Buried Netflix Treasures About Dudes In Peril

Purely by accident, this week I’ve picked three films with something in common — all of them, in their own ways, are about men and adversity. Two of them feature strong, confident men. The third… not so much.

If you want to see Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin slug it out on the flatbed of a train: Emperor of the North (1973, Robert Aldrich)

Robert Aldrich was generally not one for half measures. When he decided to make a woman’s picture, the hysteria and screeching camp got turned all the way up until the final product was Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? or The Legend of Lylah Clare. When he set out to make a vulgar, offensive comedy, he pushed out The Choirboys, a film vulgar and offensive enough for screenwriter Joseph Wambaugh to disown it. And when he made man’s-man action movies… well, that was his specialty, and if you don’t believe me, go watch The Dirty Dozen again. Despite the popularity of Dozen, though, his tough-minded machismo may have not had a better, more striking expression than Emperor of the North.

The central conflict can be reduced to a simple logline: Borgnine is a fierce conductor who doesn’t want hobos riding his train, while Marvin is a legendary hobo determined to ride Borgnine’s train. (Keith Carradine gets caught in the middle as a callow young punk looking to make a reputation.) Such stripped-down characterization invites allegorical analysis, and there’s plenty of space within the narrative to see it as either an Establishment-vs.-Counterculture social commentary or an arduous spiritual journey towards, ahem, What Lies North; Christopher Knopf’s script, with lines like, “Turn her over, it says ‘Made in Hell’,” certainly seems to encourage the latter interpretation. That’s all subtext, of course — the text is a grim, brutal action film, cleanly and efficiently directed by Aldrich with an emphasis on closeups and tight framing (the better to study all the consternation, pain, determination and anger on the faces of its principals). Borgnine and Marvin are terrific playing to type (seething and taciturn, respectively), while Carradine excels at playing the wild card whose sympathies seem to shift by the minute.

If I’m not making this sound appealing enough, know that the opening scene has a glowering Borgnine smashing a hobo in the head with a hammer until he falls under the wheels of his train, and the very next scene has Marvin using a live chicken as a weapon. And it only gets better from there. (Emperor of the North expires from Instant on March 31st, so take advantage while it’s around. You won’t regret it.)

If you want to know if there’s any life left in the infidelity genre: Tuesday, After Christmas (2011, Radu Muntean)

Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy has to decide whether or not to leave his wife for girl. It’s an old, familiar story, and certainly the average moviegoer has seen a number of variations on this theme. Romanian director Muntean, with his film Tuesday, After Christmas, is smart enough here to recognize that the wheel need not be reinvented — it just needs a good oiling. Rather than get fancy with plot, he chooses a low-key naturalism as his mode and instead allows his characters to work with the kind of tiny details most would leave out. The small notes add up in this tale of a man torn between his love for his mistress and his desire to avoid hurting his wife; the body language and playful ease of the scenes between him and his lover (belly raspberries!) create a palpable intimacy, while his home life is depicted with such reflexive comfort that his dilemma becomes all too believable.

None of this would work, though, if Muntean didn’t also have a terrific cast to put this across. Mimi Branescu is convincingly conflicted as Paul, the man in question, while Mirela Oprisor and Maria Popistasu, as his wife and mistress respectively, both prove to be appealingly attractive options. Oprisor, eventually, becomes the true MVP — when given the Big Scene after Branescu comes clean in the most graceless way possible, she reacts not with histronics but with cold, hard composure. Her refusal to melt down makes the emotional impact connect that much harder; when she spits out, “You’re a huge disappointment to me,” she might as well have stabbed Branescu in the face. Yet, when she does finally crack and let the tears come, she quickly regains her composure and goes for a cigarette, at which point he instinctively offers her a light. That’s the beauty of the film in a nutshell. Tuesday, After Christmas breaks no new ground, but it feels more honest — and thus more affecting — than most films can even get within shouting distance of.

If you want to see the humble beginnings of one of our most famous stars: Hercules in New York (1969, Arthur Allen Seidelman)

“I AM HERCULES.” So sayeth Arnold Strong as his preferred way to end any philosophical disagreement. You know him, of course, as Arnold Schwarzenegger, and damn but doesn’t part of me hope he still occasionally bellows that out in the heat of an argument. Hercules in New York was the big man’s first big role as the title character; it says something about the producers that all they could think to do was team him up with a third-tier Borscht Belt schmuck (Arnold Stang) and hope something magical happened. Not much did, but New York is still worth a watch for an early peek at Schwarzenegger. Even poorly dubbed, he still has an easy, slightly goofy magnetism and an undeniably imposing physical presence; Seidelman, naturally, leans a lot harder on the latter than the former — Hercules whips his shirt off to display his giant torso at any provocation, even if said shirt is a double-knit white turtleneck, and gets into fracases whenever the film’s energy level flags (e.g. all the damn time).

The broad-as-a-bastard humor of jabberjaw Stang helps the film’s cause none, yet there are still plenty of laughs to be had with the addition of cheap beer and a few friends. The Peplum-in-the-Park rendition of Mount Olympus is consistently chuckle-worthy, and Hercules’ confused literalist reading of everything he hears on his journey (leading one character to exclaim, “You got chicken fat in your head?”) doesn’t wear out its welcome like I expected it to. Best of all is when Arnold, riding in a carriage in Central Park with a lady whom I think is intended as a love interest but never quite gets developed that far, jumps into a tangle with an escaped zoo bear. Said bear is portrayed by not by an actual bear, of course, but by a man in the saddest bear suit you’ve ever laid eyes upon). If nothing else, Hercules in New York proves that even the gods among us have to start out as mortals. (This gets pulled from Instant on April 1st, so get watching.)

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/lcosgrove/buried-netflix-treasures-about-dudes-in-peril-5n9c

27 Hilarious Quotes From Japan’s Chief Gamer Dad

The premise of GameCenter CX is simple: take an average Japanese dad, and make him play through old video games he has no idea how to navigate. Sometimes his assistants would help him through tough patches. Sometimes they visit arcades in countries such as Korea or Cambodia.

Through bootleg translations online, the show’s chief gamer-dad Shinya Arino (who’s also one half of a comedian duo) has found an unlikely following on Tumblr and Reddit. If you’re wondering why, here’s what his quotes sound like out of context:

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/kevintang/26-hilarious-quotes-from-japans-celebrity-gamer-dad

Place Your Bets (Oh Wait, You Can’t)

The future: let’s bet on it! There are so many ways to pretend you have a crystal ball and then put money on your misty prognostications. Wall Street. Prediction markets. Office pools. Vegas.

In this week’s New Yorker, James Surowiecki argues in favor of legalized sports betting, which is now permitted in only four states (Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana). New Jersey voters approved an amendment in 2011 to make sports betting legal, and the DOJ, the NCAA and the four pro sports leagues have taken to the courts to stop them. He writes:

Of course, politicians are also responding to the influence of the major professional sports leagues. The leagues insist that legalized betting will make people suspect that games are fixed, thus harming their brands. Yet in Vegas billions are wagered legally on sports every year, apparently without ill effect, and legal sports betting in Great Britain doesn’t seem to dim anyone’s passion for Premier League soccer. Moreover, as Drazin said to me, betting is already an integral part of sports in the U.S.: “If gambling is really hurting the leagues, why does every sports show talk about point spreads and favorites and underdogs? And why does every office in America have a pool on the N.C.A.A. tournament?”

In Surowiecki’s 2004 bestseller, The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, he offers a primer on behavioral economics and game theory that draws on gambling, Wall Street and other large crowdsourced systems to develop the idea that crowdsourcing information results in high predictive successes.

The potential pitfalls of giving this idea too much credence were evident during the last presidential election, in the provocative tale of the London traders who made a small killing off the unwarranted hopes (or, possibly, the bought-and-paid-for shenanigans) of Republicans in our recent Presidential election, during the course of which free money was handed out for a number of weeks in the commercial prediction markets. Yes! Real live cash dollars. That is because a rock-solid riskless profit opportunity (“arbitrage” in Wall Street lingo) mysteriously emerged in the form of a discrepancy in the odds on the U.S. presidential election between the UK-only prediction markets (e.g. Betfair and Pinnacle), and Intrade, the Dublin-based market which until very recently also operated in the U.S.

As the elections approached, forums all over the Internet lit up with discussion as to how best to exploit this inexplicable opportunity, which worked like this:

Question for gambling experts

[…] So here is my strategy:

Sell $1,000 against Obama on Betfair, and immediately hedge the potential payout by buying $1440 worth of Obama contracts at the price of $1440*0.635 = $914.40

So, right now, I pocket $1,000-$914.40 = $85.60

I also know Betfair takes 5% of the profits, while Intrade charges a very small fixed monthly fee, but no profit cuts (I think it’s $20, but I’ll consider it a sunk cost of being on Intrade, and probably trading like crazy).

If Obama wins:
I make loss with Betfair (so no payment to them), and I pay the Betfair counterparty with my $1440 I won on Intrade. I keep the 85.60 I made today.


If Romney wins:
I make $1,000 profit with Betfair, they take 5% ($50), I am thus left with $85.60-$50 = $35.60.

Either way, I make a pretax return between 8.56% (if Obama wins) and 3.56% (if Romney wins) – risk free, instantaneously. With the possibility of repeating, until [the] prices converge. Even if I have to keep my money deposited, that market will close very soon, with elections one week away.

In other words, because there was a spread between Intrade’s odds on Obama (around 65 percent to win) and those offered by the far larger UK sites (Betfair consistently hovered around 75 percent), it was possible to arrange for a small but guaranteed return. Clearly, this guy should be running a hedge fund.

As it happens, however, Americans will no longer be allowed easy pickings such as these, because Intrade closed up shop here on December 23, 2012. This was in response to a lawsuit filed by U.S. regulatory authorities, a move some have attributed to political motivations.

On Nov. 26, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (yes, the same U.S. government agency that failed to regulate the market in exotic credit derivatives) filed a suit against Intrade to enjoin it from further activity in the U.S. Bloomberg Businessweek reported that some 10,000 American punters would henceforth be unable to make (or lose) real simoleons betting on election outcomes, Oscar winners and so on, though the action in the UK will remain unaffected (with Argo heavily tipped to win Best Picture at current odds).

John Forelli, a vice presicent at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City NJ demonstrates a new in-room gambling system Monday Feb. 11, 2013 in Atlantic City. The system will be available to guests starting Feb. 18. The casino says it is the first in the nation to offer this technology, which is says can be expanded to encompass hand-held gambling devices and even Internet betting once it is legalized. Wayne Parry / AP

What, you may ask, is the harm in betting on any old thing you like? In England they can pretty much bet on whether or not your toast will land buttered-side down. Are they the crazy ones, or are we?

The history of “novelty” or “proposition” betting in the U.S. has been a vexed one, despite the recent passage of laws intended to relax restrictions against it. Unlike ordinary bets on games of chance or sporting events, which have had fixed regulations in place for about forever, betting on the outcomes of dog shows or celebrity pregnancies is vulnerable to the participation of those in possession of inside information. How to ensure that the interests of fairness will prevail? In 1980, for example, the Castaways casino offered odds on the outcome of the popular TV show Dallas. But it quickly emerged that altogether too many people knew Who had Shot J.R., and were not unwilling to profit by their knowledge; the Nevada Gaming Control Board intervened, and all stakes had to be refunded. Difficulties like these have generally meant that spoilsport gaming control boards charged with regulating gambling have turned down attempt after attempt to book such bets.

According to vegasinc.com, the last legal novelty wager in the U.S. was placed in 1979, when the onetime El Cortez casino took bets on where bits of the Skylab satellite would crash to earth (the eventual winner, Australia, paid out at 30-1.)

If insider betting is an issue with the gaming regulators, betting on politics complicates matters still further — there’s the potential for corruption, the weight of ideological imperatives and so on. (If you’re interested in the details regarding betting on elections, Paul W. Rhode of the Univ. of Arizona and NBER and Koleman S. Strumpf of the Univ. of Kansas School of Business wrote a most fascinating paper, “Manipulating Political Stock Markets” analyzing a century’s worth of data on this subject. It turns out that you could make legal bets on Presidental elections right on Wall Street between 1880 and 1944. Who knew?)

Perhaps because U.S. citizens were allowed to place bets at Intrade (in contrast to the other UK prediction markets), it was Intrade’s numbers that had all the play from U.S. media during the campaign season. When we consider how avidly these numbers were being watched by the press, and how little cash would have been required to game them, it would seem like child’s play for the likes of Karl Rove’s Crossroad GPS to have done just that. But there was a wrinkle; Intrade’s UK-only competitors, such as Pinnacle and Betfair, are huge — and therefore far less vulnerable to tampering. To give an idea, the publicly traded Betfair’s current market cap is in the neighborhood of 700 million sterling, whereas the privately-owned Intrade is nowhere near a tenth as large, if the (quite credibly derived) estimates of punters on its own forums are to be believed. As an excellent analysis by Daily Kos diarist Skipbidder pointed out on November 4th: “More money has been wagered today on Pinnacle in the US Presidential election than in TOTAL on Iowa Election Market this year.” It’s possible that the existence of large and reliable UK prediction markets was a kind of insurance against gaming the Intrade numbers too far, in much the same way that exit polls limit the possibilities of electoral cheating by potentially raising the red flag.

Faced with the might of the CFTC (and no doubt mindful of the various UK gaming executives under indictment or even jailed for their online activities in the US), Intrade caved, offering on their homepage this meek rejoinder to talk of their legal troubles (since removed):

“The report of Intrade’s death was premature”

We understand our recent announcement [of the decision to close up shop] was met with surprise and disappointment by our US customers, but this in no way signals the end of Intrade in the US. In the near future we’ll announce plans for a new exchange model that will allow legal participation from all jurisdictions – including the US. We believe this new model will further enhance Intrade’s position as the leading prediction market platform for real time probabilities about future events.

There has been talk that this “new exchange model” might mean a so-called “play money” site like the Hollywood Stock Exchange, but that is unlikely to fly, given that their customers will hardly accept play money having once been given the chance to play for real stakes. Or maybe Intrade can pinky-promise the CFTC that they really really will be very very good from now on, and stay entirely away from operating an unregulated market in commodities options, which seems kind of unlikely too, on the face of it. (The best full-dress rundown of the Intrade hoo-ha is in this Financial Times piece from Gregory Meyer and Arash Massoudi, but it’s partly paywalled.)

But it was the fact that the CFTC came down on Intrade so close to the recent elections — fully seven years after a deal had been struck — that raised many an eyebrow. As Meyer and Massoudi observed: “Among concerns: the [election-related] contracts threatened to sway voters with monetary incentives.” And there were subtler election-related shenanigans afoot, notably the aforementioned arbitrage. This gave rise to a lot of speculation, in both senses of that word.

Commenting on the spread in Slate, Matt Yglesias surmised that the prediction markets weren’t “ready for primetime,” since arbitrageurs ought to have corrected the spread in a more liquid market. Others supposed that there was a good reason for this apparent market failure: Republicans were keeping a thumb on the scales at Intrade, maybe through wishful thinking — or, just possibly, because the small size of its U.S. market made manipulating Intrade a far cheaper and more attractive campaign move than buying (more) TV commercials in Ohio.

Anyhoo, it seems a lot of savvy London traders made out like bandits exploiting the Intrade/Betfair arbitrage. I especially enjoyed this report.

After the election, I contacted one of these successful Intrade arbitrageurs; a London hedge fund guy whose name must ever remain a dark secret. (Transcript very lightly edited for clarity and punctuation. And concealment. Let us call him Wallflower.)

MB: How much did you bet on the presidential election?

WF: Not huge amounts. I made about 100GBP arbitraging Intrade vs Betfair, and another 100GBP making directional bets (Obama to win, and a few bets on individual states) on Betfair.

MB: When did you decide to take a flutter, and what events precipitated that decision?

WF: A few days before the election I was reading a story about Nate Silver, who was saying that the election was almost certainly going to go to Obama. I tend not to trust predictions like that unless I can replicate them myself, so on the Sunday before the election I spent a few hours getting some polling data and building a simple prediction model. My model agreed with the 538 [Electoral College votes] prediction — in fact it was even more confident of an Obama win.

[…] I wasn’t 100% sure it would work, so I didn’t put as much money into it as I could have done – just enough to prove that it could be done and buy a few rounds of drinks with the winnings.

MB: So my understanding is that you guys have had so-called “novelty betting” in the UK like, forever. The difficulties here seem to center round the problems inherent in e.g. too many people knowing outcomes. How come you guys don’t have these proscriptions, would you say?

WF: Partly I think there’s a more relaxed attitude to gambling in the UK. Though there have been problems, e.g. the recent betting on the next Archbishop of Canterbury — did you see that?

MB: NO that is amazing. So what happened?

WF: So from next year there’ll be a new archbishop; there was betting on who it would be. One candidate, Justin Welby, suddenly had a ton of bets placed on him, presumably from people with insider info. You can read about it here..

