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David Pescovitz

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At Brooklyn's 36th Street subway stop, one of the steps is slightly higher than the others. This causes many many people to trip on their way up the stairs. Filmmaker Dean Peterson set up his camera to capture the stumbles. Concern trolls, get to your logins… (Paper)

UPDATE: And… the stairway is now closed.

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I'm a huge fan of Fleetwood Mac's California cocaine trilogy of Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, and Tusk. It's amazing that this year Rumours turns 35. Ken Caillat, who co-produced and engineered the record, has just written a new book that I'm really looking forward to reading titled "Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album." From a CNN interview with Caillat:

 Up-N-Adam Wp-Content Uploads 2012 04 Fleetwood-Mac-Book

At the time they were recording the album, all five band mates were going through painful breakups: (John and Chrstine McVie) were divorcing, (Lindsey) Buckingham and (Stevie) Nicks' long-term relationship was coming to a bitter end and Fleetwood's wife was about to leave him for his best friend. It's all personal drama that Caillat chronicles in his book.

"In retrospect, it's a miracle that we were able to finish 'Rumours,' " he said. "But later, I came to understand that 'Rumours' probably succeeded because it was brilliant group therapy.

"Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album" (Amazon)

"Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours' at 35: Still the 'perfect album'" (CNN)

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Alex Stone is the author of a new book called "Fooling Houdini," about magic, psychology, and perception, in which he reveals how many illusions are achieved. In fact, last week in the Wall Street Journal he explained how to steal a watch. Of course, this flies in the face of the traditional magician's code of silence about how tricks are done. Stone disagrees with the code, claiming that "Magic is a science as well as an art, and in science, knowledge serves only to deepen the mystery. Each new find opens vistas on an unchartered territory at the edge of human understanding. Nestled within each answer lies another riddle in an endless stream of unknowns.” I get that, but I still prefer the wonderment. Anyway, Maria Konnikova's Scientific American column further explores Stone's idea:

 Literally-Psyched Files 2012 06 Fooling-Houdini-221X300

Take something as seemingly unrelated as fiction—or any writing, for that matter. Read all the books you will on the craft of writing, comb through as many interviews as you can with your favorite writers, collect as many ‘how to write a bestseller’s as you can get your hands on, and still, the writing you admire will not lose its magic or its grip on your imagination. Even knowing the entire plot, that surprise ending or that give-away spoiler—arguably the closest approximation to finding out the trick of a magic act—is unlikely to limit your enjoyment in any way. In fact, it might even make the process of reading more enjoyable.

In a 2011 study, psychologists from UC San Diego found that individuals who had seen a spoiler paragraph prior to reading a short story rated the story as more, not less, pleasurable. And that held true even of stories where the plot, the “trick” so to speak, was seemingly the center of the experience, such as one of Roald Dahl’s signature ironic twist tales or an Agatha Christie mystery.

Why? When we know the plot, the twist, the surprise, we become more able to focus on everything else: language, character, the intricacies of rhythm and technique.

"How to fool Houdini–and avoid fooling yourself" (SciAm)

Fooling Houdini by Alex Stone (Amazon)

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Last week, writer Ray Dolin, 39, made news when he claimed to have been shot in a random drive-by while gathering experiences as a hitchhhiker for his book "Kindness in America." Turns out though, Dolin actually shot himself. I guess PR is PR. From The Missoulian:

Dolin, of Julian, W.Va., acknowledged he concocted the tale about the random shooting after he was confronted by investigators at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Miles City where he is recovering, said Sheriff Glen Meier.

Authorities later arrested Lloyd Christopher Danielson III, 52, and charged him with felony assault. That charge was dropped Thursday, although Danielson remained in custody, accused of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol when he was arrested.

"Sheriff: Hitchhiker writing book on kindness shot himself"

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Oh, you know how we at BB love baseball player Dock Ellis who in 1970 pitched a no-hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates while tripping balls on LSD. Ellis was quite a character. I hope this film about Ellis, titled "No No: A Dockumentary," gets finished! From the Kickstarter page:

During his 12 years in the major leagues, Dock lived the expression "black is beautiful." He wore curlers on the field. He stepped out of his Cadillac wearing the widest bell bottoms and the broadest collars. When he put on his uniform, he was one of the most intimidating pitchers of the 1970s.

Dock was often at the forefront of controversy and has been called the “Muhammad Ali of Baseball.” He was an outspoken leader of a new wave of civil rights in sports, when black athletes were no longer content to accept second-class treatment or keep their mouths shut about indignities. For this, the press labeled him a militant.

But that’s only half the story…

After Dock retired from baseball, he was as outspoken about his addictions to alcohol and amphetamines (aka “greenies”) as he had been about racial prejudice during his career. He spent his last decades using that blunt honesty as a counselor helping other addicts, until his death from liver disease in 2008.

"No No: A Dockumentary (about Dock Ellis)" (Thanks, Jenn Shreve and a half!)

 

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Perfectly-executed skateboard tricks seen through the magic of super-slow motion. Makes it look easy, doesn't it? Actually, never mind. It doesn't.

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Above is what happens when a water droplet, like from rain, smashes into a mosquito mid-air. How does the insect handle the collision? New research shows that the mosquito actually "rides the drop" down. From Science News:

The trick is breaking away from that drop before it and the insect splash into the ground. Mosquitoes that separate themselves in time easily survive a raindrop strike, Hu and his colleagues report online June 4 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Such studies help reveal how animals evolved to take advantage of flight, says biologist Tyson Hedrick of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mosquito tricks may also inspire engineers designing swarms of tiny flying robots, or interest physicists and mathematicians studying complex fluid dynamics at this scale.

"How a mosquito survives a raindrop hit"

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