nothing here but the extinction empire

issue 036 - 3rd November, 2019

CJW: Step right up, step right up, and welcome to another issue of nothing here.

Our latest bonus letter was written by moi, titled FitBit vs Do Easy - part 2 of my series on Mundane Occultism. To get access to it, our future bonuses, and the full archive, you can go here to become a supporter.

And away we go…

CJW: A Million People Are Jailed at China's Gulags. I Managed to Escape.

“There were almost 20 people in a room of 16 square meters,” she says. “There were cameras in their rooms, too, and also in the corridor. Each room had a plastic bucket for a toilet. Every prisoner was given two minutes a day to use the toilet, and the bucket was emptied only once a day. If it filled up, you had to wait until the next day. The prisoners wore uniforms and their heads were shaved. Their hands and feet were shackled all day, except when they had to write. Even in sleep they were shackled, and they were required to sleep on their right side – anyone who turned over was punished.”

AA: This is a difficult but important read. The graphic descriptions of rape and torture here truly shocked me - I had no idea about the brutality of the abuses allegedly being perpetrated against the Uighur in Xinjiang (although, like most, I knew something was going on). 

And the campaign against the Uighur seems to take other forms, too - this Guardian editorial discusses the program of cultural eradication being enacted by the Chinese government; destruction of sacred Muslim sites, discouraging women from wearing the niqab and jilbab, and disappearing prominent artists and academics. So will anything change? Many Muslim-majority countries are heavily invested in the Silk Road project and many Western corporations are scared of losing access to China’s growing middle class market if they upset Beijing (just look at recent events surrounded the NBA). Will the global capital put profit before principle? All signs, as ever, point to yes. 

CJW: The post-9/11 Islamophobia of the West will certainly make it easier for companies and governments to ignore these atrocities - “China is just protecting their culture,” etc etc. I haven’t actually seen that justification trotted out yet, but you know it’s coming.

AA: Related: The U.S.-China Cold War Is a Myth. 

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CJW: Stripped bare: Australia's hidden climate crisis (via Jane Rawson)

Clearing vegetation has the potential to add millions to a property’s value, as well as yielding high returns in a good year. That alone is enough for farmers to risk up to $1m in fines for illegally clearing, according to one former NSW Office of Environment and Heritage compliance officer, who asked not to be named. But while land clearing might benefit individual farmers in the short term, the loss of native vegetation comes with enormous costs for the rest of us.

It’s hard to imagine any top-down legislation to hold back this sort of land clearing when farmers are upheld as the quintessential “Aussie battler,” despite the fact that as outlined here, many massive industrial farming operations are leading the way with the clearings. (Also, it’s hard to imagine our coal-loving, climate-change denying, authoritarian-leaning, right-wing government ever doing anything positive for the environment.)

AA: These bits: 

“Land clearance and degradation is one of the greatest crises facing Australia and the world,” says Bill Hare, the chief executive and senior scientist with Berlin-based Climate Analytics. “It undermines the basis for food production, is causing species loss and ecological decline, destroys climate resilience, degrades water resources and reverses carbon storage on the land.”

The rate at which we are clearing land in Australia is almost immediately wiping out gains being made under tax-payer funded schemes to address climate change.

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CJW: This Is Not the Sixth Extinction. It’s the First Extermination Event (via Dan Hill)

The great historical struggle against capital’s First Extermination has been, and remains, the struggle for land and the rights of the commons. Indigenous nations account for less than 5 percent of the global population while protecting 80 percent of its biodiversity. Indigenous Water and Land Protectors, whose campaigns are often led by women, face a far higher rate of assassinations and state violence compared to non-Indigenous activists in the Global North. From the Lenca people’s victory in halting the Agua Zarca hydrodam on the Rio Gualcarque, to the Lumad’s fight in the Philippines against the expulsion from their ancestral homes for mining, Indigenous peoples are on the front lines of the war against necrotic capital.

An interesting piece and an interesting argument. Recently I half-jokingly suggested that XR needs to be less concerned about their own branding, and instead focus on branding the opposition. I mean, a lot of us grew up on Star Wars and we all know that there’s no rebellion without an evil Empire. So, maybe we start using Extinction Empire as a term to encapsulate all the governments that refuse to act, the corporations that spew pollutants into our environment, and any and all billionaires (because, fuck them). Maybe people will pay more attention when they realise they’re living under an empire that needs to be dismantled and destroyed, and its leaders brought to justice if we’re ever to have a chance of surviving the next few decades without a push to Far Right ethno-nationalism, eco-fascism, genocide, and other horrors. I often talk about the end of the world because that’s what it feels like sometimes, but the truth is maybe worse. We’re talking about increasing and accelerating global disparity between the haves and have-nots. We’re talking about an increasingly divided and militarised world. We’re talking about more corporate and authoritarian control over populations (particularly the minority populations that aren’t simply left to die. Deliberate, wide-scale neglect is still genocide). 

If you’re a cis-het white person living in a Western country, there’s a good chance your life could remain at a similar level of comfort to what you experience now, but you will be complicit in the genocide and other horrors being committed in the name of said comfort. Sadly, I think a lot of people will be fine with that. I’m not. I hope to fuck we can change things before we get further down that path.

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CJW: A World We Built to Burn (via Sentiers)

[A]ngry people, from [the governor] down, felt somebody, somewhere, was supposed to be responsible for all of this, that there simply weren’t supposed to be problems like choosing between fires and blackouts.

But much of the next century is going to be problems like this, not just for California, but for the whole world, as we deal with several generation’s worth of technical debt around infrastructure and learning to really manage our planet. There’s a lot we can learn from the California case, both about how to fix it, and how to cope in the mean time, like: have a plan.

On the intersection of infrastructure, technical debt, and the increased pressures of climate change.

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CJW: Communism Against Civilization or Eco-Fascism

A few issues back, Austin shared the low-key mind-blowing research of Josh Citarella into online Post-Left memes and discourse. Rhizome has commissioned some essays (talks?) to accompany a show that follows on from Josh's work, and this is one such piece.

The future for capitalism, if there will be a future for it at all, is eco-fascism. It’s not a question of if this will lead to genocide, but of when.

This quote could basically stand in as a thesis statement for my next book. And this is the same thing I said last issue:

I think it’s vital to point out that a “Green New Deal” can’t make capitalism ecologically sustainable.

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CJW: Terror, genocide, and the “genocratic” turn (via Ospare)

As the Americans’ Iraqi experience centered around fighting terrorism, the dissolution of the Iraqi state, including the army, began to seem to have been a grave mistake. The state, and especially the army and security forces who were once perceived as agents of evil, now appeared to be the antidote to terrorism. What was an enemy of democracy in our countries—the apparatuses of violence and murder, or “repressive state apparatuses,” as Louis Althusser called them—became the solution to the terrorist problem. Democracy was relegated to oblivion.

A detailed talk/essay about the ways in which Western military and political propaganda has moved away from condemning dictatorships to condemning terrorism, leading to a situation where brutal dictators are accepted while the people fighting for freedom from these regimes ignored at best or labelled terrorists at worst.

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CJW: Social Media Is Not Self-Expression (via Ospare)

[T]he social order is protected not by preventing “self-expression” and identity formation but encouraging it as a way of forcing people to limit and discipline themselves — to take responsibility for building and cleaning their own cage. Thus, the dissemination of social-media platforms becomes a flexible tool for social control.

What's the social media equivalent of Burroughs' experiments with tape recorder cut-ups?

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MJW: How Australia treats complex trauma

Williams says many sufferers of long-term abuse and trauma don’t receive a diagnosis of PTSD. Instead, they are given a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, which raises its own set of difficulties. A diagnosis of BPD can carry with it stigma because the condition is still viewed by some as a flaw of personality, and as such the label can result in many negative consequences. It can make retaining custody of children much harder, for example, and getting a job, insurance or even physical health needs taken seriously very difficult.

CJW: I am shocked, SHOCKED to see this example of sexism within the medical profession directly harming women and victims of abuse. No wait, the other one - unsurprised and utterly disheartened.

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MJW: Australian Water Rats Are Eating the Hearts out of Cane Toads with Surgical Precision

After setting up infrared cameras, Dr Parrott found that water rats living in the area were behind these surgically precise deaths. Having worked with water rats before at Healesville Sanctuary, she knew how intelligent and adaptable they were, and said she felt a strange sense of pride when she found out they were the predator. “Within just two years of cane toads moving into the area, they had learned how to disable, kill, and eat something that had killed so many other predators in the region.”

CJW: This is very cool. But sadly not a fix for Australia's cane toad problem:

“With the next flood or breeding event”, Dr Parrott says “there would be so many toads that the system would be overwhelmed. Water rats are doing their bit for the environment, but we’ll need to look at other ways to try and control the toad population.”

AA: Here’s my contribution to this discussion: 

If you’re Australian, you’re probably hearing the (terrible) theme song right now (and it’s probably the only part of the show you ever saw, because it meant you had to change the channel). 

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Cutting Room Floor:

AA: Dan Hon’s Things That Have Caught My Attention 

Those of us who have been on the newsletter tip for a while are probably familiar with Dan Hon, a “recovered lawyer”, currently working for Code For America, whose excellent Things That Have Caught My Attention has been running since 2014 (full archive here). Dan’s newsletter had a little hiatus but now it’s back, and Dan has certainly found his groove. He’s continuing a close reading of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, which Dan started in the distant past of 2014, looking at all the ways this novel reflects our present, and how it doesn’t. Dan’s observations may be of interest to the many voracious consumers (and writers!) of sci-fi reading this: 

The Deliverator these days drives a Tesla S - moving people from place to place, pickup and delivery points not inferred by phone number but by a system of geospatial positioning satellites, plotting a glowing route on a heads-down Android display in a car that packs, well, lots of potential energy in the metaphor of the day.

All that's missing is Uber getting into the personal loan business - just watch for that shift where startups like Uber, Lyft or TaskRabbit start offering payday loans or short-term personal loans in exchange for 'employment'.

MKY: Lucky Day (2019)

Roger Avary made a new movie. With an anarchist-inked aussie protag no less. With Crispin Glover as the ultraviolent antagonist. It’s a solid crime movie, but what makes this great is that the whole movie serves as a setup for a joke at the end about how art is truly finished.

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MKY: Under the Silver Lake (2018)

Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell (It Follows), this is Pynchonesque AF and feels even more resonant now, in this post-Epstein timeline.

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MKY: The Laundromat [Netflix, 2019]

Did you like The Big Short? Well, this is the preachy, Boomer version of that, but about the Panama Papers. There’s a 10sec dream sequence where Meryll Streep goes on a rampage with a shotgun, and if only that’d been the whole movie I’d’ve been happy. Instead, FUCK THIS MOVIE - watch something better, like Turks & Caicos - part of the Worricker trilogy. Oh, you need to watch all three films? You’re welcome. Or, The International. Or, just watch the ep of The Giant Beast That Is The Global Economy that is about the Panama Papers.

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MKY: Terminator: Dark Fate

Or, it takes a GenX director to bridge the divide between Boomers and Millennials? Tim Miller finally unfucked the Terminator franchise with a film that’s a near-perfect reboot, almost to a fault. It wastes no time doing it too. And its politics are, to say the least, left of Trump Amerika’s. “Where’s the prisoners?”, MacKenzie Davis asks. “They’re called ‘detainees’”, replies the ICE Agent or whatever. -supersoldier-from-the-future dead stare response-

Davis totally steals the movie for me. She gets all the best Millenial lines (“what’re you doing?” “Future shit.”) and gives her updated version of ‘come with me if you wanna live’, because - get it! - she’s the updated version of the franchise. While - yeah, she’s back but you knew that- Sarah Connor gets to say it outloud with “I’ll be back.” And as the two come to work together - the grizzled veteran and the young, enhanced upstart - to ‘save the future’, the film becomes about the family you make, and healing intergenerational divides. There’s other ppl in the movie too I guess, but you’ll have to go see it on the big screen to learn about them. ****

AA: Kokofreakbean (via Craig PUZAHKI) 

I’ve become rather enamoured with the work of Kokofreakbean, a multi-disciplinary artist who has been hard out making completely mental maximalist hyperkinetic glitch video art for over a decade. I’m disappointed it took me this long to find him! In a world of retrovertigo and force-fed simulacra, where culture seems more like corporate IP necromancy than Real Art™, KKFB is on a sacred mission to capture the Now. Dig the fuck in and flip the fuck out, comrogues. 

Rang Zulu 

Pizzapocalypse 

Eprom music video - Centre of the Sun 

See more at Kokofreakbean’s Youtube Channel here or read this interview by Nick Toti, who summed up KKFB’s appeal most eloquently:

Chaos-priest animator Kokofreakbean is designed to short-circuit intellectual engagement. His work is like crashing from an Adderall binge in a VR haunted house or what religious ecstasy would feel like if it was monitored by lab technicians in a corporate research clinic. If a Xerox machine grew sentient and then subjected itself to the arcane dogmas of a pre-colonial mesoamerican death cult, it would call itself Kokofreakbean.

AA: Happens to the Heart - Leonard Cohen

I was always working steady
But I never called it art
I got my shit together
Meeting Christ and reading Marx
It failed my little fire
But it’s bright the dying spark
Go tell the young messiah
What happens to the heart

CJW: Beautiful and Dangerous

On the problems with goals, and the need to strive for something greater.

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CJW: And that’s it for another issue. I hope all is well on your end, my friend. And hopefully your Halloween was as spooky or relaxing as you needed this week.

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.

Am I just depressed or is the world ending?

bonus 018 - 13th October, 2019

By Marlee Jane Ward

i

All I do lately is sleep. In bed by 8pm, asleep by nine, awake at 8am. Sometimes, after 12 hours of sleep the night before, I take a three-hour nap in the middle of the day. When I am awake, I drag myself through the day, hauling my sodden, heavy limbs along behind me. My oversleep causes lethargy, which causes me to oversleep… I’m a very tired ouroboros, in an endless fatigued cycle. Everything hurts. My low back screams. My arms, leaden. My legs thump with a deep, endless ache that causes them to writhe endlessly as if that will help. It doesn’t, but I don’t stop.

I’ve never felt this terrible before.

I need to go to the doctor, to watch them try to fill their vials. Whenever they take my blood, even it can’t be bothered, the veins slipping out of reach like, nah. When they hit one, the blood flows out slow and hesitant, in stops and starts.

I kind of want something to be wrong with me. It’s easier than facing what I think is the truth:

the world is ending and I am depressed.

ii

I can’t go on the internet anymore. It’s too stressful. Everyone is just linking doom and fucking gloom.

The lungs of the earth are burning, though that was a few weeks ago and everyone seems to have forgotten, moved on to the next awful thing. Microplastics are in everything. I read in a linked article that teabags leach millions of microscopic plastic particles into the water of your cup. Not even tea is safe, but I don’t stop drinking it. What’s the point? My body is 80% water and 20% plastic. I’m just waiting for my cancer, almost excited to find out which one will grab me. What kind do you think you’ll get?

And it looks like they’re starting a new war? I can’t work it out anymore. Are the old wars over?

I mute ‘microplastics’. I mute ‘war’. ‘Bolsonaro’, and of course, ‘Trump’, and ‘Pence’ and ‘Kavanaugh’, and ‘Scott Morrison’ and ‘Tony Abbott’ and ‘Mark Latham’ and the names of every other politician I can think of. I mute ‘guns’ and ‘active shooter’ and ‘rape’ and ‘sexual assault’. It would take me ten minutes to scroll through the list of words I’ve muted, but they still get through. I mute Twitter completely by closing the tab. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.

I know I need to know this shit. But fuck me, ignorance is bliss. Or for me, ignorance is just regular depression and not coupled with despair at the state of the world.

iii

Plastic straws are cancelled. We can’t have them anymore. They are bad for the planet! I liked straws because I have sensitive teeth and used them in cold drinks. Disabled people need straws for much more important reasons! But straws are now the cause of the world’s problems. No more straws for anyone.

Saving the environment is up to everyone. We all have to do our bit to reduce waste and curb emissions and turn off lights when we’re not using them. Think of the planet!

Except my bread comes wrapped in plastic. No one has cancelled bread bags. My yogurt is in a plastic tub. Yogurt is not canceled. I buy a coke from the servo in a plastic bottle, I watch lights burn in office buildings all night when I pass by, trucks spew diesel as they carry our shit from place to place. Coke and offices and trucks are not cancelled. One person going strawless when they get a cocktail in a bar, or a disabled person using one so they can drink comfortably and easily isn’t going to save the world when the system is set up to generate so much waste. When huge corps let their subsidiaries spew toxic shit and C02 into the atmosphere. The straw in my Dark and Stormy doesn’t make one fucking lick of difference when the government of Australia is actively promoting more coal. Stop trying to make me think it will.

Mega corps aren’t going to stop destroying the world in the name of profit, no matter how many straws you do not buy.

iv

Society will collapse in 3-5 years, says a boomer in an article in the Guardian. Lucky he can make millions in profit selling his house and retire to a bolthole down south when civilization ceases. I roll over in my bed in my room of my overpriced rental house, the pressure of my body on my bones making a deep ache and I throw my phone across the room.

‘What do you think about that?’ my friend asks when I tell her about it.

‘I’m just happy I won’t have to pay off my HECS debt.’

I’m at the point where I can’t see a point in doing anything because the world’s ending and what’s the point? Why bother spending a year trying to write a book? Why bother to retrain in a new career field that might have some money in it? Is there even money in anything anymore? And will money even help me?

My plans for the future are to starve to death when it all comes tumbling down. Or die of thirst. I haven’t decided yet.

***

v

I wrote the above when I was in a super dark place. Then, not long ago, two-thirds through a Saturday, I realised I hadn’t thought about flinging myself into the sun for the whole day. That’s the first time in at least a year that I’d gone a day without utter despair. I can actually say that I am feeling good at the moment. I don’t know what caused my depression to lift, though I’m glad it has.

But…

the world is still ending. I’m aware our way of life is going to drastically shift, and soon, and I’m in mourning for that, for all that we will lose. It’s just that my grief is no longer coupled with the chemical drain of a depressive episode.

I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know how we can stop the world from ending, or even if we can. I just know that for the moment my brain is letting me have a little peace, to love the people I love and enjoy the comfort of my 21st-century lifestyle while it’s still here.

I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts. However long that it.

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