He is also said to be such a fan of Zoolander, the 2001 send-up of the fashion world, that colleagues say he watches it regularly and likes to quote it. Ben Stiller, the star of the film, once dressed up in character and recorded him a special birthday video message.
There may also be a medical reason for the decline in crime. For decades, doctors have known that children with lots of lead in their blood are much more likely to be aggressive, violent and delinquent. In 1974, the Environmental Protection Agency required oil companies to stop putting lead in gasoline. At the same time, lead in paint was banned for any new home (though old buildings still have lead paint, which children can absorb).
Tests have shown that the amount of lead in Americans' blood fell by four-fifths between 1975 and 1991. A 2007 study by the economist Jessica Wolpaw Reyes contended that the reduction in gasoline lead produced more than half of the decline in violent crime during the 1990s in the U.S. and might bring about greater declines in the future. Another economist, Rick Nevin, has made the same argument for other nations.
An intimidated verbal threat of abuse in the workplace, by this thug. Never work in its satan life and this is why America is being destroyed. satan hates truth. satan is lies, hate and kills anyone that gets in its way to continue to lie to America & it's idiot followers.
Thug...that's some sort of code word, right? (via ★vuokko)
Using data from the ACNielsen HomeScan database, which employed bar-code scanners to track every purchase made by roughly 33,000 U.S. households in 2005, the two economists compared identical products sold in cities big and small, both at high-end grocery stores and discount retailers. In nearly every case, New York products were cheaper than in places such as Memphis, Indianapolis and Milwaukee.
You think you're good at Tetris? Think again. Hell, you think you're good at anything? Think again, again! Tetris grandmaster Jin8 shows you how it's done:
It starts getting insane around the 3:00 mark and then, at 5 minutes in, all the blocks turn invisible and he keeps right on going! It's like he's playing blindfold speed chess on the hood of a stock car!! I mean, !!!!!
From the author of 1491 -- the best-selling study of the pre-Columbian Americas -- a deeply engaging new history that explores the most momentous biological event since the death of the dinosaurs.
More than 200 million years ago, geological forces split apart the continents. Isolated from each other, the two halves of the world developed totally different suites of plants and animals. Columbus's voyages brought them back together -- and marked the beginning of an extraordinary exchange of flora and fauna between Eurasia and the Americas. As Charles Mann shows, this global ecological tumult -- the "Columbian Exchange" -- underlies much of subsequent human history. Presenting the latest generation of research by scientists, Mann shows how the creation of this worldwide network of exchange fostered the rise of Europe, devastated imperial China, convulsed Africa, and for two centuries made Manila and Mexico City -- where Asia, Europe, and the new frontier of the Americas dynamically interacted -- the center of the world.
I found this photo of Alfred Hitchcock with three children here labeled "Alfred Hitchcock and his kids" but since he only had one child and looks older in the photo, I assume those are actually his three granddaughters, Mary, Tere, and Katie.
For the quarter-century that followed, Mrs. Clark lived in the apartment in near solitude, amid a profusion of dollhouses and their occupants. She ate austere lunches of crackers and sardines and watched television, most avidly "The Flintstones." A housekeeper kept the dolls' dresses impeccably ironed.
Not even going to try to explain this one. Ok, I'll try a little...this is Yung Jake singing about datamoshing and making animated gifs and such.
you think it's connection you think it's your bandwidth but its me. i'll steal your bitch like a bandit see me on YouTube. fucking with video find me on world star. find me on Vimeo im not on PhotoBooth. that shit's different cuz dey told me to step out of the frame but i didnt
Olmsted believed the goal wasn't to make viewers see his work. It was to make them unaware of it. To him, the art was to conceal art. And the way to do this was to remove distractions and demands on the conscious mind. Viewers weren't supposed to examine or analyze parts of the scene. They were supposed to be unaware of everything that was working.
Last month, Steven Soderbergh's list of what he's been watching and reading told us that the director watched Raiders of the Lost Ark in black & white three times in one week, presumably to emphasize the film's structure and cinematography. Flavorwire's Jason Bailey wondered what other films might be better in black & white and compiled a list of ten, with video examples and commentary of each. Included are Raiders, Fargo, and A Christmas Story.
During the recent and overly publicized breakdown of Charlie Sheen, I was repeatedly contacted by the media and asked to comment, as it was assumed that I know a thing or two about starring on a sitcom, fighting with producers, nasty divorces, public meltdowns, and bombing through a live comedytour. I have, however, never smoked crack or taken too many drugs, unless you count alcohol as a drug (I don't). But I do know what it's like to be seized by bipolar thoughts that make one spout wise about Tiger Blood and brag about winning when one is actually losing.
It's hard to tell whether one is winning or, in fact, losing once one starts to think of oneself as a commodity, or a product, or a character, or a voice for the downtrodden. It's called losing perspective. Fame's a bitch. It's hard to handle and drives you nuts. Yes, it's true that your sense of entitlement grows exponentially with every perk until it becomes too stupendous a weight to walk around under, but it's a cutthroat business, show, and without the perks, plain ol' fame and fortune just ain't worth the trouble.
The next day we shot the fight around the plane. Harrison and Roach squared up to each other and Harrison threw a punch. "That's great. Moving on," said Steven. Now as a stunt co-ordinator my job is to make sure that, on film, those punches look like they've connected. I was standing looking right over the lens of the camera and in my opinion it was a miss. Now I was stuck between a rock and a hard place because Steven had called it good, but I thought I'd better say something. "Excuse me sir, that was actually a miss." He went, "Oh, you again." I said, "Yeah, sorry, it was a miss." Steven paused briefly. "Well, I thought it was a hit." I said, "No, I was actually looking over the lens and it was a miss, I think." Finally Steven said, "OK, we'll do it again." After that take was completed Steven, sarcastically almost, turned to me and said, "How was that?" I went, "That was good. That was a hit." And we carried on and created a great fight routine. Three days later we were all watching dailies when the shot that I'd said was a miss came on screen. Steven had printed it. The old heart started to go, but sure enough it was a miss and Steven, who was right in front of me, turned round and said, "Good call Vic." I couldn't do much wrong after that, it was great.
Back To The Future is both undeniably timeless (its place in pop culture is beyond question) and incredibly dated (it's very much a product of its time). Interestingly, it's a period piece made in 1985 that depicts 1985 as an era as distant-seeming as its version of 1955. Of course, when Back To The Future was first released, 1985 just looked like "now." It's entirely possible that director Robert Zemeckis and co-writer Bob Gale referenced Ronald Reagan and Eddie Van Halen and dressed Fox's Marty McFly up in a denim jacket and Calvin Klein underwear because they wanted Back To The Future to exist in the same universe as The Breakfast Club, Girls Just Want To Have Fun, and other teen films from 1985. But I'm going to give them way more credit than they probably deserve. I think Zemeckis and Gale knew all the timely accoutrements signifying "the present" in Back To The Future would inevitably look like 1985 within just a couple of years; in fact, they were banking on it. Zemeckis and Gale were trying to create an archetypical representation of 1985 just like they did for 1955, with its soda fountains, social repression, and subjugated black people. In this way, Back To The Future only gets better the further we get from the '80s. Everything that defines Marty McFly-how he walks, talks, acts, and dresses-acts as instantly recognizable shorthand for the year he comes from.
There's a rock at the main intersection of White Rock, New Mexico that's often repainted, sometimes two or three times a day. My pal Mouser and a couple friends of his took a core sample of the rock to determine the paint thickness...turns out there was five and a half inches of paint on that rock. Here's a composite photomicrograph of the paint layers.
My situation is blessed and I rarely let a day go by that I don't say a silent prayer in thanks for the position in which I've found myself, but good gracious is this hard.
The most frustrating part is that it is difficult to get into a rhythm in your work when you have no real understanding of the next steps you need to take. There's no opportunity for flow if both outcome and process are foreign experiences. There's just a lot of poking around and mystery and inadvertent negligence.
Svpply has been open to the public for six months now. Our progress has been slow for a variety of reasons. We have not launched as many new features as I would expect, or even drastically improved the ones we launched with. I own these problems, they can be traced directly back to my inabilities and inexperience, sometimes directly, other times in the form of my not having anticipated or recognized situations for what they were as soon as I could have.
Delivereads is a free service that pushes curated long-form journalism to your Kindle a few times a week.
I usually send out a few delivereads a week - each one has 2-5 articles. I don't expect everyone to want to read every article, but it's an easy way to have some great content delivered to your favorite digital reading device with no extra work.
Great idea...it's like a reverse Instapaper. Sadly, it doesn't work with the iOS Kindle app (which doesn't support email).
LeafSnap is a new iPhone app that uses facial recognition techniques to identify trees based on photos of their leaves.
Leafsnap contains beautiful high-resolution images of leaves, flowers, fruit, petiole, seeds, and bark. Leafsnap currently includes the trees of New York City and Washington, D.C., and will soon grow to include the trees of the entire continental United States.
Breaking news -- a bank holdup, a bus accident, the death of FDR -- was quickly featured on the storefront (NB: usually in 140 characters or less). The storefront even offered streaming multimedia of a kind: telegraph dispatches of boxing matches and baseball games were shouted out play by play through a pair of loudspeakers.
Different "layouts" were used. During World War II an outsized map of Europe loomed over the storefront. For Red Sox World Series appearances, a scaffold was built. Sports desk hacks stood on it to chalk up the scores for bowler-hatted crowds numbering in the hundreds.
