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Stars are just like us! / They wear cool barettes

Violet wears Mara's barrettes

The classi­est fam in Hol­ly­wood loves Mara's bar­rettes; this time Vio­let rocks them. Nice. Buy em here, and pass it on.

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Caught in the act! / Jennifer Garner wears Greenaway

File this one under: Holy crap. It has come to the atten­tion of the tabloid-read­ing world that Jen­nifer Gar­ner was seen wear­ing red bar­rettes! But, wait, there's more. A cer­tain bar­rette-mak­ing friend of ours made them. By hand. In San Francisco.


Jennifer Garner wears barrettes


This is from Just Jared, and I must say: If the blog real­ly is just a guy named Jared writ­ing about celebri­ties, my hat is off to him. He pub­lish­es some tid­bit of celebri­ty gos­sip rough­ly every 5 sec­onds. That's ded­i­ca­tion, homes. If you're inter­est­ed in the bar­rettes, you can buy a pair for your­self at Lit­tle Some­thing; if you're con­cerned that they'll make you look like Jen­nifer Gar­ner, you can ask Mara for some guid­ance in the prop­er way to wear them.


Snap snap snap


I'm glad that the bar­rettes got the full paparazzi treat­ment. A cou­ple of pho­tos just wouldn't have been suf­fi­cient. Bet­ter get 17 and be safe. Check em all out.(Con­grat­u­la­tions, you big loser).

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Essential information / Mixing drinks, tying knots, arguing

I like to tell myself that I don't read stuff like this, but Esquire's got a pret­ty excel­lent list of "75 skills every man should mas­ter".

Leif Parsons - Jump the cue ball
33. Hit a jump shot in pool. It's not some­thing you use a lot, but when you hit a jump shot, it marks you as a play­er and briefly impress­es women. Make the angle of your cue steep­er, aim for the bot­tom­most frac­tion of the ball, and dri­ve the cue smooth­ly six inch­es past the con­tact point, mak­ing steady, down­ward con­tact with the felt. Illus­tra­tion: Leif Par­sons.

There are some good, less pre­dictable skills: 5. Name a book that mat­ters; 21. Argue with a Euro­pean with­out get­ting xeno­pho­bic or insult­ing soc­cer; 52. Step into a job no one wants to do.And then there are the pre­dictable things:

Drink­ing-relat­ed stuff: 17. Make one drink, in large batch­es, very well; 24. Know his poi­son, with­out stand­ing there, pon­der­ing like a dope; 32. Describe a glass of wine in one sen­tence with­out using the terms nut­ty, fruity, oaky, fin­ish, or kick.Outdoors-related stuff: 14. Chop down a tree; 26. Cast a fish­ing rod with­out shriek­ing or sigh­ing or oth­er­wise admit­ting defeat; 51. Build a camp­fire; 55. Point to the north at any time; 68. Find his way out of the woods if lost; 69. Tie a knot; 74. Know some birds.Sports-related stuff: 4. Score a base­ball game; 11. Swim three dif­fer­ent strokes; 65–67. Throw a base­ball over-hand with some snap. Throw a foot­ball with a tight spi­ral. Shoot a 12-foot jump shot reliably.

Social context?

I would think that Esquire has made lists like this in the past, and if so I think it would be inter­est­ing to com­pare lists across time. For instance, there's noth­ing explic­it­ly sports-knowl­edge-relat­ed or steak-knowl­edge-relat­ed — "Have a favorite team," "Know the dif­fer­ence between a New York Strip and a T‑Bone" or some­thing like that — all of which seem like they'd be require­ments in the past. It would also be inter­est­ing to know if lists like this are recent devel­op­ments. Would the Esquire mag­a­zine of Nor­man Mailer's era craft a list like this? Prob­a­bly not, actu­al­ly. Or, if they did craft lists, they'd be one-item lists: "1. F*** lists."Via Buz­zFeed.

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Flickr photo

It's not a word, but lots of peo­ple like to use it as if it were. Over the past few years, I've heard it more and more often, but today was the first day I've ever seen it in the main­stream media. Hmmm.

Is there some­thing defi­cient about "influ­en­tial" or "res­o­nant?" What about affect­ing, author­i­ta­tive, con­trol­ling, dom­i­nant, effec­tive, effi­ca­cious, forcible, gov­ern­ing, guid­ing, impor­tant, impres­sive, inspir­ing, instru­men­tal, lead­ing, mean­ing­ful, momen­tous, mov­ing, per­sua­sive, potent, promi­nent, sig­nif­i­cant, strong, sub­stan­tial, telling, touch­ing, weighty, beat­ing, boom­ing, deep, elec­tri­fy­ing, enhanced, full, inten­si­fied, loud, mel­low, noisy, oro­tund, plan­gent, pow­er­ful, pro­found, pul­sat­ing, puls­ing, resound­ing, rever­ber­ant, rever­ber­at­ing, rich, ring­ing, roar­ing, round, sono­rant, sonorous, sten­to­ri­an, stri­dent, thrilling, throb­bing, thun­der­ing, or thunderous?

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Photos / Found on FFFFOUND

Some great stuff on FFFFOUND, a social book­mark­ing ser­vice for images. It's in pri­vate beta, and I'll be curi­ous how they main­tain the cur­rent, con­tin­u­al high qual­i­ty, as in images like this …

Andrei Robu
Like this stuff by Andrei Robu.

Via kot­tke.

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Literary blogs / Paper Cuts

Cormac McCarthy ad

I've spent a lot time comb­ing through the archives of Paper Cuts, the blog of the New York Times Book Review edi­tor Dwight Gar­ner. It steers clear of smar­ty­pantsness, focus­ing on what one might call the lighter side of seri­ous lit­er­a­ture. In fact, most of the con­tent is on the periph­ery of the strict­ly lit­er­ary — a music playlist assem­bled by Miran­da July, a quick, fun inter­view with Judy Blume, a scan of Jack Kerouac's obit­u­ary ("his sub­ject was him­self and his method was to write as spon­ta­neous­ly as pos­si­ble"), a scan of an ad for Ralph Ginzburg's lit­er­ary super­no­va Avant Garde that looks like the label on a Dr. Bronner's soap bot­tle. Gar­ner also has a pod­cast in which he inter­views authors and review­ers from cur­rent and upcom­ing Book Reviews. Every once in a while, you'll suf­fer through some crap (e.g., Frank Rich gush­ing and gig­gling while furtive­ly and unsuc­cess­ful­ly try­ing to hide the king-size man-crush he has on Don DeLil­lo). That said, most of the pod­casts are infor­ma­tive and inter­est­ing.The image at right is from a slide show of adver­tise­ments that appeared dur­ing the "gold­en age" of the NYT Book Review — 1962–1973.

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Just Expect To Be Left Utterly Enraged

Flickr photoMy cozy bed between Her­man Miller chairs at Dulles.

News flash: Air trav­el real­ly sucks right now (Wash­ing­ton Post). A cou­ple of weeks ago, I too was touched by this nation­al night­mare. On a Fri­day evening, I planned to fly from Dulles to SFO, but got slapped with an SSSS on my board­ing pass (expired driver's license) and a long secu­ri­ty line and fig­ured I would miss my flight. Good thing it was delayed. For three hours, ini­tial­ly. The gate agents report­ed that there was bad weath­er in New York, and this seemed rea­son­able to me because there were lots of peo­ple at the oth­er gates who appeared to be pissed off and tired. Also, the storm was all over the hun­dreds of TVs that blast CNN at you. I got com­fort­able and watched an excel­lent movie (Kurosawa's The Bad Sleep Well) on my com­put­er, ful­ly believ­ing what the gate agents were say­ing: The flight would not be can­celed. They empha­sized this: It would not be canceled.

After two more delays, at 2:30am, the gate agents deliv­ered the obvi­ous: The flight would be can­celed. With­in mil­lisec­onds, an entire plane-load of peo­ple freaked out, fumed, growled, shout­ed insults and then scram­bled to get re-booked. Lines at the desks: 45 min­utes. Hold time on the phone: 45 min­utes. Like­li­hood of get­ting out of DC in the next 24 hours: Zero. Com­pen­sa­tion for our trou­ble: Zero. Our flight appeared to be the only suck­ers left at Dulles, but of course the air­line blamed the can­cel­la­tion on acts of God and air traf­fic con­trol and, on those grounds, they refused to give us even a vouch­er for a soda. (A recent Wash­ing­ton Post arti­cle exam­ines tra­di­tion­al air­line excus­es). But wait, there's good news: The cur­rent issue of Pop­u­lar Mechan­ics has an arti­cle about the FAA's work on a GPS-based air traf­fic con­trol sys­tem, which will be up and run­ning by … 2025. Ugh.

I won't name the air­line (because I am a gen­tle­man), but I encour­age you to look for clues in the title of this post. (Specif­i­cal­ly in the first let­ter of each word. Thx, Khoi Vinh for the inspiration.)

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Must-see movies / Killer of Sheep

Leaping boy from Killer of SheepA moment from a beau­ti­ful, riv­et­ing scene in Killer of Sheep. Pho­to: Mile­stone Films.

Killer of Sheep is direc­tor Charles Bur­nett's account of life in the LA neigh­bor­hood of Watts in the ear­ly 1970's. It began life as his senior the­sis at UCLA film school and until recent­ly it was nev­er seen out­side art hous­es and muse­ums. Despite all of that, it was among the first 50 films to declared nation­al trea­sures by the Library of Con­gress. I saw it ear­li­er this week at the Cas­tro, and it lived up the hype. Burnett's account of his moti­va­tions in mak­ing the film seems like a good place to start unpack­ing the stuff that makes it so unique:

I want­ed to tell a sto­ry about a man who was try­ing to hold on to some val­ues that were con­stant­ly being erod­ed by oth­er forces, by his plight in the com­mu­ni­ty, and the qual­i­ty of the job that he had. At the same time he want­ed to do right by his fam­i­ly. I didn't want to impose my val­ues on his sit­u­a­tion. I just want­ed to show his life. And I didn't want to resolve his sit­u­a­tion by impos­ing arti­fi­cial solu­tions like him becom­ing a doc­tor or a diplo­mat, when the real­i­ty is that most peo­ple don't get out. I want­ed to show that there is a pos­i­tive ele­ment to his life, and that is that he endures, he's accept­ed it. [From an excel­lent inter­view on Sens­es of Cin­e­ma]

To bring this sto­ry to life, he employs a style that seems impro­vi­sa­tion­al, as much doc­u­men­tary as Ital­ian neo­re­al­ism. But there's also some­thing very new and gen­uine and par­tic­u­lar­ly Amer­i­can about it — iso­la­tion, crum­bling build­ings, explo­sions of cru­el­ty and anger, and the con­stant, chaot­ic motion of kids leap­ing across rooftops and crawl­ing under build­ings — com­bined, these things seem to evoke a very Amer­i­can way of poor, urban life.More than any­thing, the movie makes you won­der at its very improb­a­bil­i­ty: How in the world did he make that? Did he actu­al­ly plan those moments that seem gen­uine­ly serendip­i­tous? Maybe it's that the actors are untrained. The dia­logue seems fresh, sur­pris­ing and authen­tic even when it's forced. Maybe it's the pac­ing of the edit­ing. Scenes start abrupt­ly — chil­dren emerge from a hole, an entire neigh­bor­hood has assem­bled in a stair­well, kids hide behind a scrap of ply­wood. Most scenes also tend to end a cou­ple of sec­onds ear­ly, or linger a few sec­onds longer. Maybe it's the dia­logue — it's all mum­bles or hollers or growls, with jazz and blues tracks adding rhyth­mic, some­times hope­ful coun­ter­points to the imagery. Who knows? What's clear is that it speaks in a true, clear and unique voice. Go see it.

Dog face in Killer of SheepNo dia­logue. Dog mask. Chain link fence. Killer of Sheep. Pho­to: Mile­stone Films.
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March Madness / My bracket, with explanations

UPDATE 1: A cou­ple of changed picks; UPDATE 2: Some eerie resem­blances my brack­et and those of SI writ­ers; UPDATE 4: Sur­vey­ing the car­nage: Thoughts after the first two roundsHere's the brack­et that I made on the Mon­day after the seed­ings were announced.

my 2007 bracket - ideal version

UPDATE: Since Mon­day, I've been spend­ing a lot of time read­ing up on the teams I don't know/care about — in and its Tour­ney Blog, sta­tis­ti­cal ana­lyst Ken Pomeroy's blog, the NYT Brack­et blog, and the ever-unfriend­ly which must hide a lot of its use­ful stuff behind its sub­scrip­tion ser­vice, Insid­er. In any case, the more you read about the first round match-ups, the more con­fus­ing it all gets. I've seen many of the teams play at some point dur­ing the sea­son, but I'm total­ly in the dark on pret­ty much any team from the Pac 10 (even though I live in Cal­i­for­nia, I just real­ly can't even force myself to care about it) and almost all of the mid-majors. One brack­et change came out of this — I can't believe I'm say­ing this, but Duke seems less like­ly to get upset by VCU. Duke has been crit­i­cized a lot for being soft, slop­py, and gen­er­al­ly unin­spired, and they're com­ing off a sting­ing loss in the ACC Tour­na­ment. How could they not be hun­gry? They've got a bunch of tal­ent­ed play­ers, and it just seems real­ly unlike­ly that they won't be able to pull off a win against a VCU team that has only played one team in the tour­na­ment (Old Domin­ion). While I've only changed one out­come, my read­ing did pro­duce many doubts in my brack­et, which I detail below. (It also caused me to cre­ate three more ver­sions of my brack­et to account for the dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios that the pun­dits high­light­ed — What if Ore­gon can't play defense? What if Oden explodes on the scene and dom­i­nates every­one? What if North Car­oli­na is as good as they appear to be in 3‑minute stretches?)

