The Null Device


Vigilante tactics: an obscure rock band has launched a site advocating guerilla war against Napster, by clogging it with mislabelled songs and anti-piracy speeches. (Which makes more sense than sending in litigatory cannon fodder or calling for draconian new laws; perhaps these people have read Sun Tzu or studied martial arts. Then again, given the obscurity of the band, this may be just a ploy to get some publicity...)


The technology for electronically faking video footage is coming to fruition. And we all know how the street finds its own uses for new technologies...

A demo tape supplied by PVI bolsters the point in the prosaic setting of a suburban parking lot. The scene appears ordinary except for a disturbing feature: Amidst the SUVs and minivans are several parked tanks and one armored behemoth rolling incongruously along. Imagine a tape of virtual Pakistani tanks rolling over the border into India pitched to news outlets as authentic, and you get a feel for the kind of trouble that deceptive imagery could stir up.
Suddenly those large stretches of programming between commercials-the actual show, that is-become available for billions of dollars worth of primetime advertising. PVI's demo tape, for instance, includes a scene in which a Microsoft Windows box appears-virtually, of course-on the shelf of Frasier Crane's studio. This kind of product placement could become more and more important as new video recording technologies such as TiVo and RePlayTV give viewers more power to edit out commercials.
With just a few minutes of video of someone talking, their system captures and stores a set of video snapshots of the way that a person's mouth-area looks and moves when saying different sets of sounds. Drawing from the resulting library of "visemes" makes it possible to depict the person seeming to say anything the producers dream up-including utterances that the subject wouldn't be caught dead saying. In one test application, computer scientist Christoph Bregler, now of Stanford University, and colleagues digitized two minutes of public-domain footage of President John F. Kennedy speaking during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Using the resulting viseme library, the researchers created "animations" of Kennedy's mouth saying things he never said, among them, "I never met Forrest Gump."

deception fake gibson's law propaganda revisionism risks tech video 0

A good primer on anime, going into its background and meanings, and explaining why anime characters have such big eyes, why there are so many penguins, and what exactly "fan service" is.


Pop-music art nutter Momus takes a somewhat askew look at key acts of the 1990s, such as Beck, Tricky Bjork, and Nirvana:

A star had to emerge from the Seattle sequencer scene, and it turned out to be Microsoft's Nerderama. The album Clevermind hit America like a fatal processor error in 1992, its lead single, Looks Like A Teen Programming Bug, becoming the anthem for a generation raised on Space Invaders and spreadsheets.

(Thanks, K.!)

beck björk momus nirvana parody tricky 0

The latest Jon Katz article on Slashdot follows the formula to perfection: one part ideologically-sound noises about "open media" being the future and all things proprietary being headed the way of the dinosaurs, one part dig at the world of professional journalism (from personal experience?), qll padded out nicely with hot air. There are a few good points, but most of them have been made before, and probably in fewer words.

jon katz 0

One of the lesser-known Celtic language groups is Breton. Based in France, a country where the languages other than French are frowned upon, it does not have the fashionable popularity that Welsh and Gaelic command in Britain. However, it now has a TV station. Perhaps eventually Brittany will have its own Super Furry Animals too... (BBC News)


In Russia, capitalisation and punctuation can make a big difference. Or so one Anna Provorova, 17, found out after sending a letter to the President, with two crucial mistakes which cost her her plans to study medicine: (BBC News)

Inspectors arrived at her school and ordered her to write an explanation for the disrespectful letter. Not satisfied, the inspectors ordered that Anna have her final grades marked down and that the promise of a silver graduation medal - her passport to medical school - be withdrawn.


An art exhibition with a difference, by known Rhode Island fringe computer artist Dave Fischer. Check it out...