April 26, 2012
As readers here know I’ve been shooting 3D still photographs (in one format or another) for almost 20 years. I’m also a fan of (well-done) 3D film.
Recently I’ve attended 3D film technical conferences where I’ve expressed skepticism that 3D film and TV will be the future of those mediums. Now one of the most accomplished and respected American filmmakers of all time, Martin Scorcese begs to differ with my opinion.
So I’m thinking, what the hell does he know? (No, not really). What I’m actually thinking is, hey, I may be wrong.
In his own words:
“There is something that 3-D gives to the picture that takes you into another land and you stay there and it’s a good place to be. . .It’s like seeing a moving sculpture of the actor and it’s almost like a combination of theater and film combined and it immerses you in the story more. I saw audiences care about the people more.”
April 20, 2012
The Café Wall Illusion. All lines are straight and parallel to each other. Don’t believe it? Put a straight edge up against your computer screen for confirmation.
Click image for larger size.
April 20, 2012
If you know me, and you probably don’t, I think Facebook is evil, as I’ve said before. Any group, online or off, with close to a billion members is one I want to avoid on the Groucho principal: “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”
I was once told that because I wasn’t on Facebook I didn’t exist. This person couldn’t understand my elation at that thought.
She did not grasp that people are only tolerable in strictly limited numbers. As my close personal friend Jean-Paul Sartre is always reminding me, “L’enfer, c’est les autres.” (I won’t translate, someday you’ll understand). Get a group of them together and what do you have? A mob. And mobs are capable of the most vicious things imaginable. Except when they gather together for a Zombie Walk. Then they are just swell.
Here’s an article from Business Pundit that lists 5 sections of the Facebook terms of service that should give you pause.
1.) Facebook retains the right to use your content however they see fit, forever.
2.) Facebook tracks you based on where you log in, even after you’ve logged off.
3.) Facebook’s arbitration statement insures that they will never be held liable for any damages you may suffer from their service.
4.) Facebook sells your address, your email, your cell phone number and all other information it collects to third-party developers, external websites and advertisers.
5.) Finally, like most TOS or EULA’s (end user license agreements) Facebook can change their Terms of Service any time without notifying you.
So go ahead. Give your digital life over to Mark Zuckerberg. You can trust him with your intimate relationships, your marriage, your career, your future job prospects, your friends, your family and your reputation. He’d never do anything that might cause you the slightest difficulty. After all, his only concern is making money off you. And when did that ever go horribly, horribly wrong?
April 20, 2012
I was speaking with a neighbor the other day about how my religion prohibits exercise – hail Satan! – and has as its primary sacraments Bacon and Cheesecake (the finest in the world comes, of course, exclusively from Junior’s on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn).
Later that same day I was perusing pages on the InterWebs and came across this photo (below).
More proof, as if any was needed, that there’s nothing that can’t be improved by adding bacon. . .
March 27, 2012
From the Guardian UK comes this list from an Australian nurse, Bronnie Ware who worked for several years in “palliative care” – caring for patients during the last 12 weeks of their lives.
As one who believes that when brain functions cease life is permanently over, I think this is a list to pay attention to.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
For the details behind these regrets, see the full article here.
March 26, 2012
“The belief engine chugs away, strengthening old beliefs, spewing out new ones, rarely discarding any. We can sometimes see the error or foolishness in other people’s beliefs. It is very difficult to see the same in our own. . . The true critical thinker accepts what few people ever accept — that one cannot routinely trust perceptions and memories. Figments of our imagination and reflections of our emotional needs can often interfere with or supplant the perception of truth and reality.”
– James E. Alcock
I tell people I was born skeptical and life has made me cynical. But it has also made me a better skeptic.
I’ve been a subscriber to The Skeptical Inquirer magazine (published by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) for 28 years and was a co-founder of the original New York Area Skeptics back in the 1980’s. I created the logo they used for many years.
SI has published many great articles over the years but one I return to over and over again is this piece by James E. Alcock, professor of psychology, Glendon College, York University, Toronto, “The Belief Engine” from 1995.
Perhaps it’s because his line “experience is often a poor guide to reality” so closely echoes Ibn Khaldûn’s “experience is deceptive” written 700 years earlier.
March 26, 2012
If you don’t already regularly take advantage of the free TED material available on the web, you should get into the habit. To convince you, here’s an example of their TALKS | In Less Than 6 Minutes series that will introduce you to the concept of “©opyright Math™” as explained by Rob Reid, founder of Rhapsody.
It’s funny because it’s true.
