April 28, 2006
- Oh my God! They killed Nnenna! Bastards!
- Chris Daughtry's performance of "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" on American Idol this week was incredible. It a) made me not hate that song, and b) made me push Chris to the top of my favorites list, even ahead of my beloved Paris.
- Check it: Journerdism.com, from '05 Poynter summer fellow Will Sullivan.
- So you wanna blog? LaFry breaks it down.
- Why didn't anyone tell me Newsvine CEO Mike Davidson's blog is really awesome?
links for 2006-04-28
April 27, 2006
It Sounds Unnatural... And Yet...
April 26, 2006
Someone on the Scene
Quite unintentionally, Ted Koppel explains the logic of citizen journalism:
If something happens in [a foreign country], I heard a former network news president say other day, we can always jet someone in. That is a profoundly telling statement. Instead of investing in someone on the scene who is familiar with the political and cultural landscape, who can give us all a sense of what's going to happen, and who can provide us with a sense of context when it does, news is being re-defined as "that which has happened most recently" and which may pique the interest of a particular demographic group.
I'm talking CJ-of-the-far-future, of course. We're not there yet, not by a long shot.
Peacemakers for Hire
Whoah! Dystopian foreign policy idea of the week: Forget U.N. blue helmets in Darfur. Why not send in a private mercenary army to keep the peace?
Probably because it's hella Snow Crash, per Matt Yglesias. I mean come on: These are companies with names like "Blackwater"... "Aegis"... "Dyncorp" (!?)... and "Executive Outcomes" (!!?). Let's leave this plotline to the novelists.
GI-Net quickly concluded that going with mercenaries was a bad idea. But, as their search dragged on, the group's members became increasingly frustrated that they were sitting on a pile of money when, seemingly every day, there was some new horror in Darfur. Finally, in January, GI-Net had a breakthrough. An African NGO was willing to take GI-Net's money and, in tandem with the AU, train a contingent of female escorts to protect Darfurian women when they leave their refugee camps to search for firewood. This week, Smith is in Addis Ababa putting the finishing touches on the deal.
April 25, 2006
Turns Out the Eyepatch is A-OK
Unlike Dustin, I was going to post this the moment I heard the opening chords. It's a Flickr song.
links for 2006-04-25
Saturday was the immortal Minnesota Geek Prom. (Full disclosure: Because I'm rumored to occasionally contribute to a so-called "Weblog," I was given free VIP admission for me and a guest. I took my buddy Nathan, but I would totally have taken you if you'd asked.)
- I wish I'd been cool enough in high school to be friends with the girl who wears leather to the prom and sneaks in a flask of bourbon. That made the 10-year-old Omnimax movie infinitely more entertaining.
- Actually, now that I think about it, I did go to my high school "prom"* with a badass, leather-wearing girl. And I was, if anything, slightly geekier then than I was at the actual Geek Prom. So the whole experience was kinda dejà vu.
- As Alexis notes, I was not crowned prom king, nor was she crowned prom queen, despite the honest-to-goodness Klingon tattoo on her chest, and despite my Buffy thesis and singing of the score to Evita.
- Chuck Olsen's hott MNStories video story will give you the best taste of the exuberant mood that reigned o'er the evening. (Look for me very briefly at about 5:04.)
- Alexis' photos will give you the best taste of my adorkableness. (Note: there's also some XXX NSFW geek ass on display. Not mine, though.)
- While there was an ironic sheen on all of this, there also seemed to be unspoken widespread understanding that yes, most of us present truly were geeks. And we were embracing it. And it was awesome. I'm totally going next year. And I will be King of the Geeks.
* Because I went to a fundamentalist Christian high school, we did not have an actual "prom" with actual "dancing." Instead, we had the Bible-rific "Junior/Senior Banquet," typically held at schools like Bob Jones University.
Jonathan Grubb blogs eight ways to fake it. Number one:
Count to five before answering any question.
I learned this from my friend Matt. When someone asks you a question, especially in an interview/work type situation, look off into the distance and count to five then answer the question as usual. You will seem thoughtful and deep. This trick works way, way better than it should.
Subscribe to this page to get all the latest news about Iran and nuclear technology. Hoo boy.
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 22, 2006
"... Experts say speed dating's popularity continues to rise. After seeing that clip featuring the hottie in the halter-top, something else is rising, too, heh-heh, if you catch my driftthat's right: interest rates. Today the Federal Reserve recommended they be upped by half a percent."
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 20, 2006
People throw skeptical glances my direction when I say I enjoyed living in Fresno. But it's true. I often describe Fresno as having been completely emptied of people sometime in 1943, and repopulated only in the last few years. That's not how it was at all, but the city is filled with traces of incredible, abandoned Americana -- gorgeous motel signs, classic theaters, dive bars, thrift stores. The city is phenomenally diverse, more culturally varied than even the rest of California, which itself makes the rest of the US look inbred.
