Shared posts

04 Sep 08:47

Japanese Over-Design FTW: The Beetle 3-Way Highlighter

Never thought I'd have a follow-up post for "Japanese Over-Design FTW: A Highlighter with a See-Through Tip," but apparently the island of Nihon is not through with highlighter design innovation. Pen manufacturer Kokuyo has a model called the Beetle Tip 3 Way Highlighter Pen:

Jokes about over-design aside, I could actually see this dual-color model being useful for highlighting figures on a sheet—say, using one color to highlight numbers that have exceeded expectations, another color to tag the ones that need improvement.

On the other hand, the intended functionality of the monochromatic models seems a little iffy to me:

Unlike a lot of unique Japanese products, these aren't tricky to find; they can be had on Amazon, nine bucks and change for a five-pack.

That's for the monochromatic ones. The dual-color jammies are $5.80 for a three-pack.

17 Aug 22:53

Is Zen Enough?

by Brad

One of Brad's better posts, I think.

The interesting thing here points to why I have a tough time with sitting meditation as opposed to other things like taiji (and why meditation can often make things much worse before they get better) is that it can produce a sort of close, unmediated contact with your own mental garbage that can be incredibly overwhelming. In the long run it can help you find the processes producing that garbage, and help you get rid of it, and them... but you can also sometimes just get buried in a mountain of your own crap.

6_8_supermanI just finished my first European gig of 2015, a three-day non-residential zazen retreat in Munich. The question that kept coming up in different forms during the Q&A sessions and dokusans (private meetings) was “Is Zen enough?”

At first the question confused me. Enough for what?

It seems that a lot of people expect some kind of transformation to occur as a result of whatever sort of self-improvement thing they’re involved in. If you’re neurotic, you go to an analyst, pay him money and expect some kind of cure or at least some advice and help dealing with your neurosis. If you feel like you’ve sinned, you go to a priest and he says some magic words to convince God to forgive you and you’re absolved.

But Zen practice doesn’t offer anything like that. Even so, people tend to expect something like that to happen. They’re disappointed when it doesn’t.

There are studies that claim meditation is no better at fixing your problems than ordinary relaxation or drugs. Those studies are looking at the wrong things.

I’ve participated in some of these studies myself. What they’ve done is hooked up a bunch of wires and blood pressure cuffs and things to me or put me in an MRI machine and said, “All right. Now meditate!”

I suppose they expect some kind of supernatural effect to happen. Like my blood pressure will suddenly drop or my brainwaves will move into the alpha zone or whatever. When that doesn’t happen, or when it happens but it’s only as much of a change as someone else gets when they take anti-depressants or a nap, they conclude that meditation has the same effect as those things.

But that isn’t how meditation works. Not the way I do it, at least.

In Zen meditation, we sit down and be with ourselves. We make no attempt to change anything. We just try to sit very still and very quietly with whatever is there. We’re not even trying to observe it. We’re just trying to remain with it.

When you do that, your blood pressure doesn’t necessarily drop and your brainwaves don’t necessarily switch to a different state. But you may become aware that your blood pressure is too high – probably not directly, but you’ll feel something is off. Or you notice that your mental state is uncomfortably overactive. Seeing how that feels over and over again as you continue working with the practice, you’ll gradually start to notice how you are behaving in ways that make those things happen. You’ll start to see how to stop doing that stuff.

Or maybe people who ask if Zen is enough think that Zen practice is too self-centered. You sit there meditating and maybe you feel better, but what does that do for the world? It’s still a big mess. Shouldn’t we go out there and do something about it?

But if you’re like me, unless you’re on a retreat or something, you only spend an hour or less a day doing zazen. That leaves you eight hours to sleep and fifteen hours each day to do whatever you want to solve the world’s ills. No problem so far.

As for saving the planet and all that, though, I get it. It doesn’t seem like you’re doing much to prevent global warming or nuclear proliferation by sitting and staring at a blank wall. But maybe you are.

My friend Rob Robbins was troubled by the First Bodhisattva Vow, which says, “I vow to save all beings.” It sounds impossible. And it is. If by “saving all beings” you’re imagining you have to be Superman and rescue everybody from whatever trouble they’re in.

Rob found a brilliant way to rephrase that vow. He said, “I vow to save all beings… from myself.”

We can’t do all that much as individuals to solve everything that’s wrong with the world. But we can learn not to add to those problems unnecessarily. We do that by sitting with ourselves and seeing how we personally contribute to the very problems we hope to solve. I don’t mean that we get a magic download during our big transcendent moments about which kinds of plastic are recyclable and which are not. We learn how, moment-by-moment in each of our interactions we very often create problems that don’t really need to be there.

We see it because we sit with ourselves watching it happen in real time.

To me, the question of whether Zen is enough has never seemed problematic. I can do all the things anyone else does to save the world or improve myself psychologically. Nobody has ever suggested I shouldn’t do that kind of stuff. In fact, my daily zazen practice has brought me more in tune with the sorts of things I can do when I’m not on my cushion to help with those matters.

Often it’s not what I expected.

For example, before I moved to Japan I had a very altruistic save-the-world type job. I worked for an organization dedicated to helping mentally handicapped adults function outside of institutions. It was the kind of job anyone who wanted to do good in the world could feel proud of. But I hated it.

Fast forward a few years and I’m living in Japan working for people who make cheezy monster movies. I loved that job. But I felt terribly guilty about it. I’d gone from saving the planet to making trashy movies.

But Nishijima Roshi, my Zen teacher, set me straight. He showed me how to do the job I was doing with the attitude of doing service for the world. It’s like the scene at the end of Woody Allen’s movie Stardust Memories. Woody plays a comedian and filmmaker who feels guilty because he’s not doing something important. He’s just making funny movies. He meets some aliens who tell him, “If you want to do a real service for mankind, tell funnier jokes.”

Nishijima Roshi told me to continue working for Tsuburaya Productions and to do the small things I was able to make the programs we made more helpful. “Just do a little,” he said.

I think a little is often enough.


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 SCREENING OF HARDCORE ZEN MOVIE WITH TALK

September 6, 2015 Hamburg, Germany ZEN DAY

September 8t, 2015 Helsinki, Finland  LECTURE Mannerheimintie 5, 5th floor Mannerheim hall 5:30pm

September 9, 2015 Malmi, Finland

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 (sold out, but there is a waiting list in case people cancel.)

September 21-25, 2015 Belfast, Northern Ireland SPECIFIC DATES TO BE DETERMINED

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

October 26-27 Cincinnati, Ohio Concert:Nova

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

April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”



All of these events will still happen each week while I’m away.

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

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

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

* * *

Zen is often not enough to cover my rent and on-going expenses. Your donations are still important. I appreciate your on-going support!


17 Aug 04:11

The Closest Thing We Had to an Industrial Design–based Comic Strip


This is so great. Stuff like this is why I follow Core77.

The longest-running single-artist comic strip in the world was not "Peanuts." It was "Wordless Workshop," a DIY strip begun in 1954 by comics artist Roy Doty. It's the closest thing there's ever been to an ID-based comic strip, in that each installment shows a problem, and how one physically solves it using design.

Published in Popular Science beginning in 1954, the strip started out as a product of its times, with clearly defined gender roles that seem quaint today; the strips typically depicted the housewife experiencing a domestic problem or minor accident, and the handy-with-a-saw husband solving it in his toolshed. (As the times changed, problems evolved from unreturned glass soda bottles to iPad stands, and the female protagonist contributed more evenly.)

As per the title there were no words or text, with each idea being presented only in illustrations. The viewer was still expected to do the math, and it was assumed that every family had saws, hammers and a drill press in the garage. Perhaps most brilliantly, the solutions were all crowdsourced; this allowed readers around the country, folks who might be clever builders but couldn't necessarily draw, to send in descriptions of their problems/solutions for Doty to illustrate. This ensured no shortage of ideas and led to roughly six decades' worth of installments.

"Wordless Workshop" ran from '54 to 1990 in Popular Science, and was then picked up by the Home & Garden Group's Family Handyman magazine without missing a month. The last installment I saw was several issues ago, then they abruptly ended; sadly Doty, a Columbus College of Art & Design graduate who worked into his 90s, passed away earlier this year.

Unfortunately, Doty's website disappeared into the ether after his passing, and the "Wordless Workshop" series will not be handed over to another artist. Amazon, however, has a couple of WW collections in book form, here and here.

14 Aug 09:37

Family Man Page 383

by Dylan

I really love this page.

Family Man Page 383

13 Aug 22:29

We must sell products to survive and grow

by Bob Crowley

I'm impressed the massive coating failure didn't sink them. Considering picking up some of the R3 for doing paper negs.

As most of you know, the sale of just a few New55 PNs does help the project and is consistent with the kickstarter goal to create an ongoing enterprise that would sustain 4x5 instant photography. The whole idea of New55's kickstarter is to get a sustainable thing going, not just a one-time project. How do we better communicate this ongoing goal again to those who are just becoming aware of the project? Maybe the larger question is about how well we understand the economics of small-scale products and how they might survive in the midst of a mass market culture that knows little about where the products come from?

Recently, a few supporters and onlookers have talked online about the project and asked why, for instance, their reward hasn't shipped yet when others have and some sales have been made. Like building a house, the roof can't go on first, there has to be a foundation and walls to support it. The analogy is clear when you look at how things are made. It is the capacity of manufacture, the know-how, and the money flow that make any sustainable business, project or crowd-funded effort move forward. A one-time project, like a book for instance, is written, goes to press, ships, and then is done.

Film, especially instant film, is just not like that. It would be a waste to apply the effort to assemble a finite number of units and then not be able to continue. One of the most explicit goals of the project (seen on this blog since 2010) is to find where the economic center - if there is one - can balance a sales price with a real world cost to manufacture.

Ladies and gentlemen, that time has come. New55 FILM is officially, though not yet robustly, commercialized. A substantial goal of the kickstarter effort has been met. No icing on the cake though, at least not yet. We produced well for two weeks before the shocking news of the coating failure stopped everything, and now we are at a crawl. But there are other things happening, too.

We are seeing the first reactions to the initial high prices as expected. We are seeing some impatience, as expected. We experienced more than the expected share of problems, but these have become interesting in themselves, and though daunting and still extremely risky, that is not something new either. Many people have found our several disasters to be instructive and even entertaining. They are, and we've all learned much.

New55 is at a very critical stage of commercial infancy and could be discontinued if the motives and money cannot continue to be aligned. That requires continued product sales and the support of the community, which I personally thank the many for. I would not have gone into this if that was not the case, and as many of you know, kickstarter only supports about half of the cost to get going. The other half comes from substantial six figure cash amounts, huge chunks of unpaid volunteer time, and sales of stuff.

So buy the stuff, Use it. Show us what it can do. It has warts and the recent failure of the coatings (which cost over $100,000) really threatened to end the project. Yet, as of today, we coated again, by hand. We made some full boxes. We made new pods, we did a lot of things, just a lot more slowly. And speaking of things to buy, the unexpected success of the Monobath Developer phenomenon has shown a lot of people how big the demand is for easy black and white processing. Something quick and easy that takes the same amount of time as instant PN is appealing. We've been experimenting in the background and have an even better formula that might reduce some of the shortcomings and make it even easier to use.

Rewards, when available, are shipped in the order of the pledge.  There may be a few minor exceptions based on logistics and timing of available materials, and of course a supporter poll went out and some people elected to have their rewards changed, which may accelerate the shipment of some. If you haven't responded to that poll, and have a moment, it would be helpful if you would. But you don't have to - it's optional and was put up in response to supporter suggestions, and sent out to all kickstarter supporters. We get a lot of good suggestions and the poll was one.

About 11% of all film rewards have shipped, and the non film containing rewards will have shipped fairly soon. That is real progress.  In the meantime we are going to try - within constraints of very limited available cash - continue to do what we said we would do - establish the means to produce instant 4x5 film into the future.

13 Aug 08:32

A Labyrinth of Labias (or The Man Who Boned The World)


I'm pretty sure someone must have thrown this orgy.

sleep is dumb

And starring David Bowie as Mister Spock

13 Aug 08:28

(via Impact - YouTube) Saw these guys last night, and they were...

(via Impact - YouTube)

Saw these guys last night, and they were solid. Played super hard and went for it. American black metal has given birth to bands doing a lot of interesting things, I reckon. 
This is a pretty damn good record. It’s simultaneous heavy, dirty, and rough with something verging on a black metal sort of style of production, but it’s still pretty in the right places, and verges on poppy at moments. Overall it’s kind of sort of about space exploration, and possible futures for humanity, most of which are appropriately grim. This particular song appears to be about the Challenger mission, (altered) depictions of which make up the entirety of the album art. This track features some of my favorite lyrics on the record.



12 Aug 22:38

What’s going on, Scotland?

by PZ Myers

So stupid. via A.Kachmar


Scotland is going to formally ban the cultivation of genetically modified crops. Apparently, this was an easy step for them to take, because it’s the scientists who are explaining that this is a foolish move, and everyone knows you can just ignore the scientists.

