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Ed Driscoll

Pajamas Theater 3000

Nobody Expects the Guy Caballero Democrats!

October 28th, 2014 - 12:22 pm

“Texas Democrat At Wendy Davis Event Said Greg Abbott ‘Just Rolls Around’ In His Wheelchair,” as spotted by Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller:

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis shared the stage at a recent campaign event with a fellow Democratic state lawmaker who mocked the disability of state Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running against Davis for governor.

“And then we have this guy who kind of just rolls around thinking that he can get tort reform for himself but take it away from everybody else in the state of Texas,” said state representative Dawnna Dukes at the event which was held Saturday in Pflugerville, just east of Austin.

Dukes’ remarks were filmed and uploaded to YouTube.

On October 14th, Davis campaign media surrogate Andrea Mitchell referred to Abbott’s “supposed disability.” Today it’s another Davis campaigner. I can understand the rationale behind zany JFK and 9/11 Truthers; but nobody expects the Guy Caballero Democrats!

10/4! It’s National CB Radio Day

October 4th, 2014 - 3:30 pm

“Regardless of your feelings toward Jimmy Carter, I think we can all agree that his finest act as president was the creation of National CB Radio day. Carter designated October 4, 10/4, as a day to honor the citizens band,” Road and Track notes.

CB radio was hated by elites back in its faddish heyday, of course. Near the end of his mammoth (22,000 words!), otherwise beautifully-written profile of Johnny Carson for the New Yorker in 1978, Kenneth Tynan noted that while Carson was glad millions of America tuned in every night to make him exceedingly wealthy in the limited mass media era of only three national commercial TV channels, he loathed the idea that just anybody could have access to the airwaves as well. And of course, the man writing his profile for the New Yorker* concurred entirely:

Before I go, Carson takes me down to a small gymnasium beneath the module. It is filled with gleaming steel devices, pulleys and springs and counterweights, which, together with tennis, keep the star’s body trim. In one corner stands a drum kit at which Buddy Rich might cast an envious eye. “That’s where I work off my hostilities,” Carson explains. He escorts me to my car, and notices that it is fitted with a citizens-band radio. “I had one of those damned things, but I ripped it out after a couple of weeks,” he says. “I just couldn’t bear it—all those sick anonymous maniacs shooting off their mouths.”

I understand what he means. Most of what you hear on CB radio is either tedious (truck drivers warning one another about speed traps) or banal (schoolgirls exchanging notes on homework), but at its occasional—and illegal—worst it sinks a pipeline to the depths of the American unconscious. Your ears are assaulted by the sound of racism at its most rampant, and by masturbation fantasies that are the aural equivalent of rape. The sleep of reason, to quote Goya’s phrase, brings forth monsters, and the anonymity of CB encourages the monsters to emerge. Not often, of course; but when they do, CB radio becomes the dark underside of a TV talk show. No wonder Carson loathes it.

As Glenn Reynolds wrote back in 2003 at Tech Central Station (where I was also a regular contributor), Weblogs in their early days were often sneeringly compared to CB radio by elitist leftwing outlets such as Columbia Journalism School. Glenn added that  while “Citizens’ Band radio gets a bum rap nowadays...CB was a revolution in its time, whose effects are still felt today:”

Before Citizens’ Band was created, you needed a license to be on the air, with almost no exceptions. Radio was seen as Serious Technology For Serious People, nothing for normal folks to fool around with, at least not without government approval. Citizens’ Band put an end to that, not by regulatory design but by popular fiat. Originally, a license was required for Citizens’ Band, too, but masses of people simply broke the law and operated without a license until the FCC was forced to bow to reality. It was a form of mass civil disobedience that accomplished in its sphere what drug-legalization activists have never been able to accomplish in theirs. No small thing.

And it didn’t stop there. Citizens’ Band radio became popular because of widespread resistance to another example of regulatory overreach: the unpopular 55-mile-per-hour speed limit. Actually passed in 1974, but popularly identified with Jimmy Carter’s “moral equivalent of war,” speed limits were for the first time set not for reasons of safety, but for reasons of politics and social engineering. Americans rejected that approach in massive numbers, and entered into a state of more-or-less open rebellion. CB was valuable — as songs like Convoy! and movies like Smokey and the Bandit illustrated — because it allowed citizens to spontaneously organize against what they saw as illegitimate authority.

And it worked: the 55 mile per hour speed limit was repealed. That (plus the gradual introduction of cheap and effective radar detectors, which allowed citizens to watch for speed traps while still listening to their car stereos) gradually ended the Citizens Band revolution.

Well, sort of. Because like many fads, Citizens Band didn’t really go away. It just faded from view, and turned into something else.

CB played an inadvertent role in launching the early days of the online world as well. Even as the CB radio craze was fading from the headlines in 1980, CompuServe branded their first chat applications their “CB Simulator:”

CompuServe CB Simulator was the first dedicated online chat service that was widely available to the public. It was developed by a CompuServe executive, Alexander “Sandy” Trevor, and released by CompuServe in 1980.

At that time, most people were familiar with citizens band radio, often abbreviated as CB radio, but multi-user chat and instant messaging were largely unknown. CompuServe CB used the CB radio paradigm to help users understand the new concept. Like CB radio it had 40 “channels” and commands like “tune”, “squelch”, and “monitor.” CompuServe CB quickly became the largest single product on CompuServe despite virtually no marketing. When 40 channels was not enough, additional “bands” were added, such as the “Adult” band.

The first online wedding occurred on CompuServe CB, and worldwide fans organized events to meet in the “real world” people they had met in CB. Compuserve’s CBIG (CB Interest Group) Sysop Chris Dunn (ChrisDos) met his wife Pamela (Zebra3) there in the early 1980s, eventually being featured on the Phil Donahue Show.[3] Later, enhancements to CompuServe CB were made to enable multiplayer games, digital pictures, multimedia, and large conferences. For example, Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones held the first online multimedia conference using CompuServe CB from London on December 7, 1995.

Dubbing their chat program “CB” was a marketing masterstroke for CompuServe, as it made the applet both immediately understandable and it broadcast to the world that it was user-friendly, no small feat in an era where buying a first personal computer and getting online were both scary propositions for all but the most dedicated early adopters.

I know — I was connecting to CompuServe myself around 1982 and ’83 on my TRS-80 Model I and blazing fast 300 baud Hayes Smartmodem; I joined the online network largely because of the CB brand name, having been involved in CB as well a few years earlier.

The impact of CB radio on the culture was astonishingly deep considering how quickly it flamed out in the pop culture as a fad; it will be fun to look back around 2030 to see how the early Web culture of the late ’90s and early “naughts” plays out.

…Assuming the oceans haven’t “shut down” by then of course, as NBC, with Carson and his cool self-assurance having long left the building, is currently predicting.

*Then home for Pauline “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them” Kael.

Making Sense of #GamerGate

October 2nd, 2014 - 1:00 pm

“I’m a political writer and I don’t pretend to be more than a casual gamer,” Ashten Whited writes at Pocket Full of Liberty, which puts her one up on me. As I’ve said before, I largely retired from videogames when I unplugged my ColecoVision — there are only so many hours in the day. (Though I do have a product review up at the PJ Lifestyle blog this week that hints at the hobby that I also use my computer for.)

“However, I find GamerGate remarkable. I know people express antipathy to bringing politics into GamerGate, and I don’t seek to hijack it, but hear me out: GamerGate is already about politics,” Whited notes. Which is true — the left views everything through a political lens; after all, it’s been their stated opinion for decades that “the personal is political” (is personal, to complete the Mobius loop):

’Gamers’ are over,” social justice charioteer Leigh Alexander pronounced smugly.

Mainstream videogames do not cater to feminists’ tastes. That does not mean that women are being “marginalized,” it means they are not the target consumer demographic, as they freely admit when they declare male-oriented games unappealing. Despite this, gamers placate feminists like Anita Sarkeesian who hold gaming culture in disdain and view escapism that is male in nature, such as Call of Duty or rescuing Princess Peach, as a problem that must be eliminated under their magnanimous direction. Feminists especially hold male sexuality in contempt, and are fussily ruffled by voluptuous, pixelated vixens that titillate the “male gaze.”

Radical (read: contemporary) feminists define the problem as men. Thus fantasies of male heroism are slated to be wiped from public consumption. Male chivalry is dead; women are the new white knights. Today’s third wave feminists (or “Third Wave Frustrationists,” as cleverly coined by Milo Yiannopoulos) kvetch the tired refrain, “Feminism is about equality!” It is a transparent Trojan Horse. These feminists are intolerant of masculinity, and their movement is about having power over men. They do not recognize healthy interdependence between the sexes, instead seeing a power struggle. They seek to feminize men and in doing so, masculinize themselves— and they are succeeding, through targeting boys. In public schools, boys are falling increasingly behind in performance, according to scholar Christina Hoff Sommers. In psychiatrists’ offices, young boys are overdiagnosed with ADHD and autism and are “medicated” for being “rambunctious” (i.e. behaviorally modified to fit the prevailing PC norm for how little boys should behave). This ideology is about subjugation, through wheedling, subtle manipulation and emotionally blackmailing rhetoric like “if you’re not a feminist, you’re a misogynist.”

In short, feminism in the West has assumed the features of an authoritarian movement.

But then authoritarianism was in the bloodstream of feminism long before Nolan Bushnell ever set paddle to Pong.

However, according to Jasyn Jones, who blogs at the tastefully named Website “Daddy Warpig’s House of Geekery” (I love it), the “’Gamers’ are over” manifesto has had some very interesting pushback:

You can read a bit of it there on the image, and the rest of it here, but it said (in essence) “Gamers are dead, and good riddance!” After all, gamers are “obtuse shitslingers” whose “only main [sic] cultural signposts” are “Have money. Have women. Get a gun and then a bigger gun.” In short, abuse. And pretty vitriolic and one-sided abuse.

And that same day, in a coincidence so outrageous it staggers the imagination, this happened:

Click over to Jones’ post to see a fascinating example of what appears to be Journolist-style collusion behind the scenes to advance the “gamers are over” narrative, which dovetails into Milo Yiannopoulos’ series of posts at Breitbart London on the videogame journalism industry’s own Journolist scandal. Followed by the aforementioned Leigh Alexander personally insulting her readers on Twitter. As Jones writes, “This isn’t just insulting your customers wholesale, it’s insulting them retail. Personally. One by one. In alphabetical order, for all I know:”

The odd thing is, most gaming media figures have joined her. But there’s a problem, and it’s one I can’t solve: what’s their end game? What do they think they’re accomplishing by insulting the people who provide them with paychecks?

As I see it:

Attack customers -> they leave. No customers, no clicks. No clicks, no ads. No ads, no money. No money, no site.

Is it really all that complicated? You don’t punch your customers in the face repeatedly, and expect them to remain your customers. Doing so anyway is a recipe for bankruptcy. (And is sheer lunacy.)

See also: implosion of MSM organizations that go full-on into social justice warrior mode and insult their customers. By the time the Washington Post was sold to Jeff Bezos last year, as John Nolte noted at Big Journalism, it had lost 87 percent of its value from the prior decade. (Along similar lines, Mark Steyn compared Bezos $250 million acquisition fee last year of one of the most legendary newspapers in the world to the much less influential Worcester Telegram & Gazette in Massachusetts being sold in 1999 for $295 million.) Prior to Bezos’ acquisition, the Post famously unloaded Newsweek for a dollar after its foray into hard left politics caused it to shed most of its readership.

Similarly, the New York Times has been hemorrhaging money since the Howell Raines era; arguably, only Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s financial backing has allowed the Sulzberger family to maintain ownership, but only at the cost of cutting 7.5 percent of its staff (on top of other employee cuts in recent years). And as we noted last night, MSNBC is getting their clocks cleaned in the ratings department; “MSNBC: Best Demo Night In Two Weeks Is ‘Lockup’ Marathon,” Big Journalism reported on Monday.

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Asking the Important Questions

September 16th, 2014 - 11:55 am

Are video games sexist? Christina Hoff Sommers takes on the social[ist] justice warriors who, as she says, “wants the male video game culture to die.” It’s also a good introduction to #Gamergate, if you’re still trying to make sense of it all.

Of course, as we’ve noted in our previous post on the topic of #Gamergate, what’s going on the video game journalism industry is the same thing that’s going on in every facet of journalism, where objectivity is discarded and replaced with open leftwing advocacy and “concernocrats,” aka “hipsters with degrees in cultural studies.”

Related: “It didn’t used to be this way. ESPN used to be a sports network that covered sports and wasn’t a delivery system for the social and political message of the day. But, that’s what it’s become.”

Because  the left sees the need to begin “reprogramming the way we raise men.”

Oh swell, time for the left to create their latest model of “The New Man.” What could go wrong?

I haven’t really followed “GamerGate,” because the last videogame I purchased had an Atari logo on the boxtop — or was it ColecoVision? (Which isn’t meant to sound condescending to those who are into videogames. Like a reformed heroin addict or model airplane builder, I just know I’d lose thousands of hours of my life getting sucked down the rabbit hole if I took up that hobby again.) But with a little editing, Milo Yiannopoulos’s new article at Big Hollywood, “An Open Letter to the Video Gaming Community from a Self-Confessed Right-Wing Bastard” is easily applicable to the MSM at large:

If I were a video games journalist, I’d be terrified right now, because I’d know that, for all my shrill protestations, sneering and arrogance, my industry had just entered a death spiral entirely of its own making.

The video game journalism industry, that is, not [many of the topics it covers] gaming itself, which [have] never been more vibrant. As I wrote last week, gaming journalism, populated by well-meaning liberals, has forgotten what it is for and become consumed with social justice activism, at the expense of writing intelligently about games [virtually every subject matter.]

To give just one example of the hatred between gamers [readers] and the journalists who are supposed to serve them, Chris Grant, editor-in-chief of gaming news site Polygon, is blocking his own readers on Twitter by the thousand, together with journalists and academics whose opinions he doesn’t like. It’s unprecedented in an industry that ought to stick up for readers instead of sucking up to lobbyists and the powers that be.

It’s also a remarkable display of political intolerance, not to mention a serious strategic error. Grant, and others like him, have given up any pretense of wanting to engage in dialogue with alternative opinions and instead hunkered down with a small but noisy minority readership of single-issue campaigners, feminist blowhards and perpetually angry “social justice warriors” to the exclusion of the backbone of his readership.

Read the whole thing, even if, like me, you’re not all that into videogames.

As VDH wrote in in late October 2008 about the MSM at large, as they ceased feigning even a shred of objectivity and completed their transformation into almost entirely Democrat operatives with bylines, “Sometime in 2008, journalism as we knew it died, and advocacy media took its place.”

Of course, it had been a long time building; at the end of last month, we ran the video of the appearance of a Newsweek/Washington Post editor on C-Span in 1992, who told Brian Lamb that she enjoyed wearing a button that said, “Yeah, I’m In The Media, Screw You!”, and that “I think that sometimes I want to say to the electorate `Grow up!’”

The MSM really does think of its consumers as children, minds of tabla rasa to be molded into a leftwing worldview, objectivity and facts be damned. (Just ask them.)

As with journalists who cover politics, environmentalism, music, movies, and sports journalism, no one should be surprised that another subset of the profession has followed suit.

Sky Captain and the Derps of Tomorrow

September 3rd, 2014 - 12:39 pm

Update: Still though, pilots should remain ever vigilant, as the Daily Mail’s Fleet Street rivals at the London Telegraph warn:
london_telegraph_icloud_cartoon_9-3-14-2

Greatest. Headline. Ever. Courtesy of Reuters and Yahoo:

The singer Chubby Checker has settled a lawsuit in which he accused Hewlett-Packard Co of using his trademarked name without permission on a software app that purported to measure the size of a man’s penis.

HP denied liability in agreeing to settle with Checker, whose given name is Ernest Evans, but agreed not to make future use of his stage name, likeness or related trademarks.

The settlement was disclosed in a Tuesday filing with the San Francisco federal court. Other terms remain confidential. It is unclear whether money changed hands.

He said hands. [Insert Beavis and Butthead chuckle here.]

But what exactly was the once staid and respectable firm of Hewlett-Packard thinking, when they created or began marketing what Reuters describes as an app “which purported to let women estimate the size of a man’s genitals based on his shoe size” in the first place?

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Through a Google Glass, Darkly

April 17th, 2014 - 11:52 pm

1984-not-a-users-guide

In the mid-1960s, George Plimpton signed an insurance waiver, donned an NFL helmet and uniform, went through training camp, and played a few downs of preseason football for the Detroit Lions to describe what it was like to see the world through the eyes of an NFL quarterback. In the new issue of the Weekly Standard, Matt Labash plunks down $1,500 (“$1,633.12 with tax,” he adds) to be a beta tester for Google, and describe what it’s like to see the world through Google Glass, the first device since the Segway that simultaneously places its user both on the cutting edge of 21st century technology, and makes him appear as a dork ripe for satire.*

Along the way, Labash encounters several creepy moments — such as Google contacting him out of the blue, perhaps based on their examining the material he’s been compiling via his Google Glass, and then this moment inside a “hillbilly bar” in Rockville Maryland, the sort of place where where Labash can wear his “futuristic face computer into these bastions of the past and report the results:”

We order a pitcher of beer, and after two glasses of lubricant, I lunge into the crowd, taping people, telling them I’m taping them, basically being a Glasshole, just trying to get a rise.

