Monday, December 29, 2008

Christian Creativity

As an arena for self-expression, Facebook enables all manner of intriguing displays of individuality. Beyond the basics--the lists of favorites and About Me section--there are also thousands of add-ons and applications to make one's profile unique. There is one part of the profile, however, that is often overlooked for its potential for distinguishing oneself. For most people the answer to "religion" is a simple encyclopedic response, such as "Baptist" or "Jewish-Reform." But being part of the generation of customization, many on Facebook have taken to classifying their religion more loosely and personally. Consider the following:

Jesus is my superhero.
In Christ alone my hope is found.
follower of Jesus
jesus saves me every day
Jesus, Mary, Joseph and a camel... I'm Christian!

I find these declarations of faith quite interesting, and have started collecting new examples that I come across. Please submit any you find in the comments! Keep reading...

Saturday, December 27, 2008


In book design, as with many things in life, simplicity is better. With hundreds of thousands of books released each year, publishers must make their titles stand out and communicate to prospective buyers instantly. Sometimes this is as simple as featuring the author’s name big and bold (John Grisham, Sue Grafton, etc.), and sometimes it is with a straightforward photo or illustration.

And many times it is the title. Titles can be mysterious or informative, plain or controversial, but one rule is common across genres and designs: rarely the title more than four or five words. Many times, in fact, it is far less: one word. A title should be memorable, easy to recommend or request as a gift. A title strives to be as short as possible, without becoming generic. If it sounds generic (House, Baseball, etc.) the design must step up to make it stand out.

There is a part of the bookstore that trades in these catchy one-word titles more than any other: the history section. Here a browser can find all sorts of intriguing titles—for example Coal, Wood, Drink, Salt, and Cod. Each of these books takes a single subject and explores its place in history. The appeal lies in the magnification of a seemingly mundane object and its concomitant contextualization in the grand story of human history. This naming technique could theoretically be almost infinitely adapted : War, Computer, Book, etc., simply by distilling an otherwise obscure or complicated matter into a neatly defined title. This makes the book appear to be the definitive source on the subject at hand, a must-read for anyone with an interest in that topic.

As a bibliophile myself, I am consistently drawn in by books like Cod and Wood. I may not have cared a whit about Cod before, but seeing an entire book written about its significance suddenly makes me very curious. Reading books like these enables one to experience history from a new perspective. Rather than reading a linear account of 18th century European commerce, one sees the role that the cod trade played in this story. It’s a fascinating and enjoyable way to digest potentially dry facts and events, and a niche genre of non-fiction I highly recommend.

Keep reading...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Roller Coaster That is Sports Stardom

Walking through the mall a few weeks ago, I saw that a group of football players from my (SEC) alma mater were signing autographs outside one of the department stores. I had had a class with one of them, and decided to stop by and say hi since I hadn’t seen him in a while.

He sat at a table with four other former Division I stars, all dressed in their jerseys and looking as strong and fit as ever. Several of them had been drafted in late rounds by NFL teams, but none of them had managed to make the final cut. When I asked my friend what he was up to, he told me he was living at home and looking for a job.

This confession startled me, but also brought me to an important realization. This football star, a big man on campus only 18 months ago, and briefly a member of an NFL team, was now in (nearly) the same situation I was. (I have a job.)

I realized there must be thousands of Tonys out there, athletes on the brink of making it big, but who fall just short. Athletes who excel in competitive NCAA Division I sports, but are not quite good enough to get paid to play. It must be incredibly crushing to the self-esteem of an athlete who has dominated for so long to be so close to his lifelong dream, and yet unable to go all the way. To be in the top .01% of one’s sport, but due to a bad combine or an inopportune slump failing to get that million-dollar contract that the guy next to you gets.

Many of these millions of near-pro athletes find themselves returning to regular life without having developed other vocational skills, devoting themselves in college instead to their athletic career. Furthermore, they likely suffer to some degree from depression, haunted by what-ifs and denial. To be thisclose to stardom, mansions, Ferraris, and rings and then a week later be living with Mom is not an easy situation to come to terms with.

There’s not much I can do to help console them, as I am incapable of fully empathizing with them, but I feel the NCAA must do what it can to reach out to those who dedicated themselves to collegiate athletics, with the dream of playing professionally, only to find themselves just shy of that goal. Hopefully the NCAA already does this—tries to help its graduates find work and fulfillment—for their success outside of athletics is crucial to our success as a sports-loving society.
Keep reading...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Here are some interesting/funny/weird screengrabs I've taken recently.

