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July 28, 2006

Free Range Film Fest

The Free Range Film Fest is this weekend in Wrenshall, Minnesota. Farm fresh films to compete against those stale factory grown movies.

And if you missed it or are nostalgic you can still see one of the short films that was shown there.

July 20, 2006

Bush Uses Bad Language and Language Badly

Yeah, yeah, we all know that Bush used the word "shit" in what he thought was a private moment with Tony Blair. But he used the word correctly and aptly, in my opinion. What offends me is his misuse of the word "irony." Consider the exchange...

Bush: What about Kofi Annan? I don't like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically cease-fire and everything else happens.

Blair: I think the thing that is really difficult is you cant stop this unless you get this international presence agreed.

Bush: She's going. I think Condi's going to go pretty soon.

Blair: Well that's all that matters. If you see, it will take some time to get out of there. But at least it gives people ...

Bush: It's a process I agree. I told her your offer too.

Blair: Well it's only or if she's gonna or if she needs the ground prepared as it were. See, if she goes out she's got to succeed as it were, where as I can just go out and talk.

Bush: See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over.


Blair: Cause I think this is all part of the same thing. What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if he gets a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way, he's done it. That's what this whole things about. It's the same with Iran.

Bush: I feel like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen. We're not blaming Israel and we're not blaming the Lebanese government.

What's ironic about that, Mr. President? Is it situational irony, dramatic irony? No, I think not. I think your perception is that there is a simple answer to the problem and that there is one person who can fix everything if he decided to do so, but everyone is tip-toeing around what you perceive to be the direct path to fix the problem. So you are impatient with all this mincing about with silly diplomacy when all you need to do is call Kofi and for him to phone Assad and then he would call up Hezbollah and everything would be okiedokie. That's not ironic, Mr. President; that's what I would call wishful thinking.

What is ironic is that in this private statement you seem to have so much faith in the power of the Secretary-General of the United Nations yet publically you continually try to undermine and thwart him.

Further, what is ironic is that you still seem to believe in simple answers to complex problems when all the evidence of the past 3 years in Iraq points to the contrary.

July 19, 2006

Show Me the Money

Biddersrow.jpgCan someone explain to me the appeal of the Price is Right among the octogenarian set?

I just came back from doing another round of visiting shut ins and nursing home bound folks and I am constantly amazed that almost everywhere I visit between 10 and 11 a.m. there is Bob Barker on the television set. What is the deal? Is it just because it's familiar and it's been running forever? Does Bob hold some sort of strange charisma for the 80+ year olds? I can't believe that they are actually interested in the goods they are hocking. I mean, the whole show is just an hour long commercial.

Can anyone enlighten me? I'd really like to know.

July 18, 2006

Space Invaders

spinrug.jpgRemember Space Invaders? Yeah, it's a little like asking, "Remember the Model A?" or "Remember 8 Tracks?" Well, apparently a lot of people are hankering for the good ol' days. Here is a smattering of artists and enthusiasts who are memorializing the classic arcade game.

spinicon.jpgCheck out this rug. Polish artist Janek Simon used projection television, an actual rug, and old world, low-res design to create this playable Space Invaders rug.

spinla.jpgspinicon.jpgInvader is a Paris-based artist who puts little (and sometimes big) pixelated mosaics of space invaders all over the world. You can track the invasion on his site.

all_design-1121014020_i_4883.jpgspinicon.jpgHere is a mystery. A space invader crop circle! I'm not sure where this comes from. I found it on a Russian site and the picture credits a British photographer and researcher of crop circles, but I couldn't find anything more about it than that. Looks like a fake to me, but a pretty fun one. Let me know if you have any more information on this photo.

spaceinvaders_00376-1.jpgspinicon.jpgAnd why not get into the act yourself? Human Space Invaders! Here is a short film by Swiss filmmaker Guillaume Reymond who in four hours in an empty theatre with 390 frames and 67 persons acting as pixels did a stop motion animation of a Space Invaders game. C'est fantastique!

spinheart.jpgspinicon.jpgHere is a music video for Japanese musician Ken Ishii who mixes the familiar Space Invader music with a techno beat. The film is about the facts of life and death for a Space Invader. After watching this you may just hesitate before pushing the fire button.

spingame.jpgspinicon.jpgAnd if all this makes you nostalgic for the real thing, here is a German site where you can actually play the game as well as get lots of information about the game.

Thanks to Rocketboom for getting me curious about this new invasion.

July 17, 2006

Truth in Advertising

marinebb1.jpg

Someone decided this recruitment billboard in Duluth, Minnesota needed just a bit more exposition. Thanks to Barrett of perfectduluthday for sharing this.

This reminds me of the work of the Freeway Bloggers.

July 15, 2006

Why New Media is the Domain of Progressives

The Right is right to fear the Internet, because it is a medium whose ethic is essentially antithetical to the Right.

amandamsnbc.jpgI've been thinking a lot about this since Amanda Congdon left Rocketboom, not because Amanda is so openly a lefty, but because of how she talked about her relationship with her audience. It is about interactivity and listening and having the audience be coproducers of media as she said in a recent interview. When she was asked what new media gets that old media doesn't get she answered, "How to make friends with my audience." Old media doesn't want to make friends. They want to make consumers.

loiclm.jpgAnd then I saw Loic Le Meur, a french entrepreneur, on Mobuzz talk about the nature of innovation in business to take advantage of the new media. He talked about how the old model was for some idea guys to cook up an idea for a product, focus group it, design it, produce it, and then make a market it. If necessary, create the need for the product. The new model is almost completely backwards. You first announce the product and then cocreate it with the consumer from the ground up.

A good example of this is what is going on with the new Star Trek Online game. When Perpetual Entertainment announced they were doing this, started hiring artists and engineers, immediately a parallel community of excited potential players started message boarding about the potential game in mind numbing detail. Instead of trying to shut down the community or ignoring them, the design time has embraced them, takes ideas from them, and communicates with them regularly, making them cocreators of the game. In new media the consumer is not passive, but is an active participant.

So, what is so progressive about this? What does this have to do with the Right? So glad you asked...

The Right is all about controlling their message and making it as authoritive as possible. The message of the Right is put out for assent, not discussion. Ever notice that the devotees of Rush Limbaugh are called dittoheads, so-called because the ditto everything Rush says?

The Right workshops their message to gain the assent of the masses working on their fears and insecurities. Inasmuchas the Right appears populist, it is because of this playing on the fears and insecurities of the masses not to provoke rational thought, but to provoke a baser, more visceral response.

But most importantly, the Right has to control the message and media is for the Right is about informing an audience, not about that audience then talking back. In this way traditional media is very paternalistic. It knows what is good for us and it lets us know what it is we need to know. In traditional, old media you can't talk back.

Loic Le Meur's byline on his blog is "Traditional Media Send Messages, Blogs Start Discussions." And there you have it. The reason why new media is the domain of progressives is its authority comes from the participants, not from the originators.

Amanda's comment about the power of the new media to make friends is telling as well. We, of course, are familiar with old media's ability to make celebrities that we'd like to emulate or have as friends, but that is not the same thing as having a relationship.

The leaders of the Hispanic community in the United States were caught off guard when people started organizing spontaneously this past spring when there were so many protests and demonstrations. Although it is often compared to the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s, it is in essence completely different, because it was not focused on charismatic leaders, but the movement itself. Like recent movements in easter Europe, it was decentralized.

So, there is my thesis and the beginning of a supportive argument. Now it's your turn. Am I completely offbase? Nuance it for me. Question me. Bring in detail. This is what it is all about, folks.

Points where I am not satisfied - My use of the phrase "The Right" is too broad and not articulated enough. I know what I mean, but the term is used ineffectively here. I am speaking specifically of intellectual totalitarians like the religious right. I am also speaking of fear-mongers like racists, homophobes, and xenophobes. I am also talking about Neo-Cons who have aspirations for remaking the world order. All of these are elements of the Right, but are clumsily summed up by this term.

One of the Crowd

Last night I was in Leif Erikson Park with roughly a thousand other people watching Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was a great way to spend a hot summer evening, sitting next to the lake on blankets watching the mother of all summer movies. Everyone was remarking on how many people kept coming and coming, and I started thinking of act of being in an audience.

3D-Cinema-Audience.jpgI mean, a movie is just more fun as a shared experience. Why? Empathy. Empathy is as natural to humans as breathing. We can empathize with people around us even if we've never met them and can't speak their language. And when you experience art with others, dimensions open up in unexpected ways. You see a different movie in an audience than you do alone. As a father I particularly like watching movies I knew from long ago with my kids. It's like watching them for the first time, because they are watching them for the first time.

The problem I have with the internet is that it is, in essence, a solo event. Even when you send videos to your friends and relatives and you see the same thing, you don't usually see it together. So everyone is seeing the Diet Coke and Mentos guys with their own eyes, their own point of view, their own prejudices. While we can then blog about it and share notes, we don't have that visceral experience of seeing it together. We don't get the subtle shift of their bodies, whether they snicker or guffaw, the timing of a sigh.

