As I was looking up a restaurant I need to go to later this week on Google Maps, I decided (as I often do) to zoom in for a street view. I find this really helpful to get a visual of the exact area I am going to. I know that some time ago Google started blurring faces to better deal with privacy issues brought on by their street views. This is mostly an automated process, although I know that Google will sometimes remove information if specifically requested to do so as well. Which brings us back to my street view, and what seems like a funny application of this technology:
I am not a superstitious person, but I have to admit that there is (at least) one area in my life where a kind of magic very often prevails. I can’t count the number of times someone will come to me for help with a software or hardware problem (or almost any kind of technical problem really) explaining to me the action they tried and how it resulted in failure/crash/nothing/whatever. And then, invariably, I will perform the exact same action in the exact same way — and it will work. It very often extends to my mere presence in the room. Someone will explain their problem, and I will show up and ask them to repeat it (which they swear they have done countless times) and yet, with me standing there (or sometimes just talking to them on the phone) it will suddenly work. This causes all manner of frustration to the person who contacts me. For a long time, I would chalk it up to something they must have forgotten or done differently than me, or to something that they had forgotten to tell me. But this has happened enough times over many years to be downright spooky. My mutant power is apparently making things work by being around them. While not as flashy as walking through walls or turning my body to steel or teleporting, it is an awesome power nonetheless. And with great power, comes great responsibility. Now I just need a snazzy costume design and code name…
I was with a few people going on a trip, one of them was a friend of my friend Olaf. He was going to take me somewhere and Olaf would meet us later, but Olaf was yelling at him for not preparing something correctly and for running out of time. There were a couple of people who were experimenting with strange little glass jars that contained mini fusion reactors or something. They were very volatile but there was sometimes, if done properly, a time differential inside the jar that was different from the outside. One guy was explaining how he had saved 17 minutes in this glass jar, but he seemed a little dim like he didn’t really know what he was doing, he was just watching the other scientists who knew better. Just then the glass in his hand exploded and we were all knocked down to the floor and back in time 17 minutes. Later we were at a dinner and this colleague of mine, a woman I respected very much, told me she had just lost her job. And then we heard a report that all over the world the economic situation for people that lived next to rivers was very bad, they were all struggling. My colleague was sadly, slowly brushing her teeth and preparing to leave when I woke up.
Over the past few days I have been delighted to spend some time (in between work that is) with two friends that were in town briefly. First was my friend Ruthbea, in town from Boston with her Mom and kids. We had a group dinner with a bunch of Ruthbea’s friends Friday night on the UWS. There was a lot of wine and a lot of talk about kids. I went up a bit early for a little bit of quality time with Ruthbea, I only wish we had had more of it alone, it is hard to catch up in a group setting. After that, my friend and former roommate Jose arrived for a 2 day visit starting Sunday. We wandered the Highline and Chelsea area a bit while he was here, watched some TV, took in some good restaurants and chatted about politics, philosophy, and the general breakdown of American culture. It was lovely seeing old friends, but now I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.
I am currently working on the archive site of deceased filmmaker (my friend Andrew in fact), and as I have been uploading his films to YouTube for embedding, I have noticed some very strange automated censorship at work:
With a number of the films, it appears that YouTube has some fairly sophisticated content scanning happening. So, for instance if it detects some song playing in the background of a scene, it will notify you that you may be in violation of copyright or something similar. In some cases, they will actually block your video automatically with a claim from some large company (in my case it was EMI), effectively judging you guilty of violation first, and making you prove your innocence to them to get it unblocked. WTF, who needs SOPA if private companies will censor for you? And it is always the huge corporations that have the power here, YouTube won’t be blocking and filtering just anyone’s content.
We have a big big problem with copyright and patent law run amok. Fair use is practically non existant, and shrinking more every day. The original intent of laws to protect copyright were limited and in the common interest. Not so any more, we are destroying our culture’s ability to create, which is always based on prior work and its appropriation and reinterpretation. Without free creative reign, our culture is weakened and stagnant. While a few people get very rich, the rest of us get screwed.
A guy named Kirby Ferguson deals with these issues clearly and eloquently in his excellent series, “Everything is a Remix“, I highly recommend watching all four parts (but if you watch only one, please see part 4 as it really brings it all home).
I was in Chicago for a singing audition for a new commercial jingle, and they told me that my part sounded great, but the other part (performed by other people) sounded terrible. The problem was that they had all the power and were not about to include my part. I was calling the corporate guys to get approval on my part, but the phone line kept getting cut. They were a group of mean girls stopping it from happening, and I decided to go on vacation. A lot, I was going on a lot of vacations. And on my way to the airport, I got on a call with my boss to tell him I was leaving, but then someone called in on the other line. It was my friend Jonny in Geneva who told me that his friend had clubbed his loud dog to death and that he would not be trusting him any more, no sir. But he said it in a laughing way, like he thought the entire thing was very funny. And then I woke up.
I went two-stepping with Josh et al last night, out to a place called Big Apple Ranch for their 15th anniversary party. Josh is an old hand at two-stepping and has been trying to get me to go for years, but this was the first time for me. After a hasty lesson, we were on our way and I tried to dance a couple of times, but I was several left feet at first. Still, I had a great time watching the crowd and running into a surprising number of acquaintances.
What I loved most about the place was how mixed it was and how gender roles were out the window. It really reminded me of that gay milonga I went to a few years aback in Buenos Aires, except that (unlike tango) the dances actually seemed like something a novice could get the hang of. The couples were all types (male-male, male-female, female-female) and positions (leading/following) and everyone seemed to be having a really great time. Some of the people were fabulous dancers and it was a lot of fun watching their moves. The atmosphere was completely accepting and supportive, and it really made one comfortable with just getting out there and trying a new thing.
I was a bit shy at first, but by the time the last big dance was happening (called the Barn Dance) I was really getting into it (well, to tell the truth I was thrown into it), and managed (through heavy repetition) to approximate a two-stepper.
Is there anything quite as embarrassing as showing up for a first date where the guy is wearing the exact same outfit as you?