MonthFebruary 2012

Supervert on Mark Dery’s New Book I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts

Supervert, author of Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish and webmaster of the definitive William S. Burroughs site Reality Studio, reviews Mark Dery’s new book I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts:

How is it that Dery is able to produce this uncanny feeling of identification? You get the sense that, while the rest of us were living the zeitgeist, Dery was holding a stethoscope to its heart. His essays are EKGs showing that our pulse goes haywire in the presence of extremes — perversion, violence, satanism. In an introduction, Dery declares that it is “the writer’s job” to “think bad thoughts”: “to wander footloose through the mind’s labyrinth, following the thread of any idea that reels you in, no matter how arcane or depraved, obscene or blasphemous, untouchably controversial, irreducibly complex, or preposterous on its face.” All of us take in these abominations as they play across our flatscreens and iPhones, but Dery’s distinction is to really think about them — reflect on them, contextualize them, pursue their logic to sometimes unpalatable consequences. “The writer’s job,” he means to say, “is to transform ‘bad thoughts’ into good ones — insights and observations — through a process of examination.”

Supervert: I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts

See also: Mark Dery: How the Cephalopod Became Our Zeitgeist Mascot

Antero Alli Teaching Online Eight Circuit Brain Course

Antero Alli is teaching an online course on the Eight Circuit Brain concept pioneered by Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson and of course Antero himself.

The course is eight weeks long and is based on the course structure outlined in his book The Eight Circuit Brain, which is required for the online class. The online course is enhanced by daily and weekly online group forum, private feedback from Antero and additional assignments.

Disclosure: if you register through Technoccult I get a commission

An 8-Week Interactive Online Course with author, Antero Alli (Angel Tech, The Eight-Circuit Brain and Towards an Archeology of the Soul)

Eight Circuit Brain

Requirements, How This Course Works and Enrollment

Requirements

1) The Eight Circuit Brain, the book, is required for this course. Angel Tech, is an optional source book.

2) 6-10 hours set aside each week for reading and work assignments.

How This Works

The 8-week course structure is already contained in the book The Eight-Circuit Brain. This course is enhanced by daily and weekly online group forum interactions, ongoing private instructor feedback via e-mail, and additional instructor assignments. There are no set meeting times for this course; everyone goes at their own pace. Though each Saturday we start the next week’s assignments, all previous assignments and forum posts remain open to read and/or to post on them. Course structure includes extra time (the final two weeks) to finish incompleted work. Click this for distilled definitions of the eight circuits as they will be addressed in this course.

This 8-week course is the result of a comprehensive study and practice of dynamic techniques for accessing the states of consciousness symbolized by the Eight-Circuit model. This course has been tested and refined over the past five years throughout six different semesters and over two-hundred students. All eight circuits are covered, their specific internal vertical supports and, initiations into and out of Chapel Perilous.

Once understood and redefined in your own terms, the circuits can act as an open-ended system for precision tracking and interpretation of living signals within yourself, the world and beyond. The 8-circuit grid can be especially useful for those seeking context and integration of hyper-consciousness triggered by psychoactive drug use and/or the outside shocks of real-life traumas. If you are motivated to take on more responsibility for your own choices, your autonomy, and your integrity then, this course may be for you.

Enrollment

Course Tuition: $200 (for 8 weeks)





Or:

Money orders (U.S. funds only) payable to “Vertical Pool”, and mailed to:
VERTICAL POOL, att: Antero Alli, P.O. Box 10144, Berkeley CA USA 94709.

When payment is received, a confirmation e-mail will be sent out within 48 hours. Passwords and link to the online forum will be sent out by or before March 14th. Tuition non-refundable after March 17th. Enrollment limited to 20. NOTE: As of February 19th, there are 10 spaces still available.

E-mail all inquiries to:
antero@paratheatrical.com

Here’s my Technoccult TV interview with Antero:

And here’s part of Antero’s presentation at EsoZone 2008:

Dolphins Talk in Their Sleep – In Whale

From ABC News:

News has come from France that some captive-born dolphins there have been recorded “talking in their sleep” — and talking in Whale, no less, not Dolphinese.

The scientists involved say this would be the first time that dolphins have been recorded mimicking sounds a significant period of time after hearing them.

ABC News: Dolphins Reported Talking Whale in Their Sleep

(via Cole Tucker)

Undercover Cops Seduce High School Students and Entrap Them into Selling Weed

Last year in three high schools in Florida, several undercover police officers posed as students. The undercover cops went to classes, became Facebook friends and flirted with the other students. One 18-year-old honor student named Justin fell in love with an attractive 25-year-old undercover cop after spending weeks sharing stories about their lives, texting and flirting with each other.

One day she asked Justin if he smoked pot. Even though he didn’t smoke marijuana, the love-struck teen promised to help find some for her. Every couple of days she would text him asking if he had the marijuana. Finally, Justin was able to get it to her. She tried to give him $25 for the marijuana and he said he didn’t want the money — he got it for her as a present.

A short while later, the police did a big sweep and arrest 31 students — including Justin. Almost all were charged with selling a small amount of marijuana to the undercover cops. Now Justin has a felony hanging over his head.

Alternet: Sick: Young, Undercover Cops Flirted With Students to Trick Them Into Selling Pot

Not mentioned in the article is that not only does Justin have a felony hanging over his head, if he’s found guilty of a drug related crime he won’t be eligible for federally subsidized financial aid. So he’ll come out of prison at a remarkably young age with fewer job prospects, thanks to a felony record, and have a hard (perhaps impossible) time going to college or trade school to actually get any sort of degree or skills to help him get a job, increasing the chances that he’ll turn to a life of crime. The system if effectively turning otherwise bright kids into lifelong criminals.

(via Boing Boing)

Getting Scoops Is Not (Necessarily) the Same as “Doing Journalism”

There’s been a bit of a shitstorm the past few days over TechCrunch blogger turned venture capitalist M.G Siegler’s defense of Path, a social networking company that the CrunchFund (a VC firm where Siegler is a partner) invested in. Dan Lyons (probably best known for his alter ego Fake Steve Jobs) skewered Siegler well enough. Siegler’s rant about the failings of tech journalists is mostly a distraction, a cover for the real issue: the cavalier attitude startups, including one that Siegler’s firm invested in, have towards privacy and security of its users (who are, generally, the product and not the customer).

But Siegler did touch a nerve when he talked about the poor quality of so much tech journalism. It’s nothing new, the problem has been there for everyone to see for the past few years. AOL’s official policy was exposed a year ago by Business Insider, a company notorious for following a similar content farming model. There’s even an entire book now dedicated to helping people create reasonable “info diets” (a subject near and dear to my heart, though I’ve not yet had time to read it).

It’s a real problem, and Siegler, to his credit, admits that he was was one of the worst offenders during his time at TechCrunch. Now he’s part of a whole new problem exemplified by the CrunchFund and PandoDaily, but that’s not what I want to write about today. Nor do I want to focus on the high speed production of numerous low quality blog posts. That’s a long standing problem that’s been plain to see for quite a while, a product of a flawed business model for journalism and “content” in general. We’re trying to solve the business model problem at SiliconAngle, but I think there’s a deeper issue at play here.

Since The Verge published its best tech writing of 2011 list I’ve been thinking about the fact that no tech blogs actually made this list, unless you count VC Dave Pell’s blog. But none of the usual suspects – TechCrunch, VentureBeat, ReadWriteWeb, GigaOM, etc. Why is this? Part of it may be the pressure to constantly pump out new posts, multiple times a day, which leaves little time for writers to do in-depth journalism and quality writing. But I think there’s something else to it. Jay Rosen has written about the ideology of the mainstream political press. I think there’s an ideology of tech blogging, and I think that ideology reduces the overall quality of reporting. I think it’s the ideology of “the scoop.”

There are huge pressures to post a story first. Not only does it get you on TechMeme, but probably more importantly it gets your story more traction in social media, from Twitter to Reddit to Hacker News. Speed is the name of the game. It’s tempting to blame speed itself as the problem, but I think it’s this scoop mentality itself.

Adrianne Jeffries of BetaBeat (who I worked with briefly at ReadWriteWeb) put it best to me a while back: most of these “scoops” are things that everyone is going to know about soon anyway. The Kindle Fire, a new Google feature, the latest round of funding for a startup – all of this this is stuff these companies actually pay people to promote eventually. By racing to be the first to tell the world about some companies future announcement, we’re actually competing to serve as PR people for the companies we’re reporting on.

