From PBS Offbook:

With TV shows dedicated to it, and pictures and videos all across the internet, cosplay has now officially entered the public consciousness. All over the world, enthusiastic fans dress up as their favorite characters and show off amazing homemade costumes at conventions and in inspiring photography sessions. But beyond the glamour is a powerful story of personal transformation. Dressing up helps many cosplayers subvert cultural norms and experiment with new identities. For some, it makes them feel more comfortable in their own skin. A practice that on the surface seems just for fun, in fact can have a profound effect on the cosplayer, revealing another side to this intriguing contemporary movement.

I was a bit disappointed by the lack of cosplay during the 2014 PAX East here in Boston. But, I’m glad someone did a mini-documentary on this culture because a lot of people just don’t get it when only looking at the surface.

Horace Dediu explains what innovation is and why we must understand how it differs from novelty, invention, and creation.

Novelty: Something new
Creation: Something new and valuable
Invention: Something new, having potential value through utility
Innovation: Something new and uniquely useful

Dediu goes on to say that not understanding the factors and context which makes a product “innovative” is just as bad as not being able to read or understand numbers. A perfect example illustrating Dediu’s point is an article about Gillette’s new “innovative” ProGlide FlexBall razor.

According to the Journal, Gillette plans to spend $200 million promoting the ProGlide FlexBall, with a campaign that centers on telling people that “the blades miss 20% fewer hairs with each pass and that it can cut each whisker 23 microns shorter — about a quarter of the width of a strand of human hair.”

Even if the new razor is more effective than old ones (which I doubt), a swivel ball that gets facial hair 23 microns shorter isn’t a “moonshot.” It’s not even an across-the-street-shot. It’s a dumb novelty that is meant to trick customers into believing that their old, swivel-free razors are outmoded, and that they should pony up for the new model. And what’s worse is that it will probably work.

The razor industry is the worst — peddling marketing gimmicks as innovations for years. Makes me think of this Onion article from 2004. How prophetic. [via daringfireball]

Marquez-Gabriel-adv-obit-slide-LP84-superJumbo-v5The Nobel Prize-winning author passed away at his home in Mexico City. He was 87.

Mr. García Márquez was a master of the literary genre known as magical realism, in which the miraculous and the real converge. In his novels and stories, storms rage for years, flowers drift from the skies, tyrants survive for centuries, priests levitate and corpses fail to decompose. And, more plausibly, lovers rekindle their passion after a half-century apart.

Magical realism, he said, sprang from Latin America’s history of vicious dictators and romantic revolutionaries, of long years of hunger, illness and violence. In accepting his Nobel, Mr. García Márquez said: “Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination. For our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.”

Like many Latin American intellectuals and artists, Mr. García Márquez felt impelled to speak out on the political issues of his day. He viewed the world from a left-wing perspective, bitterly opposing Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the right-wing Chilean dictator, and unswervingly supporting Fidel Castro in Cuba. Mr. Castro became such a close friend that Mr. García Márquez showed him drafts of his unpublished books.

He was obviously a titan, but I can’t help share this post about how English-speakers can never fully appreciate his literary gifts:

García Márquez would choose a word over another because it was close and familiar, or wildly improbable, or deadpan and irrefutable. It’s nearly impossible to recreate this in another language because A) we’re not Nobel laureates, and B) the history, music, or emotion words carry is wrapped up in the context from which they are delivered. García Márquez captured Colombian reality from the inside out, with the precision of a journalist, and the clarity of vision of a poet. “I dare to think that it is this colossal, roaring reality, and not just its literary expression, that this year merited the attention of the Swedish Academy,” he said in that Nobel acceptance speech. “All creatures of that boundless, frenzied reality have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable. This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude.”

García Márquez’s was a life that was lived to be told, as he said, complete with dictator friends and lifelong literary foes. He lived to tell the tale of Colombia, of Latin America, to tell it back to us like his grandmother did and like our grandmothers still do, while they can. He explained it to us and to the rest of the world, and for a moment they listened—but few understood, and I don’t blame them. It was Colombians, in the end, he was writing for; he told us our own stories back to us in the language and the music of our mothers, lovers, and friends, and we felt less alone because we had our own solitude to turn to.

I’m ashamed to admit I only made it two-thirds of the way through 100 Years of Solitude. It’s one of the only canonical literary books I’ve ever not finished.

ESPN’s SportsCenter tackled #BostonStrong ahead of next week’s marathon. Can’t believe its already been a year. What the what? Anyway, this was emotional to watch — especially, but certainly not limited to, knowing how the manhunt ended down the street from the house I grew up in. Watch Part Two here.

51999_1_251307.jpg__1072x0_q85_subject_location-1492,1170_upscaleSmithsonian Magazine has announced the finalists of its 11th Annual Photo Contest. This year’s competition had approximately 50,000 submissions, with ten images selected across six categories including: Natural, Travel, People, Americana, Altered, and Mobile. Fifty-nine images have been selected (one was disqualified) in total.

What’s particularly interesting to me: in the mobile photo category every single image selected was taken by an iPhone. You would think perhaps one or two would come from an Android device or even a Windows Phone. But, no. iPhones across the board. Does this indicate the iPhone is a superior camera or user behavior is somehow different? Perhaps. Perhaps it really means nothing, other than being an interesting coincidence.

The photo above by Cammie Cooley is particularly painterly — it looks staged, as if it were a movie still. The photo was taken with an iPhone 5 at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana, on October 27, 2013. [via colossal]

Dave Grohl and Kris Novoselic had a fantastic collection of women fill in on vocals for Kurt Cobain during their induction into the Rock N’Roll Hall of Fame, including Joan Jett, Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth, and Annie Clark. Perhaps the most interesting of those performances came courtesy of Lorde’s rendition of “All Apologies”, which also saw Pat Smear sit in on guitar.

Stereogum has more from the night, including some bits on the other inductees you likely don’t care about because Nirvana.

indiansIn 2002, cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz created the image on the left and then late last week before the Cleveland Indians’ opening day it actually happened during a Native American protest of the Cleveland Indians “Chief Wahoo” logo.

Naturally, Alcaraz was a bit disappointed over real-life imitating art. [via buzzfeed]

This is essentially an advertisement for Intel, so there’s naturally a lot of “rah-rah-we’re so great” marketing BS therein; but, if you can stomach that, the video also doubles as a nice look at the typography design process — specifically, Intel Clear, the company’s new proprietary brand font.

dymrL5FMore specifically, this is President Lincoln meeting with General George ‘Little Mac’ McClellan in the General’s tent at Antietam in September 1862. McClellan was leader of the Army of the Potomac, and a world champion procrastinator/overthinker.

The photo, btw, was colorized by Laiz Kuczynski, who says, “A lot of guesswork goes in to colorization, there’s no way around it, but a lot of color can also be surmised simply by the black and white hues. Red will show up more obvious than light blue, for instance, on the original B/W exposure, so ignoring historical research and verifiable evidence and contemporary accounts, guessing on the B/W hue is actually a solid guess post-19th century. Also I’m hitting the bed, so I won’t be able to answer questions until the morning here!”

Spoiler: Lincoln dies at the end of his vampire hunting days.


Two of my favorite coffee institutions, Blue Bottle in San Francisco and Tonx, a subscription coffee service living on the Internet, are joining forces.

According to both Blue Bottle and Tonx, much of the deal is to get Tonx’s people and tech capabilities and use them to build a better online and store front experience. For Tonx subscribers, nothing is going to change immediately, but within a matter of months it will be subsumed completely subsumed into Blue Bottle.

“From a service perspective everything will stay the same–the Tonx product will persist but we’ll be maintaining one brand,” says Tonx cofounder Nik Bauman. “So eventually [Tonx] will become Blue Bottle, and we’ll become the ecommerce arm of Blue Bottle.”

The San Francisco Bay Area-based Blue Bottle, along with other formerly roasters like Portland’s Stumptown, Chicago’s Intelligentsia, and North Carolina’s Counter Culture helped kick off a brewed coffee movement in the United States. And while all have grown beyond their original city limits, none have really threatened to become the next Starbucks, or even Chipotle. Given its recent investment round, however, along with its purchase of Handsome Roasters in Los Angeles, Blue Bottle is clearly looking to get big. Tonx immediately gives Blue Bottle a much better online and app experience than now has.

It’s also a good deal for Tonx, which was attempting to raise more money to purchase its own coffee roaster (it currently has a contract deal where it rents one on the weekends) and open a store front. While neither announced a price, Tonx did abandon a $4 million fundraising round it had been pursuing recently. Presumably, the deal would be on par with that.

Blue Bottle’s funding really makes it the lead horse to become the boutique Starbucks, if you will. This deal goes a long way to helping Blue Bottle create a store presence that lives beyond the confines of brick and mortar. Tonx is fantastic if you have the disposable income and genuine love for coffee to spend on the subscription service. Otherwise, the economics just don’t work out.