Bruce Sterling's state of the world 2009

Bruce Sterling's doing his annual "state of the world" public interview on the WELL's Inkwell.vue conference, and taking all comers, dropping science and bon mots. I could read this stuff all day.

I'm a bohemian type, so I could scarcely be bothered to do anything "financially sound" in my entire adult life. Last year was the first year when I've felt genuinely sorry for responsible, well-to-do people. Suddenly they've got the precariousness of creatives, of the underclass, without that gleeful experience of decades spent living-it-up.

These are people who obeyed the social contract and are *still* getting it in the neck. The injustice of that upsets me. The bourgeoisie who kept their noses clean and obeyed the rules, I never had anything against them. I mean, of course I made big artsy fun of them, one has to do that, but I never meant them any active harm. I didn't scheme to raise a black flag and cut their throats because they were consumers.

Topic 343: Bruce Sterling: State of the World, 2009

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Vader joins the Lutheran Church of Iceland

A prankster in a Darth Vader suit joined the annual procession of the clergy of the Lutheran Church of Iceland. And you know what? It works.

Cult Procession Fail

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RIAA ditches MediaSentry, will now stop suing dead people and children in favor of asking ISPs to censor Internet and spy on the public

The record companies have fired their outsource enforcement thugs, MediaSentry (a sleazy outfit that changes its name as often as it changes its testimony). This is part of its new strategy: rather than suing fans, the record industry will confront the 21st century by asking ISPs to voluntarily spy on their customers, throttle their Internet connections, and disconnect people from the Internet on the basis of unproven allegations of infringement.

It's a measure of just how unbelievably stupid the lawsuit campaign was that this new tactic is actually marginally preferable. And, of course, it does mean that plenty of MediaSentry's goons will end up on the breadline, so that's good news.

Ray Beckerman, a New York lawyer who maintains the Recording Industry vs. the People blog and who has represented more than a dozen clients fighting the RIAA, said he considered the decision to drop MediaSentry a "victory" for his clients. MediaSentry representatives "have been invading the privacy of people. They've been doing very sloppy work," he said.

Mr. Beckerman cites MediaSentry's practice of looking for available songs in people's file-sharing folders, downloading them, and using those downloads in court as evidence of copyright violations. He says MediaSentry couldn't prove defendants had shared their files with anyone other than MediaSentry investigators.

Changing Tack, RIAA Ditches MediaSentry

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Happy Public Domain Day 2009!

January 1 was Public Domain 2009 day -- the day on which the works of authors who died in 1938 entered the public domain in most countries. As in previous years, the Public Domain blog has a long and fascinating list of the authors whose works are finally free to be reprinted and spread around the world:

Some of the more interesting members of the 1938 class of deceased authors include:

Danish bacteriologist Hans Christian Gram (of Gram staining fame) British-Canadian author, conservationist, and literary fraud Archie Belaney (Grey Owl) Latvian-born ethnologist and musicologist Abraham Zevi Idelsohn (to whom the lyrics to “Hava Nagila” are attributed) American cartoonist E. C. Segar (creator of “Popeye”) American illustrator Johnny Gruelle (creator of “Raggedy Ann”) American lawyer Clarence Darrow (of “Scopes Monkey Trial” fame) American songwriter James Thornton (“When You Were Sweet Sixteen”, written in 1898) Japanese martial artist Kano Jigoro (founder of judo) American industrialist Harvey Samuel Firestone (of tire fame)

Public Domain Day 2009

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Al Franken Does Mick Jagger

This made my night. As news is coming out of Minnesota that the state Canvassing Board is ready to certify Al Franken as the winner of the very close senate race there, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo was ready and waiting with this oh-so-excellent vintage Franken and Davis clip from Solid Gold.

--Bruce (via TPM)

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers) Read the rest “Al Franken Does Mick Jagger”

Traditions That Make You Feel Good

As 40somethings raising kids, we seem to have finally outgrown celebrating the start of the new year by getting real drunk and staying up late. We still stay up past midnight as a matter of pride, but we’ve slowly shifted the emphasis to New Year’s Day festivities, which include eating traditional meals, plus discussing the highlights of the previous year and hopes for the new one. In other words, we focus on traditions that make us feel good, not hungover.

