Memorial-Day

Celebrating Memorial Day in an age of military aggression

The best way to honor our fallen heroes is to make sure there aren’t any more of them.

Today I honor our war dead, but I’m mad as hell that our leaders, corrupt and sociopathic as they so often are, have killed so many without cause. I’m enraged that some of these deaths are regarded by our society as less worthy of honor than others. And I’m livid with the certain knowledge that plans are afoot, even as we celebrate this holiday, to send more young men and women off to die in dishonorable, even criminal actions.

Perhaps we will keep this in mind as we enter election season, which will be rife with scoundrels wrapped in flags, scoundrels whose idea of honor and patriotism is sending other people’s children off to die in service to corrupt financial or bigoted religious agendas.

Continue reading

Welcome to Lullaby Pit: one of the world’s oldest Web sites celebrates its 20 birthday

It was 20 years ago today in Boulder, CO.

Do you remember where you were on April 1, 1994? I do. I was sitting at a computer in an apartment at the corner of Colorado and Foothills in Boulder, launching this really new thing called a “Web site.” Today there are over 932 million of them (and counting) in the world, but at that point there were maybe 2,000.

It was pretty primitive stuff back then: plain text on a white background with some hyperlinks, and if you wanted to do one you had to know html and a bit of UNIX.

Today I pause and look back at Lullaby Pit. If you’re interested in a small moment in Internet history, click here and join me.

Big-Data

Nate Silver: Geek? Yes. Thoughtful journalist? Bigger yes.

FiveThirtyEight post on disputed climate change story signals commitment to transparency

Yesterday, after reading criticisms of Nate Silver’s revamped FiveThirtyEight, I thought: Denny, find out for yourself. After all, I am, at least historically, a geek. And, I thought, years of reading his New York Times blog showed me Nate is King Geek and FiveThirtyEight at ESPN would, no doubt, reflect that.

So I read “The Messy Truth Behind GDP Data.” Not bad. Classic FiveThirtyEight geeky on an important topic. But, even through so many pundits and politicos base analyses on flawed understandings of GDP, reading the post was akin to watching paint dry. I tried Harry Enten’s story about Hillary and polling. Egads: So. Many. Numbers. Unfamiliar terms. Headache ensues.

Continue reading

CATEGORY: TunesDay

From The Raveonettes to Belle & Sebastian? Streaming music algorithms shouldn’t suck this badly…

Predicting bands a user is going to like isn’t easy. But surely Spotify, Pandora and iTunes can do better than this.

I’m a freak for new music. Always have been. In a given day I’m usually listening to whatever cool stuff I have discovered recently, backtracking and catching up on bands I haven’t listened to lately, and trying to find new artists to fall in love with and suggest to my friends.

Finding new music is a different challenge than it used to be. Once upon a time you could turn on the radio and hear the latest and greatest. It’s been a long time since that worked, though – now radio is the last place you look for cool tuneage. Continue reading

Kelly Blazek, Cleveland’s nasty e-mailer: how seriously should we take her apologies?

IABC Communicator of the Year has a pattern of bad behavior. I’m not sure “I’m sorry” is enough.

We all screw up. When we do, it’s our responsibility to acknowledge it and apologize to those our mistake in someway damaged, hurt, disadvantaged or inconvenienced. Hopefully we learn and move on, never repeating the mistake.

But sometimes … sometimes apologies are hard to accept. I’m not just talking about faux-apologies like we heard recently from First Idiot Ted Nugent, either. I’m talking about apparently honest, heartfelt apologies that accept the blame and make no attempt to excuse the bad behavior. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Journalism

The daily newspaper editorial: Make it weekly, please

Daily editorials, striving to not piss off anyone, have achieved ‘terminal neutrality’

Who — or what — killed the great American editorial? Wasn’t there a time when great newspaper editorials regularly thundered and whispered, sighed and screamed, were outraged or outraged others?

Paul Greenberg, the editorial-page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and a 1969 Pulitzer Prize winner, poses these questions on the website of the Association of Opinion Journalists.

Greenberg calls the forces that murdered the American newspaper editorial “as impersonal and characterless as many of the editorials themselves.” Among them are the goal of not pissing off anyone; “the stultifying editorial conference,” designed to drain life out of editorial positions; and hewing to “the party line or socio-economic fashion.” These forces produced, says Greenberg, “terminal neutrality.”

Although these forces had the daily newspaper editorial on its deathbed by the mid-1980s, Greenberg doesn’t reveal that I — yes, me! (gasp!) — pulled the plug on its life support. Yep, I pounded a few nails into the coffin of the daily newspaper editorial all by myself. Continue reading

Mapping Utah by Denny Wilkins

How we find our way: Denny Wilkins’ Mapping Utah – a Review

Knowing where you’re going takes all the fun out of getting there…

Mapping Utah by Denny Wilkins (image courtesy deadlines amuse me)

Kara McAllister is lost and she knows it. That’s why she is drawn to a strange Rand- McNally map of the Inter-mountain West that she finds in a Powell’s Bookstore in Portland as she is running away from a failed relationship, a successful career – and herself. How she comes to find a new relationship, a new career, and, ultimately, herself, is the central narrative of Denny Wilkins’ first novel, Mapping Utah.

