News flash! Jennifer Aniston can actually act. I really enjoyed her performance in Office Space, but I thought it was just a one time thing. She was the best thing about The Good Girl, which sounds like a backhanded compliment but isn't. The movie was a little uneven here and there (although I can't pinpoint why), but Aniston's performance tied it all together for me. With strong performances in Office Space, The Good Girl, and The Iron Giant, she needs to stop doing shark-jumped sitcoms (next week, on a very special episode of Friends: Rachel marries Ross's 5 year-old son and then leaves him for Joey's monkey) and focus on movies full time. With the right role, she could probably win an Oscar. (After all, if Halle Berry can win one...)
Moby and Eminem got into a bit of a scuffle (photo) during the MTV Video Music Awards last night. Eminem got booed by the crowd for referring to Moby as a girl and then made a remark in Moby's direction about hitting a man with glasses. Jeering, posing, and hand gestures followed.
Apparently, the feud started at the 2001 Grammys when Moby spoke out against Eminem's misogynistic lyrics and homophobia. Eminem didn't like that too much, so he wrote Moby into "Without Me", the first single off of his latest album:
"And Moby? You can get stomped by Obie
You thirty-six year old baldheaded fag, blow me
You don't know me, you're too old, let go
It's over, nobody listens to techno"
I care little for this goofy "feud" and even less about Eminem, but it's fun to hear what Moby had to say about last night in his weblog. He's also posted some pictures from the night's festivities, including shots of the Hilton sisters, Kelly Osbourne, The White Stripes, The Strokes, and assorted revelers.
Freedom of advertising AUG 29
Daryl Westfall, the creator of the thank you for financing global terror stickers writes in to say that his ad got pulled by Google. The ad in question reads:
A Full Tank Of Terrorism?
Controversial sticker educates them while they're standing at the pump!
Here's an excerpt from the letter he received from Google:
"At this time, Google policy does not permit the advertisement of 'Hate/anti' on our website. We also do not permit sites that sell these products to advertise on Google. As noted in our advertising terms and conditions, we reserve the right to exercise editorial discretion when it comes to the advertising we accept on our site."
Others have called Google's rejection of ads "censorship", hoping to cash in on that term's Constitutional connotation, but Google has the right to reject whatever ad they want. It's just advertising and Google isn't the U.S. Government.
Because of Google's position as a nearly essential Web tool, it's unfortunate that they won't run this particular ad as is and I wish they'd change their mind, but they've got legal liability to worry about. Not running certain types of ads, even though some legitimate ads might get pulled unfairly, limits their liability. Hopefully Daryl can rephrase his ad and get it back on the site.
If you want to point fingers, point them instead at America's lawsuit-happy citizenry and corporations. The duels of yesteryear are outdated; there's plenty of satisfaction to be had in the courtroom and everyone from insurance companies to the families of tragedy victims to goofy Hollywood-backed cults to computer manufacturers to people too stupid to know that coffee is hot is glove-slapping the faces of anyone unlucky enough to get in the way.
Spam in a klein bottle AUG 28
Dennis peers into the abyss and sees himself: "This morning, I was surprised to receive an email virus from my own account. I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but I was plenty mad about it. After deleting the virulent email from both my Inbox and the Trash, I fired off the following response..."
It's a little dark at times (the brightness, not the mood), but this video of two guys racing without cars is a nifty bit of stop motion video.
Getting the gist of life AUG 28
Many 21 year-olds think they have the world all figured out, but few make the mistake of writing it all down for public consumption (or perhaps many do these days). Debra Pickett interviews first time author and The Sopranos actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler about her book Wise Girl:
"Sigler just moved in with her boyfriend of one year, 31-year-old A.J. Discala. In addition to sharing her Trump Tower apartment, Discala is also Sigler's manager.
"'A manager controls so much of your life,' Sigler says, her brown eyes sparkling, 'that it's just wonderful to know the person has nothing but good intentions for you.'
"I ask if it makes her nervous, the old Hollywood stereotype of the manager dating the starlet and, well, you know, not exactly doing what's in her best interest.
"'Oh, no,' she says. 'We just look at it as a wonderful thing.'
"Besides, she says, they're not like other show business couples.