Adding "" onto the beginning of a URL will add a thick slice of bacon to the page. Try it for yourself!

I came across this online hangman game today while doing research at work. I consider myself pretty good at geography, but this one stumped me completely.

One day last week on YouTube 17 out of the top 20 most-viewed videos were of the Bush shoe attack.

A few days ago I tried to access, a site where I have my advertising portfolio posted, but the site seemed to be dead. This is what showed up in Google when you searched for it.

Keep reading...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

If Beyonce's Stylist Died in the Forest and No One Heard...

This past week, two relatives of celebrities met their demise: Mark Ruffalo’s brother in an apparent Russian roulette accident in an apparent homicide and Macaulay Culkin’s sister in a car accident. Both of these events appeared in the breaking news headlines on websites and news channels, and will soon be buried by newer occasions of sensational celebrity news.

I would understand if Ruffalo or Culkin themselves died, but their siblings were hardly public figures. Is being related to a famous person really enough to qualify for headline-news status? And if so, where does it end? First cousin? Second cousin? Second cousin thrice removed? The line is blurry, and, more to the point, silly to try to determine. People like Scott Ruffalo and Dakota Culkin deserve an obituary like anyone else, but not 20% of the headline space on the Yahoo home page. Their passings are private matters, and should not be covered this intensely unless they actually affect the public in some way.

Interestingly, the online Times of London article about Culkin’s sister devoted the majority its words to a brief history of Culkin’s career and life. Clearly the paparazzi hardly even care about her sister; her death is only an excuse for a filler item about her brother, the troubled child star.

I’m not the first person to criticize the 24-hour news machine, and I won’t be the last. But I feel strongly that our journalists should do a better job of censoring the information they feel is newsworthy, and concentrate more on topics of actual importance to the society they serve.
Keep reading...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Censoring One's Life Based on Fun

Generally speaking, there are two types of things we do our leisure time. Things we do because we want to, and things we do because we feel we should. There is a psychological tendency to view activities that are unpleasant as beneficial to one’s mastery of self, building character and self-discipline. When we ache after a workout we feel as if it was a “good” workout. When we leave an art film confused and perhaps disturbed, we feel as though we have just witnessed “real” cinema.

For me, two examples of this are swimming and reading classic works of fiction. I see my continued partaking of these activities as positive in several respects. Swimming is a pretty useful skill, as far as sporting abilities go. It’s certainly better to know how to swim than to serve a tennis ball. So although one lap leaves me huffing and puffing, and despite the fact that my goggles never stay on right and I have to constantly adjust them to keep water from getting in, I keep on swimming. I don’t enjoy it. I may even hate it. But I do it anyway, hoping to get better (which I never do).

Same with reading classic fiction. Do I like reading dense paragraphs of Victorian English whose plots leave me utterly bored and sleepy? Not at all. I’d much rather read some stimulating modern fiction (although I still read exclusively “literature,” rather than popular fiction, which I avoid due to its lack of perceived edifying content). Yet I continue to plod through Faulkner, Dreiser, and others, believing I am bettering myself by perfunctorily running my blurry eyes over the words on the pages.

I’d love to be able to say, “Clearly no one should do something they don’t enjoy. We have very limited free time, and you should spend it doing something that is fun for you.” But despite this logic, a large part of me still strongly insists that life is made richer by forcing yourself to swim, to eat new foods, to listen to music that you don’t usually like, etc. Life is about more than pleasure; it is about learning. If we cherry-pick the things we do and never challenge ourselves to push through unpleasant times, we are guaranteed to lead sterile and static, albeit fun, lives. The choice is ours.
Keep reading...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Post #100! Interesting Pictures

Yes, the nation of Turkey does indeed have a city called "Batman." It's located in the Kurdish Southeast, and over a quarter-million people live there.

Thanks to Wikipedia for this picture and caption, found in the "Sock" article. Keep reading...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cool Sites of The Day

This site shows how with expert make-up and photography, a model can look 10 years old or 60. Amazing.


Crispin's new work for Burger King is obvious, but genius. They took a film crew to Thailand, Romania, and Greenland, and gave Whoppers to people who were totally unfamiliar with the product. Enter: Whopper Virgins. Videos will be posted later this week on the site. Keep reading...