September 12, 2009
Media Physics with Prof. Hova
He now calls the old record companies "archaic," and says they made a huge error in 2000 when they sued to stop the original Napster, which popularized free file sharing: "They had it all in one place coming through one hole, where they could control it. They shut that down, and just opened the floodgates. Now everyone's running their own Napster. Now it's just a hole in the universe, and it's too late."
"Now it's just a hole in the universe." That really is the right image for the craziness we now face. Media space-time torn asunder. Well-established principles of album acceleration and movie momentum no longer apply. It's just a hole in the universe!
Forgive me while I crow for just a moment: Mr. Penumbra just hit what I think is a new peak in the Kindle store. It's the 937th bestselling item in the entire Kindle universe. The fourth-bestselling short story. The third-bestselling "techno thriller."
The sad truth: As best I can figure, that rank was driven by about 30 copies over the past two days.
Alas, Kindle. Your universe is small indeed.
September 11, 2009
Present at the Creation, Part Two
There's always been a funny connection between Snarkmarket and Current.
After all, introduction aside, my very first Snarkmarket post inaugurated the "Gore TV" category. More followed. November 2003. March 2004. ("Man, I thought I had put this behind me. But now I'm all excited about it again.") May.
But then what? How did I end up, not too many months later, here in San Francisco, working for what was then called INdTV?
On August 1, 2004, I sent an email to Joel Hyatt, INdTV's CEO. (I found his address on the web. After searching for days.) In the email, I introduced myself—a reporter/producer/blogger in St. Petersburg, Florida, with two years of experience at a non-profit journalism institute—and lobbed in an idea for how this new TV channel could use the web in an interesting way. And, more importantly, I promised (threatened?) to follow up with another idea, and another, and another. Thirty-one total. An August of ideas.
To his everlasting credit, and to my everlasting gratitude, Joel's reply did not say "never email me again, you weird kid." Rather: "OK, let's see what you've got."
Keep in mind that I had about four ideas cooked up when I sent that first message. And then my part of St. Petersburg got evacuated because of a hurricane. And then I drove cross-country, from Florida up to Michigan, then over to California, stopping at the wifi-enabled rest stops along I-80, dispatching ideas, racing to come up with more. It was a pretty crazy month.
The final idea, sent on August 31, was, perhaps, predictable: You should hire me!
And again, this is a point at which Joel could very reasonably have said "you weird kid." Instead, he invited me into the city for lunch.
At Current, I've been, successively, an interactive producer, a blogger, a channel manager, a futurist (note: bad title choice), ad sales adjunct faculty, and the vice president of strategy. I've been here for just a hair under five years.
But finally, there's just too much other cool stuff to do. Today is my last day.
Current is the company, the idea, that brought me to San Francisco, and I have a lot of people to thank for the depth and breadth of my Current experience. But none so centrally as Joel, who took a chance on a 24-year-old who sent a bunch of emails. I mean, guys: This is big. This is what makes lives happen, or not.
Anyway, I'm sure I'll have more reflections to share, but I'll leave it at that for now. Mostly, I wanted to tell the tale of that fall five years ago because it makes the step I'm about to take, in the fall of 2009, seem relatively conservative by comparison. Ha!
Here's the agenda:
First: Spend the next fifty days absolutely jamming on this book. On one level, this is just simple necessity. I sort of set a trap for myself here, didn't I? On another level, I had an epiphany the other day: There is nothing in the entire world I would rather do for the next two months than work my ass off to create something wonderful for the people on this list. Not sure I've ever had quite that level of clarity before. Gotta say: I like it.
Then: Consulting—for Current, for starters. Freelancing, in a few different domains. There's more writing in the works. And some bigger ideas, which I won't try to squeeze into this post. But I won't keep you waiting for too long, I promise. I'm going to need your help!
Update: Ha hahaha. I got a web-monitoring text message this morning saying that robinsloan.com was getting slammed with visitors, and I'm thinking to myself, "Wow, jeez, big news... I guess?" Nope, different reason. Shoulda known!
File under: Gore TV, Media Galaxy, Self-Disclosure
September 8, 2009
The Slider of Trust
I just wrote a quick update over at Kickstarter, accessible to my project backers only, and I have to say, it was an interesting experience. It felt different; more than usual, I could picture somewhat specifically who I was writing for. And this post is about the music I've been listening to, so I could include a few MP3s without feeling like a pirate.
What if more web writing had this kind of thing built into it? Imagine—I'm brainstorming real-time right now, so this probably won't make any sense—imagine a little slider on the blog entry editing screen that goes from "free / full public access" to "bulk subs / high access" to "patrons only / inner circle." It's a question (I'm discovering) not primarily of "content value" (like, "save the good stuff for the paying customers!") but rather of intimacy and voice. In one mode, the vast howling weirdness of the public web. In the other, a defined group of people you know and, on some level, trust.
So forget the payment thing, explicit in Kickstarter and implicit in my scenario above. What if it was entirely about concentric circles of trust and—what else? Helpfulness? Constructiveness? "Propensity to read, understand, improve and articulate"? You want to try an idea out, you want a bit of freedom to think out loud—to suggest something stupid, to fail! So you set the slider to "friends and allies." You'll write a fully-baked, armor-plated public version later. But not yet.
September 7, 2009
American Numismatic Society, I Salute You
We've been talking a lot about the future of digitization, about how much digitization needs to improve, about the severe limits that digitization still imposes on many things—books, for instance.
So, here's a change of pace. Here is the almost perfectly digitizable object, almost perfectly digitized.
Small objects, easy to photograph in their entirety? Check.
Defined number of important views? Check. (Obviously two.)
Standard set of metadata? Check. (And click on one of the images above to see an example.)
So, given the ideal material for a digital archive, the American Numismatic Society delivers. There's a powerful search engine but their collection is pretty browsable, too. And, listen, I only collect coins that I intend to spend on the train, but I defy you not to get a little lost in these pages.
And every coin has its own stable permalink! Swoon!
The only thing missing is that you can't heft the coins, feel their contours. Fair enough. But I'll bet you could even generate 3D models from these images, using the depth information implied by the shadows. When I finally have a home 3D printer I'll crank out some of these guys and send 'em around.
And you know, ancient coins are perfect tokens of historical imagination, especially when captured so crisply. They're totally familiar but deeply strange. You can imagine keeping one in your pocket, feeling it in your hand.
Check these off the list. Now we just gotta get those books right.
File under: Gleeful Miscellany, Media Galaxy
September 1, 2009
Radiolab the Movie
How, how, did it take me two weeks to post this Radiolab-esque, Radiolab-inspired video? It's called "Moments" and it lives up to its name. The snippets that Will Hoffman has captured are non-trivial and non-clichéd. Many of them are brain-sparking and smile-inducing. (I think I liked the frisbee on the roof best of all. Is that weird?)
What this is not is the Radiolab of video. That designation, that honor, remains unbestowed. It awaits an entrant that breaks from the cut-cut-cut of traditional video (Hoffman's style is great, but it's... straight cuts) and reimagines that glowing frame as fully as Radiolab has reimagined the stuff that comes out of two speakers.
However, "Moments" is still terrific, so watch it.
August 3, 2009
The Stupidity of Serendipity
Having just two weeks ago posted a link to what I think is a reasonably intelligent take on the importance of serendipitous discoveries in old and new media, Damon Darlin's not-quite-an-essay in the NYT is by comparison offensively stupid.
Let's just juxtapose these two excerpts:
It gives us a measure of the owners quirky tastes and, more often than not, we find a singer, a musician or a documentary wed never known before.
But that isnt serendipity. Its really group-think. Everything we need to know comes filtered and vetted. We are discovering what everyone else is learning, and usually from people we have selected because they share our tastes.
I'm just going to assume that Damon Darlin walks into other people's houses at random, without filtering or vetting them first. I'm also going to assume that he goes through their medicine cabinets and ingests whatever drugs he finds there without filtering or vetting them. Because otherwise this makes NO SENSE.
Top 40 Radio, books read by random people on the subway - say what you will about the merits of these as engines of serendipity, but at least there's a prima facie case to be made for them as a fundamentally different kind of content delivery than the way most folks experience the web. But browsing your friends' bookshelves and sorting through their Twitter recommendations are prima facie the same thing. You're encountering the shared culture of a small set of associates selected because they have other things in common. Again, this is true unless you're just knocking on doors.
At least make a case for it. Say something about how our CDs reveal more about us than our Twitter or Blog recommendations, because they show what we like and HAVE liked rather than what we admit that we like right now. Say that email forwards are actually a much more ritualized and inherently conservative form than they're cracked up to be.
The ultimate irony of this is that you could annotate this post and identify every single cliché in it, most of them already published in the NYT itself. So the other, alternate solution is that it's a kind of weird performance-art piece, a limply parodic performance of the reject-the-web-in-favor-of-false-nostalgia-for-serendipity tropes that have been circling for years.
Unless it's forthcoming, I'm going to assume that the guy breaks into people's houses and huffs their pills before checking out their CD and magazine racks.
(*I know, I'm a weekend late on the stupefied outrage about this. But I'm also just offended as a writing teacher. If an eighteen-year-old submitted this to me, with this paucity of argument, it would be lucky to squeak by with a B.)
August 1, 2009
Link Love and the Viral Spike
The BBC also points to an op-ed by Bill Wasik in the NYT, which I am drafting into service in our Snarkmarket Forum on Free (Related Topics Division). It's about the new "big break"—the viral spike!—which is made possible, after all, by the friction-less power of free.
Well, that and the internet.
July 30, 2009
Hey! I See You Copying That
Over at Nieman Journalism Lab, Zachary Seward explains Tracer, a utility with two functions, one terrible and the other cool:
- Terrible: It inserts extra stuff into your copied-and-pasted text. So for instance, if Snarkmarket was running Tracer, and you copied this line, when you pasted it, it would also say: "Come check out the original post at Snarkmarket!" along with a link. T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E.
- Cool: Forget the copy-paste hijacking and focus on the analytics you could get from this thing. Seward writes: "But I'm much more impressed by Tracer's backend, which allows publishers to see which pages—and, even better, which parts of those pages—are most frequently copied."
Don't miss the graphics on the Nieman Journalism Lab post.
This connects back to some of the ideas in my post about tethered books—and has some of the same creepy/cool combo, too. But, on balance, I think more granular information about how people read and use text is really exciting—simply because it could help you make your text so much better.
July 29, 2009
City of Inference
So, this research team at U of Washington totally out-awesomed PhotoSynth by building amazing point-cloud 3D models of monuments and cities from Flickr photos.
July 27, 2009
The Nichepaper Manifesto
How is Umair Haque so good at this?
But I have never seen them so seamlessly and stylishly combined. Part of it is simply the language: Haque has a gift for punchy parallel structure. Just scan down his list of bold directives—"Knowledge, not news," "Provocation, not perfection"—and tell me you don't want a nichepaper, like, now.
I'm kinda into his neologism "commentage," too.
Anyway, if you are even 1% interested in this stuff, go give him a glance.
The Feed Giveth, the Feed Taketh Away
Pieter's description of his reading habits resonated with me. I, too, subscribe to an info-megaton of feeds, and derive a sort of cruel pleasure from scrolling through them at warp speed. If you don't catch my eye, too bad for you. Mark all as read.
But then, over at Laura's site—which is crisp and appealing—I find a link to Jon Kyle's, which is amazing. Look at that quote treatment. That is the best quote treatment I have ever seen on the entire internet.
Now I'm imagining those quotes, completely stripped of style, in Google Reader. Mark all as read.
Jon Kyle's site just keeps going. It's stunning.
What do we do about this? On one hand: the demands of scale; the great, brain-tingling opportunities of aggregation. On the other hand: the richness of a great frame; all that the setting adds to the stone.
I don't even really have a dream solution. These two values feel really fundamentally incompatible to me. Scale vs. specificity.
Of course, I'm not just talking about a few beautiful sites; I could put those in a bookmark folder and check 'em every so often. I'm talking about the rapidly-growing regime of words and images as portable, style-free info-bundles—which has a lot going for it!—vs. a world where words and images are fundamentally linked to their design and context, because without them they'd just be lame quotes in a Google Reader window.
Fun Work Could Mean Free Work
Snarkmarket (along with others) has been talking recently about the economic model implicit in the free release of New Liberal Arts and the deliberately limited revenue realized from its sale. As one of the authors of that book, I was conscious going into the project that I wouldn't be paid for my contribution, no matter how successful or influential the book might become—and with the release of Chris Anderson's book "Free: The Future of a Radical Price," this seems like a good time to discuss working for free.
Virginia Postrel's review of "Free" in the New York Times ends with the following paragraphs:
"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money," Samuel Johnson said, and that attitude has had a good two-century run. But the Web is full of blockheads, whether they're rate-busting amateurs or professionals trawling for speaking gigs. All this free stuff raises the real standard of living, by making it ever easier for people to find entertainment, information and communication that pleases them.
Business strategy, however, seeks not only to create but to capture value. Free is about a phenomenon in which almost all the new value goes to consumers, not producers. It is false to assume that no price means no value. But it is equally false to argue that value implies profitability.
This is true as far as it goes, but I think it's more interesting as a starting point than an ending point. In particular, I feel like it misses the non-monetary value that work produces for those who do it.
Most of us, if we're fortunate, derive some form of value from the work we do, above and beyond the pay we receive. We enjoy working, or we enjoy the status that results from doing a certain kind of work—being widely recognized as a scholarly authority or having our ideas praised by people we respect and admire. To the extent that this intrinsic value is higher than the monetary value we could receive for doing something else, we will happily work for less or work for free, because the non-economic rewards are so significant.
Now, in the previous economic paradigm, it was possible to do work that you would have done for less or for free and still be paid well for it, because it was too much trouble for your employers/clients to find someone who could do the work as well and for free. But the internet drastically reduces that barrier. Imagine trying to find people to write a computer operating system and all the associated applications without expecting payment before the internet—now look at Linux.
I wonder if we're heading toward an economy where, to put it bluntly, people don't get paid for doing fun things. If something is fun—for someone in the world who finds it fun enough to become good at it, and to do it without expecting pay—it will no longer pay.
In this world, people still work for money, maybe 20 hours a week, but they don't really derive happiness from their jobs (if their job was something that people enjoyed doing, like playing in a symphony or writing poetry, it wouldn't pay—someone would be doing it for free*). They spend the rest of their time doing things for free, things that produce tremendous creative value for themselves and for others, but form a gift economy outside the normal capitalist economy.
I think most creative, intellectual, and information-oriented pursuits would end up on the free side of that divide—which is not to devalue them at all. Rather, I think that clarity about the kinds of rewards you could expect from each activity could lessen a lot of the anxiety about "how will I make a living as a writer, journalist, playwright, composer?" Maybe you won't—and that's okay.
*When I say "free," I don't necessarily mean $0.00. You might still earn some token payments for your creative effort, but not enough to contribute in a meaningful way to your income—a few hundred dollars a year, perhaps.
File under: Media Galaxy, Society/Culture, Technosnark
July 24, 2009
Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy
There's a great scene in Star Trek IV - yes, the one where the crew travels back in time to save whales - where Scotty, the engineer, tries to control a Macintosh by talking to it. When McCoy hands him the mouse, he speaks into it, in a sweetly coaxing voice: "Hello, computer!" When he's told to use the keyboard ("How quaint!"), he irritably cracks his knuckles -- and hunts-and-pecks at Warp 1 to pull up the specs for "transparent aluminum."
As recently as 2000, it seemed inevitable that any minute now, we were going to be able to turn in our quaint keyboards and start controlling computers with our voice. Our computers were going to become just like our telephones, or even better, like our secretaries. But while voice and speech recognition and commands have gotten a lot better, generally the trend has been in the other direction - instead of talking to our computers, we're typing on our phones.
(Which is arguably the hidden message of Scotty and the Mac - even somebody with the most powerful voice-controlled computer in the galaxy can touch-type like a champ. He probably only talks to the computer so his hands are free to text his friends while he's engineering! "brb - needed on away team" -- "anyone know how to recrystallize dilithium" -- That's why he's so inventive! He's crowdsourcing!)
The return to speech, in all of its immediacy, after centuries of the technological dominance of writing, seemed inevitable. The phonograph, film, radio, and television all seemed to point towards a future dominated by communications technology where writing and reading played an increasingly diminished role. I think the most important development, though, was probably the telephone. Ordinary speech, conversation, in real-time, where space itself appeared to vanish. It created a paradigm not just for media theorists and imaginative futurists but for ordinary people to imagine tomorrow.
This was Marshall McLuhan's "global village" - a media and politics where the limitations of speech across place and time were virtually eliminated. Walter Ong called it "secondary orality" - we were seeing a return to a culture dominated by oral communication that wasn't QUITE like the primary orality of nonliterate cultures - it was mediated by writing, by print, and by the technologies and media of the new orality themselves.
“When I first used the term ‘secondary orality,’ I was thinking of the kind of orality you get on radio and television, where oral performance produces effects somewhat like those of ‘primary orality,’ the orality using the unprocessed human voice, particularly in addressing groups, but where the creation of orality is of a new sort. Orality here is produced by technology. Radio and television are ‘secondary’ in the sense that they are technologically powered, demanding the use of writing and other technologies in designing and manufacturing the machines which reproduce voice. They are thus unlike primary orality, which uses no tools or technology at all. Radio and television provide technologized orality. This is what I originally referred to by the term ‘secondary orality.’
I have also heard the term ‘secondary orality’ lately applied by some to other sorts of electronic verbalization which are really not oral at all—to the Internet and similar computerized creations for text. There is a reason for this usage of the term. In nontechnologized oral interchange, as we have noted earlier, there is no perceptible interval between the utterance of the speaker and the hearer’s reception of what is uttered. Oral communication is all immediate, in the present. Writing, chirographic or typed, on the other hand, comes out of the past. Even if you write a memo to yourself, when you refer to it, it’s a memo which you wrote a few minutes ago, or maybe two weeks ago. But on a computer network, the recipient can receive what is communicated with no such interval. Although it is not exactly the same as oral communication, the network message from one person to another or others is very rapid and can in effect be in the present. Computerized communication can thus suggest the immediate experience of direct sound. I believe that is why computerized verbalization has been assimilated to secondary ‘orality,’ even when it comes not in oral-aural format but through the eye, and thus is not directly oral at all. Here textualized verbal exchange registers psychologically as having the temporal immediacy of oral exchange. To handle [page break] such technologizing of the textualized word, I have tried occasionally to introduce the term ‘secondary literacy.’ We are not considering here the production of sounded words on the computer, which of course are even more readily assimilated to ‘secondary orality’” (80-81).
This is where most of the futurists got it wrong - the impact of radio, television, and the telephone weren't going to be solely or even primarily on more and more speech, but, for technical or cultural or who-knows-exactly-what reasons, on writing! We didn't give up writing - we put it in our pockets, took it outside, blended it with sound, pictures, and video, and sent it over radio waves so we could "talk" to our friends in real-time. And we used those same radio waves to download books and newspapers and everything else to our screens so we would have something to talk about.
This is the thing about literacy today, that needs above all not to be misunderstood. Both the people who say that reading/writing have declined and that reading/writing are stronger than ever are right, and wrong. It's not a return to the word, unchanged. It's a literacy transformed by the existence of the electronic media that it initially has nothing in common with. It's also transformed by all the textual forms - mail, the newspaper, the book, the bulletin board, etc. It's not purely one thing or another.
This reminds me of one of my favorite Jacques Derrida quotes, from his essay "The Book to Come":
What we are dealing with are never replacements that put an end to what they replace but rather, if I might use this word today, restructurations in which the oldest form survives, and even survives endlessly, coexisting with the new form and even coming to terms with the new economy --- which is also a calculation in terms of the market as well as in terms of storage, capital, and reserves.
I doubt that "secondary literacy" will catch on, because it sounds like something that middle school English teachers do. But that's too bad - because it's actually a pretty good term to describe the world we live in.
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Language, Media Galaxy, Object Culture, Technosnark
July 20, 2009
Media and the Moon
Wow. Props to Slate; this video is sharp, funny, and deflating. It answers the question: How would TV news cover the moon landing if it happened today? Sigh—the sad thing is, I think they've got it right.
July 18, 2009
The Post-Orwellian Future of Connected Books and Everything Else
This is the post where I tell you I don't really mind that Amazon yanked "1984" from all those Kindles.
The backstory: Unauthorized editions of "Animal Farm" and "1984" were available, briefly, for sale in the Kindle store. At some point Amazon discovered this and removed them from the store, and also—this is the important part—from people's Kindles. The NYT quotes an Amazon rep: "When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers' devices, and refunded customers."
The poetry of the fact that this happened with "1984" is irresistible. And, to be clear, I agree with Jason Kottke when he says: This stinks like old cheese! It's obviously creepy in a lot of ways—and Amazon, for its part, has conceded that it was a bad decision.
But, here's the thought experiment that occurred to me: Imagine that this story didn't seem creepy. Or at least, didn't seem particularly noteworthy.
For that to be true, what kind of world would we have to be living in?
I think it looks something like this:
Nothing is sold as a static, flash-frozen object anymore. Instead, you buy things with the assumption they'll get better and better over time. In fact, one of the ways you weigh competing brands is by asking: Who has a better track record of upgrades?
- Each iPhone OS upgrade is basically like getting a new phone.
- Every month, your Prius downloads new fuel-management software, and its mileage steadily improves. (And there's an ongoing, Netflix-style competition to improve that software.)
- One day, your Oster blender beeps, because it now has a new blend mode. Puree 2.0!
Now, if that's true for objects, you know it's true for media. You don't buy tracks or albums, shows or movies anymore. It's all included in subscriptions to big libraries that are always growing.
There are many big, competing subscription services, and like the phone carriers, each is notorious for a different level of coverage and service. Apple has the widest coverage, but it also faces the sharpest legal challenges. One week, all the Bollywood movies will be blacked out on iTunes; the next week, after the dispute is settled, they'll be back. It's annoying in the same way that only getting one bar of reception in your neighborhood is annoying, and we've come to live with it.
There are lots of smaller sub services, too, most with some specific selling point: a deep jazz library, say, or the complete collection of 80s cartoons. Most people subscribe to many.
Generally, the pattern goes:
- Some new service springs to life in a blaze of publicity.
- People rush to join.
- They enjoy it for several years.
- The media starts to seem lo-rez, or it's not compatible with the newest devices, or some contract runs out.
- It shuts down.
