Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ryan Pepper Gosling Spray

Ryan Pepper Gosling Spray

Monday, June 13, 2011

Before Circulation

Alex French and Howie Kahn's "The Greatest Newspaper That Ever Died" recounts the early 1990s sports news startup The National Sports Daily during its short, experimental, and ultimately failed run. Mexican billionaire Emilio Azcárraga dreamed up the grandiose plan for the paper, which aspired to provide national coverage and achieve widespread circulation, with much of the writing done by the best-known sports writers of the moment.

The story is worth a read for a couple of reasons. First, it offers a semi-coherent narrative woven not through co-authorial smoothing of transitions (think: prose cortisone shots) but instead by the arrangement of discrete interview snippets. That is, the story is parsed and assembled (more than conventionally written) from a cacophony of contributors who were directly involved with the experiment. Second, contributors (or interviewees?) say over and over that the failure of The National was caused not by the quality of the writing or the innovative vision but by the business side (sales and ad revenues unequal to expenses). I understand the failure was as much a matter of technological infrastructure--the fact that the publishers were attempting to route content from various cities to printing houses using sattelite transmissions that were just too slow. One anecdote has staffers accessing the sattelite equipment on the roof to knock ice and snow off of it with hopes of improving relay speeds. Basically, The National was the right idea in the wrong year. A third reason for reading: this story rolled out on Bill Simmons' new ESPN-sponsored sports writing site, Grantland, which, considering its renowned writers and editors, amounts to a modern day equivalent of The National. Grantland is, in effect, The National twenty years later.

I suppose "The Greatest Newspaper That Ever Died" will not be all that surprising to anyone who remembers The National's hype. But the story of The National is promisingly rivaled, to my mind, by the subtext here about the forces inhibiting fast, large-scale circulation for news. Sure, hindsight makes it easy for us to know all about this now, but the story (a play-by-play, really) condenses and suspends that tension--right idea, wrong year--holding it up like a Jordan-era floater for a compelling sense of that-was-then.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

While Supplies Last

From The Long Now blog, an entry today about the end of typewriter manufacturing. What will it be next? VCRs? Film cameras?

I never got much use out of the typewriter as a writing machine. I used them to fill out forms in that dimly lit pre-PDF-dawn when fax machines were hot. I used typewriter impersonators (compact dot matrix word processors, essentially), although I can't think of a single document whose production depended on it such that it couldn't by then have been more sleekly crafted on a computer. I read Click, Clack, Moo to Is. twenty or thirty times when she was younger, so that's something. But this isn't the sort of discontinuation that I would think gives anyone much pause, except perhaps to wonder which commonplace technologies of today will surrender to obsolescence in the next 25 years.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Quit It

One day over break I spent and hour scrubbing the network of old, unused, or delinquent accounts I've been accumulating--the ungainly barnacles of passing, fading interests. I wouldn't quite describe the process as cathartic; more like inane. For example, I dropped one Twitter account, Twittorician. And I tried to axe Mendeley and CiteULike, both for irrelevance and non-use, but neither of them provide an option to cancel or remove accounts. So, in Mendeley I deleted stuff and in CiteULike I deleted stuff and subbed in a cranky profile. Other candidates for deletion due to dwindling relevance include LinkedIn and Academia.edu. I left them alone, though, idle where they've been all along. They'll give me something to purge next time I have a few minutes to spare.

The other Twitter account, now my only Twitter account, is also rotting on the vine. And while I don't begrudge anyone their exuberance for Twitter or their invested participation in Twitter, for that matter, I find it less and less and match with the reading and writing rhythms I want (and need) to keep. My reluctance to delete the account, however, comes from...what, exactly, I don't know. What if I change my mind? I used Twitter with students quite a bit last year, and while it did help me get to know a different and fuller side of EMU, not using Twitter in the same class(es) last fall didn't subtract anything anybody seemed to notice. That is, when I dropped Twitter from the class, nothing happened.

Jill Walker blogged yesterday about a well-known blogger in Norway calling it quits. Granted, the blogger is a teenager and the reason for quitting apparently has something to do with a commenting quarrel. But quitting is quitting, yeah?

The series of account deletions (actual and deferred) along with Walker's entry started me thinking again about how we imagine these distributed, immersive, networked writing practices ending. Will there be every bit as much contemplation of quitting (abandonment, retraction) as there is of signing up, joining, jumping into the mix? Call the net morticians; "bring out your dead!" Surely we can abandon it simply and without complication or second-guessing: leave the practice behind. Yet when "participatory" venues are overrun with the molts of once-active, once-present people, the muted exodus must gradually shape the experience. It must eventually alter the practice. Right?

(At least) Two forces operate here: 1) we grow weary of a particular networked writing practice or platform (such weariness itself can spring from many different causes) and 2) the network itself quietly and without much odor rots under our noses. We are not often enough bold about quitting, and when we are it risks sounding like a clamor for attention. Sure, we read occasionally about company-sized start-ups gone end-ups, but at the scale of individual users, quitting accounts, deleting web presences, taking permanent hiatuses, etc., these possibilities and their (non)consequences touch on something subtler, if, that is, we can get anywhere by generalizing about it in the first place.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Bieber Marley Alvin

As the final web-based event of the old year, I just downloaded Bieber's "Baby" onto Is.'s ipod (at her unceasing request). Yes, please feel free to hear it for yourself. She tells us that everyone in her class sings the chorus often and ably during clean-up time: baby, baby no, the chorus during chores.

This means I will continue my 2010 anthem as my 2011 anthem, which will make this the first repeat anthem of my life (since I began thinking of years as warranting dedicated personal anthems three years ago, in 2009). Last year's anthem and next year's anthem shall be

With a little bit of good luck, this will be the earworm to sound my path next year. The melody to heat these earbuds! Although, since rhythms are difficult to keep steady in an age of unpredictably mutated dromos (i.e., timetracks), no doubt some days it will end up sounding like this.

May those days in the year ahead be few. And phew.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Living Portrait

I suppose The Johnny Cash Project is as close as I will come to a Grammy nomination. Seems the crowdsourced sketch-video put to Cash's "Ain't No Grave" has been nominated for Best Short Form Music Video at the 53rd annual Grammy event coming up in February. In case you haven't heard of it, here's a bit of background on The Johnny Cash Project, including a recent version of the piecemeal video.

As far as I can tell, the video is continuously redrawn, with new frames entering into circulation and with old frames dropping in rank as participants assign a five-star rating to existing frames. Many months ago I spent a whopping thirteen-plus minutes sketching frame #1271. Whether or not it was my finest (or even a remarkable) artistic moment may take many more years to determine. My efforts have been rewarded with an average rating of two out of five stars (.400 is kicking butt in baseball and in drawing, right?). Anyway, ratings are not what is important here (ignoring momentarily that the Grammys are a contest).

Grammy win or no, the Cash Project has a pedagogical double that I remember each time it turns up again in this or that RSS stream--the class-drawn music video pieced together from snippets of lyrics and whatever drawings they motivate, all spliced flip-book-style into an on the fly music video. The rawness of DIY; the investment of "I did that." D. has done this a couple of times with first and second graders who illustrated "What A Wonderful World." Before the Cash Project, I hadn't given too much earnest thought to a corresponding compositional project worth pursuing in the classes I typically teach. The Cash Project is a far more mature (i.e., serious-seeming) digital monument, and, that being the case, it has pushed me to reconsider possibilities for small-crowdsourced projects, maybe by adapting something like this and incorporating Google Docs-Drawing (with placeholder images and layers).  I like the way these music video projects link (implicitly collaborative) crowdsourcing and gestalt; the summative experience is more forceful than, say, reading a wiki entry, although, ideally, their logics could be linked--with one used to illuminate the other. Maybe.

Undoubtedly, I'll be too tired to stay up and watch the Grammys. And that's if I even remember when it is on TV. But I'm hopeful that The Cash Project gets its due. Here's a glimpse of the competition.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"You Don't Change Your Narrative"

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Are You Ready for Some Midterms? - MSNBC's Political Narrative
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

What if remix culture (and concomitant sampling practices) are to blame credit for the willfully negligent truncations of context? Whether such truncations are on the rise, it is difficult to say, but they do seem to be more frequently in the news: 1) absurd fixations on narrative preservation/continuation, and 2) a bandying among television networks over how adequately a clip represents, synecdochically, the situation within which it arose. Samplers all, we cannot avoid the negation of context, can we?, so perhaps the best we can hope for is some rhetorico-ethical insight into why (and how) this happens, and, after that, some relief in laughter.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Star Whale

Harnessed beneath the floating future British metropolis, a star whale labored against zero gravity, acting as a gentle, unassuming engine to carry humans toward some uncertain destination. This is a near-spoiler, I suppose, since it gets at the gradually unraveling Smilerpremise of "The Beast Below," the second Dr. Who episode to air this season-- Sat. night on BBC America. For the second consecutive week, I watched, not fully sure whether I would grow bored with Who's kitschy special effects or impatient with the show's fantastical excesses. Yet, like the week before (unlike some), I was pleasantly surprised. I thought Episode Two was well done--well enough that I recommend it: an army of creepy fortune-telling machines (think Zoltar Speaks with extreme mood swings: called "Smilers"), a blaring, flickering civics quiz after which participants have the option to forget or protest (mass, self-selected forgetting preserves the Queen's authority; too much protest dethrones her), and, of course, the city's hefty, bottom-floor host, a schizophrenic giant merciful toward the children but unkind to adults. Enough.

