Feist

This version of “I Feel It All” from an appearance on KCRW isn’t all that different from the album version, yet somehow manages to be significantly better. But then, I always think that when someone picks up a song’s tempo slightly relative to its studio version. This version sounds a little more raw, reverbed and bassy, too, probably due to how it was recorded. In short, it fools me in all kinds of obvious but enjoyable ways. My deterministic nervous system gives it a predictable thumbs up.

Feist – I Feel It All (KCRW)

the bleeding edge

I am pleased to announce that I’ve recently upgraded my shaving technology. Before this I was using a red Mach3 Turbo that my mother gave to me, which worked well enough. Prior to that I was using a Mach3, which was indistinguishable from its successor except for a lack of redness and failure to incorporate the word “turbo” into its name. Also, it seemed slower.

But I’m now the proud owner of a Gillette Fusion PHANTOM, the most advanced piece of face-grooming technology yet wrought by man. It contains a motor, a microchip, and, at last count, SIX blades. From the name I infer that it also possesses some sort of Active Stealth technology.

As astounding as this all is, it’s true that the PHANTOM is an evolutionary product as much as a revolutionary one. The motor, for instance, is not new: the Gillette M3 POWER was the first razor to leverage the key “let’s make the user’s hand shake” insight. But that was the rare technology for which I was not keen to become an early adopter.

And yes, I know what you’re thinking. You’re going to send me a link to this Onion article. Ha-ha. Very funny, you goddamn Luddite. If it was up to people like you we’d still be scraping our faces with oyster shells, squatting in the mud and waiting for the day when hyperintelligent bees conquer the earth. No thank you.

If you want to escape the prison of your anti-scientific prejudices, I highly recommend that you visit the educational website that Gillette has established. There you can explore the futuristic lab where Gillette razorologists continue to probe the furthest reaches of beard physics. Your virtual guide will be the brilliant and surprisingly slutty Dr. Cassandra. Her come-ons become more intense with each click of the mouse, as Gillette’s computers note your continued attention and furiously recalculate the likelihood that you can be fooled into buying a razor on the off chance that doing so will lead to sexual intercourse with a Flash animation.

Things really get crazy once you enter the Holosphere. I won’t say anything more, except to encourage you to exercise caution: as with any holo-technology, there is always a small but real chance of cowboys, Nazis and/or literary villains escaping from the simulation and running amok.

I’ll leave you with this sample of the high-quality educational resource that awaits you. Who are you to resist?

Cassandra's PDA

the pitch

“Alright, here it is: we take a normal, by-the-numbers sitcom. I mean, totally unremarkable in every way.”

“Okay.”

“Maybe we make it single-camera and don’t have a laugh track and play some OK Go in the background, because we want people to think we think that we’re hip and unconventional. But really we’re as completely ordinary as we can possibly be at this moment in time.”

“I’m tracking you so far.”

“Alright, here’s the twist: some of our cast is wearing caveman makeup. Well? What would you say to that?”

Stunned silence slowly turns into an overwhelming wave of applause. Cheers erupt, cigars are lit, backs are clapped, and a burlap sack emblazoned with a cartoon dollar sign is handed to the presenter. Curtain.

shows what I know

Yesterday I read Brian Doherty claiming that Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want scheme for their new album would undercut piracy and thought “Not so fast!” In my experience folks will upload any content that’s even marginally relevant to a site. I’ve certainly seem freely-available content redistributed through pirate channels before.

maybe they HAVE beaten the pirates

But in this case he may actually be right. Oink doesn’t have it, although I suppose that makes some sense given that downloading an album from Oink comes at a cost (users have to maintain an upload/download ratio to keep their access to the site). But Isohunt hasn’t got In Rainbows either. Huh.

UPDATE: Rich pointed out in comments that the band’s preselling the downloads, but that nobody’s actually got the files yet. That makes sense, and I feel dumb for not realizing that was how the whole thing was supposed to work. So: torrents in t-minus eight days!

IP piracy is just like terrorism (and vice versa)

Two other things occurred to me about that bird-supplied testimony before the Senate, so I’ll share them quickly and then return to hi-tech frivolity. Apologies in advance for seeming to presume that I know things about terrorism; clearly, I don’t. I do know things about the internet, though.

And that’s the first thing that struck me: how typically internetty it all is. The networks as described in Michael Doran‘s testimony sound very much like other illicit online networks.

At any given moment in any given language, only a limited number of sites post original material produced directly by terrorist organizations or by religious authorities to whom the organizations have pledged loyalty. The majority of terrorist websites in operation are either mirrored versions of these existing sites or simply bulletin boards that disseminate material that originated on the websites under the direct control of the terrorist organizations.

Well, these are websites that are controlled by people who are known to each other and they will post authoritative information on the website and then it will be disseminated out by loyalists all across the Internet.

On these bulletin boards — these are bulletin boards where they’re password protected — certain individuals, their user names will become known as authoritative individuals.

I’ll give you an example. There was this American Johnson who was kidnapped in Saudi Arabia and killed. Within hours of his kidnapping, his wallet with his ID appeared — a photo of it — appeared on this website.

So from an event like that, you can then conclude that that website is directly connected to the kidnappers and it’s an authoritative website.

Then an individual on that website, whenever an al Qaeda-related event would take place would tell you, if you want to see our statement about that event, go to the following address and then you go to that address. Once it’s out there and authenticated, then it just spreads like wildfire.

If you haven’t, go read Jeff Howe’s excellent “The Shadow Internet” over at Wired. It describes the surprisingly centralized system that powers nearly all online piracy. There’s a collection of “topsites” operating as a darknet — one that’s known and accessible only to trusted individuals. Release groups compete within the topsites to see who can provide the best software fastest. From there the releases trickle into increasingly public places on the net: private bittorrent trackers, usenet, and finally public P2P networks. The same sort of tiered content distribution system seems to underpin terrorist website economy.

They’re similar in other ways, too:

(more…)

internet strategists hate America

In response to my last post a much-better-informed little birdy sent me a transcript of a Homeland Security Committee hearing about online Islamic extremism. It was an interesting read, and I may say something else about it later. But for now, here’s the part that was most immediately striking:

In an effort to raise its
visibility and recruit new members… an Iraqi
insurgent group held a website design contest open to anyone in the world with
an Internet connection. And what was the prize given to the winner of that contest? The opportunity to launch a rocket attack against American forces in Iraq with just the click of
the mouse from the winner’s computer.

It’s inhuman and morally outrageous, yes. But man, that’s a pretty good idea for an online contest. If you could just tone down the evil you might really have something there.

out of curiousity

Has anyone written up the l33t hax0r implications of the Petraeus Report? I’ve been patiently waiting for someone take up the gauntlet ever since the general included this line in his prepared statement before congress:

Finally, in recognition of the fact that this war is not only being fought
on the ground in Iraq but also in cyberspace, [my recommendations to the Join Chiefs note] the need to contest the enemy’s
growing use of that important medium to spread extremism.

I first heard this on the radio, and it seemed a little weird to me. Not because I doubt the existence of insurgent-run websites filled with flash video of roadside bombs, LOLcatted stills from A Mighty Heart and comment threads filled with “INSURGENCY FTW!!”, “ANBAR SUX0Rz” and unflattering analogizing of Sunni Islam to the Playstation 3. I’m sure those sites are out there. I can even believe that they serve a significant recruiting function for people who do genuinely bad, genuinely non-virtual things.

But it was a bit odd to hear a military commander say that, in addition to the attention we’re paying to people getting shot and blown up, we also need to spend more time dicking around on the internet, presumably countering the nasty internet trouble made by our enemies. For one thing, suppressing online content does not have a particularly storied history. Given that, it seems like the intelligence value of these sites would probably outweigh the utility to be gained by shutting them down. DMCAing the Mahdi Army’s MySpace page would just shut down a marginal source of propaganda. Why bother? It’d be far better to just quietly keep an eye on their top 8 (who is this shady “CamGirl69″ character, anyway?).

For another thing, I have a hard time believing that the issue requires more attention. As far as I can tell there’s no shortage of government funds for boondoggles aimed at preventing Kim Jong-Il from interfering with Americans’ Facebook feeds. I trust that there are already people paying close attention to these issues.

But who knows? The internet refuses to tell me anything, so I’m left to wonder why General Petraeus thought that cyber-warfare deserved relatively prominent billing. You’ve failed me yet again, mainstream media! Was there some analysis of this initiative that I missed, or did the entire punditocracy inexplicably decide that there were more important aspects of Petraeuspalooza for them to attend to?