Archive for May 2008
Speaking of Hitler… The Telegraph tells the rather interesting story of the German archeologist who inspired Harrison Ford’s character:
Like Jones, Rahn was an archaeologist, like him he fell foul of the Nazis and like him he was obsessed with finding the Holy Grail - the cup reputedly used to catch Christ’s blood when he was crucified. But whereas Jones rode the Grail-train to box-office glory, Rahn’s obsession ended up costing him his life.
Metafilter user Artw explains it better than I can:
Jake and Dinos Chapman have bought a stack of Adolf Hitlers paintings for £115,000 and defaced them with rainbows and butterflies for their new show, “If Hitler Had Been a Hippy, How Happy Would We Be”. The show also recreates “Fucking Hell”, a huge swastika shaped diorama of tiny plastic nazis torturing and killing each other, which had been destroyed in a fire.
An example of their modifications to the painting. I’m honestly unsure if this is an act of historic vandalism or legitmate art.
Jack Shafer says that Michael Chrichton’s rather infamous prediction about the demise of mass media wasn’t wrong, just early.
As we pass his prediction’s 15-year anniversary, I’ve got to declare advantage Crichton. Rot afflicts the newspaper industry, which is shedding staff, circulation, and revenues. It’s gotten so bad in newspaperville that some people want Google to buy the Times and run it as a charity! Evening news viewership continues to evaporate, and while the mass media aren’t going extinct tomorrow, Crichton’s original observations about the media future now ring more true than false. Ask any journalist.
He also talks at length with the author about the topic and more.
I’ve probably noted my fascination with synesthesia — associating numbers with colors, smells with shapes, etc — before, but this stuff is interesting:
Where does synesthesia come from? Maybe synesthetes are just lying. Perhaps they’re under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs — many research subjects are college kids, after all — or happened as children to play with colored alphabet blocks. Or maybe they’re simply good with metaphors.
To Ramachandran, the latter answer gets at the truth — but he stressed that what appears as metaphor is a literal sensory experience for synesthetes. That may explain, he said, why synesthesia is eight times more common among poets, artists and novelists than the general population.
The essence of art is, arguably, metaphor, and its practitioners are especially prolific — and metaphor is just a convenient shorthand for the connection of unlinked cognitive phenomena. That’s exactly what appears to happen in the minds of synesthetes. Far-flung parts of their brain have unusually high levels of cross-wiring.
It’s worth reading the rest of the post, if only for the heartening “we’re all synesthetes” argument at the end.
In case you’re not sold on the idea that there are upsides to high gasoline prices, I recommend this article.
It’s the way of the future according to David George Gordon. I find myself surprisingly interested in it. The crucial component is this:
Insect lovers like Gordon argue that entomophagy — the scientific term for consuming insects — could also be a far greener way to get protein than eating chicken, cows or pigs. With the global livestock sector responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions and grain prices reaching record highs, cheap, environmentally low-impact insects could be the food of the future — provided we can stomach them.
Small Google Changes
I noticed two interesting things on Google today, so I thought I’d share.
This may surprise people:
The number of sex workers in New Zealand does not appear to have increased since legislation decriminalising prostitution became law, according to a new report.
Even for homosexuals eager for the right to get married, there could be one drawback to California’s making it legal: doting parents and the persistant question of “When are you gonna get married?”
How Gay Marriage Polls
Perhaps it’s coincidence, but one wouldn’t have to squint very hard to think that the New York Times is waging a publicity campaign against Oprah in favor of Ms. Banks. Earlier this week they reported Oprah’s decline, and now they’ve made Trya Banks the Magazine’s cover girl.
Am I the only one who thinks it’s odd that that no gnomes live in France or Italy?
The Economist’s Asia.view column has some interesting thoughts about how Asians shop to day and how they’re likely to shop in the future. It’s not unlike America at the start of the last century:
But as America grew richer, people started buying more processed foods, which supermarkets could sell more cheaply because they could buy them in bulk. Refrigerators spread, allowing households to shop only once a week, not every day or two. And women entered the job market in large numbers, where they found better uses for their time and talents than sizing up a cut of meat or double-checking the shopping bill.
What most distinguishes South Asian shopping is not culture, but abundant labour and onerous regulation. The number of human transactions required to buy a packet of milk or a loaf of bread in India can be bewildering: a boy gathers your order and dusts it off, another man handwrites the bill and tots it up, a third hands you your change, if they have it. But Indian shops employ so many people because they can. The family members who help out at the store often have nothing better to do. Likewise the customers who shop there rarely have to be anywhere else anytime soon.
It’s today’s entrant for the cool-but-pointless prize.
Joseph Bottum’s neologism for words with a ” kind of poetic, extralogical accuracy.” Some exploration:
In a logical sense, of course, some words are literally true or false when applied to themselves. Words about words, typically: Noun is a noun, though verb is not a verb. Polysyllabic is self-true, and monosyllabic is not. And this logical notion of autology can be extended. If short seems a short word, true of itself, then the shorter long must be false of itself.
But what about jab or fluffy or sneer, each of them true in a way that goes beyond logic? Verbose has always struck me as a strangely verbose word. Peppy has that perky, energetic, spry sound it needs. And was there ever a more supercilious word than supercilious? Or one more lethargic than lethargic?