Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in Real Life


I don’t know how many of you have read this book, but it was required reading for me in high school.  Luckily, it was a book that I actually enjoyed, unlike quite a few Emily Bronte novels that I’d have happily thrown on Guy’s stack for burning.

The basic premise of Fahrenheit 451 is that, in the near future, books are illegal.  Firemen, once used to put out fires (though that’s not known to the general public) are now used to start fires, specifically at the homes of people who are found to be harboring books illegally.

The story goes into a lot of detail about the breakdown of the fabric of society, the slow disintegration of the bonds between family members that keep the world functioning.  It talks about ignorance and doing things just because that’s how they’ve ‘always’ been done.  Then it talks about hope and enlightenment, in the form of Guy realizing that things don’t have to stay the same and he can and should make a change.

I won’t ruin the book for you, but if you haven’t read it, you should.

I was flipping through articles in my RSS reader and I hit on two posts, nearly back-to-back from The Next Web that sounded like they were pages from the book.

The first article is titled: “This Could Be Massive: Interactive TV…

So, why did this stand out to me?  Well, one of the future technologies in Fahrenheit 451 is a television system that is installed in place of walls in the living room.  The television programs are completely 3D, completely immersive and completely interactive to the point that the show can not progress unless the viewer moves it along by saying the proper things at the proper times and interacting with what is known as “the family”.  The flaw that the author was trying to express here is that these fake people, this fake “family”, draws so much attention away from real life and real family that it causes a breakdown between people.  It’s almost like what’s happening now with so many women complaining that men spend more time with their computers and video game consoles than with them, but on a grander scale.  TNW’s article went on to detail what could be the first step towards the four-walled TV “family” that Bradbury imagined.  It’s both exciting and frightening, if you believe the potential consequences that Bradbury laid out in his book.

Just after that I saw another one of their articles titled “Love to read? Too busy? Brain Shots can help.”

The article goes on to discuss how Brain Shots has condensed books down to 10k words and they can be read via computer, e-reader and some mobile phones.  Some have even gone extra simple and are available as audio books.  In one part of Fahrenheit 451, when Guy starts questioning the established order and his Fire Chief figures out what’s going on in his head, the Chief tries to ‘save’ him by explaining to him how things became the way they were.  Long story short, he said that people did it to themselves.  People couldn’t be satisfied with reading real literature, books and stories with real value, or messages that explained deeper emotions and feelings.  He said that eventually people started reading things in digests, then as blurbs and snippets, and eventually as 30 second blasts over the four-walled TVs.  He asked how you could condense a classic work of literature into a 30 second blast and still retain it’s true meaning?  Everything became dumbed down to keep everyone happy.  To keep things exciting!  I think Twitter is sort of a first step towards what Bradbury had imagined.  How many of you that use Twitter know a Twitter wannabe pundit that tries to condense the feeling and emotion of a whole work of literature into 140 characters?  And then, of course, there’s this article talking about Brain Shots, which is literally taking a page from Bradbury’s book.  I wouldn’t be surprised if his book was their inspiration.

Technology is a beautiful thing, but I hope we keep using it wisely and effectively and don’t reduce our culture and our whole body of world literature into meaningless blasts of drivel that lose their true meaning.  Bradbury’s book may have been written half a century ago, but it’s becoming more and more meaningful as time goes on.

A few interesting quotes from the book:

“Remember the firemen are rarely necessary. The public stopped reading of its own accord. You firemen provide a circus now and then at which buildings are set off and crowds gather for the pretty blaze, but its a small sideshow indeed, and hardly necessary to keep things in line. So few want to be rebels anymore. And out of those few, most, like myself, scare easily. Can you dance faster than the White Clown, shout louder than ‘Mr. Gimmick’ and the parlor ‘families’? If you can, you’ll win your way, Montag. In any event, you’re a fool. People are having fun.”

“It didn’t come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today, thanks to them, you can stay happy all the time, you are allowed to read comics, the good old confessions, or trade journals.”

This is definitely one of my favorite books.

My Thoughts on Redux, An Entertainment Portal

Like the title says, Redux is all about entertainment.  It does it well too.  It’s currently in a private beta, but I signed up for and received an invitation.  I’m not sure how limited the invites are, having picked mine up through a Mashable link, but it’s still a small community.  That small community is pretty dedicated though.  You see people’s avatars popping up all over the place, commenting and giving “props” on people’s shares.

The way Redux works is that it acts as a link sharing center for videos, pictures, and web address links.  If you look at the image above, you can see that across the top of the page there’s a share box.  Whatever you share can be added to your profile as well as to any “channels” you’ve joined.  There are a couple different channels and there’s the option to create your own channel if you want. (See the screenshot below).

