Thursday, June 21, 2018

Chuck D., Flavor Flav, Ecstasy and LL Cool J circa 1987

Here's a gem I recently uncovered. Check my Instagram on thursday afternoon for the full caption,

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


from Dangerous Minds:

I could start with a nod to Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis by writing:

“Rupert Russell awoke one morning from unsettling dreams to find the world had gone mad.”

But that isn’t quite right and doesn’t fully describe the situation that filmmaker Russell found himself when he awoke on the morning of November 9th, 2016, to the news that Donald Trump had been elected the 45th President of the United States of America. Russell described it better himself:

“I felt a sense of unreality. That I had woken up on a different planet than the one I had gone to bed on.”

Seemingly, the world had had gone mad overnight. But how had this happened? And what had caused this strange insanity?

Russell wanted to understand what the fuck had just happened. He also wanted to do something about this new topsy-turvy world, where the lunatics had taken over the asylum. He was finishing work on his documentary feature Freedom for the Wolf. Nick Fraser, the editor of BBC’s Storyville, had come onboard as executive producer. Fraser had also just launched a new venture, Docsville, and asked Russell if he would like to make some short films for this new platform.

On the day after the election, Russell had written a Medium post on being sane in insane places inspired by the work of David Rosenhan, in particular his famous experiment in which he entered an asylum claiming he heard voices. The doctors and nurses had diagnosed Rosenhan as insane, however, the patients quickly realized that Rosenhan was actually faking it.

Russell also “sketched out two more essays on madness under the new regime of (in)sanity”. He sent these along to Fraser as a possible idea for a series of animations called How the World Went Mad which would diagnose Trump’s election as a form of madness and offer up a possible cure. Fraser told Russell to go for it.

The end result was a series of five short films explaining How the World Went Mad by which Russell asked the very pertinent question:

In a world gone mad who can you trust?

Beginning on that fateful morning in Fall 2016, Russell takes the viewer through a brief history of psychiatry, culture, and politics to explain how we have all ended up here. I contacted Russell to ask him about the making How the World Went Mad and what he hoped his diagnosis of our current malady would achieve.

How did you go about making ‘How the World Went Mad’?

Rupert Russell: I spent a month in the British Library going through histories and psychologies of madness. I picked out studies that could be linked together to form a narrative arc of the series: diagnosis, symptoms, transmission, epidemic, and cure. I turned the notes into scripts, recorded them, and sent the files to Dare Studio in Poland, who had worked on my last feature, who got to work on the animation. The rest is archival footage, which I trawled through.

The most arduous of which was finding out who the infamous “fat guy” that Trump tormented in The Apprentice was. When we locked picture, Alex Williamson composed a wonderfully off-kilter score and three sound designers at Unit Post created a soundscape of insanity filled with screams, explosions, and even orgasms.

The polemic for your films rests on the idea Trump is mad—what happens if he is not mad?

RR: The source of my anxiety, as I describe in Episode 1, “Diagnosis,” is precisely this question: What if Trump is the new definition of sanity and it is I who am in fact mad. The line between sanity and insanity has been a skipping rope throughout history, pulling people in and out of it. Gays, lesbians, and women have only recently escaped their 19th-century diagnosis as perverts and hysterics. The Trump/Pence victory signalled another swing of the rope. In their Handmaid’s Tale morality, these gender traitors deserve no voice in the patriarch’s definition of sanity—where only the male “commanders” are capable of rational judgements.

The insanity of this position should be self-evident. But too increasingly, it’s becoming the new definition of sanity. We are living through another reaction to social progress that has resurrected the same tropes and characters of the feminist backlash in the 1980s, which inspired Atwood’s original novel.

What if Trump is the naked representation of the lowest and baser side of populism in politics? Is he just the base and charmless reality of most politicians and governments?

RR: In the fabled Before Times, no politician—let alone Presidential aspirant—would refer to Neo-Nazis as “good people.” They would have been hurling themselves off the cliff of sanity into the abyss wondered by the lonely, babbling Birchers and the Truthers. But no longer. Now calls to “ban all Muslims” reap rapturous applause from voters. Xenophobia doesn’t have the ring of crazy anymore. The damn of sanity as ruptured.

