Urban Studies

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There’s a Warholian triumph in Norway called “Slow TV,” which is sort of a long-form staring contest, except that viewers spend eight or so hours staring at real-time knitting contests and train trips. Rights have been purchased by American producers, though no one knows yet if this antidote to instant gratification will translate. From Nancy Tartaglione at Deadline.com:

“Knit one, purl … eight-plus hours of live stitching? That’s what’s happening tonight on Norwegian public broadcaster NRK2 as folks around the country gather in viewing parties. The show is part of a phenomenon known as Slow TV which has increasingly captivated Norway. The overall gist of the concept, to which LMNO Productions recently acquired U.S. rights, is a hybrid of unhurried documentary coupled with hours and hours of continuous coverage provided by fixed cameras trained on a subject or an event. Prior to tonight, those have included a 7.5-hour train journey, a 134-hour coastal cruise, a stack of firewood and salmon. Tonight, NRK2 will turn its lens on National Knitting Evening. Four hours of discussion on the popular pastime will kick off at 8 PM local, before a sheep gets trotted out at midnight to be sheared and its wool spun into yarn.”

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Colbert celebrates Slow TV:

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"Dead pets appreciated."

“Donations of deceased pets appreciated.”

DONATIONS WANTED: skull & wet preserve collector (Woodstock, NY)

Seeking donations for skull and wet preserve collector with interest in comparative anatomy. Not so interested in taxidermy mounts, but anything else may be of interest.

Locations of roadkill within the area or donations of deceased pets appreciated. Unfortunately not looking to buy due to lack of funds.

Because Bill Gates has only done three million interviews thus far in his life, the Financial Times’ headline writers thought they should label the paper’s new dialogue with him as “exclusive.” The crux of the discussion is an interesting one: Is it more important to give poor people access to the Internet or give them malaria medicine. If you have malaria, it’s a pretty easy choice. But I do think providing information where there is little empowers people. Sure, food, water and medicine first, but then let’s share the Internet. From Richard Waters “exclusive”:

“There is no getting round the fact, however, that Gates often sounds at odds with the new generation of billionaire technocrats. He was the first to imagine that computing could seep into everyday life, with the Microsoft mission to put a PC on every desk and in every home. But while others talk up the world-changing power of the internet, he is under no illusions that it will do much to improve the lives of the world’s poorest.

‘Innovation is a good thing. The human condition – put aside bioterrorism and a few footnotes – is improving because of innovation,’ he says. But while ­’technology’s amazing, it doesn’t get down to the people most in need in anything near the timeframe we should want it to.’

It was an argument he says he made to Thomas Friedman as The New York Times columnist was writing his 2005 book, The World is Flat, a work that came to define the almost end-of-history optimism that accompanied the entry of China and India into the global labour markets, a transition aided by the internet revolution. ‘Fine, go to those Bangalore Infosys centres, but just for the hell of it go three miles aside and go look at the guy living with no toilet, no running water,’ Gates says now. ‘The world is not flat and PCs are not, in the hierarchy of human needs, in the first five rungs.’ “

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mmmmm

In a world of centralized media, critics were given too much importance. In a time of algorithms, they’ve been reduced. No one waits for the “emperor” to offer a thumbs up or down anymore; the spectators do it themselves. Even TV critics, who’ve rode to new prominence thanks to a wave of popular shows and binge-watching Americans gripping tablets and smartphones, have very little real impact. From a New York Times discussion about literary criticism and Twitter by Adam Kirsch and Anna Holmes, a passage by the former:

“At first glance, it seems that critics, in particular, should relish a tool like Twitter. Criticism is a kind of argument, and Twitter is excellent for arguing back and forth in public. Criticism is also a kind of reportage, and Twitter is an ideal way of breaking news. With many major events, from presidential debates to the Oscars, it is more informative and entertaining to follow them in real time on Twitter than it is to actually watch them. For all these reasons, journalists have been especially avid users of Twitter.

Critics, however, have been surprisingly reluctant to embrace the tweet. Many of the most prominent are not on Twitter at all. Those who are tend to use their feeds for updates on their daily lives, or to share links, or at most to recommend articles or books — that is, they use Twitter in the way everyone else does. What is hard to find on Twitter is any real practice of criticism, anything that resembles the sort of discourse that takes place in an essay or a review.

This absence, like the dog that didn’t bark in Sherlock Holmes, may be an important clue to the true nature of criticism. Never in history has it been easier than it is today to register one’s approval or disapproval of anything. The emblem of our age is the thumbs-up of the ‘like’ button. If criticism is nothing more than a drawn-out version of a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be made obsolete by the retweet or the five-star Amazon review. Cut to the chase, the Internet demands, of critics and everyone else: Should we buy this thing or not?

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The opening of an NBC News update on Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, which identifies the team leaders and timeline for the project:

Prototypes of Elon Musk’s high-speed ‘Hyperloop’ transit will be ready by 2015, according to the group taking over development of the project. That’s just two years after Musk first described his idea to transport humans between cities in pods accelerated to near-supersonic speeds.

A newly created company, ‘Hyperloop Transportation Technologies,’ will lead the charge, its team leaders announced Thursday. They also published a project timeline for the next two years

Piloting the ship are Marco Villa, an ex-SpaceX man, and Patricia Galloway, who has served as CEO of a management consulting firm, presided over the American Society of Civil Engineers,and sat a term on the National Science Board under President George W. Bush. They are backed by JumpStarterFund, sort of a Kickstarter for startups, based in California.  

While the leadership of the company has been appointed in August 2013, the ranks have yet to be filled out. More than 160 aspiring Hyperloopers have turned in applications from the U.S., Europe, and Asia. They will receive stock options for contributing part-time or full-time work.”

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From the September 28, 1895 New York Times:

Rochester, N.Y.–James Foley of Wheatland is about to become the plaintiff in an unusually interesting case of law. The action is to be entitled James Foley vs. Philip C. Dickinson, and is to be for $5,000 damages for injuries to the plaintiff’s health, alleged to have been caused by drinking impure water purchased from the defendant.

The parties reside near each other on a farm, and Foley purchased his water supply from Dickinson for $12 per year. After using the water two years Foley experienced violent pains in his stomach. Medical aid was summoned and the doctors thought he had dyspepsia. 

Shortly afterward, while playing dominoes with his family one evening, a grunting sound was heard, which caused the children to jump and exclaim, ‘What’s that?’

Suddenly it dawned on Foley that he had swallowed some live thing while drinking the water. He came to the city and sought legal advice to-day, but no lawyer has been found yet who will take the case. Foley claims the animal inside him is a frog. He says that recently, while in church, the frog in his stomach sang and roared until it disturbed the meeting and he had to walk out of church.”

 

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The opening paragraph of an Economist article about research which aims to reduce the price of solar cells from manageable to microscopic:

“SOLAR cells were once a bespoke product, reserved for satellites and military use. In 1977 a watt of solar generating capacity cost $77. That has now come down to about 80 cents, and solar power is beginning to compete with the more expensive sort of conventionally generated electricity. If the price came down further, though, solar might really hit the big time—and that is the hope of Henry Snaith, of Oxford University, and his colleagues. As he described recently in Science, Dr Snaith plans to replace silicon, the material used to make most solar cells, with a substance called a perovskite. This, he believes, could cut the cost of a watt of solar generating capacity by three-quarters.”

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From a Foreign Affairs interview that Gideon Rose conducted with roboticist Sebastian Thrun, a passage about the subject’s triumph in a 2005 driverless-car competition in the Mojave Desert:

Question:

Why did your project end up working so well?

Sebastian Thrun:

Many of the people who participated in the race had a strong hardware focus, so a lot of teams ended up building their own robots. Our calculus was that this was not about the strength of the robot or the design of the chassis. Humans could drive those trails perfectly; it was not complicated off-road terrain. It was really just desert trails. So we decided it was purely a matter of artificial intelligence. All we had to do was put a computer inside the car, give it the appropriate eyes and ears, and make it smart.

In trying to make it smart, we found that driving is really governed not by two or three rules but by tens of thousands of rules. There are so many different contingencies. We had a day when birds were sitting on the road and flew up as our vehicle approached. And we learned that to a robot eye, a bird looks exactly the same as a rock. So we had to make the machine smart enough to distinguish birds from rocks.

In the end, we started relying on what we call machine learning, or big data. That is, instead of trying to program all these rules by hand, we taught our robot the same way we would teach a human driver. We would go into the desert, and I would drive, and the robot would watch me and try to emulate the behaviors involved. Or we would let the robot drive, and it would make a mistake, and we would go back to the data and explain to the robot why this was a mistake and give the robot a chance to adjust.

Question:

So you developed a robot that could learn?

Sebastian Thrun:

Yes. Our robot was learning. It was learning before the race, and it was learning in the race.”

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While normally you wouldn’t link candy and colonoscopies, an NPR story by Shankar Vendatam does just that in trying to explain the mystery of happiness. In a nod to Daniel Kahneman’s classic study about the painful medical procedure, researchers used Halloween candy to prove that satisfaction isn’t dependent just on quantity but also on order of experience. An excerpt:

“What makes trick-or-treaters happy is candy. And more candy is better, right?

Well, it turns out that might not actually be the case. A few years ago researchers did a study on Halloween night where some trick-or-treaters were given a candy bar, and others were given the candy bar and a piece of bubble gum.

Now, in any rational universe, you would imagine that the kids who got the candy bar and the bubble gum would be happier than the kids who got just the candy bar. George Wolford, a psychologist at Dartmouth College, and his fellow researchers, Amy Doe and Alexander Rupert, found something quite different.

‘Those children that got both the full-sized candy bar and the bubble gum second, rated how delighted they were to get these treats lower than those people that got the candy bar only,’ Wolford says.”

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Lou Reed, who certainly learned a thing or two about how to relentlessly sell his brand from his Pop Artist mentor Andy Warhol, could be mean and full of shit. But he was a great artist. Occasionally an awful one, but often great. From his Economist obituary, a passage about how difficult he made categorization:

“The man could be just as perplexing, and played it up. Was he really a badass city boy? In fact he came from the New York suburbs, and for two years—between leaving the Velvet Underground in 1970 and making his first solo albums, helped by David Bowie, in 1972—he worked as a typist in his father’s accountancy firm. Did he really take so many drugs? No, he didn’t take them at all (he blurrily told a circle of reporters at Sydney airport in 1974), but he thought everyone else should, because they were ‘better than Monopoly.’ Was he homosexual? He had a very public transvestite love affair once; in the mid-1970s he adopted leather jackets and short blonde curls; later he wore nail varnish and mascara. But there were heterosexual marriages too, paired with romantic songs.”

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Wristify is a watch-like tool from MIT that can moderate body temperature, reducing dependence on air conditioners and the huge amounts of electricity they consume. From Kyle Vanhemert at Wired:

“Wristify, as they call their device, is a thermoelectric bracelet that regulates the temperature of the person wearing it by subjecting their skin to alternating pulses of hot or cold, depending on what’s needed. The prototype recently won first place at this year’s MADMEC, an annual competition put on by the school’s Materials Science and Engineering program, netting the group a $10,000 prize, which they’ll use to continue its development. It’s a promising start to a clever approach that could help alleviate a serious energy crisis. But as Sam Shames, the MIT senior who helped invent the technology, explains, the team was motivated by a more prosaic problem: keeping everyone happy in a room where no one can agree where to set the thermostat.

 

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my deepest secrets.

i’m 18, male, saving for a new car. i don’t hold much in, so i’m offering my deepest darkest confessions for donation(s) of any amount. it’d be nice to help. i think i have some pretty interesting things to share.

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“She had a great fear of mice ever since her childhood.”

Musophobia claimed a young victim in New Jersey, according to an article in the November 23, 1908 New York Times. The story:

Florence, N.J.--The sight of a tiny mouse which the family cat had caught in her home to-day frightened Miss Mary Isabel Mead to death. She had a great fear of mice ever since her childhood, and so great was her terror that she became ill, and died in a few moments.

