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April 30, 2007

Will Self: One Writer's Room


Phil Grey documents novelist Will Self's writing room in 71 photographs. Self's space is extremely densely packed with information (there must be thousands of Post-Its on the walls) and surprisingly, extraordinarily organized.

[via kottke.org]

The Internetless Life

At Poets & Writers, Stephen Elliott writes about the month he spent offline.

"How will you exist?" my roommate asked. "You'll have no idea what's going on. You won't be able to find anything."

He was right about not being able to find anything. I rode through the hills west of San Francisco's Mission District on my bicycle one cold night looking for a party. Normally I would have printed a map after searching online for the address. Or when I realized I was lost, I would have called a friend and asked him to Google the address for me. Instead, I went home.

"What is it like?" some asked. "I bet it's relaxing," they said, venturing a guess. "I wish I could do that," others mused wistfully, as if it were simply not possible for them. Still others thought I was a fool; they seemed to actually resent me for it. "Don't ask me what time the movie's playing, Mr. No-Internet." They refused to call when they found out I wouldn't be using e-mail: "I'll talk to you next month, when you're normal again." [...]

Another asked with disdain, "Shouldn't you be using a typewriter?" An old girlfriend told me that if I was using a cell phone my efforts didn't count. Another friend, when playing a video on his computer, would cover the screen with his hand anytime I walked into the room. "You can't see this," he'd say. It was as if I had violated an oath we'd all taken and was being punished for it.

I did this a few years ago, and it was an interesting experience. For whatever reason, I didn't really suffer much withdrawal. But, like Elliott, the most interesting thing was how my experience seemed to affect other people, ranging from difficulties in contact me without IM or email to the strong feelings people had about rules defining what I was and wasn't allowed to do. Several seemed to think that what I was doing was an implicit comment on their own lives (and I suppose, to some extent, it unintentionally was).

[via metafilter.com]

April 28, 2007

Audio History of Hip-Hop

The Rub on brooklynradio.net is running a year-by-year audio history of hip-hop, from 1979 with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5 onward (currently up to 1989). The Rub appears to be composed of three white boys, but who am I to say otherwise? It's pretty good.

[via metafilter]

April 27, 2007

Thought Crime: Student Arrested for Fictional Essay

The Chicago Trib reports that a senior at Care-Grove High School was arrested last Monday for writing an essay "described as violently disturbing but not directed toward any specific person or location."

According to the Trib, the straight-A student completed the assignment for a Creative English class that asked students to "identify and utilize poetic conventions to communicate ideas and emotions." The article does, however, say that students were warned to stay away from writing things that "posed a threat to self and others" in the wake of the VT shootings.

This just in: Warrants issued for the arrests of Quentin Tarrantino, Clive Barker, Eddie Vedder, Gus Van Sant, and the corpses of Kathy Acker and William S Burroughs.

[via Slashdot]

Musical Language

I heard a re-broadcast of the show Radio Lab on Musical Language today; interesting material for anyone looking at the intersection of (duh) music and language. The show included segments on meaningful commonalities in tone used by parents to infants across (apparently) all language, the initial furor then rapid acclimation for Stravinsky's Rites of Spring, and Diana Deutsch's research propensity towards perfect pitch in speakers of tonal languages:

For those of us who have trouble staying in tune when we sing, Deutsch has some exciting news. The problem might not be your ears, but your language. She tells us about tone languages, such as Mandarin and Vietnamese, which rely on pitch to convey the meaning of a word. Turns out speakers of tone languages are exponentially more inclined to have absolute (AKA 'perfect') pitch. And, nope, English isn't one of them.

Radio Lab has recently become one of my favorite shows. In that genre of radio variety/magazine-type shows, it's structured sort of like This American Life, but substituting geekiness for hip. Other recent episodes include Space, Detective Stories, and Morality.

April 26, 2007

Apple Store for Education: A Tip

When I purchase items from the Apple Store for Education online, I normally use the "Purchase Items for University Staff, Faculty, or Students" link, even if I'm purchasing things from one of my university research accounts (and then I have the university reimburse me when I turn in the receipt). It's simpler that way, since choosing the "Institutional Purchases" option requires me to set up a "proposal" that is then routed through my university's authorized Apple purchasing agent. I assumed the educational price was the same, either way. Wrong.

Today, though, I discovered (actually, our department secretary discovered) that the prices vary between the two options. Final Cut Studio 2 at the full commercial rate is $1,299. At the faculty/staff/student educational rate, it's $699. But at the institutional educational rate it's $499. Maybe these rates change from institution to institution (you have to select your institution before choosing any products or seeing prices), but it's worth checking on.


script.aculo.us offers a set of cross-browser user interface JavaScript libraries for dynamic website development. I haven't had a chance to try it out yet, but the demos on the site show simple chunks of JavaScript to provide animation, drag and drop, etc. script.aculo.us only handles screen actions—you'll need a backend (like Ruby on Rails) to actually produce a workable website. The libraries are in use by Web 2.0 sites like Backpack, Basecamp, and Feedburner, and more. (I couldn't find anything about how much this might cost, but it appears to be free.)

[via the IxDA discussion list]

End of Lifecycle


After being vibrated off the amp at practice one too many times, my Sharp DR7 minidisc recorder died. This was a monster unit when I bought it five or so years ago. 1-bit digital amp (I have no idea what this meant, but audiophile reviewers said it was way cool), polarized headphone jacks (ditto), recording levels adjustable on the fly. When I got the levels set right, I could hear every mistake I made.

But it's fallen off amps several times, as well as shelves and tables, during practice. I had the unit repaired once a few years ago when the door start jamming. And about two years ago, I replaced it with a M-Audio MicroTrak 24/96, since it had USB for copying files. But the MicroTrak is in for a battery replacement, and I dug out the DR7, which worked for a few weeks until it came crashing off a shelf behind me when we were playing Powderfinger tonight. Now the unit won't read the index tables of minidiscs. The minidisc format reached the end of its lifecycle a few years ago, so I guess it's time to ditch it.

April 25, 2007

(Almost) Spime-Enabled Banana

Dole's Organic line now include a product code on each item keyed to the physical site where the fruit was harvested. Consumers can key in the product code at the Dole Organics website to get information about that particular banana, pineapple, or other piece of produce.

You can travel to the origin of each organic product we produce. By entering the three digits Farm Code located in the sticker of your fruit you can visit the country, the farm, view photos and learn more about our products and our people.

Obviously you'll read/see carefully selected, sanitized info. But what I thought was interesting about this is that commodity produce is getting down to the level where individual products can begin communicating—with a little assistance, because the produce isn't spime-enabled.


[via Treehugger]

Maps, Reality, and Purpose


Eddie Jabbour/KICK Design redesigned NYC subway maps to reflect user's needs rather than strict physical features. The maps (such as the one shown above) resemble Harry Beck's famous designs of the London Underground maps [image and commentary from Tufte's site]. The maps abstract out less relevant features—like minor twists and curves in the track paths—in favor of increased scannability.

At first glance, a map that doesn't directly correspond to the object it's mapping seems like a bad thing. But that's what maps are: useful abstractions. They're smaller than reality, less detailed, are usually two-dimensional. That shouldn't been seen as a limitation, but added information. The abstractions suggest to us what features we would benefit from paying attention to. And maps also have concrete, added details (in most locales, there aren't 100-foot-high letters towering over streets labeling them; Prospect Park isn't that flat green used in the maps). So abstractions, deletions, and additions are part of how a map works.

[via Basement.org]

Timeline of Graphics Innovation (6200 BC to 2004 AD)

Michael Friendly and Daniel J. Dennis have compiled a great site on Milestones in the History of Thematic Cartography, Statistical Graphics, and Data Visualization. There are (as you might guess) an extensive number of images. Topics covered range from a Turkish map c. 6200 BC to 19th-century statistical maps to Tuftean sparklines.

[via metafilter.com]

McCloud Web-Based Graphic Novel Now Free

Scott McCloud has posted the first two (of three planned) volumes of his graphic novel "The Right Number" online for free. (Parts one and two were previously available under a now-defunction micropayments system.) The storyline and drawing are great, and the Flash interface actually makes navigating the content easier and interesting (rather than detracting from the experience).

[via Boing Boing]

April 24, 2007

On Comic Sans

Here's a movement I can fully support: earz magazine interviews someone from the "Ban Comic Sans" campaign.

[I]t's just not safe for unregulated public use. It should be handled like controlled substances or firearms, and should be used only by licensed professionals in very specific settings. Since we can't have it that way, I'm afraid it should be banned altogether. As an aside, I've actually used Comic Sans for web design appropriately in its intended context: http://www.gorillamart.com/gallery.html

The interview is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but there's also a core of truth to it. I'm all for the way that computers democratize design by allowing nearly anyone access to relatively high-powered design tools and typographic resources. Unfortunately, access to those things isn't often accompanied by learning about design techniques. And Comic Sans is the <blink> tag of modern typography.

