Archive for January 2012

#  Alain de Botton →

January 30th, 2012 at 14:58 // In Worth Knowing 

I link to this story not because it’s exceptionally good (it’s not bad, just unexceptional), but because I find its subject rather interesting. I can’t help but feel affinity for people making points like this:

“The arrogance that says analysing the relationship between reasons and causes is more important than writing a philosophy of shyness or sadness or friendship drives me nuts. I can’t accept that.

“I had a line in the book I cut that said ‘The nirvana would be if the questions raised by Oprah Winfrey would be answered by the faculty at Harvard.’ The questions she asks are the most central – how do we live with other people, how do we cope with our ambitions, how do we survive as a society – though she fails to answer them with anything like seriousness.”

And though I would characterize it as similarly unexceptional, his most recent TED talk was recently made available.

(via ALD)

#  The Legal Case of Israeli Settlements →

January 29th, 2012 at 16:45 // In Worth Reading 

Eyal Press’s review of a new film that premiered at Sundance is very good, but also stands alone as a story of how Israel came to support the interests of overzealous ultra-Zionists instead of international law.

The Ottomans, who had controlled Palestine until World War I, had used the term to designate land far enough from any neighboring village that a crowing rooster perched on its edge could not be heard. Under Ottoman law, if such land was not cultivated for three years it was “mawat”—dead —and reverted to the empire. “With or without your rooster, be at my office at 8:00 in the morning,” Sharon told Ramati, who was soon crisscrossing the West Bank in the cockpit of a helicopter, identifying tens of thousands of uninhabited acres that could be labeled “state land” and made available to settlers, notwithstanding the Geneva Convention’s prohibition on moving civilians into occupied territory.

(The fact that the film premiered and Sundance and probably won’t be available for normal people for over a year makes yesterday’s point all over again.)

#  What Hollywood Doesn’t Get →

January 28th, 2012 at 17:35 // In Worth Knowing 

I don’t do much news here these days — I have neither the time nor desire — but I think the latest deal that Warner Bros has hammered out with Netflix is such a perfect distillation of the whole mess they’re in that I can’t ignore this story. Not only you will you not be able to get a movie on Netflix until two months after the DVD goes on sale, you’ll now not even to be able to add it to your queue until a month after. Matt Drance makes the point succinctly:

It continues to punish the people who play by the rules with an insufferable customer experience. This is the sole reason piracy is up and profits are down: because doing it right totally sucks. And that’s apparently how the studios want it.

(via Ben Brooks)

#  Drones, Democracy, and War →

January 28th, 2012 at 7:18 // In Worth Considering 

Peter W. Singer, not the famous Australian utilitarian philosopher, considers some of the ramifications of the seemingly risk-free war the United States is carrying out in Pakistan.

And now we possess a technology that removes the last political barriers to war. The strongest appeal of unmanned systems is that we don’t have to send someone’s son or daughter into harm’s way. But when politicians can avoid the political consequences of the condolence letter — and the impact that military casualties have on voters and on the news media — they no longer treat the previously weighty matters of war and peace the same way.

(via The Browser)

#  Let the Robot Drive →

January 27th, 2012 at 7:18 // In Worth Knowing 

Tom Vanderbilt has an enjoyable piece in Wired about the convergence between Google’s famous driverless car, and the progress toward a similar goal being made by traditional automakers. He spends some time, as well, considering the legal wasteland that exists around these technologies. The crucial point though:

[As we ride, Google’s driver-less] Prius begins to seem like the Platonic ideal of a driver, against which all others fall short. It can think faster than any mortal driver. It can attend to more information, react more quickly to emergencies, and keep track of more complicated routes. It never panics. It never gets angry. It never even blinks. In short, it is better than human in just about every way.

(via The Browser)

#  Nightclubs are Hell →

January 24th, 2012 at 14:26 // In Worth Distraction 

I’m not sure how useful this old piece from Charlie Brooker is, but because it’s almost exactly how I feel about them, I found it quite enjoyable. I’ve certainly thought things like this before:

I’m convinced no one actually likes clubs. It’s a conspiracy. We’ve been told they’re cool and fun; that only “saddoes” dislike them. And no one in our pathetic little pre-apocalyptic timebubble wants to be labelled “sad” - it’s like being officially declared worthless by the state. So we muster a grin and go out on the town in our millions.

(via a reddit comment I couldn’t find)

#  Making Multicellular Life →

January 20th, 2012 at 7:45 // In Worth Knowing 

We made a group of single-celled organism start cooperating in a lab. This was one of those things that people were struggling to prove, but now it’s been done. I thought I’d let you know.

(via Justin Wehr Knows Stuff You Don’t)

#  Batman is a Conservative →

January 15th, 2012 at 16:22 // In Worth Distraction 

Reginald D Hunter lays out the case.

(via r/videos, where someone points to a discussion of what the D stands for)

#  The Salaried Bourgeoisie →

January 15th, 2012 at 9:11 // In Worth Knowing 

I enjoy occasional dips into the field of Marxist cultural analysis, but I know it’s not for everyone. If you like it too, or are just interested to try some, this piece by Slavoj Žižek highlights many of the best things that those theories can contribute to out modern understanding of the world. A sample:

If the old capitalism ideally involved an entrepreneur who invested (his own or borrowed) money into production that he organised and ran and then reaped the profit, a new ideal type is emerging today: no longer the entrepreneur who owns his company, but the expert manager (or a managerial board presided over by a CEO) who runs a company owned by banks (also run by managers who don’t own the bank) or dispersed investors. In this new ideal type of capitalism, the old bourgeoisie, rendered non-functional, is refunctionalised as salaried management: the new bourgeoisie gets wages, and even if they own part of their company, they earn stocks as part of their remuneration for their work (‘bonuses’ for their ‘success’).

(via The Browser)

#  Purell and Torture →

January 14th, 2012 at 17:24 // In Worth Considering 

An interesting and brief little history of product placement. It’s one of those forces that we take for granted today, but this was a new observation to me:

“The Paradox of Product Placement,” in which the titular conundrum is defined: “If you notice, it’s bad. But if you don’t notice, it’s worthless.”

(via @austinkleon)