January 30, 2006
Music Video Fantastico
In case any of you haven't seen this link yet, enjoy. It's the top 65 music videos of 2005, and all the selections I've seen really are brilliant. A few are available for watching without downloading the torrent; def. avail yourself of that opportunity. And watch "Mushaboom." (Waxtastic, and side note: If Feist comes to your city, make every effort to see her perform; she's wonderful in concert. Her voice really is as deliciously birdlike as it sounds on tape. And she's great at banter. And she plays some mean drums. And she's Canadian.)
Jack White and Brendan Benson have a new band called The Raconteurs. Mostly I am linking because, if you must have one of those Flash-y band websites, this is the way to do it. Totally clean, clear and retrocool. Design by Royal Magnet.
Free and Fun
Clive Thompson has a list of video games that are all both innovative and free. Can't go wrong!
Country Without Wires
GrameenPhone, the biggest cell phone provider in Bangladesh, just hit six million subscribers. Worth noting:
- That's number is still a small fraction of the country's entire population (145 million), but it's growing very very fast, with the last million added in just two months.
- My first cell phone was from GrameenPhone! That's right: I first experienced the wonder of wireless calling technology... in Bangladesh.
For my money, this is actually more important work than Grameen's microlending.
January 29, 2006
Universal Snark Systems, Inc.
New favorite Wikipedia entry: a list of fictional companies. Here's a quiz -- see if you can name the source of each fictional company:
- Cogswell Cogs
- Rearden Steel
- Shin-Ra Electric Power Company
- Monopolated Light and Power
Gordon McAlpin covers comics-related events... in comic format! Why was I not told of this before??
Seriously, how is this not the clearest, most fun format ever? LOVE it. There's like a whole series of them. Check out Marjane Satrapi talking about the strengths of comics.
January 25, 2006
Quantum Gaming in the Vic Viper
The New Gamer's R. LeFeuvre has just posted a video called "Averaging Gradius." Here's what's up:
A bunch of people recorded themselves playing the first level of the classic NES shooting game Gradius. (You're in a spaceship, you have to kill enemy spaceships, you get the idea.) Then, LeFeuvre layered all the recordings on top of each other. Because the game scrolls of it own accord, at a steady pace, the recordings all stay in sync -- except of course for each players' movements. So what you see, instead of a single ship going at it, is a fuzzy cloud of ships -- bright where strategies overlap, faint where someone does something especially daring (or dumb).
It's like quantum physics!
Seriously, I think this video is sublime. And I wonder: Could you make a game that emphasizes not precision but probability? How would it work?
Blink Don't Wink™
I am all for the Blink Don't Wink™ campaign. As The Assimilated Negro says:
There is no situation where a wink is appropriate. There’s no biological, or physiological, or any-ological pedigree that supports a need for a human being to wink.
A. MEN. No one in the history of humankind has ever pulled off the wink. I say we start some coordinated campaigns, and I'd like to nominate "Winkers are Wankers" as an additional tagline.
Only Read This If You Are A Serious, SERIOUS Web Geek
A bunch of folks, Google tells us, have studied thousands of Web pages to see what (X)HTML authoring techniques are most prevalent. Well, Google just completed another study like this, with a sample size of just over a billion pages, giving us a pretty definitive guide to what's going on in the world of Web markup. Their writeup of the study's conclusions is highly snarky and readable, and rather fascinating if you, too, are geeky beyond redemption (or if you have a hand in deciding what Web standards should be).
The heaviest snark comes into play in the writeup of how people use the
meta element, which usually contains the stuff they're trying to highlight for the search engines. Saddest fact: a totally useless HTML expression (
<meta name="revisit-after">), invented for a defunct search engine nobody ever used, is more popular than the standards-beloved
<em> tag. Fun fact: The New York Times uses its very own HTML element,
The IHT is blogging the World Economic Forum in Davos. So far it's pretty good -- the reporters are actually doing it blog-style, which is to say some of the entries are lame. That's totally a good thing!
January 24, 2006
Wanna Be Like Mike?
In case you haven't seen it, make sure to catch this Salon article that's making the rounds about Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries, 61 (pictured at right, photo by Tom Tavee / Salon). It's the best article I've read about A&F since reading this one in college.
I have always hated A&F. During high school, on trips to the mall with my best friend, he always wanted to go in, and I'd usually oblige him. I remember the layout of the store, the lighting. I'd wait for my friend to be helped by one of the employees so he could make his purchase and we could leave. I'd watch the employee stand lamely by a pile of t-shirts, unfolding and refolding them to look busy, until someone else walked into the store. And if that someone was a decent facsimile of the models grinning in the store windows, the employee would spring into action, asking if he could be of any assistance, pointing out the items on sale.
I got the message, even if my friend ignored it or didn't care, always buying something anyway. The employees were there to help A&F Boys, and we were clearly not a pair of those. A&F Boys were athletic. They were outdoorsy. They were young. They were maybe a little gay. But they were definitely, definitely white. My blackness (and the half-Asianness of my best friend) was rarely as palpable as it was in Abercrombie & Fitch.
I think what A&F offered -- belonging, assimilation -- was a dear enticement to my friend. The girls were all swooning over Abercrombie's "Woods" cologne. And the clothes definitely drew compliments for him. Why I ever followed him in, I can't tell you.
But after high school, I don't believe I ever set foot in one again, even though the A&F Boy aesthetic gradually became less racially coded. (Partly due to lawsuits, although the store in uber-liberal Cambridge, MA, employed at least a few people of color.)
The tragic insight at the core of the Salon article is how the man who created and enforced this ideal -- Mike Jeffries -- cannot attain it himself, no matter how much he wants to. The article suggests that Mike Jeffries feels every bit as excluded as I did when standing in an Abercrombie store. He created a heaven so perfect even he could not gain entrance. And who knows if this is true? But it's a sad, powerful story.
The comments don't quite live up to the headline, but some are quite good (for example).
Motown Ghost Town
Friend of the Snark (and, oh yeah, Michigan Radio reporter) Dustin Dwyer goes exploring in the old, abandoned Motown Records building in Detroit and finds a vinyl record that's been sitting there for decades in the dark.
Anyway, this is what journalism is like in Michigan: plants closing, buildings being torn down. Contrast that, say, with Florida, where the big problems of the day are building enough schools to keep up with growing populations, or widening roads, or using smart planning to prevent everything from becoming one big suburb.
Everything there is growth, everything here is decline.
And yet, I'd much rather be covering these stories than those ones.
January 23, 2006
Nokia has ported Apache to Symbian, its mobile phone operating system. In non-dorkese: It's possible every phone could be a web server.
What that means, exactly, or when it will be practical, I have no idea. But I think it has the smell of significance.
SMB2, All Jazzed Out
Best ever. Adrian H has recorded a gypsy jazz version of the Super Mario Bros. 2 main theme, and it's crazy delicious, much like the game itself.
SMB2 was the unsung Super Mario Bros. game, and I could never figure out why. The feminist in me always appreciated that the Princess in SMB2 was finally given some agency beyond being the helpless, fainting damsel in distress that drives the plot in most Mario games. And she had the power of levitation, which was much cooler than Mario's janky raccoon tail in SMB3. (Although his cape in Super Mario World was excellent.) The game also had a very cool, cute, recognizably Japanese aesthetic about it. And something about plucking and chucking vegetables was oddly comforting. Two thumbs up, to the game, and its gypsy jazz revival.
Gary Wills in TNYRB on Jimmy Carter's religion:
His attendance at church was not announced; we reporters had to ferret that out by ourselves. Carter is an old-fashioned Baptist, the kind that follows the lead of the great Baptist Roger Williams -- that is, he is the firmest of believers in the separation of church and state. Unlike most if not all modern presidents, he never had a prayer service in the White House. His problem, back then, was not that he paraded his belief but that he believed. All this can seem quaint now when professing religion is practically a political necessity, whether one believes or not. There is now an inverse proportion between religiosity and sincerity.
I know at least a few Snarkmarket readers will totally dig the Roger Williams reference. Rhode Island whaaat!
January 22, 2006
Okay, first guess: Is the picture above a real city, or a tiny model of one?
Then click here.
January 20, 2006
Another MMORPG About War
But this one's free! Someone try out Enemy Nations and tell us if it's any good. According to TRFJ, it's "billed as ‘the best game you’ve never played’ and a cross between Sim City, Civilisation and Age of Empires." Not a bad pedigree.
"I Have a Master's Degree... In Science!"
P.S. Ten Snarkpoints to anyone who knows the source of the headline quote.
January 19, 2006
When Vox Populi Attacks
An angel dies every time this happens. The folks in news organizations who are already against the idea of strengthening the relationship between the editors in the newsroom and the ones outside it just feel vindicated by setbacks like this. In the news world, the Wikipedia Wars are actually only battles in a wider conflict. Many journalists still believe our only role can be telling folks what we think they need to hear. I, of course, come down on the side of those who believe all these hassles are worth it if it means a true dialogue with the "people formerly known as the audience."
As we get smarter about creating platforms for interactivity, incidents like those that burned the WaPo and the LA Times will happen less frequently. An intelligent approach to the Web doesn't involve either totally free, unmitigated chaos or rigid hierarchical control.
I remember being all bummed out when Lifehacker introduced comments by invitation only. The other day, my itch to comment on an LH thread was so strong that I actually -- gasp -- used the e-mail feedback link and sent in my comment the old "letter to the editor" way. Moments later, I received an e-mail from LH associate editor Adam Pash inviting me to sign up as a Lifehacker commenter. So the threshold is seriously low to be a commenter on Lifehacker, but I imagine it's the simplest possible thing for the editors to close the account of someone who's become a problem contributor. Call this approach Domesticated Chaos.
Of course, news sites probably can't vet every person who wants to contribute, and I don't think they'd need to. If only one registered users of WashingtonPost.com could comment, and if their comment histories were linked from their profiles -- as is the case on a blog like MetaFilter -- that would make contributors much more accountable for their words. And it would make it much easier for site administrators to ban the small minority of troublemakers who tend to ruin forums like these for the majority.
If WaPo editors want even more filters than that, they could institute a Kuro5hin-esque system of comment ratings. (Scoop is free, after all.) Since WaPo.com's editors are so concerned about the level of discourse in their forums, why are they using TypePad, of all things? Why not implement a system that's 1) free and 2) much better suited for sorting wheat from chaff?
The folks behind these sites are smart cookies, though. I imagine they'll hit on a solution soon, and open up comments again. I hope so.
Plus: More on trollery, by David Pogue.
January 18, 2006
I thought Imogen Heap's performance on Letterman was only so-so, but I loved the fact that she was just standing there surrounded by all her electronic gear. Much potential. As you know, I loves the Frou.
Food, Not Files
No brand-new cyberbillionaire ever used his billions to buy information, any more than the poor have ever worried about not having enough money to keep their families well-informed.
McSweeneys makes two funnies today:
2) Places where I can find a woman like Jesse's girl, years later. (I eagerly await the corollary list, "Places where I can find Jesse, years later.")
And Defective Yeti gives us the funniest thing I have read on the Internet in three months (via MeFi): Iraqi Invasion: A Text Misadventure. (Warning: will not be funny if the phrase "you are likely to be eaten by a grue" means nothing to you.)
January 17, 2006
I Like the Way You Move
Whoah. I just got a glimpse into the year 2016, and it's all dancing robots.
January 16, 2006
Adventures in Sociology
Hey, check this out! I've got a blog!! Who knew??
Really I'm just momentarily retreating from hibernation to bring you two interesting links from MetaFilter. The first is a question: How much has your own attractiveness or sense thereof determined with whom you are or have been romantically involved? I always wonder about something very slightly different -- how much has my sense of my own attractiveness determined what I find attractive in others?
The second is a comparison of Germany and the US, of general social attitudes on everything from transportation to privacy.
Who's In Charge Here?
It reminds me of a question I have had for some time: Just who exactly runs China? I mean, I know the names. But where do these guys come from? How does one rise to the Chinese Politburo? I just have no concept of the way it works. All I see in Hu Jintao's bio is a string of bureaucratic jobs... the logic of advancement eludes me.
Also, check out this WorldChanging post on "The Beijing Consensus." Particularly interesting:
The second Beijing Consensus theorem is that since chaos is impossible to control from the top... you need a whole set of new tools. It looks beyond measures like per-capita GDP and focuses instead of quality-of-life, the only way to manage the massive contradictions of Chinese development. [...] China’s new approach to development stresses chaos management. This is one reason why academic disciplines like sociology and crisis management are the vogue of party think tanks at the moment.
How fascinating is that? And doesn't it sound like you could swap out some giant corporation for China and the paragraph would still kinda make sense?
I really want to know who these guys are. If anybody knows any good books on the subject of China's leadership, or reporters that do a good job tracking it, leave a comment.
January 13, 2006
The trailer for "Idlewild," the OutKast movie, is finally available for viewing.
As Matt will tell you, this is of course just the warmup for their inevitable "Chity Chitty Bang Bang" remake.
But in the meantime... looks pretty sweet.
January 10, 2006
Just Look at All Those Monsters
This old intro sequence from the Japanese show Ultraman is amazing.
If I was a "video DJ" or something, I would so use it in my next "set."
So the Current VC2 Survival Guide now has a storytelling section, featuring interviews with peeps like Robert Redford, Dave Eggers, Bonz Malone (!), Xeni Jardin (!!), and, my favorite, the This American Life godfather himself, Ira Glass.
Everybody has something interesting to say here, but for my money, Glass's articulation of this stuff is second to none. You really feel like you walk away with something you can use.
January 9, 2006
I Think This Might Be Brilliant
"No Animals Were Hurt" is a Flash movie that... how do I explain this... okay, it doesn't play all the way through yet -- but the more people that go to view it, the more of the movie that gets unlocked.
So go check it out -- I want to see the rest!
The movie is by Peter Brinson, a student in USC's Interactive Media Division. Pretty awesome if you ask me. (Though it would be even more awesome if it were a more compelling narrative... a whodunit or something.)
Update: The video got Dugg and flooded with well over 5,000 visitors... at which point the counter reset. Oh HELL no.
Why Are Most Online Games About Genocide?
Raph Koster, one of the designers behind the Star Wars: Galaxies MMORPG, has a really excellent post up on his blog:
We shape the player experience by the verbs we provide. Right now, the only way to interact meaningfully with our fantasy worlds is at the edge of a sword, and through the barrel of a gun.
It's true. Not that online games should be Sesame Street scenarios... but come on, do they all have to be bloody crusades?
MarketWatch's Jon Friedman does the story on snark. (Part one of a three-part series!) It reinforces my belief that our domain is a bit of a misnomer.
(Thanks to the like eighty-six people who emailed this over, though!)
The Sincerest Form
It's EPIC for the finance industry! LITERALLY!
Does this mean we just jumped the shark?... or that we're getting renewed for another season?... or both??
(Via Ben Metcalfe.)
January 8, 2006
So Convenient, So Delicious
Well, not entirely convenient. Photo by G. Clyne.
This post is long-belated but entirely necessary: Just after Thanksgiving I tried omelette in a bag. And Matt is right: the best.
P.S. Friends in the know inform me ziplocked eggs are a Boy Scout staple. Which is, I guess, unsurprising. The whole process feels pretty camp-like.
Forget the Pony
Just reading a short interview with Neil Gaiman over on the Telegraph website and this bit caught my eye:
But his parents were typically kind and enabling, rather than the nightmarish adults he portrays. When he was 13, he asked for a shed for his birthday -- and they bought him one.
- Every kid should have a shed.
- If you buy your kid a shed, do not be surprised when he becomes a comic-book writer.
- There's definitely a correlation between shed-usage and awesomeness. Roald Dahl had one (tiny picture here); so did Philip Pullman. (But he traded it in for a huge house.)
January 7, 2006
Now This Is a Promising Piece of Equipment
At CES, Sanyo announced a tiny videocamera that records HD to a memory card. For $800. Say whaaa?
January 6, 2006
The Hammer and the Octopus
Nick Carr on Bill Gates' CES presentation (which I am embarrassed to say I watched online):
So what does Gates talk about? The "digital lifestyle" with "software at its center." Maybe robots want digital lifestyles, but human beings don't. Human beings want lives.
It's true. Somehow Apple's competitors still don't get that the iPod's brilliance is its interfacelessness. It is about as close to a hammer as you can get with a music player. It doesn't really have "features" (or at least it doesn't feel like it); it just does its thing. And lets you do yours.
I suspect Apple's new PVR is going to be the same way, and make Microsoft's system look awfully gangly by comparison.
January 5, 2006
But Will It Be Staged With LEGOs?
Hey, speaking of robots...
To which I say: COOL.
Play Well (With Robots)
(Via The Long Tail.)
The Shipbreakers of Bangladesh
Check out this cool photo essay on ForeignPolicy.com.There's something very Tatooine-like about those huge rusted hulks towering over the sand...
Also Bangla-riffic: Eliza Griswold's recent primer on the rise of militant Islam in the 'desh.
January 4, 2006
Jimmy Wales As Regis Philbin
If:book presents a fun, intelligent metaphor for thinking of Wikipedia: it's the "ask the audience" lifeline from "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
PS: I never saw this NY Times graphic before, but it's my new favorite thing.
January 2, 2006
Sculptures from the Uncanny Valley
Check out this gallery of incredible sculptures by Ron Mueck -- uncannily lifelike depictions of people at their most vulnerable, all scaled to smaller- or grossly larger-than-life dimensions. His work's currently on exhibit at the Fondation Cartier in Paris. More Mueck. Google image search.
Also via B2, Joss Whedon cracks me up.
Demand for Education
WaPo global-issues rockstar Sebastian Mallaby goes to India and finds the market for private education -- K12 and college alike -- absolutely booming. For instance:
What's made this engineering takeoff possible is not an increase in the supply of universities financed by taxpayers or foreign donors; it's an increase in demand for education from fee-paying students -- a demand to which entrepreneurs naturally respond. More than four out of five Indian engineering students attend private colleges, whose potential growth seems limitless. In 2003 the Vellore Institute of Technology received 7,000 applications. In 2005 it received 44,000.
Mallaby's analysis: Conventional wisdom is that education leads to development, but it looks like the arrow points the other way, as well. Okay, maybe that's not so surprising, but still.
Also: Saheli's in India!
January 1, 2006
Happy New Year '06
Here's hoping 2006 turns out less tragic than 2005.
And to that end, the 2006 Edge.org question of the year is What is your dangerous idea? New respondents this year include Helen Fisher and Douglas Rushkoff. Step to it, Snarketeers. What is your dangerous idea?