This is a few days late, but should you wish to hear the Elvis Costello & the Attractions Peel session that aired on Feb. 25, 1980, get yourself over to the invaluable Peely Sessions site!
Archive for February, 2010
It has been more than a month since I read the first of the House of Niccolò books; I have been living in the world of these novels, I do not want to come back to real life!
(Jo Walton happened to post something earlier today about the joy of reading an unfinished series.)
In less emotionally equivocal literary news, I started writing the little book on style this past Monday, in the grip of a feverishly strong delusion that it could be done in three weeks. Now that I've taken the weekend off, and now that I think about the fact that the week of May 14-21 is designated for private life rather than for work, I have scaled up the likely production time to six weeks, but it still seems to me genuinely possible that I might have a whole draft of the thing by the end of March!
(Can it be?!? It might indeed not be - but it is at least possible that the outcome of a lifetime of obsessive reading and writing has led me to a place where an entire book - a little book! - can be written in six weeks. It's based on the lectures I gave this fall, so really it's a question of making something out of things that are already there...)
The little book on style still doesn't have a real name, but in a productive sleepless couple of hours a few nights ago I had some (to me) thrilling insights into the bread-and-butter-of-the-novel book. It has a new title and a clear organizational scheme, both of which I find so secretly delightful that I think I must cherish the details to myself in private for a little while longer before announcing them to the world via Light Reading - but I won't start working on this until I have sent the little book on style to my agent (and there is an essay on Austen and Flaubert and aphorisms, with which the book begins, that I will send out separately).
Bonus link: the song I couldn't get out of my head while reading the last installment of Lymond; we used to sing it in my high school choir.
These books have also reminded me of how much I loved the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries between the ages of 10 and 14 or so - it was a feature of the school I went to that younger children especially were asked to enter into historical periods with an intellect infused with imagination, and I vividly remember the account of the death of Savonarola from the point of view of a young Italian nobleman I wrote the year I was in fifth grade.
A favorite book at the time was Elizabeth Marie Pope's The Perilous Gard, which I still think is pretty much a perfect novel for children, but I was also already at that stage beginning to read T.S. Eliot and Dorothy L. Sayers and Nicholas Blake and through them to discover the beauties of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. In sixth grade I wrote a half-hour adaptation of Twelfth Night for our class to perform; I was steeped in the language and mythos of Shakespeare...
I said to Brent the other day, regretfully, that much as I still somewhat aspire to write airport thrillers in the vein of Dick Francis, my gifts as a writer are not really in the direction of that minimalist leave-everything-out-but-the-essentials intelligent storytelling that you see in the best of Francis or of Lee Child. I do not know, either, that I could possibly write a series of the scope of Dunnett's or of those of Susan Howatch, which I also love, partly because I am keeping a lot of my imagination in reserve for intellectual writing, but I would think that a very fully imagined historical series would be a better fit with my actual strengths and preferences than a series of stripped-down thrillers about men and women of action...
I have had several conversations recently (it has partly been prompted by walking the ramps at the Guggenheim) about a very happy insight that has struck me in the last year or so, and that seems to me in great part a function of being age 38.
Options close down - the infinite range of possibilities that seemed open to me at age twenty (at least if I was in an argumentative mood) is now significantly narrower - but unlike what I would have thought if you had been able to persuade me of it at that age (which you would not), this is a good thing.
We are constrained by our individual temperaments in ways that are very difficult to understand when we are eighteen or twenty or indeed thirty - it comes upon us gradually, though, at least if we are lucky, that we were right not to go in the direction of being (implausibly) fighter pilots or investment bankers or (more plausibly) epidemiologists or chemists - that our lives have to be governed by what will suit us best as well as by what we think we should be able to do...
NEW YORK CITY – February 17, 2010 – On Tuesday, March 9, 2010, Landscapes of Quarantine, a group exhibition exploring the spatial implications of quarantine, will open at New York’s landmark Storefront for Art and Architecture. The exhibition consists of new works by a multi-disciplinary group of eighteen artists, designers, and architects, each of whom was inspired by one or more of the physical, biological, ethical, architectural, social, political, temporal, and even astronomical dimensions of quarantine. Curated by Nicola Twilley and Geoff Manaugh of Future Plural, the exhibition will be on view at Storefront until April 17, 2010. Entrance to the exhibition is free; the launch event on March 9 is open to the public and will showcase a one-night-only, inflatable quarantine prosthesis attached to Storefront’s façade, designed by architects Jeffrey Inaba and Joseph Grima, as well as a range of beers generously donated by Brooklyn Brewery.
This was a bit of an adventure for me, and, I suspect, several other participants, since we had 10 solid weeks of inspection of the subject matter, group idea sharing, peer crit, and a final group review with a stellar cast of all-star critics. As an illustrator by trade, and often a web-enabled artist by choice, I don’t usually have the luxury of ruminating on a project an entire season before putting it together. Often times when, late at night, I’m reading the working practices of famous artists I admire (as I’m wont to do, whiskey in hand), I’m envious of a time when artists were able to chin-scratch for years on one project, painting, or attempt. Maybe I’m romanticizing it, but from a pure economics point of view, unless you’re a really famous artist, what someone might get from selling a piece of work hasn’t kept up with cost of living increases, to say the least, so more work is demanded in a shorter amount of time. But maybe it’s also personal. I’m a type-A guy who’s also impatient. Regardless of the reason, the length of time was a breath of fresh air. To be able to share that with a select group of amazing artists who gave some un-sugar-coated honest critique almost felt like I was being greedy.
My particular piece, titled Pages 179-187 is a result I came to after studying both the roots of quarantine in the modern age, as well as the plague epidemics of early times. As we were introduced to the historical material, I became fascinated with the power imbued in the Powers That Be to make very real decisions of life and death, sometimes with very little real information at hand. The idea of The Word From On High, for the good of all, became, in my mind, inextricably linked with the power structure behind a quarantine, and the nearly-imperialist power that implies, on top of how that word was distributed to the masses. I quickly found a relation between what the elder times placed their faith in (God), and what our more modern forebearers trusted (technology), and came up with a kind of ‘lost fable’, told in a form that was a consciously reminiscent of both 19th century etchings and cartoons, and both Italian and Byzantine illuminated manuscripts. My hope is that the result is 8 pages that are nearly ahistorical, so universal are both the themes and the images.
My initial plan was to get these pages binded in a leather tome, but after some teeth gnashing and rending of clothes, I ended up abandoning the plan, due to both a logistical flaw: how do I get every page to be shown without asking the audience to touch the pages?), and a thematic one (isn’t that a little Epcot-y?). My final framing choice I think you’ll find both subtle and really cool and appropriate.
I’ll be posting all the pages, eventually, but if you’re in the area, please do come down and pull me aside to say hello at the opening on March 9th, at the Storefront for Art and Architecture. It should be a blast, and not only can you see my pieces in person, you can see all the other fantastic stuff on display. See you there!
These just came in today — and they’re too amazing to keep to ourselves! Above: Toy Airplane + Robert Lopez Story; below, Mermaid Figurine + Tom McCarthy Story. And check out the amazing story-in-a-found-bottle presentation, courtesy of Underwater New York. Fantastic!
As it happens, both of these Significant Objects were purchased by Susan Clements, who shared these images with us. Thank you, Susan!
More Significant Objects in their new homes can be found here. Are you an S.O. owner? Please send us your pix!
As the terrible news of Andrew Koenig’s suicide and Michael Blosil leaping to his death, both after long depressive bouts, emerged over the weekend, the New York Times Sunday Magazine had aided and abetted Jonah Lehrer’s continued slide into unhelpful Gladwellian generalizations by publishing his sloppy and insensitive article claiming that depression really isn’t that bad. Lehrer, an alleged bright young thing who found his own tipping point with How We Decide, appears to have cadged nuanced examples from such thoughtful books as Kay Redfield Jamison’s Touched with Fire and Daniel L. Schachter’s The Seven Sins of Memory, proving quite eager to cherrypick tendentious bits for a facile sudoku puzzle, or perhaps print’s answer to a “fair and balanced” FOX News segment, rather than a thoughtful consideration.
Lehrer attempts to establish a precedent with Charles Darwin’s mental health: a troubling task, given that the great evolutionist kicked the bucket around 130 years ago and, thus, didn’t exactly have the benefit of psychiatric professionals watching over his bunk, much less a DSM-IV manual. Lehrer suggests that the “fits” and “uncomfortable palpitation of the heart” that Darwin referenced in his letters represented depression. While it’s difficult to diagnose a mental condition in such a postmortem manner, John Bowlby’s helpful book, Charles Darwin: A New Life, has collected various efforts to pinpoint what Darwin was suffering from. And Bowlby’s results tell a different story. Darwin, who was very careful to consult the top medical authorities of his time, described his “uncomfortable palpitation” in a letter to J.S. Henslow on September 1837, when he was hard at work making sense of his data after the Beagle had landed back. In 1974, Sir George Pickering made an analysis of Darwin’s symptoms from these shards and attributed this state to Da Costa’s Syndrome, more commonly known as hyperventillation. Da Costa’s is most certainly unpleasant, but it is not depression. Dorland’s Medical Dictionary describes Da Costa’s as “a manifestation of an anxiety disorder, with the physical symptoms being a reaction to something perceived to be dangerous or otherwise a threat to the person, causing autonomic responses or hyperventilation.” (Emphasis added.) This diagnosis was backed up, as Bowlby notes, by Sir Hedley Atkins and Professor A.W. Woodruff.
Later in his book, Bowbly suggests that Darwin may have suffered from fairly severe depression during the months of April and September 1865 — which corroborates the “hysterical crying” that Lehrer eagerly collects and that Darwin conveyed to his doctor. But where Bowbly is careful to note that the “hysterical crying” leading to depression is a speculation based merely on a phrase and an anecdote conveyed by Darwin’s son, Leonard, Lehrer conflates both Darwin’s “hysterical crying” and Bowlby’s other non-depression examples into depression. Furthermore, Lehrer fails to note that the reason that Darwin was “not able to do anything one day out of three” (as he noted in a letter to Joseph Dalton Hooker on March 28, 1849) was because, as Darwin noted, his father had died the previous November. (Lehrer does note Darwin’s grief following the death of his ten-year-old daughter and proudly observes that the DSM manual specifies that the diagnosis of grief-related depressive disorder “is grief caused by bereavement, as long as the grief doesn’t last longer than two months.” But David H. Barlow’s Anxiety and Its Disorders cites a 1989 study*, which points out that “it is not uncommon for some individuals to grieve for a year or longer” and observes that some people may need longer than two months to escape severe incapacitating grief. A major depressive disorder may not necessarily be the result after two months of grief. In other words, the human mind is not necessarily an Easy-Bake oven.)
The basis for Lehrer’s thesis — that Darwin conquered the totality of his apparent “depression” to “succeed in science” and that his “depression” was “a clarifying force, focusing the mind on its most essential problems” — is predicated on a willful misreading of the primary sources, one that apparently eluded the indolent army of Times fact checkers, who only had to consult Bowlby’s more equitable analysis. This was irresponsible assembly from Lehrer: bad and inappropriate badinage intended to back up a sensational headline and convey Darwin as a falsely triumphant poster boy for severe depression. But depression is a deadly disorder, a condition that requires a less specious summary.
Lehrer later cites David Foster Wallace’s short story, “The Depressed Person,” as a qualifying example for how the depressive mind remains in a “recursive loop of woe.” One may find comparisons between DFW’s real depression and the details contained in the story. But the story, written in third person and loaded with clinical details, might also be read as something which depicts the regular world’s failure to comprehend inner torment. Prescriptive analysis may very well apply to patterns of behavior, but fiction is an altogether different measure.
It is doubtful that DFW ever intended his story to be some smoking gun for lazy cognitive science, as Lehrer insists that it is, when Lehrer declares that those with “ruminative tendencies” are more likely to be depressed. Daniel L. Schachter’s The Seven Sins of Memory, a book that Lehrer appears to have relied upon for the Susan Nolen-Hoeksema example, pointed out that people “who focus obsessively on their current negative moods and past negative events, are at a special risk for becoming trapped in such destructive self-perpetuating cycles.” But what of those who are ruminating after a positive mood or after positive events? The danger of using a phrase like “ruminative tendencies” is that it discounts Nolen-Hoeksema’s clear distinction between dysphoric subjects inclined to ruminate (and feel worse) and “nondysphoric subjects [who] would show no effects of either the rumination or distraction inductions on their moods.” Perhaps by warning his readership of “ruminative tendencies,” Lehrer is encouraging them not to ruminate and therefore become mildly depressed about Lehrer’s dim findings. Lehrer is right, however, about the Loma Prieta earthquake data (also found in the Schachter book). But his failure to distinguish between the dysphoric and nondysphoric perpetuates a convenient generalization rather than an article hoping to contend with conditional realities.
Near the end of his piece, Lehrer confesses that the criticisms against the analytic-rumination hypothesis are often responded to “by acknowledging that depression is a vast continuum, a catch-all term for a spectrum of symptoms.” Well, if only he had told us this at the head of the article before leading us down a rabbit hole. He later writes, “It’s too soon to judge the analytic-rumination hypothesis.” Well, it wasn’t too soon to speculate on Darwin’s letters (not all the result of depression) or David Foster Wallace’s inner psychological state, as reflected through a story.
Lehrer also brings up Joe Forgas’s experiments at a Sydney stationery store, whereby Forgas hoped to get his subjects to remember trinkets. He played different music to match the weather. Wet weather made the subjects sad, and the sadness made the subjects more attentive. But in a Financial Times article written by Stephen Pincock, Forgas was careful to note “that any benefits that he has found apply only to the passing mood or emotion of sadness, rather than the devastating illness that is severe, clinical depression.” Once again, Lehrer neglects to mention this scientific proviso, leading readers to conclude that Forgas’s results are more related to depression.
It’s also important to note that the Paul Andrews study Lehrer relies on, which drew an interesting correlation between negative mood and improved analysis, defines “depressive affect” as “an emotion characterized by negative effect and low arousal.” This is a fundamentally different metric from outright depression, which Andrews’s study is clear to specify. But Lehrer confuses the two terms and retreats back to his clumsy Darwin metaphor of “embrac[ing] the tonic of despair.”
