I make films. I'm also a nerd.

Posts in culture:

Marijuana Farms Threaten All Life On Earth

Felicity Barringer for The New York Times:

[L]ike industrial logging before it, the booming business of marijuana is a threat to forests whose looming dark redwoods preside over vibrant ecosystems.

See, marijuana farming is really, really bad for the environment, you dirty hippie scum. It’s way worse than other forms of large-scale farming, which never, ever make use of pesticides, or of fertilizers which cause algal blooms that choke out entire ecosystems. No, marijuana is just plain intrinsically bad, and we’re not just saying that because it makes you illegally happy. No, sir.

Non-Foreigners Need Not Non-Worry

The Electronic Frontier Foundation:

The Washington Post previously reported that the NSA only needs to have 51% confidence in a person’s “foreignness.” These new documents reveal that if the NSA cannot determine its target’s ‘foreignness,’ they can keep on spying. Instead, you “will be presumed to be a non-United States person unless [you] can be positively identified as a United States person."

I trust that the NSA is making every effort to ensure my "non-foreignness" before they store and index my data. Don’t you trust them?

Our Copyright System Breeds Lunacy

I think I could easily demonstrate a thousand ways in which the copyright / trademark system in the United States has become completely ridiculous, and maybe I’ll get to work on that project over the long term. For now, I’d like to call attention to a recent event which encapsulates one of the bigger problems pretty starkly.

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Let’s Think of Piracy As Free Marketing

This whole debate about whether Adobe’s subscription model is a good idea or not brings to mind a lot of arguments I’ve been making for years about all “pirated” media. Trying to ignore the fact that people are going to copy your software (or film, or music) is myopic and insane–that’s just the way the world is. What’s more, today’s pirates are tomorrow’s paying customers. Here’s Rick Webb on the fact that his piracy of Photoshop ended up making Adobe a ton of money:

So, by my calculation, I have now personally overseen the procurement of well over $250,000 of Adobe software through the years. Software I learned through piracy. Piracy that gave me a career.

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Wash Your Name With Money

Graeme Wood reports for New York Magazine on his discovery of an illicit reputation-recovery service for disgraced rich douchebags:

Whoever he was, it seemed that “Xander Fields” had built a whole Potemkin universe of positive-press websites that amplified made-up praise, often by made-up people, for a handful of rich folks with messy online reputations. I was now deep down in a ­rabbit hole but hadn’t yet landed with a ­satisfying thud. Who was “Xander Fields”? […] Pondering that X, I spelled his name with Scrabble tiles and scooted the letters around my kitchen table. The first words I came up with: SLANDER FIXED.

If there’s anything rich people hate more than taxes, it’s consequences.

Privacy Is Not The Province of Perverts Only

There’s a lot of hysteria in this otherwise typically wishy-washy "on-one-hand-but-also-on-the-other-hand" piece on the "Dark Web" by Mark Ward of the BBC:

By contrast, [Mick Moran, Interpol’s acting assistant director of cybersecurity and crime] said, his experience of dark nets such as Tor was that their use by activists and the oppressed was more than outweighed by criminal abuse of such anonymising systems.

"They use it to access and exchange child exploitation material and child pornography," he said. "Because they are untraceable then society lacks the ability to enforce democratically put in place laws around this issue."

I’d certainly expect a cop to take a dim view of anonymity on the Web; there’s nothing surprising in that. Obviously cops want to have access to as much of our data as possible. What we have to ask ourselves is this: do we really want to throw out all hope of any privacy whatsoever simply because criminals try to do bad things in private? Where was the rush to outlaw doors in 1956? I mean, criminals hid behind them!

Lawyer Pranked NSA With FINNEGAN’S WAKE Excerpts

When John Sifton (an attorney at Human Rights Watch, among other things) found out about the NSA’s efforts to spy on all of us, his first thought was to play a little prank:

The first thing I did after I heard about the highly classified NSA PRISM program two years ago was set up a proxy server in Peshawar to email me passages from Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. A literary flight of fancy. I started sending back excerpts from Gerard Manley Hopkins poems.

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Modern Superheroes Strangle Our Dreams

Isn’t the whole fucking point of superhero fiction to provide an escape from the horrors of being aware? Aren’t we meant to imagine that if we–peons that we are–were imbued with superhuman abilities, we’d feel compelled to help out those less able? Isn’t the superhero premise sort of neutered if the world is worse off at the end of the story than it was at the beginning? Isn’t the very notion of narrative heroism inextricably tied to mostly-unqualified victory?

Christopher Nolan (in particular) seems to revel in destroying dreams: he fucks them brutally and leaves them for dead. He replaces them with paranoia, dread, and fear, mistakenly and hatefully arguing that those sentiments are all we have left.

No, Seriously, We Don’t Know Nothin’ About PRISM

Apple is the latest tech company to issue a broad denial of any participation in PRISM–or in any other governmental snooping–apart from responding to the usual sorts of law-enforcement requests:

Two weeks ago, when technology companies were accused of indiscriminately sharing customer data with government agencies, Apple issued a clear response: We first heard of the government’s “Prism” program when news organizations asked us about it on June 6. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer content must get a court order.

Everything we’ve seen in the news in recent weeks would suggest that denials like this one are utter bullshit–whether they’re issued by Apple, Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo1. Anyone–like Jim Dalrymple–who is so blinded by his appreciation of Apple that he accepts this non-denial as the complete truth is making an idiot of himself.

  1. I still refuse to type that ridiculous exclamation point. 

James Lipton: Straight Up Pimp

James Lipton, in perhaps the funniest interview that Parade Magazine (or anyone else, for that matter) has ever run, confirms that he was once a pimp in Paris:

Young women desperately needed money for various reasons. They were beautiful and young and extraordinary. There was no opprobrium because it was completely regulated. Every week they had to be inspected medically. The great bordellos were still flourishing in those days before the sheriff of Paris, a woman, closed them down. It was a different time.

This may or may not be true, but in the end who really cares? Also: I’m having a hard time thinking of anything other than Warden Gentles’ play in Season Three of Arrested Development.