Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Re: Title

Does the {Title}: {Long, pretentious, tease of a subtitle that summarizes the entire book} format of non-fiction book titles annoy you? Of course it does.

This blog imagines how some classics might be marketed if they were written today. An example:
Then: The Wealth of Nations
Now: Invisible Hands: The Mysterious Market Forces That Control Our Lives and How to Profit from Them
Fun, right? Here are some I half-expect to see in bookstores:

Then: The tortoise and the hare
Now: Slower: On hubris, winning and the seven habits of highly effective athletes

Then: Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats
Now: Purr: Skimbleshanks, Mungojerry, Growltiger and the dark secrets behind the domestication of America's whiskered wild

Then: The Bhagvad Gita
Now: The Lecture: Everything I needed to know about decision-making I learned from slaughtering my uncles and cousins

OK, you get the point. Your turn now.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

M3 + ISRO = H2O (But You Can't Bottle It Yet)

Don't drink that water!

Nasa's M3 and India's Chandrayaan-1 find evidence of "large quantities of water on the lunar surface". Space.com has more details.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Werner Herzog's Rogue Film School

Werner Herzog has announced the launching of a film school, named the "Rogue Film School". This excerpt from the school's charter:
Related, but more practical subjects, will be the art of lockpicking. Traveling on foot. The exhilaration of being shot at unsuccessfully. The athletic side of filmmaking. The creation of your own shooting permits. The neutralization of bureaucracy. Guerrilla tactics. Self reliance.

Censorship will be enforced. There will be no talk of shamans, of yoga classes, nutritional values, herbal teas, discovering your Boundaries, and Inner Growth.
Rogue Film School.

How can you not hero-worship this man?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Genius Fellers

The 2009 MacArthur Genius List.

If you are not familiar with the award, it is a "no-strings-attached" grant of $500,000. Winners can do what they want with the prize money. To the best of my knowledge, no winner has splurged it all on drugs, hookers and old guitars, which makes me question the "genius" appellation.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Projectile Dysfunction

A mere three months ago, when summer was all a-bloomin’ and fall was only a pleasant memory and not the Coming Attractions, my newspaper would wait for me right at my doorstep; a blue plastic mystery of a bundle, thick and heavy and filled with things to read. I simply had to open the front door, pick up the newspaper, toss out the unwanted pages into the trash (or “more or less near the trash”, as the wife has pointed out on occasion) and read the stuff I wanted to. I liked that arrangement a lot.

Now it seems an 80-lb weakling of a man (or a woman - I don’t know) with the dexterity of a rusted robot without any lubricant in its shoulder joints is delivering my newspaper.

In the last four weeks, the newspaper has landed farther and farther away from the front door. Last Sunday, it made it to my neighbor’s** driveway, who I suspect helped himself to the newspaper thinking the New York Times sent him a free weekend trial copy.

First I had to walk a few steps, then a few feet and now it appears I may have to take the train to NYC to get my copy. Where will this madness end? Will the Times' editors ship me to Iraq or Iran to experience the news first-hand? (Hey, there's a business idea - journo-tourism.)

**Dear neighbor: you have *no* idea how dreary it was to sit on the porcelain throne without the Travel section. I could have done Barcelona in 36 hours. Instead, I had to make do with a three month-old edition of Times’ “Style” magazine. There’s reading deprivation and then there’s the Times’ Style magazine. Oh dear God. The toilet paper makes for better reading.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sarkari Babus Around The World - In Pictures

(Sarkari Babu: an Indian slang for a bureaucrat; an "overlord" working in a government office.)

Photographer Jan Banning has a series of photos, called "Bureaucratics", of bureaucrats from around the world. Click on "Photo series" in the left-hand navigation bar to get to the pictures which are grouped by countries.

You can also click on the little "about" button below each picture and see information like monthly salary of the bureaucrat.

The pictures from India are a little...what's the word...dispiriting. Not the people, but their work setting. Well, now do you understand why some of them are driven to accepting bribes?

(Via NPR's Picture Show blog.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Poster Art So Bad That It Is Actually Bad

A most lovable Cujo, satanic kittens clawing a muscular woman...There is kitschy and then there are these fine film posters from Ghana.

I'm not saying these are bad. I'm saying these are awful. And that's good.

(All my best links come from the Blue)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

$229.99 (That's What I Want)

Writer Chuck Klosterman, on the new Beatles box set:
The signature track is “Yesterday” (the last song Mr. McCartney recorded before his death in an early-morning car accident), but the best cut is “You’re Going To Lose That Girl,” a song that oozes with moral ambiguity. Is “You’re Going To Lose That Girl” an example of Mr. McCartney’s fresh-faced enlightenment (in that he threatens to punish some dude for being an unresponsive boyfriend), or an illustration of Mr. Lennon’s quiet misogyny (in that he views women as empty, non-specific possessions that can be pillaged from male rivals)?
Funny, funny stuff.

Just in case you need any more convincing, some reviews that you may find helpful.

I've heard several tracks on mono. There are some *major* differences between the stereo and mono versions. Is that enough to justify spending almost 250 bucks? I think so. Then again, I am biased.

(Hat-tips: MeFi and Space Bar)

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Golden Years And Cat People

While watching "Inglourious Basterds", it struck me that David Bowie might be the only rock musician whose songs have been used in anachronistic settings in two different movies. I said "rock musician", so no need to point out how Dead White Male classical composers' works continue to be used in modern settings.

The first Bowie tune used in an "out of its time" setting was Golden Years in "A Knight's Tale". (The Bowie song starts around the 2:10 mark.) Must say, it was a little startling on the first viewing and a lot of fun to watch.

Now Cat People (putting out fire) shows up in Tarantino's new film.

If only someone could find a way to use David Bowie's cover of the Simon & Garfunkel classic "America" in a film, I would be a very happy man. He sang it on the TV show that was broadcast in the days following 9/11. Never was I more comforted by a song as when Bowie sang about the Turnpike and Saginaw and Pittsburgh...


I have fond (and very muddled - obviously) memories of watching Paul Schrader's fun little B-romp, "Cat People", back in college. All that menace (did Bowie's voice ever sound as dangerous?), smoke, weird lighting and erotica helped burn that song into my cortex.

QT has used the song in a very different fashion in the film. Like with everything else in a Tarantino film, the sequence can either be enjoyed on its own terms or by recognizing the "quotation marks" around the song. ("Or" is probably the wrong conjunction in that sentence. I should say "and" but that can only happen on a second or third viewing.)

So if you were not yet old enough to watch films in the Eighties or have never experienced goose-bumps from listening to David Bowie's baritone booming over the speakers in a big, darkened hall, well, go watch the Tarantino flick. It is a treat.

Also read this blog (with a great punny title) which talks about the song and Bowie's state of mind when he recorded "Cat People".


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Confrontational Capitalization

Vicki Walker was fired from her job.
"She had been a capable and competent employee, he said. ProCare did not have a style or etiquette guide for employees using email, so it was not clear what was regarded as unacceptable communication."
So just what did she write in that email that led to her firing? She capitalized it.

All of it.

Remember when capitalization used to be a big no-no on the Net (and newbies would write that way anyway)? (Remember when the word "newbie" was usually found only on USENET? Remember USENET? Like, uh, do you remember remembering, man?)

(Via slashdot)