But by the time 5 happens, there's a new 1 somewhere else. The migration from sub service to sub service is a hassle, but at least it's easier than switching insurance companies.
You'd better believe that repressive regimes are paying attention to who's watching what on the sub services in their jurisdictions. The media that doesn't live comfortably in this world is, therefore, the controversial and the political; too often, the tether feels like a trip-wire. So there are times and places when you want to truly download something—want to save a local, static, disconnected copy—and it tends to feel a bit cloak-and-dagger when you do.
(Several movie studios have been called out for trying to distribute their movies on these nonsub networks in order to create buzz—"playing at moral seriousness," one critic said.)
In this world, Googlezon's sub service for books is completely awesome.
For $4.99 a month (how can it be that low??) you get full access to all books ever printed, period. And even better: Because readers are always connected, whether it's a browser, a special app, or a device, each one of these books is surrounded with metadata about how people read them. There's a graph on every Googlezon book page showing how far people got before losing interest; it's a much more revealing review than the star rating.
Because books are all downloaded (or re-downloaded) at the time of reading, you're always looking at the very latest version. This capability creates a new expectation, and writing non-fiction is suddenly a lot more like blogging, or shepherding a Wikipedia page: your book always needs attention. It's a lot more work, actually, and you still don't make very much money.
You'd think fiction wouldn't be as deeply affected. You'd be wrong. The hot new literary form is the "living novel," constantly being re-written in real-time. This is exciting in a lot of ways; it's also frustrating. You read a section that moves you, and you want to share it with a friend—but by the time she gets to it, it's gone, replaced by some weird passage about the history of beekeeping.
And when you open your reader, you see the same thing. The section you liked has vanished. Beekeeping. Damn it.
Actually, yeah, it's really frustrating.
But it's hard to stop. Writers, especially young writers who grew up with the web, love the ability to revisit and re-edit text. It feels natural. The argument goes: "Why wouldn't I make it better? What's with this fetishization of the 'final draft'? If you want a static version so badly—print one out. But don't tell me to stop editing."
Remember that graph on every Googlezon book page that shows how far people got? In this world, every writer is addicted to that graph. "Okay, it dips at chapter three... I can tighten that up. I can keep them going." There are cautionary tales, here—writers who get "lost in the loop" and never publish a new novel because they're too busy optimizing the old ones—but there are also new books more widely-read than any in the last 50 years. The tether is a powerful tool not just for commerce, but for creativity.
And yes: The tether also means Googlezon can yank books from the shelves, and therefore from your life, at any time. There are, of course, sneaky ways to copy and save them, but there's not a huge market for the copies, simply because it's so easy to get them the legit way.
So last week, in this world, rogue editions of "Animal Farm" and "1984" were remotely deleted from a variety of reading apps and devices. It was annoying—especially for the people in the middle of reading them—but really, no more annoying than a dropped call or a momentary power outage. People routed around the damage; they found other editions and resumed reading.
And the record of that reading—page turn by page turn—flowed up through the air and into the network. It curled through a monitoring hub in Beijing, and one in Fort Meade. It glimmered across a dashboard on the desk of an assistant book editor in New York. And it found its way, finally, to Googlezon's library—a library no longer made up only, or even mostly, of books, but now, somehow, of reading itself.
How do you feel about this world?
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Media Galaxy, Technosnark
July 16, 2009
No, Faster! No, Slower!
One of the things I like about video on computers—vs. video on tapes and decks—is that the framerate is so much more flexible. 24fps? Sure. 60fps? Why not! 17fps? Let's give it a try.
Now of course, on a computer, all of this is still gated by the lockstep refresh of the monitor. So there's still a rigid rate being imposed at some point.
But that's not so for film, and it was especially flexible in the old days, before things got standardized. Images were captured, and played back, at all sorts of crazy framerates—and people argued about it!
I like this bit, noted by Mike Migurski:
On the active role of the projectionist: A 1915 projectionist's handbook declared -- in emphatic capitals -- 'THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SET CAMERA SPEED!' The correct speed of projection, it added, is the speed at which each individual scene was taken -- 'which may -- and often does -- vary wildly.' And it declared: 'One of the highest functions of projection is to watch the screen and regulate the speed of projection to synchronise with the speed of taking.'
Like a ship's navigator keeping a hand on the wheel. Cool.
Here's a thought experiment. Could we come up with some kind of gadget that "re-physicalizes" digital video so we could have this kind of fun again? Maybe it flashes images onto a re-writable strip of film. Maybe it's an Arduino-powered kinetoscope with images rendered in E Ink!
July 15, 2009
Behind the New York Review of Ideas
But a question lingers: What is this thing?
Turns out it's the project of a class at NYU's graduate school of journalism. I was curious to know more, so I did a quick email interview with Derrick Koo—an NYU grad student as well as the site's designer and developer. Here goes:
So, you mentioned that the site was the project of a class at NYU's graduate school of journalism. Which class? And did the project set out to create a website, or did that format coalesce somewhere along the way?
The class was Robert Boynton's Journalism of Ideas, so that partially answers the second question. The aim of the course was for each student to create a small body of ideas-based, magazine-style work and to compile the publishable pieces into a blog or website at the conclusion of the class. So the idea for a website was there from the beginning; but how far we took the project was left entirely up to the students.
The title—"New York Review of Ideas"—seemed to really resonate, instantly, with a lot of people. I read some comments along the lines of: "Wow. I want to read every single thing on this site. Right now." Could you talk a little bit about the thinking behind the title, the tone, and—most importantly—story selection?
The title was Professor Boynton's idea, and seemed like a natural fit for the type of ideas-based reporting we were doing. Almost all the stories we wrote began with questions of personal interest. Professor Boynton put it something like this: explore an idea you're interested in but most people would know next to nothing about, then find the people who are best qualified to explain it or embody it in a meaningful way. I think this approach allowed us to explore a really wide variety of issues, while forcing us all to adhere to a very specific purpose. As for the tone, we owe a great debt to the late magazine Lingua Franca—the ideas in some of the stories reach an almost academic depth, but they're meant to be as universally interesting as possible. I'm glad to see that readers like this choice.
For the nerds: what tools are you using to run this site? What's the CMS? Any crucial plugins?
It's really simple, actually—the whole site is built in WordPress, which I thought would be the quickest and easiest platform to publish with. The basic concept revolves around multiple category-specific loops for the simple reason that I didn't want to design just another reverse-chronological blog. Very early on, I decided that basing the design around the categories (profiles, reviews, Q&As, etc.) was a good way to keep the site focused on the ideas rather than on the "latest story," since it was never meant to be a news-oriented project. No special plugins were used aside from a "print friendly" function (added on request).
I'm always interested in the way that journalism students' vision of the kind of work they want to do matches up—or doesn't—with the way journalism really works in the world today. Were your fellow students generally excited about the prospect of publishing an idea-rich website? Lukewarm? Unmoved?
It's tough to parse out the feelings of 15 very different students, some of whom I know better than others. But most of us probably chose to take the course because of its focus on ideas-based journalism. It promised to immerse us in a much different type of research and writing than what we'd find in your average news-writing course, or even your average post-grad first job. So I'd venture to say most of us were pretty excited about working on the site—everyone pitched in to write, edit and produce it. This was the kind of work we wanted to do—and if it doesn't match up to professional opportunities, well... people want to read it, right? So maybe the way journalism really works right now isn't how it should work.
This was a one-time, stand-alone project. So, you're telling me I will never get anything new on that RSS feed I subscribed to? Seriously, nothing?
It was conceived as a one-time project, since we had no idea what kind of response we'd receive or where we'd all be after the semester ended. But just because we don't plan to update monthly doesn't mean your RSS feed will go completely unused—especially since the feedback we've received so far has been so positive.
I can't promise anything, but I bet there are a lot of current and future students who would be interested in contributing ideas-based stories in semesters to come. I, for one, am definitely open to maintaining it beyond the original scope. I really do hope it turns into something ongoing.
File under: Interviews, Journalism, Media Galaxy
July 12, 2009
I love cultural arbitrage: taking words, images, ideas from one place on earth (or time in history) and importing them into a new context where they're suddenly fresh and striking again.
This is, of course, common practice, so just like financial arbitrage, it takes a lot of work to stay ahead of the pack. And systems like Ffffound and Tumblr have become great levelers: They're like financial markets, automatically "pricing in" new information about what's cool. Oh, you like that retro-chromatic look? We got a hundred a' those.
So usually, when you find a good source you keep it secret. But I'll share this one, via Paul Pope. It's a collection of super-weird book illustrations. I mean seriously, what is this stuff? It defies genre. And yet, much of it would look good on an Urban Outfitters tee.
See also: Slovenian event posters.
Amazon vs. Paypal
Oh, and while I'm talking up Google forms, I probably ought to report back the result of my one-question survey. With a sample size of 110, the result was 76% in favor of an Amazon.com product page and 24% for Paypal.
July 6, 2009
The Geography of New Media
If you hang around in the NYC media bubble long enough, you develop the social depression of a collapsing industry. The west coast is full of a giddy frisson about the inevitable demise of big media, while the midwest is skeptical of everything that gets force-fed to them from the coasts. NYC, which has essentially zero awareness of any of this, continues to constantly be shocked! when a TMZ or Pitchfork or The Onion comes along from the hinterlands with a massively successful enterprise.
The reasons for this amounts to a lack of vision. Even smart people, vampirically bound to the past, seem completely blind to developing new formats. The standard for online innovation right now is "launch another blog," which no one seems to recognize is about as depressing as launching another newspaper.
Sign One that Mediaite will be smarter than HuffPo: this Jeffrey Feldman column that turns Nico Pitney vs. Dana Milbank into Marshall McLuhan vs. Thomas Jefferson. Me likey, Jeffrey. Me likey a lot.
July 1, 2009
Volcano, Meet Cloud; Cloud, Volcano
A plume of smoke, ash and steam soars five miles into the sky from an erupting volcano.
The extraordinary image was captured by the crew of the International Space Station 220 miles above a remote Russian island in the North Pacific.
The round hole in the clouds is thought to have been caused by the shockwave of the initial explosion. At the centre lies the billowing mushroom tower of grey and brown ash.
For volcano experts, the most exciting part of the image is the layer of smooth white cloud that caps the plume - a little like a layer of snow on a mushroom.
This cap of condensed air is created from the rapid rising and then cooling of the air directly above the ash column. When moist, warm air rises quickly it creates a cloud.
File under: Beauty, Media Galaxy, No Comment, Science
June 26, 2009
Welcome to the Chimera
I agree with Nav; this post by Emily Gould is terrific. Less for her strong rebuttal of an errant "the internet is vulgar" argument -- which is so silly it requires no rebut -- than for this description of the internet itself:
Kunkel's experience of the Internet bears no resemblance to my experience of the Internet, but then, that's the funny thing about the Internet, isn't it? No one's Internet looks the same as anyone else's, and it's that exact essential fungibility that makes definitive assessments like Kunkel's infuriating. The Internet isn't a text we can all read and interpret differently. It's not even a text, at least not in most senses of that word. The Internet is a chimera that magically manifests in whatever guise its viewer expects it to. If you are looking at the Internet and expecting it to be a source of fleeting funniness, unchallenging writing, attention-span-killing video snippets, and porn, then that is exactly all it will ever be for you.
On one level, you might just say the internet is just a technology, and broad claims about content on the internet exist at the same level as broad claims about things printed on paper. On another level, you might say the internet is a chimera that magically manifests in whatever guise its viewer expects it to, and man, I want to be on that level.
June 25, 2009
The Future Is All Filters
I made my Iran dashboard because I needed a better filter for Iran news. But filters aren't just for just for tracking global tumult; people need them on all levels. For example: My sister, an ultra-busy grad student and dancer, doesn't really have time to read Snarkmarket.
No you cannot unsubscribe from this feed and sign up for that one. I'm going to know if you do. We have analytics for these things.
June 23, 2009
June 22, 2009
The Only Blogger With Backup
With all the time and energy you've squandered on that blog, you could have written a book. So goes the self-reproach, and indeed, the book in question turns out to be 449 pages long...
All of the posts and essays included in The Wreck of the Henry Clay are available free already on this blog, so why should you buy it? I have no idea! I have given up trying to understand the internet's economics, but maybe it'll be like buying ringtones versus stealing MP3s? Who knows. It took a surprising amount of time to turn several hundred blog posts into a several-hundred-page book, so perhaps some of you will be willing to pay me for my PDF-creating skills? As I said, no idea. Let's not call this "self-published," by the way. That has a kind of disreputable sound. It's a chapbook, all right? Why am I doing this? I saw not long ago that someone had published a book of his Twitters, and I felt I was in danger of being behindhand. I am hereby restored to the bleeding edge. Also, now, when the electromagnetic-pulse device is detonated, I will be the only blogger in America with backup. And of course I'm looking forward to kicking back while the cold, hard internet cash at last streams in.
Of course, Snarkmarket, too, has its own experiment in meatspace self-publishing on the way...
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Marketing, Media Galaxy, Object Culture
June 19, 2009
Jonah Lehrer and The Fourth Culture
I should have read Jonah Lehrer's Proust Was a Neuroscientist a long time ago. Jeffrey J Cohen's excerpt at In the Middle just bumped it to the top of my list. Here's Cohen:
Whereas C. P. Snow argued in 1959 that we require a third culture, one that bridge the noncommunicating realms of art and science, those scientists who have self-appointed themselves as this culture (especially Steven Pinker) carry a fair amount of animus towards the humanities, believing it enough if they communicate their science directly to the masses. Lehrer argues that not only does such a third culture misrepresent what Snow imagined, it often gets the humanists wrong (and misapprehends their artistic sources as well) by not having listened or read attentively. Lehrer therefore calls for a fourth culture, a space of true collaboration, and it is that call I'd like to quote this morning.
And here's Lehrer (as quoted by JJC):
[A fourth culture] seeks to discover the relationships between the humanities and the sciences. This fourth culture, much closer in concept to Snow's original definition (and embodied by works like [Ian McEwan's] Saturday), will ignore arbitrary intellectual boundaries, seeking instead to blur the lines that separate. It will freely transplant knowledge between the sciences and humanities, and will focus on connecting the reductionist fact to our actual experience. It will take a pragmatic view of truth, and it will judge truth not by its origins but by its usefulness. What does this novel or experiment or poem or protein teach us about ourselves? How does it help us to understand who we are? What long-standing problem has been solved? ... While science will always be our primary method of investigating the universe, it is naïve to think that science alone can solve everything itself, or that everything can even be solved ... When we venture beyond the edge of our knowledge, all we have is art ... No knowledge has a monopoly on knowledge.
For my part -- and it's taken me a looooong time to come around to this view -- I think one of the paradigmatic approaches to this problem of disciplinary edges is to spend a lot of time thinking about media. You simply HAVE to think about the brain, the body, culture, languages and codes, history, society, politics, commerce. Guys like Pinker want to settle old scores, spend a lot of time worrying about relativism. The people who are thinking seriously about media (inside and outside of the academy) have already moved on.
File under: Braiiins, Learnin', Media Galaxy, New Liberal Arts, Science
June 18, 2009
Thomas Baekdal has a nice schematic history of news and information from 1800 to 2020. I like his 1900-1960 entry:
By the year 1900, the newspapers and magazine had revolutionized how we communicated. Now we could get news from places we have never been. We could communicate our ideas to people we had never seen. And we could sell our products to people far away.
You still had to go out to talk other people, but you could stay on top of things, without leaving the city. It was amazing. It was the first real revolution of information. The world was opening up to everyone.
During the next 60 years the newspapers dominated our lives. If you wanted to get the latest news, or tell people about your product, you would turn to the newspapers. It seemed like newspapers would surely be the dominant source of information for all time to come.
Except that during the 1920s a new information source started to attract people's attention - the Radio. Suddenly you could listen to another person's voice 100 of miles away. But most importantly, you could get the latest information LIVE. It was another tremendous evolution is the history of information. By 1960's the two dominant sources of information was LIVE news from the Radio and the more detailed news via newspapers and magazines.
It was really great times, although some meant that "The way for newspapers to meet the competition of radio is simply to get out better papers", an argument that we would hear repeatedly for the next 50 years.
The stuff about 2020 seems very familiar.
Via Lone Gunman.
June 4, 2009
Luxuriating In Print
We slapped Dave Eggers around a little bit for his "nothing has changed" speech to the Authors' Guild, but his mass email for lovers of print is way more nuanced and inspiring in a constructive, non-cheerleaderish way:
Publishing has, for most of its life, been a place of small but somewhat profit margins, and the people involved in publishing were happy to be doing what they loved. It's only recently, when large conglomerates bought so many publishing companies and newspapers, that demands for certain margins squeezed some of the joy out of the business.
Pretty soon, on the McSweeney's website— www.mcsweeneys.net— we'll be showing some of our work on this upcoming issue, which will be in newspaper form. The hope is that we can demonstrate that if you rework the newspaper model a bit, it can not only survive, but actually thrive. We're convinced that the best way to ensure the future of journalism is to create a workable model where journalists are paid well for reporting here and abroad. And that starts with paying for the physical paper. And paying for the physical paper begins with creating a physical object that doesn't retreat, but instead luxuriates in the beauties of print. We believe that if you use the hell out of the medium, if you give investigative journalism space, if you give photojournalists space, if you give graphic artists and cartoonists space — if you really truly give readers an experience that can't be duplicated on the web — then they will spend $1 for a copy. And that $1 per copy, plus the revenue from some (but not all that many) ads, will keep the enterprise afloat.
As long as newspapers offer less each day— less news, less great writing, less graphic innovation, fewer photos— then they're giving readers few reasons to pay for the paper itself. With our prototype, we aim to make the physical object so beautiful and luxurious that it will seem a bargain at $1. The web obviously presents all kinds of advantages for breaking news, but the printed newspaper does and will always have a slew of advantages, too. It's our admittedly unorthodox opinion that the two can coexist, and in fact should coexist. But they need to do different things. To survive, the newspaper, and the physical book, needs to set itself apart from the web. Physical forms of the written word need to offer a clear and different experience. And if they do, we believe, they will survive. Again, this is a time to roar back and assert and celebrate the beauty of the printed page. Give people something to fight for, and they will fight for it. Give something to pay for, and they'll pay for it.
Eggers is basically now saying not that nothing has changed, but that EVERYTHING has to change. But it needs to change not because we've just progressed forward from print to digital, but that by first betting on the infinitely expanding profit potential of mass publishing and then paring the experience back to try to meet that bet, we've made a huge mistake.
So, in some sense, we need to go back to basics; but in another, we need to rethink our direction forward based on what's best for the people and the product, not the margins. We were pushing so hard for so long in one direction that we capsized the boat.
It's still a conservative vision, but it's a David Simon/Michael Moore kind of conservative -- i.e., a nostalgic but critical liberalism, in the tradition of John Ruskin. And that's a good mood to strike, if not for everybody -- not least because it's not at all intended to be a model for everybody.
File under: Beauty, Books, Writing & Such, Design, Journalism, Media Galaxy, Object Culture, Snarkonomics
June 2, 2009
Fredo Rides Again
Who cares, because I love it. It's the same layered sound as Sad Song, along with an even more free-form approach to video. 4:3? 16:9? Boring! Inspect one of the circles, or the hexagon, to see what I mean.
Cross-reference this with the combinatorial Cold War Kids and you are on your way to something important.
Update: Wow, there's more (older stuff?) I hadn't seen. Moon After Berceuse is a time-merge media music video. Imagine playing in an ensemble with alternate versions of yourself. Or time-traveling backward and forward, 30 seconds at a time, to fill in different parts of a song. My head just exploded.
June 1, 2009
Museums, Music, and Meara O'Reilly
Cross-reference these two cool museum-related posts, both with generalizable implications.
First, Nina Simon posts the presentation she gave to the Smithsonian staff. This is her three-bullet distillation, and I promise you, it's relevant to far more than just museums:
In condensed text version, here are my three steps to being a great multi-platform organization:
- Listen to and understand what your visitors/users need.
- Confidently and clearly state your institutional mission, values, and capabilities.
- Develop relationships via any and all useful platforms that allow you to connect 1 to 2.
I think step two is the most difficult, the most overlooked, and the most important. Confidently and clearly state your mission, values, and capabilities. Forget institutions... people should do this.
Second, the SFMOMA blog has a great guest post by Meara O'Reilly. The assignment: Connect items from the museum's collection to interesting artifacts from your domain of expertise. In O'Reilly's case, that domain is sound, music, and sonic illusions. (Sonic illusions!) The pairings are fun -- like a weird super-hero team-up series. Except it's art.
I really like the mash-up of image and sound here, and the length. This is no mere blog post; more like a mini-multimedia-essay. Don't miss "Rumba" by Mildred Couper near the bottom.
Also worth seeing: O'Reilly sings with (across? into?) a Chladni plate, which you might have seen at a science museum, but never like this:
To me, that seems almost like magic. And, okay, a little creepy. Wait, you're telling me those shapes are lurking in every human voice?
May 31, 2009
Ira, Jad, and Robert
Must listen: Ira Glass, Jad Abumrad, and Robert Krulwich on the differences between radio and television. Includes such gems as how radio amplifies intimacy and television turns gesture into parody, Jad's observation that This American Life made real people's true stories sound like fairytales, and how Stephen Colbert is more like a radio personality (his show more like a radio show, his audience more like a radio audience) than a television one.
(My own thesis about Colbert: it's his perfect miming of big-personality talk show hosts like Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Scarborough, Hannity, Olbermann, usw., most of whom started on radio, continue to host radio shows, and whose TV shows and audiences are still a whole lot like radio.)
May 25, 2009
The Editor as Wizard
Joanne McNeil over at Tomorrow Museum has a terrific post about self-publishing that deals with the idea more deeply than most things I've read. There's lots to dig into, but this part resonated with me:
[...] I was talking about some of this the other night with Diana Kimball, who recently wrote a paper on the subject. [...] She made the often lost point about a major publisher's role as validation for the author, as well as the reader. The author needs to know someone with expertise and good judgment found his or her material worthwhile. Otherwise, why risk the embarrassment of bringing unsatisfactory material to a wider audience?
(Here's Diana's paper. And yes, a post that cross-references Diana Kimball and Tomorrow Museum starts to feel like a cunningly-designed trap for Snarkmarket. I'm afraid my laptop is about to shoot me with a poison dart.)
