there are 37 posts from January 2009

January 30, 2009

i wish i had seen this match


From the Times:

Only the fans were on their feet, cheering with appreciation at shortly after 1 a.m. for the longest recorded match in an Australian Open, and also one of the best. … It was a five-set joint masterwork, created by two left-handed friends and Spanish countrymen with similar games and dissimilar records. But the top-seeded Nadal and 14th-seeded Verdasco have been in rare form here this year. They proved it repeatedly as Friday night stretched into Saturday with most of the crowd of 15,000 in Rod Laver Arena, including Rod Laver himself, remaining in their seats until the bittersweet end: a Verdasco double fault.

January 30, 2009

i made tea

Every so often (and these days it’s more and more often) I come across something that makes me wish I had done that. Telescopic Text is one of those things. (Via Waxy.)

January 30, 2009

funeral for analog tv

The Berkeley Art Museum is hosting a Funeral for Analog TV on Tuesday, February 17 with Bruce Sterling and Paul Saffo.

While Analog Television has not been a good friend to us all, it has been important to each and every one of us. Analog Television is survived by its wife Digital Television, and its second cousin Internet Television. In a soap-operatic melodrama fit for TV itself, Congress has debated changing the official date for the switch to digital television; however this event will proceed on Feb. 17 because we prefer to bury a fresh corpse rather than wait for the walking dead to fall over.

January 30, 2009

define 'enjoyable,' would you, please?

Worth scanning: the list of reader reviews on Goodreads of The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq. Some love it…

An unconventional, provocative book that seduced me into the heart of the most pessimistic social and philosophical conclusions regarding the collapse of the individual as well as the whole society in the face of failed values.

Some hate it…

As offensive as parts of it are (yes, yes, I’m supposed to be offended, and I can see the ambiguity about whether the misogyny and racism expressed is the narrator’s or the protagonist’s - all very dull and adolescent, like a stand-up being ironically racist and sexist), it’s mostly just DULL.

But it’s this review that nudged it into my “holy shit, seriously?” category.

It’s rare to come across a book filled with so pure of hate. At first I thought maybe it’s was just some good old fashioned misogyny, with maybe a little bit of nationalism and Arab hating thrown in, but then something curious happened, the whole of society got thrown into the hate-fest that is this book. Hippies? Hate them a lot. Italians? Yep, really hate them, we don’t say why we just do. Nature? Fuck it!! Sex? Love it but hate it. French Intellectuals? Oh really fuck those guys, especially Deleuze, but make it clear we don’t like any of those guys from the 60’s. 1968? Hahahaha, fucking assholes. Children? Masterbation fodder, or else just more fucking people. Growing old? Really hate it. People lying to themselves that they aren’t old? Hate them so much too. Hate hate hate hate hate. … But through all of this hate and the depressing feelings of the total waste of life we all are, and the simple fact that no one is going to be happy, it will elude us and the desire for happiness will only make us miserable; this book ends up being an interesting, and enjoyable read.

Emphasis mine.

January 27, 2009

we exist as flaws in ancient glass

The sentence fragment “we exist as flaws in ancient glass” will repeat over and over again in John Updike’s obituary, thanks to the modern miracle of newswire syndication services. Here’s a little bit more context surrounding that fragment, which is from the short story “Harv is Plowing Now,” first published in The New Yorker in April of 1966.

Something distant is attracting me. I look up, and the stars in their near clarity press upon my face, bear in upon my guilt and shame with the strange, liquidly strong certainty that, humanly considered, the universe is perfectly transparent: we exist as flaws in ancient glass. And in apprehending this transparence my mind enters a sudden freedom, like insanity; the stars seem to me a roof, the roof of days from which we fall each night and survive, a miracle.

January 26, 2009

thank god my kids are bored by candy land, too

Steven Johnson in BoingBoing on the futility and frustration of Candy Land…

I’m not big into the “moral message” interpretation of pop culture, but plenty of critics of digital games are, so just for the record: what sort of message does Candy Land send to our kids? (And I’m not just talking about all the implicit advertisements for cane sugar products.) It says you are powerless, that your destiny is entirely determined by the luck of the draw, that the only chance you have of winning the game lies in following the rules, and accepting the cards as they come. Who wants to grow up in that kind of universe?

