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RAW Week: "I am not that kind of Libertarian, really; I don't hate poor people," by Tom Jackson

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I never met Robert Anton Wilson, but after reading him closely for years, I like to think I know him pretty well. When I went to college in the 1970s, I encountered Illuminatus!, and it had a greater effect upon me than anything I learned in class. It's impossible to minimize the impact the book had on inspiring a new generation of libertarians, although Wilson was hardly an orthodox libertarian. (He wasn't an orthodox anything). Once, summing up why he didn't vote for the 1980 Libertarian Party candidate, he explained, "I am not that kind of Libertarian, really; I don't hate poor people." The attitude of wonder and skepticism toward what we can know about the world in llluminatus! is at least as important as the politics.

Partly because of regret that I never got around to interviewing him or even meeting him when he was alive, I started my RAWIllumination.net a couple of years ago. Decades of heavy reading in all forms of fiction and nonfiction have convinced me that Wilson is a major American writer who has not received the attention he deserves. This crops up on all sorts of ways. Years before Dan Brown wrote his best seller, The Da Vinci Code, Wilson covered much the same ground in a much better book, The Widow's Son. With help from other Wilson fans, I have used RAWIllumination.net to make available articles by Wilson and interviews with him that were not reprinted in his books.

I did get to meet Illuminatus! co-author Robert Shea once, and I would point out that his "solo novels" also deserve attention; they are available in cheap Kindle editions and in free versions at the official Robert Shea site, maintained by his son, Mike Shea. All Things Are Lights, a fast-moving historical novel set in the time of Saint Louis, is a thematic prequel to Illuminatus! which I believe almost any reader would enjoy.

Fnord

FBI tells net cafe owners that TOR users might be terrorists

Icecube sez, "Are you concerned about your online privacy? Do you shield your laptop from view of others? Do you use various means of hiding your IP address? Do you use any encryption at all like PGP? That means you are probably a terrorist according to the FBI. These are just some of the activities that are suggested indicators of terrorism according to a flyer being distributed entitled 'Communities Against Terrorism' You can find a PDF version here entitled 'Internet Cafes'" Cory

Never change the oil in Michael Bay's car


[via Qt3]

Census record for "letter from an ex-slave" author?

@daveg appears to have found the census record for Jordan Anderson, author of the very arch and admirably sarcastic letter from a former slave to his former master I reposted the other day. Cory

Cora Holben, Chicago's "lady detective," run to ground


Paul Reda was taken with the above 1908 ad for Miss Cora Strayer's Private Detective Agency, which was posted to the most excellent Vintage Ads LiveJournal group. A Chicago history buff, he decided to delve into the life and times of Cora Strayer, and has fleshed out a fascinating, and often tragic, timeline of her extraordinary adventures.

1898 - Miss Cora Strayer is living at 3819 Wabash in Chicago. She lists her job as "Clerk."

1902 - The first ad for her detective agency appears! It's at 5453 W Lake - a 4-room apartment with $18 a month rent. The apartment is above a tavern that was consistently being raided by the cops for its illegal poker room and bookmaking operations.

Aug 1903 - Cora is profiled in the Chicago Tribune under the matter-of-fact headline "Woman Directs A Detective Bureau". In it she claims that she originally studied law and practiced as an attorney for several years.

1905 - The first big ad in the Chicago city directory, complete with photo! Cora has moved to 3104 Cottage Grove, and a George S. Holben is named as the "Supt. of the Criminal Dept." In 1903 Holben was involved in a robbery where his landlady accused him of drugging her and stealing $750 worth of diamonds. Several weeks later, the diamonds were still missing, but Holben was not prosecuted. I don't know if Holben was working for Cora yet when this all went down.

Apr 12, 1906 - Mahala Strayer dies at age 60. Her address is on Cottage Grove not far from Cora, so I assume her and Frank moved to Chicago at some point.

1907 - Cora is hired by a Mrs. Campbell who believes that a Mrs. Harris is writing fake letters in order to make it look like she is having an affair with Dr. Harris and so she may blackmail her. Cora takes Mrs. Harris on a trip to Milwaukee, gets her drunk on $150 of fine wines, and steals the letters when she is passed out. Turns out Mrs. Campbell and Dr. Harris actually were having an affair and he performed an abortion on her. Mr. Campbell eventually killed Dr. Harris.

Miss Cora Strayer's Private Detective Agency (Thanks, Dean Keyton!)

RAW Week Bonus: RAWing in the Rain, by Maja D'aoust

SnakebiteIt was raining hard and I came into work soaking wet.

My Dr. Martens had that darker sheen around the toes where the water had sunk into the petrol-resistant exterior. The smell of damp and of dusty books filled my nose as I prepared for another day of work at the library. It was 1995 in Seattle. The WTO had just formed, The Oklahoma bombing went down, and Grunge was slowly decaying in an acrid smoke after Kurt Cobain's suicide. It was then, on that day, Robert Anton Wilson entered my life.

I had just got in the building, which looked like a huge Viking ship, designed that way on account of all the Norwegians who took up residence in that particular part of town. I shook the rain off of my formidable, flaming red hair when, suddenly, I was vehemently tugged behind the stacks by my coworker.

He was thirty-ish, pagan, had a long blonde ponytail and a nose ring. We would often chat together about Egypt, witchy-poo stuff, and things like that.

"You should really check this book out, I think you would really like it," he said quietly as he handed me a corpulent tome. I looked down at it and saw a checkerboard cover with dolphins jumping over a pyramid with an eye on it. Oh boy, I thought to myself. Like I'm really going to read this obviously new age tedious thing that probably is filled with cheerful advice of how to align my chakras. I humored him politely, as all I wanted to do was take off my wet jacket (which was covered in Metallica patches), took the book and said "thanks, I totally will!" as I snuck past to put my coat in my cubby. Now, it's not that I was opposed to "new age" per se, but I was heavily into OCCULT material and was very snobby about it at the time. If it wasn't older than the 1800's I didn't give a snit about it.

I had just purchased the Hermetic works of Paracelsus, and all the froofy rainbow dolphin material made me cringe as I blasted my Soundgarden tapes on my Sony walkman while walking in the rain. So, I waited until my co-worker went in the back and stealthily snuck the girthy volume onto my cart of books to re-shelve whilst turning up the volume on my headphones. Upon approaching the shelf to replace the seemingly uncouth bundle back exactly in its proper Dewey decimal order, a book directly next to it caught my eye. The cover of this book looked not unlike the covers of some of my Heavy Metal comics, which I was very dedicated to at that point in my life. Prometheus Rising was written in airbrushed chrome lettering with a hermeticy looking fellow emerging from a robot. Now I was interested. I was also a huuuuuuge Frankenstein (the novel) fan, so anything with the word Prometheus in it instantly ignited me in affinity.

Read the rest

White House petition: fix copyright for 21st century libraries

Neal sez, "This is a White House petition to reform U.S. copyright law in regard to libraries. Due to DRM and other publisher restrictions, libraries have lost their first sale right for ebooks and other digital media. The current ability of libraries to purchase digital content to loan to patrons is largely at the whim and discretion of the various publishers. Some only allow libraries to purchase restricted copies that 'expire' after so many checkouts, others refuse to sell digital content to libraries at all. Libraries have long been equalizers. The rich and poor could both have access to the same information. The current digital landscape threatens this vital component of our education system and by extension our democracy. Read more in my column for American libraries." Cory

Man arrested for impersonating a traffic camera


[Video Link] His name is Rémi Gaillard and he's a well-known French prankster. (Via biotv)

BREAKING: Criminal wallpaper vandalism discovered in Los Angeles restaurant

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A depraved individual gouged out the eyes of all the animals on the wallpaper in the men's room of the Bollywood Cafe in Studio City, CA. And who colored in the gouges with ball point pen: the criminal (in an act of contrition), or the restaurant's owners, in an effort to repair the vandalism?

Ian Bogost: the sarcastic game dev and academic who gave us Cow Clicker

In Wired, Jason Tanz tells the bizarre, incredible tale of how Ian Bogost's satirical Facebook game "Cow Clicker" became an actual, successful game, despite being designed to show how incredibly stupid and pointless the FarmVille-style Facebook games of the day were. Cow Clicker stripped the FarmVille model to its barest bones: it presented you with a picture of a cow that you could click at fixed intervals. Your friends could also click the cow. You could buy fake money ("moola") and spend it to get extra clicks. Every click generated a Facebook update: "I'm clicking a cow." Those with the most-clicked cows appeared on a leaderboard.

Cow Clicker became a top-rated Facebook game, with tens of thousands of players.

The Cow Clicker description appears in a longer article about Bogost's provocative and curious career as a games academic and designer, which has seen him design games intended to simulate the boredom of staffing TSA checkpoints; sticking to a diet; working a hateful counter-service job at Kinko's, and growing produce faster than e. coli can contaminate it.

Bogost considers A Slow Year to be one of his most important works. And yet, in the months leading up to its publication, he found himself drawn to its evil twin, Cow Clicker. Initially, Bogost planned to launch Cow Clicker and let the game run its course. But now that people were actually playing it, he felt an obligation to sustain the experience. When his server melted under the unexpected demand, he was besieged by complaints until he signed up for a cloud-computing service to handle the load. Social-game developers, many of whom saw the game as good-natured ribbing, suggested ways to improve it: Let players earn mooney by clicking one another’s newsfeed updates, for instance, which would further encourage them to spam their friends. Bogost added the feature, which he called “click on your clicks.” He also added transparently stupid prizes—bronze, silver, and golden udders and cowbells—that people could win only by amassing an outlandish number of points. (A golden cowbell, for instance, requires 100,000 clicks.)

On one level, this was all part of the act. Bogost was inhabiting the persona of a manipulative game designer, and therefore it made sense to pull every dirty trick he could to make the game as sticky and addictive as possible. But as he grew into the role, he got a genuine thrill from his creation’s popularity. Instead of addressing a few hundred participants at a conference, he was sharing his perspective with tens of thousands of players, many of whom checked in several times a day. Furthermore, every time he made the game better, he received some positive bit of feedback—more players, a nice review, a funny comment on his Facebook page. Tweaking the game was almost like a game itself: Finish a task, receive a reward.

The Curse of Cow Clicker: How a Cheeky Satire Became a Videogame Hit (via JWZ)

"Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind" performed by Vashti Bunyan


[Video Link] Thanks Bedazzled for uploading this video of Vashti Bunyan singing "Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind," and thanks Amy Crehore for posting it!

"Survival" sewing kit


Design student Victoria Caswell created this "Boy Scout Survival Sewing Kit" that puts all the sewing essentials into a rugged, macho knife-roll-style package.

Student Work – Victoria Caswell (via Super Punch)

3-Minute Tour of the 2012 Art Shanty Projects


[Video Link] Like a 20-below Burning Man on ice. Fun! It's taking place until February 5 atop Medicine Lake, Plymouth, Minnesota. Learn all about it here.

Soviet pistol door handle


The "Bang Bang Handle" is a door-handle made from a 9 mm Makarov semi-automatic pistol ("the personal weapon of the Soviet and post-Soviet armed forces and law enforcement"). It was designed by Nikita Kovalev, who included a lot of detail about the Marakov in his documentation. Available in many colorful metallic platings.

bang-bang handle (via Geekologie)

UNC-Charlotte gets its own SWAT team

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Why does the University of North Carolina-Charlotte need a SWAT team? "Virginia Tech and Columbine," explains Lieutenant Josh Huffman of Campus Police.

Radley Balko, a journalist who covers the militarization of police, says:

Yes. Virginia Tech and Columbine. Now, let’s look at the numbers: Any given middle school, high school, or college in America can expect to have exactly one homicide on its campus every 12,000 years. So how long before the UNC-Charlotte SWAT team feels the need to justify its existence by expanding its mission? I predict they’re serving drug warrants and raiding frat houses within a year.
Congratulations, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, you now have your very own SWAT team.