Archive for January, 2008

…And one pill makes you small

Over at io9, there’s a brief article discussing the possibility that at some point in the future we could see people engaging in voluntary and recreational autism thanks to recent scientific breakthroughs.

Over the past year, researchers have demonstrated several times that they can turn mice autistic by messing with brain chemistry—and then “cure” them using the same techniques. The discoveries could lead to a scenario similar to the one in Vernor Vinge’s novel A Deepness in the Sky, where people are given a brain treatment called “focusing” that essentially turns them autistic and makes them obsessive, detail-oriented workers.

It’s a difficult concept to consider seriously, actually. I’ve written before on this blog (but not for a looong time now) about people who feel compelled to engage in experimental pharmacology – using prescription medicines for new purposes and/or experimenting with illegal drugs to get a result different from the common high the substance in question is usually used for.

And there are a lot of things out there that people experiment with. Lately, Provigil – a prescription drug used for narcoleptics – is used by some college students as a brain-enhancer and a stimulant to get them through long nights cramming and working on homework projects. The temptation is great – pop a pill and change the way your body and/or brain behaves long enough for you to do what you want to get done. It’s a recurring theme in Science Fiction from early radio dramas to Transmetropolitan, with – as some of the comments point out on the autism article – a nice stopover in Brave New World.

The problem with the idea of voluntary or recreational autism is that autism is more than just focusing on work and not caring about human relationships. There are a number of troubling issues that go along with autism, and many that don’t crop up in every single case. Autism is a very serious condition that at the moment has no cure. If such research leads to a cure for natural autism, then more power to it – but at this moment I have trouble imagining that anybody who is aware of what autism actually is would ever line up for a pill that would cause them to develop it – even temporarily.

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Special Report

To see John McCain’s reactions to Giuliani’s speech isolated from the rest of the video, see YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCTSRa0XGYg

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Jeremiah was a Bullfrog…

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Nooo! Not my virgin ears!

Boing Boing reports that Government Attic has just gotten copies of a fistful of FCC complaints about popular shows. Among the shows? Of course, The Daily Show. (note: PDF document after link contains not-safe-for-work language, appropriately enough)

I love looking over these things, because they show you just what people think the FCC does and what they think they have the power to do. Here a couple of (edited) selections that illustrate these points.

This program used the word “s***” [edited by ArtMachine] 10-12 times. Why could they do that, when the Daily Show with Jon Stewart which came on right after it (on a different channel) got bleeped for the same word? I don’t understand your standards, but Saving Grace had to have violated a few of them. (Explicit sex, glamorous tobacco & alcohol.)

Last night I was watching the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, on the Comedy Channel, 7 PM, during one of the pieces about Madonna visiting Isareal [sic], he mentioned her “T** CONES” [edited by ArtMachine, emphasis in original manuscript] on TV. This type of “humor” shocks and offends me. What do you plan on doing about this type of behavior and what type of constraints will be put in place to prevent this type of behavior again?

Mr. Stewart and a guest in discussing matters of alleged interest seemed quite insensitive (very specifically) to avoiding the usage of the “N” word when describing persons of the Negro race (aka African-Americans) but seemed not to care a whit about using the insulting word “k***” [you guessed it – edited by ArtMachine] to refer to Jews. As a person of Jewish heritage and descent, I am shocked and outraged by this conduct. Howard Stern and his network have been chastised and fined for using allowing the usage of [sic] the “N” word during a radio broaddcast [sic] No less a fate should be considered for Mr. Stewart and his employer.

And so, here’s a quick primer.

  • The FCC does not bleep broadcasts. The producers do that.
  • The FCC does not review shows before they air. They can only respond to complaints after the fact.
  • As to that matter, whether or not the FCC’s charter allows them to “chastise and fine” shows for content is a matter of interpretation that has been known to change with each new FCC chairman. Arguably, the FCC regulates the airwaves for the common good – whether that common good includes making certain nobody says offensive words on them or not is up for debate.
  • The FCC regulates the airwaves. As is repeated throughout the Daily Show complaints document, the FCC is not empowered to enforce standards on cable.

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

How did I end up in the badlands?

If you haven’t already purchased or downloaded it from one of the myriad places it’s been published (hint: it’s also available on cd here), then I’m pleased to announce that you can now get The Illegal Rebirth of Deep Blue the Kid at the Amazon.com digital downloads store! Act now – your copy is waiting.

Friday, January 25th, 2008

An open note to CNN…

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

I’m just a curbside prophet…

Sometimes it becomes apparent to me how woefully behind the times I’m running.

It was just as the year was beginning that I wrote about Air America, and pondered aloud why I should continue to subscribe if they might delete my favorite show halfway through the year.

Then I also talked about HD disc formats and the war between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD as though it would continue for a long time.

On January 14, Air America dropped The Young Turks and the show became available exclusively through their website.

And with the defection of Warner Bros. to Blu-Ray exclusive, people are largely ready to declare the format wars over and Blu-Ray the victor.

Well! I’m glad we got those two issues out of the way. So how about that Kucinich? Think he can take Ron Paul in the upcoming election?

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

When is a camera not a camera?

I love Holga/Lomo fanatics. I was one for all of about three hours before the cost of film and development drove me to digital and away from the blurry snapshot “art” of the plastic camera. Somewhere I still have the roll of black and white film I shot using my taped-up super sampler, which I want to dig out every now and then and give another whirl.

(BTW – I love you guys and all, but my four-frame camera came from a science geek surplus catalog and cost me all of four bucks. You might want to shop around if you’re going the toy camera route)

Now one enterprising Holga enthusiast has created Holga: The Movie. It’s a brief walk through town with a techno soundtrack. The kicker? He modified his 35mm Holga to be a motion picture camera, albeit a choppy one. He also includes his instructions on how to recreate this effect.

The video appears to be un-embeddable, so you’ll have to click through to look at it here.

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008