Saturday, September 30, 2006

Recent (and Upcoming) Reading

On the airplane back from Arizona I finished The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand (2001 interview here), which I had been plugging through for months. It's a survey of the people and ideas that circulated through American universities and intellectual publications from the antebellum era through the Jazz Age. Lots of stuff in there on people like William James, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Charles Saunders Peirce (whom I thought was among the most interesting), and John Dewey. Supporting characters included Louis Agassiz, Alain Locke, Adolphe Quetelet, Granville Stanley Hall, and many others. At some point I want to summarize how Peirce and his father brilliantly used statistics related to handwriting analysis in a court case concerning a faked will; I just need to read it again to make sure I convey everything correctly.

The scope and structure of TMC reminds me a lot of a book I read a number of years ago, In the Time of the Americans by David Fromkin, which did kind of the same thing with American diplomacy. That is, it gave a broad overview of a generation's worth of events as seen through the lives of and relationships between major American politicians, diplomats, journalists, and military men born in the 1880s whose major contributions occured in the 1930s-50s. The cover features presidents (F.D.) Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower, as well as generals George Marshall and Douglas MacArthur. The supporting players in this book include figures such as William Bullitt, Dean Acheson, Arthur Vandenberg, John Foster Dulles, Cordell Hull, et al.

Both books well worth reading for the fact that each paints an elaborate panorama of a difficult-to-summarize aspect of U.S. history, accessible to the intelligent layman.

When I finished TMC, I went back to reading Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat (paperback ISBN 0-7394-6162-1). I am in a bit of a quandry, because a couple of weeks ago, when I was about 75 pages into it, I realized that there is a new updated and expanded version of this book for 2006 that had come out since the release of this paperback. Dammit! Of course, this is kind of one of the themes of the book itself, that things can change pretty quick. I weighed my options and decided to keep on reading my copy, but on the plane I got up to about page 150 and I was like "Ugggggghhhh" and realized that there was potentially so much new information on the stuff he was discussing that I might as well suspend reading of this copy and start afresh with the new edition. So, that'll be a trip to the library this week.

If they don't have a copy of the new edition handy, I'm thinking about starting a book from a few years ago by Herbert P. Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. This is largely because shortly before I left I watched the film Japan's Longest Day, about the court intrigues among the Japanese cabinet ministers and military officers leading up to and subsequent to Hirohito's decision to surrender to the Allies in August, 1945. (It was a lot like this Adama vs. Cain smackdown cliffhanger in BG: S2.5.)


Back from a short business trip out of town w/o Web access. Found Battlestar Galactica Season 2.5 waiting for me from Netflix upon my return. Sweet! (BTW, here are the Galactica principals as Simpsons characters.)

Also, I see that Anousheh Ansari's return from her trip went smoothly as well.

More to follow later.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


When my friend Glenn and I were college roommates 20 years go, quoting this poem whenever the opportunity allowed, I don't think either of us ever imagined that one day my blog would be hit #6 for the phrase "Images by Tyrone Green." Wow. I mean, I just kind of threw that title on the other day because it was the first thing that came to mind.

However, I just realized that I spelled "Greene" without the concluding "e." Dammit. I also realize that all these years, I've had the first line wrong (I thought it was "Down by the alleyway, late at night...").

Still, in honor of the classic Eddie Murphy SNL skit, here's the great work in its entirety:

Images by Tyrone Greene

...Dark and lonely on the summer night.
Kill my landlord, kill my landlord.
Watchdog barking - Do he bite?
Kill my landlord, kill my landlord.
Slip in his window,
Break his neck!
Then his house
I start to wreck!
Got no reason --
What the heck!
Kill my landlord, kill my landlord.
C-I-L-L ...My land - lord...

Open-Source Chess?

SSMW pointed out to me an interesting passage from the 9/10/06 NYT Book Review article on the new book The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, or How 32 Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Art, Science, and the Human Brain by David Shenk. The only problem is, the on-line version of the article is pared down significantly from the print edition and does not include the excerpt. Does anyone know if this is part of that Times Select nonsense they do? Anyway, here's the (hand-typed) excerpt:

Rather than being invented all at once "in a fit of inspiration by a single king, general, philosopher or court wizard," the game we know today was "the result of years of tinkering by a large, decentralized group, a slow achievement of collective intelligence."

Remind you of anything? Of course, the game has long-since adopted standard rules (with numerous agreed-upon variations, of course) but Shenk seems to argue here that essentially Chess is an early example of the OS movement.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Sticking It to The Man

Props to the Parody Motivator Generator. Make your own!

Heaven... I'm in Heaven... And My Heart Beats So That I Can Hardly Speak...

OK, so:

Tribune Series on Google

Parts 1 & 2 of the Chicago Tribune series on Google can be found here, at least for the time being. I copied them into Word and I'll be reading them in their entirety later. Excerpt: It wants every move on the Internet to go through its disarmingly simple home page, period. But to get there--and do it before Microsoft, Yahoo or any other challenger--Google must work its way into virtually every aspect of your life, from changing how you watch video to, someday soon, allowing you to comparison shop for wine with a price-scanning cell phone. Google has devised ways to make billions by linking advertisements to such queries. And to old-line industries, Google is scary in a Wal-Mart kind of way. It upends entire segments of the economy by coming up with cheaper, more efficient ways to serve customers. Inside the Googleplex, though, the company seems far less invincible. Google is learning it can't conquer everything. Recently, it demoted Froogle, the sputtering price-shopping service, off its home page in favor of a link to its version of online video, the latest mother lode of the Internet gold rush. Google had little choice. It is badly trailing YouTube, an upstart that has become the world's hottest video site. Dumping Froogle from its home page highlighted an often-ignored fact about Google: While the company started with a run of blockbuster hits--search, maps and Gmail--it hasn't had one since.

Friday, September 22, 2006

One Web; Collections; Factory Records Book; Anousheh Ansari, Space Blogger

A few things:

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Christoph Niemann

Now that you have some nice East-African hip-hop to listen to, next on the agenda is to check out artist Christoph Niemann. I learned of him today at work, and the guy is far out! Here are some of his illustrations from the Print article I read. I'll see if I can track down a clean copy of the whole thing. In the meantime, here's the blog of Print editor Emily Gordon.

Tanzanian Hip-Hop, Yo!

I've recently become acquainted with X Plastaz, a hip-hop group from Tanzania. I guess they're from Arusha, which is up in the northeast corner of the country. So far so good!

I talked a bit about world music a few months ago after we went to see Ladysmith Black Mambazo. So while we're at it, here's the Calabash Music global music store, with all sorts of stuff you never knew you'd like from all over the world. Plus, African hip-hop and the National Geographic World Music page.

(I think they're on Mt. Kilimanjaro on this one.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Some Ideas for the Book Room

Once we get the outside painted, I want to finish painting one more room, so I can fix it up as my office. It'll handle the shelf overflow from the book room, in which The ♥G♥ now has her desk, filing cabinet, and computer. Then I'll be able to get the last piles of books off the table and floor in there, and get them organized on some soon-to-be-assembled shelves.

Here are some ideas for how it all might look when I'm finished.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Scraped & Painted; A Few Things I Watched This Week

So I finished getting the west side of the house scraped yesterday while The ♥G♥ painted the stand-uppy part of the east side. Then today, she did the touch-up on the south side while I painted the laddery part of the east side. This leaves the painting of the west side yet to do, and then in five years it'll be time for a call to the vinyl-siding salesman, because I am not going through all this bullshit again. (Also, I've been waiting two months for something like this to happen, but no luck.)

Don't believe a word this man says.

In other news, I watched a couple of interesting things this week:

  • Newsfront, an Australian film about newsreel cameramen and the emergence of television, the great usurper. Pretty good film, though quite sentimental for "the way things were" as opposed to the way things develop when freely allowed to. Kind of reminds me of "that's not how it was in my day" people and the way they feel about the now-usurped television news and entertainment of today.
  • Protocols of Zion, in which filmmaker Mark Levin looks into the origins and propagation of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the sort that end up blaming the Jews for 9/11, the corruption of Western culture, this'n'that having to do with the economy, etc. One humorous point raised by a commentator in the extras: Levin was able to get an extended interview with both the head of a skinhead compound in West Virginia and also with a white separatist radio host in Missouri, but he was not able to talk on camera with Larry David, Rob Reiner, or Norman Lear. Open question for Mr. Levin: Why, oh why, did you only feature Will Eisner in the extras, and not in the body of the film?
  • William Klein's Messiah. This was my favorite of the bunch. It was Handel's Messiah (two hours' worth of it) performed mostly by professional musicians, but also by prison inmates, a gay & lesbian chorus, the Dallas Police Choir, and others. The most striking thing was the imagery assembled by Klein for most of the music -- very Koyaanisqatsiesque. (Although, I don't think the theme here was really "life out of balance." I'll have to watch it again. Or maybe watch one right after the other.) If the term above means anything to you, then you absolutely want to see this film. If not, you might want to pass. Klein photography here, more here, profile here, another profile here.

I Have Totally Got to See This Movie

I have totally got to see the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated. Here's the Wikipedia page, here's the official site, and the producer's blog is now on the blogroll. CHUD interview here. I have made known my distaste for Mr. Valenti, and just the other day I was talking about The Italian Job's 1969 G-rating, which would never ever fly today.

Here's some of what Harry Knowles had to say about TFINYR: Do you hate the MPAA? (ed. note: No, I fucking hate it.) Do you loathe this system by which filmmakers are forced to edit their films to a specific rating in order to hit a certain demographic? Do you hate that you've no idea who the people that rate these films are like, though they're described as being safe normal family folks that have kids in the young impressionable range? Want to really know who the people in this STAR CHAMBER of Hollywood are? See THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED…

…If you love cinema -- yet the ratings board drives you fucking bat nuts... this is the film for you. In addition to the investigation aspect... there's interviews with raped filmmakers like Kevin Smith (fucking hilarious as usual), Wayne Kramer, Matt Stone (fucking hilarious as usual), Darren Aronofsky, Allison Anders, Atom Egoyan, Kimberly Peirce, John Waters (fucking hilarious as usual -- his felching bit was great), Bingham Ray, Mary Harron and many others.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Ad for $6,000,000 Man Action Figure

Nothing real big to mention... I did like this site, pointed to by Boing Boing, which shows some newspaper inserts from the mid-late 70s for Toys-R-Us. I love what the giraffe is saying!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Clever Movie Site

Here's a clever little site we were talking about at work the other day -- The Four Word Film Review. (Where's the hyphen?) The idea is that people summarize specific movies in four words or fewer. As with most things, it's mostly dumb but there are some inspired summaries. For instance, Citizen Kane:
  • Much Ado About Sledding
  • Kid's life goes downhill
  • All that ends Welles...
  • Kubla Khan, Kane Can't

I am reminded of The Reduced Shakespeare Company's abridgement of Remembrances of Things Past: "I like cookies!"

EB vs. Wikipedia in WSJ

Excellent WSJ debate between Encyclopedia Brittanica editor-in-chief Dale Hoiberg and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. Here's the whole thing, in case they take it down later:

Will Wikipedia Mean the End of Traditional Encyclopedias?
September 12, 2006

Jimmy Wales is
Wikipedia's founder and chairman of the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit he established in 2003 to operate the online encyclopedia and other projects. He is also the founder of Wikia Inc., a for-profit company that provides wiki hosting services. Before starting Wikipedia, Mr. Wales worked as research director at a Chicago-based options trading firm and founded Bomis Inc., a Web portal focused on pop culture.

Dale Hoiberg is senior vice president and editor in chief of
Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., which began publication in 1768. He is responsible for the editorial division of the closely held company, which maintains a 55-million-word reference work available online and in print. Mr. Hoiberg joined Britannica in 1978 as an index editor. He held several editorial roles before being named editor in chief in 1997. He has a Ph.D. in Chinese literature.

Wikipedia, the community-edited online encyclopedia, has blossomed. It has thousands of volunteers that have created more than five million entries in dozens of languages on everything from the
Elfin-woods warbler to Paris Hilton.

But the popular site has also been dogged by vandals and questions about its accuracy. In one high-profile flap, retired journalist John Seigenthaler Sr. assailed Wikipedia in an
op-ed after discovering his biography had been altered to include a reference that linked him to the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert. A recent study in the journal Nature, however, found few differences in accuracy between science entries in Wikipedia and the venerable Encyclopaedia Britannica. Britannica, which offers short versions of articles online for free and charges $70 a year for full access, disputed the study and issued a rebuttal.

At a gathering of Wikipedia contributors last month, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales urged them to put more emphasis on quality instead of quantity. In a bid to battle vandalism, the German version of the site is
testing a new feature that will let administrators flag versions of articles as "nonvandalized," and those are the pages that will be shown to most visitors.

Can Wikipedia's everyone's-an-editor approach produce a reliable resource tool without scholarly oversight? Are traditional encyclopedias like Britannica limited by lack of input? The Wall Street Journal Online invited Mr. Wales to discuss the topic with Dale Hoiberg, editor-in-chief of Britannica. Their exchange, carried out over email, is below.

Jimmy Wales begins: We don't view the open system as inherently superior in all respects; it is different, and it has some major strengths and of course raises some important challenges. The strengths include a much greater timeliness, a much more comprehensive coverage, and the wide range of inputs means a good chance at a more balanced and more neutral coverage. The weaknesses include the possibility of vandalism, and the fact that in the current incarnation of Wikipedia everything is always a work in progress.

We do not believe that any resource tool can be reliable without scholarly input; this is why we so warmly welcome and invite the contributions of experts. It is a longstanding mistake to think of Wikipedia as being anti-elitist. Virtually every top Wikipedian I know is an elitist of the best sort: We love people who know what they are talking about.

Wikipedia is a freely licensed encyclopedia. This means that we invite anyone to take our work and reuse it freely. You can copy it, modify it, redistribute it, and even redistribute modified versions. Commercially or noncommercially. We believe that encyclopedias should not be locked up under the control of a single organization, but a part of the healthy dialog of a free society.

Dale Hoiberg responds: I agree with some of Mr. Wales's points. Clearly, Wikipedia and Britannica are very different kinds of works. Even Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson, a fan of Wikipedia's, says Britannica and Wikipedia are different animals.

But there is little evidence to suggest that simply having a lot of people freely editing encyclopedia articles produces more balanced coverage. On the contrary, it opens the gates to propaganda and seesaw fights between writers with different axes to grind.

Britannica draws from a community, just as Wikipedia does. Ours consists of more than 4,000 scholars and experts around the world who serve as our contributors and advisers. Our system is designed to produce sound, informed judgments that lead to balanced presentations of the most controversial subjects. Longer articles often involve multiple contributors and, importantly, all Britannica contributors are directed to include alternative points of view wherever applicable. We continually revisit controversial articles, and since we publish principally on the Internet we can revise them when we see fit to do that.

While Wikipedia may welcome scholars, all the reports I've seen suggest that most of the work is done by individuals who, though very dedicated, have little or no scholarly background.

On the question of editorial control, I hardly think having an encyclopedia published by one organization undermines healthy dialog, since in a free society there are many voices. A reliable and well-written reference work helps keep the quality of the debate high.

Mr. Wales: Artificially excluding good people from the process is not the best way to gather accurate knowledge. Britannica has acknowledged the value of having multiple contributors, although of course because they are proprietary rather than freely licensed they would have a very hard time attracting the kind of talent that we have.

The main thrust of our evolution has been to become more open, because we have found time and time again that increased openness, increased dialog and debate, leads to higher quality. I think it is a misunderstanding to think of "openness" as antithetical to quality. "Openness" is going to be necessary in order to reach the highest levels of quality.

Britannica has long been a standard bearer, and they have done a fine job within their model. But it is time to work in a different model, with different techniques made possible by new technologies but the same goals, to reach ever higher standards.

Mr. Hoiberg: I can only assume Mr. Wales is being ironic when he says Britannica would have a hard time attracting the kind of talent that Wikipedia has. Britannica has published more than a hundred Nobel Prize winners and thousands of other well-known experts and scholars. Contrary to Wikipedia, Britannica's contributor base is transparent and not anonymous.

The way we work with those contributors has changed in important ways, however, thanks to new technologies that have improved our process and products. Interaction with our readers and contributors has always been part of our daily routine, but the Web has enabled us to enhance this interaction greatly. Our contributors now post revisions directly into our editorial workflow system, and both they and our readers can and do send us comments and suggestions, challenge our facts, and so on.

The difference is that comments and suggestions are reviewed and checked by qualified editors before they're posted.

Another thought occurs to me, though. From where I sit it seems like Wikipedia is at a bit of a crossroads. It has grown very large and now wants to focus on quality. That's good. But despite what Mr. Wales says in this post, the road to better quality at Wikipedia seems to be paved with less openness, not more. I'm thinking of Wikipedia's consideration of a so-called "stable version" that could not be revised directly. I'm curious to know how he imagines that working.

Mr. Wales: And yet, as of today, Britannica's article about Britannica claims to be the largest English language encyclopedia, while the article about Wikipedia acknowledges our size, which is of course many times the size of Britannica.

The point I am making here is not at all ironic. Britannica's contributors, while sometimes distinguished, are relatively few in number as compared to the number of high quality people that Wikipedia is able to rely upon.

We have traditionally protected articles to deal with temporary attacks of vandalism. In such a state, no one could edit those articles. We did not like this, so we moved to a system of semi-protection, and the quality improvements were impressive.

We will now be experimenting, first in the German Wikipedia, with a model of flagging versions as being "nonvandalized," while still allowing editing. Each of these steps is designed to be more open, and each is also designed to help achieve higher quality.

Britannica doesn't display its rough drafts, or the articles before being checked by a copy editor; Wikipedia does. We think this sort of open transparency is healthy and results in greater quality than doing everything behind closed doors.

Mr. Hoiberg: No, we don't publish rough drafts. We want our articles to be correct before they are published. We stand behind our process, based on trained editors and fact-checkers, more than 4,000 experts, and sound writing. Our model works well. Wikipedia is very different, but nothing in their model suggests we should change what we do.

Mr. Wales: Fitting words for an epitaph…

We have spoken openly about some of the challenges and difficulties we face at Wikipedia. Not long ago, you suffered some
bad publicity due to errors in Britannica. Have you considered changing your model to allow quick, transparent responses to such criticisms as a way to achieve a higher quality level?

Mr. Hoiberg: In my last posting … I described the system we are using for feedback from contributors and users. It has proved to be very helpful in our work, but as I said, all feedback from this system is reviewed by editors and fact-checked before being incorporated into the database.

I am not sure I answered the question you were asking. If you were asking whether or not we have considered adopting the Wikipedia model (allowing any user to affect articles online directly), the answer is no.

Regarding errors in Britannica, we check out all such claims or reports carefully. Real errors are corrected, but many times these things turn out to be not true or involve some misunderstanding.

Two questions for Mr. Wales:

1. Will you please explain further how "semi-protecting" articles allows for more "openness" than did the original Wikipedia model?

2. As your administrators assume more responsibility, do you not owe it to the public to explain their qualifications and the criteria they'll be using for freezing, protecting and semi-protecting articles?

Mr. Wales: 1. In the original model, we fully protected articles, which meant that no one could edit them. Semi-protection changed that by allowing anyone to edit those entries who had an account for at least four days.

2. Of course. All of the criteria are discussed and posted openly on the site. Every action can be seen easily by any interested party, and all actions are open to public review and debate.

Mr. Hoiberg: I must point out that Mr. Wales's inclusion of two links in his
question to me, one to Wikipedia itself, is sneaky. I have had neither the time nor space to respond to them properly in this format. I could corral any number of links to articles alleging errors in Wikipedia and weave them into my posts, but it seems to me that our time and space are better spent here on issues of substance.

Mr. Wales: Sneaky? I beg to differ. On the Internet it is possible and desirable to enhance the understanding of the reader by linking directly to resources to enhance and further understanding.

You wrote: "I have had neither the time nor space to respond to them properly in this format. I could corral any number of links to articles alleging errors in Wikipedia and weave them into my posts, but it seems to me that our time and space are better spent here on issues of substance."

No problem! Wikipedia to the rescue with a fine
article on the topic.

Fortunately, there is a vast army of volunteers eager to help good people like you and me who don't quite have enough time and space to do everything from scratch ourselves, and they are writing a comprehensive encyclopedic catalog of all human knowledge. They have quite eagerly amassed a fantastic list and discussion of dozens of links to such articles.

We are open and transparent and eager to help people find criticisms of us. Disconcerting and unusual, I know. But, well, welcome to the Internet.

And yes, this is an issue of substance and a fine demonstration of the strength of the new model.

Mr. Hoiberg: Mr. Wales's explanations of Wikipedia's procedures were surprisingly unsatisfying on such issues as: Who actually decides when an article has been worked on enough and should be protected from editing for a period; How and when that status changes; and, What qualifications the people making these judgments have. How the new procedures he has discussed recently in the media constitute greater openness in Wikipedia also remains unclear to me.

General encyclopedias are big by nature, since they try to encompass all of human knowledge. Anyone who works on an encyclopedia for any length of time understands the hazard in this: the whole endeavor can easily spin out of control as you try to take in everything that has ever been known, thought, or said. It's an impulse that should be resisted because it produces work without direction or focus.

Most of us don't need all the information in the world. We need information that yields knowledge - a practical and enlightened understanding of ourselves and the world we live in. For that purpose some information is more valuable than other information, and distinguishing between the two is crucial.

Long before the Web, Lewis Mumford predicted that the explosion of information could "bring about a state of intellectual enervation and depletion hardly to be distinguished from massive ignorance." Not only would lots of information fail to make us smarter; it would actually make us dumber by overwhelming us. The solution, he thought, was not to be found in technology alone but in "a reassertion of human selectivity and moral-self discipline, leading to continent productivity." In these days of information incontinence, in order to be part of the solution rather than the problem, I think it is important to remember this.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Make Sure to Watch "A Time for Burning."

I'm watching a fascinating documentary right now, A Time for Burning. In 2005, it was named to the Library of Congress Film Registry. It's about an all-white church in Omaha in 1966 in which the pastor and a small group of congregants want to take the unheard-of step of arranging for 10 of their church families to spend an evening visiting 10 families from a local black church. This is old-school documentary filmmaking without a bunch of fancy CGI graphics, smart-ass/self-referential directors, or eclectic indie-rock/world-music soundtrack selections. The people on the wrong side of the issue aren't shown as shallow villains; the people on the right side aren't shown as infallible superheroes.

Wikipedia article on the film here. Wikipedia entry on barber/legislator Ernie Chambers here.

Make sure to view this film if at all possible.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Under-35 Tech Innovators

Good profiles at Technology Review on the next (or current, depending on how you look at it) generation of tech geeks' crème de la crème. For instance, creator and 2006 Innovator of the Year Joshua Schacter. Excerpt: What's users were creating--without necessarily knowing they were doing so--was what technology blogger Thomas Vander Wal has dubbed a "folksonomy," a flexible system of organization that emerges organically from the choices users make. We're all familiar with the alternative, the kind of rule-bound, top-down classification scheme that Internet theorist Clay Shirky calls "ontological" in nature. The Dewey decimal system is an example: every object is assigned its place in a hierarchical system of organization, and every object is defined as, ultimately, one thing: a book goes in one place in the library and nowhere else. In a folksonomy, by contrast, definitions are fuzzier. With, the same Web page has many different tags, which often aren't even related to one another, and no explicit rules are being followed. Web pages are therefore listed not in one place but in many places, and sometimes pages aren't quite where you might expect them to be. So folksonomies are messier than "ontologies" are. What has shown, though, is that folksonomies' imperfections are outweighed by their benefits. In the first place, folksonomies are dynamic rather than static. A Web folksonomy thus allows us to reclassify content according to our changing interests. An academic paper that's interesting today might be equally interesting a decade from now--but why it's interesting, why people care about it, might be very different. A traditional categorization system has a hard time dealing with this: once the essence of an object is defined, it's supposed to be defined for good. In a folksonomy, the reclassification happens almost automatically--as people start tagging the paper with new, more relevant tags, for example. Web folksonomies are also better at capturing the multiple meanings and uses that a given site has, rather than constraining the possible range of meanings. It's useful, after all, to learn that many people have tagged stories about Mark Cuban "crazy," in addition to indicating everything else that's important about him. Finally, folksonomies are cheap. Imagine the labor and the time it would take to construct a traditional organizing system for all the pages on the Web, and then to maintain and update it. Then recognize that is producing a ceaselessly revised organizing system--at almost no cost.

Loved Wicked!

The ♥G♥ and I both really really liked Wicked a lot. I'm going to have to familiarize myself with more of the Oz mythology in months to come. (L. Frank Baum profile here.) I love it when someone takes something you think you know and stands it on its head. No spoilers, but if you see it, keep a sharp eye out for all sorts of foreshadowing (and a little bit of post-9/11 commentary). The Oriental Theater is pretty nifty too.

I wonder what would happen if you played the Wicked Soundtrack at the same time as you watched The Wall.

[Also, here are some (sometimes overlapping, sometimes contradictory) theories on Oz, populism, and William Jennings Bryan.]

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Going to Wicked; Rotten Biographies Library; Italian Job

Spent most of the day scraping paint off the west side of the house. Arms hurt... back hurts... but... must... blogggggggg...
  • Tomorrow I'm taking The ♥G♥ downtown to see Wicked: The Musical. I think it's a good example of how reinvention of an existing concept/set of characters helps promote interest in those books/movies/etc. from which the reinvention was invented. Unfortunately, EMI does not feel that way about the Beachles guy.
  • Good reading at the Rotten dot com Library's Biographies section: William Marston, Richard Scarry, Barbara & Jenna Bush, Philip K. Dick, Salvador Dali, Gene Roddenberry, Walt Disney, Torquemada, Friedrich Nietzsche, many, many others.
  • We watched the original version of The Italian Job (from 1969) last night. Pretty entertaining heist movie; well worth watching. One of the interesting things to me was that the film featured the following content: The mob blowing up a guy in his car; The protagonists ambushing police and striking them on the head with baseball bats; Use of the word "bastard" in a non-geneological manner; and, LBNL, the strong implication that Michael Caine's character had a nine-way (that's 9-way!) sexual encounter set up by his girlfriend with her and seven other women*, and then a four-way (4-way) sexual encounter during which he was walked in on by his girlfriend. The funny thing was that the brand-new MPAA gave it a G-rating! -- "For General Audiences." Now the whole thing was charming and amusing, very much the type of thing that inspired Austin Powers. But it is illustrative of the controlfreakish, fanatically PC assembly line into which that institution has evolved when we compare the ratings given films by the young, (maybe more-thoughtful, less-formulaic?) MPAA, to those assigned similar films by the dinosaurish, bureaucratic MPAA today.

*Not that such a thing is in any way appealing, of course.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Brian Wilson Doc; Femtroopers; Audrey/DC; Friedman; Silent Top Gun

Several things:

  • The ♥G♥ pointed me toward this Audrey Hepburn/Back in Black mashup Gap commercial. Check it out if you haven't seen it already. Too bad she wasn't in a Femtrooper uniform when she did it!
  • I started reading Tom Friedman's recent book The World Is Flat the other day. So far so good; I'm a Friedman fan overall. Excerpts, observations, fact-checking, etc. as circumstances warrant.
  • From Team Tiger Awesome, here's the classic B&W silent adventure film "Top Gun."

Monday, September 04, 2006

Lomax; Wikipedia Research; Paperbacks; APA Style; Greek Mythology Test

Labor Day Weekend entailed labor, specifically climbing up the ladder and doing a bunch of paint scraping. Other than cursing the inventor of paint, here are a few other things that have occupied my brain lately:
  • I'm watching just finished a very good documentary (which I taped off of PBS a couple of weeks ago) called Lomax: The Songhunter about the career of Alan Lomax. Mr. Lomax and his father John both traveled across America with recording equipment on behalf of the Library of Congress to capture native folk music on various kinds of recordings. (Alan expanded and captured recordings abroad, as well.) Much of his work can be found here. This is a guy whose full biography I would love to read, but I don't think one has been written yet. They showed portions of an interview he did in 1991 or so with CBS. Excerpt (My transcription): I think our job is to represent all the submerged cultures in the world. I mean you and your CBS and all the big amusement industries represent a way of silencing everybody, you know? Communication was supposed to be two-way, but it’s turned out to be basically one-way. From those people who can afford to own a transmitter, which costs a few million dollars, to the little guy that can afford to own a receiver that costs a few bucks. So there are millions of receivers and people at the other end, and only a few transmitters, and I think that is one of the major, if not the major human problems now, because everybody is off the air. Mr. Lomax died in 2002, and had suffered some sort of stroke or something several years before his death. It breaks my heart that he never got to see the Blogosphere thrive, nor take part in it.
  • Via Boing Boing, here's an article by a guy who is running for the Wikimedia Board of Directors. he did some research as to how many people contribute to Wikipedia articles and in what ways, in part to challenge the methodology of a study done on that topic by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. He used the article on Alan Alda as a point of departure. Excerpt: To investigate more formally, I purchased some time on a computer cluster and downloaded a copy of the Wikipedia archives. I wrote a little program to go through each edit and count how much of it remained in the latest version. Instead of counting edits, as Wales did, I counted the number of letters a user actually contributed to the present article. If you just count edits, it appears the biggest contributors to the Alan Alda article (7 of the top 10) are registered users who (all but 2) have made thousands of edits to the site. Indeed, #4 has made over 7,000 edits while #7 has over 25,000. In other words, if you use Wales's methods, you get Wales's results: most of the content seems to be written by heavy editors. But when you count letters, the picture dramatically changes: few of the contributors (2 out of the top 10) are even registered and most (6 out of the top 10) have made less than 25 edits to the entire site. In fact, #9 has made exactly one edit -- this one! With the more reasonable metric -- indeed, the one Wales himself said he planned to use in the next revision of his study -- the result completely reverses. I don't have the resources to run this calculation across all of Wikipedia (there are over 60 billion edits!), but I ran it on several more randomly-selected articles and the results were much the same. For example, the largest portion of the Anaconda article was written by a user who only made 2 edits to it (and only 100 on the entire site). By contrast, the largest number of edits were made by a user who appears to have contributed no text to the final article (the edits were all deleting things and moving things around).
  • Interesting pulp paperback covers.
  • APA formatting and style guide. Citation style here, official site here. I'm going to be helping The ♥G♥ proof some of her papers as she finishes her degree this fall and winter.
  • Via Bookworm, here's the Greek Mythology Personality Test. Some of this applies to me, some does not:

The Oracle

0% Extroversion, 100% Intuition, 27% Emotiveness, 100% Perceptiveness

Heuristic, detached, and analytical to a fault, you are most like The Oracle. You are able to tackle any subject with a fine toothed comb, and you possess an ability to pinpoint nuances and shades of meaning that other people do not have and cannot understand. Accomplishment and realization of ideas are, for you, secondary to the rigorous exploration of ideas and questions -- you are, first and foremost, a theorist. You hate authority, convention, tradition, and under no circumstances do you accept a leadership role (although, you will gladly advise leadership when they're going astray, whether they want you to or not). Abstraction and generalities are your interests, details and particulars are usually inconsequential and uninteresting. You excel at language, mathematics and philosophy. You are typically easy-going and non-confrontational until someone violates one of the very few principles that you deem sacred, at which point you can fly into a rage. Although you possess a much greater understanding of process and systems than the people around you, you are always conscious of the possibility that you've missed something or made a mistake. You don't tend to become attached to particular theories, and will immediately discard mistaken notions once they're revealed to be incorrect (but you don't tolerate iconoclasts who try to discredit validated theories through the use of fallacies and bad data). Despite being outwardly humble, you probably think of yourself as being smarter than most other people. That's because you are. In fact, in your dealings with people your understanding of their motives is so expansive that you know what they're going to say before they say it, and in world affairs, you usually know what is going to take place before it actually does. This ability would make you unbeatable in debates if only you were a little less pensive about your own conclusions, and a little more outgoing.

Famous people like you: Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, John McWhorter, Ramanujan, Marie Curie, Kurt Godel

Stay clear of: Apollo, Icarus, Hermes, Aphrodite

Seek out: Atlas, Prometheus, Daedalus

Crikey, Mate!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Who Is This Asswipe David Warren Anyway?

OK, so you know those two Fox News journalists that were recently released from captivity by the Palestinian militants? Well, it seems that there are those in the conservative blogosphere are unhappy about their safe return. I read this post on Majikthise (and you should too), which led me to this post by Glenn Greenwald, and also this post by Jon Swift (both of which you should read as well).

Swift excerpt: Some conservative bloggers were critical of the "politically correct" statements the men made after their release. "I have the highest respect for Islam, and I learned a lot of good things about it," Centanni said. Other bloggers were disgusted by the picture of the men shaking hands with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Hanyeh, while still on Palestinian territory. They began comparing the men to Jill Carroll and digging into their past for evidence of alleged pro-Palestinian sympathies. Inevitably there was speculation the men must be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, although one blogger did suggest one other possible explanation: "I wonder if the journalists are complete and total morons or clear victims of Stockholm Syndrome." But conservatives were most troubled by a video that was released showing the men converting to Islam at gunpoint. David Warren, who writes for the Ottawa Citizen and Real Clear Politics, deplored their "cowardice" for converting with guns to their heads instead of dying as martyrs. "The two Fox journalists, whom I will not stoop to name, begged for their lives even though, in retrospect, their lives probably weren't in danger," wrote Warren, who risks his life everyday living in Canada, a place I must confess I am afraid even to visit. "They could see nothing wrong in serving the enemy, so long as it meant they'd be safe."

Majikthise excerpt, including Warren excerpt (bolded): Warren accuses the freed journalists of "doing the enemy's work" for passing up their shot at martyrdom:

The degree to which our starch is awash is exhibited in the behaviour of so many of our captives, but especially in these two. They were told to convert to Islam under implicit threat (blindfolded and hand-tied, they could not judge what threat), and agreed to make the propaganda broadcasts to guarantee their own safety. That much we can understand, as conventional cowardice. (Understand; not forgive.) But it is obvious from their later statements that they never thought twice; that they could see nothing wrong in serving the enemy, so long as it meant they'd be safe. I assume they are not Christians (few journalists are), but had they ever been instructed in that faith, they might have grasped that conversion to Islam means denial of Christ, and that is something many millions of Christians (few of them intellectuals) have refused to do, even at the cost of excruciating deaths. Christianity still lives, because of such martyrs. Not suicide bombers: but truly defenceless martyrs.

I'm not all that theologically sophisticated, so correct me if I'm wrong: You can't be a martyr for somebody else's faith, can you? Warren doubts that correspondent Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig are Christians, but he's still miffed that the captives didn't take one for the Jesus team.

The shorter Warren: Who knows what these guys actually believed, but obviously, they're cowards if they won't martyr themselves for a religion they probably don't even believe in.

Greenwald excerpt: Warren argues that the cowardice of the two Fox journalists in saving their own lives illustrates why we are losing the War of Civilizations -- because of what Warren calls the "Chestlessness" of our "men." As Warren puts it: "That is the substance of most Islamo-fascist propaganda: that the West consists of straw men, of men without chests, of men easily pushed over." To Warren, the cowardly chestlessness of Western men is why "the West is proving unable to cope with a threat from a fanatical Islamic movement, that it ought to be able to snuff out with fair ease." Warren has a biography page on his website. In telling us about himself, Warren complains that "the thumb on (his) right hand still hurts sometimes from when it was broken in a dodgeball game," tells us that his favorite sport is cricket, talks of his love for Ella Fitzgerald and Jane Austen, touts his devout Catholicism, confesses that he has "been estranged [from his wife of 18 years] for going on four years," and says he is "fascinated by seeds, small shells, tiny fishes, & insects."

What a fucking dickweed. I like Ella Fitzgerald too, but David Warren is a mega-pussy.

Update: This guy Mark Steyn in the Sun-Times is a numbskull too. Hey Steyn -- As long as you're using fictional charcters as the models of behavior for hostages, why not use, I don't know, De Niro from The Deer Hunter, Bruce Willis from Pulp Fiction, and Wolverine?

JMIC Theses; History of Food; Hobart Shakespeareans; 1900 Travel Diary

Some interesting things from around: