April 30, 2005
Is It True, Mr. Spielberg, That ...
More Star Wars
Kevin Smith, Lord-King of the Nerd Nation, says Episode III rocks hard. (Warning: lotsa spoilers.)
And elsewhere on the web, Darth Vader's blog is both predictably hilarious --
Later, I will find the man responsible for dispatching the repair droids and crush his trachea with my mind. I also have tentative lunch plans with General Krelcon and his people, possibly in the Corellian quarter.
-- and surprisingly poetic.
April 29, 2005
More Beautiful Than Shakespeare's Sonnets
Open-Source Star Wars
April 28, 2005
Is It Possible to Un-Jump the Shark?
Robin's boss really gave 'em hell today, and it was wondrous to behold.
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.
Random Mongolian Genetic Trivia Item of the Day
Recently, a geneticist at Oxford University, Dr. Chris Tyler-Smith, and geneticists from China and central Asia took blood samples from populations living in regions near the former Mongol empire, and they studied the Y chromosomes. These are useful in establishing lineage because Y chormosomes continue from father to son. Dr. Tyler Smith and his colleagues found that an anomalously large number of the Y chromosomes carried a genetic signature indicating descent from a common ancestor about a thousand years ago. The scientists theorized that the ancestor was Genghis Khan (or, more exactly, an eleventh-century ancestor of Genghis Khan). About eight per cent of all males in the region studied, or sixteen million men, possess this chromosome signature. That's a half per cent of the world's population. It is possible, therefore, that more than thirty-two million people in the world are descended from Genghis Khan.
-- from Ian Frazier's story "Invaders," in the April 25th New Yorker.
More on Genghis Khan, playa, from the Guardian.
April 27, 2005
Homeless By Choice
I don't know how this is so fascinating, but dagnabit, I couldn't stop reading. It's a blog about how to rock homelessness.
I'm sitting here in my temperature-regulated apartment, eight feet away from my washer and dryer, twelve feet from a hot shower and two feet from my bed. I imagine stowing away in my car for the night on a residential street, hoping no thieves or police disturb my sleep. I imagine waking up, driving to an unfamiliar gym, and feigning interest in a new membership for the hope of free access to the bathing facilities. There's a perverse twinge of romance in all of this. Or is it perverse?
It is a well kept secret that homelessness can be freedom and comfort can attend it. The secret is well kept because revealing that you are homeless in this society is dangerous. There is stigma. There are even laws prohibiting it. Imagine that. There are laws against being homeless. Let me say that one more time. There are laws against being homeless.
I don't know if you can help reading this site and wondering if you could do it. Then again, I could also be really strange.
Let me give you an example of a successful bloodless conflict. I was packing up a storage unit one day, and I had only that day to finish. In the same facility a man was screaming at his soon-to-be-ex-wife on a cell phone, and creating an atmosphere that I found intolerable. I decided to stop this guy from yelling. I yelled at him forcefully, Hey! Shut the hell up!
Well, predictably this brought the man's wrath toward me. He started yelling at me and making aggressive gestures, and at that moment I did something he could not have expected. I submitted. I wimped out. I apologized and said I should mind my own business. I backed down.
Now, the soon-to-be-ex-wife was no longer on the phone, so he couldn't yell at her. He had no way to yell at me, or continue to bring a fight to me, because I had backed down. He grumbled and muttered and hurled a few insults at me, but he stopped yelling and I got back to work in blissful quiet. Understanding the nature of winning, the precise goals I was trying to achieve, allowed me to give my opponent the illusion that he won while I got everything I wanted.
And no one got hurt. Always seek the scenario in which no one gets hurt.
Come On, It's Like a Golf Handicap
Noted: Veronica Mars is hella cute, even in ugly shorts.
April 26, 2005
Someone REALLY Wants the Oil
Door = Bell
Via Treehugger, a door that is its own doorbell. There's a whole octave range built in there, so a visitor could knock out whatever melody she felt like. Fun!
P.S. 24-hour comic coming soon. Well... soon-ish.
April 25, 2005
... And Another Thing
Having just fired off two ranty e-mails to Robin, I thought I'd just go ahead and take the rants public. My beef was these three reports/manifestos/speeches that have been setting the hearts of the likes of Jay Rosen and Jeff Jarvis all a-flutter.
If you haven't read them, they all make essentially the same point -- old-school journalism's in trouble. Shorter Merrill Brown: Young people don't read newspapers. Shorter Tim Porter: And it's the fault of backwards-thinking journalists. Shorter Rupert Murdoch: No, seriously. Young people like never read newspapers.
I'll take my rantings past the jump, so you can continue unassaulted, if you so prefer.... Read more ....
Attention Must Be Paid
Updated to say: ToastyKen is totally right.
April 24, 2005
I finally gave in and looked at Processing.org, the programming language for artists, and spent a good few hours today agape at the beauty and creativity on display in the exhibitions. Then I encountered Moovl, which stopped me in my tracks.
The 3D version of the creature editor was amazing, in that the creature was totally configurable. You could stretch and pull and tug or fatten it any way you liked, almost like working with clay. More importantly, you could add functional elements, like heads, mouths, eyes, tails, fins, claws, even legs and feet. Wright proceeded to add not two, but three legs to his creature. Then he let it loose.
Now, suddenly, his creature could walk. And he did so -- he walked right out of the sea and onto the land. This incredible moment in the history of evolution was made even more remarkable by the technology behind it: the game had figured out, procedurally, how a creature would walk if it had three legs (it was a kind of lopsided gait, if you're curious, with three steps: left, right, then middle.) No 3D modeler created the creature, and no 3D animator was required to make it move around -- it was all created out of a gamer's whim and a computer program smart enough to make it work.
Moovl can basically do that. Not in 3D, but it's cool enough in 2D that I don't mind that right now. Draw a hilariously simple doodle of a three-legged blob, train three of the feet to move, and voila, you've got a creature.
The official site is targeted to children, and the examples there aren't very inspiring, even though the applet's slightly better. I prefer the pared-down version and its examples over at Processing, especially "lovehurts" and "fistycuffs."
Part of what's amazing to me is how much those simple doodles in motion seem to suggest narratives. The story and the interactivity unite in these very logical rules and relationships which you have the power to build on or alter.
Something tells me that's going to be the storytelling model that ultimately turns video games inside out.... Read more ....
When Kids Used to Play Video Games
I was going to post a link to Steven Johnson's excellent NYT Magazine article called "Watching TV Makes You Smarter." Now I'll up the ante by also posting a link to a thought experiment on his blog where he asks what today's video game detractors would have said if video games had come before books. Both well worth reading.
Wanted: 5+ Yrs Exp in Fact-Stripping Robots
April 23, 2005
Gates & the Gays
Kevin is the latest to call my attention to a story that's been roiling the gay blogosphere. Microsoft, long beloved of gays for its progressive partnership policies, done did us wrong (in the eyes of many) by "withdrawing its support for a state bill that would have barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."
Thing is, this isn't a straightforward "cruel, giant corporation screws oppressed minority" story. This is more like "giant corporation declines to back legislation preventing cruel majority from screwing oppressed minority," which makes it a bit murkier in my view. Why?
As gay MeFite dirtynumbangelboy points out in the related MetaFilter thread, progressives usually decry corporate muddling in politics. That MS is stepping out of the legislative fray rather than throwing its dirty corporate weight around should give us cheer, right?
While I don't know that there are any progressives out there who want corporations to have no voice in civil affairs, I do think this is a matter best decided by the Washington state legislature, not Microsoft. A solid, coherent progressive strategy on this front might be to say, "Oh, so you're withdrawing your voice on legislation now? How about you dial down your attacks on some of these antitrust laws then?" I have a sneaky suspicion that using this to rally for Microsoft's greater withdrawal from public affairs would have a more positive effect than excoriating them for dooming this bill.
It's not Microsoft's fault that employers can still discriminate against gays in Washington, it's the fault of the legislature. Let's not forget that.
April 22, 2005
Open Source Democracy
Douglas Rushkoff, who's only the coolest ever, not only has a new book coming out (via), but also has a book available as a PDF online -- Open Source Democracy: How Online Communication Is Changing Offline Politics.
World of Wikicraft
April 21, 2005
Cross-posted from the Beehive, 'cause I'm just that lame, sorry.
Tucked into The Fresno Bee's wire feed is this nugget -- The Gap will be opening a new chain targeted to boomer women, called ... wait for it ... "Forth & Towne."
From the press release:
"We created an address with the name 'Forth & Towne,' because we wanted it to evoke a sense of place -- to signify a special and unique shopping destination," explained Gary Muto President, Forth & Towne. "'Forth' references our fourth brand, and 'Towne' conveys a sense of community that we want to create for our customers when they shop with us."
Would it be snarky to point out that they misspelled both "fourth" and "town"? I'm sure they'll correct that oversight by the store's fall launch.
"Fitting rooms will be at the center of the store, with 'neighborhoods' of merchandise around them," Gap CEO and President Paul Pressler told the AP.
Oh! Cu-ute! So the checkout counter will be sort of like 'City Hall,' and the sales racks will be the 'crack slums,' right? And instead of mopping the store, it'll be like 'neighborhood beautification' or whatever. I can't wait to shop there. Oh wait, I'm not a boomer woman. Totally forgot. Just over-enthusiastic.
In addition: Steve at the other snark blog points out that the F&T ampersand just dodges what would be a very unfortunate acronym, given the store's target demographic.
Easier Than BitTorrent?
Actually, Dijjer.org says,
You don't need to install anything. Just put a file on your site as you normally do, but add "http://www.dijjer.org/get/" to the beginning of your links. ...
When they click a Dijjer link, users will get some of the file from your website, but most of it will come from other people running Dijjer. That's how you save bandwidth. And when someone clicks on the link who hasn't used Dijjer before, they'll get help installing it. After that, downloads happen seamlessly inside their web browser.
Do it, Pulitzer
One of my favorite Olde Worlde reporters, Anne Hull (c.f.), has been a Pulitzer finalist six times, but not yet a winner. Now, the Washington City Paper is calling on the Pulitzer board to give Anne one of their rare "Special Awards" for her continually outstanding work.
The Reality Show Ideas Are Just Popping
A group of gay people mad about Australia's ban on same-sex marriage are petitioning the UN to let them establish a sovereign gay nation. Love it.
April 20, 2005
M.I.A. In M.A.Y.
Scoping out Upcoming.org at Matt's behest, I discovered that M.I.A. is playing in S.F. on May 14. Tickets = so purchased.
You should come too if you live in this city.
(Watch the video again if you've forgotten how much M.I.A. rules.)
The Snarkmarket Readability Scale
According to the JuicyStudio readability calculator, you need 5.65 years of schooling to understand the posts on Snarkmarket. Our "Gunning Fog Index" score is a respectable 8.99, which puts us right smack at the reading level of most popular novels.
The other blog I write for has a GF Index of 7.44, slightly below Reader's Digest. (Robin's clearly wrecking the curve -- it broke when I tried to feed it his other blog.) My senior college thesis has a GF Index of 15.47, at the lower range of the academic papers scale.
Via Kevin Drum.
Above and Beyond the Call of Game Development Duty
This kinda rules: The game company BioWare contracted a linguistics Ph.D. student to invent a language for their new game, Jade Empire. Fun stuff:
He set about asking [the BioWare] team questions. He wanted to know the speakers' physiology. If they had no teeth, they wouldn't be able to make a "t" or "th" sound. They had teeth.
Public service announcement: I have just noticed that this blog has descended into abject nerdery: browser enhancements, gadgety cameras, Google Maps, and now video game development. Now of course Snarkmarket loves all of these things. But if you have just come to it in the last week or so, rest assured, we also discuss other topics. Go watch Fredo Viola's video again. We gots culture.
April 19, 2005
Holovaty Strikes Again
When I'm bored at night, I watch downloaded episodes of Battlestar Galactica.
When Adrian is bored, he augments Google Maps with local public transit routes.
I don't live in Chicago, obviously, but come on. I had to to install this thing, just to see it. And whoah dude: It's really cool. The magical thing is that Adrian has just seamlessly inserted new stuff into the Google Maps interface -- no muss, no fuss, no other site.
A comment on Adrian's post led me to this full-on toolset for Google Maps hackery. Awesome.
I see a vision of a Flickr-enhanced Google Maps dancing before me... just out of reach...
April 18, 2005
Awash in New Capital ...
... Yahoo purchases TiVo? Could happen, sports fans.