Miss Mead had been playing the piano. Her mother, in the kitchen, had noticed that a mouse which had crawled out of its hole, was nibbling at edibles she had stored in the pantry. She immediately called the cat and put him ‘on the job.’ The cat scampered after the rodent and caught the mouse in its mouth. Then it began, pussy-like, to play with it. At this stage Miss Mead entered the kitchen, gayly humming a tune which she had been playing. Sitting down, she glanced under the table where the cat was still teasing the mouse before killing it. The girl’s mother, remembering her fears, tried to warn her, but was too late. With a shriek Miss Mead started up. Then, apparently losing control of her voice, she began trembling with fear. The mother carried her to a sofa and drove the cat out of sight.

In a few moments the girl complained to her mother of a pain in her heart. When Mrs. Mead returned from the medicine chest, where she had gone in the hope of getting something to relieve her, the daughter was dead. Mrs. Mead summoned a physician. He declared that the girl had died of fright. Valvular heart trouble caused by the sight of the mouse ended her life.

‘The girl was actually scared to death,’ said the physician. ‘Living, as she did, in mortal fear of mice, it is not strange that the sight of the creature in the cat’s mouth so terrified her. Her heart gave way under the incredible strain.’

Miss Mead was prominent in the social activities of the town.”

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When he wrote about the coming computer revolution of the 1970s at the outset of the decade in Of a Fire on the Moon, Norman Mailer couldn’t have known that the dropouts and the rebels would be leading the charge. An excerpt of his somewhat nightmarish view of our technological future, some parts of which came true and some still in the offing:

“Now they asked him what he thought of the Seventies. He did not know. He thought of the Seventies and a blank like the windowless walls of the computer city came over his vision. When he conducted interviews with himself on the subject it was not a despair he felt, or fear–it was anesthesia. He had no intimations of what was to come, and that was conceivably worse than any sentiment of dread, for a sense of the future, no matter how melancholy, was preferable to none–it spoke of some sense of the continuation in the projects of one’s life. He was adrift. If he tried to conceive of a likely perspective in the decade before him, he saw not one structure to society but two: if the social world did not break down into revolutions and counterrevolutions, into police and military rules of order with sabotage, guerrilla war and enclaves of resistance, if none of this occurred, then there certainly would be a society of reason, but its reason would be the logic of the computer. In that society, legally accepted drugs would become necessary for accelerated cerebration, there would be inchings toward nuclear installation, a monotony of architectures, a pollution of nature which would arouse technologies of decontamination odious as deodorants, and transplanted hearts monitored like spaceships–the patients might be obliged to live in a compound reminiscent of a Mission Control Center where technicians could monitor on consoles the beatings of a thousand transplanted hearts. But in the society of computer-logic, the atmosphere would obviously be plastic, air-conditioned, sealed in bubble-domes below the smog, a prelude to living on space stations. People would die in such societies like fish expiring on a vinyl floor. So of course there would be another society, an irrational society of dropouts, the saintly, the mad, the militant and the young. There the art of the absurd would reign in defiance against the computer.”

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Google believes its driverless cars are already safer than human drivers. Even if that’s currently too ambitious a statement, it’s really only a matter of time. From Tom Simonite at the Technology Review:

“Data gathered from Google’s self-driving Prius and Lexus cars shows that they are safer and smoother when steering themselves than when a human takes the wheel, according to the leader of Google’s autonomous-car project.

Chris Urmson made those claims today at a robotics conference in Santa Clara, California. He presented results from two studies of data from the hundreds of thousands of miles Google’s vehicles have logged on public roads in California and Nevada.

One of those analyses showed that when a human was behind the wheel, Google’s cars accelerated and braked significantly more sharply than they did when piloting themselves. Another showed that the cars’ software was much better at maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle ahead than the human drivers were.

‘We’re spending less time in near-collision states,’ said Urmson. ‘Our car is driving more smoothly and more safely than our trained professional drivers.'”

