Saturday, March 12, 2005

World's first powerful solar generator

PSFK, a trend-watching blog, recently pointed out a new project underway in Australia called the Solar Tower, which aims to use only solar and wind power to generate the same kinds of mass electricity as something like only a nuclear generator could do before. (It's expected to generate 200 megawatts, enough electricity to power 200,000 homes, even while sparing the planet the 830,000 tons of greenhouse gases most power plants generate in the process.) The details are all in that original post, but here's I think one of the more interesting tidbits - if built, at 3,280 feet (or one kilometer) the Solar Tower would be twice the height of the current tallest manmade structure on Earth (Canada's CN Tower). And all this without producing one solitary harmful side-effect. Impressive!

Sorry, RSS subscribers!

Just wanted to apologize to RSS subscribers for all the funky posts they've been receiving; the half-finished entries, the entries without titles, etc. I don't have access to a desktop this weekend, so am trying to update my site on the fly with my Palm Treo, using the proprietary application mo:Blog - as you can tell, though, it doesn't work very well, even though it admittedly has a great interface and posts entries nearly instaneously. For the rest of the weekend I think I'm going to use a feature offers, which is to simply email in my entries; it takes longer for the entry to actually get posted, but does a better job of transferring the entire text, and of placing specific information in the right places. Anyway, my apologies again; this change in posting method should put an end to the funky entries.

Europeans, your blogs are ready

From Site-9, simply my favorite European business-oriented blog: T-Online, Europe's largest ISP, has just started offering blog-hosting services for its customers, with an interface based on their own native language. (Here's the start page for Germany, for example, where T-Online is headquartered. This is the same company, by the way, that owns the American company T-Mobile.) I mean, this could be big news in Europe by now, I don't know - just thought I'd mention it for all my European readers who might be interested. The entire thing's being powered by MovableType, by the way; between this and the recent partnership with, it's looking like Six Apart is really starting to get a competitive jump on their main competition, (owned by Google now, and also the hosts of this page).

Don't let your blego get out of control

Blogger Steve Rubel had a post recently that wasn't that interesting unto itself (it mostly examines the things other bloggers have been saying about his recent entries) but did mention a term that tickled me - "blego," coined by the bloggers at Active Voice, which is short for "blogger ego." A comment at that original post even has a great spin on the old line, "Check your ego at the door" - "Check your blego at the login." In this spirit, I would like to also humbly offer up a couple of new terms for our blogging times:

Manic-Blogulsive Disorder: The habit of checking one's Sitemeter report multiple times throughout a single day.

Gawkerism: Professional jealousy over the fact that some people get paid to make smart-ass comments about things in the news, but you don't. (See also: Kottke Syndrome.)

Blerotic: A blog only worth reading because it contains dirty stories.

Pulling a Winer: Putting up a blog entry that is so short and contains so little information, you can't even tell what the entry is talking about until you click the link.

Tracking Whore: A blogger who obsessively trackbacks their entries to referring posts, even when the entry in question has barely anything to do with the entry being tracked to.

Snippet Whore: A blogger who links to a referring entry only so they can steal nearly the entire content from that original entry for their own.

Transparabrat: A blogger who uses the political issue of 'transparency' as an excuse to gloat over how many people visit their site.

Pettusian: A blogger who makes up snotty new terms for bloggers, in a pathetic attempt to get people to link to him.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Maximum weight for stars discovered

According to an article in USA Today, astronomers using the Hubble space telescope seem to have discovered the maximum weight a star can theoretically achieve - to be exact, about 150 times the mass of our own sun. Says Stanford Woosley of the University of California at Santa Cruz, concerning such big stars: "They live short, extravagant lives and go out with a big bang." Hey, kind of like my prom date!

World's most powerful computer doubles in size

According to InfoWorld, the world's most powerful computer (housed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, and known as "Blue Gene/L") has recently been doubled in size, from 32,000 processors to 64,000. When the bugs are worked out, they're expecting it to hit speeds of 150 teraflops (or trillions of calculations per second), if you can even imagine. And what's more, the entire thing is only the size of half a tennis court, and was specifically designed to use four times less electricity than the usual supercomputer in existence. And what's even more, they're not even done - this is merely phase 2 of a three-phase improvement, which will supposedly leave the computer at the end with 130,000 processors, and a theoretical top speed of 360 teraflops. Now, if it could only get Flash-based websites to run without crashing...

