19 August, 2007

All clear (I think)

Email has been restored, all is right with the world.

For now....

18 August, 2007

"I done killed it!"

I think I royally fucked up my email server on www.defendini.com trying to install Movable Type. So pablo [at] defendini [dot] com (and any other [at] defendini [dot] com address, really) is dead right now. Yippee.

I'm giving up for tonight. Gonna chill out watching some Dexter, and try to forget that I'm flunking out of geekdom.

fuck.

A place for everything. . . .

I cleaned my room today. De-cluttered, got rid of old papers, put some rudimentary order to my bookcase, filed shit away in my new filing cabinet with the handy hanging folders, cleaned out my desk drawers, dusted everywhere, swept, and wet-swiffered.

I feel brand-fucking-new.

ps: The iPhone takes crap pictures, I know. No MMS, no iChat, bad pictures, and EDGE is slow. It's not perfect, but it's still the best phone out there, and a joy to use.

Testing out MarsEdit

Hi, just posting to try out MarsEdit, part of the ongoing tweaking ("again with the tweaking!"). Carry on.

This is a weblink: Over on Whatever, Scalzi asks what was your first CD.

Let's put in an inline picture:
no dice.
Now?


Success! But barely. It seems that Blogger won't allow MarsEdit to upload pics. This shouldn't be a problem when/if I migrate to MovableType, so I can live with it for now.

Oh, and xkcd rocks.

16 August, 2007

the hiatus, and the pending move. . . .

I've not been posting on here because I've been using Safari 3.0 Beta, and it doesn't play nice with Blogger. However, after a near-fatal hard drive failure on my MacBook (long story, the gist of it is that Oso and the iPhone saved my ass), I'm back on Safari 2.0.4.

However, I wanna get the hell outta Blogger and put this blog where it belongs, somewhere on defendini.com. Nothing against Blogger, mind you. It's been good for getting my feet wet, but I think that it's time I geeked out properly and learned how to install and manage something like Moveable Type on my web server. I mean, that's what it's there for, no? Besides, I think my personal website needs to move away from a strictly portfolio-type site, and into something more well-rounded.

Before anyone asks, I have been playing around with the new iWeb, but even though it lets you publish to your own domain, you actually need to set up .Mac as your host and transfer your domain name to their hosting. Don't know 'bout that just yet. Plus, it doens't look like iWeb/.Mac offers truly powerful blog managing tools (I could be wrong, but I don't think so. Still doing research).

Anyway, It's been an eventful month and a half since the last post. Maybe I'll fill you all in on them while I figure out this move.

05 July, 2007

Thoughts on the iPhone

So I stood in line for the iPhone last Thursday night and Friday at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store, and it was a blast. It was great to hang out with fellow Mac fans and geek out, speculating on last-minute iPhone announcements, discussing the imminent release of Leopard this October, and generally being Mac fanboys (and girls) at what could possibly be Apple's most important product launch yet. There were also hecklers and a good number of opportunists, but for the most part people were there out of interest for the phone. We got lots of media coverage, and some of my sound bites have found their way onto here, here, here, and here.

Well, I've been rockin' the iPhone for almost a week now, and it's an amazing device. Here are a few thoughts:

My activation with AT&T went well (I was a previous AT&T customer, for what it's worth), and I was surprised with how simple, easy and fast activation through iTunes was. Being able to comfortably sit at home and choose a plan without the phone store hard-sell was also a big plus. Although I have heard of people having trouble with the AT&T activation (including one of my friends), my own experience was seamless and quick. Twenty minutes after I got home from the store I had already activated and synced my iPhone with my MacBook. It had some music and video podcasts, all my photographs, my browser bookmarks, my contacts from my computer's Address Book, and I was on my first phone call, which was actually an incoming call which very elegantly popped up while I was viewing a video podcast.

After having played with the iPhone for the past few days, I can say that it's met my expectations in all the ways I anticipated it to, as well as surprised me a few times by performing better than I expected it to. There have also been a few rough spots, but these have been minor and I expected them from the outset.

I've been disappointed with the speed of AT&T's EDGE network, but I was expecting this and to my surprise haven't found it as frustrating as I anticipated– the EDGE speeds are tolerable, and in New York it's pretty easy to find a WiFi hotspot anyway. Apple seems to have done its best to work around this limitation, though. The biggest speed lag while using the EDGE network is naturally in the Safari browser, but the separate low-bandwidth applications that you're most likely to use on the street, like the weather widget and Google Maps, run fast enough to be useful on the go. However, once the iPhone hops on a WiFi network (which it does automatically if there's an open or trusted network), it flies. It's just as fast as my laptop on the same network.

I've also found that, now being online all the time, I would like to see an instant messaging application, particularly an iPhone version of iChat. This may or may not be coming soon via a software update from Apple, along with Flash and Java support and possibly other features, such as disk mode and a full file browser once Leopard hits. The fact that more features and updated software will be added in the same easy way that I keep my iPod updated is another big plus in my book. In the meantime, in lieu of an IM application I've certainly been text messaging more than before, since the interface for texting is so clear and IM-conversation-like, and input is so easy.

Another concern I had before buying the iPhone was how well the keyboard would perform and function. I've been pleasantly surprised to find that the keyboard has been very easy to get used to, and I'm now pretty fast and accurate on it. I've barely used my laptop to go on the internet in the past few days (only to view Flash content or large images and to communicate via IM, or write a very long post like this one). The error correction software on the keyboard is good, and it does a very good job of learning what words you use. Since I communicate both in Spanish and English alternately, I expected to not be able to depend on the error correction software as much as most, but I've been pretty happy with the way it has performed. Since the software apparently remembers words you type, it's not limited to the words in its built-in English dictionary.

I've also been impressed with the iPhone's battery life. I've found that an overnight charge is enough to get me through the day. I normally pull the iPhone off its charger at around 8:30AM, and usually don't replace it until around 11PM or midnight. Last night I was out with friends till about 2AM, and the iPhone stayed charged all night, warning me that it was at 15% of battery capacity around 1AM. It's been getting some heavy use too, since whenever I pull it out someone wants to see it in action, and the inevitable 'show & tell' ensues.

The iPhone is also surprisingly scratch proof. Having owned a few iPods, and having had them get invariably scratched up despite my being very careful with them, this is a very welcome improvement over past Apple designs. The glass top resists regular day-to-day usage nicely, and is very easy to keep smudge-free. The brushed aluminum back is also rugged enough to withstand incidental scratches and scuff marks from placing the iPhone on a surface such as a table. I normally keep it in my jeans pocket by itself or on my desk, so it doesn't ever come into contact with keys or coins, and so far I haven't found the need to get a case or protector for it. Its sleek design and solid construction make the need for the additional bulk that these products would add superfluous and aesthetically undesireable. The iPhone is very pleasing to hold, too. Its slim form fits in the hand very nicely, and I find it comfortable enough for extended usage, both in portrait and landscape mode.

Internet usage aside, this is the first cellphone that is truly easy to use. Apple strikes again with a beautifully conceived interface, designed to inform you and stay out of your way, while keeping everything just a finger gesture away. Call forwarding; conference calls; putting someone on hold or speakerphone; receiving and listening to voice mail; and adding, editing and taking advantage of contacts are all incredibly simple and intuitive operations, represented in big buttons, as opposed to the minefield of draconian little menus that you have to contend with on regular phones. I would love for someone like my mother, who is a competent enough computer user, but not too proficient with her phone, to use a phone like this. It would make her experience much more pleasant, and would enable her to do more with her phone.

One of the realizations I've come to over the past few days is that I'm now carrying what is for all intents and purposes a full computer in my pocket, which happens to have a phone on it. This makes the iPhone's high price tag easier to justify—it's certainly worth the money when compared to similar products put there. Once you start thinking about it like that, the possibilities for what Apple can do with the iPhone are very interesting and exciting. I certainly agree with all the voices out there saying that it's a game-changing device. The cell phone industry is going to be an interesting place to watch now that Apple has entered the market with such an advanced device.

26 June, 2007

Score one for reason in the UK!