Growing up in New Mexico, it was instilled in me that it's absolutely necessary to eat posole on January 1. And since my ancestors moved to New Mexico from Arkansas and other southern locales, it's also imperative that everyone in my family eat at least one bite of black-eyed peas on Jan. 1 to secure good luck for the new year. A few years I made a cheesecake or lemon tart for New Year's Day, hiding one almond in the pie. This is another good luck token, which I must have read about somewhere along the line. I find these traditions, almost always related to food and celebrations, to be fascinating, and I hope lots of you readers will share your traditions in the comments.

Along those lines, The New York Times put up a fun slideshow about new year's traditions from around the globe.

The highlights of 2008 for all of us were the outcome of the election and various family trips we took. Bruce loved NYC, Kindy enjoyed a couple of overnights in San Francisco, and Arlo loved spending a week hiking and swimming on the Eel River. Read the rest “Traditions That Make You Feel Good”


Heather Moore, the talented proprietor and blogger of Skinny Laminx, recently wrote a couple of CAPTCHA security code poems that speak to the wordsmith inside me. The comments about them are pretty interesting and creative as well. Here’s one of Heather’s poems:

Aingee Chedge criestme orstsper! Shanesto... Foref, myrac, munmanc, Torse? Hanim equin padwo? Picar! Mingin! Corses aingee...


Skinny Laminx Security Poetry

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers) Read the rest “CAPTCHA Poetry”

NYT Op-Eds: End of the Financial World As We Know It / How to Repair a Broken Financial World

Jesus, *everyone* is twittering/emailing/suggesting this 2800+ word monster op-ed in today's New York Times by Michael Lewis and David Einhorn. Here's a snip:

Americans enter the New Year in a strange new role: financial lunatics. We’ve been viewed by the wider world with mistrust and suspicion on other matters, but on the subject of money even our harshest critics have been inclined to believe that we knew what we were doing. They watched our investment bankers and emulated them: for a long time now half the planet’s college graduates seemed to want nothing more out of life than a job on Wall Street.

This is one reason the collapse of our financial system has inspired not merely a national but a global crisis of confidence. Good God, the world seems to be saying, if they don’t know what they are doing with money, who does?

Incredibly, intelligent people the world over remain willing to lend us money and even listen to our advice; they appear not to have realized the full extent of our madness. We have at least a brief chance to cure ourselves. But first we need to ask: of what?

To that end consider the strange story of Harry Markopolos. Mr. Markopolos is the former investment officer with Rampart Investment Management in Boston who, for nine years, tried to explain to the Securities and Exchange Commission that Bernard L. Madoff couldn’t be anything other than a fraud. Mr. Madoff’s investment performance, given his stated strategy, was not merely improbable but mathematically impossible.

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Waltz With Bashir

I went to see the Israeli animated documentary feature "Waltz With Bashir" (Vals Im Bashir) last night. The autobiographical film was written and directed by Ari Folman, with illustration and art direction by David Polonsky.

It is a powerful piece of filmmaking, and I hope everyone reading this blog post will go out and support it, if it's still playing in a theater where you live. Given the escalation of conflict in Gaza this weekend, the film's message seems all the more timely and poignant.

I couldn't help but think as I was watching last night (in a mostly empty art-house theater on the other side of town) that this captures what the young Israeli soldiers must be experiencing right now, and what the Palestinians in Gaza must be experiencing, as well.

Waltz is about memory. It's a story about conflict trauma and PTSD. It's a story about how the responsibility for atrocities tends to be passed from one set of hands to another, never resting, and how the impact of violence is also passed down, never resting. It's a story about what combatants on both sides have in common: we are human beings.

Here are some stills from the movie. Here are higher-quality trailers on Apple. Here are some of the critics' reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. When the DVD comes out, I am buying it, and buying copies for friends.

Oh, and Susannah Breslin points us to these guys, Asaf and Tomer, who were credited as artists on the film. Read the rest “Waltz With Bashir”