Science fiction movie produced in 48 hours

Precision is a great little science fiction short film that was written, shot, scored, and edited in 48 hours as part of a filmmaking challenge. It’s an inspiring example of how digital storytelling is changing in the face of new, nimble tools that lower the cost of experimentation and production:

Precision was always going to be restricted by the nature of the 48 hour challenge, very short time to conceive, write, shoot, edit and score! Not to mention the restriction of a prop, title and dialogue that had to be included in whatever we created. We did not let that stop us though and thought ambitious thoughts.

With the ‘All the Kings Horses’ team assembled we registered for SCI-FI LONDON 2011. When the challenge weekend arrived I went along to the briefing and pulled out from a hat our three restrictions:

Prop: red or green liquid inside a clear bottle with no label

Title: Precision

Dialogue: It is just a glitch in the time continuum, it will sort itself out in a minute. Just hope it won’t wipe you out in the mean time.

Paradox Malt – ‘Precision’ behind the scenes (Thanks, @sizemore!)

Misleading government stats and the innumerate media who repeat them

This week’s Bad Science column from Ben Goldacre is an entertaining and frustrating look at the way that the government manipulates statistics with help from a tame and innumerate news media:

The Sun said: “Police have charged nearly 150 people after violent anarchists hijacked the anti-cuts demo and brought terror to London’s streets.” The Guardian republished a Press Association report, headlined: “Cuts protest violence: 149 people charged”. And from the locals, for example, the Manchester Evening News carried “Boy, 17, from Manchester among 149 charged over violence after anti-cuts march”.

In reality, a dozen of these charges related to violence, while 138 are people who were involved in an apparently peaceful occupation of Fortnum and Masons organised by UKUncut, who campaign on tax avoidance.

You will have your own view on whether people should be arrested and charged for standing in a shop as an act of protest. But describing these 150 people as “violent anarchists… who brought terror to London’s streets” is not just misleading: it also makes the police look over 12 times more effective than they really were at charging people who perpetrated acts of violence.

Anarchy for the UK. Ish.

Senior London cops lie to peaceful protestors, stage mass arrest

Senior London police officers lied to peaceful protestors from UKUncut who had entered the luxury department store (and alleged tax evader) Fortnum and Mason, telling the demonstrators that they’d be escorted to a back entrance, away from “disorder outside,” saying they were “free to leave.” When demonstrators peacefully left on the proscribed route, they were seized and arrested, and the same officer said, “Yes, you’re free to leave – to the police station. You’re going to be arrested.”

UKUncut have a hard-won reputation for peaceful, well-organized protest that cooperates with police. With this shabby trick., the Met have squandered the trust of this protest group and protestors all over London and the UK.

The video also shows the officer agreeing with protesters that a breach of the peace had occurred outside the store, but not inside, and that Uncut protesters were being held inside so they did not become “wrapped up” in that disorder.

“As people leave, they’re going to be asked to go left,” she can be heard telling protesters. “They’re just going into a safe environment because there’s some disorder [outside] … so we’re trying to keep it sterile, safe, so people can get away to the tube station.

“People here are non-violent. It’s sensible – we don’t want them getting involved in stuff that makes it difficult for them,” adds the police officer in the footage. Another officer also assured the protesters no one would be kettled if they left the building. A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said it would be inappropriate to discuss the matter while proceedings are active.

Cuts protesters claim police tricked them into mass arrest (Thanks, Midtempo, via Submitterator)

Front-line report from Trafalgar Square paints a radically different picture


Forget what you’ve seen on the BBC and Sky about yesterday’s protest/”riot” in Trafalgar Square; the New Statesman‘s Laurie Penny was on the barricades (and apparently, there was a moment when the barricades were on her), and she’s seen something altogether different from what the mainstream coverage depicts. If you read only one account of the protests, make it this one (and you should really read more than one!).

Minutes after the fights begin in Trafalgar square, so does the backlash. Radio broadcasters imply that anyone who left the pre-ordained march route is a hooligan, and police chiefs rush to assure the public that this “mindless violence” has “nothing to do with protest.”

The young people being battered in Trafalgar square, however, are neither mindless nor violent. In front of the lines, a teenage girl is crying and shaking after being shoved to the ground. “I’m not moving, I’m not moving,” she mutters, her face smeared with tears and makeup. “I’ve been on every protest, I won’t let this government destroy our future without a fight. I won’t stand back, I’m not moving.” A police officer charges, smacking her with his baton as she flings up her hands.

The cops cram us further back into the square, pushing people off the plinths where they have tried to scramble for safety. By now there are about 150 young people left in the square, and only one trained medic, who has just been batoned in the face; his friends hold him up as he blacks out, and carry him to the police lines, but they won’t let him leave. By the makeshift fire, I meet the young man whose attempted arrest started all this. “I feel responsible,” he said, “I never wanted any of this. None of us did”

What really happened in Trafalgar Square

(Image: March for the Alternative, Nelson’s Column Occupation, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from blahflowers’s photostream)

US house prices fall to 1890s levels (where they usually are)


According to Case-Shiller/S&P;, US housing prices have fallen to levels not seen since the 1890s (adjusted for inflation, of course), in 11 of 20 markets. It looks like this is slightly skewed by the serious economic problems in rustbelt cities, which is not to say that things aren’t pretty terrible — and the same analysis predicts a further decline of 15-20%.

Some years back, Yale Professor Robert Shiller produced a long-run nominal home price index for the U.S. by fusing together data that had been gathered from a number of historical archives.

Shiller then adjusted the index for inflation revealing the very interesting fact that, in real terms, prices for U.S. homes changed very little over the span from 1890 to the mid-1990s.

This might come as a surprise to many since recent “common sense” notions held that homes were always a great investment carrying the implication that they must typically increase in value yet, the reality is that over the long run home prices must stay in-line with changes in the level of income (the source generally used to fund the home cost) or else typical households would not be capable of making a purchase.

Home prices falling to level of 1890s

Fight Back! A radical primer from Britain’s winter of discontent

Fight Back! A Reader on the Winter of Protest collects 340-some pages’ worth of the best writing on the wave of anti-cut demonstrations that have rocked Britain this winter; writing from radicals and reformers, students and members of the UKUncut movement — a discussion ranging from philosophy to strategy and tactics. It’s a fascinating, Creative Commons licensed download, with a print edition to follow.

Fight Back! A Reader on the Winter of Protest (Thanks, @PennyRed!)

Sex questions answered: 1959

The “Your Sex Questions Answered” column in the January, 1959 issue of Sexology is a slightly depressing look at the sexual ignorance and general-screwed-upped-ness that grown adults suffered with in days of yore; things aren’t great now, but at least most contemporary women probably know that getting plastic fallopian tubes installed won’t cure your infertility.

I can’t have any children because I had an operation when I was 29 years old and everything was removed except my womb. The doctors said it was a healthy organ and since I was still comparatively young, he would leave it in.

I have heard that doctors are replacing missing organs with plastic or some synthetic materials, and that they do function as before. If this is true please advise me as to where I can secure the vital information concerning such an operation.

Mrs. D. M., Missouri (F)

I love that people who sent in private questions had to enclose 50 cents for “stenographic and typewriting charges.”

Your Sex Questions Answered (Jan, 1959)

Government transparency doesn’t matter without accountability

My latest Guardian column is “Government data like crime maps is not enough – there needs to be action,” and it looks at two recent data-crunching apps for UK policing: first, the crime-maps that tell you what the crime’s like in your neighbourhood, and second, Sukey, an app that helps protesters evade police “kettling” — an inhumane form of arbitrary detention practiced by police.

When the citizenry need to build apps to protect themselves from unlawful detention by the police, it’s not surprising that a new application that allows you to go down to your local police station and ask them to do something about some newly transparent crime statistic is greeted with indifference or jeers. If you can’t trust the police not to detain your children on a freezing road for hours, why would you believe that you could have a productive dialogue about how they should be deploying their resources?

After all: tuition fee rises are a complete reversal of a critical Lib Dem pledge; mass NHS redundancies for nurses and other frontline workers are a complete reversal of a critical Tory pledge. When you’ve voted for a party that promises one thing and does the opposite, no amount of data about how rotten things are will inspire you to join a “big society” that works with the state to accomplish its aims.

Meanwhile, Sukey’s authors cleverly included a facility in their app that allows the police to communicate with demonstrators who are using it – an architecture for dialogue, built right in at the code level. If this was a “big society”, then the police would be using that channel to come to some accommodation with protestors that acknowledged the fundamental right to peaceful protest. But the radio silence to date tells us exactly why the crime map will serve no purpose: what good is it to know how your taxes are spent if you don’t believe that anyone will listen when you complain?

Government data like crime maps is not enough – there needs to be action

(Image: A lot of yellow : TSG Police Line : Student Protests – Parliament Square, Westminster 2010, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from bobaliciouslondon’s photostream)

Mike Mignola talks setting and architecture

Geoff from BLDGBlog sez, “I just uploaded a long interview with Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy, B.P.R.D., Baltimore, and much else besides. The conversation mostly sticks to questions of setting — of architecture and landscape — because of the nature of my blog, but this gives Mignola an opportunity to talk about the spaces and terrains in which his plots and stories take place. So we talk about landscapes of horror and mythology, as I describe it: from H.P. Lovecraft to old shipwrecks, giant octopi to abandoned houses, coastal marshes to mansions in the Alps. And there are monkeys…”

If I’m doing Victorian London, I’m not trying to do that story for a scholar of Victorian London. In a way, I say that this is more like a 1940s film version of London–in other words, I want to do at least the level of research that you’d see in an old Hollywood film. So I’ve given myself a little distance from reality with that.

But, as I say, I do like history. If I’m doing something specific, I’ve got a ton of reference books here in the studio, and I’ll try to make sure I get some of the names right and some of the dates right, if I’m referring to specific things. But, for the most part, I tend to shy away from plotting stories that are going to require a lot of very specific, historical research.

In Witchfinder, where I’m doing Whitechapel–well, I’ve been to Whitechapel. But I’m writing about 1880s, or maybe 1870s, Whitechapel, and I want it to seem like the real thing. So I did a little bit of homework on the East End. But the trouble with doing research for this stuff is that you start finding so much material that’s interesting, after you’ve already plotted the story, and you think, oh, I want to use this, and I want to use this, and I want to use this–well, uh oh, too late.

Ruin, Space, and Shadow: An Interview with Mike Mignola (Thanks, Geoff!)

Search Engine explains the Streisand Effect

Jesse Brown’s latest video Search Engine podcast is a fine and funny explanation of the Streisand Effect, with examples from around the world.

What is ‘The Streisand Effect’? (Thanks, Jesse!)