I can’t seem to agitate anybody. One guy asks me, “Can we put it on?!!!” Another tough guy wants to know, “How do you scroll?” Others take pictures of me with their iPhones. Everybody’s so used to being Instagrammed, Tweeted, and Facebooked​—​what’s one more on the dogpile? Most of them, I’m told, work for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, just down the road. (“Montgomery County is totally being taken over by government drones,” Eddie says.)

Finally, a whiskered older gent in a blue-crab-adorned Maryland sweatshirt that reads “Don’t bother me, I’m crabby” squares up to me. It seems he’s been eavesdropping on my conversations, and I’m guessing he’s about to tell me where I can put my Glass, which is still rolling. His name is Charles Wilhelm, a retiree who used to work for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Just so he’s clear, I inform Wilhelm that I’m taping him with my face. Then, I prepare to take my medicine.

“It doesn’t matter,” he says. Huh? “Because you’ll find in this society, we’re all subject to videotaping.” But, I point out to him, I’m a private citizen, taping another private citizen for no compelling reason. Just because I can. What if he were here with his girlfriend instead of his wife, and I posted it on the Internet? “So?” he shrugs. “Really, so that’s it?” I ask him. “Yes,” he says, nonchalantly. “Why?” I ask. “Because I’m a follower of George Orwell’s 1984, and so I’m a believer in the concept of community observation.” I point out that I’m fairly certain Orwell was trying to make the opposite point, that his was a critique, not an endorsement, of a surveillance society.

“I disagree,” he replies, obstinately. “Because in my view, you would have less terrorism if you had more observation by the state.” I wave my hand at the surrounding khakis, pointing out that I’m fairly certain I’m not recording any terrorists in Hank Dietle’s. “That’s irrelevant,” huffs Wilhelm. “You can still explode a fairly good device.”

“And maybe this is it,” I say, pointing to my Glass.

“So what’s your point?” he asks. I tell him I’m just giving him a hard time. “Have a good evening, sir,” Wilhelm says brusquely, stomping off.

I trudge back to my table, defeated, relaying the conversation to Eddie, who is gobsmacked. “So he read [1984] as utopia instead of dystopia?” Seemingly, he did​. ​I give up.

That’s just a taste of Labash’s 10,000 word article; definitely port the whole thing into your cerebellum through whichever downloading technique you prefer. (Those not yet retrofitted with bioports for instant media assimilation will have to simply read the article.)

Of course, even in San Francisco, whose city government — and presumably, a pretty good chunk of the electorate who vote for them — similarly view 1984 as a how-to guide to better living through totalitarian oligarchies, Google Glasses are despised. Earlier in Labash’s article, he retells the story of the women who had her Google Glass smashed in a San Francisco punk rock bar in February — funny how people in bars don’t really like being recorded, eh? Particularly by someone who goes in shouting of “I want to get this white trash on tape!” and flipping the bird to your fellow tipplers, while wearing a Star Trek prop on her face.

In a recent post at the Daily Caller, Jim Treacher (who makes a few snarky cameos via Twitter and Instant Messenger in Labash’s article) Describes another incident involving Google Glass in happy, peaceful, tolerant San Francisco:

Sometimes a theft is just a theft. But not when the item being stolen is Google Glass, and especially not when the victim is a tech writer in San Francisco.

Kyle Russell, Business Insider:

On Friday night, I was assaulted while walking down the sidewalk in the Mission District of San Francisco.

A colleague and I had just finished covering a march in protest of a Google employee who had recently evicted several tenants after buying and moving into a home in the area…

The aforementioned colleague and I were on our way to the 16th Street BART station — I’ll note that I wasn’t using any device at the time — when a person put their hand on my face and yelled, “Glass!”

In an instant the person was sprinting away, Google Glass in hand.

I ran after, through traffic, to the corner of the opposite block. The person pivoted, shifting their weight to put all of their momentum into an overhand swing. The Google Glass smashed into the ground, and they ran in another direction.

The thief and vandal hasn’t been caught. And to young Mr. Russells’s surprise, people on Twitter haven’t been very nice about it:

Wow, if you can’t Start From Zero and reprogram basic human emotions in San Francisco, where can you reprogram them?

* I haven’t tried Google Glass yet, but I can vouch firsthand for the simultaneous bleeding edge/endorkening effect of riding a Segway, as this February 2002 blackmail photo shot inside the offices of Segway’s PR firm for a magazine article illustrates.

I never posted anything to mark the 12th anniversary of my blog last month, but this Tweet by Rob Nebbell, aka N.Z. Bear, found by Moe Green, sure brings back memories. I’m there at about nine o’clock on the above chart. As for how I made it into the Blogosphere, well, an article I wrote on the nascent Blogosphere, based on interviews with a few of the same folks in the above chart — and written almost the same time as  Rob’s was crafting it — has you covered.

And while my blog is positively paleolithic, if you really want to feel old, just watch:

As I posted in the comments at Ricochet in response to the above video, if you really want to blow the minds of these impressionable tykes, hand ‘em a 12-inch laser disc.

Breaking News From 1977

April 14th, 2014 - 10:50 pm

“Glow-in-the-dark roads make debut in Netherlands,” Wired magazine’s UK branch reports:

Light-absorbing glow-in-the-dark road markings have replaced streetlights on a 500m stretch of highway in the Netherlands.

Studio Roosegaarde  promised us the design back in 2012, and after cutting through rather a lot of government red tape we can finally see the finished product.

One Netherlands   news report said, ”It looks like you are driving through a fairytale,” which pretty much sums up this extraordinary project. The design studio like to bring technology and design to the real world, with practical and beautiful results.

Back in October 2012, Daan Roosegaarde, the studio’s founder and lead designer, told us: “One day I was sitting in my car in the Netherlands, and I was amazed by these roads we spend millions on but no one seems to care what they look like and how they behave. I started imagining this Route 66 of the future where technology jumps out of the computer screen and becomes part of us.”

Huh. I started imaging the HO scale slot car set in my basement from 1977:

The real-life glow-in-the-dark road certainly looks cool, in a cross between Tron and the above Tyco slot car set. But I can imagine plenty of unintended consequences with the streetlights gone from the highways:

What’s your take on this experiment? Would you want to see it replicated on a highway you regularly traverse?

Publishers Without Borders

March 22nd, 2014 - 1:06 pm

this_is_progress_2-28-14

BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins attacks the conservative book publishing industry, part of the usual ongoing BuzzFeed hits against the right in general (and the left are eating it up, not surprisingly), but downplays how dramatically in flux the entire publishing industry is. Borders is no more, and Barnes & Noble has essentially become, like Best Buy, a chain of walk-in Amazon showrooms, with its Nook eReader — and possibly the brand itself — in danger of being overrun by Amazon and Apple’s eBook format. The hard copy printed book increasingly seems likely within a few years to be relegated to being reserved for Christmas gifts and coffee table books.

The possible demise of the physical bookstore is a mixed blessing. I used to love browsing multiple times a week in my local Borders before it vanished — and brought back a large quantity of books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines — along with the memories, as everyone on the right probably has had, of the clerk with multiple piercings and limbs full of green ink rolling his or her bloodshot eyes at my purchases. And as Jonah Goldberg noted in 2008, even as Liberal Fascism was zooming up to number one on the New York Times bestseller charts, multiple readers reported the book being hidden in their local Borders because of the cover.

On the other hand, between my Kindle and tablet, I have access to hundreds of books, movies, and my entire music library anywhere there’s a Wi-Fi or 4G connection. While the cartoon atop this post humorously, if cynically, boils the information revolution down to a single isolating experience, in reality, the headlong transformation of music, movies, and books into portable digital formats is one of the great stories of this age, and its ramifications, both pro and con, will take years to ascertain. The state of the book publishing industry — on the left and right — needs to be seen in that context to be understood, something sorely missing from BuzzFeed’s attack article.

But hey, as I wrote back in 2010, if you surf around the Internet long enough, you’ll find plenty of writers concluding that “Whatever Your Ideology, Your Opponents’ Worldview Is Officially Dead.” As BuzzFeed’s hit piece illustrates, why not his books, as well?

Related: “Adam Bellow Unveils New Media Publishing Platform Liberty Island,” in an interview with Sarah Hoyt at the PJ Lifestyle blog.

Update: On the flipside, that above cartoon can also be summarized thusly: “Everything from 1991 Radio Shack ad I now do with my phone” — “13 electronic products for $5k (and 290 hrs. work) can now be replaced with a $200 iPhone (10 hrs.),” as Mark J. Perry writes at the American Enteprise Institute:

Instead of spending so much time obsessing about income inequality, the “top 1%,” the “decline of the middle class,” and generally criticizing and blaming the free market for every woe, maybe we should devote more time to celebrating how the “miracle of the marketplace” has brought about rising living standards for all income groups in America, especially low-income households. Falling prices of manufactured goods like food, cars, clothing, household appliances, computers and electronics have probably given low-income households in the US greater access to the “good life” than all of the government programs and safety nets that are part of the trillion dollars of spending on America’s “War on Poverty.”

Which isn’t a message that BuzzFeed will be publishing anytime soon, alas.

Update (3/23/14): Welcome readers of Kathy Shaidle’s Five Feet of Fury blog. Kathy returns from a visit with that rare and ever-vanishing species — the physical bookstore — with a reminder, at least to me, of yet another virtue of the Kindle, particularly in its PC version: “it felt kind of cool to be skimming the paper indices of dusty old-ish books again. But that ‘cool’ feeling doesn’t get columns written.”

Unlike physical books which need to be scanned and OCRed, the Kindle, particularly in its PC app, does make it much easier to inject a passage from a book into a column or blog post, as seen in my recent posts spotlighting Fred Siegel’s The Revolt Against the Masses, Douglas Brinkley’s Cronkite biography, and James Delingpole’s Little Green Book of Eco-Fascism. Which further promotes those books quoted and hopefully gets them read by others (and ideally, writing their own blog posts about them).

Have a Coke and a Simile

February 28th, 2014 - 2:38 pm

this_is_progress_2-28-14

Multiple problems, solved by one simple polypropylene solution:

Sony Says Sayonara to Vaio

February 17th, 2014 - 7:08 pm

“Sony Now Predicts a $1.1 Billion Loss, Shuts Down PC Business,” Reuters reports:

Sony is shuttering its computer business, refocusing its TV division on high-end units and laying off 5,000 people. It is also predicting a massive loss of 110 billion yen, or $1.1 billion, for the fiscal year, a drastic change from its prediction three months ago of a 30-billion yen profit ($294 million).

There was a time, long ago, when it looked as if Japanese electronics companies — and foremost among them Sony — would take over the world. But no longer. Apple and Samsung dominate the consumer market for tablets and smartphones, and Sony is now being forced to undergo costly restructuring to survive.

At the Chicago Boyz econo-blog, David Foster quotes from posts he wrote on Sony in 2005 and 2012, predicting trouble to come. In the latter post, he noted:

In his Financial Times article Why Sony did not invent the iPod, John Kay notes that there have been many cases in which large corporations saw correctly that massive structural changes were about to hit their industries–attempted to position themselves for these changes by executing acquisitions or joint ventures–and failed utterly. As examples he cites Sony’s purchase of CBC Records and Columbia Pictures, the AT&T acquisition of NCR, and the dreadful AOL/Time Warner affair. He summarizes the reason why these things don’t tend to work:

A collection of all the businesses which might be transformed by disruptive innovation might at first sight appear to be a means of assembling the capabilities needed to manage change. In practice, it is a means of gathering together everyone who has an incentive to resist change.

Read the whole thing; no Vaio Required.

Mozilla Plans to Sell Ads in Firefox Browser

February 12th, 2014 - 1:53 pm

Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox Internet browser, will start selling ads as it tries to grab a larger slice of the fast-expanding online advertising market,” Reuters reports:

Novice Firefox users now see nine blank tiles when they open up the browser, which fill in over time with their most-visited or recently visited websites. Now, Mozilla intends to display the most popular sites by location, as well as sponsored websites that will be clearly labeled as such.

Semi-serious question: will the Adblock Plus plug-in for the Firefox browser block the ads that Mozilla intends to place inside the Firefox browser?

 

Are You an iPhone Zombie?

December 26th, 2013 - 1:38 pm


“Apple knows it has turned us into iZombies, and has become defensive about it, releasing its own little movie arguing that there’s some upside to this depressing new reality,” Kyle Smith wrote this past weekend at the New York Post:

Its new 90-second commercial, “Misunderstood,” centers on a teenaged lost soul who refuses to take part in a Yuletide family reunion. As family members build snowmen and exchange hugs, he hangs off to the side by himself, forever sulking into his iPhone.

It turns, though, that he’s not only aware of the festivities around him but he’s been carefully filming and editing the sweetest moments into a home movie that he climactically debuts on the living room TV, to general merriment and wonder. At the end of the home movie, he includes a shot of himself doing something we haven’t seen him do before: He smiles.

Now they get it: The weird loner, the emotionless little gadget monkey who never talks to anyone, is actually a proto-Spielberg who loves his family and is destined to warm hearts by the millions.

Apple’s intended message is that if you get an iPhone, you’ll be more in the moment, more in harmony with your surroundings, more lovingly connected than ever before.

In the history of nice tries, this one has to rank just below the mid-century effort by the tobacco industry to assuage fears about the safety of its products: One ad declared, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!” Another: “Tests showed 3 out of every 4 cases of smoker’s cough cleared on changing to Philip Morris.”

As pitches go, “Buy an iPhone in order to get in touch with loved ones sitting on the couch next to you” makes about as much sense as teaching the world to sing by buying it a Coke.

We’re supposed to forgive the “Misunderstood” kid because he’s a talented filmmaker, but he is still missing out on the game by turning himself into a sideline cameraman. Everybody loves the end result because people like to look at images of themselves, but that doesn’t excuse the creepiness of his technologically-aided self-alienation. Picture a teen novelist who does nothing at your family gathering but stand by silently and take notes. Pretty irritating, no?

Moreover, the “Misunderstood” spot is a nonsequitur: Chances are the kid at your family gathering who is fixated on his iPhone is watching a video or texting peers about how lame you are or playing Candy Crush Saga, not making a movie about his vast love for family.

There is no twist in real life: Most iZombies actually are oblivious to their surroundings.

Kyle’s new article dovetails remarkably well with another piece on the perils of ubiquitous smart phone usage, from Eric Gibson at the New Criterion this month on “The Overexposed Museum” — overexposed, Gibson writes, because so many museum patrons are taking “selfies” alongside of great works of art:

The new culture of museum photography banishes the art experience. It transforms the work of art from something to pause before, explore, admire, and reflect upon, into a “sight,” like the Eiffel Tower or the White House. A fascinating, complex, multi-faceted product of the creative imagination becomes just a piece of scenery, one worth lingering in front of just long enough to have one’s picture taken with it, either just standing and smiling or by making a face or playing up to the object in other ways, like those tourists who pose beside the Leaning Tower of Pisa so that in the finished photograph they appear to be propping it up.

Non-photographing visitors aren’t immune from the effects of these new attitudes. Coming upon someone posing in a gallery, your impulse is to turn away; you feel like a voyeur. In front of the Mona Lisa the day I was there, the profusion of smartphones and tablets being held aloft created a strange meta experience. To see the picture, you had to look past a bobbing frieze of digital reproductions competing with the original. I have had similar experiences with works of art in American museums, albeit with smaller numbers of people.

This transformation—one might better say evisceration—of the work of art has wide implications for the museum and its mission. If visitors now regard a museum’s treasures as mere “sights,” they might come to regard the institution itself in a similar vein—not as a place offering a unique, one-of-a-kind experience but just another “stop” on a crowded itinerary, and as such interchangeable with any other. At the very least, it’s hard to see how this new culture of museum photography can fail to undermine the kind of long-term visitor loyalty to museums toward which so many of their public engagement efforts are directed. On the one hand, the visitor who makes an emotional connection with a work of art is likely to return. On the other hand, I can’t imagine there are many tourists who, having once had themselves snapped propping up the Leaning Tower, feel compelled to do so again.

All this is, admittedly, so much speculation. One thing that isn’t is the very real threat these new attitudes pose to the safety of the museum’s collections. A visitor conditioned to regard a painting or sculpture as but a prop in a personal drama isn’t likely to demonstrate due regard for its welfare as an irreplaceable work of art. In one of the galleries on my way to the Mona Lisa, I and others nearby watched in horror as one visitor reached across the low barrier separating the art from the public to grasp the gilt frame of a Renaissance masterpiece, then turn to strike a pose for a companion with a smartphone. This was the propped-up-Leaning-Tower shot moved into the museum. It only ended when a guard came barreling through crowd shouting at her to step away. Even then, the visitor seemed to have no idea what all the fuss had been about.

One of happiest moments during the otherwise grim couple of weeks my wife and I spent cleaning out my mom’s house in South Jersey after she died last year was discovering a huge cache of photos I took in the mid-to-late 1980s. Back then, I was at the peak of my 35mm hobbyist phase with the then-new and cutting edge Minolta Maxxum camera and lenses I purchased around 1985 or so. (The photos and negatives I stumbled upon had been stored in a large Barton & Donaldson custom shirt box, because, well, I’m me.) Suddenly, a lot of happy memories from that period that I had forgotten came flooding back, and I plan to digitize those photos next year to archive them and have them for easy viewing anytime I’m nostalgic. And it was a reminder that I really need to take more photos of current travels, to help avoid memory loss. But I also see plenty of people today who seem to be more absorbed by their iPhones than the current moment. (There seems to be less cell phones ringing in restaurants these days, but a lot more smart phones glowing; will fine restaurants with darkened mood lighting have to start warning their patrons to dial their usage back, if you’ll pardon the pun?)

I’m sympathetic to both sides of the argument. How do you take advantage of today’s ubiquitous camera-equipped smart phones and tablets, without becoming an iPhone Zombie in the process?

Related: Of Course: Photographer Who Took POTUS Selfie Photo Ashamed He Broke News.

Update: Merry Me-mas from President Selfie!

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The Ed Gallery

October 6th, 2013 - 12:11 am

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As frightening as the Obama administration can be at times, I’d like to think that the following is a much cheerier exhibition than anything Rod Serling ever proffered to TV network audiences. Back in November of 2011, I ran a retrospective of some of my more interesting Photoshops, created both for my own PJM column and for other authors here at the PJM Website. Since then, as you’ve probably noticed, I’ve produced many more. Here are some of the more interesting ones, either from an aesthetically interesting point of view, or because of what went into creating them, or simply, like the image above, because they were fun to produce. Apologies for all of the techno-wonk details to follow, but those who wish to jump-start the potentially steep Photoshop learning curve may benefit from them.

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Road to Iran: Victor Davis Hanson’s September 22nd column was titled “Goodbye Syria, On to Iran!”, which immediately suggested a parody of a Bing Crosby and Bob Hope “Road” movie, and Road to Morocco certainly fit the theme nicely. VDH had emailed in his column early enough on a Sunday morning that I had sufficient time to knock this out. This took almost three hours, beginning with tracking down suitable photos of Obama, Kerry, and Samantha Power, then sizing them to fit. There are plenty of layers as well, one of which is the base “wood” of the road sign. After realizing that using either the clone tool or the content-aware fill tool would have been a brutal task to replace the background under the sign, I ended up replacing the whole sign with a photo of a wood panel from Shutterstock, which I painted with the Photoshop Paint Daubs filter. I then found a free font that was close enough to the original whimsical “Road to Morocco” font, then resized the stock Myriad Web Pro font to 130 percent of the original height to get close to the tall letters used for the stars’ names on the poster.

The whole poster was a lot of work, but the end result looks pretty darn good, I think.

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Obama Hope Drones: This was originally created for a VDH article that ran in April, titled “America in the Age of Myth.” On Friday, September 27th, Obama “Hope” artist Shepard Fairey was recorded in an interview by TMZ saying that if he had to do it over again, he would replace the word “HOPE” on his iconic poster with the word “DRONES.” As soon as I read the story, I quickly found my Photoshop file, and thanks to the power of Photoshop layers, simply blanked out the word “Hope” in his poster, and substituted his newly preferred slogan. (Hey, Rube!)

The original image was a combination of Fairey’s artwork and his source photo, in between a Shutterstock image of a white canvas on an artist’s easel, in front of a neutral gray photography backdrop, and a separate Shutterstock photo of an artist holding a paintbrush. That image had the artist wearing a white polo shirt (isn’t that what all artists paint in?), which I colored black to give him more contrast from the gray wall. I simply cloned the shirt to another layer, colored it black, and then on another layer, painted on folds and the bottom of his collar in white, and then adjusted the opacity, to allow them to blend into the “fabric.”

For the “Hope” poster, I sized it to fit the canvas, then on a separate layer underneath, sized the original photo it was based on to match up, and then using a soft basic Photoshop brush, erased away the right portion of the “Hope” poster, revealing the photo underneath.

In order to create the impression of a shadow of the painting on the wall, on the layer between the “Hope” poster and the wall behind it, I drew a black box, and then blurred it with the Gaussian Blur filter, and then adjusted the opacity down. Little tricks like that really help to create the suspension of disbelief that you’re looking at a photograph of an event, rather than a bunch of files cobbled together in Photoshop.  Though in retrospect, if I had to do it over again, I probably would have added a filter to simulate the texture of fabric on the polo shirt.

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Home Sweet Home of the Future

September 29th, 2013 - 5:08 pm

Many people have wondered where I do most of my blogging. Wonder no more:

And when I’m not at the computer, I’m relaxing in my sweet home theater:

(Both clips uploaded to YouTube by Matt Novak of the Paleo-Future blog, from a March 1967 episode of the CBS show The 21st Century, hosted by Walter Cronkite. Between speeches calling for “one-world government,” and believing that Karl Rove had Osama bin Laden on ice in Area 51 during the 2004 election, Cronkite’s actual decade spent in the 2st century before passing away in 2009 was much more chaotic.)

The Invisible Art

September 6th, 2013 - 2:45 pm

There’s a reason why the best book on matte painting in the movies and television industry was titled The Invisible Art; the best matte painting is the one that the audience never notices. The latest, heavily illustrated post at the Matte Shot blog, a blog that’s chockablock full of beautiful matte paintings from Hollywood’s history is titled “Was That A Matte Shot?”, including a subtle matte shot from Casablanca that I never would have noticed. But then, Hollywood has a long history — dating back to virtually the beginning of the movie industry — of using matte paintings to stretch the backlot into infinity, to add multiple stories to buildings that never existed beyond the ground floor, and to paint ceilings where a rafter full of klieg lights and a microphone loomed over the soundstage.

It’s a blog post — and blog — full of great stuff; just keep scrolling.

And for a quick primer on matte paintings in general (including some of the less subtle examples of the craft), check out this 1994 Discovery Channel Movie Magic segment:

Related: Oh and speaking of Hollywood special effects extravaganzas, for reasons utterly unknown (OK, other than wanting to milk an extra couple of bucks out of the franchise), a comic book publisher is publishing an eight-issue miniseries based on George Lucas’s rough draft of “The Star Wars,” before his screenwriter friends Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, who had previously salvaged the script of American Graffiti, rewrote this movie as well.

Even after multiple rewrites, nobody would confuse the dialogue in Star Wars with David Lean. But for those masochists who choose to read them, these comic books should breathe new life into the infamous quip that Harrison Ford barked to Lucas after being forced to read page after page of technobabble on the set of the original Star Wars: “You can type this sh*t, George, but you sure can’t say it.”

The Guccione Recursion

August 12th, 2013 - 10:32 am

Is Omni magazine poised to return from the publishing graveyard?

In 1998, classic science fiction magazine Omni closed up shop. Created in 1978 by Penthouse mogul Bob Guccione and partner Kathy Keeton, it had published some of the biggest names in science fiction — William Gibson, Robert Heinlein, and Orson Scott Card, to name a few — and given scientists like Freeman Dyson and Carl Sagan a platform with a freewheeling, irreverent bent. But after shepherding Omni into online-only format in 1996, Keeton died of breast cancer, leaving the magazine adrift.

Today, though, Omni is coming back — and with it, questions about how our vision of science and science fiction has changed since its launch. Omni’s resurrection comes courtesy of Jeremy Frommer, a collector and businessman who acquired Guccione’s archives earlier this year. Inside a warehouse full of production assets lie thousands of Omni photos, illustrations, and original editions, which Frommer plans to release as prints, books, or collector’s items. But he wasn’t content with mining the past. Instead, he hired longtime science writer Claire Evans as editor of a new online project, described as an “Omni reboot.”

There’s a heavy dose of nostalgia in the proceedings, and it’s not just about bringing back an old name. Longtime editor Ben Bova has described Omni as “a magazine about the future,” but since his time as editor, our vision of the future has been tarnished — or, at the very least, we’ve started looking at the predictions of the past with rose-tinted glasses. Evans, for one, echoes the common fear that we’ve stopped dreaming of a better time. “I think Omni was very skewed towards this idea of convenience, leisure, enhanced ability, enhanced freedom, and sexuality,” she says. “The discourse about technology that we have now is much more ‘What is it doing to us? How is it affecting our society? How is it affecting the way we deal with the world?’”

Writer Ken Baumann, who is contributing an essay to the first issue, questions even the idea of looking forward. “It’s getting harder and harder to actually predict in a real way what the future will look like,” he says, “because complex systems get really messy, and ours is more complex and more entropic than ever. Predicting the future may be a thing of the past.” But if he had to do it? He references George Carlin: the planet is fine, the people are f***ed. “I don’t think we deal with complexity very well, and I think that’s increasingly dangerous, but I don’t think we’re bad on the face of it. I just think we’re beautiful little fools with nice and powerful tools.”

Since the misanthropy inherent in that last sentence must also extend to what the magazine thinks of its readers, will the rebooted Omni really be worth perusing? It sounds like it could be yet another example of “Progressives against Progress,” as Fred Siegel of City Journal described the anti-technological environmental left, which first emerged in the late ’60s and early 1970s.

As I recall from when I regularly read the original Omni in the late ’70s through the mid-’80s, I found large chunks of the magazine to be awfully dull.  I remember thinking, “wow, how can Bob Guccione of all people make the future sound so boring?” But I look forward to at least giving the rebooted version a chance.

(Found via Steve Green, another former Omni reader who is also looking forward to the reboot.)

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Even though I cut my journalistic teeth mixing metaphors for assorted home electronics magazines, it’s been a while since I’ve written a home theater product review. And yes, this will be cross-posted at the PJ Lifestyle blog, where it’s more suited, but veteran readers might enjoy the intro, for a flashback of how we early home theater junkies got our first taste of home media — incredibly addictive first taste, if far from free.

I distinctly remember two mile markers on the road to my obsession with home theater. The first was a 1987 article in Billboard magazine exploring the continuing popularity, against all odds, of the 12-inch laser disc format with movie collectors. The article mentioned an obscure California firm called “The Criterion Collection” that was selling Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey in something called a “letterboxed” format, which would allow seeing the entire frame of those magnificently photographed widescreen movies on a home television set, instead of the “panned and scanned” version, which cut off the sides of the frame. It also mentioned the superiority of the laser disc format compared to fuzzy VHS tapes, and that laser disc allowed for such ancillary items as directors’ commentaries on auxiliary audio channels, behind the scenes still photos, trailers, deleted scenes, and other fun pieces of memorabilia.

This sounded pretty darn awesome. Shortly thereafter, I purchased my first laser disc player, the predecessor to the DVD, which wouldn’t arrive in stores for another decade. At its best, the picture and sound quality of laser discs blew VHS away, and I was quickly hooked. Particularly when I stumbled over a nearby video store that rented laser discs.

The second mile maker arrived two years later. That’s when I walked out of the B. Dalton Bookstore in New Jersey’s Burlington Mall holding a copy of the second issue of Audio/Video Interiors, the magazine that put the words “home theater” on the map. It was essentially Architectural Digest meets Stereo Review, with photo layout after photo layout filled with sophisticated audio and video components beautifully photographed in stunning home settings, including some of the first dedicated home theaters that were designed to look like the classic movie palaces of the 1930s, such as Theo Kalomirakis’ Roxy Theater, a knockout design built in the basement of his Brooklyn Brownstone. (Kalomirakis would go on to make a living as a home theater designer, producing works for extremely well-heeled clients that make his initial Roxy look positively modest by comparison.)

(more…)

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