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A news company as massive as the New York Times encompasses all things, all ideas–it contains multitudes, to paraphrase Walt Whitman. So, the paper of record could look silly in 1985 publishing a piece that predicted laptops would never really catch on but look brilliant three years earlier pretty much laying out the next several decades of our ever-increasingly digitized world, the triumphs and the fears. From “Study Says Technology Could Transform Society,” an article by Robert Reinhold in the June 14, 1982 edition:

WASHINGTON— A report commissioned by the National Science Foundation and made public today speculates that by the end of this century electronic information technology will have transformed American home, business, manufacturing, school, family and political life.

The report suggests that one-way and two-way home information systems, called teletext and videotex, will penetrate deeply into daily life, with an effect on society as profound as those of the automobile and commercial television earlier in this century.

It conjured a vision, at once appealing and threatening, of a style of life defined and controlled by videotex terminals throughout the house.

As a consequence, the report envisioned this kind of American home by the year 1998: ‘Family life is not limited to meals, weekend outings, and once a-year vacations. Instead of being the glue that holds things together so that family members can do all those other things they’re expected to do – like work, school, and community gatherings -the family is the unit that does those other things, and the home is the place where they get done. Like the term ‘cottage industry,’ this view might seem to reflect a previous era when family trades were passed down from generation to generation, and children apprenticed to their parents. In the ‘electronic cottage,’ however, one electronic ‘tool kit’ can support many information production trades.’

The report warned that the new technology would raise difficult issues of privacy and control that will have to be addressed soon to ‘maximize its benefits and minimize its threats to society.'”

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I thought Jon Stewart handled his recent interview with conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer better than most so-called real journalists would. He almost always outdoes them, of course. But there was one point he let slide that I wished he would have jumped on. Krauthammer’s disdain for what Obamacare will do to policy in the course of granting affordable insurance to tens of millions led him down a dead-end alley–and a familiar one at that.

First, he claimed that Republicans really do want health care for all Americans. That may be true for Krauthammer personally, but it certainly isn’t of members of his party with voting power in Washington. But it’s not likely that the talking head wants health care for all, either, since he followed up with his contention by using the Ryan budgets of an example of how more Americans could be insured. That’s just an outright lie. First an excerpt from Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic and then the Stewart-Krauthammer meeting.

“Start with the federal budgets crafted by Paul Ryan. You remember those, right? Those proposals passed through the House with unanimous Republican support and were, in 2012, a basis of the Republican presidential platform. Those budgets called for dramatic funding cuts to Medicaid. If Republicans had swept into power and enacted such changes, according to projections prepared by Urban Institute scholars and published by the Kaiser Family Foundationbetween 14 and 20 million Medicaid recipients would lose their insurance. And that doesn’t even include the people who are starting to get Medicaid coverage through Obamacare’s expansions of the program. That’s another 10 to 17 million people.”

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From the June 9, 1892 New York Times:

Lynn, Mass.–John Anderson, a Swede, died this morning a terrible death. Three weeks ago he was bitten on the lip by a dog. The wound was not cauterized. Anderson was taken ill on Monday, and at once had a decided antipathy to water. Tuesday night he began frothing at the mouth and was unable to take food. About midnight he began barking and snarling like a dog and raved in delirium.

In his struggles he bit at his friends and tore the bedclothing to ribbons with his teeth. In his agony he gnawed the footboard and posts of the bed, his teeth sinking deep into the hard wood. He died in the greatest agony.

Consulting physicians pronounced death due to the effect of fright on his mind and its subsequent action on the heart.”

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In 1979, Joan Didion wrote for an essay for the New York Review of Books about a trio of Woody Allen films–Manhattan, Annie Hall and Interiors–commenting that the filmmaker’s adult characters had taken on the qualities of adolescents, becoming consumed with their place in the world–charting their loves and losses–listing their faves and likes, as if writing in a school yearbook in the air. And this, of course, was long before social networks gave us the tools to completely realize such a thing–to become a global village that’s connected if not mature. The opening:

“Self-absorption is general, as is self-doubt. In the large coastal cities of the United States this summer many people wanted to be dressed in ‘real linen,’ cut by Calvin Klein to wrinkle, which implies real money. In the large coastal cities of the United States this summer many people wanted to be served the perfect vegetable terrine. It was a summer in which only have-nots wanted a cigarette or a vodka-and-tonic or a charcoal-broiled steak. It was a summer in which the more hopeful members of the society wanted roller skates, and stood in line to see Woody Allen’s Manhattan, a picture in which, toward the end, the Woody Allen character makes a list of reasons to stay alive. ‘Groucho Marx’ is one reason, and ‘Willie Mays’ is another. The second movement of Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ Symphony. Louis Armstrong’s ‘Potato Head Blues.’ Flaubert’s A Sentimental Education. This list is modishly eclectic, a trace wry, definitely OK with real linen; and notable, as raisons d’être go, in that every experience it evokes is essentially passive. This list of Woody Allen’s is the ultimate consumer report, and the extent to which it has been quoted approvingly suggests a new class in America, a subworld of people rigid with apprehension that they will die wearing the wrong sneaker, naming the wrong symphony, preferring Madame Bovary

What is arresting about these recent ‘serious’ pictures of Woody Allen’s, about Annie Hall and Interiors as well as Manhattan, is not the way they work as pictures but the way they work with audiences. The people who go to see these pictures, who analyze them and write about them and argue the deeper implications in their texts and subtexts, seem to agree that the world onscreen pretty much mirrors the world as they know it. This is interesting, and rather astonishing, since the peculiar and hermetic self-regard in Annie Hall andInteriors and Manhattan would seem nothing with which large numbers of people would want to identify. The characters in these pictures are, at best, trying. They are morose. They have bad manners. They seem to take long walks and go to smart restaurants only to ask one another hard questions. ‘Are you serious about Tracy?’ the Michael Murphy character asks the Woody Allen character in Manhattan. ‘Are you still hung up on Yale?’ the Woody Allen character asks the Diane Keaton character. ‘I think I’m still in love with Yale,’ she confesses several scenes later. ‘You are?’ he counters, ‘or you think you are?’ All of the characters in Woody Allen pictures not only ask these questions but actually answer them, on camera, and then, usually in another restaurant, listen raptly to third-party analyses of their own questions and answers.

‘How come you guys got divorced?’ they ask each other with real interest, and, on a more rhetorical level, ‘why are you so hostile,’ and ‘why can’t you just once in a while consider my needs.’ (‘I’m sick of your needs’ is the way Diane Keaton answers this question in Interiors, one of the few lucid moments in the picture.)What does she say, these people ask incessantly, what does she say and what does he say and, finally, inevitably, ‘what does your analyst say.’ These people have, on certain subjects, extraordinary attention spans. When Natalie Gittelson of The New York Times Magazine recently asked Woody Allen how his own analysis was going after twenty-two years, he answered this way: ‘It’s very slow…but an hour a day, talking about your emotions, hopes, angers, disappointments, with someone who’s trained to evaluate this material—over a period of years, you’re bound to get more in touch with feelings than someone who makes no effort.’

Well, yes and (apparently) no. Over a period of twenty-two years ‘you’re bound’ only to get older, barring nasty surprises. This notion of oneself as a kind of continuing career—something to work at, work on, ‘make an effort’ for and subject to an hour a day of emotional Nautilus training, all in the interests not of attaining grace but of improving one’s ‘relationships’—is fairly recent in the world, at least in the world not inhabited entirely by adolescents. In fact the paradigm for the action in these recent Woody Allen movies is high school. The characters in Manhattan and Annie Hall and Interiors are, with one exception, presented as adults, as sentient men and women in the most productive years of their lives, but their concerns and conversations are those of clever children, ‘class brains,’ acting out a yearbook fantasy of adult life.”

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It was a year ago today that several of my relatives, in harm’s way of Hurricane Sandy, literally ran for their lives, fanning out from flood zones into the darkness of a city that quickly came to resemble a necropolis. Their homes and many others have not yet been fully repaired, and, worse yet, the toll on their health was even more severe. Two members of my immediate family who were in the storm’s path nearly died in emergency rooms in the ten months after the ferocious storm, suffering from unusual bacterial illnesses that may have been caused by the flood waters or clean-up efforts. No one’s sure. Having spent nearly two months visiting hospitals, I can’t quite count the number of patients and medical personnel who told me they still hadn’t rebuilt their houses, hadn’t yet recovered their health, their wits. The storm doesn’t end when the winds and rains die down–that’s just the beginning. And I will never forget how Paul Ryan and others voted against Sandy relief as people desperately searched for help. How many of these people self-identify as Christians when campaigning?

From Amy Davidson at the New Yorker blog:

“Well over a hundred people were killed by the storm, and the indirect toll, though harder to measure, was greater. The mortality rate in that Coney Island nursing home, according to a new report from NY1, was higher in the weeks and months after Sandy than it had any right to be. Since the storm, evacuation maps have been redrawn, subway tunnels are still being repaired (after a heroic effort to reopen them in those first days), and New York is inching toward a discussion of what a world of climate change, with rising sea levels and more extreme weather, means for a metropolis built on one of the planet’s best natural harbors. But perhaps the greatest mistake would be to reminisce only about the ways that the storm created unity and division, rather than looking critically at how it interacted with the city’s persistent inequalities. There is a reason that the tale of two cities has been one of the motifs of this year’s mayoral campaign—and it has nothing to do with just where the lights went out.”

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You can hardly blame the town elders in Los Altos for designating Steve Jobs’ childhood home an historic resource. There’s tourism money in the short-term future. But for how many decades will Jobs be recalled and revered? Edwin Land was once just as big an icon. From Jason Green at the Mercury News:

“Steve Jobs built the first 100 Apple 1 computers at the Crist Drive home with help from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Patricia Jobs. The first 50 were sold to Paul Terrell’s Byte Shop in Mountain View for $500 each, according to the evaluation. The rest were assembled for their friends in the Homebrew Computer Club.

‘I’d get yelled at if I bent a prong,’ Patricia Jobs told The Daily News in an interview last month.

The original computers are now worth tens of thousands of dollars. One sold for $213,000 at an auction in 2010.

The home is also where Jobs courted some of his first investors, including Chuck Peddle of Commodore Computer and Don Valentine of Sequoia Capital, according to the evaluation.

The first partnership for Apple Computer Co. was signed on April 1, 1976, and nine months later the company was established and operations moved to nearby Cupertino.

‘These significant events took place at the subject property,’ Commissioner Sapna Marfatia wrote in the evaluation.”

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The opening ofConfessions of a Drone Warrior,” Matthew Power’s GQ article about Brandon Bryant, one of the first recruits into the new world of push-button war, a fighter pilot who never had to board the plane, and one who could barely see the carnage in the corner of a screen:

“From the darkness of a box in the Nevada desert, he watched as three men trudged down a dirt road in Afghanistan. The box was kept cold—precisely sixty-eight degrees—and the only light inside came from the glow of monitors. The air smelled spectrally of stale sweat and cigarette smoke. On his console, the image showed the midwinter landscape of eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar Province—a palette of browns and grays, fields cut to stubble, dark forests climbing the rocky foothills of the Hindu Kush. He zoomed the camera in on the suspected insurgents, each dressed in traditional shalwar kameez, long shirts and baggy pants. He knew nothing else about them: not their names, not their thoughts, not the thousand mundane and profound details of their lives.

He was told that they were carrying rifles on their shoulders, but for all he knew, they were shepherd’s staffs. Still, the directive from somewhere above, a mysterious chain of command that led straight to his headset, was clear: confirmed weapons. He switched from the visible spectrum—the muted grays and browns of ‘day-TV’—to the sharp contrast of infrared, and the insurgents’ heat signatures stood out ghostly white against the cool black earth. A safety observer loomed behind him to make sure the ‘weapon release’ was by the book. A long verbal checklist, his targeting laser locked on the two men walking in front. A countdown—three…two…one…—then the flat delivery of the phrase ‘missile off the rail.’ Seventy-five hundred miles away, a Hellfire flared to life, detached from its mount, and reached supersonic speed in seconds. 

It was quiet in the dark, cold box in the desert, except for the low hum of machines.

