‘More Than Just A Game’– Brainscan Review

This article was originally written for and published at Neon Dystopia on May 22nd, 2017. It has been posted here for safe keeping.

In the mid-1990’s, we saw cinema saturated with cyberpunk movies. Some became staples of the genre, while others simply faded into obscurity. Brainscan (1995) combines elements of cyberpunk and horror, to create a unique story about a video game gone wrong. While not a particularly successful film, Brainscan turns out to be an interesting extension to the classic “killer computer” trope. At a time when owning a computer has become normal for your average household, it’s easy to ponder how things could go wrong, especially in the style of a Twilight Zone fever dream.

Upon watching, Brainscan instantly makes you feel uneasy with its instrumental score, and it is something you will notice over the course of the entire film. The electronic music quickly fills any scene with dread, reminiscent of 1978’s “Halloween Theme Main Title” (from the film of the same name) by John Carpenter. Coupled with a dark color palette, the mood is set and unchanging. While the film definitely exhibits a horror-themed, fanciful atmosphere, make no mistake about its ties to the cyberpunk aesthetic. Technology, and our inherent fear in embracing it (as a species), sits center stage for the full run of the story. Likely influenced by publications of the time such as Mondo 2000, we get a taste of the cyberdelic lunatic fringe.

When our protagonist Michael (Edward Furlong) is told about a horror-filled video game that interfaces with a player’s subconscious, he’s eager to call up the phone number printed in a Fangoria advertisement to place an order. His appetite for blood and gore is insatiable, but the game isn’t what he bargained for. Furlong gives an excellent performance, tapping into some of the same themes exhibited by his Terminator 2 character, John Connor, a few years earlier. Michael himself easily fills the role of the smart high school student. He has a voice-controlled computer, Igor, which he primarily uses to place and take phone calls. Red-light-drenched computer hardware spans a large section of his attic bedroom, including an interface to his video camera which he uses to spy on the neighbor-cum-love-interest, Kimberly (Amy Hargreaves). You may call him an introvert, or a misfit — he has few friends and even less family but seems close to his best friend, Kyle (Jamie Marsh).

The bedroom of my teenage dreams.

Upon calling Brainscan, Michael is told about the innovative, fully-customized game and gets electrically shocked before the mysterious voice on the other end of the line tells him that his game has been decided and the first disc will be mailed to him. At this point, I liken Michael to transgressive characters of other films, such as Thomas Anderson / Neo of The Matrix (1999) or David Lightman of WarGames (1984), who transcend connotations of the 1950’s idyllic and its three-piece psychology. In fact, I’d stress that there are a lot of parallels between this film and WarGames — the technophile wiz-kid finds a mysterious phone number which ultimately wreaks havoc on his life. When the first Brainscan disc shows up in the mail, things take a dark turn when Michael boots it up and is instantly transported into the game, seemingly immersed by the “subconscious interface” which creates something akin to an out-of-body experience. In a first-person view, Michael is instructed by a methodical, disembodied voice to commit a murder, which he dutifully complies with. When Michael sees the news the following day, he quickly realizes that the murder was real. The virtual reality has leaked over into the natural world, and the line between them starts to become fuzzy.

The first disc arrives.

At this point, Michael gets a visit from the Trickster (T. Ryder Smith), who materializes out of thin air in his bedroom. Trickster, resembling an undead hard rock front-man, seems to know everything about Brainscan and urges Michael to keep playing until he completes the entire game. If Michael has been a middling character up until now, toeing the line between a rebel and a complaisant, we see him reevaluate his morality as the Trickster begins to impose more and more chaos in Michael’s life. Michael isn’t only pitted against Trickster, but the game itself which Trickster seems to be connected to. He’s lashing out against the technology that has betrayed him but is helpless in combating it.

The Trickster will threaten you with a CD.

*Spoilers Ahead*

Michael is worried about getting caught and reluctantly agrees to keep playing Brainscan in order to tie up any loose ends that may implicate him in his crime. Feeling like he has no other options, Michael continues to kill before standing up to Trickster and refusing to commit a final act. Disappointed by Michael’s act of defiance, Trickster allows the police to shoot and kill Michael. Michael has finally broken out from the game and immediately wakes up in his chair just as he did after playing for the first time. The whole experience was just part of the game, and none of it actually took place. Realizing this, Michael completely destroys all of his computer equipment, symbolically freeing himself of his technological imperative and escapist tendencies.

