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RFIDs and MyMagic+ and Privacy, Oh My!

11 Jan

Over at StudiosCentral, my recent Jentasmic! columns have focused on the NextGen, newly-announced MyMagic+ initiative at Walt Disney World.

It’s interesting to watch the response to MyMagic+, both from the Disney fandom and from the press. Business writers generally zoom right into the moneymaker: Disney building an unprecedented database of Guest information, with implications for both privacy concerns and outstanding marketing opportunities. The fandom is mostly giddy for the new technologies, the new customization of Guest experience, and the convenience of wearing a MagicBand instead of carrying a card or two.

As a dues-paying member of the ACLU, which chimed in on tracking people with RFIDs years ago, I’m concerned about the privacy implications, primarily related to the inferences which can be drawn through data-mining (remember when a couple MIT students figured out how to mine Facebook data to determine whether a man was gay?).

And at the same time, I’m deep enough into Disney fanaticism that I’m likely to give the system a spin next time I travel to Walt Disney World. I’ll be interested to see how things go as MyMagic+ is gradually rolled out, and how much it changes from this point in response to Guest feedback and operational experience.

Jentasmic! on Lucasfilm Acquisition: Do’s and Don’ts for Disney

2 Nov
Minnie Mouse as Princess Leia

At Star Wars Weekends 2008

When news broke earlier this week about Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, all my geeky internet feeds simultaneously exploded with joy and surprise. And I don’t just mean the Disney geeks. The anime geeks, the gaming geeks, the sci-fi geeks . . . everybody was freaking out. And almost everybody seemed overjoyed.

But I’m feeling a good bit more cautious about this acquisition. Sure, it could mean good things; I’ve enjoyed the results of Disney’s collaboration with Lucasfilm over the years. I’m a big fan of Star Tours 2.0, and had a great time at Star Wars Weekends. But I also fear there are many ways this could go wrong. From my Jentasmic! column today at StudiosCentral:

DO learn from your experience in the Pixar merger. The response to Brave from both critics and fans, plus the increasing reliance on sequels, has me a little worried that Pixar may be losing its identity as some of its key players have taken on significant roles in other areas of the Walt Disney Company. And I’m sure there’s plenty to be learned from the Marvel experience as well. Don’t be afraid to look squarely at your mistakes and learn from them. It’s equally important to look carefully at what you’ve done right, so you can do it again.

Head on over to StudiosCentral to read the rest. I promise you there’s a non-gratuitous mention of the Star Wars Holiday Special, which isn’t usually all that easy to pull off.

Why You Should Oppose SOPA, and Let Disney Know

22 Dec

Anybody familiar with the history of the Copyright Term Extension Act (aka the Mickey Mouse Protection Act) should not be surprised that Disney’s supporting SOPA, the very bad no good ready-to-break-the-internet Act on which the US Congress will resume deliberation in January.

You don’t believe that SOPA’s really all that bad? Maybe you’ll listen to Adam Savage of Mythbusters:

These bills aren’t simply unconstitutional, they are anticonstitutional. They would allow for the wholesale elimination of entire websites, domain names, and chunks of the DNS (the underlying structure of the whole Internet), based on nothing more than the “good faith” assertion by a single party that the website is infringing on a copyright of the complainant. The accused doesn’t even have to be aware that the complaint has been made.

Okay, he’s a TV star. Maybe you want something a little less glossy, like perhaps the Stanford Law Review (not usually my go-to site for internet technology discussions, but they distill this one quite nicely):

Directing the remedial power of the courts towards the Internet’s core technical infrastructure in this sledgehammer fashion has impact far beyond intellectual property rights enforcement—it threatens the fundamental principle of interconnectivity that is at the very heart of the Internet. The Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) is a foundational block upon which the Internet has been built and upon which its continued functioning critically depends; it is among a handful of protocols upon which almost every other protocol, and countless Internet applications, rely to operate smoothly. Court-ordered removal or replacement of entries from the series of interlocking databases that reside in domain name servers and domain name registries around the globe undermines the principle of domain name universality—the principle that all domain name servers, wherever they may be located across the network, will return the same answer when queried with respect to the Internet address of any specific domain name. Much Internet communication, and many of the thousands of protocols and applications that together provide the platform for that communication, are premised on this principle.

Or, well, my spouse, who writes on internet security for CIO:

SOPA and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), another piece of legislation, both want to crack down on internet pirating – a goal every bit as laudable as the measures themselves are flawed. The bills would require companies to monitor user content, limiting the use of pictures, video and audio and other media. One problem that is it is pretty much impossible to tell the difference between an ISP interfering with a connection because of a court order and a hacker interfering prior to an attack.

The US House of Representatives lists both ABC and “Disney Publishing Worldwide” as supporters of SOPA. It’s not clear to me how to contact their offices; when I tried the number listed for them on Gizmodo, I had a lovely conversation with a receptionist in upstate New York, after which I was convinced that Disney’s support of SOPA is coming from somewhere other than this small local office. Which, of course, would be consistent with the fact that many other companies on the list are essentially part of Disney (ie, ABC, Marvel, ESPN). So, I’ve directed my comments through the Disney Corporate Citizenship feedback form, and invite you to do the same. Here’s what I wrote:

The US House of Representatives web site tells me that Disney Publishing Worldwide is a supporter of SOPA, HR 3261 (http://judiciary.house.gov/issues/Rouge%20Websites/SOPA%20Supporters.pdf). SOPA poses threats both to the First Amendment, and to the fundamental technical underpinnings of the Internet.

As a regular consumer of many Disney media channels, parks, and products, and as a US citizen and voter, I ask that Disney retract its support of this act.

And if all this opposition to SOPA is for naught? For all the technical and legal problems SOPA would cause, certain of its intrusions would be surprisingly easy to get around. Download this episode of GeekNights now, on Circumventing SOPA. You’re welcome.

(And hey, am I the only one who noticed that the House.gov URL above includes the phrase “Rouge Websites?” I know they mean rogue . . . but it makes me think SOPA is targeting Sephora.)

Hello Kitty Theme Park Coming to China

9 May
Hello Kitty wedding scene

Sanrio Puroland boat ride, Tama City, Tokyo, Japan

Mr. Broke Hoedown was kind enough to tip me off to the news that Sanrio has given permission for a Hello Kitty theme park to be built in Anji, China, just about a 3-hour drive from Pudong, the site of the upcoming Shanghai Disneyland. From AFP:

The creators of Hello Kitty, Japan’s world-famous cartoon icon of cuteness, have agreed to a $230-million outdoor theme park in China, the first on foreign soil, a company spokesman said Monday.

The Hello Kitty-themed amusement park will be completed in the city of Anji, in east China’s Zhejiang province, in 2014 under an agreement between Sanrio Co. and its Chinese partner, Sanrio spokesman Kazuo Tohmatsu said.

Sounds to me like this new Hello Kitty theme park could leverage Sanrio’s experience with Sanrio Harmonyland, in Japan’s Oita prefecture. The article also mentions “another plan to build a much smaller indoor amusement park featuring Sanrio characters in Malaysia in 2012,” which sounds reminiscent of my dearly-loved Sanrio Puroland (which I visited in 2002).

I think Mr. Broke Hoedown’s just building a case for me to join him in some trans-Pacific travel once these new theme parks come online. He’s planning a trip to Mongolia in a couple years, which might well take him through Beijing en route, and while Beijing and Shanghai aren’t exactly neighboring cities, they’re a heck of a lot closer to each other than either is to Boston.

My Thoughts and Prayers are With Japan

11 Mar

I woke up to the news of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, and to warnings of (smaller) tsunamis en route to Hawaii (now hit, not bad) and California (still waiting, but hopefully much weaker impact by the time it hits there). My heart sank. My thoughts are with the people of Japan, and also with those currently evacuating and making other preparations in many parts of the world.

The BBC is my go-to for major news stories. Here’s their special report on the crisis in Japan.

Tokyo Disneyland? Don’t get all worked up about what you might see on twitter. Yes it’s been affected but check some live coverage here, and chill. (Hat tip to my good friend Trace for the link.)

 

Disney Acquires Togetherville: Smart, and Maybe Creepy

25 Feb

Togetherville main pageDisney acquired the Togetherville social networking site this week, which is probably a great move for profits, and convenient for parents of young kids. But it also raises all sorts of red flags about potential data-mining privacy violations. From my StudiosCentral Jentasmic! column this morning:

Remember that rumor some time back that characters in the park might someday remember your name and your number of previous visits, based on data stored in a specialized wrist band? Well, if this were integrated with Togetherville and Facebook, Mickey might also happen to know that you hit a new high score yesterday on Pixel Purge, and that your Dad’s sciatica has been acting up.

And of course, let’s not forget that anything ABC or ESPN knows, Disney knows. So, Mickey might want to know what you thought about the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy that you watched last night on your web browser, or the Celtics game.

I remember in the early dot com wave, you could tell who the most powerful person in the room was, because usually he (yes, usually he) would be wearing board shorts and flip flops to the executive committee meeting. Today, I’ll bet you can tell who the most powerful person in the room is by figuring out who has the least (true, personal) information available about them online.

Egypt Revolution, Explained as an Indiana Jones Film

3 Feb

Having trouble understanding current events in Egypt, even at a very high level? Furrygirl explains it all to you, as an Indiana Jones action flick.

Hat tip: BoingBoing.

Any Pumpkins Mysteriously Appear in New Jersey?

23 Apr

From wcco.com:

Officials in New Jersey are asking for the public’s help in recovering a stolen vehicle.

But as CBS station WCBS-TV found out, this is one cold case the likes of which you’ve probably never seen before.

“Uh, I’ve never seen anything like it before,” said Belleville Police Capt. Mark Minichini said.

It seems a 7-foot tall and 8-foot long, 1,000-pound gold Cinderella carriage, a feature in the town’s annual Columbus Day Parade, has vanished into thin air. Stolen.

Bibbidi bobbidi boo!

War Is Not Healthy For Children and Other Living Things

4 Jan

It is difficult to overstate the quality, diversity, and accessibility of London’s museums. Last week I was fortunate enough to visit the Tate Modern, Natural History Museum, and Imperial War Museum, each of which was amazing in its own way.

I was particularly affected by The Imperial War Museum’s Holocaust Exhibit, as well as that on The Children’s War.

This major exhibition looks at the home front in Britain through the eyes of children, providing a unique and moving insight into the impact of the war on the children who lived through it. An exhibition suitable for children and adults alike.

Taking a child’s perspective on such topics as evacuation, air raids, rationing and the blackout, the positive and negative aspects of the war are illustrated through original letters, diaries, artefacts, photographs and oral recordings.

Mickey Mouse Gas Mask, Imperial War MuseumI’d seen some of the Mickey Mouse Gas Masks before, but only in pictures, and never with this degree of historical context. The model shown in the Museum lacks the large round ears I’d seen in other models, losing the surreal edge and moving instead into simple sadness. I can only imagine the fear and desperation of parents bringing their children the brightly-colored masks (worn by the mannequin on the right-hand side). I found the colors a futile attempt to make war less scary, but my son tells me the under-7 set truly would find them reassuring, and much easier to take than the standard issue gray.

It wasn’t long after our visit to the Imperial War Museum that war escalated in the Gaza strip, and anti-Israeli protests began a few yards from the front door of our rented flat. Being near the Israeli Embassy meant transportation got a little more complicated as the street was often blocked, and conversations with my husband and son about war and free speech felt closer to the heart. The Holocaust Exhibit had convinced me of Heinrich Heine’s words, “Whenever they burn books, they will also, in the end, burn people,” so I found solace in the protection of civil dissent both in the US and UK.

One afternoon last week, about an hour from London, a friend of the family spoke with quiet confidence about losing her family home to The Blitz, about the bout of pneumonia that nearly took her infant life that year, and about the doctor’s note that brought her family back into housing with real walls and saved her life. These are legacies of war that those of us on this side of the Pond don’t often get to hear.

The pictures of children on the front pages of the London Mail didn’t feel so far away, as I listened to the protests, and as I listened to my friend. I wish there were easy answers.

Who Will Have First Same-Sex Civil Marriage at Disneyland?

16 May

I was sitting in an airport lounge yesterday afternoon when I saw the news that California’s Supreme Judicial Court had ruled that same-sex couples have a right to marry, under the state’s Constitution. I know there are still some hurdles, I know that there are plenty of groups working to stop this and that the Pope disapproves . . . I am sometimes tired and bitter and worried that there will be backlash, but all the same I choked up with tears to see the couples rejoicing, to read about a woman calling her partner of 19 years to finally propose marriage, to see my friend and musical collaborator Allison on TV talking about the California ruling with her legally-wed, Massachusetts wife.

I was in the middle of the airport, surrounded by people who couldn’t understand the depths of my joy. It felt as if a national holiday had suddenly been declared, and nobody but me knew about it. Thank goodness for the twitterverse and my crackberry . . . I could text and twitter with likeminded friends. One of my buddies had a great question for me on twitter: Will Disney do something special for the first same-sex couple to wed there? And I have to say, while I doubt Disney would go out on the political limb to do anything officially special, I’ve just gotta believe that the first time a same-sex couple is legally wed on Disney property, there’s gonna be Cast Members there who really get that this is a historic moment, and I’m sure plenty of them will go out of their way to find just a little bit of extra pixie dust. After all, same-sex couples can use the wedding facilities at Disney World (and maybe the non-US parks too?) . . . but can’t be legally wed in that state.

Twenty nine days from now (assuming same-sex marriage foes don’t find a way to stop it), same-sex marriages will begin in California. And honey, we all know that this isn’t enough time to plan a wedding! But hey, if anybody out there hears when the first same-sex couple has arranged for a Disneyland wedding, please please please drop me a note. I wish I could be there to throw rice, but at the very least I can celebrate with them in my heart.

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