Entries for April 2009 (May 2009 »    June 2009 »    July 2009 »    Archives)

 

Gene Kelly tap dancing on roller skatesAPR 30

Video clip from It's Always Fair Weather of Gene Kelly dancing with roller skates on.

The good stuff starts around 2:00. As David says, "putting Kelly on roller skates is like adding polish to wax".

Transcendent ManAPR 30

The trailer for Transcendent Man, a documentary film about Ray Kurzweil that's based on his book, The Singularity is Near. You may recall that Kurzweil plans to never die.

Update: Two reviews: Transcendent Man Wows At Tribeca Film Festival Premier and Film About Kurzweil Gets Two Nano-Enhanced Cyberthumbs Up. (thx, david)

Cool bowler camera bagAPR 30

This SLR camera bag that looks like a bowling bag seems like the sort of thing that some of you may "dig".

The Factory in a boxAPR 30

So, this happened: video of Andy Warhol painting Debbie Harry on an Amiga computer.

Update: AmigaWorld did an interview with Warhol about his Amigas (he owned two at the time).

The thing I like most about doing this kind of art on the Amiga is that it looks like my work.

(thx, paul)

HatchetAPR 30

Bummed that I can't use Hatchet with the iPhone Kindle app. AFAIK, you need a Kindle to get the email address that you can use to send attachments to your devices. Perhaps I should just use Instapaper but I've gotten used to page-flipping interface on the Kindle app.

Hunkerin'APR 30

In 1959 at the University of Arkansas, a group of fraternity brothers protested the lack of chairs on campus by squatting on the balls of their feet for long periods of time.

Hunkerin'

The hunkerin' fad was born. The Wikipedia article on hunkerin' is worth quoting at length.

Hunkerin' (also known as "Hunkering") had been in use in different cultures, particularly in Asia, for centuries when it suddenly became a fad in the United States in 1959. Time reported that the craze started at the University of Arkansas when a shortage of chairs at a fraternity house led students to imitate their Ozark forefathers, who hunkered regularly.

Before long, hunkerin' had spread, firstly to Missouri, Mississippi and Oklahoma, thence across the rest of the country. While males were the predominant hunkers, it was reported that females hunkerers were welcomed. Within months, regional hunkerin' competitions were being held to discover champion hunkerers.

Considered by authorities as much preferable to the craze of the previous year, phonebooth stuffing, people hunkered for hours at a time on car roofs, in phone booths and wherever people gathered. Life referred to it as "sociable squatting". Different styles of hunkerin' were reported as "sophisticates" tended to hunker flatfooted while other hunkered with their elbows inside the knees.

One in a rowAPR 30

From the Effects Measure blog:

Influenza is a virus full of mystery and surprises. The more we study it the more complicated it becomes. Remember the adage: "If you've seen one flu pandemic, you've seen one flu pandemic."

This reminds me of the first line of Anna Karenina:

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

(via david archer)

Effing HailAPR 30

Keep hail afloat with your mouse's wind to grow it large enough that it can crush houses, skyscrapers, and buildings. Effing Hail! Addiction level: my eyes are bleeding.

I am Jack's sense of "he'll keep calling me"APR 29

More recent Ferris Bueller goodness from Metafilter: the Fight Club theory.

My favorite thought-piece about Ferris Bueller is the "Fight Club" theory, in which Ferris Bueller, the person, is just a figment of Cameron's imagination, like Tyler Durden, and Sloane is the girl Cameron secretly loves.

One day while he's lying sick in bed, Cameron lets "Ferris" steal his father's car and take the day off, and as Cameron wanders around the city, all of his interactions with Ferris and Sloane, and all the impossible hijinks, are all just played out in his head. This is part of the reason why the "three" characters can see so much of Chicago in less than one day -- Cameron is alone, just imagining it all.

Whoa. (via cyn-c)

Julie and Julia trailerAPR 29

The trailer for Julie and Julia is out, based on the blog and book of the same name.

I can't figure out if Meryl Streep is almost nailing her Julia Child impression or completely blowing it. Also, Streep is ~5'7"....I don't know what they're doing in the movie to make her look so tall, but it doesn't work.

Update: Michael Ruhlman has seen the movie and has positive things to say about it.

Chop Chop in Saudi ArabiaAPR 29

Adam St. Patrick witnesses a public beheading in Saudi Arabia.

In Riyadh, beheadings take place in a downtown public square equipped with a drain the size of a pizza box in its centre. Expatriates call it Chop Chop Square.

Chic, a definitionAPR 29

While listing his ten favorite fragrances, NY Times perfume critic Chandler Burr recalls Luca Turin's definition of chic.

Luca once called something chic, and I asked him why, or rather what "chic" was exactly. He sighed and said despairingly, "Chic is the most impossible thing to define." He thought about it. "Luxury is a humorless thing, largely. Chic is all about humor. Which means chic is about intelligence. And there has to be oddness -- most luxury is conformist, and chic cannot be. Chic must be polite, but within that it can be as weird as it wants."

(via gold digger)

The Happy Gilmore tee shot testedAPR 29

Sport Science recently tested to see whether professional golfer Padraig Harrington could drive the ball further than normal by employing a Happy Gilmore swing.

The good stuff doesn't get going until around 3:00. The running swing technique increased Harrington's distance by an average of 30 yards but his accuracy suffered. The split-screen view of his stationary and running swings is amazing...it's the same swing.

Bone, an engineering masterpieceAPR 29

Bone is a springy and salty wonder that is proving much more functional within the human body than originally thought.

The skeleton is a multipurpose organ, offering a ready source of calcium for an array of biochemical tasks, and housing the marrow where blood cells are born. Yet above all the skeleton allows us to locomote, which means it gets banged up and kicked around. Paradoxically, it copes with the abuse and resists breaking apart in a major way by microcracking constantly. "Bone microcracks, that's what it does," Dr. Ritchie said. "That's how stresses are relieved." [...] But like all forms of health care, bone repair doesn't come cheap, and maintaining skeletal integrity consumes maybe 40 percent of our average caloric budget.

The article leads off with the story of Harry Eastlack, whose body repaired itself with bone-building cells no matter what the injury, essentially giving him a not-so-Wolverine-like second skeleton. Here's a photo I found of Eastlack's skeleton, which is housed at the Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians.

Harry Eastlack's skeleton

How To Be A Successful Evil OverlordAPR 29

How to be a successful evil overlord and avoid all the mistakes that bad guys usually make in books, movies, and TV.

5. The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragon of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.

25. No matter how well it would perform, I will never construct any sort of machinery which is completely indestructible except for one small and virtually inaccessible spot.

(via memeticians)

Using NASA imagesAPR 29

The Book Cover Archive Blog gets the skinny on using NASA images in creative work.

All of the media produced by NASA is public domain, meaning that anyone can use it any way (as long as they obey restrictions of publicity and privacy).

They also point to NASA Images, which is operated by Internet Archive and contains a copy of almost every image that NASA has ever produced. Just for the heck of it, here's the first photo of the Moon taken by a US spacecraft.

First Moon Photo

Food, Inc.APR 28

Food, Inc. opens on June 12; here's the trailer.

Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. Food, Inc. reveals surprising -- and often shocking truths -- about what we eat, how it's produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

Nude JournalismAPR 28

Gay Talese is writing a new book about his marriage to Nan A. Talese, a union that was almost ruined by a previous book Gay wrote about the sexual revolution.

The book, originally published in 1980, is about the sexual revolution, which Talese believed would be the most important cultural shift in decades, and which he spent most of the seventies intimately researching. It's the research itself -- particularly Talese's tendency to take the participant-observer concept to the extreme -- that turned out to be the unintended legacy of the project. "If you want to write about orgies," says Talese, who at 77 is still slim and handsome, "you're not going to be in the press box with your little press badge keeping your distance. You have to have a kind of affair with your sources. You have to hang out! I wanted to write about sexuality and the changing definition of morality. Maybe if I had put that in a subhead on the cover I might have gotten a better hearing."

As detailed in a 1973 New York article (written seven years before Talese's book came out), part of Talese's research included managing two massage parlors, living in a California sex commune for six months, and attending orgies.

The Final Four of EverythingAPR 28

The Final Four of Everything

In a post on his great blog, The Year in Pictures, James Danziger discusses some of the photography featured in a forthcoming book, The Final Four of Everything, including Danziger's own selections for Iconic American Photographs. The Final Four of Everything seems to be a sequel of sorts to The Enlightened Bracketologist by the same authors...or perhaps just the same book with a much better title.

Conservative Colbert viewers not in on the jokeAPR 28

According to an article published in The International Journal of Press/Politics, both liberals and conservatives find The Colbert Report funny, but the two groups differ in their perception of Stephen Colbert's actual ideological allegiances.

Additionally, there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism.

(via cyn-c)

Moving photographyAPR 28

For the cover of Esquire's June issue, photographer Greg Williams shot ten minutes of video footage of Megan Fox, from which the best stills were selected for the cover and inside the magazine.

As resolution rises & prices fall on video cameras and hard drive space, memory, and video editing capabilities increase on PCs, I suspect that in 5-10 years, photography will largely involve pointing video cameras at things and finding the best images in the editing phase. Professional photographers already take hundreds or thousands of shots during the course of a shoot like this, so it's not such a huge shift for them. The photographer's exact set of duties has always been malleable; the recent shift from film processing in the darkroom to the digital darkroom is only the most recent example.

Esquire's moving cover reminds me of two other things.

1. Flickr encourages their members to think of short videos as long photos. When he guest edited kottke.org last year, Deron Bauman wrote about short video as a contemporary version of the photograph. Matt Jones argued that looping short video is the real long photography. So maybe the photograph of 10 years from now might not even be a still image.

2. In order to get the jaw-dropping slow-motion footage of great white sharks jumping out of the ocean, the filmmakers for Planet Earth used a high-speed camera with continuous buffering...that is, the camera only kept a few seconds of video at a time and dumped the rest. When the shark jumped, the cameraman would push a button to save the buffer.

The Ten Most Influential Films of The Last Ten YearsAPR 28

/film has an interesting list of the most influential films of the last ten years. You'd expect to see The Matrix and The Bourne Ultimatum on there but Sky Captain? The Polar Express? The comments contain some better choices.

Time's hacked pollAPR 28

The account of how the folks at 4chan hacked Time's Most Influential Person poll is worth reading for their clever manipulation of the reCAPTCHA mechanism. But the author unfairly dumps on Time.com...it sounds like they knew the poll was being manipulated, did what they could, but were fully aware of the futility of securing such a thing from a large group of determined distributed attackers. (via waxy)

It's worth noting the difference in Time's approach to this hack and a similar one from several years ago. In 1999, some friends of mine and I conspired to place ourselves on top of Time's Digital 50 poll. Scripts were written, readers were enlisted, and a few of us soon passed the likes of Bill Gates and Linus Torvalds on the list. Unlike today, when Time not only let moot stay on the list but win the entire poll, Time repeatedly deleted us from the Digital 50 list entirely and none of us made it anywhere near the final listing. I'd say that's progress on Time's part.

Love and hate are the same thingAPR 28

Many people seem to think that if you talk about something recent, you're in favor of it. The exact opposite is true in my case. Anything I talk about is almost certain to be something I'm resolutely against, and it seems to me the best way of opposing it is to understand it, and then you know where to turn off the button."

That's Marshall McLuhan. (via submitted for your perusal)

Untitled GravityAPR 27

The Virginia Quarterly Review has a list of the ten most popular titles for the submissions they receive, including Untitled, Night, and Drowning. Interestingly, there's no overlap in titles from a previous list.

The Game Boy is 20APR 27

The Game Boy just turned 20; here are six reasons why it was so successful. Surprisingly, the list is not:

1. Tetris
2. Tetris
3. Tetris
4. Tetris
5. Tetris
6. Tetris

Tetris didn't start with the Game Boy, of course (Pajitnov created it for the PC in 1985), but the Game Boy made it mainstream. Ultimately, Tetris proved so popular that it quickly drove sales of Nintendo's handheld console into the millions. Tetris's grown-up gameplay also attracted adults to Nintendo's new platform, expanding Game Boy's potential audience beyond the usual adolescent NES set.

Somewhere, I still have an original Game Boy with a Tetris cart wedged into it.

OceansAPR 27

The whole-earth nature documentary space is quickly becoming crowded. We've got:

The Blue Planet, 2001
Deep Blue, 2003
Planet Earth, 2006
Earth, 2009
Nature's Great Events, 2009
Oceans, 2010

The last one on the list is from Disney. If you watch the trailer, the company is attempting to say, "Planet Earth? Ha! Disney was down with nature all along!" Pfft. A point in Disney's favor however is that Oceans is being done by Jacques Perrin, the man responsible for Microcosmos and Winged Migration. Points against: the film has cost $75 million so far (for a documentary!), the footage in the trailer looks like it was lifted directly from The Blue Planet and Planet Earth, and no David Attenborough narration.

Update: I added Earth to the list, also from Disney. Here's the trailer. BBC and Discovery are listed as partners so it's likely that the footage in the film is from Planet Earth. (thx, @gjdsalinger)

Update: Earth is indeed mostly material taken from Planet Earth. Disney helped bankroll the production in the first place.

Update: I added Deep Blue to the list as well, a feature-length version of The Blue Planet. (thx, @aknock)

Lost vs. Victorian literatureAPR 27

Plot-wise, Little Dorrit is just as ridiculous as Lost, frozen donkey wheel and all. Discuss.

The beginner's mindAPR 27

Alison Gopnik and Jonah Lehrer take a look at how babies' brains develop.

