Archive for December 2009
Bad movies get made all the time. But what infuriated me about “Crash” was that so many people mistook it for something profound when it was truly the opposite. It shouts at the top of its lungs: “I’M SUBTLE! I’M NUANCED!” and [too] many people somehow agreed.
Though there’s nothing obviously new in this piece by Bruce Schneier on CNN, it’s nice to see the argument against the recent hype so clearly articulated. I thought this was a point too seldom made:
Our current response to terrorism is a form of “magical thinking.” It relies on the idea that we can somehow make ourselves safer by protecting against what the terrorists happened to do last time.
I thought seriously about linking to David Brooks’s column about the story behind Hannakah. But then The Awl juxtaposed his words with those of Sarah Palin and I decided I’d go with that.
This is unquestionably the best blog I’ve run across this month, and it’s certainly in the running for best new-to-me blog of 2009. A sampling of the near-daily statistics you can learn:
- More Coca-Cola products are consumed per person in Mexico than any other country, and the company has 70% of the nation’s soft drinks market. #
- 98% of Indians have never flown. #
- More than 12,000 laptops are reported missing every week at US airports. #
- America is home to more Wal-mart employees (1.3m) than high-school teachers. #
This video offers an interesting experiment. But (after you watch the video) I thought these comments were worthwhile:
This is ridiculous! First of all these two people look like they could be brothers. Also, the blatant misdirection is never addressed. Every time somebody interacts with one of the two, their attention is always drawn away from the face of the person.
That is kind of the point of the experiment. Unless average humans make a point in looking at the other they work on assumptions. And one assumption is that things usually stay where they are.
This doesn’t surprise me at all. Working in retail, I can tell you that people just don’t pay attention to the people who serve them. Customer will come in asking for an employee who told them something last time, when you ask who it was or if they can describe the person, they often have no idea. … People pay attention to whatever they came in for, but they don’t pay attention to their surroundings.
Anyone notice that the Professor’s shirt color changes from the first shot of him to the next?
I’d argue it’s required that both Dr. Seuss fans and aspiring artists like these Letters of Note.
Excused by nostalgia for the decade’s passing, but really here because of Jeff Atwood and my not seeing it the first time. His unquestionable best:
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We don’t know.
While there’s a lot in Drake Bennet’s piece about the Berlin Wall that would have a high school history student slapping their head — really, Mr. Bennett, no historical event has a single cause? — this bit caught my eye:
According to Suri, there are three major factors that determine how a government, especially an authoritarian government, responds to this sort of popular protest. The first is how effective the traditional organs of state power and repression are - everything from the police and military to the state-run media. The second is the sort of international obligations the government has: In 1989 the Soviet Union was deeply indebted to the United States and Western European countries, and Gorbachev, he argues, had much to lose by alienating them, while China’s government had more faith in its economy’s ability to survive as an international pariah. And the third is simply how comfortable, all things being equal, the country’s leadership is with violence.
In a delightful and wide-ranging essay John McWhorter makes some good points about the underappreciated upside of the dwindling number of spoken languages.
Can we say that the benefits of linguistic diversity are more important, in a way that a representative number of humans could agree upon, than the impediment to communication that they entail? Especially when their differentiation from one another is, ultimately, a product of the same kind of accretionary accidents that distinguish a woodchuck from a groundhog?