History

Marxist LeBron and Dancing at Auschwitz [Three Best Things 7/5/10 - 7/11/10]

Thing: Some Thoughts On The Three Amigos from A VC. Very many great things have been written about this week’s LeBron James sideshow — if you missed it, let’s just say it combined all the most spectacular elements of a two-year-long infomercial, a Derby horse auction, and Alexander’s invasion of India. It’s become almost cliche, but it’s true: the problem isn’t what he did, it’s how he did it. Not since Ron Burgundy has a city so unmistakably been told to go **** itself. But let’s get beyond the question of whether we’re mad at LeBron or just disappointed.

The freshest piece on the matter (the one linked to at the beginning of this rambling) frames LeBron’s decision as an experiment being conducted by LeBron. It’s like nothing we’ve seen in the sports history of America, though the word sports is superfluous — a household-name for-profit organization’s labor has taken total control of its own factory.

In X’s and O’s terms, it’s not likely to work. The team won’t have any money to afford depth, James and Dwayne Wade don’t complement so much as duplicate each other, and this might be the biggest foursome of egos since… I don’t know, the Beatles (?), if you count Heat general manager Pat Riley. But let’s say it does work… will sports ever be the same? (ht Rafi Kam.)

Thing: Woot Asks AP To Pay Up For Quoting Woot Blog Post Without Paying from Techdirt and AP Not Amused By The Woot Story, Tries To Play The Oil Spill Card from TechCrunch.

Thing: As a Gentile, it’s hard to know how to approach this video. A Holocaust survivor, his daughter, and two grandchildren tour former German concentration camps and Holocaust memorials — where they dance to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”

After watching, people tend to either feel goose-bumpy or uncomfortable. Rationally, the presence of an able-minded-and-bodied Holocaust survivor should dissuade any concerns of whether the montage is tasteful and appropriate — if he’s ok with it, you should be too. But it’s still unsettling.

And it’s all because of the song they’ve chosen. It’s an instantly mockable karaoke throwaway, for whatever reason. If they’d gone with a traditional Hebrew song, any traditional Hebrew song, even one we’ve never heard of, the video would be cool but unremarkable. Or you’d expect something like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, whatever — no problem (since apparently men with guitars know more about the joy and power of survival than an African American woman born in the 1940s).

But because “I Will Survive” somehow has become the definitive disco song, it feels like it’s not just the wrong song, it’s almost blasphemous.

But, of course, it’s the best possible song. This man is almost literally dancing on his own grave.

What Graffiti Will Look Like in 100 Years [Three Best Things 3/8/10 - 3/14/10]

QUICK LIST THIS WEEK BUSY BUSY BUSY

  • Thing: Attention Is the Real Resource by John Gruber. Should publishers offer full posts or teasers in their RSS feeds? Somehow it’s still up for debate. Our stance is that “Click for more after the jump” sounds the same as “Goodbye” to most readers. Gruber: “A reader asking for a full-content RSS feed is a reader who wants to pay more attention to what you publish. There have to be ways to thrive financially from that.”
  • Thing: What May Happen in the Next 100 Years by Ladies’ Home Journal, 1900. Someone dug up a IN THE YEAR 2000 list of predictions that’s… actually really close to right, from the Internet to air travel to agricultural genetic engineering. (Not the intricacies of each, of course, but the effects. Also I would link to the blog this came from, but that blog’s been removed by Blogger for SPAMMIN’.)
  • Thing: REVERSE GRAFFITI: South African Artists Tag Walls By Scrubbing Them Clean by Inhabitat. Self-explanatory:


Via Inhabitat

Unrelated Video: Spring Is Pretty Much Here, Tusas

In honor of another winter’s passing, it’s time to pay respects to all those who tried to have a phone conversation on a frozen lake and kept getting corralled by stunt bikers. Take it away, Tusas on ice:

Please Rob Johnny Cash's Letterhead [Five Best Things 2/22/10 - 2/28/10]

In our weekly link rundowns, I usually try to present three great links you may have missed.

But this week was strong internet.

Five.

  • For your next love letter or grocery list or PUT DOWN MY SANDWICH note, wouldn’t you like to use the actual letterhead of Elvis Presley, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Johnny Cash, or whatever Robot Salesmen Ltd is? Thing: Letterheads of famous people
  • Most articles about How Google Works are actually about How Much The Author Likes Google. Leave it to Wired to dig into how Google’s system of algorithms, basically a machine made of robots made of math, learned that when a human types hot dog, the goal is almost certainly to see something like this, not something like this. Thing: Exclusive: How Google’s Algorithm Rules the Web
  • You’ve already made your mind up on how you feel about this link from Reason. Thing: Everyone Who Knows What They’re Talking About Agrees with Me
  • The way people freaked out about Napster, claiming it would end the music industry, is similar to the way people freaked out about VCRs killing the movie industry. Similarly, the way people freak out about sharing personal location information on Foursquare/Twitter is similar to the way people used to freak out about answering machines and listing wedding notices in the local newspaper. Thing: Regarding Foursquare and PleaseRobMe (SIDE NOTE that proves how NEVER SCARED we are: In all the PleaseRobMe hysteria, I up and joined Foursquare myself, and so did Ben. You ain’t a crook, son.)
  • Recently the Guardian ran a series of writing advice lists by successful writers. NY Mag distills them all into a single top ten. Thing: The Best Writing Advice of the Best Writing Advice

Also, regarding this post’s stupid, stupid title: here’s proof Johnny Cash would’ve loved Foursquare…

What Happens If You Pay Zero Rupees to Register as a South Carolinan Terrorist? [Three Best Things 2/1/10 - 2/7/10]


Via 5th Pillar

  • Indian government workers demand bribes from people all the time. Solution: hand those crooks some worthless currency made especially for bribing. They say it’s working; corrupt bureaucrats are falling back at the sight of people sticking up for themselves.
  • If you want to overthrow the government of South Carolina, first you have to pay a $5 registration fee. Even if this article was a joke, it might still qualify as a Best Thing: Comedy Edition entry, considering South Carolina’s especially overthrow-y history. But it’s for realsies — some legislators in South Carolina think Al Qaeda is going to stop by and fill out some paperwork. This is a real law! A real law. You’d think. Um. It’s. Wait, does. Mind broken. Real law. Only just. Really? I. (Let’s move on.)
  • Not mindhacking your zen is cluttery/unrefreshing. Truly ground-breaking zen: 43 Simple Ways to Simplify Your Life. Sample zenhacks:
  1. Remove your doors
  2. Eat half of each pet
  3. Sit on a big, thick book
  4. Something something keyring holder
  5. Paint clocks cheery pink

But wait

Spider-Man by Wes Anderson.

A Phony's History of the iPad [Three Best Things 1/25/10 - /1/31/10]

J. D. Salinger

In 1965, author J. D. Salinger retired with the world heavyweight book-writin’ title belt. By the early ’80s, his Catcher in the Rye was simultaneously the most-banned and second-most-taught book in American schools. He died this week at 91.

Holden Caulfield says: “Boy, when you’re dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.”

The iPad

To paraphrase Dee Dee Warwick and Mike Tyson, iPad’s gonna make you love iPad. Need one good reason to convince yourself that you’ll never fall for it? How about twelve?

There’s this: “If the first personal computers required permission from the manufacturer for each new program or new feature, the history of computing would be as dismally totalitarian as the milieu in Apple’s famous Super Bowl ad.” And this: The thing that bothers me most about the iPad is this: if I had an iPad rather than a real computer as a kid, I’d never be a programmer today.” But the iPad isn’t meant for computer geniuses. It’s meant for their moms.

The iPad is crap futurism whose lack of Flash compatibility might give us a future without Flash. That would be fantastic. The future also promises nine tablet computers that might wind up being as good, better, or cheaper than the iPad. (As with MP3 players and smart phones, Apple wasn’t the first or necessarily the best; they were the loudest biggest and shiniest most magical.)

Holden Caulfield says: “It’s funny. All you have to do is say something nobody understands and they’ll do practically anything you want them to.”

Also relevant:

Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn, who also died this week, shoehorned all history into a single narrative and avoided citing his claims — which you can get away with if you’re writing a history text like this, but not if you’re writing one like this. He didn’t exactly become a historian’s historian. But he achieved a harder thing; he made young people see history for what it is: an evolving story with unreliable narrators, usually written by the winners.

(IS THERE A LINK-OF-THE-WEEK IN HERE SOMEWHERE?)

One of Zinn’s last interviews, with PBS in December 2009.

Holden Caulfield says: “People always think something’s all true.”

A word:

Has anyone checked on Matt Damon this week? Good Will Hunting was basically Catcher in the Rye: Math Version, and Damon’s character is a big Zinn fan. In fact, Damon was Zinn’s real-life neighbor growing up, and was one of the first people to read a draft of A People’s History.

Status update: ENGINE is sad for Matt Damon.

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