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One if by Land, Two if by Sea

November 15th, 2009 • Brain Waves2 Comments »

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

November 9th, 2009 • Brain Waves1 Comment »

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

November 6th, 2009 • Brain WavesNo Comments »

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

November 3rd, 2009 • Brain WavesNo Comments »

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?

November 2nd, 2009 • Brain WavesNo Comments »

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!

“Dirt for dirt’s sake”

October 29th, 2009 • Brain WavesNo Comments »

George Putnam’s incredible rant…tweaked a bit. I didn’t shoot this myself (obviously), and had trouble embedding it; so here’s the link to it on YouTube.

Alex (Trebek) is a minor god

October 28th, 2009 • Brain WavesNo Comments »

Wolf Blitzer can’t hold a candle to  him.

This is a YouTube link posted by The Young Turks. I like their style; reminds me of late night TV, before there were a gazillion channels.

Blitzer did a staggeringly poor job; and the Turks now refer to him and other news anchors as “news actors”.  Next time you watch TV news just think of them as actors.

The Science Behind the Impulse

October 27th, 2009 • Brain Waves1 Comment »

For the end user, everything is impulse. We may sit and ponder, analyze, reduce, quantify and qualify. But it all comes down to that click moment: judgments are made in the blink of an eye.  We all have our own personal paradigms, and exploring on the web isn’t likely to change that; more so to reinforce existing ones.

It is impossible to appeal to everyone; be it wax beans, kangaroo burgers or squid. Everything, excluding math, is subject to personal taste.

Some sites are deceptively simple; others are too busy, busy, busy. I prefer the slow invitation. Most sites tend to whomp you on the head right off the bat. Look at me!  I find that rather numbing; it’s the MTV approach. Filtering noise will become an increasingly important factor in the new social architecture.

For the curious, or careless: you can all too easily find yourself in alien territory.

I’ve chosen three sites to benchmark, which are indirectly competitive with each other. Demographics are about the same: mostly male, 20 – 40s age bracket. All of them appeal to movie fans; all of them have good readability.

1. Jaman.com is a movie download & purchase site; of the three, it has the broadest audience (as it offers the widest range of products and services).

2. Grindhouse Database is geared for the cult movie enthusiast; this audience is more interested in the non-Hollywood film industry; and the more “obscure” the film, the better.

3. Monsters In Motion is the most exclusive of the three, geared for hard core sci-fi movie fans and memorabilia collectors.

I.  JAMAN.COM

Jaman is a commercial/entertainment site with an extensive movie database emphasizing “offbeat” cult and b-movies,  featuring video downloads (both free and purchasable).

Jaman is a busy site, crowded with attention grabbers (like being in a virtual shopping mall); much of it competes for your attention simultaneously; but there’s plenty to choose from. It has an extensive database with high end graphics and scripting.

Main page features How To: Find Movies, Watch Movies, and Socialize – allowing users to login and review movies they’ve watched on Jaman.

Jaman includes an ingenious “Movie Mood Selector” whereby the user can move a series of sliders, and the site will make suggestions based on user choices.

The slider bars are Serious/Funny; Mellow/Charged; Deep/Shallow; Tears/Bullets.

If I move all the sliders to Serious, Charged, Deep, Bullets, it will offer on-target selections such as Charles Bronson’s Death Wish (ultra violent bummer), Orson Welles’ The Stranger (not violent but definitely deep and emotionally charged); but is a bit scattershot, including a very charged bullet-type actioner Van Helsing – a film definitely NOT deep or serious. Random or deliberate? Not sure, but it works.

You can buy/rent online; and Jaman presents a very compelling urge to whip out the credit card. Are they competing with Netflix?

Website Grader gives Jaman a 97 rating.

Here is their traffic report from Semrush.com

At worst, the site is too noisy – too much competing for your attention at once – and it may load very slowly with older systems or slow connections.

II. THE GRINDHOUSE DATABASE PAGE

Grindhouse Database is an information/entertainment site,  a data base geared for the off-off-beat audience.

Fairly comprehensive; a lot of material; “Grindhouse” refers to movies that don’t make the “A” list theaters (dominated by Hollywood and whatever the next Star Wars movie happens to be); these are films that run in what we used to call “grindhouse” theaters tucked into 42nd Street in NYC (and the former Lincoln Theater in New Haven); sticky-floor thrillers, chillers, soft/hard exploitation pics. It’s retrograde, and deliberately so.

Site is more straightforward, not as slick as Jaman; a bit more like browsing through a catalog (it’s a browsing database). Its emphasis is more on information than outright selling.

Organization is a bit clumsy, more like a fanzine or newsletter. For example, “Getting Started” should be on top and lead you further in; I think this site assumes you already know what you’re in for, and it’s not for the novice.

There’s an honesty, but an initial randomness in its organization. Site should open with the introductory page. That should be the lead – offer a quick clear exposition of what “grindhouse” means in movie terms. Personally, I like a doorway page, providing it doesn’t take a long time to load. Some sites make magnificent doorways, but take far, far too long to load.

It’s also a quasi-social site. GD has a Twitter link. I fired off a quick tweet for a movie suggestion to add to their database and they responded almost immediately (and enthusiastically)!

Website Grader gives GrindhouseDatabase a 96 rating.

Here is their traffic report from Semrush.com

III.  MONSTERS IN MOTION

Monsters In Motion is a commercial site, offering a wide range of collectibles for the “hard core” sci-fi nostalgia enthusiast, offering pre-built and make-your-own models.

Expertise in offering very precise models of nostalgic sci-fi and monster movie characters; a way of making ephemeral visions into realities.

Wow! If you’re into this, you can max out your credit cards in no time. Exceptional demonstrations of visual models you can build yourself, or buy pre-made for display.

This site is for the sci-fi movie fan who will burrow further than most to find memorabilia related to his/her favorite films. Almost all of them are nostalgic (from the 1950s upward).

Forgotten Prisoner of CastelMare is a perfect example of niche market: originally made in the 1960s by Aurora (now called Polar Lights). Seemingly simple plastic put-together model of a chained skeleton in an old dungeon. Yet this became one of the most sought after models in Aurora’s history. Why? Must have struck a nerve in the niche.

Website Grader gives MonstersInMotion a 76 rating.

Here is their traffic report from Semrush.com

in tiny paragraphs

October 22nd, 2009 • Brain Waves2 Comments »

Frank Zappa’s testimony before the almighty State. Worth another look as Washington ponders a “Fairness Doctrine for the Internet.”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Monopoly = censorship.

Plexus

October 19th, 2009 • Brain WavesNo Comments »

“Many is the mirage I chased. Always I was overreaching myself. The oftener I touched reality, the harder I bounced back to the world of illusion, which is the name for everyday life. ‘Experience! More experience!’ I clamored. In a frantic effort to arrive at some kind of order, some tentative working program, I would sit down quietly now and then and spend long, long hours mapping out a plan of procedure. Plans, such as architects and engineers sweat over, were never my forte. But I could always visualize my dreams in a cosmogonic pattern. Though I could never formulate a plot I could balance and weigh opposing forces, characters, situations, events, distribute them in a sort of heavenly lay-out, always with plenty of space between, always with the certitude that there is no end, only worlds within worlds ad infinitum, and that wherever one left off one had created a world, a world finite, total, complete….”

Henry Miller, Plexus