March 31, 2004

The Kubrick Archive

Touring the Stanley Kubrick estate and archives, at the Guardian Unlimited:
Tony takes me into a large room painted blue and filled with books. "This used to be the cinema," he says.

"Is it the library now?" I ask.

"Look closer at the books," says Tony.

I do. "Bloody hell," I say. "Every book in this room is about Napoleon!"

"Look in the drawers," says Tony.

I do.

"It's all about Napoleon, too!" I say. "Everything in here is about Napoleon!"

I feel a little like Shelley Duvall in The Shining, chancing upon her husband's novel and finding it is comprised entirely of the line "All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy" typed over and over again. John Baxter wrote, in his unauthorised biography of Kubrick, "Most people attributed the purchase of Childwick to Kubrick's passion for privacy, and drew parallels with Jack Torrance in The Shining."

This room full of Napoleon stuff seems to bear out that comparison. "Somewhere else in this house," Tony says, "is a cabinet full of 25,000 library cards, three inches by five inches. If you want to know what Napoleon, or Josephine, or anyone within Napoleon's inner circle was doing on the afternoon of July 23 17-whatever, you go to that card and it'll tell you."

"Who made up the cards?" I ask.

"Stanley," says Tony. "With some assistants."

"How long did it take?" I ask.

"Years," says Tony. "The late 1960s."

[via notes from somewhere bizzare]

Posted by johndan at 05:26 PM | TrackBack

March 30, 2004

iTunes IP Case Study

Harvard Law School's Digitial Media Project has posted an iTunes Case Study. Covers primarily IP issues, in particular convergences and divergences between US and international law.

iTunes represents an interesting case due to the way that it straddles legal and illegal music. The iTunes music store illustrates that people will still pay for music, even single songs--a fragmentation of the traditional album in order to make music even more of a commodity, easier to circulate in the postmodern capitalist circuit. But it's also clearly a device for playing illegally gained mp3s, bound up with the very popular but much criticized (by the entertainment industry) "Rip. Mix. Burn." campaign.

[via The Mediaburn Radio Weblog]

Posted by johndan at 06:06 PM | TrackBack

This is Broken

This is Broken: a Weblog of poorly designed signs, websites, etc. [via, yet again, boing-boing; some days, I feel like I should just suck their RSS feed over and cut out the middleman...]
Posted by johndan at 03:55 PM | TrackBack

Disney Goes Pop

Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi (of the classic Learning from Las Vegas, an ode to architecture as semiotics), in Metropolis, on Disney's new resort:
We see the Pop Century Resort as a third evolution of Pop Urbanism—beyond that engaging the symbolic-surface makeup of the first Las Vegas, evolving from the Strip; beyond that engaging the scenographic formal makeup of the second Las Vegas, evolving from Disneyland. Here is a vivid urban complex that is beginning to embrace symbolic content by combining surface and form, graphic signage, and sculptural symbolism—both the “decorated shed” and the “duck” (i.e., the loft whose surfaces are ornamented with signs, and the building as sculptural symbol).
[via boing-boing]
Posted by johndan at 03:48 PM | TrackBack

March 29, 2004

Mobile Community Design

A promising weblog on mobile community design. It's academic/research based rather than industry (which is neither necessarily good nor bad, but useful given that most of the weblog material on this issue tends toward corporate, with a lot of marketing thrown in). Usually I have to cruise ACM and IEEE to find these pieces.

The most recent piece they point to is an article on the social effects of wearable computing (given that most of these technologies place one firmly in the pocket protector/pda holster/"Got Root?" t-shirt demographic) (again, neither necessarily good nor bad, yadda yadda yadda).

[The researchers] have built an e-suit which uses several method of communicating with the person wearing it including LEDs, sewn in buttons, shoulder vibrators and LCD watches. They have identified 'social weight' as a variable which is defined as "the attenuation of social interaction that an item causes between its user and others." The authors have developed a way to estimate the social impact different devices have and are using this data to choose socially acceptable ways of interacting with the users. Of particular interest is their desire to mimic the appearance and interaction techniques of other commonly worn devices (e.g. a watch) in order to draw less attention to usage.
Much more besides: abstract visualization of social info, usability of mobile handsets, etc. [via confectious]
Posted by johndan at 08:03 PM | TrackBack


I've been offline since last week because I wasn't ever able to get the promised wireless connection in my hotel in San Antonio to work. Posting will be sparse for another couple of days while I dig myself out from accumulated work. As usual while in SA, in my typically half-assed touristy way, I took a bunch of phonecam pictures (bringing an additional, dedicated camera was too much work). And, as usual, I come home to review grainy, pictures like this:


This is why I didn't go to art school.
Posted by johndan at 12:56 PM | TrackBack

March 22, 2004

Low-tek Fridge writes about Mohammed Bah Abba shows off fridge he developed by nesting two clay pots, then filling the space between with water. The water seeps through the outer pot, then evaporates. The evaporation of the water lowers the overall temp of the pot system (because the water vapor takes on energy as it moves from liquid to gas [see, I did learn something from that two years as a geological engineering major]).


This isn't a completely unique invention--
cycling suppliers sell water bottles that work on the same principle. But I haven't yet seen it applied to low-tech food preservation in places such as northern Nigeria, Mohammed's homeland. And apparently neither had the Rolex Awards organization, who gave Mohammed a $100K prize for the invention (check the Rolex link for other cool innovations along the same lines). Even cooler (no pun intended) than the direct benefits of food preservation are the second order cultural effects. As Hinterlands notes,
So, instead of perishable foods rotting after only three days, they can last up to three weeks. Obviously, this has the potential to change their lives. And it already has -- there are more girls attending school, for example, as their families no longer need them to sell food in the market.
This is a great example of how technologies beget effects they were never intended to cause. Technological development only seems cause and effect if (a) you're naive, or (b) you revise history. See James Burke's work that draws connections among seemingly disparate inventions and developments. (There are a host of social and technical theorists who have long drawn these connections, but few are better than Burke at making those connections clear.) [via boing-boing]
Posted by johndan at 03:36 PM | TrackBack

March 21, 2004

CMP Blocking Inbound Links

Infoweek (whose parent company is CMP) has pulled this stunt before, although previously they merely posted a page on their website that said inbound links required preapproval. Massive protest seemed to have dissuaded them from that policy.
Early this morning, I posted a story from the Information Week Web site entitled, "Massachusetts Builds Open-Source Public Trough." The link to the story was contributed by long-time contributor Jason Greenwood. I surfed to the article, read it, and deemed it worthy for excerpting and linking from our site. I constructed the story and posted it, timing it to run at 1730 GMT (1230 EST). What I did not know, and did not learn until late this afternoon, was that the publisher of Information Week, CMP Media LLC (a division of United Business Media plc), had apparently decided to block incoming links from Linux Today. I did not realize this because when I linked to the story directly from my system in Indianapolis, there was no block. (Nor, apparently, did Mr. Greenwood get blocked.) Clearly, this is a block designed specifically for referring sites such as Linux Today. (Though, curiously, a link on NewsForge to the same story that has the exact same excerpt is currently allowed to go through unimpeded.)
I'm not sure the Fair Use claim Brian Proffitt really works. Brian would still be able to claim fair use to excerpt a piece of a story and repost it on Linux Today, provided that excerpt followed (relatively strict and, at the same time, very hazy) fair use guidelines. The difficulty is that Fair Use doesn't provide Proffitt (or Linux Today) to demand that Infoweek (or any publication) accept inbound links. So while this seems to run against the spirit of the Web in general, my sense ist that Infoweek/CMP have finally figured out what was a really pretty simple end-run around the spirit of the Web. [via /.]
Posted by johndan at 11:03 PM | TrackBack

Spring Comes to the North Country


Posted by johndan at 02:03 PM | TrackBack

March 20, 2004

The Untitled Project

The Untitled Project is a series of photographs of urban settings accompanied by a graphical text layout. The photographs have been digitally stripped of all traces of textual information. The text pieces show the removed text in the approximate location and font as it was found in the photograph. See the Project Statement to read more about the project.


[via Typographica]
Posted by johndan at 10:34 PM | TrackBack

Tech Writer Outsourcing

Newsforge reports that, a website developer resource, has tentatively outsourced some of the tech writing on their site to an editorial firm in India.
We learned of this move in the form of a "leaked" memo senior editor Rex Baldazo sent to freelancers and fellow staffers today that said, "...with Q2 it appears my monthly article budget will be slashed dramatically. We're talking somewhere in the 40% range. Unfortunately article fees are the biggest discretionary items in our budgets so whenever they need to find a place to cut these are the biggest targets." The last paragraph said, "And it gets worse. I hate to have nothing but bad news in this email, however they (they == TPTB) [The Powers That Be - Ed.] want me to try outsourcing some of our content. So we are currently negotiating a trial period with an outsource editorial firm in India (yes, India). They will provide a certain number of Builder articles over the next couple months. That will further reduce the number of freelance articles we purchase in Q2. The India contract is just a 2-month trial so I don't know at this time whether it will affect the number of articles we purchase in Q3. I'll try to keep everyone in the loop as we move forward on this effort."
[via /.]
Posted by johndan at 09:54 PM | TrackBack

Comments back on

OK, I may have the fixed comment spam plug-in. (Jay Allen's MT-Blacklist.) Jay says that MoveableType 3.0, in beta right now, will address comment spam directly, but his plug-in is a good stopgap measure.
Posted by johndan at 08:50 PM | TrackBack

Or not...

Apparently, turning off the comments is more complicated than I thought....
Posted by johndan at 07:58 PM | TrackBack


I've been forced to turn off the comments feature in the weblog. The amount of comment spam has been steadily increasing. I've throttled back the number of posts per hour an IP can make, but the spammer's spoofing a huge variety of IPs. I hope to get comments turned back on if I can get the mt-blacklist plug-in working.
Posted by johndan at 05:28 PM | TrackBack

Creative Commons Sampling Licenses

Synthtopia discusses new Creative Commons licenses for sampling:
According to Creative Commons, the Sampling licenses will help authors foster a broad range of culture, from photo collage to musical "mash-ups," that the law currently deems illegitimate, despite its growing popularity and acceptance online. And while embodying the Creative Commons "Some Rights Reserved" model of copyright, the licenses will offer a combination of conditions and freedoms that our current licenses do not.

[via Lockergnome Bytes]

Posted by johndan at 05:24 PM | TrackBack


SBaGen generates tones that cause binaural beats, perceived oscillations in tone created as the brain attempts to resolve two very slightly different sine waves. Apparently this can cause changes in brain activity. Not sure if that's true, but they're certainly interesting.


Posted by johndan at 05:12 PM | TrackBack

March 19, 2004

Things Found in Books, No. 4 (I think)

The copy of Jim Harrison's Farmer I bought at a used bookstore contained this postcard (front and back shown).


So, my real question is, what are the other two "staggering BKS in recent years"? (The Birchbark Bookstore outside of Parishville, where I find most of my used books, is a bizarre place that could only be located in the North Country. Ten miles from any subtantial town, and only open 30 hours a week, the renovated barn hosts something like 50,000 books and a knowledgable and friendly staff. Cool to the extreme.) (Even better, Tim Strong, the owner, is a gifted and distinctive woodworker; he's currently doing a set of bookshelves for us, fronted in birchbark.)
Posted by johndan at 04:08 PM | TrackBack

The Voice of Lucifer Dies

Mercedes McCambridge, famous for (among other things) playing the terrifically distorted voice of Satan in The Excorcist, died at 85 this week. Check out the Official WB Excorcist website, the IMDB page on the movie (w/ links to reviews and trailers), or The Exorcist in 30 seconds, re-enacted by bunnies. I read Blatty's novel when I was in fifth grade (cribbed it from my mom's nightstand--she was a little disconcerted when she found it under my bed) but I didn't see the movie until I was in college. I watched it again last year; it's still in my top ten list of movies.
Posted by johndan at 10:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 18, 2004

Duckie Devil Drive

TikiMac is selling a Devil Duckie USB Drive ($64.99 for the 128 MB version). The eyes flash when it's reading or writing data.


[via Macintouch]
Posted by johndan at 11:15 AM | TrackBack

March 17, 2004

NEC Concept Devices

flacon01.jpgNEC has published some concept illustrations and text about the future of ubiquitous networking devices.

For example, the "flacon," pictured here, is a bottle for storing and displaying images:

We already have the means to store a massive amount of images in our various devices, so many that we cannot possibly see them all in a lifetime. "flacon" offers the ways to casually enjoy such a volume of visuals. The images emerge on an inorganic electroluminescent display. Among them, images selected according to anniversaries and the user’s emotions are projected outward through a projector.
Pretty cool.

[via Notes from Somewhere Bizarre]

Posted by johndan at 10:09 PM | TrackBack

John Seybold dies at 88

The NYT reports [free reg. req'd] that John Seybold, a legend in computer typography circles, died this morning.

If you're under a certain age--forty or so--it's hard to appreciate how different the world was before computer-based typography became common, especially when easy to use, professional-level (or close to it) typography came into the reach of average people rather than specialists. Type used to be set letter by letter, manually. No, really kids. If you think not having a remote control is archaic, imagine setting type by hand (or even using a typewriter).

And then there's this from the article, something I hadn't known.

It was Mr. Seybold, according to his son Andrew, who first used "what you see is what you get" in reference to computerized word processing, after watching "The Flip Wilson Show," on which Mr. Wilson used the phrase to describe his female character Geraldine.

(I guess getting the Flip Wilson reference sort of dates one as well.)

[via Dan Bricklin's Log]

Posted by johndan at 09:42 PM | TrackBack

Free Culture

Lessig announces an impending book (I don't always agree with him--he oversimplifies some crucial IP concepts, I think--but I admire the scope, range, and energy of his work a great deal):

On March 25, Penguin will be releasing my new book, Free Culture. (Hmm, you'd think a book by "Penguin" about "Free Culture" would be released ...). All reviews (both good (Jonathan Schwartz in the American Lawyer) and bad (Stephen Manes of Forbes)) will be collected on a soon to be announced site, along with totally objective reviews of at least some of the reviews provided by the author (me). I'll be doing a couple events around the book. The first is next Tuesday at the 92d Street Y in New York. The day the book goes on sale, I'll be debating James DeLong of the Progress and Freedom Foundation at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

[via Lessig Blog]

Posted by johndan at 09:14 PM | TrackBack


Audioscrobbler: An open source plug-in that shares metadata from computer-based music programs (iTunes, WinAmp, XMMS) to provide suggestions about music you might listen:
Audioscrobbler is a computer system that builds up a detailed profile of your musical taste. After installing an Audioscrobbler Plugin, your computer sends the name of every song you play to the Audioscrobbler Server.

With this information, the Audioscrobbler server builds you a 'Musical Profile'. Statistics from your Musical Profile are shown on your Audioscrobbler User Page, available for everyone to view.

There are many thousands of people using Audioscrobbler, but usually only the people who like the same sort of music to you are interesting. The Audioscrobbler Server calculates which users are most similar to you, based on shared musical taste, so you can take a look at what your peers are listening to.

With this information, Audioscrobbler is able to automatically generate suggestions for new songs/artists you might like. These suggestions are based on the same principals as Amazon's "People who bought this also bought X,Y,Z", but because the Audioscrobbler data is what people are actually listening to, the suggestions tend to make more sense than Amazon.

[via confectious]

Posted by johndan at 09:09 PM | TrackBack

You Know You've Been in Finland Too Long

This is the first of countless self-critical humor lists that actually seemed local to a specific place (most could apply anywhere--e.g., "You know you're from Michigan if you think the mosquito should be the state bird.."). Most of the items in this list, though, seem pretty Finnish.
8. Your coffee consumption exceeds 6 cups a day and coffee is too weak if there is less than two spoonfuls per person. Hey...the coffee's damned good here. And we don't make a fetish out of it like the Americans have started to do. We just drink the stuff, and don't give it fancy foreign names and a huge price-tag. At least we don't drink that instant coffee muck.
[via Underdog]
Posted by johndan at 05:25 PM | TrackBack

March 16, 2004

He Said/He Said

A cool -- "fair and balanced" -- page that shows Kerry and Bush weblog posts side by side. Interesting interface decision: Kerry gets the left column, and our culture reads left to right (which maybe gives it more prominence), but Kerry's column is pink while Bush's is blue. Given our sexist culture, and Bush's cowboy attitude, that might be an issue. [via Dan Gilmor's column]
Posted by johndan at 10:41 PM | TrackBack

P2P in the US Gov't

/. reports that the Department of Homeland Security has selected Groove Networks P2P infrastructure for sharing information among its staff members. Groove's website provides the core info:
Groove Networks Inc., a leading provider of secure virtual office software that lets teams of people work over the network as if they were in the same location, today announced that its software is a core component of an information-sharing network that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced Tuesday, calling it "a key part of our national homeland security strategy." A public demonstration of the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) will occur Thursday at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.
Only a couple of hours ago, I was on the phone with my campus tech support, trying to find out why a (legal) file I was attempting to download with BitTorrent in my office was stalled about 0.6k per second. The default assumption is that people trading files in massively parallel ways are sharing mp3s and divx files. The growing use of these powerful technologies in the workplace is going to complicate those assumptions.
Posted by johndan at 10:33 PM | TrackBack

Web-based RSS Reader

Martin Thornell posted a link to Rocketinfo, a free, web-based RSS reader. I haven't checked it out, but it looked like an interesting option. Oddly, when Martin posted his response to an earlier post about RSS readers, I was just on the verge of turning off comments in MoveableType since I've been getting so much comment spam. I get so few comments that I was just going to turn it off all together I can't get mt-blacklist to work. If anyone knows what'd cause an error claiming that YAML can't open "blacklist.yaml" for output, let me know. (Well, it sounds like a file permission issue, but I can't track it down. Not sure if it's due to the chmod + AFS issues that complicate things, or what.)
Posted by johndan at 09:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Social Theorist Lego Sets

image of giddens lego site that brought us social theorist trading cards--has several pages of social theorist lego sets.
Posted by johndan at 03:44 PM | TrackBack

March 14, 2004

Thunderstorm Warning

The National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm warning effective until midnight. Expect heavy rain, hail, damaging winds, dizziness, nausea, heading, fainting, disorientation, uncertainty, loss of direction, and the questioning of deeply held beliefs. Persons in the warning area should seek shelter immediately, If you are caught out in the open, you should lie face down in a ditch or depression.

Louis Jenkins, "Thunderstorm Warning"

Posted by johndan at 10:50 PM | TrackBack

March 13, 2004

Writing New Media

writing new media coverAnne Wysocki tells me that Writing New Media, which we co-authored with Cindy Selfe and Geoff Sirc, is now shipping. Or at least she has a copy. Here's some description from Utah State University Press' site:
With the rapid advance of electronic media in academe, in the writing classroom, and in the workplace, college teachers of composition are faced with the need to teach writing for a number of new venues, with a number of new technologies. The four authors of Writing New Media address the expansion of their field by proposing an expanded vision of composition—one informed by what’s possible in new media and by the changing conceptions of “composition” those new media bring. And they offer practical applications taken from their own classroom assignments to make their theorizing more concrete.
Posted by johndan at 05:31 PM | TrackBack

Spring in the North Country

A couple of inches of snow still covers the ground, but the temperature's oscillating between the single digits and the mid-50s, the freeze/thaw cycle that spawns the North Country's first seasonal crop:


Posted by johndan at 05:08 PM | TrackBack


Web Zen--always a guaranteed way for me to squander an hour of my Fridays--this week (3.12.04) offers links to twelve intriguing sites on typography. Favorite (at this moment) link: Motion Sickeness at Typorganism.


Posted by johndan at 04:48 PM | TrackBack

March 12, 2004

Pronunciation Guide for Unix

The Pronunciation Guide for Unix.

[via Lockergnome Bytes]

Posted by johndan at 04:12 PM | TrackBack

Music Guide: Medieval and Renaissance Instruments

Music Production School's pages on Medieval and Renaissance Instruments.

[via Sarah Thompson]

Posted by johndan at 04:00 PM | TrackBack

March 11, 2004

And then some zen

Difficult time. It's not a difficult time. Bah. It's just today.

- Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Sensei "The Consequences of Love"

Posted by johndan at 11:46 PM | TrackBack

Deep Inside Google

Dan Gilmore is paranoid about Google, and maybe he's on to something:
  • Security Focus: The perils of Googling. Google is in many ways most dangerous website on the Internet for thousands of individuals and organisations. Most computers users still have no idea that they may be revealing far more to the world than they would want.
  • Everyone with a Website should read this soberly written but fairly alarming piece. It shows how much we may be exposing, often inadvertantly, on our websites.

    [via Dan Gillmor's eJournal]

    Posted by johndan at 11:19 PM | TrackBack

    Cellphone as Blog Hub

    According to the BBC, Nokia is developing software, which they've called "Lifeblog," to orchestrate cellphone-generated data (pictures, text, video, audio) for publication to a weblog.
    The Lifeblog software automatically arranges all the messages, images, videos and sound clips people capture with their phones. The PC software organises information on a timeline and lets people add to the collection with images from other digital still and video cameras.
    The rapid development of support for multimedia on cellphones -- and the crossover technologies they're now cribbing from PDAs -- has changed how the devices function for users. On one hand, the features being integrated into cellphones are not anything dramatically new or surprising. The quality of the media they capture and generate is far surpassed by dedicated devices. Small digital still cameras, for example, are in nearly every way better at the specific task of taking digital stills. But, as with PDAs, .mp3s, and other ubiquitious technologies, cellphones are "good enough" at a wide range of tasks. And given the choice between carrying a single technology that's good enough and carrying four or five technologies that are invidually very good, most users (myself included) will opt for good enough. Cellphones are an obvious choice for this tech hub: People think that they need mobile phone connectivity more than they need other mobile tech--PDAs, laptops, cameras, voice and video recorders. Once the device is adopted, it can then take on characteristics of other devices--it already has its foot in the door. In addition, the practice of giving away cellphones (or deeply discouting cellphones) with one-year service agreements means that there's a very active market for new developments. (Compare this to PDAs, for example, which are purchased outright. Only bleeding edge users are going to buy a new PDA every year. This makes the market smaller.) [via More Like This]
    Posted by johndan at 12:42 PM | TrackBack

    March 09, 2004

    Inside the Tower

    Babel, constructed by computer scientist Simon Biggs, provides a shared, 3D navigation space based on the Dewey Decimal system. As Johannes Grenzfurthner describes it,
    At Babel, viewers logged onto the site are confronted with a 3D visualization of an abstract data space mapped as arrays and grids of Dewey decimal numbers. As they move the mouse around the screen, they can navigate this 3D environment. All users are able to see what the other users - who are simultaneously logged onto the site - are seeing.


    There's also an artist's statement by Biggs, a link to Biggs' main site (I think) and an overview by Steve Dietz of the Walker Art Center, "Reverse Engineering the Library: Simon Biggs' Babel."
    One of the most significant aspects of the art of misuse for "Babel" is its multi-user functionality. Part of the project's initial appeal for the user is precisely its implicit promise of "debabelizing" the information overload of the Internet by using the DDC to classify it and intelligent agents to prioritize it. As multiple users log on at the same time, however, "Babel" quickly becomes just that - a beautiful visual riot of overlapping numbers, and, while, in fact, each user can navigate his or her own version of the library-Internet interface, it's so stimulating that one has the definite feeling, beyond a certain number of simultaneous users, of being navigated rather than navigating; a kind of collective unconscious filtering the Net. For Biggs this represents a kind of tug-of-war between a phenomenological view of the world, in which we are always interacting with it from a first person perspective, and some kind of objective reality, such as the DDC system. Neither one is right or wrong, but they are in some kind of intertwined opposition, and the resulting chaos can just as easily be seen as beauty as a fall from grace as in the biblical story.
    [via Johannes Grenzfurthner guestbar at boing-boing] I hope Johannes keeps a blog permanently--he's had a run of very interesting posts
    Posted by johndan at 07:18 PM | TrackBack

    March 08, 2004


    Folkstreams provides free streaming video (RealPlayer) on traditional folks and roots music.
    The mission of is to build a national preserve of documentary films about American folk or roots culture. Produced by independent filmmakers, these hard-to-find films give voice to the arts and experience of diverse American groups. They are streamed on the website together with background materials that highlight the history and aesthetic importance of the traditions and the films.
    Cowboy poets, Peg Leg Sam Jackson, The Popovich Brothers of South Chicago, Creole music, and more.



    Posted by johndan at 07:26 PM | TrackBack

    "There is Nothing Wrong With Your Television Set.

    There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling the transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image; make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to the Outer Limits.

    - Outer Limits Intro Voiceover

    This would be funny except that the current version replaces the campy overlords and spooky 50s scifi music with the Motion Picture Association of America, who has (over the last several years) gotten Broadcast Flag technology required in all television sets starting July 1, 2005. This isn't big news, but everytime I hear another news item on its inevitability, I grind my teeth. What this means, for the end-user, is that broadcasters can include a flag on their signal that turns off high-definition outputs on the user's tv set (including tuner cards on computers). So you can't for example, make copies for home use (a right long legally protected for other recording media. And as with digital recording, the entertainment industry claimed home video recorders spelled the death of entertainment. But unlike that earlier alarmist claim--which obviously was overblown--this time the entertainment industry has succeeded with its alarmist rhetoric. Many technology experts think the simple use of the Broadcast Flag is a trojan horse technology: after it's introduced, we might expect it to be used for other purposes, such as preventing users from time-shifting, preventing them from skipping commercials. (Sometimes paranoia is justified.) There's a useful article in Technology Review [via LockerGnome Bytes]
    Posted by johndan at 07:14 PM | TrackBack

    Quiet Monologue

    spalding grayThe Associated Press reports [Yahoo! News link] that a body pulled from the East River over the weekend has been identified as Spalding Gray.

