'Oral histories that are completely fabricated have value.'

April 16th, 2014

Talking to The Verge in the wake of the publication of her book It's Complicated, danah boyd talks a lot of sense about how people interact online:

People seem very afraid of their kids creating different identities on different social networks. Why are teens doing this, and should their parents be concerned?

No, in fact, this is one of the weird oddities about Facebook. Let's go back to Usenet. People had multiple nicks, they had a field day with this. They would use these multiple "identities" to put forward different facets of who they were. It wasn't to say that they were trying to be separate individuals. Who you are sitting with me today in this professional role with a shared understanding of social media is different than how you talk to your mom. She may not understand the same things you and I are talking about. At the same time, if you were talking about your past, I'd have none of it and your mother would have a lot of it. This is this moment where you think about how you present yourself differently in these different contexts, not because you're hiding, but because you're putting forward what's relevant there.

The idea of real names being the thing that leads you – that's not actually what leads us in the physical space. We lead with our bodies. We adjust how we present our bodies by situation. We dress differently, we sit differently, we emote differently. [...]

Call me nostalgic, but I'm always pleased to see references to Usenet. We might not have called it 'social media',1 but there's a lot to be learned from the experience of all those people back before the web was even a thing, having thousands of shared social spaces to navigate. Of course Usenet also blessed us with Canter and Siegel, but that was part of the learning curve too.

  1. And in fairness it wasn't quite the same beast as MySpace or Twitter or Facebook – but mostly in respects that were for the better. A choice of flexible, powerful third party client software running on a variety of platforms. No single centralised authority policing the discussions – especially outside the Big 8 hierarchy. The best online discussions I ever had or saw happened on Usenet. Also some of the biggest flamewars, but that's what killfiles and scorefiles were for.

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Do Read

April 15th, 2014

TL;DR Wikipedia Is both concise and accurate:

[Via LinkMachineGo!]

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The Adjustable Cosmos

April 12th, 2014

The Adjustable Cosmos:

In the fifteenth century, three worthies come together to tackle the Emperor's disastrous horoscope. They lift themselves to space in their medieval vessel, braving the terrors and wonders of the of the Ptolemaic universe, to reach for the stars…

[Via MetaFilter]

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I Kill Giants

April 11th, 2014

Tasha Robinson makes a strong argument that Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura's 2008 graphic novel I Kill Giants would work well as an animated film:

[...] I Kill Giants starts in a familiar environment, in this case a fifth-grade classroom on Career Day, where a parade of parents is explaining their jobs to the students. But one kid is reading a book instead of paying attention. When challenged, she says she doesn't need to think about her future career, because she already has one: "I find giants. I hunt giants. I kill giants."

This is Barbara Thorson, a defiant, self-possessed kid with a huge but melancholy personal agenda, and one of the best, most unheralded comics characters of the 2000s. Barbara comes across as weird and immature in some ways, like in her habit of wearing cutesy animal ears to school, and the way her inability to rein in her resentment makes her problems into everyone else's problems. She's a problem kid, but she still comes across as a bit of a wish-fulfillment character in her sureness and her oddball version of nobility. In an era defined by insecure, self-questioning, or clumsy teen-girl heroes, Barbara stands out for her utter fearlessness in the face of generic threats. The problems that define so many school stories – mean teachers, clueless administrators, bullies, trivial concerns like grades or popularity – don't mean anything to Barbara. She's a self-proclaimed giant-slayer. Just incidentally, she's a self-proclaimed giant-slayer in a world where there don't appear to be any giants.

I Kill Giants was one of the last series I finished before I took a break from comics a few years ago and I hadn't thought about it in quite a while, but I've got to say that a good animated version of I Kill Giants would be quite something. Or, failing that, I guess I'll just have to read it again.1

  1. But once I open that box I just know that I'll end up getting sucked back in. Hopeless Savages. Local. Nextwave. Phonogram. Then there's Hellboy: I gather that Mike Mignola is back both writing and doing the art on the current series. How can I resist? Dammit, I can't afford a comics habit again!

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A Really Bad Idea

April 9th, 2014

Charlie Stross has yet another bad idea:

Now, it occurs to me that the Republican Party over in the USA have a bit of a problem coming up in 2016, namely who to run against Barack Obama's successor. Whoever they are. (Hilary is looking a little old and Al's cardboard has mildew.) But the RNC isn't in good shape. They don't have anybody out front with the charisma of the Gipper (dead or alive), or the good ole' boy appeal of George W. Bush: just a bunch of old white guys in dark suits who're obsessed with the size of their wallets and the contents of every woman's uterus, or vice versa. Guys who make Karl Rove look like Johnny Depp.

And so it occurred to me (after my fifth pint of IPA) to spin my speculative political satire around the fact that there is only one man on the global political scene today who has what it takes to be a plausible Republican candidate for President Of The United States at the next presidential election. […]

The name he's come up with isn't remotely feasible as an actual candidate for president, but then that's not exactly the point, is it?

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Celebrities that Look Like Matresses

April 8th, 2014

Celebrities that Look Like Matresses.

Some of these are just mean…

Alan Cumming

Hilarious, still, but mean.

[Via kottke.org]

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Disco Is Not Dead

April 7th, 2014

What if the Moon was a Disco Ball?

That looks so downright bizarre that we just have to make it happen some day. Think of the advertising potential.

[Via jwz]

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A GIRL NAMED ELASTIKA

April 6th, 2014

A GIRL NAMED ELASTIKA is a lovely, exuberant little animation:

Be sure to stay until the very end to meet the real heroine of the piece.

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Pretty pictures

April 6th, 2014

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Best of Björk

April 6th, 2014

Perusing a recent Guardian article listing 10 of the best tracks by Björk, I came across a mention in comments of her performing a David Arnold arrangement of You Only Live Twice. I'd never heard this before (for some reason it didn't show up on David Arnold's Shaken and Stirred album of Bond theme cover versions) and it's fantastic:

That said, I'm not sure that this would make it into my personal Top 10 Björk tracks; not a slight on this performance, more a consequence of Björk having spent twenty-odd years making distinctive and frequently surprising music so that there's a lot of competition for the honour.

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Moses Supposes…

April 4th, 2014

義足のMoses is pretty much the cutest thing I've seen all week:

[Via MetaFilter]

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Here kitty, kitty…

April 3rd, 2014

Just some kitties…

Tigers galore

Follow the link for several more pictures of a pack of happy, if slightly peckish, tigers frolicking in the snow in China.

[Via More Words, Deeper Hole]

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Lucy

April 2nd, 2014

It's entirely possible that Luc Besson's Lucy, a story of an unwilling drug mule who inadvertently gets dosed with the contents of her package and finds herself gaining what amount to superpowers – will be completely terrible. Goodness knows, the man is a phenomenally uneven director. But then consider how much stylish, pulpy fun his best work has given the world…

.. and contemplate this trailer, and the cast involved …

… and tell me that doesn't look like a pretty fun way to spend a couple of hours of your time.

I know, Besson's best work is mostly back in the 1990s (though I really enjoyed The Extraordinary Adventures… when I finally caught up with it last year) and Morgan Freeman's presence in a film isn't exactly an infallible sign of a quality product, but still. This may not be good, but it sure looks like good fun.1

[Via The Dissolve (again!)]

  1. And yes, the "we only use 10% of the brain" schtick is awful science that would normally make me cringe. But delivered by Morgan Freeman, in the midst of an unhinged Besson action-fest, I'm willing to let it pass.

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Story Of Your Life

April 2nd, 2014

Good news from Hollywood: Amy Adams In Talks To Star In Alien Movie 'Story Of Your Life'

[...] Amy Adams is in early talks to team with Prisoners helmer Denis Villeneuve on Story Of Your Life, the sci-fi thriller based on a short story by Ted Chiang, a top contemporary author in the genre. Scripted by Eric Heisserer, the thriller takes place after alien crafts land around the world. An expert linguist is recruited by the military to determine whether they come in peace or are a threat. As she learns to communicate with the aliens, she begins experiencing vivid flashbacks that become the key to unlocking the greater mystery about the true purpose of their visit.

Two important points to keep in mind. First, Ted Chiang's story is a lot more interesting and unconventional than that summary makes it sound.1 Second, the role Adams is up for would suit her down to the ground. If the screenwriter and director can translate Chiang's story into something that works on screen, Amy Adams could absolutely find herself finally picking up that elusive Best Actress Oscar.

Or, alternatively, this one goes back into development hell six months from now, Amy Adams gets her reward for another performance, and Ted Chiang never gets to become a household name.2

[Via The Dissolve]

  1. See this old interview with Chiang, published back in 2002 just after his first collection of short stories, including the one that is being adapted for Adams to play in, was published for a sense of how wonderfully varied his work is.
  2. Which, in fairness, would quite possibly be fine by him.

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QOTD

March 31st, 2014

I'm going to have to steal John Naughton's Quote of the Day:

"Technology is everything that doesn't work yet".

— Danny Hillis

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Dallas Storm Timelapse

March 30th, 2014

Dallas Storm Timelapse:

(For a view from above of a similar phenomenon, see this NASA Earth Observatory feature on images of lightning storms taken from the ISS. Only still images, but impressively big ones.)

[Via The Awl]

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'We live in a galaxy with magic space wizards!'

March 30th, 2014

An Open Letter From a Death Star Architect:

Over the past week, I've gotten a lot of guff from people I considered to be friends and colleagues about how my "shoddy" design would be the downfall of our entire government. [...]

[Via fuck yeah, science fiction!]

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Expertise is a two-edged sword

March 30th, 2014

You're The Expert, Can You Or Can You Not Do This?

A very productive meeting indeed, I think you'll agree.1

[Via The Tao of Mac]

  1. I mean, the expert neither garrotted his bosses nor took his own life with a sharpened paperclip. And his reward for such exemplary behaviour is to get to do this all again. And again. And again…

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Christopher Walken Dance Now

March 22nd, 2014

Christopher Walken Dance Now: a neat concept, greatly enhanced by some sharp editing…

[Via MetaFilter]

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Un(fore)seen consequences

March 21st, 2014

Power lines look like terrifying bursts of light to animals:

What does a power line look like? To humans, they don't look like much – just strands of metal draping from towering poles. But for many animals, they're terrifying.

They see power lines as lines of bursting, popping lights. That's because they can see ultraviolet light that's outside the spectrum of human vision. [...]

[Via jwz]

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