November 30, 2006
links for 2006-11-30
November 29, 2006
The 69 Test
Want a quick-and-dirty measure of a book's quality? Open it to page 69 and see what you find. (Another variation is the page 99 rule but, come on.)
I like how John Freeman at the National Book Critics' Circle blog puts it:
So that's what I began doing from time to time when the first page of a galley sunk into that logey, comfortable, throat-clearing prologue rhythm -- I'd flip to page 99 and see what I found.
Note to self: Never write anything "logey."
The Lost Millennium
This ancient calculator is unbelievable. Second century B.C.!
Dr. Charette noted that more than 1,000 years elapsed before instruments of such complexity are known to have re-emerged. A few artifacts and some Arabic texts suggest that simpler geared calendrical devices had existed, particularly in Baghdad around A.D. 900.
Somebody I know once claimed, only half in jest, that if it wasn't for the Dark Ages we'd have landed on the moon by like 1200. Big ol' imperial space-galleys or something.
November 27, 2006
Cease and Desist, My Fellow Human Being
How refreshing: A Google engineer sends the cease-and-desist email himself and writes it in the style of, you know, one thinking person communicating with another. Compare/contrast to the usual law-drone copy.
November 22, 2006
As a reporter/producer, I never had to make presentations. I told stories with images, audio, and text -- using Flash, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Word, and the like. My first month at the Star Tribune, I found myself having to use PowerPoint. Initially disdainful, I sniffed around for a few PPT tutorials, and stumbled across this blog. As well as provided helpful tips, the blog espoused an approach to PowerPoint that helped me to see it as just another storytelling medium.
The PowerPoint I created last October still lives on in bits and pieces today, in presentations I've given all over the Twin Cities. And I always get pretty good reviews.
November 21, 2006
Blogs, Physics, and Nerd Love
This tale of blog-mediated romance is nerdy and sweet.
Fake is the New Real
Apropos of nothing: fake is the new real is a really striking webpage, yeah?
How Current Works
Go Digg it if you do such things!
November 20, 2006
Portrait of the Artist As a South Park Character
If you don't click on that link there is no hope for you.
Kill Me Now
Michael Hirschorn leads his whither-newspapers story with EPIC. And this is, honestly, one of the best lines written about it, ever:
As a piece of pop futurism, EPIC 2014 is both brilliant and brilliantly self-subverting (at once inevitable and preposterous).
Oh yeah, by the way, IT'S IN THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
November 19, 2006
Like a Brain, Like a Heart
Take a look at this graph and try to tell me the internet isn't going to eventually wake up and, like, try to find other internets to play with.
November 17, 2006
Somewhere in Oxford
Recently, two of my favorites -- Scott McCloud and Philip Pullman -- had dinner together. If they did not agree during this time to collaborate on a graphic novel, then there is little hope for this world of ours.
November 15, 2006
E-Chapbooks for the Masses
Okay, there are like four things in that sentence you don't understand.
- Revelator Press: brainchild of Wordwright and crew. I have never heard a group of people use the word chapbook so enthusiastically.
- Andrew Hungerford: famous at MSU in my day for daring to double-major in astrophysics and theater. Should probably also be famous for owning the ofdoom.com domain name.
- "Between the Water and the Air": Andrew's play, produced at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and elsewhere. I think it's quite good, and not just because it takes place in Michigan.
- PDF-ness: You know, normally I'd be opposed, but honestly Revelator's Brandon Kelley did such a rad job on the design it's hard to complain. Print it out, read it on the couch.
One larger thing I will say is this: I really appreciate the dexterity and light-weight-ness of Revelator's approach. Wanna get your voice out there? No reason to wait for anybody to say it's okay, or tell you it's good enough. Just begin.
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Media Galaxy
The Dance in the Aisle
Here's a great bit of artwork from Jen Wang: She renders the airline attendants' pre-flight safety routine as... a dance!
My sister is a dancer and is always talking about finding the dance in everyday activity: Not making it into a dance, as they do in musicals, but just recognizing the grace and rhythm inherent in normal, uncontrived motion.
P.S.: Remember how comments were busted for like a week? Well, they're fixed now. So comment away!
