The Adrenaline Jimmies

The Adrenaline Jimmies are not to be confused with the Jimmy Legs described here by Jon Stewart:

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Stay with me here.

I have a hypothesis that strength training does something to an individual’s capacity to produce adrenaline. This is an excellent perk when you regularly attempt maximum effort barbell movements, but when you’re drinking your morning coffee and the front door slowly opens (ghost?! robber?!), a similar response is elicited.

Pupils dilate, heart rate spikes, respiration increases, and the _real_ fight or flight response takes place.

The moral of this story, I guess, is don’t leave the front door unlatched on a windy morning. The whole-body Jimmies have been going strong for a good twenty minutes now.

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January 31, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

Top Secret Durham Neighborhood Listserv Map

This post is about my top secret project that I’ve been working on for a few weekends.  It was partly inspired by an eight year-old girl who went missing about a block from my house on January 7th.  It was also inspired by my friend Gwen McCarter’s blog post about boldness that she published two days prior:

If there’s one sure thing about boldness, it’s that no one will know you’re a bold thinker if you aren’t a bold actor, too.  To illustrate the point, we need only think about noise.  Chatter.  A veritable din.  We live in a society where more people are free to voice their opinions than ever, and everyone with Internet access also has a soapbox within reach.  In many ways, this democratization via technology is empowering.  And as Malcolm Gladwell wrote last October, it’s not our imagination that social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and various blogging platforms are “making it easier for the powerless to collaborate.”

But Gladwell also warns against mistaking online activity for real-world action.  The digital setting is often confusing because boldness online can feel both satisfying and effortlessly productive.  If we want use the example of activism, social movements that grow online can amass a follower base of millions.  All the same, the palpable impact of those virtual efforts can be an entirely different story.  Gladwell happens to cite the Save Darfur Coalition’s Facebook page as one place where participation is high but commitment and investment are relatively low (he puts group membership at nearly 1.3 million and the average donation at 9 cents).  But the same could be said of a number of other initiatives — social media-based or otherwise —  that don’t or can’t place enough emphasis on backing their bold online campaigns up with tangible follow-through.

So, for most everyone, it wouldn’t hurt to spend a little more time in action.  At the same time, a single bold act cannot be your end game; it needs to be well conceived as part of a larger strategy, supported by other, more sustained initiatives.

As for the missing girl, I got the following message from an adjacent neighborhood listserv I happened to be a member of:

Hi, Neighbors.  A woman who lives down the street just came to our door asking if we saw a little girl get off the bus stop near our house (corner of Shawnee and Lynch).  Unfortunately, we didn’t see anything, but I told her I would send out an e-mail to the listserve to see if anyone else had information or had seen her (or anything suspicious that may be related) throughout the neighborhood this afternoon/evening.  They are looking for a little girl who is 8 years old.  She is African American and was last seen wearing black pants, a black shirt with purple underneath and has 2 ponytails.  She said if anyone saw anything they should call the police.

Now despite being about 50 yards away from the neighborhood’s northern border, the author of this email didn’t know to send her message to Duke Park, (although to her credit, she did make sure the police were involved).  Ideally, when something happens one road over, both listservs should be communicative with each other due to significant membership overlap.  Obviously, not everyone is a member of more than one listserv, despite proximity.  In many instances, this is OK since other members are gregarious and cross-post between adjacent hoods and Partners Against Crime (PAC) lists when appropriate.

The little girl was found at a neighbor’s house about 50 minutes after the original post.  Like magic, two distinct ad hoc search parties sprang into action and someone found the girl at a neighbor’s house.

This was a huge success story, but had the child gone missing along any other neighborhood border, I wouldn’t have known who to contact.  So, that day, out of frustration, I started working on a map which is meant to facilitate communication between adjacent listservs in emergency and crime-related scenarios.

Currently it features 35 neighborhoods with active listservs and 14 neighborhoods that don’t have listservs (but should).  Each border was meticulously hand-drawn, yet they’re probably wholly inaccurate.

So click the image above to be taken to the map.  If you’re not a member of your neighborhood’s listserv, you should join it.  Today.  The relevant links are embedded within each neighborhood’s shape.  If your neighborhood doesn’t yet have a listserv, why not follow Gwen’s advice?  Be bold.  Take action.  Create one.

And shoot me an email when you do, so I can update my our map.

*Update – The map now includes 57 outlines of active neighborhood listservs. The color of these outlines also correlate with which police district they are associated with.

January 26, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Reading. 7 comments.

Hannibal Buress on Letterman

This is popping up on a lot of comedians’ Tumblr blogs.  There’s a consensus that Buress nailed it.

Just love this guy.  First saw him on Louie and really fell for how his understated delivery and slight mumble lulled you into the perfect mindset for a killer punchline.

I hope he blows up after this.

[via Aziz Ansari]

Bonus via Fuck Yeah Standup:

January 13, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Video. 1 comment.

Who Cares About Kanye West?

[image via the Bygone Bereau]

Passion of the Weiss is my favorite rap blog.  Last month their host of contributors held a roundtable discussion on Kanye West’s new album.  The idol worship you’ll find at Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and PopMatters is absent here.  Let’s get into it.

Floodwatch:

Kanye West and his music perfectly encapsulate everything that is fundamentally wrong with pop music and pop culture right now. It’s the reason why I occasionally gnash my teeth in my sleep, why I refuse to watch television anymore, and why my gaze never strays from my shopping cart when I’m standing in the checkout line at the market. It’s unwarranted and self-made celebrity; it’s endless, narcissistic self-isolation on a Facebook page. Its bloated, glitzy splendor is the equivalent of a gated subdivision full of vacant McMansions. It’s everything I’m trying to eliminate from my life in 2010: unnecessary noise and excess.

Jeff Weiss

For my wooden nickel, the best rap music is usually menacing and minimal. This has neither, but it succeeds because Kanye is the only person with enough vision to pull it off. As much as I enjoy this record, I’m loathe to consider the impact it will have on the next generation. […]

If this is the album that American culture deserves, it’s not what we should aspire to– no matter how tongue-in-cheek or self-aware our jokes are.

Aaron Matthews

The album is simultaneously layered and shallow. […]

But Kanye excels at excess. He makes the sprawling personal and compulsively listenable. He’s pulled the strange trick of becoming more relatable as he’s gotten more infamous. […]

Yeezy reupholstered my brain.

Doc Zeus

I’m pushing my entire stack of chips onto black at the roulette table and going to call this the finest album of his career. I’m going all in. No joke. I love this record.

Cleaning up the floor after spitting my most venomous bile on it (you happy now, Jeff?), I still find the record to be uniformly excellent.

Disco Vietnam

Kanye West is a space cadet. I can’t relate to him. It’s unfortunate because my ability to relate to him was the very reason I’d first supported him. I found his passion endearing. I admired his self-assuredness; he seemed to know how to balance it with a sense of humor. […]

To hail it as perfection is beyond foolish, reckless. When the stakes are this high the critical community has a responsibility to be more judicious with its praise. Yes, this album is important; it’s also indulgent, exhausting, ponderous, all the things we tear less fashionable albums to shreds for being. […]

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy believes itself to be perfect; it’s shallow at best and at worst contrived. […]

This album is a triumph in every conceivable way but the one that matters most: is it an effective piece of art?

Sach O

So it’s officially Kanyemania out there today. Pitchfork gave the album a 10.0, Slate’s got it as album of the year and the mainstream press seems officially content to anoint Kanye as the superstar demigod he wants to be perceived as […]

I’d been avoiding getting caught up in the hype surrounding this thing in the goal to listen to it as a whole and to see how I feel about it as a complete album. Since dude thinks he’s a world-class artist making some genius shit, I figured I’d rate him to his desired standards: harshly and mercilessly based on the full record as he conceived it.

To be honest, I was ready to tear into My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but despite it’s masturbatory song-lengths, overcooked sense of self-importance and the fact that it’s made by a man who’s evolved into one of the most annoying celebrities of all time (of all time!)…This is a great album.

Douglas Martin

It’s almost like on this album, Kanye actually has enough money to cater to every impulse, and it’s not always pretty.

Though it ranks in the lower-half of Kanye’s catalog, one thing I can say about this record is that it’s the complete opposite of formulaic, which is downright heroic for a pop star. Although I agree that ambitious failures should not be placed higher in value than modest successes, I think both are commendable.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, even in its flaws, shows that Kanye really cares. Every note– all two-billion of them– seem carefully considered, and you can almost hear Kanye in the background of one of those choir breakdowns saying, “This would sound DOPE if I put a didgeridoo right here!” Pop music is supposed to be formulaic, disposable. Pop stars aren’t supposed to put this music thought, this much effort, into a pop album. Or maybe it’s not and they are, and it takes a record as ambitious as this one to show everyone what pop music could be like if everybody just tried harder.

Abe Beam

This album will age.

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

Bill Gate’s Favorite Teacher Does It for Free

[image via azstarnet]

We really shouldn’t care what Bill Gates thinks since he’s the quintessential black swan, but I wanted to catch your eye with a Sully lede.

It is true though.  Bill Gates sits there with his kids and watches the screen as the disembodied voice of Sal Khan explains almost anything.

In short, Khan is a genius (three degrees from MIT and a Harvard MBA).  He retired early to teach math, chemistry, biology, physics, history, etc. to any interested party.  The format couldn’t be simpler.

What’s remarkable about Khan Academy, aside from its nonpareil word of mouth and burgeoning growth, is that it’s free and prizes brevity. Remember your mumbling macroeconomics teacher whose 50-minute monologue in a large auditorium could bore the dead? That isn’t Khan. He rarely cracks wise — if you want shtick, check out Darth Vader trying to teach Euclidean geometry on YouTube (“The Pythagorean theorem is your destiny!”) — but in less than 15 minutes Khan gets to the essence of the topics he’s carved out.

My favorite part is the knowledge map (powered by Google maps) which auto-updates as you complete competency exercises in various disciplines:

Khan is up to 1800+ lectures and I’ll let him explain his ambition:

My goal really is to keep making videos until the day I die (which will hopefully not be for at least another 50 or 60 years). Should give me time to make several tens of thousands of videos in pretty much every subject.

Go on. Let him teach you something already.

[David A. Kaplan @ Fortune via the Browser]

December 2, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. 1 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.

How to be an Ass at Parties

Step 1.) Read Wikipedia’s List of Common Misconceptions.

Some Good ones:

  • George Washington did not have wooden teeth. According to a study of Washington’s four known dentures by a forensic anthropologist from the University of Pittsburgh (in collaboration with the National Museum of Dentistry, itself associated with the Smithsonian Museum), the dentures were made of gold, hippopotamus ivory, lead, and human and animal teeth (including horse and donkey teeth).
  • Searing meat does not “seal in” moisture, and in fact may actually cause meat to lose moisture. Generally, meat is seared to create a brown crust with a rich flavor via the Maillard reaction.
  • It is commonly claimed that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made object visible from the Moon. This is false. None of the Apollo astronauts reported seeing any man-made object from the Moon. The misconception is believed to have been popularized by Richard Halliburton decades before the first moon landing.

Step 2.) This part is automatic. You’ll act like a total ass the next time someone mentions that lemmings are suicidal, Napoleon was short, or that George Washington Carver invented peanut butter.

Happy Trolling.

[List of Common Misconceptions via the Browser]

[image via Wikimedia Commons]

October 5, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Smarts. 7 comments.

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.

Faux Fur Writing Board

I would gladly put my cat Bok Bok in the blender if it would turn her into something useful like this.

Let me reiterate. If the result was this write board, I  would blend Bok Bok on Christmas morning.

[via Core77]

September 19, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Art. 3 comments.

Dope

Lance Armstrong taking the Pete Rose approach:

As long as I live, I will deny it. There was absolutely no way I forced people, encouraged people, told people, helped people, facilitated. Absolutely not. One hundred percent.

His choice of words here is interesting even though his grammar is abhorrant.

Personal opinion: People who say “100 percent,” regardless of context, are attempting to blow smoke up your ass.

My thoughts on this whole “Lance Thing” are scattered. You may not care at all, gentle reader. Be assured though that Armstrong’s handlers care deeply what you think, and for good reason. His legacy is at stake and by proxy, so is his charitable foundation. In fact, in the New York Times article mentioned below, there is this sense that his people don’t care what his transgressions are/were since ‘his good acts outweigh his bad ones.’ Sounds like a sideways admission of guilt to me.

Interesting excerpt from the great NYT article on the subject:

Jay Coakley, a sociologist and the author of “Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies,” said that he had no doubt that Mr. Armstrong was guilty of doping, but that it did not matter. For athletes, he said, the line between performance enhancement and medical treatment has become so fuzzy that it is impossible to discern.

“Deciding to use performance-enhancing substances and methods has nothing to do with lack of morality,” Mr. Coakley said. “It has to do with normative structure of elite sport, and the athlete’s commitment to his identity as an athlete.”

Such a great insight. It leads well into an NPR story I heard days later that chronicles Katherine Hamilton’s decision to opt out of sports entirely:

“There is an untold story,” she said, “about all the thousands … who make a conscious decision, that are really great athletes doing the right thing, working really hard — and they just drop out because they’re just not willing to do the things to your body and to go down that road.”

In other words, athletes who don’t just say no to drugs, but no to sport[.]

Doping may be a (very) roundabout way to help cancer patients, but it’s also the apparent cause of other types of societal illness.

[Bruce Weber and Juliet Macur @ the New York Times via the Browser]

[image via correct-weight-loss.net]

September 16, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. 2 comments.

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