Nothing happens on Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach is one of my go-to Saturday morning shows – I expect from it the same substance I expected of Saturday morning cartoons when I was little. Saturday morning TV is high calorie, low content delicious mental break tv. It’s not supposed to do much more than entertain a numb mind before Saturday actually starts.

For a show with three seasons and two spinoff series, Laguna Beach has remarkably little content. People talk, but not about much (and say “like” at alarming rates.) Entire conversations are replaced with looks, gazes, stares, sneers, and all manner of non-verbal communication. Rarely does plot advance beyond “and then we went to so-and-so’s house/the beach.” Laguna Beach must have something going for it – and I’ve come to believe it’s just the stunning B-roll – because absolutely nothing happens on the show.

I was curious how much nothing happened: it’s a lot. Try out this interactive “Laguna Lacuna” and discover for yourself just how much content is left when you take the pictures out of an episode of Laguna Beach.

Being Human Returns to US and UK: Here’s What You Need to Remember About How their Mythology Differs


The monsters of Being Human US and UK

Full-sized version: Being Human infographic

Why YouTube Clips Make Us Laugh

Have you ever been at home watching TV or browsing YouTube, when suddenly something happened that made you laugh not only out loud, but in such an uncontrollable outburst that you were left gasping for breath?  You can replay the clip again and again, and each time that same spurt of laughter spills out.

I’ve watched YouTube clips while sitting all alone at my computer that have caused me to laugh so hard I spit food all over my computer (the first day I got it too – that brought the mood down pretty fast), and movies that have made me giggle so uncontrollably I didn’t know how I would ever stop.

But why does that happen?  This is an attempt to get to the bottom of that question, peppered with some of the videos that have caused me to ask it.

Laughing alone violates the whole purpose of laughter

Laughter is primarily a social behavior.  In fact, “We laugh 30 times as much when we’re with other people than we do when we’re alone,” according to expert Robert Provine.  And not always in response to funny stuff either.  In conversations, as few as 10% of the laughs come from anything resembling humor.

It’s apparently an instinctual method of communication, which predates speech and crosses cultures.  By which account, it shouldn’t really happen when we’re sitting at home by ourselves.

But even when we’re alone, we CAN experience laughter as a social phenomenon.  Because hearing laughter is contagious, and this persists to some extent whether or not the other laughers are physically present.

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Books on Books (on Books)

Last year, in a momentary fixation on architecture and design, I accidentally acquired the book Unpacking My Library: Architects and Their Books. The cover of the book and its compact size were SO APPEALING that I got it without considering whether or not I would really ever read it.

Inspired by an essay on book collecting (inspired by a talk on book collecting), the editor of Unpacking My Library set out to photograph and exhibit architects’ libraries. It’s an art piece as much as a book-book. Most pages are panoramic photographs of other people’s bookcases – shelves upon shelves of books ranging from technical to philosophical. For a bibliophile, this is akin to porn. The book collections are introduced by brief interviews with the books’ owner about their books and concluded with the architect’s selected top 10 books (these overlap with other architects top 10 and with my own book collection more than I expected). What a curious way to get to know a person and their perspective – reading through their collection of books.

Last night, I was wandering through Kramerbooks and found another book from this series. THERE’S A SERIES! While the essay introduction to the Architects book looked at the contents of individuals’ book collections, the introduction to Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books examined owned books as tangible items with purposes ranging from reading to decor. Did you know that there was once a service that would scuff up your leather-bounds, dogearing pages and underlining important points? Just so it would look like you’d read your collection? As (someone) in the book points out, you don’t have to own a book to have read it, and you don’t have to read a book you own.

So what can you really tell about a person from a snapshot of (or a real life encounter with) a bookshelf? Aspiration? Inspiration? Impulse? Passion? Hoarding? Thought? Intellectual foundation? And can you tell the same things about a person from their Kindle library, their shared bookshelves on Facebook, or any other searchable but ultimately intangible collection of books? Continue reading

Shows to Remind You of the Amazingness of our World

Not this.

Not this.

Someone I work with was complaining about a television program yesterday.  “It just plays music videos,” he said, “with a scroll of Twitter comments underneath.  And young people will watch this for over an hour.”

“They’re just not interested in learning anything.”

It’s a comment I feel like I hear a lot.  Kids These Days just aren’t interested in what’s going on in the world. Or knowing history.  Or facts. Or gaining knowledge of any sort (and while they’re at it, they should GET OFF MY LAWN).

But I bet the people making those comments haven’t considered this: Maybe people tend not to be interested in news and information because most means through which you acquire them are tediously boring.  And I don’t mean boring like not containing enough Twitter comments, or boring like not containing enough people yelling opinions past each other.

Boring like not explaining why the thing they’re talking about, which I’m sure they think is terribly important, is also terribly interesting.

Because most things are. Interesting, that is.  Even the not-so-terribly-important things are interesting.  It’s just a question of looking at them in the right way.

For example, you probably didn’t know that car rides are amazing:

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