Wednesday, August 25, 2010 11:00 AM
Like most dictators—or so I assume—African autocrats like fancy things, such as private jets. How opulent are these aircraft? Flavorwire has some photographic evidence: Those are pretty luxurious airplanes.
(Thanks, The Rumpus.)
Image by Ricardo (Kadinho) Villela, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010 10:33 AM
Over at Slate, Jessica Grose writes about Micah Toub’s book Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks. In the annals of childhood psychological adjustment, I don’t think my head has ever exploded quite the way it did when I read this paragraph:
There was a lot of dream analysis in the Toub household, of course, and also exercises in the Jungian technique of "active imagination," which Toub explains is "deliberately exploring one's imagination and fantasies by … acting them out verbally or physically to read the message that one's unconscious is trying to communicate." In one memorable scene, Toub's mother encouraged him to "be" an erection in order to help him get over a bout of teenage impotence. To accomplish this, she took young Micah to a local park and had him pretend to be his own boner. "Your name is not Micah, you are not a human being," she told him. "You are an erection. What words come into your head?" He visualized himself as a "victorious penis," running around the park triumphantly.
Image by marine_perez, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010 12:40 PM
300 Reviews is a curious, trenchant, and charming criticism website that publishes 300-word reviews of everything from the gender binary to cats. It may remind you of The Rumpus’s Ted Wilson Reviews the World, which we’ve already expressed public love for, but 300 Reviews is a bit more serious and varied compared to Wilson’s loopy digressions. Plus, 300 Reviews has a diverse cast of reviewers—and is always looking for new contributors. Maybe you want to review your wicker chair? Or perhaps your Grandmother? Maybe that’s just me.
Image by zenera, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010 11:49 AM
Andrew Zuckerman’s coffee table book Bird is an incredible collection of bird photographs, capturing them in various poses, but most stunningly in mid-flight. His website features a sampling of the work.
Source: Andrew Zuckerman
Image by law_keven. Licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, August 23, 2010 3:13 PM
Writer Natasha Vargas-Cooper has just published a book called Mad Men Unbuttoned, which serves as a set of spiffy annotations to the lauded television show. The Paris Review asked Vargas-Cooper a few questions, and she gave some snappy answers, as is her wont. When asked why Mad Men inspires such frothing-at-the-mouth praise, she remarked:
We’re watching the foundation of our modern taste come together—that’s fascinating! The show lends itself to a gleeful analysis. Its use of culture is deliberate. References to pop culture or politics aren’t thrown in to be cute or suggestive, but to enhance the themes of the show or our understanding of the characters. I think the audience appreciates not being treated like a mope so they get jazzed about it.
Source: The Paris Review
Monday, August 23, 2010 2:49 PM
Writer David Axe and artist Matt Bors are two members of the collective of journalists and artists responsible for the excellent nonfiction blog and web comic, War is Boring. Now, they’ve published a graphic-novel memoir, entitled War is Boring: Bored Stiff, Scared to Death in the World's Worst War Zones. And there’s a YouTube video!
Source: War is Boring
Monday, August 23, 2010 11:54 AM
For the second time in recent memory, Seattle public libraries are closing for one week at the end of this month, leaving their online content—such as databases and e-books—accessible to library patrons, but sending their employees home without pay. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports:
The system wide closure, expected to save about $650,000, is one of a number of measures the library is implementing to achieve $3 million in cuts for 2010. A week-long closure last year saved a similar amount of cost.
The closure will mean salary reductions for nearly 650 employees who will not be paid during that week. The remaining savings is being met through reductions in branch hours, management and administration, the budget for books and materials, staff computers and staff training.
In our so-called information age, libraries are a typical target for political budget slashing. But, as the Post-Intelligencer notes, at least fines will not be assessed during the shutdown. So, personal budgets will only remain affected by the difficulty of finding a job.
(Thanks, The Consumerist.)
Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Image by Marxchivist, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, August 19, 2010 1:08 PM
HTMLGIANT has posted two essential videos—a two-part interview with the Wu-Tang Clan about their writing/rapping style.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 1:24 PM
Earlier this summer, Village Voice staff writer Elizabeth Dwoskin filed a story about Debrahlee Lorenzana, who had been fired from her job at Citibank because, according to her arbitration suit against the company, her body was too distracting for her male co-workers and managers. They had repeatedly attempted to control her wardrobe choices, which were not particularly revealing, it seems. The story went viral and was covered by major news outlets all over the world. Writing recently for the Columbia Journalism Review, Dwoskin remarks,
I watched this unfold in real-time—a punch-drunk, surreal, I-don’t-want-to jinx-myself-but-I-don’t-think-this-will-ever-happen-to-me-again sort of experience— extremely pleasurable, and also slightly disturbing. As a journalist, you spend so much time plugging away at stories that you hope will impact society. Then, suddenly, you hit on a sexy banker who lost her job, and, delighted as you are, you also can’t help but wonder: Is this what it takes to be talked about all over the world?
As Dwoskin points out, this is the weird reality of writing in an internet-mediated news culture. New stories can live and die by the page view. Notoriously, the blog Gawker once made editorial strategy of bonuses paid based on the number of views their stories received. That has changed a bit, as Gawker itself reported earlier this year. These days, bonuses are tied to the number of unique monthly visitors each site in the Gawker media empire garnishes over its monthly target. Exceed the expected number of visitors, and a particular site’s editor-in-chief has a bonus to divide among the site’s writers. I can’t declare this, prima facie, bad policy, but it certainly suggests the sort of viral-ness anxiety that Dwoskin is talking about.
In the end, even Dwoskin’s original story is in some way about the “viral” nature of certain kinds of superficial information and attitudes, as the alleged sexual appeal of Debrahlee Lorenzana increasingly became the central factor in her comfort at her job and for her professional prospects at Citibank. She tried to dress down, tried to appear less attractive (as her bosses apparently demanded), but her job became harder and harder to do. For all the questions about Lorenzana’s character that have cropped up in the aftermath, you can’t deny that her appearance came to dominate the story of her employment in a way we haven’t quite heard of before.
Sources: Columbia Journalism Review, Gawker
Image by Ivan Walsh, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, August 16, 2010 12:44 PM
Let’s say you’re the art director at a small press that publishes fantasy fiction exclusively. A hefty tome entitled something like The Elysian Gems sits on the desk in the art department. Now, your dilemma is that you can’t decide between the cover image that depicts a dragon and the one that depicts a group of drunken dwarves verbally abusing a haughty, teetotaling elf king. If only you had a statistical breakdown of the previous year’s trends in fantasy fiction cover art! You would know which choice was more original.
Well, worry no more. The folks at the publisher Orbit have released a chart contrasting 2008 fantasy cover art trends to those in 2009. The results are, uh, revelatory. For instance, the use of swords in cover art has declined considerably (GASP, no!). The appearance of bows and arrows also appears to be down, while dragons—reliable as always—have held steady. Orbit also began tracking some new visual elements this year, such as my two favorites: Hooded Figures and Damsels (No Distress). It’s probably the most advanced scientific project of the last twenty or thirty years.
Image by ttarasiuk, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, August 16, 2010 11:38 AM
If you’re exactly like me (and let’s hope to god that you’re not, because I hate cloning), you might enjoy reading some love letters to various punctuation marks, coming to us courtesy of the blog Emdashes.
Here's a sample:
Dear Exclamation point!
Mel Gibson has lately placed you in the forefront of the news. Too many times you have been used and abused by expletives. I don’t think you would have chosen to be at the end of Mr. Gibson’s sentences. His angry ranting sentences acted like they were entitled to have you at the end of every one of them! Why can’t his raging phrases calm down and give you a rest? I’m wishing a change for you; one that’s peaceful and calm. May you follow this word instead. Serenity!
(Thanks, Columbia Journalism Review.)
Image by takomabibelot, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, July 29, 2010 3:10 PM
For a couple years, a friend and one-time teacher of mine had an adjunct instructor position at the University of Minnesota. He taught a full course load, won a teaching award, and his undergraduate students crafted a Facebook page to advocate for his continued employment. He was, and is, a smart, dedicated teacher—and that rare breed of man who can cultivate and maintain a handsome, reddish beard. But he somehow wasn’t indispensable enough and, in these recession-straitened times, lost the job.
Hired from term to term, sometimes unable to obtain health benefits, and increasingly asked to do a higher and higher proportion of a school’s teaching for meager pay, the career of an adjunct professor in the United States tends to be anxious and tenuous. However, in Canada, at Vancouver Community College, part-time, non-tenured (and non-tenure-track) faculty members live an enviable life of equitable employment practices. As the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, many years of negotiation between the college and its faculty union have resulted in a situation in which, if you teach half time, you are paid half of what full-time employees make. Adjuncts are more often paid simply for credit hours worked. But there’s much more! Part-time faculty members are also paid for office hours and class prep time. Seniority works on the same scale for both part- and full-time faculty, so an adjunct can outrank a full-time employee. Health benefits are available to faculty working at least half time, and maternity leave is available after six months of contract work. Finally, the Chronicle reports that:
Perhaps the most important feature of Vancouver's system, say experts on adjunct issues, is that it allows faculty members who were initially hired term-by-term to be promoted into jobs with more-secure status. Once they work enough days during a two-year period, and provided they do not receive a negative evaluation, the conversion to regular status is automatic. The college has about 725 faculty members—475 of whom have regular status.
My friend is making a cross-country move this summer, to yet another possibly secure, possibly insecure academic job. He’ll be teaching, which he loves, but will it be a career? Maybe if more colleges and universities had Vancouver’s answer.
Source: Chronicle of Higher Education
Image by AMagill, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010 4:29 PM
Christopher Nolan’s dream-within-a-dream-within-a-whatever thriller Inception has been hurtling through U.S. moviegoers’ wallets for a couple of weeks now. The film stars an earnest and mournful Leonardo DiCaprio (handsome and a good actor—he’s a dreamboat-within-a-dreamboat!), and is perhaps one of the more poker-faced affairs I’ve seen in the theaters for a long while. But I think even its most hardcore fans can recognize that the film’s melancholic mood and dread-inducing soundtrack are ripe for spoofing, as demonstrated by the four recent parodies explained below.
Mashing up kid-favorite Dora the Explorer with Inception turned out to be a great idea—the movie is a high-flown action film about breaking into the sleeping minds of other people for the sake of corporate espionage, and Dora is a curious little girl who just wants things to make sense.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Inception. The overdubbing here is a little suspect, but Bill and Ted’s stoner incomprehension dovetails nicely with the pay-attention-because-something-amazing-is-about-to-happen tone of Inception’s soundtrack, dialogue, and hype. Actually, it’s virtually the same concept as the Dora the Explorer riff. Pretending you’re a bit dim and child-like is, I guess, inherently funny. Sidenote: when set to the Inception theme, Bill’s “Why would we lie to ourselves?” becomes almost touching. (Thanks, The Rumpus.)
I think this man-celebrates-dog joke misses the mark, except for the alteration of Inception’s title at the end, and the concluding creepy-hilarious shot.
Toy Story 3 plus Inception. We should all be officially disgusted with this joke now. That was, after all, the point of this exercise. It’s worth noting, however, that Leonardo DiCaprio actually looks a little like Toy Story 3’s Ken doll.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010 2:51 PM
According to an interview with The Bygone Bureau, literary journalist and author Tracy Kidder came to hate his first book so much that he wanted to prevent it from ever being re-published. His solution: He bought the rights to The Road to Yuba City—his 1974 nonfiction account of a California murder trial—and it is now out of print. You can find used copies of the book through Amazon, but the prices start at just under $100. In the interview, Kidder explains this act of bibliographic erasure and also reflects on his writing process, the future of books in print, and how to become a professional author.
(Thanks, The Book Bench.)
Source: The Bygone Bureau
Monday, July 26, 2010 3:53 PM
Are you familiar with Ted Wilson? He’s a retired accountant, a tuba player, a widower, and an artist. What really makes Ted Wilson noteworthy, however, is his delightfully cracked weekly column for The Rumpus: Ted Wilson Reviews the World. The latest entry is a sarcastic, goofball masterpiece, as Wilson opens by writing, “Hello, and welcome to my week-by-week review of everything in the world. Today I am reviewing the name Larry.” From there, the absurdity explodes straight off a cliff and into the smoking wasteland of disgrace that is (apparently) the name Larry. It's a land where “[e]ven people with names like Ralph or Chastity feel an unspoken sadness when meeting someone named Larry.” If there were some sort of election for National Internet Grandpa, I’d vote Ted Wilson.
Source: The Rumpus
Monday, July 26, 2010 3:16 PM
Last week, a federal judge ruled against Coca-Cola's motion to dismiss and allowed a lawsuit brought against the company's Vitaminwater line of products to move forward. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is building a class-action suit against the sugar-drink peddlers for deceptive claims about the benefits of Vitaminwater, and Judge John Gleeson stated that the product does not comply with FDA standards largely because it emphasizes words like healthy in descriptions of the beverage's nutritional value. In particular, Gleeson noted, it's called Vitaminwater, but the name draws attention from a more prominent, non-vitamin ingredient: sugar. CSPI reports that packing a supposedly healthy drink with vitamins violates the "FDA’s so-called 'Jelly Bean' rule [which] prohibits companies from making health claims on junk foods that only meet various nutrient thresholds via fortification."
(Thanks, The Consumerist.)
Source: The Center for Science in the Public Interest
Image by rick, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, July 26, 2010 12:14 PM
The Chicago Manual of Style is due to appear in its 16th edition later this summer, and a close friend of mine went into what I will affectionately label a tizzy when she got her mitts on a copy, even though she was not so much nervous as incalculably excited about the newly blue-covered grammar and style bible. She even lugged it to a gathering of editor friends—sort of like toting around a small dog in a purse, except a small dog isn’t always that heavy (or useful). Writing at The Front Table, Mary E. Laur, who works on the Manual, talks a bit about the particular devotion readers feel for the venerable University of Chicago guide. She describes debating people who prefer two spaces after a period rather than the standard one space. She talks about the confusion some readers felt over past flexibility on the rules for the use of ellipses. She talks, in other words, about my friend and the people like her who devote their considerable intellect and skill to the English language and all its mysterious intricacies.
(Thanks, The Second Pass.)
Source: The Front Table
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