Movie Triggers: the best new website I've seen lately

A while ago, I had an idea for a website, that would use a social network/review system to catalog movies with triggering content.  It's a pretty basic idea, I don't think it was stolen or anything, and the hard part is obviously the work on putting something like this together. I'm thrilled to say that someone has actually done that work.

MovieTriggers.com is a catalog of movies which, over time, will hopefully accumulate a decent collection of trigger warnings for popular movies.  Right now, most of them say there are 0 triggers -- which, the site stresses, "does not mean that this movie is non-triggering."  (Emphasis theirs.)

Symbols specifically indicate whether more than 10 people have agreed something is triggering, and whether there are comments on the thread, which would hopefully offer a better idea of what the triggering content is, so visitors can make informed judgements about whether they can handle it.

I'm personally looking forward to when the site gets enough traction to start warning about spiders -- I sent a feedback message asking whether arachnophobia was an appropriate tag here's the thread:

[me:] Is there any sort of guideline on what counts as a trigger, or what sorts of things you hope to cover?  For example, I'm arachnophobic -- would it be appropriate for me to add a spiders warning to movies that caused me to panic?  (Right now, my strategy is looking away if spiders show up and letting my partner tell me when it's safe to look back up.)

[Response:] Hi,

Tagging with spiders is completely appropriate. There are no specific guidelines for what counts as a trigger. We specifically left it open ended so people could share their experiences.

Thanks for using the site!

- John

Please, use this site, share it, add your experiences to the catalog.  Including spiders.

Speech is cool

Want to make a bunch of weird noises reading an article, quietly enough that (you hope) the person sitting next to you doesn't hear you and think you're weird?  You're in luck!  This article, 8 bizzare sounds you've probably made without knowing it by James Harbeck at theweek.com, pretty much compels you to make what sound like totally meaningless noises, no matter who's in the room.

5. Alveolar click What? Clicks are those famous sounds used in the languages of some South African peoples, and made known to much of the world by the early 1980s movie The Gods Must Be Crazy. An alveolar click is a click made in the same place you say "t." Who does that? Clicks are used in the Khoisan language family of southern Africa; a few centuries ago they spread into some neighboring Bantu languages, most notably Zulu and Xhosa. When did I do that? Tsk. Come on. Last time you said "tsk."

6. Palatal click What? See above. This click is done on the roof of your mouth, where peanut butter sticks. Who does that? See above. When did I do that? Sometime when you were imitating knocking.

 

Homeland: a reaction

I finished reading Cory Doctorow's latest book, Homeland, today.  I read it on my cell phone in the form of a Creative Commons licensed e-book that I downloaded from his website, for free.  This post is labeled "A reaction," because I don't know how I would review this book.  It's awesome, and you should read it.  But the only properly review-y thing I can say about it is that it's a well-written book by someone I pretty much entirely agree with, and who is much better informed than me. I'll be doing the same thing with this book that I did with the last one, Pirate Cinema, adding it to my Charity Debt list to donate to a library when I have money, but that has to wait until I've got sorted out whatever the hell happened to my spreadsheets.

I was planning on waiting to read Homeland, because I was trying to get a good number of books read by all the Clarion authors this year and I've already read loads of Doctorow, but I didn't get in, so I put down the book I was on (Sorry, Robert Crais) and downloaded Homeland.

Well, it was part that I didn't get in.  But more than that, I was super curious about what Doctorow had referred to as a "Vote-finding machine," that Aaron Swartz helped him design when he was writing the book.  I'm not going to copy the whole section into this post, because I don't want to spoil anyone's anticipation.  That said, if you're a public servant, and you have no intention of ever reading Homeland, this bit is still pretty damn important.  So here's a legal link to the full text of the novel.  Ctrl+F will allow you to search the text for a particular phrase.  The exact phrase "Vote-finding machine" only ever shows up once, in the first of the relevant nine paragraphs.

And if you change your mind about reading it, here's a link to a bunch of different formats of free e-book.

Apart from that, this book is packed with awesome new information that I didn't already have.  Some of it was made-up stuff, but that stuff has real-world analogues that are pointed out in the afterwords.  But the coolest things -- iPredator, Hadoop, Burning Man -- are all very real.

Reading Cory Doctorow books, especially the ones set near the present day, is like taking a class with a really fun teacher.  It's a great way to get a slightly-better-than-basic grasp on politics, copyright, privacy and security. And they're all free.  (But if you have the money, you should buy one.  Or donate one to a library.)

Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling

(via Boing Boing) This list comes form a post on Aerogramme Writer's Studio (a blog I am now following), and, they write, "were originally tweeted by Emma Coates, Pixar’s Story Artist."

I've heard some of these rules before, but I'm republishing them all here, because they're awesome, interesting to read, and I'm going to need to refer to them like fifty times in the next week.

Also, Mark Frauenfelder, the Boing Boing editor who reblogged this, picked his favorite (#13) and so did Aerogramme (#9) so I figure I should contribute my favorite, too.  It's #4.  I'm trying to figure out how it maps to a lot of my stories, and it's depressingly difficult to work it out with some.  This illuminates a lot of room for improvement.

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Google Glass test run

Joshua Topolsky at the Verge has had the opportunity to give Google Glass a test-run, and he's written a very long article about the experience.

The design of Glass is actually really beautiful. Elegant, sophisticated. They look human and a little bit alien all at once. Futuristic but not out of time — like an artifact from the 1960’s, someone trying to imagine what 2013 would be like. This is Apple-level design. No, in some ways it’s beyond what Apple has been doing recently. It’s daring, inventive, playful, and yet somehow still ultimately simple. The materials feel good in your hand and on your head, solid but surprisingly light. Comfortable. If Google keeps this up, soon we’ll be saying things like "this is Google-level design."

[...]

When you activate Glass, there’s supposed to be a small screen that floats in the upper right-hand of your field of vision, but I don’t see the whole thing right away. Instead I’m getting a ghost of the upper portion, and the bottom half seems to melt away at the corner of my eye.

Steve and Isabelle adjust the nose pad and suddenly I see the glowing box. Victory.

It takes a moment to adjust to this spectral screen in your vision, and it’s especially odd the first time you see it, it disappears, and you want it to reappear but don’t know how to make it happen. Luckily that really only happens once, at least for me.

Here’s what you see: the time is displayed, with a small amount of text underneath that reads "ok glass." That’s how you get Glass to wake up to your voice commands. Actually, it’s a two-step process. First you have to touch the side of the device (which is actually a touchpad), or tilt your head upward slowly, a gesture which tells Glass to wake up. Once you’ve done that, you start issuing commands by speaking "ok glass" first, or scroll through the options using your finger along the side of the device. You can scroll items by moving your finger backwards or forward along the strip, you select by tapping, and move "back" by swiping down. Most of the big interaction is done by voice, however.

[...]

Let me start by saying that using it is actually nearly identical to what the company showed off in its newest demo video. That’s not CGI — it’s what Glass is actually like to use. It’s clean, elegant, and makes relative sense. The screen is not disruptive, you do not feel burdened by it. It is there and then it is gone. It’s not shocking. It’s not jarring. It’s just this new thing in your field of vision. And it’s actually pretty cool.

(emphasis mine)

This is just a small selection of some of the amazing details about the product in this article.  The thing that sounded the coolest to me was the navigation -- mapping instructions directly onto your field of vision.  That is a feature I would benefit from immensely.

(I wonder if they'll be coming out with a Glass-inspired overlay for car windshields?  No, more likely we'll just get driverless cars soon.)

Honestly, I started to like Glass a lot when I was wearing it. It wasn’t uncomfortable and it brought something new into view (both literally and figuratively) that has tremendous value and potential. I don’t think my face looks quite right without my glasses on, and I didn’t think it looked quite right while wearing Google Glass, but after a while it started to feel less and less not-right. And that’s something, right?

(emphasis mine)

I am looking forward to this technology so much you guys have no idea.

Bridges for wild animals

Mental_Floss has an awesome short article about Wildlife crossings, which doesn't just mean those signs that warn you that deer like to jump out around that part of the road.  Wildlife crossings are these often incredibly beautiful pieces of architecture over highways that save wildlife the trouble of getting hit by a truck:

 

That and more pictures are available at The World Geography.

Mental_Floss writes,

Wildlife crossings help all kinds of animals get around, including salamanders, panthers, bears, and badgers. These pieces of infrastructure save not just wildlife, but also money: Drivers in the U.S. spend $8 billion annually on wildlife-related damage to cars.

Wikipedia points out that these projects are trivial in cost, especially when compared to the gains, both environmentally and in property damage to people's cars:

The benefits derived from constructing wildlife crossings to extend wildlife migration corridors over and under major roads appear to outweigh the costs of construction and maintenance. One study estimates that adding wildlife crossings to a road project is only a 7-8% increase in the total cost of the project (Bank et al. 2002). Theoretically, the monetary costs associated with constructing and maintaining wildlife crossings in ecologically important areas are trumped by the benefits associated with protecting wildlife populations, reducing property damage to vehicles, and saving the lives of drivers and passengers by reducing the number of collisions caused by wildlife.

I talk a lot about liking the urban world more than the rural, but I'm not sure it always comes across that this is a big part of that -- finding ways to cooperate with, and share our spaces with, animals native to the sites of our development is hugely important.

And, it just generally makes the world a more pleasant place.  Seeing a deer on the highway during a drive can go two ways:  it can either be terrifying, because you're afraid it's going to jump out at you and you'll get into a horrible accident, or it can be pleasant, seeing a cute animal safely away from your car.  Among everything else, these crossings sound like one of the millions of ways we can make lots of peoples' lives a little bit less shitty, which is how you make the world a nice place to live.

Absurdly expensive suits: mostly uglier the more they cost

Buzzfeed posted a list of the 8 most expensive suits in the world today.  Honestly, the first two are the only ones that don't look kind of gross.

Well, to be fair, I thought number 7 looked good before I realized that those white bits were diamonds, not just stitching.

 

So, if you want to get me a present, apparently I'm a pretty cheap person to shop for.  The $22,000 suit was my favorite.

David Bowie released a single

David Bowie, rockstar, celebrated his birthday this morning by releasing the single for his first new album in over ten years.  The album is scheduled to come out, according to Wikipedia,on March 12th in the United States,  March 8th in Australia, March 11th everywhere else. The album is called The Next Dayand the single is called "Where are we now?"

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOyDTy9DtHQ]

That's the news.  On to the personal stuff:  This is weird.

I mean, it's not weird for Bowie.  This actually seems pretty tame compared to, like, Ziggy Stardust.   But the last time David Bowie came out with something new was 2003.  I was 14 at the time -- I barely knew what music was.  I certainly didn't know how significant David Bowie was, or how much I was eventually going to like him.

So this is the first time I've ever been around for the actual, present moment of David Bowie, like, happening in real life.  And I'm here for it on the day. I'm a fairly skeptical person, but this is one of those kinds of events that one's brain just refuses not to interpret as significant.

So, yes, I am absolutely buying the new David Bowie album on March 12th.

Maple syrup heist gone bad

Sometimes, I'm really glad I follow the World News subreddit.  Today, it was incredibly worth it, because I got to read this headline, and the relevant story:

Thieves arrested for stealing 6 million pounds of maple syrup

This reads a bit like a bad Canada joke.  But no, it really happened.  Four thieves have been arrested, and there are five more suspects the police are currently pursuing.

Quebec police have arrest warrants for four other suspects, the report said.

"We know there are probably more people involved. It's a complex case," said Simon Trepanier, director of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers.

"At the beginning we knew it had been done by a very organised group because it’s impossible to steal that amount of maple syrup without being organised."

And the Business Standard, the paper reporting on this theft, also wants to clarify:

Maple syrup is often eaten with pancakes, waffles, French toast, or oatmeal and porridge. It is also used as an ingredient in baking, and as a sweetener or flavouring agent.

What were they going to do with it?  Were they going to sell it on the black market?  Is there a black market for syrup?

This is the best news story of the week.

Public Knowledge seeking to avert the Mayan apocalypse

(via Boing Boing) I've been looking at Public Knowledge for a while, trying to decide whether to add them to my list for Charity Debt (spoiler: they're probably going to be this month's pick) .  I'm not going to be able to help with this campaign, because I remain broke.

Apparently, Public Knowledge has found a device that can help avert the Mayan apocalypse.  They even show it in a video, so you know it's legit.  But it's running low on power or something I guess, and it runs on donations to Public Knowledge.

