pokemon go mob

Yesterday I was walking down Assiniboine Avenue here in Winnipeg, past the Legislative grounds, where often many Pokemon Go players gather. Indeed on a couple occasions, I, as a casual player, have hung out here as well.

This time I was just passing through on my way home from the grocery store. In the short time it took me to walk through, I heard several other people who were passing by make loud derisive comments to or about the people playing. Comments about how stupid it is, how stupid the people playing it are, how it’s sad that they have nothing better to do with their time.

Image: Chris Zacchia
Image: Chris Zacchia

As I walked further I got kind of angry. What right do these people have to judge? This is something that makes people happy, gets people out to have fun, brings people together. Why the hate? It’s a hobby.

Just because it’s not your thing, why do you have to try to spoil it for those who enjoy it? Then I got thinking about it a little more, and realized that this isn’t any different than people shitting on any other hobby, it’s just new, so people are more vocal about it at this moment. And I realized the sad fact that literally EVERYBODY does it. This is just what people do.

I guarantee every person complaining about how much they’re being judged for playing Pokemon is guilty of judging other people for doing things that they like doing.

In recent years I’ve noticed an especially vitriolic movement among people who don’t like sports to wear their ignorance of sports as a proud badge, to ironically talk about “sportsball”, and assume that all people who like watching sports are ignorant uneducated brutes, and brand them as such.

It’s the same thing I’ve seen with people who are militantly smug about how they don’t watch TV, because according to them TV is an evil, brain-killing thing that has no redeeming qualities, and anyone who is stupid enough to fall under its spell deserves to have their mind rotted out because they’re intellectually weak.

I could go on and on about the things I’ve heard people straight up hate on for no reason other than they personally aren’t interested in it; reading books, being a foodie, playing board games, and dozens of other things that people just do because they enjoy them.

We’ve all done it. I’m certainly not innocent of doing it. But I’m trying to be better. Everybody has things they like doing, so let’s just fucking let people do them without all the criticism.

Go catch Pokemon. Go play fantasy football. Go knit. Go watch superhero movies. Go birdwatching. Go collect records or porcelain dolls or insects or stamps. Go play basketball. Go play Magic. Your hobby isn’t any better or more valid than anyone else’s. And if you think it is, you’re an asshole.

Y’know what makes you just as much of an asshole, though? Criticizing other people’s interests just because people have been criticizing yours.

* Featured Image: Pokemon GO players in Cabot Square, Montreal by Elizabeth Ann Keenan

bowie internet interview 1999

The internet has been mourning and remembering David Bowie ever since news of his passing broke a week ago. Amidst all the sharing of classic Bowie tunes, astonishment at his latest video being a farewell (a performer to the end), personal tributes (like the one FTB’s Cat McCarthy did) anecdotes, musical tributes, Labyrinth nostalgia and his latest album going to number one in the US (something no Bowie album had done before) something caught my attention.

It was a video of a 1999 interview with Bowie by the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman. The conversation turned to the Internet, still a relatively new phenomenon at the time. This was when AOL still shipped CDs and many people still thought it was a fad or simply an emerging platform with which to get pretty much the same content.

Bowie had a different idea. He thought the Internet would fundamentally change the relationship between performer and audience. Over 16 years later, it’s clear he was right.

David Bowie’s enormous talent and creativity were a huge part of his success. His willingness to set trends instead of following them, all the while constantly reinventing his public persona, made it possible for him to have a cultural impact for decades. This much is widely known.

There was, however, a somewhat less known key to his prolonged influence. It was his mind. In particular, his ability to understand our culture on a fundamental level and see just where it was headed. If you want proof, just watch this video:

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This fall, I began working tangentially in the tech industry coordinating volunteers, who inspire and empower kids by teaching them to code, for a local non-profit called Kids Code Jeunesse. In light of recent and troubling events making headlines and spreading like wildfire over social media, I thought it necessary to speak with local #WomenInTech and hear about their perspectives and to discuss gender in the Tech and Gaming industry, and mostly, to learn from them, for myself and my work, and to share that knowledge with others.

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Carolyn Jong

Firstly, I spoke with Carolyn Jong, who is an organizer at the Mount Royal Game Society and a member of the Technoculture, Art, and Games Research Centre. Jong has been involved in many projects including making games of her own, and looking at intersectionality in gaming cultures. She is also an active member of Montreal’s indie game community.

A few days before we met for the interview, Jong hosted a discussion on recent events, including threats of a massacre at a feminist speaking event on the topic of gaming that would be given at a school, and about the “hate and harassment campaign,” also known as #GamerGate, with its persecution of game designer Zoe Quinn and others. Jong felt that there was a need for local collective conversation about what had been happening.

According to Jong, in terms of discussing issues affecting women in tech and games, there is a whole gamut of reactions. Some people recognize the issues and work towards addressing them while, on the other end of the spectrum, there seem to be two types of reactions: one of dismissal (“There are no issues!”) and another of a more aggressive nature.

Jong noted the irony of the dismissive response, which forces those seeking to address gender issues to keep close tabs on research and statistics, in order to demonstrate the “realness” of an issue that they may have experienced first hand. On the other hand, the more aggressive reaction is linked to power, privilege, and fear: “It’s complicated and part of a much bigger trend. This is a reactionary response.” In her blog post, “GamerGate and the Right,” Jong explores the disturbing nature GamerGate and its relationship with other movements and politics more in depth.

badgeThere are many initiatives aimed at bringing women in the industry together (such as GAMERella) along with initiatives aimed at getting young girls interested in tech and games (Girls Who Code, Ladies Learning Code). Jong has been involved with some of these groups, including the local group Pixelles, and has found meeting others with similar experiences and looking to address similar issues has also been a validating experience.

