March 21, 2010

I realized recently that my impression of the sanctity of marriage has been damaged most by anti-gay activists attempting to limit marriage to heterosexual couples. The message seems to be, "Marriage isn’t for EVERYBODY who is in love, since some people who are obviously in love can’t be married. Ergo, what else can it be besides a legal mechanism, a tax break/health insurance arrangement we give to some couples but not others?" Of course, as the child of an open marriage maybe I’m predisposed to think something like that.

So then what to make of this story about a man marrying his body pillow in Korea, via Suzanne? One commentator writes, "As long as the guy and the pillow are happy together who cares? I suspect that this is just another ‘look at stupid johnny foreigner’ photo opportunity. If the pillow had a Ph. D. they never would have published it."

Or how about the related stories I found when I was digging up that one: man marries a Barbie doll to appease the spirit of his dead wife, man in Japan weds video game character?

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Imagine Not

March 2, 2010

Seen on an interesting article about a Tim Burton exhibit.

When I went to the Tim Burton exhibit at the MoMA in NYC a couple of weeks ago, it was understandably mobbed. We visitors rotated along the walls in a tightly-packed horde, gaping and pointing. For the most part, we were reverently quiet enough so that it was startling when the fubsy guard next to the Edward Scissorhands mannequin yelled out to somebody to put a camera away. It was unbelievably cool to be that close to the nuts and bolts of someone’s imagination, especially one so wild and playful and sinister.

I was happy to plant myself with my nose a few inches from a drawing and let the people bump past me in slow-mo. I liked to take in the gist, then see how Burton used the color to fill in the lines, and most of all, I liked to see the eraser marks from where he’d changed his mind. I felt like a genius myself because I could spot, right there: that’s where Tim Burton revised. I wanted to show my niece, so I looked up to find her and saw instead these dozens of packed people.

That’s when something strange hit me. We were all there, en masse, to appreciate a mind remarkable for its singular imagination. Furthermore, we could never have as much fun looking at Burton’s stuff as he must have had making it in the first place. Something was wrong.

There are a lot of interesting memes present here that I think bear mentioning:

  • The idea that we’ve seceded our entertainment, and, by extension, our imagination, to Big Media: "During our seduction, we’ve conversely learned to imagine not. Most ironic of all, we pay Disney to tell us and our children to dream — as if we couldn’t dream on our own. That’s just dangerous." In the large, this meme is what drives the transformation from a society of consumers to a society of bloggers, youtubers, etc. The idea that we could entertain ourselves, or that creation could be fun, even if done badly, is having a significant impact on entertainment, and it will continue to be interesting to see how this impacts creators and creative industries.

    A friend of mine points out that there’s a related, perhaps opposite meme, that everyone in our generation feels they have a right to earn a living as an artist, doing whatever they want to do. Maybe we can’t all spend our time sitting around and imagining — but then, why should we pay other people to do it for us?

  • The idea that we, the mob, tend to pay homage to the "wild" and "singular": like Randall Monroe says about Monty Python, "Does anyone else find it funny that decades later, people are still quoting — word for word — a group loved for their mastery of shock, the unexpected, and defiance of convention?" Nobody quotes Tim Burton, as far as I know, but I can’t help but feel it’s a little similar.

  • The idea that we are "so accustomed to having expert versions of everything, from the perfect music on our ipods to the precision landings of our Olympic figure skaters, that we’ve lost the entire middle tier of amateur" — no matter your field, there seems to always be someone better than you at it. Indeed, I’ve also seen a similar complaint about the Olympics: that it becomes impossible to appreciate the gradations between one version of "perfect" from another. There are so many talented people — so why bother becoming good at anything at all?

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a few words about a live clip featuring the beets

February 25, 2010
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Maybe this is stupid, but I live for moments like these (seen via Sumana).

Well, I stumbled across it somehow, I’m not sure how, and I watched it, and I had one of those experiences you have sometimes with a band you’ve never heard playing a song you don’t know. One of those transformative reaffirming experiences, which you then get religious about, even if religious isn’t exactly the word you’d use but trust me it’s the word you actually mean: you start thinking, everything should be like this all the time, anything that’s not like this is a ridiculous waste of time, I want peak experiences and only peak experiences because life is all about peak experiences and people who consent to have less than constant peaking epiphanies all the time are missing out, etc., etc., all infantile nonsense of course but as feelings go a bracing & pleasant one. The permanent reoccurring 19th summer is a nonstarter as a governing aesthetic stance, but as a tool in the kit it’s not without some merits. I have a lot to say about this, actually, but it’s complicated, and hurtful to people whose 19th summer left such a profound impression on them that they think it’s the meaning of life or something, so, you know, whatever. It doesn’t matter much except when it does….

Did this clip have a press blast sent out twice a day via email to everybody? Maybe, probably, I don’t know, but by the time I saw it, it was just something hanging around, ready to be ignored, preemptively ready to be ignored, even. It’s like a good plumber: you didn’t catch his last name and you’ll forget he was even at your house by this time tomorrow, but if he hadn’t been there, you’d be up to your neck in your own shit, which is, I think, what I am trying to say. That without this clip of the Beets in your life, you are drowning, drowning forever in a river of your own excrement. Not in any way that might seem heroic or tuff or remarkable. Just unpleasantly.

I guess in a sense this was my PyCon experience. Expect to see a bunch of posts in the near future regarding the neat stuff I saw there.

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German ‘Fleshmob’ Protests Airport Scanners

February 24, 2010
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This story on Wired is pretty cool: with regard to the evolution of political parties, it’s interesting to see the Pirate Party rise to the party of personal liberty and trust.

The underwear bomber’s Christmas Day attack has prompted calls for the increased use of full-body scanners at airports that would strip-search passengers down to their naked bodies.

So to protest the use of the so-called Nacktscanner (naked scanner), members of the Pirate Party in Germany organized a "fleshmob" of people who stripped down to their skivvies last Sunday and converged on the Berlin-Tegel airport. They posted a video of their protest to YouTube, with soundtrack provided by Muse’s song "Uprising." The lyrics articulated their protest: "They will not force us. They will stop degrading us. They will not control us. We will be victorious!"…

The protesters marked their bodies with a number of messages such as, "Something to hide?" and "Be a good citizen — drop your pants."

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Zuckerberg says the age of privacy is over

February 24, 2010
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An interesting post a few weeks ago on Slashdot due to more Facebook changes. What’s the deal with privacy, anyhow?

"Privacy is no longer a social norm, according to the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. Speaking at the Crunchie awards in San Francisco, the entrepreneur said that expectations had changed, and people now default to sharing online, not privacy. It’s all right for him, but does he mean it’s ok for bodies like the UK government to monitor all citizens’ Internet use?"

Of course, subsequently, Google Buzz has botched the privacy thing entirely, and suffered a huge public backlash. So it’s pretty clear that in fact, people do expect privacy in some of their interactions.

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iPad is a “Huge Step Backward”

February 7, 2010

I was browsing this thread on Slashdot and came across a really interesting meme:

I bought an iPhone this year. This is one asset that is so important that I just want it to WORK. I don’t want to worry about viruses, or ongoing maintenance. This is my ONLY TELEPHONE LINE, and so I finally do approve of somebody keeping it locked down and pristine.


The lockdown here is on two devices. You want a laptop or desktop you can do whatever you want with? There’s the macbook, imac and mac pro for that. Want an expandable handheld appliance with a limited (albeit ever-expanding) functionality that’ll have no hidden surprises? There’s your iPad and iPhone.

You may as well criticise arcade machine makers for vetting all the roms you can put in their hardware. Or any of the console makers for vetting what’s available for theirs. Or that kindle can’t do anything but display books. Experience has shown them all, time and time again that as soon as you open up a platform to anyone and everyone, quality and reliability take a hit, not to mention susceptibility to attack. It’s a specific product for a specific market and like the iPhone, will be hated by geeks everywhere, but loved by everyone else who want something that just works. Apple will likely do little to stop people jailbreaking these things, they’ll just make it difficult enough that only determined people do it.

CrazyBusError (emphasis mine)

First, the FSF needs to convince us average users need to have control. Why should average users have control over their computer? Isn’t this what got us the virus nightmare in Windows?


The idea that most people don’t want control over their computers, and that having them be locked down offers tangible benefits, is new to me. In particular, a locked down device obviates the need to perform "good houskeeping" sorts of system maintenance. Some commentators respond that you can have a good design that eliminates housekeeping without control, but by definition if a user has the potential to do whatever they want with a device, it’s just a matter of social engineering to turn their computer into a spambot.

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Smartphones receive holy blessing

January 25, 2010

Seen via Slashdot: blessed be the mobile users and those called the children of iPod.

Plow Monday is normally for blessing laborers and their tools; as the name suggests it is aimed at those who work the land. A church service in London, England Monday decided to go after a more modern audience: office workers and their modern communication gadgets. From the Times article: ‘The congregation at St Lawrence Jewry in the City of London raised their mobiles and iPods above their heads and Canon Parrott raised his voice to the heavens to address the Lord God of all Creation. "May our tongues be gentle, our e-mails be simple and our websites be accessible," he said.’"

A fascinating event in the future of religion..

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Blippy tells the world what you buy

January 22, 2010
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On CNN, there’s an interview with the creator of a project called Blippy. The purpose of the project is to post credit card transactions onto a Twitter feed. You associate a card with your Blippy account, and then every transaction becomes public.

Some highlights:

CNN: Maybe we should just start with a question from one of our Twitter followers: What’s the point of Blippy?

Kaplan: Without getting too philosophical, I’ll just start at the beginning. The big answer is: We don’t know, which I think is funny but is also indicative of what we’re trying to do.

But I’m pretty far out there. People were saying well, "What if I bought a dildo or something and it showed up?" So I actually went to a store called "Does Your Mother Know." I said first of all, the store has to have a name like that so everybody knows what it is. So I found a store with a name like that in the Castro section of San Francisco.

So I went to that store and I bought a sexy gift for my wife, and of course it showed up on the site. And it was funny! I didn’t really care.

Fascinating volley in the exchange of what privacy means in the digital age..

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Misa Digital Guitar makes your Rock Band Peripherals feel inadequate

January 22, 2010

Seen on LWN: a look at a Linux-based guitar.

OK, so not only am I suffering from a terrible case of gadget lust, but I find fascinating some of the comments like this one:

actually all it does is make it easier for talentless people to claim how good they are at playing guitar, when they aren’t playing at all. get a real guitar if you’re serious or go back to the guitar hero b/s.

I think it’s an interesting idea that because an instrument isn’t "real" guitar, then it doesn’t count. Clearly a game like Guitar Hero is different from a real guitar — the Rock Band instruments are all simplified versions of the real thing. But the idea that you don’t have any skill as a musician because your instrument is in a nontraditional form seems a little untenable..

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Linguistic humor

January 21, 2010
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Seen on Language Log. There’s a movie called Exit Through the Gift Shop — about street art disasters, mostly not relevant to my interests. However, the tagline is:

In a world with no rules… one man… broke them all.

How awesome is that?

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