Saturday, July 9, 2011


Hey y'all. Because google can't transfer blog accounts between emails, I have shifted my blog over to in an attempt to streamline my brand, and so I can remember my own damn passwords. I would like to ask my readers, both of you, to please update your bookmarks. also, I gave the blog a facelift after the jump. happy reading :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nation of Tralier Addicts

This is one of my favorite shots from Super 8

I have been freaking out over the epicness of Super 8 ever since I saw it last week. I have been gushing to everyone, my mother, my coworkers, strangers on the street, but I have been getting a lukewarm response. People keep saying to me “yeah, I hear it’s GREAT, and it got amazing reviews, but I just don’t know”. What could their possibly be left to know? What's the problem? If everyone is telling you that the acting is great, the story is great and it brings you a warm feeling for a nostalgic past that we are sorely lacking in these modern times, what the hell else are you waiting for? Is it because unlike other summer movies, Super 8 didn’t pander to its audience with a marketing campaign that cums in your face with visual effects, sound bites, and the entire plot wrapped up in a 2 min package? Or because it wasn’t flashing on your phone, and your TV,and on the twitter and the facebook, and didn’t have a viral marketing campaign to sell you a set of eight plastic collectors cups (coincidentally poisoned with lead) that you forgot there were movie theaters playing movies in your town this weekend?

Hollywood seems to think so. There have been loads of stories over the last week speculating about the “success” of Super 8. Insiders have been worried that due to “soft tracking” the film would not have a big release. Fortunately the film had a better than expected release with a $38 million opening, but that didn’t stop the Hollywood doomsayers. The industry has been critical of the films approach to marketing. Particularly around keeping the main plot points and special effects tightly under wraps(something that is extremely difficult to do in the age of internet leaking, Abrams and Spielberg deserve an award on this front alone). The industry seems to think that if an audience isn’t already built in around a franchise, or isn’t given all the goodies in the trailer, they simply will not materialize at the theatre. I find this to be a lazy load of marketing BS.

Trailers these days are so shittly crafted, like eating all the chocolate chips out of a cookie, they will be delicious when you eat them, but when it comes time to eat the real cookie all the good stuff is gone. Take a look at the green lantern trailer, I don’t even have to see that movie to know what happens, its all special effects and dramatic music. And before you say “it’s a comic book movie, what do you expect” I’ll remind you that comic books have been around for 60+ years for combining art with GREAT STORYTELLING. To cast off the green lantern/Hal Jordan (yes I am a comic book nerd) as a one note character is to totally misinterpret the genre. Now contrast that with the Super 8 trailer. It from beginning to end it was structured in a way that drew you into the characters and the story, without giving too much away, the music was good, the cuts were good, just a glimpse of the film. I was drawn to it because of the care I saw in constructing the preview. I was interested not because I thought I was going to get some big CGI monster payoff (they always look fake to me anyway) but because there was this sense of the right kind of mystery. I knew enough about the film to know that I would be something I found enjoyable without spoiling the enjoyment of discovering the movie the first time I saw it.

Another interesting comparison is the trailer from ET and the one from Super 8, and my detractors will say that times and audiences have changed since then, but I still think that surprise is one of the best aspects of storytelling.

Audiences want to see a good story. They want to escape their gradually depressing lives, and forget for a few hours they live in a society that charges $15 to see a movie and another $25 for cardboard popcorn. The interesting thing to me in all of this is the success being wholly determinate on the box office weekend numbers. Summer movies are expected to have earth shattering record debuts, and those who don’t are seen as unsuccessful(?), shouldn’t the marker of success be that a) it got amazing reviews, b) for not a lot of money, c) the people who saw it generally liked it, and resonated with the film. These would be my guidelines for success, and while I acknowledge that money plays a factor, my point is that it shouldn’t be the ONLY factor. If marketers and Hollywood stopped “tracking” films for big box office blowouts and spent more times creating original ideas, tapping innovative filmmakers and treating its audiences like adults then we would have more movies that resonate with us and stand the test of time, instead of Michael Bay eye orgy pieces of crap.

