Please find a way to hire Peter Wilt and put him in charge of making important decisions.
[Detail of photograph from On the Grid, "a project by Adam Ryder and Brian Rosa, [which] explores the landscape immediately surrounding high-tension electric transmission lines in Rhode Island. Starting near the Ocean State Power facility in Burrillville, Ryder and Rosa spent several days walking along various sites of arterial infrastructure."]
The Einstein tomb would "be launched into deep space, traveling on a beam of light, never to be seen in terrestrial space and time... owing to the gravity-warped structure of space (which Einstein's greatest work--his theory of gravitation--described) it would return to Earth in sidereal time, an infinite number of times, or at least until the end of time and space at the death of the universe."
GTA5 would, I/they explained, feature apartments across the city into which your character could walk, and rather than entering the living cutscenes of the previous games, he'd face a kind of dynamic soap opera, which would resolve in a mission. Each of the apartments contained the characters of popular sitcom, Friends, but these were placeholders, so as not to spoil the game for viewers.
Crucially, said Alan Yentob, the game was "a mindbomb of satire". While GTA4 might have piled on the vicious mocking and black humour, this was a crafted, calculated assault on American culture that would remap the gamers who played it. Kieron agreed, sipping white wine as he explained how the United States was already on the precipice of a revolution, and would now be pushed over by a videogame that had pinpointed and exploded every hypocrisy and falsity in its culture.
"The game is so excruciating," said Alan Yentob, "that no-one could ignore this shit any longer."
[from a few years back]
[Microscopic photograph of roots of an oak tree from Harvard Yard, via this NYTimes article]
Jon Gruber explains the phenomenon of "job lock", which I think is not discussed nearly enough in the health care debate, maybe because it doesn't fit neatly into existing narratives (i.e. a dichotomy between what is valued by the individual health care consumer and what is valued by the free market):
..."job lock" [is] a term coined during the last round of debate over universal health coverage in the early 1990s. Job lock refers to the fact that workers are often unwilling to leave a current job that provides health insurance for another position that might not, even if they would be more productive in that other position. This is because employer-provided insurance is traditionally the only reliable form of fairly priced private insurance coverage available in the U.S. The alternative is to purchase insurance in the nongroup market, where insurance prices and availability are typically not regulated, so insurance companies can drop individuals when they become ill or charge them exorbitant prices. As a result, individuals feel "locked" into less productive jobs...
Job lock is a serious problem for our society, because one of the bedrocks of our long-term economic success is our fluid labor markets compared to other nations, like France and Germany, that make it expensive and administratively burdensome to hire new employees or to fire unproductive ones. Job lock diminishes our international advantage in this area, since other nations with universal health insurance coverage do not have this problem. In addition, individuals will be less happy and less productive in positions that they would prefer to leave but for the loss of insurance. Employers will lose, because the workers they retain through job lock are those who value insurance the most, not necessarily those who are the best long-term fit for the company.
[via Ezra Klein]
You really can't hit it much better than this (starts around 0:13).
Prompted by Nate Silver's (inaccurate) characterization of Glenn Beck as a "post-modern conservative", based upon, I think, the belief that anyone who has a slippery and unstable set of convictions must be post-modern, and vice-versa, a belief which is one of the leading indicators that one is not even a hyper-modernist, but an unreconstructed modernist, James Poulos talks briefly about the difference between Beck and post-modern conservativism, which leads him to this excellent encapsulation of the problem with Glenn Beck:
A word about Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck is the worst. But why? Not so much because of who he distrusts or why. From where I'm standing, Beck is so awful because he theatrically combines and conflates performances of ultimate sincerity with performances of ultimate sarcasm. I think this is a telltale sign of a soul disordered by a confusion of love, power, and resentment. It becomes impossible, in such a person, to tell quite where their selfless solidarity, their egotism, and their hatred borne of weakness begin or end. And the titillating quality of this unstable charisma is precisely what they latch onto and exploit to become less a famous person than a famous happening. Their individual being becomes incidental to the phenomenon they represent. They actually corrode or dissolve their own identity in order to experience some hugeness that seems impossible to experience as a normal, integral human being.
If this analysis is right, prepare to see H.R. 3571 (the "Defund ACORN Act") disappear very quickly and very quietly. Which isn't particularly interesting for what it says about ACORN (the "few bad apples" argument is not particularly persuasive to me, as the point of having management is, among other things, to have someone be responsible for the whole, including the individual parts), but for what a quick and quiet disappearance would say (hint: its not particularly flattering to either party).
I'm not really going anywhere with this, but I thought it was interesting that the United States is ranked 15th by the UN's Human Development Index (the aim of the Index is to report a broader range of factors than GDP, the most common method of comparing the relative development of countries, using "normalized measures of life expectancy, literacy, educational attainment, and GDP per capita" -- more detail here), after (in order) Iceland, Norway, Canada, Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Japan, Luxembourg, Switzerland, France, Denmark and Austria.
Best moments are (a) Keita's
Henry's goal that begins just after 4:30, but for the sublime flick that Messi starts the sequence with and the absurd control he demonstrates in feeding Keita Henry, not for Keita's Henry's tap-in and (b) the announcer after the final goal, thanking the referee for allowing so much stoppage time and thus permitting Messi to score the fifth goal, which is also sublime. Lionel Messi is the one you will tell your grandchildren about, and Barcelona are that team.
[edit: That's what I get for posting the day after watching the video, and not going back to check on my memory of who scored...]
The Phorid fly turns fire ants into zombies:
"...female phorid flies have developed a bizarre reproductive strategy: They hover over fire ants, then inject their eggs into the ants with a needle-like appendage. The egg grows and the resulting larva generally migrates to the ant's head. The larva lives there for weeks--slurping up the brain and turning the ant into a "zombie," in some cases compelling the ant to march 55 yards (50 meters) away from its colony to avoid attack by other fire ants. Finally, the baby fly decapitates its host and hatches, exiting through the ant's head...
Although the flies only kill a small fraction of ants this way, the ants seem to be so afraid of the flies that their mere presence prevents the ants from collecting food."
If I were a fire ant, I'd duck and cover, too. This shot (of the fly larvae emerging from a decapitated ant head) is probably the best one.
I wonder what we should specifically say about that? Should we demand prosecutions for the Iranian officials responsible for the abuses? What would we say if the Iranians replied that they are facing serious economic issues (as they are) and can't be distracted with such divisive fights, that they don't want to criminalize policy differences, that they want to heal their internal tensions rather than inflame them with divisive investigations, and that they want to look forward, not backward by re-litigating past conflicts? Or maybe we should demand that Iran allow the torture victims to sue in court to obtain compensation and compelled disclosure of what was done to them? What would we say if the Iranians replied that how they run their prison system and how they formulated responses to internal rebellions are state secrets which cannot be revealed by courts without jeopardizing their security and that, under Iranian law, government officials enjoy immunity for any official acts they ordered, even if those acts constitute severe human rights violations? Or maybe the Iranians can produce some internal memos from some of their lawyer-underlings which conclude that the threats posed to their security by these street protests -- as well as the threats of attack coming from more powerful, nuclear-armed countries -- justified the harsh techniques that were used on prisoners (they could even cite a Washington Post Editorial in support of that immunity theory). What would we say about that?
1. From Luigi Zingales' article in National Affairs, "Capitalism After the Crisis":
"Capitalism has long enjoyed exceptionally strong public support in the United States because America's form of capitalism has long been distinct from those found elsewhere in the world -- particularly because of its uniquely open and free market system. Capitalism calls not only for freedom of enterprise, but for rules and policies that allow for freedom of entry, that facilitate access to financial resources for newcomers, and that maintain a level playing field among competitors. The United States has generally come closest to this ideal combination -- which is no small feat, since economic pressures and incentives do not naturally point to such a balance of policies. While everyone benefits from a free and competitive market, no one in particular makes huge profits from keeping the system competitive and the playing field level. True capitalism lacks a strong lobby.
That assertion might appear strange in light of the billions of dollars firms spend lobbying Congress in America, but that is exactly the point. Most lobbying seeks to tilt the playing field in one direction or another, not to level it. Most lobbying is pro-business, in the sense that it promotes the interests of existing businesses, not pro-market in the sense of fostering truly free and open competition. Open competition forces established firms to prove their competence again and again; strong successful market players therefore often use their muscle to restrict such competition, and to strengthen their positions. As a result, serious tensions emerge between a pro-market agenda and a pro-business one, though American capitalism has always managed this tension far better than most."
I'd add that my perception is that the neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are, on the whole, particularly pro-market in this sense. The Republicans are certainly more strongly pro-business, but I'm not convinced that there is any strong difference in level of support for a pro-market agenda between mainstream Republicans and mainstream Democrats (neither, for example, would be interested in abolishing destructive agricultural subsidies or in exposing and confronting the absurd influence of our Wall Street oligarchy over the levers of power).
2. Jonathan Chait on the rise of Randian thought, which is disturbing to me, because Objectivism is basically the worst ethical philosophy ever seriously proposed:
In these disparate comments we can see the outlines of a coherent view of society. It expresses its opposition to redistribution not in practical terms--that taking from the rich harms the economy--but in moral absolutes, that taking from the rich is wrong. It likewise glorifies selfishness as a virtue. It denies any basis, other than raw force, for using government to reduce economic inequality. It holds people completely responsible for their own success or failure, and thus concludes that when government helps the disadvantaged, it consequently punishes virtue and rewards sloth. And it indulges the hopeful prospect that the rich will revolt against their ill treatment by going on strike, simultaneously punishing the inferiors who have exploited them while teaching them the folly of their ways."
Producers, leeches, et cetera. Way to dehumanize the Other. McSweeney's "Atlas Shrugged Updated for the Current Financial Crisis" remains the definitive deconstruction.
3. Simon Johnson's article in the Atlantic, which explains how the financial crisis stems from the capture of the policy-making apparatus in Washington by the financial industry (Johnson was the chief economist at the IMF from 2007 to 2008). No one, as I mentioned above, is doing anything about this:
"In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets): South Korea (1997), Malaysia (1998), Russia and Argentina (time and again). In each of those cases, global investors, afraid that the country or its financial sector wouldn't be able to pay off mountainous debt, suddenly stopped lending. And in each case, that fear became self-fulfilling, as banks that couldn't roll over their debt did, in fact, become unable to pay. This is precisely what drove Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy on September 15, causing all sources of funding to the U.S. financial sector to dry up overnight. Just as in emerging-market crises, the weakness in the banking system has quickly rippled out into the rest of the economy, causing a severe economic contraction and hardship for millions of people.
But there's a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests--financiers, in the case of the U.S.--played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.
Top investment bankers and government officials like to lay the blame for the current crisis on the lowering of U.S. interest rates after the dotcom bust or, even better--in a "buck stops somewhere else" sort of way--on the flow of savings out of China. Some on the right like to complain about Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, or even about longer-standing efforts to promote broader homeownership. And, of course, it is axiomatic to everyone that the regulators responsible for "safety and soundness" were fast asleep at the wheel.
But these various policies--lightweight regulation, cheap money, the unwritten Chinese-American economic alliance, the promotion of homeownership--had something in common. Even though some are traditionally associated with Democrats and some with Republicans, they all benefited the financial sector. Policy changes that might have forestalled the crisis but would have limited the financial sector's profits--such as Brooksley Born's now-famous attempts to regulate credit-default swaps at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in 1998--were ignored or swept aside."
4. After reading Johnson's article, you won't be particularly surprised to read this article in the New York Times from last week, on how little has changed in the past year on Wall Street:
"Backstopped by huge federal guarantees, the biggest banks have restructured only around the edges. Employment in the industry has fallen just 8 percent since last September. Only a handful of big hedge funds have closed. Pay is already returning to precrash levels, topped by the 30,000 employees of Goldman Sachs, who are on track to earn an average of $700,000 this year. Nor are major pay cuts likely, according to a report last week from J.P. Morgan Securities. Executives at most big banks have kept their jobs. Financial stocks have soared since their winter lows."
If the populists in this country weren't also greedy complicit assholes (completely serious about that), the pitchforks would be out.
Basically these days I'm just sitting around and listening to a lot of Why?, waiting like Reihan for the new album to come out. Sometimes I format these youtube clips to fit the blog's width, and other times I can't be bothered.
A portion of "Untitled, Lincolnshire", photographed by Richard Mosse. Not quite sure where I got the link, because it has been sitting in an open tab for well over a week now -- BLDGBLOG seems likely, if only because he recently did an interview with Mosse.
No, really: Thomas Friedman on the merits of autocracy.
I'm hoping, given that three of the four soccer teams I follow closely (that'd be the United States vs. Trinidad and Tobago, DC United vs. Kansas City, and Scotland vs. Holland, excluding Everton) are playing important games today/tonight, at least one of them will give me something to be excited about, preferably in the form of taking three points off their opponent. Six points would be great; nine would be Building Nothing Out of Something-vintage Modest Mouse and the Silver Jews opening for a reunited Archers of Loaf, with an encore by the Ramones, including Joey.
[Guardian minute-by-minute of Scotland v. Holland here, live from 3 pm EST]
Nutmeg has an insightful post at BigSoccer on how Bradley's built the US's attack around quick transition play.
Tough to take that loss, but, as Kyle says, the last ten minutes of Wednesday's game were absolutely electric -- I was out on the edge of the loud side, several sections from SE and La Barra, and everyone was standing and singing by the end. While the uniform opinion seems to be that the result was very bad, and I suppose it was, moments like that make it very clear that, even in sports, winning is definitely not everything.
Jonah Lehrer at the Daily Dish:
In a second study, Jia found that people were much better at solving a series of insight puzzles when told that the puzzles came all the way from California, and not from down the hall. These subjects considered a far wider range of alternatives, which made them more likely to solve the challenging brain teasers.
The reason such travels are useful involves a quirk of cognition, in which problems that feel "close" - and the closeness can be physical, temporal or even emotional - get contemplated in a more concrete manner. (This is known as construal level theory.) As a result, when we think about things that are nearby, our thoughts are delicately constricted, bound by a more limited set of associations. While this habit can be helpful -it allows us to focus on the facts at hand - it also inhibits our imagination.
What does this have to do with travel? When we escape from the place we spend most of our time, the mind is suddenly made aware of all those errant ideas we'd previously suppressed. Furthermore, this more relaxed sort of cognition comes with practical advantages, especially when we're trying to solve difficult problems.
Is apparently a real video game, as revealed by Jim Rossignol (probably better known to this blog's readership as BLDGBLOG's occasional guest author/interview subject on topics related to video games and the built environment) in this rather entertaining post at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.