Saturday, March 24, 2007

Justin.tv meets COPS

Having been live for less than a week, Justin.tv already has become the target of some pretty nefarious cyberpunks with a LOT of time of their hands. Yesterday someone spoofed Justin's cell phone (the number publicly listed on the site) and called the San Francisco police reporting a stabbing at Justin's apartment. And what did the cops find when they busted into the North Beach apartment with guns drawn? A bunch of geeks with laptops (and notably dry laps. Justin seems to be quite a chill guy). The entire scenario played out like a boring episode of Fox's "COPS." Watch here.

I think the scariest part of this is the cop's personal job description. When Justin tries to explain that they call was probably spoofed through a relay the cops replies: "How do you do that? I'm not very technical. I shoot people." Yikes.

But who better to prank then some dude with a camera strapped to his head? You get to watch your prank unfold from the privacy of your very own parent's basement. I'm surprised someone hasn't already ordered them a stripper to spice up Justin.tv's rather bland subject matter.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Web 2.0 and You: A Romance

In case you didn't get the memo, that "series of tubes" that you've been (ab)using to download porn and play World of Warcraft (sometimes simultaneously) can do a lot more than just that. The Future of Web Apps conference, which met a few weeks back in London, was a meeting of many of the minds behind web 2.0, including reps from the biggies - Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Yahoo! - as well as some smaller players - Digg, Flickr, Last.fm, NYTimes.com (whose Times Reader is amazing and will be out of beta soon). All of this is terribly exciting as it will be the collaboration between organizations that will yield the most profound innovations in the coming years.

But what is web 2.0 and why is it important? This post is just a way for me to introduce you to Prof. Michael Wesch, an cultural anthropologist by degree and a digital ethnographer by YouTube. He created a very popular video for his media studies class that has over a million views which beautifully and quickly touches on the abstractions of web 2.0 that make this technology, and more importantly its limitless potential applications, so amazing.

The Machine is Us/ing Us

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Edtv" 2.0 = Justin.tv?

At midnight on March 19th, 2007 Justin Kan went live. Totally live. His entire life is now a non-stop video blog. With a camera strapped his head, a huge pack of batteries slung over his back, and a live feed streaming 24:7, Justin.tv is an actualization of an "off the wall idea," as its creator often calls it on the "show."

While all the functionality is not there yet - the video stream occasionally clicks out and the innovative "boo" and "clap" buttons aren't live yet - it is amazing that so much of the site is indeed up and working considering that the entire project laughs in the face of Murphy's Law.

Justin has already been seen fielding live phone calls from fans, stalkers, and even mid-lecture media professors. The show's chatroom is buzzing with comments from users/viewers (a term they themselves can't agree on), offering suggestions for improvements and asking if they can be on the show and, therefore, meet Justin. Of course, the uncensored chat section has users urging Justin to "bang" every female he sees, and Justin admits on air that perhaps some sort of "moderation" will be needed to keep the forum productive and not reproductive. And when does a new internet technology take off with boobs?

Still, the 23 year-old Yale grad has quite an interesting experiment going. The applications of easy live and mobile webcasting are huge and already the chat forum wants Justin.tv to circumnavigate the world. Earth.tv? I'd watch.

Monday, March 19, 2007

"Hillary 1984" Stomps on YouTube

In 1984, during Super Bowl XVIII, Apple computers announced to the world the arrival of the Macintosh personal computer. Directed by Ridley Scott, who had just finished the dystopian Blade Runner, and inspired by George Orwell's 1984, the commercial featured a buxom Anya Major, freeing the minds of a slew of human automatons, portrayed by actual skinheads, by throwing a hammer through the IBMesque Big Brother. Watch it if you haven't already.

Recently climbing the YouTube charts is a surprisingly sophisticated video mashup, replacing the Orwellian Big Brother face with that of Senator, and democratic presidential nominee hopeful, Hillary Clinton. The political guerrilla artist/activist swaps in Clinton's face in all of the screens that appear in the ad and uses audio from Clinton's own online video announcement of her candidacy and subsequent "HillCasts." Additionally, the nameless heroine's tank now sports a trendy Obama logo. It is interesting to note that it is not the original ad from 1984 being used, but the 20th anniversary cut shown at 2004 MacWorld Expo where the nameless heroine is sporting an iPod.



The video is making quite a splash, gracing the front page of The San Francisco Chronicle, and has political and media commentators in a tizzy. Looking back at the media firsts the 2004 election set, 2008 is moving right on course. 2004 had Sen. John Edwards announce his candidacy on "The Daily Show," had Howard Dean winning the election (for about a week, according to “the internet”), and had Swift Boat Veterans paying for their own smear campaign. Now, gearing up for 2008, candidates are announcing their candidacy via vlog fireside-chats and battle is being waged on YouTube between political activists.

None of these developments are terribly surprising, but it is refreshing seeing the discussion move outside the blogosphere. However, conventional ad agencies, as well as the media outlets they use, are still trying to nail down by the lightning-in-a-bottle phenomenon of “going viral.” Just as Google has yet to capitalize on its $1.65 billion petulant child YouTube, the American political machine has yet to harness the ADHD acrimony of the internet.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

RIAA Wants Your Kids (souls money)

In the soap-operatic saga that is the RIAA’s war on the internet, this past week brought a slew of lawsuits, royalty hikes, and the appropriate blogosphere reaction. In classic form, the RIAA mixed dubious legal specifics in a massive arena of illegal generalities with scare tactics, this time aimed at another 400 of the millions of college students who illegally download over a billion copyrighted songs a year between the hours spent updating MySpace profiles and working towards that level 70 in WoW (good job kids, here’s come candy). I hope they already have a Facebook group and I’m keeping an eye out for hipsters sporting “I got sued by the RIAA and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” paraphernalia. Charged with drug human file-trafficking, the RIAA has already offered the option of settlement for $3,000.

Following the filing of these lawsuits, Mitch Bainwol and Cary Sherman, and CEO and president of the RIAA respectively, wrote an op-ed for “Inside Higher Ed” addressing claims of bullying, chiding college administrators for lapsing as moral leaders, and encouraging universities to take advantage of this “teachable moment.” But you don’t have to take their written word for it! They have a DVD!

The DVD is part of the RIAA’s proactive outreach program designed to collaborate with university administrators. The campaign, creatively named Campus Downloading, has information on how illegally downloading music will land you in federal-pound-me-in-the-ass-prison, why RIAA owned music is important to defining you as a person, and how you can come to the light side and legally download your music.

The methods and avenues the RIAA pursues to combat the vile and anti-democratic problem of internet piracy are at best counter-productive and at worst hypocritical. The Campus Downloading campaign is yet another example of the RIAA throwing buckets of money, from a pool it claims is quickly drying up due to a draining “series of tubes,” at a problem they refuse to collaborate or budge on. The campaign continuously cites legal ways to download and listen to music, yet the op-ed in discussion was published days after the RIAA won the right to levee webcasting fees, potentially destroying webradio as it exists today.

However, a case could be made that the RIAA is indeed strapped for cash when looking at the production value of the Campus Downloading campaign. The video employs a thirty-five year old “actor” to play Joe-college’s conscience. Between every cut away he puts on his headphones so when the camera returns to him to tell you about the dangers of unprotected extra-marital sex illegal downloading he has to pause his legally obtained Metallica and ceremoniously pull the white ear buds out.

Campus Downloading’s tag line, found on every page of their website, seems more like a mixed metaphor than an anti-piracy mantra. “Protect yourself. Do it legally” This sounds more like a tourism campaign slogan for Amsterdam than an RIAA anti-piracy campaign. Our perhaps the RIAA just wants you to wear rubbers when downloading porn music.

Most despicable of the RIAA’s tactics is their attempt to take the moral high road, chastising university administrators for not (pro/per)secuting internet piracy with the same zeal they crackdown on plagiarism. Blogger Kim Christen puts it best commenting at BoingBoing.net: “The people who created sex, drugs and rock and roll, who glorified thug life and guns, are suddenly all concerned with the moral character of America's teens. That's about as credible as the idea that they're really worried about musicians' fortunes.”

This most recent episode in the RIAA war on technology is nothing new and does not really deviate from the RIAA’s earlier anti-piracy policies and strategies. As the issues of copyright and property play themselves out in the world of web 2.0 the RIAA might be an early, if drawn out, casualty of intellectual war.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Grey's Anatomy Jumping the Shark

It’s sad when you can pin-point the moment a TV show jumps the shark. For many shows it’s the exit of a major actor, for others, it’s the entrance of a new baby, and for many it’s the appearance of Ted McGinley. For Grey’s Anatomy it is the Lazarus-like reanimation of Dr. Meredith Grey. You know you’re in trouble when the name of the episode is “Some Kind of Miracle.” It’s like the writers admit they have no idea what’s going on. They can’t even pretend to know what kind of miracle they’ve just written. Grey tests her newfound sixth sense in an episode where General Hospital meets The Frighteners.

While Grey confronts a slew of underdeveloped plot devices who died in the previous episodes, the rest of the cast grapples with the drawn out near-death of the titular Grey. Let’s break this down to see what this “emotional episode” has in store.

  • Dr. Cristina Yang goes on a spending spree at a 99¢ store and then gets wasted at the local bar. If only you could combine those and get a 99¢ bar.
  • Dr. Isobel “Izzie” Stevens bristles with all of her possessive, holier-than-thou, bitchiness before snapping and trying to take a bite of George’s new wife, a much bigger dog than herself.
  • Dr. George O’Malley was…uh…was he in this episode? Oh yeah, right, all he did was NOT talk to Izzy. Good thing we resolved that.
  • Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd, in his classiest move yet, bitches out Meredith’s dying, Alzheimer’s ridden mother for messing up her kid.
  • Dr. Addison Montgomery-Shepherd wishes that McDreamy would have bitched out HER mom out of love.
  • Dr. Mark “McSteamy” Sloan still wants to bone Addison. And, in the only interesting development in the episode, outdoes Josh Harnett and agrees to go SIXTY days without sex and in return he gets another go at Addison. Addison agrees that she will also abstain, scoffing and says “Who would I possibly be having sex with?” before the camera subtly cuts to
  • Dr. Alex Karev, continuing to reveal his surprisingly resourceful and touching side, takes care of a pregnant woman with amnesia who looks like Michael Myers from “Halloween.” I think that’s all they gave this actress when they described her character to her before shooting.
  • Chief Dr. Richard Webber still pines for the late Dr. Ellis Grey. But he did just dye his hair, and truthfully, she'll never be able to tell!
  • Dr. Miranda Bailey has gotten soft now that she’s had a kid. What happened to “The Nazi?”
  • Dr. Preston Burke has amazingly few lines. I guess network execs are trying to reduce his opportunity to shove his homophobic foot in his flapping mouth.

But don’t worry; this episode has lots of crazy, pan-dimensional, personal issue resolutions. Meredith confronts her mother in the spiritual back drop of…well, purgatory seems to be simply an overexposed copy of Seattle Grace Hospital without all the sexual tension. Meredith and Ellis are able to resolve all of their problems with thirty seconds of dialogue and hugging. And now, apparently, Ellis can peacefully slip out of this world as Meredith slips back in to resume her life outside of her mother’s venomous shadow. Booyah, Freud.

Oh, and because the writers were still watching “Ghost” while they wrote the last few minutes of the episode, Izzy, the accidental gold digger, seems to get a reassuring ethereal groping from her deceased betrothed Denny which, apparently, lays his uneasy soul to rest. Ghost sex is easy.

And it’s all a neat little package…of vomit. Well, it seems that Grey’s has joined Lost on the crazy train. Now all I have left is Battlestar Galactica and at least when crazy shit happens there I’m ok with it because the show is set in the space… and the future… with robots.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Stomp the Yard

Reigning top at theaters for two of the weakest box office weeks of the year, Stomp the Yard has managed to gross over $60 million. Hollywood has hit on a magical blend of blaxploitation and teensploitation to pump America’s youth of color for $10 movie admission.

Like the film’s predecessors, Drumline and You Got Served, all of the entertainment value of Stomp can be attributed to the choreography. However, the filmmakers find it necessary to intersperse the marching dancing stomping? stepping sequences with “plot” and character “development.” Stomp exhibits its cinematic reach when the protagonist’s mentor imparts to him, with due gravitas, the pearl of wisdom: "...a fraternity, now that's a brotherhood." It seems he got the film’s script confused with a dictionary, which I can’t fathom because I’m sure the script fits on the back of a Cracker Jack box.

Here’s a little math for you:

(“Drumline” – Orlando Jones + “You Got Served” – (B2K + Steve Harvey)) x frat-brother-chest-thumping = “Stomp the Yard”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the boxed Blu-Ray (yay Sony affiliated/owned studios!) trilogy collection entitled “You Stomped the Drumline.”