January 25, 2009

when the hand passes over the bulb, your mind goes boom

Levitating, wirelessly powered lightbulb. Via today & tomorrow.

January 25, 2009

on any given sunday

Between now and next (Superbowl) Sunday, you need to read The Atlantic’s profile of Bob Fishman, a director for CBS Sports.

“Ready eight [Lewis from a fresh angle]. Take eight! Ready four [Manning trotting back out to the field]. Take four! Ready five [a field shot from ground level]. Take five! Ready … aaah … eight [Manning from another angle]. Take eight! … Ready fou—five [another shot of Lewis]. Take five! Ready three [play-by-play camera]. Take three. Nice shot, Pat!”

January 23, 2009

ze frank on scale

If you’re not reading Ze’s blog the explicit, you should be. In today’s post, Notes on Scale, he remembers visiting a newspaper printing press as a child….

There was a huge metal drum that spun so fast that the just-inked newspaper pages were a blur of streaked grey. I could feel that drum. The floor shook. The noise was enormous. I imagined that if that drum became unhinged it would tear a neat-violent path through the whole city. It was awesome, in the old sense of the word. But then I looked down at my watch. And I saw that tiny little second hand.


The fact that those two moments could coexist was overwhelming. Almost nauseating. And I am drawn to this feeling in the same way that I can’t help biting a sore lip.

January 23, 2009

i really hope someone's working on the screenplay

What am I thinking, it’s Hollywood. Of course someone’s working on the screenplay.

For three years, the thieves crept into some of the poshest homes in the most exclusive enclaves in the nation. … The thieves hauled away more than $10 million worth of valuables and cash from 150 homes in upscale neighborhoods such as Bel Air, Pacific Palisades and Beverly Hills, police said. Homes of Hollywood celebrities, professional athletes and multimillionaires were hit. According to CNN affiliate KABC, country music stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw and former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing were among the victims.

Via CNN.

January 23, 2009

pregnant ladies at bath house raves

Nice mini-interview with novelist Heidi Julavits in the Times’ Paper Cuts blog.

Whose books are shelved around yours in bookstores? How does it feel to be sitting between them?

I’m frequently shelved between Joyce and Kafka, and I’m trying to take aesthetic cues from this sandwiching — I’m writing lyrically maximal allegories about the absurdly doomed human condition of pregnant ladies at bath house raves.

January 22, 2009

ubiquitous photography

Joanne McNeil at Tomorrow Museum writes about the photo of the sea of cellphone cameras at the Inaugural Youth Ball.

We like to remember people and events as static images, framed in our minds. And we want to remember images from precisely the vantage point where we stood at that place that night. Even knowing a million other people captured the same thing and we can search for it on Flickr, on Tweetpic, on anything really — it’s not the same if we didn’t snap it.

January 22, 2009

the oscar piracy data's in!

Yay, the Oscar nominations were announced! Which means that Waxy’s annual survey of pirated Oscar-nominated films is here as well!

Out of 26 nominated films, an incredible 23 films are already available in DVD quality on nomination day, ripped either from the screeners or the retail DVDs. This is the highest percentage since I started tracking.

January 22, 2009

kk on renting v. ownership

Kevin Kelly has a thought-provoking piece on the long term trends of “renting” v. “owning” on Technium especially in the context of goods becoming more and more digital. This is the graf that particularly caught my attention, however…

As more items are invented and manufactured – while the total number of hours in a day to enjoy them remains fixed – we spend less and less time per item. In other words the long-term trend in our modern lives is that ALL goods and services will be short-term use. Therefore all goods and services are candidates for rental, sharing, and the social commons.

While time is fixed1, the number of different ways that we can spend that time increase, which means that unless there is some natural floor on the span of attention, we’ll be spending less and less time on each individual activity. “ALL goods and services will be short-term use” is a useful lens to think about our relationship with physical goods, esp. in the context of the three Rs of green that are drilled into the heads of every child – reduce, reuse, recycle.

