioner of what he calls "aesthletics." So far, only 10 games of Whiffle Hurling have ever been played. I can personally attest that it's insanely fun and offers up a genuinely new blend of activity: The crazy intensity of Irish hurling mixed with the low-stress, low-injury appeal of Whiffle ball. It manages to be simultaneously casual and intense, which is perfect for nerds like me.
A Slate slideshow about "the greatest manhunt of WWII":
In his new book, Now the Hell Will Start, Brendan I. Koerner tells the story of an epic World War II manhunt: the quest to find Herman Perry, a black soldier who shot and killed a white commanding officer, then disappeared into the jungles of Burma, where he joined a tribe of headhunters and eluded capture for months.
The insanely gimlet-eyed Roberta Smith reviews Anish Kapoor's newest shows, one in Boston, one in New York. If you're not familiar with Kapoor but have been to Millennium Park in Chicago, he's the one that did the reflective bean.
A good, concise pep talk from Ira Glass, about sticking with your creative endeavors. He's talking specifically about story telling, but it really goes for anything you want to pursue seriously. Except math. If you're still not good at math at 28, just give up already. (via mot cot)
A collapsible, modular greenhouse, which Design Boom says is "especially suitable for small spaces like cityhouses, balconies, roof terraces or town gardens." What they forgot to mention was that it's especially suitable for growing weed in small spaces.
Related: A few weeks ago, the unfailingly brilliant Michael Pollan wrote an interesting article about the ethics of small, eco-conscious decisions, like growing your own food. If you live in a city and don't have a communal garden, maybe that greenhouse is the answer (after you've harvested your weed).
A fun premise: A blog dedicated to pipe-dream ideas, broadcast for anyone to pursue. (Though I'm not sure how gratifying it would be to pursue someone else's pipe dream? What does that make you?) A representative example:
Was at a reading in an art gallery last night and while checking out their lighting set-up I had an idea for a way to do an art show. Hang the work like normal, but, instead of the normal lighting, the gallery should be as near to total dark as possible. When visitors arrive to view the work, they are given miner's helmets with forehead flashlights on them. I can picture the beams moving about the gallery, the pieces with more than one viewer lighting up with more light, the show's overall visibility shifting and changing with the way the viewer's line of sight changes.
The Believer used to have a similar sort of column, with submissions from various literary types. Not sure if they still do, but it was fun when I last saw it.
Related: A book review in the New Yorker, from a while ago, about a book penned by a woman who lived with Roma for a time. The bare threads of Roma society are disturbing:
Evidently it's a miserable life, for the shiftless, jobless, largely illiterate men, and twice as bad for the homebound women, generally married in their teens to other teens, who will bully, betray, tyrannize, and most likely beat them. As for their children, they stay up so late watching television and hanging out on the street that they are usually too sleepy to go to school; Gypsies must be the only significant ethnic group in France that actively discourages literacy and encourages truancy. Compared with them, the embattled immigrants from the Muslim world are models of aspiration to bourgeois order and enlightenment. One of Eberstadt's more hallucinante chapters describes a conference on education held at College Jean Moulin, a junior high school for preponderantly Gypsy students. "The occasion is pretty merry," she writes. "People who work with Gypsies tend to laugh a lot. It's a laughter of hysterical exasperation, because if you didn't laugh, you'd hang yourself or quit." The school's principal, a "barrel-chested, crewcutted Catalan" named Paul Landric, is quoted:
"If an Arab kid cuts school, he stays in the street so his parents don't find out. If a Gypsy plays hookey, it's in order to stay home. Here, it's the parents who are the disruptive influence, mothers who want to coddle their sons, fathers who don't want their daughters to be seen hanging with boys at school. The girl is a commodity, and they don't want her to lose her market value."
Her value, as a virgin, is ascertained not by the young groom on the wedding night but, according to archaic folk custom, by the probing finger of a tribal crone: Eberstadt's partially renegade Gypsy friend Linda explains, "For Gypsies, it's a nasty old woman who is paid to penetrate the girl, like a gynecologist but with dirty hands, in front of all the husband's family. It's terrifying, it's inhuman." Landric sums up: "People talk about preserving Gypsy culture. But what am I as an educator supposed to do when the comportment of my students is frankly pathological?"
Like Jones, Rahn was an archaeologist, like him he fell foul of the Nazis and like him he was obsessed with finding the Holy Grail - the cup reputedly used to catch Christ's blood when he was crucified. But whereas Jones rode the Grail-train to box-office glory, Rahn's obsession ended up costing him his life.
However, Rahn is such a strange figure, and his story so bizarre, that simply seeing him as the unlikely progenitor of Indiana Jones is to do him a disservice. Here was a man who entered into a terrible Faustian pact: he was given every resource imaginable to realise his dream. There was just one catch: in return, he had to find something that - if it ever existed - had not been seen for almost 2,000 years.
I always try to stay away from linking to Boing Boing, because they're so huge you've probably already seen whatever it is. But check out this video of dogs reacting to a mechanical toy dog. It's amazing: Dogs experience the uncanny valley too! The dog might be utterly toy-like to us, but you can tell from the dog's expression that it's startled and confused by the likeness--maybe even horrified. I wonder if apes also experience the uncanny valley with something like this. To all you primatologists: Please try this. I bet Wowee would sponsor it. Give me a heads up (cliffkuang @ gmail.com) and I'll write a piece about it.
Update: Hilarious clip from the most amazing show on TV, 30 Rock, explaining the Uncanny Valley. (thx, Michael)) "Salieri?" "No thank you. I already ate."
Displacements is an installation by Michael Naimark. First, he placed a camera in the center of a room on a turntable and recorded scene in the round. Then he spray painted the room white. Then he put a projector where the camera was, to project the previous colorful scene.
It's not just because I grew up eating this stuff: If you like beef jerky, you owe it to yourself to buy the classic peppered jerky, from the venerable New Braunfels Smokehouse. It's the ideal mix: Peppery, not sweet at all, with the savoriness of real beef, not a beef-like product. And it requires refrigerating, because it hasn't been preserved into leathery proteins.
Via 3QD, an interesting essay on crowd-sourcing in historical research. It seems not to have yielded a signature finding--in the way that much of political reporting has--but the possibilities are pretty interesting:
Online gathering spots like these represent a potentially radical change to historical research, a craft that has changed little for decades, if not centuries. By aggregating the grass-roots knowledge and recollections of hundreds, even thousands of people, "crowdsourcing," as it's increasingly called, may transform a discipline that has long been defined and limited by the labors of a single historian toiling in the dusty archives.
Some venerable research institutions are already starting to harness the power of crowds in an organized way. The Library of Congress recently launched a project on the photo-sharing site Flickr that invites visitors to identify and analyze photographs in its collection, while the National Archives, working in partnership with a for-profit company, is inviting people to do the same to online versions of its documents. And a growing number of projects are taking the logical next step, creating "raw archives" of photographs and documents for momentous events: Sept. 11, for example, or Hurricane Katrina.
I don't know which is more interesting: The prospect of "flavor tripping parties," or this berry, which after consumption makes everything sweet:
Nearby, Yuka Yoneda tilted her head back as her boyfriend, Albert Yuen, drizzled Tabasco sauce onto her tongue. She swallowed and considered the flavor: "Doughnut glaze, hot doughnut glaze!"
They were among 40 or so people who were tasting under the influence of a small red berry called miracle fruit at a rooftop party in Long Island City, Queens, last Friday night. The berry rewires the way the palate perceives sour flavors for an hour or so, rendering lemons as sweet as candy.
The host was Franz Aliquo, 32, a lawyer who styles himself Supreme Commander (Supreme for short) when he's presiding over what he calls "flavor tripping parties." Mr. Aliquo greeted new arrivals and took their $15 entrance fees. In return, he handed each one a single berry from his jacket pocket.
Back in the lean Soviet era, restaurants and the now-ubiquitous fast-food kiosks were scarce, so dogs were less likely to beg and more likely to forage through garbage, the zoologists say. Foraging dogs prospered best in the vast industrial zones of Moscow, where they lived a semiferal existence. Because they mainly relied on people to throw out food, and less on handouts, they kept their distance from humans.
Now, old factories are being transformed into shopping centers and apartment blocks, so strays have become more avid and skillful beggars. They have developed innovative strategies, zoologists say, such as a come-from-behind ambush technique: A big dog pads up silently behind a man eating on the street and barks. The startled man drops his food. The dog eats it.
Key is the ability to determine which humans are most likely to be startled enough to drop their food. Strays have become master psychologists, says Andrei Poyarkov, 54, the dean of Moscow's stray-dog researchers. "The dogs know Muscovites better than Muscovites know the dogs."
Do you remember the plot of of the Sean Connery/Catherine Zeta-Jones movie Entrapment? Where the last heist was predicated on using a computer glitch to extract tiny amounts of money from thousands of bank accounts? Some guy pulled something similar, and he's been indicted:
A California man has been indicted for an inventive scheme that allegedly siphoned $50,000 from online brokerage houses E-trade and Schwab.com in six months -- a few pennies at a time.
