polemicist: a writer who argues in opposition to others  

A BLOG about science, technology, consumerism, philosophy, higher education, media and other bothersome stuff that makes up modern life...

20080321.0838 Instant Messaging, Just Add Water

I have had a personal problem lately.  The Thrill is gone.  I'm just not feeling the love from my Instant Messaging client software anymore.  It is a sordid tale.  I've been around the block, let me tell you.  

The classic client - which is still the supported version at my office.  I think the only ad it shows is the "why haven't you upgraded yet?" ad.  And it shows it everywhere, as if to shame you into upgrading.  It's the old friend that will always take you back when those fancy-types let you down, but you still don't want your friends coming over and seeing you.

The newfangled client with email and audio and video and ads the size of your head.

Instant Messenger Pro with WebEx integration (that's really handy but only if someone else is using it on the other end) and not a lot of anything else - and it turns your buddy icon into an ad for them.

 GAIM - which I actually liked quite a lot.  But then about 2 months ago I started having a problem where my away message would stick.  So it looked like I went to lunch & never came back every day unless I remembered to restart the client software.  I tried the other clients & kept having the problem - leading mein retrospect  to think it was an IM central server glitch...  But it lead me to upgrade GAIM to the new version...

Pidgin - This is the new name for GAIM and while the interface is truly very slick - I find it to be very... intolerant.  I constantly get error messages complaining about the format of HTML links sent from other clients, instead of those actual links.  I only know that links are what tickle it because everyone yells at me about it.

So finally - today I downloaded Trillian. This alone was an adventure.  First I had to carefully uncheck all the install options so I didn't end up with the Weather Channel Desktop & the search bar - which somehow I didn't remember asking to install to begin with....  (I hate  the trend of bundle-ware installers that default to spamming your system with ad-ware. )  And then I got an up-sell screen trying to get me to buy Trillian Pro.  Next it's not picking up my icon and I have to start over.  And now I see that it's more focused on the multiple-platform thing & less on the feature-rich IM thing.

Well, I guess I'll try it for a while & see how I like it.  This default skin looks too much like Vista - that's gotta go first...

20080319.1043 My Hed Asplode

 I read this article yesterday and it makes my blood BOIL.

I don't know ANYONE who thinks this is OK & yet they come up with numbers saying that 65% of the people are behind this crap!  Do all of them live somewhere else?  Is this the press trying to sell the lie to us some more?  If I remember correctly, the "Patriot" Act was swept through congress in a way that made it physically impossible for the law to be read, much less properly evaluated - and Congress collectively rubber-stamped the process - in essence handing the Executive branch a blank check to do as it saw fit to violate the civil liberties of American Citizens.  And if I remember correctly, that wasn't enough.  Even those 'boundaries' were completely over-stepped.  And then if I remember correctly, laws were passed to retroactively make all of that wrong-doing impossible to persecute!  Most of America doesn't even know that this happened, much less have had the ability to form an opinion about it - for the most part because it has been under-reported in the strangle-hold-corporate-controlled-media.... And they have the audacity to say that people support this?  

One more time, with feeling!

"Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security."
- Benjamin Franklin

 It's got me so totally angry that I need to link out to an insanely great website just to balance out my post so that it doesn't just cause blood vessels in people's brains to spontaneously pop like firecrackers on the 4th of July.  I don't need that kind of guilt.

20080317.1032 Digital or Bust!

The coming of Digital Television signals the obsolescence the the seminal Cyberpunk classic Neuromancer.  That often-cited book wherein author William Gibson coined the now ubiquitous term "cyberspace".

Why do I say this is now obsolete?  Let us begin with one of the best opening lines of any science fiction tale:

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."

Thanks to the US Government's plan to turn off analog television broadcasting, this reference will likely be only something that people outside of the USA will understand.  The static, brought to you by the Big Bang, was a constant fixture in my childhood.  When I discuss that quote with younger people today they think it refers to the solid blue screen that cuts in on most cable-ready television sets to prevent the static.

