The Devil's Cigarette Lighter (Mar. 13, 2015)

Today I learned about a gigantic natural gas well fire in the Algerian Sahara in the early 60′s called “The Devil’s Cigarette Lighter.” A pipe on the well ruptured, and suddenly there was 6,000 cubic feet of natural gas—on fire—shooting up out of the ground per second. The fire went 800 feet into the air and melted the surrounding desert into glass. From the linked NYT Mag piece: “The temperature of well fires is measured in thousands of degrees, and the noise is so ferocious that it ceases to register as sound – it’s simply a deep, crunching vibration.” 

The fire was visible from space, and burned for nearly six months until it was put out using explosives: “It seems wildly counterintuitive, using dynamite to subdue an inferno, but the physics are quite simple: a properly shaped and sized explosion will momentarily suck all the oxygen from a given area, thus starving the flames long enough to get a cap on the well. (Of course, done wrong, it’s also extremely dangerous.)”

The rest of the NYT Mag piece is a profile of Red Adair, the Texas man who put out the DCL as just one of many well fires in a long career. Worth a read.


“- Papa, érdekesek a városok?
- Szerintem nem túlságosan.
- Akkor miért építenek az emberek városokat (…)?
- Félnek a magánytól. (…)
- A városban nincs magány?
- Ott van csak igazán. Csak nem lehet észrevenni.”  /Szergej Vasziljevics Lukjanyenko

It takes an enormous lack of ego to not put your imprint on everything you do, to not employ your learning and position. To stand back, to hold back, to keep your mouth shut. To yell with your silence, when you know you very well could make soothing and welcomed sounds at the drop of a hat. She could sing; she knows how. And being a Beatles wife could have been a magic charm — but she wasn’t interested. It takes willpower to overpower the will to power. To be accepted, to be thought nice, is traditionally woman’s power. That is something Ono doesn’t need.
Eight Things I Learned From Reading Every Last Word of The Economist

Posting this because I, too, believe that “to subscribe to The New Yorker is to accept the feeling of inadequacy that comes with [doing just about anything] rather than attacking the unread pile of them on your bedside table.” (And The Economist is a close second; these days, I reserve it for airplanes.)

So, I’m eager to follow the travails of NYTMag editors as one of them reads an entire issue of another magazine every day for the next two weeks, and reports back on what they learned. Bated breath.

Many among us had experienced the evils of war many times, and I was asking myself what I was created for. The internal voice used to tell me, ‘It is not fair to avenge your beloved one.’ It took time, but in the end we realized that we are all Rwandans. The genocide was due to bad governance that set neighbours, brothers and sisters against one another. Now you accept and you forgive. The person you have forgiven becomes a good neighbour.

Cesarie Mukabutera, Rwandan genocide survivor, on forgiveness

For more, see the New York Times Magazine here.

"Between numbers, she coughed like a consumptive. During the songs, she sounded like no one else."

From Wyatt Mason’s smart, engaging “Regina Spektor Has Piano, Will Travel” in the NYT mag:

On a cold night in late February, Spektor was preparing for a benefit concert in New York for HIAS, the organization that helped her family immigrate. Spektor had bronchitis, and the day before it looked as if she might have to cancel.

In the dark, she sang song after song, many from her new record, but not “How.” Her manager had heard her at sound check playing through most of the new record and suggested, strongly, that she keep some things in reserve, fearing that recordings would pop up on the Internet the next day (they did). Between numbers, she coughed like a consumptive. During the songs, she sounded like no one else.

The way Spektor sang reminded me of something she told me earlier about the kind of art that matters to her. “I love worlds that are so complete that you just can relax,” Spektor said, “because when the art is that complete, it makes something in me just calm. But a lot of new things … there’s this tension. I’ll take everything that is awesome from it and leave everything that I don’t like. It can be an uneven piece and still worth it. But you put on ‘Rubber Soul,’ or ‘Sgt. Pepper,’ or ‘Freewheeling Bob Dylan’ and it’s just … solid. From the first note you hear, it never goes wrong. Why can’t everything be like that?”

Thanks to Austin Kleon and Maria Popova for the links that brought to Mason’s piece.

Which cover would you choose?

The New York Times Magazine is having a little trouble picking a cover for their upcoming issue. I find it interesting that they want an opinion from their audience; they’re trying to see what would attract their readers the most. I’m taking three design based classes right now: Magazine Publishing, Web Publishing and Design and Information Graphics, so things like this really catch my eyes these days. My favorite cover is the 4th one down, but how would it look if the main headline was white instead of gold so that it no longer matched the name plate of the magazine?

David Carr: America’s Favorite Talking Hothead | The New York Times Magazine

Kristin Hammerstad

Each time he came into conflict at a job, he managed, through skill and a bottomless appetite for payback, to advance his career. He’s in the midst of a blitz of press, and in those articles, at the ballpark and in many late-night e-mail conversations afterward, Olbermann makes it clear that he stands ready to resume combat operations. To his usual cast of opponents — Republicans, Fox News, Tea Party members — he has added corporate media, especially MSNBC, which is owned by NBC, which is now owned by Comcast. In MSNBC’s recent decision to hire the former Republican Party chairman Michael Steele as a pundit, he sees evidence that the former outpost of liberalism is tacking toward the mushy middle. “There is a lot of desperation over there now, and it’s completely justified,” he said.

The five-month layoff has Olbermann rubbing his hands in anticipation of a whole new pantheon of “Worst Person[s] in the World.” A stress fracture in his left foot, which he attributes to running in those weird Vibram FiveFingers shoes, left him hobbled, but at least he acquired a cane to go with all that curmudgeonliness, which he gestures with as he speaks. Like when Derek Jeter came up to bat. “Look at that slugging percentage,” he said. “It’s terrible. Awful.” I pointed out to Olbermann that Jeter was just a few feet away, well within earshot.“He knows what I think of him,” he said, giving a whatever wave with the cane without looking up from his scorecard.