The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee

I second Nick Kristof’s recommendation of BRAC—the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee—as an organization worth giving to. With a name that unsexy, they’ve got to be good, right? In Bangladesh, BRAC is pretty much the government; it provides the support and investment that a good government is supposed to provide, while the “real” government squabbles with itself. Now BRAC is branching out to other countries as well. It’s an amazing organization—and, for good or for ill, I think it’s a peek into the future.


New things wrapped in the gauze of time


This is uncanny! Photographer Martin Becka dusted off a 150-year-old camera and pointed it at Dubai. (That’s a CNN gallery with a relatively good interface; there are more images on Becka’s site.)

I realize that “whoah, old cameras make things look old” isn’t a new insight, but wow, it’s just so apparent, so visceral, in this case. And it makes you pause and realize just how much of our experience of history—old history and new history, too!—is shaped by the filters and films of media we view it through and on.

(Via @GreatDismal.)


The indelible of 2009

A very short list of my favorite things from 2009. Mostly my metric is: What will I remember a year from now? Or ten?

  • Favorite book: A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias. (Previously.) Sweet but/and harrowing.
  • Favorite music: Regina Spektor’s new album. I listened to this an impossible number of times. Best tracks: “Blue Lips” and “Machine,” which is basically The Terminator narrated by a winsome girl-robot.
  • Favorite movie: Coraline. Even though I saw Coraline months ago and Avatar days ago, it’s Coraline that’s more vivid in my mind. There are a few scenes that—especially having seen them in 3D—I’ll never forget. Bonus: The Coraline soundtrack is weird and beautiful.
  • Favorite book(s) not written in 2009: I discovered Rosemary Sutcliff at the SFPL this year, and wow: what a revelation. She wrote a long series of YA books, set mostly in Roman Britain. Her language is tight, vivid, and direct—world-class by any standard. Strong load-bearing sentences, you know?
  • Favorite movie not made in 2009: Somehow I’d seen every Miyazaki movie except Whisper of the Heart; it’s now my second-favorite. Maybe it resonated because I was writing more, and it’s a movie about writing? And actually, I think Whisper of the Heart might show the real process of writing better than any movie I’ve ever seen.

What are your picks for lasting memory from 2009?


'Overwhelming minimalism'

How much do I love the visuals here?

It’s the live, stand-up equivalent of a full-bleed photo in a magazine. And it’s calibrated just right: the flip-flop from light to dark, the sharp-edged forms. Top notch.

(Via General Projects, whose summation supplies the title of this post.)

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Industrial Light (No Magic)

Do you guys know about UVA? They’re light artists— though maybe there’s a more specific or more technical term for it. Here’s an example of a new project in Durham Cathedral. Here’s something older: an amazing video they did with the band Battles. I love the simplicity of their work—the rawness of the material. They never hide the bulbs!


Multifaceted Melbourne

My favorite from this round-up of identity redesigns in 2009, by a pretty astronomical margin, is the city of Melbourne’s:


(Some of the images on that page are broken, weirdly, but there’s still plenty to look at.)

I’m a fan of the “generative identity” idea, which also informs AOL’s redesign (also featured in the round-up)—but I think the Melbourne logo does it better. It seems to achieve both consistency and diversity. And you can imagine writing a computer program to just pump out attractive little M’s! What if every parking ticket in Melbourne looked ever-so-slightly different?

I also really like the use of the M’s geometry as a design element for reports and brochures, too—about halfway down the page.


Telling stories about stories

Increasingly, I’m convinced that no media is successful or even complete until it’s been transformed or extended. I know this is not super-controversial—it’s sort of the Creative Commons party line—but it turns out things don’t transform themselves! A lot of media gets CC-licensed and then just sits there.

I’m also influenced by Henry Jenkins‘ notion that the most successful fictional worlds (Star Wars, Harry Potter, and so on) are not so much straight narrative stories as they are “platforms” for people to build on. You need a central story to get people excited about the platform in the first place, but then you also need lots of hooks for them to extend it, both formally (movies, comics, video games) and informally (fan-fiction, fan films, art). The central story is like the iPhone; the extensions are like the App Store! (And P.S., the platform-worlds aren’t all robots and wizards. Ulysses is a platform, too.)

Okay so, I’m a long way away from building a platform on that scale, but it’s fun to sort of “act it out,” even at this stage. Thus, when patron-guests arrived at the Annabel Scheme launch party, they were presented with a piece of evidence from Scheme’s collection. The evidence was all dated and tagged in ziploc bags; it was all very strange.

The mission: come up with the story behind the evidence. There was a Narrative Evidence Research Database collection station set up, off to one side of the party, to capture these stories. Here’s a taste of what people recorded:

I have to say, it is unreal to see other people saying “banana box” and “Sebastian Dexter” and “Annabel” on camera. It really is the next level. Somebody reads the book, enjoys it, even tweets or blogs about it: awesome. I mean, just really wonderful. But somebody acts it out? Sublime.

There’s more to come on this front—I’ve allocated $1000 from the book’s budget for a remix fund, and next week, I’m going to post a form where people will be able to submit pitches. After that, the book’s patrons will all vote on their favorites, and those projects will get funded. Hey: things don’t transform themselves.


Brought to you By the Committee to Find and Rescue Alma

Apparently this short film by Pixar animator Rodrigo Blaas is only available for a limited time. Which is good, because otherwise an unlimited number of children would have their nightmares haunted forever.



The birth of Aphrodite

I like this drawing by Walt Pascoe a lot. In my head, it’s the birth of Aphrodite—but of course Aphrodite is not a woman on a clamshell, but rather a bright burning star. And the whole thing is a bit more violent than Botticelli would have you believe.

I also like this one; it looks like a dragon to me. A very modern, 2010 sort of dragon.


Future Picture

You remember Dan Reetz, right? He of the DIY book scanner. Well, now he’s launched another totally fascinating, zeitgeist-y project. This one, Future Picture, is all about computational photography.

What’s computational photography? I actually haven’t been able to come up with a good one-sentence description yet; maybe you can suggest one. Suffice it to say that computational photography lets you do things like snap a photo and then focus it after the fact. Or make three different versions, each focused on something different. It actually gets kinda close to the classic let-me-just-enhance-that movie effect.

It’s related, at least philosophically, to James Cameron’s production technique for Avatar: rather than make your creative decisions up front—which way is the camera pointing? How fast is it moving? Where are the lights?—you delay them as long as possible. You capture the rawest data possible—huge torrents of it—and then rely on computers to manipulate and transform it later.

I’ll bet you could come up with some cool stuff by applying this approach to wildly different (and seemingly-incompatible) domains. Cooking? Health care? Relationships? Think abouuut it…