Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This blog has moved

The course for which this blog was created has ended. For more interesting posts, please visit me at

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

An early lesson in Orwell

While discussing Fahrenheit 451 with a coworker this week, I was suddenly reminded of a 4th grade experience that was to teach me a lasting lesson.

While attending school in Eastern Oregon, my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. T. (no relation to Mr. T) told the class we would be starting daily journals. We were to write whatever came to mind, events of the day and whatnot. "If you want to write 'Mrs. T. is a bitch, you can write that,'" she said.

For a week or so, we wrote in our journals. Then one day, when we came into school, a murmur started though the classroom. No one could find their journals in their desks. We asked Mrs. T. where they might be.

"I burned them," she said.

Yes, in the burn barrel on the side of the playground(!) she had burned them. Evidently someone had written, "Mrs. T. is a bitch." I remember looking down into the burn barrel and seeing the charred remains of 20 or so spiral-bound notebooks.

I still don't know why she had us write in our journals. Her explanation to me is forgotten. However, I want to thank Mrs. T. for her lasting Orwellian lesson. She taught my class about privacy violated, trust broken, censorship, abuses of authority - essentially a lesson of Big Brother.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Radioactive Movies!

The Atomic Cafe and The War Game are both available on Google Video.

The Atomic Cafe watch
The War Game watch

Monday, January 28, 2008

Love as Propaganda

Marvin Minsky, a researcher in artificial intelligence, has an interesting theory on love. He says that love is a reaction that convinces you to do something that is not in your best interest. It taxes your resources and ties you down, possibly for years at a time. It is for the good of the species, though; that's why it's a behavior that's been allowed by evolution to continue.

Listen to his BBC interview on this topic and more.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

State Secrecy: Ultimate Propaganda Trick

After reading an article in Wired (U.S. Policies Under the Spotlight) about the ever-increasing amount of classified information held by the U.S. government, I realized that this is the ultimate form of downplaying. If your critics, your customers, your constituents don't know what you're really doing, it's simple to downplay. Even hiding partial bits of information about an event by classifying it helps to minimize damage to a politician or party.

When I was dealing with classified information in the late 90's, there was a big push to minimize the amount we created and held, due sheerly to massive cost of maintaining it (billions of $ a year). There's apparently been a big 180 on the practice of minimizing.

BTW, the state secrecy defense is a favorite against human rights abuses.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Story of Stuff

Where does our stuff come from? Where does it go? I learned some interesting info about how our consumer culture was marketed and created in the 50's. That's when planned obsolescence was invented.

All the ads we watch that tell us "you suck - buy stuff" are one part of the cycle of consumption.

Awesome video, only 20 minutes long.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Color vs Black & White films

I just finished watching The Night They Raided Minsky's. As the film toggled between B&W and color at the beginning, I realized that black and white film introduces a clarity that is not there with color. Each object, each person is distinct. Color muddies the images and makes the objects and people run together. With black and white, there is little or no confusion about where things are, which causes less brain power to be used for recognition functions and allows it to be used elsewhere.

Additionally, color causes distraction. I was distracted by colors and patterns more with the color film, while B&W allowed me to concentrate on people's faces and actions.

Coincidentally, you can tell when the film was made based on some of the camera shots and angles. The scene where Jacob Schpitendavel enters the Lower East Side reminds me, oddly enough, of Enter the Dragon, which was made a few years later.