IN THIS ISSUE:
iToon on the Mouse Catcher
iPod, Therefore iAm
iToon on the Next War
LOST and FOUND II
Going Medieval on Cable
iToon on Tech Bee
THE NEW WORLD
iToon on Pirate Radio
Have No Fear the internet is Here!
BUY THE BEACHWEAR!! PERFECT FOR SPRING BREAK!!
EXAMINE THE NET WAY OF LIFE
When the White House Press Corps determines that it is News to find out what is on the administration's iPods, then critical media mass has been achieved.
NEW T-SHIRT AT THE CYBERBARF STORE!
Don't forget to check out the
CYBERBARF BARF BAG podcast.
LOST and FOUND II
We discussed the Internet fandom of LOST in November, 2005 issue of cyberbarf. In this issue, we speculate on the apparent technological implications of the show's strange storylines. The premise of the television show is that a Sydney to Los Angeles airplane crashes onto a mysterious island. The survivors have to cope with the harsh reality of being stranded on a dangerous place and having to cope with their own secrets or fears. Everyone likes a good mystery; watercooler discussion and debate mysteries.
On the net, there are various theories on the strange storylines: that the survivors are in purgatory, hell, they really are survivors, they are guinea pigs in some government funded stress project, they fallen into a parallel universe, or it is someone's dream (a script writer's get out of jail free card.) The clues, if any, are hidden within the intertwining storylines like the X-Files or Twin Peaks. Some may be diversions, some may be story myths/truths.
The island has told viewers that it contains several laboratory bunkers, where at least two groups of plane survivors, have found. The source of power for these installations appears to be a geothermal or nuclear reactor encased in Chernobyl concrete. There appears that there was some sort of electromagnetic experimentation at least one of the laboratory bunkers.
If one extrapolates the concepts of electricity and magnetism to symbolic literary meaning, a potential story template may emerge. An electromagnetic field generation within the fuselage is the means to connect the various passengers to a central neuro-grid. A mental wi-fi network that is established through subconscious minds of individual passengers.
The airplane is filled with tired or restless passengers uneasy about their long Pacific Ocean flight to the United States. During this long flight, something extraordinary happens to create a lasting connection between certain passengers. Characters that have similar traits tend to bond closer than ones that have dissimilar traits. Each passenger has their own secrets and anxieties about significant real life problems in their lives.
Hurley is the last person on the flight; he is huffing and puffing as he gets into his seat. Since he was the last one on the plane, he sees the rest of the passengers before he gets to his seat in the middle of the economy class. He has with him a comic book that has a polar bear picture, and he has winning, cursed lottery ticket numbers seared into his mind. He has been institutionalized in the past so his mental condition is unknown.
Walt is the young boy who is playing a game next to the father he really does not know. His dog, Vincent, is in the cargo section of the plane. Walt is under stress from losing his mother, and leaving home with a man he does not know or trust. Fantasy would be a preferred escape to his current reality.
Locke is the disabled man who plays strategy games with co-workers during his lunch hour, but dreams that he could make it on an Australian outback expedition. When he is denied his wilderness vacation to show the world his self-reliance despite his handicap, he is disillusioned and broken. His trip down under was pure fantasy, a means to make in lunchroom game playing real.
We can assume that during the long flight, many passengers will doze off and sleep. Hurley, being very tired, could be the first to go into dreamland. And this is the focal point to explain why so many individual, symbolic and memory images of diverse passengers seem to appear in the island survivor story scenes. Human responses and functions are controlled by small electro-impulses. The brain is a mesh of electric on-off switches like your home computer. When a person dreams, the subconscious mind is activated; here is where a person's darkest fears, secrets, phobias, dark impulses or emotions can run wild. If you add the concept of an atmospheric electromagnetic anomaly affecting the entire plane, then you could have the sci-fi equivalent of a subconscious wi-fi dream network among the sleeping passengers.
Each passenger's personal life history stored in their minds can be mined for plot lines, supporting characters, and symbolic storyline twists. Deeply imbedded in each character's past are demons, vile secrets and various forms of mental quirks that could a therapist's children in graduate school for decades.
The foundation for this sci-fi network needs to be found. In each network, there is a central server, a router, a hub and various connected nodes. The nodes could be the individual passengers in REM sleep. The server would have the program that feeds the storyline and forces the commands, action and reaction from the nodes. It would need to have the imagination components to feed into realistic background settings; fantasy and game sphere realities. The hub is who is in charge of the administration of the game; who gets to connect or reconnect. Who exists and who does not exist in the game field is part of the show's mystery.
The island exists in the collective minds of the passengers who have connected into this game net. The passengers participation in this role playing game is embellished by their own collective imaginations magnified by their subconscious fears. There is a saying that like minds think alike. In the show, it appears that like character minds gravitate toward each other. Kate and Sawyer have criminal minds. That is there connection. Locke and Eko have a spiritual mind, a perspective of faith over science, that has given them a connection. Claire and Charlie had the concept of responsibility thrust upon them, and now each must grasp with their new responsibilities. It is also interesting to note that the Others appear to be a collection of children, like Walt. Children tend to congregate away from adults in most social settings. Children have like minds; they have imaginative role playing experiences. The Others in the storyline could be an adaptation of Lord of the Flies meets Laura Croft Tomb Raider.
How could other passengers see Kate's symbolic horse in the jungle; Hurley's polar bear being shot; Eko's African drug plane crashed on a Pacific Island? Those powerful images had to have been extracted from each individuals' minds and shared with the other characters. Bits and pieces of random memories and experiences are processed together into a collective dreamscape. When an individual dreams, it may seem like a long movie but it actuality in may only be a few seconds; in minutes in dream time seem like hours. So a long flight in dream time could seem like weeks or months. (World War II was started and ended in various three hour movies). Theater of the mind is a powerful thing.
The show's characters seem to be on the same wavelength because they collectively have group moments. But at other times, other characters go off into small groups, like porting to a private chat room on the net. But what happens with people die in the show. Under this theory, that character's node or connection to the story server is terminated. On the airplane, that means that they wake up from their sleep state. How a character can get reconnected taut storyline, or shows up in later episodes (usually as a ghostly imagine in the jungle) could either be a collective memory, or the administrator allowing a limited connection back into the neuro-network. It could also explain why it took so long for the rear portion of the plane to re-connect to the forward passengers. Could Hurley's numbers be this electromagnetic IP address?
Just like human DNA is made up of four components, each weekly storyline is a mixture of four basic character compounds. The mixture of these compounds can equate to the shifting behaviors of the characters. One could call the story compounds H, I, J and K. H for Hurley, because of the elements (lottery numbers, polar bear comics, mental state) that are tied to him from the pilot episode and expanded through Season 1. I for the Island, which has turned into its own sinister character, with strange inhabitants and invisible monsters. J for Jack, the first person to take charge of the storyline and became the default leader. K for Kate, who has the most twisted secrets hiding behind her girl-next-store smile. How these four elements interact seems to be central to the storylines besides the typical themes (good v. evil; right v. wrong; mortality v. immortality; faith v. science.) Just as a mad chemist can throw elements together to create new element compounds (some with explosive results), so could four different imaginations.
Can network system analysis help explain the LOST world? In a typical one-person shooter video game, the object of the game is to score the most quality kills. In the growing expansion of on-line fantasy gaming communities on the Internet, the object of the game is to interact with others, create content, and develop as a virtual being within the confines of the cyber environment. LOST could be the representation of an on-line community thrust into a wild, survivor game environment. The countdown clock of 108 minutes is like a game engine timer; you must complete the task in order to get to the next play level. Failure to execute terminates the game. So the story engine is timed to reset the characters every 108 minutes in dream time (which could be as little as 108 seconds in real time).
The problem with an open-source story engine, the series can fail to live up to the expectations of the viewers. The more questions poised, the more answers are needed; and some reality in how passengers got to, lived and died on the island need to logically explained in order for the show not to fall flat like some series finales (Twin Peaks or X-Files).
Going Medieval on Cable
The homestead cable went out of commission on the Friday before the President's Day weekend. A call through the automatic customer tree led to an automatic message that the company was having analog satellite problems and that they were working to resolve the issue. Two more days pass without any cable service. Holiday weekend, you know. Then on Tuesday, a live customer service representative in India picks up the call tree, and after several holds, says she has to write a tech service ticket. She says somebody over 18 must be at home to sign the work order; and if the problem is with your television, you will be charged. Well, the television is fine (since the outage, VHS tapes show crystal clear on the set). The internal cable connections were checked before making the service call. Two days after (and two days before the service call) there were some faint ghost images of Channels 2, 2,3 and 4. Then they were gone the next day. So Friday morning, a week after the outage, it is the suburban habitat of waiting for the Cable Guy to arrive.
A week without cable was not bad. It was refreshing. It broke a couch potato habit of having to channel surf the reruns to see if there was anything interesting to watch. Instead, it took me to the medieval days of reading magazines, reading a book, watching a VHS tape or working on the net.
In the latter part of the service time window, the tech appears at the front door. As he begins his examination, he starts to pull several cables from behind the television set which spill out like pig intestines. Wow, he grunts, there's a lot of wires here. Well, his predecessor cable company installed the set top, switch and cable boxes. He started to trace the line to the wall jack. He took out a controller that looked like a recycled early mobile bag phone. He got more confused with the apparent results of his tests. So he goes out the back door to check the cable junction box in yard two doors down. He spends some time disconnecting wires and doing more signal checks. I get the impression that he has hit a stone wall. But he decides to run a new line from the cable junction box to the house's cable drop. So he goes back to the truck to get a roll of wire and another tool bag. Then he comes to the back of the house to fish the connector leading from the home to the cable junction box. It is hidden under the clapboard. He comes back inside, and starts to try to trace the four disconnected cables. He unplugs four ends, then starts to splice them together to find a clear picture. First attempt, fuzz. Second attempt, clear picture. The bypass of the set top box seemed to work. He asked a few programming questions, and we decided that the set top box was an unnecessary item. Simplification. That was the solution. Then he tried to reconnect the television and VCR. He wound up scratching his head for a moment; maybe the set top box was the router for the devices. So more head scratching and another round of process of elimination occurred until he said he thought the set-up would work.
So the cable has been restored after a week of lack of service. But if the cable could not be repaired, or there would have been a charge, the reaction would have been fine, take the box. After a week without the tether, one can find other, more productive, things to do than burn the batteries in the remote control. A week without cable was not a jolting culture shock; there were no video junkie withdrawal symptoms.
THE NEW WORLD A CYBERBARF CYBERSPACE ODD-ESY
The Sultanate of Clintonia-Rogstaden
The global on-line gaming experience has quietly exploded into a a bandwidth python of multi-hour, multi-kingdom game spheres. Whether it is the team combat arena, or the total simulated fantasy genre, more and more men and women are using their free time to escape to a virtual world. As a result of our tech guru's prodding suggestion, cyberbarf.com has created Sultanate of Clintonia-Rogstaden. Readers will have a running update of the status of this virtual country; you can peek at the real game pages, or get the backstories outside the game's program. For example, check out the images of the national currency. There will be inside jokes, satire, humor and pulse of a real bizarre country. New features will be added on a regular basis. So check out the cyber-soap opera of nation building here at cyberbarf.com
THE NATION OF CLINTONIA-ROGSTADEN IS CONTINUALLY UPDATED DURING THE MONTH. CHECK BACK FOR UPDATES ON YOUR FAVORITE PAGES.
The personal computer community is jumping on the Macintosh Intel product line. A couple of minor Mac viruses surfaced in the month after the Macworld announcement. Since the Intel chip is now in the Mac platform, hackers will see this a new challenge to the Microsoft bugs that have plagued Windows security. The latest, overdue version of Microsoft operating system is so late that it may not be called Windows, but Door Stop.
Apple's iTunes store achieved its one billionth download. The record industry still does not understand why Apple's system apparently works, while their dated vinyl business plan apparently does not achieve the same consistent results.
How to Build a Better Mouse Trap. Will the next thing in computer technology be the elimination of the mouse? The mouse has been the trusty personal interface of the masses for decades; an extension of a person's hand. Touch screen technology could doom the need for mice in the future.
The State of Illinois is grappling with an energy crisis. The local Chicago utility, Commonwealth Edison, has lobbied hard to change the current utility board rate system to one of a reverse energy auction system. Proponents of the plan state that the local utility had froze its rates for years under the promise of deregulation now. Opponents of the high tech plan state that ComEd would be using the auction market and purchasing from its parent corporation, Exelon. Northern Illinois has had some of the highest electricity rates (it was the number one reason why many manufacturers refused to locate plants in the state.) To allow alleged market forces dictate consumer energy rates in a monopoly franchise system is dangerous. Was this not what Enron was up to before it went bust?
Newspaper circulation figures from 2005 show a double digit plunge in newspaper sales. The bread and butter paper features for a publisher are classified ads and shopping sale inserts. There has been no statistical connection or study to confirm the internet's effect on the decline in newspaper readership. It could be a combination of Internet job sites, eBay, news portals and the demographic decline in older readers who had the habit of reading a newspaper daily versus the younger generation that looks to the web for any news or feature stories.