Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Little Of The Old In And Out

In: Robert Langer. MIT Professor Langer today won the Millennium Technology Prize, over a million Euro's given every second year for technological innovations. From their web site:

"The Millennium Technology Prize has been awarded to Professor Robert Langer for his invention and development of innovative biomaterials for controlled drug release and tissue regeneration that have saved human lives and improved the lives of millions of patients."

Past winners include Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and Shuji Nakamura, inventor of blue, green and white LEDs and the blue laser diode. Dr. Langer makes his acceptance speech tomorrow.

Out: James Johnson. Ab initio there was a giant disconnect. What was Senator Obama thinking? Is this how he plans to clean up Washington, with Mr. Johnson, a profoundly flawed Insider's Insider?

And then we thought: Of course, This poor guy just went into overtime with Hillary Clinton. He's been through the ringer and now has to start a general election campaign. Clearly, he was overtired and off his game. And now, falling on his sword, Johnson does what it is that Washington Insiders do when they become a liability to a campaign. They pull up their tent and retire in austere silence to their winter quarters, i.e., their swishy corporate boards. From The New York Times:

"Senator Barack Obama, moving to quell a growing furor, accepted the resignation of the head of his vice presidential search team, James A. Johnson, on Wednesday after days of questions about Mr. Johnson’s tenure as head of Fannie Mae and other business associations.

"In a statement issued by his Chicago campaign headquarters, Mr. Obama said Wednesday afternoon that 'Jim did not want to distract in any way from the very important task of gathering information about my vice presidential nominee, so he has made a decision to step aside that I accept.'"

Now, the obvious political question: Does this inoculate Obama against putting Senator Hillary Clinton on the ticket?

In: Comedic Web Videos. It took a while, but Hollywood has finally caught on and the new comedy mafia is at the forefront. This is not just the week of The Webbie's (Where Stephen Colbert won a special achievement award). Mandate Pictures is turning a short Internet trailer Seth Rogen did with his friends called "Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse" into a feature film. And, funded by Sequoia Capital and anointed as cool by Entertainment Weekly, has ridden that endorsement to the majors. From Variety:

"HBO is getting into bed with Will Ferrell's Internet vid venture.

"Pay cabler has bought a small equity stake in the 2-year-old comedy website and has commissioned 10 half-hours of programming from Funny or Die as part of the deal.

"The wide-ranging pact also envisions the two sides partnering on a host of future projects, from the live comedy tours that Funny or Die is developing to a possible Funny or Die-branded programming block on one of HBO's offshoot channels."

Update: Gawker has an interesting, and snarkier, take on this.

Out: Survival in The Middle Ages. Because it is not enough to sip honeymead and speak in Olde English at the annual Rennaissance Faire, Kottke tackles the provocative question: What if you were transported back to a European city in 1000AD? The scenario, simple enough, is laid out here (via lindsayism):

"I wanted to ask for survival tips in case I am unexpectedly transported to a random location in Europe (say for instance current France/Benelux/Germany) in the year 1000 AD (plus or minus 200 years). I assume that such transportation would leave me with what I am wearing, what I know, and nothing else. Any advice would help."

Hmm. As The Corsair is African-born and delicate boned, the situation would probably be quite dire indeed. Death? Slavery? The answers from the commentators, who all seem to have done PhD-level research in Medieval studies, are equally grim as most decided that Death, Prostitution (cause even a 'ho's gotta eat) and succumbing disease would be the most likely of all possible outcomes when thrust among an ignorant populace pre-Pasteurization. Still, it is a fascinating read as to what the freakishly nerdish Medievalist mind can imagine -- in astonishing detail -- when left to it's own devices in an online forum. The sheer creativity! We've been laughing all morning at the acute detail that these people have of being Quasntum-Leaped into the First Milennium. Among the best:

"I'm just thinking of how to survive. Some of these suggestions are excellent. But inventing something to become so rich that you are insulated from further harm precludes that you live long enough to find all of your resources for doing so. I think that at last throwing yourself upon the mercy of an abbey, showing that you can read and write, and converse (maybe even in Latin) will get you a room for as long as you want."

Or: "If - no, let's be real here - WHEN you are suddenly and unexpectedly time-travelled to the early days of the Black Death, make straight for Nuremberg. It's one of a handful of cities that didn't get bubonic plague. I read it on a list somewhere, one time.

"If I recall correctly, I expected to use this knowledge to rescue myself and a remarkably empathetic and pliable Dark Ages girl who was sort of a cross between Michelle Pfeiffer in Ladyhawke and the peasant girl Christian Slater nails in Name of the Rose." You can almost smell the Milk Duds on his breath ..

And: "If you have a wristwatch with you, you could revolutionize sea travel." Where do they find these people? Indeed.

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