"The author needs to know someone with expertise and good judgment found his or her material worthwhile." This is a deep point. Part of what makes blogging so "do-able" is the low stakes. First, the stuff you're pointing to is already published; you're operating entirely under a pre-existing umbrella of validation. Second, the work you're doing is pretty easy, anyway. If people don't respond immediately... no big deal.
There are other kinds of work that feel much more high-stakes. A short story, a novel. An EP. A long piece of research and analysis. Or, I guess, even a certain kind of incredibly labor-intensive blog. And it does seem to me that, in these cases, the editor's touch is transformative.
That doesn't have to exist in the context of publishing as we know it today. What you're really looking for is a smart mind, "with expertise and good judgment," who you trust to evaluate your work honestly, saying: Yes. There is a place for this in the world.
That doesn't have to mean print; it doesn't have to mean payment. It simply means solving this riddle, posed by Diana:
The problem with self-published books, for authors and for potential readers, is that the physical book no longer signifies that anyone has read it. In fact, the physical fact of a self-published book is far more likely to signify that astonishingly few people have read it.
I think there's a generalizable version of that problem, even for non-books, and even for work that stays digital forever. And the solution? I imagine a tiny editor standing on top of the work, shouting: "Hell yes someone has read this! I did! And you think I publish just anything? I've got standards, people. Come check this out."
I guess it's a kind of risk-shifting: You, as the writer, musician, researcher, whatever, no longer bear it all yourself. In fact, you suddenly bear very little. And, I mean, wow, thank goodness. Making things is hard enough as it is. Let me, as editor, take the chance here; if people think your work sucks (or worse, if they don't think about it at all) I'm the one who made a mistake. You just keep working.
I'm overstating it a little for effect. But to me, it feels like alchemy, or sorcery. It changes the terms entirely.
A lot of bloggers think of what they do as "editing the web," and I wonder if more shouldn't take it a step further. They (we?) could spend curatorial capital to bring new work into the world. Hey blogger: Why don't you expand that post about Proust and Professor X into a whole little essay? We'd love to work with you on it and cross-post it on Snarkmarket when it's finished.
In other words: Yes. There is a place for this in the world.
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Media Galaxy, Society/Culture
May 12, 2009
The Most Inverted Pyramid of All
Heh heh. I like the NYT's new TimesWire feed because it grants you a glimpse of parallel incarnations of the same article. If you do any work whatsoever with web content, this little pair will be all too familiar:
The top headline and description, all grace and wit. The bottom headline and description... all blunt Google-juice.
File under: Journalism, Media Galaxy, Technosnark
May 2, 2009
"The Problem With Cable Is Television"
But, it turns out, the problem with television is sports:
The broadband business is doing fine, as costs are coming down. Cable executives do worry that if costs rise as they expect because of surging online video use, they will need to find some way to get prices going up the way they are used to in their video business.
The bigger question is what happens to the video business. By all accounts, Web video is not currently having any effect on the businesses of the cable companies. Market share is moving among cable, satellite and telephone companies, but the overall number of people subscribing to some sort of pay TV service is rising. (The government's switch to digital over-the-air broadcasts is providing a small stimulus to cable companies.) However, if you remember, it took several years before music labels started to feel any pain from downloads...
The wedge that breaks all this may well be sports. ESPN alone already accounts for nearly $3 of every monthly cable bill, industry executives say. With all these new sports networks pushing up cable rates, at some point people who aren't sports fans might start turning in volume to Internet services like Netflix. We're not there yet, but looking at the industry in the last quarter, you can see the pressures building.
Fascinating (and quick!) look at cable companies' businesses. [Everything in bold is my emphasis.]
April 23, 2009
Rats, I Ran Out of Words
Speaking of writing: I've been thinking about video, the grammar of video, video-as-writing, etc. a lot lately (as usual), and it really is crazy how lame and limited video editing is at this moment in history.
The analogy to writing (I know it's a stretch): If writing today were like video editing today, you'd have to start by going out and hunting down all the words you wanted to use -- finding them in other books, on posters, on billboards, and cutting them out. Then you'd sit down and paste them together in a different order. And if you ran out? Or realized you needed a word you didn't have? Too bad!
This is why I'm excited for some sort of future "synthetic cinema" -- a super-extrapolated version of machinima. If you're at your video-writing desk at 2 a.m. and something amazing occurs to you, some wonderful turn of phrase (as it were), you'll be able to simply... make it.
April 16, 2009
Jigsaw-Fragment Models Of Tomorrow
Ozymandias on the history of tabbed browsing:
Multi-screen viewing is seemingly anticipated by Burroughs' cut-up technique. He suggested re-arranging words and images to evade rational analysis, allowing subliminal hints of the future to leak through... An impending world of exotica, glimpsed only peripherally.
Perceptually, the simultaneous input engages me like the kinetic equivalent of an abstract or impressionist painting... Phosphor-dot swirls juxtapose: meanings coalesce from semiotic chaos before reverting to incoherence. Transient and elusive, these must be grasped quickly.
This jigsaw-fragment model of tomorrow aligns itself piece by piece, specific areas necessarily obscured by indeterminacy. However, broad assumptions regarding this postulated future may be drawn. We can imagine its ambience. We can hypothesize its psychology.In conjunction with massive forecasted technological acceleration approaching the millennium, this oblique and shifting cathode mosaic uncovers the blueprint for an era of new sensations and possibilities. An era of the conceivable made concrete...
... And of the casually miraculous.
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Media Galaxy, Technosnark
Not really much of a narrative, and not even really a vision of the future. Instead it feels like a Borges story in video, a kind of thought experiment, and I love it:
Or maybe I just think that because I've been reading some of the Heidegger linked in this thread. Man as world-builder, etc.
(Via Life Without Buildings.)
April 15, 2009
Conservation Of Outrage
When trying to explain ones past actions, hindsight is always 20/400. With that caveat, I will say that the emotional pleasure of using the #amazonfail hashtag was intoxicating. There is no civil rights struggle in the US that matters more to me than the extension of equal rights without regard for sexual orientation. Here was a chance to strike a public blow for that cause, and I didnt even have to write a check or get up from my chair to do it! I went so far as to publicly suggest a link between the Amazon de-listing and the anti-gay backlash following the legalization of gay marriage in Iowa and Vermont. My friend Nelson Minar called bullshit on my completely worthless speculation, which was the beginning of my realizing how much Id been seduced by righteousness, and how stupid it had made me.
Eat The Document
Always good to reread Brown and Duguid's "The Social Life of Documents":
In this way, document forms both old (like the newspaper) and relatively new (like the television program) have underwritten a sense of community among a disparate and dispersed group of people. As newspapers recede before broadcast and on-line communication, and as the multiplication of television channels disrupts schedulers' control over what is seen when, the strong feeling of coordinated performance provided by these documents is changing. One possible result may be that the loss of simultaneous practice will reinforce the need and desire for common objects -- the wish at least to see the same thing, if not at the same time. Here the Internet is a particularly powerful medium for providing access to the same thing for people more widely dispersed than ever before. Moreover, the reach of the Internet is increasing a sense of simultaneity as ideas emerging on one side of the world can almost instantaneously be picked up through the Internet and absorbed into the local context by communities on the other.
This essay makes for a nice introduction to a handful of the brainsexy literary/social theorists and historians I like to read: Bruno Latour, Roger Chartier, Michel de Certeau. (Hmm. All French. I guess Benedict Anderson and Joanne Yates are in there, too.)
It also has one of my favorite-ever qualifiers: "Art and eternity are beyond the scope of this essay."
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Media Galaxy, Object Culture
April 14, 2009
Two weeks ago I praised Harper's Scott Horton, who in addition to tiptop legal/political commentary regularly serves up poignant and relevant chunks of older texts, and lamented that more bloggers don't mine the past as well or as often as they do the just-this-minute.
I dont have to impress upon you the need to embrace the new... You have to continue to challenge yourself as a reader - a serious reader. And as one who learns - a serious student. That you have not calcified. That you do not know what you think you know, least of all who or what or where or especially WHEN is important... Get a library card and wander somewhere dusty. Find something real. And then blog about it bring it into this world. Scan that creaky wisdom, make it sing. We need many things now, but wisdom most of all.
There are actually a whole microclass of bloggers and online commentators who do what Horton does. And I think I've come up with a good name for what they do: paleoblogging.
Like paleontologists, paleobiologists, and paleoarcheologists, Paleobloggers dig up blogworthy material from the past to see what makes it tick. But instead of our prehistorical past, paleoblogging focuses on our analog past, blending in somewhere in the mid-1960s. See after the jump for my abbreviated field guide to paleoblogging.
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Learnin', Media Galaxy, New Liberal Arts
April 11, 2009
Loss Of Service
Matt Richtel whines:
Technology is rendering obsolete some classic narrative plot devices: missed connections, miscommunications, the inability to reach someone. Such gimmicks dont pass the smell test when even the most remote destinations have wireless coverage. (Its Odysseus, can someone look up the way to Ithaca? Use the "no Sirens" route.)
Of what significance is the loss to storytelling if characters from Sherwood Forest to the Gates of Hell can be instantly, if not constantly, connected?
Plenty, and at least part of it is personal. I recently finished my second thriller, or so I thought. When I sent it to several fine writer friends, I received this feedback: the protagonist and his girlfriend can't spend the whole book unable to get in touch with each other. Not in the cellphone era.
Then Christopher Breen whines:
As you may have heard, areas of San Franciscos South Bay and coast lost their landline, cell phone, and Internet connectivity because an individual or individuals unknown deliberately sliced four fiber optic cables in San Jose, California. This action (currently termed vandalism), in addition to unplugging over 50,000 area residents, caused many businesses to shut down and threatened lives because 911 services were out for the better part of the day...
I had no Internet access. I couldnt call the office to alert my boss that I was off the grid. And my iPhone was no good with its constant No Service heading regardless of where I drove. I was completely unplugged.
Voilà.... Read more ....
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Media Galaxy, Object Culture, Society/Culture, Technosnark, Television
March 28, 2009
Speaking of the glossy magazine effect -- who in the world is working as the official or unofficial publicist for the Darwinian literary critics? There's another write-up of this non-phenomenon, this time in Newsweek. The writer, Jeremy McCarty, is appropriately critical, which is why I'm linking to it.
But let me reiterate -- this stuff is nonsense, bad science and bad aesthetics. Only about ten relatively marginal people care about it, even if one of them happens to be Arts & Letters Daily /Philosophy and Literature editor Denis Dutton. Serious research on the relationship between psychology and aesthetics could be so good. This is not serious.
Why this half-baked not-quite-research program commands so much attention in academic and popular journalism instead of any one of a dozen honestly legitimate movements in contemporary literature and language studies will forever elude me.
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Learnin', Media Galaxy
March 19, 2009
When I first heard that Sopranos creator David Chase was making an HBO miniseries about the movie business, I thought it would be a roman a clef or something entertaining but insidery like The Player or "Entourage." But this actually sounds pretty cool:
The series, "Ribbon of Dreams," will begin with the behind-the-scenes roles played by two fictional characters -- one a cowboy with some violence in his past, the other a mechanical engineer -- who work for the famous early film director D. W. Griffith. It will follow them and their professional heirs through the development of the movie business..
The project is expected to cover each period of Hollywood movies, beginning with silent westerns and comedies, through the golden era of the studio system, to the emergence of auteur film directors in the 1970s, and up to the current mix of studio blockbusters and independent films. The cast of characters will also include many of the biggest names of Hollywood's past, including John Wayne and Bette Davis
I love this stuff, and I bet I will be very into this.
March 17, 2009
Arise, Father Coughlin
March 14, 2009
Too Big for Your Brain Alone
Magic Molly points to an essay about YouTube, which I want to pass on because it succumbs to a common fallacy of writing about the internet. I see it a lot, and it's worth mentioning so you'll start to notice it, too.
To kick things off, Mark Greif talks about YouTube's most popular clip ever, The Evolution of Dance. Then he dives into "the two major reference points of YouTube video as it exists right now," which he identifies as "the talent show" and "bits of television pulled from elsewhere." He notices some patterns and points out some videos he likes. And he closes by saying YouTube ought to find a way to archive more TV. It's all well-written, and fine as far as it goes.
The problem is that it doesn't go very far at all.
The most popular clip on YouTube is not like the most popular show on TV. When American Idol airs, around 15% of people watching TV at that moment are watching it. That tells you something about TV as a whole, and even about our culture as a whole. But The Evolution of Dance -- or any clip on any of YouTube's most popular lists -- represents such an infinitesimal fraction of YouTube's total viewership that it tells you basically nothing about YouTube as a whole.
YouTube registered 6.3 billion video streams in January 2009.
Think about that. Or don't, because it's a number so big that it kinda just makes a brain go "plonk." That's the point. Like Google itself, YouTube exists now at web scale. And that's a domain where our intuition, and our usual modes of analysis, don't work anymore.
In his essay, Mark Greif talks about YouTube as if it's a magazine, or a TV network -- something you can get your head around and draw conclusions about. You know: YouTube is X; YouTube is not Y.
But YouTube is so big that X is more or less everything (with a few exceptions, like porn, and to his credit, Greif points that out) and Y is rapidly approaching zero. Trying to find patterns in YouTube is like trying to find patterns in the internet itself.
But let's say you really want to find those patterns. It's not all white noise; there's got to be something interesting to discover. This is the important bit, and the reason I bothered to post: You can't do it by clicking around.
The guys at Videosurf, a slick video search engine that crawls YouTube, will tell you that somewhere around 20% of all YouTube videos are... slide shows. Yes: still images in sequence. There are more slide shows on YouTube than music videos. More slide shows than the talent show clips Mark Greif talks about, and more slide shows than bits from TV.
But it's really hard to see that as a YouTube user. The slide shows hang out on the skinny end of the long tail. To understand with any confidence just how significant they are, you need... well, you need a video search engine.
Now, this isn't the case if you just want to operate in the hey-look-this-is-cool mode. Virginia Heffernan is a great example; she doesn't claim to be saying Big Things About YouTube. Mark Greif, on the other hand -- along with lots of other bloggers, media theorists, TV executives, and entrepreneurs -- seems to be doing just that.
To understand these new kinds of systems, and to say interesting and useful things about them, is beyond the powers of a media critic alone.
Or maybe I should put it like this: A media critic in the age of scale can't just know how to write an essay. He needs to know how to write a web crawler, and how to interpret the results.
March 13, 2009
This Is Not A Game
Jon Stewart's The Daily Show has never, in my memory, turned its entire half hour into an interview of a single guest -- and they get huge guests. But that's what they did yesterday for CNBC's Jim Cramer. And it's a doozy.
Last week, as part of its Santelli-inspired critique of CNBC, Stewart ran two series of clips of Cramer offering pretty terrible financial advice, first with a bunch of other CNBC pundits, and then (after Cramer loudly and publicly complained) of Cramer by himself. In this interview, Stewart shows unaired clips of Cramer (who used to run a hedge fund) from 2006:
- talking about how easy it is to manipulate the markets through the media;
- admitting that he used to do it, particularly to make money on a short sell;
- suggesting that other hedge fund managers do the same, as it's a fast and satisfying way to make money;
- offering specific advice on how to do this right then with a particular stock (Apple Computer).
As Stewart says, we want Jim Cramer the journalist to protect us from Jim Cramer the financial schemer. Instead of being a watchdog, CNBC became a cheerleader.
The entire interview is amazing. I've got the clips (including those from previous shows that lead to this) embedded after the jump, but let me also quote James Fallows and Sean Quinn on what went down.
Yes, it is cliched to praise Stewart as the "true" voice of news; and, yes, it is too pinata-like to join the smacking of CNBC.... But I found this -- the Stewart/Cramer slaughter -- incredible...
Just before leaving China -- ie, two days ago -- I saw with my wife the pirate-video version of Frost/Nixon, showing how difficult it is in real time to ask the kind of questions Stewart did. I know, Frost was dealing with a former president. Still, it couldn't have been easy to do what Stewart just did. Seeing this interview justified the three-day trip in itself.
On the day in October 2004 that Jon Stewart made up his mind to end CNNs Crossfire, viewers didnt have advance warning. By contrast, last nights epic takedown of CNBC and
Fast MoneyMad Money host Jim Cramer that built over an eight-day period, including the advance hype of a Thursday morning front-page, above-the-fold story on Americas most widely-circulated newspaper, USA Today.
It did not disappoint. In addition to an extensive confrontation that included footage of Cramer admitting to the ease of manipulating markets, Stewart indicted CNBCs sins of commission in fueling hype that led to the economic crisis.
Quinn also pulls the money quote from Stewart:
I understand you want to make finance entertaining, but its not a (bleeping) game. And when I watch that, I get, I cant tell you how angry that makes me. Because what it says to me is: you all know. You all know whats going on. You know, you can draw a straight line from those shenanigans to the stuff that was being pulled at Bear, and AIG, and all this derivative market stuff that is this weird Wall Street side bet.
Watch it, it's worth it.... Read more ....
File under: Media Galaxy, Recommended, Snarkonomics
March 11, 2009
The Wrong Twenty-Nine-Year-Old
One of the ironies of this is that Douthat is really just David Brooks with a beard -- not necessarily a bad thing, but he's not very "young" at all. If anything, he's maybe too much the natural candidate; it's weird for the Times to make it out like they're reaching here (while at the same time denying that that's what they're doing).
As for the title of my post -- I'm being a little cheeky, because I'm also twenty-nine, but I don't think the Times should have hired me; if they were looking for a young conservative, I think they should have hired Douthat's Grand New Party co-author Reihan Salam, who is genuinely young and weird in addition to being talented and smart. I'll be happy to be wrong, but I predict that Douthat at the Times will try too hard to be gray and lame; Salam would have been offbeat and fun, like Maureen Dowd is allegedly supposed to be.
March 2, 2009
Junior Boys Feat. Norman McLaren
Wow, two great tastes that taste great together: Junior Boys and Norman McLaren. It was Andrew Simone's recent post that prompted me to do some Norman McLaren searching. All of his videos are on YouTube, but they're also on the National Film Board of Canada's wonderful site in super-lux quality.
March 1, 2009
The New Media and the New Military
Whoa -- retired Marine officer Dave Dilegge and military blogger Andrew Exum (spurred by Thomas Ricks's new book The Gamble) look at the effect of the blogosphere on how the military shares information and tactics:
Ricks cited a discussion on Small Wars Journal once and also cited some things on PlatoonLeader.org but never considered the way in which the new media has revolutionized the lessons learned process in the U.S. military. [...] Instead of just feeding information to the Center for Army Lessons Learned and waiting for lessons to be disseminated, junior officers are now debating what works and what doesn't on closed internet fora -- such as PlatoonLeader and CompanyCommand -- and open fora, such as the discussion threads on Small Wars Journal. The effect of the new media on the junior officers fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was left curiously unexplored by Ricks, now a famous blogger himself.
It seems clear that blogging and internet forums disrupt lots of traditional thinking regarding the way information is generated and disseminated -- but it's a testament to how powerful it can change readers'/writers' expectations that that disruption can carry through to the military, the top-down bureaucracy if ever there was one.
In related news, the recent New Yorker article about the low-recoil automatic shotguns mounted on robots was awesome.
Just as at a certain point, the military decided it was a waste to have a professional soldier cook a meal or clean a latrine, we'll come to see it as a waste for a professional soldier NOT to provide decentralized information that can help adjust intelligence and tactics: all soldiers will be reporters. Soon all of our wars are going to be fought by robots, gamers, and bloggers. Our entire information circuitry will have to change.
File under: Journalism, Media Galaxy, Snarkpolitik, Video Games
February 26, 2009
"The Stock Market Is Not A Good Metric Here"
So says Joseph Stiglitz on CNN: "The stock market is not a good metric here... If we give money to the banks, the stocks will go up. That's not what we're concerned about."
As Peter Dreier at TPM Cafe says, "the reliance by TV and radio newscasters, newspaper reporters and columnists, and quick-with-a-conclusion pundits on the stock market to assess the merits of a policy prescription, or even the health of the economy, is incredibly misleading."
Now, normally, what's good for the economy is good for Wall Street. Shareholders place bets on the economic future of their companies. If companies look like they'll do well, the stock goes up. On aggregate, a rising stock market suggests that a lot of companies will do well, and ditto the overall economy.
But it's an index, not a picture. Let's take a situation where what's good for the economic health of the nation involves, or even MAY involve, forcing shareholders to take losses. Now shareholders' interests are in conflict with good economic policy. In fact, in this case, the BETTER the policy is, the worse shareholders are likely to view it.
The banks, in this case, are like Allen Iverson. Normally, you want this guy on your team -- if he plays really well, your team plays well. Now let's say he's got a gimpy knee, but he can still shoot. Let's say you've got a lame fantasy draft that only ranks players by points scored. If you've got Allen Iverson in your fantasy draft, you want him to play, and you want him to chuck up as many baskets as possible to get his PPG high, at least until they can swap him off to somebody else before he REALLY gets hurt.
But if you're coaching the team, you want to sit him down on the bench or put him into rehab until he's ready to play again. Nobody would say that the fantasy draft players in this case have the team's -- or the game's -- interest at heart,
I can't tell you how many times I used to turn on the news to see that Iverson scored forty, but the Sixers lost. Who cares? I just want the game to be good again.
File under: Media Galaxy, Snarkpolitik, Sports
February 24, 2009
The Last Fifteenish Years of WWW
In 1996, Americans with Internet access spent fewer than 30 minutes a month surfing the Web, according to Steve Coffey, who's now the chief research officer of the market research firm the NPD Group. (Today, we spend about 27 hours a month online, according to Nielsen.)...
The biggest site, by far, was AOL.com; 41 percent of people online checked it regularly. Many didn't do so on purpose: With 5 million subscribers, AOL was the world's largest ISP, and when members loaded up the Web, they went to the company's site by default. For similar reasons, AOL's search engine, WebCrawler.com, was the second most popular page. Netscape, the Web's most popular browser, and Compuserve and Prodigy, the nation's other big ISPs, also had top pages.
Yahoo, which Media Metrix ranked No. 4, just after Netscape, was one of the few sites in the Top 10 that wasn't affiliated with an ISP or a browser. Its main feature was its directory, a constantly updated listing of thousands of sites online. To produce the directory, Yahoo employeesactual human beingsreviewed new sites and cataloged them according to a strict hierarchical taxonomy. When you typed in what you were looking forsay, "new magazine," "sexy site," or "advice on taxes"Yahoo would search its directory and return sites that it had already reviewed. This produced pretty good resultswhen you searched for "White House Web site," you could be sure you'd get to the right page because someone had actually looked up the official site. Obviously, though, such a model was unable to keep pace with the growth of the Web. In retrospect, it's telling that anyone in 1996 thought this was a sustainable way to catalog the Web...
