The Null Device
A new feature film will be opening in the US, and the story may sound familiar. The Profit is about a science-fiction writer named L. Conrad Powers who founds a religion, the Church of Scientific Spiritualism. The director, an ex-Scientologist who turned against the church, says that the film is entirely fictional, though some Clams are taking exception. Provocatively, tHe film is opening in the town of Clearwater, Florida, which has a heavy Scientology presence. (via Lev)
Perhaps there is a justice after all: The Armani fashion house has lost a battle for control of armani.com. The domain is held by Canadian graphic designer Anand Mani, who has operated under the name A.R.Mani since 1981. Armani have argued that since their profile is much higher, they should be entitled to the domain, an argument which was, surprisingly, rejected by the WIPO tribunal.
Conspiracy theory of the day: Are Microsoft deliberately leaving open security holes in Windows' TCP/IP stack to spread Windows-based worms and fuel demand for a proprietary replacement to TCP/IP, which will allow all connections to be tracked and identified, stamping out file sharing and also kicking those pesky open-source OSes off the Internet? Robert X. Cringely thinks so. And the scary thing is that the content industry (think AOL Time Warner, Sony, et al.) could get right behind something like this, even going as far as buying laws mandating traceability for network connections. (We can probably expect a surfeit of scare stories about the uncontrollable explosion of terrorism/child pornography in the AOL/Murdoch media and the need for something like this sometime soon.)
Researchers at AT&T have developed a speech synthesizer capable of imitating any voice, from recordings. Currently it requires 40 hours of special recordings; however, refinements in the technology will raise interesting issues, such as who owns the rights to famous voices. When we start hearing famous dead actors selling products on the radio, things may get interesting.
Film Festival: Tonight I went to see a film named 101 Reykjavik; it was from Iceland (naturally), and about a shiftless, socially inept twentysomething slacker in Reykjavik who ends up getting his mother's lesbian lover (played by sultry Spanish actress Victoria Abril, who will be well known to Almodovar fans) pregnant. It was quite an enjoyable film; not quite as arty as Angels of the Universe, but quite amusing, and with some poetic moments and some breathtaking outdoor visuals (as may be expected in an Icelandic film). The dialogue was mostly in Icelandic (with subtitles) though partly in English, as Abril's character (being from Spain) didn't speak Icelandic (and, this film would suggest, many people in Iceland can understand and speak English). The music was by Damon Albarn and one of the former members of the Sugarcubes (that's the Ickle One's old band, of course), and featured some amusingly cheesy electronic takes on the Kinks' Lola.
After this, I saw Bells From The Deep, a Werner Herzog documentary about mysticism and the occult in a remote corner of Russia (near the Mongolian border). It included a lot of outré bits, including elderly people crawling around a sacred tree stump, tales of visions of hidden cathedrals and apparitions, and pilgrims crawling along thin ice to pay tribute to the fabled city of Kitezh, said to be hidden at the bottom of the lake (where the Mongol hordes couldn't sack it, of course), as well as footage of locals lining up to buy "consecrated water", a Jesus-lookalike in elaborately embroidered velvet robes spouting mystical mumbo-jumbo and blessing people, and Mongolian throat singing (including, very possibly, the same sample the KLF used on Chill Out, or maybe not).