Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website], the long-delayed "sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?Dr. Peter Watts is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials, heartbreaking eulogies, and agonizing run-ins with fascists (and fasciitis) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed 2006 novel Blindsight [full text] -- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room, the Philosophical Zombie, Chernoff faces, and the myriad quirks and blind spots that haunt the human mind. But Blindsight's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew/ship/"Firefall" notes, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism (PDF - prev.), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section, tomorrow will see the release of
"Advertising is not well. Though companies supported by advertising still dominate the landscape and capture the popular imagination, cracks are beginning to show in the very financial foundations of the web. Despite the best efforts of an industry, advertising is becoming less and less effective online. The once reliable fuel that powered a generation of innovations on the web is slowly, but perceptibly beginning to falter. Consider the long-term trend: when the first banner advertisement emerged online in 1994, it reported a (now) staggering clickthrough rate of 78%. By 2011, the average Facebook advertisement clickthrough rate sat dramatically lower at 0.05%. Even if only a rough proxy, something underlies such a dramatic change in the ability for an advertisement to pique the interest of users online. What underlies this decline, and what does it mean for the Internet at large? This short [PDF] paper puts forth the argument for peak advertising—the argument that an overall slowing in online advertising will eventually force a significant (and potentially painful) shift in the structure of business online. Like the theory of Peak Oil that it references, the goal is not to look to the immediate upcoming quarter, but to think on the decade-long scale about the business models that sustain the Internet." [more inside]
Are you a fan of inventive, black-humored sci-fi/fantasy animation? Desperate to fill the Futurama-shaped hole in your heart? Look no further than Rick and Morty, the superb new Adult Swim series from animator Justin "Lemongrab" Roiland and Community darling Dan Harmon. Inspired by a (terrible and very NSFW) Back To The Future knock-off, the show pairs a naïve young teen (Morty) with his cynical, alcoholic, mad scientist grandfather (Rick), each episode exploring a trope -- dreams, aliens, innerspace, parallel universes, virtual reality -- and turning it inside-out with intricate plotting, eye-catching art, and dark, whipsmart humor (with plenty of improvisation along the way). A ratings hit already secured for a second season, the show returns from an Olympics-induced hiatus tomorrow -- in the meantime, why not sample the six episodes aired so far: Pilot - Lawnmower Dog - Anatomy Park - M. Night Shaym-Aliens! - Meeseeks and Destroy - Rick Potion #9. Want more? Promo/highlight reel - AV Club reviews - TVTropes - Reddit - Rick & Morty ComicCon panel - Storyboard Test - Soundtrack samples - Play the "Rushed Licensed Adventure" point-and-click game
For the past three days, the world of streaming gaming has been riveted by an unlikely phenomenon: Twitch Plays Pokemon. Consisting of a live Twitch.TV chatroom hooked up to a classic Game Boy emulation of Pokémon Red, the program is set to recognize a limited number of commands and execute them in real time, allowing an audience of tens of thousands to collectively control the action as they watch. An astonishing amount of progress has been made, including the dramatic last-second defeat of a third gym leader (GIF) and the solution of a notoriously tricky puzzle on the very first attempt. But all for naught, it seems, as Team Twitch finds itself hilariously stranded on the ledges of Route 19 where, as one viewer explained, "they basically have to walk a small path for about ten spaces without anyone pushing down and jumping Red off the ledge," a grim democratic reality the dedicated subreddit /r/twitchplayspokemon has had all kinds of fun with over the last dozen ludicrous hours.
"Everything is fine and the world is beautiful. It's raining, it's dark, I woke up at 5:30AM, I'm commuting in traffic. I would have had a headache, I would have been miserable, I would have wondered how my life took me to this point. This point I'm at right now. But no, no, everything is fine. Life is beautiful. The rain drops are just falling and in each one I see the reflection of every persons life around me. Humanity is beautiful. In this still frame shot of traffic on this crowded bus I just found love and peace. Heroin is a wonder drug. Heroin is better than everything else. Heroin makes me who I wish I was. Heroin makes life worth living. Heroin is better than everything else." [more inside]
With the momentous series finale of Breaking Bad just hours away, fans of the show are hungry for something, anything to wile away the time before the epic conclusion tonight. So why not kick back and chew the fat with your fellow MeFites with the help of a little tool I like to call "The Periodic Table of Breaking Bad." [more inside]
A month after its release, Naughty Dog's sweeping interactive epic The Last of Us is being hailed as one of the best games of all time, with perfect scores even from notoriously demanding critics. Inspired by an eerily beautiful segment from the BBC's Planet Earth, the game portrays an America twenty years after a pandemic of the zombiefying Cordyceps fungus (previously), leaving behind lush wastelands of elegant decay teeming with monsters and beset by vicious bandits, a brutal military, and the revolutionary Fireflies. Into this bleak vision of desperate violence journey Joel, a gruffly stoic Texan with a painful past, and his ward Ellie, a precocious teenager who may hold the key to mankind's future. Boasting tense, immersive gameplay, compelling performances from a diverse cast, a movingly minimalist score from Oscar-winning Gustavo Santaolalla, and an array of influences from Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, it's already being slotted alongside BioShock Infinite and Half-Life 2 as one of modern gaming's crowning achievements. And while it's hard to disentangle plot from action, you don't have to buy a PS3 to experience it -- YouTube offers many filmic edits of the game, including this three-hour version of all relevant passages. And don't miss the 84-minute documentary exploring every facet of its production. [more inside]
What started as a report of a convenience store robbery near the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last night has sprawled into a chaotic manhunt for the perpetrators of the recent terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon. The deadly pursuit, involving a policeman's murder, a carjacking, a violent chase with thrown explosives, and the death of one suspect, has resulted in Governor Deval Patrick ordering an unprecedented lockdown of the entire Boston metropolitan area as an army of law enforcement searches house by house for the remaining gunman. The Associated Press has identified the duo as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his 19-year-old brother Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, who remains at large. Both are immigrants from wartorn Chechnya in southwestern Russia. The Guardian liveblog is good for quick updates, and Reddit's updating crowdsourced timeline of events that has often outpaced mainstream media coverage of the situation. You can also get real-time reports straight from the (Java-based) local police scanner.
As discussed over the weekend, in less than two weeks the millions of videos uploaded to six-year-old erstwhile YouTube competitor Google Video will no longer be viewable. Though a download button has been added to each video page for easy back-up, that will only be available though May 13th, and the company will not be offering transfer service for users with YouTube accounts. The search giant has been slowly winding down the service over the years since their billion-dollar buyout of YouTube, controversially revoking purchased content (with a refund) in 2007 and disabling new uploads in 2009. The shutdown is a big blow to the web video ecosystem, as Google Video was one of the few major services to allow free hosting of long-form video, including the content for many popular MetaFilter posts. But all is not lost! Reddit users have organized a virtual potluck to share the most interesting and unique videos not available anywhere else, and the Archive Team, preserver of doomed web properties like Geocities (previously), is partnering with Archive.org to back up as much content as possible. In that spirit, click inside for a list of some of the most popular Google Video-centric content posted here over the years. [more inside]
Social news site Reddit recently held their "Best of Reddit 2010" awards honoring key players in the site over the last year, including the progenitor of the Rally to Restore Sanity, the clever drive-by cartoonist Sure_Ill_Draw_That, unofficial image host Imgur, and feel-good story of the year "Today you, tomorrow me." But perhaps most interesting was the winner for Best Big Community: FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU! Originally inspired by 4chan's popular Rage Guy meme, F7U12 (for short) is a clearinghouse for user-made web comics, slice-of-life affairs that tell a story or share a common frustration using a small collection of crudely drawn yet highly evocative facial expressions. Several have become small memes in their own right -- the wily Trolldad, the doormat Okay, the prideful Fuck Yea, the melodramatic Gasp. And one comic, inspired by the warped text randomly generated by reCAPTCHAs (previously), has given us Lord Inglip -- god of a dark religion now rivaling FSM whose cryptic commands marshal loyal armies of gropagas, falcows, Sellicks, and... canary into exploits both monstrous and inconvenient (timeline, wiki). Obey him -- or else! More fun with F7U12: rage face origins, rage faces in real life, Twitter feed, search comics, create your own (alternate).
Yesterday morning, social news juggernaut Digg.com finally unveiled its much-ballyhooed redesign: Digg 4.0. More than a simple cosmetic makeover, the new edition of the popular link-sharing platform fundamentally alters the underlying mechanics of the site. [more inside]