Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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The Sports Disaster Plan

I’ve been reading Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball and in one of the footnotes he mentioned that the NBA (and all the other sports leagues) has a contingency plan in the case of a team losing all its players to a horrific accident. I guess it’s not surprising, but it’s kind of crazy to read the rules from this 1992 New York Times article. Here’s how it would work in basketball:

The National Basketball Association has a contingency plan that goes into effect if five or more players on any team “die or are dismembered,” according to Rod Thorn, the league’s operations director. The league would permit only five players on every other club to be protected, insuring that a fairly good player — the sixth best — could be drafted by the club suffering the tragedy. Each of the contributing clubs could lose only one player.

December 17, 2012 // This post is about: , , , ,

How Superman came to wear his underwear on the outside

Not exactly something I had ever thought about, but io9 has an interesting post about how comic book characters came to have their underwear on the outside and why the industry shouldn’t bail on the innovation now. The money quote:

Underpants on tights were signifiers of extra-masculine strength and endurance in 1938. The cape, showman-like boots, belt and skintight spandex were all derived from circus outfits and helped to emphasize the performative, even freak-show-esque, aspect of Superman’s adventures. Lifting bridges, stopping trains with his bare hands, wrestling elephants: these were superstrongman feats that benefited from the carnival flair implied by skintight spandex. [Artist Joe] Shuster had dressed the first superhero as his culture’s most prominent exemplar of the strongman ideal, unwittingly setting him up as the butt of ten thousand jokes.

December 8, 2012 // This post is about: , , , ,

What Blog?

An interesting statement by Bruce Sterling on memory and blogs and media more generally:

As people get more comfortable with the metamedium of software which underlies all digital media, they get less and less concerned with whatever “new media” may call themselves. When weblogs are finally gone, people will say that there was never really such a thing as a “weblog” in the first place.

I think he’s right and we’re already seeing it. I wonder if there’s a media law somewhere in there where we create new media and then when we make them extinct we actually erase them from our collective memories.

December 6, 2012 // This post is about: , ,

NYC Christmas Trees

If you have been around NYC during December you’ve definitely seen the Christmas trees lined up in front of stores. I was walking past some this morning and wondered out loud on Twitter whether the sellers needed permits. Not surprisingly, Justin Kalifowitz knew the answer and pointed me to this New York Times story from 2003:

But Christmas tree vendors need neither permits nor First Amendment protection to spread their holiday cheer. They are entitled to what might be called the ”coniferous tree” exception, adopted by the City Council in 1938 over the veto of Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia. The city’s administrative code allows that ”storekeepers and peddlers may sell and display coniferous trees during the month of December” on a city sidewalk without a permit, as long as they have the permission of owners fronting the sidewalk and keep a corridor open for pedestrians. (The law originally cited Christmas trees, but the religious reference was removed in 1984.)

December 3, 2012 // This post is about: , , , , ,

Oldsmobile Rocket 88 and Other Gibson Memories

Loved this first paragraph of William Gibson’s explanation of what drew him to science fiction:

Some of my earliest memories are of science fiction. Not of prose fiction, or of film, but of the cultural and industrial semiotics of the American nineteen-fifties: the interplanetarily themed chrome trim on my father’s Oldsmobile Rocket 88; the sturdy injection-molded styrene spacemen on the counter at Woolworth’s (their mode of manufacture more predictive than their subject, as it turned out); the gloriously baroque Atomic Disintegrator cap pistol (Etsy currently has one on offer, in “decent vintage” condition, for two hundred and fifty dollars); Chesley Bonestell’s moodily thrilling illustrations for Willy Ley’s book “The Conquest of Space.” They were all special to me, these things, and I remember my mother remarking on this to her friends. Not that I was very unusual in my obsession. The zeitgeist was chewy with space-flavored nuggets, morsels of futuristic design, precursors of a Tomorrow whose confident glow was visible beyond the horizon of all that was less wonderful, provided one had eyes to see it.

May 28, 2012 // This post is about: , ,