phiffer.org

Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer is an Internet enthusiast based in Troy, NY

Roger Ebert gets his voice backrogerebert.suntimes.com

Well, kind of, thanks to a company that custom builds text-to-speech voices. Ebert’s new voice is compiled from his vast accumulated archive of reviews and commentary tracks.

CereProc didn’t need to hear me speaking a specific word in order for my “voice” to say it. They needed lots of words to determine the general idea of how I might say a word. They transcribed and programmed and tweaked and fiddled, and early this February, sent me the files for a beta version of my voice. I played it for Chaz, and she said, yes, she could tell it was me. For one thing it knew exactly how I said “I.”

CereProc is now blending in my audio snippets for “Casablanca,” where I sound enthusiastic, and “Floating Weeds,” where I sound calm and respectful. It’s nice to think of all these great movies sloshing around and coming out as my voice.

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A brief homage to Franklin Gothicwww.moma.org

Franklin Gothic is the basis of MoMA’s typographic identity. August Hefner found some examples of Franklin Gothic being used at the museum dating back to the 1930s. One of the signs reads:

The public is urgently requested to visit the Galleries in the morning, from 10 to 12 and evening from 8 to 10 in order to avoid congesting the elevator service. If this request is complied with, it will not be necessary to charge admission.

I didn’t realize that the museum’s adaptation of the typeface, MoMA Gothic, was created by the same type designer as the original.

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How To Speakisites.harvard.edu

Patrick Winston is a professor at Harvard who gave a great lecture on how to give a great lecture.

He emphasizes how to start a lecture, cycling in on the material, using verbal punctuation to indicate transitions, describing “near misses” that strengthen the intended concept, and asking questions. He also talks about using the blackboard, overhead projections, props, and “how to stop.”

I was reminded of this after seeing some 404 errors in my server logs to a podcast version of the videos I put together, but forgot to transfer to my new server. To download these into iTunes (and onto your video-enabled iPod), go to the Advanced menu, choose Subscribe to Podcast and enter: //phiffer.org/etc/how-to-speak.xml

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Lessig eats his own dog foodfixcongressfirst.org

Lawrence Lessig is primarily known for his Creative Commons project as well as books and masterful presentations on the same topic (the excellent free_culture presentation was my first exposure to his ideas).

More recently he’s been talking about reforming politics, about reforming Congress in particular. His argument is simple: money in Washington undermines our faith in democracy. It only makes sense, then, that he’s offered his supporters an opportunity to opt-out of those familiar MoveOn-style email fundraisers.

In this email, we’re doing something that no other advocacy group has ever done (or at least none we’ve heard of): We are giving you the opportunity to opt out of any email that asks for money — forever.

Not opt-out of emails altogether, just get rid of the “Donate Now” link at the bottom. From the special opt-out link:

Use the form below to opt out of future email appeals for financial contributions to Change Congress. We’ll still email to let you know about the latest news and opportunities to get involved in our work, but we’ll never ask you for money again.

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Chinese ethnic minority theme parkswww.nytimes.com

Ethnic Han make up 96% of China’s population according to official statistics. Other ethnic groups might be found performing in an ethnic theme park.

The most famous park, the Nationalities Park in Beijing, is a combination of museum and fairground. Ethnic workers from across China dress up in their native costumes for mostly Han tourists. (For a while, English signs there read “Racist Park,” an unfortunate translation of the Chinese name.) In some parks, Han workers dress up as natives — a practice given legitimacy by the Chinese government when Han children marched out in the costumes of the 55 minorities during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Having just seen a play recently on the history of Minstrel shows, it’s hard to be too judgmental.

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Dutch soldiers on bicycle patrol in Afghanistanwww.ft.com

This story from Financial Times in November seems to have swapped in a new photo, so it’s fortunate that I saved a copy of this one to my hard drive. I was reminded of it after hearing this morning that the Dutch coalition government has collapsed over its Afghanistan withdrawal.

The Dutch have gone to considerable lengths to gain the confidence of locals with carefully calibrated patrolling of the province. “We recently started doing patrols on bicycles in Tarin Kowt,” said a senior Dutch official. “The population was surprised but they reacted positively. It is much easier to come into contact with people on a bicycle than sitting on a Bushmaster [protected mobility vehicle].”

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MoMA interview with Yugo Nakamuramoma.org

I was happily surprised to see this interview by Shannon Darrough, who I work with on MoMA.org.

Nakamura’s MONO*crafts 2.0 was also a big inspiration for me when I was first getting into web design. It feels dated now, of course, but I remember feeling thrilled to see this bold assertion in the navigation: interfaces can be impractical, users can be invited to explore and play.

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danah boyd on ChatRoulettewww.zephoria.org

It’s about finding joy in randomness.

For most users of all ages – but especially teens – the Internet today is about socializing with people you already know. But I used to love the randomness of the Internet. I can’t tell you how formative it was for me to grow up talking to all sorts of random people online. So I feel pretty depressed every time I watch people flip out about the dangers of talking to strangers. Strangers helped me become who I was. Strangers taught me about a different world than what I knew in my small town. Strangers allowed me to see from a different perspective. Strangers introduced me to academia, gender theory, Ivy League colleges, the politics of war, etc.

I completely agree, ChatRoulette feels like my first experiences meeting random people in AOL chat rooms. But I can also understand why many people would find it too creepy to try out.

There’s an iPhone app called PhotoSwap that operates on a similar principle. It’s also fun, but it’s too bogged down by those who tag their suggestive, but PG-rated, images “NR” for no reporting to the system administrators.

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Greg Allen on Gareth Long’s Untitled (Stories)greg.org

Gareth Long’s giant lenticular prints based on the iconic-yet-anachronous 1991 cover designs for JD Salinger’s books are freaking me out right now … Something an aesthete in an early Star Trek movie might have had hanging on his wall.

To fully appreciate these you have to watch the videos on Gareth Long’s website.

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The Essential Manwww.esquire.com

This is required reading as far as I’m concerned. You may want to load up the print version to avoid clicking through each of the seven pages.

Related links:

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Zahra’s Paradisewww.zahrasparadise.com

A “real-time historical fiction” web comic about contemporary life in Iran. The NY Times writes:

The Web comic, which will be published in book form next year, is written by Amir, a human rights activist, and illustrated by Khalil. First Second Books is keeping their last names confidential to protect their safety. The comic will be updated Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and will be published simultaneously in English, Farsi, Arabic, French, Italian, Spanish and Dutch.

Link via The Morning News

Music Journalism is the New Piracywww.eff.org

This hits close to home since I’ve started posting about music here.

In cases like this, attacks on music blogs seem to be the latest example of the widening disconnect between the goals of the music industry’s promotional wing and its enforcement wing. Smart musicians and promoters understand that the Net is a powerful promotional tool, and know that sharing an artist’s music is the best way to earn new fans. The IFPI, on the other hand, writes clearly in its takedown notices that “Our top priority is to prevent the continued availability of the IFPI Represented Companies’ content on the internet.”

Link via Andy Baio

Kozakiewicz’s gestureiconicphotos.wordpress.com

The 1980 Olympics were kind of crazy:

After setting a new world record on July 30th, Polish pole vaulter Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz made a rude gesture (bras d’honneur) to the hostile, jeering Moscow crowd. The crowd was rooting for Soviet jumper Konstantin Volkov. The image was seen around the world except ironically in the Soviet Union and its satellite states. To many, it signified Polish resentment of Russia’s control over Eastern Europe; in Poland, the gesture became immediately known as Kozakiewicz’s gesture. (gest Kozakiewicza).

After the Olympics, the Soviet ambassador to Poland demanded that Kozakiewicz be stripped of his medal over his “insult to the Soviet people”. The official response of the Polish government was that the gesture had been an involuntary muscle spasm caused by his exertion. Kozakiewicz for his part promptly defected to West Germany.

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