Archive for the 'net.kooks' Category

Hyperbole and a Half’s “Wolves”

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Julia (the firstborn) showed me this. I’d never seen Allie’s Hyperbole and a Half before, and am sorry I missed it. I haven’t read her whole site yet, but so far this is very much my favorite: Wolves.

Benny came to the birthday party because his mom had volunteered him to help supervise the children. He must have felt out of place being the lone teenage boy amidst a flock of over-excited six-year-old girls, but we welcomed his presence. We saw him as a sort of prop that we could manipulate in our imaginary games – a living, breathing human that would submit to pretending to be whatever we wanted it to pretend to be. On that particular day, we wanted to play a game called “wolf pack” which we had invented after watching a documentary about the hunting tactics of wolves.

So hilariously wonderful.

Manic Pixie Prostitute

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

If you’re familiar with the concept of the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl,” this will be funny. If not, it’s probably just going to seem weird. More from Aisha Harris at Slate: Is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Dead?

Teller on Magic

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

From Smithsonian Magazine, here’s a fun article in which Teller (of “Penn and…”) takes our minds off politics by explaining some of the psychological principles he exploits as a magician: Teller Reveals His Secrets.

My favorite secret:

6. Nothing fools you better than the lie you tell yourself.

The Mended Soul’s P&P&Z Cosplay

Monday, November 5th, 2012

As you may (or may not) have heard, I’m hanging out online with a bunch of people obsessed with the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. And whether or not your own interests trend in that particular direction, I think we can all agree that this is awesome: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”

More from The Mended Soul’s description of creating her costume:

I was so pleased with how the hem turned out! Although next time I will make sure to apply the blood and chocolate the night before. Otherwise the nice lovely dark red fades a bit. A small note to remember when doing the mixture of chocolate and blood, it soaks up much faster into the fabric. My handprint spread out quickly which works because I wanted to try to make it look like someone had grabbed my skirt.

Fact Checking the Hurricane Sandy Photos

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

If you haven’t seen it, definitely check out this cool piece of fact-checking of some of the photos allegedly of Hurricane Sandy that have been floating around: Sorting the Real Sandy Photos From the Fakes.

I especially liked this one:

What I’ve Been Up to Lately

Friday, October 26th, 2012

If you’ve wondered about the relative dearth of posts around here lately, it’s mostly because I’ve been in the throes of a schoolgirl infatuation with Tumblr. So if you’re desperate for more of my deathless prose (yeah, I thought that’d be a stretch), you can see what’s at (Except right now, because at the moment Tumblr is down, dammit. This may not be unrelated to the sudden spurt of queued up items suddenly being posted here.)

Bodyform Responds to Facebook Commenter Richard Neill

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Chen on Violentacrez

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

I finally got around to reading Adrian Chen’s post on Gawker that revealed the identity of the Violentacrez user on reddit: The man behind the troll. It was kind of interesting, though also a little disturbing, and not just because Violentacrez himself is a little disturbing.

I was struck by this comment from Chen’s post:

In real life, Brutsch is an unabashedly creepy old man with seven cats and two dogs and a disabled wife and a teenage son about to join the Marines. He was all of that online, too – only he was famous for it.

I think this struck me because lately I’ve been confronted by the reality that I’ve become older than most of the people I interact with online. (I am, in fact, a year older than Violentacrez.) As someone who was an early adopter of the Internet, I’ve survived to a time when it is largely populated by people a lot younger than I am. Occasionally, when real-life details spill into online interaction, this confronts me with the uncomfortable fact that online, at least, I’ve become old.

In real life, I interact with people of many different ages, including some younger than me, some approximately my own age, and some older than me. In terms of outward signs of age, I’ve been pretty fortunate: staying nerdishly indoors over much of my life and using lots of sunscreen means my skin’s in okay shape. I’ve got a full head of hair (going gray, it’s true). I’m working on a spare tire, but am otherwise in okay shape. My outward appearance is youthful enough that I occasionally get joking “Dorian Gray” comments from friends and acquaintances. So I’ve got that going for me.

But online, none of that counts. And as soon as age comes up, I’m basically left with two choices: Closet myself. Or provoke an involuntary, “whoa. dude, you’re old.”

This was brought into focus recently by my getting more involved on Tumblr, which is a neat place for sharing obsessive fandoms (of which I have a few, as readers of this site will already be aware). But it’s also a corner of the online world characterized by lots of self-disclosure and sharing of angsty feels by (mostly) young (frequently) female users, among whom a 50-year-old guy tends to stand out.

Quoting from an “ask” my lies user on Tumblr recently received:

gr4ci3p00 asked: hi you’re the oldest person i know on tumblr

Yeah, I’m the oldest person I know on tumblr, too. It’s a weird feeling.

A few weeks ago I saw this thing come through my tumblr dashboard (can’t find it now, dammit). It was a survey thingy, where it asked people to repost and add a | character in the row next to their age. And the ages went from, like, I don’t remember, 12 or 13 on up, and there was this cool-looking distribution of rows of | characters, starting off with just 1, and then getting fatter with more and more respondents, with the biggest part of the curve being around age 17 or 18 (I think), and then it tapered off, and there were no | characters at all toward the bottom of the graph. And the bottom entry, at which there had been no respondents for several rows, was “26+”.

Ouch. That hit home. What am I doing here?

I guess, given the degree of privilege I enjoy as a straight white male technocratic Californian making good money, it shouldn’t be a big deal to have to deal with a little irrational prejudice. But for the record: 50 is not old, at least not from my side of that birthday, and 50 and male and hanging out online with a bunch of fellow LBD nerds who happen to be younger and more female than me is not inherently creepy. It’s just a thing.

Chris Jones on Teller’s Latest Trick

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Long, but good, article from Chris Jones in Esquire about Teller (of “Penn and…”), and his attempt to sue a mysterious Dutch magician for stealing Teller’s copyrighted magic trick, Shadows: The honor system.

Penn began his patter. He told the audience that they were about to be given a choice. Teller was going to make good his escape – there was no doubt about that, Penn said. Penn was going to start playing a song on his bass, and Teller was going to finish it on his vibraphone, done deal. The choice for the audience was whether it wanted to be mystified or informed. Keep your eyes open if you want to know the secret, Penn said. Keep your eyes closed if you want to be amazed.

Penn began to finger the strings, and on most nights, most of the people in the crowd kept their eyes open…

[Spoilerific description of the trick deleted.]

But for those members of the audience who kept their eyes closed, Honor System was confounding. One moment Teller was locked inside a pair of boxes, and the next he was playing music beside his partner, Penn. There were people who went to see that show seven or eight times, and they never opened their eyes. It became a test of their personal resolve. Given a choice, they chose mystery. For them, Penn & Teller had turned magic into something more than entertainment. “Magic gives you the gift of a stone in your shoe,” their magician friend Mike Close once said. In that short time between Penn’s first hit on his bass and Teller’s opening note on his vibraphone, magic was also an act of will.

Changing One’s Mind

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Keith Kloor posts today with some examples of people who were sailing along with one belief and then, despite the headwind created by motivated reasoning and confirmation bias, managed to tack and sail off in a completely different direction: The Conversion.

Among the examples:

  • Confessions of a Climate Change Convert – D.R. Tucker, a Republican who went from skeptical to alarmed about global warming after he read the latest IPCC report.
  • Prominent atheist blogger converts to Catholicism – Leah Libresco, who went from having a loudly outspoken belief that there is no God at all to believing that in fact there is one, and Catholicism is the faith that brings her closest to Him.
  • Mutation Butts and Schooled! – Dan Piraro of the “Bizarro” comic, who posted a strongly worded warning on his blog about the dangers of genetically modified food last Saturday. Some commenters on his blog expressed disappointment and encouraged him to educate himself more about the GMO issue, and two days later (yesterday), Piraro posted an item in which he retracted his earlier comments.

From Piraro’s mea culpa (which I guess is the wrong phrase, since he didn’t actually apologize):

I’m not embarrassed that I was wrong and had to change my story. That’s the best thing about being an open-minded, reason-based person instead of, say, a politician; you don’t stick to erroneous beliefs in the face of new evidence for fear that people will think you are fallible. If everyone lived this way, the world would be much less ignorant, as I am today thanks to information given to me by some of my Jazz Pickles. Thanks!

