what is decided?

zeph’s pop culture quiz #13
What is decided?
What are these gentlemen deciding?
    Just leave a comment with your educated guess—you can ask for additional hints, too. [Leaving a comment is easy; just click the ‘Leave a comment’ 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 1 (02 February 2012):
What is transmitted?
It seems to be a really tough one this week. I do admit that the movie in question is little known today, but I deem it to be a seminal one. Here are some more hints:
    I could also have asked: ‘What is transmitted?’ and shown the new screenshot above. The information received by the apparatus shown is a direct consequence of the decisions the gentlemen at the conference table in the first screenshot make. But no, they do not decide to build some machine or system, as guessed in the comments. Although in the past they have decided to drive a specific technology forward. What they are deciding now potentially are matters of life and death.

UPDATE 2 (03 February 2012):
Who are they?
If you can guess who or what these people are, than you know what kind of technology the gentlemen at the conference table in the first screenshot had driven forward. From this it only is a small step to the solution.

UPDATE 3 (04 February 2012):
Behind bars
Here’s another screenshot which definitely should lead you towards the technology in question. And maybe you even pick up the other strong hint in this picture.

UPDATE 4 and solution (04 February 2012):
Title Card of 'The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler' (Wynn 1971)
The screenshot in update 3 finally led kueperpunk to the solution. He recognized Leslie Nielsen and so found the movie: ‘The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler’ (Wynn 1971).
    In order to answer the question what the gentlemen in the first screenshot are deciding, I have to tell a bit of the story (some spoilers ahead):
    Investigative TV journalist Harry Walsh (Leslie Nielsen), driving in a car together with his cameraman, comes to the scene of a car accident. He immediately recognizes the nearly fatally wounded victim in the crashed car—presidential candidate Senator Clayton Zachary Wheeler (Bradford Dillman). An ambulance brings Wheeler into the next hospital. Walsh follows, but then Wheeler mysteriously vanishes from the hospital and the official news stories say that he has gone on holiday, fishing somewhere remote. Walsh senses a big-time cover-up and conspiracy, tries to track Wheeler and to find out the truth. Now for the spoilers.
    Years ago a secret committee (first screenshot above), comprising high-ranking politicians and industry leaders, has sponsored a research project in genetic technology. Dr. Redding (James Daly) and his assistant Dr. Layle Johnson (Angie Dickinson) have perfected the technique of cloning human beings. Inside a secret facility, everything financed by the committee, located somewhere in New Mexico’s desert, they grow ‘somas,’ blank human clones (third screenshot above), who nearly have no cognitive functions at all.
    When Zachary Wheeler suffers the nearly fatal accident, his genetic profile is transmitted to the secret facility (second screenshot above). The information is injected into one of the blank clones, who then developes into a double of Wheeler. (In the screenshot above Walsh has discovered a second Wheeler-clone and first thinks it is Wheeler himself.)
    The clone double then serves as a repository of organs, as spare parts. That way it was possible to resurrect Zachary Wheeler. The clone was slaughtered and all the necessary parts transplanted.
    The whole process of course is very costly. Hence the committee maintains a list of people whom they will help with Dr. Redding’s technology. In the first screenshot the committee has a session and decides whom to put on the list and whom not. Of course only people who can help the political and economical goals of the committee will make it to the list.
    Sounds familiar? Well, the core idea—clones as spare parts reservoirs for the rich and powerful—we also have in The Island (Bay 2005). And indeed, there was a copyright infringement suit against ‘The Island’ … by the makers of Parts: The Clonus Horror (Fiveson 1979). It eventually was set out of court. A year before ‘Clonus’ there was Coma (Crichton 1978) based on the novel of the same name by Robin Cook (1977). It has the organ-repository theme, but without cloning. ‘The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler’ predates all this by far, plus it also has that political thriller angle. In my opinion it’s a great injustice that the movie is hardly known today.
    With the presidential elections in the USA under way this year I recommend to you cyberpunk afiçionados: The Manchurian Candidate (Frankenheimer 1962), ‘The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler,‘ and the great novel Interface (Stephenson & Jewsbury 1994).

BAY, MICHAEL. 2005. The island [motion picture]. Universal City, Burbank: Dreamworks, Warner Bros.
COOK, ROBIN. 1977. Coma. New York: Little, Brown & Co.
FIVESON, ROBERT S. 1979. Parts: The Clonus horror (aka Clonus) [motion picture]. ?????: Group 1 International Distribution Organization Ltd.
FRANKENHEIMER, JOHN MICHAEL. 1962. The manchurian candidate [motion picture]. Los Angeles: United Artists.
STEPHENSON, NEAL AND GEORGE JEWSBURY. 1994. Interface. New York: Bantam.
WYNN, BOB. 1971. The resurrection of Zachary Wheeler [motion picture]. ?????: Gold Key Entertainment.

guy in parliament

Cut-out Guy-Fawkes paper masks in the Polish parliament
In Ireland they’ve got a saying which roughly goes like this: ‘Guy Fawkes was the only man ever who had honest intentions when he set foot into parliament.’ Well, members of the Palikot’s Movement protested in a session of the Polish parliament against Poland signing ACTA (a kind of international version of SOPA and PIPA) by holding paper Guy-Fawkes masks in front of their faces :o) See also occupy guy, moore on fawkes, and guy headroom.


do anthropologists dream of electronic savages?

Detail of a screencap from 'Fragile Machine' by Ben Steele (2005)
anthropology, technology, and new worlds
The ‘Ethnologische Salon‘ in January
Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde München—Foyer
Friday, 27 January 2012, 19:00h

‘Do Anthropologists Dream of Electronic Savages?’ lecture by Alexander Knorr, lavishly illustrated by projections
‘Man and Machine’ Reading from the book Cyberanthropology by Alexander Knorr. Read by Karin Sommer and Stefan Eisenhofer
—Independent Short Films:
World Builder by Bruce Branit (USA 2007)
Fragile Machine by Ben Steele (USA 2005/2007)



Two 17-year-olds from Canada attached a LEGO minifigure to a helium-filled weather ballon and had it soar up 24 km, which is right in the middle of the stratosphere. During the journey upwards the helium inside a balloon expands until the balloon bursts. The legonaut was found 122 km away from the two teenagers’ home—it had safely landed on its homemade parachute. A time lapse camera documented the journey.

from PK via e-mail—tnx!

technology fundamentally human

With robots as friends, learning is play
The Next Web links to the Study: Robots inspire new learning & creativity possibilities for kids (the LEGO Group is involved). Here are The Next Web’s closing paragraphs:

Taking a deeper look at the stories the children created, the survey found that unlike many adults who see technology as separate from humanness, it seems that “kids tend to think of technology as fundamentally human: as a social companion that can entertain, motivate, and empower them in various contexts.”
    While this dreamy perspective is partially the result of childhood imagination (something kids from any generation can have), it is clear that kids are eagerly anticipating new ways that tech can enhance their lives.
    Sure, it’s easy to dismiss how children look forward to the future and dream without inhibitions, but that’s exactly what some of the greatest innovators of our time have done. Children don’t just react, they imagine, and that’s why this study can’t be overlooked.

Compare that to robotopia nipponica.

via DW at Facebook—tnx!

mad mex

In India and Pakistan trucks get decorated until they are gaudy pieces of art on wheels:
A decorated truck in Pakistan
In Japan the same is done, but there, hardly surprising, the dekotora [decorated trucks] follow the neon æsthetics:
In Sudan trucks are completely deconstructed and then reconstructed—the results are visually not as spectacular as their Asian kin, but are masterpieces of a comparatively young engineering culture (Beck 2009):
In Mexico, and within a totally different context, the not so conspicuous Sudanese trucks seem to have cousins: ‘Rhino trucks, narco tanks, Mad Mex-inismos? No one can agree on what to call the armored monster vehicles that Mexican criminal groups have been welding together in recent months, but this much is clear—they are building more of them.’ Thus writes Damien Cave in The New York Times. Here are four specimen:
Armored truck in Mexico
Armored truck in Mexico
Armored truck in Mexico
Armored truck in Mexico

BECK, KURT. 2009. “The art of truck modding on the Nile (Sudan): An attempt to trace creativity [.pdf | 2.5 MB],” in The speed of change: Motor vehicles and people in Africa, 1890-2000 edited by Jan-Bart Gewald, Sabine Luning and Klaas van Walraven, pp. 151-173. Leiden, Boston: Brill.
narcotrucks initially via entry at boingboing

why the surgery?

zeph’s pop culture quiz #12
Why the surgery?
Why is surgery performed on this man?
    Just leave a comment with your educated guess—you can ask for additional hints, too. [Leaving a comment is easy; just click the ‘Leave a comment’ 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.]


monte cristo jim

The Italian islet Montecristo as seen from Giglio
This is the islet Montecristo, where Edmond Dantès found the treasure enabling him to become The Count of Monte Cristo (Dumas 1844-1846) [legally for free ↓at Project Gutenberg] and to take bitter revenge. The photo shows Montecristo as seen from Giglio Island—I took it when I was there in 2007. With all the media coverage of the Costa Concordia disaster I’m astounded that it nowhere crept up that Montecristo was that close (at least I didn’t read it anywhere). The story of the captain (who faces preliminary charges of multiple manslaughter, failure to assist passengers in need, and abandonment of ship) that he by accident fell into the lifeboat, where the First and Second Mate already were, reminded me of another story. With all the speculations around, about Captain Schettino’s failing, his motives and whatyouhave, it is the perfect time to read or reread Joseph Conrad‘s Lord Jim‘. (1900) [legally for free ↓at Project Gutenberg]. Here’s a part of Wikipedia’s synopsis:

Jim (his surname is never disclosed), a young British seaman, becomes first mate on the Patna, a ship full of pilgrims travelling to Mecca for the hajj. Jim joins his captain and other crew members in abandoning the ship and its passengers. A few days later, they are picked up by a British ship. However, the Patna and its passengers are later also saved, and the reprehensible actions of the crew are exposed. The other participants evade the judicial court of inquiry, leaving Jim to the court alone. The court strips him of his navigation command certificate for his dereliction of duty. Jim is angry with himself, both for his moment of weakness, and for missing an opportunity to be a ‘hero’.

And here’s an excerpt, the beginning of chapter four:

A month or so afterwards, when Jim, in answer to pointed questions, tried to tell honestly the truth of this experience, he said, speaking of the ship: ‘She went over whatever it was as easy as a snake crawling over a stick.’ The illustration was good: the questions were aiming at facts, and the official Inquiry was being held in the police court of an Eastern port. He stood elevated in the witness-box, with burning cheeks in a cool lofty room: the big framework of punkahs moved gently to and fro high above his head, and from below many eyes were looking at him out of dark faces, out of white faces, out of red faces, out of faces attentive, spellbound, as if all these people sitting in orderly rows upon narrow benches had been enslaved by the fascination of his voice. It was very loud, it rang startling in his own ears, it was the only sound audible in the world, for the terribly distinct questions that extorted his answers seemed to shape themselves in anguish and pain within his breast,—came to him poignant and silent like the terrible questioning of one’s conscience. Outside the court the sun blazed—within was the wind of great punkahs that made you shiver, the shame that made you burn, the attentive eyes whose glance stabbed. The face of the presiding magistrate, clean shaved and impassible, looked at him deadly pale between the red faces of the two nautical assessors. The light of a broad window under the ceiling fell from above on the heads and shoulders of the three men, and they were fiercely distinct in the half-light of the big court-room where the audience seemed composed of staring shadows. They wanted facts. Facts! They demanded facts from him, as if facts could explain anything!
    ‘After you had concluded you had collided with something floating awash, say a water-logged wreck, you were ordered by your captain to go forward and ascertain if there was any damage done. Did you think it likely from the force of the blow?’ asked the assessor sitting to the left. He had a thin horseshoe beard, salient cheek-bones, and with both elbows on the desk clasped his rugged hands before his face, looking at Jim with thoughtful blue eyes; the other, a heavy, scornful man, thrown back in his seat, his left arm extended full length, drummed delicately with his finger-tips on a blotting-pad: in the middle the magistrate upright in the roomy arm-chair, his head inclined slightly on the shoulder, had his arms crossed on his breast and a few flowers in a glass vase by the side of his inkstand.
    ‘I did not,’ said Jim. ‘I was told to call no one and to make no noise for fear of creating a panic. I thought the precaution reasonable. I took one of the lamps that were hung under the awnings and went forward. After opening the forepeak hatch I heard splashing in there. I lowered then the lamp the whole drift of its lanyard, and saw that the forepeak was more than half full of water already. I knew then there must be a big hole below the water-line.’ He paused.
    ‘Yes,’ said the big assessor, with a dreamy smile at the blotting-pad; his fingers played incessantly, touching the paper without noise.
    ‘I did not think of danger just then. I might have been a little startled: all this happened in such a quiet way and so very suddenly. I knew there was no other bulkhead in the ship but the collision bulkhead separating the forepeak from the forehold. I went back to tell the captain. I came upon the second engineer getting up at the foot of the bridge-ladder: he seemed dazed, and told me he thought his left arm was broken; he had slipped on the top step when getting down while I was forward. He exclaimed, “My God! That rotten bulkhead’ll give way in a minute, and the damned thing will go down under us like a lump of lead.” He pushed me away with his right arm and ran before me up the ladder, shouting as he climbed. His left arm hung by his side. I followed up in time to see the captain rush at him and knock him down flat on his back. He did not strike him again: he stood bending over him and speaking angrily but quite low. I fancy he was asking him why the devil he didn’t go and stop the engines, instead of making a row about it on deck. I heard him say, “Get up! Run! fly!” He swore also. The engineer slid down the starboard ladder and bolted round the skylight to the engine-room companion which was on the port side. He moaned as he ran. . . .’ (Conrad 1900: chpt. 4)

CONRAD, JOSEPH [aka KORZENIOWSKI, JÓZEF TEODOR KONRAD]. 1900. Lord Jim. London: Blackwood.
DUMAS, ALEXANDRE. 1844-1846. Le Comte de Monte-Cristo. Journal de débats 28 August to 26 November 1844 and 20 June 1845 to 15 January 1846.