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Carl Sagan, the illest

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: Carl Sagan, the illest.

All the millions, billions, trillions and (single) quadrillion from his 1980’s tv series Cosmos.

Here he is again, being profound;

Carl Sagan is just the best. Listen to him calmly defuse a radio caller keen on fighting! with words!

And finally, here’s an hour of Carl Sagan saying the word “billion”. Yep, that’s right. An hour of Carl saying one big word. Not looped, not a supercut, a slow motion Carl Sagan. Buckle up, it’s going to get weird.

Carl Sagan is just the best.

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Listening closely to the sounds of The Wire

One of my crew’s challenges, then, was to find ways to evoke mood with backgrounds. When a character is in a crowded situation he is not comfortable with, listen for background laughter. When McNulty is drunk and on the prowl, listen for dogs barking (because he’s a dog – my own private commentary on his character). There was a whole world of work that went in to creating the sound of Hamsterdam and building it from an empty to thriving enterprise.

This one is definitely NSFW. I love these behind the scenes, oral histories of shows like The Wire. I love them because they lift the curtain on something truly great but that’s not the only reason. I love them because they imply, by shining light on the technical, personal or cultural challenges that had to be overcome, that greatness can be reached by anyone. I find that super inspiring.

via Kottke (of course).

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The skeptical futuryst

Powerful technologies of public imagination are hitting the street. They are fast infiltrating society’s main stream. And as they go, we find ourselves living out a dictum something like McLuhan meeting Polak: “We shape our images of the future, and meanwhile, they shape us.”

Stuart Candy (aka the skeptical futuryst) left for snowier shores around two years ago. Australia just hasn’t been the same since.

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Going from good to great

There’s always the chance that your gift will crash-and-burn; to give something that surprises and delights takes great thought, empathy, and a true understanding of the giftee, and most of us quickly retreat to the safety and ease of the list.

Ben Thompson, shows us how to go from good to great, over at Stratechery.

Ben Thompson is one of the best internet business thinkers active today. His writing is astute, clear eyed and honest. His exponent podcast is also excellent, in many ways it’s like the directors commentary track for Stratechery.

Image credit: Stratechery.

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The Wire Bible

“In the end, the cost to all sides begins to suggest not so much the dogged police pursuit of the bad guys, but rather a Greek tragedy. At the end of thirteen episodes, the reward for the viewer — who has been lured all this way by a well-constructed police show — is not the simple gratification of hearing handcuffs click. Instead, the conclusion is something that Euripides or O’Neill might recognize: an America, at every level at war with itself.”

David Simon, creator of The Wire, quoted from the show outline originally pitched to HBO — AKA the Wire Bible.

In 2000 David Simon pitched a show to HBO that would be:

far more than a cop show, and to the extent that it breaks new ground, it will do so because of larger, universal themes that have more to do with the human condition

It’s not every day you get the chance to reflect on something so authentic, savouring the subtle texture and flavour. Let’s all take a moment to consider the origins of that fine street food delicacy: The Wire.

via Kottke, who also took the effort to mirror (archive) these documents for future web posterity.

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The Wire is all shades of grey

And the chilling thing about the show is that, when someone like McNulty decides to care out of turn, he’s not confronted by corrupt or otherwise evil people. Bill Rawls, the middle finger-raising Homicide chief, isn’t a bad guy, though he seems like one when he bitches out McNulty. He’s just a guardian of the system. His job is to keep the murder rate down and the clearance rate up, which in turn helps the department get funding to keep doing its job, keeps cops on the streets, etc. You’ll note that the thing that angers Rawls most is the fact that Jimmy dragged in the Gerard Bogue case, which happened in the previous year and therefore has no bearing on this year’s stats. Bogue may have had family and friends who loved and miss him, but he is of no use to Bill Rawls in his quest to make the numbers look good, and therefore he doesn’t matter. That’s not evil, not “one bad cop ruining the system for everybody else.” It’s just cold, cruel pragmatism, the best way Rawls knows to do the job he’s been given.

Alan Sepinwall, re-reviewing the first episode (s01e01) of the remastered, re-release HD series of The Wire.

This month HBO has re-released The Wire, remastered in HD. Let Alan Sepinwall walk you through one of the best, most compelling shows of our time.

I love the idea that David Simon would use the first scene in the first episode of each season to establish the themes for the season. This is the kind of TV making that just wasn’t possible in the 90’s. We really do have to thank The Sopranos for the glut of high quality TV drama on offer today.

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Empathy first, self righteousness second

The people who don’t feel safe; they don’t feel safe. We don’t. I don’t. They may not feel safe enough to tell you your good intentions are lovely but unwanted at this time. The ability to read minds isn’t required for any act of kindness to remain a respectful one. Kindness that is forced upon a person is not kindness.
Tessa Kum (@sirtessa), creator of the #illridewithyou hashtag. Article first published on her blog, here quoted from Junkee

The context surrounding this particular hashtag is both complex and multi-faceted — but I can say I’m proud of the way Australia responded to a racially charged terrorist event last week. Even if the whole damn thing hashtag was built on a lie, the resulting public response and conversation was completely worth it. Let’s just not let ourselves forget that it isn’t about us, about how we feel or about what we fear. Empathy first, self righteousness second.

Image credit: ABC