Washington Post hack to post post-facto fact check

The Washington Post ran an article about the "inventor" of email, which it identified as V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai. But there's a problem! Ayyadurai didn't invent email. After publishing a risible "clarification" and some Read the rest

BitTorrent's elite switches from Xvid to x264

A high-level summit of the torrenting world's elite release groups -- the groups responsible for the highest quality, earliest infringing video releases -- has resulted in a consensus on dumping the venerable Xvid codec (a video compression scheme) for x264, requiring the torrent-downloading public to rethink which tools, devices and converters they use. Here's the official consensus. Torrentfreak's Enigmax has more:

The document – ‘The SD x264 TV Releasing Standards 2012′ – is extremely detailed and covers all sorts of technical issues, but the main controversy stems from the adoption of the x264 codec.

“x264 has become the most advanced video codec over the past few years. Compared to Xvid, it is able to provide higher quality and compression at greater SD resolutions,” the rule document begins.

“This standard aims to bring quality control back to SD releases. There are many standalone players/streamers such as TviX, Popcorn Hour, WDTV HD Media Player, Boxee, Xtreamer, PS3, XBOX 360, iPad, & HDTVs that can playback H264 and AAC encapsulated in MP4,” the doc adds.

From February 22nd and earlier in some cases, release groups including ASAP, BAJSKORV, C4TV, D2V, DiVERGE, FTP, KYR, LMAO, LOL, MOMENTUM, SYS, TLA and YesTV began releasing TV shows in the new format. Out went Xvid and avi, in came x264 and MP4.

BitTorrent Pirates Go Nuts After TV Release Groups Dump Xvid Read the rest

Sax-playing gorilla at your party

There's little provenance for this photo and the distinctive service offered therein (just a note that it was "donated" by Andrew Wightman), but it appears to date back some while. I don't suppose musical gorillas are still on offer in this hurly-burly modern age.

My kind of party. Donated from Illustrator extraodinaire and friend of the waves Andrew Wightman. Read the rest

Bizarre TV interview with Senate candidate and his 5-year-son

Watch the father's lips when his kid talks. I don't know what is going on here, but Mediaite offers three explanations:

1. That the boy has a earphone in and his dad is telling what to say and, for some reason, thinks he’s a much better ventriloquist than he actually is. 2. That Hudson’s responses were all scripted and Hinckley can’t help but mouth his brilliant dialogue. 3. Hudson is actually some kind of AI-style android that is being controlled by its “father.” Either way, this video is absolutely insane
A fourth possibility is that the dad is nervous about what his son is going to say, and he is echoing the kid's replies, in a sort of Clever Hans kind way. Please offer up other possibilities in the comments.

Interview With Senate Candidate And 5 Year-Old Son From Ad Is Creepiest Thing Ever Read the rest

Family says Chicago police urinated on their mail

Courthouse News Service: "A family claims Chicago police broke into their house, urinated on their mail, spit in the coffee maker, stomped and slapped them and told them "You've been punk'd," while searching for someone who had not lived there for at least a year." (Via Arbroath) Read the rest

Steampunk Addams Family Thing

Doktor A, a sculptor and painter, produced this steampunked version of Thing from the Addams Family for an Addams-themed exhibition at the Wootini Gallery in Carrboro, NC.

Thing…. (via Neatorama) Read the rest

Fanatic Salon's "All Girl Revue" needs help getting to Boston

For five years "THE ALL GIRL REVUE" has been performing together, monthly, at Los Angeles' Fanatic Salon Theater. The all woman improvisational troupe, featuring cast members Edie McClurg, Jane Morris, Ruth Rudnick, Mary Wachtel, Maureen Kelly, Kathleen Campbell and Dee Ryan is seeking to return to Boston and participate in the Women in Comedy Festival where in 2010 they won the Friars Club award.

Seems, as in most things improv, they hit a snag and have found a creative way around it. Funding for the trip became difficult and the troupe has turned to kickstarter to try and raise the $4500 they need.

Having known many of the cast members for the better part of 20 years, I can not only attest to their fantastic talent on stage but just what lovely people they are. If you can help them out, please do -- I certainly did. If you are in the Boston area Friday March 23, catch their show at ImprovBoston!

All Girl Revue kickstarter project Read the rest

Checking the math in RI GOP Senate candidate Barry Hinckley's "economics for 5-year-olds" campaign spot

Citizen journalist John McDaid looks at RI Republican Senate candidate Barry Hinckley's campaign spot in which Hinckley's five-year-old son gives a lecture on economics and gas prices. The spot resulted in some pretty weird stuff (McDaid describes the "bizarre followup interview he and his son gave with Fox's Neil Cavuto, where Hinckley appeared to be lip-synching his son's responses like Fats in Magic"), but really takes issue with the frankly misleading gas-price chart shown in the ad.

I can understand that a five-year-old doesn't know enough to label both the axes, or make sure his line crosses the origin. And, granted, I'm a bit of a chart geek (after all, I slammed the chair of the Portsmouth School Committee for showing a chart with a distorted Y axis). But that's just not what the shape of the line looks like, either in outline or detail. Based on numbers from the US Energy Information Administration, it should look like this chart over here.

