Archive for January, 2010
I love this chart, but maybe not for the obvious reason.
Stanislas Dehaene’s Reading in the Brain (previously on Snarkmarket) has a revelatory section about how we recognize glyphs even when they come in many configurations. Think about all the ways the letter E can look: capital E, lowercase e, cursive e, funky-futuristic-font E, and so on. Our brain recognizes them all (well.. almost all) instantly as E. It peels back the pixels or atoms and registers the underlying letter-concept.
Anyway, looking at this chart, I realized that the bat symbol is totally a glyph! It’s beyond graphic design at this point. There are so many variations out there—many, many more beyond what you see above—and there is a lot of difference between them. But they’re all unmistakably the bat symbol. That’s cool.
I want to make something that becomes a glyph.
(Rob Greco asks which version is my favorite. For me, it’s an easy pick: 2005 all the way. But the modern choice is actually the most retro; the Batman Begins team reached way back into the early archives for inspiration.)
I like Howard’s take on the iPad a lot—he describes it not as a device but almost as an undevice. And I like this bit:
In the middle 1980s, [computer pioneer Alan] Kay visited Alaska for a lecture and was interviewed in the Anchorage Daily News, articulating intoxicating ideas that helped awaken me to the brewing information revolution. He was careful even then to caution against focusing too much on devices. “The music’s not in the piano,” he said. “If it was, we’d have to let it vote.”
The music’s not in the piano! That’s mantra-worthy.
In an utter and absolute twist, Nico Muhly waxes rhapsodic about a totally sci-fi notion:
Oftentimes, I wish I had somebody who would just rush into my studio and say, here’s the deal with this piece: this part is awesome, and these two bars have to go. Or “those two bars are irrelevant.” I’ve written at length about this problem before; in the other Arts, both applied and otherwise, there are outside forces to temper the artist. Visual artists are restricted by the size of their canvas or the space their art will inhabit. Writers have editors! Can you imagine, composers, if you had an editor?
And what I love is the way he defines an editor in the very next line…
Somebody you love & hate & trust & mistrust who has access to your music at any juncture?
…which sounds rather Jekyll-and-Hyde-ish, doesn’t it? Almost like some other version of yourself that you swoon and transform into: “Huh, what? Where am I? What is this? Who wrote this? I… wait… my god, this is crap!” Some other version of yourself with one difference, one impossible advantage: fresh eyes.
Hilobrow is running a microfiction contest with a compelling theme: troubled and/or troubling supermen or –women. Don’t think Superman; think Ozymandias from Watchmen. Or, like, Steve Jobs. Here’s the full setup, which is a fun bit of science fiction history in its own right.
I fully expect a member of the snarkmatrix to win this contest.
“Does journalism exist?”
As I made my way through the text—it’s quite long—I kept selecting a section to blockquote… and then finding an even better one three grafs down. Forget it; just read the whole thing.
I’m not sure that it’s exactly the dictionary definition of magisterial, but I use the word to mean comprehensive, authoritative, and fluent. That last one is important; I don’t think you can be magisterial without using language really, really well.
Rusbridger’s speech is magisterial.
If somebody was brand-new to journalism, or brand-new to planet earth, I’d hand them a printout of this speech, and I’d be pretty confident that they would emerge ready to participate in what’s next. It’s a wonderful, balanced, meaty piece of work.
Turns out a zero rupee note is valuable indeed.
Money is communication—a stripped-down (but precise) semaphore for a certain kind of value and intention. I love it that people are hacking the system and adding to money’s vocabulary.
Also, they say that people do a year of business in three days here, assuming you do the kind of business that can be done in three days and helped by men in suits, which, unfortunately, I don’t.
Let’s do this.
I want to talk about the iPad, but I’m going to start by talking about vlogs.
You know: videoblogs!
Rewind to 2005. Maybe your 2005 was different from mine, but I was working at an internet-centric cable TV network, and the world seemed to be saying one thing really loud: The revolution is here. We’ve got cheap cameras and cheap distribution. The era of the indie “web show” has arrived. Let a thousand videoblogs bloom!
