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.