July 10, 1999
Le petite victoires. As an ignorant American, I've had trouble
spectating soccer and getting beyond the notion, "If no one
is scoring, nothing is happening." I watched the women's world
cup final in a crowded bar, and though the play was scoreless, the
patrons exhibited far more enthusiasm and empathy than I'd witnessed
viewing any sporting event. Soccer is a game of small victories,
where any triumph, be it a solid slide tackle, a run for the goal,
a well-executed series of passes, or what have you, is rightfully
a cause for celebration. After the game I told a friend my realization,
and she replied, "That's why soccer is the game most like life."
July 9, 1999
Media follies. After a little aimless digging around just now,
I found Daniel
Radosh's Media Moments
buried in McSweeney's. Funny, insightful, and refreshingly
Multi-channel info reception revisited. On July
5, I wrote up some thoughts on processing different streams
of information simultaneously. On July 6, Brigitte
extended the notion with an adjunct on immediate gratification,
that we want lots of information and we want it now, which
I totally agree with. In thinking about it more, the notion of control
becomes key. A friend was lamenting about how she can't watch DVDs
with her brother anymore, because he's always switching between
the normal soundtrack and the commentary track. Her brother yearns
for a heightened information barrage, and the remote control for
the DVD slakes his thirst.
Banner ads and buying patterns. Upside, a publication I usually
detest, actually has a great
piece about buying patterns
on the Web, and the fallacy of targeting the experienced consumer.
The points are backed up with actual data, if you can believe
it. [via Eatonweb]
I'll take CeWebrities for $600, Alex. I've put up the latest
game of Webpardy!, the
web trivia game show.
Sign this. Flash 4 allows for heightened degrees of interactivity,
and to see some nifty examples, head MONO*Crafts
and don't forget to sign the guestbook.
July 8, 1999
Emotional robots. Regular readers know of my fandom of the movie
Fast, Cheap, & Out of Control, and the work of featured
roboticist Rodney Brooks. This article
on the robots Kismet and Cog
discusses, among other things, the importance of triggering
emotion in getting robots to learn. [Found via Robot
A formalist's delight! "Exercises
in Style" is a clever
study of the comics form. An eyelid-tuggingly mundane scenario is
depicted in a variety of styles (around 15 so far with more to come),
showing a remarkable degree of ingenuity.
I feel your pain.
Austin Powers 2 is a pedophilic fantasy. In the same way
you have to wonder about Jerry Falwell for sexualizing a giant purple
fantasy creature, the motivations of the man writing the ChildCare
Action Project are similarly
curious. In describing the opening scene of AP2, the author
notes, "the stretch of the tendons in his crotch was visible."
July 7, 1999
Freedom is slavery. This Slate column
on bloatware is rightfully
getting scathed everywhere.
The tone of the Slate piece hearkens back to the movie Wall Street.
"Bloat, for lack of a better word, is good. Bloat is right.
And to blame bloatware on you and I, the consumers, borders on evil.
As Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen commented
at Web99, Microsoft
does listen to their customers--too much. A good designer
does not simply do what their customers tell them to do. Good designers
study their customers to see what they actually do, and design
features from there. Design-by-customer is reminiscent of The
Simpson's episode, "Brother, Where Art Thou?" where
Homer designs the perfect car for the average man, turning out a
feature-laden total monstrosity.
The magic of the internet working for me. Well, I received a
number of responses to my Thermos(R) query, most of them figuring
that you don't want a face full of "pre-crotch-lawsuit McDonald's
temperature" steam (as Andrew
Ghrosgal put it).
The most right-sounding answer came from Mark Bernstein of Eastgate
Systems (makers of serious
hypertext technologies I've never been offered free use of):
Thermos flasks work by maintaining a vacuum in between inner and the
outer flasks. Heat conduction across a vacuum is very poor, so hot things stay hot and cold things stay cold.
But, whenever you pour something hot into a cold surface, the surface expands. This creates little areas of stress
when the coffee hits the thermos. It's just possible that the surface might crack. If a hole developed, there's
one atmosphere of pressure (and hot coffee) on one side, and no pressure on the other. The atmosphere (and coffee)
will push very hard to get into the vacuum, and with all the pushing and shoving going on, some of the coffee might
be propelled violently out of the flask.
This was more of a problem in the old days, when thermos flasks were made of silvered glass, and it's still a hazard
for chemists who work the liquid
July 6, 1999
Um, I'm a tad scared. I recently acquired a Thermos(R), and the second dictum under "Use and Care"
Do not look directly into flask when filling, keep at arms length.
Can someone please explain why I
shouldn't peer into my flask when filling? Is this like, "Do
not taunt Happy Fun Ball"?
Pucker-poor. The 07.01.99
mention of George W. Bush's
lack of a lower lip reminded me of "guerrilla artist"
Robbie Conal's classic poster "Men With
No Lips." What
is it with lipless Republicans? Oh, and click around Conal's
site--I was fortunate enough to live where his wheatpasted art was
a common site. If you haven't seen it, I think it will be quite
July 5, 1999
Information density. In my head I've been ruminating on the
qualities of interactive form, and recently been thinking about
a particular quality, that of multi-channel information reception.
By this I mean processing different, and perhaps disparate, streams
of information simultaneously. In the computer environment, this
is typified by multi-tasking--scanning a number of different web
documents in different windows, while writing and reading email,
while chatting with folks over ICQ. The WIMP GUI has acclimated
millions to such information floods, to the point where the passive
reception of traditional media is a frustrating drip.
In response to this frustration, traditional media have increasingly
employed multi-channel delivery, and such techniques are potentially
revealing. Within television, the obvious examples are Mystery
Science Theater 3000,
and Butthead. Each
of these shows layers new information (in the form of factoids or
jokes) over an existing product that had at one point sufficed to
entertain. Sports broadcasting overlays a stream of data on the
event, about both whatever you're watching as well as other games
happening at that time. The apotheosis of this trend is the Bloomberg
Channel, shoveling as much content as is feasible on a cathode ray
I'm not an active patron of theater, but I have seen The
Blue Man Group, who use
red "silent radio" LED displays and video screens to simultaneously
provide different voices of commentary around the main action.
You know I couldn't have a formalist discussion of media without
bringing up comics. Perhaps pioneers in the multi-channel form
were the original MAD comics, in particular the art of Bill Elder.
Crammed into every inch of the frame were visual and verbal gags
having nothing to do with the story, but enhancing the reading pleasure
immensely. Mort Drucker famously continued the tradition, and Sergio
Aragones' marginalia took it in new directions. Considering the
chronology, it might be worthwhile to explore how MAD influence
There are numerous further examples (I haven't even touched on cinema),
but I think you get the point. What I didn't realize until I just
now wrote this was how much this multi-channel information delivery
was used for the sake of humor. In any media, humor is typically
best when it somehow comments on form (Sherlock,
Jr., anyone?), such
that you know a form has matured when it can support funny content.
Humor is still extremely nascent in interactive media, suggesting
we've got quite a bit of development to go.
July 3, 1999
Scott McCloud Unplugged. Scott McCloud made some enlightening
comments about comics and the web in his talk at Web99, particularly
with respect to how the boundlessness of the new medium will
free comics from the constraints of print. This was demonstrated
concretely by the unrolling of a hardcopy of his "My Obsession
with Chess." Click
here to see what one really
long comic looks like. (It's a fabulous image.)
Werner Herzog is an odd man. [All film titles link to IMDB,
natch.] The mention here
of Les Blank's documentary Werner
Herzog Eats His Shoe,
inspired a few thoughts. First, Herzog's Aguirre,
the Wrath of God
(Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes in the original German) is
a brilliant and haunting cinematic work (such that I fear seeing
it on video will dramatically lessen its impact).
Second, Les Blank's other documentary about Herzog, Burden
of Dreams is a remarkable
study of a descent into madness. Shot as a chronicle of the making
of Fitzcarraldo, Burden
is fascinating to size up with Hearts
of Darkness, as both
follow filmmakers becoming totally consumed by projects involving
boats going down long rivers. Because of the renown of its subject,
Hearts got tons of press and acclaim, but what Burden
shows you is that Coppola is a namby-pamby Pollyanna compared to
increasingly frighteningly unbalanced Herzog
[that links to the best site I could find about the man].
July 2, 1999
Oh my, this is rich. Someone has signed up MetaBaby as a
member of adultfriendfinder.com. So you can read email
that is meant to be sent to a 28-year-old Asian bi female looking
for alternative relationships. Fun! (And, sure, it's the cyber equivalent
of shooting fish in a barrel, but, hey, cheap laughs are still laughs!)