Archive for February, 2011

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Is Governor Rick Snyder Planning To Sell Michigan To Taiwan Like He Did Gateway?

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on February 23, 2011 by admin in Politics

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

If so, he might want to reconsider his ill-conceived plan to destroy its film industry. It’s one of Michigan’s greatest assets at the moment. And by the way, why isn’t he on Dickipedia?

Can Rick Snyder do the same amazing things
for Michigan that he did for Gateway?

We already jokingly offered Michigan’s new governor some suggestions for turning things around in the state; we were trying to be a little positive about having a pro-business, Republican governor. But we didn’t mention the film industry in Michigan, because WE DIDN’T THINK HE’D BE SO GODDAMN STUPID as to try to kill it. Oops. Did I raise my voice? Sorry. What is wrong with this guy’s brain? How could he not get this? As a Michigan resident, I can say with confidence that the business brought to the state by offering incentives to the film industry has been the greatest thing happening here in decades. It’s easy to debate the industry’s real impact on the state’s economy – pieces like this one gleefully focus on negative anecdotal information to paint a negative picture, while articles like this Detroit News piece paint a much more positive picture (with actual numbers and facts, by the way). But one thing you CAN’T debate has to do with two equally important factors; things that aren’t about short term financial results, and that you can’t plot on a graph. Sentiment, and opportunity. I’ve lived in this state most of my life; I saw the 70′s labor exodus as a child, I’ve watched the ups and downs of the auto industry from sellout to bailout, and I can tell you that I have NEVER in all those years seen the kind of excitement, passion, and inspiration for business and entrepreneurship I’ve seen since the state opened its doors to the film industry with incentives. I’ve worked in film myself, and have a lot of friends much more inside the business, and one thing I’ve heard repeatedly over the years is that the west coast base of the business LOVES hiring midwesterners. Why? Because of their work ethic. If there’s one thing Michiganders have, it’s an understanding of a hard day’s work, and film work, as we all know, calls for marathon hours. What better marriage could you imagine? I could go on about this forever, and yes, it would all be anecdotal. But I’m astounded by Rick Snyder’s failure to recognize the incredible opportunities for Michigan’s future here, and instead focus on short term budget wrangling. But I guess I shouldn’t be. This is perhaps similar to his strategy in his role as custodial CEO of the Gateway computer company, which was eventually sold to Taiwan’s Acer. But only after the company outsourced half of the jobs it provided stateside anyway. Is this your plan for Michigan, Mr. Snyder? Not if the people have their way. There are plenty of campaigns afoot to show your support for Michigan film, and more forming daily. I’m personally a “take it to the streets” kind of guy, so I like Michigan Film First’s plan for a rally March 3 . Got a suggestion for how to show support? Feel free to share it as a comment.

Don’t Worry, BP Happy!

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 22, 2011 by admin in Clean & Green

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Solar Power? Plastic Bags? The Oil In The Gulf? A roundup of clean and green topics you don’t have to be worried about, or already aren’t.

One of the hardest things about being an environmental activist must be keeping up with whatever it is that you’re supposed to be being active about. First the world’s heating up. Then it’s not. Then it is again. And now, after several years of alarm about the perils of plastic bags – at least a dozen countries have banned them outright according to the single serving site called which countries have banned plastic – the UK environment agency has some pending report saying they’re not so bad after all. Their report focuses on carbon footprint issues though, and curiously overlooks other key issues. One of which is that we use at least a half billion of the things a year, and they have a predicted lifespan of (at the very minimum) a couple hundred years. Another of which is that in many countries the issue is as much related to health or simple aesthetics. When I was in Kenya a few years ago for instance, you could always tell when you were nearing a town, because the plastic bag litter density seemed to increase proportionately with your distance from the town center. So would you like paper, or plastic? Well, you’ll have more time to ponder that now, because according to Ray Kurzweil, you also no longer have to worry about solar energy progress. We’ll be all set in twenty years. Which is good, because in the same article, he also says we’re gonna live forever. And forever is long enough to watch a lot of flip-flops on oil spill concerns. Because you know that Deepwater spill you stopped worrying about? You can start again. About the only positive turnabout recently was on pharmaceuticals in the water supply. No, the problem hasn’t gone away, but now at least it’s okay if there’s Ecstasy in it. Maybe it’s time someone raised a stink about that whole methane assprint of cow farts thing again. It’s been a while.