All the more striking in this episode was the unmistakable family resemblance between the star whale and the withering, abused avanc in Mieville's The Scar, that massive underwater creature yoked to Armada as their floating conglomeration of warped hulls and things drifted toward the water's edge.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lessig's #wireside Chat

I watched Larry Lessig's "#Wireside Chat" live last Thursday evening, viewing it from Halle Library at EMU along with Steve and a few graduate students in his winter C&W course. I took a few notes during the talk; thought I'd translate them into something more coherent.

Lessig opened with an allegory: an extended narrative linking a dilemma facing cigarette smokers of yesteryear with a dilemma facing users of mobile devices and wireless internet, an allegory inspired by Christopher Ketcham's recent article in GQ. Just as early reports on the cancerous effects of smoking tobacco were speculative and contested, so are today's investigations into the insidious effects of wireless signals murky and tentative. Lessig cited Henry Lai, whose research on non-ionizing radiation has clarified a troubling pattern of self-interest: industry-funded research finds wireless to be harmless, while non-industry-funded research finds wireless to be harmful. The basic idea here is that research of this sort reflects the bias of its funding source. And this builds toward a crisis because 1) everyday people cannot know which research to trust and 2) the binaristic "debate" creates doubt such that reasonable people can think either way about the issue, rendering it undecidable.

From this, Lessig shifted to Part Two, a different debate concerning free culture. He credited a graduate student who "fed him" ideas from Aldous Huxley and John Philip Sousa about technologies threatening creative culture. Huxley worried about the ways broadcast media cemented audiences in read-only passivity. Sousa lamented similarly that the phonograph would hobble music creation. He expected that read-only (or listen-only) would thwart production and result in conditioned passive consumption. In the free culture debate, Lessig locates 2004 as a key shift: read-write culture was revived that year, with Wikipedia as its poster child. Lessig says "remix" is the best name to describe this shift.

In 2006, via YouTube, we witnessed another key shift, this time tied to video: the remix technique is further democratized. In numerous examples, we can see read-write in action. According to Lessig, "This begins to be precisely what Sousa romantisized." At this point in his talk, Lessig rehearsed the legal developments around copyright, albeit in fairly sweeping terms (Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act to courts more recently "getting it right"). Lessig was obviously quite wrapped up in efforts to persuade the Supreme Court to the merits of free culture, but he described the results as an utter defeat. Lessig went on in his talk to discuss the way Disney invokes copyright law and uses their copyright extension lobby to block efforts by others to do as they did to Brothers Grimm. His discussion of Disney included a thoughtful aside about the remix premise of Little Einsteins--a program I've gotten to know well in the last 18 months. Finally, Lessig tried to create some fusion between his work on free culture and his interests, more recently, in congressional reform. He explained that the read/write movement does not have in Congress a receptive audience, but that we must continue to imagine YouTube as a powerful platform for forcing these issues. Emphasizing repeatedly the value in fair and free codecs and fair and free use, Lessig concluded his talk, urging his audience to "Continue the work to build the tools to make this culture free."

I want to mention two things I was thinking of as the talk wrapped up and during the Q&A. The first is that this talk had all the markings of Lessig-in-intellectual-transition. It was abundantly clear that he is in a cross-over period, moving from his many years of hard work on free culture and Creative Commons, to something more directly concerned with Washington D.C. lobbying practices and corrupt politics. The appearance of this transition is not necessarily bad, but I think it created a muddle for a couple of key points, which brings me to the second thing I was thinking about. Lessig argued for the cultural force of YouTube, but it almost sounded like he envisioned in remixing practices a great political force, as well. In a fairly abstract way, I buy the premise that remixing can effect change, but I didn't find in Lessig's examples anything impressive enough to make an impact on the scale he seemed more genuinely interested in reaching (national government). I guess the question of impact circles back around to this: What are the most impressive or memorable examples of remix, and for whom are they impactful? Or else these: What exactly is the difference they are making in, say, political processes? How are they consequential? Other than something like a YouTube presidential debate (which isn't exactly remix), what is an example of YouTube impacting a political process? Then again, maybe I am looking for consequences too much in the remixes themselves and not enough in the slow rise of cultural creation by these means. In other words, perhaps their impact lies in their collective affirmation of free speech.

There's much more to say about the Wireside Chat, but these notes will do for now. I will be interested in revisiting this periodically to rethink the power of remix and whether we have in the months and years to come realized a different degree of impact in it than we have seen in YouTube's first five years.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ch. 71

Over the weekend I gave the blog a two-point tune-up. Point one: Rolled all one-hundred and some entries from Exam Sitting (later renamed "Dissarray"...so clever!) into Earth Wide Moth. I will delete the other site soon. Now my old reading notes have a home with a hearth: the "yesterblog" will churn those entries back to the front page once per year so that I can freshen up on all that I've forgotten over the last eighteen months. Point two: Launched a TV station--EWM-71--by making a page with a bunch of YouTube custom players. I know, I know: all big media conglomerates started small. Naysayers might add: "Technically, YouTube is not TV," and to them I would retort, "Why are you crapping on my stoop during this moment in the sun?"

I appreciate that all of the programming is easily controlled and readily updated through YouTube. I will see a video I want to add, click on it, bump it into a playlist, and there it is, live on EWM-71. I can also re-arrange the order of the clips in any playlist. Why bother with this? Well, not only do I like it, but I've been thinking about some sort of project that would tie into this practice of tele-tubing; something for a class, maybe, where research involves piling up a yarn of video snippets. Not necessarily a full 24-hour marathons of crappy 70's TV, but a variety show arranged into a single page--a wall of moving images. And then write some sort of account of it, a review of the next person's programming line-up, annotations, and so on.

Another programming note: Eventually, what I'd really like to see is a Web 2.0 application (developers?) that makes it possible to produce something like PTI at home. Voice- and video-enabled pairs could connect, pre-load (or randomize) a list of discussable points, set an arbitrary timer, and then get going with a pop-pop-pop conversation. And then post it to blog, of course. Go!

1. John McCain's plagiarized speech
2. Tayshaun Prince's minutes against China
3. Spiced ketchup
4. How long of a job letter is too long of a job letter?
5. Peter, Paul, and Mary

I came up with these off the top of my head. But seriously, there would be a lot to love in a DIY, web-based PTI module, no? If it doesn't come along soon, maybe somebody will go out on a limb with me and pitch a PTI-styled conference panel, so I can get it out of my system.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Be Kind Rewind

Ph. and I took in Be Kind Rewind last weekend. It's a fun, quirky flick about the desperate, inventive measures by video rental store workers to recover after all of the tapes are erased. They even have a trailer:

Catchiest for me was the premise of Sweding--home-grown, bricolage film-making (grab a VHS camera, some magic markers, tin foil, etc.). The movie gets a lot of mileage out of the idea, and in the escalating scramble to re-make the erased movies, all sorts of mishaps come about: copyright infringement, battles over microfame, VHS/DVD format tensions, and arguments over store-shelf economics. But Sweding as an art stance, as a geek-hack aesthetic method: even if you already knew what make-do composition was, the movie gives the idea a nudge, renews some of the pleasure and spark in the spirit of carefree re-makes--enough of a bump that we're sure to see more YouTubic transmedia, like this Sweded version of The Shining:

Eesh. Might be creepier than the original, if a bit less drawn out in its suspense.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday Mana

As if you needed another reason to watch YouTube. Mah Nà Mah Nà. I like some things about this version better, but Is. is thrilled to watch either one of them.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Bottom Five

In the spirit of the IMDB Bottom 100, here is the IMDM Bottom 5--the worst movies I've ever watched, beginning to end.  One challenge in generating such a list is that the bottom dwellers are absolutely forgettable (and I'm not especially snappy with movie recall when it comes to titles, producers, who acted in it, and so on).  I've only watched one movie* on the IMDB Bottom 100, so it makes sense to include it in my list, a list accounting for ten or more hours that sadly will never be recovered.  Starting with the worst of the worst:

1 (tie). Hope Floats (1998). Divorcee awkwardly re-connects with Texas townies. Other stuff that floats: bloated fish carcasses, rotting seaweed....
1 (tie). The Holiday (2006). Main characters swap houses for Christmas break (one looking for love, the other to avoid it). Character development eliminated in the interest of meeting a pre-holiday release deadline.
3. Look Who's Talking (1989). Babies interacting and observing their worlds with dubbed adult voices. Dialogue isn't strange enough to be funny or entertaining in the least.
4. Teen Wolf Too (1987). Socially awkward teen is also a wolf.  I don't remember seeing this, but I'm sure I did. *This one also appears on the IMDB list.
5. Big Daddy (1999). Adoption gimmick designed to renew girlfriend's interest.