“For my own experience at least, it has been inspiring,” Jong explained. “These spaces have kind of given me, this sounds corny but, the strength to keep pushing on [addressing gender issues]. It would be really hard to do that kind of work because it’s not something that tends to be rewarded in other places.”

“I’m hoping,” Jong emphasized, “that the sort of push to get girls and women involved in games is going to branch out to include other people that have been marginalized or minoritized in circles. Current movements tend to be inclusive and aware of these issues but I’m hoping other initiatives specifically addressing these groups will emerge.”

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Julia Evans

Second, I chatted with Julia Evans, a Montreal-based web developer and data scientist, who organizes monthly events for programmer women with the Montreal All-Girl Hack Night. She also co-founded the local chapter of PyLadies Montreal.

“My daily experience in this community is mostly of super wonderful people, but for lots of women (and other minorities), it’s not like that. They work with people who routinely don’t take their work seriously or sexually harass them or just exclude them in a series of minor ways every day,” Evans recounted. “The more friends I make, who are women who work in this industry, the more I hear about [how] super competent wonderful technical women regularly get harassed and threatened. There’s a lot of really blatant sexism.”

These incidents of blatant sexism range from the microaggressive and discriminatory, to flagrant misogyny.  Evans cited the blog posts of two women, Cate Huston and Julie Pagano, who publicly left the tech industry or community as an example of the types of issues women face.  Evans also cited as evidence of blatant sexism how Christien Rioux, co-founder of Veracode, dismissed women’s abilities to write security exploits. Recently, the CEO of Microsoft, speaking at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, responded to a question for advice for women who might be nervous to ask for a raise with a statement that they should not ask for a raise but trust in the system to pay them what they should earn. Problematic to say the least. There exists, and Evans pointed to it, a timeline of sexist incidents at the Wiki for Geek Feminism which includes the École Polytechnique massacre of 1989.

For Evans, who is used to the kinds of environments that welcome a diversity of programmers, it comes as a shock to attend conferences where 98% of the people in the room are men. “What went wrong here? This is not what a developer community is,” Evans recounts thinking in these situations. She finds it really upsetting that it would be considered normal to have a conference with an overwhelming majority of men when there is a considerable and established presence of women in programming already. Moreover, Evans nods to the magazine Model View Culture as highlighting the already existing diversity in tech whilst addressing and offering solutions to some of the barriers present.gf-banner

Evans, like Jong, pointed to the importance of spaces which recognize these issues and aim to make change. Initiatives like AdaCamp, a women-only conference around open technology and culture, and workshops like Hacker School where, Evans explained “people work incredibly hard on making sure everyone is taken seriously and that everyone is given an equal chance to learn and grow.” Evans recommends reading a post by fellow Hacker School attendee Sumana titled “Hacker School Gets an A on the Bechdel Test” which highlights the diversity of women and their conversations in tech spaces.

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Forget The Box would like to thank Julia Evans and Carolyn Jong for their time and for sharing their experiences and knowledge with us.

us predator drone

Most people know by now that the US uses drones quite a bit in the Middle East these days. Some are aware that drone killings are frequent and don’t always hit non-civilian targets. But very few get an accurate sense of what’s happening in almost real time.

Now, that may change because of a new iPhone app called Metadata+. Developer Josh Begley, who also runs the Twitter account @dronestream, culls data from news reports of US drone strikes from the New York Times, BBC and other sources and makes that data available in map format on his app which also sends out a push notification each time a strike happens.

metadata drone app

Apple rejected the app, which was originally called Drones+, five times. Now with a name change and a more generalized description (“real time updates on national security issues”) it’s available for free in the app store.

Here’s Begley talking about the app before it was approved on MSNBC. In this interview he asks the question: “Do we want to be as connected to our foreign policy as our iPhones?”

It’s an interesting question. Are people and in particular activists speaking out against the US drone program and targeted killings going to download an app that effectively announces each time one of those killings occurs? Can people stomach having their day interrupted regularly with a buzz from their pockets every time the US military kills someone with a drone?

Will you download this app?

la-noire

This post originally appeared on ForumM.ca, republished with permission from the author

Back when LA Noire came out in 2011, it took the gaming world by storm with its episodic mission structure, facial animation technology and unique gameplay. While the game had DLC, no sequel or similar game has been released that makes use of the formula found in LA Noire. Here is a list of five games I’d like done using the LA Noire structure for next-gen consoles.

law order video game5. Law and Order / CSI / Criminal Minds

I’m serious. Law and Order. Remember back when there were Law and Order and CSI games? Most if not all of them were point and click PC games that never made you feel like you were playing a character from the show. LA Noire, as a whole, gave you the feeling like you were playing and sometimes even watching a detective program, especially with its mission structure. This would be perfect for any of the above primetime TV shows.

4. Dexter

I’m giving Dexter its own spot after the other TV shows because of the potential to either cash in on the under appreciated novels or a potential prequel/tie-in to the program. While a game would be hard to place within the TV show’s timeline, after Season 2 but prior to season 3 may be appropriate with some fill-in-the-blanks needed. It would also probably be the best-selling LA Noire-like game due to the show’s popularity and potential for interesting gameplay mechanics.

