It’s common to think of polka as very silly and old-fashioned music for very silly and old-fashioned dancing; but obviously nobody thought Polka was old-fashioned when it first came out, and nobody thought it silly, either. Polka is dance music, and like all new dance music it was associated with sex-obsessed young people — young men showing off for young women, to get them interested enough to go farther than dancing. That’s why polka has so much beat to it; and why the bare beat, if you consider it alone, starts sounding a lot like the dance music that is played in nightclubs today. We think it’s silly because of the tubas; but the thing about tubas is that they are good for conveying a LOUD BASS BEAT if you don’t have amplifiers. You don’t just hear a tuba, you feel it, just as you feel the drum track blasted in nightclubs. It’s dance music, differing only in the preferred instruments. Perhaps the sort of thing that is done in nightclubs today is the sort of thing that will eventually be seen the way we see polka. Perhaps it will be a thing we associate with odd European festivals, in which all the men wear jeans-and-boxer combos rather than lederhosen. It won’t seem sexy; it will just seem weird (or quirkily fun, if you like that sort of thing). Oompa-oompa-oompa. Or, rather, uhntiss-uhntiss-uhntiss.
2. Why I am a Conservative by John Wilson
To be an American conservative is to believe that first, there is an Order of Creation. Second, that God’s authority has given us an eternal contract between the dead, the living, and the yet unborn. Third, that this contract is expressed in the church, the family, and the local community. Fourth, that there is a constitutional arrangement in the common sense of things, limited in authority, that gave shape to these truths. Fifth, that a reasonable amount of individual freedom, based on the above, rewards enterprise and initiative. Sixth, that there is a duty among all citizens to defend, sometimes (not often) even militarily, all of the above.
3. Scott Adams on how we manipulate our environment to extend our brains:
Everything we create becomes a de facto data storage device and brain accessory. A wall can be a physical storage device for land survey data, it can be a reminder of history, and it can be a trigger of personal memories.
A business is also a way to store data. As a restaurant owner, I was fascinated at how employees came and went, but their best ideas often stayed with the business, especially in the kitchen. The restaurant was like a giant data filter. The bad ideas were tested and deleted while the good ideas stayed, most often without being written down.
When you design a flower garden, its main purpose is to influence people’s minds in a positive and peaceful fashion. A flower garden is a brain reprogramming tool. It jacks into any human brain that enters its space and reprograms that brain in a predetermined way. We don’t think of it in those terms, but the process is nonetheless deliberate.
4. Fact of the Week: China now exports every six hours as much as it did in the whole of 1978.
5. Mark Gall on The God Who Became Blood
I may be friendlier with blood, but we’re not intimate yet—that is, I’m not ready to drink it. That Jesus would use this metaphor to talk about the Eucharist—well, how can a middle-class, suburban white guy, sheltered from the gorier details of life, put it? How about: It’s disgusting. If you serve wine in your home, and tell your guests to think about blood as they drink it, you can be sure that some will gingerly put their wine glass down, saying, “I think I’ll just have some water, thank you.”
[ . . . ]
We talk about Jesus’ blood in church a lot, but most of the time we don’t think about what we’re saying. The mind has this amazing ability to take the life out of metaphors, and we’ve certainly done that with Jesus’ blood. Well, except those Catholics who are into the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But most of us Prostestants think such people are sick, though we’re too ecumenical and polite to ever say so. But it may be that we’re the ones who are sick.
The fact is, we’re as uncomfortable with Jesus’ blood as with our own. Again, I think that’s because we’re uncomfortable with his humanity. We like our Jesus to be divine, powerful, the great healer and fixer of problems, one who may have looked like a man with flesh—but not blood, God forbid. But this is the One who thinks blood appropriate dinner conversation (“My blood is true drink,” John 6:55), and dips his robe in blood to make a fashion statement (Rev. 19:13). His comfort with blood suggests his comfort with his humanity.
Not only does the moon’s surface hold a “significant amount” of water—as two NASA crashes confirmed in October—but, a new study says, the moon’s interior may hold at least a hundred times more water than previously estimated.
“If we could take all the water which is locked up in the moon’s interior, it would make a one-meter-deep [one-yard-deep] ocean covering its entire surface,” said lead study author Francis McCubbin, a geologist with the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington D.C.
