How to Be Thankful on Thanksgiving

A few good tips on being grateful this Thanksgiving (but hey, the tips are useful year-round):

Don’t confuse gratitude with indebtedness. Sure, you may feel obliged to return a favor, but that’s not gratitude, at least not the way psychologists define it. Indebtedness is more of a negative feeling and doesn’t yield the same benefits as gratitude, which inclines you to be nice to anyone, not just a benefactor.

My favorite part is the “gratitude visit”:

Try a gratitude visit. This exercise, recommended by Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, begins with writing a 300-word letter to someone who changed your life for the better. Be specific about what the person did and how it affected you. Deliver it in person, preferably without telling the person in advance what the visit is about. When you get there, read the whole thing slowly to your benefactor. “You will be happier and less depressed one month from now,” Dr. Seligman guarantees in his book “Flourish.”

Do you have any tips of your own to express gratitude?

What is a Person?

What is a person? Is it a human being, or can the word be extended to corporations, animals, and other entities? Mark Peters has a thoughtful essay in The Boston Globe touching this subject:

Why so much controversy over a word? Why have some found it vitally important to extend person to include not-exactly-human things, while others find it grotesque and overreaching? Partly it’s because we think of person as meaning human. But the word isn’t that simple: There’s a long history of person being used in other ways, including definitions that mean both less and more than being a member of the human race.

Person has led a double life in English since the early 1200s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, meaning both a human and a type of role, especially the theatrical kind. This theatricality goes all the way to the word’s roots, in the Latin persona–a type of mask used by an actor. (That word, too, survives in English, meaning an alias, disguise, or character.) The etymological origins of personhood, then, are all about the mask, not about who’s wearing it.

From the beginning, personhood was flexible and adaptable. The idea that corporations have some of the rights of persons, for example, is centuries old. As William S. Laufer has written in “Corporate Bodies and Guilty Minds: The Failure of Corporate Criminal Liability,” the seeds of corporate personhood were sown in the 1300s under King Edward III, when corporations attained some property rights. This example from the Common Laws of England in 1765 lays out the distinction that still vexes us: “Natural persons are such as the God of nature formed us; artificial are such as are created and devised by human laws for the purposes of society and government; which are called corporations or bodies politic.” Then as now, corporate personhood granted a business privileges while sparing the members from blame.

Older idioms such as “put on a person” highlight the artificiality of personhood, as in this example from 1653: “No man can long put on a person and act a part, but his evill manners will peep through the corners of the white robe.” Many uses of person still carry this sense of role playing. It’s no accident that giving an inanimate object human characteristics is called personification, not humanification.

On the other hand, since at least 1390, person has been used to mean someone’s physical self or body, a meaning still evident in phrases such as “in person” and “concealed on his person.” Sometimes this sense is narrowed to mean genitals, especially the male variety, producing some amusingly euphemistic statements such as this prohibition from the British Vagrancy Act of 1824: “Every Person wilfully, openly, lewdly and obscenely exposing his Person in any Street or in any place of public Resort, with intent to insult any Female, shall be deemed a Rogue and Vagabond.”

Even as these lighter sides of person live on, the word carries another, more serious meaning: “an individual regarded as having human rights, dignity, or worth,” to quote the OED. Personhood, then, means a corporation can claim the right of free speech–in the form of campaign contributions. Animal-rights advocates want animals to have personhood so they will be treated as worthy, dignified beings who deserve protection from poaching, experimentation, and other harms. The quest for personhood is the quest for rights.

What’s in a word? I like this conclusion:

Still, it’s possible that our current struggles over the meaning of person will seem tame compared to what lies ahead. Since the beginning of the field of robotics, scientists have wondered if a robot will ever achieve enough autonomy to be considered a person. If we ever encounter an alien race, they sure won’t be humans, but they’ll probably be persons. Is a human clone a person? Personally, I would think so; I bet many won’t agree. But then, arguing over who’s a person and who’s not may be part of what makes us human.

What is your definition of a person?

A Blow to Pinstripe Aspirations: Wall Street Layoffs

This piece in today’s NYT’s Dealbook has generated a flurry of comments. It’s about young people losing their jobs from investment banks and other financial firms. Read the entire piece here and then judge for yourself…

The money quote:

Sam Meek, 27, who was laid off in September when his Connecticut hedge fund decided to downsize, used to spend $500 on charity dinners and lavish golf outings. Now, it’s home-cooked meals and beer on the sofa. Recently, Mr. Meek and his roommate, another unemployed banker who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to jeopardize his job search, sat together in the kitchen filing for unemployment and drinking a bottle of Champagne.

“I’m scraping by right now,” he said.

Scraping by, huh? Needless to say, the majority of the 300+ comments have been pejorative; many have been deleted for abusive language and/or content.

And this was a good quote about the sentiment of elite/prestigious jobs:

The mood has darkened so much that even the young Wall Street workers who still have prestigious jobs are considering letting go of the brass ring.

“It’s lost its luster,” said a former Goldman analyst who left the financial sector this year. The former analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he signed a confidentiality agreement with the firm, said that in addition to losing some of the monetary benefits of their jobs, his friends who remained in finance were suffering from peer envy. “The new status jobs aren’t at Goldman Sachs. They’re at Google, Apple, and Facebook.”

A brief collection of comments was posted in another post here. I will agree with the nuanced comment by Timothy C. from Queens:

“Let’s not be too harsh here. I work in the financial industry, and in my own company, about half the workers (myself included) are in the back office, where salaries are generally in the middle-class range. Cuts in the financial industry tend to hit support staff much harder than the headline-grabbing six-figure earners in the front office. Many of my friends who have been laid off were making $40 or $50K a year. Not bad, of course, but nowhere near the stereotype of the financial industry worker.”

What are your thoughts on these young unemployed? Do you have any sympathy for them?

Why Did Borders Fail and Barnes & Noble Survive?

A short piece in Business Week provides some clues:

Borders’s demise, though, has as much to do with real estate as any metaphysical market shift. During the superstore boom of the 1990s, Barnes & Noble paid close attention to where it put its outlets, which were usually in prime locations. Many of the profitable Borders stores were also centrally located, but numerous industry observers characterized the company as grasping for growth. It had a policy of picking “B locations,” says Fox, and trying to turn these sites into “A economics.” Leases on its stores were also “unproductively long,” adds CEO Edwards. As the company’s fortunes turned, it was difficult for Borders to buy its way out of leases that still had seven and eight years remaining on them.

Analysts predict that Barnes & Noble will have to shrink the number and size of its stores, and it hasn’t tried to gobble up many of the vacated Borders locations—70 percent of which, Barnes & Noble says, were within five miles of one of its outlets. (Barnes & Noble did purchase the remainder of Borders’s Web business.) But so far Barnes & Noble is holding on to its stores, focusing on e-books and filling its outlets with high-profit-margin nonbook items, such as educational toys and games.

The one thing Borders did have going for it was its huge selection, yet even that wasn’t worth as much as the company thought. An average Borders superstore stocked around 140,000 titles at immense cost, but if a customer craves selection, no store can compete with the long tail of the Internet. Maybe more crucially for Borders, the assortment of titles that provided the key to its identity didn’t give it a competitive edge over Barnes & Noble. Mark Evans, a director of merchandising strategy and analytics at Borders until 2009, says that [Borders] surveyed customers to understand why Barnes & Noble, with its slimmer selection, continued to clobber them in terms of year-over-year growth, average sales per store, and even the number of books sold at each location. “Customers didn’t notice our larger assortment of books,” Evans laments. “They didn’t care.”

It’s true — I hadn’t noticed the larger selection of books at Borders.

Also, do you really expect a company to survive whose claim to fame is their “secret sauce”?

The Borders story began in Ann Arbor, where Louis and Tom Borders opened their first store in 1971. Students at the University of Michigan, the brothers developed a then-revolutionary system to track sales and inventory; for years Borders executives called it the company’s “secret sauce.” Their “Book Inventory System” could oversee the flow of a huge number of titles broken into thousands of different subject categories across multiple stores. By evaluating sales data, the system could understand local tastes and predict demand in specific communities. Initially, the brothers hoped to sell the program to independent stores across the country, but bookshop owners proved resistant, asserting that they—and not some punch-card computer—intimately understood their clientele. Instead, Borders opened additional stores, first in suburban Detroit, Atlanta, and Indianapolis, ultimately forcing out many of those reluctant independents. By the 1990s it had stores all over the country, and together with Barnes & Noble controlled 40 percent of the bookselling market.