I don’t doubt that Lehrer wished to point out how depressive affect, or modest negative feelings, need not translate into a crippling existence. But his distressing conflation of “depressive affect” and “depression,” and his insistence that even a modest negative feeling might be categorized as depression, may very well suggest to readers that hard-case depressives in serious need of care and treatment might do without these essential long-term remedies. As someone who has offered assistance to friends living with this very real condition, I find Lehrer’s willingness to lump every sad behavioral pattern into “depression” truly shocking. I’m also greatly concerned that the New York Times — the ostensible paper of record — has failed to fact-check the selected studies, thus misleading readers into believing that depression is always a “clarifying force.” Depression, as Andrews attempted to convey to Lehrer, is “a very delicate subject.” Andrew did not wish to say anything reckless for the record. It’s just too bad that Lehrer did.
* Jacobs, Hansen, Berkman, Kasi & Ostfield (1989). Depressions of bereavement. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 30(3), 218-224
Today’s New York Times “Ideas and Trends” feature is pegged to the flap over German novelist Helene Hegemann’s Axolotl Roadkill, which was published last month, and which
plagiarizes remixes passages from various other books. Hegemann is unapologetic: “There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,” she insists.
This leads the Times‘ Randy Kennedy to lead us in a thought exercise. Kennedy writes:
Think of almost any kind of cultural endeavor and then use the word “we” to describe its creation. The communal pronoun trips easily off the tongue when talking about the world of contemporary arts and entertainment, where things are often the product of teams, workshops, studios or institutions, where collaboration and idea-swapping are the norm. But now try applying it to creative writing, especially to fiction and poetry, and it can sound absurd: “We worked for years on the character development and the voice, and when we finally nailed the subtle epiphany, we cracked open a bottle of Champagne to celebrate.”
Not that there isn’t the occasional team-written novel. But the popular conception of the creative writer is still by and large one of the individual trying to wrestle language, maybe even the meaning of life, from his soul, the kind of lone battle Jonathan Franzen described himself waging in writing The Corrections, which he sometimes did in the dark, wearing earplugs and earmuffs, trying to hold his mind “free of clichés.”
Kennedy’s story isn’t actually about crowdsourced or open-source art; it’s not about team-writing. It’s about pastiche, cut-up, remixing. But his thought exercise — well, I’m tempted to
steal upcycle it for my opening remarks at SXSW!
You know that one of my favorite sports is bagging on forecasts of all types, so when I come across one that’s pretty decent, I think it’s worth highlighting. Here, we see that the Department of Energy’s 1996 forecast (drawn from here) does pretty well. They overprojected the price declines up until 2000, but as you can see in the bottom graph (from Ryan Wiser’s 2007 Berkeley Lab report), the wind industry quickly caught up as the price of wind electricity dropped from 6 cents a kilowatt hour to 4 from just 1999 to 2002.
(The scales of the charts above are different: One is cents per kilowatt hour, the other in $ per megawatt hour. Basic conversion: $10/MWh = $0.01/KWh. My apologies. I’d love to play Remake the Chart today, but I’ve got a few thousand words to write.)
Note, too, that the DOE projection shows the cost reduction curve flattening out around the 3-4 cent range, which is exactly what’s happened. What they did miss is that the price spread for different projects is wide. They anticipated that wind power projects would only vary half a cent up or down from the average. In reality, the variance is 1.5 cents either way, so the range extends from some projects making power at 2 cents a kilowatt hour to other projects that make electricity at 5 cents a kilowatt hour.
It’s worth noting that all of the costs cited here for wind are easily competitive in the wholesale electricity market. For example, in 2005, a good year for wind and bad one for natural gas prices, wind was off-the-charts cheap:
xintra: La Cobra Blanca will be performing her very first flamenco recital in the Bronx today. Hence the mushroom cloud over 138th Street.
[Image: Trapped in ice].
Back in January 2008, a ship called Tara unlocked from the polar ice near Greenland; it had been frozen in the Arctic floes for a year and four months, repeating the journey of the Fram, a Norwegian ship that once drifted across the polar seas, frozen solid in the ice fields, back in 1896.
In both cases, the ships temporarily became buildings, works of architecture wed flush with the landscape surrounding them.
[Images: Photos via Jules Verne Adventures].
As reported two winters ago in the Times:
- Visitors to the North Pole in the past 15 months might have happened upon a peculiar sight: a ship, high and dry on the ice pack, her masts upright against the flaming aurora borealis, her bow pointing over the ice sheet, as if sailing on a sea of snow. They might have thought it a polar mirage.
It was, however, the Tara, a mobile building of the Arctic.
In a description so strange I have trouble visualizing it, we read about a “pressure ridge” that moved toward the boat at “super-slow” speeds, threatening everyone on board with destruction:
- There was another scare that winter with a “pressure ridge” caused by colliding plates of ice advancing towards the boat. “It was like a frozen wave, moving in super-slow motion—about a centimeter a second,” said [a crew member]. “At one stage we attacked it with picks and chainsaws, but there was no way we could stop it.” It leant over the boat, then suddenly it stopped by itself and “we were released from the pinch,” said [the crew member].
When landscapes attack.
[Image: Map of the Arctic ice routes that brought ships across the sea, courtesy of New Scientist].
But what interests me here is the idea that you could build one thing—a ship—that only becomes what it’s really meant to be—a building—when the circumstances it’s surrounded by undergo a phase change (here, water turning into ice).
The ship’s hull was specifically designed for this, we read in New Scientist; it was “broad, smooth and round so that, rather than being crushed like an egg, the boat would pop up like an olive stone squeezed between finger and thumb, and sit on top of the pack ice. It also featured a lifting centerboard instead of a fixed keel, and removable propellers and rudders. These precautions worked: Tara suffered just a small dent at the stern, and another stretching a metre or so along the hull.”
And, speaking of other planets, could you ever encounter such extraordinary air pressure—on a gas giant, say—such that solid objects simply become trapped in place, unable to fall any further? The atmosphere beneath them is denser than the metal they are made from.
Like machine-fossils buried transparently in air—or like Arctic ships locked in ice—NASA probes would gradually decay, compressed by nothing but air, under deformational pressures lasting tens of millions of years. Aerial tectonics. Slow weather. Sky glacier.
The Feelies’ Crazy Rhythms album came out Feb. 29, 1980. So this is as close as we’re going to get for a 30th anniversary… and here’s “Raised Eyebrows” from it.
Bad Manners’ debut single “Ne Ne Na Na Na Na Nu Nu” came out February 28, 1980. Here’s a live TV performance from thenabouts.
Psychedelic Furs recorded a session for the John Peel show that aired February 28, 1980. Here’s “Soap Commercial” from it.
I don’t know why I keep doing these. But here’s another podcast in defense of anonymity.
Like CD jewel cases, paperbacks, and other things, for better or worse the internet makes redundant, gone will be handmade “Missing” posters. Google’s Person Finder made me pause and think how far we’ve come. And of course I’m thinking about 9/11. Townes Van Zandt singing about his daughter. Here’s Dan Fox on Spacemen 3, and “The many uses of the Zeitgeist,” and pretentiousness, “The optimist sees pretension as innocent, tragicomic even: excess of effort, a lack of awareness that ambition might exceed capability, being unable to laugh about your own limitations. In this sense, it’s related to certain aspects of camp – to what Susan Sontag described as ‘the sensibility of failed seriousness’. (What often lurks behind pomposity is sad insecurity.) The cynic recognizes pretension only as the cousin of affectation, one of the dark arts of charlatanry; disguises to pass yourself off as something you’re not, talking yourself up, showing off about commodities or experiences you’ve acquired. But one quality of pretentiousness is a willingness to at least have a stab at something, for better or for worse, and you can only accuse someone of pretentiousness if you can identify both what is being aspired to, and just why it is that the person in question fails to make the grade.” New one from Jon Rafman. Best game of Twister EVER. The Atlantic on Matt Kirschenbaum’s work in video-game preservation. Brett Easton Ellis wants James Franco and Angelina Jolie to play Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan. China Mieville writes about JG Ballard, whose childhood home was just gutted. Luzinterruptus, replacing traffic with literature. The Power of Text (and Google Search Stories). Bunch of Pavement links, Gold Soundz is my favorite. Against speculative design competitions. Neoteny is the retention of childlike attributes in adulthood. UK’s web heritage at risk. When in your life were you most afraid to talk to strangers? “When I talked with (adult) friends about the experience, some wondered if kids today are acculturated to be more afraid of strangers than kids were in generations past. I’m not so sure this is true. Until I was about ten, I was scared to ask for directions or talk to strangers in public. I don’t think I was afraid of the strangers–I was afraid of exposing and embarrassing myself.” I don’t think I ever stopped being afraid, I just learned to hide it.
Armando Iannucci - "twitter"
Armando Iannucci - "Oscars"
Armando Iannucci - "the thick of it"
Armando Iannucci - "In the Loop"
Armando Iannucci - "Rebecca Front"
Armando Iannucci - "Plant Fondling"
Armando Iannucci - "childhood comedy"
Armando Iannucci - "milton scholarship"
Armando Iannucci - "Early Radio Days"
Armando Iannucci - "the fourth fact"
Armando Iannucci - "pushing it too far (time trumpet)"
Armando Iannucci - "truth and fiction I (Richard Bacon)"
Armando Iannucci - "truth and fiction II (high stakes)"
Armando Iannucci - "truth and fiction III (PR Gurus)"
Armando Iannucci - "truth and fiction IV (things never change)"
Back in 1993, it wasn’t the Bloom Box that was going to make clean energy “competitive with fossil fuels” but a new wind turbine from Kenetech.
The 33M-VS, which the company promoted as the “5 Cent Turbine,” was going to be the technological savior that would make wind energy as cheap as fossil fuel generation. In an American policy environment that was as streaky as the wind, these machines Were going to make the government irrelevant. Cranking out electricity at five cents per kilowatt hour, these machines wouldn’t need no stinking subsidies, no messy talk about externalities, or social goods. They’d be able to compete anywhere there was a good wind resource, company executives told Wall Street investors ahead of their late 1992 IPO. They raised $92 million and saw their stock shoot up as analyst after analyst foresaw huge growth for Kenetech.
The new turbine was a “marriage of aerodynamics and microelectronics” that allowed it to pull more energy out of the wind. The key was supposedly the introduction of a “variable-speed rotor,” which allowed the turbine to create nicely conditioned electrical power at a greater range of speeds than previous machines, supposedly from 8 miles per hour all the way up to 65 miles per hour. Over $70 million had been spent on its development, and it was implicitly endorsed by the Electric Power Research Institute, a utility-backed group.
“Sitting atop a 90-foot tower, its 54-foot-long blades facing into the breeze, the 33M-VS looks like any other wind machine. But it isn’t,” Business Week wrote. The turbine, Kenetech president Dale Osborn averred, “has been tested in the lab and in the field. It has worked beyond our wildest imagination.”
Noting the 130 patents that Kenetech received for the 33M-VS, the Christian Science Monitor bought the company line that “after 10 years of development and a year of field tests, the 33M-VS wind turbine will produce electricity for 5 cents per kilowatt-hour, making it competitive with natural gas.”
An EPRI report testified the turbine “is less vulnerable to wear and tear from wind action, lighter weight, and less expensive than a comparably sized constant-speed machine.”
Sounds great! But the problem was that this was not really true.
The machines may have been a tiny bit more efficient than their competitors, but what they gained there, they more than lost in operations and maintenance difficulty. Blades cracked. The hydraulics broke down. The list of problems was long. In August 1994, financial analyst Hank Hermann visited the site and reported “the loud groaning, clanging, whining noises emitting from several of the machines strongly suggested to my untrained unscientific ear that meaningful problems may exist with some of these machines.” The next month, Wind Power Monthly reported on what the buzz had long been in the industry. It turned out the turbines stunk.
But even before Hermann’s report was published on August 22, talk throughout the wind industry was of most of the 33M-VS blades in Palm Springs being cracked or damaged, of times when most 33M-VS turbines in Palm Springs were apparently shut down when the wind reaches about 35 mph, of most of the blades on Buffalo Ridge having cracked roots, of problems with generators and hydraulics systems, and of availability lower than usual in a wind plant — about 60%-80% compared with the normal 95-99%. For example, on August 18, out of 80, 33M-VS turbines on Kenetech’s larger wind farm in Palm Springs, 28 turbines were stopped at 08.00 in winds of 18 mph, and 18 were not operating at 11.30 in winds of 15 mph, according to a long time wind expert who says he has frequently noted that kind of low availability at the plant.
Years later, after Kenetech had gone bankrupt, the Wind Power Monthly was still bagging on the renamed turbine, then known as the KVS-33. “Operating the Kenetech KVS 33 wind turbine was likened to “life in a high maintenance environment” by Bill Barnes of LG&E Power Inc, speaking at the American Wind Energy Association’s annual conference in Austin, Texas, in June. LG&E is the largest owner and operator of the KVS 33M model, said Barnes.”
The 5 Cent Savior had become the industry scapegoat. Turned out, the turbine didn’t work nearly as well as anticipated.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. The story was: drop in the variable-speed rotor and — bang! — the energy problem would be solved. For historians of technology, this idea is flabbergasting and frustrating. The Danish turbines that now dominate the world market didn’t make huge leaps in performance. They just got better and better, incrementally, like things do.
“American designers constantly sought breakthroughs. They wanted to bypass the drudgery of incremental development and bat a home run,” Gipe wrote in his book Wind Comes of Age. “Americans leapt from one size to the next with little transition.”
The idea that technological breakthroughs visit engineers like gods from a nerdier dimension and change everything pervades American society. It’s a TV movie-quality narrative, but things don’t work like that. And the weird thing is that people who run technology companies often think that it does, or at least that the American public should be fed that line in order to build interest in their company.
As I was drinking too much coffee this morning, I hit on a new analogy for this mode of thinking: it’s the Al Davis approach to technology development. Davis, which you know if you watch football, is the owner of the Oakland Raiders. He’s famous for meddling with his team’s talent evaluators and coaches. He looks for quick fixes, thinking that if he can just get that one player, it will transform his team.
The classic Davis move was his signing of back-to-back Super Bowl MVP players to his roster with lavish contracts, though the two players (Desmond Howard and Larry Brown) were just mediocre. Neither player stayed with the team for more than a year.
A better analogy for how good technological development goes is Bill Belichick’s management of the Patriots. They are famous for getting older, undrafted, and otherwise unheralded players to work together within the overall scheme. They don’t look for one player who can transform their fortunes, but build the team as a team. Of course, they try to make each individual better, but they also find ways to put the players in positions where they can play their best.
Of course this is just an analogy, but I think there is a nugget of truth to it. We recognize that hit-seeking behavior in complex enterprises is kind of stupid, but with technology, we think that’s just the way it works.
Our data analysis to date has focused largely on Volume 1. But for fun, here’s an integrated top 25: The highest prices from the 150 (!) Significant Objects auctions that have closed to date.
Questions? Comments? Let us know.
|Rank||Volume||Object||Author||Market price||S.O. Price|
|1||v2||Globe Paperweight||Debbie Millman||$1.49||$197.50|
|2||v1||Russian figure||Doug Dorst||$3.00||$193.50|
|4||v1||Indian Figurine||R.K. Scher||$0.99||$157.50|
|5||v2||Music Box||Nicholas Rombes||$0.50||$147.50|
|6||v2||Rabbit Candle||Neil LaBute||$3.00||$112.50|
|7||v1||Wood animal||Meg Cabot||$0.75||$108.50|
|8||v1||Pink Horse||Kate Bernheimer||$1.00||$104.50|
|9||v2||Mystery Object||Ben Greenman||$0.99||$103.50|
|10||v1||HAWK ashtray||William Gibson||$2.99||$101.00|
|11||v1||“4” Tile||Toni Schlesinger||$1.00||$88.00|
|12||v1||Brass Boot||Bruce Sterling||$3.00||$86.00|
|13||v2||Just Married Cup||Barbara Bogaev||$0.75||$81.00|
|14||v1||Porcelain shoe||Sheila Heti||$4.00||$77.51|
|15||v1||Fake Banana||Josh Kramer||$0.25||$76.00|
|16||v1||Missouri Shot glass||Jonathan Lethem||$1.00||$76.00|
|17||v1||Measuring spoons||Mark Doty||$2.99||$76.00|
|19||v1||Duck Tray||Stewart O’Nan||$3.00||$71.00|
|20||v2||Partial Mermaid||Tom McCarthy||$0.00||$68.00|
|21||v2||Aquarium Souvenir||Mark Jude Poirier||$1.00||$66.07|
|22||v2||Pan Flute||Deb Olin Unferth||$0.00||$63.50|
|23||v1||Felt Mouse||Megan O’Rourke||$0.50||$62.00|
|24||v1||Cow Vase||Ed Park||$2.00||$62.00|
|25||v2||Letters and Numbers Plate||Joe Lyons||$2.49||$61.00|
Note: Don’t forget that, among other possible factors, charity effects may have helped v2 prices; in any case, our number-crunching remains focused mostly on v1, when that potential spending rationale was not yet present.
Not this Justin Wolfe. What is it like to share a name with someone (possibly) wrongly accused of murder? The other Justin Wolfe is a very talented writer and creator of two delightful websites, who can do better than the suburban wasteland that is Northern Virginia.
I inch ever closer to the world of comedy here (I’m directing/co-conceiving the improvisers):
Sunday, March 14, 2010
PopRally invites you to an intimate viewing of the Tim Burton exhibition, followed by a special variety show inspired by the unique vision of Burton and his collaborators. Comedian Max Silvestri will play ringmaster to a cavalcade of performers, including improvisers Rebecca Drysdale and Jeff Hiller, comedians David Rees and Sam Anderson, Jon Glaser, comedian/musician Reggie Watts, music from Brigham Brough and Wyndham Garnett of Elvis Perkins in Dearland and others, and surprises galore.
Taking inspiration from popular culture, Tim Burton has reinvented Hollywood genre filmmaking as an expression of personal vision, garnering for himself an international audience of fans and influencing a generation of young artists working in film, video, and graphics. This exhibition explores the full range of his creative work, tracing the current of his visual imagination from early childhood drawings through his mature work in film.
Exhibition viewing and cocktail reception starts at 7:00 p.m. and ends at 8:30 p.m.
Theater program begins promptly at 8:30 p.m.
Special thanks to Pernod Absinthe and Sud de France Wines.
What happens when you allow the members of the crowd to interact? On this blog we’ve looked at examples in which each member of the crowd is unaware of the other members participating in the same task, and yet collectively their efforts are aggregated in interesting ways.
Given my previous work with collective viewing patterns on YouTube, which investigated word-of-mouth interactions amongst the consumers of video content, I was excited when I came across a great example of interactions between producers of video content in this great video.
What’s great about this video is that much of it could have been produced in a completely crowdsourced way by specifying rules that each participant could follow without ever interacting with the other players (cover camera for 3 seconds, rotate in chair for 10 seconds, look up for 1 second, etc). However at some point there is an actual interaction between members of the crowd when they start showing up in eachother’s videos.
Makes me wonder how large something like this could be scaled up without allowing actual interactions?
Mexico's lone Olympian competing in the Vancouver Games, which end on Sunday, is 51 years old and is officially a "Prinz." Read more about Hubertus von Hohenlohe --and his bodysuit -- at my current post at La Plaza.
David Kirby, an American coach and a technical expert, said: “Clearly, [Kim Yu-na]’s the best girl, but it’s because she’s the best technician. She’s 70 percent sport, 30 percent art. Peggy Fleming was a real artist and real athlete. I don’t think that balance of art and sport is the Olympic champion this year.”
—"As Kim Raises the Bar, South Korea Delights," NYT, Feb. 27. 2010
[Sarah] Chang is a phenomenon. Her technique is almost intimidatingly brilliant. Her tone is lustrous. She has both temperament and uncanny control. And yet I missed the qualities of nobility, elegance and spontaneity that more mature artists have brought to the work.
—Anthony Tommasini, NYT, 1999
D.I.Y. champions Desperate Bicycles released their one and only album, Remorse Code, on February 27, 1980. Here’s “I Am Nine” from it.
[Image: Edible Schoolyard by WORKac].
Things kick off at 1pm, as you can see on the Foodprint Project website.
[Images: Edible Schoolyard by WORKac].
The above images, meanwhile, come from the Edible Schoolyard by WORKac. Amale Andraos, co-principal with Dan Wood in WORKac, will be speaking on a panel at 4:30pm today about her firm’s work with nutritional landscapes, educational agriculture, and the future of urban food production.
Edible Schoolyard, specifically, presents “a series of interlinked sustainable systems that produce energy and heat, collect rainwater, process compost and sort waste with an off-grid infrastructure.”
- At the heart of the project is the Kitchen Classroom, where up to thirty students can prepare and enjoy meals together. The kitchen’s butterfly-shaped roof channels rain water for reclamation. Connected to one side is the Mobile Greenhouse, extending the growing season by covering 1600sf of soil in the colder months and sliding away in the spring, over the Kitchen Classroom. On the other side is the Systems Wall: a series of spaces that include a cistern, space for composting and waste-sorting, solar batteries, dishwashing facilities, a tool shed and a chicken coop.