8. Quote of the Week: “Of all the people in human history who ever reached the age of 65, half are alive now.” – Fred Pearce
The Public Council for Morality is to study recordings of earlier performances by the British singer to make sure “they have no elements inconsistent with the law and morality,” the head of the organization said.
“We have requested the organizers of the concert to give us records of Elton John’s earlier performances,” he said.
Sexual minorities have become active in the country of late and “even attempted to hold a gay parade in Minsk,” Cherginets said. The attempted parade was broken up by police.
Cherginets said the Council had already prevented outbreaks of “immorality” during a May concert by German industrial metal band Rammstein in the Belarusian capital.
“If we had not interfered, there would have been sex on stage and the relief of physical needs right in front of the audience,” the official said.
. . . AA and its steps have become ubiquitous despite the fact that no one is quite sure how—or, for that matter, how well—they work. The organization is notoriously difficult to study, thanks to its insistence on anonymity and its fluid membership. And AA’s method, which requires “surrender” to a vaguely defined “higher power,” involves the kind of spiritual revelations that neuroscientists have only begun to explore.
What we do know, however, is that despite all we’ve learned over the past few decades about psychology, neurology, and human behavior, contemporary medicine has yet to devise anything that works markedly better. “In my 20 years of treating addicts, I’ve never seen anything else that comes close to the 12 steps,” says Drew Pinsky, the addiction-medicine specialist who hosts VH1’s Celebrity Rehab. “In my world, if someone says they don’t want to do the 12 steps, I know they aren’t going to get better.”
11. The shortest possible game of Monopoly requires only four turns, nine rolls of the dice, and twenty-one seconds.
First hitting New Yorkers’ wallets and waistlines in 2007, it contains a mix of 28 different cocoas, 14 of which are the priciest known to man, five grams of 23-karat edible gold and it’s served in a chalice lined with edible gold. On top is whipped cream and yet more gold. On the side is a special truffle, La Madeline au Truffle from Knipschildt Chocolatier, which on its own sells for $2,600 a pound.
Ok, but that’s not really enough to deserve the $25,000 price tag you say. You’re right. At the bottom is an 18 karat gold bracelet with a carat of diamonds. And you’ll be eating all of this with a gold spoon set with white and chocolate-colored diamonds.
Even before the food has been served, even before it has been cooked, the menu represents the solid and objectively observable reality of an experience that will, that must by definition, be private and ephemeral—and in that we surely find a deep reassurance. A good menu, by its nature, is pleasure incarnate. It stands as proof, or at least a defiant declaration, that while dreams, beauty, and experience are fleeting and pointless to try and hold on to, on their ethereal passage through this brutal world they can at least leave some physical trace. And no wonder, then, that the menu inspires us to indecision, that something inside us doesn’t want to make a choice. The menu is a list of dreams, and there is no more deadly natural predator for dreams than the awful human impulse to try and make them come true.
Imagine the future of books not as physical objects, but as relational databases…
* Autobiographies, written in semi-real-time as the authors live their lives
* Massively multi-reader “Choose Your Own Adventure”-like role-playing books where everyone’s choices shape the story
* Serialized novels, like David Copperfield, only infinite and with alternate story lines
* Recipe books that keep growing and puzzle books that always have more puzzles
* Multimedia automobile manuals that self-update by pushing recall warnings and maintenance reminders out to you and to mechanics around the world, who then share their fix-it tips with each other and with everyone else
* Textbooks where student annotations, highlights, and notes are more valuable than the original text, so much so that students can monetize their contributions
* Series of technical books built with shared chapters: an update to a chapter in one book automatically updates every book in which that chapter appears
16. American Ethnic Food
Simone Smith visited a gourmet supermarket in Berlin and found an American section among the ethnic foods. (Via: Neatorama)
18. Todd Seavey on freeganism:
As it happens, one of the earliest political conversations I had after arriving in NYC . . . was with a member of the Rio crowd who said she ate by dumpster-diving on principle (“freegan” not yet being a word then, I think), to which I said, well, the whole world couldn’t live by dumpster-diving, and she said, “Why not?” I suppose it should come as no surprise that these sorts of people also expect parasitic welfare states to be permanently “sustainable.”
Dutch designer Tomáš Gabzdil Libertiny made a sculpture of Jesus that was completed by bees. He erected a sealed glass container with his mold inside. Libertiny then released 40,000 bees who worked on the honeycombed surface of the mold.
• First, assume that 1/10 of the 17.16 quadrillion cubic meters of the Death Star is something other than empty space and 6/10 of the total volume is pressurized space.
• That will require 1.71 quadrillion cubic meters of steel, about 134 quadrillion tonnes. That’s $12.95 quintillion in current 2008 prices, and that’s without counting strange alloys and elements.
• Shipping that to space will cost $95 million per tonne: So add $12.79 septillion in transport.
• Now you need to add air, which will require 8.23 quintillion cubic meters of Nitrogen, and 1.65 quintillion cubic meters of oxygen, for a total delivery cost of $2.81 septillions and $212.46 quintillion.
The total: $15,602,022,489,829,821,422,840,226.94.
Yes, that’s a whooping 1.4 trillion times the current US Debt. Or a sightly more meaningful number: 124 trillion years of war in Iraq.
22. HistoricalLOL of the Week
It’s like living with two tiny Shalom Auslanders. My children crack each other up by yelling “diarrhea!” at inopportune moments. They inform me, somberly, that “people think it’s gross, but it’s really great on toast,” before dissolving in a puddle (hmm, maybe that was an unfortunate metaphor) of giggles. They are madly in love with the ancient Hebrew school classic, “There Were Five Constipated Men in the Bible.” (“There was Cain; he wasn’t Abel! There was Balaam; he couldn’t move his ass! There was Joshua; he blew the walls down!”) Maxine, who is just learning to write, recently passed me a folded-up note and whispered, “This is a secret.” I unfolded it. Written thereon was the word “poop.”
But seriously, folks: Why is poop humor funny? I asked Maxine for her opinion. “Because it goes into the toilet and it’s tasty!” she answered, cracking herself up before ricocheting away.
27. Scientific American on The Neuroscience of Distance and Desire
In sum, the things that we want will be perceived as relatively closer and more obtainable and energize action geared towards their acquisition. This perhaps explains why that cute bartender you’ve been eyeing recently appears to lean in tantalizingly close when pouring your drink. But beware of how your eyes may deceive you. Though you may desire the barkeep’s affections, those dexterous hands may be farther away than you think. What appears to be within reach might, in fact, not be so. Indeed, these findings suggest that Morrissey’s musings on the effects of unrequited love need revision. While he may be right that the “the more you ignore me, the closer I get”, it may be equally true that the more you ignore me, the closer you get.
Only seconds later, he witnessed a policeman jump out of his patrol car to pursue a criminal of San Andreas. His eyes lit up as he asked if he could drive the police car. I reminded him that it was only a game, and it was fine to take the car. As he drove the squad car, I pressed L3 to turn on the lights and siren. He asked very excitedly if he could get the bad guys too. With a huge smile I pressed R3 to initiate the Vigilante Missions. It was as if his imagination had come to life. He was taking down delinquents left and right. As expected, the dangerous work of an officer brought an ambulance.
At this point my son was familiar with the game’s mechanics and hopped into the ambulance. As he put the crime fighting behind him, he wondered aloud if it was possible to take people to the hospital. I instruct him to press R3, and then he was off to save a few lives. He was having a blast racing from point to point, picking up people in need, and then speeding off to Las Venturas Hospital. During one of his life saving adventures, he passed a fire house with a big, red, shiny fire truck parked out front. He didn’t want to let his passengers down, so he took them to the hospital and then asked if I could guide him back to the fire truck.
A bizarre nudist subculture has taken shape on the inhospitable, snowswept plains of Antarctica.
Visitors of all nationalities defy an average temperature of -50C and take part in variations of the traditional nudie run, independent scholar and author Chris Cormick revealed yesterday.
[. . .]
New Zealanders at their summer station go skinny dipping in Lake Vanda, with a plunge in the chilly water earning membership of the Royal Lake Vanda Swim Club.
The group is rumoured to include former NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark, who gained membership before she was elected.
32. Another 33 Things
33.The Writer Who Couldn’t Read