Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Oscars

I don't know how long this link will survive. OSCARTORRENTS is a registered trademark of And the deep irony occurs when they link to torrent files which contain the explicit copyright warning of the Academy of Motion Pictures plastered at the bottom of the screen noting that the movie you are watching is a screener not for distribution, but only for viewing as a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures, for voting purposes. Many of these movies are HD quality and clearly not out on DVD yet. The cabal of the RIAA and the MPAA is turning in on itself and collapsing under its own weight.

Art is meant for viewing. Un-viewed art is an exercise in mental masturbation. If 'piracy' can bring un-viewed art to the masses, then it is a net social benefit. Newly-viewed art is the fodder of artists yet to be discovered and the cycle repeats itself. No man, in all of human society, has had an original thought. We all collectively stand on the shoulders of giants.

If you download a movie, or rip a CD to .mp3s, it behooves you to mess with it. Re-mix it, contextualize it, and then share it. (you can recontextualize it just by passing it on.) Then tell someone how you did it, so they can pass it along too. That is the link to the sciences in the idea of 'Art & Sciences' in the Academy. Tell someone what you did, and how they can repeat it. Let them repeat it. They will make mistakes. Their mistakes form the foundation for new knowledge and new arts that were heretofore unknowable outside of their context of the original. And the cycle will continue, because it is a force stronger than the forces that strive to contain it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

ATHF, da bomb.

Yesterday, the Boston Police Department shut down the city center. No buses, no trains, no cars, nothing. It was suspected that terrorists had planted several bombs throughout the city, and the bomb squad was called in to disarm the devices.

The devices in question were (approx.) 10" x 10" and featured a pattern rendered in LEDs. The pattern blinks repeated to a preset interval governed by a simple battery powered circuit. Also, the devices are mounted in public view using magnets to stick these blinking panels to metal structures.

The LED pattern is in the shape of a character, a Mooninite, from the cartoon "Aqua Teen Hunger Force (hereafter ATHF), and the Mooninite is flipping the bird. Blinking. Continuously blinking a flipping the bird (brilliant). For those not familiar with the show, it is about a talking box of french fries and his side-kick, a talking chocolate shake, and they have adventures.

Two artists were commissioned to create these panels and place them conspicuously in several major metropolitan areas on behalf of their benefactor, Turner Communications, owner of the Cartoon Network. The two artists who placed these panels in Boston have been arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, and inciting panic, amongst other charges, and released on bail.

At a press conference shortly after their release, the two men declined to discuss the incident, and instead discussed the finer points of haircuts. Specifically the Afro as an iconic haircut of the 1970's, and the Dreadlock and its ease of maintainablity. God bless America, and the youth of today.

For some reason the dozen or so other cities also targeted by this marketing campaign have yet to blow any of little blinky cartoon men, flipping the bird to passers-by, to pieces. Bravo, ye reactionary nut-bags of Bostontian Security, bravo.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

World Changing

Editor's note: Today's post is lifted in full from the folks cited below. They say what I've been feeling for some time now, and I feel as if I've got nothing to add other than to draw attention.

Why Craft is Worldchanging

WorldChanging Team
January 26, 2007 7:51 PM

by Worldchanging New York local blogger, Amy Shaw

Craft is radical, craft is worldchanging, and craft has been with us all along.

How do we know anything about ancient civilizations? Sometimes there is writing, but always there is material: shards of pottery, metal tools and weapons, jewelry made from gold and silver. In a word: craft.

We are defined by our need to use and to make things. We are homo faber, beings who make. To aid in our survival, we have also become traders. On a very basic level, what we make, use, and trade, and how we go about these activities, defines our humanity and shapes our world.

Today there are 6.5+ billion people living on Earth. The economic hegemony governing this massive number of people in the developed and developing worlds is what we’ve come to call “the Walmart economy.” It’s an economy operating on such a vast scale that one one-hundredth of a penny makes the difference between whether a business is profitable or not.

Every one of us on the planet is involved in using, making, and trading. Big corporations make, use, and trade as giant faceless entities with a million tentacles moving as fast as possible and effecting billions of people. Billions of people worldwide are also involved in making, using, and trading craft. (A recent survey published by the Craft Organization Director’s Association measures the U.S. craft industry alone at $14 billion per year.) However compared with big corporations, the craft industry operates on a more individual, intimate, and personal manner, and on a smaller scale.

Craft is radical. In this age of corporate-driven mass-production, the act of an individual making a useful thing is radical. The act of buying a useful thing made by an individual is radical. It is akin to living off the grid: trading outside the big box.

Craft is to shopping what slow food is to restaurants. Buying high-quality things that needn’t be replaced over time but instead may be passed on to future generations is not only old-fashioned, it is also worldchanging. Craft is slow retail, slow consumption.

When dealing with craft, there is an awareness and appreciation for where a thing came from, how it was made, what materials were used in its fashioning, and who labored over it. Through this awareness, a relationship forms between the maker and the user, narrowing the huge gap between the producer and the consumer fostered by our mass-production globalized economy. Putting a face on an object is one way in which craft is, and always has been, worldchanging.

Today, large corporations are starting to show concern for their social and environmental impact and voluntarily implementing changes for the better. Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz, for instance, oversees a company that spends more on health insurance for its employees than on coffee. Ray Anderson of the carpet company Interface has become keenly focused on making as small an ecological footprint possible while running a successful business. These business leaders and others like them are tackling environmental and social issues not only to save money, but also to do something to benefit the greater good, even if it doesn’t yield the highest possible profit reports. There is a second bottom line these corporations are starting to value. Their actions have real consequences.

In the same way, the consequences of our collective individual actions are tremendous. Choosing to switch to low-energy light bulbs isn’t just going to save a person money and make them feel good for “doing the right thing.” On the larger scale, we know that if everyone switched to low-energy light bulbs (and more fuel-efficient vehicles, and recycled paper towels, etc.) the reduction of energy use and pollution would be significant. These choices become a force for change.

Ghandi said we must be the change we want to see. I would add that as participants in a market economy, we must also trade in that change: we must make, sell, and buy the change. This is where dollar voting comes in – every dollar you spend is a vote for the product you are buying and the system it supports.

People are literally handmaking alternatives for a bright green future every day. Craft is radical, craft is worldchanging, and craft has been with us all along.

Image: Frank Ridley Makes a Toy. Photo by Amy Shaw.
WorldChanging Team

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Open Source Technologies

The movement to create open-source technology products is a radical re-think of the traditional modes of production. No longer is the command structure rigid, but rather it is fluid to a point of absurdity; it is ad hoc. The open-source ideology (if there is such a thing), as I see it, is to take things other folks have made and try to make them better, and share your innovation. Because you want a better tool, and everyone else likes better tools too, and by innovation sharing the entire community of fellow users will benefit from your innovation (if it works). And it is quite likely that you might inspire the innovation that you could not foresee, and yet will deliver to you significant benefits to reap from.

Open-source development is, quite literally, lightly organized chaos, and it is a tremendously robust model for delivering a maximum amount of resources necessary to solve a problem as efficiently as possible.

My main line of work at this time (regardless the remuneration or regard involved) is to study chaotic systems in all their flavors. That is why I (am) built (building) this computing cluster, so I can model chaos, and specifically, fractals and their geometry. The theory behind these ideas is fairly accessible via the internet, but the tools necessary to fully explore the ramifications of these theories is not available without fancy-math software. The only way to obtain fancy-math software, in such a way as to make it accessible to whimsy, is to open-source it. Otherwise I would be beholden to the expense of tuition for the academy, or licensing rights from a monopolist.

I can't afford either; should that fact alone stifle my creativity. What if this freedom allows me the creativity to create a new innovation, one more valuable than the one it cribbs upon, and I add value to the wider world? Would that value-addition have been possible without open-source technology? Yes, certainly, but the barrier to access to the technology would have been enrollment in the academy, or financial means to procure commercial software. Either option is hardly free. A great enough obstacle that any innovative idea would first have to overcome these pecuniary and/or arbitrary barriers. And whimsy has a hard time with barriers, because the cost of invoking, "Wouldn't it be cool if..." dies at the ellipse. That is, without a potential action path (and potential exists only if it can realized) whimsy can't overcome the latency of inertial obstructions.

Much of the objection to open-source technology comes in the form of, "The innovation's fine, and all, but how do we make money?" That depends on the creativity of the tool innovator. First ask yourself, honestly, is this tool a minor improvement, or a paradigm shift? Most likely it is of the former class. If it is of the former class then try to sell your services to the ignorant class. If it is of the latter class, then let no holds be barred except to keep your platform open. Because open products receive regular improvements (if they are worth a damn), and improvements mean new products, which could mean new (hardware, service, [new-niche?]) product sales.

If you can sell a kit product less expensively, and with higher margins than a finished good, then sell it to us. We will fiddle with it and innovate, and we will gladly tell you and others of our innovations. Innovate around us; respond to us. We will reward you with additional sales.

DNA is worthless without RNA to translate it. Mistakes and advances occur in, likely, equal proportion, the translation of -DNA by RNA into more DNA-, but the advances succeed and the mistakes fail, and such is the inevitable march of evolution. The optimal solution is not so much planned as stumbled upon, unwittingly.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Go out and make something.

If you have yet to come across a copy of Make magazine then I pity you, fool. Within its pages are some of the most badassed DIY garage useful tech on the mother Earth. Don't buy what they are selling, go out and do it better yourself, because you (anyone) can. That friends, is an important cultural statement in these time of the ready-made, popularized, pre-programmed, instant-on world. In another time and place, such notions bore fruit and Luddites were born. However, I think history got it wrong with that one, because although the books go down and slam the Luddites as anti-tech, I think they may have really been pro-maker. Today, with miniturization and standards on our side, we can advance the state-of-the-art, and raise a pro-maker banner while advancing the culture (avant garde) forward.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Expand your Neural-ity

This is a quick shout out for my man in Italy, Alessadro Ludovico. Alessandro puts out a great magazine called Neural. Check it out online, but also sign up for a subscription, 'cause a brother gotta get paid, yo! Its pages contain all the best about euro hacktivism, electroartica, etc.