April 30, 2008

How cool is that?   {Comments: 0}

I'm inclined to agree with this comment about this latest Wright flap from an Andrew Sullivan reader (not so much the broader view he takes of the campaign's contours). At first the latest outbursts from Wright really worried me, but after Obama's rejection/denunciation of Wright yesterday I realized that this event potentially neutralizes Wright as an issue for the general election.

Sullivan also links to this exploration of why Obama joined Wright's church to begin with.

Home in on your customers   {Comments: 2}

Here's an interesting breakdown by age demographic of who's online and what they're doing. I wish they had included people under the age of 12 though.

April 29, 2008

Old acquaintance   {Comments: 0}

When I saw this item on Political Wire earlier and clicked through to read the article, I discovered that the pollster mentioned, Holly Davis, is a former high school and college classmate of mine. Too bad she seems to be up to no good, setting the stage for Republicans to game the Indiana primary next week. Hmmm.

Heaven on earth with an onion slice   {Comments: 0}

Ezra Klein is right to be invoking Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational to explain this business about Burger King offering an £85 burger made from ground Kobe beef and topped with foie gras (I guess it won't be coming to Chicago). But isn't the move a little stunt-like to subtly change perceptions about Burger King? It just seems like there's a lot of room between their current offerings and £85 -- and that they might be able to go quite a bit lower, sell more burgers, and still shift perceptions. Maybe they've market tested this thing? Or maybe £85 is the solution to a repeated game where the two chains race successively more decadent products to market in order to outdo each other?

Cognitive heat sink   {Comments: 0}

1. Clay Shirky has a wonderfully jarring short essay on the social surplus that gets consumed by television. I'm not quite as sold on reading this as part of a cycle of societal transformation though. Can people really be sucked away from television by more interactive media? Plenty of people are still drinking gin. Anyway, I hadn't heard of Shirky before but I'm ordering his book. [via Marginal Revolution]

2. Speaking of cognitive surplus, this mended spiderweb project (along with some of the other "uninvited collaborations" by the same artist, Nina Katchadourian) is pure genius. [via kottke]

April 27, 2008

Behind the scenes   {Comments: 0}

For better or for worse (I'm not sure yet...) I've just upgraded to Movable Type 4. There are several kinks to be worked out -- probably over the next few days -- so if something isn't quite working properly, that's why.

UPDATE: Well, it's glitchy as hell, I hate the interface, and I can't see that I've gained any functionality or any spam-proofing. So I guess that's a negative recommendation, if you're thinking about upgrading.

April 24, 2008

Cheese of the week: Mona   {Comments: 2}

For the past few months my sister Jackie has been doing a Cheese of the Week post over at her blog, Allora, Aspetta! Jackie lives in Italy, and so naturally she's focused on the cheeses there and her experiences with them. Lately though she hasn't posted much, so as a way of encouraging her to post a little more often and also because I also enjoy cheese, I'm going to be posting a Cheese of the Week here on locussolus as well.

I'll focus mainly on American cheeses, first of all because I live here, but also because I think there's a lot of great cheese being produced here now, and I don't see too many people online writing about it. There are two places I know if in Oak Park with a selection of American artisan cheeses: the Marion Street Cheese Market and the Oak Park Whole Foods (I don't shop at other Whole Foods stores often enough to know whether this is true everywhere). During the summer there is some interesting cheese available at the Oak Park Farmers Market as well, although I know some of this cheese comes from the Marion Street Cheese Market. As it happens, I also spend a lot of time in Wisconsin, so I may have some opportunities to try cheese directly from some local producers there.

This week for the first time in several months I stopped by the Marion Street Cheese Market to pick up something interesting for the first post. The Cheese Market is only two or three years old, but it seems to be doing well. The selection of cheeses has doubled since the last time I was there, and I was impressed to see that a lot of the new cheeses were from the midwest. Also they are going to be moving to a new location on the other side of the train tracks this fall, which is a little strange since right now they're right on the newly renovated strip of Marion Street. I can only assume they're moving because they need more space.

One of the cheeses I picked up was a sheep and cow's milk cheese Mona, pictured above, from the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative. It was so tasty and easy to eat that my daughter and I demolished the whole wedge without trying to pair it with anything... I guess we're not very experienced reviewers. But I do think that it's a fantastic cheese for eating by itself. It's a fairly hard cheese, but it's not too dense and not too crumbly. It was fresh and mild, sweet and slightly acidic (these last two are apparently characteristic of sheep's milk cheeses). In any case, I highly recommend it and will get another wedge soon -- although next time I'll try to keep it around logn enough to pair it with some things and maybe compare it with some other cheeses. Until then, the WSDC website suggests eating it with a nice glass of port.

April 23, 2008

The Original of Laura   {Comments: 0}

This is exciting. I've certainly had my eye on the controversy over this manuscript, but I've tried not to get too involved in the story because it seemed unlikely Dmitri would go against his father's wishes. Naturally though I'm just as interested in "the most concentrated distillation of Nabokov's creativity" as the next guy.

The Ninth Ward   {Comments: 0}

I posted a set of pictures from the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans over at flickr today. I spent a day in the city on my trip to Louisiana for Bayou Grace a couple months ago, and I knew I wanted to spend some time in the Ninth Ward taking pictures, but it was rainy and I didn't have as much time as I would have liked -- and then it turned out the majority of the pictures I did take were ruined by raindrops on the lens. Very disappointing. At any rate, I've posted a half dozen shots here, with some small commentary. There is also the larger set of photos from my time in the bayou here.

Modularity   {Comments: 0}

Here's a cool animation of the various components of the International Space Station as they are added.

April 22, 2008

Designs of the Times   {Comments: 0}

While I'm on the topic of Times traditions, I love the way they are favoring widescreen crops at tops of their articles (online of course... I don't read the paper edition so I don't have any idea what they're doing there). Obviously there are some practical considerations -- a widescreen crop fits well into the space at the top of an article without pushing the beginning of the article itself too far down the page. It also emphasizes the wide angle composition that's so popular with photojournalists these days; no doubt the Times photographers are shooting with this in mind by now. And of course, it's become an integral and consistent visual element in the design where a more standard crop might have just blended in.

I should probably blog more about their photographs. I spend a lot of time looking at them.

A modernistic sans serif   {Comments: 0}

The New York Times has several typographers weighing in on the typeface McCain uses for his campaign materials; there's another critique here, but it seems to be from the folks who designed Gotham, the typeface used by Obama. It looks like this kind of political design analysis (parlour game?) is getting to be a bit of a tradition at the Times.

April 18, 2008

You can't always get what you want   {Comments: 0}

Here's Alex Tabarrok claiming that the real culprits behind the debate shenanigans the other day are the public, because it was the most watched debate yet. He's employing this wonderful bit of circular economic logic where your consumption of a good is proof that the good was what you wanted (this is known as revealed preference). Naturally there are a bunch of problems with this, but thinking about small-d democratic engagement as a good is right up there.

It's funny, when I go to Marginal Revolution I'm there to read the words of Tyler Cowen. If I had my way, Tyler would have a solo blog, but unfortunately the exact product I want just isn't out there, so I bite the bullet -- which means occasionally I end up reading something really inane from Alex. This may somehow be what I deserve (?), but it's certainly not what I want.

April 16, 2008

Objectivity   {Comments: 4}

Charles Gibson's antics aside, why is it OK to have George Stephanopoulos moderating a debate in which Hillary Clinton is a contestant participant?

I promise I won't ever be your friend   {Comments: 4}

I finally got a chance to see The Darjeeling Limited this week. It's so hard to see movies in the theater these days what with having an 18 month old daughter, so I've been relying on Amazon Unbox and iTunes, and The Darjeeling Limited just appeared last week as a rental.

I've been a fan of Wes Anderson ever since I saw Rushmore in college; Rushmore is one of my very favorite movies, but I think I've liked each successive movie less. Maybe this is because the scope of the earlier movies was tighter, or maybe it's because the adolescent neuroses the characters all seem to share work better in the context of adolescence than the larger world, even if it is fantastical and highly stylized. To be fair, this latest offering did have a tighter scope, but I just can't get excited about the same rich, high society losers with the same daddy and mommy issues.

But maybe Wes Anderson should direct someone else's story for a change, because the design of this movie -- the settings, the colors, and especially the cinematography -- just blew me away. I've spent a lot of the past couple years (since Wes Anderson's last film) becoming a photographer, so probably for the first time I was really in a position to appreciate the wide angle planimetric compositions he uses -- I would say at least half the shots in the movie use this intimate schema. And then there is a the slow motion, which when combined with the flat compositions makes some of these scenes as photographic as anything I've ever seen in a movie. The scene where the three brothers walk by the funeral preparations is just breathtaking. How many times did I watch it?

April 15, 2008

How we'd look on Larry King   {Comments: 0}

I love this story by a mom who lets her nine-year-old take the subway home by himself and then can't believe that her friends want to turn her in for child abuse. I'm not sure if I would do the same thing with my daughter or not (I have several years to figure it out). But I agree with her justifications for it -- both the idea that our children often need more independence than surveillance and the rejection of today's media-induced extreme risk sensitivity.

April 14, 2008

Skewered on a giant spike   {Comments: 0}

Not that any of my readers are going to be bidding on it, but the Berwyn Spindle sculpture I mentioned last September has been languishing on eBay for more than a day with no bids. I do think it's kind of a suspicious auction though. For one thing, the seller isn't very convincingly identified, and from the way he's (?) answering questions doesn't seem to take the process very seriously. Also, it's not clear why the starting price is $50,000 plus shipping when the alternative is just to have it demolished. Why not start at $1 plus shipping? And then there are the estimated shipping costs, which the seller is listing as $100,000 when much higher figures have been claimed in the past during discussions about moving it down the street.

April 13, 2008

The food wing   {Comments: 2}

While I'm on the subject of food, I should mention that I've just added a link to my old friend Raffi Melkonian's food blog, which I'm embarrassed to say I only recently discovered. I'm pleased to see that Raffi is also covering the politics of food.

Cream of asparagus   {Comments: 1}

I've been cooking a lot from this Stephan Pyles cookbook lately, and I just discovered that along with several of his other books, it's out of print. I don't really know much about cookbook publishing and what sells, and I guess it shouldn't be so surprising that this particular book is off the shelves since many of the recipes are technically difficult and it's not all that accessible. But it's nevertheless disappointing, because we've really loved everything we've made from it, and when we've been unable to follow through on a particularly demanding recipe it's still been the source of lots of great ideas. So I recommend it highly, if you can get your hands on a copy. We made the above soup for friends last night.

(As a bit of an aside, I'm not sure I have any other vegetarian cookbooks written by carnivorous chefs, apart from Mark Bittman's encyclopaediac tome How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. I wonder what possessed Pyles to do this book, especially given that he doesn't seem in the recipes to be all that sympathetic to vegetarianism. I'd like to think it has something to do with constraint as an artistic motivator.)

The essential prissiness of the Democratic contest   {Comments: 0}

Two interesting articles on the horserace that I wanted to post:

First, here's an alternate narrative of Hillary Clinton's rationale for staying in a race that appears to be unwinnable. Or at least, it's an alternate narrative to me.

And then there's this interview with Judas Iscariot that's probably most interesting for its depiction of Clinton's and Obama's various sales techniques. For Clinton, it's not a depiction that fits with the narrative above. Also, for me the piece diminishes Bill Richardson as any kind of substantial policy figure, for some reason. He seems likable enough, though!