Brain Pickings Icon
Brain Pickings

Page 1336

Fine, It’s The Holidays

A magic fish, wet geeky dreams, bubbles everywhere, Jack White loves dough, why owls are the new face of music, how Liberal got its Arts back, and why the Grinch is getting here by train this year. Welcome to the Fine, It’s The Holidays issue.

JUST IN TIME

coolfridge.jpgFor the holidays, that is. We’ve even made room for the usual 4-7 business days shipping time-frame. Because that’s how long you’ve got until the last work day before office folk scatters for a breather of feasts, family and other fun.

So why not send both your colleagues and the old year off with some comic relief straight from your gift list? We’re pleased to bring you the desk section of Wishingfish.com, an online boutique for beautifully designed objects that put style and humor into everyday life.

angerkit.jpgA few of our favorites span the harmlessly fun day at the beach miniature set, the functionally inspired working girl’s survival kit, and the straight-shooter ass kisser breath spray for the hint-challenged. And, in light of the week at hand, we wish we’d had the nifty office anger management kit before ugly and embarrassing things happened.

Wishingfish.com has delightfully designed stuff for many of life’s corners — entertainment, bath & body, games, accessories, baby, travel, living, gourmet and more. And we can’t decide which the stuff is more: affordable or cool. Do check it out and save yourself some retail curation.

WORLD-TESTED, GEEK-APPROVED

Call us geeks, but we have an itchy fascination with the world of knowledge and, um, data. Which is why we were taken with Swivel when it first launched two years ago, and we kept a curious eye on it because it seemed like something to, well, keep a curious eye on. Today, Swivel is still weaving its webs of user-generated data representations under the mantra “Tasty Data Goodies” — a haven for the insight-hungry to collaborate and explore data together.Simply put, Swivel uses powerful computers and algorithms to turn all sorts of boring spreadsheets with public data (from government reports to shark attack stats to odd correlations like wine and violent crime) into easily digestible visual representations. This lets people have a whole new relationship and experience with data, trading hours of sifting through spreadsheets and reports for quick snapshots of images, graphics and color. They also have a ton of new media tools that allow bloggers and general web hounds to easily share info and ideas with others.

Anyone can upload data for the world to see, and it’s all free. To fund the enterprise, Swivel also offers a paid private version where people can upload stuff either for storage or to share with select others. Think of it like voicemail and conference calling for the data-dependent.

The smarty-pants website lets you compare data from multiple sources, map geographical areas, use simple criteria to sort data, plot all the graphs your visually-inclined heart desires, and download data into spreadsheets to further analyze. You can even pimp your charts with various backgrounds. And if your own organization disseminates data in any way, you can get the Swivel official source badge to help spread the vision of spreading knowledge.

The nifty enterprise was started by CNET founder Halsey Minor and a bunch of other entrepreneurial knowledge hounds.

Now, call us crazy, but we’re starting our countdown clock. It’s no secret that Google’s self-proclaimed mission and founding vision is to help organize all the world’s information — an idea clearly reflected in Swivel’s philosophy that “better informed people make better decisions: in voting booths, in corporate boardrooms and at neighborhood meetings.” So it seems like a matter not of whether, but of when and for how much Google snags up this so-up-their-alley getup.

Don’t say you didn’t see it coming.

WORLD WIDE WEB WILDFIRE

Boy oh boy what a year it’s been. It’s tempting to call it the Golden Age of Tech, what with the iPhones and Beacons and Twitters and all. So big it was that it inspired Matt Hempey and The Richter Scales, a getup of Bay Area “gentlemen songsters,” to do a musical rendition of the web revolution that is upon us.

richterscales.png

Perhaps not too oddly, the tune is based on Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” — a classic ode to all the history made in Joel’s lifetime, saluting the cultural revolutionaries of the day. From Harry Truman, to Joe DiMagio, to Doris Day, to Einstein, to television and more, this cultural anthem is the ultimate tribute to the kinds of social forces that matter.

And we find The Richter Scales’ selection slightly ironic: do we really live in an age where cultural visionaries filter ideas through screens and buttons, where algorithms override art in shaping culture, where MySpace exploration seems more compelling to people than space exploration? Perhaps. Is that such a bad thing? Perhaps, and perhaps not: when it comes to the advancement of human knowledge and communication, can anything really be wrong?

UNTRIVIA

brainiac.gifSpeaking of music, the 50th Annual GRAMMY Award nominations came out — and just for the sake of stepping outside your iTunes library bubble, you should check them out.

And despite some questionable choices (sorry, GRAMMY’s, but the White Stripes stopped being “alternative” when they sold out to Coke two years ago and, no, Jack White, you didn’t do it to “get a message of love out to the world”) and some odd entries (Ozzy? Really???), there are no huge surprises: everyone knew Amy Winehouse would storm several categories, just like everyone knows she’ll OD celebrating if she wins or OD making the pain go away if she loses. Yeah, yeah, you’re complicated. We don’t care. Just stay alive some more and make some more not-too- shabby music.

Take a look and be your own kind of grossly judgemental.

And speaking of untrivial stuff, on a completely unrelated note, check out this curious look at how social networking may be a good decade older than we think, originating long before MySpace and Facebook were even embryos in the digital womb. (And, of course, feel free to disagree.)

BOOM WENT THE BOX

So while we’re on the subjects of technology and reminiscing for a musical times past, why not something for that holiday wish-list?

Treat your trusty iPod to a super-luxury nest where hi-tech meets Hi-Fidelity. Thanks to Dutch iPod extender thodio, you can get your scroll-wheeled buddy the iBox: a fully handcrafted yet technologically advanced iPod amplifier that looks like Bose’s rich, sophisticated uncle.

The iBox is universal — all iPods are equally happy to lounge atop it. The cabinet-looking mega-dock is constructed from durable oak, mahogany and teak, finished with a high-gloss lacquer that reminds us our father’s momentous German speakers from the 80’s. You pick the color, or you go with solid wood to really nail the old-school look.

But beneath the blast-from-the-past shell hides a sonic beast with 25-watt Focal Polyglass 100CV1 speakers, 15-hour battery life, and bluetooth functionality that turns your iPod into a nifty remote control.

Plus, we just love that it looks like a startled baby owl.

Get it straight from the source for 359 Euros — that’s $529 for the fourth-continent-confined, and they ship internationally.

PUTTING THE ART BACK INTO LIBERAL ARTS

Liberal arts universities tout an education that’s at least in part related to, well, the arts. But some, especially the higher-end, more competitive ones, don’t necessarily foster the best environment for artistic talent. When the Ivy League pendulums start swinging, artsy ambitions start dwindling. We would know, we went there: it’s a tough life when Wall Street wannabees and premed prodigies surround you, and all you wanna do is art. (There should really be a cult indie rock anthem by that title — get on it, Green Day.)realarts.png

So some universities are trying to give creative types the same professional resources that are traditionally available to the pinstripe set. One such budding resource, RealArts@Penn, is still in its inception but already offers creative networking and a number of killer (paid!) summer 2008 internships for undergrads, including MTV Networks and Rolling Stone Magazine.

The goal of the project is to intersect the art world with the intellectual world of the university, with none of that mass-orientation, group-selection, intern-working-as-gopher business. They plat to extend into the curriculum, building RealArts-affiliated courses and putting together various workshops, roundtables and seminars with creative industry big-shots.

Where oh where was this program when we went to Penn?

STREET PICKINGS

grinchy.jpg

It’s that time of year
And Philly’s abuzz
With irksome good spirit
And pesky blithe Fuss.

They’re all so caught up
In that holiday cheer,
Even misers are quiet
And we Grinches don’t sneer.

But look at this Picture,
It may be quite nice.
This Picture could even
Melt our Grinchy heart’s ice!

That kid with his mommy
And the swell Trains right there
May just, gee, soften
our mean Grinchy glare!

But before we start getting
Too carried away,
There’s a Grinchy disclaimer,
A big “BUT” to say:

The thing that is warming
Our little Grinch heart?
Not the small kids, HA!,
But the swell Trains, silly fart!

BP

Think, Or Don’t

Finish genius, transcripts from your overbearing mother’s brain, more Finnish genius, how to deal with existential ponderings and hangover all at the same time, and what murals have to do with gangrene. Welcome to the Think, Or Don’t issue.

KILLER INNOVATION FROM THE OLD WORLD

Marko Ahtisaari. You may not be able to pronounce his name, but you’d better remember it. Because this fine Finn is revolutionizing the mobile industry. He’s a true visionary, if there ever was one.

Ahtisaari got an Ivy League start at Columbia, where he studied, then lectured on, philosophy, music and economics — quite the perfect ingredients for a cultural and technological revolution recipe. He lived for a while as a composer and a bassist, then started designing mobile applications long before the world had headsets glued to their ears. In 2002, he headed design strategy for Nokia.

So why do we care? Today? Because Marko Ahtisaari is also the founder of Blyk, a strikingly innovative mobile network that just launched in the UK. What’s so special about Blyk is that it’s only available to 16-to-24-year-olds (although you can stay on as you age once you join) and is funded entirely by advertising.

And not just any advertising — only stuff kids actually care about. When you register with Blyk, you build a profile of your interests — be they fashion or film or sports or music or gerbils. Then the only commercial messages you get (no more than 6 a day) are cutting-edge stuff and exclusive offers from relevant brands. So it seems like Blyk is trekking some Conversationality territory with its ad model: they use “dialogue ads,” in which a brand (say, L’Oreal) sends the user an interactive message (say, an image-based “Which celebrity are you most like?”quizlet), to which the user responds with a quick text (say, answer B for Heidi Klum), then the brand follows up with a final product recommendation message (say, “Then our Spiced Cranberry lipgloss is a great match for you.”)

On top of the clear brand benefits, dialogue ads also improve your user experience — the more Blyk learns about you as you interact with messaging, the better and more relevant it gets.

The exclusivity factor doesn’t hurt, either — Blyk has the early-day-Gmail invitation-only model, which automatically lends it the credibility of friend-to-friend recommendation and the desirability of something with a tease of a supply/demand ratio. And the no-contract thing seems perfect for the fickle demo — you can try it out and if (for some inconceivable reason) prefer a bill, you can switch to a different service. But even if you use up the 273 free texts and 43 free minutes, Blyk becomes a pay-as-you-go plan and is still the cheapest mobile operator in the UK.

Ahtisaari describes Blyk as having “the muscle and the bone of a mobile operator but the ethos and the soul of a media company.” And he nails it — Blyk delivers on the consumer end (how’s that free phone service?) and the advertiser end (how’s that direct access to willing members of the most elusive market?), concocting something that’s part new media, part behavioral targeting, part back-to-basics smart marketing.

SELF-HELP ON SELF-DAMAGE

Leave WebMD and self-help books to the hypochondriacs and the, um, victory- challenged. How about some morbid snark that, between the mocumentary exploration of a fantasy hypochondriac’s world and the encyclopedia of the world’s hardly-credible worst maladies, manages to sneak in some actually smart, functional health advice?

Then check out 192 pages of it in The Complete Manual of Things That Might Kill You. We dig their prescription — after all, the healthiest approach to health may just be not thinking about it too seriously. Do it any other way, and the worrying alone can kill you.

This jewel is part of California design company Knock Knock‘s Self-Hurt series, rubbing ailed shoulders with manuals on traumatizing your children, getting in debt, procrastinating, and driving like a maniac.

We swear we didn’t contribute to any of them.

GLOCAL CULTURE

kiosk |ˈkēˌäsk|: a small open-fronted hut or cubicle from which newspapers, refreshments, tickets, etc., are sold.

Kiosks are also one of the best parts about traveling abroad. Tucked in the street corners of Brazil, sprawled on the market walks of Turkey, lined up on the organized sidewalks of Sweden, kiosks are where you find all those material mementos, big or small, that bring the just-traveled cultured to your worldly home.

KIOSK is also the web incarnation of the eponymous SoHo brick-and-mortar store that sells unobjectionably cool objects from across the globe.

These cultured folks travel the world, then build globally-local collections of anonymous objects from different countries. Each country gets a 4-to-6-month run on the online store, where select products from that foreign land not otherwise sold in the US can be found. KIOSK aims to gather things “by not one personality but things that are the result of local aesthetics and needs.” But once something’s gone, it’s gone — so grab those Finnish gymnastics shoes before some other hobo-hipster does.

The current collection hails from Finland. (We swear, this week’s overdose of the world’s sixth happiest nation is a mere coincidence and not a reflection of some odd Finnish fetish.) You can also catch up with the ongoing collection of countries past. And check out their blog, where they reveal we have a shared love for GOOD Magazine.

And if you’re lacking, or slacking, on your thoughtful and creative holiday gift shopping, do turn to KIOSK’s 2007 gift sets. Or at least fire up those hint-dropping skills and tell the givers you’re expecting from that you’re eyeing the stuff.

FOOD FOR ABSOLUTELY NO THOUGHT

Whoever thought the ultimate unhappy ending could ever be amusing. Seems like the guys behind the Blue Ball Machine did. Nope, it’s not world’s most mischievous android tease. It’s something the purpose of which is not quite clear, but something indulgently vertigo-inducing without the aid of controlled substances — and that’s gotta count for something.

Watch the little balls waltz across their factory dancefloor to the sound of an electro-classical circus mind-driller.

blueball1.png

And oh how many ways there are to enjoy the Blue Ball Machine. You could somberly reflect on your own destiny as a tiny blue ball in the well-oiled machine that is society. You could ponder the existential purpose of the little spheres’ perpeto-mobilesque journey. Or you could stare blankly at the screen for 4 underslept, hung-over hours.

We don’t judge.

STREET PICKINGS

If you’ve been in Philly for longer than an hour, chances are you’ve noticed the numerous murals — old, new, mosaic, painted, pseudo-graffitied — glaring from the facades of the cityscape.

Intended to lift our communal spirits, inspire a sense of pride and glory, or do God (the mayor?) knows what, they’re often ironically lurking from the walls of the grimmest blocks like silk-woven bandages on a gangrened limb. We couldn’t help seeing the inspiration/desperation contrast between this particularly glorious mural from several decades ago and the homeless woman sleeping on the cold sidewalk beneath it one chilling winter morning.

inspirationvsdesperation.jpg

So if the mayor would spend less (time, funding, attention) on trying to make the already fortunate feel better and more on helping the less fortunate get better, then maybe one day we’ll have streets less artificially glorious and more comfortingly comfortable.

BP

Eye Wonder

Hold on to your belt, hotel room “presents” that rock, visions from another world, a YouTube David, why we’re buying our own hyperboles, how 10,000 books will take over Cannes, and what a python and a kitchen appliance have in common.

BELT-HOLDER BEWARE

befuddlr.pngIf you were ever the kid who begged mom for a box of cereal solely because of the plastic scramble puzzle inside, then you’ll get a kick out of Befuddlr: a place for hyper-customized time-killing that lets you create a digital photo scrambler out of any photo you upload, send it to your friends, and even time your quest to break the world photo unscrambling record.

Once you get the “befuddle it!” bookmarklet on your bookmark bar (just drag it off the website onto your bar), you can befuddle any Flikr photo or upload your own album and do an original.

We managed this one…

taco_befuddlr.jpg

…in an impressive 36.1 seconds.

Do we have a new challenge for the belt-holder? Give it a shot if you dare.

WHAT LIVES UNDER YOUR HOTEL BED

We never thought it possible to find a little something from a past guest in a hotel room and actually enjoy it, but we were wrong. Turns out, there’s a new underground movement afoot where the artistically inclined and mischievous leave “secret wall tattoos” — artwork done in spaces normally covered by hotel furniture that is only revealed when said furniture is moved.

secretwalltattoos.jpg

Rumor has it, Queens of the Stone Age vocalist Josh Homme started it all. He’s been quoted to compare the concept to a box of Cracker Jacks, in which you find a hidden toy. Turns out, artists are actually getting paid by (smart) hoteliers to do this kinda thing, which is okay since it’s still cool as hell in the context of the bland, visionless herd of mainstream hotel interiors.

Check out the photo collection so far, or watch this video tour of the secret world. And pack a Sharpie for that skiing getaway next month.

5,066-MILE CULTURAL BRIDGE

So while we’re bemusing the eye, why not amuse it.

Bulgarian English teacher and multi-talented artist Denitsa Boyadzhieva has a blog so humble yet visually compelling you’ll come to appreciate it without ever needing to understand the text: it’s artwork that truly speaks.

bgblog.jpg

We love the phenomenal play of color and light in her photographs, and the childlike simplicity intertwined with complex adult emotion oozing from her illustrations.

Plus, we’re all for exposing people to culturally different art visions. Go, get exposed.

AIN’T IT COULL

Weighty YouTube hasn’t stopped the proliferation of other video- sharing sites. Granted, most of them range from poor-man’s ripoffs of the Goliath to portfolio vaults for porn school drop-outs. But one newcomer, coull.tv, is taking the video-sharing experience to a new, highly interactive level: one they dubbed “reactive video.”

The basic concept: not only can you search, share, comment and vote on video, but you can also use the proprietary Video Activator Tool to specify and tag different parts of a video, making various elements of it (people, objects, whatever) clickable. This results in a fully searchable vid, allowing other users to rate and comment on just specific parts of it.

The service is pretty new, so we’ll cut them some slack for the unclickable tags and other glitches we experienced. (Plus, we saw from the screenshots on their about page they seem to be pulling a John Hodgman — whose popular incarnation is, by the way, unsurprisingly absent from their collection of videos.)

But we see great potential: imagine being able to click an object in a video and instantly access a multimedia library of information available on it across the web, from news articles, to blog mentions, to Wikipedia entries, to music, to related social network groups, to images and more. In the great words of Tim Gunn, “Make it work!”

JU-YES-YES-YES

And while we’re on the topic of great video, let’s take it up a notch and consider great film, the notion of which should now be in the Endangered Species book in light of the devastating blockbuster attempts, cheap comedies, corny horror flicks and other mainstream horrors flooding pop culture in recent years.

juno.pngSo we’re ecstatic to hear about Juno, a new Fox Searchlight film by director Jason Reitman (remember Thank You For Smoking?), sporting the most brilliant cast we’ve ever seen (really) and a promising Garden-Statesque soundtrack. And given that all this comes with our usual utmost aversion to hyperbole, take our word: it’s just that good.

On to said brilliant cast: excuse the bias, but we can’t help mentioning the talent behind our all-time favorite TV character, C. J. Cregg of The West Wing: Allison Janney. Then there are Arrested Development co-stars Michael Cera, fresh out of Superbad, and Jason Bateman, fresh out of The Kingdom. (Fox, thanks to your indie arm, you’ve made a small chip at redeeming yourselves from eternal damnation on grounds of canceling the cult primetime hilarity.)

Also in the posse: prolific Hollywooders J. K. Simmons and Jennifer Garner, whose obvious effort to step away from mainstream cheese we can’t help applauding. (Or, they got enough of the big bucks to carry them through years of indiesque income in pursuit of critical acclaim.)

Finally, we have off-to-an-impressive start debutante Ellen Page, who just won the Hollywood Film Festival award for Breakthrough Actress (Don’t we say “actor” for both genders these days?) of the Year and the Gotham Award for Breakthrough Actor. (See, the East Coast is rocking the PC thang.) And, speaking of awards, the Palm Springs International Film festival and the SAG Foundation honored Juno with the Chairman’s Vanguard award, which Little Miss Sunshine snagged last year. Shortcut to the Oscars?

Be your own judge:

The film opens next week, but still no word on when/whether it’ll be showing in Philly. Well, if not, it’s looking so good we may even suck up the wonderful experience that is the Chinatown Bus to New York.

PLEASURE-DELAYER SPECIAL

Okay, so it’s clear we can’t keep our hands off the visual media this week. Might as well embrace it: 2007 certainly has. At least when it comes to commercial work, we can safely call this year the year of gargantuan productions. After the Sony Bravia Play-Doh spot from Fallon London, we got the Guinness “Tipping Point” from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, London — which, if you haven’t already, you should absolutely see. For the laggards:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMzoWqnTb5I&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

This sort of work is certain to give some the “Okay, but will it sell beer?” furrows, but we can’t deny it steals the word “awesome” back from gum-chewing teens and brings it to its roots of awe-inspiring marvel.

And, to be sure, this sort of awe doesn’t come easily. Genius MJZ director Nicolai Fuglsig admits it was the toughest shoot of his life. (And, yep, he’s the one that directed the Sony Bravia “Balls” spot.)

Not hard to believe: it all took place in a small Argentinian village at 3,000 feet altitude. To get there, the crew had to drive 30 miles on dirt roads and cross 12 rivers. Then they took over the 1000-person village for 2 months with 140 crew and 130 extras. Speaking of extras, these were all completely untrained and non-English-speaking locals, so casting took 18 days. When all was finally ready to go, 26 trucks rolled into the tiny village carrying 6 cars, 50 fridges, 70 wardrobes, 400 truck tires and 10,000 books.

See the $20-million magic happen:

Awesome, no?

SPOILER: YES, IT WILL

And, finally, let’s sign off with our good friend from Will It Blend. This time, the Blendtec beast takes on a Guitar Hero III guitar. Reminds us of those Discovery-Channel-style “snake swallows something 10 times its intestinal width” scenarios.

Ooh! Ooh! Can we do an elevator next?

BP

Didn’t See It Coming

Antidextrous art, the perfect drink, flipping off physics, why you should always (ALWAYS!) listen to us, who (kinda) rocked out 2007, what new disaster you should be worrying about, all that manlove, and absolutely nothing to do with Thanksgiving, turkeys or the word “gobble.” Welcome to the Didn’t See It Coming issue.

POWER TO THE ANTIDEXTROUS

Okay, if you happen to be one of those ambidextrous wunderkinds, please place either of your freaky genius hands on the mouse and scroll down to the next section: you’re not welcome in this one. Because this section is all about the art of loving your awkward non-dominant hand.

At least that’s what Justin and Drew, the guys behind Left Handed Toons (by right-handed people), believe.

And we think it’s antidextrous genius. So far, they’ve got 124 delightfully awkward toons to show for it, new ones coming regularly, and a just-opened merch store. Which actually brings some unexpected freshness into the sea of seen-it-many-times, been-done-before graphic tee sameness.

Justin and Drew: you just got yourselves the Brain Pickings (left) thumb-up.

IN GOOD SPIRITS

‘Tis the season of indulgence and little do we like more than indulging our vices. Yep, people seem to invest extra effort and money in pampering their questionable inclinations, from the eco-geeks, to the booze snobs, to the kinky…okay, we don’t go there. And while there’s a whole multimillion-dollar industry addressing the “won’t go there” needs, there’s now something addressing the demands of the snobbiest, pickiest, most demanding liquor connoisseurs.

MONDOliquor is a new website that curates exotic, local, hard-to-find and specialty indie liquors and wines for those who expect nothing less of their booze.

So in the spirit of the season, what better way to wash down all that pumpkin pie than with a shot of Pumpkin Pie Vodka? Just keep the shots coming and you’ve washed away all the gorging guilt, too. Seems to us like a solid plan.

DOWN WITH GRAVITY

Never ones to believe in applied physics (ask Ms. Chakarova, our sternly-lipped high school physics teacher), we’ve had dreams of flying since before we could walk. Granted, gravity isn’t exactly cooperating. But that’s not stopping visionary photographer Jan von Holleben from making the camera an imaginative haven for those dreams.

His photoseries Dreams of Flying portrays the most precious part of childhood: the ability to make dreams come true through boundless imaginative freedom.

Shooting children (you know, with a camera) seems to come naturally to von Holleben, which may have something to do with his own parents: a cinematographer and a child therapist. Dreams of Flying, inspired by classic children’s books and contemporary superheroes, was shot over four years with children from von Holleben’s hometown neighborhood in Southwest Germany.

THE TOLDJA SO DANCE

You may recall from past Brain Pickings eras a certain service by the name of Jott that lets you send notes to yourself while on the go using your cell phone. Quick recap for our new readers: Jott lets you dictate all those note-to-self moments into a cell phone, then have it transcribed and delivered to you via email or text message. And it’s all completely free.

Well, proof that we spot big things early: this week, Jott signed a deal with Amazon under which Jott users can fill their Amazon wish lists or shopping carts just by speaking into their phones. So imagine you’re on the train, reading a magazine, and spot a pair of rainboots you love. Or at a fried’s barbecue ogling those awesome crisp-sound-blasting outdoor iPod speakers. If you’re a Jotter, here’s what you do:

You: dial 1-866-JOTT-123

Jott: “Who do you want to Jott?”

You: “Amazon.”

Jott: “Amazon, is that correct?”

You: “Yes.”

Jott: “Say the name of the item. Beep!”

You: “Bushnell Travel Tunes outdoor speakers for iPod.”

Jott will proceed to send you an email with the top 5 results for your from Amazon, plus pricing info and customer reviews. (PS. Sorry, Jott — you may get A+ for functionality, but we can’t give you more than a B for grammar.)

Not bad, not bad at all. Meanwhile, the marketing industry was freaking out on and off stage at the CTIA Conference this year because mobile ads are that kid whom everyone expected to be valedictorian, prom king, and class president, but who ended up flunking out. So here’s a thought: perhaps independent software developers like the folks at Jott will be the ones to really kick-start mobile marketing: as an organic extension of the service itself, one that reflects actual user needs rather than a force-feeding mechanism for privacy-invading sales pitches. Just sayin’.

WHO’S TO SAY

Seems a bit early, but this year’s best-of lists are already rolling out. Like this Hottest Products of 2007 show-down by AOL Money & Finance. We did, however, have to ask ourselves how come AOL, always the dinosaur struggling to shake off their own unhot image, should be the judge of current hotness. But, hey, to give them some credit: we discovered this one by doing something we’d never-ever-ever done before: clicking on an online banner. Granted, this one was nicely animated and had clever copy, but the act in and of itself made us feel like we’ve brought shame upon our family. Aw well. Onwards:aol.jpg

1. iPhone. This year’s most anticipated product launch kicked off a sales bonanza that left even Apple’s own projections in the dust.

2. Coke Zero. Despite the extravagant 2005 launch, Coke’s biggest one in two decades, sales proved the product to be “special” — not in the good way. This year, it got an image revamp and managed to jack up Coke’s to a seven-year high.

3. Nintendo Wii. Okay, so maybe this too didn’t exactly launch this year. But it was this year that it hit the stunning 13 million sales mark.

4. Slingbox. Straight from your home, compressed live TV, satellite, DVR and all, sent to a computer anywhere in the world. Not bad.

5. VitaminWater. Coca-Cola snagged it this year for $4.2 billion. And Fitty made $100 million from his stake in Glaceau. Phew.

6. Tesla Roadster. This fully electric beast goes 0-60 in under 4. Or at least the prototype does — the 2007 launch has been slacked off to 2008, but even so the Tesla is fully sold out.

7. Google Maps. Mainly, the much-buzzed-about Street View function introduced in may, which allows you to take virtual 360-degree tours of cities.

8. Halo 3. We think something that broke the record for highest-grossing opening day sales ($170 million) in entertainment history should rank higher than a drink. But whatever.

9. Hannah Montana. Um, like, duh. This Disney cash cow has been milked for TV shows, merch toys, a clothing line, sold-out concerts, and an upcoming movie.

10. Boeing 787 Dreamweaver. Up goes fuel efficiency, on come 210-330 passengers, and 750 of these babies have already been back-ordered.

Okay, we’re not transcribers here. We wasted enough time composing the lovely visual for you — just click the damn link for the rest. (Or don’t. We think, with the exception of 14, they kinda suck anyway. Just kidding. Sort of.)

UNTRIVIA

brainiac.gif

Here’s the thing about the Internet: it’s a little bit like childbirth. We do know that it’s big and important and keeps the world running, but we’re afraid that finding out the back-end details would be so gut-wrenchingly devastating we’d wish we never had. And while we’re not in the business of illuminating the (gory, mucousy, flesh-ripping) miracle of childbirth for you here, we don’t at all mind giving you a gory Internet reality-check.

Turns out, what with all the consumer-generated content binge, the world has a new cyber-natural disaster pending. In expert circles, it goes by Exaflood: the massive flood of video and other broadband traffic pouring onto and from the web every day. The name comes from the the data quantifier exabyte (EB), humongous numbers of which the world has started consuming: 161 million so far this year alone.

Just one exabyte has so much data that, if converted to DVD’s, it would take over 50,000 years to watch. Which means watching Chocolate Rain and all the rest of this year’s content would take about 8.5 million years. And, at that pace, 20 US households in 2010 will use more Internet capacity than the whole world did in 1995, with up to 80% of it coming just from online video streaming.

Here’s a numbers-and-figures snapshot of just the kind of information flood we’re dealing with at exabyte level:

Quantities of bytes
SI prefixes (decimal) IEC prefixes (binary)
Legacy use (often with KB for kB)
Value Name Value Name
10001 = 103 kilobyte (kB) 10241 = 210 = 1.024·103 kibibyte (KiB)
10002 = 106 megabyte (MB) 10242 = 220 ≈ 1.049·106 mebibyte (MiB)
10003 = 109 gigabyte (GB) 10243 = 230 ≈ 1.074·109 gibibyte (GiB)
10004 = 1012 terabyte (TB) 10244 = 240 ≈ 1.100·1012 tebibyte (TiB)
10005 = 1015 petabyte (PB) 10245 = 250 ≈ 1.126·1015 pebibyte (PiB)
10006 = 1018 exabyte (EB) 10246 = 260 ≈ 1.153·1018 exbibyte (EiB)
10007 = 1021 zettabyte (ZB) 10247 = 270 ≈ 1.181·1021 zebibyte (ZiB)
10008 = 1024 yottabyte (YB) 10248 = 280 ≈ 1.209·1024 yobibyte (YiB)

No word on how much of that traffic comes from “adult” video. And, just like with childbirth, we think we’re better off.

MANLOVE INCUBATOR

incubator.pngFor the second consecutive year, mtvU (you know, the ugly bastard child in Viacom’s otherwise decent property line-up, spinning 24-hour college programming that hardly anyone watches) teamed up with Cisco Systems for the annual Digital Incubator competition: a search for the five most innovative online ventures by students. The award grants are up to $30,000 and this year there was an extra kicker: the five grand recipients got a chance to pitch a detailed business plan to MTV and Cisco executives for another grant of up to $100,000.

And one team actually won it: RapHappy, a freestyle battle site that lets anyone and everyone break it down. You’ll find anything from actual battles to R. Kelliesque (but much less creepy, we promise) epics. But dig it just because it’s so damn tongue-in-cheek you can’t help ROLF-ing over some of those jewels.

raphappy2.pngLike our favorite: this rappy ode to manlove boldly broadcasting rapper Gnomebody’s tender manly feelings for his BFF Zach (a.k.a. Zakku). And if there wasn’t a picture, we could’ve sworn it was auteured by a certain manly love duo we know who shall remain nameless. (We’re talking to you, “Rob” and “Gari”.)

BP

View Full Site

Brain Pickings participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. In more human terms, this means that whenever you buy a book on Amazon from a link on here, I get a small percentage of its price. That helps support Brain Pickings by offsetting a fraction of what it takes to maintain the site, and is very much appreciated. Privacy policy.