Gopnik argues that, in many respects, babies are more conscious than adults. She compares the experience of being a baby with that of watching a riveting movie, or being a tourist in a foreign city, where even the most mundane activities seem new and exciting. "For a baby, every day is like going to Paris for the first time," Gopnik says. "Just go for a walk with a 2-year-old. You'll quickly realize that they're seeing things you don't even notice."

Ferris Bueller's felonious day offAPR 27

Ask Metafilter tackles the important questions of the day....like the crimes committed by Ferris Bueller and his friends on his day off.

At the restaurant, on the phone with the Maitre D' he says, "This is Sgt. Peterson, Chicago Police." Violation of 720 ILCS 5/32-5.1: False Personation of a Peace Officer. A person who knowingly and falsely represents himself or herself to be a peace officer commits a Class 4 felony.

The Neuroscience of IllusionAPR 27

In a bit of a sequel to Proust Was a Neuroscientist, Jonah Lehrer talks to Teller (of Penn and Teller) and learns how the tricks that magicians do can be explained by neuroscience.

Our brains don't see everything -- the world is too big, too full of stimuli. So the brain takes shortcuts, constructing a picture of reality with relatively simple algorithms for what things are supposed to look like. Magicians capitalize on those rules. "Every time you perform a magic trick, you're engaging in experimental psychology," Teller says. "If the audience asks, 'How the hell did he do that?' then the experiment was successful. I've exploited the efficiencies of your mind."

Michael Oher draftedAPR 27

Michael Oher, the subject of Michael Lewis' The Blind Side, got drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Oher was chosen 23rd.

Update: Lewis comments on the draft here and here. (via unlikely words)

radar.netAPR 24

Many thanks to this week's RSS sponsor, radar.net. Radar is a service focused on easy-but-powerful mobile sharing of photos; basically trying to make it easy to take photos from your cameraphone and share them with friends, either on radar.net or a number of other sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr. (If you'd like, you could call it a Twitterized Flickr.) Although they are currently promoting their iPhone app and the service's recent integration with Flickr, they also have versions of the Radar app available for other phones, including the Blackberry and Sidekick.

To check Radar out, get the Radar app from the App Store and sign up for an account at radar.net.

Clear all tabsAPR 24

There's just too much good stuff on the internet today. So rather than flood the site with a bunch of posts, I'm going to clear out my tabs and round them up here.

Dear Prudence: "I cheated on my wife while sleepwalking. What do I do now?" I've heard quite a few weird/bad things about Ambien in the past few months. Also, paging Emily Gould from The Awl, please A this Q.

Rocketboom covers Single Serving Sites in their spin-off series, Know Your Meme.

The Big Picture peers into North Korea with a collection of photos of the dictatorship taken from neighboring China.

Maira Kalman visits Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Supreme Court, illustrating the story beautifully as usual.

I return to the court to hear Justice Ginsburg speak to law students. And in answer to the question "How does it feel to be the only woman on the court?" she answers simply, "Lonely."

The Society of Publication Designers has been busy posting nominees for their upcoming annual awards on their blog. Last year's winners are here. (thx, david)

Jamie Zawinski has used his keyboard so much over the past eight years that he's carved grooves into the M and N keys (with his fingernails?) and completely worn through part of his Alt key.

A cure for colony collapse disorder?APR 24

Have Spanish scientists found a cure for colony collapse disorder, which affects millions of honeybees around the world? The sole cause, according to the scientists, is a fungal parasite called nosema ceranae. This finding doesn't jibe with the recent Scientific American article written by two American CCD investigators. They say that nosema is one factor out of many.

In the gut contents we found spores of nosema, single-celled fungal parasites that can cause bee dysentery. The spore counts in these and in subsequent samples, however, were not high enough to explain the losses. Molecular analysis of Hackenberg's bees, performed by the other of us (Cox-Foster), also revealed surprising levels of viral infections of various known types. But no single pathogen found in the insects could explain the scale of the disappearance.

(via waxy)

Update: Some beekeepers have solved bee death problems in their hives by using comb with smaller cell sizes.

In case you weren't aware, and I wasn't for a long time, the foundation in common usage by beekeepers results in much larger bees than what you would find in a natural hive. I've measured sections of natural worker brood comb that are 4.6mm in diameter. This 4.6mm comb was drawn by a hive of commercial Carniolans and this 4.7mm comb was drawn on the first try by a package of commercial Carniolans. What most beekeepers use for worker brood is foundation that is 5.4mm in diameter. If you translate that into three dimensions, instead of one, that produces a bee that is about half again as large as is natural. By letting the bees build natural sized cells, I have virtually eliminated my Varroa and Tracheal mite problems.

The cell size in commercially available combs has been increased over the years to increase the honey yield. (thx, brian)

Slow beefAPR 24

The cow genome has been published and the results show changes due to millions of years of natural selection but also to the thousands of years of selective breeding by humans.

Both types of cattle show evidence of natural selection in genes that appear to be involved in making the animals -- large, horned and potentially dangerous -- docile. In some breeds, specific variants of behavior-related genes are "fixed," or seen in essentially every animal. Curiously, some of those genes are in regions that in the human genome seem to be involved in autism, brain development and mental retardation.

So...by "docile", you really mean "mentally retarded". (via long now)

The short rise and deep fall of Todd MarinovichAPR 24

Todd Marinovich was supposed to be the best quarterback of all time. Instead, his life got derailed by drugs and alcohol and even more drugs. His dad has to be the all-time worst sports parent in the history of horrible sports parents...it was difficult to get through page 2 without wanting to FedEx Marinovich Sr. a punch in the face.

For the nine months prior to Todd's birth on July 4, 1969, Trudi used no salt, sugar, alcohol, or tobacco. As a baby, Todd was fed only fresh vegetables, fruits, and raw milk; when he was teething, he was given frozen kidneys to gnaw. As a child, he was allowed no junk food; Trudi sent Todd off to birthday parties with carrot sticks and carob muffins. By age three, Marv had the boy throwing with both hands, kicking with both feet, doing sit-ups and pull-ups, and lifting light hand weights. On his fourth birthday, Todd ran four miles along the ocean's edge in thirty-two minutes, an eight-minute-mile pace. Marv was with him every step of the way.

Update: In 1988 Sports Illustrated ran an article about Marinovich while he was still in high school: Bred To Be A Superstar. (via josh)

Your brain on drugs: productiveAPR 24

Since I don't use Adderall or Provigil, it took me a few days to get through this New Yorker article about neuroenhancing drugs. The main takeaway? Like cosmetic body modification in the 80s, mind modification through prescription chemical means is already commonplace for some and will soon be for many.

Chatterjee worries about cosmetic neurology, but he thinks that it will eventually become as acceptable as cosmetic surgery has; in fact, with neuroenhancement it's harder to argue that it's frivolous. As he notes in a 2007 paper, "Many sectors of society have winner-take-all conditions in which small advantages produce disproportionate rewards." At school and at work, the usefulness of being "smarter," needing less sleep, and learning more quickly are all "abundantly clear." In the near future, he predicts, some neurologists will refashion themselves as "quality-of-life consultants," whose role will be "to provide information while abrogating final responsibility for these decisions to patients." The demand is certainly there: from an aging population that won't put up with memory loss; from overwrought parents bent on giving their children every possible edge; from anxious employees in an efficiency-obsessed, BlackBerry-equipped office culture, where work never really ends.

The article is full of wonderful vocabulary. Like the "worried well": those people who are healthy but go to the doctor anyway to see if they can be made more healthy somehow. Being concerned about how good you've got it and attempting to do something about it seems to be another one of those uniquely American phenomena caused by an overabundance of free time & disposable income and the desire to overachieve. See also the impoverished wealthy, the dumb educated, and fat fit.

The St. John's BibleAPR 24

The Ministry of Type has a look at The St. John's Bible, a modern-day hand-lettered Bible.

Jackson has brought together an incredible range of styles for the bible, from rich, lush, gold-encrusted illuminations reminiscent of Eastern Orthodoxy to crisp and spare compositions more like the modern style of the Church of England (to my mind at least).

Looks nice. A Heritage Edition is available for $145,000.

USPS WTF LOL FAILAPR 24

Georg Jensen aruges that the USPS has, in effect, turned into a huge mail spamming operation (among other problematic aspects of the organization).

Just as General Motors has in effect subsidized Big Oil by continuing to build gas-guzzlers in recent years, so has the USPS continued to subsidize Big Mail by shaping its operations to encourage what it now calls, revealingly, "standard mail" -- that is, advertising junk mail. Most American citizens are blissfully unaware of the degree to which USPS subsidizes U.S. businesses by means of the fees it collects from ordinary postal customers. For example, if you wish to mail someone a large envelope weighing three ounces, you'll pay $1.17 in postage. A business can bulk-mail a three-ounce catalog of the same size for as little as $0.14.

First days in New YorkAPR 24

New York magazine has a great feature where they asked well-known New Yorkers about their first days in New York City. I could read these all day. Some of my favorite bits follow. Keith Hernandez, after the Mets won the 86 World Series:

It's one thing to become a New Yorker; it's so much weirder to become a New Yorker that all the other New Yorkers know.

Lauren Hutton wasn't going to stay in NYC at all:

I was supposed to meet a friend in New York, and we were going to take a tramp steamer to Tangier. It was going to cost $140. Once I got there, my plan was to take a bus for ten cents to the outskirts of town and see elephants and rhinoceroses and giraffes. I was as ignorant as a telephone pole.

Richie Rich (this one, not that one):

The first night I moved here, I met Madonna. She walked up to me at the opening of Club USA with a lollipop and a beer, and she was like, "Hmmm, you look cute." And I was like, "You're Madonna!" I'm like, This is New York. Wow.

Danny Meyer eventually realized he should be in the food business:

I entertained all the time, hosting lovely brunches where I would go out and source the best cheeses and pates I could find, which was a big deal for a 22-year-old back then.

Nick Denton moved here from San Francisco:

I finally decided to come here after 9/11. The foreign press was full of love letters to New York. Writers like Martin Amis were waking up and thinking, "Oh my God, we almost lost it!" I know it sounds sentimental, but no one would ever write a love letter to San Francisco.

My wife and I decided to move here after a visit in early 2002, which visit was influenced by some of the same writing Nick refers to. All these people writing so passionately about a place, it must be pretty special. We decided to check it out. But more specifically, we moved here so that Meg could start a company with Nick.

While the company didn't work out so well, moving here was one of the best decisions we've ever made. We picked the smallest apartment on the fifth floor of the crappiest building on one of the best blocks in NYC. I sporadically freelanced for Gawker and a few other companies but didn't find a full-time job until about 6 months in. But a pleasant walk home down tree-lined streets, good light into our small bedroom, an apartment layout suited perfectly to our furniture, and the intense immensity of the city made all the difference.

Update: Ricky Van Veen shares his story about moving to NYC. Great story.

Everything was still new and exciting to us. Your first year in New York is great because there's so much you think you and your friends discovered, like "a great little burger place called Corner Bistro" or "the best corn in the world at this place Cafe Habana."

Ha! Meg and I discovered "these great cupcakes at this place called The Magnolia Bakery" shortly after moving here.

I met one of Ricky's partners, Zach Klein, through Nick Denton (him again!); we had brunch together one Satuday morning shortly before their New Yorker piece ran. The meal probably couldn't have gone much worse. I'd just had all four of my wisdom teeth pulled the day before, so I was all bloody and jacked up on Vicodin, trying to eat salad even though I don't care for it very much and wasn't that hungry anyway, and wondering why in the hell Nick wanted me to meet this guy who ran a joke and boobs site for college kids. After recovering my health and senses, I eventually met Ricky, Josh, and Jakob and got to go to a couple of those fantastic parties. The cabinet of crystal was indeed weird. (thx, andy)

Buy before you tryAPR 23

Something tells me that Steve Wozniak is not down with Last Year's Model.

I have such a crowded life and crowded schedule. When people send me a link with a gadget, I'll look at it and buy it if it looks interesting, but I don't have time to check out everything I'd like to. [...] As far as the mobile devices, I've gone through all the different smartphones, all the different gadgets. For a while I was using a Razr for voice and messing with mobile devices, but now I'm traveling with an iPhone and a BlackBerry.

NYC tap water wins againAPR 23

A year ago, I collected a bunch of links related to what makes NYC pizza taste like it does. New York's fantastic tap water was a leading candidate. In a recent blind taste test of identical pies, a panel of judges -- including some noted NYC pizza chefs -- chose a pizza made with NYC municipal water over those made from LA and Chicago water.

Also, I just ran across this map showing NYC pizzerias which are outfitted with coal ovens. There are many more than I would have thought.

Auto-TuneAPR 23

The voice modulation technology isn't just for pop songs anymore. Check out Blake tries to talk to Jack about the homepage:

Babies crying in Auto-Tune is pretty hilarious: Baby T-Pain 1, Baby T-Pain 2.

But Auto-Tuning the News takes the prize.

Pay particular attention to Katie Couric at 1:20. Awesome. (thx, matt)

Update: Whoa, Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream speech run through Auto-Tune. (thx, matthew)

Update: Winston Churchill + Auto-Tune = [you don't need me to tell you the answer to this].

RIP, GeocitiesAPR 23

Yahoo is closing Geocities "later this year". Yahoo bought the service in 1999 for $3.57 billion.

Maureen Dowd interviews telephone inventorAPR 23

Ha! Maureen Dowd interviews Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone.

ME: The telephone seems like letter-writing without the paper and pen. Is there any message that can't wait for a passenger pigeon?

BELL: Possibly the message I'd like to deliver to you right now.

ME: Why did you think the answer to telegrams was a noisy new telegram?

BELL: We have designed the receiver so you can leave it off the hook.

See also The Victorian Internet. (thx, @evamaria_m)

A new golden age of typeAPR 23

After a thorough review, Typographica has chosen their favorite typefaces of 2008.

