Sunday, July 26, 2009

A.V. Club: recommended first comics

The A.V. Club is running a great Q&A on their site asking various folks which comic / graphic novel they would recommend for first-timers.

I'm pretty much a noob when it comes to comics; I didn't grow up reading them, and had the unfortunately mistaken notion early in life that they were for kids, and weren't serious reading. In fact, I didn't really start taking them seriously until I got to Japan, which has a well-known appreciation for all subjects presented in the manga format (surprising topics were Japanese history and economics). Staying with one of my friends in Hiroshima, I devoured much of his collection of The Sandman and Preacher while he was at work. Later, after I came to Stanford, I managed to finally read Watchmen (since it was in the library). They were beautiful and I loved the stories, but I still had a hard time trying to make up the distance between Archie and Frank Miller. As comic books because increasingly popularized in mainstream film and television, I was also sensitive to walking to a comic book store and being overtly judged by the superfans who work there.

There are a few on this list that I have been meaning to check out (e.g., "From Hell"), other ones that I've forgotten that I must check out (e.g., "The Dark Knight Returns"), and ones that I've never heard of that I want to now check out (e.g., "Pyongyang: A Journey In North Korea"). The A.V.'s feature is refreshing because it reminds me that people who truly love comics really want other people to love them, too, and that the gatekeeper stereotype is not universal (although, like indie rock, probably common):

Friday, July 24, 2009

rock out with your weißwurst out

Lederhosen-wearing karaoke singer @ Ellis Island Casino, Las Vegas

TED: Hans Rosling shows the best stats you've ever seen

This is an semi-old talk (from 2006), but I just saw it this morning. Hans Rosling is a professor in global health and a "regular" on the TED talk circuit (by that, I mean he's done 3 talks). However, he spends a lot of time talking about data and statistics. This has traditionally been a tune-out for me, but he does it in a way that is fresh and exciting. He's also a sword-swallower, so there you go.

This talk, "Hans Rosling shows the best stats you've ever seen" not only represents data is really exciting ways, it also presents the fallacy of the first-world imagination of developing nations: namely, that our view of "developing" countries is a mythology outdated by about 40 years; and that we need to approach our definition of developing country in a more nuanced way. It's accompanied by some super kick-ass visuals and animations that really illustrate his points.

My favorite quotes from this -

On HIV strategies for Africa:
"...that's dangerous, to use average data, because there is such a lot of difference within countries...The 20 percent poorest in Niger is out there [points to location off the chart] and the 20 percent richest in South Africa is there, and yet we tend to discuss on what solutions there should be in Africa...And you can't discuss universal access to HIV [medicine] for that quintile up there with the same strategy as down here."
On advancement over the last 40 years, and the fastest way to the top:
"...the speed of development is very, very different, and countries are moving more or less in the same rate as money and health, but it seems that you can move much faster if you are healthy first than if you are wealthy first."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Casio EX-FC100 high-speed camera

For people more up-to-date about consumer electronics than I am, this is old news. But W and I saw commercials for this baby in Japan, and have been drooling over it ever since.

Casio EX-FC100 high-speed digital still camera

One thing that I do know about high-speed cameras is that they are expensive, and generally out of reach for the average consumer. This little guy is $349.99 (also available in silver), and has the following features:
  • 9.1 megapixels

  • 5X optical zoom

  • 720p HD movies

  • high-speed video up to 1000 fps

  • image stabilization

W wants to use it to review his golf swing. I want to drop things from the roof and watch them break in slow-motion. It's a win-win!

peach pie

I finally broke in my new ceramic pie dish (birthday present from Brooke). I decided to make a new pie, and since it's pit fruit season, I went for peach.

Peach Pie

I used this recipe. It came out well, although I should have baked it for a wee bit longer and hotter (I turned it down to 400 instead of 425 because of my fear that the crust would burn). The resultant pie was delicious, but runny. Oh well. It looks pretty!

Peach Pie

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mother Jones, "This Is Your War On Drugs"

I used to subscribe to Mother Jones, but let my subscription lapse because I found myself reliably despairing after reading each issue (so much bad stuff in the world, but not really good suggestions on what to do with the information).

I still value the magazine as a source of investigative and passionate journalism, so I visit the website occasionally to check out the articles. This month's issue is focused on the deteriorating American "War on Drugs."

Maybe it's because I'm from Nevada, which has legalized prostitution in parts of the state. Maybe it's because I've adapted a "let's just try to fix it if it's broken" perspective based on my job. Regardless, my opinion is that the current "War on Drugs" is failing, and it's failing hard. Everyone's heart is in the right place (trying to reduce usage), but the method (harsh sentencing laws; equal punishments despite varying severity of different drugs - there's no way that marijuana should be on the same level as heroin; limited policies to prevent drug addiction in the first place; and the dizzying increase in violence across the U.S.-Mexican border) has got to be re-thought.

Mother Jones' editors, Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery, wrote a short article about what a sensible drug policy approach might look like. Here's an excerpt:
What would a fact-based drug policy look like? It would put considerably more money into treatment, the method proven to best reduce use. It would likely leave in place the prohibition on "hard" drugs, but make enforcement fair (no more traffickers rolling on hapless girlfriends to cut a deal. No more Tulias). And it would likely decriminalize but tightly regulate marijuana, which study after study shows is less dangerous or addictive than cigarettes or alcohol, has undeniable medicinal properties, and isn't a gateway drug to anything harder than Doritos.

Maybe this would work. Maybe it wouldn't. But all I know is, whatever we've been doing for the last 40 years needs to change. Hopefully, with our new drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, will be brave enough and have the support needed to do this.

merged japanese temple

Takayama, Japan

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Canada, c. 1901

I've never been to Canada, and I'm sure things have changed a bunch in the last 108 years, but these photochrom prints from the Library of Congress really have me planning my next vacation!




Heath Ledger in Vanity Fair, August 2009

The August 2009 issue of Vanity Fair has a cover story on Heath Ledger titled, "The Last of Heath," which looks at the actor's final months of life. The website also includes a series of photos that Bruce Weber took in 2000 of Heath Ledger, while he was filming A Knight's Tale.

I love this one of him, playing the accordion:

Saturday, July 4, 2009

land of overcast skies

Sorry for the lack of posting; I've been in Japan for the last 12 days, and am still trying to process all the photos. Will be posting more details in later posts, but in the meantime, here's my attempt at a stop-motion video of a dude paragliding at @ Yuigahama Beach in Kamakura: