Friday links! Unexpected results edition


Everything makes sense in retrospect, which instills the false confidence that the world is an ordered place. Consumed in real time, however, life is unpredictable and curling irons are suddenly, inexplicably hot. The distinguishing feature of human experience is incoherence, because what are we distinguishing it from? Fiction, the realm of ideas, religious narratives, rocks—all the things human experience isn’t make perfect sense to us, for the simple reason that they are products of our understanding. Life is the part we understand backwards, and so it surprises us anew. Today is Friday, and all manner of unexpected stuff has happened. Won’t you say you knew it all along with me?

First, the good news: a military court has acquitted Bradley Manning of aiding the enemy. If you dislike Bradley Manning, don’t worry: they convicted him of all manner of other violations, including of the Espionage Act, and he faces up to 136 years in prison—although, as the Times helpfully reminds us, the actual term is “likely to be much shorter.” The important thing is that they did not find that a person who leaked information about US military abuses—some might call such a person a whistleblower—to the general public had aided the enemy. That would have set a weird precedent, in light of the implication that the general public includes enemies and therefore can be treated as The Enemy when it comes to information about what the federal government does.

So a pleasant surprise involving a US military court, for once. In other surprises that seem inevitable in retrospect, a Korean news station has released its own joke pilot names after a Southwest Airlines landing gear failure at LaGuardia. You think that traditional Korean names are the most comedic, until you hear about the exploits of Captain Kent Parker Wright and Wyatt Wooden Workman. They sound so white! Also, how many American news affiliates can construct puns that work in Korean? This is why we don’t make the best cell phones.

Maybe it just takes practice, though. If our news affiliates put together three Korean puns and/or cell phones every day, they would probably become excellent comedians/electrical engineers. All it takes is relentless, daily practice, and you can get good at anything. Like this lady:


I don’t know about you, but I prefer the method by which doing it a couple of times reveals natural talent. And if I’m not good at it immediately, at least I tried.

That’s the American dream: to succeed wildly after discovering the gimmick everyone else was too stupid to notice. The Cure sent me this Slate article about those “one weird trick” sidebar ads that promise to give you six-pack abs or a bigger wang or, in the case of women, a job assembling products at home. Even in scams, women get a raw deal. But that’s not the point—the point is that A) the ads are deliberately amateurish, both to attract attention and to weed out more savvy consumers, and B) studies have found that the more reasons you give someone, the more persuaded they are, even if the content of the reasons is not itself convincing. Item (B) pretty much signals the end of society. Also, Alex Kaufman has gone with the worst lead cliché you can possible choose. If I’ve seen them, why do you spend 100 words describing them?

Form matters, though. New Yorkers will immediately recognize the subject of this College Humor parody, produced by my friend Spencer and acted by a goddamn genius:


He nails the cadence—absolutely nails it, as evidenced by his response to the handshake near the end. That, right there, is practice. You think it doesn’t perfect you, but then you do it forever, and the results are amazing. Behold Marcelo Garcia:


If you’ll excuse me, I have to devote the rest of my life to jiu jitsu. Or dance. Or narrative. I’m going to practice something assiduously, right after I check Facebook.

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