“Jazz Pickles” is Piraro’s term for his regular blog commenters. Go Jazz Pickles! :-)

Craig Newmark on Fact Checking

Monday, September 10th, 2012

I enjoyed this item that Craig Newmark (the Craigslist guy) posted to his site recently: Fact-checkers are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. I particularly liked it because it called my attention to the full version of Chris Wallace’s interview of Jon Stewart that happened a while back. Making this version particularly interesting is that it’s the full interview, with a dimming/brightening effect used to show which parts were edited out or included when the interview aired on Fox. (Not trying to suggest that there was anything particularly nefarious or dishonest in the editing process. I just think it’s an interesting layer on top of the already-interesting discussion.)

Anyway, here’s part one:

And here’s part two:

A Wacky Idea

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

So, I’ve been thinking lately about the way we all like to beat each other up in the comments. And for my job, I’ve lately been doing a lot of remote meetings via Google+ “hangouts” (video conferences via computer, basically). They work pretty well.

And I had this wacky idea: What if we had a Google+ hangout for the commenters on to have a video chat with each other? I was thinking of something pretty quick, maybe 10 minutes or so. No particular agenda; just a chance to put some faces and voices to the personalities I’ve come to know (a little) from the site. We could chat a bit about whatever seemed worth chatting about, see how it went, and if it seemed interesting, maybe set up a time to do it again.

I think that might be fun. But if it isn’t, there’s nothing much lost, really.

So, how’d you like to hang out?

You’d need the following:

  • A computer with a camera and a microphone
  • A decent(ish) Internet connection
  • A Google+ account
  • A willingness to expose yourself, at least briefly and remotely, to the people you’ve been beating up in the comments

If you think you might be willing to do that, please comment on this post, and indicate, for each of the dates and times listed below, your availability/preference on a 1-5 scale, where the numbers mean:

1 – I definitely will not be able to participate at that time
2 – I probably won’t be able to participate at that time
3 – I might or might not be able to participate at that time
4 – I probably will be able to participate at that time
5 – I definitely will be able to participate at that time

I’ll pick the date and time that maximizes the chances of participation, and will send out an email with the invitation link you can follow to the actual hangout. (Also, if the email currently associated with your account isn’t working any more, you’ll need to send a working email to me, so I can invite you to the hangout. You can send that to

If you can post your availability soon (say by Friday night — that is, tomorrow night) that would be ideal.

Either way, thanks for your ongoing contribution to the site.

John (aka jbc)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

12:00 noon PDT (3:00 p.m. EDT):

2:00 p.m. PDT (5:00 p.m. EDT):

4:00 p.m. PDT (7:00 p.m EDT):

6:00 p.m. PDT (9:00 p.m EDT):

8:00 p.m. PDT (11:00 p.m. EDT):

Sunday, September 9, 2012

12:00 noon PDT (3:00 p.m. EDT):

2:00 p.m. PDT (5:00 p.m. EDT):

4:00 p.m. PDT (7:00 p.m EDT):

6:00 p.m. PDT (9:00 p.m EDT):

8:00 p.m. PDT (11:00 p.m. EDT):

Steve Kardynal’s ‘Call Me Maybe’ Chatroulette Lipsync

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Warning: This is a low-grade “can’t unsee after having seen” Internet munition. But it’s sort of funny, and even heart-warming, given its re-affirmation of the essential humanity of a random slice of chatroulette users. Anyway:

More: Forrest Wickman, reddit.

The ‘Cloud Atlas’ Trailer and Directors’ Commentary

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

I think this is a first: An almost-six-minute movie trailer that comes with its own director’s commentary. And the commentary really is helpful, I think, to get a sense of what’s going on with the trailer. See the Apple Trailers site for the commentary: Cloud Atlas.

Here’s the trailer itself:

I think that movie could be a complete mess. Or it could be completely awesome. Or both. Anyway, I think I’m about ready for the Wachowskis to blow my mind again, and I’m looking forward to them (and Tom Tykwer) giving it their best shot.

Update: Here’s the commentary:

Jeremiah McDonald Talks to His Former Self

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Droll Spoilers in YouTube Comments for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

I’m not sure I can even explain why I find this funny. But I do: Trolling for the educated. (Context at the LizzieBennet YouTube channel.)

