June 2010 Archives

This is Slate's new culture blog. I put in a plug for Foyle's War, one of my favorite shows.

"What motivated him to throw a puppy at the Hell's Angels is currently unclear," said a spokesman for local police. Story here.

I believe in Germany they call this art. By the way, what would the german term for this be? Hellspuppydozerslingzer?

Hell's Angels /Rex
The fans cheering on the North Korean team at the World cup are not actually from North Korea. They are Chinese actors hired to clap for the North Koreans. It's a shame, because if there's one thing the North Koreans are good at it's the coordinated displays of affection in the stadium setting:

The fastest game of Monopoly possible:
(via scatterplot via @kottke)
I want to save stories like this for when the kids grow up. With an undeveloped pre-frontal cortex I feel like they should read it each day.

Jay P. Morgan/Getty Imges

I also liked this theory of "imaginary audience" at the end of the piece. I remember that feeling and can't really fathom what it would be like to live in the internet age as a young person given that innate feeling of audience:

Beyond the obvious risks of filming dangerous stunts, some doctors are intrigued by how the Internet may be influencing normal adolescent development. Dr. Moreno notes that one of the distinguishing characteristics of early adolescence is the "imaginary audience" -- the self-conscious feeling that everybody is watching you.

"For kids in middle school, a really normal part of that is the perception that you're on stage, and that everybody is looking at you," says Dr. Moreno. "But for kids today it's a different world they're growing up in. It's a world where there really is that audience."

There's a feeling we get (I think we get it, maybe it's just me) before we do something risky. When I watched this it summoned that feeling. This feeling is different than the impulsive risk feeling which you only access after you've done whatever crazy thing. I love the purposeful, slow and totally insane walk that Guillaume Nery takes right to the edge of Dean's Blue Hole and then that beautiful leap. I cannot imagine myself doing this but I love it. (via Kottke)
I love this page because the pictures are great and includes some of my favorite places in the world, where I have memories of immersion. The Strand bookstore is one such place where I lived for hours at a time during the four years I lived in the city. I miss immersion experiences. I feel like I don't have them any more.

I also love this page because the navigation is so easy. You simply press the arrow key. I also love this page because unlike so many slide shows it's not goosing me for pageviews. It respects me as a consumer who might want to come back and not some idiot the page is simply trying to make a buck off of by making me click through to 20 individual pages. This, of course, is why The Big Picture is so great. 
photo of American Political Tradition.jpg

Sue Halpern makes a point I'm obsessed with because I mark up my books so much:

"One of the guilty pleasures of an actual, ink-on-paper book is the possibility of marking it up--underlining salient passages, making notes in the margins, dog-earing a page. While it's true that some electronic book platforms for the iPad allow highlighting (it even looks like you've used a fat neon yellow or blue or orange marker), and a few--most notably Kindle and Barnes and Noble but not iBooks--allow you to type notes, they barely take advantage of being digital. It is not possible to "capture" your notes and highlights, to organize, compile, arrange, or to print them out. Until there is a seamless way to do this, marginalia will remain sequestered in the margins, and the promise of electronic books will be unrealized"

It's strange, given that the power of the iPhone and iPad is that they allow their users to make applications and find cool new ways to manipulate content. That's what I think is behind the new iPhone 4's promise of video. I know nothing about how Apple makes, markets or designs their products but I can't imagine that they really think there is a huge use case for people using the cameras to hold video chats. There are business uses, of course, but won't most people want to chat the old way, where you don't have to worry about your hair and makeup?

It seems like the kind of non-evolution you'd expect from Radio Shack which is always giving you special additions to gadgets that you don't want--an alarm clock with built-in nail file. But with Apple won't people find some nutty way to use the camera technology that will be extremely viral and sweep the nation? Twitter meets chatroulette?


Is there a term for something that doesn't have a particular use case, but in this world where your users bend your products to fit their strange desires you make it anyway knowing that someone somewhere will warp it into the next best thing? Built-in Anticipatory Innovation?
From a piece that introduced me to a great sorting technique-- askers v. guessers.

"Neither's "wrong", but when an Asker meets a Guesser, unpleasantness results. An Asker won't think it's rude to request two weeks in your spare room, but a Guess culture person will hear it as presumptuous and resent the agony involved in saying no. Your boss, asking for a project to be finished early, may be an overdemanding boor - or just an Asker, who's assuming you might decline. If you're a Guesser, you'll hear it as an expectation."

I disagree. The asker is the one more often in the wrong. (Perhaps I'm saying this because I'm a guesser?) A boss should know that essentially the boss/subordinate relationship creates the expectation and it's his job to avoid abusing it. That's one of his roles. On the friendship front though I find this spectrum far more useful.

(vai @kottke)
"The shop I want is full of people who are dedicated to their opinion. Who are happier understanding a thing rather than wanting it."

This isn't just about shopping, it's about tuning your life and also time management-- knowing how to stay away from the places trying to lure you.

(vai Rands in Repose)

Robert Samuelson writes a typically good piece about the complacency that comes with success. "problem of certainty" came up a lot in my series on risk. It was a particular part of the story on Gen.James Mattis (http://www.slate.com/id/2251031). Mattis quoted Sherman: "Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster." He could just as easily quote Nobel Laureate economist Kenneth Arrow, who warned of the same problem in economics: "vast ills have followed a belief in certainty."

But there's a way in which, contrary to what I think Samuelson is saying, risk played out differently on Deepwater than it did on Wall Street. Most of the Wall Street bankers engaging in risk-denying transactions believed they'd really beaten risk. On the oil rig, that wasn't the case. The guys doing the actual work knew they were cutting corners, just as the miners in West Virginia knew it was only a matter of time. In the case of the Deepwater rig it was the regulators who were lulled into thinking that certainty had been achieved and that therefore there was no big danger.

via autobloggreen
I never posted this great video about Pete and Eli, the subjects of my story on the risk of mountain climbing.

Reading an article about mult-tasking I came upon this passage:

It reminds me of this astounding passage I read in George Washington's letters. At one point, he wrote, he and Martha had not had dinner at home alone for 20 years. Every night for 20 years - 7,305 days in a row - they had guests and visiting dignitaries to entertain.

I didn't have the time to search Washington's letters. If it's true though, what an amazing way to live your life. The modern president complains about how little time he has and I'd always assumed the packed presidential calendar was a function of modern times. Washington wouldn't have complained. He seemed to like the exposure.