May 15th, 2012
Teachers Dancing Behind Students. Every bit as dorky-yet-adorable as it sounds.
April 30th, 2012
So there I was, having just watched the second trailer for Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom and feeling quietly optimistic that it might be a pretty decent show.1 I've always liked Jeff Daniels, the supporting cast looks fine – not to mention that Jane Fonda looks to be having fun playing her ex-husband – and at least this subject matter might provide a better backdrop for Sorkin's concerns than Studio 60… ever could.
Then I happened upon a comment thread at Ta-Nehisi Coates' weblog devoted to discussing the show's prospects, in which a commenter by the name of jkrusequirk linked to an excerpt from a film about TV journalism that I haven't thought about2 in quite a while but which set the standard Sorkin should aspire to.
I'm referring, of course, to Broadcast News. How the hell did I forget Broadcast News? More to the point, what are the chances Sorkin can reach those sort of heights? Now I'm apprehensive all over again…
[Trailer for The Newsroom via Pop Loser]
- Once it finally turns up on DVD over here. See my previous post for more on that issue. ↩
- Or seen, come to think of it. In what sort of world does pablum like Picture Perfect show up on free-to-air TV in the UK multiple times a year, whilst we're lucky to see Broadcast News once every 18 months or so? ↩
April 26th, 2012
That's not a perfect fit – on the basis of what he showed us in season 1,2 I don't think Joffrey sees himself as much of a historian or intellectual – but the elements of the comparison that work really work.
- NB: contains some spoilers for Game of Thrones season 2. Nothing major, I don't think, but there's a picture of one character we heard about but never met in season 1, and a couple of allusions are made to not completely surprising plot developments. ↩
- I'm following the show as it comes out on DVD, so it's going to be a long while before I find out how Joffrey changes as he gets comfortable on the Iron Throne. ↩
April 18th, 2012
I didn't expect to encounter the phrase "the cult of vice surrounding urban post offices" when I started reading the web today.
Angela Serratore's Post Secrets recounts the reaction of New Yorkers to the spread of a modern postal service:
Communication of and by women has always struck fear into the hearts of men (see: novels; epistolary), but until the middle of the eighteenth century it was largely manageable – husbands and fathers, even servants, monitored a lady's letters, and the wild fluctuations in cost of mail kept all but the wealthiest of girls and women from taking pen to paper on a regular basis. That changed with the standardization of postal prices in 1845. [...] Suddenly, wide swaths of women had access to two dangerous things – the mail and the post office. Anthony Trollope's 1852 invention of the pillar-box had given British girls a chance to subvert the authority of their scandalized parents by mailing letters in secret, but their New York counterparts who visited the post office could both send and receive mail almost entirely unmonitored by those who might want to regulate their epistolary lives. [...]
[Via The Awl]
April 2nd, 2012
It's a pity that Aaron Sorkin's new HBO show The Newsroom will presumably be corralled behind the paywall of Sky Atlantic over here in the UK until we finally get a DVD release some time long after the first season ends.12 The trailer for the first episode looks very decent.
[Via Pop Loser]
- See, for another example of this phenomenon, Game of Thrones. I've watched six out of ten episodes through at the moment, and it's going to be a long wait for the season 2 box set over here. But well worth it, I'm guessing. Tyrion Lannister is already a bit of a legend, obviously, but I have high hopes for Arya Stark. Please let her grow up and knock some sense into Joffrey before the story is done. Is that too much to ask? ↩
- On the other hand, if The Newsroom fizzles out in a season like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip then at least we'll most likely know it before we're being invited to stump up the cost of a box set. ↩
April 1st, 2012
Michael Mace on
With our obsession for newness, those of us who work in the tech industry often fail to understand the historical roots of our technologies. Case in point: telegraph operators more than 150 years ago were sending short messages called "graphs" that were surprisingly similar in form and content to Twitter tweets.
One remarkable example was recently discovered in the Museum of Telegraphy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It is the transcript of a telegraph operator's comments during Abraham Lincoln's famed Gettysburg Address in 1863. The transcript was shared with me by a friend on the museum staff, and I'm pleased to reproduce it here:
Still waiting for the Pres. to commence his speech. #gettysburg
Good heavens, I should have foresworn that fifth corn dodger for lunch. #gas #dontask #gettysburg
Starting now. Pres. waves to crowd. #gettysburg
Four score and… WTF is a score? 25? #pleasespeakenglish #gettysburg
Okay, it's twenty. So "87 years ago the country was founded." Why not just say that? Duh. #gettysburg
January 23rd, 2012
It turns out that former chairman of the US Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan was laughing all the way to the (run on the) banks:
[Following the release of the minutes of the meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee's meetings for 2001-2006...]
It makes for quite a fun read if you get past all the boring economic analysis parts. In fact, if the stenographer was accurate, the Committee broke into laughter 45 times in just the January meeting! That's at least 45 jokes (some didn't get laughs – if only we knew the quality of each laughter!). I would have guessed that would be a lot relative to other meetings, right? I mean how funny would it be if the top of the housing market was also when the FOMC was telling the most jokes in their meetings?
Well, being a data nerd with nothing better to do on a Thursday night, I looked into it. To be precise, I went back for just the last six years (2001-06) and searched for how many times the stenographer's notation for laughter appeared in the released transcripts of each FOMC meeting.
Suffice it to say the data is funny…
Sadly, the minutes of meetings of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee are written in a rather dry, formal style, so there doesn't seem to be much scope for a similar analysis of economic policymakers' behaviour over here.
[Via The Morning News]
January 3rd, 2012
When Paul Rosenblatt answers the phone, he says "Bananas!", or, All you ever wanted to know about the science of making bananas ripen at the right time in the right place, on an industrial scale. Fascinating stuff.
December 11th, 2011
Soon after joining the Breakfast Club, Claire realised there was more to life than pearl earrings and skiing trips to Colorado. Where was the reward in having life delivered to you on a silver platter?
Enter John Bender. While Bender had started off as simply a grab for attention from her quibbling parents, it soon became apparent that he was much more than that. Reforming John Bender would become Claire's personal Fix-Her-Upper, the challenge that would bring fulfilment to her otherwise vacuous life. And she loved him for it.
Despite initial misgivings about Bender, Claire's conservative parents came round to the young man, admiring his 'organic entrepreneurial spirit' and it wasn't long before the couple was happily married. Claire studied PR and encouraged John to enrol in a community college course in business studies. When he wavered with his software design idea, she pushed him forward.
She was also successful in her own right. Upon graduating, she entered into a big-name PR firm and managed several big accounts during the early '90s, including for Sega, Pepsi Max, and Janet Jackson. She voted Clinton in '92, purely out of respect for his rapport with the common man, but swung right in 2000, under the influence of her husband's anti-tax, small government crusade.
By 2008, Claire's talent for PR had started to get noticed by the right people in Washington. When she received a call to help out a struggling Hilary Clinton in the race against Obama to secure the Democratic nomination, Claire couldn't refuse. That fall she came up with her best idea yet – the infamous 'red phone' ad.
Despite Clinton's failed run at the presidency, Claire stayed in Washington and it wasn't long before she had made the seamless transition from Clinton to the other side of politics, recruited by the Koch brothers to work on strategies for undermining the Obama administration in the lead-up to 2012.
The focus of the site seems to be on characters from US and Australian TV, which leaves something of a gap in the market. What would Detective Inspector Jack Regan have made of members of the Met being bussed up to the Yorkshire coalfields to put striking miners in their place? Would Tom Good, having presumably ended the 1970s as a classic wooly Liberal, have ended up in the Green Party, or been seduced by New Labour? Would Alan B'Stard still be a Tory?1
- OK. Stupid question! ↩
December 6th, 2011
Sometimes a picture truly is worth a thousand words.
November 20th, 2011
File under Things it had never occurred to me existed: 1 a training yard where technicians learn how to climb utility poles.
- It's quite logical that there should be a need for such a facility, but I suppose if I'd ever given the matter any thought I'd have assumed that technicians would learn to climb poles in the field. Presumably there are similar – but larger – training sites somewhere for those whose job is to climb electrical pylons. ↩
November 14th, 2011
"In theory" is one of the scariest phrases in the world of computing. Take this story about vulnerabilities in the computer systems used to run some federal prisons in the USA:
While the computers that are used for the system control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems that control prison doors and other systems in theory should not be connected to the Internet, the researchers found that there was an Internet connection associated with every prison system they surveyed. In some cases, prison staff used the same computers to browse the Internet; in others, the companies that had installed the software had put connections in place to do remote maintenance on the systems.
[Via Bruce Schneier]
November 8th, 2011
Christoph Niemann: My attempt at live-illustrating the New York City Marathon.
October 26th, 2011
October 23rd, 2011
Chris Sims gathers the views of The (Fictional) 1% on #OccupyWallStreet:
Instead of paying taxes to support a corrupt system, I put my money where it does the most good: A utility belt full of sharp pieces of metal that I throw at the mentally ill. I am the 1%.
[Via Crooked Timber]
October 22nd, 2011
- You couldn't pay me enough money to ride that thing!
- Is it wrong to be mildly disappointed that the passenger remains attached to the slingshot throughout?1
- Throwing footballs at the slingshot's passenger is just not on.
- As opposed to continuing forwards and landing in a suitably padded receptacle a few fields over… ↩
October 18th, 2011
Be sure to take a look at picture #19: that's not something you see every day.
[Via Gary Farber]
October 10th, 2011
The Ira Glass Sex Tape:
"Well, from WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life, I'm Ira Glass. Each week, of course, we pick a theme and bring you a variety of stories on that theme. This week's theme…my sex tape."
F***ing hilarious, and an absolutely spot-on parody to boot!1
[Via The A.V. Club]
- It tells you a lot about my podcast-listening habits that I got about 80% of the references to other NPR personalities. ↩
October 9th, 2011
I can't help but notice that the one section of this paperwork that might have been considered of some practical importance – i.e. the part asking about the possibility of spreading disease – had to be answered TO BE DETERMINED, what with the astronauts still being in quarantine at that point.
[Via The Brooks Review]