It’s Kara who is the protagonist of this work. That must be understood before the novel’s achievement reveals itself. There are plenty of antagonists: bad guys who would ruin delicate wilderness areas for their petty amusements, corrupt police and politicians who sell the public trust, bad lovers who see their relationships as conveniences.

But there’s only one Kara. And it’s her deconstruction and reconstruction that drives Wilkins’ novel and makes Mapping Utah more than a ripping good yarn – which it is, by the way.

This is a book with romance, geology, action, botany, suspense, technology, politics, weightlifting. There’s a way in for almost any reader, in other words, no matter how escapist or academic or transactional (think “how to”) his/her tastes might be. Continue reading

Online Dating

Dear women of Match.com and OK Cupid: WTF is wrong with you?

Women – and men – in online dating communities are acting like goddamned sociopaths. This needs to stop.

Okay, not all of you. But some of you. Men, too – I’m guessing this isn’t just women. See if you recognize yourselves below.

On multiple occasions I’ve been talking to women I met through OK Cupid. Things going great, we really seem to be hitting it off, and then we agree to meet. The woman has even been the one asking me out, in fact. I say yes, then … poof. Gone without a trace. Never hear from her again.

This is odd behavior, especially when she just asked me out, right? Am I saying yes wrong? WTF? Continue reading

Advertising

Advertising’s enticement: You must crave, therefore you must buy

Advertising may be evil, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil.

Despite my exposure to what a colleague estimates is nearly 100 million advertising impressions as I approach seven decades of life, I am not taller, I am not more attractive, I am not thinner, and I sure as hell don’t smell much better than I did in the 1950s.

I teach in a journalism school in which more students aspire to be advertising and PR madmen and madwomen than journalists. So I think about advertising often — mostly with disbelief and frequent outrage (the righteous kind, y’know).

The disbelief: I watch an ad in which a pricey luxury sedan maneuvers at night through lanes illuminated by paper lanterns. Continue reading

#SocialMedia

#Hashmytags #youselfimportantpricks – The Tech Curmudgeon

There was a time when stringing all your words together made you look ignorant, stupid, or insane. Now it makes you look #tech #savvy.

#SocialMediaWhen the Tech Curmudgeon was young, there was a period where people supposedly “in the know” were claiming that, in German, you could make any word you wanted just by stringing other words together in an endless line of barely pronounceable syllables. Reality was somewhat different, in that yes, you could kinda-sorta-maybe do that every once in a while under special circumstances and if you didn’t know what the hell you were doing and didn’t mind fucking around with someone else’s language as a joke. Basically, yes, it was possible, but it made you sound like an ignorant prick, not a fluent speaker of German – fluent speakers of German didn’t need to fuck around like this to make themselves understood.

These days, however, stringing an endless line of barely pronounceable syllables doesn’t just make you sound like an ignorant prick, it also makes you sound tech and comm savvy. After all, that’s essentially what hashtags are. Continue reading

Internet and Social Media

New Facebook app update demands unreasonable privacy access – The Tech Curmudgeon

The Borg meet the One App in the Facebook app’s latest privacy permissions.

Internet and Social MediaThe Tech Curmudgeon has got a Facebook app on his smartphone, probably like nearly everyone else in the English-speaking world. But the Tech Curmudgeon hasn’t updated it to the latest app, and he won’t. In fact, when his current version of the Facebook app stops working, the Tech Curmudgeon will purge the app from his phone entirely rather than update to the next version. And when his phone finally dies and the Tech Curmudgeon has to get a new one, he’ll probably purge the Facebook app from that one too, all because Facebook’s recent update has asked for permissions no one in their right mind would give Facebook. Continue reading

NSA Spying

Careful with that refrigerator, Eugene

News that hackers have used a “smart refrigerator” to send a bunch of virus emails and generally cause mischief shouldn’t come as a surprise. People have been talking about “smart” appliances for years now—“smart” houses, too. Everything is going to be “smart,” apparently. Personally, I can’t wait until we get “smart” cars—you know, the ones that don’t need drivers. (As opposed to Smart cars.) I remember this as a 1950s advertising campaign that never quite got off the ground—like jetpacks. Which reminds me, where the hell is my jetpack? Anyway, I bet the amount of interesting damage you can do with “smart” cars will be a lot more fun than what you can do with “smart” refrigerators.
Continue reading

CATEGORY: CATEGORY: ArtSunday

An Insider’s Guide to Publishing, or why does anybody want to be a writer?

“Mad, bad, and dangerous to know” applies not just to Lord Byron but to every writer…

An Insider’s Guide to Publishing by David Comfort (image courtesy Goodreads)

David Comfort’s latest book, An Insider’s Guide to Publishing, is not the “nuts and bolts” sort of a book you’d expect from its title. Instead, Comfort has written a longish (nearly 300 pages) compendium of anecdotes, explanations, analyses, and observations on writers and writing, the publishing industry past and present, and the role of technology in that past, present, and future of literature.

The book is alternately charming and churlish, funny and depressing, and, well, engrossing. Unlike most books in this genre, Comfort doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to convince the reader that “if you do this, you’ll be the next E.L. James” (the author of the mega success Fifty Shades of Grey). Instead, he delves into the story of E.L. James and explains – carefully but tongue firmly in cheek – how a writer who can’t write worth a damn can make $1 million per week from sales of what is popularly called “Mommy porn.” Continue reading

Internet & Telecom

Net neutrality? It’s not complicated, AT&T

AT&T’s new toll-free data plan is a great idea. For AT&T. Everyone else, not so much.

It’s been a bit since I’ve written about net neutrality (really, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything), but it seemed right to bring the topic up again with regards to AT&T’s new toll-free data proposal:

“AT&T Inc., the country’s second-largest wireless carrier, announced Monday that it’s setting up a “1-800″ service for wireless data. Websites that pay for the service will be toll-free for AT&T’s wireless customers, meaning the traffic won’t count against a surfer’s monthly allotment of data.

It’s the first major cellphone company to create a comprehensive service for sponsored wireless access in the U.S. The move is likely to face considerable opposition from public-interest groups that fear the service could discourage consumers from exploring new sites that can’t afford to pay communications carriers for traffic.” Continue reading

CATEGORY: ArtsLiterature2

Art by consent of the audience, kinda sorta…

Et tu, Big Data? Then fall, Muses…

Shakespeare, Shakespeare, and Shakespeare, LTD (image courtesy Wikipedia)

Laura Miller’s recent piece at Salon on how new reader “services” (I use the term loosely since it’s pretty frickin’ obvious that readers are the ones who will end up being used, as Miller’s article demonstrates) such as Oyster and Scrib’d  can be used to gather data on reader habits and preferences so that this information can be sold to “writers” (another term I may possibly be using loosely since Miller’s piece suggests the “new direction” will be “art” created by artist/audience interactions – you know, through beta tests and focus groups) so that they can tailor their works to “the marketplace” (a term now being applied to the relationship between artist and audience that means just what you think it means) is just as depressing as you’d want it to be – if you’re an old fogy like me and like your art “artistic.” Continue reading

ArtSunday: LIterature

Emma Woodhouse and @Twitter: the disease of distraction…

Reading Emma’s tweets would be like reading – well, lots of people’s tweets…

Emma by Jane Austen (image courtesy Goodreads)

I’m finally back on the original 2013 reading list, finishing out the year with appropriate (to me, anyway) seasonal choices.  As is my rule of the last few years, I’m reading my second Jane Austen novel of the year (for many years I read all six of the completed novels every year, as I’ve noted elsewhere, but recently I have moved to a three year cycle of only two books a year).

That novel is Emma – Jane Austen’s finest novel, I believe.

I know that most will argue for Pride and Prejudice, and some will claim that both Persuasion and Mansfield Park have a claim to that distinction. I’ve made abundantly clear my problems with the latter of those novels (great as it is). Persuasion is my personal favorite of Austen’s novels, and its importance as a harbinger of “modern” (i.e. realistic) novels is, I think, inarguable. And certainly its “proposal scene” is the most finely imagined in all Austen’s works and, indeed may be the best handled in all of English literature. Continue reading

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Black Thursday

Thanksgiving is now Black Thursday and Black Friday is upon us: what should America not be thankful for?

The nation gives thanks … for what?

I was never a William Burroughs fan, but I nonetheless find myself thinking about his 1986 “Thanksgiving Prayer,” surely one of the most caustic (and insightful) takes on our great American holiday. I’m in this sort of mood for a reason. Or two, or three.

First off, you may have noticed all the static around the news that more and more businesses will be open today, getting a jump on tomorrow’s appalling orgy of consumerism, Black Friday. That term originated in the early 1960s, apparently, with bus drivers and the police, who used it to describe the mayhem surrounding the biggest shopping day of the year. Continue reading

Online Dating

Online dating: the physical attraction problem

In order for an online dating service to work, it has to reliably move people past the merely physical and help them perceive their match’s real attractiveness.

In a post a couple weeks ago I mused about how the online dating world is plagued by what I guess we’ll call the “physical attraction problem.” I touched of a bit of controversy, both here and on Facebook, because there was some disconnect between what I set out to say and what people wound up hearing. Perhaps that’s on me. In any case, the question of attraction is important if we’re ever to improve on our current trainwreck of an online dating system.

I’ve been thinking about these issues, for reasons noted in that top link, and I can’t help feeling like the single biggest hurdle to getting from Match.com to something that actually works for people is physical attraction. Continue reading