Some of Yahoo's 1996-era front pages have been saved in the Internet Archive. What's interesting about them is what they lack. First, no e-mail: The first webmail site, Hotmail, launched in July of 1996. There was no instant-messaging software; the first big IM client, ICQ, hit the Web early in 1997. The MP3 file format was invented in the early 1990s, but very few people traded music in 1996the files were too big to cram down modems, and Winamp, the first popular MP3 player app, was published in 1997. All these innovations hit the Web suddenly, defying prediction, and each completely altered how we'd spend our time online.
Some of the claims here are sketchy -- Geocities as a precursor to blogging? Really? -- and suffer from web-centrism. After all, the world wide web was one of the LEAST interesting or effective things on the internet to spend your time on in the mid-1990s; usenet and email, which was mostly done over PINE or ELM servers in terminal clients, were where it was at. (I had a proto-blog my freshman and sophomore years of college whose "subscribers" were people in my email address book -- most of whom were friends-of-friends I didn't know.) All the same, it's worth reading and remembering a little of what it was all like.
February 22, 2009
Sometimes a New Medium Sneaks Up On You
I'd seen references to Prezi here and there -- it's billed as a new presentation tool, a way to pan and zoom through ideas instead of clicking through slides. Which sounds pretty cool but, having now used this thing, I gotta say: The potential is much bigger than that.
I haven't been this excited about a new format in a long time. The tutorial video actually gave me chills. (Pretty sure I have never typed that sentence before.)
So here's my first prezi, which is just a little anecdote laid out in space -- absolutely not a good use of the technology. But it will give you a taste of the potential.
Cross-reference this with our ongoing future-of-books discussion. Also with Scott McCloud's infinite canvas.
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Comics, Design, Media Galaxy, Technosnark
February 19, 2009
The Late Shift
This essay by Ben Mathis-Lilley on why Conan O'Brien, haters aside, will kill as the new host of The Tonight Show, is merely probably true. However, this collective autobiography of O'Brien fans is right on the money:
Even Conan's biggest fans are worried that he'll fail or, worse, dumb down his act in an attempt to imitate Leno's lucrative inanity. In this scenario, success is a more horrifying possibility than failure. I know about that last part because I'm one of those fans, a member of the demographic most likely to view Conan with love and affection: people who reached late-night-TV-watching age at around the same time Conan's show started getting good, around 1995 or so. If you're like me, you started watching Conan regularly at around age 13 or 14, and continued as a highly regular viewer for the next eight or nine years, your loyal fandom enabled by the fact that, as a teenager and then a college student, you had no problem staying up until 12:40 every night. (Fortunately, my turn toward marginally more responsible sleep/lifestyle choices has coincided with the rise of DVR.)
In fact, this observation is so good, I can't believe BML doesn't capitalize on it. This is why Conan will kill at 11:30 -- because his fan base isn't in their teens any more. We're in our thirties, close enough, or older. We don't even like to stay up that late, we've got to TiVo the damn show. And Jay Leno's fans don't want to stay up past eleven. The show will be a success not because Conan's "matured" but because We Are Old.
I started seriously watching Conan in my freshman year of college; as a kid, I used to sneak downstairs to watch Johnny Carson. The Tonight Show w/ Johnny offered adulthood at its most enigmatic and alluring; with Jay, it seemed phony, bloated, contrived -- above all, to be avoided. Hence, cartoons and Conan.
We're the people who watch The Tonight Show now. Does it feel too soon?
File under: Media Galaxy, Self-Disclosure, Society/Culture
February 9, 2009
The New Look
Every Cayce Pollard neuron in my brain is firing at once. Mark my words: In six months, you're going to see this look everywhere. Lush, razor-sharp, organic, with everything sorta on fire. Oh, and lots of projection-mapped video. Artsy augmented reality.
February 8, 2009
Radio Lab How-To
I have to admit: I haven't been keeping up with Radio Lab. I am genuinely ashamed of this, because I feel like Radio Lab is probably the best and most inventive media being produced anywhere right now. It's just... the episodes... they're so long!
But I did just listen to this: Radio Lab at the Apple store, explaining how they make the show. Some neat demos and examples of audio before and after "the Radio Lab treatment."
The Radio Lab secret to storytelling is simple: Make it musical.
February 7, 2009
Personality and Urban Affection
So, this morning, during the Snarkmasters' sequifortnightly transcontinental gathering over email, coffee, cold pad thai, and cinnamon swirls, the conversation turned to Walt Whitman, and I was reminded of the really quite lovely American Experience documentary on Whitman that was broadcast around a year ago.
I love Ed Folsom's account of Whitman's experience of "urban affection":
Whitman feels the power of the city of strangers. He's looking at a city of strangers and how something we might now call urban affection begins to develop. How do you come to care for people that you have never seen before and that you may never see again?
Every day we encounter people, eyes make contact, we brush by people, physically come into contact with them, and may never see them again.
But Whitman's notebooks at this time are filled with images, just jottings, of these people, what they're doing, what they look like, what their names are. 'What is this person doing? What's the activity that defines this person?
"If I were doing that activity that person would be me. If I were wandering the other way, rather than this way, that person could be me. That could be me. That could be me. What is it that separates any of us?'
Folsom co-edits The Walt Whitman Archive, a fantastic resource with complete e-texts, photographic images of all of the alternate editions, biographies, scholarly essays, you name it.
The only real downside to the online presentation of the Whitman Documentary (and it's a real downer) is 1) there's no way to watch the whole documentary straight through and 2) the videos can only be displayed as teeny-tiny Quicktime/WMA pop-ups. Come on, PBS! Broadcast TV has finally figured out how to rock the computer screen in fullscreen HD -- so has YouTube, Comedy Central, and, um, everybody. The people demand that their public digital television be done up right.
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Design, Media Galaxy, Recommended
February 2, 2009
Drawings in Time
Katja Mater takes multiple exposure of her drawings as she creates them, so you sort of see them across three dimensions: width, height, and time.
Also, on her website, she has a gallery labeled "celebrating RGB color space" which I don't fully understand, but love.
Cut the Crap, Guys
Howard Weaver brings it:
People who wish some billionaire would endow newsrooms so they don't have to change -- you know who you are -- have the musty smell of the mausoleum all about them. They move through twilight, walking stiffly toward a setting sun. They will find no pot of gold there.
Yet the digitalistas who suggest those newsrooms can be readily duplicated or replaced act like willful children, unmindful that substance, craft and capacity matter in the real world, that no group of 10,000 monkeys has ever written Shakespeare, that 98 of the 100 most important pieces of public service journalism last year flowed from professionals in the newsrooms they recklessly disregard.
This is a fool's game. It's time for grown-ups to intervene, to end the debate and move beyond the empty calories of nostalgia and the masturbatory fantasies of a theory-based future. A long-deceased, much missed colleague often referred to people with mature judgment and a steady hand by saying, "She knows where babies come from." Those are the folks we need on the case now.
Really, what else is there to say? Howard's style here reminds me of Ezra Pound at his caustic, humanistic best. And yes, that's a compliment.
January 26, 2009
Shut the F--- Up, Piano Man
I love Ron Rosenbaum's takedown of Billy Joel; you really have to dislike someone to go to the lengths taken by Rosenbaum to document, distill, and identify what makes them so bad.
My favorite part, though, is Rosenbaum's side-snipe at Jeff Jarvis:
Besides, some people still take Billy seriously. Just the other day I was reading my old friend Jeff Jarvis' BuzzMachine blog, and Jarvis (the Billy Joel of blog theorists) was attacking the Times' David Carr. (Talk about an uneven fight.) Carr was speculating about whether newspapers could survive if they adopted the economic model of iTunes. Attempting a snotty put-down of this idea, Jarvis let slip that he's a Joel fan: As an example somehow of his iTunes counter-theory, he wrote: "If I can't get Allentown, the original, I'm not likely to settle for a cover." Only the hard-core B.J. for Jeff! ("Allentown" is a particularly shameless selection on Jarvis' part, since it's one of B.J.'s "concern" songs, featuring the plight of laid-off workers, and Jarvis virtually does a sack dance of self-congratulatory joy every time he reports on print-media workers getting the ax.)
See, this is the thing: there's a weird way in which the entire attack on Billy Joel just allegorizes Rosenbaum's frustration with Jarvis. Read RR's December article, "Is Jeff Jarvis Gloating Too Much About the Death of Print?" if you're not convinced.
January 23, 2009
Virginia Heffernan on the Pleasures of TED
Once you start watching TED talks, ordinary life falls away. The corridor from Silicon Alley to Valley seems to crackle, and a new in-crowd emerges: the one that loves Linux, organic produce, behavioral economics, transhistorical theories and An Inconvenient Truth. Even though there are certain TED poses that I dont warm to the dour atheist, the environmental scold the crowd as a whole glows with charisma. I love their greed for hope, their confidence in ingenuity, their organized but goofy ways of talking and thinking.
This is just for Robin:
I have seen about 40. Let me say straight up that one of my favorites is Simplicity Patterns, by the designer John Maeda. His talk made clear to me the uncanny resemblance between a block of tofu (the kind Maeda grew up making in his familys business in Seattle) and the I. M. Pei building that houses the M.I.T. Media Lab (where Maeda, who is now the president of the Rhode Island School of Design, used to work). Almost haphazardly associative, Maedas talk expresses respect for the mandate of the talks to change the world without becoming sententious. You get rapid, straight-to-the-bloodstream access to his mental life.
And I don't know what to say about this:
The other talk that does this poetically is Jill Bolte Taylors My Stroke of Insight. A brain scientist who studied the way she lost her own faculties during and after she suffered a stroke, Taylor urges the audience to pay attention to the sybaritic, present-tense right brain. Repeatedly, she recalls the pleasurable aspects of her stroke with such sensory precision that she seems to enter a rapturous trance. Not only do I buy her case for unfettered right-brain experience, but I began scheming to unfetter my right brain then and there.
File under: Braiiins, Design, Media Galaxy
January 20, 2009
A Day Too Big for Narrative
Ha! Alessandra Stanley does my work for me: This was a day best captured by image, not narrative, she says.
All the way from LIFE's breakthrough use of rich, stand-alone photography to TIME's avalanche of online galleries and (of course) the Big Picture, there's a rich tradition here. And the best of 'em aren't linear sequences that tell a story from start to finish; they're collections of contrasting moments that, together, deliver a gestalt.
Photo galleries have been one of my favorite ways to track the entire election, and I think there's truth to what Stanley says about today:
Anchors, compelled to say something, reached for trite metaphors and hyperbolic expressions of wonder ("Our secular version of a miracle," according to one CNN commentator) that didn't begin to match the reality unfolding live behind them. The best narration was wordless.
I'll extend that critique to printed commentary, as well. The flurry of op-eds over the weekend, all packed with world-historical language trying to Put It All In Perspective, fell flat. Just give me the image.
Not even Obama's speech -- which I liked -- could match the raw image of him, uh, delivering it. William Gavin, a former speechwriter for Nixon, said this over at the NYT (emphasis mine):
But the setting -- the first African-American standing there in the bright winter sunshine as our new president -- had an eloquence all its own. I think we will remember this occasion more for the man who gave it than for the words he said. He could have stood there for 20 minutes of silence and still communicated great things about America.
I claim the image for the Team Database. Your move, narrative.
File under: Journalism, Media Galaxy, Society/Culture
January 18, 2009
Yesterday, I did some research on a new phone I'm thinking about buying. So I googled it and went to the manufacturer's page, read some online reviews, and compared prices and plans. But my eyes were drawn to the video hits: consumers and reviewers who could SHOW me how the phone worked, THAT the screen resolution really was pretty good, or WHY the keyboard felt too cramped.
I'm not alone -- Miguel Helft at the NYT/IHT writes that YouTube is increasingly being used as a reference tool:
With inexpensive cameras flooding the market and a proliferation of Web sites hosting seemingly unlimited numbers of clips, it's never been easier to create and upload video. You can now find an online video on virtually any topic. Web videos teach how to grout a tub, offer reviews of the latest touch-screen phones and give you a feel for walking across the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy...
And now YouTube, conceived as a video hosting and sharing site, has become a bona fide search tool. Searches on it in the United States recently edged out those on Yahoo, which had long been the No. 2 search engine, behind Google. (Google, incidentally, owns YouTube.) In November, Americans conducted nearly 2.8 billion searches on YouTube, about 200 million more than on Yahoo, according to comScore.
Another good how-to genre, this time from digital to digital, are the video walkthroughs of video games. Compare those with the old text-file walkthroughs for your favorite Super Nintendo game.
Video and text searches also create (ahem) different narratives:
[YouTube's Hunter] Walk said a good example is provided by an ad for Hillary Rodham Clinton during the Democratic presidential primaries the one in which a voice asks "Who do you want answering the phone?" at the White House at 3 a.m. during a crisis. A search for "Hillary Clinton 3 a.m." on Google would bring up news stories about the ad and the controversy surrounding it. On YouTube, the same search brought up the original commercial, as well a response by the Barack Obama campaign, pundits' commentaries and an assortment of spoofs, giving users a much different understanding of how the story unfolded, Walk said.
So, here are two ways I see this going.
First, we need to leverage the power of YouTube and the power of Wikipedia together by creating a YouTubeiPedia -- a comprehensive video reference database on the web. Maybe it wouldn't need to be the Wikipedia model -- there might be room for a traditional content company like Microsoft or Brittanica or whomever to step in here. Or maybe there will be multiple, competing models with different strengths -- frank and quirky user-created content jostling with great production values. At any rate, part of the triumph of the text-search optimized Wikipedia is that we've largely missed out on some of the promise of a genuine multimedia encyclopedia. But there's clearly demand for it.
Second, we need to get on this whole visual literacy thing -- especially the ability to make visual objects themselves searchable, so that videos can give bot-crawlers the same richness of information a textual entry can. Maybe some kind of video autotagging.
My last idea is a shade more utopian, but it can work! I want a "video search" that isn't a textual search of a video database, but a VIDEO search of any kind of database. Imagine the power of being able to hold a random object in front of your webcam and being able to ask the next-gen version of Google, "what the heck is this?"
January 14, 2009
We've built up some good media-thinking momentum here lately, so help me out with a gut-check:
Imagine a well-packaged little "magazine" for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It would be free or $0.99. In an "issue," it would have a short story, a video, something with sound, a gallery of great photography, and a mini-game or two. All formatted specifically and cleverly for the device. In my head, the issues aren't dated, but themed: more Radiolab than The Economist.
Does this sound like:
- an interesting use of a fundamentally new medium! And come to think of it, it would be fun to read/watch/play such a thing waiting in line for coffee in the morning. Or,
- a cruel throwback to mid-90s CD-ROM "magazines," exemplifying the worst of old media: No links! You can't print it out! Why is it stuck on this tiny, tiny screen??!
I'm especially interested in hearing from members of the snarkmatrix who actually own iPhones and iPods. Can you credibly imagine yourself finding out about such a thing -- let's say I had recommended one here, for instance! -- and then downloading and using it?
January 10, 2009
Stumbling Away from the Story
I'm just gonna throw this one out there and let it simmer a bit over the weekend: What if narrative thinking is on its way out?
Here's a starting point: Google is the anti-narrative king of the web.
Classic Yahoo! was narrative; it was all paths and branches and journeys. Google was, and is, a story that happens all at once. Faced with the search box, you have the entire web in a sort of quantum superposition; anything could happen. Then you search and, wham, one thing really does. But you don't really know how, or why.
In general, we're finding that the way people use the web is less narrative and more random than we ever expected. It's probabilistic. The table of contents -- the navigation bar -- gets smaller. The search box gets bigger.
On the web, we don't understand, consider, and act; we stumble.
Think next of WIRED's "the end of theory" and of Wolfram's a new kind of science. Both propose a new, more probabilistic way of doing science -- and yes, I know, both are almost entirely rejected by mainstream science at this point. But even so, they give our assumptions a healthy twist. What if you could arrive at useful conclusions without knowing how you got there? Doesn't this actually happen a lot already?
Think, finally, of news. Think of the kind of story we're confronted with these days: 9/11, Enron, Iraq, the money meltdown, Mumbai. Sure, you can build a really revelatory narrative around something like 9/11; you can almost make it seem inevitable in retrospect. You can tell a story about a giant pool of money.
But how closely do those narratives map to reality? Sometimes I think events today more closely resemble a giant wall of sticky notes. Draw lines, make clusters, add more facts as you find them; do your best to hold it all in your head. But it doesn't all add up. There are contradictions. But hey, that's the world -- and maybe we need better tools to understand it that way.
We argue: Stories are those tools. It's stories that allows us to understand these things at all: "Once upon a time, this happened, then that happened." Our brains are wired for narrative.
But I don't buy it. Our brains are constantly changing, and I think the internet is a bellwether: We are not using the web in a narrative way. We're using it in some weird, new way that we don't have good words for yet. It's all juxtaposition and feeds and filters, searching and stumbling and sharing. And importantly, it's starting to make sense. It's not gut-churning chaos out here, unmoored from the safe haven of story. It's actually getting kinda comfortable.
So does that new way of thinking start to infect everything else? It's not just a superficial perspective, but almost a new operating system entirely; I think it's going to go really deep.
How do things change? The internet's leading the way. New media follows close behind -- video games, new forms of music, movies, theater. What about journalism? Science? Medicine? Law? Relationships?
I'm pretty obsessed with this idea lately, so expect to hear more about it. I'm curious to know what it cross-connects to in your brain; not like, "please comment directly on the thesis of this post" (though I am sure there are some sharp debunkings waiting for me), but rather, what does this make you think about? What's related?
January 8, 2009
Waltz With Bashir
Lebanon -- the subject of Waltz With Bashir -- isn't Gaza, and of course all war in the Middle East isn't the same, but even so, this movie has a lot to offer, especially right now.
(Um. Take a minute before you read the next post or your brain will explode from the sudden shift in gravity.)
January 6, 2009
A Tale of Two Painters
Wow: Just pulled up Illustration Art's feed and found, kinda out of nowhere, a really smart debate on the values of modern art in microcosm.
It comes down to two artists: Adrian Gottlieb and John Currin. Both are alive today. Both are figurative oil painters. Both are successful.
Here's where they part ways: One just sold a painting for $5.5 million dollars. The other can only sell his for a fraction of that price.
Then, make your guess.
Then, read the post.
And then -- this is the most important part -- read the comment thread. It's articulate, thought-provoking, and contentious-yet-respectful. In other words: snarkworthy.
And then (jeez, it's like school all of a sudden) tell me: Which do you prefer?
File under: Media Galaxy, Society/Culture
January 2, 2009
TV on the Computer, or the Other Way Around
I just became a Boxee alpha tester, and while it isn't flawless, it's the best setup I've seen yet for watching TV shows and movies on the computer, particularly a computer hooked up to a television screen. Haven't used its social recommendation engine yet (if you're using it too, let me know), but the Hulu and Netflix integration set it apart from XBMC, Plex, Front Row, et al.
I watch a lot of computer-based TV, particularly since I don't have cable. My setup -- first-gen MacBook Pro with busted screen, Western Digital 500GB external, Wireless-G router, Samsung 26" HDTV, Apple remote, and a Logitech keyboard (DiNovo wireless for Mac). I've got a DVI-HDMI cable and a simple stereo output running between the notebook and the HDTV. Best experiences - 30 Rock on Netflix and Hulu, The Daily Show at ComedyCentral.com, all five seasons of The Wire backed up on my external drive, and Yo Gabba Gabba through iTunes.
I've been mulling over a bunch of different ideas about this computer-media server-television hybrid, but first I guess I'll just ask the 'matrix -- how do you guys watch TV with/without your computer? What do you like or not like about it? What are you still trying to figure out?
December 28, 2008
I'm Taping This Right Now
Rob Spence wears a prosthetic eye. It's the 21st Century. Ergo, Rob's new eye is going to include a video camera.
Unnerving Story of the Day™ is sponsored by Ratchet Up and the letter Um.
December 12, 2008
The Tipping Point
Question: Is anybody else on board with the notion that the Atlantic's blogs have outpaced the mag itself for interestingness? Last month's issue had a ton of interesting stuff, so I picked it up, and enjoyed it, but kept finding myself going to the respective authors' spots online to read what they and their commenters wrote about the article. Is it just me?
December 11, 2008
My Awareness Modes
I started to post this on Newsless, but I think it might be more Snark-appropriate.
I'm trying to articulate some of the values and expectations I bring to my media consumption. I wonder whether my tendencies are typical, or how I might benefit from cultivating different values and expectations.
When I visit most local news sites, I have this sense that the editors of the site are trying to foster a sort of "ambient awareness." That is, there's not really an organizing purpose behind the information they provide. I suspect they don't typically expect me to do anything with this information, but they just thought I should be aware of it, or that I might find it interesting.
Although I care about Minneapolis, I don't really have a strong desire to be ambiently aware about it. Having very shallow information on a vast range of Minneapolis-related topics actually makes me a little crazy. I'm not sure if this makes me a bad citizen or an idiosyncratic news consumer or what. But it's a filter I find myself employing when I read a local news site.
There are many domains in which I value ambient awareness. I think that's what I get out of my New Yorker subscription, for example — not particularly deep knowledge on any given subject, but a sort of conversational familiarity with a well-curated variety of current affairs. I like to think of myself as ambiently aware of what's happening in things like video games and Web development and gay culture and Minneapolis arts.
But in the domain of local news, I seem to value information that makes me "functionally aware" — that might actually affect my behavior or circumstances. So I'd pass over a headline like "City likely to OK $5.3M for Target Center green roof", but "Paperless boarding passes coming to MSP" interests me.
Besides local news, I seek functional awareness in a few more specific contexts, such as Web design and health and nutrition. I read publications on those topics that keep me informed of products or practices or developments that might affect me.
And then there are a select few topics on which I'm looking for what I might call "expert awareness." Online journalism, for example. And at this level, communities, not publications, are my highest priority.
I think my tendencies might be unique in several regards, but I wonder how many folks are like me. Is there a generational thrust to this sort of thing? And if everyone were like me, how would we draw attention to boring-but-important stories?
December 5, 2008
The Perfect Wrong Analogy for Digital Reporting
I already have a love/hate relationship with this analogy from Virginia Heffernan:
Does anyone still believe that the forms of movies, television, magazines and newspapers might exist independently of their rapidly changing modes of distribution? The thought has become unsustainable. Take magazine writing. In school or on the job, magazine writers never learn anything so broad as to tell great stories or make arresting images. You dont study the ancient art of storytelling. You learn to produce certain numbers and styles and forms of words and images. You learn to be succinct when a publication loses ad pages. You learn to dilate when an article is understood mostly as a delivery vehicle for pictures of a sexy celebrity. The words stack up under certain kinds of headlines that also adhere to strict conventions as to size and tone, and eventually they appear alongside certain kinds of photos and illustrations with certain kinds of captions on pages of certain dimensions that are often shared with advertisements. Just as shooting film for a Hollywood movie is never just filming and acting in a TV ad is never just acting, writing for a magazine is never just writing.
Yes! I mean, wait -- No!
Let me explain. I think that what Heffernan says is totally true. I also think that the sooner we recognize that specific forms we've inherited in analog media are contingent, tailored to the goals and necessities of their form and function, the better. Especially if we can also become just as fluent in reading/writing for new forms and functions, and keep that creative destruction going.
But! -- If our analogies for the emerging forms are all drawn from existing forms that most serious journalists, professionals, intellectuals, and artists don't really like, because they feel that they're forms of shallow, unprofessional, hackwork, then it's going to be really hard for a lot of folks to see how these new media can actually be a good thing.
November 28, 2008
The Blogger I Miss Most...
... is easily Ben Vershbow, formerly of if:book.
The only post-IFB news I can find of him is a Book Expo Canada from June. I hope he is doing something appropriately awesome.
November 24, 2008
Processing has been hugely important to me -- it's basically what transitioned me from a non-programmer to hacky programmer. (It's progress.) Processing's is the first forum I've contributed to since the Prodigy video game boards in 1992. (And these contributions are, er, a little more thoughtful.)
And seeing what others have done with Processing has bent my ambitions around (going for sort of a gravity well vs. photons analogy here) and set me on a track towards things like generative media. In fact, I think it's fair to say that Processing changed my life. Whoah -- I don't think I'd even had that thought before just now. Heavy! True!
So thanks Casey, thanks Ben, and thanks to everybody who's contributed code, time, expertise and explanation. It's a brilliant, broad-spirited project, and I'm delighted to see it flourish.
November 22, 2008
I'll definitely back up Robin; check out NYTMag's Screens issue. (Is there no way to permalink whole issues? Blerg.)
My favorite story, though, is Ross Simonini's "The Sitcom Digresses," which traces the genealogy of the digression/flashback in TV comedies from The Simpsons to 30 Rock and ultimately to the postmodern novel. So:
Tristram Shandy -> Gravity's Rainbow -> The Simpsons -> Family Guy -> Scrubs -> Arrested Development -> 30 Rock
This reminded me that while we generally have a pretty good sense of developments in technique and changes in style in movies and literature, TV history is driven almost entirely by content. The sense of form is much looser -- I know that Malcolm in the Middle or Bernie Mac are single-camera shows, and look different from Seinfeld or I Love Lucy -- but what was the first single-camera sitcom? Who first added a phony laugh track? When did that get discredited?
Who are the great television directors? If we really are becoming people of the screen, we ought to know.
November 20, 2008
Silver Meets McLuhan
[A]lmost uniquely to radio, most of the audience is not even paying attention to you, because most people listen to radio when they're in the process of doing something else. (If they weren't doing something else, they'd be watching TV). They are driving, mowing the lawn, washing the dishes -- and you have to work really hard to sustain their attention. Hence what Wallace refers to as the importance of "stimulating" the listener, an art that Ziegler has mastered. Invariably, the times when Ziegler became really, really angry with me during the interview was when I was not permitting him to be stimulating, but instead asking him specific, banal questions that required specific, banal answers. Those questions would have made for terrible radio! And Ziegler had no idea how to answer them.... Read more ....
October 9, 2008
I love this. Ironic Sans posts a video of the CNN Election Center, left momentarily unattended. It's like an outtake from a dystopian '80s movie about the future.
July 15, 2008
They Are Stars! No, They Are Bugs!
Ahhhh! Jeff Scher's new video on the NYT site is sublime. If you discover a full-screen playback button that I missed... let me know.
June 17, 2008
1. The flooding in the Midwest has been nuts.
2. No better way to experience its nuts-ness than Boston.com's The Big Picture. Just look at those photos! Wow.
May 30, 2008
Nico Nico Douga
My mind is being blown in real-time.
Nico Nico Douga is sort of a Japanese YouTube, except it has a weird extra feature: You can write comments in real-time over the video. Hard to imagine; easier to see. Just watch the second video on this page (the one after the YouTube video) for a second.
Why is this interesting? Two reasons:
- Video is still so immature, and still changing so fast. Kevin Kelly thinks text is actually a big part of its future -- a sort of reunion of long-estranged formats, thanks mostly to computers and high-resolution screens. I agree, and Nico Nico Douga is a (spastic) data point in that direction.
- The web is so not a global village. It's totally compartmentalized by region and, especially, by language. So it's cool to get a guided tour of something that would otherwise be incomprehensible or, worse, invisible.
I still have no idea what to make of this site. I'm almost afraid to click around. Any thoughts/reactions?
(Via the wax.)
Update: Great Wired article on the site's founder.
March 5, 2008
Politics, Emotion, and YouTube
Henry Jenkins and Stephen Duncombe talk Obama, YouTube, and emotional politics. (Second video down.)
Duncombe on the will.i.am Obama video: "It uses a language of emotions which one couldn't articulate in a logical sentence." He continues with an extended analysis of the "rhetoric that's embedded in the video" that is quite smart and revelatory.
Heard a new term from Jenkins in this exchange, too: "collective intelligence culture." I like it.
January 29, 2008
Radio Lab, OMG, Just, Radio Lab
The new Radio Lab podcast is sublime. Honestly, they could just say "blah blah blah" -- but apply their amazing production methods to it -- and I'd be sold. (In this case they talk to a guy who was commissioned to create background music for... a morgue. Amazing.)
It's the cadences that I love -- musical, verbal, pure sonic. These people are geniuses.
January 23, 2008
Gossip Girl and the immersive A.R.G.
By now, the A.R.G. has had a long and storied history stretching from The Blair Witch Project to Cloverfield. The classical model of the A.R.G.: someone notices a name in a movie trailer, or a website on a television show; they look it up online, and they suddenly find themselves holding a piece in a narrative jigsaw puzzle. Others stumble into the puzzle, they form a community, and the game is afoot. Piece by piece, the players fit together a picture that helps them solve whatever mystery the game's creators have spun.
One big drawback: if you stumble into one of these games late, catching up can be a chore. As far as I know, A.R.G.s haven't exactly been a model of thematic coherence or narrative deftness; it's not like catching up on a TV show or a comic book. The chase and the unfolding mystery are the fun. So unless you have worlds of time to devote to chasing obscure clues, the game might not hold much allure for you. These are the main reasons I haven't been able to get into any A.R.G.s yet, despite my being an utter nerd.
But I find that idea -- a fictional narrative kidnaps a piece of our reality and draws us into it -- delicious. What I want is for a series to use the Internet in a way that fully blurs the edge between reality and the series.... Read more ....
November 11, 2007
Mailer and McLuhan
A good video to watch in memoriam: Norman Mailer and Marshall McLuhan on the CBC in 1968. What a match-up. Honestly I'd never seen Mailer on film or video before this moment, and he's wild.
The artist, when he encounters the present, the contemporary artist, is always seeking new patterns -- new pattern recognition -- which is his task, for heaven's sake! His great need... the absolute indispensability of the artist is that he alone, in the encounter with the present, can give the pattern recognition. [...]
Marshall speaks of [the artist] as a man who essentially records [...] I'd say the artist does that and then he goes one step further: He says whether this is good or bad. And it doesn't matter if the artist's finding is right or wrong, because what he does is give the people who come in contact with his art a subtler sense of good and bad -- then they have a better ability to determine for themselves whether something is good or bad. The reason I keep hitting this notion is that in all of McLuhan-land, you never find the words "good" or "bad."
(Via Russell Davies.)
November 9, 2007
Awesomeness = f(Small Blocks)
Significantly less fun than the previous post, but I've gotta admit, this bit from Steven Berlin Johnson in his kottke.org interview is sort of one of the best descriptions of what I like about the web, ever:
SBJ: One of the great things that Jane Jacobs wrote about in Life and Death of the Great American Cities is the design principle of favoring short blocks over longer ones -- the crooked streets of the Village versus the big avenues of Chelsea -- because short blocks diversify the flow of pedestrian traffic. In an avenue system, everyone feeds onto the big streets, and you have insanely overcrowded streets and then side streets that are deserted (which leads to storefront real estate that only the big chains can afford, and real estate that no one wants because there's not enough foot traffic). In a short block model, the streets tend to gravitate towards that middle zone where there are always some people on them, but not too many.
I've always thought that the blogosphere can be thought of as a kind of small blocks model for the Web, whereas the original portal idea was much more of a big avenues model. Yes, there are some increasing returns effects that lead to some A-list bloggers having millions of visitors, and yes, there is a long tail of bloggers who have almost no traffic. But the healthiest part of the curve is what Dave Sifry once called "the big butt" -- the middle zone between the head and tail of the Power Law distribution, all those sites with 1000 to 100,000 readers. That's the part of the blogosphere that I think is really cause for celebration, because something like that just didn't exist before on that scale. And as Yochai -- who of course is very smart about all this -- points out: those mid-list sites also communicate up the chain to the A-listers, who can broadcast out the interesting developments in the mid-list so that those stories enter a broader public dialogue.
Always worth remembering it didn't have to be this way. We could have ended up with a much more craptastic top-down internet, like a sort of Super-AOL-Prodigy, or something. We lucked out!
This Business Model Won't Work for Everyone
Regarding Ron Paul's insanely savvy web fund-raising, Virginia Heffernan observes:
He's up to $7,306,451.20 total -- or make that $$7,533,699.69 total, as the ticker on his site flips up every second, like the national debt -- and, if nothing else, he has shown that somebody is making money with online video.
November 8, 2007
In a Strategic Sense, Good Beats Evil
Awesome post from Umair Haque:
That's the point: from a strategic pov, good beats evil - unfortunately for Facebook.
October 18, 2007
Nice Note on Current.com
From one of my favorites: Virginia Heffernan at the NYT.
September 30, 2007
'Rendering in Real-Time'
This might be the best metaphor I have heard about a person's brain, ever. Jon Stewart on Stephen Colbert:
"[The whole show] depends on Stephen's ability to process information as this other person," says Stewart. "I've seen talk-show hosts who can't do that for real. ... And then you watch Colbert and it's like the first time you use broadband: 'How the fuck did that happen?' He's rendering in real time."
From the Vanity Fair piece, which is good.
You've got to give it a listen if you haven't already. Immediately, you'll hear a huge difference from the boring march of words that characterizes every other radio show, ever. On Radio Lab, the words and sonic interjections are fragmented, tiled, cross-cut, layered. There's just so much more to absorb; it lights your brain up. Radio Lab is DENSE.
This is how all explanatory media should feel. We're ready for it.
P.S. I don't want to focus entirely on the meta-method stuff, though, 'cause the ideas and the reporting are also sublime. This is a must-listen.
September 17, 2007
Times on Times
The NYT announces its new, more open site policies in hilarious fashion. I love NYT meta-reporting!
September 14, 2007
Facebook's New Ads
Not the sort of thing I usually post here, but I don't know, this just feels like the future to me somehow. I mean, the "keywords" field? Nuts.
September 4, 2007
The Internet is the New _____
Is the internet today's punk rock? So asks Wieden + Kennedy's global director of digital strategies.
Actually I totally agree with his opening sentiment --
Frankly, I don't know what Punk Rock is
-- but even so, there's something about the comparison that's appealing. His post is a good read, and not only because it's insanely optimistic about democracy and includes some hefty quotes from The Chairman.
Also: How can you not print-to-read-later an essay called The Second Superpower Rears its Beautiful Head?
September 2, 2007
Across the Dial
So, I've never heard anything quite like this: a recording of New York radio the night John Lennon was shot -- not just one station but a whole swath of them, complete with bursts of static in between, courtesy of some invisible listener ambling down the dial.
It's pretty amazing. I wish there were more readily-available recordings of TV and radio coverage still mired in the moment. And then on top of that, it's fascinating when you go beyond a single example into a sort of longitudinal survey.
Bill Moyers' show on the media in the lead-up to the Iraq war is actually a great example -- even just a few years out it's already revelatory and horrifying, and I'm sure it will only get better (worse) as the years go by.
August 26, 2007
The Motion of Motion
- Select video, e.g. "Run Lola Run."
- Display thousands of copies of said video on a gigantic wall-spanning video matrix, each offset from its neighbor by a single frame.
The patterns that emerge out of different kinds of motion in the movie, and different kinds of cutting, are pretty nutso.
August 22, 2007
A Database of Facts
Great power can flow from default reference link status; think Wikipedia, IMDB, etc. Can PolitiFact achieve default reference link status for political claims? Would be very cool if it did. Snarkmarket will assist with link love whenever possible.
As an aside: It's totally rad to see the St. Pete Times stepping up in a national way like this. More, more!
August 20, 2007
Grawww this is too cool: Webhead polymaths Schulze and Webb have built a prototype social radio. Think for a second about what you think a "social radio" might be before clicking that link... then check it out. The second of their three big ideas is my favorite.
August 11, 2007
Democratization of Manipulation, Part 3
Hey, speaking of democracy... this set of Photoshop tutorials that shows you how to do effects from movies, besides being rad and fun, is also totally subversive.
Seriously! It's one thing to vaguely understand that all images presented by the entertainment industry are massively processed... it's another to learn how to do it yourself.
August 4, 2007
Favorite Voices, New Mediums
Hendrik Hertzberg has a blog and the first word, against all odds, is: "Bam."
July 30, 2007
With Great Power Comes...
James Fallows on two-tiered stock structure in media ownership:
The only justification for "Class B" shares giving special voting power to the Sulzberger family at the Times, the Graham family at the Post, and the Bancroft family at the Journal is the assumption that the families will weigh other factors in deciding how the news operation should be run.
That is: other potentially non-economic factors.
Of course, Class B shares aren't just an old-school thing. Guess which other company uses them to give super-votes -- and, potentially, the power to defy the market -- to founders and top executives?
July 22, 2007
Errol Morris, Photography, and Truth
Good stuff on Errol Morris's New York Times blog. (Given the reaction of those three nouns -- Errol Morris, New York Times, and blog -- in my brain, I suddenly feel kinda like the target of one of those precision laser-guided munitions... except it's a blog, not a bomb, and I'm me, not a suspicious-looking chemical plant.)
Because it is TimesSelect, I will not tease you with a provocative blockquote. I will say: If you have access to the NYT's restricted garden of delights, the comments are as good as the blog post.
Update: Well, on second thought, I guess Vulture is right that Morris is not actually a very good blogger as such.
July 15, 2007
The Rule of Reason
Bill Moyers talks to Bruce Fein, a lawyer, and John Nichols, a journalist, about impeachment. Every time Moyers puts something on air it reminds me what "discourse" is actually supposed to look like.
If you didn't see it, the first episode of his new show, about the lead-up to the Iraq war, is gut-wrenching. It's all stuff you know and remember, of course, but it's still pretty terrible to see it all laid out so starkly.
July 12, 2007
This American Brain
Am excited to report that it is by far the coolest radio show I've ever heard -- in the truest sensory meaning of the word. I think it might be the best radio show in the world. Or in history.
Forgive me. Am caught up in the throes of enthusiasm and hyperbole. But seriously: It's great. Here's why:
- It's about science.
- It's incredibly aggressive with audio montage: dialogue overlaps and spills over, music and sound effects pile up in layers, outtakes and asides shimmer at the edges. The result is astonishing, and dense in the best possible way.
- It has a wonderful vocal style: They've completely rejected the voice-of-god format, as well as the voice-of-casual-god format, and even the voice-of-friendly-NPR-god format, and replaced it with a truly conversational, sometimes contentious tone. Very often, hosts will interrupt each other and say something like: "Wait, what? What does that even mean?"
- Lovely, lilting, IDM-y music.
- Only five episodes per season. This is an amount of media that I can actually process!
I've only listened to a few episodes but my favorite so far is Sleep. It includes: an explanation for the fact that you always sleep strangely on your first night in a new place, dolphins with parallel brains, the scourge of improperly folded proteins... and Tetris dreams.
So, I officially have a gigantic crush on this show -- both because it's good, interesting journalism, and because it's such a palpably new way of doing radio.
July 2, 2007
No Caption Needed
No Caption Needed is a new blog about "iconic photographs, public culture, and liberal democracy." Am super-excited about the prospect of a continuing stream of stuff like this. First time I've seen the phrase "visual public sphere" and I love it.
June 20, 2007
A Bit of Love for Current
Imagine a television network that operates like YouTube but with a social conscience, a programming staff and a crew of professional videographers, journalists and hosts giving it shape.
Imagine it complete with viewer-made commercials.
Lately I've been happily distracted by such a network, Current TV. Specializing in short attention spans, airing mini-shows called "pods," Current TV is designed as always-on cultural background music for the iPod generation the way CNN is a constant for diplomats and editors.
The diplomats and editors will be ours as well.
June 12, 2007
Gorilla vs. Monkey
Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, the guys who created The Gorillaz, have written an opera called Monkey. Of course.
It sounds sort of super-awesome:
"Opera is just a term for drama in theatre that's led entirely by music", says Jamie. "People are scared of operas, especially when they're in Mandarin. People will be astounded by this show, but they have to take that leap of faith. The first four months was complete confusion. It was quite scary doing this. But that's where the excitement is for me, the challenge. Now we have 81 minutes of non-stop, in your face entertainment. You won't have the opportunity to get bored! There's no curtain and no pauses. We have dragons and water and horses and lots of animation and flying sequences. It's full on."
May 1, 2007
The Future of Media
...isn't Googlezon at all.
I am totally serious.
April 29, 2007
The Atlantic Rides Again
The Atlantic Monthly, along with Wired, was basically my introduction to the awesome interestingness of the world. So I am happy to see it making some smart new moves on the web:
April 26, 2007
A Print-Only Newsletter... Just Kidding
I gotta say, the NYT is doing so many things right online these days. For instance, this blog entry from The Caucus strikes me as pitch-perfect:
We are about 45 minutes away from the start of the big Democratic debate in South Carolina. The Timess Katharine Q. Seelye will be live-blogging all the action from Orangeburg beginning at 7 p.m. ET.
The Timess Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny will be writing off the debate in South Carolina, for the Web site and of course, for the newspaper.
Note the order. NOTE THE ORDER!
DealBook is also amazing if you're into that sort of thing.
April 25, 2007
Behold, the Governor
April 24, 2007
Magazines of the World
signandsight translates articles by non-English language authors in Europe (especially Germany) into English. What I like even better, though, are the synthesis: Here's all the smartypants magazines in the U.S. and Europe this week, summarized. Totally cool.
Reminds me of Foreign Policy magazine's reviews of books in foreign languages. The world needs more sites and services like this.
April 18, 2007
Virginia Tech, and Taking Control of Your Representation
A Virginia Tech student named Jason Piatt just looks into his webcam and talks:
I guess the internet's a pretty powerful thing... I didn't realize how many people are really on Facebook and MySpace and all that, but all day long people have been sending me emails, messages, and everything... "I wanna do this interview, I wanna do this interview."
At first it was kinda exciting because I felt like people really care about what I have to say out there... I'm doing somebody some good, I'm making a difference. And then after a while I realized, like, no matter how many times I told the same story, that I just told you... people still wanted to hear it.
And I would tell 'em, I'd say, I don't have anything, you watch CNN right? You see these other things... that's all I got.
Fix an image of the standard cable news presentation in your mind -- helicopter shot, yammering voices, text crawl -- and then watch this. It's riveting.
Update: This is on Current TV now. Here's the broadcast version (a little tighter).
Related: This Ypulse post is fascinating. A Facebook group created as a memorial to one of the VA Tech victims leads with this warning:
**ATTENTION NEWS MEDIA**
NEWS MEDIA DO NOT have permission to use photographs, quotes, or any information from the site, AND you do not have permission to contact group members.
Wow. There's something important going on here.
April 15, 2007
March 28, 2007
Radical Radical Transparency Transparency
I totally do not have time to process this right now, but I'm pretty sure it is awesome:
- Wired does an issues on radical transparency. One part is a piece by Fred Vogelstein on Microsoft's blogging efforts.
- Microsoft's PR firm, Waggener Edstrom, writes up a giant briefing document for MSFT execs on how to deal effectively with Vogelstein.
- The firm accidentally emails this document to Vogelstein. Ta-da!
- Wired editor Chris Anderson blogs about it.
- Fred Vogelstein blogs about it.
- Wait for it...
- The president of Waggener Edstrom blogs about it!
The whole thing has transformed into a kind of crazy transparency-off. Yes, I have made up my mind: This is awesome.
P.S. Also in this issue of Wired: Clive Thompson quotes me! (I commented on his blog while he was working on this piece.)
March 23, 2007
Whoah. I just realized something. That News Corp.-NBC-big media YouTube competitor is totally going to use Windows Media, isn't it? It totally is. Consider this my official prediction.
March 18, 2007
A PSA for Current
I'm catching up on weeks of RSS feeds. (Actually, I'm about to go to bed, and I've barely made a dent. Sigh.) Everybody's going nuts over these Ira Glass videos on storytelling. Robin probably won't point it out, so I will:
a) these have been around for a while. I want him to do another set of them now that he's conquered another medium. Hey, co-blogger, could ya work on that?
b) Current's actually got a ton more of these, not only with Ira Glass, but with Sarah Vowell, Dave Eggers, Elvis Mitchell, Robert Redford, Orville Schell, Xeni Jardin, Bonz Malone, Catherine Hardwicke and Jonathan Caouette. Go marinate in narrative goodness.
March 14, 2007
Foreign Policy: Still Awesome
Foreign Policy magazine just got nominated for two National Magazine Awards. One was for general excellence, which is right on. It's just consistently a great magazine.
And in case you missed it, they now have an eminently RSS-subscription-worthy blog.
March 13, 2007
Don't Think of a Viral Video
They can quantitatively predict media virality now. Crap. It involves hooking sensors up to your brain. Crap crap crap.
March 9, 2007
Ze Frank's Greatest Hits
If I really did run the Museum of Media History, I would put this video in it. File under "early 21st century internet culture." Also, "early life of President Hosea Frank."
February 27, 2007
65,536 Bytes of Madness
New blog entry up over at Current with a video that's worth watching -- it's one of these demoscene videos generated by a teeny-tiny computer program, just 64K big. And it melts your face.
February 24, 2007
The Wisdom... or Something... of Crowds
An interesting thing happened at Jim Romenesko's Starbucks Gossip site recently: Somebody slipped Romenesko what appeared to be an internal email from Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz. Romenesko posted it, with the caveat: I have no idea if this is real.
Soon after, its legitimacy was confirmed, and now it's been covered by the big guys. (It's actually a pretty interesting story -- Schultz is warning that Starbucks has lost its way.)
But before that happened, Starbucks Gossip readers were hashing out the likely legitimacy of the email on their own. If you read some of the long comment thread, you get an awfully good snapshot of web-ified group discussion today: smart; informed (most of the commenters are Starbucks baristas!); opinionated; and, er, often wrong.
No specific conclusions from me (maybe you have some?) but I just thought it was a data point interesting enough to share.
February 21, 2007
PR via YouTube
February 8, 2007
Jonathan Lethem has plagiarized together an entrancing paean to intellectual theft:
Artists, or their heirs, who fall into the trap of attacking the collagists and satirists and digital samplers of their work are attacking the next generation of creators for the crime of being influenced, for the crime of responding with the same mixture of intoxication, resentment, lust, and glee that characterizes all artistic successors. By doing so they make the world smaller, betraying what seems to me the primary motivation for participating in the world of culture in the first place: to make the world larger.You might not agree with all of it, but boy howdy, is it a rollicking great read. Definitely do not miss the footnotes:
The effort of preserving another's distinctive phrases as I worked on this essay was sometimes beyond my capacities; this form of plagiarism was oddly hard work.
February 3, 2007
I Hope You Can Read Fast
Another cool video: This one is a new Web 2.0 primer.
Videos like this -- that use moving images to explain abstract concepts instead of concrete realities -- are actually pretty rare. It's hard for me to tell if this one is truly successful, because I'm already familiar with this particular abstract concept, but it sure seems like it.
And regardless, the visual device -- narration in query strings and source code -- is ridiculously brilliant.
February 2, 2007
Google's Master Plan
January 25, 2007
Everything That Can Be Remixed... Will Be Remixed
Step one: Transcribe iPhone ringtone.
Step two: Issue iPhone ringtone remix challenge.
Step three: Holy crap... these are actually really good!
January 22, 2007
YouTube for Nerds
A new site called FORA is aggregating smarty-pants lectures and talks from the likes of C-SPAN, the Long Now Foundation, New America, various World Affairs Councils -- you get the idea.
Expect bad suits... bad hair... bad lighting...
AND AWESOME IDEAS.
This is so dope.
P.S. Except that it's kinda hard to link to videos and the pop-up player is lame-o. And they have no RSS feeds. Give them time.
A World of Endless Fascination
Yo, I'm back in action over at the Current blog. I'm going to post every Monday -- probably something web-nerd-related.
I actually think the question I pose at the bottom of the post is a pretty good one.
January 16, 2007
The iPhone, Secrecy, and Excellence
Two households, both alike in dignity:
Radical transparency. Or, call it the cult of openness. I am totally an adjunct member of this cult: When in doubt, put it online! The whole philosophy is best articulated, I think, by Chris Anderson over at WIRED, from whom I'm snagging the term: Take a look.
The Jesus phone. Apple guarded its newest project with a level of secrecy worthy of Cold War spymasters. The result: an object of almost unimaginable sophistication and artistry. Oh, and a delightful surprise on a Tuesday morning.
Those two schools offer fundamentally different answers to questions like: How should we make things? How should businesses operate in the world?
So how do we reconcile them?
Clive Thompson is writing about radical transparency (for WIRED, natch) and he allows that not all things should be transparent:
Obviously, transparency sucks sometimes. Some information need to be jealously guarded; not all personal experiences, corporate trade secrets, and national-security information benefit from being spread around. And culturally, some information is more fun when it's kept secret: I don't want to know the end of this year's season of 24!
But does that go far enough?... Read more ....
File under: Media Galaxy, Society/Culture
January 11, 2007
There's a nice mention of Current over at Lost Remote. I resist talking about the channel here because a) there are perils inherent in blogging about work and b) obviously I am biased, but really, it's quite good.
January 7, 2007
Street Musique, Syrinx and Walking: three works by the incredible Canadian animator Ryan Larkin. I think this is what you'd get if you mashed up Fantasia, The Science of Sleep, The Earthly Paradise, a Bill Plympton cartoon, and some pot brownies.
December 29, 2006
If ever a post were truly worthy of the "Media Galaxy" category, it's this: tons upon tons of quality copyrighted media, for free, for now.
December 24, 2006
Illustrator Discovery Engine
December 18, 2006
December 17, 2006
Variations on a Theme
December 12, 2006
Craigslist Among the Capitalists
This DealBook entry on Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster's presentation at a media conference in New York is really fun:
Wendy Davis of MediaPost describes the presentation as a "a culture clash of near-epic proportions." She recounts how UBS analyst Ben Schachter wanted to know how Craigslist plans to maximize revenue. It doesn't, Mr. Buckmaster replied (perhaps wondering how Mr. Schachter could possibly not already know this). "That definitely is not part of the equation," he said, according to MediaPost. "It's not part of the goal."
It's amazing how the decision not to maximize profit has become Craigslist's unbeatable competitive advantage. It is the one move other companies can't copy.
The post really struck a chord; the conversation that follows is the longest I've ever seen on DealBook, by far.
December 10, 2006
When the Crystal Ball is All Fogged Over
This post by super-smart Scott Karp gets to the heart of the situation in the media world right now:
The problem is that, in the this increasingly complex networked 2.0 world, customers dont know what they need. And providers dont know either. What happens when the buy side and the sell side are wandering lost in the fog?
I keep coming back to this Henry Ford quote:"If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse."
As much as media is obsessed with the scarcity of attention, the real scarcity is in innovation.
December 4, 2006
A Story, a Lost Pet, a Garage Sale, an Event
I kind of love the submission taxonomy presented on Pegasus News's neighborhood pages. Yo, that's what it's all about.
November 21, 2006
How Current Works
Go Digg it if you do such things!
November 20, 2006
Kill Me Now
Michael Hirschorn leads his whither-newspapers story with EPIC. And this is, honestly, one of the best lines written about it, ever:
As a piece of pop futurism, EPIC 2014 is both brilliant and brilliantly self-subverting (at once inevitable and preposterous).
Oh yeah, by the way, IT'S IN THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
November 15, 2006
E-Chapbooks for the Masses
Okay, there are like four things in that sentence you don't understand.
- Revelator Press: brainchild of Wordwright and crew. I have never heard a group of people use the word chapbook so enthusiastically.
- Andrew Hungerford: famous at MSU in my day for daring to double-major in astrophysics and theater. Should probably also be famous for owning the ofdoom.com domain name.
- "Between the Water and the Air": Andrew's play, produced at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and elsewhere. I think it's quite good, and not just because it takes place in Michigan.
- PDF-ness: You know, normally I'd be opposed, but honestly Revelator's Brandon Kelley did such a rad job on the design it's hard to complain. Print it out, read it on the couch.
One larger thing I will say is this: I really appreciate the dexterity and light-weight-ness of Revelator's approach. Wanna get your voice out there? No reason to wait for anybody to say it's okay, or tell you it's good enough. Just begin.
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Media Galaxy
November 10, 2006
November 8, 2006
Viral Video Film School
November 7, 2006
This video is a pretty blunt instrument, but even so, it's the coolest thing I've seen so far this Election Day. Of course, the George Michael song is key.
And, importantly, the link was emailed to me by a random friend. In fact, I've gotten more election-related emails this time around than in any previous year. It almost feels like there might be some sort of public deliberation occurring...
November 5, 2006
One Day Snarkmarket Will Get One of These and Oh, the Wish We'll Make
Latest winners of the TED Prize just announced. Jeez... if there any two people in the world who could make Bill Clinton (one of this year's winners) seem kinda lame and dull by comparison, it's James Nachtwey and E.O. Wilson.
Re: Nachtwey, you should see "War Photographer" if you haven't. It is actually in the dictionary under "harrowing."
Re: the TED Prize in general, what I wanna know is, have they made any progress on last year's?
November 3, 2006
A Negative Theology of Spam
I'm telling you, this gem of an essaylet from Short Schrift is the kind of thing E.B. White would have written if he had a blog:
Like all good lapsed Catholics, I believe in sin but not salvation. Likewise, I believe in spam. You could say that I only believe in spam. The "spam" folder gives us the assurance -- perhaps false -- that our other messages are NOT spam, that they demand at least reading and sorting, if not a reply. We can believe that the message for which we've been waiting, the good news, is on its way, because we have a sure means of detecting false prophets.
November 2, 2006
Let's Paint, Exercise, & Blend Drinks TV
The comment on YouTube sums it up: "this redeems television."
Give it a couple of minutes.
October 18, 2006
The Ultimate Interactive TV Show
Wow -- Richard Dawkins was surprisingly good on the Colbert Report. He is so sprightly and British.
On the same show -- the Report's one-year anniversary -- Stephen Colbert announced they'd be auctioning off his portrait.
October 17, 2006
(Via Points of Note.)
Democratization of Manipulation, Cont'd
October 13, 2006
Just In Case You Haven't Heard ...
October 12, 2006
How Sesame Street Changed the World
October 3, 2006
How Current Works
Hey, if you have any interest in the nuts-and-bolts of how Current works, check out this long interview with my boss Joanna Drake Earl over on [itvt]. It is almost ridiculously long and in-depth... I love online interviews.
One of the things Joanna talks about is the fact that aspiring VC2 producers can now download legal, licensed production music for their videos from the Current site. As I said on the Current blog, it exemplifies my favorite thing about Current: We take people (and their desire to do good work) seriously.
October 2, 2006
Think of This Blog as a Series of Colored Index Cards
Conor explains the primacy of the colored index card in TV production (and includes informative stills!). Why hasn't it been displaced by something high-tech and web-based?
At first, I was shocked that technology hadn't killed this practice. Isn't there some sort of wiki that we could use? A cool, iCal-looking webapp that everyone in the office could access, annotate and play with? Are leaky Sharpies and 3x5 cards really the best we can do?
Already, we use software that lets us share/edit our scripts, and I've been slowly getting people to use del.icio.us to share bookmarks across the office. But I don't think I'm going to make any progress killing the wall of cards, and, the more I see it popping up other places, the less I want to.
There's something cool about being able to look at the wall (instead of a monitor) and instantly visualize what you have coming up. But, for me, there's something even cooler about maintaining a couple of traditions that make you feel like you belong to some larger sense of TV history -- that your room of writers isn't so different from the rooms of writers on all the shows you've admired growing up.
Hmm -- the bit about instant visualization sounds just like the engineers and project managers over in that Edward Tufte thread we were talking about earlier. For big, shared projects, there's still nothing better than paper pinned to the wall.
September 20, 2006
Yahoo! Current Launches
Just launched: phase one of the Yahoo! Current Network.
Today's highlight: a real-life, sit-down interview with Gary Brolsma, the Numa Numa kid. You can tell he is about the shyest dude ever... which just makes his wild arm-flailing abandon in the original Numa Numa video all the more endearing.
September 16, 2006
It'd be like something out of a William Gibson book: You pay money to go 'inside' a viral internet meme.
August 19, 2006
The Amazing Screw-On Head
I am way late to the party on this one, but The Amazing Screw-On Head is fantastic. Mike Mignola is my favorite comic-book artist of all time so it's no surprise I like it, but still. Give it fifteen minutes.
August 18, 2006
New Kinds of Graffiti
August 9, 2006
I was just checking out Google Video's new ad system and happened to click on this video, a Charlie Rose episode featuring Thomas Friedman.
And it struck me: This man is going to run for political office.
Maybe not soon, but some day. Just listen to the way he talks! And come on, he's rich!
When it happens, just remember: Snarkmarket called it.
August 1, 2006
MTV Turns 25
The WaPo's Hank Stuever, one of my favorite writers at any newspaper, find's MTV's moral center. He also uses the word "snarkabratory." (Thanks, Nora!)
July 23, 2006
Who Wants to be a Superhero?
Finally, a reality show for people like me. (To clarify I mean "people who would watch something awesome like this." Not "people who dress up as superheroes." Shut up.)
July 17, 2006
We're All Designers Now
ZeFrank on the democratization of design and creation. Radness level = extreme. He's totally right -- how wacky and historically new is it that everybody knows what a font is? And has a favorite? Waxmatic.
The Long Tail Book
You're familiar with the basic idea: mass culture is diminishing, and niche culture is ascendant. You probably know the reasons behind it:
a) It's becoming much cheaper and easier to produce stuff (books, music, movies), so there's a lot more of it.
b) That stuff is becoming much cheaper and easier to distribute, so you can get it no matter where you are.
c) Filters like search engines and recommendation engines are making it much easier to find the best stuff.
And you probably know what all this means for business: there's now significant money to be made in offering products that appeal to the few instead of the many.
And many of you already know that these ideas underpin a phenomenon that has been dubbed "the Long Tail" by Wired editor Chris Anderson. You may even, like me and Anil Dash, have been a subscriber to Anderson's blog on the topic.
Now there's a book. So what haven't you heard about the Long Tail?... Read more ....
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Media Galaxy
July 10, 2006
How Wikipedia Really Works
Dirk Riehle: What about the 'collective intelligence' or 'collective wisdom' argument: That given enough authors, the quality of an article will generally improve? Does this hold true for Wikipedia?
Elisabeth "Elian" Bauer: No, it does not. The best articles are typically written by a single or a few authors with expertise in the topic. In this respect, Wikipedia is not different from classical encyclopedias.
Kizu Naoko: Elian is right.
And I love this broad-minded comment, the first on Carr's post:
Our founding fathers created a wiki, representative democracy, where everyone (supposedly) has an equal voice.
July 9, 2006
Slate imagines Rupert Murdoch's MySpace page. Ha!
July 6, 2006
Aww, What Do Those Guys Know?
July 3, 2006
L'Usine de Bonheur
June 27, 2006
Once Snacksby gets off the ground it's going to be the. coolest. thing.
I just added beans.
June 13, 2006
Rocketboom at the Webbys
Now this is how you cover an event.
June 12, 2006
Amnesty Int'l Ad Campaign
May 18, 2006
Engines of Serendipity
Wish I had time to muse more fully on this, because it's one of the best and most interesting blogposts I've read in ages: Nick Carr on serendipity. Not just the modern disputes, either (though he gets to those); Carr actually starts off with a brief history of the concept.
Three Princes of Serendip, y'all.
May 7, 2006
I ♥ Librarians
Still chugging along under the steam of EPIC, I gave a talk to a big group of librarians in Denver on Friday. Had Matt been there too, there would have been singing; as it was, I just did a slideshow.
Here's Jennifer Lang's run-down on her blog called "Z666.7.L365." Z is the Library of Congress classification space for information about libraries. That's so rad.
Jennifer also rounded up some examples of a trend I heard about in Denver: libraries creating MySpace pages. The logic, of course, is that MySpace is where all their patrons are hanging out... so they should connect with them there. The Brooklyn College Library has 1673 friends, and some comments that are totally worth reading. For instance: "it is THE strangest experience when you get a Friend Request from your SCHOOL'S LIBRARY. who the hell came up with this idea? BRILLIANT I TELL U....abso-freakin-lutely brilliant!!!!"
And so much sweeter and legit-seeming from a library than from, say, some stupid deodorant.
One of the really magical things about libraries, after all, is that they are all about service. They don't want anything from you; they don't want to sell you anything. Today, that is almost a radical proposition. Like serious journalism, librarianship is worth preserving and extending in the era of Google's cold genius; in both cases there is something valuable at the core.
April 23, 2006
Gas, Electricity, Cable... Music
Exactly two years ago here on Snarkmarket we were talking about music being provided as a service instead of as a bunch of discrete little possessions -- CDs, MP3 files, whatever. Well, friends, I have officially switched. Behold, my monthly music bill: $5.
A few months ago iTunes kinda freaked out on my laptop; it would just randomly start skipping. (Yeah, I know -- skipping! Very 1995.) Turns out it's a known issue with the Windows version. I tried some of the suggested remedies, went through a few upgrade cycles, but no luck. It doesn't always skip, but that's not the point: The illusion of "owning" all my iTunes music is shattered by the fact that it's useless when Apple's app is on the fritz.
So, that and a new computer together prompted me to try something new.
The new thing is Yahoo Music Unlimited. Here's the deal: $5 a month. You can download all the music you want. (And you actually do download it; this isn't just on-demand streaming.) The catch, of course, is that if you stop paying, all that sonic gold becomes so much digital lead on your hard drive. But... come on. Five bucks a month? I'll try anything for $5 a month.
Turns out I love it. Like switching to broadband internet, getting music this way actually changes your behavior. It changed mine, at least: iTunes had made me into a music miser. I'd find a new band and then just buy their top two or three most-downloaded tracks, operating on the assumption that hey, every album's got lots of duds. If iTunes gives me the ability to skip those I might as well. In general, I bought music very very conservatively: I wasn't really interested in just experimenting for a dollar a track.
Yahoo Music feels totally different. In fact I was moved to write this post after finding this great list on Metacritic and just going down the line, downloading album after album -- and realizing I'd never have tried any of them on iTunes.
Now, there are caveats, of course. The Yahoo Music application itself is not as slick as iTunes, and the service costs more like $10 a month if you want to put tracks on a portable player.
Also, I know I am not supposed to like DRM. And of course I'd love to have naked, innocent MP3s instead of these janky Windows Media cryptograms. But, if DRM is the price we must pay for a service like this -- an economic model like this -- might it be worth it? I mean seriously: This is really cool. For the price of a few coffees every month, I have all the music in the world. (That's another thing: I expected there to be a lot of holes in the Yahoo catalog. Instead I've found just about everything I want. The one awful, awful exception is Sufjan Stevens -- so I just ripped that from CD.)
And here's what seals the deal: If Yahoo's app ever flakes on me, or if the service changes and I don't like it, I'll just switch to a competitor, and I'll have lost nothing.
(Of course then I'll have to re-download all this music... an operation that is expensive in hours if not dollars. Therefore I submit to the LazyWeb my request for a Yahoo Music plugin that exports a full run-down of my music library in some sort of generic XML-ish format. Done and done.)
April 21, 2006
I Think I Dig This
Philips Electronics bought the first page of Time and four other magazines (space usually reserved for ads) and will put the mags' table of contents there. Taking off the journalistic umbrage hat for a moment, purely as a reader, I would love this. And the whole Philips "Simplicity" campaign is kind of genius.
April 4, 2006
UGC Yeah You Know Me
Derek rings a death knell for the term "user-generated content" and I agree. I would, in fact, strike the word "content" from the earth if I could. It's so clinical.
April 1, 2006
Yahoo!® Buys Snarkmarket
It's exciting to be finally able to say this is official. This deal has been in the works for what feels like ages. But Robin and I are thrilled to announce we will be joining the Yahoo!® family. When we started Snarkmarket almost two-and-a-half years ago, we really didn't know what to expect, and we definitely weren't expecting to sell this baby off. (Under the terms of our acquisition, we're really not allowed to discuss figures, but I think saying there are three commas involved is oblique enough.)
But as we've evolved into a media powerhouse, with a user base of almost 7 regular commenters, it became clearer and clearer that the only responsible thing for us to do was to partner with a large organization that could give this community the resources it needed to realize its potential. Yahoo!® is certainly the best partner we could have imagined. We're excited about what's in store for us, for you our users, and for the world.
March 31, 2006
Roll Your Own
March 19, 2006
The Dark Knight Returns, Again
I'm reading Batman: Year 100 (issues #1 and #2 are out; #3 and #4 still on their way) and liking it a lot. The plot is sparse, and so is the linework -- writer/artist Paul Pope has a style that's half Frank Miller, half manga, and honestly a little Bob Kane-y too.
Here's Wired's interview with Pope; that's what tipped me off to this series in the first place.
Bought my copies at SF's incomparable Isotope.
March 18, 2006
Gah! On heels of news that The Atlantic Monthly's circulation is the now lowest it's been since the late 80s comes this: Their absolute A+ ace reporter William Langewiesche is leaving for a job at Vanity Fair. And -- maybe even worse -- managing editor (and soul of the Atlantic) Cullen Murphy is out, too. His short travelogue this month on Hadrian's Wall (subscribers only, sadly) is classic Atlantic. In other words: totally unexpected and totally smart.
March 12, 2006
State of the News Media 2006
Tamil TV, Anybody?
Dude! Kaleil from Startup.com has a new gig: JumpTV. He cuts deals with broadcasters in foreign countries (and not just the nice ones, either -- think Iran, Uganda, Bangladesh) and then stream their channels through the internet for anybody who wants to subscribe. It's fun to click around and look at all the (often bizarre) previews.
March 9, 2006
The Future of Photos
The iPod Moment: When a technology no one knew they wanted becomes indispensable.
Before the iPod came along, no one was sitting around saying, "You know, it would sure be nice to have a portable library of all the music I could ever hope to listen to." A year after it first came out, I was still asking what the big deal was. After all, portable CD players that could play MP3s had been around for a while without totally taking off, and they could carry a decent amount of music. Who needs to have every song they own in their pocket?
Then I was given an iPod, and suddenly that need was mine. Yes, Master Jobs, I understand now. It was a fundamental shift in music delivery. I will never question you again. Lead me.
Yesterday, I got into a long conversation with my boss about iPod moments for other technologies, especially photos. And it reminded me that I had to blog about Memory Miner.... Read more ....
March 8, 2006
Minus Kelvin Live
Robin says,CC Salon. Props to Minus Kelvin for bringing the jams. (At one point -- this is no joke -- Larry Lessig walked up to him and said: "You're my hero!")
March 7, 2006
Quick, while you can still pull up all of Flickr's most interesting photos for a given day on one page, check out FlickrLeech.
March 4, 2006
Life Imitates Art
March 3, 2006
Now that everyone else in Minnesota is hyping it, I guess I gotta give up the goods for the Snarkerati. Chasing Windmills is a cinematic daily black-and-white vlog exploring revealing and troubling moments in the life of a fictional couple. All episodes are written, shot and edited by the two main characters, who are a couple in real life. It is fantastic.
It's also kind of awkward when I occasionally spot the couple in my travels around Minneapolis, given the nature of the material. I kind of want to go up to them and say, "Hey! I love your vlog!" But I feel even more voyeuristic than when I meet other folks I've known through their blogs.
March 2, 2006
Note the "post this on your site" button -- it gives you the embed code right inside the player! It's the first time I've seen that feature. Rod Naber (who sits in front of me) made this thing -- he is some sort of mad genius.
February 26, 2006
So, three shows on Adult Swim that I've been TiVo-ing:
|Samurai Champloo. This show is directed by the guy who made Cowboy Bebop. Both hinge on a central creative juxtaposition. With Bebop, it was space cowboys and jazz; this time, it's 17th century samurai and hip-hop. Obsessed with the intro sequence.|
|Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. This show is as verbose as its title. And, in truth, it's usually kinda boring. But somehow, I can't stop watching. It's the setting that sucks me in: a blandly realistic future Japan where refugees are the issue of the day and everybody's got a cyberbrain.|
|Full Metal Alchemist. Talk about settings: This one takes place in a kind of alternate-history Europe where alchemy, not science, rules the day. The byzantine plot hinges on the alchemical law of equivalent exchange: to get what you want, you've got to sacrifice something of equal value. That idea kicks off the plot and keeps the story running.|
The Dinosaurs Should Just Have Gotten Bigger
Last week I saw Roving Mars, the IMAX movie about Spirit and Opportunity -- with actual giant images from Mars. And it reminded me: It is really hard to make a bad IMAX movie. The experience is just so overwhelming that even a so-so documentary becomes visceral -- and a good one becomes enthralling.
But of course the big thing now is that a lot of mainstream movies are making the leap to IMAX; this is part of the company's new strategy, which is less Roving Mars and more Return of the King. Indeed, I saw Return of the King on IMAX. It was rad. And profits seem to be up.
Now, the next big thing for the format might be James Cameron's return to narrative film. Inspired by the canvas (he's done a bunch of underwater documentaries in IMAX) and spurred on by the game-changing special effects in Peter Jackson's movies, he is trying to do a live-action, CGI-infused 3D IMAX (!) movie based on the Battle Angel manga. I predict that, if made, it will be totally awesome.
It's an interesting dynamic: As our millions of little living room theaters get better and better, the only public venues that can compete are the ones that completely blow the doors off the moviegoing experience. Forget stadium-style seating; you need a stadium-sized screen.
I think this thesis is generalizable, too: In the new media galaxy, it's good to be on the low end (Rocketboom on my TiVo) or the high end (Return of the King in IMAX). But the middle (studio movies, network sitcoms) is the prehistoric desert landscape where you get killed.
February 16, 2006
Here's an RSS Feed That Will Make You Cooler
Podbop rules. You enter your city name and get a feed of upcoming concerts -- complete with MP3s!
February 14, 2006
February 13, 2006
Get Rich Or Die Bloggin'
Clive Thompson, My Favorite Science/Technology Journalist, wrote this month's New York cover story about big-time pro bloggers.
In particular I really like his lead: It's a story about how blogging is simultaneously the easiest and hardest thing to break into.
Man, Snarkmarket totally coulda been a contender. If only we posted more than once a day. About things that were not, statistically speaking, random.
February 7, 2006
All Things Online
It's almost too much to deal with, actually... but maybe it just needs a better interface! Can somebody mash dat shiz up?
January 30, 2006
Jack White and Brendan Benson have a new band called The Raconteurs. Mostly I am linking because, if you must have one of those Flash-y band websites, this is the way to do it. Totally clean, clear and retrocool. Design by Royal Magnet.
January 29, 2006
Gordon McAlpin covers comics-related events... in comic format! Why was I not told of this before??
Seriously, how is this not the clearest, most fun format ever? LOVE it. There's like a whole series of them. Check out Marjane Satrapi talking about the strengths of comics.
January 9, 2006
I Think This Might Be Brilliant
"No Animals Were Hurt" is a Flash movie that... how do I explain this... okay, it doesn't play all the way through yet -- but the more people that go to view it, the more of the movie that gets unlocked.
So go check it out -- I want to see the rest!
The movie is by Peter Brinson, a student in USC's Interactive Media Division. Pretty awesome if you ask me. (Though it would be even more awesome if it were a more compelling narrative... a whodunit or something.)
Update: The video got Dugg and flooded with well over 5,000 visitors... at which point the counter reset. Oh HELL no.
January 4, 2006
Jimmy Wales As Regis Philbin
If:book presents a fun, intelligent metaphor for thinking of Wikipedia: it's the "ask the audience" lifeline from "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
PS: I never saw this NY Times graphic before, but it's my new favorite thing.
December 31, 2005
Fresno Famous has been redesigned and Drupalized and is a wonder to behold.
December 22, 2005
Revolution or Evolution?
Grant McCracken riffs on three models for how the Net is changing the world: 1) It's cutting out the middlemen. 2) It's allowing microcultures to flourish. 3) It's reforming the idea of the idea. The post isn't really dense or light, but slightly abstract and pretty interesting. McCracken doesn't necessarily contend that all or any of these models is actually true.
December 12, 2005
Walled Gardens Begone
Strange days. And by strange I mean awesome.
'Ghetto' as Design Choice
I know at least one designer for whom the insane popularity of MySpace is like an icy dagger forever twisting in his heart: How can they use it? How can they like it? IT'S SO UGLY.
So I was interested to see this (light) analysis of why MySpace works. Even better, it turns out, are the comments on the post (blogs are cool like that) -- they really dig into the ins and outs of MySpace's design, or lack thereof, and its success.
November 28, 2005
The First AdWord Ever
Revealed: It was for a company called Lively Lobsters. Another great post on Xooglers.
November 21, 2005
Local Gal Makes Good
Aside from providing an incredibly well-informed perspective on Fresno's downtown development and arts-and-entertainment news, it occurred to me this weekend that Jarah is a fantastic editor. On the Fresno Famous blog, Sour Grapes, Jarah puled together bits and pieces of Fresno's mediasphere that matched my information needs better than any other editor in Fresno could. I think citizen editing hasn't been paid enough attention, but it's as vital a function as citizen reporting is. And it can happen on multiple levels, from the collective story judgment of a broad community (see Digg and Tech Memeorandum) to super-savvy individuals like Jarah.
Scan This Man's Books
For Mr. Verba, the decision to support Google's plan was not easy or obvious. He has a unique perspective on the legal and intellectual debate because his various professional roles connect him to every aspect of the creation and use of books.
"It's been dominating my life for the last year and a half," said Mr. Verba, a prominent political scientist who has been a professor at Harvard for more than 30 years. Even now, he is cautious about the implications of the ambitious project.
Interesting character, complex perspective. Way to go, NYT!
November 12, 2005
Well That's Tempting
The Institute for the Future of the Book has the run-down: Marjane Satrapi is blogging in pseudo-comics format... for the NYT's subscription-only service!
All together, like Darth Vader: NOOOOOOO!
Satrapi wrote the great and illuminating Persepolis. If the NYT puts all the comics journalism behind the subscription wall I just might... gulp... have to subscribe.
November 8, 2005
"Ever Since I Saw That Crazy Flash Movie..."
Ruminations from Rupert Murdoch on offering high-speed internet in the US, because "when consumers begin using new high-definition home-video cameras, they will want more two-way bandwidth."
Frankly, we will continue to take full credit for any and all of Murdoch's moves into the internet realm.
Down and To the Right
Mainstream media in decline. News at 11. Or... not.
November 3, 2005
Featuring Artie: The World's Strongest Man?
The Adventures of Pete & Pete is coming to DVD! That's awesome! That show was surreal in the best way.
November 2, 2005
WaPo Does Video and... It's Lovely
Washingtonpost.com has a new video podcast feed suitable for use with iTunes. Today's installment -- "Conversations about Rosa Parks" -- is sort've shockingly quiet and lovely. Very un-newsy, if you know what I mean. Well done.
Big Wood Table at 300kbps
NBC will stream the Nightly News online. Ho-hum.
You know what I really want to download? Charlie Rose. That show gets people that just don't show up anywhere else on TV: Tonight, for instance, it's a U.N. Under-Secretary-General and Anne Rice. (Not at the same time.) Yesterday was a huge roundable about bird flu and Ray Kurzweil. That's good stuff!
But the thing is, I am never, ever in the mood to watch it at 11:00 at night. And more to the point, the interviews have a great shelf-life -- as evidenced by the fact that they dig them out of the archive to play on TV all the time. It would be so great to have random access to all the interviews anytime.
October 27, 2005
I Don't Know What I Think About This
America's Next Muppet. No, really.
(Via the 'Pulse.)
October 12, 2005
The New Podcasting
October 9, 2005
October 4, 2005
Lori Nix's photos are wonderful. In the best way possible, some of them make me think of Thomas Kinkade™, if TK™ was a) tripping on acid and b) not a hack. The online reproductions don't, sadly, boast the best quality. But what is it about miniature photography that's so darn alluring? (Thingtacular.)
September 30, 2005
That's a Lot of TV
I challenge the conventional understanding of this new report from Nielsen. The main finding is that American households watch, on average, eight hours and 11 minutes of TV a day, so everybody is like: "Whoah, TV still rules!"
And of course it does. But the thing you have to remember is that this average includes a huge number of senior citizens who do nothing but watch TV all day, every day. And of course we have more senior citizens than ever before. So they're skewing the figure way up.
I'd be very curious to see a histogram of average TV-watching sliced up by age cohort instead of this monolithic number. I suspect that the 18-25 average, for instance, is still huge, but not that huge. Not even close.
September 23, 2005
The Comments Club
Interesting. Some of the Gawker Media blogs (LifeHacker, Gawker, and Gizmodo) have started including comments, but only by invited users. It's a Gmail-like invite system, the FAQ explains, where these special invitees get more invitations to give to trusted friends and cyberacquaintances. (Via Steve Rubel.)
September 10, 2005
U.S. Census data on a Google Map, with a simple interface.
I think I might have just found my religion.
September 7, 2005
Out, Out, Damn Spot
Matt linked to a gallery of retouched photos a few days ago. Well, just in case you have some fugly snaps of Beyonce lying around and you're wondering, "How can I clean these things up??" -- here you go! Click for an insanely detailed Photoshop tutorial.
The NYT Mag is going to start running comic strips and serialized fiction! SWEET!
September 5, 2005
Mapping New Orleans
From tragedy, a brilliant new kind of resource is born. I've got to say, I think this map-wiki makes more sense to me than any other kind of wiki I've seen before.
September 3, 2005
The New AP Wire
Man, you know who's got the best coverage of the Katrina aftermath out there? Boing Boing! (Well, I mean, it's meta-coverage obviously -- they're pointing to other stories -- but the selection is impeccable.)
Not least of which is this pointer to Kanye West's off-the-prompter remarks during NBC's telethon. Amazing.
August 29, 2005
The new editor is Wen Stephenson, who has been at Ideas for a while and, before that, was managing editor for Frontline's website. And before that he worked at The Atlantic. So basically best ever all around.
August 24, 2005
David Bradley and The Atlantic
This NY Observer piece on David Bradley, the guy who owns The Atlantic, is fantastic. I really really like this guy.
August 23, 2005
Navel-Gazing... But Oh What a Navel
Kottke, whose GoogleOS ruminations spurred on EPIC, just dropped a mega-post about the future of the web and applications. Read it if you're a nerd.
August 12, 2005
Google buying Technorati? We'll see!
August 11, 2005
Nisenholtz Is The Man
At the Times, Nisenholtz has ambitions to super-charge the Web site and take it beyond the realm of newspaper sites and into the top tier of news sites online. He told me he envisioned multimedia reports going from two to three reports per day to 30 or 40 reports daily, while also building out a new aggregation service that would take on Google News.
August 9, 2005
Jimmy Wales In Context
I'm seeing this Reuters article everywhere, talking about how Jimbo Wales of Wikipedia has issued an announcement that the site will be tightening its editorial controls, freezing some content to prevent vandalism.
The article is wrong. Reuters should issue a correction. Wales has clarified that he was talking about creating a static snapshot of the site, with verified information, which would exist alongside the dynamic content. They're calling the project Wikipedia 1.0, and they've been talking about it since at least last year.
Besides, Wales says, Wikimedia doesn't really work by making "announcements." They effect change through discussions and concensus-building. He's calling for tighter editorial controls on Reuters (and Slashdot), though.
Update: Well, here's one correction, from Steve Outing at E-Media Tidbits. Still waiting on Reuters.
July 29, 2005
Famous on the Internet
July 22, 2005
Forest Grove is a haunting, beautifully shot Web narrative based on John Cheever's short story "The Swimmer." You might want to watch it before you read the rest of this, 'cause I think it might help to be a little bit unspoiled. (Warning: When I say "Web narrative" I don't mean it's some frothy little 8-minute distraction. Forest Grove runs about 45 minutes altogether.)... Read more ....
July 14, 2005
The Cylons Are Coming! The Cylons Are Coming!
It's not the best-written thing in the world, but serves as a useful reminder that THE NEW SEASON PREMIERES TOMORROW!
(Previous Snark-love for BSG here.)
July 12, 2005
From Boing Boing:
June 27, 2005
Behind the Suck
Keepgoing.org takes a look at the story behind Suck, one of the first Web publishing phenoms, former stomping ground for the likes of Terry Colon, Nick Gillespie and Brian Doherty, Carl Steadman, Ana Marie Cox and Greg Beato. Along with Feed, Suck was once the darling of the cyberati.
"It may not fully be the equivalent of having served time in a Mexican prison where we were all raped and tortured and scarred for life," says Gillespie, "but it is something like that."
June 25, 2005
New site design plus some new technology over at MSNBC.
At the bottom of every story there's now a sliding scale of stars. I'm not sure what I'm rating, though: The topic? The story's execution? The usefulness of the information?
Anyway, the site looks better now, and they got rid of those insane in-yo-face pop-up menus. I swear I used to be terrified to move my mouse anywhere on the left side of the screen.
I predict I will now read MSNBC 50% more. Unfortunately, 150% of zero is still zero.
More dish over at L to the R.
June 6, 2005
Word It is a monthly project by the design collaborative Speak Up. Every month, they post a word, and anyone can submit a 5x5" image illustrating that word. Very simple, yes. Surprisingly absorbing. I think this is my favorite (the word is "pleasure").
June 2, 2005
Own All 4,000+ Issues of The New Yorker
For its 80th anniversary, The New Yorker is releasing a DVD collection containing every single issue of the magazine -- cover, ads, articles, cartoons, everything. Only $100.
Umm, can every publication in the world do this immediately, please? (Via Kottke.)
May 18, 2005
The Trusted Word in Policy Magazine Recommendations
Note the endorsement.
Hey, if you're out there, FP -- can a blogga get a free thermos or what?
May 15, 2005
Cooler Than Is Physically Possible
Go, Minus Kelvin, go!
The story, in brief: Aaron posts his wicked e-beats on ccMixter. Dude named Pat Chilla (the Beat Gorilla!) picks up on A's genius, connects with him, and next thing you know, Minus Kelvin is on Runoff Records doing tracks for America's Next Top Model and some as-yet-to-be-revealed MTV shows. Hott!
May 6, 2005
I need some very simple PHP/MYSQL coding done, and I need it now.
I'll give you 100 bucks, but it has to be RIGHT NOW.
email me. I"m here.
* this is in or around TRYST COFFEESHOP
May 5, 2005
Binary Cover Art
When Coldplay released their latest album with the cover at left, fans were apparently really curious about what the image meant. So they did some voodoo and discovered that the image is a graphical representation of a code invented in the 19th Century by Frenchman Emile Baudot. I wonder if Coldplay knew this. (Via The Modern Age.)
May 4, 2005
Oh Amazon You Cruel Temptress
It includes, for every book, the Gunning Fog Index (remember that?) as well as more run-of-the-mill stuff like number of characters, words, etc. Cute touch: They also compute words-per-dollar -- for comparison shopping, clearly.
Anyway, this reminded me of the fact that Amazon has scanned and digitized sooo many books.
And I realize this is unrealistic, but I would just like to say, for the record, that I wish to have immediate access to all of those digital books for some (perhaps unreasonable) monthly fee.
You may display the books on my Librie if you wish.
May 2, 2005
'The Most Interesting Mind in America'
When Malcolm Gladwell says you've got the most brilliant mind in America, I'm guessing you can write pretty much anything your little heart desires and it'll sell like hotcakes, even with a hellsafugly cover.
At any rate, Freakonomics sounds fun. This excerpt and this one, both about baby names, are fascinating. OK Kottke interview | The NYT Mag article I assume led to the book | A NYT Mag piece also co-authored by Levitt and Dubner | Other writings by Dubner
April 28, 2005
JKottke brings us the best look I've seen so far at the new technology. His reaction?
What you can't see from the photo is how insanely crisp and clear the text on the "screen" is. It was book-text quality...it looked like a decal until you pushed the next button and the whole screen changed. It was *really* mind-boggling and you could instantly see how most books are going to be distributed in the very near future. Despite looking like a computer, when you were reading, it felt like a book because of the resolution (a very odd sensation). And it's not only for books...I was told that there's e-paper that's capable of full-color 24 fps video. Can't say enough about how blown away I was by the Librie.
April 13, 2005
The form feels a little Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-ish (in a bad way) to me. The tiny bit of agency that allows me to choose one path over a second one doesn't, like, mind-crushingly alter my entire relationship with the text or anything. So read Same Day Test because it's a good story, any which way you slice it.
April 6, 2005
Google Maps + Flickr
The early-adopter squad is posting annotated Google (Satellite) Maps images on Flickr.
But that's backwards: I want annotated Flickr imagestreams bubbling up out of Google Maps!
No, seriously. I want this NOW.
March 23, 2005
The Archive.org Grid?
We provide free storage and free bandwidth for your videos, audio files, photos, text or software. Forever. No catches.
J.D. Lasica, Marc Cantor, the Internet Archive, and the folks behind Drupal have launched OurMedia.org, which they hope will become the hub of the grassroots media revolution. Robin's already posted EPIC up there, so we know that when 2014 actually rolls around, we can look back and laugh at how far our predictions diverged from reality, as we perform remote upgrades on our Digital Consciousness servers and sip calorie-free nanolattes in massively multiplayer gridcafés.
OurMedia already features a weekly guest editor, but I wonder how long it is before individual maverick editors spring up and assemble content streams of their own?
The to-do list for OurMedia v. 2 hints towards that happening pretty soon, with a list of features that includes:
- Support for individual user playlists
- Enhanced social networking features on each person's user page
- Ratings and metatags
March 19, 2005
2005 National Mag Award Finalists
All right, just like last year, here's all the 2005 National Magazine Award finalists I could find online. Excerpts or articles behind subscription walls are in brackets (I'm not sure if all the Atlantic articles I bracketed are actually behind subscription walls; but I figured it was safer to assume, so try them even if you're not a subscriber.)
Vanity Fair was a strong contender in the awards this year, but puts none of its content online. (At least NMA-nominated columnist James Woolcott has a blog now.) If not for The New Yorker winning 10 nods and putting most of its content online, this list would be pretty useless. In fact, I didn't include the Photo Essay category, because The New Yorker's entry, "Democracy 2004" by Richard Avedon, is the only one available online.
If you come across anything I missed, add it in the comments!
- The Ultimate Guide to the Ultimate Buddies Trip
National Geographic Adventure:
- [ Grail Trails ]
O, The Oprah Magazine:
- Attention Shoppers!
- Fall Shoe Guide and Winter Shoe Guide
- Conduct Unbecoming
The Chronicle of Higher Education:
- Degrees of Suspicion: Inside the Multimillion-Dollar World of Diploma Mills
- Special Report on Plagiarism
National Geographic Adventure:
- [ Stomping Grounds ]
The New Yorker:
- Dying in Darfur
- Private Stites Should Have Been Saved
- [ Why Were Losing the War on Cancer (and How to Win It) ]
- Gambling with Abortion: Why Both Sides Think They Have Everything to Lose
- Innocence Lost
The Atlantic Monthly:
- [ A Sea Story ]
- [ Home ]
- The Wronged Man
- American Communion
The New Yorker:
- The Gift
- Walking His Life Away
- The Man Who Loved Grizzlies
- The Making of a Sniper
The Atlantic Monthly:
- [ How Serfdom Saved the Womens Movement ]
- [ Was Darwin Wrong? ]
The New Yorker:
- Last of the Metrozoids
COLUMNS and COMMENTARY
- The Wrong Diagnosis
- How Greedy Was My Valley
- What Goes Up
- A Prayer for Indonesia
- I Fought the Law
- The Gospel According to Mel
- The Bush Bunch
- Color Me Khaki
- Rummy on the Rocks
REVIEWS and CRITICISM
- The Restaurant Commandments
- The Thing That Ate New York
- Stick a Fork in Jean-Georges
- Makeover Madness
- The Laptop Brigade
- Bland Ambition
The Paris Review:
- The Fifth Wall
- The Wamsutter Wolf
- Everyone Else
1 This is a link to the Google cache of the incomplete article, so it is a) unsatisfying and b) a likely candidate for link rot. Sad.
2 The N.M.A. finalist was an April article in Rolling Stone entitled "The Triumph of Bob Guccione," written by John Colapinto. This appears to be an April article from The Independent entitled "The Triumph of Bob Guccione," written by John Colapinto. I'm assuming the Indy reprinted the RS article.
March 17, 2005
So at INdTV (where I work), we've been running this "Pilot Project" contest to kick off our participatory TV model. It's a very small start -- just a glimmer of things to come -- but it actually generated some pretty cool stuff.
Now we've got the ten finalists posted online; you can vote on your three faves. The top vote-getter will be $15,000 richer on April 4. That'll buy a lot of DV tape and Mountain Dew. (Everyone knows those are the two required ingredients for independent digital video.) (Actually, wait, is Mountain Dew old-school now? Everybody probably drinks Red Bull instead, huh?) (Mountain Holla?)
My personal favorite is the World of Warcraft piece, both because it's funny and well-shot and because it's a thoughtful look at a video game. If you read Snarkmarket regularly, you know I think there ought to be more of that.
Anyway, go watch and vote!
March 16, 2005
Putting His Wiki Where His Mouth Is
First came Dan Gillmor, putting his book We the Media online a chapter at a time and inviting his readers to participate in the book's creation.
Lawrence Lessig first published Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace in 1999. After five years in print and five years of changes in law, technology, and the context in which they reside, Code needs an update. But rather than do this alone, Professor Lessig is using this wiki to open the editing process to all, to draw upon the creativity and knowledge of the community. This is an online, collaborative book update; a first of its kind.
Once the the project nears completion, Professor Lessig will
take the contents of this wiki and ready it for publication. The
resulting book, Code v.2, will be published in late 2005 by Basic Books. All royalties, including the book advance, will be donated to Creative Commons.
Also intriguing is the platform he's chosen for this wiki, Jotspot, which I'd never heard of before, but looks pretty cool. One hurdle for Web neophytes who want to create wikis is the bit of technical knowledge it takes to figure out how to set one up and make it all work. Jotspot boasts that it's dispensed with those barriers to entry.
I am ever skeptical, but Jotspot's starting off with a good, semi-high-profile project. And I've often wondered if wikis would become ubiquitous if the technology got a bit more democratic.
Anyway, enough of this blathering, go re-write Code!
(Oh yeah, and the collaboratively-editing-chapters thing was also done by J.D. Lasica, whose site was where I discovered this tidbit.)
February 26, 2005
I'd Like to Spank the Academy ...
As usual, when it comes to the Oscars, Fametracker's got the goods:
February 22, 2005
Advice for the NYT
Agreed on both counts. I want bagels.
February 11, 2005
More Gabbing on Googlezon
Not to knock the article or anything -- well, okay, I am knocking it, but only in the nicest possible way -- but it demonstrates some flaws in the old gatekeeper model of journalism. If you were really interested in EPIC, this article would not be the place to learn about it. Instead, you'd go to Snarkmarket, or one of the dozens of other blogs that have deconstructed and critiqued the movie. Or jeez, you'd just e-mail me or Matt. I read Masha Geller's article and I'm not even sure what I'm talking about.
Nothing but love, though! Masha really wanted to write this article and played phone tag with me for a long time to do it, and I appreciate it.
January 21, 2005
This one's for Robin.
The New York Times: Five Years on the Web. From January 20, 2001. Including a chat with Martin Nisenholtz and Bernard Gwertzmann (assorted NYT.com gurus), a super-fug Flash movie showing the history of the site, and a 1991 article announcing that "the development of a nationwide data network will allow personal computer users to tap sources as large as the Library of Congress or receive their own personalized electronic newspapers."
January 19, 2005
I'd read several reviews before Blink came out painting it as some sort of self-help manual ... How rapid cognition can work for you! (To be fair, Gladwell sort of promises this himself, in his introduction, which I think was a bad move.) Many were skeptical, like David Brooks:
My first impression of ''Blink'' -- in blurb-speak -- was ''Fascinating! Eye-Opening! Important!'' Unfortunately, my brain, like yours, has more than just a thin-slicing side. It also has that thick-slicing side. The thick-slicing side wants more than a series of remarkable anecdotes. It wants a comprehensive theory of the whole. It wants to know how all the different bits of information fit together.
That thick-slicing part of my brain wasn't as happy with ''Blink,'' especially the second time through. Gladwell never tells us how the brain performs these amazing cognitive feats; we just get the scattered byproducts of the mysterious backstage process. (There have been books by people like Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner that go deeper into the brain chemistry of it.)
The thick-slicing side isn't even sure what this book is about. Is it about first impressions, or intuition, or that amorphous blending of ''what is'' with ''what could be'' that we call imagination? In some of his stories, it's regular people who are making snap judgments; in others, it's experts who have been through decades of formal training. In some experiments, the environment matters a great deal; in others, the setting is a psychologist's lab. In some, the snap judgments are based on methodical reasoning -- as with a scientist who has broken facial expressions into discrete parts; in others, the snap-judgment process is formless and instinctive. In some, priming is all-important; in others, priming is disregarded.
Moreover, the thick-slicing part of my brain is telling me that while it would be pleasing if we all had these supercomputers in our heads, Gladwell is overselling his case. Most of his heartwarming stories involve the lone intuitive rebel who ends up besting the formal, bureaucratic decision-making procedure. Though Gladwell describes several ways intuition can lead people astray, he doesn't really dwell on how often that happens. But I've learned from other books, notably David G. Myers's more methodical but less entertaining ''Intuition,'' that there is a great body of data suggesting that formal statistical analysis is a much, much better way of predicting everything from the outcome of a football game to the course of liver disease than the intuition even of experts.
("Thin-slicing," by the way, is what Malcolm Gladwell calls that first instant when our brain filters in only the relevant data.)
Don't believe the hype. Or rather, don't believe the backlash.... Read more ....
January 16, 2005
Matthew Yglesias sez let's have news-blog-streams, not fugly articles:
If Dexter Filkins just blogged his reporting from Iraq rather than writing NY Times articles, I think things would be much improved. As things stand, he's forced on a daily basis to shoehorn 24 hours worth of content into a quasi-narrative newspaper format whether or not the development warrant it. The actual events in Iraq are better suited to being written about as a series of short, free-standing blurbs. Blog posts, in other words. The strength of Filkins' reporting is that Filkins is a strong reporter, and that the Times backs his work up with the Times's resources. That he's a newspaper writer is merely incidental.
And we know Martin Nisenholtz, CEO of NYT Digital, does too:
But imagine taking a world like Ultima Online -- designed for massive numbers of videogame players -- and apply it to the real world, where the players are reporting from all corners of the planet. This is a vibrant, interactive real-time view of the world.
Users in this context can zoom into the ongoing storyline taking place in dozens or even hundreds of locations. In this context, there is not a simply John Burns reporter in Bahgdad. There is a kind of ongoing John Burns channel that brings with it a continuous record. [...]
So can we make this happen already?
The problem is the NYT is stuck selling that stupid paper. They need to jettison that mess and digital digital get down. Just my $0.02, guys.
January 15, 2005
Ruben Fleischer has a new video out, and I think it may be my favorite of his many super-excellent music videos. It's called "Galang" (look for the link at the bottom of the page), it's by gorgeous Sri Lankan hip-hopper M.I.A., featuring her set against the backdrop of her animated artwork. Waaaaaaay too good not to share.
January 5, 2005
An Open Letter to NYTimes.com
I just read an article by Jesse Oxfeld and it said you're getting ready to redesign your site:
The New York Times on the Web, for example, is about to embark on a site-wide redesign, driven partially by the new ways people reach online news.
The last time you redesigned your site, I was in college. In fact, I was basically majoring in NYTimes.com. Seriously, you know that sudden five percent increase in site traffic in 1999? That was all me.
I remember: When the new look came online, I was so indignant that I actually fired off a harsh e-mail -- something to the effect of, "But you have destroyed everything that made NYTimes.com special!!"
However, I was of course totally wrong. The new site was way better and I grew to love it within weeks.
And when I worked on the Poynter.org site redesign a few years later, I realized a) how hard it is to redesign a site, and b) how much it sucks when people slam you for it.
So I just wanted to let you know that I won't complain this time, no matter what.
December 27, 2004
And While I'm Posting ...
... why not go whole hog?
Listening to authors read from their own works is a much better idea on paper than in reality.
But these are some damn fine authors, and those are some damn fine works. The quality of the audio's pretty bad, sadly.
Paul Auster's got an awesome gravelly Joe Frank-ish radio voice -- he's an NPR contributor and the author of some of my favorite books -- so check out his excerpt from The Book of Illusions. Philip Roth also does a great job. The Mary Gaitskill story is incredible, her reading, not so much, so here's an excerpt in text. Read the whole thing if you can find it.
December 12, 2004
'Un Film D'anticipation Sur Le Monde Impitoyable De I'internet'
The French edition of ZDNet links to EPIC:
Dans le genre prévision risquée, justement, citons un film d'anticipation sur le monde impitoyable de l'internet. Imaginé par Robin Sloan et Matt Thompson, du Museum of Media History de Tampa (Floride), il décrit l'inexorable ascention du conglomérat "Googlezon" qui dominera le monde infotech en 2014. Google, aujourd'hui, est déjà ce qu'on sait, et encore plus (rachat de Dejanews en 2001, Blogger en 2003), mais en imaginant qu'il fera plus tard main basse sur la force de frappe d'Amazon.com et les décodeurs vidéo numériques de Tivo, ces spéculateurs de l'histoire nous emmènent bien loin (rendez-vous sur le site d'un des deux auteurs pour vous mettre au parfum - animation Flash). Au point de prévoir le concept ultime de la technologie "customisée" à l'échelle de l'individu: "EPIC", pour "Evolving Personalized Information Construct".
De quoi, pensent ces oracles, terminer en 2014 sur la mort de Microsoft et du New York Times. Encore la génération Michael Moore qui prend ses désirs pour des réalités!
*Unless they're talking smack about it and I just can't understand
December 4, 2004
More Notes from 2014
Who is Evan Emerson? This almost feels like one of those frustratingly addictive follow-the-clues marketing campaigns.... but for what, I don't know.
First, a friend in Miami sent me [a link to] an eight-minute lo-tech short on the disappearance of news as we know it. The conceit is that Amazon and Google join forces to form a super-tech-engine that filters news based on databasing and recommendations (think your iTunes favorites list meets Amazon meets Google News) that ends up killing the New York Times.
Who IS Evan Emerson? If you went to this EPIC mirror and stripped out the /epic you might start to wonder...
Shades of the alternate-reality gaming fans' suspicions, there!
And then there's this follow-up:
Meanwhile, Andrew Blau found out who Evan Emerson is, or isn't. I was right--it's not a real name. A friend emailed Andrew info that two California-based journalists, Robin Sloan (Sacramento Bee) and Matt Thompson(INdTV) did the piece. [...]
News of this investigation was passed on to me by "Evan Emerson" -- who may or may not be a rogue AI bot sent back in time from 2016... the year EPIC went mad.
And yeah, with that mind, I want to re-publish Matt's excellent comment on the original EPIC post in case you missed it:
It's funny to see where the super-old-school thinking and the super-new-school thinking bend back around and meet up. (And crash, and lie inert, secure in the knowledge that this exact future will never come to pass.) When we presented this to the editors, it was always, "Oh, no, nothing like this would ever happen. The sensible citizens of America are far too enamored of our beautiful agate type to ever pay much attention to those dreadful noisy light-emitting contraptions." And some of the most thought-out responses from the technopagan crowd have been along the lines of, "Come on, this is nothing like the future. This doesn't even take into account last year's Quantum Fluthinger API, which outcalculates Google's Helsinki7 algorithm by a factor of 10^23."
November 19, 2004
What To Do Over the Thanksgiving Holiday
Step 1. Make sure you own an iPod (or iPod-like device) and iTunes.
Step 2. Download iPodder.
Step 4. Let iPodder sync while you sleep. It downloads the e-funk straight to your iPod.
Step 5. Dance... dance... dance!
November 18, 2004
Matt and I had planned to build a full-blown website around a souped-up version of our Googlezon presentation (you know, the one that masquerades as a transmission from the Museum of Media History circa 2014).
Buuut it didn't look like that was going to happen anytime soon, so we decided to just go ahead and release our eight-minute Flash opus into the world.
Not ideal, as it's basically without context and therefore somewhat weird, but hey! Let's see how it fares in the howling chaos of the web.
Here it is: the Googly future of news. (Note: updated link... file has moved as EPIC madness washes over the Internet in a great flood of dread and wonder.)
Watch it spread on Technorati.
November 6, 2004
My Name Suggestion: 'Da Internet Boyz'
The New York Times this morning has a story about the successful emo/electronica project called Postal Service and their relationship with... the United States Postal Service.
The legend of the project, recounted in this story, is that Jimmy Tamborello and Ben Gibbard sent tracks back and forth in the mail to make the album. Thus the name. Huge commercial success ensues.
But then apparently the USPS was like, "Yo dudes, you can't just call yourselves Postal Service, 'cause that's us" and Tamborello/Gibbard were like, "But we will use our indie mojo to promote the USPS," and everything was settled.
But hold on: They sent tracks back and forth in the mail? Haven't these dudes ever heard of a certain global web of interconnected computers? This just makes no sense:
[Tamborello] noted that the regular mail is inexpensive and easy to use, and that packages containing their working discs arrived in a couple of days, a comfortable margin for their unhurried schedule - although when finishing the album, they did use Federal Express a couple of times.
"Just to get it back and forth as quick as possible," he said. "It saved a day."
Yeah, you know what's even faster than FedEx? THE INTERNET.
I mean, Postal Service's skittery beats and mellow tones were clearly engineered on Tamborello's Powerbook... are you telling me he couldn't just download an FTP program and get wit' the 21st century? AIM file transfer, anyone?
Anyway, whatever. It's weird. I'm going to go buy some donuts now.
October 18, 2004
He's Like the Gannett of Blogs
Jaysus, what has Nick Denton been up to? I mean, we all knew about Gawker and Wonkette and Fleshbot and Gizmodo (and we maintained a dim awareness of Defamer, although clearly not a bookmark), but apparently someone fed the Denton media empire after midnight and dropped it in the swimming pool (*), because his blogs have been spawning while no one was paying attention.
I predict that Denton's reputation as the savvy, overmarketed blog-trepreneur soon turns a corner and his little Web empire collapses, ooooor possibly you'll find me outside the Gawker Building in Times Square begging for a correspondent's gig. Only time will tell.
September 26, 2004
Genius, Pure Genius, and Fun
This washingtonpost.com Q&A with Ben Karlin, executive producer of The Daily Show, could not possibly be any funnier. Really interesting, too. Read it. REAAAD IT.
September 16, 2004
The Best Magazine In The World This Month
The September/October edition of Foreign Policy is the best single issue of any magazine published (so far) this year.
- They've got the "Field Guide to Consensuses" -- the Washington Consensus you know about, but the Copenhagen Consensus? The Beijing Consensus? Read up!
- They've applied their sharp "Think Again" column to George W. Bush's foreign policy. George W. Bush's Foreign Policy Is Revolutionary: No. The Bush Doctrine of Preemptive War Is Unprecedented: Wrong. Bush's Foreign Policy Has Inflamed Anti-Americanism Worldwide: Definitely. And lots more, all from a smart University of Virginia prof.
- They've got "The World's Most Dangerous Ideas," including but not limited to: "A War on Evil," "Transhumanism," and "Business as Usual at the U.N.," penned by Snark-favorite Samantha Power.
- They've got "NGOs: Fighting Poverty, Hurting the Poor" by the WaPo's Sebastian Mallaby. It's a pro-World Bank piece! Say what?? Exactly!
- Plus so much more: stuff on E.U. integration and the history of a Lithuanian power plant, a memo to Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, essays by the E.U.'s Javier Solana and Intel's Craig Barrett, and FP's reviews of books not in English. For instance: Did you know the most popular book in Yemen right now is an Egyptian novel called "Amrikanli" that compares America's aggression in the Middle East to its genocide of Native Americans? Is that not creepy?
- Plus all those great ads you only ever see in FP: the full-page promo for new books from Brookings; the posting for Visiting Faculty at Georgetown's Center for Democracy and the Third Sector; the 10-page (!) advertorial on Central Asia from the Asian Development Bank. I love it.
Now, not all of this stuff is pure genius. In fact, some of it's kinda bad: A few of "The World's Most Dangerous Ideas" are total ringers ("Undermining Free Will," I'm looking at you). The review of "Being Indian: The Truth About Why the 21st Century Will Be India's" is clunky.
Not every phrase in this mag is polished to a sheen; not every contributor weaves ideas together like a multilateralist Louis Menand.
But that's awesome!
I mean, to contribute to The New Yorker your pen must sing as the nightingale itself. To get something into Foreign Affairs you have to have the word "undersecretary" on your door. To write for The Atlantic or The New Republic you have to be named Ryan Lizza.
But FP? You never know who'll turn up!
Sure enough: In this issue, besides contributions from all-stars like Samantha Power and Francis Fukuyama, there's a totally cool micro-piece by an editorial assistant at The Washington Monthly. There are short pieces by academics from obscure institutions (The Caucasus School for Journalism and Media Management?) who each have something smart to say. And that note about the Egyptian novel "Amrikanli"? It's from some random freelancer in Yemen.
I guess that's why I like it so much: FP is surprising.
My gold standard for publications has always been that they seem alive, and FP, in all its spark and imperfection, nails it. You can vividly imagine the editors and assistants combing through all these bizarre pitches from around the world, sorting out the stuff that's interesting and surprising and whipping it all together and if some of the phrases are a little sloppy, oh well.
I get the sense it's a pretty low-budg operation, too, which makes it even better.
Foreign Policy, you rule.
(P.S. Previous love for FP. All that and more this time.)
June 9, 2004
Oh, Those Crazy Blogs
It's June 9. The deadline for the transition of power in Iraq is three weeks away. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz lays out the administration's plan in the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal.
And in the very first paragraph of his monolithic treatise... to make his case before an international audience of pundits and policymakers... he cites a blogger??!
After a suicide car bombing killed Iraqi Interim Governing Council President Izzedine Salim and eight others on May 17, one Iraqi put that act of terror into a larger perspective for those who wonder if democracy can work in Iraq. His name is Omar, one of the new Iraqi "bloggers," and he wrote on his Web log: "We cannot . . . protect every single person, including our leaders and the higher officials who make favorite targets for the terrorists--but we can make their attempts go in vain by making our leadership 'replaceable.' "
Is that wild or what?
Dude, I totally think Dick Armitage reads Snarkmarket now.
June 2, 2004
Banter (For Half Your Brain?)
I think everyone secretly believes that the funny conversations they have with their friends would make a good show.
I really wanted to love it and think it was rad, but, alas, I did not.
Okay, actually, hold on; I've been playing another P.V. episode in the background as I've been typing this and kinda liking it.
Maybe that's the secret! This is partial-attention entertainment. It can't support the entire weight of a human being's interest... but... just a little bit... oops, I just started paying too much attention again, and it turned lame.
You should try this, it's really interesting.
Hey now, wait, just flipped over to another episode -- the first -- and this one's sturdier. There was just a surprising bit about breakbeats and breakdancing and just what is a "break," anyway?
(Dude, number one Google result for 'breakdancing' is NPR! Nice!)
Okay, maybe these funny conversations do make a good show.... Read more ....
March 31, 2004
Janeane Garofalo loses.
Her Air America program has been a long thread of facile partisan canards. Her usual drole, doubt-everything deadpan has been swapped for a much-less-compelling "Republicans are evil" refrain. She even used the phrase "corporate media."
Yeah, yeah, it's the first night, but they've opened with a flurry of publicity, and knowing that this may be their moment in the spotlight before dimming into obscurity, they might have taken the trouble to procure actual content. There's been a mishmash of decently high-profile guests -- Bill Maher, Atrios, Ben (of Ben & Jerry), Dave Chappelle -- but the conversation hasn't stepped beyond slinging mud at conservatives. Not even news peg mud (e.g. "Can you believe they smeared Dick Clarke?") -- generic mud (e.g. "They're corporate whores!").
I haven't had a good experience with talk radio, unless it's This American Life or Sound Portraits. Somehow, even though it's just the first night, I already have deep doubts about Air America raising the level of discourse on the medium.
March 16, 2004
Where Are the Pretty Pictures?
I'm totally grooving on the free KeepMedia RSS feed, which brilliantly includes a few links to old but still-relevant magazine articles every day.
Today, there's a link to one of my favorite Atlantic Monthly articles of all time, a "desktop narrative" from an author exploring all of the super-high-res cosmic imagery available on the Internet.
Except it's totally lame on KeepMedia, because there are no pictures. The whole point of this article was that it was printed alongside the pictures: stars, planets, supernovae. And there's no reason you couldn't do that on the web; it's just that all these archiving systems -- seriously, like all of them, from Lexis-Nexis to the NYT -- toss images, graphics, and layout aside like so much stale garbage. Whazzup with that?
Anyway, here's a picture of outer space:
March 8, 2004
How can you not love the Beeb?
(Via E-Media Tidbits.)
February 26, 2004
Love in the Age of the Bachelorette
Kevin Drum and Robin were both philosophizing today about The Bachelorette and illusions of attachment. Robin, apparently, was taken in by the show; he believed for a few moments that there was real devotion forming. Then, one of the Bachelorette's suitors proposed, and the thing was so insincere and hammy that the facade was shattered.
I actually think that real emotion does happen on these shows. I really believe that the contestants or whatever you call them feel "in love" by the end of it. Their version of "in love" is strange, synthetic, and fleeting, but it's not imaginary. I would argue that the same thing happened in high school when I went away for a week or two for special programs and retreats and whatnot. I'll never forget the NYLC in Washington, D.C., specifically, although this happened in micro all throughout high school.
A few hundred students attended the National Young Leaders Conference, but they split us up into groups of 20 or so for the week. We had field trips and learned about democracy and crafted bills and elected people and whatnot. By the end of the week, we were Frnds4Evr. This group of 20 people was just the tightest, most amazing, most meant-for-each-other group of buddies the world had ever seen, and these relationships would never die.
Eight years after that week was over, I still remember Katie Sparnecht, and dancing with Pat Germann on the last night, and quietly wanting this Polish guy Dave Swaintek, who was not-so-quietly hooking up with this girl Ashley. I remember Mormon Will, and my soft-spoken friend Mike. I knew these folks for (I think) nine days. There was enough genuine attachment there that vivid pictures of these folks are stuck in my minds. But the friendships were strange, synthetic, and fleeting.
Hasn't that ever happened to you?
January 18, 2004
Confessions of the Unread
December 17, 2003
In The Washington Post today, Tom Cruise gives more credence to my impression of him as frightening and Napoleonic. He says when he encounters libelous remarks about him in the press, he instructs his lawyer to: "Just sue. Just do it. Sue, sue, sue. Do it. Go, go, go, go." Yikes.
December 15, 2003
Okay, it's not a news channel. But still, this sounds promising:
While the network figures to skew more female, it will feature original, reality-oriented programming on topics, Garabedian said, that are relevant to all young adults, including dating, education, style, drugs, trends and marriage. Shows include Common Ave., which seeks out responses to common issues from ordinary people; Dinner, a roundtable discussion of issues over a meal; and The Roomies, a The Real World-type series that places five young strangers in a house.
So will XY.TV be "NPR, except cool" or Open House Party 24/7? We'll see.
Update: Uh-oh. When I read "roundtable discussion of issues over a meal," I was thinking, like, "Do we need national health insurance?" Turns out it's not quite that sophisticated.