Friday, May 31, 2013

Signs & Symbols: Adorable 'Cheerios' Ad Sparks Racist Backlash

A Cheerios commercial featuring an interracial couple sparked such a vicious racism-fuelled backlash on YouTube that the comments section on the video had to be shut down.

The ad, featuring cute interactions between parents and their daughter was posted on May 28, has been viewed more than 260,000 times and received more than 3,000 likes.

But soon after its posting, the comments section was flooded with racist references to Nazis and "racial genocide", according to Adweek.

According to the NY Post, an online commenter observed on Reddit "So, about 50 years we'll see our first commercial with same sex parents... Progress!"

Thursday, May 30, 2013

'Love, It's the Wind': Obscure Boomer Music for a Thursday

The Wind (written by Bob Bruno) performed by Circus Maximus, an obscure gem from 1967.

Circus Maximum, recorded on the Vanguard label, featured Bob Bruno, Jerry Jeff Walker, David Scherstrom, Gary White and Peter Troutner. Despite the jazzy, psychedelic roots of the band, Bruno gravitated toward jazz, Jerry Jeff was gravitating toward folk on his way to pure country, so the group broke up in 1968. More on the band here

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Global Web: Air Travel and the Dynamics of Human Geography

Michael Markieta's images depicting flight paths across the planet.

There are currently more than 58,000 flight paths criss-crossing the globe, but each individual airport services only a limited number of others.

The busiest airports by continent [measured by number of direct-flight destinations] include Sao Paulo, Beijing, Sydney, Frankfurt, Cairo and Atlanta

Five interesting interpretations (from aviation, philosophical, design, environment and art perspectives) here

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Ultimate Human Digital Divide

 "..information and information technologies will never allow us to escape  the demands of our bodies,our institutions and the times in which we find ourselves." From Counterculture to Cyberculture" by Fred Turner

Monday, May 20, 2013

'Laydeeeee!' : The Clown Comes Home -- Jerry Lewis Takes Cannes

Agnes C. Poirier in the NY Times on  "Most Americans don’t realize that for the French, Mr. Lewis represents an American archetype, a handsome clown and histrionic child. The American film director Jonathan Nossiter told me, “It’s very comforting for them to believe that an American genius, by necessity, is monstrously puerile in front of the camera and an idiot savant behind it.” Mr. Lewis also offers complexity and powerful combinations of opposites: he is both a child throwing tantrums and an auteur creating a world of his own. He was a handsome man who kept wanting to play the ugly guy, first beside his sidekick Dean Martin, and then afterward in his solo career. He has also been a depressive clown, à la Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati.  Jerry Lewis is an auteur the way François Truffaut defined it."

Full article here

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bob Dylan's 'Blind Willie McTell': Thirty Years On

In May 1983, Bob Dylan at the piano accompanied by Mark Knopfler on guitar recorded "Blind Willie McTell" during the sessions for the album Infidels. Considering it an unfinished work, Dylan left it off of that album and it did not surface as a recording until a decade later with the official release on the The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991. The melody is loosely based on "St. James Infirmary Blues". For the song, Dylan, seated at the piano and accompanied by Mark Knopfler on the twelve-string acoustic guitar, sings a series of plaintive verses depicting allegorical scenes which reflect on the history of American music and slavery. Each verse ends with the same refrain: "Nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell".

It is an awesome song, particularly the original bare bones version, haunting, poetic, and passionate. Dylan acknowledged that he began playing it  at shows after hearing the Band's performance. The above performance was a more recent, expanded version. While I still prefer the original, stripped down version, it is terrific to hear and see the song performed by its composer, a song that remains enigmatic, perhaps surreal, but that deserves a place among his more remarkable compositions.

More on the song here

Not the original but a more spare, piano based version here

And a 2013 version here from Akron, Ohio here

--Anthony Napoli

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

'Do You Hear Me, Commander Chris?' Space is Definitely The Place

Commander Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut performed this music video of David Bowie's aboard the International Space Station, the first created in outer space.

The lyrics were somewhat altered; most notably the ending was replaced. Hadfield announced the video on his twitter account writing "With deference to the genius of David Bowie, here's Space Oddity, recorded on Station. A last glimpse of the World." David Bowie was also thanked in the ending creditsThe video led Bowie to respond, tweeting back to Hadfield "Hallo Spaceboy".

The original single by David Bowie, 1969

Background on the song here

And Commander Hadfield's return to Earth earlier today here

Cdr. hadfield's performace with Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies and a children's choir here

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Internet and Its Discontents: Jaron Lanier and the iEconomy

Who Owns the Future?
By Jaron Lanier
Simon and Schuster 2013

I can recall reading an article by Jaron Lanier, sometime way, way back, probably in Whole Earth Review or CoEvolution Quarterly or one of those iterations of Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog. In it, Mr. Lanier speculated on the importance and earthshaking consequence that computers and information technology would have in the near future – actually, probably now, in our Present. There was a fascinating, utopian sheen to his brilliant riffing, which, as I remember, suggested that technology would bring forth a new form of labor, in our struggle for our daily bread, that combined work and leisure, or perhaps, as he might phrase it, work and fun.

Somewhere along the way, of course, the forces of technology, computing, and information theory were diverted, for reasons no doubt both innocent and devious, to make large piles of cash for the few, as part of the inexorable march toward advanced capitalism. And with the crash of 2008, and the realization that the financial crisis, coupled with the increase in automation, and the absolute dominance of the ideology of the marketplace, suggested that we were no longer ascending toward utopia, but rather at a tipping point where those who have lots of money are much better positioned than those in society who need to work for a living. And with diminishing employment prospects, resulting from globalization, automation, and the apparent trend, as Mr. Lanier points out in “Who Owns the Future?” where multi-billion dollar corporations arose that could make a lot of money processing and organizing the information that was freely shared by the users of the service, has led to a twisted curve where enormous wealth is enjoyed by a few, but a dismal economic future for the many.

With the enormous growth of the financial services center in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, it seemed clear to this observer that advanced capitalism in the West promised to make it unnecessary for our society to do all of those manual, “dirty” tasks in manufacturing, etc., that we used to do. Those could be exported, and enormous industries would rise up dedicated to “financial engineering” of various sorts. Of course, the promise of an American utopia, uplifted by the invisible hand of the market, proved a fatal flaw.

All of the above goes to say that Mr. Lanier’s extremely timely, thoughtful, and provocative just-published book may also have been called “Who Exploits the Future?” since most of the beneficiaries of this enormous wealth seem to be the technical visionaries, their circle, and their investors, who contributed to the development of the new cyberculture and internet environment. As Mr. Lanier points out, the true currency of the web is its content and information which is provided free by users. However, our information is valuable and the information economy should reward people for either the content the provide or the information that is taken based on their web-presence. Millions of unpaid users – not just the teams of companies like Facebook or Google – are responsible for their value. In avery real way, we are all employed by the applications and social media on the web that we use – it’s just that the vast majority of us are “interns” and the lucky few are paid very well thank you to process the resources taken from our personal data.

Mr. Lanier in the past has railed against “Digital Maoism” in decrying the destruction of civil discourse on the internet resulting from anonymous commenting and posting. He is not a radical in that sense. But his vision is nothing if not ambitious as he challenges the manner in which the internet has evolved – where information is “free” but subject to exploitation by the corporations that funnel and channel it. As Mr. Lanier indicates, “The Google guys would have gotten rich from the search code without having to create the private spying agency.”

His argument, which appears extremely radical given that the toothpaste is out of the tube and the internet as it exists is so ubiquitous, is that ordinary people should earn royalties (perhaps microroyalties) for what they do and share online. This would allow us all to get a stream of income, thereby creating a future in which our participation online generates wealth, rather than simply helping advertisers conduct market research for free.

Like it's predecessor, "You Are Not a Gadget", Mr. Lanier's Who Owns the Future? is a humanist and valiant effort, and a big risk since, given the jaded worldview of advanced capitalism, he clearly is willing to appear naïve to his adversaries (although clearly he is not). Given his role as a computer scientist and an inventor of virtual reality systems and technology, he is clearly part of the same circle of the technological elite. But he sincerely (and open heartedly) assumes the role of renegade, eagerly challenging assumptions and business models as he lifts the covers and acknowledges that the internet is more than just free lunches and  jars of M&Ms at IT start ups or Friday afternoon keggers or massages at Google or Facebook for employees.  For, where the internet has created staggering and enormous wealth (and well-paid employment) for the few, given its wealth it has an obligation to society as well.

However, as Mr. Lanier’s excellent book suggests, we may well be approaching a precipice. While the stock market continues to climb, the available jobs are not truly increasing at a comparable level. Those who are “peasants” (basically anyone who has to work for a living and does not possess substantial wealth that makes working for subsistence unnecessary) and who finds him or herself without pensions, jobs, healthcare, etc., could conceivably make life very chaotic for the future. This may not be a perfect solution, as Mr. Lanier is first to admit, but he is to be credited for analyzing the economic realities and dislocations to which the internet is contributing. How can something so fascinating and wonderful create such devilishly confounding problems ?

As DITHOB has observed here in early postings – something’s gotta give. Cutting taxes and support systems is not creating jobs. Corporations are not creating enough jobs. People do not have the money to start small businesses and often these alone are not lucrative enough. “Who Owns the Future?” by Jaron Lanier dares to challenge the assumptions arising out of the economics of the internet that are accepted as the way things have to be. Clearly they do not. But this book deserves to be read, both for the potential prescriptions it considers and proposes, but also as a means of stimulating new ideas, new directions, and new possibilities, in a technological society, mired in its own political and existential inertia, that is facing extremely serious problems seemingly without solutions.

--Anthony Napoli, Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Coda: Print Your Own--Handgun? OH YEAH!

Blueprints for 3D-plastic gun downloaded 100,000 times in 2 days before the U.S. State Department ordered the site to take down the weapon designs.

The U.K.'s Daily Mail reports: " Blueprints for the first-ever plastic gun produced on a 3-D printer, that can pass through metal detectors, have been downloaded over 100,000 times since it was posted to the web on Monday.

"Designs for the 'Liberator' pistol were posted online by Defense Distributed but on Thursday the U.S. State Department ordered the website to take down the blueprints, on the basis that the plans could violate export regulations."

"The blueprints, that could be produced on 3-D printers costing as little as $1,000, were seen as a breakthrough because no one has previously designed such a weapon that could withstand the pressure of firing modern ammunition.

"The State Department Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance ordered Cody Wilson, the 25-year-old founder of the site, to remove the online blueprints for the 3D-printable 'Liberator' handgun, Forbes magazine reported.  The State Department office is reviewing whether the files violate export control laws for weapons, known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), since the plans were downloaded overseas.

"Wilson, currently a law student at the University of Texas in Austin, says his group will comply with the State Department directive. "

Read more here

Friday, May 3, 2013

Print Your Own --- Handgun?

Andy Greenberg in Forbes reports on an attorney who is a gun-rights advocate who will be releasing plans for the creation of an all-plastic handgun (except for the use of a common nail as a metal firing pin) that can be fabricated using a 3-D printer.

The Liberator: the first all-plastic (except for a nail used as a firing pin) handgun
that can be fabricated on a 3-D printer

"All sixteen pieces of the Liberator prototype were printed in ABS plastic with a Dimension SST printer from 3D printing company Stratasys, with the exception of a single nail that’s used as a firing pin. The gun is designed to fire standard handgun rounds, using interchangeable barrels for different calibers of ammunition.

"Technically, Defense Distributed’s gun has one other non-printed component: the group added a six ounce chunk of steel into the body to make it detectable by metal detectors in order to comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act. In March, the group also obtained a federal firearms license, making it a legal gun manufacturer."

In an update, Greenberg notes: "Defense Distributed’s political opponents aren’t waiting around for its printable gun to be finished and uploaded before calling for it to be banned. Congressman Steve Israel issued a press release Friday responding to this story: “Security checkpoints, background checks, and gun regulations will do little good if criminals can print plastic firearms at home and bring those firearms through metal detectors with no one the wiser,” his statement reads. “When I started talking about the issue of plastic firearms months ago, I was told the idea of a plastic gun is science-fiction. Now that this technology is proven, we need to act now to extend the ban [on] plastic firearms.”

Full Forbes article here

While Forbes also reports that Brooklyn-based Makerbot Industries, 3-D printing firm, has cracked down on printable gun designs. As the article notes, "You have the right to bear arms. But you don’t necessarily have the right to upload them."  Full Forbes article here

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

'You Got Me Rockin': Rolling Stones in LA

UK's Uncut reported that the Rolling tones played a 90 minute set at the Echoplex, a small club in LA's Echo Park neighborhood. Lucky fans who scored tickets via lottery joined celebrities to watch the Stones plus surprise performer Mick Taylor (on 'Love In Vain' and "Midnight Rambler').

The band was also backed by Darryl Jones, Chuck Leavell, Bernard Fowler, Lisa Fischer and Bobby Keys for the show. The show was a promo and an intro for the band's summer tour, which starts officially on May 3 at Los Angeles' Staples Center, visiting a number cities in North America before they headline Glastonbury Festival on June 29 and play London on July 6 and 13 Playlist included: 'You Got Me Rocking' 'Respectable' 'She's So Cold' 'Live With Me' 'Street Fighting Man' 'That's How Strong My Love Is' 'Little Queenie' 'Just My Imagination' 'Miss You' 'Love In Vain' 'Midnight Rambler' 'Start Me Up' 'Brown Sugar' 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' Read more from Uncut here

Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo