Archive for May 2009
It’s daunting and distressing to look in the face of all the waste of the way we’re living.
I hate the very idea of such an essay, but I have to admit that I enjoyed this one.
(I know I didn’t find this myself, but I can’t remember where I got it from)
Of Commencement Speechs
It’s that time of year.
- One sentence commencement speeches. (Scroll up to see the speech Frank Warren gave at St. Mary’s.) (via Neatorama)
- Obama’s ASU commencement, the best I’ve encountered this year. (Parts 2 & 3; Text)
- Perhaps stealing a theme from the President, Timothy Noah thinks commencement speakers are generally too accomplished.
Farhed Manjoo accurately captures the latest “Google killer”:
As it kept coming up empty, Wolfram Alpha came to seem less like HAL 9000 and more like a chatbot. It’s been trained to respond to some kinds of queries, but any variations leave it stammering. It’s a savant, smart about a few things but profoundly ignorant about large swaths of human knowledge.
If you manage to input a query that’s it’s well-suited to answer, the results can be deeply interesting — a seach for “weather” and my zip code gave data I’d never seen anywhere — but it’s a very limited tool.
A great short story:
A man, unexcited by his own possessions and increasingly confused as to why he collected all these things in the first place, decides to hire someone else to live amidst his books and clothes, DVDs and framed photographs, so that he can learn how another person might more intelligently put it to use.
Ross Douthat, who to little derision or attention has started having his column published in the New York Times, has a good summary of Obama’s apparent plan for “winning” America’s culture war:
Engage on abortion, punt on gay rights.
And just to say, if the first two weeks are any indication, Douthat’s going to be a great compliment to Brooks. The two most conservative columnists at the paper are very probably the best.
That seems a little surprising. How many searches do I get if I add loading the first result? It seems likely that there’s more green information in a newspaper, but only if you’re interested in all they’re delivering to you. Which I guess in the primary argument for the web in the first place.
America’s marriage-like legal rights for gay couples are an unfortunate patchwork, but America’s legal definitions of the transgendered can feel a bit like falling down a rabbit hole:
“Taking this situation to its logical conclusion, Mrs. Littleton, while in San Antonio, Tex., is a male and has a void marriage; as she travels to Houston, Tex., and enters federal property, she is female and a widow; upon traveling to Kentucky she is female and a widow; but, upon entering Ohio, she is once again male and prohibited from marriage; entering Connecticut, she is again female and may marry; if her travel takes her north to Vermont, she is male and may marry a female; if instead she travels south to New Jersey, she may marry a male.”
(via The Awl)
This collection is fun. The internet needs more sites that make Danny Glover the default avatar.
Louis CK on Comedy
In an article encouraging us not to use genetic tendencies for racist ends, William Saletan offers a possible genetic answer:
One example is the RR variant of ACTN3, a gene that affects fast generation of muscular force and correlates with excellence at speed and power sports. The opposite variant of the gene is called XX. Tests indicate that the ratio of people with RR to people with XX is 1 to 1 among Asians, 2 to 1 among European whites, and more than 4 to 1 among African-Americans.
Obviously discipline, coaching, economics, and millions of other factors also matter. But this fact was new to me.
Mark Dowie — in an adaptation from his recent book — examines a conflict I’d never considered: that between those trying to conserve a wilderness and those who’d historically made their home there.
Refugees from conservation have never been counted; in fact they’re not even officially recognized as refugees. But the number of people displaced from traditional homelands worldwide over the past century, in the interest of conservation, is estimated to be close to 20 million, 14 million in Africa alone. It is a sad history, and one that has forced conservationists to reevaluate the hero status of their movement’s founders, and to reconsider the idea of protecting biological diversity by removing humans from the mix.
The Future of Short Stories
Some recent optimism around the rarely-consumed literary form. A. O. Scott thinks the Amazon Kindle may be the perfect delivery device for the literary single, while Nicola Twiley offers a glimpse of a future where every place you visit offers you short stories set there. Of course, combined those two ideas could really take off.