Update: Jay Rosen has helpfully categorized four types of scoop. What I’m talking about here is the different between “enterprise scoops” and “ego scoops.”
I’m not opposed to chasing this sort of scoop – I do it too. But it’s not the end all be all of doing journalism. In fact, in many cases there’s little to no journalism being done. The easiest way to be first is simply to break a news embargo – something that used to be an official policy at TechCrunch (I’m not sure whether it still is). I’m not sure this really counts as a “scoop,” but it’s one quick and dirty way to approximate one, and it’s one that requires nothing but re-writing a press release and publishing before any one else does.

Most of what we think of as “scoops” are at least a bit more involved than breaking an embargo. Unless the journalist gets lucky and overhears some execs talking about something in line at a Silicon Valley burrito joint, there’s some measure of source development going on behind the scenes of a scoop. Source development is one dimension of journalism, and it’s a very important one. Still, most of the scoops I see are still pretty shallow. A source inside a company tells a journalist about a forthcoming product, service or other announcement coming from the company. The journalist writes down what the source said and publishes it. There’s little other research or fact checking going on (Mike Arrington allegedly went to great pains to verify that his scoops were legit, but that’s apparently not common practice, and I have my doubts about how he actually sourced his scoops). Maybe there’s some speculation about whether this product will actually be competitive against a comparable product from Apple, but that’ll be it. Once the source spills the beans, this sort of post can be done very quickly, in hours or even minutes. There are a few counter examples, like when bloggers dogpile on a company that makes a mistake – I guess that helps us feel like we’re fulfilling our “watchdog” role. But the vast majority of scoops are product announcements. It’s still a far cry from the “muckracking” we expect from political journalists.

Why is this a problem? It creates an artificially low expectation of the time it takes to do journalism (if you can write a post about some forthcoming Twitter function in an hour based on a scoop from an insider, why spend more than that on a “non-scoop”?), it limits tech journalists ideas of what stories are and are not worth covering and it limits the role of the tech journalist to shilling for the companies they cover. It makes our role into professional waiters-for-something-happen rather than professional investigators or explainers.

Now let’s take a story from The Verge’s list as an example: Ken Auletta’s New Yorker story on Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. There’s no “scoop” here. No new Facebook features, no juicy gossip about Mark Zuckerberg, no IPO date. But there’s tons of insight into Sandberg, into what women experience in corporate America, and into Facebook as a company. Auletta likely spent days, probably weeks, researching and writing this piece. It’s the sort of quality stuff we all say we want to see more of, but few of us actually do. Partially of course because we don’t have the time, we’ve got posts to write and post TODAY. But partially, I think, because we don’t recognize the *story* here because it doesn’t fit with our ideology of the scoop.

It might not be fair to ask daily tech blogs to do the same sort of long form journalism that high brow magazines do, any more than it would be fair to ask a local daily newspaper to be Harper’s. But I think the contrast between scoop-driven tech blogs and the way other publications handle tech stories is illuminating because it shows a difference not just in the number of words or time spent on a story, but a difference in the type of story. There’s actually an opportunity for PR here, which I talked a bit about this in an interview on Sam Whitmore’s Mediasurvey (it’s behind a paywall, alas), and have a half-written blog post waiting to be finished.

The thing I’d like to see is a greater variety in the type of story, and a shift from the scoop mindset of quick hits about a new product to a mindset that sees technology journalism as more encompassing.

Timeline of the Far Future

Wikipedia entry of the day: Timeline of the Far Future. Excerpt:

>50 billion: Assuming both survive the Sun’s expansion, by this time the Earth and the Moon become tidelocked, with each showing only one face to the other.
100 billion: The Universe’s expansion causes all evidence of the Big Bang to disappear beyond the practical observational limit, rendering cosmology impossible.
450 billion: Median point by which the Local Group, the collection of ~47 galaxies to which the Milky Way belongs,[42] will coalesce into a single large galaxy.

(via Substack)

See also: Earth May Exist Forever and Matrioshka Brain.

Anonymous Reveals Private Intelligence Firm Infiltrated Occupy Austin

From a Deep Green Resistance press release:

Computer hackers known as Anonymous leaked information obtained by hacking into private intelligence firm Stratfor’s computer network. The documents – what Anonymous is calling a teaser – suggest that from at least October to November 2011 Stratfor worked with Texas law enforcement to infiltrate the Occupy movement and spy on the Deep Green Resistance movement. The document contains emails in which Stratfor employees discuss Occupy Austin and Deep Green Resistance. Stratfor “Watch Officer” Marc Lanthemann writes about receiving information on Occupy Austin and DGR from a “Texas DPS agent.” The Texas Department of Public Safety is a statewide law enforcement agency that includes an Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division.

You can find documents and more information on the DGR website.

10 Years On, Drug Decriminalization Reducing Drug Use in Portugal

Health experts in Portugal said Friday that Portugal’s decision 10 years ago to decriminalise drug use and treat addicts rather than punishing them is an experiment that has worked.

“There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal,” said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the law.

The number of addicts considered “problematic” — those who repeatedly use “hard” drugs and intravenous users — had fallen by half since the early 1990s, when the figure was estimated at around 100,000 people, Goulao said.

AFP: Portugal drug law show results ten years on, experts say

(via Cat Vincent)

Tent Cities Still Spreading Across the U.S.

Here in Portland we’ve had a squatter settlement called Dignity Village since long before the financial crisis in 2008. It was joined by a new downtown settlement last year. But I haven’t been hearing much about the tent cities that have sprung up in Sacramento and elsewhere since 2008.

The BBC confirms that not only have these not gone away, but they have actually been growing:

Tent cities have sprung up in and around at least 55 American cities – they represent the bleak reality of America’s poverty crisis.

According to census data, 47 million Americans now live below the poverty line – the most in half a century – fuelled by several years of high unemployment.

One of the largest tented camps is in Florida and is now home to around 300 people. Others have sprung up in New Jersey and Portland.

BBC: America’s homeless resort to tent cities

(via Acrylicist)

Interview with a Designer Drug Designer

drug structures

Last year Vice interviewed an anonymous chemist/ neuropharmacologist who invented a few new designer drugs similar to ketamine or PCP, most notably methoxetamine which is becoming increasingly popular. Sort of the Alexander Shulgin of disassociatives.

On the medicinal uses of ketamine:

I discovered a long time ago that ketamine and cannabinoids helped my phantom hand. I’m quite convinced these classes work by distorting body image so severely that you phase out triggers for the pain. I have experienced profound proprioceptive distortions after intramuscular PCP injection, as if my whole body were a proportional model of the sensory homunculus. But in a sense, what I feel is not hallucination or a distortion, I actually find dissociatives corrective, that is, they make the phantom disappear. This is not just an idiosyncratic response on my part; there are at least three articles published on the effectiveness of ketamine in treating phantom-limb pain. It’s dished out by British pain-management clinics for just that purpose in the form of a nauseatingly artificial lemon-flavored linctus. Needless to say, the whole lot of it gets squirted up the arse to bypass my taste buds, but even this has its drawbacks… like sticky, sugary bum cheeks!

On being hospitalized after going into a catatonic state while testing 3-MeO-PCP:

And what happened when you were released?

That was the final straw for my partner, and she said she would not sit idly by and watch me self-destruct. When I came home she was gone, Nesbitt was still dead, and all of the arylcyclohexylamines I had been researching had been confiscated and destroyed.

That’s really terrible. Alexander Shulgin always felt that the dissociatives had no use as psychotherapeutic drugs, and John Lilly found that even when you think the effects of ketamine have worn off there is a lingering undercurrent of dissociation that prevents you from reaching baseline.

And despite the fact that I knew all of that, I still ignored what should have been indicators that I was slipping. The arylcyclohexylamines light up too many of the reward systems in the brain, with the dopamine-reuptake inhibition, the NMDA antagonism, and the µ-opioid affinity. They lend themselves to abuse and escape to fantasy. I used to find myself raving about chemicals I had only tried once or twice, saying they were Huxley’s soma or moksha, or Polidamma’s Nepenthe. I’ve come to realize that dissociatives have a really dark side to them that classic serotonergic psychedelics don’t.

Vice: Interview with a Ketamine Chemist

See also:

Vice’s interview with Shulgin.

This interview with former Process Church of the Final Judgement member Timothy Wyllie where he talks about PCP.

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