Over the past week, I’ve watched about 20 episodes of Lee Camp’s Moment of Clarity. Camp has the technique down well. Be well informed, then let it fly with equal parts wit and sharp sword. His targets are those who hurt or disparage honorable ordinary people. His videos are well-planned and executed, with the timing of an experienced comedian. Take a look at any of the four posted episodes below, and I suspect that you will become a Lee Camp fan too.
I don’t know what is going on at Nightmares Fear Factory in Niagara, Canada–I’ve never been there. Based on these photos of horrified people, though, they have many satisfied customers.
At least these Nightmares Fear Factory customers asked for it, unlike this creepy elevator scenario foisted on unsuspecting people by this Brazilian television show. You couldn’t do this in America–the show would get sued after one of the victims had a heart attack.
My daughter recommended that I watch a season of the TV show 24 on Netflix. Over a period of a month, I did so. It was riveting, smartly written and incredibly well acted. But it left me uneasy for it’s carefree stamp of approval on torture. And, no, the ends don’t always justify the means. This article by James Parker in The Atlantic captures my own reaction. We all love the roller-coaster ride of a Hollywood thriller, but when it’s over we don’t always feel good about enjoying the “entertainment.” Maybe it’s because we know that entertainment harbors implicit lessons, including lesson on what is acceptable conduct. And in the case of 24, some of those lessons fit hand-in-glove with the American Neocon outlook on life.
“How do our computers see us?”
“Maybe if we could see what our computer sees, we would stare differently.”
Here’s a fascinating article by Kyle McDonald at Wired: “When Art, Apple and the Secret Service Collide: ‘People Staring at Computers.’” McDonald secretly loaded up his custom-made app onto numerous computers displayed at a Manhattan Apple store in order to create an art project. He was fascinated with the expressionless faces displayed while people use computers. McDonald is a programmer, and using his automated app, he gathered faces of Apple customers (check out the video he created based on people staring at their computers).
Eventually, Apple figured out what McDonald had done. Next came the knock on McDonald’s door by the U.S. Electronic Crimes Task Force, and a lot of inconvenience. What started out as an art project expanded to include a discussion of privacy and snooping, including corporate and government snooping.
What did people think of his project? Here are a few of the hundreds of comments he received:
Interesting how he as able to capture a truly expressionless face. It made me think about how too much computer time may make us retract from social interactions. Weird .
Facial expressions are partially reflexive but partially social. It’s not a surprise that expressions get bland when there is no one around to non-verbally communicate with.
We ARE social animals and we can only guess at the long term effect of computers on our species.
I like the idea of “how does a computer sees you” any Asimov reader would daydream after such sentence.
McDonald has written a long article, but it’s extremely thoroughly engaging throughout.
Today is that time again when about 1.5% of the world will be watching a particular ball game in America, The Superbowl. Although Superbowl madness has been addressed on this forum, I’d like to put forward a couple of observations.
The Superbowl is the culmination of the 20th century adaptation of sports to mass media. The packaging, production, and marketing of this one game is a major profit center based on what is essentially a sedentary activity. There are 22 players on the field, and 100,000,000 people watching, most in comfy chairs via television.The game play is nominally an hour long, but the coverage lasts many hours. This includes pre-game and post-game coverage, plus the three hours needed to watch the sixty-minute game.
Worse than just sedentary, a predictable large fraction of the audience will be eating badly and drinking immoderately during the event. The advertising in all the media up to and during the event panders to and fosters this market segment. The message is clear: If you are not eating fried things and washing them down with booze, you are a weenie. If you are not buying these things for the family, you are not a good provider.
So let’s take a look at the activity itself. You have nearly two dozen buff young men in shiny tights periodically thrusting their bodies together to accomplish the explicit task of firmly holding a tapered cylinder with the goal of placing it repeatedly into the opponents end zone.
The result of this “scoring” is brief solo dancing and many a manly fanny patted.
What do I do on Superbowl Sunday evening? I go to a contradance. I spend the evening with a couple of dozen women in my arms, moving in rhythm and breathing hard. And the jocks in school called me gay.
This may not be the perfect forum for a review, but the film “3 Idiots” is about education versus training, science versus engineering, fear versus hubris (and the happy medium), life and death, love and despair, laughter and tears. And it has colorful Bollywood dance numbers, too!