As Nigel Farage said the day after Brexit to the European Parliament, “isn’t it funny…When I came here seventeen years ago and said I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the Europeans Union, you all laughed at me. Well you’re not laughing now.”

Is it fair to suggest the same analysis could be applied to any leader or government? If not, what makes Trump different? What makes Trump so insane and so dangerous?

RR: It is true that the damn of sanity has broken all over the world and flooded our electoral bodies with crazy. But the maddening of our politics has been happening in parallel to the maddening of our media. It’s no coincidence. In the 1970s, it was obvious to Paddy Chayefsky as he wrote the prophetic Network that the quest for ratings would lead us to a place where psychics would predict the news on TV and terrorist groups would have Hollywood agents negotiating their reality show deals. And since the medium is the message, and elections are now experienced through television, it was inevitable that the quest for votes would become the quest for ratings. Trump’s genius was to grasp this shift and act on it.

In some ways, it’s a continuation of the tactics of past Republican presidents. We had the Reagan Show. George W. Bush cast himself the hero in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. Trump went far further. He’s simultaneously the show’s producer, narrator, protagonist, hero and villain.

What makes Trump so dangerous is that he sees politics as just television by another means. Reagan and Bush used the tropes television had spread throughout popular culture to advance their agenda. For Trump, the ratings are the agenda. So he has an in-built incentive to raise the stakes, be unpredictable, and do something crazy you just have to tune in. Unfortunately, attacking minorities and threatening war achieve these goals better than anything else.

Where do you think this will lead the world?

RR: We’re amusing ourselves to death. Thanks to the global ubiquity of smartphones, we’re now more bored than we’ve ever been. We expect constant stimulation, constant amusement. When you go to Internet/phone addiction rehab, the most important lesson they teach is how to deal with “microboredoms.” Those 30 seconds waiting at a traffic light when people reflexively pull out their phones to fill the micro gap in their day. We also know from psychology that idle hands do in fact make the devil’s work. Boredom gives rise to alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, unemployment, juvenile delinquency and racism.

Trump’s practice of politics as entertainment has come at precisely the right–or wrong–moment in history. Unable to deal with 30-second gaps in our lives, we turn to anything to entertain us. And what a show Trump is putting on. I think what we struggle with is realizing that we aren’t just observers but characters in this show. And our fates are determined by the quest to ensure that the ratings for next years season are even higher.

What do you hope viewers will learn from your films?

RR: Catharsis! I hope they learn they’re not alone in questioning their sanity.

Watch Rupert Russell’s superb series of short films How the World Went Mad here—subscription required.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Break up Google

from The Boston Globe:
ever in the history of the world has a single company had so much control over what people know and think. Yet Washington has been slow to recognize that Google’s power is a problem, much less embrace the obvious solution: breaking the company up.

Google accounts for about 90 percent of all Internet searches; by any honest assessment, it holds a monopoly at the very gateway to information in the modern world. From there, the company’s power radiates outward, dominating everything from maps to smartphone operating systems to video distribution — vacuuming up huge quantities of highly specific data about users along the way.

Along with Facebook, Google owns sites and services that, by some estimates, influence 70 percent of all Internet traffic. Not coincidentally, the two companies also form a duopoly that gets 73 percent of all digital advertising in the United States, and virtually all the growth in ad spending, on the Internet. Once the lifeblood of a vital free press, and later of a vast array of independent sites serving every possible interest, ad dollars increasingly flow to two tech giants that organize information produced at other people’s expense.

Google’s power is bound to grow still more. Last year, it spent more on federal lobbying than any other company. By tweaking the way information appears on search pages, Google can already promote its own websites and banish competitors to digital oblivion. (Last year, European regulators fined the company $2.7 billion, alleging that it favored its own services over competitors’.) In coming years, as Google’s vast data trove feeds ever more sophisticated artificial-intelligence algorithms, the search giant’s lead over its competitors will lengthen.

In the meantime, the company keeps getting bigger. When it can’t beat competitors, it buys them, as it has done more than 200 times since going public. Increasingly, startups aspire not to dethrone Google, but to be acquired by it. It comes as little comfort that fellow giants Facebook, Amazon, and Apple hem in Google here and there. Competing in an information economy shouldn’t require a market capitalization of a half-trillion dollars or more.

Yet the problem at hand is not merely economic. “A handful of people working at a handful of tech companies steer the thoughts of billions of people every day,” notes former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris. A recent study of 10,000 people from 39 countries suggests Google “has likely been determining the outcomes of upwards of 25 percent of the national elections in the world for several years now, with increasing impact each year as Internet penetration has grown.”

Why is a breakup of Google so unthinkable? Google’s products are undeniably convenient. And, at least on the surface, they’re free; average users are paying not with money, but with their personal data. The company has a near-spotless public image. The famous maxim from the company’s early years — “don’t be evil” — helped cement Google’s public image as one of the good guys.

It is ironic that the company perhaps most responsible for unleashing a tidal wave of human creativity, learning, and, yes, competition is also stifling it. It is frustrating competition, discouraging innovation, punishing American business, and distorting the free marketplace of commerce and ideas. Europe has led the wider fight over the right to privacy and the regulation of data, but the time is right for the United States to lead on dismantling tech monopolies — starting with the most powerful player. So, how to start?

YouTube, for instance, is estimated to be a $15 billion per year business with 1.5 billion monthly users. (Alphabet doesn’t release official breakdowns of the company’s revenue.) If accurate, that would represent more than 10 percent of Alphabet’s ad revenue and about 5 percent of global search.

If the advertising units, DoubleClick and AdMob, were spun off into stand-alone companies, meanwhile, it would introduce more competition into the digital advertising marketplace.

A more aggressive approach would also make stand-alone companies out of YouTube, Android, and Google’s cloud services (Gmail, cloud storage, maps, etc.), separating all of them from Google search.

The company recently announced that its cloud business has grown to a healthy $1 billion per quarter, with more growth projected.

Meanwhile, splitting off the Android operating system and its associated elements would fundamentally change Google’s relationship with the booming mobile market, the future for search and advertising.

And that separation is critical to restoring real competition.

A breakup is critical

Look at the corporate structure of Alphabet and you’ll see a company that spans dozens of fields: e-mail and thermostats, mobile phones and driverless cars, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. But look at the ledgers and you’ll see that Alphabet is primarily an advertising company that dabbles in blue-sky technology projects. More than 80 percent of the company’s revenue comes from advertising — ads on search results, commercials on YouTube, and across the Google ecosystem. Google controls 88 percent of the search advertising market. “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product,” may be too blithe a way of putting it. But that’s the ad-driven business model that’s been so wildly successful.

That’s come at a steep cost, especially — full disclosure — for the publishing industry. “Billions of dollars have been reallocated from creators of content to owners of monopoly platforms. All content creators dependent on advertising must negotiate with Google or Facebook as aggregator, the sole lifeline between themselves and the vast Internet cloud,” notes Jonathan Taplin, author of “Move Fast and Break Things: How Google, Facebook and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy.”

Would regulation help?

Taplin has proposed some tools that could help tame Google, short of breaking it up. One would be to reassess the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which grants almost total immunity to tech companies for copyright violations by their users. YouTube now earns billions of dollars in ad revenue off of user-contributed clips. But under the law, it’s up to individual writers, musicians, and filmmakers to chase down piracy of their work. The law reflected the zeitgeist of the early Internet era, when any whisper of taxation, regulation, or copyright obligation looked like an existential threat to fledgling tech firms, but circumstances have clearly changed.

Another tool would be to prevent Google from acquiring additional tech companies like Spotify or Snapchat. Indeed, the Justice Department should be taking a closer look at acquisitions by all the major tech platforms. When Facebook took over Instagram and WhatsApp, the Obama administration shrugged, as if the social-media giant were just buying a couple of faddish apps for kids — rather than eliminating future rivals.

A third option would be for the government to regulate Google like a public utility, forcing it to license out its algorithms, for instance, to help spur competition. This is akin to what the government did in 1956: A consent decree required AT&T to license all its 7,800 patents royalty-free in exchange for allowing the company to continue to maintain its telephone monopoly. Some services, the logic goes, are natural monopolies; an upstart search engine is no more likely to outmaneuver Google than an upstart phone company was to string up new phone lines from coast to coast.

In the end, though, regulation of the Bell System wasn’t enough to create a dynamic telecom marketplace. Three decades later, the Justice Department forced the company to split itself up.

To be sure, a consensus about how best to break up the company developed only after years of public discussion — about AT&T’s power broadly, and about the specific intricacies of its vast holdings. Similar debate preceded the Justice Department’s actions against Microsoft in the 1990s — which helped companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google flourish.

For that to happen with Google, Americans need first to start talking about it. In the early days of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone company, or John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, few realized how much influence either firm would come to exercise. Similarly, we need to shift the way we think about the dominant tech platforms — and especially Google — which have steadily grown, within most American adults’ living memory, from scrappy startups into forces dominating the economy. Our public debates about these issues need to accelerate, too, moving at the speed of technological change, rather than the speed of past precedent. Bewailing the power of tech platforms is not enough; the United States needs to develop regulatory and, yes, antitrust strategies for each of them.

Google is a monopoly because we’ve allowed it to become one. We’ve allowed it to grow at the expense of copyright holders. At the expense of rival search and advertising ventures. At the expense of startups that might someday challenge the giants. At the expense of a narrowing of the way a society acquires information. Today, the act of searching for an answer is synonymous with Googling. And the first answer for how to rein in this digital giant is also the best: break it up.

Go HERE to see the original story and graphs and links:

Monday, June 18, 2018

School of Life Monday:
Why You Can Change The World [and should!]

Though it looks like the world is set in its ways, it is in fact eminently open to change by those who dare to swim into the stream of history.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Skateboard Sunday:
The Best of | Daewon Song | Innovation 2018

Daewon David Song (born February 17, 1975) is a Korean-born American professional skateboarder, recognized for his skillful technical street skateboarding.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Why you shouldn't worry about radiation from your Wi-Fi router or iPhone

There's a lot of bad "science" floating around about radio frequency and electromagnetic field exposure from Wi-Fi routers and the wireless network that your iPhone accesses. AppleInsider delves into the subject, and the actual science behind it.

First and foremost, RF radiation is not the same as ionizing radiation generated by decay of radioactive isotopes, and from the sun itself. This isn't Radiation Physics 101 in 1000 words, so in short, RF lacks the energy that ionizing radiation has to break chemical bonds, ionize atoms, and damage DNA.

Sufficiently high levels of RF radiation can heat tissue and could theoretically cause tissue damage. But, these levels aren't reachable by the public, assuming safety standards are maintained, and the only people that need to be worried about them are generally workers in extremely close proximity to a transmitter.

Without delving into a basic physics lesson about time, distance, shielding, and wavelengths, that microwave in your kitchen is probably 700W. It is focused on the area below the emitter, and shielded by the microwave's structure itself.

That Wi-Fi router that's in your house? It is probably a single watt, with that entire watt diffused over the entire broadcast area.

It's okay if you don't believe us, even though this writer has a background in practical exposure control. Read what the World Health Organization has to say about it, and if you don't want to do that either, here's the takeaway:

That iPhone in your pocket

And regarding your cell phone? That's really no different. The combination of the frequency, the fact that it's not broadcasting at full power constantly, and the low levels of emissions do not produce any noticeable heating effects at all. So, as a result there are no known adverse health effects.

The US Food and Drug Administration has been running studies for 15 years on the topic. The FDA points out that there have been some studies showing minor effects from the devices, but they aren't reproducible. Both the FDA and WHO note that given the profoundly low levels of energy involved, it is nearly impossible to eliminate other causes producing the biological effects in the studies that did find an effect.

"Electromagnetic hypersensitivity"

For some time a number of individuals have reported a variety of health problems that they relate to exposure to electromagnetic fields, or radio frequency radiation. While some individuals report mild symptoms and deal with it by with avoidance, others claim to be so severely affected that they alter their lives to deal with the problem.

This reputed sensitivity to EMF has been generally termed "electromagnetic hypersensitivity" or EHS. But, the scientific studies on the syndrome show that those afflicted have no greater detection of RF fields by symptoms than a user not complaining that they have the syndrome.

The WHO believes that prevalence is "a few individuals per million." Current scientific theories on it suggest that a strobing from CFL bulbs, poor air quality, or either pre-existing psychiatric conditions or new ones induced by stress cause the problem, rather than exposure to RF radiation.

Risk assessment

The radiation exposure industry has an acronym "ALARA" —it stands for as low as reasonably achievable. Workers are trained to maximize the distance from a source, maximize the effect of any available shielding, and minimize the amount of time spent in an environment with exposure.

For RF, distance is covered as long as you don't have a 5G commercial broadcast transmitter or an Aegis radar assembly from a Navy cruiser on your bedroom wall pointed at you. Shielding is mostly a non-issue as the radiation isn't ionizing. And, the heating effect from normal consumer goods use is negligible, so time isn't even a factor as the 0.01C that your ear skin is increasing because of that long phone call to your grandmother doesn't do anything.

In the case of occupation exposure, limits for trained workers are generally set at 10 percent of whatever is considered a "safe" limit. Limits for the general public are normally 1 percent of that safe limit, or much less. In the case of RF, the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) limit depends on how the measurement is made, but is most restrictively 1.6 watts per kilogram. An iPhone X has a SAR of 1.19 in a worst-case measurement situation at maximum transmission power. If that phone is moved a quarter-inch from your head, then the SAR drops to about 0.6 W per KG.

A wireless router is worst case 0.02 watts per KG at about six inches away from the device, and drops dramatically with distance. Those 50 wi-fi networks you can see from your computer? You're probably looking at a total of 0.1 watts per KG from all the sources combined.

Are you in utterly and absolutely zero danger from RF or EMF? Scientifically, there is no way to exclude the possibility absolutely —but you're in some form of danger every minute of every day from one thing or another.

To put things in perspective, you are in far, far more danger from a lifetime exposure to the ionizing radiation produced by the radon gas in your basement or from getting cancer from sun exposure, than you are from living in the same neighborhood as a cell tower, with twenty Wi-Fi routers surrounding your chair, and actively talking to somebody on 5G on your iPhone with it velcroed to your head for that whole life. And, the risk from the radon-laden basement is relatively low.

If you're still worried about it, don't sit on your router, and use your speaker function on your iPhone.

Studies continue, and will until the sun blacks out, because people are very bad at risk assessment even when given the data. But, science is true if you believe it or not. So, use that router, and get that mesh network going without fear. Break out the cell phones, and don't worry about using them.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Freedom Friday Film

Bucking the trend of non-stop adrenaline-fueled aesthetics, this short film about a kitesurfing adventure in Rugged Point Marine Provincial Park takes time to appreciate the stunning beauty of the Vancouver Island locale.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Poster of lockdown song in kindergarten classroom ...

from Mashable:
It's 2018 and kids in kindergarten are learning letters, numbers, shapes, and how to survive school shootings.

Since more than 20 school shootings have taken place in 2018 so far, educators are taking serious measures to teach students what to do in the event of an active shooter or other emergency on campus.

And while it's extremely important to inform children on safety precautions, this poster of a lockdown song hanging in a kindergarten classroom will absolutely break your heart.

On Wednesday, Georgy Cohen, the mother of a child who will be entering kindergarten in the coming school year, shared a gut-wrenching photo of the classroom she visited.

A poster, seen hanging on the chalkboard, has lyrics to a song about classroom lockdowns largely written in colorful markers. "This should not be hanging in my soon-to-be-kindergartener's classroom," she wrote.

Here are the lyrics:

Lockdown. Lockdown.
Lock the door.
Shut the lights off.
Say no more.
Go behind the desk and hide.
Wait until it's safe inside.
Lockdown. Lockdown.
It's all done.
Now it's time to have some fun!

The tweet gained a lot of traction, sparking a conversation about school safety and the harsh realities of gun violence. Many were also upset that this is an issue children have to start worrying about at just five years old.

Monday, June 11, 2018

School of Life Monday:
The Fragility of Good Government

We are not living in an age of unusual folly. We’re simply rediscovering how rare good government has ever been – and how much there was to appreciate.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Skateboarding Insanity:
Daewon Song blew me the fuck away

I had no idea...

The best of Daewon Song skateboarding 2017 (Instagram Clips). He's always landed with amazing and unreal tricks.
and this is from 2017!