Some people think Miranda July is too quirky, but fuck them. The artist has developed an app which is both impersonal and (oddly) personal. From Katie Collins at Ars Technica:

“No matter how many emoticons you use, messaging apps (for the most part) remain a rather impersonal form of communication that fall somewhere between e-mail and phone calls on the formality scale.

Artist and actress Miranda July is hoping to change this with her new messaging app Somebody, which will send your missives not directly to your friend, but to a nearby human stranger who will relay the message verbally to its intended recipient.

While the app is very much a real piece of technology, it is also a far-reaching public art project that to some extent involves the sender replacing their avatar with a real-life messenger, who is being directed in a mini performance. On the app’s website, July describes Somebody as: ‘The antithesis of the utilitarian efficiency that tech promises, here, finally, is an app that makes us nervous, giddy, and alert to the people around us.’

To send a message, you select a friend from within the app and that friend will respond letting you know whether or not it is a good time for them. You then write out your note and add instructions and actions, to help your messenger get the delivery just right. You’ll be able to select a nearby messenger to be your stand-in by looking at their picture, their likes, their reviews, and their ratings. Your friend and stand-in will be sent each other’s pictures and locations so they can find one another. Once your message has been delivered, you will be notified.”


“Are you the favorite person of anybody?”

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In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Hippie culture crossed wires with Christian culture and Jesus went electric, became a superstar. As do a lot of idealistic and naive American dreams, Jesus Freaks got their start in California, urged on in this case by the Hollywood Free Paper. The movement peaked in 1972, splintering thereafter. This 43-minute film from that year of ascendancy, in which even Hal Lindsey pops up, is a fascinating artifact of the time.

Andrew Leonard of Salon might be getting ahead of himself when he sees a triumphant Uber getting its comeuppance from regulators, not only because the ride-share leader hasn’t yet won, but because Amazon, which has won and rolled over many an industry in the process, has been able to avoid legal curtailment simply because it gives people what they want and is willing to absorb short- and mid-term losses to do so. For the foreseeable future–and perhaps permanently–convenience will rule the day. But in the very long run, Leonard’s scenario is possible. An excerpt:

“The real question we should be asking ourselves is this: What happens when a company with the DNA of Uber ends up winning it all? What happens when the local taxi companies are destroyed and Lyft is crushed? When Uber has dominant market position in every major city on the globe? ‘UberEverywhere’ isn’t a joke. It’s a mantra, a call to arms, a holy ideology.

What happens when Uber’s priorities turn to generating cash rather than spending it? What happens to labor — the Uber drivers — when they have no alternative but Uber? What happens when it rains and the surge-pricing spikes and there’s nowhere else to go? A company with the street-fighting ethos of Uber isn’t going to let drivers unionize, and it certainly isn’t going to pay them more than it is required to by the harsh laws of competition. It will also dump them entirely in a nanosecond when self-driving cars prove that they are cheaper and safer. Making the case that drivers are benefitting from the current recruitment wars starts to look like a pretty short-term play. The more powerful Uber gets, the more leverage it will have over labor.

So here’s what’s going to happen. Society is going to realize that power as great as Uber’s needs to be checked. Uber, by virtue of its own success, will demonstrate where the lines need to be drawn for the general good. When Uber is the only game in town, the necessity for comprehensive requirements for commercial insurance and background checks will be obvious. When Uber starts using its logistics clout and unlimited investment capital to go after UPS and Hertz and FedEx, regulators will start wondering about antitrust issues.”


Steve Wozniak, who recently damned Tesla cars with faint praise, selling the Datsun 280-ZX in 1979.


From the May 18, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Philadelphia, Pa. — A man with his heart, stomach, liver, spleen and intestines all on the wrong side of his body was exhibited, last night, by Dr. G. Harlan Wells of the Hahneman College, at a meeting of the Philadelphia Academy of Medicine.

The condition is a very rare one and is called by the doctors ‘situe viscerum inversus.’ His organs being misplaced did not seem to bother the man in the least. He is 45 years old, a machinist by trade and enjoys the best of health.”


Claire Cain Miller has a New York Times piece about the Rental Economy, which was nurtured, unsurprisingly, during the Great Recession, when owning became onerous if not impossible. It works best so far with expensive items that are needed or desired infrequently. The opening:

“Things that you can now rent instead of buying: a power drill, a song, a tent, an office for an hour, a Prada handbag, a wedding dress, a painting, a dog, your neighbor’s car, a drone.

This new way of consuming — call it the Netflix economy — is being built by web start-ups that either rent items themselves or serve as middlemen, connecting people who want something with people who own it. They are a growing corner of the broader sharing economy, in which people rent out rooms in their homes on Airbnb or drive people in their cars with Uber or Lyft. Soon, tech entrepreneurs and investors say, we’ll be able to rent much of what we always thought we must own.

It is no coincidence that many of these companies — like Rent the Runway for designer dresses and Getaround for private cars — were born during the financial crisis, when people needed new ways to save money, as well as new ways to make it. The ones that have survived and grown during the recovery could herald a cultural shift away from the overconsumption that has driven so much of American culture — not to mention American debt.”


From “Everything’s Connected,” Timothy B. Lee’s Vox article about the promise of a new technological dawn in which gadgets linked to the Internet can anticipate our commands. It’s mostly fun and games now, but such apps could eventually cause profound change. An excerpt:

“Every couple of decades, the plunging cost of computing power gives birth to a new kind of computing platform. The 1970s saw the introduction of the first integrated computer chips, making possible PCs that were small and cheap enough that anyone could have one on their desks. In the late 1990s, a new generation of low-power chips allowed the creation of mobile computers — smartphones — that fit in our pockets and could run all day on a single charge.

In both cases, it took technology companies about a decade to figure out how to take full advantage of the capabilities of the new platform. PCs were clumsy niche products until the Macintosh (and later Windows) made them user-friendly starting in 1984. Smartphones didn’t reach their full potential until Apple invented a modern multi-touch interface for the iPhone in 2007.

We could be at the cusp of a third computing revolution. Once again, a new generation of computer chips is dramatically smaller, cheaper, and less power-hungry than the generation that preceded it. And like PCs in 1978 or smart phones in 2001, the current generation of products seem more like toys than a technology revolution.

What’s missing is software to allow consumers to manage dozens of connected devices in their homes and offices as effortlessly as we manage apps and websites today. It’s likely to take several more years for the necessary technology to mature. But it when it does, it could be a big deal.

So what might the world look like when there are tiny computers everywhere?”


Is the phrase “Oh, the humanity!” the most famous “play-by-play” call ever, still widely known? That was the succinct takeaway of radio reporter Herbert Morrison’s broadcast about the disaster of the Hindenburg, the German commercial airship that burst into flames over New Jersey on May 6, 1937. Shockingly, the majority of the passengers and crew survived. Bruce Weber has written a New York Times obituary about Werner Franz, who was a 14-year-old cabin boy when the ship went down and had been the last surviving crew member. The nasty footnote: He was later a member of Luftwaffe. An excerpt:

“The Hindenburg, 800 feet long (more than three times the length of a Boeing 747) and 135 feet in diameter, had its maiden voyage on March 4, 1936, and made 62 safe flights before its destruction. Mr. Franz had made four round-trip crossings on it, to both North and South America. As he recalled his experience of the crash in a book published in Germany a year later, he had been clearing dishes in the officer’s mess when the Hindenburg began to burn.

‘Franz heard a thud, and he felt the ship shake and point sharply upward as the burning tail crashed to the ground,’ Mr. [Dan] Grossman wrote on his website,, summarizing the German account. ‘Hydrogen flames roared above and behind him as the ship tilted more steeply, and then a ballast tank ruptured, dousing Franz with water.’

The inadvertent soaking was Mr. Franz’s good fortune, offering a buffer against the mounting heat and flame. He kicked open a hatch used to bring supplies onto the ship, and when the ground loomed close enough, he leapt to safety, running from the wreckage before it could entrap him. He suffered no injuries.”


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A follow-up post to the recent one about Google angling to outdo Amazon in the delivery-drone sector, this one about the regulatory issues involved. Even when navigational and battery challenges are worked through, the greater obstacle in the path may be governmental, at least in the near-term future. From Jack Nicas at the Wall Street Journal:

“Then there are the regulatory hurdles. There, the issue isn’t so much the Federal Aviation Administration’s current effective ban on commercial drones. The agency says it plans to propose rules for small drones in November, with the rules likely finalized one or two years later. That timeline jibes with Google’s and Amazon’s stated plans for delivery drones. Still, the FAA has missed several previous deadlines for the rules, and their importance means several big federal departments will have to weigh in, which could further delay things.

The devil is likely to be in the details of those rules. The FAA has said it will prohibit fully autonomous drone flights for the foreseeable future—even after the broader ban is lifted. Its five-year roadmap for drone integration, released last year,  says that a pilot will be required to fly each drone, or at least have ‘override authority to assume control at all times.’ Some have suggested one pilot could oversee many largely autonomous drones with the ability to jump into control if any device malfunctions, but the FAA roadmap explicitly states there must be one pilot per drone.

Depending on how this policy materializes in the final rule, it could create a big headache for Google’s and Amazon’s plans — and many other potential drone applications. Delivery drones would likely have to be autonomous to be cost efficient.”


  • The Lipstick Shade That Will Get You Excited For Fall
  • This Bride Drunkenly Ordering Taco Bell Is Our New Idol
  • Porn Stars Let Fans Squeeze Breasts For Charity
  • Inmate Overdosed On Methadone-Soaked Underwear: Officials
  • Cops Say Couple High On Meth Posed For Selfies With Dead Friend
  • Teacher Disciplined For Tweeting She Wanted To Stab Students
  • Man Has Kept All His Nail Clippings In A Jar — Since ’78!
  • Rapper Takes The Ice Bucket Challenge… With Marijuana
  • This Is What It’s Like To Be A Pizza
  • Badass Lady Taxidermist Stuffs Her Animals And Eats Them


10 recent search-engine keyphrases bringing traffic to Afflictor this week:

  1. where is the former mtv veejay kennedy now?
  2. john c lilly talking to dolphins with apple computers
  3. what did charles bukowski think about democracy?
  4. rudolph valentino’s funeral service
  5. douglas rushkoff on the nature of time in the digital age
  6. famous mazie from the bowery nyc
  7. kevin kelly comparing behavior in insects and humans
  8. william shocley’s controversial theories on IQ
  9. marvin minsky writing about telepresence
  10. old newspaper stories about calamity jane
This week, President Obama was surprised to be criticized for his tan suit since previous Presidents have worn the same and hung out with cross-dressing men.

This week, Republicans became enraged when President Obama dared to wear tan skin to a press briefing. I mean, it couldn’t have been the suit, right?

  • Automation will destroy jobs and–perhaps–the middle class.
  • Death is now just another part of the stream of information.
  • Nick Bostrom thinks humans can survive anything apart from our creations.
  • The political dynamics in the Middle East are shifting in surprising ways.
  • Mars One is a wacky way to colonize space.
  • Craig Venter sees commercialization of science as a necessity.
  • David Lynch knows mid-sized movies are not having a moment.
  • Freak shows were a part of American life long before Barnum.
  • Tesla and GM are in a great race to create an affordable EV.


Looking For Males Willing To Be Walked Like Dogs By Beautiful Women – 22 (Upper East Side)

We are shooting a video and are seeking two male roles. If you are willing to be walked on a leash in public, please get back to us as soon as possible.

In “Why Don’t Restaurants Charge for Reservations?” Alex Mayyasi’s really interesting Priceonomics post about the mysterious policies of dining establishments, we learn why some dishes are “loss leaders” and why meals cost the same whether they’re served at peak or off-peak hours. An excerpt about start-ups trying to disrupt the reservation system, which is usually based on social rather than monetary capital:

One reason entrepreneurs keep trying to sell reservations is that restaurant pricing seems so outdated. Airlines charge significantly more for tickets on weekends and charge much less for flights that depart at 5am, yet all dinner reservations are the same price (free) and with the exception of a few special holiday menus, prices are the same on Tuesday at 6pm as Saturday at 8pm. 

At the very high end of the restaurant business, that may be changing. Nick Kokonas is the co-owner of three expensive, celebrated restaurants in Chicago. He now charges for reservations using a system he developed – one that restaurateurs may actually like.

