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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.