Nicholas Negroponte is working on providing laptops to developing countries for less than $100 a piece. Interesting trend - I just read on rabble's blog about super cheap cellphones for the poor. This is good I think, especially if they get them for free. And the laptops are super cool - they run linux, they're really tough, have wireless, flash memory instead of hard drive. I hope this actually happens. Seems like a tough order.
interesting point made on the website for the laptops about why they're not using recycled machines:
regarding recyled machines: if we estimate 100 million available used desktops, and each one requires only one hour of human attention to refurbish, reload, and handle, that is forty-five thousand work years. Thus, while we definitely encourage the recycling of used computers, it is not the solution for One Laptop per Child.
Good point, but it's sad when recycling is contraindicated like that.
Related note: the other day I saw Negroponte's book "Being Digital" sitting forelornly in the free pile at Powell's Technical. I remember when that book came out and it was supposed to be such hot, prophetic, "the future is now" stuff. Hah.
I'm still not quite done with "On The Edge", my documentary about the femicides of Ciudad Juarez, but last weekend I made a trailer for it. I'm not entirely happy with the trailer, and I will probably make a better one soon, but this one I am putting up there just to whet your whistle.
I just realized that before today I hadn't blogged for about a week and a half, for some reason. Maybe because I've been really busy and time has just been flying by. Helping friends move, working on 3 video projects at once (including the Juarez doc, which is now like one day of color-correction work away from being done. No, really!!), working on the Computers for Bolivia Project, which took 1 step forward and 2 steps back in the last week... I dunno what else. Being sick. Helping a friend sell a bunch of stuff on eBay (high ticket stuff, ,so it's kind of intense).
Nice weather is still holding on here, for the most part, knock on formica. At this point I still want to get out of Portland and head down the coast in mid-october. I'm slowly getting rid of posessions to make the move easier.
Last night Portland IMC had its usual monthly video night and no one showed up except for IMC people. Talk about preaching to the choir. That kind of pissed me off. What's the point?
Well, that's about it. More as it happens.
The New York Times published a major story about the murders of women in Ciudad Juarez yesterday. Their focus is on the corruption or incompentence of the police and state government. It's pretty impressive. oh an remember that if you dont have a NYT login and don't want to register, use bugmenot.com
In the last few days I have witnessed the travels or soon-to-be travels of various friends and aquaintances, and it has both thrilled me and made me a little melancholy, because I want to be on the road myself again.
My friend Joel is going to China, to be a stilt-walker in some parade. wow. On top of the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuancan my friend Jacob and I met Abby, someone I know from Portland, and her friend Lisa. Lisa is still travelling, has been in Guatemala for months and has a blog that is making me thinking nostalgically back to my trip in Mexico and Guatemala. She's even spent a lot of time in the same places I went, D.F., San Cristobal, Xela, San Pedro.
The other day I was covering a carpenter's strike for Indymedia when I ran into Bartolina and Patrik, who do community radio stuff here in Portland and are about to start a 6-month long journey through latin america, interviewing people and linking up with radio activists all along the way. Wish I was going with them, but I will live it vicariously through their blog, which will hopefully be a podcast with lots of audio, too. They asked me for contacts and I immediately started telling them about all the cool people and organizations I'd come across on my travels. I need to email them soon with details.
The other thing that has reminded me of Guatemala and Mexico is the fact that la pinche tos ha regresado (the damn cough is back). I haven't felt this bad since my first week in Chiapas. Thinking of that time reminds me not to be too positively nostagic, because I was sick almost the entire time that I was in Guatemala, and up till my second week in Mexico. See, I have this every year (except the time I was in South America, and managed to sidestep winter of any kind) It came late this year and was particularly bad when I was in Guatemala, probably exacerbated by pollution and chilly, moist climate of the highlands there. Now, as Portland moves into fall/winter/rainy season, it's back. I think I also am allergic to something blooming now, and the general congestion has triggered my cough. Maybe I have asthma. A doctor told me once that asthma and hay fever are genetically linked, and that often people develop asthma when they're older.
Anyway, it sucks. Another reason to get my ass down to Tucson. Or somewhere warmer and drier. But I'm stuck here waiting for the Computers for Bolivia Project to get wrapped up. I'm at the mercy of Free Geek, basically. waiting for them to tell me if we can have more computers. Pinche computadoras.
Here's my second (or third if you count the little test clip) video piece included, embedded, enclosed, in this blog. It's not a vlog, it's a blog that can, does, and will include media, and you'll be able to look at it with iTunes or FireAnt or that sorta thing.