MB: So I’m wondering if you would take me through your personal concept of the connection between speculation and gambling; in the UK, vs. global markets, US markets, and so on.

WF: OK. I don’t think there’s any difference between speculation and gambling, really.

[!!!!]

MB: Please comment on Intrade closing down with respect to the following: I understand that like 2/3 of the Intraders were in the US? But it’s still a pretty small number of guys. In any case, they’ve posted their intention to return with a U.S.-friendly platform. Can you speculate as to what that might be? (I can’t believe they mean to open a play-money site. No way, after having had a real one.)

WF: I can totally believe that what they were doing was illegal under US law.

By US friendly, it’s possible that they mean a platform that allows you to speculate on sports, politics etc but not on commodity prices. There would be zero point to Intrade if it was play money; predictions would be worthless.

There’s little chance of ever learning the real motives of Romney fans on Intrade; their motive for placing irrational bets may well have been based on their unfounded hopes, rather than a cynical desire to manipulate the results. Certainly U.S. media reports uniformly indicated that the Republicans were truly convinced they were winning until the last possible instant. When I mooted this with Wallflower, he responded:

“Hanlon’s razor in action :)” (That is, “Never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity.”)

It’s a little sad to think that the American electorate will miss out on seeing our politics spelled out in the prediction markets. These markets are capable of providing a valuable resource; they are often more accurate than ordinary polls, as as Surowiecki and others have pointed out. But come what may, the following characteristic entry on the Intrade bulletin boards just a few weeks ago provided an unusually pithy illustration of the possible cost, in cold, hard cash, of preferring ideology to facts.

Dear dumb-ass Republicans,

God bless you and long may you reject science, statistics, evidence, reality, common sense, and the like.

ps thanks for the money.

yours,

a godless liberal European

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/mariabustillos/place-your-bets-oh-wait-you-cant

↓↓↓ Look Down ↓↓↓

Here’s a question: What exactly are headlines for, on the internet?

This post doesn’t have a canonical headline (that is, a single, main, authoritative headline, chosen by me, that isn’t a joke). But it has a large number of other headlines that you can’t see right now. It has, for example, three headlines on the BuzzFeed front page, none of which are attached to this post when you actually arrive at it, but which will be shown to different visitors to the main page of this site (the idea being that the least successful headlines are culled). Those headlines serve a purpose to me: to get you to this page. Once you’re here, though, their use is fulfilled. They don’t need to continue to exist, and in our system, they don’t. Those frontpage headlines are replaced with the main headline which, at least on this post, unusually, doesn’t really exist. But why should it?

This post will also spawn a multitude of headlines on Twitter and Facebook — I started with “Infinite Test: Why We Don’t Need Headlines Anymore,” and “RIP Headlines” on Twitter, because I thought those were both fair representations of the post and might get people to read it.

For someone to read one of those tweet headlines and to come to this piece would be a small success — that is clear. What isn’t clear is why I would want those people to come to the story and find another, similar-but-different headline. To click on “RIP Headlines,” a headline, and arrive at a page that has another headline, along the lines of “Why We Don’t Need Headlines,” is something we’re very used to doing. But it should feel like a form of deceit. It tells a reader, though you might not receive it this way, that the headline you were initially interested in isn’t as good as the original headline — that the one you were interested in is not the best one, just the one we thought you’d be interested in. Or, to put it another way: you’re not good enough to be interested in the best headline, but maybe this lesser one will do. We have ours, you have yours. Ours is the most right. But welcome to our website! Please click the ads.

If you consume much of your news through Twitter, as I do, you often see two or three headlines for a story before you ever see the story (and you probably accept the premise that website front pages are dying, or at least becoming less important). Here, for example, I saw a tweet with the headline: “Artisanal refuses to die,” tweeted by a the story’s author. The headline on the site, also presumably by the story’s author, is “Artisanal Won’t Die.” When I tap on it, I see no fewer than three headlines when the story loads: the one in the title bar, the one in the tweet, and the one on the page.

Twitter’s app makes literal the context we almost always have when we discover a story — a process that increasingly feels like hearing a book read aloud by a child: “Moby Dick, by Herman Melville.” *opens cover* “Moby Dick, Published in whatever, by Herman Melville” *turns page* “Moby Dick, Chapter One. Ok. Ready? Ok. Call me Ishmael.”

Headlines, in their original 17th-century form, existed to tell you what section of a book you were in and what page you were on. Usage of the word in a newspaper context came later, in the 1890s. Then, their existence was justified because it had been freshly born of necessity: if your primary mode of story discovery is to look at a newspaper frontpage, you need headlines to tell you where to go.

That function, now, has been largely outsourced. On a site like BuzzFeed, or the New York Times, the front page headline still serves that diminished original purpose (and as long as we have front pages, it always will). But for many stories — a growing number — that headline is not the most important one. The headline that’s most successful on Facebook or Twitter, or in a link from another site, is that story’s headline *by default.*

This might seem like a subtle change, but it’s experientially significant. When someone arrives on a story, the headline they followed is the only headline they need to see — to show them another promotional headline is to oversell or tell them they’ve been misled; it’s like welcoming someone to a “casual get together” by saying, “welcome to Joe’s birthday party.”

Canonical online headlines, at most, tell you you’re in the right place; that the tweet you followed was not a lie. But headlines as we write them today aren’t even very good at that. If they’re nü-internet-style headlines, they’re sales pitches or orders (see Choire Sicha’s fantastic Take A Minute To Watch The New Way We Make Web Headlines Now from a couple weeks ago). If they’re classic, print-style headlines, they’re meant either to stand out in sea of text or tease you into reading more (online, however, the choice has already been made — you chose to visit the page). What stories on the internet need, then, is not a headline but what’s known as a dek — a simple description that both confirms the remote headline and adds to it. A boldfaced introduction, in other words, that flows seamlessly into the first sentence. There’s no need to reset with yet another headline.

From a writer’s perspective, maintaining your own authoritative headline may be a way to assert your taste, or message, over the tastes and messages of the thousands of people sharing or aggregating your story, photo or video. (It’s not always easy to see how people tweet your stories; while it’s nice that they’re reading, and showing them to people, they quite often zero in on the part you’re least interested in or proud of). And “outside” headline writers don’t follow the same standards as someone accountable for the story might, so it’s easy to understand unease in relinquishing the headline to them; Upworthy, a sort of reductio-ad-absurdum experiment for this concept, sometimes tests dozens of headlines for its aggregated stories, which are then targeted at Facebook, and settles on the most effective, whether or not it’s even accurate:

This headline, while effective, is pointedly misleading. Unless you live in one of those houses, Exxon did not spill oil in your backyard! (Even then: FRONT YARDS). The video is compelling enough, however, and the message do-goody enough, that most people don’t appear to feel betrayed. (Headlinese, since its earliest days, has proudly flouted grammar for brevity and efficacy. Headlines are not grammatical! They are incorrect! But misrepresenting facts is a different matter.)

But the problem with the page is the headline; one that you might forgive a Facebook friend for sharing or even writing, but one that a professional publication would normally cringe at publishing. The dek — that intro — on the other hand, is fine. Consider it again, with no headline:

Again, the viewers are already here, and probably saw that first headline (or another similar one) on Facebook or Twitter. Its presence on the page caused a serious problem and solved none. Its absence sacrifices nothing, and actually hides the (slightly ugly but self-incriminating) truth of how you got to the story in the first place.

(It may be worth noting that the Upworthy video has, in addition to the thousands of social media headlines, had more than a few canonical headlines as well, including at least two on YouTube. It’s a rip of a rip of a rip of the original, it appears.)

This is all to say that, online, headlines are not part of stories, they exist outside of stories. Their former three-pronged role, as place-marking buoys and summaries and introductions, has been largely mooted: the place-marking is done on a front page, on Twitter, on Facebook or elsewhere; the summarization can be taken care of with a dek or dedicated intro (which is written accurately and in grammatical English, not headlinese) or a first line; and the introduction, at this point, has already been made with the remote headline.

Today, canonical headlines are no better than tags, or suggestions for tweets.

So let’s get rid of them. Let’s Tumblrize the internet.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/look-down

Headshots Vs. Heartstrings

A study released today by the Harmony Institute* used the premiere of the first season of the Walking Dead as the subject matter for investigating brain activity in popular entertainment. (Read more about the study here.) The study’s central question: Is there a clear connection between neural engagement and Twitter engagement? Here’s how they did it, in five simple steps.