The project, created in collaboration with Alice Water’s Chez Panisse Foundation and P.S. 216, continues the suite of ideas WORKac first explored in their design for Public Farm 1, less a functioning farm, or even a prototype for one, than an intensely spatial art installation ornamented by edible plants.
Joining Amale Andraos on the panel today will be Marcelo Coelho (of “Cornucopia” fame, a 3D food-printer designed with Amit Zoran), Natalie Jeremijenko (of, among many, many other things, the Cross Species Cookbook), and Beverly Tepper (Professor of Food Science at Rutgers and director of the Sensory Evaluation Laboratory). As Edible Geography describes it, “the result will be a speculative and wide-ranging conversation about food security, sensory design, and [the panelists'] hopes and fears for the future of food in New York City.”
That is only the final of four panels; read more about today’s event over on the Foodprint Project website.
Few people I’ve met have heard of Hellbender, but in a punk way they were almost like the Yardbirds, the mostly forgotten ’60s British band whose guitarists included Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. Al Burian, Hellbender’s bass player, later played in the cynical, futurist hardcore band Milemarker and wrote the zine and comic Burn Collector, a literary slacker diary. (Both efforts seem outdated now: the sci-fi endgame Milemarker imagined looks quaint as we start to see the banality of the apocalypse, and Burn Collector’s style has been copped and diluted by the blogosphere.) Harrison Haynes, the drummer, plays in the Brooklyn performance-rock band Les Savy Fav. Wells Tower played guitar.
—Josh Garrett-Davis, The Rumpus
(Via Lincoln at The Faster Times)
Ms. Grandin wondered what made the animals moo and balk. Kneeling down to see things from a cow's eye view, she took pictures from within the chutes.
She found cattle were highly sensitive to the same sensory stimulants that might set off a person with autism, but were inconsequential to the average handler. They were shockingly simple revelations: light and shadow would stress the animals, as would grated metal drains. Prodding and hollering from cowboys, intended to move cattle along, only alarmed them further.
Her designs reflected these insights. A curved, single-file chute mimicked the cattle's natural tendency to follow each other. She replaced slated walls with solid ones to prevent cattle from seeing the handlers and cut down on light and shadow.
[Image: From Wired Science's photo gallery, "Stunning Views of Glaciers Seen From Space"].
In light of this week’s ongoing conversation, I thought I’d take a quick look at how to build a glacier.
The “art of glacier growing,” as New Scientist calls it, is “also known as glacial grafting.” It has been “practiced for centuries in the mountains of the Hindu Kush and Karakorum ranges,” and it was never about science fiction: “It was developed as a way to improve water supplies to villages in valleys where glacial meltwater tended to run out before the end of the growing season.”
The artificial glacier, then, is simply a traditional landscape-architectural technique that manipulates and amplifies pre-existing natural processes. It is vernacular hydrology writ large.
[Image: From Wired Science's photo gallery, "Stunning Views of Glaciers Seen From Space"].
So how do you build an artificial glacier?
First, you need a site, and that site should be mountainous; altitudes higher than 4,500 meters are thermally preferable. From New Scientist:
- Once the site is selected, ice is brought to rocky areas where there are small boulders about 25 centimeters across. The rocks protect the ice from sunlight, and often have ice trapped in the gaps between them. This seems to be critical to a successful “planting.”
Also critical is the glacier’s “gender.” Yes, glaciers “have a gender”: “A ‘male’ glacier is one that is covered in stones and soil and moves slowly or not at all. A ‘female’ one is whiter, and grows more quickly, yielding more water.”
- After [glacier-growing mountain villagers] have added female to the male ice (traditionally by importing 12 man-loads or about 300 kilograms of the stuff), they cover the area with charcoal, sawdust, wheat husk, nutshells or pieces of cloth to insulate it. Gourds of water placed among the ice and rocks are also critical to a glacier’s chances of forming, according to [artificial-glacier expert, Ingvar Tveiten]. As the glacier grows and squeezes the gourds, they burst, spreading water on the surrounding ice, which then freezes.
Awesomely, the glacier then exhibits complex internal ventilation:
- Any snowmelt trapped in the budding glacier also freezes, adding more ice. Pockets of cold air moving between the rocks and ice keep the glacier cool. When the mass of rock and ice is heavy enough, it begins to creep downhill, forming a self-sustaining glacier within four years or so.
Of course, “what’s produced is hardly a glacier in the proper sense,” we’re reminded, “but growing and flowing areas of ice many tens of meters long have been reported at the sites of earlier grafts.”
Let me repeat that: to call these artificial glaciers is a poetic over-statement, as they are much more realistically described as artificially maintained deposits of snow—what I have elsewhere called non-electrical ice reserves. But the thermally self-sustaining nature of these deposits nonetheless makes them susceptible to glaciological analysis.
[Image: From Wired Science's photo gallery, "Stunning Views of Glaciers Seen From Space"].
But there are also other, equally lo-fi techniques of glacier-growing.
Elsewhere, we read that “a good artificial glacier costs $50,000,” even though “the materials are simple: dirt, pipes, rocks—and runoff from real glaciers high above.” Importantly, then, but quite obviously, a controlled act of artificial glaciation can only be achieved in regions where there is already water available; you can’t simply snap your fingers and “build a glacier” in a Tucson parking lot.
In any case, this second technique “is remarkably simple”:
- Water from an existing stream is diverted using iron pipes to a comparably shady part of the valley and here the water is allowed to flow out onto an inclined mountainside. At regular intervals along the slope of the mountain, small embankments of stone are made which impede the flow of water making shallow pools. At the start of winter, water is allowed to flow into this `masonry contraption’ and as the winter temperatures are constantly falling the water freezes forming a thick sheet of ice looking almost like a thin, long glacier.
All this is done before the onset of winter. During the winter, as temperatures fall steadily, the water collected in the small pools freezes. Once this cycle has been repeated over many weeks, a thick sheet of ice forms, resembling a long, thin glacier.
Again: resembling a long, thin glacier. We’re not talking about monumental, mountain-crushing tectonic formations (yet)—even if I do feel compelled to wax speculative here and suggest that, if these structures do indeed begin “to creep downhill, forming a self-sustaining glacier within four years or so,” then it is not at all unrealistic to assume that, given the right thermal circumstances and the necessary amount of snowfall, you could kick-start glaciation on a macro-scale. This might only mean on the scale of one valley—and not, say, the entire northern hemisphere—but it is an amazing idea that architects could set massive, self-sustaining, tectonically complex structures of ice into motion.
After all, glaciers are very long events, as mammoth memorably put it.
[Image: From Wired Science's photo gallery, "Stunning Views of Glaciers Seen From Space"].
To reiterate the simplicity of this latter design process, I want to quote artificial-glacier expert Chawang Norphel, from an interview he did with the IPS:
- Glacier melt at different altitudes is diverted to the shaded side of the hill, facing the north, where the winter sun is blocked by a ridge or a mountain slope. At the start of winter (November), the diverted water is made to flow onto the sloping hill face through appropriately designed distribution channels or outlets.
At regular intervals stone embankments are built, which impede the flow of water, making shallow pools. In the distributing chambers, 1.5-inch diameter G pipes are installed after every five feet for proper distribution of water.
Water flows in small quantities and at low velocity through the G pipes, and freezes instantly. The process of ice formation continues for three to four winter months and a huge reserve of ice accumulates on the mountain slope, aptly termed “artificial glacier.”
I emphasize this for two reasons: 1) It’s extraordinarily easy to dismiss the idea of building “artificial glaciers” simply on the basis of the phrase alone. That is, the very phrase “artificial glaciers” sounds pseudo-scientific, impossibly complex, and disastrously fossil-fuel dependent. However, it’s actually a remarkably straight-forward design process, involving thermal site-specificity and vernacular building materials. 2) The idea of “artificial glaciers” also reeks of space-operatic self-indulgence, but the fundamental purpose of these structures is to create a reliable freshwater reservoir (or ice reserve) for rural communities.
We’re not talking about nuclear-powered snow-blowers built and operated by Darth Vader, in other words; we’re talking about rural Himalayan villagers who have learned to reorganize their region’s existing snowpack so as to make it thermally self-sustaining.
Or, as Norphel himself phrases it, “Apart from solving the irrigation problem, the artificial glaciers help in the recharging of ground water and rejuvenation of springs. They enable farmers to harvest two crops in a year, help in developing pastures for cattle rearing and reducing water sharing disputes among the farmers.”
[Image: From Wired Science's photo gallery, "Stunning Views of Glaciers Seen From Space"].
Having said that, the design possibilities become truly amazing when you scale this up, from a vernacular aid project to the level of carefully-maintained industrial infrastructure, and when you consider a wide range of alternative reasons for stockpiling ice (and, of course, things go bonkers if you let yourself consider genuinely and deliberately sci-fi-inflected ideas, such as maintaining artificial glaciers at the lunar south pole or using artificial glaciation as a Martian terraforming technique).
In any and all cases here, this makes artificial glaciers a fascinating topic for an architectural design studio—at least in my opinion—and the resulting conversations (and even open disagreements) about this topic have been very much worth the time already.
Justin Taylor recently appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #323. Mr. Taylor is most recently the author of Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever.
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Fearful of sanguine book titles.
Guest: Justin Taylor
Subjects Discussed: Not naming protagonists until well into the stories, dissatisfaction with formality, how characters reveal themselves, gender confusion within “Weekend Away,” Taylor’s aversion to “bright neon signs” within narrative, the dangers of being too specific, similes, concluding lines and addressing the reader, the final line of “Jewels Flashing in the Night of Time,” Donald Barthelme and Taylor’s veer from the phantasmagorical, Sleeping Fish and 5_Trope, Shelley Jackson, the Gordon Lish school of writers, Gary Lutz’s “experimental” nature, Taylor’s concern for hair, describing Florida primarily through the weather, the helpfulness of knowing a place before writing a story, boundaries and possibilities within limitations, age declarations at the beginnings of stories, the difficulties of getting all the numbers worked out within “The New Life,” the important of precise age, research that comes after writing a story, eliding the coordinates of a Planned Parenthood, 1960s counterculture, the Grateful Dead, distrust of pithy maxims and prescriptive text, and believing in aspects of a story.
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: I wanted to go back to the hair. I had alluded to that earlier. It could just be me, but you do have a concern for hair. It’s often quite specific, as I suggested. You begin “Amber at the Window in Hurricane Season” by describing her pushing “a blond lock behind her ear, stray hairs glancing off a steel row of studs.” In “In My Heart I Am Already Gone,” you describe how Vicky “cuts her own bangs, a ragged diagonal like the torn hem of a nightgown.” In “Weekend Away,” the hitchhiker has “black, messy hair mostly covering his ears.” In “What Was Once All Yours,” Cass has hairy forearms. I’m curious about this hair. And also we haven’t alluded to the cat as well. Is it more of a protective element? You know, these characters are often barren against the elements, so to speak. And I’m curious about this. You are a hair man, I have to say.
Correspondent: Or are you the President of the Hair Club for Men? I don’t know.
Taylor: I can’t really answer for that. I mean, every writer has certain concerns or tics that they might not even be aware of. I asked a similar question to David Berman once. I got to interview him for The Brooklyn Rail. And I was asking him this question about water. I said, “You know, American Water.” And there’s this line in Actual Air. “All water is classic water.” I had, I don’t know, two or three other examples. And I finally just asked myself, “So what’s the deal with all the water?” And he said, “You know, nobody’s ever asked me that before.” And he really didn’t have an answer. And then he told this story about mowing his lawn on a hot day. Which I think was supposed to exemplify that water is — water’s nice. And, you know, I don’t know. Hair is nice, I guess. I don’t know why. Because it’s mostly haircuts, hairstyles. I don’t know why I notice. Those are like what I’m visualizing with a character that appears or seems to be worth mentioning rather than eye color or height or anything else. I don’t know.
When I was a kid, I never liked getting haircuts. I still don’t like getting haircuts actually. I always feel like I don’t have a good haircut. Like everybody else has the style that they’re supposed to have. And mine always feels a little off. I feel like I’m impersonating.
Correspondent: Not one satisfactory haircut in your life?
Taylor: I’ve had some decent haircuts. But it was like a very early — it was when I was a really little kid. It would get long and I would be worried that I would look like a girl. And they would take me to get my hair cut. And then after it was cut, I would see myself in the mirror and I wouldn’t even recognize myself. And I would really lose it. And that doesn’t happen so much anymore. I’ve learned to recognize myself.
Correspondent: With more confidence, more confidence in hair and haircuts.
Taylor: There’s only so old you can be crying at a barbershop.
Correspondent: I’ve seen very older men cry at barbershops.
Taylor: (laughs) In any case, the answer is “I don’t know.”
Milo's world disappoints him even more, though, and happily for us, he's the scourge of the upwardly mobile everywhere. Lipsyte provides him with firebombing rants about everything from alternative day cares ("They had a smug ideological tinge about them, a minor Red Brigades vibe") to perhaps that fattest of sitting ducks: the self-importance of the hypereducated (his art school classmate won the student prize "for shitting on a Rand McNally atlas to interrogate hegemony"). None of this captures the performative brio of Lipsyte's sentences, which exhilarate by providing a sense of just what's possible when it comes to unbridled thought, unbridled meaning not only startlingly associative but transgressive as well. A paternal pessimist, Milo assesses his young son's prospects: "It was hard to imagine the boy completing kindergarten, remarkably easy to picture him in a tangle of fish knives and sailor cock under some rot-soft pier." There's a surreal giddiness to the resourcefulness of the perversity here, in the face of failure's crushing banality, as if all the mastery unmanageable in life is on display in this secret life: these utterly performative messages in a bottle to the reader.
[The auction for this object, with story by Jim Hanas, has ended. Original price: $1.50. Final price: $27.00. Previous installments in Hanas' series "Why They Cried" are here. Proceeds from this auction will go to Girls Write Now. ]
Why They Cried: Jacqueline
Cause: Sharp, icy wind
The air was cold and the wind was sharp, causing Jacqueline’s eyes to water in a manner resembling weep-based tear production—a fact she tried to explain to Rex, the bastard, when (of all the luck) she ran into him as she emerged from the food co-op, a basketful of fruits and brans and probiotic solutions hanging from her bent right elbow.
“I knew you missed me,” he said, seeing the tears streaming down her red cheeks. “I knew you couldn’t live without me.”
