Classic quote from Shaq comparing the three guards he's played with to Vito Corleone's sons in The Godfather. Penny = Fredo, Kobe = Sonny, and Dwyane Wade = Michael.
Simply Google, a one-pager for navigating and searching all of Google's offerings.
Captain Picard's blog. With guestbloggers Seven of Nine, Will Riker, Worf, and Data.
Listen to three tracks from Thom Yorke's new solo project, the eraser. Radiohead it ain't, and I'm not sure I like it.
Names of books + band names. Charlie Daniels and the Chocolate Factory, Motley Crusoe, The Natalie Merchant of Venice, and J-Lolita...you get the idea.
In the beta version of Office 2007, a font called Calibri is the default font instead of Times New Roman. The end of a typographic era.
Peterme has a realization: "I am without a professional tribe". I've been feeling the same way for quite awhile now and like Peter, I'm not quite sure what to do about it.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is exploring the use of satellite imagery to detect and prove human rights abuses. It's difficult to deny the communication potential of these images:
The images, analyzed by the AAAS staff, show two views of the settlement of Porta Farm, located just west of the Zimbabwean capital of Harare. The first, an archived image from June 2002, shows an intact settlement with more than 850 homes and other buildings; an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 people lived in Porta Farm at the time. The second photo, taken by satellite on 6 April this year, shows that the settlement has been leveled.
International rights groups allege that the forced relocations in Zimbabwe -- which affected over 700,000 people over the course of six weeks in 2005 -- are an attempt by the Mugabe government to supress opposition to the current regime.
The AAAS and other organizations hope to use satellite imagery in the future as a tool in addressing the human rights abuses in Darfur, Burma, and other areas. (via rw)
Videos of Itchy and Scratchy cartoons from the Simpsons. Get 'em before Fox's lawyers see them.
Maciej takes George Will to task on bilingual ballots. Will thinks bilingual ballots are "a mockery of the rule of law" because you need to speak English to become a citizen. Maciej says, "the insinuation that voters might want ballots in Spanish because they are cheating, lazy, bad people is malicious and wrong. You choose Spanish on your ballot for the same reason you might choose it in an ATM transaction - not because you have contempt for American civil society, but because you don't want to make a mistake."
Columbia House launches subscription meds program. "Qualified seniors may choose either 12 generic drugs for one cent, or five brand-name medications for 49 cents each, plus shipping and handling."
Minty Boost is a portable USB charger (for your iPod, digital camera, etc.) that fits inside an Altoids gum tin and uses 2 AA batteries as a power source. You can buy a kit, make one from scratch, or even use the instructions to make kits to sell yourself.
Lots of interesting questions about couples who spend a lot of time online "together". "A couple watching TV, curled up on a sofa together, may have felt 'together', a couple surfing on two wifi laptops are visiting different sites, having different experiences. They seem more apart than together. The internet age feels less communal than the TV age did."
Eyebeam's Graffiti Research Lab has won an Award of Distinction at Ars Electronica 2006. Congrats, guys!
A quick study shows that stocks of simply named companies do better than those of more complexly named companies. Even companies with pronounceable ticker symbols did better than those with unpronounceable symbols.
Inspired by the hypertextish sidenotes in David Foster Wallace's Host, a piece from the Atlantic Monthly about radio host John Ziegler (screenshot of the article), arc90 whipped up a way to add sidenotes to any web page. Here they are in action.
Short list of hot dog places in NYC. What, no Crif Dogs? That's unpossible.
Update: The same pigtailed girl uses Vagisil and helps teach people about Java Design Patterns for O'Reilly. (via joe, thx michael)
The Photography Channel has more than a dozen videos of photographers dicussing their craft, techniques, and experiences. A fine resource for photographers.
Dictionary words MAY 30
I've been keeping track of words which return a link to a dictionary definition of the word in Google. Dictionary words are those that are written but not written about, haven't been subject to the corporate/band/blog word grab, or aren't otherwise popular words.
Many of the Dictionary.com Words of the Day are probably dictionary words as well.
Greg Allen rips into the Smithsonian for selling their archive (actually *our* archive) to Showtime for $6 million. "So not only did Smithsonian executives sell out America's patrimony to a single, giant media corporation, they sold it for practically nothing." Wank. Ers.
More on baby name popularity. Over the last few decades, the most popular baby names have been used less and less as the number of uniques names has risen. 2005 #1 name Jacob was given to only 1.2% of boys while 1945 #1 name James was given to 5.4%. In other words, the long tail of baby names is flattening.
Moleskine's City Notebook lets you create your own personal city guidebook. Photos of a prototype here; available for Paris, London, Berlin, Amsterdam now, Chicago, NYC, SF, Boston in 2007. Love the idea of a writable guidebook.
The tragedy of Kevin Garnett. According to the Wins Produced statistic, Garnett is far and away the best player in the NBA, but his teammates have always been bad. Hopefully Garnett can find "a few co-workers who can help him achieve the recognition his performance indicates he clearly deserves".
Oh, just go watch this remote controlled airplane video. Go! Now! (via cyn-c)
Global warming skeptic Gregg Easterbrook finally caves: "based on the data I'm now switching sides regarding global warming, from skeptic to convert". (via scott rosenberg, who says too little, too late, Gregg)
Kevin Smith's report from the Cannes Film Festival, where Clerks II got an 8-minute standing ovation. Harvey Weinstein: "In my thirty years of coming here, I've never seen a standing ovation last that long at a midnight show in Cannes. Ever."
US TV schedule for World Cup 2006. Goaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllll!
Social, political, economic, cultural, historical, and technological timelines of the world from 1750 to 2100. Having all the timelines in one view is nice, but the zoomable interface is clunky.
From worst to first MAY 25
Lest we forget, Steven Frank reminds us that for quite a few years (which period roughly coincides with Steve Jobs' absence from Apple), the Macintosh experience wasn't all it could have been. In the midst of those dark times, I made a post about how frustrated I was with the Macintosh.
I've never seen a Mac that has run faster than its Wintel counterpart, despite the Macs' faster chip architecture. My 486/66 with 8 megs of ram runs faster than this 300 mhz machine at times. From a productivity standpoint, I don't get how people can claim that the Macintosh is a superior machine.
At my first web design job -- at a company that used to sell and service Macintosh computers -- they had Macs on all the desks. When I left a year and a half later, everyone had Dells running NT 4.0 instead; the difference in speed, stability, and price was not even close at that time. I didn't use another Mac until I bought an iBook after the second coming of Jobs and the advent of OS X.
BTW, that Mac sucks post has become something of a meme on Slashdot. It's been used to call out Java 1.4.2 fanatics, TI fanatics, SGI lava lamp fanatics, Apple laywers, Mac Mini hard drive performance, cat fanatics, Google fanatics, Amiga fanatics, Pittsburgh professors, Apple I fanatics, trolling losers, and so on.
Last week, I reported on a man using the video camera that Apple had set up to record the opening of their new store on 5th Ave in NYC to propose marriage to his girlfriend, one Uschi Lang.
I got an email from Uschi and she couldn't be happier to announce that she said yes to the proposal and that her fiancé James has made her "the happiest woman in the world". Congratulations, you two!
Update: I emailed Uschi and James for some more details and just got a response back. James had been meaning to propose for a few months -- he'd had "the talk" with her father over the holidays -- and was looking for a good opportunity. They were both in line for the 6pm opening of the Apple Store on Friday when James noticed the camera and a proposal idea that was "unique, timeless, and surprising" popped into his head.
At 4:30 am, he snuck out of bed without Uschi noticing it and headed back to the Apple Store. Based on the timing of the time-lapse video already posted on Apple's site, James stood with the signs for about 15 minutes (5 minutes per sign) to ensure that they were visible in the video.
A few days later, James set up a "romantic trail of candles" leading up to his G5, showed Uschi the video -- which she had not seen despite some coverage on the web -- and she of course said "yes".
There's not enough information in this National Geographic story to figure out if the recent finds in Peru has anything to do with the Norte Chico civilization or not. "We found some old stuff somewhere in Peru"...thanks guys, let us know when you starting writing science news for the post-kindergarten crowd. Here's a bit more info on the discovery (still no connection to Norte Chico).
Fine nerd humor: comparing Girlfriend 6.0 to Wife 1.0. "If you try to install Mistress 1.1 before uninstalling Wife 1.0, Wife 1.0 will delete MSMoney files before doing the uninstall itself. Then Mistress 1.1 will refuse to install, claiming insufficient resources." Would like to see Boyfriend 6.0 vs. Husband 1.0 as well.
Update: Husband 1.0 is already there. (thx, jason)
Writer Roger Angell on a leisurely approach to reporting. "Shawn didn't have a sense of deadline. [David] Remnick now wants it next week, which is fine. It's that sort of a magazine, and I try to oblige. Shawn thought, Everybody knows what the news is; now tell us something else about it." More on William Shawn.
Colorfully intricate maps of language distributions. The Asian and African maps are quite complex. (via moon river)
Al Gore, movie star MAY 24
An Inconvenient Truth, a movie about Al Gore's global warming crusade, opens today in NYC and LA. John Heilemann has a lengthy piece on Gore for New York magazine, the NY Times has a piece about Gore and the movie, the climate science blog RealClimate has a positive review of the film, and here again is my review. Larry Lessig, who knows a thing or two about bringing tha PowerPoint noize, loves the movie, calling the slideshow "the most extraordinary lecture I have ever seen anyone give about anything".
Infinitely zoomable photographic mosaic. Very cool.
"Dude, it's time. Girls, you too. Time to pack up the whole in-your-face, raw, hyper-sexualized, porno, skater, white trash, open wounds, self-effacing, Jackass, loose ethics, 80's bar mitzvah disco, and party-till-you vomit movement, aesthetic and attitude. Go on, scram. Beat it. We don't want you hanging around anymore."
I'm the Design Advisor for a new small company in NYC, and we're looking for a full-time web designer. I can't tell you a whole lot about the company here, but I can say it involves the web, contagious media, & weblogs and the people responsible are creative, reasonable, smart, level-headed and not at all "dot com".
I will provide ad hoc feedback and you'll be working closely with Jonah Peretti and a small team of smart folks onsite in NYC (most likely in Soho or Chinatown). This is a full-time salaried position, benefits are included, and you'll get equity in the company. The position is open immediately so if you're interested, send your resume/portfolio to email@example.com with a subject line of "Web Designer position" (plain text resumes and links to online resumes/portfolios are greatly preferred to email attachments). We look forward to hearing from you.
Fine interview with Pixar/Disney's John Lasseter, who is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. "I believe in the nobility of entertaining people, and I take great, great pride that people are willing to give me two or three hours out of their busy lives."
Lottery idea: instead of earmarking revenues for education, why not use the money for individual retirement accounts? The piece includes this startling fact: "Some 20 million Americans spend at least $1,000 a year on lottery tickets". !!!!
Nevaeh (heaven spelled backwards) is suddenly one of the most popular name for baby girls. Its popuarity can be traced to the appearance of a baby of the same name on MTV in 2000. Check on baby name popularity with NameVoyager.
Ben Saunders and Tony Haile are in Greenland training for an Antarctic expedition later this year. Here's how they'll be sending photos and blog posts back to their server along the way.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute has produced two TV ads critical of the global scientific and political consensus on global warming. "Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life." CEI is funded in part by energy companies, but I guess they're not that well funded because that's some of the most laughable propaganda I've ever seen. (thx, kyle)
What's the most offensive show on television? MTV's My Super Sweet 16. "Marissa created an exclusive guest list and announced it at school. If you weren't on the list, well, sorry. When a few kids begged to get an invitation, she made them have a 'dance-off' in front of her. Watching her get off on that was like watching the Emperor zap Luke Skywalker with those fingertip lightning bolts in Return Of The Jedi."
Media kit for the New Yorker, including an issue calendar, circulation stats, and advertising rates & specifications. Only 4% of their circulation is via the newsstand...that's a lot lower than I would have expected. Vogue's newsstand rate is ~36% and Wired's is ~13%.
Rob Gonsalves MAY 22
The work of Canadian artist Rob Gonsalves is part Salvador Dali, part Rene Magritte, and part M.C. Escher. This is one of my favorite images of his, called Tributaries:
The Wages of Wins sounds like Moneyball, but for all sports, not just baseball. Gladwell has a review in this week's New Yorker ("We become dance critics, blind to Iverson's dismal shooting percentage and his excessive turnovers, blind to the reality that the Philadelphia 76ers would be better off without him."), Tyler Cowen has a quick summary, and here's the blog for the book ("Most stars play worse in the playoffs."). Also, the formula for the Win Score statistic they refer to in the book.
Flickr photos tagged with "last day of high school". You've never seen so many smiles.
Pixar: where are all the women? "To date, there's not a single Pixar film that has a female main character: The Incredibles comes the closest, but even there, both Helen Parr/Elastigirl and Violet are supporting characters, and it's Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible that's the hero." Helen Parr and Dory are my favorite Pixar characters.
Update: Not so fast....that acceptance is probably a fake. I got suckered!
From hobby to business MAY 21
In an article for the BBC, Alan Krueger describes how the entertainment industry in the US has become more business-like over the years:
"Early on in the entertainment industry, it's in the interest of the business to think of themselves as throwing a party, not selling a product. I think they attract more of a following that way," he said.
"But over time, the industry takes more the form of a market and is driven by market forces. The Superbowl initially felt like it was rewarding its fans. But then it becomes established and the League finds it in its interest to push up prices."
As my involvement in kottke.org resembles something more like a business and less like a hobby, I've noticed the trajectory described by Krueger, both in my approach to the site and in how kottke.org's readers perceive it. I'm sure other people have experienced this when their small projects have become businesses -- like Blogger, Movable Type, del.icio.us, Upcoming, etc. -- and have struggled to maintain a "rewarding its fans" type of relationship with their customers under increasing pressure from the market to focus on other things. Craigslist has done a good job in sticking close to their initial values and not allowing their business to be driven primarily by market forces. A company like Friendster? Not so successful.
Anyway, an interesting pattern to be aware of.
Barry Bonds finally ties Babe Ruth with 714 home runs. And with relatively little fanfare, largely because the homers will be eventually invalidated by his drug use and because Bonds is a dink.
Update: The kid who caught the home run ball doesn't care for Bonds much: "When asked if he would consider giving [the ball] to Bonds, Snyder declined with a mild expletive." Bonds was also booed at stadiums around the league when the homer was announced.
Amazon updates their online book reading interface...here's David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. Matt has a screenshot and a bit about it. Coolest new feature: you can read some books online immediately after purchase (before the paper copy arrives) and use the reader interface to add notes and bookmarks to your online copy.
If you've got a Powerbook or MacBook with the built-in motion sensor, you can turn it into a lightsaber with MacSaber. Didn't work too well with my Powerbook, but what a cool idea. (thx, jon)
Apple opened a new retail store last night on 5th Avenue here in New York City. Since 5pm yesterday evening, they've had a camera trained on the store to capture the first 24 hours of the festivities and are displaying the results in a time-lapse movie on the store's site. During the 5am segment of the movie, an enterprising Apple acolyte showed up and proposed to his girlfriend by holding up signs in front of the camera:
Does anyone know who this person is? Please email me if you do...I want to know how this turned out!
As it happens, this was the second marriage proposal at the opening...the eighth person in line proposed to his girlfriend right before the store opened and she said yes. Geek love!
Uschi apparently said yes! (I say apparently because this blogspot site has the story and I'm assuming it was copied without attribution from a news site or newspaper but I can't find the actual source.) (thx, robert)
Update: My pal David thinks the acceptance is a hoax...that blogspot site is filled with other fake news stories. I was fished in!!
Uncanny Valley, CA MAY 19
S-s-s-omething from the inbox. Paul writes regarding the uncanny valley:
Clearly, she's selling grapes from a certain valley. Creeeepy.
I love the idea of Uncanny Valley being an actual geographical location (situated in California, I would assume) inhabited by creepy video game characters, digitized actors, and retooled advertising icons.
Imagine the views from neighboring hillsides! (Image courtesy of Google Earth.)
Nicholas Carr weighs in on the serendipity of the web: "Once you create an engine - a machine - to produce serendipity, you destroy the essence of serendipity. It becomes something expected rather than something unexpected. Looking for serendipity? Just follow these easy links!" Previously on serendipity and the web: William McKeen and Steven Johnson.
Update: Steven Johnson responds to Nicholas Carr's post. The circle of feedback continues.
Clever headline watch: Mayor tapped water customers for sex.
Megnut redesigns and refocuses full-time on food. I helped with the design and I can't wait to see how the site evolves over the next few months as Meg finds her stride.
For the "beloved modeling compund's" 50th birthday, they're making a perfume that smells like Play-Doh. They missed a golden opportunity to call it "Play-D'eau". (thx, leah)
NBA playoffs MAY 18
Many basketball fans don't care for the pro game, but you'd have to be made of stone if you're not appreciating the NBA playoffs this year. Have you been watching? What a bunch of great games and series.
Round one featured an old-fashioned duel between LeBron James and Gilbert Arenas, Phoenix battling back from a 3-1 series deficit against a perplexing Lakers team (with Kobe playing team basketball!) to win, and an aging Shaquille O'Neal -- after the refs demonstrated that he was no longer good enough to bull his way through defenders in the post and not get called for offensive fouls -- going for 30 points and 20 rebounds in game six, playing a finesse game unseen from him since his college days at LSU.
And in the second round, the Clippers and Suns are going at it like cats and dogs (2 overtimes in game five, 253 total points in game 1), the defending champion Spurs are trying to come back from a 3-1 deficit to the Mavericks (3 of the games have been decided by 2 points or less and another went to overtime), and the Pistons, who by all accounts should have swept the Cavs in four, find themselves down 3-2 to a team with the best 21-year-old basketball player ever.
Despite the NBA's dogged insistence on promoting individual players as the primary reason to watch games, watching the team play has been the most compelling part of the playoffs. Detroit, Phoenix, San Antonio, the Clippers, and Dallas are great to watch on either end of the court: how a team's offense changes in response to their opponent's defense, how the defense changes to compensate for the tweaks made by the offense, and so on. I don't have a favorite team in the playoffs this year, but this is the most fun I've had watching the NBA since rooting for the Bulls in 1998. (I know, I know.)
These nutballs are making a 1 second film financed by anyone who wants to cough up a buck or two for a producer credit. The film will be followed by an estimated 90 minutes of credits (in order to list all the producers). Awesome. (thx, blythe)
Playboy lists the 25 sexiest novels ever written. I've read only 2 of the 25: Lolita and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Probably a little NSFW.
Some neat tech-inspired jewelry and accessories from Zelle. I don't what's coolest, the transistor earrings, microcontroller cufflinks, the belt made from an IDE cable, or the capacitor necklace.
Networks on a plane MAY 18
Q. Is it possible to use a wireless Internet connection on a plane?
A. Yes, if you happen to be flying on an airline that offers the service. International carriers like Korean Air, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines already have wireless broadband service on many routes; fees for using it vary. Check with your airline to see if it offers in-flight Internet.
So says the NY Times. While it may not be possible to use wireless Internet connections on the plane, it is possible to use wireless connections. Apple laptops can create networks which other computers with wireless capability can join. Bluetooth capable devices like laptops and cellphones can communicate with each other over smaller distances.
Since 9/11, I've often thought that this would be an effective way for a group of people to coordinate some nefarious action on a plane without attracting any attention. Five or six people scattered about the plane on laptops, iChatting plans to one another, wouldn't be unusual at all. Of course, a properly trained group wouldn't need to communicate with each other at all after boarding the plane. Nor, says Bruce Schneier, should we ban things like cellphones and Internet access on airplanes for security reasons.
What's the best way of handling blog comment threads? I *hate* threaded comment interfaces, but with flat displays, multiple conversations are hard to track and 100+ comment threads become difficult to read.
Ahhhhh!! Freaky Gatorade commerical with big-headed children. Like nails on a chalkboard, this is. Reminds me a bit of Loretta Lux's photographs though.
When asked whether or not the Da Vinci Code movie should have a "this is fiction" disclaimer on it, Ian McKellen (who stars in the movie) replied, "I've often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front saying this is fiction". Zing! (via cyn-c)
Cork'd is a community for wine lovers that lets you catalog what's in your wine collection, what your friends are drinking, and discover what you should be drinking. (It's a little like Flickr or del.icio.us for wine.)
Absurd luxury markets..."some khaki pants are now selling for AS MUCH AS $1055" (emphasis mine). Holy shit.
Lee Siegel has a Malcolm Gladwell problem and, he argues, so do the rest of us. From a commenter (who gets his Dubner mixed up with his Levitt): "Gladwell is destroying literature as we know it". (via 3qd)
Internet-only trailer for Clerks 2 by Kevin Smith. Going boldly where Harold and Kumar have gone before.
Top science book prize goes to David Bodanis's Electric Universe, a book about electricity. An odd choice...I read the book and it was good but not great.
"Kiva lets you loan as little as $25 to a qualified low income entrepreneur in the developing world." Basically no-interest loans to developing countries as charity, but you get the original donation amount back. Pretty cool idea. (thx, jonah)
Laundry bus MAY 17
Spotted this on my walk to the office this morning:
If you can't tell, it's a bus covered with laundry. This had to be an advertisement for something (MTA employees aren't that eccentric) and after a little poking around online, I found out it's part of All's "Spot the Bus" sweepstakes:
From May 15th to 26th, two all small & mighty buses covered in clothes will cruise the streets of New York City. When you see one, send a text message of the time and location to 96787. You'll be entered in the Spot the Bus Sweepstakes.
If you'd like to take part without actually spotting the bus or even living in NYC (and have a chance at winning $5000), I took the above photo at 10:41am near 14th Street and 10th Ave in Manhattan. Good luck!
"If you could cause one invention from the last hundred years never to have been made at all, which would it be, and why?" Nuclear weapons? Land mines? Internal combustion engine?
A list of the 100 most influential persons in the world and what religion each practiced. The list should more properly be called the 100 most influential men in the world + Queens Elizabeth I and Isabella I. (via rb)
A history of the lowrider. "But the ultimate discovery was the realization that a heavy hydro system could launch the entire front end off the ground."
Plan is a photographic project by Aneta Grzeszykowska and Jan Smaga consisting of overhead views of apartments. "Such an unusual effect was achieved through the use of a special technique: the overall picture of a room is an aggregate of dozens fragmentary photographs taken from above, and then merged using a computer." More here. A bit NSFW.
Free wifi in Central Park? Hopefully by June.
Update: The free wifi in Central Park thing was supposed have been in place last September. (thx, amy)
How do scientist attribute climate-change data? In other words, how can they tell from the available data that climate change can be attributed to human causes?
Small site matter MAY 16
Sorry to bug you about this, but I moved the RSS feeds for kottke.org and the remaindered links. I'm using redirects so you shouldn't even notice anything. That is, your feedreader should be directed to the new files automagically and if you're reading this message in a newsreader, it has worked. But if you are having problems with the new files, send me an email and I'll get the technical team (ahem) on it right away.
Two graphic design teams recently went head-to-head on The Apprentice. The winning team had flat-panel monitors, OS X, and Adobe Creative Suite while the losers were still using an old version of Quark on Mac OS 9 displayed on a gigantic CRT monitor. "Graphic Design Lesson A: Get the latest hardware and software, and you will win. Always."
Apple announces new MacBooks (iBook successor with Intel chips) saying, "Meet the family. Now Complete." Does that mean no 12" MacBook Pro?
Interview with photographer Jay Parkinson about his aspiring model project. "I feel that it's a photographic cop-out to take photos of strictly beautiful people because it's hard to take a bad photo of a beautiful person, especially a very scripted portrait."
Video of a Dutch store celebrating its 10,000 shoplifter. Transcript & translation in the comments.
Google Maps + Fast Food shows all the the McDonald's, Burger Kings, Wendy's, and Jack in the Boxes in the US on a scrollable, zoomable map. Here's lower Manhattan + parts of Brooklyn and New Jersey. (Alternate plurals of Jack in the Box: Jacks in the Box or Jack in the Boxen?)
Why does it take Wes Anderson (and Sofia Coppola and Spike Jonze and PT Anderson and...) so long to make a movie? "The Eccentrics seem to be guarding their personal ideas so jealously that it sometimes suggests a creative block. The eternity of anticipation has frustrated those film lovers who look to certain artists to provide the Great American Movie." Slate also has a review of Wes Anderson's great Amex commerical.
In an astounding display of typographic nerdiness and obsessiveness on a level to which I can only aspire, Andrew Hearst walks us through the anomalous digital clock on the popular TV show 24. "The onscreen time sequences are dictated partly by the typographic limitations of the clock font."
Did Vladimir Nabokov deliberately take the idea for Lolita from a 1916 short story of the same name or did he suffer from cryptomnesia? Cryptomnesia is when you consciously forget previously learned information but subconsciously remember it. (via george, who says "It's certainly a weird concept, that an idea can have a quantum state of being both remembered and new, and one that I think deserves more attention.")
Browsing recent interestingness on Flickr, I ran across these photos of women photoshopped to include glass eyes, prostheses, eyepatches, and to look like amputees. This is a practice of devotees of amputee fetishism called Electronic Surgery. More examples here, here, and here. Probably a bit NSFW.
Update: Flickr has removed the users who posted those photos. Sorry.
What's playing MAY 15
Long ago, I signed up on last.fm and downloaded the AudioScrobbler plugin for iTunes, which plugin listens to what I'm playing in iTunes and sends a report of it the last.fm web site. Then I promptly forgot about it. A year and a half later, it's compiled quite a musical dossier on me: 10,300+ tracks listened to (that's about 18 per day), my most listened to track is A Dream by Cut Copy, and my 10 most listened to artists are Ladytron, Boards of Canada, Fischerspooner, Bloc Party, John Digweed, Daft Punk, Royksopp, Pixies, Radiohead, and Sigur Ros.
Even longer ago, I used the dearly departed Kung-Tunes to place a list of my recently played music on kottke.org. Thanks to the last.fm API and a gently modified version of this PHP script, that list is back; you can find it on the front page of kottke.org.
Photographer Michael Wolf, he of the Architecture of Density photos of Hong Kong, has a new project called 100x100, which is a series of photographs "of residents in their flats in hong kong's oldest public housing estate". Each of the apartments is only 100 square feet in size so the photos show a wide variety of dense living spaces.
Re Croquet and the ridiculous breathlessness about it, "3-D isn't an interface paradigm. 3-D isn't a world model. 3-D isn't the missing ingredient. 3-D isn't an inherently better representation for every purpose. 3-D is an attribute, like the color blue. Any time you read or hear about how great 3-D is and how it's going to change everything about computers and services, substitute the word blue for 3-D." (via bbj, who says "YES YES YES!!! ALWAYS REMEMBER: 3D INTERFACES ARE WHY THOSE KIDS ALMOST GOT EATEN BY RAPTORS IN JURASSIC PARK")
With Wal-Mart selling more organic and Whole Foods expanding like crazy, organic foods are moving from the counterculture to "bean-counter culture".
The NY Times article by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner about talent is still on the most emailed list a week after it went up on the site...and it's the second-most emailed story over the last month. Also of note is how politically oriented the most blogged list is compared to the most emailed list.
Update: Due to a rounding error on the timekeeper's part, Gatlin merely tied the world record.
More creative advertising fun. Mark Cuban thinks that live TV commercials could save traditional TV. More at Ars Technica. (thx, flip)
Last month, an audience in London was shown a 3-minute performed "commercial" before the actual play started. Inadvertently, today seems to be unique/unusual advertising day on kottke.org.
Current TV is running advertising for Sony that was created by a viewer. "Of course, Sony approved Mr. Ibele's finished product before it went on the air."
"The cluster effect is the effect of buyers and sellers of a particular good or service congregating in a certain place and hence inducing other buyers and sellers to relocate there as well."
BannerBlog highlights creative and interesting banner ads from around the web. Today's ad is pretty darn clever.
Designer Michael Bierut confesses: "I am a plagiarist". "...my mind is stuffed full of graphic design, graphic design done by other people. How can I be sure that any idea that comes out of that same mind is absolutely my own?"
Creating talent MAY 11
The Stev(ph)ens Dubner and Levitt report on some recent research suggesting that people who are good at things got good at them primarily through practice and not because of innate talent.
Their work, compiled in the "Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance," a 900-page academic book that will be published next month, makes a rather startling assertion: the trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers -- whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming -- are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect. These may be the sort of cliches that parents are fond of whispering to their children. But these particular cliches just happen to be true.
The talent myth described here seems to be distinct from that which Malcolm Gladwell talks about in relation to talented people and companies, but I'm sure parallels could be drawn. But back to the original article...I was particularly taken with the concept of "deliberate practice":
Deliberate practice entails more than simply repeating a task -- playing a C-minor scale 100 times, for instance, or hitting tennis serves until your shoulder pops out of its socket. Rather, it involves setting specific goals, obtaining immediate feedback and concentrating as much on technique as on outcome.
"Deliberate practice" reminds me of a video game a bunch of my friends are currently hooked on called Brain Age. Available for the handheld Nintendo DS, Brain Age is based on a Japanese brain training "game" developed by Dr. Ryuta Kawashima. The game measures the "age" of your brain based on your performance of simple tasks like memorizing a list of words or addition of small numbers. As you practice (deliberately), you get faster and more skilled at solving these mini-games and your brain age approaches that of a smarty-pants, twitchy-fingered teenager.
Speaking of talented teenagers, this week's New Yorker contains an article (not online) on Ivan Lendl's golfing daughters. In it, Lendl agrees that talent is created, not born:
"Can you create athletes, or do they just happen?" [Lendl] asked me not long ago. "I think you can create them, and I think that Tiger Woods's father proved that. People will sometimes ask me, 'How much talent did you have in tennis?' I say, 'Well, how do you measure talent?' Yeah, sure, McEnroe had more feel for the ball. But I knew how to work, and I worked harder than he did. Is that a talent in itself? I think it is."
Translation: there's more than one way to be good at something. There's something very encouraging and American about it, this idea that through hard work, you can become proficient and talented at pretty much anything.
Steven Johnson responds to (blasts? slams?) the endangered joy of serendipity piece I just linked to, arguing that the web is a much better serendipity engine than the library. (BTW, I think Steven is part machine himself...after posting that link, I took out the trash and ducked out to get something at the bodega around the corner and when I got back, there's a message from him in my inbox with a link to his rant. Jesus.)
William McKeen on the "endangered joys of serendipity". "Do people browse anymore? We have become such a directed people. We can target what we want, thanks to the Internet. It's efficient, but dull."
What's the fastest way to get to the JFK airport in NYC? Helicopter, bus, subway, car, or cab? (Didn't the NY Times or the NYer do a piece like this several months ago?)
What Is the best work of American fiction of the last 25 years? Toni Morrison's Beloved. In a companion piece, A.O. Scott writes: "I was surprised at how few of the highly praised, boldly ambitious books by younger writers - by which I mean writers under 50 - were mentioned. One vote each for 'The Corrections' and 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,' none for 'Infinite Jest' or 'The Fortress of Solitude,' a single vote for Richard Powers, none for William T. Vollmann, and so on." (via, sps)
Some dreams deserve to be immortalized on tshirts:
He can feel the anger in my voice, so he immediately tries to calm me down. "I'm trying to explain the differences between MySQL and Perl to my friend," he answers as if that were the most logical thing to ever come out of his mouth.
"You're friends with Gisele Bundchen?" I ask.
"Well, yeah," he says. "I met her on a WordPress message board a few months ago."
My whole world does a sort of belly flop, and I start to get a little dizzy because what I used to think was right-side-up is now turned on its head. "That's not okay," I say to him.
"What do you mean it's not okay?" he asks. "We're talking about databases, for crying out loud."
Apologies to Mike for beating him to the punch.
ps. Sorry, you can't actually order the shirts. I've offered Heather the design if she wants to do so at some point.
Google Trend graph for "the" and "and". I would have expected them to be flatter.
Fun! See graphs for the popularity of Google search results with Google Trends. Is the blog meme trend finally flattening out? And hey, I had a hand in shaping this one.
Get yer Richard Feynman on at Google Video, particularly this 50-minute video of The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. A bit more Feynman at YouTube.
Edward Tufte on the user interface of some Sun software: "Dr Spock's Baby Care is a best-selling owner's manual for the most complicated 'product' imaginable -- and it only has two levels of headings. You people have 8 levels of hierarchy and I haven't even stopped counting yet. No wonder you think it's complicated."
I could give two craps about Sphere, but I loved these two lines: "it's eyecandy for Web2.0 retards" and "Designing for the TechCrunch crowd is a mook's game. Designing for users means making things straightforward, lightweight, and uncluttered." (via bbj)
How John Worley got duped by Nigerian spammers. Amazing manipulation and gullibility. Great issue of the New Yorker this week, BTW...worth seeking out at the newsstand.
Fun video of FedEx planes getting into the Memphis airport around a thunderstorm. They look like ants trying to avoid a puddle of water. (via rw)
Uganda: Museveni vows to fight corruption
Family vows to fight futile-care law
Blair vows smooth handover
Dumars vows to keep top defender Wallace in fold
Bush vows to boost efforts to end Darfur killings
Ontario vows full-time work for all nursing graduates
China Vows to Close Unsafe Coal Mines
Magician Vows to Complete Aquarium Stunt
Sutherland vows to keep making 24
Vodafone Vows to Slash Roaming Charges By 40%
China's Pearl River Smells, but Mayor Vows to Swim
People are doing a lot of urging in the news too:
Prescott urges Labour to avoid "war"
China urges to repatriate "Eastern Turkistan" terrorist suspects
Brussels urges 2007 declaration to break EU constitution deadlock
Report urges support for parents with learning difficulties
Bush urges larger UN role in Darfur
Roche Urges Care Against Online Counterfeit Tamiflu
Day urges Canadians to stock up for crisis
Leave it to President Bush to both vow and urge in the same headline: "Bush urges UN role in peacekeeping and vows to expedite aid".
Update: Nathaniel asks, where's the slamming? Here it is:
Comptroller report slams health system, police and NII
Traffic chief slams taxi fare bungle
Bangla author slams Dhaka
Cardinal Slams 'Da Vinci' 'Disrespect'
Navratilova slams Czech Pres. as anti-gay
UN slams attack on aid worker
Update: Matthew sends in word of "smacks" in the news:
Holliday smacks two homers to lead Rockies over St. Louis
SCOTUS smacks down anti-choicers
Warren Smacks Broadway
Venice smacks Seminole in region opener
Another Zero-Day Bug Smacks IE
Let's be clear: Bypassing Bush smacks of stupidity
Cox's recent Wal-Mart battle smacks of political posturing
Fish Jumps in Boat, Smacks Woman's Face
And Chris offers "blasts" news:
Cameron blasts 'sexy' children's clothes stores
Iran's Leader Blasts US, Calls Democracy a Failure
Trade Group Blasts Massachusetts Call For Office Plug-In
McInally blasts new SFL play-offs
Dean McDermott's Ex-Wife Blasts Him & Tori
Sheehan blasts war, Bush at Town Hall
Environmentalist blasts bug spray
Awaiting the invitable "vows urges blasts slams smacks" headline...
Short interview with Chris Ware upon the occasion of a show of his work at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. "I've found that anything I do [to] carefully plan and pare down in advance feels utterly false and constructed once I actually do it, having nothing of the sort of accident and unevenness of real life that I hope to, at least, modestly edge towards."
Attention all my friends with children! Tiny Eyes simulates what your baby sees in the first few months of his/her life. (via wdik)
Cloud Cult MAY 09
Cloud Cult has been Pitchforked, Clap Your Hands Say Yeahed by Gothamist, and is already the last next big thing, but that's not going to stop me from recommending them to you. Here's their latest album (which was instantly good and still so after a week), befriend them on MySpace, or download a few free mp3s. Minnesota represent!
Sam Anderson articulates his hatred for Kobe Bryant. "Since he's a Jordan-like talent, Kobe clearly thinks that he's entitled to the Jordan mythology, but he doesn't have any of Jordan's charisma or imagination."
New York magazine does its version of the power issue for NYC: The Influentials, "the people whose ideas, power, and sheer will are changing New York". No offense to anyone who made the list, but NYC is unsurprisingly light on technology.
Interactive map (powered by, what else, Google Maps) showing which area will be flooded when the sea level rises. Here's what parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens will look like if the sea level rises 7 meters.
Economist Thomas J. Holmes studies the diffusion of Wal-Mart across the US (here's a video showing the retailer's spread). Here's Holmes discussing how density considerations affect where Wal-Mart places their stores.
Stephen Baker lists some reasons why journalists should ask dumb questions, but it's good advice for anyone really. My favorite professor in college, his mantra in classes was that there was no such thing as dumb questions.
UK report concludes that there's no proof of alien life forms. I'm sure this will change when the UNIT files are declassified.
Saturday was a sports viewing doubleheader in our household: the Kentucky Derby followed by a lackluster Lakers vs. Suns game 7. During the basketball game, the commentators referred to the speed of the Suns' Leandro Barbosa and that plus the similarity of his name to Derby winner Barbaro's led to a discussion about which of the two would win in a race the length of the basketball court. Three of us argued that the horse would win and one argued for the human winning.
So, how fast are horses and humans? In winning the Belmont Stakes in 1973, Secretariat averaged 37.5 miles/hr over a mile and a half. World record holder Asafa Powell averaged 22.9 miles/hr in the 100 meter dash. Jesse Owens raced horses over a 100 yard distance and beat them, but only because the horses reared at the sound of the starter's pistol, giving him a sizable head-start. In 2004, in an annual race held in Wales, a chap named Huw Lobb beat a field of horses and other humans over a distance of 22-miles.
But that doesn't do much in answering the question of which would win over the short distance of a basketball court (94 feet or 28.7 meters). I searched high and low online and found little about the acceleration of either horses or humans. No doubt horses are much faster than humans, but a man is probably quicker off the line. So I put the question to you in hopes that you can answer it:
In a 94-foot race between a human sprinter and a thoroughbred race horse, who would win? Assume a standing start for both, the horse races on dirt, the man runs on the court, and both horse and man are among the fastest at their respective distances.
This is the most wonderfully nerdy thing I've ever read about politics and blogging. "So in fact, Reynolds has managed to fit five units of wrongness into only four declarative statements! This is the hackular equivalent of crossing the Chandrasekhar Limit, at which point your blog cannot help but collapse in on itself." (via cyn-c)
Friends and finances in 21st century America: "More friends and acquaintances are now finding themselves at different points on the financial spectrum, scholars and sociologists say, thanks to broad social changes like meritocracy-based higher education, diversity in the workplace and a disparity of incomes among professions."
The NY Times has a big summer movie preview section, including a movie release schedule (May, June, July, August).
The Kentucky Derby is "the weirdest two minutes in sports". "What we get, then, is a not-very-representative sample of thoroughbreds running a far-from-typical race under far-from-typical circumstances."
Maybe the universe is a trillion years old and has experienced several big bangs and big collapses over the years. "People have inferred that time began then, but there really wasn't any reason for that inference. What we are proposing is very radical. It's saying there was time before the big bang."
Mexican president Vicente Fox didn't sign the bill legalizing small quantities of drugs for personal use because of US pressure due to drug tourism fears. What I don't understand is...why not just make it legal for Mexican citizens to allay US fears? Besides, anyone who goes to Mexico for drugs can get them if they want anyway, law or no.
The Forecast Umbrella uses WiFi to check the weather report and if it's likely to rain, the handle glows. Kinda like Sting, Frodo's sword that glows when there's orcs around. (also via infosthetics)
ASCII Maps, a fully-functional version of Google Maps represented in ASCII. Doesn't work in Safari tho. (via infosthetics)
You can use iTunes and a little AppleScript to make custom ringtones for Mail.app. I could have it play When Doves Cry everytime I get email from Anil.
I got an email weeks ago urging me to look at a new micropayment system called IndieKarma. Pretty much every other micropayment scheme I've seen is too clunky to actually be useful, but I was pleasantly surprised with IndieKarma when I got around to checking it out. Here's how it works.
What I love about this system is that it's passive and based on actual usage. The reader doesn't need to decide that they want to support a certain site, just that they want to support the IndieKarma-enabled sites they read often. For a reader who doesn't necessarily want to support a certain site, if they happen to click through for a visit, it only costs them a penny and then they never come back.
Financially, if a reader visits a site 60 times a month (which is not that unusual for weblogs), that's $0.60/mo. or $7.20/yr...the price of a couple lattes at Starbucks. If you've got 1000 people who read your site that are signed up through IndieKarma, that's $7200 per year, a sizable chunk of change.
So that's the good part. Here are some problems with IndieKarma and some suggested features:
- The "dock" that's placed on the site is way too intrusive and inflexible. Ad banners and boxes are well-established as a way of delivering this type of information...why not use that format? When a reader isn't logged in to IndieKarma, the ad banner/box prompts them to do so and if they're logged in, they get a "receipt" message for their micropayment (e.g. "thanks for supporting the site). Optionally, as a site owner, I should be able to not have the banner show at all for a truly seamless experience for the reader. The easier you make it to pop into a sidebar for bloggers and site owners, the better.
- Lack of variable pricing. As a reader, I might want to give more or less money per visit to certain sites. I may decide to spend ~$20/yr on my Waxy.org habit and so opt to give three cents per visit instead of one. As a site owner, I should be able to set a suggested and/or minimum cost/visit for my site. If I've got 1000 people giving 3 cents/visit, they each visit 60 times per month for a whole year, that's $21,600, a living wage (depending on where you're living).
- Alternate payment methods. Readers could buy "subscriptions" to sites for a "buy now" price determined by the site's owner. Or an option for "gosh, that post/video/comic was really good today so here's an extra $5" payments.
- You could even incorporate advertising into the mix. An advertiser could come along and say, "I'm going pay for unlimited free visits to this site for IndieKarma members for 60 days" and in exchange, the IndieKarma banner is replaced with an ad for that advertiser.
But the big problem with IndieKarma (which I hope they can overcome somehow) is that it's one of those things that's only useful when there's a lot of people using it. As a reader, if only 1 or 2 sites I read are using IndieKarma to generate revenue, I don't have much incentive to go through the sign-up process, but if there are 30 or 40 sites I read that are using it, I'd be much more likely to sign up. Same goes for site owners...if 10 of my readers are using IndieKarma, that's not good, but if 1000 of them are using it, that's something.
It's a chicken and egg problem...you need users to get sites to sign up and you need sites to get users to sign up. This would work much better for someone who already has tons of signed-in users and payment systems (Amazon, PayPal, Google, etc.), established networks of sites that have lots of potential users across many similar sites (Gawker, BlogAds, 9Rules, The Deck, etc.), or really big sites that could sign users up in 4+ digit quantities (Slashdot, MySpace, LiveJournal, Drudge, HuffPo, etc.). Like I said, I hope IndieKarma can overcome this problem because I think the basic idea has a lot of promise to provide an alternative to advertising-supported media, both from the standpoint of readers and web site owners.
pb fills us in on how he MAY 05
John Gruber has more information on what's going on with Aperture at Apple. Bottom line: by throwing too many engineers at the problem, they made a late project later (see The Mythical Man Month, one of my favorite business books), and after it shipped, all those extra engineers were redispersed within the company and the managers responsible for the debacle got the boot. Good stuff.
The King James version of the Bible makes several mentions of unicorns, but it seems to be a creative mistranslation on the part of the KJB's authors rather than evidence that the Bible is mythical. God still hates shrimp, though.
Richard Dawkins has a new book coming out in October called The God Delusion. For some reason, I don't see this being a big seller in the US.
Alright Star Wars nerds, here's the moment you've all been waiting for...the original as-shown-in-the-theater versions of Star Wars, Empire, and Jedi are being released on DVD, at long last. Han shoots first!
Guidelines from the Secret Service on the printed reproduction of currency. I once photocopied a dollar bill at the office on our uber-photocopier and was astounded how good it looked...I don't envy the SS's task here.
Pixel cities MAY 04
Here's part of a fun pixel illustration of Communication City by eboy:
Click through to see the whole image. eboy did the illustration for a Fortune magazine article on the resurgence of internet companies. The company also does amazingly intricate futuristic posters of cities. Oh, and this T-Mobile HotSpot map of London...I could go on and on.
The Broom of the System MAY 03
Following a long tradition on this site, I'm going to make a prediction based on very little evidence: David Foster Wallace will never write another novel. My feeling after reading The Broom of the System is that it's basically a rough draft of the novelized "version" of his "life" that eventually became the lovingly polished Infinite Jest. (That's right, two is a trend!) Or if he does, it'll be 20 years from now, when enough time has passed for him to reflect on his experiences in long-format fiction as a writer, husband, teacher, famous personage, and (if he ever has kids) father.
As for Broom itself, I haven't read enough philosophy for a proper review. The best I can do is compare it to Infinite Jest. If you want to read IJ but just can't handle its 1000+ pages and 300+ footnotes, read Broom first. If you hate it, no big deal...it's only 480 pages. But if you like it, you can safely devour IJ.
Currently coveting: the Galaxie Polaris type family from Village type foundry. Beautiful.
Lengthy update on what Al Gore has been up to since the 2000 Presidential Election, including his work on global warming, documented in An Inconvenient Truth (my review).
Wired magazine reports on the revolutionary food and strange equipment (antigriddle!) used by chef Grant Achatz in the kitchen at Alinea. "The technology allows us to get to the essence of food. It allows you to be more true with flavor, not less true."
New Yorker music critic Alex Ross has compiled a chronolocial 100-song playlist/tour of mostly classical/instrumental music for the 20th century. Starts with Stravinsky & Gershwin and ends with Bjork.
The Onion AV Club is not impressed with this year's crop of blockbusters in their 2006 Summer Movie Preview.
OMGITWBI! (Oh my god, it's the world's best invention!) Bed Books have sideways text for easy reading lying in bed. (via cyn-c)
The Bridge MAY 02
Having lived in San Francisco, I've walked across the Golden Gate Bridge and driven across it countless times. The bridge is a nearly perfect metaphor for what some people go there to do. The view on a clear day into the city, the red painted cables glowing in the sun, the sudden way the fog comes in off the ocean to envelop the bridge, the path from the cold city to the warmth of Marin County. Death too is beautiful, dramatic, mysterious, abrupt, and an escape to another place.
In The Bridge, a film about the Golden Gate and suicide, director Eric Steel makes effective use of the bridge's imagery and its relation to death; you can see why so many people choose to end their lives there. The footage he and his crew got is astounding at times...families discuss the death of a loved one while that same person is shown pacing back and forth on the bridge, thinking, waiting. You see a group of police officers, looking almost bored (which was probably hyper-aware nonchalance), talking a man back over the railing.
And yet, I can't tell if that footage actually added anything to the discussion of the issues of mental illness, depression, and coping which were at the heart of many of the jumpers' problems. Does watching death make it any more understandable to family members. To audience members? The footage doesn't say why, it just shows us how, and those aren't quite the same things.
Interview with photographer Alec Soth. "I feel like a large part of photography is like a performance. And the photograph is like a document of this performance, of this encounter with the world." Many interviews with photographers often end up sounding very similar, but I enjoy reading them anyway. (via eyeteeth)
In March of 2004, an artist named Tofu began constructing a map comprised only of the hometowns of American men and women killed in Iraq (map detail). "One of the disturbing by products of this work are the maps of various states with many rectangular pieces missing where I cut out towns." (via moon river)
Nabokov on Lewis Carroll and his photography: "I always call him Lewis Carroll Carroll, because he was the first Humbert Humbert. Have you seen those photographs of him with little girls?" Nabokov aside, there's no real evidence that Carroll did anything untoward with any of his photographic subjects. View some of Carroll's photos here, here, and here. (via tmn)
Good new series of ads for Apple; "Get a Mac". I'm pretty sure the chap playing the PC is John Hodgman (author, Daily Show correspondent, This American Life commentator, former literary agent, monthly readings holder, hobo expert). Can anyone confirm? (via df)
Update #2: Yep, seems to be Hodgman.
Mexico photos MAY 01
For our honeymoon, we stayed right on the ocean near Tulum in the Yucatan, about two hours south of Cancun by car. Most of these photos are taken near Tulum, at Chichen Itza, or in Valladolid.
James Surowiecki fills us in on a new investment opportunity, housing futures. "If housing futures work the way they're supposed to, they will shift risk from those who are less able to bear it (individual homeowners with hefty mortgages) to those who are more willing to (speculators looking for a big upside on their investments). In the process, they will effectively provide a form of house-price insurance."
What the hell? Magical stuntman David Blaine is spending a week in a spherical aquarium in Lincoln Center. Gothamist has photos and links to more info about the stunt.
Cell phone trees. "Unlike most palms and gymnosperms that take many decades to grow, these 'new' trees appear within days." This is my favorite cell phone tree, just outside of NYC and completely inconspicuous.
Movie schedule for the 2006 Bryant Park Summer FIlm Festival. Bring a picnic and enjoy the likes of Bullitt, Rocky, and The Manchurian Candidate.
Controversy over The Bridge MAY 01
One of the films premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival is The Bridge, a documentary by Eric Steel about suicide and the Golden Gate Bridge. The trailer is available on the festival site but be warned that it contains actual footage of people climbing over the railing of the bridge to commit suicide.
The Bridge was inspired by a 2003 New Yorker story by Tad Friend called Jumpers, a piece about suicide and the bridge. The subject of suicide is often not discussed in the media. Self-inflicted deaths aren't usually reported in the newspapers or on TV. Suicide prevention activists caution against suicide contagion due to media exposure of individual suicides leading to copycat deaths.
But that's just the start of the controversy surrounding the film. In order to secure a permit to shoot the Golden Gate (which he did for the entirety of 2004, amassing almost 10,000 hours of footage), Steel said he was shooting footage to capture "the powerful, spectacular intersection of monument and nature that takes place every day at the Golden Gate Bridge". He says he lied to discourage people to seek out his cameras to immortalize their deaths on film, but it's also true that Golden Gate National Recreation Area officials certainly wouldn't have given him a permit to film suicides.
Steel interviewed family members of the jumpers without disclosing that he'd filmed the death of their loved ones (again to avoid publicity for the filming and the death immortalization problem). Some family members felt manipulated by the omission when they learned of it.
Then there's the matter of the filming itself. The film crew's basic job description was to wait for people to die...they needed people to die for their film. If there's no good footage of people jumping, there's no film. Without too much trouble, you can imagine Steel instructing his crew to shoot the next one at a wider angle, the crew refining their techniques for catching the jumpers on film, and the mixture of excitement, dread, and the satisfaction of a job well done when they catch a jumper on film. But the crew was also trained in suicide prevention and intervened in several attempts. And listening to Steel talk about the film, it obviously wasn't meant to be Faces of Death Part XII.
Here are a few more articles on The Bridge:
- Film documenting Golden Gate Bridge suicides premieres, San Jose Mercury News
- Golden Gate star of dark documentary, San Francisco Chronicle
- Man Survives Suicide Jump From Golden Gate Bridge, ABC News
Keyword Cartoons chronicles the adventures of GGirl, a character whose daily activities correspond with high-paying keywords on Google AdSense, like laser hair removal and asbestos cancer.