What The Hell IS Presidents Day, Anyway?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 21, 2011 by admin in Holidays

Monday, February 21st, 2011

There seems to be a lot of confusion around what Presidents Day is actually celebrating. We’re here with the facts, and links to OTHER facts, if you don’t like ours. And by the way, Sarah Palin would make one mother of a founding father, don’t you think?

Sarah Palin would make one mother
of a founding father, don’tcha think?

It’s interesting that Presidents Day, in spite of indicating a plurality, only specifically acknowledges one president, i.e. George Washington. To add to the fun, please note that the Uniform Monday Holiday Act did not officially call Washington’s birthday “Presidents Day”, it just placed the official holiday between February 15 and 21, which means it never actually falls on his birthday! In spite of these easily researched facts, the holiday is often inaccurately described in the mainstream, multi-million dollar a year press as a combined celebration of Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthday, as in this AOL piece. But that’s okay. As George himself said: “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter”. And in this case AOL is only leading us dumb and silent to ignorance, not slaughter or anything. And ignorance is pretty hip these days. Especially when it comes to George Washington and the other founding fathers, who have sort of become the idealized heroes of the teabaggers and Sarah Palin. A phenomena that this USFCA piece observes is probably because they imagine that the founding fathers were “a composite of Atticus Finch, John the Baptist, and Ronald Reagan”. Let’s be clear though, Sarah isn’t partial to George or anything; much like newspapers and magazines, when it comes to founding fathers, she likes “all of ‘em”. Bill Maher gets a little harsher on this topic in the clip below. Enjoy, and Happy Presidents Day! Read the rest of this entry »

Great Songs With Nonsense Or Gibberish Lyrics

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 20, 2011 by admin in Music

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

It’s a fine line between nonsense and gibberish, especially when you insist on Mondegreening everything songwriters are saying. And mispelling “Lambs eat oats” doesn’t count either.

Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah is not actual gibberish; Jet
Screamer provides a translation right in the song.

One of my favorite pop songs ever was Kidney Bingos by Wire (video below). In spite of the fact that it consists entirely of nonsensical lines like “Natural splits sunburn jets, price marks smart bets” and has the refrain “Money spines paper lung, Kidney bingos organ fun”, it somehow manages to express a bittersweet sense of reflection and ambiguous hope. For me, nothing will kill a great pop song faster than bad lyrics, which is probably why I used to be so partial to French rap like MC Solaar and Assassin, or Arabic Hip Hop that I discovered via collections like like Rough Guide to Arabesque or Arabic Groove. Not only do the guttural qualities of the respective languages suit the style better than English, but for all I know, the artists are complaining about the foie gras at the local cafe, and not murder, race, and gender prejudice. My disinterest in the precise meanings of pop songs has served me well; frankly, I think many would agree that 90% of pop song lyrics are moderately incomprehensible on the first listen, and when we finally spend the time and energy to decipher the meaning, we’re likely to regret the effort. I think this principle was well understood through the 60′s and 70′s; I’d argue in fact that nearly the entire Beatles catalogue is comprised of songs with nonsense lyrics. But recently I ran across a tune I’d never heard before that sent me on a little mission, and forced me to rethink the whole meaning of “nonsense” when it comes to pop song lyrics. The song was “Prisencolinensinainciusol” (video below), released in 1972 by Italian entertainer Adriano Celentano. It’s a weird and hooky amalgam of big band and hambone-tinged rock ‘n’ roll, and although you at first get the impression he’s singing in some Slavic dialect or something, it turns out the lyrics are 100% gibberish. In any case, it got me wondering: how many pop songs with nonsense lyrics had become actual hits? And that’s where my search ran into trouble. One of the first tunes to spring to mind in this niche might be Harry Nilsson’s Lime In The Coconut, but you don’t have to look too hard to find people who will vigorously argue that it DOES mean something, and that you’re just too stupid to have bothered to understand it. This is true with lots of artists – Steely Dan, REM, or Nirvana are familiar culprits – often you just have to know a tiny piece of back-story, and all the meaning falls into place. And two other things compound the problem. One is the tendency to Mondegreen, so that we end up wondering what happened to Olive, the Other Reindeer, or wondering why Jimi Hendrix politely asks “excuse me, while I kiss this guy”. The other is that simply adding a bunch of gibberish syllables to an otherwise meaningful lyric does not technically make it a “nonsense lyric”. The Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” is a fine example of this. Aside from the fact that they used the word “bra” a good thirty years before the first frat boy or beach bum, the nonsense refrain hardly detracts from the obvious fact that life goes on in spite of Molly and Desmond’s frustrations. And in spite of the prevalence of lalas, oh-oo-whoas, and dip dips in Doo Wop, almost all the songs are clearly about broken hearts. And Oo Ee Oo Ah Ah Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang? Well, there IS an explanatory verse that makes it clear that it’s a spell provided by a witch doctor, right? So after a fairly exhaustive search, below are the only songs I could find that are truly absolute gibberish, with a few honorable mentions. Because nonsense is easy to come by, but genuine gibberish is an art. Feel free to share any omissions in the comments. Read the rest of this entry »

On The Internet, Nobody Knows You Are A Personality Management Software

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 19, 2011 by admin in Technology

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

The US government is actively soliciting online persona management software to manipulate consensus.

What if all your friends were
really chatbots and spies?

If you bother following tech news at all, it’s really no wonder that tinfoil hats are so fashionable these days. We recently talked about the takedown of security firm HBGary by the internet activist group Anonymous, but I didn’t bother mentioning one amusing thought that kept occurring to me, and frankly should occur to anyone who applies any thought to whistleblowing, reputation management, and disinformation strategies. Which is: what if HBGary was just a sort of honey trap for hacktivists? What better way to infiltrate your opponent than allowing them to think they’d infiltrated you, and made off with 4GB of sensitive internal e-mails? Four gigabytes of e-mails loaded with discussions about security exploits, with file attachments that were themselves exploits? What a great Trojan Horse to deliver to your enemy! And while perhaps I’m being a bit flip suggesting such a thing, you should find the reality of what has been revealed by perusing the HBGary e-mails even more disturbing. I personally have a lot of friends that I rarely see but often banter with online, and often joke that I’m just a sophisticated chatbot. Which for now of course is an absurd notion; in spite of supercomputers beating humans at Jeopardy, the average chatbot is still in the “conversation with a dullard” phase of development. But ponder this: so are most humans who spend their time commenting all over the internet. So here’s the disturbing bit. By now you should be familiar with things like political astroturfing and internet sockpuppets, but this DailyKos piece discusses what may be an even more disturbing concept that HBGary was working on – “persona management” software that allows the user of the software to appear online as an army of commenters to manipulate opinion and erode online trust, much like Digg Patriots.  It’s questionable how effective the tool would be at this point in terms of creating credible personas, but what is actually more worrying about this kind of tool is the latter notion. We’re already bombarded daily by various forms of phishing attempts, but what if all our social network interactions, blog commenting, and Twitter/RSS feeds were partially tainted by an intelligently-crafted stream of consensus manipulation, as that DailyKos piece suggests? Oh, and by the way. The US government is an interested customer. I look forward to your comments, even if you ARE just a piece of sentiment-manipulating software.

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