April 30, 2008
Under Orders, Under Fire
Forgot where it was linked, but some blogger recently referred to a famous 1996 essay on the media by James Fallows that I had never read. The essay begins with a description of a public television broadcast called "Under Orders, Under Fire":
Most of the panelists were former soldiers talking about the ethical dilemmas of their work. The moderator was Charles Ogletree, a professor at Harvard Law School, who moved from panelist to panelist asking increasingly difficult questions in the law school's famous Socratic style.Fascinating, right? Read the rest of the essay, but I got you one better. Turns out the episode (and the series it was a part of) is entirely available online.
During the first half of the show Ogletree made the soldiers squirm about ethical tangles on the battlefield. The man getting the roughest treatment was Frederick Downs, a writer who as a young Army lieutenant in Vietnam had lost his left arm in a mine explosion. ...
Then Ogletree turned to the two most famous members of the evening's panel, better known even than Westmoreland. These were two star TV journalists: Peter Jennings, of World News Tonight and ABC, and Mike Wallace, of 60 Minutes and CBS.
Ogletree brought them into the same hypothetical war. He asked Jennings to imagine that he worked for a network that had been in contact with the enemy North Kosanese government. After much pleading Jennings and his news crew got permission from the North Kosanese to enter their country and film behind the lines. Would Jennings be willing to go? Of course, he replied. Any reporter would—and in real wars reporters from his network often had.
But while Jennings and his crew were traveling with a North Kosanese unit, to visit the site of an alleged atrocity by U.S. and South Kosanese troops, they unexpectedly crossed the trail of a small group of American and South Kosanese soldiers. With Jennings in their midst the Northern soldiers set up an ambush that would let them gun down the Americans and Southerners.
What would Jennings do? Would he tell his cameramen to "Roll tape!" as the North Kosanese opened fire? What would go through his mind as he watched the North Kosanese prepare to fire?
Jennifer Daniel's portfolio site is fun in all kindsa ways.
April 29, 2008
Simple idea. Beautiful execution.
The Planet of the Dead
Loved last night's Long Now lecture -- actually a debate between Niall Ferguson and Peter Schwartz. It was historian vs. futurist, conservative vs. liberal, pessimist vs. optimist. Unfortunately it was also incredibly great speaker vs. merely good speaker as well, so I feel the futurist/optimists didn't quite get their fair shake... but so be it.
My favorite phrase, and image, from the entire evening was this one. Niall Ferguson countered the claim that the past is a foreign country, saying: No, it's a foreign planet... a planet of the dead... and its population far outnumbers our own.
And historians try to understand that strange place. Ferguson said, with no little glee: "I prefer the company of the dead to the company of the living. And it's a good thing, because I spend most of my time with them."
The counterfactual anthology Virtual History, edited by Ferguson, is great. I haven't read any of his solo books yet, though.
April 24, 2008
Don't Blink or You'll Miss Current
Made a flip-book style video based on Current.com items.
I realize others might find it barf-inducing, but personally I think it's mesmerizing:
April 22, 2008
P.S. I just found this link on some other blog but accidentally closed the window. I can't remember where it was. I'm sorry, Via Gods.
Light and Sound from Far Away
Yeah sure, you've got a rad visualizer for your music. But what about a rad visualizer for your phone calls? (It doesn't hurt that Arik Levy sounds sort of like Superman's father placing an interstellar call from Krypton.)
April 21, 2008
Aaaack somehow it got to be 1 a.m., but the upside is I just found this slideshow about trees.
(Seriously, this is no joke. We are talking about a Magnum photographer on the tree beat. Ahh.)
April 20, 2008
April 19, 2008
'This Place Had Raised Its Hands'
"It was as if the gods of world history had asked, 'Does somebody want to get into some really unprecedentedly deep shit?' and this place had raised its hands and said 'Yeah!'"
April 16, 2008
Somebody, Please Make Some News Tonight
For somebody who works in journalism, I really strongly dislike the American press sometimes. It boils over into out-and-out gall during Presidential elections, when news is scarce, and reporters start slavering after the musings of pundits like starved dogs. We find ourselves incapable of sustaining any significant focus on issues, or even stylistic distinctions between candidates that have real implications on how they will lead. Instead, we seed these manufactured clouds of perceptions and expectations over and over, hoping against hope to produce a storm. And if we should happen upon a gaffe or a gotcha moment, we actually praise the gods and we feast.
Bittergate, day six.... Read more ....
April 15, 2008
Particularly lovely and evocative post from Nokia ethnographer Jan Chipcase on overfilling and overflowing. But totally bite-size, as always!
April 14, 2008
We're All Full of Advice
I am transfixed by Postcards From Yo Momma. Not just because some of them are funny. It's the pathos of it. This is like Chekhov in blog format.
April 13, 2008
I've been in St. Louis. So I pass you off to Mr. Carmody for canny political commentary.