1. Choose a good subject

If you were going to choose any show on television as the subject matter for a study on neural engagement, you’d have a hard time picking something better than AMC’s The Walking Dead. Not only is the visceral, blood n’ guts nature of the show exactly the sort of thing likely to excite any available, living cerebral cortex, there’s a fun overlap in doing a brain study using a show so centrally concerned with brains.

2. Don your EEG caps

No, not that kind. demilked.uuuploads.com

An electroencephalogram (EEG) cap uses hundreds of electrodes, attached to the subject’s head, to monitor electrical activity in the brain. It also looks cool.

Working with neuroscientists at Columbia University and the City College Of New York, the researchers compared the EEG measurements of 20 people watching the show for the first time with the collected Twitter data from when the show originally aired, on October 31, 2010.

The subjects were all people who hadn’t seen any episodes of the show before. The EEG’s measured three areas types of brain waves, those associated with attention, memory encoding and emotion.

3. Compare the data

The key was then comparing the EEG data with the live Twitter data from when the show first aired. Combing back through Tweets about the show that happened as it aired, the researchers collated and overlaid that data with the peaks and valleys of neural engagement from their 20 test subjects.

4. Find the obvious connection: The headshot effect

youtube.com

The first noticeable trend was the correlation of spikes in brain activity and Tweets. Big moments in the show — for instance the clip below where Sheriff Rick Grimes takes out a little girl zombie with a shot to the head — corresponded with a lot of brain activity and a lot of Twitter activity. The common understanding of Twitter as a good measure of engagement in viewers holds.

5. Find the less obvious: The heartstring effect

But the brain data also showed something the Tweet data did not: Spikes in brain engagement at moments of high emotion that didn’t register on Twitter. When Sheriff Grimes breaks down about halfway through the episode, thinking his family is gone, the volunteers’s brains registered high activity, but there were very few Tweets about that moment. The effect says something about how people use Twitter, that it’s an outlet for certain types of emotions, but not others.

Would love to see how brain data and Twitter data would compare on something like the presidential debates.

**
Full disclosure: John Johnson, the Harmony Institute’s founder and executive director, also sits on the BuzzFeed board of directors.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/scott/headshots-vs-heartstrings

The Best Recipe Search Engine On The Internet Is About To Disappear

I have spent the past six years of my life looking at recipes online all day every day. And Punchfork was my favorite website for discovering recipes. But now it’s been acquired by Pinterest, which intends to effectively shut down Punchfork. This is THE WORST.

Punchfork was founded by Jeff Miller, an very smart engineer in the Bay Area who started the site in January 2011 with $20,000 of his own money. He used social data like tweets, Facebook shares and Pinterest pins (ding ding!) to measure which recipes are going viral then aggregated them on his site with a bunch of extra bells and whistles.

Read carefully, Miller’s acquisition announcement suggest that this whole thing is an “acqui-hire” — meaning Pinterest bought Miller and his skills solely to improve Pinterest, not to integrate Punchfork into Pinterest or use Pinterest’s vast resources to make Punchfork better. Here’s why this is terrible:

3. 1. Punchfork was the only great way to find GOOD recipes.

Miller found a way to pare down the Internet and highlight recipes from sources that I trust. Smitten Kitchen. Oh She Glows. The Kitchn. CHOW. Whole Living. Not every single home cook blog in the entire universe.

5. 2. Every other recipe aggregator was inferior.

A quick and dirty and probably kind of rude rundown of why everyone else is sort of awful:

Gojee: Like staring at a billboard. I’m paralyzed. Where’s the search bar? OK I just searched for duck breast why am I looking at a 2000-pixel wide picture of a red onion?

Yummly: Ugly. Not enough photos. Where do these recipes come from? Quit trying to sell me stuff.

Foodily: Ok not bad but SO BUSY and why am I only looking at four recipes at a time?

Epicurious: Epi I love you so much and you have the best recipes on the entire Internet, but it’s 2012 and you haven’t really changed since 1995. Those search thumbnails don’t even count as real pictures. Neither do any of the photos anywhere on your recipe pages, even on the photo tab. Clicking a “next” button to see the next 10 search results makes me lose my mind and so I just haven’t really been using you anymore. Gotta go, byeeee.

Allrecipes and Food.com: UGH gross too many crappy recipes that don’t work. Ugly.

