MonthJanuary 2011

William S. Burroughs Live at the Hacienda in 1982

William S. Burroughs – Live at the Hacienda Club [1982] from orangeobject on Vimeo.

Another gem from Dangerous Minds.

Video: Alejandro Jodorowsky Talks About Santa Sangre

Alejandro Jodorowsky on SANTA SANGRE from Severin Films on Vimeo.

Ajelandro Jodorowsky talks about Santa Sangre in anticipation of the films re-release on DVD and Blu-Ray.

(via Dangerous Minds)

Is the Green-Collar Dream Dead?

Green collar jobs

Evergreen Solar announced last week that it was closing its plant in Devens, Mass., laying off 800 workers, and moving production to China.

Evergreen’s factory had received more than $40 million in subsidies, which led many to see the plant closing as lesson in the futility of green energy and industrial policy. But what does Evergreen’s story really teach us about solar energy, public subsidies and the future of American manufacturing? […]

America has had many high-tech breakthroughs over the last half-century, but those innovations rarely provided abundant employment for the less educated workers who need jobs most. The Devens closing reminds us that even when ideas are “made in America,” production is almost always cheaper in China.

Failed public investments, like the money spent in Devens, reflect the fact that public officials are rarely skilled venture capitalists and that governments pursue many objectives that lead them away from solid investments. It’s easy to see why any governor would be excited about a green-energy manufacturing plant in a less prosperous area of his or her state. But the same forces that made Devens political catnip meant that it was unlikely to be a long-term success.

Economix: Why Green Energy Can’t Power a Job Engine

My quick take: Governments should invest in infrastructure and people (education, health care, etc.), not in companies.

Also, green collar jobs, if they are to come from anywhere, will largely come from infrastructural investment: installing solar panels, renovating buildings, etc. Not from subsidizing corporations.

Mac Tonnies and Other Digital Ghosts in The New York Times

cyberspace after death

Rob Walker wrote a long piece on “digital ghosts” – the online remnants of people who have died. He talks quite a bit about Mac Tonnies:

I spoke to a half dozen people Mac Tonnies met online and in some cases never encountered in the physical world. Each expressed a genuine sense of loss; a few sounded grief-stricken even more than a year later. Mark Plattner, who lives in St. Louis and met Tonnies a dozen years ago through the comments section of another blog, decided that Posthuman Blues needed to survive. He used software called Sitesucker to put a backup of the entire thing — pictures, videos, links included — on a hard drive. In all, Plattner has about 10 gigabytes of material, offering a sense of Tonnies’s “personality and who he was,” Plattner says. “That’s what we want to remember.” He intends to store this material through his own hosting account, just as soon as he finds time to organize it all.

Plattner was one of several online friends who got involved in memorializing Tonnies and his work. Dia Sobin, an artist who lives in Connecticut, met Tonnies online around 2006; they communicated often by e-mail and phone, but never met in person. She created art for Tonnies’s site and for the cover of what turned out to be his final book. Less than two weeks after he died, she started a blog called Post-Mac Blues. For more than a year, she filled it with posts highlighting passages of his writing, reminiscences, links to interviews he gave to podcasters and bloggers, even his Blip.fm profile (which dutifully records that he listened to a song from “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today,” by David Byrne and Brian Eno, at 4:16 p.m. on the last day he lived). Her site is “a map to Mac Tonnies,” Sobin says. “And a memorial.”

“I only ever knew him over Twitter,” Sarah Cashmore , a graduate student in Toronto, told me. She shared his enthusiasm for design and technology and learned of his death from Twitter contacts. “I was actually devastated,” she says. A few months later, she teamed up with several other members of Tonnies’s Twitter circle to start a second Tonnies-focused blog, Mac-Bots.

This outpouring of digital grief, memorial-making, documentation and self-expression is unusual, maybe unique, for now, because of the kind of person Tonnies was and the kinds of friends he made online. But maybe, his friend Rita King suggests, his story is also a kind of early signal of one way that digital afterlives might play out. And she doesn’t just mean this in an abstract, scholarly way. “I find solace,” she told me, “in going to Mac’s Twitter feed.”

New York Times: Cyberspace When You’re Dead

(Thanks Chris Arkenberg)

Walker also covers various services for dealing with one’s digital life posthumously and transhumanist notions of immortality.

See also: Technoccult interview with Sarah and Mark on MacBots.

The Human Brain Changes Its Own Behavior with Its Electric Field

Your brain is electric. Tiny impulses constantly race among billions of interconnected neurons, generating an electric field that surrounds the brain like an invisible cloud. A new study published online July 15 in Neuron suggests that the brain’s electric field is not a passive by-product of its neural activity, as scientists once thought. The field may actively help regulate how the brain functions, especially during deep sleep. Although scientists have long known that external sources of electricity (such as electroshock therapy) can alter brain function, this is the first direct evidence that the brain’s native electric field changes the way the brain behaves.

Scientific American: Neural Feedback: Brain Influences Itself with Its Own Electric Field

Oriental Hornets Can Generate Electricity from Sunlight

Solar powered oriental wasp

The oriental hornet has built-in “solar cells” that generate electricity from sunlight—a first in the animal kingdom, according to a new study.

Scientists already knew that the hornet species, for unknown reasons, produced electricity inside its exoskeleton, according to study leader Marian Plotkin of Tel-Aviv University.

Plotkin’s late mentor Jacob Ishay made the discovery after observing that the insect is active when the sun is most intense—unusual for hornets.

Plotkin and colleagues recently went a step further by examining the structure of the hornet’s exoskeleton to find out how the electricity is produced.

Their research revealed that pigments in the hornet’s yellow tissues trap light, while its brown tissues generate electricity. Exactly how the hornets use this electricity is still not entirely understood, Plotkin noted.

National Geographic: Solar-Powered Hornet Found; Turns Light Into Electricity

20 Untranslatable Words from Around the World

Unusually interesting linkbait:

5. Litost
Czech – Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, remarked that “As for the meaning of this word, I have looked in vain in other languages for an equivalent, though I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can understand the human soul without it.” The closest definition is a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.

Matador Network: 20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World

The Westboro Baptist Church is (Probably Not) a Scam

The original version of this post was a link to an article called “The Scam of the Decade.” The author argues that the real goal of the Westboro Baptist Church — the infamous “God Hates Fags” people — is to get people to attack them so they can file frivelous lawsuits. It made sense. Fred Phelps and nine of his children are lawyers. And how else could they afford the $250,000 a year they told the The Guardian they spend on traveling to funerals across the country? And how could they possibly take themselves seriously? I mean, just look at this video:

But the scam theory doesn’t hold up. In an article for Stanford Review blog, Jordan Carr looks at their history, and found that between the cost of filing those frivelous suits, and the costs of getting sued and/or arrested, they probably aren’t making very much. (Thanks to Patrick for pointing this out in the comments.)

So where do they get their money? It appears that they’re working straight jobs. Three of Phelps work for the state of Kansas as of 2006, according to the Religion News Blog. Fred Phelps Jr. is a staff lawyer for the Kansas Department of Corrections, Margie Phelps is the is director of re-entry for the Kansas Department of Corrections and Abigail Phelps is a counsilor for the Juvenile Justice Authority.

According to Kansas Open Gov, Fred’s salary in 2012 was $62,060.44, Margie’s was $67,398.40 and Abiggail’s was $38,560.58. Not quite enough to cover $250,000, but there’s still several other family members out there.

Because I kept seeing people link to this post as evidence that the church is a scam, even after I updated the post and even changed the headline, I decided to completely re-write it. It is possible that it’s a scam. Carr admits there could be a number of small, local suits that the Church is winning across the country. But it seems unlikely.

See Also:

The Duggars and Quiverfull – The Cult Behind The Family

Why is this anti-gay Leviticus tattoo extra absurd?

Who really said “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross”?

Tuscon Update

Another update: DHS supposedly issued a memo saying Loughner was influenced by the racist right wing group American Renaissance (DHS denies issuing the memo). If true, this would obviously out more inline with the racist right than with the left (someone who knew him when they were teenagers said he was liberal or left wing when she knew him). Speculation that he is mentally ill remains rampant. The NAACP’s Tea Party Nationalism paper reported links between various Tea Party members and right wing groups, but American Renaissance wasn’t one of the ones mentioned. So there’s still no clear link to the Tea Party or Palin, so far as I know.

(I’m blogging from the road this week, so I probably shouldn’t be trying to blog about this as it unfolds. It’s dicey enough to blog about a sensitive subject like this before all the facts are in without having to deal with work and travel at the same time)

It’s looking like there’s very little to connect the alleged Tuscon shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, to the Tea Party or to Sarah Palin’s hit list. There’s some references to the gold standard on his YouTube channel, but also a lot of nonsense about the grammar and literacy. The SPLC thinks the grammar stuff is
connected to the far right, but they see Nazis behind every tree so their credibility is a bit compromised at this point. (It would bring a whole new meaning to the term “Grammar Nazi” if true though, eh?)

I’m not expert, but it looks like the work of either someone who is crazy or wants to be seen as crazy. From what can be found publicly, he sounds more like your average EsoZone attendee than a Tea Partier. But it is, however, still early in the investigation.

None the less, it looks like this might actually stick the Tea Party if they can’t manage to spin this to their advantage. Loughner cited both Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto. Sounds like perfect ammunition for the likes of Beck and Limbaugh to use to connect liberalism with National Socialism.

U.S. Government Subpoenaing Foreign Leader’s Twitter History as Part of WikiLeaks Investigation

Glenn Greenwald reports that the U.S. has subpoenaed Icelandic member of parliment and WikiLeaks supporter Birgitta Jónsdóttir’s Twitter history:

What hasn’t been reported is that the Subpoena served on Twitter — which is actually an Order from a federal court that the DOJ requested — seeks the same information for numerous other individuals currently or formerly associated with WikiLeaks, including Jacob Appelbaum, Rop Gonggrijp, and Julian Assange. It also seeks the same information for Bradley Manning and for WikiLeaks’ Twitter account.

The information demanded by the DOJ is sweeping in scope. It includes all mailing addresses and billing information known for the user, all connection records and session times, all IP addresses used to access Twitter, all known email accounts, as well as the “means and source of payment,” including banking records and credit cards. It seeks all of that information for the period beginning November 1, 2009, through the present. A copy of the Order served on Twitter, obtained exclusively by Salon, is here.

The Order was signed by a federal Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Virginia, Theresa Buchanan, and served on Twitter by the DOJ division for that district. It states that there is “reasonable ground to believe that the records or other information sought are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation,” the language required by the relevant statute. It was issued on December 14 and ordered sealed — i.e., kept secret from the targets of the Order. It gave Twitter three days to respond and barred the company from notifying anyone, including the users, of the existence of the Order. On January 5, the same judge directed that the Order be unsealed at Twitter’s request in order to inform the users and give them 10 days to object; had Twitter not so requested, it would have been compelled to turn over this information without the knowledge of its users.

It’s possible other companies like Facebook, Google and Skype were subpoenaed and complied with the requests silently.

Matthew Ingram writes for Gigaom:

The fact that Twitter is being targeted by the government is another sign of how important the network has become as a real-time publishing platform, and also of how centralized the service is — something that could spark interest in distributed and open-source alternatives such as Status.net, just as the downtime suffered by the network early last year did. It is another sign of how much we rely on networks that are controlled by a single corporate entity, as Global Voices founder Ethan Zuckerman pointed out when WikiLeaks was ejected from Amazon’s servers and had its DNS service shut down.

See also this post about Douglas Rushkoff’s call to abandon the corporate Internet and the supplemental links I supplied there. I’m tagging further links on the subject of a decentralized Internet with decentralized net.

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