I also think it’s a matter of fearing the unknown. Scotland doesn’t have any GM crops! It’s easy to ban what you already don’t have, and when activists have successfully nailed the phrase “genetically modified” with the stigma of being sciencey and wicked. It’s absurd.

If you’re going to ban everything that has been genetically modified, the Scots are going to have to go back to harvesting wild grains and hunting wild animals — every single commercial crop plant has been extensively modified by human intervention, to the point that they’re often completely unrecognizable in comparison to the ancestral stock. What they’re really complaining about is that modern genetically modified plants are more precisely engineered than the old scattershot style of random genetic modification.

12 Aug 10:35

i love you bird

Today on Married To The Sea: i love you bird

The Worst Things For Sale is Drew's blog. It updates every day. Subscribe to the Worst Things For Sale RSS!
11 Aug 03:21

D2D Interview: Sam Neill

by David Driscoll

As far back as I can remember, I've loved watching scary movies. I was the kid at the video store who wandered into the horror section and obsessed over the covers of the VHS tapes, while his parents sat patiently waiting in the Disney section, hoping for a more appropriate selection. You might say that, in addition to the consumption of wine and spirits, the ingestion of cinematic terror and gore makes up what's left of my free time. That's why, when our New Zealand wine buyer Ryan Woodhouse told me that we might getting a tiny allocation of Sam Neill's pinot noir, I did a double-take. "You mean the actor Sam Neill?" I asked, my eyes ablaze in response. This was a dream come true. While most people know Sam from his world-famous appearances in Jurassic Park and The Piano, horror-fanatics like myself relish his roles in genre classics like The Omen: Final Conflict, In the Mouth of Madness, and Event Horizon. I must have watched In the Mouth of Madness, an eerie John Carpenter classic from the mid-90s that ran completely under the radar, at least fifty times during high school. "You're telling me Sam Neill makes pinot noir?" I asked Ryan in shock.

"Not just pinot noir; really good pinot noir," he answered.

Ryan reached under his desk and grabbed me a sample of the Two Paddocks pinot noir and poured me a glass. Apparently Sam and his local importer had just dropped by the store to taste the staff on the wines while I was away, and Ryan had saved a bit of the bottle for future tasting. It turns out that when Sam returned home to New Zealand to live in Central Otago, he had brought the Burgundy bug back with him. Living in London for many years, drinking the fine wines of the Cote d'Or had taken its toll on the actor, and he wound up moving right smack in the middle of the most distinctive pinot noir soil in the Southern Hemisphere. In 1993, he planted a few acres of vines nearby and founded Two Paddocks Winery, hoping to create a few hundred cases of delicious red wine for his own consumption. Over twenty years later, he's parcelling out small allocations of his coveted cuvee to fine wine retailers like K&L all over the world.

"So you're telling me that I could talk to Sam Neill about Burgundy and horror movies?" I asked Ryan with a huge smile.

"I think he'd be game," he replied with a grin.

In this edition of Drinking to Drink, we talk about the powerful effects of great Burgundy on the human psyche, being recognized as the antichrist by horror buffs, and how John Carpenter never eats anything but breakfast food from the diner. Previous editions of the D2D series can be found by clicking here, or by visiting the archive in the right hand margin of this page.

David: Have you always been into wine, or was this an interest that took hold later in life?

Sam: My family actually had a wine and spirits business for 150 years, so my roots are in alcohol. When I grew up there was always wine on the table at dinner. As far as my interest in good wine, that probably didn’t start until I was around thirty. Before that it was just plain alcohol, I think (laughs). Pretty much any alcohol would do. I think it coincided with me becoming more successful in my career as an actor, which meant I had a little more money in my pocket and I could afford to drink things that were less damaging, and more rewarding.

David: I didn’t realize you came from a family booze business. What did your parents do exactly?

Sam: Neill and Company imported wines and spirits from overseas to New Zealand; primarily from France and from Scotland. It was primarily whisky, brandy, and table wine. They were also general merchants, but their principle business was wine and spirits. They had very good connections in Bordeaux, and they had very a good-selling whisky. But people in those days weren’t particularly interested in wine in New Zealand, so it was pretty unusual to see a bottle of wine on the table. 

David: But that was normal for you.

Sam: It was normal in our house, yes. 

David: Did you reject that growing up, or did you embrace it? Did you see enjoying alcohol as something your parents did that you wanted to get away from possibly, or were you learning about it from a young age?

Sam: By the time I left home—which was as soon as I possibly could because I wanted to be independent—I was impoverished. At that point, I drank whatever I could afford mostly.

David: How old were you when you left?

Sam: I was about nine or ten. I went to boarding school, and then the university. The last time I really lived at home I was quite young, so when I started drinking I was at school, I’m ashamed to say (laughs). But I’ve never been a heavy drinker. I’ve never been in danger of being an alcoholic, I don’t think. 

David: Where were you in your acting career when you started taking more of an appreciation in wine?

Sam: It was probably about the time I got to London. I did the third of The Omen films and I was beginning to earn some decent money. James Mason, who was a great friend and a mentor to me and who loved good food and wine, took me to some excellent restaurants where I ate like I had never eaten before; and drank wines that I had never ever imagined. One of those dinners was extremely memorable because we had Burgundy, and I had never heard of it. I didn’t know what it was, but it was one of those light bulb moments, you know? I was on the road to Damascus. 

David: I’ve been there. What was the wine, do you remember? Do you remember what stood out for you?

Sam: I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it at the time, but I had never drank anything like it. I wanted to understand it and to know more about it. I’d like to think it was a Gevrey-Chambertin, but I couldn’t swear to it. It had all these things that I had never tasted in life before. It had integration, depth, complexity, and a long finish—all things that I take as required these days! But I had never experienced them before that.

David: And what happened from there? You started looking for more wines like that?

Sam aboard the spaceship Event Horizon

Sam: Then I found myself living in London and there was a great wine shop down the road where they knew I was interested in Burgundy, so they would recommend things each time I came in. I started to learn my way around the region. I wasn’t on to it right away, however, I was sort of confused by the Côte d’Or. I thought it might be a place where you’d put your Bordeaux on a beach. It sounded like somewhere a lot sunnier than Burgundy. So it took me a while, and I still have quite a lot to learn about Burgundy, to be honest.

David: I think we all do. How did it work out for you, living in London, while working in the American film industry? Did that make it more difficult?

Sam: My career became more Euro-centric rather than American-centric, I guess. I think looking back the majority of my career has been either in Europe or Australia. I might have done more work in the states if I had been based out of Los Angeles, but I ended up in London and enjoyed myself; met a girl, all that usual stuff (laughs).