McCain: "Relax, bloggers, you're journalists too"

As reported by CNET News, John McCain (co-author of the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law of 2002) has recently gone on record concerning a recent interview with Bradley Smith (also on CNET) where Smith claimed that the new law will treat bloggers as campaign contributors, not journalists, and make them subject to the same caps and fines as any other political contributor.

Said McCain in a prepared statement, "There is simply no reason--none--to think that the FEC should or intends to regulate blogs or other Internet communications by private citizens. Suggestions to the contrary are simply the latest attempt by opponents of reform to whip up baseless fears."


(Thanks, as always, to blogger Steven Rubel for pointing this out.)

Michelle Tea auctioning tarot reading for Bitch

Thanks to a recent posting at Chicago-based, I've learned that a good friend of mine, San Francisco writer Michelle Tea, is auctioning off a tarot-card reading through eBay, to benefit the always-deserving Bitch magazine, a proto-feminist pop-culture publication designed by women for women, much like the similar Bust but not as funny. The tarot reading's up to $102 as of this entry, with only two days to go; as anyone who's hung out with Michelle for an evening of shooting the shit can tell you, this auction is well worth winning, for the entertainment value if nothing else.

Wanna be treated like a journalist? Learn to write like one

As reported by Threadwatch, the University of Southern California's Online Journalism Review is now publishing a wiki-based tutorial on journalism, specifically for bloggers who wish to add a little more credibility and professionalism to their blogs. The tutorial is excellent, and includes very practical advice on three of the main sections of "journalistic writing" (ethics, reporting, and the actual writing) that all bloggers should be learning more about anyway. And since it's wiki-based, anyone who wants can stop by and add a little advice themselves, or bring up subjects that bloggers may think about but that may at first elude the attention of full-time journalists. Why, that could, in fact!

New protocol could profoundly change newsfeeds

As pointed out to me by blogger Steve Rubel, there's a new XML protocol that's starting to get a lot of support among those in the know. It's called "attention.xml," and is basically a way to add a lot more information to a feed about when items have been published, what those items link to, and who's already checking out the item themselves. If I understand it correctly (and, to be warned, I might not), future RSS readers that understand the Attention protocol could then reorder your feeds for you, right in the software itself, based on different criteria you might tell it to use - to list the newest stuff at the top of the page, no matter what its source, or to list only the newest stuff by certain sources you've labeled a priority, or to list new items based on how many other people have already gone and read it before you (a popularity-based sorting, in other words.)

The power would go in both directions as well, if I'm understanding it correctly; the protocol would basically give all bloggers the power of something like FeedBurner, for example, and give one instant updates on how many people are subscribing to your feed, how many people read any particular entry, how many people end up linking to that entry, etc. And given that the Attention protocol is supposedly going to include a lot more information about what exactly's being talked about, I think one of its future benefits is that it will be able to erase redundant new entries before you have to bother with them; so, like, if the Associated Press does a story on a certain subject, your RSS/Attention reader will automatically delete entries from other newspapers that are basically reprints of the AP story. ...Er, I think, anyway.

Okay, hell, I'm maybe only slightly less confused at this point than you, and I'm going to have to go read the developer's page just as closely as you to figure it all out. But hey, Microsoft guru Robert Scoble says that "[b]y the end of 2005 we'll all know what attention.xml is and why it's important..." Do you really need another reason to check it out in more detail yourself?

Business 2.0 to Sony: "Enough with the proprietary formats, already!"

Business 2.0 socks it to Sony in their newest issue, opining that part of their current financial woes is due to them constantly inventing their own formats and standards for their own devices, and never including ways for Sony products to even begin to communicate with products from other brands.

Amen! I've been waiting for someone in the major media to mention this, and about how maddening Sony can be to the average end consumer like you and me; their devices are always consistently cool, always consistently powerful, yet are such a pain in the ass sometimes to envelop into the rest of my tech at home. If only Sony would even go part-way towards embracing the standards other companies already have, I'd be purchasing a hella lot more of their products. Thanks, B2, for pointing this out too, in a way so that Sony might actually hear it this time.