Sensationalism aside, it's significant that the ever-increasing quality in type design these days -- dubbed by some as the new "golden age" of type -- has caused this year's list to supersede previous lists in many ways.

Death becomes himAPR 23

Which actor dies the most in his movies? Two problems with this list: 1) lots of spoilers, and 2) where are the women? There's not a single one in the list.

Update: Cinemorgue is an extensive listing of actors and actresses and how many times they've died in movies. (thx, andy)

In defense of TwitterAPR 23

Living in a big city, you get to hear other people's conversations all the time. These are private conversations meant for the benefit of the participants but it's no big deal if they're overheard on the subway. And you know what people talk about most of the time? In no particular order:

1. What they had or are going to have for breakfast/lunch/dinner.
2. Last night's TV or sports.
3. How things are going at work.
4. The weather.
5. Personal gossip.
6. Celebrity gossip.

Of course you'd like to think that most of your daily conversation is weighty and witty but instead everyone chats about pedestrian nonsense with their pals. In fact, that ephemeral chit-chat is the stuff that holds human social groups together.

Ever since the web hit the mainstream sometime in the 90s, people have asked of each new conversational publishing technology -- newsgroups, message boards, online journals, weblogs, social networking sites, and now Twitter -- the same question: "but why would anyone want to hear about what some random person is eating for breakfast?" The answer applies equally well for both offline conversation and online "social media": almost no one...except for their family and friends.

So when you run across a Twitter message like "we had chicken sandwitches & pepsi for breakfast" from someone who has around 30 followers, what's really so odd about it? It's just someone telling a few friends on Twitter what she might normally tell them on the phone, via email, in person, or in a telegram. If you aren't one of the 30 followers, you never see the message...and if you do, you're like the guy standing next to a conversing couple on the subway platform.

P.S. And anyway, the whole breakfast question is a huge straw man periodically pushed across the tracks in front of speeding internet technology. There is much that happens on Twitter or on blogs or on Facebook that has nothing to do with small groups of people communicating about seemingly nothing. Can we just retire this stupid line of questioning once and for all?

(Would you like to post this link to Twitter?)

Update: From Twitter, two pithier reformulations of the above:

@phoutz: If Twitter is banal it is because you and I are banal (It's called social norming)

@thepalephantom: The "no one cares what you're doing" proclamation is a solipsists way of saying "i don't care"

Update: Three related articles. How the Other Half Writes: In Defense of Twitter by Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG (thx, @secretsquirrel):

Again, I fail to see any clear distinction between someone's boring Twitter feed - considered only semi-literate and very much bad -- and someone else's equally boring, paper-based diary -- considered both pro-humanist and unquestionably good. Kafka would have had a Twitter feed! And so would have Hemingway, and so would have Virgil, and so would have Sappho. It's a tool for writing. Heraclitus would have had a f***ing Twitter feed.

Twitter: Industries of Banality by Struan McRae Spencer of Vitamin Briefcase:

Living with friends and colleagues would be a cheap alternative to living alone. People generally don't do it because it's not a good thing for humans to do. We are genetically predisposed to need time in solitude occasionally. So instead of living with your friends and colleagues, try living with their disembodied thoughts floating around on your computer and popping up on your desktop every fifteen, thirty, sixty, (manual refresh), minutes. Fellowship exists to provide us with relief from solitude and our individual pursuits. Living in a state of constant fellowship with hundreds, if not thousands of people who have known you (or not) across various stages of your life becomes an insurmountable problem the longer you try to do it.

To Tweet or Not To Tweet by Maureen Dowd of the NY Times, the essay that finally set me off in the first place:

Do you ever think "I don't care that my friend is having a hamburger?"

Media packaging mashupsAPR 22

Recently a number of efforts have been made at re-imagining the packaging for movies, books, video games, and other media, mostly mashups and in the illustration style of typical of Saul Bass' movie posters or Penguin Classics book covers. I've collected several examples below.

Olly Moss

Olly Moss made Penguin-like book covers for video games like Ocarina of Time and Half-Life.

M. S. Corley made Penguin-like versions of the Harry Potter books.

I Can Read Movies

In his I Can Read Movies series, spacesick imagines Penguin-like book covers for movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Sixteen Candles, and Back to the Future.

Forrest Lucero designed Penguin-like book covers for songs from The Postal Service and Daft Punk.

Olly Moss

Olly Moss also did simple red/white/black posters for some of his favorite movies, including Die Hard and The Deer Hunter.

A bunch of people on Flickr imagined Nintendo DS tie-in games for movies like Andy Warhol's Empire, Eyes Wide Shut, and 8 1/2. They also did some for TV shows, magazines, web sites, and all sorts of other media.

Criterion video games

The folks on the NeoGAF message board made Criterion Collection-style box art for video games like Super Mario Galaxy, Black and White, and Super Mario 64.

Nikolay Saveliev

Nikolay Saveliev made simple two-color album covers for the likes of Kanye West, Jessica Simpson, and Franz Ferdinand.

Update: Modernist editions of classic album covers. (thx, zach)

Update: Logan Walters is redoing Wu-Tang Clan album covers.

Update: Classic albums reimagined as Pelican books.

Update: Simple Star Wars posters.

Update: Brandon Schaefer did some simple Blu-ray sleeve for movies, very much in the style of Olly Moss. Exergian did some posters for TV shows; the one for Weeds is particularly nice.

Weeds poster

Update: Books as web services.

Update: Panic made some Atari 2600-themed packaging for their software. (thx, daniel)

Finally, real maple syrup at IHOPAPR 22

A Vermont IHOP is the only restaurant in the chain of ~1400 to serve real maple syrup with its pancakes.

You can't open up a Vermont pancake shop without Vermont maple syrup.

This story offers up a microcosm of the contemporary American experience.

Setting goals can backfireAPR 22

Sometimes I link to stuff only because it justifies my organizational laziness. See: Ready, aim...fail.

A few management scholars are now looking deeper into the effects of goals, and finding that goals have a dangerous side. Individuals, governments, and companies like GM show ample ability to hurt themselves by setting and blindly following goals, even those that seem to make sense at the time.

I'll continue stumbling towards the light at the end of the tunnel, thank you very much.

Raising prices and gaining readersAPR 22

Feeling undervalued, some magazines are raising their prices and gaining both readership and revenue.

The Economist is leading the charge on expensive subscriptions, and its success is one reason publishers are rethinking their approaches. It is a news magazine with an extraordinarily high cover price -- raised to $6.99 late last year -- and subscription price, about $100 a year on average.

Even though The Economist is relatively expensive, its circulation has increased sharply in the last four years. Subscriptions are up 60 percent since 2004, and newsstand sales have risen 50 percent, according to the audit bureau.

I'm always amazed that something as great as The New Yorker can be had for a buck an issue when people routinely pay $4 for burnt coffee, $10 for crappy movies, and $12 for -tini drinks.

The Bride Was BeautifulAPR 22

This was a tough series of photos to get through: The Bride Was Beautiful.

Katie Kirkpatrick, 21, held off cancer to celebrate the happiest day of her life. [...] Her organs were shutting down but it would not stop her from marrying Nick Godwin, 23, who was in love with Katie since 11th grade.

The last photo is just heartbreaking. (via cup of jo)

Vengeance, part twoAPR 22

The New Yorker is being sued for $10 million over a story written by Jared Diamond. The fascinating story, Vengeance Is Ours, tells of blood feuds in New Guinea and now two of the men described in the article as participating in those feuds say they have been falsely accused of "serious criminal activity" and "murder".

When foreigners come to our culture, we tell stories as entertainment. Daniel's stories were not serious narrative, and Daniel had no idea he was being interviewed for publication. He has never killed anyone or raped a woman. He certainly has never stolen a pig.

I get the impression that Diamond has spent a lot of time in Papua New Guinea and, as a result, might not be taken in so easily by locals telling tall tales. Indeed, a fact-checking research team was told by one of the men in question that "the stories he told Diamond were in fact true".

Create Your Own EconomyAPR 22

Create Your Own Economy

I don't think he's talked about it on his site yet, but Tyler Cowen has a new book coming out called Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World.

As economist Tyler Cowen boldly shows in Create Your Own Economy, the way we think now is changing more rapidly than it has in a very long time. Not since the Industrial Revolution has a man-made creation -- in this case, the World Wide Web -- so greatly influenced the way our minds work and our human potential. Cowen argues brilliantly that we are breaking down cultural information into ever-smaller tidbits, ordering and reordering them in our minds (and our computers) to meet our own specific needs.

Create Your Own Economy explains why the coming world of Web 3.0 is good for us; why social networking sites such as Facebook are so necessary; what's so great about "Tweeting" and texting; how education will get better; and why politics, literature, and philosophy will become richer. This is a revolutionary guide to life in the new world.

I never properly reviewed Cowen's last book (sorry!), but I found it as enlightening and entertaining as Marginal Revolution is. (via david archer)

Dikembe Mutombo's career doneAPR 22

Dikembe Mutombo's long NBA career came to a sad end last night with an injury to his knee.

His 18-year NBA career ended Tuesday night with a gruesome knee injury midway through his 1,297th game. He left the floor on a stretcher after every single teammate had surrounded him on the floor. That gesture spoke volumes about what they thought of him. He's the funniest, smartest professional athlete you will ever meet.

Aside from the finger wagging, I always liked Mutombo. Back when I still watched college ball, Georgetown was my team and it was a lot of fun seeing Alonzo Mourning and Mutombo block all those shots. (via truehoop)

Go fastAPR 22

Some people are working on cars that will go 800 or even 1000 miles per hour on the flat desert of Nevada.

The rules are simple. Clock the racer through a measured mile, turn around and do it again, then average the two speeds. Mr. Shadle said Eagle would need 11 miles for each run: a mile to warm up to 250 miles per hour; four miles to light off the afterburner and get up to record speed; a mile in the speed trap; and five miles to stop. The vehicle must have at least four wheels - two of them steerable -- and be back at the original start line within 60 minutes. And that's it.

Stinky blogging statsAPR 21

Mark Penn, a former Clinton pollster, writes in the Wall Street Journal that:

In America today, there are almost as many people making their living as bloggers as there are lawyers.

Understandably, Penn's catching a bit of flack for that and statements and the numbers he uses to back them up. From Waldo Jaquith at VQR:

Penn's thesis is that average American citizens are becoming professional bloggers, offsetting the loss in journalists, with millions enjoying a revenue stream from blogging and nearly half a million making a living at it. That's wrong on its face. There's simply no way there there's more than, say, 10,000 Americans are paying for their basic life expenses purely through blogging.

Scott Rosenberg, who has done all sorts of research about blogging for his forthcoming book, reacted similarly:

Technorati's are the longest-running and most valuable, and consistent, series of blogging studies over time, but like any study's numbers, they can be easily misrepresented: here, Penn relies on them for the datum that bloggers who reach 100,000 uniques a month can earn $75K a year. But if you read the source, you find this:

"The average income was $75,000 for those who had 100,000 or more unique visitors per month (some of whom had more than one million visitors each month). The median annual income for this group is significantly lower - $22,000."

In other words, the $75K average is skewed by a handful of outlier successes, but the great majority of bloggers who get 100,000 uniques/month earn more like $22,000. Here, the median is far more relevant than the average. Penn, of all people, knows this.

From my perspective as someone who does make a living blogging, Penn's numbers, especially this 100,000 uniques --> $75K business, are misleading at best and a complete fucking lie at worst.

This music piracy businessAPR 21

A study from the BI Norwegian School of Management has found online music bootleggers are much more likely to pay for music online than those who don't steal music.

The Norwegian study looked at almost 2,000 online music users, all over the age of 15. Researchers found that those who downloaded "free" music -- whether from lawful or seedy sources -- were also 10 times more likely to pay for music. This would make music pirates the industry's largest audience for digital sales.

Not surprising that some people are so crazy for music that they'll *pay* for it. Crazy!

Update: Rebecca Blood thinks this article is crappity crap crap and points to a better take at Ars Technica.

College English class on the postprint eraAPR 21

Schools are finally taking the end of print media seriously. Professor Robert Lanham is offering a class called Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era that will be graded on the "Raised by Boomers, Everyone's a Winner" system.

Throughout the course, a further paring down of the Hemingway/Stein school of minimalism will be emphasized, limiting the superfluous use of nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions, gerunds, and other literary pitfalls.

OMG, this class is totes HFACTDEWARIUCSMNUWKIASLAMB.

Bill Simmons' NBA MVP picksAPR 21

I need to make more time to read Bill Simmons' column each week. His NBA MVP picks are an informative hoot. (Informative Hoot happens to be on the shortlist of possible alternate names for kottke.org.)

Composite NYC street scenesAPR 21

Photographer Peter Funch spends weeks taking photos on Manhattan street corners and then pastes them together into single photographs.

Peter Funch

I should add this (and Matt Webb's 4D experiment) to my time merge media post. (via capn design)

Moneyball directed by Soderbergh?APR 21

Wait, Steven Soderbergh is directing the film adaptation of Michael Lewis' Moneyball? When did this wonderfulness happen?!! Last I heard, the director was the guy who did Marley & Me. Perhaps Pitt put the kibosh on that and lobbied for Soderbergh? (via fimoculous)

Parkour on a bicycleAPR 21

Street rider Danny MacAskill starts off by riding his bike across a narrow fence about four feet in the air...and the video only gets better from there.

Stunning. I want to see MacAskill in the next Bond film. (via waxy)

Update: See also Ryan Leech. (thx, courtney)

You keep using that word...APR 21

From a promotional email sent out by Wired Magazine:

For a limited-time, subscribe to WIRED and get the Mystery Issue guaranteed!* Edited by J.J. Abrams, co-creator of Lost and director of the new Star Trek movie, this issue is sure to be like no other.

