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Spain's pocket communist utopia, Marinaleda

Dan Hancox sez,

You may have heard about Spain's 'Robin Hood Mayor', Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo - who last week made global headlines after he led farm labourers into supermarkets to expropriate basic food supplies, which were then distributed to the massed ranks of the local unemployed (currently 34% in Andalusia).

The Spanish economic miracle has become a catastrophe; with a government whose cuts have pushed miners to armed conflict (firing home-made rocket launchers at riot police), an Economics Minister whose last job was director of the Spanish branch of Lehman Brothers, and a lost generation of 'indignados' with no homes, no work, and no faith in the system. And right in the middle of it all, Marinaleda, a self-described communist utopia led by the charismatic poet-rebel, Sánchez Gordillo: a town of landless labourers who for over 30 years since the death of Franco, have fought capitalism - and won. 'Utopia and the Valley of Tears' is their story, published this week. There is a short extract in The Guardian.

Utopia and the Valley of Tears: A journey through the Spanish crisis

The Dictator's Practical Guide to Internet Power Retention, Global Edition

The Dictator's Practical Guide to Internet Power Retention, Global Edition is a wry little 45-page booklet that is, superfically, a book of practical advice for totalitarian, autocratic and theocratic dictators who are looking for advice on how to shape their countries' Internet policy to ensure that the network doesn't loosen their grip on power.

Really, though, this is Laurier Rochon's very good critique of the state of Internet liberation technologies -- a critical analysis of what works, what needs work, and what doesn't work in the world of networked technologies that hope to serve as a force for democratization and self-determination.

It's also a literal playbook for using technology, policy, economics and propaganda to diffuse political dissent, neutralize opposition movements, and distract and de-politicize national populations. Rochon's device is an admirably compact and efficient means of setting out the similarities (and dissimilarities) in the Internet control programs used by Singapore, Iran, China, Azerbaijan, and other non-democratic states -- and the programs set in place by America and other "democratic" states in the name of fighting Wikileaks and piracy. Building on the work of such fierce and smart critics as Rebecca McKinnon (see my review of her book Consent of the Networked), The Dictator's Guide is a short, sharp look at the present and future of networked liberation.

Firstly, the country you rule must be somewhat "stable" politically. Understandably "stable" can be defined differently in different contexts. It is essential that the last few years (at least) have not seen too many demonstrations, protests questioning your legitimacy, unrest, political dissidence, etc. If it is the case, trying to exploit the internet to your advantage can quickly backfire, especially if you can't fully trust your fellow party officials (this is linked to condition #3). Many examples of relatively stable single-leader states exist if in need of inspiration, Fidel Castro's Cuba for example. Castro successfully reigned over the country for decades, effectively protecting his people from counter-revolutionary individuals. He appointed his brother as the commander in chief of Cuba's army and managed his regime using elaborate surveillance and strict dissuasive mechanisms against enemies of the state.[49] As is always the case, political incidents will occur and test your regime's resilience (the Bay of Pigs invasion or the missile crisis, for example), but even massive states have managed to uphold a single-party model and have adapted beautifully to the digital age - in China's case, despite close to 87 000 protests in 2005.[2] Follow these states' example and seek stability, no matter what your regime type is. Without it, you are jeopardizing the two next prerequisites and annihilating your chances to rule with the internet at your side. If you are in the midst of an important political transformation, busy chasing counter-revolutionary dissidents or sending your military to the streets in order to educate protesters, you will need to tame these fires first and come back to this guide afterwards.

The Dictator's Practical Guide to Internet Power Retention, Global Edition

Little face Mitt

Enjoy these unsettling pictures of Mitt Romney with a very tiny face.

HOWTO survive a DDoS attack

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a comprehensive, multi-lingual guide to keeping sites that are undergoing distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks alive.

Denial of service (DoS) and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are increasingly common phenomena, used by a variety of actors—from activists to governments—to temporarily or indefinitely prevent a site from functioning efficiently. Often, the attack saturates the target with server requests designed to flood its bandwidth, leaving the server unable to respond to legitimate traffic.

Though the owners of major sites often have the resources to fend off or even prevent such attacks, smaller sites—such as those belonging to small independent media or human rights organizations—are sometimes permanently disabled due to a lack of resources or knowledge.

This guide aims to assist the owners of such websites by providing advice on choosing an appropriate webhost, as well as a guide to mirroring and backing-up their websites so that the content can be made available elsewhere even if their site is taken down by a DoS or DDoS attack.

Keeping Your Site Alive

Ayn Rand as Paul Ryan's biographer

Paul Ryan's first day on the job, as written by Ayn Rand (as written by Bloomberg's Michael Kinsley): "Paul Ryan laughed. He stood naked on top of the vice president’s desk in the Senate chamber, scanning the crowd of sniveling politicians below him." (via Memex 1.1) Cory

Swiss Army Knife with animals instead of blades


Third year design student David Suhami made the "Animal Pocket Knife" for a studio course at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Tel Aviv. As he explained to Designboom, "the piece is made for adults who still enjoy playing with small objects. it combines the idea of a swiss army knife and a jungle safari in africa. the prototype is made from stainless steel to represent the current technology while the handles are made from fine tabebuia wood to symbolize the traditional craft."