Go Slow, Picasso
Even if this Malcolm Gladwell speech (PDF) was only so-so I'd probably still perfunctorily link to it. So, consider it a bonus that it's GREAT!
In it he talks about the differences between prodigies and late bloomers in art; as his prototypes Gladwell uses Picasso and Cezanne. (If that's too boring for you, he also compares The Eagles to Fleetwood Mac and Apple to Dell. And pharmaceutical R&D makes a cameo, too!)
It's a transcript of a recording, not just a speech text, so it has a really nice rhythm and tone. (Actually, it appears that the transcription was underwritten by the economist who Gladwell cites heavily in the speech... pretty slick.)
Gladwell's bottom line (which is almost beside the point in a speech as fun and discursive as this): Our culture has gone a little too wild for prodigies. We ought to make room for late bloomers again.
(Points of Note came outta nowhere with this one!)
Update: Rachel applies the Picasso/Cezanne paradigm to academic life.
The Yield Curve
Okay, this is cosmic: Ben Hyde explains the yield curve (in short: it's a map of interest rates for various points in the future, and is a rough measure of investors' optimism) and links to a super-cool animation that shows its fluctuations from 1977 'til now.
It takes a bit of reading to understand exactly what it is what you're looking at, but once you do, it's pretty amazing.
For instance, here's the yield curve for December 1979:
And for January 2004:
And based only on what you know about those two moments in time, you can probably begin to guess how to interpret the curve. So what do you think today's looks like?
November 14, 2006
Missing the Concert
I heard one of this woman's songs week-before-last, immediately bought the album, listened to it during lunch at work the next day, and instantly went to a coworker's desk to announce I'd found her new favorite thing. And now I give her to you. Her name is Shara Worden, but she goes by My Brightest Diamond.
Tomorrow night, she'll be at 7th St. Entry, First Avenue's adorable little brother venue, but I cannot attend. This makes me sad. Support her when she comes to your town, that she may return to mine.
Track of the week!
It's Motown meets melancholy folk rock. (MP3 link!)
Again via the 'Move.
links for 2006-11-14
November 10, 2006
November 9, 2006
Frontline Does Kiva
You know I love Kiva; now there's a mini-doc about it posted on Frontline World. The piece has a great opening sequence, cross-cutting between a Ugandan with a peanut butter business and a San Franciscan with, um, a nice kitchen.
November 8, 2006
The Wit and Wisdom of Donald Rumsfeld
This is a pretty snarky photo essay for TIME! Familiar with the meme, of course, but have never seen it so well-executed.
Slide four sorta sums it all up, doesn't it?
To Err Is Human
I've fallen in love with Philip Roth. Here's a metaphor for you: a glass of wine so perfect you sip it slowly and carefully, resting it on the table after every drop to consider it afresh, swish it around and marvel at its taste and texture, savor its interplay with the ingredients of your meal. That's Philip Roth for me right now. I love his books so much I want to put them down.
I want to live in Roth's America. I don't actually mean I want to live in Jewish New Jersey, but Roth's Jersey is an apt stand-in for an America I recognize completely, riven by an endless battle between disappointment and hope. At least in his recent novels, you can read America into his protagonists as well: they're giants with mythical qualities and deep, deep flaws, and antagonists whose motives are often (not always) sympathetic and understandable.... Read more ....
Viral Video Film School
November 7, 2006
This video is a pretty blunt instrument, but even so, it's the coolest thing I've seen so far this Election Day. Of course, the George Michael song is key.
And, importantly, the link was emailed to me by a random friend. In fact, I've gotten more election-related emails this time around than in any previous year. It almost feels like there might be some sort of public deliberation occurring...
November 6, 2006
Gears of War... and... Sadness
You know that trick where you mix hyperviolent action sequences with slow, wistful music and it makes it all feel really deep? Yeah, that trick really works.
What makes it noteworthy in this case is that it's a sequence from a videogame... and that makes me wonder: How cool would it be if, in the game itself, when the action hit a certain threshold, a fever pitch of annihilation, the music shifted gears just like this and things slowed down a little?
What kind of feeling would that create? Could it make you feel, er, a little bad about all the relentless killing? A little melancholy about the whole situation?
Now that would be interesting!
November 5, 2006
One Day Snarkmarket Will Get One of These and Oh, the Wish We'll Make
Latest winners of the TED Prize just announced. Jeez... if there any two people in the world who could make Bill Clinton (one of this year's winners) seem kinda lame and dull by comparison, it's James Nachtwey and E.O. Wilson.
Re: Nachtwey, you should see "War Photographer" if you haven't. It is actually in the dictionary under "harrowing."
Re: the TED Prize in general, what I wanna know is, have they made any progress on last year's?
November 3, 2006
Happy Birthday, Snarkmarket
Snarkmarket turns three today. In that time, we've racked up 1,608 entries and 2,419 comments from a mind-warping passel of the best commenters in the world. We've got 357 subscribers to our feed on Feedburner, and we utter a daily hymn of praise to each of them.
My most fervent hope is that one day, this blog leads these people to Andrew Adamson.
To extend what I think is a fun tradition, here are the titles of the draft entries left incomplete over the last year ...... Read more ....
A Negative Theology of Spam
I'm telling you, this gem of an essaylet from Short Schrift is the kind of thing E.B. White would have written if he had a blog:
Like all good lapsed Catholics, I believe in sin but not salvation. Likewise, I believe in spam. You could say that I only believe in spam. The "spam" folder gives us the assurance -- perhaps false -- that our other messages are NOT spam, that they demand at least reading and sorting, if not a reply. We can believe that the message for which we've been waiting, the good news, is on its way, because we have a sure means of detecting false prophets.
Experiencing Technical Difficulties
Snarkmarket has been kinda busted for the last few days, so if you tried to post a comment, there's a good chance it flaked on you with one of those awesome 500 INTERNAL SERVER GIVE UP FOOLISH HUMAN errors. Our deepest apologies: It's some sort of weird thing with comment spam and runaway processes and... I don't know... dark matter.
Should be fixable with the application of quality troubleshooting time over the weekend. Until then... why not browse the archives with the slick new experimental search box? Check it out, over to the right -- click 'Search' to reveal.
November 2, 2006
Let's Paint, Exercise, & Blend Drinks TV
The comment on YouTube sums it up: "this redeems television."
Give it a couple of minutes.
Life Ain't a Picnic (Or a Garden)
I am only halfway through Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma," but that's far enough to appreciate Tyler Cowen's critique of the book in Slate. Cowen respects the moral weight of Pollan's arguments, but says they're simply impractical:
The ideas are powerful, but the garden is not a useful way to think about food markets. Pollan does not acknowledge how much his garden construct is historically specific. Early crop-growing, circa 5000 B.C. or even 1700 A.D., was no fun. The labor was backbreaking, and whether it rained, or when the frost came, was often a matter of life or death. And proper gardens -- as a source of pleasure rather than survival -- became widespread only with the appearance of capitalist wealth and leisure time, both results of man's dominion over nature. The English gardening tradition blossomed in the 18th century, along with consumer society and a nascent Industrial Revolution.
In other words, the garden ideal is possible in some spheres only because it is rejected in so many others. It is the cultures of the scientists and engineers that have allowed gardens -- and also a regular food supply -- to flourish in the modern world.
Right now I'm also reading a book called "The Primacy of Politics," which is Sheri Berman's argument that the real story of the 20th century is the reconciliation of democracy and capitalism. (It's amazing; will blog more about it later.) Nowadays we assume they fit neatly together (triumph of liberalism in all spheres, End of History, etc.), but not that long ago, the assumption was reversed: People thought they were totally incompatible.
So this makes me wonder: Maybe the next great reconciliation we've got to forge is between health and morality and efficient, industrial-scale agriculture?
November 1, 2006
A beta version of The Django Book -- a guide to the Web application development framework Django -- is being released free online, chapter by chapter. OK, nothing new there; I think it's now illegal in 38 states to write a book about technology without either blogging the writing of it or posting it under a General Public License. What's interesting is the system that the authors have cooked up for allowing comments on every paragraph. It could get totally overwhelming, if not implemented just right, but I think they've implemented it just right. Sweet.