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Category: Culture


I had an interesting discussion with Jere about the whole flash mob thing, with some random musing on dada. I wound up saying:

I’m not sure that there’s not a paradox inherent in the concept. The need to draw in a lot of people conflicts with the need to keep the details under wraps. Once People Magazine does a story on it (which will be next week, I understand), it’s no longer mysterious.

Another effect of cheap communication. But you can’t know until you try, so it’s worth trying to see what happens. Failed experiments are still useful.

Regarding spontaneity, I think we had some in Boston. In the absence of specific instructions, I triggered the Happy Birthday whistle on the spur of the moment, and the crowd was willing to pick it up. Someone else (not an organizer) triggered the applause.

That was what was fun for me. The crowd knew it was supposed to do something, but didn’t know what. Supersaturated solution. It was clear from moment one that the surprise and delight aspect wasn’t going to be so strong. But it was interesting getting the crowd to come together on something that wasn’t preplanned.

In the more general sense, I think it’s healthy for the media to be reminded that sometimes fads grow and fade without their help. The phenomenon indicates that the media isn’t the only vector of information anymore.

Which is probably not the final story, but I thought I’d throw it out there.


Tonight was the first Boston flash mob. (The mailing list isn’t hard to find, but I think I won’t link to it; email me if you want to know.) It went OK. I showed up and got instructions around 6:50, and hit the designated spot at the designated time. People were kind of quiet, as per instructions, but not really. Then someone hushed the crowd, and the crowd obeyed. Cool.

A minute passed.

I started whistling Happy Birthday, since we were all there to buy a card for Bill. People picked it up.

I made as if to sing a bit of Happy Birthday, but a woman caught my eye and shook her head. I stopped. We whistled a few more bars of the song.

She caught my eye again and mimed clapping. I nodded back at her. We got the applause started; the entire mob caught it.

We stopped, and the crowd dispersed.

Good mob. Needs more interesting things to do; this one was really a repeat of the rug mob from NYC without quite as much focus. But it’s a nice start.

Larry Niven, you were right.

Kill kill bill bill

Kill Bill is just gonna be a big huge sprawling mess. Hopefully in a good way. Over three hours! Tarantino goes wild! Man, the guy doesn’t have any self-restraint as it is.

But I’m gonna see it. I’m even looking forward to it. His lack of self-restraint has led to some amazing things, so what the hell? I’ll think of it as his big unrestrained double album rock opera and see how it sounds.

Double header ow

Last Sunday, I sauntered on down to the Boston Common movie theater, conveniently located on beautiful Boston Common, to see a movie. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see Terminator 3, Pirates of the Caribbean, or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (that last being an outside chance of a choice), but I was in the mood for phat action. As the kids say.

So as I walk into the theater, some woman is trying to give away a Pirates ticket for the show that starts in ten minutes. I say that’s an omen, accept it with good grace, and head up to the theater. On my way out after the show, I note that I can easily catch the next showing of T3 if I’m willing to wait 45 minutes or so, and I had my Game Boy with me, so that was that.

Nothing like an unusually inexpensive double feature. The only problem is that I keep finding myself thinking what an excellently unusual Terminator Johnny Depp was, and I want to write a long essay about how Schwarzenegger is getting a bit old to play a swashbuckling pirate captain but the script did a good job of making that into an asset rather than a liability. The curse and all. And Claire Danes makes a fine a love interest with an athletic and adventurous bent. Wait, that one fits both movies. Well, you see the aftereffects.

I would recommend T3 if only they’d cast Natasha Henstridge as the new model Terminator. Kristanna Loken was so much the budget version. Other than that, good matinee. Pirates rocked just as much as everyone else says, and you don’t need me to tell you that.

I will say that Jack Davenport’s turn as the British naval officer was much more nuanced and subtle than we had any right to expect from such a part in such a movie; it’s been a long time since the boring corner of the love triangle got to play the conflict between duty and empathy. But Davenport’s a hell of an actor. Get Ultraviolet — it’s out on DVD.

No poon here?

I was just browsing around the Apple iTunes Music Store, contemplating the new Liz Phair album. Despite the warnings of friends, yeah. I was all geared up for the experience of buying the thing and being hugely disappointed by a sellout.

Then I noticed a Clean Lyrics badge on the album. Clicked it, and discovered that the album was an expurgated version. (Didja hear about the expurgated Liz Phair concert? “Hi, thanks for coming out! It’s gonna be a great night! I hope you enjoyed my show, and have a safe drive home!”)

After another few clicks it turns out it’s available in the dirty version as well. Gave me a little scare, though. Still… there’s something vaguely wrong about Liz Phair doing an expurgated version of her album, particularly since the cover is unabashedly hetcentric. So much for accepting her on her own terms.