Anyway, this little piece is called "Probot vs. The Postal Service." - it's basically a mashup, a juxtaposition of a video with a a different song than what original went with it. Probot is a sort of metal supergroup that includes Lemmy from Motorhead and Dave Grolsch of Nirvana. The original video also includes local Portland softporn legends The Suicide Girls and the original song was called "Shake Your Blood," I think. It's typical cockrock bullshit. I couldn't stand it, and even though the imagery raised my blood pressure, I also just got angry every time I saw it. So I got the idea of layering a totally different sort of song over it, as an experiment in detournement. The song - well, you'll see. I think it worked pretty well and it's pretty funny. I didn't change the audio at all, and I only changed the video by altering the speed in about 5 places in order to make some things sync up for more humorous effect.
I was just about to post this and then decided maybe it needs more explanation. Why did I do this? Aren't I just replacing one pop song with another and by using the visuals as-is just perpetuating the sexism in the original? I think to think that one would have to not really pay attention to the lyrics and feel of the new song. The Postal Service song is a great example of "Emo", which, in case you haven't heard, is a sort of sub-genre of independent pop music that is well-known for the open, honest display of feelings. It's antithetical to the sort of macho, chauvinist posturing that bands like Probot, and so much other rock music, display all the time, especially the medium of music videos, depending on objectification of women and a front of power and domination. So just the idea of Lemmy mouthing lines like "when I'm missing you to death" is really funny and thought-provoking, making a critique of the sexist fantasy in the original video just by drawing attention to the contast.
So, there you go, that's why I did it.
By the way, a technical note - I haven't had very many complaints about being able to play these files; I've been encoding them in mpeg-4 format, which is supposedly a standard, but, somehow mpeg-4s made on a Mac are different than those made on Windoze. So some windoze users have trouble, especially if they don't have a recent installation of Quicktime. Other (free) cross-platform players that should work are VLC and mPlayer.
BugMeNot.com is pretty cool. It's a site that gives you fake accounts to registration-required sites, so you don't have to register to get content (like on the New York Times site, etc.) What a great idea.
I just found a long article (which I've only skimmed so far) about Amnesty International's recent trip to Juarez and Chihuahua to revisit the femicide situation there and assess if progress is being made. Sounds like they have, and that the new governor is actually visibly better than the old one. Amazing.
Get Your War On brings us a special Hurricane Katrina edition that is, as usual, excellent sarcastic political satire in cartoon form.
I should have been continuing to wrap up my Juarez doc, but I spent a couple hours last night and today doing a little video that I've been planning to do for a week or so, made from clips I've shot with my digital still camera (which can take little videos) over the last few months.
I call it "Incidental Music."
It's all music that I just sort of accidentally experienced, and was able to whip out my camera to capture.
All of the bits are from Portland except for the first one, which is from Mexico, on the way from Mexico City to the ruins of Teotihuancan. The second is shot from the east bank of the Williamette River, looking across the water towards downtown and hearing, all that way, the Violent Femmes play at the Bite of Oregon festival. Then there's the bike/dance troupe called The Sprockettes, and then some members of The Trash Mountain Boys, and other musicians, doing a little improv bicyclized version of La Bamba - "Zoo Bomba" at a brunch a couple weekends ago, and finally some footage of The Golden Greats, some friends that started a pretty entertaining funk band while I was out of town. I got to see them play at a party I was at.
This is one of the only videos I have edited completely outside of the world of DV. So it was kind of weird. I'm not too happy with the crunchiness of the titles as they turned out on the encoded-for-interweb file. But the whole thing is pretty lo-fi. my still cam shoots in some AVI photojpeg codec, 15 fps, half-res, mono 8-bit audio. but despite these specs it sounds and looks okay in its original form. and not even that bad here. I just with the titles were a little sharper. oh well.
anyway, enjoy. This represents slices of some of the really fun times I've had this summer, symbolized and epitomized by live musical serendipity. There's almost nothing better than just stumbliing across great music.
When I was in Chiapas this summer, there was one thing I kept wondering: are the Zapatista people better off for being Zapatistas, or not? An article in today's New York Times addresses just that, though I'm taking it with a grain of salt, like anything in the media.
The conclusion the reporter makes is that things aren't much different between Zapatista and government supporters, and in fact some have left the Zapatista ranks, lured away by government aid programs. I saw myself that life is still very hard for the indigenous people in Zapatista territory. However, it also seemed like there was lots of progress, especially in terms of health care that the Zapatistas are making available through clinics and "microclinics." And besides that, I am reminded of something mentioned by Subcommandante Marcos, who freely states in his recent writings that, yes, things are still very dismal for the Zapatistas, but there is one important difference: now they have hope, and pride. This is something not quantifiable and hence not as easy for a publication like the New York Times to report on. It's not as easy to measure as the thousands of pesos being poured into Chiapas by the federal government or the numbers of troops still occupying military bases there.
