June 30, 2006

Friday before the Fourth

Filed under: graffiti, politics — ted @ 4:14 pm

I wish I had more to offer you today…

The Brooklyn Museum is presently displaying a “Graffiti” exhibit, and the Times thinks it’s lame:

The fatal problem with transferring graffiti from subways and outdoor building walls is that it is just not made for contemplative scrutiny. Below ground, in motion, accompanied by the roar of the trains, graffiti paintings covering whole cars could have exciting, hallucinatory and sometimes frightening effects. On stationary canvases in clean, brightly lighted galleries, drained of its guerrilla mystique, it dies.

Oh, the establishment.

This is really cool: SIMILE (stands for Semantic Interoperability of Metadata and Information in unLike Environments) is a new project from MIT, with lots of ambition. As I understand it, SIMILE hopes to build neat looking architectures of information. Some of the examples are great — check  out their AJAX timeline of Christianity.

From the Stick Figures in Peril Flickr pool, taken at the Grand Canyon:

In any language, the message is clear: don’t fall into the Grand Canyon.

If you’re in the mood for something a little more serious, check out these two posts from the Liberal Populist and Jesus Land. Both make a similar point, although the former applies to a broader demographic: Conservatives and Christians, who have for years considered themselves an oppressed minority, can no longer rightfully make such a claim. Right on.


June 29, 2006

Professional Rock Stacking

Filed under: web — ted @ 3:44 pm

If you are a professional rock stacker and you’re reading this, I would like you to know that you are my inspiration.

  • Heading to church this weekend? Hopefully you won’t see one of these.
  • Chuck Norris wrote a book: it’s called The Justice Riders and it’s just as you thought it would be. In fact, you could probably have written it yourself.
  • People on Craigslist are hilarious.

June 28, 2006

Spider-Man 3 Trailer

Filed under: movies — ted @ 4:44 pm

Venom, Sandman, and Hobgoblin/Green Goblin — all at once? Could the Spider-Man 3 trailer be any more awesome?



Filed under: books, photos, video — ted @ 1:27 pm

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal featured a profile of LibraryThing, one of my favorite websites. I use LibraryThing every day, and it’s the bomb. To get a better idea of how it works, check out my profile and catalog.

A collection of strange statues around the world from haha.nu is making its rounds on the web. Here’s my favorite:

On YouTube, watch this Star Wars meets Monty Python video. Good effects, hilarious stuff.

Good, Citizen

Filed under: politics — ted @ 12:41 pm

MSNBC has a twenty question quiz you can take to determine whether you would pass the U.S. citizenship test. They “picked some of the more difficult ones.”

Indeed, some of the questions are rather difficult, for example: Which of the following amendments to the Constitution does NOT address or guarantee voting rights? Others, like Who said, “Give me liberty or give me death”? ask for specific knowledge that is drilled into American school children, but matters very little during the day to day ordeals of being a good citizen.

My favorite question is Why did the Pilgrims come to America? The answer is not “In search of gold.” That would be Columbus, Cortez, etc. etc.

June 27, 2006

Avalanche and Allen

Filed under: movies, music, photos, web — ted @ 4:30 pm

A while back I posted about the new Sufjan album, The Avalanche. Now you can stream roughly half of it from the Asthmatic Kitty website. It comes in two chunks (episode one and episode two), via Quicktime. Being that Illinois is one of my favorite records ever — yes, ever — my expectations were through the roof. But after listening to The Avalanche all day, I’m convinced it’s on par with Illinois. Listen for yourself, and let me know what you think.

Some bullets:

  • Harper Lee has written a letter for Oprah’s O magazine. Since she published To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960, she has only published one piece of writing, a book review in 1983 — so this is a big deal.
  • Americans don’t have as many close friends as they used to, and some people think the Internet is to blame. Providing a brilliant analysis, a Duke professor said: “This change indicates something that’s not good for our society.”
  • In a classic case of the table now being on the other foot, a man from Jacksonville was robbed by two teenage girls he met on MySpace. He was hoping to meet “Natalia,” (“…her profile showed sexy photos, and a blurb which said ‘just lookin’ for something fun'”) and instead met two little girls with guns. Oh, the dangers of MySpace.
  • Congressman Peter King thinks the New York Times should be investigated for treason. Concerning the Times’ Sunday cover story, which uncovered that the CIA was investigating bank transactions in its search for terrorist, King said: “We’re at war, and for the Times to release information about secret operations and methods is treasonous.”

J.K. Rowling gave a rare interview yesterday, and we learned that she is “well into” the seventh book — and that she’s going to “kill off two characters who she ‘did not intend to die'”. This should give my brother and I something to think about for the next year. Read this:

When asked about the fate of Harry Potter himself, Rowling said cryptically, “I have never been tempted to kill him off before the final [book] because I’ve always planned seven books, and I want to finish on seven books.”

I think: yes, Harry dies.

The Summer Issue of New York Magazine features an interview and photo shoot with Woody Allen and Scarlett Johansson — the latter staring in the former’s Scoop, which comes out at the end of July. The photo is great:

Fortunately, Woody is not Scarlett’s love interest — although those corduroy trousers are superb.

Of course, part of their shtick is that the two compliment each other to the point of absurdity. Allen, film’s most famous atheist, has even said Scarlett was “touched by God.” So has Scarlett made Woody a believer?

“I can only quote myself from the movie Manhattan,” he says. “Scarlett is God’s answer to Job. God would say, ‘I’ve created a terrifying and horrible universe, but I can also make one of these, so stop complaining.’ ”

June 22, 2006


Filed under: photos, web — ted @ 4:18 pm

Since it's been so long, I've accumulated a nice pile of excellence.

Let's start with this delightful picture of Tom Cruise, taken this week in Japan:

I must admire his consistency.

Check this out (it's from a "woodcuts of modern movies" post):

All of the woodcuts are marvelous, and I can recognize some of them — but others are a complete mystery. Any ideas?

  • Watch this video of Buzz Aldrin punching an obnoxious conspiracy theorist in the face. If I were him, and was continually accused of perpetuating the greatest hoax in history, I would be pissed too.
  • And then there's this list of the Top 10 Hybrid Animals. The pictured liger is colossal.

The Consumer Electronics Association is running an ad in a Capitol Hill magazine reminding lawmakers that entertainment conglomerates (like the RIAA and MPAA) have always freaked out whenever a new technology emerges. The most famous example of this was the VCR, which the MPAA was certain would destroy television forever. The ad [PDF] features four quotes from industry reps. Here's one:

"When the manufacturers hand the public a license to record at home…not only will the songwriter tie a noose around his neck, not only will there be no more records to tape [but] the innocent public will be made an accessory to the destruction of four industries."
-ASCAP on the Cassette Tape (1982)

Obviously, none of this happened.

Seed Magazine has posted an article entitled "The Gay Animal Kingdom" which features Joan Roughgarden, a biology professor who analyzes homosexual behavior in animal societies and thinks Darwin's principle of sexual selection is wrong. Basically, she argues that, instead of being transgressive and anti-survival, homosexual behavior increases a species survival chance by forming a strong social bond:

According to Roughgarden, gayness is a necessary side effect of getting along. Homosexuality evolved in tandem with vertebrate societies, in which a motley group of individuals has to either live together or die alone. In fact, Roughgarden even argues that homosexuality is a defining feature of advanced animal communities, which require communal bonds in order to function. "The more complex and sophisticated a social system is," she writes, "the more likely it is to have homosexuality intermixed with heterosexuality."

Read the entire article; it's well-written and thought-provoking.

I would highly recommend that you subscribe to the Flickr group Stick Figures in Peril. It's active, highly-amusing, and features lots of delightful shots like this one:


June 19, 2006

Toynbee Tiles

Filed under: philadelphia — ted @ 4:36 pm

This morning I spent over an hour reading about Toynbee Tiles, the strange street markings like the one above (all bearing a variation on the phrase TOYNBEE IDEA IN KUBRICKS 2001 RESURRECT DEAD ON PLANET JUPITER) which are plastered all over Philadelphia. I always assumed there was a interesting story behind them — but little did I know it would be this strange.

From all accounts, the origin and meaning of the tiles is still a mystery, despite the fact that sightings go back twenty years. No one knows who is placing them — although there are some delightful theories — or how to interpret the strange message. Also, they’re all over the world, not just Philadelphia.

Most interpreters operate under the assumption that the Toynbee in the title is Arnold Toynbee, the famous meta-historian, and the reference to Kubrick comes from an episode of the colonization of Jupiter depicted in 2010: Odyssey Two (which was not directed by Kubrick). At this point, it should be clear that whoever is pasting these things onto the ground does not have a terribly firm idea of what he is talking about.

