Everyone I know is brokenhearted

by Joshua Ellis

originally posted on Zenarchery, August 1, 2014

Get Joshua’s complete book of essays and writing Everyone I Know Is Brokenhearted: Collected Essays And Writing, 1998-2018

 

All the genuinely smart, talented, funny people I know seem to be miserable these days. You feel it on Twitter more than Facebook, because Facebook is where you go to do your performance art where you pretend to be a hip, urbane person with the most awesomest friends and the best relationships and the very best lunches ever. Facebook is surface; Twitter is subtext, and judging by what I’ve seen, the subtext is aching sadness.

I’m not immune to this. I don’t remember ever feeling this miserable and depressed in my life, this sense of futility that makes you wish you’d simply go numb and not care anymore. I think a lot about killing myself these days. Don’t worry, I’m not going to do it and this isn’t a cry for help. But I wake up and think: fuck, more of this? Really? How much more? And is it really worth it?

In my case, much of it stems from my divorce and the collapse of the next relationship I had. But that’s not really the cause. I think that those relationships were bulwarks, charms against the dark I’ve felt growing in this world for a long time now. When I was in love, the world outside didn’t matter so much. But without it, there is nothing keeping the wolf from the door.

It didn’t used to be like this when I was a kid. I’m not getting nostalgic here, or pretending that my adolescence and my twenties were some kind of soft-focused Golden Age. Life sucked when I was young. I was unhappy then too. But there was always the sense that it was just a temporary thing,that if I stuck it out eventually the world was going to get better — become awesome, in fact.

But the reality is that the three generations who ended the 20th century, the Boomers, their Generation X children, and Generation Y, have architected a Western civilization that’s kind of a shit show. Being born in 1978, I fall at either the tail end of Gen X or the beginning of Gen Y, depending on how you look at it. I became an adolescent at the time Nirvana was ushering in a decade of “slacker” ideology, as the pundits liked to put it. But the reality is that I didn’t know a whole lot of actual slackers in the 1990s. I did know a lot of people who found themselves disillusioned with the materialism of the 1980s and what we saw as the failed rhetoric of the Sixties generation, who were all about peace and love right until the time they put on suits and ties and figured out how to divide up the world. I knew a lot of people who weren’t very interested in that path.

The joke, of course, is that every generation kills the thing they love. The hippies became yuppies; Gen X talked a lot about the revolution, and then went and got themselves some venture capital and started laying into place the oversaturated, paranoid world we live in now. A lot of them tried to tell themselves they were still punk as fuck, but it’s hard to morally reconcile the thing where you listen to Fugazi on the way to your job where you help find new ways to trick people into giving up their data to advertisers. Most people don’t even bother. They just compartmentalize.

And I’m not blaming them. The world came apart at the end of the 90s, when the World Trade Center did. My buddy Brent and I were talking about this one night last year — about how the end of the 90s looked like revolution. Everybody was talking about Naomi Klein and anti-consumerism and people in Seattle were rioting over the WTO. Hell, a major motion picture company put out Fight Club, which is about as unsubtle an attack on consumer corporate capitalism as you can get. We were poised on the brink of something. You could feel it.

And then the World Trade Center went down. And all of a sudden calling yourself an “anticapitalist terrorist” was no longer a cool posture to psych yourself up for protest. It became something you might go to jail for — or worse, to one of the Black Camps on some shithole island somewhere. Corporate capitalism became conflated somehow with patriotism. And the idea that the things you own end up defining you became quaint, as ridiculous spoken aloud as “tune in, turn on, drop out”. In fact, it became a positive: if you bought the right laptop, the right smartphone, the right backpack, exciting strangers would want to have sex with you!  Read more “Everyone I know is brokenhearted”

Urine Luck Mr. Trump

words by R.U. Sirius

Image by Chad Essley

Urine luck Mr. Trump
Urine luck said Vlad Putin
Urine luck we have a deal
Sign it now or I will squeal
 
I told NATO where to go
Vlad will treat me like a hero
There’ll be hookers there’ll be pee
It’ll all be there just for me!
 
Urine trouble Mr. Trump
Urine trouble Mueller said
Trouble big time said Ms Stormy
Show Mike Pence all of your pornies
 
I put 2 year olds on trial
But I do it with a smile
Don’t be rude please be civil
Baby snowflakes shouldn’t snivel
 
Urine luck Mr. Trump
Urine luck said Vlad Putin
Urine luck we have a deal
Sign it now or I will squeal
 
 

6pm Tonight at SF MOMA: DJ Spooky’s Soundtrack Premiere to Paul Robeson’s 1925 Silent Film Debut

By Lisa Rein

The legendary Paul Robeson in his acting debut – A 1925 Silent Film, “Body & Soul” – Directed by Oscar Micheaux.

When: Thursday, July 12, 2018

Time: 6pm

Where: SF MOMA, Phyllis Wattis Theater

Tonight Only: See the film with contemporary soundtrack by DJ Spooky

TICKETS

See “Body and Soul” – the first masterpiece of the silent screen era written, directed, and produced by prolific director Oscar Micheaux.- Tonight at SF MOMA, with a special Introduction by DJ Spooky.

Besides telling you that Paul Robeson stars in it, I really don’t want to give anything away, but these African American-focused “race” films – made by Black filmmakers, featuring an all-Black cast, and intended for Black audiences – are few and far between. Micheaux was not only considered the first African American to produce a feature length film. He wrote, produced, and directed more than 40 films from 1919 to 1948.

Robeson himself is something of a legend; besides being an actor, he was an All American football player, a lawyer, a political activist and a powerful and inspirational singer.

As SF MOMA explains:

 “A true pioneer, Micheaux and his’s films answered the challenges of racial segregation and provided black moviegoers with an alternative to the mainstream films being produced by a segregated Hollywood.”

The movie is available at the Internet Archive, but this is your chance to see it with DJ Spooky’s new awesome soundtrack for it – and with an introduction, in person, by DJ Spooky too.

Paul Robeson in Oscar Micheaux’s “Body and Soul” – 1925.

 

 

Ask Matteo Borri: What Do The Methane Patterns On Mars Tell Us About The Possibility of Life There?

By Lisa Rein

The Curiosity Rover has found that the levels of the complex molecule “Methane” on Mars vary with its seasons, just like here on Earth. Credit: NASA/GSFC

You can see many of Matteo Borri’s creations at Robots Everywhere, LLC. He is a member of the Swartz-Manning VR Destination‘s Advisory Board. (The Swartz-Manning is an Aaron Swartz Day Production.)

NASA made an announcement recently about its latest finding about Mars.  Specifically, they found Methane, which clearly suggests that life is either there now, or was there, a long time ago.

Lisa Rein: Matteo, would you please summarize the implications of the Methane material NASA found on Mars?

Matteo Borri: Well, we already knew that there is Methane on Mars. What is interesting and new is that we have now figured out it comes out of the ground seasonally.

Methane on Earth mostly comes about by biological means, from bacteria, but surprisingly enough, the large share of it that comes out of cows’ hindquarters is enough to muddle the data, so we are not sure about it.

However, there is also a seasonal component to how much of it is released in the atmosphere. We now know that Methane is released during the summer and fall. On earth, Methane is also released seasonally. Typically during the end of summer.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

LR: So is part of the excitement that Mars is exhibiting more Earth-like characteristics?

MB: Yes. It’s one more point in common between the two planets.

LR: When they say they’ve found “organic compounds” one of the complex molecules required for life,” what does that mean?

MB: It means that there are complex molecules. “Organic compound” simply means a non-simple molecule containing Carbon. Historically, it was thought that only life-related processes could make those, but we’ve known that this is not the case for more than a century now. (However, the name stuck, which can cause confusion.)

LR: The NASA article said “It should take methane several hundred years to break apart in the presence of UV light, but that’s not what happened on Mars. The surge in methane seems to fade as quickly as it appears, indicating there’s not just a variable source, but a methane sink as well.” What the heck is a “methane sink?”

MB: A methane sink is a type of rock that absorbs methane when the condition for it. Carbonate rocks will fit the bill; so will Granite.

LR: What’s the connection between the Tryptophan that we just learned about in the last article, and these “complex molecules required for life” such as Methane?

MB: If we find Tryptophan, we know that we’ve got a life sign. Methane is actually a simple molecule, five atoms total, and can come about in an inorganic way.

Finding Methane in some parts of Mars, and not others, raises many interesting questions about the Methane’s origin. Might we have stumbled upon ancient Methane deposits from hardy bacteria that are no longer living? Or something else entirely?

There isn’t enough data right now. We have to go back and look, but this recent discovery gives us a place to start looking. It’s never a bad thing if you have even a hint of where to land your rover.

References:

Matteo Borri Explains: How The Next NASA Mars Rover Will Use Lasers to Search For Life On Mars

By Lisa Rein

The NASA Mars Rover takes a selfie. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

When we last left Matteo Borri and his company, Robots Everywhere LLC, he had built a chlorophyll spectroscope for NASA and the Mars Society, for the next Mars Rover. It uses a laser beam to zap the surface and then detect the reactive chlorophyll from other complex molecules. It was tested successfully over the last few months by the Mars Society, and will fly to Mars in 2020 on the next Mars Rover.

I checked back in with Matteo to see what new and exciting projects he is working on, and to help us better understand the science behind his laser-driven life-detecting inventions.

Matteo Borri is on the Advisory Board for the Swartz-Manning VR Destination. (An Aaron Swartz Day Production)

Lisa Rein: Hey Matteo how’s it going? What’s the latest on your NASA Mars Rover experimental research?

Matteo Borri: Well, if you remember, I had managed to figure out how to make a Chlorophyll detector that did not require cutting up a leaf and putting it in a little box. This is significant because we wanted to be able to mount the laser on a rover and have it scanning the surface as the rover moves along the surface of mars, and notifying the rover to stop when it detects something worth stopping for, like, the presence of Chlorophyll.

So, that worked so well, NASA decided to give me another hard problem to solve; could I develop a spectroscope that would cause a reaction to Tryptophan the way I got the chlorophyll to react to the other spectroscope?

LR: Why Tryptophan? I think of that being in turkey and making you tired on Thanksgiving. When my grandpa played professional baseball, they wouldn’t let them eat turkey on the day of a game.

MB: The sleepiness is an urban legend. We now know that Tryptophan doesn’t make you tired. But it is the same ingredient known to be in turkey.

But just as Chlorophyll exists in every piece of plant life on earth, tryptophan exists in not all but almost all pieces of animal life on earth.

So, if we had one laser spectroscope detecting Chlorophyll molecules, and the other detecting Tryptophan molecules, we will always be able to detect the existence of life (as we know it) there.

LR: We can only look for molecules that we already know to exist in “life” here on planet Earth?

MB: Correct. But we also have good reason to believe that any “life” found on other planets would still actually be composed of the same kinds of molecules found in “life” here.

LR: So the idea is to look for the most basic molecular substances that would have to be there along with anything else that was plant or animal living there.

Photo: NASA / JPL / Malin Space Science Systems

Read more “Matteo Borri Explains: How The Next NASA Mars Rover Will Use Lasers to Search For Life On Mars”

Fear of an Orange Man Planet

by R.U. Sirius

Songs & Lyrics from the Trump Era for your weekend dance party and horrorshow

 

Brag (I Fucked Ted Nugent With His Own Gun)

 

I walk 47 miles of barbed wire
I drink ayahuasca just to watch the news
I drank Jagger & Richards under the table
And late at night I dress like Betty Grable
Who do you want me to be
Who do you want me to be
Who do you want me to be
I’m not too blind to see

My voodoo remote gets all 12 channels
I stuck with leather when Seattle did flannel
My boy named Sue is scary to you
And if you cry I’ll be flingin’ poo
Who do you want me to be
Who do you want me to be
Who do you want me to be
I’m not too blind to see

I eat the living dead for fun
I fucked Ted Nugent with his own gun
I midnight rambled with Joseph Campbell
His hero trip was a croc of shit
Who do you want me to be
Who do you want me to be
Who do you want me to be
I’m not too blind to see

by R.U. Sirius & Phriendz w. Cussed Varmint
R.U. Sirius – Cussed Varmint
Produced by Daddy Phriday
Video by Daddy Phriday

Subterranean Heartsick Blues (with apologies to Bob Dylan)
Unrecorded

Donnies in the White House mixing up the masses
We’re on the pavement showing cops our passes
You might need a guillotine to stop the Ruling Crass, yes
You might need a weatherwoman to fight against the fascists
You might want some mescaline to rid you of your stasis
You might need some kerosene to Molotov the bastids
 
Look out kid it’s nothing you did
You’re not yet ten but you’re doing it again
They got tweens and toddlers held up in a big pen
You don’t need a MAGA hat to make you any new friends
 
Get born see porn don’t scorn Ms. Dohrn
Learn to tango Eat a Mango Dylanesque-ish fandango
You might need a guillotine to stop the Ruling Crass, yes
You might need a weatherwoman to fight against the fascists
 

Jesus Was A Zombie 

Unrecorded

Jesus was a zombie
He rose up from the dead
It was a virgin rebirth
Still Mary gave him head
He walked the streets naked
Gorged on Roman flesh
Decided he would hitchhike
His way to Marrakesh

Jesus was a hippie
He listened to The Dead
He panhandled the Pharisees
Saved up all his bread
Went to see his father
Way up in the sky
Holy fuck Jesus said
I must be way high

Jesus was a vampire
He rose up from the dead
He had so much to offer
His body blood and dread
He started up a little cult
It grew … metasticized
Jesus was a cancer
That thought it knew the answer

Read more “Fear of an Orange Man Planet”

Memes Are For Tricksters: The Biology of Disinformation

by R.U. Sirius

An interview with Douglas Rushkoff, David Pescovitz & Jake Dunagan

Back in 1990, when MONDO 2000 magazine promised Screaming Memes on its cover, it was more or less a secret argot winking at our technohip Mondoid readers. I mean, sure there was that Dawkins book in which he invented the concept, but it seemed to be a bunch of playful, subversive freaks who were using them to blow open some heads (and maybe sell a few magazines). 

We’ve come a long way baby. Now, the world appears to be defined by memetic warfare and the damage done is real world crisis and horror.

A recent paper by Douglas Rushkoff, David Pescovitz and Jake Dunagan written for the Institute for the Future titled The Biology of Disinformation: memes, media viruses and cultural inoculation describes the contemporary condition and suggests ways to combat this bad operation mindfuck.  

Read The Biology of Disinformation

David Pescovitz and Jake Dunagan are both research directors at Institute for the Future and Rushkoff is a research fellow.  MONDOids are, of course, familiar with Pescovitz as one of the founding members of Boing Boing and Rushkoff as the author of many books including the highly relevant Media Virus, from 1994.

We chatted using Slack…

thanks to Satori D for his assistance and participation

R.U. Sirius: In a sense, you’re offering a different model than the one most of us usually think in, as regards memetics. Instead of fighting bad memes with good, or their memes with ours, are you suggesting that we look at memes themselves as viruses attacking us? Is that right?

Douglas Rushkoff: Yeah, that’s the simplest way of looking at it. That’s why I called memes in media “media viruses.” Even if they end up forcing important ideas into the cultural conversation, and even if they ultimately lead to good things, they do infect us from the outside. They attack our weak code, and continue to replicate until we repair it, or until we come to recognize the “shell” of the virus itself.

I think what makes our analysis unique, compared with a lot of what’s out there, is that we’re not proposing yet another technosolutionist fix. Mark Zuckerberg wants to fight fake news with artificial intelligence. Great. He’s already over his head in a media environment he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know why his platform has led to so many unintended effects. So what’s his solution? Build yet another technology he understands even less to solve the problem with yet another black box.

Even those with the best intentions see all this as a technological problem, when it’s really more a cultural or biological one. The difference in our approach is that we still have faith in the human organism and human society to rise to the occasion and increase their resiliency. So we’re writing for people, not tech companies.

David Pescovitz 

David Pescovitz: I’m also interested in how our networked media environment has evolved to allow this nastiness to occur and, in fact, reward it. During the early days of Twitter and Facebook it was exciting that people were using the platforms to share ideas and “find the others.” But I was also annoyed and later alarmed by the rise in narcissism, emphasis on “personal brands,” and mob mentality. Maybe those people were always like that and social media just amplified those traits. Either way, to me it quickly felt like antisocial media.

Since then, it’s become increasingly clear that the only real way to fix our social media experiences is by fixing ourselves. This is true when it comes to how we interact with other people online but also our own vulnerability to propaganda, disinformation, and coercion. Of course reconnecting with our own humanity is much harder than just giving in to the algorithmically addictive dopamine rush of another retweet or “like.”

Jake Dunagan: There was an old Zuck who swallowed a virus, I don’t know why he swallowed the virus. He swallowed AI to fight the virus…

I was struck by the psychologist Dannagal Young’s point that we quoted in the article: “blaming readers for spreading fake news from a cognitive perspective …somewhat equivalent to blaming a baby for soiling itself. They can’t help it. ”

 

Jake Dunagan

This is what Doug is calling our weak code, our vulnerabilities we’ve inherited from evolution and extended by culture. Humor, satire, memes, are exploiting our cognitive weaknesses, and lowering our defenses. I’ve always loved the Mad Magazine, SNL, and Yes Men ways of showing us how the messages we’re hearing are full of shit. Read more “Memes Are For Tricksters: The Biology of Disinformation”

The Psychedelic Inspiration For Hypercard

by Bill Atkinson, as told to Leo Laporte

In 1985 I swallowed a tiny fleck of gelatin containing a medium dose of LSD, and I spent most of the night sitting on a concrete park bench outside my home in Los Gatos, California.
 
I gazed up at a hundred billion galaxies each with a hundred billion stars, and each star a giant thermonuclear fusion reaction as powerful as our Sun. And for the first time in my life I knew deep down inside that we are not alone. 
 
I knew that life on planet Earth is not the only pocket of consciousness in the universe, and likely not the most advanced. But we still have a role to play in the unfolding drama of creation. 
 
It seemed to me the universe is in a process of coming alive. Consciousness is blossoming and propagating to colonize the universe, and life on Earth is one of many bright spots in the cosmic birth of consciousness.
 
But the stars are separated by enormous distances of darkness and vacuum, which may hinder communication between them. I lowered my gaze and saw the street lamps below glowing brightly, each casting a pool of light but surrounded by darkness before the next lamp. As above, so below.
 
 
 
The street lamps reminded me of bodies of knowledge, gems of discovery and understanding, but separated from each other by distance and different languages. Poets, artists, musicians, physicists, chemists, biologists, mathmeticians, and economists all have separate pools of knowledge, but are hindered from sharing and finding the deeper connections.
 
My vision distorted by thick eyeglasses, I witnessed the curvature of the Earth’s horizon, and I felt the pull of gravity toward its center, such that every one of us is standing at the very apex. Each of us stands at the top of planet Earth, and each of us is a leader or captain of the “Blue Marble” team.
 
How could I help? By focusing on the weak link. If I were captain of a soccer team, I would look for the weak link and work on it. If the goalie was letting too many through, I would spend extra practice time with him, and the whole team would prosper.
 
It occurred to me the weak link for the Blue Marble team is wisdom. Humanity has achieved sufficient technological power to change the course of life and the entire global ecosystem, but we seem to lack the perspective to choose wisely between alternative futures. But I was young, without much life experience or wisdom myself.
 
Knowledge, it seemed to me, consists of the “How” connections between pieces of information, the cause and effect relationships. How does this action bring about that result. Science is a systematic attempt to discover the “How” connections. 
 
 
Wisdom, it seemed to me, was a step further removed, the bigger perspective of the “Why” connections between pieces of knowledge. Why, for reasons ethical and aesthetic, should we choose one future over another?
 
I thought if we could encourage sharing of ideas between different areas of knowledge, perhaps more of the bigger picture would emerge, and eventually more wisdom might develop. Sort of a trickle-up theory of information leading to knowledge leading to wisdom.
 
This was the underlying inspiration for HyperCard, a multimedia authoring environment that empowered non-programmers to share ideas using new interactive media called HyperCard stacks. 
 
 
Each card in a HyperCard stack included graphics, text, interactive buttons, and links that took you to another card or stack. Built-in painting tools, drag-and-drop authoring with a library of pre-fab buttons and fields, and simple event based scripting made HyperCard flexible and easy to use.
 
It took a lot of hard work and a dedicated team to complete this mission. Apple shipped HyperCard in August 1987, and included it free with every Mac so any user could create and share HyperCard stacks. Many creative people expressed their ideas and passions, and several million interactive HyperCard stacks were created. 
 
HyperCard was a precurser to the first web browser, except chained to a hard drive before the worldwide web. Six years later Mosaic was introduced, influenced by some of the ideas in HyperCard, and indirectly by an inspiring LSD experience.
 
Leo Laporte did a great interview with me in April 2016. You can watch it here —  with the part about hypercard inspiration starting at 22:43 
 
Check out Bill Atkinson’s Nature Photography
 
 

you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop!

Detention Center Mural

 

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it — that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

Mario Savio, 1964

 

 

 

 

Come to DJ Spooky’s Phantom Dancehall Record Release Party – In Brooklyn On June 13

Who: DJ Spooky with François K.

Date: Wednesday, June 13

Time: 10pm – 3am

Location: Output, 74 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11249

Tickets

DJ Spooky’s new album “Phantom Dancehall” is a Jamaican Dancehall Mashup album available now on Jamaica’s VP Records. Greensleeves, their reggae sublabel, is the catalogue he explored and sampled on the album. The digital version of the album is available for purchase here, and you can here it on SoundCloud here. There is also a limited edition vinyl version that is currently available in record stores and online.

Phantom Dancehall debuted at #3 on Billboard Reggae and has settled in comfortably in the top five for the foreseeable future.

Phantom Dancehall combines sampled reggae tracks, woven in to a finely detailed tapestry of chill electronic beats and melodies. This sample track we are including below is a collaboration of DJ Spooky and Stephen Levitin a.k.a. Apple Juice Kid. Other tracks include the keyboard work of Alex Thompson aka Fourth Shift. Walshy Fire (Major Lazer) on vocals and dancehall new comer Sanjay added to vocal samples of Busy Signal, Lady Saw and Garnett Silk. Everything is blended to give the project an eclectic, modern dancehall flavor.

