Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays From The Spark

Friday, December 14, 2007

Google Pays Blogger Off With Delicious Cookie

I got this from the Google Holiday Media Party.
cookiesbydesign.com



It was delicious.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The following was a post I wrote for Earth2Tech because I thought it was recent news but apparently this thing has actually been around since January. Oh well. It's still pretty cool, and for those of you who have been to Sioux Falls, South Dakota I hope you appreciate the choice of map selection.

Find the Cheapest Gas or Biofuel with MapQuest

Looking to save a few pennies at the pump? MapQuest has a great feature MapQuest: Gas Prices that allows you to search for the cheapest fuel in your area. Simply enter your zip code and your preferred fuel grade, and MapQuest spits back the prices of the nearest 100+ gas stations, with the dated fuel prices, which you can sort by price or distance.

While MapQuest still suffers from a clunky interface, their new fuel price locater is extremely robust and comprehensive. Not only can you search for gas by fuel grade, but you can search for your favorite alternative fuel -- including biodiesel, E-85, hydrogen, and CNG. You can even use it to find charging stations for your EV. It gives you cool stats like national gas price highs ($4.05 a gallon in Kailua Kona, Hawaii) and lows ($2.40 in Hamel, Minn.), and offers a gas calculator that will calculate the price of a trip.



I'm really enjoying playing around with this tool -- seeing what E-85 is going for in the Midwest, for example, and checking out where one can get hydrogen in California. It's not perfect, however. While good for locating biofuel pumps, it doesn't always include prices; in some cases the prices haven't been updated in months. Still, as someone who grew up in a family that religiously records gas prices and mileage in a notebook in the glove box, this really excites me. What if, every time you fill up at the pump, your car's onboard computer could record all that data and chart it for your on a maplet that you could pull up whenever you're running near E?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Telsa Roadster Getting Ticket?



A picture is worth a thousand words. I attended the ThinkGreen Conference hosted by ThinkEquity today and yesterday (check out my coverage). Outside the conference venue, the St. Regis on 3rd and Mission, there was one of Tesla's $100,000 roadsters parked outside. Behind those velvet ropes is an all electric, carbon fiber body roadster that can do 0-60 in four seconds without making a sound. And while it can out-accelerate most Ferraris, this roadster wasn't actually getting a ticket. The cop was just standing out of the rain while he wrote up a ticket for a nearby 80s-era Honda. Decidedly less exciting.



Saturday, December 01, 2007

I Am Legend: Awakening

Will Smith, who saved us from aliens (twice) and robots, is set to fight off vampiric savages in the most recent film adaption of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. This might be the closest we get to see The Fresh Prince take it to some zombie hordes.

In prep for this oddly-themed holiday blockbuster (seriously, this big-budget, monster-ridden, Smith-vehicle has summer popcorn flick written all over it) every bus and bill board in the country is plastered with a post-apocalyptic skyline poster. Additionally, the online ad campaign is ramping up. There's the movie's cryptic website, a Second Life multi-player game, and a beautifully and eerily animated series of shorts from a comic book distributed at Comic-Con 07. I'm trying to get one off eBay.



The book, called I Am Legend: Awakening, consists of five separate stories that document the start of the outbreak. Stories one, two, and four are viewable on the movie's site. Written and illustrated by different artists, including Matheson himself, they provide different facets of the failing struggle against humanities collapse. Stories four, "Sacrificing the Few for the Many," and three, "Isolation," have been made into elegant and violent animated shorts. They aren't embedded here because they really deserve to be watched in HD on Apple's site (linked above). Episode three was just released last week and I'm hoping as the feature film's December 14th release date approaches the remaining stories will also be posted.

This is not the first time Matheson's I Am Legend has gotten an illustrated treatment. Steve Niles, who also wrote the first story in the Awakening series, wrote a comprehensive graphic novel adaptation of I Am Legend back in 1991. I'm still working my way through Kirkman's excellent The Walking Dead series, but I might jump over the check out Matheson's and Niles's works before the movie drops.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

CNN * YouTube Debate

Last night the Republican Presidential candidates spent an inordinate amount of time mincing words of immigration, enumerating the firearms they possessed, and explaining which baseball teams they root for. Mitt Romney dodged nearly every question while Mike Huckabee's amazing oratory proved that his recent poll gains are not undeserved.

I got my mail today and opened up the latest from my NetFlix queue, the all-Amerian tour-de-Willis that is Live Free of Die Hard, and was amused by the ad on the inside. I wonder if those ads are connected with the movie enclosed. Here's the ad. I'll post more of the these NetFlix ads in an attempt to track any trends.

Monday, November 19, 2007

CrankCast Vid Picks: Chuck Norris

Are you a presidential candidate lagging in the polls? Need something to give your numbers a little boost? How about something to give your campaign a roundhouse kick to the face? Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has just the thing.



So there you have it. Huckabee is out next president because, like the man said, "Chuck Norris doesn't endorse. He tells America how it's gonna be." And this is (almost) completely serious. Norris extolls Huckabee's virtues on the conservative blog WorldNetDaily.

However, this post is nothing compared to Norris's earlier post on WorldNetDaily where he articulates his vision of a Chuck Norris White House in "If I am elected president." Here are highlights from his presidential agenda:
  • Turn the Rose Garden into a new fighting ring for the World Combat League, in which liberals and conservatives will fight for legislative leadership and priority.
  • Increase jobs in America by sending ninja teams to sabotage and steal them back from other countries.
  • Resolve the Iraq war by bringing all of our military personnel home immediately, then going over there by myself for "martial arts negotiations."
  • Convey my plan for world peace to the United Nations: taking the governor of California with me on our "kick butt and ask questions later" USO world tour.
  • Expose the real WMDs – my fists and feet.
  • Personally smoke out bin Laden by myself and round-house kick him all the way back to America, where my United Fighting Arts Federation will handle the justice issues.
There you have it, a very Chuck Norris election. And for good measure here are some other Chuck Norris video gems.





Wednesday, November 14, 2007

NewTeeVee Live!

Check us out. I'll be live-blogging the event today with my colleague Chris Albrecht, so check out our sometimes frantic, often witty, and always caffeine-enhanced commentary here.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ze's Back

Even Ze is weighing in on the writer's strike. And he promises more too!



Continuing on the theme of strikes and things that start with the letter "z," I would like to bring the conversation around to the little reported threat of a lurch-out by the ZGA, the Zombies Guild of America.



Their demands are simple, often phrased in a mono-syllabic moan aimed in the direction of the living - brains. Specifically, more brains. This is not the first time zombies have united for their rights. Several marches have occurred for zombie rights, often with the rallying cry of "What do we want? BRAINS! When do we want them? BRAINS!"

You get the idea.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Writers' Strike And You

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) agreed this weekend to go on strike on Monday. What does this mean for you, simple media consumer? Well, first all of your daily talk shows - The Daily Show, Colbert Report, Tonight Show, Late Show, etc. - will have no writers. Next impacted will be your episodic prime time sitcoms and dramas, i.e. The Office and Lost. A few months later the American box office will take a hit as no new scripts have been signed. In the interim, reruns, foreign imports, and a "renaissance" of writer-free reality television will fill the vacuous airwaves.



Time to find some good books.

Monday, October 29, 2007

CrankCast Vid Picks: Zombies Abound

Between the recent vogue of zombie-memehood and the advent of Halloween you can barely go out to the grocery store without tripping over some zombies. Here are some informational videos that will better prepare you for the eventual war between the living and the undead.



I chatted with Lee LeFever and he explained that a video like this one takes 30 to 40 hours to make. Also, a note for the San Franciscans: In case of a zombie attack we will rendezvous at the Costco on 10th and Harrison.



This video has a really beautiful animation style. Watch how the background changes shades throughout the cartoon. And a good Hannibal Lecter reference goes well with zombies and a nice chianti.



I'm still sad that the Bush/Zombie Reagan ticket back in '04 was never recognized. However, Cheney is very zombiesque.



Zombie Crank would need coffee... and brains. Coffee and brains.



It's strange that a movie whose one-liner pitch is "Lassie, but with zombies" got made. But thank god it did.

Also, check out this cool project my buddy Bill Cammarack told me about at NTV in NYC. It's called Node666 and it's a video blog project where you can submit your own zombie experience in video link form. This episode,simply titled "Goddamn Zombies," is probably what my final hours would like, except if zombies touched my computers I'd totally start lobotomizing the zed-heads.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bioneers 2007



I am attending the 18th Annual Bioneers conference in San Rafael, CA. As the mission statement reads:

Founded in 1990, Bioneers is a nonprofit organization that promotes practical environmental solutions and innovative social strategies for restoring the Earth and communities.

"It's All Alive, It's All Intelligent, It's All Connected."

Bioneers offers pragmatic solutions that honor the living web of the natural world as the most fertile source of inspiration and models. It's all alive.

One of the beauties of biology is that its facts can become our metaphors, and these underlying codes serve as inspiring parables for how we can organize a more just, humane and authentically sustainable society. It's all intelligent.

Interdependence also teaches us that there are no single issues because it's one whole that can be addressed only by bringing together all the parts. Bioneers gathers people at the crossroads of ecological restoration, human health and social justice. It's all connected.


I'll be blogging and vlogging on the official Bioneers Community Network, so check out my stuff.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Blog Action Day

Sooooooo... this is happened:



Old media disdainfully calls us "the blogosphere." Intweb dweebs call themselves "the blogger elite." The corporations whose stock prices we effect call us "the bloggerazzi." I like the last one the best.

More on Blog Action Day soon.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Here There Be Dragons: Cartographical Hegemony

I fear that the increasing ubiquity of GPS is further removing the user from their environment as opposed to connecting them. Gone are the days of the compass and the quadrangle map. No longer does one orient the map, take a bearing, and plot a course. Sure, I bullshitted my way through the knots Boy Scouting holds so dear but I was an orienteering fiend. But what's the use of a map if you don't know how to use it? Or worse yet, don't understand how it represent geography, topography, and cartography? Worst of all, what if the maps your were using, the indelible guides informing your understanding of a city, country, world were wrong? Or, more precisely, not what you thought.

In 1569, German cartographer Gerardus Mercator created a map designed to aid sailors crossing recently charted seas. He titled his map "A New and Enlarged Description of the Earth With Corrections for Use in Navigation." Mercator's map, with some fine tuning across the last half millennium, has been in nearly every classroom in America since American classrooms have had maps. It is how we understand the earth to be.

Seemingly unrelated, I am enjoying some of the best TV I'd never seen and watching The West Wing. (oh, to speak like Sorkin writes!) The following clip is from episode sixteen of season two, original air date February 28, 2001.



All those days playing Risk, all those geography tests studied for, all those supposedly educational place mats for naught. Well, not quite, but still, a striking bit a cartography, no?

Dr. Arno Peters first presented his map in 1974. The Peters Projection is what is known as an "equal-area" projection, having fidelity of proportion while sacrificing true shape. No single map is "better" than any other. All two-dimensional maps have weaknesses as they try to represent a three-dimensional globe. There are different maps for different purposes. Maps are tools for understanding the world we live, they are not a one-for-one representation of the orb we inhabit.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Weekend Warriors

My dad kept warning me about "the real world." The real world doesn't give you a last minute extension. The real world doesn't operate on a semester basis. The real world certainly does not give you summers off.

