MonthJune 2013

Slender Man: 21st Century Campfire Tale

slender-man

Michael Rose write:

Where then, does the internet age turn to for it’s vicarious scares? The answer arrived on the popular forum SomethingAwful in 2009 in the imposing form of Slender Man. The site was running a contest in which participants were instructed to photoshop images to contain supernatural entities. User Victor Surge entered two photos of distressed children to contain an unusually tall, thin man with a pale featureless face and added text describing purported eyewitness accounts to the man’s strange powers over those around him and linking him to the disappearance of 14 children. The second of these two texts referred to the eerie figure as ‘The Slender Man’. The posts quickly caught the attention and imaginations of other members, who began to supplement the story with their own words and images. What had begun as a contest entry was to become a worldwide phenomenon.

Full Story: Mysterious Universe: Slender Man: 21st Century Campfire Tale

(via Cat Vincent)

Adderal, A Love Story

Dose Nation‘s James Kent writes:

Adderall is a clever brand and a deceptive brand. In America, amphetamine has traditionally been associated with tweakers, speed freaks, bikers, truckers and all-night sex orgies. Adderall changed all that. Stimulants like Ritalin have long been shown to help people with ADD and ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) concentrate for longer periods. So in 1996, Shire Pharmaceuticals introduced Adderall, a patented blend of amphetamine salts, to compete in the market for ADD/ADHD medications. The product was so successful that in 2001, Shire introduced the Adderall XR capsule in order to supply a low but steady dose to users all day long. Adderall XR is marketed as a productivity drug to help people with ADD, ADHD or narcolepsy remain alert and focused, but because it’s essentially pure pharmaceutical amphetamine, it quickly became the prescription stimulant of choice for college students, wage laborers, the military, and pretty much everybody else.

Full Story: High Times: Adderall: America’s Favorite Amphetamine

(via Brainsturbator)

Previously: The Nazi Origins of Meth — AKA “Tank Chocolate”

Interview with Quantified Self Labs Director Ernesto Ramirez on the New Mindful Cyborgs

Ernesto Ramirez

This week on Mindful Cyborgs Chris Dancy and I interview Ernesto Ramirez, the program director, editor and community organizer of Quantified Self Labs and the webmaster of quantfiedself.com. We talked about the beginnings of the quantified self movement, its chances for catching on with the broader public and the privacy implications of sharing health data on the cloud.

As always you can listen to it or download it on both iTunes and Soundcloud, or you can just download the MP3 directly.

Full show notes and transcript inside.

Continue reading

Lorem Gibson Autogenerates William Gibson-style Prose

Here’s an example:

office wonton soup -ware bicycle render-farm futurity smart- tower office bicycle fluidity spook table. media neural papier-mache -ware sensory savant sub-orbital saturation point network pistol concrete rebar A.I.. 3D-printed long-chain hydrocarbons post- engine pen paranoid nodal point skyscraper computer range-rover euro-pop camera camera. rifle paranoid digital -ware sentient Tokyo kanji footage artisanal rain urban modem Shibuya. Kowloon crypto- kanji girl network Chiba motion concrete assassin courier construct plastic dead.

Lorem Gibson

Reminds me of Kenji Siratori

(via Bruce Sterling)

Compassionate Takedown of Pickup Artististry

Glenn Fleishman explains the “pickup artist” (PUA) community, and the recent controversy about a PUA book on Kickstarter that advocated sexual assault:

PUAs aren’t typically an overlap with the frat-boy stereotype of athletes and aggression. Rather, PUAs are social misfits who appear to be incapable of reading and responding to social signals. Just as the Ana subculture arose on the Internet extolling anorexia, which is medically and socially unacceptable even as the body image associated is perpetuated through media, the PUA subculture seems to thrive because it’s found a home in which such discussions are encouraged and cultivated.

And it is undeniable to these men that women meet other men and then, immediately or after a number of dates, engage in sexual concourse with them. Why not them? It must not be their personality, pheromones, conversational style, or appearance. There must be a secret that some men have that they have missed, and thus a culture of tips, tricks, and strategies develops. [...]

Mutually consensual behavior initiated by either party isn’t assault, of course, nor does it have to be spoken aloud. But it requires the ability to read signals and respond to them to know whether consent exists, and to stop — not “escalate” — when there’s ambiguity. This category of book provides the excuse for consent to men who can’t read signals. The book is advising sexual assault under the guise of something the woman wants but can’t ask for. That’s not consent.

Full Story: Boing Boing: Kickstop: how a sleazebag slipped through Kickstarter’s cracks

Something that’s bothered me lately about many critiques of internet subculture I’ve read recently. For example, Stephen Bond ‘s rants about skeptics and the Less Wrong community. He wrote about skeptics: “You’ll quickly find that the majority of visitors are not drawn there by concern for the victims of irrationality, but by contempt. They’re there to laugh at idiots.” And: “The average skeptic has little time for spreading the word of reason to the educationally or intellectually lacking. His superior reason is what separates him from the chumps around him, and he has no interest in closing the gap.” But Bond seems to fall quickly into a similar trap: he bashes skeptics and Bayesians, decrying their lack of ethics and implying his own moral superiority (someone on Metafilter suggested that Bond did this on purpose to parody those communities). There’s no compassion, no insight into why someone might become swept up in these communities other than “because they’re assholes.”

It’s a hard impulse to shake. It’s easy to get so angry at someone — internet scammers, religious people, pickup artists, libertarians, whoever — and end up seeing them as something less than human. I’ve done it many times right here on this blog. It’s hard to be compassionate or to see what attracted someone to this point of view. But that’s incredibly important not just to help win people over — which is very hard — but to help others understand the culture that you’re critiquing and why they are wrong. “They do these things because they’re assholes, and they’re wrong because they just are” isn’t a compelling argument. I think it’s why so many people have trouble with Evgeny Morozov’s work. Morozov doesn’t, at least in what I’ve read of his work, ever stop to ask why someone might believe what they do. He takes it for granted that everyone he criticizes is either a fool or a charlatan or both. It wears thin quickly, not just because it’s mean spirited but because it doesn’t read as a well-rounded critique. It reads as a rant meant solely for those who already agree with him, as a chance to make fun of the chumps who have bought into the “solutionist” ideology.

Fleishman doesn’t go easy on the PUAs, but he does explain why what they do is wrong, why someone might try it anyway, and why the people involved in it don’t realize what they’re doing is wrong. That makes it a far more powerful critique than most of what I’ve been reading lately.

If you want more info on the PUA culture and methodologies: The Observer’s review of Neil Strass’ book on pickup artistry and Jeff Diehl’s article on “speed seduction.”

Doctors Worry About DIY Brain Shocks

Dave Siever of Mind Alive

A recent paper published in the Journal of Medical Ethics warns of the dangers of DIY transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). The National Post reports:

Those risks include reversing the polarity of the electrodes to cause impairment instead of benefit, and triggering potentially long-lasting and negative changes to the brain’s biology, the researchers argue in the Journal of Medical Ethics. [...]

In fact, Health Canada considers tDCS machines to be class-three devices — on a scale of risk ranging from one to four — and has yet to approve any for treating psychological illness – though they are licensed for pain and insomnia therapy, said Leslie Meerburg, a department spokeswoman. [...]

One subtle but troubling risk could lie in the ability of the devices to change behaviour, with research by Prof. Fecteau and colleagues suggesting tDCS can actually make people better liars, or less empathetic, both qualities that could encourage unscrupulous conduct.

Full Story: Do-it-yourself brain stimulation has scientists worried as healthy people try to make their minds work better

Amusingly, after citing a researcher who says tDCS could make people better liars and less empathetic, the Post quotes someone selling a home tDCS rig saying that it is “very safe.” But, despite the somewhat sordid tone of the story, the actual paper Medical Ethics paper does say that tDCS is “relatively safe.” You can find the full paper here.

(via Theoretick)

Is This The World’s First Comic Book?

Medieval comic book

From Medieval News:

Damien Kempf on Tumblr came across this image from a 12th century manuscript known as the Bible of Stephen Harding. This work contains many images, including this page that details the story of King David. Just like a modern day comic book, you are supposed to go through this page from left to write and top to bottom, and read the caption for each box.

Full Story: Medival News: The first ever comic book?

(via Leah Moore)

That does sound like it could be the first comic book, though there are older example of comic strips, such as cave paintings. There’s also this Iranian goblet from around 3192 BC that includes a sequence of images that could well be considered a comic if you consider art to be comics:

goblet-comic

Steve Bissette Working On A Book About Alan Moore, Asks People To Publish His 1963 Stories Online For Free

1963

Rich Johnson just posted a letter from Steve Bissette calling on fans to post his pages from 1963, a comic written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Bissette and others in the early 90s, online for free since it’s unlikley it will ever be reprinted. He also mentioned that he’s working on a book about Moore:

FYI, This emerges from my work on my own forthcoming Alan Moore book; since I own my pencils, and articles on any of our work is fair game for any party out there, I’m running a few articles (by others) in my book, and illustrating them with my sketches and pencils, which is fair enough under the terms of our agreements, I reckon. If not, I’ll hear about it soon enough.

Full Story: Bleeding Cool: Steve Bissette Working On A Book About Alan Moore, Asks People To Publish His 1963 Stories Online For Free

Clearly I’m missing something — why won’t 1963 ever be reprinted?

Entire Sunn 0))) Catalog Streaming for Free and Available for Purchase On Bandcamp

Sunn 0)))

The entire Sunn 0))) catalog is now available on Bandcamp (except for a few collaborations, it seems). You can stream every release for free, or purchase them for download.

(via John Reppion)

For Silicon Valley, Meditation Is About Getting Ahead, Not Inner Peace

This touches all my cynical buttons:

But in today’s Silicon Valley, there’s little patience for what many are happy to dismiss as “hippie bullshit.” Meditation here isn’t an opportunity to reflect upon the impermanence of existence but a tool to better oneself and improve productivity. That’s how Bill Duane, a pompadoured onetime engineer with a tattoo of a bikini-clad woman on his forearm, frames Neural Self-Hacking, an introductory meditation class he designed for Google. “Out in the world, a lot of this stuff is pitched to people in yoga pants,” he says. “But I wanted to speak to my people. I wanted to speak to me. I wanted to speak to the grumpy engineer who may be an atheist, who may be a rationalist.” [...]

It also raises the uncomfortable possibility that these ancient teachings are being used to reinforce some of modern society’s uglier inequalities. Becoming successful, powerful, and influential can be as much about what you do outside the office as what you do at work. There was a time when that might have meant joining a country club or a Waspy church. Today it might mean showing up at TED. Looking around Wisdom 2.0, meditation starts to seem a lot like another secret handshake to join the club. “There is some legitimate interest among businesspeople in contemplative practice,” Kenneth Folk says. “But Wisdom 2.0? That’s a networking opportunity with a light dressing of Buddhism.” [...]

Steve Jobs spent lots of time in a lotus position; he still paid slave wages to his contract laborers, berated subordinates, and parked his car in handicapped stalls.

Full Story: Wired: Meditation Isn't Just About Inner Peace—in the Valley It's About Getting Ahead

See also:

Technoccult Interview: Open Source Buddhism with Al Jigong Billings

Mindful Cyborgs: Sensor Hacking For Mindfulness with Nancy Dougherty on the new Mindful Cyborgs

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