Chris Higgins is the author of The Blogger Abides and writes for This American Life, The Atlantic, Breakfast on Mars, and The Magazine. You can follow him at chrishiggins.com.
The antiques world was rocked (okay, more like gently bumped) when a recent episode of Antiques Roadshow estimated a woman's collection of carved Chinese jade objects at $710,000 to $1.07 million. Either figure would make it the highest-appraised item in Antiques Roadshow history. Unfortunately, when the woman actually sold the items at auction, she only got $494,615. Why the discrepancy? It's complicated -- read about it here if you want the blow-by-blow from real antiques experts. Meanwhile, below I... READ ON
When I think of the last decade (starting in 2000), I think of it in comparison to previous decades. Being more or less a grownup, I can remember decades like the 80's and 90's quite well, and I've got some 70's in there too. But what about kids who were born at the beginning of this decade? What's their worldview like? Remember, these are kids who have been alive during a time when iPods, cell phones, and the internet were actually mature technologies. For me, all of those things are fairly recent... READ ON
An article in the December 2009 issue of The Atlantic poses a fascinating scientific question: do some children's genes give them a greater risk of failure, but also a greater chance for success, if they're raised under the right circumstances? Such children are dubbed "orchid children" David Dobbs's piece The Science of Success. The comparison is to a Swedish folk saying about "dandelion children" who will thrive anywhere (although, yes, good parenting helps them too -- just not as much). Dobbs... READ ON
In the late 1980's, Dan Pink made a terrible mistake: he went to law school. He didn't fare well, graduating in the bottom 10% of his class. Later he overcame his failure at law and became chief speechwriter for Al Gore, then wrote three books about the workplace (including one best-seller). His fourth book is Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Back in July 2009, Pink gave a TED Talk covering much of the ground that would later become Drive. It's an interesting talk because it... READ ON
This year I posted a bunch of Sesame Street videos. YouTube is a wonderful thing, and what's better is that the folks at Sesame Street post tons of clips online, and don't seem to file many rights complaints against others who post clips. For your convenience, I've collected the best of this year's Sesame Street discoveries into one post. Click away, and be transported into the slightly orange-tinged 70's and yellowish 80's!
How Crayons Are Made
From Retro Video: How Crayons Are Made.... READ ON
Kim Peek was an autistic savant who inspired the movie Rain Man. Peek died on December 19, and below I've posted a five-part documentary about him, featuring neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, among others. If you haven't seen Rain Man, you probably should, but in short let's just quote Wikipedia on Peek's abilities: "His reading technique consisted of reading the left page with his left eye and the right page with his right eye and in this way he could read two pages at time with a rate of about 8-10... READ ON
Here's a short animated film done by former Pixar artist Rodrigo Blaas, available for a "limited time" at Christmas. I'm not sure why he decided to make this available at Christmas -- it is winter-themed, but not exactly uplifting. You can watch it in HD here or just click the video below to see it in pretty-good quality. It's actually surprisingly creepy -- involving dolls that move and a generally distressing combination of live action and doll action. Watching it in HD, fullscreen gives the best... READ ON
Frank Woodruff Buckles is the last living American veteran of World War I; he's now 108 years old. He was only 16 when he enlisted, but lied about his age to Army recruiters. He drove ambulances in England and France, and escorted prisoners of war back to Germany after peace came. But WWI wasn't the only conflict that hit him. According to Wikipedia:
In the 1940s Buckles worked for a shipping company in Manila, Philippines. He was captured by the Japanese in 1942 and spent the next three and a... READ ON
Over the past week, I've been told over and over to watch this series of videos, but resisted until the weekend. I mean, how could it truly be so awesome? I don't care about Star Wars, why would I find this funny? 70 minutes? How could I find time for this? I can now only regret those long days that I deprived myself of the wonderousness of this bizarre, hilariously nerdy "review" of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I debated posting it here because it does use some spicy language (within ten seconds,... READ ON
Here's a sweet song to end a long week. In 1979, Jim Henson (as Kermit the Frog) performed "The Rainbow Connection" in The Muppet Movie. The song reached #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1979, and remained in the Top 40 for seven weeks -- not too bad for a song sung by a puppet. (Sorry: muppet.) Writers Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams were nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for the song, but lost both to rival song "It Goes Like It Goes" from the movie Norma Rae. Remember Norma Rae? Me... READ ON
The little plastic bit on the end of your shoelace is called an aglet.