From the monthly archives:

November 2008

Icarus Also Flew

November 30, 2008

in Poetry,Words

From Jack Gilbert’s “Failing and Flying“:

I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.


Bonnie CLAC

November 28, 2008

in Entrepreneurship

Who is an artist?  Who is creative?

Anyone who restructures the way we experience the world, whether their medium is clay, pastels, fingers on the strings of a violin — or car loans.

Marketplace explains how Robert Chambers is bringing micro-lending and transparency to the used car showroom.


The brave young Afghani woman who spoke those words was not speaking figuratively.

Admittedly, I’m going a little heavy for Thanksgiving, but this story affected me deeply.

When I use the word volition, I mean the will to continue on a determined path, despite obstacles and difficulties.  In the developed world, our obstacles can seem great, but it’s worth taking a moment to pause  and reflect on how great obstacles can really be — and to admire, be humbled by, and learn how we can support those whose obstacles are much greater than our own.

FOLLOWUP (12/1): On Sunday, NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote about acid attacks, including the incident I referenced above. It’s not an easy read, and I’ll warn you that he includes a photograph that provides a level of detail that my imagination had not.  He also included a link to the Progressive Women’s Association, based in Pakistan, which provides “medical care, shelter and legal advocates” for women attacked using these brutal methods.  I can not personally vouch for this organization, but I will take Mr. Kristof’s mention of them as an endorsement.



November 26, 2008

in Sound,Tools

Tod Machover on the future of musical instruments:

“Imagine if [Guitar Hero] were truly expressive, truly personal, truly creative. The wonderful thing about Guitar Hero is that it opens up the door for everybody to be not just a passive listener but a real active participant in music,” Machover says. “I think that is the future of music: music that is a collaboration between what we traditionally think of as composers and performers and the audience.”


Samantha Power on changes in the world’s attitude to genocide, and what we can learn from the life of Sergio Vieira de Mello:


Is Taste Calculable?

November 24, 2008

in Senses

In October 2006, Netflix announced a $1 million dollar prize to anyone who could create a system that would improve the accuracy of their recommendation system by 10% or more.

More than two years later, contestants are still .56% shy of the finish line.

From NYT Magazine:

“So this is the question that gently haunts the Netflix competition, as well as the recommendation engines used by other online stores like Amazon and iTunes. Just how predictable is human taste, anyway? And if we can’t understand our own preferences, can computers really be any better at it?”


Montaigne the Blogger

November 20, 2008

in History,Words

From “Why I Blog” by Andrew Sullivan:

But perhaps the quintessential blogger avant la lettre was Montaigne. His essays were published in three major editions, each one longer and more complex than the previous. A passionate skeptic, Montaigne amended, added to, and amplified the essays for each edition, making them three-dimensional through time. In the best modern translations, each essay is annotated, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, by small letters (A, B, and C) for each major edition, helping the reader see how each rewrite added to or subverted, emphasized or ironized, the version before. Montaigne was living his skepticism, daring to show how a writer evolves, changes his mind, learns new things, shifts perspectives, grows older—and that this, far from being something that needs to be hidden behind a veneer of unchanging authority, can become a virtue, a new way of looking at the pretensions of authorship and text and truth. Montaigne, for good measure, also peppered his essays with myriads of what bloggers would call external links. His own thoughts are strewn with and complicated by the aphorisms and anecdotes of others. Scholars of the sources note that many of these “money quotes” were deliberately taken out of context, adding layers of irony to writing that was already saturated in empirical doubt.


The LIFE Photo Archive

November 19, 2008

in History,Image

From Google’s announcement:

Today about 20 percent of the collection is online; during the next few months, we will be adding the entire LIFE archive — about 10 million photos.

The archive index page explains how to search through the photos by adding “source:life:” to image searches.  For example, searching for “World’s Fair Brussels source:life” find photos from the 1958 World’s Fair, such as this night shot of the Atomium:

Atomium under construction, Brusells, 1958

Atomium under construction, Brusells, 1958


Participatory Portraiture

November 16, 2008

in Image,Words

Geoffrey Raymond paints the faces of public figures involved in the financial crisis, and asks pedestrians on Wall Street to frame the images with their thoughts:



November 14, 2008

in Senses

Kids get to go from wheelchairs to zero-G:

“Weightlessness can be enjoyed by anyone, even children. For these brave kids, it was a rare opportunity to experience the world without their wheelchairs. One child said she got to stand up for the first time. Hearing that, as a physician, truly lifts the heart.”


Why do we shoot home videos? David Pogue gives five reasons.


NY Times has a five-minute video about turning waves into landscapes.


From the Frontal Cortex blog:

The basic idea is that nature, unlike a city, is filled with inherently interesting stimuli (like a sunset, or an unusual bird) that trigger our involuntary attention, but in a modest fashion. Because you can’t help but stop and notice the reddish orange twilight sky – paying attention to the sunset doesn’t take any extra work or cognitive control – our attentional circuits are able to refresh themselves. A walk in the woods is like a vacation for the prefrontal cortex.

Strolling in a city, however, forces the brain to constantly remain vigilant, as we avoid obstacles (moving cars), ignore irrelevant stimuli (that puppy in the window) and try not to get lost. The end result is that city walks are less restorative (at least for the prefrontal cortex) than strolls amid the serenity of nature.


The Newshour with Jim Lehrer features America’s Poet Laureate, in a story from 2006.


Not a drill

In the lifeboat - and it was not a drill.

From Andy White’s photos and personal account of the last voyage of the Antarctic cruise ship that sank in November 2007. View the full set on Flickr to see all the photos and read his comprehensive notes.