Shared posts

16 Jul 04:00

July 16, 2014

Hey San Franciscans and Bostonians! BAHFest Submissions are open!
17 Jul 16:05


by Minnesotastan
Preikestolen or Prekestolen, also known by the English translations of Preacher's Pulpit or Pulpit Rock, is a famous tourist attraction in Forsand, Ryfylke, Norway. It consists of a steep cliff which rises 604 metres (1982 feet) above Lysefjorden, opposite the Kjerag plateau, with an almost flat top of approximately 25 by 25 metres (82 by 82 feet).

The authorities have opted not to install fencing or other safety devices as they felt it would detract from the natural beauty of the site and the fact that fatalities at the site are extremely rare, despite having approximately 200,000 visitors each year. Furthermore, there were concerns that fences or other devices might encourage dangerous behavior such as climbing onto the fences. It should also be noted that it is a policy from Norwegian authorities that "we cannot fence in all nature in this country", and this is supported by the Norwegian population who are generally more accustomed to "dangerous nature" of their country than foreign tourists.
Via Reddit.  See also this photo.

Addendum:  This video gives a general idea of the access.  More info here.

16 Jul 13:12

Nina Paley explains the Middle East

by PZ Myers

Warning: Includes excessive, prolonged violence, and Andy Williams singing without a hint of irony.

Confused about who is killing who? See the dramatis personae.

16 Jul 00:00


by xkcd

I think this might serve as an example of how my excess of laughter is likely indicative of how uncomfortable the topic makes me. Still, laughs are laughs, right?


How long could the human race survive on only cannibalism?

Quinn Shaffer

There are about 500 trillion calories of human in the world. If it could be frozen or otherwise preserved, that would be enough—at least in terms of raw calories—to keep a tiny breeding population alive for millions of years.

Eating nothing but meat sounds bad, nutritionally, but the lack of vegetables wouldn't necessarily kill you. People can survive on high-meat or all-meat diets, especially if they eat things like organ meat and bone marrow; there are more vitamins and nutrients found in those which are missing from the narrower range of mammal skeletal muscle and fat in the typical western diet.

The US experienced meat shortages during World War II because so much food was being diverted to soldiers and allies overseas. In response to this, the US government decided to encourage Americans to eat more organs and other animal body parts. They employed some of the world's best anthropologists, psychologists, social scientists, and food scientists to figure out a way to change American eating habits.

One of the ideas the project had was that these foods should be rebranded as variety meats.[1]More on this in the hilarious Mary Roach book Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal A Google Books search shows the phrase appearing suddenly in US books around that time (a pattern not seen in British books.) When the war ended, many of these research efforts were dropped, but this 2002 article tries to piece together what they learned.

There are a lot of things we don't understand about nutritional deficiencies, and—to put it mildly—a lot of dispute over what kind of diets are healthy or aren't healthy. But no matter what nutrients we would or wouldn't get in Quinn's scenario, we'd face a bigger problem: contaminated food. Even if you cooked your meat, it would be hard to avoid all kinds of disease exposure as you worked your way through the remains of the human population.

In a small enough population, every outbreak is a pandemic; it wouldn't take long for something to wipe you out.

There are also some obvious practical problems. Unless you're one of a small handful of people, you have no way to kill the majority of living humans without some of them killing you first.

Let's consider a different scenario, one probably more in line with what Quinn was imagining: What if half the population ate the other half?[2]On second thought, I really have no idea what specific scenario Quinn was imagining, and I'm not sure I want to know.

If the average human weighs 50 kilograms and eats a couple thousand calories per day, then—according to Ryan North—then one person contains enough meat to feed another person for about a month.

If, every month, half the population eats the other half, we could go for 32 months[3]Which should make sense to the computer science students out there, since "7 billion" is just barely too big to store in a 32-bit integer. of cannibalism before the second-to-last person was eaten by the last.

Eating people who have eaten other people is a bad idea. For starters, it's a bad idea because you're eating people. Why are you eating people!? But it's also bad because it's an effective way to transmit prion diseases.

On the other hand, most prion diseases have lengthy incubation periods, so it might be a lesser concern in a world where you have a 50% chance of getting eaten every month.

Lastly, we'd have to decide who got eaten in which round. We could fight it out, or—to be fair—we could pair off and flip coins. If we did, the result would be, literally, ...

... the tournament bracket to end all tournament brackets.

16 Jul 23:02

TSA Employees Still Unsure About District of Columbia

by Kevin

This happened in February ("I Don't Think We Accept These," Says TSA Agent, Peering at D.C. License") and apparently it just happened again:

When {Justin Gray, WFTV News] handed the man his driver's license the agent demanded to see Gray's passport.

Gray told the agent he wasn't carrying his passport and asked why he needed it.
The agent said he didn't recognize the license.
Gray said he asked the agent if he knew what the District of Columbia is, and after a brief conversation Gray realized the man did not know.

Gray being a reporter, he reported it.

My guess is that what's happening here is that TSA agents are told that they accept "state drivers' licenses" (or passports) and that for some, showing them a license from some "district" is like asking a regular person about string theory. (Also considered an analogy to the apes confronting the monolith in 2001, but that was a group effort.) In the earlier case, it seemed at least possible that the confusion was over whether D.C. qualified as a "state" for this purpose, and to be fair it is a bit of an anomaly. (Although why wouldn't one accept an ID from the nation's capital district, of all places, if one knew what it was?) In this case, however, we are told that after some questioning the reporter concluded "the man did not know" what the "District of Columbia" is.

According to the report, Gray tweeted his experience and was contacted by a TSA spokesdrone just minutes later. (Guessing he used a hashtag that they monitor.) It reportedly confirmed that a D.C. license is indeed acceptable, and then said, "Officers are trained to identify fraudulent documents, which can potentially deter and detect individuals attempting to circumvent this layer of security." I guess that was on his list of things to say for today, because what's it got to do with this incident? The training is inadequate at some level, my friend.

The February incident happened in Phoenix, and this one was in Orlando. Also, it involved agents of two different genders, so it's not like the TSA just has the one bad apple and she got transferred. But maybe she also had gendersex-reassignment theory surgery? [Where the F did I get "surgery"?] I guess anything's possible. You know how they like to keep the terrorists guessing.

16 Jul 07:15


by Author


Why do we even bishop?

To those patrons patiently awaiting their signed prints and raffle prizes, please hang in there! You haven’t been forgotten – it’s just taking some time to get things right. Plus I’m still pounding out the clerihews – though there are only about eleven left to go at the time of writing.

(If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read all about it here.)

Why not become a Patron of the Blasphemous Arts? Book shop here

14 Jul 05:40

geesehater: today was wild from start to finish


today was wild from start to finish

15 Jul 04:00

July 15, 2014

14 Jul 16:48

What’s wrong with class warfare?

by PZ Myers

I’m for it. I’m not sure why John Oliver is tap dancing around it.

14 Jul 12:25

Ladybrains evolved in the Pleistocene

by PZ Myers

Dr Gijsbert Stoet thinks we should stop trying to correct gender disparities.

Speaking at the British Education Studies Association conference in Glasgow on Friday, he argued: "We need to have a national debate on why we find it so important to have equal numbers. Do we really care that only five per cent of the programmers are women?

"Well, actually, I don’t care who programmes my computers. A wealthy, democratic society can afford to let people do what they want.

"What is better? To have 50 per cent of female engineers who do not really like their work but say, ‘Yeah, well, I did it for the feminist cause.’ Or do you want three per cent or female engineers who say, ‘I really like my job’?"

I would say that if only 5% of programmers are women, we should ask why — that kind of difference represents an interesting problem. And if, while exploring the problem, we learn that many more women are interested in the profession, but find themselves actively discouraged by various elements of the field, then that means there are institutional roadblocks in the way, and we should remove them.

There is, after all, no actual known biological reason why having ovaries should interfere with the ability to program. If we can afford to let people do what they want, and it is in the interest of a democratic society to have its citizens occupied with rewarding, fulfilling work, then we should be trying to make it possible for people to do whatever they are good at, and finding evidence of extreme disparities suggests that there may be a problem that is interfering with that goal.

Dr Stoet seems to think it’s all about him — he’s happy when men program his computers, so he can ignore any injustices in the profession. But then, he’s not exactly consistent in this attitude.

The lack of women in science and technology was diverting attention from the real issue, he said, because it was boys who generally did worse at school.