3. X-Files

Take LA Noire, add in some paranormal elements and you have yourself something almost as good as chocolate covered bacon on top of a naked cheerleader. Need I say more?

axce3442. A more mature “Ace Attorney” game

A big part of LA Noire was determining if someone was lying and asking the proper questions. While the premise for such a game would definitely have a small market, if done right, even as a downloadable game, it may be worth checking out and could get a cult following.

1. LA Noire 2

While LA Noire had a very mediocre ending, a sequel with a change of setting and characters may be Rockstar’s best bet. While I doubt Rockstar would make a game based on anything else on the list, a sequel to the first game with improved gameplay and graphics has a lot of potential and honestly, who doesn’t want more LA Noire?

 

Coffee town

Coffee Town is the first feature film from the online fun-house that is College Humor. The film stars Glenn Howerton, who runs his online business from his laptop out of the local cafe (commute much?). When he hears that the owner is planning on turning the place into a sleazy nightclub he and his buddies try to stop it.

The interesting thing about Coffee Town is that for years College Humor has been drawing in massive online audiences with their comedy shorts, articles and memes but this is their first foray into feature film. The film, apart from having an all star cast, (Coffee Town is written and directed by Brad Copeland, Arrested Development, and stars Glenn Howerton, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Ben Schwartz of Parks and Recreation, Adrianne Palicki of Friday Night Lights and singer Josh Groban) is following an alternative distribution model. By-passing theatrical release, the film is banking on digital distribution as it’s primary means of income generation. Films have been doing this for a little while now but Coffee Town is the first to rely solely on it’s online reputation to carry the film.

The film is showing this Saturday evening at Just For Laughs and will be accompanied by a Q&A with writer/director Brad Copeland, Ben, Glenn and Adrianne. You can get tickets through Just for Laughs or you can download it via iTunes and other on-demand platforms.

game stop

This post originally appeared on ForumM.ca, republished with permission from the author

Going into E3, I was doubting Microsoft. After debuting the Xbox One the way they did, I thought there was no way I would buy the console and would make Sony’s PS4 my primary next-gen console.

At Microsoft’s E3 press conference, I was blown way. The exclusives shown were incredible: Titanfall was jizz worthy, Dead Rising 3 looked fun, Ryse was a nice surprise and overall, they did exactly what they had to do to put the ball back in Sony’s court.

The only major drawback was the $500 console pricetag. Steep, but not unreasonable. An Apple iMac is unreasonable. This, however, seemed like Microsoft was stepping up their game.

Then Sony had their conference. It. Absolutely. Sucked. Balls. Then, they announced it: no DRM, and $100 cheaper than the Xbox One. After a whole press conference of being bored out of my mind (as I’m sure others were too) they made the one announcement everyone labeled a KO.

Following the announcement, Kotaku uploaded this image. No text. Just an image. And yes, they mock Fox’s “fair and balanced” slogan:

KOTaku123

For me, the cheaper price was the only thing here that even mattered. The $100 cheaper price tag was enough for me to still buy a PS4 first, but bottom line, Microsoft had won E3.

However, everyone went on and on about DRM. The same people who’d trade in a brand new game at Game Stop or EB Games and only get $30 for it when EB would then re-sell it for $50. The same people who love Steam and Steam’s amazing sales were against DRM. Really, people didn’t get it.

You may have seen the viral post by an “anonymous Microsoft engineer” that helped shed some light on things. He states:

Everyone and their mother complains about how gamestop fucks them on their trade ins, getting $5 for their used games. We come in trying to find a way to take money out of gamestop, and put some in developers and get you possibly cheaper games and everyone bitches at MS. Well, if you want the @#$@ing from Gamestop, go play PS4.

The goal is to move to digital downloads, but Gamestop, Walmart, Target, Amazon are KIND OF FUCKING ENTRENCHED in the industry. They have a lot of power and the shift has to be gradual. Long term goal is steam for consoles.

While no one is positive this actually was a Microsoft employee, the bottom line remains the same: DRM could, in fact, lead to cheaper games. COULD. People had written off “Micro$oft” as being an evil, money-hungry fiend and Sony fanboys needed a reason to claim victory.

Could DRM have led to cheaper prices for games? I’d like to think so. While others deny, the fact remains: we’ll never know.

Microsoft’s decision to backtrack on DRM was the result of their complete failure to communicate with gamers and the backlash that came with it.

Dexter Hannah McKay

Dexter is in its 8th and final season with only 10 episodes left. With speculation on how the series will play out running high amongst fans, ForumM has uncovered that IMDB lists Lauren Velez as Capt. Maria LaGuerta in episode 4, Scar Tissue. Could this be a return in the form of a video tape or flash back? Let’s wait and find out. Also, for those wondering when Yvonne Strahovski returns as Hannah McKay, the answer is episode 6, A Little Reflection.

This isn’t the first time IMDB has helped uncover spoilers and returns ahead of time for those seeking Dexter spoilers. Back in 2011, IMDB listed Christian Camargo returning as Brian Moser for the 6th episode of season 6, Just Let Go.

Worth noting, IMDB does not list Yvonne Strahovski after episode 9. Could this be her final appearance?

Also, on a final note casting-wise: episode 11 lists Kevin Brief playing a boat buyer. Does this mean that Dexter will attempt to sell his boat, The Slice of Life?

Check out my other predictions for Dexter season 8.

* This post originally appeared on ForumM.ca. Republished with permission from the author.

rehtaeh1

I was having a really shitty week. My mind-numbing office job was driving me crazier than usual, my sinuses were completely plugged, causing a massive headache and I had an unexpected call regarding a four hundred dollar bill that I have absolutely no way of paying. And then I saw a post on Facebook with a picture of a bright-eyed, smiling teenage girl named Rehtaeh Parsons standing in front a lake with her dog. I read her story and bawled my eyes out at the kitchen table.

The 17-year old was gang-raped by four boys, then taunted and cyber bulled about it to the point where she took her own life earlier this week. Somehow, even though photos of the crime were widely circulated at Rehtaeh’s school, the police decided there wasn’t enough evidence to charge the rapists. This devastated the Parsons family, who called it a slap in the face.

Rehtaeh descended into a deep depression after the rape. “She was never left alone. She had to move out of her community. Her friends turned against her. People harassed her. Boys she didn’t know started texting her and Facebooking her, asking her to have sex with them since she had sex with their friends. It just never stopped,” her mother Leah said in an interview on CBC’s Maritime Noon radio show.

After the tragic tale made international headlines, the hacker collective Anonymous got involved. They tracked down the identities of the guilty parties in matter of hours, with a combination of internet sleuthing and character witnesses:

“Dozens of e-mails were sent to us by kids and adults alike, most of whom had personal relationships with the rapists. Many recalled confessions made by these boys blatantly in public where they detailed the rape of an inebriated 15-year-old girl,” they wrote in a statement on April 11th.

anonymousInstead of outing the guilty parties and leaving them vulnerable to vigilante justice, Anoymous used the names as bargaining chips, putting pressure on the Nova Scotia justice system to reopen the case or else they would make the rapists’ identities public.

Nova Scotia police finally caved to the pressure, releasing a statement on Friday that the case would be reopened. They denied that it was because of pressure from an outside source, claiming instead that a person had come forward to them with new and credible information.

It makes me incredibly sad that we live in a world where something like that could and will continue to happen. As if being physically violated wasn’t bad enough, to have everyone know about it, see pictures of it and question your version of the events is enough to break anyone, especially a sensitive, compassionate teenage girl. But it also makes me angry to know that for every case like this that makes the news, there are probably tens, hundreds or thousands that don’t.

The most touching tribute of all was from Rehtaeh’s father on his blog. In life, Retaeh Parsons couldn’t get away from her reputation and her father hopes that she will be remembered for more than just her victimhood.

“I had to write something about this. I don’t want her life to defined by a Google search about suicide or death or rape. I want it to be about the giving heart she had. Her smile. Her love of life and the beautiful way in which she lived it.”

PledgeMusic logo

Benji Rogers, founder and CEO of Pledge Music, kindly sat down with us to explain how he plans to revolutionize the way that artists and fans interact by allowing fans access to the creative process of music making. Pledge Music is not equivalent to a crowd-funding company. They bring something unique and valuable to artists and fans alike. Read about how they deliver their unique and tailored service:

Can you start by telling us about what you’re doing at Pledge Music, a brief rundown of how you help artists and what the benefit is to both sides.

I was an artist myself and I made five albums over about nine or ten years. I was obsessed by the fact that fans wanted to be a part of what I was doing as an artist and what my band was doing. It was very much a participatory thing. When I was going into a town, they’d be like, “don’t stay at a hotel, come stay with us, we’ll make you dinner.”

What we found was that if you offered fans a kind of online version of that experience, I always thought in my head, if fans could be a part of that wherever they are in the world, that would be kinda cool. I was lying in bed one night, and saw in my head, artists, fans, charities. So the concept was, rather than say, “buy my album, it’s coming out August seventh,” we say, “pledge here to be a part of the making of my album.”

And from day one you get access to a special part of the site that has on it rough mixes, live tracks, demos, video blogs.  It tells a story of the album as it’s being made. And private video blogs. It’s not just posting on You Tube. It’s private for the pledgers. At the end of it, if you make more that what you needed, a part of the profits can go to a charity of your choice.

So the artist wins because they get the fans involvement early.  The fans win because they get to see this process unfolding. The charity wins because someone shows up with a cheque.  And within that, the producer, the engineer, the manager, everyone else gets something because it’s not reliant on selling it all after the fact.

We often get compared to crowd-funding companies, which are like, “please give us something, we will go make something and then we will deliver it to you at a different time.” To me that’s just another form of consumer commerce, if you will. But if you say to the fan, “we’re going to go into the studio today and as we do that, at the end of every day or every couple days, we’re going to share something with you.”

We’ve got an iPhone app that literally says, “hey, I’m in the studio. Come check it out, I’m going to beat my drummer over the head with a stick because he can’t keep time. We’ve had a great day, have a listen.” Then it auto-feeds the artist’s account on Facebook and Twitter. If I’m a fan, that same update can feed my Facebook and Twitter, so what you end up seeing is a thirty second clip and you can pledge to see the rest of it.

Really I think what it was, was I think there’s a place in music for just selling to consumers. But what the industry has never addressed is how to sell to fans. Fans are the ones that want to be a part of something larger than just the moment that they go into a shop and buy.

There’s still a place for retail. There’s still a place for labels. What we try to do is build a tool that means an artist and fan can have a direct connection and that the label can also use this tool to foster that same thing, because it’s coming from the artist in real time.

benji rogers
Benji Rogers

You can’t go back and have the experience. You’ve got to have it while it’s drawing out. It’s like a gig that unfolds in real time. If you don’t offer that, then the fans simply can’t be a part of it. All they can do is go to a shop and buy a CD or go to iTunes and download it.

We did a study with Nielsen (SoundScan) in the U.S. and what they found was that there’s between 0.5 to 2.6 billion dollars available to labels and artists if they open this method up. All fans want to do is connect. They want to be a part of it. You want to say, “I was there. I got the signed vinyl that says ‘I was there.’” That’s really how I view us.

It’s part crowd-funding because there is an element of reaching a hundred percent goal and doing that, but we never display how much money is being raised because I think it distracts from the point of it, which is not how much is being raised, but the music. So I don’t care if they’re raising $5000 or $500 000. I care about how good the bass is sounding, personally.

So that’s basically how it started and I built a tool as a musician that I would want to use.  I launched the company on my own EP and it works really well.

Compared to crowd-funding programs, we tried to start it as a larger way of releasing music than just a show up and buy it, or fund it and then I’ll make it.  It’s about the participation all the way through.  So we just elongated the way in which you can do this.  Rather than say, “we’ve got six weeks to sell, fund and make an album,” you’ve got six months.

I think this is a brilliant idea because what you end up doing is you get music fans for life.

That’s a great one. You’re right.

In today’s world with social media especially, everything’s happening so fast. People want things right away and if you’re not constantly in their face, there are other things that will come along.

And also think of it this way. If you post on social media, “hey, we’re in the studio, day one.” That’s a broadcast to everybody. What can I do about it?  Nothing. I can stare it, I can comment on it, I can like it, but what have I done?

What if you could pledge on it at that moment? Then, all of a sudden, you know that the album will show up. You bought in. Then all you have to say is, “whatever we’re doing on a social level for everybody, we’ll create another layer in between,” and all you need is an iPhone to do it. We don’t have an Android app, sorry.

Really what I think it’s about is that the artists are creative people. They’ve never been given a tool that is this creative to release music. People who work at the record labels are creative people. They’ve never had this tool to use. So we provide not only the tool, but the team who will help get it done as well. That’s a big key to it.

Apocalyptica-on-PledgeMusic
The band Apocalyptica on PledgeMusic

 How do you choose who you work with? Do you take anyone on?

We have A&R reps who go out and find artists to work with who are at the right cycle, who are making an album or have made an album. We have a sign-up process and artists can sign up on a platform and one of our team will work with them to help get their campaign ready to go.

We don’t say no, we say, “not now.” Unless it’s something racist or sexist, or offensive. We look at whether artists can do what they want to do in the time they want to do it, and if not, let’s not let them fail. Let’s work with them to get to where it makes sense.

Millions of crowd-funding campaigns launch all the time and die because no one takes the time to just say, “that won’t work. That’s just not possible.”  I didn’t want to do that.

How does it benefit Pledge Music as a company?

We commission whatever comes into the platform and the artist owns the rights all the way out. We take fifteen percent and that includes the credit card processing fee. So it’s slightly more expensive that other straight crowd-funding companies, but what you get for that is us and we’re the guys that help make it happen.

It’s been a good year. We saw 176% increase in pledges! Our CFO said that to me. I think that’s good.

Wow!  I’ve never run a business, but I’d hazard a guess that that’s extremely good. Geographically who do you take on?

Global. Anywhere where credit cards or PayPal can be used, we operate there.

So all languages? All genres?

All genres. We have a Spanish version of the site, a German version of the site and English. I’ve been talking to a lot of people about how we’re going to grow and give Canada what they need to work, but then we have to do a French Canadian version of the site. If you know anyone! I’m a big ice hockey fan too.

What are hoping to achieve from this point forward?

I think there’s not going to be one album in the next twenty years that wouldn’t have a better experience for everybody involved if it had Pledge as part of it. So my goal is that all albums begin their life in this way. With me being a part of it. With me being able to be a part of it as a fan.

It’s not working the way it is. It’s not effective anymore. You can’t just say “go buy stuff in shops, go buy stuff on the internet.” That’s not working. So we have to reinvent the way in which music and art gets to be built.

People who have done crowd-funding campaigns have said they feel bad going back to the well. My thing is abolish any concept of the well.

Do you stop making albums because the last one was the best you’re ever going to get? No. You just make a better campaign, a better way of doing things.  Our job is to help with that.

Got it back!!!

The next time someone asks me if they should travel through South America for four months or more, I will respond with another question: “Are you prepared to lose everything?” Despite bringing along my Macbook Pro, iPod Touch and Canon DSLR Camera, I really felt mentally prepared to lose everything for the sake of world experience. After all, they are just things. I even left my iPhone at home in Canada with the idea that even if they took everything else from me, at least I’d have that. However, despite my preparation, losing stuff sucks!

Below find a tale, not about loss, but about an outstanding couple, a thief, and the power of social media. By the end, it might just restore your faith in humanity, I know it did mine.

First things first: why the hell would I bring all that technology to South America of all places? Well, without this technology I wouldn’t have been able to keep this column on Forget the Box, make a wacky video about Carnaval, take a leading role in the development of the Bolivian Express magazine, write a freelance article about the End of Capitalism in Bolivia, or keep a personal blog as much as I did.

Why the hell would I travel by myself? At least with people you might have more security. Another good question, but I feel that if I wasn’t alone, I wouldn’t have the freedom to meet such incredible people like Damian Martone, the friendly Argentinian graphic designer who allowed me to stay in his apartment for over a week in Buenos Aires through the networking site CouchSurfing or Bruno Beserra, the flight attendant from Brazil who made the video of Carnaval with me and lent me his camera for the rest of my trip.

But all this journalism, travelling and partying can be taxing on the body, so since Carnaval I pledged to limit my drinking and start to run everyday. I kept to my word on the morning of Sunday, March 3rd and hauled myself out of bed at 8 am after a sober Saturday night for my morning run. In my morning drowsiness I accidentally bumped the foot of an Argentinian man sleeping above me in the 10-person dormitory in Salvador, Brazil and woke him up.

“I’m going to Praia do Forte!” he told me confidentially in Spanish as he started to pack his bag. “Cool!” I responded, having been to the nearby beach a few days prior. “There is an amazing, tranquil beach with no people and white sand if you continue walking from the main beach for 10 minutes. You have to go there!” Appearing delighted by the recommendation he agreed to go. I then locked my locker with all my valuables inside of it, took the key and set off on my run.

When I returned 45 minutes later, I saw the Argentinian on the way out, exchanged a friendly “Chow!” and went to unlock my locker. There, I discovered that my MacBook Pro and the Nikon point + shoot digital camera that Bruno had lent me were missing! Fortunately, however, everything else including my passport was there.

Before the embarrassment, disappointment and general bummed out feeling hit, I just felt confused as to how those items were stolen. I always make sure to lock my locker even if it is for a second to go to the bathroom.

Who could have done this!?

Immediately my mind shifted to the friendly Argentinian. He did rush out and he was probably the only person who saw me open my computer on that morning and could have been fast/sneaky enough to nab it, but there was no evidence to prove this. Where’s Dexter when you need justice!?

Justice had a rough start. At the police station nearby, the casually dressed policeman did not speak a word of English. Less than three words into my explanation in Portuguese (slow and choppy, but I know it made sense) the officer wrote “Pelourinho” (the name for the historic centre) on a piece of paper. Apparently in Pelourinho there is a tourist police station where they speak English.

Of course when I got there, both employees did not speak a word of English. One of them spoke broken French. It’ll do.

In the meantime, a beautiful Uruguayan couple living just north of Salvador named Veronica and Nicolas decided to make a surprise visit to the city to visit Nicolas’ sister.

Unprepared for their arrival, Nicolas’ sister was in the process of interviewing an Argentinian named Rodrigo about renting out her apartment. Rodrigo and the couple got to talking… The couple works with computers, Rodrigo has a new MacBook Pro (wonder where he got it…). Que buena suerte (such good luck) he must have thought! They can wipe the computer’s hard drive and it’ll be just like he never stole it! Having never touched a MacBook before, he asked Veronica and Nicolas to show him where the CD eject button was so that he could take out his Bob Marley CD.

Rodrigo went to the beach and left the computer with the couple with hopes that it would be all ready when he came back.

Suspicious of the odd request to wipe my computer’s content, Veronica and Nicolas took a peek online where she found my Facebook signed in with my photos. If that wasn’t proof enough that this computer was freshly stolen, they saw my full name displayed in the top right hand corner of the screen.

So here’s me sitting at the tourist police station awaiting a police report that a snail could have preformed faster, while Veronica is on my Facebook posting a status to contact me because I had been robbed.

When Rodrigo got back, Nicolas would not let the thief back in to get the stolen computer. He asked Rodrigo for the camera too, but the Argentinian wouldn’t give that back, nor the SD card. After about 15 minutes of arguing he finally left, without my computer!

Main Status

It was only by chance that I found out about the status, despite some of my friends’ best efforts to contact me through email or Facebook. I had no access to Internet because it was a Sunday and nothing was open.

I was eager to set off for Lencois, a nearby tourist town, to get rid of the bad energy I was feeling in Salvador, but had to wait for my police report – which would take another two hours because the lady writing it was hungry and wanted lunch! Ahem, wasn’t there a crime to solve!? This no-pressure attitude while handling necessary services is something that Salvador and Brazil’s Bahia province is infamous for.

While I waited upset and with thoughts of my retreat home to Canada out of disappointment, I went to a nearby hostel to visit a Canadian friend. She wasn’t there, but her boyfriend Pedro who works at the hostel was. Reluctantly, I told him the embarrassing news – that I had apparently left my locker and lost my computer and camera.

“Dude!,” the Brazilian told me in his perfect colloquial English accent. “You didn’t see your Facebook status? Someone found it and they want to meet up!”

Huh!? This must be a joke! My first instinct was to laugh.

I went to look and alas, there on Facebook, was my own status updated with all the information I needed to contact Veronica and Nicolas!

Veronica truly went above and beyond to get a hold of me. She messaged Damian, the Argentinian from CouchSurfing and called the hostel to get a hold of me.

Veronica tried diligently to find me

They also took photos and posted them on my own wall to prove that they had the computer.

Proof!

The comments on Facebook were filled with heart warming messages from family and friends from all walks of life. “Good things happen to good people,” said a friend I knew from high school, but hadn’t seen in over five years. “Well today officially became the shitiest day of the year…! At least Joel Balsam’s story still gives me faith in the world!” read a status of a former teammate from the French Jeux de la Communications.

I called Veronica. No answer.

I went to message a close friend of mine on Pedro’s computer to express my shock and suddenly I was typing my own name in chat, but I really wasn’t… Veronica was also logged in to Facebook and was communicating with me through the same message!

See how the conversation immediately changes as a third party enters the conversation
See how the conversation immediately changes as a third party enters the conversation

Didn’t Facebook used to sign you out if you were signed in at two different locations?

Anyway, Veronica messaged me the address and I punched it into Google Maps. Ready to head out the door, Pedro, the guy who worked at the hostel stopped me. “Dude, that’s in the worst and most dangerous part of the city.” Crap! Salvador is already pretty dangerous, so I could only imagine what the locals would do to a white gringo like me. Hopefully, a white gringo with his Macbook.

A closer search on Google Maps found the same street in a completely different part of the city. Relief.

Two hours later by bus and taxi I arrived to Veronica and Nicolas’ huge condominium and rang the doorbell. Finally, I would meet face to face with the saints that found my computer! But… you guessed it… they weren’t there! Crap, I thought as I looked out the window. I was in some strange place and still unsure if this was all real. Seconds later, a happy couple looked up at me from the street and said “hoy!” I knew it was them!

I sat at their kitchen table, still numb from the whole experience as they related the wild story back to me of how they encountered Rodrigo and hustled the computer back for me. Soon, we got to laughing and talking about each others’ lives.

Got it back!!!

If it wasn’t enough that they saved me the grief and expense of buying a new computer, Nicolas offered me an old shirt as a keepsake to take with me on my journeys.

Kickin butt!
Kickin’ butt!

I took Veronica and Nicolas out for pizza dinner and drinks and they offered me a place to stay when I come back from Chapada Diamantina, a nearby national park. And, Veronica wants to teach me to surf! How could I say no?

So, there you have it. There are good, even great people out there! Something I will tell the grandkids.

What would you have done?

All in a day’s travels!

orcs must die 1

I’m a huge fan of indie productions. Books, movies, music, video games–indie just screams innovative and against the grain. Indie doesn’t necessarily mean lower quality, but it does mean that it doesn’t employ the proven “formula” used by industry giants. Personally, I’m very anti-formula, both in what I create, and what I enjoy.

Want to start enjoying some indie games? Fortunately, Steam is swarming with them. Inexpensive, cross-platform (some will even run on Linux!) and with great replay value to boot.

Defense Grid: The Awakening

I’ve logged almost 200 hours on this simple to learn, yet difficult to master tower defense game. Defeating waves of aliens with high-tech towers has never been so fun. The AI helper is decidedly British and amusing, while the game play is intuitive and captivating. Did I mention that they recently raised a metric crapton on Kickstarter to make a sequel?

defense grid

 

Sanctum

Imagine a first person shooter and a tower defense game got married and had little game babies. Sanctum is that baby. The player character is female, which is a huge plus. While the graphics are a little primitive, there’s good fun to be had, and a great deal of replay value. If you make it to the Yogscave map, prepare yourself for being mercilessly mocked by the game. Nothing says “I’m a screw up” like a pre-recorded message taunting you after a particularly disastrous wave.

sanctum.1

 

Orcs Must Die!

There are so many kinds of love I have for this game. The amazingly stupid main character. His constant idiotic vocalizations. The voice in his head. Lots and lots of orcs to kill. It’s a cross between tower defense and an over the shoulder shooter, with plenty of traps, weapons and abilities to keep you playing. “It’s like catnip, but for orcs!”

Orcs Must Die

Nation Red

There are a few maps, lots of guns, power-ups, and even more zombies. A simple, straightforward way to blow off some steam. While it’s a top-down shooter and the gameplay options are limited, coop is a great way to spend time with technologically limited friends and family while still getting some quality zombie killing time.

It’s the zombie killing that matters.Nation Red

 

Cyberpunk

The cyberpunk phenomena has lead to a plethora of fascinating works of fiction. Enhanced humans, transhuman problems and fusion-powered bad guys are only part of the appeal. The other side of the story, as I’ve discovered, is part of the timeless narrative of character development and fantastic storytelling.

One such example is Shadow of a Dead Star, by Michael Shean. The story takes place in 2078 Seattle, a city marked by its consumerism and abject depravity. At the core of this soulless world is detective Tom Walken, a man driven to seek justice. In a nation where corporations run the police, he is tasked with stopping shipments of banned contraband. One night, he’s ordered to confiscate three living sex dolls – called Princess Dolls – abominations that come out of illicit offshore labs. Predictably, the raid goes horribly wrong, and Walken must submerge himself in Seattle’s vile underbelly in order to crack the case. However, he’s in over his head and between him and his hacker partner Bobbi January, he needs to untangle a web of deception that threatens to engulf all of humanity.

I was sucked right in by this book from the moment I picked it up. The descriptive value is almost cinematic. Painstaking detail is used to describe every facet of this rich and gloomy universe. The clothes, hairstyles, plastic surgery, and even the cars are fleshed out until they’re more realistic than the room you’re sitting in. Suffice it to say, Shean has a talent for descriptiveness. Whether he’s describing futuristic fashions or a shower of gore, you’re trapped in that moment with him.

cyberpunk girlThe characters are also exceptional. Bobbi stole the show. She’s a lady hacker–smart-talking, resourceful and stunningly human. Her dimension gives this story a grounding point, a place the audience can cling to when the story gets crazy. In short, she’s a great, strong female character that the genre sorely needs. As for Walken, he’s a great, driven character who can lose himself in his own single minded need for justice. It’s all he believes in, and that faith is what sustains him until the very end.

In short, the mystery will keep you guessing until the very end. And, you will get it wrong, so just sit back and enjoy the ride. There’s a subtext to this story as well, lurking just below the surface. Social commentary, an intoxicating mystery and amazing world building are what’s made Shadow of a Dead star my favourite cyberpunk book of all time.

Do you have a favorite scifi or cyberpunk book? let us know in the comments!

bang your friends

Do you have a couple friends that you’d also like to do the horizontal mambo with? We all do, but how do you get it across without the awkwardness if your friend isn’t down to fuck. Well leave it to the pioneers of the internet to solve your problems. A new facebook app called Bangwithfriends allows you to anonymously select all the friends you would hook up with, without them knowing unless they are DTF too.

The app is so simple it’ll leave you wondering why you didn’t think of it first. To get started you install the app, then it lists all your Facebook friends of the opposite sex. You click if you’d like to “bang” them, and no one ever knows… that is, unless one of those friends installed the app and elected to bang you, too. If the app detects a match the two of you will receive an email notification. What happens after that is up to you. Bang With Friends is definitely an interesting take on matchmaking but is it worth a try… even if just “for science”?

The app was created by 3 college friends to practice their pimping skills to revolutionize dating (or at least hooking up). They say that the app was simply conceived to avoid some of the awkwardness regarding dating and hooking up when you don’t know if the other person is interested. They admit that the site is not perfect and are working on some tweeks.

how to bang

At the moment there is no way to filter your list of potential fuck candidates so you may see images of relatives, exes and friends already married or in relationships (if you know what’s good for you don’t click these). Seeing your mom as a candidate to bang isn’t exactly up there on most people’s lists of turn ons. Also there doesn’t seem to be a way to un-select people if you accidentally click on the crazy girl from LA that you met during a 3 day rave years ago…

So is this site a good thing? bad thing? or just another part of the internet? Well we’ll just have to wait and see how this social experiment plays out. Do you have an opinion? Do you have a problem with this app objectifying your friends? women? men? Will this app bring an end to the “friend zone”? Let us know what you think in the comments.

solarflare

Blog on Blog is regular feature here on Forget The Box where we look at the best in blogs.

Last year the world was suppose to end. Whether by hellfire, rogue planet (nibiru), asteroid or by a solar flare the earth was suppose to be destroyed, but, unfortunately to the dismay of every weirdo on the internet it never happened.

One of the reason why this never happened is because the Mayans never really predicted the end of the world, after all our calendar starts over after December 31st, why shouldn’t the Mayan calendar just start over?

Since the beginnings of professional prophets, people have been predicting the end of the world but so far to a highly inaccurate degree.

We should just face the facts: The Mayans just happened to perceive time in longer fragments but that didn’t stop most websites from seeing opportunity.

Leading up to the Mayan countdown we saw an increase on the internet of blogs relating to the subject. It seemed every site was in on the “world is nigh” action. Here are some of the best blogs about the end of the world.

NASA

Even scienctists got into the debate as to why the world wasn’t going to end. NASA got so many emails directed at wanting information about December 21st, that NASA finally broke down and made this video for all the “crazies” explaining why the world won’t end.

Best Bunker Blog

Maybe I’m old fashion but there is nothing like a good bunker to get my blood rushing. What design will withstand the awesome carnage outside? Well this blog uncovers the best construction for survival. There’s even a few lavish condo bunkers where you can reside the rest of your life in comfort and ease away from all the flesh eating hordes and temples of destruction. Some are even built around entire underground communities. (Instructables: How to build a bunker)

Car and Driver: 10 Vehicles for the Apocalypse

If the end times are coming, you’re going to need the right vehicle to get around, right? What kind of vehicle would best aid your survival during the final trial and tribulation? Well, according to Car and Driver, larger cars like SUVs or big tank-like vehicles like the Daimler Ferret are the best for survival. A vehicle that says “don’t tread on me… I got an extra tire.” And you though SUVs were bad, well wait till that zombie apocalypse happens, it turn out the most durable cars are the most douchiest.

And how else do you plan to crush a zombie horde without a giant douche-mobile like a Hummer? (Car and Driver: 10 Vehicles for the Apocalypse)

The Best and Worst Dogs for a Zombie Apocalypse

One of my favorite post-apocalyptic movies is A Boy and His Dog about a Mutt that has the ability to communicate telepathically with his owner. The dog was not only the smarter of the two, he also came in handy when trying to avoid radioactive monsters with his handy ability to detect them by scent.

It turns out that the Welsh Corgi is one of the best dogs to help you survive, based “On the strength of it’s size, herding instinct and it’s ability to appear less intelligent due to its cuteness.” The worse dog you can own: a poodle. (401ak47.com)

Best Country for the Apocalypse

The best country to survive the apocalypse? Canada is looking pretty good. According to travel site Runawayguide.com Canadian zombies would probably be the nicest… just saying. And all our open terrain and hunting rifles would probably come in useful. Overall they suggest Norway as the best country to survive an apocalypse. Why? “It is isolated, it has an abundance of fish and deep cold water crabs and it’s population is low.” I also hear it’s nice this time of year. (Best Country to Survive the Apocalypse)

Best Visions of Post Apocalyptic Future

The Creators project has some awesome visions of what the future might look like once it has all ended. They’ve put together some amazing images and short films of what the future may or may not look like including overgrown cities, robot overlords and some awesome cyber punk. Check out this short film: True Skin.

If you’ve got any favorite apocalypse blogs let us know in the comments!

Star wars Disney

As you probably know by now, Disney purchased Lucas Films and the rights to the Star Wars Universe for $4 Billion dollars. The film franchise has been enormously lucrative for George Lucas and has spanned over 3o years. Just how lucrative has the franchise been? Well considering that Lucas made a deal ensuring him rights to the future of the franchise when negotiating the contract for the first film, (which may have been the deal of the century) and has banked most of the money since…

Star-Wars-Franchise-Economics-Infographic-1