nothing here but nostalgia wipes

issue 035 - 20th October, 2019

CJW: Welcome to a brand new issue of nothing here. If you haven’t heard from us for a while, you might need to check your traps. We’re trying to keep these emails shorter where we can, but sometimes we can’t help ourselves… To make sure your email provider doesn’t hide the longer ones, you might need to whitelist this email address or otherwise train your algorithms that this particular mass of links is one you want to receive.

We liked Marlee’s most recent bonus letter so much, that we thought we’d open it up to the full list: Am I just depressed or is the world ending? Don’t worry, it ends on an up note. Each bonus letter is something totally different, so if you want to sign up for future bonuses, and get access to the full archive of them, just go here to become a supporter.

Now, on with the show.

MKY: Half a century of dither and denial – a climate crisis timeline

For more than 50 years, the petroleum industry and politicians have been warned about the climate risks of burning fossil fuels. Yet the top 20 fossil fuel firms have continued to expand and have been behind a third of all carbon emissions since 1965. This timeline shows who knew what and when, and how they communicated or obscured the threat to the public.

Just in case you need a reminder of how and why we should’ve mobilised to do something about climate chaos thirty years ago, min, and who’s been knowingly fighting to prevent that, because preserving profits and shareholder value trumps a liveable planet etc ugh why...

CJW: Related - Bad ancestors: does the climate crisis violate the rights of those yet to be born? (via Sentiers)

[...] the world’s largest, most powerful corporations are already in possession of untapped reserves of oil and natural gas that far exceed the limits we must observe if we are to mitigate the oncoming catastrophe. Companies would need to keep those reserves buried underground, in the process forfeiting approximately $20tn in assets. This is a prospect they cannot entertain, because conventional business models are beholden to the bottom line and short-term thinking. Their timescale privileges the present, which is profoundly out of sync with environmental realities and democracy itself. Today, high-frequency trading means stocks are bought and sold within nanoseconds. Capitalism, it seems, lacks the attention span required for survival.

Emphasis mine. A lot of great stuff in this piece by Astra Taylor. 

AA: Related - World's top three asset managers oversee $300bn fossil fuel investments

The world’s three largest money managers have built a combined $300bn fossil fuel investment portfolio using money from people’s private savings and pension contributions, the Guardian can reveal.

BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street, which together oversee assets worth more than China’s entire GDP, have continued to grow billion-dollar stakes in some of the most carbon-intensive companies since the Paris agreement, financial data shows.

A handy guide to the individualsthat have “routinely opposed motions at fossil fuel companies that would have forced directors to take more action on climate change”. Here’s just one of them, with all the gory details presented in an easy-to-digest graphic: 

I wonder how these asset managers feel to have their names, deeds and faces so clearly revealed to an increasingly angry public? Do you reckon they’re even worried? 

MJW: I honestly can’t even deal with anything CC-related at the moment. I’ve had a bunch of IRL experiences with deniers lately that have left me overwhelmed, exhausted and avoidant of the issue. I mean, fuck, is that what THEY’RE trying to do? If it is, it’s working.

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CJW: This economist has a plan to fix capitalism. It's time we all listened (via Sentiers)

It was then that Mazzucato, an Italian-American economist who had spent decades researching the economics of innovation and the high tech industry, decided to look deeper into the early history of some of the world’s most innovative companies. [...] “It wasn’t just early research, it was also applied research, early stage finance, strategic procurement,” she says. “The more I looked, the more I realised: state investment is everywhere.”

There's a lot of interesting stuff in this profile of Mariana Mazzucato, but I'm also kind of ideologically opposed to many of the missions she's behind. Smart cities? Until we do something about the system of surveillance capitalism we all live under, I don't see them being anything other than dystopia fuel (and even without survcap, the authoritarian implications are endless, which doesn't bode well considering the ways current ecological and financial pressures are pushing politics). And the Green New Deal? It just looks to me like a radically extensive plan to… help us maintain the capitalist status quo for as long as possible without ever addressing the issues that got us here in the first place. It doesn't matter how green it is, rampant consumerism will continue to damage the environment we need to live. I mean, yes, GND all the way! Just as long as we realise these sorts of projects are the absolute minimum, not the end goal.

MJW: Hey, I was just coming here to post this. You got in first. Like, is it a great idea to fix capitalism, or is it just a hideous flawed system that should be replaced with something fairer, kinder, etc, etc?

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CJW: We are, all of us, Machines: How to work at Amazon (via Ospare)

It’s not that I want to negotiate any better terms with the management, the company, or the customer: I want them all to suffer. I don’t want to facilitate the flow of thousands of Keurig cups to people with more money than they can spend; I want them to fucking choke on it and leave me alone. We’re boiling alive and thanking them for it. I want workers to stop pissing and shitting and killing themselves for a mass of parasites who produce nothing and consume everything. Dignity through the conquest of power. I want all the workers to spend more time with each other, conspiring against the company, breaking the web of surveillance, of ideology, and looting and smashing everything they can get their hands on.

I understand the siren song of online shopping, but are low prices worth the human misery described here? I've stopped shopping for books at Amazon or its affiliated companies - I’ve decided that if I can afford to buy a book, I can afford to spend a few more dollars to buy it from a company that isn't so horrendous (ideally an Australian independent).

But anyway, this is a great piece - a bit of creative non-fiction about working in an Amazon fulfillment centre.

MJW: With my disparate skills and weird work history, I have this fear that I’m looking into my own hideous future with this piece, which I found terrible and wonderfully written.

The company doesn’t care where you come from, what you want, or where you’re going; the company wants your productivity and your time. The fact that the company, the management, and your supervisors don’t, in fact, pretend to give a shit about you feels quite liberating at first.

Bizarrely, my one take-away from this was ‘they drug screen you to work at Amazon?’

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CJW: Get Realer by Vicky Osterwei

It is easy to wish to return to the golden postwar years of capital, or even the booming 1990s, when all this decay and destitution, we tell ourselves, was not already there. Nostalgia wipes history clean of its pain, and makes it more desirable than any imaginable present or future, because the past is always a place immune from our death, whereas the future carries it, inescapably. So why not escape to the movies to live forever alongside the superheroes of our parents’ childhoods, at least for a few hours? [Emphasis mine.]

This is a great piece about the financialisation of Hollywood, CGI as an anti-Union crutch, and the endless nostalgia mill that is modern blockbusters. I was already thinking of writing a follow-up to my Dying Culture piece, and if I do, this will be much quoted.

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MKY: The high-tech start-up tackling online extremism

That led to the idea of a technology start-up able to keep up with and fight against all forms of violent extremism, from jihadists and neo-Nazis, to nationalists and even "incels".

But greater visibility has forced the company to take more security measures because of the sensitive nature of its work—and the potential for violence from the people it tracks.

The address of Moonshot CVE's London offices is kept secret and most of its staff have no visible online presence.

Just to get into its premises in a nondescript building in the British capital, visitors have to pass through heavy armour-plated doors and a security check.

I need to know everything about this start-up, for various reasons. Someone please go write a longer feature in the style of Adrian Chen’s prescient af write-up of visiting the Internet Research Agency back in 2015.

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AA: Inside Mark Zuckerberg's private meetings with conservative pundits

As part of the series, Zuckerberg met earlier this year with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who insinuated that Facebook had become a monopoly during a congressional hearing last year; Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has fingered Zuckerberg as contributing to “the death of free speech in America”; and conservative radio talk host Hugh Hewitt, who has cautioned against a DOJ enforcement action but has called for a “new regulatory regime” to minimize “big tech bias” against conservatives.

Everyone has deleted their Facebook account, right? And encouraged their friends and family to do the same, right? Zuckbot3000 is so terrified of Trump’s threat to regulate social media platforms to correct perceived bias against conservatives that he’s willing to pander to a gallery of truly disgusting characters.  

And if you’re still not convinced that FB is Truly Fucked? Check out this 2018 article on Facebook’s potential CIA connections or this Wired piece from June about their true geopolitical ambitions, as evidenced by the development of in-house cryptocurrency Libra

CJW: I'm surprised that anyone was surprised that Zuckerberg met with Republican bigwigs. They're the ruling party, they're connected to the dominant conservative media, and the Dickhead-in-Chief spent a lot of money on FB advertising, so of course Zuck would want to stay buddy-buddy with them.

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CJW: In the rush to harvest body parts, death investigations have been upended (via Brendan)

Although the [organ procurement] companies have emphasized organ transplants, in far more cases nationwide they harvested skin, bone, fat, ligaments and other tissues that are generally not used for life-threatening conditions. Those body parts fuel a booming industrial biotech market in which a half-teaspoon of ground-up human skin is priced at $434. That product is one of those used in cosmetic surgery to plump lips and posteriors, fill cellulite dimples and enhance penises. A single body can supply raw materials for products that sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Organ procurement companies, who helped write the laws around procurement and autopsies (because of course they fucking did), are interfering with death investigations in their efforts to secure materials for cosmetic surgery. Low-key horror, crime noir, or another instance of Cyberpunk Now?

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Cutting Room Floor:

MKY: We Need To Talk about Putin: How the West Gets Him Wrong - Mark Galeotti

Basically a long rant (in the author’s own words) to the West to stop feeding into Putin’s project to mythologise himself, this instead demystifies him. Written by one of the experts on all things Russia (his more in-depth book The Vory - Russia’s Super Mafia is next on my list), the first chapter, Putin Is A Joduka Not A Chess Player, is really all you need to read, but the whole book is great as a complete briefing (even if Vladislav Surkov doesn’t get a mention).

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MKY: Infinite Detail - Tim Maughan

Tim’s debut piece of cyberpunk revolution feels influenced by Bruce Sterling’s interrelated classic cyberpunk short-stories Deep Eddy and Bicycle Repairman for its After arc and Charles Stross’s post-cyberpunk work circa Accelerando for its Before arc. Before and After the internet went away forever and the global economy collapsed as a result is the pitch, with some mysterious mundane (techno)magical realism thrown in. But mostly it feels like it’s about how terribly suited techno-hipsters are to run the revolution they’re craving (but are totally unprepared for). Anika, the one totally Gibsonian techno-hipster to go through the crucible and come out totally Radicalized, is my girl tho and I’d love to read a sidequel exploring her journey.

CJW: Thrilling and devastating, ‘Parasite’ is one of the year’s very best movies

Hey, I told you the same thing weeks ago (but this is still a great review).

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AA: A friend described Parasite to me as “the trenchant class war warning shot that Joker wishes it was”. Anyway, I’m guessing by now everyone has had enough Joker analysis to last them several lifetimes, but I suppose you could further punish yourself by reading the following: 

CJW: I’ve not seen the movie yet, but this is a great review/essay by Leslie Lee III, of Struggle Session - which is, for my money, the only pop-culture podcast out there.

 AA: How Marmite Took Control of Your Mind

After 2018’s Gene Project campaign, which proved that love of Marmite is genetic, we wondered if that biological pre-programming could be undone. From there it was a question of, can we do this… and should we? It was the borderline unethical and slightly sinister nature of the idea that drew us in.

If we love (to hate) something here at the newsletter, it’s horrific innovations in the field of advertising. Last week: a sexy Colonel Sanders dating sim! This week: a campaign that uses hypnotism to “force” consumers to enjoy yeast-based sandwich spreads! 

CJW: MY DISCO - Live in Moscow

This is a recent live set from MY DISCO. The sound quality isn’t great, but it’s also not too terrible - it’s just that when I saw them live in February the sound was phenomenal, so of course a live video on youtube is going to be lacking. Speaking of seeing them in February - I actually wrote a review of MY DISCO’s Melbourne show, and decided to make that bonus letter public as well. Enjoy.

Also, their most recent album, Environment, is up on bandcamp if you want to give it a listen.

MJW: Bernie Dieter’s Little Death Club, Wonderland Spiegeltent, Melbourne Victoria

Cabaret might be old-timey, but it’s not dead, or maybe it is and it’s okay? Either way, Bernie Dieter curates, hosts and whips into shape a troupe of perverted delights. Acrobats, drag-queens and fire-tits, oh my! If you get a chance to see the sultry-voiced Dieter sing as her crew stalks the stage, do it. It’s funny, raucous and quite sexy.

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CJW: And that’s it for another issue! Thank you for choosing to spend some of your valuable time reading through this dispatch. We appreciate it, and, as ever, if you want to get in touch, just hit that reply button.

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