Once again the excellent blog about videoblogs, We Are The Media, gets me thinking with a great collection of links to vlogs that are covering the Katrina aftermath. What I'm thinking is, well, compare and contrast Indymedia with the more journalistic of the vloggers. There is a lot of very similar rhetoric about freeing the media and citizen journalism. However I don't see as much ideology in the vlogosphere. There are vloggers of all different political persuasions, and many are apolitical. I feel like Indymedia may have marginalized itself to the point where it is only for already very committed activists. The vlogosphere may be a chance to preach to more than the choir. So the questions are, how might Indymedia videoactivists broaden their scope to include the new "subtactic" of vlogging? And, where are the indymedia vloggers?
It reminds me of Slashdot's tagline, which I always found disturbing: "News for Nerds, Stuff that matters." It always turned me off, because it seemed to be an oxymoron. If it matters, then it matters, period, and it shouldn't be just for nerds. I just glanced at slashdot and only 1 or 2 of the dozen or so stories are really that nerdy. Most are really of general interest, though of course teh subject matter is always science or tech stuff. But if it's for nerds, then a lot of itdoesn't matter to others, or at least that is the assumption a lot of non-nerd people will have. The tagline sets up a separation, a self-marginalization. To be accurate, and to continue to marginalize itself, the phrase really should have a "to nerds" at the end, or, if self-marginalization is not the intention, it should be a completely different tagline, something like "News about Nerdy Stuff, that should matter to everyone."
Similarly, I sometimes think Indymedia has an invisible tagline: "News for 'Extreme' 'Radical' Activsts, stuff that matters to 'Extreme' 'Radical' Activists." Which is not to say that was the intention or even is currently, at least conciously (or is it?). But it may be how the IMC is perceived, at least when people are aware of it at all.
Here in Portland there has been much talk about Katrina survivors being brought up here after Oregon offered space. First 1000 were supposed to arrive Wednesday, then apparently FEMA said not yet, now I hear 500 are coming Saturday. There's an old closed elementary school in the inner southeast section of town (14th and Stark) that will house them. I've biked by there several times in the last week and seen big Red Cross trucks parked there.
IMC people here are talking about and working on setting up a media center a few blocks away for the evacuees to use, but I don't know how useful that will be, since apparently there will be new computers donated by Intel and internet access right in the building they'll be staying in. I'm not sure of the best way that our IMC could help these people, at least in a unique, media-centered way. Perhaps just volunteering like regular people is best.
I wish we had CVS Pharmacies here. I'd get a bunch of those cheap camcorders that have been hacked and pass them out to residents of the evacuee facility.
Meanwhile, Blank, a very active member of our IMC video collective, flew down to Houston last night. I've heard so much about mistreatment of journalists and tight security that I'm pretty concerned, for his safety and also just for the prospect of actually being able to get any coverage. But hopefully he will manage to do some good down there. He's certainly got a lot of good gear with him.
This post from the excellent blog-about-vlogs, We Are the Media discusses a technique/phenomenon that I have always found useful ever since Mort Subotnick, one of my composition professors at CalArts, mentioned it to me about 10 years ago.
The idea is that playing someone else your work, whether it's music or film/video, is really helpful, even if they don't say anything. Somehow just sitting there watching/listening to your own work with someone else there gives you a whole different perspective on it.
I don't know how many I need to actually get it accepted for airing on the channel, but you can definitely help by going to their site, registering, watching it, and greenlighting it. Plus, it's an interesting piece. you'll like it, I promise.
so in addition to all the other geeky changes in my life i decide to go ahead and finally start using an IMAP client locally instead of reading mail on the server like i've been doing for 10 years. I just never knew how cool IMAP was, had a distaste for learning about it ever since a server of mine was hacked thanx to an IMAP exploit, and POP is dumb cuz it ties you down to your mail being on one workstation.
so i've been trying out apple's email client and getting it all set up the way I want
it but there's weird shit that is totally frustrating, something to do with how it interacts with the IMAP server. i have it under control now so i won't even go into it, but it was really pissing me off for the last couple hours.
I've been thinking about starting to include little videos here, not so much starting a "vlog" as just turning my already-existing blog into something that includes more embedded media. i want to test to see if the rss2.0 feed that movable type creates is something that FireANT or iTunes will like.