MonthDecember 2011

New York Times on Salt Lake’s Real Life Superheroes

Salt Lake's Red Voltage and other Real-Life Super Heroes

I have to say that the Salt Lake superheroes have some the coolest names and costumes I’ve seen so far:

Mike Gailey, a burly former bouncer at a strip club whose crime-fighting persona is called Asylum, said that for him, joining the Black Monday Society was partly about making amends for things in his past, like the time he spent collecting debts for drug dealers.

“I was a thug,” said Mr. Gailey, 31. “There are a lot of guys like me that have pasts they’re trying to make up for.”

Another Black Monday patroller described himself as a former gang member. The group’s co-founder, Dave Montgomery, a tattoo artist known in the street as the black-leather-clad Nihilist, said he was a former alcoholic who put on the mask when he stopped drinking. […]

Mr. Montgomery, or Nihilist, said masks were everywhere once you started to look. What is hidden and what is revealed by disguise, he said, is the basic psychology of a superhero’s life.

“It’s almost Freudian,” he said. “When you wear a mask, you’re actually able to become who you really are. It becomes kind of like a drug.”

New York Times: Crusaders Take Page, and Outfits, From Comics

I’ve mentioned before that I have some reservations about the movement and about vigilantism in general, some are doing good work doing things like helping keep the homeless from being robbed.

We’ve had our eye on the real-life superhero movement here at Technoccult since 2001.

In Case You Missed It Last Week: LHC Reports Discovery of Its First New Particle

The Chi_b (3P) is a more excited state of Chi particles already seen in previous collision experiments, explained Prof Roger Jones, who works on the Atlas detector at the LHC.

“The new particle is made up of a ‘beauty quark’ and a ‘beauty anti-quark’, which are then bound together,” he told BBC News.

“People have thought this more excited state should exist for years but nobody has managed to see it until now.

“It’s also interesting for what it tells us about the forces that hold the quark and the anti-quark together – the strong nuclear force. And that’s the same force that holds, for instance, the atomic nucleus together with its protons and the neutrons.”

BBC: LHC reports discovery of its first new particle

Inside the Secretive World of MegaUpload

wan chai hong kong

OWNI reports:

Last year, journalists from New Zealand’s Investigate Magazine looked into the identity of the mystery man at the centre of MegaUpload. Kim Schmitz is a former German computer hacker with something of a chequered past. He made a name for himself infiltrating some the best protected computer systems in the world (including NASA’s) and has been accused of getting rich on the back of fraudulent transactions and insider trading. In the early 2000’s, Kim Schmitz discovered Internet streaming. He created MegaUpload Limited in 2005 with a Finnish passport, presenting himself as Kim Tim Jim Vestor. Alternately using his German passport (where he is identified as Kim Schmitz) and his Finnish passport, he set up several companies – Kimpire and Kimvestor – in Asia following the Mega model. At the end of 2010 he relocated to New Zealand. […]

The management of the majority of Mega sites is carried out via the company MegaUpload Limited, located in the Won Chaï business district in Hong Kong. Founded in 2005, the company was likely set up there to capitalise on Hong Kong’s extremely flexible regulations for foreign companies, which include exemption from corporation and income taxes.

OWNI: Inside the Secretive World of MegaUpload

Fascinating stuff. Cyberpunk came true.

Neuromancer Casting? Cyberpunks Weigh In

Damage from Planet Damage asked his “22 major arcana of cyberpunk” who they thought should be cast in a Neuromancer movie. I was honored to be included.

 Joseph Gordon-Levitt

[CASE]

Klint: Joseph Gordon-Levitt Anabelle Cat: I love Cillian Murphy-superb choice and Joseph Gordon-Levitt Matt: An Unknown Rob: As for Case, the only person even slightly close to the target age that I feel could pull it off would be Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I think a lot of that has to do with his role in Brick, which was seriously perfect. M1k3y: Ryan Gosling as Case, if only to see him cyberpunk’d up. But mostly because he’s talented as shit.
Majority verdict? Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Planet Damage: (Warning: some of the sidebar images may be NSFW)

ATF Creates Fictional Hip Hop Label to Make Drug and Gun Busts

Ally Walker

AllHipHopNews reports:

Over $7.2 million in drugs and 161 weapons were confiscated after a year long investigation by the Washington D.C. Police and the Bureau the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which operated as fictional rap label.

According to the Washington Post, D.C. police and ATF agents acted as undercover officers and “music industry insiders” during the year-long sting.

The police created the “Manic Enterprisess” studio in Northeast Washington, for fictional rap artist Richie Valdez in November of 2010.

Agents then told the underground world and black market that they were seeking to purchase weapons and drugs.

Over the course of the year, agents confiscated 161 firearms (including a rocket launcher), 29 assault weapons, 80 pounds of methamphetamine, 21 pounds of cocaine, 1.25 gallons of PCP, 24 pounds of marijuana, heroin and Ecstasy.

AllHipHopNews: ATF and D.C. Police Impersonate Rap Label; Arrest 70 in Year Long Guns and Drug Sting

(via Hump Jones)

Fashion is a Feminist Issue

(photo by Toru Kogure)

Greta Christina writes:

Fashion is one of the very few forms of expression in which women have more freedom than men.

And I don’t think it’s an accident that it’s typically seen as shallow, trivial, and vain.

