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.

01 February, 2007

The Ten Dimensions, explained; and a glimmer of 2012.

From the promo website for the new book, Imagining the Tenth Dimension, comes this little Flash video explaining the nature of the ten dimensions (and you thought there were only four. HA! You're soooo twentieth century- the future's all about quantuum physics and string theory, baby!). Physicists tell us that the subatomic particles that make up our universe are created within ten spatial dimensions (plus an additional dimension of time) by the vibrations of exquisitely small "superstrings". The video explains this all relatively simply, in terms that most of us can understand.

Superstring theory is yet anther instance in which science fiction has anticipated science. The idea of parallel universes and dimensions is an old one, and you don't even have to be a hard-core sci-fi geek to have been exposed to it: a screening of the Back to the Future movies will suffice to get the gist of it. According to the video, it would actually be theoretically possible to travel between parallel dimensions, or alternate realities, if you will. The only caveat is that since we, as humans, are limited to experiencing our reality within the context of the first three and a half dimensions (length, width, depth, and duration/time, but we don't really see this one as a whole, we simply experience it in a limited way as we travel through it), we don't even percieve the rest of the 'higher' dimensions.

This concept gels nicely with the subject of the book I'm currently reading, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, by Daniel Pinchbeck. He postulates that humanity is on the verge of a quantum leap in consciousness, where the paradigm of our very existence will change dramatically to encompass ideas and concepts that until now have been relegated to the realm of the spiritual, arcane, mystical, and psychedelic by mainstream, physical science. He puts forth that there are other dimensions to reality, such as the noosphere, which are out of our range of perception for now, because we are not equipped to perceive them (sort of like how we can't see light in the infrared spectrum, but in a spiritual, or quantum state), but that soon, humanity will transcend our current paradigm of existence and evolve into a higher state of being. He sets the date for this singularity event at or around 2012, according to (among other markers) the date in the Mayan calendar that corresponds to the ending of the fifth -and current- age of mankind. Hence the title of the book, as Quetzalcoatl is a Mayan deity.

It's strange that I'm coming across all this related information at the same moment. Chalk one up to synchronicity (although Pinchbeck addresses this phenomenon, albeit from a very psychedelic and mystical perspective. I don't know if I subscribe to his interpretation, but it makes for interesting reading).