New perk for Chicago teachers : House down payments

As reported by our local ABC affiliate, WLS, Chicago's Mayor Daley is proposing a special new perk for full-time teachers: a $7,500 subsidy from the city for any home mortgage they take out in the city's new mixed-income housing developments, or a $3,000 subsidy if they live anywhere else in the city. It's an interesting benefit to offer, I think, especially these days when the value of public teachers is doing nothing but going down and down in most city budgets. Let's see if it actually helps with recruiting and retaining talented teachers in this city - we're losing just as many of them as any other city, after all.

Finally - a wiki travel site

Well, there's finally a wiki-powered travel site out there, called Sections are put up about countries all over the world, then the visitors themselves are encouraged to add information, regarding whatever part of that world they know best - dining options in London, the public transportation system in Chicago, where to buy hash in Egypt, etc. Being a wiki, it's an open system, meaning that any ol' lurker who comes by can add to whatever page they happen to come across...or even start a new page, if there's a topic about a particular city or country that happens to be missing.

Well, it's about time! The more I read about the wiki process, in fact, the more it's occurred to me that it's a natural format for globetrotting backpackers who wish to share practical information about their travels. And finally, here it is - a worldwide guide that aims to be just as good and informative as "Let's Go," but actually written by the customers of Let's Go and including many more eyes, ears and typing fingers than Let's Go could ever afford to hire. I'll be watching this site very closely this year; most likely I'll be adding content to it as well! If you're a fellow traveller, especially one who loves passing on interesting tips to fellow travellers, I encourage you to get involved with the site as well. Oh, and they even have a blog as well, for people who feel like subscribing and keeping up with the latest via RSS. (Many thanks to the excellent Threadwatch for pointing this out.

Tagging: The next great form of communication?

Caterina Fake of has been doing something interesting with her staff blog recently; she's been asking random users to tag certain images at their account with certain names, which she is then finding by doing general searches of the site on that tag, and then including in various group portfolios she is putting together. Here's a recent posting, for example, where she asks all readers with photos of Christo's "The Gates" to add a tag to the photo called "gatesmemory;" and here's another where she wants people who have portraits of strong women to tag them "womensday05" so that she can feature them on a group page in honor of Women's Day.

It's an ingenious way to collect up specific things one might be looking for, without either party having to take on too much work; the posters, after all, only have to add one more tiny little text tag to a photo, while the searcher needs only to do a simple search with the site's built-in search engine.

There are a growing amount of sites doing this, to tell you the truth, using tags as a way not only to better organize a huge set of raw data, but also specifically to gather up material for specific projects. I'll be writing more about this at my main journal this Monday, but it's basically gotten me thinking all about the subject of tags recently, and the various ways they might be able to be used in the future. Anyway, these Flickr posts are enough to chew on for now - watch for my further thoughts on the subject Monday.

Mac PDA coming?

Fresh off the release of their Mac Mini and iPod Shuffle, O'Grady's PowerPage is reporting a rumor that Mac is developing a brand-new style of computer, somewhere between a PDA (like a Palm, or even Apple's old Newton) and a full-size tabletPC, running off MacOS and able to directly communicate back and forth between all other Apple devices. Even more intriguing, apparently the device is going to be a "fold-out" kind, kind of like taking a PDA and one of these fold-up keyboard and marrying them into one permanent device. Hmm, hmm, hmm... (Thanks to Gizmodo for pointing this out.)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Site delay because of problems

There's something seriously wrong with today, the company that hosts my page - it's only connecting once out of every ten attempts, for some reason, and is taking almost ten minutes to publish each of my entries, versus the nearly instantaneous time it usually takes. Anyway, I have a ton of more things to talk about today, but am giving up for the day because of frustration. Unfortunately, this means there will be twice as many entries tomorrow as there usually are (which is already a lot). Just wanted to let RSS subscribers know in advance, and to apologize in advance., get your s**t together already!

Rock on, yuppies! Toyota launches record label

As reported by "BrandNoise", Toyota has recently started a new record label, exclusively as a way to market its new "Scion" hipster-friendly vehicle. "'We're not making a profit from this,' Jeri Yoshizu, sales promotion manager of Scion said. 'We are enabling unsigned artists to get their feet up.' She added the program is not for consumers, but to promote underground artists." Uh, er...okay. We'll see. (Thanks to PSFK for pointing this out.)

Someone I actually know may be up for a Pulitzer

As reported by Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn, the not-closely-guarded-at-all list of possible Pulitzer-Prize nominees for journalism has been leaked to Editor and Publisher magazine, and included on the list is my acquaintance and Tribune cultural critic Julia Keller. Ms. Keller, as far as I'm concerned, is one of the smartest newspaper writers in America, and all of you in Chicago not reading her regular columns are really missing out. (Here's a typically fascinating one, for example, on reexamining the impact the novel Atlas Shrugged has had, on the occasion of Ayn Rand's 100th birthday.) It wouldn't surprise me a bit of this list leaked to Editor and Publisher turned out to be true.

Make your own annotated Google map

Okay, it ain't exactly easy, but recently published a tutorial on using XML to created your own personalized, dynamic Google map. So, for example, if you wanted to plot all the related venues of an upcoming wedding (the church, the parents' house, the reception, the hotel, etc), you could do that using this method, then email the link to everyone associated with the wedding, so that they'd have one central map showing them where everything is located. And even better, all the original Google features are included: zoomability, mouse-drag real-time moving of the map, clickable links, etc. A pretty cool little feature - if you're already comfortable with XML tags, I'd definitely go check it out. (Thanks to Dave Winer for originally pointing this out.)

A novel for your iPod (and it's a zombie novel, no less)

As reported by MAKE magazine, an author named David Wellington has created what may be the world's first novel formatted for iPod screens, using an online tool for converting .txt documents into downloadable messages in iPod's Notes feature. And if this wasn't enough, it's a zombie novel as well! (Here's a direct link to the novel online, in case you don't want to read it through your iPod.) I certainly applaud the cool technology that allows a book to be published this way...but man, could you even imagine trying to read an entire novel as a series of 100 little notes on your tiny little iPod screen? Jeez, and I thought my Palm drove me crazy.

A mutual fund for companies that blog?

Blogger Steve Rubel had an intriguing question in his blog the other day: What if you created a mutual fund featuring only companies who currently sponsor in-house blogs? He predicts that it would beat the S&P 500 over the next five years, and I tend to highly agree.

"Open Source Marketing" - model of the future?

James Cherkoff of the blog "Collaborative Marketing" has come up with an intriguing new manifesto for ChangeThis! (as well as a supplemental page at his website) concerning what he's calling "open source marketing." The basic concept is simple, yet inherently threatening to most traditional advertisers - that as long as companies are starting to adopt some of this new communicative technology for spreading the word about their business (blogs, RSS feeds, podcasts, etc), they should be adopting the mindset and attitude of the typical blogger as well. This means several things that I'm sure are immediately alarming when most businesses first hear them: letting customers be in from the beginning on helping to build a new brand; eliminating all "press-release-speak" from press releases, and indeed to skip press releases most of the time altogether and simply announce things in plain language at the blog; and understanding that customers are inherently smarter than you, and will easily see past any fast ones you try to pull over them, so you might as well not try pulling them over in the first place.

I wholeheartedly welcome this manifesto, and think it makes a lot of sense for most businesses out there. (I'll definitely be using these theories, for example, in my arts center here in Chicago, once it's up and running.) It'll be interesting, I think, to see if any traditional businesses will take the manifesto's lessons to heart as well. (Thanks to Site-9 for pointing out Mr. Cherkoff's web-based supplement to this manifesto, and to Mike Bawden for pointing out Site-9's entry in the first place.)

Wired followup on wikis

After their recent major article on the controversial wiki process, Wired magazine follows up with a look at some of Wikipedia's high-end contributors. It's a fascinating article, just like everything concerning Wikipedia is, in my opinion.


esquireparapet, originally uploaded by jasonpettus.

