Media Influencer

helping people break out of pigeonholes since 2003

Waffle bike or the reason #984,239 why I love the internet

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Waffle Bike is a fully weaponized waffle making device complete with call to prayer public address system:

Pilobolus

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Something for the weekend.

More on Pilobolus.

An anthropological introduction to YouTube

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Open source pr0n

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Fantastic! A feast for geek eyes.


code_swarm – Apache from Michael Ogawa on Vimeo.

An experiment in organic software visualization, code_swarm:

This visualization, called code_swarm, shows the history of commits in a software project. A commit happens when a developer makes changes to the code or documents and transfers them into the central project repository. Both developers and files are represented as moving elements. When a developer commits a file, it lights up and flies towards that developer. Files are colored according to their purpose, such as whether they are source code or a document. If files or developers have not been active for a while, they will fade away. A histogram at the bottom keeps a reminder of what has come before.

via O’Reilly’s radar

Leave-me-alone box

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Need to get myself one of these!

via Machine Thinking

About 7 years ago I was reading an article on Claude Shannon and came across one of the funniest ideas I had ever heard. Claude, you see, was one of these incredibly brilliant engineers with an obviously great sense of humor. As I understand it, he, along with Marvin Minsky came up with an idea they called the “Ultimate Machine”. Basically a plain box with a switch on the top. When you flip the switch, a hand comes out of the box and flips the switch off. Thats it.

Well, after reading the article, and laughing out loud, I decided that I HAD to build one of these boxes. So simple, and yet so funny.

Blockbuster store museum

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Historic 2018Blockbuster2019 Store Offers Glimpse Of How Movies Were Rented In The Past

This is the reason why the film and media industry is imploding, not piracy. It ignored, then fought the technology and now is fighting people who used to be their markets. Not a good way to buttress a business model. Bring on the museum tours…

Quote to remember

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It’s not about the money, it’s about ALL the money.
- description of the entertainment business in Wired article Myka: One Set-Top Box to Rule Them All?

The long tail of production

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This is very cool, especially being able to see how it was made:

Technology doesn’t create amazing things like this, people do. Technology helps people to do that and maximises the chances of new and better technology. And more amazing things being created.


What’s new is that the new camera/apps are steadily coming becoming like a word processor — both pros and amateurs use the same one. The great script is not due to a better word processor; it’s how the great write uses it. Likewise, a great film is not due to better gear. The same gear needed to make a good film is today generally available to amateurs — which was not so even a decade ago. Film making gear is approaching a convergence between professional and amateur, so that what counts in artistry and inventiveness.

The long tail of production is the effect of technology being widely available and, in case of videos, making the physical limitations of video production (expensive equipment, video editing suites, studios etc) slowly dissolve just like the physical limitations of music stores were bypassed by online distribution of music, books and films. On the production side, it means that more people can produce and the story is in watching what kind of things they will make.

Power to the Persons!

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The real sense of achievement is from not mentioning Web 2.0 or social media even once!

future_unevenly_distributed.jpg

Here is version 1.0, may need to revise bits of it later – first time attempt at screencasting, new software and not used to Apple, blah blah blah…. :)

The Largest Model of the Universe

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End of the internet

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via American Digest (hat tip Alec)

The Lives of Others, the movie

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Last week I did something I rarely do, I watched a film during the day. Shock, horror! A sign I haven’t fully recovered from my mysterious lurgi. I finally got hold of The Lives of Others, which my friends recommended to me. I didn’t expect to like it because I couldn’t imagine a film capturing what it was like to be monitored, interrogated and have your life destroyed by the communist system. With assistance from its ‘little helpers’… One of them was the main protagonist. To my surprise, the film succeeds to convey a few important things, it has tragedy, betrayal, love, empathy, baseness, insecurity, idealism.

The countries of the Soviet empire shared some characteristics and talking to a Pole, East German or a Hungarian, we would find common experiences. Each country had its local ways too. For example, East German Stasi was known for its prolific recruitment of informants. Not that Poland and Czechoslovakia were far behind but still.

