Tuesday braindump

The New York Times has a surprisingly clear essay on why jokes are hard to remember:

Really great jokes, on the other hand, punch the lights out of do re mi. They work not by conforming to pattern recognition routines but by subverting them. “Jokes work because they deal with the unexpected, starting in one direction and then veering off into another,” said Robert Provine, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the author of “Laughter: A Scientific Investigation.” “What makes a joke successful are the same properties that can make it difficult to remember.”

People sometimes ask why I despise the tabloids so much. Here’s the reason: the front page of the Scottish Sunday Express this weekend exposed the shocking behaviour of the now-18-year-old survivors of the Dunblane massacre. It’s an utterly despicable piece of journalism, and Andrew lays into it appropriately:

They, or at least some of them, are drinking and fighting and having sex and then posting about it on social networking sites. That all sounds pretty reasonable to me, and it’s actually good to see that the shooting hasn’t totally wrecked their abilities to live normal lives. But the Express seems to think that that’s somehow Not On. No, these people are Dunblane Survivors, and that means they have to spend their every waking second Honouring The Memory Of Their Fallen Classmates. If they do anything else, like have fun or something, they’re Shaming Their Fallen Classmates.

The Sci-Fi channel is aiming to shake its ‘geeky image’, by changing its name to ‘SyFy’. Apparently they a) only have the 1980’s definition of ‘geek’ and b) have no concept of the people who watch their shows. Patronising cretins:

During its fourth-quarter earnings call, parent General Electric said Sci Fi racked up a double-digit increase in operating earnings despite the beginnings of the recession.

Nevertheless, there was always a sneaking suspicion that the name was holding the network back.

“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular,” said TV historian Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel when he worked at USA Network.

qwghlm has a thoughtful piece on the reasons Twitter has taken off a few years after the rise of blogging, and why 140-character-brevity isn’t indicative of short attention spans:

Watchmen (and the other examples Johnson cites and expounds upon inEverything Bad Is Good For You) show that when consuming media, depth and brevity are not totally irreconcilable; you can concentrate on something difficult and concrete as well as enjoying content 140 characters at a time. And yet Twitter often gets demonised as a posterboy for the inanity of Web 2.0. Perhaps that’s no surprise, with its chief characteristics of brevity and ephemerality, the exact opposite of how we have consumed media in the past. Given that “value” of old media was often measured on its length (writers being paid by the word) or durability (all those books and records on your shelves), what’s produced in new media is often characterised as comparatively worthless, particularly by those who cut their teeth in the old media.

Finally, the iPhone 3.0 software was announced today. Lots of cool stuff: picture-messaging, cut-and-paste, control of bluetooth devices (great if you have one of those house-controlling boxes) and turn-by-turn navigation, meaning I can finally leave the sat-nav at home. It’s seems to be just me left disappointed by the lack of video recording (maybe I’ve missed something). After seeing the Nokia N95’s impressively high-quality recording of Thriller last week, I was really hoping it’d come to the iPhone. Hopefully they’re leaving that for a hardware announcement this summer…