The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

The Great Browser Tab Clean-Out of 2010

This is going to be a hodge-podge of a post; it’s just a bunch of things I’ve run across in recent week that I think are worth sharing. Each one is absolutely worthy of more than a list bullet, but alas, 2010 grows short. Rapid fire, now:

  • Back in the old neighborhood (and it’s full of koopas). One Chance is a short, simple game about the end of the world. It’s interesting to play, but what really resonated with me was the use and re-use of the background graphics; they get bleaker and more barren as, uh, the world ends. Of course, video games always do this—and, as in cartoons, the labor-saving trick has now become a wonderful convention of the art. You return to your old village, except now it’s been ravaged by Ganondorf; you make your way back through the game’s first level, except now instead of scrolling left-to-right, fighting your way through robots, you’re scrolling right-to-left, running for your life as a timer ticks down at the top of the screen. I love stuff like that. Games can deliver these great little hits of nostalgia, but nostalgia for what? Something you saw two days ago, or two hours ago, or even (in the case of One Chance) two minutes ago? It’s the history of the world in miniature.
  • Illuminated manuscripts. Matthew Battles wrote a great post over at Gearfuse on images and the future of reading. It riffs on Steve Martin’s new book, An Object of Beauty, which, rather than laboriously describe famous paintings, just drops full-color images into the text. I love that, and I love it whenever a story is more than just a string of characters. Bring on the maps, the drawings, the Salvador Dali!
  • I Only Know (What I Know Now). James Blake is totally new to me and totally great. Maybe this is exactly what you’d expect a late-2010 listener to say, but I agree with the Flavorwire writer on the other side of that link: Blake sounds unanchored, atemporal—which I intend as high praise.
  • Wide-body CPMs. I think really, really big ads are going to be the new thing. And I don’t think that’s a bad new thing! Look, for instance, at the ads over on Pictory. I think I’d rather have a big beautiful image take up my whole screen for a moment than continue to suffer the blinking monkeys in the corner. This is connected to the full bleed thing. Down with fragmented experiences, down with media mosaics. Give me one big, beautiful thing at a time.
  • No. The irony of that last exhortation deep in the body of this fragmented blog post is not lost on me.
  • I paid a thousand people to read this post. This analysis of spam tasks on Mechanical Turk is depressing. I ran a Mechanical Turk experiment using CrowdFlower not too long ago; the experience was (no exaggeration) thrilling and revelatory. You should try it, just to see the zeitgeist up close and personal. It’s really an amazing system that Amazon has created—and therefore really a shame it’s being bent to such largely lame purposes.
  • Magazines about Mars. I meant to post this as a last-minute Christmas gift suggestion. Oops. Megan Prelinger’s book Another Science Fiction is another thrilling revelation: a well-narrated collection of industry ads gleaned from the heyday of the space race. Some are goofy; some are histrionic; and some are (quite unexpectedly) gorgeous, like this one:


That’s it. I’m gonna go watch a Western now.


I love this post when it comes around. I’ve still got Bruce Sterling’s opus from February open in a tab I really don’t want to close.

I also found a list of five-year-old Ray Kurzweil predictions in one of your old Snarkmarket posts, which led me to Kurzweil’s evaluation (pdf) of where his predictions stand as of October 2010. I think he grades himself on a curve. This might be a SMKT post.

I always like these types of posts too, reaching a bit back to old-school web-logging.

The thing about that “images and the future of reading” post is that subtly integrated images + text seems to me to be the present of reading! All kinds of people drop images into web writing (and annotate images with words) with an easy and intuitive pacing; this is very interesting to me right now. Full-color images are just surprising in a published novel because it’s catching up to what the web does. (And I am reminded of Tristam Shandy, and of W.G. Sebald’s black-and-white photos integrated into his storytelling.)

You know, I think your optimism re: images & reading might be a function of your (wonderful) perch. I wish more people (myself included, sheesh) used images in a truly linguistic way — rather than just “okay, just wrote that, now here’s a picture, too.”

But I don’t know — maybe I’m the one with a biased view, b/c I read more newspaper blogs and Gawker network blogs and stuff like that than I do, e.g., Livejournals. Maybe it’s further from the gravity well of print media where the good stuff is growing.

But I should say: one person who I think is doing truly fun & innovative stuff w/ text+images right now is Alexis Madrigal over at The Atlantic Tech section.

And of course I’m watching the Canvas blog for more examples. 🙂

That piece by Matthew is really lovely. There’s something fascinating about the idea of Steve Martin–such a weirdly unpredictable polymath[1] of all sorts of art and performance and narrative–making this sort of obvious leap of writing an illustrated novel from the get go. This thread with Robin and Britta reminds me of this weird, rambling essay from an old issue of Zoetrope by Peter Greenaway: 105 years of illustrated text. I still don’t quite know what I think of it, but it first got me thinking about the idea of ‘using images in a truly linguistic way.’ (Nice phrase, Robin.) I like the idea that Martin’s book might almost start in the reverse order: he has the paintings first, since they were made before him, and now he is writing a story to go along with them.

I grew up reading the BBT editions of my Gaudiya Vaishnav tradition’s scriptures. The full color images were all gathered in sections of poster-quality plates, starting right at the front, not dropped throughout the text. Yet they were a powerful reading motivator to a young child. The editors did a good job of spacing illustrations evenly so that a child who wanted to understand what was going in these gorgeous pictures was well incentivized to read most of the book. I would basically stare at one picture, flip to the appropriate set of pages, read through them all, then go back to the next picture, stare at that, and then flip back to the right section of pages, eventually overlapping my way through most of the text. I think somehow this separation actually worked better for me. They may have been bound together in one volume, but the booklet of pictures in the front was essentially a map for exploring the large volume of verses in the back. Ekphrastically (that’s a word, right? Of course it is), you might think this reliance on images totally contradictory to the intention of a text that’s traditionally experienced orally. But when I was on pilgrimage a month ago I was swept away by temples lined with the images come to life in massive 3d full color dioramas, each perfectly keyed to the central moment of an iconic story. (As someone who grew up in the west and has visited almost as many Churches in Europe as Temples in India, it was a nice reminder that we do have our own lust objects of art.) The text may have always been illustrated within the experience: you sat there in the temple, heard the verses and stared at the appropriate diorama (or dance performance)–the place itself is the map to the text. For all we know, perhaps Achilles’ shield was a lovely, ill-fated fresco on the walls of the ancient courtyard’s where traveling bards gave their recitations.

You can imagine all sorts of other ergonomic combinations, of course. Illustration in left hand, text in right (or vice versa). Accordion books, giant posters, a shuffle-ready deck of cards.

[1] A great banjo collector/player was just telling me about this Kickstarter Project for a documentary about the banjo which Steve Martin narrates. You know, in case any of you are banjo fans.

re: big ads


(and i’d like to discuss a related idea with you one day soon… for all mankind and their wallets)

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