Welcome to Hindsight, a weekly collection of year-old great writing from around the Web.
When I got it in my head that I should revisit content from last year, I wasn’t sure what I might find. After all, there is so much great content being published right now. Why dwell in the past? This exercise isn’t about nostalgia, though; it’s about catching up on the trove of writing that gets lost in the daily shuffle.
The goal here is to break the news cycle, to leave behind the conversations of the day and learn something new. It’s impossible to read everything on the Web, but it seems wasteful to read only what is new. With that in mind, I’ve collected what I think are some of the most interesting stories from this week last year. Happy reading.
Hindsight 1 — August 26 - September 1, 2012
“How to watch an art movie, reel 1” by David Bordwell, Observations on film art, August 26, 2012
Jaime Rosales’ Sueño y silencio premiered in the Directors Fortnight at Cannes this year, went into distribution in Spain recently, and will probably be making the festival rounds. I think it’s a good film, but my appraisal is beside my point today. I want to use the film as a sort of “tutor-text,” a handy way of talking about how such movies engage us in ways different from more mainstream films.
Sueño y silencio has not been released in the US yet, but Bordwell writes in a manner that makes seeing the film beside the point. Shot by shot, he walks the reader through the experience of learning how to watch a film based on cues from the filmmaker.
“Backyard Battlefields: The bloody business of fracking in Arkansas.” by J. Malcolm Garcia, Oxford American, August 27, 2012
Natural gas is being marketed as a clean, green alternative to foreign-oil dependency; this year, the International Energy Agency found that carbon-dioxide emissions in the U.S. fell by four hundred and fifty tons, the result of an increase in the use of natural gas instead of coal. But since the inception of widespread fracking in 1997, horror stories have slowly entered the national conscience: illnesses coinciding with contaminated wells, citizens who can light their tap water on fire, pet and livestock deaths, exploding houses.
I don’t think I could live with the noise of fracking, let alone with the particulates, headaches and rashes the people in Garcia’s piece have experienced. And that’s not even the worst of it…
“Why Johnny can’t stream: How video copyright went insane” by James Grimmelmann, Ars Technica, August 30, 2012
This is the story of Cablevision, the companies that followed in its wake, and how we got to the strange place where wasting resources on thousands of tiny antennas made you legal—but where using one antenna broke the law.
Grimmelmann does his best to untangle the Gordian knot that is American copyright law and explain why video streaming remains wildly inefficient.
“Letter from Majorca” by J. D. Daniels, The Paris Review, Summer 2012
It was at this time that the captain called me long-distance from Tunisia and said, “I need a man. Get over here.”
“I’m sick,” I said. “I don’t know how much help I can be to you.”
“All I need is arms and legs,” he said. “Do you still have arms and legs?…”
Entering Daniels’ mind makes for quite the journey.
“Turn Back the Spam of Time” by Brian Mcwilliams, Wired, August 29, 2003
A trail of Internet clues has fingered Robert “Robby” Todino as the source of the time-travel messages. In a telephone interview last week, the 22-year-old Woburn, Massachusetts, resident admitted that he has sent nearly 100 million of the bizarre messages since November 2001.
This sounds like the basis for the film Safety Not Guarunteed, which, oddly, is actually based on a different real-life tale. Further Reading: At least one blogger documented the scene in Woburn, Massachusetts on July 28, 2003, when and where Todino claimed a Dimensional Warp Generator was to be delivered.
Photo Credit: “Balance”, Chrissy Wainwright, September 1, 2012