"An awkward pause descends on our table, hovering just over our half-eaten lunches. She is pitying my cynical singledom, and I am worrying about her future.
"Then I notice she's wearing really cute sandals, and we decide to talk about those instead."
Elopacious AUG 28
Books for everyone AUG 28
As an addendum to Monday's post about the availability of We Blog at Amazon, it is also available at Amazon in Canada, the UK, France, Germany, and Japan. People around the globe can enjoy the tasty treats of We Blog without paying for costly international shipping. Well, as long as they live in one of those countries...and read English.
According to this analysis of movie ratings (with neat graphs!), short films, film noir, and documentaries have the highest ratings on IMDB. At the bottom of the barrel are horror, sci-fi, action, and thillers. With minor exceptions, film ratings appear to be inversely proportional to box office earnings.
Meg's book (and Matt's and Paul's) is out! Finally, finally, finally. I got a chance to look at a copy of it on Saturday...it's nice to see it in its final form, the product of several months of hard work and aggravation. It's a wonder any books get published at all, what with the lack of interest that (certain) publishing companies show in getting them out into the world.
Anyway, it's out now and congratulations all around. If you read this site and wonder what's involved with doing your own site like this, We Blog might be a good investment for you. If you need any extra prodding, the authors have set up a Web site to accompany the book at blogroots.com. The site includes discussions about weblog-related issues, sample book chapters, and several resources related to weblogs.
I would find it very amusing if several thousand people ordered these stickers and began sticking them up on gas pumps around the country.
The trailer for Jerry Seinfeld's upcoming movie Comedian is pretty damn funny. In a time and land and world of bad movies, I'm hoping that Comedian is at least as good as the trailer.
Only mostly dead AUG 23
If I ever have the chance to form a society, I hope I can choose for it a name as delightful as The Society For The Recovery Of Persons Apparently Dead. Great title aside, the article is an interesting history of the resuscitation of those with ambiguous mortality, from mouth-to-mouth to cryonics.
Possible NetNewsWire feature AUG 23
Although NetNewsWire is a very smooth piece of OS X software, I haven't been using it much. I finally figured out why this morning after downloading and trying out the new version.
NetNewsWire works just like most email clients with a 3-pane setup: feeds/folders on the left, headlines/subjects lines in the upper right, and the summary/preview in the lower right. But I skim news like I skim weblogs or Google search results, not like I read email. I want the headline and the summary all in one shot...I need more than just the headline to decide if I'm interested in reading the full story and clicking through all the headlines is a bit tedious. Here's a quick mockup I did in Photoshop so you can see what I'm talking about. Perhaps a future version of NNW could have an option to toggle between 2-pane and 3-pane views to cover multiple reading preferences.
I can't believe this is from Reuters and not The Onion. Canadian Hookers Campaign Against Hollywood details an effort by The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users organization to procure compensation for prostitutes and drug dealers displaced by movie shoots:
Sex trade workers must be compensated for displacement they experience at your hands in the same manner you would compensate a business if you were to use their locale during operating hours. The same must hold true for homeless people you push from beneath a bridge or doorway, and drug users you move from a park.
James Gleick is one of my favorite authors, mainly because of Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, a brilliant book. I went to see him tonight down in Menlo Park at Kepler's Bookstore; he was in town promoting his new book, a collection of essays on the Internet called What Just Happened.
From what I heard at the reading and what I've read of his writing about the Internet, what just happened was what happened with the telephone at the turn of the last century. It connected people, changed how people interacted with each other, shortened distances, and changed the world. Along the way, he mentioned how many felt wary of the Internet after 9/11 because the terrorists had used it to plan the attack, but how that could really be said about anything (as Matt said, it's silly to ban cell phones because they can be used for potentially illegal or otherwise bad activities).
So far, so good.
In the course of answering a question from the audience about the future of print journalism, Gleick made a curious argument for newspapers versus online media. He said that there's a quality associated with newspapers that the Web just can't match -- he cited weblogs at this point, which surprised the hell out of me -- and that the editing process and overall ideology of a newspaper like the NY Times is missing on the Web. The way in which he said it implied that this whatever-it-was just wasn't possible on the Web, which seemed odd in light of his earlier comments.
After the reading, we chatted with Gleick briefly about weblogs. He revealed that didn't much care for them, saying that perhaps it wasn't such a good thing that we now have thousands of people filling the Web with nothing. After hearing him extoll the virtues of the anything-goes Internet (and rightly so, in my view), I was very disappointed that he missed that same aspect when considering weblogs.
Steven Levy, writing for Newsweek about Living in the Blog-osphere, nails what Gleick missed:
"Even the various computer-generated lists that purport to probe what's happening on Planet Blog don't go beyond the 10,000 or so most popular ones, rated by the numbers of links to and from the various sites. But the bigger story is what's happening on the 490,000-plus Weblogs that few people see: they make up the vast dark matter of the Blog-osphere, and portend a future where blogs behave like such previous breakthroughs as desktop publishing, presentation software and instant messaging, and become a nonremarkable part of our lives."
Small arcade classics AUG 21
Tiny Windows Games are "tiny versions of classic games for your sneaky worktime pleasure". And when they say tiny, they mean it. Games include Tetris, Ms. Pacman, Donkey Kong, and Asteroids. I wish they made OS X versions...I'm curious as to how you know what your score is when your game ends.
Rollover. Good dog! AUG 20
Lopsided AUG 20
Due to popular demand from those brave souls that have forsaken the wussy contact high of the Web and get their high quality dope right from the source, I've increased the amount of text I'm pushing out into my RSS files. MT's default is the first 20 words of the post...I kicked it up to around 80. Enjoy the fuller flavor of kottke.org in two delicious varieties: RSS 0.91 and RSS 1.0.
Don't know what to do with an RSS file? Check out my earlier post on the subject for links to some RSS readers.
Not only does Passport to the Pub: A British Guide to Pub Etiquette teach you how to make your way around an English public house, it's an excellent blueprint for any social environment guide. Here's a snippet about buying the barkeep a drink in lieu of a tip:
"This may initially seem like an unnecessarily convoluted and tortuous way of giving someone a tip. Most visitors, however, find the 'and one for yourself' ritual a refreshingly friendly alternative to the impersonal handing over of coins.
"Feel free to offer a drink even when the bar is busy and the publican or member of staff will not have time to consume it immediately, or even to join you at all. It is quite appropriate for them to accept your offer, add the price of their drink to your order, and enjoy it later when the bar is less crowded. On pouring the drink, even several hours later, the recipient will try to catch your eye, and raise the glass to you in acknowledgement with a nod and a smile, perhaps saying 'cheers' or 'thanks' if you are within earshot."
Car repair despair AUG 19
My car has a few scrapes and dings on it that I need to take care of in the next couple of months. Does anyone know of any good auto body repair places in the SF/Bay Area that do Volkswagens? I'm looking for fair prices, good service, honesty....you know, someone that isn't going to rip me off. Any general advice about purchasing body repair services is appreciated as well. Feel free to email me or comment in the thread. Thanks!
The hack goes on AUG 18
"The MITBT went defunct in the late 1990's, but has since had a sort of underground revival. I found out about them through one of my friends, a math/statistics grad student. His friends would always go over to his place at like 3 in the morning and play cards in their living room. I didn't think about it at first but I came to notice that they were all relatively well-to-do and none of them had jobs. I just assumed that they were getting money from their parents. I played blackjack with them a few times and they were so good.
"One of the guys, it turns out, is a hold-over from the old team. He's sort of the ring leader. I'm not sure if this is some sort of splinter group or what. But my friend told me that he actively recruits guys from the department and they go to Vegas about three times a term.
"Their routine is a bit different than the one described in the Wired story, but it works pretty well. They're all Korean nationals and they have really bad English (or they can when they need to). They play the language barrier to seem inconspicuous. They look like a bunch of drunk wealthy Korean business men. They'll all sit down at a table and start counting in orthogonal ways, all communicating their counts to each other in a variety of ways. They overcome the problem of having a consistent winner by rotating who is the 'big player' every hand via some system that I'm unaware of.
"I spent a few nights playing with them (they play for 8+ hours at a time) and I now consider myself a competent card counter, but their system doesn't really lend itself well to winning alone. Also, they'll never recruit me because I'm white.
"So for awhile I never knew they were into this, I just thought they liked to play cards. Then my friend clued me in that they were going to Vegas and winning consistently. I never really knew how much they were taking in though. If the figures in the Wired story are true then I'll be amazed. Based on the lifestyle these guys were living I'd say their annual income was probably in the $200k (each) regime. Not bad for a handful of weekends a year.
"As a postscript, my friend has since left school and went to Wall Street to run numbers for some large financial company."
In someone else's shoes AUG 16
Some friends of ours were away on vacation, so Meg and I spent last weekend up in sunny Sonoma County flat/cat sitting for them. My favorite part about staying at someone else's house is all the exploring you get to do. I'm not talking about snooping around looking for porno under the mattress or thumbing through diaries. I'm referring to the casual perusal of the household as you're going about the business of living in that space.
You might think to yourself, "I'm bored. Let's see what I can watch on television." Hmmmm, their cable is different than ours. They get TLC? And they don't TiVo Trading Spaces? That seems weird. Their DVD player seems thinner than ours...is it better?
I needed a band-aid but didn't pack any so I peeked into the medicine cabinet. I was greeted by an array of unfamiliar brands. Can I trust my well-being to any of these brands? Tylenol? Why not Advil? That generic cold medicine seems dangerous, risky at best. At least the band-aids are Band-Aids...I can safely cover my small blister with one of those.
Hunger sends me to the kitchen. The refrigerator doesn't contain any of my favorite flavors of soda, but there's a much greater selection of beverages than at our house. It's like a bar in there. And the condiments...you only see this many condiments at the supermarket. Their choice of ketchup brand rattles me. Have I been using the wrong stuff all this time? They have ice cream. I used to buy ice cream, but not so much anymore. They haven't stopped purchasing ice cream, why did I?
The inhabitants of this particular residence have an higher-than-average selection of books, more books than Meg and I have even, and of very good quality. Having brought six books between us to last the weekend, we spent the first 45 minutes after our arrival scouring the shelves for stuff to read, envious of what we found there. Out of the hundreds of thousands of books published every year, they had selected the finest; we have obviously been wasting our time literature-wise. In my awe, I may have failed to place the books on the bedside table back in their proper order in the stack; I'd hate to think that I've disturbed someone's delicate reading queue, as if they'll return and start reading the wrong book by mistake just because it was on top instead of its previous position of third from the top.
The bed is bigger and more comfortable. The bath towels aren't as large, but they sure smell nice. The exercise equipment looks used; mine is not generally utilized. I looked around at this space that's temporarily ours, possessing their stuff in my mind, comparing it with our similar possessions back home and trying to reconcile the similarities and differences with what I know about these people and myself. Now that I'm back in my apartment with all of our stuff, it feels a bit incomplete; it's missing all of my newly-gained temporary possessions. Maybe a new book or two would set things right. And it might be time to investigate alternatives to my current ketchup choice.
When Mathematics Attacks! AUG 15
Hacking Las Vegas is "the inside story of the MIT Blackjack Team's conquest of the casinos". The article is excerpted from Ben Mezrich's Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions, due out in October. Math, money, and discipline made them millions:
"The team worked at the mathematics -- the expected advantages, the proper Spotter payouts, the appropriate BP betting scheme -- in rigorous detail, with the aid of computers and countless hours of simulated play. Average profit percentages ranged from between 10 and 20 percent per gambling foray, but could go much higher depending on the number of open tables and the number of possible player hours. 'The first year I played, we returned 154 percent to our investors,' brags Lewis. 'That's after paying off expenses. You try and do that on Wall Street.' The real genius of the MIT scheme was how it turned the casinos' own profiling techniques against them, using stereotypes to camouflage the big money bets."
When I was in my teens, my dad was working on devising his own system for blackjack. He had a book outlining basic counting strategies and the odds for various hand combinations and played with various betting systems with the aid of Lotus 123 spreadsheets. We played blackjack for hours with both one-deck & two-deck shoes and his sizable spare change collection, just noodling around with different approaches. I had the odds for all the hand combinations memorized so that even without counting, I could play nearly break-even blackjack for as long as I wanted.
Malcolm Gladwell on The Naked Face we all wear:
"But there's nothing secondary about the face, and surely this realization is what set John Yarbrough apart on the night that the boy in the sports car came at him with a gun. It's not just that he saw a microexpression that the rest of us would have missed. It's that he took what he saw so seriously that he was able to overcome every self-protective instinct in his body, and hold his fire."
