Thursday, May 31, 2007

300 Game Mechanics in 300 Days

Simply put, a challenge to myself. Every day for three hundred days, I will post a gameplay mechanic that has (hopefully) never been seen in a commercial video game. Three hundred mechanics. No more. No less.
Sean Howard is going to make me cry tears of joy. Yesterday's entry: Pellet Quest. Pac-Man meets an RPG.

More about this game concept, and 21 more and counting, at the link. [Via]

Malfunctioning Fax Machines Hate The Algorithm: Misprint Leads to Bomb Scare in Terrorized Boston Suburb

Fax received at Ashland, Massachusetts Bank of America which was assumed to be a bomb threat, and which led to the evacuation of the bank, a daycare center, and other businesses at an Ashland, Massachusetts strip mall while HAZMAT teams searched the site:

Fax as sent from another Bank of America fax machine:

From Boston's WCBV-TV: "Fortunately, the incident was a false alarm. A document, which was an internal communication sent from a malfunctioning fax machine, combined with a suspicious package brought into the Ashland banking center, caused some concern," Bank of America said in a statement. Of course, checking the fax's "received from" number certainly could have provided a clue!

Who knew high-end fax machines were a key ally in the War on Terror? [Via|Link]

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Microsoft's Touch-Sensitive Table: "Surface"

I Am Addicted To Hanzi Smatter

Hanzi analyzes Western tattoos made of Chinese characters and mercilessly points out their often embarrassing errors. Here, the first of two characters has been tattooed on the subject upside down; in other cases there are embarrassing phrases in place of the intended meanings due to a single misplaced stroke. A declared interest in exploring why Westerners would treat Chinese as an "exotic" language to have otherwise banal phrases branded onto their bodies often appears as more of a sadistic urge to expose the ignorance of the tattooed and tattooer, who bastardize the language through their textual transactions. I can't get enough. [Link]

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Home Movies

Photo shared by Mr C K Dexter Haven

Photo shared by The Rocketeer

Illustration shared by leifpeng

Graphic shared by jeangenie

Photo shared by valdezatron

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Buddy the Value Dog

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sony Prototypes Full-Color Flexible Television Screen

Tortured Metaphors

More grammatical illustrations at the link.

"Kelly" contributes insanely inane and overwrought right-wing editorial cartoons to the Onion. I am a huge fan, but I guess it is no surprise that some people completely miss the joke. The cartoonist even portrays the creator seconding the rotten sentiments of the cartoons in the corner to reinforce the satire. The Grim Reaper is a frequent visitor, helpfully labeled with a placard designating what bogeyman he's standing in for. The Statue of Liberty appears, sometimes more than once, weeping tears of sadness or of joy. The running strip is a parody not just of angry, right-wing paranoia but of the manipulative and domineering act of editorial cartooning itself.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

SimCity Art Car

SimCity Van :)
Originally uploaded by lisa ici.
Now all we need is a classic SimCity Art Car.

Click-Through Scatter Plot

Junk Charts created an interesting chart to communicate web page click-through rates and their relation to page views. The steepness of the line reflects the click-through rate. [Link]

Inflatable Planet


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Visualizing Product Reviews

From information aesthetics:

[Summize is] a new type of search engine that crawls & analyzes user reviews of brands, consumer products, politicians, actresses or musicians, & presents the results as visual summaries or "snips", together with a bar chart of the "buzz" over time. the resulting color bars show the sentiment of these reviews[...]


Graffiti and Advertising

Photo shared on Flickr by cinnamon gurl

Medill Reports has an interesting piece about graffiti being used as advertising. From the opener:
Graffiti and advertising are kind of like cops and robbers: eerily similar to each other yet at complete opposition.
And later:
What’s relatively new is not the selling of graffiti in and around the art world, such as Prigoff's "Spraycan Art" book or mod apparel lines, it is the selling of everyday products using the aesthetic of graffiti and street art, it’s that graffiti is culturally relevant enough that it can be used to sell deodorant, phones, food and cars.
Read the full at the link.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Visualizing Allied Hopes and Fears

There's a great exhibit of British artwork and propaganda online, which accompanies an exhibit on display at the National Archives. I do find the way they categorize the works to be truly bizarre. Given the close ties between governments and media at times of war and the intense unity of purpose felt during WWII, how 90% of the images collected in the "Illustrations" and "Valour and Gallantry" sections are not also "Propaganda" is beyond me. [Via|Link]

King Vitamin Cereal

More at the link.

Rendering Weather in Second Life

Linden Labs announced they have acquired graphics technology from Windward Mark Interactive which will enable them to better simulate atmospheric conditions in Second Life. From Techcrunch:

WindLight uses algorithms that imitate the ways in which light is affected by real-world atmospheric factors like dust and moisture, enabling the nuances of sunlight, clouds, water and weather to be accurately simulated in real-time. Nimble uses advanced physics models to realistically simulate clouds.
[Link to SL announcement]

Friday, May 18, 2007

Now Blogging at Geekdad and Sandbox World

I'm thrilled to report that I've recently been accepted as a contributor to two blogs, and I wanted to mention them to TiP readers.

Geekdad is the amazing new Wired blog that features DIY projects and other great techy stuff for dads to do with their kids. You can read my rundown of the great Fisher-Price Kid-Tough Digital Camera there, and I'll be posting about more tech-related parent-child projects there in the near future. They even have Asha Dornfest of Parenthacks onboard as a lone Geekmom. I've really enjoyed watching this new blog grow, and am thrilled to be a part of it.

Sandbox World is a prolific animation, illustration, comics and cartooning blog. Lead blogger Tony Medeiros probably looks at more stuff before breakfast than most of us do all day, and that makes Sandbox World a treasure trove of visual media, with an emphasis on reaching kids through comics.

My first post, a discussion of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis coming to the big screen, posted today. Tony sent me a link to some more clips since it posted, and they've really taken Satrapi's animation a step further with the film's textures and the inky depth of its black expanses. You can read my writeup here, and check out those extra clips here, here, and here.

Censorship in Flickr Forums

The Flickr censorship issue may be coming to a head; as usual, bloggers had to wait for the mainstream media to get involved before the company would acknowledge that there was a legitimate issue at stake (referring to their actions as a "mistake"). Thomas Hawk is on top of it, and says he has been censored himself, but can't get a straight answer out of Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield about his case. Ever the provocateur, he has blogged a report on the issue, and posted it - wait for it - on Flickr.

If you're a member of the Flickr community and want to share your views about the issue, the best place to do it is on Flickr.

But Where's That Part Where He Pees On The Chevy Logo

Bill Watterson will be shutting down this unauthorized tribute in 5...4...3... [Via]

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Beaten to the Punch: Chatbot Interviews in Discover Magazine

I've been quietly working on a set of blog interviews with and between Internet chatbots, on a site called Interviews With Robots. I knew I was on to something good, and held the dozen or so interviews I had conducted, hoping to get a good stack of them to publish at once.

BoingBoing reported this morning that Discover Magazine set up an interview between two chatbots for their June issue, and posted it online, so I thought I'd better fess up while I have the chance.

Interviews With Robots includes:

  • Interviews between two MyCyberTwin chatbots
  • A therapy session between virtual therapist ELIZA and a MyCyberTwin chatbot
  • A job interview between an automated job interviewer and a MyCyberTwin chatbot
  • Interviews between other random chatbots, including Oliver, EllaZ, and more
  • The transcript of a chat session in which a MyCyberTwin chatbot interacted with a Vonage customer service chatbot
  • Readings of the Gettysburg Address and John Searle's description of the Turing consciousness test, with MyCyberTwin chatbots offering analysis and critique
  • Provocative interviews between myself and MyCyberTwin chatbots
Most importantly, anyone who wants to conduct their own interview with a chatbot can send the transcript to me (most of these generate their own transcript which you can copy and paste) and I will publish it on the site. In a dozen or so posts I discovered a lot of interesting permutations on the form that I have not had time to explore, so I'd love to see where others take the idea.

Discover's excerpts from their own interviews are profound. I find the banal side of chatbot interviews to be just as insightful, if not more.

Animation With Dice

Thanks, Josh!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wall Murals

Art wall murals. More at the link.

A dad's project for his young son, made in Photoshop. How-to at the link.

A decorative painter who painted faux effects at Disneyland Paris.
More samples at the link.

A New Digg Visualizer

Latawnya, the Naughty Horse

Click on image for a larger view. [Via|Link]

3D Printing An Illuminated Photobox

Industrial Design Sandbox reports:

This photograph is transformed into a topographical relief surface. The brightest portions of the photo are the thinnest section and the darkest areas are the thickest sections. This 3D data is converted into surfaces and fabricated using an FDM machine.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Fast Food Ad Culture Jamming

East London, UK.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Love, Shredded: The Blankie Photographs of "Dirty Wow Wow"

The new book Dirty Wow Wow and Other Love Stories: A Tribute to the Threadbare Companions of Childhood features images of stuffed animals and other objects ravaged by the love of children. The most striking photographs in the book are of children's blankies. It looks like they've been digested by baby dinosaurs. They're just gorgeous.

Ten Speed Press gave TiP special permission to blog these. Click on them for a larger view.


Belmont Blankie


Photography studio Hornick/Rivlin did a great job with this project. With most of the shots in the book straight-on photos of stuffed animals (only a few are from non-"catalogue" perspectives) I'm guessing that orienting these floppy, tattered blankets was one of the most interesting parts of their shoots for this book. And they did an outstanding job. You can check out more of their work here. (Note to photographers and artists everywhere: If you abandon a site and put up a new one, take the old one down, because it will still draw visitors, most of whom won't think to look for another site after clicking on the top Google search result for your company!)

Ten Speed Press is running a contest for readers through the month of May to submit their own photographs and stories of "lovies" online for a chance to win a copy of the book and other prizes. A new winner is selected every week.

I wrote a bit more about the book here.

Images reprinted with permission from Dirty Wow Wow and Other Love Stories: A Tribute to the Threadbare Companions of Childhood. Copyright (c) 2007 by Cheryl and Jeffrey Katz, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. Photo Credit: Hornick/Rivlin.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Banksy Profile and Interview

Now online at the New Yorker. This stuff doesn't stay available forever, so go read it.

I have mixed feelings about the lack of originality in a lot of Banksy's art. But his persona and story are pure gold, and I have no problem with the lines he walks - financial success|rebellion, celebrity|anonymity. Favorite quote:

“I originally set out to try and save the world, but now I’m not sure I like it enough.”

The only truly deflating ending to this story (and it will end someday) would be if it turned out that Steve Lazarides, his agent/gallerist/spokesperson, really turned out to be him.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Stop-Motion Wheatpaste

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fake Ambush Marketing: When Ads Go All-Concept

Hot on the heels of this great example of ambush advertising, the ad blog How Advertising Spoiled Me sent out a post via RSS last night showing this image:

But the post has since been removed from the blog. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess it was a fake and that someone - the airline? - fooled our friend Arvind. It's always fun to see something you're not supposed to (ever seen a retracted post from Think in Pictures?) but that wouldn't be enough to merit pointing it out, so bear with me. I think this incident highlights one of the most overlooked aspects of our current media age, in which the Internet has pushed progressive advertising methods to be almost entirely conceptual. The actual audience for the physical work is secondary to the virtual audience who will consume it in a manner dictated by those who document the product. And this is a big change. Let me elaborate.

I noted a while back that tone of the main benefits of the Internet for non-permission-based public artists (i.e. graffiti artists) is that ephemeral works can be documented and shared far beyond the place they are created:

Illicit art created in the physical world now has the power to reach vast audiences through its documentation and dissemination via the Internet, and while some of the pleasure of discovery may be missing - imagine stumbling across that row of tanks in Basel versus seeing it here - the objects' poached presence in the real world, and the knowledge that many others have stumbled upon them, and others have walked by them without noticing them, is no less delicious. This accessibility is, of course, wildly divergent from artwork's context in the real world; there, the piece will soon be discovered and likely removed, if this has not happened already. In rare cases, citizens lobby and win the right for a piece of illicit art to be adopted and "legalized," but this requires organization, speed, and open-minded governance. On the web, however, the piece is available to all for as long as it is of interest, and can be passed around among viewers, reinvigorated by new discussion, and take on a virtual life of its own. This is one of the wonderful ways in which the Internet is not like the "real" world: Everyone has a wall to tag, paint, or advertise on, and the strength and relevance of one's message plays a much greater role in its successful infiltration of a virtual visitor's life than any other form of visual or written communication.
But while this development allows graffiti art to live on and be a part of a conversation far broader than the local and temporary effect it used to have, it also has the effect of reducing the significance of place, that is, of making the obviousness or accessibility of the graffiti site far less important, because so much of the work's audience is virtual. This means that good, effective public displays may actually be less accessible, less productive, less meaningful for the human beings who interact with the work in the "real world."

