The escalators on the D.C. Metro are very tall and they are always breaking. This sucks a little if you are just lazy like me, it sucks a lot if you’re on crutches or you have a suitcase. But even when you know the escalator is broken, and expect it not to be moving, for many people, there’s still a moment of disorientation when you step on and start climbing, a weird imbalance that doesn’t happen with equally motionless stairs. But a broken escalator is stairs. Hence the mystery.
I love the Pennsylvania pride. If you watched the one above you’ll like this too:
When Marion Block Anderson, an altogether exceptional woman, was a freshman at Oberlin College in 1951, she reached out to “the quintessential modern genius” and asked him, “Why are we alive?” She later told Dave about the impetus for her letter:
“We were having one war after another — first we had the First World War, then we had the Second World War and I just couldn’t see any point to the whole thing. So I wrote him a letter and I said, ‘What’s the point of living with what we’re going through here — having one war after another?’”
Lo and behold, Einstein wrote back. While short, his letter extends with exquisite precision both the answer to the question about the meaning of life and his views on religion:
How did I not know about this? From Wikipedia:
The Voyager Golden Records are phonograph records which were included aboard both Voyager spacecraft, which were launched in 1977. They contain sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, and are intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or for future humans, who may find them. The Voyager spacecraft is not heading towards any particular star, but Voyager 1 will be within 1.6 light-years of the star Gliese 445, currently in the constellation Camelopardalis, in about 40,000 years.
As the probes are extremely small compared to the vastness of interstellar space, the probability of a space-faring civilization encountering them is very small, especially since the probes will eventually stop emitting electromagnetic radiation meant for communication.
Carl Sagan noted that “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet.” Thus the record is best seen as a time capsule or a symbolic statement more than a serious attempt to communicate with extraterrestrial life.
OK! And what did these records contain?
The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University. Sagan and his associates assembled 116 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind, thunder and animals (including the songs of birds and whales). To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, spoken greetings in fifty-six languages (55 ancient and modern languages, plus Esperanto), and printed messages from US president Jimmy Carter and U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim.
The collection of images includes many photographs and diagrams both in black and white and color. The first images are of scientific interest, showing mathematical and physical quantities, the Solar System and its planets, DNA, and human anatomy and reproduction. Care was taken to include not only pictures of humanity, but also some of animals, insects, plants and landscapes. Images of humanity depict a broad range of cultures. These images show food, architecture, and humans in portraits as well as going about their day-to-day lives. Many pictures are annotated with one or more indications of scales of time, size, or mass. Some images contain indications of chemical composition. All measures used on the pictures are defined in the first few images using physical references that are likely to be consistent anywhere in the universe.
The musical selection is also varied, featuring artists such as Beethoven, Guan Pinghu, Mozart, Stravinsky, Blind Willie Johnson, Chuck Berry and Kesarbai Kerkar.
After NASA had received criticism over the nudity on the Pioneer plaque (line drawings of a naked man and woman), the agency chose not to allow Sagan and his colleagues to include a photograph of a nude man and woman on the record. Instead, only a silhouette of the couple was included. Actually the record does contain in “Diagram of vertebrate evolution”, by Jon Lomberg drawings of anatomically correct naked male and naked female, showing external organs.
The pulsar map and hydrogen molecule diagram are shared in common with the Pioneer plaque.
The 116 images are encoded in analogue form and composed of 512 vertical lines. The remainder of the record is audio, designed to be played at 16⅔ revolutions per minute.
If you want the specifics they are here. And how would our alien friends know what to do with the record?
In the upper left-hand corner is an easily recognized drawing of the phonograph record and the stylus carried with it. The stylus is in the correct position to play the record from the beginning. Written around it in binary arithmetic is the correct time of one rotation of the record, 3.6 seconds, expressed in time units of 0.70 billionths of a second, the time period associated with a fundamental transition of the hydrogen atom. The drawing indicates that the record should be played from the outside in. Below this drawing is a side view of the record and stylus, with a binary number giving the time to play one side of the record – about an hour.
The information in the upper right-hand portion of the cover is designed to show how pictures are to be constructed from the recorded signals. The top drawing shows the typical signal that occurs at the start of a picture. The picture is made from this signal, which traces the picture as a series of vertical lines, similar to analog television (in which the picture is a series of horizontal lines). Picture lines 1, 2 and 3 are noted in binary numbers, and the duration of one of the “picture lines,” about 8 milliseconds, is noted. The drawing immediately below shows how these lines are to be drawn vertically, with staggered “interlace” to give the correct picture rendition. Immediately below this is a drawing of an entire picture raster, showing that there are 512 (29) vertical lines in a complete picture. Immediately below this is a replica of the first picture on the record to permit the recipients to verify that they are decoding the signals correctly. A circle was used in this picture to ensure that the recipients use the correct ratio of horizontal to vertical height in picture reconstruction. Color images were represented by three images in sequence, one each for red, green, and blue components of the image. A color image of the spectrum of the sun was included for calibration purposes.
The drawing in the lower left-hand corner of the cover is the pulsar map previously sent as part of the plaques on Pioneers 10 and 11. It shows the location of the solar system with respect to 14 pulsars, whose precise periods are given. The drawing containing two circles in the lower right-hand corner is a drawing of the hydrogen atom in its two lowest states, with a connecting line and digit 1 to indicate that the time interval associated with the transition from one state to the other is to be used as the fundamental time scale, both for the time given on the cover and in the decoded pictures.
Listen to this Radiolab episode, and be left in no doubt why this happened.
I remember seeing a clip of this as a kid when it happened. I was both slightly terrified and hugely intrigued. From Vice Motherboard:
Right up until 9:14 PM on November 22nd, 1987, what appeared on Chicago’s television sets was somewhat normal: entertainment, news, game shows. That night, as usual, Dan Roan, a popular local sportscaster on Channel 9′s Nine O’Clock News, was narrating highlights of the Bears’ victory over the Detroit Lions. And then, suddenly and without warning, the signal flickered up and out into darkness.
In the control room of WGN-TV, the technicians on duty stared blankly at their screens. It was from their studio, located at Bradley Place in the north of the city, that the network broadcasted its microwave transmission to an antenna at the top of the 100-story John Hancock tower, seven miles away, and then out to tens of thousands of viewers. Time seemed to slow to a trickle as they watched that signal get hijacked.
A squat, suited figure sputtered into being, and bounced around maniacally. Wearing a ghoulish rubbery mask with sunglasses and a frozen grin, the mysterious intruder looked like a cross between Richard Nixon and the Joker. Static hissed through the signal; behind him, a slab of corrugated metal spun hypnotically. This was not part of the regularly scheduled broadcast.
Finally someone switched the uplink frequencies, and the studio zapped back to the screen. There was Roan, at his desk in the studio, smiling at the camera, dumbfounded.
“Well, if you’re wondering what’s happened,” he said, chuckling nervously, “so am I.”
From the Guardian:
Photographs of homeless people often paint a familiar, gritty picture, but these portraits by Rosie Holtom break that mould. An animator by day, Holtom has volunteered at Shelter from the Storm, a night shelter in north London, for four years and photographs the residents to challenge preconceptions of homelessness. “There is a huge disconnect between the interesting people at the shelter and the ‘misery’ photography I constantly see depicting homelessness,” she explains. “It’s time more positive imagery mobilised people to help.” Certainly, in asking the subjects in her photos to pose and dress “exactly as they would want to be seen,” it emphasises that homelessness could happen to any of us. “People assume all homeless people are drunks or addicts but the reality is very different,” says Holtom, and residents’ stories of being kicked out by unscrupulous landlords illustrate this point.
The biggest record store in New York City, Rough Trade NYC, opened in Williamsburg on Monday. The store carries approximately 23,000 CDs and vinyl records, and it took 20 employees plus various friends and family members 30 hours, over three days, to stock the shelves in time for the store’s opening party. They’ve still only stocked about two-thirds of their complete inventory, according to Stephen Godfroy, one of the owners.
Stephen Mallon, who previously documented the scene changes at the Metropolitan Opera for the magazine, captured much of the frenzy in this time-lapse video.
These “confiscation cabinets,” assembled by veteran teacher and artist Guy Tarrant, are an unusual archive: toys taken from London schoolchildren in 150 different schools, over thirty years.
Tarrant became interested in the toys as tokens of resistance to school routines and teacherly discipline. He enlisted other teachers to donate their own confiscated items to his project. In all, he made eight such cabinets, which are currently on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood in London.
The Guardian has a review of a book I definitely plan to read soon, The New York Nobody Knows by William B Helmreich:
In the end, the voices and stories of the people he encounters are what make this book so memorable. He is a modern-day Henry Mayhew, the journalist who documented the hardscrabble lives of ordinary Londoners in the 1840s. The result is a vivid portrait of the city, a view from the sidewalk of what former mayor David Dinkins called the “gorgeous mosaic” of New York: Hispanic men playing dominoes in a club on Westchester Avenue, in the Bronx, while a naked light bulb “swings wildly back and forth”, blown by a noisy metal fan; Hasidic children with skullcaps and sidelocks watching African American kids shoot hoops in the park near where Jay Z grew up in Brooklyn; a procession of some 2,000 people following a statue of the Virgin Mary through the Pelham Bay area of the Bronx; black people playing chess in the light of portable fluorescent lamps in Morningside Park, near Harlem, while a young man in sunglasses beside Helmreich finalises adrug deal on his mobile phone; and a cricket match at a club founded in 1872 in Walker Park, Staten Island, where “the soft strains of calypso music fill the air, mixed in with the smells of curried goat and roti”.
About the only Christmas song I can stand to hear more than once when it isn’t the last two weeks of December is, of course, A Fairy Tale of New York (see this earlier post about that song, 25 years on). And so as December starts I dug out a particularly good interview in the Quietus with the genius that is Shane MacGowan from last year. Here’s how it starts:
So now he’s laid up in his sick bed like Cúchulainn, the mythical Irish warrior who, when his enemies finally came for him, was said to have tied himself to a standing stone so as to be able to die on his feet. When Shane wrote his song ‘The Sick Bed Of Cúchulainn’, he transposed one of the stories of the indefatigable hero onto a tale about a fighter with Frank Ryan’s anti-fascist Irish nationalists. The opening track of The Pogues’ flawless 1985 album Rum, Sodomy & The Lash, it’s archetypal MacGowan songwriting: an exuberant celebration of boozing delivered with a punk snarl yet somehow timeless, as if the song had been passed down through the ages.
But it hadn’t. Shane had to write it. In his memoir of his life in The Pogues, Here Comes Everybody, accordion player James Fearnley says of another track from that album, ‘Sally MacLennane’: “the melodies were so seamlessly Irish I was surprised to find out that the song wasn’t traditional.”
Shane shrugs when I tell him this. “Well, there are similar Irish and Scottish folk songs. There’s only eight notes, or sixteen if you want to count it the proper way. I like story songs. Most really good songs, I’m not necessarily saying mine, but if you think of rock & roll, or blues, go as far back as you want, they all have a story. They’re all about a revolution, or a battle, or a love affair, or whatever. I came from a really musical family. Everybody played music and told stories and made up songs. All the neighbours did as well.”
Get your geek on with this, a Soviet particle accelerator control panel from 1968.
I have so much admiration for anyone that makes complex information easier to understand without dumbing the message down.
The Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards aim to highlight those that do it well. The list of winners is here.
From Boing Boing:
Nolan Conway’s photos of Walmart nomads document the lives of people who use Walmart’s overnight-parking-friendly lots as places to camp on their way from A to B, or for the long haul. The communities that form there run the gamut from happy-go-lucky retirees to the slightly desperate and more than slightly desperate, and the portraits give a sense of camaraderie and community.
Of all the space photos NASA has ever made, there are a few that are as iconic as an image Voyager took looking back at Earth from Saturn. It’s a picture known among space nerds as the ‘Pale Blue Dot.’
Its notoriety is largely due to Carl Sagan, who put the image on his show, Cosmos, and rapturously contrasted the smallness of Earth in space with the profusion of everythingness that the human perspective sees on this planet.
From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, every one you love. Every one you know. Every one you ever heard of. Every human being who ever was lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering. Thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines…. Every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there, on the mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.
Tom Ryaboi is a photographer who revels in exposing the conventional urban landscape from above. Ryaboi, a veteran of “rooftopping” photography, has been taking these vertigo-inducing shots from fantastically high heights since 2007, both in his native Toronto and beyond (our own Eric Jaffe interviewed him about last year).
Ryaboi recently added a new set of daring images to his Rooftopping series. These incorporate many of the friends who joined him on urban climbing adventures. Their silhouettes are set off against the expansive skyline. The photographs highlight the sense of adventure, and the guts necessary to snap these unusual images.
A great article by Laura Barton on Sunset Boulevard:
This is a story of belonging and not belonging, of preposterous wealth and immense poverty; of how, in a city where people love to be seen, so many can slip through the cracks unnoticed.
It is also the story of a single street, Sunset Boulevard, a 22-mile vein that goes from the coast to the clutter of downtown, past Sunset Strip, the Church of Scientology and on through Silver Lake. And of how, if you should choose to walk that street, from sunrise to sunset, you will come to see a city unadorned and unmade, a city at odds with itself.
SUNSET WAS ONCE a cattle trail. In the 1780s it ran out of the Pueblo de Los Angeles, west towards the sea. It remained a dirt road until the early 1900s, when it was paved and polished to fit the intentions of a burgeoning city. “The paving of Sunset Boulevard is one of the most important public improvements attempted in Los Angeles,” said the Los Angeles Herald in 1909, “and because of this fact has been attended with more than the customary amount of difficulty.” The bickering between the rival contractors dragged on for two years, with the Board of Public Works finally awarding the contract to Barber Asphalt, for $181,733.16.
Within a generation, it was given another make-over. In the early 1930s, Sunset Strip—the mile-and-a-half-long stretch that runs through West Hollywood—was paved with thick Portland cement and Warrenite Bitulithic, to match the growth of glamorous casinos and nightclubs along its route.
In the years since, Sunset Boulevard has become shorthand for what Los Angeles represents in the collective imagination. It is the Chateau Marmont and the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, the Hollywood Palladium, Schwab’s Drugstore, the Directors’ Guild of America and the Hustler store. It evokes extremes, from the spangled American Dream to seedy, untempered excess; the wild and peculiar destination of a country forever looking West.
When Clarence Thomas led the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, he fought to make it handicapped accessible. “I firmly believed, how can we talk about all these theoretical issues when there are people who can’t even get in the door of the building?” he explained to an audience at Harvard Law School, having been asked about the subject. “One of my best friends was a quadriplegic, and I watched how a two-inch curb was like The Great Wall of China for him.”
Then a pause.
“I think we do that with the opinions we write,” he said. “We write them in a way that they’re inaccessible to the average person.” With that fascinating segue, he explained the logic behind his writing:
“What I tell my law clerks is that we write these so that they are accessible to regular people. That doesn’t mean that there’s no law in it. But there are simple ways to put important things in language that’s accessible. As I say to them, the beauty, the genius is not to write a 5 cent idea in a ten dollar sentence. It’s to put a ten dollar idea in a 5 cent sentence.
“That’s beauty. That’s editing. That’s writing.
“The editing we do is for clarity and simplicity without losing meaning, and without adding things. You don’t see a lot of double entendres, you don’t see word play and cuteness. We’re not there to win a literary award. We’re there to write opinions that some busy person or somebody at their kitchen table can read and say, ‘I don’t agree with a word he said, but I understand what he said.’”
He went on to recall a legal scholar asking why his opinions are 25% shorter, on average, than opinions by his colleagues. “I said, I think I would say it’s editing,” he said. “Editing, editing, editing. We do a lot of editing, and it’s very aggressive. We eliminate a lot of trivial nonsense. And I do not like cuteness in my opinions. You save that for your own stuff. It is all meat and potatoes.”
His priorities were presumably shaped in part by his upbringing:
I didn’t grow up speaking standard English at home…
“I grew up with people who were not lettered people, most of whom couldn’t read at all. It was not uncommon, when someone was signing something, they would simply make their mark. Or they would take your word for it. Or they would be upset if you asked them to sign a contract because their word was the contract. So in that environment these people, my relatives, my neighbors, treasured education in a way that people who were hungry would treasure food.”
Now I know what I’m reading next:
Almost six hundred years ago, a short, genial man took a very old manuscript off a library shelf. With excitement, he saw what he had discovered and ordered it copied. The book was a miraculously surviving copy of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, On the Nature of Things by Lucretius and it changed the course of history.
He found a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas – that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion. These ideas fuelled the Renaissance, inspiring Botticelli, shaping the thoughts of Montaigne, Darwin and Einstein.
An innovative work of history by one of the world’s most celebrated scholars and a thrilling story of discovery, The Swerve details how one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, made possible the world as we know it.
Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction and 2011 National Book Award for Nonfiction
Buy it from Amazon here.
Michael sez, “Someone has gone to the trouble (I don’t know how but would suspect using Melodyne DNA or somesuch) of processing REM’s minor-scale downer hit ‘Losing My Religion’ so that all the minor notes are now major. When I followed the link I thought it’d be a cover, but no, it’s the original, processed. It’s uncanny – the song is just as familiar as always but the impact is utterly different. Kind of like finding a colour print of a film you’d only known in black and white, or seeing Garfield minus Garfield for the first time. I like it.”