Food Network: Same problems as Epi? But with somehow even uglier photos. And only Food Network recipes so not as cool.

Delish: Ok, not bad, but the search thumbnails are too small.

Foodgawker and Tastespotting: GOOD but not as good as Punchfork for finding recipes I really want to cook because they pull from too many random sources, but this is pretty nice.

Punchfork: Ahhhhh, relief.

(I know this isn’t a totally thorough list — I’m sure I forgot some — and please let me know if there’s another one you use.)

7. 3. Punchfork respects recipe developers.

This is a scary time for food magazines, cookbook authors, and all the other people who make a living by creating trustworthy recipes that work. It takes time and money to do it right — especially to also produce good pictures of those recipes — and as traditional media struggles to adapt to digital publishing, there are less and less ways to get paid well for developing recipes. Plus, you can’t actually copyright a recipe, or more specifically, its list of ingredients.

Punchfork was an aggregator, yes, and people complain about aggregators. But for a user to see the full recipe, her or she had to go back to the actual source — and Punchfork aggregated only from original sources. Also, Miller worked directly with recipe publishers to help them maximize traffic and improve their product. When I was at Bon Appetit, he sent us spreadsheets breaking down the total clicks and total saves our recipes got each day. It also told us how many shares a recipe got broken down by Facebook, tweets, etc. That was awesome. Those hand-crafted stats will most certainly disappear at Pinterest.

And look there’s a photo credit with Deb Perelman’s (the author of Smitten Kitchen) name under that photo! That’s really something.

9. 4. Punchfork is smart, fast, pretty and clean.

It loads fast. It feels thorough without being overwhelming. The pictures are big even if they are blown out. (I don’t care I just want to see what I’m getting before I click.) The newest stuff finds its way to the top. The recipe titles are big enough without intruding on the photo. The logo appearing next to each source makes it easy to browse and know what you’re looking it. You can sort by diet (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and paleo) (paleo! hahaha). You can sort by popularity or newness or rating.

11. 5. Pinterest is not great for finding recipes.

Boy do I love Pinterest, but when it comes to finding recipes, it has its issues.

1. I could click on a photo of food on Pinterest and twelve clicks later I’m still not looking at its recipe — if one even exists on the Internet, who knows. Pinterest doesn’t.

2. Looking at the search results for “duck breast” on Pinterest, I have no idea who the recipe creator is. And that’s something I use to quickly judge the quality of a recipe when I’m in a hurry.

3. I could also be looking for duck breast recipes on Pinterest and end up looking at a breast cancer awareness bathtub duckie. Actually that’s very charming, so it’s ok.

13. So here’s the good news.

Miller made all this great stuff happen. Now he’s going to work at Pinterest, it seems. So maybe he can make recipe search really awesome on Pinterest? GET ‘ER DONE MILLER. We’re counting on you.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/emofly/the-best-recipe-search-engine-on-the-internet-is-a

The Best App Designer In The World Is Now Working With Facebook

Loren Brichter, who is arguably the most influential mobile app developer today, made his name with Twitter apps — first, with the one that introduced the world to the now-ubiquitous pull-to-refresh concept and eventually became Twitter’s official iPhone app, then with the short-lived iPad app that pioneered the “cell swipe” design.

That makes today’s news especially interesting. Mike Matas, a product designer at Facebook, just posted:

Indeed, Brichter’s Facebook shows that he recently entered Facebook’s orbit — Chris Cox is the Vice President of Product at Facebook:

Neither Facebook nor Brichter immediately returned requests for comment, and it’s not clear if Brichter has been hired full-time or as a freelancer (based on the language in the post, likely the latter). But Brichter, who left Twitter and since published a successful game called Letterpress, is a huge get; the WSJ profiled him recently, calling him the “high priest of app design.” He, like Matas, spent time at Apple during the early iPhone days.

Facebook’s current primary mobile app is a huge improvement over its last one, which was notoriously sluggish (it also includes both pull-to-refresh and cell-swipe functions). But Matas is working primarily on Facebook Home right now, which, while probably the most design-forward product Facebook has ever released, was met with tepid reviews, so it’s safe to assume Brichter will be working on that.

Update: Brichter declined to talk about the specifics of his work with Facebook. “Sorry, trying to keep a low profile,” he writes.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/jwherrman/facebook-just-hired-the-best-app-designer-in-the-world