So that’s the refreshing message I get from the pragmatic imagination of Idler Wheel: to reject the deus ex machina of the fairytale isn’t to give up on dreaming; to love and lose doesn’t have to mean never loving again.
Mack Hagood: (misread) study of the day (mactrasound)
Yesterday at Atlantic.com, Hans Villarica posted “Study of the Day: Why Crowded Coffee Shops Fire Up Your Creativity,” a rundown of a research study that alleges moderate noise is beneficial to creativity. While I’m intrigued by the question of noise and individual cognition in public(ish) spaces, the Atlantic post exemplifies the way that research loses its contextual trappings as soon as it enters “the cultural conversation” to become the kind of free-floating “news you can use” that inevitably gets “contradicted” in subsequent studies, undermining people’s faith in the academy.
…even the most cursory skim of the actual journal article provides contextual information that undermines Villarica’s pithy, straightforward advice.
Commenting on Tom Ewing’s comment about how the word ‘troll’ has come to be applied to non-trolls.
Once a word is upstreamed into popular stream of discourse, everyone with a bone to pick wants to grab it off its hook on the wall and see what it can do for them.
David Graeber: Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit (The Baffler)
Why the sci-fi visions of the 50s and 60s didn't come true.
That pretty much answers the question of why we don’t have teleportation devices or antigravity shoes. Common sense suggests that if you want to maximize scientific creativity, you find some bright people, give them the resources they need to pursue whatever idea comes into their heads, and then leave them alone. Most will turn up nothing, but one or two may well discover something. But if you want to minimize the possibility of unexpected breakthroughs, tell those same people they will receive no resources at all unless they spend the bulk of their time competing against each other to convince you they know in advance what they are going to discover.
It’s scary how the Memo makes Sandler and Murphy whipping boys, simply to sustain true Hollywood vulgarity. It perpetuates the collapse of critical thinking. When Sandler-bashing (and I don’t just mean the ludicrous Razzies, ratified only by tabloid media) turns into excoriation, it is necessary to examine the media’s cowardice and prejudices. The Sandler Memo has reduced criticism to a profession of chain letters.
Bill Simmons: The Career Arc: Eddie Murphy (Grantland)
Why doesn't everyone ever point out that Eddie is the most successful comedian ever, by any calculation … and really, it's not even close? That he's one of the best stand-ups ever? That, before Eddie, only white actors were considered sure things at the box office? That Eddie made more money making kids' movies than anyone ever? Doesn't this seem … I don't know … relevant?
Khoi Vinh: Follow Up to “Built to Not Last” (Subtraction.com)
It’s true, there’s not necessarily a business case to do this, but that is not the only thing Apple will be judged on in the decades to come. And that’s what I’m talking about here: how will future generations look back at Apple, and by extension its customers? Did we all live our lives by more than just the bottom line? Or were the late twentieth and early twenty-first century the decades in which we irrevocably decided that everything should be disposable (or even recyclable) after just two or three years?
Brett Bonfield: An Interview with Paul Ford and Gina Trapani (In the Library with the Lead Pipe)
Paul Ford: I don’t really make decisions. Instead, I pick my friends carefully. Then I go where people ask me to go; when no one needs me to go anywhere or do anything I work on longer essays that I’ll publish some day.
Eric Harvey: Worn Copies: Beach House, VW, and What It Means to Sell a Feeling (Pitchfork)
"Much of the power of Beach House's music lies in the way it forgoes simple, this-means-this storytelling in favor of communicating indescribable emotions," wrote Lindsay Zoladz in her Pitchfork review of their latest album, Bloom. Switch a few words around, and this perfect evocation could have emanated from DDB's pitch meeting to Volkswagen. Which is not to belittle Zoladz's criticism, nor to build up ad-speak as any more than means-to-an-end capitalist labor. Instead, this connection highlights the idea that critics and marketers often seek the same positive criteria in art.
Steven Hyden: Adam Sandler's inexorable march toward truth (Grantland)
Sandler's truth is that his onscreen persona has aged with his fans and experienced the same things at roughly the same time they've experienced it. Over the course of 20 years, Adam Sandler has gone from being a staple of sleepovers to dorm rooms to lousy apartments to the suburbs. And in that time he's remained, essentially, the same guy: He's "That asshole!," the incorrigible dickwad with a heart of gold, the loudmouth buddy who's progressively less fun to hang out with as you get older, the dude your wife forbids from crashing on the couch for "just a few days, I swear."
If we are going to ask people, in the form of our products, in the form of the things we make, to spend their heartbeats—if we are going to ask them to spend their heartbeats on us, on our ideas, how can we be sure, far more sure than we are now, that they spend those heartbeats wisely?
Steven Hyden: Why being a pop-culture “hater” is okay (and sometimes even necessary) (The A.V. Club)
While I’m loathe to discuss the presidential race or the existence of God with strangers or even close friends and family members, I’ll gladly enter into conversations about whether it’s plausible that Joan did what she did with the dude from Jaguar in that recent episode of Mad Men, or why my beloved Packers will return to the Super Bowl this year. And I’ll do this even if I think the other person disagrees. If we end up jousting verbally for a few hours, it’s still fairly certain that we’ll be friends at the end of the night. I wouldn’t be as confident over a difference in party affiliation or spiritual beliefs.
Julian Sanchez: Protectionism Against the Past (or: Why are Copyright Terms so Long?)
Here’s an alternative hypothesis: Insanely long copyright terms are how the culture industries avoid competing with their own back catalogs. Imagine that we still had a copyright term that maxed out at 28 years, the regime the first Americans lived under. The shorter term wouldn’t in itself have much effect on output or incentives to create. But it would mean that, today, every book, song, image, and movie produced before 1984 was freely available to anyone with an Internet connection. Under those conditions, would we be anywhere near as willing to pay a premium for the latest release?
Andy Greenwald: Conan O'Brien Didn't Stop: Checking In on the Post-Buzz Era of TBS's Flagship (Grantland)
Now, tasked with little more than delivering a modest number of age-appropriate eyeballs, O’Brien seems both stunted and settled, lavishly rewarded for doing what he loves most for a company that seems to value the end product the least. It’s been well established by now that Conan O’Brien can’t stop. But it seems he’s only transcendent when someone is trying to make him.
I believe the company has good intentions, and is run by people who do not want to be racist or to create racist contributions to culture. Nevertheless, the company made a cultural contribution that was predicated on racist ideas. It's particularly egregious to trade in racist ideas when it's not for artistic purpose or to comment on society, but to sell a product. Therefore, the most helpful thing I can do is to help them fix the broken process within their company that produced this unfortunate result.
GLAAD: Actor Jason Alexander Apologizes for Jokes Made on CBS' The Late Late Show
Now this is how you apologize. But more importantly, this is how you learn from your mistakes.
On last Friday night’s episode of The Late Late Show on CBS, actor Jason Alexander repeatedly joked with host Craig Ferguson about the game of cricket being a “gay sport” as opposed to a “manly” one. Having had time to more carefully consider the jokes he made though, the Seinfeld actor released a new statement through his Twitter account, explaining how conversations with his gay friends made him realize the effect that kind of denigrating humor has on the adolescents that so often find themselves the subject of it.
Brandon Soderberg: Rappers and Same-Sex Marriage: How Much Do You Really Care? (Spin)
Rappers are presented as violent, vulgar sexists and homophobes, and then they're not only expected to have fully-formed opinions on social issues, but progressive ones. This is an ugly update on the always implicit, often explicit demand that hip-hop, if it is to be lauded and celebrated, must espouse a strong, left-leaning political message.
Anil Dash: Readability, Instapaper, the Network and the Price we Pay
Readability and Instapaper are two awesome reading tools that actually aren't in competition since Readability is mostly a network and Instapaper is mostly an app. But, foolish fanboy enthusiasm on both sides has got people choosing "sides" between the apps and turning legitimate feature debates into some sort of moral judgment of the people building the tools. Based on what I learned during a similar stage in the evolution of the blogging market, I fear these petty squabbles will hurt both tools and leave the market open only to the biggest, best-funded, most soulless competitors and that both these cool, innovative tools will lose.
Why don’t Americans walk more? The crisis of pedestrianism. (Slate)
Look on online travelers forums and you’ll see one of the most common threads is people on the verge of visiting Europe (or New York City), embarking on a panicked quest for “walking shoes”—as if they were taking up some exotic new sport, procuring strange equipment. For these people, one must assume, walking is as foreign as the place they are visiting.
Daphne Carr: It's 2012 and it's Nicki Minaj's world to make, but this album is not going to make it (Capital New York)
Her flow, including the corny hashtag raps and the growls and all the other forms of play that make her simultaneously so old school and so fresh, have already shifted the zeitgeist and inspired a new generation of pop lovers in one short year. Now it's time for her to figure out how to step up to sound like she what she says on the album’s third track: “I Am Your Leader.”
Now I am older than Keats was when he died and I live in a room whose walls somebody else painted this very soothing shade of taupe and I’m still the same age as Lena Dunham but I’m not jealous of her anymore. I am making a living doing a different thing that I love and I feel as lucky as she has probably at some point felt, and I catch myself whenever I start buying into a worldview that mandates I see anyone a little bit like me as my competition. So good luck to her. May she make the space expand.