Paul Spinrad

Paul Spinrad is a freelance writer/editor with Catholic interests, and is Projects Editor for MAKE magazine. He is the author of The VJ Book and

Grassroots Securities Deregulation

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In July, I blogged here about the "crowdfunding exemption" petition, File No. 4-605, which the SEC had just posted to their website. The petition seeks to allow people to solicit investment of up to $100,000 in amounts capped at $100 without having to register with either the SEC or their state's department of corporations (a process which can cost $50,000 and up). Many people, myself included, believe that this simple exemption, which the SEC has the authority to allow, presents minimal risk to investors and would have many positive effects on innovation, culture, opportunity, the economy, etc.

The fun news is, the proposal seems to be gaining traction! It turns out that others have been advocating similar exemptions, including Michael Shuman, author of Going Local and The Small-Mart Revolution. And now, the American Sustainable Business Council, a lobbying and advocacy group with many right-on members, has decided to support SEC rulemaking petition 4-605 as part of a new "Sustainable Economic Development" campaign, which will also encourage the SBA (Small Business Administration) to promote "TBL" accounting (Triple Bottom Line: financial, labor, and environmental). But note that the ASBC's new campaign will be on their back burner (and won't appear on their website) until January or so, because they're currently focused on other efforts, which require the current Congress during its remaining time in session.

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SEC Crowdfunding Exemption action: File No. 4-605

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When I guestblogged here last year, I wrote about crowdfunded securities. The upshot was that crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter can't support investment, because that's illegal; they can only offer tiered "perks" for donations at various levels. But I (and others) believe that crowdfunded securities should be legal without expensive SEC registration under certain conditions, starting with if individual investment is capped at a relatively low figure, like $100.

In that post, I also floated the idea of crowdfunding a campaign to pursue such a "crowdfunding exemption." I invited people to contact me if they wanted to keep up with such efforts, and got nice feedback from a bunch of folks. Encouraged, I dug in some more and found out that getting something like this going would actually be easier than I thought. First of all, the SEC has the authority to rewrite its own regulations, without any congressional review (which sounds like a recipe for corruption, and indeed...). Second, the SEC, via its website, lets anyone submit Petitions for Rulemaking and solicits comments on these petitions. You send it, and they will post it-- and then also post all the comments they receive. This quiet backwater of the SEC's website struck me as good territory for some crowd action.

Now, a half year later, all the pieces are in place. A campaign on IndieGoGo quickly raised the money to fund the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) to draft the petition, which was completed last week. I'm thrilled at how the petition came out-- it's very well researched and argued, and joy to read. The SELC sent the petition to the SEC last Thursday, and as of this morning, the SEC has posted it to their website, as File No. 4-605. You can see the list of funders in the first footnote, at the bottom of page 1. Huzzah!

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Farewell!

My guestblogging experience here has been wonderful, thank you all! I've learned a lot, made some neat connections, and gotten many pointers for learning more and doing more about things I'm interested in. This pleases me greatly.

I tried to pursue what Cory has called "That feeling of trepidation, of being slightly out of control, of taking a risk, of not knowing whether you are going to crash and burn." I hope that this showed, and that the results were enjoyable to you. I think that if you're not continuously checking your sanity, testing if you're correct or deluded about how your efforts might bounce off of the real world, then you're limiting yourself.

Here it goes, one last post into the ether-- watch it bounce: boing, boing, boing, boing, boing...

Fondly,
Paul

Joke Band Respect: Surf Punks, Upper Crust

Many people, including close friends and family of mine, hate joke bands. I understand the sentiment. Music has an almost sacred ability to break through left-brained chatter, reconnect you to the present and to emotional truth, and lift your spirits-- so it seems almost profane to turn the whole thing into a joke-- to drag it back into the domain of distancing, cleverness, and the inauthentic. But some joke bands have meant a lot to me, and I sincerely love them-- with The Surf Punks and The Upper Crust at the top of the list.

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Approaches To A Just World Order

I was at Columbia the same time that Barack Obama was there-- he was a senior when I was a freshman-- and although I never met him, I would guess that we have a formative experience in common: Saul Mendlovitz's "Approaches To A Just World Order" class.

Some upperclassmen pals whom I sang with clued me into this class, which had a cult following on campus. It was a huge lecture course out of the Political Science department, but people from all majors took it-- and that's how Professor Mendlovitz wanted it. The class was basically about solving great problems on a global scale, formulating optimal world governance-- in other words, Saving The World. Mendlovitz openly described his class as indoctrination, and he often repeated this point: You young people, sitting in this room, are the leaders of tomorrow. You will inherit the world some day, and you will be able to change it and make it better. So aim high-- agree that this is what you want to do, know that you can, conspire to make it happen, and stay true to your vision.

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Welcome to the See-Easy

Pervasive surveillance is a funny thing, and I wonder how it will affect dress. All those cameras are sharpening the difference between public and private spaces, so how about this scenario:

The beautiful people, who feel the most threat from paparazzi, bored security guards, and network-based voyeurs, cover up and disguise themselves in public places. Others soon follow the trendsetters, adopting the glamor of incognito. As status indicators, the well-toned face and body that come from the ample leisure time give way (outside of private spaces or posted no-camera zones) to a language of elegant, concealing garments, like you see in more modest countries.

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The Great Game Designer

Allow me to dive in over my head here-- countless BB readers know way more about games than I do, and I want to learn from them/you. I'm fascinated at how complexity emerges from certain initial conditions, and independent actors competing within those conditions-- i.e. from a game's rules and its players. It's a magic meta-formula that underlies a zillion things.

Some day we may discover a formal test for playability-- whether a setup will go nowhere or explode into interestingness. (Which is probably also a function of mental capacity-- a greater intelligence might find chess as boring as we find Tic-Tac-Toe.) If and when these meta-rules are understood, and we can do things like simulate evolution to levels of real-life complexity, it should convince at least a few more evolution deniers. In Darwin's day, when timekeeping was a leading geek-magnet, theologists described God as the Great Watchmaker. If there is a God, I think "The Great Game Designer" would be more accurate.

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Adventures in Ex Ante Crowdfunded Securities Law

I'm thrilled at the success of Kickstarter and Spot.Us, which partly fulfill a longtime dream scheme of mine. These sites are primary sources of great stuff, and you should check them out if you aren't already familiar with them. The idea behind both is to help people raise funds for ideas that they want to pursue; Kickstarter is designed for any personal projects, and Spot.Us supports journalism.

Donors can get a little something in return through these sites if the projects they fund come to fruition, like a signed copy of a book that's produced (Kickstarter), or reimbursement in credit if a news organization buys the story (Spot.Us). But what if a crowdfunding site could offer donors a piece of the action, not just some thank-you goodies? That's what I would want, and I don't think I'm alone. I want investors for my schemes, not patrons, and if people support me to do something that flies, it would only please me to give them a cut.

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Disney English

Guestblogger Paul Spinrad is a freelance writer/editor, and is Projects Editor for MAKE magazine. He is the author of The VJ Book and The Re/Search Guide to Bodily Fluids, and was an early contributor to bOING bOING when it was an online zine. He lives in San Francisco. 

Last year, cultural empire Disney launched its first "Disney English" school for kids in Shanghai, China. It would be a big win for Disney if they could own English language learning in the non-English speaking world. Any Disney English schools in areas where their presence might be controversial could be constructed like castles, with real moats! Chinese TV news clip here and Disney English website here.

My Cousin Adam (The Late Paul Cotton)

Guestblogger Paul Spinrad is a freelance writer/editor, and is Projects Editor for MAKE magazine. He is the author of The VJ Book and The Re/Search Guide to Bodily Fluids, and was an early contributor to bOING bOING when it was an online zine. He lives in San Francisco. 

2nd-norman-invasion

I have a living cousin who was an early conceptual and performance artist, and I think his work is wonderful. His given name is Paul Cotton, but now he goes by adam, or "adam (The Late Paul Cotton)."

adam studied sculpture at UC Berkeley in the 1960's, and for his final thesis project he submitted his own naked body in a 5-piece unpainted canvas business suit, framed (in a sense) by numerous paper pathways a chain of letters leading into the exhibit room from the halls and walkways outside.

Since then, his work has always been about the body and presence, and also laden with puns, mythology and religion, and plays between high and low culture. His communiques are called "Art Link-Letters" for the way they link the reader to art, and link art of the body to the world of letters. His "Zippily Boo-Duh" costume persona has wings on his feet to invoke Hermes, who bridges different worlds: stasis and revolution, the dead past and the eternal present, the Alphabet and the Goddess.

Like many others during the Sixties, adam was inspired by Norman O. Brown, whose books called for breaking free of the past and ending repression. But while others merely discussed Brown, adam enacted two performances wherein he entered Brown's classroom lectures at UC Santa Cruz. In the traditional sense, he did this uninvited, but in another sense, he was invited by everything that Brown stood for in his writing. You can see adam's video documentation of his second attempt, "The Second Norman Invasion," here: Part 1, 9:18 (includes long title sequence) / Part 2, 8:51.

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Fact-Checkers and Certified Public Logicians

Guestblogger Paul Spinrad is a freelance writer/editor, and is Projects Editor for MAKE magazine. He is the author of The VJ Book and The Re/Search Guide to Bodily Fluids, and was an early contributor to bOING bOING when it was an online zine. He lives in San Francisco.

It's fantastic that so much written knowledge is becoming generally accessible and cross-linked these days, but this is just an intermediate stage-- a universal library on the way to becoming a universal brain. The missing piece is encoding the underlying meaning of the stored text, the deep-structure logic behind it. It's one of the oldest challenges in Computer Science, and there has been lots of progress and companies dedicated to doing this. Powerset, for example, has software that has parsed and can answer questions from all of Wikipedia.

The thing is, you really still need a person to get it most reliably right, because people understand the way the world works. Luckily, we already have people whose job is very close to doing this already-- they're called fact-checkers or researchers, and they work for every reputable publication.

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Tom Geisler's Inventions

Guestblogger Paul Spinrad is a freelance writer/editor, and is Projects Editor for MAKE magazine. He is the author of The VJ Book and The Re/Search Guide to Bodily Fluids, and was an early contributor to bOING bOING when it was an online zine. He lives in San Francisco.

geisler-clip I love Tom Geisler's art illustrations, which combine the life-improving spirit of chindogu with the obsessive precision of antique technical drawings (he's also a technical illustrator). Tom is working on a book, "Reduce. Reuse. Reinvent: Free Patents That Will Save Our Galaxy," and here's some material from it, including an hilarious series of pages that illustrate the inventor's personal history.

Reduce. Reuse. Reinvent.

Sing-Along Jesus Christ Superstar

Guestblogger Paul Spinrad is a freelance writer/editor with Catholic interests, and is Projects Editor for MAKE magazine. He is the author of The VJ Book and The Re/Search Guide to Bodily Fluids, and was an early contributor to bOING bOING when it was an online zine. He lives in San Francisco.

As a kid, I liked classical and easy listening music, not the rock or disco that other kids listened to. But at age 12 or 13, I was, for some reason, moved to tape Jesus Christ Superstar off of the radio. I played that cassette over and over again, memorized the whole show, then kept playing it and singing along whenever I got the chance. I played it loud, too, turning the volume up higher than I'd ever wanted to before. I was cranking JCS one evening when my dad came home from work. With an expression of curiosity, he asked me why I had the music up so loud. I said "I don't know," and then he asked if I'd gotten the idea from anywhere. I told him no, and he said, "Hmm-- interesting!" He didn't disapprove, but I got the sense that he recognized something happening to me.

JCS taught me the story of Jesus, which as a jewish boy in Los Angeles, I never knew. It had a huge impact on me. Ever since, I've looked at the world in terms of Jesus vs. Rome, righteous rebellion vs. institutional power, hippie values vs. capitalist values, love vs. control. As far as I'm concerned, the "hippie Jesus" of the 1960s and early 1970s is the true Jesus (and centuries of art bear me out on this, at least superficially). "Jesus Was A Hippie" -- that's the tagline for my imaginary ad campaign to take Christianity back from all the high-power imposters and restore it to its apolitical, communitarian roots.

Continued after the jump 

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Ayn Rand: The Wired Interview (1998)

Guestblogger Paul Spinrad is a freelance writer/editor with Catholic interests, and is Projects Editor for MAKE magazine. He is the author of The VJ Book and The Re/Search Guide to Bodily Fluids, and was an early contributor to bOING bOING when it was an online zine. He lives in San Francisco.

I'm a month late on this, for the spotlight of public attention, but I have an Ayn Rand story, too. 11 years ago I blind-pitched Wired magazine an ill-defined article on Rand. In response, they asked me to write an "interview" with her, where I would come up with all of the questions and then cobble together her answers from things that she had written and said (she died in 1982). Fun! Around the same time, they published similar "interviews" with Nicola Tesla and Mark Twain under the rubric "The Wired Living Archive."

I had a great time researching and writing it, and although they never published it, they must have seen something they liked in it because I started working at Wired the following year. Meanwhile I never did anything with it. But re-reading it now, I like the added time-trip aspect of it. The idea of the article was to make Rand relevant to the current day, of course, but things were different in 1998. Like, the biggest newsmaker was Monica Lewinsky (hmm... I didn't see much 10th Anniversary coverage of that), and personally, things like the Critical Mass bicycle demonstration had a much larger role in my life than they do today.

Rand was a contradiction-filled woman who hated all contradictions, and whatever fiery, petite actress can succeed in bringing this complex character to life, in the inevitable major studio biopic, is pretty much guaranteed an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Meanwhile, here's my attempt at bringing Ms. Rand to life.

Note that it's long-- over 4000 words, and written for an editor to cut down. Sources for all quotations are noted as abbreviations inline, with full titles listed at the end.

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Based on a True Story

Guestblogger Paul Spinrad is a freelance writer/editor, and is Projects Editor for MAKE magazine. He is the author of The VJ Book and The Re/Search Guide to Bodily Fluids, and was an early contributor to bOING bOING when it was an online zine. He lives in San Francisco. 

Here's my idea for a Monty Python And The Holy Grail-like opening title sequence. The following titles fade in and are crossed out one by one:

  • A True Story
  • Based On A True Story
  • Inspired By A True Story
  • Inspired By Real Events
  • Inspired By Reality
  • Partially Inspired By Reality

I've argued here before that storytelling, like language itself, is a compression scheme-- ideally, you leave out everything that doesn't matter or doesn't in some way contribute to the whole. If you're decompressing the story-- reading, listening to, or watching it-- the first thing you need to know is, is this true? You need to know where to put it in your head, whether to incorporate it into the model you use to navigate the real world, or whether it should go into the "not true" bin. Our survival depends on this distinction.

Meanwhile, on the storyteller's side, there are many reasons to blur true and not-true-- particularly, I think, if a story is being told for profit or to maintain of power relationships. Stories interpreted as real demand more attention and more likely to influence people's actions than fictional stories.

There was an interesting discussion here (in response to a great piece by Susannah Breslin) about the future of porn video when CGI can simulate humans realistically. Yes, there is an "uncanny valley" problem where the simulations are not quite realistic enough, but let's assume it will be overcome. My prediction is that there will still need to be living, breathing porn stars in the world, because viewers need something to build a fantasy around, no matter how remote. Recall the parade scene at the end of National Lampoon's Animal House, when a college cheerleader flies through a window and lands on the bed of a teenage boy reading a porno magazine. He says, "Thank you, God!" It's funny because it's true-- or so I am told. 

It's true that people can become obsessed with animated fictional characters, and for them the real/unreal issue doesn't matter (or works the other way). But those of us with more "stalker" type personalities want to be able to think, "I wonder what she's doing right now?" Instead of pitching our fantasy tents comfortably in the world of fiction, we anchor them to some contrived but remotely plausible chain of circumstances where we might, just might, really have a chance.