Los Angeles Plays Itself is a dazzling cinematic essay by the filmmaker Thom Andersen about how the city of Los Angeles is portrayed in films. Watch it now on YouTube: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 [more inside]
Why I call myself a socialist, by Wallace Shawn.
The Hot Spotters examines the possibilities of a strange new approach to health care: to look for the most expensive patients in the system and then direct resources and brainpower toward helping them. — by Atul Gawande [more inside]
Born This Way! Photo/essay submissions that capture men and women, innocently, showing the beginnings of their innate gay selves.
"On GChat, I type many things – sincere and not – that I would never say in person because it’s easy, when typing certain things into a box, to forget whom you are typing to." From Thought Catalog, writer Caroline Bankoff lists 45 things she thinks about when she thinks about google's chat service. [more inside]
Why does Futura work here but Slanted Futura doesn't? Enter FONTS IN USE: A breakdown, explanation and appreciation of type design out in the real world.
At first glance it may seem mediocre but over time you see why such a vehicle would inspire so much loyalty and devotion.
During the month of December, tor.com has been publishing essays on the Twelve Doctors of Christmas. Today artist Pia Guerra gives us the gift of an extended metaphor: the fifth Doctor as a Volvo. [more inside]
From June until August they hid out in their camp in the scrub oak up in the foothills, avoiding the search parties. Then they began coming down into the city by day, passing within a quarter-mile of Elizabeth's home. They walked the streets dressed as religious pilgrims from the New Testament. Mitchell had a long beard and a walking stick. Elizabeth and Wanda covered everything but their eyes. And no one figured it out. This American Life contributor Scott Carrier profiles the Messianic cult of Brian David Mitchell, the abductor of 2002 media icon Elizabeth Smart.
Working on the Ending. Writer Gail Godwin reflects on the way she works now: "Inevitable for the old writer is the slowdown of word retrieval... All it once took was the slightest tug at the bell for the vigorous servant, accompanied by backup synonyms, to report for duty... You can rail at your 'senior moment' like those tiresome people who bring a conversation to a halt because they can’t remember the name of a place or person... Or you can leave a blank, to be filled in later... For me, a consolation prize of word delay has been an increased intolerance for the threadbare phrase. I don’t want anyone on my pages to 'burst into tears' or 'just perceptibly' do anything, ever again."
What Matters (Flash based) is a book published in 2008 combining imagery and essays to tell stories highlighting contemporary issues benefiting from both images and text. The book was edited and curated by David Elliot Cohen (Wikipedia) including 17 essays (TOC, pdf) covering such issues as the Price of Oil Addiction (pdf) and Shop till You Drop (pdf). The complete book is available for free as a series of PDF documents. [more inside]
“It is my hope that this essay will initiate such a conversation. As for me, I'm planning to retire. I'm tired of helping you make your students look competent.”
They Live, John Carpenter's 1988 cult classic, is a fairly subversive piece of work. The film, which combines sci-fi, horror and satire -- and includes one of the iconic fight scenes in movie history -- is an allegorical treatise on the evils of capitalism, set in a Los Angeles populated by evil, conspiratorial and wealthy aliens. The film, despite a mixed original reception, has developed a rabid fan-boy following over the last few decades, and now Jonathan Lethem, the author of "Motherless Brooklyn," "The Fortress of Solitude" and, more recently, "Chronic City" has written "They Live," a meticulous, scene-by-scene analysis of its many, many layers.
Game designer Raphael "Raph" Koster (Wiki) has republished his essay "The Fundamentals of Game Design." Koster was the lead designer for the progenitorial (and, in its time, wildly successful) MMORPG Ultima Online.
How downloading music has literally saved my life: a lightly punctuated personal essay about obesity and compulsion.
I didn’t put much stock in the possibility that a Dominican spiritualist working out of a basement in Union City, New Jersey, would have much to say about a lampshade that might have been made from human skin in a Nazi concentration camp. But there I was.... (via)
"Places like Picher are why Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980—better known as the Superfund bill." - Wired Magazine on the most toxic town in America, Picher, OK , and the people who still live there
In May, Jacob Lambert wrote in The Millions about the subversive messages hidden in classic children's books in the essay Are Picture Books Leading Our Children Astray? His conclusion: "What I previously considered whimsical trifles now reveal themselves as other things entirely: thinly-veiled endorsements of chaos, malfeasance, naïveté." Now Lambert's back, with: Again, I Ask: Are Picture Books Leading Our Children Astray? [more inside]
"Psychologists refer to this as the paradox of power. The very traits that helped leaders accumulate control in the first place all but disappear once they rise to power. Instead of being polite, honest and outgoing, they become impulsive, reckless and rude." Jonah Lehrer for The Wall Street Journal writes about recent findings on power, corruption, and authority and what can be done about it.
"The Interview was not a happy invention.... In the first place, the interviewer is the reverse of an inspiration, because you are afraid of him." An epic rant by Mark Twain, published for the first time this week. [more inside]
Postcards From Hell — For the last half-decade, the Fund for Peace, working with Foreign Policy, has been putting together the Failed States Index (the 2010 version is out), using a battery of indicators to determine how stable—or unstable—a country is. But as the photos here demonstrate, sometimes the best test is the simplest one: You'll only know a failed state when you see it. [more inside]
The Wisdom Of Rats - A personal essay on art and time and everything, by Charles Bowden for Harper's.
The Web Is Not A TV Channel is the latest in a series of admonitions for musical and marketing industry types from music blogger, record company founder and bass player Dave Allen. [more inside]
Back to the Land — an illustrated essay about giving thanks and food and joy and life and things to ponder and such by Maira Kalman. [more inside]
"I began bringing a camera along to work, photographing my surroundings. And as this project progressed and I slowly learned my craft, I became increasingly fascinated with other photographers who had been in a similar situation, those who had found themselves recording their own jobs: The Insiders [A tiny bit NSFW] ."
Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced.
Fear of Cycling, an essay in five parts: introduction, constructing fear of cycling, helmet promotion campaigns, new cycling spaces, making cycling strange.
Tim Kreider, known to MeFi for his cartoons and essays is now regularly contributing to the Happy Days blog at NYT. His latest essay The Referendum has what you'd expect of a cartoonist, mastery of the one and two liner and getting to a relevant point quickly.
An essay on the horrors of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, in the form of a Choose Your Own Adventure® story. [more inside]
Travel writer Sophia Dembling's essay Confessions of an Introverted Traveler on Worldhum received so much feedback that she's followed up with Six Tips for Introverted Travelers. I am now absolved for reading Jasper Fforde on the Champs-Élysées.
"To make off with hubby's fortune, yea, I think I heard of that happenin' once or twice around L.A. And… you want me to do what exactly?" He found the paper bag he'd brought his supper home in and got busy pretending to scribble notes on it, because straight-chick uniform, makeup supposed to look like no makeup or whatever, here came that old well-known hard-on Shasta was always good for sooner or later. Does it ever end, he wondered. Of course it does. It did. Thomas Pynchon's next novel, the 416-page Inherent Vice, is described by Penguin Press as "part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon — private eye Doc Sportello comes, occasionally, out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era as free love slips away and paranoia creeps in with the L.A. fog." While we wait for its August 4 publication, we can read an essay on the dystopian musical he co-wrote at Cornell or watch a clip of that movie they made of Gravity's Rainbow. [more inside]
It was a dark and stormy campaign... A film theorist's thoughts on the narratives of Barack Obama and John McCain. [more inside]
When Books Could Change Your Life: an excellent essay on Children's literature by Tim Kreider, (previously), on the importance of reading as cultural socialization.
The Kindergarchy: An essay on modern parenting.
The End Of The World As We Know It. If you want to imagine the catastrophe - how you would cope, what would you do to save yourself and your family - where do you turn for advice?... The idea of dying together, all of us, in some ways seems less appalling than the thought of going alone. Via.
How I Want To Be Remembered by Jack Handey. He was fabulously wealthy, but he would pretend to be broke, and often tried to borrow cigarettes and money from people. Little did they know that those who gave him stuff would later be rewarded in his will, with jewels and antigravity helmets. You may know Jack Handey from his Deep Thoughts which first gained fame on as filler between sketches on Saturday Night Live. He is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker (scroll down this page for his other essays).
An essay by Bill Lawrence, creator of "Scrubs," on why he writes. It's part of a series: "Why We Write." [more inside]
English As A Second Language: "In which our heroine helps a Japanese friend find where the Goonies lived. Sort of." A recent essay from Emily's World, a biweekly column written by Emily Maloney, at The Smart Set.
"The Worst Addiction of Them All", by Kurt Vonnegut, 1983. A classic and prescient essay on addiction to war.