Monthly Archives: June 2009

iPods and Walkmans, or how we perceive technology

The Sony Walkman is 30 years old. I still recall seeing my first Walkman. I was amazed at how good the sound quality was and yet how small it was. It was revolutionary to me.

There was another revolution, too. A social one. There was alot of talk at the time about how people were tuning out the world even as they were moving through it. It was not seen as a positive development.

All that has changed now, and how this technology is perceived now is very different than it was back then. To see how different, I recommend reading this article on the BBC web site. They asked a 13 year old to give up his iPod for a Walkman and to report back his experiences. It’s a good read: BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | Giving up my iPod for a Walkman

Iran, Spying and why we need a new Internet

According to the WSJ.com,

“The Iranian regime has developed, with the assistance of European telecommunications companies, one of the world’s most sophisticated mechanisms for controlling and censoring the Internet, allowing it to examine the content of individual online communications on a massive scale.

Interviews with technology experts in Iran and outside the country say Iranian efforts at monitoring Internet information go well beyond blocking access to Web sites or severing Internet connections.

Instead, in confronting the political turmoil that has consumed the country this past week, the Iranian government appears to be engaging in a practice often called deep packet inspection, which enables authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for disinformation purposes, according to these experts.

The monitoring capability was provided, at least in part, by a joint venture of Siemens AG, the German conglomerate, and Nokia Corp., the Finnish cellphone company, in the second half of 2008, Ben Roome, a spokesman for the joint venture, confirmed.”

This is signifigant beyond the Iran. As all our communications become digital, it becomes possible for everything we do to be tracked and monitored by any government. And that is possible because all communications on the Internet goes through centralized hubs at major ISPs.

We need to have communications as distributed as possible. We need a new Internet.

In the meantime, check out: Iran’s Web Spying Aided By Western Technology – WSJ.com

Great Friday night music: Never Forget You by the Noisettes

I am an instant fan of this song from the Noisettes.

The video and the band has such great style, too. As I was listening to it (and looking at the Karmann Ghia car), I thought: this reminds me of girl groups of the 50s and 60s. If you are not familiar with them, check out the Ronettes, the Shangri-las and others — including my favourites, Martha and the Vandellas — in this medley here:

More ghosts from the 70s: Lou Rawls

The 1970s are popping up alot this week, it seems. Besides MJ and Farrah, there is this film clip from the new Ice Age movie (Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs) that features the hit classic “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” from the great Lou Rawls.

When I was growing up in the 70s, there was a morning radio show that I swear played this song every morning before school for…I dunno….months, at least. (Along with an advertisement for chainsaws, so now, when I recall going to school, I think of Lou Rawls and chainsaws).  That aside, it IS a great song. And if you want to see it done by Mr. Rawls himself, it’s here:

Very 70s — the song is from 1976 — but Lou Rawls is smooth in any decade.

The Inventiveness of Michael Jackson

Of the many things being written about Michael Jackson, this one caught my attention. According to this CrunchGear post:

“some of the equipment he used was so creative as to warrant a patent”

If you go here, Michael Jackson, king of pop and.. inventor?, you can get the details, including a link to the patent (with his name on it). Also,  you can see an embedded video with showing the patent in action. Very cool.

Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and other ghosts from the 1970s

I learned about popular culture in the 1970s. I hadn’t thought of it too much until this week. Too much of 70s culture was bad, and shows like “That 70s Show” reminded and reinforced that for me. I was very glad when the 70s pop culture gave way to 80s pop culture.

But with the passing of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, and the release of new tapes from Richard Nixon, it all came back again this week. I recalled having a T shirt with Farrah Fawcett on it when I was a kid. (Hey, so did everyone else! :) ) And of course I had seen the Jackson 5 many times on TV.

I pulled up some videos of the Jackson 5 on YouTube and found this:

It may seem strange and funny, but since colour TV was still fairly new back then, and special effect were pretty limited (Star Trek wasn’t just phony looking because of budgetary reasons), this may have been seen as pretty cutting edge. And Carol Burnett and other variety shows — and there were lots back then — would likely have had big budgets.

Whatever you think of all that, one thing I can’t help but notice is that Michael Jackson has always been a great dancer. Great performer, period. As were the Jackson 5. When all is said and done, and all the trappings of the 70s are put aside, they were great.

And if you are hankering for more 70s goodness after that, here are the Jackson 5 on Cher’s show, doing a medley of their hits. (Medleys were HUGE on variety shows.) For this, the only special effect is those tuxedoes.

From why writing novels is hard to Monty Python’s Novel Writing with Thomas Hardy

How hard is it to write a novel? I suspect it is difficult, but this blog post, Why New Novelists Are Kinda Old, or, Hey, Publishing is Slow shows why it is really difficult to write a novel at all, never mind a good one. (Found via a tweet from Tim O’Reilly)

Reading this, I can’t help but think of what is one of my favourite Monty Python’s sketches: Novel Writing with Thomas Hardy. It is just so wonderfully absurd.