Tagmutation vectors

Mutation Vectors: Speculative Geopolitics Edition

Status Update

I spent yesterday afternoon at Maker Faire volunteering at the Tesseract Design booth, where I was lucky enough to watch Crawford 3D scanning people and then printing out little plastic busts of them. Talk about a New Aesthetic experience. I also got to see a a real-life Flintstones car and a bunch of Tesla coils.

Spending today recovering from too much heat and not enough water, and catching up on some reading.

Browsing

“The current struggle for Scottish independence has about as much to do with the events depicted in Braveheart as America’s ongoing racial struggles have to do with the events depicted in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” writes Amanda Taub for Vox. In fact, the movie is outrageously historically inaccurate even by Hollywood standards. Fortunately, Taub also wrote a nice ‘splainer on the whole situation. Meanwhile, Quinn Norton puts it in context with other contemporary independence movements.

On a weirder note, China has been manufacturing islands in a bid to gain legitimate control over the South China Sea. M1k3y speculates that China could eventually become the first off-world power.

Elsewhere in hypothetical geopolitics: if Reddit were a country it would be a failed state.

And for a taste of something completely different, how about the Islamic roots of science fiction?

Watching

After binging through the entire new season of Trailer Park Boys, we just started the latest season of Channel 4’s Utopia which as I’ve mentioned was one of my favorite shows of last year.

Listening

Continuing the fequent Mutation Vectors motif of me finding out that one of my favorite bands has a new album out months after the fact, this week I found out that Bruxa who I raved about before put out a new album in July on a pay watcha want basis.

Apps

Mailpile, a web-based e-mail client that aims to balance security and usability, is now it beta. You can check out my story on them from back when they had just finished their crowdfunding here.

Mutation Vectors: Tech Hell Edition

office-space

Status Update

Up is down and down is up. That’s the default “natural” setting on my new MacBook Pro’s trackpad. As a long-time Windows and Linux user, I find that this perfectly sums up the entirety of the Apple experience for me thus far.

See below for my Apple and Linux rants for more on my current experience of tech-hell. But first, a run down of why Twitter has started to suck for many people.

Browsing

I’ve got a ton of stuff in Pocket for reading, perhaps over the weekend, but I don’t have much for you today. But I did really enjoy’s Alan Jacob’s sequence of posts on the state of Twitter, which hits many of my own issues with the Twitter right now, and a few others besides:

I’m not so famous or female that I get inundated with harassment on my timeline, but I do find myself yearning for more granularity in terms of what I see and share.

Many of my friends are nostalgic for Live Journal, which did indeed do a good job of providing that granularity. But I’d hazard a guess that most of us have far more connections on Twitter and Facebook today than we did on LiveJournal in, say, 2005. That makes trying to deal with grouping friends a much more daunting task, especially if you’re starting with a big list of basically everyone you know and need to figure out which groups to put each person in.

Today Google Plus and Facebook offer similar features for publishing posts visible only to only pre-defined groups of people, but I don’t know how widely used they are. And the hassle of trying to categorize a couple-few hundred people into neat groups is a big part of what keeps me from bothering with those features.

Still, if we were able to share stuff on Twitter based on Lists (remember those?), maybe that would be something. Though I’m not sure I’d be willing to spend the time to make a bunch of new lists — I pretty much gave up on that idea back in 2010 or 2011 when Twitter hid that functionality and us worry that it would go away entirely.

Which is another part of the problem: we have no idea which new Facebook or Twitter features will stick around more than a couple months. Why spend time getting used to something when some A/B tester might say “hey, this feature isn’t getting enough traction, let’s hide it to stream line the interface and move those engineering resources elsewhere”?

The indie web can potentially help solve the disappearing feature problem (though most of us will still be at the mercy of what the developers of the software we depend on decide to do). But it could also make granularity more difficult, at least without some widely adopted decentralized authentication system.

(Or we could all just start multiple different e-mail newsletters…)

Watching

On brighter note: season 8 of The Trailer Park Boys just hit Netflix!

Listening

On a darker note, in a good way: Earth’s new album Primitive and Deadly is out!

Continue reading

Muation Vectors: As the World Melts

Greenland is melting

Status Update

I feel like I’ve gotten my task list under control, and words of flowing more freely from my fingertips once again. I mean, there’s always still more to do and to write than I ever possibly could, but at least I no longer feel crushed by the weight of it all. But it’s only a matter of time until I get stuck on something, fall behind, and this whole cycle starts over again.

Browsing

I spent more time writing than reading this week, but I do have a must read for you: Willie Osterweil’s “In Defense of Looting.” Whether you agree or disagree with Osterweil, I think you’ll find quite a bit to think about. Here’s a taste:

The mystifying ideological claim that looting is violent and non-political is one that has been carefully produced by the ruling class because it is precisely the violent maintenance of property which is both the basis and end of their power. Looting is extremely dangerous to the rich (and most white people) because it reveals, with an immediacy that has to be moralized away, that the idea of private property is just that: an idea, a tenuous and contingent structure of consent, backed up by the lethal force of the state. When rioters take territory and loot, they are revealing precisely how, in a space without cops, property relations can be destroyed and things can be had for free.

Elsewhere:

Meanwhile, as we fight amongst ourselves the White Walkers are coming Greenland is melting (more info).

Watching

Upstream Color

  • I finally saw Upstream Color, the second film by Primer director Shane Carruth, which came out last year but I didn’t find out about until recently. I can’t say that I liked it, but I still found it worth watching. It’s on Netflix streaming if you want to watch it too.
  • Orphan Black season 2

Reading

Relaxing Into Your Being by Bruce Frantzis.

Listening

I haven’t been listening to much this week. Feel free to recommend me some stuff.

Mutation Vectors 8/24/2014

Spare's_Portrait_of_the_Artist

You can bury your head in old books, but the world will find its way to you somehow. Ferguson is one of those things that found it’s way in. In the past two weeks it’s gone from a story about white fear to one about the militarization of the police to one about the countless ways America has failed black people.

Of course, we keep having this conversation again and again and not much seems to change. Ta-Nehisi Coates is worth reading on this, as is his epic “The Case for Reparations,” which chronicles the long history of this country using and abusing black people. And it’s not just the U.S. having this conversation again and again, as Laurie Penny makes clear in her piece comparing the shooting of Michael Brown to that of Mark Duggan, which set of the riots in London in 2011. Yet, for some reason I have a strange sense of optimism that things are gonna change this time.

Meanwhile, where are presidential hopefuls on this? Rand Paul, to his credit, wrote an editorial for Time about the militarization of the police and even decried racial inequality in the justice system, but as far as I know hasn’t yet visited Ferguson. But where the Democrats? Matthew Yglesias ‘splains that Hillary Clinton refuses to comment on the issue because she doesn’t have a good primary challenger. But I think the bigger problem is that it’s not really advantageous for any Democratic primary candidate to rock this particular boat. A primary challenger might be able to use Ferguson to score some points in the primary, but then in the general they run the risk of being branded a radical anti-white crusader and lose critical independent votes in critical swing states. I mean, it’s not exactly as if Clinton, or whoever gets the nomination, is really in danger of losing many votes to a guy who employed and co-authored a book with a neo-confederate. It’s part of the good cop/bad cop routine that the two major parties play. (And of course it works both ways — if you’re conservative, then the Republicans, generally, are the good cops and the Democrats are the bad cops.)

The arrests in Ferguson and the death of James Foley have left me, as a journalist, feeling bad that I’m doing such safe work. But Ryan Schuessler left Ferguson because too many journos were being assholes. There’s a lot to unpack there that ties into other thoughts and feelings I have about the professional of journalism, but that will have to wait.

Reading

Austin Osman Spare: The Occult Life of London’s Legendary Artist

Listening

I haven’t been listening to much music lately, but when I have it’s usually been Coil. Stuff from throughout their career, but one that particular caught my ear recently is Black Antlers, which I hadn’t listened to much before.

Mutation Vectors 8/2/2014

As I’ve mentioned before, when things get quiet on Technoccult it’s usually because I’m struggling to keep up with my day-to-day work. And I have been lately, but I do feel like I’m back on top of things, at least for a moment.

Still, I don’t have a lot of media to share. Part of that is because I’ve been busy, and part of it is that I’ve been recoiling in disgust from both general news and tech news lately. I’ve been spending what little spare time I’ve had lately reading about ancient mythology and revisiting my interest in the history of that thing we call “magic.” Of course that’s escapism, but is there really anything wrong with that? (Neil Gaiman says no).

It seems like I’m not alone. Joshua Ellis writes: “everyone I know is brokenhearted.” This may have something to do with our particular social circles, but I’ve noticed this too.

Though it’s hard to say exactly how new a problem this is. After all, about 2,500 years ago, Prince Siddhartha got similarly fed up with the pain and suffering in the world and dropped out of life, became a Sramana monk and eventually founded Buddhism. He may never have existed, but there are a huge number of scriptures attributed to his teaching. Enough different ones, apparently, to justify genocide.

I refer of course to Jack Kornfield’s recent article on Burmese Buddhists attacks on the Muslim minority in their country. Kornfield doesn’t have much to say about the situation other than that it’s bad and that the Burmese don’t really understand the teachings of the Buddha, which sounds overly simplistic to me, but it’s still worth a read. (See also: Buddhism is not a democracy movement).

Other stuff I’ve read lately:

Currently reading: Mockeries and Metamorphoses of an Aztec God: Tezcatlipoca, “Lord of the Smoking Mirror”

Mutation Vectors 7/5/2014

shrooms

Mutation Vectors is a weekly rundown of my media diet, and occasionally other other random thoughts.

Sorry I missed last week, but I was busy getting ready for my presentation on Tarot at the Weird Shift Store Front. And speaking of the storefront, I actually have an interactive noise-art installation piece there now until the end of the month. I’ll do another post with some more details once I have a photo.

Journalism

In no particular order, a few things I thought were worth reading:

I also really liked Joanne McNeil’s “Tiny Letters to the Web We Miss,” on the recent e-mail newsletter trend. I have a TechCrunch column in the works on the topic, so I won’t say anything more for now.

Of my own stuff, check out my article on why security software is so hard to use.

TV

Watching the new season of Louie.

Music

I was bummed to hear Death Grips, who I featured last time, have apparently broken up.

Also, as I just pointed out, my most recent Psychetect album is now a “pay what you will” album. Feel free to grab it for free from Bandcamp.

Mutation Vectors 6/21/2014

Jason Leopold

Mutation Vectors is a weekly rundown of my media diet, and occasionally other other random thoughts.

Journalism

This week’s must read: There is nothing you must read this week. Feel free to take the weekend off. But if you must read something, I liked Matter’s profile of journalist Jason Leopold. I also like Rusty Foster’s thoughts on the New York Times, the Washington Post and Mozilla trying to to fix online comments in this Daily Dot story:

What they want is “community ownership”—a large group of people with a sense of investment in the community, around the NYT or the Post or whatever. But the only way to do that is to give up a lot of control to the community, and I don’t think what has to be done to really build community ownership is compatible with the mission of a news organization. Essentially the NYT should not be Reddit. The NYT, just by being what it is, already is a million times more valuable to humanity than Reddit—becoming Reddit is not the way forward. […]

Social media ate all of that up, which in my opinion is a good thing. Social media tools turn out to be far better at conversation around media than anything any web site ever built. Social media works because people organize their conversations around people, not media properties. I have my group of friends, and we talk about NYT articles, and Vox articles, and whatever. I don’t want to have separate communities at each of those places.

Of my own stuff this week, I have to say I had fun profiling Metasploit.

Music

Books

I recently finished two books I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t read before: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin and The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester. I’m reading Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim right now.

Mutation Vectors 6-14-2014

The Racism Beat

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

Twitter

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.

Journalism

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:

Music

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 6/8/2014

Stratfor

Journalism

My favorite things of the week were probably David Graeber’s essay on Thomas Picketty and why capitalism isn’t going to tame itself, and Thomas Frank’s interview with Graeber about bullshit jobs, the divide between anarchists and socialists on work ethic and why the working class resents middle class liberals.

But surveillance was, as it often is, the big theme of the week. For the one year anniversary of the publication of the first of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, superstar investor and Netscape co-founder Marc Andresseen, told the world that he thinks Snowden is a traitor. Rusty Foster then told the world that he thinks Andreeseen is a douchebag. But also recognizes that there’s a douchebag living inside his own head:

When I see Marc Andreessen, what I’m really seeing is this liar in my soul. It knows I always had a leg up, it knows I went to private school, I never had to conform to anyone else’s schedule, I never had to work as hard as anyone else, I always skated by on a good vocabulary and a plausible excuse. It knows all this but it doesn’t care, because it still believes that I’m special anyway, innately, not just that I got to live life on the easy setting and that I happened to be dropping out of college right when the internet came along to support my lazy ass.

Perhaps also in recognition of the NSA leaks anniversary, Vodaphone revealed that it has secret wires into its networks that allow intelligence agencies in various companies tap right in and listen to and record conversations, or collect metadata.

Speaking of phone companies, telcos are astroturfing opposition to the idea of regulating them like utilities, even though they like being thought of as utilities when it benefits them.

And remember the Stratfor hack? It turns out it was orchestrated by Hector “Sabu” Monsegur while he was an FBI informant. So were a bunch of major hacks in Brazil. The FBI could have stopped all of this stuff from happening, but thought it would be better to give the hackers it was watching enough rope to hang themselves, damn the consequences.

Returning to Snowden for a moment: the dude has said that encryption still works. And PGP is probably the best way to encrypt your e-mail. So this week Google released the code for a Chrome plugin that should make it easier to use PGP in the browser, but Ella Saitta explained why that might not be a good thing. One of the reasons was paraphrased by L. Rhodes on Twitter: Google might end up doing to crypto what they did to RSS.

Also from me this week on things that might actually be bad, maybe dumping a bazillion new devices into the environment isn’t such a good idea. But if you must make an Internet of Things thing, maybe you should use Contiki.

Flashback of the week: Generation U by Jason Lubyk, the inspiration for my term “Urchin Economy.”

Television

This week I watched all six episodes of Nathan Barley for the first time. It’s sort of like Portlandia if Portlandia took place in Hackney and was actually funny.

Other

I went to Evan Meaney‘s presentation on glitches and hauntology at Weird Shift, which gave me plenty to think about. A PDF of his standard talk is here and he has a paper here.

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.

Film

THELMA AND LOUISE

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.

Music

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.

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