@CC. Does this excite you? I have not read the book.
Steve Loves the ’80s: Why It Makes Perfect Sense That Spielberg Is Bringing ‘Ready Player One’ to the Big ScreenAs reported by Deadline, semi-well-known movie director Steven Spielberg — auteur of such cult art-house flicks as Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Saving Private Ryan — has signed on to direct the film version of Ernest Cline’s 2011 video-game dystopia novel Ready Player One. It’s a sublime pairing of director and source material for several reasons, not the least of which is that this marks, as far as I can tell, the first time in history that a book that mentions a particular filmmaker has been adapted for the screen by said filmmaker. And if it’s not the first time, such an event is at least exceedingly rare. I mean, I Googled it and asked two very knowledgeable people, and they couldn’t remember such a thing having happened before.Ready Player One is set in a near-future, economically destitute, ecologically ruined United States. The only escape from the drab and dire existence of daily life is the OASIS, a fully realistic and massive online realm encompassing platforms for every conceivable human activity, with the exception of eating and excreting...
Ready for Rocky Roadham.
Ben and Jerry’s, Amanda McCall
Magical thinking as harm beat.
Rock on cacti.
Who needs a drink?
These look amazing.
From Japanese pop-up magic to Scandinavian storytelling to Maurice Sendak, a gentle primer on the messiness of mourning and the many faces and phases of grief.
“If you are protected from dark things,” Neil Gaiman said in the context of his fantastic recent adaptation of the Brothers Grimm, “then you have no protection of, knowledge of, or understanding of dark things when they show up.” Maurice Sendak was equally adamant about not shielding young minds from the dark. Tolkien believed that there is no such thing as “writing for children” and E.B. White admonished that kids shouldn’t be written down to but written up to. In her wise reflection on the difference between myth and deception, Margaret Mead asserted that “children who have been told the truth about birth and death will know … that this is a truth of a different kind.”
And yet we hardly tell children — nor ourselves — those truths. Half a century after children’s literature patron saint Ursula Nordstrom lamented that “some mediocre ladies in influential positions are actually embarrassed by an unusual book,” most books for young readers still struggle to validate children’s darker emotions and make room for difficult, complex, yet inescapable experiences like loss, loneliness, and uncertainty.
Here are some proudly unusual books addressing these all too common yet commonly shirked emotional realities.
For more than a decade, Brooklyn-based Enchanted Lion — an independent one-woman children’s book powerhouse — has been churning out some of the bravest and most sensitive picture-books of our time, championing foreign writers and artists who create layered universes of experience outside the unimaginative bounds of the pantheon. Among them is My Father’s Arms Are a Boat (public library) by writer Stein Erik Lunde and illustrator Øyvind Torseter (of The Hole fame), translated by Kari Dickson.
This tender Norwegian gem tells the story of an anxious young boy who climbs into his father’s arms seeking comfort on a cold sleepless night. The two step outside into the winter wonderland as the boy asks questions about the red birds in the spruce tree to be cut down the next morning, about the fox out hunting, about why his mother will never wake up again. With his warm and comforting answers, the father watches his son make sense of this strange world of ours, where love and loss go hand in hand.
Above all, it is story about the quiet way in which boundless love and unconditional assurance can embolden even the heaviest of spirits to rise from the sinkhole of anxiety and anguish.
Lunde, who also writes lyrics and has translated Bob Dylan into Norwegian, is a masterful storyteller who unfolds incredible richness in few words. Meanwhile, Torseter’s exquisite 2D/3D style combining illustration and paper sculpture, reminiscent of Soyeon Kim’s wonderful You Are Stardust, envelops the story in a sheath of delicate whimsy.
When death comes and brings grief with it, as Joan Didion memorably put it, it’s “nothing like we expect it to be.” What we need isn’t so much protection from that engulfing darkness as the shaky comfort of understanding — a sensemaking mechanism for the messiness of loss.
That’s precisely what Faroese children’s book author and artist Bárður Oskarsson does in The Flat Rabbit (public library) — a masterwork of minimalist storytelling that speaks volumes about our eternal tussle with our own impermanence.
The book, translated by Faroese language-lover Marita Thomsen, comes from a long tradition of Scandinavian children’s books with singular sensitivity to such difficult subjects — from Tove Jansson’s vintage parables of uncertainty to Stein Erik Lunde’s Norwegian tale of grief to Øyvind Torseter’s existential meditation on the meaning of something and nothing.
The story, full of quiet wit and wistful wonder, begins with a carefree dog walking down the street. Suddenly, he comes upon a rabbit, lying silently flattened on the road. As the dog, saddened by the sight, wonders what to do, his friend the rat comes by.
“She is totally flat,” said the rat. For a while they just stood there looking at her.
“Do you know her?”
“Well,” said the dog, “I think she’s from number 34. I’ve never talked to her, but I peed on the gate a couple of times, so we’ve definitely met.”
The two agree that “lying there can’t be any fun” and decide to move her, but don’t know where to take her and head to the park to think.
The dog was now so deep in thought that, had you put your ear to his skull, you would have actually heard him racking his brain.
Embedded in the story is a subtle reminder that ideas don’t come to us by force of will but by the power of incubation as everything we’ve unconsciously absorbed clicks together into new combinations in our minds. As the dog sits straining his neurons, we see someone flying a kite behind him — a seeming aside noted only in the visual narrative, but one that becomes the seed for the rabbit solution.
Exclaiming that he has a plan, the dog returns to the scene with the rat. They take the rabbit from the road and work all night on the plan, hammering away in the doghouse.
In the next scene, we see the rabbit lovingly taped to the frame of a kite, which takes the dog and the rat forty-two attempts to fly.
With great simplicity and sensitivity, the story lifts off into a subtle meditation on the spiritual question of an afterlife — there is even the spatial alignment of a proverbial heaven “above.” It suggests — to my mind, at least — that all such notions exist solely for the comfort of the living, for those who survive the dead and who confront their own mortality in that survival, and yet there is peace to be found in such illusory consolations anyway, which alone is reason enough to have them.
Mostly, the story serves as a gentle reminder that we simply don’t have all the answers and that, as John Updike put it, “the mystery of being is a permanent mystery.”
Once the kite was flying, they watched it in silence for a long time.
“Do you think she is having a good time?” the rat finally asked, without looking at the dog.
The dog tried to imagine what the world would look like from up there.
“I don’t know…” he replied slowly. “I don’t know.”
If grief is so Sisyphean a struggle even for grownups, how are tiny humans to handle a weight so monumental once it presses down? Poet David Mason offers an uncommonly comforting answer in Davey McGravy (public library) — a lyrical litany of loss for children of all ages. Across a series of poems, accompanied by early-Sendakesque etchings by artist Grant Silverstein, we meet a little boy named Davey McGravy living in the tall-treed forest with his father and brothers. A few tender verses in, we realize that Davey is caught in the mire of mourning his mother.
Without invalidating the deep melancholy that has set in, Mason makes room for the mystery of life and death, inviting in the miraculous immortality of love. With great gentleness, he reminds us that whenever we grieve for someone we love, we grieve for our entire world, for the entire world; that whenever one grieves, the whole world grieves.
He walked to where his father stood
and hugged him by a leg
and wept like the babe he used to be
in the green house by the lake
He wept for the giants in the woods
for the otter that swam in the waves.
He wept for his mother in the fog
so far away.
And then he felt a hand,
a big hand in his hair.
“It’s Davey McGravy,” his father said.
“I’m glad you’re here.”
“Davey McGravy,” he said again,
“How’s that for a brand new name?
Davey McGravy. Not so bad.
I like a name that rhymes.”
And there was his father on his knees
holding our boy in his arms.
And Davey McGravy felt the scratch
of whiskers and felt warm.
“Nobody else has a name like that.
It’s all your own.
Davey McGravy. Davey McGravy.
You could sing it in a song.
And then his father kissed him,
ruffled his hair and said,
“Supper time, Davey McGravy.
Then it’s time for bed.”
May I call you Love?
Very well, then, you are Love,
and this is a tale about a boy
Never mind the rest of his name.
You need only know that he was born
in the land of rain
and the tallest of tall trees —
great shaggy cedars like the boots
of giants covered in green,
and where the giants had gone
no one could ever tell.
Only their boots remained
on the wet green grass,
surrounded by ferns on the shore
of a long, cold, windy lake.
That’s where Davey was born, Love.
That’s where you must imagine him,
a wee squall of tears and swaddling,
a babe, as you were too a babe,
with parents and the whole canoe,
the whole catastrophe
we call a family —
the human zoo.
Only a rare poet can merge the reverence of Thoreau with the irreverence of Zorba the Greek to create something wholly unlike anything else — and that is what Mason accomplishes in Davey McGravy.
The 1993 masterwork We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (public library), which I’ve covered extensively here, is the darkest yet most hopeful book Maurice Sendak ever created, as well as one of his most personal. It’s an unusual fusion of two traditional Mother Goose nursery rhymes — “In the Dumps” and “Jack and Gye” — reimagined and interpreted by Sendak’s singular sensibility, and permeated by many layers of cultural and personal subtext.
On a most basic level, the story follows a famished black baby, part of a clan of homeless children dressed in newspaper and living in boxes, kidnapped by a gang of giant rats. Jack and Guy, who are strolling nearby and first brush the homeless kids off, witness the kidnapping and set out to rescue the boy. But the rats challenge them to a rigged game of bridge, with the child as the prize. After a series of challenges that play out across a number of scary scenes, Jack and Guy emerge victorious and save the boy with the help of the omniscient Moon and a mighty white cat that chases the rats away.
