Podcast: Barlow’s Legacy

Even though I’m at Burning Man, I’ve snuck out an extra scheduled podcast episode (MP3): Barlow’s Legacy is my contribution to the Duke Law and Tech Review’s special edition, THE PAST AND FUTURE OF THE INTERNET: Symposium for John Perry Barlow: Read the rest

Anthropodermic bibliopegy: the grotesque history of books bound in human skin

On the Under the Knife show, Dr Lindsey Fitzharris elucidates the weird history of "anthropodermic bibliopegy," the weird practice of binding books in human skin, including the doctor who bound case histories in the skins of his dead patients, and the murderer who asked to have his biography bound in his skin and presented to the lawman who caught him after his execution. Other common ways to procure human skins for the practice included grave-robbing (Andrea wrote about the Burke and Hare editions back in 2016). (Thanks, Allen) Read the rest

The world's largest occult library has a public online archive

Amsterdam's Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (AKA "The Ritman Library) houses more ths 25,000 occult texts, covering "Hermetics, Rosicrucians, Theosophy, alchemy, mysticism, Gnosis and Western Esotericism, Sufism, Kabbalah, Anthroposophy, Catharism, Freemasonry, Manichaeism, Judaica, the Grail, Esotericism, and comparative religion." Read the rest

My MMT Podcast appearance, part 2: monopoly, money, and the power of narrative

Last week, the Modern Monetary Theory Podcast ran part 1 of my interview with co-host Christian Reilly; they've just published the second and final half of our chat (MP3), where we talk about the link between corruption and monopoly, how to pitch monetary theory to people who want to abolish money altogether, and how stories shape the future. Read the rest

Debullshitifying Trump's get-out-of-jail statement for Medicaid scammer Ted Suhl

Ted Suhl was serving his third year of a seven-year sentence for bribery and Medicaid fraud when Trump commuted his sentence and sprung him, at the request of Mike Huckabee; the White House released a statement explaining Trump's reasoning for the commutation, and, as Propublica documents, it is full of "half-truths and omissions" about Trump's new grifter pal. Propublica did the hard work of annotating the Trump statement to remove the bullshit and tell the true tale. Read the rest

"The Stab": a forgotten nearly-was Haunted Mansion changing portrait

The queue area at the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland features a row of changing portraits wherein paintings everyday scenes are revealed as sinister and haunted (originally the effect was done with crossfading slide-projectors; now it's done with an amazing, crisp electroluminiscent effect). Read the rest

Where to catch me at Burning Man!

This is my last day at my desk until Labor Day: tomorrow, we're driving to Burning Man to get our annual dirtrave fix! If you're heading to the playa, here's three places and times you can find me: Read the rest

Elizabeth Warren has a plan to reform "Heirs' Property," which allows wealthy white property developers to steal Black family homes

Heirs' property is a relic of post-Reconstruction law, which allows white developers to exploit the diffuse ownership of Black family homes to steal them and kick out the people who live there. Read the rest

Adding pink seaweed to cow feed eliminates their methane emissions

One of the major contributors to greenhouse gases is the methane that cows belch up as they break down cellulose, but five years ago, research from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found that adding small amounts of a pink seaweed called Asparagopsis to cows' diets eliminated the gut microbes responsible for methane production and "completely knocks out" cows' methane emissions. Read the rest

A free/open tool for making XKCD-style "hand-drawn" charts

Tim Qian, a "full stack developer and open source activist," has published chart.xkcd, a free/open tool that lets you create interactive, "hand-drawn" charts in the style of XKCD comics. It's pretty fabulous! (via Four Short Links) Read the rest

A deep dive into how parasites hijack our behavior and how we evolved to resist them

On Slate Star Codex (previously), Scott Alexander breaks down Invisible Designers: Brain Evolution Through the Lens of Parasite Manipulation, Marco Del Giudice's Quarterly Review of Biology paper that examines the measures that parasites take to influence their hosts' behaviors, and the countermeasures that hosts evolve to combat them. Read the rest

First detailed look at Poland's challenge to the EU Copyright Directive

After the EU Copyright Directive passed with a slim majority that only carried because some MEPs got confused and pressed the wrong button, the government of Poland filed a legal challenge with the European Court of Justice, arguing that the Directive -- and its rule requiring that all online discourse be filtered by black-box algorithms that will block anything that might be infringing -- violated both Polish and European law. Read the rest

From search-engine to walled garden: majority of Google searches do not result in a click

As tech began to concentrate, two dominant strategies emerged: Google's (instrument the whole internet for surveillance, which means that you don't have to lock people in in order to spy on them) and Apple's (lock everyone into a walled garden, and extract revenue by refusing to let them out again). Read the rest

Gawker's new owners demand right to search journalists, ban encrypted email and institute dress code

After Deadspin's Laura Wagner published an incredible, brave, detailed look at how her new private equity masters -- Jim Spanfeller/Great Hill Partners -- were running Gawker now that they'd acquired it from Univision, the company (now called "G/O Media") struck back. Read the rest

How "meritocracy" went from a joke to a dogma, and destroyed the lives of everyone it touched

The term "meritocracy" was coined in Michael Young's satirical 1958 novel, "The Rise of Meritocracy," where it described a kind of self-delusion in which rich people convinced themselves that their wealth was evidence of their moral superiority; it's well-documented that a belief in meritocracy makes you act like an asshole, and also makes you incapable of considering how much of your good fortune is attributable to luck; now, in a new book, The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite, Yale Law professor Daniel Markovits documents how a belief in meritocracy also makes rich people totally miserable. Read the rest

Read: Jeannette Ng's Campbell Award acceptance speech, in which she correctly identifies Campbell as a fascist and expresses solidarity with Hong Kong protesters

Last weekend, Jeanette Ng won the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer at the 2019 Hugo Awards at the Dublin Worldcon; Ng's acceptance speech calls Campbell, one of the field's most influential editors, a "fascist" and expresses solidarity with the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters. Read the rest

Podcast: A cycle of renewal, broken: How Big Tech and Big Media abuse copyright law to slay competition

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my essay "A Cycle of Renewal, Broken: How Big Tech and Big Media Abuse Copyright Law to Slay Competition", published today on EFF's Deeplinks; it's the latest in my ongoing series of case-studies of "adversarial interoperability," where new services unseated the dominant companies by finding ways to plug into existing products against those products' manufacturers. This week's installment recounts the history of cable TV, and explains how the legal system in place when cable was born was subsequently extinguished (with the help of the cable companies who benefitted from it!) meaning that no one can do to cable what cable once did to broadcasters. Read the rest

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