Thursday, January 28, 2010

The PC Officially Died Today

But will the iPad replace it?
by Nicholas Carr
The PC era ended this morning at ten o’clock Pacific time, when Steve Jobs stepped onto a San Francisco stage to unveil the iPad, Apple’s version of a tablet computer. Tablets have been kicking around for a decade, but consumers have always shunned them. And for good reason: They’ve been nerdy-looking smudge-magnets, limited by their cumbersome shape and their lack of a keyboard. Tablets were a solution to a problem no one had.
The rapturous reaction to Apple’s tablet—the buildup to Jobs’s announcement blurred the line between media feeding-frenzy and orgiastic pagan ritual—shows that our attitude to the tablet form has finally changed. Tablets suddenly look attractive. Why? Because the nature of personal computing has changed.
Until recently, we mainly used our computers to run software programs (Microsoft Word, Quicken) installed on our hard drives. Now, we use them mainly to connect to the vast databases of the Internet—to “the cloud,” as the geeks say. And as the Internet has absorbed the traditional products of media—songs, TV shows, movies, games, the printed word—we’ve begun to look to our computers to act as multifunctional media players. The computer business and the media business are now the same business.
The transformation in the nature of computing has turned the old-style PC into a dinosaur. A bulky screen attached to a bulky keyboard no longer fits with the kinds of things we want to do with our computers. The obsolescence of the PC has spurred demand for a new kind of device—portable, flexible, always connected—that takes computing into the cloud era.
Suddenly, in other words, the tablet is a solution to a problem everyone has. Or at least it’s one possible solution. The computing market is now filled with all sorts of networked devices, each seeking to fill a lucrative niche. There are dozens of netbooks, the diminutive cousins to traditional laptops, from manufacturers like Acer and Asus. There are e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. There are smartphones like Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Nexus One. There are gaming consoles like Nintendo's Wii and the Microsoft’s Xbox. In some ways, personal computing has returned to the ferment of its earliest days, when the market was fragmented among lots of contending companies, operating systems, and technical standards.
With the iPad, Apple is hoping to bridge all the niches. It wants to deliver the killer device for the cloud era, a machine that will define computing’s new age in the way that the Windows PC defined the old age. The iPad is, as Jobs said today, “something in the middle,” a multipurpose gadget aimed at the sweet spot between the tiny smartphone and the traditional laptop. If it succeeds, we’ll all be using iPads to play iTunes, read iBooks, watch iShows, and engage in iChats. It will be an iWorld.
But will it succeed? The iPad is by no means a sure bet. It still, after all, is a tablet—fairly big and fairly heavy. Unlike an iPod or an iPhone, you can’t stick an iPad in your pocket or pocketbook. It also looks to be a cumbersome device. The iPad would be ideal for a three-handed person—two hands to hold it and another to manipulate its touchscreen—but most humans, alas, have only a pair of hands. And with a price that starts at $500 and rises to more than $800, the iPad is considerably more expensive than the Kindles and netbooks it will compete with.
But whether it finds mainstream success or not, there’s no going back; we’ve entered a new era of computing, in which media and software have merged in the Internet cloud. It’s hardly a surprise that Apple—more than Microsoft, IBM, or even Google—is defining the terms of this new era. Thanks to Steve Jobs, a bohemian geek with the instincts of an impresario, Apple has always been as much about show biz as about data processing. It sees its products as performances and its customers as both audience members and would-be artists.
Apple endured its darkest days during the early 1990s, when the PC had lost its original magic and turned into a drab, utilitarian tool. Buyers flocked to Dell’s cheap, beige boxes. Computing back then was all about the programs. Now, computing is all about the programming—the words and sounds and pictures and conversations that pour out of the Internet’s cloud and onto our screens. Computing, in other words, has moved back closer to the ideal that Steve Jobs had when he founded Apple. Today, Jobs’s ambitions are grander than ever. His overriding goal is to establish his company as the major conduit, and toll collector, between the media cloud and the networked computer.
Jobs doesn’t just want to produce glamorous gizmos. He wants to be the impresario of all media.
Nicholas Carr is the author of The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google. His next book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, will be published in June. This piece is cross-posted on his blog, Rough Type.

Lottery winner received check the day she died

SANDUSKY, Ohio - A lottery winner who was struck and killed by a car in northern Ohio on the day she got her check had just spent some of the money on wedding rings for her and her husband.

The Ohio Highway Patrol says 47-year-old Deborah McDonald of Crystal Rock was walking home from a bar when she was hit by a car.

McDonald had been drinking and celebrating her winnings before she died, investigators said.

McDonald got a check for $5,520 on Tuesday and treated her husband and friends to dinner. Friends said she also bought a pair of wedding rings that the couple had been unable to afford.

McDonald won the money in the Ohio Lottery's TV game show "Cash Explosion Double Play."

The show is set to air Saturday.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Web Brings Skaters’ Lives Uneasily Close to Fans’ Obsessions "SPOKANE, Wash. — When Brian Orser received an e-mail message last fall from an admirer of his star figure skater, Kim Yu-na of South Korea, he wrote it off as another piece of fan mail.
The fan, a Canadian teenager, gave his name and attached his photograph, asking Orser for his help in setting up a rendezvous with Kim, the gold-medal favorite at the Vancouver Olympics. Orser, Kim’s coach, wrote back and said thanks, but no.
“I quite regularly get e-mails from people sending Yu-na their support or best wishes,” said Orser, a two-time Olympic medalist for Canada. “And this one seemed fine, until a few more e-mails came from the same e-mail address, but now the guy was using a different name each time. He was professing his undying love for her and that he would do anything to meet her.”
In figure skating, those obsessions are nothing new. To see some of the skaters who soon will command the spotlight in Vancouver, fans this week have traveled to the United States Figure Skating Championships here from as far away as Russia and Japan.
They are drawn to the elements of skating that often make the sport a television hit every four years: the costumes, the music and the graceful beauty and athleticism of young men and women.
Those elements, however, seemingly conspire to create fans who take their interest to the verge of obsession — and beyond."

Man Buried in Haiti Rubble Uses iPhone to Treat Wounds, Survive

U.S. filmmaker Dan Woolley was shooting a video about poverty in Haiti when the earthquake struck. He could have died, but he ultimately survived with the help of an iPhone first-aid app that taught him to treat his wounds.

After being crushed by a pile of rubble, Woolley used his digital SLR to illuminate his surroundings and snap photos of the wreckage in search of a safe place to dwell. He took refuge in an elevator shaft, where he followed instructions from an iPhone first-aid app to fashion a bandage and tourniquet for his leg and to stop the bleeding from his head wound, according to an MSNBC story.

Join Reddit’s Haiti relief fundraising drive with Direct Relief International.
The app even warned Woolley not to fall asleep if he felt he was going into shock, so he set his cellphone’s alarm clock to go off every 20 minutes. Sixty-five hours later, a French rescue team saved him.

“I just saw the walls rippling and just explosive sounds all around me,” said Woolley, recounting the earthquake to MSNBC. “It all happened incredibly fast. David yelled out, ‘It’s an earthquake,’ and we both lunged and everything turned dark.”

Woolley’s incident highlights a large social implication of the iPhone and other similar smartphones. A constant internet connection, coupled with a device supporting a wealth of apps, can potentially transform a person into an all-knowing, always-on being. In Woolley’s case, an iPhone app turned him into an amateur medic to help him survive natural disaster.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

gender neutral

thought this was really cool...

In a new interview, the executive producer of the SyFy channel’s Caprica admits some roles were written without even knowing whether the characters were female or male. “We write a lot of our roles with no gender assigned — or rather, we pick one but tell casting to bring in everyone, and then rewrite if needed to fit the performer. I love doing that, since it ensures that you’re not writing to any subconscious gender expectations…


Forgive Haiti's debt

Our message to the IMF and International Development Bank: The IMF must make good on its promise to forgive all $265 million of debt Haiti owes, and the IDB should do the same with its massive $477 million debt. Grants -not loans- will give Haiti what it needs to rebuild its public sector and become independent of foreign assistance for economic stability.

Less than 24 hours after last week's earthquake in Haiti, the right-wing Heritage Foundation showed us the meaning of compassionate conservativism.

Heritage said that the devastation offered an "opportunity to re-shape Haiti's long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region."

Disaster capitalism is real, and right-wing activists want to use the chaos in Haiti to their advantage, exposing the country to the inequalities and undemocratic ways of the global corporate system.

So what can you do to stop them? Click here to automatically tell the International Monetary Fund and Inter-American Development Bank to forgive Haiti's debt.

Grants not loans will give Haiti what it needs to rebuild its public sector and become independent of foreign assistance for economic stability. The IMF must make good on its promise to forgive all $265 million of debt Haiti owes, and the IDB should do the same with its massive $477 million debt.

As Richard Kim pointed out in The Nation last week, it's no accident that Haiti lacks infrastructure and is vulnerable to natural disaster Haiti has been burdened for centuries by the bondage of slavery and debt. Freed slaves were forced to pay reparations to their former slave owners, and Kim notes that "by 1900, Haiti was spending 80 percent of its national budget on repayments." It's unconscionable, but it's not unlike what the right is asking for now.

Debt forgiveness will ensure that Haiti can get back on its feet and ward off disaster capitalists seeking to profit from the tragedy. By clicking here now, you'll automatically tell the IMF and IDB no shock doctrine for Haiti.

Thank you for your outpouring of support for the people of Haiti in this time of need.

Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

P.S. I just watched the documentary this morning called "Life+Debt." It details Jamaica's struggles with being backed into an economic corner, forced to take loans from the IMF first, then the World Bank, and finally the Inter-America Development Bank. The conditions on the loans forced them to drop almost all the tariffs and regulations on foreign imports, bankrupting local farmers, dairy producers, and other small industries that the tiny island could sustain. And don't get me started on the "Kingston Free Zone." Least to say, it was interesting and eye-opening, and I can only imagine what has happened in Haiti up to the point of this disaster, and how much more open they are to economic exploitation now. Honestly, I don't know, and hope there's reporters on the ground that will tell that story, and not just the horror stories of individual suffering. (thnks, KRB)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Man experiences intense pain from nail that slid between his toes

Boing Boing: "Mind Hacks reports that a nail penetrated the shoe of a 29-year-old construction worker, causing great pain. But the hospital workers discovered that the nail had passed harmlessly between his toes.
A builder aged 29 came to the accident and emergency department having jumped down on to a 15 cm nail. As the smallest movement of the nail was painful he was sedated with fentanyl and midazolam. The nail was then pulled out from below. When his boot was removed a miraculous cure appeared to have taken place. Despite entering proximal to the steel toecap the nail had penetrated between the toes: the foot was entirely uninjured.
Mind Hacks says this is related to "somatisation disorder, where physical symptoms appear that aren't explained by tissue damage.""

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Green sea slug is half animal, half plant

Scientists have identified a sea slug Elysia chlorotica able to synthesize chlorophyll like a plant as the first animal with herbal characteristics.

The animal enjoys genes that allow it to be the first animal identified showing plant features. Those genes help the sea slug make chlorophyll; compared to such an ability, its green color is no longer seen as strange.

Scientists from the University of South Florida have identified this green sea slug as the first animal known to be capable of the feat.

“This could be a fusion of a plant and an animal - that's just cool,” said invertebrate zoologist John Sardis of the Citadel in Charleston.

The sea slug Elysia chlorotica retains chloroplasts from its algal prey and looks much like a dark green leaf. The sea slug's algal prey, Vaucheria litorea, traps chloroplasts in the cells lining its digestive tract.

The slugs can manufacture the most common form of chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants that captures energy from sunlight.

The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV

The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV

Media Beat (1/4/95)

By Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon

It's become a TV ritual: Every year in mid-January, around the time of Martin Luther King's birthday, we get perfunctory network news reports about "the slain civil rights leader."

The remarkable thing about this annual review of King's life is that several years — his last years — are totally missing, as if flushed down a memory hole.

What TV viewers see is a closed loop of familiar file footage: King battling desegregation in Birmingham (1963); reciting his dream of racial harmony at the rally in Washington (1963); marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama (1965); and finally, lying dead on the motel balcony in Memphis (1968).

An alert viewer might notice that the chronology jumps from 1965 to 1968. Yet King didn't take a sabbatical near the end of his life. In fact, he was speaking and organizing as diligently as ever.

Almost all of those speeches were filmed or taped. But they're not shown today on TV.


It's because national news media have never come to terms with what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for during his final years.

In the early 1960s, when King focused his challenge on legalized racial discrimination in the South, most major media were his allies. Network TV and national publications graphically showed the police dogs and bullwhips and cattle prods used against Southern blacks who sought the right to vote or to eat at a public lunch counter.

But after passage of civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King began challenging the nation's fundamental priorities. He maintained that civil rights laws were empty without "human rights" — including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow.

Noting that a majority of Americans below the poverty line were white, King developed a class perspective. He decried the huge income gaps between rich and poor, and called for "radical changes in the structure of our society" to redistribute wealth and power.

"True compassion," King declared, "is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

Monday, January 18, 2010

BarMax: The $1,000 iPhone App That Might Actually Be Worth It

In August 2008, Apple approved an application in the App Store called I Am Rich. The app did nothing beyond show a picture of a red gem. So why was it notable? Because it cost $999.99. Though Apple pulled it relatively quickly, there was some concern that we’d start to see a rush of bogus applications and/or huge prices in the App Store. Luckily, that didn’t happen and app prices have remained low (some would say too low). But now we have the return of a $999.99 app.

But there’s a big difference with this app; BarMax CA actually does something. And to the people it’s aimed towards, it’s likely to be very useful. And quite possibly worth the $1,000 price tag.

BarMax CA is an application to help law students preparing for the bar exam. The reason the price is justified is because the company that is synonymous with this type of test prep, BarBri, typically offers it for $3,000 to $4,000. BarMax CA believes it can get away with the lower price because it’s just an app, there is no in-class element. Also, there has been some questions about BarBri’s pricing structure and anti-competitive behavior, which has been the subject of multiple class action lawsuits (hardly surprising when you’re selling these packages to future lawyers).

BarBri also offers an iPhone application, and it’s free, but you need to enroll in their program to access it otherwise it’s useless.

So what do you get for your $1,000 BarMax CA app? A lot, actually. The app is over 1 gigabyte in size, which is the largest application I’ve ever seen. It includes thousands of pages of materials as well as hundreds of hours of audio lectures. It’s all the information you could ever want for the two-month course. And again, it can be done all on your iPhone. That said, if you do want some more tangible paperwork for certain sections, BarMax will send you that electronically as well.

The bar exam consists of three main parts: Multiple choice, essays, and a performance test. There is also an ethics exam you have to take. As you can probably tell by the name, BarMax CA is meant for the California bar exam. But by the end of 2010, the company expects to have apps available for New York, and the five other most popular states for the exam as well. There will also be a multi-state version since much of the test (the multiple choice part, for example) doesn’t vary state to state. Each of these apps would cost the same $999.99 but there is also a plan to make an app with just the multiple choice part for $500.

Mike Ghaffary came up with the idea when he himself was preparing for the bar exam. He could not believe BarBri charged the $4,000 to send him an iPod with audio notes on it, and that there was no real competition in the space. So he got in touch with some successful iPhone app developers in Los Angeles, as well as some fellow Harvard Law graduates to create the app. Ghaffary, who is the director of business development at TrialPay by day, is serving as an advisor now to the team.

How this app sells will be interesting to say the least. Ghaffary confirmed that it is the most expensive app in the App Store, surpassing a home security app that sells for $899. Many iPhone developers have complained about a race to the bottom for app prices, but a few have tried to sell more expensive applications, such as Wolfram Alpha. But that $50 app doesn’t really give you anything you can’t get on its website, it just dresses the data up to look nicer on the iPhone. BarMax CA, again, is attempting to save law students thousands of dollars. It’s a good experiment, if nothing else.

Ghaffary notes that while Apple was extra careful in checking BarExam CA out due to the high price, they had no problems getting it approved, and Apple generally seemed pleased with the idea.

Still, the thought of being able to spend $1,000 with one click on your iPhone remains a little terrifying.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


The minute hand of the famous Doomsday Clock has been moved to six minutes to midnight - one minute further away from human annihilation than before.
The timepiece in New York conveys how close humanity is to catastrophic destruction, which is represented by midnight.
It is changed periodically by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists board, which includes Professor Stephen Hawking and 18 other Nobel scientists.

Doomsday Clock: Created in 1947 by concerned scientists - it will be changed once more today
It was wound on to five minutes to midnight in 2007 to reflect the failure to solve problems posed by nuclear weapons.
Today, the board said they moved it back one minute because there was a 'hopeful state of world affairs' in relation to nuclear weapons and climate change. They singled out President Obama for particular praise.
The decision to move the hand back may come as a surprise to many environmentalists, who criticised last year's Copenhagen Climate Change Conference for failing to reach any real consensus.
However, the BAS board insisted there had been 'signs of collaboration' between the major world players in dealing with nuclear security and climate stabilisation.
They said the 'first steps' to address climate change had been taken with the joint agreement by China and the United States to reduce carbon emissions in November 2009 and the Copenhagen Accord.

British physicist Stephen Hawking is a member of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. He helps to decide when to move the hand on the Doomsday Clock
The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947, two years after the U.S dropped the first atomic bombs on Japan in World War II. It was originally set at seven minutes to midnight.
It has been altered 19 times since then by the Bulletin's scientific board.
The latest recorded time was two minutes to midnight in 1953 as the Cold War heated up between the U.S and Soviet Union.
The board said the end of a nuclear threat to the world could now be in sight.
'We are poised to bend the arc of history toward a world free of nuclear weapons.
'For the first time since atomic bombs were dropped in 1945, leaders of nuclear weapons states are cooperating to vastly reduce their arsenals.'
President Obama was particularly praised for causing 'a change in the U.S government's toward international affairs.'
'With a more pragmatic, problem-solving approach, not only has Obama initiated new arms reduction talks with Russia, he has started negotiations with Iran to close its nuclear enrichment program,' the board said.
Despite their positive mood, BAS co-chair Lawrence Krauss, said: 'Even though we are encourage by recent developments, we are mindful of the fact that the Clock is ticking.'
To watch the clock being altered go to the 'Turn Back The Clock' website

Read more:

Fast morphine treatment may prevent PTSD

Quickly giving morphine to wounded troops cuts in half the chance they will develop post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a provocative study that suggests a new strategy for preventing the psychological fallout of war.

Researchers at the U.S. Naval Health Research Center led the study of about 700 troops injured in Iraq from 2004 through 2006.

“It was surprising how strong the effect of the morphine was,” said study leader Troy Lisa Holbrook, an epidemiologist at the naval center. The findings were published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.
Whether the Pentagon will adopt the practice on the battlefield remains to be seen. Dr. Jack Smith, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for clinical and program policy, said in an e-mail that the “very interesting findings” are “likely to stimulate further research.”

About 53,000 troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have been treated for PTSD, a disorder in which someone who has endured a traumatic event keeps re-experiencing it and the fear it caused. Patients often have trouble with work, relationships, substance abuse and physical ailments.

Researchers have been testing ways to treat it, and the new study looked at whether fast and strong pain relief can help prevent it.

It was unclear whether it was the fast pain treatment or something specific to morphine that made the difference.

But researchers theorize that simply easing pain might reduce the severity of the psychological trauma, or that prompt relief might alter the way the brain remembers the attack or injury — in essence, causing the mind to file away the episode as less traumatic.

Troops in the study initially were treated at military medical facilities in Iraq, mainly for wounds caused by roadside bombs, bullets, grenades or mortar fire. A few dozen had burns or were hurt in crashes or falls. The decision on whether to give morphine was up to the individual doctor, based on the patient’s condition.

Of the 696 troops in the study, 493 — about 70 percent — were given morphine, most within an hour of injury. Two years later, 147 of them had developed PTSD. Of the 203 not given morphine early on, 96 developed PTSD.

That worked out to a 53 percent lower risk of developing PTSD for those treated early with morphine. No other factor, such as the nature or severity of injuries, had much effect on the chances of developing PTSD, Holbrook said.

“These are provocative and thought-provoking findings that should lead scientists to investigate the underlying mechanisms” in future studies, said JoAnn Difede, a PTSD researcher at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Difede and Barbara Rothbaum, who heads the Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program at Emory University School of Medicine, said that until more research backs up the findings, the study probably won’t lead to many more patients in civilian emergency rooms getting morphine.

“At this point, I don’t see it having a huge impact” for civilians, Rothbaum said.

A second study in the journal found that Army wives were more likely to develop depression or sleep problems the longer, or the more times, their spouses were sent to Iraq or Afghanistan.

That study, by researchers at the University of North Carolina and elsewhere, examined medical records for outpatient care of about 250,000 wives of active-duty soldiers from 2003 through 2006.

Compared with wives whose husbands stayed home, those whose husbands were deployed for up to 11 months were 18 percent more likely to be diagnosed with depression and at least 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with sleep disorders, anxiety and acute stress.

For wives whose husbands were deployed for more than 11 months, problems were even more common: They were at least 24 percent more likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety, and about 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with acute stress or sleep problems.

One Small Step For CA, One Giant Leap For Pot Smokers

The state of California made history today! Until today, no U.S. state legislature had ever even considered voting on a measure that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana. Today, not only did the California Assembly's Public Safety Committee consider it, they voted on and passed A.B. 390, which would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana!

The Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act, authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) passed the committee by a vote of 4-3, clearing the way for it to move to the Health committee before heading to the Assembly floor for a full vote.

This is huge news not only for the pot smokers of America, but for the people of California who've been suffering under a terrible budgetary drought. According to the LA Times, "by some estimates, California's pot crop is a $14-billion industry, putting it above vegetables ($5.7 billion) and grapes ($2.6 billion). If so, that could mean upward of $1 billion in tax revenue for the state each year."

And, it signals reason for optimism that that the rest of the country may soon follow suit. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana when 56% of the voters passed Prop 215 in 1996. Oregon, Washington and Alaska followed in 1998. Maine came on board in 1999. Colorado, Hawaii and Nevada legalized medical marijuana in 2000, followed by Montana and Vermont in 2004, Rhode Island in 2006, New Mexico in 2007 and Michigan in 2008. And just this week, New Jersey became the 14th state to approve medical marijuana when the state legislature approved legislation that would make it available from state-licensed dispensaries to seriously ill patients.

Already following California's lead on dropping the medical requirement from the marijuana, voters in Washington state on Monday announced the start of a petition drive to get a legalization question on the ballot in November, and activists in Nevada are planning a similar campaign.

And the town of Breckenridge, Colorado legalized marijuana in November. The law allowing residents and tourists alike to carry up to an ounce of marijuana, along with the paraphernalia that goes along with it, with no worry of any civil or criminal penalties, went into effect on January 1. And Denver voters actually decriminalized small amounts of pot in the Mile High City, though the state law still makes possession illegal.

The United States is spending an inordinate amount of money and resources in fighting the so-called war on drugs. At a time when every state in the nation is in financial straits, this is a massive waste of taxpayer dollars-- money that could certainly be better used to provide necessary services like education and health care.

In June of 2009, Congressman Barney Frank re-introduced his measure "Act to Remove Federal Penalties for Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults."

Groups like Law Enforcement Professionals Against Prohibition even take it a step further, encouraging legalization of all drugs with this statement on their website:

After nearly four decades of fueling the U.S. policy of a war on drugs with over a trillion tax dollars and 37 million arrests for nonviolent drug offenses, our confined population has quadrupled making building prisons the fastest growing industry in the United States. More than 2.2 million of our citizens are currently incarcerated and every year we arrest an additional 1.9 million more guaranteeing those prisons will be bursting at their seams. Every year we choose to continue this war will cost U.S. taxpayers another 69 billion dollars. Despite all the lives we have destroyed and all the money so ill spent, today illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent, and far easier to get than they were 35 years ago at the beginning of the war on drugs. Meanwhile, people continue dying in our streets while drug barons and terrorists continue to grow richer than ever before. We would suggest that this scenario must be the very definition of a failed public policy. This madness must cease!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Audiences experience 'Avatar' blues

(CNN) -- James Cameron's completely immersive spectacle "Avatar" may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora.
On the fan forum site "Avatar Forums," a topic thread entitled "Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible," has received more than 1,000 posts from people experiencing depression and fans trying to help them cope. The topic became so popular last month that forum administrator Philippe Baghdassarian had to create a second thread so people could continue to post their confused feelings about the movie.
"I wasn't depressed myself. In fact the movie made me happy ," Baghdassarian said. "But I can understand why it made people depressed. The movie was so beautiful and it showed something we don't have here on Earth. I think people saw we could be living in a completely different world and that caused them to be depressed."
A post by a user called Elequin expresses an almost obsessive relationship with the film.
"That's all I have been doing as of late, searching the Internet for more info about 'Avatar.' I guess that helps. It's so hard I can't force myself to think that it's just a movie, and to get over it, that living like the Na'vi will never happen. I think I need a rebound movie," Elequin posted.
A user named Mike wrote on the fan Web site "Naviblue" that he contemplated suicide after seeing the movie.
"Ever since I went to see 'Avatar' I have been depressed. Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na'vi made me want to be one of them. I can't stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it," Mike posted. "I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in 'Avatar.' "
Other fans have expressed feelings of disgust with the human race and disengagement with reality.
Cameron's movie, which has pulled in more than $1.4 billion in worldwide box office sales and could be on track to be the highest grossing film of all time, is set in the future when the Earth's resources have been pillaged by the human race. A greedy corporation is trying to mine the rare mineral unobtainium from the planet Pandora, which is inhabited by a peace-loving race of 7-foot tall, blue-skinned natives called the Na'vi.
In their race to mine for Pandora's resources, the humans clash with the Na'vi, leading to casualties on both sides. The world of Pandora is reminiscent of a prehistoric fantasyland, filled with dinosaur-like creatures mixed with the kinds of fauna you may find in the deep reaches of the ocean. Compared with life on Earth, Pandora is a beautiful, glowing utopia.
Ivar Hill posts to the "Avatar" forum page under the name Eltu. He wrote about his post-"Avatar" depression after he first saw the film earlier this month.
"When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed ... gray. It was like my whole life, everything I've done and worked for, lost its meaning," Hill wrote on the forum. "It just seems so ... meaningless. I still don't really see any reason to keep ... doing things at all. I live in a dying world."
Reached via e-mail in Sweden where he is studying game design, Hill, 17, explained that his feelings of despair made him desperately want to escape reality.
"One can say my depression was twofold: I was depressed because I really wanted to live in Pandora, which seemed like such a perfect place, but I was also depressed and disgusted with the sight of our world, what we have done to Earth. I so much wanted to escape reality," Hill said.
Cameron's special effects masterpiece is very lifelike, and the 3-D performance capture and CGI effects essentially allow the viewer to enter the alien world of Pandora for the movie's 2½-hour running time, which only lends to the separation anxiety some individuals experience when they depart the movie theater.
"Virtual life is not real life and it never will be, but this is the pinnacle of what we can build in a virtual presentation so far," said Dr. Stephan Quentzel, psychiatrist and Medical Director for the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. "It has taken the best of our technology to create this virtual world and real life will never be as utopian as it seems onscreen. It makes real life seem more imperfect."
Fans of the movie may find actor Stephen Lang, who plays the villainous Col. Miles Quaritch in the film, an enemy of the Na'vi people and their sacred ground, an unlikely sympathizer. But Lang says he can understand the connection people are feeling with the movie.
"Pandora is a pristine world and there is the synergy between all of the creatures of the planet and I think that strikes a deep chord within people that has a wishfulness and a wistfulness to it," Lang said. "James Cameron had the technical resources to go along with this incredibly fertile imagination of his and his dream is built out of the same things that other peoples' dreams are made of."
The bright side is that for Hill and others like him -- who became dissatisfied with their own lives and with our imperfect world after enjoying the fictional creation of James Cameron -- becoming a part of a community of like-minded people on an online forum has helped them emerge from the darkness.
"After discussing on the forums for a while now, my depression is beginning to fade away. Having taken a part in many discussions concerning all this has really, really helped me," Hill said. "Before, I had lost the reason to keep on living -- but now it feels like these feelings are gradually being replaced with others."
Quentzel said creating relationships with others is one of the keys to human happiness, and that even if those connections are occurring online they are better than nothing.
"Obviously there is community building in these forums," Quentzel said. "It may be technologically different from other community building, but it serves the same purpose."
Within the fan community, suggestions for battling feelings of depression after seeing the movie include things like playing "Avatar" video games or downloading the movie soundtrack, in addition to encouraging members to relate to other people outside the virtual realm and to seek out positive and constructive activities.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Discovery, Imax and Sony Form 3-D Television Channel

Media Decoder Blog - "Updated throughout | 12:18 p.m. Discovery, Imax and Sony confirmed on Tuesday that they are forming a joint venture for a 3-D television channel.

The announcement was timed to coincide with this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where 3-D television is expected to be a hot topic.

Discovery Communications, which operates the Discovery Channel, TLC and other cable channels, will distribute the channel, which has a 2011 start date. It is expected to showcase a mix of 3-D content, including entertainment and sports. It will also show some of the natural history programming for which Discovery is well known.

The three companies will own equal stakes in the channel, according to a person with knowledge of the deal.

In a statement Tuesday morning, the Sony Corporation chairman Howard Stringer called it a “groundbreaking new venture.”

“It is clear to us that consumers will always migrate to a better and richer entertainment experience, and together we are determined to be the leader in providing that around the world,” he said."

Monday, January 04, 2010

Tippling Point | Natural Wine Bars

Kathryn O’Mara, who last year opened London’s first natural wine bar, Artisan & Vine (126 St. John’s Hill; 44-207-228-4997), grew up drinking wine and works in the wine industry — and yet she had never really liked drinking wine by itself. “It tasted funny,” she recalled. “Like you had to get something plasticky out of your mouth.” But after O’Mara tried natural wine — that is, wine that hasn’t been doctored with additives or modern processes of vinification — she had an epiphany. “It’s a unique fruit-based beverage,” she said with a laugh. The shop, in a gorgeous Georgian-era pub in Battersea, sells such bottles as the “hypernatural” Sicilian vintages from Frank Cornelissen, who uses grapes indigenous to Mount Etna. “I wouldn’t expect everyone to be as carried away as I was,” O’Mara said. “But we have a lot of regulars now who say that they have difficulty going back to ordinary wines. A lot of them say they feel the difference and seek out these natural wines now.”

To help understand this difference, a quick primer: Natural wines are made from grapes that come from organically worked vineyards (whether or not they’ve been certified as such) that have been harvested by hand. During the vinification period, there is minimal intervention — no added commercial yeast, acid, sugar, enzymes, bacteria and tannins, and only naturally occurring sulfites. Sulfites are controversial, with purists swearing off any added sulfur dioxide, and other natural winemakers ceding a bit of additional sulfites at bottling (though still far less than conventional winemakers). Natural wines are also produced without common modern technologies like reverse osmosis and micro-oxygenation, which tweak the texture of the wine and add either flavor or alcohol.

Despite grumblings from some oenophiles about its rustic flavor and barnyard smell, vin naturel is rapidly gaining a following around the world, with natural wines showing up on menus and bars like O’Mara’s popping up more and more.