Michael Largent, of Plumas Lake, California, allegedly exploited a loophole in a common procedure both companies follow when a customer links his brokerage account to a bank account for the first time. To verify that the account number and routing information is correct, the brokerages automatically send small "micro-deposits" of between two cents to one dollar to the account, and ask the customer to verify that they've received it.
It's strange going back on things you loved as a kid, finding out how cheesy they were. Here, a collection of (unintended?) sex puns on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Related: Sam Anderson's very funny piece from a while back on bountiful homo-eroticism in He-Man.
Amazon has been coy about Kindle sales, even though the buzz has been excellent. Now, the price has dropped $40, to $360. That can't be a good sign, especially since, as Jason noted, the Kindle just recently came back into stock on Amazon.
Jeffrey Goldberg, crackerjack political reporter and would-be screen-writer, has the most vivid and concise account of Sydney Pollack I've read. Goldberg arrives with a screenplay to review with Pollack, and gets savaged:
The script at that point was 132 pages long, and, weirdly, there was something wrong on every page. We emerged from the conference room five hours later, completely wrung out. For a while inside, we had fought back:
Sydney: "Fellas, I just don't get this. How could she be flirting with a guy you told us three pages ago was dead?"
Me: "Well you see, Sydney, he wasn't really actually dead, the death was just a metaphor--"
Sydney: "Yeah, okay, now on page four..."
After a while, we stopped fighting, because he exhausted us--the Sydney Pollack you see on screen (Ross has an excellent, and illustrative, clip) was the Sydney Pollack we saw in his office. And also because he was right.
It wasn't all misery, of course. He was a wonderful storyteller, and also a world-class obsessive. He took a fifteen-minute break to explain how he packs for overseas trips. I started writing down the monologue, it was so captivating: "You see, fellas, what I do is I check the weather averages for each place I'm heading, and that way I can know exactly what sock I'm going to need for each destination, so I don't pack any more socks than necessary, just the socks of appropriate weight for the prevailing weather conditions..." And so on. The business with the socks struck me as unnecessary, by the way, because he flew his own plane and could bring three suitcases of socks, but never mind...
Things happen in Hollywood and Sydney didn't get the chance to make our movie. Rich and I are cautiously pessimistic about its chances. We hope, of course, that it gets made. If it does, and if it's any good, it will be because Sydney Pollack laid his hands on it.
The Biggest Drawing in the World, a self portrait of the creator, was made by sending a suitcase with a GPS tracker around to various sites, using DHL. (via Core 77)
Update: Lots of people are calling BS on this one, including Atanas, who insists the sailing routes are bogus, and others, claiming the GPS won't transmit through the case. Fooled by a viral for DHL? Even so, not a bad one, as viral videos go.
Update 2: Yup, it's BS. What I find disappointing about this is that it could easily have been real--sure, the lines might not have been as precise or expressive, but he could have done it. I'll bet DHL offers to foot the bill. But come to think of it, I don't know how I feel about all that carbon for one project like this.
"Twisted: A Balloonamentary" examines the world of professional balloon twisters, who make everything from life-size racing cars to their own wedding dresses. It also exposes the rift--who knew?--between the "gospel twisters," who use their craft as a way to teach Bible lessons, and the "adult" twisters, who use balloons for more prurient entertainment.
"I refused to see the movie" when it first played, said Ralph Dewey, a prominent gospel twister from Deer Park, Tex. "There's just too much unclean stuff in there." He and several other like-minded twisters boycotted a screening of "Twisted" at a balloon convention in Texas last year.
The scenes that might make Mr. Dewey squirm take place at a gay men's party in Las Vegas, where balloons are fashioned into parts of the male anatomy that are most logically suited for this purpose.
According to the twisters themselves, the two factions have long co-existed, however uncomfortably, at conventions and other gatherings, but the film is bringing simmering resentments to the surface.
Continuing on the theme of a self-sustaining belief system, a computer scientist is studying the uptake of religious belief, in an evolutionary computer model. From the New Scientist:
God may work in mysterious ways, but a simple computer program may explain how religion evolved.
By distilling religious belief into a genetic predisposition to pass along unverifiable information, the program predicts that religion will flourish. However, religion only takes hold if non-believers help believers out, perhaps because they are impressed by their devotion.
"If a person is willing to sacrifice for an abstract god then people feel like they are willing to sacrifice for the community," says James Dow, an evolutionary anthropologist at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, US, who wrote the program, called Evogod.
Update: Pohl and Rob righted me on that one. There's no typo, I don't think.
Hold on, don't worry. I'm not about to write about how you should eat your children. And I'm not going to advocate either Satanism or Libertarianism. I don't subscribe to either.
But like a lot of people, the Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey caught my imagination in the 1980s, for morbid, adolescent reasons. Yet when I finally got a copy and cracked it, I was always surprised at how mainstream its precepts were. That's probably unavoidable, since you can't really found a self-sustaining creed on psychopathic principles. Who would want to join up, if there were simply the promise of being betrayed and injured? Recently, I got interested in the Satanic Bible again, because of this profile of Gaahl, a prominent Satanist in Norway, and the singer in a notorious black metal band. And what's striking is that its philosophy, more than anything else, resembles libertarianism with some magic thrown in. It's less Jeffrey Dahmer, and more Ayn Rand. To wit, from the excellent Wikipedia entry:
LaVey makes it very clear that although Satanism is an uncompromisingly selfish religion, he defines selfishness according to what an individual truly wants. Therefore, if a person should honestly care for another person and wishes to express love, then he should do so wholeheartedly; a truly selfish person can acknowledge that if a person is loved by him, then they are important by virtue of his love. This can be compared favorably to the arguments of ethical egoism--that what sometimes benefits others can be beneficial to oneself, but that one must always have one's own interests first in mind. LaVey never suggests that love is not a natural emotion in man, and on the contrary suggests that loving select individuals is very natural, but he does claim that to love all people is not only a philosophical mistake but is in fact impossible and even damaging to the ability to truly love those few individuals who deserve it.
LaVey explains that hatred is likewise a natural emotion in man and therefore not to be shunned. He makes clear that hatred should be directed at those who deserve it by virtue of their actions to offend the individual, and like love, it is senseless to universally apply hatred to all mankind. He muses that while Satanism strongly advocates both individual love and hate, because white-light religion has such a strong aversion to acknowledging hate as a natural feeling in man that to merely mention that Satanism permits individuals to hate their enemies, Satanism is automatically portrayed as a hateful religion, a claim he maintains is false and ignorant of the true ethics of Satanism.
Ah, to be young and broke in New York. Some astounding stories of discipline and ingenuity about what it takes to make ends meet in the city. What's striking is that some of these people are literally starving and probably malnourished. And yet they still come to the city.
Drinking and eating carry their own complications. Especially if you are, say, Noah Driscoll, a 25-year-old project manager for a Chelsea marketing company whose salary is comparable to what a rookie teacher might make.
"For a little while I only ate grapefruits for my lunch," said Mr. Driscoll, who pays $400 a month on his college loans, "because they have a lot of nutrients and they got me through the day."
Mr. Driscoll has since started packing two peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for lunch. Dinner might be two baked potatoes. On a recent Monday, it was franks and beans. On a good night, he might spend up to $6.
"To live like a human being on the salary that I make is very difficult in this city," he said. "You've got to forget about brands, you've got to forget about, you know, what your mom made you growing up, and take what's out there."
An excellent article and slide show about Alison Elizabeth Taylor, an artist who uses marquetry, the craft technique of covering objects in fanciful wood veneers, which hit its high point in the Renaissance-era. Taylor works on flat surfaces, "painting" scenes of hipsters and lovelies in a desert landscape that recalls Sergio Leone. Her show is up now through June 21 at James Cohan Gallery, in Chelsea.
Well hello there. As Jason mentioned before, I'll be house sitting here for the coming week, feeding the beast that is Kottke.org. Don't worry. My idea isn't to change things up. I'll just be sticking to the web curation formula, with some occasional sallies into greater depth. So thanks to Jason for inviting me on, and thanks for reading.
I'm off on holiday this week and I've invited Cliff Kuang to help keep that kottke.org groove going in my absence. Cliff is a journalist and has written/edited for I.D., The Economist, Wired, Print, Monocle, and GOOD on culture, design, and technology. When he's not writing for money, he blogs for fun and wonderment at Delicious Ghost (may be NSFW). Welcome, Cliff!
The prevalence of pyjamas, Guariglia explained to me, was due to both the extreme summer heat and the lack of plumbing. Most Shanghaians share outdoor communal toilets and thus the boundaries of what was considered one's home have expanded past people's houses to the public bathrooms. Once that relaxation of the dress code became acceptable (starting around the 1980s) the perimeter for p.j.-wear just kept expanding until many people were wearing them day in day out.