Watching The Holiday this past week inspired this little exercise. I'm sure there are several other craptacular movies that I started but did not finish watching. Produce your own list, if, like me, you think it a public service to deter others from making the same mistakes you have.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Attention Plateaus

What is the attentional counterpart to a fitness plateau?

The fitness plateau happens when a workout routine goes flat. One answer, then, is the anti-routine, a varied circuit stoked by variability, a notch above cross-training.

Without going too far with the brain-muscle metaphor, I like the idea of attention plateaus for the (inevitable?) flattening off of a given project. Sure, some projects will have plateaus before ramping up again. But attention plateaus account for the stall-out. Something like a precognitive habitus at the point where it is a drain, applying a slow deceleration. Brake.

It goes not only to writing projects but to reading rhythms. A spark of interest. Eventually, an attention plateau, a lull. Flattening, interest dwindles. Also with RSS feeds. Could feed readers allow for this? Could it include a feature that would allow me to table a feed so that it updates only every two weeks while another one updates every day, and another updates every month?

Attention plateaus are not a permanent condition, right? Their impermanence includes a built-in argument for the returns on disruption, variety and purposive digression, like Stone's "continuous partial attention."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Weekend of Kittler

Hour by hour, the past 48 as a list:

Sleep, Sleep, Sleep, Sleep, Sleep, Sleep, Sleep, Sleep, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, PS2, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Sleep, Sleep, Sleep, Sleep, Sleep, Sleep, Sleep, Sleep, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Birthday Party, Dinner, Kittler, PS2, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler, Kittler.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Analogon and Scope

After I just happened to be looking back on a few notes I plunked down this time last September, I caught wind of Daily Kos' entry predicting Bush's impending outrage over wide-angle lenses (via). The set of images is compelling for its amplification of invented moments--the pose, the emptied site, the performance of sorrow (not that I mean to question anyone's convictions, only to point out that the staged scene interpenetrates the actors, perhaps even mocks them in their vacant, stolid surroundings).

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Adventures in Illegal Art

We caught up with a friend last night for dinner followed by Mark Hosler's presentation, "Adventures in Illegal Art: Creative Media Resistance and Negativeland" in SU's Shemin Auditorium. Hosler's been involved with Negativeland for 25 years. The group self-identifies with media hoaxes; provocative audio-mixed new media films and shorts; and radical fair use politics (i.e., it's all public domain). They're well-known for lifting material from U2, mixing it into a two-sided vinyl single including profanity and stolen U2 cuts, then repackaging the album in a jacket with U2 featured prominently so as to dupe unsuspecting consumers. Lawsuits followed, as you might expect, and Hosler alluded to a dicey four years, fraught with legal uncertainty. Here's that album cover:

Hosler opened with a short on stealing, mixed from "There's No Business Like Show Business Stealing" sung by Ethel Merman. Other segments included "Guns" (lots of B&W footage of ads for guns, westerns, etc.), and "The Mashin' of the Christ." "Mashin" used a mix of some evangelical preacher's Cold War prophecy that the West would be overrun with Communism, that everyone would be converted by a mantra of "Christianity is stupid; Communism is great." The song was matched with clips from 25 crucifixion scenes from movies, but I'm not sure I took the critique. It was violent, to be sure, but beyond that I was unclear whether it sought to comment on Christianity, illogical evangelicalism, or the spectacle of crucifixion scenes. Hosler told us about Negativeland's well-known media prank--a press release they distributed in California about a cancelled tour, shut down because federal authorities connected them to a quadruple homicide in Rochester, Minn (much of which was fabrication, only the murders were real). The San Francisco NBC (or was it CBS) affiliate eventually caught wind of the release and covered it, interviewing the "band" and featuring the event as a top news story. Then there was fallout and confusion (it had to be true because it was on the tube). He also shared shorts on Casey Casem losing his cool--a tirade of shrits and flucks--while recording a Top 40 dedication for a deceased pet; Ariel, the Little Mermaid, drawn to synch with the dialogue from a tapped phone conversation with some exec on proprietary rights; and a remix of Julie Andrews' "Favorite Things" from the Sound of Music made-over to express only contemptible things.

The best part by far was Hosler's description of the group's methods, the uncanny ways materials accrete, piling up and mounting an almost irresistible force. "It's as if a good idea walks in the room. You can't just slam the door on it," he said. It echoed Sirc in "Box-logic" from Writing New Media: a dissatisfied collector who gathers, assembles, and realizes surprising ties. And also, there was a surprising dig on SU's Newhouse journalism program and on formal, explicit education in art ("I'd never attend an art program," or something close to that.)

Hosler refined his craft--cuts and pastes--during the 80's and 90's. He spoke of splicing tape and two-reel recorders. And he also made it clear that he thought of Negativeland's albums as concept albums; he thought of those albums as having a kind of coherence that dissolves in the age of mp3 exchange. Any individual track--detached from the artifact of the album or CD, the jacket notes--diminished the conceptual coherence of the album. His response to new media, to the digital's blurring of media, was tentative, uncertain (or perhaps just underdeveloped because we were out of time). He also said he wasn't sure whether the group had a myspace account. Apparently someone outside the group claimed a space for Negativeland, but they haven't done much to bolster their online presence. Hosler ended by noting that times have changed. Once scarce materials (the Casey Casem rant, for example) now circulate more freely than before. They're abundant. And as he said so, I had the impression that the counterculture rush of Negativeland's work has--for Hosler--lost some of its novelty because of massification, diminished in waves of hobbyists trying--through success and failure--to create homegrown, DIY media projects.

Friday, March 31, 2006


Pim Pam Pum, makers of Memry and Phrasr, released Bubblr within the past week (as far as I can tell...okay, looks like 3/22) (via). It's an easy-as-can-be comic interface that taps into Flickr as an image repository. Choose a few photos, drop in word/thought balloons, type in clever and zany dialogue, and publish.

I was compelled to give it a test drive: Banal Airplane Conversation. Limitations (other than my high-standards blast of creativity): 1) if you want to copy in an extra panel, you'll need to relocate the image in the archive, and 2) the word balloons are somewhat rigid (the hanging attribution slides, but the balloons have constrained dimensions).

Friday, January 13, 2006

Miller on Collaboration

Catch Paul Miller's clip on the 24x7 film experiment weblog.  It's a short piece in which he talks about collaboration, jazz ensembles, software and interface (via).  Probably nothing in it that goes beyond what he does in Rhythm Science.  Yet, seeing/hearing Miller on video adds a little something.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Unmatched by any four-week stretch ever (ever!) before, I've been heading to the movie theaters over and over in recent weeks.  At the unprecedented and steady pace of one per weekend, I have taken in four picture shows in as many weeks: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; Rent; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; and Walk the Line.

If you've got $8.50 to spare and an impulse to take in a show, I'll stand by recommendations in this order:

1.  Walk the Line.  Sure, this story of Johnny Cash and June Carter leaves out big hunks of their lives--several of Cash's songs, for example, are absent, and the film glosses right over monumental events, such as their co-starring in an (just one?) episode of Little House on the Prairie in 1976.  Despite these inevitable gaps, I felt moved by this movie and comparably unaffected by the other movies.  Why?  Because I like some of Cash's music (reminds me of my country childhood, when 94 Country was the only station detected by the radios in the house, and Cash meant they couldn't play Barbara Mandrell, Eddie Rabbit, and the Oak Ridge Boys forever).  Because the movie does a decent job of presenting tensions Cash struggled against.  Because there was a lady sitting directly in front of me with a single Santa Claus face stitched onto the back of her festive sweater.  And so on.  Downright moved, I swear. Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon. Go on.

Tied for no. 2.  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. These are a toss-up, a coin flip.  Go see one, the other or both if you're into the fantastic, amazing digital effects, and the magical realms of Hogwarts and Narnia.  What Harry Potter lacks in acting/performance, particularly of the young stars, it makes up for in striking underwater and in-air scenes.  H.P. competes in a series of challenges against older students; each portrayed scenario is really amazing (okay, actually the first two were better than the third, I'd say).  And, when we left the theater, Ph. reported that the book was much better, much more elaborate.  The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe works with better children-actors, I'd say, and the effects are almost on par with Harry Potter.  TLTWTW features believable centaurs, for example; toward the end, the battles were wonder-ful (boulder-dropping hawks, etc.), albeit predictable.  I came away from both of these movies with a similar feeling--with lasting impressions of the effects and an indifference toward the performances and the choices involved in adapting the novels for the screen.

