On January 9th, people donning the symbols of Anonymous promised a “massive reaction” to the shooting deaths of over a dozen people in Paris. Posted to YouTube and Pastebin under the hashtag #OpCharlieHebdo, Anonymous proclaimed, “It’s obvious that some people don’t want, in a free world, this sacrosanct right to express in any way one’s opinions. Anonymous has always fought for the freedom of speech, and will never let this right besmirched [sic] by obscurantism and mysticism.” Obviously what happened in Paris was a despicable act and I have little sympathy for the perpetrators but their actions weren’t random. What happened in Paris is the beginning of a fight between fanatics who hold polar opposite views on free speech and the battle lines being drawn are dangerously close to the ones that outline the War on Terror. (more…)
An entire train full of crude oil slides and tumbles 11 miles down hill. Image from NBCNews
One morning, in the seventh grade, my math class was told to prepare for a surprise standardized writing test. A writing test with no warning in math class wasn’t the weirdest thing we had been asked to do. Jeb Bush was our governor and Florida was a proving ground for what would later be called “No Child Left Behind.” Tests were common and testing different kinds of tests were even more common. You never knew if the test you were taking would change your life or never be seen again. This one was a little bit of both. The prompt was really strange, although I don’t remember what it was. As a life-long test taker (my first standardized test was in the 4th grade) you become a sort of connoisseur of writing prompts. This one didn’t seem to test my expository or creative writing skills. It just felt like a demand to write and so we did. We wrote for about half an hour. (more…)
I took the liberty of making a new meme: "Censorship Sandworm". http://memegenerator.net/Censorship-Sandworm
“I must rule with eye and claw — as the hawk among lesser birds.”
-Duke Leo Atreides in Book 1: Dune
The recent and popular Hipstamatic war photos depict contemporary soldiers, battlefields and civilian turmoil as reminiscent of wars long since passed. War photos move us by depicting human drama taken to its extreme, and these images, shot with a smartphone and “filtered” to look old, create a sense of simulated nostalgia, further tugging at our collective heart strings. And I think that these photos reveal much more.
Hipstamatic war photographs ran on the front page of the New York Times [the full set] last November, and, of course, fake-vintage photos of everyday life are filling our Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter streams. I recently analyzed this trend ina long essay called The Faux-Vintage Photo, which is generating a terrific response. I argue that we like faux-vintage photographs because they provide a “nostalgia for the present”; our lives in the present can be seen as like the past: more important and real in a grasp for authenticity.
If faux-vintage photography is rooted in authenticity, then what is more real than war? If the proliferation of Hipstamatic photographs has anything to do with a reaction to our increasingly plastic, simulated, Disneyfied and McDonaldized worlds, then what is more gritty than Afghanistan in conflict? In a moment where there is a shortage of and a demand for authenticity (the gentrification of inner-cities, “decay porn” and so on), war may serve as the last and perhaps ultimate bastion of authenticity. However, as I will argue below, war itself is in a crisis of authenticity, creating rich potential for its faux-vintage documentation. (more…)
The Washington Post ran an article last Sunday about the Air Force’s new surveillance drone. The bot can hang in the air for weeks, using all nine of its cameras to provide a sweeping view of a village. Its a commanding officer’s dream come true: near-total battlefield awareness. Recording the data however, is only half of the battle. This vast amount of real-time data is almost incomprehensible. No one is capable of making sense of that much visual data unaided by some sort of curation device. There is an entire industry however, focusing on providing viewers with up-to-the-second live coverage of large, complex environments: sports entertainment.
Pro sports have always been on the cutting edge of video recording. Being able to show an entire football field and, with a swift camera change, immediately shift focus and follow a fast-moving ball into the hands of a running receiver. The finished product is a series of moving images that provide the most pertinent data, at the right scale, as it happens.
The Pentagon is adapting ESPN’s video tagging technology to make sense of battlefield surveillance. (more…)