A stunningly beautiful visual representation of an abridged version of David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement address to the graduating class of Kenyon College.
The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.
One reason the area now know as Washington D.C. was chosen to be the location of the national capital was because it was roughly the geographic center of the original thirteen states.
If the United States had to relocate its capital using this rule today, where would it be? Three possible answers:
Throwing Alaska and Hawaii in the mix really changes things, Alaska in particular. Alaska pulls the geographic center so far north and so far west that the geographic center is not even in US territory. It is in British Columbia, Canada, near Prince George.
Maybe the more reasonable solution is to take population into account. According to the 2010 census, the population center of the United States is near Plato Missouri.
This Google Map pins all three candidates for new United States national capital.
One more thing: when will I learn and remember the difference between capital and capitol? Likely never.
The New Yorker’s Matt Buchanan on the technology’s biggest problem:
There are not enough women working in technology and related fields; this is bad enough. But much of the culture itself is warped, as the harrowingly misogynist response to Richards clearly shows. (Or just consider the “shockingly sexist” launch of the Galaxy S4, the flagship phone of one of the biggest technology companies in the world.) Its effects are seen not only on the Internet, amidst the mostly anonymous hordes, but inside of Silicon Valley’s increasingly insular, I.P.O.-money-lined bubble. The mythos of its own unyielding, progressivist meritocracy is foundational; it cannot tolerate threats to its truth. So employees are quickly fired as press releases are fired off (even as male employees are not often fired for creating that atmosphere in the first place). In geek communities on the Internet, rape threats rain down in forums or on Twitter in response to moments when male privilege within those communities is called out or challenged. Behind that is a real sense of bereavement and victimization. At best, when that sexism is filtered through more benevolent intentions, we get “the forty hottest women in tech.”
Once again, J. Ryan Stradal writes a Super Bowl preview for people who don’t know— or care— about football. His previous previews are some of my favorite sports pieces, and this year’s is no different. Here is Stradal writing about the adversity Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49er’s quarterback, faced on and off the field:
Colin was drafted by the Cubs, offered numerous Division I scholarships in baseball, but only one in football, by the Nevada Wolfpack, who wanted him to play safety, not quarterback. By rights, Smith could argue, Colin shouldn’t even be here, but much of Colin’s journey—from being born to an unwed 19-year old mother to starting in the Super Bowl—is an unlikely one.
When he was six weeks old, Colin’s mother gave him up for adoption, and he joined the Wisconsin family of Rick and Teresa Kaepernick. The Kaepernicks had two children already, and having lost a pair of infant sons to congenital heart defects, badly wanted another child, and Colin, a mixed-race boy with an African-American father and a white mother, became the youngest and final Kaepernick child.
Colin grew up loving African-American music and culture (in middle school, he even got his hair braided like basketball star Allen Iverson) but was never curious about his biological parents. When he was a teenager, his mother told him everything she knew about his adoption and birth parents, but he wasn’t, and still isn’t, interested in meeting them. Since he’s become famous as the quarterback for the 49ers, his birth mother, Heidi Russo, 44, now of Thornton, Colorado, has come out of the ether and waged a public campaign to make her biological son’s acquaintance. Colin is not, as yet, willing to reciprocate. The Kaepernicks say they support any decision he makes.
The wonderfully delightful animated short, Paperman, which premiered before Wreck it Ralph. Wired has a story about its creation.
The first thing you notice about Paperman is how different it seems from most modern cartoons, not just because of the limited color palette and retro styling of the characters and the world they live in, but because it doesn’t look like the generic, quasi-photo-realistic CGI animation of everything from Pixar’s Brave to, well, Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph. It actually looks as if real people have created it, not machines, and that’s something we haven’t really seen in feature animation for years.
That’s intentional, according to the man behind the short. Director John Kahrs told Cartoon Brew that the origin of Paperman “really came out of working so much with Glen [Keane] on Tangled.” After looking at the work of Keane — a classic Disney animator who worked on The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast and Aladdin, among many other projects – Kahrs found himself with a new appreciation for traditional animation and drawing techniques. “I thought, Why do we have to leave these drawings behind? Why can’t we bring them back up to the front of the image again? Is there a way that CG can kinda carry along the hand drawn line in a way that we haven’t done before?”
>The answer was yes. It just required a technology that no one had actually created yet.
The night before my winter break started, I bought a copy of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. I have never been simultaneously so drawn into a story and its prose while being so challenged by it. The novel is about addiction, junior tennis, Quebec separatists, depression, and isolation. Don’t be put off by the nearly thousand pages of tiny text, followed by nearly one-hundred pages of footnotes— some of which go on for pages and have several footnotes of themselves. Anyone who is up to the challenge of Infinite Jest can already accept one of its first lessons: that such a challenge can be rewarding.
After finishing Infinite Jest, I turned to some of my favorite sources to gain more perspective. Jason Kottke has a particular fondness for the novel and has collected great links about it and David Foster Wallace. If you are interested in reading the novel, Kottke also created a guide with suggestions on how to come away from the experience with a better appreciate. Absolutely imperative are steps three and five (i.e. don’t skip the footnotes and use three bookmarks).
In September of 2008, Wallace committed suicide. I cannot tell how or by how much this fact changed my perception or understanding of Infinite Jest. In a reflection in The New Yorker, Jonathan Franzen writes about solitude and his relationship with Wallace. The piece’s backdrop is Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and the island that inspired his tale. Franzen’s account is powerful and heartbreaking.
I was doing a lot of different things at every moment. Even as I was crying, I was also scanning the ground for the missing piece of my tent, and taking my camera out of my pocket and trying to capture the celestial beauty of the light and the landscape, and damning myself for doing this when I should have been purely mourning, and telling myself that it was O.K. that I’d failed in my attempt to see the rayadito in what would surely be my only visit to the island—that it was better this way, that it was time to accept finitude and incompleteness and leave certain birds forever unseen, that the ability to accept this was the gift I’d been given and my beloved dead friend had not.
Also from The New Yorker comes a profile on Wallace, particularly his struggles to finish his third novel after quitting anti-depressants. The novel— whose working title was The Pale King— explored themes of boredom and monotony set in in the I.R.S.
Finally, I enjoyed this edited interview with Wallace. He discusses commercial literature, the narrow appeal of his work, and our increasing tendency to avoid silence.
Jonathan Blow— maker of my favorite video game, Braid— does not have many nice things to say about modern video games. This profile details his complaints about exploitive games and his creative process.