However, I am glad that the real world still holds one island of respite holy - the weekend. The slacker's sabbath, the deadbeat's détente, the loafer's furlough, the weekend is still mine. From Friday's closing time until Monday's commute the woes and worries of the rat race are left behind and everyone from the sales rep to the sales clerk can be a weekend warrior.

It is on the field of my own personal vacation vocation that I see the berserk nature of weekend warrior's "play hard" mantra in full swing. I play Ultimate (Frisbee) on a coed club team named "Classy." My teammates include lawyers, psychology lab rats, code monkeys, energy consultants, chemical engineers, and physicists. We come together every weekend during the season to practice and play in tournaments, running around and chasing down a 175 gram chunk of plastic.



It is an amazing physical and social outlet. It's an escape, a reprieve, a sabbatical from everything else. It is a much needed dose of good natured absurdity in a world full of vitriolic absurdity. In this post are some great photos taken by my teammates. More photos are available from their online albums of our entire season.



Above: Obligatory glamor/action shots.
Below: Classy teammate Dan "D-Mo" Morris completes a maneuver known as "the greatest." Jumping from in bounds he caught the disc in the air and threw it back into play on the field before touching the ground. Cooly (in the turquoise hat) caught the disc in the end zone. Unfortunately the other team, overwhelmed by D-Mo's awesomeness, cried foul and bitched us out of that point. We wound up beating them anyway.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

NTV in NYC

That's right, the team of NewTeeVee.com is heading to New York City. We're bringing our popular Screening Event from our pier on the San Francisco Bay to the Xchange in Manhattan.



The monthly screening events revolve around a theme. Submissions are voted on and the top videos get screened on our huge screen at the event where the audience decides on the best ones. The audience, meanwhile, is boozing and schmoozing.

This month's theme is "love stories." Check out the details here, submit your own videos here, vote on submissions here, and RSVP here. Questions? Let me know.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A number of my friends have taken to referring to me as their "blogger firend," at a loss to better explain what I do. A recent discussion about my official job description led to an examination of the taxonomic differences between a number of egghead related terminology. Am I a "nerd" or a "dork" or a "geek"? I argued strongly for "geek," a term that many in the blogosphere now wear as a badge of honor. "Geek" connotes levels of technical proficiency, advocacy, and dependency. I really like Lifehacker's tagline: "Don't live to geek. Geek to live."

A quick jaunt over to the interwebs yielded a very interesting query result from Dictionary.com on "geek."


geek (gēk) n.
1. a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, esp. one who is perceived to be overly intellectual.
2. a computer expert or enthusiast (a term of pride as self-reference, but often considered offensive when used by outsiders.)
3. a carnival performer who performs sensationally morbid or disgusting acts, as biting off the head of a live chicken.


So, I join the esteemed geek ranks of Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne. Strange company I unwittingly find myself keeping with my self-imposed title. Alas, such is the life of "blogger friend."

Monday, August 27, 2007

CrankCast Vid Picks: "Baby Got Back"

Sir Mix-A-Lot's timeless ballad of lust and love is one that still echoes through the tubes. A close textual analysis of Mix-A-Lot's ode to ass reveals the emcee's respect for women, a condemnation of other "punks" misogyny and womanizing, and Mix-A-Lot's own search for a long term relationship:

A word to the thick soul sistas
I wanna get with ya
I won't cus or hit ya
But I gotta be straight when I say I wanna f*ck
Til the break of dawn
Baby, I got it goin on
A lot of pimps won't like this song
Cuz them punks like to hit it and quit it
But I'd rather stay and play
Cuz I'm long and I'm strong
And I'm down to get the friction on
...
So Cosmo says you're fat
Well I ain't down with that!
'Cause your waist is small and your curves are kickin'
And I'm thinkin' bout stickin'
To the beanpole dames in the magazines:
You ain't it, Miss Thing!




And, like all great art, this poet's work has inspired many others to go out and create.

I Like Big Bibles



Baby Got Back as Realised by Gilbert and Sullivan



Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine




Jonathan Coulton - White Boy Acoustic


Friday, August 24, 2007

NewTeeVee Pier Screening Event - Citizen News

The fourth Pier Screening event is coming up next week on Wednesday, August 29th. We will be back outside on the actual pier in all of its picturesque splendor and heat lamp warmth. This month's theme of "citizen news" really excites me and we've gotten some excellent entries. We have the Wall Street Journal tech columnist Kara Swisher, the documentary filmmaker of 24 Hours on Craigslist Ferris Gibson, and citizen media guru JD Lasica on our esteemed panel of judges.



Go check out the entrants at our screenings site and start using the 1-to-5 star rating system to vote for your favorites. If you'd like to attend the event just R.S.V.P. on our EventBrite page. We're also planning on streaming this event live online again with Veodia, so you can watch it here next week.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

NetFlix Knows Me!

It's eerie when those algorithmically produced ads and suggestions in your GMail or amid your Amazoning really hit close to home. It is strange to think that some Stanford engineer can write a couple of lines of code to figure you out - your habits, your preferences, your dislikes - and make new, smart, recommendations on new things you are likely to like. Here is what NetFlix has most recently suggested I might enjoy:



Let's breakdown NetFlix's stated logic here. NetFlix is recommending Strong Bad's Emails to me. I've been following Strong Bad, and the greater Homestarrunner.com online cartoon world, since 2002. But NetFlix doesn't know that.

