MonthJune 2014

RIP Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin (Jun 17, 1925 – Jun 2, 2014)

Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin and Ann Shulgin by Alex Grey

Psychedelic chemist Alexander Shulgin, author of PIHKAL and TIHKAL, has passed away according to The Guardian:

Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, who has died aged 88, was a pioneering and fearless scientist, but his chosen discipline – the design and synthesis of psychedelic drugs – was one of the most maligned and least understood. Shulgin invented hundreds of new psychedelic drugs, which he tested on himself, his wife, Ann, and friends, documenting their preparation and effects. But he wasn’t satisfied with mere discovery – he argued passionately for the rights of the individual to explore and map the limits of human consciousness without government interference.

He was most famously responsible for the emergence of one of the world’s most enduringly popular recreational designer drugs, 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine, also known as MDMA, or ecstasy. He did not invent it, since MDMA had been designed by the pharmaceutical firm Merck in 1912 in a bid to produce a blood-clotting agent. However, Shulgin was responsible for creating a new and easier synthesis of it.

Full Story: The Guardian: Alexander Shulgin obituary

More Info:

Wired profile from 2002.

Erowid profile with lots of information, interviews and other links.

And here’s a documentary about Sasha and Ann Shulgin:

Shulgin joins other recently departed Technoccult saints H.R. Giger, Steve Moore, Shannon Larratt and Moebius.

The Case Against “Sharing”

Sharing Economy

Full Story: Susie Cagle: The Case Against Sharing

I’ve been calling the “sharing economy” the Urchin Economy, as in street urchin, named for the street kids that are always hanging around in fiction set during the Victorian period, ready to accept a schilling or two to do some chore for a protagonist. They have no job security, no safety net, they’re treated as if they’re utterly disposable. Of course today, there’s always some high-tech middleman looking to take a cut of these transactions.

See also:

The Expendables: How the Temps Who Power Corporate Giants Are Getting Crushed

The Sharing Economy Isn’t

I also tried to explore some of these ideas in my short story “The Faraday Bag“:

A bunch of my friends found work through this app where young guys–and it was always guys––could have people come over and clean their dishes, do their laundry, that sort of thing. I did that a couple times. Then a guy complained that he wanted “an American” to do his chores for him. I told him I was born in the U.S. and that my family had lived here for two generations. He gave me a one-star review, and I haven’t been able to find work through the app since.

Thomas Frank Interviews David Graeber

Salon is running a great new interview with David Graeber by Thomas Frank. Here are some highlights (Graeber’s words):

Well, radical elements in the labor movement began embracing such visions from quite early on. After the successful campaigns for the eight-hour day in the 1880s, people immediately started thinking, can we move this to seven, six, or less. Paul Lafargue, Marx’s son-in-law, and author of “The Right to Be Lazy,” was already calling for something along those lines in 1883. I have a Wobbly T-shirt with a turn-of-the-century style design that says “join the IWW for a new dawn,” it has a sun rising over the rooftops, and on the sun is written, “four-day week, four-hour day.” [...]

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, one of the great divisions between anarcho-syndicalist unions, and socialist unions, was that the latter were always asking for higher wages, and the anarchists were asking for less hours. That’s why the anarchists were so entangled in struggles for the eight-hour day. It’s as if the socialists were essentially buying into the notion that work is a virtue, and consumerism is good, but it should all be managed democratically, while the anarchists were saying, no, the whole deal—that we work more and more for more and more stuff—is rotten from the get-go. [...]

Call it the revolt of the caring classes. Because, after all, the working classes have always been the caring classes really. I say this as a person of working class background myself. Not only are almost all actual caregivers (not to mention caretakers!) working class, but people of such backgrounds always tend to see themselves as the sort of people who actively care about their neighbors and communities, and value such social commitments far beyond material advantage. It’s just our obsession with certain very specific forms of rather macho male labor—factory workers, truck-drivers, that sort of thing—which then becomes the paradigm of all labor in our imaginations; that blinds us to the fact that the bulk of working class people have always been engaged in caring labor of one sort or another. So I think we need to start by redefining labor itself, maybe, start with classic “women’s work,” nurturing children, looking after things, as the paradigm for labor itself and then it will be much harder to be confused about what’s really valuable and what isn’t.

Full Story: Salon: David Graeber explains why the more your job helps others, the less you get paid

See also:

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs

How the “Do What You Love” Mantra Enables Exploitation

An Army of Altruists

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