Economics for five-year-olds; data visualization for adults Read the rest

Romney finance co-chair VanderSloot and his distasteful practice of threatening journalists

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Trevor Timm comments on billionaire Frank VanderSloot's "systematic campaign to silence journalists and bloggers from publishing stories about his political views and business practices." VanderSloot, the CEO of Melaleuca, Inc. (Wikipedia calls it "a multi-level marketing dietary supplement and cosmetics company", Forbes called it "a pyramid-selling organization," and the State of Michigan called it "an illegal pyramid") is also finance co-chair the Romney campaign. He has long used copyright threats and libel threats to intimidate journalists in his home state of Idaho, and now that his work takes place on a national stage, he has expanded his scope accordingly.

An excellent, faintly terrifying Salon article by Glenn Greenwald sets out the case in detail, and Timm adds some wider context and notes that the Streisand Effect has kicked in, increasing awareness of VanderSloot's views and practices.

At the beginning of February, a blogger for the The Idaho Agenda was forced to take down a post after receiving a defamation suit threat from Melaleuca’s in house counsel. The author indicated that he took it down because he feared the expensive litigation battle but insisted that “the facts included in the post are a matter of public record found elsewhere, including the internet, periodicals and newspapers.”

Back in 2007, Melaleuca pressured the politics blog 43rdStateBlues to take down a critical post written by a pseudonymous blogger “TomPaine.” Another blogger on 43rdStateBlues, “d2”, posted the lawyer’s letter explaining to readers why the original was taken down. Incredibly, Melaleuca’s lawyers then obtained a retroactive copyright certificate on the threat letter and demanded the hosting provider take down the post as well.

Read the rest

Arizona State U's Emerge: what does it mean to be human?

Aisling sez, "Emerge is an exciting 3 day event of active workshops, thoughtful conversation and keynotes about what it means to be human, hosted at Arizona State University. Featured speakers and active participants include Bruce Sterling, Neal Stephenson, Bruce Mau, Sherry Turkle and Stewart Brand. Workshop leaders include Julian Bleecker, Stewart Candy, Julie Anand, Gretchen Gano and Brian David Johnson. The Emerge event will culminate in an afternoon festival and a spectacular performance on Saturday, March 3rd." Read the rest

Ten stone baby teased with chocolate

Entertainment in 1935. "The trouble is nowadays he refuses to be weighed at all so we don't really know if he's solid or hollow." [Video Link]

Ten Stone Baby, a British Pathe newsreel from 1935. Despite the newsreel's original title "Ten Stone Baby", the boy Leslie Downes is actually 3-years-old. Seen with his parents in a kind of pen, Leslie is sat in an armchair. Somebody then dangles a bar of chocolate into the pen and he immediately sets to work at fetching it. We also see Leslie playing with bricks.
Read the rest

Sleep as science fiction

In the current issue of Time Out London, Sue Townsend (one of my favourite authors, creator of the marvelous Adrian Mole books) describes her view of sleep: "I've only just learned to like being in bed. I used to think it was so strange to go to a specified room, lie down and go into a state of unconsciousness. It sounds like science fiction to me." Read the rest

Winged, kinetic rings that flap

Jeweler/metalworker Dukno Yoon makes beautiful, animated kinetic winged rings, sculptures and towers that flap when you flex your finger.

The contrast between metal structural form and natural feather, together with the repetitive and whimsical movements of fragile wings, provokes the imagination and evolves the intimate relationship between work and viewer/wearer.

Although the recent series, segmented wings have been focused on the formal challenge to engineer an intricate movement that simulates bird wings, these works are intended to be a series of poems in which I develope my own formal language, interpret the nature of wings, create various structural forms with movements, and share the metaphor, imagination, humor, with viewer/wearer.

Wings) (via Craft) Read the rest

Michael Geist's magisterial ten-minute ACTA takedown

Michael Geist sez, "As protests in Europe against ACTA have grown, skeptics have argued that most criticisms are based on misunderstandings or incorrect information about the treaty. This week, the European Parliament held its first public workshop on ACTA. I appeared on the lead panel and received ten minutes to demonstrate why the agreement raises major concerns on process, substance, and likely effectiveness."

Michael Geist at the European Parliament INTA Workshop on ACTA 01.03.2012 (Thanks, Michael!) Read the rest

Island of Guersney moots becoming a "libel haven" where rich & powerful can sue & silence critics

Former MI5 agent and Guernsey native Annie Machon sez, "In the teeth of all the anti-SOPA and -ACTA demos, the Channel Island of Guernsey is proposing it become an offshore libel tourism haven for image control. The lawyers see this as a potentially huge revenue stream, much as the tax haven laws have been or the island over the last 3 decades."

The idea is that rich people could register their perpetual "image rights" in Guernsey, and sue people who hurt their feelings. I'm not clear on how they enforce their judgments -- does anyone know what sort of reciprocal arrangements Guernsey has with other territories for collecting on civil judgments from its courts?

Jason Romer is the managing partner and intellectual property specialist at the large "wealth management" legal firm Collas Crill. According to his firm's website, he also, coincidentally, sits on the island's Commercial IP Steering Group and the Drafting Sub-Committee, and is thus conveniently on hand to ease the new legislation through the States.

Also coincidentally, he appears to be an enthusiastic advocate of Eady's infamous "super-injunction" regime which has had such a chillingly expensive effect on the British media in the last decade.

So, if this law is passed, anyone, anywhere around the world will be able (if they can afford it) to register their "image rights" in Guernsey. These rights can even last indefinitely after the original owner's death.

This means that anyone, anywhere, who feels that their "image" has been inappropriately reproduced/copied/traduced/pirated - the correct legal terminology is hazy - can then sue through the Guernsey courts for redress.

Read the rest