*while supplies last

Guaranteed? Inconceivable! And speaking of that issue of Wired, be prepared to read a bunch about how it is going to save print media by moving the crossword from the games page into the entire rest of the magazine.

So, as Mr. Bevacqua wrote on his blog, he spent the next several days following the hidden clues he believed he'd found, using Morse code, alternative computer keyboard layouts and even electrician's wiring codes to solve the covert brainteasers. Finally he was directed to a hidden Web site, from which he sent an e-mail message to a secret account. A short while later he learned that he was the first Wired reader to solve an extensive hidden puzzle embedded throughout the magazine.

(thx, lloyd)

New Dan Brown: The Lost SymbolAPR 21

The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown's follow-up to The Da Vinci Code, is available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released in September. The Da Vinci Code, which spent 24,498 weeks on the NY Times bestseller list, was both awesome and horrible at once.

Pumping up with flammablesAPR 20

Did you know that you can fill a flat tire using starter fluid and a match?

I've watched this about ten times and it's still amazing. (via dunstan)

Our grim e-book futureAPR 20

Steven Johnson's Kindle inspired an "aha!" moment for him in the same way that the web did 15 years ago. And as with the web, Johnson believes that the Kindle and the e-book will change the way we read and write.

With books becoming part of this universe, "booklogs" will prosper, with readers taking inspiring or infuriating passages out of books and commenting on them in public. Google will begin indexing and ranking individual pages and paragraphs from books based on the online chatter about them. (As the writer and futurist Kevin Kelly says, "In the new world of books, every bit informs another; every page reads all the other pages.") You'll read a puzzling passage from a novel and then instantly browse through dozens of comments from readers around the world, annotating, explaining or debating the passage's true meaning.

I recently used a Kindle for the first time and was really underwhelmed. I'd kind of wanted one but using it for few minutes turned me right off. The potential is definitely there, but the actual device is a bummer: too small, too slow, and too closed. Maybe using one for two weeks would change my mind...but I don't know. I'm skeptical of the future that Johnson sketches out for the ebook, and it's not just the Kindle.

When the web and the first browsers were built -- mostly by scientists, not by billion-dollar retailers or publishing conglomerates -- the openess that Johnson talks about as a metaphor for how ebooks will work was baked in: viewing source, copy/paste of text, the ability to download images, etc. All of the early web's content was also free (as in beer).

Aside from some notable exceptions like Project Gutenberg, e-books are currently only as open and free as the publishing companies (and Amazon and Google) want them to be. I think those two initial conditions change the playing field. Copy/paste/publish to your booklog without significant restrictions or payment? Sharing a passage of a book with someone who doesn't own that book, as verified through a third-party DRM system? Good luck! Readers will have to fight for those kinds of features. And perhaps we'll eventually win. But for right now, the bookloggers that Johnson speaks of are only two letters away from how the publishing industry might label them: bootleggers.

Letters to ObamaAPR 20

Early in Obama's presidency, one of the more encouraging signs that things were heading in a positive direction was that his daily briefing included ten letters that average Americans had sent to the White House. The NY Times has a special feature on these letters and how they reach Obama's desk. The President's director of correspondance chooses the letters carefully.

I send him letters that are uncomfortable messages.

But I wonder about the gatekeeper effect...Obama is really only reading what this guy wants him to read. To go further, I think Obama should wade through the pile himself once a month for an hour or so, if only to evaluate the caliber of the letters that he does see.

Update: The White House has posted a short documentary about these letters.

Instant walls of sandAPR 20

Magnus Larsson has proposed building an ingenious structure in the Sahara Desert: a 6,000 km-long wall of sandstone made by flushing bacillus pasteurii through loose sand. The bacteria quickly solidifies the sand, thereby providing a wall to stop the advance of the desert or even structures for people to live in.

I researched different types of construction methods involving pile systems and realised that injection piles could probably be used to get the bacteria down into the sand -- a procedure that would be analogous to using an oversized 3D printer, solidifying parts of the dune as needed. The piles would be pushed through the dune surface and a first layer of bacteria spread out, solidifying an initial surface within the dune. They would then be pulled up, creating almost any conceivable (structurally sound) surface along their way, with the loose sand acting as a jig before being excavated to create the necessary voids.

This sounds more like sculpting or baking than architecture.

Sean Connery enjoys Bond filmsAPR 20

I'm fascinated by The Buzz Board on The Daily Beast. It's basically famous people recommending things: movies, books, music. The recommendations aren't all that useful except in the aggregate as a lens into what celebrities think about the culture they help create.

Chloe Sevigny really enjoyed Let the Right One In. "Vampire pictures are one of my favorite genres."

Peter Sarsgaard: "Gomorrah. It's just the best fucking movie."

Sienna Miller: "Frost/Nixon is great. It's well-directed and well-acted."

Michael Caine: "30 Rock is the smartest show on television. Tina [Fey] is absolutely brilliant."

Heather Matarazzo: "My girlfriend and I love Jennifer Garner; she's gorgeous. There is no hotter woman on TV."

Sean Connery: "I am a big fan of action movies and I really enjoyed the last couple of Bond Films. Quantum of Solace in particular was very good and had excellent cinematography to keep up with the pace."

Harvey Weinstein: "Monsters vs. Aliens [...] was a lot of fun and a great story."

Scarlett Johansson: "I love the Road Food website [...] I was surprised to see my close proximity to one of the best turkey clubs I've ever had!"

Martha Stewart: "I'm looking forward to the second season of The Tudors."

And still my favorite, from Natalie Portman: "Ilili is the best Middle Eastern food in New York. I dream about their Brussels sprouts."

Suck my Manhattan!APR 20

If you don't like this re-imagined NYC subway map, I'll kick you in the Brooklyn. Somewhat NSFW. (via illustration art)

Green beanAPR 20

The spouting bean concept illustrated by Jillian Tamaki for the "Green Chicago" issue of Hemispheres, the inflight magazine for United Airlines, is a little bit of genius.

David Simon interviewAPR 20

Short video interview of David Simon.

You know, newspapers are gonna say, "We already let the horse out of the barn door. How can you charge for content? Information wants to be free." All that bullshit. As I remember, there wasn't an American in America 30 thirty years ago who paid for their television. Television was free 30 years ago. Now everybody's paying 16 bucks a month, 17 bucks a month, 70 dollars a month.

Related: the NY Times recently ran the poignant story of a interracial Baltimore couple who turned to The Wire for comfort when the husband underwent treatment for cancer.

Also related: read David Simon's HBO pitch for The Wire from Sept 2000.

Dave Eggers interviewedAPR 17

Wag's Revue interviewed Dave Eggers about What is the What and some other things.

We're pluralists at McSweeney's. We publish anything of great quality, whether that's experimental or very traditional or somewhere in between. There is and should always be room for all approaches to writing, and whenever anyone closes the door on one -- by saying, for example, that experimentation might someday "exhaust itself" (not to put you on the hotseat), it's very saddening. And of course it ignores the entire history of all art in every form ,which is a history of constant innovation, experimentation and evolution. The person who says "Enough innovation, let's stick with what we have and never change" is pretty much the sworn enemy of all art. Not to overstate it, of course.

While you're there, gape at the odd choice of JPGs for pages instead of, you know, HTML. (via fimoculous)

The show must go onAPR 17

After bad flying weather delayed the orchestra and kept the vocal soloist from arriving altogether for an event at Carnegie Hall, most of the musicians played in street clothes and -- after some furious backstage cramming -- the orchestra's conductor, David Robertson, performed the challenging vocal piece in his debut as a singer.

Mr. Gruber intended for the texts to be delivered in a kind of speech-song, complete with nasal squawks and patter. You do not need a proper singing voice to perform the part, but you do have to be uninhibited. Mr. Robertson's performance was a tour de force of uninhibition.

(via clusterflock)

The scientifically unexplainedAPR 17

Science magazines seem to write this list about once a year but they are always fun to read: thirteen things that science cannot explain. This version of the list includes the Kuiper cliff, tetraneutrons, cold fusion, and our old friend the Pioneer anomaly.

Spark interviewAPR 17

There's a short interview with me about what I do on kottke.org on this week's Spark radio show on CBC. There's also an uncut version of the interview that runs about 20 minutes which includes many delightful false starts and ahs and ums. What can I say, I've got a face for radio and a voice for print.

Potato binsAPR 17

How to construct a build-as-you-grow potato bin. Start with a base and some potatoes planted within it and then just keep building up and dumping in dirt. Come harvest time, the box will be full of potatoes.

I'm told a rule of thumb for potato harvests is 10 pounds per pound of seed. I got 25 pounds for my one pound, so I guess I shouldn't be too disappointed about the results of my first year planting potatoes. Still it's nowhere near the 60 pound average that Greg Lutovsky's customer's experienced. In hindsight I think I got lazy in hilling my potato plants as they were growing. Sometimes I would let them get to be 8 or so inches tall and jungle-like before dumping more dirt in and covering the stems.

Understanding emotions in musicAPR 17

When western music was played to members of the Mafa people from Cameroon who have never been exposed to western music, movies, or art, they were able to recognize the emotions conveyed by the music, even though the Mafa don't associate emotions with their own music.

Update: Radiolab did a thing on the universal appeal of country music. (thx, jason)

Without boundariesAPR 17

From an interview by Kicker Studio of London designer Crispin Jones, where he says that the broad definition of design is perhaps not so bad.

On one level design is horribly inarticulate word - it has no real meaning nor way of encompassing all the things that are classed as "design". This weakness however means that the discipline is kind of without boundaries. I think design allows you to engage with the contemporary world and engage in shaping the world: we're living in a golden age of products/services as technology matures and people integrate it into their lives.

You may have picked up on this by reading kottke.org over the years, but I think that designers, architects, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, writers, scientists, et al. are all engaged in doing the same kind of thing, more or less, and that working "without boundaries" and borrowing the best aspects of many disciplines is one of the keys to maximizing your creative potential. (thx matt)

It hurts when I peeAPR 17

From a German book called Elektroschutz in Bildern, a collection of illustrations detailing a number of ways that people can get electrocuted and the path that the electricity takes through their bodies.

Pee Electric

Photo by Bre Pettis. (via jacket mechanical)

Muji US online store openAPR 16

Now everyone in the US can buy Muji things: the Muji US online store is open for business.

Disturbin' StrokesAPR 16

The intro to Diff'rent Strokes set to some disturbing music is "far more creepy than I thought it would [be]". (via cyn-c)

Chino OtsukaAPR 16

Imagine Finding Me is a project by Chino Otsuka where she inserts her adult self into photos taken of her as a child. More examples at Wallpaper. See also Ze Frank's Youngme / Nowme and those neat half-kid, half-adult photos that I can't find a link to right now...little help? (via waxy)

Update: Age-maps! (thx, cindy)

John Madden retiresAPR 16

I was up waaay too early this morning watching some trending topics on Twitter Search and John Madden's name suddenly appeared. When you see a boldface name pop up on Twitter Search like that, it usually means they've died. I'm glad Madden's not dead but I'm sad that he's retiring from calling football games. I know he wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but I loved listening to him.

The Wire BibleAPR 16

This is quite a treat. Someone got ahold of some scripts from The Wire and posted them online. [Update: I've mirrored the files for convenience.]

Season 1, episode 1, "The Target"
Season 1, episode 9, "Game Day"
Season 5, episode 10, "-30-"

But the real gem is a document dated September 6, 2000 that appears to be David Simon's pitch to HBO for the show. The document starts with a description of the show.

The Wire Bible

Simon had the show nailed from the beginning. Near the end of the overview, he says:

But more than an exercise is realism for its own sake, the verisimilitude of The Wire exists to serve something larger. In the first story-arc, the episodes begin what would seem to be the straight-forward, albeit protracted, pursuit of a violent drug crew that controls a high-rise housing project. But within a brief span of time, the officers who undertake the pursuit are forced to acknowledge truths about their department, their role, the drug war and the city as a whole. In the end, the cost to all sides begins to suggest not so much the dogged police pursuit of the bad guys, but rather a Greek tragedy. At the end of thirteen episodes, the reward for the viewer -- who has been lured all this way by a well-constructed police show -- is not the simple gratification of hearing handcuffs click. Instead, the conclusion is something that Euripides or O'Neill might recognize: an America, at every level at war with itself.

The list of main characters contains a few surprises. McNulty was originally going to be named McCardle, Aaron Barksdale became Avon Barksdale, and the Stringer Bell character changed quite a bit.

STRINGY BELL - black, early forties, he is BARKSDALE's most trusted lieutenant, supervising virtually every aspect of the organization. He is older than BARKSDALE, and much more direct in his way, but nonetheless he is the No. 2. He has BARKSDALE's brutal sense of the world but not his polish. BELL is bright, but clearly a child of the projects he now controls.

The final section is entitled "BIBLE" and contains draft outlines of a nine-episode season. I didn't read it all, but the main story line is there, as are many plot details that made it into the actual first season. (thx, greg)

So are the days of our livesAPR 16

Microscopic photographs of individual sand particles, each grain "a tiny work of art". These are taken from Gary Greenberg's book, A Grain of Sand. More at Scientific American and Discover. (via lone gunman)

What's up?APR 16

Sprint would like to show you a video of what's happening right now. (via swiss miss)

The theft of the Mona LisaAPR 16

This is an odd little excerpt from Vanity Fair of a book about the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa and other art in Paris.

The shocking theft of the Mona Lisa, in August 1911, appeared to have been solved 28 months later, when the painting was recovered. In an excerpt from their new book, the authors suggest that the audacious heist concealed a perfect -- and far more lucrative -- crime.

