Tag: archivism

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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An open letter to Cakexploder

I apologize; this has become very, very long and very, very disorganized. Sloppy braindump, but hopefully some jumping-off points here.

First I think there are some important terms you need to make less vague. This might begin with identifying the things you read on the internet (or in life in general) that you feel *do* give you some “tangible benefit.” Are all Twitter messages worthless? Why do you subscribe to that person specifically? Are his tweets sometimes poetic, prosaically clever, or otherwise mentally engaging? Does he sometimes link to news or products or services that you wouldn’t have otherwise heard about, things that then *do* provide “tangible benefit”? Is it your fault for subscribing, or is it his fault for providing worthless content? What about his real-life friends who follow him, won’t that tweet be of interest to them? As a figure in the public eye, then, should he be required to have two Twitter accounts, a professional and a personal one? What will you lose by unsubscribing from him entirely? Can the things of value that he does provide be found anywhere else on the internet? Reddit? Metafilter? TechCrunch? Delicious?

On the other hand, didn’t that tweet of his in fact provide value, since it is one of the things that prompted you to think about this problem and write a Tumblr post about the subject?

What qualities does a media item need to possess in order to provide you with value? Are things not worth doing if they don’t alter the way you think or behave in the future? Do things need to be valuable for longer than the time you experience them? If so, you might start with a braindump of all the things you can remember that did change your life for the better, to begin to identify the qualities that make these things unique, as well as what channels you received them from.

Where does humor stand in all this? Do humorous things, even the most humorous, permanently or even temporarily change how you think and behave, beyond the time that you are experiencing them? Is value gotten from re-telling a joke to a friend? From watching a funny movie or TV show with a friend? If so, is it because this involves relating personally, in real-life? If yes, why is meatspace interaction more valuable than internet interaction? Is it at all?

Consider this: In November of 2007, I went to London for a week. By myself. I’d never been outside of North America, and I found myself with some money, and decided it would be worthwhile. I deliberately did not construct an itinerary so that I didn’t feel dictated or obligated to see anything specific. I just wanted to be there, for a week, walking around, relaxing, reading, stopping into pubs, and taking photos.

What did that do to me? Anything of value? Frankly and truthfully, I don’t know. I know that I enjoyed it while it happened. But am I different person for it? Should I have spent the money on some class instead? If so, *why*?

I wonder if the problem is that we *think* there’s a problem. We are now, on the internet, haunted by opportunity cost, and feel more pressed to be doing something valuable than I believe we would if we didn’t have so much information available to us. Why does this change things? If a person enjoys playing backgammon, and another person enjoys watching YTMND animations, why is one person better off than the other? Backgammon doesn’t make you a better person. Yet somehow it feels more wholesome or valuable, doesn’t it? Is it the meatspace thing again? Or do we need to reconsider that maybe backgammon is worthless? What about kite flying? Kite flying is an enormous waste of time!

I suppose that kite flying has the probability of providing you with memories of being with a friend or friends, something you can look back on fondly, while you will never look back fondly on reading Twitter. Or will you?

I’m reminded of this Cat and Girl comic: http://catandgirl.com/?p=283

I read Cat and Girl every morning. As well as Overcompensating, Scary Go Round, Achewood, and xkcd. Why? Why do I read them? Are they a waste of time? I was fortunately able to remember this particular Cat and Girl, as it is relevant to this discussion, but what about all the ones that I don’t remember, or that don’t ever get linked by me in an email? What about xkcd? Is xkcd at least a small portion of the reason I switched to Ubuntu? Probably. What good is that? I get far less done in Ubuntu than in Windows because it is foreign to me, but I enjoy the challenge and the open-source philosophy. Is that worthwhile? Will the things I’m learning about Linux ever provide me with value outside of using Ubuntu? Should I care about that? Why can’t I just enjoy it for the sake of enjoying it?

I find myself unable to read long articles on the internet anymore. I have so many starred items in Google Reader that I don’t want to think about it. Not to mention my “readlater” tag on Delicious. The internet has become to me what TV is to so many people. It’s just the default thing I go to when I don’t know what to do. Or out of habit. 99% of the time I’m at my computer, it’s because I just sat down there, opened Firefox, clicked my Gmail and Google Reader bookmarks, and then clicked around until there was nothing new to stimulate me. Can’t be bothered to go through my starred Google Reader items and actually sit and read one. Why not?: Because there are too many! Which one should I read, *and why*? Opportunity cost.

Maybe here’s the trouble: We have too many queues.

Have you ever fantasized about your hard drive crashing? Or your Google Reader data being lost? I have. In 2003 my laptop was stolen. It was so refreshing! Meanwhile I have copies of most Daily Show episodes from the last three years, because I used to torrent all of them. Why can’t I delete them? Why do I keep “burn Daily Shows to DVDs” on my mental to-do list? Get rid of that shit fer chrissake!!

Have you ever considered how you might go about taking your life offline? How that might look? Writing letters and making phone calls instead of emails and tweets and Facebook statuses; maybe even a REAL phone at home so that you can’t be bothered at any minute of any day, and you can speak with friends with the luxury of a big, comfortable handset against your ear? No danger of being disconnected? Learning about new music from Magnet and Fader and The Wire, buying the music that sounds interesting in them, or on their sampler CDs? Reading articles in Wired and The Economist rather than wired.com and Slate? Subscribing to The New York Times? Lying on your carpet listening to records without having to check their Last.fm, Wikipedia, and MySpace pages?

As you think about living like that, think: What on the internet is TRULY irreplaceable? I sent this valentine to somebody last week: http://www.presentandcorrect.com/item.php?item_id=195 I only knew about it because I had a subscription to ilike.org.uk in Google Reader. ilike is a blog that mostly posts pretty pictures of retro British architecture. What do I get from it most of the time? Nothing, other than the opportunity to see pretty things. But when that valentine was linked to on the blog, it affected my “real,” meatspace life, even a real meatspace relationship. What would I have sent if I hadn’t learned about it? Does this alone conclusively demonstrate that my subscription to ilike is valuable? Or does it do more harm than good? How much time do I *really* waste passing over its more boring posts in Reader’s list view? I subscribe to a lot of typography blogs too, just because I like typography. Isn’t it ok to just *like* typography, just because I like it?

I just began reading a book from 1978 or so called “Four Arguments for the ELIMINATION of Television,” which argues that the medium itself is beyond reform. As I read it, I try to imagine that the author is talking about the internet, to see whether his case applies here, too. He describes what it feels like to hear a news report of some violence in a distant continent, followed by the sports scores and a commercial for laundry detergent. This experience robs the important story of any reality it might have otherwise had. It is compartmentalized, contained, requiring no more thought than it took to hear about it. Isn’t this even *more* true on the internet, when every page has dozens and dozens of hyperlinks that are clamoring to interrupt you?

Or is *all of this* just backwards, nostalgic, techno-apocalyptic thinking? People once argued centuries ago that the PRINTING PRESS, *the god damn PRINTING PRESS*, would dumb people down. And, later, that *typewriters* would turn people into bad writers. Is this the same thing? Or is the internet so profoundly different in the way that it manipulates our attention that we do need to worry about it?

Also important to consider: Is the content itself the problem, or is it the way we relate to the content that is the problem? And how are these two things related? Is dicking around in Google Reader ok if I set aside an hour to do it in each night, with a beer or a cup of tea and some music playing? Rather than just clicking bookmarks like a rat with his paw on the cocaine button?

An article I read some time ago that I think of occasionally. It’s ostensibly about “email addiction,” but really relates to a lot of the ways we interact with the ’net.
http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2006/09/why_email_is_addicti.html

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Macbook Wheel Predictive Sentence Technology

