Category: Culture Page 3 of 5

Five-color press check & a Wiimote hacking DJ

CLCV Scorecard production - Alonzo Printing

Quite a day today. This afternoon, I went to the press check for the CLCV Scorecard at Alonzo Printing in Hayward. That’s always fun (no, really). I got to go on the tour for about the fourth time (because I was there with my new boss; it was her first time there). I think Alonzo does great work, I like the people there, and it’s now the #1 environmental printing company in the country or something like that.

As an aside, the two things I describe here are better documented on Flickr. I use it [or did at the time — JG, 1/21/2023] as a complement to what I’m doing here.

Anyway, after work, I finally let Amy — who is my semi-erstwhile trivia teammate and a former Pub Night denizen — drag me along to this thing called “Dorkbot SF“. This group of total rejects (or Übermenschen — who can figure it out?) gathers together, in their words, in “a monthly meeting of artists (sound/image/movement/whatever), designers, engineers, students and other interested parties… who are involved in the creation of electronic art (in the broadest sense of the term).”

Evolution Control Committee at DorkbotSF, Retox

It is definitely a broadly inclusive thing — the folks presenting tonight showed off: a faux-touchscreen/Wii-controller-hacked visual solution to the problem of not being able to mouse fast enough to DJ; artwork created on a “laser cutter,” which, you know, cuts or etches many types of materials using a laser, based on raster or vector artwork (but don’t put anything in there that will give off toxic fumes); and plans, or maybe just pipe dreams, for truly kick-starting space tourism.

I enjoyed it, of course, and will certainly go again. One of the things that appeals to me about Dorkbot, despite its silly name, is that it exists at the crossroads of art, science, technology, and long-term thinking. One of my other recent local discoveries, The Long Now Foundation, is somewhere in the same neighborhood, but Long Now could be Dorkbot’s more serious uncle.

Seeing the passions that people pursue — what they throw themselves into — really inspires me. It makes me think about how I could express what I want to express in different media. (It also makes me realize I don’t pay enough attention to what it is I actually want to express, or express it enough.) Music really resonates with me at a special level.

It seems to me that to this point I really haven’t decided exactly which way I’m going to go yet. I definitely continue to put my effort into things I consider at least somewhat worthwhile. I’m certainly going to avoid doing things that I don’t enjoy OR I don’t think are doing anything to improve society. Ideally, I will continue to iterate myself to a point at which I love what I do all the time, because it’s my own unique contribution to making this world better in some way. Ambitious? Yes.

Perhaps the important part of what I’ve been doing to this point in my life is the documentation and synthesis of all these different kinds of ideas and experiences and situations I’ve encountered. At the risk of sounding simultaneously pompous and hopelessly trivial (a particular talent of mine, I think), I’d like to be something like a really great bottle of Scotch. All these crazy things thrown into a wine barrel for many years, waiting, deepening, growing… and then all of a sudden you pour it out and it’s a masterpiece like nothing else you’ve ever tasted.

In the short term, at minimum, I’m at CLCV. And 2009 is going to be my most productive year there yet. The changes that have taken place since May — Susan leaving and Jenesse and Warner being hired — make me certain of that. CLCV’s incoming CEO (starting January 2nd, 2009), Warner Chabot, is already hitting the ground running. He has indicated quite clearly that he plans to give some desperately needed executive-level attention to CLCV’s brand and communications efforts, both online and off — as well as some actual investment. (By the end of 2009 we might actually have launched a new back end for our website that allows us to actually interact with our members online.)

To which I say “Thank you,” and “Finally.” I have said a couple times to anyone that will listen (and probably people that don’t) that, when Jenesse and then Warner got hired, it was as if I got a new job without going anywhere. Except some of the good things stuck around, like the good working relationships I’ve built with the vast majority of my co-workers, and my knowledge of the organization, and my nice 11th-floor office, and my five weeks of vacation.

(It occurs to me that the changes at work echo the larger context of emerging from the long national nightmare that was Dubya’s so-called presidency….)

Important ALCS on TBS question

Why does Buck Martinez sound like a bicycle horn?

If you need any more incentive to give to Barack Obama

Miranda and Carrie
Miranda July and Carrie Brownstein have thoughtfully compiled a (mildly humorous) range of choices for how to contribute to Barack Obama, including the option of purchasing up to three videos produced eight years ago for $10 a piece (which will then be contributed directly back to Obama).

I say, right on.

David Foster Wallace, part 2

This is an adaptation of what I posted on Metafilter about the death of David Foster Wallace, one of my favorite authors (despite my relative neglect of his work in the recent past):

I can’t say anything that others haven’t already said, but I’ll say it anyway, and I’ll say it relatively simply, despite that not being precisely the way DFW would have done it.1

I loved his work. I finished Infinite Jest years ago. I will read it again.

I’m really sad that when I finish Oblivion and the various other essays I haven’t read that that’s it — no more David Foster Wallace.

I’ve been thinking about Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams and Hunter S. Thompson in the wake of this horrible shock. This is different, though. DFW was a hero and an influence that was closer to a peer than any of those other heroes of mine. I recognized something in him, and in his writing, that reminded me of me, more than any other writer, of someone who could see the complexity and the absurdity of everything, of someone who was from the Midwest and smart and young-ish and a little bit angry and a little bit sad. Or maybe a lot of each. (More than I evidently knew.)

I’m not going to get over this quickly or easily, even though (or maybe because) I never met him in person.

I’m glad that I heard the news from Will, who introduced me to DFW, though it was strange that it was in a Facebook posting.

I have felt really alive lately, really engaged in my life to a degree that I hadn’t been for a few years, but this was like a punch in the gut. And the head. And the heart.

Goodbye, David.


1 (Mostly because, among many reasons, and obviouslya, I am not he.)

a [I hope]

Cars won’t always rule the world and its cities

From “Cars won’t always rule the world and its cities” by architect Arrol Gellner in the SF Chronicle:

“history has a way of casually demolishing institutions that seem impregnable”

Jon Carroll on the passing of David Foster Wallace

Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle columnist, remembers author David Foster Wallace after his suicide at age 46.

I loved David Foster Wallace’s work and I was very sad to hear of his death. DFW was brilliant and he knew it. He skewered the absurdities of our society by being as complex as the ridiculous world we live in. And yet, as reported by Mr. Carroll, DFW understood that:

“The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

“That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.”

Don LaFontaine, voice of movie trailers, dies

In a world without Don LaFontaine, movie trailers will never be the same.

Don LaFontaine obituary from the AP.

Deserves his own post

Lest I forget, Chuck Lewis, the SEO Rapper (yes, that’s right, he is the “Search Engine Optimization Rapper”), presented his rap stylings at WordCamp 2008. I don’t even know what to say except that I really enjoyed his performance and that he is truly one of a kind.

He was a great sport and a nice guy, and his rhymes were the best I’ve ever heard about WordPress.

Here he is rapping about his Social Media Addiction

“#1 Matt” and WordCamp 2008

WordCamp 2008 happened on Saturday in San Francisco, and it was good.
WordCamp2008 - The State of the Word

Highlights were many and often. In no particular order:

Liz Danzico and Jane Wells talked about the great usability work they’re doing for WordPress, and showed off some of the modifications they may or may not make to the current WordPress interface.

Tantek Çelik talked about microformats (and I got to ask him about the box model hack – more on that later).

Stephen Spencer (of NetConcepts, of Madison) provided some interesting tips on search engine optimization that were new to me.

Kathy Sierra (who writes books about Java) gave an amazing presentation that turned my ideas about designing websites upside down. Really! She started out with a trick question: Which testimonial is better: a. “This company kicks ass” or b. “This product kicks ass”? The answer, of course, is c. “I am awesome.” The basic question anyone who makes anything should be asking is, “how can my product make my users be able to kick ass?”

The LOLcats guy, Ben Huh, was there talking about “viral virility”! He made lots of good points that were perhaps overshadowed by the lolcats that illustrated his presentation and distracted everyone with their hilarity.

And of course Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress and Automattic, noted that the State of the Word is strong.

(Incidentally, Matt noted that he wants to be the #1 Matt on the web again. [He used to be until some guy who dances for gum, uh, whose site I actually like, took over.] So I’m indulging his wishes by linking to Matt here.)

For way more details, read Andrew Mager’s liveblog of WordCamp 2008. He was one of the people I actually talked to there… a really cool guy who happened to be at Virginia Tech last year and created a powerful community site. He was also the unofficial conference mascot once he applied a temporary WordPress tattoo to his forehead.

Here are a couple of my WordCamp photos (more later).

Note on location: It was held at the Mission Bay Conference Center on the weirdly isolated UCSF campus. (Biking in from BART, it was almost impossible to figure out which building was the conference center… I figured it was the biggest building I could see, and I happened to be right, but none of the permanent campus signage indicated where it was! One would figure that the most people coming to conferences on campus would be the people least likely to know the campus — so why wouldn’t they put the conference center on the permanent maps? Unfathomable.

But overall WordCamp 2008 was a real improvement on WordCamp 2007 (which I also thoroughly enjoyed). The venue was more comfortable in almost every way. Last year, at the Swedish-American Hall, it was really hot, there was no room for all the livebloggers attached to their laptops, there was only one track of talks. This year, the venue (and the food!) was way better and the vast majority of the speakers were informative and interesting.

George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

Apparently I’ve never posted a link to this essay by George Orwell. Now I’m rectifying that situation. Read it now.

From George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946:

In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a “party line.” Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, white papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.

Page 3 of 5

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén