Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Future Is Now, LXXV: Geoengineering: Cheap, Easy, Dangerous

For $100B, you can pump sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere to counteract greenhouse gases, turning the sky red in the process. Only problem is, no one knows for sure what will happen if you do, or what happpens when you stop.

T he scariest thing about geo-engineering, as it happens, is also the thing that makes it such a game-changer in the global-warming debate: it’s incredibly cheap. Many scientists, in fact, prefer not to mention just how cheap it is. Nearly everyone I spoke to agreed that the worst-case scenario would be the rise of what David Victor, a Stanford law professor, calls a “Greenfinger”—a rich madman, as obsessed with the environment as James Bond’s nemesis Auric Goldfinger was with gold. There are now 38 people in the world with $10 billion or more in private assets, according to the latest Forbes list; theoretically, one of these people could reverse climate change all alone. “I don’t think we really want to empower the Richard Bransons of the world to try solutions like this,” says Jay Michaelson, an environmental-law expert, who predicted many of these debates 10 years ago.

Even if Richard Branson behaves, a single rogue nation could have the resources to change the climate. Most of Bangladesh’s population lives in low-elevation coastal zones that would wash away if sea levels rose. For a fraction of its GDP, Bangladesh could refreeze the ice caps using sulfur aerosols (though, in a typical trade-off, this might affect its monsoons). If refreezing them would save the lives of millions of Bangladeshis, who could blame their government for acting? Such a scenario is unlikely; most countries would hesitate to violate international law and become a pariah. But it illustrates the political and regulatory complications that large-scale climate-changing schemes would trigger.

"Stuff leaks in from the future"

Kevin O'Neill goes to a talk amongst Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore and Iain Sinclair. They say a variety of deep things. Kevin takes notes.

(via LinkMachineGo)

New Model VC

Jason Mendelson on why VC isn't broken, contrary to the beliefs of 59.2% of VCs who participated in a recent survey: It's cheap to build a tech company these days, there are lots of entrepreneurs, many of whom are experienced, and a couple of reasons to be optimistic about exits in the future.

I think this is right on. When you've got nothing but talent and time, great things result.

Here's an NVCA presentation on restoring liquidity (particularly IPOs) to the VC industry, referenced in Mendelson's article.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Gay Men and Straight Men Can be Friends

NYT reveals the shocking truth. Dudes hang out, even though they prefer to have sex with various genders. They talk about sports, clothes and dating. No joke.

Milbank v. Pitney

Dana Milbank called Nico Pitney a "dick" after this exchange. Digby has the best response:

Just to put this into perspective, think about this: Nico Pitney has spent the last two weeks tirelessly developing sources from inside Iran, aggregating every relevant story available on the internet through every available form of the new communication technology and synthesizing one of the most most difficult and important foreign policy stories of the decade. Dana Milbank has spent the same period bitching about the "low press" getting to ask questions at a press conference and filming snotty little gossip items for his little insider video embarrassment called "Mouthpiece Theatre."

You tell me which one's the "real" journalist.

Bailout Losses Smaller Than Discussed

Matt Yglesias goes over the latest CBO projections, which indicate that the $750B cost of the TARP will actually only be $159B, which is still a chunk of change, but is a heck of a lot better than people have been thinking lately.

Clay Enos Shoots Random People

And teaches you to do the same in a street photography tutorial.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Link Roundup

  1. Hipster goes to Liberty University and lives to tell about it.
  2. Hipster interviews go-go boy and lives to tell about it.
  3. Hipster gets massage, gets hacked up, and lives to tell about it.

Brain Time

David Eagleman:
Because different types of sensory information (hearing, seeing, touch, and so on) are processed at different speeds by different neural architectures, your brain faces an enormous challenge: what is the best story that can be constructed about the outside world?
(via 3quarks)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Kevin Murphy

Very good interview with Kevin Murphy of the University of Chicago. His turbo micro course was one of the few I regret not having time or opportunity to take while at the GSB.

Actually, there are a couple of basic mistakes in the economics in the interview...the Pythagorean Theorem answer, for one. The fundamental issue with informational products is not that someone can or cannot make a living teaching you about them, but that they themselves are non-rival, and thus not consumed in the same manner as material, rival goods.

(via mr)

More: Brad Delong has a relevant post up on the impact of politics on quality control among economists.

The Souvenir

Never fall asleep at the tattoo artist's.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Creepy bird-headed people and magic tricks at a masquerade.

"French remake of a 1914 serial involving a crime fighter who uses masks and deception to right wrongs and such."
-YouTube liner notes

(via Siege)

Bread and Circuses

I just don't know what to make of it. People are being killed by the dozens and there's political unrest in Iraq, Iran and Zimbabwe, yet there's wall-to-wall coverage of Michael Jackson on every station. I mean, sure, he could dance and sing well, but...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."
-Ernest Hemingway

My Kinky Normal Life

Dan Savage would like you to know that he has a wild sex life that he can't really tell you about, unless it's upside down and in French, and even then, he spends most of the paragraph talking about how he's not supposed to be telling you any of this. My married friends and coworkers also thought that I had a similarly interesting sex life, somewhere out of their immediate view; I would then regale them with endless descriptions of regrouting the bathroom tile on lonely Friday nights. The reality is always both more and less interesting than whatever is it you're imagining, much like most of the secret societies of the world are really just a bunch of guys meeting in badly lit basements to play live action D&D and complain about the rest of us.

Here's Dan's wild tale:

Dirty, and in French. How kinky!

Qom and Tehran

More info on Rafsanjani's probable role going forward. It appears that he's obeying the classical strategic dictum: ignore the prince, go after the king. The necessary move is to realign the oligarchy that runs the country, and then find ways to open up to the outside world after the manner of China.

Reports from the BBC also indicate that the Revolutionary Guards hierarchy understands the fluid nature of the current political solution in Iran, and are searching for ways to do a kind turn for Westerners in preparation for a possible realignment.

So, as things look worse in the near term, particularly at street level, it looks like there are some positive indicators for the long run.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cloud & Ashes

Greer Gilman's new novel arrived today. I'm pleased to see my name among the thanked subscribers inside the dust cover. Nice touch, that.
Dinner at Basi Italian with Alden, out on the back terrace. Like eating at someone's house, very hard restaurant to find if you're not looking for it. Chili Melon cold soup, wild mushroom risotto, a glass of one of those humorously named California reds "with notes of blackberry, cola and..." (I question the wisdom of ordering a wine that tastes like a soft drink, but it seemed like a good idea at the time). Then, order most of the desserts on the menu.

Theory of Language

'My whole theory of beautiful language holds that it comes from nameless, groups of people looking for a more expressive way to say something. I'm always thankful to get a note where someone praises a sentence I wrote. But what I really want is the kind of genius that takes "I'm leaving" and turns it into "I'm ghost" and then takes "I'm ghost" and turns it into "I'm Swayze." Seriously, what kid decided to pull "Ducat" out of obscurity (at least obscurity for us 80s city kids) and use it as easy as bread, or ends, or greenbacks? Who decided that a gun should be called a "heater" and then a "toaster" and then finally a "biscuit"?'

(via William Gibson)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs. Twilight

The way it should be.
(via Majikthise via James Wolcott)

Rafsanjani's Long Game

Persianwiki, as filtered through Andrew Sullivan, has a post on the importance of Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has been working behind the scenes slowly but surely. This is what is meant by subtlety.

Rafael Nadal and the Inner Game of Tennis

Cynthia Gorney has a wonderful profile of tennis player Rafael Nadal in the Times Magazine that is one of the great pieces of writing about tennis, on a par with David Foster Wallace's profile of Roger Federer, and argues, I think correctly, that these are the two greatest tennis players of this or any time.

He spent three whole years second in the world only to Federer, who during those years could not only outplay everybody but, in many people’s opinions, could probably have outplayed anybody who ever lived and nonetheless could not get past Nadal in Paris. Nadal was a phenomenal No. 2. His No. 2-ness was heroic and inspirational, and he was known to mention it quite cheerfully in press conferences: “I’m not the best, but I am a very good No. 2 in the world.”
Also of particular interest to our readers is the focus on the psychological aspects of the game: it is all played in the head.

“You must remember,” Bouin said gently, in his lovely accented English, “that in tennis you have to kill the other.” Not just play better. Sometimes the one who plays better can lose. It’s a sport of splendid cruelty, for all its decorum and finicky trappings; every winning point comes when the other guy, in front of a whole stadium of people staring directly at him, is forced by his opponent into inadequacy. He lunges for the ball but whiffs, he whacks it long, he hits it into the net, he screws up. From the stands, you sometimes see players surrender not because they don’t know how to return the shots coming at them but because the specter of this impending inadequacy has suddenly just taken over their brains. It transpires right in front of your eyes: something sags, and they go sort of limp; you can see their faces and their posture start registering get me out of here.

When he’s on — which is most of the time but not always, thereby heightening the suspense — Nadal is better than anybody at making this happen to opponents.
See also John Boyd's advice to get inside the decision loop of one's opponent, to unravel the opponent even without having a battle. Nadal's responses are very fast, he's got a lot of confidence, and he responds to small defeats with greater effort and focus. He's able therefore to manage the pace and conduct of his matches.

Equally interesting is the philosophy of Rafa's uncle and coach, Toni:
Among the numerous Rafa-and-Toni stories I heard in the stands: that Toni declared years ago that if he ever saw Rafa lose his temper on the court (racket-hurling is the standard tantrum, but there’s also cursing the line judges, sulking and yelling at spectators), their coaching relationship would end on the spot. Or that Toni refuses on principle to carry Rafa’s rackets for him. Or that they always fly commercial because Toni scoffs at the idea of a tennis star, even one worth scores of millions, believing that he merits a private jet.

These accounts turn out to be exaggerated, but not by much. “No, no, I’ve never delivered ultimatums to him,” Toni said dismissively in Spanish when I met him in Miami in March. “He knows he can’t throw a racket. He just knows. As far as I’m concerned, it’s shameful when he orders a meal and doesn’t finish it. Understand? Same thing with rackets. These rackets cost money.”


“It’s about respect,” Toni told me. “It’s really easy for these guys to start thinking the world revolves around them. I never could have tolerated it if Rafael had become a good player and a bad example of a human being. I was at a symposium recently and a trainer said to me, ‘Look, if you ask a young player’s father which he’d rather get at the end of this process — a courteous person or the French Open champion — you know what that father is going to say.’ And I said: ‘No, that’s all wrong. Because if that player is brought up courteous, brought up as a respectful person, he’s got a better chance to reach the championship of the French Open — because it’s going to be easier for him to accomplish the hard work.’ ”
This is a really interesting point of view. It lines up with the idea that courtesy is about putting yourself in the other person's place (thus honing one's social perceptiveness) as much as it is about practicing self control. Courtesy is therefore a strategic practice about the skill of behaving correctly under a large number of different circumstances; it requires good attention, detachment, and a light touch, all key skills for good strategic decision-making.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bad Justice! Bad!

Dan Froomkin, recently exiled Washington Post columnist, writes today about the questions raised by a long series of bizarre Obama Administration positions taken on everything from transparency to preventive detention to gay rights. The odd thing about this change in character is that it's all Justice Department related: Obama's State Department (diplomacy) is great and in character with the Obama Campaign; Defense has moderated, but in pragmatic ways; Treasury is struggling with the Meltdown, but is fully in line with mainstream liberal thought; Interior, Energy, HHS, HUD, and Education are moving carefully, but in the right direction.

Why is Justice different? It is as though the Bush Administration was successful at "burrowing" political hacks into the Department, and replacing the Obama Administration's opinions with their own. Has the Justice Department been hijacked, or is Obama really behind all of these neo-conservative decisions?

And why isn't the press pushing on this?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Obama Reads Urdu Poetry?

In the original, or in translation?

Courage in the Face of Death, Part 2

From the Huffington Post, we have another letter from the author of the previous post, in memory of Neda, the 24 year old engineering student who was killed yesterday:

8:53 PM ET -- "Sister, have a short sleep, your last dream be sweet." Yesterday we printed a touching letter from an Iranian woman that began with these ominous lines: "I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed..."

Tonight, she posted a second letter, passed along and translated by two readers. She writes about her "sister" in this cause who was killed today, referring to Neda.

Yesterday I wrote a note, with the subject line "tomorrow is a great day perhaps tomorrow I'll be killed." I'm here to let you know I'm alive but my sister was killed...

I'm here to tell you my sister died while in her father's hands
I'm here to tell you my sister had big dreams...
I'm here to tell you my sister who died was a decent person... and like me yearned for a day when her hair would be swept by the wind... and like me read "Forough" [Forough Farrokhzad]... and longed to live free and equal... and she longed to hold her head up and announce, "I'm Iranian"... and she longed to one day fall in love to a man with a shaggy hair... and she longed for a daughter to braid her hair and sing lullaby by her crib...

my sister died from not having life... my sister died as injustice has no end... my sister died since she loved life too much... and my sister died since she lovingly cared for people...

my loving sister, I wish you had closed your eyes when your time had come... the very end of your last glance burns my soul....

sister have a short sleep. your last dream be sweet.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Courage in the Face of Death

Here is what is endearing about the human race: such courage and boundless joy in the face of death, the unconquerable last inch of the soul...

“I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I’m listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see. I should drop by the library, too. It’s worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again. All family pictures have to be reviewed, too. I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye. All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them. I’m two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that. My mind is very chaotic. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism. This note is dedicated to tomorrow’s children…” - an Iranian blogger, with more courage than most of us will ever know.


Xeni points us toward this collection of videos of people around the world in trance states.

"Tomorrow there will be blood"

Pulled from a number of disturbing updates in the wake of Khamenei's unyielding speech earlier today, as collected by the Huffington Post:

First, Roger Cohen of the NYT, speaking with a protester

Iran has sought independence and some form of democracy for over a century. It now has the former but this election has clarified, for an overwhelmingly young population, the Islamic Republic's utter denial of the latter.

The feeling in the crowd seems to be: today or never, all together and heave!

A man holds his mobile phone up to me: footage of a man with his head blown off last Monday. A man, 28, whispers: "The government will use more violence, but some of us have to make the sacrifice."

Another whisper: "Where are you from?" When I say the United States, he says: "Please give our regards to freedom."
And, an unnamed female photojournalist interviewed by Parvez Sharma
Like many others, she is enraged by the "khutba" (Friday sermon) of the Ayatollah Khamenei which will now open the doors for a Tiananmen in Tehran. Saturday will likely be the bloodiest day so far, if the brave crowds decide to come out. Another friend from Tehran cried on the phone, after he had been to Tehran University to pray and hear the Ayatollah's sermon. His last words to me before the mobile phone connection was cut off were: "Tomorrow there will be blood."
And finally, from Twitter: "Use Ghandi method."
How Safeway has reduced healthcare costs over the past few years: with Thaler-style nudges.

Safeway's plan capitalizes on two key insights gained in 2005. The first is that 70% of all health-care costs are the direct result of behavior. The second insight, which is well understood by the providers of health care, is that 74% of all costs are confined to four chronic conditions (cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity). Furthermore, 80% of cardiovascular disease and diabetes is preventable, 60% of cancers are preventable, and more than 90% of obesity is preventable.
(via Kottke)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The New Preppie

I've worn out pairs of Docksiders when they were cool, then uncool, then forgotten, and now cool again. Wait long enough, and the world comes back to you.

Update: Continuous Lean has photos from the rare Take Ivy book.

Stickleback Learning

Nine-spined sticklebacks, a species of small fish, exhibited a form of social learning called "hill climbing", wherein they compare their own experiences with those of others around them. This is an efficient learning behavior known to exist in humans, and demonstrates that the strategy can be used in far simpler organisms.

The Guardian reports:

Lots of animals learn from their more experienced peers to gain skills such as hunting, foraging or evading predators.

"But it is not always a recipe for success to simply copy someone," said Kendal. "Animals are often better off being selective about when and who they copy. These fish are obviously not at all closely related to humans, yet they have this human ability to only copy when the pay-off is better than their own. You might expect this ability in animals who are closely related to humans. In the case of the nine-spined stickleback, they have most likely adapted to their local ecology."

Michael Moorcock Answers All Your Questions

The readers of BoingBoing sent Michael Moorcock a set of questions in connection with the forthcoming publication of The Best of Michael Moorcock, which he very kindly answered over on Tachyon. I'm struck once again by the fact that virtually every writer of whatever type will eventually reference Wodehouse as a favorite (or at least highly reliably good) read. Jonathan Carroll and China Mieville also get a thumbs up, among many others.

He's also still very politically conscious, in a practical way that seems rare now, and is therefore refreshing:

I remain a great optimist, though I have few theories how we're going to get out of our present predicaments. I remain a Kropotkinist anarchist, which many people will see as unrealistic, but, if I'm unrealistic, so be it. I see my anarchism as a moral position, in that it's scarcely a realistic political one! But from that position I can very quickly determine what action to take.

I am of course concerned about the erosion of civil liberties in our democracies. There was a wonderful period in the 60s and 70s when many of the basic liberties we now take for granted were established in the UK and US. Since around 1980 a variety of politicians under a variety of political flags have been trying to take those liberties away from us. I'm not as worried about CCTV cameras as the symbol of that erosion since they seem to have been as useful in catching crooks and crooked cops as anything else, at least so far. I am more worried about any extension of police powers, erosion of civil liberties in general and rationales allowing 'authorities' further unchecked, unsupervised behaviour. It's up to us to remain vigilant and aggressively vocal wherever we can be heard. I believe we also have to extend our civil liberties, building on the gains made in that 60s/70s decade. I think we can do it, and that we have to keep a clear eye on what's happening. ... If we have to take to the streets, flood our politicians' mailboxes, make it harder for them not to hear us than to hear us and so on, then we must be prepared to spend the time doing it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dzing! Perfume Notes

While I was running around this past week, a set of packages arrived from the Perfumed Court, containing samples of several perfumes that received good recommendations in Turin & Sanchez's Perfumes: The Guide. First one out of the box: Dzing! by L'Artisan Perfumer. This is a perfume that smells primarily like cardboard. Not corregated cardboard, or that spongy gray stuff used in record albums. Maybe the bottom of a game box, or a manila envelope, used to contain some little white flowers that you picked out of a field somewhere.

I'm reminded of a Brian Eno essay on axes and the development of new positions and new axes. For example, before the punks, nobody thought that anyone would like to have half a haircut, or a badly cut haircut. Afterward, you can see any number of people who have made either choice. Before smelling Dzing! I wouldn't have thought that anyone would want to smell of cardboard, but it's actually a very attractive cardboard. It doesn't smell particularly perfumy,but it smells great.

Based on reports from elsewhere on the web, the original concept was that Dzing! was supposed to smell like a circus, with notes of "tonka beans, balsam, saffran and ginger". I don't get that, but then neither do about half the people who smell it.

Acronym of the Day

YHTMAAAIYP - You have too many acronyms and abbreviations in your paper.

Monday, June 15, 2009


The Pixies new uber box set, Minotaur is sumptuously designed by Vaughan Oliver and Simon Larbalestier, who did the original albums. It's two feet tall and jammed with art & albums.

Sometimes, I'm a sucker for good packaging.

US Lags on Healthcare

This should not be news to anyone, but here's the survey with data that shows exactly how poorly the current system works.

Bonus Quote of the Day

Why is it that the people most likely to say the Holocaust didn’t happen are the people who wish it had?
(via mazuhl)

Quote of the Day

"it's worth taking the risk, we're going. I won't be able to update until I'm back. again thanks for your kind support and wish us luck"

The revolution is being Twittered.

The Unfade

Ready for your new haircut?

Iran part 3

And here's today's "cancelled" rally in Tehran:

If I were the police in that country, I would be thinking very hard before I decided to do anything. The situation, as they say, is extremely fluid.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

London Preppy is Back

You can all relax into your meaningless lives now, Mr. Ennui is back in the building.

Fire! Fire!

Bruce Sterling: They're playing Philip Glass live on unicycles. "It's a bit BoingBoing, but..."

Who was the First Blogger?

(via linkmachinego)

Iran, part 2

Head over to the Huffington Post, where they've got unbelievable footage of the events unfolding in Iran today: what sounds like hundreds of people shouting on their rooftops at 4AM, motorcycle-mounted police charging protestors, and this comment from an Iranian journalist:

Please don't use the word "fraud" because it is mitigation of what has happened in Iran. Fraud is what was happening in the past 30 years. This is not fraud. They haven't [counted ] people's votes. Using the word fraud is like calling a deep cut a small scratch. There was no fraud; it was a coup.

RFE/RL: Please explain why you call it a coup. Based on what?

Journalist: Based on the military atmosphere that is now ruling [in the country], based on the threats against senior officials in the country. What are the elements of a coup in the world? Just now as we're speaking, [Mahmud Ahmadinejad] said I'll clean the Iranian establishment of all these corrupted elements. [If this isn't] a coup, then what is it?

Coup means that right now they're beating people in the streets. A coup means they didn't even count people's votes. They announced the results without opening the ballot boxes. It was sent as a circular to the state television, which announced it. Is it so difficult for the world to understand this?

Now entering Day 3, this thing is reaching cataclysmic proportions over there, and it's all being reported live on streaming video and Twitter. Amazing stuff.

Sokrates, Philosopher-Economist

Brad Delong:

Sokrates: So, Kephalos, with your impeccable logic and deep wisdom derived from a long career financing expeditions to the shores of the Black Sea, you have presented us with two different supply-and-demand arguments, one saying that Treasury bond prices should be low and hence are about to collapse, and the other saying that Treasury bond prices should be high and are likely to stay more-or-less where they are for some time to come.

Meno: Which argument is right? Is the price of bonds the price that balances the supply and demand for bonds in the bond market? Or is the price of bonds the inverse of the interest rate which balances the supply and demand for cash in the money market? Both cannot be true, can they?

Adeimantos: Ah. But both arguments are true...

Meno: Why do I get the feeling that I am being cast as the dumb straight man in this dialogue?

Sokrates: Because you are a sophist and we are philosophers. We write the dialogues, and we write them to make ourselves look good so that everyone thinks that philosophers are the roxxor and sophists are lame...

Continued here.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Iranian Coup

So, how's that election goin' for ya?

Oh. Not so well, then. Juan Cole reconstructs the election fraud, and Andrew Sullivan has running commentary and updates going.

Boy Survives Meteor Strike

OK, OK, so it was only pea sized, and no one has ever actually died from being hit by a meteor (although I hear there was a pretty spectacular cow explosion once...).

A 14-year old German boy was hit in the hand by a pea-sized meteorite that scared the bejeezus out of him and left a scar.

"When it hit me it knocked me flying and then was still going fast enough to bury itself into the road," Gerrit Blank said in a newspaper account. Astronomers have analyzed the object and conclude it was indeed a natural object from space, The Telegraph reports.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Artistic Printing

This week Eric Baker's imageset takes us through a brief history of artistic printing, which shows that excess in design can be a good thing.


Marco Brambilla designed a heck of a video installation for the new Standard Hotel in New York, including video loops from hundreds of films and other sources that take the elevator passenger on a trip from hell to heaven. I want a copy for my house.

(via Dr. Gibson)

House Porn 11: The Firehouse

From this: To this:

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Internet May Explode

Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman are dating! That's, like, too much coolness to exist in one universe.

Bill Viola

Bill Viola's video installations.

Ocean without a Shore
Venice Bienale 2007
"as though the dead were returning temporarily through this invisible barrier"

Five Angels for the Millennium
From the YouTube liner notes: "Imagine: a hall, 110 meters high, 67 meters diameter, never ending echo... 5 amazing video screens of 15 x 18 meters. The angels dive into the water or appear out of it; sometimes the water is on the bottom and the air on top, sometimes vice versa. Some films play forward, some backward. Always, however, they play so slowly, that a 'real' second is stretched to 20 minutes."


The UK's Steve McQueen (the artist, not the actor) presents this video installation at the Venice Bienale.


Rare footage of the inside of a horizontal tornado.


The inestimable Chandler Burr:

A rich, tasteful fragrance sauntered by one evening on long legs. I was at a Fragonard party in Paris with the perfume expert Luca Turin, and he shrugged it off. ''Luxury scent,'' he said. ''Not chic.'' Then he brightened and said, ''Now, Caron, on the other hand, is absolutely proper, proper chic.'' ''What is chic?'' I asked. He said, ''Um,'' and squinted at the ceiling as if the definition were written up there. ''Chic,'' he finally said, ''is when you don't have to prove you have money. Chic is not aspirational. Chic is all about humor, which means chic is about intelligence.'' Then he added: ''And there has to be oddness. Luxury is comfortable, expensive and conformist. But chic, which, of course, must be polite and not incommode others, can be as weird as it wants.''

Update:The people over on Nathan Branch's site seem to think that Turin was being pretentious. I like the quote because I think it shows an excellent precision of understanding in language, as well as a warmth of feeling toward sociable eccentricity. Well, I guess you can't please everyone.

My Voice Will Go with You

Milton Erickson developed a unique method for hypnotherapy, in which the patient is "permitted" to enter a trance, and the therapist accompanies the patient. By first agreeing with the patient in their current behavior and then making small alterations, the therapist enables the patient to work toward a new set of behaviors and beliefs.

Here's Erickson inducing a trance using the "levitating arm" method. Fascinating to watch.

More: part 2, 3, 4, 5

New Frightened Rabbit

Swim Until You Can't See Land

Song Against Sex

bonus Ed Tullett covers FR's "The Twist"

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Meatheads are the US's #1 Export

Max Blumenthal interviews some intoxicated meatheads who are on an exchange program in Israel. Gracelessness ensues.

I feel old, because this makes me want to ask, "don't any of these kids have parents who raised them to behave better than this?"

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Night Game

Ambient, soothing video gaming from Nicalis. Why aren't there more games like this?

The Evolutionary Foundations of Religion

Robert Sapolsky of Stanford discusses the Schizotypic personality type and its involvement with religious sentiment.

Mild neurovariance on either the shizophrenic or autistic side of the spectrum appears to be implicated in creative thought. Invokable neurovariance: can we adjust our position on this scale voluntarily or through supplemental means, to achieve purposeful goals?

(via boingboing)

More: Lecture outline in the comments

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Future Is Now, LXXIV: Stem Cells for Corneas

Researchers at the University of New South Wales cultured stem cells from patients' healthy eyes onto contact lenses which were then placed into their diseased eyes, resulting in improved corneal condition within 10 to 14 days.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Brain is Wider Than the Sky

Emily Dickinson

The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one will the other contain
With ease and you beside.

The brain is deeper than the sea
For, hold them, blue to blue,
The one the other will absorb,
As sponges, buckets do.

The brain is just the weight of God,
For, heft them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable for sound.

The Über-Quant

Newsweek profiles Paul Wilmott, one of the most influential quants working in the financial industry today. He has not-kind things to say about the existing models for CDS's and CDO's, and compares his trainees to the British in the movie Zulu: outnumbered, but far better trained.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Osel Hita Torres

The short version: a Spanish boy gets recognized as a reincarnated lama, experiences culture shock and decides to make films and attend Burning Man instead of living as a monk. Looks like he's got an interesting perspective:

By 18, he had never seen couples kiss. His first disco experience was a shock. "I was amazed to watch everyone dance. What were all those people doing, bouncing, stuck to one another, enclosed in a box full of smoke?"
More: Marginal Revolution aggregates more links.

Tank Man

Twenty years after Tienanmen Square, the New York Times collects the recollections of four photographers who captured the Tank Man incident.

Twenty years ago, on June 5, 1989, following weeks of huge protests in Beijing and a crackdown that resulted in the deaths of hundreds, a lone man stepped in front of a column of tanks rumbling past Tiananmen Square. The moment instantly became a symbol of the protests as well as a symbol against oppression worldwide — an anonymous act of defiance seared into our collective consciousnesses.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Thrilling Wonder Stories

BLDG BLOG's Geoff Manaugh gets on all the fun panels. Like the Thrilling Wonder Stories discussion with Warren Ellis and a bunch of other interesting people, like Francois Roche:

(of architects R&Sie) whose thick accent masked incredible phrases: “strategies of sickness”, “protocolising the witch in the forest”, “the necrosis of the building”, “the penis of the wall”… he talked about feeding death and traditional fairy tales into design, and about creating a machine that would build an un-navigable glass maze in the courtyard between buildings, into which people would wander, and then die, unable to escape without GPS. “They die to become part of the building,” he said, grinning, and propping expensive sunglasses on his styled bonce. He talked about a building in which would be constructed from vast, moulded versions of bullet holes on wet clay, covered in rotting vegetation collected from the Korean de-militarized zone by a purpose-built “witch” robot, referencing Tarkovsky’s Stalker on the way. Oh and this electrified hairy skyscraper that would suck pollution from the Thai atmosphere, and only be a little bit dangerous. Roche’s firm seems like one of the world’s most valuable imaginative resources: technically accomplished, with a healthy streak of insanity. He would be the guy the evil genius would go to for the Volcano base plans. “Ten billion in blood money, what can you build me?” “A death-maze constructed from recycled local materials and plutonium!” Something like that.

Mad Scientists need great architects, too.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Hector Zamora

Mexican artist Hector Zamora presents "Sciame di Dirigibili" at this year's Venice Biennale, featuring a zeppelin wedged into the Arsenale and an "imaginary air baloon celebration" designed by street artists.
Anyone who uses zeppelins as art has my vote.

A Billion Here, a Billion There

Will Self has a lackluster interview with Nassim Taleb in the new issue of GQ UK; the interview sparked a controversy over the amount of money NNT's Black Swan fund made for investors--$20B or $0.5B or something else--and whether NNT was, I guess, crass for mentioning or not mentioning this number. Quite frankly, I'm more interested in what books are on his shelves than on his investment strategies (which I'm guessing are long volatility straddle positions with long thetas, to allow for the accumulation or realization of large εi's).

Grumpy Old VCs

So I say thanks to the grumpy old VCs. Thanks for spreading the word that Venture is over. Just don’t mind me continuing to beat this dead horse. And don’t tell anyone that the dead horse isn’t really dead, but rather, resting in preparation for the next derby.

Tales from the Meltdown 18: The Olympic Diving Committee

Austan Goolsbee responds to Jack Welch's call for fiscal restraint, and other criticisms of the Obama Administration's approach to dealing with the meltdown. As quoted by Henry Blogett:

Context: Jack Welch has just opined that Barack Obama's budget is "from the moon."
Goolsbee: The budget is from the moon, Jack is from Mars and Joe [Stiglitz] is from Venus.

Look, we enter the government essentially in a hotel that is on fire. We’re throwing people from the windows into the pool to save their lives and this is the evaluation of the Olympic diving committee: Well, the splash was too big.


[L]ook, we were facing in the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 epically horrible declines in GDP, every measure of the economy falling through the floor, completely on fire.

Joe will tell you, in every Ph.D. program, students - in economics, students must take an economic history class and in every economic history class, the professor says, “There could never be another Great Depression because we’re smarter than we were then and we would never allow that to happen.”

We were put to the test to answer that question. If you had asked people in 1929, “Here is what is about to happen. How much would you pay to avoid the Great Depression from occurring?” The answer is they would have paid a lot.

They would have borrowed money if it could be used to prevent the Great Depression.

The fact that we are here to bitch about the economy and about this policy and that and the budget forecasts for GDP growth are 1 percent too low, I’m thrilled, I’m overjoyed that we aren’t all out of our jobs and we prevented the Great Depression. That in itself is an overwhelming accomplishment.
So, yeah, we haven't had to nationalize the banks, which is a good thing; instead, the banks are recapitalizing. That means that the toxic asset buyout program doesn't need to happen either. Also a good thing. Now, the banks need to go forth and sin no more.

GOOD Infographics

GOOD Magazine collaborates with design teams to produce visually interesting infographics. I'm not sure whether all of these are as good on the info part (in the Edward Tufte school) as they are on the graphics end, but they still make a good collection. They've put up a photoset on Flickr.

(via DO)

The Wes Anderson Film Festival

Alex Cornell built a complete marketing campaign, including film trailer, street ads, programs and special edition DVD sets, for a hypothetical Wes Anderson film festival, using Anderson's house style as a guide. Note extensive use of pink Helvetica, tiltshift, retro media markings, eccentric wardrobe, travel motifs, signs of eccentric personalities.

(via DO)