A Harmonica’s Grandest Moment (Breaking Social Conventions)

Heading East:

After a few minutes a very tall girl with long brown hair who I would later learn was a Parsons design student, broke social convention, turned to her fellow benchmates, and said, “My God, wasn’t today beautiful.” At first she just got a few quiet affirmations,”yeah, gorgeous”, “best day yet” etc, but then a young woman in a business suit again broke social convention and revealed personal information: “It was so nice, when I woke up I decided I didn’t want to feel miserable about anything, and broke up with my boyfriend. I ditched him at 7:30 in the morning. He didn’t know what hit him.”

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the unspoken walls that prohibit conversation between individuals in public. I’ve experienced this in many places in America, but it’s become more noticeable to me in Seattle particularly with the daily hour-long bus riders to and from work. Unless you speak to a person first or have previously established a rapport, people are hesitant to speak to you. The omnipresence of cell phones and iPods doesn’t make this any easier.

On the bus, I must have a presence of unapproachability (as stated, the iPod doesn’t make this easier). I find myself oftentimes being one of the last bus seats to acquire a second person when the ride gets full. Do I look like a big (overweight) scary (frowning) white guy?

(Insert pause for a runaway train: I originally found the Heading East post from Raul via Kottke. I started browsing through some of the art and photos on Heading East and got distracted by this photo. It’s one of the best I’ve seen.

candid shot

I ended up browsing through Eliot Shephard’s other photos on Flickr also. Additionally, I ran across an interesting art project called 20×200.

This is as close as the internet can get to ______________. IM, IRC, forums, and Digg don’t count. Try listening to The Album Leaf while you’re on the train.)

Return to the tracks: Martin has been working on talking to women lately. During his brief period of unemployment while he’s waiting for his new job to begin, he set a goal for himself of talking to three women a day. He took to the internet in search for advise.

Now, I probably wouldn’t do it this way, but he found some advice columns from various male resources. Apparently some of these tricks work:
• talk to the woman within three seconds of making contact (eye-contact, arriving next to each other, whatever)
• say something funny (sarcasm doesn’t count… sorry, guys)
• say something belittling — now, this is one step I wouldn’t be likely to use myself, but I guess some girls respond well to this. e.g. “I like your outfit, that’s pretty cool. Although, I think blue would be a better color on you.” (I would never try to give out fashion advice.)

Apparently the idea is to get them to want to earn your interest instead of vice versa.

Instead of just trying to pick up girls or get their attention, I’ve made a few general attempts of spurring conversation the last few days. I managed to discuss the weather and daylight savings time with one of the men who waits for the same bus I do when heading downtown.

While actually on the bus, I’m still working on it.

One man who rides the bus apparently isn’t afraid of breaking taboos. He sits in his seat talking on his cell phone no matter who is around or what’s going on carrying on lengthy conversations. At the end of one of the phone calls, he wished the other person a happy birthday. While holding the phone in his left hand a few inches from his face, he took out his harmonica, held it to his mouth, and played a rendition of the Happy Birthday song.

But I’ve never seen harmonica-man talk with anyone on the bus.

Arrr! It’s swashbuckling time!

The Pirate Bay (one of the internet’s largest torrent indexers for movies, music, TV, etc.) is suing a number of large media companies including Fox, Universal, Paramount, and more. Why? “The charges are infrastructural sabotage, denial of service attacks, hacking and spamming, all of these on a commercial level.” More details at TPB blog.

How’d all of this come about? A company named MediaDefender (if you check Wikipedia, hope you’re getting it on a day that the company isn’t trying to sanitize its profile). The scandal seems to have started a few months ago, but more details are continuing to be revealed as 700MB of the company’s email was recently acquired, bundled up and offered for download from a torrent site. Essentially, it has come to light via these emails that MediaDefender has been working with a large number of the media companies to hack users of peer-to-peer (P2P) filesharing services and attack various websites such as TPB.

One large aspect of MediaDefender’s work is digging up information about P2P users. They set up a video sharing website (Miivi.com — not there anymore) in order to gather personal information about users who posted video content.

The most frightening aspect of all of this is the methods the company is using. The attacks on P2P sites, the fake video-sharing site, etc. And it’s not only the big media companies who use their services. A recorded phone call has surfaced containing a conference call between MediaDefender and members of the New York Attorney Generals Office. The NY AG office appears to have partnered with MediaDefender to track down info about child-porn sharers. Now, shutting down child-porn sharers is 100% an excellent goal, but I’m not much thrilled when any government agency is buddying up with a company who itself circumvents legal methods of action and resorts to phishing, hacking, DOSing, spamming, and sabotage.

In a fantastic twist of irony, hackers everywhere now seem to be using MediaDefender for target practice. The leaked emails were culled from one of their employee’s private Gmail accounts. I don’t know exactly how the phone call was captured, but the NY AG’s office was using a VOIP (voice-over-IP) connection and this could have been hacked/recorded somehow. Now that P2P users are aware of the threat from this company, they’re able to use information about the company in order to circumvent MediaDefenders ability to track them using applications such as PeerGuardian (site | wiki).

The outcome of the MediaDefender scandal will be interesting to watch. The company has certainly had their reputation trashed, at least among the IT crowd (no, not that The IT Crowd). The lawsuit will be watched closely as it could signal the tides of change in the ongoing privacy vs piracy war in Sweden and in general.

Note: I’m not defending intellectual property pirates. I just don’t want to relive 1984 or any other sort of dystopian nightmare.

The Pirate Bay Files Suit Against Big Media
Leaked Media Defender e-mails reveal secret government project
Peer-to-peer poisoners: A tour of MediaDefender
MediaDefender Phonecall
MediaDefender Emails
Hackers Smack Anti-Piracy Firm Again and Again
Media Defender emails