Archive for December, 2010

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Gorillaz New Release “The Fall”

[ Comments Off ]Posted on December 25, 2010 by admin in Music

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

Composed on the road with the iPad as a key instrument, the Gorillaz new release “The Fall” is their Christmas gift to you.

A few months ago we pondered the iPad as a musical instrument, but while we were sitting around on our butts pondering, apparently Gorillaz was busy making an album – while on tour no less – using the iPad as a key instrument. And for an added layer of coolness, they’re giving it to us all as a Christmas gift. Just go to, provide an e-mail, and voila! You’re listening to the latest Gorillaz release. Recorded as a “musical tour diary” during last fall’s 32-day North American tour, the album doesn’t feel or sound quite like a full-blown Gorillaz release, but it really isn’t meant to. On their site Damon Albarn says “…I literally wrote everything on the day in each place and there’s a strange sort of sound of America and its musical traditions that comes through. It feels like a journey through America“. And it does indeed capture some ups and downs of the feelings of being on the road. I have to admit I’m a little partial to “Amarillo”, “Bobby in Phoenix”, and “Hillbilly Man”, which all suggest some sort of 21st century vibe loosely reminiscent of “Madman Across the Water” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bookends”. Which is really a horribly inaccurate description in the end; this is Gorillaz, and it’s a quirky release. But good quirky. The song “Detroit” is for instance probably one of the happiest tunes you’ll ever hear called “Detroit”, which is a little atmosphere inversion the album repeats with the moody “Shy-Town”. But I’m not going to bore you with a tune-by-tune opinion of the whole release, it’s available right now and for free, for cryin’ out loud. So go unwrap your little Christmas present and decide for yourself. A little side note: The page that streams the tunes wouldn’t work in Firefox on my system, and crashed Chrome on the first try, but worked just fine on the second try. Don’t give up right away if you have any glitches; it may in fact just be a load problem on their server. Read the rest of this entry »

WikiLeaks & The Perilous Celebrity Of Julian Assange

[ 2 Comments ]Posted on December 24, 2010 by admin in Editorial & Opinion

Friday, December 24th, 2010

In a world that seems more interested in personalities than possibilities, it’s hard to say which way Julian Assange’s fame will go, but WikiLeaks has at least inspired a movement amongst the digital natives. And Assange has been immortalized in silly Flash games.

Probably one of the most interesting things that happened this year is that in spite of the fact that an organization called Wikileaks helped release an appalling video that showed the US military killing innocent civilians and Reuters journalists, as well as thousands of diplomatic cables that exposed the vile and deceitful nature of international relations, in the end, what we’ve ended up talking about most is the narcissistic Australian hacktivist that headed the organization. And of course the fact that in spite of the recent repeal of the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, they’re pretty emphatic about the “don’t tell” concept. At least in the case of Bradley Manning, who remains in what many human rights organizations consider inhumane confinement. Admittedly – as the AP pointed out early on – “none of the revelations is particularly explosive” in the CableGate files. That is, until the exposed parties react, and the media broadcasts the reaction. And then, suddenly all of those “not explosive” revelations become matters that threaten the national security of virtually every nation on Earth. Which is interesting, because I’d be willing to bet that you can’t name even three or four of the key “revelations” in the documents. The Telegraph has a longer timeline of WikiLeaks releases here, and Salon has a roundup of the CableGate highlights here to refresh your memory. You’ll note that most of the CableGate “revelations” have to do with bruised egos, name-calling, and distrustful relationships in global politics, not Earth-shattering secrets. So why is this Julian Assange guy being painted as some kind of international terrorist? Because unlike conventional celebrity gossip, political celebrity gossip is attached to true greed for power, not just a greed for being liked, and can literally be a fight to the death. Which is why – as I’ve said before – let’s keep talking about Julian Assange. Maybe his celebrity will help bring a much needed jolt to journalistic methods, and truth will have some hope through “scientific journalism“. If you’ve only been following major media sources or partisan political bloggers for info, one of the more insightful pieces about Assange you’ll find is this one by Bruce Sterling, the novelist who wrote about Assange’s brand of “cypherpunk” decades ago, before this kind of activity was even technologically possible. And equally telling is Assange’s lawyers’ reaction to the Guardian’s leak of the details of the rape accusations against him. It remains to be seen if Assange can keep anything like an air of professional integrity intact as his unsavory celebrity continues, which it almost certainly will. A Swedish documentary called “WikiRebels” was recently made available on line (also below), and more details of his background will become more commonly known as the sensationalism ebbs a little and conventional news sources either need filler for stories or ways to distance themselves if the US government gets more ruthless in attempting to discredit or silence Assange. But for now, there’s at least a small international movement amongst the digital native generation that will keep the WikiLeaks vision alive, and not just the more volatile hacker groups that have attacked the websites of Visa, Amazon, Paypal, and others. Which, by the way, is considered by some to be a legitimate form of expressing dissent. And although rabid conservative bloggers are saying Obama dropped the ball by not shutting WikiLeaks down preemptively, many would say that Obama actually dropped the ball by not supporting the transparency he promised in his campaign. As is pointed out with humor in this Flash based game. And that is probably one of the surest signs one has achieved celebrity, to be immortalized in Flash games. Here’s another. Both are embedded below. What we need now is a WikiLeaks reality show to compete in Sarah Palin’s time slot.
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Last Minute Christmas Shopping?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on December 21, 2010 by admin in Holidays

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Finding those last minute Christmas gifts can be stressful, but let’s gather round the Festivus Pole for a moment and say a prayer for the Global Orgasm Day crowd. They threw a party, but nobody came.

Celebrate three holidays in one with a sexy santa
(cap not included) and a pole dancing kit.

The last few days before Christmas can be hectic, and for some, even depressing. Like for those folks who try to throw a party for Global Orgasm Day every year. The results may be premature, but if the visitor counter on their site is accurate, it looks like nobody came. Then of course we have Festivus on the 23rd. Which is why we pointed out last year that you may as well roll the two together. This year, as you can see in the image on the left, we’re suggesting you roll all three holidays together with a sexy santa outfit (cap not included) and a pole dancing kit. We’re not being sexist here; we think that combo is suitable for either women or men. If the military doesn’t ask, why would we? So speaking of hectic, we have some last minute Christmas shopping to do ourselves, and since we like to think that we give you a little gift almost 365 days a year, we may take a day or two off. If you have last minute shopping to do and you’re stuck for gift ideas, check out some of our offbeat Christmas gift suggestions. They’re probably more entertaining than useful, but range from the inexpensive to the insanely expensive, to the downright perverse. And if the holiday music that’s been subliminally filtering into your brain since the day after Halloween hasn’t left you feeling like the victim of some kind of merchandising psy-ops, we’ve also rounded up a ton of both classic and quirky Christmas music ideas. Anything special you’d like for Christmas this year? Tell us in a comment. There’s nothing we’d love more than to stuff your stockings.

Obama Broadband Promises Eclipsed By Telecom Lobby Dollars

[ Comments Off ]Posted on December 20, 2010 by admin in Editorial & Opinion

Monday, December 20th, 2010

The new FCC broadband proposal is being attacked on all sides. Except perhaps by the telecom corporations that will pay millions to define it.

If this page took a long time to load, it’s probably because the FCC’s network neutrality rules – first established on December 21, 2010 – have led to your ISP’s restriction of access to dissenting voices on the topic of whether or not they took the right course on that date. I jest of course, but the fact that there’s a full lunar eclipse on the solstice coinciding with the FCC’s announcement of the adoption of new guidelines for broadband providers adds a humorously foreboding quality to the event. So what’s the big deal about this decision? Well, in a nutshell, it’s about who “controls the internet”. The key issue being whether or not providers like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon should be able to throttle traffic they don’t like, and whether they can charge certain content providers more if they feel those providers are clogging their networks. It’s also about the rapidly emerging wireless broadband industry, and whether or not these two markets should be regulated in the same way, or regulated at all. So as a typical internet user, what should your stance on the topic be? Good luck figuring that one out for the moment. Net neutrality advocates like the Save The Internet coalition are rabidly against the current proposed guidelines and explain the complicated reasons why, while the Progressive Change Campaign Committee puts things in language more people can probably understand; they’re saying don’t let Comcast block Netflix or other online innovators for their own profit. That is probably one of the most succinct statements of the stance you might want to take on this topic. The fact is that there is so much lobby money at stake here that you can tentatively assume that the rabid voices, including (love him or hate him) Al Franken, are probably right on this one. The real problem is that as citizens we don’t really know all the current facts. While a lot of the FCC proposal drafts were more or less vetted by the big telecoms that they’re meant to regulate, we don’t get the same courtesy as citizens. And the reason you’ll hear a lot of logic-twisting doublespeak like Robert McDowell’s Net Neutrality Is A Threat to Internet Freedom is probably because while you and I sit here Facebooking, downloading movies, and Skyping our lives away, AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable have collectively employed more than 60 lobby firms to make their message heard. And here’s a list of Democrats that have heard the corporate lobby message, so it’s obvious that this is not a partisan issue, or a genuine values issue, it’s a corporate interest issue. The bottom line is that if the broadband providers stay quiet on the topic, they’re probably pleased, and you and I are screwed. If you want to try and stay informed on the topic without all the extra politicians and media companies telling you what to think, there will be an Open Commission Meeting on Reboot.FCC.Gov on Tuesday morning. Of course if you’re one of the millions of Americans without broadband that we discussed back in March, you can’t watch. We’ll be back with more on this soon. That is, if we can still afford internet access.

Do Lottos Really Benefit Education?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on December 19, 2010 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Or are they just a “tax on the stupid”, as they’re often cynically referred to?

Lotto iPhone App
Having trouble picking your numbers?
There’s an app for that.

A couple of things got me thinking recently about the concept of legalized state lottos that operate with the public assumption that they fund education. The first was that I fell into a rather amusing obsessive-compulsive trap a little over a year ago. My mother – bless her soul, she passed away this year – suggested we pick a few lotto numbers and play them regularly. It was a little moment of fun once a week, checking to see if we were multimillionaires, and we even had a couple of $150.00 winners. But now I’m left with a sick compulsion – and I’ve talked to a few other people that do the same – to keep playing the numbers, because I’m DEAD POSITIVE that the day that I don’t play is the day that the numbers will be the multimillion dollar winners. I mean I’ve “invested” around three hundred dollars in that year and a half, so I’m at about break-even, right? No harm going on, correct? And so goes the thinking of a potential gambling addict. The other thing that got me pondering these state lottos was observing the demographic that seems to support the system. I’m doing work on location with a client who owns several lotto/liquor stores, and couldn’t help noticing that the vast majority of lotto customers seemed to be lower income, and non-white. This is obviously a local and anecdotal observation, and as you might imagine, there are very few large-scale scientific surveys to reference. However, surveys like this one from Georgia (2.6MB PDF) and this one from Texas (221KB PDF) make it clear that although the percentage of each racial demographic that has at some time played is almost the same, the high-frequency players who spend the largest percentage of their income are in fact black, in the lowest income bracket, and have the lowest “educational attainment”, in this case a high school degree or less. Well, perhaps the government knowingly supporting the gambling fixations of the hardworking poor is acceptable. In a free market economy, it’s “buyer beware”, right? Besides, it’s all for a good cause. We’re supporting education, remember? Well, not so much, as it turns out. This Illinois School Board brochure (180KB PDF) points out that lotto revenue provides less than .03% of total funding for schools in Illinois, and as this NBC News affiliate article points out, many states take money away from education to match the lotto revenue. And in the case of Michigan, which boasts in press releases about the efficiency of their lotto commission, the former governor shuffled $208 million of the school money into the general budget to reduce the state’s deficit figures this past fall. Well, at least once in awhile some poor cuss will win and live the good life right? Well, someone has to win, but one of the commonly used examples of how absurdly unlikely that it will be you is that if you spent a million dollars a year on tickets, it would be 146 years before you’d be sure to win. And when people do win, it often doesn’t turn out so well.
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