January 23, 2017

Filthy Frank

filthy frank

George Miller, commonly known by his internet pseudonym ‘Filthy Frank,’ is a musician and YouTube personality. He was born to Australian and Japanese parents, and attended Canadian Academy, where he graduated from in 2012. Aside from the comedic and often rap based music he creates under his ‘Pink Guy’ alias, Miller also creates more serious and traditional music under the stage name ‘Joji.’ He first became known for his absurdist YouTube channel, ‘TVFilthyFrank,’ which features music, rants and a bizarre ‘show’ featured in an alternate universe, with all of the main characters played by him.

Miller’s video titled ‘Do the Harlem Shake (Original)’ has been viewed 57.2 million times and spawned the ‘Harlem Shake’ meme. The earliest known video of Miller is a YouTube video titled ‘2cool4u92,’ uploaded to a channel sharing the same name in 2006 and features a young Miller performing a break dance move in front of the camera. Miller created the ‘Filthy Frank’ character during his time on his ‘Dizasta Music’ channel, where he created other content but started gaining popularity once he conceptualized Frank, who is described as the anti-vlogger of YouTube. The first known video on this particular channel was uploaded in 2011, and was titled ‘Filthy Shit.’

January 19, 2017

Jorg Gray

JG6500

Jorg Gray is a California-based brand of men’s and women’s watches. They are best known as the favored watch of U.S. President Barack Obama and the U.S. Secret Service. Jorg Gray was established as a watch line in 1998 by Logomark, Inc. based in Tustin, California. Originally Jorg Gray timepieces were manufactured as a high end promotional item for corporations and federal agencies. Jorg Gray became a retail only brand in 2009. The company has since expanded their line and launched a women’s collection in late 2013. There are currently over 250 authorized dealers the U.S. and the brand can be found in retail stores in Asia, Europe, the Caribbean, and South America.

President Obama received his original JG6500, the ‘official’ model of the Secret Service in 2007 as a birthday gift from his security team and has been documented wearing it. Shortly thereafter Jorg Gray created a commemorative edition of the timepiece. Each watch comes with an individualized serial number and an inscription, laser engraved on the case back. Other government agencies around the world, including the London Metropolitan Police, now also wear watches made by Jorg Gray.

 

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January 18, 2017

Mahjong

mahjong tiles

Mahjong is a four player game that originated in China during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). Three-player variations of the game can be found in South Korea and Japan. The game and its regional variants are widely played throughout Eastern and South Eastern Asia and have a small following in Western countries.

Similar to the Western card game rummy (though played with small tiles instead of playing cards), Mahjong is a game of skill, strategy, calculation, and luck. It is not known when the conversion from cards to tiles took place precisely but it most likely occurred in the middle of the 19th century. Traditionally, Mahjong tiles were made of bone, often backed with bamboo. Bone tiles are still available but most modern sets are constructed from various plastics such as bakelite, celluloid, and more recently nylon. Continue reading

January 16, 2017

Steeplechase Park

george tilyou

Between 1880 and WWII, Coney Island (a peninsular neighborhood in southern Brooklyn) was the largest amusement area in the U.S., attracting several million visitors per year. At its height, it contained three competing major amusement parks, Luna Park, Dreamland, and Steeplechase Park, as well as many independent amusements. The area was also the center of new technological events, with electric lights, roller coasters, and baby incubators among the innovations showcased there in the 1900s.

Steeplechase Park was created by George C. Tilyou (1862–1914) and operated from 1897 to 1964. It was the first of the three original iconic Coney Island parks (Luna Park opened in 1903 and Dreamland opened the following year). Steeplechase was also Coney Island’s longest lasting park. Unlike Dreamland, which burned in a fire in 1911, and Luna Park which, despite early success, saw its profitability disappear during the Great Depression, Steeplechase had kept itself financially profitable. The Tilyou family had been able to adapt the park to the changing times, bringing in new rides and new amusements such as the Parachute Jump. Continue reading

January 11, 2017

Dab

Cam Newton by Jan Diehm

The dab is a dance move in which the dancer simultaneously drops the head while raising an arm and the elbow in a gesture that has been noted to resemble sneezing.The dab has its origins in the Atlanta hip-hop scene, particularly among artists on the Quality Control record label.

When dabbing first caught popular attention several Quality Control artists were mentioned as possible originators including Migos (‘Look at My Dab’), Peewee Longway, Jose Guapo, and Rich The Kid. OG Maco eventually called out labelmate Migos for taking credit when the move was actually the brainchild of Skippa da Flippa. Though Migos later confirmed da Flippa as the originator of the dance, they expressed displeasure with the way Maco handled the situation. Continue reading

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January 10, 2017

Animal Trial

lavegny sow

In legal history, an animal trial was the criminal trial of a non-human animal. Such trials are recorded as having taken place in Europe from the thirteenth century until the eighteenth. In modern times, it is considered in most criminal justice systems that non-human creatures lack moral agency and so cannot be held culpable for an act.

Animals, including insects, faced the possibility of criminal charges for several centuries across many parts of Europe. According to a 1624 treatise by Johannis Gross, in 1474 a rooster was put on trial for ‘the heinous and unnatural crime of laying an egg,’ which the townspeople were concerned was spawned by Satan and contained a cockatrice (a mythical beast). Continue reading

January 8, 2017

James Webb Space Telescope

jwst

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a space observatory under construction and scheduled to launch in 2018. It is a replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope which was launched in 1990. The telescope is named after James E. Webb, who was a director at NASA and created the Apollo moon program. It will have a main mirror that is 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) wide, seven times larger than Hubble. The main mirror is composed of 18 sections that fold together.

Once operational the observatory will be looking mostly in the infrared spectrum, but also in the red part of visible light. Images will be color coded for public viewing. Because heat is visible to infrared sensors, the JWST must be kept as cool as possible. It is protected by a large sunshield, the size of a tennis court, and will be placed in a special orbit around the sun, beyond the moon, at the second Lagrange point (L2), a place of stable gravity. This keeps it in the Earth’s shadow most of the time.

December 29, 2016

Bloom County

milo bloom

academia waltz

Bloom County is an American comic strip by Berkeley Breathed which ran from 1980 until 1989. It examined events in politics and culture through the viewpoint of a fanciful small town in Middle America, where children often have adult personalities and vocabularies and where animals can talk.

The fictional setting of ‘Bloom County’ served as a recurring backdrop for the comic and its sequels, although the nature of the setting was frequently altered. In the comics, the county is presented as a stereotypical American midwestern small town. The small town setting was frequently contrasted with the increasing globalization taking place in the rest of the world; though Bloom County contained the likes of farmers and wilderness creatures by default, it was frequented by Hare Krishnas, feminists, and rock stars. Continue reading

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December 20, 2016

Post-truth Politics

fake news

brexit

Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics) is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored. Post-truth differs from traditional contesting and falsifying of truth by rendering it of ‘secondary’ importance.

While this has been described as a contemporary problem, there is a possibility that it has long been a part of political life, but was less notable before the advent of the Internet. In the novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ George Orwell cast a world in which the state is daily changing historic records to fit its propaganda goals of the day. Orwell is said to have based much of his criticism of this on Soviet Russian practices.

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December 15, 2016

Kompromat

wikileaks

fancy bear

Kompromat is the Russian term for compromising materials about a politician or other public figure. Such materials can be used to create negative publicity, for blackmail, or for ensuring loyalty. Kompromat can be acquired from various security services, or outright forged, and then publicized by paying off a journalist. Widespread use of kompromat has been one of the characteristic features of politics in Russia and other post-Soviet states.

One recent development has been the creation of specialized kompromat websites, most famously compromat.ru, which will, for a fee of several hundred dollars, publish any piece of kompromat on anyone. Such websites are occasionally temporarily blocked by Russian ISPs and their owners harassed by government agencies. The possibility that the email accounts of senior Republican Party leaders have been hacked by Russian intelligence services worries some observers that President Donald Trump and members of his administration will be vulnerable to manipulation by the Russian government.

December 14, 2016

Fancy Bear

spear-phishing

pawn storm

Fancy Bear is a cyber espionage group that cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike has linked to the GRU, a Russian military intelligence agency. Likely operating since the mid-2000s, Fancy Bear’s methods are consistent with the capabilities of nation-state actors. The threat group is known to target government, military, and security organizations, especially NATO-aligned and Transcaucasian states (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan).

Fancy Bear is thought to be responsible for cyber attacks on the German parliament, the French television station ‘TV5Monde,’ the White House, NATO, and the Democratic National Committee. It’s behavior has been classified as an ‘advanced persistent threat.’ They employ zero-day (previously unknown) vulnerabilities and use spear phishing (forged websites and emails) and malware to compromise targets. Continue reading

December 13, 2016

Whataboutism

And you are lynching Negroes

Whataboutism is a term describing a propaganda technique used by the Soviet Union in its dealings with the Western world during the Cold War. When criticisms were leveled at the Soviet Union, the response would be ‘What about…’ followed by the naming of an event in the Western world.

It represents a case of ‘tu quoque’ (Latin: ‘you also’) or the ‘appeal to hypocrisy,’ a logical fallacy which attempts to discredit the opponent’s position by asserting the opponent’s failure to act consistently in accordance with that position, without directly refuting or disproving the opponent’s initial argument. Continue reading