The signs even contained advertising. Here's a photo of hundreds of people following the Red Sox in the 1912 World Series:
What is interesting about the table above is that Dirk comes in ahead of Bird, Jordan, and so many others. Does this mean Dirk is a better player than Jordan or Bird? Of course not. But it does mean that he is as efficient a scorer as those two were, if not better. Scoring efficiency only tells one part of the story on one side of the floor, which is why PPM can only be considered a small piece of the puzzle when comparing players, but it is a good way to give one of the most unique scoring talents in NBA history his due.
Later he told me it was like skiing down an avalanche chute in the mountains. He said, "You know that feeling you get when you're going over a cornice and it's just straight down after that?" He counted the seconds. He went, "One. Two. Three. Four!" Already it was a long drop, and the wave kept rising higher. "Five! Six! Seven! Eight!" He went, "Holy shit!," and kept dropping. He went, "Don't fade! Don't even imagine it!" He got toward the base of the face, still well above the bottom, and rounded out of the drop as the surface curvature allowed. Bradshaw had never seen such wave expanses before-huge fields of sloping water to the right. He was aware of the mass gathering above and behind him. He went, "I gotta get out of here, now!" He dug his right rail in, banking the board hard against its will, and held it with all of his strength into a carving right turn. The turn was slow because the board was fast. Bradshaw kept at it, however, and went slicing up the wave face almost to the crest. He was briefly elated. Technically he had "made" the wave, but he wasn't done with it yet. From the crest he turned again and went angling back down the face. He intended to perform a full cutback toward the break, but no sooner had he started than a roar erupted behind him as the wave formed a giant barrel. The barrel spat spray at him from its throat. There was no way into that barrel from his position, and it blocked any turn back toward the core of the wave. The ride was almost over for Bradshaw. It had lasted 30 seconds, or hardly more. He exited straight ahead and over the wave's shoulder. He was angry with himself. He thought that he should have been in that barrel, and that he would have been if he had not shied away from the peak at the start of the ride. He did not care about having made history-and did not consider it until others began to insist on it that night. He did not even think that this had been a great run. He thought, Shit, I should have faded.
Clearly the In-N-Out burgers making their trans-continental trip by plane would be at a disadvantage to the made-fresh-in-the-same-city burgers from Five Guys and Shake Shack, so in order to compensate for this, we made the decision to handicap all three burgers by the same amount. After a careful synchronization of watches, burgers were ordered from their respective establishments at precisely 1 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time (that's 9 p.m. EST, 6 p.m. Pacific) and not tasted until the following morning.
I used to be a big In-N-Out fan (their burger is still a great fast food burger), but the slightly more upscale Shack Burger is my favorite burger in the whole wide world...it is indeed, as the article states, "a marvel of beefy engineering".
The page fails on a fundamental level -- it's supposed to be where you find out what's happened on Flickr while you were away. The current design, unfortunately, encourages random clicking, not informed exploration.
The page isn't just outdated, it's actively hurting Flickr, as members' social graphs on the site become increasingly out of sync with real life. Old users forget to visit the site, new sign ups are never roped in, and Flickr, who increased member sign-ups substantially in 2010, will forego months of solid work when new members don't come back.
Many of my friends have switched their photo activities to Instagram and, more recently, Mlkshk. And Flickr's broken "what's new from your friends" page is to blame. Both of those sites use a plain old one-page reverse-chronological view of your friends' photos...just scroll back through to see what's going on. The primary advantage of that view is that it tells a story. Ok, it's a backwards story like Memento, but that kind of backwards story is one we're increasingly adept at understanding. The Flickr recent uploads page doesn't tell any stories.
As long as we're talking about what's wrong with Flickr -- and the stories thing comes in here too -- the site is attempting to occupy this weird middle ground in terms of how people use it. When Flickr first started, it was a social game around publishing photos. You uploaded photos to Flickr specifically to share them with friends and get a reaction out of them. As the service grew, Flickr became less of a place to do that and more of a place to put every single one of your photos, not just the ones you wanted friends to see. Flickr has become a shoebox under the bed instead of the door of the refrigerator or workplace bulletin board. And shoeboxes under beds aren't so good for telling stories. A straight-up reverse-chron view of your friends' recent photos probably wouldn't even work on Flickr at this point...you don't want all 150 photos from your aunt's trip to Kansas City clogging up the works. Instagram and Mlkshk don't have this problem as much, if at all. (via @buzz)
Three boys from the New Zealand island territory of Tokelau thought it would be good fun to steal a boat and pilot it towards the nearest island more than 50 miles away across the Pacific. They took with them very little food, even less water, and no fishing gear. They were found 51 days later, naked and nearly starved to death. This is their story.
As the afternoon wore on, they grew a little hungry. They wondered what people were saying about them back on Atafu. Eventually the sun set. "We were still in a good mood," says Filo. "Not that hungry." They slept again in a puddle on the bottom of the boat.
The next day, they saw an airplane. It was flying low, and they figured it was looking for them. Etueni waved, and the other two boys immediately teased him for wanting to be rescued so soon. "You're a girl," they said. So he stopped waving. Filo and Samu didn't think two days was enough to seem heroic. They figured, as the plane flew away, that it would eventually be back.
Charles Schwab had a mill manager whose people weren't producing their quota of work.
"How is it," Schwab asked him, "that a manager as capable as you can't make this mill turn out what it should?"
"I don't know," the manager replied. "I've coaxed the men, I've pushed them, I've sworn and cussed, I've threatened them with damnation and being fired. But nothing works. They just won't produce."
This conversation took place at the end of the day, just before the night shift came on. Schwab asked the manager for a piece of chalk, then, turning to the nearest man, asked: "How many heats did your shift make today?"
Without another word, Schwab chalked a big figure six on the floor, and walked away.
When the night shift came in, they saw the "6" and asked what it meant.
"The big boss was in here today," the day people said.
"He asked us how many heats we made, and we told him six. He chalked it down on the floor."
The next morning Schwab walked through the mill again. The night shift had rubbed out "6" and replaced it with a big "7."
When the day shift reported for work the next morning, they saw a big "7" chalked on the floor. So the night shift thought they were better than the day shift did they? Well, they would show the night shift a thing or two. The crew pitched in with enthusiasm, and when they quit that night, they left behind them an enormous, swaggering "10." Things were stepping up.
Shortly this mill, which had been lagging way behind in production, was turning out more work than any other mill in the plant.
Let Charles Schwab say it in his own words: "The way to get things done," says Schwab, "is to stimulate competition. I do not mean in a sordid, money-getting way, but in the desire to excel."
The desire to excel! The challenge! Throwing down the gauntlet! An infallible way of appealing to people of spirit.
Oh, and please do remember that it's xojane.com and not janexo.com...the latter is the URL for the site of Jane St. Clair, "First Class Luxury Companion, Brunette Manhattan Escort, Travel Companion, VIP Courtesan, and Exclusive Private Girlfriend". Also xoJane.com is free and Ms. St. Clair starts at $700/hr.
The U.S. Marshals Service is auctioning off some of the personal effects of Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber. There's a photoset up on Flickr of some of the items. This is the sweatshirt and sunglasses Kaczynski wore to one of his bombings...it inspired this famous police sketch.
"The U.S. Marshals Service has been given a unique opportunity to help the victims of Theodore Kaczynski's horrific crimes," said U.S. Marshal Albert Najera of the Eastern District of California. "We will use the technology that Kaczynski railed against in his various manifestos to sell artifacts of his life. The proceeds will go to his victims and, in a very small way, offset some of the hardships they have suffered."
Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools, an exhibition of new work, revolves around the concept of "product demonstrations." All of the works featured in the exhibition -- ranging from video games, single channel video, kinetic sculpture, and prints, to pen plotter drawings -- have been created by means of technological tools with an emphasis on the mixing and matching of both professional and amateur technologies, as well as the vernaculars these technologies encourage within culture at large.
Paul Ford is writing on Ftrain.com again and it's just super. Today's post is a short story that extrapolates our present cultural preoccupation with lawsuits, privacy, and surveillance into a future where anyone can bring a lawsuit for copyright violations against a fetus.
We had gone to a baseball game at the beginning of the season. They had played a song on the public address system, and she sang along without permission. They used to factor that into ticket price -- they still do if you pay extra or have a season pass -- but now other companies handled the followup. And here was the video from that day, one of many tens of thousands simultaneously recorded from gun scanners on the stadium roof. In the video my daughter wore a cap and a blue T-shirt. I sat beside her, my arm over her shoulder, grinning. Her voice was clear and high; the ambient roar of the audience beyond us filtered down to static.
After the publication of Envisioning Information, Tufte decided, he told me, "to be indifferent to culture or history or time." He became increasingly consumed with what he calls "forever knowledge," or the idea that design is meant to guide fundamental cognitive tasks and therefore is rooted in principles that apply regardless of the material being displayed and the technology used to produce it. As Tufte explains it, basic human cognitive questions are universal, which means that design questions should be universal too. "I purposely don't write books with names like How to Design a Web Site or How to Make a Presentation," he told me.
Murray Howe travelled around Europe in 1909 and these photos of Moscow uploaded to Flickr by his great grandson.
Howe was arrested and detained several times in Russia and Germany for taking unauthorized photographs but still managed to bring his entire collection of photos home with him.
