#NetflixReliefFund

Good to see Jason Alexander is still working...


Acts of Kindness

Is this one of those Random Acts of Kindness that the bumper stickers are always lecturing us about?

I predict stuff like this will peak in popularity within a couple weeks, only to flatline when all the kids (and there will be grown-ups too!) realize that there's no free autographed bat, jersey, and hat waiting for them at the end of the game.

All is Not Lost

If you don't already use Google's Chrome browser, it may be worth downloading just to watch the latest video from OK Go (of, well, almost-every-cool-music-video in the post-Internet era fame).

Also while we're doing tributes, a GB reader from South Africa (the GB reader from South Africa?) sent along this link to my new theme song.

Atlantic Essays

The Atlantic is slowly releasing its 2011 Essay Issue online. It promises to be chock-a-block with the works of people who know how to turn a phrase.  People who use the word chiaroscuro without effort or affect, and who probably know how to pronounce it correctly.  I can only assume they know the definition.

These same people will also scrupulously and mercifully avoid using the word angst in the colloquial sense that became so popular during the dawn of the Seattle Grunge Era.  For them, angst will only ever mean what Kierkegaard and Heidegger said it means.  Dread without an object, now that's angst.

Needless to say, there are some standouts so far.

A typically torpid and characteristically riveting piece by Wendell Berry that'll make you sad in the end.

A short but wonderful little reflection by John Barth, which opens thus:
When the eminent Italian critic and novelist Umberto Eco visited Johns Hopkins some decades ago, he spoke of the problem, for contemporary writers, of the "already said": the circumstance that because Homer, for example, spoke so memorably in The Odyssey of the "wine-dark sea" and of "rosy-fingered Dawn," nearly 3,000 years' worth of poets and storytellers have had to find other images for sea and sunrise—a task that must become increasingly difficult as the repertory of possibilities is exhausted.
This latter concept, surprisingly enough, reminds me of a recent conversation I had with a friend concerning the latest release from hip hop impresarios Jay-Z and Kanye West.  I was quoting one of my favorite couplets from the song ("They ain't see me cause I pulled up in my other Benz / Last week I was in my other other Benz..."), which you really need to hear out of Kanye's mouth if you want to get the full effect.

My interlocutor (take that, Atlantic!) may as well have been channeling Eco.  He observed how remarkable it is that, after thirty-odd years, creative people around the world haven't run out of ways to rhyme about Benzes.  Technically, he said "Benzes and ho's" but I want to make it clear that neither he nor I would countenance such misogynistic terminology outside the scope of a conversation about hip-hop.  Clear?  Good.

The Smiths

Beyond irony:
At the record company meeting
On their hands - a dead star
And oh, the plans they weave
And oh, the sickening greed
At the record company party
On their hands - a dead star
The sycophantic slags all say:
"I knew him first, and I knew him well"
Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package!
Re-evaluate the songs
Double-pack with a photograph
Extra Track (and a tacky badge)
If Morrissey were dead, he'd be spinning in his grave.

TMBG

Jimmy Fallon has a bonus They Might Be Giants performance from tonight's show on his website:



I especially love the exchange at about the 0:38 mark - Flansburgh inadvertently knocks the ride cymbal with the neck of his guitar, then has the decency to mute the cymbal with his hand and even mouth the word "sorry" to Marty the drummer.  Charming! Classy!

The Crux of the Matter

The basic story is rather predictable:
A group of atheists has filed a lawsuit to stop the display of the World Trade Center cross at a memorial of the 9/11 terror attacks. 
The "government enshrinement of the cross was an impermissible mingling of church and state," the American Atheists say in a press statement.
But the details are uniquely hilarious:
"The WTC cross has become a Christian icon," said Dave Silverman, president of the atheist group. "It has been blessed by so-called holy men and presented as a reminder that their god, who couldn't be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name, cared only enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross. It's a truly ridiculous assertion."
I'd suggest that the "truly ridiculous assertion" here is Mr. Silverman's understanding of Christian iconography, and the core tenets of the Christian faith.  If Mr. Silverman believes that there is no God, and that this non-existent God couldn't be bothered to yada, yada, yada...that's his prerogative.  If, on the other hand, he believes (as the quote indicates) that the WTC cross is cherished by believers because it reminds them of their God's purported impotence, then I think he's mis-apprehended a detail or two.  

Is That a Frozen Snake?

This slideshow is making the rounds on the Internet.  Take Tyler Cowen's advice and don't forget to read the captions.

But seriously, is that a snake?

Free Ideas I

I used to fancy myself an "Ideas Man" in the proud tradition of Steve Kerrigan, but I've become increasingly convinced that most ideas are worthless unless they're backed by the determination and persistence required to make something out of them.  Needless to say, none of my best ideas have been backed by anything like determination or persistence.

Rather than let all these fantastic, world-changing ideas go to waste, I'm going to start giving them away to my loyal readers.  This may take awhile, as I've forgotten most of them.

Idea #1:

A slim protective case + external battery for the MacBook Air.  The internal battery in the MBA is probably sufficient for most people, and there are some rather clunky products around that can extend battery life, but I'm talking about something that snaps on like a shell, but also doubles or triples the battery's life.  So you could fly from LA to Sydney without recharging, and use your computer the whole time; or leave the house for 10-12 hours a day and not have to carry your charger with you.  We have had this for the iPhone for awhile now.  Why don't we have anything like it for the MacBook Air?

Robot Band

Riveting:



For me, though, it's not Rock Lobster without Fred Schneider's, er...distinctive lead vocals and Kate Pierson ululating in the background. And am I the only one who assumed that at any moment the computer voice was suddenly going to start belting out "Fitter, Happier"?

via metafilter.

Elemetal

Look for the Periödic Table of Heavy Meẗals in middle school science rooms this fall.

In related news, this 1995 article about the rediscovery of KISS by Seattle hipsters has been rediscovered in 2011 by a suburban dad.
"Yeah, they don't sound anything like Hole, Beck, Bush, Spore, Sponge, Tad, Ride, Clutch, Scrawl, Slint, Schtum, Lync, Gren, Seam, Dis, Dig, Mule, Gaunt, Az, Hum or Pram, but the band does have a one word, monosyllabic, name like Hole, Beck, Bush, Spore, Sponge, Tad, Ride, Clutch, Scrawl, Slint, Schtum, Lync, Gren, Seam, Dis, Dig, Mule, Gaunt, Az, Hum and Pram," music writer Jordan Kohan says. "So they gotta be alternative like Hole, Beck, Bush, Spore, Sponge, Tad, Ride, Clutch, Scrawl, Slint, Schtum, Lync, Gren, Seam, Dis, Dig, Mule, Gaunt, Az, Hum and Pram."
via metafilter.

Rant of the Week

Anthony Sacramone:
Now I am neither a cynic nor a skeptic. I merely assume that everyone is either lying, stupid, or lying to me about how stupid they think I am. So I’m wondering if this name change is merely an attempt to get Muslims to drop their guard long enough for a bunch of flip-flop-wearing Jesus freaks to love-bomb them back to the Lionheart Age. But who am I to judge.
Tell us what you really think, Anthony!

And while we're on the subject of Big Tent Christianity (are we?), I was surprised to learn this week that Lady Gaga identifies herself as a "very religious" Catholic.  The interview is fascinating throughout but, predictably, NSFW.

Onion

Artists Announce They've Found All The Beauty They Can In Urban Decay:
DETROIT—After spending more than a century exploiting urban decay to create deeply moving, socially conscious works of art, the art world announced Tuesday that it had captured all the beauty it was going to find in rusted-out cars, abandoned houses, and condemned industrial sites...

Summer Camp

Gone are the idyllic days of summer camp in the country:
But some parents have already tired of this private-plane status infiltrating the simpler world of summer camp. Nancy Chemtob, a divorce lawyer, made several summer trips to Maine in the past decade, where her children attended camp. She once managed to get on a charter plane from the airport in East Hampton, N.Y., for $750 (her husband had hung a sign in the airport seeking a ride). After listening to enough banter among parents about “who is flying, who is flying private, who they can get a lift home with,” she decided she “was done with Maine and the planes and all of the people.” 
“It’s a crazy world out there,” she added. She now sends her children to camp in Europe. 
I'm sure she drives them there, though.

via Marginal Revolution.

A Contract Is...

...a legally enforceable agreement between two or more parties with mutual obligations, which may or may not have elements in writing.
What is BGE's PeakRewards program
PeakRewards℠ is designed by BGE to help ease the “peak” demand for electricity in the Mid-Atlantic region. It’s part of the BGE Smart Energy Savers Program®, which helps you conserve energy, save money and protect the environment. The PeakRewards℠ A/C program gives you a professionally installed Smart Switch or Smart Thermostat. These technologies allow BGE to cycle the compressor on your central air conditioner or electric heat pump during periods of peak electric demand in summer months. In exchange for allowing BGE to cycle your compressor, you will receive credits on your summer BGE bills every year in which you are enrolled. 
Of course, my readers are smart enough to predict what happens next:
Baltimore Gas and Electric stood by its PeakRewards program Saturday, even as participating customers' tempers continued to flare after thousands of air conditioning units were turned off for hours as part of the energy-saving program during the intense heat of the day before...
"I felt they really took advantage of customers who signed up for this plan. Nobody ever had any idea — me for one — that they could really shut down our cooling for an entire day," said Lisa Larcher, a 47-year-old mother who lives in Gambrills with her husband, two daughters and two cats. "It could have been dangerous." 
FAQs on the BGE site spell out such arcane topics as "what does 50% mean?  What does 100% mean?" and, needless to say, the people who opted for the more lucrative discounts that come with "100% cycling" are also the ones complaining that their A/C was "100% off" during the recent emergency.

It's unlikely that enough cats were harmed last week to gain class certification for lawsuit purposes, but I predict that by Tuesday we'll learn about a grandmother who fell ill because her A/C was off Friday afternoon.  Then things will get serious.  Mind you, this will be a grandmother who lived through the Great Depression and whose birth predates refrigeration.  Nevertheless, lawyers and politicians will get involved, and there will be some serious apologizin' before this is all over.

Saxual Healing?

Is the saxophone making a comeback?  Or is this just, as MetaFilter suggests, "ironic posturing from vapid 'tastemakers'?"

This isn't the first time I've posted on saxist subjects.  And I'm still waiting for someone to weigh in on my Clarence Clemons question.

Can Congress Come Out to Play?

Based on my interactions with a few Senate staffers over the years, I think this is exactly right.  Of course, staffers on the House side probably have their own take on this.  Has anyone seen something from the house perspective?  What would be the best visual representation of the Senate from the House's view?

Bon Iver Bon Iver On Sale Today Today

My favorite album of the year so far is on sale for $4 today at amazon.com.

On a related note, I think I'm finished buying music through iTunes. Their stuff is consistently over-priced, but that's not my biggest beef. My real issue (and I know full-well that this tops any list of First World Problems) is that I tend to listen to my iTunes library sorted by "Date Added" and therefore focusing on the things I've bought most recently.  When I buy an album from amazon.com, it gets added in order because the songs download sequentially. The track order stays intact.

Apple, in what I assume is an effort to make the overall download process faster (by how much?  Ten seconds?), allows three songs to download concurrently, and if track two finishes before one or three, it gets added to the library first. By the end of an 18-track download (see left), the entire album is in total disarray as far as "Date Added" goes. There is no easy fix for this, as far as I can tell.  If anyone knows of one, please tell me. I'll give you a $5 amazon.com gift card if you can suggest something I haven't tried.

Incidentally, I e-mailed Steve Jobs about this months ago, and I still await his response. I know he's been busy, but I'm sure "Reply to Trey" is on his To-Do list.









