Detail from "Create Escape" by Banksy.

March 5, 2021
by Dave McClintock
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Art: Banksy, Beautyist, Bob Dylan, and Brooklyn

This week, my evening scribbles thread of bundled bookmarks (you can tell I’m still figuring out what to call these) is focused on art.

In tough times, I’ve said to my family, “We’ve got to write our way out of this.”

Whether writing privately to someone or in journals or publicly in blogs or “real” publications, writing is a core survival tool for finding an exit when every direction appears to be blocked.

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Photo of the Endale Arch interior, in Prospect Park.

February 26, 2021
by Dave McClintock
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Restoration: Statues, Buildings, and Brains

On a family Zoom last week, I found myself blurting “When the pandemic is over, everyone will forget what it was like, what we all went through. They’ll just ask, ‘Well, what have you accomplished in the last years?’”

I was speaking about professional, educational, or artistic accomplishments. I had a hunch that the kind of people who judge us for those things would forget the larger drama of these years, the weight and stress and loneliness and mourning that we all are going through. (And I write this with gratitude for everything I’ve been spared.)

Still, my blurt was probably harsh. I may only have put more stress on my family, being the voice of paranoia and excessive diligence.

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February 19, 2021
by Dave McClintock
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Sounds of the City and a Barbaric Yawp

Today I’m threading some sounds that have reached me recently.

It started with birds, what sounded like a hundred tiny beaks chirping as fast as they could on my window sill, about an hour before I needed to wake up. Under the lead of an assertive, entrepreneurial leader, they discovered warm air leaking from the side panels of my air conditioner and decided to pile themselves like a pyramid of cannon balls and celebrate with monosyllabic bursts that tested what’s left of my high frequency hearing. The urgency of each cheep – cross-talking each other like a row of machine guns firing at once – suggested they expected some reward of food, maybe a million tiny worms dangling from the beak of their overlord.

At least, that’s what I imagined.

After fifteen minutes or so, once they were sure I was awake, they either moved on to murder someone else’s morning or decided to go silent. I haven’t heard them since.

More often, since last October, we’ve been awakened by an end of days sound that makes our hundred-year-old house in Brooklyn vibrate like a centenarian on four shots of espresso.

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February 12, 2021
by Dave McClintock
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Time Management and 12022021

Today I’m threading time. (That is, I’m realizing as I write this that these things can be connected.)

First, I saw Catherine Clifford’s piece on CNBC.com: “Why billionaire VC Marc Andreessen schedules every second of his day, including ‘critical’ free time.” Since the 90s, I’ve known Marc Andreessen is one of the smartest people in any room. I wondered if it would help me to schedule every day by the second, the way Marc (or his assistant) reportedly does, with healthy allowances for sleep, movies, and meditation. This weekend, I’ll try it. I already make appointments with myself at work, to force myself to move projects forward, on a much smaller, non-billionaire way. I doubt my schedule needs such a refined precision, though – no need to calibrate my shifts between scheduled activities in seconds.

Next, my brother and sister texted about the Lunar New Year of the ox. (Apparently it’s a Metal Ox – cool band name!) My wife is an ox. The description rings true: “Oxes are known for diligence, dependability, strength and determination.

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June 8, 2018
by Dave McClintock
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Garry Wills and the Definition of Saint: Studs Terkel

Garry Wills has a great definition of “saint” in The New York Review of Books (June 7, 2018), in “The Art of the Schmooze,” a tribute to Studs Terkel:

“I considered him a saint, by the only definition that makes sense to me: a man or woman whose company you leave feeling that you should become a better person.”

And that you can be …

September 16, 2017
by Dave McClintock
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Remembering Harry Dean Stanton at The Bottom Line

Rest in peace, Harry Dean Stanton. Circa 1988, I worked the ticket booth at The Bottom Line Cabaret on weekends, during the day, while I was at NYU. Stick thin, long-haired little weirdo. One rainy day, the night’s band was loading in. Suddenly, in the little yellow ticket booth, Harry Dean was next to me at the counter. No big production – it was as if he had worked at the club for years. He was singing that night – I was instantly starstruck – but he seemed to want to see the world through my eyes. Maybe he was slightly nervous – wanted to take it all in. Cubbyholes with stacks of tickets, cash drawer. Phone with punch buttons for five lines. He was one of those few famous people who rather than project celebrity uplifted your own humanity. (Among all the other performers at the Bottom Line, Herbie Hancock and Al Kooper also visited me like this. I’ll never forget them – or Harry.)

December 14, 2013
by Dave McClintock
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Duolingo.com: Learn a Language, Translate the Web, for Free

In this TED video, Luis von Ahn of Carnegie Mellon introduces Duolingo.com, a free online language tutorial site that (in the background) uses your quiz answers to help translate the web. Massive online collaboration.

Along the way, von Ahn explains reCAPTCHA – those two-word “type the mangled words to prove you’re a human” tests found on forms on Facebook, Ticketmaster, and many major sites.

Amazingly, in those tests, one word is from a digital book that computers couldn’t read – the OCR failed. So, when you fill out those reCAPTCHA forms, you’re helping to digitize books. (The other word is truly a test, to cross-check the digital book word.)

The video description:

After re-purposing CAPTCHA so each human-typed response helps digitize books, Luis von Ahn wondered how else to use small contributions by many on the Internet for greater good. In this talk, he shares how his ambitious new project, Duolingo, will help millions learn a new language while translating the Web quickly and accurately — all for free.

Here’s the video, “Massive-Scale Online Collaboration“: