Archive of December 2008

Noelani Pantastico

One of the best personal dance websites I’ve ever come across. (Thanks, Alice.)

Dan Rather’s Lawsuit Against CBS

Rather was fired the day after the 2004 election for airing an allegedly false report about Bush’s attendance at the Texas Air National Guard. Rather’s reasons for filing suit are valorous:

“CBS broke with long-standing tradition at CBS News and elsewhere of standing up to political pressure,” says Rather. “And, there’s no joy in saying it, they caved … in an effort to placate their regulators in Washington.”

Fight the good fight.

Ten Rules for Web Startups

This seems like a good list. And it comes from Evan Williams of Blogger and Odeo and Twitter fame. (Make sure to take note of number 11.)

Harold Pinter, 1930 — 2008

He made a great contribution to theatre:

The playwright Tom Stoppard said that before Mr. Pinter: “One thing plays had in common: you were supposed to believe what people said up there. If somebody comes in and says, ‘Tea or coffee?’ and the answer is ‘Tea,’ you are entitled to assume that somebody is offered a choice of two drinks, and the second person has stated a preference.” With Mr. Pinter there are alternatives, “such as the man preferred coffee but the other person wished him to have tea,” Mr. Stoppard said, “or that he preferred the stuff you make from coffee beans under the impression that it was called tea.”

(via Midnight Breakfast)

The Education of Robert Kennedy

Times columnist David Brooks encourages young people to study Greek tragedy.

(My dad had this article lying around the house and read it to us today.)

The Ten Days of Newton

Olivia Judson:

Some years ago, the evolutionist and atheist Richard Dawkins pointed out to me that Sir Isaac Newton, the founder of modern physics and mathematics, and arguably the greatest scientist of all time, was born on Christmas Day, and that therefore Newton’s Birthday could be an alternative, if somewhat nerdy, excuse for a winter holiday.

(Thanks, Elfie.)

Broken Windows

With Santa climbing down millions of chimneys tonight (how does he get into homes without them?), it seems appropriate to offer this classic 1984 Atlantic piece up as holiday reading.


I’m on a roll — here’s my second theme for Chyrp. (I’ll start updating this site again more frequently soon, I promise.)

Darren Aronofsky

As interviewed by Keith Phipps at the AV Club about The Wrestler:

AVC: You’ve changed your style radically with each film. Why so many radical shifts?

DA: Well I’ve been joking that if Madonna taught us anything, you’ve got to reinvent yourself. I think it’s important as a filmmaker, as any person working in the arts, that you’ve got to try new stuff and challenge yourself and take chances. I’ve tried to take a chance with every film I’ve done—I’ve never done it the easy way, and I think that’s because that’s what excites me, is making as big a mountain as I can in front of me, and just trying to mount it.

As Kottke puts it:

Toddler or not, I’m getting out of the damn house to see this movie.

Glad? Well, Yes

Hendrik Hertzberg on Malcolm Gladwell:

So what if whatever startling thesis he happens to be advancing doesn’t always apply to every situation? Isn’t it enough that he provokes thought and gives pleasure?

After Credentials

Paul Graham discusses the decline in the importance of credentials as predictors of success.

The course of people’s lives in the US now seems to be determined less by credentials and more by performance than it was 25 years ago. Where you go to college still matters, but not like it used to.

What happened?

(via Andy Baio)

Is a Netbook a Cheap Laptop?


The innovation isn’t that it’s a new product category. The innovation is that people are now willing to make trade-offs against performance. For the entire history of the PC industry, computers have been too slow, so trade-offs were made in favor of faster CPUs: higher prices and heavier laptops. But today, for many common tasks, the type of CPU you get when you build a $400 lightweight laptop is fast enough. That’s the breakthrough.

News You Can Lose

James Surowiecki on why the newspaper industry is failing. Too many great points to single out just one, so just go read the damn thing. (It’s the Financial Page of The New Yorker for Christ’s sake.)

(as always, via Andy Baio)

Flipped Types

Jon Tan on the differences between print and web typography:

Sometimes, flipping things around can be a useful mental exercise. It can raise a wry smile. An idle comparison between print and web typography was one of those times.

