nothing here but radicalised teenagers

issue 059 - 20th September, 2020

MJW: Hello from my pain couch, on what is apparently around day 120 of Melbourne lockdown. I exist outside of time and only know that it is approximately 120 days because of an article I read somewhere. When CJW told me the newsletter was due today I was like, ‘no! Didn’t we just put one out?’ Time isn’t REAL anymore! You know, like jobs, the economy, or democracy. Anyway, enjoy our latest edition packed full of hectic shit, because, well… the world is a hectic place.

I wrote our latest bonus - Walking and Things - about walking, pain, lockdown, pandemic, writing, etc. It’s slice of life and perhaps an intimate look into my headspace (I don’t know if that’s good or not?). To get access to this bonus, future bonuses, and the full archive, just go here to become a supporter. For a preview, unlocked bonuses are listed here.

The Team


CJW: ‘Queer Eye’, Jordan Peterson and the battle for depressed men (via Ed at Restricted.Academy)

The prominence that [Peterson] – and so many of his fellow travellers – give to their refusal to accept trans people only makes sense when you understand that for them, there is no greater sin than refusing to accept your place in the social hierarchy. After all, if you endlessly work hard to accept your rank in a world which makes you miserable, you resent no one more than those who refuse to follow. To be trans is to transgress against their world order, and they can’t stand it.

On Queer Eye vs Jordan Peterson in the battle for the hearts and souls of young men, particularly the things the show does right but also its misunderstanding of the economic realities facing so many of their guests.

MKY: off-topic ish, but I couldn’t help wondering if our deputy CHO is a Peterson fanboi, after that ‘just make ur bed’ thang.


DCH: How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled

Industry companies spent tens of millions of dollars on these ads and ran them for years, promoting the benefits of a product that, for the most part, was buried, was burned or, in some cases, wound up in the ocean.

Documents show industry officials knew this reality about recycling plastic as far back as the 1970s.


CJW: I found out that recycling is largely bullshit just in the last couple of years. I’d like to think the Australian situation is a bit better than the American one, if only because we haven’t relied on sending trash to China the same way the US has, but I’ve got no idea if we’re actually recycling to the extent that we as individuals have long assumed.

Related to trash: The mattress landfill crisis: how the race to bring us better beds led to a recycling nightmare. Those mattresses with no-risk returns that you’ve heard advertised on podcasts? In the States at least, if you return it they dump it straight into landfill because it’s cheaper than recycling. This article is mostly about the UK context, but, yeah. This is capitalism.


CJW: Deep-Sea Mining and the Race to the Bottom of the Ocean (via Marcel at Restricted.Academy)

At full capacity, these [mining] companies expect to dredge thousands of square miles a year. Their collection vehicles will creep across the bottom in systematic rows, scraping through the top five inches of the ocean floor. Ships above will draw thousands of pounds of sediment through a hose to the surface, remove the metallic objects, known as polymetallic nodules, and then flush the rest back into the water. Some of that slurry will contain toxins such as mercury and lead, which could poison the surrounding ocean for hundreds of miles. The rest will drift in the current until it settles in nearby ecosystems. An early study by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences predicted that each mining ship will release about 2 million cubic feet of discharge every day, enough to fill a freight train that is 16 miles long. The authors called this “a conservative estimate,” since other projections had been three times as high. By any measure, they concluded, “a very large area will be blanketed by sediment to such an extent that many animals will not be able to cope with the impact and whole communities will be severely affected by the loss of individuals and species.”

We missed this one earlier in the year (probably because the country was burning), but it's a great long read about deep sea mining, the history of deep sea exploration, and more capitalist, environment-destroying bullshit.

Mining companies may promise to extract seabed metal with minimal damage to the surrounding environment, but to believe this requires faith. It collides with the force of human history, the law of unintended consequences, and the inevitability of mistakes.


MJW: A pandemic, a motel without power and a potentially terrifying glimpse of Orlando’s future

The aging motels along Florida’s Highway 192 have long been barometers of a fragile economy. In good times they drew budget-conscious tourists from China, South America and elsewhere, whose dollars helped to pay the salaries of legions of low-wage service workers; the people who made one of the world’s largest tourism destinations — “the most magical place on earth” — run.

In tough times, the motels degenerated into shelters of last resort in a city where low-income housing shortages were among the most severe in the nation and the social safety net was collapsing. Now they were fast becoming places where it was possible to glimpse what a complete social and economic collapse might look like in America.

I read this and cried. I cry a lot lately. (Okay, I've always cried a lot, I'm a crier and I’m not ashamed, if you’re feeling frustrated or whatever rn, go and have a good cry, come back and tell me you don’t feel better.) While reading this for some reason the phrase 'there but for the grace of God go us' was in my head, which is so weird because I don't believe in God. But just… fuck. This story is not new. I’ve read about it many times. HuffPost, 2012. Time, 2014. The Florida Project, 2017. It’s been going on this long, and now chuck in Coronavirus and economic collapse and just… fuck.


DCH: ‘A tale of 2 recessions’: As rich Americans get richer, the bottom half struggles

The result is a splintered economic picture characterized by high highs — the stock market has hit record levels — and incongruous low lows: Nearly 30 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, and the jobless rate stands at 8.4 percent. And that dichotomy, economists fear, could obscure the need for an additional economic stimulus that most say is sorely needed.

One paltry fucking $1200 check. That’s it. That’s the sum fucking total of stimulus in the US. The country that as of this week has more deaths to Covid-19 than anywhere else in the world. 


CJW: Marxist memes for TikTok teens: can the internet radicalize teenagers for the left? (via Ahmet A. Sabancı)

Young people on social media are also operating within the larger political and economic context of stagnating wages, inequality, cultural pessimism and anxiety, all of which have been magnified by Covid-19 and may likely continue to get worse. This goes hand-in-hand with radicalization. As fewer people are able to access the benefits of the mainstream, individuals move further toward the polarized edges of the competitive in an attention economy. My suspicion is that all social media influencers will soon also become political influencers. They’ll have to: online personalities who stay neutral will quickly sink to the bottom of the newsfeed.

Whereas Joshua Citarella’s paper (that we shared previously) was focused on researching and understanding the online political discourse of The Youth, this opinion piece is about the potential of radicalising young people for the left.

While we’re talking about TikTok: Trump administration bans TikTok and WeChat downloads over security fears… Can we convince them that guns - or fuck, the police -  are a Chinese conspiracy? 


DCH: Pasco’s sheriff created a futuristic program to stop crime before it happens.

They swarm homes in the middle of the night, waking families and embarrassing people in front of their neighbors. They write tickets for missing mailbox numbers and overgrown grass, saddling residents with court dates and fines. They come again and again, making arrests for any reason they can.

More predictive policing bullshit. This time around Tampa Bay. You can read our thinking on this subject in our bonus letter: Silicon Valley’s surveillance arsenal 


DCH: What Black Lives Matter has accomplished

Trump was elected president on a promise to restore an idealized past in which America’s traditional aristocracy of race was unquestioned. But rather than restore that aristocracy, four years of catastrophe have—at least for the moment—discredited it. Instead of ushering in a golden age of prosperity and a return to the cultural conservatism of the 1950s, Trump’s presidency has radicalized millions of white Americans who were previously inclined to dismiss systemic racism as a myth, the racial wealth gap as a product of Black cultural pathology, and discriminatory policing as a matter of a few bad apples.

I know Republicans that even support calls to #defundthepolice. That was unthinkable even a year ago. BLM has had more success in shaping political discourse than any other movement in America in my lifetime.


MJW: Andre Braugher Reexamines His Cop Roles and Urges ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ to Rise to the Moment

“I look up after all these decades of playing these characters, and I say to myself, it’s been so pervasive that I’ve been inside this storytelling, and I, too, have fallen prey to the mythology that’s been built up,” he says. “It’s almost like the air you breathe or the water that you swim in. It’s hard to see. But because there are so many cop shows on television, that’s where the public gets its information about the state of policing. Cops breaking the law to quote, ‘defend the law,’ is a real terrible slippery slope. It has given license to the breaking of law everywhere, justified it and excused it. That’s something that we’re going to have to collectively address — all cop shows.”

I’m a tragically devoted B99 fan, so obvs the current discourse around it, and the acknowledgement of my privilege in never having had to think of this before, has conjured some Thoughts and Feelings. So I have been interested to hear from someone involved with the show, esp one of the actors of colour, to let us know their feelings.


MKY: Undraining the swamp: how rewilders have reclaimed golf courses and waterways

I’m delighted to hear of rewilding project’s successes in Melbourne, and elsewhere… that people are enjoying more green space during their one, no two whole hours now they can go a rambling and be all 

but the demographics of it aren’t lost on me. I guess the poorer suburbs don’t have private golf courses to shut down, huh...

CJW: I absolutely adore this and these projects. And I’m so glad to see local councils coming around to realising how important wild land can be (instead of just handing everything over to developers).


DCH: Climate Change Will Force a New American Migration

Across the United States, some 162 million people — nearly 1 in 2 — will most likely experience a decline in the quality of their environment, namely more heat and less water. For 93 million of them, the changes could be particularly severe, and by 2070, our analysis suggests, if carbon emissions rise at extreme levels, at least 4 million Americans could find themselves living at the fringe, in places decidedly outside the ideal niche for human life.

Inferno season is decidedly a thing now on the west coast. Meanwhile flood insurers are obligating people to retreat from high-risk areas. And still no Green New Deal.


Cutting Room Floor:


CJW: Technoccult New: Saying the Quiet Part Loud

Status quo wants you to say "They were already disabled;" "Well they were old;" "Fat people are unhealthy anyway;" "Black people don't know how to take care of themselves;" "Poors should've made better choices;" "Who cares about trans people;" "Those illegals were always dirty."

And status quo wants you to say that and be comfortable saying that, because then it can't be you, right? If it's "Those People," who "brought it on themselves," somehow and who thus "don't deserve our help," then you, you, who are doing everything right, can't get sick, right?

Somehow Damien manages to outline a bunch of horrendous shit happening in the States, but still come out with a sliver of hope. Bless him (seriously, whatever powers that be, bless him), because that’s more than I can manage most days.

I hope by now you’re all subscribed to Technoccult, but this dispatch really spoke to me (and I’m sharing it instead of sharing 3 or 4 links from it).


CJW: Octavia E. Butler Slow Read

If you, like me, haven’t read enough Octavia Butler, here’s a perfect excuse to rectify that. It’s a slow read along - one book every 2 months, starting with Kindred this month.


DCH: air by microclimate



CJW: Goro, by Sarah Horrocks

Goro is the story of an extremely wealthy family, their bickering, infighting, and history of tension and hurt… and also assassins. It’s mostly about interpersonal relations, but when Horrocks needs to draw an action scene, she absolutely draws the hell out of it, with interesting layouts and kinetic art. The visual style is inspired by Bill Sienkiewicz, with a bold and artfully messy inking style, and an almost-collage feel in the use of tones and patterns. 

I want to call it outsider comix, but I don’t think that’s accurate because Horrocks obviously knows comix intimately, and the choices she makes are deliberate. I’m also tempted to call it outlaw comix, but historically the art in outlaw comix is a lot darker, whereas Horrocks makes great use of white space in her layouts. So maybe it’s better to call it arthouse comix. Sarah Horrocks writes, draws, letters, and tones the whole comic herself, so there’s a definite sense of the auteur’s complete control and that “larger than the sum of its parts” feel you often get when a creator is able to work entirely for themselves, with no oversight or interference.

Buy Goro direct here.



CJW: TrueAnon: Bush Did 9/11 Series - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part ???

I’ve mentioned this series before, but to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11, the TrueAnon team added more episodes to the series. Across the full series they go into the decades of history leading up to 9/11, the “inconsistencies” of the day itself, the web of private and governmental intelligence agencies who may have been involved, and probably more I’m forgetting.

I re-watched The Long Kiss Goodnight last weekend and I had forgotten that the movie was about a US intelligence agency throwing a “fundraiser” - that is, a false-flag op that would kill enough innocent civilians that they’d essentially get a blank cheque from congress. It would be easy to say that 9/11 was a fundraiser, but that’s a simplification. It didn’t just raise money for intelligence, military, and policing bodies, but essentially reconfigured American society and rewrote American laws to give these groups a shocking amount of money and power, and to put them above the law. Not to mention how it gave them an excuse to police the Middle East for various economic, political, religious, and ideological reasons.

Similarly I rewatched Eagle Eye recently, and the main plot is about… well, all of the horrifying technological invasions of privacy that were outlined in Snowden’s leak 5 years after the film’s release. Except of course in the movie it’s a rampant evil AI that is making use of this freedom-decaying collection of surveillance tools, and not, you know, the US state, the many arms of its intelligence and policing organisations, or even just disgruntled police officers who want to locate the former spouse they’ve been violently abusing for years.

Eagle Eye has the sheen of US propaganda, but living in a post-Snowden world (in which nothing changed, but at least we all know we’re living in a panopticon) it’s hard not to see the irony.

MKY: Part 5 of this series might just be my favourite so far. But then again, maybe that’s ‘cause the strategy of tension they discuss in depth - a kinda, ‘who’s on first’ of false flags attacks and state-supported terrorism in general - is one of the things I’m trying to capture in my novel (stfu about ur novel m1k3y and get back to writing it. Ok, other me). But while I’ve got the mic, the slow convergence of their ‘spider network’ series and the bush pill’d ones reminds me of what happened with my old Nightmares of the Future and Plutocratic Exit Stratregy posts for the Daily Grail (and elsewhere) as they eventually became the same thing. It’s all one big, world swallowing elephant, and I guess tackling it all from multiple angles - start with the tail here and the trunk there -  is just inevitable or something. Back on topic, dunno if we’ve mentioned it before, but their DH-Ass ep was ultimately the most mind blowing for me, and I think joins the two streams together.


DCH: “All the problems in the world can be traced to what fathers do to their sons.” -- George Carlin

The Self-Promotion

MJW: Queerstories, a storytelling event for the queer community run all over Australia by Maeve Marsden, was the last event I did in person. It was at the Melba Spiegeltent in Collingwood, a small and beautiful space and the crowd sat shoulder to shoulder, most of the seats taken. I’ve come so far with reading my work aloud - I used to cop shit for the lack of affect that my overwhelming fear of sharing my work with people conjured when I had to read aloud at uni. With this one, I left the stage feeling like I was ON. Like I was even funny, which is something I have NEVER felt in my life. This is a ten minute tale about my nails, my chronic pain, and my unruly body.

Also, as other me (Mia Walsch), I did this interview with Sam Twyford-Moore for the University of Toronto Press, who is publishing the North American edition of his book The Rapids: Ways of Looking at Mania. Sam and I coincidentally went to primary school together and both released books about mental illness within the same 12-month period. Warning: it’s kinda long. I just have a lot of Thoughts and Feelings?

MJW: You made it! You deserve a cookie. A whole cake! Now, go forth and rewild, buy a ridiculous helmet that will make you look like a jerk, and maybe read Octavia Butler with a bunch of other fine people! If you can leave your house, enjoy it (with a mask on), and if you can see other people, (socially distance and) ENJOY THAT TOO. We’ll be back with more of our favourite stuff in a fortnight, or if you are me, what feels like MERE DAYS. Stay safe and be well. Xx

nothing here but privileged escape pods

issue 058 - September 6th, 2020

MJW: Welcome to this, the fifty-eighth installment of this newsletter, coming to you from the endless, timeless void that is level four restrictions in Melbourne. I have no idea how long I have been here, how long I will continue to be here, my entire life is house. 

But I’ve heard that there is a world outside of the 5km radius I am legally allowed to be in between the hours of 5am and 8pm, and here’s some stuff from it.

To get access to our latest bonus, future bonuses, and the full archive, just go here to become a supporter.

The Team


CJW: David Graeber, anthropologist and author of Bullshit Jobs, dies aged 59

Graeber was such an important writer and thinker for our times. This is a huge loss for us all, but condolences to his friends and family who have lost so much more. Here is a selection of some of his shorter work:

Not sure if we’ve linked to any of these before, but I definitely read Of Flying Cars for my bonus piece on Simulation Theory, and I’m certain we’ve referenced Bullshit Jobs a number of times.

MKY: VALE! Only ever read Debt and a few essays, but that was enough for him to have a permanent impact on my thinking, and I’ll be working my way through the above curated list (thx Corey!) over the coming days for sure.

DCH: "Whenever someone starts talking about the “free market,” it’s a good idea to look around for the man with the gun. He’s never far away." The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (David Graeber)

Still reeling from the sad news. I think Graeber’s work is right up there with Piketty in terms of getting so much of what’s wrong with the world today right. This short video on debt is worth your time too.


CJW: The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias and Police

Several shots ring out. In the distance, you see the gunman in jeans and a green T-shirt. A man rushes up behind him. The gunman turns. More shots ring out and the man collapses to the ground. The gunman circles a parked car, then comes back to the man laid out on the pavement. He looks down at him and pulls out his cellphone. “I just killed somebody,” the shooter says, before jogging off. The man on the ground twitches and stares up at the sky, gasping deeply as bystanders work desperately to put pressure on his wound. Some cry, others yell for someone to call the police.

Don’t forget what’s really beneath the thin blue line:

(via Mutiny Information Cafe in Denver - buy the stickers here. Thanks to Justin Mitchell for the credit.)

They said something on a recent Chapo Traphouse episode about the Kenosha shooting that really struck a nerve with me - that this piece of shit Rittenhouse figured out a way to do his mass shooting and have it be defended by half of the country. They’re right, and it’s sickening to consider because it means America has gone well beyond any gun control debate. Sprees of gun violence aren’t even necessarily a bad thing any more, depending on the identities of the victims (who will invariably be smeared in the mainstream media because the American sickness runs deep).

Now, with this event, mass shootings are no longer unequivocally bad, and the shooters will no longer be universally despised by all but the most vicious trolls and far-right hatemongers. Expect more mass shootings.

(If you want to argue with me about the use of “mass” here, just wait.)

From QAnon to Kyle Rittenhouse, the Right is Sinking Deeper Into an Alternate Reality

In the span of a week, Trump and Carlson both gave the green light to extremist elements on the Right, QAnon conspiracy theorists on the one hand and armed pro-police adventurists on the other. In the process they each drew on the same bedrock narrative: that the streets of America — especially Democrat-run cities, but nowhere is safe — are teeming with lawless agents of anarchy who flout authority, terrorize innocents, and threaten civilization itself. Thus besieged, right-wing extremism of one variant or another is not really extreme at all. It is rational, even heroic and patriotic.


CJW: Posthuman Fascism (via Ospare)

Anti-humanism refers to the way in which 20th-century fascism was geared toward, among other things, rolling back the universalist legacy of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Contemporary fascism, in contrast, is based on a “post-humanism” insofar as it is based upon the seeming obsolescence and disposability of entire categories of persons. The present COVID-19 pandemic makes this imminently clear and police murders of Black people drive the point home with particular force.

On 20th Century fascism vs our current moment. Read alongside The Future is Fascist, which we shared just over a year ago.


CJW: Revolution or Ruin

For Wallace-Wells, ecological devastation has not been wrought upon the few by the many. Rather, “each of us imposes some suffering on our future selves every time we flip a switch, buy a plane ticket, or fail to vote.” Never mind that 1.2 billion people today have little to no access to electricity. Or that 80 percent of the world’s population has never flown. Or, most egregiously, that ExxonMobil executives already knew that their industry was destroying the planet in 1977 but chose to hide their findings and fund climate change–denying research because there was money to be made in killing future generations. To blame everyone equally in the face of such extreme inequality is to take the side of fossil capital. It denies rather than clarifies the obvious: the climate crisis is a space of class struggle.


Capital’s self-expanding logic is indifferent to death.

On climate change denialism, eco-nihilism, and the (deliberate?) omission of class politics in climate disaster discourse. And also the contradictions inherent in the GND and GIR.


CJW: What Have We Done to the Whale? (via Christopher Brown)

Whale blubber stores toxins that have made their way to the sea, in the form of agricultural and mining runoff or condensed emissions—an effect magnified by whales’ longevity. [...] Orca in Washington’s Puget Sound have been declared among the earth’s most toxified animals; the carcasses of beluga whales that wash up on the shores of Canada are classified as toxic waste. The most prolific whale killers are no longer the whale hunters. They are, instead, the rest of us: creatures of late capitalism whose patterns of consumption make us complicit, however unwittingly or unwillingly, in an unfolding mass biocide.

This is incredibly depressing, but important.


CJW: Why Facebook Is Bad, Twitter Might Be a Little Bit Good, and Social Media Is Rotting Our Brains (via Sentiers)

Lanier had been early to the idea that [social media] platforms were addictive and even harmful—that their algorithms made people feel bad, divided them against one another, and actually changed who they were, in an insidious and threatening manner. That because of this, social media was in some ways “worse than cigarettes,” as Lanier put it at one point, “in that cigarettes don't degrade you. They kill you, but you're still you.”

Interesting profile on Jaron Lanier, and his thoughts on our future.

I've not read this yet because it's long, but it will surely be related: How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism, a New Book by Cory Doctorow.

DCH: That Doctorow piece is well worth it. 


MJW: JobKeeper changes are now set in stone — here's what you need to know


The Government argues that at the end of the month it will be time to start weaning Australians and businesses off of the JobKeeper payment.

Weaning onto what? Poverty? They've just a bill that is going to destroy the economy that they are so desperately trying to 'protect.' Do they not grasp that heaps of jobs are going to LITERALLY DISAPPEAR? Even the most bullshit of jobs are getting hundreds of applications. It's just austerity for its own sake and it's gross and I am mad.

It feels like they are trying to make us too overwhelmed, tired and desperate to put up a fight.


MKY: The Privileged Have Entered Their Escape Pods by Douglas Rushkoff

Rushkoff’s ‘spiritual successor’ to hisSurvival of the Richest piece (which felt real familiar for some reason lol) that more directly maps onto that ‘luxe quarantine life’ we discussed last issue. He makes some decent points here - the major one prolly being him showing, but not saying for some reason, that eco-fascism is here, it’s not just...:

These solar-powered hilltop resorts, chains of defensible floating islands, and robotically tilled eco-farms were less last resorts than escape fantasies for billionaires who aren’t quite rich enough to build space programs like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.No, they weren’t scared for the Event; on some level, they were hoping for it.

Now a few crises back, post the GFC, Neil Strauss wrote this book called Emergency - which, ngl, I pretty naively consumed at the time, and was the one non-PUA dude who went to see him talk about it here, and his skeevy af previous work. Point being that looking back, pretty obvz this was a portent of what was to come, that Strauss was documenting just what the rich’s escape plan looked like (multiple residences, multiple passports… with some cool urban evasion cum zombie apoc survival training thrown in).

Instead of figuring out how to get away from the rest of us, I told them, they might want to focus on making the world a place from which they wouldn’t have to retreat.

So Doug can scream at them all from his Medium page for us to see, but it’s clear the message is lost on the Elite. And if the best a Futurist can hope for is ‘to serve as a kind of dungeon master for their fantasy role-playing session’ then I’ll just keep slaving away on my piece of shit novel instead. A mood.


DCH: Asphalt is becoming a greater pollutant than the cars driving on it

Researchers isolated asphalt samples and heated them between 40 and 200 degrees Celsius (104 to 392 degrees Fahrenheit). Just from 40 to 60 degrees Celsius — typical temperatures for Southern Californian asphalt on a summer’s day — emissions doubled. When hit with solar radiation, emissions jumped 300 percent.

Good news everyone! Vehicle emissions are down. But the road itself is killing us now.

MKY: Less roads, more parks / bike paths / greenbelts / nature corridors! In a vaguely sane world, that might even happen too. Casual convos at the dog park with people whose job it is to plan such things tell me it’s even probable - road maintenance is a huge cost for local councils. Parks etc, far less so - and everyone benefits. Beneath the asphalt, the forest. Etc.


DCH: Amazon is explicitly recruiting union-busting internal spies now

Other positions take some reading to understand what, exactly, they entail — like the company’s open “Intelligence Analyst” positions, which sounds more like a CIA listing than one for an internet delivery company. A quick read-through of the position’s responsibilities explains the strange title: Amazon is hiring a corporate spy to report on any union-organizing activities.

Amazon has a long history of union-busting. And of killing its workers. And of putting brown kids in cages in the US concentration camps


DCH: Gen Z Largely Believes Climate Change Is Inevitable, Though Roughly Half Think It Can Be Slowed

A little more than a third responded that climate change is a natural phenomenon, and that nature’s whims are not humanity’s to control. For instance, one Gen Zer said, “We are only a small component of the system. That’s not to say we’re not important but our impact on shifting climates are negligible.” A smaller subgroup, closer to 8 percent, attributed climate change to God, similarly expressing the sentiment that humans do not have the control.

We fukt.


DCH: Forest Fires Are Setting Chernobyl’s Radiation Free

August is typically the worst month of the Chernobyl fire season, and this year, public anxiety is mounting. The devastation left by the world's worst nuclear disaster is colliding with the disaster of climate change, and the consequences reach far and deep.

Radiation was detected over 2000 miles away in Norway due to these fires.


Cutting Room Floor:


CJW: Augmented Intelligence

MKY and I have talked up Max Anton Brewer’s previous newsletter SCIOPS in these pages before. SCIOPS is dead, long live SCIOPS, but here’s a new newsletter from Max.

The dominant style of human-computer interface design is short-sighted and wasteful. Through the lens of whole-systems design, it looks like a system for making the maximum amount of human misery, at the greatest cost.

To understand why things are this way requires a grand vision for politics, economics, history and science, which I do not have.

What I do have is an obsessive interest in interface design, and your email address. Expect a weekly missive on the hows of interfaces:

How did these interfaces evolve, how do they work, and how can we make them better?


MJW: Evolution by Stephen Baxter

I’ve only managed to read one new book since March, but I have been able to re-read and I’m dipping my toe back into 2003’s Evolution by Stephen Baxter. When I try to explain it to people, I’m all ‘the main character is like… human evolution. It’s really good, though!’

A series of connected stories make up the narrative, starting with mammals who burrow to survive the Chicxulub impactor, various furred scurriers, then wending through our primate ancestors and various Homos, diverting briefly to Neanderthals before their demise. Baxter gives us snippets of modern humans, then projects us into a weird and somewhat terrifying 500 million years onward, to the last gasp of humankind.

Baxter combines the hardest of hard science with imaginative fiction as he leads us through our known (or kinda-known) past, and onwards into the future. It’s a fucking bold and ambitious novel, requiring the kind of research that just thinking of makes me need to have a lie-down. And I think he pulls it off. The woodeness of Baxters characters (in books like the duology of Flood and Ark, as well as his fucking brutal Northland Trilogy) is actually perfect for this kind of massive-idea storytelling.
There’s a lot to like in it, and a few dud sections, but keep an eye out for the stories ‘The Crossing’, ‘Mother’s People’, ‘Raft Continent’, ‘The Swarming People’, and ‘The Kingdom of the Rats.’ I mean, keep an eye out for them because they are MY favourites.

If you can handle big ideas right now, then this has some of the biggest. 


CJW: Clothing as Platform

In commercial terms, data collected from clothes would present an array of opportunities for companies to set prices according to their perception of the customer, gain control of product resale, decide which consumers are able to resell garments or receive discounts, and wield algorithmic power in forecasting “user” behavior.


Wearing clothes ceases to be an aesthetic performance of identity and becomes more a form of alienated aesthetic labor: The wearer becomes a “user,” and the “user” becomes an object to be manipulated and traded among brands and corporations.

A great piece from Real Life Mag on the dystopian (and otherwise) potential in fashion joining the IoT. 


DCH: I Created an A.I. Clone of Jesus

I present to you A.I. Jesus. An artificial intelligence of my invention created from the King James Bible and nothing else. This A.I. learned human language from reading the bible and nothing else; absorbing every word more thoroughly than all the monks of all the monasteries that have ever been.

Highly recommend you have a go with rolling your own biblical prophecy to help you through the end times. My friend Frank did and he came up with some great Revelations. It also set my friend Matt’s brain on fire. So much show he’s still playing with the GPT-3 engine behind it.

CJW: 10 Billion Days or 100 Billion Nights.


DCH: God Is Dead. So Is the Office. These People Want to Save Both

In simpler times, divinity schools sent their graduates out to lead congregations or conduct academic research. Now there is a more office-bound calling: the spiritual consultant. Those who have chosen this path have founded agencies — some for-profit, some not — with similar-sounding names: Sacred Design Lab, Ritual Design Lab, Ritualist. They blend the obscure language of the sacred with the also obscure language of management consulting to provide clients with a range of spiritually inflected services, from architecture to employee training to ritual design.

So divinity consultants are a thing now. What’s next? McKinsey adding “chaos magicians” to their rate card? P.S. Neither God nor the office are worth saving. 


CJW: Blame! Master Edition, Volume 1 by Tsutomu Nihei

I bought the Volume 1 (and maybe 2?) ebooks for Blame! ages ago, but the black and white tones didn’t play nicely with my tablet, leading to weird artifacting that made it impossible to read. This manga is almost entirely focused on visual spectacle and action, so screen-distorted art just wasn’t going to cut it. I recently bought the paperback of Volume 1 and was not disappointed.

The story follows a mysterious man with an extremely powerful weapon, searching a seemingly endless city in search of genetic traits from before a cataclysmic event that happened at some point in the past. It has the feel of a post-apocalyptic road story with different factions and strange creatures/creations all fighting to survive the hostile artificial environment they find themselves caught in. But there are no vehicles rolling over endless flat plains, just hyper-detailed architecture stretching in all directions.

All this means you’re just as likely to flip the page to find this:

Or this:

The Blame! Netflix anime movie seems (from my reading of Volume 1 only) to be a pretty good distillation of the manga, and it’s pretty fucking great on its own merits, so maybe give that a look, and if you still want more, track the manga down.


MJW: I’m listening to ‘Once Upon a Time in the Valley’, a podcast about the whole Traci Lords scandal in the eighties. I honestly don’t know how I feel about it. It’s heavily scripted and there’s something that feels a little.. cruel about the tone? It’s also released weekly, so I’m not sure where it’s going. It is an interesting example of the intangibility of experience and the subjectivity of memory, though. And it’s a story I’d always heard of, but knew no details about. Hrmmm…


DCH: Meritocracy is a myth.


DCH: Cybernetically-enhanced locusts. What could go wrong?


DCH: Preppers and the YOYO (You’re on your own) culture

Loren Kronemyer is an artist living and working in remote lutruwita / Tasmania, Australia. Her works span interactive and live performance, experimental media art and large-scale worldbuilding projects exploring ecological futures and survival skills. As part of duo Pony Express, she is co-creator of projects like Ecosexual Bathhouse, a touring queer sex club for the entire ecosystem. I asked her to tell us more about her work and her view of prepper culture.


The Self-Promotion

MJW: Jeez, I’ve had so, so much self-promo to add, but have been so, so unable to engage with pretty much anything. Lockdown 2 is hard, friends. So I’m doing a big chunk of it here.

