Daft Punk video creativity

I stumbled upon this popular YouTube video that shows the repetitive lyrics of Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger in a corporeal format. Very clever:

About half the way through, I was totally lost if the guy was actually following the lyrics accurately. I was wondering how many hours, days, weeks, months of practice it took him to do this. Amazing.

Then a couple of enterprising young ladies after their 15 million pageviews of fame (they’re already at 5 million) produced something similar. Daft Hands becomes Daft Bodies (and straight men begin to take notice):

Lots of coordination between two people.

Then came the male variant – introducing Daft Male Bodies:

This is when my a-ha moment came. This isn’t about the song at all, or synchronized lyric demonstration, either. It’s about seeing half-naked people writhe around to some techno music.

The last variant, the one that copied all the previous ones, is my favorite.

Customer service calls – yes, they really are recording the call

This was delightful (from the New Yorker, June 23 issue).

People express anger in two different ways. There’s “cold” anger, in which words may be overarticulated but spoken softly, and “hot” anger, in which voices are louder and pitched higher. At first the caller’s anger was cold:

AGENT: OK, sir. I’m gonna go ahead and explain this… OK, so on the information that you put this last time it was incorrect, so I apologize that you put it incorrectly on the site.

CALLER: OK, we got past that, bro. So tell me something I don’t know…

AGENT: Let’s see…uh…um

CALLER: Dude, I don’t care what company it is. It’s your company using that company, so you guys charge it. So you guys should be waiving that shit-over-the-phone shit, pay by phone.

AGENT: Buy why don’t you talk to someone else, sir. One moment.

By now, the caller’s anger was hot. He was put on hold, but B.B.N. was still listening.

CALLER: Motherfucker, I swear. You fucking pussy, you probably don’t even have me on hold, you little fucked-up dick. You’re gonna wait a long time, bro.
You little bitch, I’ll fucking find out who you are, you little fucking ho.

After thirty seconds, we could hear bubbling noises–a bong, Alwan thought–and then coughing. Not long afterward, the caller hung up.

Geoengineering a reversal to global warming

I just read a great article in Wired about efforts to geoengineer a cooling of the Earth, since it’s clear to most that a complete cessation of carbon dioxide production is not feasible. The proposal is to capture sulfur dioxide from power plants, release it into the upper atmosphere (using jets, balloons, etc) where it will bond with water to form microscopic droplets of sulfuric acid, which will reflect a small portion (1-2%) of the sun’s energy back into space. The earth cools a bit, and within a year or two, the sulfuric acid falls to earth.

The inspiration came from a volcanic eruption in the Philippines in 1991, which created the same effect back then, and temporarily cooled the earth.

Of course, there’s always the possibility of unintended consequences. In fact, proponents admit that the sulfuric acid could (at least temporarily) destroy ozone, and fall to earth as acid rain. I don’t know what the extent (and how long-lasting) these effects are. I also don’t know if the reduction of sun energy would decrease food production, or disrupt the food chain enough to harm ecosystems. The problem is that these questions have incredibly complex scenarios. Mathematical modeling might only capture part of the picture.

One thing is for certain, though: global warming is real, and it will result in substantial changes for many parts of the planet. Doing nothing (or thinking hybrid cars and CO2 reduction treaties will do the trick) is irresponsible thinking. Considering the cost of the sulfur dioxide proposal (about $1 billion per year), we should seriously consider that the solution to global warming, at least in the relative short-term (over the next 10 years or so) might require us to seriously look at geoengineering proposals like this one.

When does the magic of a city wear off?

San Francisco and New YorkI live in an enviable corner of the world, the San Francisco Bay Area. But living in any place for an extended period of time, no matter how great, forces you to confront the inevitable drawbacks to any place. I have separate lists for San Francisco and Oakland, but in general, they could stand to be a bit warmer and more mature culturally.

I’ve adored New York City for decades and have wanted to live there as long as I can remember (I grew up in nearby New Jersey and always felt in awe of our neighbor while living in its shadow). I’ve loved every trip there as an adult (almost always in the summer). I love the sultry weather, the diversity, the gritty realness, and, most of all, the energy that you can only have when you have 1.5 million people (twice that of SF) from all over the world crammed into 34 square miles (SF is almost 40% larger).

It’s not that much of a stretch to imagine how all those things that make NYC wonderful could be turned on their head. High humidity isn’t fun when you’re dressed up and are in a rush (or when the A/C breaks). People still get mugged on the subway. The high population density makes rents and property high, and the cost of living near-astronomical. I’d imagine I’d have to switch from Zabar’s to the neighborhood bodega, and I’d have to learn to love drinking longnecks on my stoop instead of enjoying martinis at Splash, if I actually lived there. I don’t have a feel for how New York’s quality of life is income-dependent because I’ve never had the experience of living there.

And, besides, there are a few things that make SF special (this is for you, ya cranky asshole; hope you enjoy having your face rubbed in it):

  1. the city’s youth makes it open-minded, liberal and very creative
  2. dress is always casual; dressing up is always optional
  3. the constant chilling breeze keeps the air clean
  4. no metro area has a better pulse on new technologies
  5. the food is great; wonderful ingredients and vegetarian-openmindedness
  6. large Chinese population (an ethnic group I’ve always felt an affinity towards)

But, then again, NY has:

  1. all age groups adequately represented, giving the culture broader, richer perspective
  2. the seasons (all four of them!) give everyone an opportunity to diversify their wardrobe
  3. predictable weather (if it’s summer, it’s hot and going to stay hot through the night, which makes nightlife a dream)
  4. a heady artistic and intellectual undercurrent, supported by the city’s huge art and publishing industries
  5. excellent high-end restaurants and real pizza and bagels (something I’ve missed living out here)
  6. large Jewish population (another ethnic group I’ve always felt an affinity towards)

I dunno. I suppose living in NY for something longer than 6 months would make me realize that the place isn’t perfect. I thought Amsterdam was phenomenal when I spent a week there; living there made me think it was cold (weather & people).

I guess our ideal scenario is 6 months of the year in the Bay Area, and 6 in NYC (a warm spring-fall in NY, and a milder cooling-off in SF). If that isn’t an incentive to make money, I don’t know what is.

My favorite freaks: the screaming BART station lady

I’m starting a series about San Francisco’s most lovable weirdos. This is the first installment.

Pissed off old ladyAbout four years ago, I was waiting in the Daly City BART station (don’t ask) to head back home. That was the first time I saw the woman whom I affectionately call the screaming BART station lady. She was a petite 70ish white woman with glasses. She was screaming at the top of her lungs and swearing at the electronic sign:

God Dammit!!!!


Where’s the GOD. DAMN. 73?!?!

Another hour?!?! SHIT!!!


Holy SHIT!!!

Goddammit!! I’m not going to get home for another HOUR! SHIT!

These expletives came out every 10 seconds or so. I was laughing so hard that my sides hurt, tears were streaming down my face, and I could barely breathe.

Any Bay Area resident can tell you that there is no bus number 73 that runs through the BART tunnels.

I couldn’t bear to tell her she was in the wrong place. I literally would’ve pissed my pants witnessing her reaction.

Fast forward four years. I’m in the Montgomery station tonight, around 7. Suddenly, I hear:


Ugggghhh!!! Another HOUR AND 45 MINUTES?!!?! AaaarrrrggghHHHHHH!!!!!

People around me in line looked worried, concerned. I started laughing.


Holy SHIT!

I’m not going to get home for another hour and a HALF!!! AAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!!


Where the hell was my digital camera when I needed it?

Transpanic Tanorexics

Your average Eastern European blond\'s role model
I lived in some of the coldest, most desolate, coal-mining regions of Eastern Europe, where people weren’t so much pale and blonde as they were washed out from the lack of nutrients. And there friends and I saw a curious phenomenon: the one of Transpanic Tanorexics.

If I had a zloty for every woman with glossy black hair, rich…orange…skin, big gold hoop earrings, pushing a baby carriage with a blond, blue-eyed tot, well, I’d be a Polish millionaire. Which is the equivalent of an American hundredaire.

The look became popular as Poland (and the rest of the formerly-repressed Slavic world) emerged from decades of relative isolation and poverty, and ventured south, as their Western neighbors had for decades, to sunnier pastures on the Mediterranean. The look of a sun-kissed Latin beauty quickly became a beauty standard.

My friend D. and I were waiting once at a travel agent, and saw two transpanic tanorexics looking at a brochure for Greece. D: “They’re making a pilgrimage.”

Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! and badass Tura Satana

Tura Satana eats suggestivelyOne of the most bizarre and campy movies I’ve ever seen was Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, a 1965 release that was remastered and rereleased in 1995 in indie movie houses for its 30th anniversary. I remember being blown away by the clever dialogue and overly buxom (and violent) femmes starring in this cult classic.

I found some clips, including a trailer, on YouTube – you can enjoy them below.

I also found out that the DVD has been release (unofficially?) and that it has a bunch of cool features including interviews with the stars. True to legend, Tura Satana has a colorful personal history that helped shape the power she displayed in the movie. It’s not too surprising that there are many references to both her and the movie in popular culture.

Even cult-junkie king Quentin Tarantino said he’d give up 5 years of his life to be able to work with Tura Satana back in the 1960s.

Does frontrunner status help or hurt you?

I just saw on Drudge that 3 polls show Obama with a lead over McCain in November. Drudge then shows a beaming John McCain with the caption “Underdog!”

I’m wondering what the general effect of being declared the frontrunner or underdog does to your candidacy. I’m sure there are countless examples of the rule being broken, but what is the general rule?

Do people tend to be attracted to the frontrunner’s success, or do otherwise inactive voters rally behind someone when they think he/she might lose? I’m sure both are true depending on the voter you’re talking to, but there must be a general rule for the voting U.S. population.

reCaptcha good, catCaptcha bad

In order to deal with a bunch of comment spam (which come in droves, always repeating variations on the words “viagra” and “slut”), I’ve found reCaptcha and have put its WordPress plugin on my blog. I think it’s an ingenious service: it forces you to write the correct spelling for two words. One is a word that the OCR readers working on digitizing old books can’t recognize; the other is a word that many reCaptcha users before you have consistently read a certain way and have thus provided the correct spelling for. So, if you get the second right, you’re likely to get the first right, too, because, well, you’re a literate human.

It’s the coolest form of work crowdsourcing since SETI@home (computer) and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (human). The site says it saves 3,000 man-hours per day.

From poking around the net, though, I found the worst captcha solution: something I’m calling catCaptcha, for the lack of a better word. Take a look (hat tip: Depressed Programmer). The Rapidshare folks must have said, “Let’s make a captcha so hard that even humans fail at it most of the time.”

The catCaptcha

I’ll miss the Cheney jokes more than Cheney

Cheney snarlingThere’s something about a soulless old man who shoots his friends in the face and wears a snarl most of the time that makes him the ideal butt of jokes. Man, I love a good Cheney joke.

So while this Machiavellian monster’s carefree trampling over human rights will soon be over, I have to admit I’ll miss the Onion’s brilliant pieces lampooning him. I love how they usually refer to him simply as “Cheney”, in a style similar to “Godzilla” or “Satan”:

  • Cheney Returns to Camp Crystal Lake – “I knew it’d been too quiet around here,” camp caretaker Ephram Magritte, 67, said between sips from his flask. “Things were just starting to get back to normal. Then that carload of kids had to go have a drinking party at the lake last Friday. When two of them went missing, people started up again, saying Cheney was back. We don’t need that kind of talk. Stirs up trouble. Scares off customers.”
    Four hours later, Magritte was found hanging from a tree, his brass-handled cane protruding from his eye socket.
  • Cheney Caught Moonlighting – “For the past several months, the vice-president has, unbeknownst to this administration, taken on a second job as a host at Denny’s,” White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said. “We are dealing with the situation internally.”
  • Voice Of God Revealed To Be Cheney On Intercom – While journalists and presidential historians had long noted Bush’s deep faith and Cheney’s powerful influence in the White House, few had drawn a direct correlation between the two until Tuesday, when transcripts of meetings that took place in March and April of 2002 became available. In a transcript of an intercom exchange recorded in March 2002, a voice positively identified as the vice president’s identifies himself as “the Lord thy God” and promotes the invasion of Iraq, as well as the use of torture in prisoner interrogations.
  • ‘Missed Connection’ Ad Obviously Cheney – In spite of its anonymity, a “missed connection” ad posted on the D.C.-area Craigslist Monday was clearly the work of Vice President Dick Cheney. “You: the attractive blonde from Newsweek,” the ad read. “Me: stout, thinning hair, glasses, surrounded by Secret Service agents.”
  • New Heart Device Allows Cheney To Experience Love – Dr. Jonathan Samuel Reiner, Cheney’s cardiologist, said in a press conference at George Washington University Hospital that the vice president exhibited a series of unexpected side effects almost immediately after regaining consciousness following his surgery. “The vice president broke free from the straps that secured him to the bed and lurched at me as he customarily does following a heart procedure,” said Reiner. “But instead of trying to strangle me, he wrapped his arms around me in a hug.”
  • Latest Cheney Tape May Contain Evidence Of His Whereabouts – The tape, which is 18 minutes in length, contains grainy footage of what appears to be the vice president standing in front of a featureless brown background. Despite a history of heart problems, Cheney seems to be in good health, though he does appear agitated. Analysts said his hair is grayer than in previous tapes, and his hairline has receded by a half inch. He appears to be wearing the exact same suit he wore in his most recent video in 2004. Though Cheney makes no specific threats in the tape, he does issue vague warnings that the United States will soon face a large-scale attack.
  • Cheney Vows To Attack U.S. If Kerry Elected – “If the wrong man is elected in November, the nation will come under a devastating armed attack of an unimaginable magnitude, one planned and executed by none other than myself,” Cheney said, speaking at a rally in Greensboro, NC. “When they go to the polls, Americans must weigh this fact and decide if our nation can ignore such a grave threat.” Added Cheney: “It would be a tragedy to suffer another attack on American soil, let alone one perpetrated by an enemy as well-organized and well-equipped as I am. My colleagues and I urge voters to keep their safety in mind when they go to the polls.”
  • Cheney Celebrates Earth Day By Breathing Oxygen – At a special Earth Day event Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney inhaled his first-ever breath of oxygen. “I am…proud to stand before you today and…breathe in the same gas used by…millions of Americans,” said a wheezing and gasping Cheney, whose body is accustomed to compounds of chlorine and sulfur dioxide.
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