MonthDecember 2012

Best Of 2012/Technoccult Gift Guide

It’s the end of the year, which is a good time to reflect on what my favorite bits of media were for the year. I figure this list can also double as a guide for any last minute gifts.

I’m sure there’s stuff I’m forgetting in each category, so I may update this again later. Feel free to recommend stuff I might’ve missed!

Comics:

This was a big year for artist/writer Brandon Graham. Three of his releases were favorites of mine this year:

King City cover by Brandon Graham

King City, which was the subject of my interview with Graham.

Prophet: Remission cover

Prophet, a book written by Graham with a rotating cast of artists.

Escalator by Brandon Graham cover

Escalator a collection of short stories written and drawn by Graham. I think this is actually my favorite of the three.

Casanova Volume 3: Avaritia

Besides all the Graham stuff, I really liked Casanova Volume 3: Avaritia by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba.

I haven’t finished Hawkeye – Volume 1: My Life As A Weapon by Fraction and David Aja yet, but I’m enjoying it so far.

Also, I haven’t read Glory Volume 1: The Once and Future Destroyer by Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

I don’t buy very many single issues, but here are some that I bought and liked:

COPRA issue 1

COPRA # 1 by Michel Fiffe. This was a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t heard of Fiffe before I saw it promoted by Floating World Comics. It reminds me a bit of Graham’s Prophet in that it’s an indie artists’ take on super hero comics of the past. I haven’t read the second issue yet but plan to pick it up soon. There’s a preview of issue 1 here and issue 2 here.

The Secret Voice

Secret Voice # 1 by Zack Soto. If you don’t feel like paying, you can check this one out online, along side The Yankee and other great stuff at Study Group Comics.

The Secret Life of DB Cooper

The Secret History of DB Cooper # 1. Really dug the first issue, still waiting for the trade paperback.

Music

Bruxa victimeyez cover

Bruxa: Victimzeyez, a free digital album that I’ve mentioned before. Elements of dubstep and chopped and screwed hip hop with a trace of witch house.

Monolake: Ghosts cover

Monoloake: Ghosts. Minimal techno with a hint of dubstep.

Filastine: Loot cover

Filistine: Loot. I’m not sure how to explain this one — a fusion of lots of different styles of electronic music from all over the world.

The Seer album cover

The Swans: The Seer. New album from an old school no wave band.

Tweaker: Call The Time Eternity cover

Tweaker: Call the Time Eternity. Long awaited third solo album from Trent Reznor’s former right-hand man.

I bough X-TG’s DESERTSHORE / THE FINAL REPORT, but because I’ve been working on my own album I haven’t listened to it yet.

Movies

I didn’t see many movies this year, and I liked even fewer. Here are the ones I liked:

Looper

Looper

Cabin in the Woods

Cabin in the Woods. Technically I guess this came out in 2011, but I think most of us saw it this year.

I haven’t seen The Master yet but want to.

Books

I didn’t read many new books this year, but I did read and like:

Non-fiction:

Information Diet

The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption by Clay A. Johnson

American Vampire in Juarez

An American Vampire in Juarez: Getting My Teeth Pulled In Mexico’s Most Notorious Border Town

Fiction:

Cover of Psychopomp by Amanda Sledz

Psychopomp Volume One: Cracked Plate by Amanda Sledz. My interview with her is here and an excerpt from the book is here.

The Rise of Siri by Shlok Vaidya. Science fiction that reads more like design fiction — this is all about the ideas, not the characters. Already a little dated since Apple has announced that it’s bringing some of its manufacturing back to the U.S.

Borderland Sciences Needs Funds For Archive

Borderland Science is raising funds for equipment and supplies to digitize its extensive archive of fringe science materials:

Rare Alternative Science Archive Faces Decay

Borderland Sciences is in the possession of an very important archive of research materials of the last half of the 20th century.

We must preserve the archival collection of files, correspondence, rare brochures and pamphlets that Borderland Sciences has been collecting since the late 40’s.

Borderland Sciences was begun in 1945 when the founder Meade Layne began publishing the Round Robin for the purpose of investigating into realms normally beyond the range of basic human perception and physical measurement.

Donate at Indie Go Go

Technology And The Novel, From Blake To Ballard

Novelist Tom McCarthy on writers’ relationship to the haunting sounds of technology:

The telephone, it turns out, owes its invention to more than simply hearing-aid experiments. Alexander Bell, who grew up playing with mechanical speech devices (his father ran a school for deaf children), lost a brother in adolescence. As a result of this, he made a pact with his remaining brother: if a second one of them should die, the survivor would try to invent a device capable of receiving transmissions from beyond the grave – if such transmissions turned out to exist. Then the second brother did die; and Alexander, of course, invented the telephone. He probably would have invented it anyway, and in fact remained a sceptic and a rationalist throughout his life – but only because his brothers never called: the desire was there, wired right into the handset, which makes the phone itself a haunted apparatus. […]

The pinnacle of literary modernism, its most sophisticated and extreme achievement, is Joyce’s final novel, Finnegans Wake, published 17 years after Ulysses as the world stood on the brink of a new orgy of technology and death. Impossible to summarise in a sentence, the Wake has been variously interpreted as the babble running through a dreamer’s head, a disquisition on the history of the world, ditto that of literature, a prophetic set of runes for our age, and a scatological tract so obscene that it had to be written in code to escape the censorship that had befallen Joyce’s previous novel. But whichever way you read it, two things are certain: first, that (as the word “Wake” would suggest) it’s a Book of the Dead, dotted with tombs and rites of mourning; and second, that the technological media people it at every level – telephones and gramophones, films and television and, above all, radio. We have “loftly marconimasts from Clifden” beaming “open tireless secrets . . . to Nova Scotia’s listing sisterwands”; we have a “contact bridge of . . . sixty radiolumin lines . . . where GPO is zentrum” (the post office was the site of Radio Eireann); we have “that lionroar in the air again, the zoohoohoom of Felin make Call”; we even have disembodied voices shouting to each other to “get off my air!” According to the Joyce scholar and poet Jane Lewty, co-editor of Broadcasting Modernism, “the Wake can best be understood as a long radio-séance, with the hero tuning into voices of the dead via a radio set at his bedside, or, perhaps, inside his head.” Perhaps, she concedes when I push the point with her, the “hero” might even be the radio set itself.

Full Story: The Guardian: Technology and the novel, from Blake to Ballard

From Greenwashing To Workerwashing

David Sirota writes:

Big Industrial Ag pretends to go organic. PC behemoths mimic Apple products. Barack Obama goes to the right of the Republicans on civil liberties. Mitt Romney suddenly portrays himself as a left-leaning moderate on immigration. It seems no matter the arena, the most cliched move in corporate and political combat is to co-opt an opponent’s message, expecting nobody to notice or care.

But as inured as we are to this banality, it’s still shocking to see Corporate America transform the message of organized labor into a sales pitch for … Corporate America. Yes, according to The New York Times last month, that’s what’s happening, as new ads are “tapping into a sense of frustration among workers to sell products.”

One spot for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (read: the casinos) shows a woman climbing onto her desk to demand a vacation. Another for McDonald’s implores us to fight back against employers and “overthrow the working lunch.” Still another for a Coca-Cola subsidiary seizes on the stress of harsh working conditions to create buzz for a branded “Take the Year Off” contest.

Full Story: Tahoe Daily Tribune: Sirota: From greenwashing to workerwashing

Inside The Greasy World Of Internet Marketing

Joseph L. Flatley wrote an in depth article on the greasy business of Internet Marketing:

The term Internet Marketing in this context describes both a particular business model used to sell fraudulent products and services online, and the community or subculture that embraces it. It operates out in the open — with poorly designed websites, tacky infomercials, and outrageous claims designed to scare off the wary and draw in the curious, desperate, and naive. The Internet Marketer positions himself as a marketing “guru” with a product or coaching services guaranteed to generate income.

I’m familiar with this stuff from my brief stint in search engine optimization (SEO), and from a couple friends who went down that particular rabbit hole. But I never realized how deep that rabbit hole goes. Flatley writes:

PushTraffic was what is known as a boiler room. As Dan Thies, an SEO professional and former employee of an Internet Marketing company called StomperNet, explains, Internet Marketers often “sell super-cheap products so they can get the names and phone numbers, and turn people over” to boiler room companies who try to sell the unsuspecting consumer fraudulent goods.