Yep, I totally had a new book come out under my pseudonym in July (Money for Something by Mia Walsch) and it’s… certainly a time. My advice? Don’t release a book during a pandemic. Anyway, I got interviewed by Penthouse! I’ve done a bunch of radio interviews! I got a bunch of reviews! Some are good and some are kinda middling! Here’s an extract

MJW: That’s it for this fortnight. Join us again in two weeks, when the world has once again irrevocably changed and we must all recalibrate our lives, expectations and futures! YES! CAN’T FUCKING WAIT. Xx

nothing here but luxe quarantine life

issue 057 - 23rd August, 2020

CJW: Thanks for joining us for another issue of nothing here, and a big welcome to our new readers. Hope you enjoy what we’re doing here.

If you know someone you think might appreciate this newsletter, go ahead and forward it along.

The latest bonus was the opening couple of chapters to a gonzo, psychedelic spy-fi novel Austin and I wrote a few years back - In League with the Devil. To read it, future bonuses, and the full archive, you can become a supporter. A list of unlocked bonuses is here if you want to see what you’re in for.

The Team


CJW: How Not to Lose the Lockdown Generation

In the panic about this “lost generation,” there has been a lot of talk about how there is no work for young people. But that is a lie. There is no end of meaningful work that desperately needs doing — in our schools, hospitals, and on the land. We just need to create the jobs.

This piece on the US response to conditions during the Great Depression that parallel today by Naomi Klein is brilliant and follows some of the points Cory Doctorow made recently.


CJW: The Great American Sci-Fi: Utopia or Dystopia? (via Sentiers)

[...] wherever women have their full set of legal rights and equal opportunities, the population growth rate immediately stabilizes, flattens and sometimes even drops below the replacement rate. Social justice is in fact good environmental policy, it is a kind of technology, in that it is a political software, critical to human survival. And the hyper-consumption of the rich and the deep poverty of the poor are among the worst environmental impacts of any human activities, so solving inequality is not just the right thing to do; it’s the optimally survivable thing to do.

I could have grabbed a few different pull quotes from this talk recently given by Kim Stanley Robinson. As with Naomi Klein and Cory Doctorow's pieces, there are sustainable paths forward if our politicians can find the will to deny capitalist impulses long enough to consider the needs of the planet and the future.

The possibility for utopia is still here: we are powerful thinkers, and we can think our way out of this crisis by using such technologies as language, the rule of law, the scientific method, and justice.


DCH: Facebook abandons broken drilling equipment under Oregon coast seafloor

Today, about 1,100 feet of pipe, a drill tip, various other tools and 6,500 gallons of drilling fluid sit under the seafloor just off the central Oregon coast. Facebook has no plans to retrieve the equipment.

Facebook is the new big oil. Now it’s literally acting like it. 


DCH: Apparently the only thing not allowed to kill me is a robot

I simply don't understand why I'm allowed, neigh encouraged, to die from climate change, viral pandemics, unsafe drinking water, gun violence, lack of healthcare, war, drones, suicide from lack of mental healthcare, police brutality, addiction (especially opioids!), the consequences of government surveillance, and apparently onions, but we're suddenly taking an anti-robot murderer stance?

Slaugherbots are not yet a reality. Job destruction from AI-enabled automation is. People like Elon Musk who loudly talk about the former often benefit from the latter. That said Project: Maven goes live next month. Not good.


DCH: 'Hundreds dead' because of Covid-19 misinformation

At least 800 people may have died around the world because of coronavirus-related misinformation in the first three months of this year, researchers say.

About 5,800 people were admitted to hospital because of it too. And this is a low estimate because it’s just tracking things like drinking Clorox and shit. Never mind people fucked by not wearing masks.


MKY: “All These Rich People Can’t Stop Themselves”: The Luxe Quarantine Lives of Silicon Valley’s Elite

If you think this is bad now, just wait a few years as the privilege bubble of the elite begins to encompass and fortify itself around the shrinking habitable zones of the planet we all share.


DCH: Uber would rather pull out of California than give its drivers benefits

The company would rather horde its cash and fully pull out of California than deal with the implications of calling its workers what they are. The company’s view of its drivers — as pawns for a legal game — is very revealing about its priorities, and about the dangers of letting companies build unsustainable models built on landgrab-orientated pricing models that hurt workers.

As I’ve written about extensively, Uberiscorruptasfuck. If your business model demands that you can't call the people who work for you EMPLOYEES, then your company should burn to the ground. The gig economy is a scam.


MKY: After 40 years, researchers finally see Earth’s climate destiny more clearly

...the future is looking worse than we hoped, but not quite as bad as we feared. So we’ve got that going for us.

Getting used to the idea that a min. 1.5C warming is a thing of the past, and just what a planet with at least 2.6C warming is gonna be like now is a whole ‘nother story...


MKY: I'm writing to you from 2029 and I want you to know we did it. We turned the ship around | Scott Ludlam

Ludlam was one of the few Australian politicians I had any respect at all for, but if this kinda optimistic scenario / magical future conjuring accomplished anything, I’d be ingratiating myself with the militant vegan crustpunks that seized the nearby shopping centre as soon as the retailers shuttered it and went home to fuck over their employees and collect dat big govt monies… and he’d be the town crier at the West Australian Thunderdome, where Billionaires face off against each other until the dead earth is replenished with their blood. AMA.


