Format: HBO Go
A few years back I recall reading about Theranos, the "disruptive" tech company getting into the ultra-sexy field of phlebotomy. The articles were fawning, talking about a young genius inventor out in Silicon Valley who had dropped out of school to start a tech company that was going to change... something. The article was a little vague on how smaller blood draws were the biggest thing since sliced bread, but it insisted - no, really, this is it, and we all need to get excited about the company, Theranos, and - really - the head of the company, Elizabeth Holmes - a prodigy who apes the fashion sense of Steve Jobs and who dropped out of Stanford as an undergrad to pursue her vision.
I wanted to check my biases on age and gender, shrug a bit at someone cosplaying Steve Jobs, and admit I don't really know much about phlebotoy other than watching a whole lotta blood draws when Jamie has been in the hospital. Which is: a lot.
Seems this is a thing we're all doing, so here goes.
I very much remember placing this order (or these orders). Half of my friends were totally excited about this new Amazon thing, and half of them were convinced Amazon would just take my credit card and drain me of money. Both were right, as it turns out.
I spend some amount of time (read: all of my time) online, and thus was aware, somehow, of the fictional boogeyman, The Slenderman. It was one of those things that I said "what is that?", Googled it, saw it was a meme sort of thing the kids were into, and went about my business.
The Slenderman was created in the world of online fictional storytelling, and as these things sometimes do, it took off and became an idea that flooded outside of the scary-stories site where The Slenderman first appeared. A quick Google search will turn up thousands of hits. He's an otherworldly figure who haunts children once they become aware of him, and will either murder them or befriend the most pitiable (I think).
In 2014 a new story broke out of Waukesha, Wisconsin that two 12 year-old girls had lured their friend into the woods and then attempted to stab her to death in order to impress/ appease "The Slenderman", which... to an adult sounds a bit like committing attempted murder to appease a movie or television character like The Cryptkeeper or something. I don't want to belittle any of this, because two little girls really did have some sort of break and a third was gravely injured and will no doubt suffer longterm effects, but as someone well beyond the age of the girls who made this decision and with a "I existed before the internet" point of view, it's very hard to imagine the world that created this tragedy.
The HBO Documentary Beware the Slenderman (2016) dissects the scenario that led to the incident, looking into the world of the girls, what's online and how they related to it. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen a doc that had this sort of access to the parents of perpetrators of an act like this who were clearly involved and participating in the film within a couple of months of the girls' incarceration and into the trial.
I remember seeing the commercials for the 1995 thriller, The Net, rolling my eyes, and making a firm decision that I would not see this movie. Over the years, it's surprised me how many people have seen it, declared it terrible, and then expressed surprise that I hadn't seen it and never wanted to see it.
The kids will never understand what it was like in 1995, but we were on the teetering edge of a revolution in computing entering the lives of everyone on the planet. Up to that point, computers had been, in the eyes of the public, a weird mix of science-fiction, radio-kit-bashers-gone-mad, a point of ridicule if people spend too much time with them outside of work, and seen as the key to god-like power as evidenced in everything from Weird Science to War Games to Ferris Bueller. And, my God, such an overwhelmingly male-oriented hobby or interest.
My first introduction to what we'd wind up calling "the internet" was via the hand-waving plot explanations of War Games, but in real like, I only ever knew one kid, our own Groboclown, who had a modem in his house. Aside from that, they were kind of a mystery. By middle-school, I was aware of the "cyberpunk" literary movement, but mostly picked up the terms and ideas of "netrunners" second hand from my brother, who actually read the stuff. But even at that - I got my head around the potential for use, for abuse, for second lives online (that would overtake meatspace).
When I got my first computer (a refurbished Pack-Bell 486 with Windows 3.1. Like a @#$%ing BOSS, y'all!) and headed off to college, that was kind of an act of faith on the part of my parents. They saw it as an over-powered Smith-Corona word processor, which was all we'd had in the house since I was 14 (the early Vic 20 and Apple IIe experiments had not made us computer whizzes). And there was an assumption I'd do things with it, but no one could say what those things would be.
Fortunately at UT, I managed to move in down the hall from some guys who were already deeply computer savvy and who had actual modems and whatnot. And, they weren't the kind of guys who sat in the dark and played Doom and didn't converse. Instead, we were soon running wires down the hallway for networked play, and by Spring semester, with a used and battered 2400 baud modem installed in my computer and an account from UT, I was online. Not that there was much to do online in 1994, but I was there!
But 1995's film, The Net, was less reflective of the techo-utopianism a lot of us were buying into thanks to pop publications like Wired. The marketing and concept spoke a whole lot more to our parents' newspaper-headline driven concern over "this crazy, out of control technology", a future-shock echo that was rippling through the world that was just beginning to understand what it meant to suddenly start seeing monitors on every desk at every job and what was happening as we were having to give all those people our names, phone numbers, etc...
Those weren't just stand-alone ugly data-systems anymore, they were now on the Information Superhighway!*
My point is - the context of 1995 when The Net made it to cinemas everywhere with America's newest darling of the Star System-era of Hollywood, Sandra Bullock, was one of an already buzzing fear or discomfort. Everything about the trailer reeked of the paranoia I could feel from my professors, from the general public and folks who were doing just fine in life without needing an email address, let alone a magic phone in their pocket that was a portal to all of human knowledge and able to access monumental computer systems to provide predictions and prescriptive behavior.*
Anyway, if The Net (1995) has one fatal flaw, it is not the absolutely terrible depiction of computing and the internet that boils away any goodwill the pretty-well researched first act sets up. It is not a bad performance by Sandra Bullock, who is really very good in what limited amount of action she's given to take as a witness to her own life falling apart around her and a clunker of a script.
In February of 1919, some of the greats of the silent era - Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith - came together to found their own studio: United Artists. The studio was formed in reaction to studio and artist friction over salaries and creative control. One could say that the idea of an artist's ability to produce an independent vision is baked into the DNA of UA, and, over the years, that spirit has brought us new perspectives to the silver screen, bold proclamations of artists unhampered by the small minds of businessmen, free from the the penny-pinching dream killers of accounting.
So, it should come as no surprise that, some 76 years later, UA would bring us a truly unique dream of the 90's, a clarion call to a generation, a mirror held up to reality showing us truths about ourselves in only the way we can truly get from a masterpiece like Hackers (1995).
This is maybe one of the worst movies I've seen in the last ten years.
It's Sci-Fi movie day on Turner Classic Movies, and I'm doing some encoding of home videos and watching of movies on cable.
I first saw Forbidden Planet during the Paramount Summer Film Series, probably around 97' or 98'. With my buddy Matt, come to think of it.
None of this ever really happens in the movie, but, whatevs...
They tell me the movie is a sci-fi version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, but I have no idea. I've never seen or read it. But I have seen Forbidden Planet about seven or eight times, and every time, I like it better. Sure, it stars Leslie Nielsen of Naked Gun fame in a dramatic role, which is weird, but it's such a great bit of its time and a snapshot of exploration sci-fi that is a now-kind-of-dead genre (and if you can't see the direct impact on Star Trek, you aren't paying attention).
The visual and audio FX in this movie make it an amazing experience, with the debut of Robbie the Robot, Krell architecture, amazing sets, spaceships, matte backgrounds that are truly massive and alien. And even the hand-drawn animation of the Id Monster holds up amazingly well, in its way.
Like a lot of historical drama, a quick Google search of the lead characters in the film will more or less fill you in on the details that might comprise the story. And, of course, it's likely you've heard of The Turing Test and Turing Machines. I dunno. Maybe if you work in needlepoint or dog grooming it doesn't come up as often, but it's at least a bit in the zeitgeist where I work.
The movie stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing and includes Keira Knghtley, Mark Strong and Charles Dance (among many others). Alex Lawther plays a young Turing, and should get some sort of junior award for one of the best performances I've seen from a young actor in a decade.
So, as some of you know, while I ceased formal blogging at this URL, I never really left the internet. I kind of decamped to tumblr, twitter, facebook and whatnot. But, I'll be honest with you. It ain't never really been all that much fun.
At this point in the tenure of Diane Nelson, any hope for a creative renaissance at the company should be replaced with more of a visual of someone selling t-shirts outside the Louvre with a picture of Mona Lisa in a bikini top with a knife gripped in her teeth.*
There's a lot of reasons to sort of want to put your head down on the table about this one.
In 1991 or so the first hypertext fiction appeared, which promised branching narratives and the ability to dig further into a narrative - all in standard prose. If you were going to raves and enjoying smart drinks in 1994, it all sounded like a nifty part of our bright future of this series of tubes called "the interwebs". Just get yourself a 1600 baud modem and go nuts.
"But, hey The League," you might say. "It's 2013! Where can I purchase some of this hypertext fiction that's clearly the wave of the future?"
Tragically, it went the way of the Dippin' Dots and may not have been the ice cream/ preferred narrative construct of the future.
Pal JuanD sent me this video. I'm sharing it because it's a really, really good glimpse into the problems I work on every day at work. Sort of. Half the time I think I'm just looking for receipts or figuring out how many stuffed mushrooms we can afford on our conference's cheap-o budget.
Man, I wish I could just focus on the technical problems.
Our office actually has two missions. We're providing tools to enable researchers to publish born-digital content in both traditional ways (but using new technologies for peer review journals, etc..) and providing options for new media options such as blogs or other modes of scholarly writing. And we're doing this whole preservation bit of both scanned materials and born-digital materials.
What we're doing that's somewhat different from the video is that we're attempting to capture all of the scholarly output from universities and bring it up and online - not scan kid's books that we think someone else will likely handle.
Of course, a lot of people I work with are cogs who don't necessarily get the bigger picture, or work for people who can't pull it all together to get the big picture and so a lot of mistakes are made. A lot of preservable items are lost. The common consensus is that in 200 years, this early digital era will be a dark ages in many ways as we still aren't smart about keeping anything digital. We still think of print copies as the final edition.
As we also commonly say, it's going to take a lot of people retiring or dying before we have a generation promoted to decision making positions who will work with the technology to make sure the digital copies aren't seen as something to rot on a 3.5" floppy in a drawer.
Commander Chris Hadfield, Canadian Astronaut, is aboard the ISS and covered some Bowie - mixing it up a bit to reflect his experience. Really, after this cover, not sure there's any point in anyone else every trying their hand at this tune again.
We've all seen Earth from space a hundred times before, privileged as we are to live in an era when people travel into space. But, man...
Here's to Commander Hadfield and all aboard the ISS.
I've never paid for a SXSW badge. The only SXSW badges I ever got were through work for (a) the relatively new SXSW Interactive around 2000 and (b) about three years ago I returned to Interactive. I've never paid for film or for music.
I've never been to a SXSW screening of a movie, and the few times I saw music at SXSW, it was near accidental and incidental. It's probably safe to say that I'm not particularly interested in the scene, and the idea of dealing with the crowds, the lines, and sheer volume of people at all of these events has been off-putting enough that whatever appeal there might be to seeing bands or movies is significantly reduced when I weigh the cost factor of dealing with the scene around SXSW.
For those of us in town, SXSW is an annual period where we sort of just avoid downtown between certain blocks and as locals who feel the presence of the tide, we know to brace ourselves for:
The bizarre take on Austin that journalists mistake for Austin but which is really just the bubble of SXSW (East Sixth is not "no-man's land". It's a few hundred feet from regular Sixth. By the way, no one really goes to Sixth anymore but tourists)
The number of people who, based on the drunken revelry to be had during SXSW, associate those good times with a need to move here - and they do
The handwaving that SXSW isn't, basically, spring break for three industries and that this is somehow work
People who are the True Believers in SXSW seeming shocked and indignant (and often demanding answers) when you say you don't want to spend the money or time
author's note: 2012 is a year I have been looking to put behind me for quite a while for any number of reasons. Obviously the events in my personal life marked a very sad end to the year for us at our house. Perhaps we should declare 2012 Annus Horribilis and move on. With recent events weighing so heavily on me right now (and with this post started a long, long time ago), I'm going to stick to pop culture and the original, intended tone of the post - and this blog - and take a look back instead at... yeah, I guess comics and whatnot. here we go.
The 2012 Not-a-List Rundown
My Totem for Everything About my Pop Culture Hobbies in 2012
My relationship fundamentally changed with my hobbies and past-times, and superhero comics have begun to dip below the horizon to the same place Star Wars went circa 2002. Because of travelling and the fact I was sick a lot this year, I also didn't really make it out to the movies very often.
I am supposed to be talking about the Lenovo Yoga this evening, a computer I purchased last weekend as my Dell laptop decides to eat itself from within and I make a transition to new hardware before all is lost.
Steven reviewed his Chromebook, a computer I looked at long and hard before making a different and more expensive decision. That said, Steven bought his Chromebook for a development box, something I heard was do-able just Saturday night.
I'm looking at Chromebook as a solution for Jamie for next year sometime, and I think it will meet all of her needs - except for figuring out how she can manage iTunes. So if anyone wants to jump into this discussion, please help me out.
But this is about the Lenovo Yoga, the Windows 8 machine I picked up that's part tablet, part laptop.
I'm a longtime Windows user, and the quirks of Windows are so seamless to my everyday existence that they're usually fairly transparent to me. You probably read that Windows 8 has been redesigned for the tablet, but that's not altogether true. Windows has created an interface for the tablet with brightly colored "tiles". And, sorry, it's mostly intuitive. If you can use an iPhone or Android phone, this isn't any better or worse. I also expect that the "tiles" will become more customizable over time, but they work just fine for now, and whether you hold the tablet in landscape or portrait, it's all pretty easy to use.
One thing that I do that drives everyone I know absolutely crazy is: be perfectly happy with Microsoft products.
Well, sort of. A few years back I obtained a new laptop PC with Windows 7 to replace my dying Windows Vista desktop box. Well, the Windows 7 laptop had been acting up for a while, and I have now upgraded to a Lenovo Yoga with Windows 8. It's a sort of tablet and PC in one running a full version of Windows 8.
"But, Mr. Blogger, why do you stick with MS devices?" I work in MS all day long, and it generally works fine. Except when it doesn't. And I'd rather eat my own hat than deal with someone called a "Genius" while getting my ankles nipped at by mall rats.
When I started blogging the collectibles market was just really taking off. We quit doing Toys That Should Not Be as, really, what I'd advise is to just open the Diamond Previews Catalog and flip through the thing. Every page or two, you'll find something that makes you die a little inside.
And I'm not even talking about the import Manga statues with the removable clothing.
If you're not done grieving Apple Overlord Steve Jobs, you can now make everyone who enters your home or office stop and ask the exact same question in under two minutes: Is that Steve Jobs?
Indeed it is.
Syco Collectibles has introduced the Steve Jobs statue. Only $100, this fantastic piece of artistry looks pretty much like a tiny Steve Jobs, complete with jeans, scrubby beard and black turtle neck and posed like Scorpio planning his attack on humanity from his undersea base. Only, you know, tiny. Standing on the edge of a MacBook in discount store sneakers.
I have to say, I think it's a hell of a conversation piece, and that conversation may just be your co-worker leaving your office and commenting to your colleagues about how you're still really hung up on losing the guy who yelled at people until the iPhone was cooler.
To their credit, Syco is sending part of the proceeds to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and we find that admirable enough that we've ordered four of these, so Steve Jobs can look down upon us from every corner of the room.
You guys know I'm in the bag for everything Mark Waid has done for the last... I dunno. Ever?
Somehow I completely misunderstood that his new online comic, Insufferable, was completely free online.
No, I have no idea what model Mark Waid is using to turn a profit on this, or if there is a profit to be turned. But at the moment that's not my issue, nor should it be yours, because more great Mark Waid comics are online, and they're free at his new site, Thrillbent.
Waid has re-teamed with Irredeemable artist Peter Krause to tell the story in Insufferable, his second work in his new format, one that uses the native landscape (16x9ish) format we've become familiar with as computer users, and the fact that he can set pacing to some extent with a mouseclick to manage the storytelling. Its far less intrusive than the limited animation of prior webbish comics experiments I've seen, and manages to use the page pretty well, I think.
But I'd rather talk up the actual comic than the experiment, because at the end of the day, its about the content.
Waid turns to the urban vigilante brand of superhero after sort of blowing up the heat-vision-bearing version of superheroes in Irredeemable and Incorruptible, and in just four week's worth of the online book, he's done an astounding job of bringing a story to life that works right out of the gate.
Its a broken up version of Batman and Robin with their own issues that surpass those of Bruce and Dick (or Jason or Tim or Stephanie or Damian or Carrie), and its the kind of thing that I think sort of sucks you in from that last panel of the first installment and makes you click "Next".
And, of course, Krause's illustrative-style of art works terrifically well with the world he and Waid are creating, giving a believable view to the character-driven story and capturing the beats and expressions exceedingly well.
One thing any comics-fan who immerses themselves in social media will now see on a daily basis is at least one Kickstarter campaign to produce a graphic novel or comic. Sometimes its more than one. Often its a RT on Twitter from a famed writer or artist who is doing nothing but RT'ing a pleading Tweet sent to said famed artist, and for whom RT'ing the original Tweet is an action of about 2 seconds reading and clicking.
I am not dubious of the Kickstarter technology, rules, etc... If you are unfamiliar, Kickstarter is a site that enables folks working on creative projects to raise funds. Basically, you get a description with web content attached (video, images, too much text in many cases), telling you what the artist is doing, why and who they are. Then a dollar total they are raising, and what it'll go towards. The answer is not: putting food on my table. It's usually something like "production costs". Its basically intended to keep the artists from going deep into debt while they produce the record, comic, statue, indie film, whatever...
There are then levels of support. Artists are obliged to usually offer something better at each level. $1 gets you a thank you. $30 gets you a copy of the album. $10,000 gets you a a day with the artist and a big thanks, plus a t-shirt. Something along those lines.
when someone asks you if you're a (rock) god, you say "yes"
If you've properly budgeted for your project, then its possible this can work very well for you. Especially if you know a whole lot of people, so you're not counting on that one person to give you $10,000.
The established artist
Amanda Palmer recently asked for $100,000 from her network (and it IS a network). She had a month. In a few days, she's raised almost $450,000. I count myself among those who have chipped in.
Not all that long ago, Palmer was signed to a label both with her breakthrough act, The Dresden Dolls, and then as a solo performer. Dissatisfied with the work Palmer thought they were doing on her behalf that she knew she could do herself, she ended the contract and is now a woman without a country, unless you count her actual fanbase as a country, which, really, she should.