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03 Jul 01:21

Virginia Is A Good Girl


Emily is the sole superhero in the QC universe, and no one knows it.

Ads by Project Wonderful! Your ad could be here, right now.

QC is just going to be Emily talking about animals from now on

01 Jul 23:18

The World's Only Parrot-Fronted Death Metal Band Just Released a New Album | VICE | United States


metal birb

Forget whiskey and women—when the lead singer of the grindcore band Hatebeak refuses to perform, his bandmates coax him back to the microphone with dried bananas. It's a rather wholesome indulgence for the frontman of a band that claims to thrash with "face-crushing guitars" and "bass so low, you'll vacate your bowels." But that's because he's a bird.

Waldo, a 21-year-old African grey parrot, is the world's only heavy-metal rocker with wings. The feathered frontman screeches brain-rattling songs for the Baltimore-based three-"man" studio project, whose first new album in eight years, Number of the Beak, dropped last Friday.

Aside from a rare interview with VICE in 2005, the band's human members have always been cagey about their bird-centric sounds, citing "trade secrets." But last week drummer Blake Harrison (who also plays keyboards in Pig Destroyer) hopped on the phone with me to talk about what it's like to collaborate with an animal, how they keep PETA from squawking, and why, after all these years, he still won't let the joke die.

VICE: Where did the idea for a parrot-fronted band hatch?
Blake Harrison: [Guitarist] Mark Sloan and I had known each other from playing music in different bands for a couple years, and basically both of us were between bands. So, you know, I'm kind of like a goofy guy, I like to have fun, so we thought up the concept and we were like, "How stupid would it be if we had a parrot for a singer?" It makes sense because of the mimicry, and the type of stuff that parrots can do. We thought up the name, drew up the logo, and it made us laugh. So we were like, "OK, let's do it."

And there's a spoof behind the name?
Yeah, there's a hardcore band called Hatebreed that is pretty popular. So Hatebeak was the perfect name for a parrot-fronted metal band.

It's been 12 years since the band formed, and you've put out four records. Why keep it going after the initial joke?
[Laughs] Because we kept thinking of things that made us laugh. Part of it is coming up with goofy song titles. Song titles that are puns on preexisting, well-known metal songs. I guess a better answer for an interview would be, "We still have something we have to say." But that's absolutely not true. As long as we keep having fun and keep getting a kick out of it, we're in good shape.

'[Waldo] likes to whistle the Andy Griffith theme song. A Lot. And Obviously that's cool, but it's not something I can use on a metal record.'

What is it like collaborating with a bird? Are there animal-specific challenges?
You know, there's the old Hollywood trope: "Never work with kids and never work with animals." It can be a little bit of a pain at times. Most of it is getting Waldo to relax. The mimicry is a form of play for him. So, to get him to do anything, he's got to feel comfortable. And then he kind of spouts out whatever. But he likes to bite your ear when he's on your shoulder sometimes. He likes to whistle the Andy Griffith theme song. A lot. And obviously that's cool, but it's not something I can use on a metal record. There are challenges, but I've been in tons of bands, and lead singers typically tend to have pretty big egos. I know because I sang for a band myself. So I would say it's not much different than working with a [human] lead singer because there are still challenges.

How do you encourage Waldo to perform?
He likes bananas—dehydrated banana chips. Stuff like that. That kind of makes him comfortable. Weird story: Waldo likes bananas, and he also likes crackers. So we got him dehydrated banana chips, and he pieced it together and called them "banana crackers" on his own. It's a little creepy. You're like, "What else do you know?"

So he's smart.
Oh yeah, they're really, really intelligent animals. Scientists mostly kind of say that they have the intelligence level of like a three- or four-year-old child. It can be a little weird.

What's his personality like? Does he have quirks?
He likes interaction. He will call in the dog using one of [his] owners' voices. And when the dog comes in the room—because it thought the owner had called it—the parrot will jump down and bite the dog's tail and jump back up real quick.

Can you walk me through how one of your songs gets made?
Either Mark or myself will come up with a riff—guitar usually is how we start it—and we will build. We bounce ideas off of each other, then we write the drums, then we kind of throw the bass in. We'll record that stuff and work with it. If we like it, then we will either put a microphone in front of Waldo or have someone else put a microphone in front of him, and get anywhere from ten to 40 minutes of him just doing what he does. And then we cut it up, move it around, shift it, put it over top of the music, and that's it. We put distortion on it, put various effects.

Do you put Waldo in a vocal-recording booth?
Yeah, kind of. We don't go to a studio to record this stuff—we do it in Mark's band room or a spare room. We have set up a microphone in front of him, like a studio setting, but it's not really a vocal booth. With modern recording technology, it's a lot easier to get stuff done than it used to be. So it's not like we have to put him in there with a bottle of Jack Daniels and whatever else, like—

A pair of tiny headphones?
Right, no headphones, no pop-screen. That's a funny image, but we don't really have to do that.

Check out our documentary True Norwegian Death Metal:

Have you ever caught flack from PETA?
No [laughs], not yet anyway. I mean, we're not doing anything wrong. A frequent question is if we would ever play live, and it's just kind of an impossibility. The decibel levels would be really unfair, to do that to any animal. And Waldo does what he does when he does it—not when we want him to do it. So we would look like absolute idiots up there, bashing away on these instruments and having a bird stand there. I would be upset if I paid money to see that and the bird didn't do anything. And that is a huge potential. I think PETA would be a little pissy with that.

You mentioned before that Waldo can be a diva when he's uncomfortable. How does he act when he's being high maintenance?
You know when a smoke detector makes a really loud, high-pitched chirp to tell you it's out of batteries? He will mimic that, and it's ear-piercingly loud, and it's really fucking annoying. Or he'll fly around and not really cooperate. You gotta talk in soothing tones, and try to get him relaxed, and maybe scratch his head a little bit. He's not really my bird, so I don't know if my interaction is as good as the owner's.

How did you meet Waldo?
We had the [band] idea, and we were talking to the guy that owns the record label that is putting our record out, Chris X from Reptilian Records, and he was like, "Well, I know somebody with a parrot." So I was like, "Hey man, um, how you doin'? I've got a really goofy idea, and you probably think I'm nuts, but what do you think of this?" And he was like, "Yeah, man. It's totally cool. Let's do it."

Trending on Noisey: Spotify Just Discovered That Heavy Metal Is More Popular Than Pop Music

A reviewer compared Hatebeak's sound to "a jackhammer being ground in a compacter." They've called it "unlistenable" and "ear-bleeding." Do you care what they think? Do they just not get it?
That's probably from our first one-sheet, which is like a promotional tool. Labels send them to reviewers, kind of describing the band and what the sound is. So, actually, that's something I think we wrote.

Wait, the jackhammer part?
Yeah, absolutely. I don't know about the ear-bleeding part. Like I said, it's been 15, 12 years, or something like that. But yeah, we want it to be kind of obnoxious-sounding. It's supposed to be kind of—not offensive, but irritating or grating. "Unlistenable" might be a little extreme; I think it's more palatable than that. It's about wanting to out-extreme other extreme bands, like, who can swing their dick the farthest and hardest.

Judging from your experience with Waldo, do you think that animals can be music fans?
I don't know if they can discern certain things, but people leave their TV on for their dogs when they're gone. There was a quote—have you ever heard of a band called Possessed? They are one of the first death-metal bands, and they recorded their first record on a farm. They said, "If you play death metal, 99 percent of everyone will hate you, including animals." So yeah, I think if you play some nice classical music, I mean, it kind of calms infants down. If you play really loud, obnoxious hip-hop or metal, it's gonna piss 'em off, or get 'em wound up. Just kind of different strokes for different folks. I think animals can be fans of music, but I don't think they have any say in the matter. [Laughs]

Mark Sloan, Waldo, and Blake Harrison of Hatebeak in 2005. Photo by Brian "Baby Leg" DeRan

Has Waldo actually heard any of his songs?
Oh yeah, of course!

How does he react?
You know, bobs his head up and down. That's basically it. I don't know if he likes it or not. Typically, he's in a cage so he can't really do shit about it.

Is Waldo available for comment?
What do you think?

I could put a phone up to him and he wouldn't do anything. Also, we want to keep him a little sheltered.

You once said your ultimate goal is to "raise the bar for extreme music." Is that still your goal, and what does that mean?
Absolutely. It's like a competition, almost. Not for everybody, but a lot of extreme music wants to out-extreme the generation of bands that influenced them. You have Metallica, and then you have Slayer, which is much heavier. And then you have death-metal bands that just want to be like, "Oh yeah, you're fast? Well, check this out, we're faster." Or, "You're heavy? Check this out, we're heavier." And I think that's engrained in the culture of heavy metal. So it's kind of like you want to do a little one-up-ship. It's also kind of a machismo, bragging, bullshit thing. When we thought of this I was like, "Well, no one's really going to be able to one-up this one." And if they do, more power to them.

Number of the Beak is out now from Reptilian Records.

Follow Natalie O'Neill on Twitter.

01 Jul 15:30

Kevin Hufnagel’s Newest Solo Album Defines Experimental

by Vince Neilstein

Pretty much everything this guy does is impressive.

The Gorguts/Dysryhthmia axeman returns with another highly experimental solo album.

The post Kevin Hufnagel’s Newest Solo Album Defines Experimental appeared first on MetalSucks.

01 Jul 19:30

“Mammals in Babylon”: New Cattle Decapitation Song is a Characteristically Mellow Stroll in the Sun

by Axl Rosenberg

Gentle tune about the joys of more people, among other things.

I wonder if this band will ever release anything heavy?

The post “Mammals in Babylon”: New Cattle Decapitation Song is a Characteristically Mellow Stroll in the Sun appeared first on MetalSucks.

01 Jul 21:00

Godzilla In Hell: Maybe The Most Metal Comic Book Of All Time

by Emperor Rhombus


Yes, yes, god fucking dammit YES.

The post Godzilla In Hell: Maybe The Most Metal Comic Book Of All Time appeared first on MetalSucks.

02 Jul 00:01

Oblivion Hymns, by Hammock


Click thru for their bandcamp page. Only listened to the first song on this record, but that might be enough to get me to buy it.

available. To stream full albums, please visit Spotify (link below). • Nine years since their formation in Nashville, Hammock has emerged as a leading light in instrumental music with a unique sound that effortlessly melds elements of ambient, electronic, postrock and neoclassical. •
01 Jul 22:42

Joseph Stiglitz: how I would vote in the Greek referendum

The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony within Europe might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors. In fact, European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute, and the answer is not pleasant: it is about power and democracy much more than money and economics.

Of course, the economics behind the programme that the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) foisted on Greece five years ago has been abysmal, resulting in a 25% decline in the country’s GDP. I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences: Greece’s rate of youth unemployment, for example, now exceeds 60%.

It is startling that the troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is that Europe’s leaders have not even learned. The troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018.

Related: Greek debt crisis: hopes of last-minute deal on decision day for Alexis Tsipras - live updates

Economists around the world have condemned that target as punitive, because aiming for it will inevitably result in a deeper downturn. Indeed, even if Greece’s debt is restructured beyond anything imaginable, the country will remain in depression if voters there commit to the troika’s target in the snap referendum to be held this weekend.

In terms of transforming a large primary deficit into a surplus, few countries have accomplished anything like what the Greeks have achieved in the last five years. And, though the cost in terms of human suffering has been extremely high, the Greek government’s recent proposals went a long way toward meeting its creditors’ demands.

We should be clear: almost none of the huge amount of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks. Greece has gotten but a pittance, but it has paid a high price to preserve these countries’ banking systems. The IMF and the other “official” creditors do not need the money that is being demanded. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the money received would most likely just be lent out again to Greece.

But, again, it’s not about the money. It’s about using “deadlines” to force Greece to knuckle under, and to accept the unacceptable – not only austerity measures, but other regressive and punitive policies.

But why would Europe do this? Why are European Union leaders resisting the referendum and refusing even to extend by a few days the June 30 deadline for Greece’s next payment to the IMF? Isn’t Europe all about democracy?

In January, Greece’s citizens voted for a government committed to ending austerity. If the government were simply fulfilling its campaign promises, it would already have rejected the proposal. But it wanted to give Greeks a chance to weigh in on this issue, so critical for their country’s future wellbeing.

That concern for popular legitimacy is incompatible with the politics of the eurozone, which was never a very democratic project. Most of its members’ governments did not seek their people’s approval to turn over their monetary sovereignty to the ECB. When Sweden’s did, Swedes said no. They understood that unemployment would rise if the country’s monetary policy were set by a central bank that focused single-mindedly on inflation (and also that there would be insufficient attention to financial stability). The economy would suffer, because the economic model underlying the eurozone was predicated on power relationships that disadvantaged workers.

Related: Greece debt crisis: Europe says referendum is euro vs drachma - live

And, sure enough, what we are seeing now, 16 years after the eurozone institutionalised those relationships, is the antithesis of democracy: many European leaders want to see the end of prime minister Alexis Tsipras’ leftist government. After all, it is extremely inconvenient to have in Greece a government that is so opposed to the types of policies that have done so much to increase inequality in so many advanced countries, and that is so committed to curbing the unbridled power of wealth. They seem to believe that they can eventually bring down the Greek government by bullying it into accepting an agreement that contravenes its mandate.

It is hard to advise Greeks how to vote on 5 July. Neither alternative – approval or rejection of the troika’s terms – will be easy, and both carry huge risks. A yes vote would mean depression almost without end. Perhaps a depleted country – one that has sold off all of its assets, and whose bright young people have emigrated – might finally get debt forgiveness; perhaps, having shrivelled into a middle-income economy, Greece might finally be able to get assistance from the World Bank. All of this might happen in the next decade, or perhaps in the decade after that.

By contrast, a no vote would at least open the possibility that Greece, with its strong democratic tradition, might grasp its destiny in its own hands. Greeks might gain the opportunity to shape a future that, though perhaps not as prosperous as the past, is far more hopeful than the unconscionable torture of the present.

I know how I would vote.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is University Professor at Columbia University. His most recent book, co-authored with Bruce Greenwald, is Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress.
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2015.

01 Jul 00:10


I buy things from Pieh Tool from time to time, and thus get their newsletter. This one shows some absolutely stunning work in aluminum.

There's an old piece of advice that has been handed down from generation to generation among those who juggle nouns and verbs and try to compose interesting sentences and paragraphs for the amusement and enlightenment of others--write what you know.
The sentiment might be applied with equal fairness to other creative realms: Paint what you know. Sculpt what you know. Draw what you know.

Florida artist, R. F. Buckley, hails from two generations of metal workers, so you could say that his penchant for sculpting aluminum runs deep.

"My grandfather was a master blacksmith for New York Central Railroad in the height of the steam era," he said. "My father was a machinist, so genetically, am not sure how many career choices I really had."

Early in his career, R.F. would weld large steel sculptures and paint them in a very "painterly way," with subtle mixtures and graduated colors.

"Moving the work often resulted in scratched paint with resulting rust and I hate rust," he said. "Much of my sculpture incorporates 

fluid, flowing draped forms which are an integral part of my work."

Aluminum was intriguing to R.F. who attempted to create a perfect pillow form to look like a photo in a department store advertisement.

"I did that successfully and the next question to myself was, 'could I replicate the pillow in a pillowcase, with requisite wrinkles?' and that led me to creating an Archie Bunker chair and a bed with a canopy," he said.


Manipulating aluminum is quite different from working with other metals as it will not easily solder or weld with other metals.

"It requires much lower working temperature and because of that, I primarily use large weed burner type propane torches to heat the aluminum," he said, adding, "I have also used these same torches to evenly heat 0.125" thick stainless steel for a very large sculpture."

R.F. incorporates a large collection of hammers and steel forging implements to manipulate aluminum. Some are tools he found; built or made to accomplish a particular task, but generally, do not hit the aluminum directly with a steel tool.

"I often will place a piece of wood between the hammer and the aluminum to prevent deep hammer marks,"
said R. F. "Much of my manipulation of the aluminum is accomplished with the use of wood and leather hammers to alleviate the marking problem."

While the aluminum is lightweight and does not rust, it offers the unique ability to refract, reflect and absorb light and the colors around it.

"I love the clarity, purity and whiteness of the metal," said R.F. "And because it does not very noticeably change color when it is rising in temperate, care must be taken to not overheat as it can melt away very quickly."

Though he has used various materials to create his sculpted art,
R. F. prefers aluminum because it is best in being able to replicate the flowing fabric forms he was interested in replicating.

"I also very much like the clarity and responsiveness of aluminum to light and color," he said.

R.F.'s work can be seen in museum and gallery exhibitions as well as some commissioned "Art in Public Places."

When he was 13, R.F. felt drawn to create and started painting. Later, he attended the Cleveland Institute of Art and earning his B.F.A. degree, University of Southern California, M.F.A. program and Maryland Institute, College of Art, M.F.A. degree.

He is currently a full time sculptor and teaches at Florida International University in the department of Art and Art History in Miami.

"The teaching provides a stable income along with the freedom to explore my ideas without worry," he said. "It also provides an environment conducive to creativity, working with colleagues and students of similar interests, as well as the opportunity to extend my accumulated knowledge and experience to students."

R.F. has an exhibition at Miami International Airport, American Airlines concourse, which will be on display until October 31, 2015.

Samples of his work can be found on his website and if interested in learning more or purchasing some of his art, please contact him at

11 Jun 18:55

Instant Enlightenment and Instant Madness

by Brad

This is something that needs saying more, I think.

InstantKarmaI’ve written a few pieces on this blog about the problems with schemes that promise you a so-called “enlightenment experience” fast. Mostly I’ve tended to focus on Genpo Roshi’s bogus Big Mind™ nonsense. But there are plenty more where that came from. I Googled the words “enlightenment fast” and this is what came up:

Here’s a webpage about the fast track to enlightenment.

And here is another webpage about how to fast track enlightenment.

Here’s one advertising enlightenment in 15-30 days.

Here’s a YouTube video with a hip, young dude telling us about the quick path to conscious enlightenment.

And here’s a book called Instant Enlightenment: Deep, Fast and Sexy.

That’s what I came up in about ten minutes without even really trying, imagine how many more you could get if you actually put in some effort.

Recently I started reading the book The Three Christs of Ypsilanti by Milton Rokeach. It’s an interesting story about three patients at a mental institution who each thought they were Jesus Christ and the psychiatrist who brought them together to meet one another. The book is all about the phenomenon of identity and the nature of what we call “self.” In chapter one, titled The Problem of Identity, the author explains some things that I believe can help in understanding precisely why getting enlightenment fast is such a very bad idea.

In this chapter he writes about the psychiatric concept of “primitive beliefs.” A person’s primitive beliefs, he says, “represent basic truths he holds about physical reality, social reality, himself and his own nature.” They are “rooted in the individual’s experience and in the evidence of his senses.” Rokeach says that “unlike other beliefs, primitive beliefs are not normally open to discussion or controversy. Either they do not come up in conversation because everyone shares them and takes them for granted, or, if they do come up, they are virtually unassailable by outside forces.” Further down the page he says, “A person’s primitive beliefs thus lie at the very core of his total system of beliefs, and they represent the subsystem in which he has the heaviest emotional commitment.”

These beliefs, he says, can also be thought of in terms of what’s called “object constancy.” This is something we learn early in childhood wherein we determine that the things we experience in the world maintain their identity over time. Little children love peek-a-boo because they are beginning to learn this, but don’t quite get it just yet. So they’re genuinely surprised when their mom hides her face behind a blanket and magically reappears again when it’s removed. We further learn — or at least begin to believe — that we ourselves also retain identity over time. This becomes a core belief that we feel is so obvious we never even think to question it.

A disruption of these primitive beliefs, Rokeach says, “would lead a person to question the validity of his senses, his competence to cope with reality, or even his sanity.” He further quotes Helen Merrell Lynd from On Shame and the Search for Identity who says, “Sudden experience of a violation of expectation, of incongruity between expectation and outcome, results in a shattering of trust in oneself, even in one’s own body and skill and identity.” This shattering can lead a person to replace his original set of primitive beliefs with others that don’t have a good foundation in consensus reality resulting in phobias, obsessions, delusions and even hallucinations. A person may begin to rely “solely on his own subjective experience, he abandons social support altogether.”

In Buddhism we have the idea of anatman, or “no self.” We say that the self is unreal, an illusion. Furthermore we say that our perceptions of the world are not necessarily true in any ultimate sense. They are conventionally useful and socially agreed upon, but they rest on a rather shaky foundation of consensus beliefs. In other words, we are dealing very directly with what Rokeach calls our “primitive beliefs.”

Just reading about this or hearing it in a lecture by a guy in a goofy black robe doesn’t usually cause most people any real problems. In fact, if you’re like I was when I first encountered these ideas, you imagine that this is some kind of metaphor, something that’s not really meant literally. After all, it could not possibly be literally true because the existence of a real thing called “self” is so incredibly obvious and unquestionable.

When you meditate, though, many of your most basic assumptions about yourself and the reality you live in begin to break down. If you’re involved in one of the many time-tested styles of meditation, this process generally happens very gradually and you receive a lot of help with the transition from people who have gone through it themselves and managed to make it out the other side without going crazy.

The problem for lots of us these days — especially in America — is that we no longer have much trust in tradition. We’re all about innovation! Tradition is for suckers! We want something new!

The fact that people have been working for thousands of years on this problem of how to carefully tread this path into the unknown and unknowable is lost on us. The traditions that have grown up over that long period of trial and error to assist people in gradually entering into a very different way of looking at themselves and the world they live in seem silly and outdated, the products of a bygone age that we have moved beyond.

In re-imagining meditation for the current era of speed and efficiency, we have discarded the traditional framework for it. We want results and we want them quick, damn it! We have a lot of stuff to do! We want to get enlightened right away and move on to the next thrill.

But those who went before us on this path already saw the dangers in that. People have been going bonkers from trying to get enlightenment too quickly for thousands of years. This isn’t something that just started happening in 1965 when the first hippie freaked out from forcing himself to see the light when he wasn’t really ready for it.

Most programs that promise you enlightenment quickly and easily are just scams to get you to spend money. They are usually based on hypnosis and other forms of mind control. Some are deliberately trying to get you into the sorts of vulnerable states Milton Rokeach describes in his book so that you can then be easily manipulated and used. In other cases there is often a cynical disregard for any sort of follow-up to the experiences they lead you into. Participants are left shell-shocked, not knowing what to do with their newly transcended egos.

Meditation is a good thing. When handled properly it can yield amazing insights. But it’s never something that should be rushed. You need to take care because you are working with your own most basic understanding of yourself and the world you live in. That’s not something you want to mess with.

–   –   –

(Hey! Check out the new FAQ section for frequently asked questions!)


July 8-12, 2015 Vancouver, BC Canada 5-DAY RETREAT at HOLLYHOCK RETREAT CENTER

August 14-16, 2015 Munich, Germany 3 DAY ZEN RETREAT

August 19, 2015 Munich, Germany LECTURE

August 24-29, 2015 Felsentor, Switzerland 5-DAY RETREAT AT STIFTUNG FELSENTOR 

August 30-September 4, 2015 Holzkirchen, Germany 5-DAY RETREAT AT BENEDIKTUSHOF MONASTERY

September 4, 2015 Hamburg, Germany LECTURE

September 6, 2015 Hamburg, Germany ZEN DAY

September 10-13, 2015 Finland 4-DAY RETREAT

September 16-19, 20015 Hebden Bridge, England 4-DAY RETREAT

September 20, 2015 London, England THE ART OF SITTING DOWN & SHUTTING UP

September 26-27, 2015 Glastonbury, England 2-DAY RETREAT

November 6-8, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY RETREAT


Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. All are welcome!

Every Saturday at 9:30 there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. All are welcome!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website,

* * *

My rent is not paid instantaneously. Most of it comes from each small donation I receive from this blog. Your contributions really help me a lot. Thank you very much!

16 Jun 23:34

You need to know how to clean and reassemble your 545 holder. Dave Vonk explains it.

by Bob Crowley

Useful information.

29 Jun 19:13

Issue 24: Triple Helix

by Christopher Wright

Story: Christopher Wright
Cover: Pascalle Lepas
Logo: Garth Graham

29 Jun 05:34

Australia Sweats Nervously

US Homophobes: I'm moving to Canada!
Canada: We have gay marriage.
US Homophobes: Oh... well then England...
England: We have it too.
Mexico: And us.
Lebanon: Us too.
Netherlands: Had it for ages.
New Zealand: Gay marriage all the time everyday.
US Homophobes: Is there any country we can go to where gay people can't marry?
Australia: *Sweats nervously*
29 Jun 10:15

My Roisin Dubh is my one and only true love….(via Thin...


Like it says.

My Roisin Dubh is my one and only true love….

(via Thin Lizzy - Roisin Dubh (Black Rose) A Rock Legend - YouTube)

29 Jun 05:01


by Ian

Goddamn business lizards.


15 Jun 05:01


by Ian


26 Jun 03:29

Should Google Go Nuclear? Clean, cheap, nuclear power (no, really)


Bussard died fairly soon after this was made, and I don't know if anyone ponied up the comparatively pitiful amount of money he talks about needing.

In a world where Instagram is said to be worth an absurd 35 billion dollars, why the shit aren't we spending a few billion on projects like his?

Google Tech Talks November 9, 2006 ABSTRACT This is not your father's fusion reactor! Forget everything you know about conventional thinking on nuclear fusio...
26 Jun 01:12

Adam Savage


RE: The Internet Hates Women

From the Blog

Moth Wins Peabody

“Storytelling, likely the oldest art, is revered and reinvigorated by this hour for everyday raconteurs,” write the Peabody judges regarding The Moth Radio HourRead more »

Storyteller Profile:

Adam Savage is one of the hosts of the hit television show Mythbusters. He’s been making his own toys since he was allowed to hold scissors, and he’s an artist whose sculptures have been showcased around the country.

Find on: Facebook Twitter

Photo by Noriko Shiota Slusser

A father of twin teenage boys finds the internet a scary place for impressionable minds.

23 Jun 22:34

Not Breaking the Rules Is Unconscionable: Where Punctum is Headed, Why It's Hard, and How Everyone Can Help


A longish read on Open Access in the Humanities, and the future of one such press.


[first, read Jeffrey on Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman]

... because humanities scholarship is so tied to writing and publishing, opening up new possibilities for writing and publishing may, in fact, open up new possibilities within the institution itself. To change attitudes toward academic style means changing practices in the training of graduate students, ... changing the practices of conferences and publishers, changing the practices of hiring and tenure committees. It means experimenting. Every writer and thinker knows this, because to write and to think is to experiment — to try stuff out and risk failure. It's terrifying because in a very real sense this is about people's livelihoods. But given the state of higher education in the U.S., at least, there's little reason not to experiment, because it's only a minority of people who are making any sort of livelihood from this work, or who even have any hope of making a livelihood from it. American academia is a perfect embodiment of capitalism in the way that it wastes human beings: their knowledge, their potential, their good will.  ... The rules are against us. Learning them is important, because we need to know the landscape, the architecture, the logic. But the rules do not like us, they do not want us, they do not have any use for us. Not breaking them is unconscionable. 

A grasshopper walks into a bar, and the bartender says, "Hey, we have a drink named after you." And the grasshopper says, "You have a drink named Steve?"

First, try to figure out what the grasshopper joke has to do with any of this (it might become more clear by the end).

Over the past year (or so), and as related elsewhere (HERE and HERE), I have experienced no little amount of anxiety (and also occasional depression) over whether or not an open-access press (in this case, punctum books), which gives everything away for free (and which is located in the U.S. where, unlike most of Europe, there are no government-funded research councils that actually underwrite OA publishing), and which is also dedicated to fostering radically experimental modes of "academic" writing, can actually survive, and the answer is: without some combination of institutional, foundational, private, and also general public (id est, READER) support ... probably NOT. In addition, I have been working myself beyond a certain physical and emotional breaking point -- albeit, I'm really kind of okay with this, as long as it doesn't last forever (in that sense, I think of punctum as a sort of start-up venture, and I have given myself roughly 3 years, until August 2016, to work these inhuman hours, with the hope that eventually I won't have to). And finally, I am going (or have gone) completely broke. And I'm not the only one. Dan Rudmann, for example, who founded and manages punctum records and Studium, has also been working inhuman hours -- 8:00am to midnight most days -- has also drained all of his personal coffers, and teeters on a very precarious economic precipice.

In the way of SOME relief, I am thus THRILLED to announce that both David Hadbawnik (PhD, University at Buffalo, SUNY and soon to be en route to the American University of Kuwait, where he has been hired as an Asst. Professor) and Chris Piuma (PhD candidate, University of Toronto) are joining punctum as Associate Directors, in order to help me manage the editorial and production workflow, as well as help me focus more attention on matters I have been neglecting due to how much time I simply spend reviewing manuscripts, editing and designing books, and managing correspondence, such as: marketing (social media outreach but also getting books reviewed in as many outlets as possible), developing relationships with distributors and bookstores and institutional libraries, managing metadata, increasing the diversity of our delivery platforms, experimenting with different ways of designing enriched reading environments, and also just generally helping me to strategize where punctum goes from here (wherever "here" happens to be). (We also have a new Co-Director waiting in the wings, more about which in a few months.) And as silly as this might sound, I am so happy that David and Chris, like myself, are both medievalists (who also, like me, have backgrounds as well in creative writing), because I really believe that there is something about the orientation (and training) of postmedieval premodernists (who also happen to be creative artists) that makes us especially suited to chart nighttime raids into the past to poach cool stuff that can be re-purposed, in strategic fashion, for creative (and importantly dis/orienting) interventions into various present moments, and also because, at any moment when anyone is declaring the "crisis" of anything, the premodernists have a very useful LONG historical perspective.

In addition, Alli Crandell (a brilliant and creative graphic and web designer -- see HERE), who has previously donated her skills to help punctum design special web-based environments for punctum titles that are not just analogues of print editions (see HERE and HERE), has graciously agreed to help punctum do several things this summer, including: a) a complete overhaul of our website to make it more easily/logically navigable; b) the creation of a subscription service, or services (that would allow us to offer punctum's entire library through unique interfaces that would be adaptable across all sorts of devices); and c) the launch of what I am calling (for lack of a better term at present) a GRADUATED OA model (the idea for which is partly influenced by projects such as Knowledge Unlatched), in which the downloadable PDFs of titles would carry a very small and reasonable fee for a *temporary* period -- say, something like 6 months -- after which they would be fully "unlocked"; these titles would still carry a Creative Commons license that would allow them to be shared at no cost, regardless, with no restrictions, and the bottom line is that, little by little, and with everyone's help, the open archive of punctum titles would continue to grow in leaps and bounds. The primary idea here is that OA publishing won't work without at least some reader support, and simply asking people to consider making a donation (in any amount of their choosing) every time they download a book is simply not netting us anything that would allow us to even pay one person to do ANYthing (and THANK YOU to everyone who has made donations, nevertheless, and please don't stop). OA publishing will not survive, especially in the American context, without government, institutional, and foundational subsidies, and if we in the humanities want to avoid the author-pay system that appears to be endemic now throughout Europe (and has already arrived in the US by way of, for one prominent example, University of California Press -- more on which, see below), and I believe we should want to avoid this, as I see it as a potential impediment to ACCESS to publication for many authors and projects, then as readers, I think we have to be willing to lend some small support (the Open Library of Humanities in the UK, for which I serve on the Editorial Committee, is one shining example of a different, collective funding model). We should be willing to pay reasonable prices for things we really want and need (whether that is a book, a journal issue, a music CD, a TV series, a software app, and so on), unless you want to live in a world where companies like Google and Apple and Amazon own all of the content and all of the tools and toys and don't ultimately care how any of this relates to democracy and a thriving cultural commons, and who will quickly dump any platforms for making content available if it doesn't suit their ever-evolving-at-hyper-speeds business plans.

It is important to point out here that David, Chris and Alli are DONATING their time, albeit with the hope that their labors will help free me up to spend more time drumming up financial and infrastructural support that would eventually lead to the 4 of us (and hopefully more!) actually running punctum books full-time with the sort of compensation that could sustain us and our collective ventures, and in this sense, we all work on borrowed time. The future, as always, is uncertain, while at the same time I see real opportunities for creating something radically different within the Open Access movement (and the Digital Humanities more largely) with punctum books, especially within the American context  -- although, to be certain, we are an international publisher with authors spread out around the globe, and we have very serious interests in multilingual and translation projects (as evidenced HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE, and with more to come). It's just that, unlike in Europe and in other countries, there are no explicit funding mandates, either at state or national levels, for the cultivation of OA academic publishing. Currently, many university publishers and DH Centers are looking to foundations like Mellon for help with developing the initial infrastructure for projects such as Manifold Scholarship, a joint project between University of Minnesota Press and CUNY Graduate Center's Digital Scholarship Lab, and Luminos + Collabra, University of California Press's new OA Monographs and Mega-Journal platforms. In the case of the latter, it is hoped that long-term sustainability will be achieved through a combination of authors+universities, libraries, and the publisher itself sharing the cost of producing the titles up front, and/or through Article Processing Charges. But the troubling question still obtains, especially in the American context where state legislatures are slashing budgets for higher education and university managerial technocrats are increasingly uninterested in helping to sponsor experimental, speculative, and "useless" (non-applications based) scholarship. If there is, for example, currently no money to be had for say, creating more tenure lines or reducing class sizes or supporting faculty development (such as through travel grants, reductions in teaching loads, and the like) or making tuition affordable for all or adequately compensating graduate student assistants, and the like, then where is the money coming from to sustain these new publishing initiatives into the long term? The answer is: from nowhere ... at least, not right now. Bon Jovi's "Living On a Prayer" comes to mind.

With regard to the larger Open Access movement in general, we are thus at a strange, and possibly troubling moment, and the reasons why were starkly (and serendipitously) brought home to me just this past week when, as luck would have it, the Radical Open Access conference at the University of Coventry (for which I was a featured speaker) preceded by just a few days the annual meeting of the American Association of University Publishers, the proceedings of which I followed assiduously on Twitter (for the first time in my life, as a ghost-spectator to a conference I could not attend, I really *for realz* realized the immense value of those who tweet conference sessions -- the information can only ever be partial, and is sometimes "askew," but it is enough to get a good sense of some of the viewpoints being put forth, and you can also engage with those who are there to ask clarifying questions). There are SO many things I want to say about the ways in which these two events could not have been more radically different from each other (and I don't have room here to go through everything, but ...), especially in the ways in which everyone at RadicalOA was wringing their hands over the neoliberalization of OA publishing, such as by commercial publishers, and especially within the European context where multiple millions of dollars are flowing straight from national research coffers into commercial publishers' bank accounts, with little in the way of what might be called a radicalization and democratization of editorial/curatorial practices (see, especially, Martin Eve on this state of affairs HERE, HERE, and HERE), whereas in Denver, a lot of the sessions at the AAUP conference addressed questions like: when and how and under what circumstances do you both initiate and also kill a book series? what is successful product development? should publishers target libraries or scholars and "end users"? how can acquisitions editors and marketing directors work better together on the "front end"? how can we make backlist titles more widely accessible globally and enhance their "long tails" with minimal investment and positive returns? And so on and so forth. In the meantime (or before this "meantime"), the organizers of the RadicalOA conference (Janneke Adema and Gary Hall, both involved with Open Humanities Press, among other OA ventures) were concerned to "brush" the contemporary scene of OA publishing "against the grain" --
Open access is currently being positioned and promoted by policy makers, funders and commercial publishers alike primarily as a means of serving the knowledge economy and helping to stimulate market competition. This version has become so dominant that even those on the left of the political spectrum who are critical of open access are presenting it in much the same terms: as merely assisting with the ongoing process of privatising knowledge, research and the university. Rather than ‘working with the grain’ of neoliberalism’s co-option of open access, the Radical Open Access conference will reclaim it by asking: what is the potential for supporting and taking further some of the different, more intellectually and politically exciting, ways of understanding open access that are currently available internationally? A particular emphasis will be placed on those that have emerged in recent years, in the arts, humanities and social sciences especially. Radical Open Access will thus provide the impetus for bringing together many of those currently involved in experimenting with ‘alternative’ forms of open access: both to discuss the long, multifaceted critical tradition of open access, its history and genealogies; and to examine a broad range of radical open access models. As part of its refusal to concede open access, the conference will endeavour to strengthen alliances between the open access movement and other struggles concerned with the right to access, copy, distribute, sell and (re)use artistic, literary, cultural and academic research works and other materials (FLOSS, p2p, internet piracy etc.); and to stimulate the creation of a network of publishers, theorists, scholars, librarians, technology specialists, activists and others, from different fields and backgrounds, both inside and outside of the university. In particular, the conference will explore a vision of open access that is characterised by a spirit of on-going creative experimentation, and a willingness to subject some of our most established scholarly communication and publishing practices, together with the institutions that sustain them (the library, publishing house etc.), to rigorous critique.
On the panel that I was involved with, "Radical Open Access in Practice," there was a lot of emphasis on publishing as a practice of care (of persons, of ideas, of relations), on the technological fragilities of the OA enterprise and the Digital Humanities more largely and the ways in which we need to guard against technological determinism + overly simplistic "catching up" narratives tied to the privatization of everything, on the precarious labor practices involved with OA publishing and how to be more mindful of and strategic about that, on how we need to resist "prestige" ranking systems, on cultivating writing as risk/adventure, on promoting invention/intervention over "innovation" (a term toxified through its use within capitalist ventures), on how to resist the neoliberal uptake of OA by commercial presses while also collectively strategizing how to survive that state of affairs, and somewhat interestingly, everyone seemed invested in preserving the print book while also exploring new platforms for digitized interactive-networked forms of scholarship and publication (which, for me anyway, is a valuable stand against the hyper-aggressive planned obsolescence of everything that seems endemic within neoliberal capital). Whereas at the session at the AAUP conference dedicated to "the practical implications and challenges" of the OA monograph, the collective conclusion seemed to be something along the lines of the monograph perhaps not surviving because: a) it will be impossible to get institutions (universities) to subsidize them and it will never pay for itself, and/or b) it will ultimately no longer be required for tenure and promotion and is thus a soon-to-be "outmoded"/ungainly genre, and/or c) shorter-form scholarship will replace it because "the way we read now" is changing, and/or d) dynamic (interactive, hyper-networked), born-digital scholarship will simply supplant it as the "one thing" everyone will be doing in the future.

And here we come to the crux of the matter, and to something that troubles me about the AAUP conference overall: its emphasis on profits and monetization (not the only subjects, of course, but they predominated a lot of panels). And here I must say that, of course, university publishers have done amazing things to advance scholarship in our fields and they are staffed by very well-meaning and super-smart people with real investments in cultivating, curating, and pushing the boundaries of knowledge production (to whit, historically, the Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics series at Stanford UP, the Theory out of Bounds series at Univ. of Minnesota Press, Series Q at Duke UP, Prickly Paradigm at Univ. of Chicago Press, and so on), and they have absolutely every right to worry about profitability/sustainability and to talk about and collectively strategize the long-term sustainability of their enterprises, and they have a lot to worry about (as I do) that would necessitate such strategizing. Nevertheless, I personally want to see university presses (which are typically designated as non-profts, I believe, with some institutional subsidization) spending more time distinguishing themselves from commercial academic presses, especially vis-a-vis the question of sustaining, not profits, but the most radically open public commons possible, and to do so in tandem with collectively insisting (through a variety of activist and interventionist measures) that state legislatures and public universities INCREASE their support for underwriting the work of university publishers, who should be spending less time on monetizing everything and more time on sponsoring and caring for radically creative forms of academic writing. This isn't easy, of course. This is the hard part. What might be called "centralized" funding for OA publishing is an absolute necessity, and yet, such does not exist within the American context.

Obviously, those of us within OA publishing should do everything in our power to be savvy about the ways in which we might generate income to help keep our (non-profit) ventures afloat, but that should not be the primary factor driving most of our editorial conversations because as anyone with half a (financially-savvy) brain might understand, that sort of emphasis will ultimately harm (or at least deform) the larger, valuable objective of a democratically rowdy and open commons "without condition." Here's why: if your primary concern is making money to stay afloat, then you adopt the tools of the strategic winnower (you keep what supposedly works in the model of increasing profits, and you eliminate, or stop at the front gate, whatever is not increasing, or might not increase, your profits), and there is not much time you can spend concentrating on developing talent and even more important, taking risks. To be fair, many university presses may not have a choice if they find themselves in a position where the subsidized support rug has been pulled out from under their operations, and much of the conversations at the AAUP conference were likely influenced by that already palpable state of affairs. The other problem is, in the rush to chase money in the face of less and less institutional support (especially in the context of seeking funding from private foundations such as Mellon or government agencies such as NEH), a sort of bandwagon strategy emerges where certain key concepts dominate both the "asks" and the "gets" (such as: born-digital, big data/metadata, dynamic/networked, multimodal, megajournal, iterative/interactive, gray literature/short-form scholarship, encoding/mapping, and so on). There is a lot of pressure as well, when seeking money from foundations and agencies, to serve up the "next big thing" that will somehow provide all of the solutions to whatever problems currently inhere within the contemporary landscape of academic publishing and to declare, "X (often defined as one particular platform, no matter how networked/multi-modal) is THE future."

There is no, and never can be, just one future. Of necessity, certain futures will materialize and others will only emerge partially and still others will be suppressed, outright killed, etc. Our job in the present is to keep all options in play and to maximize what is possible over what is determined in advance (usually by the powerful) to (supposedly) not be possible. This is an ethical, as well as a political, project, and it is not one that could ever be made to be "profitable," although it could be sustainable if enough persons -- in the administrative towers of academe, in the state legislatures, in the gilt halls of the (hopefully socially-minded) privileged, and also in the streets -- banded together to make it a reality. This brings me to the core mission of punctum books, and why I also think what we are doing is truly different from any existing university press and even from most independent presses (although we have our allies, such as Open Humanities Press and, among others): we are an Open Access press, not because we make our titles broadly available to the public (to READERS) without exorbitant fees and high paywalls (although we do do that, and it matters, especially in the context of public universities where research should never be shuttered from the public), but because we are dedicated to opening up access to publication for AUTHORS who otherwise might not find a publisher, either because their work does not fit within a readily recognizable current disciplinary paradigm or because they want to experiment with the forms and styles of academic writing or because their work engages in disciplinary mashups that make marketing their work overly difficult and so on. It's a question of personal freedom and how the publisher (however defined: university-based, independent, etc.) is an agent of both sustenance and change. It's about supporting the WEIRDOs and recognizing that the university, and especially the humanities, should be the haven par excellence for the weirdos and for the weird -- for you, for me, and for grasshoppers named Steve, which is where the ethics of "care of the self" enter in, because I believe that publication is both a practice of care and curation as well as of "seeding" new publics (in Michael Warner's words, this is public-ation as "the poeisis of scene-making"), around which persons, who otherwise might become marginalized, suppressed, lost, etc. can "groupify" (in important counter-cultural modes) with others who share certain predilections, values, orientations, affinities, etc. (see my further thoughts on that HERE). And you can't subject all of your editorial decisions to the marketing team on the "front" OR the "back" end. But you can't NOT worry about how any of this might, or might not, be sustainable, either. You still have to worry and care about, and also agitate for, the money. It really is, in the end, about the money and whether or not, in the United States, state legislatures and public (and also private) universities will decide that the OPEN and unrestricted dissemination of scholarship should be a chief public concern worthy of being underwritten in some manner.

So this all brings me, finally, to what punctum books is currently doing to (hopefully) ensure some sort of sustainable future, and how YOU can also help. To be frank, I have spent a good portion of the past two years striving mightily to convince certain universities, and also funding agencies, to provide partial support and/or infrastructure for punctum's operations, and all to no good outcomes (so far), but I just (perversely) see that as yet another opportunity to continue refining the pitch, and as I've explained above, the situation (and conversations) in both Europe and the US round OA publishing convince me that we're on to something unique that is not (and *will* not be) served by current reigning paradigms. So this is what we're going to do next (again, with your help) --
  • first, we will be redoubling our efforts to convince at least one (if not more) universities to consider engaging in OA publishing "incubator" experiments, along the lines engaged in by Daniel O'Donnell and his colleagues at the University of Lethbridge (see HERE for a recent article about their experiment and the proposals they have about how this can be duplicated elsewhere). The primary reason for this: keep the money (however much or little there is) for publishing and scholarly communication within the departments, units, schools, etc. where it can have the greatest benefit; STOP the outflow of money to commercial, and even university presses, where it is going to fund often bloated overhead and infrastructure, and where, for better or worse, editorial decisions are being made with too many "business"/marketing/"prestige" considerations and not enough emphasis is being placed on maximizing what it is possible to SAY, and in what modes/genres/styles, within the humanities.
  • second, with the generous, pro bono assistance of Sally Livingston (who I am now outing here as one of punctum's angels), we will be developing a task force this summer to go after private philanthropic money, because punctum's mission is just weird and non-dominant-keywordy enough that seeking money from established foundations and funding agencies (such as Mellon, Ford, NEH, etc.) might be a dead end. To that end, I am also happy to announce here that Pioneer Works, a center for art + innovation based in Red Hook, Brooklyn helmed by the mad artist-genius Dustin Yellin, has awarded punctum an institutional residency for Spring 2016, during which time we will be running our primary editorial operations out of Red Hook while also developing an internship program with universities in the NYC area.
  • third, as the Ford Foundation recently announced that they have completely revamped their mission to focus exclusively in their giving on INEQUALITY (see the recent story HERE),  including unequal *access* to information/knowledge, with one of the 6 key funding areas being "Creativity and Free Expression" (and within that, "Advancing Media Rights and Access"), we will be working on seeking a Ford Foundation grant.
  • fourth, when we release our Graduated OA platform this coming Fall/Winter (see par. 3 above), please be an enthusiastic booster. Purchase our PDF e-books (which, I promise you, will carry very affordable price-tags, and only for a brief, temporary period), distribute them freely to friends and colleagues, and thus help to "unlock" these titles for the greater, common good while also contaminating the system with the punctum virus. Purchase our titles in print whenever you can, and also assign them to classes. DONATE as often as you can, and go HERE to do that (right NOW, even!). Or go here --
And the reason WHY you should want to help us with this is because we (meaning me PLUS SO many persons, many of whom inhabit very precarious positions both within and outside of the University, who have given selflessly of their time to help edit and design the books) have been working so hard to secure the SPACE that is so necessary for others to do exactly the sort of work they want to do (as opposed to doing the work they are often subtly, and not so subtly, coerced into doing), and at a time when more traditional university and commercial academic presses are simply not wired to help provide for such space that hasn't already been deemed in advance to be "profitable," "marketable," "trending," etc. Because the future of academic publishing cannot be just ONE thing, or one wagon, that we all have to get on (or risk being left behind), and it won't be secured by funneling all of the money into corporate entities that have no real concern for the public commons other than the profits to be gained thereby, and because we don't want our work to be shaped by forces that have no regard for the the singular desires that lead us to our work in the first place, and because we desperately need a publisher that puts a premium on EXPERIMENTation, as summed up beautifully in the epigraph to this post and worth repeating here:

... given the state of higher education in the U.S., ... there's little reason not to experiment, because it's only a minority of people who are making any sort of livelihood from this work, or who even have any hope of making a livelihood from it. American academia is a perfect embodiment of capitalism in the way that it wastes human beings: their knowledge, their potential, their good will.  ... The rules are against us. Learning them is important, because we need to know the landscape, the architecture, the logic. But the rules do not like us, they do not want us, they do not have any use for us. Not breaking them is unconscionable. 

20 Jun 02:38


All of us start someplace. 

For me, that was in the desert, in the wreck of civilizations far older than the Collapse. I don’t know how or why Arc found me there. I don’t know how or when I got there, or who I was in whatever time it was that I died there. If that person could even be said to be me. 

It’s a thing Guardians don’t like to talk about much, that missing time before your Ghost calls you up from some long-ago place and fills you up with Light, wipes away much of what was to replace it with… well, no one knows with what, really. Some other purpose in service of the Traveller. You’re left with the essentials: you can walk and talk (probably a language you never even learned) and take care of yourself, have a sense of right and wrong. And yet there’s no experience behind it that you can remember. Not even the Exos can, with their perfect electronic brains. It’s just gone. Maybe it’s part of a bargain. We get to live and live and live and be full of otherworldly power, but we have to be someone new. I don’t know. 

Regardless, Archimedes brought me into the world again in the dusty, sandy outskirts of an ancient ruined city of cut stone and mudbrick half-buried in sand. Settlements in that part of the world were sparse then, they’re probably even sparser now. It was a few days of walking before we came across the signs of any people. The tracks of Nomadic herders, drifting North. Maybe responding to the pull I could feel in myself, towards something. Arc (he didn’t have that name yet, and I just called him “ghost” which seemed to suit him just fine, though he insisted on calling me Cassandra) said it was the call of the Traveller, gathering the people together to rebuild the world and fend off the Darkness. 

It took two days of non-stop walking to catch up with them. The people had animals–sheep and goats and dogs–and they used a baffling mix of tools. Ancient and simple ones like the sling and staff, and carefully preserved relics of the Golden Age that could translate the speech of strangers, or instantly heal minor wounds. They carried everything they needed with them, their tents and rugs and food and children. I found I liked this idea, even though I had almost nothing myself, only the simple (if exceptionally tough) sand-colored armor/clothing that Arc had somehow made from the matter around me when he filled me full of Light. 

I walked with them for several weeks, watching over them as if by instinct, like one of their dogs watching over the sheep. I don’t know what I thought to protect them from, only that I felt compelled to do so. 

And just as the sheep surely knew that the dogs were not truly a member of the flock, they could tell I was not like them, though I shared their dark skin and features. I did not tire, hardly needed to sleep, could subsist on the tiniest bits of food and mouthfuls of water. The sun did not phase me, nor the cold of night. I could read every piece of text they possessed, no matter the language, and repeat it back effortlessly. 

Arc did not like to speak around them, or make himself visible, preferring to disappear into whatever nook of my being it is that he vanishes into when not acting independently. Perhaps he didn’t want to further set me apart. Or had been alone for so long that he didn’t know what to do around them. Or perhaps ghosts just aren’t very interested in anyone that hasn’t been touched by the Traveller or has no interest in it. They didn’t seem too surprised by Arc when they caught glimpses of him floating around in his odd fashion. They’d met people like me before, I think. 

Eventually they turned West with their flock, away from the pull I felt, and from where my ghost told me I needed to go. I didn’t try to convince them to follow me. How could I? I didn’t really know where I was going, what that place might hold for them, or even why I was going there myself. And I believe they had made this decision more than once. Their part of the Earth is rarely visited by outsiders or dark creatures that stain other places. The Fallen pass through from time to time, but there is little left there to interest them in longer term occupation, and the dry wilderness of the herding people interests them not at all. 

When we parted ways my friends told me that a great ruined city was a weeks journey to the North, and that they thought I would find many things there that I might need. Like the Fallen, they sometimes sent parties there to search for useful relics and simple things like metal and glass for the tools they made themselves. It seemed to be the general direction I was impelled to go, and Arc liked the idea of scrounging up some materials and tools to speed up the journey. I parted ways from my new friends, taking from them only a hooded cloak they had made for me, and set out to find the remains of the dead city. 

16 Jun 23:36

Berdthday boy


This video features birbs.

Yea so I'm in college now, I'll still be able to make videos but maybe at a slower rate. Probably the same. Song
17 Jun 19:44

No, There is Not a New 'Crime Wave' Overtaking U.S. Cities


I have heard some of this sort of thing from conservative cop apologists.

On May 29, Heather Mac Donald, the author of Are Cops Racist? wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “The New Nationwide Crime Wave,” announcing that “The nation’s two-decades-long crime decline may be over.” She blamed protests against police violence in Ferguson and Baltimore for crime rises in those and other cities in recent months. A bunch of crime reporters and criminologists balked at her argument, as detailed thoroughly by That led to Mac Donald penning a follow-up WSJ op-ed on Sunday stating that those people just don’t get it because, Hello, crime is waving.   

“The past nine months have seen unprecedented antipolice agitation dedicated to the proposition that bias infects policing in predominantly black communities,” wrote Mac Donald.   

