Over the last few weeks, I've seen a lot of people sharing the link to Sophie Schmidt's short summery of her recent trip to North Korea [sites.google], which she visited along with her father, Eric Schmidt, Google's Executive Chairman. As I follow a lot of North Korean oriented blog feeds, I picked up on this soon after it was originally published and I quickly spotted something odd with some of the photographs. These were easy to spot in the original high resolution versions, which were accessible after some clicking.
The images she included of herself have very obvious alterations made to them. Notably to the skin on her face, and the area between her lower extremities.
The skin alterations are obviously to do with spots and blemishes, which can be seen in other photos of her trip to Korea, but the other alteration seems a little more mysterious. One could assume it's mere digital thigh reduction and leave it at that, but it's done so badly if so, and has left the strangest of anomalies, that it wasn't immediately clear what she was trying to cover-up (perhaps an unfortunately placed shadow on the ground, for instance).
These two images have since been dropped from the Google page she wrote-up, but are still hosted online.
After spotting the alterations, I tepidly asked Dr. Neal Krawetz [hackerfactor], if he had any opinions on them. Krawetz has habit of analysing images taken, in and about North Korea. Due to some miscommunication, he didn't pick up on what image alterations I was referring to. So I left things lye after that, until some days ago, when I ran the images through Krawetz's image forensics site [fotoforensics.com], which very clearly showed up some of the alterations.
There are reasons why these images have motivated me enough to blog about them now. First, and most trivially, it's "bad photoshop". If you're going to fix an image and try and pass it off as genuine, do a better job of it, or get someone who knows what they're doing to do it for you. Secondly, it appeals to my interests in women [people] manipulating their image to fit in with what they think others want to see. Removing pimples is one thing, re-sculpting yourself to fit a certain notion of size and shape, is particularly abhorrent. You are wonderful as you are, no need to go chopping bits off yourself. We need less of this fakery in general. Finally, and most crucially, it's a fairly clear example of Western hypocrisy. Her piece on North Korea is filled with the typical anti-DPRK mantra you would expect, describing how the citizens are kept in the dark and manipulated by state media. She offers anecdotes on how the computer labs she visited seemed to only exist for photo opportunities. Meanwhile, she returns from North Korea and passes off photoshop' images of herself as reality. It just stuck in my craw, as they say.
This is hardly the stuff of grand conspiracy theories or extravagant scandals, it's just a young woman who is overly conscious about her image. The trip summary strikes me as something that wasn't intended to be as popular as it turned out to be, but that's the perils of the free Internet for you.
Posted at 23:59
Iran vs. America
No point crying salty tears about the passing of Neil Armstrong and then getting all up in arms about strapping monkeys into rockets and sending them into space. In fairness, given that the Iranian launch seems to have been a PR stunt, they surely should have picked a better photo to release. Or photoshop in a smile or something.
Turn that frown upside down!
More on American space monkeys [wiki]. More on Iranian space monkey [gawker]. "Able" monkey image via [pra.org].
I'm late to the game with this one, but better late than never.
To those without a clue, this post is in relation to a recent "scandal" in Irish/UK food safety where horse DNA was found in bargain-basement beef hamburgers [dailymail]. It's shocking because up until this report most people assumed that no animal DNA, of any species, would be found in the hobo-hamburgers. As I see it, having a bit of horse in you is a bonus (no, not up the bum).
The pictures above, are of a German girl who wanted a horse, but her parents bought her a cow instead. She then decided to ride it around like a horse anyway [thelocal.de]. Good for her. And with the money her parents saved, they'll be well able to afford all the counselling fees later in adulthood.
I bring her up as a lot of people, including PETA, made the point that the only reason people balked at the news that they were eating horse is because we find horses all cute and cuddly, and we see them as pets more than food sources. Rubbish. We balked at the notion of horse in beef hamburgers because it wasn't meant to be in there! It's like finding a pubic hair in the stew you made: it's probably yours, but you just can't be sure.
Women love horses don't they? Well some women anyway. I've come across a few that really hate them, but by in large, more women than men will list "Horses" as a hobby. Some go too far though and decide that they want to be a horse. Take this woman for example. She and her boyfriend decided to carve one up just so she could "feel [at] one with a horse" [koinlocal6]. It's reported that they did harvest and consume the flesh too though, so all's well that ends well!
Strange perhaps, but hasn't Bear Grylls made a good living from running around naked and sleeping inside camels? Her only mistake was not selling the footage to Discovery.
This reminds me of a story I read in an newspaper, maybe 12-15 years ago. I think the disturbing nature of it must have kept it stuck in my head. It was a report of an Irish man who was appearing in court because he had gone into a field, with and axe, and chopped a horse to death. I seem to remember that he had no grudge against the horse or owner, but he just felt like doing it. I'm sure I didn't dream it but I can't find an article about it anywhere today.
Hmmm... that's a depressing and morbid way to end, so to finish on a happier note, please enjoy this image of a "Brony Burger" that kloudmutt made back in 2011 [deviantart], and listen to David Christie classic: "Saddle Up [and ride your pony]"
Posted at 00:38
A few days ago, I came across the first image on Google+ [plus.google] which is screen-grab of how a statue of Владимир Ленин (Vladimir Lenin) [wiki] in Ukraine is poorly rendered in Google Earth. Location and photo of said statue are presented below. It reminded me of the Holtzman-effect shields [wiki] used in the movie, Dune (1984) [imdb]. A still from the movie is what's shown directly above. The title of this blog post relates to the film also. It is a line uttered by Patrick Stewart during a scene when the shields are used. You can view that here [youtube].
View Larger Map
We aren't finished yet though. Another thread that keeps all items connected is the fact that Patrick Stewart once played the revolutionary leader, in a 1974 TV drama called Fall of Eagles [imdb], which depicted the fall of three European dynasties at the turn of the 20th century. And by strange coincidence, today is Lenin's anniversary.
Posted at 12:41
There's some sort of rugby thing coming up soon, or currently on, or something. I haven't a clue really, but I'm guessing there must be because Lidl have ruggery-buggery on the front page of their latest catalogue, so I'm assuming there is something rugby related coming.
So, let us enjoy that by admiring these Victorian die-cut illustrations of two female rugby players, printed in 1895 [rugby-pioneers]. Apparently, women may have played rugby back as far as 1881 [scrumqueens.com]. The first confirmed time that a woman played rugby was in 1887, when Irish woman, Emily Valentine, turned out to play for Portora Royal School, in Enniskillen. She even scored a try [wiki].
Posted at 14:47
A painting was revealed and much fuss created... [dailymail]
And then a paddy man wrote some indirect commentary... [twitter]
The artist is a fine draftsman. The image does indeed resemble the woman intended, in fact, the painting is almost a flawless duplicate of the photograph used as reference. And there's the problem. Rather than smoothing over imperfections, age, blemishes... the artist painted reality of the scene. A scene which captures the woman in a candid expression, devoid of pomp and ceremony. This disgusts the common plebeian who see the monarchy not as humans but as immortal imperialists, who are not just the rulers the state but of the church too. For the believers, these beings are the Supreme Governors, manifested by god himself, and as such, should be worshipped as the personification of perfection!
Perhaps those who wanted something else, something a bit more flash and pompous, might look at another "monarchy" and how their leaders are painted. Let's drag out the reliable whipping boy of North Korea, and ask if a Kim Jong-Il fantasy painting is what they wanted. No? Still too drab? Perhaps Kate Middleton in flimsy leathers, tits all hanging out, and carrying a battle-axe is more exciting for them. A nice Boris/Bell painting, mass produced on ceremonial dinner plates, to put over the kitchen door way. Yes.
Another example of why you must be careful not confuse your '.com's with your '.ie's.
I came across all this fun when investigating a link sent to me by atoast2toast [atoast2toast.com]. It's a Bloomberg article [bloomberg] outlining the difficulties a German sex-toy company is having, while it tries to register a "dildo with three balls" as a trademark. Disappointingly, the sex device is not an anatomical model with a scrotal sack containing three gonads, but appears to be the apparatus pictured in the video below.
Kugelsack: "3 Balls - 2 Motors - 100% vibration"
At the start of this video, the host waltzes around a FunFactory shop, popping nearly every dildo into her bag. She is a woman whom likes a lot of pleasure, it seems. We then join her at home where she explains the machines to us. We know it's her home because of the Edward Hopper painting, hanging casually on the wall behind her. They do look like quality products, I must admit.
Posted at 18:30
Ukraine's parliament is known for it's regular eruptions of violent physical debate, and stampede like brawls.
The Верховна Рада України, or Supreme Council of Ukraine, is a parliament composed of 450 seats and one chairman, located in the capitol city, Київ (Kyiv) [wiki]. Disputes arise for many reasons. Last December it was over electronic voting procedures for absent members. A lot of the time it's general conflict arising between Nationals, Communists, pro-Russian, and pro-Western parties.
|Ада́м Мартыню́ throttles Олег Ляшко|
Ukrainians might feel embarrassed about the way their politicians handle themselves in parliament but you really have to contrast it with something else, perhaps with how Irish politicians debate topics in Dáil Éireann...
As you can see from this image taken during a 2012 debate, Irish politicians clearly don't give a shit. They can't be bothered to even show up, let alone start swinging at each other. Irish politics is complete and utter corruption. So we might laugh at the bar-room antics of Ukrainian MP's but at least there's a bit of political integrity and honesty, to getting clobbered over your head for your beliefs.
Images via [#] [#]
Posted at 23:24
Constipation. Sexual Intercourse. Sperm.
"Originally written by ibn Butlan [ابن بطلان], a Christian physician born in Baghdad (d. 1068) also known as Elluchasem Elimithar, the book lays out the six elements necessary for good health and avoiding stress: food and drink; air and climate; activity and rest; sleep and wakefulness, the secretion and excretion of humors; and states of mind, i.e. the emotions. Illness, according to ibn Butlan, was the result of an imbalance of these elements. A life lived in harmony with nature was the cure for what ailed you."
Purification [enema]. Health Building. Drunkenness. Fires.
"[The book] was first translated into Latin, 1258-1266, by order of Manfred, King of Sicily. Illustrated manuscript editions began to appear in the late fourteenth century. The first printed edition was published in Strasbourg in 1531 bearing woodcuts that, in many cases, are models of candor, matter-of-factly depicting the honest realities of our basic animal functions and activities."
Images and Texts via [booktryst.com]
Posted at 21:16
Internet browsers have all sorts of security features these days, which are designed to help protect the user: https, malware and phishing detectors, cookie notices... I definitely think they need a bold new feature though. Whenever you're about to publish something on the internet, that's possibly libellous, the image above should pop up reminding you of the repercussions your actions may bring. Think along the lines of Microsoft Clippy: "Hi there, this is Declan. I see you are writing lies. Stop now or legal team will be in touch."
Posted at 17:13
Computers from the basement: 1990-2000 (+ cat) by Aram Bartholl [datenform.de]
For the last few years, we've been hearing about the decline of the PC, and even more recently, the complete "death" of the laptop. In reality though, this has been a long time coming.
The bottom didn't fall out of the PC and laptop market, it just levelled off to where it was always meant to be. No one wants a keyboard, not the home user at least. Look how personal computers were advertised back in the early days: "You can type up your résumé", "do your own accounts", "write that block buster novel you've always dreamed about". Rubbish, the general public never wanted to do any of this. What they want is to be entertained by their machine. Films, games, pornography...
And so the consumption devices appeared: The keyboard-less tablets, the "smart" TVs, the resurgence in console gaming. These non-pc solutions also get a cynical push from the industry. When a person buys a computer, it usually sits there for a few years, doing everything. If things get a bit slow the person brings it to a repair man who puts more ram in and it stays going for a little longer. This is a terrible business model. The PC had to die. What was needed instead were individual machines for individual tasks. Get the people to buy more to do the same. A box for gaming, a box for TV, a box for reading, a box for the internet. All of which can't be upgraded without buying an entire new machine.
I'm sure in years to come, the PC will make some sort of a comeback, perhaps in a different form, when all the engineered buzztalk will revolve around the word "convergence" and how you need to "consolidate" your devices. Already there is speculation that the iPad is killing off the Amazon Kindle e-reader, as people only want to carry one device "that does everything." The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Posted at 16:50
Some thoughts about Dredd (2012) [imdb]
- I enjoyed it.
- I eventually got used to the puny looking Dredd but not the voice. The voice was pathetic, weak and phoney, like a bad Clint Eastwood impression. Perhaps a modern Dirty Harry is what they were going for, but it didn't work. "I do declare, I am the law".
- Like the 1995 film, the bike design was a failure.
- There's been many different versions of Judge Anderson in the comics, from blue-eyed natural Nordic blonde to somewhat less so. They went with the less-so here. Very artificial looking, but probably better than attempting to pass off faux blonde though, so it gets a pass.
- Ma-Ma reminded me a of a young Hillary Clinton.
- Over saturated colours helped set the film apart from others. Thankfully not another Hollywood orange-blue nightmare. Slow motion segments also helped with capturing the idea of comic book cells, in a film.
- CGI blood was terrible. It looked as if they did all the treatment to the image, and only then added the blood. It didn't sit with the rest of the image. Unfortunate.
- Music surely inspired by Assault on Precinct 13... and Justin Bieber. The slow motion segments had that haunting interpolated slowed down sample-rate effect that became an internet hit a while back when someone used it with a Justin Bieber song. Funny how it all pans out.
- Dredd doesn't take off his helmet.
Posted at 17:39
The iconic 1978 image of Grace Jones [wiki] as depicted by Jean-Paul Goude [wiki] is neither a photograph nor a painting. It is actually a series of photographs, cut and pasted together, with the seems painted in by the artist, to create the illusion of a single photograph. Crafty photoshop' for an image that's 35 years old.