February 5, 2012
Now it’s not just about whether my dinner will be interrupted by a telemarketer. It’s about whether my dreams will be dashed by the collection of bits and bytes over which I have no control and for which companies are currently unaccountable. – Lori Andrews
Orwell’s Big Brother is here and instead of coercing you to reveal everything about yourself you do it willingly, eagerly. So you can share pictures and music and private thoughts and brand choices. And play FarmVille and Words with Friends. Good for Zynga and Mark Zuckerberg. But good for you? Didn’t we have ways to do all those things before Facebook, even before the Internet?
I am not on Facebook though I make my living with my software skills and use my Mac every day.
I know people who are afraid of online predators and concerned about online bullying that allow their adolescent children to have Facebook accounts (all their friends are on Facebook, they say). I know people who rail against big government and telemarketers who complain of Facebook “withdrawal” when they can’t access their accounts multiple times during the day.
One of the heaviest Facebook users I know explains that it’s easier to deal with her friends and family via Facebook, instead of say, actually visiting or interacting with them. (I’m sure that’s true). I have had people tell me that I don’t really “exist” because I don’t have a Facebook account “like everyone else.” These are folks who have never read Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay.
For some reasons to be concerned about Facebook (and social networks in general) I highly recommend this article in the New York Times, Facebook Is Using You by Lori Andrews, author of I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy.
January 29, 2012
Let me begin by saying that I know killing people is wrong. And bad. I hardly ever do it. But no one who is human can claim to never having felt that dark impulse.
However, watching people being killed in films or in video games is good for you. Studies show that it promotes gum health and fights gingivitis. It makes you more productive at work. Food tastes better, too.
So if you want tastier meals and healthy guns, I suggest you watch this red band trailer for Bobcat Goldthwait’s new movie “God Bless America.” Please note that it is not suitable for children or the easily offended. Even though for some reason children under the age of 18 are allowed to act in movies that they could not attend.
January 20, 2012
The brother of a close friend thinks I’m a jerk because I tried very hard to present evidence to him that acupuncture is simply magical thinking with no basis in science. I mean, of course, I am a jerk, but not for that reason.
In attempting this, I was going against the very good advice of W.C. Fields (“Never wise up a chump”). I also pissed off a veterinary orthopedic surgeon and some Labrador rescue folks over the same issue last year (as we struggle to deal with our dog, Huxley’s hip dysplasia).
Often when I tell people to 1.) Not take my word and 2.) Look at the evidence, I’m told in response, what’s the harm? If somebody wants to believe in Chinese energy healing from the ancient past, who is really hurt?
I just finished the excellent Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs and it seems clear to me that Jobs died because he didn’t take his [Western] doctor’s advice. If he had promptly done what was medically recommended, he likely would’ve lived much longer and gone on to die of something else. All quotes are from Chapter 35.
During a routine kidney check-up in 2003, doctors found a shadow on Job’s pancreas. Further investigation revealed it to be a tumor. His pancreatic cancer could have been excised when it was an islet cell. According to his doctor, “[it] could be removed before it had definitely spread.”
“To the horror of his friends and wife, Jobs decided not to have surgery to remove the tumor which was the only accepted medical approach.”
Instead, Jobs kept to his strict vegan diet, adding large quantities of fresh carrot and fruit juices.
“To that regimen he added acupuncture, a variety of herbal remedies, and occasionally a few other treatments he found on the Internet or by consulting people around the country, including a psychic. For a while he was under the sway of doctor that stressed the use of organic herbs, juice fasts, frequent bowel cleansings, hydro-therapy and the expression of all negative feelings.”
“His friends repeatedly urged him to have the surgery and chemotherapy. ‘Steve talked to me when he was trying to cure himself by eating horseshit and horseshit roots, and I told him he was crazy,” [Andy] Grove recalled. [Art] Levinson said that he ‘pleaded every day’ with Jobs and found it ‘enormously frustrating that I just couldn’t connect with him.’ The fights almost ruined their friendship. ‘That’s not how cancer works,’ Levinson insisted when Jobs discussed his diet treatments. ‘You cannot solve this without surgery and blasting it with toxic chemicals.’ Even the diet doctor Dean Ornish, a pioneer in alternative and nutritional methods of treating diseases, took a long walk with Jobs and insisted that sometimes traditional methods were the right option. ‘You really need surgery,’ Ornish told him.”
” ‘I think Steve has such a strong desire for the world to be a certain way that he wills it to be that way,’ Levinson speculated. ‘Sometimes it doesn’t work. Reality is unforgiving.’ ”
“In the past he had been rewarded for what his wife called his ‘magical thinking’ – his assumption that he would will things to be as he wanted. But cancer does not work that way. [Laurene] Powell [his wife] enlisted everyone close to him, including his sister Mona Simpson, to try and bring him around. in July 2004 a CAT scan showed that the tumor had grown and possibly spread. It forced him to face reality.”