Occasionally I hit some bumps trying to navigate the SS Panties through the waters of the business world, and I hit a doozy last Christmas. I discovered a company that scores sites based on content, and that score can have a severe impact on ad revenue. I’ve documented my adventure in this article: https://medium.com/p/3f559a96e166
While we’ve come out the other end OK, this is a problem that can still be affecting other artists out there that use banner ads to generate revenue.
My intent isn’t to bring out the pitchforks against these guys, but to bring attention to their practices in the hopes of increasing the transparency of their organization (e.g. having a better appeal process).
So take a look, and share the article! Hopefully it’ll help someone out there.
P.S. You guys rock.
The wrestling team at Parkersburg South High School in West Virginia seems to care more about promoting Jesus than it does providing a welcoming environment for all students.
Specifically, one Bible verse — Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Him who strengthens me — is emblazoned all over the place.
On their t-shirts, which they wore during the season:
Atop their school’s gym doors:
Even on their school’s website, where it was listed as the official team motto as recently as February:
Just to be clear, if this were just the students themselves making t-shirts, this wouldn’t be an issue. They have every right to do that. But when school officials allow the Bible verse to be painted in the gym and printed on the website, they’ve crossed an unconstitutional line. That’s an endorsement of Christianity, pure and simple.
After Patrick Elliott of the Freedom From Religion wrote district officials a letter warning them of the legal violations, they began to take some action.
They scrubbed the website of the motto.
They said they would paint over the verse in the gym. (Though they haven’t done so yet.)
And the team’s Facebook page seems to have deleted any images or references to the shirt (and they’re not responding to commenters who want to know where they can purchase one).
As you can imagine, the parents of team members are flipping out because, you know, “Christian Persecution” and all. One family even hired a lawyer who thinks that since the students aren’t forced to wear the shirts, everything should be perfectly fine.
But again, that’s missing the point. The problems are the school’s promotion of the Bible verse and the coercive nature of the shirts.
The district’s superintendent, Dr. Patrick Law, says he doesn’t know anyone on the team who complained about the message. But of course he wouldn’t know.
Imagine being on that team, where you’re surrounded by Jesus-lovin’ at all times. Are you really going to take a stand against it? I’m not saying you’d be kicked off the team, but who wants to be the least popular person in a sport where you’re dependent on the support and encouragement of your teammates? It’s much easier to just go along with the crowd and not raise a fuss.
As Katherine Stewart said so eloquently in The Good News Club about students who compete on teams where they’re surrounded by faith,
… they know that the locker room is no place for dissent, and that a refusal to participate [in the religious rituals] could easily be construed as a sign of a lack of commitment to the team. They have learned that they have to pray to play.
We don’t know who tipped off the FFRF to the problems at Parkersburg, but it wouldn’t be surprising to me if it was a member of the team who didn’t want to be publicly outed.
Of course, Todd Starnes and the usual defenders of Christian privilege are complaining about how their freedoms are under attack. Starnes says this is the work of “militant atheists,” proving that he knows very little about both law and war. To no one’s surprise, Starnes completely ignores the fact that the school’s website included the verse and that it was painted atop the gym doors. Those facts would destroy his narrative because they’re undoubtedly illegal.
Instead, he focuses on how no one complained about the motto for ten years. As if no one was bothered by this until FFRF came onto the scene. He ignores the possibility that no one said anything for so long out of fear of being harassed or picked on by “loving” Christians. Which is precisely what’s happening now.
Anyone complaining about the FFRF’s challenge needs to defend the verse painted in the gym and the verse on the school’s website. And while we’re at it, let’s see them defend all of those things if it were a verse from the Koran instead of the Bible.
They won’t do that, though. They’re too busy pretending like they’re upset because they can’t stamp lines from their holy book anywhere they want.
(Thanks to Brian and Daryl for the link)
For my camera nerds.
Blackmagic's trick is to make cameras with great cinematic image quality at a relatively inexpensive price. The tradeoff is gear that is Satan's gift to ergonomics, with low-end audio inputs, terrible battery life and a limited set of features. Enter the Blackmagic Studio Camera, which includes a big 10" monitor, 4 hours on a charge, XLR inputs, and broadcast-friendly features lacking in the earlier models. With the offered grip accessory, one may even hold it with a human hand! The game-changing prices remain: it's just under $2k, with a 4K version for $3k. You'll still need to bring your own lenses and SSDs.
Also announced is the Blackmagic URSA, a higher-end model with a super35-size 4k sensor aimed at professional feature use. At $6k, it isn't as affordable to students and consumers as the other models (especially the $990 pocket cinema camera), but it compares well on paper to the five-figure price tags hanging off similar gear from Canon, Sony and others.