UPDATE:  Today is Bon Iver Day in Wisconsin, apparently.

Nerdery

Apple's latest Mac OS came out Wednesday morning.  Over a million nerds downloaded the new software on the day it was released.  But the real nerds were even more excited about John Siracusa's perennial review of the OS.  This edition came in at over 25,000 words, and filled over a hundred printed pages (for those who still print things).  We are living in the golden age of nerdery, people!

On Twitter

This is perhaps the most trenchant, most accurate thing I've ever seen written about Twitter:
I think in a few years people will look back at Twitter and feel like they were, well, duped in a way – millions of grown men and women, adults, typing in obscure abbreviations and making up messy syntaxes just to fit a semi-arbitrary character limit.
The key word here is "adults."

via metafilter, obviously.

Is This Something?

The post-modern one-man band:



via metafilter.

Quote of the Week

One of the things you learn as a college president is that if an undergraduate is wearing a tie and jacket on Thursday afternoon at three o'clock, there are two possibilities. One is that they're looking for a job and have an interview; the other is that they are an asshole. This was the latter case.
That's former Harvard president Larry Summers, on the subject of the Winklevoss twins.

via The Atlantic Wire.

The Secret Bookstore

This video makes me wonder about the thousands of secret endeavors that are undertaken in New York City at any given time; to say nothing about what everyone around the world is getting up to.
“I don’t know if it’s my familiarity with failure,” he adds. “I find ways to survive without it making enough money to be what you would call a successful business. If it’s all about money, there’s just better things to sell.”

Mark Twain's Advice To Little Girls

This almost makes me wish I had a daughter.  Of course, some of the advice is unisex:


via metafilter.

Mna Lsa

Twitter has condensed our thoughts and interactions to 140 characters per post.  So, is this the future of art?  If so, then Twitter loses, because there's much more in this one weird clump of dots than there is in 99.999% of anything ever tweeted.

Hint:  Stand up and walk as far away from your computer as you can, then turn around and look back.

Art via someprints.com.

Story via Jason Kottke and Chris Blattman.

Long-Haired Boys in Pink Dresses

Maybe Kathy Witterick and David Stocker are onto something.  Or maybe the Smithsonian is in on the conspiracy.

Time Out of Hand

I just don't know what to make of this.  Is it impressive?  Ridiculous?  Both?

I can appreciate that a lot of creativity, skill, patience, etc., went into it.  I'd never want to belittle someone for doing something that seems to me like a monumental waste of time.  And yet...
Scott Weaver's amazing piece, made with over 100,000 toothpicks over the course of 35 years, is a depiction of San Francisco, with multiple ball runs that allow you to go on "tours" of different parts of the city. It will be on display in the Tinkering Studio until June 19th!
I'll tell you what would be really impressive:  a life-size version of this model, created over hundreds of years using mixed-media, that people could "tour" using a motorized vehicle of some sort!  If it was  big enough, people could even live in the model city and create for themselves a kind of self-governing commune.  I'll bet people would come from all over the world to see a model like that!

Join Us

They Might Be Giants' 15th studio album comes out tomorrow.  Or today if you want to over-pay at iTunes, which I just did.  TMBG has been my favorite band since 1989, when Brian Kearns put a dubbed tape of Lincoln into his mom's car stereo as we drove somewhere or other.  Ana Ng came on, and my life was transformed.  By Purple Toupée, it was all over but the dancing.  The awkward, lurchy, dancing that characterized so much of my adolescence.

A couple recent interviews worth checking out:  Flansburgh in Vanity Fair; and again in The Gothamist.
What about the title? What inspired the title, if you can articulate it? Again, it sort of gets back to that difficult album #15 that rock critics are always talking about...
Both interviews make points about TMBG's detour into "children's music" and their attempts with this new album to recover their "adult" audience.  Flans (when you've know him as long as I have, you call him "Flans") speaks directly to this in a way that makes sense, but I disagree with him and the interviewers.  

Years before Huck was born, and before TMBG's first children's album, I saw them at a free outdoor show in DC somewhere.  It struck me that night that the crowd was surprisingly diverse age-wise.  (I think up until then I'd only seen them in clubs.)  There were several children riding their parents' shoulders, and many of them were singing along with every song.  TMBG has always been a kids' band for grown-ups.

I suspect a lot of long-time fans glossed over the children's albums; and this is a real shame.  Here Comes Science was among my favorite albums of 2009.  It was a quintessential TMBG project:  subversively educational, super-catchy, and endlessly entertaining.  And, needless to day, Huck loves it.  Last fall, I took him to his first concert - TMBG in NYC.  It was a weekend we'll never forget.  And, to illustrate my point about the false adult/child dichotomy, we played the album for our friend who hosted us for the weekend during a pre-concert cram session.  I think she enjoyed it more than even we did.

Everything, literally everything, that I know about James K. Polk comes from They Might Be Giants; and it all rhymes.  Same goes for most of what I know about the sun (or is it this?) and the Mesopotamians.

TMBG (combined with the Simpsons) have served as the signaling mechanism that connected me with a few of my best, most enduring friends.  In Australia, and then again years later in the US, I learned within a few hours of meeting someone that they were fans of my favorite band and my then-favorite TV show.  When you connect those two dots, a lot of other things sort of fall into place and you know you've made a lasting connection.

A friend of one of those Australian friends first alerted me to the fact that each of the Johns has a distinct sound and style.  Turns out, I prefer Linnell.  I even like his solo record far more than Flansburgh's.

And now, a fantastic fan video.  One small quibble, though:  Flans plays the guitar backward, so you can just picture a thousand nerds suppressing heart attacks and racing to their computers to correct the internet's latest error at about the 2-minute mark:

Sometimes State Flags...

Sometimes your state's flag hurts to look at, apparently. No matter, I still like it best. Other notable commentary can be found at Colorado, South Dakota, and Ohio...and all the rest of them too, actually. Brilliant!

Wait for It...

Is there any way I can start getting Australian Today show episodes sent to my TiVo at home?

Blow-Up

I just got around to reading GQ's oral history of Michael Bay's career (via longform.org).  It's entertaining throughout, but I especially loved this portion:
Bruckheimer: Michael even had to write a check for an action sequence that Sony wouldn't pay for. 
Bay: The scene where Martin shoots the guy out of the plane. I said to the line producer, "This is where the audience claps. This is the end of the movie." He was like, "I don't care. We're not doing the shot." He was just a studio flunky. I was literally going to punch him out. 
Peter Devlin (sound mixer, various Bay films): The scene cost $25,000. That's a lot of money. I believe the studio cashed the check as well. 
Bay: They used to watch dailies where you do the clap with the slate. So just to screw with them, I put the check [on the slate and wrote] TO COLUMBIA PICTURES, FROM MICHAEL BAY, $25,000.
Bruckheimer: He put his money where his talent is.
Bay: I didn't get the money back until the movie made like $60 million. And I had to beg for it.

‪A Day In The Life of John Lasseter‬‏

A friend recently intimated that she'd be leaving the office early to watch this 25-minute video.  I can't think of a better to reason ditch work right now.

Imagine a low-key episode of MTV Cribs, in which the interviewee is:  1) an adult, and 2) performs something akin to real work for a living, but 3) he never seems to realize he's working.  Also, I don't think I linked to it when it came out, but this Esquire profile is utterly charming.



via kottke.

Emmy Training Day

I learned today that there's a live reading/unveiling of the names of Emmy nominees each year, and evidently that show itself is something of a big deal.  Peeling another layer back from this onion, I discovered that the presenter tapped to read out the names of the nominees at said show (which, remember, is a dedicated to telling people which actors and technicians from other shows will potentially be honored at the actual award show a few months hence) takes this reading responsibility very seriously.  As we approach the center of the onion, we get a rare glimpse into kind of training regimen that's required of such a presenter; and, of course, hilarity ensues.

If I had the authority, I'd nominate this video for "Best Viral Comedy Preview of a Live Broadcast Announcement of an Eventual Actual Awards Show (Primetime TV Division)" at this year's Webby Awards.

Now THAT'S Street Art

I won't be so hypocritical as to say I approve of this, but I sure do love irony.  Of course, there's a 95% chance this work of street art was commissioned by the van's owner.

Banksy van gets a makeover.

And Let Me Be that Geek

I stumbled across this at Seth Godin's blog recently:
Go find a geek. Someone who understands gmail, Outlook, Excel and other basic tools. 
Pay her to sit next to you for an hour and watch you work. 
Then say, "tell me five ways I can save an hour a day." 
Whatever you need to pay for this service, it will pay for itself in a week.
And I actually think there's a business in it.  Or, more precisely, a practice.  It would be hard to locate, manage, and organize a company full of people well-suited to the task, but the right person could do this solo in his or her spare time.  I already do, and I love it.

Armed and Ready

When the Zombie Apocalypse comes, will you be ready?  Remember, it's not IF but WHEN.

We've Seen This Movie Before

File at least 4/5 of this article under First World Problems, but the author (Bill Wyman) does make some good observations and comments towards the end.  I'd sum most of them up in my own words thus:  If you compete with "free" by making things easy, how do you compete with "free and easy?"

Or, as Wyman put it:  
Right now, in fact, the movie and TV business looks a lot like the music one did in the early 2000s. And as we've seen, that decade didn't work out too well for the labels. So it's worth looking at the situation and wondering how things are going to fare in the TV and movie world in the decade ahead. It can all be summed up in one single sentence...The easiest and most convenient way to see the movies or TV shows you want is to get them illegally.
For the author's sake, I'm glad this article came out before Netflix announced their new pricing plan.  I think that news probably caused Wyman's head to explode.

Beer Doggles

This story has been bouncing around the web for a week or so:
A New York City pet store that's surrounded by bars has banned drunken puppy-buying. 
Workers at Le Petite Puppy in Greenwich Village say customers tend to stumble in after happy hour and purchase a dog without thinking. Drunken customers now are forbidden to even hold the puppies, because they can drop them.
And it's taken me this long to see how simple the solution is:  close the store at, like, 7PM.  This way you save on labor and you avoid scarring your puppies for life.  Win-win.

I can picture the scene that finally convinced the store owner to implement this policy:  guy walks into the store, with a Chocolate Lab in a reusable Whole Foods sack, "Hey, do you do returns?  I took this one home a couple nights ago after a few drinks, and she seemed really cute at the time...so perky and wild.  But now all she wants to do is snuggle and - to be honest - she's become a really needy bitch."

The Divorce Generation

A child of divorced parents, and a product of a generation of divorce-riddled families, Susan Gregory Thomas swore she'd never divorce.  Absolutely swore it.  She even hints that she chose her husband based on a cold calculation that together they could weather any storm:
I had married the kindest, most stable person I'd ever known to ensure that our children would never know anything of the void of my own childhood...My husband and I made the happiest, most comfy nest possible. We worked as a team; we loved our kids; we did everything right, better than right. And yet divorce came. In spite of everything.
I don't know what makes a good marriage. I am inclined to think that Mark Twain was right when he wrote in an 1894 journal: "No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century." But I did know something about divorce, and I wanted—and my former husband wanted—to do it as "well" as possible. 
But, aside from some statistics we may not have seen before, is her essay on the subject insightful at all?  Or is it just a self-deluded attempt to justify the unique failures of our generation over and against our parents'?  My friends whose parents divorced insist that the process always hurts kids.  Is there any reason to think that we're doing it so much better at the beginning of this century than they were at the end of the last as to render the process painless for all involved - especially the children?  There's little evidence of that in Gregory's account.  But I guess there wouldn't be - it's her story.  We probably need to wait another few years until her children start blogging about the experience, or publish their own memoirs.
I have yet to meet the divorced mother or father who feels like a good parent, who professes to being happier with how their children are now being raised. Many of us have ended up inflicting pain on our children, which we did everything to avoid. 
But we have not had our parents' divorces either. We can only hope that in this, we have done it differently in the right way.
So sad, in the first and third senses of the word.