“I don’t miss you and, yes, I can live without you,” she said, erasing the tears with her tightly gloved fingers. “It’s the wind.”
“Yes I suppose our love was like the wind,” he said. “Subtle, omnipresent, powerful.”
“No, no, asshole,” she said, frantically running the heel of her free hand under each eye. “I’m not crying. The wind got in my eyes and …”
“Bracing, kind. …”
“I wasn’t even thinking about you,” she screamed as she swung the basket at Rex’s left temple, showering the sidewalk with clementines and five whole grains, which strangers happily helped pile back into Jacqueline’s basket as the paramedics loaded Rex onto a stretcher.
The Economist is playing host to an online debate on whether innovations in finance over the past few decades have contributed to growth. Arguing the “pro” case is Ross Levine, an economist at Brown. On the “con” side, arguing that ever-more-complex financial instruments have enriched speculators while destabilizing markets, is Joseph Stiglitz, the Columbia economist and Nobelist. Online readers side 55 percent to 45 percent with Stiglitz.
Don’t even think about strolling in late to a lecture by Scott Galloway, a professor of business at NYU and founder of onetime Internet darling Redenvelope.com.
Josef K’s debut single “Chance Meeting” came out February 26, 1980. Could this be the original promo video? I suspect it might!
The gods were seated near to Zeus in council
upon a golden floor. Graciously Hebe
served them nectar, as with cups of gold
they toasted one another, looking down
toward the stronghold of Ilium.
— The Iliad by Homer, translated by Robert Fitzgerald
‘Don’t bother to heat the wine for me,’ said Bao-yu. ‘I prefer it cold.’
‘Good gracious, that will never do,’ said Aunt Xue. ‘You musn’t drink wine cold, or when you write your hand will shake!’
‘I’m surprised at you, Cousin Bao!’ said Bao-chi, with a smile. ‘With all your enthusiasm for out-of-the-way learning, fancy not knowing this! Wine has an exceptionally fiery nature, and therefore must be drunk warm in order to be digested. If it is drunk cold, it congeals inside the body and harms it by absorbing heat from the internal organs. From this day on you must reform! No more cold wine!’
— The Story Of The Stone by Cao Xuequn, translated by David Hawkes
MURRAY WAS HOWLING DRUNK
Mr. Hugh Murray, residing on Washington street, was howling drunk in front of the bridge at 8:15 o’clock last evening. He was also cheering. Policeman Donnelly told him to stop and he hit the officer in the mouth. Judge Walsh this morning sentenced Murray to pay a fine of $10 or go to jail for ten days on the charge of disorderly conduct, and will give him a hearing later on a charge of assault.
— Brooklyn Eagle, December 27, 1888
“Abrubtly, and with oblique intent to ruffle,” (again, The Iliad) Brian Berger’s enthusiasm for what Hugh Murray might have called “get the fuck out of my way learning” has twice more revealed itself at hilobrow.com, this time in the warming forms of Gene Pitney and Anaïs Nin. What the …? As it was sung, nessuno mi può giudicare! — Kenny Wisdom
A string of Americans also have very job-specific names, including Dr Leslie Doctor, Dr Thoulton Surgeon and Les Plack - a dentist in San Francisco. —BBC
Remember warblogging? Somehow, I managed to talk about the history of blogs for nearly 10 minutes while alone in my car earlier this evening. Here’s another podcast on search referrals and breaking news. And here’s an interview with the very talented artist An Xiao as she set up for the #class show. Her blog, btw, is a must read.
Every skier knows that moguls are small (and sometimes not so small) snow hills made by the cumulative action of skiers. Moguls fields form as more and more skiers turn at the same spots, each turn spraying out a bit more snow that over time grows into larger and larger hills.
But it turns out moguls don't just grow and shrink in size, they also migrate. Uphill.
Writing in Physics Today, three scientists explained that as moguls get larger, skiers are more and more likely to make turns on the downhill side of the pre-existing moguls. Each time they do they dislodge a bit of snow that lands on the uphill size of the mogul below. Thus over time the uphill side of each mogul grows, while the downhill side is abraded away.
A typical mogul moves uphill at a rate of roughly 8 centimeters a day, or about 10 meters a season.
Image by random_matt/flickr.com published under a Creative Commons license.
Ever since I read Twyla Tharp's book about the practice of creativity, I've realized that NOTHING is more important to achieving artistic success than putting in the hours upon hours of practice. (Take THAT, people who think talent is God given).
That fact is driven home again in this essay by chef Shuna Fish Lydon laying out just what it takes to make it in a kitchen...
Memorize your station, and the station next to you. Inventory, taste EVERY PIECE OF YOUR MIS EN PLACE EVERY DAY, every night, every service. Even if you are the only one on your station. Even if you don't want to. Some ingredients/components just take a few hours to go off. If you serve bad food it's on you. Have INTEGRITY. And if you hate your job/menu/chef so much that you don't care to taste your m.e.p., leave. Please. You have no time to waste
While there are traffic signs for most of the actions we perform with our motor vehicles (turning, stopping, speeding up, slowing down, etc.) Gary Lauder thinks there's room for one more.
Speaking at this year's TED conference, Gary Lauder unveiled his design for a traffic sign for the traffic maneuver that more than any other brings out the best and worst in people -- the alternate merge.
While an explicit instruction telling people to be nice to each other is never out of place, not everyone is happy with the sign. Some call it ugly, others confusing. And there's an argument to be made that the last thing the world needs is more traffic signs.
So as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’ve been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to the relief of many among my friends and acquaintances. A chorus of folks has been telling me for years that my Buffy illiteracy represented both a gaping lack in pop subcultural knowledge and a bunch of fun out on which I was missing.
I concede. And yet, I’m glad I waited. I watch two or three episodes at a time — I can get through a season in a weekend, assuming deadlines and non-screen-based life don’t interfere — and that means I watch differently.
Sure, I’m finding my Buffy binge-viewing fun: Don’t Have To Wait So Long To See What Happens, More Witty Banter Per Day, Plus There Is The Amusement To Be Derived From The Morphing of Cast Member Hairstyles and Fashion.
But I’m also finding it useful.
When you consume a lot of stories in a row — perhaps especially, as in this case, a lot of related stories — it gets easier to see how they’re put together.
There’s less time between when you first see the rifles on the wall and when they’re fired.
Character arcs also come into clearer focus when experienced in a compressed fashion.
In my own work, I’m trying to become, as my yoga teachers would say, more intentional about pacing and structure. Making and working from more detailed outlines is part of that process. (I seem to do better when I operate under constraints, even if I’m the one imposing them.) Apparently, another part of said process is absorbing story-structure thinking via multiple-episode-watching osmosis.
(Maybe what I’m really working on is my capacity to rationalize…)
Sometimes I find myself mentally making epigrammatic observations about the little Nicholson Bakery pleasure-giving tabs that hang off of the good, everyday white nodules of contemporary life. Then, profound web-based solipsist that I am, I think, I’ll write a short, epigrammatic observation about this mental/contemporary phenomenon on my blog. Then I remember the presence of Magic Molly and I stop, because I know she’s taking care of it—she’s got it covered.This would free up a lot of time. Then I could start a Twitter account!