June 29, 2009

Wave, Facebook, and blogs

Comment from Slashdot discussing Google Wave and Facebook:

Blog engine makers will have an opportunity to see blogs on an equal footing with FaceBook, by integrating with Google Wave. Bloggers will have a chance to spark a conversation through their social network, as with FaceBook, but they will also have the chance to have that conversation grow beyond their circle of friends, as with a high profile blog today. As a participant in those conversations, your contribution today is normally "fire and forget" (I always wonder why people bother posting to the comments area of the major newspapers, where there comment is read only by them and one or two lunatics with an axe to grind). Tomorrow, with Google Wave, you can participate in conversations all over the internet, without the need to remember to go back to hundreds of places to check to see if anyone else was interested in what you said.

That idea of growing the conversation is important. I'm not a fan of Facebook because it's such a closed system. Walled gardens defeat all of the good of blogs when you can't just wander along and enjoy someone's musings on Infinite Jest or their tips on how to fix a wonky laptop. People are up in arms whenever a news site tries to block deep linking; why is there such acquiescence to Facebook? I would have never thought of using Wave as a means to replace social media sites. Conversations on blogs have always been hobbled by not having your comment linked to a central inbox. Embedding "waves" would be a simple solution to help people track the conversations they've been in. Neat.

posted by sstrader at 4:33 PM in Internet | permalink

June 28, 2009

Movies from the last week or so

Another couple of weeks of movie watching. From AMC's BMC site offering free streaming B movies:

  • Devil Doll - A ventrilloquist doll is possessed. Or is it?!? Nice camera work!
  • The Horror of Party Beach - Standard beach/monster fare. Sub-par. I think MST3K did this one? ... Yes. Yes they did.
  • The Hellfire Club - Oddly titled 18th c. adventure piece about a nobleman cheated out of his fortune. Color. Fun.
  • The Playgirls and the Vampire - Sexy Italian babes on their way to perform their burlesque routine are storm-stranded in a castle with their goofball manager.

Some fun stuff at the Plaza Theater on Ponce:

  • Blue Velvet - Neither of us had seen this since ~college, but I--having had *many* viewings cf. Lisa's one--remembered much more. Still shocking at times. Corny dialog. Best scene is Hopper listening to Stockwell's mimed version of "In Dreams".
  • Big Man Japan [ 4/5 | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] - Faux documentary about the last monster-fighting hero in Japan. From a once feted line of heroes (his grandfather being Big Man Japan #4), our protagonist is almost hated by the citizenry because of the destruction he inevitably causes when fighting the giant monsters. A sad/funny look at celebrity with an (as yet) indecipherable ending.

Also started the 26-episode anime series Gilgamesh last night while looking for something new on Netflix streaming. Four episodes in and relatively entertained.

posted by sstrader at 5:13 PM in Cinema | tagged asian cinema | permalink

June 23, 2009

Infinite Jest; David Foster Wallace

Decided on Friday to join Infinite Summer for the next three months and re-read Infinite Jest. I had read it once before beginning in October 2002. This was in the middle of the three-year vow to get back to reading and read at least one book a month. I'll assume for many subsequent months, those books were read in parallel. I hessitated to join the, now large, online reading group for all the reasons others had: intimidated, afraid of commitment, etc. At 55 pages in, I have no regrets and am somewhat obsessed with the book. Much easier the second time through.

Some links of note:

Misc.: Taking advice from someone's Twitpiced book to use two bookmarks: one for the story proper and one for the footnotes. Many west-coasters were having a difficult time finding a copy! There's some new edition out, but it's not so new that IS could be pegged as a (decidedly weird) publicity stunt. I have no idea where I got my copy in 2002; it's from a UK division of Little, Brown, and Co. called Abacus. Every blurb on the cover is from a different British publication.

[ updated 14 August 2009 ]

Found an obit over at IFC. Contains links to many of DFW's writings available online.