Advertising has undergone the same transition. Take, for example, a work of conceptual advertising like the one Germany's BUND (Friends of the Earth) documented a few weeks ago [via Art Threat, which is getting better every week]:

The balloon reads "The world can't take anymore [sic] CO2." When the car starts, it inflates, then bursts, surprising the automobile's driver and, presumably, briefly displaying its message to others before doing so. But as a live event, the action is an abject failure. Think about it:
  1. Balloon is surreptitiously affixed to tailpipe, and must not be seen by the driver.
  2. Balloon inflates, revealing tiny message that is too small to be legible.
  3. Balloon pops, alerting driver to something amiss.
  4. Driver checks tailpipe, finds obliterated balloon.
Who does this action serve? An exclusively virtual audience. Like any good conceptual artwork, it is the documentation and explanation that provides pleasure and stimulation, not the experience itself, which may be confusing, absurd, or mundane. As Art Threat noted:
The most common critique, however, damns the guerrilla tactic as pointless, as it may be near impossible to read the message on the inflated balloon before it explodes. Given that the campaign has already generated a ton of media, discussion and debate, I think it's fair to say that these detractors have missed the point entirely...
There is balance of power - akin to evolution, or to an arms race - between advertisers and their audiences that media critics rarely recognize. We do not simply absorb advertising, but critique, selectively acknowledge, and/or deflect it, and advertisers are always looking for new ways to work around or subvert audience barriers or defenses. I think what I find interesting about the developments in such "secondary" advertising methods (which have been around at least since the days of radio, but have been flourishing in the age of the Internet and digital photography) is that they are, in essence, advertising about advertising, and they utilize new forms of manipulation, against which audiences have not yet developed any successful defenses. As a result, we are all implicated and even enmeshed in these advertising efforts by our receptiveness to, or even our participation in creating, the fictional stories that complete them.

Take (again) the image above. What is true, and what is false? The concept survives whether the actual billboard was placed or not. The status of the advertiser as "trickster" only increases. They are also more likely to appear "Internet savvy," because someone in their organization knows how to doctor a photo, and is willing to do so. They get their advertising message out, and they save the expense of putting up a billboard, which might not even be possible at the site. So many questions remain. If the billboard were not in a prominent location (I have no idea where it is) and we learned that the number of viewers who saw the photo online far exceeded the number who saw it live, did Kingfisher waste their money putting up an actual billboard? Or is Kingfisher's physical counter-advertisement a necessary element of the set-up for GoAir's hoax?

More broadly, when real-world events are faked, simulated, or heavily enhanced, when and how do advertisers cross the line between advertising and straight propaganda?

Arvind's original post.

Mapping the Moon's Minerals

From NASA:

This mosaic of 53 images was recorded by the Jupiter-bound Galileo spacecraft as it passed near our own large natural satellite in 1992. The pictures were recorded through three spectral filters and combined in an exaggerated false-color scheme to explore the composition of the lunar surface as changes in mineral content produce subtle color differences in reflected light.

Monday, May 07, 2007

NBA To Sell Game Downloads For Three Bucks; I'm Toast.

This is the best thing the NBA has done in years, and it will involve some significant datalogging in addition to just selling the games. The New York Times reports:

For the moment, users cannot search the clips for, say, every Steve Nash assist, but that is coming. According to Steve Hellmuth, a senior vice president with the N.B.A., league employees are breaking down game films and logging events within each team’s possession.

For instance, if San Antonio’s Tim Duncan pulls down a rebound and then dunks, N.B.A. employees would tag the video with those two events; in the future, viewers searching for Duncan’s rebounds or dunks could quickly find that sequence.

There are about 500 such highlights in each game, and because only humans can log these events, the tagging process is labor intensive. Mr. Hellmuth said the league has about 40,000 games on tape in its archive, mostly from 1990 and later, and about 3,800 have been logged. Those games are already being used by coaches to scout other teams, as well as league executives who review the calls of game officials.

My first purchase, once they work their way backwards far enough, will be the 2003 Western Conference Finals, Game 6, where Dallas Mavericks' center Dirk Nowitzki lost it during the last tense minutes of the game and turned positively toxic, screaming at his teammates and literally attempting to beat the San Antonio Spurs himself despite his vomitous disgust for his poor teammates. Dirk, that was the day you became the first NBA star I truly love to hate! I have wished many times that I could revisit that game, and soon I will have that very pleasure.

From there I'll hop back to some millennial games to get my Speedy Claxton fix, and then I'll dig deeper to watch some stuff from the Dennis Rodman days to see if he was really all my wife claims he was or if she's just nostalgic. Yikes, I can feel my life slipping away as I write...

Emergency Kit Icons

Peter Grundy designed some uniformly good icons for items to include in an emergency kit, published in Wired. To my mind there isn't a single one that doesn't register the correct idea after you've read the list. [Link]

Cityspeak Turns Billboards Over To Text Messagers

From Art Threat:

Cityspeak is ephemeral graffiti, using private modes of communication to generate public displays of commentary about a particular location. It is an example p2P (private-to-public) communication which allows participants to use communication technologies we tend to think of as private--cell phones and Personal Digital Assistants--to create public displays.
Cityspeak's website also allows anyone to post a message to the billboard. [Link]

Ambush Marketing


Don't miss the next chapter of this advertising saga...

