Saturday, November 29, 2014

Crazymeds is an excellent and highly informative site which I will never recommend to my patients.

It’s excellent because it gives mostly accurate and readable descriptions of the costs and benefits of every psychiatric medication. It has a laser-like focus on what patients will actually want to know and was clearly written by someone with an encyclopaedic knowledge of every treatment’s strengths and potential pitfalls.

This is important because the standard psychiatric response to someone who wants to know about a medication (when it’s not “shut up and trust me”) is to print out an information sheet from somewhere like or These sites at worst just copy paste the FDA drug information sheet, and at best list off side effects in a rote and irrelevant way that only a robot could love. (...)

Everything does is (...) Well-written, funny, mostly accurate (with the occasional mistake but no more than you’d expect from an individual effort), and precisely targeted to what patients really need to know.

And I still don’t recommend it to my patients, and probably never will. Why not?

Well, for one thing, it’s called

Most psychiatric patients have no problem with the word “crazy”. Either they don’t think of themselves as crazy, or they jokingly call themselves crazy and are happy to let other people in on the joke, or they self-identify as crazy as matter-of-factly as they’ll tell you the time of day, or they just don’t care.

But some psychiatric patients care about it a lot. Either they’re moderately neurotic people who are scared that if they accept psychiatric help with their mild depression it puts them in a category of “total lunatic” from which they will never escape, or they’re social justice types who are watching like hawks for any sign that their psychiatrist is a privileged ableist oppressor trying to use slurs to trivialize their concerns and victim-blame them for their problems.

I can usually tell which category a given person is in pretty quickly, but the chance of accidentally slipping up and recommending to someone from the second category a site called is too horrible to contemplate.

by Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex |  Read more:
Image: Crazymeds

After Normal

Last February, Zelda was born in the middle of a snow storm. Even though I had a C-section and Zelda was born a little early, we were happily shipped home just thirty six hours later. Mom (that’s me now, it turns out) was doing great and Zelda was a trooper.

In hindsight, I might have chosen to hang about in the hospital as long as my insurance would cover—which I think was about five days—but, in the haze and the happiness of a healthy birth, when the doctor says, “You’re doing great, up and walking all over the place! Would you be happier at home?” you don’t consider the nurses who pop in every hour to ask you if you want water or food, or to re-swaddle your baby because you have no idea how to do that yet. You don’t think about the fact that you push a button every time the baby cries because OF COURSE you don’t know what she wants; you don’t think about the fact that when she is feeding at your breast it’s very helpful to have a nurse peer over and say, “Yes, that’s right,” or, “No, honey, that’s your elbow she is sucking on.” You only think of returning home to some semblance of normalcy. No one tells you that normal is over; it’s gone, poof.

When we took a tour of our hospital about two months before Z was born, Josh and I saw a couple—yes, they walk you through a working hospital!—getting off the elevator. They looked maniacal, giggling as they rolled off the lift, dad with a little car seat in hand. And in that car seat was the tiniest thing, a slip of a babe. I don’t know if it was sleeping or just being a newborn, but we talked about it then: “They look like they’re stealing it!” They seemed so happy and full of possibility. Tears welled up in my eyes. They knew everyone was beaming at them, all the pregnant ladies in a row waiting to get on the elevator, to ride up to see where their own babies would be born. They didn’t know what awaited at “home.”

They set us free at about 5PM on a Thursday. We loaded her into her carseat in the hospital room, squishing little rolled up blankets around her because she was so small she needed the padding. We put her in the car and my brother-in-law drove us home, through the crazy Manhattan traffic to Brooklyn. We we were home. And alone.

by Laura June, The Awl |  Read more:
Image: uncredited

Friday, November 28, 2014

Dan Wynn


The Identity Crisis Under the Ink

Some weeks ago, during a bleary-eyed subway ride to work, I found myself staring at a young woman on the other side of the car. She wore business attire with a North Face jacket and flip-flops, and she had an infinity symbol tattooed along the outside of her left foot, only a portion of the loop had been left out to make room for the word Love. Next to her, a scruffy guy in t-shirt and jeans had ornate black and gray murals inked on each arm, one of which seemed to depict an alien fight scene, the other some sort of robot love story. To his left, squeezed in at the end of the bench, was a man thumbing his phone with quick, nervous jabs. When he turned his hand over, I saw the word Jasmine tattooed above his knuckles and a date printed beneath it.

Then there was me, a blank canvas, wondering if I was missing something. Each inked-up person on the train appeared to be in the same age group—Millennials, to use the much-maligned descriptor. Being of the same generation, presumably we all post to social media on a regular basis, through profiles and accounts that compel us to confront the question, Who are you? For some, that choice is liberating: It’s a chance to start from scratch. For others, the sheer volume of options can be paralyzing. In either case, modernity compels us to declare our identity with conviction, whether we’ve found it yet or not.

Growing up in a rapidly changing and challenging world, most young people have struggled at some point or another with figuring out who they might be. Tattoos, recent research suggests, don’t just express identity: They help define it. Modernity compels us to declare our identity with conviction, whether we’ve found it yet or not.

Although tattoos have been around for millennia, they’re more popular now than ever. In 1960, there were approximately 500 professional tattoo artists operating in the United States. By 1995, that number had risen to over 10,000. Nearly 20 years later, demand continues to surge, and by the latest estimates, roughly 20 percent of Americans have a tattoo. What’s more, 40 percent of the people in that group are Millennials, which some academics argue isn’t a coincidence.

“We’re living in this world that’s so fragmented and so chaotic,” says Anne Velliquette, a professor at the University of Arkansas who studies the relationship between consumer behavior and popular culture. Velliquette argues that we’re more able now than ever before to “recreate identities very easily,” both online and in real life.

In 1998, Velliquette and colleagues conducted an interview-based study that found people use tattoos as a way to cement aspects of their current selves. “We were hoping to look at the postmodern identity, and really what we found is that we were in this modern era where people did know who they were,” she said. “They had a sense of their core self.” Eight years later, the team revisited the idea. The second study, like the first, found that people used tattoos as a means to express their past and present selves. But the people interviewed in the second group also seemed to need proof that their identities existed at all. They relied on tattoos as a way to establish some understanding of who they actually were.

“We continue to be struck by rapid and unpredictable change,” study co-author Jeff Murray said at the time. “The result is a loss of personal anchors needed for identity. We found that tattoos provide this anchor. Their popularity reflects a need for stability, predictability, permanence.”

For people who study identity, this permanence is key. We define who we are by the elements that stick with us—people, stories, places, memories—and we measure ourselves in relation to them, patching the highlights together into what sociologists call a “personal myth.” These myths make sense of often-turbulent lives, integrating our “remembered past, perceived present, and anticipated future,” as Velliquette wrote in her 2006 report. Some people use institutions such as religion, work, and family to create this myth. Others use material objects like houses and cars to define it. But Millennials are something of a breed apart. Without access to many of the anchors their parents had to create their personal myths, that sense of stability and permanence is often harder to find.

People rarely get just one tattoo. About half of the inked-up population has between two and five, and 18 percent have six or more. In other words, tattoos aren’t just snapshots. They’re part of the ongoing narrative of the personal myth. Unlike material objects, part of what makes them so meaningful is the degree of sacrifice involved in the process. A tattoo’s acquisition “involves a painful ritual that may take hours,” Velliquette writes, and in fact “becomes a part of the object, since the experience adds meaning and becomes embodied in the tattoo.” And unlike trucks or apartments, which get manufactured en masse, “every tattoo is unique from the beginning.” People age with their tattoos and can chart the timeline of their personal myth from start to finish, just by running a finger over their skin.

by Chris Weller, The Atlantic |  Read more:
Image: via:

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s—AAAACK!

I’m dreaming of a drone Christmas. Tiny drones tucked into stockings. Bigger drones beneath the tree. A drone for Dad, another for Junior, a third for your cool tween niece.

Anecdotal reports suggest that drones are topping Christmas lists all over. Why are holiday shoppers so excited? 1) These newer-model aircraft are meant to be far easier to fly than their predecessors. 2) They have cameras, allowing for all manner of creative (or mischievous) projects. 3) Folks just seem to be jazzed ever since we started calling these things “drones.” (...)

One of the leading consumer drone brands is DJI, and its Phantom drones are hugely popular, so I tried one of these first. When the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadcopter arrived, I pulled it from its box, screwed on its propellers (as though I were assembling a very small piece of Ikea furniture), and folded open its one-page “Quick Start Guide.” The steps looked straightforward. Thinking I’d run a casual, preliminary experiment—maybe send the thing 10 feet in the air and then immediately land it—I walked to a softball field around the corner from Slate’s New York office. After switching on the remote control and the drone itself, I calibrated the drone’s compass as the guide instructed. All systems go. I fired up its four propellers.

Now, before I characterize what happened next, I’d like to issue a disclaimer: I am mostly not an idiot, but sometimes it is useful—in my guise as a tech columnist—when I act like one. Why? Because most of us act like idiots at one time or another. We are harried, and distracted, and it’s Christmas morning and our kid wants to fly her drone RIGHT NOW. So we glance at the Quick Start Guide and think, Hey, looks easy, and thusly we wade into a minor catastrophe.

Anyway, here’s what happened. The drone lifted off the ground and, despite all my efforts to control it, ascended to a height of 20 feet before veering straight into the chain-link fence at the edge of the field and wedging itself deeply therein. I had to climb up the fence to retrieve it. It was stuck good.

Perhaps a wiser person would have paused at this point. I did not. Undeterred, I again followed the steps in the Quick Start Guide—calibrating, starting the propellers, nudging the drone into the air with the joystick. The events that followed are seared into my brain like freeze frames from a car accident. The drone zoomed to a height of 50 feet or so, far above the top of that tall chain-link fence I’d been counting on to limit potential damage. The airborne monster did not respond to my frantic jiggling of the joystick, or to my plaintive cries of “Come back!” Instead it rose and rose—and then suddenly rocketed sidewise at alarming velocity. I watched in terror as it flew across a busy street and crashed into the third story of a tall building. It tumbled to the sidewalk with a clatter of broken, scattering plastic.

A very nice woman stood by the wreckage to safeguard it for me as I ran across the street to inspect the wounded drone. Its camera was sheared clean off. Its propellers had snapped. Its battery pack had flown loose and been badly dented. It was pure luck that nobody got hurt. I felt immensely guilty and unspeakably stupid. I genuinely hoped that no witnesses would report me to the cops.

“The most dangerous thing in that box is the Quick Start Guide,” says Peter Sachs, a drone advocate and the founder of the Drone Law Journal. “There should be no such thing. Your experience isn’t surprising—learning from just the Quick Start Guide is inevitably going to result in a crash.” Sachs says any new drone owner should be sure to study basic aeronautics and meteorology, and should initially operate only under the tutelage of an experienced drone pilot in a designated recreational airspace. I did none of that, and, yes, shame on me. At the same time, I’ve a strong hunch my desultory approach will be replicated again and again, in the days following Christmas, by excited drone newbies all over the country. People very rarely choose to study aeronautics when they can look at a Quick Start Guide. We are impatient. We do dumb stuff.

Which—given that these things weigh as much as a steam iron, soar through the skies at 30 mph, and have whirring propellers just hankering to slice through somebody’s cornea—suggests that maybe there ought to be some regulations out there to protect us from ourselves. Can you just fly a drone anywhere? Like, say, smack in the middle of a crowded city? Without any kind of permit?

by Seth Stevenson, Slate |  Read more:
Image: Robert Neubecker

Thursday, November 27, 2014

All purpose recipe

Bill Morrison. Just Ancient Loops. 2010. Performed by Maya Beiser at Bang On A Can Marathon, Winter Garden at the World Financial Center, 2012. Photograph © 2012 Thomas Steenland

burned out

The Problem With Music

Whenever I talk to a band who are about to sign with a major label, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends, some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine a faceless industry lackey at the other end holding a fountain pen and a contract waiting to be signed. Nobody can see what's printed on the contract. It's too far away, and besides, the shit stench is making everybody's eyes water. The lackey shouts to everybody that the first one to swim the trench gets to sign the contract. Everybody dives in the trench and they struggle furiously to get to the other end. Two people arrive simultaneously and begin wrestling furiously, clawing each other and dunking each other under the shit. Eventually, one of them capitulates, and there's only one contestant left. He reaches for the pen, but the Lackey says "Actually, I think you need a little more development. Swim again, please. Backstroke. And he does of course.

I. A & R Scouts

Every major label involved in the hunt for new bands now has on staff a high-profile point man, an "A & R" rep who can present a comfortable face to any prospective band. The initials stand for "Artist and Repertoire." because historically, the A & R staff would select artists to record music that they had also selected, out of an available pool of each. This is still the case, though not openly.

These guys are universally young [about the same age as the bands being wooed], and nowadays they always have some obvious underground rock credibility flag they can wave. Lyle Preslar, former guitarist for Minor Threat, is one of them. Terry Tolkin, former NY independent booking agent and assistant manager at Touch and Go is one of them. Al Smith, former soundman at CBGB is one of them. Mike Gitter, former editor of XXX fanzine and contributor to Rip, Kerrang and other lowbrow rags is one of them. Many of the annoying turds who used to staff college radio stations are in their ranks as well.

There are several reasons A & R scouts are always young. The explanation usually copped-to is that the scout will be "hip to the current musical "scene." A more important reason is that the bands will intuitively trust someone they think is a peer, and who speaks fondly of the same formative rock and roll experiences. The A & R person is the first person to make contact with the band, and as such is the first person to promise them the moon. Who better to promise them the moon than an idealistic young turk who expects to be calling the shots in a few years, and who has had no previous experience with a big record company. Hell, he's as naive as the band he's duping. When he tells them no one will interfere in their creative process, he probably even believes it.

When he sits down with the band for the first time, over a plate of angel hair pasta, he can tell them with all sincerity that when they sign with company X, they're really signing with him and he's on their side. Remember that great gig I saw you at in '85? Didn't we have a blast.

By now all rock bands are wise enough to be suspicious of music industry scum. There is a pervasive caricature in popular culture of a portly, middle aged ex-hipster talking a mile-a-minute, using outdated jargon and calling everybody "baby." After meeting "their" A & R guy, the band will say to themselves and everyone else, "He's not like a record company guy at all! He's like one of us." And they will be right. That's one of the reasons he was hired.

These A & R guys are not allowed to write contracts. What they do is present the band with a letter of intent, or "deal memo," which loosely states some terms, and affirms that the band will sign with the label once a contract has been agreed on.

The spookiest thing about this harmless sounding little memo, is that it is, for all legal purposes, a binding document. That is, once the band signs it, they are under obligation to conclude a deal with the label. If the label presents them with a contract that the band don't want to sign, all the label has to do is wait. There are a hundred other bands willing to sign the exact same contract, so the label is in a position of strength.

These letters never have any terms of expiration, so the band remain bound by the deal memo until a contract is signed, no matter how long that takes. The band cannot sign to another laborer even put out its own material unless they are released from their agreement, which never happens. Make no mistake about it: once a band has signed a letter of intent, they will either eventually sign a contract that suits the label or they will be destroyed.

One of my favorite bands was held hostage for the better part of two years by a slick young "He's not like a label guy at all," A & R rep, on the basis of such a deal memo. He had failed to come through on any of his promises [something he did with similar effect to another well-known band], and so the band wanted out. Another label expressed interest, but when the A & R man was asked to release the band, he said he would need money or points, or possibly both, before he would consider it.

The new label was afraid the price would be too dear, and they said no thanks. On the cusp of making their signature album, an excellent band, humiliated, broke up from the stress and the many months of inactivity.

by Steve Albini, Won't Anybody Listen |  Read more:
Image: via:

The Long Thanatopsis

In 30 years, the assisted suicides of people won’t be met by the furor that followed the death of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer who ended her own life with a fatal dose of barbiturates on Nov. 1.

In 30 years, the media won’t bother with stories like Gillian Bennett, an 85-year-old Canadian woman who took her own life in August using alcohol and barbiturates because she had decided not to live any longer with dementia. Upon her death, a website,, went live with an essay justifying her choice and arguing for assisted suicide. In 30 years, an explanatory website will be as unnecessary as a newspaper story, because this form of dying will be just another one of the ways that we die.

This shift will be part of the lasting legacy of the 76 million baby boomers who make up about 25 percent of the American population and who will be aging and dying in the next 20 years. A century from now, the historians of the future will not credit them as much for their boisterous 1960s counterculture as for the gray twinkle and fade in the early 21st century that forever altered the way America dies.

For a middle-aged Gen X-er like me to play in the thanatopsis sandbox like this is bittersweet. (“Thanatopsis” is a meditation on death, from William Cullen Bryant’s 1817 poem.) Of course, it’s untoward to point to anyone’s death, no matter how inescapable it is. The main source of the bitterness, though, is acknowledging that the cultural hegemony of the baby boomers will always overshadow me. Better than I know the contours of my historical experience, I know theirs: born into postwar prosperity, the hedonism and idealism, its psychological aftermath, and the nostalgias (The Big Chill, A Prairie Home Companion). I envied their generational mindset, the self-identity of a group that was formed in the same historical crucible, so as a senior in college in 1989, I pitched an article on “my generation” to a national magazine. Very kindly but firmly the editor, a baby boomer, refused it on the grounds that generational forms of thinking were now outrĂ©, even as he admitted getting his start in journalism by publishing a “my generation” piece in 1974. This epitomizes to me how sorry a creature the Gen X-er could be: weaned on someone else’s cultural themes, always too late to the party. (Fortunately Richard Linklater and Douglas Coupland were more persistent than I was.)

All this is blunted by knowing that when (and, let’s be honest, if) I become an elderly Gen X-er, many of the sharp edges of old age will have been blasted smooth by the massive demographic cohort that has preceded me. That’s the sweet part of the bittersweetness.

by Michael Erard, TMN |  Read more:
Image: Colin Chillag, Grandma-Grandpa, 2012

Able-Bodied Until It Kills Us

My first white-collar job was “coordinator” at my college’s chapter of the Public Interest Research Group—yes, PIRG, mother ship of pie-eyed campus activists. It turned out to be manual labor after all. Nearly all the anticapitalist staff, board members, and volunteers had one or another malady, allergy, or disability that prevented them from fixing the ceiling, running the computer cables, moving the boxes, vacuuming, or cleaning anything. I remember one board member explaining to me how she couldn’t touch the ceiling tiles because she was allergic to fiberglass—it made her itch. Fiberglass makes everyone itch. But with that magic word, “allergy,” she was off the hook.

We endlessly criticized corporate agriculture at the PIRG, but I couldn’t talk about my gardening contracts with my coworkers because images of crawling around in sheep manure, worms, and caterpillars triggered their phobias. So did my stories about plumbing and any carpentry that involved a saw. When I mentioned that I had to drink from garden hoses, a colleague squealed, “Ew! That’s so gross!” She had a “hose phobia.” Allergies exempted this cadre of activists from physical labor. Phobias meant they would never have to hear about it.

As I scrambled up the rungs of the meritocracy, with my supererogatory privilege of four able limbs and all, I noticed ever-newer stylings in the lingo that heavily credentialed people devise to shirk routine labor. It wasn’t only allergies and phobias; it was ADD, ADHD, and PTSD, all of them rampant at my graduate school. There must have been at least six empathy-inducing acronyms for writing is hard, so I refresh my Facebook page all day instead. Meanwhile, every time I walked up the stairs to my new office and passed by the ZAPPY ELECTRIC sticker on the breaker box, I remembered a former lover of mine—an electrician who had rewired the building a few years back—coughing bitterly and complaining about the walls and floors being full of asbestos, which he’d been expected to inhale on a daily basis for eight months.

Installed there as a graduate student, I heard other students in the building complain, whenever workers came in to polish floors, fix radiators, or do electrical work, about the minor amount of dust that they themselves had to inhale—and how the lobby smelled of industrial cleaners. I interrupted one such conversation to say, “This building is full of asbestos; did you know? Just imagine how the guy drilling in the ceiling feels!” Every student in the lobby perked up. “They have us working in a building full of asbestos?!” Ew!

And now, with ten years of graduate school under my belt, it’s become my job to guess how to grade papers that come with special slips marked “dyslexia”; those slips mean, basically, that I’m not supposed to judge the writing on the basis of syntax, grammar, or coherence. Of course, the dyslexic papers are always diverse—some have syntactic mix-ups that are clearly symptomatic of the disorder, some do not, some appear simply to be bad papers written by someone who did not read the book, and some are as good as the best papers in the non-dyslexic category. The non-dyslexic category involves a similar spread—a certain proportion have the syntactic mishaps that are the classic signature of dyslexia, most do not, some are terribly bad, and some are great.

What divides students with the special slip from everyone else is not always or only dyslexia. Some students work the system—i.e., have parents who bestow on them a sense of entitlement and access to expensive special health services that it doesn’t even occur to ordinary people to ask for. Disability then turns into class power misrecognized. The rebranding of social and cultural capital via a class-encoded discourse of health allows the privileged student to get ahead with even less merit than before. After all, it is only when pain is the exception rather than the rule that it is noticed; only those who can imagine escaping their pain bother to complain about it, and only those who know the system can have the strength to manipulate it.

by June Thunderstorm, The Baffler |  Read more:
Image: Nolan Pellitier

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Joseph Cornell, Untitled, 1971

‘Fahrenheit 451,’ Read by Tim Robbins

One ordinary evening in the not too distant past, I discovered I had exhausted all the offerings of the futuristic entertainment devices designed to help me tolerate the present. There was nothing that interested me on my high-definition television, neither on my 700 channels of cable nor on my 300 hours of recorded DVR programming, and no one to amuse me on my telephone that is also a camera or on my electronic tablet that is also a web browser. So I roused the desktop computer that is also my audio library from its digital slumber, inserted a shiny disc into its silver frame, and listened as a Hollywood movie star read “Fahrenheit 451” to me.

I hope that Ray Bradbury, in whatever alternate dimension he now occupies, will overlook the transgression and forgive readers like me who have regarded “Fahrenheit 451” as perhaps his finest novel while being such poor stewards of its legacy.

Since its publication in 1953, “Fahrenheit 451” has handily retained its place in the canon of dystopian fiction: more approachable than “1984,” not nearly as baroque as “A Clockwork Orange.” (All three made for equally flamboyant motion pictures.) Its longstanding presence on adolescent reading lists makes it no less worthy of adult attention, and in an era when accessibility to books is still regularly denied — whether by jittery school boards or petulant online retailers — its relevance can hardly be disputed.

But like the somnambulant suburbanites who wander the pages of “Fahrenheit 451,” misremembering their own lives and established history like the hazy contents of dreams, we seem to have forgotten what gives the novel its enduring, prophetic power. It is indeed a story about a world where books are outlawed and burned, but it is also a tale about the value of intellect, the importance of information and the singular, irreplaceable experience of reading books as books — as physical, palpable and precious objects.

It’s not hard to guess why Tim Robbins, the outspoken liberal activist and Academy Award-winning star of films like “Mystic River,” “The Player” and “The Shawshank Redemption,” agreed to serve as the narrator for this project, produced by Audible Studios (owned by Amazon, another despotic state that will someday surely inspire its own great novel about a dehumanized future).

The actor certainly does not phone in his assignment, even if, in this modern age, it may be possible to do the recording work entirely by phone. Robbins has both a gruffness and a gentleness in his voice, and these qualities especially suit his portrayal of the “Fahrenheit 451” protagonist, Guy Montag, a so-called fireman in a future society, whose job is not to put out blazes but to set them in homes and locations suspected of harboring books, and who has become increasingly conflicted about his profession, wondering why it is necessary.

by Dave Itzkoff, NY Times |  Read more:
Image: Bauman Rare Books

Big Cannabis

[ed. See also: Leafly the "Yelp of Weed".]

A 46-year-old mother of three, Dooley is the cofounder and president of Julie’s Baked Goods, a purveyor of cannabis-infused snacks. She has celiac disease and wanted to create gluten-free products that would relieve her pain without damaging her intestine. Dooley’s Denver company released its first product, granola mixed with cranberries and almonds, in 2010 and now sells about 6,000 units a month, employing 11 people.

Even in Colorado, where medical and recreational marijuana are both legal, the cannabis business involves its share of hassles. Initially, Dooley’s license cost $1,250 and required a 25-page application. Renewing it, she said, cost more than twice that and required investing about $25,000 in the company’s kitchen, including a security system with 24-hour video surveillance. She wouldn’t have a business today if her husband weren’t a manufacturing specialist, she says.

As hard as she’s worked, Dooley’s experience has been relatively easy for a medical marijuana business in this country. Marijuana remains illegal federally, which leaves every state which allows the product to figure out its own regulations. Colorado was one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, and its regulations help ensure that cannabis companies have to pay close attention to the regulatory landscape to ensure they’re in step with the law. "I know every city councilman," Dooley said. "I don’t want to."

Colorado has plenty of small potrepreneurs like Dooley. Marijuana advocates talk up the value of their businesses to create jobs, pay taxes and help the sick. But at last week’s National Marijuana Business Conference in Las Vegas, the future of pot looked much less like an archipelago of mission-driven small enterprises than an emerging mega industry to be dominated by large companies.

Big Cannabis is coming. Increasingly, state regulations for legal marijuana are tilted toward outfits with deep pockets. Venture capitalists are looking for the brands that can ramp up and be everywhere overnight. (Just this week Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm, and the family of reggae legend Bob Marley announced that they will release Marley Natural, a cannabis brand inspired by the singer.) And people who are working to start small businesses—who often believe cannabis as a social or medical good—wonder if the gold rush is going to pass them by.

by Alex Halperin, Fast Company |  Read more:
Image: PRILL via Shutterstock

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sibylle Bergemann, Fashion Photography II (1980s)

Luck Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity

I know, I know, no football. But I could not help seeing this catch last night by NY Giants receiver Odell Beckham. Many are calling it the best catch anyone has ever made in the history of the NFL.

As a player, how do you prepare yourself for making the greatest catch in history? It would be easy to dismiss this catch as a lucky, fighting off a defender, just gets it by his fingertips. But here's the thing: Beckham practices exactly this catch:

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Preparation, kids. Preparation.

The Cult of the Leica Camera

The camera arrives in a thin, brown cardboard box. Inside the box is another box, also cardboard, but this time shiny silver with a small red dot on the side. One opens the top and the sides fall away in unison, like a Buster Keaton film set, only to reveal yet another box, this one black with hidden magnetic clasps. Open this and there is, of course, another box, grey and black this time, with that red dot again, and within this – finally – is a block of aluminium that has been polished by hand for 45 minutes (you can see a film of this on YouTube that’s called “The Most Boring Ad Ever Made?” ). Inside this aluminium block is 100 years of German engineering, and when you hold it in your hands you may unaccountably feel, as I did with all that cardboard detritus happily discarded around me, that you are holding the weighty sum of human worth.

Just a camera, of course. The lump of aluminium is called the Leica T, and it is an unusual thing. It’s not just a new Leica camera, but a new Leica system. The system – much to the horror of those who picked up a Leica in the days when Henri Cartier-Bresson was dancing through the streets of Paris – is the first Leica designed and marketed for the iPhone generation, with a large touch-screen taking up almost the whole of its back and not very much else. Leica has been making mass-market digital cameras since 2005, which is the year the company came close to bankruptcy for failing to tackle the digital market earlier.

But the new T abandons itself to pixels as never before. With a bit of external design advice from Audi, Leica has jettisoned almost every visible element that the company once considered necessary to take photos: the chunky shutter speed and synchro dials; the rangefinder window and eyepiece; the distance indicator on the helical focus mount – long forgotten and so grandfatherly.

In their place is one slightly raised button for taking a photograph, and two gently recessed programmable dials, which may be completely bypassed by tapping on the screen. But within all this reductionist, modernist, shiny newness, Leica has retained one feature that sets it apart from all the Nikons and Canons and Rolleiflexes you can amass: its sheer, undentable, age-defying, spirit-lifting, grown-men-weeping desirability. Only those with steel hearts will be able to hold one and not reach for their credit card.

The cult of Leica takes many different forms, but it may be best defined by one anecdote. An absurd story you may safely try at home. A couple of years ago, a man on an online forum was pondering what really made Leica, Leica? Why was the brand so indestructible and perennially appealing? Why would normally sensible people pay much more for a Leica than another camera capable of achieving comparable results? One can argue endlessly about the quality of the lenses, and about the solidity of manufacture, but the forum guy believed there was another factor: the red dot logo. He took this theory onto the streets. He put a red paper sticker on his digital Panasonic Lumix (which uses Leica lenses, and is, give or take a bit of lens coating, practically a Leica without the badge), and started taking photos.

He felt bolder. He felt more able to edge himself into situations from which he previously would have shrunk. When he reviewed his pictures later, he found them to be better than those he had taken before. All of which doesn’t say much for Leica cameras, but says rather a lot about their image. The tiny red dot enclosing the word “Leica” in flowery script is the smallest piece of successful branding in the history of photography. It may also be the most alluring piece of miniature branding in the history of luxury consumerism – some logos on watches are larger. Surprisingly, its presence on cameras is relatively new, and dates only from the mid-Eighties (for a decade before, the name within the dot read “Leitz”, the name of the parent company). When I recently mentioned the forum guy’s red dot story to Stefan Daniel, Leica’s head of product development, he said, “Maybe we should just sell red dots.”

by Simon Garfield, Esquire | Read more:
Image: Martha Pavildou

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bob Dylan Plays Concert for One Insanely Lucky Superfan

Yesterday afternoon around 3:00 p.m. 41-year-old Bob Dylan superfan Fredrik Wikingsson walked into Philadelphia's Academy of Music, took a seat in the second row and prepared to watch his hero play a concert just for him. "At this point I still thought I was about to get Punk'd," he says. "I thought some asshole would walk onstage and just laugh at me. I just couldn't fathom that Dylan would actually do this."

This wasn't Punk'd, and within 10 minutes of Wikingsson taking his seat, the lights dimmed and Dylan took the stage alongside his touring band. Playing to an audience of one, they abandoned their usual repertoire and played Buddy Holly's "Heartbeat," Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill," Chuck Willis' "It's Too Late (She's Gone)" and a blues jam that Wikingsson has been unable to identify. "I was smiling so much it was like I was on ecstasy," he says. "My jaw hurt for hours afterwards because I couldn't stop smiling."

The incredible concert was part of an ongoing Swedish film series Experiment Ensam (Experiment Alone), where people experience things completely alone that are usually reserved for large crowds. Past films focused on a lone people at comedy clubs or karaoke bars. The filmmakers thought a lot bigger for this one and made arrangements with Dylan's camp for the private show, paying him an undisclosed amount of money. "I have no idea how much it was," says Wikingsson. "But it was probably more than he gets for a normal gig."

Wikingsson's friend Anders Helgeson is the director of Experiment Ensam, and when he told him about the Dylan concept he begged to be the subject. "I had an endless series of meetings where I managed to convince people my extreme fandom made me the best candidate for the enviable task," he says. "I'm very passive and I always picture myself as the guy that wouldn't be able to save himself on a sinking ship. I'd just lay down and die. I have no real ability to grab the moment, but when I heard about this I thought, 'For once, I have to stop everything in my life and go for something.'"

by Andy Greene, Rolling Stone |  Read more:
Image: Simon Rudholm

DL Goines, Chez Panisse 2005

The Excrement Experiment

No one knows how many people have undergone fecal transplants—the official term is fecal microbiota transplantation, or FMT—but the number is thought to be at least ten thousand and climbing rapidly. New research suggests that the microbes in our guts—and, consequently, in our stool—may play a role in conditions ranging from autoimmune disorders to allergies and obesity, and reports of recoveries by patients who, with or without the help of doctors, have received these bacteria-rich infusions have spurred demand for the procedure. A year and a half ago, a few dozen physicians in the United States offered FMT. Today, hundreds do, and OpenBiome, a nonprofit stool bank founded last year by graduate students at M.I.T., ships more than fifty specimens each week to hospitals in thirty-six states. The Cleveland Clinic named fecal transplantation one of the top ten medical innovations for 2014, and biotech companies are competing to put stool-based therapies through clinical trials and onto the market. In medicine, at any rate, human excrement has become a precious commodity. (...)

Scattered case reports in the medical literature described C. difficile patients, some on their deathbeds, who received fecal transplants and recovered, often within hours. Then, in January, 2013, The New England Journal of Medicine published the results of the first randomized controlled trial involving FMT, comparing the therapy to treatment with vancomycin for patients with recurrent disease. The trial was ended early when doctors realized that it would be unethical to continue: fewer than a third of the patients given vancomycin recovered, compared with ninety-four per cent of those who underwent fecal transplants—the vast majority after a single treatment. A glowing editorial accompanying the article declared that the trial’s significance “goes far beyond the treatment of recurrent or severe C. difficile” and predicted a spate of research into the benefits of fecal transplants for other diseases.

“Nothing in health care works ninety per cent of the time,” Mark B. Smith, a microbiologist at M.I.T. who is a co-founder of OpenBiome, the stool bank, told me. Zain Kassam, a gastroenterologist who is OpenBiome’s chief medical officer, put it this way: “It’s the closest thing to a miracle I’ve seen in medicine.” (...)

Among the desperately ill, FMT’s reputation as a wonder cure has outstripped the science supporting its use. The lure of a potential remedy that is widely available, inexpensive, and considered relatively low-risk has yielded an improvisational approach to treatment and a growing D.I.Y. transplant population. When Jon Ritter agreed to serve as a donor for Tom Gravel, the Greenwich Village Crohn’s patient, Gravel paid the charges for the blood and stool screening that Ritter’s insurance didn’t cover. But these tests can cost hundreds of dollars, and many patients are circumventing the medical system altogether. On YouTube, FMT how-to videos have received thousands of views, and on Facebook there are private forums where people trade advice about the procedure. “There are a lot of people who are doing this at home,” Lawrence Brandt, of the Montefiore Medical Center, says. “Some of them are doing it under the instructions of their physicians. Some of them are doing it by reading the Internet.” One of his patients, ill with C. difficile and unable to find a donor, asked whether she could use her dog’s feces. (The answer was no.) Another placed an ad in her local paper; more than forty-five people responded. Instances of FMT going terribly wrong are hard to find, although there have been anecdotal reports of people developing bacterial and viral infections following the procedure.

Like Mark Smith, of OpenBiome, the F.D.A. watched the surging demand for fecal transplants with concern. In the early nineteen-eighties, at least twenty thousand people became infected with H.I.V. after receiving blood transfusions contaminated with the virus, because doctors didn’t know to screen for it. Could a similar, as yet unknown threat be lurking in a donor’s stool? In May, 2013, agency officials convened a public workshop on FMT in Bethesda, where they explained that the F.D.A. considers stool to be a drug. This wasn’t particularly surprising. The agency defines a drug as any material that is intended for “use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.” An exception has been written into law for body parts, including skin, bone, and cartilage, which are classified as tissue. But the statute excludes most human secretions from this category.

Substances labelled drugs are subject to a rigorous approval process. Pharmaceutical companies typically spend many years and millions of dollars researching and testing a drug before submitting it to the agency for approval. Until the F.D.A. approved a fecal-transplant therapy, the procedure would be considered experimental. In order to offer it to patients, doctors would need to file an investigational new-drug application, or I.N.D., and obtain the agency’s permission. “That hit the whole field like a ton of bricks,” Smith, who attended the workshop, told me. “There was this increasing momentum around fecal transplants, and all of a sudden the whole field hit the brakes.”

I.N.D.s are intended to capture every aspect of a prospective therapy in exacting detail. At the Bethesda workshop, one gastroenterologist said that it had taken her hundreds of hours to complete the paperwork. Many others lacked the resources and staff to devote to such a task. “What do we do with the fifteen thousand patients who are really desperate for something that works?” a doctor from the Mayo Clinic asked F.D.A. officials. “If your mother shows up with severe or recurrent C. difficile, are you going to not offer something that you know how to do safely, effectively, and say, ‘I can’t do it because the regulatory agencies in the United States have decided that this requires a special licensure’?”

by Emily Eakin, New Yorker |  Read more:
Image: Oliver Munday

Miri in Love

Miri had been at her new job for two months when she got her first perk. Other employees, she knew, got perks like stock options, free massages, and gym membership. This was a start-up, after all, and that was the whole point of working for a start-up. But as the office assistant, all Miri got was a talking dildo.

Bill, her boss and the founder of TALKTOYSTOME, a distribution app that handled exclusively voice responsive, talking sex toys, was a young man, younger than Miri even, who was barely thirty. He had the questionable social skills Miri had come to expect from programmers, and as such she was only sort of surprised when he called her into his office and handed her a dildo.

The dildo’s name was James.

“Anyway, welcome to the company,” Bill said. “Have a good time with him.”

Miri did not think he was as uneasy as he ought to have been, giving a sex a toy to a subordinate, but she was also curious. She was unsure if she’d ever had an orgasm before, and James came with glowing customer reviews, and an average four and a half star rating.

Now, as she removed James from his packaging, she wondered how Bill selected this particular model for her. James seemed awfully large, and this particular model was an obnoxious shade of hot pink.

Her first and only date with James did not go well.

“You like it like that, don’t you?” James shouted. “You want me to fuck you harder, don’t you?”

Miri felt acutely uncomfortable.

She poured herself a glass of wine, but it didn’t help. Using James felt a little like humping a helicopter. To make things worse, she couldn’t figure out how to turn the volume down on him, and she was sure his stupid, booming voice could be heard through the thin walls of her apartment.

She put James away, and wondered how you even dispose of a dildo—she couldn’t just throw James in her trash. What if one of her neighbors saw? So she put James in her sock drawer, and hoped to god that Bill wouldn’t ask how she liked him.

The next day Miri wanted to tell Bo about her conversation with Bill, but Ashley wouldn’t leave him alone. Distantly, Miri could hear Bo saying “I’m just not sure what you’d like me to do,” which figured, because Ashley was the worst, and had no idea what she was doing, a reality which never stopped her from delegating. Ashley was fresh out of college and already ran their social media marketing. She spent most her time cussing loudly about vendors and fucking around on Facebook, a role in their company which, Miri had to admit to herself, made her deeply envious.

“Bo,” Ashley whined. “I need this document in legal AND in letter.”

“I’m just not sure what you’d like me to do,” Bo repeated.

Miri loved Bo.

He was tall, square-shaped and black. His full name was Bo_Laser, and also, he was a combination printer and flat bed scanner. Miri had worked with some terrible printers in her long career of shitty admin jobs, and so she could appreciate a good printer when she met one. And Bo was a good printer. Like the vibrating dildos and sucking, rubber orifices they sold, Bo talked, and was voice responsive. But unlike the sex toys they sold, his voice had been recorded by Benedict Cumberbatch, making everything he said sound, Miri thought, rather alluring.

by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Boing Boing | Read more:
Image: via:

Google Fiber May Be Making the Digital Divide Worse

For Google, the creation of Google Fiber was a response to a very specific problem: Even though the United States is the undisputed leader in cutting-edge tech, the country’s network of broadband services is shockingly lackluster. The average download speed in the United States is slower than that of Estonia, and residential customers often pay higher prices in the U.S than in countries like France or Japan for comparable service.

The issue, at least domestically, is a lack of competition. A 2013 report by New America Foundation found that the places in the U.S. with the best Internet service were generally the ones where consumers had a variety of Internet service providers (ISPs) to pick from; however, most Americans have few, if any, choices.

The reason Comcast is the most hated company in America isn’t just because of its legendarily terrible customer service—it’s also because a large percentage of their customers don’t have any alternatives if they want high-speed Internet access. (...)

Sometime next year, the some residents of Austin, Texas, will get to experience the joy of having Google Fiber deliver piping hot Internet, undoubtedly boasting some of the fastest download speeds of anywhere on the planet, all over every last inch of their homes.

But not everyone in Austin will necessarily be able to sign up for Google Fiber, even if they are able to spare $70 a month for ridiculously fast Internet. When Google selects a city to deploy Fiber, it’s not guaranteed that every part of that city will be eligible for that service.

“[The way that cable companies historically operated,] there would often be franchise fees or build-out requirements that would make a company start building out in certain neighborhoods first or they couldn’t activate without a certain portion of the geography,” explained Brian Dietz, spokesperson for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. “Those rules were meant to avoid new providers entering the market from being able to cherry-pick the most profitable neighborhoods.” (...)

Google, on the other hand, uses a different model. Google slices up each city into hundreds of different “fiberhoods,” which can qualify for service if enough people within each one show interest through a process called a “rally.” In Kansas City, Google dispatched employees into each individual neighborhood and worked with local community groups, sometimes employing tactics like handing out free ice cream, to hit the requisite number of households in that area to justify deployment. (...)

In November, the company unveiled a new program in Austin called Unlocking the Connection that takes this community service aspect to the next level. In a partnership with the Texas capital’s public housing authority, Google agreed to give free broadband connections to the approximately 4,300 residents of all 18 city-owned public housing projects—as long as the buildings’ surrounding fiberhoods demonstrate enough interest to quality for service.

It’s this last move that shows why Google’s methods for selecting fiberhoods is simultaneously noble and problematic. Google is able to go back, expending money and time, to the communities who were left out, even to the point of giving some of them free connections, because Google can still make money from those people just by their being online. If Verizon or Time-Warner Cable were put in the same situation, they’d have little incentive to pursue further action. (...)

“I think this [rally model] is going to catch on and it worries me greatly,” insisted Christopher Mitchell of Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit group that advocates for the expansion of municipal broadband networks. “Google is popularizing the idea of building essential infrastructure with a market-driven approach. We don’t build roads like that—if we did, there’d be no roads in rural areas. We don’t build electricity like that—if we did, our economy could be far weaker. We recognize that those things are essential infrastructure.”

This demand-driven model is one that, even without Google, is starting to catch on nationally. With Google using Fiber as a publicity campaign for how the company would like to see high-speed broadband deployed across the board, it not only gives the company’s more traditional competitors greater incentive to discriminate based on socioeconomic geography, but it also pushes cities to let them do so.

by Aaron Sankin, The Kernel | Read more:
Image: J. Longo

How TV Took Off in a Big Way

Here are a few things that did not exist in American television 10 years ago:

Binge-watching; recapping; scripted series on networks devoted to old movies, science and history; zombies; streaming services; popular series that end just because the story is done; film-franchise adjacency; shows that begin as miniseries and then continue indefinitely; multiplatform viewing; two concurrent versions of Sherlock Holmes; A-list film directors; television shows devoted to talking about television shows; live tweeting; micro-audiences; immediate remakes of British series; any remakes of European series; European series; subtitles; cord-cutting; horrific violence; series in which the cast stays the same but the story changes; series in which the title stays the same but the story and cast change; really good computer graphics; comedies more dark than funny; amazing international locations; an overabundance of stories characterizing the many ways in which television has changed in the past 10 years.

Here's the most important thing that did not exist in the television universe 10 years ago: ownership.

Technically, the citizens of these United States have always been the proprietors of the airwaves over which television was broadcast, but it didn't feel that way. We watched what the network executives offered us when they offered it. Good television was like good weather, fleet and ephemeral; you enjoyed it while it lasted. Maybe you watched it again in reruns while you were sick or sad or trying to get ahead on the ironing. (...)

"When television became archivable, everything changed."

That's what veteran television writer Glen Mazzara said to me a couple of years ago during a conversation about the "new golden age" everyone was talking about with wearisome regularity at the time.

The show runner for "The Walking Dead" at the time, Mazzara had called me to say in the nicest way possible that it would be really great if television critics would stop comparing television to film and novels as if the comparison in itself were some huge compliment. Television was an independent art form, he said, and should be judged on its own terms.

But those terms were changing. Technology had granted the medium both a flexibility and a permanence it had lacked before. The idea that people could now watch a show in its entirety, that they could take entire seasons with them when they traveled and collect their favorites for further viewing, offered television writers a shot at something historically reserved for an anointed few: legacy.

An unexpected turn of events when you consider the dire predictions of less than 10 years ago, when many people assumed that reality would soon control almost every time slot on every network and that the television set itself would vanish, replaced by a forest of laptops and mobile phones. The scripted drama was dead, the sitcom was dead, the family hour was dead. Despairing critics and viewers imagined a world in which the broadcast networks were overrun with singing competitions, "Two and a Half Men" and the increasingly brutalized victims of "NCIS" and "CSI" while the Young People watched webisodically told narratives and YouTube.

Which, of course, they do. But they also watch television, perhaps less than previous generations and certainly on their laptops and mobile devices, but also on their flat screens; they watch it whenever they want to but also in real live-tweeting time (hello, "Pretty Little Liars.")

by Mary McNamara, LA Times |  Read more:
Image: Emiliano Ponzi

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Paul Wunderlich, Gut getroffen (Well taken), 1983.

Robert LaDuke, Wings

The Time I Spent Nine Hours in Jail

It Wasn't for Any Good Reason, It Was for the Dumbest Reason Imaginable

I didn't go to jail for any kind of a cool reason. I wasn't arrested at a protest; I didn't assault somebody deserving. I went to jail because I was a doofus. How I became a doofus of the magnitude I was—that's a different story.

Step one was a car accident. I caused it. It was the summer of 1998, I'd just turned 29, and I was leaving Capitol Hill in my old Volvo one late afternoon, heading back to Fremont, where I lived. I was near the old B&O Espresso, making a right turn onto East Olive Way, and I didn't leave enough room between cars going by for me to fit in, and I got rear-ended. The car behind me got rear-ended, too.

There was no place to pull over without blocking traffic, and I didn't get that I didn't have to find a great parking spot to deal with this matter. I didn't know that you can and should just stop and get out and face the music. So I did a U-y and parked on a side street across the way.

I got out of the car and checked things out. There, across the way, were two angry-looking men out of their cars, yelling at each other. I watched them do that for a spell. If this were a party, I wouldn't have gone up and introduced myself just then. It wouldn't have been the right moment.

And then I reflected for a bit on how nice it was that there were three of us, three cars involved in this accident. Each mad guy over there already had someone to yell at. Why mess with something that's worked out so elegantly? Shouldn't I just let them continue? Isn't it, in a way, more polite? Because aren't they just going to get madder and more stressed out if I go over there?

The sun was setting in the west, meanwhile—so pretty. I'd been driving west, heading to my apartment, where no men were yelling. And then I thought about the sounds of the accident. On the spectrum of sounds caused by cars making contact with other cars, I rated the sounds I'd heard at about a 2. No explosions, no crunching. Just boonk. Boonk. And so maybe this day didn't have to end with bad feelings! For me, I mean. Maybe I could just get back into my car and drive toward the sun, like I was doing, and then take a right and be home, all by myself, the evening my oyster.

So that's what I did.

We have to double back now to an earlier bad decision, one that took place seven years before the car accident. A group of people in a bar was proclaiming that my friend Caitlin and I would never get tattoos. The implication was that we were pussies. Well, fuck these people. We weren't pussies. Caitlin and I vowed right then and there that not only would we get tattoos, we would get them the very next morning.

After the sun came up, Caitlin pulled up in front of my apartment in her little Corolla and we drove to the tattoo parlor. Caitlin already knew what she was going to get, AS YOU SHOULD WHEN YOU ARE RIGHT ABOUT TO GET A TATTOO. She was going to get a small blue rose on her left shoulder. I didn't know what I was going to get. I only knew that I wasn't a pussy.

Caitlin went first, and I flipped through the idea book to see what I maybe wanted on my body for the rest of my life. Eventually I saw a little picture of the Cat in the Hat. This seemed kind of good. I liked Dr. Seuss. That book was pretty good. Not a favorite, necessarily, but hey. Good enough. Done. And so I got a small, meaningless, shitty Cat in the Hat tattoo on my left shoulder, right where it would show if I were wearing a tank top and standing on a side street on Capitol Hill and somebody who'd witnessed a car accident could use it as an identifying characteristic when they reported the person who caused it leaving the scene of said accident to the police.

by Tina Rowley, The Stranger |  Read more:
Image: Mike Force

Aaron Rodgers: Master of the Hard Count

During every Green Bay training camp, an inexperienced defensive lineman rotates in for a play or two, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers stifles a laugh. He glances at the Packers’ defensive line coach, Mike Trgovac, who knows precisely what Rodgers is about to do but is powerless to stop it.

Toward the end of his cadence, just before Rodgers calls for the ball to be snapped, he articulates the word “hut” with such gusto that the poor lineman bulldozes over the line of scrimmage, goaded offside by the N.F.L.’s leading expert in pre-snap subterfuge.

Just as valuable an asset as his arm strength, mobility and microprocessor of a brain is Rodgers’s voice, loaded with bass and thump and a tinge of soul. With it, he has coaxed eight neutral-zone infractions this season — including three in the first 21 minutes against Carolina last month — by using rhythm and inflection to exploit defenders’ aggressiveness, a tactic known as a hard count.

When deployed, it puts stress on the opposition, forcing players to ponder a challenge besides merely trying to thwart Rodgers, the league’s best quarterback for the past two months. It slows the pass rush, reveals potential blitzers and helps Rodgers decipher a defense, uploading critical data about its alignment and assignments.

The tactic can enable Green Bay to steal 5 free yards via a penalty, and sometimes — in third-and-short situations, especially — that is the team’s objective. But because the play often continues after the flag is thrown, Rodgers immediately looks to throw downfield for a long gain.

“He’s a master at a lot of things,” the ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said, “but he’s completely mastered this.”

by Ben Shpigel, NY Times | Read more:
Image: Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

Saturday, November 22, 2014

H. Alan Cheung, Chinese Graffiti II (1995).

Talking Heads

[ed. The apartment building in 'Singles', one of my all-time favorite movies. See it here, with a cameo by Chris Cornell of Soundgarden. I think that's Janet's car out front (with new windows).] photo: markk

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sherree Valentine Daines, Champagne rendezvous

Understanding “New Power”

We all sense that power is shifting in the world. We see increasing political protest, a crisis in representation and governance, and upstart businesses upending traditional industries. But the nature of this shift tends to be either wildly romanticized or dangerously underestimated.

There are those who cherish giddy visions of a new techno-utopia in which increased connectivity yields instant democratization and prosperity. The corporate and bureaucratic giants will be felled and the crowds coronated, each of us wearing our own 3D-printed crown. There are also those who have seen this all before. Things aren’t really changing that much, they say. Twitter supposedly toppled a dictator in Egypt, but another simply popped up in his place. We gush over the latest sharing-economy start-up, but the most powerful companies and people seem only to get more powerful.

Both views are wrong. They confine us to a narrow debate about technology in which either everything is changing or nothing is. In reality, a much more interesting and complex transformation is just beginning, one driven by a growing tension between two distinct forces: old power and new power.

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The battle and the balancing between old and new power will be a defining feature of society and business in the coming years. In this article, we lay out a simple framework for understanding the underlying dynamics at work and how power is really shifting: who has it, how it is distributed, and where it is heading.

by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms, Harvard Business Review |  Read more:
Image: uncredited

Forty Years Young: Hello Kitty and the Power of Cute

It's 15 minutes before the doors will open at the very first Hello Kitty convention in downtown Los Angeles, and thousands of people are lined up to get in. Some have been there since three in the morning, and most are decked out in some sort of Hello Kitty gear, whether it be full-on cosplay or a favorite T-shirt.

There's just somuch. So much to look at, so much to do, so much to buy.Kitty Con, like the Hello Kitty brand itself, is a lot to take in. There's just so much. So much to look at, so much to do, so much to buy. You can have Hello Kitty nail art done by Sanrio's resident nail artist, Masako Kojima, while you eat a bow-adorned donut from the Hello Kitty Cafe truck and a complimentary Hello Kitty Yoplait yogurt in Friendship Berry. You can revive your phone at a glowing Hello Kitty charging station, take out cash at a Hello Kitty-wrapped ATM, and wash your hands with Hello Kitty soap in the bathrooms. (Rumor has it there was also Hello Kitty toilet paper in the stalls, but that was all used—or stashed in the plastic Hello Kitty backpacks that came with admission—by the end of the first morning.)

You can get free Hello Kitty tattoos, both temporary and very permanent ("Hug Life" in ornate script is a personal favorite), and you can spend gobs of money on merch like Hello Kitty Spam musubi kits and Beats by Dre headphones, all charged on a Hello Kitty credit card that you can sign up for at a kiosk some 20 feet away. You can get schooled in the art of Hello Kitty flower arranging, cookie decorating, and scrapbooking. You can play Hello Kitty Wheel of Fortune and take part in a Hello Kitty cosplay contest. You can Instagram yourself in any number of Hello Kitty-themed tableaux. You can even meet Hello Kitty herself, dressed up in one of her myriad outfits whipped up expressly for the occasion.(...)

Hello Kitty was birthed in 1974, not quite girl, not quite cat, but rather gijinka—an anthropomorphization. It was anthropologist Christine Yano who caused the internet to explode this summer with her declaration to the Los Angeles Times that "Hello Kitty is not a cat" in promotion of the Japanese American National Museum exhibit she curated to coincide with Hello Kitty's 40th anniversary.

Let's clear something up, before we get in too deep: Technically, sure, Hello Kitty is not a cat—she's a character, not an actual animal. But she's a character in the form of a cat, the semantics of which were lost in translation and generated a collective freak-out. She's not a cat, but she's not not a cat, and that's something we're going to have to be okay with. (...)

The core of Hello Kitty's near-universal appeal comes from her impeccable simplicity: two eyes, six whiskers, a nose, and a bow, all on a pleasingly round face. "I really look at her as the most perfect of our designs," notes Sanrio art director Dan Peters. "Her basic shape is really appealing. She's huggable, and there are no sharp edges to her. I think everybody can relate to that and be like, 'Oh my gosh, she is just so cute.' She's a simple, perfectly drawn character, and it's very difficult to find that."

The result is a "Zen-like countenance," as Dave Marchi calls it. Marchi has been at Sanrio for nearly 15 years (this is a company that truly retains its employees) and is currently its senior director of brand management and marketing.

"People look at her and feel this love or whatever it is they feel, which is also described as this element of kawaii, a very particular Japanese form of cuteness," he says. "But to call it cuteness is just not enough—it goes beyond that. It's a feeling that you get from looking at Hello Kitty that's almost like being in love. It's this insatiable hunger."

"To call it cuteness is just not enough—it goes beyond that. It's this insatiable hunger."For Hello Kitty, as per the JANM exhibit, "kawaii can be taken as a relational term, swaddled in emotions of attachment that draw people to an object." It should come as no surprise that girl culture is at the very heart of kawaii, though you most certainly don't have to be a girl to take comfort in Kitty. "So CUTE!" is a common refrain at Kitty Con, from men and women alike.

by Julia Rubin, Racked |  Read more:
Image: Elizabeth Daniels