graeber on play

David Graeber

Why do animals play? Well, why shouldn’t they? The real question is: Why does the existence of action carried out for the sheer pleasure of acting, the exertion of powers for the sheer pleasure of exerting them, strike us as mysterious? What does it tell us about ourselves that we instinctively assume that it is? (Graeber 2014)

GRAEBER, DAVID [ROLFE]. 2014. What’s the point if we can’t have fun? The Baffler 24. Available online.
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modern inventions

A visit to the technical museum in 1937 …

Today is the 80th birthday of Donald Duck!—he first appeared in the animated short The wise little hen (Jackson 1934), which was released on 09 June 1934. Celebrating Donald’s birthday I above embedded the animated short Modern inventions (King 1937—the story was written by Carl Barks) showing Donald visiting a technical museum … and of course trying out the inventions, all of them of a robotic kind.

JACKSON, WILFRED. 1934. The wise little hen [animated short]. Beverly Hills: United Artists.
KING, [JAMES PATTON] ‘JACK’. 1937. Modern inventions [animated short]. Beverly Hills: United Artists.

we go tomorrow

Remember, remember the fifth of … June
Thomas Harold Flowers (1905-1998)

June 1 should have been D-day, but General Eisenhower needed three subsequent days of fine weather to get enough men and materials across the channel in order to resist the inevitable counter-attack. In the event the weather was not good and the invasion had to be postponed until it improved. On 5 June, Eisenhower was in conference with his staff when a courier arrived from Bletchley Park and handed him a piece of paper to read. Hitler had sent Field Marshall Rommel battle orders by radio transmission, which Bletchley Park had decoded with the aid of the new Colossus. Hitler had told Rommel that the invasion of Normandy was imminent, but that this would not be the real invasion. It was a feint to draw troops away from the channel ports, against which the real invasion would be launched later. Rommel was not to move any troops. He was to await the real invasion, which could be expected five days after the Normandy landing. This was what Eisenhower read from the paper. He then knew that he could start the invasion of Normandy assured of five days without determined opposition—enough time to build up his forces even with indifferent weather. But he could not tell his assembled officers what he had read. He just handed the paper back to the courier and said, ‘We go tomorrow.’ And on the morrow, 6 June, they went.
    When Hitler realised that Normandy was the real thing, he took command of the situation himself. He committed his forces in north-west Europe to one mighty offensive, a hammer blow intended to drive the invaders back into the sea. And his hammer blow could well have been successful had he not communicated details by radio, which Bletchley Park decoded. The result was a defeat of the German army so overwhelming that the Allies were able to sweep rapidly eastwards across France.
    The war continued for another year, during which time a total of ten Colossus machines were installed in Bletchley Park. These supplied the armed services with information right up to the end of the war in Europe. Much later, when some of the activities of Bletchley Park had been made public, Eisenhower was asked to give his assessment of the effect that the operation there had had on the war. He said that, without the information Bletchley had supplied, the war would have gone on for at least two years longer than it did, during which time the occupied countries would have been devastated and hundreds of thousands of lives lost as the German army was driven back. (Flowers 2006 [1998]a: 80-81)

This is the story of the eve of D-Day as related by Thomas Harold Flowers (1905-1998). He was crucial in constructing Colossus—for the whole story see Randell 1980 and the excellent book edited by Jack Copeland (2006) including texts by Flowers himself (2006 [1998]a, b).
    With all the commemoration of D-Day, 70 years ago tomorrow, I dare to throw in this bit on 05 June 1944, finely illustrating the impact of encryption, the breaking of encryption, and computing power on world history.
Edward Joseph 'Ed' Snowden
By sheer coincidence one year ago from today, on 05 June 2013, journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ewen MacAskill were with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong. The editors and lawyers of The Guardian at this time still were working out legalities concerning the publication of articles drawing on the NSA-files provided by Snowden. But finally Greenwald got from The Guardian a ‘We go tomorrow’. And on the morrow, 6 June, they went … beginning a series of revelations finely illustrating the impact of encryption, the breaking of encryption, and computing power on world history.

For grasping the whole affair—an imperative!—I wholeheartedly recommend Greenwald’s book ‘No Place to Hide’ (2014) [for the occasional anthropologist dropping by here: there’s Foucault in it, and for normal people: especially the first two chapters could have originated from John le Carré, Len Deighton, or Eric Ambler]. As I understand the matter you can download ‘No Place to Hide’ legally here from Then The Guardian‘s excellent webpage The NSA Files. And of course the Wikipedia articles Edward Snowden, Global surveillance disclosures (2013–present), and related articles linked therein.

COPELAND, B. JACK. 2006. Colossus: The secrets of Bletchley Park’s codebraking computers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
FLOWERS, THOMAS H[AROLD]. 2006 [1998]a. “D-Day at Bletchley Park,” in Colossus: The secrets of Bletchley Park’s codebraking computers edited by B. Jack Copeland, pp. 78-83. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
FLOWERS, THOMAS H[AROLD]. 2006 [1998]b. “Colossus,” in Colossus: The secrets of Bletchley Park’s codebraking computers edited by B. Jack Copeland, pp. 91-100. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
GREENWALD, GLENN [EDWARD]. 2014. No place to hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. surveillance state. New York: Metropolitan Books.
RANDELL, BRIAN. 1980. “The COLOSSUS,” in A history of computing in the twentieth century: A collection of essays edited by Nicholas Metropolis, Jack Howlett, and Gian-Carlo Rota, pp. 47-92. New York, London: Academic Press.

live iss stream

Live video from the International Space Station includes internal views when the crew is on-duty and Earth views at other times. The video is accompanied by audio of conversations between the crew and Mission Control. This video is only available when the space station is in contact with the ground. During “loss of signal” periods, viewers will see a blue screen. Since the station orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes, it experiences a sunrise or a sunset about every 45 minutes. When the station is in darkness, external camera video may appear black, but can sometimes provide spectacular views of lightning or city lights below.

via PK—tnx!

there’s flight MH370

Panel taken  from page 15 of Hergé 1968 [1966-1968].
Panel taken  from page 16 of Hergé 1968 [1966-1968].
Panel taken  from page 20 of Hergé 1968 [1966-1968].
Here’s my idea of what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370—from top to bottom the panels are taken from pages 15, 16, and 20 respectively of ‘Flight 714′ (Hergé 1968 [1966-1968]).

HERGÉ (aka REMI, GEORGES [PROSPER]). 1968 [1966-1968]. Flight 714 [comic]. London: Methuen Publishing Limited. Originally published as Vol 714 pour Sydney. Le Journal de Tintin 836-997.

there’s a glow

This is the music video for the song ‘There’s a glow’ by the band NO, a Los Angeles-, respectively Echo-Park-based Indie sextet, which just published its debut album ‘El Prado.’ Filmmaker Johnny Agnew almost entirely filmed the video within the computer game ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ (GTA V | Rockstar North 2013)—my, my, how machinima has developed since I first posted about it in 2005 or so. I especially do like the ironic, humoresque ambience and narrative of the video, very gamer-like. And as we are already at it: not that I’d have time for it, but where are the PC-versions of GTA V and ‘Red Dead Redemption’ (RDR | Rockstar San Diego 2010), Rockstar, eh?

AGNEW, JOHNNY. 2014. No | There’s a glow [machinima, music video]. Auckland: Mr Senor Film Production.
ROCKSTAR NORTH. 2013. Grand Theft Auto V [computer game]. New York: Rockstar Games, Take-Two Interactive.
ROCKSTAR SAN DIEGO. 2010. Red Dead Redemption [computer game]. New York: Rockstar Games, Take-Two Interactive.
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public displays of play

[Abstract:] As research on virtual worlds gains increasing attention in educational, commercial, and military domains, a consideration of how player populations are ‘reassembled’ through social scientific data is a timely matter for communication scholars. This paper describes a large-scale study of virtual worlds in which participants were recruited at public gaming events, as opposed to through online means, and explores the dynamic relationships between players and contexts of play that this approach makes visible. Challenging conventional approaches to quantitatively driven virtual worlds research, which categorizes players based on their involvement in an online game at a particular point in time, this account demonstrates how players’ networked gaming activities are contingent on who they are playing with, where, and when.

TAYLOR, NICOLAS, JENNIFER JENSON, SUZANNE DE CASTELL, AND BARRY DILOUYA. 2014. Public displays of play: Studying online games in physical settings. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. Early view. Available online.

what’s the profession?

zeph’s pop culture quiz #59
A sign
A gentleman in striped pants, black jacket, white shirt, and black leather gloves investigates a sign laid out on a forest floor. The sign is composed of twigs and stones—but the question is: what is the profession of the person who laid out the sign?
    Simply leave a comment with your educated guess—you can ask for additional hints, too. [Leaving a comment is easy; just click the ‘Leave a reply’ at the end of the post and fill in the form. If it’s the first time you post a comment, it will be held for moderation. But I am constantly checking, and once I’ve approved a comment, your next ones won’t be held, but published immediately by the system.]

UPDATE and solution (18 December 2013):
Apologies for this update coming so late, especially as Alhambra posted the right answer—Congratulations!—already on 23 October 2013: The original profession of the man who laid out the sign was: sailor. That way the victory in the 59th installment of zeph’s pop culture quiz was snatched away from Alexander Rabitsch who already was close when he wrote in the comments: ‘Mr. Jonas Oldrace is a master-builder.’ That way he clearly signalled that he had deduced that the screencap was taken from the TV-series episode ‘The Norwood Builder’ (Grieve 1985) based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s short story The Adventure of the Norwood Builder (1903). So, the gentleman sporting striped pants in the picture is Sherlock Holmes, impersonated by actor Jeremy Brett—the definitive moving-image Holmes! The question was a bit tricky, I confess, because the sailor turned tramp does not at all appear in Doyle’s story, but was added for the television dramatization.

DOYLE, Sir ARTHUR CONAN. 1903. The Adventure of the Norwood Builder. Collier’s Weekly September 1903, Strand Magazine October 1903.
GRIEVE, KEN. 1985. The Norwood Builder [TV series episode]. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, ep. 10. Manchester: Granada Television.

watterson on comics

[Jake Rossen:] Where do you think the comic strip fits in today’s culture?
[Bill Watterson:] Personally, I like paper and ink better than glowing pixels, but to each his own. Obviously the role of comics is changing very fast. On the one hand, I don’t think comics have ever been more widely accepted or taken as seriously as they are now. On the other hand, the mass media is disintegrating, and audiences are atomizing. I suspect comics will have less widespread cultural impact and make a lot less money. I’m old enough to find all this unsettling, but the world moves on. All the new media will inevitably change the look, function, and maybe even the purpose of comics, but comics are vibrant and versatile, so I think they’ll continue to find relevance one way or another. But they definitely won’t be the same as what I grew up with.

[Jake Rossen:] I’m assuming you’ve gotten wind of people animating your strip for YouTube? Did you ever mimic cartoonists you admired before finding your own style?
[Bill Watterson:] Every artist learns through imitation, but I rather doubt the aim of these things is artistic development. I assume they’re either homages or satiric riffs, and are not intended to be taken too seriously as works in their own right. Otherwise I should be talking to a copyright lawyer.

[Jake Rossen:] Is it possible some new form of sequential art is waiting to be discovered? Could the four-panel template die out as newspapers dwindle?
[Bill Watterson:] Form follows function, as the architects say. With words and pictures, you can do just about anything.

ROSSEN, JAKE AND BILL WATTERSON. 2013. Mental Floss exclusive: Our interview with Bill Watterson! Mental Floss 17 October 2013. Electronic Document. Available online.

artificial paradise inc

Artificial Paradise, Inc is an experimental film anticipating a future where a major corporation has developed an unique software, based on organic virtual reality, which holds all the lost memories of humankind. A user connects to this database of the forgotten…what is he searching for?

FRENAY, JEAN-PAUL. 2009. Artificial Paradise, Inc. [short film]. Brussels: Condor, Jean-Paul Frenay.
via entry at posthuman blues