Archive for March, 2009

The Bloggess – Derek Has A Problem

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

One of the great things about Twitter is the amazing people you meet without ever having met them at all. One of these stellar individuals is Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess.

Lawson co-writes Good Mom / Bad Mom for the Houston Chronicle but needs an “uncensored space to say the f-word and talk about ninjas”. That’s where the Bloggess comes in.

Her Bloggess posts are the most insanely hilarious things I’ve been reading – they never fail to make me snerd cheese with laughter – it is just pure, demented, jaw-droppingly funny genius.

Her post today was no exception – she discovered Xtranormal.com, a site where you can type in your script and it gets automagically animated – and this is her resulting oeuvre:

Be sure to read the remainder of her post because it’s a good indicator of the kind of spiraling stream of consciousness brain farts that just make me laugh out loud enough so the neighbours dog starts barking.

Cheers.

The Militarization Of CyberSpace

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Great post in BoingBoing today from Cory Doctorow about CBC Radio’s Search Engine interview with the folks at the University of Toronto’s CitizenLab regarding their uncovering of a global hacker spy-ring. As Doctorow points out, the major focus of the interview – and the most compelling – is how this “signals a turning point in the ongoing militarization of cyberspace, and whether this demands a comparable peace movement for the Internet.

You can find the full interview at the CBC Search Engine site or just listen right here:

I’ve pointed out before on this blog the fucktard antics of the U.S. Air Force in their attempt to achieve dominance (their words) in cyberspace and how the Pentagon has classified the internet not just a potential theatre of war but as a potential enemy – the internet itself as an enemy which must be controlled and, if necessary, defeated.

Whatever those dicks are smoking I want a pound of the other stuff.

I’m not adverse to being defended against those who would seek to do us, or anyone, harm – but I’ll be damned if I’ll agree to live in a dictatorial police state in order to have that protection.

The genie is not going back in the bottle. The net isn’t just the next wave of communications toys destined to fall away to the back shelves of an antique shop along with the old radios and television sets. The net is becoming our Main Street. It is where we are going to be living. Yeah, sure, the real world will carry on, for better or worse, under our inept efforts to manage and care for this garden – but the net will form a large chunk of where and how we live our lives. The net will be where we define ourselves as human beings.

Look around. Look on the street where you live. How would you feel about it being a battleground? A lot of folks in the world already live that hellish physical reality. Can you imagine troops on your street telling you where you can and can’t go? Imagine being followed, listened in on and told what you can and cannot say or hear. Imagine speaking to a friend and seeing them be whisked off the street and taken away without explanation. It happens already – all over the world – even in our neck of the woods.

That’s the digital equivalent we are speaking of. This same shit is happening in cyberspace, where there are no rules of international law governing the behaviour of governments and corporations for the protection of the unwashed masses known sometimes as cattle, sheep, peasants or – perhaps more quaintly – people.

If we are intent upon reclaiming the rule of law in our world we need to include cyberspace in that effort. A peace movement for the internet? Sign me up.

Pay attention. Make noise. Don’t be afraid – be pissed off.

Cheers.

Supergroups Of The Future

Monday, March 30th, 2009

I found this over on BoingBoing and I know it’s just an ad for BBC Radio but it caught it my eye for a number of reasons.

Wouldn’t it just be so fucking cool if we had a time machine and could pull a Bill & Ted by bringing together collections of the best talents (in any field, not just music) to create collaborations we could only dream of in our lesser techno-magically enabled reality. Who doesn’t want to trip back to New York before December 1980 and get John to go with Paul for a surprise visit to SNL?

Alas, we don’t have time travel – we just have really fucking cool computer tech. To paraphrase the Six Million Dollar Man intro “We have the technology, let’s abuse it.” We might not be able to draw together these performers in the flesh but we can certainly render digital compilations which can, at the very least, give us a glimpse of what might have been. Harking back to the Beatles once more, they did something similar in 1995 by working together again on Free As A Bird, blending the voices of the still extant Fab with the departed John, courtesy of the ministrations of Jeff Lynne.

I recall in the late ’70′s a bootleg tape came out that had Elvis Presley and Linda Rondstadt singing a duet of Love Me Tender. It sounded great. It was wonderous. It was magical. The problem was, if I recall correctly, it was made from the masters of their original recordings without permission for public release – as a demonstration of what the new emerging recording technologies could do with control over pitch and timing of audio recordings. I heard on Q107 here in Toronto over a period of 2 days before it was yanked.

Since then such things have become old hat. We’ve had Natalie Cole sing duets with her father Nat King Cole; Bono, Robbie Williams and a host of others singing along with Frank Sinatra; and a whole lot more.

As I said, it’s not just limited to music. Famous actors, long dead and gone, are still turning in performances on the screen. Oliver Reed and Brandon Lee each finished their film work after dying during production. Laurence Olivier turned up as the villain Professor Totenkopf in Sky Captain. Humphrey Bogart and Alfred Hitchcock showed up for Robert Zemekis in an episode of Tales From The Crypt.

This sort of shit goes on all the time now.

It’s a far cry from the flurry of excitement elicited over the 1969 release of The Masked Marauders. Yeah – it wasn’t really them – but I still love that album and I play it on my iPod, thank you very fucking much. And it was a great idea.

I was struck many years ago when watching the AFI honours for Henry Fonda when they showed the obligatory montage at the height of the evening, running through clips from all his onscreen performances – and you saw a young man grow up in front of your eyes. Fuck off, Benjamin Button, this was the real deal. A life in time captured in images.

The memory of human beings is a changed thing as a result of recording technologies. We have become very different creatures from what we once were.

As our tech evolves with us – and becomes increasingly a part of us – we will change even further. We may never achieve the immortality sought within the shrouded mysteries of Kurzweil’s Singularity – but our perception of time and life and death itself will be forever altered as we continue to step back in time or draw the past into our present as if the formerly impenetrable veil of time was forever rent and we were physically capable of stepping with ease from thence to hence.

It’s not time travel – but it’s pretty fucking close – and you just know the music will rock.

Cheers.

Miniatur Wonderland Hamburg

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

I know this has nothing to do with the burgeoning world of online culture and my usual rants against corporate fucktards who are willing to stifle human evolution and our basic rights and freedoms in their quest to retain their assumed positions of financial aristocracy over the peasantry of this good Earth – but it’s just so damned cool!

It’s the Miniature Wonderland Hamburg and it’s billed as the largest model railway in the world and one of the most successful permanent exhibitions in Germany.

I’m not as much of a model train freak aficionado as my pal Fred but, like countless generations of children before me, I’ve always adored hunkering down on the carpet and pressing my face close to the toys to make them seem like they’re bigger than real.

Virtual worlds don’t require computers and servers to exist – we have our imaginations for that. When we render what we imagine in this real world we create layers of magic and wonder for each other. I guess that’s a little something we might call Art, isn’t it?

That’s also why I love these tilt-shift videos that make our big world seem rather small and appropriately insignificant.

This is one of my favourites:

Enjoy your weekend playing with your toys.

They look good by candle light too – so don’t forget it’s lights out for an hour this evening.

Cheers.

Thanks, Fred!

Monkey To Man – Elvis Costello

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

I posted this video a while back in the earlier iteration of my blog – now scattered to the digital winds – and stumbled across it again today. I miss it. I miss the monkeys. Yeah – that’s it – it’s all about the monkeys.

Cheers.

Thanks to Violet from whom I first found it.

Howard Rheingold – Why History Of Public Sphere Matters in Age Of Internet

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Howard Rheingold just posted this video discourse on how the history of the public sphere matters in our current age of the internet.

From his own notes:

I ask students in my digital journalism and virtual community/social media courses to read and discuss David Zaret’s Origins of Democratic Culture. I explain here why and how the history and origins of the public sphere can inform our forecasts of the future of democracy in the era of many-to-many media.

Rheingold’s book The Virtual Community pushed me down the rabbit hole of online worlds back in the early ’90′s, got me into The Well, dragged my ass through Mosaic and onto the web and opened my head to the vast possibilities contained within these new worlds we were creating online.

His thoughts here are in keeping with some of my more vociferous rants in the earlier days of this blog and while his presentation in this video is perhaps less lively than his usual vlog postings – it was done for his students and not for broader entertainment value – the message is well worth digging into: Use it or lose it. – And use it wisely.

The freedoms inherent in the digital tools we have at hand are in danger of being oppressed – and ourselves with them – precisely because of the freedoms they grant and the ways in which we eagerly seize, use and abuse them. Having a clear sense of history will give us better means to navigate the path we find ourselves on and, hopefully, keep us from falling prey to the same traps which have defined this past century.

Alan MacFarlane’s Origins of English Individualism comes to mind when considering this – not just because it also has the word Origins in the title – in the way it presents how an old way of life gave way to an entirely new culture born out of the technological changes that loomed (pardon the pun) on the horizon of the industrial age. There’s another similar volume by a different author published around the same year that I cannot for the life of me remember the title of but which impressed me due to its inclusion of traveling theatre troupes along with the emergence of printed broadsides as a disruptive cultural influence. That was back in my Commedia dell’Arte days and I was always on the lookout for that sort of thing. But I digress -

Rheingold’s thing is worth watching – and Zaret’s book is worth reading – all the better to get a sense of where we’ve been, where we are and where we are likely heading. We do well to remember the words of Mark Twain: “History doesn’t repeat itself – but it does rhyme.”

Cheers.

Comicon Road Trip

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

comicon_roadtripI just got a tweet from MagentaKristen aka Kristen McGregor directing me to the Emerald City Comicon Road Trip page.

There you will find Kristen and Jimmy Kayak aka Jim Taylor and Thrilipino aka Gene Abella and some dude wearing an espresso machine, appear in a series of video spots for the April 4-5 event in Seattle dressed as cosplay fans. Hilarity ensues.

I’m a big fan of Kristen and Jim – they’re very talented writers and performers and never fail to make milk come out of my nose – even when I’m not drinking any.

Thanks, Kristen!

Cheers.

Celebrating Work – Mike Rowe TED Talk

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

The name of my website is millsworks – as in: As little as possible. I have been described by those close to me as the world’s busiest lazy man. I’m built for comfort, not for speed. I prefer being horizontal.

Mike Rowe is the host of the television series Dirty Jobs where he explores (so we don’t have to) the filthiest crappiest jobs on the planet. I’m sure he’s only just begun to scratch the surface of the myriad of human toil considered to be less than worthy for the rest of us wallowing in this declining mess once called Western Civilization.

I’ve had my share of shitty gigs. I won’t bore you with the alleged street credentials of my god awful, mind numbing and soul destroying minimum wage days. Been there, done that, don’t want to go back.

Please understand – I’m not completely adverse to hard work. I have often worked myself sick doing the very things I love so dearly. Finishing a production and ending up in hospital as a result is not a rare experience for me. I just figure if I’m gonna wear myself to the bone for something it had damn well better be something I actually care about. Finding that sort of thing these days seems to be getting harder but that’s territory for a different blog post.

I like watching Rowe’s show and I enjoy his take on the gritty realities of life around us that we choose to ignore or separate ourselves from on a daily basis. The very things that make our lives of comfort possible are based upon the backs of those who do the work the rest of us so assiduously avoid.

In this TED Talk from last December, Rowe explores his experiences and comes to some common sense conclusions about the nature of hard work and why we need to support it.

Now if you’ll excuse me – I gotta get busy with my own shit.

Cheers.

Family Guy Wins Fair Use Court Battle

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

According to a report from Reuters a court has ruled that the Seth MacFarlane’s “Family Guy” animated series did not infringe copyright when they transformed/adapted/abused the song “When You Wish Upon a Star” for their notorious When You Wish Upon A Weinstein episode.

U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts ruled that the lyrics and tone of the song used in “Family Guy” were “strikingly different.”

The judge also said it was fair for it to be imitated for humorous effect since the music publisher had benefited from the song’s association with other more “wholesome” shows like “Pinocchio.”

“It is precisely that beneficial association that opens the song up for ridicule by parodists seeking to take the wind out of such lofty, magical, or pure associations,” she said.

I was actually surprised when the lawsuit as first filed back in 2007 – despite these overly litigious times in which we live – because there had already been ample precedent set for such Fair Use adaptations of popular culture. The general consensus these days seems to be Don’t fuck with anything associated with Disney, in large part because Das Maus Corp has always been so aggressive in pursuing anyone who dares even look sideways at their intellectual property.

To be fair, it wasn’t Disney who sued Seth MacFarlane & Co. in this case, it was music publisher Bourne Company who control the rights to the song in question, but it still raises questions over corporate control of cultural content and our ability as artists and citizens to mock the world around us.

It does make one wonder if a producer today could get away with what Beany and Cecil accomplished back in 1962 with the “Beanyland” episode.

Have a look – it really kicks in at the 2:30 mark:

The world needs more Beany and less Bourne. Maybe now Seth MacFarlane can get that episode of Family Guy back on the air to celebrate their victory. If not – you can always find it here.

Cheers.

Almost There

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Just another little teaser of that thing I’ve been working on and which I hope to launch within the next couple of weeks.

The Rocket - Almost

Cheers.