Perhaps a better answer comes from Mark Evans, who provides his answer of why Borders failed and Barnes & Noble is thriving in this Quora post:

  1. Failure to adequately address the internet sales channel and the subsequent ebook market. Specifically, the decision to outsource To be fair, was costing the company millions of dollars in losses each year ($20m I think when they decided to outsource) and one could argue that the outsourcing solution was a case of letting the most efficient etailing organization ( handle the job and turn a big negative into a profitable business. In the short-term, this saved a lot of money. In the long run, the internet is too important to outsource in this manner and Borders’ branding, multi-channel strategy, and customer base suffered. They also dropped the ball on ebooks, but by the time this became an issue they were just trying to figure out how to keep the whole house from burning down around them, so I find it more understandable.
  2. Poor real estate strategy – Borders leased space that was too large, the storefronts did not compare well to B&N, and they were complacent in picking and relocating existing stores to the best locations. Some of this is subjective as I don’t have great data to back this up – just my own educated assessment based on observation.
  3. Over-investment in music – while this was a big plus for Borders in the early to mid 90’s, it was a disaster in the long run. This is why the stores were too big once the music business cratered – stores were sized and modeled to provide a large music CD business which largely disappeared. In addition, infrastructure was sized to support this business, including a dedicated warehouse distribution facility. This last part has been addressed over time, but soaked up money, time, and energy. Music was also part of what made Borders a destination for many customers, so when music sales tanked, other product categories’ sales suffered as well.
  4. Over-reliance on assortment size to compete as opposed to efficient operations – Borders was renowned for its wide and quality assortment of titles. The very large assortment size was an advantage early on before Amazon. However, by its very nature the internet was better at quickly and efficiently connecting customers with obscure titles and bringing the “long tail’ to market. Thus, competing on assortment size was especially vulnerable to internet retailing and Borders suffered disproportionately as the “long tail” customers abandoned them.
  5. Failure to build efficient systems and processes – While Borders’ legendary “expert system” was considered cutting edge and an advantage early on, the company failed to successfully build upon this foundation and create new, better assortment, replenishment, and supply chain systems and processes to keep pace with the changing state of technology and efficient retail operations. B&N invested considerable time/energy/money through the 90’s in systems and processes. To provide one example, a lower ranked title that sells out in a B&N will be replenished from a central warehouse within 2-3 days. The same process could take up to 16 weeks for Borders. Borders sought to upgrade systems with two large efforts in the 00’s: first one was a home grown effort called Common Systems. Second was a “buy and integrate” project to implement Retek and E3. Both failed spectacularly. The Retek effort dramatically hurt the Walden chain, the only business unit that was managed by the system. With both of these efforts, large sums of money and, perhaps more importantly, human resources and time were squandered.
  6. Branding failure – In addition to the problem, Borders never reached the mindshare that Barnes & Noble did for a variety of reasons. Also, Barnes & Noble secured the exclusive U.S. Starbucks partnership, a major branding and traffic-driving win for them.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved Borders. I still go to bookstores. It’s just that I will return home and then purchase the books I saw on Amazon.

Who is The Umbrella Man?

Today is the 48th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In the video linked below, the Academy-award winning filmmaker Errol Morris explores the story behind the one man seen standing under an open black umbrella at the site. It’s a fascinating video. Before you watch, read this statement from Errol Morris himself:

For years, I’ve wanted to make a movie about the John F. Kennedy assassination. Not because I thought I could prove that it was a conspiracy, or that I could prove it was a lone gunman, but because I believe that by looking at the assassination, we can learn a lot about the nature of investigation and evidence. Why, after 48 years, are people still quarreling and quibbling about this case? What is it about this case that has led not to a solution, but to the endless proliferation of possible solutions?

Years ago, Josiah Thompson, known as Tink, a young, Yale-educated Kierkegaard scholar, quit his day job as a professor of philosophy at Haverford College to write the definitive book on the Zapruder film — “Six Seconds in Dallas.” Tink became a private detective, and came to work with many of the same private investigators I had also worked with in the 1980s. We had so much in common — philosophy, P.I. work and an obsessive interest in the complexities of reality. But we had never met.

Last year, I finally got to meet and interview Tink Thompson. I hope his interview can become the first part of an extended series on the Kennedy assassination. This film is but a small segment of my six-hour interview with Tink.

Click here to see the video (I don’t think New York Times allows embedding of its videos).


On a related note: how would you feel if I posted more videos on this blog? I’ve only shared a couple videos in more than 200 posts, so I’m curious to know what you think…

How Elite Firms Hire

Lauren A. Rivera’s paper “Ivies, Extracurriculars, and Exclusion: Elite Employers’ Use of Educational Credentials” provides unprecented clues about the way elite firms screen resumes, conduct interviews, and hire. The paper is gated, but here is the abstract:

Although a robust literature has demonstrated a positive relationship between education and socio-economic attainment, the processes through which formal schooling yields enhanced economic and social rewards remain less clear. Employers play a crucial role in explaining the returns to formal schooling yet little is known about how employers, particularly elite employers, use and interpret educational credentials. In this article, I analyze how elite professional service employers use and interpret educational credentials in real-life hiring decisions. I find that educational credentials were the most common criteria employers used to solicit and screen resumes. However, it was not the content of education that elite employers valued but rather its prestige. Contrary to common sociological measures of institutional prestige, employers privileged candidates who possessed a super-elite (e.g., top four) rather than selective university affiliation. They restricted competition to students with elite affiliations and attributed superior abilities to candidates who had been admitted to super-elite institutions, regardless of their actual performance once there. However, a super-elite university affiliation was insufficient on its own. Importing the logic of university admissions, firms performed a strong secondary screen on candidates’ extracurricular accomplishments, favoring high status, resource-intensive activities that resonated with white, upper-middle class culture. I discuss these findings in terms of the changing nature of educational credentialism to suggest that (a) extracurricular activities have become credentials of social and moral character that have monetary conversion value in labor markets and (b) the way employers use and interpret educational credentials contributes to a social closure of elite jobs based on socio-economic status.

Bryan Caplan at the Library of Economics and Liberty provides the summary of the paper.

The approach behind the research:

From 2006 to 2008, I conducted 120 interviews with professionals directly involved in undergraduate and graduate hiring decisions in top-tier firms in each of the three industries under study (i.e., 40 per industry).  Participants included hiring partners, managing directors, and mid-level employees who conduct interviews and screen resumes as well as human resource managers.

To supplement interviews with behavioral data, I conducted fieldwork within the recruiting department of one elite professional service firm over a period of nine months. My role was that of a participant observer.  Given my prior professional experience at a peer firm and in event planning, I was brought on as an unpaid “recruiting intern” to help plan and execute recruitment events…  I shadowed recruiters through the recruitment process for full-time and summer associate candidates from a single, elite professional school, debriefed interviewers on job candidates immediately following interviews, and sat in on group deliberations where candidates were discussed and ultimately selected.

And the important results from the research/interviews:

1. Most applications/resumes practically go straight in the trash.  

Because professionals balanced recruitment responsibilities with full-time client work, they often screened resumes while commuting to and from the office and client sites; in trains, planes, and taxis; frequently late at night and over take out… [E]valuators tended to do so very rapidly, typically bypassing cover letters (only about fifteen percent reported even looking at them) and transcripts and reported spending between 10 s to 4 min per resume.

2. Evaluators have a lot of slack.  

[M]ost firms did not have a standard resume scoring rubric that they used to make interview decisions, evaluators reported “going down the page” from top to bottom, focusing on the pieces of resume data they personally believed were the most important “signals” of candidate quality. 

What’s startling is that evaluators explicitly select candidates similar to themselves in school rank, grades, extracurriculars, and so on.  For example:

[R]oughly one-third of evaluators did not use educational prestige as a signal. One of the
primary differences between these two groups was their own educational history, with those who had attended “top” schools being more likely to use educational prestige as a screen than those who had attended other types of selective institutions.

3. Super-elite credentials matter much more than your academic record:

[E]valuators drew strong distinctions between top four universities, schools that I term the super-elite, and other types of selective colleges and universities. So-called “public Ivies” such as University of Michigan and Berkeley were not considered elite or even prestigious…

4. Super-elite schools matter because they’re strong signals, not because they’re better at building human capital:

Evaluators relied so intensely on “school” as a criterion of evaluation not because they believed that the content of elite curricula better prepared students for life in their firms – in fact, evaluators tended to believe that elite and, in particular, super-elite instruction was “too abstract,” “overly theoretical,” or even “useless” compared to the more “practical” and “relevant” training offered at “lesser” institutions…

[I]t was not the content of an elite education that employers valued but rather the perceived rigor of these institutions’ admissions processes. According to this logic,
the more prestigious a school, the higher its “bar” for admission, and thus the “smarter” its student body.

In addition to being an indicator of potential intellectual deficits, the decision to go to a lesser known school (because it was typically perceived by evaluators as a “choice”) was often perceived to be evidence of moral failings, such as faulty judgment or a lack of foresight on the part of a student.

5. Extracurricular activities matter, but only if they meet a certain threshold — they must appear as passions rather than resume fillers (this is important):

[E]valuators believed that the most attractive and enjoyable coworkers and candidates would be those who had strong extracurricular “passions.” They also believed that involvement in activities outside of the classroom was evidence of superior social
skill; they assumed a lack of involvement was a signal of social deficiencies… By contrast, those without significant extracurricular experiences or those who participated in activities that were primarily academically or pre-professionally oriented were perceived to be “boring,” “tools,” “bookworms,” or “nerds” who might turn out to be “corporate drones” if hired.

But they have to be the right kind of extracurriculars.  

Across the board, they privileged activities that were motivated by “personal” rather than “professional” interest, even when activities were directly related to work within their industry (e.g., investing, consulting, legal clinic clubs) because the latter were believed to serve the instrumental purpose of “looking good” to recruiters and were suspected of being “resume filler” or “padding” rather than evidence of genuine “passion,” “commitment,” and “well-roundedness.” 

Caplan explains: “Don’t imagine, though, that you should merely follow your bliss”

[T]hey differentiated being a varsity college athlete, preferably one that was also a national or Olympic champion, versus playing intramurals; having traveled the globe with a world-renowned orchestra as opposed to playing with a school chamber group; and having reached the summit of Everest or Kilimanjaro versus recreational hiking. The former activities were evidence of “true accomplishment” and dedication, whereas the latter were described as things that “anyone could do.”

6. Grades do matter somewhat, but mostly as a cut-off.  They’re a signal of work ethic more than IQ:

[M]ost evaluators did not believe that grades were an indicator of intelligence. Rather, they provided a straightforward and “fair” way to rank candidates, particularly those within a given school… [G]rades were used to measure a candidate’s moral qualities. An attorney (Asian-American, male), believed that grades were an indication of a candidate’s coping skills, “It tells me how they can handle stress; if they’d had their feet to the flames before. If they’ve gotten good grades at a very competitive school, they’re probably pretty sharp and can take care of themselves.”

I went to Georgia Tech and Caltech — both are excellent schools (especially in engineering), but when applying for jobs not related to my major, I suspect I was always passed upon by those graduating from Harvard, Yale, and the other Ivies. My grades were at the top 5% of my class.

When Instinct Fails

We often laud our ability to go with the gut, to rely on instinct in dire circumstances. But in at least one prominent instance–that in the airline industry–instinct can kill. From this fascinating New York Times piece, we learn about aerodynamic stalls, and how the instinctual desire to lift the airplane’s nose up will exacerbate the stall and possibly lead to a crash:

For the hundreds of pilots he has trained to recognize and recover from an aerodynamic stall, Mr. Otelli said, “the first reaction of all of them is to pull back on the control stick” and drive the plane’s nose higher — a move that only exacerbates the problem. “It’s a reflex that’s almost uncontrollable,” he said.

Learning to overcome that impulse, and instead to maneuver the nose toward the ground to regain speed, takes repeated practice and forms part of the initial training of every licensed pilot. Still, “this is not something everyone is able to do after the second, third or maybe even the fourth try,” he said. “If a pilot has only experienced a stall once or twice — and perhaps only in a flight simulator — chances are higher that instinct takes over in a live situation.”

The good news is that loss of the plane’s control is rare:

It accounted for only about 5 percent of all aircraft accidents and incidents in the past 10 years globally, according to statistics compiled by the European Aviation Safety Agency, and nearly one-third of those incidents involved an aerodynamic stall. But when it does occur, it is almost always catastrophic: Of the 101 accidents attributed to loss of control from 2001 to 2010, 80 percent were fatal. Of all air passenger deaths over the past decade, 25 percent were the result of a loss of control.

It seems like pilot training on the simulators is either 1) inadequate or 2) not rigorous enough:

“When a simulator stalls, it feels like nothing. It is very benign, whereas in the aircraft it can be a dramatic experience” Mr. Advani said. “We must create an environment where the pilot is challenged in a realistic way — to even make it difficult to apply the correct control inputs,” he said. “Ultimately, proper techniques for both prevention and recovery should become thoroughly trained responses. ”

So next time someone says: “Go with your instinct,” you can use this counter-example and explain how that can backfire…

A Chess Game at Zuccotti Park

I enjoyed this short McSweeney’s piece about a chess game at Zuccotti Park:

Despite my hustle alert level being on high, I still agreed to play James for five dollars. I wasn’t in any mood to quit playing, especially if quitting meant I had to join the debate that was going on near the chess table between some “end the fed” guys and a couple of central-casting Bard students over whether or not Obama was to blame for the economic crisis.

The game was uneventful except that neither of us was in the mood to let the other one take moves back anymore. We stayed friendly and jocular over the board, but on the board it was all business. I opened with the Queen’s Gambit, he declined. “A little rusty” my ass. We played a fairly even game and ended in a draw. He seemed disappointed. One of the Bard students asked if we were done and if he could get next.

“We are playing best-of-three.” James looked at me and winked.

Now my hustle alert level was at severe. I figure James just got me for ten dollars. I briefly contemplated just paying him the money right then and there, I was so sure I didn’t stand a chance. We set the pieces up and played on. The Bard student returned to help his comrades win their political debate against the Ron Paul guys.

There are all kinds of seemingly divergent viewpoints here in Zuccotti Park waiting to be arrested. There are libertarians and there are socialists; there are 9-11 “truther” idiots and there are World Trade Center first responders; there are Democrats and there are Republicans; there are anarchists who hate the state and there are public sector unionists who work for it.

My favorite part is the analogy of zugzwang (pronounced ˈtsuːktsvaŋ), a chess term, to life in America and the Occupy protesters:

But the current position doesn’t look good for me. I’m ahead in material, but all of my pieces are committed to defending my king. I’m in zugzwang.

Zugzwang is a term used in chess to refer to a position where every move you have is a bad one. Once you’re in zugzwang, things like having more pieces than your opponent doesn’t matter anymore. If you can’t use them to attack you may as well not have them at all. Often players who find themselves in zugzwang simply resign.

A growing number of people in America know what it feels like to be in zugzwang. For some of them their whole life has been one long zugzwang, they can’t remember ever having any good options. Without catching a lucky break, a lifetime of hard work for most people results in just that—a lifetime of hard work. For others they maybe once thought they had it all—a good job with a pension, a nice house with a payment they could afford, set for life. Then in an instant it all disappeared. House is underwater, ARM is popping on the loan, pension fund bought a bunch of mortgage-backed securities. All that’s left is utter, hopeless zugzwang.

How does it end?

The Origin of Occupy Wall Street

A good piece in The New Yorker describes the origin of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It began after conversation between Kalle Lasn, a 69-year old editor of Adbusters magazine, and Micah White, the magazine’s senior editor and Lasn’s closest collaborator.

This is how Occupy Wall Street began: as one of many half-formed plans circulating through conversations between Lasn and White, who lives in Berkeley and has not seen Lasn in person for more than four years. Neither can recall who first had the idea of trying to take over lower Manhattan. In early June, Adbusterssent an e-mail to subscribers stating that “America needs its own Tahrir.” The next day, White wrote to Lasn that he was “very excited about the Occupy Wall Street meme. . . . I think we should make this happen.” He proposed three possible Web sites:,, and

So what other causes has Adbusters been behind?

This spring, the magazine was pushing boycotts of Starbucks (for driving out local businesses) and the Huffington Post (for exploiting citizen journalists). Then, in early June, the art department designed a poster showing a ballerina poised on the “Charging Bull” sculpture, near Wall Street. Lasn had thought of the image late at night while walking his German shepherd, Taka: “the juxtaposition of the capitalist dynamism of the bull,” he remembers, “with the Zen stillness of the ballerina.” In the background, protesters were emerging from a cloud of tear gas. The violence had a highly aestheticized, dreamlike quality—Adbusters’ signature. “What is our one demand?” the poster asked. “Occupy Wall Street. Bring tent.”

As you may know, the #Occupy movement began on September 17. How was the date picked?

White and Lasn spent a few days in early July debating when the occupation should start. At first, White argued that it should begin on July 4, 2012, so that protesters would have time to prepare. Lasn believed that the political climate could have shifted entirely by then. He proposed late September of this year; then he settled on the seventeenth, his mother’s birthday. White agreed. Lasn instructed the art department to insert “September 17th” beneath the bull and the ballerina, and Adbusters devoted a tactical-briefing e-mail on July 13th exclusively to the proposed occupation.

More here.

A Remarkable Wedding Story

“We have each lived a nightmare…Now it’s time to live our fairy tale.” 

I don’t usually post wedding stories on this blog, but this story that appeared this weekend in the Vows section of The New York Times is just incredible.

Sonia Jacobs, 64, and Peter Pringle, 73, married in New York last week…Their common ground was the decade and a half each had served on death row before their convictions were overturned for the murders that they steadfastly maintained they did not commit.

Definitely not a story you read every day.