Some second thoughts

UPDATE 2: Inci­den­tal­ly, SI writer Grant Wahl's brack­et is almost exact­ly the same as mine. (Actu­al­ly, same with Seth Davis). Same Final Four; same final game; same out­come. The only big dif­fer­ences are that he has Texas beat­ing UNC (UPDATE 3: Now, so do I), and Creighton beat­ing Mem­phis, where­as I have both UNC and Mem­phis get­ting knocked out in the next round. (I also have more first-round upsets than him … Oral Roberts over Wash­ing­ton State, etc).UPDATE 4 (in the week fol­low­ing the first two rounds): After two straight years in which my brack­et burst into flames dur­ing the first week­end, I was just hap­py to emerge with 15 out of 16 teams still alive. Most­ly, I got burned by my late changes — Texas beat­ing UNC and Duke beat­ing VCU — and by the fash­ion­able upsets that I stub­born­ly decid­ed to stick with — Geor­gia Tech over UNLV, Creighton over Neva­da, and Oral Roberts over Wash­ing­ton State, each of which found their own ago­niz­ing way of dri­ving a spear through my heart. Crxp.As usu­al, there were a cou­ple of teams that I was total­ly, total­ly wrong about: (1) UNLV. Obvi­ous­ly, these guys can play. I dis­count­ed them because (a) who did they beat? and (b) the coach's son seemed to play an inor­di­nate­ly impor­tant role. Both seemed like big-time red flags. I ignored the fact that they were expe­ri­enced, and that they were clear­ly pissed off by their #7 seed. Who would have thought that the team that rose to the occa­sion would be com­posed of hard-nosed guys led by jour­ney­man coach Lon Kruger (UNLV), and not com­posed of McDonald's All-Amer­i­cans and led by the saint­ed Coach K? Seemed unlike­ly before it hap­pened, but oh how sweet it is in ret­ro­spect. (2) Texas. Dur­ing the two Kansas games, they were dan­ger­ous­ly weak at guard. Both games would like­ly have been blow-outs if Durant hadn't total­ly gone off in the first 15 min­utes of each. Abrams is a ter­ri­ble ball-han­dler who needs mul­ti­ple screens to get his shot going, and Augustin is com­plete­ly dom­i­nant one moment and out-of-con­trol the next. USC forced these guys to play a big­ger role by tak­ing away Durant's drib­ble; good call, Tim Floyd. (Didn't real­ly think I'd be say­ing those words any­time after 2002). On the oth­er bench, Rick Barnes made no dis­cernible adjust­ments. Again, not that sur­pris­ing, in retrospect.The next round looks most­ly bor­ing to me, though I guess half the games could be excit­ing — UNC-USC, if USC is able to hang on while UNC goes on its peri­od­ic runs, A&M‑Memphis should dis­play some good offen­sive fire­pow­er (unlike Pitt-UCLA, which almost cer­tain­ly will be a grind-it-out snore-fest), and KU-SIU which could be excit­ing if KU has a hard time run­ning its offense against the defense-mind­ed Salukis. Let's hope that it's not excit­ing in this way.

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Lit / Philip K Dick on building universes

In 1978, Philip K Dick pub­lished an essay called "How to Build a Uni­verse That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Lat­er." The title sort of says it all; it's about how to envi­sion the world of a sto­ry in a way that lasts. He cuts right to chase, too, con­fronting the hard ques­tion that most writ­ing how-to's like to gloss over: What is worth writ­ing about? Where to start? How to make a state­ment that doesn't age badly?

… I ask, in my writ­ing, What is real? Because unceas­ing­ly we are bom­bard­ed with pseu­do-real­i­ties man­u­fac­tured by very sophis­ti­cat­ed peo­ple using very sophis­ti­cat­ed elec­tron­ic mech­a­nisms. I do not dis­trust their motives; I dis­trust their pow­er. They have a lot of it. And it is an aston­ish­ing pow­er: that of cre­at­ing whole uni­vers­es, uni­vers­es of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing. It is my job to cre­ate uni­vers­es, as the basis of one nov­el after anoth­er. And I have to build them in such a way that they do not fall apart two days lat­er. Or at least that is what my edi­tors hope. How­ev­er, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build uni­vers­es which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the char­ac­ters in the nov­els cope with this prob­lem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. 

It just gets bet­ter from there, really.