When customers reserve a table at one of Kokonas’s restaurants, they pay for their entire dinner. The restaurants have a fixed price tasting menu (although at a more casual restaurant that does not, customers’ reservation charge is a credit toward their bill), so a reservation is actually a pre-paid ticket for a meal at a set time. 

They system can benefit everyone. It overcomes owners’ and managers’ primary objection to charging for reservations, as diners pay for their meal rather than for a table. It also eliminates the need for reservation staff and prevents no-shows.”

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Russia’s field war with Ukraine and financial one with the West has led to a symbolic skirmish between Vladimir Putin and American-born fast-food franchises. This counter-glasnost at the McDonald’s counter will make the country a little healthier in one sense and much unhealthier in another. It’s a move stuck in the twentieth century, as is much of Putin’s leadership. From Masha Gessen at the New York Times:

“Last week, the Russian consumer authority announced that it would shut down several McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow, including that famous flagship. The authority cited health-code violations, but it has long been known to wield its power almost exclusively to political ends: It banned wine imports from Georgia when relations with Russia soured, and dairy products from Belarus when the normally pliant neighbor edged westward. Since those first McDonald’s closures in Moscow, the authorities have shut down the chain’s restaurants in several other Russian cities. The other 420-plus McDonald’s outlets in Russia may not be around much longer.

But with this, McDonald’s has reclaimed its symbolic role in Russia. A quarter century ago, the opening of its first branch in Moscow symbolized that Russia was taking down barriers between itself and the Western world. It also symbolized the end of four decades of enmity between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. (no matter if the company that initially ran the Moscow restaurant was based in Canada rather than the United States). The same process is now occurring in reverse.

The Russian government is shutting down a symbol, not a business. Back in 1999, as soon as NATO planes started bombing Serbia, protesters stormed the McDonald’s in the center of Belgrade, breaking windows and looting the restaurant. The Russian state is following roughly the same logic today: Regardless of who owns it, McDonald’s serves as a symbol of America and the West, against which President Vladimir Putin has declared war.”

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No real surprise that Amazon isn’t alone in its attempt to perfect delivery drones. In publicizing Project Wing, Google acknowledged its foray into this yet-to-exist market. From Michael Liedike at the Associated Press:

“Drones clearly could help Google expand an existing service that delivers goods purchased online on the day that they were ordered. Google so far is offering the same-day delivery service by automobiles in parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and New York.

‘Self-flying vehicles could open up entirely new approaches to moving goods, including options that are cheaper, faster, less wasteful and more environmentally sensitive than what’s possible today,’ Google said in a pamphlet outlining Project Wing.

Google, though, seems to see its drones as something more than another step in e-commerce delivery. The aerial vehicles also could make it easier for people to share certain items, such as a power drill, that they may only need periodically and carry emergency supplies to areas damaged by earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural catastrophes, according to Google’s Project Wing pamphlet.”


From the December 1, 1909 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“The policemen of Stapleton, Staten Island, station rejoiced when a pig, taken as evidence in a raid and placed in a cell, was returned to its owner, Alex Aleski, who has a saloon and hotel on McKeon Street. It was said a score of men were gambling for the pig. The animal’s squeals had kept the policemen from getting their usual rest.


From dime museums to reality TV, freak shows have always been a part of American life, our eyes fixed on something we think is worse than we could ever be, yet we keep watching because perhaps we notice a resemblance? The practice began long before Barnum, though he was the one who eventually ushered the sideshow into the main tent. Via Delancey Place, a passage about the origins of this sideshow from Duncan Hall’s The Ordinary Acrobat:

“The first ‘freak’ display in the United States occurred in 1771, when Emma Leach, a dwarf, was shown in Boston. Around 1840, full ‘freak shows’ began to emerge, traveling with menageries or in the company of ‘handlers’ who managed the promotion and exhibition of the stars, enhancing their natural deformities with a story or an exotic medical explanation. (As Tom Norman, Barnum’s English equivalent and the handler of the Elephant Man, wrote in his autobiography, ‘It was not the show, it was the tale that you told.’)

Barnum was in this tradition, and he excelled at it. According to his biographer, A. H. Saxon, nearly every famous freak of the period spent a few weeks in the showman’s employ: R. O. Wickward, the skeleton man; Jane Campbell, ‘the largest Mountain of Human Flesh ever seen in the form of a woman’; S. K. G. Nellis, the armless wonder, who could shoot a bow and arrow with his toes. Many of the freaks appeared as stars in his museum, either as roving attractions, as part of special exhibitions, or as spectacles in the theater in back. Sometimes Barnum toured with them as well. General Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton) was a twenty-five inch-tall four-year-old midget, who Barnum claimed was eleven. Barnum coached the boy to perform impersonations of various heads of state, including Queen Victoria, whom he visited on three separate occasions. In Paris, the duo played to Napoleon III and in a series of shows at the Salle Musard that sold out months in advance. ‘The French are exceedingly impressible,’ Barnum wrote of the visit in his 1896 autobiography Struggles and Triumphs, ‘and what in London is only excitement in Paris becomes furor.’”

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Speaking of Disneyland, it is kind of perfect that Philip K. Dick spent the last leg of his life in Orange County in close proximity to the surreal theme park. From Scott Timberg’s 2010 Los Angeles Times article about the scanner in suburbia:

“While in Orange County, Dick often fell back on the reflexes of Bay Area types who move to Southern California. He joked often about the artificiality of it all, the local slang. ‘He kept comparing Southern California to Disneyland,’ remembered wife Tessa Dick, ‘and said it was plastic, wasn’t real. He was used to real cities like Berkeley and San Francisco and Vancouver.’

To a writer whose primary subject was the slippage between the real and constructed, the place surely also fascinated him as well. ‘He loves fakes and simulacra as much as he fears them,’ novelist Jonathan Lethem wrote in the introduction to Dick’s selected stories. He calls Dick very much a man of the 1950s, holding ‘a perfectly typical 1950s obsession with the images, the consumer, the bureaucrat, and with the plight of small men struggling under the imperatives of capitalism.’ …

Of course, being far from any urban center or major attraction suited Dick just fine during this last decade. ‘He was home 24/7,’ Tessa said. ‘He didn’t go out very much.’ Besides Big John’s, his favorite pizza place, the nearest spot of interest was the Cal State Fullerton campus, where the author’s papers were held. (Some of them have recently been relocated, perhaps temporarily, to San Francisco.) Today the area is dominated by low-slung, pale stucco buildings and fast food chains, and back then it wasn’t much different.

The couple wasn’t lonely, though. ‘People came to us,’ Tessa recalled. ‘Nearly every day we had visitors. One night for dinner we had two men from France, one from Germany, and one woman from Sweden. One of them was writing a PhD thesis on Phil.’ Dick flirted with the Swede, saying, ‘You are a pretty lady’ in rough German.

During his last few years, when he became financially stable for one of the rare times in his life, his daughters visited him at the Santa Ana apartment he moved to after the implosion of his marriage. Dick’s oldest child, daughter Laura, born in 1960, recalls his place full of Bibles, encyclopedias – Dick was a ferocious autodidact – and recordings of Wagner operas.

Phil’s second daughter Isolde, now 42, visited enough during this period to get to know her father for the first time. She recalls him as working hard to be a good father and struggling to overcome his limitations, both with and without success.

During one visit, he got Isa excited about a trip to Disneyland, then open past midnight. ‘He said, ‘We’re gonna go and stay ‘til it closes!’ But in my mind we were there for only 20 or 30 minutes before he said, ‘Honey, my back’s really hurting.’ I think he was just overwhelmed by all the crowds. I knew him, and knew he was uncomfortable moving outside his comfort zone.’

He spent more of his time walking from the apartment to a nearby Trader Joe’s to get sandwiches, a park where he and Isa tried awkwardly to play kickball, and an Episcopalian church where he had running theological discussions with the clergy.”

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Disney theme parks have always been as tightly controlled as police states, replete with the latest surveillance technology and swarms of undercover security. You aren’t even allowed to die there. But the company says, in some new patents, that it aims to use the reconnaissance machinery of the moment–drones–merely to create light shows and the like. From Dara Kerr at Cnet:

“What could be more magical than Disney fireworks, light shows and multifarious water fountains? These things plus high-tech entertainment with drones.

Walt Disney Co. has filed three patent applications that could let it provide complex aerial entertainment shows with the support of drones. The applications involve floating projection screens, marionettes supported by drones, and a synchronized aerial light display with ‘floating pixels.’

‘In the entertainment industry, there are many applications where it is desirable to provide an aerial display,’ Disney wrote in the patent applications. ‘For example, an amusement park may have a lagoon or other open space over which it is desired to present a display to entertain visitors. In another example, massively large aerial displays may be presented at sport stadiums or other venues to celebrate holidays such as New Year’s Day.’

Disney wrote that without the use of drones, aerial shows are challenging.”


Saturday Night Live alumnus Tom Schiller, who specialized in short films during his two stints on the venerable show, is an odd and fascinating guy. He made one of my favorite movies ever, the 35-minute “Henry Miller Asleep & Awake,” which may be the best profile of a writer in any format ever. I also had the odd joy of waiting on him two or three times when I was younger and working in service jobs. During each encounter, Schiller affected an extremely phony Russian accent, acting the part of a caricature of a recent immigrant. It was like he wanted me to know how fake the situation was because I was in a position where I had to be polite and play along. And so I did.

As part of Grantland’s coverage of SNL’s 40th anniversary, Alex Pappademas has an excellent interview with Schiller, in which he sifts through his own late-night career and weighs in on Lonely Island. The opening:


How did you first meet Lorne Michaels?

Tom Schiller”

When I was about 17, I was already working for a documentary filmmaker in the Pacific Palisades and working on documentary films. I made my own film on Henry Miller. My father was a writer on I Love Lucy. I grew up on the set of I Love Lucy. I was actually there for the grape-stomping sequence when I was 6. And one day my father said, ‘You’ve got to meet this guy — he’s this Canadian writer, but he knows all the great restaurants in L.A.’ I thought, I don’t really care about the great restaurants in L.A., but OK. So Lorne came over to the house, and he seemed like a nice enough guy. The surprising thing was, he lit a joint in my room, which I would never do in my father’s house. I thought, Hmm — interesting, and I started hanging out with him at the Chateau Marmont, which had a lot of colorful regulars, some of whom would become the nucleus of Saturday Night Live.

Lorne kept talking about this late-night show, this comedy show he wanted to do. Like 24/7 he would talk about it, to the point of boredom. He kept asking me if I’d like to come work on it, and I was conflicted, because my then-pal Henry Miller said, ‘Don’t go work on TV, it’ll kill your soul.’ But Lorne kept painting this picture of New York, and being a writer, and working on a late-night show, and it sounded kind of interesting. Since I wanted to be a foreign-film director, L.A. didn’t seem like the place to be, and I finally succumbed and took his invitation. In the summer of 1975, I was in a little office at 30 Rockefeller Plaza with Lorne. I was sitting there with him as he started hiring all the writers and cast.


You were there for the big bang!

Tom Schiller:

Yeah. We used to go to Catch a Rising Star and the Improv to watch performers. I remember seeing Chevy Chase and Richard Belzer. There were auditions, and John Belushi came and auditioned as the Samurai, which led me later to write ‘Samurai Hotel’ for him.”


“A place where I knew only starvation, humiliation, despair, frustration”:

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Sports teams want to use high-tech tools to quantify everything about their players, being able to monitor when an injury is likely to occur and alter training patterns and to know in advance which athletes are particularly prone to injury. It’s predictive diagnoses, more or less. Of course, players’ unions may not favor such information being shared since it could compromise an individual’s earning ability, but it’s likely to become widespread eventually in some sort of grand bargain. From Brian Kamenetzky at Fast Company:

“In sports, injuries don’t just cost wins. They cost money. By one estimate, teams across Major League Baseball spent $665 million last year on the salaries of banged-up guys and their replacements. NBA teams lost $358 million last season; $44 million alone by the injury-ridden Los Angeles Lakers. And in the NFL, where the average salary is about $2 million, starters missed a record 1,600 games in 2013.

Until recently, this was largely seen as the cost of doing business, subject as much to the will of the sports-injury gods as advancements in training. Now, the fast-growing industry of performance analytics says it can minimize those massive losses. The trick: using data to anticipate how an athlete will get hurt before it actually happens.