I rented it on a whim, as it was billed as a movie about too-smart engineering students versus the educational system. I was puzzled when it began with English subtitles during the (Indian accented) English dialog. I remembered a 1990′s PBS/BBC series on the English language, when some of the impenetrable-to-me accents of the U.K. had no subtitles, but the perfectly intelligible-to-me Cajun and Ebonic dialects did. But as the blend of Hindi and English became apparent, I saw the need.
I loved this movie. Once one gets into the esthetic swing of Bollywood productions, it makes perfect sense when serious issues become silly dance numbers, and all characters are played as borderline caricatures. One can observe the essential cultural differences between our familiar American dilute-Christian one-life-to-live and anyone-can-become-president attitude and the Indian institutionalized attitude that reincarnation is the only way to improve your lot except through extraordinary means.
Why I think this is appropriate to this forum is the take on education. The protagonist has a scientific mindset that is often at odds with engineering philosophy and even more with institutionalized education. The system of teaching to the test is questioned, as is the principle of square pegs hammered into round holes. Vocation versus avocation is central to this, and expounded toward the end.
The 3 Idiots – Official Trailer has embedding disabled, but preview is fun even without subtitles. You get the idea of how English and Hindi have merged in their culture.
I defy you to watch it and not have the songs “All izz well” and/or “Zoobi Doobi” stuck in your heads.
The First Amendment isn’t worth a damn unless it is actually being used. If it is not being used, then politicians and their rich and powerful keepers will continue to utter long and loud streams of nonsense to financially screw the ordinary working people of America in dozens of ways. They will continue to feed us unending misinformation in order to justify their urges to wage unnecessary wars to help them retain their power. They will continue invading our houses and and minds thanks to their many stenographers in the commercial media.
Those of us who have resisted drinking much of this country’s spiked elixir of Judeo-Christian-consumerist-warmongering-bigotry know that most of what we hear our authority figures uttering, even those authority figures who we want to believe to be on our side, is flawed. Much of it substantially untrue and quite a bit of it is absolute bullshit. I hate to be writing these words, but I’ve lost a lot of faith in the United States in the past ten years. Misinformation pours into the living rooms and cars of Americans every day, where it too often takes root, perhaps because it is uttered by people wearing fancy suits and flag pins.
Americans need an antidote to this unending poison. They need the kinds of people who can effectively challenge these messages and messengers–someone who not only can challenge this propaganda but can do it with sharp fast pinpricks that deflate this bloviation on the spot. They need much more than “news” reporters who don’t have the tools, courage or motivation to challenge all the BS. They need someone who is old enough and thick-skinned enough that he/she doesn’t give a shit about being criticized for being unpatriotic. In fact, this type of person, of whom we actually need many, feeds on the criticism aimed at them by the powers-that-be and even gets even better under attack; he/she feels compelled to speak truth to power because it is the right thing to do, it’s in the blood and it’s the patriotic thing. The types of patriotic people we need to deliver this blitzkrieg criticism also need to be excellent entertainers in order to maintain the attention of large numbers of Americans. As comedians, they can hone their messages into comical memes that their audience members will pass around in viral fashion long after the original message was delivered. To the extent that these funny social critics portray themselves as jesters, they will have more access to the mass media, enabling them more effectively put their verbal swords in and out of those who own and run this country. Many conservatives consider this iconoclastic feedback to be unpatriotic.
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I was reading my usual science blogs, and came across Weekend Diversion: And now, they’re coming for me. Yeah, me. Because I write for you. at Starts With a Bang. Apparently Congress is creating new classes of felons that would have no idea they were doing anything even technically wrong.
In brief, U.S. Senate Bill 978 (that just cleared committee) makes it a Federal Offense (felony) if you happen to embed someone’s video on your post that someday someone may claim infringed on a copyright. If I, for example, embed a video of some stranger’s birthday party on this blog, that pans briefly across a television set that happened to be playing a commercial for shoes, that has background music by the Beatles, and in five years Michael Jackson’s heirs decide that this infringed on their copyright on the music of McCartney and yank the video, I could technically be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison. Even if the creator of the video, the owners of the network, and the shoe company and its marketing agent all had approved my use.
Ethan Siegel has more details about this silliness and suggestions on his post.