It is the height of irony that women are valued for our looks, encouraged to make ourselves beautiful and ornamental… and are then derided as shallow and vain for doing so. And it’s a subtle but definite form of sexism to take one of the few forms of expression where women have more freedom, and treat it as a form of expression that’s inherently superficial and trivial. Like it or not, fashion and style are primarily a women’s art form. And I think it gets treated as trivial because women get treated as trivial. […]

If you don’t personally care about fashion and style, that’s fine. We don’t all have to care about the same art forms: I could care less about grand opera, and it’s unlikely that I’m ever going to. I do think people should be aware that what they wear communicates something to other people — something about who they are and how they feel about the world and their place in it — and I think many people would be better off if they made that communication intentionally instead of un-. But again, we all don’t have to care about the same forms of communication. If what you want to say about yourself through your clothing is, “I wear clothes so I won’t be naked,” that is entirely your prerogative, and none of my business.

But if you think other people — especially other women — who do care about fashion and style are shallow, trivial, or vain for doing so?

That is my business.

Greta Christina: Fashion is a Feminist Issue

(via eecummingscapitalized)

Great post, though some might dispute the conflation of “fashion” and “style.”

Do Entrepreneurs Really Create Jobs?

Barry Ritholtz has an iconoclastic take on entrepreneurs and job creation:

BI is a digital media property. The print industry (aka dead trees) has been fighting a losing battle versus online competition for years. The print news industry itself is shrinking, while the online industry is growing — but online’s gains are not nearly as large as offline’s losses.

Those 75 jobs Henry mentioned? Twenty-five years ago, they would have been 250 jobs at various newspapers and magazines. Writers, copy editors, artists, printers (Humans, not HPs), etc. The enormous gains in productivity allow far fewer people to do the work formerly employing far more people. This is the inevitable path of technology. Ever since the first human sharpened a stick to hunt, that curve has been the accomplishment of more production with fewer people.

What entrepreneurs actually do is facilitate moving workers from one firm to another — from the less productive business model to the more productive one — as they battle it out in the marketplace.

Economonitor: On Job Creation, Creative Destruction and Technology

(Note: It sounds from Ritholtz’s piece that Blodget is claiming that BI created jobs, but Blodget actually does not claim this. The original piece is here)

I do think that in some cases entrepreneurs create economic opportunity where none existed before – this would especially seem to be the case in the “shadow economy” that thrives in squatter settlements all over the world. But many enterprises now are in the business of destroying jobs through technology. Many more jobs now exist for computer programmers. I benefit from the IT revolution as a journalist in that I rather doubt there would be nearly as many people employed as technology journalists otherwise. But the companies that employ these people, the companies that I cover, are upending entire industries, such as legal services and travel agencies.

In the past we could assume the luddite fallacy was indeed a fallacy. However, reading Race Against the Machine or Slate’s Robot Invasion series it appears that concept may soon need to be renamed the luddite principle.

It doesn’t matter when you were born, we’re all a part of generation sell now. But are we about to turn a corner?

Barefoot Bandit Trial Winding Down

Reuters reports:

As part of that agreement, Harris-Moore forfeited his ability to profit from the rights to his life story. He also signed a movie deal with 20th Century Fox earmarking $1.3 million in proceeds as restitution to his victims.

He still faces up to 6-1/2 years in prison when he is sentenced in January in federal court.

But that sentence is to be served concurrently with the state prison term that Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill decides on Friday, after Harris-Moore pleads guilty to 33 charges total from Island, Snohomish and San Juan counties.

Reuters: “Barefoot Bandit” faces sentencing for 2-year crime spree

(Thanks Bill!)

Edge 2011: What Scientific Concept Would Improve Everybody’s Cognitive Toolkit?

The Thinker by Rodin

This year’s Edge question was: “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?” There are some good but somewhat boring answers, like Susan Blackmore’s or Kevin Kelly’s. But here are some of the more interesting ones I found:

Stewart Brand: Microbes Run the World

Nicholas Carr: Cognitive Load

Aubrey de Grey: A Sense Of Proportion About Fear Of The Unknown

Jonah Lehrer: Control Your Spotlight

Evgeny Morozov: Einstellung Effect

Jay Rosen: Wicked Problems

Douglas Rushkoff: Technologies Have Biases

Nassim Taleb: Antifragility — or— The Property Of Disorder-Loving Systems

I would especially recommend reading both Carr’s and Lehrer’s.

There are a ton of these, so I haven’t read them all, so there could be some gems out there I missed. What are your favorites?

If I’d been asked, I’d have chosen one of the following:

1. The idea of systematic ideology – that people choose what to believe based on ideology, not reason (an idea also supported by research indicating that facts can actually backfire when trying to change someone’s mind). Systematic ideology, named by George Walford, was proposed in 1947 by Harold Walsby. The idea is now being pursued by the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School, though they don’t use the term and may not be aware of Walsby’s and Walford’s work.

2. The Decline Effect.

Photo by Andrew Horne

The Search for the Woodstock Babies

Woodstock

From the AP back in 2009:

Welcome to middle age, Woodstock Baby – if you’re really out there.

The babies reportedly born at the Woodstock festival 40 years ago remain the most enduring mystery from that chaotic weekend that defined a generation. Depending on the source, there was one birth on that patch of Sullivan County farmland between Aug. 15-17, 1969. Or two. Or three. Or none.

AP: Born at Woodstock? Gave birth at Woodstock?

(Photo by Mark Goff)

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