Friday, March 27, 2009

The innards of my blog are littered with the stubs of half wild rantings, obnoxious opinions, gripes, and more constructive articles I don't have the patience to finish. My mood of late has been short and grimy and vicious, like a feral, dwarfish shark-man dancing in it's subterranean prison.

If that wasn't an overextended metaphor...

Anyways! Small things make me happy. Like, at Google, they have posted gaming themed backgrounds for you iGoogle page. The Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons ones especially warm my heart. The themes they have range from Galaga and Mario Bros. to The Sims and Guitar Hero.

As I have mentioned before, I feed alot of my internet life through my iGoogle page: I make notes to myself through it, check my email and RSS feed, have a lot of links that I use commonly. My iGoogle page is practically the first piece of media I see each day, and stays with me. It's great to have something fun to decorate it with.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Wow! What a geek weekend.

Last night, I went to see Johnathan Coulton at the Ark in Ann Arbor. I have a huge affection for his funny little songs.

I like to see my favorite artists, mostly authors (who are most accessible). It is always interesting to me to see them up close. Understanding something of the physicality of creative people does alot to help me appreciate their art. Possibly because it allows me to make snap judgments that dovetail with my personal prejudices about why I like their stories.

Also, I just like people as objects. I like how their personalities play in their features.

The show was nice, because he played alot of my favorite songs. He also played some new ones. I thought he started out kind of stiff, but he really warmed up as he went along. His songs are not just funny, they are also poignant in a funny way. His personal performance style imbues them with a charming kind of whimsy. Especially his use of a drum machine with Mr. Fancy Pants. He has a kind of funny sneer that he sings with. It's rather endearing.

I almost enjoyed watching the crowd as much as the show. All the phylums and orders of Geeks were represented: The big guys with ostentatious beard clan was out in full force. The short skinny, pug faced girls were there. The funny T-shirt wearing people. My own clan, the nebbishy, crabby pseudo professional. I felt at home amongst my people.

I also saw Watchmen, a movie taken from arguably the best comic ever written. I think it was fucking great. It is the only working superhero art flick ever created. It was beautifully filmed. I had feared that it would be cheesy looking. It's hard to make a blue guy look cool. But the look was textured enough that I thought it was very nice. The sex was almost hot, which is pretty good for Hollywood.The dialog was pretty and structured. The scenes were poised and elegant, even the action scenes.

It was not an action flick. It felt very much like the comic book. I remember reading Watchmen in college, and being blown away not by the pulp of it, but by the fact that such big ideas were embodied in four color characters given such rich human back stories. I think the film captured that very well.

That said, I think anybody going in looking for a superhero flick will be disapointed, critics will be distracted by the penis, and you shouldn't take you kids, especially if you have a problem with them looking at penises. Why people took their kids at all, I can't fathom.

Pretty much the defining factor for both of the people I went with was the graphic violence. It is a very expensive fanboy flick. Non-comics readers who like flicks like The City of Lost Children may also like Watchmen for it's visually stimulating and surreal qualities.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Good with Faces

Because of Facebook, I started keeping in touch with friends more. I actually found this method of contact completely by accident.

In my profession, we answer questions for people. So we value information and communication highly. Librarians are often talking about new technologies. Web 2.0, the phenomenon where consumers help put content on the web, is a big thing for us.

Even so, I rarely checked my Myspace page, and didn't even look at my Facebook page that much. Until I found the Facebook aps.

It's not the aps that make Facebook. They are cheesy and simple, which is their virtue. But they are part of the package that made me pay attention to Facebook. Facebook combines some of the most popular but lightweight parts of the web: games, twitter like statuses, photo-sharing, pseudo-blogging, into a sort of centralized time waster slash social space. It also saves you time by prioritizing your time wasting for you: it brings your friends updates to you, eliminating of the need to hop from site to site checking a bunch of webpages, blogs, twitter feeds, yetcetera.

The games are all bite sized, easy to do on breaks and as small timewasters. Many of the other aps, like Flair, are interactive, allowing you to pick your own motifs and even create your own throw away content.

So, fiddling with the games held me over until more people my age started playing on Facebook, and have kept me checking in regularly so that now it's a habit. As a result, I'm having lots of little conversations with people I knew from high school, college, and old work places. It's hella fun, and I predict that this kind of service will be a sort of gold standard for future web surfing. People are very sentimental about their personal history, and having a website keep track of it for you is very handy.

The aps also act as conversation starters: small notes, pictures, short status comments and digital gifts leading to little but common conversations. This is a great resource for connectivity. How many times have you been disuaded from talking to an old friend by the arduous task of picking up the phone? Daunted by the seeming impossibility of looking them up? Even overwhelmed by the thought of writing a coherant email. You certainly won't visit very often across the state, or cross coast. Pre-Facebook, running into old friends was often by mistake. Anything that makes contact easy is a social good.

To be fair, I'm not entirely pleased. Recently, there was a kerfuffle over facebooks terms of service. It looked like Facebook was making an IP landgrab of epic proportions. They were all over the news saying it wasn't so, but if a Web 2.0 company doesn't know the difference, I would suggest you find a different place to host pictures and creative writing. Why? Web 2.0 is about consumers creating content for commercial interest. If the commercial interst can't tell the difference between what's yours and theirs, the you is S.O.L. because the commercial interest has the lawyers.

However, compared to sites such as Friendster, which is spam riddles and dull, and Myspace, which is cheesy looking and devoid of content other than pre-fab decoration, Facebook is clean looking and offers lots of pleasant little distractions while you're checking up on your friends.

So put IP elsewhere and use Facebook for what it's good for. Play, relax, talk to your friends.