- [from steve_portigal] Artisanal Pencil Sharpening – [Comedy is such a powerful and engaging source of cultural commentary. Is there any product or service we couldn't make artisinal? This is a joke, but it doesn't have to be; it's right on that edge of maaaaaybe it's real] REACQUAINT YOURSELF WITH THE PLEASURES OF A HAND-SHARPENED PENCIL. In New York's Hudson River Valley, craftsman David Rees still practices the age-old art of manual pencil sharpening. His artisanal service is perfect for artists, writers, and standardized test takers. Shipped with their shavings and a "certificate of sharpening," these extra-sharp pencils make wonderful gifts. Traditionally people mail in their pencils to be sharpened; however David now offers a new service: He will provide the pencil.
- Books Travellers Read in Mumbai Locals [Windy Skies] – This is Part I of my ongoing attempt to note the books my fellow travellers read in Mumbai local trains on their way to work and back. I ride the infamous Mumbai local train network to work each day, unconsciously observing my fellow passengers when I’m not squeezed breathless or pounded into submission in the surging crowds that bring a new meaning to the concept of pressure. While it is not always easy to move around once inside the train, it is sometimes possible to pull off a picture of the reader and his book. The readers will rarely look up from the books they’re reading. They don’t need to, tuned in as they are to approaching stations from years of travelling on the local train network.<br />
(via Dina Mehta)
- Duncan Hines Brownie Husband – [Saturday Night Live] – "The perfect blend of rich fudge and emotional intimacy." Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. (via Design Observer)
We were intrigued to see that Netflix is soliciting customer feedback about a new product concept. It’s great to see them incorporating users into the development process, but we figure if they are going to be asking these sorts of questions, they might want to take the next logical step. Check out our re-enactment:
- The Kindle 3 – Probably not new, but new to me. "I can't hear you, I'm reading!" The next obvious step in the evolution of digital reading. Pretty funny!
- Universities reject Kindle over inaccessibility for the blind – The National Federation for the Blind said Wednesday that while it appreciates the Kindle's text-to-speech feature, the "menus of the device are not accessible to the blind…making it impossible for a blind user to purchase books from Amazon's Kindle store, select a book to read, activate the text-to-speech feature, and use the advanced reading functions available on the Kindle DX."
"The big disappointment was learning that the Kindle DX is not accessible to the blind," Ken Frazier, the University of Wisconsin-Madison director of libraries, said in a statement. "Advancements in text-to-speech technology have created a market opportunity for an e-book reading device that is fully accessible for everyone. This version of the Kindle e-book reader missed the mark."
- ‘Sesame Street’ Responds to Dispute – An executive for Sesame Workshop said a segment on the show that upset political conservatives was “equal-opportunity parody” that made fun of both CNN and Fox News. The skit featured Oscar the Grouch as a reporter for the Grouch News Network (or GNN). When his work upsets a female viewer and fellow Grouch, she tells Oscar: “From now on I am watching Pox News. Now there’s a trashy news show!” Some conservative bloggers called the comment a veiled shot at Fox News, and Michael Getler, the PBS ombudsman, wrote that “Sesame Street” producers should have avoided the joke. Miranda Barry, an executive vice president at Sesame Workshop, responded that “no political comment or comment about Fox News, subtle or overt, was intended.” Having the “grumpy, grouchy, contrarian Oscar” on “Sesame Street,” Ms. Barry wrote, “shows kids that you can listen to someone with a very different worldview, and even be friends with them, without losing your own perspective.
- The Media Lab | Center for Future Storytelling – Storytelling is fundamental to being human: it's how we share our experiences, learn from our past, and imagine our future. With the establishment of the Media Lab's Center for Future Storytelling, the Media Lab, together with Plymouth Rock Studios, is rethinking what "storytelling" will be in the 21st century. The Center will take a dynamic new approach to storytelling, developing new creative methods, technologies, and learning programs that recognize and respond to the changing communications landscape. The Center will examine ways for transforming storytelling into social experiences, creating expressive tools for the audience and enabling people from all walks of life to embellish and integrate stories into their lives, making tomorrow's stories more interactive, creative, democratized, and improvisational.
- Sleep Dealer – Alex Rivera's 2008 film turns his Why Cybraceros? political-commentary 5-minute short into a feature film about an immigrant labor solution where impoverished Mexican workers use implants to remotely control robots in other countries, performing crappy dangerous jobs no one one in those countries wants to do. But they stay in Mexico to be exploited, rather than coming over the border.
It's a powerful idea and the movie's history from agit-prop to entertainment meshes nicely with some of the points I made about science fiction recently in interactions magazine, in We Are Living in a Sci-Fi World.
- Cybracero Systems – The ultimate in remote control. Workers doing whatever you need, from our state of the art facility in Tijuana, Mexico.
- Why Cybraceros? (1997 video) – Link to the 1997 video
Why Cybraceros? – As agriculture has become a larger and larger industry in America, it has become harder and harder to find American workers willing to do the most basic farm tasks. Picking, pruning, cutting, and handling farm produce are all simple, but delicate tasks. Work that requires such attention to detail remains a challenge for farm technologists, and as of yet, cannot be automated. As the American work force grows increasingly sophisticated, it is even harder to find the hand labor to do these grueling tasks.
Under the Cybracero program American farm labor will be accomplished on American soil, but no Mexican workers will need to leave Mexico. Only the labor of Mexicans will cross the border, Mexican workers will no longer have to.
Using high speed internet connections, directly to Mexico, American farms and Mexican laborers will be directly connected. These workers will then be able to remotely control robotic farm workers, known as Cybraceros, from their village in Mexico.
- Organizational Culture 101: A Practical How-To For Interaction Designers – Great piece by Sam Ladner. Success requires so much more than "doing the work" and this is a great look at some of the softer-yet-killer aspects of "consulting."
Here are two cartoon shorts that reveal powerful and dated perspectives on consumer culture and the automotive industry. Dated isn’t bad; in these cases it tells us a lot about what the concerns of the time were.
From 1974, an excerpt from a pilot for a MAD television special. It’s the credits and the first segment, a cynical interview with an automotive executive. The theme of poor quality screams out loud and clear.
From 1951, Tex Avery’s Car of Tomorrow. Silly concepts that speak to social attitudes and concerns from that period. Which ones have changed? Unlike the MAD piece which frames its critique by being very current, this cartoon looks to the future and reveals these values somewhat more indirectly.
(See also Tex Avery’s Television of Tomorrow)
Britney Spears has been ridiculed for everything from her 55-hour first marriage to backup-dancer second husband and her recent pantyless partying escapades. Now that she’s entered rehab, though, the joke is over.
“This girl is out of control,” Joy Behar, a co-host on ABC’s “The View,” said Monday. “And, she’s in a lot of trouble. A lot of people feel this is self-mutilation.”
Craig Ferguson, host of CBS “The Late Late Show,” said that after seeing photos of Spears’ shaved head, he reconsidered making jokes at the expense of the “vulnerable.”
“For me, comedy should have a certain amount of joy in it,” he told viewers Monday. “It should be about attacking the powerful – the politicians, the Trumps, the blowhards – going after them. We shouldn’t be attacking the vulnerable.”
Oh, please. Where does this sanctimonious crap come from? Anna Nicole Smith was comedy fodder until her son died (and maybe after then, and maybe even after she died, for some), regardless of how much of a train wreck that was. We consume and mock and laugh and our celebs are rich and tragic because of our adulation. There’s a lot of stuff going on in our celeb culture and I don’t pretend to try and unpack it here in one paragraph, but the media can take their self-appointed respectable tone and screw off, because if Ferguson won’t make Britney jokes, someone else will. And should. Definitely should.
The whole New Yorker riff is pretty funny, and a not-so-subtle comment on manufactured complexity
You’ll note that the shower curtain consists of several parts. The top hem, closest to the ceiling, contains a series of regularly spaced holes designed for the insertion of shower-curtain rings. As this part receives much of the everyday strain of usage, it must be handled correctly. Grasp the shower curtain by its leading edge and gently pull until it is flush with the wall. Step into the tub, if you have not already done so. Then take the other edge of shower curtain and cautiously pull it in opposite direction until it, too, adjoins the wall. A little moisture between shower curtain and wall tiles will help curtain to stick.
Keep in mind that normal bathing will cause you unavoidably to bump against shower curtain, which may cling to you for a moment owing to the natural adhesiveness of water. Some guests find the sensation of wet plastic on their naked flesh upsetting, and overreact to it. Instead, pinch the shower curtain between your thumb and forefinger near where it is adhering to you and simply move away from it until it is disengaged. Then, with the ends of your fingers, push it back to where it is supposed to be.
Happy Holidays by Billy Idol is Yet Another Moment where parody withers under the steely glare of reality. I mean, wasn’t this a sketch on
SNL Saturday Night Live in the 80s? It should have been.
Comedian David Cross blows my mind with post-modernity when he covers (with Johnny Marr on guitar) the widely-seen Bank of America corporate meeting new-lyrics-cover of U2’s One.
To recap, in 1991, U2 release song “One” on Achtung Baby. And very very recently, some goofy corporate dudes earnestly adapt the lyrics to motivate the Bank of America troops. And within 2 weeks David Cross covers that version (also at a comedy festival).
Meanwhile, Universal Music is sending Cease-and-Desist notices out to stop sites from hosting a song (One) to which they own the rights.
We truly live in wonderful times.
I’m amazed (constantly) at how fast this blogosphere stuff is. BoingBoing posts a story about a stupid move by a corporation or politician, and within 24 hours there are t-shirts, slogans, dance videos on YouTube, mashups with new lyrics; all based on some simple and outrageous idea.
I was actually refreshed (instead of my usual infuriated) when a story about running into (a lookalike for) Samuel Jackson at the airport did not turn into a Snakes On Plane (or SoaP as it’s now known) story. Further, one of the people in the group hadn’t heard of the movie (et. al).
And no, I’m not going to explain any of that, or even provide links. That’s sort of my point – that a seemingly tight network establish common language and points of reference proceeds to further riff as any group does) in extremely inventive and entertaining ways. But it’s very disposable. You don’t need to know why my Rolling Stones group makes jokes about cheese, and you don’t need to know why Samuel Jackson wants to get the motherfucking snakes off the motherfucking plane. If you do want to know, there’s always Google.
But my impetus for this post (finally!) was this (via Chroma with absolutely no context provided): an instantly famous sports moment (a head-butt in a World Cup match) is now rendered as an 8-bit Nintendo game, complete with animation and sound effects and music.
Sure, it was the World Cup, and it was one of the more dramatic moments (I guess; I didn’t see moment one of the whole affair), but isn’t interesting how some people – many people – don’t know of the original moment, but others are doing their own versions of it? Indeed, maybe someone reading this will learn about the head-butt (and I’m not going to bother looking up the story, who it was, that’s my point, the partial knowledge or even lack of knowledge, in the face of all this other energy – maybe Ronaldo or Ronaldino or Rodolfo – either you know how wrong I am, or you have no idea what I’m talking about) as a second-order effect.
The classic example of this is kids using Mad Magazine as a source for plot lines and famous moments of classic films. I read many issues of Mad, long before I saw a James Bond film or Chinatown, yet I was conversant with their iconic aspects through exposure to the parody.
Update: moments after posting this I see (via Experience Curve, also without explanation) another funny site on the same incident – here – and learned that the player’s name is (presumably) Zidane. No Ronaldino, guess I was wrong. And I noticed that both these paraodies came from the same domain. Whoah! It’s called YTMND – You’re The Man Now Dog, and they’ve got a great story.
YTMND is a site created for the purpose of furthering the creativity of its users. It stems from an idea that, using sound, and image, and some text, the users can convey a point, funny, political, or otherwise, to the general media.
I know someone is reading this and thinking “Dude, you don’t know about YTMND?!”
Today the SF Chronicle printed an August 11th essay by Cindy Sheehan. The text of the column is not available on their website, but the editor’s note tells us that the column appeared originally in Arianna Huffington’s HuffingPost.com. In fact, it appeared on HuffingtonPost.com. The Chronicle is sending its readers to a parody-site. Umm, oops.
Update: I sent in an irked correction
Today, page B5 – Cindy Sheehan essay – you list huffingpost.com instead of huffingtonpost.com – since no one bothered to CHECK that – you actually are sending people to a parody site.
Lame job, guys.
and got back
Subject: Thanks for alerting us to huffingpost error
The correct site, as I am sure you know, is huffingtonpost.com
The introduction was written in haste late Friday and, as you noted, not double-checked. Thanks for alerting us to the parody site.
’88 Dodge Aries is a fake TV ad for what was my first car. I can’t remember what year it was, but I bought it used. It had a really really awful smell in it, like an animal had died in it, but it took 3 months for the dealership perfume to wear off and for me to notice the smell. It needed a new radiator, but I had no idea; I just knew that even with the heat off, in the dead of winter, I couldn’t wear a jacket while I drove on the highway or I’d be just too hot.
I put a lot of miles on it, and then eventually it died – I think right around the time we traded it in for something else.
This video is a mini-user-interface nightmare, done for comic effect, pushing on some social norms and auditory alerts.