Oarfish are freaky sea dragons. You might remember them from the beaching incidents last fall, when two oarfish turned up on the coast of California within a week. That's a big deal, because the fish usually live far down in the ocean — at depths up to 3000 feet. It's relatively rare to catch them at a depth where humans have easy access. In this video, you can see tourists with a Shedd Aquarium travel program interacting with a couple of 15-feet-long oarfish in the Sea of Cortez. Definitely stick around to about 1:40 in the video, where you get some stunning underwater close ups of the oarfish.
This just in: Google Maps search is still crap.
Bryan Seely, a Microsoft Engineer demonstrated an attack against Google Maps through which he was able to set up fake Secret Service offices in the company's geo-database, complete with fake phone numbers that rang a switch under his control and then were forwarded to real Secret Service offices, allowing him to intercept and record phone-calls made to the Secret Service (including one call from a police officer reporting counterfeit money). Seely was able to attack Google Maps by adding two ATMs to the database through its Google Places crowdsourcing tool, verifying them through a phone verification service (since discontinued by Google), then changing them into Secret Service offices. According to Seely, the disabling of the phone-verification service would not prevent him from conducting this attack again.
As Dune Lawrence points out, this is a higher-stakes version of a common spam-attack on Google Maps practiced by locksmith, carpet cleaning, and home repair services. Spammers flood Google Maps with listing for fake "local" companies offering these services, and rake in high commissions when you call to get service, dispatching actual local tradespeople who often charge more than you were quoted (I fell victim to this once, when I had a key break off in the lock of my old office-door in London and called what appeared to be a "local" locksmith, only to reach a call-center who dispatched a locksmith who took two hours to arrive and charged a huge premium over what I later learned by local locksmiths would have charged).
A detailed post by Dan Austin describes this problem, points out that Google is more than four years late in delivering promised fixes to the problem, and offers solutions of his own. He suggests that the high Google Adwords revenue from spammy locksmiths and other services is responsible for the slow response to the problem.
All of this ends up costing real local businesses their business, he says. Search for “locksmith in Denver, CO” in Google Maps, and you get more than 600 results. Virtually none of them, Austin says, are for licensed local locksmiths. Instead, your search for someone to get you back into your car in Denver pulls up numbers for a fake local business. Your call gets routed to a center somewhere far away, someone who’s not necessarily a licensed locksmith gets sent to help you, and charges you far above what you were quoted over the phone.
Austin says that Google’s inaction stems from the fact that the company is actually making money off the scammers through sales on Google AdWords for search terms such as “locksmith.”
“Google’s basically getting a not insignificant amount of their income from scammers—if you look at locksmiths, 99 percent of them are scammers,” says Austin. “It’s an investment of time and energy and resources to actually go through and verify all the legitimate locksmiths in the U.S. Google doesn’t really want to get into it—they don’t see it as a security issue.”
How Scammers Turn Google Maps Into Fantasy Land [Dune Lawrence/Business Week]
(via Hacker News)
By Ethan Gilsdorf
A problem crops up when filmmakers try to adapt epic fantasy worlds to the big screen—particularly beloved, richly-imagined literary ones. Sacrifices must be made. Characters are cut, and plotlines are re-routed. Scenes and places don’t match what readers have pictured with their minds. Fans of the original book cry foul.
In the case of director Alejandro Jodorowsky, he had a vision for Frank Herbert’s masterwork Dune that was so over the top, so surreal (and, at times, so absurd), it probably would have blown the minds of critics before they had a chance to grumble.
That is, if Jodorowsky’s translation and transmogrification of Dune had ever been made. It never was.
Finally, the story of the greatest science fiction epic never made has finally been told. Jodorowsky’s Dune is a new documentary about that beautiful, crazy-ambitious, disaster of an adaptation.
“They did everything right, really. Maybe a little too, right, you know?” said director Frank Pavich, when I reached him earlier this week via telephone from New York City.
“They” were Chilean cult filmmaker Jodorowsky, the self-taught visionary behind El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973), and his French producer Michel Seydoux. This was 1975, and Jodorowsky had assembled a dream team of actors and artists to bring alive Herbert’s tale of a feudal-like interstellar culture driven by the market for a valuable substance caled the “spice.” David Carradine was to play Duke Leto, Jodorowsky’s 12 year old son Brontis was cast as Paul Atreides, Udo Kier (Andy Warhol’s favorite actor) would be Piter De Vries, and Orson Welles was slated to play Baron Harkonnen. (Apparently, Welles was lured by promises of on-set French bistro food.)
Spacecraft concept art by British artist Chris Foss
Jodorowsky’s vision extended to the soundtrack. A different band or composer was to invent music representing each of Dune’s major families. Straight off of their “Dark Side of the Moon” success, Pink Floyd would write and perform the House Atreides theme. The French prog rock band Magma would cover the House Harkonnen. The British avant-rock group Henry Cow and German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen were also approached (Contrast this with the band chosen for the 1984 David Lynch version of Dune: Toto.“I bless the spice down in Arrakis. Gonna take some time to do the things we never had...Ooh ooh ooh”)
Even Mick Jagger and Salvador Dali had agreed to be in the movie.
Orson Welles was slated to play the antagonist, Baron Harkonnen (Photo: Gary Graver)
Pavich’s documentary focuses largely on Jodorowsky, now 85, who recounts his courtship of each of the film’s key players. He spins one unlikely story after another. “Whenever you think that he’s embellishing it, you kind of roll your eyes and think, ‘Well, this possibly can’t be true,’ somebody else would back it up,” said Pavich, whose previous feature was N.Y.H.C., a 1999 documentary about New York Hardcore music scene. “These stories really did happen like that. It was a weird time. I think that the circles [Jodorowsky] was travelling in—of course he would be at a weird party in Paris, where Mick Jagger would be.”
Fanboys and girls would have drooled over the visual team. A then-obscure H.R. Giger designed the creepier Harkonnen settings. Dan O’Bannon, known at the time for his work with John Carpenter on the sci-fi film Dark Star, was brought on as the special effects wiz. (Jodorowsky rejected Douglas Trumbull because he found him too full of himself.) British artist Chris Foss designed the space craft. And Jean Giraud, aka French comic book artist Moebius, brought Jodorowsky’s dreams to life in some 3,000 storyboard drawings that perfectly capture a character or scene with a few quick pencil marks on the page.
Concept art by Swiss artist H.R. Giger
These drawings showed every shot in the film, every composition, every angle and every camera movement, as well every line in the script. Along with concept art and sketches of costumes, spaceships, vehicles, palaces and landscapes, the storyboard drawings were then bound into a 30-pound book that Jodorowsky used to shop his mammoth project to financiers and Hollywood studios. Twenty copies were made.
At that point, two years of pre-production had run up a tab of $2 million. The overall budget has been estimated at $15 million, “because nobody really knew how high it could possibly get.” Mind to you, this was 1975, two years before the success of Star Wars. Blockbuster sci-fi epics were hardly the slam-dunks they are today. In that era, a $15 million price tag would have been an “insanely huge,” Pavich said. Amazingly, $10 million was raised from Jodorowsky’s money and European backers. They needed the final $5 million, from “a studio partner, so they could get the film out on US screens.”
That money was never raised.
Jodorowsky and Moebius
Production was shut down just as filming was about to begin in Algeria. “They had the cooperation of the Algerian government,” Pavich said. “The Algerian army was going to play Harkonnen extras.”
Today, of those 20 original bibles, only two remain. Seydoux has one. Jodorowosky kept another copy all these years in his Paris apartment, where much of the Jodorowsky’s Dune takes places.
“I wanted to make something sacred,” Jodorowsky says during one of his many bombastic moments. “Dune will be the coming of a God.” When he tries to persuade Pink Floyd to come on board, he describes his project as “the most important picture in the history of humanity.” Modest, the man is not. But shining through Jodorowsky’s often poetically-broken English are his indefatigable spirit and enthusiasm, which win you over in the end.
Alejandro Jodorowsky (Photo: David Cavallo)
“He speaks whatever he feels like. Sometimes he doesn’t even know. It’s in French, and English, and Spanish – he kind of goes all over the place,” said Pavich. “He doesn’t have a self-censor button.” In between the interviews with Jodorowsky (whose intimates call “Jodo”), we hear from producer Seydoux (also a producer of Pavich’s documentary), Giger, Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz, Nicolas Winding Refn, and others.
All the while, that tome gains psychic weight. Its pages which we occasionally glimpse become more poignant, and more pregnant with possibility. Why? Because Jodorowsky never shot one foot of film for his adaptation of Dune.
Storyboard of Dune (Photo: David Cavallo)
“As we were making the film, we learned there was nothing. Nobody had any record of anything.” Pavich found no photographs of the artists at work, nor of the location scouting in Chile, Mexico and Algeria. Jodorowsky’s document was all that remained.
“What an amazing object that is,” said Pavich. Between its covers, in these drawings, the film still lives.
Pavich brings some of that imagination to life by cleverly, but not obtrusively, animating Moebius’s pencil sketches. “I didn’t want to sort of CGI-ify the whole thing. Because then it becomes someone else’s vision—my vision, or someone else’s—when it really should be Alejandro’s.” His approach, via the animation of Emmy Award-nominated Syd Garon, was to take the original artwork and “just breathe enough life into it” to “lift it off the page.” The viewer sees some movement, and a glimmer of what Jodorowsky’s film would have been like. “Then hopefully your imagination carries it the rest of the way, because that’s where the movie exists—in his imagination, and yours, and all the viewers’.”
As Jodorowsky rails against those who got in the way of his vision, the documentary becomes as much about an unmade movie as it is a meditation on hope and hubris. “Why will you not have ambition?” Jodorowsky admonishes the viewer, Yoda-style, towards the end of the film. “If you fail, it is not important. You need to try.”
David Carradine and Jodorowsky
As for those 18 other copies of Jodorowsky’s Dune, they disappeared. As Pavich conjectures, the drawings and designs could have made the rounds in Hollywood. George Lucas might have seen the book. Steven Spielberg might have seen it. Ridley Scott, too. Or their minions. After all, O’Bannon, Giger, Foss and Moebius went on to work on Alien. O’Bannon was also writer for Heavy Metal, Lifeforce, Invaders from Mars, Total Recall and other films, and even did a little computer graphics for Star Wars. Chris Foss did design work for Superman, Flash Gordon, and the Kubrick version of A.I. Artificial Intelligence. A comic called “The Long Tomorrow,” written by O’Bannon in 1975 and illustrated by Moebius, was said to influence Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. And so forth.
Concept art by Chris Foss
From that design team, and sprouting from Jodorowsky’s psychedelic brain, came a hundred science fictional ideas, aesthetics, and family trees. But Pavich doesn’t think Jodorowsky’s Dune inspired thievery.
“I don’t think that they’re pillaging it and stealing ideas. I think they’re taking it and they’re being inspired by it,” he said. “Sometimes things seep in and you don’t even realize it.” That’s what makes Jodorowsky’s Dune an interesting story, Pavich added. “It’s not an unmade film that just ended, it’s an unmade film that just keeps on living. And you see its children in other films.”
Concept art by Giger
As for Dune, Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis bought the rights and hired David Lynch to direct it. Which Lynch did. Fans of the original book cried foul. Dune also became a three-part TV mini-series in 2000.
As for Alejandro Jodorowsky, he went on to direct a few other films, including last year’s The Dance of Reality. But thinking about his Dune, I wonder how all of Jodo’s wild images would have been captured by circa 1975 technology. Probably poorly. In a way, I’m glad the film was never made.
The best version of Dune is the one still in my head. Or, I should say, in all of our heads.
Giger in his studio
Concept art by Foss
Concept art by Giger
All photos courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Last week, the US Navy flew a model airplane with a small 2-stroke engine. That's not normally news, except for one big detail: the fuel the plane burned was made from seawater via a process the Navy has been working on for years . Let's look a little into what this sorcery is, and if it'll ever power our cars.
We’re back at the Huzzik Empire’s Supreme Court for another wacky ruling! Next thing you know they’ll be declaring donuts to be sentient and monkeys to be hot dogs.
They may be right about hot dogs.
The Business Software Alliance -- a proprietary software industry group -- has pulled a controversial ad that promised cash to people who snitched on friends and employers who used pirated software, after they were credibly accused of pirating the image used in the campaign.
The ad used a photo of a pot of gold, captioned with "Your pot of gold is right here baby. Report unlicensed software and GET PAID." The photo used in the ad was of a cake baked by Cakecentral user Bethasd (the cake itself is pretty amazing! "St. Patrick's Day Pot O' Gold - Chocolate Guinness cake with Bailey's Irish Buttercream").
The BSA has refused to comment on its use of the photo, or to confirm that it was licensed prior to use, but they immediately pulled the ad after being asked about it. Meanwhile, Torrentfreak "encourage[s] 'bethasd' to get in contact with the software industry group, and demand both licensing fees and damages for the unauthorized use of her photo. Surely, the BSA will be happy to hand over a pot of gold to her."
Representing major software companies, the BSA is using Facebook ads which encourage people to report businesses that use unlicensed software. If one of these reports results in a successful court case, the pirate snitch can look forward to a cash reward.
Below is one of the promoted Facebook posts that appeared in the timeline of thousands of people on Saint Patrick’s Day. It features a homemade cake in the shape of a pot of gold and sends a clear message to the readers.
“Your pot of gold is right here baby. Report unlicensed software and GET PAID,” the post reads.
Busted: BSA Steals Photo For “Snitch On a Pirate” Campaign [Ernesto/Torrentfreak]
Joh Robert Thompson started with this rough sketch for a GPS unit that had not just the voice, but wisdom of Morgan Freeman back in August, and he’s since refined it to this ad, which features not just a Morgan Freeman GPS, but a Liam Neeson one for good measure:
There’s WAY more “you gotta be thin” crap in our culture for women but we can’t ignore the unattainable body images that guys have to put up with too. There is just no physical way for most guys to get that friggin V torso without giving up on friends and family in exchange for a relationship with a gym.
David "Davidope" Szakaly is a talented Hungarian animator who specializes in trippy, freaky GIFs that pulse and twist and melt your brain.
Szakaly began experimenting with the vector animation program Macromedia Flash back in 1999 where he used the software to create presentations, banners, and other creatives for clients. It was nearly a decade later when he decided to dedicate more time to experimenting with motion graphics and found that Tumblr was a great platform to share his quirky gifs. While he still works in the corporate world on other digital projects, he has also found commercial success making animations for clients around the world. Though it’s his personal work that really stands out. If or when gifs end up on gallery walls, it will be hard to deny Szakaly’s role in getting them there.
Where Art Meets Gif: The Hypnotic Animated Gifs of David Szakaly [Christopher Jobson/Colossal]
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)
Ryan writes, "I was a backer of the Veronica Mars movie, one level of backer got you a digital download of the movie. They ended up going with Warner Bros owned/backed Flixster. So for me I have an apple TV and a Roku. Flixster doesn't support appleTV or airplay, the Flixster channel for the Roku will crash anytime you try to watch anything. Flixster also will not allow you to watch the movie on a computer that has dual monitors."
The studio will allow you to buy a better experience on a non-Flixster service, send them the bill, and get a refund (but only if you complain first).
There's a copy of the movie on The Pirate Bay with more than 11,000 seeders, which means that this Flixster business is doing precisely nothing to deter piracy, and is only serving to alienate megafans who voluntarily donated money to see this movie made, and to subject the studio itself to potential millions in administrative costs and refunds to investors who were forced into the retail channels.
The studios can't conceive of an "audience" that has an active role in, or any right to, the media they enjoy: not even when that "audience" is more properly viewed as the product's investors. What's more, they're the angel investors who bought in when the product was highly speculative and assumed 100% of the risk; the studio is just the VC who came along to put in a round of safe money after the project had proven out. In any real business-setting, the angels would be suing the pants off of the VCs and winning.
DRM has become a cult-belief among some studio execs, a point of pride without recourse to rationality. When your religious dogma causes you to lock the movie's investors out of the movie itself, perhaps it's time to reconsider your dogma.
They claim this is all studio restrictions but I find that laughable being that the movie is a Warner Bros movie Flixster is a Warner Bros service and If I purchased the movie on iTunes or Amazon or downloaded via a bittorrent I could watch it on my AppleTV in HD
Many unhappy comments regarding this choice on the kickstarter page also.
There's also no GNU/Linux version of Flixter, so your reward for being a GNU/Linux user who gave your personal, actual money to make this movie is a kick in the pants.
On Hackaday, Shenzhen demonstrates some proof-of-concept "taser-proof clothing" created by adding carbon fiber to the clothes' lining. The carbon fiber textile can be procured in a variety of forms, including upholstery fabric (58" wide, $19.50/yard) and peel-and-stick 50cm tape rolls. Shenzhen claims this will work even if the taser's prongs get to the wearer's body: "Electric current flows through the carbon tape and not through the human body. Always. Even if the taser's needle pierced the skin."
NOTE: Chambers' work is pre-Lovecraft
"In short, The King in Yellow has gone viral. But why? It's all due to the powerful creative draw of the weird mythos, stories which create, in the words of H.P. Lovecraft, a shared literary universe defined by an "unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces" and "the daemons of unplumbed space." And that effect is very definitely by design."
Tihk sells a tiny, easily concealed handcuff key for "everyday carry," and intended for "law enforcement, military, and security professionals...[to avoid] being restrained with their own cuffs, captured person release and evading capture themselves." $13 for a two-pack.
TIL some people took "sea horse" literally
Pendant with a female rider on a hippocamp, made in Spain in the late 16th century.
I saw this at the Louvre. It is one of the few works that left an impression.
It's also a six-seater electric concept car from VW's Italdesign with hologram displays and the back of an Audi.