February 28, 2005
Land of the Rising
* Sometime within the next 20 years.
February 27, 2005
Like spelling bees, but for finding stuff! That is such a cool idea!
Um, if Jeff Jarvis ends up being Dan Okrent's replacement as the public editor of The New York Times, I'd just like it on the record that you heard it here first.
Dear Ol' Dad
There were times that Dad’s pranks bordered on cruelty. One of his oil-company workers, a one-legged man he nicknamed “Crip” Smith, complained about everything. Dad and Crip’s co-workers got tired of the old man’s bellyaching and decided to take revenge. One morning Crip called in sick and Dad volunteered to send by lunch to his grateful but suspicious employee. Dad and his chums caught Crip’s old black tomcat, killed it, skinned it, and cooked it in the kitchen of one of Dad’s little restaurants. They called it squirrel meat and delivered it to Crip on a linen-covered tray. When Crip returned to work the next morning, Dad and his co-conspirators asked him how he liked his meal. They knew he would complain even about a free home-cooked lunch, and when Crip called it “the toughest squirrel meat” he had ever eaten, they were glad to tell him why. —The Reverend Jerry Falwell, in “Strength for the Journey: An Autobiography.”
And a satire, from Ian Frazier in The New Yorker.
Flowers for Calvin and Hobbes
Someone posted that on MetaFilter (somewhat grungier), and everyone agreed that it was incredibly depressing. Of course, I thought I'd share it.
But to cheer you up, someone also posted this on MetaFilter, a link to a collection of online scans of all ten years of Calvin and Hobbes, the strip that entered syndication the day I turned five. Can you believe this December will mark the tenth year since Bill Watterson stopped drawing C&H?
Here's a Torrent link to a PDF of all those strips (187 mb).
Soon, however, you won't even have to turn to the glorious Intarweb to get your fix of Calvinball. The entire strip is being compiled into one giant collection, to be released in September.
A couple of years ago, an article appeared in The Cleveland Scene about Bill Watterson, his reclusiveness, his artistic integrity and his future plans. It was quite a good read (also discovered, I believe, via MetaFilter).
MetaFilter's down at the moment I'm posting this, but when it comes back up, I'll edit this entry.
February 26, 2005
I'd Like to Spank the Academy ...
As usual, when it comes to the Oscars, Fametracker's got the goods:
So, I was thinking, maybe we could mimic the wicked efficiency of natural systems and usher in a new era of hyper-successful, totally sustainable human production? Just a thought. WHOAH.
February 25, 2005
What It Costs to Keep the Gays Out
An interesting study from the Department of Defense (PDF). About 9,500 servicemembers have been "separated" from the U.S. military (read "discharged," although that's one of English's Official Nastiest Words) in the past 10 years for being gay or lesbian. The D.O.D. commissioned this study to see how much their fear of the gay was costing them to recruit new servicefolks. For the Army, Navy and Air Force, the cost turned out to be about $95 million, over the past decade. (The total for the Marines couldn't be counted.) Eh, not so much $$. Discriminate away!
February 23, 2005
You Gotta Be Good, You Gotta Be Strong
So I went to WIRED's Rave Awards last night. Oh, wait, did I say "went to"? I meant "rocked out VIP-style (balcony access, suckas!) at."
But only because fimoculous.com gave me a ticket. (Thanks, Rex!) He was nominated for best blogger, but the big winner was Kevin Sites, who apparently "reported" from "Iraq." Whatever. Rex has a TiVo.
At the awards I met Xeni Jardin, who is perhaps not actually famous but certainly nerd-famous.
I also met John Vars, who's part of the small team behind Dogster and Catster. Note that these sites appear to actually be better-designed and more useful than, say, Friendster. Also note the dog diaries. Written... in... first... person.
Entertainment was provided by neo-hippie symphonic rock collective The Polyphonic Spree. They are pictured, fuzzily, above. If you don't know the P-S you should check out their music (here's a bizarre but wonderful introduction); it is described (both positively and negatively) as "happy-clappy" and I like it. In measured doses.
Two more pictures after the jump. Because I am the citizen journalist of rock!... Read more ....
Silly Google. Some day a hobbit will find your evil ring and destroy it.
Citizens With Cameras
Whoah! These are some seriously hot photos of tornadoes captured by Sacramento Bee readers! Props to sacbee.com for gathering them.
February 22, 2005
This Is What They Call a 'Spoiler,' I Think
Why go see Star Wars Episode 3 in May when you can just see it all laid out online today?
P.S. What great info-gathering! This is, like, class-A reporting! Except it just happens to be about, um, Jedi knights.
Map of Your Stars
LivePlasma is a super-shiny recommendation engine. I tend to distrust these things, but then I entered "Rufus Wainwright," and a cloud of fellow musical artists I've come to adore popped in and orbited his name. And the interface is Google-good (although not Google-fast).
Advice for the NYT
Agreed on both counts. I want bagels.
February 21, 2005
Rockin' the 5-7-5
I just won a haiku contest! The deal was, you had to write "one or more haiku about [your] favorite fruit or vegetable." So, clearly:
O delicate pea
Alone, you are quite worthless
In aggregate: yum.
Apparently I now get two boxes of fresh organic produce from Westside Organics! Woo-hooooo!
P.S. What am I going to do with two boxes of fresh organic produce??
Citizens of EverQuest
Aeons ago, Clive Thompson wrote up this humdinger about the economies of virtual worlds -- MMORPGs and the like. Because people have begun assigning real-world monetary value to in-game items, the article explained, it's possible to study these games as if they were real economies.
So we can, for example, calculate the Gross National Product of Everquest, as Thompson's economist Edward Castronova decides to do -- it's $2,266 U.S. per capita. ("It was the 77th-richest country in the world," Thompson writes. "And it didn't even exist.")
And of course, we can actually profit from our in-game activities, Thompson reports, enough to pull in a six-figure salary or even power a whole company, with 100 full-time staff members.
The 6,200-word article is somehow chock full of fascinating little revelations. My favorite moment is when Thompson points out that Everquest began as a perfect meritocracy, "the world's first truly egalitarian polity," making it the economist's ideal social laboratory. That realization leads to this:... Read more ....
February 20, 2005
Via MetaFilter, check out the cornucopia of Flashtasticness that is The Greatest Story Never Told digital storytelling contest. Including such greats as Craziest and Help.
A savant speaks
In The Guardian, an autistic savant named Daniel Tammet describes how his mind works with really amazing specificity. Fascinating. Go read "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time," too, for it is also fascinating and about autistic savants, and has the additional virtue of being a fun murder mystery.
February 19, 2005
Bush ♥ Clinton
February 17, 2005
Wondering where I've been for the past two weeks? (Feel free to not answer that.) I haven't abandoned Snarkmarket; just the opposite, in fact -- I've been hard at work, in consultation with Robin, on a new design for the site.
We've tried to make a page that looks distinct, but respects its roots. We've been brainstorming ways to bring more attention to the ever-excellent discussion, so you'll see some experiments in that direction in the new design. We wanted to separate some of our longer, more thoughtful discursions from our quicker pass-alongs, so we've given those shorter items their own look.
And there isn't enough paisley on the Web.
But before we make the design official, we want to take some time with it, use it for a while and see what we like and don't like, and most of all, solicit your feedback on what works and what needs work in the new layout.
We have two very similar versions of the page available for testing. When you first see the page, it will look totally janky. Click on one of the two links at the bottom of the black sidebar at right -- either "change to ornate layout" or "change to simple layout" -- and it will pull in one of two stylesheets.
We would love it if people would try out each one for a few days and give us their thoughts. If you bookmark the redesigned page, it should store a cookie remembering which stylesheet you viewed last time, so you don't always have to pick one.
With your help, we'll solidify a final layout over the next couple weeks, change over the individual pages, and
take over the world continue to dish out those actually-not-that-snarky ditherings we've been dishing for a year and change.
Thanks, sports fans.
This Is Going to Suck
Yeah. So. Robot army of the future:
Robots in battle, as envisioned by their builders, may look and move like humans or hummingbirds, tractors or tanks, cockroaches or crickets. With the development of nanotechnology they may become swarms of "smart dust." The Pentagon intends for robots to haul munitions, gather intelligence, search buildings or blow them up.
"The lawyers tell me there are no prohibitions against robots making life-or-death decisions," said Mr. Johnson, who leads robotics efforts at the Joint Forces Command research center in Suffolk, Va. "I have been asked what happens if the robot destroys a school bus rather than a tank parked nearby. We will not entrust a robot with that decision until we are confident they can make it."
Let me just say, for the record, that I am so not excited about "swarms of 'smart dust' " doing our bidding on the battlefield.
Robot soldiers in general, though: I'm actually torn. On one hand, fewer people in wars = good. On the other hand, robot soldiers. Also, it seems like it would be easy for government to carry on cruel wars of oppression with robot soldiers, you know?
February 15, 2005
No, C'mon, Tell Us What You Really Think of Iraq
Highlights from a WaPo.com chat with Newsweek's Rod Nordland. Dude is a snark kingpin.
February 14, 2005
Geo-Greens, Take Action
... I would like to see every campus in America demand that its board of trustees disinvest from every U.S. auto company until they improve their mileage standards. ...
Paris Hilton voice: That's hot.
February 13, 2005
'Shivering and Laughing and Glowing in the Dark'
... suddenly you understand what it would be like if Einstein’s brain was placed into the body of a young tyrannosaur, stuffed full of amphetamines and suffused with Sex Radiation.
February 11, 2005
More Gabbing on Googlezon
Not to knock the article or anything -- well, okay, I am knocking it, but only in the nicest possible way -- but it demonstrates some flaws in the old gatekeeper model of journalism. If you were really interested in EPIC, this article would not be the place to learn about it. Instead, you'd go to Snarkmarket, or one of the dozens of other blogs that have deconstructed and critiqued the movie. Or jeez, you'd just e-mail me or Matt. I read Masha Geller's article and I'm not even sure what I'm talking about.
Nothing but love, though! Masha really wanted to write this article and played phone tag with me for a long time to do it, and I appreciate it.
February 10, 2005
Governing Without Google
Here's a fun anecdote and sharp observation from Neil McIntosh of The Guardian. Go read it, it's short and worth the click.
February 9, 2005
Make a Movie Out of This Story Immediately, Please
So check this out:
Two Jordanians had a torrid online romance and, after several months, decided to get married. When they met F2F for the first time, they were shocked to discover that they were already husband and wife. According to an Agence France-Press article quoting the official Jordan News Agency, the two were separated from each other but had coincidentally met (again) and fallen in love (again) in a chat room while disguised by their screen names. The rekindled romance ended immediately after they discovered the truth.
Also, slightly sad.
February 8, 2005
One More Beautiful Map
A more rational mind than mine would begin fearing the power of Google.
February 6, 2005
Janky picture courtesy of my LG VX6000 "camera" phone
So, in case the blur of over-exposed pixels above doesn't quite speak for itself: It's a bunch of Indian-American college students busting it out at Bollywood Berkeley, a Hindi film dance team competition (!) at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco last night.
The idea, loosely, is to replicate those dance scenes in Bollywood films. There's always:
- a guy
- a girl
- the guy's posse
- the girl's friends
- costume changes
And these dance teams -- from Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, UC Irvine, etc. -- inject a pretty strong dose of hip-hop, too. So it's total booty fusion.
And you should have seen this place. A thousand people in the sold-out hall, probably 95 percent Indian and Indian-American, from USC sorority girls in halter-tops to their grandmas in traditional salwar kameez. Families arrived in long lines, three generations strong, all eyes roving for a row of eight or ten seats to accomodate them.
When the show finally started, it was a weird overlay of cultures: college chants from the crowd ("U-S-C! U-S-C!" vs. "Let's go Staan-foord") and Indian jokes from the MCs ("So, we're getting started at 7 p.m. Indian Standard Time... 7:30.").
The guys' dances were a particular revelation: Somehow in Bollywood they've developed a language of motion that is totally masculine -- macho, even -- without being subdued. I mean, these guys were literally jumping all over the place, flailing their arms and kicking their legs, but there was nothing goofy or effeminate about it.
As for the girls, I will say just this: I am totally pro-midriff.
I really appreciated the sincerity of the show. There are plenty of opportunities to be cynical when you're emulating these cheesy movies. But while the teams made plenty of knowing winks at the form, their performances weren't satires. They were fun, sexy, accomplished celebrations of simple love: choreographed tales of woo.
For the record, Berkeley won, to the whoops and cheers of a thousand unironic Indian grandparents.
February 3, 2005
Mirror, Mirror... Holy Crap, Where Did Those Bags Come From?
As you know, I love technology, but I'm also sometimes skeptical of its net utility, because it so often imposes burdens to match its benefits.
So I get really excited when I hear about technology that simply helps us experience something new. No device to carry around, no batteries to charge, no software to learn -- just a novel way of looking at the world.
Keyhole, the program that lets you zoom in on your neighborhood via satellite imagery, is one example. Here's another I just found:
Accenture Technology's lab in France is working on a mirror that reflects your future self.
In brief: Cameras watch you during the day and keep track of how much time you spend on the couch or in front of the fridge. Then, a computer uses the implicit lifestyle information to extrapolate your mirror image forward five years -- showing a fatter face, less hair, sallow cheeks, whatever.
Here's the rationale:
"Helping people visualise the long-term outcomes of their behaviour is an effective way to motivate change" [...]
The problem, of course, is that no one will ever buy the ugly-mirror.
But I could totally see this being a great science museum exhibit. You'd tap out answers to a quick lifestyle survey, then step into a private viewing chamber to see your future. It'd be creepy, and cool.
Link from we make money not art.