It’s enough to give a tugboat captain angina. So when Bob Henry, captain of the Rachel Marie, who is in charge of towing Smithson’s island, looked out across the East River Thursday afternoon and saw another piece of conceptual art gaining on him, he did not view the development kindly.
Addictive Flash game of the week: Hedgehog Launch. There’s something really clever about the game play here but can’t quite put my finger on what it is. The objective of the game — to launch the ‘hog into space — is so beside the point the first time around that you forget all about it until it actually happens. My best time was 7 days. (via cyn-c)
Update: Woo, 5 days! My technique: upgrade to a parachute as quick as you can, use it to float for valuable multiplier, then get rockets and band/launcher.
Update: Got it down to 4 days. 3 days is possible but I’m retiring.
She’s 41 years old, has a two-year-old daughter, and won her first Olympic medal, a relay gold, in 1984. Torres is training to make the 2008 US Olympic team, but it’s not some casual attempt to relive the good old days: Torres set the American record in the 50-meter freestyle just a few months ago. As the photo above attests, part of Torres’ continuing success is due to her training regimen.
Torres calls resistance stretching her “secret weapon.” Bob Cooley, who invented the discipline, describes it in less-modest terms. According to Cooley, over a two-week period in 1999, his flexibility system turned Torres “from being an alternate on the relay team to the fastest swimmer in America.” The secret to Torres’s speed, Cooley says, is that his technique not only makes her muscles more flexible but also increases their ability to shorten more completely, and when muscles shorten more completely, they produce greater power and speed. “What do race-car drivers do when they want to go faster?” Cooley asks. “They don’t spend more hours driving around the track. They increase the biomechanics of the car. And that’s what resistance flexibility is doing for Dara - increasing her biomechanics.”
The Olympic Trials are going on right now in Omaha, NE. The women’s 50-meter freestyle preliminaries take place on July 5 with the final on July 6, broadcast live on NBC.
The Image Fulgurator is an ingenious device that detects the flash from nearby cameras and quickly inserts a message onto whatever is being photographed so that it shows up in any photos being taken.
It operates via a kind of reactive flash projection that enables an image to be projected on an object exactly at the moment when someone else is photographing it. The intervention is unobtrusive because it takes only a few milliseconds. Every photo another photographer takes of an object at which the Fulgurator is also aimed is affected by the manipulation. Hence visual information can be smuggled unnoticed into the images of others.
I’m fascinated by early color photography…it takes a time we think of being in black & white and makes it accessible and modern. In the hands of Auguste and Louis Lumière, the “lowly, lumpy potato” made color photography possible in the early 1900s. The photos were called autochromes.
The Lumière brothers gathered up their potatoes and ground them into thousands of microscopic particles; they separated this powder into three batches, dying one batch red-orange, one violet and one green; the colored particles were thoroughly mixed and sifted onto a freshly varnished, clear glass plate while the lacquer remained tacky; excess potato bits were swept from the plate, which was pressed through steel rollers to flatten the colored grains, transforming each into a minuscule color filter measuring from .0006 to .0025 millimeters across. Gaps between the colored particles were filled in with carbon black, the plate was varnished again and a thin, light-sensitive emulsion of silver bromide was brushed over that. Now the plate was ready for the camera. When the shutter was opened, light filtered through the translucent potato grains, and a multicolored image was imprinted on the emulsion. After the negative plate was developed in the lab, it was washed and dried, covered with another piece of glass to protect the emulsion and bound with gummed tape. Et voilà! A color photograph unlike any seen before.
The “Pillars of Creation” may be the most iconic Hubble photograph ever taken. “Located in the Eagle Nebula, the pillars are clouds of molecular hydrogen, light years in length, where new stars are being born,” says Aguilar. “However, recent discoveries indicate these pillars were destroyed by a massive nearby super nova some 6,000 years ago. This is a ghost image of a past cosmic disaster that we won’t see here on Earth for another thousand years or so-and a perfect example of the fact that everything we see in the universe is history.”
After the video of a Chinese farmer’s homemade airplane started circulating around the web late last week, commenters on several sites cried hoax, and I received several emails and tweets questioning my mental health for believing such a thing exists.
But the video wasn’t obviously fake; home-built airplanes aren’t rare, I have no reason to doubt the ingenuity of the Chinese farmer, and I’d rather believe in the wonderfully improbably than be cynical about everything I see. A second video of the plane has been uploaded to YouTube which, in my mind, corroborates the existence of the flying contraption (it’s actually an autogyro) beyond a reasonable doubt.
Over the years, in every comedy act or movie I ever worked in, I’ve “thrown a Gookie” at least once. It wasn’t always planned, especially in our early vaudeville days. If we felt the audience slipping away, fidgeting and scraping their feet through our jokes, Groucho or Chico would whisper in panic, “Ssssssssssst! Throw me a Gookie!” The fact that it seldom failed to get a laugh is quite a tribute to the original possessor of the face.
It’s sour because in the US, particularly in San Francisco, it’s hard to buy good bread. About 75% of the decent bread in my grocery store, both fresh baked and industrial, is sourdough. Consumers think sourdough is shorthand for quality. It’s not. In fact, sourdough is seldom the appropriate bread for a meal. It makes lousy sandwiches, lousy breakfast, it clashes with cheese. It’s good with creamy soups, and it’s good plain with butter. But the premium bakeries all push sourdough, and so sourdough becomes synonymous with “good”, when it’s not.
This is probably more than 50% of the reason why I left San Francisco.
Although he said further tests would have to be conducted, Mr Kounaves said the soil seemed “very friendly… there is nothing about it that is toxic,” he said. “It is the type of soil you would probably have in your back yard — you know, alkaline. You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well.”
This site lets you track the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle (when in orbit), and all sorts of other satellites in relation to their position over the earth with a familiar Google Maps interface. Very cool.
Many cosmologists find fault with their analysis, largely because a fractal matter distribution out to such huge scales undermines the standard model of cosmology. According to the accepted story of cosmic evolution, there simply hasn’t been enough time since the big bang nearly 14 billion years ago for gravity to build up such large structures.
Perhaps most exaggerated of all though has to be the images that are typically given to show the accumulation of “space junk” — remnants of space flights and defunct satellites, etc. In this image each pixel represents approximately 114 miles; so a piece of debris the size of a car is marked with a point the size of Long Island — easily a 6 order of magnitude exaggeration.
Of all the things that Flickr has done, The Commons project might be the most significant. If, in two years, there are tens or even hundreds of thousands of old photographs previously unavailable to the general public from collections all over the world — all tagged, geocoded, annotated, contextualized, and available to anyone with a web browser — that would be an amazing resource for exploring our recent history.
God ruined I Am Legend with the most literal deus ex machina I’ve ever seen in a movie. The alternate ending makes a whole lot more sense. Then again, I would have been satisfied with three straight hours of how Neville spends his time in Manhattan wilderness, alone, procuring supplies, checking buildings off of his scavenging list, visiting the MoMA to get new art for his walls, collecting iPods for “new” music, etc. Is it every New Yorker’s fantasy to have all of Manhattan to himself for a day?
Date back to 2007, due to an open (maybe leak?) source of MTK platfrom (a wireless communication development platform), there are millions of cell phone factories burst out in south China. These factories made lots of famous-brand cell-phone-copies in a short period of time. They just copied the outline and software design from Nokia, Apple iPhone etc. The manufacturing cost is very low so many people are involved. However, these cell phones are not all completely copied. They are even totally redesigned and added a lot of features. A brand called “NCIKA” even went very popular in China. People’re even joking that the farmers in big mountains can develop and design a cell phone too. So many people call it “Shanzhai Ji” (Ji means machine in Chinese, here means cell phone) and then the name is widespread in China.
Since then, many funny/weird stuff from ordinary people are called “shanzhai” something, and that’s why this plane is named “Shanzhai Huaxiangji” in Chinese :)
Runners in lane eight got off the mark on average about 150 milliseconds after runners in lane one, Dapena found. A time delay of that magnitude translates to about a metre’s difference at the finish line.
Two bits of news about the High Line and its impending park.
1. Curbed has new renderings of what the park is going to look like. Here’s phase 1 (Gansevoort St. to 20th) and phase 2 (21st to 30th). They’re calling it a park but from the drawings it seems more like a glorified sidewalk.
A new type of artist arises: someone whose task is to gather together existing but overlooked pieces of amateur art, and, by directing attention onto them, to make them important. (This is part of a much larger theory of mine about the new role of curatorship, the big job of the next century.)
Yahoo is grown up. They know what they’re great at. They are great at news. When it comes to news, they absolutely crush Google. So here’s a whacky idea my Yahoo friends. Why not define yourself by your news services and the other stuff where you destroy the competition?
NY Times wine guy Eric Asimov and his panel taste a bunch of root beers and conclude, among other things, that “too much root beer can make a man mean”.
Our No. 1 root beer, from Sprecher in Wisconsin, a wonderfully balanced and complex brew, uses a combination of corn syrup and honey, while our No. 2, the restrained and flavorful IBC, uses only corn syrup. So even with the importance of the sweetener, something more is at play with root beers.
I did my best to capture as many of the best comments as possible but 3:26 isn’t a huge canvas. I’m particularly sad that I never figured out a way to mention how bad the people must have smelled, or my plan to get rich selling soap.
But at a press conference today, Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk emerged from a closed-door meeting with city, school and health officials to say that there had been no independent confirmation of any teen pregnancy pact. She also said that the principal, who was not present at the meeting, is now “foggy in his memory” of how he heard about the pact.
In celebration of Euro 2008, public prankster and more-than-fair soccer striker Rémi Gaillard made the following video of himself using the urban landscape as a soccer pitch. Gaillard scores goals into police vans, trash cans, open windows, etc. to the annoyance of his oblivious goalies.
Something about the video seemed familiar and after a bit of searching, I discovered that the same fellow was also responsible for one of my favorite links from a few years ago, Rocky Recreated. There are tons of his videos on YouTube, most of them centered on Gaillard’s brand of graffiti-esque performance art. I can’t condone some of his actions but he’s certainly amusing to watch. (via memeticians)
We try to start from a position of great abundance and information, to show the vastness or the liveness. I think live, vast, and deep is some of the terminology that we’ve been using lately in a lot of our talks.
I try not to miss any of Atul Gawande’s New Yorker articles, but his piece on itching from this week’s issue is possibly the most interesting thing I’ve read in the magazine in a long time. He begins by focusing on a specific patient for whom compulsive itching has become a very serious problem. (Warning, this quote is pretty disturbing…but don’t let it deter you from reading the article.)
…the itching was so torturous, and the area so numb, that her scratching began to go through the skin. At a later office visit, her doctor found a silver-dollar-size patch of scalp where skin had been replaced by scab. M. tried bandaging her head, wearing caps to bed. But her fingernails would always find a way to her flesh, especially while she slept.
One morning, after she was awakened by her bedside alarm, she sat up and, she recalled, “this fluid came down my face, this greenish liquid.” She pressed a square of gauze to her head and went to see her doctor again. M. showed the doctor the fluid on the dressing. The doctor looked closely at the wound. She shined a light on it and in M.’s eyes. Then she walked out of the room and called an ambulance. Only in the Emergency Department at Massachusetts General Hospital, after the doctors started swarming, and one told her she needed surgery now, did M. learn what had happened. She had scratched through her skull during the night — and all the way into her brain.
From there, Gawande pulls out to tell us about itching/scratching (the two are inseparable), then about a recent theory of how our brains perceive the world (“visual perception is more than ninety per cent memory and less than ten per cent sensory nerve signals”), and finally about a fascinating therapy initially developed for those who experience phantom limb pain called mirror treatment.
Among them is an experiment that Ramachandran performed with volunteers who had phantom pain in an amputated arm. They put their surviving arm through a hole in the side of a box with a mirror inside, so that, peering through the open top, they would see their arm and its mirror image, as if they had two arms. Ramachandran then asked them to move both their intact arm and, in their mind, their phantom arm-to pretend that they were conducting an orchestra, say. The patients had the sense that they had two arms again. Even though they knew it was an illusion, it provided immediate relief. People who for years had been unable to unclench their phantom fist suddenly felt their hand open; phantom arms in painfully contorted positions could relax. With daily use of the mirror box over weeks, patients sensed their phantom limbs actually shrink into their stumps and, in several instances, completely vanish. Researchers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center recently published the results of a randomized trial of mirror therapy for soldiers with phantom-limb pain, showing dramatic success.
Crazy! Gawande documents and speculates about other applications of this treatment, including using virtual reality representations instead of mirrors and utilizing multiple mirrors for treatment of M.’s itchy scalp. Anyway, read the whole thing…highly recommended.
Since Ms. Harrison started the Gramercy Park Block Association in 1994, after her son was attacked and beaten up in front of their apartment building at 34 Gramercy Park, she has effectively remade the area in her own image.
She has added to a list of regulations (no dogs, no feeding of birds, no groups larger than six people, no Frisbees or soccer balls or “hard balls” of any kind) that, in turn, have served to dictate how the park is - and is not - used. Most recently, she helped pave the way for Zeckendorf Realty to redevelop a 17-story Salvation Army boarding house on the south side of the park, and for the company’s plan to convert the 300 rooms into 14 floor-through apartments plus a penthouse duplex. The company would not confirm the transaction.
What a bunch of elitist horseshit. Ms. Harrison sounds like a Grade A wanker. (via anil)
“It is pretty scary,” said Charles Truxal, 64, a retired corporate manager in Rochester, Minn. “People are thinking things are going to get better, and they haven’t been. And then you go hide in your basement because tornadoes are coming through. If you think about things, you have very little power to make it change.”
My guess is that the writers’ editor was out of town and they decided to see if they could slip this Onion-esque article on to the wire. (thx, scott)
Present for the reunion was office manager Miriam Lubow (center of new picture), who missed the original sitting due to a snowstorm. (When Lubow, now retired, first met Gates, she couldn’t believe that disheveled kid was the president.) Absent for the reshoot was Bob Wallace (top center), who died in 2002; after leaving Microsoft in 1983, he pioneered the idea of shareware.
But a cheaper and easier way to get an iPhone that works on T-Mobile, etc. is to buy an old iPhone from an upgrader for $100, maybe even $150?
This week: you might actually break even or turn a small profit from selling your old iPhone on eBay or craigslist. A quick search reveals that used & unlocked 8Gb iPhones are going for ~$400 and 16Gb for upwards of $500, with never-opened phones going for even more. Here are some recent old iPhone auctions:
Before the announcement of the iPhone 3G, new 8Gb iPhones retailed for $399, 16Gb for $499. When the iPhone 3G comes out on July 11, the supply of old iPhones in the marketplace will greatly increase (which means that the price will drop) but the auctions above suggest that those old phones might not be shiny paperweights after all. (thx, praveen & carl)
On March 11, 1977, Roman Polanski was arrested in Los Angeles and charged with the following counts: furnishing a controlled substance to a minor, committing a lewd or lascivious act on a child, unlawful sexual intercourse, rape by use of drugs, perversion and sodomy. Less than a year later, on February 1, 1978, Polanski drove to LAX, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and never came back. Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired explores the implausible events that took place between these dates, along with details, before and after, that forever altered the life and career of Polanski, one of the world’s most acclaimed directors.
I felt it was my job to explain how people think they know the story, but they don’t. That doesn’t excuse Polanski in any way, but it shows what he went through. I think the best viewer for this film is someone who can’t stand Roman Polanski and is disgusted by what happened. But if they allow themselves to watch the film, they usually come away from it feeling differently. If not about the crime, then at least about the aftermath. It’s quite surprising.
I hope you all watched and enjoyed the movie. I think Marina did an excellent job in uncovering the facts. Since my mother did not participate, let me clarify a few things for you all.
She did not travel in the same social circles with Roman. She met him once, that meeting had nothing to do with my getting the modeling job. She did not send me off to be raped, or have some blackmail plot in mind. Calling the police pretty much rules blackmail out from the get go. Roman was not known as a pedophile in March of 1977, he was a influential and respected director. Even his relationship with Natasha Kinski did not occur until after my meeting with him, as far as I know.
The sex was not consentual and I have never said it was.
And last, I was not supposed to be alone with him, a friend was to come along with with us, but he talked me into going alone with him as the last minute, my mother was unaware of that until I called her later to check in. Even so, she would never have dreamed he would do what he did to me, just because we were alone. This was a long time ago, when child molestation did not immediately leap to the front of everyone’s mind as is does today. I do find it strange that some of his friends say he couldn’t have done it, while others say of course he would.
My mother has carried alot of guilt about this for many years, so I would appreciate it if people would stop blaming her. There is alot of blame to go around.
In 1970, the year that Congress voted to create Amtrak by consolidating the passenger operations of freight railroads, the airlines were about 17 times larger than the railroads, measured by passenger miles traveled; now they are more than 100 times larger. Highway travel was then about 330 times larger; now it is more than 900 times larger.
Today Amtrak has 632 usable rail cars, and dozens more are worn out or damaged but could be reconditioned and put into service at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars each.
Train travel, particularly high-speed train travel, should be *the* way to get anywhere on the East Coast, mid-to-southern California/Vegas, and between moderately large cities clustered together (Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Detroit; Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Houston; Florida; Kansas City, St. Louis, Omaha, Tulsa; Portland, Seattle, Vancouver; etc.).
Internally, externally, everywhere, people are being really thankful to me. I need to make sure (with some link-love in my upcoming blogroll) that the response gets directed to the photographers as well. I’m just a web developer with access to their photos and a blog - they’re the ones out there working hard to get these amazing images. “Photographers” here is a loose term, encompassing photojournalists, stringers, amateurs, scientific imaging teams and more.
Like any remote, the designers were adamant about keeping the remote’s button layout as simple as possible. But with the DVR’s numerous features, the designers needed to create lots of extra buttons. To keep things straight, each button needed to have a distinctive feel, giving the ability to control the remote without even looking at it, which Newby described as a “key Braille-ability” surprisingly helped by the “blank finger parking spots between keys” that were equally important.
New Yorker profile of Keith Olbermann, with lots about the changing face of journalism from the desire for objective neutrality to the more sensational opinion that saturates cable, newspapers, and the blogosphere.
But Olbermann contends that the labored pretense of neutrality in the news business is a fruitless exercise. “There are people who, with absolute conviction, believe that Brian Williams is a Communist,” he said. “There are people who, with absolute conviction, believe that Katie Couric is in the pay of the Pentagon. There are people who are absolutely certain that Charlie Gibson sleeps with Hillary Clinton, based on the last debate. This is an old schoolyard thing I learned from being repeatedly beat up in the fourth grade. It finally dawned on me one day — they are going to keep beating me up whether I respond to them or not.” Olbermann continued, “Brian sometimes looks like his collar button is going to burst from the restraint that he has. I know the pain that he goes through; he measures each word like an apothecary — and they beat him up, too. The point is, why not? Why not add something to the discourse?”
As much as I agree with some of what Olbermann says, I put him in the same bucket as Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly…entertaining but intellectually untrustworthy.
Despite my attempts to stop it, my Microsoft Word program would always change the word for Italy’s famous cured meat into what it assumed I meant to type. The night we closed an issue, I would have nightmares that when the magazine hit the stands, one of my reviews would describe “the delicate sweet and salty balance of melon and prostitute.”
For its July 2008 issue, Vogue Italia is featuring only black models and feature articles about black women in arts and entertainment.
Having worked at one time with nearly all the models he chose for the black issue — Iman, [Naomi] Campbell, Tyra Banks, Jourdan Dunn, [Liya] Kebede, [Alek] Wek, Pat Cleveland, Karen Alexander — [photographer Steven] Meisel had his own feelings. “I thought, it’s ridiculous, this discrimination,” said Mr. Meisel, speaking by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “It’s so crazy to live in such a narrow, narrow place. Age, weight, sexuality, race — every kind of prejudice.”
Idea for Amazon regarding their MP3 store: allow people to pre-order MP3s and when they’re available for download, send out an email to that effect. For instance, the new Sigur Ros album is out on June 24. A page for the MP3 album exists but it’s difficult to find and while you can preview tracks, you can’t pre-order the album.
A band of U.S. soldiers facing death by firing squad for their misdeeds are given a chance to redeem themselves by heading into the perilous no-man’s lands of Nazi-occupied France on a suicide mission for the Allies.
Just after Apple announced the iPhone 3G, Khoi Vinh whipped up a quick graph of the declining value of his iPhone over the past year. He generously estimates that when the iPhone 3G is released in early July, his old iPhone will be worth $100, half of the price for a new iPhone 3G. At the time, I speculated that you’d be hard pressed to find a buyer at $75.
AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel confirmed for Macworld that activation must be done at the time of purchase, in-store.
For those who want to use their phone on another network, an untethered 8 GB iPhone 3G would cost them at least $374 ($199 + $175 AT&T account cancellation fee). But a cheaper and easier way to get an iPhone that works on T-Mobile, etc. is to buy an old iPhone from an upgrader for $100, maybe even $150?
A group of high school girls in Gloucester, MA (about half of the 17 total pregnant in the high school, none older than 16) made a pact to get pregnant on purpose. One the girls resorted to impregnation by a 24-year-old homeless man.
The girls who made the pregnancy pact — some of whom, according to Sullivan, reacted to the news that they were expecting with high fives and plans for baby showers — declined to be interviewed.
After parcel post service was introduced in 1913, at least two children were sent by the service. With stamps attached to their clothing, the children rode with railway and city carriers to their destination. The Postmaster General quickly issued a regulation forbidding the sending of children in the mail after hearing of those examples.
Update:A 1913 NY Times article includes a query from a citizen to the Post Office inquiring whether they could send a baby through the mail:
Sir: I have been corresponding with a party in Pa about getting a baby to rais (our home being without One.) May I ask you what specifications to use in wrapping so it (baby) would comply with regulations and be allowed shipment by parcel post as the express co are to rough in handling
One afternoon a roving band of 30 teenagers stopped traffic on the Champs-Elysées, marching toward the Arc de Triomphe, followed by a battalion of 60 police officers in riot gear, marching in rows of two. I asked a French co-worker what the kids were celebrating. He squinted, looking into the sun. “That it’s May,” he said. “That they’re French, that they’re young. You will not understand.”
Russert’s onetime boss, former New York governor Mario Cuomo, offered the day’s only example of Russert blatantly lying. After Cuomo pushed through the nation’s first seat-belt law in 1985, the two men were in a Buffalo motorcade when their car was struck from behind and Cuomo — having forgotten to buckle up — hit the dashboard. As reporters rushed over, Russert blurted out: “Thank God for the seat belt!”
PRODUCER FRANK MARSHALL immediately proves his commitment to using CGI “only when necessary” by featuring completely necessary CGI prairie dogs in the first shot of the movie.
A bunch of cars drive through the DESERT to AREA 51. HARRISON FORD’S SHADOW, then HARRISON FORD’S SHOE, then HARRISON FORD’S ARM, then HARRISON FORD’S HAT and finally HARRISON FUCKING FORD are eventually revealed.
HARRISON FORD Alright folks, let’s get this show on the road. I want to make it to Country Buffet by four.
CATE BLANCHETT Pryvet, Harrison. I am evil Soviet. You vill help me find Moose and Squirrel, yes?
HARRISON FORD Holy Christ, you’re not going to talk like that the whole movie are you?
CATE BLANCHETT Da. You vill help locate MacKuffin now.
Not so long ago, on May 24th, IMDB message board participant beachedblonde coined a new phrase: nuke the fridge. Here’s the definition from the Urban Dictionary…it’s roughly equivalent to jumping the shark:
A colloquialism used to delineate the precise moment at which a cinematic franchise has crossed over from remote plausibility to self parodying absurdity, usually indicating a low point in the series from which it is unlikely to recover. A reference to one of the opening scenes of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in which the titular hero manages to avoid death by nuclear explosion by hiding inside a kitchen refrigerator.
Man, when Peter Parker started doing the emo dance in Spider-Man 3, that franchise officially nuked the fridge.
Mr. Greer is candid about the precedents: F. Scott Fitzgerald told a related story in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and that in turn was inspired by a remark of Mark Twain that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end. Later Fitzgerald found “an almost identical plot” in Samuel Butler’s “Note-books.” In “The Sword and the Stone,” which Mr. Greer read as a child, Merlin ages backward. Mr. Greer carries it further back, to Greek mythology, and forward to “Mork & Mindy,” in which Jonathan Winters played a baby. And at one book signing, he said, a reader asked him if he knew about the “Star Trek” episode in which ——
Actually, when he began the book he was thinking more of Bob Dylan. In 2001, having published a collection of stories and in the middle of writing a novel, he found himself singing “My Back Pages” — “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now” — and he had what amounted to an epiphany. “I thought that could be a book not like anything I’d written before,” he said. “It sounded like a wild adventure that no one’s going to want to read, but it could be a lot of fun, and maybe that’s the point of it.”
For when the repercussions of Max’s reverse aging are eventually understood, the tragedy of his predicament becomes clear. Not only does he have the exact year of his death forever staring him in the face (1941, when he will complete his 70-year process of anti-decay), but he must also live his entire life, except for a few brief months in 1906 when his real and apparent ages coincide, being something other than what he seems.
When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating day and night, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody again.
The idea of a 3-D movie has been explored since basically the dawn of the moving image, but now, according to Portfolio, the idea is waxing once again, thanks to Jeffrey Katzenberg and several others. The rationale:
Studios are latching onto 3-D for much the same reason that Bob Dole took Viagra. Most of Hollywood’s businesses are making money — for all Katzenberg’s complaining, DreamWorks’ first-quarter profit was up 69 percent — but the sector that makes Hollywood feel best about itself, theatrical showings, is deflating, in large part because the difference between seeing a movie in your local multiplex and on a 52-inch high-definition TV in your family room is not that vast.
2. The rest of Eliasson’s show on the third floor. His art seems so conceptually and constructurally simple yet, I dunno, I just wanted to hang out in the gallery all day, like I was required to remain part of the experience. Left me wishing I’d made it to London to see The Weather Project.
“We wanted it to have the feeling that it had actually been filmed,” says Morris. Using subtle details such as barrel distortion and lens flare, gave Wall.E the feel of the 70mm sci-fi films of the Seventies. For the first time Pixar also brought Academy Award-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins and special-effects don Dennis Muren onboard. “We wanted to get the nuance of a live action film, and actually put mistakes in with zooms and framing to give it a more immediate feel.”
Deakins is well-known for working with the Coen Brothers on many of their films. (thx, brian)
John Gruber, the sorest winner on the web when it comes to sports or Apple, points out that I was wrong in my prediction that the Lakers would win the NBA Finals this year. I didn’t actually care about the series either way…but after rooting for him in Minnesota for all those years, it sure is great to see Kevin Garnett win a championship.
I was also wrong about Paul Pierce. I never liked him as a player; thought he was soft, lazy, & petulant, settled for the outside shot too much, and just didn’t have what it took to be his team’s star player. He’s put all that behind him; in this series, Pierce showed that he’s definitely one of the top players in the league, deserving of his accolades. Count me among the number of Paul Pierce fans.
Fadl was one of the first members of Al Qaeda’s top council. Twenty years ago, he wrote two of the most important books in modern Islamist discourse; Al Qaeda used them to indoctrinate recruits and justify killing. Now Fadl was announcing a new book, rejecting Al Qaeda’s violence. “We are prohibited from committing aggression, even if the enemies of Islam do that,” Fadl wrote in his fax, which was sent from Tora Prison, in Egypt.
The TTF-TCNQ interface conducts electricity much better than standard semiconductors. “The electron concentration there is an order of magnitude higher,” Mannhart says. “That has the power to create new effects, from magnetism to superconductivity.”
I have to hold off linking to every single entry on Big Picture (best new blog of the year so far, hands down), but these photos of the flooding in Iowa are amazing. I went to college in Cedar Rapids and my mind is boggled seeing so much of downtown under so much water.
Bruno keeps a running tally on his blog, guynameddave.com of what he has decided to hold on to and what he is preparing to sell or donate. For instance, as of early June, he was down to five dress shirts and one necktie but uncertain about parting with one of his three pairs of jeans. “Are two pairs of jeans enough?!,” he asked in a recent posting.
That’s not the only dilemma faced by this new wave of goal-oriented minimalists. One of the trickier questions is what counts as an item. Bruno considers a pair of shoes to be a single entity, which seems sensible but still pretty hard-core when you’re trying to jettison all but 100 personal possessions. Cait Simmons, 27, a waitress in Chicago, takes a different approach. Although she has pared down her footwear collection from 35 to 20 pairs, she says, “All my shoes count as one item.”
I’ve always been curious about stuffed animals that sing, dance, light up, or talk back. There must be a fascinating robot underneath the fur and fluff, right? Surely the robot hiding in the bear’s clothing, vestimentis ursum, is impressive. So: armed with my childish curiousity and the spurious excuse of ‘product design research,’ I set out to discover what, exactly, these creatures are hiding.
Raymond Loewy is well-known as an industrial designer but he was also responsible for some of the world’s most iconic logos. Pictured below are several sketches that Loewy did for the new Exxon logo:
Big business moved more slowly back then; the sketches were done by Loewy in 1966 but the name change and new logo didn’t go into effect until 1972. Loewy was also responsible for several other logos: Shell, Hoover, BP, Nabisco, Canada Dry, and U.S. Mail.
“The only novelty in my work is the attempt to explain how species become modified,” Darwin later wrote. He did not mean to belittle his achievement. The how, backed up by an abundance of evidence, was crucial: nature throws up endless biological variations, and they either flourish or fade away in the face of disease, hunger, predation and other factors. Darwin’s term for it was “natural selection”; Wallace called it the “struggle for existence.” But we often act today as if Darwin invented the idea of evolution itself, including the theory that human beings developed from an ape ancestor. And Wallace we forget altogether.
In fact, scientists had been talking about our primate origins at least since 1699, after the London physician Edward Tyson dissected a chimpanzee and documented a disturbing likeness to human anatomy. And the idea of evolution had been around for generations.
“If you look at the final episode really carefully, it’s all there.” These are David Chase’s words regarding the finale of the Sopranos. He is right, it is “all there”. This is the definitive explanation of why Tony died in Holsten’s in the final scene of The Sopranos. The following is based on a thorough analysis of the final season of the show and will clear up one of the most misunderstood endings in film or television history. Chase took almost 2 years to construct the final season of the show after the fifth season ended in June of 2004. Part 1 will show how Chase directed, edited and scored the final scene of the Sopranos to lead to the interpretation that Tony was shot in the head in Holsten’s and how this ties into the “never hear it happen” concept that Chase hammered into the viewer before the show’s final scene.
“Hulk. Smash!” Yes. Hulk. Smash. Yes. Smash. Big Hulk smash. Smash cars. Buildings. Army tanks. Hulk not just smash. Hulk also go rarrr! Then smash again. Smash important, obviously. Smash Hulk’s USP. What Hulk smash most? Hulk smash all hope of interesting time in cinema. Hulk take all effort of cinema, effort getting babysitter, effort finding parking, and Hulk put great green fist right through it. Hulk crush all hopes of entertainment. Hulk in boring film. Film co-written by star. Edward Norton. Norton in it. Norton write it. Norton not need gamma-radiation poisoning to get big head.
“The main functional characteristic of mirror neurons is that they become active both when the monkey makes a particular action (for example, when grasping an object or holding it) and when it observes another individual making a similar action.” In other words, these peculiar cells mirror, on our inside, the outside world; they enable us to internalize the actions of another. They collapse the distinction between seeing and doing.
This suggests that when I watch Kobe glide to the basket for a dunk, a few deluded cells in my premotor cortex are convinced that I, myself, am touching the rim. And when he hits a three pointer, my mirror neurons light up as I’ve just made the crucial shot. They are what bind me to the game, breaking down that 4th wall separating fan from player. I’m not upset because my team lost: I’m upset because it literally feels like I lost, as if I had been on the court.
2. A real knife. You can do a lot with a good chef’s knife, and you can’t do shit without one. It doesn’t have to be an expensive model; America’s Test Kitchen has recommended this Victorinox 8” chef’s knife (or its 10” version, about a buck cheaper!) for years, although I have grown accustomed to the handles on my Henckels Four-Star knives. Buy a good chef’s knife that feels comfortable in your hand, with a blade 8 to 9 inches long, and buy a honing steel to keep it sharp. Avoid home sharpeners, though, which “sharpen” your blade by destroying it.
Since its introduction in January of 1984, 2600 has been a unique source of information for readers with a strong sense of curiosity and an affinity for technology. The articles in 2600 have been consistently fascinating and frequently controversial. Over the past couple of decades the magazine has evolved from three sheets of loose-leaf paper stuffed into an envelope (readers “subscribed” by responding to a notice on a popular BBS frequented by hackers and sending in a SASE) to a professionally produced quarterly magazine. At the same time, the creators’ anticipated audience of “a few dozen people tied together in a closely knit circle of conspiracy and mischief” grew to a global audience of tens of thousands of subscribers.
Any guesses as to when it was published? The title, Latin text, yellowed paper, and lack of page numbers might tip you off that it wasn’t exactly released yesterday. Turns out that Hypnerotomachia Poliphili was published in 1499, more than 500 years ago and only 44 years after Gutenberg published his famous Bible. It belongs to a group of books collectively referred to as incunabula, books printed with a printing press using movable type before 1501.
To contemporary eyes, the HP looks almost modern. The text is very readable. The typography, layout, and the way the text flows around the illustration; none of it looks out of the ordinary. When compared to other books of the time (e.g. take a look at a page from the Gutenberg Bible), its modernity is downright eerie. The most obvious difference is the absence of the blackletter typeface. Blackletter was a popular choice because it resembled closely the handwritten script that preceded the printing press, and I imagine its use smoothed the transition to books printed by press. HP dispensed with blackletter and instead used what came to be known as Bembo, a humanist typeface based on the handwriting of Renaissance-era Italian scholars. From a MIT Press e-book on the HP:
One of the features of the Hypnerotomachia that has attracted the attention of scholars has been its use of the famed Aldine “Roman” type font, invented by Nicholas Jenson but distilled into an abstract ideal by Francesco Biffi da Bologna, a jeweler who became Aldus’s celebrated cutter. This font — generally viewed as originating in the efforts of the humanist lovers of belles-lettres and renowned calligraphers such as Petrarch, Poggio Bracciolini, Niccolo Niccoli, Felice Feliciano, Leon Battista Alberti, and Luca Pacioli, to re-create the script of classical antiquity — appeared for the first time in Bembo’s De Aetna. Recut, it appeared in its second and perfected version in the Hypnerotomachia.
In that way, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili is both a throwback to Roman times and an indication of things to come.
The MIT Press site also notes a number of other significant aspects of the book. As seen above, illustrations are integrated into the main text, allowing “the eye to slip back and forth from textual description and corresponding visual representation with the greatest of ease”. In his 2006 book, Beautiful Evidence, Edward Tufte says:
Overall, the design of Hypnerotomachia tightly integrates the relevant text with the relevant image, a cognitive integration along with the celebrated optical integration.
The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili is one of the most unreadable books ever published. The first inkling of difficulty occurs at the moment one picks up the book and tries to utter its tongue-twisting, practically unpronounceable title. The difficulty only heightens as one flips through the pages and tries to decipher the strange, baffling, inscrutable prose, replete with recondite references, teeming with tortuous terminology, choked with pulsating, prolix, plethoric passages. Now in Tuscan, now in Latin, now in Greek — elsewhere in Hebrew, Arabic, Chaldean and hieroglyphs — the author has created a pandemonium of unruly sentences that demand the unrelenting skills of a prodigiously endowed polyglot in order to be understood.
It’s fascinating that a book so readable, so beautifully printed, and so modern would also be so difficult to read. If you’d like to take a crack at it, scans of the entire book are available here and here. The English translation is available on Amazon.
It isn’t possible to quantify the extent to which society and culture are indebted to Bohemia. In every age in every successful country, it has been important that at least a small part of the cityscape is not dominated by bankers, developers, chain stores, generic restaurants, and railway terminals. This little quarter should instead be the preserve of — in no special order — insomniacs and restaurants and bars that never close; bibliophiles and the little stores and stalls that cater to them; alcoholics and addicts and deviants and the proprietors who understand them; aspirant painters and musicians and the modest studios that can accommodate them; ladies of easy virtue and the men who require them; misfits and poets from foreign shores and exiles from remote and cruel dictatorships. Though it should be no disadvantage to be young in such a quartier, the atmosphere should not by any means discourage the veteran.
Finally, one day last fall, more than a year after they moved in, Mr. Klinsky received a letter in the mail containing a poem that began:
We’ve taken liberties with Yeats to lead you through a tale that tells of most inspired fates iin hopes to lift the veil.
The letter directed the family to a hidden panel in the front hall that contained a beautifully bound and printed book, Ms. Bensko’s opus. The book led them on a scavenger hunt through their own apartment.
And it wasn’t an easy hunt either.
In any case, the finale involved, in part, removing decorative door knockers from two hallway panels, which fit together to make a crank, which in turn opened hidden panels in a credenza in the dining room, which displayed multiple keys and keyholes, which, when the correct ones were used, yielded drawers containing acrylic letters and a table-size cloth imprinted with the beginnings of a crossword puzzle, the answers to which led to one of the rectangular panels lining the tiny den, which concealed a chamfered magnetic cube, which could be used to open the 24 remaining panels, revealing, in large type, the poem written by Mr. Klinsky.
In Brazil, soap operas, and specifically the small families they depicted, might have been a form of birth control, lowering the fertility of the audience:
In 1960, the average Brazilian woman had 6.3 children. By 2000, the fertility rate was down to 2.3. The decline was comparable to China’s, but Brazil didn’t have a one-child policy. In fact, for a while it was even illegal to advertise contraceptives.
Many factors account for the drop in Brazilian fertility, but one recent study identified a factor most people probably wouldn’t consider: soap operas (novelas). Novelas are huge in Brazil, and the network Rede Globo effectively has a monopoly on their production…
Using census data from 1970 to 1991 and data on the entry of Rede Globo into different markets, the researchers found that women living in areas that received Globo’s broadcast signal had significantly lower fertility. (And yes, the study did control for all sorts of factors and addressed the concern that the entry of Globo might have been driven by trends that also contribute to fertility decline. I’ll spare you the gory econometric details.) Additionally, people in areas with Globo’s signal were more likely to name their children after novela characters, suggesting that it was the novelas specifically, and not TV in general, that influenced childbearing.
Named after the pioneer in application of this entertainment-education strategy, Miguel Sabido, the Sabido Method is based on character development and plot lines that provide the audience with a range of characters that they can engage with — some good, some not so good — and follow as they evolve and change. Sabido developed this methodology when we was Vice President for Research at Televisa in Mexico in the 1970s.
According to the Mexican government’s national population council, a soap opera called Acompaname was responsible for large increases in people requesting family planning information, contraceptive sales, and enrollment in family planning clinics. From 1977 to 1986, when these soap operas were on, Mexico’s population growth rate fell by 34%. The Sabido Method was also recently covered in the New Yorker. (thx, omegar)
Despite some criticism about the accuracy of translation, the series would be in my list of top ten documentaries of all time, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It unravels the mechanism of the sordid path of human conflict, from nationalism to genocide, like no other film before or since. It is the film that never was made about the holocaust.
Sounds like a candidate for True Films. All six parts are available on Google Video…start with part one.
Its a single exposure with the model viewed through optical glass at 45° and the fabric positioned to the side. At the time there was zero retouching after the event. Now of course I have the luxury of scanning the transparency to clean and refine the image in Photoshop - God bless its digital socks.
KILL THE CAR is on of the favorite events we have here at OFASTS. In this event, there will be a car, loaded with explosives located on the far side of the shooting range. Anyone who wants, can participate, and try and “KILL THE CAR”. Which basically means, try and blow it up first. It’s a real BLAST!!
Horror vacui is the filling of the entire surface of an artwork with ornamental details, figures, shapes, lines and anything else the artist might envision. It may be considered the opposite of minimalism.
Kevin Kelly on a fascinating concept called scenius. As defined by Brian Eno:
Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius.
Kelly lists four factors that are important in nuturing scenius:
1. Mutual appreciation — Risky moves are applauded by the group, subtlety is appreciated, and friendly competition goads the shy. Scenius can be thought of as the best of peer pressure. 2. Rapid exchange of tools and techniques — As soon as something is invented, it is flaunted and then shared. Ideas flow quickly because they are flowing inside a common language and sensibility. 3. Network effects of success — When a record is broken, a hit happens, or breakthrough erupts, the success is claimed by the entire scene. This empowers the scene to further success. 4. Local tolerance for the novelties — The local “outside” does not push back too hard against the transgressions of the scene. The renegades and mavericks are protected by this buffer zone.
One of the things I’ve noticed about writing every day is that there are days when writing that page feels like flying. Like the hand of God reached down and touched my keyboard, and every word is just pure gold. And then there are days that I feel I’m writing absolute, totally forgettable junk that shouldn’t have been committed to phosphors, let alone saved to disc. The thing is, a month later, you can’t tell the difference. The difference between a day when it feels like you’re writing brilliantly and a day when it feels like you’re writing terribly is entirely in your head, it’s not in the prose.
Although Pérignon made important advances in sparkling wine production, a reproducible process for making sparkling wine (of which Champagne is one variety) was actually first described by an Englishman, Christopher Merret, some thirty years before. In a paper presented to the Royal Society, Merret noted that the addition of sugar to wine would result in a second fermentation, which made the wine sparkle.
Merret came to sparkling wine through his interest in glass. The process of secondary fermentation had been known since before medieval times but was not reproducible because the glass bottles would explode under the pressure. Using stronger English glass and sturdy corks, Merret was able to dependably reproduce the sparkling effect and publish the technique for anyone to do the same. A bit less glamorous than “drinking the stars” perhaps, but a deft illustration of the scientific method nonetheless.
BTW, Moët and Chandon, producers of the Dom Pérignon brand of Champagne, still perpetuate the myth that Dom Pérignon invented the method for making sparkling wine. From the DP web site:
Make “the best wine in the world.” It took a visionary spirit and exceptional daring to set such an exalted ambition at the end of the 17th century. But vision and daring were second nature to Pierre Pérignon. Before him, there was only what was known as the wines of Reims, of La Montagne and of La Rivière, according to their origins in the Champagne region. With amazing intuition, Dom Pérignon was the first to see the fabulous promise of luxury. He took very ordinary wines and gave them body, spirit and grace. Through his efforts Champagne wine entered a new world.
If you point out when they suck, you gotta point out when they do well. On Sunday, Deborah Solomon’s weekly NY Times Magazine interview was an excellent talk with Enrique Penalosa, former mayor of Bogota known for his Susan Jacobs/Scandinavian vision of urban planning. Solomon’s old method, of inserting snide remarks and different questions after the fact, is gone; we can thank Ira Glass and Amy Dickinson (Ann Landers’s successor) for that, since they complained when she did it to them. But beyond that change, Solomon here just asks good, sensible questions of an interesting subject.
I wanted to ask for survival tips in case I am unexpectedly transported to a random location in Europe (say for instance current France/Benelux/Germany) in the year 1000 AD (plus or minus 200 years). I assume that such transportation would leave me with what I am wearing, what I know, and nothing else. Any advice would help.
To which Tyler Cowen replies:
Find someone who will take care of you for a few days or weeks and then look for employment in the local church. Your marginal product is quite low, even once you have learned the local language. You might think that knowing economics, or perhaps quantum mechanics, will do you some good but in reality people won’t even think your jokes are funny. Even if you can prove Euler’s Theorem from memory no one will understand your notation. I hope you have a strong back and an up to date smallpox vaccination.
The comments are full of informative and entertaining options. I side with the commenters who feel that the most likely outcome is death within a few days. Unless you’re skilled at wilderness survival, finding edible food, shelter, and potable water in a time when those things were much more scarce than now will prove difficult. If you do manage to survive, maybe you could set up shop selling goods that people could use:
I’d start a shop that did nothing but boil water and then sell it. I’d market it as “de-spirited” water and sell it to midwives, priests, doctors - anyone who would be charged with the health of another. The boiled, micro-organism free water would dramatically improve the health outcomes for anyone with cholera or plague or infection. Even marginally better outcomes using clean water would bolster my reputation and business. Of course, barriers to entry would be pretty low in my business, but if I were widely copied, I’d start a health revolution. For that quantum timeline anyway.
Again, assuming you survive, other commenters suggest that you “invent” something, sell it, and become rich so that your wealth will insulate you from further problems, stuff like gunpowder, mass production, long bows, guns, soap, steel, the printing press, double-entry accounting, whiskey, capitalism, and hot air balloons. I’m skeptical of this approach…how many people living in the US know how to make gunpowder from scratch? Given enough time, I guess I could build a hot air balloon that actually flies and carries human passengers but anything involving chemistry would prove tougher.
How would you survive if suddenly transported back to 1000 AD? Leave your suggestions for survival in the comments.
Costs skyrocket when large annual fees, large performance fees, and active trading costs are all added to the active investor’s equation. Funds of hedge funds accentuate this cost problem because their fees are superimposed on the large fees charged by the hedge funds in which the funds of funds are invested.
A number of smart people are involved in running hedge funds. But to a great extent their efforts are self-neutralizing, and their IQ will not overcome the costs they impose on investors. Investors, on average and over time, will do better with a low-cost index fund than with a group of funds of funds.
After yesterday’s iPhone 3G revelry, the inevitable hangover. AT&T is done playing nice with iPhone customers. First off, the data plan for 3G is $10 more than the old plan. Second, in-store activation is required, “which takes 10-12 minutes”…with the old version of the iPhone, you could activate through iTunes and it took 2 minutes. (That means no online ordering of phones either.) Third, Apple and AT&T may be working on a purchase penalty for those who don’t activate their phones within 30 days…so no more buying a phone to use on another network. Four: no prepaid plans. Yay?
Man, I love this video. It’s some guy explaining how the banana — “the atheist’s nightmare” — so perfectly fits in the human hand and peels so easily that it must have been made by God**. Kirk Cameron listens intently. I can’t wait for the followup video where he explains why watermelons don’t have handles and what God was thinking when he built the coconut.
** Not that this guy cares or whatever, but the modern banana is a cultivated fruit…i.e. pressured by humans to, oh what’s the word…evolve into its present form. And other varieties of bananas are smaller or larger and differently shaped. Some wild bananas have large hard seeds. I could go on….
You might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.
Imagination as Rowling perceives it is essential in telling other people’s stories and is sorely missing in the media today. And the blogosphere can almost be defined by its lack of empathy. (thx, adriana)
Google is providing real-time stock prices now…no page refresh necessary. So you can, for instance, watch Apple’s stock price drop after Jobs’ keynote. Now I know how daytraders feel…I can’t take my eyes off of the screen.
What new brushed metal magic treats will Steve Jobs unveil this year at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference? Hover car? Neverlost keys? Orgasm pills? Electric pony? All that and more at 1pm ET….live blogging of Jobs’ keynote at MacRumors, Mac Observer, Engadget, and Ars Technica (which includes a spectacularly nerdy photo of Gizmodo’s Brian Lam and his liveblogging contraption). Let the games begin.
iPhone 3G delivers UMTS, HSDPA, GSM, Wi-Fi, EDGE, GPS, and Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR in one compact device - using only two antennas. Clever iPhone engineering integrates those antennas into a few unexpected places: the metal ring around the camera, the audio jack, the metal screen bezel, and the iPhone circuitry itself. And intelligent iPhone power management technology gives you up to 5 hours of talk time over 3G networks.
It doesn’t get much busier than La Paz’s Plaza San Francisco of a Friday afternoon. Two zebras stand on the curb chatting with a teenage girl. Then something remarkable happens: the traffic light turns red, and at the sight of the zebras, the cars actually stop. One driver, however, is a little slow and the nose of his car is left hanging over the crossing. One of the zebras skips over to the offending car and mimes pushing it backwards. Then he continues skipping across to the other side of the street.
People will argue about the decisive milestones (I have come up with my own 10, which I have set out in chapters), but there will be general agreement that, in Britain, a decade of change starts with the election of New Labour in 1997. That was also the year Random House launched its website, John Updike published a short story online and Vintage started a series of reading guides to encourage new book clubs. As well as new readers, the millennium saw the emergence of a new literary generation, writers born in the Sixties and Seventies, and few of them more fascinating than Zadie Smith…
McCrum also shares a tidbit about Malcolm Gladwell’s first book which I’d never heard before.
The Tipping Point was almost a flop. It was published to mixed reviews in the US, did no serious business in the UK and was saved by — yes — word of mouth. After a dismal launch, and as a desperate last resort, Gladwell persuaded his American publisher to sponsor a US-wide lecture tour. Only then did the book ‘tip’. Eventually, it would become a literary success of its time, turn its author into a pop cultural guru and spend seven years on the New York Times bestseller list. This was one of those pivotal moments that illustrates the story of this decade.
At the WH Smith shop at Heathrow last weekend, the paperback copy of The Tipping Point was still #5 on the business bestsellers list and nearly sold out.
Snow is good — soft, deep, drifted snow. Snow is lovely. Remember that you are the pilot and your body is the aircraft. By tilting forward and putting your hands at your side, you can modify your pitch and make progress not just vertically but horizontally as well. As you go down 15,000 feet, you can also go sideways two-thirds of that distance — that’s two miles! Choose your landing zone. You be the boss.
If your search discloses no trees or snow, the parachutist’s “five-point landing” is useful to remember even in the absence of a parachute. Meet the ground with your feet together, and fall sideways in such a way that five parts of your body successively absorb the shock, equally and in this order: feet, calf, thigh, buttock, and shoulder. 120 divided by 5 = 24. Not bad! 24 mph is only a bit faster than the speed at which experienced parachutists land. There will be some bruising and breakage but no loss of consciousness to delay your press conference. Just be sure to apportion the 120-mph blow in equal fifths. Concentrate!
On the subject of hand dryers (a hot popular topic, judging by the amount of email that post generated in my inbox), while on vacation, we also experienced the sheer power of the XLERATOR hand dryer (in a Heathrow bathroom). Where the Dyson Airblade is a bit clever as to how it dries your hands, the XLERATOR expels the damp from your mitts with great force…so forcefully that the skin flaps on your hands like this guy’s face during high-g training. My wife feels the XLERATOR is the superior dryer. (thx, monsur)
Sasha Frere-Jones on Auto-Tune, the studio gizmo responsible for the cool/cheesy voice effects in Cher’s Believe and, more recently, most of T-Pain’s work.
T-Pain, who is currently working on his third album, “Thr33 Ringz,” spoke to me on the phone from his studio in Miami. He first heard the Auto-Tune effect on a song by Jennifer Lopez — he doesn’t remember which one — and borrowed it for a mixtape appearance in 2003. He says it’s no trade secret that he uses Auto-Tune with the retune speed set to zero, and likes to recall a time he spent selling fish out of a truck with his father in Tallahassee: “My dad said, ‘They can know what you’re using, but they’ll never know how to use it. They can see that we’re using salt and pepper.’”
In July 1968, a train delivered the body of Robert Kennedy from NYC to Washington D.C. so that he could be buried in Arlington National Cemetery next to his brother. Photographer Paul Fusco was on that train and shot a bunch of photos of the hundreds of thousands of people that spontaneously turned up along the train route to mourn Kennedy, photos that were recently rediscovered. Fusco narrates a slideshow of the photos.
I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but I’ll also tell you the only area where Paul and I disagreed. For Paul, the event and the photographs represented the end of hope. To me they represent the indomitability of the American spirit.
Either way, the photos are powerful but also show the ordinary American-ness of that time period.
The new UI still offers the Quick Cash feature, but in a much smarter way. Instead of one Quick Cash button, we introduced a whole column of shortcut buttons that behave somewhat like the History menu in a web browser. It is still possible to customize them through Set My ATM Preferences, but hardly necessary since they always reflect the most recent transactions.
An inventive cover version of Radiohead’s Nude played by the following instruments: Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer, Epson dot matrix printer, HP Scanjet scanner, and an array of hard drives. Skip ahead to 1:08 if you can’t wait through the opening. This isn’t the correct technological time period to be steampunk. Bitpunk anyone? (via waxy)
It is written on a completely clear slate, by someone who had not already been taught how to regard the cinema by a thousand other writers, and the newness of it all leaps from the page. What is remarkable is Gorky’s prescience in the last two paragraphs, as he leaps ahead from his description of the first films to speculation on what directions the cinema might eventually take, toward sex and violence. How did he know?
The bulk of Gorky’s short review concerns the absence of color and sound from the films, as if he’s viewing shadows of reality.
Their smiles are lifeless, even though their movements are full of living energy and are so swift as to be almost imperceptible. Their laughter is soundless although you see the muscles contracting in their grey faces. Before you a life is surging, a life deprived of words and shorn of the living spectrum of colours — the grey, the soundless, the bleak and dismal life.
Photography has ceased to record immobility. It perpetuates the image of movement. When these gadgets are in the hands of the public, when anyone can photograph the ones who are dear to them, not just in their immobile form, but with movement, action, familiar gestures and the words out of their mouths, then death will no longer be absolute, final.
And this one from the projectionist of the first Lumiere in NYC:
You had to have lived these moments of collective exaltation, have attended these thrilling screenings in order to understand just how far the excitement of the crowd could go. With the flick of a switch, I plunge several thousand spectators into darkness. Each scene passes, accompanied by tempestuous applause; after the sixth scene, I return the hall to light. The audience is shaking. Cries ring out.
The vitascope projects upon a large area of canvas groups that appear to stand forth from the canvas, and move with great facility and agility, as though actuated by separate impulses. In this way the bare canvas before the audience becomes instantly a stage upon which living beings move about.
All the resources of the word-builders see to have been exhausted in finding names for the simple but ingenious machine that throws moving pictures on a screen. The essential features in every device of this sort are the same — a brilliant light before which a long band of minute photographs is rapidly drawn, and a lens to focus and distribute the rays properly. The arrangements for the manipulation of the light, the band, and the lens are numerous, but they vary only in the inconsequential details, and for all practical purposes the machines are identical. Some mysterious impulse, however, has impelled almost every purchaser of the apparatus to buy with it, or to invent for it, a distinctive name. Vitascope and biograph are most familiar here, with cinematograph coming next at a considerable distance. These hardly begin the list that might be formed from a careful study of the amusement advertisements in the papers of this and other countries. From such sources might be taken phantoscope, criterioscope, kinematograph, wondorscope, animatoscope, vitagraph, panoramograph, cosmoscope, anarithmoscope, katoptikum, magniscope, zoeoptrotrope, phantasmagoria projectoscope, variscope, cinograph, cinnomonograph, hypnoscope, centograph, and xograph. This is far from exhausting the supply. Electroscope exists, and so do cinagraphoscope, animaloscope, theatrograph, chronophotographoscope, motograph, rayoscope, motorscope, kinotiphone, thromotrope, phenakistoscope, venetrope, vitrescope, zinematograph, vitropticon, stinnetiscope, vivrescope, diaramiscope, corminograph, kineoptoscope, craboscope, vitaletiscope, cinematoscope, mutoscope, cinoscope, kinetograph, lobsterscope, and nobody knows how many more. Here, surely, is a curious development of the managerial mind.
It’s difficult to read these accounts and not think about how we’ll all sound in 100 years as we now attempt to explain the internet, mobile phones, the web, blogs, and the like.
The average U.S. citizen completely ignores the regularity with which the automobile kills him, maims him, embroils him with the law and provides mobile shelter for rakes intent on seducing his daughters. He takes it into his garage as fondly as an Arab leading a prize mare into his tent. He woos it with Simoniz, Prestone, Ethyl and rich lubricants — and goes broke trading it in on something flashier an hour after he has made the last payment on the old one.
By last week, this peculiar state of mind had not only sucked thousands of American oil wells dry, stripped the rubber groves of Malaya, produced the world’s most inhuman industry and its most recalcitrant labor union, but had filled U.S. streets with so many automobiles that it was almost impossible to drive one. In some big cities, vast traffic jams never really got untangled from dawn to midnight; the bray of horns, the stink of exhaust fumes, and the crunch of crumpling metal eddied up from them as insistently as the vaporous roar of Niagara.
The NBA Finals start tonight, pitting the LA Lakers against the Boston Celtics. Despite having finished with the best regular season record in the league, the Celtics find themselves underdogs against the Lakers, who ripped through the tough Western conference bracket with little difficulty. I’m going with the majority on this one: Lakers in six games (possibly even five) and continued heartbreak for New England fans after the high of the Red Sox’s second World Series victory last season.
Swiss watch brands are patriotic to a fault. Rolex is one of the few high-end manufacturers that does not stamp “Swiss Made” on the watch face in the belief that Rolex defines Switzerland rather than the other way around.
Every year or so, the same question is asked: how is the Moneyball strategy working out for the Oakland A’s. This year’s answer is: pretty damn good.
Additions like [Frank] Thomas, motivated by this incremental approach, help explain why the A’s have won so many games in recent years even though they’ve consistently traded away or declined to re-sign their top players (Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Tim Hudson, etc.), who demand top dollar—and largely on the basis of past performance. In short, Beane has bought low and sold high repeatedly and systematically, and as a result the A’s have won more games this decade than every team in the league except the Yankees (whose team payroll is routinely two-to-four times larger than Oakland’s).
The sizes of the photographs are deliberately large - taking advantage of the majority of web users who have screens capable of displaying 1024x768 or larger. The long-held tradition of keeping images online tiny and lightweight is commendable still - when designing a general purpose site. But one dedicated to quality imagery should take full advantage of the medium, and I hope I’ve struck a good balance with The Big Picture.
When I see quality photography consigned to the archives, or when I see bandwidth readily given up to video streams of dubious quality, or when I see photo galleries that act as ad farms, punishing viewers into a click-click-click experience just to drive page views - those times are the times I’m glad I was able to get this project off the ground (many thanks to my friends within boston.com)
Written around 1924, when Nabokov was in his mid-twenties (five years after his family fled Russia, and two years after his father was assassinated in Berlin), it was discovered in the writer’s archives at the Library of Congress a couple of years ago, and was translated by his son, Dmitri.
Placeholder names are words that can refer to objects or people whose names are either irrelevant or unknown in the context in which it is being discussed.
Whatchamacallit, junk, widget, gizmo, Joe Blow, shitload, Podunk, and beer o’clock are all examples. Placeholder names are also used extensively in non-English languages.
The German equivalent to the English John Doe for males and Jane Doe for females would be Max Mustermann and Erika Mustermann, respectively. For many years, Erika Mustermann was used on the sample picture of German id-cards (“Personalausweis”). In Austria, Max Mustermann is used instead. Sometimes the term Musterfrau is used as the last name placeholder, possibly because it is felt to be more politically correct genderwise.
Last night I was watching a rerun of Family Guy on TBS and right before the show went to commercial, this happened:
See what they did there? They paused the TV show, ran a little mini-commercial for some show that no one cares about, and then returned to the last two seconds of the segment before going to commercial. Jesus Christ. I realize that Time Warner doesn’t actually care about the people who watch their shows and that television programs are just the networks’ way of getting people to watch advertising, but this is too much. Do these things actually work or just piss people off in droves? Is there some marketing hot dog at Time Warner who thinks that Family Guy viewers want to watch the blue collar comedy stylings of Bill Engvall? I’m sorry that the DVR is ruining your business model, but can you kick the bucket a little more gracefully? (Digg this?)
When eating out, people reported consuming about 35 percent more calories on average than when they ate at home. But importantly, respondents reduced their caloric intake at home on days they ate out (that’s not to say that people were watching their weight, since respondents who reported consuming more at home also tended to eat more when going out). Overall, eating out increased daily caloric intake by only 24 calories. The results for urban and suburban consumers were similar.
Yesterday, New York raised the tax on cigarettes by $1.25. With the previous taxes, the city tax of $1.25, and the variable pricing one sees at retail outlets around the city, people are now paying somewhere between $8 and $12 for a pack of cigarettes in NYC. Some smokers are understandably upset about the price but how does it compare to other enjoyments? If smoking a single cigarette takes five minutes and at $10 & 20 cigarettes per pack, smoking costs a smoker $6/hour. Some other NYC diversions, priced roughly by the hour:
Ice skating in Central Park: $4.25/hr
Yankees game (cheap seats): $5/hr
Visit to MoMA: $8/hr
After-work drinks: $10/hr
Movie w/popcorn & soda: $11/hr
Dinner @ McDonald’s: $11/hr
Dinner @ Daniel: $85/hr
Helicopter tour of NYC: $600/hr
Spitzer-grade call girl: $1000+/hr
For reference, NY State minimum wage is $7.15/hr. (Digg this?)
The Griffey card was the perfect piece of memorabilia at the perfect time. The number the card was given only furthered the prospect of his cardboard IPO. Junior was chosen to be card No. 1 by an Upper Deck employee named Tom Geideman, a college student known for his keen eye for talent. Geideman earned his rep by consistently clueing in the founders of The Upper Deck, the card shop where the business was hatched, on which players would be future stars. Geideman took the task of naming the player for the first card very seriously. Using an issue of Baseball America as his guide, Geideman knew that card No. 1 would belong to Gregg Jefferies, Sandy Alomar Jr., Gary Sheffield, or a long-shot candidate, the phenom they called “The Kid.” It’s probably the most thinking Geideman ever did compiling a checklist, save for the 1992 Upper Deck set when he assigned numbers that ended in 69 to players with porn-star-sounding names. (Dick Schofield at No. 269, Heathcliff Slocumb at No. 569, and Dickie Thon at No. 769.)
I still remember when I got my one and only “Griffey card” (as everyone called it then). My friend Derek and I ventured out in a downpour in response to a call from Al, the owner of our small town’s only card shop. Al ran his shop out of his mother’s garage; he was maybe 30 years old at the time, still lived with his mom, and was one of the nicest, most generous people I’ve ever met. He had half a box of Upper Deck packs that he’d procured from who knows where. Derek and I bought the lot at a slight markup over retail and opened them right there in the cold garage. We both got a Griffey that night; I’ve still got mine sheathed in a hard plastic case.
When I think back on how precious those cards were to me then and consider my current purchasing power relative to my 16-year-old self, I feel a giddy power in the realization that if I wanted to, I could go out right now and buy 10 or 20 Griffey cards. Gah, where’s that eBay login info?
Ever find yourself in a room with a bunch of people, often at work, and you stumble across a mysterious acronym? Someone will recite the acronym and wonder, “what does that mean?” The instant this happens, a weird silence usually falls over the room as everyone revs up their minds, racing to be the first to construct a goofball interpretation of the acronym. Then someone will blurt one out, and soon all the remaining quickwits will follow with their own version. AND NONE OF THEM WILL BE FUNNY.
I was in Vermont over the weekend and talking to a dairy farmer about the rising price of milk. I was surprised when she said that higher sawdust prices was one of the causes. Sawdust? Sawdust, it turns out, is used for bedding the cows and the price of dust has doubled in the past year. I surmise that the downturn in housing construction has meant a reduced demand for lumber and thus less sawdust.
Discovered in the bathroom of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Fifteen: the Dyson Airblade hand dryer. You stick your hands in and slowly draw them out through a thin jet of fast-moving air. Your hands are dry in about 8 seconds.
Update: Reports are coming from around the NYC metro area that the Dyson Airblade can be found quickly drying hands in the third-floor public bathrooms in the Time Warner Building. Fans of dry hands, the A, B, C, D, and 1 trains are available for your pilgrimage. (thx, all)
McCain himself has obviously changed [since the 2000 campaign]; his flipperoos and weaselings on Roe v. Wade, campaign finance, the toxicity of lobbyists, Iraq timetables, etc. are just some of what make him a less interesting, more depressing political figure now — for me, at least. It’s all understandable, of course — he’s the GOP nominee now, not an insurgent maverick. Understandable, but depressing. As part of the essay talks about, there’s an enormous difference between running an insurgent Hail-Mary-type longshot campaign and being a viable candidate (it was right around New Hampshire in 2000 that McCain began to change from the former to the latter), and there are some deep, really rather troubling questions about whether serious honor and candor and principle remain possible for someone who wants to really maybe win.
“There is an assumption in the corporate world that you need to integrate swiftly,” Mr. Iger said. “My philosophy is exactly the opposite. You need to be respectful and patient.” Key to the successful integration, analysts say, has been Mr. Iger’s decision to give incoming talent added duties. Instead of just buying Pixar and moving on, Mr. Iger understood what made the acquisition valuable, said Mr. Price, the author. “If you are acquiring expertise,” he said, “then dispatch your newly purchased experts into other parts of the company and let them stretch their muscles.”
It also sounds as though Pixar has loosened their high standards since the acquisition…they’re outsourcing some animation, doing more sequels (Cars 2, presumably for the merchandising), and making several direct-to-DVD movies.
The six paintings are composed in his characteristic swiping, blurred style of over-painted and obliterated layers, fine-tuned nuances of grey and white worked through with coruscating colours — carmine, emerald, turquoise, cadmium yellow, fiery orange — dragged across the canvas, smeared, wiped, leaving fragments of beauty on cool but sensuous surfaces. They suggest rain and mist, instability and displacement, absence and endings, classical rigour and postmodern ruin. They echo the northern European palette of earnest darkness and piercing brightness that goes back to Grunewald and Caspar David Friedrich, but Richter is also a minimalist, a denier of meaning, ideals, personal signatures. He has named the works in honour of composer John Cage, in reference to his Lecture on Nothing — “I have nothing to say and I’m saying it.”
Three other things I found interesting there:
1) Miroslaw Balka’s 480x10x10, a sculpture consisting of used bars of soap held together by a stainless steel rope hanging from the ceiling. It’s not often that contemporary art smells Zestfully Clean.
So Jason K., the man, the myth, is, as I write, crossing the Atlantic in one single bound, on his way back from merry olde England. Which means that I am going back to my long, cryogenic sleep, to dream about the finer things in life, such as Angela Lansbury’s sexuality, dinosaur bones, lasers, and circuses. It’s been fun while it’s lasted. Many thanks to all of you kind enough to write in with nice things to say about my run, and thanks especially to JK. Until next time, I’ll be at my own, slightly ruder blog, Delicious Ghost (which is dedicated to oddities and visual culture), and sundry other dead-tree places. Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reachin’ for the stars.
Update: Thanks, Cliff…it’s good to be home. And thanks for more than holding down the fort while I was away…I enjoyed reading kottke.org in my absence. -jkottke
IEEE Spectrum, which has quickly become a magazine as good as any out there—including the New Yorker, Wired, what have you—has a new issue devoted only to Kurzweil’s idea of a singularity: That once computers possess greater-than-human intelligence, it will trigger a cascade of changes in how we live. So the question is, when will the singularity come, and from what arena? What are the limits and impetuses for it’s development? The issue isn’t a self-parody of futurism, but there’s plenty of blow-your-mind angles:
On consciousness, we have John Horgan, whose book The Undiscovered Mind describes how the mind resists explanation. We also have Christof Koch and Giulio Tononi, neuroscientists who specialize in consciousness. Rodney Brooks, of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, weighs in on the future of machine intelligence. IEEE Spectrum journalism intern Sally Adee reports on a wildly ambitious effort, just gathering steam now, to map the human brain in enough detail to learn its secrets—and eventually re-create it. Robin Hanson, an economist, describes a future in which capitalist imperatives and technological capabilities drive each other toward a society that the word weird doesn’t even begin to describe. Nanotechnology researcher Richard Jones, philosopher Alfred Nordmann, and semiconductor researcher Bill Arnold all consider aspects of singularitarian visions and explain where they’re myopic.
Felix Salmon ponders why people for some reason tend not to pony up for good food, but will pony up for good wine:
Why does food behave in the opposite manner to wine, in this respect? The same bottle of wine, we know, will taste better the more expensive it is. Yet while price reassures us in the case of wine, and even intimidates us into liking the bottle more, it seems to serve no such role in the case of food, where we’re much more likely to consider a high price a sign of being ripped off.
I’ve thought about this before; basically I refuse to pay a lot for wine but I’ll pay a good deal for great food. My argument: Compare a $10 bottle of wine to $100 bottle of wine. If they’re both great, the more expensive bottle won’t be ten times more delicious. And either way, you’re unlikely to notice the deliciousness after a glass and a half.
Compare that to a $10 plate of food versus a $40 plate of food. If you’re careful with your restaurant choice, I’m betting the $40 plate of food potentially can be at least four times better than the cheaper one. (Though cheap, amazing meals are always out there.) And you’ll probably enjoy every single bite. As a corollary, I really do think EVERY great restaurant, if they’re as serious about their food as they are about their receipts, will offer cheap bottles on their menu. One example: Babbo. Though I think the restaurant isn’t as great as it once was, Batali has always offered bottles below $40.
Update: I just remembered that even Per Se offers cheap bottles—$35, if I recall right—at dinner.
Update 2: After an interesting conversation I had with Michael, I got to thinking about what it might mean to say that one subjective experience—like the taste of a meal—is “four times” better than another. And I think there’s a simple way to quantify it: Would you recall, with fondness, the experience of one four times as often as the experience of the other? Take my experience at Per Se, for example: I’ve told the story of that meal—the food, not the setting—many many times. At least 20 times as often as I’ve told people about the deliciousness of the duck at my favorite noodle shop. And the meal probably cost about 20 times more.
An amazing story about Oscar Kokoschka, one of the three great giants of Viennese expressionist art (the others being Klimt and Schiele). From The Nonist:
I wonder whether any of you have seen the film Lars and the Real Girl? It was a sweet, chaste sort of film considering its casting of a Real Doll as the female lead, and though I enjoyed it I couldn’t help but spend its entire length being reminded of the altogether less sweet, less chaste, true life corollary of “Oscar and the Alma Doll.”
I have lots of friends who make their living in advertising; I myself live off of it, indirectly. But nonetheless, I hate it by in large, and I always looked forward to time that new media would at least marginalize the extent of billboards and their visual pollution. Not even close. A new technology is adding the one thing that billboards have lacked: demographic data.
For the most part, they are still a relic of old-world media, and the best guesses about viewership numbers come from foot traffic counts or highway reports, neither of which guarantees that the people passing by were really looking at the billboard, or that they were the ones sought out.
Now, some entrepreneurs have introduced technology to solve that problem. They are equipping billboards with tiny cameras that gather details about passers-by—their gender, approximate age and how long they looked at the billboard. These details are transmitted to a central database.
I’m thinking that this will mean crazier and crazier billboards in every nook of big cities like NYC—big companies will see that the same demographics of a glossy magazine are available on select corners, on the cheap. And they’ll respond by simply plastering ads on every inch of downtown New York that’s still naked.
An editor of mine once told me his job was to “make something that kept the ads from sticking together.” Now, perhaps the goal of every business on every street corner could be seen as providing a pleasant interlude between “ad impressions”?
Inspired by the LOST finale, was reading up about Jeremy Bentham. He was an amazing guy—a former child prodigy (just like his friend and fellow paragon of Utilitarianism, J.S. Mill) and an astonishingly liberal thinker. He was also, among other things, the inventor of the panopticon and responsible for convincing Adam Smith to advocate letting interest rates regulate themselves. Moreover, he went out in style:
As requested in his will, his body was preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet, termed his “Auto-icon”. Originally kept by his disciple Dr. Southwood Smith, it was acquired by University College London in 1850. The Auto-icon is kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of the College. For the 100th and 150th anniversaries of the college, the Auto-icon was brought to the meeting of the College Council, where he was listed as “present but not voting”. Tradition holds that if the council’s vote on any motion is tied, the auto-icon always breaks the tie by voting in favour of the motion.
The Auto-icon has always had a wax head, as Bentham’s head was badly damaged in the preservation process. The real head was displayed in the same case for many years, but became the target of repeated student pranks including being stolen on more than one occasion. It is now locked away securely.
The picture is priceless. The “cabinet” is more like a telephone booth, and Bentham looks like a ventriloquist’s puppet. People were so tiny in the 19th century!
Tangentially related: The average man storming the Bastille in 1789 was 5 feet ZERO, and 100 pounds—he looked not like a valiant solider, but like a “thirteen year old girl.” You’ll learn that and more in Burkhard Bilger’s fascinating article about height from a few years back.