Please allow me to reintroduce myself. It’s been nearly 2.5 years and I’ve got a slow growing itch bubbling inside.

You know the show has secretly been not that great since season two. It’s the giant elephant in the estate. Anyway, this pretty summed up my feelings on the matter: “Mr. Carson is pooping on about Downton ‘catching up with the times.’ Someone should tell him that in less than 100 years everyone is going to have handheld devices that will be able to display internet porn and cat videos at the touch of a screen.”

That said, I’m still going to watch when it drops. September 21st in the UK (ahem, torrents for those in the US, ahem) or January on PBS stateside.

Charles Pierce writing for Grantland:

Because of these obscure common origins, as far as I know, there is no other game that is played so many different ways that is nonetheless called the same thing. “Football” means Ronaldo in Lisbon, Peyton Manning in Denver, and James O’Donoghue in Killarney. All of them have different skills, and they play different games with the same name.

What each flavor has in common is spectacle. So many of the other sports seem to be relatively private and intimate. The various forms of “football” are bright and brash and, when they are played at their highest levels in the countries that love them, they blot out the sun on the sports landscape. It is this ability to create spectacle that accounts for the way the several kinds of “football” are able to engender similar forms of occasionally lunatic jingoism. There is a barely hidden element of violence to them. They all involve varying degrees of physical contact. They all involve, in one way or another, one human being knocking another one to the ground. There is a tacit understanding that all of them are a polite sublimation of the tendency of countries to make war on each other. This is not unusual in history. The early Jesuit missionaries to the New World noted that Native American tribes used three-day lacrosse games, which occasionally were contested with hundreds of players on either side, as barely disguised battles, played as a tribute to what they called “the Creator.” Mess with “football” and, as Ned Beatty says in Network, you are messing with the fundamental forces of nature and a vaguely religious concept of nationhood.

Right now, as all of its seasons at all levels are just beginning, American football is under unprecedented assault. Science is providing more and more evidence that the game is physically perilous to everyone who plays it. This forces a series of hard decisions on the participants and moral questions on the devotees. Is it ethical, or even humane, to be entertained for fun and (occasionally) profit by a sport that so inevitably destroys the people who play it? (Steve Almond’s recently released book, Against Football, poses these questions very directly.) There are only two possible approaches to these issues. You can answer them honestly, or you can duck them entirely. And the latter approach often involves cloaking yourself in the almost theological tribalism that American football shares with all the other varieties.

Think about the defenses of American football that rely on “tradition” as an argument opposing the moral case against the game. Think about how closely American football has attached itself to the U.S. military, from the in-game commercials to the now-customary flyovers of attack aircraft. Think about the 2011 Super Bowl, in which we had “God Bless America” and the National Anthem, a flyover, and a bizarre video that sought to link John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, Martin Luther King’s speech on the National Mall, and Ali’s KO of Liston in Lewiston, Maine. Think about the way football is positioned as some kind of essentially American journey. Patriotism may be the last refuge of scoundrels, but it’s also a handy hideout for huge corporate athletic enterprises that are facing existential questions about what they do to the athletes who engage in them.

But that may be enough to help American football to survive.

Neat project, but cooler architect to keep an eye on: “It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Bjarke Ingels would respond to an invitation from the National Building Museum with a design for a maze. The architect is known for his whimsy. When Copenhagen decided on building a waste incinerator in the city, the city turned to Ingels to create a design that would make the facility more palatable to residents; he designed the Amagerforbraending waste incinerator as a functional ski slope, one that emits exhaust (essentially water vapor) in periodic, puffy smoke rings. For another Copenhagen project, the Superkilen urban park, Bjarke Ingels Group imported signage, structures, and public design objects from all over the world, making it a sort of global, comical fair ground.”

Or, why you (and me) just realized you are one of the olds.

Led Zeppelin is classic rock. So are Mötley Crüe and Ozzy Osbourne. But what about U2 or Nirvana? As a child of the 1990s, I never doubted that any of these bands were classic rock, even though it may be shocking for many to hear. And then I heard Green Day’s “American Idiot” on a classic rock station a few weeks ago, and I was shocked.

It was my first time hearing a band I grew up with referred to as “classic rock.” Almost anyone who listens to music over a long enough period of time probably experiences this moment — my colleagues related some of their own, like hearing R.E.M. or Guns N’ Roses on a classic rock station — but it made me wonder, what precisely is classic rock? As it turns out, a massive amount of data collection and analysis, and some algorithms, go into figuring out the answer to that very question.

FiveThirtyEight breaks down the math of what exactly defines a musical act as “classic rock”.

2014EMMYS-slide-O619-jumboAs if we needed further proof that broadcast television is completely irrelevant from a quality standpoint, the list of 2014 Emmy nominations should be proof. AMC, HBO, and Netflix led the way in nominations, with Netflix having received more nominations than Fox.

The only big change I would make is swapping out Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’ (awful season two and on notice) for Showtime’s ‘Masters of Sex’ in the best drama category. Regardless, stick a fork in the broadcasters when it comes to television that matters.

Aaron Gouveia recounts the time he and his wife needed a pregnancy termination procedure and how the buffer zones — even at 35ft. — didn’t do much to protect them on the worst day of their collective life.

For Justice Kagan, 35 ft. on a tape measure might seem like a lot. But I have a slightly different perspective, one that is far more personal and relevant to this particular issue.

In 2010, my wife and I went to a Brookline, Mass., abortion clinic after a team of renowned Boston doctors diagnosed our 16-week-old unborn baby with Sirenomelia. Our baby’s legs were fused together, but that wasn’t the worst of it. The baby had no kidneys, no bladder and no anus. We were given the heartbreaking news that there was a 0% chance of a live birth.

Because my wife’s health wasn’t in immediate danger, the hospital couldn’t get her in for a termination for two weeks. However, that meant it’d be a 50/50 chance of being able to have an abortion or having to deliver a stillborn. After much soul searching and contemplating a no-win scenario, my wife decided a stillbirth was more than she could handle and so the hospital sent us to a recommended clinic to perform an abortion.

When we pulled into the parking lot and got out of our car, the saddest day of our lives got exponentially worse.

These issues are a lot more complex when we consider the actually human toll on something as whether or not a 35ft. buffer zone outside a women’s health clinic is constitutionally legal or whether it impugns someone’s free speech rights. Empathy is something this country needs more of.

I’m just absurdly giddy that this film is only a month away. Everything about this trailer is expertly played. It’s fun, the stakes are clear, the character moments all shine. It’s a perfect piece of movie marketing. [via cinemablend]


“Well, yaw cum raht in,” he chirped excitedly. “I’ll git mah whife, and we’ll set us down and have us a rail nahce vis-i-ta-shun.”

Say what?

Six months earlier, I had moved to Brazil to work as a fledgling editor for an English-language newspaper in São Paulo, a sort of International Herald Tribune for Latin America. One Saturday morning with nothing much to do, more out of distraction than purpose, I bought a bus ticket to a city ninety miles away called Americana. I had heard somewhere about Americana being settled by disgruntled American Confederates after their side lost the Civil War, and somehow descendants of the original settlers still lived there and still spoke the English of the American South circa 1865.

Surely, that account was more science fiction than real. It had to be. But little did I realize at the time, I had stumbled onto a yarn so fantastic and bizarre it could have been spun out of The Twilight Zone.

Crazy bit of history.

Bill and Melinda Gates delivered the Commencement speech to the 2014 class of Standford graduates on the theme of optimism.

Here’s Bill about visiting a hospital on Soweto, South Africa:

This was hell with a waiting list.

But seeing hell didn’t reduce my optimism; it channeled it. I got in the car and told the doctor who was working with us: “Yeah, I know. MDR-TB is hard to cure. But we should be able to do something for these people.” This year, we’re entering phase three with a new TB drug regime. For patients who respond, instead of a 50 percent cure rate after 18 months for $2,000, we could get an 80-90 percent cure rate after six months for under $100.

That’s better by a factor of a hundred.

Optimism is often dismissed as false hope. But there is also false hopelessness.

That’s the attitude that says we can’t defeat poverty and disease.

We absolutely can.

Here’s Melinda:

Let your heart break. It will change what you do with your optimism. […] As you leave Stanford, take your genius and your optimism and your empathy and go change the world in ways that will make millions of others optimistic as well.

You don’t have to rush. You have careers to launch, debts to pay, spouses to meet and marry. That’s enough for now.

But in the course of your lives, without any plan on your part, you’ll come to see suffering that will break your heart.

When it happens, and it will, don’t turn away from it; turn toward it.

That is the moment when change is born.

Yes, yes, yes. A thousands times yes. Read this, bookmark it for later, and then get this speech tattooed on your back. [via 512pixels]