So while you enjoy your summer of sequels, prequels and franchises, think about the movies that have really stuck with you. Explosions and effects are cool the first time you see them but fade as technology advances, but compelling personal stories grounded in empathy and solid acting performances, those are the ones that you go back to again and again.

PS go see Super 8 RIGHT NOW!

Watch the Trailer

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Death of the 18th Century institution

I've been reading some Clay Shirky lately, here are some thoughts on the death of 18th century institutions

In the view of Shirky the term professional journalist has become problematic. This is because in the age of mechanical reproduction the line between the professional and amateur is blurred perhaps disappearing altogether. Does this democratize journalism, or reduce it? Or does it, as Shirky believes, transform our understanding of journalistic practice?

For me the democratization of information in ways that Wikipedia exemplifies challenges our assumption of management of information. This is to say, that individuals working together in a loosely defined community can produce works of great value with almost no need for old structures of management. Shriky points out that by its very structure, the company can not take this approach, inherent in the institution is a barrier to this kind of free collaboration. But Shirky is also right in stating that most companies are in the business of managing information. I think that in the future as information is viewed more and more as a public right, it places difficultly for businesses to keep proprietary information secret, and also more difficult for anybody anywhere to have any reasonable expectation of privacy.

I think this is an interesting way of thinking about the problem. Many people when talking about privacy make the mistake to place the blame on sites like facebook for eroding our private lives. I would argue that it is our democratization of information that challenges our implicit assumptions about privacy. Information is the key input in our lives and if we agree that everyone should have access to it and that it’s a good thing to recorded it all on the internet to further our human endeavors then we also agree to the “restructuring”, which is to say the elimination, of privacy as we know it.

Further more, I think that since more and more people are sharing information in a networked fashion, this presents a challenge to the structure of institutions in general. In an 18th century mindset, compulsory education at a centralized school made sense. The educational institution had access to the knowledge. This is the bottleneck that Shirky describes, but today this is not the case. Today most interesting learning happens outside the classroom. While every other part of life is interactive, from Internet to video games, education is not. We educate children to believe that education is not interactive and therefore not fun or stimulating. No wonder we have a dropout crisis. How have we not addressed this glaring problem? Why are we still clinging to an institution that no longer suits our needs or processes?

Additionally, our political institution is burdened by the same problems as nupeida. It too has a bottleneck, but I don’t think it understands why. Political leaders fancy themselves “experts” much in the same way the board of nupedia did. But, these “experts” are only self-defined, and in reality the declaration of such authority is meant to impose control. Wikipedia teaches us that a system of self-governing is possible without managers. This is not to say that there would not be errors or injustice if this idea was applied to government, but isn’t the point not to eliminate injustice but instead to quickly serve justice? And on this premise, I think we all can agree that our current institutions fail us.

As the world becomes more networked we cannot ignore that these institutions were created for a different time that had different needs and processes. If we are to further our society we must question the structure of an institutional system and its necessity in the modern age.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The fifteen minutes that never end

Its weird right? Trending topics and viral videos. How a person can go from complete obscurity to instant fame, or in some cases, infamy overnight. The internet opens up so many possibilities for communication. Advocates say its creating a more open society. One that is free to “express” itself in any way that it sees fit. And truth be told, the internet has allowed for great advancements. It’s been a pivotal part of the recent uprisings in the Mideast , and Googles people finder has allowed information sharing to be immensely helpful in situations like we are seeing in japan. In times of strife it appears that the interconnected masses on the web can be mobilized for great good. But unfortunately, most of the time there is no catalyst, particularly here in the west. Most of the time people, awash in their “freedom”, connected by a vast technological network, remain bored. And, as the saying goes said, idle hands are the devils plaything…