Two hundred and fifty thousand troops were in formal review before the Kaiser. Suddenly a tall, sloping shouldered foreigner stepped into the open, leveled his graflex and snapped it. "Take me to the official photographer," he suggested, when, the next instant, astounded sword bearers fell upon him from every quarter.
A few minutes later, he had the official picture maker deep in an enthusiastic conversation over some prints showing his work on another day, when foggy weather had foiled the official camera.
After that, it was merely human nature for the Kaiser's photographer to have his Yankee friend released, and gracefully to exchange prints with him.
This photo was taken recently by Sergey Ponomarev in Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan:
The line on the wall is the high water mark from the March 11 tsunami and the time on the clock is when the water crested (Wikipedia puts the max readings right around 15:20 local time). Each element alone is documentation of a thing...together they tell a story.
I have a soft spot for storytelling clocks in photos. Joseph Koudelka's 1968 photo of the empty streets of Prague before the Soviet crackdown of The Prague Spring is one of my favorite photos. And obviously I love the photo taken by my wife of me holding my son Ollie when he was exactly 20 mintues old. It was the first time I'd held him and oh crap I'm crying at work again... (via in focus)
According to Indiewire, Waltz's character "joins up with former slave Django to save his wife from an evil plantation owner." According to Deadline, Django will reunite Tarantino with Pulp Fiction producer Stacey Sher, and the movie will begin production as soon as this summer or fall.
Christoph Waltz, who was excellent in Inglourious Basterds, and perhaps Will Smith, who was excellent in the Parents Just Don't Understand video, will star.
Sippey posted a brief item on pagination navigation on "river of news" type sites, comparing the opposite approaches of Stellar and Mlkshk. I thought a lot about where to put those buttons and what to label them. There's no good correct answer. For example, "older" usually points the way to stuff further back in the timeline that you haven't read, i.e. it's new to you but old compared to the first page of stuff...are you confused yet? I focused on two things in choosing a nav scheme:
1. The Western left-to-right reading pattern. If you're in the middle of reading a book, the material to your left is a) chronologically older and b) has already been read and the material to your right is a) chronologically newer and b) unread. From a strict data perspective, a) is the correct way to present information but websites/blogs don't work like books. b) is how people actually how people use blogs...when a user gets to the bottom of the page, they want to see more unread material and that's naturally to the right.
2. Consistency. Once you add page numbers into the mix -- e.g. "< newer 1 2 3 4 older >" -- it's a no-brainer which label goes where. I don't think I've ever seen the reverse: "< older 4 3 2 1 newer >".
Or maybe put "newer" at the top of the page? Still a waste of screen real estate? Anyway, once I figure out how I want to do infinite scrolling on Stellar, those problematic older/newer buttons will go away. Huzzah!
James Somers noticed that his equity derivative-trading roommate was the only one of his young professional friends who comes home from work "buoyant and satisfied", so he accompanied him to work one day to see what his job entailed. Turns out he basically plays video games all day.
A trader's job is to be smarter than the market. He converts a mess of analysis and intuition into simple bets. He makes moves. If his predictions are better than everyone else's, he wins money; if not, he loses it. At every moment he has a crystalline picture of his bottom line, the "P and L" (profit and loss) that determines how much of a bonus he'll get and, more importantly, where he stands among his peers. As my friend put it, traders are "very, very, very competitive." At the end of the day they ask each other "how did you do today?" Trading is one of the few jobs with an actual leaderboard, which, if you've ever been on one, or strived to get there, you'll recognize as being perhaps the single most powerful driver of a gamer's engagement.
That seems to be the core of it, but no doubt there are other game-like features in play here: the importance of timing and tactile dexterity; the clear presence of two abstract levels of attention and activity, one long-term and strategic, the other fiercely tactical, localized in bursts a minute or two long; the need for teams and ceaseless chatter; and so on.
Athleticism and competitiveness are often downplayed when we talk about white collar careers but are essential in many disciplines. Doctors (surgeons in particular) have both those traits, founding a startup company is definitely competitive and can be as physically demanding as running, teachers are standing or walking all day long, and even something like programming requires manual dexterity with the mouse & keyboard and the stamina to sit in a chair paying single-minded attention to a task for 10-12 hours a day. (via @tcarmody)
"Well do you mind if I look around the car a little bit?" Well my glove compartment is locked, so is the trunk in the back And I know my rights, so you gon' need a warrant for that
And the answer:
Consenting to a voluntary search is never a good idea, especially if you have felony weight on you. The standard to search the glove compartment is actually fairly low in California, since it's accessible to the driver. I'm not sure how the locked status interferes with it being a glove compartment. The trunk can be opened if the car is impounded, for inventory reasons, which is a common way to get evidence. However, a locked case inside the trunk will not be opened (depends on the state).
Claudia Dreifus of the NY Times scores a rare interview with Stephen Hawking. The ten questions were sent to him in advance and then he met with Dreifus in person to play his answers for her.
Q. Given all you've experienced, what words would you offer someone who has been diagnosed with a serious illness, perhaps A.L.S.?
A. My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn't prevent you doing well, and don't regret the things it interferes with. Don't be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.
Audio clips of some of his answers are available in the article's sidebar. Interestingly, despite the advances in text-to-speech audio and upgrades to his writing hardware & software, Hawking's voice remains the same.
I spoke to Joel Kotkin, a professor of urban development, and asked him about these surveys. "I've been to Copenhagen," (Monocle's Number 2) he tells me "and it's cute. But frankly, on the second day, I was wondering what to do." So, if the results aren't to his liking, what does he suggest? "We need to ask, what makes a city great? If your idea of a great city is restful, orderly, clean, then that's fine. You can go live in a gated community. These kinds of cities are what is called 'productive resorts'. Descartes, writing about 17th-century Amsterdam, said that a great city should be 'an inventory of the possible'. I like that description."
Joel Garreau, the US urban academic and author, agrees. "These lists are journalistic catnip. Fun to read and look at the pictures but I find the liveable cities lists intellectually on a par with People magazine's 'sexiest people' lists."
Ricky Burdett, who founded the London School of Economics' Cities Programme, says: "These surveys always come up with a list where no one would want to live. One wants to live in places which are large and complex, where you don't know everyone and you don't always know what's going to happen next. Cities are places of opportunity but also of conflict, but where you can find safety in a crowd.
"We also have to acknowledge that these cities that come top of the polls also don't have any poor people," he adds. And that, it seems to me, touches on the big issue. Richard G Wilkinson and Kate Pickett's hugely influential book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better (2009) seems to present an obvious truth -- that places where the differential in income between the wealthiest and the poorest is smallest tend to engender a sense of satisfaction and well-being. But while it may be socially desirable, that kind of comfort doesn't necessarily make for vibrancy or dynamism. If everybody is where they want to be, no one is going anywhere.
We can now offer subscriptions on the iPad, and we can give our U.S. and Canadian print subscribers access to iPad issues at no additional cost. Before long, we hope to be able to give the same access to international subscribers beyond Canada and to existing digital-only subscribers.
Still missing (and probably unlikely to ever happen): print subscriber access to the full text of every article on the web site (not the Digital Edition, which offers a suboptimal reading experience IMO).
In my last post for the week, I want to talk a little bit about what Kottke.org means to me: why I've loved reading Jason's blog for years, and why I love writing for the site whenever he asks me to fill in.
Part of it is the content. Liberal arts 2.0, an idea I take seriously enough that my friends and I wrote a whole book about it two years ago.
And a big part of it is the audience and credibility Jason's built up over the years. I've written for a lot of big-name websites, but nothing sends ripples through the blogosphere and Twitter (at least the corners I care about) more than a post on Kottke.org. Jason once wrote a two-sentence post complimenting my writing on Twitter. 48 hours later, I'd gone from 500 followers to 2500.
But really, if I had to pick my favorite thing I love about Kottke.org, it's the structure.
The structure of a Kottke post is totally elemental:
Pull (blockquote, picture, video)
Reader comments (optional)
And that's it. It's the five basic units that blogs were built on, distilled to their essence. And titles and comments are important, but Jason's done without them both. They're paratext. The real core is link, pull, response.
If you read Andrew Sullivan or Ta-Nehisi Coates, their posts are structured almost exactly the same way. Jason does it with artful minimalism, while I usually wind up pushing two or three of them together like Legos. But it's really the same idea.
These are also the elements that help establish bloggers' identity as readers in conversation with other readers: I have seen something that I feel strongly enough to think and write about, and what would make me happiest is if you look at it, then think and write about it too.
It's one reason I like using enigmatic titles (like the one above) rather than spelling everything out. It's like, if you're a Kottke.org reader who's ready to read, then read. And trust me that I'll make it worth your while.
Traditional print journalism doesn't do this -- but really, it can't. Twitter rarely does it, because there just isn't enough room. (You can usually do exactly one, maybe two, of the big five above.)
The vast majority of professional, corporate-owned blogs have rejected it, too, in favor of SEO-approved heds, totally predictable story lines, strict divorce between news and commentary, and pretending like their competitors -- even their colleagues at the same organization -- don't exist.
Instead, we've got officially-approved categorial mantras like curation and community engagement -- as if what mattered in great blogs was their arty taste, skill at embedding viral videos, or pushing out tweets to their followers. Rather than watching an agile mind at work, one attached to a living, breathing person, and feeling like you were tapped into a discussion that was bringing together the most vital parts of the web.
That's what you can do with blogs. That's how they work. That's what we shouldn't forget, even as we add more tools and figure out how to use them. And what I think of Kottke.org, that's what I think about.
They love Donald Duck in Germany -- not so much for the cartoons, but the comics, which were deliberately smartened up in translation by the great Erika Fuchs:
In the years following World War II, American influence in the newly formed Federal Republic was strong, but German cultural institutions were hesitant to sanction one U.S. import: the comic book. A law banning comics was proposed, and some American comics were eventually burned by school officials worried about their effects on students' morals and ability to express themselves in complete sentences...
A Ph.D. in art history, Dr. Fuchs had never laid eyes on a comic book before the day an editor handed her a Donald Duck story, but no matter. She had a knack for breathing life into the German version of Carl Barks's duck. Her talent was so great she continued to fill speech bubbles for the denizens of Duckburg (which she renamed Entenhausen, based on the German word for "duck") until shortly before her death in 2005 at the age of 98.
[Comics publisher] Ehapa directed Dr. Fuchs to crank up the erudition level of the comics she translated, a task she took seriously. Her interpretations of the comic books often quote (and misquote) from the great classics of German literature, sometimes even inserting political subtexts into the duck tales. Dr. Fuchs both thickens and deepens Mr. Barks's often sparse dialogues, and the hilariousness of the result may explain why Donald Duck remains the most popular children's comic in Germany to this day.
Audacity and genius his trademark, and with a third medium to conquer and transform, Welles didn't think small. With the Mercury players in tow, he enlisted veteran satirist and screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz. Together they crafted a story that began with the death of an enigmatic protagonist, and explored his life through flashbacks told from multiple points of view. As questions are answered, questions are raised. The script ultimately compares a man's life to a jigsaw puzzle missing pieces, and thus impossible to solve. The writers very loosely based the title character of Charles Foster Kane on William Randolph Hearst, thus incurring the newspaper titan's wrath. Welles, Mercury, RKO, and the studio heads endured journalistic scandalmongering, and the film eventually earned a blacklist. Welles would later remark, "If Hearst isn't rightfully careful, I'm going to make a film that's really based on his life."
By coincidence, as related by Welles in his autobiography, he once found himself alone in an elevator with Hearst. It was the night of Citizen Kane's San Francisco premiere, and Welles invited him to the opening. "He didn't answer. And as he was getting off at his floor, I said, 'Charles Foster Kane would have accepted.'"
Everybody talks about the movie's formal innovations, but I wish the content would get more love. As A.O. Scott says, "Citizen Kane shows Welles to be a master of genre. It's a newspaper comedy, a domestic melodrama, a gothic romance, and a historical epic." Pauline Kael said Kane was "more fun than any great movie I can think of."
Citizen Kane is The Beatles of movies, not just because of its universal influence and acclaim, or because it really does live up to the historical hype, but because on top of its arty aspirations, what it really wants to do is entertain the hell out of you.
Also, if you're watching it carefully, the movie's self-reflexiveness hides and reveals a devastating history of media. You've got CFK, accidental heir to a fortune based on "oil wells, gold mines, shipping, and real estate," who trades it all for a communications empire: newspapers, radio stations, paper mills, opera houses, and grocery stores, only to be pushed to the margins after a failed political run in favor of the next generation: magazines and movies, the trade of the newsreel producers who try to track down the labyrinthine origin of "Rosebud."
The whole movie's about trying to invent something from nothing, about pretenses to real value, and how that whole house of cards tumbles apart. Eventually you've just got a giant room, where you can't tell the art from the jigsaw puzzles, the childhood heirlooms from the tchotchke snowglobes. Everything propping up value disintegrates. (That's what Kane figures out at the end, by the way, not that he misses his sled or his mom.)
As Borges wrote, it's a metaphysical detective story that leads us to a labyrinth with no center. All that's left is paper, just kindling for the fire.
Much of our modern theater seems rooted in the Shakespearean discovery of the modern mind. We're stealing instead from an earlier, less-traveled construct--the Greeks--lifting our thematic stance wholesale from Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides to create doomed and fated protagonists who confront a rigged game and their own mortality...
The Wire is a Greek tragedy in which the postmodern institutions are the Olympian forces. It's the police department, or the drug economy, or the political structures, or the school administration, or the macroeconomic forces that are throwing the lightning bolts and hitting people in the ass for no decent reason... Because so much of television is about providing catharsis and redemption and the triumph of character, a drama in which postmodern institutions trump individuality and morality and justice seems different.
I've always thought of The Wire's Omar Little in terms of the Greek hero Achilles, man-killer, the matchless runner, conflicted hero of Homer's The Iliad -- one of the few figures in Greek literature who seems immortal, knows he's doomed, and doesn't care.
My theory's based in part on these two scenes and their related plot points. In the first, Omar identifies the body of his lover/partner Brandon, killed and mutilated by the Barksdale gang:
It's Hector's killing of Achilles's partner (and lover, probably) Patroclus and stripping of Achilles's own armor from Patroclus's body, which the Trojans try to seize and desecrate, that drags the sulking Achilles back to battle:
My spirit rebels -- I've lost the will to live,
to take my stand in the world of men -- unless,
before all else, Hector's battered down by my spear
and gasps away his life, the blood-price for Patroclus,
Menoetius' gallant son he's killed and stripped!
Let bygones be bygones. Done is done.
Despite my anguish I will beat it down,
the fury mounting inside me, down by force.
But now I'll go and meet that murderer head-on,
that Hector who destroyed the dearest life I know.
For my own death, I'll meet it freely -- whenever Zeus
and the other deathless gods would like to bring it on!
The Trojans try to kill Patroclus to send a message to the Achaeans to stop fighting. But it ends up dooming the city, because it brings Achilles back into the fight willing to do anything to destroy them and their heroes.
In this famous scene, Omar shows how much he knows about mythology:
As Omar would say: "You come at the King, you best not miss." And as fans of the show know, Omar both has his revenge and meets a similarly mythic end. In Greek tragedy as in The Wire, the universe is indifferent to our heroism.
(blockquote transcribed from Robert Fagles's translation of Homer's The Iliad)
The pilcrow [¶] is not just some typographic curiosity, useful only for livening up a coffee-table book on graphic design or pointing the way to a paragraph in a mortgage deed, but a living, breathing character with its roots in the earliest days of punctuation. Born in ancient Rome, refined in medieval scriptoria, appropriated by England's most famous modern typographer and finally rehabilitated by the personal computer, the story of the pilcrow is intertwined with the evolution of modern writing. It is the quintessential shady character.
Meanwhile, Bethany Keeley-Jonker's "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks remains consistently fun. Even as the same "jokes" pop up over and over again -- gratuitous/suspicion-inducing quotes around "fresh" seem to be particularly popular lately -- the glosses make all the difference:
Get in your time machine, and go to this appointment, in "2011". Good luck figuring out when that is. Maybe this is really a commentary on the actual birth year of Christ.
After yesterday's post on Ghostbusters ("Don't cross the streams"), I got hit with a few follow-ups worth following up:
When I said 1984 was arguably "the biggest/most important year in modern cinematic comedy," I meant mostly because of the ridiculous amount of money comedies made that year and how those surprise blockbusters affected how comedies were made afterwards.
Still when you add This Is Spinal Tap, which also came out in 1984 but didn't make very much money, you really could make a case that it really could be the best/most influential year for movie comedies.
I particularly like Simmons's note about college basketball (maybe even more relevant today):
College hoops meant something in '84. You stayed home on Monday nights to watch the Big East. You knew the players because they had been around for years. And since guys stuck around, you could follow Ewing and Georgetown, Hakeem and Phi Slamma Jamma, Mullin and St. John's, Pearl and Syracuse, MJ at UNC . . . these were like pro teams on a smaller scale. I'm telling you, a Georgetown-St. John's game in the middle of February was an event. These moments aren't even possibilities anymore. They're gone.
My favorite document of 1984 (sports or otherwise) is undoubtedly Sparky Anderson's Bless You Boys, his running diary/memoir of the Detroit Tigers' amazing season that year. It's about baseball, but so many other things -- life, death, perspective. I wrote about it last year for The Idler when Sparky Anderson passed away.
One last "what if?" note from Simmons:
Rolling Stone was offered the chance to buy MTV, and Sports Illustrated was offered the chance to buy ESPN. Both magazines decided against it.
NBC's Community has a minor character (nick)named Magnitude, who overwhelmingly speaks in just a single catchphrase -- "Pop Pop!" Both the character and the phrase have unexpectedly taken off. Here's their first appearance:
The Wrap's John Sellers has written an oral history of Magnitude where show creator Dan Harmon (along with actor Luke Youngblood and staff writer/character creator Adam Countee) fills in the character's surprisingly rich backstory. Highlights:
Harmon: In the end, I really liked Magnitude because I realized that the reason he calls himself Magnitude is because it stands for Magnetic Attitude.
Countee: This guy has a nickname within a nickname. The layering of the character, I thought, was so funny and so brilliant. That little nuance spoke volumes about who this kid is and who this kid is trying to be.
Harmon: At some point, we had to give Magnitude a birthdate. And someone decided that he was 16 years old. We were like, "That's hilarious." He's, like, some kind of weird prodigy. There is also a deleted couplet from the election episode. Magnitude is up there talking, and the dean applauds his bold urban flavor. And in response to that, Shirley, in the audience, says, "Bold urban flavor? Please. That boy's from Barbados. His father's a cardiologist." So, there's some biographical information to add to the canon.
Weirdly, when I lived in Chicago, my roommate Bob:
looked surprisingly like Magnitude (same haircut, same glasses, same attitude)
BOTH his parents were cardiologists
the family wasn't from Barbados -- they were from Nigeria.
He disappointed the entire family by getting an MA in psychology, then dropping out and spending all day listening to Gang Starr, drinking brandy, and reading books about conspiracy theories and the paranormal. He was easily the best roommate I ever had.
John Candy was the first choice for the part of Sigourney Weaver's dweeby neighbor Louis. Candy was interested, but he wanted his character to speak with a German accent and own several large dogs.
Neither were Ernie Hudson or Bill Murray. Dan Aykroyd wrote Peter Venkman for John Belushi, then rewrote it for Murray after Belushi died. I can't even imagine how that would have worked.
(Actually, I don't know if I can easily substitute any other actor for Bill Murray in any of his roles. That might be an imaginative blind spot for me.)
Likewise Paul Reubens (pre-Pee Wee Herman) was originally slated to play the demonic Gozer, as a straight-laced architect in a business suit.
As for Ernie Hudson's Winston:
Eddie Murphy was offered the part of Winston Zeddemore, which was intended to be a much larger character at the time. The plan was for Zeddemore to have been hired as a Ghostbuster much earlier in the movie, and in the scene at the hotel, he would have been the one covered in green slime by the ghost Slimer, instead of Bill Murray.
Murphy's reaction to getting slimed would have been priceless, but going for the lead in Beverly Hills Cop rather than teaming up with Aykroyd again was a great call. It probably all worked out for the best.
In fact, between Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, and Sixteen Candles, you could make a case that 1984 was the biggest/most important year in modern cinematic comedy. Even Police Academy, Gremlins, Splash, and Romancing the Stone were huge that year, even though I don't like those movies so much.
Think of all the female protagonists in Disney musicals. There are quite a number, almost as many as there are males--Cinderella, Belle, Ariel, Pocahontas, Mulan... the list goes on. Now think of female protagonists in Pixar movies.
There aren't any. Not a single one.
This claim's hedged a little bit, pointing to The Incredibles' Elastigirl and Wall-E's Eve as "strong, memorable female characters." I'd say these two definitely count as protagonists, but there does seem to be something of a two-to-one rule: Finding Nemo's Dory is a great protagonist, but she has to be paired with Marlin and Nemo (and Gill, and Crush...) The Incredibles is almost balanced. Almost.
Note that Stefan is far from the first person to point this out: these are just the links from the kottke.org archives:
The tendency of readers to interpret even gender-neutral animal characters as male exaggerates the pattern of female underrepresentation. The authors note that mothers frequently label gender-neutral animal characters as male when reading with their children, and that children assign gender to gender-neutral animal characters.
Here's a different interpretation. Pixar's movies are usually not just focused on men, but specifically on dads. Finding Nemo and The Incredibles are the best examples of this, but even Up and Ratatouille traffic pretty heavily in father issues, if not fatherhood outright.
Traditional Disney movies were really kids' fantasies, even the ones seemingly targeted for boys, like The Jungle Book or Robin Hood. Pixar seems to have realized that if you can get the dad to come to the movie and love the movie, the whole family will come. Maybe more than once. And they'll probably buy the DVD and the video game, too. That's the formula.
And of course, it doesn't hurt that the people making the movies are largely dads and young men who seem to probably be working out some issues with their dads. Pixar's John Lasseter has five children, all boys.
They're great movies. I love them. But I can't deny that's partly because they're made for me.
Update: As many people have pointed out, Pixar has a forthcoming full-length movie, Brave, about a Scottish warrior-princess. It was slated to be directed by Brenda Chapman (Pixar's first female director), then was replaced by Mark Andrews, with Chapman as co-director.
Also, my friend (and former student) Kaitlin Welborn nails me: I used "protagonist" in its debased modern meaning of "sympathetic character"/"agent for good," not its original sense as the first/primary character of the drama -- which is also just a better definition. In this sense, the protagonist of Finding Nemo is definitely Marlin, The Incredibles Mr Incredible, Wall-E Wall-E, and so forth.
I also agree with Kaitlin that Stefan also overstates how much of a substantive change there's been from the hand-drawn Disney animated films, and Pixar/Dreamworks' computer-animated films.
First, there's the obvious point that the older Disney movies were pretty ideologically screwed-up. I think this is well-known. And well before Pixar came along, Disney was already moving towards male protagonists: Aladdin, The Lion King, Hercules, The Emperor's New Groove.
I'll stick by my main point, which is that 1) an overwhelming number of Pixar movies focus on dads and fatherhood (biological or symbolic) and 2) this is not an accident.
Put a spinning gyroscope into orbit around the Earth, with the spin axis pointed toward some distant star as a fixed reference point. Free from external forces, the gyroscope's axis should continue pointing at the star--forever. But if space is twisted, the direction of the gyroscope's axis should drift over time. By noting this change in direction relative to the star, the twists of space-time could be measured.
Gravity Probe B's experiment was 47 years in the making, helped spawn 100 PhD theses, and required the invention of 13 brand-new technologies, including a "drag-free satellite." The four gyroscopes in GP-B are "the most perfect spheres ever made by humans... If the gyroscopes weren't so spherical, their spin axes would wobble even without the effects of relativity."
NASA finished collecting the data in 2005; now they've crunched the numbers. And yes, Einstein was right. The gyroscopes wobble in just the way general relativity predicts.
The first and most famous empirical experiment testing Einstein's theory was performed in 1919 by Arthur Eddington during a full solar eclipse. Photographs showed that the sun's mass caused starlight to bend around it.
(Image by James Overduin, Pancho Eekels, and Bob Kahn via NASA.)
Judd actually has this whole thing they do with side-by-side screenings at two theaters right next door to each other and do a "P" version, which is a polished version, which is the one we think is close to what we want to have be our final cut. And then another one called the "E" version, the extended version, which is the dumping ground for everything we think might work, or we wanted to try, or we're just curious if it's gonna work. And out of all of those screenings, you'll always get about five or 10 new things that you didn't think were ever gonna work that go through the roof and you plug 'em into the polished one...
We'll always keep in a couple of jokes, just for ourselves. Then you go, "Okay, if it doesn't work, whatever. This is kinda for us." But none of us are brave enough to wait that long to see if it works because you want to have something that you know is clicking with an audience.
A lot of filmmakers will hate hearing that. To them, that feels very hacky, But the audience are the ones that are going to come and pay the money and they're the ones who are going tell their friends if it's good or not. I didn't get in the business, and Judd didn't get in the business, to make stuff that nobody sees. I've made a career making stuff that nobody sees, so anything that I can do to help make something that people are going to enjoy and want to see over and over again, then I'm there.
Feig also has an interesting take on the continued love for Freaks and Geeks: in 2000, when the show was cancelled, cancellation for a single show was pretty much total death. If there weren't enough episodes for syndication, it would only linger on through word of mouth and the occasional samizdat VHS tape.
[Feig:] The British model, which I've always thought was great, is that you do a TV show and then they sell it. Then you can buy it at the video stores forever, so it never went away. But American TV used to be if you had a show and it got cancelled, then it never existed.
DVDs changed the culture. It's not really a "cult hit" in the same way if you can just Netflix the entire run. Now, single-season shows like Freaks and Geeks can be sold and rewatched and lent out, and play out for their fans over and over again like long, favorite movies. And they don't need their A/V teacher to have a copy of the film reel to do it.
When I first moved to Philadelphia, one of my favorite things about staying up too late was catching episodes of his documentary series The Western Tradition on PBS at 3 AM. (Now you can stream the whole series free at Learner.org, which I just found out today.)
This is a passage from France Fin de Siecle, a really terrific book about art, culture, and literature in mid-to-late 19th-century France. And I swear to God, I think about this particular section all the time.
If one considers the scarceness of water and of facilities for its evacuation, it is not surprising that washing was rare and bathing rarer. Clean linen long remained an exceptional luxury, even among the middle classes. Better-off buildings enjoyed a single pump or tap in the courtyard. Getting water above the ground floor was rare and costly; in Nevers it became available on upper floors in the 1930s. Those who enjoyed it sooner, as in Paris, fared little better.
Baths especially were reserved for those with enough servants to bring the tub and fill it, then carry away the tub and dirty water. Balzac had referred to the charm of rich young women when they came out of their bath. Manuals of civility suggest that this would take place once a month, and it seems that ladies who actually took the plunge might soak for hours: an 1867 painting by Alfred Stevens shows a plump young blonde in a camisole dreaming in her bathtub, equipped with book, flowers, bracelet, and a jeweled watch in the soap-dish. Symbols of wealth and conspicuous consumption.
In a public lecture course Vacher de Lapouge affirmed that in France most women die without having once taken a bath. The same could be said of men, except for those exposed to military service. No wonder pretty ladies carried posies: everyone smelled and, often, so did they.