The aardvark admitted its fault.
The aardvark admitted it was wrong.
The aardvark asked for an aardvark.
The aardvark asked for a dagger.
The aardvark asked for health.
The aardvark asked for a ride.
The absinthe arrived by airmail.
The abortion went well.
The actor asked for an aardvark.
The actor asked for abstinence.
The actor asked for redemption.
The advertisement was effective.
The agile aardvark arrived by airmail.
The agile aardvark bathed with beauties.
The agriculture was cultivated by the coral.
The aggravated driver beeped on his horn.
The aggravated rooster scratched the dirt.
The Althusserian scholar gave his copy of Lacan’s “Ecrits” to the
abortion doctor.
The amiable Althusserian scholar asked the aardvark for absinthe.
The amiable crocodile brushed his teeth with a toothbrush.
The amiable doctor performed the operation admirably.
The annex was covered with asbestos.
The annex was crawling with beetles.
The apple was airmailed by the doctor.
The apple was consumed by the amiable crocodile.
The apple was inquiring about the amiable crocodile’s friend.
The aquamarine lifevest was not used.
The aquamarine lifevest was unpopular.
The armchair was uncomfortable.
The armchair was favored by the amiable housecat.
The ass asked for a better absinthe.
The ass brayed at the moon.
The assumptive doctor did not accept our personal check.
The assumptive agricultural expert eyed our absinthe suspiciously.
The attractive peanut farmer graded the term paper.
The attractive rooster preened its feathers to attract absinthe.
The auxiliary generator has malfunctioned!
The awning covered the agile aardvark during the amiable rainstorm.
The awning was too tall to touch.
The babbling baby asked the aardvark for some absinthe.
The babbling baby baked brownies with the amiable crocodile.
The babbling baby basked in its mother’s affection.
The babbling baby bounced the ball at the babbling brook.

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[req] Perfect Recall

I have a big problem with keeping track of the media I consume. With all the albums I download and listen to, and all the shit I read online, I’m oppressed by this feeling that it’s all just running through me without being digested or processed. It’s over-stimulation, I end up with all this shit in my head that I don’t know what to do with. I could of course just limit my intake, but I’m addicted to media and I don’t feel like changing any time soon. Plus there’s got to be a way I can apply all this stuff.

I suppose traditionally that’s what the blog format is meant for, to just kind of shit out everything you consume in the form of links and video embeds. But really that’s more like just “taking notes” at a lecture with a cassette recorder, see what I mean? That’s just transcription. I need something to do with it all. This problem is addressed to some extent by my meticulous music library curation with foobar, and my desperate calls recently for somebody to improve on the way we manage our music.

I think a prevailing problem is that of linearity; I can write a post on here, then another post, then another, and they appear chronologically in a line. Tagging and categorizing helps to make the content on here a little less linear, but it’s still not satisfying enough. I mean what I want is to be able to have some very loose, scrapbook-y interface where I can just kind of swim through collages of things: albums, journal entries. Snapshots of various aspects of certain time-periods. Paper is free-form enough to serve a purpose like this, but notebooks aren’t searchable or easily rearrangeable, and aren’t as ubiquitous as the web.

Continue reading “[req] Perfect Recall”

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Matador Midline Classics

Cheaper music means more money for drugs.” I can’t believe I found it!

Years ago, I used to see this ad all over Pitchfork. I thought it was funny that a label would so openly and so mechanically condone drug use; the image was memorable; and it really did make me want to go record shopping — the bands they name are such stalwarts and hearken back to the golden years of Matador in the ’90s, even though most are still making music today, reminding me of a time when people did primarily buy music, not download it. It was effective enough anyway that I had to go hunting to find it. I thought I had thoroughly scoured the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, but I had apparently missed this page, along with seven others that contained the ad, from May to June of 2004. I’m sure it was in truth thrown together in a rush and they weren’t especially proud of it at Matador.

I just need to start saving everything I am mildly amused by in passing.

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That Paris Hilton / Captain Beefheart Photoshop Thing

I know it’s almost two years old now, but on the occasions that I’m reminded of this photo I’m still fascinated by it. Somehow it is the perfect album to have photoshopped into Paris’ hand: the cover is iconic and immediately recognizable, it may be the last thing she’d ever actually listen to, and it’s pink. Still, I wondered; I mean, maybe she was drunk enough that someone just cleverly slipped it to her? She was releasing an album at the time, so it was almost certain that she was just holding that. But it’s like bigfoot, crop circles, UFO videos, you want to believe.

More than that, I think we derived a certain satisfaction from its impossibility. It’s a daily occurrence to watch your cherished bands get snatched up by the popular media, and this photo was a reminder that some of our enthusiasms are very, very safe.

I first spotted it on the WFMU blog (“I can’t imagine Paris getting more than a few bars into Frown Land before ripping it out of her CD player and throwing it out of her window at some homeless person”), but they of course got it from Gawker (“That is truly a cultural juxtaposition”), who got it from goldenfiddle.

Then when I ran across this image of her holding In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, I had to find the original photos that were manipulated. Finally, I did! Here, here, here, and here. There’s even a thread about it on Snopes. Continue reading “That Paris Hilton / Captain Beefheart Photoshop Thing”

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Scary Go Round Style Changes

Once described as being “pretty much perfect,” Scary Go Round is one of my favorite comics. As is the case with most things, I got into it kinda late, and it’ll probably die in the near future, making my weekday mornings cold and bleak. I wish I could remember where I learned about it.

One of the best things about it is its artwork. The colors are stunning, it’s peppered with painstakingly subtle, winking touches, and there’s a weird juxtaposition of ruler-guided lines and rough, endearingly sloppy details like lettering or rows of windows. But it didn’t used to be that way; it began as a spinoff to John Allison’s previous comic, Bobbins, which shifted from hand-drawn to vector art on January 15, 2001, a distinctly digital style that continued through Scary Go Round’s first couple years.

It was shortly after I started reading, in 2006, that the comic went “permanently” (for now) hand-drawn, which to me is far preferable, allowing for much greater nuance in gestures and expressions, and more equipped to carry John’s sense of humor.

Lamenting the fact that I didn’t get to watch its evolution in realtime, I decided to catalogue notable dates in its history, coupled with context from John’s blog and the Scary Go Round forum, because I am curious and anal.

John begins Scareodeleria, intended as a practice ground “to return Scary Go Round to hand-drawn art.” It’s pretty crude.

Continue reading “Scary Go Round Style Changes”

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How to Save One, Many, or All Items from a Google Reader Feed Locally

Google Reader, employing Google’s petabytes of storage, archives every feed item it’s ever pulled for you. This has always amazed me, as I’m sure I and everyone else must be using far more in Reader than the 5 gigs we get from Gmail. Still, they don’t have much of a choice; it wouldn’t do anybody good if you could only see the 10 or 20 items present on a feed’s XML file at any given time. And even though they’re probably clever enough to only have to store one copy of every item for that item’s hundreds of thousands of readers, they’ve practically built a third copy of the internet (after their cache).

A nice fallout of this archiving is that whenever content you’ve subscribed to disappears from the web, you’ll still be able to access its (admittedly homogenized) Reader copy, forever; “forever” here meaning “presumably for as long as Google is around.” When (if?) Google dies, will its data die with it? Despite my intuition that Google will long outlast current notions of what computers are and how they work, I still don’t like entrusting important data to other people, not to mention data that is accessible only through the web. I want a local copy.

But they don’t make it easy for you. Reader is all AJAXed out, so even simple page saves don’t work. Copying/pasting would be a nightmare. Screenshots? Too sloppy. Emailing copies of each item? Too time-consuming. Tagging them with a special tag, making that tag’s feed public, then subscribing in, like, Thunderbird or something? Even if that weren’t absurdly roundabout, the public feeds only have twenty or so items.

I’m talking specifically about a blog I loved, but that up and disappeared one day, completely, leaving the only copies of the lost data scattered throughout Netvibes, Newsgator, Bloglines, and Reader. Google searches turned up nothing like a straightforward guide to saving from Reader, which surprised me. But there were clues, and using only a couple tools, I finally got it. It’s actually pretty easy, I was able to save 118 items in about ten minutes with this method. Let me show you it.

You need Firefox, the two plugins Greasemonkey and ScrapBook, and the Greasemonkey script Google Reader Print Button. Then it’s just a matter of clicking “Print” for each item you want to save, which opens it in its own tab, then using ScrapBook’s “Capture All Tabs…” function, which automatically does a “Save Page As, Web Page, complete” into your %AppData% folder for each tab, then finally optionally using ScrapBook’s “Combine Wizard” (in the tools menu of the ScrapBook sidebar [Alt+K]) to put all the items into a single folder with a single index.html file.

The “printing” part is the most cumbersome, but goes by pretty quickly with the repetition of a series of clicks and keystrokes:

  1. Click “Print”
  2. Press Esc (to close the print dialogue)
  3. Press Ctrl+Tab (to get back to Reader)
  4. Press J (to go to the next feed item)

Do that mindlessly for a couple minutes, and they’ll all be there, waiting to be saved. I’m gonna put the word “disk” in here too so that anybody Googling for a solution might find this.

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