When I interviewed for the job in Fresno, among the things that drew me to the city was coming across one of those old, beautiful motel signs. It was just sitting in a parking lot, leaning against a building in the middle of nowhere (it was downtown, but "middle of nowhere" still kind of applies). I figured the sign had to have a story, and I loved the thought of being a reporter there and getting to unearth that story.
Months later, I found out that the sign was leaning against the building that housed the H Street Collective, a space for some of Fresno's most brilliant artists to practice and display their work. H Street was a beautiful nightmare. Its walls were covered to the last inch in the most grotesque, eyepopping, otherwordly art. The bathroom of the collective was the artists' sandbox, stuffed with visual ideas and experiments, half-painted creatures, obscenities, paint on the floor, on the toilets, on the stall doors.
The H Street that was is no longer. But you can still find the work of some of the artists on many of the walls of Fresno. And one of my favorite H Street artists, Mehran Heard, has an awesome Web site.
File under: Gleeful Miscellany, Recommended, Society/Culture
Just to prove I can actually still write posts longer than five words for Snarkmarket, here's an awesome New York Times article about mounted police. Enjoy!
April 19, 2006
links for 2006-04-19
To Be Continued, NOVA-Style
A bunch of brain-related stuff to chew on this morning:
First, the 3 Quarks Daily digest of Jeff Hawkins' book On Intelligence. Now, Matt linked to this in his Five Words links (new feature!) on Monday but it's worth another shout-out, and not just because it's such good info. The piece also takes the unexpected form of a non-narrative cliffhanger!
There isn't any story, really; it's just abstract explanation. But at the end, author Abbas Raza sets up a four-point bullet list, starts cranking through them... and then doesn't finish the last one. He's just suddenly all like "Oops, out of time, see you in three weeks." What??!
This is Dan Brown-caliber suspense. For nerds.
Second, the blog Creating Passionate Users (they can't all be named Snarkmarket) has a long post about brain stuff, including two items of particular interest:
- Mirror neurons. CPU explains: "It's what these neurons do that's amazing--they activate in the same way when you're watching someone else do something as they do when you're doing it yourself! This mirroring process/capability is thought to be behind our ability to empathize, but you can imagine the role these neurons have played in keeping us alive as a species. We learn from watching others." The crazy thing, though, is that we do it unconsciously. That means you mirror whether you like it or not.
- Emotional contagion. Turns out we really are deeply affected by the moods and attitudes -- not just the words and actions -- of the people we're around. Choose carefully!
All right. I am going to go watch Battlestar Galactica DVDs until the next part of that 3 Quarks Daily piece gets posted.
April 18, 2006
links for 2006-04-18
April 17, 2006
links for 2006-04-17
Check out this awesome old Italian scooter commercial. (Note: There was an embedded player there until I decided I hated it.) It seems like it's winding down about two-thirds of the way through but NO.
Yes, this is exactly what kind of Monday it is.
(Via the 'move.)
April 14, 2006
MetaFilter has long had one unbreakable rule: Thou shalt not self-link. Thou mayest e-mail thy link to thine fellow MeFites, but never, never must thou posteth said link to the front page of MetaFilter.
This rule kept a lot of crappy Web hobbyist sites from being posted to MetaFilter, I'm sure. But it also meant that MeFites who made something legitimately post-worthy often wouldn't get their stuff linked on the site until it had already become popular somewhere else. So Matt Haughey created MeFi Projects, where members could pimp their own stuff to their hearts' content. Other members could vote for the stuff they liked best, and post it to MeFi if they wanted.
And it just got totally better. Matt Haughey has made an archive of the most popular projects by month.
Favorite new discovery? Roundtuit: a community blog for posting the great ideas you'll never do.
File under: Gleeful Miscellany, Technosnark
Corporation for Public Gaming
Thx for the Add!
April 12, 2006
Welcome to My Bloglines Account, Foreign Policy
April 11, 2006
Man, ever since that Feist remix, I can't stop wishing for more Postal Service. If you too are longing for clicky, computer-y goodness... here are some stand-ins:
You know those moments when you suddenly realize you have made a mistake that is not just annoying but in fact irrevocable and costly? You've missed a flight, maybe, or lost your wallet. It's a very distinct feeling: Cold. Clenching. Tires screech in the distance.
Well, now brain scientists say something distinct is happening in the physical brain, too. A specific part of the brain called the rACC lights up when errors are costly, not just annoying -- unless you have OCD, in which case the rACC always lights up, regardless of how serious the error is!
I love mental exercises that help you empathize with unfamiliar (and often unreachable) mental states. Mark Haddon's book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time does a great job of it with autism. And maybe this experiment is a window into OCD: Imagine that every possible error, no matter how small, felt like it would be costly. Hmm.
The Real Boy in the Bubble
April 8, 2006
High School Noir
Brick was a blast. It definitely deserves to inherit the college-boy quote-fountain crown from Fight Club, The Big Lebowski, and The Usual Suspects. According to David Denby, it was shot in 20 days and edited on a home computer. (A Mac, says an interview on the official site.) Go trailerize, then go see it.
April 6, 2006
Frankly This Is Just Chick Lit for Huge, Huge Nerds
I don't disapprove: Five Fists of Science, pitting Twain and Tesla vs. Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan. No WAY.
April 5, 2006
and Treasure Just Blood
There's just sooo much wiggle room in prose -- even smart, sharp prose. More than enough for you to fill in some blanks and imagine the characters as you want them to be. Images and sounds are different; there's still wiggle room, of course, but not nearly as much.
What's interesting, though, is that wiggle room isn't always a bad thing: I found myself connecting with the wounded soldiers a lot more in the written stories. The other-ness of their gruesome injuries and their accents in the Flash pieces only made them seem more distant.
Bride of RomenRSSko
If you've been following my efforts to scrape together an RSS feed for the Romenesko sidebar, you might have thought I'd have either given up, learned regular expressions, or convinced Robin it was every bit as cool as Charlie Rose. Since the Wotzwot RSS tool I'd been using to make the feed introduced a couple ridiculous measures to prevent folks from ever using it, I've been without my Romenesko link-loggy goodness.
Bad news, Michigan posse: Detroit Sold For Scrap.
April 4, 2006
Movies, Your Way
Today, Garrick Van Buren introduced me to Cin-o-matic, which is a) my new favorite thing, and b) apparently made by a local. Sorta like MetaCritic, only you can choose from a list of critics whose movie scores you'd like to aggregate, and it's mashed up with information about what's playing at your local theaters.
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 3, 2006
Film Industry Enters Late 20th Century
Starting this week, we'll finally be able to purchase and immediately download (some) movies. The fact that we have not been able to do this until now is the best demonstration of the film industry's idiocy. We've long been able to easily acquire these movies online for free, but because Hollywood is a giant, dull-witted beast, we couldn't pay to do this legally even if we wanted to.
Before iTunes launched, I would have said selling music online was a lost cause. It was too easy to get songs for free. But the introduction of a good, comprehensive, well-organized music service which gave me fair-to-middling rights over what I purchased ended up completely winning me over. In 2005, by my count, I bought 465 songs through iTunes.
- The sites will have to stop redirecting me from the home page to an error message because I'm using Firefox.
- They're going to have to get a much, much better selection. No, I don't want to see Transporter 2 or National Lampoon Presents Barely Legal, but thanks.
- They're going to have to get rid of the ultralame DRM that won't let me burn my files to DVD.
- They'll have to be acquired by NetFlix, to which my heart and movie tastes already belong.
April 2, 2006
A Cock and Bull Blogpost
Media recently consumed:
- Michael Winterbottom's sort-of-adaptation of Tristram Shandy. Loved it. Made me laugh out loud in a nearly-empty art-house theater at 10 p.m. -- no mean feat. Also refreshing: In an era of three-hour epics (seriously, what's up with that? Is it supposed to be a value thing? When did the movie theater become Sam's Club?), Tristram Shandy clocks in at a lean 90 minutes. Don't go in expecting it to change your life and you'll emerge amused. (Note the opposing view.)
- I bought Magnus Mills' Explorers of the New Century on the strength of this review alone. In fact, Laura Miller made it sound so good that I bought it the next day and read it this weekend. On the plus side, it's a trade-paperback original, and thus exemplifies a trend I am happy to support. On the minus side, it wasn't actually that good. Some nice prose, but I am pretty sure I will forget everything about the story in approximately six days.
- Been listening to José González ever since, yes, that Bravia ad. Good music for a rainy day, and the month of March in San Francisco was essentially one giant rainy day.
Go Gray Lady Go
Scope the hott NYT.com redesign. Very clean, in no way trendy.
I'm curious to see what they do with the section currently used to promo the new design; it's a pretty excellent piece of screen real estate.
Not sold on NYT video yet. Though I did watch three "Vows" segments last weekend. Um.
I am not sure I fully understand the import of Times Topics but it bodes well. News building upon itself to construct an ever-more-useful framework, vs. flapping silently away into the ether every morning... I vote yes.
Also: The promise fulfilled!
Excellent Nonrequired Reading
Sasha Frere-Jones on Mariah Carey. Sample: ["Vision of Love"] begins with several bars of lovely, wordless melisma, as if Carey were warming up, and it ends with two very loud passages of melisma, one of them an a-cappella expansion on the word “all” that can be roughly transcribed as: “ah-ha-uh-uh-oh-oo-oh-ooah-ha-uh-uh-oh-oo-oh-oo-ah-oh.”
File Under: Bright Ideas
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.