Rants & Ramblings

random commentary about culture, media, politics, technology and whatnot.

culture

jul
16
2012

Census 2011: the changing shape of England and Wales, visualised | Data Store | guardian.co.uk

An interesting way to compare UK Census 2011 results by gender and region, from the British government’s Office of National Statistics. I’m not totally enamored of the interface, but it’s an interesting approach.

jul
09
2012

Loops

Recently, the Madagascar 3 remix video “59 Minutes of ‘Afro Circus’” led to a friend invoking “Kristen Schaal is a horse for 10 minutes!,” which in turn reminded me of last year’s “Loops” episode of Radiolab: The episode starts by …

jul
05
2012

Civil War Datavis

I’m fascinated by this census map — apparently circa 1861 — of the slave population in the southern United States and the painstaking, not-computer-assisted work that must have gone into creating it. I came across it the other night while …

may
30
2012

Sizing Up The American Dream | NPR

I worked with April Fehling and Tanya Ballard Brown on an infographic about some of the typical components of the “American dream” — part of our series “American Dreams: Then And Now.” View the Project »

mar
02
2012

How The Guardian Might Cover 'Three Little Pigs'

Clever new ad campaign from The Guardian (UK): If you can’t see the video above, it’s available on theguardian.co.uk. (Via seemingly everyone I follow on Twitter)

feb
22
2012

Musical Instrument Museum

While Rob and I were in Arizona for Christmas, my mom took us up to Phoenix to explore the Musical Instrument Museum, devoted to musical instruments and traditions from around the world. The museum was full of wonderful cultural artifacts …

(Bonus) Photo of the Day: Invasion of the Domos

My desk collection of tiny Domo-kun figures is getting a little out of control. But they’re so fiercely cute!

feb
18
2012

The people scurry by in comical little hops and starts, cups of coffee in their hands, cellphones at their ears, ID tags slapping at their bellies, a grim danse macabre to indifference, inertia and the dingy, gray rush of modernity.

— From “Pearls Before Breakfast,” by Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post (source)

feb
08
2012

My Dinner With Clay Shirky, and What I Learned About Friendship | Media Decoder | NYTimes.com

David Carr on online / offline interactions and relationships. “As it turns out, Mr. Shirky became very good at bread eating at a young age, so his mother decided that he should also be good at bread making. We all chewed on the bread as Mr. Shirky told the story of learning how to make bread as a 10-year-old. Now, he could have told that story in a blog post or in an e-mail chain, but it became a very different story because we were tasting what he talked about. The connection in an online conversation may seem real and intimate, but you never get to taste the bread. To people who lead a less-than-wired existence, that may seem like a bit of a ‘duh,’ but I spend so much interacting with people on the Web that I have become a little socially deficient.”

dec
12
2011

A Not-So-Straight Story | Opinionator | NYTimes.com

Frank Jacobs writes, “The American-Canadian border, famously said to run straight across the 49th parallel for hundreds of miles, is neither straight nor along the 49th parallel.”

nov
28
2011

'New York is Not a City of Alleys': A Film Location Scout's Pet Peeves | The Atlantic Cities

Nick Carr, a New York City location scout, explains why ‘Ghostbusters’ captured the city so well and what annoys him the most about certain directors.”

nov
03
2011

Generation Gap: How Age Shapes Political Outlook | NPR

Findings from a new Pew Research Center report. “A new survey from the Pew Research Center finds wide gaps in how different generations view politics. Older voters are more conservative, more angry at the government and less hopeful about the future of the country. Younger voters lean left, wish the government played a greater role in their lives and believe the nation’s best days are yet to come.”

sep
29
2011

The Origin of Blue Jeans | Around the Mall | Smithsonian Magazine

On the 109th anniversary of Levi Strauss’ death, his chief product — blue jeans — have become a $91 billion per year industry, an icon of American culture, and quite possibly the world’s most popular article of clothing. His name, more than any other, evokes the tough denim fabric and heavy stitching of America’s favorite pair of pants. But the birth of blue jeans came under surprising circumstances—and the ancestral trousers barely resemble the blue jeans of today.”

sep
20
2011

If you’ve ever known a misfit or a dork, you know that they’re not stupid. They’re just odd, and odd is measured on a different axis than dumb.

— Linda Holmes of NPR, critiquing a new Fox TV show (source)

aug
25
2011

Library's “Living Books” Program Will Loan Human Experts | GOOD

Realizing that bound volumes are far from the only source of knowledge, librarians in Surrey[, British Columbia] will also lend out ‘living books’ — in other words, people. Staff will maintain a list of local residents who have volunteered to share their knowledge of any topic, and other library patrons can make appointments for 30-45-minute conversations.”

jun
15
2011

Awesome People Hanging Out Together

Love this Tumblr blog of photos of, well, various awesome cultural / historic people hanging out together.

may
22
2011

How the Apocalypse Would Happen if Heaven Were a Small Non-Profit | McSweeney's Internet Tendency

Hilarious, especially if you’ve worked someplace with horrible internal communication.

Prophecy Fail | Slate

Vaughan Bell on what happens to a doomsday cult when the world doesn’t end.

apr
06
2011

The Suicide Catcher | GQ

Michael Paterniti writes, “In the rapidly modernizing, constantly churning city of Nanjing, China, there is a legendary bridge, four miles long, where day after day, week after week, the desperate and melancholy and tormented come to end their lives. Most end up in the Yangtze River, 130 feet below. But some do not meet their maker. They meet someone else. They are pulled back from the brink — sometimes violently — by an odd and unlikely angel.”

apr
05
2011

How to Be Alone

(If you can’t see the video above, it’s available on YouTube.) A lovely video about being at peace with — even enjoying — your own company. And, fiddling with your phone does not really count as “alone time.” I admire …

apr
01
2011

Getting Un-Stuck

This Robert Krulwich NPR piece from 2006 has been circulating among some of my friends this week: Does Age Quash Our Spirit of Adventure? (If you can’t see the embedded audio player above, the story is available on NPR.org.)

jan
28
2011

Perfect Thank You Notes: Heartfelt And Handwritten | NPR

I’m so bad about writing thank you notes, and I want to be better. I find this idea kind of inspiring: “After a particularly bad 2007, lawyer John Kralik decided to start 2008 with a serious New Year’s resolution: to be thankful for the good things and people in his life. So he spent the next year writing one thank you note for each day — to family, friends, co-workers, even the barista at his local Starbucks. Those notes make up his new book, 365 Thank Yous: The Year A Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life.”