DJ Spooky celebrate the release of Phantom Dance Hall on vinyl, available online.

Vinyl is available on the VP Records website.

I caught up with DJ Spooky while he was in San Francisco, before he hopped back over to Brooklyn for Wednesday night’s record release party.

Lisa Rein: What’s going on at Wednesday night’s record release party?

DJ Spooky: It’s just a straight up party so people can hear these songs. Most of these were recorded in Jamaica at VP Records’ Fun Studio. VP records is legendary; They are the biggest record label in Jamaica. “VP” stands for “Vincent and Patricia Chin” – so “VP.” They are Chinese-Jamaican, which I have always loved. The fact that they are just quirky, kind of at the heart of Jamaican culture; Chinese and Indian. Jamaica is very multicultural. So the idea was to represent a little bit of an update on Dancehall with a downtown New York flavor. Ya know, there are so many classics you could look at that show how reggae influenced Rock n Roll, Jazz, Hip Hop; you name it.

You could say the beginning of Hip Hop was all about sound systems. When I say “sound systems,” I’m talking like ya know Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Kool Herc, and so on…Those are legendary figures who began Hip Hop as we know it. So, it’s sort of looking at that synthesis between Hip Hop, Dancehall, and that sort of New York/Kingston connection.

LR: So you’ll be blending the new songs into the mix?

DJS: Right. Turntables, scratching. Ya know, doing crazy fun party stuff.

LR: Francois K. is opening, right?

DJS: Yes. It’s a famous party for New York for people who are really into dancing, and who just really want to hear good music that’s got a kind of a Dub & Jamaica connection. So people go there ready to dance. You can just hang out and get a good vibe and it’s fun. Simple stuff. Like the simple pleasure of dancing to good music. There’s no pretension. There’s no extra annoying stuff. You just go ready to party and have a good time. The music’s great and they’ve chosen a really good sound system, and it’s clear. It’s a good party with a clear vision of how electronic music and dance hall music connect.

LR: The other night, when we were walking in the Mission, you noticed that the clubs were playing Jamaican Dancehall. It was such a vibrant scene.

DJS: Yeah. Right in the middle of San Francisco. Every single bar we walked by.

LR: Right. Even the Indian restaurant we tried to go to (Bissap Baobab) was totally packed, with everyone dancing, and Jamaican Dancehall blaring out the windows. So, why do you think this is happening now? It seems like something’s happening, doesn’t it?

DJS: Yeah it’s a retro-future thing. Dancehall was at the beginning of a lot of electronic music, and I think that anybody that goes out to a party and hears it; It’s catchy. It’s immersive, and it pulls you in. That 80s and 90s catchiness, while a lot of the music now is very cold. I try as much as possible to build a bridge between the older styles and some of the contemporary styles.

LR: Yes it was interesting looking these people up, as there is a lot of history there. You went through VP Records’ back catalog, right? What was that process like?

DJS: The idea was to go through some of those memories that those songs triggered, and then update. So, some of it’s old school stuff, mashup-wise. I would go through Dancehall classics, basically.

LR: Is this vinyl that you are going through?

DJS: Yes.

LR: So this is Jamaican Dancehall vinyl from the 80s and 90s?

DJS: And older, yes, from Greensleeves Records. I’ve done projects before with Greensleeves Records.

LR: Greensleeves is a sub-label of VP Records?

DJS: Yes. Exactly. They are both legendary for different reasons. Let’s put it this way. Dancehall is more of a digital approach, and Dub is more analog. What I wanted to do was build a bridge between those two, analog and digital. Some of the producers of VP records influenced my thinking. Digital B a.k.a. Digital Bobby, and there’s also another gentleman, Bobby Konders, who did a whole bunch of projects mixing Hip Hop, Dancehall, and House Music in the 90s. I’ve listened to their styles for a long time. I wanted to make a statement about it and keep it fun; a party vibe.

If you go through old records, you realize, you know, 40 years is a long time for music, but that stuff is still fresh. It’s incredible. The 80s was just incredible. That’s when I was a kid. Ya know Shabba Ranks and so many others.

LR: So we have a song included here in this article, “Buju Banton.” It’s a track you collaborated on with Stephen Levitin a.k.a. Apple Juice Kid. How’d you guys meet and start working together?

DJS: He’s a younger producer who’s getting on the scene, and he’s been working hard on a project with PBS where he goes to different countries and teaches younger kids how to work with beats. I really enjoyed the educational aspect of what he’s up to. So, we had a conversation, and, generally, I’m crazy busy, so I thought I’d give him a shot to help with the project, and it just went from there.

Check out the track: Buju Banton_PhantomDancehall_Dj_Spooky_Apple Juice Kid

LR: So what’s your creative process like when you collaborate with someone on a track?

DJS: The idea is, you make beats, and then you tweak, edit, combine. I’ll come up with a first draft. He’ll come up with a different draft. And we send files back and forth until the track is done.

LR: You are the producer though, technically?

DJS: Yes. I suppose. But I don’t look at it like that. It’s a DJ Spooky “album project” where I have invited others to share in the conversation. I really think of it as an “album project.”

For this project, I was going through VP Records’ releases, and listening to all the Dancehall records, and then editing beats and samples I select from their material.

LR: So, how did you hook up with VP Records?

DJS: They had heard a project I did with Trojan Records a long time ago, and then asked me to do a mixtape. They had asked Diplo to do one. Then they asked me to do the second one. They are legendary. They put out Bob Marley and stuff from the sixties. They’re huge.

LR: You mentioned that you recorded this project at VP Records’ Fun Studio, had you ever been to Jamaica before this project?

DJS: Yes. I’ve been to Jamaica. My mom was an art critic for the Kingston Daily Gleaner in Jamaica. It’s like the New York Times in Jamaica. We knew people there and I would go there every summer.

LR: Ah. Ok. Tell me more about your mom.

DJS: My mom was a Historian of Design, and she wrote for the Kingston Daily Gleaner as an art critic covering Caribbean Art. And we would go every summer because we had “god cousins” there. (People that are like family at an abstract level.) My mother had been room mates with several Jamaicans in college. Everybody stayed in touch. For many years, we visited. And they visited us.

LR: You would go there every summer?

DJS: Oh yes. Constantly. And that’s what left that kind of vibe in my head space.

LR: So you’re mom, Rosemary E. Reed Miller, was an art critic and historian?

DJS: Yes. A Historian of Design. Her main book is called The Threads Of Time: The Fabric Of History: Profiles Of African American Dressmakers And Designers From 1850 To The Present.

LR: So you totally grew up living in the art world, with your art critic mom taking you to art openings? No wonder the two of you have a lot in common.

DJS: Yes, we do. And we really both have had a deep relationship with Jamaica. Because there is both a literary component and an art component there, there was always something that felt like a powerful connection for us.

LR: So this is going back to your roots a little bit. I didn’t realize you grew up there. Even though it was only in the summer; doing that every year can strong cultural influence.

DJS: Absolutely. It just was fun and really life affirming. Jamaica’s got this whole really vivid, flavorful kind of colorful sensibility.

LR: Well I wish I was closer to Brooklyn. It sounds like it’s going to be an incredible show.

If you are in New York, remember to go to the show Wednesday night at the Output. (Tickets)

Limited edition vinyl is available at your local record store & online. The digital version of the album is available for purchase here. You can hear it on SoundCloud here.

DJ Spooky in San Francisco, California, June 2018.

How a little “working group” stopped Oakland from becoming a mini-fusion center for the Department of Homeland Security.

How The Occupy Oakland Privacy Working Group became Oakland Privacy

By Lisa Rein.

Tracy Rosenberg of Oakland Privacy

This is the first of interviews with Tracy Rosenberg. (Here is the second interview with Tracy, about the Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance project.)

I have been working with Tracy Rosenberg (Oakland Privacy), Dave Maass (EFF), and Daniel Rigmaiden on the Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project.

Soon, we will be publishing the documents that we received from our first city (Sacramento).

I asked Tracy Rosenberg if she would explain the history and origin of Oakland Privacy, which she had mentioned to me actually started out as the “Occupy Oakland Privacy Working Group.” I enjoyed learning that the organization that has been so pivotal in helping put Oakland’s current surveillance policy framework in place had its roots in Occupy Oakland. (We will be talking to Tracy more about that framework, and how it can be used as a model for every city across the country.) 

But I had no idea what a relevant slice of history I had unearthed, and it seems like we could all benefit from learning more about it.

This is the first of two interviews with Oakland Privacy’s Tracy Rosenberg. (Second Interview here.)

 

Lisa Rein: Okay so it’s January 2012. Occupy Oakland is still alive, but waning.

Tracy Rosenberg: Right. So, Occupy Oakland, as you know, had a reputation as one of the more militant occupy encampments. It was one of the later ones. One of the last ones. After about two weeks of occupation in the plaza it was forceably busted by police, with tear gas and multiple injuries. Veteran Scott Olsen had his head basically split open by the police.

LR: With a tear gas grenade, correct?

TR: Yes. There were a bunch of re-occupations and episodes that continued up through January 28, 2012 or so, which was one of the last confrontations between Occupy Oakland and the police happened.

Occupy Oakland’s January 28 event was an attempted occupation of an abandoned building. An abandoned, county-owned building in the City of Oakland. The idea was that spaces that weren’t being used by the government needed to be available as public spaces or common spaces for people who were economically disenfranchised. (Economically disenfranchised = The homeless and people who were just displaced.)

So, the #J28 “occupation” of this government building was militant and controversial. Essentially, it sort of drew a line in the sand for a lot of people. There were people who sort of identified with the general idea of Occupy, but weren’t super duper comfortable with militant activism and the physical occupation of public property that was increasingly appening with Oakland Occupy. And, ultimately, a lot of people walked away after #J28.

Timeline:

Occupy Wall Street starts

September 17, 2011

Occupy Oakland starts

October 10, 2011

Occupy Oakland Privacy Working Group starts

July 2, 2013

Oakland Privacy starts

July 15, 2016

Adbuster’s image which incorporates the 3 dimensional work of Arturo Di Modica titled “Charging Bull”.

LR: I heard that there were a lot of problems with the businesses in that area during Occupy. What was going on there?

TR: Well, there were a lot of business in the downtown area, which, at that time, were struggling somewhat. These last seven years, we have had a lot of gentrification in downtown Oakland, but back then, in 2011, Downtown Oakland was a hard place to have a business. So, there were a lot of small businesses – a lot of “mom and pop” stores – that were just beside themselves.

LR: Wait I’m sorry. I don’t understand. How was the occupation affecting them negatively? I would have thought it would have brought in more business for them, by drawing more people out in mass numbers for so many weeks in a row. (I know in San Francisco, after a protest, all the restaurants are packed.) So why were they “beside themselves?”

TR: They said that their customers were too frightened of the Plaza to come down and patronize their business.

LR: Oh. So, it gave downtown a bad reputation for a bit because people didn’t know what to expect? But that wasn’t really the protesters’ fault was it. Wasn’t it more because people were afraid of possible police confrontations, often unprovoked, in that area?

TR: Yeah, it was a combination of things. Occupy Oakland kind of wrapped itself up with the “Fuck the Police” ethos. Especially towards the end. Many folks who had been involved with it started to think about the fact that they’d seen a lot of police ammunition and equipment driving around the encampments. There seemed to be a lot of federal agencies participating.

These folks weren’t really sure what had been used on them, or how. So they started to do a little bit of research on these issues. What equipment had been used? What police tactics were being used? What were some of these other agencies? People started taking pictures of the federal trucks. “What was all of this?” They wondered. “What exactly were they using against us?”

Read more “How a little “working group” stopped Oakland from becoming a mini-fusion center for the Department of Homeland Security.”

Interview with Oakland Privacy’s Tracy Rosenberg On The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project

This is the second of two interviews with Tracy. Here is the first interview, which is about how Oakland Privacy’s roots are based in the “Occupy Oakland Privacy Working Group”.

By Lisa Rein.

The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project is all about developing a larger strategy for determining what police and sheriff departments have already purchased, and putting “surveillance policy frameworks” in place to monitor and regulate the use of that equipment against their residents.

The project first started during Aaron Swartz Day 2017’s Sunday hackathon. Before that event was even over, it was clear that it had been really successful and we were all very pumped and decided to just keep going on our projects, through till next year’s event.

Tracy Rosenberg of Oakland Privacy.

Aaron Swartz filed a lot of FOIA requests, and it made me want to start a project at the hackathon that would continue the tradition. (Note: FOIAs are “Freedom of Information Act Requests – and are Federal. This article discusses “public records requests” at the local, or municipal level.)

To that end, I met in with Tracy Rosenberg, of Oakland Privacy, and Daniel Rigmaiden (who revealed the Stingray to the world).

Tracy has been teaching me about how powerful the information obtained from public records requests can be, because it is literally the police or sheriff department saying, themselves, “Yup. We have this piece of equipment. Here is our purchase receipt.” (For example.)

However, writing the letters and filing the requests can be time consuming, even with systems like Muckrock, that vastly improve the process. So, our first idea was to automate the process of using Muckrock, so someone could fill out a form that would connect to Muckrock seamlessly. It turned out though, that except for the automation, Muckrock already had everything we needed. So, we decided to use Muckrock, and focus on saving folks time by providing all of the letters ahead of time for every single piece of equipment (including requesting details about how the data from these devices was collected and stored).

Tracy wrote up all the letters ahead of time, turning the job of writing and submitting 18 public records requests into a quick cut and paste job. Together, we filed together 18 public records requests; 9 to the City of Sacramento and 9 to the county of Sacramento, in just under over two hours, but it was our first time. (We will be publishing our results very soon.)

In the meantime, I took a few moments to talk to Tracy about the implications of filing public records requests, and how the information obtained from them eventually led to a first of its kind Privacy Commission and surveillance policy framework, in Oakland, California.

Lisa Rein: First, let’s talk about the kinds of information we can uncover with public records requests

Tracy Rosenberg: We get a pretty clear example of the kinds of things that we can find out using this latest find about license plate readers as an example.

Read more “Interview with Oakland Privacy’s Tracy Rosenberg On The Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project”

“All medias are propagandic” — Of Bowie, Mishima, Memewar: Jamie Curcio Interviewed

 

by R.U. Sirius

artwork by Jamie Curcio

Jamie Curcio is a brilliant artist and cultural theorist or something like that… but even, thankfully, harder to pin down.  

In any case, he is one hell of a writer and thinker, mixing together all kinds of favorite MONDOid memes — the ups and downs of post-whatever philosophies, the over-the-edges of avant cultural works, media narratives and quasi-apocalyptic hysterias and — perhaps most charmingly — he is obsessed with David Bowie.

Books include Narrative Machines: Modern Myth, Revolution and Propaganda, Party At The World’s End (Fallen Cycle, Volume One) and the upcoming Masks: Bowie and Artists of Artifice, which is in progress.

I interviewed Curcio mainly about Narrative Machines and the upcoming Bowie book.  

R.U. SIRIUS: Your book Narrative Machines provides a discourse about the distorting effects of a sort of mediated hall of mirrors and decentering of identity. This sort of thing has been active for a very long time, even before the internet made its growth “exponential.”  From whence comes the recognition that the contingency of our narratives is more useful to the “right” than the “left”… if true?

Also, there was a ‘90s idea that a sufficiently advanced technology would sort-of blow through the rupturing aspect of it all — that the dissipating structures would eventually cohere as a higher evolutionary order.  Is there any use for that sort of hopeful perspective today?

JAMIE CURCIO: Pessimism and realism have a complicated relationship. That’s one of the things I was trying to come to terms with in working on Narrative Machines. So let me say, if being pessimistic is going to shut people down, then I’m not going to say it’s a virtue.  

But it’s also hard to really take an account of the problems on the horizon for our civilization, and our collective inability or unwillingness to deal with it, and not recognize how blinding optimism about the “revelatory power of the new” can be. Accelerationists often forget just how dumb the perpetual rush toward the new can be.

People can read that statement in a Right or a Left way — they’ll differ in terms of looking for a solution, or in what “our civilization” means. Everyone seems to think the barbarians are at the gates, whether it’s the Fascists and Russian oligarchs, or the immigrants and cultural Marxists brainwashing the children. It’s clear which I think is more absurd, but in either case, it’s a war of myth. We can joke about memewar, but I think we need to recognize the ways that it isn’t a joke, or at least, the way that it’s a continuation of propagandist methods that are hardly new.

There’s a kind of messianism and eschatology that runs through both the “Right” and “Left,” the idea that a political ideology itself can fix anything. Robert Anton Wilson wrote about this plenty. I think he was ahead of the curve in many ways, for all that it’s worth. And he was adamant about remaining optimistic.

To me, the silver lining is that if the analogy of the effect on culture the printing press had, and now with the internet, then there’s reason to believe the end isn’t nigh in that regard. Things are looking dark, but if we’re talking about bot armies and the Russian use of postmodern methods in their propaganda — all is not lost. It just emphasizes the importance of studying “useless” things like philosophy and art.

On the other hand, the way that unfettered capitalism is likely to consume the planet, or at least its habitability for a great number of species including, ultimately, ourselves… that’s another story. For all we know, that ship has already sailed. The only way out, if there is one, is through. We’re committed to carry the experiments of the past into the future — just look at how the problems and solutions of a century ago continue to get resurrected. Fascism, Communism, Liberalism. The three ideologies that arose from the ashes of WW 1.

I should add, I happen to think compassion should guide our actions toward others as much as we can manage, and much Right wing ideology seems a veneer for various forms of cruelty, and I believe cruelty should be reserved for art. So my sympathies tend to run Left, but that’s different from an ideological commitment.

RUS: You take on the statistical based optimism that seems to be well-loved particularly by neoliberal sorts like Pinker. The idea is that statistics show us that human beings are improving their lot in life and becoming more well-behaved.  Can you explicate your view a bit?

JC: I was taken by John Grey’s argument on this subject in The Soul of the Marionette, and so while I didn’t just reproduce it, I would say it helped me put a pre-existing line of thought in order. In short, I investigate the Progressive certainty that everything is improving all the time is very much based both on our selective interpretation of the facts, and our situation in terms of a particular narrative we have constructed about our place in history. There have been undeniable benefits per capita in the past 100 years regarding the marriage of technology and capitalism. Will that read the same in 100 years? I’m not so sure.

RUS: I think underlying the technotopian hope of the late 20th Century was the idea that this mostly white and American eruption at the end of the 20th century could use tech to deliver an awesomely improving world and you could elide the blowback from centuries of colonialism and racism. It’s not an entirely bad idea… to avoid conflict.

JC: It definitely tends to overlook the role of inertia in a culture, or of a true reckoning with the past, why that keeps repeating itself through us. Time may be accumulative but the behavior of complex systems is generally not linear.

 

RUS:  You deal in Narrative Machines with questions of revolution… and how it doesn’t tend to deliver on its hopes.  Looking at the Arab Spring, would you say that any movement now just accelerates confusion. There’s no interregnum of hope?

The broader question about revolution usually not improving things… does this leave us with neoliberalism with its economic domination, total surveillance and constant war… or nationalism?  

JC: I use the Arab Spring as an example. What struck me about it was how clearly it supports the idea of “revolution” as very literal — going around and around, forever. There is a sense of Frazier’s Golden Bough here, each King deposed by the King who will one day be deposed. Though that’s a bit reductive, it is hard to find examples of revolution going well for “the people” long term. It’s generally good for some people, and not others. To the extent that revolutions are a power play, they just reshuffle the cards. There’s a lot in Marxist thought about getting beyond that problem… which we definitely haven’t see play out in reality. The day of the revolution is one thing, but there’s always the day after. But that doesn’t necessarily mean everything is hopeless — we still affect one another, things do actually change.

But my ultimate focus in that book isn’t political, even though it deals so much in political ideological terms. It’s all a backhanded argument for an art movement, really… Read more ““All medias are propagandic” — Of Bowie, Mishima, Memewar: Jamie Curcio Interviewed”

MarsVR: Explore The Surface of Mars Like A Real Human Mars-bound Astronaut

Congratulations to the Mars Society for reaching its kickstarter goal for MarsVR.

The actual surface of Mars. Photo credit: Nasa/JPL

The long-term goal of the MarsVR program is to enable you to explore Mars in VR using the same ground breaking VR platform that will be used to train the crew members at the Mars Desert Research Station, an analog simulation of Mars in the Utah desert, organized by the Mars Society. the entire VR environment, including all 3-D models and terrain around the MDRS, will be released under open source licenses to be made available to researchers and the general public.

This photo was taken by the Mars Pathfinder on the surface of Mars. The area is known as “Twin Peaks” – Photo Credit: NASA/JPL

MarsVR will be a fully immersive VR Experience that allows you to explore a simulated Mars environment. The Mars Society is pioneering the use of virtual reality for pre-mission crew training, as well as expanding Mars advocacy and outreach among the global community. Training and documentation will also be provided in the hopes that a whole ecosystem can be built around the project. 

MarsVR is one of the first projects of its kind, but I believe it is the kind of system that everyone will be building in the years to come. A VR-enabled datasharing platform has implications for just about every area of scientific research, and may just “change everything” by accelerating breakthroughs at an exponential rate (due to everything being open-sourced and shared with the public).

The Mars Society’s James Burk

Meet James Burk, the IT Director of the Mars Society and the one leading the organization into its first foray of CrowdExploration (an emerging field of collaboration between the first astronauts on Mars and VR experts and enthusiasts back on Earth).

James and his team have a few different phases of the project planned. “Phase 1” will focus on designing training simulations for the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. The simulations that take place there help to provide crucial information and situation preparedness to the participating MDRS crew members, via analog research and testing. These help prepare future astronauts to learn what they can in a simulated environment and make the most of their time on Mars.

The first phase of MarsVR will be focused on the MDRS (Mars Desert Research Station), providing a virtual reality platform for serious research to support the exploration of the “real” Mars in the future. But since it is virtual, we can all come along for the ride.

The Phase 1 goal is to build a complete high-resolution simulation of the entire MDRS habitat, both inside and out. This will ship in October, but there should be a beta finished as early as September 2018.

 

A few happy crew members at the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. Photo Credit: The Mars Society.
A crew looks across the barren landscape of “Mars.” (In the Utah desert.) Photo Credit: The Mars Society.

Read more “MarsVR: Explore The Surface of Mars Like A Real Human Mars-bound Astronaut”

Glenn Branca and Elliott Sharp: “We are the Reality of this Cyberpunk Fantasy” 1991

IN CONVERSATION WITH MARK DERY

From Issue #5 of MONDO 2000 1991

Glenn Branca and Elliott Sharp philosophize with a hammer. And an anvil. And a stirrup. The two New York composers take Friedrich Nietzche, who subtitled an essay “How One Philosophizes With a Hammer,” a step further. They make music that jangles the bones of the inner ear and bruises the brain.

Branca, 42, is a Promethean presence in new music. Emerging from Manhattan’s no wave scene in the late seventies, he smashed the world to flinders with a single, craggy, monolithic chord-a cluster of E notes, to be exact, the thunderclap that opens 1979’s “The Spectacular Commodity” (The Ascension, 99 Records). Then, he made it new. Scored for massed electric guitars amplified past the threshold of aural pain, “Symphony No. 1: Tonal Plexus” (ROIR) welded the harmonics and heterodyning effects of minimalism’s “acoustic phenomena” school to Beethoven’s stormy bluster, Steve Reich’s static harmonies, and the careening, locomotive fury of heavy metal.

Symphony No. 3: Gloria-Music For the First 127 Intervals of the Harmonic Series” (Neutral) called for non-tempered tunings based on the harmonic series, the naturally-occurring, endlessly-ascending row of pitches which are multiples of a fundamental frequency. “Within this internal mechanism exists a body of music,” Branca observed in his program notes, “music which has not been written, but which is inherently indicated, in much the same way that DNA contains information.” In “Symphony No. 5: Describing Planes of an Expanding Hypersphere” and subsequent works, Branca used the harmonic series to conjure otherworldly effects-an ethereal, crystalline whistling reminiscent of glass harmonica, sonic Spirograph patterns traced in the air by spiraling melody lines.

In his seventh and most recent symphony, Branca embraces equal temperament and conventional orchestral instrumentation. Polymetric, polymorphous, and perverse- there are no melodic themes to speak of, only ascending harmonies Symphony No. 7 suggests Reich’s “Desert Music” in its chattering mallet instruments and attacca movement, Anton Bruckner in its almost palpable air of mystery, of awe in the presence of something that withers words like dry husks.

Although he is not the Brucknerian mystic Branca is, Elliott Sharp shares his fellow composer’s obsession with raw power. In music of unutterable strangeness and mutant beauty, the 40-year-old composer/multi-instrumentalist summons visions of thermonuclear fireballs and self-squared dragons, black holes and information whiteout. On Sili/contemp/tation (Ear-Rational), Monster Curve (SST), and other Sharp releases, one hears echoes of innumerable influences-gutbucket blues, Inuit throat-singing, Jimi Hendrix, Krzysztof Penderecki, the harmonic chanting of Tibetan monks, chaos theory, and fractal geometry-scrunched into a single skull and subjected to explosive decompression.

All of which might suggest that Sharp’s art is a cross between the neural spin art of a theoretical physicist at mid-orgasm and the climax of the movie Altered States, where the protagonist devolves into Silly Putty. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sharp, like Branca, is a hyperintellectual who frequently makes use of mathematical equations in his work. He has explored the farflung reaches of the harmonic series and has written works in just intonation, the microtonal tuning system favored by Harry Partch. Moreover, his compositional architecture, tuning systems, and rhythms are often generated using the Fibonacci series, mathematical ratios derived by summing a number and its precedent- 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and so forth.

“The music,” informs Sharp in his liner notes to Larynx (SST), “dances upon the ever-changing boundary between a geometry derived from the Fibonacci series and a fractal geometry of turbulence, chaos and disorder.”

Astonishingly, the two composers had never met, a fact that defies the laws of probability given their parallel courses and the close confines of New York’s downtown music scene. Fortuitously, both will have new recordings in the racks. One of Branca’s older works, “Symphony No. 2,” is being released by the Chicago-based indie, Atavistic.  Subtitled “The Peak of the Sacred,” it relies on homebuilt “staircase guitars”-lap steel/hammer dulcimer hybrids arranged in tiers, their open strings played with chop sticks-to produce an eerie, lambent rainbow of sound, the aural equivalent of Northern Lights. The second half of “Symphony No. 2” spotlights Z’ev, a Mad Max Roach of sorts who plays springs, pipes, titanium sheets, and strips of cold-rolled steel.

Sharp’s September offerings consist of Datacide and Twistmap (Enemy/Indie and Ear- Rational, respectively, the latter available from Ear-Relevant, 547 W. 20th Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10011). Datacide, which showcases the guitarist’s quartet, Carbon, is forty-nine minutes of neurocore-clotted, convulsive songs that are equal parts dark matter and gray matter. Twistmap features the title track and “Shapeshifters,” two astringent pieces for strings interpreted by the Soldier String Quartet, and “Ferrous,” a rambunctious instrumental performed by Carbon on instruments designed and built by Sharp. Among them are the pantar, an electric string instrument whose angry buzz Sharp describes as “a cross between a tamboura and a dumpster,” and the slab, an unlovely creation fashioned from a hunk of butcher block fitted with bass strings and pickups.  Drummed with metal rods, the slab produces a raspy bumbling suggestive of iron bees with rusty wings.

Branca and Sharp share an abiding interest in science fiction. Branca, an obsessive cyberphile, ran JAA Press, a mail-order distributor of cyberpunk books and related ephemera. Sharp’s song and record titles chronicle a lifelong fixation: “Kipple” and “PKD” allude to Philip K. Dick, “Cenobite” to Clive Barker’s splatterpunk movie, Hellraiser, and Dr. Adder to the Jeter novel of the same name.

Little remained but for MONDO 2000 to introduce the two like-minded composers. A meeting was arranged in upstate New York, where both were summering, far from New York City’s sopping, sweltering canyons of steel. Branca graciously conceded to play host at the 200-year-old cottage on the campus of Bard College, at Annandale-on-Hudson, where the experiment in superconductivity was conducted.
-Mark Dery

Read more “Glenn Branca and Elliott Sharp: “We are the Reality of this Cyberpunk Fantasy” 1991″

ADAM PARFREY American’s Greatest Underground Publisher 1957 – 2018

Feral House has announced that Adam Parfrey has died. This is a total and terrible shock. No cliches about Resting In Peace or In Power would suffice with Adam, a unique among uniques. Speechless.

We’ll keep adding links to tributes and more commentaries below

Adam Parfrey Dies: Feral House Publisher, Author and Editor of Forbidden Knowledge, Deadline

Feral House Publisher, Adam Parfrey, RIP, Boing Boing

Adam Parfrey, RIP, The Feral House publisher exposes American minds to wide variety of fascinating and often disturbing culture, Reason

 

Why Did Some Countercultural Types Vote For Trump?

by R.U. Sirius

I would like to — beforehand — renounce these unauthorized thoughts by… wait, who is it? … oh yeah, me. It is unthinkable to think unthinkable things in times such as these.

1: The Chaos Candidate/President

 

Upset the apple cart and see what rolls out? Jefferson Airplane sang in their 1969 anthemic song “We Should Be Together” “We are forces of chaos and anarchy… and we are very proud of ourselves.” The Sex Pistols offered the slogan “cash for chaos” and Chaos was a signifier on thousands of punkers tees and leather jackets. Well, we may have learned something about the limits of chaos as applied to practical matters such as political policy and many who loved chaos now curse the Chaos Presidency without looking back… but also, seemingly, without self-reflection.

2: Spontaneity

 

Trump says whatever the fuck he pleases (well, maybe a bit cautious not to upset Vlad) and seems to enjoy performing provocatively. There’s an inkling of the prankster/trickster spirit. (If you’ve explored the legends of the  trickster, you know it is not always or ultimately benign). Sure, he is just a dumpy old scammer, but there’s a bit of the mad glint in the eye when he’s gaslighting the entire world. 

It’s problematic of course because it’s bullshit pretending to be facts in a situation that’s consequential but 20th Century countercultures embraced spontaneity and play and Trump’s randomness was appealing to a few old freaks. At a time when parents have been arrested for letting their kids walk down the street and in which “free range kids” has to be enunciated; a time of Tiger Moms and 12 rules for living…  and in which “you better watch what you say” has gone from something we freaked out about when Ari Fleischer  uttered it during the G.W. Bush years to something that is daily and retroactively enforced by public shaming and worse, the performance of spontaneity is a quality that can attract people and give a dopamine hit of pleasure. 

Trump was also up against an uncomfortably constrained, poll-tested, cautious candidate. In contrast to Obama, who could be pretty natural and a bit spontaneous because of natural charisma and because moderation-with-some-progressive-ideals is who he actually is, Ms. Clinton was not just an uncomfortable campaigner. As someone with a managerial temperament, she’d learned and seen too much to not have conservative as well as progressive approaches towards various issues which made her feel conflicted in the role of simple advocacy. In other words, as a true believer, broadly, in the system, she had, from experience, evolved into a full-on neoliberal centrist establishment policy wonk. And she was not having much fun.

Democratic presidential candidates will likely have even more difficulty being spontaneous in 2020 as even the slightest verbal misstep may become a massive trigger. 

3: Conspiracy Theory

 

Many counterculture types are deep — too deep — into conspiracy theory. The President is too deep into conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theory is anti-establishment (unless it’s Colin Powell waving a vial of anthrax at the UN to prove something false about Saddam Hussein or … the Russians!). Therefore, such logic dictates, the president is antiestablishment… which he sort of is in a perverse way. He’s against obeying the established norms, but entirely in his own self-interest and in the interest of peculiar notions that 1: aren’t really against the system (well-policed state capitalism) and 2: don’t hold water.

4: Too Many Drugs

 

Sure, you’re tapped into the pulsating “I” from which infinite multiverses are relentlessly formed, but while so distracted you’re an easy prey to the street corner 3-card monte dealer. Read more “Why Did Some Countercultural Types Vote For Trump?”

Ups & Downs With Ecstasy (MDMA, Molly, etc.)

 

by R.U. Sirius

With the recent FDA decision granting a Breakthrough Therapy Designation to MDMA (i.e. Ecstasy) for PTSD, it seems like a fine time to revisit the first ecstasy experience from the unpublished, incomplete MONDO 2000 story (a different sort of MONDO 2000 book is in the works)

While I am thrilled with the continued movement of MDMA and other psychedelics towards social and political acceptance as therapeutic tools, the fact that this is mainly aimed at bringing soldiers to an inward acceptance of the hurt they gathered… and in some case, inflicted… in one of America’s perpetual overseas adventures raises some deep political questions.  Not that I would deny our “wounded warriors” relief. They are not to blame for the poor choices of our political leaders. But it does raise the question whether — in a broader philosophical and political sense — we want the burden of going to war to be lightened and to what degree. 

It also implies the potential for a drug that makes us calmly transcendent and all self-forgiving even in the act of war. This is, indeed, one of the conditions the military is looking to create for its supersoldiers. 

Anyway, here are some excerpts about MDMA from the MONDO 2000 story…

The following entry is from the early part of the MONDO 2000 story, when “Somerset Mau Mau” and I were distributing the first newsprint edition of High Frontiers, the magazine that became MONDO.

From: “Chapter Six: Funky Punk Acid Rag”

A few weeks after publication, Bruce Eisner said that we really needed to hustle down to his and Peter’s hometown of Santa Cruz because there weren’t any copies available in the stores and people had already grabbed the few we had sent them for free.   Also, it would be good to meet the folks in the Santa Cruz psychedelic community. We were invited to stay at Peter Stafford’s apartment.

We arrived at Peter’s place, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Entering a spacious two-room apartment with high ceilings and sunlight streaming in through huge picture windows, Eisner greeted us in the living room. Meanwhile, behind closed doors, there seemed to be a mild hubbub going on. We stood making small talk with Bruce as the door to this other room — it soon became clear it was a bedroom — would quickly open and close.   Eventually the door opened and we could see a bunch of guys in a sort of ill-formed circle around the very tall Peter Stafford, so that we could just see his naked chest, goofy grinning laughing face and wildly flailing arms. Everybody seemed to be arguing with Peter. Bruce sighed. “Peter likes to get naked when he’s high,” he said. We assured Bruce that we had no problems with anybody greeting us naked. Eventually, Stafford apparently compromised with his friends and came out to great us wearing a pair of white undies. We immediately fell into a rapture with Peter, as he excitedly ran us through a full course in his personal psychedelic history; tossing books he’d written or that he was mentioned in at us and waxing mega-enthusiastic — as I recall — about squeezing mescaline from a cactus among many other trippy matters.

Bruce Eisner: You might say Peter (Stafford) was the prototypical hippie. He probably was the first hippie, in my estimation, because I remember him growing long hair when he was living in Greenwich Village in 1963, 64. And he hitchhiked to Mexico with really long hair, and he was very boyish and good-looking in those days. I think he was one of the first people to really inspire the hippie movement. He actually used to publish these tabloids, in the Village. He published these special ones that looked kind of like The Oracle, but they were “Stafford Specials.”

 

And then the party began. As I recall, it was just drink and powerful weed. So the next few days were a blur of way-stoned, half-drunk but absolutely lucid lessons in drug history and psychopharmacology as preached by Peter, interrupted by brief forays around Santa Cruz to meet the local heads. Most impressive were two older women, probably in their ’60s or ’70s. Nina Graboi lived in a neatly furnished modest but brightly colored apartment with huichol peyote paintings on the wall. She had been the New York Director for the League of Spiritual Discovery (LSD), Timothy Leary’s earliest attempt at organizing to educate psychedelic explorers and defend their rights to trip. She had also worked with the legendary LSD psychotherapist Stan Grof. Mau Mau and I felt ourselves in the presence of deep psychedelic history.

The other elder was Liz Gips — a funky gal in baggy blue jeans who seemed to have the hint of a southern accent. I remember being very impressed with her intellect as she laid out the Santa Cruz psychoactive scene and told us about the radio show she hosted on a local public radio station. She invited us to come on her show to talk about High Frontiers a couple of days hence.

The last day of our planned visit arrived and I woke up irritated that we’d stayed so loaded that we hadn’t done what we planned to do. — go to the local bookstores and get them to take magazine. Mau Mau’s heavy drinking and lack of discipline weighed on me. People who wanted to just stay high were clearly too irresponsible to stay on mission… even when the mission was pretty simple. As everybody in the house came to consciousness, I pressed my case for getting out right away and getting to Santa Cruz bookstores with copies of the magazine. My plan was hazily agreed to, but bowls of weed were smoked and lazy conversations sputtered along until the morning was completely gone. I finally got openly pissed and Mau Mau and I got ready to haul ass out the door to distribute the ‘zines. Just as we were walking to the door, this absolutely perfect young blonde haired surfer-looking dude with blazing blue eyes and a blinding shiny white toothed grin walked in. “Does anybody want some MDMA?”

Read more “Ups & Downs With Ecstasy (MDMA, Molly, etc.)”

Chelsea Manning, Caroline Sinders, and Kristian Lum: “Technologists, It’s Time to Decide Where You Stand On Ethics”

By Lisa Rein

Chelsea Manning at the Aaron Swartz Day Ethical Algorithms Panel, November 4, 2018

A lot of folks were wondering about what Chelsea Manning‘ meant when she discussed a “Code of Ethics” during her SXSW talk, last March. Well there’s no need to wonder, because Chelsea discussed this in detail, with her co-panelists Kristian Lum (Human Rights Data Analysis Group) and Caroline Sinders (Wikimedia Foundation), during the Ethical Algorithms track at the last Aaron Swartz Day at the Internet Archive.

Here’s a partial transcript to shed some light on the situation.

 

(Left to Right) Kristian Lum, Caroline Sinders, Chelsea Manning.

The panel discussed the issue of valid data and how companies have become more concerned with whether they can sell an algorithm-driven software product, and less concerned with whether the damned thing works and who its results might affect, should they be inaccurate.

Link to the complete video for Ethical Algorithms panel.

Lisa Rein: Okay first question: Are the software companies who are making these algorithm-based products are just selling them to whomever they can, for whatever they can apply them to? And if so, how can we stop this from happening?

These companies are powerful and getting larger and more powerful all the time. Yet, no one seems to care; even the companies buying the snake oil products; as long as they can resell the services somehow, and the money keeps coming in. What can we do?

Chelsea Manning: Me personally, I think that we in technology have a responsibility to make our own decisions in the workplace – wherever that might be. And to communicate with each other, share notes, talk to each other, and really think – take a moment – and think about what you are doing. What are you doing? Are you helping? Are you harming things? Is it worth it? Is this really what you want to be doing? Are deadlines being prioritized over – good results? Should we do something? I certainly made a decision in my own life to do something. It’s going to be different for every person. But you really need to make your own decision as to what to do, and you don’t have to act individually. We can work as a community. We can work as a collective entity. People in technology, we’re not going to be able to explain to people – all this stuff. People know that everything’s messed up, and they know that things are messed up because of the algorithms that we have. We’ve educated them on that. They understand that. They understand that viscerally, because they see the consequences and the results of these things that are happening every day.

The problem is that people in technology aren’t paying attention, and even some of us who are paying attention, aren’t doing anything about it. We’re waiting for somebody to do something about it. Somebody else isn’t going to do it. We’re going to have to do it ourselves.

Kristian Lum and Caroline Sinders.

Caroline Sinders: Even if you feel like a cog in the machine, as a technologist, you aren’t. There are a lot of people like you trying to protest the systems you’re in. Especially in the past year, we’ve heard rumors of widespread groups and meetings of people inside of Facebook, inside of Google, really talking about the ramifications of the U.S. Presidential election, of questioning, “how did this happen inside these platforms?” – of wanting there even to be accountability inside of their own companies. I think it’s really important for us to think about that for a second. That that’s happening right now. That people are starting to organize. That they are starting to ask questions.

I think especially looking at where we are right now in San Francisco – inside the hub of Silicon Valley – in a space where it’s very amenable to protest is very amiable to supporting ethical technology. How do we build more support for other people. Is it going to spaces we’re not usually in? Is it going to other tech meet ups? Maybe. Is it having hard conversations with other technologists? Probably. How do we push the politics of our community into the wider spread community? We have to go and actually evangelize that I think.

Is the company even using the algorithm in the way it was intended to be used? Often a company purchases an algorithm that is made for one kind of analytics and it gets used for a completely different thing, and then you get these really skewed results.

Lisa Rein: Wait a minute. I can’t believe I’m asking this, but, are you saying that, as long as they like the results, nobody cares if the results are accurate?

Caroline Sinders: ‘How sure are we that it’s true?’ is not the question that I’m hearing in the conference room. It’s more like ‘we’ve gotten these results and these people have purchased it.’ or ‘It’s selling really well.’ Cause we are in the age of people building software as a product, capabilities as a product, APIs as a product. (Meaning that you buy access to an API that’s like a pipeline.) And if it’s returning certain results that a company can then use and put in a portfolio to sell to other different kinds of clients, like, it doesn’t actually matter how much it works, if it has the appearance of working; if it’s pumping out ‘results.’ So, I can’t speak to like academic verifiability of different kinds of APIs. I can speak to “that I have not ever heard people really talk about that.

Chelsea Manning: Yeah. I’ve had experience with this in particular… For verifiability of data, it’s purely academic. That’s what I’ve found. When you are working in a corporate or a business setting or whether your are working in a government setting – military context or whatever – it’s ‘results, results, results.’ Nobody cares how verifiable the data is. Everybody’s cutting corners. Everybody’s trying to meet deadlines. That’s why we — people in technology – we need to be thinking more ethically. We need to be very cognizant of the systems that we’re building, and not just sitting there, continually meeting deadline and meeting priorities that our set by our leadership, or by clients or by senior corporate, ya know, C Suite people.

You really need to think about what you’re doing. What the consequences of what you’re doing are. Because these (questions) are not happening, and they should be happening. In many cases, for some of these systems, maybe the question of whether we should be doing a system like this at all is a question that should be asked – at least asked, in some of these rooms. It’s not, and it’s not going to be.

Caroline Sinders: I think there is a big push though, if you work in industry software, to really understand the ethical ramifications of the products your using, or the software that you’re using, and how it effects your users. And how this effects even unintended bystanders – people that have not opted in to the system, or into the product, right? And that’s where you get into like, different surveillance systems, or systems that are in the whole vein of the Internet of Things, right? How many people are “accidentally” a part of a data set that they didn’t get to opt in to. 

Aaron Swartz Ceramic Statue (by Nuala Creed) and Kristian Lum.

Kristen Lum: And in some cases, remember, you yourself can act as a sponge for accountability. Because now, let’s say you have a system that’s been purchased, that’s been created by “peer reviewed science” or very expensive technology, and it’s saying to do the thing that your organization kinds of wants to do anyway. Well, maybe do some research and show the people your working with, and say “hey we may be over policing this community.” Because, otherwise, it’s like “Hey, this software we spent all this money on is telling us to do it,” which gives them justification to do what they want to do anyway. So, try to maybe act like a buffer, between these viewpoints, by being able to ask, and question, ‘why are you doing that?’

Lisa Rein: Would opening up the “black box” solve everything?

Chelsea Manning: It’s not just that it’s a black box, even when the code is available to you, sometimes how it’s actually coming up with the predictions it’s coming up with — apart  from doing pure math, when you’re trying to come up with something that’s understood by humans for an explanation, it can escape you sometimes. So I think that’s one of the dangers of depending on showing the entire algorithm. We have to fully understand these algorithms and not just see how they work from a code perspective or an algorithmic perspective.

What scares me with that is some of these algorithms being used in like, Bail hearings… You literally changing this person’s life, because they are going to stay in jail, because they are in a bail hearing, where an algorithm — made by some company — decided that you’re more predicted to be arrested. It’s not evidentiary in any way, but it’s being used in an evidentiary manner. It’s just a mathematical prediction based on false data — or poor data — and it’s actually tearing people’s lives apart. And it’s also feeding into this feedback loop, because they’re seen as being re-arrestable. Therefore, it reinforces the data set.

Kristen Lum: There are a lot of models now predicting whether an individual will be re-arrested in the future. Here’s a question: What counts as a “re-arrest?” Say someone fails to appear for court and a bench warrant is issued, and then they are arrested. Should that count? So I don’t see a whole lot of conversation about this data munging.

Caroline Sinders: Specifically, I think some of the investigative reporting that Pro Publica has done specifically on this is really worth highlighting.

(Editor’s Note: Parts of this partial transcript were rearranged slightly for flow and readability.)

(Author’s Note: Lisa Rein thanks ThoughtWorks, for their support of the Ethical Algorithms Panel and Track at Aaron Swartz Day 2017.)

Relax with the Heteronormative Sounds of Jordan Peterson & the MONDOVanni Strings

Lyrics by R.U. Sirius (with exceptions noted)
 
Images by Chad Essley
 
Thanks to Chad Essley for these extraordinary and fun images!
 
Actual songs are linked from title
 

I Should’ve Been A Guru (SLT 2010)

I should’ve been a guru
Young girls for the pickings
Followers wash my asshole
And grown men weep at my face
I think I could’ve made a go
Smile always and act like I know
The perfect secrets of the cosmic wow
But it’s too late to be a guru now

I should’ve been a guru
Talk shows with Larry King
White robes in a limousine
A long beard and a big ring
I know I could’ve been at peace
A happy face and perfect teeth
Free eats off the sacred cow
But it’s too late to be a guru now

I should’ve been a guru
Sitting still up on a hill
No stress no mess
No sins to confess
No action no friction
Never watched Pulp Fiction
Just laugh while the people bow
But it’s too late to be a guru now

I should’ve been a guru

 
Recorded by SLT
Vocals by Matt Sabo
Image by Chad Essley
Music by Ken Frank and SLT
Lyrics by R.U. Sirius
 
 
Punching A Nazi (Creosote Cowboy 2016)
 
 
Killing an arab
Punching a nazi
Albert Camus won’t
Bring back the Stasi

Kissing a baby
Pinching a lady
Oh Mr. Mansplain
You so crazy

Banning an Arab
Punching a nazi
Even Ayn Rand was
Never this bossy

Dating a Barbie
Making a killing
These were the days oh
Wasn’t it thrilling

Killing an arab
Punching a nazi
Dating a Barbie
Making a killing

Killing an arab
Punching a nazi
Albert Camus won’t
Bring back the Stasi

Kissing a baby
Pinching a lady
Oh Mr. Mansplain
He’s so crazy

Banning an Arab
Punching a nazi
Even Ayn Rand was
Never this bossy

 
Recorded by Creosote Cowboy
Vocals by Charlie Verrette & Acatelysteleven
Image by Chad Essley
Music by Charlie Verrette
Production by Daddy Phriday
Lyrics by R.U. Sirius
 
 

Offer her a lollipop
Offer her some gum
Offer her most anything
Don’t offer her my gun
Offer her de Beauvoir
Or offer her de Sade
Keep your knees together
Have some faith in god

If you’ll be my Valerie Solanas
I will be your Robespierre
Nothing can come between us
‘cept that thing underneath your hair
We have so much in common
Let’s go off on a tear
Bring it down Kill the clowns
Such a lovely pair

Offer her a role in porn
Offer her revolt
Offer her most anything
Offer her your scorn
Offer her some Tribe8
Offer her Genet
Keep your shit together
Fall to your knees and pray

If you’ll be my Valerie Solanas
I will be your Robespierre
Nothing can come between us
‘Cept that thing underneath your hair
We have so much in common
Let’s go off on a tear
Bring it down Kill the clowns
Such a lovely pair

Recorded by Creosote Cowboy
Vocals by Charlie Verrette & Acatelysteleven
Image by Chad Essley
Music by Charlie Verrette
Production by Daddy Phriday
Lyrics by R.U. Sirius
 

Speed & Weed (R​.​U. Sirius & Phriendz 2017)

How I wish I could still do speed and weed
Paranoid listening to Let it Bleed
Long letters to J.G. Ballard and Chuck Manson
Kidnapped my shadow and held it for ransom

How I wish I could still do speed and weed
Wide awake watching the cops retreat
Twin Peaks repeats with a bunch of crazy chicks
Midnight the Castro for some real alt dot kicks

How I wish I could still do speed and weed
Be so sharp when I have to go on TV
Head back home kick it with some china white
Growing older man — it just ain’t right

How I wish I could still do speed and weed
Growing older man — it just ain’t right

 
Recorded by R.U. Sirius & Phriendz
Vocals by R.U. Sirius
Image by Chad Essley
Music by Tommy McKaughan/Phriendz
Production by Daddy Phriday
Lyrics by R.U. Sirius

 

President Mussolini Makes The Planes Run On Time (Party Dogs 1982, Phriendz remix 2016)

lyrics from original 1982 version, some not used in this version

He is the air controller
You are the air
The people are proud of their father
Foreigners beware
He’s got a neutron charge card
He’s a mighty tough customer
He’s the glorious defender of the homeland
He just might play tough with ya

President Mussolini makes the planes run on time
Oh dig it little Arabella
He’s a strong man
Keep ‘em flyin’

Newspapers scream “He’s a winner.”
Nobody’s sayin’ what’s being won
Actor image – no content
What exactly is being done?
Send a little aid down south just to
Kill a few San Salvador nuns
Down in South Africa on civilized business
Trying to get gold for guns

Couldn’t be easier to know just what to do
If you were holding out all the money
Just a-looking for an easy going mechanic of depression
And then to wind up with your teeth against the wire fence
Wind up in the smallest of worlds crotch to the angriest lips
One deadly little spasm in the B.F. Skinner cancerteria
One deadly little spasm and what did this money buy?

Keep ‘em flying

 
Recorded by R.U. Sirius & Party Dogs, remix by Phriendz
Vocals by R.U. Sirius
Image by Chad Essley
Music by Matt Sabo/Party Dogs, Remix by Tommy McKaughan/Phriendz
Lyrics by R.U. Sirius
 
 

Read more “Relax with the Heteronormative Sounds of Jordan Peterson & the MONDOVanni Strings”

Meet Matteo Borri & His Most Recent Inventions

Matteo Borri is an Advisory Board member for the Swartz-Manning VR Destination (a project of Aaron Swartz Day).

By Lisa Rein

Matteo Borri is an inventor and engineer in San Rafael, California that is currently working with NASA and the Mars Society. His chlorophyll detector will be included on the equivalent of the next Mars Rover.

Matteo’s company, Robots Everywhere LLC, has been working with NASA to create three different prototypes for detecting Chlorophyll in unchartered territory. These devices use “chlofluorescence” to detect the presence of Chlorophyll. They are all handheld devices that can be used indoors or outdoors, and are often operated using a simple Android phone.

Matteo Borri in his San Rafael shop – March 2018

 

LR: So how did you discover this technique for detecting Chlorophyll?

MB: I got the idea from an experiment I did in college. I wanted to build a day-for-night filter that didn’t use any post processing. What I ended up with instead was a filter that would show green fabric one color, and green plants of the same hue another color. Adding a laser to that in order to only “trip” the right fluorescent frequency was done by trial and error.

LR: And when we are detecting Chlorophyll, we are essentially looking for “life” on another planet, right?

MB: Yes. Mars is not seismically active like for example Europa is, so the Sun would be needed to put energy into anything living. If it doesn’t use chlorophyll, it will use a molecule that has to work in a similar way, so it will have to react to sunlight in a similar
way.

Photo 1 (above) – A rendering of chlorophyll molecules

 

Photo 2 (above): A microscopic picture of actual chloroplasts inside plant cells.

LR: So, what’s “chlofluorescence” exactly? Is it as simple as a color shade? Or is there something more complex being detected?

MB: Chlorophyll is a lot more efficient than solar panels, but it’s not 100% efficient. So, it transmits out some of the light it receives back out. The tricky part is detecting it! It’s a bit like trying to see a weak LED turning on or off in sunlight.

LR: So was the review basically: This works great! Except 1) we need to make sure a flourescent green sharpy marker doesn’t work and 2) we need a larger interface to accommodate the astronauts clunky gloves? 🙂

Photo 3 (above): A screenshot of the Chlorodetector Interface, running on an older Motorola Android phone.

MB: Yes. There are a few false positives, notably green fluorescent markers — not a big surprise there given that they are green and fluorescent! — but if we find those on Mars, well, someone has beat us there. As for the gloves, it was a complaint from a research team: the real instrument is not going to have a touch screen, but it was cheaper to wire in a phone (with a touch screen) as the camera and CPU than work from scratch, for the purpose of this test.

LR: Tell me about this stuff you invented to help Puerto Rico. It is really interesting. The solar cell phone charger and the thing you call a “Vampire Charger,” that enables you to get whatever battery power is left out of any battery without the danger of blowing up your phone if the voltage doesn’t match.

MB: Yes. I named it the “Vampire Charger.” It is an inefficient but flexible device which will take any voltage that you might find in the world – from 1.5 volts to 12 volts – to even 110! (That’s when it stops, as 220 will blow it up, but 220 is not a common voltage in the U.S., so if you’re over here, it’s not a problem. I’ll have to come up with an European adapter 🙂

LR: So this is for when something bad has happened, obviously, and you need whatever power you can get, right?

MB: Yes. The idea is that you can use it with any kind of source of power that still works. You don’t know the voltage, you don’t know the current. You don’t even know which is plus and which is minus. You don’t even know if it’s AC or DC!

It has two alligator clips.You connect them to ANY two contacts of the part in question, in any way. (To be clear: the color it doesn’t even matter, in this case.) And it gives you USB power, safely! Read more “Meet Matteo Borri & His Most Recent Inventions”

There’s Still A Visionary Edge at the Intersection of Art and Technology: CODAME

by Rachel Haywire

Since the early 90’s, publications such as Mondo 2000 have brought a subversive and countercultural relevance to the consistently evolving (yet not always radical) tech industry. Focusing on a passionate new world in which VR, AI, music, visual art, audio experimentation, and live performances combine; mutants/freaks/pioneers in this provocative space between art and technology have carried on the torch to create their own festivals, projects, and temporary autonomous zones.

From tech salons like the BIL Conference and the Extreme Futurist Festival, to electronic music events and communities such as GOGBOT and LoveTech, a new history is being written for makers and innovators who see outside the corporate world of tech. In the accelerating 2000’s, this evolving demographic is leading the charge through an intoxicating fusion of art, science, creativity, AI-generated music, experimental live performances, crypto-communities, biohacking, digital philosophy, fashion technology, and more.

On the front lines of this cultural movement is a collaborative organization in San Francisco called CODAME whose participants are gearing up to throw an ART+TECH Festival in early June of 2018. This ART+TECH event features gallery installations, screenings, and performances @ The Midway from June 4-7, 2018. Their theme this year is #ARTOBOTS, which zooms in on how automatons orchestrate so much of our lives through both our bodies and minds.

From the CODAME website:

“In the daily movements we make, the messages we send, and the sensations we experience, we already collaborate with [bots] in increasingly varied, tactile and tangible ways. Bots mediate our relationships with ourselves, each other and our environments. While many of these interactions are familiar to us, there are a myriad of ways to move, think, sense and feel with our lively machines.”

Events like CODAME are examples of the future going in a new radical direction envisioned by the early adapters of Mondo 2000. Dorkbot and RE/Search Publications also come to mind, as early Bay Area organizations that continue to influence this countercultural space today. Who says that the tech world must be full of boring and soulless robots who aren’t even literally robots? Who says that science can’t be a visionary world of spontaneous emergence and creative expression?

Technology must not lose its visionary edge. If we feel outnumbered, we can work to convert new markets into a more exciting world. We can show the public that technology is about conscious evolution and radical self expression as much as numbers and spreadsheets. We can paint the landscape with #ARTOBOTS and more, providing an electrifying future for our generation to participate in. Through these festivals and communities, our entire species can be radically transformed.

The Annual ARTS + TECH takes place June 4 – June 7 at The Midway in San Francisco

 

Edward Snowden Explains The Direct Connection Between John Perry Barlow’s “Declaration of Cyberspace” & His Historic Surveillance Disclosures

Edward Snowden

John Perry Barlow woke me up. He raised a message sounded an alarm, that I think we all heard. He didn’t save the world. None of us can, but perhaps he started the movement that will.

Complete transcription and MP4 available for download from the Internet Archive.

Edward Snowden: Thank you. (Applause.) I’m never going to get used to this. (Standing ovation at the Internet Archive)

There are a lot of things that can be said about John Perry Barlow, or, as I called him, JPB. He was a good man. He was a brave man. He was an original thinker. This was an incredibly talented charismatic individual.

He had no obligation to live a life that was touched by the struggles and challenges and politics that we’re made to deal with and confront every single day. For many of us, it’s not a choice. We have no alternative. We have no special talent. We are not rock stars. But he chose to side with us. He chose that. And it is that shrewdness that I think is the mark of highest distinguishment for his character.

This was a man who actively sought discomfort when he had every opportunity to sort of stay in bed with the wonderful and interesting people that were involved in his life, and he never lost this. In fact, as he got older, in the brief time that I knew, and I had the rare opportunity to share a stage with him, he became ever more politically involved. Ever more politically astute and ever more self-sacrificing.

This was a man who was not afraid to say things that others were not. This was a man who was not afraid to ask questions that would make people uncomfortable, and yet were necessary. And it was this trait that he put into the organization and lives that he was connected to that brought be forward.

One of the stories that is very little told in the media, perhaps untold, is this story: I’m sitting at the NSA as a high school dropout being paid an extraordinary amount of money to help build and run machines to spy on you. And there were over 30,000 people working at the NSA at the time. This was a comfortable life. This was an easy life. And it was certainly the path of least resistance for me.

Now I started out as a true believer. I too, had a choice, but as I climbed higher and higher levels of the government I gained access to more and more highly classified information. And eventually, I reached the sort of highest peak of security clearance. I realized that something wasn’t right. I realized that what was legal was not necessarily what was moral. I realized that what was being made public was not the same as what was true. And eventually this reached the point where we had the most senior intelligence official in the United States government, General James Clapper, who went before Congress, and swore an oath to tell the truth nothing but the truth. You know, we’ve all heard it. And he was asked by Senator Ron Wyden: “Does the NSA spying on millions, or hundreds of millions, of American’s communications.” The general immediately starts sweating, rubs his head, realizes he’s on camera. Thinks about it for a second. He’s gotten these questions 24 hours in advance. And he says “No. No sir. Not wittingly.”

This was a problem that John Perry Barlow understood, even though he didn’t know exactly how that was a lie. He knew it didn’t sit right. He talked to me about this after the fact, after I had come forward. But the idea here is this story from 2013 of the mass surveillance revelations was never about the surveillance. It was about democracy. What does it mean that when we have a system of government? When we have elected officials… when we have the highest powers in our country accountable the lowest standards of behavior. At the same time, if we break the smallest law, as ordinary people, we face the highest consequences.

Well, JPB created this organization, The Electronic Frontier Foundation,with his friends. He created the Freedom of the Press foundation, that I would later join myself and have the privilege of serving on the board with him. And the idea is this…. It’s an argument that he put to me when I shared a stage talking about the future of democracy. And I was talking about sort of where I thought the systems were breaking down; where things were working, and where they weren’t working in a very technical sort of engineer’s way, because I’m not a politician by training. And he said that he thought I was missing the point. He said, in the unique case of these United States the whole question of national security, this entire area of conversation topic, is being misrepresented by the government to the detriment of the public. “National security” doesn’t mean what they try to make you think it means. “National Security” is not about terrorism. “National security” is not about military.

“National Security” means the security of our founding principles. It’s not our borders. It’s not our culture. It’s not anything except those founding documents that we still profess to believe in. According to him. And if we are insecure in our beliefs and our willingness to protect and preserve those beliefs, that is a threat to national security, and perhaps the only one that matters. Now I’m not even sure he knew this at the time, but when I was going about my sort of dark work at the NSA gathering information about crimes against the public on a previously unprecedented scale, I was wearing a hoodie from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It was a parody of the NSA. When I came forward, it was in the very first photograph that was made public of me in Hong Kong, where I was meeting with journalists, to provide them this material, which then I lost access to. Because, I didn’t want to be exploited. I didn’t want to be the person who’s making the choices of what should and should not be made public. I felt this was the role of the fourth estate. This is the proper function; the necessary purpose of press in a free society. To contest the government’s monopoly control of information. As much as it’s wonderful when hackers go out and get this information for us — and as much as I think it is necessary for whistleblowers to share with us the information that we need to know — I wasn’t elected president of disclosure. And I don’t think anyone else is either. This is why the First Amendment is first.

In every free society, the legitimacy of government derives from a single principle; the consent of the governed. But that consent it only meaningful if it’s informed. What happens when we cast votes for politicians who make certain campaign promises, and then, not only do they not deliver on them, they actually expand the surveillance programs that they pledged to terminate. And this is that part of John Perry Barlow’s sincerity that I admired. And this is the reason, ultimately, that led me to many of the choices in life that I have made.

When I was a young man. I was reading his Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace, and perhaps that may have been that seed of radicalization. I’ve said before that I used to work for the government and now I work for the public. I’m not sure JPB ever had any other allegiance. His love was for all of us. This is why he spent that long life that could have been so comfortable — so frictionless — constantly searching for the next thing. Constantly searching for the next struggle.

He told me on that same day — on that same stage — one of the things that he struggles with, is people who turn away. People who don’t think. People who are so in love with comfort that they forget that struggle is what drives us forward. He shared with me a saying that he says he got from the Navajo, which is the kind of thing that only an interesting guy like him could just pass off as a throwaway comment: “You can’t awaken somebody who’s pretending to be asleep.”

John Perry Barlow woke me up. He raised a message — sounded an alarm, that I think we all heard. He didn’t save the world. None of us can, but perhaps he started the movement that will. I want to thank him for everything that he did for me, for us, for the United States, and for this world. He was an incredible person. He was an inspiration to me and it was an honor to have known him. There is one thing that I I’d like to say from him, which I will keep with me for the rest of my life as I think about what comes next for myself and hopefully those of you in the room as well.

I said, when we’re looking at all of these problems that face the world today, that face our politics today: the partisanship, incivility, the inhumanity, the injustice that fills every conversation and we try to make the people who are in power confront that and fix it and do their jobs. I struggle with the question of how it is that we correct this. What is it that we’re supposed to do, and why is it that they feel so comfortable. And it came down, finally, to this feeling of immunity, of unaccountability, that these powerful institutions all seemed to enjoy. It didn’t matter whether it was the Attorney General breaking the law. It didn’t matter who was the CEO of Citibank breaking the law. They had a different standard behavior. And when they saw the world… when they saw the system… when they saw how much control they had and how little we had they said, “Well what are you going to do about ?”

And he sat, and he thought. Just a long pause on stage in front of so many people which is the kind of thing that only somebody like him could really get away with. I know I personally feel obligation to fill the silence. Then he said “The United States such as it is today exists to look at precisely that claim. “What are you going to do about it? And to answer that question, and to answer it right.”

Ladies and gentlemen the life of John Perry Barlow was an example to everybody. Thank you.

Transcription courtesy of Lisa Rein, co-founder, Aaron Swartz Day.

Edward Snowden “on stage” with (left to right) Trevor Timm, Cory Doctorow, Cindy Cohn, (Brewster Kahle in foreground.)

Money for vulns but 0-days ain’t free.

by: Renketsu Link

An interesting point was raised in a comment on an earlier article published at Mondo: To help even the playing ground, why don’t companies offer cash rewards for vulnerabilities so they can be patched prior to publication?  This is not a new idea.  Such operations are called bug bounty programs and have been around since 1995.  the very first bug bounty program was instituted by Netscape (remember that?) as a way of improving their flagship product, Netscape Navigator.  Other companies you may have heard of started doing the same thing about ten years later, in a much higher profile way.  Github has one, Google and Facebook have them, some banks have them… I could go on and on, but there’s little point.  There are even companies that specialize in running bug bounty programs, in effect administration, bounty payment and legal hassles.

Here’s the thing: They’re pointless.

Bug bounty programs are a feel-good way for wannabe white hats to find vulns and make a little pocket money on the side, with reduced risk of being sued or arrested.  There are, of course, always exceptions to this rule because you can’t trust anybody or anything out to turn a profit.  Typically, bug bounty reports require that an NDA be signed when submitting proof, which can mean that the hacker is forbidden from publishing their work on their own, and sometimes even talking about it.  If you’re looking to build your rep and maybe pad your resume a little, unless you get the go-ahead after publication you wasted your time.  There is also only the say-so of the company running the program that any bugs found will actually be fixed which, if the internet of shit community is any indication, more than a wish and less than a fart.  Even governments and militaries have gotten into the cash-for-vulns business.

It is common for bug bounty programs to declare anything really interesting or sensitive off limits.  Of course, this means that anything with a security classification, personnel records, schedules, medical records… things they actually need to worry about protecting don’t get probed by anyone who doesn’t have a vested interest in taking them for all they’ve got and staying out of sight.  While there is some value in probing only public facing services, as we learned from Gary McKinnon it’s off the reservation where the really interesting things are hiding.  As if that wasn’t enough, a lot of bug bounties pay a pittance at best.  For the longest time Yahoo (for example) would pay at most $12.50us for a vulnerability found anywhere in their infrastructure, and that was after people got fed up with their crappy t-shirts that only lasted two washes.

Of course, if you just want to earn some decent money for your work – fame being one of the enemies of the hacker at large, of course – you can sell weaponized 0-days on the black market for several tens of thousands of dollars if you don’t want to go into business for yourself building and running botnets or extortion rackets.  Governments are sometimes, depending on the severity and overall utility of the vuln willing to pay in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars for 0-days that can be used offensively.  It is rumored that the United States government paid $100,000us for a working copy of the infamous MS08-067 vulnerability almost a year before Microsoft found out about it.  I haven’t been able to confirm this (mostly because the person who originally found it politely turned down the job I offered him.)  Apple’s iOS, which is widely touted as the most secure mobile OS definitely has at least one true 0-day in each release (otherwise there wouldn’t be any such thing as jailbreaking), but why in the world would you sell your work to Apple when you could sell it to a vulnerability reseller and make well over a million dollars for a couple of days of dicking around?

A couple of hundred bucks at most compared to more significant digits than most people will ever see in their whole lives.  The math’s not hard.

Renketsu Link is one of the senior otaku of the Tanpa Supai Kai, an industrial espionage contractor headquartered in Hokkaido, Nihon. Beginning as a lowly copy protection cracker, Link swiftly rose to the position of chief network infiltration specialist with a concentration on data exfiltration. Link has pioneered multiple strategies and techniques for making CISOs commit seppuku and BOFHs go on shooting rampages in the NOC before swallowing thermite grenades.

The Difference Between Data, Information & Experience As ‘Splained by J.P. Barlow

Shari Steele, John Gilmore, Joi Ito, Steven Levy

John Gilmore, EFF Co-founder and MAPS Board Member, joined the stage with Shari Steele (Executive Director, Tor Project, Former Executive Director, EFF), Joi Ito (Director of the MIT Media Lab), and author Steven Levy. Most of the day was about cyberspace rights and the First Amendment, but then the conversation took a fitting turn toward psychedelics and consciousness, specifically: data, information, experience, and the differences between them.

Complete transcription and video available here at the Internet Archive. (Transcription courtesy of Lisa Rein and the Internet Archive – and the video is released into the public domain.) (A complete index of all speakers is forming here on the Aaron Swartz Day website.)

By John Gilmore

There are probably 25 million Americans who have taken LSD. They would, if hard pressed in private, also tell you that it profoundly changed their lives, and not necessarily for the worse. I will readily grant that some of these are hopeless crystal worshippers or psychedelic derelicts creeping the Oregon woods, but far more of them are successful members of society — CEOs, politicians, ministers and community leaders. This is true whether we want it to be or not, but the fact that so few among those millions dare utter this truth is, in a supposedly free country, a symptom of collective mental illness.

Now that the worst of the war between the 50s and the 60s may be over, perhaps it may become possible. Many people may be able to do as they ought to have done decades ago. Like the peculiarly honest Steve Jobs and the peculiarly lucid John Perry Barlow and the peculiarly persistent Rick Doblin and the merely peculiar John Gilmore, and say in public there was a moment, years ago, when I took LSD, and whatever the immediate consequences, it made of me a different person than I would have been, and different in ways I have been grateful for all this time. By the way, everything I’ve said so far is literal quotes from Barlow, just slightly rearranged.

And so is this: “One can make a non-ludicrous case that the most important event in the cultural history of America since the 1860s was the introduction of LSD. Before acid hit American culture, even the rebels believed, as Thoreau, Emerson, and Whitman implicitly did, in something like God-given authority. Authority, all agreed. derived from a system wherein God, or dad… or more often both, was on top and you were on the bottom. And it was no joke. Whatever else one might think of authority; it was not funny. But after one had rewired oneself with LSD, authority, with its preening pomp, its affection for ridiculous rituals of office, Its fulsome grandiloquence and, sublimely, its tarantella around mutually assured destruction, became hilarious to us… and there wasn’t much we could do about it.

No matter how huge and fearsome the puppets, once one’s perceptions were wiped clean enough by the psychedelic solvent to behold their strings and the mechanical jerkiness of their behavior, it was hard to suppress the giggles. Though our hilarity has since been leavened with tragedy and loss, and a more appropriate sense of our own foolishness; we’re laughing still. LSD is illegal primarily because it threatens the dominant American culture. The culture of control.

Well that’s what Barlow thought, and after studying how to end the drug war for a few decades, I tend to agree. I think that Rick Doblin’s approach is the most promising path toward ending the collective mental illness that Barlow diagnosed. Rick is using psychedelics in FDA approved clinical trials, successfully treating traumatized, out of control women and soldiers, bringing them back into self control. This is gradually removing psychedelics from the counterculture and making them less threatening to the culture. Read more “The Difference Between Data, Information & Experience As ‘Splained by J.P. Barlow”

A Short Description of Aftermath of a Single Long Strange Trip from the MONDO 2000 story

At this stage of the adventure, we’re still running a magazine called High Frontiers, getting towards our second edition or maybe just after it, which took over a year. When I started the adventure that became MONDO, I was imagining philosophizing and publishing and tripping only occasionally. Fortunately, at least from an experiential point of view something like the reverse actually took place for the first several years.

The following is excerpted

R.U. Sirius

One of the longest strangest trips during this time really didn’t happen during the peak of the experience but during the sleepless day following it. We’d taken a strong acid dose the previous evening up at Tennessee Valley, and us three High Frontiers mainmen (Lord Nose, Mau Mau and myself) started to make our way down to Lord Nose’s car for our return to civilization. At some point, as we walked along the trail, we all had the same uncanny sense that we were coming down into a different universe than the one that we had started in — like we were characters in a Philip K. Dick novel. We sort of all started expressing this at the same time. We were reassured when we got in the car and found our way back to Mill Valley and nothing in that quaint little upscale village appeared to have changed. Lord Nose dropped us off at Mau Mau’s place and headed home for San Francisco. By the time we’d settled in, it was around 11 am so we stopped at this great little quickie burrito spot. We walked in and the guy in front of us on line was naked! We tittered… but we were both thinking, “Oh, OK. We actually did come down into an alternate universe.” The guy behind the counter just shrugged and said, “He does that all the time.” I’d never seen him before and I haven’t seen him since.

We got over the naked guy but we were still wide awake. I called Terence McKenna from a pay phone to get his take on whether we had come down into some kind of parallel reality. He howled with laughter. So we bought a six pack of beer and went to this sort of wretched little beach that’s right next to San Quentin Prison. It’s a rather horrendous location. We sat and brownbagged beers and listened to the San Francisco new wave station on my boombox.

We had recently become aware that Robert Anton Wilson was available to speak. He was touring around, setting up speaking engagements in a really cheap DIY operation — it wasn’t through an agency or anything like that. He was available to speak for $500.

Somehow we had got the idea that we should do it on a houseboat in Sausalito where Alan Watts — America’s most original and most eloquent sort of psychedelic Zen philosopher — had lived and held court for many years. And we got it in our head to go over there right then and check it out — see who was there or what was up with this semi-famous locale.

So there we were, still loaded from the strong acid, and having downed three beers each — and when you do that, the sort of acid trails that trippers are familiar with become sort of pleasantly blotchy. And we got to the houseboat, knocked on the door and this very wiry old women, sort of hunched over, looking very brittle, with a long nose and scratchy voice answered. Or at least that’s how she seemed to me in the moment — she was like the spitting image of an old crone. She told us she was the current caretaker for the place and she was very down and unhappy. The houseboat, she told us, was going to be taken away by some nefarious schemers. She went on with a litany of miseries and complaints for probably an hour while we just stood there in the doorway dumbfounded. Even the sky went from sunny to overcast. It was spooky.  

(We later learned that she was at some intersection between a housesitter and a squatter)

 

Mutant/Mutation/Transmutation/The Total Fucking Transmutation of Everything

Excerpt from the unpublished Mondo History Project by R.U. Sirius… partly from preface party from “Chapter 3”

 

Accept for the moment — if just as a literary conceit — that I was entrusted by certain unknowable cosmic extradimensional forces with bringing about what I — in my heyday — called “the total fucking transmutation of everything.” Accept that, a few days after taking a 600 microgram liquid LSD trip, this daft absurd little American whiteboy felt himself to be as one of those windup toys dropped into the play set of the late 20th century human dramedy with a fantastic cosmic mission to transform the human species. An agent of destiny.

This world — the very one we currently occupy — would be led off into n-dimensional hyperspace; or brought via drugs and technology into a novel mutation of being human several degrees up the evolutionary ladder. I would erect my holy grail and plunge forth. All boundaries, borders and banalities clenched by civilization’s tight asshole would be expulsed leaving behind only the alchemical transference of shit into philosopher’s gold and the energies of abundance.

This transmutation was not to lead to the innocent empty eyed bliss ninny paradise of new age gurunoiacs. It would be a postpunk neoyippie trickster utopia — utopia with booby traps to keep everyone on their toes; utopia with a cacophonic bite; with more than a hint of Burroughsian or Sadean perversity, and with just enough science factional ambition to launch a posthuman species into the cosmos.

Of course, smart smug reader, this is all bullshit. I know it too. I knew it even then, except when I didn’t know it… which was just often enough to propel me forth to make this strange thing that was MONDO happen…

Mutant/Mutation/Transmutation/The Total Fucking Transmutation of Everything

In biology, a positive or beneficial mutation increases the fitness of the organism and promotes desirable traits.      

As cultural signifiers, the words mutant and mutation have been in circulation amongst countercultural and subcultural types at least since the mid-1960s when the organizers of the first hippie Be-In declared the hippies “a new generation of mutants.” Around the same time, Timothy Leary started describing the rebellious youths of the ’’60s generation” as post-Hiroshima mutants. Since then, these words have continued to pop up amongst the various flavors of alternativeness. Many Science Fiction fans, for example, see themselves as mutants who are different from — and smarter than — the “normals.”

The main conceit, largely framed by media philosopher Marshall McLuhan, was that the new communications media — particularly TV — in combination with mind-active drugs, was causing the era’s youths to privilege mental and emotionally abilities that were entirely distinct from those privileged by the previous several hundred years of print, alcohol and caffeine-oriented Western Civilization, thus making them a sort of new species living in a linked-up, innately trippy “global village.”

Regarding transmutation, prior to Darwin, evolutionary theorists used the word to describe the transition from one species to the next. The term had been passed down from alchemy and thus also had — and continues to have — a resonance among occultists and other mystics.

The Total Fucking Transmutation of Everything, as conceived by your main narrator R.U. Sirius, represented the idea of a radical transformation in the human condition, both fundamental and surreal.

In fundamental terms, I imagined a humanity that had transcended poverty, unhappy labor, ill-considered taboos, national boundaries, rigid ideologies, racism, sexual repression, absolute gender categorization and identification, and biological and neurological limits on what a human being can do or experience.

At the more surreal level, I was inviting conditions and experiences that defied all possible expectations based on familiarity with how the world is supposed to function, but that might relate to psychedelic philosopher Terence McKenna’s notion that during the 21st Century, we will enter into a place where “whatever we can imagine will simply come to be;” or singularitarian Vernor Vinge’s idea that we will take inside of us AIs with intelligences that will be to us as our intelligence is to the ant and that the future beyond that Singularity is beyond comprehension .  

Or in a less explanatory but more lyrical modality, I once wrote and sang:

I inverted the very color of being

But you weren’t there

Yeah the big ball turned right over

It needs no justification

I wanted to be Salvador Dali

I wanted to be dead and unreasonable

Let’s grieve in concentric circles

To make the night release your brain

In other words, rationality aside, my biggest motivation for invoking the Total Fucking Transmutation Of Everything was probably a fuck-all boredom and impatience with reality.

What Went Unsaid at the J.P. Barlow EFF Memorial/Symposium on Saturday

 

R.U. Sirius

Internet idealism was out in full force in San Francisco on Saturday as an impressive roster of activist speakers contemplated the legacy of John Perry Barlow and his years of activism for free speech, transparency and generally good human behavior on both the internet and in life.

Barlow was the sort of character we are unlikely to see much of in our 21st Century world — a rowdy countercultural libertarianish cosmic cowboy with a heart of gold and rust roaming the world with few rules and big appetites — and yet still with some strong ethical grounding. The speakers shared loving stories about Barlow, the character (always massively late to the EFF board meetings); as well as Barlow the philosopher of total transparency, absolute free speech and the belief that humans are creating a sort-of unity of minds — a noosphere — and that this will be a good thing. The panelists spoke of participating with Barlow in organizing for free speech protection, transparency and the freedom to use and transform these tools as we wish — the programming that is being used to collect our data should be transparent and we should be able to use and alter the tools any way we choose.

At the same time, panelists shared some sharp skepticism regarding the utopian edge of the Barlowian vision, acknowledging that things have not gone entirely well — to put it mildly. Joichi Ito spoke of being in the darkest time he has experienced and wondered if those clouds would lift. He advocated bringing some counterculture flavor — a spirit of play and humor — into the powerfully growing social justice movements.

 

John Gilmore and Joi Ito

 

While the panelists referenced the dark complexities we’re currently facing, some aspects of that seemed to go unmentioned.

Allow me.

This difficult moment for free speech might have been best expressed in a conversation I ran here last week wherein Angela Nagle said, “you have a culture that seems to justify all the worst fears about what happens when you allow free speech — extreme misogyny, dehumanizing racism, and just the most cruel stuff the human mind can come up with.” (emphasis mine). This is where the rubber is hitting the road regarding speech and it doesn’t fall before easy answers.

Which brings me to another point that I raised in a piece here — the announcement by Microsoft that they will be censoring speech on a variety of their platforms (including Office… Whaaaa?) And as I noted, the pressure that these giant corporate organisms are reacting to that is causing them to sloppily attempt to gain control over the cacophony of the online world comes largely from people who demand sensitivity towards those mainly bearing the brunt of that “cruelest stuff the human mind can come up with.”

Finally, these sorts of problems call into question the fundamental Barlowian optimism. The notion that minds linked together in cyberspace would become more enlightened. And the question many of us have been asking ourselves for awhile is whether disembodied minds aren’t, in fact, uniquely cruel — more capable of abstracting the people they hurt than those who aren’t sitting behind a keyboard but roaming the actual world. Of course, there have been epic moments of monumental dehumanization of embodied (and soon to be murdered) people that has occurred for the millennia before the internet, so it’s possible that our mutual agitation at seeing what the other “tards” say on the web may prove to be less consequential than it might seem. But it’s certainly an inquiry that needs to be made before the mass casualties pile up.

None of this is meant to distract from the spirit of Barlow or his visions.  One of the panelists (I forget which one) spoke of his ideals as being like a north star to guide us through the ups and downs. I’m not so sure about the noosphere thing — seems a bit Borgian to me — but I hope his vision of an online and offline world that is both liberatory and humane comes to pass.

 

 

A Tribute To Cecil Taylor

 

by Paul McEnery

Only a fool would have thought Cecil Taylor was going to give us more work, so I’m not sad for myself. And though I met him, it wasn’t even close to like we became buds or anything. So why am I sad?

I’m sad because he’s the last of his people, the last of the mad 50s modernists who thought they could just Jackson Pollock their way through with art and it would change the world, because everyone would get the Tao that was within it.

Well, they didn’t. The Naked Tao wasn’t popular, and it took too many people too quick, because people can’t take that, I guess. But Cecil could and did. Personally, I guess he was kind of a pain in the arse — he was the times I met him — but artistically? Hell yes he was a pain in the arse. He didn’t like anybody’s way except his own. Thank God.

When I was a teenager, I loved the sound, but couldn’t work out what was going on exactly. I was trying to use my brain. And as it turns out, I don’t have a musician’s brain to work with all those sounds, so that doesn’t quite work for me.

What did work was getting to see a week long residency at Yoshi’s when it was still out at Rockridge, and there were better nights and worse nights, and then there was the one night where Cecil fucked the whole room with a grand piano.

I don’t say that lightly. He was playing the same figures he usually did; notes happened; there were flurries of rhythmic excitement, nothing unusual. Except this night he was on like Samuel Jackson. His fingers and his brain were doing the talking, but everything they were communicating came from below the waist, and everyone there knew it. The most profanely spiritual experience of my life. And a bit of an excuse me to the bathroom when it was done.

Since (and before) then, I saw him play the bodies of his audience — his true instrument — a whole bunch of times. That was the time he grabbed my whole chakra tree and shook it till the apples fell down to the ground. And then I understood.

Right now I’ve got Garden on, and it’s just him and a studio. That’s just a postcard. I got to be in the place where the postcard photo got taken. And that made all the difference to me.

Thank you Cecil. You were the last of the greats, and now nobody will know that we weren’t talking bollocks about, well, being fucked with a grand piano.

Paul McEnery was the editor who kept things interesting in the latter years of MONDO 2000 magazine

The Revolution Party Revisited (ReWrites & Wrongs)

 

 

Who? Right away we have this elite avant-garde ultrahipster signaling. I’m just starting to reread part one but I’m sure the entire thing is ultrahipster signaling…

R.U. Sirius 

In 2000, I started The Revolution, a political party and ran a write-in campaign for president of these here United States. Now I am annotating the foolish articles that I wrote to propagate the campaign and the party.

The Revolution was pitched at the time as a hybrid of liberal and libertarian politics, which — to use a much abused word — is extremely problematic. It was problematic. Now it’s more problematic. I will probably use that word again and again. Please kill me with opioids (from whence comes the oid? I think it was from advertisements and doctors not wanting to use the good old term opiATEs.) It’s largely today a weasel term used by weenies who can’t enjoy popular culture (or anything) without acknowledging that the fun thing doesn’t fit snuggly into Social Justice perfection. Oh yes, we’re gonna have some fun…

I’m not going to dwell on the liberal libertarian thing much right now except to say that I mostly meant Left and Libertarian and I was succumbing to the conflation of left and liberal so as to skip past the need to get pedantic with the less politically educated. Also, briefly

What libertarians were good for in the 1990s and — to a degree — today.

1: Helping to create develop and do the work for the Electronic Frontier Foundation — those stout defenders of privacy for the people, transparency for the companies, civil liberties and general resistance to overreactions by law enforcement towards benign-ish or at least not-too-awful hackers and the like. Also, gave us Edward Snowden (and the eventual consequent refusal of many liberals to want to know about the trillion dollar surveillance state).

2: Being against the War On Drugs (when the Democratic Party, for example, was in utter lockstep) — which was arguably the worst thing in America’s late 20th Century and is still pretty gnarly. (Much more on that to come in later annotated pieces).

3: Being among those manning (personing) the antiwar movement, particularly during Democratic administrations. Most of today’s activists brush off interventionism and the odd democrat-administered bombing of civilians like JZ brushing his shoulders in that video that Obama mimicked because he was cool. (He was cool.)

4: Actually liking civil liberties and being on it during Democratic admins, particularly during the Clinton Admin when mainstream liberals were entirely absent. We will get into the civil liberties record of the Clinton Admin in a latter entry.

5: Being part of MONDO 2000! … albeit not a dominant part, despite the assumptions of some commentators… and being mensches while they were at it. Oh I will savage libertarians some time later in this sprawling mess… but those are some briefs on reasons to be thankful.

The pieces were initially published on the Disinformation website when it was being managed by the inimitable Richard Metzger, who now runs my favorite site Dangerous Minds… some time in 1999. My annotated 2018 comments are offered in purple. Try to keep up!

ps: The following is a sort of blather-filled preamble. Future sections will look at the actual 15 point proposal from 1999 which was fairly serious and will deconstruct that and playfully offer a new set. Also, everything else weird and challenging that has punched and pulled me — and many others — over the terrible years since.

******************************************

Beautiful is the chance encounter, on an operating table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella.
_ – Lautreamont_

Who? Right away we have this elite avant-garde ultrahipster signaling. I’m just starting to reread part one but I’m sure the entire thing is ultrahipster signaling… what I would call genuine hipster … or Original Hipster (OH) … or maybe better, actual FREAK. Let me pause to make a historical note. Almost nobody identified as a hippie. Everybody was a freak. True freaks dug punk.. at least the urban ones. Does any of this matter?

It stands to reason that self-righteous, inflexible, single-minded, authoritarian true believers are politically organized. Open-minded, flexible, complex, ambiguous, anti-authoritarian people would just as soon be left to mind their own fucking business.- R.U. Sirius, from ‘How To Mutate and Take Over The World’ Robert Anton Wilson and J.P. Barlow loved this and used the quote. Oh hell, they were right. The personal is political only in the sense of get out of my face about most private behaviors. Stop the pariah hunting, you pinched twats Read more “The Revolution Party Revisited (ReWrites & Wrongs)”

Sexual McCarthyism and the Neopuritanical Left: A Conversation with Laura Kipnis & Angela Nagle

 

 

Laura Kipnis: Avoid “unnecessary references to parts of the body” warns a recent directive from the commissars of sex on my campus.

The introduction to this dialogue between Laura Kipnis and Angela Nagle will focus largely on the contents of Kipnis’ book Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia on Campus. Excerpts and introduction from Nagle’s book Kill All Normies Online culture wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the alt-right were previously published on MONDO 2000 here. Consider reading it first

 

Laura Kipnis

 

I like to challenge dogma — the type we once called political correctness before that term was deformed by the far right to mean anything they disagree with. But I was none-too-pleased when I finished reading Unwanted Advances by Laura Kipnis.

Not only did she provide a litany of examples of Kafkaesque (no, actually Kafkaesqe i.e. The Trial) activities taking place on college campuses involving “hearings” related to often bizarre accusations of sexual misconduct, the main subject in the book was someone who I knew, at least virtually, pretty well.

I finished the book with the queasy feeling that I needed to say something about it. The problem was (and is) — given the temper of the moment, and the horrible bigotry-for-all of the current White House occupants — one wished one could be unambiguously in solidarity with “The Resistance.” I weakly mentioned that a former MONDO associate was the subject of Kafkaesque events detailed in Kipnis’s book in a couple of tweets and then more or less let it go. But I went to work on organizing this conversation and now…. the moment of truth

The aforementioned MONDO associate Peter Ludlow was a vocal and frequent contributor to the MONDO 2000 Conference on The WELL, back in the early and mid-90s (when The Well was one of very few “social media” hangouts on the internet). And he became a contributor to How To Mutate & Take Over The Word: An Exploded Post-Novel the book that I, and my coauthor St. Jude Milhon (RIP), wrote along with “The Internet 21” — approximately 21 people who joined in the creation of that mess as part of a mostly-failed role playing game. Ludlow wrote some essays mocking the style of that periods’ “cyber-critics” — a branch of poststructuralism/postmodernism that had discovered the cyberpunk/cyberculture much to their excited borderline-erotic horror.

irresistibly charming Peter Ludlow

In Ludlow’s case, there was a kind of double-jeopardy Kafkaesque trial. Initially, he was investigated for allegedly groping a student who had spent the night in his apartment.  In this case, he was not informed of the charges against him nor the evidence against him, nor even what the specific actions were that he had committed.  He was not allowed to have a lawyer present, nor was he allowed to question his accuser, whose case later collapsed in a court of law. Even the University did not find evidence of the groping part — even under the very weak “preponderance of evidence” standard. As Kipnis notes, important elements of the student’s accusations were clear fabrications, not least of which that the student had jumped into lake Michigan in early February and then got out and walked outside for an hour to dry off.

When Northwestern seemed intent on getting rid of Ludlow anyway, they later pressured a graduate student and former lover of his to testify against him.  Her initial response was that she had merely been in a “deeply inappropriate” relationship with Ludlow (a time when she had a boyfriend in Boston that she would subsequently marry).  She had complained to Ludlow that if news about their relationship got out it would “ruin her”.  But clearly given Northwestern’s path, news was now going to get out.

When the second group of charges came, Ludlow was again not informed of the specific charges against him and had to meet with the university “investigator”  — a former prosecutor — for several hours without a lawyer present.  The initial charge against him turned out to be a date-specific occasion of nonconsensual sex (the student woke up naked one day just before Thanksgiving break, and did not remember having sex, but concluded she must have). When Ludlow produced a hotel receipt showing he wasn’t home the evening in question, and text messages from the following day showing Ludlow trying to break up and the student trying to preserve their (by then) nearly two month old relationship, the charges drifted. Now the charge was that Ludlow had used his power and “charm” — charm is actually the word used by the investigator — to manipulate the student into a relationship that lasted from October through December.  The student, a 25-year-old who had already been through a master’s program and dated a previous professor, did not have the tools to make such a decision on her own, it seems.  

Kipnis notes that the graduate student said to the investigator that “it was only years later” that she realized that she had been manipulated by Ludlow, and that a key woman in the philosophy profession convinced her of this.  So, by her own admission it seems, she concluded that her “consent” to a relationship that lasted for three months and thousands of text messages could be withdrawn years after the fact.  It seems her advisor not only had the power to tell her what she should consent to; she also had the power to tell her what she did consent to.  The paradox, is that “consent” is no longer an act of the student’s will; it is now the decision of an academic superior, and that decision by the superior can overwrite previous willful acts of consent by the student.

Some may assume that only those awful “cisgendered” males have been on the receiving end of these accusations and quasi-legal prosecutions/persecutions. In fact, an awful lot of gay teachers have faced the Kafkaesque “trial,” and more than a few women. The author of the book was subjected to a Title IX investigation for seven words in an essay published in the Chronicle of Higher Education referencing one of Ludlow’s accusers case, though not naming the woman. (Kipnis was brought up on Title IX complaints a second time over the book, and is now also being sued over it.) One gay woman was accused of looking at a girl’s breast while whispering in her ear. The offending act took place in a library.

I organized this brief email conversation between Laura Kipnis, author of Unwanted Advances Sexual Paranoia Comes To Campus and Angela Nagle, author of Kill All Normies: online culture wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the alt-right. Nagle’s book was discussed and excerpted in an earlier MONDO 2000 article. Both women are leftists who have been getting a ton of angry shit from what one might call the identity left for challenging their dogmas.

R.U. Sirius

 

Angela Nagle

I’ve also sprinkled a few quotes from the books of both authors throughout the discussion. Some of Nagle’s excerpts from the prior article are worth repeating.

Laura Kipnis: In the official version of events, causality can run in only one direction: Ludlow alone can be the prime mover; Cho can only be someone things happen to… What use to anyone is a feminism so steeped in self-exoneration that it prefers to imagine women as helpless children, rather than acknowledge grown-up sexual realities.

R.U. Sirius: These are two very different books from two very different minds… but a commonality may be that both of you are leftists and your books have upset some other leftists (which isn’t hard to do but…). And I think it’s because you’re telling them about things they don’t want to know. Particularly with Laura’s book, even I got to the end and thought… I wish I didn’t know about these events. Now I guess I have to say something about it.  

I’d like to get both your thoughts on this… and do you think it’s a unique phenomenon of our virtualized times or is it just the same old circular firing squad? Also, any specific nastiness you’ve incurred that you’re willing to share….

Laura Kipnis: The Left has always been riven by sectarian differences and idiocies, but my problem answering this question right now is that I’ve lost a sense of who or what the left is. It seems to have become monolithic, at least when it comes to campus issues, which has lately been my subject, and where the nominal left starts seeming like a bunch of prigs, hysterics, censors, and authoritarians. As far as the feminist left, is there one if by “left” we mean attention to some version of redistributive justice along with the tenets of gender equity? They’re not either/or propositions obviously, but class has become the ugly stepsister, the identity that dare not speak its name, when it comes to the intersections of concern on the campus left.

But it’s worse than that. If you’re talking about — or with — students, for the most part the politics are incoherent. I’m willing to say, as an academic leftist, that it’s leftwing professors who’ve stopped teaching students how to think. I recall an exchange I had last year with a student at my own university (now graduated, I believe) when I wrote a letter to the school paper about due process. I was for it. (And against rushing to judgment without evidence, as had happened in a campus incident involving anonymous accusations against a frat.) There was the one response, from a student I didn’t know, about what I’d written:

“The letter refuses to hold hegemonic structures accountable for their endorsement of misogynistic masculinity and subsequent dehumanization of female-assigned bodies. This unwillingness is connected to the structures that secure white, cis privilege among faculty at institutions such as NU. These are the very structures that produce a confirmation bias against and invalidate survivors. The rhetoric that demands “we know exactly what happened” before taking action is trauma-inducing for survivors. I would hope any educator would feel that same obligation toward allyship to their students, some of whom are among the survivor community.”

Where does this gobbledegook come from? This was someone who, I presume, would describe herself as on the left. Yet she has no concept of democracy, which requires due process. I’m sure she would describe herself as “on the right side of history,” while overlooking the histories of false accusations against sexual and racial minorities. She spouts boilerplate phrases. And I suspect she learned all this as a student at an elite university, from professors spouting slightly more polished versions of the same boilerplate.  Read more “Sexual McCarthyism and the Neopuritanical Left: A Conversation with Laura Kipnis & Angela Nagle”

YOU Asked For It! Internet Censorship Goes Exponential

 

by R.U. Sirius

It mainly struck people as bizarre. The news item struck last week that Microsoft was banning “offensive language” from Skype, Xbox and even Office. Many of us wondered how the whole Office thing would work, like, for any living grown up writer of books or movie scripts or pretty much anything.

Meanwhile, Craigslist removed its personals in response to the passage of complicated legislation aimed against sex trafficking.

Twitter, of course, has been excising “bad actors” in a random way for several years and Facebook has always tossed anybody in Facebook Jail on the basis of a complaint or two.

The law that killed the Craigslist personals — related to legitimate concerns regarding sex trafficking — was the result of pressures from some-but-not-all feminist activists, along with law enforcement and religious conservatives (97 senators voted for it).

On the other hand, the pressure that is being placed on monster companies like Microsoft to tame the wilds of the internet comes pretty much entirely from the cultural left, liberals and mainstream media. (Who are the language police?)

An understandable panic over the increasingly open bigotry of most right wing extremists and misogynists, as well as the impact of “fake news,” the palpable consequences of bizarro conspiracy memes and destructive medicinal folklore (“Down with vaccinations!”) has created a backlash that has resulted in people holding the hosts of this digital cacophony responsible for the behaviors of their guests. For one example — almost daily, I see people outraged that someone else is still allowed to have a platform on Twitter.

These giant “siren servers” are now in a consistent state of panic over how to enact the demands that they be responsible. Did you think they were going to extract bad actors (or people some of us perceive as bad actors) carefully, with tweezers? Fuck no. They’re bringing the bulldozers! And, in fairness, given the numeric quantity of their guests, they have no choice but to approach it all that way.

What Is Being Enacted?

When the panic over ‘fake news” went quantum with the election of the Chaos President, companies like Google started ranking a number of legitimate sites — including many progressive and anti-war sites — as fake.

What is being enacted? The rise of white nationalism… the Russian program of making chaos in the west with subterranean support for all dissident factions and the mainstreams’ overreaction to it, the anger over the defeat of Hillary Clinton, has created an environment in which what is considered palatable or allowable is increasingly constrained to materials that don’t challenge the neoliberal narrative. And the questions regarding what is considered outside those boundaries are increasingly consequential — about active censorship by companies with power in the area of communication far greater than any government.

It doesn’t help that the identity left has adopted “you better watch what you say” as its raison d’etre, relentless minting new celebrity pariahs out of anyone who wanders even slightly off the reservation. (Burn The Jesters!) There’s no easy answer, but privileging free speech and not panicking is the thing least likely to bite us all in the ass.

afterthought: some will quibble that only government censorship is proper censorship. given the size of most of the entities we’re talking about (such as Microsoft’s various apps), and the expectation of an open internet, this is trite.

 

 

A Virtual Life. An Actual Death

 

A Virtual Life. An Actual Death. Photo credit: markmeadows.comb

 

by Mark Meadows and Peter Ludlow

Carmen Hermosillo (aka humdog, aka wolftone, aka Montserrat Snakeankle, aka Sparrowhawk Perhaps) died on the 10th of August, 2008. She was found in her Northern California apartment face down on her bed. Jack, her black Lab, was waiting at the door when she was found by the building manager. Her death certificate (Santa Cruz County, #08-07590) says that there was neither biopsy nor autopsy, but the official cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia and lupus erythematosus. Other factors were involved. For several years, because of the effects of her lupus, Carmen had been taking medication that kept her heart pumping. Once upon a time she said — as a joke, we guess — that if she ever wanted to die, she just had to stop taking her heart meds.

Was it passive suicide? The evidence is circumstantial, but compelling. Her online accounts, profiles, and avatars — at least 9 of them — had been canceled in the days before she died.

It might be clear what had happened, but the more urgent question is why it happened, and as it turns out, understanding this requires a journey into a deep rabbit hole involving over a decade of online life, virtual relationships, BDSM roleplay, and a virtual island Kingdom. And at the end of journey, one confronts a single frightening truth:

The thing that killed Carmen was the thing she spent her entire online life warning us about.

We met Carmen Hermosillo in 1993 on an electronic conferencing system called the WELL. The WELL (short for Whole Earth ‘Lectonic Link) was spawned by Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalogue and was populated by lots of granola crunching, fattie-huffing techie visionaries ranging from Howard Rheingold to Mitch Kapor to John Perry Barlow. The official dogma of the WELL was that electronic communities were supposed to move us all into a new utopia of virtual barn raisings, thoughtful online salons, and democratic town hall meetings. Or that was the dogma before Carmen appeared under the name ‘humdog’ and called BS on the whole thing.

In an essay called Pandora’s Vox, she vented:

A Virtual Life. An Actual Death. Photo credit: markmeadows.comThe WELL occupies an interesting niche in the electronic-community marketplace. It markets itself as a conferencing system for the literate, bookish and creative individual. It markets itself as an agent for social change, and it is, in reality, calvinist and more than a little green. The WELL is also afflicted with an old fashioned hippie aura that lead to some remarkably touching ideas about society and culture. No one, by the way, should kid themselves that the WELL is any different than bigger services like America OnLine or Prodigy. All of these outfits are businesses and all of these services are owned by large corporations. The WELL is just, by reason of clunky interface, a little bit less obvious about it.

Read more “A Virtual Life. An Actual Death”

Timothy Leary’s 1987 rant against Reaganism and the Drug War

Eldridge, Tim & Abbie — Old friends

Timothy Leary ranted to Lord Nose and myself for High Frontiers at his Hollywood home in 1987.  In honor of our new president and his death penalty schtick, I now present the part where he goes off on Ronald Reagan and the War On Drugs, which the Reagan’s really started (you could say they escalated it, since Nixon announced the War on Drugs.  It really became a well-funded “war” under Reagan.)

There are some obviously flaws. It was spontaneous, and of its time. Still… I love this rant.

 

The Reagan administration is an extraordinary recurrence, or flare-up, of the basic American disease, which is the Protestant ethic, the original Massachusetts Bay Puritan notion of predestinarianism. The idea that there are the elect and the damned. Naturally, white Protestants are the elect and everyone who’s not a white Protestant Puritan is damned. Therefore they have no rights, can be offed, enslaved, can be treated basically as in the service of the Devil.

****

People like Reagan because he’s got enthusiasm, energy, charisma. He smiles and feels good about himself. My god, if your president doesn’t feel good about himself, if he’s dragging his ass around like Mondale, what message is he sending to the herd or to the tribe. But I think everyone would agree that at the level of creativity, open-mindedness, tolerance — the basic intellectual virtues — Reagan is a 1 on a scale of 1 to 8.

****

I don’t think that being illegal is going to stop people from taking ecstasy. America’s going through a hysterical fanatic paroxysm of religious intolerance. These Protestant types truly believe they have to have an enemy to be against… it was the Soviet Union. For the last twenty years we’ve been at war with Central America, Nicaragua, Cuba. We have to have colored people, or different language people, or different religions as scapegoats.  These South Americans are obviously dirty sinful people because they don’t sing Protestant hymns. So the American government has to have an outside enemy to whip up the military fervor, and it also has to have an internal domestic civil war going on at all times. So that we started with the Civil War 100 years ago, which was a total disaster; an unnecessary war, whipped up by this insane Protestant desire, “Onward Christian Soldiers,” and then, just in the last century, the scapegoating of Wobblies and trade union people, then the Jews have always been scapegoats of the Protestant ruling class, and then the Japanese for awhile during World War II.  And then after World War II it became reds and communists and pinkos. If you were not a total rightwing republican, you were a communist. Because it’s either/or. There’s no shade. You’re either a god or a devil. So they had to have a new domestic enemy and, of course, drugs are the perfect scapegoat. People that use drugs are young and they tend to be dissident. They don’t tend to be Born Again Christians. They tend to be everything that’s sinful and horrible to a Protestant ethic predestinarian. So the war on drugs is a religious war, and in a religious war there’s no pretense at honesty or clarity or tolerance — anything goes, propaganda, lies, persecution. That’ll end, hopefully, by 1988.

$uptime

 

They built a god.

They’d been building a god since the sixties. 

They just didn’t know it.



I’m sure there were a few who knew, people like Genesis P,
the aging rattle and clank sex hippy of the cut and paste
council.


I was never into the
Kit Pedler knew; though he downplayed it. For him it was
more a “Man is dead, long live the super computer.” kind of
thing.
Loebler was afraid          and Madden died before some of
his “projects” could be
I think it’s just


Words

Read more “$uptime”

Kathy Acker Reading The Body 1991 (MONDO 2000 Issue #4)

Kathy Acker Interviewed by Larry McCaffery

When Kathy Acker smiles, her face shifts 2000 years in time, from Periclean austere to postmodern punk.

Embedded in one of her front teeth is a jagged chunk of bronze.

She is her own text, her own gallery. She’s a body builder in more than the usual way: her muscles animate spectacular tattoos. She has seized control over the sign-systems through which people “read” her.

You may also read her books. In Empire of the Senseless (1988) she systematically kills the patriarchal father, tries (but eventually fails) to imagine a society freed from Oedipal considerations and all taboos, and introduces a file of outcast myths—cyberpunk, modern primitive, pirate, motorcycle gang—to explore control over one’s life and the use of signs to create the meaning of that life. In Memoriam to Identity (1990) inhabits literary and historical materials—the work of Rimbaud and his relationship with Verlaine, Heian court writing, Faulkner—to present a contemporary version of the myth of romance.

During her expatriate years Acker became a major figure in postmodern and feminist fiction. Her novels (with spectacular Robert Mapplethorpe photographs on their covers) were attacked from right and left. Some feminists were made queasy by Acker’s depictions of emotional and sexual masochism, her obsession with obscenity. Some loathed her analyses of political and cultural repression; others, her takes on 1960’s Hippie utopianism. After a dicey decade in London, Acker moved back to the states, specifically San Francisco, where she teaches writing at the Art Institute.

Past mistress of the cunning juxtaposition and the Fine Art of Appropriation, her writing betrays a multitrack outlaw intellect. And she doesn’t shrink from mining outlaw “low culture” genres like SF, pornography, and detective fiction. The net effect of her work is not merely to deconstruct, but to decondition.

Acker is passionate and articulate, energetic and authoritative. Laughter and self-irony punctuated her rapid-fire presentations delivered in a heavy New York Jewish accent.

Larry McCaffery

Read more “Kathy Acker Reading The Body 1991 (MONDO 2000 Issue #4)”

Why Chelsea Manning and Heather Dewey-Hagborg Speaking Together Yesterday In Ann Arbor Was A Pretty Big Deal

By Lisa Rein

Chelsea Manning had “A conversation with Heather Dewey-Hagborg” – On Thursday, March 15, 2018, at 5:10pm at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

ABOVE: Chelsea looking at her own portraits. BELOW: Chelsea doing the same thing in Frame 11 of the Suppressed Images comic book (at SuppressedImages.net)

This time last year, my friends Chelsea Manning and Heather Hewey-Hagborg were still depending on me in order to communicate effectively; so they could collaborate on their art and research projects together.

Heather and Chelsea’s collaborations started way back in 2015, when some folks at Paper magazine orchestrated their first collaboration. Using only the good old U.S. mail, Chelsea sent Heather swabs of her DNA and answered a number of powerful questions to start a discussion about DNA and privacy that continues to this day. Boy was it cool being in the middle of that conversation. 🙂

Heather had developed a method for creating portraits of strangers based on DNA, and was speaking around the world, explaining both the wonders of forensic phenotyping, and how the technology is inherently problematic.

Meanwhile, Chelsea, in prison, in 2013 was not being allowed to be photographed or recorded. (After a charismatic Daniel Ellsberg won over the hearts of millions in the 1970s, the Feds sure weren’t going to make that mistake again.)

The way Chelsea’s voice was being silenced angered and, ultimately, intrigued Heather. Perhaps she could turn it around into something anti-oppressive, and utilize this technology to give Chelsea the public face she had been denied, by creating portraits of her, from her DNA.

By the time I came along, they had already completed Stranger Visions and Radical Love – so I had a lot of catching up to do, at first, just to understand Chelsea’s artistic preferences. Chelsea would often have ideas that she had written up, and I would take notes and read them back to Chelsea exactly, so I could convey the information accurately to Heather. Then Heather would write back with her ideas, and I would have to make sure I understood those well enough to explain them to Chelsea the next time we spoke.

3D DNA Portraits from the “Radical Love” exhibit.

 

On November 23, 2016, Heather sent me an excited email with a great idea for “taking some of the writing I have been doing and working with an illustrator to make a comic book or animation bringing things to life.” This would become the Suppressed Images comic book, which tells the story about their friendship and artistic collaborations, and specifically how Chelsea learned it’s important to “Never Shut Up” when someone tries to chill your speech.

Frame 8 from the Suppressed Images comic book at SupressedImages.net. Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Chelsea E. Manning & Shoili Kanungo – Suppressed Images: Frame #8, 2017 – Limited edition poster signed by the artists – 18×24 inches, edition of 100.

Although both Chelsea and I loved the idea, we didn’t think there was enough time to complete the project, and didn’t want to pressure them. But Heather and illustrator Shoili Kanungo worked very very hard to meet their own intense deadlines, in order to finish it in time to be published during President Obama’s last week in office. (When, historically, commutations happen.) As it turned out, it was published in the morning on the same day her commutation was announced. (As the White House announced Chelsea’s commutation in the early afternoon, east coast time.)

This comic book had become our attempt to visualize a reality where Chelsea was commuted – in a world where everyone else had told us that it was impossible. (Now, amazingly, in that same world, everyone acts like it was inevitable 🙂

I was asking different people all over the world to visualize Chelsea out in the regular world with them. Playwrights visualized Chelsea sitting in the audience at their plays. Band members pictured her rocking out at their shows. DJs pictured her dancing to their beats. And now, this comic book literally provided illustrated pictures of the possibilities.

Just one month after the comic book was released — and of course — one month after we had received the good news about Chelsea’s upcoming release — in February, 2017, I got to do it again.

This time, Heather was creating their Probably Chelsea art installation, which premiered in the real world, at the Fridman Gallery in New York City in August 2017.

That project was challenging because I was often describing pretty complex ideas with diagrams, so that Chelsea could recreate them on a piece of paper, think about them, and make decisions.

 

Lisa Rein: My oh my Heather. Looking at these pictures. It’s just so incredible.

I can remember our deciding – against everyone elses opinions – to include your ridiculous hopeful ending: For Chelsea to be out and free and looking at her own portraits.

And yet it came true on the very day the comic book was released. Does any of this last year seem real to you? I’m still in dream land.

Heather Hewey-Hagborg: Yes. I know what you mean. It’s hard to believe that, almost exactly a year ago, I was standing on stage at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor as part of the same Penny Stamps lecture series Chelsea Manning and I are speaking at together today.

This time last year, it really did still fee like a dream. Chelsea was still in prison but we had begun working on the expanded installation – our collaboration on Probably Chelsea – that would mark and celebrate her release. I shared some initial rough ideas with the audience about even at the end of the talk, although they grew and changed in important ways over the next months.

I also described our graphic short story that Chelsea and I wrote together with illustrator Shoili Kanungo which advocated and envisioned her commutation – to the audience – and told them the amazing and miraculous story of publishing the comic on the very morning that Obama actually granted her clemency.

Now I am so incredibly honored, humbled, inspired, and filled with gratitude to be able to stand on the stage together with Chelsea in person to discuss art, technology, and politics — like it’s just totally normal to be here together.

Artists Heather Dewey-Hagborg and Chelsea Manning in the summer of 2017.

LR: I remember the morning we heard the news, on January 17, 2017.

HDH: For me, on the east coast, it was in the early afternoon 🙂 The comic went live early morning my time and I heard about the commutation that afternoon.The announcement of Chelsea’s commutation was one of the most jubilant and overwhelmingly emotional moments of my life, and certainly my artistic career. It was incredibly meaningful to me.

LR: It also felt important the whole time you guys were working on that comic book too. It was an incredible experience for me, as a historian and archivist, to not just meet or read about, but actually be the conduit that worked between you guys on those projects (Suppressed Images and Probably Chelsea).

HDH: Looking back, it was, and is, such a dark time. After Trump in the U.S. and brexit in Europe, Chelsea’s commutation was like a beacon of hope; a way of showing us how important it is to really incant the future you want to see, and how the power of words can be used to make the changes you want.

Of course her release was the result of a lot of different things coming together — and the comic we wrote, anticipating, asking for her release, felt like this little sprinkle of magic potion that catalyzed this reaction. To revisit that today is such a powerful reminder that positive change is really possible.

Below, Chelsea signs one of the limited edition prints from the Probably Chelsea exhibit. A limited number of prints are still available.

Chelsea signs one of the Limited edition poster signed by the artists (Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Chelsea E. Manning & Shoili Kanungo) – Suppressed Images: Frame #8, 2017 –  18×24 inches, edition of 100.

 

What Is The Sound of a Billion Knees Jerking?

phreakin’ the phone 1972

 

Lyrical cycle by R.U. Sirius with a few actual songs and videos attached

Hey Hey We’re The Punkees (with apologies to The Monkees)

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by 4Chan
Dragging themselves to the living room couch at dawn in search of an angry tweet

With your knickers in a twist
Or your panties in a bunch
William Burroughs shot his wife
Then wrote The Naked Lunch
With your panties in the closet
And your knickers in a whirl
Coming all undone cause
Dr. Who is now a girl

With your panties in a bunch
Or your knickers in a twist
I think you’re gonna punch me
As I eat my naked lunchee
Pan African mixed cuisine
Cooked up by a honky queen
Please fill out your requisition
For the latest inquisition

Hey hey we’re the punkies
People say we’re not The Ramones
We’re the 4th generation
Some say we’re conformist drones
We’re just trying to be friendly
Come and watch us tweet all day
We’re the young generation
You better watch what you say

What I Learned

A tantric master is telling me how to live
Release no jism – Just find your rhythm

A hindu guru is telling me how to die
Try not to try – It’s another high

A politician is telling me where to stand
Take no prisoners – Fuck the pensioners

A porn star Barbie is sending me her link
She isn’t there – But I don’t care

A jolly nerd is telling me what to do
Upload my brain – You’ll feel no pain

A country singer is telling me where it’s at
Let love come to you – then hit it back

I Politician

recorded by Party Dogs (1982)

Listen to I Politician

I’ve got a little think tank
I call it home
I ain’t too highly paid though
Just flesh and bone
I’ll put a little thingie out
On video cassette
And hope the Minister of Propaganda
Don’t get too upset

Still it all comes though
The United Matrix of America
Pagan rhythms out of Africa
Pagan shipments out of Kathmandu
From the Aztecs to the Ming
Genetic carnival on wings

We’ve got a little freak show
We call it “The Hunchback Squeaks”
And then I politician
I get on up and I speaks
“I got a lotta rage” he cries
“And lots of irony”
You’re baboons in a cage” he lies
“I’m going to set you free”

Still it all comes though
The United Matrix of America
Pagan rhythms out of Africa
Pagan shipments out of Kathmandu
From the Aztecs to the Ming
Genetic carnival on wings

Gotta get back to L.A. now
Got a media jones
Talking with the network boys
and taking out more loans
I get 3 minutes on NBC
Attack the ruling class
I’ve got 4 friends at NASA now
If I have to move my ass

Still it all comes though
The United Matrix of America
Pagan rhythms out of Africa
Pagan shipments out of Kathmandu
From the Aztecs to the Ming
Genetic carnival on wings

Avant God

I want an avant god
Loving perversity
Unlimited diversity

Optimized for my iPod
Totally portable
Sometimes snortable

Gendered or not
Maybe subject to rot
Why not?

The avant god is as real
As the knees on which they kneel
Try to keep it on an even keel
The kind of god you have to steal

The avant god is false
The kind of god you must report
The kind of god that misses court
The kind of god you know you want

I want an avant god
Loving perversity
Unlimited diversity

Speed and Weed

recorded by R.U. Sirius & Phriendz

watch video of Speed and Weed

How I wish I could still do speed and weed
Paranoid listening to Let it Bleed
Long letters to J.G. Ballard and Chuck Manson
Kidnapped my shadow and held it for ransom

How I wish I could still do speed and weed
Wide awake watching the cops retreat
Twin Peaks repeats with a bunch of crazy chicks
Midnight the Castro for some real alt dot kicks

How I wish I could still do speed and weed
Be so sharp when I have to go on TV
Head back home kick it with some china white
Growing older man — it just ain’t right

How I wish I could still do speed and weed
Growing older man — it just ain’t right

Surfin’ Weatherman (w. apologies to the Beach Boys, The Rivieras and Bob Dylan)

You don’t need a weatherman to know we’re toast
Shit’s getting Biblical from coast to coast
I’m moving’ to Ohio where the chicks are groovy
Surfin’ with Mike Love we’re gonna make it a movie

And they’ll be surfing in Boston
And in the ruins of Pompei
Deep in the deserts of Kashmir
L.A. has gone cra-cra
They’ll all be grabbing their children
And all their property too
Tell everybody they’re surfing
And everything is cool

You don’t need a weatherman to know we’re toast
Everybodys freakin’ from coast to coast
Going’ back to California where the chicks are pissed
They’ll kneel before my virtue when I raise my fist

And they’ll be shooting deniers
And oil CEOs
And all Republican Senators
And every Fox News host
They’ll all be grabbing their children
And all their property too
Tell everybody they’re surfing
And everything is cool

Be My Valerie Solanas

by Creosote Cowboy

Listen to Be My Valerie Solanas 

Offer her a lollipop
Offer her some gum
Offer her most anything
Don’t offer her my gun
Offer her de Beauvoir
Or offer her de Sade
Keep your shit together man
Fall to your knees and pray

If you’ll be my Valerie Solanas
I will be your Robespierre
Nothing can come between us
‘cept that thing underneath your hair
We have so much in common
Let’s get off on a tear
Bring it down Kill the clowns
We’re such a lovely pair

Offer her a role in porn
Offer her revolt
Offer her most anything
Offer her your scorn
Offer her some Tribe 8
Or offer her Genet
Keep your shit together man
Fall to your knees and pray

If you’ll be my Valerie Solanas
I will be your Robespierre
Nothing can come between us
‘cept that thing underneath your hair
We have so much in common
Let’s get off on a tear
Bring it down Kill the clowns
We’re such a lovely pair

I Wanna Be Your Radio

recorded by MONDO Vanilli (1992, partly written in 1980)

Listen to I Wanna Be Your Radio

I wanna steal your radio
Sacrifice your fingers to an electric fence
I torture you in future tense staccato
And come back home and rest in bed all day

I’ve got techniques for ecstasy
Keeping them under the hat stand
Let’s whip ’em out
And see if anything fits on your head

I wanna steal your radio
Capture you on a hard disc drive
Save you and make a million copies
Give one to each of my friends

I inverted the very color of being
But you — you weren’t there

I wanna be your radio
Sire wire fire and inspire you (cyber cyber)
Flick the switch that renders you insane
Come back home and rest in bed all day (cyber cyber)

I wanted to be Salvador Dali
I wanted to be dead and unreasonable
Let’s grieve in concentric circles
To make the night release your brain

I wanna be your radio
Now I wanna be your radio

INsufficiently
CELebrated

Vectors for viral infection
All fighting at the intersection
The excluded occluded white flight
The transitive under-the-knife fight

The Dj is staying up all night
The Brit is here shouting Crikey
Look what’s coming down the pike
Looks a bit like a 4th Reich

European Union Uber Alles
Versus the white mans angry phallus
Prez declares war from Caesar’s Palace
Drink false data from his magical chalice

I’m INsufficiently CELebrated
I look bloody old but I’m underrated
The simple girl you loved has gone complicated
I’m sending mixed signals and I’m way frustrated
yeah

The elegant art thief takes his time
The critic believes he’s a friend of mine
A place to unwind while under duress
Some dude who told me he wasn’t impressed
Right, I live just to impress you man
I’m only doing something I can
Look in the mirror if you’re so inclined
Mister you ain’t no friend of mine

I’m INsufficiently CELebrated
I look bloody old but I’m underrated
The simple girl you loved has gone complicated
I’m sending mixed signals and I’m way frustrated
Yeah

Seeking the goal that’s unattainable
Our lips are sealed and unnamable
The girl who was named after the madness
Was waiting ‘til everyone dull had vanished
But they lingered around and it was absurd
Biding their time while minting new words
Everything passionate started to freeze
Decided to bring the whole world to its knees

She’s INsufficiently CELebrated
She look bloody young but she’s underrated
The simple girl you loved has gone complicated
She’s sending mixed signals and she’s way frustrated
Yeah

Punters Fighting Punters (with apologies to Harry Nilsson)

Punters fighting punters
Owners sailing yachts
You can jump into the fire
You can suck a million cocks
You can smash a million statues
You can run and jump and spit
You can chant a billion slogan
And it won’t amount to shit

We can jump into the fakir
We can make each other horny
We can scream inside a man cave
We can try to make the kids rave
You can beat another wage slave
You can beat another wage slave
You can beat another wage slave
But you’ll never be free whoa whoa

 

Read more “What Is The Sound of a Billion Knees Jerking?”

Smart Drugs & Nutrients in 1991 (MONDO 2000 Flashback Friday)

By 1991, smart drugs and nutrients were all over the media with articles appearing in the New York Times and Vanity Fair; segments on network news shows both local and national and pitchmen-and-women going on afternoon talk shows to tout their efficacy (and, of course, Pearson and Shaw had been semi-regulars on The Mike Douglas Show for years). Mondo was running at least one article an issue dedicated to the what, where and how of it — with only the addition of St. Jude’s column, “Irresponsible Journalism,” using irony to sound a slight note of skepticism.

I was using 4 Piracetam a day, washed down with a Choline Cooler and 4 cups of coffee a day.  Clearly, I liked feeling awake and the Piracetam worked for that purpose — until, after a couple of years, it started having the opposite effect. As to whether I accumulated any generalized intelligence increase, well… recalling some of my decisions during those times, I doubt it.

In some of my interviews for the M2k History Project, I ask people if Virtual Reality and Smart Drugs let us down… or did we let them down.  One interesting response came from Jim English, a Mondo 2000 friend involved — then and now — in the vitamin and nutrient business: “I think that the us part that failed were that we are a nation of fads. And smart drugs and smart drinks were a big fad, and everyone wanted to go, “Oh, I had the smart drink. I had the… I had the Ginko a Go-Go with the such-and-such. I had the oxygen cocktail. I had this…™ And people embraced the stuff, and then I think as soon as it started to become a commercial product — you started to see stuff showing up on shelves, I think you saw a concomitant backlash, which was, ˜Well, it’s not really making me smarter. I can dance harder, but, you know, I’m just as exhausted the next day,™ I think the expectations kind of combined with the sense to be the first to adopt something, and the first to reject something. That’s how you keep your credibility. You know? ˜Well, I’m beyond that…™

“The hipster crowd backed away. ˜I’m into smart drinks. Oh, now I’m into deprynil. Now I’m into heroin.’ You know, you need to keep moving the bar forward or you lose your credibility. And I think a lot of people that I worked with kind of did that.”

Despite the fact that Smart Drugs were a big thing, I was surprised — while checking out an old 1991 discussion in the Mondo conference on The Well — to discover dozens of participants (and most of them professional types, not hippies, mind you) waxing enthusiastically about trying them out.

Presented below are just some brief entries from that much longer conversation about Smart Drugs and Nutrients… some of them chosen not so much because they are representative, but because they are kind of amusing. Btw, the discussion below is uncorrected. People were much less dickish back then about things like misspelled words, which created a relaxed atmosphere for conversation, despite the overstimulating drugs.

R.U. Sirius

 

mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients

#0 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Wed 01 May 1991 (09:15 PM)

I am writing a magazine story on “smart drugs,” including Hydergine, Piracetam, Choline, Vasopressin, and various nutrients and amino acids. Any experiences you would like to share for publication? Read more “Smart Drugs & Nutrients in 1991 (MONDO 2000 Flashback Friday)”

fragments of A String of Saturdays: The New Southern Romance

Illustrations courtesy Joseph Glen Daigle

by Todd Brendan Fahey

“I said, ‘Man, why don’t you come on in? I mean: we got a keg of codeine, five hundred cubic meters of nitrous oxide, a crateful of Special K—in those extra large ampoules you like.’ And Stan kind of kicks at the dirt and checks his watch: ‘Alright… But I only have fifteen minutes’.”

It is one of those delayed-megaton deliveries that pass into the cerebrum, whirl about for a bit, hit home as one is finishing the unfortunate angel food cake. And whilst speaking to the Dean.

Dr. Bryant Andersson turns his head just quickly enough, but nothing can save him—a fluffy and unnecessary concoction ridden of, flown from mouth and nostrils, so rude. But tenured, so nothing she can do about it—other than to suck her teeth, even though she gets it, too.

A collective wrack of guilty pleasure. A human buckling, at least one shot-through into the pool, fistpoundings on Home Depot outdoor dining sets and the general upset of disposal kitchenware. Fuck a Shriners roast: George Carlin would have shat himself.

From across the terrace, Stan nods mildly and stands a salute; Jack Jump flips him off and at ease. Infamy, notoriety: states to which he has always held a big brass Key. Read more “fragments of A String of Saturdays: The New Southern Romance”

Do G-Men Dream Of Electric Sheep? (Flashback Friday MONDO 2000 Issue #3)

 

by R. U. Sirius & George Gleason

It’s no secret that mischievous young computer hackers get into trouble with the law. Occasionally, as in the case of the original legendary phone phreak John Draper aka Cap’n Crunch, they wind up in jail, although for the most part, their cyber-joyriding pranks are merely wrist-slapped. Suspended sentences. Probation. Charges dropped along with promises not to hang with the wrong crowd. Law enforcement quickly learned that it is not in their best interests to lock the hacker—and all that tricky expertise—in with a bunch of hardcore criminals. Indeed, the unmasked hacker may end up working as a security agent—for the phone company, a bank, or even some federal agency. Computer “crime” can be seen as the bush league, training for the Security Industry.

This relatively benign view of phreaking held through the first years of the personal computer industry. After all, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs gave birth to the PC partly through funds gathered by selling the “blue box,” a device for phone phreaking. And back before the digital revolution was taken over by the marketing departments, it was common knowledge that hackers were the backbone of the industry. Hacking is about exploration and access—exploring the limits of systems, finding what you need, whether to satisfy your curiosity or to complete some useful work. Proprietary concerns are not always treated with the utmost respect. Since hackers also tend to be pranksters, they can at times tend to be downright disrespectful towards authority. But a revolutionary conspiracy of self-conscious anarchists, this subculture has never been. Not quite.

Cut to 1990. A year that will live in infamy. For some unfathomable reason, agents of the law decided that this is the time to get busy stomping on self-expression. Just briefly: we had the bust of an art gallery in Cincinnati for showing Robert Mapplethorpe’s infamous photos, we had police agents entering a music shop in Florida and seizing dangerous CDs, records and cassettes, we had the 2 Live Crew busts, we had Jock Sturges —a reputable photographer—busted and all of his everything seized for daring to process photos of the young nude body, and we had the US Armed Forces invasion of Humboldt County, uprooting a fistful of the killer weed to impress the president of Colombia.

It is in this context that we come upon Operation Sun Devil and the concerted crackdown against young computer hackers by the US Secret Service.

Think of this calendar of events as a kind of scorecard that you can refer hack to as you read this section’s interviews with such Dramatis personae as Craig Neidorf, Steve Jackson , John Barlow , Mitch Kay or, et al.

Summer 1988: Hackers’ Convention 4.0. CBS News shows up with prepared script intending to depict hackers as dangerous criminals. This was particularly bizarre given that this Hackers gathering, formed by Steven Levy (author of the book Hackers) and Stewart Brand with the Whole Earth Institute, is frequented primarily by older, comfortable, relatively law-abiding computer fiends. Many of the people who were portrayed as “high in the Santa Cruz mountains plotting the downfall of the computer industry” were actually CEOs in that industry. Many more were, at the very least, major stockholders and well-paid executives in mainline companies. The dangerous-looking longhaired man seen looking at violent computer games while playing with a yoyo by millions of newswatching Americans was none other than Clifford Stoll, National Security Agency collaborator and author of The Cuckoo’s Egg. The CBS coverage was probably the first inkling for the older 60’s-generation hacker set that something might be amiss in their world.

Many who were portrayed as “high in the Santa Cruz mountains plotting the downfall of the computer industry” were actually CEOs in that industry

November 1988: The Internet Worm runs wild across many of the nations’ computer networks, shutting down an estimated 6,600 computers tied to the Internet and causing an estimated loss of 40 to 90 million dollars. The code, written by Robert Morris, was intended to map the net. In the words of John Barlow, “It was going to go around to every node on the net and report back in and tell just how big this sucker is.” But, due to faulty code, it winds up reproducing itself at a phenomenal clip, eating up all the cyberspace in its path and closing many systems. Within a day of Morris’ arrest, it is revealed that his father, also Robert Morris, is the chief computer security expert at the National Security Agency. Those who wish to conjecture about the possible meaning of this may proceed at their own risk.

December 1988: Legion of Doom member “The Prophet” downloads a Bell South document on the administration of E-911 systems, and then posts it around bulletin board systems (BBSs) such as Jolnet. It reaches Knight Lightening, aka Craig Neidorf. Knight republishes it in his electronic magazine, Phrack.

Read more “Do G-Men Dream Of Electric Sheep? (Flashback Friday MONDO 2000 Issue #3)”

John Perry Barlow Through the Lens of Lisa Rein’s Archival Memories

John Perry Barlow at the San Francisco Aaron Swartz Memorial

John Perry Barlow was a close collaborator and dear friend, since the first day I met him, in 2002. He was extremely encouraging, spoke at many of the events I organized, and was there for me generally, as I followed the breadcrumbs of my archival adventures. First as Dr. Timothy Leary’s Digital Librarian, next as the co-founder of Aaron Swartz Day, and most recently, as Chelsea Manning’s Archivist.

Barlow was a very exciting person to work with. In the beginning, there wasn’t much pressure during our meetings, while he answered questions about Dr. Timothy Leary, who he had a close and very interesting — albeit sometimes strained — relationship with. He was helping me fill in the little details between the overlapping stories I had heard from others. I often showed up with a box of artifacts from whichever specific time period I wanted to discuss that day. Although the lives of psychedelic folks in the 1960s and 1970s are often portrayed as footloose and fancy free, their real lives weren’t really like that most of the time (except when they really really were :).

I would often ask him to confirm specific facts for me, and would end up hearing completely different stories that took place around the time period in question. Being Dr. Leary’s Digital Librarian, I liked to know the story behind every artifact. Since I wasn’t alive yet, much less there, when a lot of things took place, my job, most of the time, amounted to collecting and comparing notes from everyone I could find who was there.

I would often get conflicting stories about how certain events played out, and I was usually hoping that John Perry’s account of events could break the tie. Unfortunately, his accounts did no such thing. More often than not, he would say that something different altogether had taken place, making it so the only thing I knew for sure was that the “official” story was wonky. Nevertheless, it was always quite amusing hearing his take on famous figures — Dr. Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, Baba Ram Dass, Bobby Weir, Jerry Garcia -— or hear him tell (and re-tell) the story of forming the Electronic Frontier Foundation with Mitch Kapor and John Gilmore.

These last few years, as things became more intense around my work, if I stopped by for anything, he would literally drop everything (give or take an hour 🙂 to see me and help me figure out what I needed, and quickly. Often, it seemed as if he was dealing with two or three other critical situations at the same time, and I felt quite honored to be included in his circle of intensity.

Barlow at the Leary reunion

In 2009, I worked with the Leary Estate to put on a family reunion and party for close friends. John Perry Barlow was there, and said a few words:

From that talk:

And, this archive…”will attempt to tell a complex story from a number of different points of view”… and will attempt to encapsulate Timothy Leary, who was truly the most paradoxical and vexing and inspiring and maddening of human beings. He probably had more to do with introducing people to the spiritual matter than practically anybody who wasn’t born in the desert someplace, and yet he was, for much of his life, a profoundly anti-spiritual man.

 

He was a very loving man, who introduced a lot of people to a greater depth of love…

 

I think it’s really important to decode this guy. He was one of my friends. I knew him from ’65 until he died, pretty continuously, and I loved him dearly. But it’s important to take him apart, and figure out who he really was, ’cause you can learn a lot about America, from learning a lot about Timothy Leary.”

 

 

Read more “John Perry Barlow Through the Lens of Lisa Rein’s Archival Memories”

The Annoying Internet Part 1

by John Shirley

When I’m online looking up hotels to stay at, or airlines, it used to be that you got the hotel itself first, the website with the front desk number and reservations number — reservations made within the hotel. Now you get a raft of intermediary businesses trying to get you discounts and they’re all people who can’t answer your questions. They can book you a room maybe at a slight discount but not always. Bunch of goddamn parasites.

Lots of times their URLs are deceptive — like, it’ll say the name of the hotel, Joe’s Hotel say, and then after that the name of the intermediary parasite company. JoesHotelFrontDesk dot com — the company is deceivingly called Front Desk. Wanting to talk to the hotel directly you’ve got to sift through a dozen of these and look carefully to pick out the real hotel website.

It’s deceptive and it’s inefficient and it’s irritating. I should not see these booking companies first ± I should see the hotel. If I want booking companies I can google hotel discounts or something. (When I was a boy, the damn search engines were simple and good!)

And ….try finding correct song lyrics online. When looking for song lyrics online, most of the time you get bullshit — they don’t provide the real lyrics, they provide a spazzy version with many errors. The lyric sites are often put up by people in Europe and Eastern Europe who really don’t understand the lyrics very well, even if they can hear them, and they write down the wrong stuff. Lyric sites (often with obnoxious ads) copy the badly transcribed lyrics at other lyric sites. The result is lots of new bands doing covers full of errors.

On youtube, the videos that offer “the lyrics,”,if not put up by the band or artist directly, are likely to be at least partly wrong, sometimes very wrong. And these people do not get permission from artists to put this up. Nor do the lyric sites get permission.

Some artists, like David Bowie, put up all their lyrics so people’d get it right. Lou Reed put out a really good big book of his lyrics. If you go to RollingStones dot com put LYRICS in their search bar, and you get videos where the official lyrics are available. Try that with bands and artists first before searching online.

Lyrics for Blue Oyster Cult and Iggy Pop online are often partly wrong. Sometimes they leave out passages too. I checked and some of my own lyrics for Blue Oyster Cult are misreported. Many lyric sites not only have super-annoying advertising they’re trying to put malware on your computer.

Google Music (not just the google search engine, but Google Music) seems to make an effort for accurate lyrics.  Artists should sue these other bastards for this misrepresentation.

Morgan Russell Remembering Barlow (w. Lovely Photos)

Barlow asked me about what a panic attack felt like… told him that I felt I was having a heart attack or stroke or seizure and was about to die… he said, “Well, what’s the worst thing that can happen? You REALLY do die.” mulled that one over and laughed with him… he was not afraid of death…

above photo Stefan Z., Amelia Rose, J.P. Barlow, Morgan Russell

text and photos of Morgan Russell

It was approaching January 6th, 1989, John Lilly’s 74th birthday, when Faustin Bray, who traditionally organized and performed at his birthdays in Malibu, handed me five invitations for his party. “Look, no one gets FIVE invitations but I know you’ll know whom to invite.”

Faustin was to me the Good Witch of the West Bay (Mill Valley) while Queen Mu was the Wicked Witch of the East Bay (Berkeley). I gave the first invitation to Barlow who confirmed, next Dan Kottke, next Ted Nelson, next Jas. Morgan (our music editor), keeping one for myself. “Great, I’ll rent a plane and we’ll fly there,”said Dan.

with Count Arnold von Keyserling and Countess Wilhemine “Willy” von Keyserling

He just knew of Barlow and me as passengers given the order of the invitations. Well, we met on the tarmac at the closest airport in Palo Alto and I brought Jas. with me…then Barlow arrives with a 17 year old girlwoman named Bunny and lots of luggage. We all had too much luggage and there were four seats in the Cessna (or whatever make plane) and five of us. Daniel saw no obstacle but we were jammed together… Barlow, as another licensed pilot, in the front with Kottke and Bunny and Jas. and myself in the back… Bunny on my left leg and Jas.’s right leg…we used the entire length of the runway to get off the ground and barely cleared the trees beyond and then circled and circled to gain altitude with our grossly overweight craft. I chatted with Bunny at short range as she was mostly in my lap…”Bunny” was exceedingly cute and “Bunny” was her legal name…she was a second-generation “Bunny,” her mother was Bunny as well… now, one knows that with that name she is unlikely to become a doctor or a lawyer but she was Weir’s girlfriend and she was waiting for him to divorce his wife to live with her… Kottke is meanwhile checking in by radio occasionally… I turned out to be exceptionally glad he was not incapacitated when Barlow told me he had the nickname in Wyoming as “Barf Bag Barlow” for his aeronautical stunts…

Amelia Rose reading Kafka… Kerouac on table..

The group spoke of some other things we might do while in LA… someone said the La Brea Tar Pits so I dubbed our journey as “the Magic Tar Pit Ride” which might have set off some humming since that is a highly infectious tune… I took another Valium… when we landed in LA and gathered our bags and were walking on the tarmac, a worker came out of a hut and looked amazed… he pointed his finger from left to right on our group and possessions and exclaimed incredulously, “ALL of you came in THAT?!, pointing to our petite plane…

with Johanna Satek

Anyway, we went to our digs that Barlow arranged with Phil de Guere in the Hollywood Hills. He was a producer whose maybe most recognizable work was Starsky and Hutch. Dan Ackroyd was the neighbor…I had a bedroom about the size of 75 square meters and the bath included a phone next to the toilet with six lines. There was a kitchen equally scaled with a huge coffee bean roaster that Bear (Augustus Owsley Stanley III) had given him… someone must have supplied him with green coffee beans…I have never been to a Starbucks, but this was another galaxy away in authenticity… a cockatoo, the same speakers that Mickey Hart used (I was in a position to confirm that) and Phil discovered that he and Kottke went to the same boarding school — Lawrenceville in NJ… he also had something closely akin to the world’s smallest piece of hash and acted like he was protecting it… ”I just fired a 10 year old girl today,” he bragged…”I just stab them in the front”… He was working on a Tina Turner special for which he would receive enough to buy the ultimate-level Mercedes… Carlos Castaneda had been with him the night before… the one he really wanted to meet was Ruth-Inge Heinze, shamanic trance induction advisor to Mickey Hart… qhen I told him she was a close friend, he was impressed…

 

He drove our crew to the cliffs of Malibu in his Bitter car… ”only 25 existing in the whole USA”…whatever, this is how he was… we met up with Morgana, yoga teacher to Albert Hofmann when he was in town before and Lady Anne Camilla Swadling whom I knew from a previous visit to LA… I used to have a photo with them and Barlow and someone’s iguana with a rhinestone- or diamond-) studded necklace on Barlow’s shoulder… everyone was there… Robert Anton Wilson, Laura Huxley and so on.

Taking a break from the  crowd outside the house, I went indoors into an office where I met Lilly’s brother…t here was a wall-size cork board with one photo…I went closer to see what it was… It was a picture of myself taken at the American Restaurant, a famous Italian place in North Beach…F austin must have taken the photo…but how it got there I don’t know…

So, next day Kottke and I starting walking… yes, walking… in a place with no sidewalks and looking super dorky to Phil’s teenage daughter wearing our Kulu Valley hats… I received mine from Dan K. at my birthday party the month before…all the yards had nicely inviting signs that read “ARMED RESPONSE”…

When we took off the next day in the overloaded yet trusty plane there were no trees to avoid… I asked, “where’s the dope”…” look in the bag behind my seat,” answered Dan…I rolled a fattie and lit it… all I can say is that landing in Palo Alto, we touched down, bounced and bounced and bounced our way to the very uttermost end of the tarmac that ended in grass…

note: when I last talked about Bunny with Barlow within the past year he corrected me when I mentioned Weir and said, “Bunny was MY girlfriend.” It would not be the first time that Barlow and Weir were in some competition since when they were 12 years old…

J.P. Barlow Remembers… US? Interview About MONDO 2000 (Reality Hackers, High Frontiers)

Stefan Z., Amelia Rose, J.P. Barlow, Morgan Russell

 

John Perry Barlow was interviewed for an oral history of MONDO 2000 several years ago. That version of a MONDO 2000 book has been displaced by something more essay/idea oriented (albeit with some memory mixed in) — and that leaves us free to use some of the interviews here on the website.

We did not, however, expect to be using the Barlow interview so soon. But now, with everybody remembering Barlow, we’re going with Barlow remembering us.

Some or all the persons and references herein may be unfamiliar but with a modicum of intuition and /or imagination, you should be able to get into the MONDOMania as J.P. Barlow recalls it.

 

Meeting Reality Hackers

I met Morgan Russell either at SIGGRAPH Boston or Macworld Boston (1989). But I didn’t really put it all together, I don’t believe, until I ran across Reality Hackers. R.U. Sirius was at a hackers party at the Exploratorium giving away copies of Reality Hackers and High Frontiers.

I just thought this was marvelous. I thought, this is exactly right because there had been this thing that had been gathering in my head, I thought, somewhat independently, about the relationship between consciousness in computing and psychedelics.

I knew about them and I was interested in them for a good long while before I discovered that they had this house that was kind of an artist collective — an atelier of some sort — that was gathering energy around this whole thing. And I was in fundamental agreement and even felt like part of their auto-conspiracy.

Coming to the MONDO house

I was almost certainly lured by Morgan. I thought that the house was a truly magical place. It was out of a Hermann Hesse novel, filled with these people the likes of which did not exist anywhere else. I felt like I kind of made them up. They were so perfectly aligned with something that I wanted to exist.

They were telling the story of something that was going to be a natural continuity of a thread that I’d been tracking ever since I became a teenage beatnik when I was thirteen.

I had been on that path in some form or fashion through LSD and hanging at Millbrook, and finding out that my official best friend was a member of the house band for the Acid Test and all these kinds of things through college and subsequently.

I was re-engaging with something that I had been out of the loop of. I mean, I’d gone off to Wyoming for seventeen years where I’d been a cattle rancher. And yeah, I’d been writing Grateful Dead songs on the side but I actually didn’t feel myself to be at the core of that movement or any kind of countercultural movement… and I very much felt like I was re-engaging what seemed to be my life’s work that night, meeting those guys and becoming part of whatever it was that you were up to.

Read more “J.P. Barlow Remembers… US? Interview About MONDO 2000 (Reality Hackers, High Frontiers)”

The First Virtual War by J.P. Barlow from MONDO 2000 #5

photo by Bart Nagel

“What I had seen of the war had been a computer generated simulationJ.P. Barlow

by John Perry Barlow, introduction by R.U. Sirius

After the confident declarations of inevitable cyberpunk youth takeover in the first edition of Mondo 2000 and the philosophically trippy and mostly utopian read on Virtual Reality in #2, it was inevitable that affairs in the world would bring us crashing down to earth… at least a little. The third edition revolved largely around the hacker crackdown that was called Operation Sundevil — a situation in which a confused and clueless law enforcement establishment pursued crimes they didn’t understand on a terrain they hadn’t realized existed.

Issues #4 and #5 found us, meanwhile, reacting to Operation Desert Storm — the first full-on return to American Triumphalism since the Vietnam war turned sour in… what?… 1968?  We weren’t watching much TV at the Mondo house/office but I remember CNN being on as a sort of background phenomenon during the run-up to the war.

This was the first time the media’s inevitable participation in the sort of unquestioning jingoist war propaganda that we’re always treated to during the run-up to a major intervention was ginned up by computerized special effects. And prideful current and former military leaders sharing technical details about shiny new weapons systems would bring irresistible frisson to certain types of technophiles —  Smart bombs! —  Wowee! Well, as John Fogerty sang, “It ain’t me.”

President George H.W. Bush even enunciated the idea of a “New World Order” spawning a million new byzantine conspiracy theories that have iterated and turned into ever-weirder and more complex alternative realities since.

As for me, I organized a radio show called “New World Disorder” on KALX fm in Berkeley with Don Joyce from Negativland and wrote an editorial in #4, also titled “New World Disorder.”

In issue #5, John Perry Barlow took up the antiwar banner identifying Desert Storm as the first Virtual War in the layout and text provided below.

Don’t get me wrong.  Mondo wasn’t freakin’ Mother Jones or something. The rest of the edition featured an erotic quantum physics limerick; newer smart drugs; the cyber-surrealism of Mark Leyner in the immediate aftermath of his incomparable Et Tu, Babe; a gigantic section on industrial music; Mark Dery deconstructing machine sex and sex machines; a much criticized spread with lovely ladies with their bare nipples shining through microchips; and speaking of smart bombshells, that cover you see is Dr. Fiorella Terenzi who talked to us about her music of the galaxies.  I was told later that every male in the building — except me — stopped work that afternoon to gather in the art room where the interview took place. Was I noble?  No,  I was shut in my office working on something completely unaware.  I was the editor-in-chief and nobody told me a damn thing.

Oh it might also be worth mentioning that we scrambled the names of two avant-garde guitarists on the cover, leading to embarrassment followed by some theorizing about “Art Damage” in the next edition.

Anyway, here’s “Virtual Nintendo” by John Perry Barlow from issue #5 of Mondo 2000. 

R.U. Sirius

Below the scan of the actual magazine, you will find a purely textual version of the article.

 

Mondo2000 Issue 5

 

VIRTUAL NINTENDO

by John Perry Barlow

It is precisely when it appears most truthful that the image is most diabolical.
-Jean Baudrillard

Like most Americans last February, I was hooked on the new CNN sports series War in the Gulf. It didn’t sound strange to me when a friend said he didn’t know whether he wanted to watch the War or the Lakers game that evening. They were fairly indistinguishable. Both commentated by fatuous men well removed from the action. Indeed, in the case of the War, one wondered if there even was any action. The closest one got to that was the occasional footage of people scurrying around in the darkness following a Scud warning, followed by a blurry flash of distant fireworks as the Patriot took out the Scud.

Which was, in a way, a perfect metaphor for the abstraction and bloodlessness of this new form of combat. A missile would emerge without any tangible point of origin, its senders anonymous and devoid of human characteristics. A machine would detect it, another would plot its trajectory, and a third would rush out to kill it. It was like an academic argument. Flesh and bone were miles away from anything that might rend them.

Finally, after weeks of this shadowboxing, it was determined that the map of Kuwait had been sufficiently revised that it was now safe to send in live Americans. Personally, I still had such fear of the Republican Guard that I thought we should soften them some more. What I thought we faced was an army as large as ours, toughened by almost a decade of the nastiest combat since World War I, comprised of Muslim fanatics, each convinced that death in battle was just a quicker trip to Paradise. Certainly more than a match for a bunch of rag-tag American kids who’d joined the military because they couldn’t get a job at the 7-11. Read more “The First Virtual War by J.P. Barlow from MONDO 2000 #5”

John Perry Barlow – MONDO 2000 Contributing Editor RIP

Photos by Bart Nagel

Comment by R.U. Sirius

 

John Perry Barlow by Bart Nagel

 

John Perry Barlow by Bart Nagel

 

 

On rare occasions, a (social) angel appears among us who appears to have unlimited energy and generosity to offer to thousands of friends and collaborators; and who is able to engage authentically with them about their lives and projects long after the rest of us would have curled up into fetal balls from too much peopleness. Barlow was one of those angels. I hope he’s having a unique and trippy out-of-body-and-brain experience and — if there be afterlife rewards — he’s getting back the Good Lovin’ he gave us.

R.U. Sirius

 

Mondoid Memoir The Neopsychedelic Movement

“I noticed that all but one of them did a version of ‘White Rabbit.’  Jeff Mark

by Jeff Mark & R.U. Sirius

While I am currently working on a book about MONDO 2000 that will be primarily about the ideas that drove the magazine, I have a lot of memoir-ish materials collected from my own writings and interviews with — or writings by — various participants in the project. Jeff Mark was the first person I met through ads in local newsweeklies in 1983 looking for project participants… albeit I wasn’t sure what the project was yet. Just that you should dig RA Wilson, Leary and Bill Burroughs to join in.

These notes — a fragment from the original planned book — from myself and Jeff Mark are about a trip to L.A. to cement our friendship with neopsychedelic movement fellow travelers there. At the time, our magazine was called High Frontiers.

R.U. Sirius

 

R.U. The “Neopsychedelic renaissance” continued apace, with major features in High Times, as well as several long forgotten zines, radio interviews and so on — usually with High Frontiers touted as the reigning representation. It seemed that I was blabbing to someone in the media about it at least a couple of times a month. Soon word hit us that people on the L.A. garage psychedelic scene were being drenched in high quality LSD and diggin’ High Frontiers. Greg Shaw’s Bomp Magazine was at the center of that scene and he sent us his back issues (which we were already buying, anyway) and suggested we come for a visit. Jeff Mark and I arranged to go down there

Jeff Mark: Winter Solstice 1985, R.U. and I took a trip to Los Angeles. The “Neopsychedelic Revival” was by then a real phenomenon. Newsweek had even done a feature piece on the L.A. manifestation, focusing on Greg Shaw who was putting together some L.A. neopsychedelic ‘zine. R.U.’s intention was to make contact and build a bridge. We hung out for a while with Greg. I think we did a little sightseeing, and then that night we went to see some bands being promoted by him.

The space the bands would play in, around the corner from Hollywood & Vine… well, you couldn’t call it a club. It was just… a room. The entrance was at the top of an external staircase, from which I could see underneath the building, noting with some trepidation that the second floor was supported by a bunch of those steel jacks that builders use to keep a weak ceiling from collapsing. And this would be holding up a couple of hundred dancing humans.

There were maybe four or five different bands, each doing 30-45 minutes or so, and I noticed that all but one of them did a version of “White Rabbit.” I also noticed was that the bands each seemed to be made up of the same seven or eight people in varying combinations of four or five.

Anyway, the building didn’t collapse, and we retired after to some other location lost to history for a party. Everyone was high on MDMA, of course. As the evening progressed, I engaged in conversation with several very nice people, and by way of introducing each other, the usual “so what do you do?” kinds of questions arose. Now, I had a straight job at the time; civil service, thoroughly boring. But the people I spoke with described themselves as “make-up artists” or “costumers” or writers or artists of one flavor or another. I began to realize that vocationally, each of these people depended on all the others, networking (another not-yet-coined-term) to get to work on someone’s project about something; their livelihood depended on their social contacts.

Now, when you think about it, this was Hollywood; that’s how Hollywood works, that’s how creative communities, particularly those in collaborative crafts, operate. That’s how they produce. Obvious to many, but news to me. The pattern-recognition subsystems of my mind began to assemble what I would come to call my “Theory of Scenes”.

A few months later, we returned with (High Frontiers Art Director) Lord Nose to participate in an event that featured a couple of local bands, and somebody wheeling out Sky Saxon  from the Seeds (“Pushing Too Hard”). And it struck me that the 200 or so people at that event, which included almost everyone we’d met in December, comprised the whole of the “neopsychedelic scene” in L.A. That was it. 250 people tops; and they were getting all this media attention. And I realized that’s how it probably was in ’65 as well. There was the Whiskey á Go-Go scene; one or two other places; a dozen or so bands with some duplication among their personnel, various friends and hangers on. In the Haight, the same thing. There was the Fillmore and the Matrix, the Diggers, the Oracle, and it was all the same… what, 300 people? It applies elsewhere also. There’s the NYC comedy scene (which in the 70s gave us SNL, and is now focused around The Daily Show), the Boston Harvard/National Lampoon scene, the L.A. Conception Corporation scene (whence came Spinal Tap). All of these basically, at least in the beginning, were not much more than groups of friends. Even in politics. One of my disappointments as I’ve gotten more sophisticated about politics is the realization that so much of what happens in a place like Washington D.C. takes place in what appears to be a social environment, which is why it reminds us so much of high school. And this was, largely, how MONDO functioned within the context of the Berkeley “scene.” Read more “Mondoid Memoir The Neopsychedelic Movement”

Reality Hackers Soapbox 1989 Information is True Capital

by Jas. Morgan and Accomplices (intro by R.U. Sirius)

This piece, written and published in 1989, ran in Reality Hackers, the forerunner of MONDO 2000. It rather states a premise of the digital revolution that was one of the guiding lights of the MONDOid experience, particularly in its early days. Now I am writing a book that discusses many of the memes and assumptions that undergirded both MONDO and the digital idealism of those times.

Do these ideas still hold up? Please share your thoughts.

R.U. Sirius

Information is true capital. Grain rots, you can’t eat gold, you might not need medicines. All of these commodities, capital, have been used for centuries as barter. But what makes doctors, genetic engineers and, for that matter, plumbers, wealthy? Knowledge, information, data. You can learn to grow crops, mine gold, practice alchemy. Proudhon stated the crux of the matter in three simple koans: “Property is theft. Property is freedom. Property is impossible.” Information equals property.

Property is theft. All that we know, we have learned. All that we have discovered has been extrapolated. We have simply stolen and built upon the ideas of those who have gone before us, from language to the lever, from agriculture to the atom bomb.

Property is freedom. No one can steal your ideas. While others may utilize your concepts for their own gain, you can still profit from them as well. Einstein articulated the concept of General Relativity and atomic theory, which much to his chagrin was used to develop nuclear weaponry. Nobody owns ideas and nobody can control them.

Property is impossible. Information is free. In fact, information is taken for granted, as we daily communicate with symbols and concepts developed by people other than ourselves. We build the tools to build the tools to build the tools. The Zen meditation on Proudhon’s concepts is left to the reader.

The personal computer revolution has vastly empowered the individual. Yet it is a fragile and vulnerable system. Individuals have at their command the means to capriciously misuse the technology. Those who hoard, damage, or destroy signals are committing a crime against Species Intelligence. The hackers are true Prometheans and the guardian of personal liberties. Yet the hackers must forge a new ethic to guide them or they’re in danger of being scapegoated for what is mostly intercorporate sabotage. The communication of ideas is the very essence of this magazine. We promote and endorse maximum neural fluxibility. A continuous stream of data allows you to integrate new models into your self-created reality, and discard outmoded ones. There are those who cling tenaciously to the security of their present belief systems. And there are the intellectual faddists who will exchange their current model in favor of any new model. Reality Hackers believes the best model is what works — more importantly, what works for you.. But be aware. We attempt to widen the bandwidth and present as many and varied ideas as possible. We are willing to entertain nearly any notion provided that it’s resonant and interesting. So don’t believe everything you read. Think for yourself.

by Jas. Morgan and accomplices

 

From Anonymous To Pursuance — Barrett Brown in Conversation with Steve Phillips

Conversation with Steve Phillips, lead developer and Project Manager of The Pursuance Project edited by The Doctor. Also, thanks to Barrett Brown for reviewing the transcript for errors and to Lisa Rein for final proofs.

This article and its sequels constitute a somewhat edited and condensed transcript of a discussion between Barrett Brown and Steve Phillips at the San Francisco Aaron Swartz Day Hackathon in 2017.  We’ve tried to trade off informality for clarity, and refer the curious reader to the original source material in the spirit of transparency.  Any emphasis and hyperlink references are ours.

In 2012, Barrett Brown was arrested for his role in the Anonymous hack of Stratfor, a global intelligence company that serves corporate and government interests around the world. The hack revealed an apparent insider trading relationship between the company and Goldman Sachs, among other dubious business activities.  Brown won the National Magazine Award for his work while in solitary confinement.  While in prison, Barrett had some ideas for a software project, the democracy-building project called Pursuance.

From the Pursuance homepage

“Pursuance exists to amplify the efforts of activists, journalists, and non-profits by (1) creating open source collaboration software and (2) building a powerful network of talented, reasonable individuals around it…

“Our free, open source, and secure Pursuance System software enables participants to: create action-oriented groups called “pursuances”, discuss how best to achieve their mission, rapidly record exciting strategies and ideas in an actionable form… receive social recognition for their contributions, and to delegate tasks to other pursuances in this ecosystem in order to harness its collective intelligence, passion, and expertise.”

Read the full statement

 

Steve Phillips

STEVE PHILLIPS: I read a Wired Magazine article that said that Barrett Brown was out of jail and doing awesome stuff again, an encrypted environment where you can collaborate with other activists and journalists and people who are trying to change the world, and I thought that sounded ultra-compelling. So, I immediately reached out to him in several different ways — snail mail and Twitter and email, like all in parallel, and got through, and then I jumped on a plane and flew to Texas to meet Barrett.

[Barrett Brown], let’s talk a little bit about your background. You won a National Magazine Award, but let’s go back to 2010. You had the sense that we should be using the Internet for activist-type things. Even if it’s just a small percentage of people who really care about issues, there are billions of people online so that could be quite the force. Take me back to some of your thinking around that time, right before you started doing work with Anonymous.

Read more “From Anonymous To Pursuance — Barrett Brown in Conversation with Steve Phillips”