There are 21 new photos up at my account, from my recent birthday celebration in Chicago's Magnificant Mile and Gold Coast neighborhoods. Here's a shot, for example, from underneath the marquee of the Esquire Theatre, on Oak Street. You can click here for the entire set.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Kosher, really

As reported by, Israel's MIRS Communication is now offering certified kosher cellphones, approved for use within Orthodox Jewish communities. They're basically Motorola phones that have had almost everything but basic phone service stripped away - no web access, no SMS - as well as with a matte black casing, to help minimize the potential for "corrupting influences."

Why aren't you reading Wil Wheaton yet?

For the few readers who might not know, former child-actor Wil Wheaton runs a personal blog that could very well now be more popular than anything he's done as an actor. The utterly surprising thing about the blog, and what has turned it into such a big cult hit, is simple - Wil Wheaton actually knows how to write, and to write really well for that matter. Take his latest entry, for example, where he discusses an online poll about Star Trek currently being sponsored by TV Guide, and how his old character from the show (The Next Generation's Wesley Crusher) is currently in the lead for "Most Annoying Character." Wheaton's comments about the matter are at once hilarious, self-deprecating, and a simple acknowledgement that this much-maligned character is an integral part of his past, for better or for worse. And he always manages to talk about this stuff, it seems, in a way that almost always makes me laugh out loud.

This blog is insanely popular for a reason; if you've never checked it out yourself, you really should.

Sci-Fi Channel offers "director commentary" MP3s

As reported by MAKE magazine, the Sci-Fi Channel is now offering a supplemental podcast for each episode of the new Battlestar Galactica, featuring real-time director's commentary from Ronald D. Moore, executive producer. Basically it's like the commentary feature on a DVD, except you not having to wait a couple of years for the actual DVD to come out; you load the commentary file to your iPod, hit play when the phrase "The Cylons Were Created By Man" appears on-screen, then pause it whenever a commercial break comes on. And even better, the whole thing's hooked up to an RSS feed, so that commentaries can be automatically delivered to an MP3 player a few hours before the episode airs.

Man oh man - this is one of the coolest damn uses for podcasts I've heard of yet. Kudos to Mr. Moore for embracing communicative technology so warmly (he has a blog as well, where he regularly answers fan questions and spills the dirt about the latest productions), and for using this tech in innovative ways to allow his audience to be an active part of the show. I was already a fan of Moore when he was a lead writer on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; this just seals the deal.

Perhaps the most pointless internet law ever passed

As reported by The Inquirer, an online news publication, the Utah state senate has recently approved a law that will force internet service providers to ban any website defined by the state as "harmful to children" from actually appearing in the browsers of Utah citizens. The law also forces search engines like Google to automatically block such websites from appearing in the search results for any citizen of Utah, and for email providers to block each and every email to a Utah citizen that displays pornography.

Has anyone bothered to tell the Utah senate that such a law is literally unenforcable? I don't know, maybe it's just me. (Thanks to for pointing this out.)

Inc: Create 'spin-ups' of new products, not 'spinoffs'

There's an interesting article in the new issue of Inc., a business magazine here in the US. In it, they discuss how in the times we live in, new products and services from a company have an increasingly likely chance to already be passe by the time they actually ship to market. The article encourages companies to stop looking at new products and services in the way it's traditionally been done (that is, that a company has an overall main business strategy, set in stone, and with all new products and services being "spinoffs" of that strategy), and to instead think of them as "spin-ups," independent creatures that may turn around and eventually change the business's central strategy itself.

The article cites a number of examples, such as trendy restauranteurs who specifically design new places to only be open for a couple of years, in order to grab as much "trendy money" as possible, before closing and being turned into a completely different place, once again trendy and on the cutting-edge. The challenge, opines the article, is in having the courage to let a new product or service actually change the overall business's general goals and strategies, rather than making that strategy an untouchable "holy document" (which is what's leading to new products being instantly passe in the first place, the article implies). Also, companies have to have the courage to kill weak or debt-generating products and services, no matter how core a part they've historically been with that company, or how romantically attached the business's owners are to that particular product. Quite a thought-provoking article, for those like me who are starting up businesses that will rely on a wide variety of products and services in order to succeed. (Thanks to APF BizLinkBlog for pointing out this article.)

Eat your camera

As reported by CNET News, the South Korean semiconductor manufacturer MagnaChip is now producing a camera the size of a pill, that will take two full-color photos a second as it slowly makes its way through your intestinal system. (It eventually delivers a total of 50,000 photos, in its eight-hour journey from your mouth to your...well, you know.) Images are then beamed wirelessly to a portable hard drive the patient wears on their belt throughout the day.

Next: trillions of microscopic "warrior" nanobots floating in our atmosphere, able to sniff out competitors of the Nissan-AOL autonomous citystate and instantly kill them! Oh, no, wait, that's a Neal Stephenson novel. Never mind.

Internet cops: No longer simply a bad metaphor

As reported by the New York Times, the Chinese government now has over 50,000 police on their payroll, doing nothing else but trawling Chinese websites, looking for "subversive" content that the government has banned. But take heart - Chinese bloggers are consistently outsmarting them, posting the latest on the government's automated spybots and offering advice on how to easily defeat them (like to misspell certain keywords, or to offer 'praise' for a recent government act, so that the bots think no criticism has been made, that in actuality is so outrageously obseqious that readers automatically understand it's satire).

I would normally mention something here about how futile, time-wasting and morally bankrupt it is for a government to try to monitor what all of its citizens are saying, and to attempt to step in and control this information. But it ain't like China has a real good track record in understanding this concept, so why try explaining it to them again?

Google hack: Another titillating hint about the company's future?

A couple of days ago I recorded a podcast opining what the future of Google might be, and especially the quiet rumors these days that the company is secretly creating their own operating system, one that will eventually compete directly against Windows. Well, as pointed out by blogger Neville Hobson, a hacker in Denmark has recently created a new shell extension for Windows, that will treat a person's 1-gig Gmail account as a remote hard drive, one that you can directly connect to just like you would any external server. Even more interesting, the developer infers that in actuality it's a pretty easy trick, so easy in fact that Google might have set it up that way on purpose.

Okay, so, if I worked for Google (which I don't), and if we were secretly developing a new operating system (which, for the record, Google has never publicly addressed one way or the other), it seems that the first thing you'd have to do is figure out what you could offer customers that Windows doesn't. And given that Google's main asset right now is their online content, it would seem to me that the most powerful feature they could offer is an operating system that seamlessly blends one's hard drive and the internet into this synchronous whole. This is the biggest drawback of both MacOS and Windows, frankly, when it comes to the subject of getting online; both systems were originally created long before the days of always-on broadband connections, and so have had to add internet power one sloppy add-on piece at a time, with a customer usually having to open a specific application to do each specific online thing they want to accomplish (a browser to websurf, an email client to send letters, an FTP program to upload pages and images to a website, an RSS aggregator to collect headlines, etc).

If I were on the GoogleOS development team, then, I would take advantage of this weakness; since my team would be building a new operating system completely from scratch, we would have the ability to add internet access right into the operating system itself, with searching blending seamlessly with emailing, and RSS feeds, and one's desktop, one's preferences, etc. One of the ideas that Google could encourage, in fact, that would fit right into this strategy, would be the concept of an "internal" hard drive on your desktop, and a simultaneous "external" hard drive accessible on the internet. Such systems have been around now for years, of course, but have in the past always required using a clunky third-party application to access; if Google were to build an OS from scratch, though, they could seamlessly add such power right into the operating system itself, so that one's internet-based hard drive shows right up on the desktop as a clickable icon, just like the closed hard drive physically sitting inside of one's computer.

In this light, then, the news about this hack suddenly become very interesting indeed. Is Google experimenting themselves these days with the idea of a Gmail account doubling as a remote hard drive? If not, why not patch up the hole that's allowing this developer's shell extension to work in the first place? Oh my, it's always so much fun to try to guess what Google's going to do next!

But how will us mega-millionaires foolishly waste our money?

From Steven Levy, a columnist for Newsweek: Electronic writing threatening to end the practice of collecting authors' original papers. I always find it hilarious that only scholars and collectors are worried about this issue; I've never met a single actual creative writer who cared about the lack of paper artifacts of their work, and most in fact instead love that they can input their work electronically, instead of the much more laborious practice of handwriting it on a sheet of paper first.

You better hope Creed doesn't find out

From the "Just so weird I simply had to mention it" file: Ex-Korn Guitarist Baptized in Jordan River (courtesy the Associated Press). "Vietti [the guitarist's pastor] said Welch - who has 'Jesus' tattooed across his knuckles and 'Matthew 11:28,' tattooed prominently across his neck - is already attracting a new group of young people to the message of Christianity. 'In recent weeks people have committed their lives to God because they're so inspired by his story,' Vietti said."

I was going to end with a smart-ass comment, but I can't think of one that can beat the actual story itself.

The religious are into blogs, too

From the New York Times, an interesting article about how an increasing amount of people are using blogs now to discuss religion and faith. I was talking about this general subject in my recent interview with Scott Esposito; how I laugh out loud every time I see someone in the mainstream media try to define what a blog is, and how this definition is always a reflection of the whatever's been hot in blogging for the last six months. (Like in the mid-'90s the media generally described blogs as online diaries; now, of course, they're mainly described as political commentaries.) As this NYT article proves, it's futile to try to come up with such a rigid definition for what a blog "is;" the entire reason they became so popular to begin with is that there is no strict definition, with people instead allowed to use blogs to do whatever they want. Anyway, an interesting article for those who are primarily using blogs to express inner emotions, to discuss philosophical and religious issues, etc.

Almost 10 percent of Americans now reading blogs

As reported by PR blogger Steve Rubel, CNN/Gallup recently ran a new poll, showing some interesting statistics: that 76 percent of all Americans now state that they use the internet regularly, that 26 percent are "very familiar" or "somewhat familiar" with blogs, and that 7 percent actually read one or more blogs on a weekly basis. Most bloggers have been treating this news cynically, as in, "Can you believe only 7 percent of Americans read blogs?" But I think it's amazing that nearly one out of every ten random Americans now reads one type of online journal or another on a regular basis. Given that the format itself didn't even exist ten years ago, I think this growth is astounding. (Thanks to Web Pro News for reprinting Mr. Rubel's article and bringing it to my attention.)

Fortune: India far outpacing US in education

An interesting article in Fortune recently: How India is simply outpacing the US in science-based education. The article points out a criticism I often make about the US myself - that most of our citizens simply refuse to take a long-term view of our educational system, and to invest significant amounts of money into things that may not show any rewards for another twenty years. Indians, however, have had the courage to do this over the last twenty years, which is why they're suddenly taking a lead over the US right now when it comes to technology and the sciences. Intriguing reading, and something I urge all US citizens to spend more time contemplating.

Young filmmakers taking it to the streets

Hey, check out these guys I stumbled across the other day on the sidewalk here in Chicago:

Dan and Pierre of awHat

They are Dan Shubert (on the left, age 13) and Pierre Spada (on the right, age 12), two independent filmmakers and already veteran contributors to the Chicago International Film Festival (short-film division), through their production company "awHat." They currently have a 30-minute script written for their next production, an existential thriller called The Pond, and are trying to raise money so that they can actually film it and submit it to next year's CIFF. And how are they doing it? Why, they're literally setting up on the sidewalk on the weekends, and showing people their previous films using an iMac and external speakers, hoping that some will be impressed enough to donate some of the money needed to start their new production.

Right on, awHat! Man, there's not much else that brightens my day like randomly running across situations like this here in Chicago - young entrepreneurs in the arts, determined to get their projects produced by any means necessary, even when all traditional routes of financing and support have been exhausted. The arts can always use a couple of more people like Dan and Pierre.

(I'd direct you to their website, so that you yourself could help support them, but unfortunately they don't have one. See - yet another reason why all artists should have one kind of web presence or another, for no other reason than that impressed people like me can link to it.)

Sunday, March 06, 2005

AAF: "Please, for the love of God, don't stop advertising"

As reported by the advertising blog "A Penny For...", the American Advertising Federation recently took out a two-page ad in the March 14th issue of Forbes, convincing companies why they shouldn't stop using traditional advertising. Their tag line? "Advertising. The way great brands get to be great brands." Yeesh.