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Archive for November, 2009

Borat Redux

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

“The media business is the new Ellis Island: Give me your talentless, give me your hoaxes and I will put anything on my air,” says Robert Thompson, professor of television at Syracuse University.

Prof. Thompson is referring to the recent flap over a Virginia couple who managed to crash Obama’s first state dinner and be photographed with high level officials including the vice president. To its credit, the Secret Service has taken full responsibility for such an egregious lapse. No shoes were thrown. But the greater embarrassment lies in our celebrity-obsessed culture.

According to the article linked above, this couple was vying for a prime spot on Bravo Network’s “Real Housewives of D.C.” They were willing to put themselves in criminal jeopardy for doing so. Apparently the network was fully aware of their actions and “captured their preparation for the event” but slyly chose to avoid sneaking their own cameras onto White House grounds. They’ve now landed a choice spot on the TODAY show claiming to be victims of the media. The snake bites its own tail.

Our “culture” such as it is – may already be beyond redemption.

“In the future, everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes.” – Andy Warhol

Let’s Play VolkerBall

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

Celebrate the new global community with Rammstein (no, not the holiday).

Now let’s play VolkerBall with open fire.

The Eyes Have It

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

It should come as no surprise that companies track our every move on the web. What’s surprising are the growing numbers of companies doing such and their perniciously invisible methods.

This may seem like niggling compared to Britain, a once-free country now known as “the surveilllance society.” Cameras are everywhere; the government has seemingly unlimited powers to usurp one’s privacy. So why fuss over a little non-intrusive data collection about your online habits? After all, it’s only about selling you a better mousetrap, right?

The potential for abuse is staggering: perhaps not by malicious intent, but mere negligence. Several years ago my identity was stolen – not by some phisher or hacker. It was a major credit monitoring company. They merged my personal information with some fool having a name nearly identical to my own, and sent it to him. The creep got a free ride, stealing goods and services like cable tv and billed it to me. He got the free ride because the company listed him on my credit report as an alias. Yet the onus was on me to prove my innocence and reassert my identity, despite the glaring faults in the reporting itself. After nearly nine months of investigation, the snake slithered away unscathed at my expense. The detective assigned to the case told me they couldn’t do anything about it, because “the authorities won’t prosecute identity theft crimes under $5,000″.

Hint to creeps: if you’re going to steal, keep it under five grand and you’re good as gold! Victims are guilty until proven innocent.

If I could boil the bigger argument down to two simple words, it would be these: full disclosure. Interesting how both corporate and governmental interests want to preserve “privacy rights” only for themselves. Sure, they’re just building better mousetraps – but to them, we’re the mice.

So is Google googling us? Is it worming its way inside, like John Steinbeck’s creature in The Affair at 7, Rue de M - ?

Will the human factor win out? Is this social or socialized networking? I really don’t know. Not yet, anyway.

In a Cardboard Box

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Here’s a fair example of adding & enhancing value to the whole, with no phony claims of authorship.  It looks like an official PF release, but it’s not. Although Roger Waters co-authored the song, he was no longer a part of the band when these concerts were recorded and remixed.

One if by Land, Two if by Sea

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Make no mistake – as netizens, we are under a full throttle pincer attack from Big Corps and Big Govt to homogenize content and stifle dissent. Big Corps are attacking netizens under a proprietary assumption – if they own the entire means of distribution, whatever you create online essentially belongs to them, and your value will be measured by whatever generated income can be siphoned off – the intellectual equivalent of eminent domain. Big Govt assumes a presumption of illegality - what you say must be measured, controlled or otherwise “balanced”  under threat of “hate crime” laws. Hate crime is big business!

Yet I fear we are cheapening the very universe we seek to defend. Big Corps heavily promote “rap music” – dog food for the masses, the glorification of brute criminality. Thus far it’s been a smashingly successful attack on basic human values – cultural chaff to distract and confuse the ignorant from the real targets.  A stupid populace is easily manipulated to its lowest level.

Any putz can chop up an original work, reduce it to hamburger and claim it his own under the guise of “intellectual freedom.” But it’s more like intellectual encephalitis – or counterfeiting. Govt’s only role should be to protect intellectual property rights, not to determine what someone can or cannot express.

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!


Zappa’s ghost: 2big 2fail

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Borrowing a bit from Larry Lessig, the web is absolutely moving toward a one-way medium controlled by big corps, big govt, or both. Don’t pay your taxes? Get promoted to Treasury Secretary!

Remember the AOL/Time Warner merger? Among the most egregious power plays in recent history; thankfully it didn’t work out. It was clearly intended to create critical choke points to deny access to all but the biggest of spenders. Control the hubs and you’re more than half way there.

I want to see corporations and governments fighting; behind the scenes they must be conspiring for mutual benefit; better they fight than collaborate, or we’ll be like China and Cuba.

The web will soon become the Central Scrutinizer.

Along with this. So sensitive, aren’t we? Maybe we should build environmentally friendly prisons for bloggers and taxpayers. Green jobs! Build jails with solar panels and windmills. That solves the “job” problem. Criminals need prisons; people need jobs.  New housing everyone can afford.

So line up for the latest injection.

Sir Christopher Lee

Friday, November 6th, 2009

British actor Christopher Lee was recently anointed Knighthood by the British Crown – and rightfully so. With a career spanning more than 60 years, the man is not only a great actor but a true gentleman.

Known mostly as the successor to Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, Christopher Lee brought style, grace and persona to every performance. Much like Vincent Price, Sir Christopher is his own entity, and will endure forever. Among his many achievements are Horror of Dracula and  Curse of Frankenstein.

Long live Sir Christopher Lee!

a modest proposal

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Since I’m going it alone, I’ll be doing a web pitch with the working title “Planet Mars, Myths and Movies.” It will focus on the fantasies we have of Mars, in movies and literature; a “micro database” for sci-fi fans.

This would be a “drill-down” site: a niche for enthusiasts who’d like to see how we’ve seen the mysterious Red Planet in our imaginations. Ideally I’d like it to be “all things Mars” with focus on imaginary horrors vs. realities.

Expected user would be (primarily) educated males, 20s – 50s. Much of the fantasy aspects anchor on H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, etc.

Links to virtual tours, from simulations to Disney’s Mission Space.

Ideally it would be constructed as image maps; a separate menu telling the user what’s available here (so you can choose a path directly); or you can “randomly” click on an image map of Mars to take you to one of those choices.

Site can be supported by click-thru “gift shops” or tailored for acquisition by much bigger planets like Disney, NASA, etc.

But is it Organic?

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Let’s face it: this is all about advertising, marketing and persuasion.

Is the web providing a new democracy, a more level playing field? If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it…?

Information has never been more freely available, and we’re free to choose the information we want. Isn’t that a good thing? Or is it just a honeycomb of echo chambers? “Information” can be tweaked to reinforce preexisting beliefs; people may surf to find out only what they want to know, not what they need to know.

Wants and needs are manufactured.

SECRET STRATEGIES?

It seems increasingly clear that we don’t “find” things on the web – they’re sold to us. Consider this article from Techcrunch about “secret web strategies.” Among the big secrets, the author suggests (if you’re posting on YouTube, for example) to “make it shocking” and “use fake headlines.” And if that doesn’t work, be sure to throw in some hot looking babes.

In other words, appeal to prurient interests. Content comes in bikinis.

Hire people to be your own sock puppets. Manufacture interest. Rise above the noise with the sound of your own shrieks. Do it yourself, but if you want results, hire us.

They also mention this video as an example of potentially great viral marketing: “Cheerleader Gets Run Over By Football Team” – but if you click the link you’ll find that YouTube has removed it due to “terms of use violation.”

So, in the guise of “freedom and democracy” we’re all being led to the same destination(s). The web is surfing us.

SUCH PRETTY TOYS

David Kelley’s presentation on TED offered some truly wonderful eye candy. The “ultimate Dilbert cubicle” is hilarious. As satire, it’s wonderful. In practicality, it’s absurd: it’s still a cubicle. Maybe that’s the point. It would obviously make no sense to spend all that $$$ on cubicle monkeys – that’s why they’re in cubicles!

There’s a pseudo-anthropomorphizing of objects, meant to mask the reality of the faceless cubicle, and the replaceable cog unlucky enough to inhabit it. Check out the “wilting flowers” in the Dilbert cubicle. Great stuff if you don’t have to live with it everyday.

May I suggest to Mr. Kelley a new idea: the Virtual Cubicle. This would be the equivalent of an ankle bracelet as used by law enforcement, or the type used as “invisible fences” for dogs. Various impulses could be imparted to the cubicle monkey in Pavlovian fashion. No matter where the monkey goes, he’s always in his cubicle.

MISSION: SPACE

Let’s take a little detour here.

We’ve all heard of virtual reality, ways of tricking the brain into visceral experiences. The undisputed masters are still Walt Disney’s Imagineers - from films to resorts, few can match Disney for ingenuity.

My favorite is the fairly recent MISSION SPACE. Incredible achievement creating not just a virtual but visceral experience. The user is confined to a small “spacecraft” with strictly limited visuals; all within a high powered centrifuge. With your vision artificially locked upward, toward the “sky” you are unaware that you’re actually, physically spinning at approx three times gravity. The centrifuge slows/stops at a visual point where you “escape velocity” and you literally experience a sense of weightlessness.

CONCLUSION

No matter what you’re offering, have a gift shop before the egress!