So, I would like to ask my readers to donate leading up to the 21st.  Because I don't want to die.  Also good cause and stuff.

Donate link

The best news

If you could choose any food, and that food would be the only one you'd eat for the rest of your life, what would it be? After ruling out some of the more blatantly appealing cases:  too much ice cream makes me nauseous, as much as I like it I think I'd get sick of steak, noodles aren't as versatile as I'd like, especially without other ingredients, I decided that there could only be one correct answer: Potatoes.

Which is why I'm thrilled to discover that that's actually a real option!

According to Wikipedia, the quoted source for this image:

Humans can actually survive healthily on a diet of potatoes supplemented only with milk or butter, which contain the two vitamins not provided by potatoes (vitamins A and D).[37][38] The potato contains vitamins and minerals, as well as an assortment of phytochemicals, such as carotenoids and natural phenols.

I now have a well-researched answer to this popular hypothetical:  Potatoes are not just a great answer, they are the correct answer.

Compact bedroom sets

(via Boing Boing) It is a well-known fact that kids are small.  They are so small, in fact, that they may not even need the entire vertical space of a bedroom to live comfortably in that space.  Unfortunately, bedrooms, like other rooms, are almost universally designed with adults in mind.

Furniture designer Tumidei Spaa offers a solution.  Or, rather, twelve solutions.  Here is a gallery of designs for compact kids' rooms.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell TV show!

I heard some important news this weekend.  So important, in fact, that I nearly dropped everything I was doing to write a post about it, and schedule it for Monday.  Unfortunately, I was busy at the time.  Even more unfortunately, I later forgot what the important news was. So I spent much of today trying to figure out what it was.  I couldn't remember where I'd seen it. I couldn't remember what I might have done with it.  I seem to have forgotten to write anything down about it.

But I found it.

The BBC is making a TV series of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. 

(News via io9)

It's going to be 6 episodes long, hopefully hour-long installments or longer -- a much better division of the story than a movie, which had been discussed before, because this book is very long, very rich in detail, and not entirely singular in narrative.  Also:  the book is divided into three major parts, which would fit six episodes nicely.

It's being directed by Toby Haynes, who io9 praises as the director of key episodes of Doctor Who and Sherlock. Those episodes, according to Den of Geek, are The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang, for Doctor Who, and The Reichenbach Fall, for Sherlock.

Oh my crap this is going to be so awesome I can't even begin to imagine how great this is going to be.

Candle-powered candle

(via Boing Boing) At first glance, this was the most absurd product I'd seen today. The candle-powered electric candle seems like a thought experiment in pointless waste.   Then I read the description, and it turns out it's actually kind of sensible -- especially if you've ever tried to read by candlelight.

[...] after a few days of constant lighting, all of my batteries will be dead. This means that either I need rechargeable batteries, or a way to generate electricity without them. Not needing batteries to begin with seemed most sensible to me. I explored different options and finally figured out a low-cost, long-term, and portable, method to keep my electric candles lit.  I am going to use heat generated by tea lights.

It also looks like you could arrange for this to be a lot safer than an open flame, but still get a good amount of light from it. I intend to learn how to make this at some point before winter of 2013/2014.  (Right now I'm broke.)

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Cory Doctorow posted today that Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, a novel by Robin Sloan, is available on Amazon.  So, like, if you needed a birthday present idea for me, here. I'm excited about this, because I listened to this story, several times, when it was a short story on Escape Pod.  You can get that link here, if you want to listen to the short story version, but I am super-excited about where this story goes as a full-length novel.

Prettiest metiorite ever

(via Boing Boing) If I had a $200,000/month art budget, I know exactly what my next purchase would be.  This is the Gibeon Mask, an  iron meteorite that was discovered in 1992.

In some TV show or movie I watched once, which peripherally featured an art gallery employee, that employee said something to the effect of, "You should never buy a piece of art unless you feel you absolutely have to have it."  I've thought about that a lot since, and it figured heavily into my aesthetic sense.  (Not that I don't buy things I feel like I could live without.  But it's something I usually have in mind.)

If I could afford this meteorite, I would absolutely want to buy it.  I'm not confident that I'd be willing to call it art, but it's definitely a beautiful object, and it's something I would appreciate having in my home, every day.

Unfortunately, it's estimated to sell at auction between $140,000 and $160,000.  So, that's a price range I'm never, ever going to be able to match.

My favorite show right now

One of my favorite hard-to-track internet statistics is the ever-increasing rate of hours of video uploaded to YouTube per minute; as of January 23, according to Reuters, it was at 60.  If you enjoy as much as a quarter of a percent of that content, then YouTube provides content you would enjoy at a rate faster than you could possibly have time to watch it. I have no idea what percentage of YouTube content I would like.  There are vast depths of YouTube content that I wouldn't have the first clue about how to find, nevermind which parts of that content I might like now, or that I could learn to enjoy if I became invested in the genre.

That said, I'm subscribed to enough YouTube content that I could get by without any other avenues of entertainment, and there are channels I know I'd like, but that I don't follow because it's just too much stuff.  Every micro-genre of content I follow has loads of channels producing content that I don't bother looking into, because every single one puts out enough content to last me a lifetime.

One of the many implications of this is that I have a new favorite show pretty frequently.  Like, I really liked Harry Potter and the Ten Years Later, and Crash Course: World History is still one of the highlights of my Thursdays.

Lately, though, the show I look forward to watching the most is Modded Minecraft with Docm77 & Monkeyfarm.  It's part of the Minecraft Let's Play genre, videos of people who play Minecraft and talk while they're doing it.  I got into the genre watching Etho's tutorials, and subscribed to Docm77 when he started the new World Tour videos.

This particular series features Docm77 and Monkeyfarm (a Minecraft YouTuber I don't follow) playing together in a Minecraft server that features mods approximating the Tekkit pack, a popular massive expansion to the functionality of Minecraft.

The decline of high-production value blockbuster content is one of the great laments of the digital era, and it's going to create weird new relationships between people and entertainment.  Twenty years ago it was fair to assume most people would be in touch with the same set of references as you.  Now, it's possible that most of the people you meet are cultural foreigners.

Another awesome new 3D printer: FORM 1

Last week, I wrote about the new Makerbot Replicator.  The next day, I wrote about all the cool things that 3D printers will probably do to civilization in the next few decades.

The Replicator 2 costs about $2200.  For just $100 more, people have purchased the Form 1, a printer on Kickstarterthat's already earned almost 4 times its $100,000 goal.  The Form 1 has a layer resolution of 25 microns, which makes for a significant difference in possible detail.  This printer really meets its goal of "[rivaling] the output of high-end printers at a fraction of the cost."

That price does not, unfortunately, appear to be available to the general public -- it was a limited offer to the first 25 people who pledged $2,299.  Those people are also first in line for delivery -- $2,499 (also sold out) is second in line, $2,699 (almost 300 left) are promised priority for shipment over people who order it after the Kickstarter.

The Form 1 is able to achieve its superior resolution because it employs a different printing method than most printers on the market:

Stereolithography (SL) is the gold standard for accuracy and resolution in the 3D printing world, reaching layer thicknesses and feature sizes that are worlds ahead of what is possible with [extruded plastic]. The process is pretty straightforward - a laser is used to draw on the surface of a liquid plastic resin that hardens when exposed to a certain wavelength of light. The laser draws and hardens a layer at a time until the entire model is built. It’s simple, reliable, and quiet.

This printer looks amazing, but it's also a little more in-depth than the Replicator 2 -- there's an after-printing process, using the Form Finishing Kit, that's necessary to finish off the object after it's been printed.  I'm not sure about what kind of drafting software works well with the FORM 1 ("We painstakingly designed our Form software to have a simple, intuitive user experience that streamlines the process of importing .STL models from any 3D CAD package. ")  but it seems very much designed for serious engineers and other professionals who need high-resolution rapid prototyping technology.

I still want one, though.

That comic I mentioned that one time

So there's this comic I referenced in a post a month or two ago.  I can't remember what the post was about.  I think I was talking about depression.  Anyway, I referenced this comic that said something about thinking about all the embarrassing things that had ever happened to me, all at once -- because I was talking about how all of a sudden I realized that wasn't normal, and was probably indicative of some emotional problems that I should be working through. Anyway, I found the comic.  Here it is, via its original source.