Month: May 2009

Building a Songbird Add-On: Part 0

songbird-artist-web-media-view-mockupAfter complaining about alphabetization in music libraries for — wow — almost a year, I’ve decided it’s time to do something about it.

I know very little about JavaScript and XUL, but that is going to have to change. My goal is to complete the add-on described here, an Artist Web media view, or perhaps “Constellations.”

To make the task appear less daunting, I’ve broken it up into many milestones of marginal improvements. If I follow this timeline, the plugin will be usable and released to the public as Constellations v0.1 on July 27.

Milestone ver Description Target Date Actual Date
i 0.0.1 display all artists in a vertical list 08 Jun 2009
ii 0.0.2 display most recent Last Played value for each artist 15 Jun 2009
iii 0.0.3 display total Play Count for each artist 22 Jun 2009
iv 0.0.4 vary font sizes according to total artist Play Count 29 Jun 2009
v 0.0.5 vary font colors according to total artist Play Count 6 Jul 2009
vi 0.0.6 vary font colors according to Last Played 13 Jul 2009
vii 0.0.7 arrange artist names left-to-right instead of vertically 20 Jul 2009
viii 0.1 focus first of the artist’s tracks in the playlist pane when the artist’s name is clicked 27 Jul 2009
ix 0.1.1 resize/re-color based on play frequency instead of play count 10 Aug 2009
x 0.2 options window that alternates between which variable is assigned to which font property 31 Aug 2009

I’m going to create a separate blog to track my progress on this, for several reasons:

  1. Threat of shame. If I emphasize publicly that I am going to do this, and I fail, I’ll be kind of embarrassed. Hopefully that will motivate me to actually complete the project.
  2. Geeks love proving that they’re smarter than you. If I’m having a tough time with some relatively elementary code, maybe people will mock me in the form of writing the correct code themselves. I’m certain that what I’m attempting could be done in no time flat if I’d been formally educated in things like JavaScript. Maybe the biting sarcasm of people who need to demonstrate their intelligence will show me where I’m going wrong.
  3. To encourage plagiarism. Look, I’ll admit that I’d be proud if the add-on that comes out of this bore my name. But ultimately, I don’t care. If somebody sees what I’m doing, likes it, wants it to be their own, and knows they can beat me to it, then great. At least we’ll have the add-on.

If you feel like mocking me or encouraging me you can email me at topdownjimmy@gmail.com, leave/follow comments on this post, or visit my dedicated Constellations blog to see where I’m taking this and how quickly I fail.

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What Zalgo Is

Frequently described as “Lovecraftian” or “Cthulhu-inspired,” Zalgo actually bears a closer similarity to Shub-Niggurath or Yog-Sothoth, the latter described by Lovecraft as resembling

protoplasmic flesh that flowed blackly outward to join together and form that eldritch, hideous horror from outer space, that spawn of the blankness of primal time, that tentacled amorphous monster which was the lurker at the threshold, whose mask was as a congeries of iridescent globes, the noxious Yog-Sothoth, who froths as primal slime in nuclear chaos beyond the nethermost outposts of space and time!

It is a manifestation of a terror that is based on insanity and chaos rather than ordinary mortal danger — comics, of course, being an apt target for this idea, as their innocence and relative shallowness make for an especially jarring juxtaposition.

Weirdly, Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields wrote a song about Yog-Sotheth with a side-project he called “The Gothic Archies,” a bizarre coincidence given that the first known Zalgo creations involve Archie comics.

First conceived by Something Awful member “Shmorky” in 2004 as grim modifications of old comic strips, it was embraced by other members of the forum. After remaining in obscurity for several years, Zalgo appears to have resurfaced in a pair of Something Awful threads (1, 2) mocking the webcomic Ctrl+Alt+Del, where the practice of Photoshopping certain strips eventually evolved into “Zalgo edits,” beginning I believe with this post (Google cache) by member Dammerung in October 2008.

ohzalgo

A convenient summary of all these Photoshops was compiled in this post (Google cache).

The blog Grim Reviews posted an overview of the phenomenon shortly after its fall 2008 resurrection. The meme subsequently flourished on 4chan. A b3ta.com forum member named Evilscary credits himself with some of the more popular and more recent Garfield Zalgo comics, writing in his profile:

I seem to be responsible for the recent surge of ZALGO that has engulfed the internet.
I didn’t create ZALGO (indeed, he created himself in a torrent of darkness and corruption) but I certainly aided in reviving his following.

And because Internet loves Garfield parodies, it wasn’t long before Zalgo became popular and therefore no longer funny. One Something Awful member even noticed a reference to it (Google cache) in the game Space Trader.

Maybe most responsible for the curiosity around Zalgo is the proliferation of weird Unicode diacritics that accompany more recent Zalgo-babble, which creates the illusion that whatever Zalgo is, it is now directly affecting your computer and that by Googling it you have introduced it into your home. Try it and you’ll see what I mean. I’m pretty certain 4chan is responsible for this clever twist on the idea.

With the increased popularity of Zalgo, someone has come forward claiming to have thought it up in 1998 as “simply encroaching darkness” before infecting various forums with the idea in 2003, though most people aren’t taking this claim seriously.

As a side-note it also reminds me of the 1997 film Event Horizon, whose “antagonist” is some extra-dimensional realm of pure chaos.

More Zalgo resources include:

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