Seemed Cool Once

The Onion staff seems to be on summer vacation, and they're re-running a bunch of their greatest hits.  This one came up recently, and is one of my all-time favorites:
Dave Matthews Not That Into Himself Anymore
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA—Dave Matthews, the 38-year-old singer and guitarist for the multi-platinum group The Dave Matthews Band, announced Tuesday that he is no longer into himself. 
"I used to be a hardcore Dave Matthews fan," said Matthews on the porch of his Virginia home. "I had all my records and posters. I was so blown away by everything I did—especially my live performances. I remember me and my buddies used to drive for hours just to go to one of our shows."... (continue reading.)
On a semi-related note, a few weekends ago I was hanging out with some college friends.  We took the requisite time to observe Clarence Clemons' passing and then noted that he and LeRoi Moore were members of a rather unusual fraternity:  deceased African-American saxophone players who rose to prominence as members of bands noted for their unparalleled live performances.  We racked our brains trying to think of a third man, but couldn't.  Phish is all white guys from Vermont, right?  E-mail me if you think of someone we're missing here.

À Votre Santé!

Ujala Sehgal, writing for The Atlantic, reported recently that the medical marijuana community has suffered a setback:
Nine years ago, supporters of medical marijuana asked the federal government to reclassify cannabis, which was listed as a Schedule I drug, the most restricted category of drug under the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. The petition asked the the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to take into account research showing marijuana's medical uses, which have been recognized in various states and the capital. For years, no final decision was reached, the Los Angeles Times reports. Two months ago, advocates asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to force the Obama administration to respond to their petition. Finally, in a decision published Friday, the DEA denied the request, ruling that marijuana has no accepted medical use and should remain classified as a highly dangerous drug like heroin.
Sehgal's breakdown/analysis is worth reading, but I bring all this up for a purely self-serving reason.  

I've always wanted to go on record predicting how funny it's going to seem to us fifty years from now that anyone ever thought that inhaling smoke of any kind could have "medicinal benefits."  I'm not saying that marijuana does absolutely nothing for one's well-being.  I've long taken Michael P. Foley's word that tobacco can be good for the soul, and I'll take the scientists at their word on marijuana.  I just think the "medicinal" angle is an odd one, given the amount of social, political, and moral energy we spend trying to demonize tobacco companies and their customers.

The Tyranny of the Living

Ann Althouse has an elegant, simple take on a phenomenon that I've long found puzzling.  First, the quote that serves as her launching pad:
So which is worse? The president who serves his base and sets the country on fire, or the president who stiffs his base and fights fire with gasoline?
Now, her observation:
President A is Bush, in case you couldn't figure it out. Shouldn't you suspect — oh, Firedoglake blogger "Eli" — that if your nominees for "Worst President Ever" are the 2 most recent Presidents, that you've got a perspective problem?

People who are immersed in politics ought to take a good look at their own minds. Maybe what just happened near you is not actually the most dramatic thing that ever happened. Your feelings are one thing. Reality is something else. Make an effort to discern the difference.
I'll admit (and I see the irony here) that I don't know enough history to say whether this is a quirk of our generation, or if every generation has tended to ascribe significance disproportionally to that which occurs nearest in time and space to itself. I suspect it's us, though.  We're the worst!

Parfit

From the department of Questions I Would Never, Ever Think to Ask:

Should you start with volume II of Parfit?

From the department of Obvious Follow-up Questions for the C-student:

What's a parfit, and why would anyone need more than one volume of it?

McSweeney’s Lists

Two more lists worth checking out:

YouTube Videos with Minimal Views

and

What Your Favorite 80's Band Says About You

The latter is a theme we've visited before, but it doesn't grow old to me. I especially love the lack of any apparent connection between the band and the thing said. It's like the list itself is an excuse to rattle off a series of hilarious absurdities.

