“To find out what kind of caffeine ingestion Joey, Chandler, Ross, Phoebe, Rachel and Monica had over the 10 seasons of Friends, we need to make a few assumptions. First, given their famous mugs, we’ll assume that they drink 20 oz. coffees. Second, we’ll assume that each friend consumes maybe two of these enormous drinks each episode. Finally, we assume that this kind of coffee mainlining happened over each of Friends’ 236 episodes. If each friend drank two mugs of coffee over each episode, the whole gang downed, in total, 445 gallons of coffee. “
—Have you ever wondered how much coffee the pretend people on the ‘Friends’ television show drank? You have? Really? Let me tell you something: It would not kill you to read a book every now and then. Seriously.
German designer/artist Elisa Strozyk does some really amazing work with wooden tilings and textile experimentation. Pictured above:
“sherwood” 1620 × 910 linen, mahogany, walnut, moor oak
” M O S T L Y R E D “, 2011
wooden rug with dyed wood
pendant lamp, 85 x 85 x 35 cm material: wooden textile, steel
“Wooden Textiles” convey a new tactile experience. We are used to experience wood as a hard material; we know the feeling of walking across wooden floors, to touch a wooden tabletop or to feel the bark of a tree. But we usually don’t experience a wooden surface which can be manipulated by touch.
“Wooden Textiles” is a material that is half wood-half textile, between hard and soft, challenging what can be expected from a material or category. It looks and smells familiar but feels strange, as it is able to move and form in unexpected ways.
The processes to transform wood into a flexible wooden surface is its deconstruction into pieces, which are then attached to a textile base. Depending on the geometry and size of the tiles each design shows a different behavior regarding flexibility and mobility. There are various possible applications, for example as floorings, curtains, drapes, plaids, upholstery or parts of furniture.
via Futurotextiles coverage at Cool Hunting
If a monopolist did what the wireless carriers did as a group, neither the public nor government would stand for it. For our scrutiny and regulation of monopolists is well established—just ask Microsoft or the old AT&T. But when three or four firms pursue identical practices, we say that the market is “competitive” and everything is fine. To state the obvious, when companies act in parallel, the consumer is in the same position as if he were dealing with just one big firm. There is, in short, a major blind spot in our nation’s oversight of private power, one that affects both consumers and competition.
This blind spot is of particular significance during an age when oligopolies, not monopolies, rule. Consider Barry Lynn’s 2011 book, “Cornered,” which carefully detailed the rising concentration and consolidation of nearly every American industry since the nineteen-eighties. He found that dominance by two or three firms “is not the exception in the United States, but increasingly the rule.” Consumers, easily misled by product labelling, often don’t even notice that products like sunglasses, pet food, or numerous others come from just a few giants. For example, while drugstores seem to offer unlimited choices in toothpaste, just two firms, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive, control more than eighty per cent of the market (including seemingly independent brands like Tom’s of Maine).
Firms shouldn’t be penalized for practices that are parallel but not actually harmful, nor for mere “parallel pricing.” An interpretation of law that makes nearly every gas-station owner into a felon is questionable.
But just as the nineteen-seventies went too far, the reaction to the nineteen-seventies has also gone too far. As part of a general retreat from prosecution of all but the most extreme antitrust violations, the United States has nowadays nearly abandoned scrutiny of oligopoly behavior, leaving consumers undefended. That’s a problem, because oligopolies do an awful lot that’s troubling.
Consider “parallel exclusion,” or efforts by an entire industry to keep out would-be newcomers, a pervasive problem. Over the eighties and nineties, despite “deregulation,” the established airlines like American and United managed to keep their upstart competitors out of important business routes by collectively controlling the “slots” at New York, Chicago, and Washington airports. Visa and MasterCard spent the nineties trying to stop American Express from getting into the credit-card industry, by creating parallel policies (“exclusionary rules”) and blacklisting any bank that might dare deal with AmEx. It was only thanks to the happenstance that both put their exclusions in writing that the Justice Department was able to do anything about the problem.
The rise of the American oligopoly makes it an important time to reëxamine how antitrust enforcers and regulators think about concentrated industries. Here’s a simple proposal: when members of a concentrated industry act in parallel, their conduct should be treated like that of a hypothetical monopoly. Of course, that doesn’t make anything necessarily illegal, but abusive or anticompetitive conduct shouldn’t get a free pass just because there are three companies involved instead of one. (I have co-authored a detailed academic paper, with former New York antitrust bureau chief Scott Hemphill, about how this should play out.)
Ric Hjertberg’s blog Wheel Fanatyk is a wonderful source of articulate commentary on excellent tools.
Unexpected Treasure - an antique rim drill
“NE Cycle Supply” on one side, “Keene, NH” on the other.
A central crank moves the four arms in and out at once to adjust rim diameter. To the left of the circular grill-like disk … a selector from which you choose the rim’s drilling: 24, 28, 32, 36, 40. Each of the disks circumferential rings has small radial bars, spaced at the intervals needed for each spoke number. When you choose a number, the selector locates at the ring with precisely spaced bars that index the rim for perfect hole location.
In person, the machine is surprisingly small. It looks more like a sewing machine than factory tool. Do any of you know about it? Is there a New England Cycle Supply catalog from early days that lists and describes this beauty? Please offer any insights.
I scooped it up against any monetary objections. Back in Seattle, it’s now completely disassembled. In the next couple weeks I will strip and paint it in black enamel.
Can’t wait to try it on a rim and show you the finished product. What a gem. Designed to work on bicycle parts but built with the spare elegance and efficiency of a bike. Human powered, as nice to look at as to use. Indescribably lovely.
A piano keyboard can be used as a calendar mnemonic: If the notes in the chromatic scale from F to E are assigned to the calendar months from January to December, then the white keys correspond to months with 31 days, the black keys to those with 30 days or fewer.
We embarked on the banality of partings. Farewells and separations never, I find, quite live up to the drama they promise to afford. Human beings (I find again) have a tendency to feel the wrong quantity of emotion, or indeed the wrong emotion, so that life is an endless process of liquid being poured into and exchanged between badly designed containers, the wrong color, the wrong shape, the wrong size. Of all human talents the most evenly shared is the gift of incongruity.
The Debt to Pleasure
by John Lanchester
Henry Holt and Company, 1996
… We talked about the difference between the two most important cultural figures in the modern world, the artist and the murderer. I said that one of the impulses which underlies all art is the desire to make a permanent impact on the world, to leave a trace of selfhood behind. The Sistine Chapel ceiling declares lots of things but one of them is the simple statement Michelangelo Was Here. It is one of art’s most basic functions, shared by a youth carving his initials into a park bench as well as by Henry Moore leaving those dreary blobs of his all over the place or by Leonardo or whomever—though since I mention him Leonardo could have done with a bit more desire to make a permanent impression or he wouldn’t have wasted his time painting frescoes on unfixable surfaces and designing unbuildable flying machines. However, the artist’s desire to leave a memento of himself is as directly comprehensible as a dog’s action in urinating on a tree. The murderer, though, is better adapted to the reality and to the aesthetics of the modern world, because instead of leaving a presence behind him—the achieved work, whether in the form of a painting or a book or a daubed signature—he leaves behind him something just as final and just as acheived: an absence. Where somebody used to be, now nobody is. What more irrefutable proof of one’s having lived can there be than to have taken a human life and replaced it with nothingness, with a few fading memories? To take a stone, throw it into the pond, and ensure that it casts no ripple—surely that’s more of an achievement than any, say, of my brother’s?
“I said secondly that underlying the artist’s disinterestedness, his creation of an abstract and impersonal artifact, lies a brutal determination to assert the self. If the artist’s first desire is to leave something behind him, his next is simply to take up more space—to earn a disproportionate amount of the world’s attention. This is routinely called ‘ego,’ but that term is for too mundane to encompass the raging, megolomanical desire, the greed, the human deficiency that underpins the creation of everything from a Matisse papercut to a Fabergé egg. Hitler a failed painter, Mao a failed poet; the same urges underlay their earlier and their later careers; but we’re so used to this boring perception that we fail to see its true meaning, which is not that the megalomaniac is a failed artist, but that the artist is a timid megalomaniac, venting himself in the easy sphere of fantasy rather than the unforgiving arena of real life—Kandinsky a failed Stalin, Klee a Barbie manqué. Why don’t people take Bakunin more seriously? Destruction is as great a passion as creation, and it is as creative, too—as visionary and as assertive of the self. The artist is the oyster, but the murderer is the pearl.
“Then I said what follows from that and what all artists know, that what they give to their creation and to the world can never be matched by the world’s response. The inward, solitary, monstrous labor of creation makes the artist feel as if he has earned the universe’s attention, earned its love. But the world isn’t interested—it’s too busy being the world to do more than vouchsafe the occasional glimpse of its approval, its interest. The adulation of a group of admirers here, the gift of a patron there, prizes and the regard of an audience—these can never have the effect intended, never requite the artist’s fundamental demand, which is for simple, universal, unqualified adoration. The artist says to the cosmos: all I ask is infinite love—is that so very wrong? And the cosmos doesn’t even bother to respond. The cosmos is photosynthesis, interstellar dust clouds, bus timetables, prison riots, pi and e and cloud formations. No artist who has ever lived in the history of the world has ever felt adequately attended to for his labors. End result: rage, resentment, bitterness. Who built the country house in Yeats’s poem? ‘Bitter, violent men.’ Quite right. And who expresses, who represents, this bitterness better, the artist or the killer? Merely to ask the question is to answer it.
“And another unanswerable truth: who can deny that murder is the defining act of our century, as other centuries might have been defined by prayer or mendicancy? Who can put hand on heart and say that the characteristic gesture of the twentieth century is not that of one person killing another? Fifty million dead in the Second World War alone, not to mention the Great War and all the other wars, civil and international, man-made famines, individual killings, spouse-murderings, killings of strangers, revenge killings, race killings, the murders we commit all the time, the murder we are committing even as we sit here, of indifference to those being murdered, I could go on. Every murder contains within itself all murder; each individual act that takes another person’s life is the microcosm of our century, as well as another death to add to the total. How can any work of art compete with that, or speak to it, or dare to exist in the face of it at all?
“And then one must also face the sheer naturalness of murder, the unnaturalness of art. Paintings and music, books—they’re so arbitrary, so overcomplicated, so full of invention and untruth, compared with the simple human act of taking a life because you don’t want someone to carry on existing. There are occasional glimpses of an understanding of this in the world’s history. During wartime for example the naturalness of killing is nurtured, encouraged, praised, cultivated—understood. But there are other glimpses, too. Under the Code Napoléon, to murder a nagging spouse when the mistral had been blowing for more than seven days was not to be considered a capital crime. That imples, thrillingly, an understanding that the murder of a spouse is sometimes to be, if not actively condoned, then comprehended, allowed for, explained, empathized with—in other words, it is to understand that the murder is in some sense natural. As Confucius says, under some circumstances murder can be forgiven; but unreasonableness never is. And what could be more reasonable than to permit oneself to act on one’s own impulses? What act is more authentically human than murder? Surely not the contortings and strenuosities of the self-appointed priesthood of art, whose attempts at permanence and objectivity and making are at their core, a kind of denial of our common humanity. In the Rome of the Caesars, when human nature was allowed fully to flourish and to find unfettered self-expression, murder was endemic—Augustus being poisoned by Olivia, who murdered her nephew Germanicus, her sisters, and anyone else who crossed her path; Tiberius doing very similar; Caligula raping and murdering at will; Claudius being poisoned by his wife Agrippina. That’s the reality of human nature.
“Besides, the distinction between deed and thought is ludicrously exaggerated in our culture. Christ was right: if you look at a woman with lust you have committed adultery. If you take murder into your heart you have committed it; anyone who has ever harbored a murderous impulse is close, so very close, to the act itself; there is only the thinness of a cigarette paper between the action and the idea—and perhaps, since science tells us that experiences in dreams are, in terms of brain chemistry, as ‘real’ as events outside them, perhaps anyone who has ever had a thought of murder has in a real sense perpetrated it. This is understood in all tyrannical regimes, where people are murdered not just for plotting against the tyrant but for thinking about plots, or for looking as if they might be about to. All tyrants know that they must kill, not just rebellion, but the idea of rebellion; even the possibility of the idea. To kill hope and the image of hope. No work of art has taken us as far into the heart of man as this. And everybody murders their parents anyway. It’s a fact so obvious nobody wants to admit it. We outlive them, we surpass them; we murder them by our simplest happiness. And if we don’t, then they have murdered us. There, I said it to Bartholemew, have I given you enough reasons?
The Debt to Pleasure
by John Lanchester
Henry Holt and Company, 1996
Only the style of the book would remain consistent, driving, forceful, its stable nature underlying the chaos and limitless mutability of everything else in the narrative—though it would no longer be clear if the book was a narrative since the essential mechanisms of propulsion, surprise, development, would seem largely to be forgotten. An initially lighthearted effect, comically incongruous and ingeniously pulled off, would grow in its intensity; gradually, as the stability of plot and character fell away, and all certainties became erased, the work would become more troubling, the undercurrent of emotion and anxiety both more forcefully present and at the same time more unclear, until the appalled readers, unable to understand what was happening either to them or to the story, and also unable to stop reading, would watch the wholesale metastasization of the characters into one another, the collapse of the very idea of plot, of structure, of movement, of self, so that when they finally put the book down they are aware only of having been protagonists in a deep and violent dream whose sole purpose is their incurable unease.
The Debt to Pleasure
by John Lanchester
Henry Holt and Company, 1996