nothing here but a Lo-TEK moon base

issue 050 - 17th May, 2020

CJW: Welcome to another issue of nothing here. Let’s keep this intro brief and get right to it, shall we?

Dan penned our latest bonus letter - Pixels, Pandemics, & The Protestant Work Ethic or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love World of Warcraft (Again). You can get access to it, future bonuses, and the full archive, by becoming a supporter.

MKY: 'Blown away': Safe climate niche closing fast, with billions at risk

As much as one-third of the world's population will be exposed to Sahara Desert-like heat within half a century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the pace of recent years.

CJW: The pandemic has given us all a little break from horrifying climate collapse talk, but unfortunately, the climate is continuing to shift in the background even while we distract ourselves.

MKY: Srsly. Like, how do you slow down a hyperobject? The air quality temporarily improving around cities is like, nice for us n all, but it doesn’t halt the juggernaut of rising CO2 - which operates on a much longer timescale -  and its (not so) cool effects - like prolly being the underlying cause of the insect apocalypse. Nice food web we once had, huh… and of course, as that breaks down, it’s a when, not if, the next pandemic breaks outas a direct result. This is just the beginning. Buckle up.

DCH: P.S. it’s already getting too damn hot to survive in some places.

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CJW: Not Fit for this Future by Aarathi Krishnan 

The global pandemic has shown up in harsh light the fundamental cracks in our global systems and structures. Our systems, our societies, our actions and behaviours — were a million wounds in a structural ecosystem that was rupturing at its sides. And the system has now blown wide open — revealing to our collective shame — the multitudes of ways, in which we have all failed.

This is a great piece from a humanitarian aid worker on the myriad failures of our system and the way these failures have been revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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MKY: It's Only Going to Get Weirder - an interview with Ingrid Burrington

“people at this present moment who can think on the timescales of long futures and think about things like what we’re going to do when we have a fucking moon base – usually they have the resources to not be panicking right now… The reason it’s apparently easier to go to the moon than to address poverty is because nobody in power has to give anything up to send someone to the moon. You finish the moon mission and it’s like Ah, we’re still rich! Cool!”

:clap: :clap: :clap:

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CJW: This Time, Americans Are Doing Nothing

Although we are still only weeks into this pandemic, although the true scale of the health crisis and the economic catastrophe is still unknown, the outline of a very different, post-American, post-coronavirus world is already taking shape. It’s a world in which American opinions will count less, while the opinions of America’s rivals will count more. And that will change political dynamics in ways that Americans haven’t yet understood.

It was apparent soon after the election that the US was going to lose a lot of clout internationally with Trump and his coterie of assorted hateful corporacrats running the show, but this is a decent rundown of the particular ways China is moving in to fill the void. The tone is fairly centrist (content warning for the term "President Biden"), with a strong anti-China streak, as though everything America does internationally is without its own ideological purposes. Sure, China is terrible, but America is not without its own long, long history of propaganda and violent anti-democratic action around the world.

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MJW: The Un-Heroic Reality of Being an ‘Essential’ Restaurant Worker

“I’m really disappointed,” she said. “I expected the food to be here in time for my virtual happy hour.”

“I don’t know what to tell you,” I responded. “I’m doing my best.”

In moments like these, it’s a relief to let my customer service facade slip away and speak bluntly. I try to keep it moving and turn such encounters into funny anecdotes, but still they stew in my stomach in a simmering rage. When will the efforts and labor of other people be recognized? If not now, when?

CJW: The answer is “never,” because the neoliberal age has entrenched in too many people a form of hyper-individualism that is a cancer within the community and the idea of community.

MJW: Hey, isn’t it weird now that our lives are a dystopic/apocalyptic/horrific nightmare? It just happened so fast.

The arrival of a future that tech companies have been priming us for: public spaces populated mostly by delivery drivers purchasing doomsday groceries and meals for those wealthy enough to stay home.

CJW: Also in this piece is some information on the ways tech companies are fucking over local small business. As convenient as they are, they take a huge cut from the restaurant, and you know that money isn’t going to the delivery drivers.

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CJW: Universal basic income seems to improve employment and well-being

When surveyed, people who received universal basic income instead of regular unemployment benefits reported better financial well-being, mental health and cognitive functioning, as well as higher levels of confidence in the future.

I mean, of course it does. Just think about all the time you spend thinking about money and employment, and stressing about bills and rent/mortgage payments, and think about how much time you could spend enjoying life if you didn’t have to worry about that shit. And think about how much less irritating your job would be if you knew you could leave it at any time and still have a safety net. Maybe small business tyrants would have to stop being so tyrannical if they wanted to actually keep their staff. Maybe that lack of top-down toxicity would improve work immeasurably.

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CJW: ‘It’s bullshit’: Inside the weird, get-rich-quick world of dropshipping

I know our readers are too savvy and ecologically-aware to get sucked into the scam-filled world of dropshipping, but if you want to get to know some of the absolute chodes that populate that world, this is a good place to start.

And for more on dropshipping, this episode of Reply All was where I first heard about it.

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DCH: Japan Defense Ministry to draft UFO protocols in response to U.S. footage (Japan Times)

While the rest of us are being grounded Japan is looking to the skies...

The videos released Monday by the U.S. Defense Department were taken in 2004 and 2015. Some show an elliptical flying object with unprecedented speed and maneuverability.

Defense Minister Taro Kono said Tuesday that SDF pilots have never encountered UFOs but that the ministry will develop protocols for the possibility.

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DCH: File under cyberpunk justice: Ohio Has Stopped Kicking Workers Off Unemployment After A Hacker Targeted Its Website

The state is reconsidering its policy after a hacker released a script that automatically submits junk data to its 'COVID-19 fraud' website, which allows employers to report workers who refuse to work during the pandemic.

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DCH: ‘How This Moment Will Be Misremembered’: An Internet Theorist on What Social-Media Images Hide About the Pandemic

I’m a semiotician by training. So this interview with Nathan Jurgenson, a social media theorist and the founder of Real Life magazine (which I can’t recommend highly enough) about his concept of “the social photo” really speaks to me. 

During this pandemic, for people fortunate enough to be safe and able to stay home, the photos being routinely sent back and forth might not be terribly different in content than usual. But I think the bigger point, again for those who are healthy and home, is that our everyday visual communication is probably a lot more mundane than the crisis around us. Our images don’t often depict the pandemic explicitly, say with an ambulance or an unusually empty street, but they likely convey how you are feeling through this. Anxiety, grief, boredom, fear, and exhaustion are often the content of social photos right now, even if they don’t depict something like a face mask.

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Cutting Room Floor:

CJW: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’: The Oral History of a Modern Action Classic

I’d have liked even more from this oral history, but what’s here is really great stuff. If you want to hear more about the pre-production phase of the making of Fury Road, Cartoonist Kayfabe did a fantastic interview with Brendan McCarthy (video, audio).

MJW: I loved reading how filming was incredibly difficult but everyone agrees it was worth it. Making masterpieces is like that, I imagine. Listen to me and my ridiculously smart flatmate Sally Evans talk about Fury Road on Catastropod.

DCH: The pandemic is boosting sales of doomsday bunkers. The buyer demographic? Rich racists.

The idea for Vivos, a global community of apocalypse bunkers, came to CEO Robert Vicino nearly four decades ago in a moment of inspiration that featured a “crystal clear” female voice in his head. It said, Robert, you need to build deep underground bunkers for people to survive something that is coming our way. He filed it away until 2008, (the year Obama was elected) when the time was finally right to start building.

CJW: This connects with a couple of links we shared a couple of issues back.

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DCH: File under apocalypse fashion -- This ‘travel jumpsuit’ was designed for flying in a pandemic.

“Flying was a completely surreal experience—there were nine people on the plane from Rome to New York,” Lucia says. “Wearing something that was all one piece, I felt really protected. You’re completely wrapped up.” 

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CJW: The Power of Lo-TEK (via Ospare)

Lo-TEK is a movement that investigates lesser-known local technologies (Lo), traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), indigenous cultural practices, and mythologies passed down as songs or stories. In contrast to the homogeneity of the modern world, indigeneity is reframed as an evolutionary extension of life in symbiosis with nature.

This is an interesting breakdown of a design movement focused on the technology and infrastructure developed by indigenous peoples all around the world, looking at what lessons can be learned and used for more sustainable practices than what is developed under our current industrial norms.

Related: First-ever compendium of indigenous technologies provides a powerful toolkit for climate-resilient design

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CJW: I Am Not Your Peril

I am exhausted from talking in circles; exhausted from having to be the one who must inform and educate but never accuse; exhausted from being the one who must remain sensible and calm while a finger, a weapon, is pointed in my face. I am exhausted from being seen as the one who does not belong, even though I was born and raised here.

On anti-Asian racism in the wake of this pandemic.

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CJW: Brace yourself for the most dangerous idea yet: most people are pretty decent (via Sentiers)

On Kropotkin and his ideas about mutual aid and human decency (not to mention anarchism).

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CJW: Virtual Celebrities/Influencers and the Racism Therein (via Marcel)

We’ve talked about this before, so just sharing some twitter chatter about the topic.

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CJW: Grounded (at reallifemag.com)

Marlee and I were meant to travel to Wellington this year for the World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. The convention is now going virtual, but obviously the Wellington part of the convention is no longer a factor (for anyone not already living in Wellington, at least). I’d already considered that the flight over there might be my last flight for quite some time - sure, I can’t easily visit family and friends without flying, but at the same time the environmental costs (read: my increasing knowledge of the environmental costs) meant I could no longer justify the travel unless it was truly necessary (and how often is it truly necessary?).

Anyway, this piece discusses the aviation industry and flying across its recent history, right now during the pandemic, and the way things might change going forward. I certainly think (and hope) that flying will become far less common going forward - either through consumers feeling that flight is no longer a safe option, or through a massive increase in carbon offset costs that actually reflect the true carbon costs of flying. The real danger will be how much carbon the airlines will blast up into the atmosphere through cheap flights trying to re-establish their sector of the economy. I know cheap flights are hard to resist, but maybe think twice, yeah?

DCH: Friday by Ed Brubaker, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vicente (Panel Syndicate)

Elevator pitch: Grown-up Encyclopedia Brown & friends vs Cthulhu. 

If that’s not enough to pique your interest than it’s also worth noting this features bar-setting work by Marcos Martin. Plus it’s via Panel Syndicate so it’s name your own price and virtually all the cash goes to the creators. Get in!

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DCH: ICYMI Armed domestic terrorists have caused a state capitol to shut down. As America descends further into it’s gun lunacy, I’ve been reminded of Nate Powell’s About Face post on Popula from last year. It’s a terrific and quick read about the militarization of pop culture. Worth your time.

CJW: We shared it a while back, but Dan’s right - if you didn’t read it then, you should read it now.

MKY: Solarpunk The Future by Imaginary Worlds

The writer Adam Flynn, magazine editors Scot and Jane Noel, writer Sarena Ulibarri, and game designer Keisha Howard discuss how we can create the future we want by inspiring people with science fiction, and why being anti-dystopia doesn’t mean they believe in utopias.

DCH: Masahito Ono Nothing, Something, Everything (2020) magnet, microfiche, 1cc parisian air, 

I fucking love this homage to Marcel Duchamp. The climate message seemed on-topic for Nothing Here. This piece was amongst the Sojourner 2020 payload of art now in space.

Ono’s project imagines the future of the Earth's climate and our behavior on this planet. A cylinder-shaped magnet that points back to Earth’s magnetic North and South in absence of gravity, regardless of its location, is a metaphor of longing and belonging. A roll of Minox subminiature camera film containing the 2015 Paris Agreement and other climate documents reveal more about ourselves than the messages Voyager spacecraft could carry. 1cc of Paris Air, sampled at the city where the COP 21 delegates had met, invisible inside a capsule, is never to be unsealed by the people on Earth. By sending these tokens from our world to outer space, and metaphorically exposing and addressing them to future generations or potential extraterrestrials in our universe, his project aims to inspire those who inhabit this planet today.

MJW: Listen to also me, plus Bella Green, Despo Debby, Max Arion, and Queenie Bon Bon read for Whorestories, and raise money for a good cause. It’s an online event, running on Tuesday June 2nd, 7:00 PM–9:00 PM AEST. Tickets are pretty cheap, or you can pay more if you can spare it.

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CJW: I did an interview over at Nerd of a Feather all about Repo Virtual.

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CJW: And that’s it from us. Thanks for choosing to spend this time with us here, and I hope you got something out of it.

I’m not going to lie - things have been tough lately at NH HQ for at least 2 members of the team. But we aren’t the only ones. Things are tough all around. Look after yourself, check in on your loved ones, and pay attention, because a disparate group of anti-human authoritarians will use this and any other emergency as an excuse to limit your freedoms, and consolidate power and wealth for themselves and their kind.

But you know what? They’re afraid of us. Afraid of what we can do and be when we come together. Remember that.

Stay safe and well. And feel free to get in touch at any time.