Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Credit Chernobyl?

Some smart people think this link from the UK Telegraph is a bit alarmist, but it's worth considering. Wall Street has bundled mortgage debt with other obligations in such exotic ways that the sub-prime meltdown could affect not just the housing market but liquidity in other markets: the M&A sector, for instance. Not a pretty picture.

Fred Thompson, Lobbyist for Death Inc.?

This Huffington Post piece about Thompson's service as a lobbyist is worth reading, although it does have silly parts. "Since his days as top minority counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee, Thompson has collected over $1 million in lobbying fees." Geez, he worked as a lobbyist for 17 years. I hope he made more than that... a million bucks would be just a slice better than minimum wage.

I've written before about how Thompson's service as a lobbyist is likely to be a source of embarassment. The piece draws out one such blusher: Thompson lobbied for Philip Morris. It's going to be hard to spin involvement with an industry responsible for so many preventable deaths.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Reading to the Right, Shooting to the Left

The way we read text influences the way our eyes scan an image. We usually start at the top left, then go to the top right, then the lower left quadrant and finally the lower right. However, it's wrong to oversimplify what this means -- other factors influence what the eye sees first: compositional elements, bright spots, and the human form can draw the eye no matter where they are located.

Moreover, location affects how we read motion and intention; it doesn't necessarily connote importance. Look at Venus and Adonis by Rubens. The top image is the original one, the bottom one is the flipped image. Notice how Venus and the putto are more effective in the top image: the fact that they're pulling in the same direction we're reading gives their efforts more strength. In the bottom image, Adonis is going in the direction we're reading, and he seems a lot more determined and likely to succeed in tearing himself away because of it. The sky and the pastoral patch on the right feels like a more enticing destination.

Usually, when the masters have painted firing lines they've put the victim on the left and the shooters on the right. Below is Goya's Third of May and Manet's Execution of Maximilian (click to enlarge.) The original images are on the left, the flipped images are on the right.

The firing squads seem stronger when they are flipped onto the left, but the paintings have less tension. The victims seem more hapless when they are on the right, but also less noble and less consequential. Talk shows almost always have the host on the right. Flipping an image of Tim Russert with Peter Pace, you can see why. The setting seems less fair and less congenial.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Dramatic Chipmunk

It's been called the best five-second video on the internet. Can't disagree.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Support or Name Recognition?

Kos has an astute overview of the race for the Democratic nomination.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Performance Art Politics

Mike Gravel, the candidate for President from the Angry Dadaist Party.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Good Eats, Good Show

Lately I've become hooked on Good Eats With Alton Brown on the Food Network. It's not the usual cooking show with a Chef hamming it up in front of a salivating studio audience -- it's more like a wacked-out food documentary. Alton Brown doesn't just tell you the what of cooking, he tells you the how and why and the pronunciation and folklore and science and the competing theories... and on and on. It's like a TV version of Harold McGee's classic On Food and Cooking, which believe me, is high praise.

I'm definitely a foodie, so maybe I'm biased -- but I can't think of a show on TV that is simultaneously as educational and entertaining. (And since I'm on a food tear, check out how Pixar got the kitchen stuff right in Ratatouille.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Minority Report Redux

Not to be snotty, but waddya know... a really cool Microsoft product.

UPDATE: The two-finger gesturing might be a breach of an Apple patent.

The End of the Sopranos

The Sopranos series finale was the most disappointing end to a major series since Seinfeld sputtered to a final stop. Despite its promising start, the final season flirted with many storylines... but failed to commit to any. Like a precocious teenager, the show seemed scared of not looking cool. It didn't want to seem like it was trying to work, so finally it didn't.

Still, The Sopranos was a landmark show. The best episode of all might still be that first show, where a Mafia boss with a troubled home life is visited by some ducks.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Thompson the Favorite?

Before even entering the race, Thompson is the favorite according to Intrade. I think that's about right, and as I've written before, I think he would be a good match-up for Obama. Also, the generic Dem candidate has a 57% to 42% advantage over the Republican candidate... that's a huge advantage.

Friday, June 1, 2007


This post from NewTeeVee leaves me a little puzzled. It talks of a new TV format being developed in Japan with a resolution of 7,680 x 4,320. Just to put that in perspective, when filmmakers take CGI to 35MM they use around 2,000 pixels of horizonal data, or if they are very conscientious, maybe 4,000. Do we really need a format for the home that has twice the definition of 35MM film? How big would the screen need to be before you saw a difference from HD? People say a monitor needs to be at least 34 inches big before you can notice a difference between 1080p and 720p.

Oh, and how's this for scary: "An uncompressed SHV signal has a bit-rate of 24Gbps." Yikes. My biggest drive would fill up in about 20 seconds.