Sunday, December 31, 2006

Bagpipe and saw for the new year

Folk Music & Beyond played one of those sets yesterday that made me want to just park the car and crank up the radio. Lots of hyper-energetic music for the New Year. Notable: Bagad Brieg, a pipe band from Brittany which blends Brazilian carnaval percussion and Taiko rhythms with traditional bagpipes. Fishtank Ensemble, featuring saw with gypsy music from eastern Europe. An insanely manic klezmer tune called "In Your Garden Twenty Fecund Fruit Trees", by Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars. It all makes me want to rent a huge dance floor and get one of these bands to play some rockin' private dance party. Like, for when my husband turns 40. Just fr'instance.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

"Maybe the Next One Will Be Good"

Part of the original addictive quality of MTV in the 1980s was that you had heard about a cool video, or had seen a cool one, and were willing to sit through a dozen or two mediocre ones in case a cool one came on. features 1500 videos from the '80s.

So there might be fifty good ones in there.

Plenty of train wrecks. Mike and the Mechanics, Musical Youth, Rockwell, Quiet Riot. Quarterflash.
But oh... who even knew that videos existed for some of these '80s classics?
Like "One Night In Bangkok" by Murray Head, Afrika Baambaata's "Planet Rock," and the Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men."

Plus plenty of classics from Men at Work, Madonna, The Go-Gos, The Police.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Tree of Life and Me

The Tree of Life project is an online database (funded by the National Science Foundation and the University of Arizona) which compiles information about biodiversity and the evolutionary relationships of all organisms. Both professional and amateurs can contribute to it... which makes some entries more accesible than others. It's nonprofit, intended to help scientists and teachers, but surprisingly middle and high school students are finding it a great resource.

I only stumbled across it while vanity Googling (to check on publicity for my Tell It on Tuesday gig this past week)... because their using some of my photos!

Click here, search for "Ereneta"

They are using my pictures of the slender salamanders I found living under our green waste bin on the side of our house last Spring.

The pictures have been on Flickr since March. I posted them under a Creative Commons license, spelling out that anyone could use them for noncommerical purposes as long as they credit me. Oh, and I suppose it helps that the labelled the photos with the Latin name for the genus, instead of just saying "salamander."

Side note: I was hoping to catch Taricha torosa, the California newt, with my camera this rainy season, since they are plentiful in Berkeley and Oakland, if you know where to look. Although Googling around the web I discovered that its skin is coated with an acute neurotoxin (Only harmful if ingested, or introduced via a mucus membrane (like the eye)... one pet site helpfully suggested: "Don't place any newt in your mouth")). Washing your hands is supposed to be enough of a precaution, but an adult California newt has enough tetrodotoxin to kill 2500-7500 mice!

Note to self: don't let the boys pet one.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

on being the mother

from dooce :

“What are y’all reading?”

“One of her new Dora books.”

“Which one?”

“The very exciting one in which Dora imagines all the different things she could be when she grows up, like a doctor or a scientist.”

“You mean she’s not hoping to grow up to be a blogger?”

“Not in this version, no. But the best part is Boots, the monkey who follows her everywhere, he wants to be a teacher when he gets older.”

“I imagine that Boots is going to be seriously pissed when he gets older and realizes that monkeys only get to grow up to be monkeys.”

“There is a reason I am the fun one and you’re the one whose name she always yells when taking a breath between screams.”

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Clooney Is The New Khan

Here's a movie ticket I'm willing to buy.

Monday, December 04, 2006

organic free-range chicken broth

From Dooce, a parenting blog worth the occasional visit:

I made all these points to my mother who continued to insist that organic free range chicken broth is a noble and valid product, and that is when I told her that I was going to write about this and emphasize the fact that she was taking up for the hippies.

And if you’ve ever wondered how it might be possible to melt the face off an Avon World Sales Leader, you might want to start by telling her that she’s taking sides with a group of people who don’t wear make-up.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Scared of Santa Holiday Gallery

The 'Scared of Santa' gallery is worth studying as you plan your visuals for next year's holiday card. I shouldn't be so amused by freaked-out kids, but... Also worth a careful examination of the morphing facial expressions of Santa. ("Mommy? How can he be all over the world with these kids all at the same time? And how come he looks drunk?")

Science a la Joe Camel -

Op-Ed from Laurie David, one of the producers of An Inconvenient Truth.

She offered 50,000 free copies of the DVD of the movie to the National Science Teachers Association, to distribute to science teachers. NSTA declined, noting that accepting such a gift would put an "unnecessary risk upon the capital campaign, especially targeted supporters."

NSTA corporate supporters include Shell Oil, Exxon Mobil, and the American Petroleum Institute.

NSTA responds here. Seems like their Executive Director is experienced in damage control. Not only does he address Ms. David's accusations of corporate influence, he agrees to help get the DVD out to teachers.

The Wilhelm Scream

A brilliant montage of dozens of movie clips featuring the legendary "Wilhelm scream", a sound effect recorded at Warner Brothers in 1951 that has evolved from sound-design workhorse to industry in-joke.

I'd read about this in the past, but had no audio or visuals to place it in context.

YouTube is the best.

[Via Boing Boing]

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Play

I've been working at Cal long enough that I don't even notice how much University culture I've absorbed. I read daily briefings on Nobel prize winners, MacArthur geniuses, over the top under the table compensation to administrators, et cetera. It was probably 2002 that I was first introduced to the legend of "the play."

I missed most of the nuances of the play, blah blah blah fourth quarter blah blah Cal needs a miracle blah blah Stanford is winning, the game is about to end, and Cal gets the ball with just seconds left on the clock.
the Stanford band enters the end zone and marches onto the field. The receiver runs the ball through the marching band into the end zone for a touchdown (and knocking down a trombone player in the process).

Tonight, I wondered if YouTube might have a clip of a Cal game, any Cal game, to show Liam (whose fondness for all Cal sports continues unabated). And sure enough, we find:

The Play

Even if you don't like football, listen to the announcer (Cal's Joe Starkey) shout his way through this.

For more context, which actually makes the Play even more exciting, when you see what leads up to it: The last five minutes of the Cal-Stanford game, 1982.

I could have sworn I saw this exact play with Spanky McFarland and Alfalfa in a "Little Rascals" short back in the day.
I wonder if I could find that Little Rascals short on the internets.


Thank you, internets.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Dinner Table as a musical instrument

Beck and his band tear it up with forks and spoons in a live performance on SNL.

Complete with cutaways to a band of marionette dopplegangers.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

YouTube: Kasper Hauser Comedy

Our old friend Dan Klein's sketch comedy group has videos on YouTube.

Best ones: Jacobus's Video Blog from the 14th Century.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Dan Zanes Juggernaut

Gotta hand it to the man; he knows what works.

After nearly three fruitless years of attempting to interest the boy in Dan Zanes' music, we finally steered his attention to, where videos of Zanes and his band performing several of their hits finally turned the boy into a music lover.

In particular, the video of "Jump Up", in which Zanes enlists the help of a kindergartener on banjo ukelele, sent the boy to pick up his own ukelele (something he never does), and inspired him to ask daddy to pull down the mandolin and play it (where previously he only ever asked daddy to put the mandolin away).

Almost immediately the boy mastered the hand motions of "All Around the Kitchen", and we've heard him wandering around the house singing bits of "Malti", "Emmanuel Road" and "House Party". We're used to him reciting stories; singing songs is something entirely new.

I was so stunned by the transformation that I immediately went out and bought the DVD on which most of the online videos are featured.

Of course, this weekend's new favorite: "Smile, Smile, Smile", is only available online.

It's a minor inconvenience, however. We're happy with ANYTHING that gets him to forget the nightmare of music that is the Inky Winky Spider CD. He hasn't asked for it in days.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

M&Ms: Dark Chocolate

Okay, so you're a popular chocolate candy. What could be better than an interactive game for your fans?

Well, perhaps an interactive game that involves decoding visual riddles to find film titles, done in the style of, say, 15th century Dutch painter Hieronymous Bosch.

Of course.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Remembering Miriam, on All Things Considered

Melissa Block's remembrance of Miriam from this past week, with a link to the online archive of her earlier interview.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Chad Vader: Episode 4

A YouTube rarity: a comedy short that is actually funny. It actually got enough buzz that it appeared on Good Morning America last week.
This is an episode from a short lived series earlier this summer at

Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager.