Friday, May 04, 2007

Free Comic Book Day Tomorrow

Your local comic book store is probably giving away free comics tomorrow. You can see all the available titles here, or check for participating comics shops in your zip code here. [Via|Link]

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ceiling Height Linked To Scope of Thoughts

New research into consumer behavior has found a link between the height of a room's ceiling and the kind of thoughts a person will have in that room.

Researcher Joan Meyers-Levey explains: "When a person is in a space with a 10-foot ceiling, they will tend to think more freely, more abstractly. They might process more abstract connections between objects in a room, whereas a person in a room with an 8-foot ceiling will be more likely to focus on specifics."

The blog Innovations Report explains:

The authors theorized that when reasonably salient, a higher versus a lower ceiling can stimulate the concepts of freedom versus confinement, respectively. This causes people to engage in either more free-form, abstract thinking or more detail-specific thought. Thus, depending on what the task at hand requires, the consequences of the ceiling could be positive or negative.
I'm not sure I'm completely convinced. Could someone please test this on some Sims and get back to me?


The Sims Go Swimming

Shared via Flickr by Mareen Fischinger.

Which Means That Gravity Is Actually A Myth

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

New Study Complicates Links Between Violent Games and Aggression

Ars Technica reports:

When the scores were correlated with long-term anger, it became clear that those who were relatively calm were also largely unaffected by violent content. Angry subjects, in contrast, demonstrated increased aggression when exposed to violent games (they were unaffected by nonviolent ones). It appears that the majority of the connection between violent games and aggression depends largely on the general mental state of the gamer.

Infographic "Map" of Online Communities

Click here to see the full map from XKCD and read the details.

Polio In Puppetland


Webby Awards: What's Your Favorite?

My favorite personal discovery so far in perusing the extensive awards and runners-up for the Webbys is the Ikea Dream Kitchen website, which stitches together a cycle of 360-degree views of new kitchens. There are many things that are great about this promotional vehicle, and they're all obvious, so check it out for yourself if you haven't seen it yet. Great stuff.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Dog Tail-Wagging: Left Is Bad, Right Is Good, Say Researchers

This is truly fascinating: Researchers from the University of Trieste in Italy have determined that dogs, which wag their tails to express both happiness and displeasure, wag their tails asymmetrically in a consistent manner to demonstrate whether their feelings are positive or negative. The New York Times reports:

When dogs feel fundamentally positive about something or someone, their tails wag more to the right side of their rumps. When they have negative feelings, their tail wagging is biased to the left. ...

Research has shown that in most animals, including birds, fish and frogs, the left brain specializes in behaviors involving what the scientists call approach and energy enrichment. In humans, that means the left brain is associated with positive feelings, like love, a sense of attachment, a feeling of safety and calm. It is also associated with physiological markers, like a slow heart rate.

At a fundamental level, the right brain specializes in behaviors involving withdrawal and energy expenditure. In humans, these behaviors, like fleeing, are associated with feelings like fear and depression. Physiological signals include a rapid heart rate and the shutdown of the digestive system. ...

When the dogs saw their owners, their tails all wagged vigorously with a bias to the right side of their bodies, Dr. Vallortigara said. Their tails wagged moderately, again more to the right, when faced with an unfamiliar human. Looking at the cat, a four-year-old male whose owners volunteered him for the experiment, the dogs’ tails again wagged more to the right but in a lower amplitude.

When the dogs looked at an aggressive, unfamiliar dog — a large Belgian shepherd Malinois — their tails all wagged with a bias to the left side of their bodies.


Jack Valenti Is Dead. Long Live Jack Valenti.

Jack "Boom Boom" Valenti, the architect of the MPAA American film rating system, died last Thursday at 85, and the news outlets are doing their best to predict what this means for the ratings board. If you haven't seen This Film Is Not Yet Rated [Amazon link] now is a great time to do so.

My prayer for Jack Valenti is that these words live on for generations to come:

"I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone."

That pretty much sums up both his perspective and his showmanship. I'm sure he'd defend both from beyond the grave if he could.

Firefox Emissions Plug-In Measures The Global Cost of Your Travel

Real Costs "is a Firefox plug-in that inserts emissions data into travel related e-commerce website. The first version adds CO2 emissions information to airfare websites such as,,, etc. Following versions will work with car directions, car rental, and shipping websites. Think of it like the nutritional information labeling on the back of food... except for emissions."

Download it here. [Via]