Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm with Kottke on This One

People are awesome.

Obama on Jon Stewart

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Pt. 1
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Pt. 2
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Pt. 3
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

The Scariest Building in Britain

The Masonic School for Boys, built in 1903 has the belfries and the bats, though perhaps not as many as depicted here.

It must also have been a dreadful place to get an education, once upon a time:
A record of school life written by Geoff Kirby, a pupil from 1949 to 1953, is divided into sections entitled: I Enter Hell, The Curse of Games, Censored Letters and Beaten Bare Buttocks, and My Eyes Are Ruined By Incompetent Medical Staff.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Quote of the Day

From Shorpy: In classical Egypt when the cat of a household died, the family shaved their eyebrows as a sign of mourning.

Cell Phone in a 1928 Movie

Someone (man or woman) appears to be speaking into a small, handheld device while attending the 1928 premiere of Charley Chaplin's move The Circus. One of Roger Ebert's commenters thinks that this person resembles Nicola Tesla, who described the cell phone in the 1920's.

Time traveler, Tesla, or figment of your imagination?

Links for Later

1. How Obama lost the narrative

2. Gary Trudeau on 40 years of Doonesbury. Top Doonesbury moments.

3. Robert Reich on the post-Citizens United world and why Democrats move to the center

4. SNL does Jimmy McMillan of the Rent's Too Damn High Party

5. Computational Structure of Neuronal Spike Trains

6. Obama's problem with The Gays

7. HTML5 primer

8. Liam O Maonlai teaches you Irish

9. Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things

10. Five Founders from Paul Graham

11. 40-somethings turn to triathlons for fitness

12. Bill & Ted, together again

13. Chamillionaire, tech entrepreneur

Friday, October 22, 2010

House Porn 16: The Smith Tower Pyramid

Michael Tortorello and Stuart Isett of the NYT visit a pyramid-shaped apartment located on top of Seattle's Smith Tower. I love these apartments that have very specific architecture, and that aren't part of a big residential development, but it's got to have taken a lot of work to fix up. Fortunately, that seems to have paid off:

the main attraction of a night at the top of Smith Tower must be the Imax-strength views: Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains to the west, the Cascades to the east and, below, thousands of people doing the things they do when they believe no one is watching.

From the apartment she calls the “Lighthouse,” Ms. Franklin can see almost the entire city. But the city cannot see her. So the residence on top of the tower has taken on the status of an urban legend.

The tour guides around Pioneer Square can be heard to claim that “there’s a shut-in who’s lived up there for 80 years and has 200 cats,” said David Lahaie, 51, an energy and recycling executive. Mr. Lahaie is skeptical, to say the least: he lives in the apartment himself and is Ms. Franklin’s husband.

Stephen Willis, the Smith Tower’s docent and de facto historian, has encountered many odd theories in the 10 years he has guided visitors through the building. “I heard the other day that it’s still family owned by the Smiths,” the heirs of the Smith Corona typewriter fortune. “They haven’t had a stake in the building since the mid-1920s.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Agnostic's Prayer

Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.
Creatures of Light and Darkness
Somehow, this comes to mind whenever I think of Christopher Hitchens' cancer diagnosis.

The Toronto Unicorn

The Toronto Science Center made this. Click for more information.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Rent is Too Damn High Party

This guy is great. Bonus points for the excellent 19th century facial hair, the gloves and the non-sequetur rejoinders about being a "karate expert" and marrying shoes.

Quote f he Day

The unspeakable depression of lighting the fires every morning with papers of a year ago, and getting glimpses of optimistic headlines as they go up in smoke.

-George Orwell

Monday, October 18, 2010

Links for Later

1. Lev Grossman interview about The Magicians and The Magician King

2. Whatthefuckismytransmediastrategy? (via Warren Ellis)

3. Tony Kushner profiled

4. How the White House's DADT strategy backfired


Max Hastings starts his thrilling review of two books on the French Foreign Legion,

The world contains more misfits, sadists, masochists, and people who enjoy fighting than we sometimes like to suppose. How else can one explain the fact that the French Foreign Legion is heavily overrecruited?
...and goes on a long, burning march from there. Highlights include the sentry in Indochina snatched by a wall-leaping tiger who left behind only a freshly rolled cigarette and the man's rifle, having leapt back into the jungle to consume its prey.

I have no idea if the books themselves are as good as the review, but if they are, they should make for great under-the-covers reading.

Zola Jesus "Poor Animal"

Zola Jesus - Poor Animal by souterraintransmissions
As recommended by Xeni, who sez:

Takes me back to a moment on a front stoop in the South at 16, listening to my first Cocteau Twins and Bauhaus vinyl, smoking opiated hash, lightning bugs flickering in the night sky like living blink tags.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

RIP Benoit Mandelbrot

Image: Wikicommons

Benoit Mandelbrot passed away at the age of 85. He was best known for his work on fractals, a branch of mathematics with applications in biology, finance, physics, art and other areas involving roughness in growth processes in any complex system.

More: "A Theory of Roughness," an Edge lecture (via John Brockman)

Do I claim that everything that is not smooth is fractal? That fractals suffice to solve every problem of science? Not in the least. What I'm asserting very strongly is that, when some real thing is found to be un smooth, the next mathematical model to try is fractal or multi fractal. A complicated phenomenon need not be fractal, but finding that a phenomenon is "not even fractal" is bad news, because so far nobody has invested anywhere near my effort in identifying and creating new techniques valid beyond fractals. Since roughness is everywhere, fractals — although they do not apply to everything — are present everywhere. And very often the same techniques apply in areas that, by every other account except geometric structure, are separate.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Liu Xiaobo, newly minted Nobel Laureate and luminous individual, from prison in China, "I Have No Enemies--My Final Statement":
Twenty years on, the innocent souls of June Fourth are yet to rest in peace, and I, who had been drawn into the path of dissidence by the passions of June Fourth, after leaving the Qincheng Prison in 1991 lost the right to speak openly in my own country, and could only do so through overseas media, and hence was monitored for many years; placed under surveillance (May 1995 – January 1996); educated through labour (October 1996 – October 1999s), and now once again am thrust into the dock by enemies in the regime. But I still want to tell the regime that deprives me of my freedom, I stand by the belief I expressed twenty years ago in my “June Second hunger strike declaration"— I have no enemies, and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested and interrogated me, the prosecutors who prosecuted me, or the judges who sentence me, are my enemies. While I’m unable to accept your surveillance, arrest, prosecution or sentencing, I respect your professions and personalities. This includes Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing who act for the prosecution at present: I was aware of your respect and sincerity in your interrogation of me on 3 December.

For hatred is corrosive of a person’s wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation's spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and block a nation’s progress to freedom and democracy. I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes in understanding the development of the state and changes in society, to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love.

Ask me what has been my most fortunate experience of the past two decades, and I’d say it was gaining the selfless love of my wife, Liu Xia. She cannot be present in the courtroom today, but I still want to tell you, my sweetheart, that I'm confident that your love for me will be as always. Over the years, in my non-free life, our love has contained bitterness imposed by the external environment, but is boundless in afterthought. I am sentenced to a visible prison while you are waiting in an invisible one. Your love is sunlight that transcends prison walls and bars, stroking every inch of my skin, warming my every cell, letting me maintain my inner calm, magnanimous and bright, so that every minute in prison is full of meaning. But my love for you is full of guilt and regret, sometimes heavy enough hobble my steps. I am a hard stone in the wilderness, putting up with the pummeling of raging storms, and too cold for anyone to dare touch. But my love is hard, sharp, and can penetrate any obstacles. Even if I am crushed into powder, I will embrace you with the ashes.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

A Case of the Creeping Coup

More seditious weirdness in the military.

It Gets Better

After five gay teeneager killed themselves in a single week in separate incidents related to bullying, Dan Savage started the It Gets Better Project to let kids know that their lives will improve after high school. He and dozens of others have recorded videos to support this effort, including a 25-video team effort from Jake in Chicago and friends. Keep up the good work, people.

See also: The Make It Better Project

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Links for Later

1. Problems with the ACTA intellectual property treaty here and here

2. Charles Mohun, "infamous duellist" and grandson of the first Earl of Anglesey

3. The look: vintage Barbour jacket

4. Review of Bill Hicok's new book of poetry

5. Art collection found in Paris flat after 70 years of disuse

6. Lighthouse Traveling Library

7. Paul Kennedy on the slow decline of Imperial America

8. Top 10 haunted houses

Evangelicals Overrunning Air Force Academy

Wasn't this sort of thing supposed to have been dealt with five or six years ago? Why is it still going on now?

An anonymous cadet at the US Air Force Academy (USAFA ) spoke out against alleged religious discrimination at the school last week, saying that some cadets must pretend to be evangelical Christians in order to maintain standing among their peers and superiors. In an email to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the whistleblower stated that he is part of an "underground group" of about 100 cadets who cannot rely on proper channels to confront evangelical pressure...

The letters details the startling testimony of two Catholic parents of a 2010 graduate who, at first, were happy to hear that their daughter joined a Bible study group at the academy. That was before they discovered that their daughter was being taught that her "career should be that of a wife and mother," and in Biblical terms, "the female is the sheep and the male is the shepherd."

"Our daughter was methodically brain washed into believing that she was unsaved in the Catholic religion," the anonymous parents wrote in an email to the MRFF. "During spring break 2009, she urgently asked that we read the Bible everyday in order to 'receive the grace of God and be saved.' This manner of speech took us completely off guard."

(via AmericaBlog)