26.3.14

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The shortlist of the most noble, notable and sometimes underappreciated (see Henry Wallace).  There are certainly many extraordinary women, but we'll look at that list another day.



17.11.13

The Red-Pill Avatar vs. The Blue Pill Reality


There is a lot of insight and information to be found on Cracked.   

At my office, which allows me unlimited Facebook, Twitter and Instagram access) when I try to view  Cracked articles I receive a page block message with the explanation; "This content has been determined to be: tasteless".

Yes, the guy who would bone the Mona Lisa with  his Leo-nards is not the epitome of class, but I still would generally consider Cracked content a lot less tasteless than most status updates, and a lot more entertaining to read at lunch.   

21.9.13

Imps and Monsters


Justin Hillgrove's sketch-a-day self-assignment alone is an ideal way to improve the content of your newsfeed.   Follow him on Facebook and visit his website for more robots, imps and monsters, as well as storybook and Ghibli fan art.   





Good use of great work: 



Louis C.K: Raising Grown-ups and the Forever-Empty


Smartphones have amazing applications that enrich everyday life - encyclopedic information, instant news, GPS, eBooks, immediate access camera and video.  Even games have their purpose by encouraging the mind to play with complex problem solving. 

New mediums have irrevocably altered our relationships with technology and each other.  In the last fifteen years alone, we've been forced to radically re-evaluate how we handle everyday interactions.  More and more frequently we forfeit the intonation of a voice on the line that could surely transform and maintain healthier bonds than any easily put off or disposed text.

The most obvious alternatives are Skype or Apple's FaceTime app, which in a weird way can even allow you and a friend to have dinner together in your own homes.  There is also the much maligned Snapchat.  Predominantly known as the amateur porn lovers app, like twitter it's forced brevity is it's greatest strength.  Beyond the dirtier uses, the 10-second 'vine' type videos and captioned photos that disappear provide a way to send hilarious, sweet or just plain self-explanatory slices of life between friends.  If you want to be able to quickly share moments without clogging your phone with data and you love surprises, I'd highly recommend it.

Back to the point.  While I make no apologies for being a tech junkie (I have my own strange relationship with my favourite tools)  I agree with Louis that, all benefits aside - believing text is just a convenient and necessary evil may leave some of us caught unaware when this small concession starts becoming just another quick fix for validation to stave off the gaping maw of existential loneliness,  the "forever-empty".  Whether it's triggered by Bruce Springsteen or a bad day at work, painting over that feeling with the constant gratification denies the development of crucial human coping skills (even if you're at the end of your rope and need to reach out to someone, it is after all a phone not a text machine).  As Louis explains, it's more than just feeding a need for attention, it's the inability to just sit and be present without any stimulation.

  While I know I'll acquiesce to my future children playing occasionally with tablets, I'd like to hope parents who see this aren't just having a laugh and do heed his advice.  Especially his insights on children learning empathy through experimentation with meanness in real life versus via texting.  Count on  comedians to unapologetically cut to the core of the issue every time. 


Additional Articles
Texters Vs Talkers
Emoting By Numbers

My second favorite C.K.



17.9.13

It Makes Sense



Today we consider words and phrases to eliminate from one's workplace vocabulary.

"Does that make sense?"

Almost always used when it should be known very well that the previous statement being referred to does in fact "make sense".   If everyone in the room is speaking English to each other, and you're not talking to middle school children or explaining complex computational problems, I'd say whatever you're discussing is making sense to the educated adults being addressed.   Ask if they have any questions, or even simply if they understand and agree with all the points you've covered.  Anything else.  If you've used it more than three times in a given interaction it begins to feel like the worst kind of condescending corporate office meeting filler imaginable. 

Other top nominations for elimination:
"Touch base with..."
"At the end of the day..."

And a special mention to the particularly outrageous:

"We need to socialise this for feedback."

14.9.13

The Social Network


Found via FilmsforAction, this 17 minute film from the Toronto International Film Festival  takes you down the rabbit hole of the new dynamics of social interaction.


2.9.13

Syria


Warning: Graphic video
This is the reality of chemical warfare.  The alleged chemical agent used is sarin.

Found via the Amnesty International Australia website. 

President Obama's recent statement  has far reaching consequences for all countries in the region.

Obama has become unwavering in his determination to move forward despite U.S having inconsistent support world-wide for military intervention.  

These attacks are part of the Syrian civil war that has been under way for some time as prior to the recent surge in coverage. The media is generally doing their best to help their consumers get a handle on the Syrian crisis.  A simple google should get you what you need, but you can't get much more basic than the BBC's super fun purple-green news wrap up page that felt it was necessary to spell out why chemical weapons are so controversial.

If you've tuned out because you don't feel you have the capacity to completely understand the conflict and it's implications, there is something you can do.  If you have been reluctant to participate in not-for profit donations in the past, this is the time to change that.  Millions of civilian refugees are fleeing Syria, and your donation can directly help the UNHCR manage the crisis. 


6.8.13

A Moment of Conscience

(This image has been made specifically for use as a Facebook Timeline cover. Feel free to share.)   

August 6th is the 68th anniversary of one of the darkest days in our collective history.   

History too often overlooks that many of the scientists who initially worked to create the bomb appealed to the President Truman to use nuclear force solely as a threat.  Which leads us to question how our world might be different today if more of those physicists had walked away much earlier with Joseph Rotblat.  Or, if the Enola Gay's pilots had flinched in their resolve and dropped their payload off the coast, into the sea. 

The ensuing Cold War was inevitable, but had there been mercy from the US in that peak moment, it may have set a kind of 'due-care' precedent for all ethical considerations behind the development and use of nuclear weapons from that point forward.  

 Leo Szilard also deserves due credit for his work towards nuclear disarmament and peace. 

For your documentary viewing on a Tuesday night:



30.7.13

The Way It Really Is


And all summed up in under a minute.

For more, try his book, What do You Care What Other People Think?, which contains the love story of Feynman and his first wife whom he married knowing she would almost certainly not survive.

Learn more about the remarkable Richard Feynmann.

24.7.13

Easter Egg

There are some things within the internet that are like stumbling over a little known treasure among the waste and trending repetition.  For me, finding  Pixiv was very reminiscent of those game and dvd easter eggs.   It may not have required any special trick to find it, but still.

It's worth signing up for a membership simply to see the full-size versions of the best work. The language barrier is easy to fix with a translator, and if you follow the Pixiv Facebook page you can see the daily top 5 ranked images from their site.  Below, just one of many brilliant artists:






22.7.13

From the Archives


The former editor of Macleans Magazine recently discovered a tape of lunch conversations from 1972 between himself and McLuhan.    The quote above isn't from that interview, but it illustrates why Mr. McLuhan is the among the most influential and misunderstood philosophers in history.  His work is required reading (and to be revisited often) by anyone interested in attempting to interpret the media.

18.7.13

Layers of Insanity



See more from Professor Corey Anton

I've tried to address this insanity before, and I'm happy to find someone else has been feeling the same way.  We constantly participate in all kinds of repetitive surreal rituals and rites without question.  The media (specifically advertising) we produce and consume reinforces what will be valued and what will not.  Madness is even included, it's openly indulged within the systems.

The last time I went to a theme park as I watched my legs dangle in the air below before being jerked violently forward, I was struck by what a complex brilliantly engineered, costly machine I had paid to sit in.  I considered what the huge expense of time and resources were employed to design this thing for the sole purpose of throwing my body around at high speed to generate profits. Profits on our attendance to these places are so great it is worth the massive expense to build and maintain them. Amusement parks are one of the most audacious examples of the huge priority our culture places on keeping us entertained.

So should we say an amusement park is an insane mis-use of human innovation?  I hate to admit it, but I immediately imagine how a young child exposed to such G-forces, driving their curiosity and fearlessness into a future as an astronaut, a experimental aircraft engineer, or a physicist. If there weren't people driven to challenge the physical limitations of our body's capacity for stress, we would not enjoy the convenience of flight or have explored even the tiny amount of our solar system that we have.  As scientifically minded as any innovator might be, don't they experiment, explore and push limits  ultimately for enjoyment, for fun?

Today, studies show that imaginative free play has a strongly positive effect on our development. In almost all animals there is a desire to 'play, and even the most basic games require us to be part of a minor fantasy, to suspend our disbelief.  Until we developed language our games were likely one of three types; physical, musical or rhythmic and artistic. Following the development of written language and increased literacy reading became another extension of our imagination, and stories could spread wide.  Yet the way each of us constructs the content of what we read is unique.  If you consider the details you build into your mind's eye film of your favourite books, there's no question that version of the book is yours alone.  It's not so unlikely then, that the healthy use of our creative mind is easily susceptible to various other gamelike or storytelling distractions - often to the detriment of it's own life and the lives of others.