Oh, and don't forget the downside. Audiences can be annoying. Cell phones can ring, children can cry, people can have inappropriately loud conversations... and all that happened last night. But, partly because we were outside and I'd seen this movie a dozen times anyhow, I didn't care. The audience was as much a reason to be there as the movie itself.

So, what was your most recent experience of being in an audience?

July 14, 2006

Maynard, put away that melted butter, you heathen!

Yea, verily! A pox upon shameless merchants of shellfish! You shall perish in the flames and lemon juice will be poured upon your open wounds!

What to do with the crazed, fanatical, lunatic fringe of Christianity like the Westboro Baptist Church? You can't reason with them. You can't shout them down, that just encourages them. This is why I love satire. That's why godhatesshrimp.com is so brilliant. It takes the message of the enemy (and, yes, I think these lunatics are the enemy) and takes it to the absurd conclusions. It won't stop the fanatics, but it will show the absurdity of their argument to onlookers. As a former hoosier, I particularly like the pictures of a God Hates Shrimp (counter) demonstration in Indianapolis last week.

July 13, 2006

It Ain't Necessarily So

132nelson_r1_c1.jpgNot as high and mighty as we all thought, eh, Lord Nelson?

Since its unveiling in 1843 it has been reported that Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London was 185 feet from street level to the tip of his jaunty hat. Well, as the column was being restored it was found that that figure wasn't quite right. In actuality the monument was only 169 feet 5 inches, a full 15 feet shorter than had been documented for years.

Consider: Thousands of visitors every day. Millions, perhaps billions of people passing by this monument in the last 160 years. No one thought to question the fact of how tall this statue really is. And we're not talking inches here. And, on top of that, the column had been restored twice before.

My takeaway, don't take facts at face value. Question and then measure for yourself. I think I'm going to march into my bathroom right now and check if there really are 500 sheets of toilet paper in a roll.

July 11, 2006

Davy Jones and the Fear of Death

priatesrun-5.jpgMichelle Hargrave has an excellent theological review of the new Pirates of the Carribean film on her blog, 33 Names of Grace. I foresee Michelle and me becoming Siskel and Ebert meets Tillich and K√ľng.

Conversion Van

Here is a short film made locally by Mike Scholtz and Humble Fling for the 48 Hour Film Project. You can see it on the big screen at the Free Range Film Festival in a couple weeks. Many of the organizers of the film fest are to be found in the film and the barn in the film is where the festival is held.

Note in one shot the "Adopt-a-Road" sign for the "Parker Posey Film Society."

July 10, 2006

Wiping the Hard Drive

harddrivewipe.jpgSo, I've been thinking about memory lately. It takes work to remember things and if you don't practice remembering a thing, then it fades. For instance, I lived in Fort Wayne, Indiana for over four years, but I can't remember my phone number there. I can remember my pin number on my atm card because I use it all the time, but there will come a day where those four digits will be lost.

Significant people in one's life take up memory space and you have to work to remember certain details and facts about a person. I was going out with a woman for about a month and now that relationship is over and chances are I probably won't see her again. Now what happens to those memories? Probably they will fade quickly, being pushed out for more active memories - new phone numbers, new pin numbers, new addresses.

If one understands one's life as a narrative, an ongoing story, memory is a sort of editor sitting in the corner office of our mind - "You need to tighten chapter three, and drop chapter seventeen entirely, it serves no purpose in advancing the plot. Do you really need to spend so much time describing that house? It's boring! And that maid that shows up early in that one scene, lose her. Irrelevant."

But the maid, even though she's edited out of your own narrative, she continues her own story, and has probably already edited you out. Vonnegut talked about how there are really no minor characters in life. We only edit them that way. Everyone is the hero of their own story.

Consider: Everywhere you go are dozens, scores, hundreds of ongoing stories that you are passing by, stepping in and out of, making cameo appearances in. Sometimes you can get cast in a person's story for a bit role or even an frequent guest appearance. In some stories you may even be considered as part of the main cast. It's like every conversation or contact is an audition.

So, stories intermingle briefly, and then move on. Editors are standing by. Next chapter.

July 5, 2006

Things I Learned from Amanda

unboomed.jpgIt's the end of an era. Amanda Congdon is no longer hosting Rocketboom. Whether she was pushed or she jumped I'll leave to historians and lawyers, but the fact remains - Rocketboom as we knew it is no more.

In appreciation of Amanda, I just want to share a few things that I learned from watching her nigh every day over the last many months...

What is art and what is bullshit.

Good Friday means high pitched narration by toy robots and strangely animated pans of hotcross buns.

What to do with a rope besides skipping it.

People can sometimes be mistaken for Doctor Who extras right after Lasik eye surgery.

It's fun to be a voyeur.

Silence is golden. And generates a lot of comments too.

Shit happens...

...but you go on with a little help from your friends.

Don't dis da sistas or you're going to lose your job.

How to make a margarita with Splenda. Ewwww.

Things to consider when switching to Scientology.

Mac or PC?

Karl Rove drives people to drink.

Calling a person a wench isn't nice.

Pillow fights are fun.

The NSA is still listening.

Dance, dance, dance!

Thanks, Amanda, for your hard work and your candor. I hope to see you soon doing something else equally as engaging and provocative.

One other thing I learned from Amanda -

The internet is all about interactivity, so leave a comment and let me know your big takeaway from Amanda's tenure at Rocketboom.

Medium Dark Roast, Occasionally a Muffin

cup.jpgI was in my local coop when one of the deli workers recognized me and my kids from her previous place of work, which happens to be my favorite java haunt in town.

"I know you! Medium Dark Roast, Occasionally a Muffin!"

Which is fair, because I don't really know her name either. In my mind she's "Perky, Auburn Hair, Gets My Order Right."

We talked about how things were going on at her old place of employment and how many new workers they have there and how the service has slipped as they train new people in. "There are a few reliable servers there and I gravitate toward those," I said.

"Like John?" she offered.

I shrugged and smiled.

"Big Hair, Smiles a Lot?"

"Oh, you mean the Dude Who Calls Everybody Dude? Yeah, he's great."

All this made me wonder what other names I am known by. And how many of them would I like?

[Thanks to The Woman Who Moved Into My House After I Left for prompting this post.]

July 4, 2006

A Poem for Independence Day

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front by Wendell Berry

soilhands.jpeg Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

July 2, 2006

Preaching an Inconvenient Truth

Al GoreI had two big takeaways from watching An Inconvenient Truth:

1) Al Gore may be more in love with his Apple laptop than I am with mine. (Note: Al Gore is on the board of Apple.)

2) Al Gore is a very good preacher.

The second point came to me when I was leaving the film and my friend mentioned how good the film was and how she appreciated that Al Gore wasn't "too preachy." And I realized that while he wasn't preachy, he was, in fact, preaching in the best sense. The whole film has a sermonlike quality and structure to it.

First off, Al Gore has a message that many listeners are not ready to hear, and that is one of our sinful nature. We have pursued our own petty ends to the detriment of the world around us and have ignored or rationalized the consequences of our actions for too long. This is a classic staple of prophetic preaching. I am reminded of the Old Testament prophets who saw the ills of their society - oppression of the poor, the dependence of the powerful on wealth and military arms, the arrogance of power, etc. - and how they saw that there would be a reckoning for their ways.

AnInconvenientTruth.jpgSecondly, he deftly uses self effacing humor and personal anecdote to support his message. He lets his audience (congregation?) know that he stands convicted under the same judgment and he is preaching as much to his own salvation as theirs. He is not holier than thou. Particularly effective was his analogy about how his father was a tobacco farmer and, even in the face of mounting evidence of the health risks, he didn't stop until finally a good friend of the family died of lung cancer. Sometimes the abstract must be made concrete before we can change. In the same way, Al Gore connects the dots between global warming and increased hurricane activity in the gulf and other natural disasters in the wings. There are direct consequences for sin.

Third, he preaches repentance. If disaster is to be overted, we must repent of our sinful ways. If we don't, the path is clear. Repentance (metanoia), as dramatic as that word might sound, is simpy a change of heart or mind. It is turning our back on one way of life and following a new path. And certainly Al Gore is asking us to do that both on the corporate and individual level. In this he is following in the paths of the prophets who called for repentance of both kings and the people. It is not sufficient for the people to repent if the rulers do not, nor is it enough for the powers that be to change heart if their followers continue their wicked ways. And the threat of global climate change must be addressed on both the governmental and individual levels.

inconvenient.jpgFourth, he offers hope. There is a way out if we want it. If we truly repent and are willing to sacrifice (not a popular word these days) these disasters can be diverted. Our response is not irrelevant. It is not too late.

All of this is done, in my opinion, very effectively, and I would recommend this film to young preachers as a good communicative analysis if nothing else. As it is, I also agree with the message of the film and would hope that people would be persuaded by its message.

Watch the trailer: