Sep 242012

Toy train goes to space - at least to the stratosphereThis is so touching – a father sending his 4 year old son’s toy train in space, attaching an HD camera to video the trip, and then recovering the train through GPS. It’s no small achievement but much easier than it would have been a decade ago. All that was needed was the dearly beloved toy train, a weather balloon, an old iPhone for the GPS, and a HD camera.

The father, Ron Fugelseth, sent it up on an hour-long, twenty-seven miles (across the ground) flight and after recovering the camera, set the video to music. Fugelseth, who works at a digital agency, also added some animation to the face of the train when he processed the video:

My 4 year old and Stanley are inseparable like Calvin and Hobbes. He’s been attached to him since he was two, and they play, sleep and do everything together. I animated Stanley’s face with After Effects and Photoshop to bring him to life how I imagine my son sees him. (YouTube)

You just have to love the way the Stanley the train is smiling on the way up and then frowns as the balloon bursts and begins the bumpy trip back down to the ground. Only to smile again once a successful landing has taken place.

In truth, the toy train is not really going into space, but just some 18 miles up into the stratosphere, the layer right above the troposphere which extends 11 miles above the earth’s surface and is what we depend on to survive. The stratosphere extends some 50 miles above the earth and where space technically begins is an ongoing debate (not surprisingly, the boundary keeps getting extended). But for a young child this is close enough to space.  What’s really important here is that the project itself is both impressive and heartwarming.

And, of course, the child’s reaction is priceless. A toy train in space – this is a joy to watch.

Sep 192012
Romney teleprompter meme


As the full Romney video of the infamous fundraising dinner talk is released, the campaign is in damage control mode. While the rest of the video is not as damning as the initial clips released, it does nothing to help his case and even adds a few other choice lines to an already full platter of them.

The main sign a campaign has derailed when figures in your own party turn against you. Here’s a selection of Republican barbs from Politico in an article by Katie Glueck, “The right’s many attacks on Mitt Romney“. 

Check out the piece for all the quotes on Romney and the additional criticisms of his foreign policy remarks:

Here’s a look at who’s keeping some distance from Romney…

On the “47 percent ” comment:

Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard: “… Romney’s comments, like those of Obama four years ago, are stupid and arrogant.”

David Brooks, The New York Times: “[As] a description of America today, Romney’s comment is a country-club fantasy. It’s what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney.”

Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal: “It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one.”

Kevin Glass, “Romney’s just wrong on the facts here.”

Jonah Goldberg, “The Corner” blog, National Review: “Ultimately Romney’s division of the electorate has an odd Marxist twang to it, as if those dependent on government are simply voting their naked economic self-interest.

“… Which raises the other, bigger, problem with the blanket derogation of people who don’t pay income taxes. Undoubtedly moochers and layabouts are overrepresented in the ranks of the non-filers of income taxes. But so are the working poor (thanks to, among other things, the Earned Income Tax Credit), retirees, college students, et al.”

David Frum, Newsweek/The Daily Beast: “Mitt Romney has just committed the worst presidential-candidate gaffe since Gerald Ford announced in 1976 that ‘there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.’

“Irreparable? To Romney’s image, yes; to his election chances … we’ll see.” 

. . . .

W. James Antle III, The Daily Caller News Foundation: “Since when has it been the job of Republicans and conservatives to make sure everyone has IRS obligations?”

Linda McMahon, GOP Senate candidate, Connecticut: “I know that the vast majority of those who rely on government are not in that situation because they want to be. People today are struggling because the government has failed to keep America competitive, failed to support job creators, and failed to get our economy back on track.”

Ross Douthat, The New York Times: “… Romney finds himself conducting a winnable (yes, still) campaign from the weakest possible position.”

Reihan Salam, National Review: “We need conservative politicians who are willing to explain why low-income and middle-income parents should be removed from the tax rolls during the years they are making the biggest investments in their children, and who are willing to make the case for the EITC program as an alternative to worklessness and lifelong dependency.”

Susana Martinez, governor, New Mexico: “We have a lot of people that are at the poverty level in New Mexico, but they count just as much as anybody else.”

Scott Brown, U.S. Senator, Massachusetts: “As someone who grew up in tough circumstances, I know that being on public assistance is not a spot that anyone wants to be in.”

Matt Welch, Reason: “This is economic determinism at its worst, going against the very message the Republican Party was trying to sell to the world during its quadrennial national convention last month.”

Dean Heller, U.S. Senator, Nevada: “You got to understand, I grew up with five brothers and sisters. My father was an automechanic. My mother was a school cook. I just don’t view the world the same way he does.”

Aug 042012

Amazing short video (28 sec.) posted on Mashable of the Statue of Liberty in the NYC harbor appearing to melt under the summer heatwave. The video is by German artist Vincent Ullmann shows the statue liquefying like an ice cream cone in a microwave. Well, it may not be that hot, but the combination of heat and humidity has made the summer unbearable, especially in the subway (I’ve reached the point where I dread going downstairs into the station in the morning).

I’m on the boat tonight, out on the water in Mystic, CT. and visually, it’s a beautiful evening. The moon-rise was stunning and a huge shooting star – almost a fireball – tore across the sky a few hours ago. But even with open hatches and fans running, you wish there was an air-conditioner. The light breeze is just bringing waves of humidity across the water. Fog is predicted for the morning which means . . . yet more humidity.

Jul 292012

Google Lawsuit Over YouTube mp3 Conversion Site

A 21 year-old German student is fighting a cease and desist order from Google that he take down his YouTube video conversion site which rips YouTube videos to mp3 format. The site’s owner, Philip Matesanz, did a petition through and has now collected over a million signatures that he intends on delivering in person to Google (interesting how in the age of everything digital there is still much power in the face-to-face statement). His argument is that the site does not violate YouTube’s terms of service since users are only making personal copies and there is legal precedent for making personal copies of video from a public broadcast.

Not surprisingly, Google will see this differently, pushed no doubt by corporations such as Viacom that do not want to see users making any copies at all. Of course, there is nothing new here in that people have been able to rip YouTube videos through online conversion sites for some time. Matesanz is simply making it easier for the end-user and when copying becomes easy, you move dead-center into the the target sight of corporations bent on controlling every aspect of their content delivery. From ReadWriteWeb.

Jan 122012

So a new video surfaces from Afghanistan: four men in camouflage Marine combat uniforms urinating on three dead bodies laying on the ground, probably following military action. The video is short (less than a minute) but it quickly made the rounds of YouTube and the Web.

One could possibly (desperately) hope that it’s a fabricated video, part of a media campaign to undermine U.S. military operations. But photoshopping still images is one thing; doing it with video is always possible but technically more difficult. The video appears to be legitimate: incomprehensibly, four marines did this while recording a video and then sharing it.

But whether invented or real, the end result is likely the same. Judgment on the Web, particularly when it comes to the persuasive power of visual images, works not on the principle of mens rea (Latin for “guilty mind”) where intention is a factor, but on strict liability. It appears that it happened and the conclusion will be that it happened. The video will operate rhetorically, articulating a public narrative already seeded, that America values nothing and cannot even respect the dead. Like the images at Abu Ghraib, it will have a life of its own in the Middle East and elsewhere, putting people at risk and unraveling the good work of those in the military who understand that using a gun is not the only way to mediate relationships with people in another country.

Latest update: from the New York Times this morning, the U.S military is essentially acknowledging the video’s authenticity:

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta said in a statement: “I have seen the footage, and I find the behavior depicted in it utterly deplorable.  I condemn it in the strongest possible terms.  I have ordered the Marine Corps and I.S.A.F. Commander General John Allen to immediately and fully investigate the incident.” He added: “This conduct is entirely inappropriate for members of the United States military and does not reflect the standards or values our armed forces are sworn to uphold.  Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent.” 

Hopefully, those involved will be tracked down. In the meantime, the Taliban (and anyone else who want to appropriate it) could not have a better PR piece. The fact that there’s a wheelbarrow on the ground next to the bodies instead of a stack of arms or IED’s will just add to it’s persuasive power – making the dead look as if they had been at work instead of at war. Uncensored version of the video here; be forewarned that the contact is graphic.

Dec 122011

A quick reading of history reveals that politics has always been brutal and cutthroat (indeed, you have to laugh at those who refer to our “Founding Fathers” as if they were a unified and homogenous group) but video surely offers new ways of plunging a dagger into your opponent.

Politicalwire notes that a Democrat aligned super PAC bought ad time and ran a video of Romney speaking French as payback for the way Senator Kerry was portrayed back in the 2004 Presidential campaign.

Video is nearly ubiquitous with seemingly every moment recorded and, just as important, persistent and retrievable. Of course, it doesn’t help that Romney lives up to his reputation. The noose is waiting, Mitt:

Dec 062011
edinburgh tram

Edinburgh Tram

Nothing new here except one major technology development - ubiquitous video. When everyone is carrying a videocam through their phone, situations like this get recorded. The video was posted on Youtube leading to the woman’s arrest last Monday. The latest from the Daily Record in the UK: she has now had to sit in Croydon Magistrates’ Court while three magistrates watched the two and a half sordid minutes of her racial phobia. Curiously, she bent over in tears but pleaded not guilty.

If events in the past lived on through oral history and the printed word, drawings and quick sketches, and finally, documentary photography beginning in the late 19th century, now the everything is recorded and persists through video. Jacob Riis, Lewis Hine, and so many others – you would be dumbfounded at our ability to capture these moments. A lesson in the empowering act of pushing the record button on a smart phone – which we already know so well from developments in the Middle East and the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Most of all you feel sorry for the young child in her lap.

Dec 012011

Meant to post this the other day when it came out. The most recent figures by comScore on users and online video revealed that 184 million people in the U.S. watched an average of 21.1 hours of video during the month of October. A record total of 42.6 billion videos were viewed over the course of the month.

But while the numbers sound (and are) impressive, the only thing holding them down is the lack of good, inexpensive bandwidth. It would be much higher if cell-phone carriers were not capping data plans and wireless networks did not (as they often do) throttle back video downloads. Someday, these numbers – like 386x processors and 30MB ram – will seem laughable.

Obviously, Google is far ahead of the rest of the providers, mostly due to YouTube.

comScore measures each segment of long-form video as a distinct video stream and does not distinguish between progressive downloads and live streams.

Jul 222011

An interesting acquisition if it is ultimately successful. Apple has no shortage of cash and securities ($76.2 billion) and Hulu will “only” go for a couple of billion at most. And as Bloomberg points out, it would add synergy to Apple’s video play and position it for the future. Just as Apple was the first to jettison the floppy drive, they will be the first to incorporate massive use of video and this would provide them with a subscription service to counter Netflix. Other suitors may be out there, but it’s a logical match for Apple.

Jun 272011

The video shows young children caked in filth begging in markets.

This is not the first video smuggled out of North Korea but it is one of the saddest and if you have not seen it yet, you should. Devastating video of children in search of food, their parents either dead or in the gulag. Perhaps even more telling about the current state of the economy there, a soldier talks about how many in his own unit do not have enough to eat (generally, the army has been taken care of in the past). The video and article is on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation site (yes, for those of you in America, also known as ABC).

If this is not enough, there is an article on BBC from last week with news that the government is purchasing “large amounts of anti-riot equipment” from China. Not only do they let the population starve, they will make sure they never step out of line. One hopes that someday there will be a “North Korean Spring” but it surely will not parallel the events in the Middle East. There is almost no access to technology here and the videos that are done are for our consumption (important as that is). A revolution here – when it happens (and that may be some time in the future) – will be done the old fashioned way, and one assumes with some help from outside. There is no internal role (that I can see) for Facebook, Twitter or other platforms here. In fact, the situation is so desperate, there seems to be little possibility of a basic uprising – it is almost as if this whole tragedy will have to collapse of its own weight.