MonthMay 2011

Brand Fanaticism Lights Up Same Part of the Brain as Religion


Curt Hopkins compares the discovery that a company’s logo lights up the same brain regions in fans of that company that religious iconographic lights up in followers of the religion.

Anyway, the public (well, at least the free, male, moneyed public) that took such a hands-on role in shaping the policy of the Republic was displaced by an Imperial government that consolidated power in one man, whose will was carried out by a bureaucracy. When that happened, the formerly most influential elements of the society turned away from public life to “mystery religions”: Mithraism, the worship of Isis and of course Christianity.

In the same way, it feels that we’ve lost something in turn. I’m not sure what it is – religious faith, political will, tribal affiliation? – but I can feel it. With the loss of that thing, people have turned to brands, particularly to tech brands, with their promise of connection, amplification, justification, belonging. The promise of salvation and relevance.

ReadWriteWeb: Thou Shalt Have No Other Jobs Before Me: Geek Fanatacism Lights Up Same Part of the Brain as Religion

Also check out what Douglas Rushkoff has to say about the future of branding in social media.

Bacteria Loves Caffeine Too

Think you live on caffeine? You’re still no match for a newly described bitty bacteria called Pseudomonas putida CBB5. These little guys can feast on pure caffeine all day—and presumably all night—long. And researchers have now located just how they accomplish this arguably admirable feat.

Celebrated and cursed, caffeine is actually an alluring blend of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen, and the clever bacterium uses specialized enzymes as it “breaks caffeine down into carbon dioxide and ammonia,” Ryan Summers, a doctoral researcher in chemical and biochemical engineering at the University of Iowa, said in a prepared statement.

Scientific American: Newly Discovered Bacteria Lives on Caffeine

The Forgotten History of the Bonus Army

Police attack the Bonus Army

For Memorial Day, some dismal reading about the way the U.S. treats its soldiers (yes, this would actually be more appropriate for Veterans Day):

On 11 March 1932 Waters called for a march on Washington and 250-300 men from Portland joined him. They marched behind a banner reading “Portland Bonus March – On to Washington.” The veterans and their families had popular support and the support of some authorities. A Portland railroad offered the use of dung-stained cattle cars to transport the Bonus Army. The Indiana National Guard and the Pennsylvania National Guard used military vehicles to transport the Bonus Army. Toll bridge operators let the Bonus Army march silently across bridges without pay, and police officers refused to arrest Bonus Army veterans for trespassing. Thousands joined the Bonus Army as it marched towards Washington with Sergent Waters as their elected leader. Waters forbade drinking, panhandling, and ‘anti-government’ or ‘radical’ talk.

When Waters and his Bonus Army arrived in late May 1932 they were twenty thousand strong. The veterans and their families camped in buildings abandoned during the Great Depression and in giant shantytowns. Communists showed up at the shantytowns and agitated for their cause among the veterans. In reply, Bonus Army veterans seized the communists, held trials and sentenced them to fifteen lashes. More than two hundred communists were expelled from the Bonus Army camps. But supporters who were not communists showed up at the shantytown with material support. Among them were eight German soldiers, each having fought against US soldiers, each wounded twice or more in World War I, all naturalized citizens and bearing a total of eight tons of food and supplies for the Bonus Army.

On 29 June the US Government announced it would not meet the demands of the Bonus Army and that the Bonus Army had to leave by 15 July. By 5 July there was no food remaining. On 7 July congress offered $10,000 to the Bonus Army if it would simply leave Washington DC. Some did take the money and leave, but many more took the money and stayed while other veterans joined for the first time. One thousand more veterans and their families had joined the Bonus Army in Washington and more were on their way. On 17 July 1932 Congress voted down the bonus and then adjourned. President Hoover went on a vacation.

OVO: The Bonus Army

Somewhat related: Nightline on how hundreds of soldiers wounded in Iraq have ended up owing the military money. That is from 2006. The problem is ongoing. And that’s just one of many of the problems today’s veterans face.

Latest Drug Scare: Oxi, a “Highly Addictive Hallucinogenic” That is “Twice as Powerful as Crack Cocaine”


I came across this article in The Guardian on “Oxi,” a drug that has reportedly “exploded” in South America. According to The Guardian, Oxi is a “highly addictive and hallucinogenic blend of cocaine paste, gasoline, kerosene and quicklime (calcium oxide).”

From the story:

“The difference between cocaine and oxi is like the difference between drinking beer and pure alcohol,” said a federal police operative on the Peru-Brazil border, who refused to be named.

Further down in the story, however, another police officer is quoted saying ” “It is a new thing and we don’t yet have all the technical details of what oxi really is and the damage it can cause to someone who becomes addicted and uses it constantly.”

The whole story seemed fishy, so I did some digging and found this thread on a drug forum. Someone there found an Al Jazeera story with some more information:

The Al Jazeera story cites a researcher named Mendes who claims to have done a study of 80 oxi users. Mendes claims that users die about one year after starting to use the drug. That’s an insanely high mortality rate, but there’s no indication as to how the study was conducted, what the users actually died from or what sorts of controls were used. (Still, makes me think of Substance D – a drug everyone knows will kill them, but they keep taking anyway).

There’s a paradox that makes the stories particularly weird. If Oxi is so pure, why is it so cheap? One poster on the forums suggests:

Crack can be made straight from coca paste without having to be reverted from cocaine HCL.

The process in making cocaine goes: coca leaves> coca paste > cocaine base (crack) > cocaine HCL.

Its just that street crack always comes from being made from cocaine HCL

My guess is oxi is just cocaine base made straight from coca paste; so oxi would be more pure because it isnt being reverted back to cocaine base from cut cocaine.

The idea, I guess, is that on the black market most coca paste usually goes towards making cocaine hcl, so that anyone wanting to make crack has traditionally used cocaine hcl. What’s happening now is that more people are realizing they can skip the cocaine hcl period and make a cheaper, purer product straight from the paste.

Another poster suggested it might not actually be purer at all, but it might actually be the impurities (not to mention residues left by gasoline or kerosene) that create a different experience:

Sort of like the difference between East Coast USA H4 heroin (a highly purified powder mostly consisting of diacetylmorphine) & West Coast USA Black Tar Heroin (a very crude, not very purified mass containing DAM as well as morphine, 6-MAM & other assorted alkaloids)?

While H4 is obviously the cleaner, “superior” product, many people prefer the unrefined-ness of BTH, because of the nuanced high provided by the different alkaloids.

A few years ago, similar stories about a drug called “Paco” were circulating. From The Christian Science Monitor in 2006:

The paco sold here is a chemical byproduct, a leftover when Andean coca leaves are turned into a paste, then formulated into cocaine bound for US and European markets. Paco was once discarded as laboratory trash, says Dr. Ricardo Nadra, an Argentine government psychiatrist who works with paco addicts. But Argentina’s devastating financial collapse in 2001 left the poorest even poorer, creating an impoverished demand for “cocaine’s garbage,” he says.

“People were broke and they couldn’t afford to buy anything else,” says Dr. Nadra, adding that drug dealers took the leftovers, which look like salt crystals, and added substances such as ground up glass as a filler in order to increase their profits. “Drug dealers could keep selling pure cocaine in Europe or the US but now they could sell paco in [Argentina’s poorer neighborhoods],” he says.

The Monitor notes that rich kids were starting to use the drug as well.

The Guardian ran its own story on paco just last year. The Guardian claims that “Paco is cocaine base paste, a byproduct of the refining process, cut with chemicals such as sulphuric acid and kerosene as well as glue, rat poison and crushed glass.”

Sounds very similar, except that The Guardian is describing paco as being made from a waste “paste” as opposed to an essential ingredient being used in a different way. But I can’t help but wonder if they are indeed the same drug. Some of the comments on The Guardian story on Oxi say it is, and Vaughan Bell att Mind Hacks says the same thing. In which case, this has been a known problem in Brazil and Argentina since at least 2001. It reminds me of some of the stories I saw about ya ba a few years ago, as if it were a “new” form of speed.

Anyway, it does sound a bit more legit than jenkem or iDoser.

An Education in For-Profit Education

Via that panel on comics as journalism, here’s a great comic/infographic on for-profit education by Susie Cagle for Campus Progress.

An Education in For-Profit Education

See also: Earn 45% of Credits Towards a Bachelor’s Degree by Working at Wal-Mart

The Future of Journalism Is … Comics?

Here’s a panel on comics as journalism with Sarah Jaffee of Grit TV, Erin Polgreen of Media Consortium and Graphic Ladies, Matt Bors of, nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist Susie Cagle, and comic-book graphic-mixologist Ronald Wimberly.

(Thanks Ian)

Nightmarishly Realistic Baby Masks for Adults

Happy Baby Cropped

SEXY SUPERSTAR realistic baby face masks

These are fucked. Hyperreal baby masks for adults. The masks come in three models: disgusted baby, happy baby and cry baby. You can check out more photos and some videos as the site.

Hyperflesh: Baby Masks

(Thanks Chris!)

The Art of Giorgio Comolo

MODOK a la H.R. Giger (2008) Giorgio Comolo

Nemo in Gigerland by Giorgio Comolo

H.R. Giger tribute by Giorgio Comolo

Giorgio Comolo is an Italian advertising illustrator. On the side, he draws superheroes and tributes to his favorite artists. He works in several styles, but the images above are all H.R. Giger tributes.

Official Site

Another page with several images

(via Monster Man)

The Masked Monkeys of Indonesia

masked monkey

masked monkeys

Ed Wray was terrified the first time he encountered a masked monkey. Having lived and worked in Jakarta as a freelance photographer for years, he was accustomed to seeing the animals, cruelly leashed by chains, jumping through hoops or riding trikes on the sidewalks. But for Wray, the mask was a terrifying twist.

“When I first saw a monkey with a rubber baby doll’s head stuck over its head as a mask, it immediately struck me as horrifying and beyond weird.” Wray said. “Something about the combination of the doll head – which I think is scary looking to begin with – and a long tail just struck a chord in me.”

Time: The Masked Monkeys of Indonesia

(Thanks Bill!)

Cheezburger CEO Wants to Reinvent How We Read Breaking News

“Why are we still consuming news like it’s 1899?” Huh asks in a blog post this morning. “I want to rethink how we read breaking news,” he told me by phone today. He’s talking with a small group of well-known media innovators and sent us a first wireframe he’s playing with. He’s got some very interesting ideas. […]

The ideal system would help media outlets present news to readers that is genuinely new to them, from diverse perspectives, with time, veracity and a living editorial process all emphasizing maximum value from the reader’s time. I do wonder if that’s really what people want, but Ceiling Cat may know best, after all.

ReadWriteWeb: Cheezburger CEO Planning WordPress-Style News 2.0 Software

He has some interesting ideas indeed. Check out the wireframe at ReadWriteWeb.


Why Wikipedia beats Wikinews as a collaborative journalism project

The “Context is King” section of 5 Media Trends to Watch

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