Apologies to my US readers, for whom the parody cover below won't ring a bell. I shall explain: Here in England there's a railway operated by a company called Southern. The people who run the company and the people who work for it don't get along well, which means there are lots of strikes. Which means lots of trains don't run when they're supposed to (or sometimes at all).
During commute times they pack people in like sardines, while charging very high rates...partly because eventually they give in to the strikers and that means paying more or hiring more people or both.
There's just enough of the "stiff upper lip" tendency left over in the UK for companies and unions to get away with situations like this. "Mustn't grumble," they say, grumbling. Perhaps one day a hero will arise to lead the downtrodden commuting masses. Me, I work at home.
Did you know that people used to personalize their books by adding illustrations to them? Sometimes they drew or painted these or pasted in maps, engravings, letters, stamps, autographs or photographs.
Just like now, somebody figured out how to monetize the trend, although I doubt James Granger used that word.
In 1769, he published the Biographical History of England, from Egbert the Great to the Revolution of 1796. It featured blank pages to which you could add your own prints, which you could buy from London print stalls.
This became so popular that the process was called Grangerizing and fans of the process were called Grangerites.
Many Grangerites were women. As a fascinating article by Amy Stewart in the Literary Hub points out, "It's one of those interesting, mostly forgotten domestic arts practiced by women at a time when they were barred from participating in so much of the arts, culture, and scholarship of their day."
As happens with most trends today as well, there was a backlash. Some people trolled the Grangerites, calling them "knights of the shear and paste," and made fun of the Grangerites who went to extremes and had books taken apart and rebound incorporating prints, turning one volume into six or seven.
It's an interesting footnote to popular history, but I wonder whether in this increasingly digital age, Grangerizing might make a comeback?
Take a look at some of the amazing art at this year's Burning Man festival...even more impressive when you realize it's all created to exist for one week only. When the festival is over, the desert landscape is returned to the natural state and there is no sign that these things ever existed.
It reminds me of the story of an artist who wanted to explore new directions. Every day for a month he created something and at the end of the day destroyed it. This freed him from worrying about making judgments about the work as it evolved and to experiment more than he normally might have.
Also, if you need inspiration for a sci-fi or fantasy story, these pictures should do the job.
If you love cartoons, in this case strip or single panel, not animated, check out theNib.com.
They offer cartoons that are political, journalistic, or just plain funny.
You can also sign up for a daily email infusion of cartoons.
Here's how MediaPost summarized the results:
For the study, "The Biggest Lie on the Internet," researchers gave 543 communications undergraduates the opportunity to test "Namedrop," a fictional social networking service.
It's alarming, but spending fifteen minutes trying to decipher the fine print doesn't seem very realistic.
Maybe some entrepreneur could create a site on which there's a list of apps and sites and a summary of the terms and conditions and warnings about any suspicious demands. You'd make a micro-payment of ten cents or pence for that report, then you could agree with peace of mind. Entrepreneur, a little thank you of one penny per sale will be sufficient thank you for this idea.
The Upworthy Generator is a tool that comes up with the kinds of clickbait headlines you see online all the time. It creates a headline and an image that actually has nothing to do with the headline. It's not that funny because the headlines it generates are no stranger than the "real" headlines you see online on Upworthy and other sites every day. (It's a parody site, it's not affiliated with Upworthy.com.)
Here are three from the Upworthy Generator:
"You Won't Believe the Troubling Music Video This Angry Talk Show Host Made"
"Think Things Used to be Better When You Were a Kid? Maybe You Should Listen to This Trailblazing Talk Show Host."
"What This Fearless Physician Did Is Genius"
Just to prove to you that these aren't any worse than what's on the real Upworthy.com site, here are three from there:
"This heroic man 'hugged' a terrorist. And it likely saved hundreds of lives." (Unfortunately, the terrorist was wearing a suicide vest)
"How a Woman Named 'Unbreakable Flower' Discovered Wrestling and Became an Unlikely Hero."
"How 5 Diabolical Parents Called Their Kids' Bluff in Hilarious Ways"
You can use such headlines, or parts of them, to prompt ideas of your own.
The first one, "angry talk show host," might suggest a short film or a short story about the home life of an angry talk show host. It could be funny because he's just as angry at home as he is on the air, or because he's totally the opposite at home.
"Think things were better when you were a kid..." could lead to a story set in the future, when somebody looks back to 2016 and how great it was compared to whatever's happening then. This could work as sci-fi, comedy, even romance (ah, the innocent days of Tinder, before Sexbots came onto the dating scene...).
The "fearless physician" headline might lead to a screenplay about a real or fictional doctor or inventor who was ahead of his or her time.
Of course, you can use the real Upworthy headlines the same way. For instance, "Diabolical Parents" could inspire a comedy horror film in which a chapter of the PTA is gripped by demons. Actually, Diabolical Parents would be a pretty good title for a movie.
It's always easier to come up with ideas when you have a starting point, even a random one. But whatever you do, if you use the real Upworthy site, don't click on the headlines or you may find yourself both frustrated and annoyed. That's why the parody site is much better--there are no stories to go with the headlines...unless you make them up yourself.
Is willpower something you just have or don't have, or it is something that we have in a certain quantity that diminishes over the course of a day, as we use it?
Today I read an account of a study that has been interpreted as suggesting the latter, but reading about how the study was conducted makes me wonder whether there could have been something else at play.
There were two groups of participants. One was given chocolate treats. The other could see the treats but was allowed to eat only radishes.
Afterward, they were both given what was represented as a puzzle that measures intelligence, but the point was actually to measure how long they stuck with it before giving up.
The chocolate group worked on the puzzle for an average of 20 minutes.
The group that had radishes worked on it for an average of 8 minutes.
The conclusion of the study: "Thus, those people who had to resist the confectionary and eat the plain vegetables could not engage in a second demanding task. Their willpower was already drained and they were too tired."
Wait a minute. The article says:
Many of the people who were left to eat radishes “exhibit[ed] clear interest in the chocolates, to the point of looking longingly at the chocolate display and in a few cases even picking up the cookies to sniff at them,” the scientists wrote in their Journal of Personality and Social Psychology paper.
I have an alternate explanation. You make me watch other people eat chocolate treats, you even let me sniff the cookies, but you give me only radishes and then you want me to solve your damn puzzle? Forget it, I'm outta here at the first opportunity.
I'm not fatigued or lacking willpower. In fact, it takes all the willpower I have to stay for even eight minutes.
My scientific conclusion:
If you annoy people, they won't put much effort into doing what you ask them to do.
Technology allows us to bend reality in many ways. One example:
One of Kanga's more promising ideas is a "Disneyland dementia village," with a fake butcher and grocery store, based on a Dutch model where dementia patients live in a Truman Show-esque village that mirrors outside life as closely as possible and savings are made through automation.*
Kanga is an artist turned materials scientist, and I'm not sure whether this idea is a dream or a nightmare. Of course, creating an illusion in which people suffering from dementia are comforted is a worthy goal. But what came to mind when I read this is that it will soon be possible, with the help of artificial intelligence and virtual reality, to create just about any fake version of reality that you wish.
Do you yearn for 50's America--you know, no bothersome civil rights, and the little lady is happy being a homemaker? Come live in Eisenhower Estates! Episodes of "Father Knows Best" and "Leave It to Beaver" loop on your television, there's a virtual 1957 Chevy Bel-Air parked in your driveway, and the sound of a dozen dads mowing their lawns wafts in through the window.
If you prefer the 60's, welcome to your new home at Hippie Heights. The Grateful Dead (holograms) are playing a gig in your back yard! That's a fine collection of tie-dies on your washing line, and the smell of patchouli oil and you-know-what permeates the air.
Still under construction: Mullet Manor for fans of the 70's.
Perhaps today's young people will want to end up in Kardashian Korners, where there's dysfunctional family fun 24/7.
Maybe it's just a progression of bending reality to our preferences, as we can do now by getting all our news only from Fox, or MSNBC, or The Daily Mail...and while we're distracted, the powers that be can carry on as usual.
I've spotted some amazing new tech devices in development that not long ago would have belonged in science fiction.
One is an instant translator in an earbud, called The Pilot. There are no wires or cables and it works even without wifi (probably via a smartphone app). It translates whatever someone says to you.
For now, the languages that will be covered are English, Italian, Spanish and French but other languages will be added.
If you've ever used Google Translate (which is free), you'll know that these will not be grammatically correct translations, but good enough to make sense of what someone is saying to you. Or about you, if they think you don't speak their language (I think of my cartoon as taking place in Paris).
I guess if you're communicating with someone who doesn't speak your language you'd have to carry around an extra earbud for them to use, otherwise it's going to be a one-way conversation. Even so, what a boon for people who travel.
Skype is working on a similar process that will translate what the other person in your Skype conversation is saying; at the moment, it seems to be available in beta form only for Windows users.
The Pilot crowdfunding campaign will start on May 25, 2016, on IndieGoGo, with a probable early bird price of $129, going up to $299 when it's actually available, toward the end of this year.
You can find out more at the Waverly Labs website: http://www.waverlylabs.com/#_overview
It's worth noting that not all products that use crowdfunding actually see the light of day. Some have failed to deliver, and the early buyers lost their money. Others take a lot longer to be available than predicted--one that I funded was a year late.
I've written once before about how gradually the meaning of the term "the elephant in the room" is changing. It means something with a large presence that doesn't get talked about.
However, more and more I see it used this way (from a recent promotion for a webinar):
Jordan shares with us how YouTube is the elephant in the room. What does he mean by that?
That's pretty much the opposite of the meaning, and I realized that it's taking the place of the 800-pound-gorilla, which was the previously popular phrase for something powerful.
Elephant vs. gorilla--advantage, elephant.