He said: "Nobody seems to be that interested that boys have problems. We have, as human beings, a natural tendency to see woman as vulnerable and needing help. But if it’s a boy who needs help, he’s responsible for himself."

Oh, well then, do we really care? If women are succeeding at academics, then obviously they have a natural aptitude for it, and we shouldn’t be concerned if women naturally gravitate towards intellectual occupations. After all, what is better: to have 50% of the professoriate be men who do not really like their work but say ‘Yeah, well, I did it for Men’s Rights.’ Or do you want 3% male academics who say, ‘I really like my job’?

Clearly, men, with their testosterone-stimulated larger muscle mass, are better suited to manual labor. I actually don’t care who digs my ditches and totes my bales, so if they’re all men, I’m happy. And I’m sure they’d be happier doing the work Nature has best suited them to do.

Of course, Dr Stoet has an evolutionary argument for the difference…an evolutionary psychology argument. Prepare to cringe.

"In the face of limited resources, we should be cautious in spending money on interventions that will have no effect. Instead of focusing on equal numbers of male and female students in all subjects, I think we should strive to get boys and girls to at least perform equally good [Sic. See? Women would naturally understand grammar well; men should just shut up] in all subjects (which will be very hard in itself)," he added.

"People are often guided by their unconscious desires. In the stone age, it was useful for men to be hunters and women to look after babies, and nature has helped by encoding some of these skills in the hardware of our brain. That still influences how we think today.

Aaargh. The stupid…!

All right, let’s embrace this ‘reasoning’. In the stone age, women stayed in the cave or sought out tasty roots, and mashed things together to create flavorful food, while men went hunting and flung spears at things. Therefore, skill at chemistry is encoded in women’s brains, while ballistics is a natural male talent. Stone age men went on long walks to hunt game, so they’re better suited now to do field work in ecology, while women sat and did intricate weaving, therefore their brains are adapted to do data analysis.

I could do this all day, inventing pseudo-scientific evo-psych rationalizations for why particular stone age tasks shaped brains in a sex-specific manner, but at least I wouldn’t be doing it to somehow magically always fit 21st century Western cultural expectations. But I can’t, because it’s stupid.

Why do these people forget that stone age men had mothers and stone age women had fathers, both members of the same population and sharing the same genetics, and that novel adaptations aren’t likely to somehow be restricted to one sex or the other? I swear, these loons are always treating men and women as separate species evolving in parallel.

Double-aaargh! Now another article: If a girl isn’t interested in science, don’t force her to be.

Look, science is always going to be a minority occupation — only a small fraction of the population will have the aptitude or the interest for it. It will be intrinsically unequal, in that in the panoply of jobs required to maintain modern society, only a tiny fraction of the available positions will be for scientists. No one is suggesting that we need to frog-march girls into math and science. This is a non-problem. It is not an issue. It’s a debate no one is having. We are not planning to staff the apparatus of science with unwilling feminine slave labor. You are not a lesser human being if you’d rather study literature or history or philosophy, or if you’d rather skip college altogether and become a travel agent or a cook. There will be no compulsory science work camps.

But if you’re a woman who is interested in science (and many are!), the argument that girls like dolls and nurturing occupations is irrelevant; we are talking about individuals who ought to be given a fair opportunity to pursue a career they love, and not discouraged by some moronic writer for the Telegraph who uses stereotypes to make generalizations about half the population of the planet.

I also think he’s probably right in suggesting that females, as a whole, are not hugely engaged by science. The problem with science is that, for all its wonders, it lacks narrative and story-line. Science (and maths) is about facts, and the laboratory testing of elements. It is not primarily about people. Women – broadly speaking – are drawn to the human factor: to story, biography, psychology and language.

Jebus. Fuck you, Mary Kenny: that nonsense is not just offensive to women, it’s an affront to men and a hideously mangled distortion of the enterprise of science. She doesn’t understand women, men, or science, yet her ignorance doesn’t seem to inhibit her in the slightest in parading her stupidity for an international audience.

13 Jul 12:52

It’s always ten

by PZ Myers

It’s Sunday morning. You’re lazing about in bed, or having coffee and breakfast, or otherwise having atheist happy time. You don’t have to go to church, but you could answer a few questions from a believer, I suppose. There is a set going around that are good for a laugh. Here’s the challenge:

Some Questions Atheist Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer! Which leads to some interesting conclusions…

Hmmm. Now I have to answer the questions, and I also have to ponder why a wacky Christian would think I couldn’t Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer them.

1. How Did You Become an Atheist?

Why would we be unable to answer that one? Most atheists can tell you exactly how they gave up on religion. I became an atheist because I thought seriously about what I was being told in church, and found it unbelievable. Later I found that religion drove people to do incredibly stupid and destructive things, like endorse creationism or control women’s reproductive rights, and I decided I had to be an active anti-theist.

2. What happens when we die?

The available evidence is that your physiological functions stop, brain activity ceases, your body cools, cells begin to self-destruct, and eventually bacterial activity and the work of decomposers cause your body to rot. Your flesh is dissociated and recycled by other organisms.

3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!

I’m not wrong about the rotting bit. Oh, you mean your bizarre notions about a ‘soul’ that exists independent of your material body that goes on to engage in some undefined, mysterious post-life activity in some other undefined realm? That’s just silly. There’s no reason to believe that happens.

But OK, I’ll play along. If your metaphysical scenario actually played out, and “I” continued to exist after my body died, and I found myself in the fantasy land of your Bible…it would be terrible. Learning that our minds were playthings of some cosmic tyrant who at a whim would condemn you to an eternity of torture, or alternatively an eternity of servitude worshipping a monster would be nightmarish.

I’m relieved that there is no evidence for your evil dreams.

4. Without God, where do you get your morality from?

Reciprocity, empathy, a theory of mind, need. I’m a member of a social species with finely tuned instincts for interaction with my fellow humans, and I live in a culture where cooperative behavior is rewarded. I don’t really need anything outside of that to explain morality; I’ll also note that individuals who claim to have an external source of moral compulsions don’t actually behave in a more moral fashion than those, like me, who don’t have imaginary voices in our heads.

5. If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?

Even with your phantasmal god, you’re free to murder and rape. God never seems to swoop in and stop anyone from murdering and raping, have you noticed? The ones stopping criminal actions are us. Ourselves. People. I don’t murder or rape because harming other people is repugnant and a violation of the social contract, because I have no desire to harm others, and because even if I did, there is a framework of law within my society that limits my ability to do harm.

6. If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?

You know, imagining an invisible man who tells you what to do doesn’t give your life actual meaning. I find that doing things — sharing, teaching, playing, working, learning — gives me satisfaction. If I had an ultimate goal it would be to leave the world a better place for my children and others when I leave it.

7. Where did the universe come from?

Read a physics textbook. We’ve got knowledge of 13.7 billion years of the universe’s changing history, virtually none of which is in your holy book. It’s always funny to get that question from people who so despise the natural, physical knowledge of how the universe works that they think “god did it” is actually a good answer to their own question.

8. What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?

People claim many things: they also claim that they’ve seen Bigfoot, that the Queen of England is an alien reptoid, that they can bend spoons with the power of their mind, that little grey men in flying saucers are deeply interested in their rectums. Show me the evidence. Others have tried, and it’s always garbage.

9. What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?

Who would think this would be a difficult question for an atheist to answer? There are lots of different opinions of these men within the atheist community. Personally, I like Dawkins, I think he’s a smart person and a brilliant writer, who is a man of his place and time who is unfortunately a bit inept at seeing other social circumstances. Hitchens is dead…but in life, he was the best writer of the bunch, wonderfully courageous and outspoken, but also possessed catastrophically bad political views. I’m not a fan of Harris, at all.

And if you ask a different atheist, you’ll get completely different answers.

10. If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

If there is a god, then why does every society have a different religion, and further, why are there thousands of different sects within each society?

You know, your question only works if we were challenging the existence of god belief. We know people believe in gods, and that it is quite common; that many people believe in false things does not in any way make them true.

We were supposed to get some interesting conclusions from the fact that these are questions that atheists Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer, yet I found them trivial and easy to honestly answer. I think we can draw a conclusion from that, but it’s not particularly interesting.

I have to conclude that whoever composed that list was an idiot.

10 Jul 18:59

Steven Spielberg Criticized for the "Triceratops He Just Slaughtered"

Steven Spielberg Criticized for the "Triceratops He Just Slaughtered"

It's not uncommon for a poacher or hunter to receive harsh criticism and public shaming, but does it count when the animal in question goes WAY beyond the endangered species list?

Click here for a larger view of the top image and here for a larger view of the bottom image.

poacher spielberg

Submitted by: (via Dangerous Minds)

10 Jul 19:38


12 Jul 04:40

Finger mugging tattoo

by David Pescovitz

Very clever fingertip tattoo. (more…)

11 Jul 05:00

#1045; Everyone is Obviously Right

by David Malki

but *I'M* of course considering matters OBJECTIVELY

11 Jul 00:00


'Hello, Ghostbusters?' 'ooOOoooo people born years after that movie came out are having a second chiiiild right now ooOoooOoo'
09 Jul 00:11

Tumblr | ce7.gif

09 Jul 16:48


10 Jul 04:45

neutralgoodvampire: bile100: bile100: bile100: sizvideos: Bi...






Bird Cuts Pieces of Paper to Make Her Tail Longer


22 INCHES!!!!!!

NEW WEAVE!!! 22INCHEs!!!!!

this is how peach-faced lovebirds gather nesting materials. I used to have one!!

10 Jul 11:00

Got Any Chips?

Got Any Chips?

Submitted by: (via The Nug)

Tagged: aligator , guacamole , swamp
08 Jul 21:15

invocationwithin:loosetoon: Early 70’s behind the scenes of...


Early 70’s behind the scenes of Sesame Street with the Muppets.

09 Jul 21:30

keinermachtfurdichmehr: luchaigcaileag: Someone left the cat...



Someone left the cat pipes on.

The internet has sprung a leak

09 Jul 12:31



08 Jul 16:29

New Lifelike Paper Birds by Diana Beltran Herrera

by Christopher Jobson

New Lifelike Paper Birds by Diana Beltran Herrera sculpture paper birds

New Lifelike Paper Birds by Diana Beltran Herrera sculpture paper birds

New Lifelike Paper Birds by Diana Beltran Herrera sculpture paper birds

New Lifelike Paper Birds by Diana Beltran Herrera sculpture paper birds

New Lifelike Paper Birds by Diana Beltran Herrera sculpture paper birds

New Lifelike Paper Birds by Diana Beltran Herrera sculpture paper birds

New Lifelike Paper Birds by Diana Beltran Herrera sculpture paper birds

New Lifelike Paper Birds by Diana Beltran Herrera sculpture paper birds

Year after year, artist and designer Diana Beltran Herrera (previously) continues to astound with her near perfectly accurate reproductions of birds using paper. The fragile sculptures shown here are a mix of private commissions and pieces for several luxury brands who use her work in displays and advertising. Originally from Columbia, Herrera studied in Bogota before spending time in Finland to study ceramic sculpture. She is now currently working on an M.A. in fine art at UWE Bristol and creates paper birds in her spare time. She most recently spoke at Pictoplasma in Berlin and had work at Centrespace in Bristol. You can see many more paper creations over on Flickr. (via Yatzer)

09 Jul 04:00

July 09, 2014

This week I have a somewhat topical essay over at Warning: political.
09 Jul 14:42

A Softer World

09 Jul 10:44


by Author


Or, to give it its correct spelling, cornby fash.

Patrons who have pledged $2 or more per month can now download any or all of the PDFs of the J&M books. Check your Patreon messages for the links. Thank you!

Why not become a Patron of the Blasphemous Arts? Book shop here

09 Jul 00:00

Dominant Players

When Vera Menchik entered a 1929 tournament, a male competitor mocked her by suggesting that a special 'Vera Menchik Club' would be created for any player who lost to her. When the tournament began, he promptly became the first member of said club, and over the years it accumulated a large and illustrious roster.
06 Jul 19:00

Seinfeld is 25; here are 5 ways it changed television

by Todd VanDerWerff

Seinfeld, which turned 25 Saturday, is self-evidently one of the most influential television programs ever made. It entered a sitcom landscape that was still shaking off the last cobwebs of the 1970s sitcom revolution, and it suggested, boldly, that sitcoms didn't need to be about important issues or even traditional storytelling to be great. Instead, they could just be about the minutiae of life, the little bits and pieces of larger things that add up to our points of view. It was a show that reveled in detritus.

Easy to miss in all of that, however, were all of the ways that Seinfeld influenced TV via its underpinnings. Jerry Seinfeld's observational humor affected many other shows of the era (and long after the series had ended). The "single people living in the big city" premise became the centerpiece of seemingly every other sitcom. But Seinfeld was so huge that it influenced television in many smaller ways, too. Here are five of them.

1) Seinfeld changed the way sitcom stories are written

It's not terribly exciting to think about television in terms of its story structure — the storylines, scenes, and raw dramatic beats that make up any given episode of TV — but Seinfeld's influence on television comedy is actually most pronounced in this arena. The famous "show about nothing" pitch obscured just how much structural work was going on underneath the show's hood. Prior to Seinfeld, most sitcoms broke down into an A-story and a B-story, and the supporting story could take the form of a so-called "runner," jokes that continued throughout the episode and told a very loose story but didn't do much more than that.

The best Seinfeld episodes are marvels of story structure.

Particularly in its best episodes, Seinfeld blew all of that up. Even in an episode like the famous "The Contest" (the one with the competition to see which of the central foursome can go the longest without masturbating), each of the four characters is handed their own storyline, all four of which tie together in the final moments to create a whole larger than its parts. The best Seinfeld episodes are marvels of story structure, with jokes and storylines dovetailing and tucking into each other in ways that can be as thrilling as any twist in a plot-heavy drama.

This sort of story structure has become incredibly common since the show left the air. In particular, it's useful to look at Arrested Development, one of the show's most obvious heirs and one where individual episodes could have up to nine stories (one for each regular character) that collided with each other by the time the episode ended. Not every show uses the Seinfeld structure (and some, like Everybody Loves Raymond, used structures that were deliberately as little like Seinfeld as possible), but the series gave other shows the option of pursuing far more than the typical two stories per episode.

2) It made us want to watch self-involved jerks

Matt Zoller Seitz made this point ably over at Vulture last week: while much of the credit for the age of antiheroes — which TV is just exiting — often gets placed at the feet of The Sopranos, Seinfeld was just as much of an influence. Writes Seitz:

Seinfeld's impact resonated beyond comedy. Its serene belief that characters did not have to be likable as long as they were interesting foreshadowed a change in TV drama that wouldn't settle until the late '90s, when HBO turned a show about violent gangsters into an award-winning hit. We tend to forget that the first coldly expedient hero to anchor an influential, long-running series named after him wasn't Tony Soprano. It was Jerry Seinfeld.

Yet look beyond just Jerry, and you see that Seinfeld is filled with the sorts of self-involved jerks who would drive many of the best TV shows of the last decade. Seinfeld is perhaps the earliest series to essentially dare the audience to identify with its characters by seeing their own worst traits reflected in those characters. It believed it could do this simply by making those characters as interesting and funny as possible. It was mostly right.

Take, for instance, the character of George, perhaps the show's most compelling, most loathsome figure. We empathize with George because we recognize in his character all of the times we've been unable to escape our own limitations and weaknesses. But look at him from another perspective, and he's a ‘90s riff on what we might now call "nice guy syndrome." And the show endlessly mocks him for it!

George essentially believes he deserves to have sex with a beautiful woman because he's a white guy living in modern America, and when he doesn't succeed (but Jerry or Kramer do), he grows ever more petulant. He doesn't particularly want to strive to succeed. He just wants life handed to him on a silver platter. That was the kind of character TV hadn't really seen before Seinfeld hit the air, but it's also the kind of character who's everywhere now, and often on shows that don't realize Seinfeld worked because the joke was much more often on George (or Jerry or Kramer or Elaine) than it was on anybody else.

That was the kind of character tV hadn't really seen before Seinfeld hit the air, but it's also the kind of character who's everywhere now.

3) Elaine Benes is a tremendously influential female character

There were funny women in control of their own destinies on television before Elaine, but Elaine was the first who was simply allowed to unapologetically be whatever she wanted to be. Even a short year before Seinfeld debuted, a show like Murphy Brown had to essentially center everything on the fact that its protagonist was a single woman making her way through her life and work. Also worth considering is the Jamie Lee Curtis and Richard Lewis vehicle Anything But Love, which debuted a few short months before Seinfeld and had much in common with it (including a large number of scenes set in diners in which Curtis and Lewis talked over the oddities of modern life) but constantly felt the need to make Curtis's character's life largely about her romantic prospects or lack thereof.

Elaine was different. Many of her stories were about her love life, but she also had weird jobs and got just as involved in the shenanigans of the main cast as any of the male characters. Thanks to the work of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, one of the great comedic actresses of American television, Elaine could be both deeply weird and deeply feminine. There hadn't been a character like her before, and she paved the way for everyone from Leslie Knope to Hannah Horvath.

4) It predicted the growing whiteness of network television

Little of this is Seinfeld's fault. It has far more to do with the Clinton-era repeal of the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules (a subject for another time). But it's worth pointing out that the centerpiece of NBC's very diverse 1980s Thursday night sitcom lineup was The Cosby Show, while Seinfeld was the centerpiece of its very white 1990s Thursday night sitcom lineup. It more or less made sense for Seinfeld to be as white as it was. It was, after all, famously rejected by audience testers, and NBC's Brandon Tartikoff worried it was "too New York, too Jewish." It was, to a real degree, about four people who were incredibly limited in their perceptions and worldviews, so a certain amount of tunnel vision made sense.

But the show was also the unlikely beneficiary of the fact that the television landscape was changing underneath it. By its final season, Seinfeld was a mega-hit, watched by large numbers of people in all demographics, but in its early years, it struggled in the ratings, kept alive by critical acclaim and awards attention, sure, but also because the people who were watching it were more demographically desirable to advertisers. And what that usually means is young white people with lots of money living in cities.

What felt revolutionary on Seinfeld quickly curdled into something harder and harder to stomach on the many shows it inspired.

As that demographic was targeted with more and more focus in years to come, it would lead to shows with fewer and fewer people of color, shows that could be good (Friends or Girls) or bad (the many, many Seinfeld clones of the mid-90s) but still shows that were overwhelmingly about a bunch of white, affluent people who never had to worry about anything but the trivial details of life. What felt revolutionary on Seinfeld quickly curdled into something harder and harder to stomach on the many shows it inspired.

5) It heralded the death of the multi-camera sitcom

When television experts talk about a "multi-camera" sitcom, what they mean is a sitcom that functions almost as a filmed play, with multiple cameras (usually four) in fixed positions capturing the action of a sitcom taping, usually in front of a live audience. Think of the difference in presentation between Cheers (a very classical multi-camera sitcom) and Modern Family (which is what is usually called a "single-camera" sitcom and is presented much more cinematically than theatrically). The history of the format can be split in two, with Seinfeld as a rough dividing line.

NBC actually forced creators Seinfeld and Larry David to make the show a multi-camera, but once the two were committed to doing so, they essentially broke all of the established rules of how multi-camera sitcoms worked, twisting and bending them so far that the multi-camera sitcom had essentially nowhere else to go if writers wanted to continue to innovate.

The longer the show ran, the more single-camera sequences it inserted into the action. (Think, for instance, of all of those scenes of characters walking down city streets, which were pre-taped and showed to the audience, instead of presented live on stage.) And the longer it ran, the more it broke those stories up into smaller and smaller pieces, presaging the joke-a-second pace most single-camera sitcoms run at today.

And yet Seinfeld stands as a testament to how good multi-camera sitcoms could be at their best. Several sequences in the show would only work in the more theatrical trappings of the multi-cam, and the performers' broadness was also given greater latitude by the format.

Think, for instance, of the famous story George tells about removing a golf ball from a whale's blowhole. On a single-camera sitcom, that might be presented to the audience as it happened. On Seinfeld, limited in how much location filming it could do, it becomes a story for Jason Alexander to tell, and that makes all the difference in terms of humor.

Seinfeld left big shoes for the sitcom to fill. Some (Raymond again) might have returned to a more deliberately classical vibe. But others pushed past it and found the only places left to go involved finding new ways to film these sorts of shows. Seinfeld might have been something of an endpoint for lots of different sitcom techniques, but it was also the beginning of many, many others.

08 Jul 02:33

lizawithazed: sometimes you see a pun so artfully constructed...


sometimes you see a pun so artfully constructed you just have to stand back in awe.