Archived entries for Culture

Our Dumb World: The Onion’s Atlas of the Planet Earth

The Onion’s newest project has just hit the stores. It’s a hardcover book titled "Our Dumb World: The Onion’s Atlas of the Planet Earth." It’s hilarious.

I’ll admit a bias because my brother worked on the book as editorial manager and as one of the writers. But Newsweek loves it too; the book is so funny that even Newsweek’s glowing review made me laugh.

"Like any regular atlas, it profiles every country in the world and includes lots of facts, or "facts." Wales, the "land of consonant sorrow," is the birthplace of the "oldest, longest, least pronounceable language in the world. When spoken, it sounds like a beautiful song, but when written, it looks like the alphabet just vomited."

"Fearless, which is to say, they don’t care who they offend, the Onion’s cartographers and geographers also boldly tackle more controversial countries. In the section devoted to Iraq, for example, you learn that "Iraq-U.S. relations became strained in 1963 when Iraq leader Saddam Hussein assassinated John F. Kennedy." The Iraq map shows such sites as "family burning effigy to stay warm," "U.S. soldiers arguing over whose turn it is to wear armor" and "father threatening to turn this car bomb right around if kids don’t be quiet." The section on Iraqi history is titled, "From the Cradle to the Grave of Civilization." Equal opportunity offenders, this atlas’s authors do not spare their own country ("Tennessee: Like ‘Hee Haw’ but a State"). And no joke is too silly or too lame to merit inclusion. Taste, obviously, was never an issue."

My brother was in town a few weeks ago for my wedding, and he had a preview copy from the printer that I was able to flip through. My favorite line so far was "Chile: Preventing Argentina from enjoying the Pacific Ocean since 1818."

Our Dumb World: Argentina (page from new Onion book)

Go order a copy for yourself. Makes a great gift, too.

Carbon Neutral Purple

I know there’s a bit of a backlash against Green because its so trendy lately, but I can easily put that aside and be happy that things are changing. That takes on special meaning today because I just saw that Yahoo! is quickly following promises with real action, and making what seem to be excellent, well-researched green choices.

When Yahoo! committed to going carbon neutral in April, we knew it would be a global initiative. … After much due diligence, Yahoo! has decided to offset its 250 thousand metric ton carbon footprint from 2006 through hydropower in rural Brazil and wind turbines in India. We’ve partnered with EcoSecurities and CantorCO2e, who helped us source, vet, and execute these projects.

(Some are still skeptical about carbon offsets, but I see any step as a great early step.)

Video: Information R/evolution

Information R/evolution is a five minute video telling the story of the transformation from a world of categorized information to a world of living information the we all enrich continually. It’s from the same guy (Michael Wesch) and in the same style as "Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us."

When his "Web 2.0," video came out I wrote that

Perhaps the so-called ’social web’ isn’t about connecting people, but about information conservation: If a person chooses to do something — no matter how small — it’s inherently interesting, precious, and valuable.

I still think that’s true, and I find more support in this new video:

Here is "Information R/evolution" by Prof. Michael Wesch:

Hap tip to the information aesthetics blog which is a great source for "data visualization & visual design."

Reduce Junk Mail and Plant a Tree

This new-to-me service, Green Dimes, will drastically reduce the amount of junk [snail] mail your receive by diligently and comprehensively removing your name and address from lists large and small that are bought and sold by and to marketers. They automate much of the process, and when a signature is required send you a self-addressed stamped postcard to sign and send. They have a staff of 20 working full time to discover new lists to remove your from, while as the same time providing tools to ensure you still get catalogs and charity mail you desire.

By getting less mail you save some of the 100,000,000 trees consumed by the direct mail industry. Better yet, Green Dimes will plant trees each month in your name, helping to repair a bit of the damage already done.

Pretty good value proposition for only $4/month. Sign yourself up or send a gift membership to family and friends.

via

Onion News Network Coming April 2007

Here’s the trailer:

I can’t wait!

teaching the machine

A video called “Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us” is an engaging and enjoyable 4.5 minute non-verbal documentary taking us from ‘pencil’ to ‘Web 2.0′. It adds context to the advances that got us here, and suggests what might yet be in store. At about 03:40, highlights from an August 2005 Wired article, “We Are the Web,” are used to suggest that we are “teaching the machine.” I’m afraid that that notion is still inadequately understood and appreciated.

Perhaps the so-called “social web” isn’t about connecting people (not about helping people socialize), but about information conservation: If a person chooses to do something — no matter how small — it’s inherently interesting, precious, and valuable. We’ve barely started to figure out what to do with this second-generation information. Where we have it’s been exciting, useful, and successful: Flickr’s Interestingness and Clusters, the notion of “watching” on Upcoming, the newer “people who looked at this ultimately bought that” in Amazon, and of course Google’s PageRank. The idea isn’t new, but it’s still under appreciated.

Here’s the paragraph from Wired that surrounds the words used in the video:

And who will write the software that makes this contraption useful and productive? We will. In fact, we’re already doing it, each of us, every day. When we post and then tag pictures on the community photo album Flickr, we are teaching the Machine to give names to images. The thickening links between caption and picture form a neural net that can learn. Think of the 100 billion times per day humans click on a Web page as a way of teaching the Machine what we think is important. Each time we forge a link between words, we teach it an idea. Wikipedia encourages its citizen authors to link each fact in an article to a reference citation. Over time, a Wikipedia article becomes totally underlined in blue as ideas are cross-referenced. That massive cross-referencing is how brains think and remember. It is how neural nets answer questions. It is how our global skin of neurons will adapt autonomously and acquire a higher level of knowledge.

Here’s the video, which was created by Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University:

(via via)



San Francisco, California | Creative Commons By-2.5 License | Contact

RSS Feed. This blog is proudly powered by Wordpress and uses Modern Clix, a theme by Rodrigo Galindez.