Hell, I'd buy one and fidget for days with it.

david suhami: animal pocket knife (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Enthralling Books: Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

Here's my essay in a series of essays about enthralling books. See all the essays in the Enthralling Book series here. -- Mark


NewImageGone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

This twisted psychological suspense novel had me from the first page and I read it every spare moment I had until I finished it. It begins with a man named Nick's description of his morning on the day of his fifth wedding anniversary. Nick and Amy were once bon vivant magazine writers in New York, but the print media implosion put an end to their fun life, and for a variety of reasons ("Blame the economy, blame bad luck, blame my parents, blame your parents, blame the Internet, blame people who use the Internet") they end up in Carthage, Missouri with Nick running a dive bar (using the remainder of Amy's recently obliterated trustfund) with his sister Margo. Later that day, Amy disappears from their house, leaving behind signs of a struggle. The police, and TV viewers around the country, suspect Nick did it.

The second chapter is from Amy's diary, seven years before her disappearance, in which she giddily describes meeting the handsome and funny Nick at a party in Brooklyn.

The chapters alternate between Nick's account of his life after Amy's disappearance, and Amy's diaries entries leading up to the event. We see a happy relationship deteriorate over time. We also see signs of psychopathy and deceit start creeping in as the story unfolds. Since this is a suspense novel, things aren't necessarily what they seem (or are they?) and there are major twists and surprises along the way.

Even as a straight-ahead thriller, Gillian Flynn's novel succeeds with a tight plot that's rich but easy to follow. What made it extra enjoyable for me is Flynn's dark sense of humor, insight into relationships, cultural observations, and developed characters. As messed up as Flynn's characters are, they are believable, unpredictable (even to themselves) and complex, and that's what keeps things interesting. I've read other reviews of Gone Girl in which readers have complained that Amy and Nick are too unlikable to care about. I disagree. I care about them the same way I care about Breaking Bad's Walter White, Mad Men's Don Draper, and Tony Soprano: pathologically manipulative jerks who reveal a shred of humanity often enough that you can relate to them, especially since we all have some element of a dark side in us.

I also liked Amy’s rant about “cool girls.” Here's an excerpt:

Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl. Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men -- friends, coworkers, strangers -- giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them.”

Flynn's previous novels, Dark Places, and Sharp Objects, are queued up on my reading list.

Buy Gone Girl on Amazon

Adam Savage's toolbox

 Design Wp-Content Uploads 2012 08 Ts Savage F

BB pal Adam Savage of MythBusters liked using antique leather doctor's bags to hold his tools. But the bags couldn't handle the 50+ pounds of tools that he needed while working at Industrial Light and Magic. So he remade the bags out of aluminum and added scissor lifts for easy reach. "The finished boxes housed everything I needed, but I repeatedly rebuilt the insides until finally no tool had to be moved out of the way to get to another," Adam wrote in Wired. "That’s first-order retrievability."

A temper tantrum supercut, in case you felt the need to punch something today

Good afternoon! Did you accidentally scroll down into the comments section of a political website today? Maybe you got stuck in traffic, or you're expecting to? Well, here is about four and a half minutes of movies scenes depicting exactly how you feel. Supercut artist Zach Prewitt has laced together some of cinema's greatest temper tantrums. If you can't physically beat your telephone into submission without facing disciplinary action, you can watch a few famous people do that on your behalf. (via The Huffington Post)

Disney might be preparing a remake of The Rocketeer

Perhaps riding on the wings of the WWII-era Captain America: The First Avenger, and all the success that came after it, Disney is apparently talking to screenwriters about rebooting its 1991 cult classic, The Rocketeer, which was (probably not coincidentally directed by Captain America's Joe Johnston). Its life began in the early 1980s as a comic book by the late Dave Stevens, which was recently revived when it was picked up by IDW last year. The Rocketeer is having a moment, everyone. Strap on your rocket packs and get ready! (Ed. note: Just realized that if you have a rocket pack, you don't actually need to ride on the wings of anything. Apologies for the technical error.) (via Spinoff Online) Jamie

Author is "ready for a punk-rock concert"

Lightning bolt
I was flipping through my copy of Walt Noon's Secrets of Building Electrostatic Lightning Bolt Generators (1992) and came across this photo, captioned: "The author's hair is usually flat and combed somewhat back. After a few minutes connected to a running Van de Graaff generator, and he's ready for a punk-rock concert!"

Walt is a good magician. Check out his videos.

Jim Carrey is being courted to play Colonel Stars in Kick Ass 2, perhaps change his career trajectory

News is emerging that Jim Carrey is being considered for a role in the sequel to 2010's Kick-Ass. While it's far from official casting news, I have to say that as a fan of both that movie and Jim Carrey, I really want to see this work out. Seriously. If I don't see Jim Carrey do something awesome soon, it will make me and all of his other devoted fans super, super sad. And who doesn't want to see him play a cool role in a comic book movie? The last time he did that was in Batman Forever, and believe me when I tell you this: No one wants to remember Batman Forever.

On the other hand, The Mask was based on a Dark Horse comic, culty like Kick-Ass, and that was very well-received. So, we know that Carrey can rock this. Anyway: Kick-Ass 2.

Read the rest

Greatest movie threats of all time

hh1edits's "The 100 Greatest Movie Threats of All Time" is a truly fabulous 11:37 worth of threatening behavior -- angry, calm, brave, terrified. The creator casts an admirably broad net, including appearances from Monty Python, Wil Wheaton, and the Wicked Witch of the West.

The 100 Greatest Movie Threats of All Time (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Brain Boy: A Fantastic Scheme to Conquer the Earth


Look at this fantastic Earth-conquering scheme! Is there any hope in defeating it? (Via X-Ray Delta One)

Mars Curiosity rover: HD video of landing, and an image of her first drive

[Video Link] Above, HD video of the Mars Curiosity Rover's landing on Mars. And below, an image of her first drive. (via @tweetsoutloud)