First World Problems

This list is worth reading.  I've obviously tried to chronicle this sort of thing in my own way, but the list covers a lot more ground without any unnecessary commentary.

How to Peel an Egg

So far, I've been unable to reproduce these results:



via metafilter.

Basset Hounds Running

Exactly as the post title suggests, there are a bunch of pictures making their way around the internet depicting wrinkly dogs running.  Truly, poetry in motion.

I get the feeling that if all the original stars of Benny Hill's closing credits were rounded up and photographed re-enacting their famous scenes, we'd have a very similar set of photos.

via BoingBoing.

DSK

Bret Stephens on the DSK case:
I doubt I was alone in feeling this: People generally, and columnists especially, want news that has the qualities of a parable—the surprise that turns out to be no surprise at all. With a story like DSK's, the temptation of a tidy moral tends to overwhelm whatever doubts might be cast upon it by a countervailing point of data... 
Still, the fact that I and so many others wanted this story to be true was only half the problem. There are, also, the habits of mind that seem to have prevented prosecutors and journalists alike from quickly following the threads of what ought to have been a common-sense suspicion... 
So this is as good an opportunity as any to ask where else we might be committing similar blunders. The climate change obsession, with its Manichean concept of polluting corporations versus noble eco-warriors? The Wall Street obsession, with its belief the boardroom boys were criminally guilty of the financial crisis? The China obsession, with its view that the Middle Kingdom is destined to overtake the U.S. in global economic and political clout? The Israel obsession, with its notion that if only Jewish settlements were removed from the West Bank peace would break out throughout the Middle East? 
In each of these cases, the media (broadly speaking) has too often been guilty of looking only for the evidence that fits a pre-existing story line. It doesn't help that in journalism you can usually find the story you're looking for, whether it's record-breaking heat in some corner of the world, or malicious Israeli settlers making life miserable for their Palestinian neighbors, or evidence of financial chicanery in Manhattan, or of economic prowess in Shanghai.
Interesting throughout, if perhaps a bit biased in the direction that the entire WSJ opinion page is a bit biased.

Monopsony

Via Daring Fireball, I learned the new word of the day. No, this isn't what George Michael was writing in lipstick across Kathy Jeung's back in the video for "I Want Your Sex."

Will monopsony become the new monopoly, ferreted out by jealous market participants and powerful government agencies, in order to hobble market leaders and reign them back to within a competitive distance?  Will Apple pay for its buying power in this decade the way Microsoft did for its alleged selling power in the last?

Incidentally, although I just learned the word today, this concept is what always worried me about the federal prescription drug program and even Medicare/Medicaid in its various forms:  when the government becomes essentially the only buyer of drugs and medical services, they won't have to legislate price controls.  They'll be able to bring them about by brute force.

Happy 4th!

To celebrate, here's a video of things exploding in slow motion.



via BoingBoing.

Ce N'est Pas une Pipe

photo via the linked article
...but is it art?
For his new project, Err, artist Jeremy Hutchison contacted various factories around the world, and asked if one of their workers would produce an 'incorrect' version of the product they make every day: in doing so, the functional objects became artworks. 
"I asked them to make me one of their products, but to make it with an error," Hutchison explains. "I specified that this error should render the object dysfunctional. And rather than my choosing the error, I wanted the factory worker who made it to choose what error to make. Whatever this worker chose to do, I would accept and pay for."
Included in the article are several confused letters from factory workers in response to this request, which are priceless.  I even learned a new word:  detailedly.  As in "Pls kindly explain detailedly."

via kottke.org and MR, almost simultaneously.

EPH

A fresh dose of Excessive Public Hipsterism to launch us into the weekend.  Although, is his mustache ironic enough?  I'd say it's borderline, at best.



Freedom!

Great data visualization, simple message, compelling case.  A less sober presenter would've just shouted for three minutes:  You don't want to end up like The Congo, do you?!  DO YOU!?