Tuesday, December 27

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There is so much talk now about the art of the film that we may be in danger of forgetting that most of the movies we enjoy are not works of art.
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The unlikely people who’ve turned to selling weed in the recession.

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A young couple’s story.

Monday, December 26

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A doctor reveals widespread organ harvesting of prisoners in China.

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Walter Isaacson’s book is long, dull, often flat-footed, and humorless. It hammers on one nail, incessantly: that Steve Jobs was an awful man, but awful in the service of products people really liked (and eventually bought lots of) and so in the end his awfulness was probably OK.
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A profile of Carrie Brownstein, riot grrrl and creator of Portlandia.

Sunday, December 25

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A profile of John Williams.

Saturday, December 24

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TheFacebook, as it was then called, had just reached 1.5 million users:
In the end, Zuckerberg says, quarrels over money rarely come up because money is not their priority. “We’re in a really interesting place because if you look at the assets we have, we’re fucking rich,” Zuckerberg adds. “But if you look at like the cash and the amount of money we have to live with, we’re dirt poor. All the stuff we own is tied up in random assets” like servers and the company itself. “Living like we do now, it’s, like, not that big of a deal for us. We’re not like, Aw man, I wish I had a million dollars now. Because, like, we kind of like living like college students and being dirty. It’s fun."
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Coping with a brother’s suicide.

We tell stories about the dead in order that they may live, if not in body then at least in mind—the minds of those left behind. Although the dead couldn’t care less about these stories—all available evidence suggests the dead don’t care about much—it seems that if we tell them often enough, and listen carefully to the stories of others, our knowledge of the dead can deepen and grow. If we persist in this process, digging and sifting, we had better be prepared for hard truths; like rocks beneath the surface of a plowed field, they show themselves eventually.

Friday, December 23

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How Viennese psychologist Ernest Dichter transformed advertising:
What makes soap interesting? Why choose one brand over another? Dichter’s first contract was with the Compton Advertising Agency, to help them sell Ivory soap. Market research typically involved asking shoppers questions like “Why do you use this brand of soap?” Or, more provocatively, “Why don’t you use this brand of soap?” Regarding such lines of inquiry as useless, Dichter instead conducted a hundred so-called “depth interviews”, or open-ended conversations, about his subjects’ most recent scrubbing experiences. The approach was not unlike therapy, with Dichter mining the responses for encoded, unconscious motives and desires. In the case of soap, he found that bathing was a ritual that afforded rare moments of personal indulgence, particularly before a romantic date (“You never can tell,” explained one woman). He discerned an erotic element to bathing, observing that “one of the few occasions when the puritanical American [is] allowed to caress himself or herself [is] while applying soap.” As for why customers picked a particular brand, Dichter concluded that it wasn’t exactly the smell or price or look or feel of the soap, but all that and something else besides—that is, the gestalt or “personality” of the soap.
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In 2008, a 38-year old Oklahoma nurse whom I'll call Kelly adopted an eight-year old girl, "Mary," from Ethiopia. It was the second adoption for Kelly, following one from Guatemala. She'd sought out a child from Ethiopia in the hopes of avoiding some of the ethical problems of adopting from Guatemala: widespread stories of birthmothers coerced to give up their babies and even payments and abductions at the hands of brokers procuring adoptees for unwitting U.S. parents. Now, even after using a reputable agency in Ethiopia, Kelly has come to believe that Mary never should have been placed for adoption.
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Why it took more than a decade for the posthumous pardon of Tim Cole, even after another inmate confessed to the brutal crime that put Cole away.