Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Category: Distribution Page 1 of 15

Instant Experts

This Patton Oswalt article – Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die. – has been making the rounds. And not just amongst the geeks. For me (hey, shut up), this was a great exploration of something we’ve lost at the hands of the Internet:

The problem with the Internet, however, is that it lets anyone become otaku about anything instantly. In the ’80s, you couldn’t get up to speed on an entire genre in a weekend. You had to wait, month to month, for the issues of Watchmen to come out. We couldn’t BitTorrent the latest John Woo film or digitally download an entire decade’s worth of grunge or hip hop. Hell, there were a few weeks during the spring of 1991 when we couldn’t tell whether Nirvana or Tad would be the next band to break big. Imagine the terror!

But then reflect on the advantages. Waiting for the next issue, movie, or album gave you time to reread, rewatch, reabsorb whatever you loved, so you brought your own idiosyncratic love of that thing to your thought-palace. People who were obsessed with Star Trek or the Ender’s Game books were all obsessed with the same object, but its light shone differently on each person. Everyone had to create in their mind unanswered questions or what-ifs. What if Leia, not Luke, had become a Jedi? What happens after Rorschach’s journal is found at the end of Watchmen? What the hell was The Prisoner about?

If you just went “yes!”, then you need to click on over and read the rest of it.  If you haven’t already seen it and a dozen critiques of it, that is.

Is Joe Lieberman Anti-Free Speech?


Updated: Of course he is. I have now concluded my obvious-answers-to-obvious-questions exercise.

Silence Instead of Sputtering

In all honesty, the Wikileaks event has turned me into a net consumer of media in the past week. I’ve got a lot to say (shocker), but I keep wanting more of it before I’m certain about what I want to say. I’m a longtime resident of the Transparency Camp, and this doc dump tests a lot of the principles required for residency.

But then we get to a day like today, and I’m glad that I’ve mostly shut up. Between idiocy like this and this and this? I might permanently sink my chances of being welcome in polite society.

Why You Should Read Non-American Media, Example 5421

Compare the New York Times glossing of the revelations concerning US diplomatic spying with the Guardian’s detailed look.

Friday Notes: Rock Dodge Edition

Of everything I have on my to-do list today, getting down the “rock dodge” drill for a cycling instructor course is probably the most difficult.  The result isn’t particularly challenging (dodging a rock), it’s the method by which you’re required to do it (a seemingly unnecessary bit of countersteering).  In any event, if that’s the toughest part of the day, it should be a good day, no?  Now on to bits and pieces collected over the week:

30 airports in 30 days.  I remember wishing I could do this, when I saw the JetBlue pass on sale.  It’s been at least 5 years since I last did a “mileage run” (something you do to push yourself just over the line for the next medallion status in a frequent flier program), and quick travel appeals less than it used to.  But this?  Sounded like a bit of fun.

Travelling at a slower speed is what’s gained my interest, lately, and this piece on a significant uptick in bicycle touring makes it sound like I’ve got some company.  A proper cycling tour has been bouncing around in my head for a while, and I think Taiwan cemented my decision to make it happen soon.   It’ll probably start with a long weekend’s out and back along the C&O, to sort things out.  Then maybe a SF-LA (via the PCH) week trip?  After that, who knows?  I should probably stop reading this site, if I want to keep it reasonable . . .


Here are a couple of interesting pieces on control in the marketplace.  The first is about the differing approaches between Facebook and Google on the matter of who controls your data.  You know you’re doing it wrong when you make Google look unthreatening by comparison.  (I keep trying to kick the Facebook habit, but it’s tougher than you might imagine.  Serious network effect going on, there.)   The second is a post by a San Francisco restauranteur, and why he doesn’t use OpenTable.  It’s really quite interesting, the amount of leverage that OpenTable (with its dominance of the market) has on metro area restaurants.   I’ve been using OpenTable since they arrived in DC (2003?), but this (and, well, this) makes me hope that a competitor will be arriving shortly.


I admit that, despite the rather large rhetorical role that it’s played in Virginia’s politics, I’ve never taken a close look at “clean coal” (or the veracity of a million claims about it).  So while I realize that it’s just scratching the surface, I felt like I learned a fair bit from the always-informative James Fallows in this article:

To environmentalists, “clean coal” is an insulting oxymoron. But for now, the only way to meet the world’s energy needs, and to arrest climate change before it produces irreversible cataclysm, is to use coal—dirty, sooty, toxic coal—in more-sustainable ways. The good news is that new technologies are making this possible. China is now the leader in this area, the Google and Intel of the energy world. If we are serious about global warming, America needs to work with China to build a greener future on a foundation of coal. Otherwise, the clean-energy revolution will leave us behind, with grave costs for the world’s climate and our economy.

If anyone has rebuttals to this article that I should check out, do pass them along.


Michael Turton, a Taiwan-based blogger, highlights what I think is a compelling political ad explaining why it’s important to care about politics.  Watch it:


Yes, it’s in the context of Taiwan, but it struck me as hitting universal truths.

Indy Films: Please Let Me In

I hear and read, regularly, about fabulous indy films that are snatching up festival awards right and left.  But I’ll never see (legally or otherwise) most of them.  And while I’ll grant (assume?) that some portion of these films are made primarily to snatch up those festival awards, I’ve always thought that most of the filmmakers wanted people to actually, you know, see their work.  Which is incredibly frustrating, given that there is an existing conduit for these works (i.e., the Internet).   I understand that not everyone can afford to just throw $$$$ worth of work out on the web for free (nor do I really want them to), so other distribution efforts are always appreciated.  To that end,  I’m glad to see that there’s something of a step in the right direction here:

One of the more unconventional efforts to crack that marketplace is Film Festival in a Box. Ostensibly a game, it’s also a distribution strategy: packaged in rough brown cardboard, each game contains four short films, instructions on playing and topics for discussion. Players watch, deliberate, vote online in various categories (like best movie and performance) and make their favorite filmmakers eligible for cash prizes of up to $1,000.

“It’s a real game that plays with real people and real films, real films from all over the world,” said its founder, Scilla Andreen, a Seattle native who in 2004, with Gian-Carlo Scandiuzzi, started the Web-based film distribution company IndieFlix. “You invite people over, have wine and cheese, watch four short films and deliberate as a group.” The group then posts its winners online, and the real filmmakers are notified. Both sides may, if they choose, interact.

“It’s a social-networking and audience-building tool for them,” Ms. Andreen said of the filmmakers. And for the players? “You’re supporting the arts, it’s recycled, it’s green, it’s made in America, and it’s $14.99.”

In fact, I just realized right now that I’ll probably try this myself.  It’s a fun evening for me and a few friends, but what does it get the filmmakers?  Well:

Ms. Andreen is excited too, even if her product is not quite a game changer yet. The first box was released at the start of October, and rewards so far have been modest: about 2,000 Film Festivals in a Box have been sold, at retailers like drugstore.com and Uncommon Goods (where the comedies have done the best). Ms. Andreen has earned back $12,000 on what she said were $57,000 in production costs.

So there’s much to be done, and I don’t think that the magic of the internet always translates into magic in the bank.  But it’s possible:

The Australian nutrition documentary “Food Matters” recently sold about 150,000 DVDs online, said Peter Broderick, a Los Angeles distribution strategist, even before it secured a distribution deal, or television broadcasts via the French media company Canal Plus. “He did it backwards,” Mr. Broderick said of the director of “Food Matters,” James Colquhoun. “Nobody knew who he was. But the interesting thing is, if he never made a distribution deal, he’d still be fine. The biggest difference today is how people think about their audience.”

In any of these approaches, the two constants are making it available to anyone who wants it (i.e., via the internet) and providing some way for paying the filmmaker for her work.  I hope to see more and more of this.

“To be fair, you are very stupid.”

Joel Johnson, at Gizmodo, engages some of that site’s commenters in a way that I would recommend to most sites:

It seems like every so often the comments at Gizmodo fill up with entitled, half-witted thinkers, like a boil taut with ignorance. Even the least pointed opinion by an author ruptures it, leaving us dripping with wet bitterness. It’s time to give the commentariat a good lancing.

A hyperlocal news site that I read – ARLnow.com – came to mind when I first read this, but really, this is advice for the whole Internet.  The world is filled with stupid people, and not every opinion deserves a platform.

“The World Turns Upside Down in 10 Years, and You . . . “

” . . . turn upside down right along with it.”

This takes 5:40:

Friday Notes: Reclaimed Edition

It’s been some time, no?  So let’s see what’s in the closet:

Taiwan!  I know, surprise.  But still, my head’s still half there, and I keep finding more avenues of interest.  One of the big sources of that is Michael Turton’s blog, which appears to focus on my general areas of interest – cycling, politics, and information control – but in a Taiwanese context.  Check it out.  This great piece on subtle (and not so subtle) creeping censorship is great, as is this photo series on the (often hilarious) political billboards featuring posing candidates.  It does not, unfortunately, include a shot of my favorite: two candidates, thumbs up, over the headline: “Younger and Better!”

Girl tends a fire on WenHua St., near Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan


This should be circulated to everyone you know who is considering law school:

The number of people employed in legal services hit an all-time high of 1.196 million in June 2007. It currently stands at 1.103 million. That means the number of law jobs has dwindled by about 7.8 percent. In comparison, the total number of jobs has fallen about 5.4 percent over the same period.

At the same time, the law schools—the supply side of the equation—have not stopped growing. Law schools awarded 43,588 J.D.s last year, up 11.5 percent since 2000, though there was technically negative demand for lawyers. And the American Bar Association’s list of approved law schools now numbers 200, an increase of 9 percent in the last decade. Those newer law schools have a much shakier track record of helping new lawyers get work, but they don’t necessarily cost less than their older, more established counterparts.


The US may have had to occasionally compromise on its trumpeted values to combat Terraism., but we still stand strong against obvious things like child soldiers, right?  Well . . .:

The Obama administration quietly waived a key section of the law meant to combat the use of child soldiers for four toubled states on Monday, over the objections the State Department’s democracy and human rights officials. Today, the White House tells The Cable that they intend to give these countries — all of whose armed forces use underage troops — one more year to improve before bringing any penalties to bear.

The NGO community was shocked by the announcement, reported Tuesday by The Cable, that President Obama authorized exemptions from all penalties set to go into effect this year under the Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2008. The countries that received waivers were Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen.

Anyway, it’s not like being a kid *really* makes a difference in the US.


Bob Gucionne died while I was on my trip, and no one around me knew who he was.  And that made me sad, because I used to love his magazine as a kid.  No, not that one.  The other one.

U.S. Prepares to Push for Greatly Expanded Surveillance Powers

Remember the coverage about Dubai’s threatening to shut down Blackberry service unless it could gain access to user communications?  And how the US would never do that?  Well:

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.


[O]fficials are coalescing around several of the proposal’s likely requirements:

– Communications services that encrypt messages must have a way to unscramble them.

– Foreign-based providers that do business inside the United States must install a domestic office capable of performing intercepts.

– Developers of software that enables peer-to-peer communication must redesign their service to allow interception.

What could possibly go wrong, eh?

Steven M. Bellovin, a Columbia University computer science professor, pointed to anepisode in Greece: In 2005, it was discovered that hackers had taken advantage of a legally mandated wiretap function to spy on top officials’ phones, including the prime minister’s.

“I think it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” he said. “If they start building in all these back doors, they will be exploited.”

And yet this will happen.  With little to no notice or objection from the public.

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