February 27, 2009

Bon Iver"s Blood Bank $0.99 @ Amazon

In case you haven't snagged it already, Amazon has Bon Iver's new EP for $0.99 - for the next few hours at least.  Highly recommended.   

Rose McCoy

NPR did a great piece on songwriter Rose Marie McCoy this afternoon. You can tell just by listening to her conversation with the interviewer that she made her money with words so listen to it if you have time (though it looks like most of the transcript is there).  These were a couple of my favorite lines:  
In 1954, McCoy and Singleton wrote a song called "Trying to Get to You," which was first recorded by a black vocal group called The Eagles. Elvis Presley heard their version in a record store in Memphis, and he decided to record the song on his debut album for RCA Records in 1955.

"Elvis did that just exactly like The Eagles, exactly," McCoy says. "Every breath, every sound, everything. Amazing how he did that. ... He wasn't a big star at that point, and we thought he was terrible because we thought he couldn't sing. We didn't understand, but we was grateful. Thank God for Elvis."

. . . . .

"They wanted to hear what you had," she adds. "And if they liked it, they didn't care if you was black or white. We thought it was the blues and they called it rock 'n' roll; I still don't know the difference."

February 26, 2009


1.  Really interesting write up by Waxy on a group of 240 Chinese fans of the Economist who collaborate to translate each weeks issue behind China's infamous "great firewall":
While researching Oscar screeners last month, I stumbled on a remarkable example of online collaboration in China that's completely undiscovered here. In short, a group of dedicated fans of The Economist newsmagazine are translating each weekly issue cover-to-cover, splitting up the work among a team of volunteers, and redistributing the finished translations as complete PDFs for a Chinese audience.
 As usual, there's lots more of interest that follows including the translation process, self-censorship, distribution and what the Economist thinks.

2.  Louis CK on Conan, "everything is amazing and nobody is happy."

February 21, 2009

Recently Spotted: Civil Religion


Snapped on the way home from work.  

Hard to complain if he's getting folks there at 7:30 on a Sunday morning.

February 20, 2009


1.  No Lunch Left Behind, Alice Waters rallying for school lunch reform ahead of the upcoming renewal of the Child Nutrition and Women Infants and Children Reauthorization Act, set to expire in September.  Nice accompanying graphic:

3.  Beer not recession proof after all, down 14% for the quarter, more here.  Previously.

4.  Another great series of photos from the Big Picture.

February 19, 2009

"Extinct" Bird Seen, Eaten

From National Geographic, an early contender for blog post title of the year.


February 16, 2009

Singin' 'bout Coprophagia

I just realized that Andrew Bird does precisely that in "Tenuousness:"
When coprophagia was writ
Know when to stand or when to sit
Can't stand to stand, can't stand to sit
And who would want to know this?
Click. Click. Click.
This seems to be the best version You Tube has to offer:

James Beard Semifinalists

The James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists (pdf) for their 2009 Restaurant and Chef Award's a few days ago.  It's a list that seems more useful for the layman and casual eater than the finalists and eventual winners (they rarely seem to be surprises) as, it goes without saying, it is more expansive in both number and locale.  The usual suspects are all there but there are also a lot of chefs and restaurants who won't make it to the final cut because they are a little out of the way (as far as the culinary world is concerned) and under reported - the long list of rising stars is especially nice.  Which is an apt enough description of our home city, which happens to be fairly well represented at this stage of the game and your city might be as well so take a look.

Aside:  Am I right in thinking that they don't, but should, announce semifinalists for the media, journalism, author, and design categories? 

Farmers and High Speed Internet

Interesting post from Daily Yonder mining the USDA's 2007 Census of Agriculture to look at high speed internet access in rural areas.


The whole thing is interesting but here's the final summary:
The Census asked only two questions pertaining to the Internet: Did the farm operator at any time in 2007 have internet access? And, did the farm operator have a high speed Internet connection? The Census did not ask about price or the kind of connection the operator purchased — DSL, cable, satellite.

