Jonathan Meades reviews how the UK, with its historically rooted fast food culture, is rapidly catching up to the US in fast food’s associated dismal results. (The half hour program is broken into three segments; see the two leftmost related videos after part 1.)
“ Each of the [Google Lunar X Prize] teams I know about (there are many others I don’t know about, so this generalization may be weak) is building a little Apollo Program, spending a LOT of money to launch an ambitious lander and rover with the promise of cracking open space, starting whole new industries, getting in on the bottom floor for a whole new economy. Only it won’t, for the most part, work out that way. ”
As I noted, I never got around to an interface overview, but it was all about visuotactile interfaces anyway, chiefly multitouch and e-paper. Here, Danger sound designer Peter Drescher writes about the future of the mobile audio interface. That he has interesting ideas on the topic is foreshadowed by the fact that a cell phone company even has a sound designer, and that he is it.
This is the most interesting article on O’Reilly Digital Media since Peter Drescher’s previous article on the sound design of the Sidekick. The Sidekick’s low battery tone is a hallmark of interface design, and I don’t even have a Sidekick.
I wanted to write about McLuhan’s page 69 test earlier. I found once it illustrated the differences in two particular computer nonfiction titles very well.
I didn’t manage to write the post before Kottke posted this link. This blog by Marshal Zeringue complements his Campaign for the American Reader by asking authors to explore their books through their 69th pages. Here’s Richard K. Morgan, an author of postcyberpunk noir I’ve read regularly, on his novel Thirteen that I’ve not yet gotten.
“The bill is still in Congress, and hasn’t made it into law yet, but it’s worthwhile to be prepared for a prohibition on Mars. There are ways for NASA to continue its human spaceflight research and development without technically breaking the law.”
“ At the end of October, Nobel Intent reported on a surprising astronomical event; periodic comet Holmes (17P) brightened over one million-fold over the course of a single day. … While a theory has been put forward, and Hubble has provided unparalleled detail into the nature of the nucleus, it has not been able to confirm the exact cause of this sudden outburst. ”
Speaking of documentaries, the new film King Corn is about the huge proportion of our national diet that we derive from corn.
The exposure of corn as the fuel in our food system was one of the most compelling parts of the hugely acclaimed The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Author Michael Pollan introduces us to George Naylor, an Iowan struggling to run the farm his grandfather brought into the family in 1919, early in that section on “industrial” food:
The day I showed up was supposed to be the only dry one all week, so George and I spent most of it in the cab of his tractor, trying to get acquainted and get his last 160 acres of corn planted at the same time; a week or two later he’d start in on the soybeans. The two crops take turns in these fields year after year, in what has been the classic Corn Belt rotation since the 1970s. (Since that time soybeans have become the second leg supporting the industrial food system: It too is fed to livestock and now finds its way into two-thirds of all processed foods.) For most of the afternoon I sat on a rough cushion George had fashioned for me from crumpled seed bags, but after a while he let me take the wheel.
Back and forth and back again, a half a mile in each direction, planting corn feels less like planting, or even driving, than stitching an interminable cloak, or covering a page with the same sentence over and over again. The monotony, compounded by the roar of a diesel engine well past its prime, is hypnotic after a while. Every pass across this field, which is almost but not quite dead flat, represents another acre of corn planted, another thirty thousand seeds tucked into one of the eight furrows being simultaneously etched into the soil by pairs of stainless steel disks; a trailing roller then closes the furrows over the seed.
The seed we were planting was Pioneer Hi-Bred’s 34H31, a strain that the catalog described as “an adaptable hybrid with solid agronomics and yield potential.” The lack of hype, notable for a seed catalog, probably reflects the fact that 34H31 does not contain the “YieldGard gene,” the Monsanto-developed line of genetically engineered corn that Pioneer is currently pushing: The genetically modified 34B98, on the same page, promises “outstanding yield potential.” Despite its promises, Naylor, unlike many of his neighbors, doesn’t plant GMOs (genetically modified organisms). He has a gut distrust of the technology (“They’re messing with three billion years of evolution”) and doesn’t think it’s worth the extra twenty-five dollars a bag (in technology fees) they cost. “Sure, you might get a yield bump, but whatever you make on the extra corn goes right back to cover the premium for the seed. I fail to see why I should be laundering money for Monsanto.” As Naylor sees it, GMO seed is just the latest chapter in an old story: Farmers eager to increase their yields adopt the latest innovation, only to find that it’s the companies selling the innovations who reap the most from the gain in the farmer’s productivity.
This new film is by Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, who undertook their own corn adventure: they grew their own acre of corn in Iowa, to discover that same life cycle from field to plate. The film was the first topic in a recent episode of Boing Boing TV:
The film seems to cover much the same area as and Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. It’s already caused some controversy, but hopefully King Corn is a good film that will get more people thinking about what we put in ourselves.
I saw it a couple weeks ago and a couple of points stuck out at me. The first was when one of the guys mentions that an atheist from Dallas sued for the astronauts quoting from Genesis during the first moon pass. (They don’t mention it was activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair.) I can sympathize, but it seems awfully inhumanist not to let the astronauts express their personal beliefs. Up there with the most amazing sight seen by eyes until then, they related to the splendor of the universe as they understood it. They were representing all of us up there, but they didn’t do wrong.
Mainly, the ending isn’t quite what I had hoped. They do explicitly point out that no one has set foot on the moon since Apollo 17, but Sington doesn’t leverage that into a value judgment. In the Shadow of the Moon is a retrospective, encasing these old men in amber. I had hoped it could also be a call to action for further moon missions, or at least explore the absence of swagger of these guys’ caliber nowadays. There’s little heroism in today’s socialized space program, but In the Shadow of the Moon shows it only in negative.