3. Rent.  How to put this?  Well, five minutes into this three-hour musical, a moviegoer and her friends slid into the seats immediately next to us.  Then she started to sing.  With the movie.  While crinkling the wax paper holding a greasy pretzel.  Gnaw on the pretzel; sing a few lines. She sang (as if into D.'s ear) until we changed seats.  So that's how the movie opened.  After that, more singing.  And then: singsingsinging (right...it's a musical...but can anything be said without singing?).  Mixed in, there was a small thread of plot development.  In other words, I got it that the renter-artists were clinging desperately to their livelihoods, torn between the inevitability of workaday futures and the unrestrained pursuit of their arts. I struggled, however, to get into the odd bounce-back of the dancer who one minute was near death and the next minute was fully rejuvenated and belting out a duet.  It wouldn't be fair to dwell on the negatives, though.  I got caught up in the heavily referential scene/song about bohemia (La Vie Boheme), and I confess to being caught up in the crossovers between the documentary filmmaker (in the movie) and the use of film clips that appeared to be from sometime earlier, perhaps from Jonathan Larson's stuff in the early-mid 90's. Was this actual footage or imposter clips brought in to create the appearance of earlier footage? I couldn't land a clear answer to this question in my two lazy Google searches.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Curiosity Rebellion

National anti-drug campaigns shouldn't be taken lightly, and this vintage film strip (w/o audio, unfortunately) alleges that neither should they be sniffed or otherwise ingested (via).

The film pre-dates my young school days, but these messages are timeless, right?  Even without a stern, guilt-and-fear inducing voice-over, the frames are worth a quick skim--whether for kicks serious analysis and reflection on the war on drugs or for a refresher that it's a baaad bad idea to amp up on "truck drivers" to stay awake all night studying and playing the saxophone.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Jet Blue's mechanical glitch and emergency landing in L.A. close to twenty-four hours ago has re-re-re-played out in both the footage and the passenger accounts.  The flight returned safely despite the sideways-jammed and intractable landing gear; the culmination was a straight, frictional grind to a halt. Thereafter, the angle of many of the news reports has been the visibility of the event as it unfolded on the television monitors inside the plane.  One of Jet Blue's most prized features is a one-per-seat television monitor that can tune to a variety of programs, including live national news broadcasts.  Stunning as it must have been, what resulted was disfiguration of the flash-of-celebrity fan on the Jumbo-tron: "Look, we're on TV."

Just a few minutes ago, when, after reading for much of the day, I was turning through the final few pages of Imagologies, the section called "Body Snatching" synched with yesterday's Jet Blue event.  I didn't watch much of the coverage--just one brief interview with a passenger shortly after the landing who described the televisual experience as post-postmodern (a phrase that, would you believe?, came up again today in Eubanks's essay in Bazerman and Prior's collection on discourse analysis...two post-post refs so close together).  The few bits and pieces I saw today (online or on the tube) echoed the passenger's sense of the hyperreal. 

In "Body Snatching," Taylor and Saarinen pose the question, "is telepresence absence or presence?"  I don't have an answer, but I'd spend both of my nothing-to-fear-in-being-wrong guesses on a two-part response: neither/both.  And maybe this paradox explains what was perceived to be so completely eventful about the perilous landing broadcast to the passengers (LIVE) along with everybody else.  Those on board were caught up in the reality-shredding loop: a question asked from both in here and out there at once--will theywe make it? One more related quotation from the "Body Snatching" chapter:

The simulacrum is a novum that is neither original nor copy, real nor imaginary, signified nor signifier.  The operation of the simulacrum transfigures the body ("Body Snatching" 9).

I've reached the end of insights on this one for now.  While these ideas aren't especially revelatory or bowl-you-over original, some of Taylor and Saarinen's vocabulary--terms shared by others who've worked for some time on questions involving media and the visual--clicked for me.  So I'm giving them a try.  Telepresence...etc.  Good stuff (go on, tell me it's been passe for eight years).  It's pushed me to consider related stuff like (satisfying, disconcerting, voyeuristic) notions of telepresence in weblogs.  If the plan I have for tomorrow holds up, I'll have more to say about Imagologies (but probably disappointingly little to add to the buzz re Jet Blue and hey, that's us!).

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

A This-side of Language

On trauma and image from RB, "The Photographic Message":

These few remarks sketch a kind of differential table of photographic connotations, showing, if nothing else, that connotation extends a long way.  Is this to say that a pure denotation, a this-side of language, is impossible? If such a denotation exists, it is perhaps not at the level of what ordinary language calls the insignificant, the neutral, the objective, but, on the contrary, at the level of absolutely traumatic images.  The trauma can be seized in a process of photographic signification but then precisely they are indicated via a rhetorical code which distances, sublimates and pacifies them.  Truly traumatic photographs are rare, for in photography the trauma is wholly dependent on the certainty that the scene 'really' happened: the photographer had to be there (the mythical definition of denotation).  Assuming this (which, in fact, is already a connotation), the traumatic photograph (fires, shipwrecks, catastrophes, violent deaths, all captured 'from life as lived') is the photograph about which there is nothing to say; the shock-photo is by structure insignificant: no value, no knowledge, at the limit no verbal categorization can have a hold on the process instituting the signification.  One could imagine a kind of law: the more direct the trauma, the more difficult its connotation; or again, the 'mythological' effect of a photograph is inversely proportional to its traumatic effect. (30)

"The more difficult its connotation...," close to what Jeff posted Monday at this Public Address on spectacle, disaster and "signature images."

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Continuous, Partial

These notes from the recent Supernova 2005 conference--themed "Attention"--call attention to the keynote address by Linda Stone, which she leads by citing her own coinage of "continuous partial attention" in 1997.  I'm hesitant to argue with the phrase out of context, but I appreciate the position expressed at unmediated (citing this article) that attention structures are partial, layered, shifting, afflux. Broader questions--likely explained by Stone elsewhere--fold into this, such as the degree to which technologies bring about changes in consciousness (what we mean by attention?) or whether the attention-fragmenting domain now filled up with the digital apparatus simply presents us with more interferences and distractions (material and informational).  The notes (which I'm taking as reasonably reliable) have these as Stone's closing comments:

The next aphrodisiac is committed full-attention focus. In this new area, experiencing this engaged attention is to feel alive. Trusted filters, trusted protectors, trusted concierge, human or technical, removing distractions and managing boundaries, filtering signal from noise, enabling meaningful connections, that make us feel secure, are the opportunity for the next generation. Opportunity will be the tools and technologies to take our power back.

I don't have any brilliant conclusions to report (might try, though, if I'd have been there). The notes on the talk and the conference's theme, I find interesting.  The periodization of computing--twenty year cycles flipping between individualist models and social models--leaves me with questions about its predictive legitimacy--rings of a social turn, more recently to full blown networkacy.  And this turn, Stone projects, is answered by what's coming next, a return of sorts to individualistic attention control--more fixed, restrictively channeled attention structures.  Or at the very least, a greater measure of agency in the network. Yeah maybe.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


I don't blog too often about television events, but tonight.  Tonight!  I've been resting up all day (avoiding strenuous activity, I mean) because I'm going to be watching four hours of television in two hours later on.  An exhausting prospect.  Pistons vs. Heat (a must-win for Miami), at 8:00 p.m. and the two-hour season finale of Lost at 8:00 p.m (wallpaper...heh).  That's a mountain-heap of good television airing in a short while.  Too good to flip back and forth.  The coincidence of tonight's programming is monumental enough to re-arrange furniture and position a second TV for simultaneous viewing.  So that's what I'll be doing.  Feels like I've been gearing up for it all day.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


A couple of PHP modules just for kicks:

First, at Pholph's Scrabble Generator, via MGK, you input a few words and it returns the corresponding scored letter tiles.  My name totaled a mere twenty points--hardly anything to celebrate.  Still, I'm grateful that it's a K5 instead of an L1 or another E1 to round off my first name.  That'd have been terrible.

And second, for the repressed generative grammarian in you, at Syntax Tree you can use a combination of nested brackets to diagram sentences.  Nobody does that anymore?  Oh.  Well, in that case, you could game the module and use it to tree-structure just about anything. 

And although focused activity lasting for more than one hour may occur rarely with PHP modules such as these, it is important to seek something else to do immediately if you find yourself dawdling with them for any longer.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Screencasting and Google Print

After reading Collin's entry on Screencasting and FYC, I decided to see whether I could line up a free screencasting app.  For kicks as much as for generative digression, asides from more demanding and rigorous projects occupying my time as the semester rolls to a conclusion, of late I've felt compelled to tinker with new software--"new" in the sense that I don't have a terrific aptitude for using it.  For the most part, I've been messing around with Flash lately, while taking breaks from writing.  But screencasting...never given it much thought.  All the motive I need.

I poked around the web, following the link to Will Richardson's entry and Jon Udell's column.  Then, by way of another site, I found the entry in wikipedia on screencasting, and then, checked out each of the software apps listed.  Let. Me. See.  Camtasia 2.1 for $299 or Wink 1.5 for free. Camtasia?  Wink?  Camtasia?  Wink?

Wink 1.5 doesn't have audio capabilities yet (I read somewhere that the 2.0 concept includes audio and an undo option), but other than that, I've found it surprisingly feature-rich.  Plus, it's easy to use (not for Mac, but as a PC user, no Garageband or TinderBox for me now, either).  Capturing, cropping, resizing, adding comment balloons and next arrows--all a breeze.  Probably a sluggish download, but here's my unremarkable first try. Basically, it's just a few screenshots clicking through the stuff I'm writing about here, links and so on.

I didn't plan it carefully before I put it together; hence, in the first try you'll see an odd mix of tabbing between the stuff on screencasting and other stuff I was looking at today on Google Print (check it out, if you haven't already).  I was encouraged to find several texts related to comp/rhet rendered into searchable goodness.  Really something, that.

I don't have any decided conclusions about screencasting and FYC; mostly I'm just thinking it over.  But I think it productively excites the "what if" questions we need to continually ask and answer (ahem...act upon)--about the implications of discord (or outright contradiction) between cross-disciplinary principles and however-wrought conceptions of what constitutes composition.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Few Linkakees

Ogden Nash, "Tune for an Ill-Tempered Clavichord." April is poetry month, been hearing.
Does everyone know the Ubuweb?  Sound clips from McLuhan (via).
A game.
Comic covers. 'Nuff said.

Monday, April 25, 2005

On Channel Two

Until I read Andy Cline's entry at Rhetorica.net, I didn't even know it was TV Turn-Off week.  I've already soaked up a few minutes of TV today, so I guess I blew that one.  Next year, next year.  Plus, with the NBA playoffs, forget it.  Anyway, I'm much less inspired by a week for this and a week for that than I am by the grad school mantra: "Get yourself right for next week."  Or something like that.

I read Steve Johnson's article--"Watching TV Makes You Smarter"--yesterday.  And I've read a few of the entries made by folks (here and here and here) from the blogroll who've written on the subject.  Should be clear from the outset that I'm not sure I've got anything much to add.  But I'll try.

Johnson's article suggests to me the importance of more complicated understandings of cognition--of thought activity.  What happens in the encounter with a particular interface--paper or screen?  What's the mentation?  The mind in action?  And how are mediating tools (Werstch, Bruner, others) implicated in the complex neural patterns inside one's head, the firing of pulse-driven networks, the image vectors figuring some animated correspondence to word, sound, intelligible object.  Sure, depending on which examples of television programming we want to invoke as an example, we can argue that the tube affords us activations more complex than we might've known otherwise.  But loopy, fractured narrative structures?  Not unique to television nor to any medium.

I agree with Jeff in his contention that Johnson's article is a solid articulation of the cultural shift instigated by new media; a media mind--yup. And yet it's not just the media part of the phrase that seems to be misunderstood, obscured in the school-as-institution's cling to literacy.  Mind, too, has been shrugged aside either as a mystical, speculative science or, in no more hopeful terms, as a universalizing monolith misappropriated to the narrow path of biological determinism (I oversimplify, but some version close to this one seems familiar).  Three pounds of generic (c'mon, whose is it?) grey matter and a dissection pan.  Since I've been reading some brain science books this semester, I've been wondering--week in, week out--about how much bearing it has on the work we do in composition, especially when we hinge pedagogies on new media.  How much do we assume, for example, about how minds work, about how meaning is differently apprehended, differently made?  The givens in comprehension? Whether attendant to the teacher-penned comments at the margin of the page or in the complexly spun plots of a television program. Recently and specifically, it's been Faucconier and Turner on conceptual blends and Antonio Damasio on mind and affect in The Feeling of What Happens.

I expect this discussion will continue to stir throughout the week--as people find time to read Johnson's article at this frenzied moment late in the semester (two weeks to go at SU).  Its coincidence with TV Turn-Off week sets up an interesting counterbalance, no doubt.  As just one last thought, it also got me thinking about the montage episodes ABC has so thoughtfully edited this week (endless efforts to put H.Dumpty back together again).  Last night they aired a re-cycle of Desperate Housewives; Wednesday the same thing's going on with only must-see show of the season in my world, Lost.  And so even as Johnson makes the case that television programming potentially stimulates us to more complex ways of thinking about story sequences and about inferential dialogue-gaps that require us to fill in through projection and anticipation, ABC has turned out full, hour-long episodes dedicated entirely to catch-up, as if everyone wasn't watching every episode.  Continues the questions, how will we be conditioned?  What leaks into habits of mind?  And so on.

Added: Dana Stevens of Slate comments on Johnson's article.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Call Me Once You've Quit Your Crying

I'm reading annotated bibliographies from my students this morning, making notes and emailing them back.  They've come up with several really interesting projects--ideas nested contextually in the arena of McLuhan's The Medium is the Massage and Barabasi's Linked.  We also pulled a chapter from Gladwell's The Tipping Point this semester, "The Stickiness Factor."  And so one student is thinking about some of the factors affecting the design of children's television, particularly Sesame Street and Blue's Clues, the programs Gladwell draws on.  Coincidentally, just as I thinking about this project, which, among other things, considers the reluctance by early developers of Sesame Street to conflate real and imagined elements out of concern that pre-linguistic children would be confused by the discordance, I clicked onto this article from today's New York Times, "A Way to Calm a Fussy Baby: 'Sesame Street' by Cellphone."

The article is basically about all the corporate scrambling to win the market for multi-feature portable electronics, particularly mini-entertainment apparatuses for tikes. 

To test the personal appeal of mini-entertainment, Hyers turned to his own children, ages 3 and 5. He downloaded movie trailers for "Harry Potter" and "Finding Nemo" to a personal device and passed them the little screen. "They watched it over and over," Mr. Hyers said.

"It's really convenient because there's only so much 'I Spy' that you can play out the window."

Phone entertainment is so novel that even children's organizations that readily dispense advice are stumped.

I spy something...hold on a sec, my phone's crying.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


But only if you have time. This is one of the more narcissistic entries around here (unlike the bulk of my reader-centered entries)--much ego in reveling mug modifications, much less sharing them. Last August, when I first arrived in Syracuse, somebody shot a flattering photo for the CCR web site (so much can be said for photo-doctoring, yeah?).  So when I ran across Face Transformer, I had to give it a whirl, see what my official grad student photo would look like after some re-faciation, a make-over.  Plus, figuring that the just-before-first-year photo is the best I'll ever look for the remainder of my years, it's a game of nostalgia.  In fact, upon Ph. commenting the other day that he could use a larger duffel for his lacrosse gear (and he's right), I might've told him, "What, kid, why not use one of these bags from here underneath my eyes?"  Grande friggin' pouch-swells (like puffed blowfish), I swear, from mad-pace reading (to say nothing of training myself to read PDFs on-screen).  But, alas, transformation.  Imagistic morphesis.  Here are my top choices (if you've made it this far, you might as well follow the link to the original): ape, el greco, botticelli, and baby.

And the top-most of the top: modigliani, magna cartoon.

Just in case you decide to play around with the Face Transformer, you should pay special attention to their terms and conditions.  I've lifted the important bits for your convenience:

The Face Transformer is a fun toy only, and is not guaranteed fit for any purpose, implied or otherwise. The Perception Laboratory and the University of St Andrews accepts no responsibility for loss or damage incured while using this software.


We reserve the right to use your facial image and the personal data you have supplied for scientific research purposes only. We will not publish your facial image on the web, in scientific journals or in the media without prior consent.

Says nothing about lasting effects.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Rebus Revival


FlickrReplacr (via): Revival of the rebus.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Weights and Measures

Common quantities of phlegm and reading have moved me to install an organizer and an expectorant (to go with the Foxytunes plugin and a Firefox upgrade).

Monday, February 14, 2005

RGB Averages; Pixel as Metonymy

{125, 127, 73}

(Average RGB from the butterfly image below when rinsed into a single pixel.  Expanded again for easy viewing.)

Bumgardner explains Color Pickr in the comments over here.

I use a Perl script to retrieve all the thumbnails of all the photos in the group, which takes a few minutes. Then, using ImageMagick, I reduce each thumbnail to 1 pixel in size, and record the color in a datastructure.

The data structure, containing the photo's ID and average R,G,B values are then written to an actionscript file.

Well, no, I don't know how to do it, yet (yet!), but the process is beginning to make sense (and not just in its applicability to images, but that's all I'll say about that for right now).  It's the basic rendering of an image into a color-based number (Hit Song Science for the designing eye?).  The single pixel functions as a kind of meta-name for the image, a name by which it gets to associate with others like it through action script referencing.