If you look at the left sidebar in the image above you can see that I have my Twitter and Facebook feeds linked into Redux.  This works in two ways.  One is that if I click on one of those options, I can see the content that my Twitter friends are sharing in one long stream, inline.  Even web page links get a thumbnail.  The same goes for Facebook.  I can see links and content shared by Facebook friends right in Redux.  The other way that works is that if I like something I see in Redux I can click the Twitter or Facebook icon to share it directly to my Facebook page or Twitter stream.  That’s pretty nifty.

The interface is pretty nice.  You can select to see (like I said above) just your Twitter friends’ content, just Facebook, both together along with content from the “channels” you’ve joined under My Network, or if you’re really feeling frisky you can just click “Everyone” and see everything that’s on Redux mashed together into one stream.

I think one of the defining characteristics of Redux is its TV mode.  It works similarly to YouTube’s full screen mode, except it’s continuous play.  You can set TV mode on a particular channel, the Everyone or My Network sections.  It’s pretty versatile, and it’s highly entertaining.  In fact, I would say that once you get it going it’s hard to pull yourself away.  From the full screen mode you can skip back and forth and give “props” to the video.  Unfortunately you can’t comment on it yet, but when I mentioned that via the feedback form I was informed that they were actually discussing implementing that feature and would take my feedback under advisement.  The team seems pretty cool too.  I mean, how often do you get a feedback form from a company that starts off with “Yo Brad, …”?

So, why should you bother to use Redux when you’re already getting this content in other places?  Well, that’s a good question and the answer is that it’s easier.  First off, you can check one place instead of two.  Second you have easy sharing options built in and you can watch it in TV mode.  Another great thing about Redux is that the content you find there is what people feel is worth sharing, which means you’re going to get to skip past most of the frivolous crap.  There are still things there that aren’t going to suit your taste, but that’s why there are descriptions and thumbnails.  You can get an idea of whether or not you actually want to see what’s behind the link.  Also, Redux is another community and another way to meet and engage other people interested in sharing good content.

Oh, and did I mention it looks good?  It didn’t take long for me to figure out the interface and it’s got some great built in backgrounds to choose from:

The only thing I would caution people on is that you shouldn’t run Redux if your laptop isn’t in a cool place.  Watching in TV mode puts the fans on high after a real short amount of time.  Most internet video seems to be like that though.

If you want to give Redux a try I have 5 invites available.  Let me know in the comment section or send me a Tweet at @BradleyF81 and I’ll pass one your way.

Thai Ladyboys At The Simon Cabaret

One of the main attractions of the Phuket area is the Simon Cabaret’s Ladyboy show.

Yup, ladyboys.

We’d seen a few of them walking around the town.  We even saw a white guy walking down the street holding hands with one.  I don’t know if the guy knew he was with a ladyboy, but he was on the other side of the street, and I wouldn’t have burst his bubble anyway.  If he didn’t know, imagine how exciting it was for him to find out that night!

Anyhow, the Simon Cabaret raises the bar on ladyboys and presents you with a show of fancy sets, fancy costumes, and dancing.  The singing is all pre-recorded and lip synced.  I imagine at some point it was all authentic, but they do multiple shows per night, every night, so it’s probably more practical to just lip sync it.

I went into this with an open mind but I wasn’t expecting a whole hell of a lot.  I certainly wasn’t expecting to be impressed, laughing, or leaning forward in my seat to catch all the details.  Not that I was looking for those details, but most of them did just about have their boobs falling out.  I suppose that’s just part of the show’s appeal.

I thought of taking photos while in the cabaret, or taking video, but there are signs everywhere saying that if caught you can be prosecuted and fined up to 50,000 USD.  It wasn’t worth that much to me.  Apparently some other people thought it was worth the risk because there’s plenty of clips on YouTube.

Here’s one act, which we saw when we were there, of the ladyboys ‘singing’ Nobody, by Wondergirls:

And here’s a clip from YouTube of the official Simon Cabaret promo DVD:

Keep in mind that all of the ladies on the stage were born men. Most of them take hormone supplements and inhibitors and have had their … junk whacked off. That’s why there’s no tell-tale bulge. There’s nothing there to bulge.

After the show, the ladyboys all line up outside for pictures. You can stand back and grab a few shots, but if you want to get your photo taken with them, be prepared to pay. I read a blog that said the ladyboys asked for 40 baht each for photos. I should’ve checked the date. They tried to stiff us for 100 baht each. I checked the internet later and saw that was the ‘standard’ pay-off, so I didn’t feel so bad afterwards. Oh, I heard that if you’re not careful, they may just grab whatever you’re holding, so be careful how much you take out of your wallet around them.

Here’s someone else’s video of the ladyboys lined up outside for photo ops:

And here are some pictures I took: