Recommendations for December 15, 2013

Late yet again. It is the end of the semester, which means both that I had lots of grading to do and rapidly-declining will to do much of anything at all. But, still, I think this is a selection of things worth your time and attention.

 

Video: “Inside the Secret Shipping Industry” TED Talk by Rose George

I am generally a little ambivalent about TED talks; they obviously get a lot of smart people with interesting things to say, but the short, get-to-the-punchline format and the emphasis on presentation tend to encourage the reduction of ideas or issues to simplified nuggets. In this case, though, I think Rose George uses the format well, laying out a series of questions rather than trying to provide answers. Also, since I posted an excerpt from her book on this topic last time, it seemed appropriate to follow up with the video. Here, she focuses not so much on containers themselves, but on the related issue of how little most of us know about shipping and the sea in general; you will probably be surprised several times by what she has to say.

 

 

Article: “The Death Dealer” by Matt Stroud

Apparently I should just start posting all the feature stories from The Verge, because they continue to do great stuff. This one is about James Arthur Ray, a self-help guru/scam artist who was featured in the film version of The Secret, and promotes a similar kind of “if you will succeed if you just believe hard enough” approach to the pursuit of happiness and spiritual fulfillment. Ray became famous because of his appearance in the The Secret and subsequent Oprah-approved status; he became infamous for leading a large group of people into a pseudo-Native American sweat lodge ceremony, which he ran in an unsafe manner, resulting in three deaths and many hospitalizations. This is the story of where he came from and how he convinced so many people to follow him even when his antics became dangerous.

 

Article: “There’s a Reason They Call Them “Crazy Ants'” by Jon Mooallem

Holy crap, this is terrifying. A new invasive species of ant, apparently imported from Brazil, swarming over five states (primarily Texas) in such vast and implacable swarms that they die in piles whose heights are measured in inches and destroy electrical appliances. The government took years to identify them and classify them as a pest, and now the exterminator for whom they are— depending on whom you ask— named says he thinks it is now too late to do anything to stop them. If this doesn’t make you feel things crawling on your skin, you are much less susceptible to the power of suggestion than I am.

 

Article: “I’m Your Lawyer, Mr. Grinch” by Linda Holmes

If the Grinch attempted to bring a lawsuit for defamation against the residents of Whoville for the contents of the cartoon’s most prominent song, how would his chosen law firm respond? This is an extremely funny, and surprisingly plausible, answer to that question. My favorite point, which gives you the flavor of the whole:

Your brain is full of spiders, you’ve got garlic in your soul

Again, we suspect a court will conclude this is hyperbole. We could employ a neurologist to establish via digital imaging that your brain contains no spiders, but we suspect it will be unhelpful. Even more so, the difficulty in asking a medical professional to evaluate a soul for the presence of foreign substances makes the likelihood of success there small. We could consult a member of the clergy, but bringing religion into civil litigation is often unwise.

 

Album Stream: Rival Dealer by Burial

There aren’t many artists who can release three-song Eps every few months, rather than a full album or anything remotely approaching a “single” in the traditional sense, and still create such a sense of anticipation about each and every one. This is actually a pretty significant evolution of Burial’s signature sound; it couldn’t really be anyone else, but the first track, in particular, is quite a revision of a familiar template. Since the label officially put the whole release up to stream, I have no qualms about doing so as well, but, obviously, if you like what you here you should go buy it.

#1 “Rival Dealer”

#2 “Hiders”

#3 “Come Down to Us”

Via Pitchfork

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