Category Archives: Link

The Horror

I’m a great fan of Ben Fountain’s novel, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” which Matt Richtel writes about in this piece about recent vets of the US’s foreign wars and their discomfort with being thanked for their service.

Richtel’s story is a reminder that our government gave up on a conscripted army after the Viet Nam war because it was an inefficient and politically troublesome way to wage war, especially unpopular wars that go on for a long time. Something our military seems to be very good at.

And our volunteer veterans are the citizens who face the consequences of this perpetual war, including deployment and redeployment, life and death risk, debilitating injury, and the prospect of facing a lifetime being reminded that service ends up being a democratic dividing line rather than an adhesive.

Richtel makes this point more lucidly than I ever could by telling the story of a hand shake, and what came after.

Ta-Nehisi Coates about David Carr

Screenshot 2015-02-20 09.22.49David Carr, who died last week, was a writer about media at the New York Times in recent years, which is a highly visible beat, but before that he had a colorful life as a journalist and editor and knucklehead and fuckup. Ta-Nehisi Coates met Carr when Coates was a knucklehead and Carr was an editor, an editor who hired him and who made a profound difference in the young man’s life. In this tribute Coates explains why, and also explains something deep and abiding about growing up and becoming a writer, explains the power of David Carr’s vision of journalism and reporting, and gives the George Polk award he won this week for his powerful  reported story, The Case For Reparations, to Carr in honor of all his former editor taught and gave him. Beautiful.

LINK: Joe Posnanski on Charlie Sifford, Who Died Yesterday

Screenshot 2015-02-05 08.38.36Charlie Sifford was a black golfer at a time when the PGA, the Professional Golfer’s Association of America, had in its by-laws a clause that specified that only white golfers could play in PGA tournaments.

This was a long time ago, but it was within my lifetime, and long after the ban was lifted Sifford could not get invited to the Masters tournament, because it was played at a golf club that did not allow people of color to play.

This Joe Posnanski story is about trying to write a column about Sifford and Augusta National in the early 90s(!!!), and having the story spiked (possibly? probably?) because it was critical of the club. Heck, Augusta National didn’t allow a black man to play in the Masters until 1990, under what at that point was intense pressure.

Charlie Sifford’s autobiography is called, Just Let Me Play: The Story of Charlie Sifford, the First Black Pga Golfer, and seems to cost more than $2,000 today. Posnanski’s story is a shorter and cheaper way to raise some bile and remember just how slowly change comes unless we work at it.

LINK: A Modern Library

Screenshot 2015-02-01 09.33.29 The Internet Archive is one of the most spellbinding places online. To visit is to get lost in the world wide web’s past, or to revisit a concert one was at 30 years ago, or more recently (for me) to play Lemmings again for the first time since the early 90s. You might call that a waste of time, or you might call it a reminder that we march on, leaving our past behind. Which isn’t always to the good.

Playing games is the cookie that lures you into IA’s new operating system in a browser emulator, but Andy Baio explains in this article that the main dish (pardon the metaphor) is the ability to access and utilize all that data that have been lost as these old operating systems became outmoded. If you can get the files off the floppy disks.

Zac’s Haunted House by Dennis Cooper

Dennis Cooper is  a novelist and poet and dramatist and critic and editor, who resides outside the mainstream cultural industry.  We apparently went to the same small liberal arts college in Southern California at roughly the same time, though he would have been a couple of years ahead of me. I don’t remember him.

Going through his bibliography just now, I don’t seem to have read him before today, either, though it is a stretch to call what I just did reading.

He calls his new work, Zac’s Haunted House, an html novel. It works like this.

Click on this link. Scroll down. Follow the directions.

I downloaded the html folder, opened the file inside it called index.html with Chrome and I was good to go.

I would imagine if you have fast internet and give each chapter time to buffer, it would work fine online, too.

4-25Zac’s Haunted House is made up entirely of GIF files artfully arranged. If I understand correctly, these were all files found online, then resized and put in order by the author.

As you scroll down the page you will find correspondences and themes, mostly to do with transformations and blood letting, lots of horror/slasher imagery, though there is humor, too. If you take such things to heart you may find it disturbing.

I found it pretty amazing, even if I’m not sure it is anything more really than a fabulous trick. Fabulous tricks, after all, are fabulous.


LINK: Bad Taxi Math

tumblr_inline_nhmjs9Fcm61szvr4hI Quant NY is a Tumbler dedicated to New York City data stories.

It generally relies on the city’s Open Data sets, but this story started with an article in BusinessWeek about taxi tipping. The reporter actually had to request the data, and then showed some stuff that I Quant NY had trouble with.

The result is a wonderful (and I use that term precisely, though I know it is also funny) detective story investigated through math, and nailed with actual evidence: receipts! It won’t spoil things if reveal that a sizable if possibly unintentional fraud is involved.

Wonderful, really.