Mutation Vectors 8/24/2014

Spare's_Portrait_of_the_Artist

You can bury your head in old books, but the world will find its way to you somehow. Ferguson is one of those things that found it’s way in. In the past two weeks it’s gone from a story about white fear to one about the militarization of the police to one about the countless ways America has failed black people.

Of course, we keep having this conversation again and again and not much seems to change. Ta-Nehisi Coates is worth reading on this, as is his epic “The Case for Reparations,” which chronicles the long history of this country using and abusing black people. And it’s not just the U.S. having this conversation again and again, as Laurie Penny makes clear in her piece comparing the shooting of Michael Brown to that of Mark Duggan, which set of the riots in London in 2011. Yet, for some reason I have a strange sense of optimism that things are gonna change this time.

Meanwhile, where are presidential hopefuls on this? Rand Paul, to his credit, wrote an editorial for Time about the militarization of the police and even decried racial inequality in the justice system, but as far as I know hasn’t yet visited Ferguson. But where the Democrats? Matthew Yglesias ‘splains that Hillary Clinton refuses to comment on the issue because she doesn’t have a good primary challenger. But I think the bigger problem is that it’s not really advantageous for any Democratic primary candidate to rock this particular boat. A primary challenger might be able to use Ferguson to score some points in the primary, but then in the general they run the risk of being branded a radical anti-white crusader and lose critical independent votes in critical swing states. I mean, it’s not exactly as if Clinton, or whoever gets the nomination, is really in danger of losing many votes to a guy who employed and co-authored a book with a neo-confederate. It’s part of the good cop/bad cop routine that the two major parties play. (And of course it works both ways — if you’re conservative, then the Republicans, generally, are the good cops and the Democrats are the bad cops.)

The arrests in Ferguson and the death of James Foley have left me, as a journalist, feeling bad that I’m doing such safe work. But Ryan Schuessler left Ferguson because too many journos were being assholes. There’s a lot to unpack there that ties into other thoughts and feelings I have about the professional of journalism, but that will have to wait.

Reading

Austin Osman Spare: The Occult Life of London’s Legendary Artist

Listening

I haven’t been listening to much music lately, but when I have it’s usually been Coil. Stuff from throughout their career, but one that particular caught my ear recently is Black Antlers, which I hadn’t listened to much before.

Why Everyone Is Obsessed With E-Mail Newsletters Right Now

My latest for TechCrunch:

E-mail newsletters are so hot right now.

Some of the best known are by Ann Friedman, Alexis Madrigal, Dan Hon and Rusty Foster. There’s a web ring for e-mail newsletters now, but really the best newsletters are secret. The authors encourage readers to share the subscribe link with other people who might be interested, but request that no one share the subscribe link on social media or the open web, creating a sort of darknet of semi-underground dispatches.

But it’s more than just individual bloggers. Two or three years ago every site on the web was doing all it could to trick coax readers into “liking” them on Facebook. Today much of that focus has shifted towards getting readers to sign-up for an e-mail subscription. Just look at the prime screen real estate e-mail subscription forms are given at Mashable, The Verge and, of course, TechCrunch. Upworthy — the most “social media native” publication to date — goes so far as to put a huge sign-up form below the first paragraph of every story:

Upworthy

Quartz has a much loved daily e-mail blast (though the sign-up form is oddly buried in a pull-down menu) and sports news company The Slurve is going so far as to build an entire business off its newsletter. And it’s not quite the same as a digital newsletter, but the likes of Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Medium are all sending daily or weekly activity summaries to give people an overview of what’s been going on on those sites, and try to entire people to interact. Just last week Madrigal declared that e-mail is still the best thing on the internet.

So why all this effort to herd readers into a medium that is supposed to be dying? And why are we, as readers, so willing to invite even more e-mail into our lives?

Full Story: TechCrunch: Why Everyone Is Obsessed With E-Mail Newsletters Right Now

You can, of course, subscribe to Technoccult by e-mail, in daily or weekly form, here. I’ve even been thinking about making Technoccult an “e-mail first” publication, though I’m not sure a) if that’s just trend hopping or an actual wise move and b) exactly how that would work. But it’s definitely on my mind. I might also do something like make Mutation Vectors e-mail first, though that poses some difficulties with the way the e-mail newsletters are currently generated.

