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Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Softer World

A Softer World:

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Fake celebrity pranks New York City in social experiment caught on video

Fake celebrity pranks New York City in social experiment caught on video:

Brett Cohen pranked NYC on the night of July 27th, 2012, and he has video proof: he "came up with a crazy idea to fool thousands of pedestrians walking the streets of Times Square into thinking he was a huge celebrity," and succeeded.
He is not a celebrity—or at least, he wasn't before this video went viral. He's a 21 year old SUNY New Paltz student.
Snip from the project description:

This social experiment, of sorts, makes a profound statement about how modern culture is so attracted to pop culture, without any real credibility needed. He dressed up like a typical celebrity and was accompanied by an entourage of two professional bodyguards, two assistants, and photographers pretending to be paparazzi. While the assistants and photographers waited for Brett to exit the 49th street marquee at NBC Studios, they started a buzz that a "big star" was about to walk out, thus making it worth their while to wait and get a picture. Many asked the crew whom Brett was, and no answer was given. They were forced to either make something up, or just take a picture with him in hopes that their Facebook friends or Twitter followers might have a better idea.

As the crew walked over to Times Square, the crowds around Brett grew on each consecutive block. Very few people even questioned who he was, where he was from, or what he does. Brett took pictures with nearly 300 people before the stunt ended. The video even includes interviews with people who had just taken a picture with Brett, and puts them in an awkward position when they're asked questions such as, "Where do you know Brett from?" and "What's your favorite movie he was in?" Many of them were overwhelmingly excited over Brett's walk through Times Square, and it showed.

He hired the bodyguards and photographers from Craigslist, and wore cheap knockoff sunglasses and a shirt from an Express clearance rack.

[Video Link], and NY Daily News has more on the making of, via Joe Sabia.

The colorful results of playing Cypress Hill through a squid

[Possibly the awesomest misic video ever. -egg]

The colorful results of playing Cypress Hill through a squid:

[Video Link]

Greg Gage of the DIY neuroscience company Backyard Brains stimulated the axons of a squid with the electrical signals coming out of a headphone jack plugged into an iPhone playing a Cypress Hill song. He videotaped the Squid's pigmented cells called chromatophores, which changed with the music.

We've been working hard on many new experiments at the Marine Biological Labs in Woods Hole, MA this summer and have some exciting (and beautiful) results. While working on the giant axons of the Longfin Inshore Squid, we decided to see what would happen if we played music like we do with our dancing cockroach leg experiment. The results were very cool.

Insane in the Chromatophores

Brian Eno: A Sandbox In Alphaville

[Lester Bangs interviews Brian Eno. And hey, you get to hear about Eno's pickup techniques! -egg]

Sent to you via Google Reader

Brian Eno: A Sandbox In Alphaville


A previously unpublished, 20,000-word interview with Eno.

[full story]

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Greatest movie threats of all time

Greatest movie threats of all time: hh1edits's "The 100 Greatest Movie Threats of All Time" is a truly fabulous 11:37 worth of threatening behavior -- angry, calm, brave, terrified. The creator casts an admirably broad net, including appearances from Monty Python, Wil Wheaton, and the Wicked Witch of the West. The 100 Greatest Movie Threats of All Time (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

August 22, 2012

[Extra-funny. -egg]
August 22, 2012:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Free science-based guide explains how to eat healthy on a limited budget

Free science-based guide explains how to eat healthy on a limited budget:

Good Food On A Tight Budget is a free “science-based shopping guide of the top 100 foods that are healthy, cheap, clean and green” put out by the Environmental Working Group. The guide focuses on foods that give you the biggest nutritional bang for the buck while putting them together in recipes and snacks that also taste good. On average the 15 included recipes cost less than $1 per serving.
The researchers who put the guide together compared 1,200 foods and analyzed their cost, nutritional value, pesticide ranking and environmental impact. The goal was not only to show consumers that they can eat well for less money but also to lower their exposure to toxic chemicals.
Here are some interesting facts the EWG analysis revealed:
  • One serving of filling oatmeal is about half the cost of a bowl of sugared cereal.
  • Pears have even more fiber, potassium and folate – and fewer pesticide residues – than apples.
  • Parsley packs a nutritional punch as potent as kale for a quarter of the cost.
  • Roasted turkey topped the list of animal sources of protein. Hot dogs ranked dead last.

Todd Akin apologizes for "legitimate rape" remark

Todd Akin apologizes for "legitimate rape" remark:
From The Onion:

You see, what I said was, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” But what I meant to say was, “I am a worthless, moronic sack of shit and an utterly irredeemable human being who needs to shut up and go away forever.”

It is clear to me now that I did not choose my words with care and did not get across the point I was trying to convey. In hindsight, I guess instead of using the words “legitimate rape,” I should have used the words “I am an unforgivable, unrepentant, and unconscionable subhuman dickhead.” Or better yet, “I am an evil, fucked-up man who should never have been elected to the United States Congress, and anyone who would vote for me is probably a pretty big fucking dumbshit, too.” See how much more sense that makes? It’s amazing how a few key word changes can totally alter the meaning of a statement.

There's a lot more.

I Misspoke—What I Meant To Say Is 'I Am Dumb As Dog Shit And I Am A Terrible Human Being'

Sunday, August 19, 2012

WWII "war sand" on the beaches of Normandy

[Who knew? -Egg]
WWII "war sand" on the beaches of Normandy:
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As much as four percent of the sand on the beaches of Normandy consists of shrapnel left over from D-Day. In a post about this at BLDGBLOG, Geoff Manaugh references a book called "Sand: The Never-Ending Story." The book is about the science and culture of sand, from the ocean floor to Mars. Written by geologist Michael Welland, it sounds like a fascinating read!

(Normandy sand microscopy image by Earle McBride, Univ of Texas)

Adversarial mind-reading with compromised brain-computer interfaces

[O_O O_O O_O O_O O_O O_O -egg]
Adversarial mind-reading with compromised brain-computer interfaces:
"On the Feasibility of Side-Channel Attacks with Brain-Computer Interfaces," a paper presented by UC Berkeley and U Geneva researchers at this summer's Usenix Security, explored the possibility of adversarial mind-reading attacks on gamers and other people using brain-computer interfaces, such as the Emotiv games controller.

The experimenters wanted to know if they could forcefully extract information from your brain by taking control of your system. In the experiment, they flashed images of random numbers and used the automatic brain-response to them to make guesses as which digits were in their subjects' ATM PINs. Another variant was watching the brain activity of subjects while flashing the logo of a bank and making a guess about whether the subject used that bank.

I suppose that over time, an attacker who was able to control the stimulus and measure the response could glean a large amount of private information from a victim, without the victim ever knowing it.

Brain computer interfaces (BCI) are becoming increasingly popular in the gaming and entertainment industries. Consumer-grade BCI devices are available for a few hundred dollars and are used in a variety of applications, such as video games, hands-free keyboards, or as an assistant in relaxation training. There are application stores similar to the ones used for smart phones, where application developers have access to an API to collect data from the BCI devices.

The security risks involved in using consumer-grade BCI devices have never been studied and the impact of malicious software with access to the device is unexplored. We take a first step in studying the security implications of such devices and demonstrate that this upcoming technology could be turned against users to reveal their private and secret information. We use inexpensive electroencephalography (EEG) based BCI devices to test the feasibility of simple, yet effective, attacks. The captured EEG signal could reveal the user’s private informa- tion about, e.g., bank cards, PIN numbers, area of living, the knowledge of the known persons. This is the first attempt to study the security implications of consumer-grade BCI devices. We show that the entropy of the private information is decreased on the average by approximately 15 % - 40 % compared to random guessing attacks.

On the Feasibility of Side-Channel Attacks with Brain-Computer Interfaces

#861; In which Kayla plans Dinner

#861; In which Kayla plans Dinner:
the flowerpot does have a twitter feed but it's all just ''pollen. pollen. pollen. pollen.''

Song of Mitt's Self

[Bwahahahaha! -egg]
Song of Mitt's Self:

[Video Link] "The real Mitt Romney stands up and reflects on who he is, what he believes and why he is running for office."

