The Null Device
Some years ago, Neil Halstead (of Slowdive/Mojave 3) did the soundtrack for an independent movie called I'm The Elephant, U Are The Mouse. I recently stumbled onto a copy of the album (well, sort of) and have been listening to it; it's rather moody, in a late Slowdive meets Low sort of way, only with some electronics. If you can find a CD, it'd be well worth tracking down.
John 'gnu' Gilmore's ISP have blocked his outgoing mail, because he ran an open relay. This was not an act of momentary carelessness either, being a staunch Libertarian cypherpunk type (gods bless him), Gilmore believes he is within his rights to run an open relay. Mind you, this is one of the rare times when I must disagree with Gilmore; we cannot expect the Internet, used by hundreds of millions of people (some of whom will be bottom-feeding scum, like the spammers who exploit open relays), to be as open and trusting as when it was a small community of academics and hackers; any more than you can expect to be able to leave your door unlocked in the big city.
Taking the place of the Napster Pig Encoder is an open-source Napster proxy which translates names and searches. Mind you, as it's open-source, and uses the obvious ROT13 cypher (used on USENET since the dawn of time), it won't take long for Napster to do due dilligence and block for ROT13'd song titles. If it hasn't done so already. (It's hard to tell, on one hand, searches for 'zrgnyyvpn' and 'oevgarl' yield results, but on the other hand, unencrypted searches yield the same number of results, if not more.)
Academe and the free exchange of ideas: On 3RRR's talkback show this morning, they had two members of local industrial cabaret-pop band Machine Gun Fellatio, recently banned from playing at student unions across Melbourne because their show contains a minute or so of female nudity (the female vocalist exposes her breasts and does cartwheels or somesuch). This is, of course, Not On; apart from contravening the anti-sexism provisions of student unions' constitutions (and female nudity where males are present is always sexist and exploitative; the context and performer's intention are irrelevant), such shows could offend students from a sheltered background, and there's always the threat that drunken male students may be whipped into a frenzy of gang rape by seeing a minute or so of naked female breasts.
Object seen in university tutorial room: An eraser, of Japanese manufacture, with the brand-name "BOXY", and bearing the following inscription:
THE BASIC CONCEPT OF BOXY
ALWAYS AIMS AT A SIMPLE LIFE STYLE
Well, I suppose it would, wouldn't it...
Web ad companies haven't been having a good run of things, with most people ignoring their banners, and on top of that with the dot-com collapse. Now some have come up with a solution: ads in page backgrounds. A pioneer was mediocre American beer brand Budweiser, which had its "wallpaper" ad placed in the background of stockmarket site MarketWatch.
The Branded Life: Two American teenagers, whose respective parents apparently didn't begin putting money away for their college education when they were born, have come up with a clever way of putting themselves through college: by renting themselves out as walking advertisements. If you give them money, they will not only walk around with your logo plastered all over their clothes but eat your food, read your magazines in public (regardless of subject matter), fly on your airline, and generally turn their lives into advertisements for your brand.
This leads to a lot of speculation. What sorts of constraints would their sponsors put on their lifestyles/behaviour? Given how rigidly controlled the lifestyles and images of inanimate brand mascots are, you can bet that corporations won't want their walking billboards doing anything that does not suit their image. If their fellow students, wary of being advertised at whenever in their present, begin to avoid the two, will the sponsors dump them? Would such an experiment end in corporate-image catastrophe or could such corporate sponsorship be the future of education for the underprivileged and mediagenic?
AMEG VERO: Napster gets the Pig Encoder pulled. I wonder whether such a software system for bypassing filename filters would count as a "circumvention device", and thus be illegal. What if it's a sequence of instructions to a human searcher (i.e., "remove the first letter of each word", "replace all As with Es", "transliterate into Hebrew/Katakana and back"), and not a computer program? If someone posted that up, could they be prosecuted for conspiracy or incitement?
(Come to think of it, English contains a lot of redundancy; you could probably systematically throw away a lot of information from song titles and still be able to find songs uniquely. Not that we'd encourage that sort of behaviour here, no...)
Early-80s synthpop group Soft Cell are reforming to play live. No news on whether they will record any new material, or if they do, whether they will head in a more sp00ky direction (à la Gary Numan, Information Society, &c) to capture their core demographic.
Religious evangelism can kill: A row has erupted between the Italian government and the Vatican over the Vatican's Vatican's radio transmitter facility on a vast site in the north of Rome, and transmitting worldwide with Godlike power. The Italian governments cited a report that shows leukaemia rates among local children were six times higher than the average for Rome, and blamed the Vatican for electromagnetic pollution. The Vatican responded by insisting that it is not answerable to Italian jurisdiction, as it has sole sovereignty over the massive antenna farm, and besides, there is no evidence that such radiation caused harm, a claim the Italian Environment Minister claimed was "incredible, serious and absurd". Even if this is true, it won't be the first time innocents were sacrificed for the greater good of spreading the Word of God to a fallen world; the Children's Crusade may hold a useful precedent for the Vatican. (via Leviathan)