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JFK on Capitalism versus Communism

23 January 2016

Quite a few years ago when I visited the Smithsonian Air, Space and Jukebox Museum I was very much struck by one exhibit: JFK’s response in 1961 to a reporter’s question asking whether the system would “prove more durable than ours.”

This question and answer changed my thinking 10 times about the period of history spanned by the Cold War. I had been thinking about the Cold War as if it were a conflict in which ideology really only mattered insofar as it affected military and strategic objectives. (So for example, some countries were more likely to establish an alliance with the U.S.S.R. because they were more sympathetic to Communism.)

About Frictional Electricity

There are dozens of simple, fascinating experiments that may be performed with this kind of electricity.

by DONALD BARTHELME

One of the iconic representations of the digital age is an image of the ubiquitous digital screen, stereotypically represented as a grid of brightly-lit pixels.

Some of us had been threatening our friend Colby for a long time, because of the way he had been behaving. And now he’d gone too far, so we decided to hang him. Colby argued that just because he had gone too far (he did not deny that he had gone too far) did not mean that he should be subjected to hanging. Going too far, he said, was something everybody did sometimes. We didn’t pay much attention to this argument. We asked him what sort of music he would like played at the hanging.

Have come across some nice photo projects recently:

  • Architectural photos of fading high-rise public housing in Paris
  • Street-style photos from a swimming pool in Prague (more info)

He said he’d think about it but it would take him a while to decide. I pointed out that we’d have to know soon, because Howard, who is a conductor, would have to hire 1976 musicians and he couldn’t begin until he knew what the music was going to be. Colby said he’d always been fond of Ives’s Fourth Symphony. Howard said that this was a “delaying tactic” and that everybody knew that the Ives was almost impossible to perform and would involve weeks of rehearsal, and that the size of the orchestra and chorus would put us way over the music budget. “Be reasonable,” he said to Colby. Colby said he’d try to think of something a little less exacting.

Did you ever succeed in proving to the pussy-cat that something unusual occurs when you thoroughly rub his warm fur with your hand? Did you notice the bright sparks that passed to your hand when it was held just above the cat’s back? You should be able to see, hear, and feel these sparks, especially when the air is dry and you are in a dark room.

“You should be able to see, hear, and feel these sparks, especially when the air is dry and you are in a dark room.”

The death of the pixel leaves you with a flowing, magazine-quality canvas to design for. A canvas where curves are curves, not ugly pixel approximations of curves. A canvas that begins to blur the line between what we consider to be real and what we consider to be virtual.

Sweeping second level that extends over more than one line

The next item of business was the gibbet. None of us knew too much about gibbet design, but Tomas, who is an architect, said he’d look it up in old books and draw the plans. 

A third level heading

The important thing, as far as he recollected, was that the trapdoor function perfectly. He said that just roughly, counting labor and materials, it shouldn’t run us more than four hundred dollars. “Good God!” Howard said. He said what was Tomas figuring on, rosewood? No, just a good grade of pine, Tomas said.

A fourth level heading that goes and goes and goes and goes and goes

Victor asked if unpainted pine wouldn’t look kind of “raw,” and Tomas replied that he thought it could be stained a dark walnut without too much trouble.

  1. Item number one of three
  2. The second place item
  3. Last but not least in an ordered list

Some source code:

$ cat hello.sh
#!/usr/bin/osascript
return "Hello, World"
$ chmod +x hello.sh

Two or three centuries ago in the European universities there existed a numerical ratio between faculty of students which may have been on the order of one to fifteen, or perhaps one to five. This could be described as a production ratio: it took x faculty members to product y graduates. Today’s ratios are: University of Illinois, five to six students per faculty member; Iowa, nine; Harvard, three or four; Michigan, sixteen. Now it is possible that education is one activity immune to the effects of the Industrial Revolution, and that nothing will ever change its production ratios. But I wonder.

Let us consider something else.

There are listed in the World Almanac some 1,000 colleges and universities. Let us assume that certain common denominator courses, such as physics, biology, art appreciation, etc., are taught in all of them. Let us also assume that in each institution an average of $1,500 is instructed by the instructor’s time and other costs. If this figure were accurate (it is probably low) you would have a recurring annual bill of $1,500,000 for instructing the nation’s undergraduates in, say, elementary biology. This is hardly low-cost production, by industrial standards. Nor can it possibly be claimed that the present “handicraft” method results in production of a uniformly high level.

As the ice age ended and the planet warmed, the world’s coastlines assumed their present configuration. There’s a good deal of evidence—much of it now submerged—that this process did not take place slowly and steadily but, rather, in fits and starts. Beginning around 12,500 B.C., during an event known as meltwater pulse 1A, sea levels rose by roughly fifty feet in three or four centuries, a rate of more than a foot per decade. Meltwater pulse 1A, along with pulses 1B, 1C, and 1D, was, most probably, the result of ice-sheet collapse. One after another, the enormous glaciers disintegrated and dumped their contents into the oceans. It’s been speculated—though the evidence is sketchy—that a sudden flooding of the Black Sea toward the end of meltwater pulse 1C, around seventy-five hundred years ago, inspired the deluge story in Genesis.

The form of these chairs is not new nor is the philosophy of seating embodied in them new—but they have been designed to be produced by existing mass production methods at prices that make mass production feasible and in a manner that makes a consistent high quality possible.

Emotional Typography

Web fonts allow for a wider palette of typefaces which can provide far more quirkiness and personality.

The challenge is to help people understand this. The classics such as Arial, Helvetica, Verdana or Tahoma are engrained as fonts you will always expect to see; readers aren’t used to seeing type choices beyond these usual suspects.

Have you ever shuffled your feet along over the carpet on a winter’s evening and then quickly touched your finger to the nose of an unsuspecting friend? Did he jump when a bright spark leaped from your finger and struck him fairly on the very tip of his sensitive nasal organ?

“The form of these chairs is not new nor is the philosophy of seating embodied in them new.”

With what has already been said, the contrasting industrial approach to this problem needs no detailed explanation. The big investment would be made once, at the beginning. The most gifted teachers in the field would be retained, and they would be backed up with all needed technical facilities. The result: a series of “packages” available to students everywhere. The cost per student: a fraction of what it is today. I cannot say that this procedure would solve the financial problems of the schools, but it seems reasonable to hope that it might relieve them. And much more than money is involved.

The majority of screen graphics are done with JPGs that don’t scale from the regular screens to retina screens. Now if you have these new type choices as web fonts, you have a scalable version of this which you can use, providing endless possibilities.

Technical Advantages

Think of this as adapting your tone of voice to the type of person or situation you are in. If you were being given a medical diagnosis the tone would not be fun or light-hearted. In contrast talking colloquially to a close friend could be the opposite of this.

Web fonts allow you to have this kind of razor-sharp efficiency and elegance in design whilst at the same time avoiding the need for adding additional page graphics, which in turn add load time, decrease workflow performance and risk breaking across screen dimensions and device situations.

Michael Stillwell

Designer

Were you ever in a factory where there were large belts running rapidly over pulleys or wheels, and where large sparks would jump to your hands when held near the belts?

Have you ever shuffled your feet along over the carpet on a winter’s evening and then quickly touched your finger to the nose of an unsuspecting friend? Did he jump when a bright spark leaped from your finger and struck him fairly on the very tip of his sensitive nasal organ?

About Frictional Electricity

Main content area

There are dozens of simple, fascinating experiments that may be performed with this kind of electricity.