People Are Not the Same

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

How do you make sense of someone different than yourself? How do you bridge the gap between your worldview and theirs? It’s worth doing, but it’s hard. (Witness the ongoing labors of the commenteriat.)

Law professor Dan Kahan has some really interesting thoughts on this. In a recent comment on the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare (What I have to say about Chief Justice Roberts, and how I feel, the day after the day after the health care decision), Kahan wrote about how pleased he was that Roberts took the position he did. It wasn’t just that Kahan liked the outcome (though he did). It’s that by the way he arrived at it, Roberts helped communicate the importance of judicial neutrality.

I admire the Chief Justice for displaying so vividly and excellently something that reflects the best conception of the profession I share with him. I am grateful to him for supplying us with a resource that I and others can use to try to help others acquire the professional craft sense that deriving and applying neutral of constitutional law demands.

And I’m happy that he did something that in itself furnishes the assurance that ordinary citizens deserve that the law is being applied in a manner that is meaningfully neutral with respect to their diverse ends and interests. They need tangible examples of that, too, because is inevitable that judges who are expertly and honestly enforcing neutrality will nevertheless reach decisions that sometimes profoundly disappoint them.

But Kahan goes beyond that, and it’s the next part that was most fascinating to me. Kahan turns his attention on himself, and his reaction to Roberts’ ruling.

As I said, I admire Chief Justice Roberts and am grateful to him for reasons independent of my views of the merits of Affordable Care Act case. I honestly mean this.

But I am aware of the awkwardness of being moved to remark a virtuous performance of neutral judging on an occasion in which it was decisive to securing a result I support. Or at least, I am awkwardly and painfully aware that I can’t readily think of a comparable instance of virtuous judging that contributed to an outcome that in fact profoundly disappointed me. Surely, the reason can’t be that there has never been an occasion for me to take note of such a performance—and to remark and learn from it.

I have a sense that there are other members of my profession and of my persuasion and outlook on generally who share this complex of reactions toward Chief Justice Roberts’s judging.

I propose that we recognize the sense of anxiety about ourselves that accompanies our collegial identification with him as an integral element of the professional dispositions that his decision exemplifies.

It will, I think, improve our perception to harbor such anxiety. And will make us less likely to overlook– or even unjustly denounce–the next Judge whose neutrality results in a decision with which we disagree.

Lots of other great stuff at Kahan’s blog recently. I also really enjoyed Nullius in verba? Surely you are joking, Mr. Hooke! (or Why cultural cognition is not a bias, part 1) and The cultural certification of truth in the Liberal Republic of Science (or part 2 of why cultural cognition is not a bias).

Kahan is onto something, and I appreciate his enthusiasm in pursuing and sharing that something. He betrays a gentle human spirit, a willingness to consider the legitimacy of the other person’s point of view, that I find admirable.

Here’s another gentle human spirit, the late Mitch Hedberg, dealing with a nightclub heckler in a way that affirms both of their humanity:

There are differences that divide us. But there’s common ground, too, if we’re willing to look for it.

ragnar kjartansson’s Ég Anda Video (Sigur Rós)

Monday, June 18th, 2012

I didn’t buy valtari (the new Sigur Rós album) until a few weeks ago. I’m not sure why I waited, but I’m glad I finally broke down, because it’s wonderful.

The band has commissioned a series of low-budget videos with the directors having complete creative control. Here’s the first one to be released. It’s by ragnar kjartansson, for the track Ég Anda (I Beathe):

Awesome Sigur Rós music and an important safety message! Cool!

Jay Smooth on the Snarky Misogyny Directed at Anita Sarkeesian Over Her Kickstarter Project

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Good stuff:

Ill Doctrine: All These Sexist Gamer Dudes Are Some Shook Ones from on Vimeo.

See Anita Sarkeesian’s Harassment, Misogyny and Silencing on YouTube for background, if you’ve somehow managed to avoid hearing about this.

Pomplamoose 2.0

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

I know I was all agog over Parts & Labor a month ago, and this isn’t exactly the same sort of thing. But as someone who’s been a fan of Pomplamoose for a while, the new, “electronicky” Pomplamoose is both very different and all kinds of awesome: