You've probably never heard of Steve Mann, but chances are that before this decade is over your life will be changed because of him.
Steve Mann is considered the father of wearable computer, the type of 'augmented reality' interfaces that are likely to become ubiquitous in the very-near future , thanks to the efforts of companies like Google and Olympus. The logical next step in the integration of computer technology in our everyday lives.
Yet for Mann wearing a computer vision system is not a simple matter of choice, since the device is intended to improve on his impaired vision. Hence he always carries a medical prescription signed by his physician, along with several letters explaining the nature and capabilities of the technology he created.
For all intents and purposes, Steve Mann is a cyborg.
Yet it seems some French McDonalds' have a sort of anti-cyborg policy, since during a recent trip with his family Mann was physically assaulted by 3 employees and evicted from the premises of this establishment, located at the popular Champs Elysees.
I tried to calm him down and I showed him the letter from my doctor and the documentation I had brought with me. He (who I will refer to as Perpetrator 1) then brought me to two other persons. He was standing in the middle, right in front of me, and there was another person to my left seated at a table (who I will refer to as Perpetrator 2), and a third person to my right. The third person (who I will refer to as Perpetrator 3) was holding a broom and dustpan, and wearing a shirt with a McDonald's logo on it. The person in the center (Perpetrator 1) handed the materials I had given him to the person to my left (Perpetrator 2), while the three of them reviewed my doctor's letter and the documentation.
After all three of them reviewed this material, and deliberated on it for some time, Perpetrator 2 angrily crumpled and ripped up the letter from my doctor. My other documentation was also destroyed by Perpetrator 1.
I noticed that Perpetrator 1 was wearing a name tag clipped to his belt. When I looked down at it, he quickly covered it up with his hand, and pulled it off and turned it around so that it was facing inwards, so that only the blank white backside of it was then facing outwards.
Unbenknownst to the vandals however, they accidentally triggered a function in Mann's computer vision system which managed to capture the whole event.
Go to Steve Mann's blog and read the rest, and if you can spread the word. We just can't let these French douchebags to single-handedly trigger the robot uprising!
As if UFOs weren't Taboo enough, over at the Intrepid blog I've decided to explore the most repressed aspect of the phenomenon: its link with the human libido --it's all about breaking the boundaries, baby!
The Guardian reports that the area surrounding Stonehenge will finally cease to be a 'national embarrassment', by receiving a £27m facelift for the construction of a new visitor center.
Simon Thurley, the chief executive of English Heritage, said: "A new dawn at Stonehenge is truly upon us. Though the stones themselves have never failed to awe visitors, their setting has been a national embarrassment and disgrace.
"After nearly 30 years English Heritage finally has a scheme that will transform the setting of the stones and our visitors' experience of them.
"The restoration of the landscape together with a major new exhibition on site will finally give our greatest and most famous monument the treatment it deserves."
My fellow Grailers, I give you... the new visitor center:
Now I've never had the chance to visit Stonehenge myself, but by the mere look of these computer renderings, I cannot for the life of me find any single way in which this image of "toothpicks holding up sheet metal" —as one commentator at Dezeen aptly put it— could possibly relate to either its location or the historic site it's supposed to serve. How is this an improvement, I ask you?
I only hope the people responsible for this design stay way from this area after this travesty of a building is completed, lest the tourists visiting Stonehenge might find themselves with the rare opportunity to capture an old Druidic tradition for their Facebook wall...
I've just read an io9 article discussing some recent footage that was shown at the Comic Con from the upcoming movie The Host. This film is another adaptation from one of Stephenie Meyer's books, and if you don't recognize her name, chances are you're not a teenage girl with a crush for sparkling vampires.
But The Host won't show handsome un-dead or young werewolves who love to take their shirt off. it tells the story of how life on Earth changes after an alien invasion; not the typical Michael Bay Explosiorama Hollywood is so fond of producing, but a more subtle (and disturbing) silent invasion where human beings become unwilling hosts to incorporeal non-human entities —so yeah, that's starting to sound more promising.
Here's the io9 link in case you want to read the full review, spoilers and all. But the thing that caught my eye is this part:
The alien-possessed humans all have weird swirly blue eyes and a creepy affect, and they love shininess. The alien "Seekers" wear all white suits and drive shiny gold cars.
That word, 'Seeker', immediately reminded me of that great classic close encounter tale taken right out of John Keel's Mothman Prophecies: Woody Derenberger's meeting with Indrid Cold.
In this website you'll find some audio-clips from an original radio interview where Derenberger tells his controversial account. I direct you to the 1st clip at approx 15:01 where Derenberger says:
He asked me if I had to work to live, and I explained him what I was, he even asked me where I lived and I told him, and I told him I was a salesman, and he told me that he was a Searcher.
Indrid Cold indentifies himself as a 'Searcher', which is IMO darn close to 'Seekers', the term for the parasitic aliens in The Host. It's also worth noting that some of the aspects portrayed in Keel's book The Mothman Prophecies, like all those events where witnesses claimed a double of Keel had stopped by the day before he went to interview them, has been interpreted by some researchers —like Tau Allen Greenfield— not as a döppelganger apparition, but as a case of something 'possessing' Keel and controlling his actions without his awareness.
One other thing, which I also find curious: Stephenie Meyer came to world fame thanks to her Twilight novels. And Derebenger said that Indrid Cold's planet was called Lanulos. This word may sound like gibberish to an English-speaker, yet to me it seems like an anagram for the Spanish words 'Sol' (sun) and 'Luna' (moon), which almost like trying to combine the Sun and the Moon to create... a Twilight.
Coincidence, or is Meyer familiar with the Mothman mythos? I guess we'll find out... in Time.
Guess what? Beginning today, I'll start contributing on the Intrepid magazine online blog. Intrepid magazine is edited by Scotty Roberts, who along my buddy Micah Hanks are putting together the Paradigm Symposium, to be celebrated in Minneapolis this October --if you want to meet me on Meatspace, this here is your best chance!
My first post delves into a mystery that, while still fairly recent, has nonetheless quickly become the stuff of legend among the Fortean social networks: Nick Redfern's prolificness.
Yep, I was a big fan of the 'hood back in the day. No surprise there, right? But the actual secret is this —I wasn't watching the program in my Pre-school days, like you're supposed to. I was in my early teens.
And there's a very good reason for this. Believe me.
You see, I liked to come back after school and turn on to PBS on cable —which was available back then along with the other major US channels before Mexican cable turned into a craptastic fest of HBO, Cinemax and a dozen other useless 'options— and tune in to Mr. Rogers not only because I liked his soothing tone and calming demeanor, but most importantly because his voice and pace were easy to follow. And for a teenage Mexican boy frustrated with how little he could grasp of the spoken words in all those foreign programs, this turned out to be an invaluable tool.
So I started to 'train my ear' so to speak as Mr. Rogers took his time to put on his sweater and tie his sneakers. And after a while of listening I could finally move on to more challenging subjects —like Transformers and The Price is Right. By the time I could follow the sitcoms it felt like I had passed the final test.
Yet I kept on watching Mr. Rogers. It simply grew on me. And finally it dawned on me: this man was no ordinary TV personality or educator; he was in a whole league of his own.
This man was a saint.
So it is as a token of appreciation to this wonderful man that I share this video prepared by John Boswell and his Symphony of Science.
I shall always remain your grateful neighbor, Mr. R.
How much is worth that which you hold most sacred?
What is the price you're willing to pay for progress?
The Wixarika nation is fighting for their rights to protect Wirikuta, their sacred mountain. The Mexican government has granted mining rights to a Canadian company which would greatly endanger the Wixarika's annual pilgrimage to Wirikuta. The center of the Cosmos in their religion would end up pillaged and soiled in search of short-term profit and meager jobs.
Fortunately, they are not alone in their struggle.
A collective of artists and musicians are trying to raise awareness of their plight, and to find a peaceful solution that will ensure the traditions of this indigenous group, along with opening sustainable opportunities for the Mestizos living in the Wirikuta area.
Aho Colectivo has prepared the Wirikuta Fest, a musical festival aimed to gather money & support to help the Wixarika in their legal battle.
If you would like to know more about this matter, please click here.
May the spirit of the blue deer prevail over greed.
A sad, SAD day for the Mexican arts.
But he was much more than that: Essayist; editorialist; political & social critic. In short, a true intellectual giant.
I had the great fortune of meeting Fuentes once in person in 2010. My sister Angélica invited me to a teachers congress celebrated in one of the hotels facing Paseo de la Reforma, and Fuentes was going to give the final lecture.
It's a doubly memorable anecdote, because that day I was wearing my finest black leather jacket which I took off once we were seated listening to other speakers, and when we stepped outside the hall --my sister and I-- during a brief recess, by the time we came back the jacket was gone! There's something to be said about the honesty of Mexican educators --or their lack thereof.
My sister was totally furious and was screaming and fighting with some of the organizers demanding that the jacket showed up, or else! I admit I was a bit concerned at first, seeing how I had kept the parking ticket I received at the hotel lobby in the inside pocket, yet once the proper measures were taken to ensure my car would not be allowed to exit the hotel without alerting me first, I was surprisingly serene and taking the loss of my jacket very philosophically. "What's done is done" I thought, and since I had gone there to hear Fuentes in the first place, I wasn't going to let the loss of the jacket interfere with my goal.
The organizers were so mortified --or fed up with my sister's rant-- that they even allowed us to sit in the front row of the auditorium, where I was in a great place to enjoy the words of Fuentes. I even worked up the nerve to ask something to him during the Q&A session; since the focus of the congress was the state of education in Mexico, I wanted to know what he felt about the over-saturation of information in the web, and how it was becoming more taxing to discern between reliable data and pure bunk.
Fuentes' reply pleased me greatly. He said that he wasn't too concerned with excessive information; quite the contrary, between an excesss of knowledge and censorship or other ways to restric access to information, he would always choose the former. I agree 100%.
At the end of his lecture I walked up to the stage, shook his hand, and asked him to sign my copy of 'La Región Más Transparente' (The Most Transparent Region). He wrote:
Alas, I don't have a photo which could have immortalized the moment. My sister was still so darn busy giving hell to the organizers about my jacket that she wasted the chance of taking a pic with her cell phone. I swear to God I wasn't bothered about it at all; the way I saw it, meeting such a literary legend was well worth a jacket ;)
Some days later Fuentes was invited to some TV program to talk about his most recent novel, and during the show he mentioned the congress he attended, and that he was pleased that some of the young teachers there kept copies of his oldest books *hint hint*
Oh! and remember how I said that had been a doubly memorable anecdote ? Well, I take that back: it was TRIPLY memorable. Because guess what? I got my jacket back!
Yeah. Believe it or not a week later I received a call from the hotel's administration telling me the 'person' who "had took my jacket by mistake" (yeah right) was willing to take it back so long as I accepted to not pick it up personally (?) but send someone else instead. My sister thinks the thief realized a person the size of the jacket's owner would be a bit intimidating, and presumably in a not too-cordial mood.
I don't know. I think about it as the Universe rewarding me for putting stock in the things that really matter. And meeting Fuentes was a rich experience that I'm happy to share with you know.
Farewell Carlos. The Universe decreed your departure on May 15th., the day in which we Mexicans honor our teachers; I couldn't really think of a more fitting way to underscore the importance of your career and the value of your legacy.
Descanse en Paz.
Sot it turns out that some weeks ago I received an e-mail from Avaaz encouraging me to start a campaign in their site, and after thinking for a while it turns out that there was something I could campaign for: the preservation of Cabo Pulmo.
Cabo Pulmo is a somewhat remote marine reserve located in the Mexican state of Baja California, and enjoys such an incredible biodiversity that it's considered the most robust marine reserve in the world; until recently it was only visited by a few scuba-diving enthusiasts that sought to find a pristine environment far away from five-starred hotels and noisy Spring-breakers; but later I found out through the radio and the Internet that this ecological treasure is threatened to be destroyed by a Spanish real state company planning to build a giant tourist resort and a marina dock.
You see, every President in Mexico has the unwritten mandate to promote a new tourist resort during their term. Years ago it was Ixtapa Zihuatanejo, then came the time for Puerto Vallarta, Cancún and so on. The idea is to attract as many dollar-spending tourists as possible, at the cost of the local population and the natural ecosystem. F*#ck the coral reefs and the natural balance and bring in the yachts and the golf courses! "Hey mister, you wanna go take a ride in the parachute?"
The end result is that over time the tourist resorts get eventually depleted of their natural beauty, and then turn into ecological wastelands that need to be maintained at the expense of other less-popular regions, like the beaches of Cancun that need periodic replenishments of sand from nearby areas (Cozumel) because the mangrove that protected them from the seasonal storms and hurricanes were wiped out with the construction of all those fancy all-inclusive resorts. But eventually the tourists get bored and the real-state investors move on to the next virgin site to be exploited --with so many coastal areas in the Republic, there's plenty of places to pick from, right?
And now it seems to be the turn of Cabo Pulmo. But I say there has to be another way in which the locals can sustainibly exploit the vast natural resources of the region and attract tourists in a responsible manner, while preserving the beauty and incredible biodiversity of the site for future generations to enjoy.
If you think this doesn't sound like an all-too unreasonable idea, you might want to add your signature tot he campaign, and click here :)
PS: Many thanks to Rick, who seems to have been the culprit for my little campaign's early success. I admit that I kind of forgot about it but now I have more than 100 signatures! Let's see if we can collect a few more.
[UPDATE May 18th]: Orale!! Almost 1200 signatures by now.
Faith in humanity, fully restored :3