The Battle of the Bitches

[Oooh, ow. -egg]
[Letters of Note]

The Battle of the Bitches:

Early-1993, Matt Ffytche — an editor at now-defunct London-based magazine, Modern Review — contacted U.S. author and critic Camille Paglia by fax and asked her to write for the publication. In addition to her fee, Ffytche also offered a complimentary copy of "No Exit," the new book by Modern Review co-founder Julie Burchill — someone already known to Paglia due to a negative review Burchill once gave of her work.

The resulting heated exchange of faxes, the bulk of which were sent between Paglia and Burchill, was later published in Modern Review and dubbed "The Battle of the Bitches" by the Press. It can be seen below.

(Source: Jon Simmons, via Quiet Riot Girl; Images: Julie Burchill & Camille Paglia, via Guardian & Silenced Majority.)

9 Feb 93

Dear Mr Ffytche,

I am responding to your inquiry about a possible letter or article from me for the Modern Review. I am offered a signed copy of a novel by Julie Burchill as an inducement.

One would have thought that had Julie Burchill been interested in securing my services to contribute to the Modern Review or to defend it against the charge of "anti-intellectualism," she would have taken more care not to write such a malicious, distorted, error-filled, and yes, anti-intellectual review of my book. I value honesty, accuracy, and fair-dealing, all of which were in short supply in that article.

In view of these circumstances, I regret to say that I must decline your offer. It is certainly true that both Julie Burchill (who is completely unknown in America) and The Modern Review have lost a potentially strong ally in me. Unfortunately, one reaps what one sows.

Yours truly

Camille Paglia

Philadelphia College of Art and Design


Paglia was then sent a fax, via her agent, by another Modern Review editor, Toby Young, who asked her to instead review "No Exit" for the magazine. Paglia replied by fax:

Dear Mr Young

I have recieved your letter of Feb 14.

I'm afraid that after your unfortunate opening gambit in your last letter which offered me a "signed copy" of a novel by Julie Burchill, you have given me even deeper offense by suggesting that I should review her novel and "rip her to shreds."

I find it highly objectionable, and personally insulting to me as a scholar, that you would think I would be interested in exacting this kind of "tit-for tat" petty revenge.

You are full of fulsome praise for me as a writer, but I have now recieved two letters from TMR that treat me as a hack rather than an intellectual.

Apropos of your request to write for you: I'm afraid your magazine, even by your own admission, is too deeply associated in the public eye with Julie Burchill. That you automatically offered me a copy of her novel shows that the problem is an internal as well as an external one.

Because of Burchill's coarse and dishonest review of my book in The Spectator, I'm sorry to say that I cannot add the weight of my name and my work to an enterprise that would seem to reflect positively on her. I would have been happy to have allied with her before, but her own behaviour has made that impossible. I no longer take her seriously as a thinker or as a personality.

If Julie Burchill is now a millstone around your necks, it is your task, not mine to get rid of it.

Yours truly,

Camille Paglia


Toby Young then sent a fax directly to Paglia and asked to reprint her response. She accused him of invading her privacy by sidestepping her agent; he refused to apologise. Naturally, she called him a "pig fucking cunt."

On March 18th, Burchill learned, by way of a leaked letter and quote in the Telegraph, that Puglia was enjoying the drama; hence the following fax:

20 Mar 93

Dear Professor Paglia,

It has come to my notice that you believe you and I are currently engaged in a feud; I quote, "the Burchill vs Paglia pugilistics are sure to be an entertaining, long running drama."

Believe me, a feud, like a love affair, takes two. As you have pointed out, I am unknown in your great country; you on the other hand are an unimpeachable celebrity. Your career is far hotter than mine. But I don't have the time or energy to participate in such trite theatrics; how can you?

I'm surprised you were so upset by my Spectator review. How you of all people can complain of my "malice" is a complete mystery to me. Now you know how Naomi Wolf and Susan Faludi must feel every time you spew up your speil to a waiting world. I'm here to tell you that you can't come on like a street tough and then have an attack of the Victorian vapours when faced with a taste of your own style.

I know ethnicity means a lot to you. You've got a wop name, so you think you're Robert De Niro. These little girls, Jewish and middle class and whatever, are too nice, too well bred to fight back. I'm not. Don't believe what you read about the English; our working class, from where I'm proud to come, is the toughest in the world. I'm not nice. I'm not as loud as you, but if push comes to shove I'm nastier. I'm ten years younger, two stone heavier, and I haven't had my nuts taken off by academia.

Are you SO insecure that you can't get one critical review without throwing a temper tantrum? What a fucking GIRL you are! Perhaps it's because you got famous so late. One day you'll learn it comes with the territory.

Julie Burchill

P.S. I see you are planning "to sustain interest media interest by nip-and-tuck mini raids on the British media." To show that there are no hard feelings, and to help your rather touching pursuit of publicity along, I will be happy to tell all my friends in the British media of your fascinating game plan.


22 March 93

Julie Burchill,

I have recieved your extraordinarily clumsy and ill written letter. You and your coterie seem to have the mental age of undergraduates, with whom I am certainly used to dealing. What emply bluster and tired cliches! If you were once witty, I'm afraid you're in a bit of a decline.

I have no idea who you are. I was simply told, twice in the past year, by people who have lived in England that there is this person named Julie Burchill who as a close parallel to me in sensibility and prose style. Naturally I assumed this would be someone I would at some point ally with.

Your review of my book was not particularly negative, compared to other reivews I have recieved, most of which tend to be highly, even hysterically negative and which I am well known to relish. But if you are as smart as you think you are, you would have realized that your reputation was on the line in reviewing me, and you would not have written such a sloppy, distorted article. It did you more harm than it did me. Your weaknesses and limtations as a thinker and writer were very much on view in it. I don't think you fully realise the ammuntion you have given your enemies in Great Britian.

As the years pass, it will become clearer and clearer to everyone, perhaps even to you, that this was a pivotal moment in your life. You had an opportunity to move forward and to grow by making an important alliance. But instead you chose to dig in your heels, clamp down, and sulk at the new girl invading your turf. You have behaved childishly.

I could have helped you far more than you could help me. I am read and translated around the world from Japan to South America, and the basis of my fame is not just journalism but a scholarly book on the history of culture. You are a very local commodity, completely unknown outside of England, and you have produced nothing of global interest. It is you who began this fight, and it is you who will pay the price for it.The more vicious you are in print, the stupider you will look.

Your review, as I said to the Daily Telegraph when it called, was not about my book but about yourself. It contains a shadowy, tragic — or should I say pathetic — history of your life, your grim obsessiveness about your body image and what were pretty clearly some early sexual encounters with men, where your credulity or failures of judgement got you into situations that left permanent marks on you. As a teacher I can't help but feel sorry for you.

This time you've gotten in over your head, but you don't realise it yet. I have already gathered from my contacts in the London media (and even from the Modern Review itself!) that many people are tired of your bullying and pretensions. I have no intention of publicly attacking you (except where I am specifically asked to by reporters), since I don't view you as that important in the world scheme. But there are many ways I can help others expose you. Your coarse and unskilled letter is yet another way you have wounded yourself, and I will make sure it is widely seen.

Camille Paglia


22 March 93

Dear Professor Paglia,

Yes, please feel free to show my letter to whoever you like. I'm pleased with it and I'm certainly going to pass around the fax someone at your English publisher gave me, in which you outline your pathetic plan to get publicity in my country by inventing a feud with me, the nation's sweetheart.

I don't dislike you. I think you're rather sweet. As Madonna said when asked about your obsession with her, "I think it's very amusing."

It's great to see an academic cube like yourself get with it. I'm very glad you're big in Japan. But the day I need your "help" or "alliance," I'll give up and go into academia.

Now that really is a fate worse than death.

Julie Burchill

P.S. Your Diana program was crap, and none of the TV reviewers knew who you were AND I was asked to do it first. I was glad to pass some work your way, and I'm sure I'll have the chance again.


23 Mar 93

Julie Burchill,

I have recieved your latest message of March 22 via my agent. Believe me, it gives me no pleasure to see a person of your standing debase herself in the way you have done in these shallow, desparate letters. It is as if you've lost all sense of what wit or argument is. Your fright and panic are painfully visible. I never dreamed my position was as strong in England as your shrill letters have demonstrated. If you were as confident in your stature or reputation, you would not have needed to take that tone with me. Your spluttering hostility proves I have made serious inroads into territory you once ruled alone.

It is hard to believe you are a woman in your mid 30s. Your flip, cliched locutions, braying rhetoric, and meandering incoherences are those of a college or even high school student. I am truly sorry to see yet another British woman writer self destruct, in the way Germaine Greer (whose achievements are far more substantial than yours) did in the Seventies.

You must face the fact that the letters you have written me — in which television reviewers are cited for their authority! — will give great pleasure to your enemies, who have waited a very long time to see you finally trip yourself up.

As far as I can gather, you seem to think your loud, brash style is unique and impressive — which it may well be in England with its code of decorum. But in America, everyone, down to the guys on the street corner, talks in this way, except in the academe. Your letters are banal and ludicrous in American terms because of your lurching inability to use this vernacular in a fresh way. You think yourself madly clever, but I'm afraid your enfant terrible personality is a bit tattered. You seem trapped in juvenility, like a matron who can't forget her salad days at the school sorority.

A friend of mine calls a style like yours — which we have seen a thousand examples of — "alcoholic prose." There is a heavy, grinding ponderousness pull on the sinking syntax, a noisy blathering sound, a bitter, maudlin self pity breaking through the false bravado and cynical posturing. It is probably a style you learned at home. It is palpably 30 years out of date.

Apparently you are someone who once made a claim for yourself on the basis of her working class roots. This may have been useful once, but obviously several decades have passed and the hyocrisy of your present position is becoming all to clear. Blow your old, dusty proletarian tuba with all your might, but the unhappy truth is that for many years your life has been one of coterie privilege and dining clubs, a cozy, smug, chic literary insiders' set that would turn the stomach of any authentic member of the working class. You have become a sheltered, pampered sultan of slick, snide wordplay, without direct experience of life of any kind. As a writer approaching midlife, you lack vision and deep insight.

As I said before, your encounter with me has been a pivotal moment for you. Here was your chance to reassess and invigorate your career. What I could have provided was a way for you to combat the widespread view of you as flash and superficial. Alas, your letters have done more damage to you than anything I could do.

Camille Paglia


24 Mar 93

Dear Professor Paglia,

Fuck off you crazy old dyke.


Julie Burchill


Six weeks late, Paglia's agent was asked for permission to reprint the entire series of faxes. A response quickly came:

3 May 93

Permission is granted to The Modern Review to reprint all letters/faxes I have written to it and Julie Burchill, on the condition that they be reproduced, in toto, with no cutting or condensation whatsoever.

Camille Paglia


Two days later, a final fax arrived:

6 May 93

Dear Mr Young

In reference to the letters that, earlier this week, I granted permission to you to reprint: I would like to go on record about a blatant misrepresentation of the facts made by Julie Burchill in her second letter to me in March.

Burchill claims abouth the Channel 4 special, "Diana Unclothed," which was televised 16 March, that she "was asked to do it first." This is categorically false. Peter Stuart, of the London based independent production company RapidoTV, approached me last year about the possibility of basing a television program on my ideas about the Princess of Wales, as contained in my cover story on her for the New Republic (8 Aug 92). He also asked for my contribution to a program on Lolita that he was planning. Mr. Stuart came to Philadelphia in January of this year to film me talking about Diana and Lolita for the two programs, which were jointly sponsored by Waldemar Januszcsak, Editor of The Arts at Channel 4.

It is true that Julie Burchill, along with other writers and commentators, was asked to contribute remarks to the Diana program, but she refused on the grounds, I am told, that 1) she never does television interviews and 2) she didn't wish to participate in a "Camille Paglia documentary."

Burchill's wild inflation of this easily corroborated detail is one of the striking passages in her letters to me. Quite obviously, it was a strategy born of a sense of weakness rather than strength.

Permission is granted to reproduce this letter in full or (in this case only) in part.

Yours truly

Camille Paglia

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