Blog Posts by Virginia Heffernan, Yahoo News

  • Why I'm a creationist

    As a child I fell in love with technology, but I have to admit I never fell in love with science. I kept hoping that messing around with Macs and Atari and eventually the Internet would nudge me closer to caring about the periodic table, Louis Pasteur and the double-blind studies that now seem to stand for science. As it was, I only cared about the double-blind studies that told me what I wanted to hear—that potatoes are good for you or that people of my height are generally happy—and I liked the phrase “double-blind” when it was on my side because it meant “true” and “take that.”

    I assume that other people love science and technology, since the fields are often lumped together, but I rarely meet people like that. Technology people are trippy; our minds are blown by the romance of telecom. At the same time, the people I know who consider themselves scientists by nature seem to be super-skeptical types who can be counted on to denigrate religion, fear climate change and think most

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  • Dumb ways to die, smart ways to kill (time)

    "Dumb Ways to Die" is a phenomenon as both YouTube video and smartphone game. Could it make the leap to television?

    Don't donate both kidneys. Don't swallow superglue. Don't take your helmet off in outer space.

    These and other useful summer-safety tips are all-too-familiar to kids and their parents for whom the season's soundtrack is the earworm "Dumb Ways to Die," set to infinite repeat. "Dumb Ways to Die" is the cheerful Australian indie single that doubles as a train-safety campaign jingle. As of last month, it is also a game for iPhone and Android that lets you save the little Aussie Lima beans in the song's video from various dumb hazards: castrating piranhas, stale benzos, drug dealers with clubs.

    Sound inappropriate for children? It's not. "Dumb Ways to Die" originated as a McCann-Erickson campaign to enliven the standard train-safety PSA. Its last verse tells about minding the gap, not following a balloon onto the train track and not circumnavigating the gates that keeps cars off tracks when trains are coming. Making this stunty tempt-fate stuff sound as moronic as poking a wasps' nest or

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  • The hashtag filibuster

    Virginia Heffernan on Wendy Davis' Twitter moment, seven days after her historic filibuster

    Man, that was some good old politics last week! Senator Wendy Davis’s tumbling platinum coif, at a squint, could have been a powdered wig. The hot Davis, filibustering in white before the Texas state legislature, could have been, for all the world, the hot, bewigged Alexander Hamilton, delivering his own flights of semicolonic rhetoric almost exactly 225 years ago, before the New York Ratifying Convention in Poughkeepsie, New York.

    But even Hamilton didn’t speak for nearly thirteen freaking hours—on topic, on foot, without so much as a lean, Stairmaster-style, on the table in front of her. She was ingeniously catheterized; the bathroom didn’t seem to cross her mind. Today, as #stand4life fights to trend on Twitter, we celebrate the one-week anniversary of the Wendy Davis triumph—for the (temporary) defeat of the onmibus anti-abortion bill she opposed; for advances in personal urological solutions; for stagecraft at the Texas Capitol; and of course for the blockbuster hashtag

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  • Glass Menagerie: Broken

    When Google Glass breaks, the griefs and sorrows of ownership arise

    Virginia Heffernan | @YahooTech

    I broke my Google Glass. The injury is my fault, though I also choose to blame the Google-issued case, a cowboy accessory of gray flannel that is closer to a hard-toed sock than to the Bulgari satin-lined jewelry box that would seem to suit fancy Google Glass.

    The soft part of the Glass sack was insufficient armor against the bruising bustle of my handbag, which contains a dusty old iPad and iPhone (hahaha remember that stuff?), sunglasses and my daughter’s Barbie Fairy, name of Silvermist. Some of these obdurate objects—they’re like the tougher organs of the bag, the livers and wombs—seem to have encountered Glass, the feeblest and most fragile, the eyeball of the bag. At some point a collision occurred, and this collision bent, then broke, the hinge that connects the battery to the brace, rendering it operative but unmistakably broken.

    My broken Glass occasioned another visit to Glass Basecamp, the site of my original Initiation. That Initiation, you

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  • Mourning King James

    James Gandolfini, who died at 51 on Wednesday, brilliantly disturbed our living rooms for the better part of a decade

    by Virginia Heffernan

    James Gandolfini, who died yesterday at 51, hated Tony Soprano. The monstrously significant role that made Gandolfini’s name—over eight long seasons on HBO—nearly destroyed him. He was sickened by the violent scenes in “The Sopranos”: the ice-cold ones, the operatic ones, all of it. Instead of sensibly fleeing his discomfort, though, Gandolfini squared off with it, built a totemic character around it, and set a new standard for virile dramatic performance—in an 80-hour movie that would have made mincemeat of Olivier or Marlon Brando in its first ten.

    “He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time,” David Chase, who created “The Sopranos,” said yesterday. “A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes. I remember telling him many times, ‘You don’t get it. You’re like Mozart.’ There would be silence on the other end of the phone.”

    Gandolfini did not get it. But his eyes did—haunted, mournful, profoundly penitent eyes. I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry. Shot

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  • Glass Menagerie: Poetry

    Finding the poetry in Google Glass

    by Virginia Heffernan | @YahooTech

    Because I promised Google, I now have to bring you some poetry. Not anything I wrote—I promise. And I’ll keep that promise, too.

    The background is this. When I wrote my 140-character application to the “Glass Explorer” program, where (it’s like eBay) you win the opportunity to pay $$$$ for something, I told Google that if they let me buy Glass, I would explore the “poetry” of it. (I also promised to look into the “griefs” of Google Glass, which I’ll do soon.)

    Think I laid it on thick? Very well, I laid it on thick. I did so for the same reason I overwrote my college applications: writing’s all I got. If I were to land Glass, I knew I wasn’t going to parasail or jump out of a plane or irrigate something arid with Internet goggles on, like those sporty, progressive folk in the Glass promotion videos. Also, don’t sportsfolk already have their own headgear? Headgear that protects their brains?

    Anyway, I went for poetry and griefs, and miraculously Google

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  • Glass Menagerie: Momofuku

    In which the Google Glass-wearing author wanders around Milk Bar searching for kinship

    by Virginia Heffernan | @YahooTech

    I've been wearing Google Glass, Google's wearable Internet contraption, since Friday. (You can read the first entry in my Glass Menagerie journal here, the second entry here and the most recent entry here.)

    So far, groovy Brooklynites seem to see Google's pricey headgear the way they see Gucci loafers—like something for showoffs and chumps. It's sorta pathetic. I was hoping we could share in some good old American excitement over new technology. But they're ignoring me.

    Anyway, Glass wasn't a hit when I wore it to Smith Canteen, my usual coffee shop, so yesterday I decided to go somewhere seemingly more hospitable to technology: Momofuku Milk Bar. Hip people love cookies? Maybe I was grasping at straws. I definitely was grasping at straws. So here's the video I made, from my head, when I cravenly sought attention yesterday at Momofuku Milk Bar. Watch especially the snub by the cool-looking chick at the end. Sigh.

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  • Glass Menagerie: Friendship

    Google Glass, alienation and redemption in Brooklyn

    by Virginia Heffernan | @YahooTech

    III. In which I become a Glasshole, alienate a borough and make a friend

    Brooklyn, June, 2013. New plan. I’m not “easing into” jack, as was suggested to me by Google. My skull is now perpetually lashed to Google Glass, and I’m like a kitchen renovated with a lapis-lazuli backsplash. I’m upgraded. Massive resale bump.

    I’ve bought in wholesale. If we’re chatting, I’m filming you, and then I’m sharing that video with everyone with an optical nerve. Sharing and sharing and sharing—with my boss Chris, my editor Jason, my mom and my boyfriend and my kids and my “real friends” on Google+, whoever they are.

    As I glide along the shimmering now-unreal sidewalks of Brooklyn, I move like a middle-aged Neo or a new X-Men mutant in mom sneakers and bleachy gray hair. My wetware brain—and my hair, my cheeks, my teeth—has all gone digital. I am become digital, the sharer of worlds. Glassographer of the universe.

    I am become nobody, I am become a Transparent Eyeball, I

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  • Glass Menagerie: Yes, Um

    by Virginia Heffernan | @YahooTech

    are an English rock band who achieved success with their progressive, art and symphonic style of music. They are distinguished by their use of mystical and cosmic lyrics.

    So I have been informed, over and over again, by Google Glass, which I acquired on Friday.

    I have learned about Yes, yes, from this Wikipedia display on Glass, but I have also learned about myself. Specifically, I have learned that apparently I say “yes” to myself all day long. Glass hears this “yes” as “Yes”—who can blame it?—and for good measure hears that same “Yes” every time we find ourselves in a strong spring wind. And so it sends me to the Wikipedia page for Yes. The English rock band.

    The day I first got Glass, I couldn’t stop saying “um,” so I landed on “U.M.,” The University of Miami, which, should you be wondering, is “a private, non-sectarian university founded in 1925.” Today I land on Yes, an English rock band who achieved success. . .

    Just as it is news to me that

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  • Glass Menagerie: Initiation

    Virginia Heffernan gets Google Glass and experiences a confounding, exhiliarating initiation

    by Virginia Heffernan | @YahooTech

    Hot, like a hard-ridden horse, my stallion-white Google Glass is resting.

    It’s charging. At rest, the exclusive, pricey and futuristic Glass device doesn’t call to mind a racehorse. Or a Maserati, a DeLorean, or the must-have iPhone six years ago. Glass appears, frankly, weak. Amid other plastic jazz from my purse, including turquoise sunglasses and a cheap vented hairbrush, Glass looks instead like a hated orthodontic device, or the never-used headset to a very old cordless phone.

    It scares me, actually, how much Glass in repose resembles any another hunk of obsolete technology found around the house that will eventually be thrown away. Discarded — not by the culture, but by me, the person who bought it and who already from time to time aimlessly holds onto dozens of gadgets and chargers and wires that, though once greeted with erotically high hopes, will be scrapped with the coffee grounds, unrecycled.

    But I should not race ahead. Because now is the

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(112 Stories)