I think that it is interesting when you have situations like Rebecca Black’s “Friday” or UCLA student Alexandra Wallace’s racist rants which both represent the flip sides this idleness. Rebecca Blacks music video is the kind of piece you would expect form a freeloving, if somewhat naive, 13 year old. Yet, to say the criticism she received has been harsh, is an understatement. What makes people alright with directing vicious attacks over a mediocre video to a 13 year old girl? What about communication over the web frees people from a sense of empathetic responsibility? I’m guessing that most of these users wouldn’t hurl these insults in person, so why through the web? Is it merely because they cant be confronted? Does this imply that we only do the right thing because we are watched or observed by others?

On the flip side, Wallace’s video, unintentionally displays her deep seeded, unconscious racism, lack of empathy, and full understanding of the gravity of events happening around her. This is doubly troubling given she is a supposed political science major. Yet, within hours of her video being uploaded, she had been admonished by scores on online users. Like black’s video, the criticism of Wallace was as quick as it was harsh. And while I think that Wallace fully deserves the reprimand, I worry about it taking place on such a public scale.

When you share bad art, say something stupid or ignorant around friends, their criticism tends to be tampered by their knowledge of your personal history, and behavior, as well as a sensitivity to your feelings. These things are created by sustained personal contact that happens outside the digital realm. Remove those barriers, and a flood gate of criticisms can be directed at anyone online, garnering them unwanted international attention. Think for a moment what it would be like if millions of people saw you slip on the ice on your way to class, or could replay over and over that time you said something stupid in front of the girl you like. That fear, I believe will make people in the coming years more afraid to share themselves with people, both on line and off. The fear of international reprisal when everyone is watching, is a very good deterrent.

If it is our community that holds us accountable, this raises some interesting questions about anonymity online. There are basically two schools of thought on this situation. One is articulated by Mark Zuckerburg, founder of Facebook, who states that individuals should be able to carry their online “identity” with them wherever they go online; it helps maintain transparency, and allows individuals to bring their social contacts with them. This, Zuckerberg argues, allows people to be “authentic”, if others can see what you are doing you are more likely to do things you want your name attached to, making it easier every time you order a book, or leave a comment on a page. To some extent, this forces users to homogenize their identities, and don’t even get me started about the “tracking” practices of websites attached to this program. I call this the loss of visible control over privacy. Its important to note there are “privacy” measures in place, but I believe it is difficult to manage what you can’t see (mainly the type information and how it is shared).

The other school of thought is from 4Chan founder “moot” who takes the exact opposite view than Zuckerberg. He says “anonymity is authenticity”, it allows people to behave as if no one is watching, and allows the “real” user to emerge. When people don’t fear any kind of failure they are allowed to be themselves. To some extent I think this is true. Anonymity allows people to speak freer about situations without fearing looking stupid or radical. But also, with no accountability, some people move beyond authentic to sociopathic. Without accountability people don’t have to defend their position and can make comments like the ones we have seen in the videos above. It is the lack of accountability for statements that destroys dialogue which is what online networking is supposed to be all about.

I think both of these positions are too extreme. In real life there are places where we are held accountable for our actions. These occur mostly in institutional settings, ie school, work, family, church. In these situations we try to mimic the ideals/culture of the group to the extent of our perceived role within it. But in other places in our lives, we aren’t accountable, there are things we do privately, whether it stamp collecting, working out, or having casual sexual encounters. In these situations we do not have a defined role set by institutions. The roles we set is set by us. There are no outside influences, people, institutional structure, mores and cultural values. In these circumstances we are allow to set our own rules and behave in ways in which we might not with others watching or involved. With the pressures of society released, we are free to act in ways that might not be deemed rational or appropriate. In these situations we are free from justifications in the moment. Upon reflection we might feel bad or different about our behavior, but that’s only after we slide back into an “institutional” role.