Created at the piercing pinnacle of the AIDS plague and amid an epidemic of homelessness, it is a highly symbolic, sensitive tale that reads almost like a cry for mercy, for light, for resurrection of the human spirit at a time of incomprehensible heartbreak and grimness. It is, above all, a living monument to hope — one built not on the denial of hopelessness but on its delicate demolition.
But the book’s true magic lies in its integration of Sendak’s many identities — the son of Holocaust survivors, a gay man witnessing the devastation of AIDS, a deft juggler of darkness and light.
Jack and Guy appear like a gay couple, and their triumph in rescuing the child resembles an adoption, two decades before that was an acceptable subject for a children’s book. “And we’ll bring him up / As other folk do,” the final pages read — and, once again, a double meaning reveals itself as two characters are depicted with wings on their backs, lifting off into the sky, lending the phrase “we’ll bring him up” an aura of salvation. In the end, the three curl up as a makeshift family amidst a world that is still vastly imperfect but full of love.
We are all in the dumps
For diamonds are thumps
The kittens are gone to St. Paul’s!
The baby is bit
The moon’s in a fit
And the houses are built
Jack and Guy
Went out in the Rye
And they found a little boy
With one black eye
Come says Jack let’s knock
Him on the head
No says Guy
Let’s buy him some bread
You buy one loaf
And I’ll buy two
And we’ll bring him up
As other folk do
In many ways, this is Sendak’s most important and most personal book. In fact, Sendak would resurrect the characters of Jack and Guy two decades later in his breathtaking final book, a posthumously published love letter to the world and to his partner of fifty years, Eugene Glynn. Jack and Guy, according to playwright Tony Kushner, a dear friend of Sendak’s, represented the two most important people in the beloved illustrator’s life — Jack was his real-life brother Jack, whose death devastated Sendak, and Guy was Eugene, the love of Sendak’s life, who survived him after half a century of what would have been given the legal dignity of a marriage had Sendak lived to see the dawn of marriage equality. (Sendak died thirteen months before the defeat of DOMA.)
All throughout, the book emanates Sendak’s greatest lifelong influence — like the verses and drawings of William Blake, Sendak’s visual poetry in We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy is deeply concerned with the human spirit and, especially, with the plight of children. See more of it here.
In Love is Forever (public library), writer Casey Rislov, who holds a master’s degree in elementary education and has an intense interest in special needs, and artist Rachel Balsaits unpack the complexities of loss with elegant simplicity.
The sweet verses and tender illustrations tell the story of Little Owl, who loves her Grandfather Owl very much. With the help of her parents and baby brother, Little Owl processes the profound sadness over her grandfather’s death by learning to keep his love alive forever.
Our love is a gift, a treasure to hold,
a story in our hearts forevermore.
This gift of love we have been given
is one that is pure, constant and sure.
The final pages feature a short guide for parents and teachers to the basic psychological phenomena that the mourner experiences and how to address those in children.
Nicolas (public library), the debut of Quebecois cartoonist Pascal Girard, is a kind of children’s book for grownups chronicling the many faces and phases of grief in a series of autobiographical sketches that unfold over the decades since the childhood death of Girard’s younger brother, Nicolas. With great subtlety, honesty, and unsentimental sensitivity, he explores the multitude of complex emotions — sadness, numbness, restlessness, anxiety, even boredom, in Kierkegaard’s sense of existential emptiness — and their disorienting nonlinear flow.
From the confusing first days after Nicolas’s death from lactic acidosis in 1990, to Girard’s teenage years awkwardly telling kids in high school about his loss, to life as an adult paralyzed with dread over having a child of his own on account of everything that might go wrong, this moving visual narrative is at once utterly harrowing and tenaciously hopeful, told with gentle humor and great humanity.
Woven throughout the deeply personal story are the common threads of mourning, universal to the human experience — how we cling to the illusion that understanding the details of death would make processing its absoluteness easier, how we channel our restlessness into an impulse to do something (there is Girard as a boy, fundraising for lactic acidosis research in his neighborhood; there he is as a teenager, numbing the unprocessed grief with drugs), how bearing witness to the mourning of others rekindles our own but also makes more deeply empathetic (Nicolas, one realizes midway through the book, died exactly eleven years before the 9/11 attacks, the news of which resurfaces Girard’s grief as he is bowled over with empathy for the tragedy of others), and most of all how “the people we most love do become a physical part of us, ingrained in our synapses.”
What emerges is the elegant sidewise assurance that while grief never fully leaves us, we can be okay — more than that, in the words of Rilke, we can arrive at the difficult but transformative understanding that “death is our friend precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love.”
Pop-up books have a singular magic, but even the pioneering vintage “interactive” picture-books of Italian graphic designer Bruno Munari can’t compare to the beauty, subtlety, and exquisite elegance of those by Japanese graphic designer and book artist Katsumi Komagata.
When his daughter was born in 1990, Komagata expanded his graphic design studio, One Stroke, into publishing and began making extraordinary picture-books — including some particularly thoughtful and beguiling masterpieces for children with disabilities, from tactile pop-up gems to sign-language stories.
In 2008, Komagata released Little Tree (public library) — a most unusual and immeasurably wonderful story tracing the life-cycle of a single tree as it explores, with great subtlety and sensitivity, deeper themes of impermanence and the cycle of all life.
I received this delicate treasure as a gift from a dear friend, who had met Komagata at the Guadalajara International Book Fair. The book, she said, was inspired by a young child struggling with making sense of life and death after the loss of a beloved father, one of Komagata’s own dear friends.
On each spread of this whimsical trilingual story — told in Japanese, French, and English — a different stage of the tree’s growth unfolds, beginning with the tiny promise of a seedling poking through the snow.
No one notices such a small presence … be still here in the snow
Slowly, it grows into the recognizable shape of a tree and makes its way through the season — shy leaves greet the world in spring, a lush crown bathes in summer’s sunshine and turns a warm yellow, then a glowing red, as autumn embraces it.
A family of birds packs its nest, preparing to fly away for the winter.
When winter descends — that philosophical staple of intelligent children’s books — the mood darkens.
Clouds cover the sky
The wind blows hard, almost breaking the branches
Sheets of rain fill the darkness … be still here in the dark
But spring eventually returns, and the whole cycle repeats and repeats, until the tree grows “tall enough to look around when at the beginning it was too small and everything was big.”
Indeed, the book is very much a study in perspective — the existential through the spatial — as the tree’s height increases and its shadow shifts. With his gentle genius, Komagata casts the shadows of all peripheral characters and objects — a street lamp, a man walking his dog, a bird — not from the perspective of the reader but from that of the tree, appearing upside-down on the page. (To capture Komagata’s intended vignettes, I photographed the book from the top of the page facing down, following the tree’s viewpoint.)
And so the cycle of life continues — a new crow takes the nest built by last year’s bird, and as it observes these rhythms, the tree’s “point of view keeps changing.”
The man who lost a friend lays a flower down
It can’t be helped … be still here
But as wistful as the story is, the book is ultimately optimistic — a beautiful allegory for the same notion found in Rilke’s philosophy of befriending death in order to live more fully. At the end, the seed spurs a new turn of the cycle of life, going back to the beginning.
The seed was carried somewhere unknown
Surely it will exist for someone even though no one notices such a small presence at the beginning
* * *
For a grownup counterpart, see Meghan O’Rourke’s moving memoir of learning to live with loss, Anne Lamott on grief and gratitude, Atul Gawande’s indispensable Being Mortal, and Joanna Macy on how Rilke can help us befriend our mortality.
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Yeah, fk it. via Sr. Pelaez.
Let it go. (photo via mattryd7)
Magical thinking as harm beat. Some fucked up shit at work here: "but perhaps [suffering] can be the place where true beauty can be known." and "beauty will meet us in that last breath." But that last breath is only beautiful if you needlessly suffered all the way to the end? WTF.
A Christian author and blogger with terminal cancer who tried to convince Brittany Maynard to reconsider her November decision to die through doctor-assisted suicide is facing her own death.
Maynard made headlines as the 29-year-old who chose to die on Nov. 1 by taking a legal lethal prescription as she faced an aggressive cancerous brain tumor.
Tippetts, a Colorado Springs wife of a pastor and 38-year-old mother of four who was diagnosed two years ago with stage four breast cancer, has become the poster face of an opposite view. Her book publicist confirmed on Thursday that her family believes she is close to death.
Tippetts’s open letter to Maynard on Ann Voskamp’s popular blog went viral in many Christian circles. “Dear heart, we simply disagree,” Tippetts wrote. “Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known. In your choosing your own death, you are robbing those that love you with the such tenderness, the opportunity of meeting you in your last moments and extending you love in your last breaths.”
Tippetts argued in her post that hastening death is not what God intended.
I get to partner with my doctor in my dying, and it’s going to be a beautiful and painful journey for us all.
But, hear me — it is not a mistake —
beauty will meet us in that last breath.
Her story was picked up by Ross Douthat, who wrote about the debate represented by Maynard and Tippetts.
“The future of the assisted suicide debate may depend, in part, on whether Tippetts’s case for the worth of what can seem like pointless suffering can be made either without her theological perspective, or by a liberalism more open to metaphysical arguments than the left is today,” Douthat wrote.
Tippetts was admitted into hospice care in December. On Friday, her husband Jason Tippetts wrote about his wife’s final days.
