MIT's The Tech interviews the MPAA's outgoing spokesmonster Jack Valenti, with hilarious results. It's not often that a slickster as teflon coated as Jack gets made to look an utter fool (though I'd welcome a round onstage with him in front of a university audience) so bravo and bravo again to The Tech's Keith J. Winstein, who ran circles around Valenti.
TT: Indeed, but are you doing that when you rent a movie from Blockbuster and you watch it at home? ... I run Linux on my computer. There’s no product I can buy that’s licensed to watch [DVDs]. If I go to Blockbuster and rent a movie and watch it, am I a bad person? Is that bad?
JV: No, you’re not a bad person. But you don’t have any right.
TT: But I rented the movie. Why should it be illegal?
JV: Well then, you have to get a machine that’s licensed to show it.
TT: Here’s one of these machines; it’s just not licensed.
[Winstein shows Valenti his six-line “qrpff” DVD descrambler.]
TT: If you type that in, it’ll let you watch movies.
JV: You designed this?
An anti-obscenity statute sparked an online controversy in Norway recently, when the Norwegian online erotic magazine Cupido
published some explicit, autobiographical art-porn shots from Brooklyn-based photographer Siege. The specific issue in question is not currently online in entirety, but you can see one of the offending shots here
(upper right-hand corner). Some of the work was also recently blogged on BoingBoing, here
. Cupido editor Cecilie Kjensli in Norway sent the following e-mail to the banned-in-Norway photographer:
"You know what. Something stupid has happened. Cupido har been sensuratet for first time during 20 years because of your pictures :) I have told you before that we are not aloud to print pictures with genital touhing. Our law system sais you cant show pictures that can offend people, so i thougt that no boddy would be offended of this in an erotic magazine. I understand if they were printed in a newspaper or a womans magazin, but not ours.
"Our distributor dissagred with me the way they understand the law, so they put a black spot in the face of the girls sukking you, I belive. So I told the press. That you are a trendy New York phothografer with a girlfriend and that you have a good appetite for sex and that you like taking pictures of you doing it. I read this on Nerve.com I think. Hope you'r not angry at me for this. I was wear of that something like this could happen, so when it did, I tipsed one of the
biggest and best tabloid newspaper in Norway, and they made a huge reportage on it telling people that you actually can take off the black spot. And it showed the stupid porn-law, as we call it, from a good perspectiv.
Here is the link to the reportage in the newspaper. I'm the one with the
to Norwegian Newsmagazine Dagbladet's story about the "stupid porn law" (contains sexually explicit images, and lots of little black censorship circles) (also seen on Fleshbot, where you will also find this link to the best porn news headline EVER.
Someone at b3ta found this XML list of obscenities on a website for women's deodorant (wtf?) and recommends that "any ambitious young swearers out there study it thoroughly"; we plan on using the term "chutney ferret" as much as possible from now on.
to deodorant ad webpage, Link
to the offending XML.
update: BoingBoing readers Dan and Aaron each wrote to point out that the XML list appears to be banned words -- the site offers a "make your own personalized t-shirt" thing. Dan says, "Try clicking on 'Prizes,' and then 'Design mantra T-shirt'. If you attempt to design a shirt with one of the phrases or words in the XML list, you will be chastized for using disallowed language. And how!"
First, thanks to our outgoing guestblogger Alan Graham
, for holding down the right hand column this past month.
Next: A warm welcome to our new guestblogger, Russ Kick, the author of several books, including The Disinformation Book of Lists: Subversive Facts and Hidden Information in Rapid-Fire Format and 50 Things You're Not Supposed to Know. Mr. Kick is also the editor of many anthologies, such as Everything You Know Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Secrets and Lies; You Are Being Lied To: The Disinformation Guide to Media Distortion, Historical Whitewashes and Cultural Myths; and Abuse Your Illusions: The Disinformation Guide to Media Mirages and Establishment Lies. He has also written articles and a column for the Village Voice.
The Memory Hole, a website devoted to rescuing knowledge and freeing information, is his labor of love. Russ first made the front page of the New York Times when he digitally uncensored a heavily-redacted Justice Department report. In April 2004, he posted 288 previously unseen photos of military coffins coming back from Iraq, which he had pried loose from the Air Force. This set off a worldwide media frenzy leading to the front pages of most major newspapers, heavy rotation on CNN, the lead story on network newscasts, and interviews on Good Morning America and CBS Evening News. You can browse through some of that extensive media coverage here, via Google News search. Yesterday, the Memory Hole published these graphic and disturbing screen captures from video footage documenting abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners by US military personnel. Related news here.
I have no doubt that Russ will indeed Kick it on the BoingBoing guestblog. Welcome!
Following up on this earlier post
about museums in Asia that depict Buddhist Hell, BoingBoing reader Heng-Cheong
sends us more photos of the Hell exhibit in Singapore's Tiger Balm
Gardens, better known locally as Haw Par Villa. Shown here, the Filthy Blood Pond, part of a special section in Hell reserved for sinners who have (begin quote)
* kidnapped little boys [Ed. note: AHEM, cough cough]
* claimed to have lost somebody's deposit (probably an estate agent)
* are an incompetent physician or
* are a matchmaker
"For this, you are slapped with extreme thirst and hunger, soaked in ice, dipped in volcano, or forced to bathe in filthy blood."
John Battelle's analysis of Google's S-1 filing -- and particularily, the charming-but-stilted founders' letter -- is fascinating and insightful:
The letter states, among other things, that 1. We don't need to do this for the money; 2. We have no plans to run our business to satisfy Wall Street's need for smooth earnings predictability; 3. We plan to give no earnings guidance, not at least as it's understood on Wall St.; 4. Don't ask us to do so, we'll simply decline the request; 5. We'll do odd things that you won' t understand; 6. We will make big bets on things that may not work out; 7. We run the company as a triumvirate, so there will not be clear leadership from one person like most other companies; 8. We bridge the media and tech industries (interesting), which are in flux, so we've chosen a two-class stock structure similar to the NYT, WashPost, and NYT that helps us avoid being taken over by those forces; 9. We plan using an auction model, as it feels fairer and we understand auctions from AdWords; 10. Don't invest in us if this scares you at all, or the price feels too high; 11. Don't even think about asking us to cut expenses with regard to our employees; 12. We believe in the idea of Don't Be Evil; 13. It's evil to pay for placement or inclusion (a swipe at Yahoo); 14. We hope to bridge the digital divide through Gmail type free services and a foundation with at least 1% of profits and equity to help make the world a better place; 17. Betting on Google is a bet on Sergey and Larry (this was said multiple times, making me wonder if there wasn't some odd future blame being assigned here by the VCs or bankers); 18. This letter is our way of answering the questions we can't answer in the coming months due to the IPO quiet period.
I swear, the scans out of this 1981 computer catalogue are more fascinating than all the patent medicines in a 19th-century Sears-Roebuck.
Tomorrow, I'll be interviewing Charlie Stross at Plokta.con
, a con in Newbury, UK. He's the Guest-of-Honour, and he's written up a corker of a GoH contribution for the programme book.
Eusocial animals like ants, termites, bees, or naked mole rats, exhibit curious behaviour; their societies are stratified by role, with workers, warriors, and reproductive castes that may differ morphologically from one another. Humans aren't so obviously specialized, but if you consider our machines as part of our extended phenotype, it begins to look that way: if our machines become intentionally driven, and they're tailored to play different roles in our society, then you could argue that we occupy some kind of privileged position in a hive-relationship with tools that require our continued safety and comfort in order to further their own reproduction. There's nobody here in this hive but us queens, and the living machines we so carelessly manufacture as conveniences for our own comfort. Individual ants or other eusocial insect species all share the same genetic code, but different castes express radically different phenotypic traits, and indeed most ants are sterile workers who can only further their genetic traits by ensuring that their cousin, aunt or mother the hive-queen succeeds. Our machines don't share our genome (yet), but they share parts of the vast haze of information that has gathered around the genome, and they can only reproduce through us.
Bruce Sterling's new novel, The Zenith Angle
, is out now. To give you an idea of how much I liked this book -- a technothriller about post-9/11 hacker-entrepreneurs, and the military-industrial complex -- here's the blurb I wrote:
Sterling has his fingers on about a hundred different pulses in this
book, which vibrates with fantastic in-jokes and insights from
Bollywood to dot-bomb, from mil-spec gear-pigs to earnest cybercops.
The story rockets along like a hijacked airliner heading straight at
you, like a flash-worm compromising every unpatched Windows box on the
net at once. I read it in one sitting, and I'll read it again before
the month is out. Lots of books are called "thrillers" but very few are
Bruce is going on a ten-city US book tour -- check here for dates!
The new iTunes has stricter DRM than the last version, limiting the number of times you can burn your playlists to seven (it used to be ten), and detecting and blocking similar playlists. Jason Schultz has some good ranty analysis about what this means:
So after one year and 70 million songs, $0.99 now buys you less rather than more -- seven hard burns instead of ten soft ones. What will Apple "allow" us to do with the music we "buy" next year? three burns? one? zero?
And what about the songs you've already bought? Don't we get to keep the rights we had before the change?
Well, Apple has conveniently reserved its rights to make changes -- unilaterially -- to its DRM and your ability to make fair use via its Terms of Service and Terms of Sale pretty much anytime it pleases, without even having to give you notice.
ESP Game (reg required, cypherpunks/cypherpunks works) is a game whose objective is to incent English-speaking net users to keyword-label every image on the Internet. The game throws up an image in a Java applet, then asks you and an anonymous "partner" elsewhere on the net to type in keywords until both of you have a word in common -- IOW, until you and a stranger can agree on a good label for the picture. Presumably, this is being added to a metadata database for the purpose of cataloguing all the images on the net. Neat idea.
Shopping malls across the US are adding free WiFi:
A very small number of the 1,130 malls in the United States have wireless access. But, she said, an increasing number are thinking of installing the capability.
For instance, Westfield America Trust said most of its 62 regional and super regional shopping centers will soon offer the service. Taubman, which owns or manages 31 malls, began offering Wi-Fi services yesterday at its The Shops at Willow Bend in Plano, Texas.
"If you look at malls in general, you are really seeing owners bring in things that allow for more people to come do a variety of things at the center," Duker said. "The mall has become more than a place to shop."