From the monthly archives:

February 2010

A few excerpts from Esquire’s recent profile of Roger Ebert:

Ebert is waiting for a Scottish company called CereProc to give him some of his former voice back. He found it on the Internet, where he spends a lot of his time. CereProc tailors text-to-speech software for voiceless customers so that they don’t all have to sound like Stephen Hawking. They have catalog voices — Heather, Katherine, Sarah, and Sue — with regional Scottish accents, but they will also custom-build software for clients who had the foresight to record their voices at length before they lost them. Ebert spent all those years on TV, and he also recorded four or five DVD commentaries in crystal-clear digital audio. The average English-speaking person will use about two thousand different words over the course of a given day. CereProc is mining Ebert’s TV tapes and DVD commentaries for those words, and the words it cannot find, it will piece together syllable by syllable. When CereProc finishes its work, Roger Ebert won’t sound exactly like Roger Ebert again, but he will sound more like him than Alex does. There might be moments, when he calls for Chaz from another room or tells her that he loves her and says goodnight — he’s a night owl; she prefers mornings — when they both might be able to close their eyes and pretend that everything is as it was.

Ebert, describing what his journal means to him:

When I am writing my problems become invisible and I am the same person I always was. All is well. I am as I should be.

On ephemeral reactions:

Anger isn’t as easy for him as it used to be. Now his anger rarely lasts long enough for him to write it down.

On crime, and joy:

I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

Roger Ebert is a great example of what the so-called New Atheists have never understood: that living well is a far better way to ‘evangelize’ freethinking than pedantic and vitriolic argument, however rational it may be.

To the extent that humanists might imagine having saints, Mr. Ebert is surely one of them.

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El Perro

El Perro (1819-23)

Robert Hughes:

“Goya was one of those uncommon artists who had the daring, or the folly, to take on the whole scale of human fate. It was a huge scale, and nobody works on it today, because our sense of the possibility of art — what it can do, what it can say, and why it can matter — is so depleted. But it never occurred to Goya that art might not be able to say anything and everything about our nature, our desires and our fears. He just assumed that it could, and he went ahead. And by assuming it, he left us with the difficult task of living up to his peculiar intensity. And if we can’t, as is likely, at least he shows us that. Nearly two hundred years after he died, to meet Goya, is still to meet ourselves. “

Goya and his doctor

Goya and his doctor

At the bottom of the painting:

“Goya agradecido á su amigo Arrieta: por el acierto y esmero con q.e le salvo la vida en su aguda y peligrosa enfermedad, padecida á fines del año 1819, a los setenta y tres años de su edad. Lo pintó en 1820.”

Google’s attempted translation:

“Goya grateful to his friend Arrieta: for the wisdom and care with [...] saved his life in his acute and dangerous illness suffered at the end of 1819, at seventy – three years of age. It was painted in 1820.”

And a reminder:

"I am still learning"

From sometime in the last four years of his life

The translation of Aún aprendo: “I am still learning.”

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Words once in common use sound archaic. And the names of the famous dead as well: Camillus, Caeso, Volesus, Dentatus…Scipio and Cato…Augustus…Hadrian and Antoninus, and…

Everything faces so quickly, turns into legend, and soon oblivion covers it.

And those are the ones who shone. The rest–”unknown, unasked-for” a minute after death. What is “eternal” fame? Emptiness.

Then what should we work for?

Only this: proper understanding; unselfish action; truthful speech. A resolve to accept whatever happens as necessary and familiar, flowing like water from that same source and spring.

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 4, #33 (Translated by Gregory Hays)

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45 Months

February 7, 2010

in History,Invention,Process,Video

You don’t have to be a software engineer to appreciate this visualization of the growth of Twitter as a system.

Each photo represents a programmer, each particle represents changes made to the code, and the colors represent different computer languages:

Twitter Code Swarm from Ben Sandofsky on Vimeo.

What do your collaborative projects look like?

via Peter Wooley and Tech Crunch

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A shower of debris?

February 2, 2010

in Image

Or an Undulating Fragment from Oblivion?

I don’t know.

But this image that the Hubble Space Telescope took is quite beautiful:

X at 11000mph

X at 11000mph

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Infrequency

February 1, 2010

in Poetry,Process,Words

#1452

Your thoughts don’t have words ever day
They come a single time
Like signal esoteric sips
Of the communion Wine
Which while you taste so native seems
So easy to be
You cannot comprehend its price
Nor its infrequency

– Emily Dickinson

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Attachment

February 1, 2010

in Storytelling,Tools,Video

Whenever I sense that I’m getting too tangled up in a specific process, or overly attached to a particular tool or way of thinking, I often find myself muttering: “My pen! My pen!”

I just recently found the sketch that inspired that little tactic of re-centering, after not seeing it for years:

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