Weekend Reads

An eclectic mix of articles this week(end). Some trendy and current, others obscure yet timeless. Enjoy.

  • ‘Space diver’ to attempt first supersonic freefall

    Have you ever watched one of those video clips where someone attempts a stunt, only to end up lying in a heap on the ground, writhing in agony? Of course you have.

    I’m not comfortable with clips that actually show someone being killed. I think death is another category of outcome. However, as long as the clip isn’t of a child (meaning, say, anyone under twenty) a couple of broken bones often strike me as hilarious.

    Why? Because these people are volunteering to do this to themselves. Somehow, some way, they’ve convinced themselves that what they’re attempting is a good thing to do with their free will as a human being. That they are so utterly and completely wrong even before they attempt the stunt usually has me in hysterics. That they are then proven so utterly and completely wrong only prolongs my paroxysms as I imagine them confronting their onrushing moment of realization.

    The problem here is that I can’t really see any moment of realization for this guy that doesn’t include him getting killed. If he pulls it off, hopefully he’ll be the last person to try. Because this is a fatality waiting to happen. (See also: The Darwin Awards.)

  • Hard lessons, humility for big-city doctors in Haiti

    While the powers that be are having a high-level moral argument about who should get rich providing health care in the United States, I thought it might be good to interject a little perspective. We don’t need better health care in the U.S. so people can get abortions, cosmetic surgery, or neurotic full-body MRI’s. We need better health care in the United States so that people who don’t have it can get both preventative care and care for catastrophic ailments like heart attacks, strokes, and 7.0 earthquakes.

    If every doctor in the United States, and every elected official, had to spend two weeks in Haiti right now, we wouldn’t be having a discussion at all. We’d have national heath care, and nobody but the fundamentalist lunatics on the right and the Utopian lunatics on the left would be calling it socialism.

  • Confessions of a Book Pirate

    If you’re interested in the ongoing battle over DRM in the publishing business, this is definitely worth a read. I’ll have a follow-up post on this issue in the near future.

  • Place Your Bets: 40 Gut-Busting Restaurant Challenges for Free Food

    Speaking of volunteering for pain…I actually had a hard time reading this article. Some of it was funny, but some of it actually made me think — if only for a split second — of hurling. (The picture for #10 was particular gaak-inducing.) Also, I think any contest like this which rewards you simply by not making you pay for the food is lame. There’s gotta be a t-shirt in it or it’s just so much hype.

    In any case, as a very wise man once said, never eat anything bigger than your head. (Yeah, that’s the cat guy. If you only know him for the cats you’re seriously missing out.)

  • NBC’s Slide From TV Heights to Troubled Punch Lines

    One of the things that got lost in the Leno/O’Brien cultural absurdity is the fact that the people behind the scenes at NBC made a series of long-term decisions which were the business equivalent of piloting an airplane into the side of a mountain. This article lifts the curtain on some of the people who would rather not be recognized for their flying skills.

    What impresses me most, however, is that it took almost no intellectual horsepower to ask a very simple question: What happens if Leno’s move to prime time doesn’t work? In politics and war they call it an exit strategy, and I think it’s safe to say that it would have been relatively simple to game the possible outcomes in advance. That this was not done is an amazing example of executive malpractice.

  • I Will Be The Rain On Your Game-Changing Gadget

    I confess to more than a little discomfort at the cult-like adulation heaped on Apple as a company, and on Steve Jobs as a person. I understand that everybody likes to be cool and hip, even at the expense of their own identity and intelligence, but witnessing the hype prior to the launch of the iPad struck me as nothing short of retail nationalism.

    I don’t think the iPad is a revolutionary device, and I don’t think it’s going to dominate the market like the iPod and iPhone have. This article explains why.

    I don’t care whether I’m right or wrong about this prediction. I would like to be right simply because I would like the mania surrounding Apple to die down. When a man can take a stage and claim to be presenting magic, and the audience actually believes, I think we’ve crossed a line in our collective consciousness that shouldn’t be crossed.

— Mark Barrett

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  1. says

    Thanks for the iPad article – it dissects the e-book/e-reader/e-publishing issue nicely.

    I read something last week that used reasoning similar to the following: the iPod mini got criticised when first released and went on to become one of the best selling iPods ever. The iPad is receiving similar criticism, if not more in total and more severe, but the author was convinced it will be as successful and game-changing as the iPod mini.

    Admittedly, I thought there would be more emphasis on the iPad’s use as an e-reader, which is – and I don’t think I was alone in this – what I assumed Apple’s new gadget was, pre-launch, going to be all about. Had Apple released an e-reader, the author of the reasoning above might be closer to being correct than I believe they are. As it turns out, however, the iPad is less an e-reader of any sort and more of a… big iPod Touch, with similar functionality.

    I didn’t buy a ‘Touch’ and I have no intention of buying an iPad. I’m yet to be remotely interested in any e-reader on the market. Books are not songs. I’m more than content carrying around a single book with me and not a large chunk of my library. In fact, I’m quite satisfied with the book as it is and I’m fond of a trip to the bookshop – maybe I am alone on that one.

    Whatever the iPad’s primary uses will be, the publishing industries still await their messiah. Which is not a surprise.

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