He kept the targeting laser trained on the two lead men and stared so intently that each individual pixel stood out, a glowing pointillist dot abstracted from the image it was meant to form. Time became almost ductile, the seconds stretched and slowed in a strange electronic limbo. As he watched the men walk, the one who had fallen behind seemed to hear something and broke into a run to catch up with the other two. Then, bright and silent as a camera flash, the screen lit up with white flame. 

Airman First Class Brandon Bryant stared at the scene, unblinking in the white-hot clarity of infrared. He recalls it even now, years later, burned into his memory like a photo negative: ‘The smoke clears, and there’s pieces of the two guys around the crater. And there’s this guy over here, and he’s missing his right leg above his knee. He’s holding it, and he’s rolling around, and the blood is squirting out of his leg, and it’s hitting the ground, and it’s hot. His blood is hot. But when it hits the ground, it starts to cool off; the pool cools fast. It took him a long time to die. I just watched him. I watched him become the same color as the ground he was lying on.’ “

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My Life Story (Brooklyn)

The first 10 chapters of my life story.

A very unique tale about a depressed male obsessed with atheism and black women.

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Some want to go off the grid, and architect/scavenger Michael Reynolds is there to help, with his “Earthships,’ fully self-sustaining, green homes in New Mexico that look like they were built on the wrong side of an apocalypse. Yet they have a great deal of charm, in addition to being beyond the reach of civilization. From an interview with Reynolds by Roc Morin at Vice:

Vice:

How do Earthships change the lives of their inhabitants?

Michael Reynolds:

When you get in a situation where all of your utilities come directly to you from the sun, wind, and rain, it empowers you. So what if the economy crashes? So what if the politics don’t work out? People are still in charge of their lives. The biggest change that happens is that people become less dependent on the powers that be and more secure in their own being.

 Vice:

Is that what you had in mind in the early 70s when you first started?

Michael Reynolds:

No. I didn’t have a master plan. I just followed my nose, responding to one thing and then another. I wanted to make the buildings out of things we throw away rather than cutting down trees. Then I wanted to harvest my own water because water’s getting to be an issue all over the planet. I wanted to make my own power so I wouldn’t be vulnerable to power outages and reinforce the need for nuclear power plants. Then I started seeing that sewage was not being treated right anywhere on the planet, so I wanted to be responsible for my own. And I didn’t like the food that I purchased, even in health food stores. It’s still grown for money and has dyes and all kinds of chemicals in it, so I wanted to do my own food. One thing led to another, and now I live an absolutely independent, decentralized method of living.

 Vice:

Do you have a sense of why we make buildings the way we do? Why are straight lines the standard across the Western world?

Michael Reynolds:

The idea started out from the ease of producing hard-edged materials and shipping them. Every building you see is a square box. But look at nature—a wasp nest or a beaver dam. It feels a lot better on your mind to be in a soft organic building than it does to be in a hard-edged, industrial-type building.”

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Movies want to escape the theaters and everyone, in one way or another, is a star now. Watching films on iPhones might seem to make Nora Desmond an even greater prophet, but if the pictures have gotten even smaller, they’re everywhere today, being captured by cameras you can barely see–some that you can’t see at all. We still like to watch, but it’s not enough–we want to be seen, we want to be in the movie. We’ve finally stormed the gates. Now what?

From an Economist article about the new wave of big-budget haunted houses in the U.S.:

“In order to get the most boo for their buck, haunters use the latest technology. Where there is competition—there are at least half a dozen haunts in New York City alone—the standards are high. Hollywood special effects and animatronic ghouls are common. But warm-blooded labour, mostly in the form of actors, is often the biggest cost.

A web of regulations, fire- and crowd-related, can make life hellish for potential fearmongers. The (enormous) haunt of Frau Mueller was given a boost when regulators laid a competitor to rest. The frau herself was nearly sent to an early grave—the haunt was approved a day before opening, and only after a path was cut down the middle for safety.

Even if they are not all grim reapers of profit, haunters have a passion for their work. Steve Kopelman, who produces haunts across the country, wanted to make movies when he was younger. Now, he says, people are going to haunted houses to be in the movie. Indeed, Hollywood is getting in on the act. Mr Kopelman is co-producing a haunt near Los Angeles with Rob Zombie, a director of scary films.”

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