Cutting Room Floor:


CJW: LODGER by David Lapham and Maria Lapham

Look, STRAY BULLETS is indisputably a classic of the comics medium, but it’s also MASSIVE. LODGER is a self-contained graphic novel very much in the vein of SB, with a dash of YOUNG LIARS. I don’t want to say too much about the story because the way it builds up in layers is better to be discovered for yourself, but if you enjoy Lapham’s work, you want this book.

And if you haven’t come across Lapham’s work before, he writes (with the help of his wife) and draws seedy, smart, and violent crime comics, infused with a touch of the weird. Being self-contained, LODGER is possibly the best introduction to his work you’re likely to find.


CJW: Where can you be safe in this world? Maybe we're asking the wrong question

This is me, on a rock, having a cry because sure, I’m safe right now, but what is the point of being safe if everyone else is drowning and burning and starving and all the things you love are desiccating in the ever-hotter, ever-drier atmosphere? In a world like this world, safety means isolation and loneliness. It’s a jerk act to smile when everyone else is weeping in pain. There are no moments of spontaneous wonder in a bunker.

This is a great personal essay about safety and anxiety in the modern condition, by friend of the newsletter Jane Rawson.


MJW: Greed, cruelty, consumption: the world is changed yet its worst persists by Omar Sakr

There is talk, all the time, of restrictions easing, and not easing, of who deserves to die, of letting the old go, of the “economy” needing to start again, which is to say the rich need to get richer again (a phenomenon that actually never stopped), and a sense already of an acceptable level of sacrifice in order for this to occur. This is evil at its most banal and it shows no sign of abatement. Let the nurses and doctors suffer, let the labourers build and break, let them all grind their bodies to the mill, for somewhere a bank balance must grow.

CJW: Part of the same series as Rawson’s piece. If MKY was unconvinced by Ludlum's piece above, this essay by Omar Sakr is much closer to the POV we hold and share here…

MKY: “My normal and your normal is a relentless march to a ruined climate, the dismissal and undermining of scientists these past few decades, the lack of leadership and vision that dares to imagine a sustainable way forward.” ok yes very much this.


DCH: Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom

Every prism — the name was a near acronym of the original designation, “Plaga interworld signaling mechanism” — had two LEDs, one red and one blue. When a prism was activated, a quantum measurement was performed inside the device, with two possible outcomes of equal probability: one outcome was indicated by the red LED lighting up, while the other was indicated by the blue one. From that moment forward, the prism allowed information transfer between two branches of the universal wave function. In colloquial terms, the prism created two newly divergent timelines, one in which the red LED lit up and one in which the blue one did, and it allowed communication between the two.

Lovely short story from Ted Chiang over at OneZero.


MKY: Cities are a borderland where the wild and built worlds meet

Dreams of a future in which technology saves us from ecological collapse seek to preserve the firm boundary between people and environment, city and hinterland, urbanisation and wilderness. But these binaries don’t reflect the multiple, intertwined ways in which cities, habitats and people are made. It is time we left them behind, and began to learn new ways of sensing and thinking the city.

If you only read one longread challenging how we think about cities and nature, make it this one.


CJW: Home Body

Unfortunately (or fortunately), we can’t take care of ourselves alone. Within the city, especially, our ability to live comfortably and maintain our bodies and communities depends on the branching networks of pipes and tubes and the labor that feeds into them. We’re enmeshed in the infrastructures of the collective cyborg even when it’s clearly failing us, undermined by rot and capital.

An interesting essay on the house as being both a part of our cyborg selves and part of a greater cyborg collective.


CJW: Accelerate the Metaverse: Epic Games and the Networked Individual Mindset

Rentism, as far as I am concerned, is the bleakest future available to us. It’s a truly Sisyphean existence of endless drudgery in return for endless monthly payments. I reckon extinction sounds more palatable. The horror of rentism is also that, were it to establish itself absolutely, there’d be no way out — not unless we had a kind of technological revolution like the kind that led to the transition from feudalism to capitalism in the first place. The very idea of that kind of revolution has long been in crisis. My fear is we’d stay in this stasis forever. It would be the true end of history.

This is a very interesting post from Matt Colquhoun, covering the current Epic vs Apple kerfuffle and what it might represent technologically, economically, and politically going forward.


CJW: And that’s it for another issue.

To be honest, I'm struggling. Could be Melbourne's lockdown measures wearing me down, but I just hit a wall with the internet in general. I am very fucking burnt-out.

It just feels like over the past few years we've collectively turned social media into an engine for miscommunication. You can't tweet something (even something innocuous) without someone misunderstanding or misconstruing what you said and/or taking you to task for some perceived slight (I'm not even necessarily talking about my own tweets here, just what I see when I scroll through the feed).

Tade Thompson said something related recently - he was specifically talking about people's responses to writing advice, but I think the sentiment is true for twitter as a whole. Monica Valentinelli had some real smart replies to the thread which tied it into the cult of individualism that I think has poisoned so much of our discourse and culture. (If you're confused about me calling individualism a poison, just consider anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers as the most obvious examples of what I mean.)

So, yeah, I'm off Twitter for the time being, and trying to maintain connections through a couple of Discord servers and the Restricted Academy forum.

Anyway, hope you’re doing better than I am. Look after yourself.

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