From The Register:
The government has announced that it will publish guidance for schools on how creationism and intelligent design relate to science teaching, and has reiterated that it sees no place for either on the science curriculum (emphasis added).
It has also defined "Intelligent Design", the idea that life is too complex to have arisen without the guiding hand of a greater intelligence, as a religion, along with "creationism".
It's good to see that at least someone has their head screwed on correctly somewhere in the world. Now if only the US government would grow some balls and send these ID 'education' proponent fundamentalist religious nutjobs packing. . . .

25 June, 2007

Social networking and the class divide

PhD student Danah Boyd from the School of Information Sciences at UC Berkeley has recently completed a study which finds that users of the two main social networking sites on the internet, Facebook and MySpace, are divided quite rigidly along class lines. From the article on the Beeb:
The research suggests those using Facebook come from wealthier homes and are more likely to attend college.
By contrast, MySpace users tend to get a job after finishing high school rather than continue their education.

Being on both MySpace and Facebook, I find Boyd's conclusions hardly surprising. Looking through my friends list on both networks, it's striking how the people on Facebook are generally more- um... bourgeoisie than the people on MySpace. There's also a larger contingent of freaks, geeks, queers, musicians, art fags, and other marginalized subgroups within MySpace. Which is a shame, because, at face value (no pun intended), and taking into consideration factors like interface design, utility of features, etc., I prefer Facebook over MySpace a million times over (the only exception I think needs to be made is the service that MySpace performs for musicians- MySpace's impact on independent music creation and distribution cannot be overemphasized).
Very interesing stuff. So much for the democratizing power of teh intarrwebz, huh?

Mmmm, book pr0n.

If these quote-unquote bookends weren't so damned expensive, I'd get them. But since I'd saving up for the iPhone, no dice. They sure are nice, though.

20 June, 2007

Recycling rhetoric, rant on politicians in general

On Tuesday, June 19th, 2007, Bush uttered:
"My position has not changed [in regards to Iran]. All options are on the table. . . "

And you know? He's right- his position has not changed. On August 22, 2002, he declared that 'all options' are on the table for Iraq. We all know how well that went.

What is he, a five year old? Mentally retarded? Well, yes. But consider this: is this a highly orchestrated power grab for beyond the next presidential elections? Submitted for your approval, a speculative timeline of events for next year:
  • Summer 2008: While still 'quagmired' in Iraq, the US unilaterally attacks Iran.
  • Late October 2008: Citing a stretched-thin military without the capacity to prosecute military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Iran all at the same time, Bush declares a state of National Emergency. Having already signed an executive order last month assigning himself vastly expanded (and frankly, unconstitutional) powers in the event of a national emergency, Bush cancels the presidential elections scheduled for early November '08.
  • January 2009: Bush to country- "I'm the decider- for life!"

I've been crowing about this for a while now. It seems, by all accounts, that the administration has a plan (like the Cylons) to abolish the elected office of the presidency. Sound far fetched? Not really. That executive order that I link to above (which was very quietly signed while the media was focused on more important things, like oh, I dunno, the Anna Nicole babydaddy fiasco and that Hilton bitch's DUI rap) is sweeping in its naked grab for absolute power by the executive branch.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Bush and company will not leave office quietly. They're like five year olds at the playground, hogging the biggest toy. When mommy says it's time to leave, they will throw a tantrum, and play keep-away with their toy for as long as possible. And in the meantime, the only supposed 'challenge to his authoritah', Congress, sits there with its dick in its hand, hemming and hawing about bi-partisanship and rolling over like a lame dog whenever there's a fight to be had.

I've never put too much faith in politicians to do what is necessary for the good of society. But to be honest, it goes beyond having faith or not. By now it should be evident that politicians are the the absolutely worst suited type of creature to be stewards of society.

Kill 'em all. Seriously. They should all be rounded up and shot, to the last man (and woman. Yes, I'm looking at you, Pelosi- just because you're a girl doesn't mean you were supposed to check your cojones at the door). After that, you take all the lobbyists, and castrate them.

Then you hold new elections, with a set amount of federal money, the same for every candidate, and a blanket ban on additional campaign donations (public or private, it doesn't matter).

Once you have new elected officials, you outlaw lobbyists, you make taking or giving political donations a crime punishable by the death penalty, and you set a cap on the salary for elected officials at minimum wage. Yes, minimum wage. You make it so that public service is as unattractive to the profiteer as possible, so that the only people who are willing to take on the job are people who have other reasons to serve the public interest like, say, the public interest.

Sounds extreme, no? Well, the alternative, as it's shaping up, is pretty fucking extreme too. It's time to tear down this bullshit system. It's proven itself to be fucking retarded.

/rant.

14 June, 2007

Holy shit, there IS a god* after all. . .

. . . and her name is Jessica Alba.

* just kidding on the god bit- still as much of an atheist as ever.

Mr. Wizard

Don Herbert, better known as Mr. Wizard, died on Tuesday. I have him to thank for my interest in science and the world in general, as do many other people who grew up watching his show on Nickelodeon. He was on NBC in an earlier incarnation of the show in the 60's, but I remember him as the understated and likeable old man on the unadorned show which introduced me the wonders of the natural world, and the everyday miracles that are found in everyday science. 
We need more people like Mr. Wizard to inspire wonder in science, instead of silly religious superstitions and the idolatry of ignorance. Wired.com has a short email interview with Mr. Herbert here.

13 June, 2007

The Undead are here!

I knew there was a reason I woke up in a good mood today: June 13th is the official Blog Like It's The End Of The World Day (BLITEOTWD).

Something was off since the beginning of the day (apart from the aforementioned good-moodiness-in-the-morning)- none of my early-rising roommates were around, but I just chalked it up to late night partying. The house was quiet, too quiet. Once I made it out to the back yard for a morning cigarette, I found my roommates trying to shuffle over the back wall, into the adjoining lot, presumably in search of live brains to dine on. As soon as I showed up, though, all their attention was on me. Luckily, the undead are not known for their swiftness, so I had time to grab a broom handle to keep them at bay. I then proceeded to vent all of my roommate angst onto zombie-Adriano and zombie-Jay (the Ninja, apparently, was not affected, probably because he's, well, a ninja, and somehow immune. Sneaky sneaky, Lip). Unfortunately, a broom handle isn't the best weapon against the undead. I'd been telling my roomies we needed to invest in a chainsaw, a lawnmower, a shotgun, or at the very least a machete, because dammit, you just never know when you're gonna have to fend off some undead zombie motherfuckers. But no, they wanted to spend the house fund on an air conditioner for the TV room. Well, then- as we all know, zombies don't sweat (but they bleed and secrete pus)- so who's laughing now, bitches??

Anyway, zombie-Adriano took a bite out of my spleen while I was trying to fend off zombie-Jay (fuck speed, they've got strength in numbers), so I was infected. It's been ok so far. I mean, there's plenty of brains to eat in the city, what with the slow-moving elderly, small, unsuspecting children, cracked-out homeless, and the occasional three-legged dog. Work has been a challenge, since my mouse-finger got torn off while fighting a zombie-straphanger for the intestines of a subway conductor, so I might just have to give up on this graphic design business and simply walk around eating brains and enrails. That sounds more appetizing, anyway. After all, Macs aren't really too tasty. Not enough protein.

23 May, 2007

Science Fiction Author Feuds, DeathCon, and the first ever flame war on the (proto) internet

Via the Whatever, a link to a transcript of a panel at Penguicon 5.0, where John Scalzi, Nick Sagan, and Sarah Monette discuss science fiction author Godfrey Winton. I wasn't aware of Winton before I read this, but I sure as hell am interested now. Apparently Subterranean Press is coming out with an omnibus volume of his collected works, so I'll try to pick that up. Read up, enjoy, and marvel at the wild and crazy world of science fiction fandom.

18 May, 2007

Introverts, unite!

After a few weeks of non-stop action (hectic freelance schedule, houseguests, shows, and outings with friends), I finally have a weekend all to myself. So for today, an interesting article from Psychology Today: The Field Guide to the Loner. A great (if somewhat badly written) article about the 25% of us who prefer spending a weekend with a good book rather than going out and getting drunk at a bar. While I'm not averse to a night on the town with my friends every now and then (nor am I in any way shape or form averse to drinking- beer FTW!), for the most part, I prefer to hang out solo. Read a good book, watch some TV or a movie, work on my projects, etc.

Sadly, the truth of the matter is that most people aren't that interesting or engaging to be around. Why subject yourself to mind-numbingly dumb conversation, stupid pickup lines, or random chatty strangers, when you could be doing something interesting and personally fulfillng with your time? When I want to be social, I have my friends: smart, interesting, and hand-picked. Most of the time, however, I would rather revel in my own solitude. I like myself, and I like being inside my head.

Try a Silent Sunday one of these days: don't speak or interact with anyone for the whole day on a Sunday. You may go nuts. Or you my find that it's relaxing and re-energizing.

07 May, 2007

Guns into Plowshares, Anyone?

From Boston.com:
Including the $124.2 billion bill, the total cost of the Iraq war may reach $456 billion in September, according to the National Priorities Project, an organization that tracks public spending.

The amount got us wondering: What would $456 billion buy?
Among the highlights:
- Free gas for everybody for 1.2 years
- With just one-sixth of the US money targeted for the Iraq war, you could convert all cars in America to run on ethanol.
- Feed and educate the world's poor for five and a half years (WTF?!?!?!!)
- 14.5 million free rides to Harvard

This shit is depressing. Fucking warmongers.

Vernor Vinge on the Singularity

ComputerWorld has a great short interview with mathematics professor and science-fiction author Vernor Vinge (yes, he's one of Tor's) on the coming technological singularity. Not too in-depth, but a nice quick rundown of main themes. The article also links to Vinge's seminal 1993 manifesto, The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era, a short but fascinating piece of speculation.

I actually just finished reading Vinge's latest novel, Rainbow's End, a great vision of a near future where the singularity is in its early bloom. I highly recommend it, it's a great read.

04 May, 2007

TV Show Torrents thru RSS: A Piracy Primer for Purloined Programming, Part 2

In the previous post in this series, I outlined the reasons why I prefer to pirate my media, as opposed to buying it outright from the thugs fine folks in the cable entertainment industry. Now it's time to get down and dirty, into the nuts and bolts of how I do what I do.

Most TV shows nowadays are available on the internet very soon after they air, and a few enterprising pirates are dedicated to providing trackers and torrent files for downloading via the BitTorrent file transfer protocol. Legal issues aside, this is a great service for those of us who prefer to roll our own media, but the logistics of automating the process of finding, downloading, encoding, and properly archiving your media take a bit of trial and error to figure out. This is what has worked for me, so your mileage may vary.

First, a word about my setup: I've got a 1Terrabyte external hard drive attached to a Mac Mini, which is in turn hooked up to a 60-inch Pioneer Elite plasma display, and that's pretty much it, aside from a PS2 for gaming, and the speakers hooked up to the Mini. Instead of using a keyboard or mouse to control the Mini when I'm not in Front Row, I run Apple's Remote Desktop to control the Mini from my MacBook. It works like a charm. My setup is pretty bare-bones, and I like it that way. I prefer to watch everything through Front Row, Apple's media center that comes bundled with all new Macs, so I put all of my contents (Shows, Movies and Music) into iTunes. The only upgrade I possibly foresee in the future is to replace the Mini for an AppleTV (as soon as the damn thing comes with an HD-DVD or BluRay - or better yet, a hybrid- drive... otherwise, no deal), and use the Mini as a headless media downloader and server.

I've separated this tutorial into two sections. The first section deals with downloading content automatically. This is good enough for most people, but if you're anally retentive like me, and want every single file you download properly tagged, archived, and accessible via iTunes and Front Row, then stick around for the second part.

So without further ado, here we go. First, you'll need to download some software. All of this software is either freeware or shareware, and developed by independent software developers. I strongly suggest buying it, since it's not too expensive, and these guys need our support if they're going to keep working on these projects in their free time.

For the first part- Downloading:
1- Newsfire- for subscribing to Torrent feeds.
2- xTorrent- for downloading your files.

For the second part- archiving and tagging:
1- VisualHub- for re-encoding video.
2- Lostify- for editing the metadata on your files before adding to iTunes.

Part One- Downloading Torrents with RSS


The first thing you need to do is create an RSS feed to subscribe to. You can do this on www.tvrss.net.

1- Go to www.tvrss.net, and click on the 'Shows' link. You'll see a list of all the TV shows that TVrss has feeds for.

2- Choose the show you want to subscribe to. Let's choose 'Heroes' (BTW, if you're not watching Heroes, you're a retard. Now that Battlestar Galactica is off the air until January of next year, Heroes has become my favourite show). You'll be taken to a page that lists all available episodes for the show you chose.

3- At this point, the list of available episodes is duplicated, because there are many release groups releasing the same episodes at different qualities. You need to refine your search using the options located in the 'Search' area, at the top of the search results page. Choose a Distribution Group (I like EZTV for the most part, but they don't always distribute all the shows I watch), and choose a Quality setting (HRHD, HDTV, 720p, etc.), then press Search. You'll see refined search results. Each TV show is different, so you'll have to play around until you get what you want. A good rule of thumb is to switch up the search parameters until you get a list where there are either very few or no repeated episodes.

4- Once you have your list of episodes, hit the 'Search-based RSS Feed' link at the top of the Search Results list. This will generate an RSS feed for the show. If you use Safari or Firefox as your browser, it may give you the option to subscribe to this RSS feed. Ignore the hell out of it.

5- Copy the URL for the RSS feed from the address field in your browser (it should look something like this: http://tvrss.net/search/index.php?distribution_group=eztv&show_name=Heroes&show_name_exact=true&filename=&date=&quality=hdtv&release_group=&mode=rss)

6- Open Newsfire, and create a new feed. Paste the URL for the RSS feed into the Address field, and name your feed. NewsFire should automatically connect to the feed, so you should see the same results you got from tvrss.net after the feed loads.

7- Select your newly created feed in NewsFire, and go to Feeds> Edit selected Feed. Here you can set how often you want the feed to be refreshed. I have mine refreshing every 10 minutes, but that's just because I'm impatient. Make sure to check the box that says "Automatically download audio/video attachments. This will ensure that the .torrent file downloads onto your Desktop (or wherever you decide to set NewsFire to download files to) as soon as it's available.

8- Repeat steps 1-7 for each TV Show you want to add.

9- Open xTorrent, and go into the Preferences. In the Interface tab, check the box next to 'Load .torrents found in' and choose the same folder you're downloading .torrent files to from NewsFire. Also, check 'Delete original .torrent file once added to xTorrent', just to keep things nice and neat.

Now you're set up. NewsFire is constantly refreshing your feeds, so as soon as the .torrent file for a new episode is posted, NewsFire grabs it and puts it where xTorrent can find it, and start downloading the actual file. Once you've input all the shows you want to watch into NewsFire, this is pretty much hands-off.

Note: The newest version of xTorrent has the ability to subscribe to rss feeds, so theoretically you can simply put the rss feed you create from TVrss into xTorrent, and go without NewsFire altogether. However, xTorrent does not currently offer the option to auto-download any attached files like NewsFire does, so it makes little sense to do this if what you want is truly automatic downloading. The developer of xTorrent has said that he's going to put that feature into xTorrent in a future release, so when that happens, I'll be moving all my feeds from NewsFire to xTorrent, and eschewing NewsFire completely.

Part Two: Tagging and Archiving


This part requires some hands-on housekeeping for each file you download, so not everyone will want to go this far. I like it, since I'm a neat-freak, OCD'ed out mofo.

Now you have your files, and you can watch them with any media player (I like VLC player because it plays pretty much anything you throw at it), or through Front Row (if you place them in the Movies folder of your home directory). But I go an extra step, and add them to iTunes, so that they're nice and organized and I can keep them indefinitely, as well as back them up along with the rest of my iTunes content. In order to do this, you want to include the metadata in the file so that iTunes can identify whether it's a TV Show or a Movie, as well as identify the Season, Episode, etc. While you can edit metadata from within iTunes, by using the 'Get Info' command, iTunes is still a bit sketchy when it comes to TV Shows in particular, so I use an additional piece of software, Lostify, to edit the metadata before I add the files to iTunes. I also like to have everything in the same format, so I run the files through VisualHub even before I go into Lostify. Both VisualHub and Lostify create a new file when they process the old one, so you end up with two files which you'll eventually want to delete. It helps to have plenty of extra space in your hard drive to accommodate these temporary files.

1- Drag the file you downloaded with xTorrent onto the VisualHub icon, to place it in the queue. You can add as many files as you want, and VisualHub will batch process them all in one fell swoop. While VisualHub has a pre-set for iTunes, I use the pre-set for MP4 instead, since I'll be running the file throguh Lostify before I add it to iTunes anyway, and I want the best quality possible. Check the box for H.264 encoding (smaller file size, great quality), set your quality to 'Go Nuts', and hit the start button. VisualHub will create a new .mp4 file, so you can delete the one you downloaded after Visual Hub is done with it.

2- Now take the .mp4 file that VisualHub created and open it with Lostify. Here you can set all the metadata you need to properly archive your video within iTunes: Series name, Episode title and number, Season number, etc. Again, Lostify will create a new file, this time an .m4v file, so you can delete the .mp4 file you created with VisualHub after Lostify is done with it.

3- Add video to iTunes. Once you do this, the video should show up in iTunes, nicely catalogued, and should play in Front Row as well.

And that's it! Enjoy your purloined programming.

02 May, 2007

Hey, MPAA/DCMA: Fuck you.

09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

Give us REAL Fair Use, not lawsuits.

Give us engaging content, not sequels and remakes.

Give us the option to do whatever the hell we want with a product we legally buy. Read: I want to rip my DVDs into iTunes, along with its menus and extra features, without having to jump through stupid, stupid quasi-legal DRM-laden hoops. Or better yet, I want to 'legally' (and I use the term here in deference to their vocabulary, not as an admission of wrongdoing) purchase and download the whole shebang. Do I need to waste shelf space and pay for superfluous packaging when I know there's a better, more efficient, speedier, ecologically friendly and convenient way, and the only reason it's not accessible to everyone is because a few fat cats in the entertainment industry want to make more money than they already do? Fuck that. Those neckties must be cutting of the circulation to your brains. Make it happen, monkey boys.

In the meantime, there are those who will do everything they can to thwart your bully-tactics, and I for one will happily download whatever the hell I want, because frankly, I probably wouldn't pay for the crap that Hollywood's producing these days, anyway. The genie's out of the bottle, chumps. It happened with DVDs, it happened with BluRay, and now it's happening with HD-DVD. Sooner or later, there will ALWAYS be a crack.

For those of you who have no idea what that number up top means, or what the hell I'm ranting about, look
here and here.

01 May, 2007

Scientists Use Nanotechnology to Mend Broken Spinal Cords

It's on, baby. The singularity looms ever closer, and I say 'bring it on, bitch'. From the article on abc.com:

Samuel Stupp has a bunch of mice that used to drag their hind legs behind them when they crawled around his Illinois lab, but they have miraculously regained at least partial use of their rear legs.

Astonishingly, their severed spinal cords have been repaired, at least partly, without surgery or drugs.

All it took was a simple injection of a liquid containing tiny molecular structures developed by Stupp and his colleagues at Northwestern University. Six weeks later, the mice were able to walk again. They don't have their former agility, but their injuries should have left them paralyzed for life.

Stupp is on the cutting edge of one of the most exciting fields in medical research: regenerative medicine. If he and others in the field are on the right track, one of these days tragic diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's will be a thing of the past. And the crippled will walk again as the human body repairs itself in ways that it cannot do today.

30 April, 2007

Natalia Yovanne

My friend Natalia Yovanne has put up her cyber-shingle. Check out her website, where she's got a portfolio of her most recent work. Natalia is from Chile (by way of the D.F.), and she studied painting at SVA. I enjoy her use of graphic stencil-like imagery (although to the best of my knowledge, they're not stencils, per se, since she hand-draws each instance individually), her penchant for working on surfaces such as brown butcher's paper, and the print-like quality of her work. Plus, she digs pirate ships. Can't go wrong with pirate ships. Ever.
Or rather- 'Evaaaargh!!!'
Sorry 'bout that.

25 April, 2007

Scott Mc Cloud (of Understanding Comics fame) has posted parts one and two of his online comic, The Right Number, online for free. From his site:
The Right Number was originally presented in June 2003 using a micropayments system offered by a company called Bitpass, sold for 25 cents each. Since Bitpass ceased operations in January 2007, I'm offering Parts One and Two for free now.

Part Three was delayed due to severe hand strain problems on my part a few years ago and delayed again when I began work on my recent book, Making Comics. I do still hope to finish the third and final chapter and make it available at some point in the future. Part Three will also be offered free through this page. (Sorry for the delay!)

Although the The Right Number was an experimental story, in an experimental format using an experimental payment system, I do like it as a story. I hope you will too.

Nifty creator, nifty comic, and hella nifty flash interface. Check it out!

24 April, 2007

Food for thought

From the fine folks over at the Guardian:
Fascist America, in 10 easy steps
By Naomi Wolf
From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all.
Fascinating article, and more than a little disconcerting. I'm tellin' ya: we won't be seeing presidential elections in '08. Mark my words.

23 April, 2007

The Farm Bill– Yes, it's gonna cost you.

From the New York Times Magazine: A fascinating look at the U.S. Farm Bill, which is a five-year subsidy plan for the Agriculture sector, and its (mostly) adverse effect on nutrition, on the environment, on global poverty, even on immigration (NAFTA cakes, anyone?). A couple of choice quotes:
"A public-health researcher from Mars might legitimately wonder why a nation faced with what its surgeon general has called “an epidemic” of obesity would at the same time be in the business of subsidizing the production of high-fructose corn syrup. But such is the perversity of the farm bill: the nation’s agricultural policies operate at cross-purposes with its public-health objectives."

". . . a school lunch lady trying to prepare healthful fresh food is apt to get dinged by U.S.D.A. inspectors for failing to serve enough calories; if she dishes up a lunch that includes chicken nuggets and Tater Tots, however, the inspector smiles and the reimbursements flow. The farm bill essentially treats our children as a human Disposall for all the unhealthful calories that the farm bill has encouraged American farmers to overproduce."

". . . Americans may tell themselves they don’t have a national land-use policy, that the market by and large decides what happens on private property in America, but that’s not exactly true. The smorgasbord of incentives and disincentives built into the farm bill helps decide what happens on nearly half of the private land in America"
While this is hardly a new, or surprising issue, it's nice to see it getting some press. I don't think that most citizens of the United States are aware that the hypocrisy and cynically self-serving attitude that has come to light with the current presidential administration is hardly limited to them— the whole of the government is to blame –and has for some time now– for letting big business fuck regular people in the ass. After all, the legislators who so cheerfully bend over for campaign contributions and perks from lobbyists in exchange for things like the Farm Bill aren't the ones who feel the effects, when all is said and done. They're rich. They can go shop at Whole Foods, or Trader Joe's, where good, healthy, organic food is sold- at a premium, of course.

12 April, 2007

Big Damn Print Day

We couldn't have asked for a nicer day for the steamroller print session: the sun was out, it wasn't too cold, and the wind was only a minor inconvenience. We pulled the first print at around 9:30 AM, and went right through to about 5:30 PM, inking blocks and printing them. I don't think Aristides, the steamroller driver, ever got off the steamroller, even for lunch!

In the morning, we were visited by a small crowd of children (presumably from one of the local schools or maybe Pratt's Saturday Art School, I was too busy to chat them up and ask), who all proceeded to 'ooo' and aaah' all over the place. Fucking adorable. Some of the printmaking students had set up a station for making silkscreen prints on t-shirts, so the kids got to take home their very own self-printed souveniers. At noon-ish, some of the Pratt printmaking kids brought out their music gear and set up a badass punk rock cover band, which proceeded to be very loud and fun for an hour or so. Dennis hooked us up with pizza for lunch, and bananas and Mountain Dew for snacks (weird, I know, but Dennis is a huge MD freak, so he had us all hopped up on that crap!)

Everyone who walked by had to stop and chill for a while, just to see what the hell was up with these crazy printamkers and their heavy machinery. There was some wonderful work printed, not only from Pratt students, but also from Martin Mazorra's Parsons printmaking classes, as well as some blocks by Swoon, and other artists from the NYC print scene. The best part about it, for me, was that since it's practically impossible to ink a block and pull a print all by yourself, we all got to work collaboratively. For someone who is used to working alone, in the dark recesses of my studio (or office, depending on the day) the spirit of camaraderie and cooperation among the printmakers from Pratt, Parsons, and the NYC printmaking community was wonderfully refreshing. There were no egos flying, very few bad vibes, and everyone looked out for everyone else's work. For more pictures of the process, and images of some of the final printed pieces, go to my Facebook album here.

We got two good prints out of my block, although I printed it three times. Since I hadn't shellacked my block, the first time I inked it, the wood sucked up all the ink, so it made for a bad, faded print. Once the ink had sucked into the wood, and the new ink could sit on top, all was good. I think I want to pick up some large pieces of nice paper and hand-print the block, though, just to have it on paper, and a sharp print. Although the steamroller is fun, and a great way to do large-scale prints, there is some unavoidable slippage, which leads to ghosting and double images sometimes. I want a so-called 'prefect' print in addition to the ones I've pulled so far.

As soon as I got home, I hung up the better of the two prints I took home (the third one -the best one- is still drying on the racks at Pratt, since we pulled it at the end of the day). Since the ink still hadn't settled completely, my house now smells lie a print shop, which is great, since I love the smell of fresh ink. Also, if you come into my house now, you can get high on ink fumes for free!

In all, a fantastic time was had, and I have the farmer's tan, blisters, and sore arms and back to show for it. Oh, and some nice zombie prints, too. . . .

10 April, 2007

Check, check, check, and check. Good to go.

Quiet.

Taxes.
Deathface.
Fela.
Tor.
Strange lesions.
Out of body.
-----
End report.

04 April, 2007

No rotten tomatoes. . . yet.

AU Students Protest After Karl Rove Speech
White House Advisor Karl Rove was the target of a protest on the American University campus Tuesday night, News4 reported. Rove was on the campus to talk to the College Republicans, but when he got outside more than a dozen students began throwing things at his car, an American University spokesperson said.
The students then got on the ground and lay down in front of his car as a protest.The students said security officials picked them up and carried them away so Rove could leave.
Maniacal cackling could be heard as the car sped away. One of these days, this kind of thing will turn into an old-fashioned lynching. This would not be a bad thing. Lynch the politicians, I say. Lynch them all.

Urban Farming. It's the wave of the future. . .

Via New York Magzine: Dr. Dickson Despommier, a professor of environmental sciences and microbiology at Columbia University, believes that “vertical farm” skyscrapers could help feed cities, and fight global warming. To that end, he's conducted a comprehensive study on the costs and projected benefits of 'skyscraper farms' in urban settings. These structures would not only provide organic crops year-round, but would also collect rainwater, treat blackwater, create energy through solar, steam, and wind power, and bring peace to earth (um, just kidding on that last one, unfortunately). The vertical farm could grow fruits, vegetables, grains, and even fish, poultry, and pigs. Enough, Despommier estimates, to feed 50,000 people annually.

And the price tag? Roughly $200 million per farm for startup costs, and the idea is for each 'farmscraper' to be self-sustainable.

Details at VerticalFarm.com. Check it out!

01 April, 2007

It's aliiiive!

I've finished the carving the block for the zombie print, and I'm pretty damn pleased with it. I think I enjoy working large. I haven't done it too often (only three times that I can think of), but each time it's been a daunting, but very satisfying experience. I'm definitely doing more zombie prints (and possibly other monsters or characters). There's so much you can do with the undead. . . I've been doodling in my head all week. Maybe not as large as this, but probably around 20 x 30 inches, which is the largest I can fit on a press at school.

The steamroller print session is a week from this Wednesday, so I have time to go back in there next weekend with the Dremel and see if there's anything that needs touching up, if I want to. Score one for finishing something ahead of schedule!

Actually, next weekend I should probably clean out the back yard. It's time for a Sunday afternoon cookout.

Here's some shots of the almost completed block. I didn't take pics of the finished block because Dennis dropped by to work on one of his blocks, and we got to talking while I cleaned up after finishing.

31 March, 2007

It's a Blogroll. Break out the chopsticks.

I woke up early-ish this morning –around 8.30– resolved to go into the studio in the morning to work on the zombie print. Alas, I sat down in front of the computer with a joint to catch up on teh blogginsfear, and it's now 11 in the AM. But before I leave for Pratt, here are a couple of choice links from this morning's foray into RSSes:

• Tobias Buckell writes about the whys and wherefores of the appeal of zombies in his blog. Buckell is one of our authors at Tor, and I just finished reading his first novel, Crystal Rain. It's damn good, go out and read it, if only for the fact that it's SF with a Caribbean feel to it. I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel, Ragamuffin.

Justine Larbalestier has a cool open thread going about what it means to be a 'fan', or a 'geek' (For the record, I consider myself a geek, but not a fan).

• Over on the tin-foil-hat side of things, we've got this gem from governmentdirt.com: The War is Coming to Iran - April 6th at 4 am - US has Warned Financial Interests in the Area and the Media Crews are Deployed.
Great.

• Speaking of geekness, and my admission to said state, here's a link to an interesting post by Audra Heaslip of the Galactica Watercooler podcast, about sexist rhetoric –both within Battlestar Galactica, and in the fan community for the show– when referring to Laura Roslyn:
Lately, Laura Roslin’s been getting a lot of flak for her actions as president, even if the GWC polls indicate mostly favorable ratings. But I’ve noticed something new creeping into the fray: sexist rhetoric (or, one might call it, rhetoric that is hostile or condescending to women) aimed at Roslin’s character, whether intentional or not.
Lots of great comments by the GalacticaWatercooler community follow.

• And finally, from 'Sleekness favourite Strange Maps blog, here's a map in which the actual geography is distorted in order to demonstrate information about the world's popultion.

Ok, enough of teh intarrwebz. Must. . . Carve. . . Wood. . . . I'm out!

30 March, 2007

Grand Theft Auto IV: No one will see me in October.



Holy crap. This game looks in-fucking-sane. They've gone back to the Liberty City setting, which is a clone of NYC (you can actually see the Flatiron bldg, where I work, at 00:39 on the clip).
I can forsee three things this fall:

#1- I will be a few hundred dollars poorer, because this is the kind of game that will make me spring for a next gen console (should I go with Sony, and their overpriced Blu Ray-playing quad core PS3, or should I just say 'resistance is futile', and bow to the Borg that is Microsoft by buying an XBox 360? We'll find out soon enough)

#2- No one will see me for a good two weeks after this game drops.

#3- Traffic accident rates in the real NYC will skyrocket, and we'll see lots more pedestrian attacks with baseball bats.

Let the fun begin.

29 March, 2007

Zombie Progress. . . the undead lurches on.

The commie zombie has gone the way of the Dodo, my friends. It just wasn't panning out too well, and after sitting on the sketch for a while, I realized that this zombie is much more roots- he's all about the eating of the brains, and who can blame him, really? I mean, that's what the undead are all about anyway: eating flesh. So I went with my gut –pun intended– and gave my zombie a true rallying cry: "MUST... EAT...BRAINS!!"

I put in a good 12 hours of carving on the block this past weekend, and I've got most of the main figure done. I finally finished the lettering on the sketch to my liking yesterday, and got it tile-printed at work today. If all goes well, I should be done with the carving this weekend, and then it's time for touch-ups with the Dremel. Woo-Hoo, power tools!

Here's the finished sketch, for your viewing pleasure. I'll post more in-progress pix over the weekend.

Maybe he knows something we don't. . .

Either Mark Cuban is batshit crazy, or our society is not paranoid enough. Either way, it makes for good conspiracy slingin'. Ok, put your tin foil hats on: Apparently, Cuban is bankrolling a limited theatrical release of Loose Change, the infamous 9/11 conspiracy documentary that's been making the rounds on the internet for a few years. Loose Change posits that the September 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were planned and orchestrated by the US Federal Government, in order to justify military incursions into the Middle East, and Iraq in particular. Why would the federal government do this, you ask? Well, duh. For the oil. I thought we'd gone over this already.

While it's got its detractors, including Popular Mechanics (and mind you, I've not watched any of the countering films, so I'm admittedly biased -what can I say, I'm a sucker for a good conspiracy theory), Loose Change makes some interesting, plausible, and compelling arguments. Considering that either fabricating or taking advantage of a Pearl Harbor-like event was one of the cornerstones of the Project for the New American Century's plan for escalating the Middle East conflict –a plan that has largely been carried out, with disastrous consequences, by George Bush and his neocon cronies, some of who actually helped write the damned plan– the scenario put forth by Loose Change is not all that far fetched.

Just goes to show: you can't trust the government.

Sad Hermit sings 'Hurt'


This has got to be one of the saddest, yet funniest things I've seen in a while. Consider the pedigree of the song: written by Trent Reznor, originally performed by Reznor and NIN, covered by Johnny Cash in his Rick Rubin-produced American sessions. Now Kermit the Frog goes at it, and I have to say, he gives Cash a run for his money in the 'look at how fucked up I've gotten' department. I guess the death of Jim Henson hit ol' Kermie a bit hard. Giving Rolf a blowjob is a bit too much, but if you look closely, you can see that at around 2:30, he's doing rails off the cover of The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. Beautiful!

26 March, 2007

Wham Bam, Monday Smash-up.

It's been over ten days since I've posted, and frankly, that's too long. My apologies, blogosphere. Life sometimes happens offline. I've been spending a lot of quality time with my zombie in the studio, and I'm happy to report it's coming along swimmingly.

So today, a couple of links to throw your way:

1- Cory Doctorow (Craphound, BoingBoing) has an excellent short article in Locus Magazine about the novel and its place in the online world.

2- Esquire has a short but interesting interview with comics badass Frank Miller (Sin City, 300, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns), in which he talks about how Robert Rodriguez won him over to film, despite his bad experiences with Hollywood, amongst other things.

3- AstroRoach has a great article, A Biocentric and Holographic Universe, which elucidates on the relationship between consciousness and our physical reality, from a quantum physics standpoint. Fascinating stuff. Via Sentient Developments.

4- And finally, just to prove that the people of NYC are not paranoid, here's this little gem from the Guardian UK:
NY police spied on anti-Bush protesters

Undercover New York police officers spent more than a year spying on would-be protesters ahead of the 2004 Republican national convention, monitoring church groups and street theatre troupes which had no intention of breaking the law, it was reported yesterday.

Although the ostensible mission of the Republican National Convention Intelligence squad was to identify the potential for violence at the August 2004 convention, the investigation quickly spiralled into surveillance of environmentalists, anti-war groups, and even three local elected officials.

Stay tuned for more this week, including zombie print updates and the second part of my piracy primer.

15 March, 2007

I Looooove Working at Tor: RDM's BSG v. ST:TOS

OMFG, what have I done. . . I've opened a frakkin' can of worms. I just discovered the first podcast from www.scifismackdown.com, pitting the Enterprise (the original TV series Enterprise -NCC 1701-, mind you. This is Kirk's ship before the movie refit) against the new Battlestar Galactica. No sooner do I mention this to my boss, I get half the art department and some of editorial jumping out of their offices for a mid-hallway geekfest. The consensus around Tor is that Galactica would beat the Enterprise senseless, because although Enterprise has its shields, phasers, and photon torpedoes, Galactica has nukes, a fleet of Vipers, Marine boarding parties via Raptors, a nuke-proof hull, and hell, let's face it: Bill Adama's much more of a badass than Kirk ever was, or could hope to be. Adama will kick Kirk when he's down, and then Laura Roslyn would airlock his sorry, spoken-word-spouting ass. So Galactica for the frakking win, baby.

Once we settled on a winner for the Enterprise Galactica face offs, we moved on to other smackdowns: unicorns v. zombies (zombies FTW!), and Vampire Pirates v. Ninja Wizards (the office was divided on this one, and we ended up splitting the difference).

So what do you think?
Enterprise v. Galactica?
Unicorns v. Zombies?
Vampire Pirates v. Ninja Wizards?

The Zombie Print, in Progress, as Promised.

The zombie printmaking extravaganza continues! After some serious wrestling with the Photoshop sketch (clocking in at a gi-normous 400MB. . . serves me right for wanting to work at 100% on a piece of this scale), I was finally able to output my computer sketch yesterday as tiled prints on 11x17 paper, so I eagerly and somewhat giddily (to my shame) ran over to the studio at Pratt last night after work to transfer the print onto my MDF board (thanks, Julia! Again!). After three hours of cutting, taping, and setting, (three hours! I know, I'm working slow. But in my defense, I had to contend with some idiot undergrad who showed up at the otherwise blissfully empty studio not too long after I arrived, and proceeded to mercilessly chat me up for three hours, while I tried to work. Note to all: people who don't know the value of silence, or who talk just to hear themselves talk, really really really piss me off) I've got everything set up for the transfer sketch tonight.

So here's a shot of the board, with the sketch taped down to it, and some tracing paper over the sketch, along with some of my materials thrown in for a sense of scale. Tonight, I'll loosely trace ("fucking tracer!") the sketch onto the tracing paper, then flip the tracing paper over onto the bare board, and rub it down onto the MDF.

I. am. so. psyched. This is gonna rock. I can't wait to finally get to cutting into the board.

12 March, 2007

TV Show Torrents thru RSS: A Piracy Primer for Purloined Programming, Part 1

A few people have asked me how and why I download TV shows off of BitTorrent so reliably and (seemingly) effortlessly, so I figured I would post about it here on the 'Sleekness for future reference. This first post outlines my reasons for pirating TV Shows, since the 'easy way out' would seem to be simply getting a cable subscription.

I think it's fair to say that there are legal alternatives out there for those that want to enjoy TV programming on-demand, but these solutions are not entirely adequate, for various reasons. Let's look at the usual suspects:

#1- Regular cable hook up: In this day and age, this is an untenable proposition to the educated media consumer. I cannot possibly justify paying upwards of $80 a month on a cable bill, just for the 'privilege' of channel surfing. I watch particular shows based on genuine interest and / or recommendations- I don't need to have 500 channels of crap at my disposal, 24 hours a day, so that I can waste a whole afternoon of my weekend surfing through sub-par content, just because I have nothing better to do. There are other reasons why cable doesn't cut it: some people aren't home when a show airs; some people follow two shows that air at the same time, and inevitably have to choose to watch one over the other; some people hate commercials with a visceral passion (that would be me). And then some people are just subversive, cantankerous, anti-capitalistic assholes (um... me again).

#2- TiVo, and similar PVR (Personal Video Recorder) devices: I don't have $300 to spend on a TiVo box, and the device is dependent on your being subscribed to a cable provider anyway (see #1).

#3- The iTunes Store sells TV shows. But as much as I love Apple, iTunes has some very serious limitations:

First and foremost, the quality of videos bought off iTunes sucks. Big time. Due to bandwidth issues, TV shows from the iTunes Store are encoded at a resolution that is more or less adequate for viewing on an iPod, on your computer, or on a regular standard definition tube television set, but if you watch your shows on a 60-inch, high-definition (HD) plasma display (like I do), this just won't cut it, at all. Granted, quality is bound to go up as high-bandwidth internet connections become more common, but this is still a few years away, and it will be a gradual thing. I want my HD now, dammit.

Secondly, DRM (Digital Rights Management) sucks. If I buy a show for $1.99, I should be able to do what I want with that file, the same way I could with a store-bought DVD: play it on my computer connected to my HD set in the living room, play it on my other computer in my room, play it on my laptop in the back yard, even *gasp* give it to a friend who I want to get hooked on a show- whatever. I bought it, fair and square. Hands off my stash.

Third, iTunes takes its sweet, sweet time in posting a new show after it airs sometimes, even though iTunes says that they post shows on the day after the original air date (for some reason, Battlestar Galactica particularly suffers from this quite a bit). This is not acceptable.

Fourth, while the selection of shows on iTunes is good, and getting better all the time, not everything I want to watch is on there. For example, the second season of Weeds never showed up on the iTMS, even though they have the first season available.

So, in essence, if you buy a show on iTunes, you're paying $2 a pop for a low-quality video file that you can only play under certain conditions, at sub-standard quality, and is only made available whenever iTunes decides it wants to post it. Now, most of these things aren't necessarily Apple's fault, but they are the reality nonetheless.

In the next installment (edit: you can read it here), I'll detail my method for automating TV show downloads using a BitTorrent client, and the steps I take to re-encode and properly tag video content for adding to your iTunes library. Stay tuned!

11 March, 2007

The Army is ordering injured troops to go to Iraq

From Salon.com:
As the military scrambles to pour more soldiers into Iraq, a unit of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., is deploying troops with serious injuries and other medical problems, including GIs who doctors have said are medically unfit for battle. Some are too injured to wear their body armor, according to medical records.

I knew there was a reason I kept my subscription up. . . That's pretty frakked up, though.

08 March, 2007

What, Iraq? Never Better!

From CNN.com (full story here):
• Nearly 2 million Iraqis have fled violence to other nations
• One U.N. official calls situation a "simmering crisis"
• Syria, Jordan recently tightened borders
• Jordan says it can't sustain refugee flow for long haul

Heckuva job, Georgie. Heckuva job.

32 Sq. Feet of Inky Commie Zombie Goodness

Well, it's that time of the year again, when Dennis McNett, one of my printmaking teachers a Pratt, rents a big ol' steamroller, and we spend a day printing large (really large) woodblock prints out behind Steuben Studios at Pratt. This is the third year in a row he puts this together, and for various and sundry reasons I've never been able to participate. Last year I told myself that this year I would do it, and lo and behold, it's coming together. Swing by Pratt's Brooklyn campus on 11 April if you want to see some bad ass printmaking action. With steamrollers. Steamrollers!

The requirements are simple: the block has to be no smaller than 4 feet by 8 feet, you have to bring a can of ink, and you have to be there all day to help others print their work (there is no way to do this alone- it's very much a collaborative thing).

I started sketching last weekend, and here is a modified crop of the final composition. I finally locked down a piece of MDF board to use (thanks Julia!), and I start carving this weekend. I'll be spending all my free time in the basement of Steuben Studio until I'm done or until April 11, whichever comes first.

I wanted to do something whimsical, with a tongue-in-cheek quality, but dark and sciecne fiction-y, or at the very least supernatural. After sitting on it for a few days, and toying with ideas that ranged from space-pirates, to Cylons (of course), to post-apocalyptic cityscapes, I settled on zombies. When in doubt, look to the undead for inspiration. That's gonna be my motto from now on. As I started sketching, I realized that my zombie had the look and pose of one of those aspirational figures from old communist propaganda posters, so I'm running with that, in terms of the type treatment. Zombies AND politics! We'll see how it all turns out.

I decided I wanted to sketch this out on the computer, using my Wacom tablet. This is the first piece I've ever done that has started life completely in the copmuter (and with no photo reference), from scratch. I'm very pleased with the results so far. Once you get over the hump of getting the feel for how the tablet responds to your strokes, and how they translate into the computer, it's all downhill from there. The advantages of working on a Mac as opposed to a piece of paper should be obvious (the Undo command and the History pallette in Photoshop are my good, good friends).

Once the sketch is finished I'll tile-print the artwork on a laser printer, and transfer it to the board using either vegetable oil, or I might just spray mount the paper onto the board, and carve through it. We'll see what works best. I also want to print on a red sheet, and possibly go at the sheet with a can of yellow spray paint to get the two-color thing going.

I'll post pictures of the work in progress as it ...em... progresses. And I'll definitely post pictures from the steamroller sessions. It's gonna be so. much. fun!

07 March, 2007

Some Mistakes Should Not Be Corrected

From the AP wire, via Yahoo:
An unknown number of new George Washington dollar coins were mistakenly struck without their edge inscriptions, including "In God We Trust," and are fetching around $50 apiece online.

The US mint has been inscribing the phrase "In God We Trust" onto its currency since 1956, when Congress ordered it included as a counterpoint to the 'Atheist Communist Threat' (despite the fact that communism simply denounces all religion, as opposed to taking a hard-core anti-deist stance). As free thinkers, the Founding Fathers of the US would probably be rolling over in their graves if they found out that deist propaganda was being disseminated via the country's currency (and don't get me started on the fucking pledge of allegiance). To that effect, many atheist and anti-religious groups have lobbied and litigated (unsuccessfully, so far) to have this phrase removed from all US currency. Grass roots efforts to 'de-god' money have been around for some time. As an avowed atheist, and a staunch supporter of the separation of church and state, my preferred method is the red sharpie, as shown here.

05 March, 2007

Rooftop art

From our friends at the Wooster Collective:

In 1969, Rudolph de Harak designed and the sculptor William Tarr built, a a full-size model of a WWI Sopwith Camel on top of 77 Water Street, a 26 story building, in New York.

It's sole purpose is to amuse the inhabitants of surrounding buildings and skyscrapers, most notably the former World Trade Center.

And the requisite Google maps link is HERE, so that you can see it for yourself. Make sure to turn on the satellite view, for best results.

28 February, 2007

Beantown farts explosively, again.

The Boston municipal authorities strike again. This time it's not ill-willed moon-dwelling pranksters who face the wrath of the Boston Bomb Squad, but a lowly traffic monitoring device placed by the Boston Transportation Dept. Yes, a traffic monitoring device. Apparently, the Boston Bomb Squad can't recognize the city's own hardware. This is bad comedy.
Boston- 0
The Terrorists- 2
Let's go for three, and get the trifecta. Maybe we can fool the Bomb Squad into blowing up their own truck. I can see it now: two Bomb Squad retards running around their headquarters-
"It even says 'BOMB' on the side, Joe! We'd better detonate it, just to be on the safe side."
Fuckin' tools.

27 February, 2007

Cheney Unhurt After Bombing in Afghanistan

From the NYT:
KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb. 27 — A suicide bomber blew himself up this morning outside the main gate of the United States military base at Bagram while Vice President Dick Cheney was inside the base. Mr. Cheney was not hurt in the attack.
Damn, we just can't get a break. If only someone would take ol' Shotgun Dick out, we could impeach Bush with impunity. Come on, terrorists, you're slacking. You could've gotten closer! Ok, that guy only gets 60 virgins, not the full 72.

Cop computers yell "D'oh!" when they spot uninsured drivers

From Engadget:
Some Thames Valley, UK cops claim it helps reaction times to have their onboard computer yell out Homer's "D'oh!" when it picks up on uninsured drivers, Jack Nicholson's "Here's Johnny" from The Shining when a stolen car zips by, and Dan Aykroyd's "People like this are a menace to decent society" for crime-linked cars.
Now all they need is a donut dispenser in the squad car, and we're all set.

23 February, 2007

A visual trip through the 21st Century

Via Sentient Developments, here's a speculative montage of how the 21st century could play out. Personally, I think this is all very viable, given the way technology and society is developing. The possible caveat is, of course, that as humans we may screw it up through infighting, luddism, reactionary attitudes, and good old fashioned greed.

That being said, I really do hope we get there. I can't wait until 'most conscious entities do not have a permanent physical presence'. Hopefully I'll still be around to shed my skin (or what's left of it at that point) and join the singularity.

We All Love Green!

The only bill I don't handle at home is the power bill- Adriano's got that one. Last night he informed me that he'd switched us over to completely green power through a subsidiary of ConEd which generates power through a combination of wind, biomass, and solar collectors.

This completely and utterly made my day. It's a few dollars more a month, but it's a small price to pay for not feeling guilty whenever I power up the Big Honkin' Plasma Screen.

22 February, 2007

Afro Punk and Beijing Bubbles

Last night I went to a back-to-back screening of two documentaries: Afro Punk, about black (or otherwise non-white) punks in the US, and Beijing Bubbles, about punk and rock musicians in China. The directors of both films were there, so we got a (too) short Q&A period after the screenings.

I first encountered Afro Punk on my stint as Art Director for the (as far as I know) now-defunct NRG Magazine. We did a write up of the movie, as well as an interview with the director, James Spooner, when it was originally released in 2004. I'd never gotten around to it, but I was intrigued to watch the movie, since I could see a connection between black people being outsiders in this very white music scene (which, considering the outsider aesthetic of punk, is highly ironic), and my own experience as a white Puertorrican trying to fit into a culture that prides itself on its mestizaje, or mix of races. The movie does a great job of portraying the frustration of black punks trying to fit into the scene, not only in NYC, but all around the US. It features many interviews with punks around the country, as well as some black punk musicians, most notably Angelo Moore of Fishbone. One of the most interesting points that the movie makes, is that -according to the film- although black punks are apparently few and far between in the scene, many punk bands, such as Bad Brains, Fishbone, Candira, Burn, etc., have black members. This doesn't necessarily come as a surprise, but it's certainly food for thought.

Beijing Bubbles was not as in-depth as I would have liked. The directors had only two weeks to shoot in Beijing, and they had made no prior contacts in the scene before going over there. . . it shows in the film. Instead of being about punks in particular, it seems to focus on rock musicians in general, and one gets the feeling that the people showcased in the film are the only ones that the directors could find on such short notice. Fair enough, as I'm sure it's a huge pain to get in touch with such an underground scene in China, especially on such short notice. The most notable aspect of the film is the footage of Beijing itself. Not at all the bastion of communism that you'd expect, Beijing has grown into an emminently capitalistic city, with mega-malls, high-class shopping and business districts right over the river from what looked like shanty towns. Adding to this disconnect, the musicians showcased were for the most part working musicians, but I use the term loosely- some of them were being supported financially by their parents, and others were eking out a very meager existence with no possibility of really living off their music. The interviewees ranged in age from 20 to 33 years old, which I thought would really come into play when they were asked about their attitude towards their government, and their reaction or impressions of events like the Tiennamen Square Massacre in 1989. The younger kids seemed oblivious , and perfectly content to be part of a consumer society, albeit on the lower rungs. The older kids seemed aware of their place in history, but what you get is an attitude of utter indifference and despondence towards anything or anyone establishment-related. Healthy, sure, but I didn't perceive much awareness of context, which was surprising, considering how communist propaganda is supposed to 'educate' the population as to the adverse effects of consumer/capitalist society. Just goes to show: communism is dead, and it died slowly and painfully on the altar of the almighty dollar, hemorraging from within.

In all, a great night of documentaries, followed by a visit to the 5th Ave. Apple store with my friend Ben, (who wanted to check out the crazy glass elevator) to see if they'd gotten the AppleTV in yet. Alas, No joy. The wait continues. . .

21 February, 2007

Sagan on Sex

From The Sagan Diary, by John Scalzi:
Sex is not a holy or sacred thing or a physical machine to express a separate emotion. I fuck to enjoy myself and to celebrate the fact I am alive. I understand the idea of making love, but it seems a bad way to go about it. I don't fuck to show my love. I love to show my love and let the fucking be its own thing. I love you and I love fucking you and I have no need to complicate one with the other. They are both true statements and they are both good. I am content to have them remain that way.
The Sagan Diary is a companion piece to Scalzi's Old Man's War novels, a chronicle of one character's thoughts and emotions throughout the span of the three main novels, Old Man's War, The Ghost Brigades, and The Last Colony. It's not for nothing that Scalzi has been dubbed the spearhead of the 'New Comprehensible' movement in sci-fi literature. His work is undeniably sci-fi, yet very accessible to readers new to the genre, which is something of an anomaly in this most self-referential of sub-genres.
Whatever (pun intended). I've enjoyed Scalzi's novels more than I have any recent reads (with the possible exception of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn, but that's not sci-fi, so we're not talking about it here), and I guess I just can't shut up about them.

Zombies or Unicorns?

Facing the abysmal absence of actual content to post (I've been -em- busy), let's see if I can't de-lurk some of you fuckers. In keeping with the spirit of debate raging through tha intarrwebz these days, courtesy of Justine Larbalestier via John Scalzi, I'm going to add my own little piece of kindling to the fire. Down by the end of this post, that there is a comment button. Use it well.

So I submit to you: Zombies or Unicorns? Please explain and / or substantiate. Go!

20 February, 2007

Mr. Sulu FTW!!!!!!!

I love George Takei. "Your big, chocolatey head glazed in man-sweat"? 'Nuff said.

All You See is Lights in the City!

From the Graffiti Research Labs via BoingBoing:
Defense contractors say that within the next 10 years they’ll have a solid state laser mounted on a Hummer that can put a hole in sheet of metal from several miles away. Well Dutch graffiti writers can pretty much do that now with this Hymermobil rocking a GRL L.A.S.E.R. Tagging System.


My fave has got to be the Mooninite. How long until marketing shills co-opt this one?

15 February, 2007

A Perfect Storm

Between a weekend trip to Boston with my cousin, a Photoshop seminar on Monday, catching up with work all this week, and now having caught a cold either from my roommate or from my boss, I've grossly neglected the blogging. My apologies to any readers (are you out there?). I'll be back with regular posts by this weekend. Promise.

07 February, 2007

Flatiron Blues (as in blue toes, that is)

I work in the Flatiron Building, which is that funny, triangle-wedge-shaped building on the corner of Broadway, 23rd street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan. The building is a landmark, having been built in the very early 2oth century, and as such, its piping and such are very very old and cranky. Monday morning greeted us with no heat from the boilers, as they take a while to 'warm up', and the staff hadn't thought to fire them up over the weekend in order to stave off some of the freezing temperatures. Suffice it to say that for most of the day, everyone on our floor was hangin' out in their winter outer-wear. It was fun. Lots of bitching, but not by me. Just glad I was an eskimo in a past life. David Hartwell went around taking pictures of everyone sitting at their office in full winter kit, so I'm posting mine here. Witness my bewildered expression - David caught me off guard!

06 February, 2007

Uncle Steve takes a Magical Mystery Sledgehammer to the RIAA Part One: The Wind-up. . .

Today, Steve Jobs posted an open letter on Apple.com basically decrying Digital Rights Managment (DRM). From the column, which is a fascinating read:
Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.
While an unprecedented statement from a CEO in its own right, I believe this is just the opening salvo in a larger move.

Check this out. Lemme drop some pure rampant speculation on y'all:

I think Steve's preparing the playing field for his big move. He's coming out in a big, public, P.R.-friendly way against DRM because he's about to announce that Apple Inc.(or even Steve on a personal level) has bought Apple Corps., and will license the Beatles catalogue exclusively to iTunes, DRM-free. This announcement will possibly come on 20 Feb, at Apple's rumored media event.

I've said this before, and I'll keep saying it until I'm proven otherwise. Given the recent and unprecedented capitulation by Apple Corps. in their lawsuit against Apple Inc., alleged money issues for Paul McCartney stemming from his infamous divorce, and Steve's flaunting Beatles tracks in his iPhone keynote (apparently without recrimination from Apple Corps.), it's within the bounds of rational speculation that something like this could happen.

If Steve Jobs can pull off buying the Beatles' catalogue, and selling it on iTunes DRM-free, it would be a HUGE coup against DRM, and a big ol' slap in the face to the Big Four record companies and the RIAA. It would show them that you can take music that's been available for free in the internet forever, and sell it without having to resort to DRM. It would validate Jobs' original rationale for the iTMS, namely that all else being equal, although illegal downloads will always be there, people will pay for 'decent' quality, stable downloads, and album art. It might also spur them to eliminate DRM from their own music, in order to remain competitive in the digital space.

Again, this is pure speculation, but it makes sense, on the surface. I'd love to hear what others think about this.

So much for 'doing no evil'

Fresh off of admitting that accepting censorship from China was a bad move, Google fucks up again. From The Times of India:
Google Earth agrees to blur pix of key Indian sites
NEW DELHI: President APJ Abdul Kalam's concerns over Google Earth providing detailed and unhindered view of ‘sensitive' Indian establishments have been addressed, courtesy a formula which allows users uninterrupted access to the ‘eye in the sky' while camouflaging key installations.

Fuzzy, low resolution pictures and distorted building plans is how the government and Google Earth have agreed to get around concerns that images of sensitive military and scientific establishments available on the Web could either allow unauthorised snooping or become a ready reckoner for terrorists.
I have to question the rationale given by the Indian government. While altering sensitive sites in order to prevent terrorism sounds great in print, most terrorist attacks occur in public places, such as cafes, along bus routes, or financial centers. (tinfoil hat) Anyone interested or capable of assaulting a secured site probably has access to other satellite or mapping systems and additional intelligence, be it through another online map service or through more covert means (/tinfoil hat).

This is yet another example of the governments of the world using the catch-all 'to prevent terrorism' excuse in order to justify placing a stranglehold on their so-called sensitive information.

It's only a matter of time until it becomes too difficult or impractical to suppress information on a large, public scale like this. Information does want to be free, after all. When that starts to happen, governments will have to fundamentally alter their relationship to the people in general. There will be a higher degree of transparency, hopefully accompanied by a larger outcry for accountability.