Thursday, July 24, 2008

Diversions, Curiosities and Miscellaneous Points of Interest

I found everything linked to here interesting, fun, beautiful or otherwise worthy of attention. It's all non-politics, because that's the mood I'm in right now. And some of these links are old (in internet years), although I think none are the worse for that. Enjoy.

Twelve youtubes of Tom Lehrer in concert, playing some of his classics. If you love Tom Lehrer -- or if you have no idea who he is -- check these out. Really.

Alison Bechdel's "Compulsory Reading": if you've missed this fabulous strip by the brilliant cartoonist Alison Bechdel, go read it. It's compulsory.*

Five proofs of the existence of Santa Claus in the mode of Thomas Aquinas. It's terrific. My favorite is probably the utterly-inarguable number four:
The existence of Santa Claus Can be proved in five ways... The fourth way is taken from the grades which are found in Christmas spirit. Indeed, in this world, among men there are some of more and some of less Christmas spirit. But "more" and "less" is said of diverse things according as they resemble in their diverse ways something which is the "maximum." Therefore there must be something which has the most Christmas spirit, and this we call Santa Claus.
Read the rest.

• Unlike many superheroes, Batman has no superpowers; therefore, in theory, his exploits could happen. Right? Scientific American investigates the realism of Batman, and concludes "Batman could exist -- but not for long."

• Kitty Genovese's brutal murder with 38 witnesses looking on and doing nothing -- which became a modern parable of apathy and indifference -- is mentioned in a lot of history books, although (as for many, I suspect) it's most vivid from its role in art such as Harlan Ellison's "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" and Moore & Gibbons's Watchmen. Well, a contemporary investigation shows that the mythic aspect -- the 38 indifferent bystanders -- may be largely a myth, originating in the early NY Times article that brought it to the public's attention. The author argues that the police were most likely called, possibly many times (it was back before such calls were tape recorded) and that few of the witnesses understood -- or, even, had reason to understand -- what was in progress. Worth a read if you've heard of this famous case.

The Big Lebowski has not been served well by for-TV editing. If you know the movie (and if you don't, it's just brilliant, go see it), this youtube is absolutely hilarious. (Maybe even if you don't know it... but I find it hard to judge that.)

Classic photos re-done in Logo. (In particular for fans of Vik Muniz's memory series.)

Photos from space -- stunningly beautiful. (via)

The New York Times reprints some classic Mad magazine "fold-ins". Jeeze these are fun. (In reference to this profile of their creator, Al Jaffe, interesting in its own right.)

• If you find it interesting (as I do) that "18 is the only number (other than 0) that is twice the sum of its digits", then check out this page on What's special about this number? If not -- don't.

• Comics geekery links (probably of specialized interest):
- 6 Creepiest Comic Book Characters of All Time (particularly funny)
- Wolverine from the 50's (You really need the background for this one)

• A detailed comparison of Cricket and Baseball on Wikipedia.

• Always-thoughtful blogger (and college professor) Tim Burke thinks about why negative feelings/stereotypes about academia have purchase in our culture. His commentators also weigh in interestingly. (For more interesting Burke blogging, check out his thoughts inspired by the recent book The Ten Cent Plague.)

* I make no apologies.


Michael A. Burstein said...

I actually mention the Genovese case in my essay in Webslinger, in which I point out that the myth of what happened isn't the case.

Stephen said...

I haven't seen that piece -- don't suppose it's online?