David: That’s great you were able to do it that way. I often wish I could live in London and still keep my job at K&L. That would be my dream! Maybe that’s why as an actor you have one of the most interesting and eclectic careers. You’ve been in huge blockbusters like Jurassic Park—which is now big again—and you’ve also made quite a career in horror. You’re in two of my all-time favorite horror movies: In the Mouth of Madness and Event Horizon. At the time, for me, those were movies I watched on repeat, over and over. In fact, the original name of my band in high school was “Sutter Cane” after Jürgen Prochnow’s character in that film. I was obsessed with John Carpenter back then. What was it like working with him, by the way?

Sam: I like John a lot. I actually did another film with him as well: Memoirs of an Invisible Man. We got on very well. There’s something about people who make horror films and films that are rather violent: they’re always the mildest, kindest, quietest people you could meet. John’s a bit like that. He’s the last person you would expect to be the horror master.

David: Did you ever get to have a drink with him?

Sam: I honestly can’t remember John drinking at all. He only eats breakfast; that’s all he eats. He will not go to fancy restaurants; he hates them. He just likes diner food, basically. He likes bacon, eggs, and muffins—that kind of stuff. That’s all he eats. He doesn’t have any interest in good food (laughs). 

David: Would you say that most actors like to drink though?

Sam: Pretty much most people I’ve worked with are interested in both food and wine. One thing we can say fairly about actors is that—as a generalization—they’re really good company, they’re usually very funny people, and they like to go out and have a good time. In both things that I do—acting and making wine—the most important thing is the people you’re with. The people who are involved with you in the same crazy project. Wine has certainly been like that for me. All these things like terroir, root stock, climate, and viticulture—all these things are important—but the most important component to the making of wine is the people. The most important component of a film or television project is the people. In both, I think I’m very lucky to have found myself with some of the best people you can imagine.

David: You’ve been involved with Two Paddocks—your wine project—since 1993. This is around Jurassic Park time. How did you get involved with growing pinot noir in Central Otago? What was the motivation?

Sam: As I was saying earlier, I had become more interested in pinot noir, and then I found that it could be grown successfully in Central Otago, which is where I live. It seemed too crazy of a coincidence that not only was it possible to live in the best place in the world, but also to produce the best wine in the world there. It seemed like a no-brainer. I had a little spare cash in my back pocket and I started with only a few humble acres in a very unlikely spot. Four years later we had our first vintage—in 1997—and we realized that this unlikely spot was the sweet spot. I thought this is probably enough, I’ll just leave it at that. I think we were producing in those days something like 600 cases a year, and that seemed to be plenty; more than I could drink. 

David: Were you selling it outside of New Zealand, or was this a local thing with friends and family?

Sam: We got up to about 800 cases before we started going strong. After that it was like I had been bitten by a big bug. In 1998, having seen those results, I found another sweet spot at the other end of the region, and I thought, “I want to double production,” so I planted another five acres. Now it’s four vineyards, so what started as a very tiny project has become a little less tiny. We’re always going to be very limited in our production, and we allocate our wine very sparingly. I think we’re probably up to about 8,000 cases a year, and—of that—there’s probably only 1500 that are from our premium wines. Those are the ones we direct towards you guys—towards K&L. 

Sam being restrained from the mouth of madness.

David: Other than the fact that it’s your project, what’s your favorite part about your wine? What’s most enthralling?

Sam: I don’t pretend to be in any way some kind of an expert. I know a lot more than I used to—when we started I knew nothing at all about winemaking. But my principle directive to the people who work with me is: I’m interested in restraint. I’m not at all interested in big, loud-mouthed, new world styles. While we don’t suppress that exuberance in the fruit, we do use restraint in the vineyard, as well as in the winery. What’s been very pleasing to me is that we produce what I think is subtle, profound, and beautiful wine, and it’s nice when other people agree with me on that (laughs). That gives me great pleasure.

David: It’s clear from talking to you, and having tasted the wines, that you have a real passion for wine and for wines of real delicacy and nuance—like Burgundian wines, for example. Do you find that being a celebrity ever hinders that message? Like wine retailers don’t take the project as seriously because you’re a famous actor?

Sam: I think that’s always going to happen, so that’s the first elephant I shoot when I walk into the room. It’s also easily done because—first of all—I’ve never really been a celebrity. You don’t see me in magazines, my life is private, my family lives an obscure and private life, and I think it’s evident to people in the wine world that I’m not just putting my name on a label. This is something that I’ve been committed to for twenty-three years; that I started from scratch. I’m still the lieutenant at the head of my own little army. 

David: Right, you were involved with Two Paddocks before people even knew wine was being made in New Zealand, let alone world-class wine. I think with the work that Ryan (Woodhouse) is doing, and the work that growers like yourself are doing, to bring these wines to a new audience, for the first time ever you’re seeing Burgundy drinkers crossover and accept what’s going on down there. I know that’s been the case for me—personally speaking. And it’s a clear answer: it’s because it tastes better. As a wine geek you know these heralded vineyard names—Richebourg, Echezeaux, Chassagne-Montrachet—that have so much romanticism to them. But when I do side-by-side tastings these days and I evaluate purely on flavor, I’m finding that some of the best pinot noirs in our store are coming from New Zealand. Not just good wines, but some of the best wines in the world.

Sam: And put the price-points up against each other. It’s interesting how that works out (laughs).

David: Right! The prices are almost too good to be believed sometimes. It’s almost difficult to explain to customers because they think you’re under-selling them; like the wines can’t be world-class if they only cost $20 or $30. But we convert them eventually. All they need to do is try a bottle.

Sam: Well, we appreciate the missionary work. 

David: It’s hard fought! (laughs)

Sam: You’re bringing light to somewhere where there was only darkness before.

David: Speaking of darkness, does everyone who meets you have to make an Omen reference, or a joke about you being the antichrist?

Sam: No, this is probably the first one I’ve had in about three months.

David: (laughs) That’s still pretty recent! It’s funny because you’re in all kinds of other great movies that are not scary and that are serious and well-acted films—like The Piano or The Hunt for Red October—all these critically-acclaimed movies where your acting is on full display.

The Two Paddocks estate in Central Otago

Sam: I’m in a show on Netflix right now called Peaky Blinders, have you seen that?

David: I just started yesterday! With Cillian Murphy. Although I only got about fifteen minutes in before I had to turn it off and run a quick errand. 

Sam: I’m pretty scary in that.

David: I haven’t made it to you yet. I just saw him trot into town on the horse, and then my phone rang.

Sam: Persist for another couple of minutes and then I turn up. I think you’ll be very afraid. 

David: I’m still afraid of Event Horizon! My wife can’t even look at that film anymore because it had such an impact on us. I was high school when that came out and I’ll always remember the scene when they get the black hole footage to work and you see what happened on board this ship as they went through the porthole. We all screamed and closed our eyes. Your horror roles were so impressionable for me in my youth. It’s been really cool to be able to talk with you about two of my biggest interests.

Sam: It’s been a long time since I’ve seen those movies, but I think you’ll definitely enjoy Peaky Blinders. It’s a very cool show.

David: Who’s someone you would want to have a drink with if you could choose anyone—living or deceased?

Sam: I think Robert Mitchum was the coolest man who was ever in the movies. I’d like to have met him.

David: How appropriate as he was also in two very scary films: Cape Fear and Night of the Hunter.  Which one do you think he was scarier in?

Sam: I liked him in everything that he did. There was something about him that was just beyond cool. I would have liked to have looked at that cool up close and seen what it was.​


If you are indeed interested in obtaining some of Sam's incredible Two Paddocks wines, we have a very limited supply available on special order below. Less than 50 cases of each wine came into the United States this year, so we're talking extremely limited:

2013 Two Paddocks "The First Paddock" Pinot Noir Central Otago $74.99 - Winemaker's Notes: Sourced from the first twenty-five rows of Clone 5, which was planted in Gibbston at The First Paddock vineyard in 1993. Hand harvested and sorted then a 50% whole bunch indigenous ferment in a dedicated First Paddock French oak cuve. Matured in 30% new French oak with the balance in older wood for an extended 14 months of barrel maturation. Bramble, underbrush, black fruit and spicy aromatics, followed by a mineral infused palate. Ethereal in nature with great mid palate density and drive.

2012 Two Paddocks Estate Pinot Noir Central Otago $49.99 - Two Paddocks flagship Pinot Noir - an estate grown, barrel selection from the three small Neill family vineyards in Central Otago. These vineyards are high-density planted in a range of clonal material and intensively "man-handled" with most vineyard practices carried out by hand. In 2012, this wine was 100% Alexandra fruit from the Redbank and Alex Paddocks sites. Again, each block and clone was picked and fermented separately, with the final blending taking place prior to bottling. Redcurrant, spice and wild black exotic fruit aromatics followed by a strongly driven wine showing great texture and elegance."

2014 Two Paddocks Estate Riesling Central Otago $34.99 - Winemaker's Notes: Two Paddocks Riesling is an estate grown single block selection made from fruit grown at Two Paddocks’ Redbank Vineyard situated in Earnscleugh, Central Otago. As in the vineyard, this wine was handcrafted using traditional methods and bottled early to ensure all the integrity and vitality of the wine was preserved. The soils in this block are well draining schist loam and the vines tend to thrive. Additionally the typically extreme diurnal temperatures experienced in Alexandra (Earnscleugh) between day and night are responsible for both metabolising acidity and retaining an intense flavour profile - all this really means is that we feel a drier wine style is both possible and appropriate. This wine displays pink grapefruit, freshly squeezed limes and spicy loquat aromatics.  There is a taut mineral tension feel on the palate, elegant textural weight and very long persistence.

To learn more about Two Paddocks Winery click here.

-David Driscoll 

11 Aug 03:17

Cut Spike 3.0

by David Driscoll

This is also very tempting.

Batch three is here. Outside of Nebraska, you'll only find it at K&L.

My notes: When I first tasted the Cut Spike whiskey, I thought it was simply the best American single malt out there; a true revelation for the domestic category. However, as I'm now tasting the newest batch from the Nebraskan producer, I'm realizing that the whiskey is starting to morph into something very particular and unique to the brand. That classic creaminess is still very pervasive, but for the second time in a row there's a pronounced note of pine that soon mutates into ginger and Asian spices before quickly turning back into rich vanilla and oak on the finish; smoothly seeping its way into my taste buds as that last little sip goes down. What we're starting to witness here is the development of a house style--a flavor that defines this distillery. It's very exciting, and it's becoming infectious.

Kyle’s notes: With this being only their third release, the anticipation of what is in the bottle was very high: a chance to try and flesh out exactly what is the house style that the good distillers at Cut Spike bring to the table. This bottling does a great job of solidifying them in my mind as one of the highest quality single malt producers in the States. This whisky is incredibly vibrant and fresh without tasting young or harsh. The nose is lifted with bright notes of candied ginger and Douglas fir, a sense of promised vanilla sweetness wafts in at the end. In the mouth there is sweetness, orange marmalade, a hint of clove for spice, and then the same vanilla cream from last batch that really adds roundness to the palate.

David OG just got his bottle today, so he’ll chime in later. You’re going to want one, so you might as well just get it out of the way now.

Cut Spike Nebraska Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - At first we couldn't believe our mouths. We knew that Cut Spike single malt had just taken Double Gold honors at the 2014 San Francisco Spirits competition (the highest possible honor), so obviously other people thought it was good, too. But after tasting so many mediocre American attempts at single malt whisky, we had become accustomed to the idea that the Scottish style of distillation would never be recreated here at home. There would be spin-offs, and experimental grasps at greatness, but that supple, malty profile would simply be something we needed to import from abroad. Then the folks at Cut Spike sent us a sample of their two year old Nebraskan single malt whisky made from 100% malted barley on a pot still crafted in Rothes, Scotland. Fermented at the brewery next door to Cut Spike in La Vista, the malt was matured for two years in new American oak with varying levels of char. The result is an incredible hybrid: soft, barley and vanilla-laden whisky that tastes somewhat like your standard Scottish single malt, but has its own unique character simultaneously. It's the kind of whisky that you taste once and enjoy, but then the next day suddenly crave intensely. It impresses you instantly, yet doesn't really reveal its full character until weeks later. The new oak blurs seamlessly into the malty mouthfeel, adding a richness on the finish normally not tasted in standard Scottish selections. Cut Spike is a major accomplishment for American distillation, pure and simple.

-David Driscoll

10 Aug 10:59

(via Mastodon - Asleep In The Deep [Official Music Video] -...


Also, the second time through, this reminded me that Elric used to wake me up if I was having a nightmare.

(via Mastodon - Asleep In The Deep [Official Music Video] - YouTube)

You never know what your beloved fur buddy might be getting up to when you’re not looking.

10 Aug 10:10

A One-Man Argument


I do like the aeropress, but it uses a lot of coffee.

sleep is dumb

This is pretty much my experience with Aeropress.

10 Aug 01:50

Once Again a Combination of Design, Fine Woodworking and Roleplaying Games Leads to Tremendous Success


Interesting object.

Adults who play role playing games have money, and are willing to spend it on good design. That was the conclusion I came to after seeing Geek Chic's beautiful gaming tables, which carry five-figure price tags and year-long waiting lists. And something I found outstanding about their approach was beyond their design work (which I also liked, by the way); it was that they really paid attention to the customer experience, carefully designing not just the furniture, but the process of how the end user orders one of their products and essentially has their hands held through much of the waiting process during fabrication.

Now another company producing wood products for gamers, this one called Wyrmwood, has again combined good design with clever business sense. First off let's look at their product, which sounds simple, but does something surprising:

I'm not showing you that video to pump up their crowdfunding campaign; it's already over, and they netted $246,719 over a tiny $10,000 goal. No, I'm showing it to you to as an illustration of how designing something relatively simple, but clever, and targeted at a highly specific audience can lead to great success.

If it's not obvious from the video, the guys and gals at Wyrmwood had already designed, and were already selling, their successful dice tower system. What's notable here is that they dreamt of offering it in a much wider variety of wood species—I'm talking 70 and including exotics—that they could not possibly afford to pre-buy the lumber for.

So they turned to Kickstarter to get precise information. By learning exactly how many people wanted exactly how many units in exactly what species of wood, they could order only what they needed. Wyrmwood designer and co-founder Edward Maranville explained their approach to Polygon:

Our Kickstarter is a bit unorthodox, in that the main reason we're running it is to expand our variety of options, not the product itself. While we'd love to offer that kind of variety all the time, we just can't do it from a logistical perspective — we don't have the space for all the lumber, or the inventory.

Keep in mind we offer different sizes and surface options, so if we stocked our 15 product variations in 70 different woods ... it quickly gets very out of hand. But, in the context of a Kickstarter, we can get all the pledges, order exactly what we need and make them in a series of large runs we can manage.

The really clever bit they've pulled off is the part that's easy for Kickstarter novices to overlook: Accurately managing customer expectations. Because Wyrmwood was already tooled up, was already experienced with production times for the existing product and employs enough experienced woodworkers to know that Bubinga and Wenge are a lot trickier to work with than Pine and Walnut, they were able to create a precise system of timelines.

We took our time with the development of the Dice Tower System, refining the production process and figuring out what it takes to make them and how many we can make over a given period. We've set limits on our reward tiers based on this, and so we're staggering out the delivery estimates in batches. The first tier was for 100 backers who would get early delivery a month away. The next is 3 months, the next 5, and we'll simply add on new delivery windows as these fill to ensure we can always deliver on time, as promised.

In other words, these guys didn't...roll the dice with their delivery times. [Cue rim shot.]

10 Aug 01:45

Iwachu Skillets: Effortless Japanese Cast Iron


Okay, this is hot.

Cast iron is a known Good. Its even cooking surface, versatility and durability have made cast-iron pans into vital kitchen staples all around the world for hundreds of years. To usefully update such an old technology usually comes down to the details, and Iwachu skillets are a prime example. 

Nambu tekki (or nanbu tekki, depending on which part of the Internet you ask) is a traditional form of ironware, made in Morioka, Japan, for over 400 years. It is still used in simple, high-heat kitchen tools like kettles, griddles and bakeware. This type of ironware is made in a proprietary process resulting in a higher quality material, thinner wall thickness and a satisfying, slightly pebbled non-stick surface. That means you get a lighter weight cast-iron pan without sacrificing even heat or durability. Past their use of this credentialed construction, the key design feature in Iwachu skillets is subtle: their gentle sloping sides and unusually long cut-out handle dramatically improve ergonomics. 

Though they're called "omelette" pans, the graceful shallow shape is good for all kinds of sautes, sauces and bakes. That longer, subtly-curved handle allows better grip, cools faster than traditional handles, and is well angled for fancy wrist-flipping. Pre-seasoned and now available in two sizes, over at Hand-Eye Supply

10 Aug 01:42

Space Colony Form Factors, Part 1: Bernal Spheres


The art in this series is pretty neat, but the writing is fucking awful.

As fears of overpopulation took hold in the 1970s, NASA began giving serious thought to building space colonies. In the years since, they managed to solve Earth's population problem by sending everyone to live in my neighborhood in Manhattan so that my landlord can keep raising my goddamn rent. But before finding that solution, there were a variety of space colony design renderings produced.

The first question they faced: What should a space colony be shaped like, what should the overall form factor be? I'm not talking about a colony built into the side of an asteroid or on the moon, because we already know the answer to that: You just build a city and put a big glass dome over it, duh. Bor-ing.

The Windex bill would be astronomical

No, I'm talking about an unattached colony that can, like, drift around and stuff. So the first problem to solve for is gravity. Because if space colonists were just floating around all the time, the reduced wear and tear on our footwear would make sneaker companies go bankrupt, and we'd need to have some kind of economy up there.

So to create gravity, a design called the Bernal Sphere was proposed. This was actually an older idea, first conceived of in 1929 by scientist John Bernal. You may recognize Bernal's name as he is not only still alive, but recently gained additional fame for portraying crowd-favorite Shane on "The Walking Dead."

The gigantic Bernal Sphere—designs ranged from two miles to 10 miles in diameter—was meant to be hollow and filled with air, along with 30,000 people that presumably didn't have outstanding debts on Earth. The sphere would be attached at its two "poles" to massive motors that would rotate the thing like a rotisserie.

This would generate gravity-simulating centrifugal force along the internal "equator" of the sphere, along which people could build houses, have picnics and wear out Nikes.

On either side of that equatorial zone would be huge windows, and mirrors positioned outside of the sphere would direct sunlight in through them. In the photo below we're looking into one bank of windows, through which you can see the ring of the opposite bank.

The polar areas of the sphere would presumably be uninhabitable, as you'd get really dizzy there. In the renderings we can see that the polar area is covered in forest, but we could also probably use that area to like, dump old air conditioners and stuff.

So why a sphere, with all that wasted space? The shape was proposed as being optimal for containing pressurized air, which seems like kind of a silly trade-off; can't we just make it whatever shape we want and, like, buy better O-rings somewhere?

Others agreed with me, maybe not about the O-rings, but that the shape was decidedly not optimal. Next we'll look at some better solutions.

Click here for part 2

10 Aug 01:39

Space Colony Form Factors, Part 3: The Stanford Torus and Beyond


No mention of Ringworld in this? Shameful.

So far we've seen two space colony form factors that arose from a 1975 NASA-backed study. The Bernal Sphere was round, the O'Neill Cylinders cylindrical. This third concept, proposed as part of the same study, is a sort of combination of the two that takes the cylinder and bends it into a circle.

Known as a Stanford Torus, it's named after the university where the study took place. The torus shape—I'm guessing "torus" is either Greek or Latin for donut or bagel—provides its gravity by rotating around its hub, and at a suggested 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) in diameter could theoretically support some 10,000 people inside. Sunlight would be bounced from mirrors in the hub into the living space, providing the effect of "overhead" sunlight.

I find the visual effect of being within a large torus more interesting than that of the Bernal Sphere or O'Neill Cylinders; it kind of looks like you're in a valley that slopes up and out-of-view on either side. An additional benefit versus the O'Neill Cylinders is that with the latter, there is a feeling of finite space; jogging along it, you would eventually reach the end and have to turn around. The torus on the other hand provides infinite scroll, which would make chase scenes more entertaining.

Here's a fly-through of what a Stanford Torus might look like:

Design god Syd Mead famously produced renderings of a Stanford Torus in his concept work for the space habitat in the 2013 sci-fi film "Elysium."

However, space geeks are quick to point out that that's not technically a Stanford Torus, because as depicted in the movie, the habitat features no "roof;" the inside of the torus is absent and open-air, allowing ships to fly in and out of it.

That would make it what's known as a Bishop's Ring:

A Bishop's Ring is essentially a gi-normous Stanford Torus, with the theory being that if it were made from carbon nanotubes rather than steel, a much larger structure could be built: Some 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles, roughly the driving distance from New York City to Miami) in diameter and 500 kilometers (310 miles) wide, providing a livable surface area roughly the size of India. Towering sidewalls stretching 200 kilometers (120 miles) in height would actually obviate the need for a "roof" and the design could be left open-air; science eggheads say the gravity generated would be enough to hold the atmosphere in place, and the open-air design would allow TIE Fighters and such to fly in and out.

Sci-fi author Iain M. Banks has taken the concept of the Bishop's Ring and run with it. In his Culture series of novels, Banks envisions something called Orbitals: huge Bishop's Rings that stretch to 3,000,000 kilometers (1.9 million miles) in diameter, up to 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles) wide, containing landmasses the size of proper continents.

In Banks' fictional world, these Orbitals are tilted towards a nearby star, and thus their rotation not only provides gravity, but a proper day/night cycle. The theoretical surface area would be up to 120 times more than what we've got on Earth.

While nothing like an Orbital will ever be constructed in our lifetime, Banks' fictional creations did inspire a real-life object that many of you may own: A little video game called Halo. That game and its sequels have netted $3.4 billion in sales since 2001. It's strange to think that a sci-fi author's imagination unwittingly helped propel the Xbox console to success.

06 Aug 23:59

An Unsatisfying Explanation

by Christopher Wright


05 Aug 22:41

“Please slow down and explain what you’re talking about” is...


Really tiny watchmaker moties.

“Please slow down and explain what you’re talking about” is basically the tagline for this comic

05 Aug 21:07

"This is a smear campaign pursued with all the obsession of a small child or a serial killer - yet..."


Election seasons make me really hate this country. It's just like "Here's everything that is terrible about the US and it's people for you to enjoy! BEHOLD THE SMALL-MINDEDNESS, THE DISDAIN FOR TRUTH, THE DESIRE ONLY TO WIN AND DESTROY AND GAIN POWER!"

via the ThePrettiestOne

“This is a smear campaign pursued with all the obsession of a small child or a serial killer - yet it’s influential enough that Congress launched a full investigation into the claims. When one of the most powerful political bodies in the world can be swayed by a group with so little credibility, how can anyone take it seriously? Jaded politicos might interject at this point to say that no one does.
But of course, this was never really about ‘dead babies’. It’s about vilifying an organisation that provides affordable healthcare to women – contraception, cervical cancer screenings, breast exams and, yes, abortions.
Abortions, which take up just 3% of Planned Parenthood spending, none of which is federal. But presidential hopeful Rand Paul vowed to use ”all legislative vehicles at his disposal“ to force a vote, while Ted Cruz pledged to “eliminate” its state funding.
This is just one in a long line of assaults on women’s reproductive rights – from the Texas bill so famously filibustered by Wendy Davis to the attempt to limit abortions to six weeks in North Dakota. Meanwhile, thanks to the Hobby Lobby ruling, private firms can opt not to offer contraception in workers’ health plans under Obamacare on religious grounds.
This explains why so many senators seem able to overlook the screaming irony that family planning services prevent abortions, and that more restrictive abortion policy laws aren’t associated with lower abortion rates.
But when has evidence mattered? Not in the past, and as the latest vote shows, not now.
It was only ever about ideology. It’s about restricting women’s right to choose what to do with their bodies, and it’s about winning presidential primaries. And with the election circus in sight, there’s more of this to come.”

- ‘Planned Parenthood sells dead babies’ is just the latest anti-abortion conspiracy. Allegations made against the family planning
services provider may seem shocking, but they’re just another attempt to
erode women’s rights in time for the presidential election.
05 Aug 20:35

bitch-media: The Mask You Live In, a follow-up to to the 2011...


One of the things I love about my males sharebros is that they don't buy into this stuff.

But I still think a lot of us have probably been injured and made insular, defensive, and turned-inwards due to our refusal to perform toxic masculinity.


The Mask You Live In, a follow-up to to the 2011 documentary Miss Representation, was created by The Representation Project to dissect modern masculinity as the universally destructive force that it is. The film combines personal stories from boys and men about the expectation to “be a man” and to never be vulnerable with conversations with experts in psychology, gender, and media. There are too many touching and insightful moments throughout the film to list them all here, but the message is clear: the mask of invulnerability boys are expected to wear every day ultimately hurts us all.

We are so thrilled to add The Mask You Live In to our list of resources when people ask us how men and masculinity fit into feminism. Be sure to watch the trailer above, host a screening yourself, and read our full review here.

04 Aug 18:40

Red hot nickel ball on floral foam - best reaction so far

by Mark Frauenfelder

This was not at all what I expected. via A.Kachmar

The red hot nickel ball (RHNB) has been tested on a variety of materials. This video, which shows the RHNB causing a weird reaction in floral foam (which, incidentally, is a lot of fun to jab with your thumb), is the best RHNB video yet. rhnb

04 Aug 04:04

Metal is in such an amazing place right now. For serious.


Run it back to the first track.
Seeing these guys next week. They are currently working on a full length, which I hope comes out soon.

Metal is in such an amazing place right now. For serious.

04 Aug 03:23

The Old Iron Dream


An important bit of media history, perhaps, and only six bucks.

About The Old Iron Dream

Last year, the sci-fi world was roiled by a fight over virulently racist and sexist remarks made by author Ted Beale, including calling an African-American writer a “half-savage.” After a months-long battle, Beale was expelled from the Science Fiction Writers of America, a watershed in a cultural and generational conflict brewing for some time.