“I have an us that cannot be lost,” Jason Tippetts wrote. “And I still get small moments where we are us. But I grieve as I watch her fade. The peace that is in our house is amazing, peace in the midst of tears, peace in the midst of impending loss, but it is peace.”
Jay Lyons, a producer who is a friend of the Tippetts, raised more than $15,000 of his goal of $13,750 to create a documentary.
Before her death in November, Maynard became an advocate for laws for legal protections for terminally ill patients who want to die with medical assistance, legal in five states in the United States.
“Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more,” she wrote on Facebook before her death.
NPR host Diane Rehm has emerged as a key force in the end-of-life debates. Americans are divided on the role of medicine in the issue, according to recent Pew Research surveys. When asked about end-of-life decisions for other people, two-thirds of Americans say there are at least some situations in which a patient should be allowed to die, while nearly a third say that medical professionals always should do everything possible to save a patient’s life. Of those polled, 47 percent approved and 49 percent disapproved of laws that would allow a physician to prescribe lethal doses of drugs for a terminally ill patient.
Interested in more religion stories? Read more from Acts of Faith:
Shouldn't have looked at this right before lunch. NOM NOM
photo by budwik
Dicks by Mail is a new service that will anonymously mail a bag of penis-shaped gummy candy along with a note that reads in bold type “EAT A BAG OF DICKS” to anyone the buyer chooses, much like the popular Ship Your Enemies Glitter service. More information about the service, including suggestions for recipents and how to send a mouthful of phallic sweets to your target, is available at their hilarious FAQ, though they don’t answer the question of whether a hard candy version will be made available.
We have a long history of sending dicks to people. Starting in middle school with those folded notes, that unfold to a big veiny cock. Moving to texting ‘8===D’ to random people in high school all the way to snapchatting below the belt pics to ladies from the bar/church. But now it’s on to bigger and better things; now it’s on to Dicks by Mail.
image via Dicks by Mail
photo by budwik
photo by budwik
Fifty years ago today, cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made history when he stepped outside the Voshkod 2 spacecraft and became the first person ever to walk in space. As a small step, as a great leap, Leonov’s 12-minute spacewalk was an adventure for the ages — and it almost killed him.
The BBC has the story of how his spacesuit started inflating into a death trap:At this point the cosmonaut realised something was wrong. The lack of atmospheric pressure in space had slowly caused his spacesuit to inflate like a balloon. He recalls:"My suit was becoming deformed, my hands had slipped out of the gloves, my feet came out of the boots. The suit felt loose around my body. I had to do something.”"I couldn’t pull myself back using the cord. And what’s more with this misshapen suit it would be impossible to fit through the airlock."In five minutes he would be in the Earth’s shadow, and plunged into total darkness. Without telling ground control, the cosmonaut decided to bleed half of the air out of his spacesuit through a valve in its lining. This risked starving his body of oxygen, but if he couldn’t get back inside the capsule, he’d be dead anyway.
Leonov let out a little oxygen at a time to reduce the pressure. But as he did so, he started to feel the first hints of decompression sickness.
“I began to get pins and needles in my legs and hands. I was entering the danger zone, I knew this could be fatal.”He started coiling the cord in order to haul himself back. When he finally reached the airlock, he pushed the camera in, grabbed the sides and lurched through head first.The extreme physical exertion had caused his temperature to soar; he was now at risk of heatstroke and sweating uncontrollably. The globules filled his helmet, obscuring his vision.Leonov was supposed to re-enter the airlock feet first. Getting in the wrong way meant he had to turn himself around in the cramped space to make sure the umbilical cord was inside and the hatch was locked.He says: “It was the most difficult thing: I’m in this suit and I had to turn around in the airlock. But with the perspiration, I couldn’t see anything.”"I don’t normally sweat much, but on that day I lost 6kg in weight.”After curling around in his bulky suit, in such a narrow space, Leonov finally made it back inside the craft.
Jesus Christ that’s most of my phobia list right there.
Really wish I could outsource my commute to a professional or AI. Help us self-driving cars, you're our only hope.
Most American adults drive every day. Which makes it easy to for us to forget how terrifying and insane it is that we entrust virtually anyone to safely operate a two-ton machine traveling at 70 miles per hour.
This comic — one of Ryan North's many hilarious and absurd Dinosaur Comics — perfectly captures this lunacy. Lose your concentration while driving for just a second, and you risk killing yourself, your loved ones, and total strangers.
The good news is that traffic deaths in the US have been declining for several decades now. But the bad news is that cars still kill more than 30,000 people per year — putting them just outside the top 10 causes of death in the US.
The even worse news is that outside of a few particular cities, pretty much our entire country's transportation infrastructure has been designed for cars, making it extremely difficult for us to substantially reduce our dependence on them.
