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July 10, 1999
Le petite victoires.
As an ignorant American, I've had trouble spectating soccer and getting beyond the notion, "If no one is scoring, nothing is happening." I watched the women's world cup final in a crowded bar, and though the play was scoreless, the patrons exhibited far more enthusiasm and empathy than I'd witnessed viewing any sporting event. Soccer is a game of small victories, where any triumph, be it a solid slide tackle, a run for the goal, a well-executed series of passes, or what have you, is rightfully a cause for celebration. After the game I told a friend my realization, and she replied, "That's why soccer is the game most like life."

July 9, 1999
Media follies.
After a little aimless digging around just now, I found
Daniel Radosh's Media Moments buried in McSweeney's. Funny, insightful, and refreshingly brief!

Multi-channel info reception revisited.
On July 5, I wrote up some thoughts on processing different streams of information simultaneously. On July 6,
Brigitte extended the notion with an adjunct on immediate gratification, that we want lots of information and we want it now, which I totally agree with. In thinking about it more, the notion of control becomes key. A friend was lamenting about how she can't watch DVDs with her brother anymore, because he's always switching between the normal soundtrack and the commentary track. Her brother yearns for a heightened information barrage, and the remote control for the DVD slakes his thirst.

Banner ads and buying patterns.
Upside, a publication I usually detest, actually has a
great piece about buying patterns on the Web, and the fallacy of targeting the experienced consumer. The points are backed up with actual data, if you can believe it. [via Eatonweb]

I'll take CeWebrities for $600, Alex.
I've put up the
latest game of Webpardy!, the web trivia game show.

Sign this.
Flash 4 allows for heightened degrees of interactivity, and to see some nifty examples, head
MONO*Crafts and don't forget to sign the guestbook.

July 8, 1999
Emotional robots.
Regular readers know of my fandom of the movie Fast, Cheap, & Out of Control, and the work of featured roboticist Rodney Brooks. This
article on the robots Kismet and Cog discusses, among other things, the importance of triggering emotion in getting robots to learn. [Found via Robot Wisdom]

A formalist's delight!
Exercises in Style" is a clever study of the comics form. An eyelid-tuggingly mundane scenario is depicted in a variety of styles (around 15 so far with more to come), showing a remarkable degree of ingenuity.

I feel your

Austin Powers 2
is a pedophilic fantasy
. In the same way you have to wonder about Jerry Falwell for sexualizing a giant purple fantasy creature, the motivations of the man writing the
ChildCare Action Project are similarly curious. In describing the opening scene of AP2, the author notes, "the stretch of the tendons in his crotch was visible."

July 7, 1999
Freedom is slavery.
This Slate
column on bloatware is rightfully getting scathed everywhere.
The tone of the Slate piece hearkens back to the movie Wall Street. "Bloat, for lack of a better word, is good. Bloat is right. Bloat works."
And to blame bloatware on you and I, the consumers, borders on evil. As Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen
commented at Web99, Microsoft does listen to their customers--too much. A good designer does not simply do what their customers tell them to do. Good designers study their customers to see what they actually do, and design features from there. Design-by-customer is reminiscent of The Simpson's episode, "Brother, Where Art Thou?" where Homer designs the perfect car for the average man, turning out a feature-laden total monstrosity.

The magic of the internet working for me.
Well, I received a number of responses to my Thermos(R) query, most of them figuring that you don't want a face full of "pre-crotch-lawsuit McDonald's temperature" steam (as
Andrew Ghrosgal put it). The most right-sounding answer came from Mark Bernstein of Eastgate Systems (makers of serious hypertext technologies I've never been offered free use of):

Thermos flasks work by maintaining a vacuum in between inner and the outer flasks. Heat conduction across a vacuum is very poor, so hot things stay hot and cold things stay cold.

But, whenever you pour something hot into a cold surface, the surface expands. This creates little areas of stress when the coffee hits the thermos. It's just possible that the surface might crack. If a hole developed, there's one atmosphere of pressure (and hot coffee) on one side, and no pressure on the other. The atmosphere (and coffee) will push very hard to get into the vacuum, and with all the pushing and shoving going on, some of the coffee might be propelled violently out of the flask.

This was more of a problem in the old days, when thermos flasks were made of silvered glass, and it's still a hazard for chemists who work the liquid

July 6, 1999
Um, I'm a tad scared.
I recently acquired a Thermos(R), and the second dictum under "Use and Care" reads

Do not look directly into flask when filling, keep at arms length.

Can someone please explain why I shouldn't peer into my flask when filling? Is this like, "Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball"?

07.01.99 mention of George W. Bush's lack of a lower lip reminded me of "guerrilla artist" Robbie Conal's classic poster "Men With No Lips." What is it with lipless Republicans? Oh, and click around Conal's site--I was fortunate enough to live where his wheatpasted art was a common site. If you haven't seen it, I think it will be quite a treat.

July 5, 1999
Information density.
In my head I've been ruminating on the qualities of interactive form, and recently been thinking about a particular quality, that of multi-channel information reception. By this I mean processing different, and perhaps disparate, streams of information simultaneously. In the computer environment, this is typified by multi-tasking--scanning a number of different web documents in different windows, while writing and reading email, while chatting with folks over ICQ. The WIMP GUI has acclimated millions to such information floods, to the point where the passive reception of traditional media is a frustrating drip.

In response to this frustration, traditional media have increasingly employed multi-channel delivery, and such techniques are potentially revealing. Within television, the obvious examples are
Mystery Science Theater 3000, Pop-up Video, and Beavis and Butthead. Each of these shows layers new information (in the form of factoids or jokes) over an existing product that had at one point sufficed to entertain. Sports broadcasting overlays a stream of data on the event, about both whatever you're watching as well as other games happening at that time. The apotheosis of this trend is the Bloomberg Channel, shoveling as much content as is feasible on a cathode ray tube.

I'm not an active patron of theater, but I have seen
The Blue Man Group, who use red "silent radio" LED displays and video screens to simultaneously provide different voices of commentary around the main action.
You know I couldn't have a formalist discussion of media without bringing up comics. Perhaps pioneers in the multi-channel form were the original MAD comics, in particular the art of
Bill Elder. Crammed into every inch of the frame were visual and verbal gags having nothing to do with the story, but enhancing the reading pleasure immensely. Mort Drucker famously continued the tradition, and Sergio Aragones' marginalia took it in new directions. Considering the chronology, it might be worthwhile to explore how MAD influence interactive media.

There are numerous further examples (I haven't even touched on cinema), but I think you get the point. What I didn't realize until I just now wrote this was how much this multi-channel information delivery was used for the sake of humor. In any media, humor is typically best when it somehow comments on form (
Sherlock, Jr., anyone?), such that you know a form has matured when it can support funny content. Humor is still extremely nascent in interactive media, suggesting we've got quite a bit of development to go.

July 3, 1999
Scott McCloud Unplugged.
Scott McCloud made some enlightening comments about comics and the web in his talk at Web99, particularly with respect to how the boundlessness of the new medium will free comics from the constraints of print. This was demonstrated concretely by the unrolling of a hardcopy of his "
My Obsession with Chess." Click here to see what one really long comic looks like. (It's a fabulous image.)

Werner Herzog is an odd man.
[All film titles link to IMDB, natch.] The mention
here of Les Blank's documentary Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, inspired a few thoughts. First, Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes in the original German) is a brilliant and haunting cinematic work (such that I fear seeing it on video will dramatically lessen its impact).
Second, Les Blank's other documentary about Herzog,
Burden of Dreams is a remarkable study of a descent into madness. Shot as a chronicle of the making of Fitzcarraldo, Burden is fascinating to size up with Hearts of Darkness, as both follow filmmakers becoming totally consumed by projects involving boats going down long rivers. Because of the renown of its subject, Hearts got tons of press and acclaim, but what Burden shows you is that Coppola is a namby-pamby Pollyanna compared to increasingly frighteningly unbalanced Herzog [that links to the best site I could find about the man].

July 2, 1999
Oh my, this is rich.
Someone has signed up
MetaBaby as a member of adultfriendfinder.com. So you can read email that is meant to be sent to a 28-year-old Asian bi female looking for alternative relationships. Fun! (And, sure, it's the cyber equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel, but, hey, cheap laughs are still laughs!)