Continue reading "Infinite Jest; David Foster Wallace"
posted by sstrader at 12:52 PM in Current Interests , Language & Literature | tagged david foster wallace | permalink

June 17, 2009

Roundup of new web publishing tools

Google Wave [ Wikipedia ] is an attempt to integrate document management, wiki, and IM, under the rubric of real-time, web-based group collaboration. Their presentation shows much but is a little heavy on corniness and world-changing ambition. Par for the course for most demos and moderately justified here. They also intend to make Google Wave an open-source protocol to complement such technologies as FTP and SMTP. Nicest features: simple sharing of IM threads, adding others to the whole or part of the conversation; and document edit time lines that allow you to replay the edits and see the editors over the lifetime of the document. It's difficult to see now if Wave will settle in the content management space of MediaWiki or Drupal, or the project management space of Basecamp, or some hybrid space encompassing both.

Opera Unite [ Wikipedia ] is a feature of Opera 10 (now in beta) that allows the browser to become a web server. When Opera is running, you can share files, share folders, stream music, host discussion threads, and serve web pages. This is in line with the original idea that Tim Berners-Lee had when he invented the web: emphasizing creation on every node as much as consumption. Most responses have been in one of three categories: "wow", "nothing new", or "too much of a security risk". Although a biased Opera-user, I like the potential simplicity that Unite offers for sharing and communication, and I love how it empowers users to serve their own content from their own machine. Although a person could create a hosted blog to share pictures and files, why do that if the audience is simply friends and family? In a way, this is an alternative to all of those now-dusty blogs: a personal web site could now be truly personal.

Some links of note:

[ updated 23 July 2009 ]

Interesting comment from a Slashdot discussion on Wave. The commenter describes it as a cross between a Wiki and an Instant Messenger, then relates their impression from the Wave conference at Google:

Everything that was being said was transcribed live, "livewaving" that's what the google employees called it, and the notes/statements/questions said out lout during the presentations were clarified, corrected, rephrased, and formatted by two or three people (just a couple of lines above where they had been captured). There was no coordination whatsoever, people just added things wherever they felt they could contribute. Also, the initial attempt at coordination by the Google organizers was foiled, because they were too slow to create the group and start an official wave on their own, the participants already had a wave underway by the time they started -- so that became the official one by default.
posted by sstrader at 10:52 AM in Internet | permalink

Roundup of new advanced search tools

There's been several recent feted releases of unique search tools. Though none are sea changes, they add interesting possibilities and complement existing methods (usually your search-engine-of-choice + Wikipedia).

First up, Wolfram|Alpha: structured answers to a hand tooled domain of data. The best use for this is when Wikipedia's search fails, usually when you have a combination of words within the domain you're interested in. Sometimes a Google search into Wikipedia can resolve that (e.g. search for site:wikipedia.org rival "Franz Liszt" from Google). The biggest benefit of W|A is the clearly formatted results hyperlinked to deeper, related searches.

Second, the entertainingly naive Google Squared. It's still in Google's "Labs" area, so it's in alpha or earlier and gives results that you'd expect more from someone's Google mash-up or Greasemonkey script. Results are structured like W|A but culled from data scraped from the web rather than hand-picked. I hope it gets more attention from the developers because dynamic and emergent knowledge is more scalable than edited knowledge. When new information appears on the web, GS doesn't need to have updates added like encyclopedia yearbooks. W|A does.

Finally, of lesser note, TextRunner [ via Slashdot ] from the University of Washington allows very simple natural language queries and, like Google Squared, finds answers in an unedited corpus of web pages so is more easily scalable (if a bit slow). Like most basic NL search engines, queries are in the form WH-WORD VERB NOUN. While Google et al. have won the day by de-emphasizing semantic knowledge, it's good to see that tagged information extraction is still being researched.

posted by sstrader at 10:39 AM in Internet , Science & Technology | permalink

June 10, 2009

Recent movies

We've been watching quite a few streaming cinema picks from Netflix. The options are few, which means selections from quality will eventually be compromised. Several of note:

  • The Signal [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] - A linear story, split into three parts, each with a different director and each with a very different feel yet still cohesive. More brutal than I expected (for some reason, I didn't expect hardcore violence in a movie about a signal that makes a person murderous).
  • District B13 [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] - Very fun not-too-distant-future romp through a slum/prison where a parkour-crazed kid takes on the local drug lord. It's like a French Guy Ritchie film: colorful characters and frenzied action.
  • Capricorn One [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] - Rewatched Serenity one night and wanted another scifi. For some reason this popped into my head. I hadn't seen it since I was in HS and was unexpectedly entertained by the snappy dialog. Especially liked Elliot Gould as the hardened reporter and Sam Waterston as the jokey astronaut.
  • Transsiberian [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] - More thriller than mystery. This is a nice enough drama.
  • Teeth [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ] - I was looking for some good horror late one night and found this. Surprised to see RT give it ~80% and so dove in. It's completely buoyed by the lead, Jess Weixler, who I think of next to any of the best female indy(ish) leads (Election, Dawn of the Dead, Saved!). Also, the humor, though gross at times, is never too garish.
posted by sstrader at 6:25 PM in Cinema | permalink

June 9, 2009

Don Hertzfeldt: Rejected Cartoons

9+ minutes of pure Hertzfeldt genius:

Found from a Reddit comment noting the silliness of a C++ example that sez, quote my spoon is too big. my spoon is TOO big! my SPOON is TOO big! I am a BANANA! Unquote. We have his short The Meaning of Life on The Animation Show DVDs and although Rejected is not nearly as grandiose, it has a similar style and a jarring meta quality that TMoL doesn't.

posted by sstrader at 10:58 AM in Cinema | permalink

June 4, 2009

Longcat is long

I've had the Longcat/Ragnarok image for my wallpaper at work for a while. A co-worker has never heard of it nor longcat and so I had to go through the best description I could of why longcat exists. I didn't have much except that it just... does. Even though he was not familiar, he seemed to like the image. I mean, really, what's not to like?!


LC started as a photo of a cat; was shopped to look longer than it is; was repeated everywhere; battled its nemesis, Tacgnol; and now is a trope used for reduplicated emphasis (boring blog is boring). I suspect that longcat is part of the incipient mythology that is being created on the internet and try to think of it in terms of tapping a primal energy (cue trite Jungian terminology...). These images and memes are part of the stumbling birth of culture. Grunts that eventually develop into language proper. Like spoken and written languages, the systems and images that will result in 50 years will be marked in some small way by their origins but have little obvious connection.

Or something like that.

posted by sstrader at 9:30 PM in Internet | permalink

June 3, 2009

Top concerts

An attempt to list the most memorable concerts I've been to. I don't go to many concerts, so there are really only a few to choose from. Guessing at chronological order and probably--except for the first and last--getting it wrong; I wish I could remember when most of these happened!

  • GWAR at The Masquerade ~1990 - First mosh pit and I was hooked. Everyone I tried to describe it to was aghast. I blame my explanatory skills. A group of 6 or so of us drove in from Carrollton in a van. Once there, I had to leave my glasses at the ticket desk (they actually accommodated?!) so I could jump into the fun. The most profane spectacle I've ever seen. By the end of the evening my clothes were stained gray from fake blood thrown from the stage.
  • Elvis Costello and Steve Nieve at The Fox in Atlanta - Excellent arrangements for piano and voice (with some guitar). Best was Nieve's orchestral voicing for Watching the Detectives.
  • McCoy Tyner at The Variety Playhouse in Atlanta - Amazing improvisations reminded me of Prokofiev.
  • Philip Glass Ensemble at The Fox in Atlanta performing the soundtrack live to the movie Koyaanisqatsi - We had never seen Koyaanisqatsi before and this was the perfect introduction: musicians working to keep up with a film projector that's showing a movie about humans working to keep up with the machines they've created.
  • Yes at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center - I almost didn't go 'cause I had stopped listening to them in college. Rekindled my love of (some of) their music. Best was getting to hear Ritual from Tales from Topographic Oceans. This has become a touchstone album for me (and was the soundtrack to my recent re-entry into the jogging life).
  • Beastie Boys at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center - Them doing a fun/sloppy version of Sabotage was neat. Great to see Mix Master Mike live.
  • No Fun Fest 2009 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg - A singularly unique experience.

(I can't believe I never tried listing these before...)

posted by sstrader at 4:34 PM in Concerts | tagged yes | permalink

June 2, 2009

District 9/Alive in Joburg

I'd found a cool video called Alive in Joburg back in Jan 2008 and was reminded of it tonight when Lisa described a new movie coming out called District 9.

On rewatching, I still like the look of the Joburg clip, and more than the (brief) extract from the District 9 movie. The original has a short-story feel that I assume will only be used as a backdrop for some sort of action/detective story.

posted by sstrader at 11:31 PM in Cinema | permalink