December 30, 2004
Mind Hacks: The Snarkmarket
Brains: They are as amazing in their limitations as in their capabilities.
Yes, a brain can recognize a human face -- and its mood -- with a speed and accuracy to make Google weep.
(P.S. Both central dots are the same size.)
Mental misdirection and optical illusions are fun; they're also really useful tools.
These hacks amaze because they reveal the brain's hidden logic; they shed light on the cheats and shortcuts and latent assumptions our brains make about the world. Most of the time, these mechanisms are invisible to us--or so ubiquitous we no longer notice their existence. A brain hack is a way of pulling back the curtain of consciousness to glimpse -- however fleetingly -- the machinery on the other side.
"The machinery on the other side."
We might be the first generation to be totally down with that idea. The soul, the oversoul, the trinity of the id/ego/superego, the Incredible Homunculus... forget it. We don't have to settle for a theory that just sounds sensible, or makes us feel good, or harmonizes with some broke-ass theology. Thanks to new tools, we can actually investigate.
That's, er, not to say we've got everything figured out. No way. Brain science -- and Mind Hacks -- is more questions than answers.
There's a Mind Hacks blog if you are sufficiently intrigued.
AND NOW: Actually, O'Reilly sent El Snark two copies of the book. This may have been a clerical error... or it may have been their way of saying, "Have a contest!!"
Clearly we will choose door #2.
I’ll send a pristine copy of Mind Hacks to the person who comments with the best research finding and/or anecdote from the intersection of brains and romance. Deadline is Friday, January 7, at midnight PST. It can be about "your friend" if you want.
December 29, 2004
Thirst Is Nothing.
Personal Activaire is a full service music source for people with iPods. All models accepted.
Tap into burgeoning underground music scenes. Listen and live to the sounds of NYC, London, Berlin, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Tokyo...
Perfect for people on the go! This service is ideal for those who have very little time, but who want to hear and become knowledgeable about current quality underground music. We bring you the best albums from rock, electro, hip hop, minimal-techno, house, and electronica labels from around the world.
Apparently, if your 70-hours-a-week I-banking gig has you too over-scheduled to go cruising the back alleys of Tokyo on your own, just FedEx your iPod to this company, and for a measly $200 a pop, you'll get it back, loaded with 10 albums from the sonic fringes of the global indie underground.
Note that the assurances of connectedness to the far reaches of the obscure come with no actual markers of musical taste. Except for a ridiculously long list of independent record label links. I imagine this is a sample of the undiscovered urban wilderness I'll be exploring, right? That's so gorram crunk. I'll make sure to catch them live on the BBC.
I'm in love with this. Just seven years after the Gladwell article, we can finally buy our own personal Coolhunters.
December 28, 2004
Who is Robert Spitzer?
According to The New Yorker, Robert Spitzer "revolutionized psychiatry."
Make that, "according to Alix Spiegel, writing for The New Yorker." The distinction is important, because a cursory Google-fueled traipse through the Internet reveals that Alix Spiegel is Robert Spitzer's chief (only?) biographer. Spiegel-authored pieces on Spitzer also appear on NPR and This American Life.
The question "Who is Robert Spitzer?" is important, because if you believe Spiegel, Spitzer might be the father of modern psychiatry. So if Spitzer turns out to be a genius, then this psychiatry business may have something to it. But if he's a quack, who's to say his baby's not as well?... Read more ....
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.
Saheli has compiled an excellent list of organizations assisting in disaster relief, as well as some commentary on the tragedy.
December 22, 2004
Well, I Know What I Want for Christmas
In the back of Carlos Owens' southern Alaska yard, an 18-foot-tall steel robot is taking shape in the dim light of the winter afternoons.
Ahhh. Happy holidays.
December 17, 2004
'She begins to visibly adolesce.'
No added value here... just a link. It's funny!
December 12, 2004
The Myth That Acting White's a Myth
The sociological debate over whether black Americans deprecate academic achievement has been raging for decades now with much heat and little light. The item in today's NYT Magazine about "The 'Acting White' Myth" is no better than any of the other mostly uninformed articles on the topic.
I've been following this debate for years. Two years ago, I started a MetaFilter discussion on the topic, and today's NYT article brought it up again. So I chimed in with my attempt to explain why sociological studies come to different conclusions on the subject of alleged black intellectualism.
The phrase "acting white" was unearthed in the sociological community by professors Signithia Fordham and John Ogbu in 1986. The chief problem with these professors' findings was one of nuance, and they drew much criticism for their paper on the subject. But in 2002, another pair of researchers attempted to polish Fordham and Ogbu's thesis with a second study. And here I'll copy and paste from my comment in today's MetaFilter thread.
What this second study found was that black students were much likelier to reject a plethora of signal behaviors that typically correlate with academic achievement. It's not the achievement itself. It's the act of cultural treachery that comes with it. From the study:
Another young man, now a record producer and rap recording artist, had gone away to Exeter, the elite private preparatory school, and come back dressing and speaking differently from when he left. He was accused of acting white. His interpretation of why former friends in the community were a little “put off” or “taken aback,” was not that they resented his success. Instead, his interpretation was sensitive to their concern that he might be trying to escape the stigma. He said they wondered if he had “sold out” to the Other part of society that looked down on people like themselves. He responded by finding ways to share his success and, “By letting them know that I’m not ashamed. I can still speak slang. I can still rap, even.”
Looking at it from this perspective, you can begin to understand why, for example, in the first MetaFilter thread, tyro_urge's experience as a young black man had differed so much from mine. I've never grown up within hip-hop culture. I've been surrounded by whites my whole life. I talk "white," I dress "white." I definitely "act white," and I heard that charge over and over growing up, from other black folks, especially cousins. At the same time, I felt no real pressure to focus on adopting any typically black signal behaviors, because there was no black population at my high school to attempt to fit in with.
Even at my university, the black community was somewhat stratified between those who had achieved academic success while appropriating the signal behaviors of "hip-hop culture," and those who had achieved it while appropriating those of "white culture." There was little ostracism between these members of the black community at my college, but we didn't always hang out, by default.
So there's the disparity. If you try to find blacks who are against the idea of academic achievement or professional success, as in the New York Times article, you're going to fail. I mean, that's just stupid. But look for black youths who insist that those in their peer groups have to, essentially, be down with hip-hop culture above all else, and Ogbu's findings start to make sense.
'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 9, 2004
I really don't know what the big deal is about "reparative" or "conversion" therapy, as it's known. Yes, I definitely think we should do more careful studies of it to make sure any deleterious psychological effects are completely offset by the psychological benefits, but many people nowadays seem unwilling even to let those studies happen.
If a person is unhappy with his sexuality and wants to change it, and we attain the ability to do so clinically, safely, possibly even chemically, why not oblige? It's not like there's going to be a huge population-wide rush for the service. (Hell, if it didn't take too long, I might even pop into a clinic and give girls a try for a weekend or so, just to see what all the fuss was about.)
Anyway, put me on the record as being all for conversion therapy.
And let's begin by turning this poor bastard gay.
Lawrence.com Lays It Down
Web feeds (RSS)
We've added web feeds (a.k.a. RSS feeds) to many of our site's pages -- including best bets, MP3s, blogs, venues and bands. This is full-blown computer geek orgasm-type stuff. It's incredibly useful, and, in a few years, it'll be all the rage among today's AOL users. Be the first among your friends to really "get it" -- try RSS now! For full information, check out our RSS page.
*I don't know what that's supposed to mean, it just sounded right
The site has a longer tutorial, too, aptly titled: "WTF is RSS?"
Which reminds me: Snarkmarket has an RSS feed! Subscribe to it, dawg!
May I say, in closing, that I wish there was a Lawrence.com for every city in the U.S.? It would be to bars, restaurants, and local bands what craigslist is to jobs, apartments, and lonely dudes.
December 8, 2004
December 7, 2004
Armageddon Can't Get Here Too Soon
I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong. It's not the end of civilization as we know it. It's still just the beginning of a really, really crappy one.
A Coveted Crowd
Look out... the market of snark has just received, for the first time in its brief but luminous history, a review copy of a book.
Like, for free!
Take a moment to understand the implications, faithful readers and commenters: A well-established publishing house seeks to curry favor with you!
It's a cool book. (I will not reveal its title, because I am a marketing genius.) Look for the Snarkreview this weekend.
Link Dumper (or) Apollyon's Cruel Laugh
I was just looking at Snarkmarket's traffic stats, and noticed that one of our top referrers, or pages from which people come here, is currently http://www.adminshop.com.
And dude: This is where you buy the program that spams blogs.
It's called Link Dumper, and I feel like I've just looked into the Eye of Sauron.
Check out the description:
Spread your sites into the farest reaches of the internet! Link Dumper is an amazingly powerful little WIndows tool that you can input site name, URL, and description into, which it then automatically inserts into open "linkdump" sites all over the internet. Linkdump is a term for sites that allow people to contribute links which are then instantly shared with thousands of people, and they have become very popular during the last 6 months. This really is the perfect way to start a site, as linkdump surfers are of the kind to further spread (over e-mail, forums, linkdumps, et cetera) URLs they find interesting, shocking, pornographic, or funny.
Gahhh! It's so offensive in its blithe practicality!
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."
December 1, 2004
This Must Be What Neal Stephenson's Dreams Are Like
OMG, this rules. From Saheli Datta's blog:
*The dream also involved some friends juggling torches on a Shakespearan stage set inside a magnificent library, while other friends and I watched and flitted about the mezanine with billowing scarves tied to our wrists--nanofabric scarves that were catching information from the WiFi network and displaying it to us as we danced. That, I think, will stay in dreamspace for a while.
There is also a whole post about a Bruce Sterling speech and "spimes." And a nice Snarkmarket shout-out.
But nanofabric scarves, people!!