Saturday, January 20, 2018

I have never been more happy to be interestingly wrong

I am pretty sure that, if you will be quite honest, you will admit that a good rousing sneeze, one that tears open your collar and throws your hair into your eyes, is really one of life’s sensational pleasures
Suppressing a sneeze can be dangerous, doctors warn

White paper for the day: When mass killers make the news, they receive more valuable coverage than A-list actors.
↩︎ Celebrity Studies

Did you know that the Google Arts and Culture app does more than just match your selfies to better identify you on Google Image Search to fun portraits in museums that highlight the overwhelming representation of white men in museal collections? It’s true. For instance, there’s this fun little article on the life and career of cinematographer James Wong Howe:
James Wong Howe was born Wong Tung Jim in Guangzhou, China on August 28, 1899. Howe’s father brought his young family to the US - what he described as the ‘mountain of gold’ - when Howe was 5 years old.
His first home was Pascoe, Washington, where his father opened a general store and became the first Chinese merchant in the town. As a child, Howe faced vicious racism. His first schoolteacher quit as she didn’t want to teach a person of Chinese descent. His second teacher changed his name to be more anglicised, which is how he became ‘James Wong Howe’.

China tries to kill real Paris: I was not surprised to learn that a Parisian photographer was apparently inspired by the story (it later got translated and republished in the French magazine Feuilleton) and set about trying to approach the story visually—ultimately by comparing shots of the real Paris with photographs of Tianducheng, in China’s Zhejiang Province, where about 2,000 people live in a Paris replica, many of them working in a nearby France-themed amusement park. 

Images on the left are from China, images on the right are from France, all copyrightFrançois Prost. Latitudinal  stuff. 

An Assistant Allegedly Stole $1.2 Million of Goldman Sachs Exec’s Wine Vice 

Divers reveal what may be the world's largest underwater cave, after finding a passage between two caves in Mexico.

Having a child out of wedlock is the norm for women in their 40s

Whether our word for "tea" is from "cha" or "te" depends on whether the term migrated over land or sea Czechs and Slovak say chaj - cay -  as those Sikhs do ...

↩︎ Quartz

“Most people don’t realize how deeply ingrained their habits are and how where we park our car on a regular basis can tell someone many things about us.”

Your car is likely gathering a lot of information about you, and it’s in the carmaker’s best interest to exploit it.
↩︎ The Washington Post

When 136 Bird Species Show Up at a Feeder, Which One Wins? via The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

“There’s something tranquil about watching birds coexist at your backyard feeder, pecking away in their quirky abandon. That is, until the local Blue Jay arrives, flushing all your daintier songbirds out in a raucous flurry. It might seem like just plain bullying, but there’s more going on than meets the eye in the fast-moving (and frankly addicting) world of bird-feeder drama. Setting out a limited food resource (like a feeder full of seeds) in a time of scarcity (like winter) naturally brings birds into conflict. 

Mind readers: Why the most interesting man in the world isn’t so interesting any more

Only 700 publications existed in 1865. More than 4,400 existed by 1890, letting readers make tangible connections to other lonely readers... In MMXVIII there are millions MEdia Dragons for All the Lonely People in the world 

In 2016, Dos Equis beer revealed that they would retire Jonathan Goldsmith as their signature “most interesting man in the world” character. To attract younger drinkers, they introduced a new, younger “most interesting man” actor – Augustin Legrand. The reviews haven’t been great and I want to get into why I think the newer stuff misses the mark.
I think that the original ads work because they perfectly parodied a  very specific cultural niche. Specifically, the original ads were about urbane straight white guys living out an adventurous life in the 1950s and 1960s. The film is usually in color, sometimes black and white, but always grainy. The events are time very time specific, such as emerging from an Apollo era space capsule or helping to unveil the very first mobile phone. He’s James Bondish in that he often wears a tuxedo and mingles with the global elite.

"New Supreme Court cookbook dishes up history, recipes": Jessica Gresko of The Associated Press has this report

The gravediggers stand by,
waiting to close earth's open
mouth again and tidy up.
Theirs is a job that gets
into the pores, and to the core.
They'll spruce up later on,
head out on the town
to bid farewell to the old year
and see the new one in.
Nothing for it then but leave you there
and drift away, bypassing the signs
this darkening afternoon.

on this last dying day of the old year
bride and groom make of this inn
an everywhere of time and space
with fire and funeral.
And so we eat and drink and gossip on.
I raise a glass that is still warm,
propose a health embracing
both sides of the dark river—

Brrrrr , Here’s a poem for today by Richard Alan Taylor

In 2012, Michael Lewis gave a commencement speech at Princeton University, his alma mater. In the speech, Lewis, the author of Liar’s PokerMoneyball, and The Big Short, talks about the role of luck in rationalizing success. He tells the graduates, the winners of so many of life’s lotteries, that they “owe a debt to the unlucky”. This part near the end is worth reading even if you skip the rest of it.

I now live in Berkeley, California. A few years ago, just a few blocks from my home, a pair of researchers in the Cal psychology department staged an experiment. They began by grabbing students, as lab rats. Then they broke the students into teams, segregated by sex. Three men, or three women, per team. Then they put these teams of three into a room, and arbitrarily assigned one of the three to act as leader. Then they gave them some complicated moral problem to solve: say what should be done about academic cheating, or how to regulate drinking on campus.
Exactly 30 minutes into the problem-solving the researchers interrupted each group. They entered the room bearing a plate of cookies. Four cookies. The team consisted of three people, but there were these four cookies. Every team member obviously got one cookie, but that left a fourth cookie, just sitting there. It should have been awkward. But it wasn’t. With incredible consistency the person arbitrarily appointed leader of the group grabbed the fourth cookie, and ate it. Not only ate it, but ate it with gusto: lips smacking, mouth open, drool at the corners of their mouths. In the end all that was left of the extra cookie were crumbs on the leader’s shirt.
This leader had performed no special task. He had no special virtue. He’d been chosen at random, 30 minutes earlier. His status was nothing but luck. But it still left him with the sense that the cookie should be his.
This experiment helps to explain Wall Street bonuses and CEO pay, and I’m sure lots of other human behavior. But it also is relevant to new graduates of Princeton University. In a general sort of way you have been appointed the leader of the group. Your appointment may not be entirely arbitrary. But you must sense its arbitrary aspect: you are the lucky few. Lucky in your parents, lucky in your country, lucky that a place like Princeton exists that can take in lucky people, introduce them to other lucky people, and increase their chances of becoming even luckier. Lucky that you live in the richest society the world has ever seen, in a time when no one actually expects you to sacrifice your interests to anything.
All of you have been faced with the extra cookie. All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you’ll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don’t.

Primitive Technology YouTube channel is up to. Over the past two years, this Australian man has built all sorts of tools, structures, and objects using only what he can find in the forest and has racked up over 330 million views on his silent videos demonstrating how he does it all.

In a reply to an article called Entrepreneurs Aren’t A Special Breed — They’re Mostly Rich Kids, Hacker News commenter notacoward wrote:

Entrepreneurship is like one of those carnival games where you throw darts or something.
Middle class kids can afford one throw. Most miss. A few hit the target and get a small prize. A very few hit the center bullseye and get a bigger prize. Rags to riches! The American Dream lives on.
Rich kids can afford many throws. If they want to, they can try over and over and over again until they hit something and feel good about themselves. Some keep going until they hit the center bullseye, then they give speeches or write blog posts about “meritocracy” and the salutary effects of hard work.
Poor kids aren’t visiting the carnival. They’re the ones working it.

That’s a pretty succinct summary of the “born on third base and thinks they hit a triple” effect…and it doesn’t just apply to entrepreneurship or being rich.

The next generation of mourning. I have begun like my mother before me to cross out names she lived to read the obituaries of all her friends in my generation . The first girl ever kissed is dead complications of pneumonia . I saw the email on the way from something important to something suddenly not unfold . Nothing is high-powered bullet had passed through me without hitting harder here and were bone later the egg as I remembered when we were 16 in a state of mutual cross and rode to the league that parent approved church sponsored alternative to a real beach trip was particularly bars and carnal temptations and made out in the back seat of a record 64 civilian power was really driving and the ball , looking back now and to wink and ground soon . The romance was over and we moved on , but never forgot that date and when I saw her 40 years later we still joked and smiled about that Ryan and wondered whatever happened to Ray and Maple .

When work changes, companies reward new ways of feeling about it. Enter corporate mindfulness. But what about when breathing exercises aren't enough?  Mindfullness

In case you missed Geraldine Doogue last year on Saturday Extra, she conducted three thought-provoking interviews. First was Professor Julian Le Grand of the London School of Economics, on the possibilities of employee-led mutuals contracting to the public sector. Then Sarah Barker and Karl Mallon talked about how firms are incorporating climate risk into their financial analysis. And former Hong Kong Governor Chris Pattenwarned about the politics of identity – a political movement that “savages democracy”. He described how in Northern Ireland he developed practical methods to move beyond identity politics.

In his book review of Polanyi’s A Life on the Left in the New York Review of Books, Robert Kuttner argues that ‘Democracy cannot survive an excessively free market and containing the market is the task of politics.”

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Game of Mates: How favours bleed the nation
Get the book via Follow author Cameron Murray on Facebook and Twitter. Come to the Brisbane book launch on 23rd May, 6pm at Avid Reader, West End (Details and RSVP link).  Continue reading 

Art: Picaso Productivity

How blogging  takes place / While someone else is eating or opening a window or just  walking dully along

Picasso And The Panama Papers NPR podcast
‘How does art help the super-rich stay rich?’

A conversation between the two artists ...

Dramatic and dazzling: The remarkable home of a renowned Danish photographer

Giant lily pads make a comeback after nearly going extinct

Behind the "brands" targeting you on social media, there's often no physical operation, just marketing.

`Lest the Jails Overflow'

Self-destruction has its charms, especially if you’re not the one doing the destructing. Let me clarify. I’m not referring to alcoholism or drug addiction, subsumed under the clinical label “substance abuse,” which evokes a vision of someone flogging an ingot of molybdenum. Exhibit A is A.J. Liebling and his lifelong over-indulgence in food. Had it stopped there, we wouldn’t be wasting our time. Food is not an inherently interesting subject. The much-ballyhooed works of M.F.K. Fisher, for instance, are almost unreadable. Food – procuring, preparing, consuming -- invites a comic treatment, and that was Liebling’s abiding gift. He is the wittiest of writers, and his masterpiece is Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris (1962). It may be the book I have read most often as an adult.  

I’ve returned to it after rereading Joseph Epstein’s “An Older Dude” in Once More Around the Block: Familiar Essays(1987). The occasion of Epstein’s essay is his fiftieth birthday (in 1987 – earlier this month he turned eighty-one). As you would expect, his tone is weighty but light. Epstein takes his subject but not himself seriously. He is amusing but not joking: “While I remain as youthful and beautiful as always, why, I cannot help ask, have so many of my contemporaries grown to look so old?” Then he gets to the heart of it: “It is not always easy to distinguish between the love of life and the fear of death.” Which move him to think of friends who are “slowly but rather systematically eliminating life’s little physical pleasures: cutting out tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, red meat, cholesterol-laden food, all sugar. Soon their meals will be reduced to three dandelions and a nice cup of boiled water.” Such anxiety-driven behavior, Epstein says, seems like “greed for life, as opposed to love of life.” Ascetics, especially self-advertising ascetics, make me nervous, too. Enter Liebling, via Epstein: 

“When I think of the distinction between love of life and the greed for duration, I think of the writer A.J. Liebling. With the aid of his fork, Liebling had early joined the ranks of the obese, an army he was never to leave.” 

Liebling possessed the grace of the guiltless. He seldom seriously agonized over what he was doing to himself. Years ago, Tony Hiss told me he remembered walking as a young reporter beside Liebling, and barely having enough room on the sidewalk. Yet he was happy to be taking the budding writer to lunch. Here is where Epstein rises to the occasion:

“Doubtless he would have lived longer [Liebling died at fifty-eight] had he lived more carefully. But had he lived more carefully – eaten less, drunk less – he would not have been A.J. Liebling . . . My own preference would be to live like Liebling and last until age ninety-seven. There is a contradiction here, I realize, but then, fortunately, the law of contradiction is not enforced, lest the jails overflow.”

THE SEX LIVES OF OTHERS: Project Veritas: Twitter is selling your data to advertisers, you know — even your DMsHey,  no one should be surprised they view East Germany as a how-to guide

The single most compelling new poem is probably “The Middletown Murder,” a 93-line narrative written in 1928. The poem presents an adulterous affair that ends in a grotesque shooting. Written in rhymed couplets (rarely a secure measure for Frost’s serious poems), the narrative wavers unsuccessfully between psychological realism and black comedy, but the story and characters are memorable. The total effect seems un-Frostian, which is to say that the poem shows Frost exploring new territory—more explicitly sexual, more provocatively violent, less densely textured, and almost cinematically fast. Frost knew the experiment didn’t work, but it is fascinating to imagine him successfully hammering out this new mode. 

The Gallery That Shows Only Artists Over 60 circa 2018 AD 

With rare exceptions, artists who were hot when they started out found that galleries, and certainly museums, cooled to them as years passed. They kept making art, but weren't being shown or bought. Carter Burden's mission is to give them a wall, "because walls are the thing we need," Vaccaro said. … Read More

Posteritati is a New York movie poster store/gallery that also has an online store featuring more than 40,000 posters. You can view posters by director, year, country of origin, genre, size, and more. Some of the posters are very old, rare, and valuable: Some Like It Hot ($3,000), Lolita ($1,200), and Star Wars ($1,500). And wow, a 1933 Argentinian poster for King Kong for $75,000.

This video has much to teach us about how to live. Be sure to watch all the way to the end.

If you require a chaser, check out calligraphy master Seb Lester’s impressive work, including hand-lettered Beyonce and Netflix logos.

Art and the Awokening. As politics and pop culture converge, we must distinguish between what's engineered to flatter contemporary taste and what says something new   Cold Metaphors

David Ma is a food artist and director who recently made a series of four short recipe videos in the style of famous directors. There’s spaghetti and meatballs a la Quentin Tarantino ...
Leonardo da Vinci was an avid taker of notes. Over the course of his working life, he filled thousands of pages with drawings, sketches, equations, and his distinctive mirrored handwriting. The British Library has one of Leonardo’s notebooks and has digitized and put all 570 pages of it online. It’s interesting to see all of the spare geometric line drawings and then every once in awhile there’s this wonderfully rendered 3D-shaded tiny masterpiece in the margin when more detail was required. (via open culture)

Hilary Dugan is a limnologist, which means she studies inland bodies of water like rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and marshland. Specifically she studies lakes:

As a limnologist, I study how terrestrial and atmospheric changes, such as warming air temperatures or land use patterns, alter biogeochemical fluxes and aquatic processes in lakes. 
 2017 Eclipse Photos

Right now, Dugan is in Antarctica on a research trip to Lake Vanda, where she took this amazing photo of the 12-ft sheet of black ice covering the lake. (She also took a video of herself walking on the ice.) Beautiful 

Lake Vanda sounds fascinating btw: three thermal layers of water that don’t mix (the bottom layer is a toasty 73 °F) and it’s one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, more than 10 times saltier than seawater (although very little of that salt is contained in the upper layers). The lake is also home to the The Royal Lake Vanda Swim Club, a largely abandoned tradition of skinny dipping in the lake when the ice melts enough to permit it.

Sixteen years ago, Marina Picasso, one of Pablo Picasso’s granddaughters, became the first family member to go public about how much her family had suffered under the artist’s narcissism. “No one in my family ever managed to escape from the stranglehold of this genius,” she wrote in her memoir, Picasso: My Grandfather. “He needed blood to sign each of his paintings: my father’s blood, my brother’s, my mother’s, my grandmother’s, and mine. He needed the blood of those who loved him.”
After Jacqueline Roque, Picasso’s second wife, barred much of the family from the artist’s funeral, the family fell fully to pieces: Pablito, Picasso’s grandson, drank a bottle of bleach and died; Paulo, Picasso’s son, died of deadly alcoholism born of depression. Marie-Therese Walter, Picasso’s young lover between his first wife, Olga Khokhlova, and his next mistress, Dora Maar, later hanged herself; even Roque eventually fatally shot herself.”Women are machines for suffering,” Picasso told Francoise Gilot, his mistress after Maar. After they embarked on their affair when he was sixty-one and she was twenty-one, he warned Gilot of his feelings once more: “For me there are only two kinds of women: goddesses and doormats.”

At the same time, his granddaughter has curated a show in Paris of Picasso’s art celebrating his relationship with his daughter Maya.

Diana Widmaier-Picasso, who is the daughter of Maya Widmaier-Picasso and Pierre Widmaier, a shipping magnate, and the granddaughter of Picasso and Marie-Therese, curated the exhibition. She is well aware of the usual misanthropic, misogynistic characterizations of Picasso. “He’s a man of metamorphoses,” she tells me carefully in Paris, a few days before the vernissage of her exhibition. “A complex person to grasp.”

When I was in Paris recently, I went to the Picasso Museum, where one of the exhibitions showcased his art from 1932, the artist’s “année érotique”. The Guardian described the show thusly:

Achim Borchardt-Hume, the gallery’s director of exhibitions and co-curator of the 2018 show, said the challenge facing curators was: “How can you get close to Picasso as an artist and a person? How can you get beyond the myth?”
Their answer was to focus on one period in Picasso’s long life. They chose 1932, a time called Picasso’s “year of wonders”.
It was a year when he cemented his superstar status as the world’s most influential living artist, producing some of his greatest works of art and staging his first retrospective, which he curated. It was also a year when his passion for Walter almost boiled over.
Picasso was 45 when, in 1927, he spotted the 17-year-old Walter as she exited a Paris Metro station. He approached her, grabbed her arm and declared: “I’m Picasso! You and I are going to do great things together.”

Cory Doctorow was an early adopter of the lifehacking lifestyle and toolkit, including David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done.

Allen’s book is a fantastic and inspiring read. The core of his philosophy is to recognize that there are more things in the world that you want to do than you could do, and that, in the absence of a deliberate approach to this conundrum, you are likely to default to doing things that are easy to scratch off your to-do list, which are also the most trivial. After a lifetime of this, you’ll have accomplished a lot of very little.
Allen counsels deliberate, mindful prioritization of this list, jettisoning things on the basis that they are less satisfying or important than the other things you’d like to do - even if those other things are harder, more time consuming and less likely to result in a satisfying chance to scratch an item off the list.

After living and working this way for more than a decade, Doctorow reports that there’s a conflict between the optimization of your time via getting things done and the sort of experimental playtime you often need to do creative work.

The corollary of this is that it gets much, much harder to winnow out activities over time. Anything I remove from the Jenga stack of my day disturbs the whole tower.
And that means that undertaking new things, speculative things that have no proven value to any of the domains where I work (let alone all of them) has gotten progressively harder, even as I’ve grown more productive. Optimization is a form of calcification.

Quinn Norton wrote an essay called Against Productivity in which she moves to Puerto Rico to focus on working productively but ends up goofing off and discovering a new career & life path in the process.

I visited with new friends, and tooled around on the net (albeit always at 2G speeds). I watched rain fall. I cooked. I considered the shape of the buildings a lot, and looked after cats periodically. I walked to old forts and lookouts. At one point I took pictures of doors for no reason I could discern. I berated myself for being unproductive, for wasting this precious time I’d set aside to put my professional life together. I spent hours anxious to craft my time to be quantitatively better for writing. Then it all collapsed, and the only habit I fell into was depressive empty afternoons when I was alone with the cats and the rain. But I also, and wholly by accident, thought the thoughts that would take my career and life in a new and unimagined direction.

I was chatting with a friend on the phone today about a talk we’re doing together in a couple weeks and she brought up the same issue, unprompted. She’s a naturally productive person who finds herself with some free time, yet she’s finding it difficult to not stay busy, even though she knows she needs the mind-wandering time to replenish her creative reserves. I struggle with the same thing. I get more done in less time than I ever have, but sometimes I feel like there’s nothing creative about my work anymore. Sure, I make the doughnuts every day but am not inventing the cronut. How do you accomplish your work but also leave ample time for letting your creative mind off the leash?

At this point, the quality of the art is undeniable but so too is Picasso’s treatment of women: he beat them, verbally and emotionally abused them, cheated endlessly on his wives, and entered into at least one sexual relationship with a girl under the age of consent (though with the permission of her parents it seems). He chewed women up for his art and then left them to die, literally. A small aspect of all of the allegations that have come out recently (Weinstein, Spacey, Louis CK, Roy Moore, Matthew Weiner, Charlie Sheen, Jeffrey Tambor, Dustin Hoffman, Leon Wieseltier, and — never forget! — fucking Trump) is the collective realization (mostly on the part of men…women have been aware) that not only has massive chunks of our culture been created by specific men who abuse women but also that so-called “Western culture” in its entirety has been marked and in many ways defined by systemic and institutionalized misogyny that has chewed up women for art and discarded them en masse. Never mindyour fave is problematic…the whole damn culture is problematic. This aspect of the creation of culture has been largely written out of history, but going forward, it’s going to be important to write it back in.