The interesting line here lies between anonymity and individuality. Anonymity in some sense does represent the core elements of being a fully realized individual, the freedom to express ourselves and the freedom from judgment. Individuality, on the other hand, has a core element of “sharing” and “exhibition”. To be a fully realized individual you must have validation from others. They must recognize and embrace/tolerate your individualism, thus legitimizing your “authenticity” as an individual. How can you be an individual, if no one knows you exist? The adage is, “if it didn’t happen on facebook, it never happened.” This exhibitionist quality of hyper-individuality accounts for the popularity of social networking and video sites like Facebook and YouTube.

So are as individuals are we all exhibitionistic? Are we all searching for our 15 minutes? Is our individuality really tied to compulsive exhibition? Is that why people are so uninterested in privacy? Has privacy merely become a hindrance to sharing ourselves with the masses? I’ll leave you with this thought from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaking at Cambridge University “it [the internet] is not a technology that favors freedom of speech, It is not a technology that favors human rights. Rather, it is a technology that can be used to set up a totalitarian spying regime, the likes of which we have never seen.” The powers that be have made sharing our private lives so cool, we have no idea of the ramifications.

Monday, February 28, 2011

with friends like these, who needs security?

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve no doubt heard about the showdown in Wisconsin. All those overpaid free loading hippie teachers ruining the country. The battle over a union busting bill drudges up age old myths pitting private firms against public unions. Make no mistake, big business is watching Wisconsin very closely hoping that the last remaining vestige of collective public power vanishes from sight.

Perhaps that is why during all the recent turmoil, Wisconsin Govenor, Scott Walker took a phone call from who he thought was billionaire donor David Koch. Koch is one part of a conservative powerhouse Koch industries that has made no attempt to hide their union busting agenda. In this country we have pretty much gotten used to corruption at all levels of the government, so the meddling of the koch brothers isn't a big surprise. What does surprise me, is the comment made by Walker during his conversation with the imposture. He suggested “planting troublemakers” in the crowd in an attempt to discredit the pro-union protesters. Which, it now seems, is an alarming trend.

Take the recent news with anonymous.You remember anonymous? Right? That fringe group of radical hackers right out of a 90s film. Anarchists, terrorists, bent on bring down the man. Who in their right mind would provoke a decentralized group of guerilla nerds with the ability to dump the porn filled contents of your hard drive right into the hands of the public?

Enter this asshole.

That’s security services firm HBGary FederalCEO (I mean former CEO) Aaron Barr. In an recent article in the financial times, Mr Barr boasted his prowess by warning Anonymous that he had infiltrated their network, collected information on the core leaders, and threaten to turn it over to police. Dumb move. Within 48 hrs, HBGary’s website was shut down and Mr. Barrs email was hacked, spilling loads of delicious private company secrets into the hands of millions. oh and in case your wondering, Barr decided to step down.

The emails detail a plan by HBGary and 2 other tech firms attempts to win a $2 million contract to “assist” the chamber with their political opponents by planting fake documents, tying the organization to radical activists or creating "fake insider personas" on social media.


These two incidents revel the problem with american political discourse. Political players refuse engage in actual dialogue that enables participants to act more effectively to pursue shared objectives. Instead we have a game of political theatre, fueled by the "news" media, where posturing is more important than progress. Since agreement cannot, or will not be reached, the only alternative is to discredit your opponents as HB gary and Koch industries have tried to do. As if their millions of dollars of contributions weren't enough, now they've got to go around planting fake documents and profiles. This is a deplorable state of affairs, one that i fear will only get worse with time, especially if we allow the huge institutions, with access to unlimited resources operate without some kind of oversight.

