Briefly Noted Books, Movies, Television, and More

Privacy chic, outlaw bikers, William Gibson's Zero History, an unwitting libertarian documentary, and TV Carnage

Privacy Chic

Ever wanted to thwart those increasingly pervasive Big Brother surveillance cameras? Worried that thieves or retail stores (or both!) are using high-tech gadgetry to collect data from your cell phone, iPad, or credit cards while you shop? Consult the Sentient City Survival Kit blog (survival. sentientcity.net/blog) for tips and products aimed at retaining some modicum of privacy and anonymity in the wired age. 

You can don underwear wired to alert you when you’re bombarded with radio waves, carry an umbrella embedded with infrared LEDs designed to confuse closed-circuit cameras, or sip from a travel coffee mug that, when combined with similar mugs toted by trusted confederates, can establish your own off-grid Wi-Fi network. 

The blog is an offshoot of Toward the Sentient City, an exhibit by architect and artist Mark Shepard that ran in late 2009 at the Urban Center in New York. The exhibit “critically explored the evolving relationship between ubiquitous computing, architecture and urban space.”—Radley Balko

Anarchy in the USA

The FX television series Sons of Anarchy entered its third season in September. The crime drama stars Charlie Hunnam as Jackson “Jax” Teller, vice president of the Sons of Anarchy, an outlaw motorcycle club whose violent exploits are loosely based on those of the Hells Angels.

Despite its title, the show doesn’t deal with anarchist ideas. But abusive government officials do loom large. The first season featured a rogue federal agent who stalked and assaulted Teller’s girlfriend. Season 3 opened with Teller’s mother Gemma, played by former Married With Children star Katey Sagal, on the run after being framed for murder by a lawless FBI agent. Meanwhile, the Sons have grown so powerful that they’ve essentially taken over law enforcement in their California hometown.

Like The GodfatherSons of Anarchy examines the business of organized crime, focusing on the club’s gun running, drug dealing, and brief foray into adult filmmaking. It’s a compelling world with heroes and villains on both sides of the law.—Damon Root

Commercial Appeal

William Gibson, the novelist who coined the term cyberspace in a 1982 short story, has been hailed as an Internet-age prophet. His early work so thoroughly built the linguistic landscape of the digital era that he finally gave up science fiction to write contemporary novels. The future had caught up with his ideas.

Frequently overlooked is Gibson’s penchant for describing societies driven by the dual forces of mass commerce and individual aesthetics. He didn’t merely predict a world in which everyone was online. He also foresaw one in which everybody had something to sell.

Gibson’s newest book, Zero History, is a high-tech thriller constructed out of information-age detritus: secretive social networking, obscure couture, high-end marketing firms, and military contracts. Gibson’s present, like his future, is in the details. When he describes the traits of a professional trend spotter, he could be describing himself: “The ability to distinguish one thing from another. The eye for detail. And knowing where to sell it.”—Peter Suderman

Civic Art Theft

When Albert C. Barnes died in 1951, he bequeathed his art collection, which includes 180 Renoirs and is estimated to be worth $30 billion, to a foundation, on the condition that it become a resource for students, not a museum for the public. The Philadelphia authorities then conspired to break the will and bring the collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which Barnes despised.

The villains of The Art of the Steal, director Don Argott’s polemical documentary charting the fate of Barnes’ collection, are fairly easy to spot. When viewers are introduced to Walter Annenberg, the late owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer and an outspoken advocate of opening the collection to the public, the music turns foreboding and the narrator announces that Annenberg was a Republican friendly with the Reagans. 

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  • James J.B. n.k.a McMillon ||

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  • ||

    In Panama a commercial runs on TV for an 'excercise' device that sends electric shocks. Almost soft porn.

  • Warty||

    Is it a TENS machine?

  • NeonCat||

    I never got into Sons of Anarchy. I do love me some Burn Notice and Justified, though.

  • ||

    Burn Notice is crap.

  • yes!||

    Heller, I think I love you

  • NeonCat||

    Thank you for your thoughtful criticism of the show. Truly, I must have been mistaken for liking it.

  • Spiny Norman||

    Let this be a lesson to you.

  • fructose||

    Fuck yeah, I love Justified and Burn Notice. Sons of Anarchy is great, too. Though admittedly the first few episodes are lacking.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I rarely watch anything on TV but I love Sons of Anarchy and Justified is pretty good as well, both have great characters. Season three of SOA had an excellant ending. I really hope there will be a season four. Have never seen or even heard of Burn Notice.

  • ||

    That Gary Busey clip from TV Carnage was pretty sweet.

  • ||

    You can don underwear wired to alert you when you’re bombarded with radio waves, carry an umbrella embedded with infrared LEDs designed to confuse closed-circuit cameras, or sip from a travel coffee mug that, when combined with similar mugs toted by trusted confederates, can establish your own off-grid Wi-Fi network.

    Just because you're paranoid...

  • ||

    My aunt, now deceased, swore by tinfoil caps and plastic raincoats. It must be effective, because the Feds never caught up with her...

  • Shmenge||

    Ron Perlman and Sarah Palin? I'd watch that show!

  • Alan Vanneman||

    "Yet the film is essentially a vigorous defense of private property rights against Philadelphia’s government. Argott has unwittingly made a libertarian documentary."

    What private property? Mr. Barnes is dead, and a dead man cannot own anything. He has no "will" other than the willingness of the state to enforce a document that he wrote decades ago. The state gives force to estates, trusts, corporations, and other legal artifices (that is to say, fictions) to the extent that these artifices provide for the public good, that good having no legal meaning except as defined by the state.

    As a practical matter, why should great art be kept for the benefit of the few? Barnes hated the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Big fucking deal. People now can see great paintings that they couldn't see when Dead Man Barnes' will was being honored.

    Oh, and was there any reason for this article at all expect to get a little cleavage on the Reason frontpage? You couldn't have used a Cezanne?

  • db||

    No offense, but I hope your heirs spend every penny of whatever estate you manage to leave them explicitly in an effort to negate your life's work.

  • fuzzysheep||

    Why is it that people say "no offence" when obviously they do mean to offend?

  • db||

    I merely expressed a wish to see the logical consequences of the basis of Mr. Vanneman's philosophy demonstrated to him in an ironic and frustrating manner. No offense was intended.

    Now did you have anything relevant to add to the discussion?

  • Alan Vanneman||

    When I'm dead, my life's work will be over and people can do as they damn please.

  • ||

    And that should be your right. Why shouldn't Mr. Barnes' right to have his legacy used as he sees fit be respected, as well.

  • db||

    And if you intended to in any way denigrate the beauty of Katey Sagal or her rack, I shall have to ask you to step outside!

  • Steve Rhoades||

    Those are some titty fuckin titties, right!

  • BakedPenguin||

    What private property? Mr. Barnes is dead...

    Had Barnes known what they were going to do, don't you think he would have given the art to someone who would have carried out his wishes while he was alive? Had Annenberg & the City of Philadelphia then taken the paintings, it would be obvious whose property rights were being violated.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    If Barnes gave the paintings to someone else, the paintings would belong to the recipient, who could sell them, destroy them, etc, and Barnes would have no recourse, because the paintings were no longer his property. It is legal devices like trusts and non-profit organizations that allow a dead man's will to outlast him. W.C. Fields left his money to fund an orphanage for white children only. That will was overturned as not being consistent witht the public interest. Barnes' will was not as awful, but was bad enough.

  • ||

    Let's try this on for sizeP:

    The state gives force to free speech rights, freedom of worship, equality before the law and other legal artifices (that is to say, fictions) to the extent that these artifices provide for the public good, that good having no legal meaning except as defined by the state.
  • ||

    I have quite a few biker friends and they're kind of divided on Sons of Anarchy. Half of them love it and half hate it. It's one of the few current shows I'll watch.

  • ||

    How did they feel about the South Park episode?

  • ||

    He didn’t merely predict a world in which everyone was online. He also foresaw one in which everybody had something to sell.

    He did not predict a world where everyone was online. He predicted a world where the military and uber-corporations ran it and locked it up preventing anyone but hackers from entry beyond a phone book look up of corporate sites.

  • ||

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  • ||

    "after being framed for murder by a lawless FBI agent"

    Watch closer, Damon, it was a lawless ATF agent.

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    I love Sons of Anarchy. The Sons deserve the Globe!

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