In a compilation of 64 videos all shown on the same page, one man recreates Thriller -- the beats, the howling, the singing -- all by himself. This is pretty awesome, like Christian Marclay on speed. (thx, christopher)
The blockade diet NOV 28
Harper's has a translated excerpt from a 1942 letter detailing a list of recipes used by the residents of Leningrad during the city's blockage by the Nazis in WWII (subscribers only). In addition to mustard cakes and leather-belt soup, here's this:
Soup from pets and domesticated animals
Meat is ranked by taste in the following order: dog, guinea pig, cat, rat. Gut the carcass, wash well and place in cold water. Add salt. Cook for one to three hours. For aroma: bay leaf, pepper, any sort of herbs, and, if available, grain.
Singing aloud leaves you with a sense of levity and contentedness. And then there are what I would call "civilizational benefits." When you sing with a group of people, you learn how to subsume yourself into a group consciousness because a capella singing is all about the immersion of the self into the community. That's one of the great feelings -- to stop being me for a little while and to become us. That way lies empathy, the great social virtue.
Eating the Sun NOV 28
The cycle of photosynthesis is the cycle of life, says science journalist Morton (Mapping Mars). Green leaves trap sunlight and use it to absorb carbon dioxide from the air and emit life-giving oxygen in its place. Indeed, plants likely created Earth's life-friendly oxygen- and nitrogen-rich biosphere. In the first part, Morton, chief news and features editor of the leading science journal, Nature, traces scientists' quest to understand how photosynthesis works at the molecular level. In part two, Morton addresses evidence of how plants may have kick-started the complex life cycle on Earth. The book's final part considers photosynthesis in relation to global warming, for, he says, the Earth's plant-based balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen is broken: in burning vast amounts of fossil fuels, we are emitting more carbon dioxide than the plants can absorb. But Morton also explores the possibility that our understanding of photosynthesis might be harnessed to regain that balance.
Don't Shoot the Puppy NOV 28
Don't Shoot the Puppy is a simple but difficult Flash game, the perfect Friday time waster. I drained my reserves of patience in doing so, but I finally finished level 15.
Warning, spoilers NOV 26
In a segment for the upcoming Deadwood DVD box set, series creator David Milch talks about the abrupt end of the show and some of the plans he'd had for season four:
Milch does say that he had hoped to introduce a couple of new characters in the never-made fourth season, one of which was based on the sojourning father of John D. Rockefeller who passed himself off as a medicine man who was both a fraud (dispensing mostly alcohol as medicine) and bigamist. He'd be accompanied by a native medicine man whose tactictics were about the same. As it was it could only introduce a bit of their stories in season three.
A classic from The Onion in way more than 96 pt. type: HOLY SHIT, MAN WALKS ON FUCKING MOON.
"Holy living fuck.... Are you fucking believing this? Over," Armstrong radioed back to NASA headquarters nearly 250,000 miles away. "I abso-fucking-lutely am standing on the surface of the fucking moon. I am talking to you from the goddamned fucking moon. Jesus H. Christ in a chicken basket."
"Holy mother of fuck," the first man on the moon added.
From a Vanity Fair piece on Bloomberg News, a brief mention of The Bloomberg Way, the style guide used by writers at the financial news and services company (emphasis mine):
Bloomberg News stories, it declared, "have a structure that is as immutable as the rules that govern sonnets and symphonies." Every story needed to include "the Five Fs": first, fastest, factual, final, and future. Leads were to be exactly four paragraphs long, comprising the stating of a theme, a quotation in "plain English from someone who backs up that theme," numbers-based details that further support it, and an explanation of what's at stake. The use of "but" was banned -- it forced readers "to deal with conflicting ideas in the same sentence." Words such as "despite" and "however" were to be avoided for the same reason.
Are there any copies of The Bloomberg Way online? I'd love to check it out. (via surowiecki)
As this video demonstrates, if you move a chicken's body around, its head stays marvelously still.
The old hero of Gettysburg NOV 26
1863 photo of John L. Burns, War of 1812 veteran and sharpshooter in the Battle of Gettysburg.
Burns, born ca. 1793, was a 70-year-old veteran of the War of 1812 when he was wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg, having volunteered his services as a sharpshooter to the Federal Army. He died of pneumonia in 1872.
And from the comments:
Mr Burns' flintlock is at half-cock with the frizzen down, ready to ready to fire.
The Bank of Oklahoma Building in Tulsa, Oklahoma is (nearly) a half-scale version of the World Trade Center towers. The building was designed by the WTC architect and completed just three years after the Twin Towers.
For the BOk building, Yamasaki reprised the scheme of a Twin Tower at almost exactly half the scale: 52 stories and 667 feet tall, to the Twin Towers' 110 floors (1,362 and 1,368 feet). It has 31 steel perimeter columns per side, to the Twin Towers' 59, producing the same eye-boggling vertical lines on each face. (As Jean Baudrillard noted of the more famous pair, well before its destruction, it is "blind," with no side presenting a facade.) The BOk, too, has a bilevel lobby, whose height is matched by arched windows. But the arches are big and round, like a child's plain wooden building blocks, rather than the Venetian Gothic ogees that, in the World Trade Center, flowed directly into the perimeter columns.
According to Bender's Game (good title!), a direct-to-DVD Futurama movie, the Planet Express HQ is located in Hell's Kitchen right on the Hudson.
The world's highest bridge, the Siduhe Grand Bridge, is nearing completion in China's Hubei province. The bridge is so high off the ground that the Empire State Building could fit under it with over 350 feet to spare. To get the initial cable from one tower to the next, the builders used precisely aimed rockets!
so you've erected the enormous towers on each side of the deep valley, deeper than any valley previously bridged. how do you get a pilot cable from one tower to the next? previous solutions have included: attaching the cable to a kite and flying it over (e.g. niagara falls suspension bridge), carrying one end by helicopter (e.g. akashi kaikyo bridge) and floating one end on a boat (e.g. brooklyn bridge). the brains behind the siduhe bridge decided to ignore all those options and break another record instead. they attached the 3200ft cables to rockets and accurately fired them over the valley, becoming the first people to do so.
Interview with Michael Lewis NOV 25
A short interview with Michael Lewis about the book he just edited, Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity. In compiling the stories, Lewis was surprised at how little good writing he could find about upcoming financial hard times.
How little there was worth reprinting. I had six interns digging up all kinds of stuff, and I looked at 20 times the amount of material that appeared in the book. I assumed there would be lots of stories predicting each panic before the panics actually struck. But there was very little. Afterwards you'd have a flurry of literary activity, and then everybody was on to the next thing. Still, there was a common thread: You were watching America's growing financial insanity.
Photography is for Jerkoffs NOV 25
The language on this one might offend some, but I thoroughly enjoyed this expletive-laden anti-photographer rant: Photography is for Jerkoffs. Here's how to be a photographer in seven easy steps:
1) Make sure you have a LOT OF FUCKING NATURAL LIGHT.
2) Make sure the natural light SOURCE is behind you
3) Make sure the flash on your camera is OFF. If you need a FLASH, it means you don't have enough NATURAL LIGHT. (step 1)
4) Look through the viewfinder: Make sure that everything in your shot is symmetrical. If a tiny bit of it isn't, like a bird or a queer walking down the street, that's OK because it makes the photo "cool." Go watch every Stanley Kubrick movie ever made if you don't understand this. (Study Alex's fake eyelash as the archetypal stylistic symmetry violator)
5) Take pictures of everyday shit from stupid angles but make sure it's all SYMMETRICAL and that it isn't MOVING.
6) Make sure YOU don't move or have your fat black fingers in front of the lens when you push the button. (priceless tip: push the button down halfway, wait for a clicky sound, and then push it all the way in - this is the BIG photography secret that professionals don't want you to know.)
7) Take TONS of photos of the same thing and then only use the good ones where the bird or the queer wasn't blinking.
You're done. You're a fucking photographer. See how easy that is? That's because it's for JERKOFFS.
How to charge your iPod using just an onion and some Gatorade. Oh yeah? When we were kids, we ran digital clocks off of potatoes and loved it! Fear the power of the tuber!
Update: It's a myth, busted by Mythbusters no less. Like I said, tubers rule. (thx, everyone)
The dimensions of the head are impressive. With a width of less than a hundred nanometers and a thickness of about ten, it flies above the platter at a speed of up to 15,000 RPM, at a height that's the equivalent of 40 atoms. If you start multiplying these infinitesimally small numbers, you begin to get an idea of their significance.
Consider this little comparison: if the read/write head were a Boeing 747, and the hard-disk platter were the surface of the Earth:
- The head would fly at Mach 800
- At less than one centimeter from the ground
- And count every blade of grass
- Making fewer than 10 unrecoverable counting errors in an area equivalent to all of Ireland.
How We Decide NOV 25
From the acclaimed author of Proust Was a Neuroscientist, a fascinating look at the new science of decision-making-and how it can help us make better choices. Since Plato, philosophers have described the decisionmaking process as either rational or emotional: we carefully deliberate or we "blink" and go with our gut. But as scientists break open the mind's black box with the latest tools of neuroscience, they're discovering that this is not how the mind works.Our best decisions are a finely tuned blend of both feeling and reason -- and the precise mix depends on the situation.When buying a house, for example, it's best to let our unconscious mull over the many variables. But when we're picking a stock, intuition often leads us astray.The trick is to determine when to lean on which part of the brain, and to do this, we need to think harder (and smarter) about how we think.
The Criterion Collection NOV 25
The Criterion Collection just launched their new web site, complete with the option to watch several movies online. It's $5 for a week rental and that's applied toward the cost of the film on DVD or Blu-ray. Not sure about the quality...the excellent intro movie on the home page says "high quality"...not sure if that means HD or what. There are only 17 movies online -- including Au Revoir Les Enfants, Solaris, and Lord of the Flies -- but they'll be adding more as time goes on. (thx, jason, who did the illustration for the intro clip)
Processing 1.0 NOV 25
The Processing programming language/environment goes 1.0. From the press release:
What is new in Processing 1.0?
The most important aspect of this release is its stability. However, we have added many new features during the last few months. They include a new optimized 2D graphics engine, better integration for working with vector files, and the ability to write tools to enhance the development environment.
Download the newest version here. (thx, dan)
Update: Ben Fry has the press release.
Shaq on Twitter NOV 24
"Somebody out there was trying to use my language and trying to speak for me," O'Neal, sounding more amused than offended, said Wednesday night in a telephone interview. "Rather than have that happen, I thought I'd do it myself." O'Neal added: "It's a fun thing. It's a way for fans to connect."
Used to dashing off one-liners to reporters during pre- and post-game interviews, O'Neal is a natural at Twitter's short format. He's already cleared the murky air about his feelings regarding ex-coach Phil Jackson and ex-teammate Kobe Bryant directly to his fans:
This is straight from the shaqs mouth I love phil jackson Kobe bryant is the best palyer in the game And the shaq kobe, kobe shaq was the best one two
One of the biggest uses of Twitter is for namedropping; Shaq picked up on that right away:
I just texted gary payton, one of the greatest point guards ever
He's also urging his teammates to hop on the bandwagon:
Sittin next to steve nash, tryna get hi to join twitter
When Shaq said "it's a way for fans to connect", he wasn't just blowing smoke. After a friend of mine followed THE_REAL_SHAQ early on, Shaq followed him back. My friend then sent him a direct message about something Shaq had said in an interview once and an hour later, a reply from Shaq: "gimme a numba 2 call". And then Shaq called him for a brief chat an hour or two later!
Best of all, he's having fun with it. On Friday, Shaq posted this photo to TwitPic:
That says it all, no? Tweet on, Shaq...we're following you.
The Obama "O" designer NOV 24
Well, the "O" was the identity for the Obama '08 campaign and the campaign is over. That doesn't mean that the mark will be forgotten; I think the memorabilia from this campaign will have a long shelf life and will stand as a visible symbol of pride for people who supported the candidate and for those who see it as a representation of a watershed moment for our country. As far as having another life, I can't say. Perhaps the 2012 campaign will hark back to it in some way.
Sender's web site has a bit more info on the development of the Obama brand.
New York City beekeeping NOV 24
Interview with David Graves, NYC beekeeper.
For Berkshire bees, quitting time is about 5 pm. New York City bees, they work harder and longer. And as you can see, we're here before 7 am, and these bees are already starting to work, whereas the country bees won't be opening the doors till about 9 am. And these city bees will still be hard at work at 7 tonight! Maybe it's because it's warmer here or maybe it's the city lights. Whatever it is, they definitely work longer hours.
Graves is one of a number of New York City beekeepers who defy the city health code and risk the $2000 fine levied upon its violation.
But in New York, bees are reprobate and illegal. They appear in the City Health Code's Section 161.01, along with an enormous list of animals "naturally inclined to do harm or capable of inflicting harm," lumped in with the truly ferocious/impractical-polar bear, cougar, alligator, whale-and a menagerie of the truly obscure. Actively encouraged by almost every other self-respecting cultural capital, the common honey bee, according to Health Department logic, must be banished along with binturongs, sea kraits, coatimundis, numbats and zorilles.
Graves has been at this awhile...a NY Times article called him the "Johnny Appleseed of New York beedom" in 1999.
All right, but why beekeeping? "After you do it, everything else in life is calm," said Mr. Solomon, the investment banker. "Let me tell you, 40,000 bees will teach you the power of concentration and patience."
Graves' "Rooftop Magic" Honey is available for purchase online. Some say that eating local honey helps with seasonal allergies but evidence is scarce. Oh and you can order your own package of bees here...three pounds of Buckfast with a queen is just $130. (via clusterflock)
With the Great Depression further removed from today than the Civil War was then, it's difficult to imagine what a contemporary depression might look like.
Much of a modern depression would unfold in the domestic sphere: people driving less, shopping less, and eating in their houses more. They would watch television at home; unemployed parents would watch over their own kids instead of taking them to day care. With online banking, it would even be possible to have a bank run in which no one leaves the comfort of their home.
In a deep and sustained downturn, home prices would likely sink further and not rise, dimming the appeal of homeownership, a large part of suburbia's draw. Renting an apartment -- perhaps in a city, where commuting costs are lower -- might be more tempting. And although city crime might increase, the sense of safety that attracted city-dwellers to the suburbs might suffer, too, in a downturn. Many suburban areas have already seen upticks in crime in recent years, which would only get worse as tax-poor towns spent less money on policing and public services.
The story is a bit out-of-date, but this overview of the cause and effects of the Icelandic financial crisis is still worth a read.
Picture a pig trying to balance on a mouse's back and you'll get some idea of the scale of the problem. In a mere seven years since bank deregulation and privatisation, Iceland's financial institutions had managed to rack up $75bn of foreign debt. In his address to the nation, Haarde put the problem in perspective by referring to the $700bn financial rescue package in America: "The huge measures introduced by the US authorities to rescue their banking system represent just under 5 per cent of the US GDP. The total economic debt of the Icelandic banks, however, is many times the GDP of Iceland."
The (Mostly) True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway details the use of type in signage, maps, and manuals for the NYC subway. A must-read for type and subway fans.
As if this plethora of signs were not enough, the subway system also had a bewildering variety of other porcelain enamel and hand-painted signs. The porcelain enamel signs, either hung from the ceiling or posted on the walls, were directional as well as informational. The directional signs included those on the outside of the station entrances as well as those intended for the corridors and platforms underground. Many of the informational signs warned against criminal, dangerous or unhealthy behavior: no peddling wares, no leaning over the tracks, no crossing the tracks, no smoking, no spitting. The directional and informational ones were made by Nelke Veribrite Signs and the Baltimore Enamel Company, while the behavioral ones were the product of the Manhattan Dial Company. Most were lettered in some form of sans serif capitals-regular, condensed, square-countered, chamfered, outlined-though some were in bracketed or slab serif roman capitals. They were usually white letters on a colored background (often dark green for the IND and dark blue for the IRT and BMT), yet many were also black on a white background. There was no house style.
What is to modern eyes a beautiful disorder of tiled text and hand-painted enamel became an embarrassing shambles in the 70s and 80s. It was only in late 1989 that Helvetica became the official typeface for New York City subway system signage...about 20 years too late to prevent the current signage from looking dated.
A very important ladder NOV 24
On one of the window ledges of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem sits a wooden ladder that's been there since at least 1835. The purpose of the ladder is unclear but its placement there is due to the Status Quo. When the wood rots, it's replaced. And like many other aspects of the church's ownership arrangement, the continued existence of the ladder is taken very seriously.
Last Monday, chairs, iron bars, and fists flew on the roof of one of the most revered sites in Christianity, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. When the dust cleared, seven Ethiopian Orthodox monks and four Egyptian (Coptic) monks had been injured. The fight started when an Egyptian monk decided to move his chair into the shade -- technically, argued the Ethiopians, encroaching on the latter's jurisdiction.
The linked-to page is on Geocities so it'll likely reach its quota very quickly...maybe bookmark and come back for a look? (thx, phil)
Clive Thompson writes up the Netflix Prize -- which offers $1 million to the first team to improve upon Netflix's default recommendation algorithm by 10% -- and the vexing Napoleon Dynamite problem that is thwarting all comers.
Bertoni says it's partly because of "Napoleon Dynamite," an indie comedy from 2004 that achieved cult status and went on to become extremely popular on Netflix. It is, Bertoni and others have discovered, maddeningly hard to determine how much people will like it. When Bertoni runs his algorithms on regular hits like "Lethal Weapon" or "Miss Congeniality" and tries to predict how any given Netflix user will rate them, he's usually within eight-tenths of a star. But with films like "Napoleon Dynamite," he's off by an average of 1.2 stars.
The reason, Bertoni says, is that "Napoleon Dynamite" is very weird and very polarizing. It contains a lot of arch, ironic humor, including a famously kooky dance performed by the titular teenage character to help his hapless friend win a student-council election. It's the type of quirky entertainment that tends to be either loved or despised. The movie has been rated more than two million times in the Netflix database, and the ratings are disproportionately one or five stars.
This behavior was flagged as an issue by denizens of the Netflix Prize message board soon after the contest was announced two years ago.
Those are the movies you either loved loved loved or hated hated hated. These are the movies you can argue with your friends about. And good old 'Miss Congeniality' is right up there in the #4 spot. Also not surprising to see up here are: 'Napoleon Dynamite' (I hated it), 'Fahrenheit 9/11' (I loved it), and 'The Passion of the Christ' (didn't see it, but odds are, I'd hate it).
After finding that post, I wrote a little bit about why these movies are so contentious.
The thing that all those kinds of movies have in common is that if you're outside of the intended audience for a particular movie, you probably won't get it. That means that if you hear about a movie that's highly recommended within a certain group and you're not in that group, you're likely to hate it. In some ways, these are movies intended for a narrow audience, were highly regarded within that audience, tried to cross over into wider appeal, and really didn't make it.
Pixels are dead NOV 24
The pixel font circa 1567 is cool, but more interesting is Jonathan Hoefler's assertion that the pixel is nearly dead -- except as a design cliche.
The pixel will never go away entirely, but its finite universe of digital watches and winking highway signs is contracting fast. It's likely that the pixel's final and most enduring role will be a shabby one, serving as an out-of-touch visual cliche to connote "the digital age."
Trailer for The Wrestler NOV 24
Trailer for The Wrestler, directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Mickey Rourke.
Back in the late '80s, Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was a headlining professional wrestler. Now, twenty years later, he ekes out a living performing for handfuls of diehard wrestling fans in high school gyms and community centers around New Jersey. Estranged from his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and unable to sustain any real relationships, Randy lives for the thrill of the show and the adoration of his fans.
Rourke looks great in this and Aronofsky appears back on form. I'm not saying that The Fountain was bad...but it probably was. (thx, kabir)
The Alinea book NOV 21
Big thanks to this week's RSS sponsor: Alinea and their new cookbook, the Alinea book (available for $31.50 or $75 for the special slip-covered edition).
Here's how the US restaurant industry works. Despite the existence of many other awards, best-of lists, and food magazines, it falls to Ruth Reichl to annoint the Best Restaurant in America. The previous title holder since 1997 was The French Laundry, but in 2006, Reichl's Gourmet Magazine gave the top honor to Alinea.
A little more than three years after it opened, chef Grant Achatz and his team created the Alinea book, which basically gives away the store. Because the book includes the exact recipes and cooking techniques that they use in the restaurant, you could use it to open your own Alinea, provided you can get everything else right. But for most home cooks, foodies, and other food enthusiasts, owning the Alinea book gives the reader a glimpse into what it takes to run a restaurant at such a high caliber.
P.S. You used to have to buy the book to get access to its companion web site, Alinea Mosaic, but the site is now free for anyone to use.
Best Esquire stories NOV 21
In celebration of its semisesquicentennial1, Esquire magazine shares the seven greatest stories ever told in the pages of their magazine and has published them online in their entirety. (See also Esquire's 70 greatest sentences.) Get a load of these initial paragraphs.
The School by C.J. Chivers:
Kazbek Misikov stared at the bomb hanging above his family. It was a simple device, a plastic bucket packed with explosive paste, nails, and small metal balls. It weighed perhaps eight pounds. The existence of this bomb had become a central focus of his life. If it exploded, Kazbek knew, it would blast shrapnel into the heads of his wife and two sons, and into him as well, killing them all.
The Falling Man by Tom Junod:
In the picture, he departs from this earth like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it. If he were not falling, he might very well be flying. He appears relaxed, hurtling through the air. He appears comfortable in the grip of unimaginable motion. He does not appear intimidated by gravity's divine suction or by what awaits him. His arms are by his side, only slightly outriggered. His left leg is bent at the knee, almost casually. His white shirt, or jacket, or frock, is billowing free of his black pants. His black high-tops are still on his feet. In all the other pictures, the people who did what he did -- who jumped -- appear to be struggling against horrific discrepancies of scale. They are made puny by the backdrop of the towers, which loom like colossi, and then by the event itself. Some of them are shirtless; their shoes fly off as they flail and fall; they look confused, as though trying to swim down the side of a mountain. The man in the picture, by contrast, is perfectly vertical, and so is in accord with the lines of the buildings behind him. He splits them, bisects them: Everything to the left of him in the picture is the North Tower; everything to the right, the South. Though oblivious to the geometric balance he has achieved, he is the essential element in the creation of a new flag, a banner composed entirely of steel bars shining in the sun. Some people who look at the picture see stoicism, willpower, a portrait of resignation; others see something else -- something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom. There is something almost rebellious in the man's posture, as though once faced with the inevitability of death, he decided to get on with it; as though he were a missile, a spear, bent on attaining his own end. He is, fifteen seconds past 9:41 a.m. EST, the moment the picture is taken, in the clutches of pure physics, accelerating at a rate of thirty-two feet per second squared. He will soon be traveling at upwards of 150 miles per hour, and he is upside down. In the picture, he is frozen; in his life outside the frame, he drops and keeps dropping until he disappears.
What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now? by Richard Ben Cramer:
Few men try for best ever, and Ted Williams is one of those. There's a story about him I think of now. This is not about baseball but fishing. He meant to be the best there, too. One day he says to a Boston writer: "Ain't no one in heaven or earth ever knew more about fishing."
"Sure there is," says the scribe.
"Oh, yeah? Who?"
"Well, God made the fish."
"Yeah, awright," Ted says. "But you have to go pretty far back."
Frank Sinatra Has a Cold by Gay Talese:
Frank Sinatra, holding a glass of bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other, stood in a dark corner of the bar between two attractive but fading blondes who sat waiting for him to say something. But he said nothing; he had been silent during much of the evening, except now in this private club in Beverly Hills he seemed even more distant, staring out through the smoke and semidarkness into a large room beyond the bar where dozens of young couples sat huddled around small tables or twisted in the center of the floor to the clamorous clang of folk-rock music blaring from the stereo. The two blondes knew, as did Sinatra's four male friends who stood nearby, that it was a bad idea to force conversation upon him when he was in this mood of sullen silence, a mood that had hardly been uncommon during this first week of November, a month before his fiftieth birthday.
M by John Sack:
One, two, three at the most weeks and they would give M company its orders -- they being those dim Olympian entities who reputedly threw cards into an IBM machine or into a hat to determine where each soldier in M would go next, which ones to stay there in the United States, which to live softly in Europe, and which to fight and to die in Vietnam.
The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson. Yes! by Tom Wolfe:
Ten o'clock Sunday morning in the hills of North Carolina. Cars, miles of cars, in every direction, millions of cars, pastel cars, aqua green, aqua blue, aqua beige, aqua buff, aqua dawn, aqua dusk, aqua aqua, aqua Malacca, Malacca lacquer, Cloud lavender, Assassin pink, Rake-a-cheek raspberry. Nude Strand coral, Honest Thrill orange, and Baby Fawn Lust cream-colored cars are all going to the stock-car races, and that old mothering north Carolina sun keeps exploding off the windshields. Mother dog!
Superman Comes to the Supermarket by Norman Mailer:
For once let us try to think about a political convention without losing ourselves in housing projects of fact and issue. Politics has its virtues, all too many of them -- it would not rank with baseball as a topic of conversation if it did not satisfy a great many things -- but one can suspect that its secret appeal is close to nicotine. Smoking cigarettes insulates one from one's life, one does not feel as much, often happily so, and politics quarantines one from history; most of the people who nourish themselves in the political life are in the game not to make history but to be diverted from the history which is being made.
Egypt's strongest man NOV 21
If the translation to English is to be trusted, Egypt's strongest man generates 240 horsepower, is medically exempt from working because he might hurt someone in the workplace, and, well, it just gets better from there. Oh, and HE'S NEVER SLEPT. (via delicious ghost)
Ecommr NOV 21
Ecommr is a collection of interface and design elements from ecommerce sites. I wish there were a bit more context around each screenshot (e.g. which interface element is the focus and what's novel about it) but it's a good start.
Nabokov on video NOV 21
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
I'm about due for a reread.
Farewell, Yugo NOV 21
Until last week, Yugos were still in production in Serbia. The factory will be retooled to produce Fiats for its new owner.
How do you make a Yugo go fast? Push it off a cliff.
What do you call the passengers in a Yugo? Shock absorbers.
Why do Yugos have heated rear windows? To keep your hands warm while you push it.
Ha ha. Yugo jokes were popular in my family during one particular Christmas...the year before it was dead baby jokes.
Scientists are saying that we can make ourselves a whoolly mammoth for as little as $10 million. All it takes is a mammoth genome, a lot of painstaking work, and much computing power.
If the genome of an extinct species can be reconstructed, biologists can work out the exact DNA differences with the genome of its nearest living relative. There are talks on how to modify the DNA in an elephant's egg so that after each round of changes it would progressively resemble the DNA in a mammoth egg. The final-stage egg could then be brought to term in an elephant mother, and mammoths might once again roam the Siberian steppes.
The article also notes that if this works for the mammoth, it might also be possible to do the same for a Neanderthal. What an age we live in.
Intrepid Museum open again NOV 21
Hey, the USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier and museum, is back in her old spot on the west side of Manhattan. The Intrepid somewhat famously didn't want to leave her berth in 2006 for refurbishment in New Jersey.
Anatomy of a flop NOV 20
Once upon a time, though, I think I wrote a hit. It was called "Love is for Lovers" and the dB's recorded it for an album called "Like This" in 1984. It had (and has, I believe) an undeniable hook, the kind you'd find yourself singing in the shower or pounding along to on your steering wheel while driving. The performance, produced by Chris Butler at the old Bearsville Studio in upstate New York, has all the power of the best kind of rock: slamming drums, inventive bass, a solid riff and a fantastic solo.
This song is ripe for a contemporary cover.
The NY Times has photographer David Dunlap running around NYC taking updated versions of the photos he took of the city for Paul Goldberger's 1978 guidebook to Manhattan, The City Observed: New York. Recent Now/Then comparisons include Grand Central Terminal, the corner of 59th St and 5th Ave (where the Apple Store is), and, perhaps the most striking pair of photos, the Hudson River shoreline.
The 2008 election voting patterns in the southern United States followed the big cotton production areas in 1860 which in turn followed the shoreline of the shallow tropical seas that covered the southern part of the US 85 million years ago.
This is not a political blog. However, this is a story I couldn't pass up: the story of how voting patterns in the 2008 election were essentially determined 85 million years ago, in the Cretaceous Period. It's also a story about how soil science relates to political science, by way of historical chance.
Headline I'd like to see in 96 pt. type in the NY Times: Obama Elected By Rich Loamy Soils of Cretaceous Seas.
I've been reading this site called I Keep a Diary for I don't know how long, six years at least. The site is a hand-crafted throwback to an earlier web era, a series of annotated photo galleries that document the life, times, adventures, and friends of Brian Battjer Jr. Like its proprietor, the site is funny, enthusiastic, and good-natured, and that's what keeps me coming back for more. I even visit the splash page each time I go because I like the quote that appears on it so much:
i feel nostalgia for things i've never known
IKAD is one of my favorite things on the web and the most recent entry is so truly magical that I had to share. Brian is more than a year behind in documenting his adventures so he's just now getting around to telling the story of his July 2007 trip to Thailand and the United Arab Emirates with his girlfriend, Meredith. After telling his boss that he's taking a month off of work, subletting his apartment, and arranging to stay with a friend in Dubai, he and Meredith speed off to the airport.
At this point, I urge you to just go read the story -- it's great and Brian tells it *way* better than I could -- because I'm going to ruin a lot of it. If you need more convincing of this story's wonderfulness, read on.
Anyway, off they go to JFK for their flight to Dubai. The woman at the Emirates check-in desk has no record of their tickets...becaue they got to the airport a whole day late. After some nervous moments, the woman finds them some seats on the plane.
Fast forward 12 hours or so: they land and deplane. Meredith discovers that she lost her passport and she swears that the thing is still on the plane. Emirates won't let her get back on the plane to look for it but they send an employee to look for it. No dice. They then spent several hours trying to find somone to let them on the plane to search. No luck. Intense panic sets in; the plane is scheduled to leave for NYC in an hour or two.
At this point, Brian phones his friend in Dubai, Bernadette, whom he has never met in person, and explains to her the situation. She says, "I'm on the way to the airport now...I'll see what I can do." It turns out that Bernadette's boss is a sheikh, one of the richest men in the world, and one of the most powerful men in Dubai. Bernadette arrives and tells them that her boss has dispatched his "fixer", his Mr. Wolf. "You ain't got no problems, Brian. I'm on the motherfucker. Chill out and wait for Mahmoun, who should be comin' directly."
"Shit Negro, that's all you had to say."
Sure enough, about ten minutes later a very large, serious-looking Emirati man walked up to the armed guards at immigration and with a nod, they let the dude through! We were like "Whoa." Mahmoun came over to us, and asked us to tell him the problem (and he even whipped out a little pad to take notes just like Mr. Wolf!). After we'd finished explaining to him that we were almost 100% sure that the passport was still on the plane, he was like "Meredith you come with me. Bernadette and Brian, you wait here."
He came back like two minutes later with ten airline employees in tow and said something like "This airplane is supposed to fly back to New York in forty-five minutes, but it's not going anywhere until the passport that's on there is found. So let's go find it."
Did Meredith recover the passport? Does Mahmoun go medieval on anyone's ass? Oh, you'll have to find out for yourself.
Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo spent more than a year painting the recently unveiled ceiling in the UN's Geneva offices. Check out the larger photos at Artdaily and USA Today. The painting isn't exactly aesthetically beautiful, but I love its scale and power. Wonderful.
Speed Racer NOV 20
1. Speed Racer gets a whole extra star from me because I watched it in HD. This movie was made for 1080p...it's a gorgeous gorgeous film. Too bad the rest of it couldn't keep up.
2. When I first saw the trailer for the film, I remarked that the racing scenes seemed like Mario Kart. After seeing the movie, I'm tempted to say that the Wachowskis ripped off Nintendo wholesale. That scene at the beginning with the ghost car? That's right out of racing video games and the aesthetic is all Kart (with a bit of F-Zero and Tokyo Drift thrown in for good measure).
Challenged ballots NOV 20
The ballots are being recounted in the Senate race in Minnesota between Norm Coleman and Al Franken because the initial tally was almost too close to call. MPR has a look at some of the ballots that are being challenged...it's amazing how many weird ways people can mark a ballot that uses a simple fill-in-the-circle design.
Bond typography NOV 20
A fashion model for the ages NOV 20
Vogue Paris has an editorial in the November 2008 issue which features a 20-year-old model photographed as if she were 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 years old. The hands betray her true age in the 40, 50, and 60 shots but the 10-year-old photo is a little bit of brilliance...just the right angle and lighting. (via the year in pictures)
The known and boring NOV 19
The first line of Tyler Cowen's review of Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell's new book:
The book is getting snarky reviews but if it were by an unknown, rather than by the famous Malcolm Gladwell, many people would be saying how interesting it is.
Bing! I can identify with the fatigue one can get after reading too much of the same sort of thing from an author (even a favorite author), but dismissing a book because of who writes it rather than what's written is small-minded and incurious.
Williams Poems NOV 19
Giampietro has put out a call for someone to develop a Williams Word Generator. Drop him a line if you can help out...shouldn't be too much different than the many "words within words" generators scattered around the web.
Filed under things I really don't understand: Silver Towers/University Village, part of a residential superblock complex in Greenwich Village and designed by I.M. Pei, has been granted landmark status by New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Said the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, who battled to preserve the buildings:
Silver Towers is the first post-war urban renewal superblock development in New York City to be landmarked. While such urban renewal projects rarely receive high marks for design, Silver Towers is considered a watershed moment for one of the late 20th century's most respected and influential architects. The design won awards from the American Institute of Architects and the City Club, was dubbed "one of ten buildings that climax an era" by Fortune Magazine, and was cited as a basis for which Pei received the 1983 Pritzker Prize -- the most prestigious award for architects -- for his body of work up to that time. Landmarking Silver Towers not only helps preserve an eminently livable place and honors a great work of architecture, but it also acknowledges the importance of our city's past efforts to create affordable housing and public art.
These may or may not be great buildings, but that whole complex is just this big sucky void between the Village and Soho that no one can get rid of now. Blech.
Snoop Dogg on Martha Stewart NOV 19
If you can stomach more than 30 seconds of it, here's Snoop Dogg on Martha Stewart making cognac mashed potatoes. Here's part 2, in which Snoop and Martha compare posses -- bodyguards in Snoop's case and personal assistants for Martha. One of commenters on YouTube correctly notes that Stewart has spent more time in jail than Snoop.
Visual movie reviews NOV 19
Five quick physics lessons for President-Elect Obama from the author of Physics for Future Presidents (@ Amazon). One of the lessons: nuclear power is the way to go.
It's true that after 300 years, nuclear waste is still about 100 times more radioactive than the original uranium that was removed from the earth. But even this isn't as scary as it sounds. If the waste is stored underground in such a way that there's only a 10 percent chance that 10 percent of it will leak -- which should be more than doable -- the risk will be no worse than if we had never mined the uranium in the first place.
Muller asserts that safe nuclear power is a solved technical problem and that the use of it is a political issue.
Flash game: Splitter NOV 19
Hoop Dreams update NOV 19
The Chicago Tribune gives us an update on the two young men featured in Hoop Dreams, the award-winning documentary about high school basketball stars trying to make their way through life and, hopefully, to the NBA.
Gates, the reserved one, has become an authoritative force who leads a church in the Cabrini area. He is married with four kids. Agee, a spirited charmer, doesn't have a regular job but is launching a line of "Hoop Dreams" apparel. He has five kids by five different women.
Agee also spends time working on his non-profit foundation that works with underprivileged kids. Hoop Dreams is available in its entirety for US viewing on Hulu.
A Matter of Loaf and Death NOV 19
A Matter of Loaf and Death, the Wallace and Gromit short formerly known as Trouble At' Mill, will be shown on the Beeb in the UK at the end of December.
In this new masterpiece viewers will catch up with Wallace and Gromit who have opened a new bakery -- Top Bun -- and business is booming, not least because a deadly Cereal Killer is targeting all the bakers in town so competition is drying up. Gromit is worried that they may be the next victims but Wallace couldn't care -- he's fallen head over heels in love with Piella Bakewell, former star of the Bake-O-Lite bread commercials. So Gromit is left to run things on his own when he'd much rather be getting better acquainted with Piella's lovely pet poodle Fluffles.
Rumor is that a US showing will soon follow.
Trailer for 2012 NOV 18
Oh, Roland Emmerich, you know how to push my buttons. As an unapologetic fan of The Day After Tomorrow, I am vibrating on my chair in anticipation for 2012 (click for HD trailer, yadda yadda).
Never before has a date in history been so significant to so many cultures, so many religions, scientists, and governments. '2012' is an epic adventure about a global cataclysm that brings an end to the world and tells of the heroic struggle of the survivors.
When the Seattle Supersonics up and moved to Oklahoma to become the Oklahoma City Thunder, Sonics fan John Moe became a fan free agent. He arranged recruiting calls and visits with several teams around the league to see if they would have him.
So was he welcoming me aboard then?
"I am absolutely welcoming you into our franchise. We could use some [Timberwolves] fans right now. You're part of the blueprint. Absolutely."
I thanked him for the offer but told him I had other teams to talk to.
Ant architecture NOV 18
It's worth sitting through the annoying "in a world..." narration to see the structure of an immense colony of ants. The scientists poured 10 tons of concrete down into an
abandoned ant colony, waited for it to harden, and then spent weeks excavating the results.
During the construction of the giant structure, it's estimated that the ants hauled 40 tons of dirt out of the holes, the equivalent of building the Great Wall of China. (via cyn-c)
Update: The ant colony was not abandoned. Nice work, scientists!
Wow, Google is hosting millions of photographs from Life magazine from the 1860s to the 1970s. Would have been nice to see these on Flickr instead (so that people could add tags, annotate, etc.), but this is an amazing resource. (via df)
Beards and Moustaches NOV 18
First, a fruit fly is tethered to a rod with a cylindrical LED display around it. The display shows geometric patterns that are known to make a fruit fly move left or right - a kind of virtual reality simulator for flies. Since the fly is tethered, it can't actually move, but it tries to anyway. "The fly's pretty dumb," says roboticist Brad Nelson, who created the "flyborg" with colleagues at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich.
The patterns on the display are triggered by images transmitted from a camera mounted on a miniature robotic car. If the car approaches an obstacle, the display shows the appropriate pattern and the fly reacts accordingly. As it does so, another camera detects minute changes in the movements of its wings. "We measure the lift force and kinematics in real time," says Nelson.
The goal is to figure out how the fly makes decisions about movement so that those decisions can be replicated by a computer.
Alec Soth asks a bunch of photographers a) when did you first get excited about photography? and b) what advice would you give young photographers?
Don't stop questioning yourself (it'll make you less arrogant). Push. Push, scratch, dig... Push further... And stop when you don't enjoy it anymore... But most of all respect those you photograph...
Schlocky painter Thomas Kinkade recently made a film and during the production distributed a list of what Vanity Fair calls Thomas Kinkade's 16 Guidelines for Making Stuff Suck.
12) Surprise details. Suggest a few "inside references" that are unique to this production. Small details that I can mention in interviews that stimulate second or third viewings -- for example, a "teddy bear mascot" for the movie that appears occasionally in shots. This is a fun process to pursue, and most movies I'm aware of normally have hidden "inside references". In the realm of fine art we refer to this as "second reading, third reading, etc." A still image attracts the viewer with an overall impact, then reveals smaller details upon further study.
The book collects together all of Ian Fleming's Bond short stories in a single volume for the first time and includes stories that inspired the Bond film classics From a View to a Kill, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, The Living Daylights and of course, Quantum of Solace, the latest in the series.
I love the Penguin logo incorporated into the 007 on the back cover.
iTunes U is a section of the iTunes store that houses educational audio and video files for free use by anyone.
iTunes U is a part of the iTunes Store featuring free lectures, language lessons, audiobooks, and more, that you can enjoy on your iPod, iPhone, Mac or PC. Explore over 75,000 educational audio and video files from top universities, museums and public media organizations from around the world. With iTunes U, there's no end to what or where you can learn.
Check it out in the iTunes Store. iTunes U includes the formidable series of podcasts from the University of Oxford. (via vsl)
You might have seen the grainy cockeyed bootleg trailer over the weekend but now the real deal is up on Apple's site in various HD-grade qualities: the second trailer for J.J. Abrams' new Star Trek movie. From Wikipedia:
It is the eleventh Star Trek film and features the main characters of the original Star Trek series, who are portrayed by a new cast. It follows James T. Kirk enrolling at Starfleet Academy, his first meeting with Spock, and their battles with Romulans from the future, who are interfering with history.
I'm not a proponent of the idea that any Trek is good Trek so I really want to hate this movie but it looks kind of awesome. At least f'ing McG didn't direct.
Wired UK covers NOV 17
Phil Gyford has posted scans of all the covers of Wired UK, a British version of Wired that existed from 1995 to 1997. I stayed at Phil's flat once and marveled at this collection...it's nice to see these online.
So long, fish NOV 17
Mark Bittman talks about the problems with overfishing and the prospect that in the future, most or all of the fish we eat will be farmed.
The biggest consumers of these smaller fish are the agriculture and aquaculture industries. Nearly one-third of the world's wild-caught fish are reduced to fish meal and fed to farmed fish and cattle and pigs. Aquaculture alone consumes an estimated 53 percent of the world's fish meal and 87 percent of its fish oil. (To make matters worse, as much as a quarter of the total wild catch is thrown back -- dead -- as "bycatch.")
This infographic about overfishing is worth a look. It's a pity that Bittman felt compelled to write this from the "snob" point of view (which was exacerbated by the editor's choice of title). As the article makes clear, overfishing is an important issue that affects the earth's entire population, not just a few picky fish eaters.
Michael Jordan beat 1-on-1 NOV 17
At one of Michael Jordan's basketball camps back in 2003, the NBA star was beaten in a game of 1-on-1 by John Rogers, the CEO of a Chicago investment firm. See also LeBron James getting beat at HORSE.
Update: Rogers also regularly hoops it up with Barack Obama.
Online political observers say President-elect Obama's innovative, online-fueled campaign will likely evolve into a new level of online communication between the public and the White House -- the Internet-era version of President Franklin Roosevelt's famous "fireside chats" between 1933 and 1944.
Here's Obama's first video address as President-Elect. His transition team, potential cabinet members, and other experts will also be recording videos in the coming weeks.
The amount of spam email decreased by more than 66% last week after a single company was knocked offline by their ISP after the Washington Post dug into their activities. But sales of Spam, the midwestern delicacy, are up, up, up because of the crappy economy.
Through war and recession, Americans have turned to the glistening canned product from Hormel as a way to save money while still putting something that resembles meat on the table. Now, in a sign of the times, it is happening again, and Hormel is cranking out as much Spam as its workers can produce.
In a factory that abuts Interstate 90, two shifts of workers have been making Spam seven days a week since July, and they have been told that the relentless work schedule will continue indefinitely.
People are also buying fewer socks and more frozen pot pies. And Spam can be added to the list of unlikely economic indicators, joining sushi, Big Macs, cigarettes, and others.
Update: Oh, and lipstick.
An indicator based on the theory that a consumer turns to less expensive indulgences, such as lipstick, when she (or he) feels less than confident about the future. Therefore, lipstick sales tend to increase during times of economic uncertainty or a recession.
20x200 NOV 14
Thanks to this week's kottke.org RSS sponsor, 20x200, a site that sells limited edition art for low prices...it's "art for everyone". Each week the site features two pieces of new art for sale in small-sized editions of 200 for $20, medium-sized editions of 20 for $200, and large-sized editions of 2 for $2000. This is real art -- all prints come with a certificate signed and numbered by the artist -- for about the same as you would spend for a poster or wall decoration at Target or Ikea.
The best way to enjoy 20x200 is to sign up for the newsletter or follow the site's RSS feed and when something you like comes along, nab it. My wife and I have bought a few things from 20x200 this way, most recently a special edition $50 print of 132 Birds at The American Museum of Natural History by Jason Polan.
Now that the Flip has released their handheld digital HD video camera, here's a little rundown of the offerings currently out there and coming soon.
Nikon D90 SLR - expandable SD memory, 720p, 1280x720 at 24 fps for 5 minutes at a time, 3 in. LCD, and almost every single setting and control that's available on a SLR camera. $1200. (Video samples.)
Canon 5D Mark II SLR - expandable CF memory, 1080p, 1920x1080 at 24 fps for 30 minutes at a time, 3 in. LCD, and almost every single setting and control that's available on a SLR camera. $2700. (Video sample.)
Red One - Not going to list the specs on this one, except to to say that you can shoot whole feature length movies on this thing at a higher resolution for less money than pretty much any other camera out there, digital or otherwise. $17500. (Gorgeous video sample.)
Check out the winners of the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008 competition...lots of amazing photography here. Warning: the winning image is a little disturbing for the faint of heart.
Final photos NOV 14
A list of final photographs taken of people before they died. Included Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, and Adolf Hitler. (via cyn-c)
Female bodybuilders NOV 14
Photos of women bodybuilders. If you cover up the faces with your hands, they look like men in bikini tops and if you cover up the bodies, meth addicts.
Afternoon todo list -
3pm: Listen to Radiolab's season premiere about Choice live on WNYC or online.
Cory Arcangel has a new show opening tonight at Team Gallery in Soho called Adult Contemporary. I got a peek at it last night and my favorite piece is called Photoshop CS: 110 by 72 inches, 300 DPI, RGB, square pixels, default gradient "Spectrum", mousedown y=1098 x=1749.9, mouse up y=0 4160 x=0. It's easy enough to whip up your own by following those instructions in Photoshop but the print itself is gorgeous. When you get up close to it, there is no discernible gradation between the colors and, because it's so uniform and smooth and glossy and big, you lose your sense of depth perception and you don't really know how close you are to it. I almost fell over looking at it because I was so disoriented.
When I was a kid, "oldies" music and movies seemed ancient. Even though I'm now in my 30s, the entertainment that I watched and listened to in my youth still feels pretty recent to me. Raiders of the Lost Ark wasn't all that long ago, right? But comparing my distorted recall of childhood favorites to the oldies of the time jogs my memory in unpleasant ways. For example:
Listening to Michael Jackson's Thriller today is equivalent to listening to Elvis Presley's first album (1956) at the time of Thriller's release in 1982. Elvis singles in 1956 included Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, and Love Me Tender.
If you're around my age, how old do you feel right now? Here are some other examples of timeline twins:
Watching Star Wars today is like watching It's a Wonderful Life (1946) in 1977. It's a Wonderful Life was nominated for an Oscar the following year along with Ethel Barrymore (b. 1879) and Lilian Gish (b. 1893).
Listening to Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit today is equivalent to playing Terry Jack's Seasons In The Sun (1974) in 1991.
Watching The Godfather today is like watching Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times (1936) in 1972. Modern Times was a silent film (Chaplin's last).
Listening to the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks (1977) today...well, they didn't really have rock or pop albums back in 1946. But popular songs on the radio were sung by Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Nat King Cole, and Dinah Shore, as well as many performers and their orchestras.
Back to the Future (1985) --> To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Die Hard (1988) --> Bullitt (1968)
Radiohead, OK Computer (1997) --> Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet (1986)
Somebody who's imaginary NOV 14
Transgender Americans are finding increasing support for their gender identities in unusual places: the so-called red states. In a small Colorado city, parents and the school administration were initially upset with the transition of a student's gender from boy to girl, but other students were not.
But on the first day of school, nothing happened. No flood of calls, no angry protests, and no bullying. Michelle was "happy and shocked" that M.J.'s classmates seemed to get it. When one student made a mocking comment to another using M.J.'s former name, one eighth-grade boy dismissed him with a simple insight. "That person doesn't even exist anymore," he said. "You're talking about somebody who's imaginary."
Overparenting NOV 14
Joan Acocella discussed the current state of overparenting, aka spoiling, helicopter parenting, hothouse parenting, or death-grip parenting.
Marano thinks that the infant-stimulation craze was a scandal. She accepts the idea of brain plasticity, but she believes that the sculpting goes on for many years past infancy and that its primary arena should be self-stimulation, as the child ventures out into the world. While Mother was driving the kid nuts with the eight-hundredth iteration of "This Little Piggy," she should have been letting him play on his own. Marano assembles her own arsenal of neurological research, guaranteed to scare the pants off any hovering parent. As children explore their environment by themselves-making decisions, taking chances, coping with any attendant anxiety or frustration-their neurological equipment becomes increasingly sophisticated, Marano says. "Dendrites sprout. Synapses form." If, on the other hand, children are protected from such trial-and-error learning, their nervous systems "literally shrink."
Pixar spoof video NOV 13
Now that Luxo Jr. is 22 years old, he's interested in more than just chasing beach balls around. NSFW if videos of animated masturbating household furnishings aren't safe to view in your workplace. There are a bunch of other Pixar spoof videos featuring variations on the Pixar lamp...from "state of the art" in 1986 to "anyone with some 3-D animation software can upload to YouTube" in 2008.
New York in the 1930s NOV 13
A lovely photo set of New York City from the 1930s. My favorites are the crowded beach scene at Coney Island, Margaret Bourke-White's shot of hats in the Garment District, and a shot of "the Lung Block" on the Lower East Side. In due time, that then-notorious but now-beautiful block was razed to make way for one of Manhattan's first large apartment complexes, Knickerbocker Village which at various times housed several members of the Bonnano crime family and Julius & Ethel Rosenberg. (thx, mark)
The Buffalo Commons NOV 13
Alex Tabarrok proposes that now is a good time for the US government to form the Buffalo Commons, a huge nature preserve in the western US.
The western Great Plains are emptying of people. Some 322 of the 443 Plains counties have lost population since 1930 and a majority have lost population since 1990. Now is the time for the Federal government to sell high-priced land in the West, use some of the proceeds to deal with current problems and use some of the proceeds to buy low-priced land in the Plains creating the world's largest nature park, The Buffalo Commons.
According to this map, the US government owns more than 50% of the land in some western states (Nevada 84.5%, Utah 57.4%, Oregon 53.1%, Arizona 48.1%, California 45.3%).
Hmm, I've never heard the nihilist interpretation of Row, Row, Row Your Boat before.
The lyrics have often been used as a metaphor for life's difficult choices, and many see the boat as referring to one's self or a group with which one identifies. Rowing is a skillful, if tedious, practice that takes perfection but also directs the vessel. When sung as a group, the act of rowing becomes a unifier, as oars must be in sync in a rowboat. The idea that man travels along a certain stream, suggests boundaries in the path of choices and in free will. The third line recommends that challenges should be greeted in stride while open to joy with a smile. The final line, life is but a dream, is perhaps the most meaningful. With a religious point of view, life and the physical plane may be regarded as having equivalent value as that of a dream, such that troubles are seen in the context of a lesser reality once one has awakened. Conversely, the line can just as equally convey nihilist sentiments on the meaninglessness of man's actions. The line is also commonly sung as "life is like a dream" rather than "life is but a dream", possibly to sound happier, less meaningful, and more appropriate for its audience of young children.
You may have noticed that the video of Burn-E I embedded looked a bit better than a normal YouTube video. YouTube has been quietly offering high-quality versions of some of their videos for quite some time via a "watch in high quality" link just underneath the player. It's not HD, but it's definitely an upgrade of YouTube's legendarily crappy video quality. By default all videos on YouTube and embedded on other sites load at normal quality, but there's a way to set your default viewing quality to high, link to high quality video, embed HQ video, and even save HQ videos for later viewing.
Set your default viewing quality to high:
When you're logged in, go to Account / Playback Setup / Video Playback Quality and set the option to "I have a fast connection. Always play higher-quality video when it's available."
Linking to YouTube videos in high quality:
If you need to link to a high quality video on your blog, append &fmt=18 onto the end of the YouTube URL, like so:
Upon arriving at the YouTube page, you'll see the highest quality video that YouTube pushes out. The full technical details are available here...basically it's a mp4 encoded using H.264 with stereo AAC sound at 480x360.
Embedding high quality YouTube videos:
The &fmt=18 trick doesn't work here, but a similar trick does. For each of the URLs in the embeddable code that you get from YouTube, add &ap=%2526fmt%3D18 onto the end, like so:
<object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/MuqiGrWBRqE&hl=en&fs=1 &ap=%2526fmt%3D18"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/MuqiGrWBRqE&hl=en&fs=1&ap=%2526fmt%3D18" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>
Saving high quality YouTube videos:
When you're viewing a high quality video on YouTube, you can use the KeepVid bookmarklet to download the mp4 file for later viewing on your computer, iPod, or iPhone. I tested this with the Burn-E video and the resulting mp4 was in letterbox format (480x198, or roughly the standard 2.40:1 aspect ratio).
BTW, here's a comparison of the low and high quality for the same video.
Update: I switched the example videos and code because YouTube took the Burn-E video down.
Update: I got an email from a YouTube engineer who tells me that format 18 isn't even the highest quality you can get. Check out Dancing Matt in format 22, aka 720p. Furthermore, some videos don't have a format 18 version (if the uploaded movie doesn't have sufficient quality, for instance). (thx, phil)
Pixar's Burn-E NOV 13
Pixar presents the adventures of Burn-E, a robot contemporary of Wall-E.
The events in Burn-E's short film take place concurrent with those in the feature film.
1908 basketball NOV 13
Really busy Brooklyn NOV 12
For his Fabric of Brooklyn project, Tom Mason took photos of scenes in Brooklyn and combined them to depict super-bustling neighborhoods. Reminded me of this wonderful composite image of a busy airport by Ho-Yeol Ryu.
Pictures of Numbers blog NOV 12
Pictures of Numbers is infrequently updated, but the subject matter is timeless and the archives are worth a look.
Pictures of Numbers is a book-project-in-progress, consisting of practical tips and techniques for busy researchers on improving their data presentation.
1600 Pennsylvania Avenues NOV 12
David Friedman used Google Maps Street View to see what America's other 1600 Pennsylvania Avenues look like. Perhaps when Bush leaves office, he can buy the fixer-upper at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in Dallas, TX as a retirement home.
Sea Orchestra NOV 12
Sea Orchestra is a nice animated commercial for United Airlines done by Shy the Sea. As lovely as it is, the "making of" video -- which reveals reference materials, initial sketches, and storyboards -- might be even better. (thx, dave)
Arrested Development NOV 12
I'm seeing Lost on the side right now (sssh, don't tell Meg) but for the most part, we're a one-at-a-time family with respect to TV shows. With Mad Men on hiatus for who knows how long and spurred by a current lack of cable TV, we finally settled in to watch a few episodes of Arrested Development on Hulu (the whole show is on there) and promptly hopped on the bandwagon for this now-cancelled masterpiece. Great stuff.
Michael Lewis takes a look at the current financial crisis and traces its roots back to the 1980s and the events chronicled in his book, Liar's Poker. He begins by introducing us to some analysts and investors that saw the whole thing coming. One of those people is Steve Eisman.
"We have a simple thesis," Eisman explained. "There is going to be a calamity, and whenever there is a calamity, Merrill is there." When it came time to bankrupt Orange County with bad advice, Merrill was there. When the internet went bust, Merrill was there. Way back in the 1980s, when the first bond trader was let off his leash and lost hundreds of millions of dollars, Merrill was there to take the hit. That was Eisman's logic-the logic of Wall Street's pecking order. Goldman Sachs was the big kid who ran the games in this neighborhood. Merrill Lynch was the little fat kid assigned the least pleasant roles, just happy to be a part of things. The game, as Eisman saw it, was Crack the Whip. He assumed Merrill Lynch had taken its assigned place at the end of the chain.
It's a fantastic article, well worth reading to the end...the final dozen paragraphs are the best part of the whole thing. Who knew deviled eggs were so pregnant with metaphor?
As I was reading the article, Matt Bucher dropped a note into my inbox. As hoped for months ago, Lewis is writing a book about this whole mess.
MONEYBALL and THE BLIND SIDE author Michael Lewis's untitled behind-the-scenes story of a few men and women who foresaw the current economic disaster, tried to prevent it, but were overruled by the financial institutions with whom they worked, sold to Star Lawrence at Norton, by Al Zuckerman at Writers House (NA).
The Portfolio piece will definitely find itself into the book, as will this piece on Meredith Whitney, this one on Goldman Sachs, Lewis' subprime parable, and other pieces from Bloomberg, Porfolio, and his upcoming gig at Vanity Fair. One question though...what happens to Lewis' forthcoming book on New Orleans? Did that just disappear?
Cool new Dutch coin NOV 12
Matthew Dent's new coinage for the UK was pretty great, but this Dutch commemorative coin is a fully contemporary chunk of wow.
On the front, the names of famous Dutch architects form an image of the queen while some Dutch architecture books on the back form an outline of The Netherlands. The design was done using free software running on Ubuntu/Debian. (via design observer)
Google Flu Trends NOV 12
During the 2007-2008 flu season, an early version of Google Flu Trends was used to share results each week with the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the Influenza Division at CDC. Across each of the nine surveillance regions of the United States, we were able to accurately estimate current flu levels one to two weeks faster than published CDC reports.
Photographic buildings NOV 11
Filip Dujardin samples photos of buildings to create new photographs of improbable, impossible, or fantastical buildings.
These are great.
Touching strangers NOV 11
Richard Renaldi's photos of touching strangers seem a little predictable to me -- white guy with black family, blue-collar guy with white-collar guy, blig black guy with white family -- but still worth a look. Joerg Colberg thinks they're amazing:
Asking two complete strangers to not only pose with each other, but to also touch each other while doing that... And this in a culture whose discomfort with touching someone you don't know, or touching something that someone else might have touched still baffles me, even after having spent almost ten years in it! I remember I asked Richard how he actually did that. How do you ask complete strangers to pose with and touch each other? How do you do that in New York City of all places?
The act of making a photograph turns the subjects into actors, and two actors touching each other isn't that unusual. When I look at many of these photos, I see actors and that detracts from the intimacy. Even so, I love this one.
Manhattan comics map NOV 11
Alternate Manhattan maps, #510 in an infinite series: map of where the Marvel comic book characters hang out in the city.
DFW profile NOV 11
A profile of David Foster Wallace from 1987, reprinted by McSweeney's.
"When you write fiction," he explains as part of his critique of a story about a young girl, her uncle, and the evil eye, "you are telling a lie. It's a game, but you must get the facts straight. The reader doesn't want to be reminded that it's a lie. It must be convincing, or the story will never take off in the reader's mind."
One of his two senior college theses was on philosophy (the other became The Broom of the System):
His senior philosophy thesis, he claims, had nothing to do with writing. "It offered a solution in how to deal with semantics and physical modalities concerning Aristotle's sea battle. If it is now true that there will be a sea battle tomorrow, is a sea battle necessary tomorrow? If it is now false, is a sea battle impossible tomorrow? It's a way to deal with propositions in the future tense in modal logic, since what is physically possible at a certain time is weird because one has to distinguish the time of the possibility of the event from the possibility of the time of the event."
The Mind-Blowingly Wonderful: It's every single page of every single issue of the New Yorker, from 1925 to the present, available online whenever you need it. No 9 DVDs needed. No plug-ins either, just a plain old web browser. And it's free with your subscription. Sweet fancy licorice!
The Good: Individual issues are bookmarkable. Forward and back arrows work to flip pages. If you're not a subscriber, you can sign up for four-issue trial or subscribe to just the digital version (~$40/year). At full zoom, the text is clear and easy to read. When an article doesn't appear for free on the New Yorker site, you're directed to the article in the Digital Reader. The DR is in beta and they're soliciting feedback.
The Bad and Not-So-Bad: The Digital Reader works on the iPhone...more or less. It's definitely not optimized for the phone and crashes often but works in a pinch. Some of the issues are missing...1962 and 1963 are largely AWOL. Issue archive always defaults to 2008, even while you're browsing an issue from 1937. Keyword search doesn't seem to work on older issues, i.e. most of the archive. There are a bunch of cool features that they could build on top of this thing: archive-wide search, compile/share lists of articles with other subscribers (i.e. make your own NYer mag from articles from back issues), keyword cross-referencing, etc.
The Ugly: Sadly, the actual reading interface is the worst part of the DR. The reader's interaction with the app relies too much on the mouse...more shortcut keys are needed (zoom, shortcut to TOC, move to top of next column, next/prev issue, etc.). Flipping through the digital magazine is easy enough but reading cannot comfortably be done at the page-flipping size. But when you zoom in, you need to zoom back out before you can flip to the next page. Guess how long it takes until that gets completely annoying? (A: After precisely one page turn.) I'd also like the magazine to fill as much of my screen as it can but instead the size of the viewing window is constrained. Bascially, make the thing as big as the screen will allow and give the reader one button to push to keep reading.
Even more maddening: after a short time, you have to re-login. I don't know if this is triggered by a period of inactivity or what, but it gets on all my nerves. (A "remember me" option that works across browser sessions would be welcome too.)
All-in-all, not enough attention was paid to the overall experience...it feels a bit like drinking fine wine from a sippy cup. That the Digital Reader exists is a great start but its shortcomings put too many roadblocks between the reader and her enjoyment of these great magazines, making the experience less wonderful than it could be. People *love* this magazine and the New Yorker should do everything it can to make people love reading it online.
Dashboard data overload NOV 11
I don't know what this is or how it works or why Sprint is involved, but man is it fun to just let the data just wash over you. Wait, the computer woman just said, "Feel free to touch it." Uncomfortable! Who did this, BTW...Josh Davis, tha ltd., futurefarmers? (via airbag)
Dark Days documentary NOV 11
Dark Days is a documentary released in 2000 about a group of homeless people living in an abandoned Manhattan railway tunnel.
When he relocated from London to Manhattan, Marc Singer was struck by the number of homeless people he had seen throughout the city. Singer had befriended a good number of New York's homeless and later, after hearing of people living underground in abandoned tunnel systems, he met and became close to a group of people living in The Freedom Tunnel community stretching north from Penn Station past Harlem. After living with them for a number of months, he decided to create a documentary in order to help them financially. The film's crew consisted of the subjects themselves, who rigged up makeshift lighting and steadicam dollies, and learned to use a 16mm camera with black & white Kodak film. Singer himself had never been a filmmaker before, and saw the production of Dark Days as a means of gaining better accommodation for the residents of the tunnel.
Obamaland and McCainland NOV 11
I think it works much better when it's all together, don't you?
Trailer for Pixar's Up NOV 10
New trailer for Pixar's Up. I hope I'm wrong, but this seems like the first Pixar movie that won't appeal to adults and kids at the same time.
High five NOV 10
Fans buy soccer team NOV 10
After a team sale was organized over the web, about 31,000 people have an ownership stake in a UK soccer team called Ebbsfleet United.
MyFootballClub has about 31,000 members/owners from all over the world (including the author of this article), all of whom pay an annual subscription of about $60 to be a member of the nonprofit trust that owns "the Fleet." The club is run on the principle of one person, one vote for every decision, major or minor. Ebbsfleet recently made headlines in the British press when members voted to sell John Akinde, a talented young striker, for about $250,000, the first vote of its kind.
A White House butler's story NOV 10
For more than three decades Eugene Allen worked in the White House, a black man unknown to the headlines. During some of those years, harsh segregation laws lay upon the land. He trekked home every night, his wife, Helene, keeping him out of her kitchen. At the White House, he worked closer to the dirty dishes than to the large desk in the Oval Office. Helene didn't care; she just beamed with pride. President Truman called him Gene. President Ford liked to talk golf with him. He saw eight presidential administrations come and go, often working six days a week. "I never missed a day of work," Allen says. His is a story from the back pages of history. A figure in the tiniest of print. The man in the kitchen.
Eugene Allen -- 89 years old, African American, and a White House butler for 34 years -- lived to see a black man voted in as President of the United States. But... (thx, whit)
Update: Here's an accompanying slideshow.
100 Presidential days NOV 10
House keys left out on table + telephoto lens at a distance of 200 feet + SNEAKEY key duplication software = perfect working copies of your keys. Eep. The system also works with crappy cellphone camera photos.
A month after the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, the US government imposed a code of censorship in Japan, which means that photos of the effects of the nuclear device are somewhat difficult to come by. Enter diner owner Don Levy of Watertown, MA.
One rainy night eight years ago, in Watertown, Massachusetts, a man was taking his dog for a walk. On the curb, in front of a neighbor's house, he spotted a pile of trash: old mattresses, cardboard boxes, a few broken lamps. Amidst the garbage he caught sight of a battered suitcase. He bent down, turned the case on its side and popped the clasps.
He was surprised to discover that the suitcase was full of black-and-white photographs. He was even more astonished by their subject matter: devastated buildings, twisted girders, broken bridges -- snapshots from an annihilated city. He quickly closed the case and made his way back home.
The photographs were taken by the US Strategic Bombing Survey immediately after the war and are now in the possession of the International Center of Photography. A copy of a report made by the US Strategic Bombing Survey is available online at the Truman Library.
Let's give it to 'em in black and white.
Armstrong died less than a year after this recording. Here's a lovely recording of What a Wonderful World from two years earlier. What a voice! (via siege)
Update: Armstrong used collage techniques to make covers for his music reels. (thx, sean)
I added 16 new maps to the 2008 Election Maps page in what is probably the final update. Big thanks to everyone who sent in maps.
Breakfast cereal timeline NOV 07
A timeline of the greatest American breakfast cereals, from Grape Nuts in 1897 to Cheerios in 1941 to the present day. (via geek out new york)
Glennz t-shirt shop NOV 07
Big thanks to this week's RSS sponsor, Glennz. Glennz is Glenn Jones, a New Zealand graphic designer and illustrator who began designing t-shirts for Threadless a few years back and became one of their most popular contributors. (You may have seen his genius Darth Vader trimming a shrub tshirt.) Now Jones has struck out on his own with a store featuring almost 30 t-shirts, a customizable desktop calendar, and gift certificates. According to their blog, a recent edition to the store is a shirt featuring the skeleton of a rocking horse (Equus Rockus).
Bonus: all Glennz shirts are currently on sale...get yours before supplies run out.
When it looked as though Obama was going to win the election, former photojournalist Matt Mendelsohn went to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC expecting to find a huge crowd of celebrants.
I'd spent most of election night in front of the TV in Arlington, Va. But around 11 p.m. I couldn't sit idle any longer, which is why I sped to the memorial. When I arrived, I found a TV crew sitting on the plaza above the Reflecting Pool, waiting, I assumed, for a mob to arrive. I approached with cameras in hand. One of them looked up and said with a slight roll of his eyes, "Nothing to see here."
Instead he found a small group of people listening to Obama's acceptance speech on a transistor radio and shot this wonderful picture of the scene. I can't think of an image that better characterizes the grass-roots, get-out-the-vote, small-donations-by-millions-of-people aspect of Obama's campaign. (via 3qd)
2666 NOV 07
2666 is a novel written by Roberto Bolaño and published posthumously in Spanish in 2004. The English translation hits stores next Tuesday and the reviews couldn't be better, especially considering the book's 912 pages. From Jonathan Lethem's review in the NY Times Book Review, reprinted in the IHT:
"2666" is the permanently mysterious title of a Bolaño manuscript rescued from his desk after his passing, the primary effort of the last five years of his life. The book was published in Spanish in 2004 to tremendous acclaim, after what appears to have been a bit of dithering over Bolaño final intentions -- a small result of which is that its English translation has been bracketed by two faintly defensive statements justifying the book's present form. They needn't have bothered. "2666" is as consummate a performance as any 900-page novel dare hope to be: Bolaño won the race to the finish line in writing what he plainly intended as a master statement. Indeed, he produced not only a supreme capstone to his own vaulting ambition, but a landmark in what's possible for the novel as a form in our increasingly, and terrifyingly, post-national world. "The Savage Detectives" looks positively hermetic beside it.
Lethem also compares a part of 2666 to Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which means, like, hey sign me up. (thx, matt)
Update: The Times has posted the original review by Lethem...looks like the IHT version was slightly abridged. Here's a missing comparison to Wallace's Infinite Jest:
By bringing scents of a Latin American culture more fitful, pop-savvy and suspicious of earthy machismo than that which it succeeds, Bolaño has been taken as a kind of reset button on our deplorably sporadic appetite for international writing, standing in relation to the generation of Garcia Márquez, Vargas Llosa and Fuentes as, say, David Foster Wallace does to Mailer, Updike and Roth. As with Wallace's "Infinite Jest," in "The Savage Detectives" Bolaño delivered a genuine epic inoculated against grandiosity by humane irony, vernacular wit and a hint of punk-rock self-effacement. Any suspicion that literary culture had rushed to sentimentalize an exotic figure of quasi martyrdom was overwhelmed by the intimacy and humor of a voice that earned its breadth line by line, defying traditional fictional form with a torrential insouciance.
Real-life Photoshop NOV 07
The universe is trying to kill us, let us count the (ten) ways.
Start worrying in a few million years about a cosmic dust collision, when the sun hits the closest spiral arm of our galaxy. Take your chances with an exploding star. Or manage to escape these threats, and you just get an extra 10^35 years before all matter decays anyway.
Obama bits and loose ends NOV 07
Flickr is getting slammed right now (I'm getting a lot of "hold your clicks" messages) because of the behind-the-scenes election night photos the Obama campaign put up yesterday. Maybe bookmark and come back in a few hours?
I've updated the post about the NY Times' use of 96-pt type for their Obama headline. They've used the big type at least one additional time, on 1/1/2000.
Kristen Borchardt made an awesome video that takes a number of Nov 5th newspaper front pages and animates through them using each papers' Obama photo as the focal point...very much like YTMND's Paris Hilton doesn't change facial expressions.
I've also updated the election headlines post with a few more collections that popped up.
Hopefully I'll have some time this afternoon to update the 2008 Election Maps page; I've got lots of good submissions waiting in my inbox. Thanks to everyone who sent in links and screenshots.
Idea for the Obama administration: fireside chats. On the radio, on satellite radio, as a podcast, transcripts available online soon after airing. Done live if possible, a genuine lightly scripted chat. Maybe Obama could have special guests on to talk about different aspects of policy and government. Bush does weekly radio addresses but they're short, boring, and scripted.
And I gotta tell you, if change.gov is indicative of how the Obama administration is going to use the web to engage with Americans, this is going to be an interesting four years.
Ok, that's probably the last Obama post for a bit. Back to your irregularly unscheduled programming.
The New Yorker has posted an article written by William Finnegan about a young fellow from Illinois running for the US Senate in 2004. That young fellow's name was Barack Obama, profiled two months before he strode onto the national stage at the Democratic National Convention.
"Teaching keeps you sharp," Obama said. "The great thing about teaching constitutional law" -- his subject -- "is that all the tough questions land in your lap: abortion, gay rights, affirmative action. And you need to be able to argue both sides. I have to be able to argue the other side as well as Scalia does. I think that's good for one's politics."
In writing the article, Finnegan ran across some people who thought Obama could be President someday but chose not to include those quotes because it felt "not only absurdly premature but like bad juju".
Classic Star Wars photos NOV 07
Three collections of old Star Wars photos and illustrations: 1) a huge collection of classic Star Wars stills, set photos, etc., 2) a smaller collection of photos from the set of the first film, and 3) some early storyboards from the first movie, tentatively titled "The Star Wars".
Watch and listen to Jim Dale as he reads from the first Harry Potter book. Dale did the US audiobooks for all the Potter books and recently set a world record by doing 146 different voices for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (via 92y)
Democrats trending upward NOV 06
Since the 1980 presidential election, more people voted for the Democratic candidate in each successive election than in the previous one...that is, Mondale got more votes than Carter, Dukakis more than Mondale, Clinton more than Dukakis, etc. The vote for Republicans has been a bit more erratic.
Matters hobo NOV 06
An American Experience clip about the American hobo narrated by John Hodgman. Hodgman does a pretty fair David McCullough impression. (via cyn-c)
Candy hierarchy NOV 06
Post-Halloween, an attempt to determine a candy hierarchy.
Still no unanimous decision on the placement of Candy Corn, which as of 2006 remained unclassified, but as of 2007 had been tentatively placed in the Upper Chewy/Upper Devonian. 2008: no sighting.
The top tier is comprised of Caramellos, Milky Way, Snickers, Rolos, and Twix. Rolos? Please. Sub Peanut Butter Cups in there and you've got yourselves a pyramidal apex.
Way Down in the Hole covers NOV 06
And so it begins. The Ralph Lauren Rugby store near Union Square took delivery of its Christmas decorations on Monday and the end of the year lists have already started appearing online. So far there's Time's best inventions of 2008 and Amazon's best books of 2008.
If you followed or were at all interested in the 2008 presidential election, this seven-part series by a group of Newsweek reporters is a must read. The reporters were granted exclusive access to the campaigns of Barack Obama, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton for a year on the condition that they wouldn't print anything until after the election was over. The series, of which the first three parts are currently up on the Newsweek site, is a fascinating look at how the political process works and contains all manner of salacious political gossip.
Part One: How Obama was persuaded to run and found his campaigning rhythm and his first scuffles with the Clinton campaign.
In some ways, running for president was a preposterous idea for someone who had served as a two-term state legislator and had spent only two years in the United States Senate. But Obama, a careful student of his own unique journey, could see the stars coming into alignment-the country was exhausted by the Iraq War (which he, alone among leading candidates, had opposed as "dumb" from the outset). As Obama saw it, the conservative tide in America was ebbing, and voters were turning away from the Republican Party. People were sick of politicians of the standard variety and yearned for someone new-truly new and different. Another politician with a superb sense of timing, Bill Clinton, perfectly understood why Obama saw a golden, possibly once-in-a-lifetime, opportunity. The former president believed that the mainstream press, whose liberal guilt Clinton understood and had exploited from time to time, would act as Obama's personal chauffeur on the long journey ahead. "If somebody pulled up a Rolls-Royce to me and said, 'Get in'," Clinton liked to say, with admiration and maybe a little envy, "I'd get in it, too."
Part Two: John McCain's campaign gets off to a terrible start and then suddenly recovers.
Along about Thanksgiving, reporters began to notice a change. The size of the crowds was increasing, and McCain began to creep up in the polls, especially in New Hampshire. He was blessed by the quality of his opponents. In the grim days of summer, when a NEWSWEEK reporter had asked why he shouldn't join the rest of the press corps in reading the last rites for McCain's presidential aspirations, Rick Davis had responded with an incongruously cheerful smile. Nothing personal, he said; our opponents are all good men, some of them are my friends-but politically speaking? "Look, at the end of the day," he said, "the rest of these guys suck." However crude, his judgment was not off base. Ex-businessman Mitt Romney seemed to treat the campaign as a management-consulting project, as if he were selling a product and trying to increase market share. He had no fingertips as a politician and came off as a phony, even when he was perfectly sincere. Rudy Giuliani seemed to be building a cult of Rudy, constantly talking about his performance on 9/11 to a nation that wanted to forget about the terrorist attacks, and he badly miscalculated by believing that he could wait until the Florida primary in late January to make his move. Former senator Fred Thompson seemed old and half asleep. Former governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas was emerging as an engaging showman and a lively dark horse-but as an evangelical minister with no foreign-policy experience, he almost certainly could not win.
Part Three: The role of the candidates' spouses, the continuing clashes between the Obama and Clinton campaigns, and Obama's Star Trek joke.
Obama carefully conserved his energy. He was not a man of appetites, like Bill Clinton, who would grab whatever goodie passed by on the tray. Obama was abstemious. Indeed, to the reporters following him, he appeared very nearly anorexic. Most candidates gain the Campaign 10 (or 15). Hillary was struggling with her waistline, as she gamely knocked back shots and beers in working-class bars and gobbled the obligatory sausage sandwiches thrust at her in greasy spoons along the Trail of the White Working-Class Voter. Obama, by contrast, lost weight. He regularly ate the same dinner of salmon, rice and broccoli. At Schoop's Hamburgers, a diner in Portage, Ind., he munched a single french fry and ordered four hamburgers-to go. At the Copper Dome Restaurant, a pancake house in St. Paul, Minn., he ordered pancakes-to go. (An AP reporter wondered: who gets pancakes for the road?) A waiter reeled off a long list of richly topped flapjacks, but Obama went for the plain buttermilk, saying, "I'm kind of traditionalist." Reporters joked that if he ate a single bite of burger or pancake once the doors of his dark-tinted SUV closed, they'd eat their BlackBerrys. Frustrated by reporters fishing for trivial "gaffes," Obama did not like coming back to the plane to talk to the press. As he trudged back from time to time to deal with the reporters' incessant questions, he looked like a suburban dad, slump-shouldered after a long day at the office, taking out the trash.
The bit about Obama's conservation of energy reminded me of this article about Roger Federer's own conservation.
I got another sense, however: a sense that he was conserving focus. Fed went through all his subsidiary responsibilities as the President of Tennis (as Steve Tignor calls him) without concentrating on anything, or at least on as few things as possible.
Concentration takes mental energy, as anyone who has fought off five break points before shanking a ball on the sixth knows. And whenever I saw Federer on the grounds, he seemed to be using as little of it as possible. Practicing with Nicolas Kiefer on Ashe a few days before the tournament, he mostly just messed around. He would hit a few familiar Federer shots, the heavy forehand, the penetrating slice, then shank a ball and grin, or yell. Either way, he wasn't really concentrating all that hard.
Update: Part Four was just posted.
Update: The Times is selling copies of the Nov 5 paper on their site but it's currently being hammered by buyers so maybe try again in a few hours? (thx, matt)
Great photos of Obama NOV 05
The Big Picture, the best new blog of the year, celebrates the victory of Barack Obama, no doubt Time's Man of the Year for 2008, with some of the best photos of the President-Elect taken over the past few months.
More election maps NOV 05
I added ten more maps to the 2008 Election Maps page, including one drawn on a dry erase board.
Election night sex NOV 05
Several folks on Twitter are talking about post-election sex and Obama babies (children conceived on election night...mark your calendars for late July 2009). The consensus seems to be that Barack got laid in a big way last night.
Today is bittersweet...Obama got elected but it looks as though Proposition 8 will pass, banning gay marriage in California. Fuck you, California.
Update: Fuck you too, Arizona and Florida. Also, several people objected to the strong language I used here, saying that I can't curse an entire state where many voted against the ban, it was all the Mormon Church's fault, and in one case, that it was hypocritical of me as a New York resident to complain. You know what? I'm *upset* about this and a little profanity, a little lashing out, is totally fucking warranted.
Election headlines NOV 05
Both Michael Sippey and Kane Jamison collected screenshots of media sites as they declared Obama's victory last night. Here are the front pages of all the newspapers today...I particularly enjoyed The Sun's take on the historic night: One Giant Leap For Mankind. See also: the electoral maps.
Update: Electioneering '08 took screencaps of some of the big media sites throughout the evening. (thx, jason)
Update: Jim Ray also collected screencaps of media sites that night.
Update: Kristen Borchardt made an awesome video that takes a number of Nov 5th newspaper front pages and animates through them using each papers' Obama photo as the focal point...very much like YTMND's Paris Hilton doesn't change facial expressions.
2008 election maps NOV 05
Last night as the election results were coming in online, I took screenshots of a bunch of the now-familiar red/blue electoral maps being used by the larger media sites to show election results and posted them all on this page. (There are currently 25 maps...I'm adding more in a few minutes.)
Hit me on my burner if you run across any others. A couple of quick notes:
1. No one strayed from the red and blue. The red/blue combo is overwhelmingly symbolic but there are plenty of other colors in the crayon box; I would like to have seen someone try something different.
2. In the 2000 and 2004 elections, the red/blue map was the focal point of the media coverage. People were fixated by it. This time around, it didn't matter so much. The maps were interesting for 3-4 hours until the overwhelming nature of Obama's victory became apparent and then, not so much. By this morning, the maps are already shrinking or disappearing from the home pages of the Times, CNN, and the like.
3. Nate Silver and the rest of the 538 guys nailed it. They got Indiana wrong and there are a couple more states that are still too close to call, but they got the rest of the map right. Their final projection had Obama getting 348.6 electoral votes and they currently have him at 349.
President Barack Obama NOV 05
Can an unlikely group succeed in a counterintuitive fashion? Can underprivileged outsiders have an advantage? As evidence, Gladwell cites the story of Sidney Weinberg, a high-school dropout who rose from the mailroom at Goldman Sachs to become a senior partner in the company and one of the most connected and powerful men on Wall Street.
This is the great mystery of Weinberg's career, and it's hard to escape the conclusion that Carnegie was on to something: there are times when being an outsider is precisely what makes you a good insider. It's not difficult to imagine, for example, that the head of Continental Can liked the fact that Weinberg was from nothing, in the same way that New York City employers preferred country boys to city boys. That C.E.O. dwelled in a world with lots of people who went to Yale and then to Wall Street; he knew that some of them were good at what they did and some of them were just well connected, and separating the able from the incompetent wasn't always easy. Weinberg made it out of Brooklyn; how could he not be good?
I read Gladwell for the anecdotes.
Star location service NOV 04
If you submit your astronomy photo to the Astrometry group on Flickr, a tool of the same name will look at the image, tell you the location of the field of view, and label all of the celestial objects contained within it. Here's an annotated photo of the Pleiades.
Your assignment: use the Astrometry and Exif data to stitch all these photos together into a huge Hockney-esque map of the sky. I am also wondering the extent to which you can fool Astrometry with, say, a painting of a portion of the sky. It would be neat if you could submit a drawing of a constellation and get the correct star IDs back. (via mouser)
Valdis Krebs uses data from Amazon to chart networks of people who read political books. Two groups typically emerge from the data: people who read liberally oriented books and people who read conservatively oriented books with a couple of books that both groups read. He ran his analysis again a few days ago and found not two groups but three -- roughly: 1) pro-Obama, 2) anti-Bush, and 3) conservative -- and no books that the groups read in common. (via big sort)
The irony of poverty NOV 04
On the one hand, lack of slack tells us the poor must make higher quality decisions because they don't have slack to help buffer them with things. But even though they have to supply higher quality decisions, they're in a worse position to supply them because they're depleted. That is the ultimate irony of poverty. You're getting cut twice. You are in an environment where the decisions have to be better, but you're in an environment that by the very nature of that makes it harder for you apply better decisions.
Dancing six-legged robot NOV 04
Big Dog is cool and all but this is a video of a robot with 6 legs and a goateed humanoid head wearing sunglasses and a fedora dancing to Lou Bega's Mambo No. 5. You know, if you're into that sort of thing.
Dreaming of Honest Abe NOV 04
And then he hugs me and I think, 'Abe Lincoln hugged me. He smells like Old Spice.' I ask him who he supports in the election, and he smiles and says, "Believe it or not you're the first person who's asked me that this year; of course I support Barack. These so called Republicans remind me of Copperheads." And then he laughed sort of sad a deep ha ha ha laugh and I woke up.
The Copperheads were a group of Union Democrats who opposed the Civil War engineered by Lincoln's Republican administration. An anti-Lincoln pamphlet produced by the Copperheads -- titled Abraham Africanus I. His Secret Life as Revealed Under the Mesmeric Influence. Mysteries of the White House. -- brings to mind the ham-fisted attempt to characterize Barack Obama as a Muslim and terrorist.
Amazon has introduced something that the company is calling Frustration-Free Packaging.
The Frustration-Free Package (on the left) is recyclable and comes without excess packaging materials such as hard plastic clamshell casings, plastic bindings, and wire ties. It's designed to be opened without the use of a box cutter or knife and will protect your product just as well as traditional packaging (on the right). Products with Frustration-Free Packaging can frequently be shipped in their own boxes, without an additional shipping box.
As CDs and DVDs are quickly being replaced by digital downloads, I expect that Frustration-Free Packaging will eventually be replaced by Packaging-Free Packaging as Lego sets, Barbie dolls, computer mice, and running shoes will be downloaded to your HP Personal Real Printer for manufacture and customization in the home. (via 37s)
Rough seas ahead NOV 03
This page on kottke.org is the #1 result when you Google "obama wins". Servers may get a little melty around here in the next couple of days. That's ok...this is what Twitter's servers are going to look like tomorrow night:
A fantastically extensive timeline of recorded information "from cave paintings to the internet". It's an expanded version of the timeline that appears in the book, From Gutenberg to the Internet (more info), which seems really interesting.
From Gutenberg to the Internet presents 63 original readings from the history of computing, networking, and telecommunications arranged thematically by chapters. Most of the readings record basic discoveries from the 1830s through the 1960s that laid the foundation of the world of digital information in which we live. These readings, some of which are illustrated, trace historic steps from the early nineteenth century development of telegraph systems -- the first data networks -- through the development of the earliest general-purpose programmable computers and the earliest software, to the foundation in 1969 of ARPANET, the first national computer network that eventually became the Internet. The readings will allow you to review early developments and ideas in the history of information technology that eventually led to the convergence of computing, data networking, and telecommunications in the Internet.
(via design observer)
Making of Gears of War 2 NOV 03
New Yorker writer Tom Bissell follows game designer Cliff Bleszinski and his mates at Epic Games as they prepare for the release of Gears of War 2 (out this Friday).
The story line and the narrative dilemmas of Gears are not very sophisticated. What is sophisticated about Gears is its mood. The world in which the action takes place is a kind of destroyed utopia; its architecture, weapons, and characters are chunky and oversized but, somehow, never cartoonish. Most video-game worlds, however well conceived, are essenceless. Gears felt dirty and inhabited, and everything from the mechanics of its gameplay to its elliptical backstory was forcefully conceived, giving it an experiential depth rare in the genre.
The trailer for the first Gears of War is the best video game trailer I've ever seen.
The ecstasy of influence NOV 03
From a review of A Christmas Tale, a movie by French director Arnaud Desplechin:
Artists who believe in the mystique of originality are often reluctant to reveal their inspirations. But the magpielike Mr. Desplechin revels in what the writer Jonathan Lethem has called the ecstasy of influence. "I didn't invent anything," he said. "Being a director is not such a grand thing. My job is just to show the audience what I love."
The funny thing about the "ecstasy of influence" quote is that it was used by Lethem in a well-known Harpers article about plagiarism that was itself, in Lethem's words, "stole, warped, and cobbled together" from a variety of other sources, which sources he lists at the conclusion to the article.
The phrase "the ecstasy of influence," which embeds a rebuking play on Harold Bloom's "anxiety of influence," is lifted from spoken remarks by Professor Richard Dienst of Rutgers.
The ecstasy of influence would make a good name for this here blog. (via snarkmarket, another ecstatic influence fan)
The NFL is showing their Sunday night game on NBC (traditional play-by-play broadcast) and online (traditional broadcast plus four other camera angles). Slate declares that the experiment may be the future of sports television.
The "Star" cam isolates on one player from each team-or, in the case of the Tampa-Seattle game, five different players. Other "stars" have included Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward and safety Troy Polamalu, Jacksonville QB David Gerrard, and Cleveland wideout Braylon Edwards. For quarterbacks, this feature is a bit redundant-the camera's always on the guy with the ball-but it's fantastic for the other positions. Watching Polamalu fly around the field at full speed on every play is fantastic, and not just because his jouncing hair is hypnotic. Few athletes play with Polamalu's reckless abandon, and it's thrilling to try to forecast collisions by watching him bounce around the iso cam.
The Star cam works even better for receivers. After watching Ward and Edwards for three straight hours, I now understand why so many wide receivers are narcissistic-their job is to run one wind sprint after another with only the occasional ball thrown their way to break up the track workout.
TBS did this for the baseball playoffs too, except that they omitted the actual broadcast online and provided only extra footage/angles. Adding to Slate's complaints of no replays (it's streaming video only, no pausing, etc.) and no stats info on the other angles, I'd add that based on my experience watching the game online last night, they need something other than a test pattern and piercing tone to indicate that the video player is lagging and buffering. Perhaps a silent "please wait, buffering..." message instead?
There are likely many benefits of an electoral college voting system, but I would still like to see it dead. Because this is just crazy:
The presidency could be won with just 22 percent of the electorate's support, only 16 percent of the entire population's.
That is, you could lose 78% of the popular vote and still gain The White House! Is that even correct? This seems insane to me. (via jake)
The view from Flickr NOV 03
Flickr has enough geographically tagged photographs -- 90+ million -- that they are able to reverse engineer from them the shapes of continents, countries, cities, and neighborhoods.
The (football) Office NOV 03
Tucked away in this profile of Brett Favre is a description of the contemporary NFL quarterback as a cog in complex coaching systems:
...regional distribution managers in a coach's yardage-acquisition scheme.
At the end of the day, if the QB hits the ground running, is on the same page as the coach, gives 110%, and has all his ducks in a row, that's all that matters.