One of the nicest things about the Kindle, and something that is inherent in such a device, is that, unlike a regular book, its orientation and weight aren't constantly shifting. With a paper book, you are made to move [it] around as you shift from the left to the right page, flip pages, etc. With the Kindle however, all of that shifting disappears and you can hold your chosen position indefinitely.
Such a "feature" generally allows you to expend less energy when reading. For example, I like reading in bed while lying on my side. With a paper book you have to constantly hold the book to keep it open and to move it slightly depending on whether you're reading the right or left page; with the Kindle, you can just let it rest on the bed and then tap the next-page button as needed. I realize that this may sound like a trivial thing to devote a paragraph to, but it really is amazing how such a device can change the way you read, or make the way you're used to reading that much better.
In commercials for Domino's Pizza, the chain's employees wage a never ending battle against the Noid, a gremlin who delays deliveries and carries a gun that can turn a pizza ice cold. Many viewers are amused by the Noid, Domino's says, but one of them took the advertising campaign personally. Last week Kenneth Noid, 22, walked into a Domino's Pizza shop in Chamblee, Ga., with a .357 Magnum revolver and took two employees hostage. When police arrived, he demanded $100,000 in cash, a getaway car and a copy of The Widow's Son, a 1985 novel about secret societies in an 18th century Parisian prison.
All Noid got was the pizza he ordered. After a five-hour siege, the two employees slipped away and Noid gave himself up. According to police, Noid has "psychological problems" and believes that he has an "ongoing dispute with Tom Monaghan," the head of the Detroit-based Domino's chain.
One day in 1971, a woman called Sarah Krasnoff made off with her 14-year-old grandson, who was caught up in an unseemly custody dispute, and took him into the sky. In a plane, she knew, they were subject to no laws, and if they never stopped moving, the law could never catch up with them. They flew from New York to Amsterdam. When they arrived, they turned around and flew from Amsterdam to New York. Then they flew from New York to Amsterdam again, and from Amsterdam to New York, again and again and again, month after month.
They took about 160 flights in all, one after the other, according to the stage piece "Jet Lag." They saw 22 movies an average of seven times each. They ate lunch again and again and turned their watches six hours forward, then six hours back. The whole fugitive enterprise ended when Krasnoff, 74, finally collapsed and died, the victim, doctors could only suppose, of terminal jet lag.
At the very moment that humans discovered the scale of the universe and found that their most unconstrained fancies were in fact dwarfed by the true dimensions of even the Milky Way Galaxy, they took steps that ensured that their descendants would be unable to see the stars at all. For a million years humans had grown up with a personal daily knowledge of the vault of heaven. In the last few thousand years they began building and emigrating to the cities. In the last few decades, a major fraction of the human population had abandoned a rustic way of life. As technology developed and the cities were polluted, the nights became starless. New generations grew to maturity wholly ignorant of the sky that had transfixed their ancestors and had stimulated the modern age of science and technology. Without even noticing, just as astronomy entered a golden age most people cut themselves off from the sky, a cosmic isolationism that only ended with the dawn of space exploration.
Defying France's strict new antismoking laws, Sean Penn, right, president of the jury at the 61st Cannes Film Festival, lighted a cigarette at a news conference yesterday, Agence France-Presse reported. After a couple of puffs in defiance of rules that banned smoking in enclosed spaces since January, he put the cigarette aside and returned to answering reporters' questions. But a jury member, the Iranian writer and director Marjane Satrapi, prompting laughter, then asked if anyone minded if she smoked "for medical reasons." She lighted a cigarette; Mr. Penn and the French actress Jeanne Balibar joined her.
TimesMachine is a collection of full-page image scans of the newspaper from 1851-1922 (i.e., the public domain archives). Organized chronologically and navigated by a simple calendar interface, TimesMachine provides a unique way to traverse the historical archives of The New York Times. Topics ranging from the Civil War to the sinking of the Titanic to the first cross-country auto race to women's fashions in the 20s are just a few electronic flips away. And of course, there's the advertisements.
Unfortunately, full access to the archives through TimesMachine is only available to subscribers. (via fimoculous)
If you need a reminder of Harrison Ford's ability to play Indiana Jones after nearly 20 years on the shelf, it comes in the movie's opening scene. Indy is roughly extracted from a car and tumbles to the ground. We see him stumble towards his trademark hat with that walk, a graceful stuttering step, wary of booby traps even on solid ground. Even though the camera shows us only his boots, it's unmistakably Indiana Jones.
That walk is also a signal that Lucas and Spielberg didn't screw this whole thing up...aside from the goofy film title (although having seen the movie, anything else would have ruined the surprise). They didn't take the bait offered by Casino Royale or The Bourne Ultimatum and attempt to shoehorn Dr. Jones into a frenetic, circa-2008 thrill-ride. Oh, there were thrills alright and plenty of swashes were buckled, but this was an action/adventure movie straight out of the 80s. Safe territory for Lucas and Spielberg perhaps, but for someone who believes that the best 80s action adventure movies have something to teach contemporary filmmakers (#1 of a long list: Don't make the special effects the star), the film was a thoroughly enjoyable territory in which to spend an evening. (thx to nextnewnetworks for the ticket hookup)
The second trailer for Hancock, the Will-Smith-as-apathetic-superhero movie due out this summer, is up on Apple Trailers. I believe this is the same one I linked to on YouTube a month ago, but watch it again anyway. I am hoping against hope that this one isn't going to be as stupid as I think and instead will be as awesome as I hope.
When Zappos hires new employees, it provides a four-week training period that immerses them in the company's strategy, culture, and obsession with customers. People get paid their full salary during this period. After a week or so in this immersive experience, though, it's time for what Zappos calls "The Offer." The fast-growing company, which works hard to recruit people to join, says to its newest employees: "If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you've worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus." Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit!
That's pretty fucking brilliant. It applies a direct incentive of cold hard cash against what the company wants: employees dedicated not primarily to their paycheck but to the company/customers.
Can you imagine what it was like to have been photographing a wedding in Sichuan, China when 7.9 earthquake hit and shakes for three minutes? From what I understand, there were thirty-three missing guests in this church.
Unfortunately, what seems to happening right now is that the studio marketing folks are conducting focus groups with new Blu-ray consumers, who are saying they want perfect pictures every time. As a result, a few of the Hollywood studios are currently A) using excessive Digital Noise Reduction to completely scrub film grain from their Blu-ray releases, or B) not releasing as many older catalog titles as they might otherwise for fear that people will complain about grain. Some studios are even going so far as to scrub the grain out of NEW releases that have been shot on film. Case in point: New Line's Pan's Labyrinth Blu-ray Disc. When I saw this film in the theaters, it was dark and gritty. The grain was a deliberate stylistic choice -- part of the artistic character of the film. New Line's Blu-ray, on the other hand, is sparkly and glossy -- almost entirely grain-free. So much fine detail has been removed that the faces of characters actually look waxy. Everyone looks like a plastic doll.
The first time I went to Florent I had been out very late at night with some friends and we were looking for somewhere to go for breakfast at about, you know, 3:30 or 4 o'clock in the morning. We went down there and it was very dark and we came onto Gansevoort Street and the restaurant was lit up and it looked - it looked almost like a mirage. It felt magical.
The article is not just a history of Florent but also of a Manhattan and New York City that is all but gone. Says Calvin Klein:
It was alive with real downtown character types who dressed every which way: from straight, creative types of all ages, young and old, to transvestites, to probably local prostitutes. It was downtown. It was real downtown. That's when they were cutting meat all night long. And that was during the Studio 54 days. We were young and we were having a lot of fun and we were out all night. And we'd end up in the meatpacking district, at the clubs. You went to Florent after the clubs.
Over a three-year period, James Mollison attended pop concerts across Europe and the United States with a mobile photography studio, inviting fans of each music star or band to pose for a portrait on their way into the concert. The result is The Disciples, an original and highly entertaining series of fifty-seven panoramic images, each featuring eight to ten music fans mimicking the manners and dress of their particular heroes. Featuring fans of Dolly Parton, Iggy Pop, Madonna, Marilyn Manson, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Snoop Dogg, and Motorhead, among many others, The Disciples is a surprising, sharp, and hilarious take on popular culture.
He uses long exposures, then shakes the camera while the shutter is still open, causing colors to blur and lights to streak. "I'm not recording what is really happening, but it's something like what the brain is seeing late at night, especially if maybe you're drunk or very excited," he said. "I like that hour between 3 and 4 in the morning when desperation sets in, when you see all the anticipation of going out starting to fade. The masks drop and everybody realizes the night is not going to be everything they were hoping for."
What's clear is that the seemingly politically correct replacement of "disabled" with "differently abled" is not only warranted but perhaps doesn't go far enough. How about "super abled" or "superbly abled"? Lengthen or add a bit more spring to those blades and Pistorius may win every race handily and take first in the high jump to boot.
