Life as we know it (5×8 – 12/3/10)

A look at the newly discovered life form, what were the voters saying, Alec Soth, the KKK snowman, the new John McCain.


Reminder: If you’re in the Frogtown area this morning, I’ll be at SugaRush coffee shop , 712 University Avenue in St. Paul from 9 until around noon. Come and be prepared to tell me about yourself, your neighborhood, your journey and your dreams. Because I’m off to an earlier-than-normal start today, 5×8 is somewhat abbreviated.

1) LIFE AS WE KNOW IT

I was doing some more reading and browsing last night about the discovery of a new form of life. I wrote about it yesterday and the science world has been buzzing about it, of course. I mean, it’s a new life form and all. Then I stumbled across this video that someone made of their daughter growing up over 10 years — he took a picture every day — and was reminded that the old life forms on earth are still pretty cool, too.

But back to the new life form. Razib Kahn of Discover.com has a takedown of the media for overhyping the discovery. He likens it to the invention of the Segway scooter:


The invention, development, and financing of the Segway was the subject of a narrative nonfiction book, Code Name Ginger (in paperback as Reinventing the Wheel), by journalist Steve Kemper. The leak of information from that book led to rampant and hyperbolic speculation about the “IT” device prior to release. The speculation created an unexpected advance buzz about the then-unknown product that was, at times, hyperbolic. John Doerr speculated that it would be more important than the Internet…Bezos was quoted that “…Cities will be built around this device.” Articles were written in major publications speculating on it being a Stirling engine…South Park devoted an episode to making fun of the hype before the product was released.

We’ll have more on this on MPR this afternoon when Science Friday wades into the discovery.

More science: The ozone hole is getting smaller.

2) WHAT WERE THE VOTERS SAYING, AGAIN?

Perhaps it’s time to reconsider what the voters were saying last month when they swept the government fairly clean of Democrats and embraced Republican economic — i.e. tax — policy. T”he American people want us to stop all the looming tax hikes and to cut spending, and that should be the priority of the remaining days that we have in this Congress,” incoming House Speaker Rep. John Boehner said yesterday.

But a CBS poll out says 53 percent of Americans don’t want the Bush tax cuts extended, and only 26 percent embrace the Republican proposal.

What’s more: Fewer than half of the Republicans surveyed agree with the Republican proposal.

Related: If you have a couple million left over, why not buy a loft in Minneapolis?

Meanwhile, President Obama’s job approval rating is up slightly, according to a new poll out this morning..

3) ALEC SOTH

Minnesota fans of PBS NewsHour didn’t get to see this profile of area photographer Alec Soth; the stations were in a pledge drive break. Ironically, it was produced by TPT.

But faithful Public TV fans might’ve already seen it; it’s part of the excellent MN Original series.

Then there’s this profile of Winona artist Mary Solberg, which has just appeared on YouTube. It’s also a product of the Legacy Fund.

4) STAY CLASSY, IDAHO

1_KKK_Snowman.sff_300.jpg Mark Eliseuson of Hayden, Iowa says he saw nothing wrong with the snowman he built on his front lawn. His neighbors did. The cops warned him he could be charged with being a public nuisance, so he took it down.

Related: Ed Kohler at the Deets takes issue with the comments system of the new CBS local Web site. “Horrible comment policies attract horrible comments. He’s right.

Here’s your antidote for the hate: A story about the love. Holland Reynolds, a star runner from a small private high school in San Francisco, collapsed at the state cross-country meet and crawled across the finish line to clinch the championship for her team. She said she did it for her coach. He’s dying.

Scroll to 19:30 here:

5) THE NEW JOHN MCCAIN

The takeaway from yesterday’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell hearing at the Capitol wasn’t so much the issue of whether gays should be allowed to serve in the military as much as it is what’s happening to Sen. John McCain. James Fallows notes McCain’s hardening edge at a time when most politicians do just the opposite.


George C. Wallace, once a firebrand of segregation, eventually became a kind of racial-healing figure near the end of his troubled life. There was something similar in the very long and winding path of Strom Thurmond (or Robert Byrd). Or Teddy Kennedy, who sharpened the ideological edge of his rhetoric as the years went on, but who increasingly valued his ability to work with rather than against his Republican counterparts in the Senate. Barry Goldwater went through the same evolution from the opposite starting point. Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara, different kinds of peaceniks by the end. We know that for humanity in general, the passing years can often make people closed-minded and embunkered in their views. But for people in public life, it seems to me, surprisingly often the later years bring an awareness of the chanciness and uncertainty of life, the folly of bitterness, the long-term advantage of a big-tent rather than a purist approach.

John McCain seems intentionally to be shrinking his audience, his base, and his standing in history. It’s unnecessary, and it is sad.

McCain has become the favorite punching bag — next to Glen Beck — of Jon Stewart, which is significant because a little more than two years ago, McCain was a constant — and favorite — guest on Stewart’s show.

More from the Capitol: Yesterday’s vote to censure Rep. Charles Rangel didn’t break down along party lines; it broke down along racial lines, Eric Ostermeier at the University of Minnesota says.

Bonus: Did Kevin Garnett ever produce a video while he was with the Timberwolves?

TODAY’S QUESTION

Scientists have announced that the universe contains more stars than they had thought … and that life can exist in more environments than they had thought possible. Do you find the possibility of life beyond earth comforting, or alarming?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour:How to get out of debt and rebuild your credit in the new year.

Second hour: She was called Queen of Kings, and in her lifetime Cleopatra was romantically linked with both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Biographer Stacy Schiff considered her a shrewd political strategist and powerful ruler.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Incoming Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and incoming House Minority Leader Paul Thissen will be in the studio to discuss strategies for dealing with the $6.2 billion budget deficit.

Second hour: Kevin Kling in “Scarecrow on Fire,” a special broadcast from the Fitzgerald Theater.

Science Friday (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The Navy talks about going green, for a battlefield edge.

Second hour: The new life form of bacteria and arsenic

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - The Walker Art Center’s longest-running program, the British Television Commercial awards, are back for another extended run. The trends this year are poetry, bravura performances, and a certain amount of raunch. MPR’s Euan Kerr has a look.

In one of the neighborhoods first affected by development surrounding Central Corridor, residents are working on a plan to develop the community while preserving its current bohemian character. City officials say they’ll help in any way they can, but can’t make any guarantees. And residents know that if they’re successful, it may lead to the gentrification they’re trying to avoid. Rupa Shenoy will have the story.

Minnesota physicians are worried about a planned 23-percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians. Congress has again delayed the cut, but some doctors have already closed their practice to new Medicare patients because of the uncertainty. Advocates say if the cut goes through, it would be devastating to Minnesota clinics and their patients. MPR’s Tom Robertson will report.

  • Paul J

    Today’s xkcd cartoon was about the arsenic using life form discovery and the scientist-reporter relationship.

  • Paul J

    Oh, and remember to park your mouse over the cartoon for a bonus caption. That’s part of the fun of xkcd.

  • bsimon

    “John McCain seems intentionally to be shrinking his audience, his base, and his standing in history. It’s unnecessary, and it is sad.”

    I don’t know if there’s a bigger political disappointment than Senator John McCain.