The astounding crash and burn story of Congressman Anthony Weiner is as tired, tawdry and old as the primitive brainstem impulses that brought it about. It is also a story unimaginable outside of the digital age. The blurty, disruptive Tweets and urges to snap a picture and construct an unintentional global billboard don’t go anywhere without the Internet. The endocrine waste of an unrestrained Id can’t become a national political obsession without the enabling technology of digital cameras that fit on the heads of pins more comfortably than angels in another age. Impulses become objects. The objects abruptly acquire a meaning even as they lose their original context. You might say that, “In the present everything will be meaningful for 15 minutes and exist online forever.” (Andy Warhol just tweeted that to me.)
Before she was the definition of celebrity, she was the face of movie stardom. And in the beginning the personalification of girlhood. In "National Velvet", she was the face of a dream of winning.
Liz Taylor died today in Los Angeles after a long period of declining health. She was 79 and the cause of death was reported to be complications of heart failure. Taylor had a kind of vulnerable brilliance that she brought to everything she did. And yet unlike Judy Garland, Francis Farmer or other starlets of her generation who died in their primes, Taylor survived.
This is an unbelievably beautiful book that allows you to dive into the work of a mysterious genius and travel back in time. One of the most beautiful art books I have ever seen.
Richard Holbrooke, the United States Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, passed away yesterday after undergoing a marathon surgery that failed to save his life. He was 69. Across a long career in foreign policy, Holbrooke dedicated his life to brokering peace and stability throughout the world on behalf of the United States.
We've been asking listeners to use the new Takeaway iPhone app and call in to tell us about their idea of home. You've been sending the sound and pictures of the things that make a place a home for you. Here are the voices behind two of those photos: Alexandra Haller from Northville, Mich. and Danielle Sager from Colorado Springs.
This week as we contemplate the holidays we've all been thinking about home. What is it? Where is it? We've been getting a lot of examples from you, and every one of them makes me think, how would I answer that question?
In my home, a big old 110-year-old house my wife and I have had for almost as long as we've been married, the piano is the center, where you can hear folks playing away on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
We got to the theater at 11:43 and a large shivering line of Muggles was already waiting for a chance to see the half dozen “midnight” shows of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1." There were Harrys, and Hermiones, and Ron Weasleys in full regalia. Fans fully decked out in Hogwarts uniforms and round rimmed glasses were everywhere.
Thinking about the Detroit Opera company trying to survive Detroit’s economic woes, it certainly seems that the abandoned buildings and tragic urban landscape of parts of Detroit provide that city with an opportunity for theater at the very least.
The stark triumph (or not so much) over adversity themes in "La Boheme" ought to make it a Motown fave given the economy. You could stage it in some of Detroit's most troubled neighborhoods. "Boheme" is obvious though, so why not imagine other stories of operas starring some of the fallen, or embracing some of the narratives in the motor city? You’ve got discredited mayor Kwame Kilpatrick as Lt. Pinkerton in "Madame Butterfly" leaving Detroit in the lurch. GM would be perfect as suicidal "Tosca," or evil "Don Giovanni." Ford is clearly "The Magic Flute" in this narrative… you could imagine Andre Chenier for Alan Mulally over at Ford but then he doesn’t climb the scaffold in the end.
Procrastination, thy name is journalism.
In my case, procrastination is a series of behavior patterns that end up delaying important things getting done. It’s been proven again and again that for me, deadline pressure is the fuel that gets the engine to crank. Closer to the deadline, more fuel apparently. The orderly to-do list that looks completely efficient and rational on Monday morning, by Friday, is just some bizarre Magritte painting of an alternate reality. Schedules are better managed moment to moment in the real world. Things get pushed off because reality intervenes. Flexibility-nation not Procrasta-nation. I know which flag I wave.
Campaign finance reform. I have never given money to a political campaign as a single contributor. I have always contributed in response to specific issue or as a member of a specific institution. In the first case, I would agree that money constitutes a form of speech. I was paying to support an issue. It was my commentary on how much that meant to me, my contribution. It was an enhancement, if you will, to my stated opinion. In the seventies I worked for the AFLCIO as a union welder. During the 1974 political campaign (Nixon had resigned you’ll remember) I contributed through my union. Everything was voluntary according to my Union buddies and I had no problem contributing but I knew that THEY knew whether and possibly how much I had contributed. I was just an 18 year old and it wasn’t much money but it was an interesting relationship. My political contribution was thrown in with that of every other union member and through our pooled cash kitty the Union projected its national clout. This was not political speech. My money was kind of like the text for a bigger speech being delivered by a Union which had its own agenda which certainly intersected with my political aspirations in some places but was also at odds in other places. For instance, take a look at the seniority rule in hiring and firing. This clearly did not favor me at all. Later that year I was laid off as one of the first in the first wave of layoffs from my company. I never returned and my union membership was hardly a measure of job security for me. If money was speech, it was an insult I was delivering to myself. (READ MORE)
Benoit Mandelbrot died last week. As a mathematician he may have as much impact as any number cruncher since maybe Euclid, who gave us regular old geometry, or Charles Babbage, who laid the groundwork for the modern computer, or folks like Euler and Hilbert and Gauss just famous monster geniuses of numbers. Mandelbrot’s genius was in having the vision to fuse a simple abstract notion about geometry with the power of the computer. Good old Euclid shows us how lines and points and surfaces behave in space and the immutable laws that seem to keep them in a state of perpetual orderliness. Mandelbrot thinks of mathematical objects as having a history. They are the product of millions of calculations that determine their size and space. Shapes, for instance, are histories of repeated computations that together constitute complex surfaces or they replicate complex processes like life itself. Mandelbrot’s fractals are capable of modeling all kinds of complicated phenomena. They are the key to creating simulations with rich computer graphics so essential for everything from video games to movie special effects to weather and planetary scale climate simulators. (READ MORE)
The full interview of John Hockenberry's talk with Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the MIT Media Lab 25th Anniversary celebration.
John is broadcasting from our partner station, WGBH, in Boston today. He's there to take part in the celebrations surrounding the 25th anniversary of the MIT Media Lab.
Over the years a long list of new computer and digital technologies were developed there. Since then the lab has also become hugely prolific developer of medical technologies. Researchers at the lab have worked on projects as abstract as figuring out how to improve health care record keeping and as concrete as how to hybridize robotic technologies with prosthetics to improve the lives of veterans and civilians who've lost limbs.
The MIT Media Lab turns 25 today. We take a look back at the novel idea behind this multidisciplinary academic lab that harnessed (and continues to harness) the creative energy of the digital revolution to develop major innovations in art and design, IT and mass communications. The display behind e-book readers such as the Kindle and Nook, the innovation behind the wildly popular "Guitar Hero" video games, and the "One Laptop Per Child" initiative all came from the Media Lab.
The both preposterous and completely unsurprising bio-flick, “Social Network,” about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s both preposterous and completely unsurprising 21st century life, is both sociology and entertainment. Zuckerberg is 26 and the looming question has to be who cares about the biography of a 26-year-old?
It’s taken me a while to get around to writing this because, as the listener comments and pictures about the symbols of being (or not being) in the middle class have proliferated, I have thought more about how much of a big deal this was in my childhood back in the ancient 60s. As a little kid, I was constantly comparing myself with my neighbor kid pals to see who was ahead of whom in the inevitable pecking order of the American post-war economy.
America invented the middle class. Europe invented the working class. The differences explain practically everything about why politics in America barely resembles politics and parties across the Atlantic.
The industrial revolutions in Europe took place against a background of the aristocratic traditions of class, rank, and royalty. The growing wealth of the working classes produced a constituency allied against the upper ranks. The working class did not wish to be merely included in some political food-chain along with the aristocracy: It competed with the vestiges of royalty for political power. Aristocratic politics were expressed in the language of the Tories. The working classes were the Labor party or the socialists and communists.
So after months of hyperbole and the worst kind of gloom and doom from everyone associated with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it's suddenly over.
This July a joyous event took place at our home. A family reunion of my wife’s siblings, cousins and aunts and uncles all gathered together in rural Massachusetts. We never see this gang all together. There was a fabulous wedding down in Costa Rica a few years back and everyone had quite an adventure on Tamarindo beach. There have been other occasional affairs but with schedules what they are and people living far apart (one cousin has a wife in China who is waiting for a U.S. visa but that’s another story) and different family arrangements all around getting a family reunion scheduled is a big challenge. I’ve given up trying for my side of the family. But there is one thing that binds us together. This year’s reunion was all about celebrating the 45th birthday of Lisa Blatz the oldest child in my wife’s uncle’s family. Don’t worry about the details. Lisa was born with Down’s syndrome 45 years ago. It was a shock to the family that I will not even begin to characterize because 45 years later Lisa is the glue for this entire family. If she calls a birthday party everyone shows up. She keeps track of everyone. She remembers everyone’s birthday. During last summer’s birthday party/reunion there were few dry eyes. When people weren’t sobbing with gratitude over what Lisa has brought to the family they were just busy having fun and enjoying everyone’s company.
40 years since the death of Jimi Hendrix. It’s really astounding to imagine that he’s been gone that long. It’s not surprising that Hendrix’s music lives on. Hendrix created the whole Fender Stratocaster power chord distortion mystique for the electric guitar. He made magic. He mesmerized audiences. He died young. His narrative is the allegory of the mid 20th century where a curtain came down hard on a show that seemed to be just getting started.