Ironically enough, even with all their money and political clout, one of the most well respected security firms in the country clearly didn't have enough security to stop a bunch of nerds from airing their dirty laundry. hopefully this will serve as a warning:

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Just a quick post to tell you all to check out my new website. its still a work in progress, but I have writing as well as some never before seen images. Its time to clear out the clutter from the hard drive!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The information superhoarder

The Internet is been around for a while now. its hard to imagine that when it was first developed programmers didn’t think that it had any commercial applications. Ironically, now there the entire market is rapidly becoming digitized. I saw a digital toaster the other day, don’t ask me how toast gets cooked “digitally”, but its an example of how digital is the new god. Its been making me think a lot about the differences between digital and analogue technologies. Is one inherently better than the other? Are we moving to a world where most things will be processed by machines? What does it mean to create when mechanization is involved? Is a machine a tool, or a crutch? And perhaps most troubling what happens when machines replace the skills that we once had to a point that they fade from cultural memory? The more I explore this program the more I feel like a Luddite, stubbornly clinging to the old vestiges of analog and hands one technology. But I understand the value and embrace some of the modern technologies full heartedly. I mean its great that I can go on facebook and talk to my friends in Russia or California and share media, whether it be pictures video or even songs with them. But I want to question the pervasiveness of digital technology only because it seems to be taken for granted in contemporary society. Perhaps this is because I grew up in during the transitional years and can still remember writing my book reports on our typewriter before they became a hipster commodity. But even deeper than that, is our first world nations seemingly unquestioning acceptance of digital proliferation, and a seemingly lack of understanding of all the intricacies required for it to function and in some cases kneeling at the alter of digital convenience even when it is counter intuitive and sometimes downright stupid.

Example: my roommate recently bought a swifer. Now aside from the fact that the one time use drymop, creates a significant amount of waste by trashing the heads after each use, this item also includes a spray function, supposedly intended to be a close facsimile to a mop. When I attempted to use this it to clean up a mess in our kitchen it wouldn’t “turn on”. When I related he humor of behind having to “power” the mop, especially when a plain mop is always powered to my roommate, he agreed but said that it was “hella convenient”. What is convenient about spending my hard earned money to put batteries in a fancy broom? Furthermore, it seems to me that its hella inconvenient given that you cant use it by yourself, without the help of external energy sources.

Has mopping become such a cumbersome chore that we require batteries, that is extra energy input, to get the job done? What does this say about the way that we perceive and use energy? What does it say about the way we perceive labor, or work? Is having a digital mop or toaster better than having a plain old regular one? What is the difference anyway, with the exception of higher energy inputs? This is almost seen as blasphemy in my current program, where the dominate ideology seems to be expansion, capture, and collection of information, without even a though to energy inputs. The idea that we must “save” everything online or digitally ad nauseam seems more like the storyline for an episode of Hoarders than a current cultural paradigm. But then it occurred to me that perhaps, when it comes to information, we all are a bunch of hoarders.

The lack of a sustainable energy conversation in this context gives me a moment for pause, as if the whole media studies discipline is missing a very huge elephant in the room, one that must be dealt with, and soon as with the explosion of data collection and saving information can only continue before we cover the earth in computers to digitize every piece of information in human existence and build nuclear plants to supply the energy for the our information hording behavior.

I will leave you with a recent example. The internet recently ran out of IP addresses. What does that mean? Well, ip address are like phone numbers for devices like pcs, smart phones, basically any device that wants to connect to the internet. Gosh its so easy to rip through four billion, two hundred and ninety-four million, nine hundred and sixty-seven thousand, two hundred and ninety-six addresses. But you know the first world, we LOVE to consume. Basically there are no more phone numbers for devices to connect, but all the computer nerds have already developed a solution called Ipv6 and you can read all about it here. What it means is that they are going to create a new system for giving out “addresses”.

340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of them to be exact.

Now Im not a computer whiz kid, but I know that there is no way there is enough energy out there to sustain that many addresses, and I know that they will be distributed over time, but seriously why is no one stopping and going hmmmmmm, how are we going to power this over the long haul? And I swear to god if somebody says clean coal I am going to have an aneurysm.