“Unless you are extraordinarily supple, you cannot do this arabesque,” Goude has explained. “The main point is that Grace couldn’t do it, and that’s the basis of my entire work: creating a credible illusion.” He photographed Jones in a variety of positions, using boxes to help prop up her body. [globalgrind.com]
Posted at 03:17
Click for original size...
I'm not much of a gamer, but I do enjoy the odd killing spree. I'm a vintage man usually, rarely touching a game that's been made in the current decade. My regular game of choice is Battlefield 2, which was released way back in 2005. Therefore I can only comment on performance in terms of my own enjoyment (that's what she said).
Click for original size...
In these two atrociously different screen shots I will attempt to show you the difference in quality that I have played the game with. The one above was using a 3.0ghz Penitum D + Nvidia GT8500 (256mb) graphics card. Medium settings at 800x600, with no antialiasing. As you'd hope, the A10 blows that away. Everything up full and 8x anti-aliasing at 1920x1080 in the image below and first image in post.
Click for original size...
And what about the frame rate? Pardon? Framerate, you say? Listen, it's got plenty of frames, ok. Who are these snobs that insist that you can't play below 30fps. Back in my day, on the Commodore Amiga, we'd be lucky to get 10fps on a racing game. 30 frames per second, indeed. I'm averaging 60fps with the A10 anyway, so nothing to worry about.
Wolfenstein (2009) plays perfectly with everything up full*. Arma2 runs well on high settings and looks great. STALKER: Call of Pripyat is a game I might get into next, but I'm still figuring out what settings work best with. The first two STALKER games were always rough on graphics cards if you didn't get everything just right. The A10 is DirectX 11 compliant but I'm not sure if it will be up to much with the features (I'll have to do without that texture "tessellation" or some such shit). I guess the rule of thumb is, anything pre-dx11 will run great, but you need to tone it down for the newer shizzle.
Click for larger...
Of course, AMD say the A10 is unlocked and easily overclockable. Well that's great and all but for the extra few percent I might get out of it, I think I'll leave it. I spent a bit extra for faster RAM modules, because it uses shared memory for the GPU cores, so I think I'll leave it at that for extra performance.
Posted at 23:55
Windows 8 isn't quite the warzone that some make it out to be.
Windows 8 was going to be the most half-baked and disastrous idea that Microsoft ever had, according to some commentators. It would be clumsy, perhaps even impossible to use on desktop machines. "There's too much touch screen for non-screen devices", they said. "You won't be able get any work done. Your family will die and your computer will explode..." If I had one overall negative for Windows 8, it's that Microsoft didn't far enough with all the tiles and touch stuff, if just to match the hype that was made about it. Windows 8 is still a desktop driven OS, but for the addition of a jazzed up Start button and full screen programs. That's it. And believe it or not, I prefer the tiled Start to what was there since Windows 95.
Back in the day, I used to spend hours pruning and organising my Start menu items into a nice tree structure. "Graphic Programs", "Audio Programs, "System Tools", "Games", etc. And I would strip out all the crap like help files, http bookmarks, uninstaller shortcuts... that always appeared in each program's folder. Since adopting the "prepare to reinstall every 6 months" regime, I gave up on all that, and largely ignored what was in the Start menu in favour of a long Quick Launch bar of shortcuts on my desktop. I'm still doing that now, but the "Start Tiles" add an nice new dimension to things, and the icons are added to it when you install a program seem to be done in a more intelligent way (no un-installer shortcuts, for instance).
The most difficulty I had with Windows 8 were the changes made to Windows during Vista and 7 versions, and even those were comprehensible after a small amount of time. The one thing I don't like, and I know that lay-people who don't have a huge understanding of how file associations work are going to be driven nuts by this, is the flashing between desktop and "Metro apps" when certain (and only certain) files are double clicked. I like Metro apps, it's nice to run the computer in a big-screen kiosk-like mode every so often, but being dragged from the desktop when I double click an mp3 is a real shock to the [my] system. It's an easy task to associate file types with desktop programs but it's not something that ordinary users might be aware of.
Microsoft design is still on show with Windows 8. Microsoft's approach to design is a bit like a person building a house from the inside out and forgetting to put in a door, so they take a sledgehammer and knock a hole in the wall. We saw it in XP, where all the fancy colour themes were ignored with the grey cancel button on the shutdown window, a few elements in Windows 8 are a bit like that. The X "close" button in Media Player for instance, it's just there in the corner, bolted on, when in full screen mode.
I would strongly recommend that people, XP users at least, not ignore the chance to upgrade to the latest version of Windows for the [relatively] cheap price of €30*. It really isn't as bad as people make out, you're getting the latest OS features, and you will have to abandon XP at some point anyway.
* They say the special offer price finishes at the end of this month, but I have my suspicions that it will be extended.
Posted at 06:06