Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Public Flailing

On Friday, July 17, The New York Times published an article about Walter Cronkite by their TV Correspindant, Alessandra Stanley.

The next day, they ran the following correction:

"An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to a news organization for which Walter Cronkite worked. At the time, it was called United Press, not United Press International. The earlier version also misstated the date of the first moon landing; it was July 20, 1969, not July 26. And it misspelled Telstar."

A little smackdown for a reporter who was a little bit careless.

Then, on the following Wednesday, they ran second correction. This was quite a bit more than a smackdown, more like a public shaming:

"An appraisal on Saturday about Walter Cronkite's career included a number of errors. In some copies, it misstated the date that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed and referred incorrectly to Mr. Cronkite's coverage of
D-Day. Dr. King was killed on April 4, 1968, not April 30. Mr. Cronkite covered
the D-Day landing from a warplane; he did not storm the beaches. In addition,
Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, not July 26. "The CBS
Evening News" overtook "The Huntley-Brinkley Report" on NBC in the ratings
during the 1967-68 television season, not after Chet Huntley retired in 1970. A
communications satellite used to relay correspondents' reports from around the
world was Telstar, not Telestar. Howard K. Smith was not one of the CBS
correspondents Mr. Cronkite would turn to for reports from the field after he
became anchor of "The CBS Evening News" in 1962; he left CBS before Mr. Cronkite
was the anchor. Because of an editing error, the appraisal also misstated the
name of the news agency for which Mr. Cronkite was Moscow bureau chief after
World War II. At that time it was United Press, not United Press International."

Yow! In public! Ouch. I mean, Alessandra Stanley clearly goofed this one. That's the kind of mistake-riddled content you might expect from a blog, not The Gray Lady. (smirking...)

But still, that almost feels like piling on.

Until, that is, you Google Alessandra Stanley and discover that she's a regular guest on the New York Times Corrections page. In fact. she's notorious for it.

John Cook of the blog Reference Tone collected all of the published corrections of Stanley ’s work from 2001 – 2005 and the list is LONG.

Seriously, go look at the list. I would have reproduced it here but it's just too damn long. It's kind of incredible really.

My boss would be crawling up my ass if I were that careless!

James Dean's Safe Drving PSA

When Warner Brothers first released Rebel Without A Cause, they were concerned that kids would mimic James Dean's character and wind up driving off cliffs.

To distance themselves ahead of time from copycat incidents, Warner Brothers had Dean film this public service announcement urging kids to "Take it easy driving out there. The life you save might be mine."

Sadly, the clip was never used because Dean was killed in his speeding Porsche shortly before the movie was released.

Unrepentantly stolen from The Consumerist . Thanks for the heads-up!

Double Nickels on the Dime

The seminal record “Double Nickels on the Dime” is 25 years old this month. I was a senior in high school at the time and not quite ready for The Minutemen. I was too consumed with U2, Joe Jackson and XTC to even notice what was happening way out on the west coast.

By the time I became aware of The Minutemen, D. Boone, their singer and guitar player had expired and so had the band.

When they re-formed as Firehose with a new singer and a couple of new records I was fully on board but could only look back on The Minutemen as a lost opportunity.

DNOTD was a dense record - a double album packed with 42 songs, each one about a minute and a half long.

Fine, fine stuff.

The best writing about the Minutemen that I’ve ever come across was in Michael Azzerad’s excellent book “Out Band Could Be Your Life.” If you’ve got a soft spot for the indie rock scene from the 80’s, this is the book for you.

Someone made a documentary about the band called “We Jam Econo” which I’ve never seen but I post the trailer here for your edification.

And here are some performance videos that might bring you back 20 or 25 years also…

Little Man With a Gun in His Hand

Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing

History Lesson Part II

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Buildings as Canvas

NuFormer Digital Media , a company based in the Netherlands, does some crazy-cool 3-D projections onto buildings that create the illusion of the building collapsing or water gushing over the roof or any number of other neat effects.

Thanks to Neatorama for the heads-up by way of Monsters and Rockets .

No more space in this space.

My good friend Molly threw a cold glass of water in my face the other day. You may have seen it in the comments section of my July 16, 2009 post about the launch anniversary of Apollo 11. “You have officially become a space blog. That’s cool, but you are a space blog.”

And while I like spacey things, I don’t want to be a space blog. In the first place, there are other and better space blogs out there. Lots of them. In the second place, my interests are more varied and tend to wax and wane. And in the third place, if I go all-space-all-the-time I’m liable to lose many of my regular readers. (!!)

I’ve been kind of crazy about space this month because of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission but even my mom is tuning this stuff out!

So I’m declaring a moratorium on space posts. That’s it. No more space.

Maybe if I see something that absolutely boggles the mind, I’ll lift the moratorium but for now, consider this a safe haven of space-free goodness.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

It's tongue weighs as much as an elephant...

...and some of it's blood vessels are so wide that you could swim down them.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Enough with the space already! I know. You're right. Just about.

Ever since I saw this video...

I became fascinated by the story of Joseph Kittinger. He's the guy in the first half of that video and he holds the records for highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, longest drogue-fall (4 min), and fastest speed by a human through the atmosphere.

In fact, I posted a story about him last August ...I mean, I think he's a movie waiting to happen.

I found some more interesting video about him recently that includes a some rather haunting audio clips of his voice.

The edge of space there...what is that primal thing inside of me that responds so deeply to that? Remember when I posted this picture back in May?

You DO see it...right? Do you know what I'm talking about? Is it a human thing or does just strike me in an unusual way? When I let my mind walk around, I wonder if that gut response is a product of the fact that evolved on earth and that any experience away from the environment in which we were shaped is bound to bring about some kind of...shift in bound to blow our minds?

How universal is that I wonder? Is that a human experience or just my experience?

Friday, July 17, 2009

First Images of the Apollo Landing Sites

Space nerds have been eagerly awaiting images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter – specifically pictures of the Apollo landing sites.

The anticipation stems partly from the desire to quiet the moon-hoax element once and for all. Sadly, as with all conspiracy theorists, evidence against their position will be ignored or explained away with thin logic, defensive postures, allusions to secretive cabals and logical fallacies.

Aside from those on the fringe, it excites the geek heart to see what remains of the Lunar Module and some of the scientific equipment left behind 40 years ago. And, as Phil Plait of the Bad Astronomy Blog puts it,

In all of human history, there are many dividing lines we can arbitrarily assign. Before and after the use of atomic weapons, before and after the discovery of the light bulb, before and after this war or that.
But there is one dividing line that can inspire us, fill us with wonder, make us dream of bigger goals, higher aspirations, better ways to live our lives for the future. And that is the dividing line between the time we were a race shackled to the ground, confined to a single planet… and the time a human being stepped foot on another world.

Yeah, that’s kind of it.


That is the Apollo 11 landing site - where we first set foot on the moon. The arrow points to what remains of the Lunar Module (LM). You can see the shadow it casts - the sun was clearly low on the horizon when this image was captured.

The bottom part of the LM remained behind because after landing it became essentially dead weight. The Ascent Module separated from the base as Armstrong and Aldrin blasted off to re-join Michael Cooper in the Command Module orbiting above. The diagram below shows the two parts of the LM.

This next image captures the Apollo 14 landing site where you can even see footprints…if only vaguely. Remember that with no atmosphere there is no weather on the moon. No wind exists to disturb the footprints in the fine silt (called regolith) that makes up the surface of the moon. Those prints will remain there forever until a meteorite disturbs them or we return to disturb them ourselves.

Understand also that these are not the highest resolution images that the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is capable of. This is just a taste of even higher resolution images yet to come.

Thanks as always to Plait’s Bad Astronomy Blog

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Oh! Whoa. It's been one year.

I just realized.

It was one year ago today that I started doing this. I never intended it but looking back, I like the poetry of it. My first post at The Many Uses of Tim Foil, the launch of this blog, took place on the anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11.

July 16, 2008 - July 16, 2009.

So far.

The Launch of Apollo 11

Today is the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, the mission that brought Buzz Aldrin, Neal Armstrong and Michael Collins to the moon.

(Last month I posted about this anniversary here and in first ever entry on this blog I espoused my admiration for the Saturn V rocket here .)

In addition to many other commemorations, today NASA released a sneak preview of digitally restored Apollo 11 video footage. The tapes were scanned and cleaned using state-of-the-art digital techniques, and clearly show visible improvement.

The remainder of the available footage will be cleaned up and released in several months but here is a montage of some of the footage released today.

(Thanks as always to Phil Plait at the Bad Astronomy Blog for uploading and sharing the video…)

I have also raved in the past about the Boston Globe’s Big Picture Blog which has some great shots of the planning, training and mission of Apollo 11. Click on these images to see bigger, mind blowing versions...

The Saturn V rocket. Primal.

"Earthrise" over the moon

Neil Armstrong back inside after the first historic space walk

Technology is so integrated into our lives that its easy to forget how insanely ambitious it was to put men on the moon. These images and this footage are chilling reminders.

Super, super cool.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


More stick figure funny from XKCD

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Thanks to Jason Kottke's blog for the heads-up...

Bursting Bubble

Unrepentantly stolen from the UK's Daily Guardian Website ...

Photographer Richard Heeks, from Exeter, used a fast shutter speed of 1/500th of a second and a wind-free day while his wife Sarah provided the all-important finger.

A bubble is made up of three layers - one thin layer of water sandwiched between two layers of soap molecules.

As Sarah's finger breaks the surface tension, the perfect sphere is replaced by a round mass of soapy droplets which dissolve into the air. No matter what the shape the bubble is initially, it will always try to become a sphere because it as the smallest surface area and requires the least amount of energy to achieve.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sell Out

(But first, a personal note from Tim: Tomorrow we embark on a week-long family vacation so you probably won’t see too many posts while I’m gone. Hopefully I”ll have some stories to share when we get back but in the meantime, maybe you can keep busy with this!)

Back in October, 2008 I posted a British television commercial featuring John Lydon of Sex Pistol’s fame schilling for butter...

Now here’s another punk icon turned pitchman…

As a late 80’s/early 90’s playing-in-a-band kind-of-music-snob type, I was expecting to feel a surge of disgust in my gut from the sight of such disgraceful sell-outs.

But while waiting for that gut reaction I realized it wasn't happening. I just couldn’t gin up the proper indignation which is a far cry from the way I felt when I was in my twenties and thirties.

Back then though, the sell-outs were egregious and easy to spot, occasioning passionate rants against corporate rock and marking the bands and musicians as unworthy of attention of affection. But then it was no great risk to take on shit like this…it was more like shooting fish in a barrel.

Now that we’re almost out of the aughts, the music landscape has changed a lot. The radio industry has consolidated so much that breaking a band on radio just doesn’t happen anymore. It turns out that television shows and commercials have become one of the few vehicles that will give a band or a song national exposure.

(Neither a new or original observation there, I'm just saying...)

In some cases, it’s breaking new acts that benefit from this exposure. “The O.C.” became famous for it. In the clip below, The Dandy Warhols set the mood.

Now that’s not so bad right? George Michael Diet Coke? No, not acceptable. But thirty seconds leading into a scene on a guilty-pleasure TV show? Well, how the hell else are The Dandy Warhols going to get national exposure?

And there it is, the first crack in the wall of righteous indignation.

Sometimes its established acts. Real good acts with unimpeachable credibility. Really, who am I to assail the cred of Nick Drake or Daft Punk?

More cracks in the wall. And if Nick Drake can do it, said Sting to his agent, why can’t I?

And Sting’s agent, who also works with, say, Bob Dylan, gives Bob a call.

And the guys at CAA ask their clients if they’d be interested and sure enough, The Black Eyed Peas ARE interested.

And of all sudden there’s no wall left. Just cracks. Now its perfectly OK for your favorite band to sell soap flakes on TV.

But I still feel a tiny bit rotten (!) about it. Black Eyed Peas? OK, fine. Sting? Who cares? But Bob Dylan? Really? A gigantic fucking SUV?

Alas, I guess all things are cyclical. I found a couple of videos from the 50’s and 60’s that suggest that in an earlier era, the commercial sell-out wasn’t seen as anything to get worked up about.

The Rolling Stones did it…

(Note from Tim: Awesome, right?)

Dusty Springfield did it…

And speaking of Dusty Springfield, I have two radio commercials to present as further evidence. The first features Dusty singing the praises of Great Shakes, a powder that turns an ordinary glass of milk into a milk shake. Then, we’ve got Iron Butterfly (yes, Iron Butterfly) singing about Ban Deodorant. (Sorry for the low-fi nature of this clip but I was in a hurry!)

So I guess it used to be OK…then it wasn’t OK and now it’s OK again. Just like being a Michael Jackson fan!

That’s it for me. We’re off to Block Island for a family vacation. See you soon!