The second reason I say that Neuromancer is "so over" is because they are finally making a movie rendition of the book.  They have of course cast someone who IMHO is perhaps is the worst sci-fi actor of all time - known to most as the Whiny Vader v1.0 - i.e. Hayden Christensen- to play the fast-hustling  and grizzled speed junkie/ex-hacker main character of the story - Case.

As usual the problem is that this pretty face gets cast in a role that requires acting.  While it could be argued that the part of the angst-ridden teen-Vader could not have been properly pulled off by anyone since the young Marlon Brando - I think it's universally agreed that Hayden's performance was as popular with the core fans as Jar-Jar Binks.

To be sure, any film rendition of Neuromancer today will most likely scrape off the layers of baked-on post-bladerunner anti-corporate grit that are so vital to the setting in favor of something cheerier that will test better with random audiences.  The same will go for the omni-present drug references and indeed drug-use as a plot device (It was written in 1984 after all, when "Drugs" seemed like the only problem the world was facing) - these are almost certain to be removed - otherwise it's to the back shelf at WalMart, if they'll carry it at all.  (And with 1 out of 3 DVD's in the USA being sold at WalMart, don't fool yourself into thinking that it doesn't have any influence.)

And while there's two "love" angles at work in the story - first the tragedy of Case's girlfriend and then the lusty romps with Molly - neither of them has anything like a "feel-good" element.  So it's likely that a love story that never existed in the original story will be invented much like the love story inserted into  Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  That would fit about as well as anything resembling "hope" or a "happy ending".  There's an ending, but only insofar that Something Happens - and then everyone goes back to making their way through their lives.  It is also my sincere hope that the plot doesn't expand somehow to involve "saving the world" as in the debacle that was the movie rendition of Johnny Mnemonic.

So with that said - I bid a fond farewell to an intense vision of the future that is now starting to suffer the ravages of time as the present begins to catch up with the imagined future.  It was a beautiful dream and I liked it.  I will miss it as it becomes re-remembered by the masses.  <shrug/>

20080314.0948 No Expectation of Privacy

I find the whole recent mess with Governor Spitzer interesting in the intensity with which he was disgraced.  Here was at least someone who was willing to openly admit that he screwed up.  Apparently had he lied about it like all the other politicians he could keep his job, but after owning up they demanded his resignation.

<shrug>Whatever.</shrug>  At least it got the news off of the presidential election - which is just hogging all the headlines lately.

The thing I found interesting however wasn't the whole scandal, but the comments in this article about how the alleged call-girl in question dismantled her public profiles online after she discovered that her facebook & myspace pictures were on the covers of newspapers.

Since that's a link to CNN, I don't know how long it will last, do I'll quote a few of the passages that caught my attention:

She was seemingly aware that the press would have access to her friends and every word, photo and comment on her profiles, so she began by deleting connections between her friends on Facebook.

I'm sorry - shouldn't everyone be?  Was it a secret? 

Facebook and MySpace have become one of the go-to background tools for journalists in the past couple of years, allowing members of the press to put a face to the subject of their story and find out more about them.

Is this an admission of guilt on the part of the press or what?  "Investigative journalism" today means using Google & Facebook apparently.

American University Law Professor Chris Simpson, an expert in Internet and privacy law, said there is no expectation of privacy when it comes to social networking Web sites.

That's an interesting point - this implies that there is no legal recourse whatsoever for people making money off of the material that you provide to any social networking site.  I wonder however how that extends the rights of Copyright however? 

Pictures from her apparent MySpace and Facebook profile were splashed across media Web sites -- and Dupre appeared to take notice.

Wouldn't the person who took the photos still own the rights to them?  In the same way that you may not simply cut & paste any graphic from the internet into your own work without paying royalties - don't the media web sites and furthermore - Newspapers and magazines - don't they owe royalties on those photos, or do you sign away all your publishing rights by posting?

It seems to me that when your grade school teacher scolds your child for abusing copyrights but Newspaper editors do it at will that we have a dichodomy of protocols in our society.



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