Wednesday, August 31, 2005

In this Washington Post column, Eric Holdeman explains how the Bush Administration weakened the country's ability to respond to natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina by destroying the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):

"In the days to come, as the nation and the people along the Gulf Coast work to cope with the disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we will be reminded anew, how important it is to have a federal agency capable of dealing with natural catastrophes of this sort. This is an immense human tragedy, one that will work hardship on millions of people. It is beyond the capabilities of state and local government to deal with. It requires a national response.

Which makes it all the more difficult to understand why, at this moment, the country's premier agency for dealing with such events -- FEMA -- is being, in effect, systematically downgraded and all but dismantled by the Department of Homeland Security."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

NASA's Messenger spacecreaft recently flew by the Earth on its way to Mercury and took hundreds of photos of the Earth as it passed. You can view some of Messenger's photos and a movie of the Earth rotating here.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

David Segal looks back at his career as a music critic and his search for the great Live Concert Moment in this Washington Post article.

"You know about the great Live Concert Moment, right? I'm not talking about the kind of show where you leave thinking, "Those guys rule!" and then buy a T-shirt. I'm talking about total-body bliss, a rush so strong it turns brain cells into Jell-O and, for a moment or two, you sort of leave your skin. Art lovers would probably argue that they get the same feeling by looking at a great painting, but they're fools, and you should ignore them. A good part of what I'm talking about here is sheer volume. A painting can be many things, but it will never make your ears ring.

The Pixies, my friend, can make your ears ring."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Michael Crowley explains why the iPod may mean the end of the "Rock Snob" in this New Republic article.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Jon Stewart discusses the future of television (and tells jokes) in this Wired Interview.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Malcolm Gladwell explains "the bad idea behind our failed health-care system" in this New Yorker article:

"One of the great mysteries of political life in the United States is why Americans are so devoted to their health-care system. Six times in the past century—during the First World War, during the Depression, during the Truman and Johnson Administrations, in the Senate in the nineteen-seventies, and during the Clinton years—efforts have been made to introduce some kind of universal health insurance, and each time the efforts have been rejected. Instead, the United States has opted for a makeshift system of increasing complexity and dysfunction. Americans spend $5,267 per capita on health care every year, almost two and half times the industrialized world’s median of $2,193; the extra spending comes to hundreds of billions of dollars a year."

Monday, August 22, 2005

Henry Alford explains why editors of encyclopedias and dictionaries often put fake entries in their books and finds the fake entry in the latest New Oxford American Dictionary in this New Yorker article.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Bay Area Center for Voting Research examined the voting patterns of 237 American cities that have populations over 100,000 and ranked them each on liberal and conservative scales. They found that Detroit, Michigan is the most liberal and Provo, Utah the most conservative. Follow these links to view the complete list of liberal and conservative cities.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Jonathan Lethem examines the life of Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone, in this article from Professor Barnhardt's Journal.

Monday, August 15, 2005

"For centuries, vanilla was considered exotic, luxurious, and rare," but today "it is a pejorative, employed to describe anything common, generic, or bland." Amanda Fortini explains why vanilla has a PR problem in this Slate article.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Thursday, August 11, 2005

In this Boston Globe article, Robert Kuttner argues that the U.S. is not really divided between red states and blue states:

"[O]nly a small minority of Americans are cultural warriors. Mercifully, most Americans hold appropriately complex views on contentious political or moral topics that demand complex thinking. These include the Iraq war, abortion, gay rights, religion, health care, the environment, and other issues that supposedly divide America into warring camps."

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Carl Zimmer tries to answer "The Riddle of the Appendix" in this New York Times article.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

White House reporters often attribute information in their stories to "sources close to the White House." For this New Republic article, Ryan Lizza "asked 15 of the finest Bush White House reporters to help assemble a guide to the secret society of sources close to the White House. Despite the swelling ranks of scttwh, interviews revealed that there is indeed a core membership that might be called the Usual Suspects: a cadre of lobbyists, congressmen, ex-officials, and other hangers-on who seem to be programmed into every cell phone on the White House beat."

Monday, August 08, 2005

As this Smoking Gun article explains, a medieval sword, mallet, and armor are no match for a Taser:

"McClain allegedly tried to strike a cop with a four-foot sword. After missing, McClain retreated to his basement, where he donned a chainmail armored vest and leather gauntlets to protect his arms. He also added a giant wooden mallet to his arsenal and beckoned officers to come downstairs and get him. "I'm gonna crush your fucking skulls," McClain warned. Then, in a nice rhetorical flourish (for a lunatic, at least), he added, "I have a thousand years of power." That omnipotence, however, was no match for a police Taser, which felled McClain. He was then carted off and charged with felony assault and a misdemeanor count for failing to remain at an accident scene."

Sunday, August 07, 2005

In this Washington Post article, Adrian Higgins explains "Why the Red Delicious No Longer Is."

"Who's to blame for the decline of Red Delicious? Everyone, it seems. Consumers were drawn to the eye candy of brilliantly red apples, so supermarket chains paid more for them. Thus, breeders and nurseries patented and propagated the most rubied mutations, or "sports," that they could find, and growers bought them by the millions, knowing that these thick-skinned wonders also would store for ages."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Steven Hart explains why the Bush administration is "a criminal organization rather than a political party" in this post from his blog The Opinion Mill.

"Take the money and run. As long as Republicans are in power, that phrase should replace "E Pluribus Unum" on the national seal. It's the natural outcome of a quarter-century of rhetoric about how government is the problem, not the solution; how government doesn't work; how deregulation is the only way to build the economy. If government is nothing but a taxpayer-funded scam, then why not use it to enrich yourself and your buddies? If the very idea of public service as an idealistic calling has been turned into a mealymouthed joke, then where's the shame in abusing power and running the country into the ground? As long as you can convince just over 50 percent of the suckers to vote your way, you can throw yourself a party and leave the world holding the bill."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The physics behind Kung Fu is explained at a site called Kung Fu Science.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

This New Yorker Book Review of “A History of the World in 6 Glasses” discusses the historical and social significance of what we drink:

"You don’t just drink, you drink to: to life (l’chaim) and health (santé, salud, prosit, na zdorovie, gezondheid, slainte, zum Wohl), to the monarch (“Gentlemen, the Queen”), to absent friends (the Sunday toast in the Royal Navy), to general good humor, well-being, and luck (cheers, noroc), to the company here assembled (“Here’s to us. And those like us. Damn few and they’re all dead”). Bogart’s “Here’s looking at you, kid” to Ingrid Bergman is a vestige of the Scandinavian obligation to honor your drinking partner by catching his or her eyes over the rim of your glass—much nicer than skøl, a reference to the use of enemies’ skulls as drinking vessels: “Heads up,” so to speak, rather than “Bottoms up.”

Monday, August 01, 2005

In these two Slate articles (Part 1 and Part 2) Edward Jay Epstein explains why shortening the "window" between a movie's theatrical release and its DVD release is causing Hollywood's Death Spiral.