[via Boing Boing]

The Art of Storytelling

Your Daily Awesome links to four short (5m each) videos of Ira Glass talking about the art of storytelling.

(Your Daily Awesome isn't just an empty boast of a title for the weblog. Only one post a day, but the quality tends towards very good (even "awesome"). The last few weeks have seen links to the audio of Melle Mel discussing the early rap track, "The Message" on Fresh Air, short animated films based on the poetry of Billy Collins, The Helsinki Complaints Choir, and photographs from the Arkansas State Prison, 1915-1937.)

[via kottke.org]

April 22, 2007

On Words

Obscure but, if you're word person, fascinating trivia:A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia. Here's a tiny clip:


In the same poll, other American writers, poets, and critics responded with these selections: HOME (Lowell Thomas), CHATTANOOGA (Irvin S. Cobb), MELODY (Charles Swain Thomas), NOBILITY (Stephen D. Wise), VERMILION (Lew Sarett), GRACIOUS (Bess Streeter Aldrich), PAVEMENT (Arnold Bennett), LOVELY (George Balch Nevin), HARBORS OF MEMORY (William McFee), and NEVERMORE (Elias Lieberman). Louis Untermeyer responded, "The most musical words seem to be those containing the letter 'l'. I think, offhand, of such words as VIOLET, LAKE, LAUGHTER, WILLOW, LOVELY, and other such limpid and liquid syllables" [Charles Turner].

According to James Joyce, CUSPIDOR is the most beautiful word in English [Dickson].

In A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (page 86), Annie Dillard writes: "My friend Rosanne Coggeshall, the poet, says that 'sycamore' is the most intrinsically beautiful word in English" [Sarah Gossett].

A survey conducted in 2004 by the British Council which asked more than 40,000 people around the world to rank the most beautiful words among a list of 70 words found MOTHER first, followed by PASSION, SMILE, LOVE, and ETERNITY [Charles Turner].

The ten worst-sounding words in English, according to a poll by the National Association of Teachers of Speech in August, 1946: CACOPHONY, CRUNCH, FLATULENT, GRIPE, JAZZ, PHLEGMATIC, PLUMP, PLUTOCRAT, SAP, and TREACHERY.

[via Fimoculous.com]

Playground Design

Metafilter has a great, short post of links to material on playground design. Here's a clip from a linked Metropolis article by Linda Baker:

Creative-playground designers, many of whom prefer to carefully edit their use of equipment for psychological and aesthetic reasons, cite another benefit of the practice: reduced costs. “When money is tight, it makes sense to take advantage of existing features—natural rain and water courses, hills, views good and bad, adjacent land uses and neighbors—and turn them into play and learning opportunities,” says Ron King, a New Hampshire–based landscape architect and certified playground-safety inspector who is introducing Danish-style plans to American schools and child-care centers. A signature effort, completed last summer at Bedford Memorial Elementary School, includes a ten-foot “mountain” fronted by a boulder climbing wall, a stream (or “leaping chasm”), and winding paths with fairy-tale-like arbors. “The play is not prescribed, so the kids have more opportunities to problem solve and use their imaginations,” says Leslie Fredette, a second-grade teacher. The project has also transformed the school playground into a space for the whole community to gather and exercise. “It’s really gratifying to see all the people here on the weekend,” she says.

[via metafilter.com]

April 20, 2007

Intentionally Inaccessible Game Design (As Learning Tool)

GameOver! is an educational game designed to teach people about accessibilty—by counter-example. (Versions available for OS X, Windows, and Linux.)

The game comprises twenty-one levels, each of which violates a fundamental game accessibility guideline. An overview of the title, gameplay and violated guideline of each level is provided the "Game Levels" section of the site, while screenshots from some of the levels are illustrated in Figure 3. The player can select to play the game from the first level, or directly jump to a specific level. At the beginning of each level, its title is presented along with some guidance (e.g., the controls that can be used, the player's goal). In order to move from one level to the next one, the player must first lose three lives. Each time that a life is lost, one hundred points are subtracted from the player's score. At the end of each level, a famous quote related to the level's content is recited (a "punch line") and the guideline that was violated is displayed (see Figure 2). At the end of the game, a summary of the level titles and the corresponding (violated) guidelines are presented.

I regularly teach with counter-example assignments. They seem to be great learning tools—the act of creating objects that intentionally don't work both helps students see the effects of breaking guidelines and, in the process, helps make those guidelines more memorable.

[via Kotaku]

Lifehacker's Coolest Workspace Contest

Lifehacker is running their annual Coolest Workspace contest.

It's that time of year again: Lifehacker's 2nd annual Coolest Workspace Contest opens its doors for submissions starting today! We want you to snap a few pictures of your favorite workspace - your home office, desk, studio, etc. - and send them into Lifehacker HQ. Over the next several weeks, we'll feature our favorites every Thursday on Lifehacker. Once that portion comes to a close, the Lifehacker readers will vote for the workspace they deem to be the Coolest, and the winner gets a $500 gift certificate to Amazon!

I'm not going to enter my own workspace, since I think towering stacks of paper and books and graffiti-adorned walls probably are in a different level of aesthetic. (My office basically looks like the aftermath of Orcs raging through a small library and amateur musician's studio.) Check the link above for an image from last year's winner.

zombieattack: Twitter Finally Gets Interesting

There's something odd about continually alerting everyone to your mundane activities ("reading journal articles," "rebooting computer," "listening to the pixies") via Twitter (those examples were all my own, btw, but typical). But zombieattack, apparently collecting living humans, friended me today, so I checked out their posts. It's a short story written in brief bursts. Posted in semi-realtime, it's actually pretty creepy to watch unfold.

The combination of the hang over and my healing arm is almost unbearable. I hope we can stay here for a while. 03:34 PM April 16, 2007

They couple says we can stay here for as long as we like, and we intend to, it feels so good to have people caring for us again 10:28 PM April 16, 2007

My arm has kept me up so i went outside to look at the sky, it is full of stars, is this a sign that things are going to get better? 03:38 AM April 17, 2007

After Lunch Matt and I decide to go get some food and supplies for both the couple and us. It is such a beautiful day. 03:18 PM April 17, 2007

We both wake up earlier today, we check around the house, its all clean, no signs of the infected or anything, things are getting better. 12:00 PM April 17, 2007

We buy a special surprise for the couple, just as a thank you doing all they have done for us. Time to get back before it gets to dark. 09:22 PM April 17, 2007

We're back at the house. We're about to go sleep. There is a noise coming from the couples' room. It's probably nothing. 02:34 AM April 18, 2007

April 19, 2007

Strange Music


Tim Kaiser builds musical instruments. Very weird and cool musical instruments. Circuit-bent appliances, theremins, drums made from tanks, candle holders shaped into thumb-piano-type-things, and more. Here's a quick description of "The 400" (also pictured above):

The 400 with Flangulator was a commission from a very generous guy in Phoenix, who in-turn gave it to Nick Rhodes (currently behind a velvet rope in his London studio). I re-worked an old EH-400 Mini Synth brain into a new case, added real keys from a smashed Farfisa Compact and incorporated a hybrid flanger/ring modulator circuit. Also features a pseudo-ribbon controller for the stop frequency and a way cool "magic lamp."

Spring in the North Country (Almost)

leaf + snow

Writing the Self

"You know?" Mark pulls his hand from Weber's and fakes a feeble grin. "I was sure, back then, when you told me that, that you'd lost your fucking mind." He squeezes his eyes and shakes his head. Time's running out. He's losing his insight to a chemical cocktail seeping into his arms. He can't quite name the thing he needs to say. The struggle runs the length of his body. He wrestles to grasp the thing that stands just three feet out of reach. "My brain, all those split parts, trying to convince each other. Dozens of lost scouts waving crappy flashlights in the woods at night. Where's me?"

Weber could tell stories. The sufferers of automatism, their bodies moving without consciousness. The metamorphopsias, plagued by oranges the size of beach balls and pencils the size of matchsticks. The amnesiacs. The owners of vivid, detailed memories that never happened. Me is a rushed draft, pasted up by committee, trying to trick some junior editor into publishing it. "I don't know," Weber says.

Richard Powers, The Echo Maker [amazon link]

April 18, 2007

Sustainable Web Design

Mark Ontkush at ecoIron estimates the amount of energy saved if Google switched from a white to a black background. Using data from EnergyStar on the watts consumed by screens displaying black rather than white, and some basic info about proportions of CRTs versus LCDs (to which he provides sources), he comes up with 3000 Megawatt-hours per year. After he posted this info, he followed up with a redesign of his site that used a palette lower-watt colors than he was previously using. (Update: Mark has posted some reminders that Jon Doucette of Jonathan Design created this palette.)

The black Google mockup he has does look a little odd—the colorful Google logo and white search field hovering in a black screen reminiscent of 12-inch, 1980s monitors. But the lower-watt palette he came up with manages to look contemporary.

April 17, 2007

Chilling Effects, YouTube, and the NFL

David Weinberger summarizes a Berkman Center talk given by Wendy Seltzer [her own blog is here]. Seltzer discusses her battles with the NFL over posting the clip of the NFL's over-reaching copyright notice on the recent Super Bowl broadcast. Here's a short clip, but if you're interested in IP (or YouTube, or just the future of the Web), read the Weinberger's whole post:

She was watching the Super Bowl and saw the notice: "This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or of any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL's consent, is prohibited." She took the clip off her MythTV and posted it to YouTube under the title "Super Bowl Highlights," with a caption that said: "The NFL's overreaching copyright claim." That was on Feb. 8. Five says later, she got a notification from YouTube saying that they had taken the clip down because the NFL claimed it was infringing under the DMCA .

YouTube had received a list of 158 clips the NFL claimed was infringing. It's likely that the NFL had a robot search for anything that was titled or tagged as NFL. Wendy asked to see the list and received it.

Wendy believes her clip was Fair Use of copyrighted material. That copyright doesn't protect people from giving accounts of the game or describing the game. It doesn't even prevent people from making some pictures from the telecast. Wendy's clip was Fair Use because:

My use is for nonprofit educational purposes; the copyright in the telecast is thin; the portion of football that follows the copyright warning is a minute portion of the whole, with no significant action or commentary, useful to show people what it was the NFL claimed its copyright covered; and the effect on the market for or value of the work is non-existent.

After which ensues a side plot that might have ended up on the cutting-room floor in the final edit of Brazil, involving requests, forms, approvals, reversals of approval, and general portrayal of the convoluted and sad state of IP law today.

Update: And it's only going to get worse: Read this Gizmodo post about YouTube's new "Claim Your Content" program, designed to make it harder to post things to YouTube. Backed by the NBA and the NHL, the program streamlines the whole takedown notice procedure.

[via Joho the Blog]

Dealing With Difficult Clients

Luckily, all of the client-based projects I'm involved in right now are running more or less smoothly, but I've had semesters where things have been a little rockier. Weblog Freelance Switch analyzes 12 different breeds of difficult clients (and offers strategies for working with them).

The I’ll-Know-It-When-I-See-It client shares much in common with the uninterested client except in a more frustrating way. Their indecisiveness and inability to articulate what they are after makes them one of the few clients that it is generally best to steer clear of.

[via Lifehacker]

April 16, 2007

Daily Show & Colbert Report Watchers Better Informed

The Pew Research Center has released a new survey, "Public Knowledge of Current Affairs Changed by News and Information Revolutions," which has some interesting data on the relationship between news sources and current affairs knowledge.

A new survey of 1,502 adults released Sunday by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that despite the mass appeal of the Internet and cable news since a previous poll in 1989, Americans' knowledge of national affairs has slipped a little. For example, only 69% know that Dick Cheney is vice president, while 74% could identify Dan Quayle in that post in 1989.

Other details are equally eye-opening. Pew judged the levels of knowledgeability (correct answers) among those surveyed and found that those who scored the highest were regular watchers of Comedy Central's The Daily Show and Colbert Report. They tied with regular readers of major newspapers in the top spot -- with 54% of them getting 2 out of 3 questions correct. Watchers of the Lehrer News Hour on PBS followed just behind.

Which actually isn't surprising (to me at least). TDS and CR are satirical, but in an insider way—they both actually contain a lot of accurate content about current events, so they both inform and poke fun simultaneously. And it's difficult to get much of the humor on these shows unless you actually know a little bit about what's being satirized. (Which doesn't necessarily indicate that these shows are the best possible information sources.... Only that they're as good or better than other popular sources on very large scale current events.)

[via Editor & Publisher]

Plastic Dreams of Airports

Plastic Dreams of Airports

You write where and when you can. (Part of an unfinished novel.)

April 15, 2007

Norm Chomsky: Mediated


From a local newspaper (now I can quit my day job....): A picture of my band practicing, from a story about a local music co-op.

April 12, 2007


I've started using Twitter [my feed is here] [I can't get myself to call them "tweets"]. I don't think I'll stick with it, because it's a level of micro-analysis that I'm not completely sold on (I have enough problems just remembering to set my AIM away message), but it's sort of interesting to periodically step back and articulate how I'm spending my time.

Kurt Vonnegut, RIP

Dammit. [NYT obit, LA Times obit, Reuters obit.]

Well, the telling of jokes is an art of its own, and it always rises from some emotional threat. The best jokes are dangerous, and dangerous because they are in some way truthful.

Kurt Vonnegut, Interview, Mcsweeneys.net

[via kottke.org, and a bunch of other wehlogs]

Pencils Made from Human Remains


Note to Underdog: I used to think that when I died, I wanted to be cremated and have my ashes dumped into the water supply for New York City, but I've changed my mind: It appears that I can have the carbon from my ashes made into pencils.

[via things magazine]

Kick Out the Jams [etc.]: IP and Documentary Rights

Metafilter gathers several important links to the intellectual property lawsuits surrounding "A True Testimonial," the documentary about seminal Detroit pre-punk group MC5. [allmusic.com entry on MC5 and Wikipedia entry on MC5.] As with many music-scene documentaries, IP issues frequently try to block important historical reporting. The recent court decisions in this case are a good sign for documentary filmmakers.

"It's good to remember the 60's, but some say if you remember the 60's you weren't there. Perhaps to assist all of us in remembering the 60's, Defendants David Thomas and Laurel Legler made a film on the MC5, a 60's Detroit Rock and Roll band that made its mark on American history with loud rock and roll and radical perceptions positing an imperialistic and materialistic America. This lawsuit teaches that materialism remains with us, as Plaintiffs vigorously seek money from Defendants. Although the MC5 faded away largely due to drugs, the band lingers on in the memory of many, and would be known to many other but for pending legal feuds."

The Honorable Andrew J Guilford, United States District Judge
Findings Of Fact And Conclusions Of Law, issued March 31, 2007

[via metafilter.com]

April 10, 2007

Myths and Legends Story Creator


Myths and Legends has a beta version of their online story creator. It appears to be designed for K12 teachers and students, but it might also be useful for storyboarding other types of projects such as exploring narrative structure, mapping out video projects, etc. (I wish I'd found this at the beginning of the semester for my Narrative and New Media class; at this point late in the semester, my students are already well into developing their final projects.)

[via metafilter.com]

IA & ID: The Politics of Names

Putting it's finger on something that's bothered me for years, IDblog summarizes the history and recent discussion of Information Design as/or Information Architecture (with many good links), starting with Richard Saul Wurman's decision to use the term "architecture" instead of "design".

John Denver & Interface Design

Bruce Tognazzini summarizes and analyzes NTSB findings on the airplane crash that killed John Denver in 1997. Bad interface design. Among other serious flaws in the user interface (particularly the readouts and controls for the fuel tanks),

The builder [apparently not Denver] not only placed the valve in a non-standard location, he also rotated it in such a way that turning the valve to the right turned on the left fuel tank. This ensured that a pilot unfamiliar with the aircraft, upon hearing the engine begin missing and spotting in his mirror that the left fuel tank was empty, would attempt to rotate the fuel valve to the right, away from the full tank, guaranteeing his destruction.

Tog's article is from 1999, but I must have missed it.

[via the IxDA list]

April 07, 2007

Best Website By a Non-Website-Designer Award

Goes to ... No One Belongs Here.


Sometimes, rarely, ingenuity beats tech smarts. Very nice. (But I kept thinking, "Damn, her stove is really clean. Let alone the top of her fridge. I hate her.)

Museum of Plagiarism


Treehugger copies this image of Plagiarius, a museum of plagiarism. Treehugger says,

We so want to copy this wonderful idea: A museum in a converted railway building, devoted to plagiarism and knockoffs, that opened on April 1. (We first thought it an elaborate hoax) Since 1977 the Plagiarius gnome has been awarded the best plagiarized object of the year; this year to a coffee jug produced in Germany by Alfi and knocked off by a Guangzhou China company with a leaky jug named Albi. Second prize was a German knockoff of an Italian Moleskine notebook. We don't know who gets the gnome, the plagiarizer or plagiarizee.

From what I can glean from the Plagiarius award page, the award is meant as a bad thing, but I think it's pretty neat.

[via treehugger]

April 06, 2007


I usually try to maintain a relatively apolitical stance in my classes and on my weblog, but this was too good to pass up: YouTube video from CNN of Dick Cheney lurking in the bushes during a White House press conferences, dubbed with YouTube's "Creep". Such a simple juxtaposition.

[via kottke.org]

April 05, 2007

DeLillo's 9/11 Novel at The New Yorker


The New Yorker has a lengthy excerpt from Don DeLillo's upcoming novel, The Falling Man, which features the attacks on the twin towers on 9/11 as a central figure. [Amazon.com pre-order link]

Every time she saw a videotape of the planes she moved a finger toward the power button on the remote. Then sh kept on watching. The second plane coming out of that ice-blue sky, this was the footage that entered the body that seemed to run beneath her skin, the fleeting sprint that carried lives and histories, theirs and hers, everyone’s, int some other distance, out beyond the towers The skies she retained in memory were dramas of cloud and sea storm, or the electric sheen before summer thunder in the city, always belonging to the energies of sheer weather, of what was out there, air masses, water vapor, westerlies. This was different, a clear sky that carried human terror in those streaking aircraft, first one, then the other, the force of men’s intent. Every helpless desperation set against the sky, voices crying to God, and how awful to imagine this, God’s name on the tongues of killers and victims both, first one plane and then the other, the one that was nearly cartoon human, with flashing eyes and teeth, the second plane, the south tower.

He watched with her one time only. She knew she’d never felt so close to someone, watching the planes cross the sky. Standing by the wall, he reached toward the chair and took her hand. She bit her lip and watched. They would all be dead, passengers and crew, and thousands in the towers dead, and she felt it in her body, a deep pause, and thought, There he is, unbelievably, in one of those towers, and now his hand was on hers, in pale light, as though to console her for his dying. He said, “It still looks like an accident, the first one. Even from this distance, way outside the thing, how many days later, I’m standing here thinking it’s an accident.”

“Because it has to be.”

“It has to be,” he said.

“The way the camera sort of shows surprise.”

“But only the first one.”

“Only the first,” she said.

“The second plane, by the time the second plane appears,” he said, “we’re all a little older and wiser."

The image above is more than a little troubling, I realize, but it's also crucial to understanding the state of our world today. And if anyone, DeLillo can map out his postmodern terrain.

[via metafilter.com]

April 04, 2007

House Attack


Too cool. An art installation by Erwin Wurm at MUMOK in Vienna. More at anArchitecture.

The idea for „House Attack“emerged while planning the MUMOK retrospective. „House Attack“ is a single-family house that crashes into the roof of the museum, a house like one that might be built at Blaue Laguene (Blue Lagoon), a prefab housing development in southern Vienna. A symbol for conservative, small-minded longings, the single-family house collides into the museum as an temple to the muses, and the museum itself now also becomes part of the sculpture. „House Attack“confuses our perception of art and everyday reality and in its striking appearance and humorous, dramatic staging of the banal is a perfect example of current developments in the artist's work.

[via anArchitecture]

How to Make a Video Pilot

Channel 101 and Acceptable.tv have eight low-budget, tongue-in-cheek video tutorials on how to make a video pilot episode. Includes Jack Black as the Story Wizard and an Andy Dick cameo as a police car. They're clumsily funny, but also filled with good advice.

[via metafilter.com]

How to Get Your Sabbatical Request Denied

From Overheard in New York

I Expect Steady Progress Toward Quiet Desperation

Seven-year-old: I want to take a year off.
Dad: You are not taking a year off.
Seven-year-old: But I want to party.
Dad: You cannot take a year off to party!

--83rd & Park

April 02, 2007

More offices

Kottke has links to several sites for images of people's offices and desks, including this one to New Yorker Magazine's article on the offices of prominent New Yorkers. (As Kottke notes, Martha Stewart keeps her computer monitor hidden away in a drawer.) (And in an update, Kottke later notes that Stewart just keeps her keyboard in a drawer. I liked the initial version better.)

[via kottke.org]

April 01, 2007

Instructional Video

Sarah Hepola at The Morning News has a compilation of extremely funny (in that ironic sort of way) instructional videos. If you're one of those "teach by counter-example" type of people (like me), these are useful for kickstarting class discussion about tech comm and instructions. (I've been using the Finnish instructional video on disco dancing for years. It works even more effectively if you discuss usability testing before you show the video and ask several students to come to the front to be usability testing subjects.)