    In more than a dozen monologues starting in 1979, Gray told audiences about his childhood, "Sex and Death to the Age 14"; his adventures as a young man, "Booze, Cars and College Girls"; and his struggles as an actor, "A Personal History of the American Theater." Many were published in book form and several were made into films.... Gray's greatest success was his Obie-winning monologue "Swimming to Cambodia," which recounted in part his movie role opposite Sam Waterston in "The Killing Fields." The monologue, developed over two years of performance, became a film directed by Jonathan Demme. His book "Gray's Anatomy," about his struggles with a serious eye problem, was also made into a film. Gray turned a midlife crisis into "It's a Slippery Slope," a 1997 monologue that mingled ski stories with tales of his new role as a fath
    Here's a more upbeat interview with Gray from 1998, at the SFGate.
    [Interviewer]: Has fatherhood changed your work at all? You seem to be turning toward the positive, letting go. [Spalding Gray]: It's not sentimental, but it's extremely human and grounded and less ironic and less cynical and trusting those other emotions to surface in a sincere way that are also fun, and play well. Most of all it changes me as a person and it's going to change me as a performer. It's extremely humbling and a very strong event for me to be in a situation where the other's need is larger than mine and I can accept it. With a woman it would be very hard to do that because of what I went through with my mom. Her need devoured her -- it was so big, and I'm sure it smothered me as a child. So suddenly, that I'm able to deal with it with a child is a big surprise. Also, in the relationship with Kathie, who I'm not married to but live with: we're not in that claustrophobic one-on-one thing because the children are an enormous filter system or other point of reference. Maybe we'll have to keep having them. I say in the new monologue: I understood once I held a baby in my arms, why some people have the need to keep having them. Whoa, what an anchor.
    All my role models self-destruct. That might be a bad sign. (AP Photo from the Yahoo! article.)
    Posted by johndan at 06:05 PM | TrackBack

    Things Found in Books, No. 3

    tinamou-thumb.jpg front ........ back.

    [click image for larger version]
    Posted by johndan at 05:38 PM | TrackBack

    March 07, 2004

    Near Future News

    SF author David Brin speculates about the future of news, among other things, in a USC/Annenberg Online Journalism Review piece:
    Even nowadays, when a person's looks were largely a matter of taste, augmentation and budget, it felt good to make heads turn. Anyway, Sandiego never lacked for pretty people. More flocked in all the time, undeterred by the prim legal admonitions and health warnings. She was depriving no one, by moving away. Out of habit, she tooth-clicked commands that tapped into other eyes, other cams. First a satellite view of this area, with the Spirit standing out most prominently, bobbing gently but hugely against her mooring mast at the nearby Zep-Port. In contrast, little farther away, arsenal ships anchored by the new Shelter Island Naval Base appeared fuzzy, as demanded by security protocols. Silly. You could zoom in on them from three million, four hundred and seventy thousand, five hundred and twelve other points of view that Homeland Security did not control. One of those POVs -- a penny cam somebody had stuck on a lamppost, just above the chewing gum -- won a brief auto-bid auction to sell her a closer view of the marketplace. A good panorama for half a mil. Not that Tor cared about that. Omnipresence spread and prices fell as the cams bred and proliferated like insects. It sure was changing the news biz, at least in urban areas. Wherever cam overlap grew beyond seven-layers deep, lying became damn near impossible. Any kind of lying at all. I guess the next generation will take that for granted, Tor pondered. But at twenty-six, she was old enough to remember when people tried all sorts of tricks to fabricate images and fancy pov-deceits, using tech wizardry to fake events, alibis and attempt blackmail. Till the age-old solution of more witnesses made that kind of scam increasingly impossible. With enough savvy eyes at work, consensus-reality must come closer to reality itself. Or so went the latest truism. Tor distrusted all truisms.
    [via Online Journalism Review]
    Posted by johndan at 08:16 PM | TrackBack

    March 06, 2004


    Webmonkey, a long-time expert site on web authoring, has announced it's shutting down [Wired article]. [via a whole bunch of weblogs]
    Posted by johndan at 12:42 AM | TrackBack

    March 05, 2004

    Things Found in Books, No. 2


    Posted by johndan at 11:37 PM | TrackBack

    Owning Facts/Owning Fictions

    Once more, corporations are pushing to own facts. Briefly put HR3261, "The Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act," would extend copyright-type protection to a class of information that hasn't previously been protected. Here's the official summary:
    Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act - Makes civilly liable any person who makes available in commerce to others a substantial part of the information contained in a database generated, gathered, or maintained by another person without authorization. Provides exceptions for: (1) independently generated or gathered information; (2) certain reasonable use by a nonprofit educational, scientific, and research institution; (3) hyperlinking one online location to another; and (4) making such information available for the primary purpose of news reporting.
    Here's a brief snippet from a Wired report:
    Art Brodsky, spokesman for public advocacy group Public Knowledge, says the bill would let anyone drop a fact into a database or a collection of materials and claim monopoly rights to it. This would contradict the core principle of the Copyright Act, which states that mere information and ideas cannot be protected works. Under the terms of the broadly written bill, a public-health website could be deemed in violation of the law for gathering a list of the latest health headlines and providing links to them on its home page. Google would be in violation for trolling media databases and providing stories on its news page. An encyclopedia site not only could own the historical facts contained in its online entries, but could do so long after the copyright on authorship of the written entries had expired. Unlike copyright, which expires 70 years after the death of a work's author, the Misappropriation Act doesn't designate an expiration date. "The law of unintended consequences in this case has the potential to be huge," Brodsky said.
    I'm of mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I believe that there are already too many protections extended to corporations. On the other hand, the distinction between "creative" works and "non-creative works strikes me as dramatically outdated. This distinction, upon which most of existing copyright law depends, holds that authoring a novel is a creative act while compiling a database is not. But from a postmodernist-tinged perspective--even a self-aware modernist one--creativity lies more in the ability to arrange and connect up information rather. Texts do not arise from a vacuum, out of the brow of solitary and isolated geniuses. Instead, they are woven together from multiple and disparate strands. Upholding a distinction between creative and uncreative texts makes little sense. That concern aside, the real issue here is the overly restrictive nature of most intellectual property law. So while I'm bothered by the purported separation between fiction and fact that many critics of HR3261 rely on, that's no reason to support HR3261. Instead, we need to move existing copyright more toward the existing weak protections for facts rather than the other way around. (As I was posting this, I saw that the HR3261 summary page has this note on it:
    Latest Major Action: 3/3/2004 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Ordered to be Reported Unfavorably by Voice Vote.
    Not sure what that means, but I'm hoping it's a sign that the bill's not doing well.) [via ACM Technews]
    Posted by johndan at 04:55 PM | TrackBack

    Things Found in Used Books, No. 1

    A pressed orchid I found in a book I bought at a used bookstore.

    pressed flower

    Posted by johndan at 04:22 PM | TrackBack

    The Death of the End User

    From Mediaburn:
    There is no End User in information flow.... When we write and publish, we may well be targeting a group of people who will use our content in a specific way. That's certainly still true of most corporate websites and intranets. Maybe some weblogs too. But weblogs are also perhaps showing the way it will be in the future. With weblogs, our readers don't just "use" information - they re-mix it, add to it, edit it, comment on it, dis it, transform it, link it, pass it on, etc. The word "use" doesn't really do justice to all these activities.
    In one sense, this is not suprising, at least to people in Weblog communities and who study emerging information work habits like symbolic-analytic work. In another sense, though, Gary's post reminded me that the assumption of "end user"--someone who simply consumes information, the endpoint of the outmoded Shannon and Weaver transmission model of communication--still permeates most aspects of our culture (Barthes' "Death of the Author" is in one sense old hat--Jim Porter once accused me of beating a dead horse for criticizing the Shannon and Weaver model at a conference a decade or so ago [updated version, in Word, here]--but that attitude still operates everywhere around us.) Gary earlier links to the Pew study showing that 44% of Internet users also publish information online in one form or another. So while the number of highly active webloggers may be relatively small, overall participation seems to be increasing. To some extent, we tend to think of "publication" in traditional terms: posting information in public in a way that attempts to call attention to itself in overt ways, similar to publishing a print book. But as our models of communication change, we'll have to acknowledge the grey areas between that sort of publication and more casual and ephemeral forms: not only weblogs, but newsgroups, email lists, and more. Those forms are more casual, obviously, but they may better represent what it means to publish information in a contingent and loosely connected culture.
    Posted by johndan at 01:10 PM | TrackBack

    Beyond Cynical

    Mojo Nixon is apparently retiring. From the official website:
    "I have nothing more to say," says Nixon. "Not only am I empty, but obviously nobody gives a rat's ass about the things I have been saying for twenty years. The masses are just as blinded by the light of stupidity, prudery and the shiny objects of hate.... "Nixon decided to end his career with one final tour and a final date at his favorite and most frequent concert venue, The Continental Club in Austin, Texas. Once called "America's greatest living poet" by the Austin Chronicle following a Continental Club performance in 1987 Nixon decided it would be the fitting venue for his final performance. Nixon will host a full day of music beginning at 10 am and will take the stage with his band, The Toadliquors, at 5 pm for the final performance of his career.
    [via boing-boing]
    Posted by johndan at 11:08 AM | TrackBack

    March 04, 2004

    Communication, Not Calculation

    Open Source pioneer Eric S. Raymond posts a powerful report his recent experiences attempting to configure a UNIX utility:
    I've just gone through the experience of trying to configure CUPS, the Common Unix Printing System. It has proved a textbook lesson in why nontechnical people run screaming from Unix. This is all the more frustrating because the developers of CUPS have obviously tried hard to produce an accessible system — but the best intentions and effort have led to a system which despite its superficial pseudo-friendliness is so undiscoverable that it might as well have been written in ancient Sanskrit.
    To a great extent, computer use today is not about software; it's about communication. Programs that don't communicate well with users are close to useless. Unfortunately, many programs are still designed under the paradigm of calculation.
    Posted by johndan at 10:06 AM | TrackBack

    Jay-Z Construction Set

    From the Jay-Z Construction Set site:
    The Jay-Z Construction Set is a toolkit with all of the necessary software and raw materials to create a new remix of Jay-Z's Black Album. It includes nine different variations on the Black Album, over 1200 clip art images, and a couple hundred meg of classic samples and breaks.
    649 megs, available via BitTorrent. As the designers point out, the material being distributed isn't new--the work they've done is "editorial" (their term). This highlights a second tier of remix work: providing resources and frameworks for subsequent acts of remixing. Sort of like Double Dee & Steinski's influential 1983 "Lesson Number One."
    Posted by johndan at 09:26 AM | TrackBack

    March 03, 2004

    Antique Office Tech

    1907_1913_Intercom_Dictograph_Products_Company_Inc_NY_1_small.jpgThe Early Office Museum houses descriptions and images of old office equipment. This is more interesting than it sounds. Or maybe it's just me.


    Posted by johndan at 06:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    March 02, 2004

    Zen Meets Postmodernism

    I discovered it is necessary, absolutely necessary, to believe in nothing.

    - Shunryu Suzuki

    Posted by johndan at 11:27 PM | TrackBack

    Early Arcade Games (post pin-ball, pre-PacMan)

    Cool interview with Eugene Jarvis [commercial view req'd], programmer of Defender and Robotron.

    Interesting from a cultural standpoint as well is the fact that Jarvis' current projects involve defending the White House from terrorists. From "other-planet" aliens to "those-people-who-aren't-like-us-and-must-therefore-be-dangerous" aliens.

    [via Slashdot]

    Posted by johndan at 05:23 PM | TrackBack

    Creative Commons Short Film Contest Winners

    Creative Commons announces the winners of its GET CREATIVE: Moving Images Contest.

    [Lessig Blog]

    Posted by johndan at 05:16 PM | TrackBack

    March 01, 2004

    Having Your Mail Forwarded from Nigeria

    Here's an interesting variant on the Nigerian email scam, one that resituates the context into a potential inheritance from a long-lost relative.
    My name is Becky J. Harding, I am a senior partner in the firm of Midland Consulting Limited: Private Investigators and Security Consultants. We are conducting a standard process investigation on behalf of HSBC, the International Banking Conglomerate. [full text of the letter in the "continue reading" link below]
    Like the Nigerian scam, it's very well crafted, rhetorically speaking: it plays on fantasies about suddent wealth and uses a textual and structural style consistent with the context. Where the Nigerian email used an odd--but ultimately believable--mixture of English-as-a-Second Language constructions mixed in with excessively formal terms, the HSBC scam letter follows business letter format and tone and asks only very innocuous questions. For example, the hook here is a very innocuous one: the writer doesn't actually ask for any sensitive info. They're merely trying to get the reader to start thinking of the possibility of a massive inheritance. Only at a later stage will the mark be asked to forward funds for securing this mythical inheritance. And after people have had that seed embedded in their minds (as with the Nigerian scam), the seed grows to the point that the promise of apparently very near rewards overshadows the security alarms that would normally be going off. Snopes (among other sites) has some useful analysis on this one. [click the "continue reading" link for the full text of the letter] Here's the full letter:
    From: Date: March 1, 2004 5:59:12 PM EST Subject: HSBC Private Banking: An Enquiry Reply-To: My name is Becky J. Harding, I am a senior partner in the firm of Midland Consulting Limited: Private Investigators and Security Consultants. We are conducting a standard process investigation on behalf of HSBC, the International Banking Conglomerate. This investigation involves a client who shares the same surname with you and also the circumstances surrounding investments made by this client at HSBC Republic, the Private Banking arm of HSBC. The HSBC Private Banking client died in testate and nominated no successor in title over the investments made with the bank. The essence of this communication with you is to request you provide us information/comments on any or all of the four issues: 1-Are you aware of any relative/relation who shares your same name whose last known contact address was Brussels Belgium? 2-Are you aware of any investment of considerable value made by such a person at the Private Banking Division of HSBC Bank PLC? 3-Born on the 1st of october 1941 4-Can you establish beyond reasonable doubt your eligibility to assume status of successor in title to the deceased? It is pertinent that you inform us ASAP whether or not you are familiar with this personality that we may put an end to this communication with you and our inquiries surrounding this personality. You must appreciate that we are constrained from providing you with more detailed information at this point. Please respond to this mail as soon as possible to afford us the opportunity to close this investigation. Thank you for accommodating our enquiry. Becky J. Harding. For: Midland Consulting Limited. 01/03/2004
    Posted by johndan at 06:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Better to Burn Out?

    At Mad Professor, Mark Frauenfelder quotes a British DJ on what sort of people listen to (classic) punk:
    On one of the music mailing lists I subscribe to, a British DJ reported that he's been spinning discs for people's 50th birthday parties. He writes: "They love their Punk Rock, the last one I did there was a bunch of BBC middle managers leaping around to the Pistols and the Clash. That's your Punk Rock demographic."
    (Frauenfelder follows the quote with a great, brief review of the Clash's Give 'Em Enough Rope. Go read it, then dig out some Clash and remind yourself what rebellion was about.

    As Steve Earle says in "Amerika 6.0,"

    Look at ya'
    Yeah, take a look in the mirror now tell me what you see
    Another satisfied customer in the front of the line for the American dream
    I remember when we was both out on the boulevard
    Talkin' revolution and singin' the blues
    Nowadays it's letters to the editor and cheatin' on our taxes
    Is the best that we can do
    Posted by johndan at 11:15 AM | TrackBack