Tagmedia diet

Mutation Vectors 6-14-2014

The Racism Beat

Mutation Vectors is a weekly rundown of my media diet, along with other random thoughts.


I started a Twitter sabbatical this week. I gave someone the passwords to both the klintron and techn0ccult accounts, had her change them and promise not to give my access back until July 10. I don’t want to write a lot about why I did it, or what’s like living a month without Twitter or whatever. Let’s just leave it at this: I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by media inputs, and Twitter has started to feel like more of source of aggrevation and distraction than a place that I can keep up with friends and colleagues or find links or information that I wouldn’t find elsewhere. So it’s time for a break. I’ll come back to it with fresh eyes next month and decide what I want do with it then.


This week’s must read is “The Racism Beat” by Cord Jefferson. Snippet:

For several years, I made my unofficial beat the stories, struggles, and politics of blacks in America. I wrote about other things, also, but never with the same frequency or interest. I was pretty good at it, and, more than that, I enjoyed it. Eventually, people began to assume that I’d comment when a particular kind of news story bubbled up—generally one about something bad happening to a black person—and I often times would. I wasn’t surprised when a website I liked asked me to write about the case of a white man of little note in New Hampshire calling a hugely powerful black man a “nigger.” But then I realized I didn’t have anything to say.

Or maybe it wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say. Maybe it was the realization that writing anything would be to listlessly participate in the carousel ride: an inciting incident, 1,000 angry thinkpieces, 1,000 tweeted links, and back to where we started, until next time. Perhaps it was a feeling that writing anything would finally be too redundant to bear, a pursuit of too many sad and obvious words to heap onto so many other nearly identical words written down before, by me, by thousands of others.

I read Felix Salmon’s entire interview with Huffington Post and Buzzfeed co-founder Jonah Peretti, and it was worth it evem though he didn’t talk about Deleuze and Guattari. I hadn’t realized how tightly knit Eyebeam and the NYC startup seen was back in the mid-00s. The thing is, though, this article is hella long — Medium estimates it will take 91 minutes to read — and it’s sorta inside baseballish. So if you’re not willing to commit that much time, Nielsen Journalism Lab has a few choice excerpts.

In a much quicker read, Alexis Madrigal points out that most of the hot new journalism startups — like Vox, FiveThirtyEight, Circa, etc. — are focused on how they cover the news, not what they cover. He concludes: “I will say that it seems absurd to say that we need some more publications that are about something. But that’s where we’re at.” My prediction? We’re in for lots of “vertical” publications out of these startups next years.

OK, I think that’s enough media about the media for this post. In other news, scientists say cool kids turn into loser adults. I wonder exactly how the researchers identified which kids were “cool” and/or populor. But more importantly, how can you actually sell kids on this research? I mean, what sort of dork cares about what their life is going to be like when they’re 22? (See also: Rethinking Bullying).

More, more more:


I’ve been listening to the new Atari Teenage Riot album all week.

Also: Buckethead: Day of the Robot, Comets on Fire: Avatar, Suuns: Images du Futur, Merzbow and Jamie Saft: Merzdub, Zomby: Where Were U in ’92?.

Mutation Vectors 5/31/2014

Laurie Penny is at it again with another must-read this week the European Parliment and creeping fascism. Key line: “Perhaps the greatest trick the Devil ever played was to convince the world that he was really boring.”

Penny wrote that for Vice, which Gawker says is a really shit place to work. In response to the accusations, Vice says “fuck you,” but doesn’t exactly say the article wrong about how much the company pays, only that the salaries are “competitive.” Which doesn’t really mean much in a market where Gawker itself only pays new writers $1,500 a month and is being sued by unpaid interns.

But really, pretty much every media company these days is using tabloid clickbait garbage to subsidize its “real journalism.” But that’s a cold comfort to the people forced to survive by grinding out listicles for subsistence wages, as Paul Ford reminds us in a piece on Medium about the absurdity of viral content farms. You know, like Medium.

And over at renowned content farm The Atlantic Choire Sicha — who founded The Awl, where you can watch bear videos and read about the life and times of ¯\_(?)_/¯ — says the internet basically sucks now but is also amazing.

Oh well, at least Buzzfeed is run by some weird Deleuzian dude. Maybe the whole thing is some Accelerationist plot to make capitalism eat itself faster?

Aaaaannnnyyyyway, my favorite thing I read this week was David Forbes’ piece on the history of Grinding. My favorite thing of my own was my story on Transgress, a tool for routing around the online censorship of information about transgender issues.



I watched Thelma and Louise for the first time this week. I can’t imagine this movie being made today. Which reminds me, you should also read Jacqueline Valencia’s essay on on the need for more lonely women in film. Not that Thelma and Louise is exactly the type of movie she’s talking about, but it reminded me of Falling Down which reminded me of her article.


This week I saw Cult of Zir (above), Alien Parkinsons Project and Sister Mamie Foreskin play at the Lovecraft. The rest of Zir’s show is here.

I’d never heard Sister Mamie Foreskin before but I really dug them. They’re sort of in the same vein as The Soft Moon or maybe Comets on Fire. Their new album is here.

Mutation Vectors 5/10/2014

You Can Run But You Can't Hide

I’m in Des Moines this weekend, writing this over bad hotel coffee and posting via hotel wifi, so this is going to be a quick one.


This week I sounded off on Twitter about how journalism and blogging has colonized my brain, making it difficult for me to tell what I’m really interested in anymore. I think it came off more self-pitying than I meant, when really I just find it sort of puzzling. It’s probably a mistake to even think in terms of what I “really” want to read. But here’s an example: was I interested in this article on DIY transcranial direct current stimulation because I really care about the topic, or because I thought immediately “that’s a perfect story for Technoccult”?

I’d love to take a few months off work and blogging and just see where my interests gravitate if I’m not trying to cover particular beats for particular audiences. But that’s not gonna happen.

All that said, I did find some time to catch-up on some long reads while stranded at DFW for like eight hours yesterday. I’m pretty sure I found all of this interesting:



Strip Her” by Amanda Sledz.

Mutation Vectors 5/3/2014

After posting this, I decide to rename it from Media Diet to Mutation Vectors because it sounds cooler



Hey, look it’s a new week already and once again I haven’t posted any new articles here on Technoccult. You can always tell when I’m having trouble meeting my deadlines for work by the dearth of posts here.

This week’s must read is Betsy Haibel’s epic article about the technology industry’s utter disregard for getting your consent to do… well almost anything. Companies will sign you up for spam e-mails, let people tag you in photos, gather your location information and so much more — and it’s all opt-out, not opt-in.

The article was published by Model View Culture, which publishes lots of “must read” articles critiquing the tech industry.

Speaking of the tech industry, my friend and Mindful Cyborgs co-host Alex Williams launched a site this week called The New Stack, all about the technology behind the technology that we use today. I’m doing a series of guest posts there on the history of this so-called new stack to figure out what, if anything, is actually new about it. The first one is a history of scale-out architecture. If that puts you to sleep, don’t worry. It’s geeky even by my standards. You might be more interested in reading Curt Hopkins’ articles “New Tech Needed to Stop Train Crashes” and “Drones Muster Out and Head for Wine Country.” Curt’s an amazing writer, I wish I could write half as well as him, or at least think up story ideas as good as his.

Elsewhere on the web, Jon Evans thinks technology may destroy capitalism. Well, you know I’d be down, though of course I always worry that we’ll end up with something worse than capitalism. But I’m also not so sure what we’re seeing happening is going to displace capitalism. After all the sharing economy is anything but. And while I am hoping for what Jon calls the low-scarcity future, I fear that climate change, ocean acidification and peak soil may lead to even more scarcity. The Windup Girl is a frighteningly plausible scenario (see last week’s Media Diet).

While we’re waiting to find out what happens to capitalism, Seattle is considering raising its minimum wage to $15. Jordan Weissmann thinks higher minimum wages are a good thing, but worries that Seattle might be raising its wage too high too fast. I also rather like the idea of higher wages for America’s most disadvantaged works, but I would have to agree that going from $9.32 to $15 overnight might be a little too quick. But as Weissmann tells us at the end of his article:

To his credit, Murray’s is trying to implement the idea gradually. Under his proposal, businesses would have between three and seven years to phase in the new minimum, depending on their size and whether employees get health care coverage or tips. Through 2024, some businesses will also be able to count $3 worth of tips or benefits toward the $15 total. By introducing the change over time, the city will give businesses leeway to adjust, if they can.

Of course that still might not be enough time to absorb an almost 50% increase in wages, but kinda weird that he didn’t mention the timeline sooner.

It’s hard to find a job that pays more than minimum wage these days, and the ones you can find often really suck. Even the ones that are supposed to be good. For example, The Daily Beast says being a primary care physician really sucks. My dad’s a family practitioner and he says that article is right on the money. Also, it turns out that doctoring has surpassed dentistry in a ranking of the most suicide prone professions, at least among white males. (But marine engineers are the most suicidal of all.) Please don’t kill your self, Dad.

Ten thousand people still die of asbestos in the United States every year. That’s about the same number of people that were killed by gun violence last year. And yet we’re still using asbestos for some purposes, and even exporting to other countries. Mosiac has the dirt.

If you read Rusty Foster’s Today in Tabs, you’ve probably noticed I’m ripping off his style. I might continue to do that until I get back in the habit of posting links here on a more than weekly basis, and/or I find my own style. In the meantime, if you want to read a great, near daily thing sort of like this only better, check out Today in Tabs.




Everyone’s been recommending Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals, so this week I finally read the first issue, which I bought months ago. It was pretty good, but it didn’t really make me want to keep reading it. I’ll probably give it a couple more issues, though.

Today I wandered down to Floating World for free comics day. By the time I got there there just a few local indie comics left, which suited me just fine. I picked up Runner Runner # 3 from Tugboat Press, Courtney Crumrin # 1 from Oni and Barrio Mothes, which was co-published by like four different publishers, including Floating World. They all look great.

I also bought the Multiple Warheads collection by Brandon Graham and the Bartkira exhibition book, which looks amazing. If you want to know more about Bartkira, check out this interview and these two Tumblrs.

I’m really behind on reading comics, but then again, like Zack Soto:



Been catching up on Parks and Recreation this week. It’s also refreshing chaser to all the violent, nihilistic shows I watch.


I’m a big fan of an app called Freedom, which kills your internet connection for a set amount of time. The only way to get your connection back before the time is up is to restart your computer.

Unfortunately, it’s not yet available for Linux, and although it’s totally worth the $10, it would be nice if the source code were available. But free/open source software purists are in luck: there’s now a F/OSS alternative for Linux called ColettesHusband.

I hosed up my Linux Mint partition so I haven’t been able to test it yet. Looks like it’s a bash script that disables your ethernet and wifi drivers for a set amount of time. I’m not sure if it, like Freedom, will stop you from re-enabling the drivers manually without having to restart your computer.

BTW, a Linux version of Freedom is in beta, and the new version adds nifty new features like scheduling your disconnections in advance, so don’t count it out of the running yet.

Media Diet 4/26/2014

Hi everyone. I’ve decided to try doing a weekly round-up of what I’ve been reading, listening to and watching. I’m going to try to post it to the blog every Saturday, which means it will go out to the mailing list on Sundays. It probably won’t always be so long. We’ll see if I actually keep it up or not.


Kowloon Walled City

I usually post what I’ve read and found interesting lately to my Twitter account and/or here on Twitter, but apparently I didn’t find much of interest this week other than Jacob Kaplan-Moss’ takedown of Jeff Atwood’s perhaps well intentioned, but still pretty awful, post on what men can do about sexism in the industry.

I also read “Leftism and the Banausic Thinker: From Plato to Verso” by David Auerbach. TL;DR: Auerbach says leftist groups fixate on vaguely defined grand conspiracies like “neolibralism,” and tend to be more about forming cliques based perceived ideological purity than about getting shit done in their communities. Not exactly a new argument. A more interesting question, to me anyway, is whether the right is much different. The vast conspiracy angle is always there, be it communism, godlessness, or The Cathedral. But is there less in-fighting on the right? Is there anything to learn about solidarity from the right, or is all politics and activism doomed to pointless factionalism and the narcissism of small differences?

I was going to write for Wired about the FCC’s new proposed internet rules that would, apparently, do away with net neutrality, but we didn’t really end up having anything to add to the conversation. Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica, though, pointed out what a departure the reported proposal is from what the FCC has previously advocated, and Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOM got some details I haven’t seen anywhere else, including confirmation the original Wall Street Journal story that started this whole thing was accurate. (If you don’t know at all what I’m talking about, maybe start with the WSJ story).

Oh, and speaking of the WSJ, they are, oddly enough, hosting a website on the Kowloon Walled City. It’s exactly the sort of Flash-driven, pointlessly pseudo-interactive type of site that drives me nuts: music that autoplays, CPU-gobbling animations that add nothing to the stories, confusingly organized content. I haven’t started exploring it, but there’s probably some interesting stuff in there.

Even though I co-host one, I don’t really listen to podcasts. I’m not sure to fit them into my life now that I hardly ever drive. But I wanted to mention that Justin Picard and Georgina Voss started a podcast about design, futurism and high weirdness called Gin and Innovation that has guests like Deb Chachra, Scott Smith and Eleanor Saitta.


I recently finished reading The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. I liked it, though sometimes the dense prose got in the way of the story telling, and the female parts are at best underdeveloped and at worst, well, bad. But there’s brilliant world building here and some challenging characters. Bacigalupi also published two short stories set in this world, which I haven’t read yet: “The Calorie Man” and “Yellow Card Man,” both of which you can find for free on his website.


I thought this little web comic by Steve Schaberg was great:

Street Gang by Steve Schaberg

Read the whole thing.

I’m way behind on my comics reading, but I’ve been thinking about how series like Sandman, The Invisibles and Transmetropolitan really represented their respective zeitgeists in some way. They were just so plugged into cultural currents.

So I asked on Twitter which contemporary ongoing creator owned series was the most zeitgeisty. My candidates were: Zero, The Movement, The Private Eye, Prophet, Saga and Templar, Arizona. I’ve not actually read any Saga yet, so I’m not actually sure about it, and though Prophet feels really “now” for some reason, it’s not exactly plugged into contemporary cultural trends. And I hadn’t realized that The Movement has been cancelled.

The crowdsourced recommendations were: COPRA (which I’ve mentioned here before), Lazarus, Manhattan Projects … and even though it’s not creator owned, a couple people mentioned Hawkeye (actually, neither is Prophet, really, nor was Sandman). Of these, I’ve only read COPRA and the first few issues of Hawkeye.

Television and Films:

Electrick Children

I’ve not been watching many new movies lately, but a couple months ago I watched Electrick Children on Netflix and liked it. It’s one of those films where the acting and execution carry a weakly developed plot.

I’m catching up season five of Justified right now.



Weirdly, I’ve not been listening to much music at all lately. Not since December, when The Soft Moon (I prefer their first album) and Chrome (who put out a lost tracks compilation last year) were in heavy rotation.

According to Last.fm, Gridlock and Zomby are about the only things I’ve listened to in the last three months.

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