April 28th, 2012
I meant to post this last week: Carrie Manolakos covering Creep by Radiohead.
I could do with hearing a recording where her voice is more prominent and the piano (a lot) less so, but this is still a hell of a cover version.
Whatever you do, be sure to keep listening to the 2:25 mark – which is to say the point where it goes from classy to pretty fantastic.
April 27th, 2012
Good news and bad news for Mac users.
I wondered what software update/new release was finally going to prod me into updating to Lion; I think this might just be it.
[Via Ars Technica]
April 26th, 2012
Text-Only Instagram serves as a sort of companion piece to yesterday's Descriptive Camera, Descriptive Friends post.
April 26th, 2012
Some of the parallels drawn in Game of Votes are just so good.
That's not a perfect fit – on the basis of what he showed us in season 1, I don't think Joffrey sees himself as much of a historian or intellectual – but the elements of the comparison that work really work.
April 25th, 2012
I was never a big fan of Quantum Leap, but even I can recognise a good proposal for a sequel when I see one. From a Q&A post at Mightygodking:
Der Whelk: Is there an old series or property out there you think deserves and would be a perfect for a big budget re-make?
It's not so much a remake as it is a continuation or sequel or even logical endpoint: Quantum Leap. You would still have Scott Bakula as Sam Beckett, leaping from life to life, his memories continually fogged, and you would still have Al traveling alongside him, guiding him in his tasks, and that would be the first quarter of the movie or so – maybe one or two quick leaps – and then Sam jumps into a timeframe he shouldn't be able to jump into normally, a time well after his death would have occurred. Something has gone wrong in the quantum stream. Somebody is interfering. Al is completely panicked and Sam is at a loss. And that's when he meets a second Leaper – one Al recognizes, not that he can tell Sam this – and although Sam doesn't quite understand it, suddenly they're working together to do something he can't quite understand. [...]
It's the closing sentence of that answer that's the killer.
I'd probably watch such a film, though I think it'd do much better as a short – 4 to 6 episode? – miniseries than as a standalone film. Figuring out what Sam and his new friend can do and how they can do it and then having them try to do it and come out the other side would take time to do right.
April 25th, 2012
The Descriptive Camera takes what the concept of metadata about images to a new level, making use of cameras and Amazon's Mechanical Turk:
As we amass an incredible amount of photos, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage our collections. Imagine if descriptive metadata about each photo could be appended to the image on the fly – information about who is in each photo, what they're doing, and their environment could become incredibly useful in being able to search, filter, and cross-reference our photo collections. Of course, we don't yet have the technology that makes this a practical proposition, but the Descriptive Camera explores these possibilities. [...]
Having said that, isn't at least some part of the Descriptive Camera's functionality being undertaken – albeit for very different reasons – by Facebook users who go round tagging one another's photos? Isn't every Facebook 'friend' potentially a stand-in in for the Mechanical Turk, busily identifying who's who in their friends' photographs?
April 24th, 2012
Towards the end of a posting at the Wellcome Library weblog commemorating the 80th anniversary of the mass trespass that led, in time, to the creation of Britain's first National Parks and the establishment of the Right to Roam, the subject turns to libraries:
One of the inspirational presentations [at a symposium in London last year] came from information professionals in the Swedish city of Gävle, describing an initiative that promoted the city's libraries, archives and museums together under the slogan "Kulturell Allemansrät" – the cultural right to roam. A library gives its users the same freedom that the Manchester Rambler needed: access to the whole world of knowledge, without restrictions (except for a few on behaviour that harms other people's rights: [...]), without the concept of trespassing. The world of knowledge is laid out: and readers have the right to roam.
April 23rd, 2012
APOD: 2012 April 22 – Flowing Barchan Sand Dunes on Mars.
Be sure to click on the image to see it at full size – it is so worth it, I promise you.
April 22nd, 2012
The other day, Kieran Healy had a bright idea:
The other day Brett Terpstra posted a gigantic and quite beautifully-executed feature comparison of all of the text editors available for iOS devices. The table is really terrific and also a bit overwhelming, as there's so much data. On the bus home yesterday, it struck me that it might make for a nice data visualization exercise. [...]
He was right. Good work.
April 22nd, 2012
H.G. Wells gave the original 1927 release of Metropolis a truly scathing review:
Rotwang, the inventor, is making a Robot, apparently without any license from Capek, the original patentee. It is to look and work like a human being, but it is to have no "soul," it is to be a substitute for drudge labor. Masterman very properly suggests that it should never have a soul, and for the life of me I cannot see why it should. The whole aim of mechanical civilization is to eliminate the drudge and the drudge soul. But this is evidently regarded as very dreadful and impressive by the producers, who are all on the side of soul and love and such like. I am surprised they were not pinched for souls in the alarm clocks and runabouts. Masterman, still unwilling to leave bad alone, persuades Rotwang to make this Robot in the likeness of Mary, so that it may raise an insurrection among the workers to destroy the machines by which they live and so learn that it is necessary to work. Rather intricate that, but Masterman, you understand, is a rare devil of a man. Full of pride and efficiency and modernity and all those horrid things.
April 19th, 2012
Having seen The Cabin in the Woods, I don't feel able to write very much about it because anyone thinking of seeing it absolutely owes it to themselves to go in with as little foreknowledge as possible of the storyline.
I will say one thing. You may think the trailers and poster have given away the plot. They haven't. Trust me on this.
April 18th, 2012
I didn't expect to encounter the phrase "the cult of vice surrounding urban post offices" when I started reading the web today.
Angela Serratore's Post Secrets recounts the reaction of New Yorkers to the spread of a modern postal service:
Communication of and by women has always struck fear into the hearts of men (see: novels; epistolary), but until the middle of the eighteenth century it was largely manageable – husbands and fathers, even servants, monitored a lady's letters, and the wild fluctuations in cost of mail kept all but the wealthiest of girls and women from taking pen to paper on a regular basis. That changed with the standardization of postal prices in 1845. [...] Suddenly, wide swaths of women had access to two dangerous things – the mail and the post office. Anthony Trollope's 1852 invention of the pillar-box had given British girls a chance to subvert the authority of their scandalized parents by mailing letters in secret, but their New York counterparts who visited the post office could both send and receive mail almost entirely unmonitored by those who might want to regulate their epistolary lives. [...]
[Via The Awl]
April 17th, 2012
This interactive map of Population Density presents a very different perspective on the world.
It's not surprising that as you ratchet up the population density filter Australia disappears from view early on, but it's pretty amazing to see how long Greater London stays on the map, and that it survives longer than any part of the United States. As always, knowing that London is a densely populated city is a very different thing from being able to see how few parts of the world are populated on that scale.
[Via Flowing Data]
April 17th, 2012
April 17th, 2012
This Past Imperfect post about Closing the Pigeon Gap is a fascinating look at how 19th century continental powers made use of networks of carrier pigeons in wartime, and how the British responded to the perceived threat of a Pigeon Gap developing. All good stuff.
And then there's this one passage that reads like a scene from a discarded Blackadder Goes Forth script, recounting a description by Lieutenant Alan Goring of a sticky moment during the Passchendaele offensive of 1917:
[...] I was left with just a handful of men, all that was left out of those three platoons…. We had two pigeons in a basket, but the trouble was that the wretched birds had got soaked when the platoon floundered into the flooded ground. We tried to dry one of them off as best we could, and I wrote a message, attached it to its leg, and sent it off.
To our absolute horror, the bird was so wet that it just flapped into the air and then came straight down again, and started actually walking towards the German line. Well, if that message had got into the Germans' hands, they would have known that we were on our own and we'd have been in real trouble. So we had to try to shoot the pigeon before he got there. A revolver was no good. We had to use rifles, and there we were, all of us, rifles trained over the edge of this muddy breastwork trying to shoot this bird scrambling about in the mud. It hardly presented a target at all.
April 16th, 2012
I Want a Tank.
[Via Barry Freed, commenting at Blood & Treasure]
April 15th, 2012
Not that there was much doubt that I'd be going to see The Cabin in the Woods, but Mightygodking's Single-sentence review pretty much ensured that I'll be doing so sooner rather than later:
First two acts are perfectly serviceable and okay meta-commentary on horror tropes that some will claim are more clever than they in fact are; third act is some of the most ambitious, exciting horror filmmaking in years, and since it's the last bit, you'll forget that the first two-thirds of it was only okay.
April 15th, 2012
Based on Justin Williams' review, I very much want a Das Keyboard for my Mac:
[...] The Das Keyboard is a throwback to the days of loud, mechanical keys that came with the computers you used in previous decades. Mechanical keys give this feeling of satisfaction as you're typing. The keyboard itself is insanely large and has a substantial weight to it. It feels really well built and worth the amount of money I spent on it. It's got a full keyboard, number pad and even two full-powered USB ports on the side. The only thing missing from this throwback is the PS/2 or ADB cable at the end.
So… how does it type?
Not that I can justify spending money on a new keyboard right now, but still…
April 14th, 2012
Maps With Me is a pretty good offline mapping program for iOS and Android. Using OpenStreetMap data, it lets you download maps for the countries of your choice and store them on your mobile device, so you can consult maps wherever you are regardless of whether you have a data connection.
The Pro version is the one to go for IMHO, since it allows searching for place/street/business names as well as viewing maps. I'd been using the free Lite version for a bit now, but for my money the Pro version's search function promotes MapsWithMe from the category of useful toy to that of essential tool.