Month: April 2009

Shadowtheft, or Holding Your Telepresence Hostage…

I think this is fascinating. The link below is itself a link of a story, but the germ of it is that someone hacked into a Facebook account, and then pretended to be that person, asking people on his friend’s list for money. Not very subtle, or likely to work; most of my friends would rarely ask me for money, and if they did, it’s not usually going to come across on Facebook.

But what captures my attention are the sci-fi implications here. We join more and more social networking sites and use more programs that connect to them. The only people in a position to see us all the time are our families and co-workers. I’ve lately only got time to see friends every few weeks, if that. So if someone pretends to be me, and does a good job, those that don’t get the daily dose of myself will never know who they were talking to.

I’m not even sure how a scam artist could make anything out of this, but it makes you wonder… how much would you pay to get your Facebook-self back from kidnappers?

Kidnapped on Facebook | Beyond the Beyond from Wired.com

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Each One Is A Story

What I like about these ideas is the kind of world that you imagine them creating.

(I’ve been working on one based the last point for a while now.)

IBM Reveals Five Innovations That Will Change Our Lives in the Next Five Years
— Energy saving solar technology will be built into asphalt, paint and windows
— You will have a crystal ball for your health
— You will talk to the Web . . . and the Web will talk back
— You will have your own digital shopping assistants
— Forgetting will become a distant memory

Of course, there is always the cynical side of this sort of futurism; I wonder what percentage of the world’s population will be able to take advantage of these?

Not-So-Secret Pirate Maps

(By the way, we’re not talking about the kinds of pirates that watch TV shows or movies downloaded illegally. Which is to say, most everybody you know. This is the actual ship-boarding, hostage-taking, booty-grabbing pirates, perhaps with less of the costumes we’ve come to associate with the term!)

The links below indicate internet map-tracking of recent pirate activity. I’d be interested in applying history to this, and seeing how similar the map is to what have been historically persistent locales for oceanic crime. It’s finding information like this that I find so fascinating; it’s taking what the internet can do and applying it to actual events. Finding patterns.

(The other side of the coin is that the pirates, if they are web-savvy at all, have access to these same maps. Not to mention making their own, non-public maps to help organize their hijacking all the better.)

The other part of this is that despite the seeming high-tech future we live in, there are elements of world consumption that are tied to practical problems that don’t go away with being connected to the Web. In particular, geography. Oceans still need to be crossed with things that one side has and the other needs. Ditto for mountains, deserts, or any other geographical obstacle that needs to be overcome. Food for thought when so many people find Web 2.0 as the center of their day, for work or pleasure.

The major news stories these days seem to be about the Somali pirates, or at least the attacks coming from that area. The maps are pretty packed in that area. I’m getting fascinated with this topic lately; has it been going on for a while, and just a hot news story recently, or has something changed? I’m going to try to do some more digging. I’ll probably be posting here if I find anything, so stay tuned!

ICC 2009 Live Pirate Map

BLDGBLOG: Piracy, Live at Sea

(I’ve left alone any sarcastic remarks about the Pirates series of movies, feel free to make your own!)

The Near Miss of Watchmen

watchmen1

The Watchmen movie represents the best failed adaptation of Alan Moore’s work so far, and in the context of the difficulty of getting it made, and working at adapting it, a qualified success.

This movie had the strange position of being an extremely-hyped movie full of characters no one has ever heard of. Inside the interior landscape of comics, Watchmen was our Citizen Kane, the masterwork that innovated or perfected comics as an artform. There was no way they would fit everything into a movie, and this was something I was prepared to accept. My concern was if they could match the tenor and complexity of the ideas from the comic. The answer? Kinda.

There was a lot to like in the movie. Not unlike 300, Zach Snyder was using the comic seemingly as a storyboard. The visuals were compelling, and often delightfully eighties. Dr. Manhattan, and his abilities, are realized in a way that can be said to help evoke his character; as he makes objects levitate around him, in a perfectly synchronized waltz of machinery or clothing, his inhumanity and detachment from these very events help sell the disconnection from society that is central to the story. Rorschach’s portrayal was also close to the comic, showing the kind of intelligence and fearsome single-mindedness that such a vigilante career would demand. The other characters are on a spectrum of proximity from their source material. In all of this, we saw a love and partial understanding of what made Watchmen important, and what made it work. A morally ambiguous ending, complex human relationships and a political atmosphere that most of today’s moviegoers wouldn’t remember were communicated clearly.

That said, there is a fundamental disconnection between source and film. Part of the inspiration of the original comic was to bring reality to spandex. Alan Moore loves his characters; he writes them too well and too honestly to do use them as foils for mocking something else. But this reality is stressed; other than Dr. Manhattan, everyone is completely human, having no abilities that would be considered super-powered. In comparison, most of the main characters are jazzed-up in the movie. They punch through walls, throw knives with unerring accuracy, make leaps or throw their enemies farther than human muscles allow. I don’t know if this was because as a director, Snyder wanted to increase the excitement of the action, or if this was a subtlety that was fundamental in my enjoyment in the book, but not something that Snyder realized or cared about. If they were in tights, they must have been at least somewhat super, right?

This would be my major problem with the film; it couldn’t dare to be subtle. Though I was happy to see the film clearly set in the eighties, the blaringly loud music from that era, rather than providing counterpoint to certain scenes, instead seemed comedically overdone. Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah during a sex scene made me laugh out loud at what could have been a tender moment. Many of the famous lines in the comic are said, but they are delivered in what seems like a stab for coolness, ending up shy of the grandeur or pathos that was clear in the writing of the comic.

The experience of watching this movie was one of constantly being relieved or annoyed at different choices. As a movie, it seems to stand on it’s own. People enjoyed it and continue to talk about it. I applaud the creators for having the bravery of making it as close as they did, while at the same time being disappointed by the potential lost in what they chose to change. If Snyder had duplicated the psychology of the characters to the same extent that he had duplicated panels from the book, and had the bravery to let the characters be depressingly human, we might have been struck by more than the ending. We might have taken a closer look at the heroes we let entertain us.