John Perry Barlow lived many lives: small-time Wyoming Republican operative (and regional campaign director for Dick Cheney!), junior lyricist for the Grateful Dead, father-figure to John Kennedy Jr, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, inspirational culture hero for the likes of Aaron Swartz and Ed Snowden (and, not incidentally, me), semi-successful biofuels entrepreneur... He died this year, shortly after completing his memoir Mother American Night
, and many commenters have noted that Barlow comes across as a kind of counterculture cyberculture Zelig, present at so many pivotal moments in our culture, and that's true, but that's not what I got from my read of the book -- instead, I came to know someone I counted as a friend much better, and realized that every flaw and very virtue he exhibited in his interpersonal dealings stemmed from the flaws and virtues of his relationship with himself.
I have a long history with Burning Man, both on playa and off, but I did not know until last year that Burner pilots offer free scenic flights over Black Rock City during the event.
The catch? Well, first you need to go to Burning Man, which means getting a ticket. Then, once you're out there, you have to get up real early, put your name on a list at the Black Rock City Municipal Airport and wait -- in the heat, for hours -- for your name to be called. Since the planes are small and each ride is about half an hour long, the wait to get that amazing bird's eye view can be upwards of six hours or more.
I woke up late on Saturday, the morning of the Burn. It was the last day pilots were gifting these rides for 2017, so I pedaled over anyway and put my name on the list. It was 9 AM and the guy in charge warned me it would be at least six hours before I'd be airborne, if I was "lucky." The airport was a fair distance away from where I was camping, so I decided to stay put. To kill some time, I asked the airport staff if they needed a volunteer. As luck would have it, they did.
I spent about 45 minutes organizing papers in an air-conditioned trailer (oh yeah) and the remainder of my three-hour shift checking passengers against flight manifests at the gate. Read the rest
David Graeber defined a "bullshit job" in his viral 2013 essay
as jobs that no one -- not even the people doing them -- valued, and he clearly struck a chord: in the years since, Graeber, an anthropologist, has collected stories from people whose bullshit jobs inspired them to get in touch with him, and now he has synthesized all that data into a beautifully written, outrageous and thought-provoking book called, simply, Bullshit Jobs
Peter Watts (previously
) is a brilliant bastard of a science fiction writer, whose grim scenarios are matched by their scientific speculation; in his latest, a novella called The Freeze-Frame Revolution
, Watts imagines a mutiny that stretches out across aeons, fought against a seemingly omnipotent AI.
As anyone who has been following the sorry saga of the EU copyright reform, key elements -- Articles 3 on text and data mining, 11 on the link tax and 13 on the upload filter censorship machine -- are turning into the proverbial dog's breakfast, a complete and utter mess. The well-founded criticisms of the proposed law have piled up to an unprecedented extent, causing the politicians behind it to resort to iterative obfuscation. Successive arguments against each of the three articles mentioned above have led to the Commission's original text being mashed and murdered in an attempt to "address" the points by adding in new "clarifications" that just make things worse.
Mort Gerberg shares this memory of his encounter with John and Shel Silverstein outside the gates of Disneyland in 1966. From John Wilcock, New York Years
Eliot Peper's novel Bandwidth
is a global technothriller that pits the barons of a world-spanning networking monopoly against the hydrocarbon barons who've manipulated the world's politics to let them go on boiling the world in its own emissions, and the lobbyists and shadowy resistance fighters who play them off against each other.
In Gregory Scott Katsoulis's All Rights Reserved
, we get all the traditional trappings of a first-rate YA dystopia: grotesque wealth disparity leading to a modern caste system, draconian surveillance to effect social control in an inherently unstable state, ad-driven ubiquitous entertainment as the only distraction from environmental collapse -- but with an important difference.
A few weeks back, we pushed out a post about the fact that Heathens serving in the U.S. Army are now allowed to sport a beard as part of their faith. In the story, I mentioned that a group that stands for heathens serving in the military stated that the growing of a beard wasn’t a tenet of Heathenry. Given that Ásatrú, Heathenry and Paganism have been used to describe a wide number of belief systems and religions, I wasn’t sure if making a basket statement like this was factually correct. Fortunately, I know someone who does.
Dr. Karl E.H. Seigfried was the first Ásatrú to earn a graduate degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School. While at the university, he was President of Interfaith Dialogue and served on the Spiritual Life Council, the advisory board for the Spiritual Life Office. He holds degrees in literature and music from University of California at San Diego, University of Wisconsin at Madison, and University of Texas at Austin. He studied literature and art history at Loyola University Chicago, Rome Center, in Italy and took Icelandic language courses through University of Iceland's distance learning program.
Dr. Seigfried currently works at the Illinois Institute of Technology as an Adjunct Professor in Humanities and as a Pagan Chaplain. He’s Goði (priest) of Thor’s Oak Kindred—a Chicago-based organization, dedicated to the practice of the Ásatrú faith and a member of the Troth Clergy Program. Previously, Dr. Seigfried taught Norse mythology and religion at Loyola University Chicago, Carthage College, and the Newberry Library Seminars Program. Read the rest
May 25 is Towel Day, when fans of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy jokingly adorn a towel and praise the household item as if it prepares the owner for any sticky situation. Author Douglas Adams was a master of these tongue-in-cheek references to our modern existence, helping the reader (and listener) feel as if they might one day walk across their livingroom and into a silly, star-spanning adventure.
UK writer Claire North's 84K
is a grim tale of a near-future Britain in which Toryism has come to its logical extreme, with all functions of the state assumed by a single massive corporation, and with all human life weighed and priced by how "socially useful" it is.
Our team of researchers at MIT’s Little Devices Lab
have developed a pocket sized laboratory for biology that allows anyone to invent and deploy rapid diagnostics to detect diseases like Zika and Dengue, as well as everyday biomarkers like cholesterol. Using plug and play reaction blocks, it can be as easy as snapping Legos together. The current approach to developing diagnostic tools involves shipping out samples to faraway labs for the development of tests that take too long and cost too much - but what would happen if everyone could have the tools they needed to design and make diagnostics? If the ability to diagnose disease was directly in the hands of those who most needed it?
Mohsin Hamid's Exit West
is a science fiction novel with a simple, allegorical premise: what if the poor, oppressed, and alienated could simply vanish through mysterious doorways and emerge somewhere else
I’d like to share a project I’m working on that could have an impact on
your future freedoms in the digital age. It’s an open video development
board I call NeTV2
If you don't know what I mean when I say the word Eurovision -- Greetings, fellow American! Much like the World Cup and universal health care, it is hard for many of our countrymen to grasp just how big a deal this thing few here have heard of or care about has become outside our borders, and how popular it really is.