September 29, 2006
links for 2006-09-29
Get Out the Vote! All Twelve of Them
Don't ask me why I was reading about 19th-century British politician Robert Peel, but do check this out:
The young Peel entered politics at the young age of 21 as M.P. for the Irish rotten borough of Cashel City, Tipperary. With a scant twenty-four voters on the rolls, he was elected unopposed.
Twenty-four voters! I love it.
September 28, 2006
Google, you have just released Google Transit trip-planning apps for five new cities.
SAN FRANCISCO IS NOT AMONG THEM.
What the shiz, Goog? Do you not love your people?
I mean... TAMPA??
Update: See the comments. Who knew?
This Is Not Worth a Post, But
I kept reading these headlines as "Former Converse Chief Is Found in Namibia", "Converse Ex-C.E.O. Will Stay in Namibia, For Now," etc. -- but it's COMverse, not CONverse.
I had this awesome image of a sneaker billionaire on the lam, sneaking through Africa with little more than a pair of Chuck Taylors to his name... but no, he's from some a telecom firm. Oh well.
September 27, 2006
Law & Order: Special Ethics Unit
Oh man, this is hot: Joe Strupp profiles our Poynter peeps (Kelly McBride, Bob Steele, Kenny Irby and more) and dubs them the "Special Ethics Unit." Like Poynter itself, the whole thing unapologetically mixes the super-serious and the somewhat silly:
Steele's colleagues at Poynter understand that because ethical questions can pop up suddenly, often at inconvenient hours, they'll continue to be called on at odd times to provide help to journalists. Kelly McBride, for example, is realistic about the on-call nature of her job.
Many such tales abound, often involving her children in tow. "I remember standing in Target shopping for a birthday present with one of my daughter's friends and doing a consultation on the coverage surrounding [rape accusations against] Kobe Bryant," says the mother of three. "I was a little self-conscious."
So, so cool!
September 25, 2006
Interactive Story, Act Two
The guys who made Façade (previously: here and here) are making a new interactive narrative game, and it sounds weird. I don't yet know whether I mean that in the weird-cool or the weird-uh-okay sense.
Façade is worth a spin if you've never tried it. It's very inventive. Note to the Façade guys for this new joint: Inventive-ness doesn't make up for crappy graphics. Use the Unreal Engine or something.
Blast from the past: Searching for "facade" in the archives I found this post. It's good! And it has one of my favorite Snarkmarket comment threads of all time.
You Gotta Hear This One Song, It'll Change Your Life I Swear
In modern movies, especially modern movies by Zach Braff, pop songs are extraordinarily "load-bearing." Music, not action or dialogue, generates all of the emotion.
I don't know whether this Garden State remix really proves that point or not, but either way, it just made me laugh out loud. Awwwesome.
September 24, 2006
Unresolved Nation of Consequence
Well-established China fascination here on Snarkmarket. I went to Orville Schell's Long Now talk on China last Friday (proof) and it was great. Even better, though, was Stewart Brand's email summary of the talk -- it amounts to a killer executive brief on China today. Encyclopedic but short.
Oh, and in the Q&A session, Schell confirmed: China's leaders really are all technocrats, and will continue to be for some time. In fact, getting involved in politics in China is a horrible career move if you ultimately aspire to, um, be involved in politics in China: It's too easy to make a misstep and remove yourself from the running completely. The whole political environment there is like a minefield, so fortune favors the slow.
Also: Pictures of Shanghai twenty years ago! (From which the image above is taken.)
September 22, 2006
Warren G. Harding, though... WTF?
That's a Hell of an Endorsement
Gotta say, I would not have expected this: After Hugo Chavez held up Noam Chomsky's book "Hegemony or Survival" during his UN speech... it jumped to number one on Amazon. WTF? Who knew the General Assembly was so good for product placement? Now I have this sort've awesome image of the president of Lithuania striding to the podium with a Zune peeking conspicuously out of his pocket.
Via MIT Advertising Lab.
September 21, 2006
A Project's Melody
Whoah, I love this: Over on Edward Tufte's site, there's a long wavelength conversation about the pros and cons of Gantt charts that's been going on, slowly, for four years. The contributions are all really smart.
Search for "notation of orchestral music" on the page for a fun surprise.
September 20, 2006
Yahoo! Current Launches
Just launched: phase one of the Yahoo! Current Network.
Today's highlight: a real-life, sit-down interview with Gary Brolsma, the Numa Numa kid. You can tell he is about the shyest dude ever... which just makes his wild arm-flailing abandon in the original Numa Numa video all the more endearing.
September 19, 2006
The Education of Sky McCloud
MIT's Henry Jenkins (cool) on Scott McCloud (cooler) and his daughter Sky (apparently, coolest). Weird, I know, but just read it. Very bloggy; the kind of reflection and discourse that doesn't really fit anywhere else, you know? Glad there's a place for it.
The World in Crosshatch
Among this year's just-announced MacArthur Fellows is David Macaulay, the author of the great illustrated books "Castle" and "Pyramid" and (most recently) "Mosque."
Like many other boys inclined towards nerd-dom, I pored over Macaulay's books as a kid -- just absolutely picked the pages apart. I'm sure I didn't realize at the time what an influence they were having. It's impossible to spend any time with those books and not come away forever interested in design, architecture, systems, and history -- you know, all the good stuff.
An RSS Feed You Need to Be Subscribed To
I have previously avowed an interest in multi-book reviews that synthesize and illuminate (in general) and the New York Review of Book (in particular). And that publication's RSS feed just keeps bringing me good stuff!
Two worth printing out: Kristof on foreign aid. Didion on Dick Cheney. (P.S. I love the fact that Didion's piece 'draws on' like twenty books and approximately none of them are brand new. Who cares? It's a good read!)
Uh, wow. This is even more wow-it's-really-2006-isn't-it than usual: Fleishman-Hillard is hiring someone to man an avatar from 7-11 p.m., Monday to Friday. So yes, basically a paid online role-playing gig. I'm just afraid the 'role' is going to be, like, a talking stick of deodorant or something...
September 18, 2006
Dreams of the Future
Battlestar Galactica creator Ron Moore on James Tiberius Kirk. Really great. If you haven't seen Trekkies you gotta check it out: It's entirely moving to hear Star Trek fans talk about the show and its vision of the future. They sound, in fact, a lot like Moore:
And as I grew into an adult, and my political views took shape, I treasured “Star Trek” as a dream of what my country could one day become -- a liberal and tolerant society, unafraid to live by its ideals in a dangerous universe, and secure in the knowledge that its greatness derived from the strength of its ideas rather than the power of its phasers.
September 17, 2006
Skyscraping for 70 Years
Man, businessweek.com is the sleeper news site of the year. They consistently have cool stuff. For instance: Seven Decades of Skyscrapers, an article (and more importantly, slideshow) about the work of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Check out slide four, the solar telescope. Slide 10 looks to be pretty hot as well.
September 16, 2006
Design and Innovation
I can't believe Jonathan Ive is only 39! Somebody let that guy design a car, please. Or, like, our government.
It'd be like something out of a William Gibson book: You pay money to go 'inside' a viral internet meme.
September 15, 2006
The newsletter very diligently ignores the conventional wisdom and consensus news judgment; its story choice is almost brazen in its divergence from the AP/NYT agenda.
Pretty great preamble to their mission statement, too:
News is personal. We think it always was.
Lately, though, that conviction has been lost in a sea of impersonal, politically correct news sources that have volume, but no point of view or larger context. We miss finding smart connections between front-page stories and the important -- but often neglected -- ones. Meanwhile, links to "1,339 related" articles on massive news sites don't activate your mind, but rather, overload it.
I think that last line is actually quite profound. Mega-scale algorithms are great for searching, but horrible for meaning.
September 14, 2006
Britannica Probably Has a Picture of a Brain or Something
Check out the photo used to illustrate the concept of happiness on Wikipedia. It's pretty much perfect.
No Seriously, It's the WifiPod
September 13, 2006
Happy Birthday, Roald Dahl
You Know What I'd Completely Forgotten About?
Harry Potter. Awesome discussion and speculation at The American Scene. (Seriously though, Snape is totally a good guy, and totally going to die to save Harry in the end.)
There Is No Word for How Meta This Is
September 11, 2006
The Art of Verification
This is, by a wide margin, the coolest use of EPIC I have yet seen: A professor at Lehigh Carbon Community College in Pennsylvania sets it up as the subject of an exercise in critical media consumption and information verification. Nice use of a wiki, too. Note the contribution of student sleuth Jennifer Jones midway down.
September 10, 2006
We're Not a Film Company... We're a Flatness Company
How should Kodak save itself? Get into the laboratory-grown meat business, of course.
Come on, you pretty much have to click that link.
September 9, 2006
Sony's Talmudic Parable
New contender for least expected cultural cross-comparison ever: Friend of the snark Josh Korr compares Sony and Nintendo to Hillel and Shammai.
An End to Ghostly Labors
So perhaps the time is ripe for reconsideration of an ideal that has fallen out of favor: manual competence, and the stance it entails toward the built, material world. Neither as workers nor as consumers are we much called upon to exercise such competence, most of us anyway, and merely to recommend its cultivation is to risk the scorn of those who take themselves to be the most hard-headed: the hard-headed economist will point out the opportunity costs of making what can be bought, and the hard-headed educator will say that it is irresponsible to educate the young for the trades, which are somehow identified as the jobs of the past. But we might pause to consider just how hard-headed these presumptions are, and whether they don’t, on the contrary, issue from a peculiar sort of idealism, one that insistently steers young people toward the most ghostly kinds of work.
"The most ghostly kinds of work." That seems so correct: It's the Phantom Zone of Outlook and Powerpoint. Gahhh.
It's a really nice piece, jam-packed with ideas that resonate really well with the present Make moment. For instance:
In what has to be the best article ever published in an education journal, the cognitive scientists Mike Eisenberg and Ann Nishioka Eisenberg give real pedagogical force to this reflective moment, and draw out its theoretical implications ("Shop Class for the Next Millennium: Education Through Computer-Enriched Handicrafts," in the Journal of Interactive Media in Education). They offer a computer program to facilitate making origami, or rather Archimedean solids, by unfolding these solids into two dimensions. But they then have their students actually make the solids, out of paper cut according to the computer’s instructions. "Computational tools for crafting are entities poised somewhere between the abstract, untouchable world of software objects and the homey constraints of human dexterity; they are therefore creative exercises in making conscious those aspects of craft work ... that are often more easily represented ‘in the hand’ than in language." It is worth pausing to consider their efforts, as they have implications well beyond mathematics instruction.
There is a thread of romantic fantasy -- a la the Arts and Crafts Movement -- in here, but even so, it's good reading.
Also: We are totally overdue for a Marxist reading of 37signals and the other small software shops that exalt flexibility and freedom above, it seems, all else. Read the section of the essay titled "The Degradation of Blue-Collar Work" and tell me if you disagree.
September 8, 2006
The Word of the Day
Update: I suggested this to Grant Barrett and he did a Double-Tongued Word Wrester entry on it! Sweet.
September 6, 2006
How Can They Be So Smart? They Don't Have Thumbs!
I know it's cliché to be like, "whoah, dolphins are cool," but... whoah, dolphins are cool.
September 5, 2006
Finally, Some Respect
Ooh, an interesting rule of thumb from Burning Man founder Larry Harvey:
WN: This is the 20th Burning Man. What surprises you most about where it has come?
Harvey: It's evidence of an old rule that you have to be around 20 years and survive and grow before anyone will take you very seriously if you're doing something with a visionary aim. Suddenly in our own town, San Francisco, people with influence and whose participation we welcome are taking (us) seriously. We've become marvelous proper people. We've become respectable in that sense. That's because there (are) so many people who command respect and are influential in the world's affairs who have come here and identified with it.
And it takes about 20 years to earn respect. Unless you're just doing what everybody else does. Then you can become a wunderkind in six months. But our course has been eccentric, so the world turns its back on you until it catches up with you. And then they say, Oh, oh, it's not just ... and you can run down the list of pejoratives and mischaracterizations and all the cliches that dogged us for the first two-thirds of our life. But we've outgrown it. We've outgrown it politically, and in the public's perception. Oh, not entirely... But now the story is the movement and not the event.
Patience, visionaries! Patience.
September 2, 2006
Oh, this is incredibly sweet: MMO demographics overlord Nick Yee has a new report about real-world relationships that began in games like Everquest and WoW. It's more narrative journalism than dry survey, honestly, and it's one of the most fascinating windows into relationships, not just games, that I have gotten in a long time.
Check out this page in particular, about the subtle virtues of the MMO environment:
As other players point out, working together through crises reveals much more about another person than going to the movies with them. Watching how someone interacts with others in different social settings (under different amounts of stress) and how they work through problems can be very character-revealing.
I found that the way people acted to me in-game was usually the way they acted towards me and others in real life. EQ was a great way to see how a potential partner treated others. [WoW, F, 22]