I figure that one of my Cosmic Responsibilities is to rediffuse novelties and other strange stuff that I encounter.
Some of my readers won't know about l33t/1337/leet, but for others it's yesterday's cold oatmeal. Both subsets are likely to find Chris Coutts' l33t version of Romeo and Juliet enlightening and/or amusing (forwarded to me by Ken Stallcup, stalwart maven of things linguistical). More of Chris's Flash video productions will further elucidate... for instance, Hamlet is PATR TOO. But nothing will adequately prepare you for "There's something about Osmethne", so maybe you should just leave that one alone.
Tom Waits' latest just arrived by USPS, and I'm a third of the way through the first listening. One of the cuts that's a distillation of many of Tom's multiple facets is available as an mp3: Road to Peace. Doubtless some will hate it, and some will decry his meddling in 'politics', but I hear something there that's all too rare, and admire Waits all the more.
BibliOdyssey is a favorite recent discovery. It offers "Books ~~ Illustrations ~~ Science ~~ History ~~ Visual Materia Obscura ~~ Eclectic Bookart", all of it right up various of my favorite alleys. As a blog it's a serendipitous delight, but it can also be explored as a heap of de.licio.us tags. Take a look at items tagged 'ethnology' for starters.
Mark Liberman at Language Log pointed me today to H.L. Mencken's essay On Being an American, which I find in its entirety [well, actually not --it's just an excerpt from Prejudices, Third Series] at Brainwash. I've sawed off some especially fragrant slabs, and note, in a schadenfreudian sort of way, the lack of progress in the 80-odd years since it was writ:
It is, for example, one of my firmest and most sacred beliefs, reached after an inquiry extending over a score of years and supported by incessant prayer and meditation, that the government of the United States, in both its legislative arm and its executive arm, is ignorant, incompetent, corrupt, and disgusting --and from this judgement I except no more than twenty living lawmakers and no more than twenty executioners of their laws. It is a belief no less piously cherished that the administration of justice in the Republic is stupid, dishonest, and against all reason and equity --and from this judgement I except no more than thirty judges, including two upon the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States. It is another that the foreign policy of the United States --its habitual manner of dealing with other nations, whether friend or foe-- is hypocritical, disingenuous, knavish, and dishonorable --and from this judgment I consent to no exceptions whatever, either recent or long past.Delicious. And continuing on...
And it is my fourth (and, to avoid too depressing a bill, final) conviction that the American people, taking one with another, constitute the most timorous, sniveling, poltroonish ignominious mob of serfs and goose-steppers ever gathered under one flag in Christendom since the end of the Middle Ages, and that they grow more timorous, more sniveling, more poltroonish, more ignominious every day.What a Glorious Sentence:
And then on to the concluding paragraph:
Yet here I stand, unshaken and undespairing, a loyal and devoted Americano, even a chauvinist, paying taxes without complaint, obeying all laws that are physiologically obeyable, accepting all the searching duties and responsibilities of citizenship unprotestingly, investing the sparse usufructs of my miserable toil in the obligations of the nation, avoiding all commerce with men sworn to overthrow the government, contributing my mite toward the glory of the national arts and sciences, enriching and embellishing the native language, spurning all lures (and even all invitations) to get out and stay out-here am I, a bachelor of easy means, forty-two years old, unhampered by debts or issue, able to go wherever I please and to stay as long as I please --here am I, contentedly and even smugly basking beneath the Stars and Stripes, a better citizen, I daresay, and certainly a less murmurous and exigent one, than thousands who put the Hon. Warren Gamaliel Harding beside Friedrich Barbarossa and Charlemagne, and hold the Supreme Court to be directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, and belong ardently to every Rotary Club, Ku Klux Klan, and Anti-Saloon League, and choke with emotion when the band plays "The Stars Spangled Banner," and believe with the faith of little children that one of Our Boys, taken at random, could dispose in a fair fight of ten Englishmen, twenty Germans, thirty Frogs, forty Wops, fifty Japs, or a hundred Bolsheviki.
And here, more than anywhere else that I know of or have heard of, the daily panorama of human existence, of private and communal folly --the unending procession of governmental extortions and chicaneries, of commercial brigandages, and throat-slittings, of theological buffooneries, of aesthetic ribaldries, of legal swindles and harlotries, of miscellaneous rogueries, villainies, imbecilities, grotesqueries, and extravagences-- is so inordinately gross and preposterous, so perfectly brought up to the highest conceivable amperage, so steadily enriched with an almost fabulous daring and originality, that only the man who was born with a petrified diaphragm can fail to laugh himself to sleep every night, and to awake every morning with all the eager, unflagging expectation of a Sunday-school superintendent touring the Paris peep-shows.I am only slightly chastened (in these post-Boratian days of national reassessment) by Hilton Kramer's New Criterion piece, Who reads Mencken now? (a review of Terry Teachout's biography of Mencken):
Rereading Mencken in the first decade of the twenty-first century can be a disheartening experience, as I have lately discovered. Even the political reporting that once gave me a chuckle now strikes me as more dispiriting than amusing. The facile rhetoric of remorseless, uproarious ridicule that made Mencken a culture hero in the 1920s turns out, in retrospect, to have been exactly what Irving Babbitt said it was in 1928—“intellectual vaudeville,” full of bluster and farce aimed at what now seem easy targets, but thin in intellectual substance and woefully lacking in a sense of history.
Mapping pictures of food... what an obvious thing to do, and what a delightful thing to find that Flickr has already enabled. Here's Bangkok, for starters, but dextrous zooming and panning will get you a whole world of others. I look forward to what this will develop into as more people get the bug. And here's a modest beginning for St. George Maine.
"Born digital" at one end... "deceased digital" at the other. My 40GB iRiver H340 will now hold its charge for only about 10 minutes [the battery is only in theory replaceable], but in the two years since I bought it (and hopped aboard the mp3 juggernaut) it's accumulated some 35GB of files and been in daily use. Like many bits of technology, its presence has changed my life in all sorts of unanticipated ways. Some of its features (Line In, and support for .ogg for instance) turn out to be a bit difficult to replace, but I think the 2GB SanDisk that Amazon will deliver tomorrow will be OK for a while. I don't use iTunes or other retail services, trafficking only in non-DRM'd mp3s, so iPod and Zune don't have much attraction for me.
What I REALLY want is a device that allows me to MARK points in an mp3, for later return --but that's because much of what I listen to isn't "songs". What, I wonder, would life be without the constant stream of new stuff from Radio Open Source, IT Conversations, This American Life, and podcastified talks by luminaries like Stephen Downes [though nobody's like Stephen, bless him] and people at Long Now Foundation and TEDTalks.
A posting on Lifehacker pointed me to one of those things that made the 100 watt lightbulb come on. Mojiti.com's "Spot Tickers" allow one to annotate Web video with subtitles. I tried it out with an Ismail Tuncbilek video:
My comments don't add much to this particular video, but it was EASY to add them and I am beginning to imagine a whole raft of other applications...
Xiao Yisheng has created a handy means to employ Google's interface to present user-supplied content in an elegant Beta at maplib.net. I tried it out with an old aerial photograph from Nova Scotia, adding a few markers. I anticipate that the app's features will expand to allow more annotation and maybe even hyperlinks. I also tried it out as a way to annotate a photograph, but I'm not so sure that's a success. It's better at flickr:
I've been playing around with the SIMILE Timeline widget some more, this time exploring more than 8 years of my own activities, as recorded in the logfiles I generated as I pinballed around academia as Science Librarian and Allround Busybody. The fine details are surely Baby Hippopotamuses (only their mother could luvvum), but the general phenomenon of heuristic visualization is clear to even the cursory glance: topics wax and wane, and projects overlap. I've also included the oook blog archive in the chronology.
I have the faint hope of being the FIRST to blog this puissant word, which may or may not have been coined by Anthony Lane in his review of Borat and Volver in this week's New Yorker. Lane's use of the term comes close to being its instantiation (on the evidence of Google, which points to two other uses, one an obvious misspelling of 'squirmiest'), but I digress... The money quote:
He [Sacha Baron Cohen] is a squirmist: a master of SECS, or Socio-Ethnophobic Comic Simulations, in which he adopts fictional personae and then marches briskly into the real world with a mission to embarrass its inhabitants. (New Yorker November 6, pg. 106)It's an illuminating, even scintillating review of both movies and (more important) of the sociocultural stuff that underlies them. Catch this bit of lambent skewerage:
So why send his characters here? Because America, to any filmmaker, is where the money is, but also because, to the connoisseur of hurt pride, it is where the sore spots are. (pg. 109)
Didja miss Ali G [Sacha Baron Cohen] does Chomsky?
Several hours of messing around with XML and examples from David Huynh's Timeline has produced a fairly basic personal chronology, to which I may eventually add more items, links, images. See dinosaurs and External Uses (2/3 of the way down that page) for some varied examples of features and general utility, especially the Itinerary of King John (not a Good Man, as we recall...)