Bling Your Browser
I don't like most Firefox themes. I find the default theme ugly and many of the user-generated ones cartoonish. But I'm always hunting for good ones. Today I found PimpZilla. Surprisingly clean and detailed, although it kind of clashes with the Windows XP colors.
April 17, 2005
Awesome. Robin has been saying for a while now that he'd love to have some sort of online hub for his local coffeehouse, so the hordes of laptoppers inside could communicate in digital space. Well, here you go.
April 15, 2005
Video of the Month
Remember how we were all obsessed with M.I.A.'s Galang video?
Well, here's the new object of my devotion: The Sad Song by Fredo Viola. Captured with a Nikon still camera taking 15-second movies, built in After Effects.
(Actually, I had to kinda fast-forward some parts to really enjoy this. But still, I think it's amazing.)
In the Style of the Chapel
It's nice to see college a cappella get a little MeFi love.
April 14, 2005
Rocket and the Great Chicken Chase
I've got to strongly recommend the movie City of God, although I have nothing particularly insightful to say about it. (Ebert.) But there's this: I kept a stiff upper lip all throughout the film. Afterwards, as I'm wont to do, I visited its IMDB trivia page. Then came the tears. That's never happened to me before. (Watch the movie before you read the trivia.)
Snarkmarket Is Waiting for Its Review Unit
Matt's been waiting for this for a long time: a cell phone with a tiny laser projector.
April 13, 2005
The Conscience Clause
Are we seriously still talking about this? Pharmacists are licensed to cover a basic range of services, including providing emergency contraception. States should not license pharmacists who are unable for any reason to provide this range of services. They are welcome to develop an alternative licensing scheme for people who only sell drugs that promote the cult of life, or whatever. Just don't call it pharmacy.
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.
So yeah, if you want about twenty crazy interesting links to read about oil and energy, go check out this spaz-out Boing Boing post on the topic.
Don't forget the spheromak, though.
April 12, 2005
By Your Command
I have rediscovered TV, and its name is Battlestar Galactica.
Never saw the original series, so the setup was all new to me: The human race gets wiped out by the Cylons, an army of killer robots. That we created. Rats.
But! A rag-tag caravan of transports escapes the holocaust, led by humanity's one surviving warship: the eponymous Battlestar Galactica.
The Galactica is helmed, in turn, by Commander William Adama -- played by Edward James Olmos.
Elevator pitch: "It's Stand and Deliver in outer space!"... Read more ....
Best of Google Maps
April 10, 2005
It's Pronounced SHEH-Nee
The LA Times has a profile of ultima blogtrix Xeni Jardin this weekend.
I met her at the WIRED Rave Awards this year. Let me just paint you a word-picture here: Dim room... it's all dark wood and black suits... clumps of people in their brown sweaters and gray button-downs... and then Xeni Jardin swoops in, shockingly blonde, in a full-on BRIGHT WHITE BALLROOM GOWN. It's like a frame out of Sin City.
Actually, uh, I just realized that's the scene that is cited in the first graf of the LAT story. Go checkitout. It kinda reads like a crazy 21st-century Dickens novel.
I've been meaning to read one of Ha Jin's books. Deborah Solomon interviews him in the NYT mag:
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I often tell my wife and son that the best life for me would be to get up in the morning and go to a cafe and have coffee and meet friends and read the newspaper. But you can't do it every day, because if you did, your life would be effortless. And an effortless life is a meaningless life.
April 9, 2005
Integrated Circuit as Literature
Just after Robin posted this Gamespot link on storytelling and video games, I left for a vacation in Orlando and my parents' dial-up connection, so I could not contribute a proper reply. Here it is.
My favorite text addressing the place of video games within the spectrum of art/literature is Ernest Adams' lecture at the 2004 Game Developers Conference, "The Philosophical Roots of Computer Game Design."
You have to remember that Adams is talking to computer game developers, not academics, so he's reductive at best and flat-out wrong at worst. (You may have to struggle to trust anything he says after he begins by boiling the last 200 years of Western philosophy down to English philosophy -- logical and deductive -- and French philosophy -- touchy-feely. Germans, apparently, need not apply. And of course, you forgot Poland.) But once you get over his sketchy broad-brushing of history, he makes some wonderful points.
Adams maps video game storytelling onto the timeline of modern literary storytelling, and essentially decides that we're just exiting the classical era. This feels spot-on to me. As much as I love Final Fantasy IV, it appeals to me emotionally in the same blunt, soaring, epic way Beowulf does.
Video game storytellers of today, Adams says, are still coming around to the Victorian age:... Read more ....
April 8, 2005
Best Google Map Ever
April 6, 2005
Not only is this shoeshine tutorial blogpost great, it also has the most awesomely targeted Google ads ever! This is what AdSense is all about, baby. I'm gonna click all those ads just 'cause I approve of this technology so much.
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.
April 5, 2005
There's been a fair amount of hand-wringing since the start of the Age of Blogs about accuracy. How on earth do we trust anything we read on the Internet? Bloggers can say anything!
Just this year, there was a conference on blogging, journalism, and credibility.
Then there's been some hand-wringing over the fact that you have to use phrases like "steady downward trend" to describe the recent credibility ratings of newspapers.
I've got a proposal.
Imagine: you come across an article on the Web purporting to be journalism or contain elements of journalism. So you cruise on over to StraightenTheRecord.org (or whatever) and you search for the name of the text's author or publication. Up pops a screen listing all the corrections made on articles by that author or in that publication.
But you're a tad underwhelmed. You had caught an error of fact in the document you were reading that isn't listed on this page.
So you log in to the site and edit the record (it being some sort of a wiki), adding your correction to the stack.... Read more ....
April 4, 2005
The Annotated NYT
April 3, 2005
The Lexus, the Olive Tree, and Other Bad Metaphors
But please, before you wade into Friedman prose that extends a good 15 pages beyond his usual allotted space, arm yourself with the quality snark of press critic impresario Matt Taibbi:
The hallmark of the Friedman method is a single metaphor, stretched to column length, that makes no objective sense at all and is layered with other metaphors that make still less sense. The result is a giant, gnarled mass of incoherent imagery. When you read Friedman, you are likely to encounter such creatures as the Wildebeest of Progress and the Nurse Shark of Reaction, which in paragraph one are galloping or swimming as expected, but by the conclusion of his argument are testing the waters of public opinion with human feet and toes, or flying (with fins and hooves at the controls) a policy glider without brakes that is powered by the steady wind of George Bush’s vision.
So when you encounter Friedgrafs like the following ...
At one point, summing up the implications of all this, Nilekani uttered a phrase that rang in my ear. He said to me, ''Tom, the playing field is being leveled.'' He meant that countries like India were now able to compete equally for global knowledge work as never before -- and that America had better get ready for this. As I left the Infosys campus that evening and bounced along the potholed road back to Bangalore, I kept chewing on that phrase: ''The playing field is being leveled.''
''What Nandan is saying,'' I thought, ''is that the playing field is being flattened. Flattened? Flattened? My God, he's telling me the world is flat!''
... you'll have been duly prepared for Friedie's tortured relationship with imagery and the English language. Somewhere along the way, he'll try to coin a new noun form of the word "flat," no doubt trying to seed the culture with another goofy buzzword.
All this and more can be found in the excellent MetaFilter thread on the essay.
April 2, 2005
I Slap My Forehead
Even though we've been on intermittent papal death watch for the past five years, and his death today has the dubious honor of being possibly the least surprising passing in the history of human mortality, the NYT managed to bollocks his obit. Classic. [ PDF evidence ]
Tickets to Iron Maiden
Pastel Vespa covers Wheatus' "Teenage Dirtbag," over at Copy, Right?
April 1, 2005
Indigo Prophecy (Not 9/11)
Remember Fahrenheit? Probably not, 'cause I think I was the only one with a mild fixation on it. Anyway, it's now called "Indigo Prophecy" and it's being published by Atari, not Vivendi Universal. Ostensibly coming out for the PC in June, for the PS2 and Xbox in September. [ Interviews 1 | 2 with game creator David Cage ]
Killing With Kindness
The Fugstresses are reveling in April Fool's Day: Go Hug Yourself has replaced the Fugblog for a day.
As you might expect, it is awesomely, acidly mean, in the nicest possible way:
When I'm blue, there's one very easy way to get me out of my cranky pants and back into my overalls of joy. And that is to look at some of the truly unforgettable photographs snapped by that golden genius Anne Geddes.