(Thanks, Alex.)

Consider the Philosopher

James Ryerson on David Foster Wallace as a philosopher:

Wallace was especially concerned that certain theoretical paradigms — the cerebral aestheticism of modernism, the clever trickery of postmodernism — too casually dispense with what he once called “the very old traditional human verities that have to do with spirituality and emotion and community.” He called for a more forthright, engaged treatment of these basic truths. Yet he himself attended to them with his own fractured, often-esoteric methods. It was a defining tension: the very conceptual tools with which he pursued life’s most desperate questions threatened to keep him forever at a distance from the connections he struggled to make.

(via Kottke)


As Gruber puts it:

Sort of like Digg or Reddit but for advertising and graphic design.


One of the most insightful and eloquent things I have ever read of John Gruber’s:

Consider the Big Bang. One moment there was nothing, except for everything condensed into a single infinitely dense point. Then, one minuscule sliver of a second later: the universe. Nothing was yet formed, all the true work of forming stars and galaxies remained ahead, but the framework, the laws of physics, were set, and the rest was thereafter inevitable.

This is what everyone contemplating a new creative endeavor craves: that in the moment it turns real, to get it right. To frame it in such a way that the very act of framing propels the project toward an inexorable destiny.

You want to get it right because getting it right can make everything easier thereafter. But really, it’s because getting it wrong can be devastating. You might wind up putting thousands of man hours of work into a project that was doomed by a decision that was made in a second at the inception.

After that moment of conception, what it is, however nascent, however raw, becomes part of the process. You’re adding to it. Changing it. Removing parts of it. But there is an it, where before there was not. There’s something magic and magnificent and frightening about that part in the creative process before there is an it, when you decide just what it should be.

Mr. and Mrs. Right

Great essay in Vanity Fair by Bob Colacello on Pat and Bill Buckley:

William F. Buckley Jr., the intellectual force behind the modern American conservative movement, and his fashionable wife, Patricia, may have seemed to be a study in contrasts—Auntie Mame and the Absent-minded Professor, Pericles and Cleopatra—but those who knew them best understood how in tune they were mentally, morally, politically, and romantically. As Kissinger noted at her memorial, “Theirs was one of the great love stories of our time. The combination of Pat and Bill brought about a binary reaction that perhaps only a nuclear physicist could explain.” One of the clearest signs of the depth of their affection was the fact that each called the other by the same nickname: Ducky.

Ignoring the Market

James Surowiecki on the odd behavior of the Republicans during the process of determining the fate of the auto industry:

It’s quite a time for the G.O.P. to decide that actually the market doesn’t have a clue.

A conversation with Tom Friedman

Nice conversation between Charlie Rose and NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman He was also profiled in the New Yorker in November, but unfortunately the article is only available to subscribers.

His talk with Charlie Rose gives a good idea of his thoughts and opinions on a wide range of current issues. A great watch.

Not My Gorilla

John Gruber basically gives the “fuck you” to Internet Explorer users. I tend to design the same way as he does these days:

I have no idea whether the DF Paraphernalia store is even legible under IE, because I didn’t even bother to check. It almost certainly doesn’t look “right”. I crafted the CSS using Safari, then checked it in Firefox, and I called it done.

Neither this site nor Midnight Breakfast have been checked in IE. At least, not by me. As Gruber puts it:

There are a lot of people who’d be a lot happier if they stopped worrying about other people’s 800 pound gorillas.

The end of GM?

Free Exchange on the failed auto industry bailout:

This is not a huge surprise. It’s still possible that something will come out of the legislature, but it’s difficult to see how anything other than some sort of bankruptcy gets past Senate Republicans. The interesting questions, then, are whether GM was being honest when it said it couldn’t get through December without $4 billion from the government, and what will Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson do when Rick Wagoner comes to them saying that he needs TARP funds immediately or GM will declare bankrupcty then and there.

It’s hard to imagine that Mr Paulson will turn GM down after the Lehman business, particularly over the matter of $4 billion or so, but stranger things have happened.

Kiss of Deaf

Reuters reports:

A young woman in southern China has partially lost her hearing after her boyfriend ruptured her eardrum during an excessively passionate kiss, local media reported Monday.

(Thanks, Molly.)

Car Genetic Algorithm

I could watch this for hours. Andy Baio found it in the comments of this Reddit link. From the author:

This is a GA I wrote to design a little car for a specific terrain. It runs in real-time in Flash.

The fitness function is the distance travelled before the red circles hit the ground, or time runs out. The degrees of freedom are the size and inital positions of the four circles, and length, spring constant and damping of the eight springs. The graph shows the “mean” and “best” fitness.

Pretty cool stuff. Says a lot about how many iterations genetic algorithms take. This one is fairly simple and still takes a few hours.

Sketchy Comedy

Speaking of Pulitzers, Nancy Franklin asks for one in her piece on “30 Rock” in this week’s New Yorker (“Yoo-hoo, Pulitzer Prize committee, over here!”). I definitely agree with her central point:

The show’s true claim to fame, and a reason never to miss an episode, is Alec Baldwin, whose comic magnetism is so strong I’m surprised it hasn’t caused weather disturbances. He doesn’t steal scenes; he makes them rise and shine. Baldwin has to know how good he is, but he wears it lightly, and you actually take pleasure from how much pleasure you’re taking from his performance—just as you do, say, when Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby sing that put-’er-there-pal number “Well, Did You Evah?,” in “High Society.” They know that we know who they are, and Baldwin knows that we know who he is. And yet he plays well with others, and allows the star of the show to be the relationship between him and Liz.

Don We Now

Nice video by Jules Skloot. She was a dance grad student while I was at Sarah Lawrence. She basically only does amazing work.

Picturing Business in America

The dot drawings that you see all over the Wall Street Journal are apparently called “hedcuts”:

In the spring of 2002, The Wall Street Journal donated a group of hedcuts, representing some of the United States’s foremost business leaders of recent years, to the National Portrait Gallery. These portrait drawings, based on photographs, attest to The Journal’s interest in the “primacy of the individual in both political and social systems.” Dedicated to preserving American history by collecting portraits of women and men who have significantly influenced our culture, the National Portrait Gallery welcomes this gift, which helps to chronicle the history of business in our nation.

This exhibition explores the development, the technique, and the implications of these illustrations. It also explores the biographies of a number of individuals whose unique contributions to American business and culture the Journal has reported during the past quarter-century.

(via Khoi Vinh)

Narcissus Places a Personal Ad

This Short Imagined Monologue from McSweeney’s by Matteson Perry is the secret to my recent auditioning successes. Let’s hope it holds up tomorrow as well. I take the liberty to make a couple of cuts:

I’ll start with a little bit about myself. First off, I’m handsome. Very handsome. So handsome, in fact, that people have called me “beautiful” and “gorgeous,” terms typically reserved for beautiful women. That’s how good-looking I am. Whatever. I don’t want to get into which term of beauty best describes my attractiveness, but, rest assured, you will not be disappointed. (I know I never am.) When you first see me without a shirt, you will probably lose your breath a little bit, as if you had just fallen into cold water. Don’t worry, this is normal. Get used to it, because I don’t wear my shirt much. If I had to name my best asset, I’d probably say everything. My calves are like perfectly cooked turkey legs, you could use my chin as a straight edge while working on a blueprint, and my skin is the color of a perfectly roasted marshmallow. Dozens of people have gotten “lost” in my eyes (I include myself in that count), so consider yourself forewarned! I’ve been asked by more than one child to be their new daddy. (Don’t interpret this to mean I like kids—-I’m just saying I’m way more handsome than a lot of fathers.) My interests include gazing into lakes, pools, mirrors, freshly waxed cars, shop windows, metal elevator doors, the back of a spoon, and most anything else that’s reflective. Once you see me you’ll understand. I like to think of myself as pretty laid-back and down to earth. I love to travel. My favorite food is pizza.

Short. Imagined. Monologue. Perfect.

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