Complete destruction.

While Brainscan doesn’t incorporate many cyberpunk visuals, it certainly captures the essence of cyberpunk itself. Much like Black Mirror’s “Playtest” episode, we see a main character who seems to detach from reality and chooses to escape into technology to chase a high that he cannot derive from the physical world. While Michael may not fit seamlessly into a generation of young adults who have complete access to information and media, he exhibits traits that make him susceptible to escapist behavior and the dangers that go with it. Exploring his infatuation with high-tech entertainment, we become aware of what can happen when fantasies overlap with reality. Can we expect similar real-world stories to come forward as virtual reality worlds become more immersive and realistic? Maybe we don’t even have to go that far. Is it a stretch to consider that players of conventional video games have difficulty disassociating with them after putting down the controller? Little stops these experiences from bleeding over into our day-to-day lives, especially for the self-actualizing who may be hesitant or unable to make the distinction.

Are you ready to play?

While the premise of Brainscan certainly fits within the cyberpunk genre, the film is not without its shortcomings. Furlong and Smith give notable performances, though the supporting characters are more one-dimensional. At 22 years old, the physical technology we see is laughably dated at times, despite the topical concerns brought up by the story. Brainscan would never win any awards, but it’s a fun guilty pleasure that you want to keep watching. Just make sure you don’t order any video games out of a magazine anytime soon.

Brainscan – 6/10

 

Films to Look Forward Too

Just a follow-up to the last article with some new films. It’s been pretty exciting as some of the ones on the last list started rolling out, and hopefully most of these will make it as well. As always, I don’t knows if any of these will be any good, but they’ve captured my attention to the point where I had to make a note of them.

Let me know if I missed any.

Aaron Swartz – The Internet’s Own Boy
Documentary on internet pioneer and activist Aaron Swartz. Anticipated early 2014.

The Archive Documentary
Can’t find a lot of into on this one, but there’s a “part 1” of it about the Internet Archive (which you can find hosted there for download). Release unknown.

Computer Chess
Interesting fictional film shot on black and white video about 80’s geeks programming chess computers. The technology behind the filming almost interests me more than the plot. Currently screening.

Downloaded
Documentary about digital media and the file-sharing generation. Currently screening.

From Bedrooms to Billions
Documentary on the video game pioneers located in the UK. Anticipated late 2013.

The Gamer Age (previously Beyond the Game)
Documentary exploring gamer culture from many different angles. Currently screening.

Hackers in Uganda – A Documentary
Documentary about hackers contributing technical education and equipment in Uganda. Currently filming, anticipated early 2014.

High Tech, Low Life
Documentary following two Chinese citizen journalists as they travel the country. Anticipated 2013.

Inside the Dragon’s Lair
Documentary focusing on the legacy and history of the groundbreaking LaserDisc-based ’80s arcade game. Currently filming.

The Space Invaders: In Search of Lost Time
Documentary about classic arcade game collecting, but also focuses on arcade culture. Recently released.

UNDER THE SMOGBERRY TREES: The True Story of Dr. Demento
Documentary about the legendary DJ, Dr. Demento. Anticipated 2014.

The Video Craze
Documentary focused on ’80s arcade culture. Anticipated late 2013.

Video Games – The Movie
Documentary about the video game industry and culture resulting from it. Anticipated late 2013.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
Documentary about WikiLeaks and US government security breaches. Already has a large number of negative reviews. Anticipated 2013.

 

Films to Look Forward To

I often have a hard time finding movies to watch these days. I’m a big fan of documentaries, but even my long list of niche interests doesn’t always help me find something to watch that I have a genuine interest in. Fortunately, we live in a fantastic age when viewed from a media-centric perspective. If you look at the number of independently produced films from ten or even five years ago, you probably will not find as much as you could hope for. With low cost, high quality video equipment and crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGogo, even someone with a shoe-string budget can pump out a fantastic picture.

Having said that, I’ve been trying to throw some money at these crowd-funded film projects to reserve my copies for when the  films are completed. I’ve been closely following others which are produced without this aid. At the end of the day, I have a big list of films I’m anticipating and I thought I’d toss them all up in one page for those that may have similar tastes.

Now as I said, many of these films are crowd-funded. Crowd-funded projects do not always stick to schedule, and do not always get finished. It’s sad, but it’s the way of the world. With that little disclaimer out of the way, I try not to put my faith in anything that looks fly-by-night or generally poorly executed. Anything I have listed here appeared solid enough for me to trust them with a little bit of my money.

In all, I am waiting for 27 films to come out (mostly documentaries). Since this is a weird number, I’ve listed three more films which have already come out this year as a “bonus” to give the list a push to a more respectable count of 30.

Hopefully you can find something you’ll want to pursue.

The List

The 6502
Documentary about the 6502 chip and assembly programming. By Jason Scott. In Production, anticipated late 2015

8 Bit Generation
A documentary about retro computing and retro gaming, complete with interviews of some key players. All information about this film seems to have stopped last year, and nobody knows the current status. The domain stopped resolving a little bit ago, and many of the pre-orders are being automatically refunded as they are timing out. Possibly completed, originally anticipated late 2012.

Adjust Your Tracking
Documentary about modern VHS collecting and the VHS collecting community. In production, anticipated early 2012.

Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Long awaited movie for the Angry Video Game Nerd, based off the web series of the same name. In production, anticipated Summer 2013.

Arcade
Documentary about arcades (the places, not the video games in them). By Jason Scott. In production, anticipated lat 2015.

Arcade: The Last Night at Chinatown Fair
Documents the last week of Chinatown Fair, NYC’s last arcade. In production, anticipated 2012

Capital C
Documentary about the crowd-funding phenomenon. In production, anticipated early 2013

Cassette
Documentary on the past, present, and future of the cassette tape from a musical perspective. In production, anticipated early 2013.

Code 2600
Documentary about the rise of the information age and the people who shape it. Currently Screening, no DVD release date yet.

Ctrl+Alt+Compete

Microsoft produced documentary about the start-up scene, focusing on five companies and their founders. In post production, no release date.

DEF CON Documentary
Documentary focusing on the DEF CON conference and the people who make it up. By Jason Scott. To be available as a free download or purchasable physical copy. In production, anticipated late 2012

Hackitat
A film about the politics behind hacking and freedom of the internet. In production, anticipated early 2014.

Here Come the VideoFreex
Documentary about the 1970’s video collective and their archive of tapes. In production, anticipated late 2013.

The King of Arcades
Documentary about Richie Knucklez and his arcade. In production, anticipated early 2013

Minecraft: The Story of Mojang
Documentary about the Mojang studio and the development of Minecraft. In post production, anticipated early 2013.

Persistence of Vision
Documentary about Richard Williams’ lost film, The Thief and the Cobbler. Currently screening, anticipated 2013.

Pure Pwnage – Teh Movie
Feature film based off of the Pure Pwnage web series. Set to pick up after the original series. In production, no current release date.

Reboot
Short cyberpunk film about a female hacker who will die if she cannot figure out the code on the iPod strapped to her hand.Currently screening, no DVD release date yet.

ReMade
Documentary about the maker movement and hackerspaces. In production, no release date.

Rewind This!
Documentary about the home video revolution and our relationship with media. In production, anticipated 2013.

Tape
Documentary about the medium of tape. By Jason Scott. In production, anticipated late 2015.

TPB AFK
Documentary about the founding and members of The Pirate Bay. In production, anticipated early 2013.

Two Hands Project
Documentary about hackerspaces. Being edited by Jason Scott. No release date.

Viva Amiga
Documentary about the Amiga computer. In Production, anticipated 2013.

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists
Documentary about the Anonymous movement. An unfinished version has leaked on the web. Currently screening, digital download and physical copy anticipated late 2012.

The Wireless Generation
A documentary about how people are taking jobs that are solely online and travel the world. In production, anticipated late 2013

Zero Day
A documentary about cyber crime as seen by the security team at Facebook. In production, anticipated Summer 2013.

Bonus

Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters
A documentary about competitive Tetris playing. It’s actually much more interesting than it sounds. The whole documentary follows tracking down the best players, and culminates with one definitive competition to name the master. Currently available for digital download and DVD.

Indie Game: The Movie
A documentary about independent game development. I happened to really enjoy it, though some people thought the interviewees were pretentious. It still gives an interesting look into the world of independant game development. Currently available for digital download, physical copies are available for pre-order.

Video Game High School
Okay, it’s not a film but Freddie Wong co-produced this comedy/action web-series this summer. The story takes place in a video game dominated version of the present day, and revolves around a high school student who gets accepted to the prestigious Video Game High School after killing a top player in an FPS.  The episodes are available streaming online in high definition for free, and DVD/Blu-Ray is available for pre-order.

 

Get Fit with a Fitbit

I’ve had a Fibit Ultra for a bit over a month now, and it’s a pretty cool little gizmo. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, think of it as a smart pedometer. What does that mean? Your traditional pedometer will track your number of steps. The Fitbit, on the other hand, will track your steps, floors climbed, distance traveled, calories burned, activity level, and even sleep patterns. It also has basic clock and stopwatch functionality. When you buy the device, you get the Fitbit itself (about the size of a thumb drive), belt clip (the Fitbit is fashioned as a clip, but sometimes clothing is a bit too thick), arm band, and a charging station that doubles as an access point. The last item is especially interesting: You connect your Fitbit to charge once a week or so, but keeping the station hooked up via USB to your computer will allow you to wirelessly synchronize whenever you are within range (about 15 feet). This reports your stats to their online service so you can pull it up anywhere you have access to a web browser. In addition to keeping track of your daily stats, the online software will graph all of your activity in weekly/monthy segments and give you “badges” for your daily or overall progress.

I don’t talk too much about my personal life, but over the past year I’ve lost 95 lbs from a combination of vigorous walking and diet change. In this sense, I’m predisposed to exercising, which I continue to do often. That said, the Fitbit is a fantastic motivator. You can check your daily stats against goals set up, and you do get the push to go out and meet them. You might find yourself taking the stairs instead of the elevator a bit more, or walking to the store instead of going for a drive. There is even Facebook integration so if you had friends also using the Fitbit, you can choose to share your stats and “compete” with them. Overall, the Fitbit is great for walking/running activities. If you lift weights or cycle, this isn’t the device for you. I tried affixing the device to my pant leg while biking, but this just gave an inaccurate reading. Keep this in mind when considering your exercise regiment.

The Fitbit Ultra

Getting down to the technical side, the Fitbit comes equipped with three accelerometers (implying three axes of movement), which is how it tracks your paces and activity level. Unlike most other smart pedometer devices, the Fitbit also boasts an altimeter to figure out if you’re climbing any floors or hills. The Wireless station uses a proprietary ANT protocol for data transmissions. It is comparable to ZigBee in that it has a “sleep” mode and similar packet behavior for small data transfers.

Fitbit also offers a scale product which acts in a similar fashion to keep track of your weight, as well as a “personal trainer” service to help you plan meals, manage your sleep, keep track of different lifestyle habits, and give you an in-depth report of your statistics. I’m not too into these, but they’re something to think about if you are considering getting on the bandwagon. Smart phone apps are also offered for free to help you keep track of your goals, stats, and dietary habits.

Daily Activty Stats

In my experience, the Fitbit is an all around nice device. A few people complain about the durability, but I have yet to have it show any signs of wear. The display is pretty nice and put under the plastic casing. It sounds a little strange but looks sleek. The Fitbit stands up well against heat, I wore it to a cramped concert that was unbearably hot and the device was perfectly fine on exit. There have been some reports of it not holding up well in wet weather, but this is to be expected. I don’t plan on submerging it in water or anything, but if it’s raining hard out and I still feel like exercising I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to slip it into a cheap sandwich bag and be on my way. Functionality-wise, everything works as expected. The pedometer keeps track of your steps accurately and computes distance traveled (miles), so surprise there. The floor counter will count your floors (not the individual stairs). I’m not sure how it determines a “floor” as a measurement but it works. Calories are a little off since it uses your height and weight to determine amount burned, but it doesn’t make a big difference to me. The web interface works well, and generates helpful graphs. Battery life is amazing, to the point where I forget that the thing even runs on batteries. The sleep tracking is also really interesting an easy to use: You just attach the Fitbit to the wristband and activate the stopwatch before you go to sleep, and the device tracks how often you wake up to determines the quality of your sleep.

I can say that the Fitbit does everything I’d want and expect, and was a solid investment for me. If you’re liking this smart pedometer idea but aren’t sold on Fitbit, check out the Nike+ Fuelband and the Jawbone Up. I haven’t used them, but they’re also front runners on this new wave of devices.

 

 

A Rant on RantMedia

I learned a little bit ago that Obsoleet was added to the RantTV lineup. This got me thinking about RantMedia as a whole, and what it really means to me.

RantMedia was founded in 1999 as one of the first SHOUTCast stations. They have three audio streams: Talk, Industrial, and Punk. In 2003, RantTV was created as a video stream after the release of the Nullsoft Streaming Video codec. RantMedia is headed by James O’Brien (Cimmerian) and Sean Kennedy who are not only responsible for being show hosts, but also recording, editing, and releasing the content. Anything streamed on Rant is done with permission, and any content produced in-house is licensed under Creative Commons. Rant has also branched out into the print world, with an online ‘zine and even published novels. Combined with a loyal community, RantMedia is a full-on independent media organization.

Rant’s slogan is “Don’t Hate the Media, Become the Media” which come’s from Jello Biafra’s sixth spoken word album. The album title itself is a reference to a track on the album supporting the Independent Media Center which provided round-the-clock independent coverage of the WTO protests of 1999 (For more information on this, I suggest listening to the album or checking out a great documentary, Pirate Radio USA, which in part showcases the event.) The slogan rings true with Rant: if you’re sick of what is currently out there, make your own.

I first discovered Rant in late 2005. I was never much into the audio content, but was hooked by the video. Sean Kennedy’s Biafra-esque style and charisma made every video he was in not only fun to watch, but interesting and informative as well. The RantTV stream was also a big influence on me as I was discovering independent internet video, and would later be involved in. I even set up an old computer, a used Radeon card, a VCR, and an automatic switch box from an NES to splice the audio/video from the computer to the cable line coming in my house at the time. RantTV was always on channel 3 anywhere in the house, 24/7.

That was years ago, and though the computer I used may have died, my interest in Rant has not. It’s a weird and almost eerie feeling being able to tune in to RantTV and see myself on the stream. That aside, it is one of my proudest accomplishments. Rant has not only been an influence on me, but many others who just enjoy listening, distributing content, or creating their own.

Even though RantMedia is over ten years old, they are still going on strong. The streams are still pumping, shows are still going, and community remains active. Many media operations come and go, but this is one that never buckles as time goes on. Rant has stuck to its message, and gone on for years with no advertising or corporate interference. It may not be as well known or funded as some other internet media giants, but RantMedia holds a place as my favorite independent media network.

 

Get Lamp (Really, go get it!)

A few months ago, I mentioned Get Lamp in a post about Kickstarter involving Jason Scott. For those of you who don’t know, Jason Scott is probably one of my favorite people. Not to sound creepy or anything, but this guy is really awesome. My first brush with the world of Jason Scott came through one of his many websites, textfiles.com. When did I find it? I don’t remember. Why did I find it? I don’t remember that either. The site revolves around BBS data: text files from pre-internet, ANSI, door games, shareware, and much more from a long lost subculture. Without the efforts of Jason and others like him, a whole era in the history of computing could have been lost to the world.

If anyone knows me, they know I like it old. So the pairing of myself and this website provided hours and hours (probably days and days considering my use of dial-up at the time) of entertainment. Only after discovering this website did I find out that Jason also produced an appropriate documentary, BBS: The Documentary. I’m not going to lie, when I first saw the page for it, I thought spending $40 was completely ludicrous. If you consider that I was about 14 at the time of finding it, this doesn’t seem like a strange thought. After my Bittorrent skills improved, and I found out that the documentary had been released through this medium, I was more than happy to spend a day watching all eight parts back to back. Shortly thereafter, I bought myself a hard copy, and it has been a staple of my DVD collection ever since.

I watched that documentary over and over, and in the meantime Jason was busy. Over the next five years, he gave numerous presentations at hacker conferences, organized Blockparty (a demoscene con), started a widely popular twitter profile for his cat, founded archiveteam and spearheaded a project to preserve geocities, and more recently released his second film, Get Lamp.

Get Lamp is a film about interactive fiction. If you ever read one of those “choose your own adventure” books, you get the idea. Interactive fiction is not limited to the paper world, and shows up in the earliest of computer games from the 1970s. Without interactive fiction, who knows where we would be technologically, considering how the ever-growing development of computers mirrors the interest of people wanting to hunker down and play video games.

The documentary itself is well done and well presented. As soon as you open the package, you will know you are in for a treat. The artwork on the case is beautiful, the discs are nicely pressed, and the collectible coin included with the set is an interesting little addition to the whole experience whether you are a numismatist or not. The film plays out smoothly and is quick to capture the viewer. Though it is not as long as his previous film, you experience an equally engrossing movie, and have plenty of interactive features and extras to keep you coming back as you look to squeeze every glorious bit of content from the discs.

