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August 30, 2008


Matt says,

If you haven't already, definitely check out Josh Marshall's recently [re?]posted interview with Joe Biden from summer '04. Fascinating. A snippet, from when Biden describes meeting Qaddafi shortly after the announcement of the dismantlement deal:

I said, "Yeah, why, why the change of heart?" And he says, "The real question is" -- through an interpreter -- "The real question is, why did we get off this way, why did you sanction me in the first place?"

I looked at him and said, "That's easy. You're a terrorist." I didn't mince, I said, "You are a terrorist." I said, you know I leaned to him and said, "You've engaged in supporting terrorists. Matter of fact, you blew up 35 of the kids who went to my alma mater along with another hundred or so people. You're a terrorist, that's why."

He sits there and he goes like this, he goes, "That's logical." (laughs) I mean the guy was great! And I said, "So, Okay. Tell me why." And he went, Well -- I'm paraphrasing -- "Nuclear weapons didn't help you very much in Vietnam, they didn't help you in Iraq and if I ever used them you'd blow me away."

Comments (2) | Permasnark | Posted: 10:58 AM

August 27, 2008

Numa Numa Rihanna

Robin says,

Well, I got my first story onto Current:News. I'm not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed of the fact that it was about Rihanna covering the Numa Numa song. (Click the pink "play this story" bar to check out the TV version!)

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 8:20 AM

August 26, 2008

Shockwave Traffic Jams

Robin says,

Here's the setup:

  • You're one of 20 or so cars driving around in a perfect circle.
  • No seriously, it's a perfect circle.
  • So your only job is to follow the car in front of you.
  • And keep your speed at around 20 miles per hour.

The result? You guessed it: traffic jams!

Check out the video evidence.

And apparently this experiment corresponds to real-world observation in at least one important way: In both cases, the "shockwave" of slow-down propagates back through cars at around 12 miles per hour. It's pretty mesmerizing to watch.

Thanks, Mathematical Society of Traffic Flow!

Comments (1) | Permasnark | Posted: 3:42 PM

An Evening with Rthrtha

Robin says,

Check out this fun, cut-and-paste-y music video. Give it a bit to warm up; it gets exponentially better as it goes.

I love the bats.

The song is from a group called Octopus Project -- sort of Ratatat times Pinback minus vocals. Actually, never mind, that makes no sense. I'm going to stop trying to describe music.

Bonus: Behind-the-scenes stills! Oh man that looks fun.

(Via Ted R.)

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 11:03 AM

August 25, 2008

Matt Bai Talks Up The Argument

Matt says,

The Believer interviews Matt Bai. (Oh, and speaking of the NYT Magazine, I highly recommend David Leonhardt's cover story on Obamanomics if you haven't read it.)

Comments (2) | Permasnark | Posted: 1:28 PM

August 24, 2008

Never Again?

Matt says,

Richard Just's lengthy explanation of why Darfur is still engulfed in genocide five years after it caught the world's attention is the most spellbinding, heartrending thing I've read in quite a bit. A surprising brew of circumstances have paralyzed us from stopping this tragedy, departing from the Problem from Hell template in a few key particulars. Do take a look.

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 10:24 PM

NYT Discovers Linkblogging

Matt says,

... and it's good. (Don't miss the running tally of good reads in the sidebar.) Keep it up, Mr. Kuntz.

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 8:36 AM

August 22, 2008

Buildings and Their Not-So-Secret Identities

Matt says,

The Walker Art Center recently concluded a spectacular exhibit called "Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes" (they've helpfully catalogued the whole exhibit in a wiki; oh Walker, how I love you). Among the highlights of the exhibit was this photo collection by Paho Mann, images of former Circle K convenience stores that have been transformed into other types of businesses -- tattoo parlors, Mexican restaurants, tuxedo rental places -- all taken from the same distance in similar light, all bearing the Circle K's suprisingly distinct form. (Also available as a Google Maps mashup, natch.)

I mentioned this to an architect friend, and he pointed me to the delightful "a chronicle of bad conversions and storefronts past" -- photos of former chain restaurants lightly altered to house new businesses. (Such as "China Hut," the bastard offspring of -- what else? -- Pizza Hut.)

OMG I love the Web sometimes.

Comments (1) | Permasnark | Posted: 2:03 PM

August 21, 2008

Dirty Talk

Matt says,

A MeFi commenter describes sex talk:

Q: You like sex? You are a person who likes the sex acts that we are currently engaged in?
A: Yes! I am! I like sex!
Q: You like sex! In fact, you are a person who likes sex as much as a prostitute likes sex!
(Via this awesome thread. See also: "I am never really going to close the dork tag.")

Comments (1) | Permasnark | Posted: 10:05 AM

August 19, 2008

Back to the Pleasant Peninsula

Robin says,

On vacation in Michigan for the next five day. You know what I'm gonna do? Not blog.

I hear there's another guy who hangs around here... maybe you can lure him out in the comments.

See you on Monday!

Comments (3) | Permasnark | Posted: 7:27 PM

August 18, 2008

Socratic Dialogue as Journalistic Format

Robin says,

You know what we need more of? Socratic dialogues! Totally not kidding. It's such a natural, effective way to explore an argument. (This one's about the Obama campaign, by Atlantic blogger Marc Ambinder.)

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 12:13 PM

August 15, 2008

How Is YouTube Not the Greatest Art Project Ever?

Robin says,

The question just occurred to me: How is YouTube not the greatest art project ever?

Imagine a slightly parallel dimension where Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim aren't web engineers from Silicon Valley but instead art scenesters from New York. They know the language of the art world; they know how to present work in that context.

But they also have tech chops -- NYU ITP grads, say -- so their project isn't a painting or an avante-garde video but a web app. It's a platform, a system.

And that project grows into YouTube -- one of the craziest, most kaleidoscopic reflections of humanity we've ever seen. It's beautiful. It totally encapsulates and embodies the spirit of the age. And, in our parallel dimension, as the YouTube guys struggle with servers and scalability, they're also submitting it to juried shows and, I don't know, biennials or whatever. They are framing it.

Isn't that high art? Isn't that incredibly successful, important art?

Now, forget the commercial objection, because for years YouTube didn't run a single ad. And let's push our parallel dimension even further and say that Google signs on not as the project's acquirer but as its patron. The Medici of Mountain View!

Am I missing some foundational idea or definition here? I don't actually know anything about art (though I will admit I am in this frame of mind b/c I just strolled through SFMOMA yesterday) -- what would the knee-jerk art-scholar reaction be?

And what do you think?

Comments (6) | Permasnark | Posted: 4:37 PM

Imperial Fleet Week

Robin says,

Oh, and if you're in San Francisco this weekend, don't forget to check out Imperial Fleet Week. Last year's was awesome. Even though the AT-ATs always trip over the MUNI lines...

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 3:04 PM

The Dark Knight, Age Nine

Robin says,

Meta-media is the new media! This swede of the Dark Knight trailer acted out by kids is both a funny, charming homage and some sort of biting commentary. (Or maybe I just want it to be biting commentary?)

Comments (1) | Permasnark | Posted: 2:22 PM

August 14, 2008

Video Madness

Robin says,

Wow wow wow. Check out this demo of some crazy video algorithms. I can't even quite find words for what this team is up to... but it's pretty astounding. Watch all the way through, because there are a bunch of different techniques demoed, and they get better and better.

(Via kd.to_tumblr.)

Comments (4) | Permasnark | Posted: 3:03 PM


Robin says,

Ah, the mythic confluence of all things nerdy: Random House is publishing a book called Bat-Manga, edited by Chip Kidd (of course). Here's the story:

[T]he book features Batman and Robin as you've never seen them before -- in original Japanese stories from 1966 and 1967, written and drawn by Manga master Jiro Kuwata, creator of 8-Man! -- collected and translated for the very first time, over forty years after they originally appeared.

UnbeLIEVable. Why was I not told of this sooner?

Comments (1) | Permasnark | Posted: 12:58 PM

Coming Soon:

Robin says,

I like this map of famous trips throughout history from GOOD magazine... but what I like even better is their subdomain for special projects:!

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 12:45 PM

August 13, 2008

Sigur Ros @ MOMA

Robin says,

I've been remiss in not posting this 'til now: Sigur Ros performs live at MOMA, on Current. Honestly, I didn't realize they could create those sounds outside of a studio. Beautiful.

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 4:27 AM

August 12, 2008

The Sexiest Equation Ever

Robin says,


Comments (6) | Permasnark | Posted: 10:46 PM

Designing Neighborhoods

Robin says,


Ahh, the eternal lure of architecture and planning, if only because you get to make little models like this. At first I was turned off -- all those houses look the same! Blech! -- but then I started to think about how it would actually get implemented, and how it would actually feel. And then the geometry of the streets really caught me -- totally regular, but not just a boring grid. I'm into it. You?

(Via City of Sound's links.)

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 10:10 AM

Flip-Flop, Schmip-Flop

Matt says,

MPR's Midmorning show today was about politicians flip-flopping. A tired subject, and nothing non-trite can be said about it. Still, I had to let this out:

What the news media often neglect in their coverage of the candidates is attention to their underlying governing philosophies. I think these provide a much more accurate guide to their behavior in office than their tendency to make shifts on small-bore, particular issues.

For all the media hullabaloo around "flip-flopping" in the Bush/Kerry election, we would have had a much keener idea of President Bush's flavor of governance had the media focused our attention on the core philosophies animating his team of advisers. Bush's reliance on and deference to those advisers, their belief in the unitary executive, their dogged insistence on loyalty ber alles, their neoconservative interventionism -- all of these things could have been foreseen from what we knew in the run-up to the 2000 election. And it's those facts that would have given us a much, much clearer picture of how the Bush administration would administer its departments, how it would respond to events such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, a housing bust, etc.

Just take a look at one of Bush's most-cited statements since 2001, presaged in this January 2000 profile of Karl Rove by Frank Bruni: "'Anybody who gets in the way of his ambitions for the governor gets run off,' said Tom Pauken, a former chairman of the Republican Party in Texas. 'And if you're not with Karl 100 percent, you're an enemy.'"

I want to hear much, much less about flip-flops. Off-shore drilling, for all the ink given to it in the past two weeks, is an infinitesimal mote in the array of decisions and compromises #44 will have to navigate. Don't tell me what minor issues a candidate has shifted positions on, tell me what core philosophies the candidate has been consistent about, what common threads of thought weave through his speeches, his actions, and the minds of his advisers. That will give me a much clearer sense of how he'll govern.

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 8:57 AM

August 11, 2008

This Wednesday

Robin says,

Attention San Francisco snarkmatrix:

Come to this Creative Commons Salon on Wednesday from 7-9 p.m. I'll be talking about Current and the fuuuture of video!

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 6:15 PM


Robin says,

Whoah! Collision of three things I'm a fan of: Nick Douglas posts about Viral Video Film School on Buzzfeed.

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 1:43 PM

August 10, 2008

"This Article Documents Ongoing Warfare"

Robin says,

Holy jeez. The Wikipedia 2008 South Ossetia War entry is nuts! Look at that table on the right!

Comments (1) | Permasnark | Posted: 4:21 PM

August 7, 2008

The Power of Naaature

Robin says,

Slow-motion video of lightning: YA-ZOW!!

Funny how lightning -- the real deal, the big stroke, the mighty discharge -- doesn't actually go from the sky to the ground; instead it's our earthly assault on the heavens above!

Comments (6) | Permasnark | Posted: 2:49 PM

August 6, 2008

Current HQ Tour

Robin says,

Ever wonder what my office is like?


Too bad. Watch this anyway.

Comments (2) | Permasnark | Posted: 9:36 AM

August 5, 2008

Tales of the Gulag Archipelago

Robin says,

Wow. Thanks to the way technology and communications have changed, this is an experience no one will really ever be able to have again:

Although more than three decades have now passed since the winter of 1974, when unbound, hand-typed, samizdat manuscripts of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago first began circulating around what used to be the Soviet Union, the emotions they stirred remain today. Usually, readers were given only 24 hours to finish the lengthy manuscript -- the first historical account of the Soviet concentration camp system -- before it had to be passed on to the next person. That meant spending an entire day and a whole night absorbed in Solzhenitsyn's sometimes eloquent, sometimes angry prose -- not an experience anyone was likely to forget.

Amazing. Gotta quote the next graf too:

Members of that first generation of readers remember who gave the book to them, who else knew about it, and to whom they passed it on. They remember the stories that affected them most -- the tales of small children in the camps, or of informers, or of camp guards. They remember what the book felt like -- the blurry, mimeographed text, the dog-eared paper, the dim glow of the lamp switched on late at night -- and with whom they later discussed it.

Now that is social media. Reading those two grafs alone just gave me shivers.

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 10:41 AM

McCain Green Screen Challenge

Robin says,

Man, I always wondered: Who actually enters these Colbert Report green-screen challenges? Who are the special effects ninjas walking secretly among us?

Now I know -- it's my friend Scot!

Hee hee. It's really good.

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 10:28 AM

August 3, 2008

Embarrassment Manifest

Matt says,

One of the reasons I love Ask MetaFilter is that I often come across questions that I'm very curious about, but would never have thought to articulate. This question is one of those:

When I think of / remember something embarrassing from my life, I compulsively make some kind of noise. It seems to happen unconsciously, before my censor can catch it and stop myself (it even happens when I am in a quiet or inappropriate place). It's not especially loud, in fact it's often under my breath. The sound is usually just a quiet grunt, or a word/syllable or two. ... It usually only happens when I'm remembering something palpably embarrassing or humiliating from my life -- not for mild everyday kind of stuff. ... So what is this, do I have some kind of low-grade tourette's syndrome? Is there a name for this phenomenon? Does it happen to others or is it unique to me?
This happens to me sporadically, and from the dozens of responses on Ask MeFi, it's not uncommon.

Comments (7) | Permasnark | Posted: 7:08 PM


Robin says,

Obvs the Large Hadron Collider as depicted on The Big Picture is mind-blowing, but don't miss the Heliotron, either.

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 11:23 AM

August 2, 2008

What Startups Can Learn from Haruki Murakami

Robin says,

I want more posts like this on tech blogs!

(Okay okay, so it's not actually that mind-blowing a post... I just liked the unexpected reference. Not a lot of modern literary fiction on TechCrunch, ya know?)

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 11:48 AM

Boring Boring Boring Glorious Boring Boring

Robin says,

Ugh. Enjoyed this long NYT piece on the swimmer Michael Phelps, but man, every time I read about Olympic training -- or any super-high-level athletic training -- it makes me pity the Olympians. What a monotonous routine. It's like prison -- except maybe you get a gold medal at the end.

Comments (0) | Permasnark | Posted: 11:44 AM

August 1, 2008

Donkey Kong As Symbol of Modern Oligarchy

Matt says,

Kottke's plug for the Independent Documentary Association's list of the 25 best documentaries reminds me to recommend one that was underhyped last year -- The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. I like Keith Phipps' perceptive review best; he calls it "a film about what it takes to make it in America." It's hilarious, a bit sad, and enormously revealing.

Comments (4) | Permasnark | Posted: 1:07 PM
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