The identity of the artist is the most intriguing aspect of the mystery. First of all, it seems likely that there are two separate artists, since there are “old school” tiles and “new school” ones. The prime suspect is a man named James Morasco, who was featured in an 1983 Phildelphia Inquirer article which mentioned the colonization of Jupiter, Toynbee, and Stanley Kubrick. The article is miserably short, and no one knows much else about James Morasco. We do know, however, that whoever is pasting the tiles holds a grudge against Knight Ridder (who owned the Inquirer) — since he pasted a huge tile into the street at 16th and Chestnut detailing his feelings. (It’s no longer there; Chestnut was repaved not long ago).

Fascinated yet? How about the fact that David Mamet, in 1983, published a short play, Four A.M., which contains the following exchange:

Caller: In the movie 2001, based on the writings of Arnold Toynbee, they speak of the plan…

Int: Excuse me, excuse me, but the movie 2001 was based on the writings…

Caller: …all human life is made of molecules…

Int: …based on the writings of Arthur C. Clarke…

Caller: All human…no, Greg, if you examine…

Int: …it was based on the writings of Arthur C. Clarke…

Caller: Oh, Greg, No. We have the…

Int: Well, go on.

Caller: Greg: In the writings of Arnold Toynbee he discusses a plan whereby all human life could be easily reconstituted on the planet Jupiter.

Could it be David Mamet? Was Mamet reading the Inquirer?

In short, I think you have every reason to read frantically about this for an hour just like I did this morning. Here’s what to read:

  • Out of This World: A 2001 article from the Cincinnati CityBeat.
  • Toynbee the Essay: An article by a huge Toynbee Tile fanatic, which contains the entire text of the 16th and Chestnut tile, an account of an early morning when he discovered a freshly laid tile, a good guess as to how the tiles are sunk, and lots of great theorizing.
  • Resurrect Dead: A wonderful website devoted to the whole phenomenon, which I found most helpful. Be sure to check out the links page.

June 15, 2006

One Thinks of Homer

Filed under: web — ted @ 4:52 pm

Folks, tomorrow is Bloomsday. As always, I am impossibly excited. Do what you can to head down to the Rosenbach Museum and Library (where the original manuscript is housed) for the festivities. Sweet are the sweets, the sweets of sin.

When one reads these strange pages of one long gone one feels that one is at one with one who once…

— from Proteus

Various Internet sundries:

  • The RIAA hopes to target folks who dance/sing along to songs and then post the video on YouTube. Can they really be serious?
  • Web 2.0 is really big.
  • Salon is putting together a super sweet literary guide to the world. Nice work, guys.
  • Last night, Rufus Wainwright performed the entirety of Judy Garland’s “Judy at Carnegie Hall” concert. I firmly believe this to be the gayest event ever.
  • World Cup News: Ronaldo, in what seems to be a less-dramatic repeat of his 1998 meltdown, checked into the hospital after he performed poorly in Brazil’s 1-0 defeat of Croatia. I suppose the pressure of the world’s greatest football nation is rather crushing…

June 14, 2006

North Korea

Filed under: graffiti, photos, web — ted @ 3:56 pm

An absolute wealth of goodness in the Internet today

First, check out this thread of spectacular photos from North Korea. Below are three particularly striking shots:

This last one is killer. Apparently, many of North Korea's main arteries have huge blocks of stone lining the roads, which can be toppled over in the event of an invasion to prevent enemy tanks and transports from advancing. Simply incredible.

Quick things:

  • Approximately $1 billion of the money FEMA dished out for Katrina relief was stolen.
  • Google Book Search has a nice handy Shakespeare page now.
  • This guy ran into some trouble when he tried to cancel his AOL account. It's maddening — and I only listened to it.
  • President Bush knows the words to "Sunday Bloody Sunday." Nice mashup.
  • Some (purely evil) scholars are attempting to found a college based on the teachings of Ayn Rand. Not difficult to imagine what the core curriculum will look like.
  • This World Development Movement helps you decide which World Cup team to root for, based on the first of the criterion I outlined earlier: poor countries over rich ones.

Finally, more cool graffiti:

It must be either a Jawa or Orko from Masters of the Universe. Probably the former.

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