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: 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.
Last year, high school science teacher Ron Dantowitz of Brookline, Mass., played a clever trick on three of his best students. He asked them to plan a hypothetical mission to fly onboard a NASADC-8 aircraft and observe a spacecraft disintegrate as it came screaming into Earth’s atmosphere. How would they record the event? What could they learn?
For 6 months, they worked hard on their assignment, never suspecting the surprise Dantowitz had in store.
On March 12th, he stunned them with the news: “The mission is real, and you’re going along for the ride.”
THING:The Making of OutKast’s Aquemini from Creative Loafing. If you’re me, then you barely made it through that headline before clicking on it. However, please report back on how long it took you to click if you are, in fact, not me. Big Boi’s debut solo album drops this week, and at least one-fourth of our staff is very excited about that.
Bonus Patriotic Bonus
Via SBN, the best fake documentary trailer you’ll wish was a trailer for a real movie all season:
THING:Sergey Brin’s Search for a Parkinson’s Cure from Wired. Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who’s made a life of using the power of algorithms to “organize all the world’s information,” is using that same kind of power in an attempt to cure Parkinson’s Disease. Since discovering he carries a gene mutation that puts him at risk of contracting the disease, Brin has sought “to bypass centuries of scientific epistemology in favor of a more Googley kind of science. He wants to collect data first, then hypothesize, and then find the patterns that lead to answers. And he has the money and the algorithms to do it.”
THING:Travel itineraries from Flickr photo trails from Geeking With Greg. Greg Linden links to a paper by American and Israeli researchers on “cleverly [using] the data often embedded in Flickr photos (e.g. timestamp, tags, sometimes GPS) to produce trails of where people have been in their travels.” It makes sense that the most interesting points along a path would also be the most photographed, so this could be a great way to note can’t-miss spots, common travel routes, and typical trip durations. An inspiring quote from the paper:
By aggregating such timed paths of many users, one can construct itineraries that reflect the “wisdom” of touring crowds. Each such itinerary is composed of a sequence of POIs, with recommended visit times and approximate transit times between them.
THING:How Rap Tears Up the Boring Art Vs. Commerce Argument from The Awl. Selling out has a different connotation in hip-hop than it does in other spheres. Though punk and hip-hop grew up at the same time and place and in the same socioeconomic conditions, the two have had very different ideas on mass appeal. (Yes, this is lumping thousands of musicians and millions of fans into two groups. I’m sorry.)
We can all agree the Black Eyed Peas sold out — they completely changed everything about their sound and image, conscious of their brand and marketability the whole time, and wedding receptions will never be the same. I’m sure they weep into their pallets of Franklins every night, thinking about all the underground respect they lost in the process. But many rappers have been able to market themselves without significantly changing their sound. None of this is new information, but the Awl article certainly presents a worth-reading take on the issue.
A Video of Americans Pretending to Care About the World Cup
Even though the U.S. lost its knockout round match against its nemesis Ghana, this World Cup still produced one of the best moments in American soccer history, and certainly the most widely experienced — Landon Donovan’s last-minute, life-or-death goal against Algeria did the kind of Twitter damage unseen since Michael Jackson’s death. An amazing montage of Americans from Arkansas to France celebrating the score:
THING:Map: Where Americans Are Moving from Forbes. Cool clicky infowidget (filled with stats and numbertainment) that shows migration patterns for each county in the United States. Our county, Cherokee in Georgia, is pulling tons of people from Florida, Los Angeles, and New York City, while losing residents to places like east Texas, the other L.A.(Lower Alabama), and Chicago. Sadly but accurately, Detroit looks like it’s bleeding dry, with its only new residents coming from very poor areas of east Virginia. Our favorite finding? Nobody ever enters or leaves Iowa; they just shuffle around within its well-gridded counties. Click your county! Why not!
THING:If sports got reported like science… from Items of Interest. For some reason, it’s ok to nerd out when talking sports in polite company, but science discussions have to stay around a fourth-grade level. Have you noticed this?
THING:WordPress 3 is out. We’ve only started to try out its new features, including custom post types (which brings it one step closer to Drupal’s versatility). Of course, learning the old stock WordPress theme’s days are numbered is pretty exciting too:
World Cup Vuvuzela Bonus
You know, if there was a Forbes migration map for sports noisemakers, the vuvuzela would already be cutting loud, flavorful lines into the U.S. They’ve already emerged at a Florida Marlins baseball game and the College World Series in freaking Nebraska, and every Southern college football fanbase is talking big about going into total vuvuzela-arms-race mode. This might all blow over by next week, or America might be in for it. Either way:
THING: Copyright: The Elephant in the Middle of the Glee Club from Balkinization. Glee might be the most unrealistic show on TV, now that [something something Lost joke]. How is a tiny extracurricular group able to pay $150k copyright fines for releasing videos of their performances? Let us discuss copyright.
THING:Mind Over Mass Media from the New York Times. You may have heard that Twitter is making you dumb. (Yes, you also probably heard the same thing about mime in 450 BCE, and look how smart that’s made you.) Well, Harvard psychology professor and best-selling pop science author Steven Pinker says Twitter isn’t bad for you, which sounds kind of like Harvard psychology professor and best-selling pop science author Steven Pinker says Twitter is good for you to me!
In fact, there isn’t anything — except for, like, helmetless motorcycling — that can make you dumber or smarter at anything else, so to speak:
Music doesn’t make you better at math, conjugating Latin doesn’t make you more logical, brain-training games don’t make you smarter. Accomplished people don’t bulk up their brains with intellectual calisthenics; they immerse themselves in their fields. Novelists read lots of novels, scientists read lots of science.