If there is not enough content to keep you occupied, it is likely that Jason will one day release the entirety of the interviews online, unedited. How can I make such a strange prediction? He did it before with his previous film. You might one day see hours of material from a guy that ultimately had a 20 second spot in the final cut, but whether or not this content will actually come to surface is anyone’s guess as of this moment.

If you haven’t been able to tell already, I consider Jason Scott a bit of a personal hero, and I know he has reached others in the same way. Without textfiles.com, I may never have been lead down the path that made me form the IPTV Archive or any number of projects that I’ve found myself involved in throughout the years. Now that Get Lamp is done, there is the question about what the next step is for Jason Scott. He is currently touring and screening his new film, but what could follow is anyone’s guess. Maybe he will pick up on his previously announced third film Arcade, or dive into the backlog of things to archive.

Whatever he does do, you can be sure it is going to be worth noticing.

 

Hackers Turns 15

Do you remember hacking The Gibson? How about that place where you put that thing that time? Last week, the film Hackers turned fifteen years old. Now normally, when a film turns fifteen years old (or more often ten years old) it gets some sort of special treatment with a re-release containing no less than three discs in some collectible tin case with little extras wrapped up in the package. With Hackers, this isn’t the case. The film isn’t even available on Blu-ray yet.

Now, while many people might brush this film under the carpet as a loose end of the 90’s, there still exists a small group fanatics that watch the movie over and over again celebrating it yearly. Who are these fanatics? You might be surprised to know that the people who keep this movie alive are probably the people who dislike it the most: hackers. Yep, above it all, people involved in the computer industry love this movie. It’s campy, it’s nostalgic, and it’s downright entertaining.

Despite this, there are many people involved in hacking culture that find this movie damaging. Not only does it perpetuate the use of the word “hacker” to mean someone who breaks into computer systems to cause chaos, but also detracts from the image with the almost “too hip” feeling of the movie. Personally, I’m a fan of the movie due to the fact that I find it to be very interesting. It plays into the fear of technology and provides something of a time capsule for the mid 1990s. There is humor around every corner of this movie if you know where to look.

Region 2 artwork

Despite this movie being forgotten by film companies, many still strive to keep it alive. For example, Infonomicon released the Hackers on Hackers commentary a few years back. The commentary itself is both informative and comparable to MST3K. There is also a planned anniversary party for those die-hard fans out there slated for next week in NYC.

Who knows if Hackers will ever get a proper DVD or Blu-ray release (Criterion, here’s hoping) but as long as there is one DVD or worn VHS tape, this film will continue to live on at hackerspaces and file sharing networks. Copying a garbage file has never been so interesting.

 

Pioneer One

About a year ago there was a stir of a new movie on Bittorrent sites. This movie was called The Lionshare and got a lot of attention because it was only released via torrents. That’s right, no DVD release, no theater time, just a torrent download for anyone who wanted it. It was distributed by this interesting company (I guess you could call it a company) called VODO that distributes indie films via torrents. Now why you would need some sort of service like this, I do not know. I suppose that this kind of thing may help get your film out there, but I don’t even know how many people had heard of VODO before The Lionshare, and I wonder if The Lionshare helped out VODO more than vice versa. I do understand the need for a like-minded distribution site. It can be hard to track down more of the same genre of stuff when all you have to go on are torrent links and word of mouth.

So as for The Lionshare, I watched it a few months after I downloaded it. I was mostly deterred from the reviews. The minority seemed to like the film and praised it as an honest look into the life of a twenty-something in modern day, but the majority of reviews I read said the movie was nothing more than a bore, and showed the limits of releasing a film in this manor. I got around to watching it and have to say my opinion lies somewhere in the middle. I think that the movie starts out beautifully, but loses momentum before you really start to learn anything about the characters. Without ruining the story, I’ll tell you that a guy goes on a blind date with a girl, and she invites him to a torrent site, and it follows the guy. This might be as far as this reflects the life of someone today. Women and technology are always good subjects, but I feel that the movie starts to get too hip considering anything besides this.

About two months ago, I found another link in The Lionshare’s universe. There was a Kickstarter (see my previous post) project dealing with a new science fiction show released only on Bittorrent. At this time, internet only television has become an interest phenomena. I’ve seen billboards all over the sity for a show released only online called Reinvent The Wheels which looks to be more of a mainstream thing following a niche concept. This science fiction show, Pioneer One, is a television episode by the same crew that pulled off The Lionshare, and I have to say that I like this work much better. Without giving away too much, it has a watered-down X-Files vibe that I really enjoyed, and centers around a strange piece of debris that lands in the United States. The production value for this is also much higher and looks professional, there there are hiccups. After watching the first episode, I was sad that there were no more. The Kickstarter was only made to produce one episode, so who knows if more will ever be created.

So give these videos a try if you see something you like. Both are available freely on torrent sites and I’m sure there are direct download links up somewhere by now. You might just end up having some new favorite media.

 

Kickstart Your Project

There is a site that has been drawing attention among a few groups of people called Kickstarter. Kickstarter works using a process called crowdfunding, which means a project is funded by a large group of people. So lets say I have some sort of project. It can be a video project like a movie, an audio project, art, food, an event, technological advancement- the list goes on. Now, I have my project but it requires a certain amount of money to get started. So I could go to Kickstarter, explain my project, provide some images, and say that I need a certain amount of money to make it all happen.

This is where Kickstarter gets cool. After you say how much money you need, people can pledge certain amounts, and Kickstater keeps track of how much more needs to be funded. This is all done over a predetermined time allotment. So I have my project up, I need $10,000 and have 80 days to get the donations I need. If at the 80 day mark I don’t have the funds, everyone gets to keep their money. But, if at the 80 day mark I have hit the goal or even gone over, I get the money to finish my project.

But why would people donate, and how does Kickstarter make money? Aside from people wanting to fund a project because of their own interest in it, they can also be offered incentives. So If you pledge $25 I could send you a t-shirt for my event, or if you pledge $50 your name gets to go in the credits of my movie. Kickstarter makes money by trimming off 5% of the funds for a successfully funded project. So if your project raises $20,000, Kickstarter still makes a significant amount to stay afloat.

I first found out about the site through Jason Scott’s Sabbatical to complete his new documentary, Get Lamp. I have been coming back to the site infrequently, and noted other projects that I am interested in such as The Waterman Movie, which is based on a popular web series and has been in development for years, as well as a Documentary on “The Thief and the Cobbler”, “The Thief and the Cobbler” being a film that was in development for three decades and eventually pulled away from the director and chopped up into different movie. Every once in a while, a new project pops up that grabs me, and it gets me thinking. Really, this service is truely amazing. There is no better way to reach people to create a niche project that reuires funding. I can just imagine how much more would have been accomplished had this site been around ten years ago, and how much it will accomplish over the next ten years. I also consider that I may one day be able to utilize it. I can fathom a few projects that could take advantage of this as a way to reach people, though they may be a long way off.

I hope to see Kickstarter thrive, and help out some truely unique projects as time goes by. I do have to mention that the site does not take pledges using Paypal because of how Paypal handles refunding. A credit card is needed for now, though other options are being looked into. Check out kickstarter yourself and see what you find, you might be surprised.

 

inumbr – Throwaway Telephone Numbers

I ran accross an interesting little web service called inumbr which gives you a free disposable phone number. At first glance, you get to choose an area code. There are twenty two to choose from, so you’re bound to find one close to your location (if you are in the United States that is). You also get to choose how long the number is active: one hour, one day, or one week. Then you enter the number to forward too and an email address for activation. Pretty simple, right?

After registering I notices I received a number and an extension anyone could call to reach me. I also saw I was given the option to record a personal greeting. It also appeared that I did not even need a valid email address to get a number as I didn’t have to click any activation links. The number was just handed to me in-browser. I went back to the inumbr home page and notices that I could manage my inumbr account by logging in with the number they gave me and the number I chose to forward it to. Here, I was presented with more options for my inumbr.

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I saw that I could change the length of the number’s lifespan between the three mentioned terms before, as well as a one month option that wasn’t there earlier. I also saw that they gave a slot for a second number in case the first was unreachable. After that, there are many check boxes for additional features. “Don’t accept calls from blocked caller ids,” “Don’t accept calls from suspected telemarketers,” “Forward all calls directly to voicemail,” “Do not disturb from 9PM to 8AM,” “Turn off call screening,” “Activate voicemail for missed calls.”

So in all, I got a free throwaway number with a handful of features. This is great if you have to supply a number for something and don’t want to reveal an actual one, or maybe just see how you can mess around with phones.