There is only one Nation of Ulysses

by Peter Rojas

IanS.jpgIan Svenonius brought his irreverent irreverence to the Bluestockings bookstore on Monday evening. I’m not sure I’d actually go see him perform these days – those last couple mAKE uP records were already on the tired side – but it was hard to resist the prospect of a reading from his new book, The Psychic Soviet. (Especially since the reading was a mere two blocks away from my apartment).

MU1.jpgRather than actually read from the book, Ian spent about an hour or so expounding on his pseudo-(conspiracy) theories about the connections between rock music and the Cold War. The neo-Debordian in me loved it, but should anyone who wasn’t a fan of NOU or the mAKE uP really care?

Ian’s the master of projecting an aura of self-seriousness, but after years of making a career out of both declaiming and mining nostalgia it’s almost as if he’s become little more than an object of nostalgia himself. Even setting aside any debate about his bands’ musical merits (some songs hold up, some don’t), as the guiding force behind Nation of Ulysses and the mAKE uP, Ian had an underappreciated influence on the style, taste, and sensibility of an entire sub-culture of kids, myself included. Ian’s sounds, clothes, and oblique references pointed towards the parts of Sixties culture that you didn’t hear about much ten or fifteen years ago. Digging Godard, the Situationist International, and Arthur Lee might seem like obvious moves these days, but at the time they were revelations.

NOU1.jpg The Psychic Soviet encapsulates what he’s all about (and really has always been about): a revolutionary stance disguised as an ironic take on revolutionary stances. And maybe that’s why it makes sense for the former Sassiest Boy in America to be writing books rather than songs; rock music is so overwhelmed by the sort of retroness he pioneered that a shift in medium was almost inevitable.

[And now I remember why I decided not to go on and get a PhD.]

The gang

by Peter Rojas

Peter and Ryan Gotta say, it was really good having Ryan back in NYC for a few days, even if we did spend 95% of our time at various WIN-related functions and only 5% of our time watching Talladega Nights.

Engadget gang sign Earlier today Jill snapped some pics of us up on the roof of Engadget HQ, apparently Apple wants a photo of us for a page they're putting together about the Engadget podcast. We probably won't be sending them any photographic evidence of our feeble attempt (pictured above) to flash an Engadget gang sign.

Number one!

by Peter Rojas

Technorati.jpgI guess I should probably be posting this on my other blog, but I was very pleased to discover this morning that Engadget had ascended to the very top of the Technorati 100. We'd been hovering in the top ten for a while now, and spent the better part of this year in second place behind Boing Boing (at least until they were edged out by a massively popular Chinese blog a month or two ago), but it never seemed like we'd actually make it all the way to number one. Not sure how long we'll remain on top, but even if it's only for a day or two it's still extremely gratifying to see that so many bloggers still find us worth linking to. We've got an amazing team of people at Engadget and we're all working like crazy to keep making the site better and better.

In 3D

by Peter Rojas

Monster HouseIt's not often that I get to go see a major motion picture directed by someone I know (in this case, Gil Kenan, husband of my good friend and former roommate Eliza Chaikin), so this past Friday I coughed up $10.50 to go see Monster House, that new computer animated kids horror movie. It's definitely a cartoon for kids -- even though it's ostensibly a horror flick, it never gets too scary or intense -- but what made it watchable was the movie's clever sense of humor (they don't rely on making grown-up pop culture references in order to appeal to adults) and the fact that the theater we went to was screening it in 3D (you have to wear glasses and everything). 3D's been a movie gimmick for decades, so I was a little skeptical walking into the theater about how good it'd be, but they're using a relatively new technology called RealD, and I walked out impressed. There wasn't a whole lot of the "stuff floating out in front of you that you try and grab" kind of 3D (remember Captain EO?), it was more about using the 3D to add texture and depth to everything, something which made Monster House seem like more than just yet another computer-generated cartoon. Best of all, I didn't leave the theater with a headache. Coincidentally, I'm supposed to see a demo of Philips' new 3D television system this week. 3DTV is still years, if not decades, away from mainstream adoption, but I'm very curious to see how it compares with what I just watched.

Why I love the internet (and Ubuntu)

by Peter Rojas

Ubuntu stickerThis is why I love the internet: lately I've been geeking out with Ubuntu, which I have installed on my Sony Vaio FS, only to discover that there's an entire blog dedicated to Ubuntu on the Vaio FS. I'm not sure I'm quite ready to be like the cool kids and make Ubuntu my primary OS -- I still have to worry about stuff like synching my Treo, something I haven't quite gotten to work yet -- but otherwise it offers about 90-95% of what I need out of a PC.

But most importantly, my new Ubuntu PC runs Firefox like a charm. Now that I've migrated my email to Gmail, my calendar to Google Calendar, and my to-do list to Backpack, all I really care about on a device is how good its browser is. That's one reason why for my latest trip to Europe I decided to force myself to go laptop-less, and instead carry around a Nokia 770 internet tablet. I'm not going to pretend that I was able to get a ton of work done -- the pen-based interface did me in (and besides, I was supposed to be on vacation) -- but the browser on the 770 is excellent and I was able to do a fairly good job of staying on top of my email and newsfeeds. What Nokia needs to do is bite the OQO Model O1's style and come out with a version of the 770 with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, it'd make it a lot easier to ditch my laptop. The slide-out QWERTY keyboard is the main reason I'll be checking out Sony's new mylo device as soon as it debuts, though I suspect that its screen will be too small and too low-res to be of much use to me.