Halloween should be both fun and frightening, and what better way to combine the two than to re-cast the Muppets as horror film icons, as Jason Beck’s “Muppet Maniacs” did?
He-Man’s buddy is Fisto, and you get three guesses as to what his special ability is:
If you’ve ever bought inexpensive goods online, there’s a chance that their poorly-written instruction manuals were supplemented with a card pointing to a quickly-made YouTube video that does a better job of explaining how to use your new thing. The videos are usually narrated by a Mandarin speaker with a decent grasp of conversational English and royalty-free music. But only one of these videos is for an internet-enabled penis-restraining “chastity” device, and only one of them is backed with the “Super Mario” theme, enhanced with extra synths and sampled sexy moans.
The device in question is the Qiui Cellmate Chastity Cage, which “lets users hand over access to their genitals to a partner who can lock and unlock the cage remotely using an app.”
While there are all sorts penis cages that you can buy — there are dozens on Amazon (and now that I’ve looked at the web page, I’m seeing all kinds of promos and ads for all sorts of…things) — the Cellmate is an “internet of things” device. It’s connected to the internet, which means that you can control it with an app, which means that if you’re the Donald in the relationship, you can slap this bad boy on the penis of your Lyndsey, and you can control their penile freedom from theoretically anywhere in the world.
The problem is that the API — application programming interface, which is basically the way that the app talks to the device — isn’t secure. The appropriately-named Pen Test Partners, a UK security firm, have proven that it’s possible for an unauthorized party to remotely seize control of the device and permanently lock in your nether bits. It also lets you access the user’s messages and location.
(Oddly enough, I just landed a job for a company whose product can be used to secure APIs. Qiui, if you’re interested, drop me a line.)
Even without the internet vulnerability, there’s the matter of another flaw — the device has a knack for unexpectedly locking you in. And there’s no emergency override function. If you’re locked in, you’re locked in. And apparently, once you’re locked in, the only way to get out is with the delicate use of bolt cutters or an angle grinder.
By way of explanation, Qiui chief executive said in emails to TechCrunch, “We are a basement team…When we fix it, it creates more problems.”
If you’re looking for some kind of penis-restraining device, don’t buy the Cellmate.
And if you’re making an instruction video for a commercial product and you’re not Nintendo, don’t use the “Super Mario” theme as background music.
One of the songs in my MP3 collection that’s on heavy rotation is Cage the Elephant’s Beck-ish, slide-guitar southern-rock-y ode to “doin’ what you gotta”, Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked. It practically begs for an accordion version, so I’m learning it in order to add it to my repertoire, which could stand a little refreshing.
While I haven’t learned the song well enough to perform it unaccompanied, I’ve had just enough practice to do it as an accordion karaoke number, which I did at last week’s Loser Karaoke. Loser Karaoke is a regular Thursday night event at Tequila Sunrise where having a good time trumps singing ability. It helps that Jason Rolland is an entertaining karaoke host. As an added bonus, it’s where a lot of the people from Accordion City’s high-tech, startup, social media entrepreneur scene come to cut loose. For more on Loser Karaoke, check out their Facebook page.
I should feel ashamed to say this, but a decade’s worth of public accordion playing has attenuated my ability to feel shame: the reason I know about Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked isn’t because I’m dialed into the alt-rock music scene. Thanks to middle age, I used to be with it, but they’ve since changed what “it” was. I know about the song because of…well, a video game. Namely, Borderlands, which uses the song in its intro sequence:
For the curious (and the fans), here’s Cage the Elephant’s official video for Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked. Enjoy!
Say the word “silicon” and chances are, you’ll think of technology. After all, silicon’s relationship to tech – it’s part of what makes transistors and chips – has been part of popular culture for decades, from the “Silicon chip inside her head” opening line from the Boomtown Rats’ song I Don’t Like Mondays to “Silicon Valley” as the nickname for the suburban expanse between San Francisco and San Jose.
Silicon is only part of the equation, however. The chips that drive our computers, mobile phones and assorted electronica are actually a “layer cake” consisting not only of silicon, but also oxide and metal.
There’s also the matter of key non-chip components like capacitors, which momentarily store an electrical charge. They’re made of thin layers of conductive metal separated by a thin layer of insulator. We use their “buffering” capabilities to smooth out “spiky” electrical currents, filter through signal interference, pick out a specific frequency from a spectrum of them and other “cleaning up” operations.
One of the metals used in the manufacture of capacitors is tantalum, which you can extract from a metal ore called coltan, whose name is short for “columbite-tantalite”. About 20% of the world’s supply of tantalum comes from Congo, and proceeds of from the sale of coltan are how their warlords – the scum driving the world’s most vicious conflict, and who’ve turned the country into the rape capital of the world – are bankrolled.
I’ve never reported on a war more barbaric than Congo’s, and it haunts me. In Congo, I’ve seen women who have been mutilated, children who have been forced to eat their parents’ flesh, girls who have been subjected to rapes that destroyed their insides. Warlords finance their predations in part through the sale of mineral ore containing tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold. For example, tantalum from Congo is used to make electrical capacitors that go into phones, computers and gaming devices.
Electronics manufacturers have tried to hush all this up. They want you to look at a gadget and think “sleek,” not “blood.”
Yet now there’s a grass-roots movement pressuring companies to keep these “conflict minerals” out of high-tech supply chains. Using Facebook and YouTube, activists are harassing companies like Apple, Intel and Research in Motion (which makes the BlackBerry) to get them to lean on their suppliers and ensure the use of, say, Australian tantalum rather than tantalum peddled by a Congolese militia.
He also points to the Enough Project’s latest video, which used humour and a reference to the “I’m a Mac / I’m a PC” TV commercials to draw the public’s attention to conflict metals and to encourage them to contact electronics manufacturers and ask them to be more vigilant when sourcing components:
The Enough Project says that auditing component supply chains at the smelters to see whether the metal was sources from “clean” places like Australia or Canada instead of lining the pockets of Congolese warlords would add about one cent to the price of a cellphone, and that this figure originates from within the industry. I’d happily pay a thousand times that for each of my devices – a mere ten bucks – to ensure that I wasn’t bankrolling rape and murder.
I’ll close this post with the closing paragraph from Kristof’s op-ed:
We may be able to undercut some of the world’s most brutal militias simply by making it clear to electronics manufacturers that we don’t want our beloved gadgets to enrich sadistic gunmen. No phone or tablet computer can be considered “cool” if it may be helping perpetuate one of the most brutal wars on the planet.