If you’ve seen Glengarry Glen Ross, you’re familiar with the boiler room MO: pressure a lead into spending a heck of a lot of money on something worthless.

Full Story: The Verge: Scamworld: ‘Get rich quick’ schemes mutate into an online monster

It goes deeper still.

Flatley wrote a follow-up on Mitt Romney’s connection to one of these boiler-room operations, though perhaps that’s less interesting now that the election is over: : Mitt Romney goes to Scamworld: Prosper, Inc. and its powerful friends

Mother Jones has covered these connections in more depth. Rick Perlstein’s essay on scams in the conservative political world fits into this as well.

Previously: Beyond Growth – Technoccult interviews Duff McDuffee and Eric Schiller

ARPANET Dialogues: Ayn Rand, Yoko Ono, Jim Henson And More

An odd art project — imagined conversations between famous people in the early days of ARPANET, the network that eventually evolved into the Internet:

SIDNEY NOLAN
Who is your favourite puppet from the line of characters you have created Jim.

YOKO ONO
Thank you. John loves your programmes too.

JIM HENSON
Each character is special for me they represent different aspects of myself. Kermit the frog is perhaps closest to me. An altar ego of sorts.

AYN RAND
What does that say about you.

SIDNEY NOLAN
Big laughs. He is exceptional.

JIM HENSON
I dont know. I don’t think too much about it.

YOKO ONO
My favourite is Big Bird. He is so tall and gentle.

AYN RAND
To be honest I find it to be senseless entertainment. I prefer the celebration of men and what they can achieve.

JIM HENSON
Do you have children Ms Rand.

AYN RAND
What do children have to do with what I prefer.

Full Story: ARPANET Dialogues

A Eulogy for #Occupy

Quinn Norton wrote a lengthy piece on her experience as an embedded reporter at Occupy, from the hopeful early days through the aftermath of the evictions:

Because the GA had no way to reject force, over time it fell to force. Proposals won by intimidation; bullies carried the day. What began as a way to let people reform and remake themselves had no mechanism for dealing with them when they didn’t. It had no way to deal with parasites and predators. It became a diseased process, pushing out the weak and quiet it had meant to enfranchise until it finally collapsed when nothing was left but predators trying to rip out each other’s throats.

In other words, it fell to the “tyranny of structurelessness, a long-time problem for leaderless organizations. And the radical exclusivity ended up excluding almost everyone:

As the camps became darker, the women mostly left, and those who remained were grateful to just be left alone. By my count Occupy had dropped from as high as 40 percent women to less then 10 percent, in an atmosphere of sexual violence, bare intimidation and hatred. By then for a certain kind of occupier, anything with breasts was a target in the camps, either for scorn or being too sexy or being insufficiently sexy. It was never the majority, but the majority did nothing to stop it. They had a progressive stack in the GA that purported to let women speak first, but no one talked about the comments, the groping, the rumors of rapes.

One of the failures Norton identifies was the inability for both the GA and the Occupy media to self-critique. This lead to the media groups being propagandists enabling self-deception:

“One of the main reasons I wanted to have the PO separate from the GA, is I wanted, from the very beginning, a means within the process for booting people out. The GA had no such process,” he said.

His original idea was to tell positive stories from the camp. He worked with media teams from Boston, LA, Chicago, and New York, and traveled to other camps to get the stories out. In time, Rothstein came to see that Occupy’s media needed to tell all the stories of what was going on: the wonderful and the terrible. By then it was too late.

Full Story: Wired: A Eulogy for #Occupy

Another recent story on the failure of Occupy, by Thomas Frank, laid the blame mostly on the academic tone of Occupy. He makes a good point but I think overstates the case.

I’m hesitant to call Occupy “over,” what with the Rolling Jubilee and the ongoing occupation of foreclosed homes, but certainly the movement, as it originally existed, is over. But there is much to be learned from how things went down.

Technoccult Interview: Psychopomp Author Amanda Sledz

Cover of Psychopomp by Amanda Sledz

Amanda Sledz

In her series Psychopomp, author Amanda Sledz takes a literary approach to writing about urban shamanism, magical thinking, tarot, telepathy and other themes usually reserved for the fantasy genre. The series follows four characters: Meena, a woman who has experienced a break with reality; her parents, Frank and Esther; and Lola, a teenager who is becoming a shaman whether she wants to or not.

The first book in the series, Psychopomp Volume One: Cracked Plate, explores mental illness, empathy, our differing experiences of place, immigration and cultural identity, and the way our experience of family shapes our identity — without resorting to the cliches of genre fiction or descending into boring academic prose.

Amanda was raised in Cleveland and now lives in Portland, OR. She is self-publishing Psychopomp, but her work has appeared eFiction Horror and various small literary magazines. You can also check out some of Amanda’s works in progress on her site.

An excerpt from the first installment is here. You can buy the book from Amanda here, from Powells Books or from Amazon here.

I recently caught-up with her to talk about Psychopomp, self-publishing and more.

Klint Finley: I understand you wrote a first draft of the first book in college — can you walk us through how the book evolved?

Amanda Sledz: I started working on it during my last semester of graduate school. I’d finished the entirety of an MFA in nonfiction writing, and thought I’d try my hand at fiction before escaping the clutches of academentia. There were a lot of subjects that I wrote about in my master’s thesis that were perceived as being unbelievable, because magical thinking as a means of interacting with hardship was described as a natural way of operating. The tone of the thesis (which was a memoir) became very self-conscious, with the over-awareness of the audience that’s required for decent nonfiction writing. I found myself longing to write something uncorked that still utilized the same themes.

I finished the first draft, which consisted of a shorter version of each section, very quickly. The editing and perfecting and development of repetition took a long, long time.

I abandoned it after wrangling it and getting sections of it published in small literary magazines. Then just over a year ago I was cleaning off my hard drive and thought doing nothing with it would be a waste.

And, in a way, as Grant Morrison might say I had myself locked in a hypersigil. I’m fairly certain my writing career would be permanently stalled if I didn’t let it escape.

Continue reading

Excerpt From Psychopomp Volume One: Cracked Plate By Amanda Sledz

Cover of the book Psychopomp by Amanda Sledz

“Psychopomp”
A chapter from the novel Psychopomp Volume One: Cracked Plate

Buy the book from the author here, from Powells Books or from Amazon here.

Lola, get out of bed.
It’s time to measure your standards.

The Official SAT Guide For Absolutely Everyone was pocked with portraits of thumbs-up enthusiastic sweater-decked white people. Endorsements from Ivy League colleges in bold-faced type offered assurances that somewhere in the page flipping Lola’s brain would flush electric. SCORE BIG TODAY! It demanded with caps lock ferocity. The antagonism of the fiery font left her terrified to perform otherwise.

Lola decided to ignore the taunts of the front cover adorned with individuals unfamiliar to her, and turned to the back cover to hunt for the token black or Asian or multi-racial friend positioned on the manicured lawn beside people in Polo shirts, laughing about their collective conquer of the universe. There. Perfect teeth, hand jammed into the pocket of pants likely called trousers, navy blue sweater knotted at his muscular shoulders, charmed and chuckling alongside the descendents of his former masters.

Oh, fuck this.

Continue reading

Scientists Cast Doubt On Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle

Science Daily reports:

Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, formulated by the theoretical physicist in 1927, is one of the cornerstones of quantum mechanics. In its most familiar form, it says that it is impossible to measure anything without disturbing it. For instance, any attempt to measure a particle’s position must randomly change its speed.

The principle has bedeviled quantum physicists for nearly a century, until recently, when researchers at the University of Toronto demonstrated the ability to directly measure the disturbance and confirm that Heisenberg was too pessimistic. […]

The findings build on recent challenges to Heisenberg’s principle by scientists the world over. Nagoya University physicist Masanao Ozawa suggested in 2003 that Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle does not apply to measurement, but could only suggest an indirect way to confirm his predictions. A validation of the sort he proposed was carried out last year by Yuji Hasegawa’s group at the Vienna University of Technology. In 2010, Griffith University scientists Austin Lund and Howard Wiseman showed that weak measurements could be used to characterize the process of measuring a quantum system. However, there were still hurdles to clear as their idea effectively required a small quantum computer, which is difficult to build.

Full Story: Science Daily: Scientists Cast Doubt On Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle

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