The Sexist Facebook Movement The Marine Corps Won’t Stop

Trigger warning: rape threats, racism, homophobia, general assholery

Task and Purpose reports:

That these men, these U.S. Marines, openly engage in this behavior, openly harass and denigrate women and minorities — under their real names, their real pictures, with no fear of repercussions — reflects a perceived tolerance of their actions. Senior leaders have never told them not to do it, never said that it’s unacceptable, and they’ve never seen anyone get in trouble for it.

In May 2013, Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, wrote to Pentagon leadership, including the Commandant of the Marine Corps, about the conduct of these pages after a constituent reportedly brought them to her attention.

In her letter, Speier addressed many of the things listed in this report. And she contended that the pages “contribute to a culture that permits and seems to encourage sexual assault and abuse.”

But after sending the letter, Speier received harassment and threats from the fans and administrators of these pages. That these men, many of them active members of the military community, would harass and threaten a sitting U.S. congresswoman, reflects the deep radicalization of this community.

Full Story: Task and Purpose: The story of women in the military you haven’t heard, and the Marine Corps doesn’t want you to know

(via Metafilter)

RIP B. K. S. Iyengar

The New York Times reports:

B. K. S. Iyengar, who helped introduce the practice of yoga to a Western world awakening to the notion of an inner life, died on Wednesday in the southern Indian city of Pune. He was 95.

The cause was heart failure, said Abhijata Sridhar-Iyengar, his granddaughter.

After surviving tuberculosis, typhoid and malaria as a child, Mr. Iyengar credited yoga with saving his life. He spent his midteens demonstrating “the most impressive and bewildering” positions in the court of the Maharaja of Mysore, he later recalled.

Full Story: The New York Times: B. K. S. Iyengar, Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West, Dies at 95

Infocidal Maniacs

It’s been five years since _why a lucky stiff committed “infocide,” deleting his Twitter account, all of his websites, and his GitHub account containing all of his code projects.

There have been countless debates about the relative ethics of infocide, and I don’t have anything to add. But can I ever relate. There are days that I want to delete my Twitter accounts, my Tumblr accounts, yank my noise albums off the web and, of course nuke this very blog. There’s over 14 years of material here, dating back to when I was 18 years old. Much of it is merely embarrassing, some of it is out right shameful. It would be nice to flush it all down the memory hole and, like the band said, rip it up and start again. Create a new persona, a new blog, a new Twitter account.

Or not. Really, what I fantasize about most is just unplugging entirely. Many people thoughts, good and bad, about this whole unplugging thing. And again, I have nothing to add except: geez whiz it sounds like it would be nice not just to unplug for a day or a month or, like that lucky bastard Paul Miller, an entire year, but to be done with this whole internet thing once and for all. To get a newspaper subscription, dig my library card out of whatever creased recess of my wallet it’s been banished to and just get on with life and pretend that the web was just weird dream that spanned nearly two decades of my life.

Of course, it’s not so simple. I have a job to do, and it requires the web. There’s not many living jobs out there any more, and there are even fewer that I’m qualified for. Most of them require using the internet. And the internet is where my friends are. And I know the newspapers would pile up, the library books would slip go overdue before I read ‘em, and any new blog or Twitter account I created would become just unwieldy as the last.

So I’ll stick around. But a fellow can dream, can’t he? Well, here’s to you, _why. Hope you’re making the best of it.

Beats Antique: She Is Looking for Something

This new Beats Antique video features costumes made by my wife and her business partner Brandy Grey. Jillian also makes a small cameo appearance in the video!

Why Minecraft is the Future of Code Literacy

LearnToMod, Tetris

New from me at Wired:

Minecraft is incredibly open-ended. It’s entirely up you whether you as a player whether spend your time building elaborate castles, fighting monsters, or exploring the the game world. What’s more, using mods, you can quickly create things that would otherwise take a long time to build in the game, such as mountains or massive dungeons, or create custom types of blocks. You can also create special rules that enable you to do things like build your own games within Minecraft, such as capture the flag or Tetris.

Once the kids have crafted their code in LearnToMod, the application connects to their Minecraft account to make the mods available to the kids in the game. By teaching kids to build their own Minecraft mods, the ThoughSTEM team is hoping to keep students motivated to learn some of the trickier parts of coding.

TeacherGaming founder Joel Levin is fond of the idea. “Kids are passionate about the game and they quickly understand that they can extend and enhance their Minecraft experience by learning some basic programming,” he says. “And that’s really what we want, isn’t it? To have kids realize that with code, they can improve their life in a way that’s relevant to them.”

In fact, Levin says TeacherGaming is working on its own mod building education program called ComputerCraftEdu, which will eventually be offered both online and in-person. And there are already a few other classes that teach students to create mods, such as MakersFactory’s class in Santa Cruz and YouthDigital’s online class.

Full Story: Wired: New Minecraft Mod Teaches You Code as You Play

On for adults looking to learn to program, there’s Switch, which is looking to become like “OK Cupid” for code bootcamps.

New Book by Alejandro Jodorowsky Coming Soon: Metagenealogy

Metagenealogy: Self-Discovery through Psychomagic and the Family Tree by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Marianne Costa

The English translation of Metagenealogy: Self-Discovery through Psychomagic and the Family Tree by Jodorowsky and Marianne Costa comes out September 1. Looks like it’s been out in Spanish for a while.

Metagenealogy: Self-Discovery through Psychomagic and the Family Tree by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Marianne Costa

Here’s the description from Amazon:

A practical guide to recognizing and overcoming the patterns and influences of the four generations before you

• Provides exercises to uncover your family’s psychological heritage, heal negative patterns of behavior and illness in your family tree, and discover your true self

• Explains how we are the product of two forces: repetition of familial patterns from the past and creation of new ideas from the Universal Consciousness of the future

• Interwoven with examples from Jodorowsky’s own life and his work with the tarot, psychoanalysis, and psychomagic

The family tree is not merely vital statistics about your ancestors. It is an embodied sense of self that we inherit from at least four prior generations, constituting both a life-giving treasure and a deadly trap. Each of us is both an heir of our lineage and a necessary variation that brings the family into new territory. Are you doomed to repeat the patterns of your parents and grandparents? Or can you harness your familial and individual talents to create your own destiny?

In Metagenealogy, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Marianne Costa show how every individual is the product of two forces: the imitating force, directed by the family group acting from the past, and the creative force, driven by the Universal Consciousness from the future. Interweaving examples from Jodorowsky’s own life and his work with the tarot, psychoanalysis, and psychomagic, the authors provide exercises, visualizations, and meditations to discover your family’s psychological heritage and open yourself to the growth and creativity of Universal Consciousness. They reveal how identifying the patterns, emotional programming, and successes and failures of the four generations that influence you–your siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents–allows you to see beyond the stable identity formed by family lineage. It frees you to overcome your inherited subconscious patterns of behavior and illness, stop the transmission of these patterns to future generations, and reconnect with your true self and unique creative purpose in life.

By understanding your family tree and your place in it, you open your ability to heal the ancient struggle between the repetitive forces of the past and the creative forces of the future.

See also our Alejandro Jodorowsky dossier.

Mindful Cyborgs: Personalization appeals to a Western, egocentric belief in individualism

This week we continue our conversation with technology critic Sara M. Watson about the “uncanny valley of personalization.”

Download and Notes: Mindful Cyborgs:

Why Robocops Need to be Less Efficient Than Human Coaps

iRobot security robot

New from me at Wired:

Automation is also framed as a way to make law enforcement more efficient. A red light camera can catch a lot more violations than a human can.

The rub is that extreme efficiency isn’t necessarily good thing. That’s what a group of researchers argue in a paper presented earlier this year at a conference on robot law in Miami. They go so far as to argue that inefficiency should be preserved, even increased, as we move to automated law enforcement.

That may sound counter-intuitive, but in the end, it makes good sense. Woodrow Hartzog, an assistant professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of law and co-author of the paper, tells WIRED that, in some cases, making law enforcement less efficient just means putting humans back in the loop, allowing room for “inefficient” human judgments like mercy and compassion. “A robot can’t forgive certain infractions that are generally accepted,” he says.

Full Story: Wired: Why Robocops Need to be Less Efficient Than Human Coaps

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