Pistorius is not the first athlete with super abilities. Steroids and HGH are outlawed in most sports because it's felt they give too much advantage. Baseball pitchers routinely opt for something called Tommy John surgery, many athletes get laser eye surgery to improve their vision, and many more potential augmentation schemes are right around the corner. And lest you think this is just about sports, maybe the guy in the next cubicle over is regularly taking Provigil to improve his memory, concentration, and his chances at that promotion you wanted.
In "Under Pressure", Thomas Keller shows us how sous vide, which involves packing food in airtight plastic bags and cooking at low heat, achieves results that other cooking methods simply cannot -- in flavor and precision. For example, steak that is a perfect medium rare from top to bottom; and meltingly tender yet medium rare short ribs that haven't lost their flavor to the sauce. Fish, which has a small window of doneness, is easier to finesse, and salmon develops a voluptuous texture when cooked at a low temperature. Fruit and vegetables benefit too, retaining their bright colors while achieving remarkable textures. There is wonderment in cooking sous vide -- in the ease and precision (salmon cooked at 123 degrees versus 120 degrees!) and the capacity to cook a piece of meat (or glaze carrots, or poach lobster) uniformly.
Under Pressure is out October 1, 2008 and plays Bowie when you open the cover. Keller and Michael Ruhlman have also begun work on a book that "will focus on family-style cooking, in the style of Ad Hoc, and great food to cook at home".
This morning I went into the darkest room in our house (the kids' bathroom), closed the door, and turned off the lights for 5 minutes. There was enough light coming in through the crack in the door that after a minute or two I could begin to make out shapes in the room: A towel rack, the shower curtain. My eyes had adapted to the dark condition. Then I closed my right eye and covered it with my hand. I turned the lights back on, for a minute, until my left eye had adapted to the light. Then I turned the lights off.
I could still see the towel rack and shower curtain with my right eye, which remained adapted to darkness. But my left eye could see nothing. In fact, my left eye felt as if it was closed. I made every effort to open the eye, but it seemed that some unstoppable force was keeping it closed. The only way to make my eye feel as if it was open was to cover it with my hand. I still couldn't see anything with the eye, but at least I could convince myself it was open.
In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers" -- the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.
And an excerpt from the Little, Brown catalog:
Outliers is a book about success. It starts with a very simple question: what is the difference between those who do something special with their lives and everyone else? In Outliers, we're going to visit a genius who lives on a horse farm in Northern Missouri. We're going to examine the bizarre histories of professional hockey and soccer players, and look into the peculiar childhood of Bill Gates, and spend time in a Chinese rice paddy, and investigate the world's greatest law firm, and wonder about what distinguishes pilots who crash planes from those who don't. And in examining the lives of the remarkable among us -- the brilliant, the exceptional and the unusual -- I want to convince you that the way we think about success is all wrong.
A few days ago, New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell noted that he's almost finished with his third book. I've learned that the subject of this book is the future of the workplace with subtopics of education and genius.
I guess if you flip those around, that describes Outliers marginally well. According to Amazon, the book is due on November 18, 2008. (thx, kyösti)
In Oklahoma City, the interstate will be moved five blocks from downtown to an old railroad line. The new 10-lane highway, expected to carry 120,000 vehicles daily, will be placed in a trench so deep that city streets can run atop it, as if the highway weren't there. The old highway will be converted into a tree-lined boulevard city officials hope will become Oklahoma City's marquee street.
Several other cities have done (or are planning to do) similar highway tear downs.
"Highways don't belong in cities. Period," says John Norquist, who was mayor of Milwaukee when it closed a highway. "Europe didn't do it. America did. And our cities have paid the price."
No mention of Boston's Big Dig, perhaps the most high-profile example of this trend.
"Actually I think it's pretty good," she said. "You can definitely get a workout. When I started doing it, I realized all the activities were pretty much on point. There were some things I didn't like, like the alignment in a couple of places. But over all, I thought they did a good job and this will be a good tool for people who can't make it to the gym."
The Wii Balance Board will be released in the US and Canada early next week.
I (heart) R. Kelly. Nothing gets prospective jurors booted faster than telling the prosecution they are a fan of Kelly's. Just ask the woman who called him a "musical genius." When prodded to say something negative about Kelly, the best she could come up with was: "He and [rapper] Jay-Z don't get along?" Prosecutors bounced her soon after.
Another potential juror was excused for suggesting that Kelly "led the Taliban in attacking us on 9-11".
Even though the sprayers use half the flow of a garden hose, the water shoots out at 3,000 pounds per square inch -- more than enough power to send the guy behind the hose flying. "One thing we say is, it doesn't necessarily have to be fun to be fun. There are definitely times when I'm spinning in free space and I'm like, holy cow this is terrifying and I can't believe this is my job," said Matt Henry, rope technician.
As it sped through space, a specialist in radio-wave physics named John Anderson at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory noticed an odd thing. The spacecraft was drifting off course. The discrepancy was less than a few hundred-millionths of an inch per second for every second of spaceflight, accumulating year after year across billions of miles. Then Pioneer 11, an identical probe escaping the solar system in the opposite direction, also started to veer off course at the same rate.
Ordinarily, such small deviations might be overlooked, but not by Dr. Anderson. He monitored the trajectories six years before calling attention to the matter. "I'm a little like an accountant," Dr. Anderson said. "We have Newton's theory and Einstein's theory, and when you apply them to something like this -- and it doesn't add up -- it bothers me."
The researchers, using data recovered from recently discovered Pioneer records and funded by sources outside of NASA, have figured out part of the problem but the rest remains a mystery.
After your Cola information is reviewed and validated, you will be issued a Suck Cola Registry Number. I have designated my bottle SC0005, having reserved the first four Registry Numbers, SC0001-SC0004, for Suck.com co-founders Joey Anuff and Carl Steadman.
Suck the web site has now been dead for as long as it was active, but the Cola lives on.
We don't have to eat those extra 360 calories in the tub of popcorn, but that's easier said than (not) done. Studies indicate that when given food in larger containers, people will consume more. In a 1996 Cornell University study, people in a movie theater ate from either medium (120g) or large (240g) buckets of popcorn, then divided into two groups based on whether they liked the taste of the popcorn. The results: people with the large size ate more than those with the medium size, regardless of how participants rated the taste of the popcorn.
This one's not holding up as well as one would think. The first time I saw it, in the theater in 1999, my reaction was "eh". The second time, on DVD a few years ago, I thought it was great. Now I'm back closer to "eh" again.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we've run out of money, and can no longer afford to pursue our vision of adapting great long-form content for a short-form world, at least not as a stand-alone company. As recently as yesterday morning, we thought we had the funding in place to continue our work together. But as it turns out, we don't.
Like Cameron, I found the site useful and am sad to see it go.
Charles F. Brannock only invented one thing in his life, and this was it. The son of a Syracuse, New York, shoe magnate, Brannock became interested in improving the primitive wooden measuring sticks that he saw around his father's store. He patented his first prototype in 1926, based on models he had made from Erector Set parts. As the Park-Brannock Shoe Store became legendary for fitting feet with absolute accuracy, the demand for the device grew, and in 1927 Brannock opened a factory to mass produce it. The Brannock Device Co., Inc., is still in business today. Refreshingly, it still only makes this one thing. They have sold over a million, a remarkable number when one considers that each of them lasts up to 15 years, when the numbers wear off.
Bierut also notes that Tibor Kalman was a big fan of the Brannock Device, once saying:
It showed incredible ingenuity and no one has ever been able to beat it. I doubt if anyone ever will, even if we ever get to the stars, or find out everything there is to find out about black holes.
The humble shoe horn is another well designed shoe-related device that may never be bettered.
Shell says Haitians sometimes dress better than Americans because they are used to tailoring their secondhand clothes to fit. While the pepe market makes it difficult for Haitian tailors to sell their own designs or traditional fashions; the cheap cost means, as one woman in the documentary explains, they can "adopt the look that is on television without much effort."
Mark O'Donnell, spokesperson for Zambian Manufacturers, explains that in 1991, when the country's markets were opened to free trade, container load after container load of used clothing began to arrive in Zambia, undercutting the cost of the domestic manufacturers and putting them out of business. The skills, the infrastructure and the capital of an entire industry are now virtually extinct, with not a single clothing manufacturer left in the country today.
[New Yorkers] make less separation between private and public life. That is, they act on the street as they do in private. In the United States today, public behavior is ruled by a kind of compulsory cheer that people probably picked up from television and advertising and that coats their transactions in a smooth, shiny glaze, making them seem empty-headed. New Yorkers have not yet gotten the knack of this. That may be because so many of them grew up outside the United States, and also because they live so much of their lives in public, eating their lunches in parks, riding to work in subways. It's hard to keep up the smiley face for that many hours a day.