Grotesque but (and?) mesmerizing.
I was caught off-guard by that fantastic ending.
If Kanye West and kim kardashian were both drowning and you only had time to save one, what kind of sandwich would you make?
NSFW-ish. But also, poetry in motion.
Here is your St Patrick’s Day activity, courtesy of the Catholic Church.
Interesting. I had taken the idea that there was no "junk DNA" as gospel, but I guess the matter hasn't been entirely settled in the scientific community(?) It also seems like a climate change controversy analogy would be inappropriate here.
From yesterday's New York Times Magazine, here's an excellent intro by Carl Zimmer to the Junk DNA Wars.
In January, Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, made a comment that revealed just how far the consensus has moved. At a health care conference in San Francisco, an audience member asked him about junk DNA. “We don’t use that term anymore,” Collins replied. “It was pretty much a case of hubris to imagine that we could dispense with any part of the genome — as if we knew enough to say it wasn’t functional.” Most of the DNA that scientists once thought was just taking up space in the genome, Collins said, “turns out to be doing stuff.”
For Gregory and a group of like-minded biologists, this idea is not just preposterous but also perilous, something that could yield bad science. The turn against the notion of junk DNA, they argue, is based on overinterpretations of wispy evidence and a willful ignorance of years of solid research on the genome. They’ve challenged their opponents face to face at scientific meetings. They’ve written detailed critiques in biology journals. They’ve commented on social media. When the N.I.H.’s official Twitter account relayed Collins’s claim about not using the term “junk DNA” anymore, Michael Eisen, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, tweeted back with a profanity.
I've written about this several times over the last couple of years, and the issues are far from being settled. We medicinal chemists should keep an eye on this stuff, because what's riding on it is a whole unexplored universe of drug discovery - or not.
The former president says he only ever sent two electronic missives. Yeah, right.
What may be the most exhaustive review yet of the evidence for homeopathy has come to a very strong conclusion: the treatment doesn't work, and people should stop wasting their time, money, and potentially their health on what amounts to junk science.
In 2012, the Australian government set out to examine all the best available research evidence on homeopathy as part of a look into the effectiveness of alternative therapies commonly used by Aussies. Homeopathy is extremely popular in the US, too: at last count, Americans spent a whopping $3 billion on the treatment.
The main ideas behind homeopathy are that extremely diluted versions of a substance that's causing someone to be sick can actually make them better, and that these watered-down potions retain a "memory" of the original substance. Scientists have long taken umbrage with these claims, since, when examined, homeopathic treatments do not actually contain traceable amounts of the original plant or animal material they were supposedly diluting.
This week, the Australian government published its findings based on the results of 176 studies on the health impact of homeopathy.
"There was no reliable evidence from research in humans that homeopathy was effective for treating the range of health conditions considered," researchers wrote. They added: "Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious."
The Australian study found numerous problems with the research on homeopathy. To start, many of the studies were poorly designed: they didn't include enough participants to have meaningful results, or the researchers failed to limit bias and control for confounding factors.
But even the high-quality studies did not find that homeopathy performed better than a placebo or another available treatment for a range of health conditions, including asthma, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, colds, and ulcers. The studies that reported homeopathy had some health benefit were so flawed and poorly designed they were unreliable.
This means that not only did homeopathy treatments perform no better than other medicines, but they also failed to outdo sugar pills. This isn't entirely surprising, considering that homeopathy tablets and potions are essentially sugar pills or drops.
"People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness," the report reads. "People who are considering whether to use homeopathy should first get advice from a registered health practitioner. Those who use homeopathy should tell their health practitioner and should keep taking any prescribed treatments."
This isn't the first report to come to such dismal conclusions about homeopathy. There have been numerous studies, books, and investigations demonstrating that this therapy is bogus.
In fact, there's so much evidence on homeopathy's failure to help people that some researchers have wondered when enough will be enough and we will finally stop investing our research funding on this alternative therapy in favor of putting it into treatments that might actually help people.
I laffed harder than I should have at this.
I'm still not going to get one, but this article made me give a very small shit.
One of the first questions to come up in almost every discussion of the Apple Watch is: what is it good for? People have trouble imagining why anyone would want a tiny, underpowered computer strapped to their wrist.
But the funny thing is that people ask this question every time a new computing platform comes along that's an order of magnitude smaller than the one that came before. And people keep being surprised by how useful smaller computers can be.
Perhaps the Apple Watch will surprise us, too.
In the late 1970s, Apple and other companies began selling personal computers. By the standards of the day, these new computers were tiny, cheap, and ludicrously underpowered. They couldn't run the powerful business applications of the day's conventional computers, which were the size of a washing machine and cost tens of thousands of dollars. People who were used to these larger computers couldn't imagine what they'd do without it.
The answer, it turned out, was run a new generation of applications that wouldn't have made sense on larger computers. People used PCs for word processing, spreadsheets, graphic design, computer games, and more.
These are all applications that only make sense on computers small and cheap enough that there can be one on everyone's desk. It would have been absurd for a company executive to go down to the computer room and tie up a $100,000 mainframe typing a memo. It was a lot cheaper and more convenient to use a typewriter — or to dictate the memo and have a secretary type it up. But once people had computers on their desk, it became obvious that word processors work a lot better than typewriters.
The same point applies to cellphones. It's hard to remember now, but a decade ago the idea of a cellphone with a camera in it seemed ridiculous. People mocked early BlackBerry users for trying to check their email on the go. But over time, people discovered that having a tiny, connected computer in their pocket is extremely useful.
And once again, people invented new apps that wouldn't have made sense on a PC. Apps like Uber or Instagram only make sense in a device that's small enough to always be in your pocket.
In both cases, what skeptics missed was that greater convenience (and lower cost) would lead people to use the new technology a lot more. If you've spent your life using film cameras — where developing a roll of film takes an hour and costs $5 — Instagram seems ridiculous. But once it takes five seconds to snap a photo and share it with your friends, people are going to do it a lot more.
Apple CEO Tim Cook describes the Apple Watch on September 9, 2014. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A similar point applies to smartwatches. It's true that any individual use for a smartwatch — say, reading a text message on your wrist rather than having to pull out your phone — is going to seem trivial.
But the thing skeptics are missing is that smartwatches won't just allow people to do the things they already do more efficiently. It could cause people to do more and different things. Smartwatches eliminate the small but real time-cost of pulling your phone out of your pocket. So short interactions that would have seemed too trivial to be worth pulling your phone out of your pocket suddenly make sense.
Of course, this is hard to imagine, just as it was hard for a PC user circa 1999 to imagine Instagram or Uber — or a mainframe user circa 1975 to imagine Excel or Photoshop. By the same token, we don't notice the things we're not doing with our smartphones because it's too much work to pull them out of our pockets.
But in the aggregate, these interactions could create a lot of value. Chris Mims runs through some of the applications developers are working on. For example, our watches might help us find items on our shopping list as we walk through the grocery store, alert us to historical markers as we pass them during vacations, or let us know when friends are nearby. These are all things we could do with our cellphones, but it's annoying to have our phones buzzing in our pockets all the time. Once our computers are on our wrists, they might seem a lot more compelling.
But the really important apps are likely to be ones no one has thought of yet. Steve Jobs wasn't trying to revolutionize the taxi business when he created the iPhone, but Uber and Lyft wouldn't exist today without multi-touch smartphones. By the same token, there may be apps that only make sense once millions of people have computers on their wrists. We just don't know what they are yet.
Perhaps an interesting deeper exploration related to All the Light We Cannot See.
Traveling 23,000 miles over 4 years, photographer Marc Wilson has amassed an amazing collection of images spanning bunkers, gun emplacements, observation posts, command centres and other wartime infrastructure around Europe.
In his book, The Last Stand, 86 of the resulting images are arrayed to tell a complex story of different times and places. More than merely photographing these haunting remnants of war, however, Wilson also provides highly articulate reflections on everything from their site-specific purposes and aesthetics to their broader places in military and architectural histories.
“Composed of copious quantities of poured concrete,” many of these structures “defy and eschew any established aesthetic sensibilities: no hint of the classical, the gothic or the baroque here. Their geometries, purely contingent, were designed to resist the effects of the latest developments in projectile technology, their profiles shaped to deflect such missiles and avoid any direct percussive explosions on their structures.”
His shots are carefully composed and timed, often taking place in the early hours of the morning when eerie mists and dim lights grant the subjects a surrealistic atmosphere. There is a dreaminess and dreariness to his work that manages to make the objects captured seem both ordinary and otherworldly. Prints of many of the pieces featured in the book can be purchased as well.
Unlike even the most pragmatic warehouse of the time, “there was nothing speculative or arbitrary about the bulwarks of their sometimes bizarre and often ungainly forms: they were purely functional. While far from being graceful or classically proportioned, there is something visually appealing about the alien (and sometimes sinister) forms of those bunkers. Novelty does not quite describe this appeal: more surprise perhaps – a surprise that courts the sublime.”
I tried to play this game when it first came out. I was 8 or 9 years old. I couldn't get very far, but the imagery and music made a huge impression on me relative to the amount of time I spent on it (not much). I still think of the swans flying around near the sleepy little town below the mountain.
In a crowded session at this year's Game Developers Conference, Brian Moriarty, author of the 1990 adventure game Loom, delivered a post mortem on the game to a packed audience in San Francisco. At the end, he said that he is eager to make a sequel and named the three studios he would be willing to collaborate with on the game.
Throughout the presentation, Moriarty became emotional many times about the time he spent on the Skywalker Ranch working with the Lucasfilm Games SCUMM engine, and with the audio engineers at Skywalker Ranch to create the unique and musical experience that became Loom. He went on to talk about the fan mail he still receives, to this day, from people in the industry or who hope to one day make games that were inspired to create by their experience with Loom.
From his talk today, it's clear he wants to do it again.
"It’s a very humbling experience to have touched so many people, and to have been given the absolute freedom to experiment with George Lucas’ money," Moriarty said, which was met with a chorus of laughter.
"It was a privilege I can never repay, and probably never repeat. However there are now three studios who I would entrust with the sequels: Telltale, Double Fine and Wadjet Eye. Talk to me. I’m on the make."
Moriarty's post mortem on Loom revealed many secrets behind the game, but none of them was more touching than hearing about his own experience of his creation just weeks before he delivered his talk, which, oddly enough, fell on the very day when, more than twenty years ago, the game went gold.
"While preparing for this speech, I played Loom from start to finish for the first time in over a quarter of a century. I had forgotten nearly half of it," Moriarty said. "I remember the general scheme and plot, but many little details, many lines were gone. So I had the extraordinary experience of playing my own game as if it were sort of someone else's. And through the pain of making it I have really not been able to see what I had done. You know, it really doesn't suck. Yeah, it’s shorter than normal and easier than normal, but that's what Telltale does every day now."
@bjorno. CC: @CC. some real talk on male performance in schools.
In school, boys are falling behind. Around the world, they're more likely than girls to be classified as low achievers, meaning they weren't proficient in reading, math, science, or problem-solving.
The OECD looked at the data from the test and an associated survey to try to figure out what's causing boys to lose ground. Here are five of their findings:
Across the developed world, 15-year-old boys were more likely than girls to say that school is a waste of time and less likely to agree that trying hard at school is important. Boys are more likely to be late to class or skip school entirely. And boys are more likely to be held back than girls are.
These differences aren't massive — in most cases, they're less than 10 percentage points. But they still indicate that there are big, gender-based differences in how students think about school and how important they think it is.
It doesn't matter whether students have a lot of homework (almost 15 hours per week in Shanghai) or very little (around 3 hours per week in Finland): boys spent less time on it than girls. On average in the OECD, girls reported doing 5.5 hours of homework per week; boys did only 4.5.
That doesn't explain all of the gender gap in test scores, but it does explain part of it, according to the OECD — after accounting for the time spent doing homework, boys actually perform better than girls in math and science, and the gender gap in reading is smaller.
What are boys doing with all that non-homework time? They're on the internet and playing video games, the survey suggests. Most girls say they never or have hardly ever played single-player or collaborative online games. On the other hand, most boys do, but not every day.
Is this a disadvantage? It might not be. Playing single-player games was correlated with higher test scores, although collaborative games was associated with lower scores. And boys tend to do better than girls on standardized tests taken on the computer, rather than on paper. That suggests the video gaming time could help them as computer-based assessments become more common.
The gender gap between boys and girls is particularly evident in one subject: reading. And in every country but Korea, girls do more reading for fun than boys. The OECD found that it didn't really matter what students read — whether it was fiction, nonfiction, newspapers, or comic books, more time spent reading translated into higher reading test scores. Boys were more likely to read comic books and newspapers, and less likely to read fiction. But elementary school reading in particular has historically focused on nonfiction, and the OECD argues that this could be turning boys off of reading and widening a gender gap.
Across the world, 15-year-old girls expect to have higher-status jobs when they're older than boys do. They're more likely to expect to earn a college degree, and more likely to say they expect to have high-status jobs as managers, professionals, or elected officials. On the other hand, the percentage of men and women in those jobs in their mid-20s to early 30s is almost exactly the same. That suggests that girls are more ambitious — but they're not necessarily achieving those goals.
Thank god she's smiling. I think this is the first one where she is.
William Gibson is the only science fiction writer I know of with his name on a line of exclusive couture repro military clothes from a Japanese company.
In a fascinating interview on style, durability, atemporality, bohemianism and literature, Gibson picks apart the symbolism of “authenticity” and ruggedness.
Last night The Daily Show's "Senior Ferguson Correspondent" Jessica Williams took on the recent Justice Department report about Ferguson's racially biased policing, and pulled zero punches:
After starting with a heartfelt "fuck these people," Williams gets covered in a thick coat of tickets for spurious offenses like "Jaystanding."
Of course, Jason Jones has a slightly different experience: after he drunkenly wanders on camera drinking a beer and carrying a huge gun, a police officer pulls over to question him — about whether Williams was "bothering" him.
It's almost as if there is some difference between Jones and Williams that might lead the Ferguson police to treat them differently. What could it possibly be?