Mobile everywhere: Local News Outfit Replaces Camera Crews with iPhones and Selfie Sticks

I knew this was on some news directors’ wish list, but I was surprised to see that it had already happened. PetaPixel has a report.

Granted it’s not a news lens, but this little number, a Canon 60x field lens, will set you back a cool $90K. You can buy a lot of iPhones and selfie sticks with that kind of dough.

iPhones may not be very good at photographing lunar eclipses, but apparently they’re just fine for television news broadcasts. A local TV news station in Switzerland has ditched standard TV cameras to go 100% iPhone.

Swiss newspaper Le Temps reports that the TV station Léman Bleu made the major switch this past summer when it outfitted each reporter on the field with an iPhone 6 kit for shooting pre-recorded stories and for shooting live shots.

Provocative Words: Are We Living Our Own Story?

Aeon has a great essay by the philosopher Galen Strawson on the dangerous idea that life is a story. At least dangerous for the non-narrative types among us.

A few choice bits,

On conceiving of ourselves in some sense as a collection of stories…

What if life is not a set a of stories?

“Perhaps. But many of us aren’t Narrative in this sense. We’re naturally – deeply – non-Narrative. We’re anti-Narrative by fundamental constitution. It’s not just that the deliverances of memory are, for us, hopelessly piecemeal and disordered, even when we’re trying to remember a temporally extended sequence of events. The point is more general. It concerns all parts of life, life’s ‘great shambles’, in the American novelist Henry James’s expression. This seems a much better characterisation of the large-scale structure of human existence as we find it. Life simply never assumes a story-like shape for us. And neither, from a moral point of view, should it.”

He pulls into service a couple of other views, most elegantly Virginia Woolf, who goes for a sort of bundle of phenomena argument, at least in this passage.

Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions – trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it. Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.

And also Mary Midgley and Paul Klee on containing multitudes:

Midgley: [Doctor Jekyll] was partly right: we are each not only one but also many… Some of us have to hold a meeting every time we want to do something only slightly difficult, in order to find the self who is capable of undertaking it… We spend a lot of time and ingenuity on developing ways of organising the inner crowd, securing consent among it, and arranging for it to act as a whole. Literature shows that the condition is not rare.

and Klee: My self… is a dramatic ensemble. Here a prophetic ancestor makes his appearance. Here a brutal hero shouts. Here an alcoholic bon vivant argues with a learned professor. Here a lyric muse, chronically love-struck, raises her eyes to heaven. Here papa steps forward, uttering pedantic protests. Here the indulgent uncle intercedes. Here the aunt babbles gossip. Here the maid giggles lasciviously. And I look upon it all with amazement, the sharpened pen in my hand. A pregnant mother wants to join the fun. ‘Pshtt!’ I cry, ‘You don’t belong here. You are divisible.’ And she fades out.

Strawson’s piece is a good read, although I do wonder if the overheated “life is a story, life is a journey” trope, which raises my hackles too, amounts to much more than a tactic or habit, rather than something essential about our selves in a philosophical sense. Perhaps it’s just a convenience, like an algorithm that makes a complicated reality seem tractable.

End of an era: The passing of the catalog card

card_cat_drawerLibrary Link of the Day tipped me off to the news that OCLC, the technical provider of all things library catalog related, has printed their last card catalog card.

I remember these catalogs (whether just a few drawers in a school library or the mammoth city of catalogs at the Library of Congress when I worked there in the 80s).  I don’t miss them as an information tool, but they had a certain human beauty that somehow a computer search input box lacks.

Commonplace Book: October in Poetry

Some verse for a blustery start to October, as the mid-Atlantic hopes to be spared the wrath of Hurricane Joaquin.


by Don Thompson

I used to think the land
had something to say to us,
back when wildflowers
would come right up to your hand
as if they were tame.


Sooner or later, I thought,
the wind would begin to make sense
if I listened hard
and took notes religiously.
That was spring.


Now I’m not so sure:
the cloudless sky has a flat affect
and the fields plowed down after harvest
seem so expressionless,
keeping their own counsel.


This afternoon, nut tree leaves
blow across them
as if autumn had written us a long letter,
changed its mind,
and tore it into little scraps.

Tidbits from Around the Web: Memento Mori Edition

Happened on a fascinating data animation by Nathan Yau,
Years You Have Left to Live, Probably.


In addition to being cool to play with, it’s a great example of mathematical representation, as the data it uses comes from this table.


Same content, different form and experience. (A lot of projects I have worked on as an educational media producer have focused on helping teachers figure out how to get kids comfortable moving among mathematical representations, from a table, to a graph, say, or from a function, to words. Grasping the power inherent in the idea that one phenomenon can be represented in these varied ways. How neat would it be if kids today are adding animation to that list: a calculus text book with examples that show accelerations as animations that, um, accelerate!).

But back to planet morbid: After fooling with this for a while, I remembered The Death Clock, which terms itself “The Internet’s friendly reminder that time is slipping away.”


I assume this uses more detailed actuarial data, and gives a specific day rather than a probability, and a helpful count of the number of seconds until you shuffle off either to Buffalo or “this moral coil” depending on your religion. My appointment with “dust to dust” is 2050.

Finally, a poem by W.S. Merwin on this theme. An angle that many have considered, I’d bet.

For the Anniversary of My Death

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

QZ On the SEP


ResearchBuzz: Firehose picked up a nice story on one of my favorite resources online, SEP.

Originally posted on ResearchBuzz: Firehose:

QZ has a nice writeup on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “The internet is an information landfill. Somewhere in it—buried under piles of opinion, speculation, and misinformation—is virtually all of human knowledge. But sorting through the trash is difficult work. Even when you have something you think is valuable, it often turns out to be a cheap knock-off. The story of how the SEP is run, and how it came to be, shows that it is possible to create a less trashy internet—or at least a less trashy corner of it.”

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Funny Words: Peter Godfrey-Smith

Boston Review has a perceptive, and droll, review of a new philosophy title, Retrieving Realism by Hubert Dreyfus and Charles Taylor. There are lots of interesting takes in it and John Dewey and Martin Heidegger figure prominently. (So of course I was interested, as Dewey is a fascinating figure to me.)

The full review will likely be of interest mainly to philosophy nerds like myself, but one passage was too good to pass up quoting. Just after untangling a number of moves and distinctions presented in the book, Godfrey-Smith writes,

I don’t want to suggest, through this assertion of Dewey’s place in the story, that he had all the answers. Far from it, and I will look in a moment at an area he handled quite badly. In explaining his larger neglect in this part of philosophy, I am also mindful of other deficiencies. Dewey’s writing has an exhausting earnestness, which contrasts with the dark edginess, the anything-can-happen feel of Heidegger’s. If someone sees you reading Heidegger on a train, they might think you would be an interesting person to have sex with. If they see you reading Dewey, there is a risk they will think you would be an excellent person to serve on a committee.

deweyPersonally, seeing somebody peruse Sein und Zeit on the Red Line wouldn’t exactly flick my switch, but I can vouch for the fact that Dewey evokes committee service: perhaps because it reads a bit like it was written by a committee, and ‘exhaustingly earnest’ is definitely apt as well.