And here's how New Yorkers deal with celebrities:
Another curious form of cooperation one sees in New York is the unspoken ban on staring at celebrities. When you get into an elevator in an office building and find that you are riding with Paul McCartney -- this happened to me -- you are not supposed to look at him. You can peek for a second, but then you must avert your eyes. The idea is that Paul McCartney has to be given his space like anyone else.
Paola Antonelli, a senior curator at the museum, had to kill the coat. "It was growing too much," she said in an interview from a conference in Belgrade. The cells were multiplying so fast that the incubator was beginning to clog. Also, a sleeve was falling off. So after checking with the coat's creators, a group known as SymbioticA, at the School of Anatomy & Human Biology at the University of Western Australia in Perth, she had the nutrients to the cells stopped.
Do a bunch of local New York things: Hang out in Central Park, Explore Brooklyn, wear black, enjoy the free WiFi in Bryant Park (use the bathroom there -- nice). Attend a lecture at the 92nd ST Y, go to Chinatown in Queens. Buy junk at a street fair, and eat street meat (don't ask). Have a cigar at the Grand Havana Room (members only). Catch an author speak at a Barnes & Noble (use the bathroom while you are there).
Eventually I hope to write up my How To Be A Pedestrian In NYC guide, a companion to my rules for the NYC subway, only a bit more helpful and less ranty.
John Toll is an Academy Award-winning cinematographer who has had limited exposure to HD photography, but who understands the impact of it on the business. "Film tends to be more kind," he said. "Now with HD, they're doing things like more filtration, or softening of the light, or degrading the image so it's not so highly defined. It's sort of what they used to do in movie star close-ups, an over-diffused style to try to make them look glamorous. Now they do it so you don't see every pore in a close-up on skin."
Any photograph used in a magazine, a billboard, an album cover, whatever -- can only be presumed to be a photo-based illustration. The issue, which Dove's well-intentioned campaign addressed, is the effect these illustrations have on the psyche, self-esteem, and well-being of women (in particular) not to mention the unrealistic view men might have of women. It brings to mind the shock the eminent Victorian art critic John Ruskin experienced upon discovering his wife's pubic hair, after which he was unable to consummate the marriage. Divorce followed shortly.
[I'm sure this is nothing new and has been amply documented elsewhere but I'm in rant mode, not research mode, so here we go.] We're going to London soon so my wife calls up AT&T to make sure our iPhones will work in the UK. We already knew all about the ridiculous prices they charge for international data roaming (viewing a 3-minute video on YouTube would cost about $40!), so turning that feature off for the duration is not going to be a problem. After unlocking the phones for international access, the woman informed Meg of two other tidbits of mobile phone company idiocy:
1. If my iPhone is on in the UK and the phone rings but I don't answer, the call goes to voicemail. As it should. But somehow, I get charged for that call at $1.29/minute *and* perhaps an additional call from my phone to the US, also billed at $1.29/minute. Individual voicemails are limited to 2 minutes, but if I get 10 2-minute voicemails over the course of a couple days, I'm charged $25 for not answering my phone. And then I have to listen to all the voicemails...that's another $25. Insane and inane.
2. But it gets even more unbelievable! Then the woman tells Meg that when the iPhone is hooked up to a computer via USB, you shouldn't download the photos from the phone to the computer because you'll incur international data roaming charges and further that the only way to deal with this is to wait to sync your photos when you get back to the US. W! T! F! How is that even possible? This sounds like complete bullshit to me. The iPhone somehow calls AT&T to ask permission to d/l photos? Verifies the EXIF data? Informs the US government what you've been taking pictures of...some kind of distributed self-surveillance system? Is this really the case or was this woman just really confused about what she was reading off of her script?
Richardson's title march began with field events on Friday when she won the high jump (5 feet, 5 inches), placed second in the long jump (18-7) and was third in the discus (121-0). On Saturday, she won the 200 meters in 25.03 seconds and nearly pulled off a huge upset in the 100 before finishing second (12.19) to defending champion Kendra Coleman of Santa Anna. Richardson, a junior, earned a total of 42 team points to edge team runner-up Chilton (36).
Nosferatu, A Symphony of Terror(1922) The General (1927) King Kong (1933) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) The Wizard of Oz (1939) Gone With the Wind (1939) Pinocchio (1940) Citizen Kane (1941) Casablanca (1942) It's a Wonderful Life (1946) On the Waterfront (1954) Rear Window (1954) The Seven Samurai (1954) Touch of Evil (1958) The 400 Blows (1959) North by Northwest (1959) La Jetee (1961) West Side Story (1961) Lolita (1962) Goldfinger (1964) Dr. Strangelove (1964)* A Hard Day's Night (1964) The Sound of Music (1965) Faster, Pussy Cat! Kill! Kill! (1965) The Graduate (1967) Cool Hand Luke (1967) Rosemary's Baby (1968) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) A Clockwork Orange (1971)* Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) Harold and Maude (1971) Dirty Harry (1971) Deliverance (1972) The Godfather (1972)* The Sting (1973) American Graffiti (1973) The Conversation (1974) Young Frankenstein (1974) Chinatown (1974) Blazing Saddles (1974) The Godfather Part II (1974)* Dog Day Afternoon (1975) One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) Barry Lyndon (1975) The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) All the President's Men (1976) Rocky (1976) Taxi Driver (1976) Network (1976)* Star Wars (1977)* Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Annie Hall (1977) Saturday Night Fever (1977) The Deer Hunter (1978) Grease (1978) Alien (1979) Life of Brian (1979) Apocalypse Now (1979) The Jerk (1979) The Muppet Movie (1979) The Shining (1980)* Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)* Airplane! (1980) Raging Bull (1980) Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)* Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1981) E.T.: The Extra-Terestrial (1982) Blade Runner (1982) Tootsie (1982) Gandhi (1982) A Christmas Story (1983) Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) The Right Stuff (1983) Scarface (1983) Amadeus (1984) The Terminator (1984) This Is Spinal Tap (1984) Beverly Hills Cop (1984) Ghostbusters (1984) The Killing Fields (1984) The Natural (1984) The Breakfast Club (1985) Back to the Future (1985) Brazil (1985) Stand By Me (1986) Blue Velvet (1986) Aliens (1986) Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) A Room with a View (1986) Platoon (1986) Top Gun (1986) Raising Arizona (1987) Full Metal Jacket (1987) Withnail and I (1987) Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) The Princess Bride (1987) The Untouchables (1987) Fatal Attraction (1987) Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) The Thin Blue Line (1988) Akira (1988) A Fish Called Wanda (1988) The Naked Gun (1988) Big (1988) Dangerous Liaisons (1988) Die Hard (1988) Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) Rain Man (1988) The Accidental Tourist (1988) Batman (1989) When Harry Met Sally (1989) The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989) Do the Right Thing (1989) Roger & Me (1989) Glory (1989) Say Anything (1989) Goodfellas (1990) Jacob's Ladder (1990) Dances with Wolves (1990) Pretty Woman (1990) Edward Scissorhands (1990) Total Recall (1990) Boyz 'n the Hood (1991) Raise the Red Lantern (1991) Thelma & Louise (1991) Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) The Silence of the Lambs (1991)* JFK (1991) Slacker (1991) The Player (1992) Reservoir Dogs (1992)* Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) Unforgiven (1992) The Crying Game (1992) Groundhog Day (1993) Philadelphia (1993) Jurassic Park (1993) Schindler's List (1993) The Piano (1993) Hoop Dreams (1994) Forrest Gump (1994) Clerks (1994) Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) The Lion King (1994) Natural Born Killers (1994) Pulp Fiction (1994)* Muriel's Wedding (1994) The Shawshank Redemption (1994)* Heavenly Creatures (1994) Casino (1995) Babe (1995) Toy Story (1995) Braveheart (1995) Clueless (1995) Heat (1995) Seven (1995)* Smoke (1995) The Usual Suspects (1995) Fargo (1996) Independence Day (1996) The English Patient (1996) Shine (1996) Trainspotting (1996) L.A. Confidential (1997) Princess Mononoke (1997)* The Butcher Boy (1997) The Ice Storm (1997) Boogie Nights (1997)* Titanic (1997)* Saving Private Ryan (1998) Buffalo 66 (1998) The Big Lebowski (1998) Run Lola Run (1998) Rushmore (1998)* Pi (1998) Happiness (1998) The Thin Red Line (1998) There's Something About Mary (1998) Magnolia (1999)* The Blair Witch Project (1999) Three Kings (1999) Fight Club (1999) Being John Malkovich (1999) American Beauty (1999) The Sixth Sense (1999) The Matrix (1999)* Gladiator (2000) Requiem for a Dream (2000) Amores Perros (2000) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) Traffic (2000) Memento (2000) Dancer in the Dark (2000) Amelie (2001) Spirited Away (2001) No Man's Land (2001) Moulin Rouge (2001) Monsoon Wedding (2001) Mulholland Dr. (2001) The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)* The Pianist (2002) Lost in Translation (2003) Oldboy (2003) Good Bye Lenin! (2003) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)* Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) A Very Long Engagement (2004) Sideways (2004) Caché (2005) Brokeback Mountain (2005) The Constant Gardener (2005)
Update: The very latest edition of the book adds and subtracts some more movies to/from the list; here are the added movies that I've seen:
Crash (2004) Little Miss Sunshine (2006) The Prestige (2006) United 93 (2006) Children of Men (2006) El Laberinto del Fauno (2006) The Queen (2006) Apocalypto (2006) The Departed (2006) Volver (2006)
And deleted from the list:
Monsoon Wedding (2001) Mulholland Dr. (2001) A Very Long Engagement (2004) Caché (2005)
It's interesting to watch the churn on a list like this. With the newest movies, they're making guesses as to how they'll age and in many cases, the guesses aren't that good. Also, removing Caché for Apocalypto? No fucking way. (thx, jack)
Thierry Belisha and Haimy Mann, jewelers from Montreal, left a suitcase full of diamonds and other gems in the back of a cab they took to La Guardia Airport after a show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Mr. Belisha, an Orthodox Jew, called several rabbi friends in Israel and asked them to pray for him, prayers that were answered when Hossam Abdalla, a Muslim cabdriver, found Mr. Belisha's business card in the trunk and returned the suitcase (with all the gems).
But despite the setting -- or maybe because of it -- Mr. Quint's audience seemed particularly moved by his gesture. "I like that he came here," Ebenezer Sarpeh, 46, said, in the accent of his native Ghana. "And, yeah, the music, I like it." It was Mr. Sarpeh who burst into spontaneous applause on several occasions and started yelling "magic fingers" during one particularly deft moment. Later, he took a turn in front of the stage and his fellow cabdrivers laughed and cheered while he shimmied and moonwalked, the Newark Taxi Cab Association's answer to Justin Timberlake.
In the March issue of Vogue Dangin tweaked a hundred and forty-four images: a hundred and seven advertisements (Estée Lauder, Gucci, Dior, etc.), thirty-six fashion pictures, and the cover, featuring Drew Barrymore. To keep track of his clients, he assigns three-letter rubrics, like airport codes. Click on the current-jobs menu on his computer: AFR (Air France), AMX (American Express), BAL (Balenciaga), DSN (Disney), LUV (Louis Vuitton), TFY (Tiffany & Co.), VIC (Victoria's Secret).
The uncanny valley comes into play here, which we usually think of in terms of robots, cartoon characters, and other pseudo anthropomorphic characters attempting and failing to look sufficiently human and therefore appearing creepy and scary. With an increasing amount of photo retouching, postproduction in film, plastic surgery, and increasingly effective makeup & skin care products, we're being bombarded with a growing amount of imagery featuring people who don't appear naturally human. People who appear often in media (film & tv stars, models, cable news anchors & reporters, miscellaneous celebrities, etc.) are creeping down into the uncanny valley to meet up with characters from The Polar Express. I don't know about you but a middle-aged Madonna made to look 24 gives me the heebie-jeebies. Perhaps the familar uncanny valley graph needs revision:
As rumored yesterday, the iTunes Store has added some HBO shows to their lineup. The initial offerings are the first seasons of The Wire, Flight of the Conchords, Rome, and Deadwood, as well as seasons 1 and 6 of the Sopranos and all of Sex in the City. Prices are between $2-3 per episode. (thx, dhrumil)
The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace* The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami* Contact, Carl Sagan* The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien* Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov* The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell* Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton Animal Farm, George Orwell The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien* Brave New World, Aldous Huxley The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald The Time Machine, H.G. Wells The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne Little Women, Louisa May Alcott Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen* Candide, Voltaire Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
Some of my very favorites are on there.
Update: Following Marco's lead, I've marked some favorites with an asterisk. Under duress, I'd admit to the following as my top three favorite fiction books, in order: Infinite Jest, 1984, and Lolita.
FontStruct is an awesomely simple online font creation tool. Just draw on a grid with simple Photoshop-like tools, save, and download a TrueType version of the fonts you've just created. If this had been around when I made Silkscreen, it would have taken so much less time.
In 1999, when Nathan Myhrvold left Microsoft and struck out on his own, he set himself an unusual goal. He wanted to see whether the kind of insight that leads to invention could be engineered. He formed a company called Intellectual Ventures. He raised hundreds of millions of dollars. He hired the smartest people he knew. It was not a venture-capital firm. Venture capitalists fund insights -- that is, they let the magical process that generates new ideas take its course, and then they jump in. Myhrvold wanted to make insights -- to come up with ideas, patent them, and then license them to interested companies.
Myhrvold believes that scientific discovery is largely "in the air" and inevitable, not the product of individual genius. Given the thesis of the piece, as Kevin Kelly notes, it's odd that Gladwell tells the story of this new idea as not one that was "in the air" but as stories like these are traditionally told, through the insight of one man, Nathan Myhrvold.
Dan was twittering something about Alabama, but wrote "Alambama". He joked that when Barack Obama wins the election, certain states will probably be renamed - Alobama, Califobama, Nevama, Massabama, New Yobama. Of course, I thought that was hilarious and started thinking about other things that would change once Obama wins. So, a few of us started twittering silly little things, thinking of it as an inside joke.
Overnight, a few people caught on giving it a life of its own.
As a reward for returning the Stradivarius left in the backseat of Mohamed Khalil's taxi, violinist Philippe Quint gave the cabbie a reward of $100, a private 30-minute performance in the taxi waiting area at Newark, and tickets for him and his family to Quint's next performance at Carnegie Hall. Khalil also received a medal from the city of Newark. The Stradivarius is valued at $4 million. [BBC]
And finally, a holdover from the last week (which itself was a holdover from the week before). Bob Herbert got his "a third of all American high school students drop out" stat from a report prepared by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. As I erroneously surmised last week, the ~10% rate from here is not an annual dropout rate. I don't know how you get from 10% of 16-24 year-olds not having a high school diploma in 2005 to 1/3 of all students dropping out of high school. Final update.
The stodgy old New Yorker has a Twitter account and its friends are NPR, Harper's, Gothamist, Huffington Post, the NY Times, and the WSJ, among others. Magazines should have friends, no? (Sniff, the WSJ has no friends.)
British architect David Adjaye observed that not only are public buildings built for "the public" but they also create "the public" by establishing a space for it to exist. I guess by the same token, buildings built for private citizens also create private citizens...hence, eventually, gated communities and the like.
Adjaye also described his native Africa as layered combination of its different eras: colonialism + nation building + European + Islam + urban/capitalist.
The chefs panel, with Bill Buford interviewing Daniel Humm, Marc Taxiera, and David Chang, was the most entertaining of the day. Right at the end, David Chang told a short anecdote about a customer who complained to him about the amount of fat in the Momofuku pork bun...pork as in pork belly and pork belly as in mostly fat. Chang told him that's the way it came and that he wasn't getting a replacement. Shrugging, he told the audience he had a different idea about hospitality than most restaurateurs..."the customer is not always right".
Michael Novogratz, the 317th richest American, explained the current financial crisis. Goes something like this. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening up of China and India for both trade and labor laid the groundwork for globalization. Lots and lots of cheap labor available made for cheap goods and low inflation. Between early 2003 and late 2007, globalization kicked into high gear and people thought, this is it, this is the end of inflation forever. But the workers in Eastern Europe, India, and China gradually became consumers. They bought TVs and cars and better food and whaddya know, inflation is back. The bubble burst.
Haseltine came from an unusual place to the NSA: Walt Disney Imagineering. Between his overuse of the phrases "bad guys" and "war on terror", there were a couple of interesting moments.
In Haseltine's estimation, something called Intellipedia is the biggest advance in the intelligence community since 9/11. Intellipedia is basically an internal Wikipedia for people who work for one of the 16 US intelligence agencies. Its goal is to break down some of the barriers between these agencies in terms of information sharing and colloboration.
Right at the end of the session, interviewer Jane Mayer asked Haseltine if perhaps the Bush administration is overreacting to terrorism...if the mindset that danger lurks everywhere is appropriate and realistic. He replied that since he got involved in the intelligence community, he doesn't sleep well at night. "I know too much."
I'll admit I don't watch politicians speak that often, particularly in public. So maybe I'm being a little naive here, but San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom is nothing short of a magician up on the stage. He talked for 20 straight minutes (his would-be interviewer could only get in 2-3 questions during that time and Newsom pretty much ignored them and talked about whatever he pleased) and it felt both like 5 minutes and exhausting at the same time. By the time he'd finished what I would term a sermon, I wanted to sign up for whatever he was selling at a price no lower than my heart and soul. I haven't non-sexually crushed this hard on a speaker since Robert Wright.
Ok, two particularly interesting things that broke my gaze long enough for me to scribble them down in my notebook.
1. Newsom talked about building filling stations for electric cars that relied on exchanging batteries instead of plugging in and waiting for your car to charge. You don't need to own your particular battery.
2. In SF, he's hoping to exchange the payroll tax for a carbon tax. In his words, tax a bad thing (carbon use) instead of taxing a good thing (jobs). That way, the incentives are in the right place...people aren't penalized for working but are penalized for using excessive amounts of carbon.
Update: Oh, don't get me wrong, I have no idea if Newsom was telling the truth or what...it's just that it all sounded so good coming out of his mouth. Even when it sounded like bullshit I wanted to believe him. I felt so dirty and manipulated afterwards, but still wanted to believe. Like I said, love...what's truth got to do with it?
Picking a subject from his upcoming book, Malcolm Gladwell talked about the difficulty in hiring people in the increasingly complex thought-based contemporary workplace. Specifically that we're using a collection of antiquated tools to evaluate potential employees, creating what he calls "mismatch problems" in the workplace, when the critera for evaluating job candidates is out of step with the demands of the job.
To illustrate his point, Gladwell talked about sports combines, events that professional sports leagues hold for scouts to evaluate potential draftees based on a battery of physical, psychological, and intelligence tests. What he found, a result that echoes what Michael Lewis talks about in Moneyball, is that sports combines are a poor way to determine how well an athlete will eventually perform as a member of their eventual team. One striking example he gave is the intelligence test they give to NFL quarterbacks. Two of the test's all-time worst performers were Dan Marino and Terry Bradshaw, Hall of Famers both.
A more material example is teachers. Gladwell says that while we evaluate teachers on the basis of high standardized test scores and whether they have degrees and credentialed training, that makes little difference in how well people actually teach.
Delegate. Name any task -- somewhere, a billionaire is outsourcing it. One well-known mogul favors shabby chic cashmere sweaters but doesn't have the patience to let them get slightly worn at the elbows, so he employs a man to wear them around for him first.
Ms. Stein's rationale for buying lipstick echoes a theory once proposed by Leonard Lauder, the chairman of Estee Lauder Companies. After the terrorist attacks of 2001 deflated the economy, Mr. Lauder noticed that his company was selling more lipstick than usual. He hypothesized that lipstick purchases are a way to gauge the economy. When it's shaky, he said, sales increase as women boost their mood with inexpensive lipstick purchases instead of $500 slingbacks.
'They like toys more that are associated with someone who has spoken their language. They prefer to eat foods offered to them by a native speaker compared to a speaker of a foreign language. And older children say that they want to be friends with someone who speaks in their native accent.' Accents and vernacular, far more than race, seem to influence the people we like. 'Children would rather be friends with someone who is from a different race and speaks with a native accent versus somebody who is their own race but speaks with a foreign accent.'
"I liked the idea of simplifying things and ... the honour system made a whole lot of sense," Bergen says. "What irritated me about going into Tim Hortons, for example, was waiting in line for something as simple as getting a donut and a coffee. So the thought was, someone can pour his own coffee, grab his own bagel, cut it himself, throw the money in, and walk out. We don't touch 60 per cent of the transaction."
"Everything is rounded off to the nearest quarter with taxes included where applicable," he says. "So every desert is $1.50 (tarts, brownies, and date squares), every pizza lunch is $5, every beverage is $1.25, every loaf of bread is $2.75 (Italian sourdough, multi-grain, and raisin bread on weekends), croissants are $1 each, and bagels are three for $2 (plain, sesame, and multi-grain)."
The bakery conducts audits every six months and Bergen says only once did things come up short.
"Our theory is that two per cent of our sales are being ripped off. 'Ripped off' in the sense that there are people who forget to pay or they make a mistake in paying, and then there are people who deliberately don't pay. And every so often we have to kick somebody out that we know hasn't been paying," he says. "But at the same time we figure we're being overpaid by three per cent. Some people come in and want a $2.75 loaf of bread, but they see we're busy so they throw $3 in and walk out. Or, although we discourage tips, some people still give them to us. But because the staff is paid well (the average wage is $15.50 an hour), the tips go into the general pot."
What I was interested in terms of Paris Opera series was that whole strange business of finding oneself with a whole lot of other people gathered in a darkened space, such as the opera, awaiting some special event. There is something quite magical about it. I've always found that people sitting in the dark just waiting for something is the most haunting sort of experience. It seemed to me it was a common experience, a universal thing that everyone feels, really, at some point or another.
As both its function and form suggest, the ampersand is a written contraction of "et," the Latin word for "and." Its shape has evolved continuously since its introduction, and while some ampersands are still manifestly e-t ligatures, others merely hint at this origin, sometimes in very oblique ways.
He goes on to describe several ampersands they've designed for their typefaces. When designing the ampersand for Silkscreen, I came up with a solution that many continue to dislike:
If you're logged in to Flickr, you can see it action at a more appropriate size in the "prints & more" label above a photo. The symbol is basically a capital E with a vertical line through the middle...an e-t ligature that's really more of an overstrike. I fashioned it after the way I hand-write my ampersand, which I got from my dad's handwriting1. I don't know where he got it from; it's not a common way to represent that symbol, although I did find a few instances in the list of fonts installed on my computer.
I didn't think about this way at the time, but the odd ampersand is one of the few distinguishing features of Silkscreen. There's only so many ways you can draw letterforms in a 5x5 pixel space so a lot of the bitmap fonts like Silkscreen end up looking very similar. The ampersand gives it a bit of needed individuality. (The 4 is the other oddish character...it's open at the top instead of diagonally closed.)
 Now that I think about it, I borrowed several aspects from my dad's handwriting. I write my 7s with a bar (to distinguish them from 1s), my 8s as two separate circles rather than a figure-eight stroke, and my 4s with the open top. Oh, and a messy signature. ↩
Gagosian attracts artists and collectors alike because he understands the intense coupling between art and money. In 2004 the top price for a painting by Takashi Murakami at auction was $624,000. Since then, Gagosian has sold Murakamis to Cohen and others, and in November one was auctioned for $2.4m. He has repeated that trick time after time. Not long after joining his stable in 2003, the painter John Currin made his auction record of $847,500; his highest price before joining Gagosian was a little over half that. Recently Adam Sender, the head of the hedge fund Exis Capital Management, reportedly sold a Currin painting through Gagosian for $1.4m. Before Glenn Brown began showing with Gagosian, in 2004, his top price at auction was $46,000; in June 2007, a painting of his made $969,000. In May, when Anselm Reyle was still represented by Gavin Brown, his work was fetching at most around $200,000 at auction. In October, after he had joined Gagosian's stable, a work of his made nearly four times that amount
Viewed architecturally, these examples of high-tech camping gear -- capable of housing small groups of people on the vertical sides of cliffs, as if bolted into the sky -- begin to look like something dreamed up by Archigram: nomadic, modular, and easy to assemble even in wildly non-urban circumstances. This is tactical gear for the spatial expansion of private leisure.
The big tech/business news of the day is Yahoo's stock "plunge" following the withdrawl of Microsoft's takeover offer. I'm sure plunge headlines sell newspapers and all, but the more long-term story is more interesting.
On Jan 31, the day before Microsoft offered $31/share for Yahoo, YHOO was at $19.18/share (market cap: $26.4 billion) and MSFT was at $32.60/share (market cap: $303.6 billion). At the close of trading today, YHOO closed at $24.37/share (market cap: $33.5 billion) and MSFT was at $29.08/share (market cap: $270.8 billion). In other words, the Microsoft offer increased the value of Yahoo! Inc. by more than $7 billion and decreased the value of Microsoft Corporation by almost $33 billion. In still other words, in attempting to take Yahoo by force, they let an amount equal to Yahoo slip through their fingers. Why isn't anyone writing about Yahoo's amazing stock gains and Microsoft's plunge?
Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen occasionally asks his readers to suggest topics for him to write about. Stump the polymath, as it were. I posted a suggestion that I'd been wondering about recently:
Is taking a photo or video of an event for later viewing worth it, even if it means more or less missing the event in realtime? What's better, a lifetime of mediated viewing of my son's first steps or a one-time in-person viewing?
If you take photos you will remember the event more vividly, if only because you have to stop and notice it. The fact that your memories will in part be "false" or constructed is besides the point; they'll probably be false anyway. In other words, there's no such thing as the "one-time in-person viewing," it is all mediated viewing, one way or the other. Daniel Gilbert's book on memory is the key source here.
I take a lot less photos than I used to -- even though cameras are easier to use and carry around than ever -- and prefer to experience the moment rather than fiddle with the camera. But that seems to swim against tide these days...camera irises seemingly outnumber real ones at photo-worthy events and places.
Bicyclists drive me nuts. In Philadelphia, as in cities across this great country, bicyclists routinely flout the law, riding on the sidewalk when it's convenient and holding up traffic in the street whenever possible. I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen a bicyclist at a stop sign or even a red light, or wait behind a car that is correctly stopped at such an intersection. Instead, the man or woman on the bicycle will weave between parked, stopped, and moving cars to gain a fractional advantage. Yet if an automobile so much as grazes a bicycle lane, all hell breaks loose.
The Deck is a smallish ad network that handles the advertising for kottke.org, which consists of an unobtrusive high-quality advertisement in the sidebar of each page of the site. The Deck recently moved to a spiffy new domain and is no longer so smallish; the network now includes 29 sites.
Olinda is a social radio prototype comissioned by the BBC and built by Schulze & Webb.
Olinda is a prototype digital radio that has your social network built in, showing you the stations your friends are listening to. It's customisable with modular hardware, and aims to provoke discussion on the future and design of radios for the home.
Now there's a book called Perfumes: The Guide, by the husband and wife team of Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, which is not just enlightening, but beautifully written, brilliant, often very funny, and occasionally profound. In fact, it's as vivid as any criticism I've come across in the last few years, and what's more a revelation: part history, part swoon, part plaint. All of the other reading I was supposed to do was put aside while I went through it, and it took me some time to finish, in part because I was savoring it and in part because I kept stopping to copy out passages to e-mail off to friends. In the library of books both useful and delightful, it deserves a place on the shelves somewhere between Pauline Kael's 5001 Nights at the Movies and Brillat-Savarin's incomparable Physiology of Taste.
The joy of Turin and Sanchez's book, however, is their ability to write about smell in a way that manages to combine the science of the subject with the vocabulary of scent in witty, vivid descriptions of what these smells are like. Their work is, quite simply, ravishingly entertaining, and it passes the high test that their praise is even more compelling than their criticism.
Perfume is one of those things that I don't particularly like in real life but that I really enjoy reading about.
"They have to be really resourceful," Grazer said. "I like to meet people in dangerous organizations, and my cultural attaché finds out who that person is -- who runs the Yakuza, or the Masons, or MI5."
I am nowhere near that resourceful, but I have often thought of parleying my blogging experience into providing a similar service for individuals, doing what I do on kottke.org but on an individual basis, tailored to the needs of a specific person, or probably more usefully, a specific company. (via zach)
Atop six stories of parking lots, Antilla's living quarters begin at a lobby with nine elevators, as well as several storage rooms and lounges. Down dual stairways with silver-covered railings is a large ballroom with 80% of its ceiling covered in crystal chandeliers. It features a retractable showcase for pieces of art, a mount of LCD monitors and embedded speakers, as well as stages for entertainment. The hall opens to an indoor/outdoor bar, green rooms, powder rooms and allows access to a nearby "entourage room" for security guards and assistants to relax.
Photos here. In fairness, the place sounds like a combination corporate HQ with an incorporated family living space, but still. Not noted in the article is the expensive laboratory-grade scanning electron microscope that Ambani uses to locate his teensy penis, for which the 27-story house is compensation.
Because his ability to taste has come back over time, Achatz feels that he is understanding the sense in a new way -- the way you would if you could see only in black-and-white and, one by one, colors were restored to you. He says, "When I first tasted a vanilla milkshake" -- after the end of his treatment -- "it tasted very sweet to me, because there's no salt, no acid. It just tasted sweet. Now, introduce bitter, so now I'm understanding the relationship between sweet and bitter -- how they work together and how they balance. And now, as salt comes back, I understand the relationship among the three components."
In March, The New Yorker published a profile of a chef who was about to open a restaurant. The chef complained about his health, worried about the future and cursed as if he had slammed his thumb in a car door.
On Monday, the magazine will publish a profile of another chef. Last year a doctor told this chef that he had advanced oral cancer and that unless he had his tongue cut out, he would be dead within a few months. According to The New Yorker, the chef reacted as if he'd just been handed a particularly challenging logic problem.
The point of the contrast is not to marginalize Chang's problems or his reaction to them but to demonstrate what a different approach Achatz takes to kitchen work than the typical (stereotypical?) Anthony Bourdainity of the restaurant kitchen.
After Jim Lee's turtle was hurt in an auto accident, she never regained the use of her hind legs. Instead of letting her die, Lee affixed hind wheels to her shell to help her get around. That's right, a turtle with wheels:
After some weeks Little Bit seemed to have made a full recovery except for the use of her hind legs. So some wheels seemed to be the way to go. Some lightweight model airplane wheels on a wire frame did the trick. The removable wheels were secured by a velcro strip epoxied to her plastron. The velcro strips on the carapace were removed after four months. She was eating, drinking, and exploring all the rooms of my house. Eventually she was able to move around outside as well.
Many directors at some point in their careers have stepped out from behind the camera to act. This is typically in a smaller, cameo role, and often with varying degrees of success: sometimes they're completely natural and sometimes they bring the film to a screeching halt. And sometimes you'd never even know they were there.
A list of 21 ways to shoot better photographs. I can hear my photographer friends snickering about the cliches on the list, but if you don't know much about photography but are interested in learning, you could do worse than to explore some of these techniques.
In my experience, the thing that has the most significant impact on a movie's budget -- but never shows up in a budget -- is morale. If you have low morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about 25 cents of value. If you have high morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about $3 of value. Companies should pay much more attention to morale.
And finally, a bit of housekeeping from last week's post. Several people wrote in to say that Bob Herbert's statement that "roughly a third of all American high school students drop out" was entirely out of line with the actual statistics. I'm no statistician, but if you take 2005's ~10% annual dropout rate and apply it to an incoming 9th grade class for 4 years, you end up with about 66% of the students reaching graduation...or "roughly a third" dropping out. Not sure that's where the number came from, but it's a possibility.
I am so rich. Goodness, gracious. My, my, my. I am so, very, very wealthy. How many dollars do I have? That's a question only my team of ten fat accountants can answer, because they have golden calculators which I bought for them with my money. And what is on those golden calculators? Numbers. And those numbers equal the dollars in my bank accounts, which are huge.
Spiedie consists of cubes of chicken and pork, but it may also be made from lamb, veal, venison or beef. The meat cubes are marinated overnight or longer (sometimes for as long as two weeks under a controlled environment) in a special spiedie marinade, then grilled carefully on spits over a charcoal pit. The freshly prepared cubes are served on soft Italian bread or a submarine roll, wood skewer and all, then drizzled with fresh marinade. The roll is used as an oven glove to grip the meat while the skewer is removed. Spiedie meat cubes can also be eaten straight off the wooden skewer or can be served in salads, stir fries, and a number of other dishes. The marinade recipe varies, usually involving olive oil, vinegar, and a variety of Italian spices and fresh mint.
I wish I'd have known about this before dinner! (thx, twitter followers)
It turns out there are multiple "longest drives", because the Google Maps World is partitioned (many countries don't support driving directions), and sometimes ferries are included, and sometimes they are not.
Some say the Disney magic is back. Hit TV shows (Hannah Montana), increased revenue from movies (Enchanted), and the acquisition of Pixar are all contributing factors, but new CEO Bob Iger is getting the most credit.
Mr Iger's management style is said by many to have unlocked Disney's creativity. "There was already creativity inside Disney, but Bob removed the barriers to it," says Peter Chernin, chief operating officer of News Corporation, a rival media group. "Michael Eisner was all about his own creativity," says Stanley Gold, a former Disney board director who led a campaign to oust Mr Eisner in 2004, referring to the way in which the former boss meddled in the detail of Disney's parks and movies. In contrast, he says, "Bob pushes creative decisions to the people below him."
Said it before and I'll say it again: hire good creative people, let them do their thing, and ye shall reap the benefits. And Christ, no wonder Disney was sucking so bad:
Before Mr Iger took over, Disney had a factory-like process for animation in which a business-development team came up with ideas and allocated directors to them.
When Western Oregon senior Sara Tucholsky hit her first career home run in one of the last games of the softball season, something odd happened. She missed the bag at first and when she doubled back to touch it, her knee gave out. Her teammates were unable to help her around the bases so it looked like her only career home run would turn into a single. Then a member of the other team, a senior with knee problems of her own, said:
Excuse me, would it be OK if we carried her around and she touched each bag?
Great 60-minute documentary on English painter Francis Bacon in six parts: one, two, three, four, five, six. The production is inventive and I've never seen someone answer so many seemingly penetrating questions so quickly and fluidly, save for the one he has to read off of a card produced from his pocket. (thx, dean)
There were plenty of technical issues I had to come to terms with in conjunction with the distribution of metal across the coin and the high-speed striking process. At one point I considered suggesting that half the 20 pence's border -- where it met the shield -- be removed. It would have still been a rounded heptagon, only its border wouldn't completely surround the coin. There were potential issues with this; I learnt that the distribution of metal wouldn't be balanced, thereby possibly affecting the striking of the coins and the acceptance of them by cash machines. Oh well... this competition was a learning curve. And as someone who was unfamiliar with the technical aspects of coin manufacture - you have to ask don't you?