It is hard to believe that there was a time when people of a European country couldn’t travel at will. It is even harder to imagine that there were circumstances under which most people accepted this. I grew up in a place like that, and yet the absurdity of it hit me as the film brought the point and memory of such restrictions home. Knowing that you will never be able to visit most places on earth, that you have to live with and adjust to what is around you in ways that can destroy your will, identity and soul… because you have no choice. You can’t leave. You are stuck. For as long as you live.

I realised that there were different types of dissent. One has to wonder where all the rebellion in teenagers and natural contrarians went to? It had to go somewhere… Some lashed out at the system on their own and paid a heavy price. Flagged up, deprived of any meaningful future in the existing society and never safe, they learnt that rebellion is far from a romantic pursuit. Then there were the intellectuals, who found refuge in another -ism(s), whether it be nationalism or philosophy. The ones that seem to have survived best were those for whom faith was a source of moral strength. Faith provides support for the individual as well as for the community. It helps in times of persecution, when an individual has to face the regime alone and also when a community is brought together under pressure.

I also realised that although I know what it feels like to be a dissident – understanding the system you are fighting and the evil it causes, I don’t really know what it was like for the people who propped up the regime and served it in thousand little ways. How did they get through their lives? What about those who couldn’t delude themselves as their actions were beyond justification?

One of the main characters (there are three, I think) is a captain in the Stasi. Unwavering in his dedication to the regime – due to his idealism we are led to believe – and therefore incorruptible, persistent to the point of being inhumane, and lonely. An expert on breaking people and extracting
information from them about any ’subversive’ activity, he uses sleep
deprivation and justifies his brutality by pseudo-scientific
observations of human psychology. In short, nasty stuff. He is given the task of monitoring one of the leading poets and playwrights in the country. Not because of any serious doubt about his loyalty to the regime – he is a close friend of Margot Honecker, the wife of Erich Honecker. The plan is to ferret something that might discredit his protectors, to be used in internal party power plays. The writer lives with one of the county’s leading actresses. She is part of the reason for the monitoring and is a complex persona with her loyalties and strength of character unclear. It is worth pointing out here that anyone of any importance in a communist regime owes his or her success to the powers that be. Without exception.

During his assignment the Stasi captain gets involved in the couple’s lives, which is helped by his fascination with the actress.  He starts covering up the poet’s activities, which turn anti-regime after the suicide of his close friend and colleague, who couldn’t take his career ban and isolation any longer. The plot thickens, people’s behaviour gets more complex and twisted but the central theme is a transformation of a grey, lonely bureaucrat without a life of his own into someone with sympathy. His own career is destroyed as a result of protecting the couple. The message of the film, I believe, is that someone who is ultimately driven by idealism and belief can commit great evil but also great good. It is those who have nothing to believe in that come out worst in the film.

How do I feel about that? I think that there weren’t many idealistic people working for the regime that was openly totalitarian for decades. When you joined the communist party, you were not doing it to build a utopia. At least not for other people. Perhaps for yourself but that was a delusion. And in the 1980s there really wasn’t much room for idealism. Also, being a Stasi expert on interrogation techniques does not exactly allow for much justification about one’s motivation. And yet, the character is somehow credible. People are more complex than any -ism would like them to be. Life is full of surprises and even in the darkest moments, human beings can rise to unexpected heights (and descend to unspeakable depths). And as they say in the Christian circles, it is about one soul at a time, each being important and unique. (I know the film has no religious dimension.) And this time it was about the soul of the Stasi captain. The final words of the film are like a blessing, a redemption of the individual who emerged from the grey nothingness of the state organs by his own will and actions.

But even with its human and mildly upbeat ending, the story cannot
outweigh the tragedy of the thousands, millions, who were not spared the communist brutality…if that was its purpose. Still, it is an excellent film well worth seeing.

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