amazing UN video contest

If you had the opportunity to speak to the world leaders, what would you say? Hey, here’s your chance.

The gist: make a video, send it in, the people who make the best five get flown to New York to address the UN…

Here’s UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon pimping it, yo.

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This is actually cool on all sorts of levels.

Entries close October 10th.

And you, what do you seek?

I am dead because I lack desire;
I lack desire because I think I possess;
I think I possess because I do not try to give.
In trying to give, you see you have nothing;
Seeing you have nothing, you try to give of yourself;
Trying to give of yourself, you see that you
are nothing;
Seeing you are nothing, you desire to become;
In desiring to become, you begin to live.

– From a letter by Rene Daumal

global wake up

Went along to the Avaaz flashmob on Monday. (If I ever work out how to get photos of my new phone, there are pictures… :)) They were coordinating a worldwide climate action wake up call to world leaders. The results were pretty successful, garnering “more than 2600 events in 135 countries across the globe.” This is a video culled from the demonstrations.

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Heartening that actually there are people all over the world who get it and willing to do something, however minimal, about it. Also interesting as a sort of dry run for the 350 day of action on 24 October, as this was way more spontaneous, and 350 has way more organising behind it…

In general it seems to me that if the Copenhagen talks fail to come up with global measures to ensure our survival by reducing emissions to a sustainable level, then our current social organisation modes of capitalism and democracy will have demonstrably failed, effectively proving they are maladapted to coping with the present environment and world situation, and therefore will need replacing.

the future of blogs + mediums and content

Someone said Bruce Sterling said something the other day about blogs being dead.

That got me to thinking. I came pretty close to folding this site last time domain renewals were due. Something is different, at least for me.

Anyway, I think that in a way, he is right, and in a way, he is wrong.

Blogs happened a few years back. Users flocked to them, they were the thing. Now, there are new things – Facebook, Twitter, whatever. And yeah, a lot of blogging can be subsumed by these other tools. Blogging, in a sense, is dead.

But most blogs are and were kind of shit from an information perspective. Seriously. Most blogs never really got beyond people talking about their cats, drunkenly posting general angst, or inane comments on whatever flavour of pop trivia floats the blogger’s boat, etc. This all has value as a sort of social lubrication, but has no wider relevance or value outside of one’s immediate social context. So a certain proportion of “blog” functionality and content is the kind of social conversation which can easily be replaced by other social media platforms.

However, blogs are also a medium for putting information onto the internet, out to the world. The basic principle of being able to publish content directly onto a searchable web is incredibly powerful and should survive. It is simple, elegant and open. The medium is not dead – the numbers may inevitably decline – but its content is refining.

I expect that surviving blogs will evolve into something more like a personal magazine, with as much variety as is possible in the magazine world. Narrow point focused exercises in obsessive expertise. Ongoing commentary and reflection – a public conversation about the times. Open diaries, insights into the lives of others. Or curations of modern ephemera, with original commentary. To that extent, groupblogs are probably a more sensible modality. Few personal bloggers have the time or obsession to churn out enough content to make a site something really exceptional. And the value comes through the niche focused content. It is the long tail of information on the net – stuff that is not necessarily commercially viable in the traditional delivery mediums, but about which a distributed community shares passion. By its nature, this information will come from distributed sources rather than commerce – that is the power and value of the blog medium.

That value could be incorporated into some other platform, but the beauty of blogs is precisely the openness the medium provides.

***

This all also makes me think about the relationships between medium and content. This fascinating piece argues that books – print in general – was never about content.

…consumers never really were paying for content, and publishers weren’t really selling it either. If the content was what they were selling, why has the price of books or music or movies always depended mostly on the format? Why didn’t better content cost more?

A copy of Time costs $5 for 58 pages, or 8.6 cents a page. The Economist costs $7 for 86 pages, or 8.1 cents a page. Better journalism is actually slightly cheaper.

Almost every form of publishing has been organized as if the medium was what they were selling, and the content was irrelevant. Book publishers, for example, set prices based on the cost of producing and distributing books. They treat the words printed in the book the same way a textile manufacturer treats the patterns printed on its fabrics.

Not sure how much I agree with everything in it, but the article is brief and interesting.

So yeah. The medium of blogs is one thing. The content is another. But the medium retains some value for some purposes even if most of the content vanishes to another medium. I am not at all sure how much that principle can generalise. Not sure I have a pithy summing up, either. Just thinking online…

show + barcamp

The weekend:

Show went well, considering. We had quite a chaotic lead in – I was cobbled in about four days before the performance – the script was still being written and revised – we had one actual rehearsal, which was the dress rehearsal.

But yeah. We pulled off two shows in a day, technical glitches and all, and somehow it seemed to be a success. Live, it was a combination of dance based on movements generated by the audience at the start of the show, a narrative being read aloud with silent very stylised acting, and more general improvised dance, all of which was being filmed in real time, manipulated by VJs and projected on the backdrop of the stage while we performed. The director is talking about bringing it back in a few months, with further elaboration – seems like this is part one of a more elaborate story. So we will see. Was certainly a fun and interesting experience.

Then on Sunday morning I staggered off to Software Freedom Day, and ran a barcamp session on the Sekret Community Project thing I have been thinking on for the last little while. It was my first experience with the barcamp/open space style of event organisation, and it seemed to work pretty well. My session had a way bigger turnout than I’d expected, and generated a good discussion, and hopefully some enthused bodies. Pretty happy with the outcome since I didn’t have anything like a coherent plan going in.

Strange days.

13 Love Songs

I am in a show this weekend. A sort of improvised dance / play / video collage.

13 Love Songs.

How much do you know about love? An exploration in fairy tale, dance and video format.

Sat 19th. 2pm and 8pm @ the New Crossways. 6 Roxburg St, Mt. Vic.

$13/$10. Bookings 0210 291 3924

It is my first time doing anything like this. Most random. Some amazing dancers involved though. So yeah, if you feel like something different…

covers

On my list of things to do for ages now is learn a bunch of party covers. Basically the type of song that makes for foot stomping sing-a-long rocking out good times around the fire or wherever when everyone’s drunk and wants someone to be playing something on the guitar.

The question is, what should those songs be? I figure this makes sense to open source for suggestions, since it is entirely in the nature of it, and I figure anything I really want to learn to play I’ll get around to someday anyway. (For the record, my current limited repertoire of covers are generally beautiful but depressing songs. And then there’s my own insanely depressing stuff. None of which quite fits the party bill.)

So yeah. What would you want to hear?

Kseniya Simonova

Kseniya Simonova is a Ukrainian artist who won Ukraine’s Got Talent (!) with these totally freaking amazing and unbelievable sand animations. Watch now.

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There are a whole bunch more here.

This may be the most beautiful random stuff I’ve ever seen on the net. Wow.

glimpsing the future

The UK Royal Society’s review of geoengineering argues for a 2-step back up plan in the 50-50 event that current moves to curb global warming at 2 degrees fail – a series of sun shields, and tech-heavy methods of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (argument for tech rather than tree planting is messing with ecosystem is where we go wrong).

Meanwhile, on the incipient resource wars front, China is restricting access to rare minerals.

China currently accounts for 93 percent of production of so-called rare earth elements — and more than 99 percent of the output for two of these elements, dysprosium and terbium, vital for a wide range of green energy technologies and military applications like missiles.

Even tighter limits on production and exports, part of a plan from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, would ensure China has the supply for its own technological and economic needs, and force more manufacturers to make their wares here in order to have access to the minerals.

In each of the last three years, China has reduced the amount of rare earths that can be exported. This year’s export quotas are on track to be the smallest yet. But what is really starting to alarm Western governments and multinationals alike is the possibility that exports will be further restricted.

Oh yeah. Interesting times a-coming.

kiwi journalist locked up as delusional for believing 9-11 was an inside job

Wow. This is scary and deranged.

A journalist in NZ was held for 11 days in a psychiatric ward as “delusional”. The primary evidence of this was her belief that 9-11 was an inside job. (Calling someone mentally ill based on political beliefs is illegal under the Mental Health Act.) Her account of the experience can be read here, and is a generally fascinating and harrowing story worth reading.

My case has highlighted quite a number of issues, but perhaps most significantly, how dangerous it is to give psychiatrists the power to detain people on the basis of minimal and/or questionable evidence, without making their duty to abide by the provisions in the Mental Health Act clear to them. In particular, that people can not be regarded as mentally ill on the grounds of their political beliefs. Psychiatry was abused by the state in Soviet Russia to incarcerate dissenters – this has shown how easily it can happen in New Zealand, whether it is the result of ignorance or an inordinate unwillingness to face the truth.

This sort of Kafkaesque nightmare is a function of the power of the situation when dealing with institutions – not to mention the inadequacy of our mainstream psychological models. In the classic study, On Being Sane in Insane Places, a group of 8 sane people, half themselves either psychologists or psychiatrists, entered mental hospitals with very mild and vague presenting symptoms. All were diagnosed as schizophrenic and found it impossible to convince the authorities they were sane.

Eek.

The hospital eventually apologised.

(via @Cryptogon)

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