The nation has little sense of who has and who lacks broadband connections in rural America. The Senate stimulus bill, in fact, requires the Department of Commerce to prepare “a comprehensive nationwide inventory map of existing broadband service capability and availability in the United States.”

Until that report is completed, however, the Ag Census may have the most complete survey of broadband availability and use in rural America.

The Census collected answers from so many rural residents — more than 1.3 million farms ranging from mega-ranches in Texas to hobby farms in Washington — that it gives a good picture of how deeply broadband has penetrated into rural America.

The map at the top of this story shows a clear divide between the eastern and western United States. Farms east of the Mississippi River, especially in the South, use broadband Internet far less than those farms in the Great Plains, the Mountain West and the Pacific coast. Some states are clearly more broadband-savvy than others.

Is that because of the local economy, state policy, national broadband initiatives, local government? It’s impossible to tell, but the variation in broadband use across rural America is so large that it raises questions about the extent of economic and social inequality among rural communities.

Gillian Welch's Revival $1.99 @ Amazon

Honestly, I haven't turned into a shill for Amazon.  I just haven't had time to do much blog-wise beyond passing on noteworthy links and Gillian Welch's Revival album for $1.99 at Amazon is EXTREMELY noteworthy.  (You see what I did there.  It works on two levels.  One, it is awesome.  Two, it is music and music is composed of notes.  Do you see that?  Do you see what I did?).  This recommendation comes even more strongly than the Andrew Bird recommendation of a few days ago (Manuel, back me up on that one.).

This is an album that every person with ears should own - it's one of my all time favorites.  Again, if you don't know Gillian Welch, do your requisite googling and You Tubing but for goodness sake if you like puppies, pies or oxygen you're gonna like this album.  

You've got 24 hours.

February 13, 2009

Links: Some Old, Some New

1.  Gapminder updated their handy one slide/sheet global HIV chart.

2.  Lovely, Lovely Charts.

3.  Declining nutrient content in fruit and vegetables, report here.

4.  To make.

5.  Two from the Ag Biodiversity Blog:  the back and forth (and back again) debate on whether or not small farms (or big farms) can save Africa; and poultry of the world:


6.  Amazon doing their part for, um . . . . valentines I suppose, free download of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On".

February 12, 2009

Wendell Berry's Standards for Technological Innovation

Both Waxy and Kottke pointed to this interesting piece by Kevin Kelly entitled Amish Hackers.  It reminded me of a short essay by Wendell Berry published, amongst other places, in Harper's back in the late 80's (originally?) entitled Against PC's (the Harper's version is gated but here's the essay as well as subsequently published letters between Berry and readers.).  He ends with this list of "standards for technological innovation:"
To make myself as plain as I can, I should give my standards for technological innovation in my own work. They are as follows:-

1. The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces.
2. It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.
3. It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces.
4. It should use less energy than the one it replaces.
5. If possible, it should use some form of solar energy, such as that of the body.
6. It should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools.
7. It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.
8. It should come from a small, privately owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenance and repair.
9. It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships.

February 11, 2009

If You Don't Know Now You Know

My brother is the only actual artist I know personally and he's already one of the hardest working guys around so maybe he doesn't need the advice but for those of you who are like myself and find your artistry expressed in the more mundane tasks of your day I'm going to add my recommendation to the plethora of others already out there and suggest you watch Elizabeth Gilbert's TED Talk.  Gilbert's writing isn't my particular taste but the good Judge John Hodgman, her friend and fellow TED attendee, nailed it as to why this particular talk is so effective (and interesting to me in particular).:
BUT WHILE SHE IS ADORED in this video, and I adore her as well, the magical thing you may not be able to get through this embedded video is how skeptical the audience initially was of her, and how masterfully she won over this bunch of jaded billionaire/genius TEDTOPIANS through simple, good storytelling.

PS - Come to think of it, David, you should watch this one too.

February 6, 2009

La Machine in Liverpool

The Big Picture has another amazing photo set up, this time of an "event" that was part of Liverpool's Capital of Culture year.  The best way to describe it seems to bit this bit pulled from one of the photographer's captions: "street theatre on a city scale with a 50 foot spider."


There is, of course, plenty of You Tube coverage as well.

Andrew Bird: Noble Beast - $1.99 @ Amazon

Buy.  This.  Album.  Even if you have no idea who Andrew Bird is trust me on this one thing and buy this album.  I assume it is a mistake and that Amazon will correct it momentarily, because seriously, how can this album be $1.99?  Either way the deal only lasts 24 hours so don't dally.  

$1.99?  Are you kidding me?

February 5, 2009

Gates @ TED

Video for the much talked about Gates presentation at TED is now available.  I can't help but like the guy and even if you don't agree with his methodology you've got to respect his passion and the considerable footprint he has in the development world.

I also noticed via the TED blog that Hans Rosling presented again this year and it sounds like he utilized Gapminder's recently updated HIV/AIDS data sets to do so, I love his presentations so I'll be keeping an eye out for it and hopefully he swallows another sword

February 2, 2009

Tough Guy Challenge ≥ Refugee Run?

On his excellent new blog, Aid Watch, Bill Easterly recently took to task the UN High Commission on Refugees for putting together a "Refugee Run" at the Davos economic conference for its embodiment of what he sees as "sensationalizing, patronizing, and dehumanizing attitudes" towards refugees and their plight (a topic he returns to in another great post today as well). Perhaps the real problem with the UNHCR's simulated refugee experience was that they undersold it - look how successful this year's Tough Guy competition was at getting people to crawl through the mud under barbwire and they require £250, an updated tetanus shot and a signed death warrant:


For further proof that the UNHCR should probably be setting up shop outside of extreme sporting events rather than high level meetings of the World Economic Forum see the rest of the photos at the Big Picture.

Aside: Like Easterly's commenters I've got mixed feelings about "educational" events such as the "Refugee Run" - which I have no personal knowledge of, but which is by no means the first or only such recreation in the attempt to raise awareness of a cause - they are legion and their effectiveness and "worth" are widely disparate.  Having been involved in the advocacy/education arm (for lack of a better term) of non-profit work for the last couple of years I've participated, observed and even led more than a few of these with varying degrees of success and uncertainty.  One of the things that I think those of us who are passionate about these issues forget is that the journey towards becoming an informed advocate for causes of global injustice is just that, a journey, a process of becoming aware, educated and empowered.  For a lot of people that process begins with empathy.  Some people encounter extreme poverty, violence or hunger through travel, some through relationships, some by reading books by esteemed authors such as Monsieur Easterly and some by participating in "educational" events like the "Refugee Run."  None of these individuals will emerge from their respective encounter with the full picture but they may emerge with a desire to see more fully.  Again, from my own experience, there are ways to talk about issues of gross global injustice while at the same time affirming the dignity and worth of those trapped in their midst.  I am a fan of Easterly and his writings but I would wager that far more passionate, well informed, active advocates have begun their own journey at the entrance to a "refugee run" than they have at the introduction to one of his books - though I highly recommend they seek out a copy as soon as they come out the other side!

February 1, 2009


1.  Zimbabwe abandons its currency, a fitful and far too late acknowledgment of reality by the government.

4.  Nice little piece on Updike and religion from PBS's Religion and Ethics News Weekly.

6.  TED recently put up a video of a talk by Scott McCloud on understanding comics filmed back in 2005.  Via Jesse Thorn, who recently interviewed McCloud on The Sound of Young America, a podcast favorite of mine.

7.  The Big Fix - long, but, in my very unqualified opinion, worth reading piece in the NY Times Magazine breaking down the bail out and its many ripples. 

8.  Motown #1's, 26 of them in fact, for $1.99 (for another few hours at least) from Amazon's MP3 store.  By the bye, they've got a Twitter feed announcing their daily $1.99 deal.