Anyone aware of the 2009 murder of Oscar Grant by Oakland transit police (made into the 2013 film Fruitvale Station) or April Martin’s 2014 documentary Cincinnati Goddamn (about the 2001 riots after two African Americans were killed by city police) knows that agitation in black communities has been simmering for way longer than nine months.  

Mac Donald has been trying to make the term “The Ferguson effect” happen, arguing that an “incessant drumbeat against the police” has increased crime.

Still, Mac Donald has been trying to make the term “The Ferguson effect” happen, by arguing, as she did in May, that an “incessant drumbeat against the police” has resulted in increased crime throughout St. Louis county.

A new report from The Sentencing Project points to major problems with Mac Donald’s analysis, chief among them that no “new crime wave” exists—or that, at least, it’s too early to tell. Crime has risen in recent months, but there’s inadequate evidence that this is related to the recent rallies and riots in Ferguson.

The below charts from the report show that homicides and violent crime had already been on the uptick before unarmed teen Michael Brown was killed by Ferguson police in August 2014:

                                                                                             (The Sentencing Project)
                                                                                            (The Sentencing Project)

These charts show the ratio of monthly crime rates in 2014, the year of the Ferguson protests, with monthly crime rates from the year prior. The Sentencing Project shows that homicide rates began climbing in June, while those for violent crimes began escalating in May. The fact that murders began soaring before Brown’s death was mentioned by University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist Rick Rosenfeld in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article last November. In that article, Rosenfeld attributed rising crime to “an unrelated explosion in drug markets,” not the Ferguson protests.

No matter the cause, researchers at The Sentencing Project say that a few months of elevated crime activity is simply not enough to declare a “crime wave”; if anything, it’s just a crime ripple. “In the absence of credible and comprehensive evidence sounding alarm bells over a ‘Ferguson effect’ or any other putative cause will not help,” the authors conclude in the report.

Mac Donald may also have lifted the term “Ferguson effect” out of its original context. When using it in her op-ed, she was quoting Sam Dotson, Chief of Police of the Metropolitan Police Department, City of St. Louis. She wrote that Dotson attributed the effect to anti-police fervor among black communities.

But in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article where Dotson first used the term, he was referring to police officers getting “pulled away for specialized instruction” in protest-crowd control—some 5,000 hours of training for the force, said Dotson. Rosenfeld said in that article that arrests had declined, but that it wasn’t ”necessarily that individual officers are giving up, it’s because normal officers are being taken off their normal beat activities for training and protest events, so arrests go down.”

St. Louis County Police Association’s president Gabe Crocker said in the article that police officers were “tired, worn-out, and stressed,” but that he didn’t feel that public safety was in grave danger because of it. This is a significant difference from saying that police are dropping their guards as a retort to black community agitation, as Mac Donald put it.

Mac Donald claims that communities want more aggressive policing; actually, they want better relationships with police.

There have also been fewer arrests because police have been abandoning tactics like “stop-and-frisk,” which in past few years have netted volumes of arrests—mainly of people of color—but to little real effect. Mac Donald laments this, writing in her June 14 WSJ op-ed that police are “refraining from precisely the kind of policing that many in the media, along with legions of activists, have denounced over the past year: pedestrian stops and enforcement of low-level, quality-of-life laws.”

Given that police have reversed course on “stop-and-frisk” tactics, “It is no surprise that shootings are up in the city,” wrote Mac Donald on May 29.

New York City Police Chief Bill Bratton himself dismissed this idea during a recent press conference, saying unequivocally: "[Stop-and-frisk] is not a significant factor in the crime rate in the city.”

Bratton pointed to 2011 figures to back this up, noting that while a record-high 685,000 stop-and-frisks were made, the number of rapes, robberies, assaults, and burglaries had also gone up that year. Compare that with last year, when only 48,000 stops were made and numbers for all of these crimes had dropped.

“Last year, when we had the lowest number of stop-question-and-frisks, we had much less crime,” said Bratton. Pointing out that the vast majority of crime is committed in specific locations, by very small populations, Bratton said his new police strategy this summer was to have cops monitor those specific hot spots and focus on higher-level crime perpetrators. The chief of the Metropolitan Police in Washington, D.C., recently announced that her force would be doing the same.

“It is certainly appropriate for the police to focus their attention on these people and places, and they do,” wrote Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies in a post Monday on the legal analysis website Justia, “but it is irresponsible lunacy to suggest, as MacDonald does, a ‘crime wave’ based on this highly concentrated violence.”

Mac Donald claims in her op-eds that communities actually want more aggressive policing. When the Police Executive Research Forum surveyed communities around St. Louis County last year, they found that:

Even though residents consistently say they want their police departments to engage in more community-oriented policing, this approach is de-emphasized or non-existent in many jurisdictions, especially in communities with high levels of crime and deep distrust between residents and police.

Communities desiring better relationships with police is not the same as asking for more stop-and-frisk. Still, not to be undone, Mac Donald has even attempted invoking the old tired and misunderstood “black-on-black crime” canard. Wrote Mac Donald:

If these decriminalization and deincarceration policies backfire, the people most harmed will be their supposed beneficiaries: blacks, since they are disproportionately victimized by crime. The black death-by-homicide rate is six times higher than that of whites and Hispanics combined. The killers of those black homicide victims are overwhelmingly other black civilians, not the police.

Not one black person from these communities is quoted or cited in Mac Donald’s columns—though she does claim that a nameless “elderly woman” “exclaimed” that the police are her friends at a June 4 South Bronx police community meeting. More frequently, Mac Donald quotes a bunch of police union representatives, again, some unnamed. And therein lies a major problem with her analysis, writes Margulies:

This is precisely how criminal justice policy took shape over the past five decades. Those least affected by crime, who were most apt to experience it only remotely and symbolically, imposed rules that governed the lives of those affected most directly and who experienced it as part of their daily lives. This colonial approach to criminal justice is exactly what reformers are trying to fix.

A community must be allowed to think and speak for itself, and if you deprive it of that opportunity, the skill will either never take hold or will wither from disuse.

17 Jun 13:36

Lesser-Known Connoisseurs

by Juan


Hello. How are you? These days, I’ve been drawing the first pages of a project that has lived in my notebook for a while now. I want to produce a book with a cohesive structure and premise, even if it’s divided in smaller stories, which seems to be the case of that story. Meanwhile I’ll try to keep updating occasionally with the usual weird stuff like this one comic here, I hope it amuses you.

Check my guest comic on Surviving the World, it includes half written sentences too, due to different reasons though.

16 Jun 23:36

[SFM] Duck.exe has stopped working


This video also features birb.

I was gonna do a christmas special but I accidentally made this video. = 6d696e692073636176656e6765722068756e74
11 Jun 00:12

Death - ...For The Whole World To See (Full Album)


Probably most of you have heard this, but if not, well, now you can. Also, the documentary about them, "A Band Called Death" is tremendous.

2009 (recorded 1974) | Drag City Proto-punk Keep On Knocking: 00:00 Rock-N-Roll Victim: 02:50 Let The World Turn: 05:31 You're A...
08 Jun 23:53

What Happened in McKinney


My buddy Dan wrote this.

There’s an undeniable history in this country of police treating black people, especially young black people, like they must be controlled. As a result, many black people, especially young black people, feel that when the police show up, they’re in danger. The police are there to protect and serve somebody, but there’s no reason for a black teenager in a planned suburban enclave like McKinney’s Craig Ranch to believe that that somebody is him.

This video shot in McKinney over the weekend went internationallyviral. You’re forgiven if you find it too brutal to sit through.

The facts are still difficult to pin down, but before the video began, police were called to the pool party. Witnesses say that some white adults at the pool had made racist comments—telling the black teens to “get used to the bars” outside of the pool, or to “go back to their Section 8 housing.” (The average home price in Craig Ranch is $450,000.)

Those comments apparently led to a confrontation. Tatyana Rhodes, a 19-year-old girl who was one of the hosts of the party, says that she was struck by an older white woman after she confronted her about racial slurs. (A witness interviewed by the Huffington Post corroborates Rhodes’ account.) There’s a video of Rhodes and the other woman grappling. As a security guard approaches, the other woman walks away from the scene. 

When @Keef_Cakez beat that ass

— Miles(K-Bandz) (@k1dmars) June 6, 2015

Shortly after the fight, police arrived. There’s no video of their arrival, but from where the video does start, it’s easy to infer that some of the teenagers started to run away. The video opens with an officer tumbling into a barrel roll, like he’s in an action movie, before beginning the process of grabbing teens, throwing them to the ground, putting knees to their bwagoacks, handcuffing them, and—finally—pulling his gun.

The teenagers, who are mostly dressed in bathing suits, are all unarmed. The officer swears at the black kids in the video. The boy holding the camera, who is white, moves around freely. At one point, a black teenage boy who is being ordered to stay on the ground asks if he can retrieve his bag, and the officer says that he cannot. The boy with the camera volunteers to get it for him. Meanwhile, a black girl who tells the officer that she needs to find her glasses gets grabbed by the officer. Moments later, he throws her to the ground, and grabs her by the hair. When two boys approach the scene, he pulls out his gun. When the girl screams about his gun, he grabs her by the back of the head, shouts, “On your face,” and slams her, face-first, into the grass. He places his knee on her back, and when the boy with the camera says, “You pulled your gun on her,” the officer insists, “No, I didn’t.” The girl he’s pinning down cries, “I’m not fighting you.” 

It’s unclear exactly what happened at the pool and why the police got involved. And while, yes, some of the black kids at the scene may have scattered when they saw the police, at least one officer behaved in a way that justifies such a reaction, pulling a gun on unarmed teens. When a black teenager in America in 2015 sees a police officer pull a gun, he or she should understand the stakes. The names Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Tanisha Anderson, Eric Garner, and Rekia Boyd are constant reminders. Escaping the officer in the video seems like essential self-preservation. 

The officer has been identified by media as Corporal Eric CaseboltAccording to Gawker, someone who appears to be Casebolt had a YouTube playlist on his public profile called “Police Training,”  that features videos of police officers using violent force against the citizens they’re tasked with protecting and serving. On Saturday, that same YouTube user added the video of Casebolt at the pool party to the list. 

(Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald via AP)

Let’s take a moment now to contrast the scene in McKinney with the scene, three weeks earlier, in Waco. At the time of the shooting at the Waco Twin Peaks restaurant between several gangs of mostly-white bikers—which left nine dead and another dozen in the hospital—I wrote that “the mere fact that a massive shoot-out in a strip mall could end with police and bikers on peaceful terms does look like special treatment.” 

The bikers in Waco had a gunfight in broad daylight that killed nine people. The kids in McKinney were allegedly swimming in a pool that they may not all have had permission to be in. One of those encounters involved bikers sitting around in the parking lot on their cell phones. The other involved a girl thrown around, slammed face-first into the ground, held with a knee at her back for saying that she couldn’t leave until she found her glasses. And, of course, the ones who were at the scene of a lethal gunfight were white, and the ones who were beaten by a police officer who seemingly considers videos of police officers kicking suspects in the face to be “police training” were black. 

In these situations, it’s always easy to talk about bad eggs. Casebolt has been placed on leave pending an investigation, after all, which suggests this might just be a situation in which one bad apple overreacted.

But let’s talk about the rest of the eggs. In the video, you can see two other officers. One of them is polite to the (white) kid with the camera, when he attempts to return a flashlight that Casebolt dropped during his tumble-and-roll maneuver. And when Casebolt pulls his gun, the two officers approach Casebolt momentarily, before following his order to chase the boys Casebolt pulled his gun on. There may be bad cops and good cops, but they all serve alongside one another, and when one of the bad ones slams a teenage girl in a bathing suit face-first into the ground repeatedly and draws his gun on a bunch of unarmed kids in a rage, the potentially good cops don’t appear to intervene.

It’s also been shown, repeatedly, that the police force often supports its bad eggs. In January, a Victoria police officer was fired after video showed him beating and tasing an elderly man who committed the non-offense of driving a car with dealer plates without an inspection sticker (cars with dealer plates aren’t required to have them). In April, that officer—Nathanial Robinson—was hired by the nearby Beeville Police Department, where he is once more armed with a gun and the authority to use force on people he suspects of wrongdoing. Ryan Cunningham, who was fired from his job with the Jasper Police Department after being captured on video assaulting a pregnant woman in custody, was hired by the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office shortly thereafter. Whatever the end result of the investigation into Casebolt, it seems likely that if he wants to continue adding clips to his “police training” highlight reel, he’ll have the opportunity. 

It would be easy to place all of the blame here at bad-egg Casebolt’s feet. It’d also be easy to say that this is just another example of the eternal culture-war dispute over the role of police and race. Someone will find a Facebook post from one of the kids in the video in which he talks about smoking weed, or we’ll learn that the young woman in the fight with the white woman had a disciplinary record at school, or some other post-facto obfuscation will arise to shift the narrative for those who want it shifted. There’s a counter-narrative that exists that says that a DJ was holding an illegal party at the pool and advertised it with a $15-a-head cover charge on Twitter. (No such tweets exist, though Tatyana Rhodes—who is a resident of the community—did share an invite to a free pool party at the location via social media. It garnered three “likes.”) 

No matter how the narrative shifts, pulling a gun on unarmed teens is inexcusable. And doing so over the question of who is allowed in a pool is even more troublesome.

According to the girl who hosted the party and her mother (both of whom were residents), most of the kids were from Craig Ranch. Others who didn’t live in the area were reportedly using guest passes; others, it has been said, were jumping the fence to get in.

In other words, some white adults likely saw a group of black children in their neighborhood pool, determined that they didn’t belong, and decided to call the police. The teens may have been loud—teenagers often are—and they may have made some of the people who saw them uncomfortable. But they were kids at a swimming pool, and the day ended for many of them in handcuffs, reportedly after weathering racial slurs from grown-ups.

As the Atlantic also noted, the setting of this disturbing incident—a community pool—recalls the long history of blacks not being allowed in public swimming pools. In the sixties, white people were known to pour acid into the water to get them out. They defended their actions, arguing that the black people in those pools were being unruly, too. When the police would be called, they would cuff, swear at, and threaten the black swimmers. Details are still emerging, but what happened in McKinney still serves as a reminder for many Texans, and the rest of America, that the past isn’t dead. As Faulker said, it’s not even past.

06 Jun 13:33

The Mary Sue Interview: Kate Beaton On Step Aside, Pops, Her Fantastically Feminist Follow-Up To Hark! A Vagrant

05 Jun 19:00

Every so often I make a batch of tiny watercolor paintings -...

Every so often I make a batch of tiny watercolor paintings - just 2.5″x3.5″ - to take to a convention. In honor of being a guest at this year’s Special Edition: NYC, I painted up a bunch of my favorite female characters from comics, animation, and film!

L to R, top to bottom:

Imperator Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road), Garnet (Steven Universe), Frohawk take on Storm (X-Men);

Catwoman (DCU), Kate Bishop (Hawkeye), Jubilee (X-Men);

Agent Peggy Carter (MCU), Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel!

I will have all these tiny but fierce ladies with me at my table H-04 in Artist Alley. I’ll also be on panels as well, including CREATING COMICS: THE REAL STORIES with badasses like Annie Wu, Kate Leth, and Becky Cloonan at 2:30 on Saturday. See ya there!

08 Jun 05:01

Tactical Advantage

by Ian

Tactical Advantage

08 Jun 13:31

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Know Your Linguistic Philosophies


As in many things, here I am a pragmatist.

Hovertext: Language is a social construct that you REALLY suck at.

New comic!
Today's News:

BAHFest Submissions are still open! 

06 Jun 10:27


My name is Sand. Technically my ghost says my name is Cassandra. But only he calls me that. I call myself Sand, and so that is my name. 

I call my ghost Archimedes, after an ancient human we read about in a rotting old book we found not long after he found me. Some warlock told me that Archimedes was the first human to use Light as a weapon. The book didn’t say anything about that. It mostly talked about him inventing simple machines and once running through the street naked. So I have my doubts. Either way, I reckon it’s a pretty good name. 

I asked Arc (he says if my name is Sand, his name is Arc) how he knew my name is Cassandra. He says it just is, and he just knows it, same as how he just knew where to find me, and that he could bring me back. Typical ghost stuff, and not very satisfying, even for a hunter. Of course, I’m a hunter that doesn’t know what she’s hunting. So I probably shouldn’t complain. The warlock I know best–an Awoken named Desdemona–says that ghosts are partly just channels or conduits. That the Traveller can just drop things into Arc’s glowing little brain. And mine too, maybe. It can be hard to tell where one of us ends and the other begins. So sometimes they just know things, because the Traveller knows them. And no one can even guess at what the Traveller might know. Or what it’s forgotten. 

I’m having Arc store these notes in the archive, as a kind of record. Not everything in it will be worth much. Maybe none of it will be. But it feels important to do, regardless. We’ve lost so much knowledge that we took for granted, and you can never tell when some seemingly useless thing discovered by someone like me turns out to be important. Or so I tell myself. 

Technically, I live in the Tower, like most Guardians. And I love the City, our Last City, with the luminous Traveller hanging overhead. But I live in the Tower in the same way that my name is Cassandra. 

My real home is out here, on the edges of the Light, with wild things of this world and others. I live out in the wilds because exploring is what I was made for, so far as I can tell. The City is beautiful, and full of life, and most of my fellow humans. But I’m not really one of them anymore. I’m something else, something called up from beyond death by a power that none us really understand. The people in the City, I think they’re more than a little bit afraid of us, the way we channel the power of the Light in marvelous and terrible ways. How we can brush off death. 

I can’t say that I blame them.