I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.
– Leo Tolstoy, excerpt from “What Is Art?”
Thread Catalog for the week ending May 31st, 2013.
Movies in Color [film, design] – “A blog featuring stills from films and their corresponding color palettes. A tool to promote learning and inspiration. Updated daily.” Above is a great example from the site, deconstructing a classic shot from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Chicago’s last film processing company shuts down [film, technology] – “After 45 years of processing major films, from ‘The Blues Brothers’ to ‘The Dark Knight’, Chicago’s Astro Labs has shut down.” Sad news, but understandable. Analog formats just don’t make sense anymore in terms of price and workflow. High definition video offers the path of least resistance with great results, and eventually it will truly be able to replicate film’s aesthetic qualities, which is the main reason people like Christopher Nolan care about it (that and nostalgia). (Btw, the only people who should really be upset about the medium are avant-garde filmmakers like Ernie Gehr or Peter Kubelka, who actually required discrete, physical frames to properly do their work; but even people like Gehr and Ken Jacobs have happily taken up digital video.)
Vatican corrects Pope: Atheists are still going to hell [religion, atheism] – Amusing. Related to the story I featured in last week’s TC.
Popcorn Noises [music, criticism] – Cool music blog I found recently that features the author’s very personalized listening journal. I like his writing because it often incorporates his perception of the band, which I think is a more realistic representation of the way we experience music. It might be ideal to meet each song on its own terms, as if we had never heard of the band before, but more often than not part of why we like or don’t like a band’s new record is based heavily on what they’ve done before, and what we are aware they can or cannot do well.
Studio Science: Four Tet On His Live Set [music, music technology, video] – Red Bull Music Academy kills it again with this video of the amiable Kieran Hebden discussing the ins and outs of his live set.
quincunx [language, geometry, design] – “a geometric pattern consisting of five points, four in a square with one more in the middle of the square.” From Latin, literally ‘five twelfths,’ from quinque ‘five’ + uncia ‘twelfth.’ Had honestly never heard that term before, but I’m a big fan of simple words that describe very specific things. Nice vocab addition.
Curators Code [internet, writing] – A method for attributing content using special unicode symbols. ᔥ is used to mean via, thereby attributing a direct discovery. ↬ is used as a symbol for hat tip, indicating “a link of indirect discovery, story lead, or inspiration.”
Australia ranked ‘happiest’ developed nation again [sociology, psychology] – “Australia has been ranked the world’s happiest nation among developed economies for the third year running.”
Facebook bows to campaign groups over ‘hate speech’ [internet, ethics] – I had no idea about this, but apparently Facebook has faced criticism after not removing a graphic video depicting the decapitation of a woman in Mexico.
India’s ancient university returns to life [education, history] – “Nalanda University in northern India drew scholars from all over Asia, surviving for hundreds of years before being destroyed by invaders in 1193. The idea of Nalanda as an international centre of learning is being revived by a group of statesmen and scholars led by the Nobel prize winning economist, Amartya Sen.”
California Obamacare Insurance Exchange Announces Premium Rates, Lower Than Expected [healthcare, economics] – “I was indeed shocked by the proposed premium rates—but not in the way you might expect. I was experiencing the shock of rates far lower than what I expected — even at the lowest end of the age scale.”
Vintage Synth Explorer [music technology] – “Since 1996, the Vintage Synth Explorer has been providing a fast and easy way to learn about vintage synthesizers. We have grown to include modern digital synthesizers, analog emulators, soft-synths, plug-ins, and other forms of electronic musical instruments.” An amazing resource that I’ve come to many times for isolated reasons, but you could definitely get lost in here.
Synthmania [music technology] – Another amazing synth resource. Has tons of mp3 samples of many synths’ presets. Very useful, especially if you’re on the lookout for picking up some new hardware.
And for good measure, I’ll include one more Movies in Color image. From the Coen Brothers’ excellent film A Serious Man, we have a true visual representation of threads of involuntary thought:
Thread Catalog for the week ending May 24th, 2013.
• Idiagram – The Art of Systems Thinking [systems science, complex systems, art, information science, processes] – Very interesting site that attempts to diagram the structure of various processes. Most interesting is the interactive diagram for The Art of Complex Problem Solving (pictured above).
• Atheist State Lawmaker Quotes Carl Sagan Instead of Doing Prayer Before House Session [atheism, secular humanism, religion, politics] – An exciting and pretty revolutionary story about secular humanist/atheist representative Juan Mendez taking a calm and well-spoken stand to promote his beliefs. Hearing his words almost seems like the future, or a scene from a science fiction film where people no longer believe in religion, and are simply at one with the Universe and our existence in it. There needs to be so much more of this these days, rather than the infantile, religious zealots at one end, and the alienating, barking, proselytizing Atheists-with-a-capital-A at the other.
• CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Asks Atheist Oklahoma Tornado Survivor If She ‘Thanked The Lord’ [atheism, religion, news] – Oh, well, there we go. Another civil, quiet, good-natured atheist making her stance known with no apology for herself and no derision for others.
• Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics [religion, atheism] – Whoa. What is this, Atheism Awareness Week? Or did Catholics finally realize Jesus would have been more like the Buddha and less like a self-righteous douche?
• 24-Year-Old Receives Sage Counsel From Venerable 27-Year-Old [humor, The Onion] Fun fact: the guy on the left in the photo is Gabe Klinger, the director of the James Benning/Richard Linklater documentary I featured in last week’s Thread Catalog. A funny piece from The Onion, though I do in some sense take issue with it. Being young and thinking you’re in some sense perfect is certainly silly, but people who are comparatively young can often be wiser not just than people who are are younger than they are, but even those much older. Living through difficult circumstances or having a mind that can learn relatively quickly from mistakes can teach people at a young age how to deal with things more productively and maturely than people much older. The next link is a case in point.
• Documentary on Zach Sobiech [human interest, miscellaneous, music] – An inspirational story of an 18-year-old who died from a rare form of cancer, but used music to touch others and show them what it means to be human. While many people might only see his fate as unlucky, I would disagree. He was actually quite lucky in the sense that he acquired much wisdom in his short life, and was able to come to peace with his situation and remain happy while also understanding his mortality. This is something many people decades older than him (and most people in general) are never able to do.
• The Daily Routines of Famous Writers [writing, creativity, productivity] – “Kurt Vonnegut’s recently published daily routine made we wonder how other beloved writers organized their days. So I pored through various old diaries and interviews — many from the fantastic Paris Review archives — and culled a handful of writing routines from some of my favorite authors. Enjoy.”
• Lost Lands Found by Scientists [science, exploration] – “A lost continent off the coast of Brazil may have been found, scientists announced last week.”
• Still Charting Memory’s Depths A Conversation with Neuropsychologist Brenda Milner [science, neuroscience, psychology, neuropsychology, interview] – “In many ways, the Obama administration’s new plan to map the human brain has its origins in the work of Brenda Milner, the neuropsychologist whose detailed observations of an amnesia patient in the 1950s showed how memory is rooted in specific regions of the brain.”
• ‘Dynamic Range’ & The Loudness War [music, technology] – “We all know music is getting louder. But is it less dynamic? Our ground-breaking research proves beyond any doubt that the answer is no — and that popular beliefs about the ‘loudness war’ need a radical rethink.”
• What do we mean when we call music pretentious? [music, criticism, art] – “‘Pretentious’ gets thrown around a lot when discussing music. It’s a word that comes with connotations of stuffiness, condescension, willful obscurity, and needless intellectual complexity.”
• I Want to Believe [conspiracy theories, history, sociology, politics, skepticism] – An interesting analysis of the Illuminati and the function of conspiracy theories in our society. “The appeal of conspiracy theories is simple. Whether its Lizard People, Ancient Aliens, Freemasons, Occupy’s “1%,” or the poor maligned Rothschilds, the conspiratorial mind clings to the comforting notion of a world controlled by a rational agent capable of exerting its will to guide human events. Somebody is driving this thing … anybody. To the conspiratorial mind we are not alone with ourselves, left to our own devices, which can be the most terrifying prospect of all.”
• Wilmette twins break Guinness record with 24 sets in 5th grade class [human interest, sociology, miscellaneous] – “Twenty-four sets of twins at Highcrest Middle School in Wilmette are thrilled they have broken the Guinness world record for having the most sets of twins in one grade.”
I didn’t get around to do a proper post this week, but here’s this week’s edition of Thread Catalog. Lots of good stuff in here. The ole alma mater always delivers interesting content, so the first three links are courtesy of NU.
• Bug’s Eye Inspires Hemispherical Digital Camera [technology] – “Humans capture pictures using the two lenses of our relatively flat eyes, while a top-of-the-line SLR camera has just one flat lens. The new camera — a rounded half bubble, similar to a bulging fly eye — has 180 microlenses mounted on it, allowing it to take pictures across nearly 180 degrees. Only a camera shaped like a bug’s eye can do this.”
• Northwestern University Will Research Women’s Reproductive-Related Depression [psychology, medicine, science] – This is really great news – a boon for the field and society in general. “Northwestern’s newly opened Asher Center for the Study and Treatment of Depressive Disorders will be focused on treating and studying women with depression.”
• What Is the Cost of Over-Parenting? [psychology, sociology] “The more money parents spend on their child’s college education, the worse grades the child earns. … The more parents are involved in schoolwork and selection of college majors — that is, the more helicopter parenting they do — the less satisfied college students feel with their lives.”
• Computer Grading Feedback [humor, artificial intelligence, technology] – Hysterical results from EdX’s new grading software, profiled last month in the New York Times. It’s certainly amusing to look at artificial intelligence’s failures, but it’s perhaps equally amusing to watch as people reject it on the grounds that computers don’t know how to comprehend writing and presume they never will. Humans are of course just complex machines, running complex algorithms that nature wrote over the course of many millions of years, but at some point in the future, probably sooner than we can predict, machines will easily be able to execute these same algorithms with ease. Then again, at that point, the “analytical essay” will be pretty pointless, as those can be auto-generated in seconds too. It’s like a spam and anti-spam generator, always locked in a battle of wits and superiority. “How well and uniquely can your biomachine deconstruct and write about this pre-existing text?” “Very well, thanks. Here’s my 10-page essay, it took me .39 seconds to seconds to write.” “A-. Your English essay-writing algorithm could use an update to the latest version.”
• James Benning & Richard Linklater Documentary Kickstarter [film] – Apparently experimental filmmaker James Benning and indie-turned-mainstream director Richard Linklater are good friends. This documentary, directed by a friend of a friend, is about their long-standing relationship, and their love of film and baseball.
• Is Eye Tracking a Privacy-Invading Technology? [technology] – Using eye-tracking technology, we will begin to be shown ads and content based on what we’ve taken second looks at. Things that interest us involuntarily and cause this physical action will become usable data for ad companies, and allow them to learn very personal things about our genetic and behavioral makeup.
• Two-Inch Feather Emerges From Baby’s Neck [miscellaneous] – Self-explanatory medical bizarreness.
• Warning: slightly graphic – Dead Bodies on Mount Everest [miscellaneous] – About 200 people have died while climbing Mount Everest, and a good number of their bodies still remain there.
Thread Catalog is a new (roughly) weekly feature rounding up links pertaining to the issues most relevant to Thoughts Involuntary: science, music, art, creativity, technology, etc.
• Excellent news – the New York Times reports that the D.S.M. (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is being revised in an attempt to reposition psychiatry’s focus from categorized symptoms to the actual biological causes based on hard neuroscience. “The National Institute of Mental Health would be ‘reorienting its research away from D.S.M. categories’ because ‘patients with mental disorders deserve better.'” Clearly this will take a lot of time, but the general trend across fields of knowledge toward precisely deconstructing the brain’s structures, processes, and dysfunctions is among the most important human endeavors.
• The Scientific 7-Minute Workout – “In 12 exercises deploying only body weight, a chair and a wall, [this workout] fulfills the latest mandates for high-intensity effort, which essentially combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort — all of it based on science.”