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