To many people, celebrities are fantastical creatures, and those fans enjoy knowing every detail, it's a living myth.  For the most part the content is fiction and most of it's readership knows this and doesn't mind one bit.  So is someone who supports tabloid news and celebrity media coverage more or less sane than one who doesn't?  Maybe it's the more rational course of action to openly embrace the culture you're going to need to navigate, and indulge in tribally accepted practices because it's taken for granted that we understand they have no salient purpose.  That nullifies objections and allows it to continue under the guise of a guilty pleasure, dismissed as an inevitable byproduct of this particular culture, and therefore never discontinued until the audience completely loses it's taste for it.  Then the cycle can begin again with a new format.  For instance, television creates it's own stars as cheaply as finding everyday people to attain status and become new fodder for television to report on.  Around and around.



As you peel back all the layers of influence, belief, culture and physical effect that comprise your experience at any given time, it's shocking how the lines between rational and irrational criss-cross hundreds of times a day.  These filters can affect our perceptions and reasoning in ways that compromise our mental well-being in an instant. Like all organisms, we seek pleasure and avoid pain, but the insanity we are capable of beyond the average animal stems from having such a complex brain being confronted with no end of soothing or exciting distractions to turn our heads from our less desirable patterns and apathies we might be loathe to face.  In addition to enjoyable distractions, there is the heightened social anxiety of social media, which can distort our self-awareness, and interpretation of who we are.  At this point in our history, humans are still not quite evolved enough to adequately address and process the world we've created for ourselves.  It's evident that all these factors inherent in our nature have also filtered through our often grossly frivolous use of the technology we've created.  

We've steadily subjected ourselves to an increasingly intense onslaught of media over the last 100 years or so.  The brain's natural plasticity  is being provided with a an unprecedented array of variables to contend with, and within only a few generations we have changed how we interact with information.  How we mediate the influence of technology on culture, and on our faculties is still reliant on an only relatively recently evolved collection of wet matter.  Of course there's going to be madness, not everyone can cope.   

10.6.13

Tolkien Abridged as Art

Breathing2004 's Tolkien illustrations condense all your favorite moments from The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.  True fans won't need my help to recognize the iconic scenes, and for everyone else it's just beautiful work,  and plenty of fun for the eye to wander through each tableau.   
Also take the time to check out Breathing's blog. 





Enemies of the State


This kind of surveillance was widely suspected (and somewhat expected) before these leaks, but is now supported with evidence directly from the source.  If we choose to continue to use social media (considering Google is involved, pretty much the whole internet), whether you imagine it's not an issue because you aren't important enough to be under surveillance, or you believe you can subvert it by blatantly using these sites in the name of protest and information sharing - you must take the time to duly consider and understand how far reaching the implications of these practices can be.   


If all of this data can be collected and stored, there's got to be plenty that would be worth amazing sums of money and serious favours if used for blackmail.  There surely are NSA employees who could be lured into using their access for private enterprise. Those are just the beginning of the  unsavoury possibilities, if the NSA is doing it under the guise of security, imagine how marketing and public relations firms are certainly already using forms of the same software for their own purposes.  

Plenty of notable people and corporations are willing to do anything to protect and build their brand and what better edge than to own some leverage on your opponents or just be able understand a wave of protest against your company from the inside of the movement, and thus find ways to infiltrate and disarm it.   I don't feel very paranoid entertaining these ideas, all violations are on the table.  Just as whistleblowers will submit to their pangs of conscience and take risks to make this unlawful surveillance public, there must be a flip-side contingent of those people in the organisations involved that exploit it's collection to the fullest.  To expect otherwise is naive. 

There is a sense of synchronicity as Snowden comes forward just as Bradley Manning's trial begins and the media largely serves up "Chumpbait". 

7.6.13

Depth of Field



Just to put that in perspective, remember how vast our own Milky Way galaxy is, and then consider there are over 10,000 galaxies photographed in this image.   This photo represents just one small patch of the universe that we happened to aim the telescope at.  We are small potatoes, don't ever doubt it.