Jon Christian

Comfort the afflicted. Afflict the comfortable.

Here are all Weird Al’s new music videos in one place (updated)

A Parklet Rises In Boston

I’ve got a new story in the Boston Globe’s ‘g’ insert about how a coalition of educators, students and volunteers designed and built a tiny public park:

Back at the parklet site, the scorching afternoon drags on, but the group is clearly making progress. Rogers and Bolivar are assembling a frame for a solar panel on the grass next to the sidewalk when three pedestrians stop and quizzically look around at the project and the crew.

“What are you guys doing?” a woman asks.

“We are,’’ Rogers says with a tired smile, “building a parklet.”

Longform reading list, week of 7/7/14

Trent Dalton: Welcome To Utopia. The Weekend Australian Magazine, 2014.

Beyond those mountains is Steve’s utopia, an 800ha living ark that he has spent the past eight of his 79 years creating, investing his life’s fortune in the shipment of 300 tonnes of materials from around the world to the very edge of human existence. Paradise. Salvation. A new world for when the old one dies. He calls it Edenhope. Eden would have sufficed. “Soon you will meet Ona,” Steve says. Ona is a girl. Ona is a beginning.

Andrew Solomon: Gay, Jewish, Mentally Ill, and a Sponsor of Gypsies In Romania. The New Yorker, 2014.

In my teens, I asked my Great Aunt Rose where in Romania our family had come from. She claimed that she didn’t remember. I said, “Aunt Rose, you lived there until you were nineteen. What do you mean, you don’t remember?” She said, “It was a horrible place and we were lucky to get out of there. There’s no reason for anyone to go back.” I begged her to tell me at least the name of the place. She gave me an uncharacteristically steely glare and said again, “I don’t remember.” That was the end of the conversation.

Elizabeth Spiers: Speaking up every. Fucking. Time. Matter, 2014.

And, yes, Kane is capable of behaving like a jerk. I’ve profiled public company CEOs with armies of publicists who haven’t tried to manipulate a story as much as she has. But the only thing that really tells me is that she’s a flawed human being, just like everyone else. (And that maybe she knows quite a bit more about media and interacting with reporters than she’s indicating on Twitter.)

Greg Hum: The Beat Rolls On

I’ve got a new story in Scout about Greg Hum, the fellow who plays drums while he rides his bike.

If you’ve seen Hum around Boston, you probably remember him. He rides his bicycle while simultaneously pounding two drumsticks — often steering with just one palm — on a small Zildjian cymbal, a Latin Percussion jam block and a five-gallon bucket on which he has written “Hum Drum” in black tape, all of which is mounted to his handlebars.

Longform reading list, week of 6/30

Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness. The Harpers Monthly, 1932.

Elizabeth Gilbert: The Last American Man. GQ, 1998.

Ruben Castaneda: I Was a Washington Post Reporter. And a Crack Addict. Politico, 2014.

Vanessa Grigoriadis: Justin Bieber: A Case Study In Growing Up Cosseted and Feral. Vulture, 2014.

Kathleen Hale: Prey. Hazlitt, 2014.

Brendan Koerner: Hard Target. WIRED, 2014.

Jon Lackman: Ghosts of War. WIRED, 2014.

Deanna Pan: Not One More. Inlander, 2014.

Longform reading list, week of 6/23

Nancy Andreasen: Secrets of the Creative Brain. The Atlantic, 2014.

As a psychiatrist and neuroscientist who studies creativity, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many gifted and high-profile subjects over the years, but Kurt Vonnegut—dear, funny, eccentric, lovable, tormented Kurt Vonnegut—will always be one of my favorites. 

Thomas Rogers: Heil Hipster: The young neo-Nazis trying to put a stylish face on hate. Rolling Stone, 2014.

This winter, the German media came up with a new term, “nipster,” to describe the trend of people dressing like Brooklyn hipsters at Nazi events. Experts have noted that the German neo-Nazi presence on Tumblr and other social networking sites has become sleeker and more sophisticated. Neo-Nazi clothing has become more stylish and difficult to recognize. There’s even a vegan Nazi cooking show.

 Alex Ross: Notes of Dissent. The New Yorker, 2014.

“Perhaps you should sit here,” he said to me, indicating a beanbag just behind the seats for two lead cellists. He speaks English with lyrical ease, his lightly accented voice skating up and down in pitch and lingering over words that he enjoys. “But, really, you can sit anywhere. You can lie under the piano, if you so want.” I followed his original suggestion. “Very good!” he exclaimed, his eyebrows leaping upward. “You will be embedded with the cellos.”

Katy Steinmetz: The Transgender Tipping Point. TIME, 2014.

About 1,100 people, many gleefully defying gender stereotypes, eventually pack the auditorium to hear the story of an unlikely icon. “I stand before you this evening,” Laverne Cox, who stars in the Netflix drama Orange Is the New Black, tells the crowd, “a proud, African-American transgender woman.”

Now, build apps using Firefox

I have a new story in VentureBeat, in which I chat with Mozilla’s Christian Heilmann about WebIDE, a development environment that will be built into future releases of the Firefox browser.

Firefox OS has been in development since 2011, but competing with the vast ecosystem of apps and developers associated with iOS and Android presents a nearly impossible challenge. The operating system has only gained a significant foothold in a handful of less developed markets, where low-cost devices running the system reportedly captured up to tenth of sales during 2013—one reason why Mozilla is keen to woo programmers in communities where hardware and software resources are limited.

“Many developers for Firefox OS are working in an environment where they cannot obtain new development resources,” Heilmann said. “We want to make sure that all the tools they need are inside Firefox itself. That was the original promise of the web.”

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