Expecting new revelations, I read on but it was the same story told in previous books. Regardless, it's a great story and worth the read but nothing new if you've heard it before.

Update: Someone's doing a documentary. (thx, rakesh)

Sci-fi langaugeAPR 15

Nine words that came to us from science fiction and not science.

Deep space. One of the other defining features of outer space is its essential emptiness. In science fiction, this phrase most commonly refers to a region of empty space between stars or that is remote from the home world. E. E. "Doc" Smith seems to have coined this phrase in 1934. The more common use in the sciences refers to the region of space outside of the Earth's atmosphere.

Man on Wire 2: Electric BoogalooAPR 15

Philippe Petit, the crazy bastard who walked a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center, will perform a high-wire walk somewhere in midtown Manhattan this fall autumn.

It will be high, it will be long, and it will be outdoors in a very recognizable location that he does not want revealed quite yet -- arrangements are not final.

Also, the New Yorker has a story in this week's issue (subscribers only) about Alain Robert, another Frenchman with a thing for tall buildings.

Robert is a vertical tourist. He has traversed the planet on a dogged, gutsy tour of the world's high-rises and, then, its jail cells and holding pens. Of the world's ten tallest buildings, he has climbed five. Most of the remaining half are in China, which he has been banned from entering since 2007, when he climbed the Jin Mao Tower.

Reference materialsAPR 15

In the internet age, trips to Google and Wikipedia provide easy answers to easy questions. The Millions polled its contributors to find out their favorite offline reference books. The OED scores highly and The National Geographic Atlas of the World (my dad had one of these when I was a kid and I loved looking at it) and the Truckers Atlas for Professional Drivers also get mentions.

Wes Anderson, annotatedAPR 15

Matt Zoller Seitz has completed his five-part look at Wes Anderson's influences.

Part 1: Bill Melendez, Orson Welles, and Francois Truffaut
Part 2: Martin Scorsese, Richard Lester, and Mike Nichols
Part 3: Hal Ashby
Part 4: J.D. Salinger
Part 5: The Royal Tenenbaums, annotated

Seek out the video links in the right sidebar; they're better than just reading the text. From the Salinger segment:

Detractors say Anderson's dense production design (courtesy of regular collaborator David Wasco) overwhelms his stories and characters. This complaint presumes that in real life our grooming and style choices aren't a kind of uniform -- visual shorthand for who we are or who we want others to think we are. This is a key strength of both Anderson and Salinger's work. Both artists have a knack for what might be called "material synecdoche" -- showcasing objects, locations, or articles of clothing that define whole personalities, relationships, or conflicts.

The fifth part, where Seitz annotates the beginning segment of The Royal Tenenbaums with text, images, and video, is particularly fun to watch.

The death of a blockAPR 15

Jim Griffioen took photos of every house on a block in Detroit where most of the houses are abandoned and stitched them into panoramas.

If you were to compare the current international housing crisis to a black hole sucking the equity out of our homes, this one-way street near the northern border of Detroit might just be the singularity: the point where the density of the problem defies anyone's ability to comprehend it. These homes started emptying in 2006.

(via greg.org)

WayfarersAPR 15

David Sedaris finds lust, love, and laughter on long train trips.

Not that Johnny was bad company-it's just that the things we had in common were all so depressing. Unemployment, for instance. My last job had been as an elf at Macy's.

"Personal assistant" was how I phrased it, hoping he wouldn't ask for whom.

"Uh-Santa?"

If you've been following his work/life at all, the last paragraph will probably make you smile.

Keith Starky explains TwitterAPR 15

Keith Starky's blog examines tweets as "part of his ongoing research in humor propagation and fluid reputation dynamics".

The central conceit of the "tweet" in this case is the idea that Ninjas, which are black-clad martial artists who employ tactics of stealth to both defeat their opponents and avoid waking people up at night when they go to the bathroom, could partake in some of the worldy pleasures of the non-Ninja world (e.g., crunchy snacks) if that non-Ninja world consisted entirely of people wearing noise-canceling headphones. Henceforth we refer to this world as Headphone-World.

Sorry for the two "explains Twitter" posts in a row. I'll make the next two extra special (i.e. "explains Facebook"). (via jim ray)

Putting the twee in tweetAPR 14

McSweeney's explains Twitter. Finally!

Twitter seems to be, first and foremost, an online haven where teenagers making drugs can telegraph secret code words to arrange gang fights and orgies. It also functions as a vehicle for teasing peers until they commit suicide.

The McSweeney's Twitter account has never been updated but has 702 followers.

Update: McSweeney's official Twitter account is being updated but only has 439 followers. (thx, alex)

Dinghies Clustered Around DockAPR 14

Alex MacLean

By Alex MacLean. (via year in pictures)

The Royal Tenenbaums and Infinite JestAPR 14

[Ed note: This is a piece by Matt Bucher, written a few years ago for the now-defunct andbutso.com. Reprinted with permission.]

The Royal Tenenbaums (RT) opens with a shot of a book, titled The Royal Tenenbaums, and immediately a narrator (Alec Baldwin) begins to read the opening paragraph of the book. Throughout the film, we are led to believe that this narrator is reading us the story of the book The Royal Tenenbaums. While that prose-form screenplay serves as the narration, I believe that another book, Infinite Jest (IJ), manages to influence the film in a number of general and specific parallels. In no way could I substantiate the claim that Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson have read Infinite Jest or that they are in any way aware of the specific connections between their film and Wallace's book (or even that Anderson and Wilson are the exclusive authors of the RT screenplay). {However, Anderson and Wilson are natives of Austin, TX and DFW wrote in a postcard to Rachel Andre [2001] that he loves Austin -- "especially the bat caves at sunset".} Taken piece-by-piece, it seems clear that any correlation between IJ and RT is coincidental at best. However, considered as a whole, the resemblances between the two reach the heights of the uncanny.

Rather than provide a close reading of all 1,079 pages of Infinite Jest, I will look here only at those sections pertaining to the mirror-image of the Tenenbaum family, mostly the Incandenza family.

"The Royal Tenenbaums" is the story of a family, and, as the movie opens, we are introduced to its members. The children -- all prodigies in their own right -- are Margot, the adopted, but award-winning playwright; Richie, the tennis champion; and Chas, the real-estate and business tycoon. The patriarch of the family, Royal, and his wife, Etheline, separated immediately after the children were born and two decades of betrayal, deceit, and failure, erased the brilliance of the young Tenenbaums.

In IJ, the parallel family of the Tenenbaums is the Incandenzas. When we meet the Incandenza family we learn matriarch and patriarch are no longer married, but unlike Royal and Etheline, who split for obvious personality differences, James O. Incandenza (JOI) and Avril M. Incandenza (AMI) are no longer married because JOI is dead. Like the Tenenbaums, the Incandenzas produced three offspring: Orin, the womanizing tennis-prodigy turned football punter; Hal, eidetic tennis prodigy; and Mario, kind-hearted, bradykinetic, homodontic dwarf. There are qualities of each Incandenza that correspond to qualities and traits found in the Tenenbaums, but also the correspondence falls outside of the two families to the extended families of in-laws and friends (Eli Cash, Dudley, Raleigh St. Claire, Pagoda, etc.). Here is a quick run-down.

Marlon Bain is a regular fixture at the Incandenza residence as a child, just as Eli Cash, as a child, is a regular fixture at the Tenenbaum residence. Eli admits that he always wanted to be a Tenenbaum, but one gets the feeling that Marlon Bain got away from the Incandenzas as soon as possible. Eli sleeps with Margot (Richie's sister and object of Richie's affections), but in IJ, Orin sleeps with Bain's sister (without there being any apparent affection involved -- witnessed by Orin's classification of her as just another "Subject"). Eli is eccentric at the very least, but Bain suffered from "the kind of OCD you need treatment for" (similar to Avril's compulsions).

Margot Tenenbaum loses a finger to an axe, just as Trevor Axford loses a finger (or two) to a fireworks incident.

Margot Tenenbaum is a long-term smoker, who hides this from everyone, just as Hal Incandenza is a regular pot smoker who hides this fact from almost everyone.

Richie Tenenbaum is a tennis prodigy, just as Hal and Orin Incandenza were; and Richie's on-court breakdown could be compared to Hal's near loss to Stice or Pemulis's dosing of his opponent or pretty much any other breakdown in the book.

One child in each family produces a drama: Margot Tenenbaum and Mario Incandenza.

The suicide attempt of Richie Tenenbaum seems reminiscent of Joelle Van Dyne's, as both take place alone in a bathroom.

Both JOI and Royal Tenenbaum have rival suitors (Tavis, for one, and Mr. Henry for Etheline) and both patriarchs die in the course of the book / movie.

Eli Cash is a drug addict of the highest type, much like Gately, Hal, and the varied addicts of IJ. Eli is nonchalant about his drug use, but also feels the need to hide it from those closest to him.

The Incandenzas have a dog loved primarily by a family member (S. Johnson and Avril) as do the Tenenbaums (Buckley by Ari and Uzi). Both dogs die.

Chas subjects Ari and Uzi to Schtitt-like physical-education routines. The sight of Ari and Uzi in their jogging suits, doing endless calisthenics, brings to mind the ETA students pushed to their limits during star drills.

There is incest (Richie and Margot Tennenbaum; Avril and Tavis). Although Royal would be quick to point out that Richie and Margot are not technically blood related since Margot is adopted, Richie feels the incest taboo. Avril's taboo is more Gertrude than Margot, one gets the feeling that Avril would find Etheline Tenenbaum to be a kindred spirit. Avril's misdeeds with John NR Wayne (off-screen except one illicit interruption) seem similar to Margot's being caught with Eli Cash in her bedroom. Although Avril isn't Wayne's teacher, Anderson did address that subject in "Rushmore."

The first article to address the relationship between The Royal Tenenbaums and IJ is this one. While Sidney Moody plays up some of the basic similarities, I take issue with his/her assumption that Avril "fends off many suitors after Dr. Incandenza's death" (and there is little evidence that Royal Tenenbaum was a "once-brilliant litigator"). Moody also equates Eli Cash to Don Gately because they both have drug problems and Cash's friends try to force him into rehab, but I see a closer comparison to be Eli Cash and Marlon Bain, despite Bain not having as prominent of a role in IJ as Cash does in RT.

Photography criticism from the StasiAPR 14

Harald Hauswald, an East German photographer, published in West Germany a book of his work in 1987. The East German secret police, the Stasi, put Hauswald under surveillance and even went so far as to produce a detailed critique of his book, as a photo critic might. Joerg Colberg recently met with the photographer and obtained a copy of the Stasi report on Hauswald's work. From the report's introduction:

Especially the selection of the images gives away that we are dealing with a book that has a long-term purpose. People gathered everything somber, oppressive, from poor neighbourhoods, or primitive they could find. It seems apparent that color was intentionally omitted, because only black and white reproduction stresses the supposedly gray, bleak and dismal reality of East Berlin.

It's interesting to hear the charge of propaganda coming from the secret police of a Communist dictatorship.

A world without Black SwansAPR 14

Nassim Nicholas Taleb lists ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world. Most points relate directly to the current economic situation in the US.

No socialisation of losses and privatisation of gains. Whatever may need to be bailed out should be nationalised; whatever does not need a bail-out should be free, small and risk-bearing. We have managed to combine the worst of capitalism and socialism. In France in the 1980s, the socialists took over the banks. In the US in the 2000s, the banks took over the government. This is surreal.

It was difficult to choose just one of Taleb's points to excerpt; they're all worth considering. BTW, a Black Swan is an event that is rare, has a large impact, and is deemed predictable after the fact. I might have to push Taleb's book of the same name to the top of my reading list.

NamasteAPR 14

Someone scanned and uploaded some old Dharma Initiative ads from 70s magazines like National Geographic. Wow, that's a long-running ARG.

BTW, the island on Lost has to be the largest MacGuffin in the history of moving pictures, right?

MoonAPR 14

I am hoping that Moon will be awesome and not just a mashup of 2001 and Solaris. The score is by Clint Mansell, who has scored all of Darren Aronofsky's movies, most notably Requiem for a Dream. Moon opens on June 12 in NYC and LA. (via sarahnomics)

Office spacesAPR 14

Cliff Kuang traces the evolution of office designs from the open factory-like floors of Frederick Taylor to the present era of semi-private pods.

An unlikely pairAPR 13

Long-lost twins: Cosimo de' Medici and Justin Timberlake. This is an even better likeness.

Through Hubble-colored glassesAPR 13

If the naked eye could see like a telescope, this is what the night sky might look like. (via rw)

BirdhouseAPR 13

The introduction video for Birdhouse is just really fantastic; the best iPhone app intro video in the universe probably.

Design paradoxesAPR 13

Adrian Shaughnessy shares ten paradoxes about graphic design; by paradox he means "an opinion or statement contrary to commonly accepted wisdom". I particularly liked these two bits of wisdom:

As part of their training, all designers should be obliged to spend a sum of their own money on graphic design.

And:

If we want to make money as a graphic designer, we must concentrate on the work -- not the money.

Goodbye, Speak UpAPR 13

Long-running design blog Speak Up will cease publication later this week.

Earlier this year, Bryony and I made the decision to close Speak Up. Seeing weeks and weeks go by where we have only two or three posts (and one of them being the Quipsologies round-up) has become too painful for us. It's also like watching Ozzy Ozbourne today, still holding on to that rock glory but he can't really rock no more, not like he used to.

Is the Heinz ketchup bottle good design?APR 13

If the glass Heinz ketchup bottle were introduced today, it would likely be disparaged because it doesn't work very well as a ketchup dispenser. But since it's been around so long, people love it.

Like the Apple iPod, a Rawlings baseball and 3M's Post-it Notes, Heinz Ketchup is a rare example of a best-selling brand that is also generally considered to be best in class. It would seem silly to splash out on a more expensive alternative, especially as the glass bottle affirms its stellar status.

That is why Heinz Tomato Ketchup is one of the very few branded products you see in its original packaging in expensive restaurants. "Sometimes we have to accept that we can't better something that already exists," said Jeremy King, who co-owns The Wolseley in London and is now re-opening The Monkey Bar in New York. "When a customer asks for ketchup they generally want Heinz. The iconic glass bottle reassures them that they are getting it." Quite a coup for something that does not really do its job properly.

ps. He-ketchup for manly men.

Update: Daniel Eatock Everything Heinz project:

An edition of 57 sealed cans each containing a composite mix of 57 Heinz canned foods.

(thx, andy)

Typesetting the biggest primeAPR 13

Responding to a query from an NPR science correspondant about prime numbers, Hoefler & Frere-Jones researched the lengths involved when typesetting the largest known prime number, which has almost 13 million digits.

Joe liked the idea of measuring how long this number would be if it were set in type, which immediately called into question the choice of font. The number's length would depend chiefly on the width of the font selected, and even listener-friendly choices like Times Roman and Helvetica would produce dramatically different outcomes. Small eccentricities in the design of a particular number, such as Times Roman's inexplicably scrawny figure one, would have huge consequences when multiplied out to this length. But even this isn't the hairy part. Where things get difficult, as always, is in the kerning.

In some cases, properly kerning the number resulted in a difference of more than 1000 feet for 12 pt. text.

Lucas MonacoAPR 13

A sampling of art by Lucas Monaco, whose work deals with maps, flows, and overlaps.

Lucas Monaco

Lucas Monaco

Lucas Monaco

I really love that last one. (via moon river)

No vending machine for crowsAPR 12

Remember the story about the vending machine for crows in the NY Times Magazine's Year in Ideas issue from December? Turns out that there were all sorts of things wrong with that story.

In addition, the article said that Klein was working with graduate students at Cornell University and Binghamton University to study how wild crows make use of his machine, which does exist. Klein did get a professor at Binghamton to help him try it out twice in Ithaca, with assistance from a Binghamton graduate student, and it was not a success. Corvid experts who have since been interviewed have said that Klein's machine is unlikely to work as intended.

Update: I had forgotten...Klein did a talk at TED last year about his crow vending machine. I wonder if there's a retraction forthcoming from there as well. (thx, michael)

How to look at billboardsAPR 10

How to look at billboards, a commentary on outdoor advertising by advertising man Howard Gossage from Harpers magazine in 1960. Gossage thought of billboards as an invasion of people's privacy.

Outdoor advertising is peddling a commodity it does not own and without the owner's permission: your field of vision. Possibly you have never thought to consider your rights in the matter. Nations put the utmost importance on unintentional violations of their air space. The individual's air space is intentionally violated by billboards every day of the year.

How do you make love to a hi-fi?APR 10

Erika La Tour Eiffel, betrothed two years ago to the pointy Parisian landmark, is an objectophiliac, someone who feels intense sexual desire toward inanimate objects.

Emma (not her real name), 43, the only British member of the community, suffers from Asperger syndrome -- a condition which seems to be shared by around half of OS people. Asperger sufferers often have difficulties forming relationships with other people, and Emma's fixations are radios and hi fis. When I met her, she was in love with a hi-fi system which she called Jake. Jake, she says, is "solid, reliable and beautiful". She repairs "him" when he goes wrong, and "makes love" to him on average twice a day. "This is the way I communicate with him."

(via cynical-c)

Reducing your water usageAPR 10

Good magazine has a nice chart with advice on reducing your water footprint. Meat = really really not good.

Mo' money, mo' socioeconomic issuesAPR 10

New Scientist has collected a bunch of studies related to the pychological impact of money on people.

Almost all of us, for example, are "loss averse" -- it hurts more to lose £50 than it feels good to win £50. We also value money in relative rather than absolute terms -- we consider £10 irrelevant when buying a house but not when paying for a meal. Similarly, finding £100 will give many people more pleasure than having a heating bill cut from £950 to £835, even though this gains them more in real terms.

Nothing grows but oil and buildingsAPR 10

A long and damning article about the dark side of Dubai. Many of the rich foreigners who live there love it:

Ann Wark tries to summarise it: "Here, you go out every night. You'd never do that back home. You see people all the time. It's great. You have lots of free time. You have maids and staff so you don't have to do all that stuff. You party!" They have been in Dubai for 20 years, and they are happy to explain how the city works. "You've got a hierarchy, haven't you?" Ann says. "It's the Emiratis at the top, then I'd say the British and other Westerners. Then I suppose it's the Filipinos, because they've got a bit more brains than the Indians. Then at the bottom you've got the Indians and all them lot."

As for "all them lot"? Not so much.

Sahinal Monir, a slim 24-year-old from the deltas of Bangladesh. "To get you here, they tell you Dubai is heaven. Then you get here and realise it is hell," he says. Four years ago, an employment agent arrived in Sahinal's village in Southern Bangladesh. He told the men of the village that there was a place where they could earn 40,000 takka a month (£400) just for working nine-to-five on construction projects. It was a place where they would be given great accommodation, great food, and treated well. All they had to do was pay an up-front fee of 220,000 takka (£2,300) for the work visa - a fee they'd pay off in the first six months, easy. So Sahinal sold his family land, and took out a loan from the local lender, to head to this paradise.

As soon as he arrived at Dubai airport, his passport was taken from him by his construction company. He has not seen it since. He was told brusquely that from now on he would be working 14-hour days in the desert heat - where western tourists are advised not to stay outside for even five minutes in summer, when it hits 55 degrees - for 500 dirhams a month (£90), less than a quarter of the wage he was promised. If you don't like it, the company told him, go home. "But how can I go home? You have my passport, and I have no money for the ticket," he said. "Well, then you'd better get to work," they replied.

rating: 4.0 stars

ObjectifiedAPR 10

Some interesting moments from the Objectified screening last night.

- Rob Walker, who writes the Consumed column for the NY Times Magazine, was my favorite person in the movie. I particularly liked his idea for a million-dollar marketing campaign for the stuff we already own. Paraphrasing from memory: "You already own all these wonderful things. Enjoy them today."

- The best comment during the Q&A after the film was from a man who said that the film made him feel physically sick. Not that the movie was bad but that it was powerful. The man was a product designer and the film raised a lot of issues for him with regard to the waste -- both physical trash and human energy, if I was catching his drift correctly -- produced during the course of making these billions of mass produced items, most of which end up in landfills in pretty short order. He seemed to be asking himself and the audience: how can we, as designers, in good conscience, keep doing this to ourselves?

- The film addressed that question a bit at the end as did the panelists during the Q&A. Dan Formosa of Smart Design, echoing Walker's marketing idea, said that some designers in the future will shift from designing new products and start to design experiences for people to make better decisions about the objects they introduce into their lives or to better utilize the products they already have. The sales and support process at many many product companies are ripe for a designer's guiding hand. It's mind-boggling to me that companies spend billions and billions of dollars designing and building products and then leave the selling of those products to sales people who are largely untrained and unmotivated and the support to a call center in Bangalore. Zappos, Apple, Amazon, and similar companies have realized this with spectacular results.

- What didn't work for me: 1) The IDEO stuff. They had 12 people brainstorming about how to build a better toothbrush that people won't throw away and in addition to all of the time they're spending talking about it, they went through dozens of Post-It notes, and had purchased what looked like hundreds of toothbrushes for research purposes that were likely to get thrown away as well. The whole thing seemed super wasteful (and maybe that was the point of showing it). 2) Karim Rashid. He said a lot of things that sounded good but when you look at his work, I don't know that he actually believes any of it. 3) Marc Newson. What the hell was he on about?

If you're interested, check out the trailer. You can also download the groovy song from the trailer and the film's opening credits...it's called I Like Van Halen Because My Sister Says They Are Cool by El Ten Eleven.

Josh PoehleinAPR 10

Josh Poehlein's Modern History project takes screen grabs from YouTube videos and assembles them into collages.

Josh Poehlein

These are wonderful. And he's giving them away.

I am offering large printable files to anyone interested at no cost. Computer files are the most easily reproducible information on the planet. In this particular case I see no reason to imbue a false sense of preciousness on the work. The information I gathered to create the collages is publicly availaibe, and the collages themselves are no different.

(via conscientious)

Layer Tennis tomorrowAPR 09

Tomorrow at 3pm ET: Layer Tennis match between Jennifer Daniel and Jillian Tamaki with commentary by some guy named Jason Kottke. What is Layer Tennis?

Two competitors will swap a file back and forth in real-time, adding to and embellishing the work. Each artist gets fifteen minutes to complete a "volley" and then we post it to the site live. A third participant, a writer, provides play-by-play commentary on the action, as it happens. A match lasts for ten volleys.

Update: Here's the match preview.

Stealing thunderAPR 09

In 1704, playright John Dennis invented a new method of producing the sound of thunder during a play. Dennis' play was unsuccessful, but his thunder technique was soon borrowed by another production, leading Dennis to exclaim:

Damn them! They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder.

Top ten reasons managers become greatAPR 09

Scott Berkun shares how great managers get that way.

8. Self aware, including weaknesses. This is the kicker. Great leaders know what they suck at, and either work on those skills or hire people they know make up for their own weaknesses, and empower them to do so. This tiny little bit of self-awareness makes them open to feedback and criticism to new areas they need to work on, and creates an example for movement in how people should be growing and learning about new things.

(via world airmail links)

Banh Mi!APR 09

Banh Mi Saigon Bakery, one of my favorite places to get my lunch on, gets a shout-out in the NY Times. The bread is really fantastic. I'm intrigued by the sandwich at Silent H called the Greenpoint:

Elsewhere in Brooklyn, where authenticity is not as strictly enforced, Vinh Nguyen has created a succulent banh mi at Silent H called the Greenpoint: a tribute to the area's many traditional Polish butcher shops. Instead of cha lua, smooth pork terrine, he lays on Krakowska kielbasa, a smoked sausage. "That smokiness and pepperiness makes perfect sense on a banh mi," he said. "I would be a fool to ignore these great traditional products being made in my neighborhood."

Yes, more sandwiches!

Banned album coversAPR 09

Thirty controversial album covers. I had forgotten about Nirvana's "Waif Me"! A bit NSFW. (via design observer)

Extreme borrowing in the blogosphereAPR 09

In the past week, both Joshua Schachter and Matt Haughey published articles that were excerpted in the Voices section of All Things Digital, a web site owned by Dow Jones and run by Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg of the WSJ. Each excerpt was accompanied by a link to the original articles. Schachter and Haughey both reacted negatively to All Things Digital's posting of their work. Andy Baio has collected responses from Schachter, Haughey, All Things Digital's Kara Swisher, other writers whose stuff has been excerpted in the Voices section, and a couple other long-time online writers. Merlin Mann's comment on Twitter sums up what the independent writers seem to be irritated with:

Republishing online work without consent and wrapping it in ads is often called "feed scraping." At AllThingsD, it's called "a compliment."

It does suck that ATD's linking technique makes it appear as though Schachter and Haughey are in the employ of Dow Jones and that DJ has the copyright on what they wrote. ATD should make the lack of affiliation more clear. Other than that, is the ATD post really that bad? In many ways, All Things Digital's linking technique is more respectful of the author of the original piece than that of a typical contemporary blog. For comparison purposes, here are screenshots of Schachter's original article as linked to from a typical blog (in this case, Boing Boing) and by All Things Digital.

Attribution on Boing Boing vs All Things Digital

Go read both posts (ATD, BB) and then come back. With its short excerpt and explicit authorship (i.e. there's no doubt that Joshua Schachter wrote those words), the ATD post is clearly just an enticement for the reader to go read the original post. On the other hand, BB's post summarizes most of Schachter's argument and includes an extensive excerpt of the juiciest part of the original piece. The post is clearly marked as being "posted by Cory Doctorow" so a less-than-careful reader might assume that those are Doctorow's thoughts about URL shorteners.

[Metaphorically speaking, the ATD post is like showing the first 3 minutes of a movie and then prodding the viewer to go see the rest of it in a theater while BB's post is like the movie trailer that gives so much of the story away (including the ending) that you don't really need to watch the actual movie.]

What ends up happening is that blogs like Boing Boing -- and I'm very much not picking on BB here...this is a very common and accepted practice in the blogosphere -- provide so much of the gist and actual text of the thing they're pointing to that readers often don't end up clicking through to the original. To make matters worse, some readers will pass along BB's post instead of Schachter's post...it becomes, "hey, did you see what Boing Boing said about URL shortening services?" And occassionally (but more often than you might think) someone will write a post about something interesting, it'll get linked by a big blog that summarizes and excerpts extensively, and then the big blog's post will appear on the front page of Digg and generally get linked around a lot while the original post and its author get screwed.

So I guess my question is: why is All Things Digital getting put through the wringer receiving scrutiny here for something that seems a lot more innocuous than what thousands of blogs are doing every day? Shouldn't we be just as or more critical of sites like Huffington Post, Gawker, Apartment Therapy, Engadget, Boing Boing, Buzzfeed, Lifehacker, etc. etc. etc. that extensively excerpt and summarize?

Update: I'm pulling a couple of quotes up from the comments so that the opinions of the people involved aren't misrepresented.

Joshua Schachter:

I really just objected to the byline on the ATD thing. It made it appear that there was a relationship when there wasn't. If there is curation, the curator should be the one noted as making the choices.

Andy Baio:

All the complaints stem from the affiliation issue. Running ads and having comments on an excerpt are only an issue if it's presented as original content, instead of curation. Put an editor's name on there, remove the author photos, throw it in a blockquote, and all these complaints go away.

Black is the new blackAPR 09

Rocketboom says that black is in.

The most powerful man in the world is black.
The greatest golfer in the world is black.
The highest grossing actor worldwide is black.

Editing David Foster WallaceAPR 09

The House Next Door is on a roll lately. Today they're featuring an interview with Glenn Kenny, a film writer who edited the three articles that David Foster Wallace wrote for Premiere magazine.

Dave would often be commissioned to do pieces at 5,000-7,500 words so he understood that at a certain point in the process it was quite possible this would happen, but in a way he was constitutionally incapable of keeping to a word length. It was a tacit agreement you had with him when you commissioned a piece that you were going to get something long. But if you can run a piece that long, he's one of the cheapest first rate literary writers out there-you pay him X amount of dollars per word, but you get five times the words.

Kenny also wrote a short piece on his blog shortly after Wallace died.

Mmm, God particleAPR 08

Ten steps to perform in the event that you have accidentally swallowed the Higgs boson.

7. Do you feel protons decaying? Grand Unification may be occurring near your vital organs. However, this may be caused by far less elegant X bosons -- the poor man's Higgs, as it were. We shall not deal with these "country cousins" here. Still, you must not use electroweak force in this situation. You must at least attempt to curb the force of your nuclei to delay Grand Unification. You would be wise to begin a preventive training regimen for your nuclei right away -- Fermion My Wayward Son (Bloomsbury, 1996) contains the internationally accepted techniques.

Time travel via Google MapsAPR 08

Phil Gyford has some intriguing thoughts on how Google Maps could develop in the years to come.

Imagine in, say, 2059 looking up a location on Google Maps and being able to dial the view back fifty years to see what that building looked like in 2009. Zoom back and forth in time to see how the place changed as decades flip by. That will be amazing.

(via migurski)

Update: Google Earth already does historical comparisons. (thx, garo)

Gay marriage trends in the USAPR 08

Nate Silver says that "voter initiatives to ban gay marriage are becoming harder and harder to pass every year" and uses a regression model to produce a listing of when the voters of each US state would vote against a marriage ban if given the chance. Some notables:

New York - 2009
Iowa - 2013
Utah - 2013
Kansas - 2015
Texas - 2018
Mississippi - 2024

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs trailerAPR 08

How to Take a Beloved Children's Classic Book and Screw It All Up, Exhibit A: based on the trailer, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Except for the food falling from the sky, they changed everything else. But it's IN 3-D!!! *pffft*

All But the ChampionshipAPR 08

TrueHoop looks at the recent ABC teams in the teams in the NBA, those that have flown high but have not secured a championship.

Some may argue that the true window to win a title began when Jerry Sloan took over as head coach [of the Utah Jazz] during the 1988-89 season, and while Karl Malone and John Stockton had been paired up since the 1985-86 season, the Jazz did not make it to the Western Conference Finals until 1992. That's when they became title contenders. As we all know, Stockton's career consisted of dishing out over 15,800 assists, which is over 5,000 assists more than Mark Jackson, who is 2nd on the NBA's all-time assists list. Karl Malone, meanwhile, went on to finish 2nd on the NBA's all-time scoring list. To have that kind of talent for so long and not come away with a title is almost unimaginable, if not crushing to a franchise. The window came to an abrupt close in 2003, when Stockton retired and Malone went to the Lakers in a last-ditch effort to win a title. The ultimate kicker? Between 1991 and 2003, Utah's 632 wins were the most in the NBA.

BallDroppingsAPR 08

BallDroppings might be the next Line Rider. Or maybe it was the original Line Rider. If you don't know what that means, congratulations and go play this fun thing with musical balls and lines. You can also get it for Windows or the Mac. Has anyone made actual music with this sucker? If you take a crack at it, send me a link to a video of the results. (via this is that)

Open-mindednessAPR 08

This video explains how to counteract the "you're not being open-minded" argument that atheists and scientists sometimes get when confronted by those who believe in the supernatural.

Trying to suggest that a lack of explanation is evidence that supernatural powers are at work is actually a contradiction. In effect what it's saying is, "I can't explain something, therefore I can explain it."

(via buzzfeed)

Girl Scout cookie recipesAPR 08

Wanna stick it to the Girl Scouts? Make their cookies at home: Thin Mints, Samoas (my fave), Do Si Dos, Tagalongs, and Shortbreads. (via the kitchn)

Kamrooz AramAPR 08

Whoa. I'm a sucker for art that punches you in the face like this.

Kamrooz Aram

This particular image is trapped in the permalink-unfriendly JavaScript interface of Aram's gallery...it's the 4th image if you want to click through to see it larger.

Aram's piece reminded me of John Maeda's Amber Waves, available as wallpaper here. (via moon river)

The Evolution of ReligionsAPR 07

Jared Diamond lecture on the evolution of religions.

An almost virtual worldAPR 07

A cyber cafe outside of Tokyo has been coverted into an apartment complex of sorts. "Cyber drifters" pay $500/month to live in the cafe's computer cubicles.

More than one in a rowAPR 07

The A.V. Club picks 25 albums that work best when listened to from start to finish. +1 for In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. I tend to listen to albums more than individual songs...Sigur Ros or Boards of Canada doesn't make any sense on shuffle.

Best movie ensemblesAPR 07

The House Next Door has a post up about their favorite movie ensembles.

My selections are movies featuring fairly large herds of individuals who clash or collude directly, whose lives intersect or intertwine, who sustain the illusion of continuing to lead their lives beyond the frame, long after the credits roll.

The initial selections include Gosford Park and LA Confidential with the commenters adding many more excellent suggestions like Ocean's Eleven, Glengarry Glen Ross, Big Night, and Do the Right Thing.

Some old music and some newAPR 07

I am really enjoying the new Röyksopp album and the remastered Ten by Pearl Jam. I got turned on to the remastered Pearl Jam by Acts of Volition:

The original producer, Brendan O'Brien, remixed and remastered the tracks and the result is remarkable. It sounds like it was recorded yesterday, instead of on the muddy banks of 1990s grunge. [...] The remixes confirm what I've always thought about Pearl Jam. The label of "grunge" described a new variation of modern (at the time) rock music. Nirvana was grunge, Soundgarden was grunge. Pearl Jam was always just plain old Rock 'n Roll®.

Oh, and the new album by the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs isn't too bad either.

Wolverine piracy, claws growAPR 07

An incomplete version of the Wolverine movie was leaked online last week. A screencap found online shows just how incomplete it was in places.

Wolverine

An online reviewer for Fox News named Roger Friedman saw the movie and reviewed it positively in his column.

This may be the big blockbuster film of 2009, and one we really need right now. It's miles easier to understand than "The Dark Knight," and tremendously more emotional. Hood simply did an outstanding job bringing Wolverine's early life to the screen.

Fox News is owned by News Corp. 20th Century Fox, the company putting out Wolverine, is also owned by News Corp. You can see where this is heading. Friedman is now out of a job and a large media company has once again made its priorities clear:

We've just been made aware that Roger Friedman, a freelance columnist who writes Fox 411 on Foxnews.com -- an entirely separate company from 20th Century Fox -- watched on the Internet and reviewed a stolen and unfinished version of 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine.' This behavior is reprehensible and we condemn this act categorically -- whether the review is good or bad.

Translation: we're more concerned with piracy than with the quality of the film as perceived by the audience. I bet the filmmakers are happy that someone really liked the film.

Thomas BroomeAPR 07

[Ok, I'm gonna try not to mention The Matrix here.]

Thomas Broome

Thomas Broome makes paintings where words that describe the objects comprise the objects themselves. The effect looks sorta like The Matrix. [Dammit!]

Update: See also the visual effects by H5 in this Alex Gopher video. (thx, tom & philip)

Green Eggs and ToastAPR 07

By the time your kid is 2 or 3 years old, you've likely read her favorite book more than 50,000 times. Luckily, says Tim Bray, you can switch it up after awhile.

In this scenario, you change the words: "I do not like blue eggs and ham", then once again the pregnant pause, and the toddler leaps in with the correction; maybe in a sort of disturbed and urgent tone. You respond "Oh, right, green eggs...". After a couple of times she realizes it's a joke and you get giggles with each correction.

We're well into stage one with Ollie, although stage two is likely just around the corner. We've been playing a game recently where we ask him whether different objects have wheels or not.

"Does the bus have wheels?"
"Yes!"

"Does Mommy have wheels?"
"Nooooooo!"

You're doing it wrongAPR 06

From a series of posts on how not to photograph (for serious/professional photographers, I would presume): playing possum, the zig zag, and the vacation slide show. I am glad I'm not a serious photographer. (via conscientious)

Jet lagAPR 06

Amalfitano had some rather idiosyncratic ideas about jet lag. They weren't consistent, so it might be an exaggeration to call them ideas. They were feelings. Make-believe ideas. As if he were looking out the window and forcing himself to see an extraterrestrial landscape He believed (or rather like to think he believed) that when a person was in Barcelona, the people living and present in Buenos Aires and Mexico City didn't exist. The time difference only masked their nonexistence. And so if you suddenly traveled to cities that, according to this theory, didn't exist or hadn't yet had time to put themselves together, the result was the phenomenon known as jet lag, which arose not from your exhaustion but from the exhaustion of the people who would still have been asleep if you hadn't traveled. This was something he'd probably read in some science fiction novel or story and that he'd forgotten having read.

2666 by Roberto Bolaño, page 189.

Update: From this post and its comments, it seems likely that the "science fiction novel or story and that he'd forgotten having read" was William Gibson's Pattern Recognition or Brian Fawcett's Soul Walker. From Pattern Recognition:

She knows, now, absolutely, hearing the white noise that is London, that Damien's theory of jet lag is correct: that her mortal soul is leagues behind her, being reeled in on some ghostly umbilical down the vanished wake of the plane that brought her here, hundreds of thousands of feet above the Atlantic. Souls can't move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.

(thx, thessaly & michael)

Oh, MercuryAPR 06

How surreal is it to see a cannonball floating in liquid?

Pixar doesn't care about Disney's investorsAPR 06

Disney investors are getting a little antsy with Pixar and their irritating need to make movies that are good without worrying about their commercial success or how many action figures of the main characters can be sold. Says Disney's CEO:

We seek to make great films first. If a great film gives birth to a franchise, we are the first company to leverage such success. A check-the-boxes approach to creativity is more likely to result in blandness and failure.

Invest in Dreamworks for that check-the-boxes creativity, why don't you. (thx, kabir)

Photo mysteryAPR 06

Hello photographers! I just ran across this photo (via TrueHoop) and was wondering if anyone out there knows how it was made. My guess is a combination of an IR camera, IR spotlight, and a bit of digital darkroom colorization after the fact. How else would you get lighting like that during an actual game? Anyone?

Update: Thanks, gang. Looks like a remotely fired strobe light is the culprit. No IR shenanigans needed.

Cooking with ratiosAPR 06

Michael Ruhlman announces that his newest book is available for sale. It's called Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking.

We have been trained in America to believe that we can't cook unless we have a recipe in hand. I am not saying recipes are bad or wrong -- I use them all the time; there are plenty of recipes in the new book -- but when we rely completely on recipes, we cooks do ourselves a grave disservice. We remain chained to the ground, we remain dependent on our chains. When you are dependent on recipes, you are a factory worker on the assembly line; when you possess ratios and basic technique, you own the company.

With this book, Ruhlman aims to to improve the home cook's comfort level in the kitchen and provide a blueprint for a way of cooking that is less restrictive and more improvisational than following recipes. I haven't seen Ratio yet, but Ruhlman's "...of a Chef" trilogy are some of my favorite books. If you want a signed copy of Ratio (or any of his other books), you can order one directly from his site.

GairvilleAPR 06

In 1879, Brooklyn papermaker Robert Gair developed a process for mass producing foldable cardboard boxes. One of the paper-folding machines in his factory malfunctioned and sliced through the paper, leading Gair to the realization that cutting, creasing, and folding in the same series of steps could transform a flat piece of cardboard into a box.

Gair's invention made him a wealthy man and turned his company into an epicenter of manufacturing in Brooklyn. From Evan Osnos' New Yorker article about Chinese paper tycoon Cheung Yan:

Gair's box, a cheap, light alternative to wood, became "the swaddling clothes of our metropolitan civilization," Lewis Mumford wrote. Eventually, the National Biscuit Compnay introduced its first crackers that stayed crispy in a sealed paper box, and an avalanche of manufacturers followed. Gair expanded to ten buildings on the Brooklyn waterfront. Massive migration from Europe to the United States created a manufacturing workforce in Brooklyn, to curn out ale, coffee, soap, and Brillo pads -- and Gair made boxes right beside them.

Gair's concentrated collection of buildings eventually led the area between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges to be called Gairville. That area is now known as Dumbo and, in addition to tons of residential space, the neighborhood is home not to manufacturing but to architecture firms, web companies, and other creative industries.

The Gair Company's most iconic building was also its last: the Clocktower Building, also known as Gair Building No. 7. I tracked down several of the other Gair buildings and put them on this Google Map.

Can you help fill in the holes? Email me with additions/corrections and I'll fill them in on the map. Thanks!

Update: I found a photo of some of the buildings that comprised Gairville on Google Books. The map has a couple of additions as well.

Recession special: kottke.org RSS sponsorshipsAPR 06

For the next round of kottke.org RSS weekly sponsorships, I've lowered the price by 25%, making an excellent value even better.

Sponsorships are exclusive text ads that run in kottke.org's RSS feed and are an ideal way for you to tell the site's 110,000+ RSS readers a little something about you, your company, or your company's products. Read on for details or get in touch to schedule a sponsorship today.

Infinite Jest for the KindleAPR 06

Infinite Jest is available for pre-order for the Kindle. However, several reviews have mentioned that the Kindle doesn't handle large, footnoted fractal-like texts very well, so buyer beware.

Otherwise, people really seem to love Amazon's little device: Steven Johnson, Gina Trapani, Matt Haughey. (thx, adam)

Empty the nation's pools!APR 06

From November 2007 but still relevant: Odds of Dying in a Terrorist Attack.

You are six times more likely to die from hot weather than from a terrorist attack

You are 87 times more likely to drown than die in a terrorist attack

You are 1048 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attack

You are 12 times more likely to die from accidental suffocation in bed than from a terrorist attack

You are eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist

I guess when you're the President, it's just not that impressive to say that you protected the nation's populace from accidental suffocation in bed.

URL shorteners suckAPR 03

After threatening as much for many months, Joshua Schachter has published a piece about how URL shorteners (TinyURL, bit.ly, is.gd, etc.) suck for everyone except the companies which build URL shorteners.

There are three other parties in the ecosystem of a link: the publisher (the site the link points to), the transit (places where that shortened link is used, such as Twitter or Typepad), and the clicker (the person who ultimately follows the shortened links). Each is harmed to some extent by URL shortening.

I agree with Schachter all around here. With respect to Twitter, I would like to see two things happen:

1) That they automatically unshorten all URLs except when the 140 character limit is necessary in SMS messages.

2) In cases where shortening is necessary, Twitter should automatically use a shortener of their own.

That way, users know what they're getting and as long as Twitter is around, those links stay alive.

American Checkers for the iPhoneAPR 03

Damn you, Gruber, for getting me hooked on this checkers game for the iPhone. My checkers strategy, honed in many childhood games against my dad, is slowly coming back to me.

A social danceAPR 03

Not believing your ears, though, thought Espinoza, is a form of exaggeration. You see something beautiful and you can't believe your eyes. Someone tells you something about... the natural beauty of Iceland... people bathing in thermal springs, among geysers... in fact you've seen it in pictures, but still you say you can't believe it... Although obviously you believe it... Exaggeration is a form of polite admiration... You set it up so the person you're talking to can say: it's true... And then you say: incredible. First you can't believe it and then you think it's incredible.

2666 by Roberto Bolaño, page 137.

Human friendly companies?APR 03

Peter Merholz asks: is your company designed for humans or fleshy automatons?

We're placed in hierarchical org charts, remnant of railroad and factory operations of the 19th century, and find ourselves in silos that prevent us from collaborating with our colleagues.

We're given job titles with an explicit set of responsibilities, and discouraged to perform outside that boundary.

The convention of influenceAPR 03

Somehow I missed this a few weeks ago on Marginal Revolution: Do influential people develop more conventional opinions?

1. People "sell out" to become more influential.

2. As people become more influential, they are less interested in offending their new status quo-oriented friends.

3. As people become more influential, their opinion of the status quo rises, because they see it rewarding them and thus meritorious.

Guest of Cindy ShermanAPR 03

Trailer for a new film called Guest of Cindy Sherman. It's a documentary about a man who becomes romantically involved with the famous artist, only to find that his ego can't handle her fame. I wonder if we actually get to see the real Sherman in the film...the trailer is very teasing about it.

Update: Unsurprisingly, Sherman's not happy about the film. (thx, paul)

Tighter, simpler, more transparentAPR 03

Cathy Curtis, a former staff writer for The LA Times, shares how the web made her a better writer.

Another impetus for scanning, I believe, is the web's seemingly limitless content. It's like being unable to enjoy yourself at a party because you might be having a better time at someone else's house. Add the growing mania for speed ("This #%&* site is taking 20 seconds to load!"), and it's clear that web writing has to pick up the pace.

(via subtraction)

Frank Black's processAPR 03

In a 1989 interview for Dutch television, Pixies frontman Frank Black talks about his songwriting process as creating a "poetic structure" with the melody and letting the lyrics flow from there. The Dutch graphic design studio Experimental Jetset took inspiration from Black's approach.

When we get an assignment (which usually comes in the form of a question, a theme, a problem or a riddle), we feel as if the solution is already enclosed in the assignment itself. The design is already there; it just has to be released. Like the fist from Frank Black's shirt.

Tropicana's poor redesign kills salesAPR 02

In the month and a half after the awful redesign of their packaging, sales of Tropicana's Pure Premium orange juice dropped 20%. !!! Same juice, different package, 20% fewer sales.

Tropicana had certainly sought to create excitement around the Pure Premium rebrand, announcing Jan. 8 a "historic integrated-marketing and advertising campaign ... designed to reinforce the brand and product attributes, rejuvenate the category and help consumers rediscover the health benefits they get from drinking America's iconic orange-juice brand."

Who knows what the proper conclusions are to draw from all this. Did sales drop because glancing shoppers couldn't tell Tropicana from a generic store brand? Does this underscore the importance of good design? Or should we beware of what seems like good design but turns out to be a bunch of metaphorical subterfuge? Did PepsiCo do this on purpose, a la the New Coke conspiracy? Are people stupid because they focus more on orange juice packaging than the actual juice when making buying decisions? (via df)

Insider's guide to moviesAPR 02

The folks who publish the excellent City Secrets travel books have come out with a similar guide to movies, The Ultimate Insider's Guide to Cinema's Hidden Gems.

City Secrets offers reflections and discoveries from the authors, artists, and historians who know each city best. Movies takes this intimate, insider's approach to the arts, featuring brief essays and recommendations by esteemed figures in the film industry -- including actors, directors, producers, and critics -- and other writers and figures in the arts. Some have written on a film, or an aspect of a film (a performance, style, or theme) that they feel is overlooked or underappreciated. Others have chosen a well-known film for which they can offer personal insights or behind-the-scenes observations. Contributors include Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Ken Auletta, Milos Forman, Anjelica Huston, Barbara Kopple, Sidney Lumet, Simon Schama, and many others.

(via vsl)

Apple I printsAPR 02

20x200 has a print by Mark Richards of an exploded Apple I machine.

In the photographs, a visual parallel between the wires delivering energy to a mechanical memory and the neural pathways of human anatomy becomes apparent. The pieces of machines are re-framed as something more than cold technology; I hope I can provide emotion, unexpected beauty and history.

(via df)

Magnetic snakesAPR 02

Taking a bit of code from here and a snippet from there, Robert Hodgin made an animation of 3-D snakes in Processing. Check out Hodgin's use of constraints to spur the invention of a way to keep the snakes from overlapping.

I had no interest in adding a complete 3D physics library because my needs at this time are fairly simple. I am not worried about environment... I just want the snakes to crawl over each other. I decided to try magnetic repulsion despite thinking it probably wouldn't work well enough. The thinking is this: Take each segment of a snake (200 segments each), and check its distance to every single other segment of every other snake on screen. Stupid, right? Yeah, pretty much. But with some optimization and only checking the segment distances if the snakes in question are close enough for overlap to be possible, I got it to run at 60 fps with 10 snakes.

Actually, when you get right down to it -- the atoms in snakes' bodies, that is -- magnetic repulsion isn't that far off from how matter achieves its electromagnetic opacity. Hodgin also made a video in which the snakes react to music. I wonder if this one's gonna end up in iTunes. (via waxy)

Patterns in a morass of historical materialsAPR 02

Errol Morris returns to his NY Times blog with a five-part story about a photograph found in the hands of an unknown Union army soldier who died at Gettysburg. Start with part one. A description of the photograph made it into the newspaper and the identity of the man was pretty quickly discovered. But the story hardly ends there. My favorite part so far is the fourth, particularly the conversation between Morris and one of the unknown soldier's descendants, archaeologist David Kelley.

Wes Anderson's influencesAPR 02

In the first part of a five-part series, Matt Zoller Seitz examines the influences that have shaped Wes Anderson's films.

When I interviewed Anderson for a 1998 Star-Ledger article about A Charlie Brown Christmas, directed by the late animator Bill Melendez, Anderson cited Melendez as one of three major influences on his work, so we'll start there. Anderson told me that he and his screenwriting collaborator, Owen Wilson, conceived Rushmore hero Max Fischer as Charlie Brown plus Snoopy. He said that Miss Cross, the teacher Max adores and will draw into a weirdly Freudian love triangle with the industrialist Mr. Blume, is a combination of Charlie Brown's teacher and his unattainable love object, the little red-haired girl.

The video (located in the right sidebar) takes longer to watch than it does to read the text, but the visual comparisons are worth it. I can't wait to read parts 2-5. (via the house next door)

Who rides the M8 bus?APR 02

Miranda Purves and Jason Logan recently surveyed a bunch of riders of bus and subway lines that the MTA is attempting to eliminate because of a budget crisis. Don't miss the associated PDF. Related: London tube seat hierarchy and morning subway demographics.

Oh, Tocqueville, you're the manAPR 02

Maira Kalman tells a wonderfully illustrated story about democracy (and Salisbury steak).

Companion guide to The UnfinishedAPR 02

Writing for The Rumpus, Elissa Bassist annotated D.T. Max's article about David Foster Wallace with links to mentioned books, articles, etc. (thx, matt)

Like the Friday the 13th franchiseAINSLEY DREW  ·  APR 01

Jason's coming back. I can't thank him enough for locking me in this tenement with the bag of Cheetohs and the six pack of Mountain Dew, telling me to, "Link, monkey! Link!" I hope he enjoyed his time in Atlantic City.

I kid. Thanks, Jason, for giving me this opportunity, and thank you, kottke readers, for not abandoning the site in his absence.

For those curious about the other man behind a hockey mask, here are 13 Questions with an actor who played stab-happy Jason Voorhees. Thanks for bleeding, I mean reading.

Update by jkottke: Thanks for holding down the fort so ably, Ainsley. Your puntastic post titles and fondness for marine life will be missed. If you require writing services in the future, check out her small copywriting concern, Ministry of Imagery.

Infographic Little Red Riding HoodAINSLEY DREW  ·  APR 01

A wonderful little animation by Tomas Nilsson of my favorite fairytale, the one with wolves and woodsmen. This one's all zippy infographics and diagrams.

The music gets to be a little much.

via Ektopia

Producing PeepsAINSLEY DREW  ·  APR 01

A photo gallery that shows how marshmallow Peeps are made inside the Just Born confection company in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Seeing a shower-capped woman dye-coat sugar with an industrial-grade sprayer puts a supreme damper on my sugar high.

Wool lightsAINSLEY DREW  ·  APR 01

Sometimes, the quickest way to a woman's heart is a bunch of sheep illuminated with LEDs and herded into meaningful patterns. This is what you city folk have been missing.

Consider the crabAINSLEY DREW  ·  APR 01

Although it's widely accepted that the scream heard when a lobster is dropped into a pot of boiling water is a bunch of hot air, it turns out that some crustaceans do feel pain, and have the capacity to remember it.

Some crabs that evacuated attacked the shell in the manner seen in a shell fight. Most crabs, however, did not evacuate at the stimulus level we used, but when these were subsequently offered a new shell, shocked crabs were more likely to approach and enter the new shell. Furthermore, they approached that shell more quickly, investigated it for a shorter time and used fewer cheliped probes within the aperture prior to moving in. Thus the experience of the shock altered future behaviour in a manner consistent with a marked shift in motivation to get a new shell to replace the one occupied. The results are consistent with the idea of pain in these animals.

And for a more eloquent take on the struggles of our shelled undersea edibles, there's always David Foster Wallace's riveting essay, "Consider the Lobster."

via discover

Free CageAINSLEY DREW  ·  APR 01

The first movement of John Cage's 4'33" is free on iTunes today. For the uninitiated, that's one minute and forty-five seconds of silence. For free.

Sssh. I'm listening.

thx, liam m.

Swiss mountain cleanersAINSLEY DREW  ·  APR 01

Switzerland is more than cheese, alps, and a blonde serving cocoa. It's also the home of the slightly neat-freak mountain cleaners.

via swissmiss

Conversation clockAINSLEY DREW  ·  APR 01

Karrie Karahalios created a program that interprets conversations and generates real-time visual feedback. A social mirror of sorts.

The "clock" shows the progress of the talk. Three times a second, a color bar pops up showing who was speaking. The louder the speech, the longer the bar. Interruptions are shown as overlapping color bars. Every minute, a new circle of bars is rendered in a visual record akin to the rings of tree trunk.

Referred to as a "conversation clock," it's already been tested with kids with low-functioning autism, teaching them to vocalize. One speech specialist thinks it can help kids with Asperger's, who tend to dominate conversations, learn not to "monologue" so much.

Marriage counselors are also using it to teach your husband how to shut up for five minutes.

If you sprinkleAINSLEY DREW  ·  APR 01

A collection of quirky toilet signage. And for what to read after you've latched that door, there are several sites dedicated to writing found on the walls of bathroom stalls. (Warning: most of it does contain language that falls soundly in the "potty mouth" category.)

Please Do Not Throw Toothpicks in The Urinals The Crabs can Pole Vault.

I wonder if they frisk for pens and markers before allowing admittance to the Art Museum Toilet Museum of Art.

April Fool's that actually aren'tAINSLEY DREW  ·  APR 01

From across the pond, here's a list of 10 stories that could be April Fool's but aren't. On the list:

Pubs are telling expectant mothers when they've had enough to drink.

Entirely unfunny. For a more joke-filled first of the month, you can always get that yodeling game for XBox360.

Mimic gimmickAINSLEY DREW  ·  APR 01

Designer Naoto Fukasawa has designed juice boxes that both look and feel like their juices' fruits of origin. That newly-reinstated orange on Tropicana cartons is turning green with envy.

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