Monthly Archives: November 2009






Google and images of Michelle Obama

Can we bring some common sense into this debate?  This image is currently the top result when you type “Michelle Obama” into Google Images:


This repulsive, racist image comes from this page Google is trying so hard to defend.  Is this juvenile, offensive forum really the definitive source for presidential images?


If the page in question were some authoritative source for images, I could understand Google having a dilemma. But this is a crappy, offensive forum.  One of the top comments in the forum is “This nasty bitch was yet ANOTHER reason I didn’t vote for nObama: I didn’t want her representing this country as First lady.”

If I created a search engine that ranked this page up top, I’d reconsider my algorithm instead of “buying ads” to defend it.

Christopher’s Gentle Fist

Buying something on Amazon today I noticed this graphic near the checkout button:


Apparently if I enter “Christopher’s Gentle Fist” on other websites I can use my Amazon shipping and payment info:


I would argue that when we’ve gotten to the point that we are asking users to type phrases like “Christopher’s gentle fist” in order to buy underwear and laptops, it is time to rethink our online payment security model.




The cards ask: Do you know who killed me? And they ask: Do you know where I am? And they ask: Do you know something? Anything?

The South Carolina Department of Corrections started selling these decks in its prison canteens for $1.72 about a year ago; since then, inmates have bought more than 10,000 packs. Each card asks that you please call 888-CRIME-SC if you have any information about a case; each card also whispers, “Call *49,” an anonymous prison hot line.



Broadway, tonight



Hunch team (unfortunately missing Hugo)


Epochs are in accord with themselves only if the crowd comes into these radiant confessionals which is the theaters or the arenas, and as much as possible… to listen to its own confessions of cowardice and sacrifice, of hate and passion… For there is no theater which is not prophecy. Not this false divination which gives names and dates, but true prophecy, that which reveals to men these surprising truths: that the living must live, that the living must die, that autumn must follow summer, spring follow winter, that there are four elements, that there is happiness, that there are innumerable miseries, that life is a reality, that it is a dream, that man lives in peace, that man lives in blood; in short those things they will never know.

Jean Giraudoux, quoted in Must we mean what we say? by Stanley Cavell

The original coinage of the term “meme”

From The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins, 1976.

I think that a new kind of replicator has recently emerged on this very planet.  It is staring us in the face.  It is still in its infancy, still drifting clumsily about in its primeval soup, but already it is achieving evolutionary change at a rate that leaves the old gene panting far behind.

The new soup is the soup of human culture.  We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.  ”Mimeme” comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like “gene”.  I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme.  If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to “memory”, or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with “cream”.

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.  Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation… When you plant a fertile meme in my mind you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme’s propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of the host cell.  And this isn’t just a way of talking—the meme for, say, “belief in life after death” is actually realized physically, millions of times over, as a structure in the nervous systems of individual men the world over.