Roundup No. 1


I’m not a big fan of Facebook, and I haven’t been too interested in the upcoming movie either. However, the trailer grabbed me, I think mostly due to the use of a really great cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”. Thankfully, Zeldman had my back, and found the group that did the beautiful choral cover:

If you’re intrigued, as I am, by the trailer for David Fincher’s upcoming The Social Network, and if part of what compels you about the trailer is the musical score - a choral version of Radiohead’s “Creep” - you’ll be happy to know you can purchase said song via On The Rocks is the album, “Creep” is the track, and Scala, a Belgian all-teenage-girl choir, are the artists. Highly recommended.

There’s something really wonderful about a song about loneliness and apartness being performed in unison by a group of singers. The sound is haunting in a way,1 and some of the melodic changes create great tension.

This is Nice

Jason Kottke took a vacation for a couple of weeks, and had Tim Carmody of Snarkmarket stand in the past week. (I kind of love that Jason does this.) Tim absolutely tore it up. My favorite recent find, though, was in a guest post the week before by Aaron Cohen. Aaron posted video of a talk Kurt Vonnegut gave at Albion College in 2002. (On Youtube starting here.) The great takeaway line from the speech is a gem of optimism: “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

David Foster Wallace

Continuing on a David Foster Wallace streak, “Federer as Religious Experience” and “Host” are both good reads. From the Federer2 piece:

By way of illustration, let’s slow things way down. Imagine that you, a tennis player, are standing just behind your deuce corner’s baseline. A ball is served to your forehand – you pivot (or rotate) so that your side is to the ball’s incoming path and start to take your racket back for the forehand return. Keep visualizing up to where you’re about halfway into the stroke’s forward motion; the incoming ball is now just off your front hip, maybe six inches from point of impact. Consider some of the variables involved here. On the vertical plane, angling your racket face just a couple degrees forward or back will create topspin or slice, respectively; keeping it perpendicular will produce a flat, spinless drive. Horizontally, adjusting the racket face ever so slightly to the left or right, and hitting the ball maybe a millisecond early or late, will result in a cross-court versus down-the-line return. Further slight changes in the curves of your groundstroke’s motion and follow-through will help determine how high your return passes over the net, which, together with the speed at which you’re swinging (along with certain characteristics of the spin you impart), will affect how deep or shallow in the opponent’s court your return lands, how high it bounces, etc. These are just the broadest distinctions, of course – like, there’s heavy topspin vs. light topspin, or sharply cross-court vs. only slightly cross-court, etc. There are also the issues of how close you’re allowing the ball to get to your body, what grip you’re using, the extent to which your knees are bent and/or weight’s moving forward, and whether you’re able simultaneously to watch the ball and to see what your opponent’s doing after he serves. These all matter, too. Plus there’s the fact that you’re not putting a static object into motion here but rather reversing the flight and (to a varying extent) spin of a projectile coming toward you – coming, in the case of pro tennis, at speeds that make conscious thought impossible. Mario Ancic’s first serve, for instance, often comes in around 130 m.p.h. Since it’s 78 feet from Ancic’s baseline to yours, that means it takes 0.41 seconds for his serve to reach you. This is less than the time it takes to blink quickly, twice.

Full of great stuff. “Host” covers a conservative radio host, and as usual Wallace applies an impressively even hand without hiding his personal opinion. Especially interesting considering this is journalistic coverage of another medium, and it would have been easy to fall into a lot of traps. He seems to super-humanly avoid them by being strikingly human.

Life Sucks, Let’s Laugh

From the I Can Relate Department, Owen Morris’s “The 27 Levels of Compatibality I’m Looking For” and Brandon Lueken’s “A Diary of Unemployment”.

I’ve also been working recently with playwright Isaac Oliver on a project. Turns out he has a great blog, He Who Laughs, or The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Intimacy. I especially like his dialogue-heavy posts, both real (“New York Moment”) and imagined (“Half-price”). Given my own dislike of Inception, I really appreciated Isaac’s masterful takedown, “Totem-poled”.

I Love Denis O’Hare

He’s playing the power-hungry vampire Russell Edgington on this season of True Blood. It is possibly worth watching the entire show just for his spectacular performance. (He’s up there with my other recent favorite bad guy performance, Hans Landa played by Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds.) O’Hare plays the part with such energy and relish, it is sheer joy to watch him work. The speech he gives at the end of this week’s episode was a special treat worth rewatching.

No Words

This week’s episode of Radiolab, “Words” is pretty great. Up there with “Musical Language”. Definitely some thought-provoking material, although I always find myself wishing they would tie the ideas presented in the shows back to some philosophical or historical or other text, since usually the ideas aren’t what’s new, the evidence is.

Annals of Type

The big news is that Adobe has partnered with Typekit. I’m excited to play around more with Chaparral, Minion, and Myriad in particular. This is definitely a mjor score for Typekit, but there was another big win for them that made smaller waves. Mandy Brown announced today that she is joining the Typekit team. Congratulations to her and to Typekit. (Looks like her site is down as I write this, I imagine she’s swapping out Cufón for the newly-available Typekit-served Chaparral.)

  1. This also brings to mind James Houston’s excellent cover of “Nude” from 2008. ↩︎

  2. A nice addition to “Federer” is probably Malcolm Gladwell’s 1999 essay “The Physical Genius”↩︎