Then they didn’t. Not really. Today the gear is even cheaper—HD Flipcams for like twelve bucks, right?—but we’ve got basically three web shows: Rocketboom, Epic Fu, and The Guild. (That’s cruel shorthand; if you are currently producing and/or starring in some other web show, I’m sorry. My argument demands ruthlessness.)
Well, the web happened. YouTube happened. It turns out we weren’t wrong about the tools; we were wrong about the forms. We didn’t get a crisp catalog of indie web shows; we got a sprawling database of disconnected video clips.
Today on the web, on YouTube, a show just sort of dissolves into that database. To avoid that fate, it needs to be buoyed by big media; it needs to surf on the scarcity of TV time. A show needs a marketing budget to insist on its coherence. (Also, Hulu.)
None of this is a bad thing! I love the web-as-database; I love the wacky YouTube ecosystem. It’s like we grew a rainforest overnight.
But the point is, the web kinda hates bounded, holistic work. The web likes bits and pieces, cross-references and recommendations, fragments and tabs. Oh, and the web loves the fact that you’re reading this post in Google Reader.
Hold that thought.
Back in the day, when I was first getting to know my iPhone, I was surprised at how truly un-web-like it was. On the iPhone, you do one thing at a time and that one thing takes up the whole screen. Like nothing on the web, the iPhone is full-bleed.
You know what my favorite iPhone apps are? No joke: it’s stuff like this. Nobody’s made the multimedia manga or living-text novel of my dreams, so I’ve settled for The Wheels on the Bus. But it turns out that some of the stuff they’re doing with these kids’ apps—the way they’re mashing media and interactions together—is really slick.
And now this new device takes the iPhone’s virtues and scales them up—plus, no text messages while you’re reading. So more than anything else, the iPad looks to me like a focus machine. And it looks, therefore, like such an opportunity for storytelling, and for innovation around storytelling. It looks like an opportunity to make the Myst of 2010. (I don’t mean that literally. I only mean: wow, remember Myst? Remember how it was an utterly new kind of thing?)
Apple is great at inventing new devices, but it bums me out that they seem so content to fill those devices with the same same old stuff: TV shows, movies, music, and books. Books… in ePub format?
Apple: you did not invent a magical and revolutionary device so we could read books in ePub format.
Think about what the iPad really is! It’s the greatest canvas for media ever invented. It’s colorful, tactile, powerful, and programmable. It can display literally anything you can imagine; it can add sound and music; and it can feel you touching it. It’s light and (we are led to believe) comfortable in the hands. The Platonic Form of the Perfect Canvas is out there somewhere—it’s probably flexible… and it probably has a camera—but the iPad is, like, a really amazingly good shadow of that form. And this is just the first one!
So, we’re gonna use the Perfect Canvas to… watch TV shows?
Now, connect the dots. For all its power and flexibility, the web is really bad at presenting bounded, holistic work in a focused, immersive way. This is why web shows never worked. The web is bad at containers. The web is bad at frames.
Jeez, if only we had a frame.
So, to finish up: I think the young Hayao Miyazakis and Mark Z. Danielewskis and Edward Goreys of this world ought to be learning Objective-C—or at least making some new friends. Because this new device gives us the power and flexibility to realize a whole new class of crazy vision—and it puts that vision in a frame.
In five years, the coolest stuff on the iPad shouldn’t be Spider-Man 5, Ke$ha’s third album, or the ePub version of Annabel Scheme. If that’s all we’ve got, it will mean that Apple succeeded at inventing a new class of device… but we failed at inventing a new class of content.
In five years, the coolest stuff on the iPad should be… jeez, you know, I think it should be art.
Well, I thought this was just great. It seemed to actually assess in a way I haven’t witnessed in my lifetime. It wasn’t just rhetoric, but actually a pretty cagey annual report.
This Obama guy… let’s keep him.
The Flickr user known only as 9 0 0 0 is one of my favorite internet mysteries. He or she or it produces a steady stream of amazing images—subtle, snarky, and always perfectly textured. They’ve been at it for years, but there’s a coherence to the feed; it feels like some opus being revealed over time, some crazy pop Kabbalah with AdBusters overtones. It’s often very droll.
Point samples don’t do it justice. You need to see it longitudinally.
Maybe it’s an ARG that’s never actually going to start.
Update: Seriously, sooo weird!