Oof! Slow on Snarkmarket lately.
I realize a self-aggrandizing Current link isn't exactly the thing to remedy that... but I was surprised (and happy) to see one of our viewer-created ads promoted on the front page of YouTube this morning. It's clever.
More stuff soon.
April 9, 2008
Four Days in Denver
Delightful. Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr., a West Wing writer, serves up a little speculative fiction on a brokered Democratic convention.
Hillary’s car is pulling away from the hotel. She spots Oregon senator Ron Wyden getting into his car. She has her car chase Wyden’s car. At a traffic light, she jumps out with a gang of Secret Service agents and they surround Wyden’s car. She climbs into Wyden’s car and rides with him, working on him to vote for her. When Wyden finally says he thinks only Obama can beat McCain, Hillary is ready for that. She tells Wyden that McCain’s winning the White House is the best thing that can happen for Wyden’s reelection in 2010, because the president’s party always loses seats in midterm elections. A Democratic president is going to make Wyden’s reelection that much tougher.
April 6, 2008
Alligator Blood Beats Supergerms!
From EurekAlert, the wire service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (and one of my fave RSS feeds): Alligator blood may put the bite on antibiotic-resistant infections.
Turns out alligators have incredible immune systems:
Previous studies by Merchant showed that alligators have an unusually strong immune system that is very different from that of humans. Unlike people, alligators can fight microorganisms such as fungi, viruses, and bacteria without having prior exposure to them. Scientists believe that this is an evolutionary adaptation to promote quick wound healing, as alligators are often injured during fierce territorial battles.
But the crucial thing is that this is obviously the origin story for The Alligator, who would probably be a Spider-Man villain. Brilliant scientist working on super drug, driven to experiment on himself, etc., etc., but then the alligator DNA takes overrrrrGRAHHH!
Or maybe, uh, it would go more like this:
[D]on't try to create your own home-remedies using alligator blood, as raw, unprocessed blood could make you sick or even kill you if injected, the researcher cautions.
FYI, the Line Rider Dude's Name is Bosh
Terrific interview with Boštjan Cadez, the creator of Line Rider. I wonder: If you could somehow tally up the total cultural impact of something like Line Rider, what would it be roughly equivalent to? An indie band's new album? A minor hit cable TV show? Something smaller? Something bigger?
(FYI, Snarkmarket's TCI is approximately equivalent to a single mid-January stump speech by a third-tier presidential candidate. I just checked.)
We're in this weird phase where bizarre niche hits, powered by viral internet jet fuel, can be really huge... but still somehow invisible.
Re: Line Rider-as-technology, not Line Rider-as-web-phenomenon, I liked this bit of explanation:
Anyway, I enjoyed procedural animation because it didn't involve frame by frame 'slave' work, which I was always too lazy to do. But procedural stuff gets boring, monotone and predictive very fast. It especially bugged me with VJ-ing. Pre-coded stuff was too much like video -- too much in the past -- and even if it was reacting to audio in real time, it looked always the same. So I started thinking about how to find something which had the best of both worlds: something which I could change on the fly, some way of animating stuff by just drawing it.
I think there's a lot of potential in that "best of both worlds." Think: Spore, Crayon Physics, and things yet to come.
Check out the trailer for Johnny Bunko.
Should probably note that:
- Johnny Bunko is a book, not a movie.
- Johnny Bunko is a career advice book, not a novel.
- Johnny Bunko is manga!
That makes this trailer both terrific, meta-terrific, and meta-meta-terrific.
April 3, 2008
Templated Creation Wizards
Couple newish websites make it easy to make formerly complicated things:
1) BitStrips offers a surprisingly robust tool for making comic strips. Fell in love with it a little at first, but the honeymoon's kinda wearing off. Why can't I save strips as drafts? Why don't I have access to *all* the characters other users have made public? Why can't I make characters based on those characters?
2) AniMoto makes wonderfully kinetic automatic slideshows from your images, synced to a song of your choosing. You can then export the slideshows to YouTube, or dispense with them as you please.
Oh yeh, and also: This has nothing to do with templated creation, but Lifehacker's talking about the best IM clients. Pleasingly, I see they've chosen Digsby, which I've been meaning to blog about forever. Digsby is my *jam*. It connects not only to your IM service of choice, but to your Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other social apps. And it's got a slick, freakishly customizable interface. And it's fresh out of a private beta, so developers are polishing it up more every day.
April 2, 2008
Coins of the Realm
It's been widely blogged in the design-o-sphere, but just in case you missed it: The UK's new coins are stunning. Bold, attractive, and... er... clever? Who ever heard of currency that was clever? I am all awe and envy.
The New News
Hey, we just redesigned the Current.com homepage to reflect our new hourly news show, called (get ready for it) Current News. Check it out.
And, look: We're on TechCrunch!