Dec 21, 2014

Reading: The Sony Hack, Dick Cheney & Torture, Christ and Pop Culture, Isao Takahata, Blackbirds & More

Also: The ethics of technological artifacts, a Studio Ghibli artwork gallery, and lots of cool military tech and tactics.
Sony Logo
Look at that sad Sony logo. Naughty hackers!

The Sony hack has become such a huge story because it meets at that wild, woolly intersection of Hollywood, technology, and terrorism — but cybersecurity expert Peter W. Singer argues that our response has been pretty stupid. “The attackers wonderfully understand the American psyche. What do we love most? This was a hack, but call it ‘cyber’ and ‘terrorism,’ and we lose our shit. There’s no other way to put it.”

Sony has announced that they won’t release The Interview, the movie that started this whole kerfuffle. But I agree with The Verge: Sony Pictures should release The Interview online immediately. “Take the threat of attacking theaters and diffuse it with the truth that the hackers don’t seem to understand: we live in a world where every living room, every computer, and every phone is a theater. And whether it’s leaked government documents or a goofy comedy from the Neighbors guy, nothing stays hidden for long.” Use the Internet’s capabilities against the people who used the Internet’s capabilities against you.

Ross Douthat argues that North Korea’s objections are the latest in a long line of folks getting offended: “The common thread in all these cases, whether the angry parties are Hermit Kingdom satraps or random social-justice warriors on Twitter, is a belief that the most important power is the power to silence, and that the perfect community is one in which nothing uncongenial to your own worldview is ever tweeted, stated, supported or screened.”

Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney
Shawn P. Eklund, US Navy (Public Domain)

Sony hack notwithstanding, the other big recent news story was the release of a damning Senate document concerning the CIA’s torture program. Almost as shocking as the reports of forced rectal feeding was Dick Cheney’s moral logic used to defend the CIA’s torture, even of innocent people. “He doesn’t want the United States to honor norms against torture. He doesn’t want us to abide by the Ten Commandments, or to live up to the values in the Declaration of Independence, or to be restrained by the text of the Constitution. Instead, Cheney would have us take al-Qaeda as our moral and legal measuring stick.”

When we think of torture, we usually think of techniques like waterboarding, beatings, electrocution, and other physical activities. However, sound can also be a torture device. “[W]hile it’s been no secret that the US deployed music across an archipelago of detention centers, black sites, and prisons, to disorient and break the will of detainees, what even is “loud”? And how loud is loud enough?” I’m not surprised that sound would be used; I’ve personally had visceral experiences caused directly by sound. I can only imagine the effects from prolonged exposure.

Parks and Recreation
The mighty Leslie Knope

Christ and Pop Culture has posted our 25 favorite movies, books, TV shows, albums, and individuals from 2014. It’s a pretty eclectic list and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Part one includes a blurb I wrote about Parks and Recreation. “We live in a deeply divided age where differences in everything from politics and philosophical worldviews to parenting styles and favorite television shows can lead to vitriolic exchanges, name-calling, straw men, and overall nastiness. As such, I think we could all learn a lesson from Parks and Recreation’s mid-level bureaucrats.” (Reminder: Parks and Recreation returns for its final season on January 13.)

Earlier this month, I posted an article on Christ and Pop Culture discussing the ethics of the Internet. But before that, Michael Sacasas asked whether or not artifacts have ethics, and he’s come up with a host of questions to work that out: What sort of person will the use of this technology make of me? What will the use of this technology encourage me to ignore? What was required of other human beings so that I might be able to use this technology? What assumptions about the world does the use of this technology tacitly encourage?

Tale of Princess Kaguya
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Michael Toscano discusses how The Tale of Princess Kaguya sums up Isao Takahata’s career. “Takahata appears to be criticizing the very heart of modern Japanese culture: the rapid refashioning of the Japanese from a rural people to an urban workforce and the re-built post-war education system designed to fit them to their new economic roles.”

And speaking of Studio Ghibli movies, here’s a collection of some of the most stunning Ghibli backgrounds. While a lot of praise has been heaped on the studio for its animation, and rightfully so, the background artwork is just as worthy of praise. Or, as Liz Lemon would say, “I want to go to there.”

SR-71 Blackbird
SR-71 Blackbird

As a kid, I was absolutely convinced that I was going to be an Air Force pilot, and while fighter jets like the F-15 and F-16 were pretty cool, no jet was as awesome to me as the SR-71 Blackbird. (Trivia: One of my most prized childhood possessions was an SR-71 poster autographed by some honest-to-goodness Blackbird pilots.) Suffice to say, this collection of Blackbird videos is conjuring up all sorts of nostalgia.

Foxtrot Alpha is one of my new favorite blogs — and if you’ve ever been fascinated by military tech or tactics, it should be one of yours, too. Here’s just a sampling of Foxtrot Alpha’s content: “Check Out These Vertigo Inducing USAF Thunderbirds Air-To-Air Photos,” “The F-15C Demo Was Ten Minutes Of Screaming Eagle Freedom,” and “Elite F-14 Flight Officer Explains Why The Tomcat Was So Influential.”


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