When the gods dance...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gamers: Who are they? [infographic]

Call of Duty warriors get their own social network

Call of Duty warriors get their own social network

 31 May 2011 06:00 AM PDT


Activision Blizzard is announcing Call of Duty Elite today, a social network for players of the most popular video game franchise in 


the world.

The subscription-based service has been in the works for two years and represents a way to get hardcore players even more engaged in the popular combat game, which draws more than 7 million players a day for multiplayer online battles. The move shows that innovating at the social layer of video games is becoming essential to success, even for hardcore video game companies.

“Games as an entertainment form are better than ever,” said Jamie Berger, vice president of digital at Activision Blizzard. “The world is changing and our competitive set has morphed dramatically. Now we compete with blockbuster movies, social networking, mobile apps — all of them vying for the player’s attention.”

The network will launch in beta form this summer with the Call of Duty Black Ops game that debuted last November. But it will launch as an integrated part of theCall of Duty Modern Warfare 3 game that debuts on Nov. 8. Call of Duty Elite could prove to be a strategic asset in the coming battle with Electronic Arts, which is launching Battlefield 3 this fall.

[Activision Blizzard briefed journalists on the Call of Duty Elite launch and asked everyone to honor an agreed-upon embargo for 6 am. But the company allowed the Wall Street Journal to publish the story yesterday evening].

The whole idea is to enrich the multiplayer experience and establish a tighter community than was possible before through ordinary online services such as Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. Call of Duty warriors will be able to log into the online service via the web or their consoles to check their multiplayer stats that are updated in real time. They can connect with other friends with the same interests, form their own groups or clans, and enter tournaments with daily prizes. Players can upload videos or screen shots from their best matches, and users can vote on which ones are the best.

Furthermore, the players can tap into the wealth of statistics that Activision Blizzard collects on player performance so that they can study their results and improve their game play. For instance, I tried it out and I could see exactly where I was shot in the game map and from what distance. A “heat map” showed the place where most of the deaths occurred in the match. I could move a slider to see the minute by minute time progression of the match and see where I shot someone or where they shot me and from what direction and distance.

You can also pull back to see aggregate data, such as the weapon that is most successfully used on the map. That kind of detail is useful to improve your game play — it helps you figure out the right kind of weapon to use on a map, which areas to avoid, and which places you can safely perch and pick off rivals.

In one match, I noticed that most of the deaths that occurred on the map were in the middle, where one of the flags you had to dominate was placed. Relatively few people died on the outskirts. Clearly, if you went to grab for the flag, you were vulnerable, whereas if you stayed on the outskirts, you were safe but didn’t get much action. I put more than 60 hours into the multiplayer version of the game, but I never had this kind of view of the data. Call of Duty Elite is the only way for players to see this kind of feedback.

Previously, that kind of detail was available only to the game developers. It helped them create multiplayer maps that were balanced so that no side had an advantage and no single type of player ruled.

The social network is exciting because at some point in the future, players will be able to use that data to create their own maps. I suggested that idea, and Jamie Berger, vice president of digital games at Activision Blizzard, said it was a good one. The company can thus tap the collective wisdom of its players.

Multiplayer combat will be included for free with the purchase of the game (although Microsoft charges a fee for multiplayer play on Xbox Live). The company will announce the subscription price later this year, but it will be cheaper than most other subscription services, Berger said. The monthly subscription will entitle players to download map packs, which are extensions of the game for multiplayer purposes, for free. After the service launches, players of the different games, such as Black Ops and Modern Warfare 3, will be united in the same community for the first time. Going forward, new versions of the game will also be integrated with Call of Duty Elite.

“We are thinking about this franchise as more than just a packaged good,” Berger said. “For many of our players, it’s a lifestyle.”

The network is the work of Beachhead Studios, a division created two years ago to build the social experience, said Chacko Sonny, head of the studio. That represents a major investment for Activision Blizzard, which dedicated a full team to the social project rather than have it create a brand new version of the game.

This is a new vector for innovation in the Call of Duty franchise, which we call social innovation,” Berger said. “It is of equal importance to innovations such as graphics and game play mechanics.”

Sonny said that the initial service will roll out some of the features for Black Ops fans. But the full service launching with Modern Warfare 3, which is expected to be one of the biggest video game launches of the year, will have even more features.

“This is just a hint of where we will go with this,” Berger said. Adds Sonny, “This is about getting in front of players and leading them to the future of connected entertainment.”

The Call of Duty community is already one of the strongest there is. More than 30 million people have played online this year and 20 million players play each month. On average, the Call of Duty player plays 170 hours of the game per year. That’s as much time spent as watching the full series of the Sopranos and Lost, combined.

“If you look at the hours, Call of Duty is already a pretty engaged social network,” said Eric Hirshberg, president of Activision Publishing, which is in charge of the Call of Duty business. “Now we can give the player much more control of their own choices. We can now give them a tremendous suite of tools to amplify their experience.”

The new network is aimed at hanging onto those players year round, not just capturing them when a new game launches. The other goal is to make money from them. Right now, users upload their best antics, home-made movies, and accomplishments in the game to YouTube. Those videos have been viewed 75 million times already. You can see things such as the “Tomahawk kill of the day.” Now the social network will be able to draw attention to those videos far more easily.

The service’s menus focus on four main concepts: career, connect, compete, and improve. With the “career” tab, you can see your own aggregate performance stats. You can see each player’s “kill/death ratio,” or the number of times the player has killed another or been killed. You can browse through the data from every match you have played. There are metrics on everything, such as your accuracy rate firing the Famas assault rifle on a particular map.

Under “connect,” players will be able to form their own groups based on interests. Players can join up to 64 groups, such as a group dedicated to Bay Area fans of the San Francisco Giants. The groups allow you to compete in a smaller social circle rather than try to beat people who have superstar status on overall leaderboards. In the groups, you can keep tabs on the stats of your friends and do a direct comparison between your own stats and your friend’s.

Players can only play in one clan, which is a single team dedicated to multiplayer combat. There can be as many as 128 players in a clan.

Within the “compete” menu, players can compete in leagues or “operations.” The latter are events where players try to be the first to do something like get five long-distance kills with a ballistic knife. You can also compete by uploading the funniest screen shot. In these kinds of competitions, even casual players like me stand a chance of winning a prize. Prizes will include new Jeep vehicles.

“It’s like organized sports with automatic weapons,” Sonny said.

Players will be able to access Call of Duty Elite from any screen: the web, mobile devices, the TV and from inside the games themselves.

“We can’t wait to be astounded by how the player base uses these features,” said Hirshberg. “This investment is part of our philosophy of putting money into games where we have a competitive advantage. We can make our games deeper and more robust so that we exceed our consumers’ expectations.”

He added, “The innovations and breakthroughs that we are developing inside Elite are as meaningful as any we develop inside a stand-alone game.”

Consumerism, your "job" and the necessary end of your world as you know it.

Consumerism, your "job" and the necessary end of your world as you know it.


Westerners-particularly Americans-are trained consumers, from cradle to grave, we are indoctrinated and trained to be consumers, and it is a branch of fundamentalist philosophy, whose tentacles reach far and wide into all aspects of human existence, consumerism is the-my Way or the Highway-intended to produce a condition of social stratification and inequality, and it is so deeply ingrained in Americans, as to be sacrosanct, that is to say, that the vast majority of Americans have been so conditioned to equate personal happiness with how much "stuff" they can acquire (most of it in real terms totally useless bullshit) that they never stop attempting to do so.

There is nothing wrong with owning things, even SOME nice things, but when it becomes the be-all and end-all of one's existence, you end up with the society we have today, a largely uninformed yet increasingly narcissistic pathology, with greater and greater emphasis on ME, and fuck everyone else (which of course includes the Earth's environment the only one we have) as should be self evident, such a mass of humanity with this kind of value system, inexorably leads to continual wars and genocide.

If you take into account the utterly endless bombardment of advertising that people receive daily, and have since they were born, is completely understandable-and predictable-why the world seems as crazy as it does, it's because it is. In one of the great DVD documentaries on social manipulation indoctrination that I have, a unofficial study of late elementary and early middle school children illustrated the point quite well, they were shown pictures of very famous Americans, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein etc, the vast majority of those kids did not know who these people were, but when shown a picture of Ronald McDonald, they knew, without hesitation, who it was, it is very clear who the plutocrats want our children to recognize, and to instill as early as possible brand recognition in the future generations of consumers, eat, shit and reproduce, (consuming as much is possible of course) is the only future plans (except for military service) for our children- in a plutocracy, this is the status quo, no mystery, no complexity it's how it works.

The vast majority of Americans are controlled, mesmerized by consumerism to the point, that any of the few who recognize this unsustainable insanity for what it is, are quickly ostracized, and declared "UN-American", and in turn suffer the consequences of such marginalization, the "system" has zero tolerance for non-conformity, the legions of homeless (men women and children) the US prison "Justice" system, (one of the top if not THE top) growth industries in America, combined with Wal-Mart as our number one employer, stands as testament to this unfortunate truth.

Telling people to be intelligent and rational in their decisions as consumers under the current existing paradigm, is like taking an alcoholic, putting them in a fully stocked bar, locking the doors, and then explaining to them that they shouldn't drink, which in effectiveness, ranks right up there with vacuum brained Nancy Reagan's admonishment to "just say no to drugs" the only way to bring about effective lasting change, is you have to bring about sweeping changes in the current paradigm, this is not impossible, and as a matter of fact is totally necessary, since that is the ONLY way to bring about positive and permanent change, and that my friends, is the truth.

I remain, V.

To all fundamentalist a warning, subjugationest without care, change is coming, it's in the air!


Doctors on Drugs

Time Lapse Sky Shows Earth Rotating Instead of Stars (fixed audio)

China's Blue Army of 30 computer experts could deploy cyber warfare on foreign powers


CHINA has admitted for the first time that it had poured massive investment into the formation of a 30-strong commando unit of cyberwarriors - a team supposedly trained to protect the People's Liberation Army from outside assault on its networks.

While the unit, known as the "Blue Army", is nominally defensive, the revelation is likely to confirm the worst fears of governments across the globe who already suspect that their systems and secrets may come under regular and co-ordinated Chinese cyberattack.

In a chilling reminder of China's potential cyberwarfare capabilities, a former PLA general told The Times that the unit had been drawn from an exceptionally deep talent pool.

"It is just like ping-pong. We have more people playing it, so we are very good at it," he said.

The Blue Army, which comprises a few dozen of the best talents China has to offer, are understood to have been drawn from various channels, including existing PLA soldiers, officers, college students and assorted "members of society".

Confirmation of the existence of the Blue Army came during a rare briefing by the Chinese Defence Ministry whose spokesman, Geng Yansheng, said that the unit's purpose was to improve the security of the country's military forces.

Organised under the Guangdong Military Command, the Blue Army is understood to have existed formally for about two years, but had been discussed within the PLA for more than a decade. A report in the official PLA newspaper said that "tens of millions" had been spent on the country's first senior-level military training network.

Xu Guangyu, a senior researcher of the government-backed China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, described the existence of the Blue Army as a great step forward for the PLA and said that China could not afford to allow "blank spaces" to open up in state and military security.

"The internet has no boundaries, so we can't say which country or organisation will be our enemy and who will attack us. The Blue Army's main target is self-defence. We won't initiate an attack on anyone," he said.

In a comment that many foreign governments will argue dramatically understates the true balance of cyberwar capabilities, Mr Xu added: "I don't think our Blue Army's skills are too backward compared to those of other countries."

In a recent test of its powers, reported the PLA Daily, the Blue Army was thrust into a simulated cyberbattle against an attacking force four times its size and left to defend China's military networks against a bombardment of virus attacks, massive barrages of junk mail and stealth missions into the inner sanctums of military planning to steal secret information on troop deployment. The Blue Army, predictably, triumphed.

Asked whether the unit had been set up specifically to mount cyberattacks on foreign countries, Mr Geng said that internet security had become an international issue with an impact on the military field of battle. China, he added, was also a victim and its abilities to protect itself from cyberattack were very weak.

Even without the PLA's acknowledgement of the existence of the Blue Army, sources throughout the internet security industry have long believed that Chinese-based hackers are the single largest source of worldwide cyberattacks.

A report on cyberespionage last year by the US anti-virus software maker Symantec found that more than a quarter of all attempts to steal sensitive corporate data originated in China and that the eastern city of Shaoxing was the single largest generator of attacks. Western intelligence sources believe that many Chinese-originated attacks are carried out by hackers with links to the PLA or the Chinese Government.

The 'Sperm Bike' Carries Donor Samples to Fertility Clinics Around Copenhagen

sperm bike copenhagen photo
Photo: Courtesy of European Sperm Bank

The Custom-Made 'Sperm Bullitt': Making a Special Delivery...
Copenhagen is a paradise for cyclists and a city that the rest of the world could learn a lot from. One of the things that make biking so convenient there is the use of cargo bikes (I wish they were more popular in North-America). As you can see above and below, there are all kinds! This one is the 'Sperm Bullitt' and it belongs to the Nordisk Cryobank (European Sperm Bank). Read on for more details and pics.

sperm bike copenhagen photo
Photo: Courtesy of European Sperm Bank

The 'sperm bike' is used to carry donor samples to fertility clinics around Copenhagen in an environmentally-friendly way, and it also serves as an attention-grabbing advertisement for the sperm bank.

As you can see above, the samples are carried inside the head of the giant sperm. A cooler compartment was especially designed to carry and keep cool the sperm bank's metal canisters.

sperm bike copenhagen photo
Photo: Mikael Colville-Andersen/Copenhagenize.com, CC

Building the Sperm Bike
Mikael from Copenhagenize explains:

The Sperm Bike is, like the company's sperm donations, a Danish product and constructed around the Danish Bullitt cargo bike from Larry vs Harry.

Producing the Sperm Bike was no easy task. It was constructed by the Danish company 10 Tons - who specialise in zoological and botanical models as well as paleontologic reconstructions, including full-size whales and dinosaurs.

With the tail, the bike is 2.9 metres long and fully-loaded with... um... sperm... it weighs 50 kg.

sperm bike copenhagen photo
Photo: Mikael Colville-Andersen/Copenhagenize.com, CC

sperm bike copenhagen photo
Photo: Mikael Colville-Andersen/Copenhagenize.com, CC

Genius, Isn't It?
From a marketing point of view, this is genius. More companies and NGOs should get custom bikes like this. They would both get environmental benefits and attract attention a lot more than with yet one more billboard-truck...

sperm bike copenhagen photo
Photo: Mikael Colville-Andersen/Copenhagenize.com, CC

If you like this article, you can follow me on Twitter (@Michael_GR) and Stumbleupon (THMike). Thanks.

Something for Burning Man??

Kuriositas: Adolfo Farsari – The Man Who Shot Japan

Monday, 30 May 2011

Adolfo Farsari – The Man Who Shot Japan

In the 1880s at a time when most Europeans were denied access to the Japanese interior an Italian photographer managed to capture many images of Old Japan. These were then beautifully and realistically hand painted and serve as a remarkable record of a world long since disappeared.

Although the majority of Farsari’s pictures of people are posed, they give us a valuable insight in to the costumes and manners of late Victorian era Japan.  Based in Yokohama, Farsari had had a rather convoluted journey to end up where he did.  He began his career as a military man and served for a while in the Union Army in the American Civil War.  Perhaps this image of Japanese warriors reflected his interest in the military but they are certainly resplendent in their heavy looking armor. It would be for his portraits that he would be particularly remembered, but his landscapes too are quite remarkable, capturing as they do a world now lost to us.

Farsari was very much a commercial photographer and his compositions were designed to be sold mostly to foreign visitors to Japan.  His landscapes often picture what we might call a slightly enhanced version – even romanticized – of Japan but were very highly regarded at the time.  Something of a libertarian, Farsari had joined the American Civil War as he was a fervent abolitionist and his photographs reflect his ideas of equality – women are portrayed as often as men and not in subservient positions.  For many people who had never been to Japan his images would shape their ideas of the country – and to some degree they would also contribute to the ways in which the Japanese regarded themselves.

It is a strange thought, looking at the modern looking faces of these Japanese women to take in the fact that they have all been dead for the greater part of a century at least – the photograph still seems incredibly new and fresh somehow.  Although Farsari had arrived in Japan in the 1870s and had traded photographs (among many other things) it was not until the 1860s that he taught himself photography, seeing it as a lucrative living for reasons we will outline later.  In 1885 he went in to partnership with Tamamura Kozaburō.  Together they acquired an already existing studio, the Japan Photographic Association.  Within a few years the two had fallen out and were in competition with each other.  Not for long.

Farsi did not have the high shutter speeds that we enjoy today and occasionally some images are a little blurred.  It cannot be understated just how difficult it would have been to capture this scene at the time.  Due to the photographic techniques of the day these subjects would have had to remain still for four or five seconds in order for the picture to be captured without blurring.  As you can see the attempt was not one hundred percent successful as there was movement during the exposure time.  However, as a piece of social history this photograph is invaluable.  No one is sure how long the partnership between Farsari and Kozaburō lasted but it was not long.  By 1886 Farsari and Tong Cheong (a Chinese photographer) were the only commercial non Japanese photographers working in the country.  By 1887 Farsari was on his own.

So it was that Farsari became the last foreign photographer of note in Japan at the time.  Over the years his images would become widely available through various media  - mostly books, periodicals and travel guides.  His work, though, would transpose photography. One of his most famous shots, of a Japanese high class woman being transported to an unknown destination would be reproduced the world over as a china figurine and prints, the clothing and the expressions of the subjects intact.  One can only guess as to whether they may have changed their expressions had they known how widespread and well known their anonymous faces would become.

His pictures would become the inspiration for artists too.  Take for example the view above of Shijo-dori, Kyoto.  This 1886 picture would become the inspiration for the French painter Louis-Jules Dumoulin who would in 1888 add a few touches of his own and come up with ‘Carp Banners in Kyoto’.

His reputation at the time was not quite unrivalled.  There were also setbacks,  In 1886 a mysterious fire destroyed all of his negatives.  A lesser man may have give up there and then.  Farsari on the other hand embarked on a half year tour of Japan and took enough photographs on his journey to replenish his stock and reopen his studio.  By the time he left Japan in 1890 this would number over a thousand.

Why is Farsari so special?  As has already been pointed out, he wasn’t exactly alone in terms of foreign photographers in Japan – and the home grown variety numbered many.  What makes him still stand out today is the high technical standards (for the time) that he demanded from his own work.  In fact his techniques had a large influence on the development of photography as an art form in Japan, not bad for someone who taught himself in order to make a living.  Perhaps that is another reason why he is still remembered so well – that need to make a living for himself combined with his natural and great entrepreneurial skills ensured that his photographs were disseminated and his name and reputation grew concurrently.

Although incredibly popular in his day, the later part of the twentieth century saw a lot of critics of Farsari’s work point the finger of accusation at his photographs.  They maintained that inconsistency of quality for the sake of production in large quantities was evident and his work was dismissed by some as something akin to the tourist kitsch we can buy today.  However, that has since been reappraised and the historic and artistic significance of his work has been recognized again.  Certainly by the amount of museums that contain collections of his work his reputation is probably now safe.

Certainly, you only have to glance at a picture like ‘The Officer’s Daughter’ above to see that the composition is exquisite.  Furthermore Farsari employed excellent artists and used the highest quality paints and paper that he could get his hands on.  The results are stunning.

Although his photographs could be purchased individually, Farsari realized that the real money was to be made by developing the trade in albums.  So, his studio produced the sepia monochrome prints that were then hand-colored by local artists.  These would then be mounted on hand decorated album leaves.  The leaves were ultimately bound between either lacquer boards or silk brocade – and sold at a high price to interested collectors.

He sold a lot too, particularly to European and American visitors to Japan and to those foreigners residing there who wanted to take a visual memento away with them. They were expensive, of course, but that ensured a certain clientele and the likes of Rudyard Kipling waxed lyrical about his work.  By 1889 Farsari wished to return home to Italy and become Italian again (he had relinquished his nationality when he went to the US to fight in the Civil War).  As you might expect from such a character, in order to try and facilitate his re-entry to the country of his birth he presented a deluxe album to the King of Italy in 1889.

His request did not fall on deaf ears and he returned (with his daughter Kiku, the result of a relationship between him and a Japanese woman).  Although he returned home it is not clear, however, if he was granted his citizenship again.  However, it was in the city of his birth, Vicenza, that he died in 1998.

His studio continued in Japan despite his absence.  His studio manager, Tonokura Tsunetarō, took over the business.  The business became fully Japanese in 1907 and records indicate that it was in business till at least 1917.  It is unsure when it ceased to be, as the city of Yokohama, where it was based, was mostly destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923.  However, Farsari’s photographs remain a testament to his life’s work and he will be always known as the man who shot Old Japan.

Wayne Rooney's 'jaw-droppingly good' bicycle kick goal

Wayne Rooney's 'jaw-droppingly good' bicycle kick goal

The British soccer star's acrobatic move is being called one of the greatest goals ever. Here's the video

Wayne Rooney of Manchester United scores a goal with an overhead kick (or bicycle kick) during a Premier League match Saturday.

Wayne Rooney of Manchester United scores a goal with an overhead kick (or bicycle kick) during a Premier League match Saturday. Photo: Getty

Best Opinion:  Daily Mail, Deadspin

The video: On Saturday, Manchester United soccer star Wayne Rooney electrified the home crowd when he scored one of the most memorable goals in Premier League history. During the second half of a match versus crosstown rival Manchester City, a charging Rooney fielded a pass from teammate Nani. With his back to the goal posts, Rooney leaped in the air, extended his right leg and rocketed the ball into the upper right-hand corner of the net, leaving goalie Joe Hart motionless and stunned. The goal put Manchester United (which is enjoying a historic winning streak) ahead 2-1 — the game's final score.
The reaction:
"That's definitely my best goal ever," said Rooney, as quoted by The Daily Mail. His coach agreed, saying that, "I don't think I've ever seen a better one here at Old Trafford," referring to the famous stadium Manchester United calls home. "We've had some classic goals... but in terms of execution, you'll never see anything like that." Echoing many fans' reactions, Brian Hickey at Deadspin says Rooney's score was "nothing short of jaw-droppingly good." See Rooney's implausible maneuver for yourself:



How To Mix Your Own Music Online & Be An Internet DJ:)

How To Mix Your Own Music Online & Be An Internet DJ

posted on July 19, 2009 by Angelina

It happens to the best of us: you’re clicking on random YouTube links when a friend sends you the best remix you’ve ever heard, and suddenly, you’re gripped by an overwhelming urge to try and mix your own music.

Unfortunately, mixing audio not only entails picking the tracks to mix, but also downloading beats, sound effects, and an audio mixing program. Sometimes, doing all that is worth it, but if you’re looking for something simpler, like an online audio editor already packaged with beats to mix, then give the following websites a shot.

DubStep Studio

Previously known as Electro-House Blender, DubStep Studio’s interface is beautiful and extremely simple, and it includes a decently sized sound library for your mixing pleasure.


To add a track to a song, simply click the “Add Sounds” button, and a panel will pop up that splits the available sounds into further categories, such as “Keyboard” or “Sound Effect.” The tracks are not named according to how they sound, and there is no search box, so you may need to preview all of the tracks before you find the right one. Adding the track to the song is as simple as clicking the plus sign next to its name, and then clicking the beats in which you want the it to be heard. From the workspace, you can delete tracks, change the volume of each track, and control whether the track is heard primarily from the left or right speaker.

dubstep soundpanel

You can try DubStep Studio to mix your own music without registering, but in order to save or open files, you must register. Even so, users cannot upload their own music into the mixer, nor can they export the song so it can be accessed offline. Despite these shortcomings, DubStep Studio’s ease of use and polished presentation make it a worthwhile app to check out”“ at least, for someone who wants to try mixing music without any heavy duty commitment.

Jam Glue

Though Jam Glue is not the eye candy that DubStep Studio is, its wider range of features outshines DubStep Studio in every aspect. Not only does the search function exist, but it also gives the user the option of searching by the song’s approximate tempo.


Registered users are allowed to either upload a .mp3, .wav, or .wma file, or import audio from an URL, although there is a large statement warning the user not to upload copyrighted material.

jamglue search

The process of editing is virtually the same in both webapps ““ there is no option to scale the size of the track to inspect the waveform more closely, and Jam Glue’s “snap clips to beat” feature replicates the effect of clicking where youwant your track to go in DubStep Studio. However, Jam Glue has the added functionality of being able to scale the speed of any track and sync the tracks to a user specified beats-per-minute. Jam Glue also allows users to rearrange the order of their tracks, making editing overall a much smoother process than it would have been in DubStep Studio.

After you have completed and saved the track ( assuming you are a registered user), Jam Glue gives you the option of downloading the track. However, this option is hidden in the bottom of the mix details page and is only accessible after the song has been “published” to Jam Glue’s database.

Jamglue download

After you have tried these two webapps to mix your own music, perhaps you will decide that DJing is indeed your forte. In that case, I would highly recommend Audacity, the tried and true software for editing music, or the previously covered Mixxx. Or, if you’re just looking for a simple editor to make ringtones, check out Zedge or Make Own Ringtone. Both are browser based, although Zedge requires registration before use.

Dirt Art


Another Mesa Arch sunrise... - Apollo

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Madison Avenue declaration



Feeling a little spooked when you fly at night? You’ve probably read one of those news stories about air traffic controllers nodding off on the job. What’s behind this snooze epidemic? Fatigue. Controllers are making so little, a U.S. Senate panel learned last week, that many are working “two or three jobs to compensate.”

Says Senator Jay Rockefeller: “That’s asking for trouble.” How true. We ask for trouble whenever we let the economic gaps among us widen — and sometimes that trouble can brew for years before we feel it. In this case, about 30 years.

Back in 1981, Ronald Reagan busted the air traffic controllers union by permanently “replacing” striking controllers. That move gave corporate execs, throughout the economy, a green light to replace strikers, a management behavior considered well beyond the pale in the 1950s and 1960s.

We know the rest. Unions grew weaker, corporations grew stronger. Wages stagnated, CEO pay soared. The United States became the world's most unequal industrial nation. And air traffic controllers ended up moonlighting at Applebee’s. Inequality, in short, has consequences. More on them in this week’s Too Much.


Top U.S. corporate execs may never have to fly commercial airline flights ever again. Chapman Freeborn, the world’s largest private jet charter broker, has just-released a mobile phone app that lets CEOs stranded on distant tarmacs rent a private jet right from their handsets. Google billionaires Larry Page and Sergey Brin won’t likely be needing this handy new service. The pair already own aBoeing 767 tricked out with personal staterooms, plus a more modest Gulfstream. Last summer, newly released federal records show, the 767 and the Gulfstream “burned an estimated 52,000 gallons of aviation fuel and $430,000” ferrying Page and Brin to Tahiti for an up-close look at a really nifty solar eclipse . . .

In Britain, chief executive pay at the country’s 100 largest corporations is currently running at about 145 times the average UK worker wage. That’s only half the U.S. CEO pay multiple, but way above chief exec-worker ratios elsewhere in Europe. Ruth Lister, an emeritus social scientist at Loughborough University and a peer in the UK House of Lords, wants to see that gap narrow, and she last week suggested “some form ofmaximum wage” for British corporations, not a fixed sum, “but a maximum pay differential” along the lines of the 20-to-1 ratiothe current prime minister, David Cameron, last year proposed for the public sector . . .

“Good” news for Apple Computer: The May 20 explosion that killed three workers at an Apple supplier factory in China is not going to delay iPad and iPhone production. Bad news for Apple: “Cool” products may no longer blind consumers to corporate arrogance. Activists with US Uncut, the grassroots anti-corporate tax cheat drive, will be staging protests this Saturday at Apple outlets nationwide. The issue: Apple is pushing Congress to let U.S. corporations “repatriate” profits they have sitting overseas at a tiny 5 percent tax rate. Dangerous working conditions at overseas factories have helped those profits soar. A Hong Kong group, two weeks before Apple's May 20 blow-up, released a report that detailed “alarming” safety problems at the explosion site. Apple CEO Steve Jobs currently holds an $8.3 billion fortune. He may not enjoy this cool-as-an-iPad US Uncut video . . .

You don’t have to go to China, of course, to find worksite explosions. Last year, right here in the United States, a Massey Energy blast in West Virginia left 29 miners dead. Earlier this month, an official state report blamed that loss of life on a Massey management “culture bent on production at the expense of safety.” Massey’s now-retired CEO, the report also charges, cowed local pols by spending “vast amounts of money to influence elections.” That CEO, Don Blankenship, had plenty of money to spend. He took home $34 million in 2005, pocketed another$38.2 million from 2007 through 2009, and retired this past December with a $5.7 million pension, $12 million in severance, another $27.2 million in deferred pay, title to a company-owned house, and a lush consulting agreement . . .

Great wealth, philosopher Philip Slater once observed, tends to leave the wealthy instinctively suspicious. Said Slater: “If you gain fame, power, or wealth, you won’t have any trouble finding lovers, but they will be people who love fame, power, or wealth.” Exhibit A for Slater’s wisdom: the long, sad life of Huguette Clark, the copper heiress who died Tuesday at age 104. Clark’s father, mining magnate William Andrews Clark, died in 1925, and the fortune he left his daughter would define — and distort — the rest of her life. Huguette married in 1928, then divorced two years later. She never had children and, after her mother’s 1963 death, lived as a recluse, first in her 42-room New York Park Avenue apartment, then, under a false name, in a hospital room for 22 years. She also owned, but never visited, a $100 million beach house in Santa Barbara and a $23 million Connecticut estate. Clark did have cousins, nephews, and nieces, but she refused to see them. Her closest friends, an acquaintance once noted, “have always been her dolls.” She paid servants to iron their clothes. Clark, who once called money “a menace to happiness,” leaves behind a fortune worth at least $500 million.




Madison Ave. Declares 'Mass Affluence' Over

The American middle class, concludes a new study from the ad industry's top trade journal, has essentially become irrelevant. In a deeply unequal America, if you don't make $200,000, you don't matter.

The chain-smoking ad agency account execs of Mad Men, the hit cable TV series set in the early 1960s, all want to be rich some day. But these execs, professionally, couldn’t care less about the rich. They spend their nine-to-fives marketing to average Americans, not rich ones.  

Mad Men’s real-life ad agency brethren, 50 years ago, behaved the exact same way — for an eminently common-sense reason: In mid-20th century America, the entire U.S. economy revolved around middle class households. The vast bulk of U.S. income sat in middle class pockets.

The rich back then, for ad execs, constituted an afterthought, a niche market.

Not anymore. Madison Avenue has now come full circle. The rich no longer rate as a niche. Marketing to the rich — and those about to gain that status — has become the only game that really counts.

“Mass affluence,” as a new white paper from Ad Age, the advertising industry’s top trade journal, has just declared, “is over.”

The Mad Men 1960s America — where average families dominated the consumer market — has totally disappeared, this Ad Age New Wave of Affluence study details. And Madison Avenue has moved on — to where the money sits.

And that money does not sit in average American pockets. The global economic recession, Ad Age relates, has thrown “a spotlight on the yawning divide between the richest Americans and everyone else.”

Taking inflation into account, Ad Age goes on to explain, the “incomes of most American workers have remained more or less static since the 1970s,” while “the income of the rich (and the very rich) has grown exponentially.”

The top 10 percent of American households, the trade journal adds, now account for nearly half of all consumer spending, and a disproportionate share of that spending comes from the top 10’s upper reaches.

“Simply put,” sums up Ad Age’s David Hirschman, “a small plutocracy of wealthy elites drives a larger and larger share of total consumer spending and has outsize purchasing influence — particularly in categories such as technology, financial services, travel, automotive, apparel, and personal care.”

America as a whole, the new Ad Age study pauses to note, hasn’t quite caught up with the reality of this steep inequality. Americans still “like to believe in an egalitarian ideal of affluence” where “everyone has an equal shot” at “amassing a great fortune through dint of hard work and ingenuity.”

In actual life, the new Ad Age study points out, “the odds of someone’s worth amounting to $1 million dollars” have shrunk to “1 in 22.”

The new Ad Age white paper makes no value judgments about any of this. The ad industry’s only vested interest: following the money, because that money determines who consumes.

“As the very rich become even richer,” as Ad Age observes, “they amass greater purchasing power, creating an increasingly concentrated market for luxury goods and services as well as consumer goods overall.”

In the future, if current trends continue, no one else but the rich will essentially matter — to Madison Avenue.

“More than ever before,” the new Ad Age paper bluntly sums up, “the wealthiest households will be the households with significant disposable income to spend.”

On the one hand, that makes things easy for Madison Avenue. To thrive in a top-heavy America, a marketer need only zero in on the rich. On the other hand, a real challenge remains: How can savvy Madison Avenue execs identify — and capture the consuming loyalties of — people on their way to wealth?

Before the Great Recession, the Madison Avenue conventional wisdom put great stock in the $100,000 to $200,000 income demographic, a consuming universe populated largely by men and women 35 years and older.

These “aspirational” households, ad men and women figured, could afford a taste of the good life. They rated as a worthwhile advertising target.

Targeting this $100,000 to $200,000 cohort, the new Ad Age report contends, no longer makes particularly good marketing sense. These consumers don’t “feel rich” today and won’t likely “graduate into affluence later on.”

Only under-35s who make between $100,000 and $200,000, says Ad Age, will likely make that graduation. This under-35 “emerging” tier will have “a far greater chance of eventually crossing the golden threshold of $200,000 than those who achieve household income of $100,000 later in life.”

So that’s it. If you want to be a successful advertising exec in a deeply unequal America, start studying up on 20-somethings making over $100,000 a year.

The ad industry, with this new affluence report, seems to have the future all figured out. And those of us who don’t make $200,000 a year, and don’t have much chance of ever making it, what about us? No need to worry. Who needs purchasing power? We have Mad Men reruns.


A 'Flip' Solution to Ending Budget Shortfalls

Karen Kraut, Shannon Moriarty, and Dave Shreve, Flip It to Fix It: An Immediate, Fair Solution to State Budget Shortfalls, United for a Fair Economy, May 25, 2011.

In this spring of mass layoffs and wage cutbacks, nobody can really blame local classroom teachers, firefighters, and police for wanting to turn back the clock a few decades or so, back to a time when America seemed to really value public services — and the people who provide them.

Unfortunately, we can’t go back in time. So we need, suggests this imaginative new report from the Boston-based United for a Fair Economy, to do the next best thing. We need to turn our state fiscal status quo upside-down.


If every state “inverted” its tax structure — that is, had the state’s most affluent pay the same share of their incomes in state and local taxes as the state’s least affluent, and vice versa — the current lake of budget red ink that covers the nation’s state capitals, the new UFE report documents, would totally evaporate.

In a “progressive” tax system, affluent people pay a greater share of their income in taxes than the less affluent. By this yardstick, notes UFE’s new Flip It to Fix It: An Immediate, Fair Solution to State Budget Shortfalls, no state tax system in the United States can currently lay claim to true “progressive” status.

In state after state, this new Flip It to Fix It report explains, low-income taxpayers bear a heavier tax burden than high-income taxpayers.

How much heavier? To dramatize the amazing depth of our state and local tax “regressivity,” United for a Fair Economy has calculated how much revenue state and local governments would raise if they flipped their current effective tax rates at the 50th income percentile — and had each state’s highest-income 20 percent pay taxes at the same rate the state’s poorest 20 percent pay today.

In this UFE exercise, the poorest 20 percent then pay their taxes at the current top 20 percent rate, and the next highest and lowest “quintiles” also trade places.

The result of this fiscal flip? States and localities, simply by turning effective tax rates upside-down, would raise an additional $490 billion, far more than enough revenue to wipe away this fiscal year's $112 billion combined state and local government budget shortfall, with plenty of cash to spare, observes UFE, for “economy-enhancing” investments in infrastructure and the like.

Actually making this flip would, of course, require changing current state tax systems — raising far less income from regressive sales taxes, for instance, and far more from income taxes “graduated” to levy higher tax rates on higher incomes.

United for a Fair Economy researchers are hoping their new Flip It to Fix It paper helps expose “the economically unsound and unfair regressive nature of existing state and local tax structures — and the extent to which simple, commonsense equity can produce significant benefits.”

Or, in other words, instead of cutting and gutting, let’s just flip.

Quote of the Week

“How about ending big handouts for Big Oil? How about making millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share? We can do all that and not decimate Medicare.”
Kathy Hochulupset winner in upstate New York congressional special election, May 24, 2011

Stat of the Week

The estates left behind by America super rich — those fortunes worth over $20 million — will pay, on average, $3.8 million each less in estate taxes in 2011 and 2012, thanks to the tax “compromise” enacted this past December. In all, theCenter on Budget and Policy Priorities reported last week, the December trim of the estate tax will save the wealthiest 0.25 percent of all estates $23 billion in 2011 and 2012.

New Wisdom
on Wealth

Mark Provost, Why the Rich Love High Unemployment. Truthout, May 24, 2011. For CEOs and wealthy bondholders alike, the more jobless, the merrier.

David Leonhardt, Top Colleges, Largely for the EliteNew York Times, May 24, 2011. On the most prestigious U.S. campuses, students from affluent families far outnumber students from low- and middle-income households.

Mark Engler, A Fair Tax on MillionairesNation, May 30, 2012. A solid survey of the current tax-the-rich landscape across the United States.