Archive for March, 2011

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Presidential Campaign 2012 – Bachmann Swingrich Overdrive

[ Comments Off ]Posted on March 26, 2011 by admin in Politics

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

With a field that so far includes Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and her understudy Michele Bachmann, the 2012 campaign trail promises to be more fun than a bucket full of clown noses.

Gingrich eats his words so he can spit
them out with a new preposition this fall.

I’ve always felt that politicians embody the most vile manifestation of celebrity, with newscasters hot on their tails. We like “real” celebrities – movie stars and music artists – because they’re pretty, or funny, or put a song in our heart. Newscasting has always seemed to draw people who want to be admired in this way, but fall a little short of silver screen level “star quality” or “It Factor”. But politicians? Dear God. They’re often not very attractive, they talk about things you don’t understand, care about, and exactly 50% of the time don’t agree with, and then they want you to LIKE them so much you actually have to trudge out and SAY SO in a voting booth. Since they’re generally so unattractive and disagreeable, that means that in order to secure this love and admiration they so desperately need, they have to lie and cheat almost constantly. Which is why I was so excited about the idea of the Newt Swingrich 2012 campaign. As such a despicable spouse cheat and hypocrite, he’s well on the way to winning our 2011 Best Politician award. Let’s not forget that Newt was not only cheating on his wife while engineering the Clinton/Lewisnky impeachment circus, he also was one of the key architects of the Contract with America. An interestingly titled document, since the only Americans that actually signed it were all GOP politicians. A document that was also interesting in that it is often credited with giving the GOP a congressional majority for the first time in decades, when this was in fact already well on the way to happening. It was sort of like Reagan shouting “tear down that wall” at a time when this was almost certain to happen anyway. Good timing and good politics, but not really “good leadership” in the conventional sense. In any case, I have much more to be excited about this week than last week regarding the 2012 presidential race. If historians record this era in America with any accuracy, it will be remembered as the era that turned politics into the DC version of “American Idol”, and Frank Luntz – GOP pollster, strategist, and author of the brilliant Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear – will be remembered as its kingmaker. And he’s at it again. You may have read or heard about his  survey work with 26 Iowa Republicans last month. The results were interesting, and could easily be spun in two distinctly different ways. While on the surface, Gingrich seemed to be the surprise winner, the inclusion of undeclared candidates like Michele Bachmann shifted the feel of things quite a bit. Suggesting that Bachmann may in fact be capable of more than just the Tancredo Effect. Just the other day CNN reported that she’ll be forming an exploratory committee by June. This would create a pretty volatile field, with the strongest contenders so far being Huckabee, Gingrich, Palin, and Bachmann. But can a teabagger candidate like Palin or Bachmann do anything but divide the party? Especially if there are two of them? And if they get enough media spin (as Andrew Breitbart says, Sarah’s really too good for the White House and should take her throne as the next Oprah) can the old-school white guys learn to work with them? Because they’d probably have to sign on to the teabagger remix of the Contract with America called the Contract FROM America . And then we have Trump to consider, and hell who knows, maybe even Hillary. As outlandish as THAT sounds, it was James Carville himself who not too long ago said “If Hillary gave [Obama] one of her balls, they’d both have two”. He also hilariously called Romney the “Designated White Guy”. Wherever this heads, you can trust we’ll have more fun than a tornado in a trailer park with the 2012 campaign trail. The Swingrich campaign is just the beginning. We’ll probably have to fine-tune our Donner Party platform, and give the Palyn/Quail ticket a re-think.

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I Hate Zombie Films, But Loved Pontypool

[ 2 Comments ]Posted on March 25, 2011 by admin in Popular Media

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Does that mean it’s not a zombie film? I’m not going to let that trouble me. The thing that disturbs me most is that the virus in the film seems to be spreading to the real wor the real the wor the real wor real world.

I really don’t like zombie movies. Well, okay. I liked Night of the Living Dead when I was a kid. And Shaun of the Dead was fun. But in general, the basic idea behind a zombie movie – a mindless mob chomping on something that’s probably not healthy for them – is too much like just living in America – which I already do – for me to get excited about. Which is why it’s odd that I LOVED Pontypool, because it’s a zombie movie. Or is it? While the story does involve mindless mobs chomping on each other, they’re mostly offscreen. There is a bit of gore, but I wouldn’t actually call it gratuitous; it was pretty purposeful from a dramatic point of view. And the entire story pretty much takes place in the confines of a radio station, while the world outside is going mad. No, Pontypool is more a suspense film with cultural-linguistic and socio-political commentary. Sort of like Talk Radio meets the original War of the Worlds radio broadcast . But better. The film makes clever use of Antonin Artaud’s idea of theater as infection, and Burroughs’ concept of language as a virus. And the commentary I mentioned is used sparingly; this is really a pretty solid “low budget” suspense film, with a balanced dose of humor and a little mystery to engage you. Is it an alien zombie apocalypse? A biological warfare experiment gone wrong? Is the strange behavior of the unseen mobs being caused by something in the radio transmission? What if simply speaking transmitted a disease? How could you tell anyone? Except for that last question, these are familiar enough story premises, so Pontypool doesn’t kill them with exposition, instead letting them answer themselves as the story unfolds. But imagine if words broadcast over radio or television had the ability to spread a bizarre condition that in turn affected your speech to help transmit the condition further? That would be a prah. A prah. A prah. A prah. Oh crap. A prah. A PROBLEM. Actually, one of the most disturbing things about this clever little zombie suspense film is that it seems to be manifesting in the real world. See the two news clips below, after the trailer. Oh, and Pontypool was adapted from the book Pontypool Changes Everythingand is also available as a BBC radio play.

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Internet Insecurity

[ Comments Off ]Posted on March 24, 2011 by admin in Technology

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

After the recent breaches of ultimate, top-level security resources like RSA and Comodo, giving sites like Facebook twice as much info for “enhanced security” seems like a faulty strategy.

Earlier today I had an experience that reminded me that – like many of us – I should really get more on top of managing my various internet accounts and their passwords better than I do. I was trying to log in to my YouTube “Director” account, and YouTube was trying to link the account to a Google acccount. I wouldn’t have minded this, except when I tried to link the Google account and the YouTube account – which had the same username, by the way – YouTube would tell me that the account was already linked to another Google account, which it wasn’t. After twenty minutes of password resets and cookie deletions, I finally managed to log in to my own account. And then GMail suggested I add additional user information as part of Google’s interpretation of Two-factor authentication. I opted not to do so. Why? Because I simply don’t believe that either Google or Facebook (which is trying to do the same thing by asking for your phone number as part of your account verification) is enacting these programs strictly for security purposes. Both Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Eric Schmidt of Google are on record as saying that they don’t believe that privacy is in your future, that anonymity is intrinsically bad (Zuckerberg has hilariously said “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity”), and that we all need a verified identity on the web. This would make a lot of sense if you could in fact trust any web service to absolutely protect the information you gave them, but you can’t. In just the past week, two of the web’s ultimate sources of security verification – RSA and Comodo – have been hacked, a breach that Comodo’s own CEO Melih Abdulhayoglu likened to a web version of the September 11 attacks. And this of course is all hot on the tail of the well-publicized “Anonymous” attack of security firm HBGary. I’m no security expert, but I’m perfectly capable of thinking like a criminal. And my criminal mind tells me that giving twice as much information to an entity I can’t trust – i.e. any web-based service – really leaves me twice as vulnerable in the event that the entity is compromised. Which it almost certainly will be some day. I have made a casual but consistent effort to keep my online identity usefully accessible, without sharing my entire identity in one place, and will continue to do so. Common sense tells me that one-point interactions with services like Google, Facebook, banks, and other services, with a variety of e-mail accounts and varied passwords, is a decent strategy. But I think I need to ramp things up a bit. This article about password usage on Lifehacker – while screaming with irony because Lifehacker was one of the sites hacked when Anonymous went after Gawker – does hit on some key points. The author says he has 90+ accounts to manage. I’d put my number closer to 30, although if I add the accounts of clients, it may be more like 50 or 60. I’m beginning to do a bad job of managing them all, but plan to tighten things up where I can. At least I don’t use any of the 500 most common passwords. What about you? Do you trust sites like Google and Facebook with your full name, phone number, and other personal details? Or do you keep things closer to the chest?

Music Industry Plans To Pay Off Federal Deficit

[ Comments Off ]Posted on March 23, 2011 by admin in Music

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

How else would you explain a $75 Trillion lawsuit? Yes. We said trillion.

It’s been clear for a while that the established music industry missed the boat to the digital age, and that their innovative new business model is primarily based on suing the pants off their own customers and pirating music from their own artists. But if you’ve been following these bizarre attempts by the music industry to remain profitable, one thing that that might be troubling you lately is the way that the government seems to be operating as a tool for the entertainment industry to execute this doomed strategy. The fact that the Department of Homeland Security basically admits that it’s the private police force of the entertainment industry raises perfectly reasonable questions like “Is CD Piracy a Matter for Homeland Security?” And for the entertainment industry to pursue this kind of strategy more aggressively than ever – especially at a time when consumer piracy has declined almost 50% in three years – has personally left me perplexed. Until today, when I finally figured out the long-term goal of this bizarre partnership between agencies devoted to national security and the people who bring you wonderful and innovative products like Justin Bieber and Toy Story 3. They’re out to eliminate the federal deficit. How else would you explain the music industry’s $75 Trillion lawsuit against Lime Wire? Yes, you read that right. Seventy five trillion dollars. That’s enough to pay off the current federal deficit 45 times, if you’re curious.

The Only Thing Worse Than Julian Assange As A Houseguest…

[ Comments Off ]Posted on March 22, 2011 by admin in Popular Media

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

…would be staying at this couple’s apartment.

Or is there something else going on here? A friend sent me a link to the video below today; it’s supposedly a re-enactment of Assange’s stay at the home of friends of established comedy writer Allison Silverman. As I watched the video distractedly while I worked on something else, I thought to myself  “Yeah, yeah. Pretty much what you’d expect from some narcissistic, self-aggrandizing, internationally known hacktivist type“.  I expected to find at least a little humor in the thing, but didn’t. In fact, as I continued to watch, I found myself thinking “Damn, these pretentious urban hipster assholes are even worse than Assange!” I mean, by creating an elaborate video featuring their friends Michael Brumm and Peter Gwinn (Colbert writers) and David Rees (creator of Get Your War On) to publicly air their petty complaint about their slovenly houseguest, weren’t they themselves showing even less class and more ignorance of “real” social grace? In the end, I’m not so sure. If you haven’t seen the video, please watch it before you read the rest of what I have to say, below.

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