Daft Punk’s fourth studio album, “Random Access Memories,” is an attempt to make the kind of disco record that they sampled so heavily for “Discovery.” As such, it serves as a tribute to those who came before them and as a direct rebuke to much of what they’ve spawned. Only intermittently electronic in nature, and depending largely on live musicians, it is extremely ambitious, and as variable in quality as any popular album you will hear this year. Noodly jazz fusion instrumentals? Absolutely. Soggy poetry and kid choirs? Yes, please. Cliches that a B-list teen-pop writer would discard? Bring it on. The duo has become so good at making records that I replay parts of “Random Access Memories” repeatedly while simultaneously thinking it is some of the worst music I’ve ever heard. Daft Punk engages the sound and the surface of music so lovingly that all seventy-five loony minutes of “Random Access Memories” feel fantastic, even when you are hearing music you might never seek out. This record raises a radical question: Does good music need to be good?

Does good music need to be good?

Peculiar requests from traveling Britons to the Foreign Office

Peculiar requests from traveling Britons to the Foreign Office

Peculiar requests from traveling Britons to the Foreign Office


While they were traveling abroad, some residents of the United Kingdom had a few but odd requests for diplomatic staff around the world:
  • A man who required hospital treatment in Cambodia when a monkey dislodged a stone that hit him demanded help getting compensation and wanted assurance that it would not happen again
  • A man asked FCO staff in Rome to translate a phrase for a tattoo that he wanted
  • Consular staff in Beijing were asked to help a woman who had bought a pair of football boots that were ‘Made in China’ but were poor quality
  • A woman requested that consular staff in Tel Aviv order her husband to get fit and eat healthily so that they could have children
  • Consular staff in Kuala Lumpur were asked if the FCO could help pay to send their children to an International School
  • A man asked consular staff in Stockholm to check the credentials of a woman whom he had met online
  • A man asked the Consulate in Montreal for information to settle a £1,000 wager on the colour of the British passport
  • A number of British Consulates have been asked to book hotels or to advise on where to watch the football

The three types of specialist

The three types of specialist

The three types of specialist


Kurt Vonnegut

The team must consist of three sorts of specialists, he says. Otherwise the revolution, whether in politics or the arts or the sciences or whatever, is sure to fail.

The rarest of these specialists, he says, is an authentic genius – a person capable of having seemingly good ideas not in general circulation. “A genius working alone,” he says, “is invariably ignored as a lunatic.”

The second sort of specialist is a lot easier to find: a highly intelligent citizen in good standing in his or her community, who understands and admires the fresh ideas of the genius, and who testifies that the genius is far from mad. “A person like this working alone,” says Slazinger, “can only yearn loud for changes, but fail to say what their shapes should be.”

The third sort of specialist is a person who can explain everything, no matter how complicated, to the satisfaction of most people, no matter how stupid or pigheaded they may be. “He will say almost anything in order to be interesting and exciting,” says Slazinger. “Working alone, depending solely on his own shallow ideas, he would be regarded as being as full of shit as a Christmas turkey.”

Slazinger, high as a kite, says that every successful revolution, including Abstract Expressionism, the one I took part in, had that cast of characters at the top – Pollock being the genius in our case, Lenin being the one in Russia’s, Christ being the one in Christianity’s.

He says that if you can’t get a cast like that together, you can forget changing anything in a great big way.

Surely it mustn’t be too far from the truth. 

IDEAS: Are blasphemy, sexuality, and excrement the main themes all over the world?

MOHR: As far as I know, they’re mostly the same with a little bit of regional variation. In Arab and Spanish-speaking Catholic countries, there’s a lot of stuff about mothers and sisters. But it’s pretty much the same.

A cool interview with Melissa Mohr, author of Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, with the Boston Globe. 

They investigate the origins and disparities of swear words across the globe. 

The success by a team at Oregon Health and Science University puts human “therapeutic cloning” back on the scientific agenda as a potential source of stem cells for regenerative medicine, after a few years in which attention focused on other methods that seemed easier to achieve.

The research may also revive fears about the birth of human clones, though the Oregon scientists insist that their work could not be used for this purpose.

“Our finding offers new ways of generating stem cells for patients with dysfunctional or damaged tissues and organs,” says Shoukhrat Mitalipov, senior author of the study published in the journal Cell. “Such stem cells can regenerate and replace those damaged cells and tissues and alleviate diseases that affect millions of people.”

Drones and clones. I’m eagerly waiting for the debates that are coming on the ethics of cloning for health purposes. 

Scientists in human cloning breakthrough – FT.com

Drones and Silicon Valley, an early marriage

Drones and Silicon Valley, an early marriage

Drones and Silicon Valley, an early marriage


On Wednesday, a drone start-up called Airware plans to announce that it has raised $10.7 million in a round of financing led by the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Google Ventures, the investment arm of the search giant, is also pitching in money.

Although the term drone conjures up images of unmanned military planes that can shoot missiles from the sky, Airware is developing technology for the budding array of commercial uses for unmanned aerial vehicles, as they are also known. The company, based in Newport Beach, Calif., and founded by former aerospace engineers from Boeing and other companies, has created a combination of hardware and software that can be added to drones made by other companies to make them more programmable, Jonathan Downey, the chief executive of Airware, said in an interview.

The dronepocalypse is coming, with delivery services and more.