A problem is a chance for you to do your best.
A problem is a chance for you to do your best.
A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to “debate” on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.
Thomas Pynchon’s new novel, Bleeding Edge, is out. Because Pynchon’s a literary rockstar dude, I’m guessing people are afraid to say no to him. This book trailer is the result of that fear.
Strap an HD video camera on the back of an eagle flying around the mountains of France, and this is what you get.
Another Kathryn Bigelow film has hit the illegal file sharing sites. Like The Hurt Locker, this time Zero Dark Thirty was leaked yesterday, but long before any DVD has been sold. The movie hasn’t even been released beyond New York and Los Angeles. It’s all over your favorite illegal streaming and bit torrent sites.
How did this happen? As the above screenshot shows, it came from an Academy Award voter who received a DVD of the movie. Movie studios often distribute DVDs to voters so they can watch and vote for their films, but the voters are supposed to guard the discs and not distribute them. That didn’t happen, as you can see by the watermark on the screen shot.
Your reaction to Madonna’s Super Bowl performance, and the kinds of people you follow on Twitter, may hint at whether you’re a positive or negative person. Let me explain.
Watching the wreck that was the Madonna halftime show at the Super Bowl, the first thing I did was reach for my laptop to see what my followers were writing on Twitter. I follow around 330 people, of whom about 50-75 were tweeting about Madonna. Monitoring my stream closely, there wasn’t one positive comment about Madonna’s performance. Not one. Not even a borderline positive comment.
Now check this out: some CEO marketing hack (Mark Ghuneim) from an outfit called Wiredset says that Madonna’s performance had 59% positive, 31% negative, and 11% neutral response on Twitter. How’s that possible?
Am I following very negative people because I’m a negative person (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)? Maybe the people we follow on Twitter does say something about us.
Here are the two Tweets I wrote about Madonna:
Betty White should have done the half time show. #superbowl #nfl
Madonna has chronic fatigue syndrome #superbowl
Did you read any good Madonna take-down tweets?
Everyone is writing a Steve Jobs tribute article. I’m not, but I will give you the formula to selecting an evocative photo for your tribute. It’s pretty easy.
Setting the appropriate tone for your tribute can be easily achieved by selecting the right photo.
I was this close to getting my radical, hair brained 9/11 memorial design built on ground zero.
In the spring of 2003 I was taking the graduate course “Memory and Tragedy” with James Young, a professor of English and Judaic Studies at UMass Amherst. Around the world, Professor Young is often consulted about memorials to tragedies. He was the only person from the United States on the committee that chose the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe design in Berlin. He’s a big deal, in addition to being a smart dude with a dark sense of humor.
One class in April Professor Young was 20 minutes late, which was unprecedented, but he had a good excuse: he’d just been asked to be one of 12 jurors of the September 11th Memorial Design Competition.
It was a timely opportunity for the class to explore what kind of memorial should be built. Professor Young led a few conversations about the nature of this future memorial. I think the first question was, is it too soon to design a memorial? What the hell are we memorializing 2 years out from the events? Because the memorials that punch you in the gut hardest both reflect back on the events and have an eye towards the future, we thought about how design could reflect that at the ground zero site in New York City.
I had my ideas. Every week I’d come in with another memorial concept for Professor Young to consider. Here are my two favorites, that funny enough resemble the design that was built, though not in every regard.
The memorial as built is good enough, I guess. Kind of boring, though.
I won’t cover-up the lede with prologue: the quickest way to improve your writing is by finding your own voice.
Ah. Notice how I didn’t tell you it was the easiest thing to do? And I didn’t mention exactly what that meant — even though most of us have heard the advice, we probably haven’t understood it. With the help of my favorite book on writing, below I’ll give you three ways to find your own writing voice.
In a clever piece about losing his once forceful voice to a battle with esophageal cancer, Christopher Hitchens describes the advice an editor gave him about a well argued, but boring piece: write “more like the way that you talk.” Hitchens can talk. He’s a throwback to a time when intellectuals had public debates about the issues of the times. Not only were there smart people having a public dialog, but they could talk, like, in coherent, logically structured sentences. Hitchens:
To my writing classes I used later to open by saying that anybody who could talk could also write. Having cheered them up with this easy-to-grasp ladder, I then replaced it with a huge and loathsome snake: “How many people in this class, would you say, can talk? I mean really talk?” That had its duly woeful effect. I told them to read every composition aloud, preferably to a trusted friend. The rules are much the same: Avoid stock expressions (like the plague, as William Safire used to say) and repetitions.
Since most of us don’t speak very well, it’s a tough leap to grasp onto what finding our own writing voice means, but I’ll make an attempt, with the help of John R. Trimble. He’s the author of one of the most useful, slim, books about writing: Writing with Style: Conversations on the Art of Writing. Trimble doesn’t make this argument, but based on his words, here are 3 ways to find your own writing voice:
What makes your writing sound more like you?
Last night I watched the 28 year-old bio-epic movie, Gandhi (1982), directed by Richard Attenborough. Of course, the story is an inspiring one, about the life long struggle Gandhi fought for human rights through the use of non-violent protest. As a film buff who watches and studies many movies, what shocked me was the grand scale of the film; it was a historical epic film we haven’t seen in decades.
There have been epic films made since Gandhi, but are there any of these films made today without computer generated imagery (CGI)? Since Jurassic Park in 1993, film makers and studios have found using CGI cheaper and more efficient. Too bad, because there’s something awe inspiring about watching the funeral scene in Gandhi that used 400,000 extras. And there are other scenes that probably used just a thousand or two (see the screen capture above, for example).
The same chaotic energy can’t be captured by computer animation; CGI is too controlled, too painterly, too fake no matter how good the technology, because in the back of your mind the thought “this is cool computer work” is always floating around.
The limits of CGI are probably expressed the greatest in epic films, which are a genre all their own. Wikipedia summarizes epic films as
An epic is a genre of film that emphasizes human drama on a grand scale. Epics are more ambitious in scope than other film genres, and their ambitious nature helps to differentiate them from similar genres such as the period piece or adventure film. They typically entail high production values, a sweeping musical score (often by an acclaimed film composer), and an ensemble cast of bankable stars, placing them among the most expensive of films to produce. The term “epic” comes from the poetic genre exemplified by such works as the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Ramayan.
To my mind, the epic film isn’t just about what was captured on the celluloid, but the process of filming too. It’s also about the struggle to corral and capture thousands of extras on film, which then affects the performances of the lead actors. That’s a dynamic that can’t be reproduced in a studio in front of a green screen.
Too bad. Bye, bye epic film.