A must-read article about what people see when we look at each other and how some have taken that skill to a seemingly super-human level.
Peter wrote in this morning saying that Microsoft was no longer offering their core font pack (you know, Arial, Verdana, Georgia, etc.) for download. Thinking he was a dirty, rotten liar and scoundrel for saying so, I checked the download page myself. They're gone: "Web fonts program discontinued. Microsoft's TrueType core fonts for the Web are no longer available for download from www.microsoft.com." What's going on here?
Whatever the reason, MS makes up for the loss by offering a darn good typography weblog. From it I've learned that there's a new edition of the essential Stop Stealing Sheep and Find Out How Type Works, Andy Crewdson (late of Lines and Splines) is back writing longer pieces about typography on the Web at New Series, and MyFonts.com, a great typography resource/store, gets a redesign.
You can't kill the Rooster AUG 13
God bless The Morning News gang for finding a link to the Web site of Sedaris Hardwood Floors. The company is owned by David Sedaris' brother, the motherfucking Rooster. The highlight of the site is a link to another site where you can purchase official "You Can't Kill The Rooster" t-shirts. Also, there's pie...er, there's a new article by Sedaris about the Rooster: Rooster at the Hitchin' Post.
Help with a 9/11 project? AUG 13
I got an email today from a Danish multimedia design student. He needs some help with a school project: he's looking for someone (age 16-25) that was in New York on September 11th of last year and was an eyewitness to the WTC collapse. That's all I know about the project. If you'd like to offer your assistance, email me and I'll send your contact information along to him. Thanks.
The neverending story AUG 09
About a month ago, I got an unusual email from Ryan and Jacob. I turned on comments for that post and several people stopped by and offered their thoughts and observations.
Online conversations on weblogs generally don't last too long, two or three days at the most. The post scrolls down the page, there's other more exciting things going on in the world, the topic is exhausted, etc. The Ryan and Jacob thread, thanks in part to lots of visitors from Google coming in through the side door, kept going strong for almost three weeks and is still generating comments even today. Weblogs are usually so ephemeral...it's very weird somehow that this thread continues to grow unnoticed and untended, like mushrooms in a damp corner of the basement.
I know you're not going to believe me, but there's a lot of weird stuff on the Internet. Here's a sampling of some strange things I've run across lately:
- I got some spam today with a subject line that read: "ATTENTION! IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR HOMING PIGEONS". Spammers are targeting very small demographics these days.
- A Google search for "william shatner ramming kottke" yields results, including a previous search for that phrase.
A team of Australian scientists, led by Paul Davies (who has written several books on physics...I've read About Time) is theorising that electromagnetic waves may not have a constant speed as is commonly accepted. Predictably, the lead of this wire article focuses on Einstein being wrong...although Davies does a nice job in correcting that somewhat by saying, "it doesn't mean we just throw the books in the bin, because it's in the nature of scientific revolution that the old theories become incorporated in the new ones."
The most interesting bit of the discovery is the revelation that atoms from 12 billion years ago and present-day atoms are fundamentally different and that the difference seems to affect the speed of light. When we get some answers as to how that happened and if the process is reproducible, that'll be something. Mimicking nature in atom manipulation has provided us with new compounds, new elements, vast amounts of energy, and loads of new discoveries. Who knows what is possible if we can modify atoms to alter the speed of light.
As an enthusiastic arm-chair scientist, I'm waiting to hear about this from a slightly more rigorous source than Reuters before speculating further. (
Does anyone have a subscription to the Nature site? I wouldn't mind getting a peek at the actual article in the August 8th issue... Update: Got a copy of the Nature article...thanks Danielle.)
What Dave Eggers is up to AUG 06
"Living in the Bay Area, you're faced with more homelessness than probably any other place in America. So you have to be ready to deal with their plight all the time, and you have to make dozens of decisions each day about who to give money to and who not to. That's a lot of pressure, every day, and sometimes ten times a block, if you're walking down, say, Haight, or lower Geary. And you really do make these decisions in the most random ways."
Eggers is also editing the upcoming The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2002. The publisher describes the book as "a selection for young people of the best literature from mainstream and alternative American periodicals: from The New Yorker to Jane, Rolling Stone to The Onion, Vibe to various magazines, zines, and journals that, if you're over thirty, you've never heard of." I wonder if the book will include any writing from the Internet? (Probably not...I've got half a mind to pitch a Best Online Writing 2002 book to Houghton Mifflin. There's a lot of online-only writing that deserves a wider audience.)
Errors with attitude AUG 05
While doing some research this morning, I came across this error on a site called Hacker Gurus. Nice work, d00dz!
Khan!!!!!! Frodo!!!!!! AUG 04
A director's cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is coming out on Tuesday. It includes all sorts of interviews, commentary, and making ofs. It's disappointing that they didn't include the episode from the original series on which the movie is based.
The Fellowship of the Ring is also out on DVD on Tuesday. Buyer beware...a four-disktravaganza of FOTR is being released in mid-November, so you might want to hold off on the first release. The extended release appears to raise the bar for DVD extras...there's a 208-minute director's cut of the film, commentary by 30 of the cast and crew, and two whole disks of storyboards, behind-the-scenes, mini-movies, and interactive features. On a geek's treasure map, this would probably be buried right under the X.
Notorious S.I.L.K. AUG 04
I just received an email-borne virus based on my Silkscreen font:
Date: Fri, 02 Aug 2002 23:52:53 -0600 (MDT)
From: parallax <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Install the Silkscreen type family, unzip this
Attachments: readme.bat, readme.txt
The idea is that you're so keyed up to install Silkscreen that you run readme.bat and it wreaks some particular havoc on your PC. I hope people aren't being taken in by this, but at the same time, it's fun to see my creation twisted, shifted, and reflected back to me in a completely unexpected manner.
Update: Anil tells me it's a Klez virus (or something like it). Klez looks for snippets of text related to downloadable files in the browser cache of an infected computer and emails copies of itself out to addresses found in the cache.
I can see from my server logs that a bunch of people have already found these, so I figured I'd let the rest of you know as well. The most recent kottke.org posts are available in two flavors of RSS: RSS 0.91 and RSS 1.0.
What do you do with these files? Well, you find yourself an RSS reader and point it to one or the other of those files. Some programs and services that you can use to read RSS feeds include NetNewsWire, AmphetaDesk, Aggie, SlashDock, Radio Userland, NewsIsFree, and Peerkat. Good luck.
Towers of meat AUG 02
If I led a more interesting life, had a more eccentric family, was 15 years older, gay, and a whole lot funnier, David Sedaris and I would practically be the same person. His description of restaurant dining in "Today's Special" from Me Talk Pretty One Day hits very close to home for me:
"I've never thought of myself as a particularly finicky eater, but it's hard to be a good sport when each dish seems to include no fewer than a dozen ingredients, one of which I'm bound to dislike. I'd order the skirt steak with a medley of suffocated peaches, but I'm put off by the aspirin sauce. The sea scallops look good until I'm told they're served in a broth of malt liquor and mummified litchi nuts."
Lemmings at Internet speed AUG 01
"Now, all sorts of entities and non-entities can reveal to mass audiences the agendas of these media machers. That's a huge gain. A reader pointed out recently that one of Tocqueville's deepest worries about America was its herd mentality, especially in intellectual matters. The internet is like a car-horn in the middle of a pack of lemmings. It disperses the throng; and some of the poor schmucks even avoid going over the cliff."
What a bunch of self-congratulating hogwash. Here are some Internet/lemming/horn similes that are more accurate:
"The Internet is a car horn honking frantically, herding lemmings off cliffs at an ever-increasing rate."
"With the Internet, the lemmings are now carpooling off cliffs in really fast cars."
"Andrew Sullivan has a big horn and his readers are lemmings."
"Individual media outlets on the Internet (i.e. weblogs) are like car alarms. They make a lot of noise, but no one pays any attention to them. Oh, and the lemmings, um, don't pay any attention either."
"The Internet allows lemmings of all sociopolitical viewpoints (even those that like car horns) to gather themselves into groups for the purpose of finding the right sort of cliff to launch themselves off of."
"Some lemmings, having recently gained the ability to honk, now think of themselves as big, shiny cars thundering across bridges instead of plummeting to their deaths with the rest of the riff raff."