Favorite Poemer Delivers Again

[image of Carl Dennis via Bromirski]

Unlike the typical esoteric ephemera you find here, Rockstar Athlete Luke Johnson writes cohesive posts where all the pieces matter.

Here’s a nice poem that probably works better in the context of Luke’s post than my own.  Check him out before he gets too famous.

What, you’re too cool for poetry?  Sit down.

Pioneers

If time were in fact like money,
We could bank a day like this one
That as yet we have no plans for
And spend it later when we were ready,
Along with any interest that’s piled up.
Instead, we’re obliged to live it now.
Should we break it down, as we’ve done
With other days, into desk work and yard work,
Supper and post-supper pastimes,
Or devote it all to making a plan
For one bold enterprise that begins tomorrow?
What would that be exactly? Something more,
It would seem, than merely doing the old work
With a better attitude. Why can’t this day
Be like the one our predecessors devoted
To outfitting a wagon train and heading off
Toward the lush land of the middle border?
How easy then to prove we’re making progress
When another evening means another inch
Marked on the map from here to there.
No need to rush so long as our pace
Is steady, allowing us to arrive
Before the trail is obscured by snow,
The grass buried too deep for the oxen.
Time then to unload our wagons and marvel
How many items have come through intact,
Though an heirloom bowl has a hairline crack
Running rim to rim. However lonely we feel
As the wind ruffles the tall grass, we’ll agree
The spot should begin to feel like home
After a little labor, a little time.
Then we’ll drink a toast to the day long gone
When our journey began, the one that now
We’re letting slip through our fingers
Here where we can’t postpone it.
If anyone claims the loss isn’t real,
Let him step forward now.
Let him try to convince us time is a well
Dug in our own yard and always brimming,
However often we dip our cup.

[Carl Dennis @ Verse Daily via Luke Johnson]

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November 9, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . Reading. 1 comment.

Hard Work Is Old-Fashioned

Not that this is a bad thing.

Case Study #1

Pete Kithas – Detroit barber since 1962.

“It’s an old-fashioned barber shop — no kids, no woman, just man,” the boisterous 79-year-old Kithas says in his still-thick Greek accent. “Lots of policemens.”

What probably reads as impolite will likely be forgiven as you learn more about him.

His personality, his life really, is best summed up by a story from his early days.In the mid-‘60s, the three floors above his shop were a flophouse hotel. One day, a man walked upstairs looking for a room but was so drunk the clerk at the front desk wouldn’t rent him one. The furious boozer stomped downstairs and threw a temper tantrum on the sidewalk that ended with him kicking in the barber shop’s glass door, shattering it.

Kithas was cutting a Detroit Police sergeant’s hair when this happened. As the cop heard the crashing glass he leaped out of the chair and ran outside to confront the large man, who took one swing and knocked the officer out cold on the pavement. Kithas saw this, put down his scissors and stormed outside. Then the drunk took a swing at him, too.

Big mistake.

Click through to Detroitblog to read the rest.

Case Study #2

[image via A Life Worth Eating]

Dom DeMarco – Crafts (arguably) the best pizza in New York.  Still works 12 hour days.

“The best pizza in New York is Di Fara and not only is it the best pizza in New York, I think it’s the best pizza in the world. It’s the best pizza I’ve ever had and I’d go as far as to say it’s the best thing that I’ve ever eaten.”

[via Kottke]

November 8, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading, Video. Leave a comment.

Inside the Mind of a Genius

Google any phrase like “best television show” and The Wire is sure to dominate your results.  It wasn’t always this way.

Back in September of 2000, David Simon (one of 2010’s MacArthur Genius Grant recipients) made the pitch to HBO.  About what you’d expect.  79 pages of proposed episode synopses and thematic sketches.

What surprised me the most were the ample changes throughout.  Here’s a rundown:

Conspicuously absent

  • Wallace
  • Wee-Bey
  • Poot
  • Pryzbylewski

Names changed

  • Stringy Bell = Stringer Bell
  • Aaron Barksdale = Avon Barksdale
  • Jimmy McArdle = Jimmy McNulty
  • Doughboy = Proposition Joe
  • William “Bunk” Moreland
  • Lester Weeks = Lester Freeman
  • Shakima = Kima

Character differences

  • Slim Charles is fat.  Really fat.
  • Herc is really into steroids.

Significant plot deviations

  • Bubbles has AIDs and dies by the end of the first season.
  • Kima gets murdered by Slim Charles at Orlando’s.
  • Orlando’s undergoes a name change to Odell’s afterward.
  • Herc gets busted for steroids and gets fired.
  • Santangelo is still a rat for the Major in charge of the homicide department, but also for Stringer Bell.  This sets up a situation where a Barksdale crew tries to kill D’Angelo, Lester, and Sydnor in a motel room.  Santangelo eventually gets arrested for this and Lester and Sydnor beat him up badly in a bathroom.

I know, right, Michael?

[David Simon’s pitch to HBO via Kottke]

[images via Blake Hicks & Variety]

October 21, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

10 Simple Rules for Editing Wikipedia

New article out from PLoS Computational Biology targeted at interested, yet non-contributing members of the Wikipedia community.

Here are ten rules to live by if you want to be taken seriously when attempting to edit a Wikipedia article:

  1. Register an Account
  2. Learn the Five Pillars
  3. Be Bold, but Not Reckless
  4. Know Your Audience
  5. Do Not Infringe Copyright
  6. Cite, Cite, Cite
  7. Avoid Shameless Self-Promotion
  8. Share Your Expertise, but Don’t Argue From Authority
  9. Write Neutrally and with Due Weight
  10. Ask for Help

Helpful.  Well written.  To the point.

[DW Logan et al. @ PLoS Computational Biology via the Browser]

[image via xkcd]

October 20, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. 1 comment.

The Fifth Taste

Umami.  Glutamate.  Savoriness.  Deliciousness.

Tom Nealon makes the tongue-in-cheek case that umami was behind every historical upheaval.

Essentially, glutamate-rich foods trick the body into thinking that it’s consuming vast amounts of protein — which is extremely pleasant, even if it’s just broth.

This effect has not been lost on history’s empires —if religion is the opium of the masses, umami foods are the steak sandwich.  If your income, class, estate, or faith denies you regular opportunities to consume rich sauces and savory meats, you’ll reach for the nearest bottle of umami every chance you get.

Very fun read and educational throughout.  For example, did you know that the reason Worcestershire sauce (and by proxy, Caesar salad) tastes so good is due to the abundance of glutamate-rich anchovy paste contained within?

If you’ve wondered if there’s something miraculous, some sort of transmogrification, going on in your Caesar salad — drenched in anchovy dressing and covered in Parmesan — wonder no longer.

[Tom Nealon @ HiLobrow via the Browser]

[image via Fork You]

October 15, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

Guilty Gamer

You know I love indie video games.

Ultimately this here is a review of some recent indie video games, but it sure doesn’t start that way.

Video games are worth loving, but loving them comes with shame. Not passing regret or social embarrassment, but a sharp-edged physical guilt: the hunch-backed, raw-fingered, burning-eyed pain that comes at the sad and greasy end of an all-night binge. You have ostentatiously, really viciously wasted your life; you might as well have been masturbating for the last nine hours—your hands, at least, would feel better.

Waste is not a byproduct—it’s the point: playing video games is a revolt against life. All art forms, even the polite ones, are escapist in that each answers some fundamental objection to the world and its limits. Novels let you know, granting access to inner lives and narrative arcs otherwise hidden and guessed at. Films let you see, permitting you to stare at the world and its inhabitants as long and as hard and as many times as you want. The gratification provided by video games is particularly sweet because the objection that drives them is more urgent. What they offer is purpose […] To play them is to live in a world with knowable rules and achievable goals: to ask, Dear God, what should I do with my life? And be greeted with a tutorial, a pre-mission briefing, and a shot at a high score.

Well said.

[Read more from Gabriel Winslow-Yost @ n+1]

[Comic about Minecraft via Penny Arcade]

October 7, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

Smart-Ass Pawn

I’m not sure what initiated this article, but for whatever reason, Lorrie Moore wrote a very welcome piece about David Simon and The Wire. Here’s a nice excerpt:

The Wire, of course, is a deliberately far cry from Adam-12 and Dragnet, the cop shows of Simon’s childhood. Its newness as a narrative art form is underscored most convincingly by its power on DVD, where it can be watched all at once, over sixty hours: this particular manner of viewing makes the literary accolades and the comparisons to a novel more justified and true. On the other hand, so engrossing, heart-tugging, and uncertain are the various story arcs that watching in this manner one becomes filled with a kind of mesmerized dread. In this new motion picture format the standard, consoling boundaries and storytelling rhythms are dispensed with—mostly. One is allowed a wider, deeper portrait, a panorama, of entrepreneurial crime, government corruption, a harassed underclass, and faulty institutions of every sort—sprawling portraiture that aims at inclusivity.

Even though its city hall has been mum, Baltimore’s Police Department has given The Wire its endorsement, as have the kids of East and West Baltimore. Moreover, the show’s themes can seem reiterated everywhere in the world, from out-of-work shrimpers and autoworkers, to the meth cookers of the Ozarks, to the poppy growers of war-torn Afghanistan (oddly, Hamid Karzai has two brothers who live in the Baltimore area). It is sometimes hard to think about the world’s troubles without thinking: “This is just like The Wire.”

I concur. You probably know by now that David Simon just won a MacAurthur Genius Grant for his television work. Very few humans get this award. If you were waiting for a reason to watch this show, this is it.

[Lorrie Moore @ the New York Review of Books via the Browser]

[image from personal favorite: Blake Hicks]

October 1, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

Greetings from North Korea

Crazy interview with an American guy who visited North Korea.

Everywhere you go in Pyongyang, the skyline is dominated by a huge 105-story concrete pyramid, the Ryugyong Hotel, which looms over the city like the pyramid-shaped Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984. It was intended to be the world’s tallest hotel, but it turned out to be structurally unsound, so it was never completed. It’s been standing there, abandoned, since 1992. It doesn’t appear on any official maps, and nobody ever talks about it, because it’s such a horrendous embarrassment.

The most memorable thing about Pyongyang, though, is the total darkness that descends at night. Because electricity is in short supply, there are hardly any lights at all — a couple of bulbs here and there, and the headlights of passing buses. People are out and about, but all you can see are the dark shapes right beside you. Back at the hotel, you look out the window and there’s just nothing. It’s like the whole city was just swallowed up.

[…]

We visited a kindergarten in Rason to watch a performance by the schoolchildren. While we were waiting for it to start, we had a look around. On one of the walls was a painting from a popular North Korean cartoon series showing a cute forest animal hunched behind a machine gun blasting away at his enemies. Some of the children’s drawings were posted on another wall in the hallway. One showed a North Korean tank running over enemy soldiers, and another showed a North Korean jet shooting down enemy planes. Next to them were typical childhood drawings of balloons, birds, and bunny rabbits. The contrast kind of twisted your gut.

The rest is plenty weird and tragic.

[Christina Larson @ Foreign Policy via the Browser]

[image via Dear Leader]

September 29, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. 2 comments.

John Lennon as an Old Man

Really fun piece of fiction here:

“Time for me mornin’ swim,” says Lennon, who has only just woken up. It is two p.m.

Lennon, who will turn 70 on October 9, remains enviably slim and has a deep late-summer tan. The longish hair is mostly white and a bit thinned out on top but becomingly so, in the manner of late-period Richard Harris. We stop at a crook in the creek where the waters slow and eddy, and where a stand of willows shades the bank scenically. Hung on a hook nailed to one of the trees is a handmade sign bearing the words “old mclennon’s swimmin hole.” Lennon hands me his cappuccino glass, drops his shorts, and Nestea-plunges backward into the water.

He re-emerges with a splash and a triumphant whoop, pushing his hair out of his face. Then he gently lowers himself back in, lying supine and semi-submerged, his penis bobbing upward, pointed right at me. “Alrighty then,” he says. “First question.”

I doubt seriously though that Lennon would’ve voted for Reagan.

[David Kamp @ Vanity Fair via the Browser]

[image via straight blast gym]

September 27, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

The Beautiful Game

Eugene says:

Every once in a while you come across writing so good, you can’t sit still as you’re reading it.

Fantastic way to introduce this article which is (partly) about the legend:

Pelé.

Excerpt:

If the crisis of having a body is that it’s resistant to our will, soccer exaggerates the crisis, moves what you want to do even further away from what you can do, then gives us athletes who do what they want to anyway. That may be why moments of beauty in soccer, compared to those in other sports, nearly always feel like consolations.

[Pelé as a Comedian by Brian Phillips via ReadingByEugene.com]

September 22, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

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