Thursday, February 10, 2005



Not sure where I pickred up the link, but I keep getting drawn back to Jim Bumgardner's Experimental Colr Pickrs.  Scheme appears to be running through Flash (in concert with a PHP script?), but I haven't the time to dig around for clues about how the images from Flickr are sifted, arranged, and so on.  But I've got to look into it; probably won't be able to rest well until I dig through how it works.  Especially worth a visit: the urban decay and graffiti pickrs.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Goes Round and Round and Round

Now that I'm on with the more serious and alert segment of my morning (up next, summing up c.1 of H. White's Tropics of Discourse), I have to point you to a bit I landed via Metafilter on proposed legislation to fine drivers of spinner-adorning autos in Iowa.  Spinning hubcaps can be misleading, you know; they give off the appearance that the vehicle's wheels are moving when they aren't. When the vehicle stops, the wheel covers keep moving.  When the vehicle's moving, the wheel covers could be rolling in reverse motion. They're perceptually dishonest.  Unethical.  Basically, expensive lies. And so to curb rampant wheel-cap mendacity among Iowa drivers, the fine would charge ten bucks for the offense.  I'm sharing this just because the comments are a riot, from comparisons of spinners to moonwalking (which also should be banned, yes?) and rear-view mirror danglers.  And definitely scroll down to the Jetta collapsed under the load of wood (in the linked entry, not the MF comments).

Open in a different tab:  Slate's Ed-in-Chief on "Blog Overkill." Gist: you be careful fetishizing new media, and journalists are s l o w e r than bloggers:

The biggest difference between me and conventional bloggers is that I usually pause between first thought and posting. Inspired by the slow food movement, I like to think of myself as a slow blogger. Sometimes I'm so slow--as this Wednesday dispatch from a Friday-Saturday conference proves--that I resemble a conventional journalist.


I'll send a U.S. dollar to the first who writes "Shafer doesn't get it."

For a dollar? Shafer doesn't get it.  If not getting it means overgeneralizing about the thoughtfulness and care girding most writing in the blogosphere or, in another spot, suggesting that new media merely mimic the work of old media, then it deserves more nuance.  But subtleties aside, the essay offers insight to the tensions between clashing info-economies--the flows and mediums and controls and values tangled together.  And that's worthwhile, especially if such attempts bring about dialogue that pushes any of us beyond revolution/stagnation cliches.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Kisser's Lips, Blow Hard

Via Boing Boing, Corey Doctorow posts this trill-iant link to the Whistler's Delight--a mix from DJ Riko that works together The Bangles, Sweet Georgia Brown, J. Giles Band, Otis Redding, G 'n R, Andy Griffith theme and several others into one. Good listening for your happy Sunday.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Growth Agents

Finally, Major League Baseball's union and owners have agreed to a drug testing policy bent on absolving the sport of steroid use (and, noted one Sportscenter talking head, the agreement came without giving anything back to the players).  I'm interested to see whether the policy has any teeth.  With so many conflicts of interest in policing performance-enhancers in athletics, I remain skeptical, a skepticism rooted in a few challenges from days playing the part of drug testing coordinator, although by and large we were running one of the most comprehensive random testing schemes in all of the NAIA.

The lessons from Mothra (and co.) on the dangers of mysterious growth agents, lost. (See, the energy field beaming from the satellite dish is like baseball's drug policy, metaphorically.)

Other bits, pieces, orts...

From apophenia, a link to this list of bloggers who have been terminated from their jobs for keeping weblogs.  Needed work: a list of bloggers who have been hired for keeping weblogs (or projecting into a linked webspace).

From Steve Krause, a link to a user-friendly database query for the San Fran C's.  It includes a savable record; much better than the PDF schedules from recent years.  Now I just have to figure out how to get to SF for less than one month's TA salary.  Might have to convene a family hug tonight just to let D. and Ph. know that we're getting through March on laundry soap and a gallon jar of pickles (oh yeah, with boiled eggs, potatoes for a treat).  Oof! And it is a two-birthday month (both of 'em).  To the side: I'm only semi-serious about the strain.  I've been fortunate enough to pinch a couple of different forms of support together from here and there.  But it's still damned expensive to travel to the conference.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Rock Chalk Canaries

"Birds are really sensitive to smoke." From the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, a story from last week on a late morning fire at Pet World.  I figured since you maybe hadn't read much news of Kansas over the weekend (other than No. 2 KU's first road win of the season at No. 8 Ky. yesterday by six points), you'd be interested. Picked it up over at unmediated (once removed from Reiter's Camera Phone Report) where yatta  wrote about the "camera phone" credit in the photo bi-line as an instance of "citizen-photographers" capturing images later used in publications.  My first thought was yeah...that's interesting, even though the story is hum-drum, non-newsy inasmuch as none of the animals were hurt, and nine of the first-responders look on as the one who drew the short straw scopes out the building's roof. Back to feeding the fish and cleaning cages at the Pet World.  Cell phone images in the newspaper, very

But then, wait a second.  The credit for the cell phone shot goes to the same person who wrote the article.  A full fledged, story-writing "general assignment reporter" shot the photo with a camera phone, which means that the journalistic scene--a futurasm of citizen-reporters--confronts us with new discord.  I'm wondering, for example, why didn't the reporter have any other sort of camera.  Is the LJW sending its reporters to cover happenings around Lawrence with merely a cell phone (~3.1 megapixels, no less)? Out of film?  Was the reporter merely being resourceful (having left the Nikkon at home)?  And since when do newspapers give bi-line mention to the device, the photographic apparatus used to grab the image? Odd it ies.

Relieved the birds were okay.  

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Above Your Noise

With seven out of 202 search queries invoking EWM this week, I'm avoiding project polishing in favor of fun with server log redirections--I'm calling them s.lo/glibs (but I'll revise for a better-suited neologism if you've got one):
1. grandpa cheese barn [Passed it by, but I remember the billboard sign urging me to exit near Cleveland last summer.]
2. what is the meaning of authoritarian teacher? [Who're you calling authoritarian?]
3. grading blogs [I'm advocating pass-pass alternative assessment--VG=very good, SWA=slight work ahead]
4. dreams that you forgot to feed pets [Reminds me of the something-something-crunchy-tootsie-roll-munching-on-a-beach dream/ awoke-to-a-cat-litter-box joke.]
5. do businesses disclose enought information in their annual reports [Nah.  Pure nod-makers.]
6. free exemplification essay over driving distractions [Keep your eyes on the road.]
7. does anyone know where the love of god goes [Well, there's this tune while you contemplate it.]

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Fun-Hog Vote Favors Kerry

Hunter S.!

Even the Fun-hog vote has started to swing for John Kerry, and that is a hard bloc to move. Only a fool would try to run for president without the enthusiastic support of the Fun-hog vote. It is huge, and always available, but they will never be lured into a voting booth unless voting carries a promise of Fun.

[via datacloud via boingboing]

Saturday, October 9, 2004

G.W.B. on Dred Scott

We watched the debate with friends last night, quasi-Superbowl-party style.  I wasn't impressed with the town hall model, particularly for the way is positioned the audience members as dupes--mere question-readers, polite listeners (to say nothing of the homogeneity of the sample of folks from the St. Louis metro area).  I know the candidates simply wouldn't allow for follow up questions, but what good is a town hall forum if the questions are safely sanitized (which we can expect in all of the debates) *and* the question-askers don't get to ask for clarification, nuance, specificity?  I want answers.

For a few minutes this morning, I've been reading these fine entries on the debate.  Good points all around. The two strangest moments of the debate--for me--were the small business, lumber company setup (Want to buy some wood?) and the reference to Dred Scott as an example of justices failing to perform a "strict" reading of the U.S. Constitution and instead to render a decision clouded by personal opinion.  Relative to the Dred Scott reference, the live events in the debate, however, were neither clear nor understandable as GWB spoke; as I looked back at the transcript this morning, I thought the record, as formatted with sentence and paragraph breaks, was generous to the President's fumbling of "slaves as personal property" as a matter of "personal opinion":

I would pick somebody who would not allow their personal opinion to get in the way of the law. I would pick somebody who would strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States.

Let me give you a couple of examples, I guess, of the kind of person I wouldn't pick.

I wouldn't pick a judge who said that the Pledge of Allegiance couldn't be said in a school because it had the words "under God" in it. I think that's an example of a judge allowing personal opinion to enter into the decision-making process as opposed to a strict interpretation of the Constitution.

Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges, years ago, said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights.

That's a personal opinion. That's not what the Constitution says. The Constitution of the United States says we're all -- you know, it doesn't say that. It doesn't speak to the equality of America. [emphasis added]

And so, I would pick people that would be strict constructionists. We've got plenty of lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Legislators make law; judges interpret the Constitution.

And I suspect one of us will have a pick at the end of next year -- the next four years. And that's the kind of judge I'm going to put on there. No litmus test except for how they interpret the Constitution.

A few critiques of Bush's resorting to the Dred Scott case to address his criteria for justice selections have--as you might expect--already made it to the blogosphere.  Particularly thoughtful takes turned up here and here.  I'm sure the reference to the case was a grab at local resonance (much like Edwards' reference to the number of U.N. workers running the Afghanistan elections as fewer than it would take to setup polling stations in Cleveland); the judgment about slaves as citizens stemmed from St. Louis some 150 years ago. It resulted from Missouri's slave-state status set against Illinois, a free state, just across Mississippi River. 

The most ironic aspect of Bush's reference to the case is that Justice Roger Taney--in 1857--rendered a judgment against Dred Scott and his fundamental human rights because--as I understand it--Taney read the U.S. Constitution as a "strict constructionist," which explains the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) as a correction to the dangerous mis-applications of constitutional law along strict, "that's what the words say" readings of "property" and "citizenship."  With "strict constructionist" justices, then, I suppose you get readings of the law that are so narrow and rigid that constitutional amendments are required to ensure equal rights for all people.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Res Ipsa

Speaking of speaking for itself: MLK holiday? Meals on wheels?  Damn you, Dick Cheney!

Back to the program.

Monday, October 4, 2004

How to do things with boxes

Rather than diving into John Austin's How To Do Things With Words tonight, I'm refueling.  Presented on Foucault--again--tonight; that went well.  Tomorrow I carry on about Ways of Reading in an online distance curric. for FYC--talk and talk until folks are yawning or fifteen minutes passes, whichever comes first.

And to restore my creative groove tonight, I knew what I'd do at the moment D. pulled the last Puffs tissue from the box here in the office: box bot.  I'm ashamed to say I can't remember the sequence of links that led me to this the other day (Metafilter?  Slashdot?  Some kind, unattributed blogger on my roll or one degree removed?).  Shameful, but I'm filled with gratitude if it's worth anything.

Here's the bot.  Unremarkable, perhaps, but carved, scissor notch by scissor notch, from a drab, empty Puffs box--a box pulled empty of its puffy softness by the whole family's first cold in Syracuse. 

Box bot

You really should try one--even especially if it turns into something you never imagined.

Thursday, September 9, 2004

Thieves, All

Clicking through the register of my new bloglines account, I found this bit from Wired News called "Facing the Copyright Rap."  A triumvirate of judges in Cincinnati put their noggins together--clunk!--and ruled that sampling is a violation of copyright law.  Best part--even if the snippets are unidentifiable as a re-appropriation of another's protected works.

"If you cannot pirate the whole sound recording, can you 'lift' or 'sample' something less than the whole? Our answer to that question is in the negative," the court said.

"In the negative"?:  Does that mean 'no'?  Or must we find different ways to say 'no' because it's been used before in a song or two? (Aside: Simon Frith showed us the voice is an instrument, too, right?)

And I oughta stop here because it's too easy to fisk on the statement from the Cincy judges and because I should be reading Eagleton's book on culture right about now. But it's a problematic ruling for a whole heap of reasons, not the least of which--in my world--is a workshop I'm arranging on the remix essay later this semester.  Especially if we want to put students' work on the web, and especially if we want their work to re-appropriate copyrighted material in the public sphere, how should we distinguish between the tried and true rules about attribution when, as this ruling would have us accept, sampling need "not rise to the level of legally cognizable appropriation" for it to violate copyright.  As kindling to the (out)rageous plagiarism debate, particularly as we venture away from the paper-bound essay.

Monday, July 5, 2004


Be patient, dear frog.This happy lud-ditty (MP3) has been playing a loop in my head for the last three days.  I have no explanation.  (And no, I haven't even been gaming...just woke up Saturday...hopped out of bed.)

Fortunately, I was able to find it and several other game jingles at the Digital Press Sound Byte ArchivesThis tune (MP3) still makes me nervous, and I was never any good at Tron.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Centigrade 480 or so

Been a few days since we rushed over to the movie house to catch Fahrenheit 9/11.  Plenty has been said about it--from folks inviting the president to view it, to Letterman's top ten, to Kenneth Turan's NPR/L.A. Times review and Jenny and Chuck's insightful entries.  All of this means I'm going to keep it short, mention just two of the pieces that have been fomenting since we watched it early Sunday. 

Stark Juxtapositions: The humorous scenes weren't enough to soak up my sense of shame, horror, disappointment--the whole lot of nightmarish associations volleyed throughout the two hours, playing off the dreamscape opening.  Some of the juxtapositions were plainly crushing, and so I felt sad while watching the movie.  I wonder why there aren't more reviews on Moore's film as sad.  Propagandistic, unapologetic, scathing, and edgily documentary-like, but also sad.  And here we are.  When I left the theater, Bush was still Commander in Chief.

Election Impact:  The movie-viewing public isn't neatly partisan, nor would this movie have been a success if it played a milder line, with a gentler approach to the inquiries and associations.  Sure, it pushes hard issues, and it does so in a way that will reverberate across party lines, that will, perhaps, even redefine party lines.  Why?  It's compelling stuff, I think.  F911 reveals no less than a small bundle of res ipsa incriminations.  The torturous overplay of trailers, reviews, clips, etc. must have a relationship to the latest, and lowest-yet approval ratings (at 42%).  No telling if the hum will last through November, but it's unimaginable that the White House can muster enough damage control to restore Bush's image as a competent leader(!).  Then again, now that the sovereignty or whatever in Iraq has been turned over, Bush and company can refocus on the re-election campaign.

I really should have thrown this together right after watching the movie.  I'm sure I had more to say then. Certain! But there's just been so much F911-ing, and I feel a bit run down, blase.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Fire and Bikes

To say nothing of the nearly constant rain, we had a fine time camping at Weston Bend State Park last night.  Yeah...camping, I said.  We jaunted up to the park late yesterday afternoon, hauling along a tent, a cooler, hot dogs, s'mores ingredients, bug spray and a foreboding sense that the clouds on the horizon really meant business.  And they did, sprinkling overhead for most of the night.  It was a basic outing to the campgrounds:  bicycling, burning stuff, and trying to lay low, thereby avoiding the contempt of the grounds manager who, between sucks of oxygen from a respirator, was stunningly rude.

To put off more pressing work today, I cooked up little digimentary, a docu-dramatism depicting our stay.  It's not as long or as essayistic as I would like it to be, but I wanted to play around with the capture feature on my camera and see how challenging it would be to run it through my system into a sampler combining music, stills and video.  The mixing software is an old version of Sony Movieshaker--a standard install on this desktop.  It handled everything with ease, but I wish the audio leveling had greater precision.  Since I'm not in the market for any new software, it'll have to do.

A favorite camping memory:  In the summers, my brother and I would pitch tents in the yard, string extension cords to the tents, and convene long--even overnight--sessions of C64 video-gaming (of course we set up the computer in tent).  It was a kind of portable bedroom wired to the house; our two large outdoor dogs could come and go as they pleased while we fought through The Bard's Tale and Archon.  One of those summers, J. slept outdoors for a month straight.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Words Made Me Do It


A number of smart, insightful posts have turned up in recent days, working over the abhorrent prisoner abuse news out of Abu Ghraib; I'm not sure I have a lot to add.  I'm still not ready to dig my heals in on the whole issue; haven't come to many firm conclusions about what's happened, although I do find Mike's mention of command failures to be compelling.  Jenny's reading of Shaviro's post is interesting, too, for the suggestion that many of the young folks who follow the enticements of recruiters have few other post-secondary options, have vexed experiences with power and aggression, and find, in the recruiter's pitch, something promising.  

Lynndie England has become the poster child for U.S. military recklessness, gone to abuse and photo op celebrations of abuse.  In one story (whose link is down), England's uncle said, basically, she was just following orders.  Another story from the Baltimore Sun, describes England as a "paper pusher"; she's also termed a "scapegoat" by a family friend.  So what the world needs now is a resurrection of Stanley Milgram's experiment on subjects' willingness to inflict harm by subduing conscience in deference to authority: agentic shift. It's the same sort of critique applied to Adolf Eichmann who was found guilty of war crimes and sentenced to death.  Note: Some accountability went to his superiors, too.

I mention Eichmann because the corollaries are considerable.  And since Eichmann's role surfaced during the Nuremberg trials, I thought the following connection was good enough for the blog.  See, Mark Bowden's Atlantic Monthly report on "The Dark Art of Interrogation" seems almost prophetic now, in light of the torture.  In October 2003, Bowden's piece ran with its premise that coercive discomfort, while not exactly "torture," is militarily useful.  It saves lives, it enables intelligence officers to head off plots, and it's vital to criminal interrogation.  Fine. The project was eerily predictive as I re-read it over the weekend, during the garage sale when I needed something interruptible. From Bowden:

The official statements by President Bush and William Haynes reaffirming the U.S. government's opposition to torture have been applauded by human-rights groups--but again, the language in them is carefully chosen. What does the Bush Administration mean by "torture"? Does it really share the activists' all-inclusive definition of the word? In his letter to the director of Human Rights Watch, Haynes used the term "enemy combatants" to describe those in custody. Calling detainees "prisoners of war" would entitle them to the protections of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits the "physical or mental torture" of POWs, and "any other form of coercion," even to the extent of "unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind." (In the contemptuous words of one military man, they "prohibit everything except three square meals, a warm bed, and access to a Harvard education.") Detainees who are American citizens have the advantage of constitutional protections against being held without charges, and have the right to legal counsel. They would also be protected from the worst abuses by the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment." The one detainee at Guantanamo who was discovered to have been born in the United States has been transferred to a different facility, and legal battles rage over his status. But if the rest of the thousands of detainees are neither POWs (even though the bulk of them were captured during the fighting in Afghanistan) nor American citizens, they are fair game. They are protected only by this country's international promises--which are, in effect, unenforceable.