Pratfalls. Total commitment to character. Banjo music for a chase scene.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Indian pop jukebox

Ronan's teacher Amena says this is the place to be for non-stop Hindi pop music and miscellaneous bits o'culture. Also available in Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

This Is Constantine Maroulis. He Wishes You Knew That. by Angela Ashman

I had this great idea to profile the most recent batch of MacArthur "genius" fellow here, with links to digestible summaries of their prowess.

But then the New Times' Village Voice ran a cover story on Constantine Maroulis of American Idol, and I got distracted.

He's young. Give him time. It's possible that even now the MacArthur Foundation's moles are watching his work.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Justin Roberts: Infectious Nod-Pop for grownups (and kids)

Melodic pop confections that trigger visualizations of singers and drummers nodding to the downbeat--it's what I call "Nod-Pop": early Beatles, Hanson, that first Spin Doctors album.

My new favorite Nod-Pop album comes from an artist who's best known for trading music video rotation slots with Laurie Berkner on the Noggin network: Justin Roberts. Imagine Fountains of Wayne's Welcome Interstate Managers but with songs written from a kid's perspective (actually "Stacy's Mom" and "Fire Island" already are) and you'd get pretty close to Roberts' 2006 release Meltdown!.

The track "Maybe the Monster" features something like eight of my 20 favorite pop hooks of the year. The remainder of the list would be crammed with moments from "My Brother Did It", "Our Imaginary Rhino", "It's Your Birthday", and the title track.

And the mellow ballad "Sand Castle" features sweet and sleepy Bacharach-style trumpet as an echo to the vocal.

Roberts was recently profiled on, for his use of GarageBand to develop more densely layered pop arrangements than he had on his previous five CDs.

Regardless of the tools, Roberts and producer Liam Davis have made a brilliant album that deserves to be heard (and purchased) by more than parents of preschoolers with premium cable service.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

What's it worth to reduce my spending?

Hm... This calculator is thought-provoking. If only I could exercise better discipline in depositing the fruits of my frugality into high-return investments.

Shelter mag for the downwardly mobile

From "Breed Em and Weep", an amusing post plus comments:

There is no Old, Small, Leave-It-As-Is-For-Now House movement that I can find. And there should be. It’s so disheartening to pick up a “shelter” magazine that promises fabulous low-budget renovations inside, only to find out that their version of low-budget differs from our version of low-budget by at least $15,000.

I want to know how other people live anachronistic lives in their old houses, i.e., how they can bear to look at their yucky, buckling Ikea furniture in the same space as old pine floors that deserve to be refinished and loved for another 100 years.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Coming Soon to Berkeley

Originally uploaded by AQUA_.
As you walk up Center Street from BART to the campus, you pass a Paper Plus Outlet, then lots of restaurants and cafes-- it's one block from Shattuck to the West Gate of UC Berkeley. But really, it's half a pedestrian entrance. The other side of the street is a Bank of America and parking lot, and UC's printing warehouse.

But not for long. Plans are afoot to put in a hotel and conference center where B of A is... and the warehouse will be home to the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive.

Today they announced the architect, Toyo Ito of Japan.

So I went and looked to see what might be in store for downtown Berkeley. Check out these links at Flickr (single photos don't do architecture justice, and Flickr is great and grouping pics together):
Sendai Mediatheque
TODs Omotesando Building (pictured above)

Mikimoto Ginza Building

Cool. Some of his early stuff looks a little too modern (there's a Yokohama day care facility that calls to mind an airport lobby), but I'll say this: a cutting edge building is certainly going to liven up downtown.
Plus, as a bonus, the Berkeley Daily Planet is so going to hate whatever the final product looks like.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Please: No 'Outer'. Just 'Mongolia'.

Here's Phil Keoghan preparing for his St. Sebastian moment outside Ulaan Baatar. Last night's episode brought back some great memories for me. Getting our truck stuck in the mud, riding small horses at a pounding trot, getting cloudy-looking water out of a freezing river, watching cheerleaders shoot flaming arrows into a kerosene-filled urn. Wait. Maybe not that last thing. Tim and I suspect that an falconry challenge was probably edited out of the final version.

Lots o'teams were worth watching. I hope the coal miners stay in it just so Mary can keep shooting David that withering glance. The single moms seem like they're barely hanging on, but I hope they do. Male models: you bore me silly. Peter and Sarah are scaring me a bit. Peter with his cold Teutonic efficiency, and Sarah who's disses him behind his back when she's not begging him to save her.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Condiment Packet Museum

An online gallery of condiment packets.

Ketchups, sure.

But also soy sauces, salt & peppers, jams, and even extra virgin olive oil (under Misc 1).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Great Tortilla Conspiracy

Crying Virgen
Originally uploaded by El Rio.
San Francisco artist Rio Yanez hosted "The Great Tortilla Conspiracy" at the De Young museum last week, inviting artists (and the general public) to come by and have their art silkscreened onto tortillas with edible inks. Link is to the photo set on Flickr.

Soul Sides: Music for Rhythm Addicts

Pop culture writer and former KALX DJ turned Professor of Sociology at Cal State Long Beach Oliver Wang has an audioblog, Soul Sides, which shows off his amazing collection of forgotten soul treasures.

Recent gems:
--Günter Noris Jet Sound Inc. doing their brassy best to funk up "Spinning Wheel/Son of a Preacher Man."

--James Brown covering Kurt Weill's September Song AND Hank Williams' Your Cheatin' Heart. Good God Y'all!

Wang also collect YouTube videos of soul sides on the site here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Male model being ogled by fish eyeball

Well, we're back for another season. Just when our marriage was beginning to suffer a few awkward silences, along comes TAR to help us remember why we're so perfect for each other. It's so easy to scoff at the triathelete with the artificial limb about why she can't scale the wall faster, or to smirk as the Korean-American graduate student brothers can't quickly recreate a mosaic brick pattern. And I could definitely do that bok-choy-tai-chi way way faster than the cheerleaders. So we need to know Tom Carpenter's TAR link right away to share our vastly undeserved feelings of superiority. (PS: I think this is going to be a good season. I really want the coal miners to stay in it.)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Buying In or Selling Out?

UC Berkeley's Dara O'Rourke (Professor of Environmental and Labor Policy) contributes an Op-Ed piece to the Stanford Social Innovation Review on how large multinational continue to gobble up socialy responsible companies.

I knew Unilver owned Ben & Jerry's. And I figured out from the "save this Box Top for your school" tag on my Cascadian Farms organic Honey Nut O's cereal that they were owned by General Mills. Didn't know General Mills also owns Muir Glen (tomatoes). I didn't know Coke owns Odwalla.

The latest acquisition: Colgate now owns Tom's of Maine.

Maybe I shouldn’t have ever believed in a toothpaste or a shampoo or an ice cream. I now realize I didn’t really know that much about Tom or Anita or Ben, anyway. I don’t know yet whether L’Oréal is changing the Body Shop or vice versa, whether Tom is changing Colgate or being transformed. But I will now ask a lot more questions before I trust or believe in these companies again.

Monday, September 11, 2006


If there is one thing that makes me more uncomfortable than watching college kids do improv, it's watching twentysomethings do improv.

That being said, if you've got an editor, and you're attempting an improvised movie... about a high school speech and debate team... then, heck yeah, bring on the twentysomething improvisers! (They can pass for teenagers, and the milieu limits the wackiness factor and focuses them on character instead of laughs)

Annie Mebane and Lindsay Stidham, two of the women at ImprovOlympic West in Los Angeles put together a sweet mockumentary about a high school speech club over at iFilm. At 23 minutes, it's a little too long... and more character work than actual speeches... but I think they're aiming at shopping it around as a pilot.

The dual interp team is outstanding. Too bad we never get to see them dual interp.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Cartoon Skeletons

Artist Michael Paulus visualizes the skeletal systems and bone structure underneath classic cartoon characters, from Betty Boop to the PowerPuff Girls.

Creeptastic and scienceriffic!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Amazing China photography

Photographer Alessandro Tento has posted a stunning portfolio of photographs from China. Wow.

Ro-Ro's Top Ten Video Countdown

Dropping to #10 this week is "Gori Gori" from the Bollywood movie Main Hoon Na. The song that could do no wrong now drops below the live version of "Pay Me My Money Down" with Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon at #9. The drop of one Shahrukh Khan clip pushes up "Ladki Bahi" to the #8 spot, with dozens of adorable moppets from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai keeping the Ro-ster enthralled.

At #7 this week is "Mahna Mahna" from season one of The Muppet Show.

#6 is a cover of "Victor Vito," a Laurie Berkner song, captured on home video for the YouTube crowd. You know a children's music songwriter is good when two year olds can sing the songs... and Ro-Ro picked up "Victor Vito" after two takes.

KFOG stalwart Jack Johnson holds steady at #5 with his seranade of Curious George, "Upside Down."

At the #4 spot is Laurie Berkner herself, with the Noggin version of "Victor Vito."

Leaping into the #3 spot this week is a throwback to the 90s with Tiny Toon Adventures' music video for They Might Be Giants' "Istanbul (not Constantinople)."

Laurie Berkner can do no wrong with the Ro-inator, claiming the #2 spot with singalong "Pig on Her Head."

And passing Berkner into the #1 online video slot is Ricky Martin, with the live Grammy performance of "La Copa de la Vida." Go, go, go!

(All videos available from the link)

The Infinite Album

Wired interview with Beck, who is pushing the boundaries of the "album"--releasing instead a mishmash of CDs, digital downloads, YouTube videos, and make-your-own-album-art--with stickers!
We did a remix project on a Web site a few years back where we put up the tracks to a song and let people make their own versions. There was something really inspiring about the variety and quality of the music that people gave back. In an ideal world, I'd find a way to let people truly interact with the records I put out – not just remix the songs, but maybe play them like a videogame.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

peter callesen: cut paper art

The link takes you to Peter Callesen's online gallery.
Look especially at the cut paper works.
Egad, is I believe the expression.

Audio Cassette Nostalgia

Images of cassette tapes.
That's pretty much what you'll find at

This. site. is. awesome.

The Poster List

$7.99 each for a series of 12" x 18" posters that make me wish I had a dorm room again.

Visual Treat: Vintage French Ephemera

A blog collection of vintage printed materials from France. Movie posters, textbook pages, trading cards, other random objet.


Monday, August 28, 2006

North Korean Mass Games

Along the lines of my previous post of art created from the controlled movements of crowds, are the North Korean "Mass Games", an annual festival of choreographed gymnastics.

Also: in a stadium performance, a brain crushing dynamic mosaic created by more than 15,000 audience members holding aloft various colored sheets of paper:

Street Art: Loro in Sao Paulo, Brazil

[via Wooster Collective]

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Calisphere: Digitized California History

The University of California has launched a new online archive of more than 150,000 digitized items, mostly primary sources — photographs, documents, newspaper pages, political cartoons, works of art, diaries, transcribed oral histories, advertising, and more, illuminating the history of California.

Designed primarily as a resource for K-12 teachers and students (in alignment with the California Content Standards), but with plenty of random browsing opportunities.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Someone Else's Vacation Photo

Backpacking trips are temporarily out of our reach. But I can still dream. Here's "Unnamed Tarn near Mono Pass", along the Eastern side of the Sierra, around 4 pm. Photo courtesy of John Beach, who has many other spectacular photos from the same 5-day journey.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Horsemen of the Esophagus

What's better than a week at a rented house near the beach?

A rented house near the beach chock full of magazines.
The grownups passed around back issues of Harper's and The Sunday New York Times Magazine. Liam and Ronan were fascinated by the 3-D cover of the 1000th issue of Rolling Stone. A single copy of InStyle magazine was there to help us "cleanse the palate," and keep us up to date on Jennifer Anniston's New Year's Resolutions.

But the best article I found was in the May 2006 of The Atlantic Monthly. It's a glorious article on the world's top competitors in the International Federation of Competitive Eating, excerpted from Jason Fagone's book, Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream.

The offbeat subject drew me in. The writing hooked me. Fagone knows how to tell a story, and it helps that the IFOCE promoters are great showmen. The final page of the article online captures the amazing drama of the 2001 Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Target/Red Cross Emergency Starter Kit

Stylish AND utilitarian.
(Although ideally you wouldn't be in a situation requiring you to use it.)

Includes gloves, ponchos, blanket, lights, radio, and first aid kit.
$10 of each kit purchased ($29.99) in August goes to the American Red Cross.

[via NOTCOT.]

21st Century Busby Berkeley Advertising

Via Wooster Collective, a collection of advertisements featuring overhead/aerial shots of people dressed in colorful outfits, choreographed to form dynamic shapes.

Of course, Busby Berkeley didn't have access to computer-generated extras.

And as a bonus video by Michael Gondry:

What's great about the internet and YouTube is that we can collect all these things together in a single blog post. What's less great is the lack of context: are any of these by the same choreographer? Are some of these copycats of others? (Three involve liquid being "poured" out of a bottle.)

What's great about modern brand advertising is that there are creatives and account planners persuasive enough to convince companies like Coca-Cola to spend bucketloads of money creating a street art stunt that makes me want to watch their commercial repeatedly, but in the aggregate doesn't really do much to sell more corn syrup water.

At least, not enough to justify the cost of the production, agency fees, and media buys.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Barenaked Ladies: Bluegrass One Week

From 2004: "chickety china the chinese chicken" in (almost) four part harmony... either they don't quite hit it or the mic isn't picking up the bass.

The nerd rockers from Canada bring out the mandolin and bass for an acoustic version of their hit "One Week." YouTube page includes link to mp3 file, if you need it.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

OKGO Dances with You(Tube)

So OKGO, of the infamous backyard dance video to "A Million Ways," is holding a contest on YouTube to find an amateur group to join them onstage for one concert to dance to the song.

I have no time to learn the choreography to this song.

Apparently college kids have a lot of free time on their hands to do exactly that, and post the results on YouTube. So far, over 80 videos of different "dance troupes" have been posted.

The reason I don't have time to learn the steps? I'm too busy watching the copycat videos on YouTube.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis

From the makers of Grand Theft Auto comes the first game to make me want an Xbox 360.


According to Wikipedia, Hemachandra was an 11th century Jain poet and scholar in Gujarati, who we remember mostly today for discovering the Fibonacci numbers fifty years before Fibonacci did.

But that's not the Hemachandra you'll find on YouTube

This Hemachandra is a college freshman in Hyperabad studying Animation and Multimedia, and more importantly, for YouTube users, the 2nd runner up on Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2005, an Indian reality TV show kind of like American Idol (Although Sony and Fremantle media do run Indian Idol in India, and even though Sa Re Ga Ma Pa looks like a blatant rip off of Idol, it's actually a re-brandingof a singing contest that's been running for 13 years). The producers are trying to position the show as a search to find new talent for the film industry... and not a pop music poster boy.

So Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2005 really is a singing contest, searching for excellent playback singers (who won't appear onscreen after this show), which means "Chandu" (his nickname) and his competitors really have to nail the vocals... and apparently having no stage presence whatsoever is not a liability.

Watch as the camera pans and swoops and cuts to the excited audience and Hemachandra sings one of the big dance numbers from Main Hoon Na while pretty much not moving.

FYI: Debojit Saha and Vineet Singh were the final two contestants (Debojit won). I haven't had time to check them out on YouTube yet. All three finalists are under contract to Zee TV for three years. Chandu, a former wedding singer, now has three films under his belt, two in Telugu, Vamsam and Premante Intena, and one in Hindi, Dil Diya Hai (opens August 25!).

Michael Pollan writes, Whole Foods writes back

Partly in response to Michael Pollan's latest book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, Whole Foods is rejiggering its regional supplier chain to incorporate more locally grown foods.

This is a pretty lengthy SF Gate/Chronicle story, with references to blog entries by the CEO of Whole Foods and Pollan himself.

Separate from the content issues themselves (which do make for interesting reading), what I find most remarkable is that a company the size of Whole Foods would so publicly respond to the work of a single author, and that it would do it using the CEO as the primary communicator, and the internet as the primary zone of communication--rather than hiding behind a corporate press release sent to media outlets, or even a one-way interview by the CEO.

Granted, Pollan was reaching readers within Whole Foods' target demographic--both with his bestselling book and his columns for NYT TimesSelect. So these challenges to Whole Foods' values were having a real impact on the company's image.

What's interesting at a meta- level is how this exchange points towards future shifts in the ways businesses communicate, as articulated in part by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel in their book Naked Conversations.

Pollan remarks in the article that using this public arena to create a dialogue was a shrewd decision by Whole Foods, and builds credibility among those who care about these issues.

Scoble would argue that the companies who are open and honest will be the shrewdest, and the most successful at building lasting relationships with their customers. Those, on the other hand, who use "openness" as a PR device will fail, because that is still about attempting to control the conversation.

Pollan will still continue to study and write about Whole Foods, so he'll be there to help keep them honest.

Or, maybe Whole Foods knows a guy who knows a guy who can, you know, take care of it.

Temporary Personal Assistant

Alamedan Sarah Deutsch's Pinkleberry Services will do your shopping, errands, gift-wrapping, party planning, organization, or just wait at your house for a delivery to arrive.

$25 for the first hour, $20 for the second, $15/hour after that.

I wonder how she is at applying metadata in iPhoto.
Or logging videotapes.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

MDA's Esquire columns

Perhaps you haven't taken time each month to saunter over to the "Men's Lifestyle" section of the newsstand, pick up the latest edition of Esquire, and flip past the malodorous monochromatic advertisements to the latest film column by our good friend Mike D'Angelo.

His past columns are now appearing online on the free side of the subscription firewall, so now you can go back and catch up.

Note that these are columns, not reviews. Esquire's lengthy editorial lead time is such that Mike has often not seen the movie he's writing about (unless he saw it earlier at Sundance or Cannes), and must therefore use an actor or director's previous work as examples.

Also check out his annual "Alternative Oscars" column, in which they let him run wild for a couple extra thousand words to celebrate and/or trash the year in review.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Daily Show on the Stem Cell Veto

[via Crooks and Liars.]

I thank Stewart &Co. for reminding at least its few viewers that to claim belief in a "Culture of Life" is such evil f___ing bull@#$% when you're 3+ years into a WAR.

Inhabitat: Chilean Prefab House

Piggybacking on Christa's recent interest in shipping container housing, here's a post on a Chilean architectural firm and its prototype house, la Minga.

And while you're there, you can check out Inhabitat's archive of "PreFab Fridays", highlighting the latest trends in prefabricated and sustainable housing.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mike Nelson's RiffTrax

Some enterprising podcasters have developed unauthorized audio tours of museums (some of which make fun of the art that you're looking at), along comes a series of podcasts offering unauthorized commentary on movies, a la MST3K.

And who better to offer it than the former head writer and star of MST3K himself, Mike Nelson?

For $2 you can buy an MP3 to play along with your favorite mockable movie.

Or rather, for $2 you can buy an MP3 to play along with ROAD HOUSE, starring Patrick Swayze.

Other movies are in the works. There is a poll on the website asking which movie you'd like Mike to do next: Showgirls, Rocky IV, or the Matrix.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Weather Bonk - Temperatures for a Microclimate Region

As I was bemoaning to my workmate how the "official" temperature available via radio, television, and news websites was pretty much useless to someone living in the outer sunset of san francisco, or even the foothills of oakland, he was busy googling the answer.

Weather Bonk is a Google Maps overlay of data from both national weather services AND home-grown enthusiasts with personal weather stations. A quick glance at SF shows a twenty+-degree difference between the outer richmond and dolores park.

A flyover to our neck of the woods has turned up a surprise: a meteorological enthusiast within our own neighborhood.

When I want to know how hot it is, I no longer have to settle for a figure collected down at the airport. Or up in Orinda.

(Of course, our street appears to have its own microclimate some days--on which the blocks around us are breezy, and our street is completely still. But it doesn't take much technology to step outside and determine there isn't any wind.)

Never wake a skunk

After a skunk sighting in our backyard last night, a discussion ensued regarding skunk spraying behavior. I maintained that skunks only spray when provoked, while Chris theorized that there may be random emissions that occur from time to time.

Turns out that - for once - I am correct.

This article tells you everything you need to know about skunks and includes a long list of handy tips for deterring skunks from taking up residence in your yard. These two are particularly creative.

13. Blow-up or plastic great horned owls may be strategically placed and periodically moved to deter skunks.

[[Damn, I forgot to move the owl last night.]]

14. Lighting up of denning sites and a portable radio may cause the skunk to seek a more suitable habitat.

[[Does the station matter? What if you get a skunk that loves AM talk radio?]]

San Francisco Solar Bond Sales to Date: 0

(via San Francisco Business Journal, which shuts off public access to their articles on July 24)

In 2001, San Francisco voters passed Measure B, allowing the city to sell $100 million in bonds to install solar panels on city-owned rooftops. With the blackouts of 2000 on their minds, and the prospect of becoming the nation's first "solar city," the measure passed with 73% in favor.

To date, the city of San Francisco has sold exactly zero bonds.
By law, the San Francisco bonds can only be sold to finance a solar project if the cost is cheaper than the price to generate power using traditional electric systems. Since the price of solar panels and related technology tends to exceed the price of fossil fuel-generated electricity, San Francisco hasn't sold any of the bonds.

I checked some other Web sites monitoring the state of the solar energy industry, and they all expect the price of solar energy systems that interconnect to the grid to become competitive "soon," with the most hyped coming from entrepreneurs with new companys and venture capital funding. But "competitive" means solar averages $3 per watt compared to a regular utitily's $1 per watt. No one is making predictions about solar ever becoming "cheaper" than traditional systems (except for off-the-grid remote systems, say, in rural Africa, where it soon will be cheaper).

San Francisco has been forging ahead with its commitment to solar anyway. The 60,000 square feet of photovoltaic panels on the roof of Moscone Center, for example, generates 65kW (the equivalent energy to power approximately 8,500 homes) is the larged municipally owned solar facility in the U.S. But it wasn't funded from the bond measure. The project, like projects at SF General, the airport, and Pier 96, are paid for out of Willie Brown's Mayor's Energy Conservation Account from PUC revenues.

So what's the statute of limitations on a bond sale? I'm thinking that by 2020, the cost of solar could drop to the threshhold to trigger the sale, but by then, SF may already filled its rooftops with PV panels.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Who has time for a Second Life?

5,400 word feature in the Boston Phoenix about the world of Second Life. This is the longest piece I've read, so it's able to cover more territory (as it were).

Or you can check out this five minute video about Second Life fashion designer Nephilaine Protagonist, or this interview with James Wagner Au, who for two years was Second Life's embedded journalist.

The article on avatar based marketing in June's edition of the Harvard Business review is available only to subscribers.

I'm spending (wasting?) a lot of time, it seems, reading or watching videos about Second Life, because I don't have the time to actually sign up and visit.

But the boys will be in Second Life, or a descendant of it, by the time they're in college.

(Again, with the standard caveats about rising sea levels, earthquakes, or the sixth consecutive term of George W. Bush)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Keep back, cougar!

[via SF Gate]

Rossmoor's population of 10,000 seniors has been rattled by a half dozen recent sightings of mountain lions in the area.

Joan Michel-Lehman, pictured above, carries air horns with her on walks. She says she's so terrified, she's ready to move.

My recommendation: Um, perhaps a more suitable jacket.

Tax Cuts as Deficit Reduction

I've been attempting to parse Saturday's NYT story about the unexpected jump in federal tax revenue. This of course was a preview to the White House's communication offensive on the subject--by which the mad prince and his mouthpieces were able to trumpet the talking point success of the Bush tax cuts in boosting the economy, thereby leading to increased tax revenue.

I have always hated the supply-side argument, and how anti-tax radicals like Grover Norquist use the argument disingenously (because they don't *want* revenues collected by the government to increase).

But the counter-argument balance proffered in the mainstream media outlets I've sampled have run in two basic streams:

1. The deficit is still too big.

Argued by Congressional Democrats who have given up anyhow and so take whatever earmarks and pork they can while they have a chance. This argument (improvement is great, but the problem still isn't fixed) fails to connect with the increasingly capitalistic ethics of our republic. Within the moral framework of the CEO, problems need never be solved (or addressed, really), so long as you can point to measurable results (aka "good progress").

2. With the coming rise in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security spending, we're basically fucked.

Argued by those who've been arguing this for years, and basically no one in elective office can afford to listen. These people argue that the slight uptick in revenue won't matter in the face of the coming entitlement collapse. (These are the same people who are quoted out of context to imply that the Bush tax cuts aren't significant relative to our overall revenue requirements.)

The link is to a Wall Street Journal blog post, that finally reframed the question in a way that cuts through a lot of the bullshit:

Does the amount of revenue raised due to the tax cuts equal or exceed the amount of revenue lost due to the tax cuts?

According to the White House's own projections: not so much.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

U.S. Terror Targets: Petting Zoo and Flea Market

In a report released Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security, the national list of anticipated terrorism targets are tallied by state. The most dangerous, by number: Indiana, with 8,591 possible targets.

California, in contrast, features just 3,212.

Nationally, targets of note include: Old MacDonald’s Petting Zoo, the Amish Country Popcorn factory, the Mule Day Parade, the Sweetwater Flea Market and an unspecified “Beach at End of a Street.” And don't forget Bean Fest.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Music for Maniacs

Mr Fab's blog covers extremes in music: thrift store finds, terrible celebrity covers (David Lee Roth's bluegrass take on "Jump," Connie Chung massacres "Thanks for the Memories"), improbable foreign covers (ABBA as done by a Ramones cover band, a clarinet version of Duran Duran's "Wild Boys"), and wild mashups. With mp3s, of course.

I'm partial to Pastel Vespa's Brazilian bossa nova cover of Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer."

The future's in the past

A speech by Stephen Fry ostensibly on the topic of why history matters, but more directly about how it can begin to matter (to a broader audience) by personalizing it--by encouraging people "to enter imaginatively the lives of our ancestors."
History is not the story of strangers, aliens from another realm; it is the story of us had we been born a little earlier. History is memory; we have to remember what it is like to be a Roman, or a Jacobite or a Chartist or even - if we dare, and we should dare - a Nazi. History is not abstraction, it is the enemy of abstraction.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Poor Orlando

From the NYT review of "Dead Man's Chest":

And there are other memorable bits and pieces, visual highlights of a movie with no particular interest in coherence, economy or feeling. Ms. Knightley is, once again, a vision of imperial British pluckiness, with an intriguing dash of romantic recklessness that surfaces toward the end. Mr. Bloom, as is his custom, leaps about, trying to overcome his incurable blandness, and is upstaged by special effects, musical cues, octopus tentacles and pieces of wood. Naomie Harris turns up for a few scenes of hammy voodoo, and Mackenzie Crook and David Bailie contribute some proletarian slapstick. Most of the other members of the first movie's cast show up again, sometimes in surprising circumstances.

Toddler-Friendly YouTube

Dutch is the kind of Dad who hates television programming for toddlers.

But he finds Youtube a good source for bite-sized chunks of entertainment for his little one, Sweet Juniper.

Lot of animals, muppet clips, and meta-clips of babies watching Baby Einstein videos. Also, his favorite obscure animation clips.

This extensive list is also 100% Tank Engine free!

Thursday, July 06, 2006


If your whistle was wet by the NYT article from last month about the new Bollywood superhero movie Krrish, you'll enjoy even more this review by media theorist and fanboy Henry Jenkins.
Much like the original Superman, he covers vast distances through long leaps but doesn't actually have the ability to fly. He can scale a mountain peak as if it were a series of stepping stones. He can run faster than the local horses. He can reach into the river and yank out a fish with his bare hands. And he can speak with the animals and get them to do his bidding. And, in several sequences, he demonstrates his superiority, Gandhi style, by withstanding enormous physical and emotional abuse without resorting to violence.
Sadly, it doesn't appear to be playing in California. Yet.

But trailers and song clips are available at the official movie website.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Senator Ted Stevens on the internets

Senator Stevens' internets service provider.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Can't Touch This: Guild Wars vs World of Warcraft

I know you all have been wondering which MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) to join in your spare time.

This video may help settle the case, at least until D&D Online comes out of beta testing.

Or it might just get you dancing.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Pretty Woman (Remix)

Kal Ho Naa Ho - Maahe Ve

Bhangra remix of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman," featuring Sharukh Khan in, of all things, a Fourth of July parade.

With Spanish subtitles.

Friday, June 30, 2006


Apparently Roger Ebert got as big a kick out of Subhash Gai's 1999 hit, Taal, as I did, although he didn't have the benefit of subtitles. He likens Bollywood musicals to those of Doris Day... although I have to say, I've never seen a Doris Day musical.

Of course, I didn't have the benefit of Ebert's review when I walked into Reel Video. I chose it by the DVD cover. There's dancers on the cover. That's a good sign. A.R. Rahman's name is on the cover, that's a good sign (he's the gold standard for Bollywood songs). On the back, Alga Yagnik's name. She's the lead female vocalist. This could be a good sign, except I always get her mixed up with Asha Bhosle. Also, I look for cases from Eros International, which sticks to blockbusters and crowd pleasers. I don't want to accidentally bring home an art film.

For pure spectacle, I'm sorry to say, that Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Mohabbatein spoiled me. They're much more clip-worthy, and their internal milieus are more consistent.

The story in Taal is great musical love story fun: City boy (son of a multinational's CEO) meets peasant girl who teaches yoga. Girl follows boy to Mumbai, family quarrel separates them. She gets discovered as pop star by Mumbai's hottest DJ/orchestra conductor/producer/rapper and wins MTV International star of the year award.

But the effort to distinguish the two worlds of the country and the city are pretty jarring: the countryside scenes are nice, filmed on location, but apparently all the pop stars in Mumbai in 1999 were dressing like it's 1982, in spandex and leg warmers. If you don't want to sit through a three hour long subtitled musical, YouTube gives you the highlights. Here's "Taal se Taal," with Aishwarya Rai dancing to the country version and Anil Kapoor rapping the
Western remix.

Only clip that wouldn't invoke total guffaws from an audience unfamiliar with the genre might be the song "Ishq Bina," essentially the love theme from Taal. It's the requisite pre-wedding party song (I swear, there's a wedding party in all of these movies) and again, YouTube's got the clip, sans subtitles, of course.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Video: Hans Rosling at TED

Public health professor Hans Rosling uses wicked cool data visualizations to show how the developing world is not what it once was.

And explains why Swedish undergraduate students scored lower than chimpanzees on a global public health quiz.

Part of a collection of videos recently posted from the 2006 TED conference.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Dino, Orson, and Jack: a Little Sondheim

"Everybody Ought to Have a Maid"

(via YouTube)
I was looking for Orson Welles' frozen peas commercial, when I came across this clip, presumably from the Dean Martin show.
Dean Martin, Jack Gilford and Orson Welles doing a number from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. (Surprisingly, Gilford, who did the show and the movie, is reading his lines off cue cards).

The number is a lighthearted showstopper in the play. This version is kinda creepy.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

SF CITYSCAPE: Democracy Inaction

A reflection on when "the community" might not mean "the community", in particular as it relates to urban planning.
But then last night, we were watching The Daily Show when Jon Stewart made this comment, one we found relevant to the matter at hand: Extremists get their way, he said, "because moderates have shit to do."

Meet Ayun Halliday

Ayun Halliday, NU alum, actor, zinester ("The East Village Inky"), author.
Her new book is Dirty Sugar Cookies, a self-mocking memoir of her culinary upbringing. She's visiting 30 blogs in 30 days to promote it.

I asked her about the connections between her theatre background and food. Results at my LiveJournal.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Try to avoid bringing dogs to meetings.

As a freelancer, I often find myself being included on the distribution list of many inter-office memos, while not actually ever having to pay much attention to what they say or having to worry about taking any action. These are excerpts from a particularly surreal one from my current client on the subject of bringing pets to work.


As you know, we currently allow employees to bring pets (dogs or cats) to the workplace. To ensure that the workplace remains a comfortable environment for everyone-including those who may be allergic to pets or uncomfortable around pets--- we are implementing the following guidelines:

[[some boneheadedly obvious guidelines such as "make sure your pet is housebroken" appear here in the original]]

To the extent possible, Dogs should stay with their owner or caregiver at all times in their office/cubicle. If the caregiver needs to attend a meeting, an alternative caregiver should be appointed to take care of any needs while the primary caregiver is away.

Try to avoid bringing dogs to meetings.

[[Note that they only ask that you TRY not to bring your dog to meetings. Perhaps you could explain to him that he might be bored, that he won't be able to read the slides, or simply sneak into the meeting before he sees you. "Look, snausages!"]]

Dogs/cats should be kept away from people with allergies.

Walk your dog outside the building and courtyard areas several times a day, and please clean up afterwards.

Bring a supply of toys or treats to keep your dog from getting bored or disruptive. Please avoid squeaky toys.

You are responsible for cleaning up after your dog inside and outside of the building. If your dog has an accident inside the building, please also notify Facilities, since additional clean-up may be necessary.

Any incident of aggressive behavior by a dog is unacceptable and the dog will not be allowed back at work.

Loud or repetitive barking is not acceptable and must be stopped right away. Dogs who bark excessively will not be allowed back at work.

Eating, or even sniffing, an employee's food by a pet is not acceptable.

Please be aware that pets also may make some feel uncomfortable. Therefore, please use common sense and common courtesy and respect the views of others at all times.

Based on business needs or the needs/comforts of other department members, a manager may, at their discretion, add more restrictions or limitations to these guidelines, applying to his or her department specifically. This may include restricting pets from the department.

Seeger Sessions in Concert

Bruce and his Pete Seeger tribute at Madison Square Garden. Today's NYT.

The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins

MIT professor and pop media culture fan Henry Jenkins blogs about media convergence, participatory culture, collective intelligence, and Robot Chicken.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hand over the phone and no one gets hurt

Case study: ignoring the problem may be your worst strategy. Except hiding behind your mom. That might be even worse than worst.

From Wednesday's NYT.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Um.... what?

Also available as a DVD from Rhino.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Al Agonistes

Communicating scientific information to a broad public is incredibly difficult. Especially if you can't separate the good guys from the bad guys. Or if the bad guys might be us. I'm hoping to get a little inspiration from this film when I write my next EPA press release.

Also: I cried through the scenes of Bush-Gore recount.

Also: Apple plays an uncredited starring role.

Friday, June 09, 2006

New Trends in Home Staging

When the smell of cookies baking and a half dozen well-placed throw pillows just aren't enough to make it seem like home.

A company is now hiring fake families to inhabit properties during open houses.
"Model homes are wonderful and give you an idea about the potential a house has, but what's really missing is the soul," said Jim Garfield, of Roddan Paolucci Roddan, the property public relations firm behind the concept. "It's a theatrical, interactive, experiential show that allows visitors to see a home's heart."
Like Past Present, the actors must improvise their interactions with potential homebuyers, pre-armed with knowledge about the features of the house or its appliances.

I only wish we'd thought of it first.

Federal Judge Orders Rock-Paper-Scissors

Thursday, June 08, 2006

YouTube: "Indian Beatles"

via Boing Boing

From 1965, a two minute clip from Jaanwar, featuring four musicians in Beatles suits, singing a Hindi cover/rip off of "I Want to Hold Your Hand."

The comments note the title in Hindi is "Tumse Hai Dil Ko," but most other references to this cover song (on sites that cover either the Beatles, cover songs, or that track Indian film music plagiarism) call it "Dekho ab to."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Happy Birthday David Sedaris

Commencement Speeches from Cal

Excerpts from speeches made by geographers, writers, journalists, psychologists, and activists.

My favorite is actually from a Stanford professor, David Kennedy, addressing the Department of History graduates:

I know college has seemed hard — all those papers, tedious lectures, course assistants speaking an incomprehensible language, exams, labs, problem sets. But three things have made it easy: freedom, forgiveness, and indulgence. All three are about to disappear from your lives forever.

The "5-Second Rule"

Researchers at the University of Illinois weigh in on whether you can eat food that's been dropped on the floor..
Food Science Professor Peter Blaschek said, "I think all bets are off when you're talking about something like carpeting. That's an entirely different story and we haven't done that study yet.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A grudging acceptance

I take a breath and acknowledge, dear Reader, that I don't really like Stephen Colbert. Just.... find him tiresome and not .... really... worthwhile. Yes, even more so after the White House correspondants dinner. Whew. I'm clean now. But I find him less annoying having read his commencement address at Knox College:

So, say “yes.” In fact, say “yes” as often as you can. When I was starting out in Chicago, doing improvisational theatre with Second City and other places, there was really only one rule I was taught about improv. That was, “yes-and.” In this case, “yes-and” is a verb. To “yes-and.” I yes-and, you yes-and, he, she or it yes-ands. And yes-anding means that when you go onstage to improvise a scene with no script, you have no idea what’s going to happen, maybe with someone you’ve never met before. To build a scene, you have to accept. To build anything onstage, you have to accept what the other improviser initiates on stage. They say you’re doctors—you’re doctors. And then, you add to that: We’re doctors and we’re trapped in an ice cave. That’s the “-and.” And then hopefully they “yes-and” you back. You have to keep your eyes open when you do this. You have to be aware of what the other performer is offering you, so that you can agree and add to it. And through these agreements, you can improvise a scene or a one-act play. And because, by following each other’s lead, neither of you are really in control. It’s more of a mutual discovery than a solo adventure. What happens in a scene is often as much a surprise to you as it is to the audience.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Art of Science II

Revisiting an online exhibition I posted last year. Pictured: Hairpin Vortex.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Nitpicking Vista

Not simply because I work for Apple.

Not merely because Christa may take a contract to help a company make the Vista transition.

But because technology blogger Chris Pirillo is a mad f---ing genius of detail obsession, he lists here 65 errors, glitches, disconnects, oddities, and other concerns in a recent Beta version of Microsoft Windows Vista he was asked to evaluate, including every instance he sees where a font resource is applying Tahoma and Microsoft Sans Serif (Windows XP fonts) instead of Microsoft's self-touted (and disputed) new font Segoe UI.

I once wrote a memo like this to a client seeking feedback on their digital brand asset extranet. The sheer volume of information presented in a single brain dump can cause seizures of anxiety and seething hatred in recipients who have never seen the need to do better than C+ work in either their school or professional careers.

But to detail-compulsives like myself (and, I imagine, Pirillo), it's an equivalent high to a first-person shooter videogame in which you switch to the special weapon and lay waste to roomful after roomful of enemy soldiers.

Pirillo, in fact, enjoyed himself so much, he spent his Memorial Day weekend piling on with a list of 65 reasons why Outlook 2007 will suck and an additional 67 Vista mistakes.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Baby Loves Disco

(via SF Gate's Culture Blog):
So you know how movie theatres are offering "Mommy Matinees" for parents with wee ones?

San Francisco's swanky nite spot, Ruby Skye, is importing the latest family-friendly dance craze from Philly and New York, Baby Loves Disco. It will host several toddler/preschool dance afternoons, complete with live DJ spinning disco and funk (no Wiggles allowed) for the whole family on its 15,000 feet dance floor. June 17, July 15, August 19, 2 to 5 pm, 10 bucks a head.

Site has videos, lots of press clippings.

ZeroOne San Jose

When I think of cutting edge contemporary art, and especially cutting edge contemporary performance art, I don't think of San Jose. I think of New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Amsterdam. Vancouver. Toronto. Maybe Minneapolis. Even Cleveland, Ohio (home to an annual performance art festival for nearly twenty years)

But now San Jose will host ZeroOne: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge & the Thirteenth International Symposium of Electronic Art (ISEA2006). (ISEA moves around the globe and is held a different city each year). It makes sense to bring the symposium to Silicon Valley, actually.

So what will a "Festival of Art on the Edge" be? Mainly an excuse to shell out $30 a ticket a non-narrative performances, chock full of eye candy (video projection, real time manipulation of data to create sounds/lights/images. You can see improvised cinema. You can see Peter Greenaway veejaying. Ironically, you can see all this 21st century cutting edge stuff in a restored 1927 theatre. Hilariously, Villa Montalvo is hosting the experimental/noise "Bleeding Edge" music festival within the festival.

But I can already tell you what is going to sell out first: Machines beating the crap out of each other. Mark Pauline's Survival Research Laboratories don't build robots. They build machines. Machines that are built to destroy other machines. Machines that shoot fire, wield 8-ton crushing mallets, or hurl molten metal at other machines, or sometimes even towards themselves. SRL is known for putting on the most dangerous shows in the world. I tried to see them in San Francisco about 12 years ago, out on some pier in Hunter's Point, since Randall was working the tech crew (He's known as "Blaster" in SRL circles). The line stretched out to 3rd Street, and I never got in (counterfeiters had xeroxed thousands of extra tickets... and the fire marshall ALWAYS knows when SRL is in town). It is so hard to get the permits to host an SRL show that they only do about two shows a year.

Edgy? Sure. Noisy as hell (they attached jet engines to some of the machines just for the purpose of making noise). Digital art? Not really. Some of the machines require electronics: remote control, so the flying sparks, molten metal, and fire don't incinerate or puncture their operators, and probably some kind of built in controls so that the machines don't operate at their full lethal capacity. But SRL isn't about digital information.

