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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Link Dump
We're through the looking glass here people, more links from the depths of the internets. Fear them.
  • Twitter Tsunamis - In response to two floods of tweets last week, one heralding a well written essay, the other in response to this weekend's tragedy, Alan Jacobs laments:
    This kind of thing always makes me want to flee Twitter, even when I am deeply sympathetic to the positions people are taking. It's a test of my charity, and a test I usually fail. To me these tsunamis feel like desperate signaling, people trying to make sure that everyone knows where they stand on the issue du jour. I can almost see the beads of sweat forming on their foreheads as they try to craft retweetable tweets, the kind to which others will append that most wholehearted of endorsements: "THIS." I find myself thinking, People, you never tweeted about [topic x] before and after 48 hours or so you’ll never tweet about it again, so please stop signaling to all of us how near and dear to your heart [topic X] is.

    So, you know: charity FAIL. I know that most - well, anyway, many - of the people tweeting about what everyone else was tweeting about were sincere and expressing genuine interest. It's just hard for me to handle such exaggerated and repeated unanimity.
    This is a failing of twitter, a platform that was never meant to host these sorts of conversations. Twitter is supposed to be inane and snarky. There are some wizards who are able to pack a lot of meaning into 140 characters, but they are rare. The Ta-Nehisi Coates essay at least prompted tweets with links to the article (along with some obscenely hyperbolic praise) which is long and detailed and worthy of discussion - but discussions accomplished through bursts of 140 characters are not going to get it done. Twitter is great for short back and forths, but have you ever tried to follow a back-and-forth conversation that goes on for more than 5 tweets? Even with Twitter's improving ability to group this stuff together, it's annoying as hell, and I'm talking about nerdy debates about movies or beer. Imagine debates about racism or abortion happening on twitter. Can you really accomplish anything in 140 characters? Get a blog, people!
  • Calling Kids Out - Now here's someone doing it right. It's a guy who got drunk and decided to mock lame child fashion designers. Here's a man who knows that 140 characters just won't do. (In case you were wondering why the crazy tone and rhythm sounds familiar, this is the same maniac that's behind the Don't Drink Beer blog)
  • How YouTube and Internet Journalism Destroyed Tom Cruise, Our Last Real Movie Star - An excellent long look into the career of Tom Cruise and that fateful moment when he "jumped" up on the couch on Oprah. Perhaps related to the distortion effect caused by condensing complex debates into 140 characters on Twitter, this is a situation where no one ever watches the full 40+ minute interview with Tom Cruise, just the one time he stood up on the couch. And most likely, you only get a screenshot, which distorts things even more.
    Like Humphrey Bogart saying, "Play it again, Sam," Tom Cruise jumping on a couch is one of our mass hallucinations. But there's a difference. Bogart's mythological Casablanca catchphrase got embedded in the culture before we could replay the video and fact-check. Thanks to the Internet, we have video at our fingertips. Yet rather than correct the record, the video perpetuated the delusion.
    It is perhaps going a bit far to say that the couch jumping "never happened", because Cruise did end up standing on top of a couch, but there's definitely a lot of distortion and exaggeration going on here, and this article covers the whole thing, and Cruise's career in general, very well.
  • H.R. Giger's to-do list for Alien - Giger has always been a favorite, largely because of Alien, but even just in general. RIP...
  • Spurious Correlations - It turns out that correlation does not imply causation. We've all heard that aphorism, but it's always nice to see it in action. (h/t Heather)
That's all for now. Shine on, you crazy diamonds.
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2 Comments

At least from my perspective, the Cruise article is trying to move the timeline around and change the context. From what I remember, everyone *already* thought Cruise was nuts; the couch thing was just "ha ha, yeah, that sounds like Tom Cruise." He already had the crazy, the Oprah appearance just cranked it all up to 11. The exaggerated memes that followed seemed to be a comment on what people thought of Cruise, not the instigators of public opinion.

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