For at least 25 years, I’ve been serial daydreaming like this, recording hundreds of ideas in a sequence of little notebooks that I have carried around and then stacked in a shoe box in my closet, a personal encyclopedia of undone to-do’s. Sometimes, when I’m searching for something in my closet and I see the box, I have a flashback to my first-grade report card: “Hugo has the gift of a rich, active imagination, but needs to work on his follow-through skills.”
My situation, I know, is not unique. Who doesn’t have big plans they never get around to acting on? Everybody swaps ideas with his friends about the excellent TV show they’d make or the groundbreaking movie they’d write. And a couple of my grand schemes got an inch or two off the ground — an agent lunch, a pitch meeting, a trip to L.A., a flurry of e-mail filled with exclamation points — though never much higher than that. And along the way, I also became editor of the magazine you are now reading, so it’s not as if I became mired exclusively in a world of delusional ambition. It’s just that for way too long, I held on to the fantasy of a completely different professional life, and I can’t help wondering why certain creative endeavors just seemed impossible to make happen.
It’s impossible to resist an article that starts like this:
For several years, beginning when I was six or seven, I played a hobo for Halloween. It was easy enough to put together. Oversize boots, a moth-eaten tweed jacket, and my dad’s busted felt hunting hat, which smelled of deer lure; finish it up with a beard scuffed on with a charcoal briquette, a handkerchief bindle tied to a hockey stick, an old empty bottle. I imagined a hobo’s life would be a fine thing. I would sleep in haystacks and do exactly what I wanted all the time.
Since then, I’ve had occasional fantasies of dropping out, and have even made some brief furtive bids at secession: a stint as a squatter in a crumbling South Bronx building, a stolen ride through Canada on a freight train. A handful of times I got myself arrested, the charges ranging from trespassing to disorderly conduct to minor drug possession. But I wasn’t a very good criminal, or nomad, and invariably I would return to the comforting banalities of ordinary life. I never disliked civilization intensely enough to endure the hardships of abandoning it, but periodically I would tire of routine, of feeling “cramped up and sivilized,” as Huck Finn put it, and I would light out for another diversion in the Territory.
Read the piece by Matthew Power here.
I don’t know what happened to the album, but this Jay Electronica video for Dimethyltryptamine, directed by Jason Goldwatch, and filmed in Kathmandu, Nepal, is a reminder why we should wait.
For four years, Italian-born Gabriele Stabile photographed refugees in airports across the nation on the nights they first arrived on American soil. They came from Somalia and Ethiopia, from Burundi and Bhutan, from Iraq, from Burma. They were fleeing war, rape, torture. Their destinations were mysterious places called Alabama, North Dakota, and Texas. But before they settled into their new homes, entered their first megamalls, or celebrated their first Fourth of Julys, they met Stabile and his camera.
Their faces — bewildered, vulnerable, joyous — passed before his lens, and then disappeared from him forever. Or so he thought. In 2010, he met Juliet Linderman, now a reporter at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, who suggested the two track down Stabile’s subjects and gather their stories. A project was born.
The result is Refugee Hotel, a photography and oral-history book released this week by Voice of Witness and published by McSweeney’s. The stories are raw and the images are complex. The authors avoid trying to portray an overall “refugee experience” shared by the approximately 64,000 displaced people who enter the U.S. and Canada each year. Instead, the book is a kaleidoscope of voices and imagery that celebrates the individuality of each new American.
Read the article and interview with Gabriele Stabile in full, with additional images, here at the Atlantic.
From the Atlantic earlier this year:
“Nothing tells us more about the spread of humans across the Earth than city lights.”
For three weeks spread out over April and October of this year, the Suomi NPP satellite (jointly of NASA and NOAA) scanned all the Earth’s land as it appeared at night. Scientists then mapped the satellite’s data — 2.5 terabytes of it — over an earlier Blue Marble image, transforming that picture’s daytime blues, browns, and greens into a nightime palette of blues, blacks, and gold.
The Suomi NPP’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite can detect lights as faint as a lone highway lamp — meaning pretty much any human outcropping where electricity runs. “Nothing tells us more about the spread of humans across the Earth than city lights,” says NOAA scientist Chris Elvidge. When you watch the video above (and do expand to full screen), you can see the at the horizon how the daylight masks human development, but as the land falls dark, the signals of our settlements glow bright, giving us, as NASA calls it, “a global view of the human footprint on the Earth.”
I read this piece by Ed Vulliamy earlier in the year and stumbled across it again just now: “Aniello Arena was convicted of gunning down three rival Naples thugs in 1991. In jail he found a new life through acting – and earned rave reviews at Cannes starring in a comedy about reality TV.”
The article doesn’t disappoint. Here’s a brief extract:
Arena was granted leave by the parole board and prison authorities to pursue his enthusiasm, at certain hours of the day, crossing the road from the fortress to rehearse in a former public hall in a late Renaissance building. In 2006, Garrone visited and was enthralled. He was at the time casting Gomorrah, based on the terrifying depiction of the Camorra in a book by a journalist who had grown up among them, Roberto Saviano. Garrone’s first notion was to cast Arena as – effectively – his real self, a killer. But for the parole board, the proximity between reality and the proposed role was too much; Garrone’s request was refused.
So Arena continued to perform and tour. And surreally so: “When we got to a town to play, those in the company who were not prisoners would find a hotel, and the prisoners would have to register at the local jail,” says Punzo. “If it was Rome, it’d be Rebbibia, one of the worst.” How did his co-inmates react? “You know who you are in a jail, and in the end, I’m still one of them. I think they’re happy for me.”
A profile with Jerry Seinfeld last year gave a little insight on his creative process:
Developing jokes as glacially as he does, Seinfeld says, allows for breakthroughs he wouldn’t reach otherwise. He gave me an example. “I had a joke: ‘Marriage is a bit of a chess game, except the board is made of flowing water and the pieces are made of smoke,’ ” he said. “This is a good joke, I love it, I’ve spent years on it. There’s a little hitch: ‘The board is made of flowing water.’ I’d always lose the audience there. Flowing water? What does he mean? And repeating ‘made of’ was hurting things. So how can I say ‘the board is made of flowing water’ without saying ‘made of’? A very small problem, but I could hear the confusion. A laugh to me is not a laugh. I see it, like at Caltech when they look at the tectonic plates. If I’m in the dark up there and I can just listen, I know exactly what’s going on. I know exactly when their attention has moved off me a little.
“So,” he continued, “I was obsessed with figuring that out. The way I figure it out is I try different things, night after night, and I’ll stumble into it at some point, or not. If I love the joke, I’ll wait. If it takes me three years, I’ll wait.” Finally, in late August, during a performance, the cricket cage snapped into place. “The breakthrough was doing this”— Seinfeld traced a square in the air with his fingers, drawing the board. “Now I can just say, ‘The board is flowing water,’ and do this, and they get it. A board that was made of flowing water was too much data. Here, I’m doing some of the work for you. So now I’m starting to get applause on it, after years of work. They don’t think about it. They just laugh.”
Lou Reed (March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013).
From an interview with Steve Coogan.
“For a few years I’d been railing against postmodernism and irony,” he explains. “I’ve got this real anger against people who think the best way of dealing with the world is through sardonic eyes. It’s a depressing, defeatist view of humanity. And I wanted to do something that was sincere, that was not smart and clever for its own sake. I had this notion that the most radical, avant-garde thing I could do was to talk about love. There’s nothing that will make an intellectual’s buttocks clench more than to talk about love.”
Read the full interview here.
A profile of New York Times obituary writer Alden Whitman, first published by Esquire in 1966, reproduced by Longform:
He is thinking of the words he will use when these men, these problem makers, finally die. He is leaning forward behind his typewriter now, shoulders forward, thinking of the words that will, bit by bit, build the advance obituaries of Mao Tse-tung, of Harry S. Truman, of Picasso. He is also contemplating Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, Steichen and Haile Selassie. On one piece of paper, from a previous hour’s work, Whitman has typed: “… Mao Tse-tung, the son of an obscure rice farmer, died one of the world’s most powerful rulers. …” On another piece of paper: “… there was Picasso the painter, Picasso the faithful and faithless lover, Picasso the generous man, even Picasso the playwright. …” And, from an earlier day’s notes: “… As an actress, Mrs. Rudolph Sieber was nondescript, her legs were by no means as beautiful as Mistinguett’s, but Mrs. Sieber as Marlene Dietrich was for years an international symbol of sex and glamour. …”