1 Except on Lost, of course.

January 21, 2009

today's the lull

  • Yesterday: Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama Obama.
  • Today: (lull)
  • Tomorrow: Lost Lost Lost Lost Lost Lost Lost Lost.
January 21, 2009

they did it again

It could be right out of an episode of The West Wing. From the Times Caucus blog

Mr. Obama and Mr. Roberts stood in the Map Room of the White House at 7:35 p.m. and recited the oath before a small group of advisers and a handful of reporters.

January 21, 2009

can't wait to see the nebbishy con man again

OK, so the Lost chatter began today (what I meant with my last post was that tomorrow will be all about the Lost chatter; today would just be the quiet before the storm). Via David, this mock interview with the Oceanic Six

Well, we lived on the beach, mostly, except for the time we lived in the cave with the skeletons and the time we lived in the secret underground bunker with the lending library and the time we lived in the village built by the scientists that the people who don’t age gassed to death with the help of their leader, my third nemesis, the nebbishy con man with spine cancer, which we took over when the freighter people came to kill everybody.

January 20, 2009

right there on the front page

I like this nav, for obvious reasons.


And of course now there’s a canonical example of how best to integrate your blog into your website: put it on the front page. It’s what the Commander in Chief does.

See also, however, Wired’s piece Can Obama Really Reboot the Whitehouse, which covers issues related to departmental communication policies, commenting and the first amendment, the presidential records act, etc.

January 19, 2009

will obama call on helen thomas first?

Somehow I completely missed the fact that in Bush’s final press conference last week, he completely ignored Helen Thomas, who was sitting in the middle of the front row with her arm raised. Ouch.

January 19, 2009

font-family declarations are your new bicycle

I was wondering why Kottke looked the way it did1, all Helvetica’d up; I thought Jason would be a bit more original than that. Then I viewed source and quickly wrote up a whole post in my head about how his font-family declaration is specifying Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ Whitney2 as the default font.  My shocking post title was going to be something along the lines of “It’ll cost you $499 to read Kottke the way God intended.” But then he went and posted all about it himself, scooping me on scooping him, the bastard.

1 For the record, I like the blue border, and the descriptive header, and the site when rendered in Whitney or Myriad.

2 And here’s the conspiracy theory / hater shiv between the ribs, just for kicks. Jason’s blogged an awful lot about Hoefler & Frere-Jones over the years; do you think he paid for Whitney? Or could this be a way for Hoefler or Frere-Jones to make their way about town saying “Hey, bring up, wouldja? I need to check something…” and then shouting “Hey! Did you pay for Whitney???”

January 19, 2009

b0xxy transcription

“Ok hi, heh, ok heh. My name is b0xxy. Most of you know me as um oom ugh um most of you know me as b0xxy. I suppose if you’re watching this you probably know me as b0xxy, but um ugh ugh most of you don’t know me as moldy lunchbox…”

Andy Baio transcribes this b0xxy video in the comment thread of this post by Rex Sorgatz. At least, it looks like Andy did it; maybe he outsourced it to Mechanical Turk? (More b0xxy context, which I’m sure is exactly what you’re looking for on inauguration eve.)

Update: Andy points out in the comments that he pulled the transcription from Encyclopedia Dramatica. Which, you know, is sorta like Mechanical Turk.

January 18, 2009

noah wilson's partial landscapes

It was worth the trip to the Headlands Center for the Arts today to see the Partial Landscapes drawings by Noah Wilson, in the Front and Center show. If you find yourself out that way – enjoying the beach, taking in the view or saving the baby seals at the Marine Mammal Center, stop in and check them out. Here’s one to tease you; they’re obviously much better in person.


January 18, 2009

america america

From Ethan Canin’s new novel America America

One of the hallmarks of our politics now is that we tend to elect those who can campaign over those who can lead. … For a man on the rise in politics, power comes first through character – that combination of station and forcefulness that produces not just intimidation, which is power’s crudest form, but flattery, too, which is one of its more refined. After that, power begins to grow from its own essence, rising no longer exclusively from the man but from the office itself. And this is where some balance must be found between its attainment and its allotment, between the unquenchable desire in any politician to rise, and the often humbling requirement that one’s station must now be used to some benefit. And here, of course, is where corruption begins; for power contains an irresistible urge to further itself: there is always the next race. But when finally there isn’t any more, when at last there is no more ambition to quell, no more inchoate striving to follow as a guidestar, then a politician must make a transformation that he may have no more ability to make than he has to grow wings and fly. He must change his personal ambition into ambition for his country.

January 15, 2009

yay cloud, episode 110

Had my Macbook go poof on me this morning, and since there was a spare in the office, I was up and running again before lunch.  Mail via IMAP, address book and calendar sync’d from MobileMe, etc.  The only thing that’s taking real time is moving photos and music from one machine to the other; I’m not quite ready to give up on local storage for those.

January 15, 2009

more more more more!

How many people do you think are building just what Matt Haughey describes in his screed against downloading a Twitter client?

Imagine if you had a permanent desktop application that featured Google Reader scrolling up every new post on every blog you follow combined with every new link on delicious from people you trust and every photo added to flickr by your friends plus tons of instant messages sent to all, constantly streaming with no end in sight.

January 15, 2009

daisy on dodgeball

Daisy Barringer laments celebrates the demise of Dodgeball.

I do have one amazing story that would never have happened if not for Dodgeball. I was on a date with The Boy I’m Not Dating many months ago, and he Dodgeballed our location. Minutes later, who showed up? His stalker ex-girlfriend. Fucking brilliant.

January 14, 2009


Andrew Sullivan on his talk with Obama:

Lots of emails from readers asking about the chat with the president-elect this morning. It was totally off the record and I’m a stickler for those rules. I can say, however, the following: it’s hard to express the relief I feel that this man will be the president soon. I realize that’s what I feel above all else: relief.

I’m looking forward to Tuesday.

January 12, 2009

google: it's like tivo for the web

How many pitches have you heard where the product was destined to be “TiVo for the Web?” (Hint: Google says about 7,300. Your number may vary.) Now TiVo doesn’t want to be TiVo for television, but instead the Google of TV.

So now, if you want to pitch your idea as TiVo for the web, be prepared to turn your product into Google for the web, which, you know, already exists.

January 09, 2009

going up in flames...flame-broiled deliciousness, that is!

My favorite thing on the Internet right now is this video of Mike unfriending me, confirming my street value of 1/10th of one Whopper.

(alas this is gone from the internet)

And as McCreath writes in his post on the Mule blog about the Burger King campaign, “Why the hell am I using “friend” as a verb? Stupid Web 2.0.”

January 07, 2009

on retailing, bazaar hosting and the directing of ire

Caveat: I recognize that this is totally half-baked, but am optimizing for speed over fully-bakedness.

So there’s the requisite amount of noise today on blogs & Twitter about the price tag for “upgrading” your library to non-DRM’d music. Freedom-loving music buyers are directing ire at Apple for double dipping — charging them again for the tracks they’ve already paid for.

Leave aside for a moment whether said freedom-loving music buyer is in the right. That argument isn’t worth having.) Instead, let’s look at this a bit differently: what if the iTunes music store had been architected like the App Store? Where would the ire be directed then?

In the App Store, Apple’s “just” a channel, the host of the bazaar. When you buy an app, you buy from the developer, and they’re the ones that not only build the product, but set the price and do the marketing. And this means that when Apple comes along with iPhone 3.0 software, or a new device form factor, or even just some new feature that necessitates a new version of the app, the developer is the one who makes the decision about whether or not to charge the user for that new version.

And in the music store, Apple’s a more classic retailer — the manufacturer of the product (in this case the label, and yes, I know that’s the bug here) isn’t as important as the label on the product (artist name) or the retailer itself. The analogy isn’t quite parallel, obviously, but posit for a minute for that the ability to sell DRM-free music is a new “feature” of the platform, and that the content on that platform needed to be upgraded to take advantage of that new feature. Since the manufacturer / label is subjugated to the retailer / Apple, the decision to charge users an additional $0.30 per track for the upgrade appears to consumers to be Apple’s decision, regardless of whatever boardroom negotations had to happen to reach the place where they could offer this service.

I know there are a ton of historical reasons why the music store doesn’t work like the App Store (major labels, RIAA, fear, doubt, greed, ego, etc.). But the difference in the way the App Store works couldn’t be starker — they provide a valuable service (distribution, discovery, promotion and integration), extract rents for that service (30%), and then get out of the way. (Well, sorta.)

Here’s the point (finally!): if the music store worked like the App Store, the ire of the freedom-loving music buyer wouldn’t be directed at Apple today; instead it would be directed at the labels who chose to charge their listeners to convert the music they’ve already paid for into a format they should have offered from day one.

January 07, 2009

i'd love to see the distribution centers layered on top

Via Gizmodo (which means you’ve probably all seen this already, unless you’ve tuned them out for the duration of CES lest you suffer from the disastrous combination of the shinies and end-of-days ennui) comes this wonderful animated map from Flowing Data that plots the spread growth of Wal-Mart from 1964 to the present. Be sure to zoom in for full effect.

Look at all those stoooooores.

January 05, 2009

the last first world problem

This has to be the ultimate[1] definition of “first world problem:” Matt (as in “where the hell is”) Harding had to book two zero-gravity plane flights to film a snippet for his ongoing project because on the first one his hard drive-based camcorder failed.

Like all modern hard drives, the Sony SR1’s hard drive has a drop-detection system. When it thinks it’s falling, the hard drive heads park themselves to prevent damage upon impact. Unfortunately, in zero gravity, the camcorder always thinks it’s falling.

[1] “Ultimate” in both senses of the word, because from here on out all problems identified as first world problems will be judged against this one.

January 05, 2009

just who are the educators?

Via Donn Zaretsky’s Art Law Blog, this news great news story that I somehow missed on New Year’s: a copper statue valued at $10,000 was stolen from Bernard Madoff’s Palm Beach home, and then returned with an attached note.

“Bernie the Swindler, Lesson: Return stolen property to rightful owners. Signed by - The Educators.”

The story at was illustrated with a photo of the statue (unremarkable, frankly) and one of Madoff…but unfortunately not of the note itself. That’s what I wanted to see…along with an in-depth profile of The Educators, of course.

Also, I kind of got one of those frightened kicks out of the fact that Zearetsky linked back to me in his latest round up post on deaccessioning; I’m an observant sideliner and the fact that I’m still undecided doesn’t mean much. Nothing to see here, move right along.

January 05, 2009

harold liked nine kinds of pie

So tonight I’m putting the kids to bed and the youngest picked Harold and the Purple Crayon from the shelf as the book she wanted read to her. You know the one, where Harold walks along and makes up the story with his crayon as he goes, ending as he “made his bed, got in it, and drew up the covers.” (The pun doesn’t escape the four year old.)

The iPhone was in the pocket, and I vaguely remembered an animated version of Harold. So about a minute later we were watching this.

I’m old enough to think the book’s still better (the kids preferred the animated version), but if there was any remaining doubt that we’re living in the future, let that doubt be cast aside.

This magical family moment was brought to you by the letter H and the color purple.

January 05, 2009

deaccessioning to pay the bills

Spurred on by the troubles at MOCA and other institutions, there’s a debate / discussion happening about museums and the practice of “deaccessioning,” or selling off art works in order to keep the doors open. Generally accepted practice is that it’s OK to sell off art if the proceeds are used to buy more art…not to cover ongoing operating expenses. This will be the topic of the year in art / museum land, because at the core of the discussion is the nature and role of the museum itself, and the relationship the museum has with the work it contains and the audience it serves.

Here are a few choice links and excerpts to get you up to speed.

Jori Finkel’s piece in the New York Times did the usual tennis-match back and forth on pros and cons, with the National Academy in New York as the ground to the debate’s figure…

Many museum trustees are themselves collectors and may have been tempted during the recent art-market boom to think of art as a commodity to be bought and sold at will. That attitude may explain why so many museum directors are using their trade group to build a strong firewall around the idea of a permanent collection. They are speaking not just to each other but to their own trustees.

I loved Berkeley professor Michael O’Hare’s take on the language around “deaccessioning.”

Museum people and art people like to call this deaccessioning, not selling, perhaps because the fine art world is so holy and refined and ineffable and generally ever so much more so than the rest of human enterprise that it just wouldn’t do to use a term so crude and trade-soiled. Gentlemen do not buy and sell, after all, any more than they write, paint, or sing; they have people to do that for them. I like to call it, um, selling, because it looks to me like exchanging a chattel for money, but someday I may acquire the polish and patina of a refined person and learn better manners.

Donn Zaretsky on his Art Law Blog on the fuzziness of institutional budgeting and higher-level goals:

Another question worth exploring is whether it’s sensible to draw such a sharp distinction between the acquisition of art, on the one hand, and other ways museums spend money, on the other. Take, for example, Whitechapel Gallery, only because it was just in the news earlier this week. It recently completed a $20 million renovation and expansion — a “desperately needed” makeover. “The added space will allow the gallery to remain open continuously, whereas before it had to close about 10 weeks a year when installing new art. Its educational space was too small to accommodate even an average-size school class, and the former library had no wheelchair access.” Is it not possible to see those things as every bit as important to the institution’s mission as the acquisition of additional artwork? Is keeping the museum open an extra 10 weeks a year not a good art-related reason? Does expanding space for education not count either? Why should we automatically assume that buying art always justifies a deaccessioning, but that no other use of proceeds — no matter how important to an institution’s mission — ever can?

Richard Lacayo of Time riffs on Zaretsky

Zaretsky makes the best developed case I’ve seen for easing up the taboo on deaccessioning, and I might even be more inclined to agree with him were it not for one thing. If the profession didn’t discourage museums from using their collections as a piggy bank, I suspect a lot of them would be doing it more often, and not bothering with the hard work of fund raising. Zaretsky calls this a slippery slope argument, which it is, but one that I find compelling because in recent years we’ve seen a number of institutions already going down that slope.

And Tyler Green couldn’t disagree more with Lacayo and Zaretsky..

If an institution, such as the National Academy or someone else, can’t operate effectively enough to stay open, it should close. Then it should disperse its collection to non-profit institutions — to other museums. This way art collections held in a public trust remain held in a public trust. … The perpetuation of a failed institution isn’t what’s important: The art is. It’s imperative that organizations do what is best for the art, for the public, and for the legacy of the artists whose work is in the collection. Sometimes that means closing.

This is a debate worth watching; I’m still undecided on the issue.

January 02, 2009

the dark knight and changing aspect ratios

Last night we watched The Dark Knight on Apple TV (it’s just as good the second time around), and noticed something new – the aspect ratio occasionally switched from 2.4:1 (classic widescreen with the black bars) to 1.78:1 (which filled the entire display). Turns out that the 1.78:1 shots (mostly action sequences) were filmed with IMAX cameras, and for the home video release (at least on Blu-Ray and AppleTV) they kept the aspect ratio intact for those scenes. I guess we should have seen the movie in IMAX to begin with.

There’s a long and involved thread at AV Science Forum about the aspect ratio switch on the BluRay release, complete with a poll (“Should studios release movies with inconsistent aspect ratio switching?”). (My take? Yes. It totally worked.) And I’m sure this won’t be the last time we see this in action — Slashfilm had an item recently about Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan saying that he would love to shoot an entire feature with IMAX cameras.

January 02, 2009


I’m a fan of DestroyFlickr, so when I read today on Swiss Miss that Jonnie Hallman released DestroyTwitter, I installed straightaway.  It’s still beta, so YMMV, but I’m finding to be a highly polished, wonderful exercise in “app by control freak.” You can’t customize a damned thing – not the background color, not the font, not the app’s behavior of popping an upside-down toast message.  You can’t even resize it.

Which is why I was surprised to even see a preference screen. Unless the pref pane is just a stub for more things coming (Please, no!), and thus something needed to be there, I would have rather it be an entirely preference free app.  Unless, of course, this lone checkbox is a way for Jonnie to say “Hey, you know what? You thought there would be prefrences there, and there aren’t. Either enjoy the app the way it is, or uninstall it. Up to you.”

Or maybe I’m overthinking the whole thing.