And this:

The Bush Administration has adopted exactly the right posture on the matter. Candor and consistency are not always public virtues. Torture is a crime against humanity, but coercion is an issue that is rightly handled with a wink, or even a touch of hypocrisy; it should be banned but also quietly practiced. Those who protest coercive methods will exaggerate their horrors, which is good: it generates a useful climate of fear. It is wise of the President to reiterate U.S. support for international agreements banning torture, and it is wise for American interrogators to employ whatever coercive methods work. It is also smart not to discuss the matter with anyone.

Apart from sensationalizing passages, it's a strong article for context, for digging into the semantics of "torture," splitting out what it is and what it's not, in legal terms.  "Torture," in this sense, is avoidable--duck the Geneva Compact, dodge international law and the Constitution, play the slippery terms.  

As I looked into Bowden's article and what follows, I was especially taken by the letter from Stephen Rickard, Director of the Nuremberg Legacy Project, an effort to memorialize historic atrocities of war.  Rickard's letter shows up in the Jan/Feb 2004 Atlantic Monthly, an issue with the White House Chiefs of Staff, including Don Rumsfeld, on the front.  In his letter (scroll down to "Interrogations"), Rickard defends the Bush Administration's definitive stance on torture and coercion:

Mark Bowden's article "The Dark Art of Interrogation" (October Atlantic) is an important survey of calculated cruelty. But when Bowden argues that the Bush Administration's position on the legality of "torture lite" (so-called "stress and duress" interrogation) is ambiguous and should be, he is wrong on both points.

Bowden correctly notes that Administration officials said for months that no detainee was being "tortured," but failed to rule out "cruel, inhumane, or degrading" treatment. Both are prohibited by the U.S. Constitution and international law. Specifically, he cites an April letter from William J. Haynes II, general counsel for the Defense Department, to Human Rights Watch, which ruled out only "torture," and says, "Haynes's choice of words was careful--and telling."

It'll be interesting to see how the Nuremberg Legacy Project responds to the atrocities now upon us, U.S. culpability in the fiasco, and the currency of it all.  So many other atrocities of war have been set against years of discovery.  Eichmann, for example, was pursued for years before he was tried in 1997 for crimes nearly fifty years past.  And while I'm not sure recent events match Eichmann's crimes, I recommend a quick read through Bowden's story and some of the letters of response.  If nothing else, they affirm the drastic shifts in meaning stemming from context: the meaning of these months-old articles has been overhauled in the last ten days.

Friday, May 7, 2004

Smiling at Me

Art preservation isn't exactly my bag.  I understand the great pains museums go through to fight the agents of time.  But everything ages; the art object, in effect, can never be construed as materially permanent.  Right?

This article from earlier in the week started me thinking about the possibility that DaVinci could have imagined transformational deteriorations in his most famous painting, Mona Lisa.  So she's warping; the wood is bending, with it her expression, her "look": skew. Time has its way.  The certainty of decay evades the most technologically zealous efforts to counteract imminent physical forces.  What will Mona Lisa's expression be in thirty years?  three-hundred years?  three-thousand years? as she peers from behind the Lourve's sealed container and untold layers of varnish.

The material alteration--a warped original--is less concerning to me than the unmentioned details about the numerous ways in which her image has, through reproduction, been simulated and processed, pasted on t-shirts, etc. John Berger touches on this in "Ways of Seeing"; Walter Benjamin, too, divides the cult value from the exhibit value, differentiating between the object and its original. The cult value is more interesting to me; perhaps the diminishing of the exhibition value arouses the cult value, and, in turn, the cult value shifts the exhibition value into a grotesque copy of itself, as a sort of popular distortion. These value shifts underscore political revolution, too, I suppose, turning Fascism on its head. (Yep.  I need to go back and brush through Benjamin's "Mechanical Reproduction."  And all of this--Berger included--is in the Ways of Reading anthology, 6th ed.)

This brings me to a confusing mix of issues that I find fascinating.  Where Benjamin discusses "unconscious optics,"  I wonder about the extent to which conscious optics are akin to copyright infringement, to the controls creeping counter to the CC movement and twinkles of liberated IP.  Technologies are making mechanical reproduction--via fragmented pixelations as frequently as film photography or film-based moving pictures--more popular and accessible than ever before. I imagine conscious optics lining up with comp/rhet in ways they seek for students to engage in the -graphy that is openly, visually reproductive.  And this call for a mix of visual rhetoric, image and design is not new, nor should it ever be entirely divorced from the construction of meaning and its pal, hermeneutics.  That is, rather than leaving aesthetic making to inaccessible technologies and their expert operators, we ought to engage students in aesthetic reproductions tuned rhetorically, tuned textually. No doubt, this approach to composition is catching on in a few exciting places.  

This turn is also playing out against IP tensions, intractable media ownership issues, and Paleolithic systems for sharing (or not). It makes me wonder whether the fight for Creative Commons can buck the fangs-sunk-in monster of sole proprietorships in new media.  We have systems--albeit arcane--for documenting text, attributing origins(!), and giving credit when we must.  But systems for attribution in new media seem far less wieldy.  What are they?  Do they come in the form of a Works Cited at the end of a flash clip?  Consider this excerpt from an article in the NY Times this week (link via unmediated):

Mr. Routson's work, which is not for sale, is the latest to find itself in the murky zone between copyright infringement and artistic license, between cultural property rights and cultural commentary. On Oct. 1 a new Maryland law will make the unauthorized use of an audiovisual recording device in a movie theater illegal. Last week two people were arrested in California for operating camcorders in movie theaters. One was apprehended by an attendant wearing night-vision goggles.

It's not definitive (nor am I carefully read in these matters--sincere apologies!), but there comes a convergence between mechanical reproduction, media proprietorship, reproductive rights (as in copying media rather than making babies), and this business of conscious optics.  I have suspicions that as the gulf between technology and humans narrows, as assistive devices help us see, hear, remember with tech-stimulated consciousness (recorders, amplifiers, etc.), the boundaries between experience and mediation will blur and with them, the battles over IP will flourish, perhaps even crossing over into our minds (you can't think it if you don't have the rights!).  Mona Lisa's warp and laws against filming in a movie theater: pieces of a fascinating series of media twists.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

A Double-Jump in PrezRhet

I've been noticing GWB's ties over the past week.  I caught a few minutes of his prime time talk last Tuesday, and I, like so many attentive citizens in viewerland who talk to the TV, asked for the questions to be repeated.  *Ask it again, ask it again* What's the name for the rhetorical event where the questions force the answers into a kind of orbital of avoidance?  Other, better informed blogs have already suggested that the President might have been more direct in his answers.  No need to restate that here. 

I really want to talk about his tie last Tuesday and his tie from the White House meeting with Sharon.  When I watched his press address last Tuesday for fifteen or twenty minutes last week, I sensed the orbital of avoidance, but the flicker of his tie is what really spoke to me.  It was alive.  Radiant.  A brilliant glow.  And that's what color television does to black and white patterns.  It fuses the patterns into a shifting rainbow shimmer.  I think it's called spectral "ringing"--the picture can't restrict the hue range simultaneously occupying the narrow band.  Farther apart, black and white stabilize; the television screen can depict them discretely.  But together, tight black and white patterns render dancing, colorful cartoon characters--like the one I watched while the President talked at the nation. Surely, the President's wardrobe crew understands spectral ringing.  So what were the consequences? 

Well, at first I thought it must be an inadvertent flub.  I haven't been watching Bush's ties, studying the significance of presidential wardrobes or anything even close.  But when I saw images from the meeting with Sharon, I thought I saw the fantastic match in the colors between the Israeli flag and Bush's tie.  Accidental?  Who knows?  But it sure seems like it could be deliberate;  surely the President's wardrobe crew is more careful about picking out what he'll wear for a visible, widely broadcast engagement than I am about what I wear each day.  And if that's true, then it's possible that his dressers, knowing these basics (PDF), were deliberate in laying out his checkered tie, the one glow-shifting on the screen throughout his press conference last Tuesday.  And for fun, we might speculate about the legacy of checkered props as sideshow that have been a part of televised presidential talks since the beginning:

Eight years later to the day, while delivering one of history's first major televised political speeches, Richard Nixon used a dog as a prop. Nixon was Dwight Eisenhower's vice presidential running mate, and the speech -- unofficially named after the dog -- saved his spot on the ticket. In rebutting allegations that a group of supporters had created a slush fund for him, Nixon conceded that he had received one gift.

"It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he'd sent all the way from Texas," Nixon said. "Black-and-white spotted. And our little girl, Tricia, the 6-year-old, named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog, and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it!" ("Web Team hones," 3/8/04)

I don't know, maybe it's too great a reach to suppose the President's tie last Tuesday was purposefully distracting.  But it was distracting (for me, at least).