Submitted by: Unknown
There was a day when, to learn the time, people would take a fob watch from a pocket and read it. Then came the wristwatch. Just a small turn of the wrist and a flick of the eye to learn the time. Many of us today take out our phones, as we once did a fob watch, to learn the time and the information pushed to us by digital services. The promise of the smartwatch is that with a small turn of the wrist we would once again learn the time and also gain that extra information with a flick of the eye. Taking out our phones, or leaving them on the table in front of us to scan, during conversations, is considered rude. The promise of the smartwatch is that we claim ambient awareness of the digital space while remaining fully engaged in the physical space. We maintain the social contract of the conversation.
But I am 46 years old, and I am here to tell you that there was a time when looking at your wristwatch during a conversation was considered bloody rude. Hell, it arguably cost George HW Bush an election. Am I the only one who remembers “oh, is there somewhere else you have to be?” or “oh, am I keeping you?” or “did you know it’s rude to look at your watch while having a bloody conversation with someone?”
Smartwatches may well prove to be useful. But never pretend that you have technologically solved the social world.
Also, I still want a fob chain for my iPhone, while I’m waiting for Oculus Monocle.
Reading: AMERICAN SMOKE, Iain Sinclair
Because Ziggy didn’t always play guitar.
In June of 1972, David Bowie released his fifth studio record, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars — the album that gave birth to his legendary alter ego, the fictional rock star Ziggy Stardust, who catapulted Bowie into superstardom and went on to become one of the twentieth century’s greatest pop-culture cults.
This mesmerizing isolated vocal track for the album’s title song reveals as much the intimate beauty of Bowie’s imperfect voice as it does the enormous role instrumentation and performance play in creating the overall effect of the song’s enchantment and exhilaration:
Complement with Bowie’s 75 must-read books, his answers to the famous Proust Questionnaire, his narration of the pioneering Soviet children’s symphony “Peter and the Wolf,” and the full story of Ziggy Stardust, then treat yourself to astronaut Chris Hadfield’s magnificent cover of Bowie’s “Space Oddity” aboard the International Space Station.
Donating = Loving
Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.
|♥ $7 / month ♥ $3 / month ♥ $10 / month ♥ $25 / month|
You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount.
Brain Pickings takes 450+ hours a month to curate and edit across the different platforms, and remains banner-free. If it brings you any joy and inspiration, please consider a modest donation – it lets me know I'm doing something right.
Zack Danger Brown asked for just $10 on Kickstarter so he might accomplish his dream: "Basically I'm just making potato salad."
The Kickstarter has since gone viral and so far has raised more than $9,000!
Update: The Kickstarter has now raised over $40,000!
Submitted by: (via Kickstarter)
Here’s where we left the American Gods TV show: HBO was going to do it but then didn’t, because reasons. FremantleMedia picked up the slack and started developing their own version, but with no network attached.
And here’s where are are now: Starz just picked up American Gods. Neil Gaiman will executive produce along with Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Hannibal) and Michael Green (Kings, Heroes), who are showrunning. Fuller will write the pilot.
Everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.
Starz Managing Director Carmi Zlotnik promises “a series that honors the book and does right by the fans and viewers,” but of course he would say that. I’m more interested in what Gaiman, who wrote the book American Gods, has to say. And here he is:
“When you create something like American Gods, which attracts fans and obsessives and people who tattoo quotes from it on themselves or each other, and who all, tattooed or not, just care about it deeply, it’s really important to pick your team carefully: you don’t want to let the fans down, or the people who care and have been casting it online since the dawn of recorded history. What I love most about the team who I trust to take it out to the world, is that they are the same kind of fanatics that American Gods has attracted since the start. I haven’t actually checked Bryan Fuller or Michael Green for quote tattoos, but I would not be surprised if they have them. The people at Fremantle are the kinds of people who have copies of American Gods in the bottom of their backpacks after going around the world, and who press them on their friends. And the team at Starz have been quite certain that they wanted to give Shadow, Wednesday and Laura a home since they first heard that the book was out there.I can’t wait to see what they do to bring the story to the widest possible audience able to cope with it.”
“Neil Gaiman has created the holiest of holy toy boxes with American Gods and filled it with all manner of magical thing, born of new gods and old,” adds Fuller. “Michael Green and I are thrilled to crack this toy box wide open and unleash the fantastical titans of heaven and earth and Neil’s vividly prolific imagination.”
There is literally nothing about this that I don’t like. American Gods is a great book. Starz made Spartacus, so I am all about that. Green has extensive TV experience, ranging from Kings to Heroes to Smallville and the upcoming Gotham, and yeah, that record isn’t spotless, but: Bryan Fuller. I would lay down my life for Bryan Fuller. I would submit to cannibalism for Bryan Fuller. Really, the only thing I can say is:
Paul: A thing you should definitely know about Ugg-Tect is that, the very first time we started playing it, Brendan almost immediately began whacking himself over the head with a large club, really pounding at his own skull with a very singular sort of determination. He was going at it full speed, full strength, and looking at me with a particular sort of sadness in his eyes.
It’s important that I add that Brendan wasn’t wearing any sort of protection when he did this. Yes, the club was only inflatable, I will concede this, but I’m not sure this mattered much given the intensity of his self-inflicted blows. He was grunting one thing over and over again, one thing in the language of Ugg-Tect, and that was “Ignore me.”
Put yourself in my position for a moment. There is a man standing in front of you who is hammering away at his own head with an enormous inflatable weapon, grunting with great insistence that you ignore him. What do you do?
In Stranger Than Fiction, Will Ferrell finds his life controlled by a narrator he hears in his head. In the short film The Gunfighter, an Old West gunslinger also finds himself pursued by a voice (belonging to Parks & Rec's Nick Offerman). The bigger problem? Everyone else can hear it, too.
So on this week’s episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour, we devoted a segment to “First Impressions.” I took it as an excuse to bloviate about one of my favorite topics, “First Lines of Novels and Short Stories and What They Do and How They Do It.”
I, as is my wont, as the show’s resident grind, overprepared. The show’s a discussion, not a lecture, thank God, and I only got around to name-checking three or four of these. But there’s lots to say on this. And back when I taught writing, and the earth was new, and icthyosaurs swam the turbid seas, I prepared a sheet sort of like this for students.
These are just some of my favorites. You got yours. Don’t bogart them, give ‘em up already.
First lines can outfit your reader with important information for the journey ahead with remarkable efficiency.
But sometimes efficiency isn’t the goal. Sometimes it’s about making sure your reader packed everything for their trip. Like, EVERYTHING.
But first lines can supply your readers with clues to what’s coming without being so damn showy about it.
Showiness is good, too. You can always attempt to charm and intrigue your audience, effectively daring them to stop reading.
You can use a first line to bait the hook by presenting a dilemma the reader (hopefully) needs to see get resolved.
You can also turn the focus on you, and not your characters, to let them know they’re in sure hands. Assert your authority by opening with a pithy, world-weary observation. Look how smart you are!
Maybe you want to be a little more circumspect, but give your reader a sense of the tone – how you/your narrator FEEL toward the events you’re about to spend a chunk of time relating to them.
Be funny. (If you’re good at it.)
Maybe you want to introduce your reader to the character, as a way of saying, “This is the voice that’s going to be living inside your head for the rest of the story/novel. Just, you know, know that.”
Maybe you want to state right up front that this isn’t one a them precious, airless short stories where some drunk divorced middle-aged white guy has a mild epiphany in a trailer park looking out at a garden gnome or whatever. No, this is a NOVEL. A novel with SWEEP and SCOPE. About the human goddamn CONDITION.
Or screw it, and just dazzle ‘em with language.
It’s been in the works for a while but the official announcement dropped overnight. Danger Mouse is being rebooted by Ireland’s Boulder Media, and Horrible Histories‘ Ben Ward is on board to write the scripts.
We don’t know – yet – who will be providing the voices, but that’s already some serious talent behind the camera… er, drawing boa… er… computer.
Some things will be updated, of course, and DM’s new eyepatch is going to be more Google Glass than Arrr! Me Hearties.
The original Cosgrove Hall series ran for about ten years and was, quite regularly, brilliant. When a nostalgia weekend on CITV led to some repeats a year or so ago, Danger Mouse gave the channel its highest ever ratings.
Fraggle Rock and Knightmare did very well too, you know. I’m just saying.
A run of 52 new Danger Mouse episodes, eleven minutes apiece, will screen on CBBC from next year.
It’s almost unbelievable that Sherlock Holmes’ guesswork is as good as it is, which is why Pete Holmes wondered what it might be like if Sherlock Holmes were off his game sometimes…
(brief NSFW language)
NBC just unveiled the first official trailer for Constantine, and holy crap is it fantastic.
We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the flyer for a maid service that disappeared into a massive pile of papers is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on when to deviate from traditional wedding-reception music.
Sing it with us: "I hope I cut myself shaving tomorrow. I hope it bleeds all day long..."
Sarah Butcher writes via Facebook: "At our recent wedding, my husband and I tried very hard to take all of your music advice. But we still somehow ended up having a first dance to Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra's 'Jackson' and ended the night by leading a singalong to The Mountain Goats' No Children.' Clearly, our marriage is doomed. Care to ruminate on situationally appropriate and inappropriate music for weddings — and advice on how to break the rules?"
I'm on the record as believing that weddings are for guests as much as the betrothed — that they're not the place for you to showcase your eclectic musical tastes, that they're for dancing, and so on. This is one of a long list of standard suggestions I give when asked for wedding advice, alongside "Skimp on flowers," "Don't skimp on photography," and "Don't actually get married." (But I kid!)
But this question is different, in several ways. For one, when you say "inappropriate wedding music," you're not talking about inadvertently inappropriate wedding music, a topic NPR Music tackled at great and uproarious length a few years back. It's one thing to blissfully sway along to "Every Breath You Take" because no one could be bothered to consult a lyric sheet before playing it. It's another entirely to decide that, to hell with it, you're going to play... wait, really? You played The Mountain Goats' "No Children" at your wedding? For those who don't know the song, let me recite the first few lines. I'm doing this entirely from memory, people:
I hope that our few remaining friends give up on trying to save us
I hope we come up with a failsafe plot to piss off the dumb few that forgave us
I hope the fences we mended fall down beneath their own weight
And I hope we hang on past the last exit
I hope it's already too late
All of which leads, of course, to a chorus of, "I hope you die! I hope we both die!" This is, no lie, one of my favorite songs of all time, but at a wedding? At least you played it at the end of the night — after, I'm guessing, all but the rowdiest and most fatalistic diehards remained.
But that leads me to the second way that your question deviates from the usual issues surrounding "appropriateness" of wedding music. If you were leading a singalong rather than playing a dark song strictly for your own benefit and/or amusement — if it's a song most people there knew, and it was fun and cathartic moment for everyone — then what's the harm? When you write about "advice on how to break the rules," I think you've already hit upon the formula: It's fine to break the rules if it's a moment that people genuinely enjoy, and if it's a moment that's true to who you are.
Yes, weddings are for the guests — they're a party in which you're the entertainment. But if you and your guests love The Mountain Goats and loved the moment, then you did right by them, right by yourselves, and right by the reality of how many marriages end. Truthfully, though, I like your odds.
Dear Sir or Madam:
This is a warning from your Internet Service Provider. Your IP address has been used to download and/or share copyrighted content, and accordingly your internet service is at risk of being suspended. We are obliged to remind you that the downloading and/or distribution of exclusively owned or licensed content infringes copyright.
We’ve been notified that in the past month, you have downloaded 250 GBs of music by Canadian alternative folk-rock band the Crash Test Dummies. We thought maybe it was an error on our end, but we looked into it further and confirmed that you did indeed download 250 GBs of music by the Crash Test Dummies, creators of the 1993 hit single “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm.” We did some research and it turns out the Crash Test Dummies’ entire catalog of music, even including side projects by the band’s members, should just barely weigh in at 1 GB, leading us to assume you either found and downloaded 249 GBs of unreleased music by the Crash Test Dummies (???), or downloaded their entire discography 250 times? We are baffled and fascinated. We have a few questions:
We remind you once more that we will terminate your internet service if piracy of copyrighted content is traced to your IP again in the future. We don’t anticipate this being a problem because we assume 250 GBs of Crash Test Dummies has to be all of it, right?
We apologize if this letter reads as judgmental.
In the wake of the lost votes saga in WA and the unexpected rise of micro-parties and donkey voters as a political force, much attention has been given to electoral processes. It is in this context that a couple of eminent members of the legal establishment have sent me a copy of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 – SECT 213. It makes for hilarious reading. Under the heading ‘Determination of the order of names’ is a beautifully convoluted piece of surreal beat poetry explaining how the order of candidates on a ballot paper should be decided.
Here’s a snippet:
This goes on for nineteen paragraphs covering two whole pages. Gather the family around the fireplace and recite the whole thing here. If you’ve spotted any other such literary masterpieces, please send them our way.
It says “Twinkles Pony Star” on the sign-in sheet. Is that your legal name?
Miss, this is a pretty small office, but I was able to fit two chairs in here, so if you wouldn’t mind sitting in one and not dangling from the window ledge. The breeze is really nice, but, it’s just, we’re on the fourth floor and the wind keeps blowing the papers off my desk, so… thank you.
Do you have ID? I’ll just copy your name down from there. OK… Jennifer, ha, right, I figured “Twinkles” was a joke, but you don’t want to assume things. Yesterday I had a woman in here named Candance and I figured the second “n” was a typo but it WASN’T! A lot of this is pretty self-explanatory, we’ll get you out of here lickety-split.
Are you filing as married or single?… I’m not hitting on you, no, the government makes us ask that, it’s a big deal on these forms. So… single? No, I don’t think they care if it’s just “single” or “always single and completely available.” I’m just checking off the box here.
Let’s take a look at your finances. I see you have a folder there, do you have any W-2s? Thanks. You’re handing me The Joshua Tree and Zooropa? Oh… ha… DOUBLE U2, yeah, ha. I don’t think the IRS is going to accept this.
What I’m asking is, were you employed this year? I just need some documentation regarding how much income you may have earned.
I’m sorry, what? You sold cupcakes to kittens? That’s a pretty specific niche. Did the owners pay you? OK, so, instead of money, one of the kittens let you live in the family’s tree house out back? I’m going to list that as an “in-kind” donation. Is that it? Did you do any other work this year? That flowing skirt looks kind of expensive. I’ve never noticed a cashmere crop top sweater at Walmart. Do you want to declare any major gifts, or maybe gambling winnings?… So the clothes are hand me downs from your grandmother who raised you because your own parents were too busy and this interfered with your ability to trust and form normal attachments?
Yeah, I don’t think the government needs to know any of this. I’m just going to mark you down here as “self-employed.” The good news is, since you own your own business, we can take out some deductions for any expenses you might have encountered. Oh, are those receipts in your pocket—HEY WHAT THE HELL?! STOP THROWING ALL THAT GLITTER! MY OFFICE LOOKS LIKE A STRIP CLUB TERRORIST ACT!
I’m sorry, no, you’re right, I shouldn’t yell, you just surprised me. Don’t cry. I’m not angry. Do you need a tissue? Plese don’t hide under my sport coat.
Hey, look at me, you’re right, glitter DOES make this whole experience more magical. I’m just responsible for any non-standard cleaning in here. This whole job is just contract work through mid-April, you know? They’re really particular about the floors in this building, I just don’t know how this will vacuum. I mean, it’s GREAT—really, I love it. I hope it’s always there, it’ll be like I’m walking on tiny bits of gold that stick to everything and do NOT make me look like I molested an elementary school art class.
I’m going to go ahead and assume you didn’t bring any receipts.
OK, we’re almost done. I know you’re still upset, I really am sorry, please don’t leave. Oh, sure, dancing makes you feel better, that makes sense. Can I just ask you—wow that’s a lot of twirling!
I just have a few more questions. This is probably a dumb one, but do you have any major investments or own a home or—right, right, ownership is a silly idea, of course, “we all just have love.” I guess I can write that on here, but, you know, what number would I place as the relative value? Pretty deep, right?
See, I can be interesting too. One time I told my boss I had to pick up some antihistamines at the pharmacy but instead I snuck out to go get a latte on Starbucks “free coffee” day—I don’t even have allergies!
I think we’re all done here. Actually, I think I’m done here as well. Being a part-time contract accountant was never my dream. You helped me see that, Jennifer.
This might sound crazy, but with you beside me, eating food off strangers’ plates, wearing inappropriate outfits, and running away from responsibility, I feel like I could finally, truly be ME. I want to become a conceptual yodel artist, I always have. It’s been my secret dream. Help me make it come true! Let’s run away together, or at least for a few months until I realize that I like being on time for things and being an emotionally responsible person. Oh I’m just teasing, I’ll never realize that! Not before you leave me at least! Grab your Hello Kitty backpack, we’ll climb out the window, you can teach me how!
Oh, but yes, you do need to sign here first. The IRS is pretty strict about that sort of thing.