Chris Higgins is the author of The Blogger Abides and writes for This American Life, The Atlantic, Breakfast on Mars, and The Magazine. You can follow him at chrishiggins.com.
"A long, long time ago...I can still remember how that music used to make me smile." So begins Don McLean's "American Pie," a 1972 song about the death of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, J.P. Richardson ("The Big Bopper"), and pilot Roger Peterson in a tragic plane crash. If you don't know the full story, check out Miss Cellania's excellent post about the day the music died. Below, check out McLean's song, and some performances by the artists who died fifty-one years ago today.
"American Pie" - Don... READ ON
In what is nominally a book review, chess grandmaster (and lately, politician) Garry Kasparov discusses how computers have changed chess. Famously defeated by IBM's Deep Blue in 1997, Kasparov railed against computer chess in the 80's and 90's, but now he has some perspective on the matter, and shares his deep knowledge of the subject in The Chess Master and the Computer. This is a really interesting article for those interested in chess, computers, or other games (like poker) where computers are... READ ON
(Image of Machu Picchu courtesy of Martin St-Amant - Wikipedia.)
Airing tonight (February 2, 2010) at 8pm on PBS stations: NOVA's Ghosts of Machu Picchu. Set your DVRs now! If you miss the program, it will be streaming online starting February 3.
Machu Picchu is an Inca engineering marvel: located 8,000 feet above sea level, it contains 200 stone structures placed on a complex set of roughly 700 terraces. What's most surprising is not its buildings, though -- it's all about what was built... READ ON
This is brilliant: British journalist/humorist Charlie Brooker presents a recipe for reporting the news in the two-minute clip below. From the video: "It starts here, with a lackluster establishing shot of a significant location. Next, a walky-talky preamble from the auteur, pacing steadily towards the lens, punctuating every other sentence with a hand gesture, and ignoring all the prigs milling around him like he's gliding through the [censored] Matrix, before coming to a halt and posing a question:... READ ON
I'm going on the record right now: I hate book jackets.* These thin paper protectors look pretty in the store, and they help to differentiate books visually. But practically speaking, I can't stand them -- too easy to tear, lose, or crumple! And if there's one thing I hate, it's a torn or crumpled piece of paper.
My friend Lyza recently asked the question of her readers: Do you remove book jackets? She included a survey in her blog entry, and the current winning answer, by a mile, is "Yes,... READ ON
So the National Board of Review honored Wes Anderson, director of Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and most recently The Fantastic Mr. Fox, with a Special Filmmaking Achievement award for Mr. Fox. Previous recipients have included Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby and Peter Jackson for Lord of the Rings, among others. Rather than accept the award live, Anderson accepted via a stop-motion animated film of himself depicted as an animal (a brown fox, I presume? commenter Dominique nails it: a weasel).... READ ON
I'm a longtime Morrissey fan. From the first time I heard The Queen is Dead by Morrissey's band The Smiths in the 80's, I was hooked. Morrissey's music is generally very maudlin (if not straight-up depressing), but somehow it's also hopeful and sweet. Below I have collected some terrific covers of songs by Morrissey and Smiths for your mope-rock enjoyment.
"There Is a Light..." -Neil Finn & Johnny Marr
Neil Finn of Crowded House is joined by Johnny Marr (of The Smiths and lately of Modest Mouse)... READ ON
Did you know that books are being pirated? I sure didn't -- I thought piracy was limited to music, movies, and software. But apparently there's a thriving online piracy scene for old-school books. And not just eBooks -- in many cases the books are scanned, converted to text via OCR software, and proof-read by the person doing the piracy (!). Author C. Max Magee, writing for his website The Millions, explored book piracy, asking some key questions: who's downloading these books, who's uploading them,... READ ON
"I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares," says Saul Bass, creator of many beautiful movie posters, logos, and other designs -- see above for a few iconic examples. Bass made a lasting mark on American graphic design with his bold designs and text treatments. You see his influence today in images that try to evoke a now-kitschy 50's or 60's vibe -- see the "Burn After Reading" poster, for example. See below for a brief interview (two minutes) with the man, which which he discusses making... READ ON
Six Norwegians, a Swede, and a parrot hop onto a raft...and sail roughly 4,300 miles in 101 days. Not much of a punchline, is it? But it happened, and indeed, the resulting story is riveting. Beset by sharks, whales, flying fish, and a general lack of sailing experience (at one point part of the crew is almost lost when they take off in a dinghy to film the raft...and the raft rapidly floats away; at another point the cook sets the raft on fire when he falls asleep with the cookstove burning), the crew... READ ON
The most shoplifted food item in the U.S. is candy.