As Technoccult will be no more, I just wanted to thank Klint and our readers for this great experience. I’ll still be posting my links, articles, and interviews on my LJ for those who’d like to read them. Again, many thanks to Klint and to our regular readers, and I wish everyone the best of luck in their future endeavors.


Attention Under Siege: An Interview with Author Maggie Jackson

“In his masterwork, Flow, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi tells us that the two major components affecting our ability to control and direct our mental resources are time and attention.

On the first, time, most of our verdicts are the same: we don’t have enough of it.  In the case of the second, however, the analysis is murkier. While we can all agree that there are a multitude of demands on our attention, it’s not exactly clear whether this is good, bad or neutral. Some would say, for instance, that the attention dividing practice of multitasking is an essential skill for being successful, while others claim that multitasking is a widespread cultural myth; something we aren’t capable of no matter how hard we try.

Maggie Jackson has taken a position in the core of controversy with her book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, in which she argues that our ability to focus attention is facing colossal challenges which we will either manage to meet, or risk falling into a cultural black hole.  She recently spent some time with Neuronarrative discussing the science behind attention, whether we can train ourselves to be more focused, and what she believes we must do to avert an attention deficit “dark age.”

(via Neuronarritive)

Apocalypse Jukebox: The End is Near, There and Everywhere

“It has long been well established that gospel music was one of the main ingredients in the original rock ‘n’ roll stew. Yet it must be emphasized that the particular gospel style that most influenced the founders and forefathers of rock was as much on the fringes of the musical mainstream as the religious views of groups like the Millerites were from the norms of biblical interpretation. Everyone knows, for instance, that Elvis was in large part formed by gospel and that gospel music is a significant part of the Elvis canon. There is a vast difference, however, between the style of gospel upon which Elvis drew to help create the rock blueprint and the gospel records, based within a more mainstream tradition, he made later in his career.“How Great Thou Art” is not a rock ‘n’ roll urtext; the premillennial musical expressions of sects such as the Holy Rollers is.

In his definitive biography of Elvis, Peter Guralnick tells the story of how Elvis and his girlfriend Dixie would sneak out of their all-white “home” church during Sunday service in order to experience the ecstatic service of the black church down the street. There, Elvis would have heard Reverend Brewster, whose sermons were also broadcast on the radio, deliver the apocalyptic “theme that a better day was coming, one in which all men could walk as brothers.” Yet even if Elvis did not pick up on that message, which is doubtful, it is obvious that he was directly influenced by the “exotic” and ecstatic music of such soul stirrers as Queen C.Anderson and the Brewsteraires, the church soloists. His first audiences did not fail to make this connection.”

(via Pop Matters)

Hunter S. Thompson and His Gonzo Tapes

We still aren’t entirely sure about Hunter S. Thompson. His personal life has certainly been exhumed, er, to death, thanks to the post-suicide cottage industry of biographies, personal reminiscences and documentaries that have sprung up like dandelions around a gravestone. We do know, for example, that Thompson was a philanderer and a mean drunk on occasion, and that he had trouble setting things down on paper as the years progressed and substance abuse clouded his beautiful mind. And yet when it comes to the work itself — that half-mad hybrid of sharp reportage and venomous rhetoric — mysteries still abound.

When discussing his own creative process, Thompson could be very cagey indeed. For years, readers have speculated about the fact-vs.-fiction conundrum that lies at the heart of 1971’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Doug Brinkley, Thompson’s friend and executor of the author’s estate, has in the past referred to the book as a novel. In his movie adaptation, Terry Gilliam literalized the book’s beastly hallucinations and turned Thompson’s terrifying thought-dreams into a kind of Tex Avery nightmare. When I interviewed Thompson in 2002, he danced around the subject of factual accuracy with digressive charm, a familiar feint whenever someone tried to dig into the marrow of his most famous works.

But for years there have been murmurings about a skeleton key: cassette tapes, thousands of them, that would unlock the mystery and allow us to tease out the truth from Thompson’s Boschian mind trips. Alex Gibney received permission from the Thompson estate to use the tapes for his documentary Gonzo, the best and most insightful Thompson documentary by a wide margin. And now we have The Gonzo Tapes, a companion box set that contains hours of the cassettes spread across five CDs. For anyone but the most fervent Thompson heads, The Gonzo Tapes is a mighty tough trawl. The fidelity of the recordings, which span the years 1965 to 1975, is truly crappy, and given that Thompson often liked to play records in the background while recording, it sometimes takes a Herculean effort to discern what the hell is going on. You have to lean in a bit to catch the nuggets.

(via LA Weekly: Hunter S. Thompson and His Gonzo Tapes

(via Professor Hex)

Anger Problems: How Blogs and Emails Make Them Worse

“The proliferation of blogs and emails may be partially responsible for the increase in anger of recent years. We can learn a lot about the emotions that motivate many blogs and emails, as well as reactions to them, from, believe it or not, a few observations of animals.

Anger, for instance, is the fight part of the primitive fight/flight/freeze response common to all mammals. It functions primarily to protect self and juvenile offspring from harm. Activation of the fight/flight/freeze response requires a dual perception of threat and vulnerability. Animals respond to lesser threats with greater anger, fear, or submission (freeze) when they are wounded, starving, sick, or recently traumatized.

The activation of fight over flight/freeze is determined by the annihilation potential of the threat. A raccoon will ferociously fight a rat to defend her newborn pups but not a cougar. Thus more anger is observed in powerful animals, which tend to be predatory. Powerful animals use anger to defend and acquire territory and resources, thereby reducing threats to the survival of self and juvenile offspring.

Social animals have to make choices about where to go, who gets to eat what and mate with whom, and when all these things happen. They must develop some kind of executive function to make necessary choices as a group. Most social animals, including humans, answer this challenge by organizing into a hierarchy, in which individuals achieve rank. Ascending up the hierarchy increases status, along with access to resources, with most of both bestowed on a chief executive, i.e., alpha males or matriarchs. (Really, this is leading to blogs and emails!)”

(via Psychology Today)

Underwater Stones Puzzle Archeologists

Underwater archeology at work

“Forty feet below the surface of Lake Michigan in Grand Traverse Bay, a mysterious pattern of stones can be seen rising from an otherwise sandy half-mile of lake floor. Likely the stones are a natural feature. But the possibility they are not has piqued the interest of archeologists, native tribes and state officials since underwater archeologist Mark Holley found the site in 2007 during a survey of the lake bottom.

The site recently has become something of an Internet sensation, thanks to a blogger who noticed an archeological paper on the topic and described the stones as “underwater Stonehenge.” Though the stones could signal an ancient shoreline or a glacial formation, their striking geometric alignment raises the possibility of human involvement. The submerged site was tundra when humans of the hunter-gatherer era roamed it 6,000 to 9,000 years ago. Could the stones have come from a massive fishing weir laid across a long-gone river? Could they mark a ceremonial site? Adding to the intrigue, one dishwasher-size rock seems to bear an etching of a mastodon.”

(via The Chicago Tribune)

Improved method for comparing genomes as well as written text

“Taking a hint from the text comparison methods used to detect plagiarism in books, college papers and computer programs, University of California, Berkeley, researchers have developed an improved method for comparing whole genome sequences. With nearly a thousand genomes partly or fully sequenced, scientists are jumping on comparative genomics as a way to construct evolutionary trees, trace disease susceptibility in populations, and even track down people’s ancestry.

To date, the most common techniques have relied on comparing a limited number of highly conserved genes – no more than a couple dozen – in organisms that have all these genes in common. The new method can be used to compare even distantly related organisms or organisms with genomes of vastly different sizes and diversity, and can compare the entire genome, not just a selected small fraction of the gene-containing portion known to code for proteins, which in the human genome is only 1 percent of the DNA.

The technique produces groupings of organisms largely consistent with current groupings, but with some interesting discrepancies, according to Sung-Hou Kim, professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley and faculty researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. However, the relative positions of the groups in the family tree – that is, how recently these groups evolved – are quite different from those based on conventional gene alignment methods.The computational results have surprised scientists in being able to classify some bacteria and viruses that until now were enigmatic. The technique, which employs feature frequency profiles (FFP), is described in a paper to appear this week in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

(via UC Berkley News. Thanks Josh!)

Anton LaVey – Art Incarnate – 25 years Illustrated in Ink

“Looking for a darker twist to candy conversation hearts? This Valentine’s Day, love for art and the occult come together for the historical first showing of 13 hand-selected original illustrations by Anton LaVey, the enigmatic founder of the Church of Satan and author of The Satanic Bible, at Art & Mayhem Gallery in Los Angeles.

A rare glimpse into this private collection, comes courtesy of Anton’s grandson, LA promoter and provocateur, Stanton LaVey. A secret collection, quietly kept by Stanton’s grandmother and Church of Satan co-founder, Diane LaVey for the last 49 years, is likely the most complete of Anton LaVey’s illustrated works.

The show, “Anton LaVey – Art Incarnate – 25 Years Illustrated in Ink” will feature 13 never before seen hand-drawn illustrations meant for the published works The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Witch. The original artwork will only grace the walls of the gallery on opening and closing nights, with prints available for viewing for the remainder of the show. Limited edition prints will also be available for purchase. Since the show announcement, Marilyn Manson acquired an original from LaVey and KORN frontman and collector of all things dark, Jonathan Davis, is perusing the collection.”

Stanton Z. LaVey Presents

“Anton LaVey – Art Incarnate – 25 Years Illustrated in Ink”

February 14th – March 13th, 2009

Opening Night Artist Reception: Feb. 14th, 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Closing Night Artist Reception: Mar. 13th, 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Art & Mayhem Gallery, 3416 Glendale Blvd., L.A., 90039
(323) 666.7731 Gallery Hours: Thurs. – Sat. 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

(Art & Mayhem site. Thanks Sara!)

Kyle Newman: Fanboys

“With the Star Wars saga officially wrapped up with Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, fans will seek out any remaining sliver of that galaxy far, far away on screen. The Clone Wars animated movie gave them a little bit of light drone lasering action, but what really caught their attention was Kyle Newman’s Fanboys.

Set in 1998, the film tells the story of four friends who learn that one of their number has terminal cancer, and will die before he gets to see the long-awaited Star Wars prequel, Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Thus the gang scheme to break into Skywalker Ranch and steal a rough cut. This celluloid tribute to Star Wars fandom was supposed to hit theaters in August 2007, but distributor The Weinstein Company thought they could turn it into a bigger event. They hired Steven Brill to reshoot scenes with more dirty jokes and nudity, and removed that downer cancer bit. After news of the new version leaked, a grassroots online rebellion was mounted, spearheaded by a group called Stop Darth Weinstein who helped get Newman reinstated to deliver his version of the film, albeit two years later.

The saga wasn’t all bad for Newman. He met his wife, Jaime King, on the film. She plays a Las Vegas escort who plays Jedi mind tricks with one of the boys. The online support from fans who just wanted to see the original version also warmed his heart. However, the morning of his press junket in Beverly Hills, Newman was already visibly exhausted. The day was just beginning, but the journey to bring Fanboys to the screen was nearly over. All he had to do was keep his posture up on the sofa and answer questions about Weinstein as diplomatically as possible.”

(via Suicide Girls. Thanks Nicole!)

The Archaeology of Vinyl


“Over the recent Christmas season, my 21-year-old deejay nephew flipped through the large collection of vinyl LPs from the sixties, seventies, and eighties now shelved in our basement. Many is the time when I have privately cursed that collection, hauling heavy boxes of vinyl up and down steep flights of stairs on moving days. But my husband steadfastly refused to sell or pitch out anything—from the Dukes of Stratosphear to the Stranglers—and now I’m rather glad that he did. We now have a miniature museum of sound from the sixties, seventies, and eighties, complete with original shrink wraps and a few Andy Warhol covers.

But what will future generations – particularly future archaeologists—make of the hundreds of thousands of tons of vinyl recordings that our civilization pressed in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries? I expect most of you have seen that clever Pepsi commercial set in the future, where a middle-aged archaeologist leads his Pepsi-drinking students through a split level ranch house as if it were a Roman villa, and is unable to identify a dusty glass bottle of Coca-Cola. What will future researchers make of our record collections?”

(via Archaeology Magazine)

(Related: “Digital Needle- A Virtual Gramophone” by Ofer Springer)

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