Here, NetFlix supports it's suggestion by saying this recommendation is made "because you enjoyed" several other movies.
  • The first is Throne of Blood (1957). Set in feudal Japan, Throne is Akira Kurosawa's samurai-infused update of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Starring the venerable Toshirô Mifune, the film's conclusion is a visually stunning mix of diatribe, blind ambition, and thousands of arrows.
  • The second is Double Indemnity (1944). Billy Wilder defined a huge swath of film noir with this pulpy murder/insurance fraud/lust fiction. Based on the James M. Cain novel, it was adapted for the screen with Raymond Chandler and was nominated for seven Oscars. Every noirish film since owes a great deal to Indemnity.
  • The third was Arrested Development: Season 3 (2006). Though sadly canceled after only two and a half season, Arrested is hands-down the best television I have ever seen. Pushing the structural limits of the sitcom in new ways, once into its third season Arrested's referential jokes and layered writing was a marvel to behold. R.I.P. Bluths.
So, what do we have? We have a recommendation for an online cartoon based upon my liking a Japanese samurai Shakespeare adaptation, a pulp fiction noir film, and a canceled Fox sitcom. And yet NetFlix is right on the money. Perhaps my taste isn't so nuanced after all.

Friday, August 10, 2007



I've wound around in New York's Strand. I've explored the color-coded stacks of Portland's Powell's. I've paid homage to Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg's ever challenging City Lights. But only in San Francisco's Green Apple Books did I find this shelf.

Beyond preparing the city of San Francisco for the rising of the undead, Green Apple has many other attributes that make it my literary purveyor of choice.
  • The newly released books have hand written recommendations and reviews.
  • I managed to snag a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows without having a ne'er do well spoil the mediocrity.
  • Oh, and one of the cashiers is really hot.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

CrankCast Vid Picks: Smile More

It is easy to use the foils of cynicism and pessimism to deflect responsibility and defend apathy in today's world of sound bites and celebrity gossip. Nowhere is this more true than online video, a branch of the blogosphere saturated in the sensational and exploitative. But there is hope. If you're feeling down about life watch these videos and then head out. Go forth and make this a better world. Perform random acts of kindness.

Wirebreakers - Insane Dance Moves!

If you liked the movie Rize about the frenetic art of "clowning" and "krumping," you'll love these kids. The WireBreakers are part of viral promotional campaign for Motorola's new wireless MOTOROKR S9 headphones.


Feist - 1 2 3 4 MUSIC VIDEO


Fiest has a bunch of great music videos on her YouTube page, so check them out. Also, this remix is sweet.

RocketBoom July 27 2007 Casual Friday

Every Friday the daily web show RocketBoom breaks from their normal intertube-powered journalism to bring us "Casual Friday," a day when they go out and capture a bit of the world with a whimsical breviloquence only possible with a DV camera.

Free Hugs Campaign. (music by Sick Puppies.net album out)

...and the RocketBoom video reminded of this winner of the YouTube Award for "Most Inspirational."

Dave Matthews Band - Everyday


...which then reminded me of this Dave Matthew's Band music video.

Bouncy Balls

Danish director Nicolai Fuglsig unleashed 250,000 bouncy balls on the hilly streets of San Francisco to demonstrate Bravia's "colour like no other." The music is 'Heartbeats', performed by José González.

I bet you're smiling now.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

NewTeeVee Screening Event

Here I am! Or was, depending when you watch this. Every month this summer we at NewTeeVee.com do a screening event (which some of you have come to) where we show several online videos around a theme. First it was "episodic content," then "parody," and this month it's "when content = advertising." We've got Greg Goodfried, one of the brains behind LonleyGirl15, on our panel of judges. Check us out. Live video stream brought to you by Veodia!



And after you watch, vote!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Widgets Are the Future?

Check out my review of the best of video Facebook apps, glorified social networking widgets. I've been all about widgets, as of late. Between this post and the widget lunch discussion I attended at the YPulse conference, I am in full widget mode. And here we have a re-imagined scene from what I think a 2007 remake (please no) of Mike Nichols' The Graduate would look like. Enjoy.


Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you -just one word.
Ben: Yes sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Ben: Yes I am.
Mr. McGuire: 'Widgets.'
Ben: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There's a great future in widgets. Think about it. Will you think about it?
Ben: Yes I will.
Mr. McGuire: Shh! Enough said. That's a deal.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Earth2Tech Launches Today!

The GigaOM Network just keeps growing! NewTeeVee is part of the greater GigaOM grid and today editor Katie Fehrenbacher launched GigaOM's green tech business blog, Earth2Tech.



So go check it out. Here's the announcement post. And keep an eye out because hopefully you'll soon be seeing posts from Crank and Hoffer giving our two cents on green technologies.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

July New Tech MeetUp

Another month, another meetup. I love these things and more and more people just keeping showing up (and eating the pizza before I get any). Anyway, here's a lowly blogger's short review of what went down.

Truemors.com - In a delicious mix of mild self-deprecation and condescension, Guy Kawasaki pitched his rumor-mill site with little fanfare. Like my recent post on Friction.tv, I'm really worried that the signal-to-noise ratio won't improve, but even more so because it seems that the Truemors model relies on the shallow and sensational.... just like the of the internets. In the end I'm not impressed that he made this for 12K and I'm left thinking "you still spent a lot of money on a crappy idea." And now back to Digg.

Blabberize.com - Mo was back by popular demand and definitely delivered, telling a great story about his job as a comp sci TA. Oh, he also has a funny little company on the site where you can make pictures talk. I'll be using it soon for sure, so check back.

JuggleMyStuff - Yet another project management suite, JuggleMyStuff dragged its feet through it's presentation. Looked...nice. I like the name. Yeah. Moving on.

RateItAll.com - Focusing on the idea of in-flow reviews, RateItAll has made the first read/write widget. They made a cute little piece of widgetry that could really change the way online reviews are read and written. The widget goes where the products/topics/reviewed things are which is where the eyeballs are. Makes sense.

Ad Perk - Ad Perk looks to make a new sort of commercial currency. they are not a destination site and connect viewers, advertisers, and hosts in a new way to exchange eyeballs for quality content in an intelligent way. As the advertising industry gropes it's way online, Ad Perk offers a very interesting new model. However, I was getting frustrated by the number of times the presenter would start answer questions with "What you're not seeing is..." This is your presentation! I'm seeing what you're showing me!

Perhaps it was the excess of beer or the because it was hump day, but it was an unusually hostile and inarticulate audience which made from some funny and painful Q&A sessions.

See you next month.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Holographic Al Gore to Save World

In case you have been living under a rock, Al Gore's Live Earth mega-concert-event happened across all seven continents in a media blitz designed to launch us into global sustainability. Al Gore flexed his technological might by appearing as a holograph. A FREAKIN' HOLOGRAPH! Al Gore has the crew of The Enterprise on his side! I feel like breaking into Phil Collins-inspired song!

Albert Gore, he's our hero,
Gonna take pollution down to zero,
Gonna help him put asunder,
Bad guys who like to loot and plunder!



And make sure to check out my article on the Live Earth event at NewTeeVee.com And this great post by my fellow NewTeeVee contributor, Steve Bryant.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Blogger vs. M.D. Ph.D.

Googling one's own name is a procrastinator's favorite trick. It guarantees seconds of distraction and hours of narcissistic pondering. When I first started Googling my name, way back in 2000 when my high school librarian first explained what a "search engine" was, I didn't come up at all. I was very sad. Slowly, though college, I moved up from a reference to my ultimate playing on the twelfth page of search of search results. By senior year I was even on the first page with my Big Green Bus exploits bumping me up in Google's algorithmic eyes. And now, a full year out of college, I occupy four of the seven first search results on the first page for "Craig Rubens." Oh yeah, I've really come far.

However, I have yet to claim the first search result.

And that is because of one man. One, massively more educated, do-gooding, doctor. A M.D., Ph.D. pediatrician, to be precise. Dr. Craig E. Rubens, of Seattle, Washington, is the first Google search result for "Craig Rubens."



My goal - to be the "I'm feeling lucky" result. My means - the intertubes. I think it's fascinating that I've climbed the Google rankings so far already. I am not going to argue who does better work for the world (Dr. Rubens "researches the pathogenesis of infections that cause neurologic damage in newborns." Blogger Rubens writes about online video and zombies.). Still, I find it fascinating that I might become seemingly more important in cold computer-lidded gaze of Google. We'll see what the coming months yield.

(Note: I did NOT link to Dr. Craig Rubens for fear of boosting his rankings)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

CrankCast Vid Picks: Sticking on Sesame Street

I've finally gotten back around to reading Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, the ideologue's socio-cultural apriorism on the pathologies of ideas. I just finished reading his chapter on stickiness and the importance of making an idea sticky. To illustrate his point, Gladwell discusses the academic minds behind the designing (and re-designing) of one of the stickiest television shows of all time - Sesame Street.

Gladwell discusses the successes (like young James Earl Jones reciting the alphabet) and failures of various Sesame Street skits as the show's writers, creators, and researchers grew to understand child psychology in amazing ways.

This reminded me a conversation I had with two of my fellow post-modern roommates about our own glory days watching Sesame Street. We each had our favorite Sesame Street bits and, amazingly, we all remembered each others favorites. A testament to how truly sticky those Muppets were, we all shared these nuggets of cultural collective memory. Through the beauty of YouTube, you too can bask in the nostalgia. Don't take our word for it, check them out below and please leave comments with your own favorite Sesame Street memories. I'm sure they're posted out there somewhere on this series of tubes.

Burt and Ernie Fishing - "Here Fishy Fishy"

This is my favorite Sesame Street clip of all time. My mom remembers me just laughing and laughing when this came on. I still say "here fishy fishy fishy" when I go fishing. I don't go fishing very much.

Hungry Cat Cartoon

"I've never seen stroganoff look quite like that." What an amazing line.

How Crayons Are Made

A beautiful documentary short. I love that the Children's Television Workshop was a venue for all sorts of filmmakers, like the animator who made the previous cat short and the filmmaker who made this one on crayons.

Smokey Robinson Singing "U Really Got a Hold On Me"

This segment has made me deathly afraid of the letter "U." Years of Scrabble playing have yet to shake this vowel-phobia.

Eleven Twelve

A psychedelic journey through the first dozen natural numbers, this catchy tune takes the idea of rhythm and repetition to an extreme as it teaches kids to count.

If you live in the Bay Area I highly recommend checking out "Muppets, Music, & Magic" a Henson retrospective hosted at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in the Mission. It started June 21 and runs through July 1.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Aekta's Birthday Alarm

Today is everyone's favorite Aekta's birthday. Yay! Make sure you send her happy birthday wishes and check out the special wake up we gave the birthday girl this morning.




It's like an alarm clock!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Entourage.tv

What do you get when you mix the Justin.tv crew, a Mustang convertible, and a suction camera mount? Entourage.tv, of course!



This month's theme for the NewTeeVee Pier Screenings is parody, which the dictionary defines as "any humorous, satirical, or burlesque imitation, as of a person, event, etc." Protecting parody and satire is increasingly important as media companies throw DMCA takedown notices around like confetti.

So I got to thinking about how I might document the trials and tribulations of my (eventual) ascendancy in the web 2.0 sphere and I thought it might be cool to somehow document it. Then I realized that that'd be heinously boring. But what if a (highly) fictionalized version of my web 2.0 life included money, women, and cars! Well, then you'd have Entourage 2.0! The proof/spoof (sproof?) is in the pudding and the pudding is embedded above.

So the way it went down was Jackson and I brainstormed the idea and broke down the Entourage intro sequence into the different shots needed. The Justin.tv guys were an obvious choice because of their local celebrity and there were four of them. A perfect tech-entourage. So we got a ZipCar, a sunny afternoon, and a healthy dose of Jane's Addiction and drove around on the Embarcadero for an afternoon.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

CrankCast Vid Picks: Net Neutrality

While this issue is not as current as it was when I started this post, here we go. Who better to examine the issue of Net Neutrality than the smartest and wittiest voices on the internet. This collection of videos captures some great voices who's very medium is at stake with this issue. Who will save our series of tubes?

RocketBoom with Amanda Congdon



Ask A Ninja


Ze Frank
(he doesn't like embedding. Click here.)

The Daily Show's John Hodgeman


Media Disintermediation Throughout History



If you're not outraged you're not paying attention.

Let me know if you know of any other good media out there about this issue and go out and make your own.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

June New Tech Meetup

Another month and more tech! And more people! This month’s tech meetup, again meeting in the Metreon Theater auditorium with it’s triumvirate of projectors and screens, was a packed event and all of the pizza was gone by the time I got there. Fortunately (and mysteriously) the beer was plentiful. The presentations moved along well and nearly all of the technical snags from last month were solved.

Here’s a quick recap of each presenter:

VEODIA – Veodia was present last month streaming the event and this time took center stage to talk about their product. CEO Guillaume Cohen gave a good to the point presentation showing his product and how it was, at that very moment, streaming the event live. It worked, it made sense, and, consequently, there was an awkward silence during the question section, which I took as a good sign. Having been a beta tester for Veodia I can say it simply works. It does what it says it does. Cohen did tell us that they’ve hooked up with WebEx to provide the video streaming of their system. There big competitor, UStream, was out of the gate earlier and have gotten some high profile users (like Chris Pirillo and GreenTeaGirlie). But hopefully lower profile users (like ME!) can do some good work with Veodia.

LUCKY OLIVER – Offering high quality stock photos, Lucky Oliver hopes to propagate itself by getting photographers to like them who will in turn attract customers with there quality images. They offer FTP uploads for easy batch uploads and good metadata. The carnival theme was kind of cool, but I still don’t understand why they needed the microeconomic system of tokens (I HATE that Wii does the same thing). Founder Bryan Zmijewski said that their top photographer would make about $10k this year which is a number that really has no context. They are young, so we’ll see. However, I was very pleased and intrigued to hear Zmijewski, a veteran or several other startups, say that he thinks the golden ratio for development is to have two user-interface guys per engineer. I like that focus on the user.


WRIKE – Battling Microsoft’s Project Wrike is working to become a versatile project management tool. Currently, this is a crowded space and I look forward to some good and easily deployed software coming out to replace e-mail as the project management tool of choice because my inbox is waaaay clogged. Wrike’s timeline visualization looked useful and pracitical but I think they need more to “wow” me.

ATTEN.TV – Giving the best and most scattered demo, founder Seth Goldstein showed off his many products including Atten.tv and Trakzor (a counter-stalker Facebook/MySpace app). To showcase Atten.tv’s potential, he showed us Justin.tv’s streamcast which was cute. The issue of streamcasting’s one’s porn surfing was entertaining and showed off how people really would watch this. Don't think of it as a privacy problem. Think of it as a publicity solution.

coRank – Need your own Digg.com? Here you go. Easy to use and distribute coRank is a cool tool to make your own social news network. It offers some good customization tools and I think this tool would be very useful in conjuction with a group blog or wiki.

However, it was the 60-Second Soapbox presenters that stole the show. Izimi.com had a great bit of freestyling from "Tommy.” Mobouy.com gave a whole standup routine. Mizpee.com had no shortage of great toilet humor punnery. Colloquial laughs and self-promotion go well together.

I definitely look forward to next month's meetup.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

NewTeeVee Pier Screenings

So, the blog that gets me the Benjamins is over at NewTeeVee.com. We cover online video, everything from software and hardware to legislation and litigation to venture capital and video contests to content and "weblebrities." I cover mostly those last two (though I'm fond of all the major geek food groups).

The Pier Screenings series is an event we at NewTeeVee put on where we invite video makers (or anyone!) to submit videos around a theme (episodic content, parodies, etc) and the best get shown on a giant screen we setup on our pier and watch them with beers, snacks, and friends in the web 2.0 community.

Here's a recap of our last event. If you want to come to the next one register and come! June 19th!

NewTeeVee Pier Screening

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Mr. Rogers Speaks to the US Senate Hearing Committee for PBS

This video surfaced recently in the top ten section of Digg's Video section, of all places (go Digg It now). Digg.com, "a user driven social content website," is often swamped with tech and geek news surrounding Apple rumors and Linux hacks. This made it all the more amazing and touching to see the beautifully legato speech Fred Rogers gave pleading for money not to be cut from PBS and redirected to the war in Vietnam.



It is when gems like these work their way to the blogosphere surface that I truly think that web 2.0-cum-3.0 can truly do great things for the world. I see this as proof that while our ADD-laden generation is clicking and tapping away in front of liquid crystal displays with glazed eyes, behind that malaise there is a deeply powerful humanitarian spirit. People matter.

When Rogers gave this speech in 1969 the US was engaged in a "police action" in Vietnam. For the first time in history video images of war were coming back home and suddenly war, a game man has waged for millennia, was in every American living room in all of its napalm and entrails splattered glory. The Vietnam war redefined journalism (and many argue that journalism defined the Vietnam war) and explored the newfound powers of broadcast journalism.

I grew up on PBS. Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Sesame Street, Square One, and Bill Nye the Science Guy were all regulars in my family room. I was CONVINCED that if I just kept watching Reading Rainbow LeVar Burton would impart to me the powers of literacy. Rogers explains how the work of PBS has done a huge amount for the mental health of the United States. So what are the children of the web 2.0 dawn downloading, streaming, and watching? Where is quality educational children web content? And if there isn't any where will these internet orphans be in ten, twenty, thirty years?

After his passing in 2003, both the House of Representative and the Senate passed resolutions honoring the amazing work of Fred Rogers. Who will be the Mr. Rogers of new media? And what kind of neighborhood will it be?

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Drunk/Nude/Flairful March to the Sea

For those not familiar with the 12k "race" Bay to Breakers, it is an experience to behold. While there are those that actually run it (and the winner takes home a cool $32,000) the vast majority enjoy a stroll through the city of San Francisco in a variety of hedonistic modes. The pictures below speak volumes, but also check out SMP Films' short YouTube video of this year's event.





Friday, May 04, 2007

SF New Tech Meetup

May has found a new home for the SF New Tech Meetup among the IMAXs and Starbucks of the Metreon Theater on Fourth. Amid the popcorn-munching delinquents and chai-swigging yuppies a steady flow of tech geeks, bloggers, and startup CEOS shuffled upstairs to discuss the latest and greatest in Bay Area online video technology. The free beer and bad-but-free pizza helped lubricate the scene, whose gender ratio was akin to the frat party demographic the hors d'oeuvre suggested. The atmosphere was quite congenial and I bumbled around as a blogger newcomer. Event coordinator and emcee Myles Weissleder deftly kept the show going despite no shortage of technical snafus and the honorable Om Malik presided over Q&A sessions.

Here's a quick recap of each presenter:

Podtech.net & Robert Scoble - Since leaving Microsoft and the source of the material that made us all watch his inside view of the evil empire, Scoble has been casting around with the video podcast startup PodTech.net looking for a project that sticks. He now hosts "The Scoble Show" where he interviews developers and CEOs with the colloquial aplomb he honed at Channel 9. Last night he had little new to offer and admitted that he "thought [he] would find more good user-generated content." While PodTech still searches for a cohesive audience and market share, Scoble is still looking for quality content producers that might fit into the niche PodTech hopes to assume, whatever that exactly winds up being. Also, Scoble committed the geekiest self-call I've ever seen by referencing his own Wikipedia page.

Magnify.net - While Murphy's Law conspired against Steve Rosenbaum's painful PowerPoint presentation, the founder and CEO spoke earnestly of his startup's ability to serve the layman's needs for video content. Magnify.net looks to help those who want video for their site, blog, or company but don't want to be in front of the camera or make the video themselves. Magnify looks to find existing video and allow you to curate your space with appropriately relevant videos. It sounds a lot like video clip art and as video becomes the standard everywhere I wonder how long viewers will tolerate generic video content.

TurnHere.com - Taking the opposite approach from Magnify, TurnHere connects a customer yearning for video content to a world wide network vetted filmmakers. Senior VP John McWeeny explained that TurnHere, working with a range of budgets, can produce video segments ranging from the local deli commercial to a tour of Hong Kong with InterContinental Hotel's concierge. TurnHere is also working with Google to use their videos as content overlay in the growing Google Earth/Maps system.

Justin.tv - Any San Franciscan tech meetup wouldn't be complete without everyone's favorite lifecasting evictee. Kyle Vogt, the "MIT hacker" of the Justin.tv team, was on hand to give a history of technical challenges they have faced along the way including building their own content delivery network and totally redesigning Justin's streaming backpack setup. While Vogt wouldn't comment on any of their server-side architecture, the audience was quickly distracted when Vogt dialed up Justin, who was wandering the streets of LA and stopped to talk to the meetup in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater. The Q&A hit a high point when one excited female audience member asked "Is Justin available for house parties?"

Kyte.tv - Taking social networking mobile, Kyte.tv wrapped up the evening with a technically flawless demo of its cell phone enabled system. Ideologically similar to Twitter, Kyte is different in that instead of being limited to 140 characters you're (currently) limited to 20 megs of video which you can shoot from your phone and upload live. You can them edit these video assets and publish them in an embed on your blog. Founder Daniel Graf showed how easy it was to upload content, post responses, chat with your audience, and even organize polls all inside Kyte. Many members of the audience pulled out their own phones and sent in pictures and text to the open channel Graf created during his presentation.

The entire event was broadcast live through Veodia's streaming technology and the friendly guys from the Palo Alto based start-up were playing the presentations back off an AppleTV directly after the event wrapped. A variety of voices were heard during the presentations as many took advantage of the "60 second soap box" and took the mic to address the ears of the Bay Area's tech community. Though the beer ran dry earlier than some (I) might have liked, the event showcased some interesting ideas in the wild world of online video.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Critical Mass - Pedal Powered Justice

The climax of the ride occurred just outside Golden Gate Park in the setting sun as the entire operation stopped at the intersection of Kezar and Stanyan where cyclists hoisted bicycles over their heads and pumped their bike-filled fists in the air and let out a jubilant roar. A denouement along Haight Street brought me and my bicycle back home and took many other riders back down town where the ride eventually ended in the city's cycling mecca - the Mission.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Covering Irony, the New Irreverent Mashup

Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols. It is an epistemological study concerned with the connection betwee sign and referent. The principles of semiotics gave birth to one of the most powerful film movements and tools - montage editing. A bit of a redundancy, montage editing makes editing the defining tool and aesthetic of film. While classical Hollywood editing strives to be invisible, to hide the artifice, montage editing does just the opposite. Montage works to show work. Jarring edits juxtapose two disparate images to create new meaning only understood by the comparison of two images.

The modern musical mashup seems like the obvious aural corollary. An artist takes two songs and in mashing them together juxtaposes their vocals, rhythms, and harmonies and creates something entirely new. But mashups are yesterday's musical zeitgeist. It was years ago that Danger Mouse was making New York Times headlines with his then groundbreaking Grey Album. And even The New Yorker jumped on and picked their favorite mashup hits.

But today, in the age of YouTube, it seems that the ironic and satirical cover is the way to make a musical statement. YouTube, designed for video dialog, has ushered in a new era of collaborative satire, criticism, and expression (potentially covered under "fair use" depending on your reading of the DMCA).

While YouTube is littered with teeny-boppers lip-syncing to the latest pop chart toppers there are some gems that take this medium to the level of art (and maybe Art). Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps" is a prime example for both camps. The popular podcast sitcom The 'Burg did a great cover of Will.I.Am's booty bumper. The juxtaposition of the hipster's utter disdain for pop culture and the enthusiasm with which they mouth Fergie's words is hilarious but it isn't until Jed's entrance that things really get started. Apparently Fergie didn't find it funny, and it has been pulled from YouTube but it can still be found on The 'Burg's site.



More recently there was Alanis Morissette's cover and spoof of the original "My Humps" video. Without listening to the lyrics one might think that this was actually an Alanis song. But it is that discrepancy that reveals how ridiculous the lyrics really are. Still, she manages to make you smile as opposed to cringe as she moans "my hump my hump my hump my humps, they got yoooooouuu..." over a melodic piano.



This sort of ironic cover has been Ben Folds' bread and butter for some time. Applying his massive musical talent, Folds is able to reduce any musical composition down to it most basic elements. And when you strip away the produced beats and predictable cadence of an early Dr. Dre song what do you have left? A tale of misogyny, racism, and chauvinism! Ben Folds' cover of Dre's "Bitches A'int Shit" revels in the hateful language and casual violence, all the way down to the single's album art (which is available on iTunes). The YouTube version is complete with an entire bleacher section of strumming acoustic guitars as Ben Folds sweetly whispers into his mic "Tight than a mutharfucka with the gangsta beats, And we was ballin' on the muthafuckin' Compton streets." And to get meta, make sure you check out UC Berkley's DeCadence's cover of Folds' cover.

The ironic cover is a powerful musical tool. Moving songs across genres reveals a lot about the original song's composition and meaning that otherwise would not have been explored. Add links to your favorite ironic covers in the comments, but I think we've all heard the blue grass cover of "Gin and Juice."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tentacled Memories

Few things are more alien yet more comprehensible than tentacles. They are simple, fluid, and mysterious. All of the scariest sea and space monsters are covered in them and wield them with terrifying and strategic force. The tentacle possesses an eerie autonomy, each limb operating independently to protect the entire self. Tentacles wrap, rip, and rend. Some of the oldest creatures on the planet possess them and have evolved some of the world's most complex nervous systems to control a dozen deft and delicate appendages.

I have not had good experiences with tentacles. Growing up with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea I have always been wary of tentacled creatures that lurk in the deep. However, all the apprehensions and lessons Captain Nemo taught me were suddenly lost one afternoon in the brilliant and iridescent turquoise shimmer of a Portuguese Man o' War.

I was five years old and visiting my grandmother on Marco Island, Florida. As a natural born collector, I loved scouring the Gulf Coast beach, a veritable treasure trove of knick-knacks, detritus, and baubles for a five year old. I often meandered down the beach, away from my parents' rainbow umbrella, and would gathered shells, stones, and sea glass in a green plastic pail, dropping each trinket in with a satisfying clack.

And so, it was with pail in hand, and hundreds of yards between me and my parents, that I came across the Man 'o War, Physalia phsalis, a siphonophore, technically not a jellyfish but a symbiotic colony of polyps. The creature, with its helmet shaped air bladder and silly-string tentacles, bobbed in the shallows, slowly being pushed to its own death by the lapping waves on the sandy shore. With pail still clutched in one hand, I splashed over to my most recent nautical discovery. In the bright Floridian sun I bent down and moved to scoop up the coruscating creature with my free hand and just as I made contact another wave came lapping up on shore and pushed the gelatinous polyp colony up against the entire right side of my body.

The pain was instant and excruciating. I recoiled, shrieking in agony, but it was too late. The Man o' War's tentacles and body had slapped up against my body, sinking poison into my leg, chest, and arm. As I writhed and wailed in the sand, my pail of treasures left in the ocean, a group of concerned septuagenarian Marco Islanders gathered around me, baffled and worried about the convulsing youth before them. At some point soon thereafter I remember my father's arms scooping me up and conveying me to the nearest lifeguard hut. All I recall from the lifeguards was that their floor was far less soothing to writhe on that the hot sand of the beach. Nearly blacking out from pain, I next returned to consciousness in the emergency room. While it is generally known that vinegar (and, in a pinch, urine) denatures many aquatic venoms, the sure fire way to remove the stingers of many seafaring creatures is a razor. And so, at the tender age of five, I found my vinegar doused and hairless body being shaved to pull out the poison-filled nematocysts still injecting toxins into my system.

The rest of the story becomes hazy as the pain wore off and the Benadryl kicked in. I remember "napping" when we got home for many hours. When I awoke I was rewarded for my "bravery" that day with a dinner at the local Chinese restaurant, as Chinese food was, and still is, my favorite type of cuisine. And so, one Man o' War and several dumplings later, I considered the day a net gain.

To this day tentacles terrify and fascinate me. My curiosity has moved up the evolutionary ladder to starfish, octopuses, and the ever elusive squid. These alien creatures of the deep with their uniquely powerful and foreign appendages, have existed for millennia virtually unchanged. I'd love to go to the depths and visit them, hopefully with less catastrophic consequences than my Man o' War encounter.

(photo courtesy of Rory Gawler, taken of me at the Georgia Aquarium, 4.1.07)