‘We really think [injuries] are the largest market inefficiency in pro sports,’ says Adam Hewitt, assistant GM of Peak Performance Project (P3) in Santa Barbara, CA, one of the country’s leading centers of sports science and performance analytics.

What was once the domain of a relatively small group is now hitting the mainstream, increasingly embraced by teams across American pro sports and even the leagues themselves–including the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Seattle Sounders, Pittsburgh Pirates, New England Patriots, and Philadelphia Eagles, and more. There are a variety of companies and technologies in play, all utilizing the principle of turning everything measurable (from movement to body chemistry) into data, analyzed for distressing patterns.”

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A Midwest man of marriageable age who was minus an ear made a monetary offer to purchase one to be transplanted onto the side of his head, improving his chances of wooing a wife, as reported in a grisly article in the July 19, 1924 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“A Chicago surgeon has a patient who lost one of his ears as a result of an accident. Now the patient desires to marry and would have the missing member replaced by the real ear of another or something resembling an ear.

In his oration over the dead body of Caesar, Marc Antony exclaimed: ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.’ Even in this compressed simile he did not ask for the gift or sale of an ear, but merely for its loan.

But the Chicago surgeon does not indulge in metaphor when he attempts to gratify the desire of his patient, nor does he call for a loan. In his advertisement he calls for a real flesh and blood ear and offers therefore a monetary consideration.

We are advised that the advertisement has brought responses from many sources, women being included on the list of applicants. The motives actuating those who have expressed a willingness to sell an ear are interesting. Doubtless each applicant realizes that loss of an ear would cause disfigurement and that amputation would not only be painful but probably dangerous.

Some of those who meet the conditions imposed are willing to make the sacrifice in order to secure money for treatment of their children suffering from tuberculosis.”


It seemed unlikely that a filmmaker as daring as David Lynch would ever find himself at the center of popular culture, but there he was. Not so today. Movies now are tiny or tentpole, and that sweet spot in the middle that gave us Blue Velvet is all but gone. An exchange about the new math from Marlow Stern’s Daily Beast interview with the director:


Speaking of the ‘tough sell’ aspect, what’s your take on the state of Hollywood? The sweet spot for independent films, the $4 million to $20 million area where most of your films lie, seems to be disappearing, and now there are just microbudgeted flicks and tentpoles.

David Lynch:

Exactly. And it’s harder to get the big screens. It’s a strange time. There’s not a whole lot that any of us can do about it. You’ve seen waves of things go up and down, but maybe the arthouse will be back in vogue, and they’ll reappear all over the place again. I don’t know. It would be beautiful. Cable television is the new arthouse, so it’s there, but it’s not the big screen. If people have a big screen at home, great sound, and they turn the lights down and turn their phones off, they can get into the world and have an experience. But most people don’t watch films that way anymore.”

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An excerpt from Alison Beard’s Harvard Business Review interview with biologist Craig Venter, who wants to engineer designer bugs to cure all our ills:


Genomics was supposed to revolutionize the drug and health care industries, and you said it’s just beginning to do that. What industries do you expect to revolutionize with synthetic biology?

Craig Venter:

At Synthetic Genomics, we’re chemically writing the DNA for entire chromosomes to design cells, and it’s hard to envision a field that won’t be impacted in some way. We just announced a deal to produce large amounts of omega-3s from algae cells to create a healthy supplement. We’re trying to design cells that produce the chemical that is the basis of plastic bottles; it currently comes only from oil. We’re designing new vaccines: The U.S. government now has stockpiles of the first synthetic vaccine against H7N9 that we made with Novartis, so we’re ahead of a potential pandemic strain. Synthetic biology is going to affect medicine, chemicals, food.


People associate you with ‘commercializing’ science.

Craig Venter:

You know, before World War II, it was primarily private industry and philanthropy that funded science. Afterward, we went into this golden age of massive funding from the U.S. government, but now, percentage-wise, we’re in a dismal period of funding, and policies are limiting creativity. So business is the way to drive science forward, and people are finding there’s no difference in the goals or outcomes, because for science to impact society, it has to be economically viable: The medicines have to work and be widely available. Private investment is a way for breakthroughs to keep happening when the government is letting us down.”

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