I'm still catching up on a week's worth of material, so bear with me.
It looks like there were two big stories online while I was away. The first was a marketing scandal of sorts in which Microsoft gave out fancy new laptops pre-loaded with the new Vista operating system. The scandal is either that Microsoft expected the laptops to be returned or that Microsoft tried to buy good reviews from bloggers with these laptops, depending on what you click. What I clicked:
The other big story while I was away was John Edwards announcing his presidential candidacy online. Usually I wouldn't care, and in fact, my first reaction was that he's a fool to try to pander to online pundits with a Webby gimmick, but he does seem to be using the Web in a smarter way. Judging by what I clicked, he's using the Web as an organizing tool and it looks like he's also able to influence political discourse with what he's saying online. That might sound like nothing, but when you consider that what passes for online campaigning usually is hiring bloggers to speak for you and hosting a conference call press conference with bloggers, Edwards is taking things quite a bit further. What I clicked:
Cartographers hit the road to bring updated online maps - It sounds like a cool job until you read it and find out they most chart new roads in exurb construction zones. Not exactly a sightseeing job.
Dana Carvey as Tom Brokaw reporting Gerald Ford's death in 1996. Funny, but a little bit not funny now that he's actually dead.
For what it's worth, I have permission to link to the video of Saddam's execution should it show up online. If it's too graphic even for my standards - meaning no capitalized, bold faced "NOTE" could prepare you - I'll probably revert to mentioning how you might go about finding it yourself. Judging by the descriptions I've read so far it sounds pretty tame. Of the parts they're showing on TV it strikes me as a bizarre thing to have to do to explain to the man you're about to hang how it's going to go. For that matter, it's amazing to think that the last thing Saddam learned was how to be hung. UPDATE: I've added a link to it here.
I'll be interested to see how the U.S. media handles any video of the execution. It seems pretty crazy that we, as a country, would prosecute a war and all the violence that goes with it but be too squeamish to watch the enemy leader hang (and then change the channel to watch actors pretend to kill each other in a variety of ways as part of our regular entertainment diet).
Speaking of Saddam and choking, while looking through YouTube videos I caught this clip from MSNBC of the anchor choking while reporting on Saddam's hanging. I don't know her but if I see her I'll ask if she thinks it was coincidence or more.
Speaking of violence as entertainment, the early Muppets were disturbingly violent.
Speaking of below linking standards, last week's Miss USA "news" brought Katie Rees into the spotlight. She's a Miss Nevada who was found to have been photographed flashing some bare parts to a camera. Funniest line in the story: "Rees used the incident to helpfully warn other young women not to expose themselves in front of random people's cameras." Thanks, Katie, for that lesson. What's confusing is that she said it was a one-time mistake when she was young, but then they found more photos, and when you look at them it looks like she's doing one of those Girls Gone Wild videos. Not very sympathetic. NOTE: Now that TMZ has the photos they've put them on every related page making the time line a little confusing to follow. The photos appear to have come to light on the 27th. The photos are not work safe, even with little stars covering the naughty bits. This is the first one I clicked. The funny line is from this one. As for being below linking standards, if you take note of the photo credit on the TMZ site you'll find the non-starred photos without much scrolling. I'll link to dead dictators, but bare boobies of beauty queens? Never!
Speaking of all that Miss USA news, I think the whole Rosie O'Donnell/Donald Trump thing is ridiculous but for what it's worth, here's Rosie's blog. I think it's weird, but who am I to judge? It's her blog. What's unfortunate is that their spat hasn't resulted in any loftier discussion of beauty pageants and the practice of parading women around to be judged. Maybe that's already been discussed to death.
Speaking of parading women, or in this case girls, one item that is driving some discussion of eroticism in young American culture is this NY Times piece: Middle school girls gone wild
Speaking of subverting feminism, Housework cuts breast cancer risk - Ah yes, it must be all those healthy cleaning chemicals. Don't be surprised if the next time you go to the gym, everyone is in the bathroom scrubbing the toilets.
After some nagging blog posts questioning their results, Google explains how they derived their annual zeitgeist report. It's not a raw data report, but an editorial interpretation to show "the spirit of the time." It might be said that editorial interpretations of aggregate data is in itself an indication of the spirit of the time. While there's a lot of faith in social software, we seen frequent instances of the guidance of a human hand, this blog included.
Speaking of search zeitgeist, ever read Yahoo's buzzlog? They do a good job describing trends in their search data.
Speaking of sites with a philosophy that's helped by a human hand, Digg gets another cash infusion - This is mostly an inside baseball story, but it's worth noting that most folks take it to mean Digg won't be bought out. I was interested to read the line in the last update about Digg being "more likely to focus on partnering with other sites that have expressed integrating Digg's format into their own sites." It's probably safe to predict that we'll see site specific Digg pages in the new year.
100 things we didn't know last year - I recently posted a link with this headline and I realize it was last year's. This is this year's.
I know that no one cares about news from Africa unless there are celebrities collecting babies or giant rock concerts, but bloggers have been paying attention to fighting in Somalia (also involving Ethiopia). I caught a bit of CNN while in the airport yesterday and I didn't see any mention of this in their Year in War, but it seems like the U.S. ought to pay attention when the subject is militarized Islamists. What I clicked:
NRA's Secret Graphic Novel Revealed!
iTunes Store Gags on Christmas Download Traffic - It surprises me that iTunes wouldn't be ready for the rush. Meanwhile, whatever happened to Zune? (Painful video at the end of this piece.)
Curse of the Golden Flower trailer - nicknamed "Curse of the Golden Corset."
Speaking of trailers, did you see the new Silver Surfer trailer? I wasn't trilled with Fantastic Four as a movie, but the chase scene in this trailer is cool.
This site lets you help your fellow automobile operators be more aware of their parking shortcomings.
You know your country is in trouble when...
Movie scenes rendered in office supplies - I only got 12 out of 20.
History of religion - Remember that animated map of the spread of civilizations? This is the same thing only major religions. Fascinating.
Architectural wonders 2006
25 really addictive flash games - We've seen most of these in the past, but try Double Wires.
Speaking of addictive games, Line Rider has been updated. And did you know it's going to be making the transition to console?
Still speaking of addictive Flash games, Drunk Santa - I know we're done with Santa but this is an interesting game. I got to 689 before giving up. It's funny to see his appearance change as he gets drunker.
Top 50 albums of 2006 - This is Pitchfork, so the implication is that if you aren't familiar with these you're officially uncool. Here's Rolling Stone's too.
If Midnight is too late for you on New Year's Eve, MSN is doing a trans-time zone event so you can pick an earlier one. I hope they make this into on-demand video afterward because I'd like to see some of these bands but I probably won't be sitting in front of the computer on New Year's (I hope).
Change blindness is the coolest psychological quirk since the Jedi mind trick.
7 High-Tech Japanese Gadgets You Can't Buy
Noah Kalina, celebrated photographer, has released a new collection called "everyday/celebrity" in which he photographs his everyday self with celebrities. (I think I read somewhere that the celebs are from some kind of VH1 award show, but I can't find where I read that.)