SRL are taken very seriously in the performance art world. And I get their apocalyptic vision of contemporary life as devoid of humanity with just industrial technology unleashed upon itself. I even wouldn't mind catching their show --bring earplugs--(alas, I'm probably out of town). But if, given the choice between shelling out thirty bucks to see "stunning video images of landscapes... gradually abstracted into pure data" or machines the size of backhoes pummeling each other to death with fire and electricity, I'm guessing the population of San Jose is gonna spend their cash on the machines.

Okay. I'm done ranting about the performance art.

The actual contemporary art exhibitions and installations look really fun.

Humor, Rhymes With Tumor

Miriam is written up in the Washington Post.

Plus on the same day she's featured up front in an article about cancer and humor in USA Today.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

British "Queen of Iraq"

Reuters revisits the life of Gertrude Bell, the woman credited with drawing the boundaries of modern Iraq at the end of World War I, and who later came to
doubt her success.
"We have underestimated the fact that this country is really an inchoate mass of tribes which can't as yet be reduced to any system," she once said.
See also her .

Monday, May 22, 2006

Colbert beats the Red Hot Chili Peppers

The NYT revisits Colbert's White House Correspondents Dinner speech again, after the Audible audio recording tops the iTunes album charts.
Donald R. Katz, the chief executive of Audible, said it was not such a surprise, because Mr. Colbert's speech was in essence "a comedy routine," and in this case, "you had to not be there to get it — the people in the room were not willing to join in the merriment."

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Cube goes Web 2.0

Though Apple has been at the forefront of bringing digital content creation tools to consumers, it has been slow to embrace the Web 2.0 wave (WikiPedia, Flickr, YouTube,, digg), in which the content of a website is created by users, not by the top-down corporation.

Today, however, an enterprising young fellow took the opportunity to hijack the 24-hour time-lapse sequence on of the comings and goings of people into, out of, and around the new 5th Avenue flagship store on its first day open, by standing still for several minutes in front of the camera while brandishing a message to his girlfriend.

UPDATE: It's back online.

Click to the time-lapse video and navigate to the 5:00 hour. He arrives about eighteen seconds in.

(At one point today the young lad's message had been excised from the time-lapse video by the top-down corporation.)

If you can't find it, go here to see a screen capture..

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Cube

It's finally open.

The link is to the the most interesting shots in the applestore5thave flickr pool.

And here is the NY Times feature, minus any photographs.

The bits I contributed to (the glowing wall graphics) are too bright for digital camera circuitry to reproduce. Enjoy the architecture (including the crazy glass plunger of an elevator) instead.

10 Things I Hate About Commandments

Charlton Heston goes back to high school.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Plumber number one sentenced

James Tobin, Republican campaign operative of New Hampshire, was sentenced today to 10 months in prison for illegally suppressing votes through a phone-jamming scheme aimed at Democrats in the 2002 senate race.

Questions as yet unanswered: who did Tobin call in the White House at the time of the elecation, and why did the Republican National Committee spend millions to defend him at trial?

How many slow moving icebergs does it take...?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

[Video] Al Gore Opens Saturday Night Live

A presidential address from an alternate universe.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Meet Mr. Mucus

While watching a commercial for Mucinex, an expectorant, the other night, I asked Deirdre, "Why are there dancing potatoes in a cold medicine commercial?"

Then it dawned on us that we were not watching potatoes, but, in fact, dancing blobs of mucus in a respiratory tract.

Adams Respiratory Therapeutics, the number six brand c old/allergy/sinus relief product in the over-the-category last year has spent $35 million on this latest ad campaign for "Mr. Mucus," designed by Torre Lazur-McCann Healthcare Worldwide. Which is astounding, considering their sales in 2004 were only $54 million dollars.

Click here to enjoy all the Mr. Mucus commercials. The one we saw the other night is called, no joke, "Dance to the Mucus."

Or, just read the buzz on Mr. Mucus's animated feature debuting this summer.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

NYT, USA Today Reverse Roles

The Columbia Journalism Review discovers that, at least online, the "real" news can be found where you might not expect it.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bollywood + Narrow Gauge Railroad: That's Entertainment!

(YouTube alert: mediocre video quality)

What's more fun that Shahrukh Khan leading adorable moppets at summer camp in a musical number? What could be more fascinating than being introduced to the Hindu festival of Holi by Sharukh's "Dead Poets Society" homage?

A playback song on top of a moving train, that's what.

Check out the shot about 4:55 into this video where the camera moves into the lead couple, goes around them, and backs into the chorus dancers.

From 1998's Dil Se, directed by Mani Ratnam. Song by A. R. Rahman. The combination of electronic beats with the traditional instruments was new at the time. This song appeared again in the musical Bollywood Dreams and in Spike Lee's 2006 film, Inside Man.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Making Colbert go away |

"Salon hit overall traffic heights over the last few days surpassed only by our election coverage and Abu Ghraib blockbusters. "

All over Colbert's appearance at the WH Correspondents' Dinner.

It's the top most emailed story over at the NYT.

But the MM is saying they didn't cover the story for days because it wasn't "newsworthy". Because he just "wasn't funny."

As Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow notes, "I've got a keyboard covered in nose-sprayed milk that says otherwise."

[Salon story; you gotta get the day pass to read]

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Liam Makes the Sunday Times

Still under a 1000 views (837 at press time), but this feature on videoblogging in the April 26 online edition of the Sunday Times of London contains, not a link to the Matchbook Films home page, but directly to the page holding Liam's Speed Sock Skating video.

On a list of recommended videos, nestled between that lightsaber duel and the Chinese lip synching duo.

Is it time to cross-post to YouTube?

The History of Play-Doh

This month marks 50 years of the stuff.
As you attempt to clean your children’s Play-Doh out of the carpet, the car, and the bathtub; take a look back with us at how it all got started.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Colbert at White House Correspondents Dinner

In Editor & Publisher's version of events, the president is not amused.
Among attendees at the black tie event: Morgan Fairchild, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Justice Antonin Scalia, George Clooney, and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter of the Doobie Brothers--in a kilt.

Christa and I watched it online (click here for a growing list of links to the video), and it's clear at points that the majority of the crowd is not amused. At times, he's kinda bombing. A fearless performance, nonetheless. But watching the video's a little uncomfortable, like Stewart's airsuckingly awkward confrontation with Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson on CrossFire.

Still, CrossFire was cancelled just a few weeks after that video blazed across the internets.

One can dream.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Ahoy Mateys! It's Captain Springsteen!

Okay, so Bruce Springsteen recorded an album of Pete Seeger covers. I knew that was coming.

Today, KFOG started playing cuts from the new CD.

This may very well be the biggest shift in the format since competition from the brief all-80's all-the-time formats circa 2000-2001 had Howard Jones, Madness, and Men at Work enter their playlist for the very first time (KFOG didn't play these guys in the 80s).

But with this new Springsteen album, AAA radio may never be the same.

It's not a mighty wind that's a blowin'. And I can't guarantee that "Old Dan Tucker" or "Froggie Went a Courtin'" are gonna bump Coldplay from the air.
Still, today I heard something I heretofore could not have imagined on commercial radio: a Sea chantey.

I thought I heard the captain say,
Pay me my money down,
"Tomorrow is our sailing day."
Pay me my money down.

Sure, it's a little faster than you'd sing it while working the capstan, or hoisting the mainsail, and likely 19th century sailors didn't have the sound of cajun fiddle and Nawlins funeral horns and dixieland banjo to cheer them on. Springsteen's new roots band gives this rollicking song a ride, complete with two accordion solos (the first of which kicks the sea chantey into a tex-mex polka).

The music video gives me the idea that the whole album was conceived after a couple of bottles of moonshine got passed around at one of the Boss's jam sessions. It will be everywhere on the Internets soon. You can check it out at YouTube, Country music Television, or even Barnes and Noble: link

Actually, I prefer Dan Zanes' version, but Zanes isnt' reinventing AAA radio.

I'll never hear KFOG's foghorn the same way again.

You know how you stumble across someone online, say, for example, via Cody's Books upcoming calendar of featured authors, and you suddenly realize you know that person in a totally different context?

For a long time, I only knew Miriam as a regular at Chris's annual film clip party. Last year, for the first time, at the clip party I discovered she was a cartoonist... and then I figured out that I'd actually read her comics for a while (she provided a regular comics feature, "Planet501c3," for CompassPoint nonprofit services).

Her new memoir-in-graphic novel form, Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person, is now out from Harper Collins.

Local booksignings here, including Cody's on 4th Street Saturday May 13.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Only in San Francisco

Originally uploaded by DrBrian.
I don't know who organized "Bring Your Own Big Wheel," but looking at the 450+ pictures on Flickr of these grownups racing down Lombard Street, many of whom wore bunny costumes, I have to say it sounds like a lot of fun. In theory. Looks like the rain made the bricks fairly slick.

Liam wants to know why there are no kids in these pictures.

And why people are racing down Lombard Street in big wheels.

Check out all photos here.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

My waning passion for Cheetos

I love my Cheetos. But someone has come between us. Someone I don't want to share my Cheetos with.

(Please scroll down to ingest all the Cheetos art.)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Five suggested Flickr tags

This is funny even if you don't understand what Flickr is, or what tags are. The snark comes through anyway:
Five Suggested Flickr Tags:
  1. “Rows Of Seated White Men Typing At Conferences”
  2. “My Underlit Dessert With One Bite Missing”
  3. “My Defenseless Child In A Funny Shirt I Made Him Wear”
  4. “Attractive Man In His Twenties Playing An Electric Guitar”
  5. “The Photo From This ‘Impromptu’ Self Portrait Series That Suggests I Don’t Have A Dewlap”
Need an explanation? Visit the comments.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Video: Jann Pehechaan Ho

The swinging number featured under the opening credits of GHOST WORLD, minus the cutaways to Thora Birch. From the 1965 Bollywood film "Gumnaam."

[via Apollo Pony]

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Rob Corddry Hates You

Last week on the Daily Show, Rob Corddry presented a fast-moving list of all the people he, as a racist, hates. An intrepid blogger took the time to transcribe, frame by frame, what was on the list, including:

Penobscot Indian
TiVo List Pauser
NPR Listener
Sue Grafton
Seriously Stop Pausing This
What do you think this is Lost?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Is Iran next?

Looks like Iran's next. The following excerpt is Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker :

One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?’ ”

The rationale for regime change was articulated in early March by Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert who is the deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and who has been a supporter of President Bush. “So long as Iran has an Islamic republic, it will have a nuclear-weapons program, at least clandestinely,” Clawson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 2nd. “The key issue, therefore, is: How long will the present Iranian regime last?”

When I spoke to Clawson, he emphasized that “this Administration is putting a lot of effort into diplomacy.” However, he added, Iran had no choice other than to accede to America’s demands or face a military attack. [Emphasis mine. d.n.] Clawson said that he fears that Ahmadinejad “sees the West as wimps and thinks we will eventually cave in. We have to be ready to deal with Iran if the crisis escalates.” Clawson said that he would prefer to rely on sabotage and other clandestine activities, such as “industrial accidents.” But, he said, it would be prudent to prepare for a wider war, “given the way the Iranians are acting. This is not like planning to invade Quebec.”

Sunday, April 09, 2006

People I Know: Mortality

Dave Huth's contribution to Videoblogging Week 2006 was a seven-part meditation on death and mortality, pieced together from interviews with friends and neighbors.

After seeing the first part, I decided to wait and watch the entire series in one setting, which is either a good idea or bad idea, depending on your point of view.

Huth was able to put his subjects at incredible ease--and their unguardedness is key to the emotional honesty of the series. But on top of that his intercutting of the various recollections and reflections is, in a word, masterful, with a sense for breathing and pauses that brings to mind some of the best moments on This American Life.

By the brief coda to Part 7 I was sobbing, and I needed to be with my loved ones.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Frist's Southern Hospitality

Bill Frist's latest fundraiser invitation invites you to unbuckle a cowboy's pants and...

Er. Somehow that doesn't sound like the effect they were going for.

Friday, April 07, 2006

What I brought Liam from my trip

Sanrio's answer to Thomas the Tank Engine.

In paradise, a hard landscape

Honolulu is so very very ... paved. Small wonder a recent failure of piping and a pump led to uncontrolled sewage outflow and fecal coliform contamination of the entire Waikiki hotel district for the past week. Somehow an umbrella drink at sunset just isn't quite enough to satisfy.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Video: Gum

Canadian filmmaker Lukas Blakk kicks off Videoblogging Week 2006 with a static medium CU of himself... well... no easy way to say it: chewing gum.

For a long time.

1960s German New Wave Cinema long. Steve Martin pouring the coffee grounds long.

Your mileage may vary, but I thought it was awesome.
(Minutes later I'm still laughing.)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Chevy's 'Make Your Own Tahoe Commercial' idea not exactly going as planned

A co-branded contest by Chevy and The Apprentice in which users can create their own commercials for the Tahoe SUV. So of course the snarky users add their own anti-SUV text...

That whole user-centric Web 2.0 will so sneak up and bite you in the ass.

Condi's UK Mess

AFP collects what must be the most comprehensive tally of missteps and misfortunes that turned Secretary Rice's trip to Jack Straw's hometown of Blackburn into a "public relations nightmare."

I'd seen several of these in separate press mentions, but man. Just not her week.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Dictionary Flashback: Rafflesia

I recall a legendary game of Dictionary played in my parents' living room during my high school (or immediately post-) era, with so many players we had to double up in teams. My partner Nick Byram flipped straight to a word he already knew, and with it we quite crushingly stumped more than a dozen hyperintellectual college-bound knowitalls.

rafflesia (n) a foul-smelling, stemless plant native to southeastern Asia

The reveal of the true definition and the accompanying crest of incredulous laughter (rising still higher when Nick articulated--from personal knowledge--that the plant had been named for British explorer T. Stamford Raffles) was one of those ineffable moments of youth--indescribable to those who weren't present, uncapturable on film, that stands like a stone marker in one's emotional memory of the path traveled long ago.

Today I found photos--the first I've seen--and a feature post about Rafflesia, asserted to be the largest and perhaps rarest flower in the entire world, over at the Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society.
They take from 9 to 21 months to bud, and then the bloom lasts for just a week.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Question Hour: The Fat Controller's Railway

Economist Tom Bozzo of Madison, WI has a few questions about the Sodor Railway. There are links to other blog posts and comments of interest.
4. How is it that the bakeries only keep enough flour on hand to make a day's worth of English Muffins?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Playbill: Catching up with Stephanie D'Abruzzo

Playbill's "Diva Talk" columnist sits down with Steph to ask about her current Off-Broadway Show I Love You Because" and life after Avenue Q.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Scorecard on Iraq

821 words from Anthony Cordesman, Senior Fellow from the Center for Strategic & International Studies (who does not oppose the war and believes in staying the course), in which he assesses the progress of the war against its (stated) objectives.
Objective One: Get Rid of Iraqi WMD Threat: Happened before the war. The main stated objective of the war was pointless.

Objective Two: Liberate Iraq: Security for the average Iraq is now worse, and the new political freedom is essentially freedom to vote for sectarian and ethnic divisions.... We essentially used a bull to liberate a china shop, without any meaningful plan to deal with the consequences.

Knight Ridder: Iraqi police report US troop atrocity

Three Knight Ridder Newspapers special correspondents contributed to this report. Their identities are being withheld for security reasons.

Knight Ridder has been such a tremendous resource of reality prior to and throughout this mad Iraq venture, but this account of an alleged massacre of civilians (including small children) by US troops leaves me feeling anxious and depressed.

Many critics of the newsmedia (from all sides--myself included) argue that its credibility is all too often a function of what the reader is willing to (or wants to) believe.

I don't want to believe this story; nor do I want to believe KR would send it over the wire uncritically. But for followup all I expect to find is uncritical echochambrage on the one hand or uncritical dismissal on the other. And of course on the third, largest hand of all there will be an uncritical silence, through unknowing or willful ignorance of the question at all.

Monday, March 20, 2006

I Am Not Keeping Up With Your Blog

NPR commentator David Weinberger officially releases you from having to keep up with his blog. Because he's not keeping up with yours.

And that's ok.

American Theocracy

NYT book review of American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips:

[T]hree broad and related trends — none of them new to the Bush years but all of
them, ... exacerbated by this administration's policies — ... threaten the
future of the United States and the world. One is the role of oil in defining
and, as Phillips sees it, distorting American foreign and domestic policy. The
second is the ominous intrusion of radical Christianity into politics and
government. And the third is the astonishing levels of debt — current and
prospective — that both the government and the American people have been
heedlessly accumulating. If there is a single, if implicit, theme running
through the three linked essays that form this book, it is the failure of
leaders to look beyond their own and the country's immediate ambitions and
desires so as to plan prudently for a darkening future.