Two images of Mt Rainier

Had a great flight from Seattle to Dallas, beautiful views the whole way. And luckily I had my camera with me.  It was in the overhead locker while we were flying by Mt Rainier, but I managed to convince Jay to ignore the seatbelt sign and get it down for me.  By chance, I got two shots of the mountain that happened to line up perfectly but were from slightly different angles.  A friend composed them into this awesome image that really gives you a sense of the mountain in 3-D.

Mt Rainier

(Click on the image for the large animated view.)

Why am I not freaked out?

Maybe it’s because I’ve been readying myself for the inevitable sci-fi movie misery that will result from the Large Hadron Collider starting up–the black holes, the tiny dragons, the fact that we can’t understand particle physics without smashing subatomic particles into each other–maybe that just puts everything in perspective. My bank just got taken over by the Fed. The economy is collapsing. A third of the world’s species are likely to become extinct in the next few years. The dumbest person in the country is a vice presidential nominee. The presidential campaign seems like a surreal clusterfuck of…well…things that oddly seem more unlikely than string theory.

So, we’re on the verge of handing over nearly a trillion dollars to a dude in our administration, which has an history of making monumentally stupid decisions, with no oversight, no process for appeal, no agreement that this is even a good idea, no idea whether this really even addresses the main problems in the economy… excuse me if I feel like we’re 37 minutes into an episode of House. Let’s start chemo, even though we don’t really think she’s got cancer, because, well, we’ve run out of other ideas. But of course we’ll figure it out by the end of the episode, right?

So maybe that’s why I’m not freaked out. Even though I know I should be. Even though Henry Paulson is clearly no Hugh Laurie. And I’m probably going to be homeless in a year when all this posturing plays out and the economy collapses and the tiny dragons release an EMP that destroys all electrical signals, thus rendering Microsoft useless and Jessica Alba a post-apocalyptic bike messenger…but for some reason I haven’t been able to internalize the peril yet. Or maybe I’m just inured by the last four years of increasing fear of iminent doom, which comes, just a bit less dramatically than a category 3 hurricane, and doesn’t seem as bad as the fear.

Oh, the heart is a bizarre muscle, ain’t she. The brain knows we’re screwed. The body can’t quite imagine life without prime time hospital soap operas. Or that life isn’t a prime time soap opera. Perhaps the Matrix is correcting itself? Or I need to stop watching so much television. Or watch more Dr. Who. Or just buy a lot more sci-fi books before I can’t afford them and stash as I’m on the run from the 21st century.

Do I sound paranoid to anyone?

For the love of God

From Supertouch blog, see how Damien Hirst’s bling masterpiece for the love of God  (pictured below) was made. I’m sure I’m supposed to be offended by the ostentatiousness of it all, but I actually think this is kinda cool.  Not that I’m ever going to afford it, of course.

For the Love of God

SIFF review: King of Kong

Jay and I went to see King of Kong at the Seattle International Film Festival last night.  I’d heard about the film — a story about a Seattle-area man vying for the world record score on the 80’s arcade classic Donkey Kong — on tech-blog Digg, and immediately wanted to see it.  I have fond memories of playing games like Donkey Kong as a kid at the local deli, and I was briefly involved in the competitive gaming arena in my early 20’s (though for pinball, not arcade games).

As we were waiting in line at the Egyptian for the sold-out show, there was a guy walking the line looking to buy 4 tickets, first for $40 per ticket and later, apparently getting no takers, for $80 a ticket.  It was a tempting offer, but I’m so glad we didn’t sell out, because the film was wonderful.   Of course, I loved the geeky game aspect of the film, but at it’s heart it’s really more of a charming human story.  The film follows good-natured Seattle family man Steve Weibe as he seeks justice from the geek-lords of classic gaming when his record-breaking high-score video submission is unfairly rejected. We follow Steve through his attempts to claim his rightful title from bad-guy title-holder and hot-sauce baron Billy.

Seeing this film in Seattle was a real treat: the crowd was cheering and hollering throughout the film at every one of Steve’s triumphs, and you could feel the room sharing in his disappointments.  Best of all, Steve joined director Seth Green on the stage after the film to answer questions, and he seemed as nice a guy in person as he appeared on-screen.

I’m sure this film is going to do well when it goes into wide release in August, probably eclipsing the success of similarly-themed documentaries like Spellbound or Wordplay. Make sure you go and see it then if you can’t get tickets to today’s showing.  And if Nintendo doesn’t release the arcade version of Donkey Kong for Wii and/or DS in conjunction with the film’s release, they’re missing a great opportunity to support a revival in classic arcade gaming.

Jay’s back – now with LOLcats!

I suppose I could go back and try to see how long it has been since I posted anything more substantial than vacation pictures, but the answer is pretty simple: a long-ass time.

But I’m back. I’m going to make a concerted effort to reenter the blogosphere on a regular—if perhaps not daily—basis. Even I am tired of my pathetic excuse, “it’s been really crazy at work.” Well, when isn’t it. My company’s CEO and other top execs manage to blog regularly, so I really need to get over myself.

To celebrate my triumphant return to nonfamous, I want to talk about something VERY important… LOLcats. More specifically, LOLcats and the future of the English language.

If you’re not familiar with this particular species of animal, please to enjoy:

These images courtesy of this, a site with the hyper-accurate tagline “Dear Productivity, it was nice knowing you.” But the reigning champion of the LOLcats phenomenon is I can has cheezburger?, a site that you should never visit unless you want to become that guy who just has to show co-workers funny pictures of cats. Reader, I became him. Which is especially sad when you consider that I don’t even like cats!

But as usual, I have an overintellectualized rationalization that allows me to partake of an otherwise guilty pop-culture pleasure. I put my Amateur Linguistics Society hat firmly on my pointy head every time I wade into the syntactically strange habitat of the LOLcat. These are not normal cat photos, you see… LOLcats are cat photos captioned in a strange hybrid of Internet jargon, text messagisms and assorted geek memes. What’s really interesting to me (and apparently Anil and some linguist guy I’d never heard of) is the fact that that LOLcat syntax and usage, however hilariously fractured from the mother tongue, have rapidly acquired a fairly durable structure—deserving, perhaps, to be understood as a pidgin. It simply doesn’t take long (500 LOLcats, say) to recognize a “correct” caption from a wrong one. And almost invariably, the funniest captions are those that best comport with canonical (catonical?) usage. (Here’s a primer, if you’re interested.)

What’s interesting to me is that the LOLcat penomenon takes something with fairly universal appear (pictures of cats) and creates a shared inside joke. Anything you have to explain isn’t funny, but when I showed my boss the insanely cute photo above, I had to explain the whole “im in ur ___ ____ing ur ____z” thing to her. Granted, some LOLcats captions are pretty accessible, but the whole movement is more or less as cliquish as highschool—LOLcats fans are the unlikely cool kids with their special words and inscrutable hierarchies of hilarity.

Which brings me to my final point. What is a grammar-geek with a degree in English to think of this? Isn’t it another sign of linguistic apocalypse? Maybe so, if you as the Ireland’s State Examination Commission, which just released a report which apparently tries to answer the question “Y cant teh jonny rite?”:

“The emergence of the mobile phone and the rise of text messaging as a popular means of communication would appear to have impacted on standards of writing as evidenced in the responses of candidates,” the report said, according to Wednesday’s Irish Times. “Text messaging, with its use of phonetic spelling and little or no punctuation, seems to pose a threat to traditional conventions in writing.”

The report laments that, in many cases, candidates seemed “unduly reliant on short sentences, simple tenses and a limited vocabulary”.

It may well be that LOLcats and its fellow tech-inspired argots are “in ur brainz, fraggin ur wordz.” If LOLcats is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Negative Graffiti

Following on from the very cool Banksy wall art that Pam posted, here’s another very cool graffiti artist. He uses soap and water to create “negative graffiti” by cleaning dirty walls and other surfaces. Sometimes he scrapes old posters off walls to make images from the layers beneath. You can read about “Moose” in this NPR article (there’s a great slideshow there too), and you can see more of his art at his website.

Negative poster art

Seems the authorities are a bit upset about all this, but aren’t sure how to charge him. If he graffitied a very large rectangular area with this method, would this still be graffiti, or just cleaning?

Sometimes he gets paid to do promotional work too — see the Xbox logo in the last slide. But is it still art, then?

Piledriver at CHAC

If you think you don’t want to see a play about semi-pro wrestling, one that has an overtly homoerotic subplot, well, to my stunned surprise, you’re wrong.

Last night I was lucky enough to catch Piledriver at the Cap Hill Arts Center. I found it wildly entertaining. Oh, sure, it’s obscene. It’s rife with profanity. It openly represents and explicity discusses gay sex. And there’s a whole lotta body slammin’ going on – after all, it’s about semi-pro wrestling. But tangled in all the showy head banging and theatrical bouncing off the ropes, there’s a good story, rich character development, and loads of laugh out loud humor.

The unlikely hero of the show is the writer. Harvey is a lumpy, aging, ex drag queen with crazy hair who sets up all the story lines around each night’s show. My friend K – who invited me to tag along – is an editor and writer and the two of us cheered like crazy when ever they made writing gags. (I didn’t mention the whole audience particpation thing.) Something that had us both hysterical? A scene where the wrestlers are arguing about the plot line. Harvey interupts with something like:

You don’t like the plot line? You don’t like where things are going? Well, F**K YOU! It’s my show. I’m the writer and you’ll follow the story EXACTLY THE WAY I TELL YOU TO.

Close enough.We were also big fans of this classic bit of ridiculous snark:

Do I look smaller to you? That’s because I’m WALKING AWAY!

The play is funny, raunchy, well staged, well acted, engaging, and, simply, a really good time. But hurry up, it’s only on for two more nights at CHAC. Get tix here.