Teeth were seldom brushed and often bad. Only a few people in the 1890s used toothpowder, and toothbrushes were rarer than watches. Dentists too were rare: largely an American import, and one of the few such things the French never complained about. Because dentists were few and expensive, one would find lots of caries, with their train of infections and stomach troubles, it is likely that most heroes and heroines of nineteenth-century fiction had bad breath, like their real-life models.
Yep. That's why we call them "the unwashed masses."
It wasn't until the twentieth century that most people took a bath, washed their underwear, flushed a toilet, saw their own reflection in a mirror, or stopped dying at atrocious rates every time they gave birth to a child. How's that mistake looking now, Werner?
We've waited too long for a First Lady who can pull this off:
It's not just that Michelle Obama is the first black First Lady. It's also that she was born in 1964. She's sixteen-seventeen years younger than Hillary Clinton or Laura Bush. She was in high school when hip-hop broke. Even Barack was already in college. She probably did a few of these dances in a South Shore parking lot when her husband was already thinking about getting into law school. In Joshua Glenn's generational scheme, Barack is part of Original Generation X, while Michelle's firmly in the next cohort, alternately titled Generation PC/the Reconstructionists.
Michelle is the first First Lady of the hip-hop generation. And not only does that explain a few things; it's incredibly awesome.
PS: Here's the Beyonce dance-as-teen-fitness video the First Lady and DC junior high kids were trying to imitate. (In the mid-late 80s, learning a few of these moves from my sister, I was not unlike the chubby kid in the white hat.)
Last night I started thinking about e-books, partly because I was frustrated that I wanted to buy some books that aren't available for Kindle. (If you're curious, the two I was pining over were John Ashbery's new translation of Rimbaud's Illuminations and Eugene Jolas's Critical Writings: 1924-1951.)
Truth be told, I probably would have talked myself out of the purchases anyways, because I haven't had any spare money for my drug of choice (books) in a while. But I was bothered because I couldn't buy them. I wanted them, and if I had enough money, I wanted them all. And if I could have them all, I'd find a way to get enough money.
So I took to Twitter with this idea, with the following results.
So, so far, we've got a few different possible models (assuming everything could be worked out on the back end with author consumption, etc., which is a pretty gigantic assumption):
Every book that's ever been made digital or easily could be made digital (I'll come back to this second point later);
The same thing for movies and TVs. Which might be an even bigger, more popular idea;
A curated digital book club/book channel, a la Netflix, that offers you enough popular and backlist material to keep you busy;
Very likely, in the near future, I won't "own" any music, or books, or movies. Instead I will have immediate access to all music, all books, all movies using an always-on service, via a subscription fee or tax. I won't buy - as in make a decision to own -- any individual music or books because I can simply request to see or hear them on demand from the stream of ALL. I may pay for them in bulk but I won't own them. The request to enjoy a work is thus separated from the more complicated choice of whether I want to "own" it. I can consume a movie, music or book without having to decide or follow up on ownership.
For many people this type of instant universal access is better than owning. No responsibility of care, backing up, sorting, cataloging, cleaning, or storage. As they gain in public accessibility, books, music and movies are headed to become social goods even though they might not be paid by taxes. It's not hard to imagine most other intangible goods becoming social goods as well. Games, education, and health info are also headed in that direction.
And Mark Sample noted that really, you already can get almost any book, movie, TV show, etc., if you're willing to put in a little work and don't mind circumventing the law.
Here's a thought: How would this change the way we read? If I haven't laid down money for a particular book, would I feel less obligated to stick it through to the end? I'd probably do a lot more dipping and diving. I'd be quicker to say, "this isn't doing it for me -- what else is on?"
And remember, a lot of the books -- cookbooks, textbooks, reference material -- would be geared for browsing, not reading straight through. We might actually find ourselves plunking down extra money for a digital app with a better UI.
Ditto, imagine the enhanced prestige of rare books that were off this universal grid, or whose three-dimensionality couldn't be reduced (without difficulty, if at all) to an e-book.
Still, I think whatever I pay for cable, internet, my cellphone's data plan, newspaper and magazine subscriptions, Dropbox backups, etc. -- I'd pay way more for the Library of Babel.
What do you think? What would you need to make this work for you?
(Comments enabled. I'll shut 'em down at the end of the week. Be nice.)
We've just seen about two billion people watch a royal family at work, you know? And so I would say that it is Shakespearean, but it's also global, I suppose. That we're interested in what goes on in the corridors of power whether it's the White House or whether it's Buckingham Palace. And so Shakespeare was interested in the lives of the medieval royal families, but he also raided the Roman myths and the Greek myths for the same purpose. And I think Stan Lee went to the myths that Shakespeare hadn't used. You know, [they both] recognized that they contain briefly told, very condensed stories that I think are very universal in their application.
I think the connection, if there is one, is that the stakes are high. So in something like Henry IV or Henry V, where the young prince is a reckless man who falls into bad company: could that prince be the king? [In Thor], our flawed hero who must earn the right to be king, but I think what's key is the stakes. There it's Europe and England in power and here it's the universe. It's when that family has problems everybody else is affected, so if Thor throws a fit and is yelling at his father and is banished, suddenly the worlds are unstable. And what it means is if the actors take those stakes seriously it is passionate and it is, you know, very intense. And I suppose that kind of a observation of ordinary human - although they're gods - frailties in people in positions of power is an obsession of great storytellers including Shakespeare and including the Marvel universe.
Thor's story -- especially early on -- really is a lot like Prince Hal's, now that I think of it. Guy's even got his own Falstaff: dude is named Volstagg, which now seems almost too on-the nose.
Finally, have you seen Branagh's Henry V?
Guy knows how to make old-school battle cinematically work.
It all depends on what your baseline is -- x percent of what. But it's usually easier for tongue-clicking know-it-alls to just assume athletes are dumb than to try to actually figure out what it is they might be talking about.
Here's actually a more serious (and more mathematically precise) way to look at this. Economist Stephen Shmanske has a new paper in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports titled "Dynamic Effort, Sustainability, Myopia, and 110% Effort" that actually brings some stats and benchmarks to bear to figure this out in the context of the NBA.
For Shmanske, it's all about defining what counts as 100% effort. Let's say "100%" is the maximum amount of effort that can be consistently sustained. With this benchmark, it's obviously possible to give less than 100%. But it's also possible to give more. All you have to do is put forth an effort that can only be sustained inconsistently, for short periods of time. In other words, you're overclocking.
And in fact, based on the numbers, NBA players pull greater-than-100-percent off relatively frequently, putting forth more effort in short bursts than they can keep up over a longer period. And giving greater than 100% can reduce your ability to subsequently and consistently give 100%. You overdraw your account, and don't have anything left.
I haven't dived into the paper (it's behind a subscription wall, natch), but doesn't this seem like a rough-but-reasonable analysis of what athletes and other people mean when they use language this way? Shouldn't we all calm down a little with rulers across the fingers, offering our ready-made "correct" use of the rhetoric of percentages?
I think psychology and self-reflection is one of the major catastrophes of the twentieth century. A major, major mistake. And it's only one of the mistakes of the twentieth century, which makes me think that the twentieth century in its entirety was a mistake.
Herzog backs this up with some intriguing counter-history:
The Spanish Inquisition had one goal, to eradicate all traces of Muslim faith on the soil of Spain, and hence you had to confess and proclaim the innermost deepest nature of your faith to the commission. And almost as a parallel event, explaining and scrutinizing the human soul, into all its niches and crooks and abysses and dark corners, is not doing good to humans.
We have to have our dark corners and the unexplained. We will become uninhabitable in a way an apartment will become uninhabitable if you illuminate every single dark corner and under the table and wherever--you cannot live in a house like this anymore. And you cannot live with a person anymore--let's say in a marriage or a deep friendship--if everything is illuminated, explained, and put out on the table. There is something profoundly wrong. It's a mistake. It's a fundamentally wrong approach toward human beings.
But lest you think that Herzog's rejection of the ethics of the Inquisition comes from an embrace of spiritual tolerance:
I think there should be holy war against yoga classes. It detours us from real thinking.
I said to my friend Gavin Craig the other day that with folks like Herzog, you almost have to approach them as if they're characters in a play. Instead of asking yourself whether you like them personally or agree with the things they say, take a step back and try to admire how they're drawn.
He left several suicide notes and text messages asking for his brain to be examined post-mortem for signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy -- a disease caused by repeated untreated concussions now thought to be common among professional football players and other athletes -- which he thought may have led to his depression. An autopsy later revealed that Duerson was right.
Gus Garcia-Roberts has a magnificent story on Duerson -- his childhood, football career, post-NFL life as an entrepreneur, and his dip into bankruptcy and mental illness, both of which he tried desperately to cover until the day he died.
To its black residents, Muncie -- nicknamed "Little Chicago" because it was divisively and forever segregated -- felt like a village. And by his high school graduation in 1978, Dave was the golden child. He was a member of the National Honor Society, had traveled through Europe playing the sousaphone as part of the Musical Ambassadors All-American Band, and in his senior year was voted Indiana Mr. Football. He could run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and throw a fastball at 95 mph. "I thought he might go on to be a senator," Kizer says, "or anything he wanted."
The Los Angeles Dodgers offered Dave a signing bonus to pitch for them. But when the Dodgers' scouts told his father there was "no time for college," Dave later recounted to HistoryMakers, "that was a very short conversation."
He enrolled in his home state's University of Notre Dame on a football and baseball scholarship. Once there, football dominated his schedule, and his baseball prospects faded away.
Dave would later say that, for the career longevity, he wished he had chosen baseball. Decades down the road -- after the undiagnosed concussions, headaches, mood swings, memory loss, erratic behavior, and, finally, the suicide -- his family would agree.
One thing I will be doing from time to time this week is pulling down random books from my shelves and writing about them, under the belief that the internet is better when not all of it comes from the internet. Here's the second installment (you can read the first here).
One of my favorite writers, poets, and teachers is Susan Stewart. She's just one of those people who radiates intelligence and fun.
She also helped show me that you could put both of these things into critical writing -- that plain, everyday language and willfully studied, obscure language were both traps.
Here is an audio recording of her reading one of my favorite of her poems, "Apple," which begins:
If I could come back from the dead, I would come back
for an apple, and just for the first bite, the first
break, and the cold sweet grain
against the roof of the mouth, as plain
and clear as water.
This poem also includes a Twitter-worthy quip: "If an apple's called 'delicious,' it's not."
Problems of the inanimate and the animate here bring us to a consideration of the toy. The toy is the physical embodiment of the fiction: it is a device for fantasy, a point of beginning for narrative. The toy opens an interior world, lending itself to fantasy and privacy in a way that the abstract space, the playground, of social play does not. To toy with something is to manipulate it, to try it out within sets of contexts, none of which is determinative... The desire to animate the toy is the desire not simply to know everything but also to experience everything simultaneously...
Here is the dream of the impeccable robot that has haunted the West at least since the advent of the industrial revolution. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries mark the heyday of the automaton, just as they mark the mechanization of labor: jigging Irishmen, whistling birds, clocks with bleating sheep, and growling dogs guarding baskets of fruit. The theme of death and irreversibility reappears in the ambivalent status of toys like the little guillotines that were sold in France during the time of the Revolution. In 1793 Goethe wrote to his mother in Frankfurt requesting that she buy a toy guillotine for his son, August. This was a request she refused, saying that the toy's maker should be put in stocks.
Such automated toys find their strongest modern successors in "models" of ships, trains, airplanes, and automobiles, models of the products of mechanized labor. These toys are nostalgic in a fundamental sense, for they completely transform the mode of production of the original as they miniaturize it: they produce a representation of a product of alienated labor, a representation which itself is constructed by artisanal labor. The triumph of the model-maker is that he or she has produced the object completely by hand, from the beginning assembly to the "finishing touches."
It's a kind of writing that's totally within the boundaries of the historical and theoretical conventions of the academy, but is also always rhetorically and imaginatively precise and correct, from the individual syllable to the grouped processions of images.
I can't tell you how rare that is. Probably you know already.
On January 6, 1973, the anthropologist Margaret Mead published a startling little essay in TV Guide. Her contribution, which wasn't mentioned on the cover, appeared in the back of the magazine, after the listings, tucked between an advertisement for Virginia Slims and a profile of Shelley Winters. Mead's subject was a new Public Broadcasting System series called "An American Family," about the Louds, a middle-class California household. "Bill and Pat Loud and their five children are neither actors nor public figures," Mead wrote; rather, they were the people they portrayed on television, "members of a real family." Producers compressed seven months of tedium and turmoil (including the corrosion of Bill and Pat's marriage) into twelve one-hour episodes, which constituted, in Mead's view, "a new kind of art form"--an innovation "as significant as the invention of drama or the novel."
"An American Family" was a hit, and Lance Loud, the oldest son, became a celebrity, perhaps the world's first openly gay TV star. But for decades "An American Family" looked like an anomaly; by 1983, when HBO broadcast a follow-up documentary on the Louds, Mead's "new kind of art form" seemed more like an artifact of an older America. Worthy heirs to the Louds arrived in 1992, with the debut of the MTV series "The Real World," which updated the formula by adding a dash of artifice: each season, a handful of young adults were thrown together in a house, and viewers got to know them as they got to know one another. It wasn't until 2000, though, that Mead's grand claim started to look prescient. That year, a pair of high-profile, high-concept summer series nudged the format into American prime time: "Big Brother," a Dutch import, was built around surveillance-style footage of competitors locked in a house; "Survivor," a Swedish import, isolated its stars by shipping them somewhere warm and distant, where they participated in faux tribal competitions. Both of these were essentially game shows, but they doubled as earthy anthropological experiments, and they convinced viewers and executives alike that television could provide action without actors.
The essay includes this tidy and maybe prescient quote from Mark Andrejevic's 2004 book Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched:
The Illinois housewife who agrees to move into a house where her every move can be watched by millions of strangers to compete for a cash prize exhibits more than an incidental similarity (albeit on a different scale) to the computer user who allows Yahoo to monitor her web-browsing habits in exchange for access to a free e-mail account.
Here's another thought. Traditional game shows are spectacles of consumption, plus luck. Think "The Price is Right" or "Supermarket Sweep," where you try to win household and luxury goods based on your knowlege about household and luxury goods.
Now, game shows/reality TV are overwhelmingly about work -- "American Idol," "Survivor," "The Apprentice," "America's Next Top Model." The incentive at the end, if you win, is that you'll get enough fame and exposure that you'll win the right to continue to work.
The aspiring model/singer/washed-up celebrity who agrees to go on stage and engage in cutthroat competition with other aspirants to satisfy the whims of mercurial judges exhibits more than an accidental similarity to unpaid interns and at-will employees who can likewise be cut loose at a moment's notice.
We're all in the prize economy now.
PS: I still think Chappelle/Puffy's rant starting around 4:20 is one of the funniest things I've ever seen.
At least two popular quotations circulating on Twitter and Facebook in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden are misattributed. By what I guess is chance, they happen to express opposing (but nuanced and appealing) sentiments:
"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." - Martin Luther King, Jr
"I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure." - Mark Twain
All men have an emotion to kill; when they strongly dislike some one they involuntarily wish he was dead. I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.
(Note: That's from Darrow's autobiography, The Story of My Life. Wired's story above linked to Wikiquote, so I thought I'd pull it from Google Books at least.)
Darrow is still pretty famous, but not Mark Twain famous. And especially in the truncated version, the quip sounds like the sort of thing that Mark Twain might say.
Easy mistake - and when the line fits how we might feel at a given moment, and the author fits our moral/intellectual identity, it becomes a natural quote to pass around.
The story behind the Fake Martin Luther King quote is a little bit more complicated. Megan McCardle was the first to flag it as suspect. Then people began to notice that while the version above was making the rounds on Twitter, a longer version on Facebook paired it with an extended quote that was genuine MLK:
"I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not
rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for
hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night devoid of
stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." ~Martin Luther
And the context really is about why you have to love your enemy. In the same book, too, is an essay called "The death of evil upon the seashore," which has this not totally unrelated quote about the escape of the Israelites from Egypt by crossing the Red Sea:
The meaning of this story is not found in the drowning of the Egyptian soldiers, for no one should rejoice at the death or defeat of a human being. Rather, this story symbolizes the death of evil and of inhuman oppression and unjust exploitation.
So, again, it's the kind of thing that sounds like something Martin Luther King, Jr might say -- even though he didn't say it.
At some point, someone deduced what must have happened. The real King quote (about returning hate for hate) must have gotten paired with the King-esque quote/paraphrase (about not rejoicing in the death of an enemy). Somewhere in circulating on Facebook, the whole thing got attributed to King, then jumped to Twitter, where the first line got separated from the genuine quote, re-attributed to King, then passed around from there.
One of the many things that fascinated Freud about jokes was that they passed around from person to person without an author. This is why they were interesting - they showed the unconscious uncensored, in public. (This is a big part of what Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious is about.)
When we (mis)attribute a joke or quote, we're doing something different: we're giving our unconscious an author, and leaning on the author's authority. Just like with jokes, it's an acceptable way to let our nervous feelings out, without having to completely own them ourselves. We just co-sign.
In the spirit of Freud, here are some of the best MLK-misquote jokes currently going around on Twitter (with anonymity of the jokesters preserved):
"You dummies will retweet anything with my name." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
There is a Martin Luther King Jr. cookie recipe making its way around the web! It does not taste good. DO NOT MAKE IT.
"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will have some good ideas." - Theodore Roosevelt
"War is a giant dishwasher full of tiny elephants but the soap is motor oil and the dishes are pee" -Martin Luther King, Jr
"Scrambled eggs, side of home fries, and a light and sweet coffee, thanks." --Martin Luther King Jr. (in a diner)
"Luke. I am your father." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
(Actually, Penn Jillette wrote all of these jokes. That guy's amazing.)
I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure. Mark Twain
I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.
Ivan adds that "that link was until yesterday the #1 Google result for the phrase 'I have read some obituaries with great pleasure'."
So odds are pretty good that someone half-remembered the Darrow quote, did a quick Google search for attribution, saw the result with Twain's name at the end, and went for it (maybe without even clicking through).
Offshore wind power has significant advantages over the onshore variety. Uninterrupted by changes in terrain, the wind at sea blows steadier and stronger. Installing turbines far enough from shore that they're invisible except on the very clearest days lessens the possibility of not-in-my-backyard resistance. The challenge is getting the electricity back to land, to the people who will use it...
The Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) would provide multiple transmission hubs for future wind farms, making the waters off the mid-Atlantic coast an attractive and economical place for developers to set up turbines. The AWC's lines could transmit as much as six gigawatts of low-carbon power from turbines back to the coast--the equivalent capacity of 10 average coal-fired power plants.
There's a particular stretch of seabed, a flat shelf between the north Jersey and southern Virginia, that's geologically and geographically perfect for this. That's where they're setting up shop. Power-hungry Google is helping foot the bill.
On the subject of the lighting in this film, Dr. Simek, you made an observation, which is that the light tends to be in motion ...
The light never rests. Every time he changes the picture, it goes through a light sweep. The film is clearly concerned with how the moving light causes the images themselves to change. This is not inaccurate at all. The original impression that this artwork made was in some ways dictated by how it got lit by the people who made it, with torchlight.
What we did was very simple: we walked with the light, so that the source of light would make the shadows move slightly, like curtains of darkness rising. Or, for example, a fade-out would be done by just physically removing the light. So it was never a purely technical thing; it was always something human, as if somebody with torchlight were just leaving or coming in.
When you try to imagine how these images looked for Paleolithic people, in the flickering shadows, the animals must have been moving, must have had a strange life in them.
I was also struck by Herzog's reaction to Sullivan's observation that Cave of Forgotten Dreams largely departs from the heroic-discovery mode common to movies about cave explorers:
I'm suspicious of that notion of adventure. It belongs to earlier centuries, and somehow fizzled away with, let's say, the exploration of the North and South Poles, which was only a media ego trip, unhealthy and unwise, on the part of some individuals. The Polar explorations were a huge mistake of the human race, an indication that the twentieth century was a mistake in its entirety. They are one of the indicators.
In 1929, Richard E. Byrd made history -- not for reaching the South Pole, but for bringing on his Antarctic expedition 24 radio transmitters, 31 receivers, five radio engineers, three airplanes and an aerial camera. Unlike Ernest Shackleton's trans-Antarctic expedition, who 15 years earlier spent 17 months fighting for their lives after being trapped in the polar ice, Byrd's team was able to stay in constant communication with each other and with the outside world. It was the beginning of modern technology-aided exploration, and arguably the model for human spaceflight.
Also, I think Werner Herzog may be the only living human being who is still allowed to say things like "the twentieth century was a mistake in its entirety" in semi-casual conversation. The rest of us lack the prerequisite voice, record of achievements, and enormous balls.
I was asleep last night when news leaked that Osama bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan. I woke up shortly after President Obama's speech, caught the news on Twitter, wrote a few things, read some blog posts, and tried to fall asleep.
When I woke up this morning, I had a note from Jason in my inbox:
Re: bin Laden, if you want to blog about him all day, go ahead. If you don't want to mention him at all, that's fine too.
The area directly in front of the White House was a mob scene. Women sat on shoulders waving flags. Everyone held their cameras aloft and tried to capture the magic. A man next to me said, "It's like a Who concert or something." But there was no band, no focal point to the celebration. No one had anything to wait for, and yet, it seemed that everyone was waiting for something. Where were you supposed to look? What were you supposed to do? Who was running this thing?
Maybe for that reason, the roving television cameras seemed best at structuring the crowd's attention for short periods. Whenever they flipped on, a crowd would swarm in front of them like fans of the Duke Blue Devils basketball team...
Everyone seemed to be confusing the occasion with other times that they'd been in large crowds of like-minded individuals. On a half-dozen occasions, different Washington Capitals hockey fans started the "C-A-P-S, Caps, Caps, Caps" chant.
There are two things I think that it's easy to forget:
A crowd of people gathered together in public is a kind of media.
Twitter is also a crowd of people gathered together in public.
And this is what media does: it squeezes your toothpaste through its tube. This is what big crowds do: they turn into crowd events.
Think about how big sports events actually usually wind up getting celebrated in this country: people are so excited about something big that's happened that they go out into the street, and once they're in the street, they start walking together, and before you know it, people have flipped over cars and set things on fire.
I'm not a psychiatrist or an apologist for stupidity, but I have to think the two things are related.
This guy -- this son-of-a-bitch who murdered thousands of people here ten years ago and helped murder many more all around the world -- has us so twisted up that we do not know how to feel about him, or ourselves, at all.
And our inability to come together, and to talk about that, which was already latent in the way our media work, and all the more amplified by what ten years of this twisting and torturing, and being twisted into torture and then lying about torture, only makes it worse.
I hope we can exorcise this man, his damage, and the damage he helped incite us to, from our lives. I have to hope that we have enough strength left in our democracy to do that. I have to have faith that the future will be better than today. And I have to have charity enough to forgive -- to feel something more than anger or irony or judgment, and to just finally give those things away.
One thing I will be doing from time to time this week is pulling down random books from my shelves and writing about them, under the belief that the internet is better when not all of it comes from the internet. Here's the first installment.
According to tradition, Simonides of Keos was the first Greek poet who composed and sung poems for money, rather than being kept by a patron. He was also famously stingy and liked to pose riddles:
They say that Simonides had two boxes, one for favors, the other for fees. So when someone came to him asking for a favor he had the boxes displayed and opened: the one was found to be empty of graces, the other full of money. And that's the way Simonides got rid of a person requesting a gift.
Simonides's world was one where old relationships of gift-exchange and patronage were breaking down in favor of what for Greeks was a fairly new invention, coinage. And all of his poetry and the stories around him seem to play with this: how the old world mythic heroes and Gods (Homer's subjects) gave way to Olympic champions and rich merchants (Simonides's subjects), the way value can be real but invisible, how words can be things that you exchange, like gifts or cash. This is one thing that helps make Simonides unusually modern.
That, at least, is poet/critic Anne Carson's take in her terrific book Economy of the Unlost, which juxtaposes Simonides and the equally staggering twentieth-century poet Paul Celan:
Simonides of Keos was the smartest person in the fifth century B.C., or so I have come to believe. History has it that he was also the stingiest. Fantastical in its anecdoes, undeniable in its implications, the stinginess of Simonides can tell us something about the moral life of a user of money and something about the poetic life of an economy of loss.
No one who uses money is unchanged by that.
No one who uses money can easily get a look at their own practice. Ask eye to see its own eyelashes, as the Chinese proverb says. Yet Simonides did so, not only because he was smart.
Another argument Carson makes is that because Simonides was willing to write for anyone who would pay, his epigraphs -- literally, writing that would be inscribed on a gravestone -- is the "first poetry in the ancient Greek tradition about which we can certainly say, these are texts written to be read: literature" (emphasis mine).
Drakoulias, George ("Stop That Train" from "B-Boy Bouillabaisse," Paul's Boutique)
Def Jam A&R man George Drakoulias helped discover the Beastie Boys for Rick Rubin, and later became a producer for Rubin's American Recordings, working on albums by The Black Crowes, The Jayhawks, and Tom Petty. There's no record of him ever working at an Orange Julius.
I obsessed over this stuff as a kid, especially with Paul's Boutique: I was nine years old, living in Detroit's 8 Mile-esque suburbs, not New York, hadn't seen any cult movies from the 70s not titled Star Wars, and had no internet to consult. I was literally pulling down encyclopedias from the shelf and asking my parents (who generally likewise had no clue) obnoxious questions to try to figure out what the heck they were talking about.
But it was definitely the references, too. Whether silly or serious, you couldn't listen to The Beastie Boys or Public Enemy or Boogie Down Productions and not try to sort through these casually dropped names, memes, and places and try to reconstruct the worlds where they came from.
Stanley Kubrick's unfinished Napoleon project was supposed to be (in Kubrick's words) "the greatest film ever made." At the meticulous-yet-epic scale Kubrick imagined it -- think 30,000 real troops (from Romanian and Lithuanian Cold-War-armies) in authentic costume on location as extras for the battle scenes -- it was unfilmable.
So instead of the film, we have Kubrick's gigantic preproduction archive of notes and drawings and photographs, which (on top of the complete screenplay and drafts for the movie) is one of the largest scholarship-grade Napoleonic archives in the world.
Two years ago, Taschen put out a ten-volume de luxe edition of this material that cost $1500, which was by all accounts definitely awesome, but so expensive and unwieldy I don't think even Kubrick superfan John Gruber bought it.
The book, in a deliberate echo of the film, is rough around the edges. Rather than providing a seamless, synthesized account of Kubrick's vision, the editor, Alison Castle, has focused on the raw materials: the photographs, clippings, letters, and notes that Kubrick kept in binders and a huge, library-style card catalog. There are interviews with Kubrick, and a complete draft of the screenplay, with many marked-up pages from earlier drafts. Here and there you'll find introductory essays by Kubrick experts, or a historian's response to Kubrick's screenplay -- but the emphasis is on the small gestures, as in the collection of underlined passages and marginal notes that Castle compiles from Kubrick's personal library of books about the emperor. A special 'key card' included with the book gives you access to a huge online library of images.
While I was wondering how/if we'd remember Kubrick differently if the Napoleon movie had come together, I came across this snappy transition from Kubrick's Wikipedia page:
After 2001, Kubrick initially attempted to make a film about the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. When financing fell through, Kubrick went looking for a project that he could film quickly on a small budget. He eventually settled on A Clockwork Orange (1971).
Starting today and continuing through Friday, Tim Carmody will be manning the editor's station here at kottke.org. As I recall, he covered just about everything last time he was here, so who knows what's he's going to talk about. Welcome, Tim.