But Beale had his defenders, including some of the genre's influential elders, who slung out similar slurs as the fights continued. Around the same time, Orson Scott Card, of “Ender's Game” fame, attracted attention for his ongoing homophobia and paranoid racist fantasias about the President recruiting street gangs. For kickers, North Carolina's government appointed Card to a powerful board overseeing public broadcasting.

These public battles attracted no shortage of press coverage, much of it surprised at the depth of far-right extremism and bigotry in the world of possible tomorrows. For a genre supposedly focused on the future, it seemed like a major of part of the subculture had yet to even join the 20th century.

What the public was seeing, however, was just the tip of a very old, very influential iceberg. From its inception, American sci-fi has harbored a powerful far-right faction. These authors, usually men, include some of the genre's most famous figures, their uglier sentiments and negative influences often glossed over.

Sci-fi's popular history doesn't mention John Campbell's belief that race riots were caused by “genetic barbarians” or Robert Heinlein's fondness for robber barons and military rule. It remembers Larry Niven's creative alien worlds, not his advocacy of lying to immigrants to deny them healthcare. Jerry Pournelle is widely hailed as the dean of military sci-fi, his sympathies for fascists like Franco and Pinochet forgotten.

Rather than harmless eccentrics, the doyennes of the sci-fi far right advise the federal government, occupy important posts, head think-tanks and shape policy to this day. They've played a major role in creating an environment that, as shown in the case of Beale, can still make sci-fi hostile territory for women and people of color. Despite decades of courageous critical backlash within the genre, much of this impact and history remains unexposed.

The Old Iron Dream will drag this history out of the shadows, showing how sci-fi's far-right has shaped not just its genre, but the larger culture and politics of America. It's a turbulent, often horrifying story, ranging from coup plots and smear campaigns to shilling for Reagan's weapons boondoggles and denying climate change.

This will be an in-depth piece of long-form journalism, a no-holds-barred, no-punches-pulled look at the sci-fi far-right -- its major figures, its influence, and how the modern world has finally come calling for these would-be people of the future.

04 Aug 03:00

A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse


I often like Graeber, and I think this piece is very interesting.


What is a revolution? We used to think we knew. Revolutions were seizures of power by popular forces aiming to transform the very nature of the political, social, and economic system in the country in which the revolution took place, usually according to some visionary dream of a just society. Nowadays, we live in an age when, if rebel armies do come sweeping into a city, or mass uprisings overthrow a dictator, it’s unlikely to have any such implications; when profound social transformation does occur—as with, say, the rise of feminism—it’s likely to take an entirely different form. It’s not that revolutionary dreams aren’t out there. But contemporary revolutionaries rarely think they can bring them into being by some modern-day equivalent of storming the Bastille.

At moments like this, it generally pays to go back to the history one already knows and ask: Were revolutions ever really what we thought them to be? For me, the person who has asked this most effectively is the great world historian Immanuel Wallerstein. He argues that for the last quarter millennium or so, revolutions have consisted above all of planetwide transformations of political common sense.

Already by the time of the French Revolution, Wallerstein notes, there was a single world market, and increasingly a single world political system as well, dominated by the huge colonial empires. As a result, the storming of the Bastille in Paris could well end up having effects on Denmark, or even Egypt, just as profound as on France itself—in some cases, even more so. Hence he speaks of the “world revolution of 1789,” followed by the “world revolution of 1848,” which saw revolutions break out almost simultaneously in fifty countries, from Wallachia to Brazil. In no case did the revolutionaries succeed in taking power, but afterward, institutions inspired by the French Revolution—notably, universal systems of primary education—were put in place pretty much everywhere. Similarly, the Russian Revolution of 1917 was a world revolution ultimately responsible for the New Deal and European welfare states as much as for Soviet communism. The last in the series was the world revolution of 1968—which, much like 1848, broke out almost everywhere, from China to Mexico, seized power nowhere, but nonetheless changed everything. This was a revolution against state bureaucracies, and for the inseparability of personal and political liberation, whose most lasting legacy will likely be the birth of modern feminism.

Revolutions are thus planetary phenomena. But there is more. What they really do is transform basic assumptions about what politics is ultimately about. In the wake of a revolution, ideas that had been considered veritably lunatic fringe quickly become the accepted currency of debate. Before the French Revolution, the ideas that change is good, that government policy is the proper way to manage it, and that governments derive their authority from an entity called “the people” were considered the sorts of things one might hear from crackpots and demagogues, or at best a handful of freethinking intellectuals who spend their time debating in cafés. A generation later, even the stuffiest magistrates, priests, and headmasters had to at least pay lip service to these ideas. Before long, we had reached the situation we are in today: that it’s necessary to lay out the terms for anyone to even notice they are there. They’ve become common sense, the very grounds of political discussion.

A quarter of the American population is now engaged in “guard labor”—defending property, supervising work, or otherwise keeping their fellow Americans in line.

Until 1968, most world revolutions really just introduced practical refinements: an expanded franchise, universal primary education, the welfare state. The world revolution of 1968, in contrast—whether it took the form it did in China, of a revolt by students and young cadres supporting Mao’s call for a Cultural Revolution; or in Berkeley and New York, where it marked an alliance of students, dropouts, and cultural rebels; or even in Paris, where it was an alliance of students and workers—was a rebellion against bureaucracy, conformity, or anything that fettered the human imagination, a project for the revolutionizing of not just political or economic life, but every aspect of human existence. As a result, in most cases, the rebels didn’t even try to take over the apparatus of state; they saw that apparatus as itself the problem.

It’s fashionable nowadays to view the social movements of the late sixties as an embarrassing failure. A case can be made for that view. It’s certainly true that in the political sphere, the immediate beneficiary of any widespread change in political common sense—a prioritizing of ideals of individual liberty, imagination, and desire; a hatred of bureaucracy; and suspicions about the role of government—was the political Right. Above all, the movements of the sixties allowed for the mass revival of free market doctrines that had largely been abandoned since the nineteenth century. It’s no coincidence that the same generation who, as teenagers, made the Cultural Revolution in China was the one who, as forty-year-olds, presided over the introduction of capitalism. Since the eighties, “freedom” has come to mean “the market,” and “the market” has come to be seen as identical with capitalism—even, ironically, in places like China, which had known sophisticated markets for thousands of years, but rarely anything that could be described as capitalism.

The ironies are endless. While the new free market ideology has framed itself above all as a rejection of bureaucracy, it has, in fact, been responsible for the first administrative system that has operated on a planetary scale, with its endless layering of public and private bureaucracies: the IMF, World Bank, WTO, trade organizations, financial institutions, transnational corporations, NGOs. This is precisely the system that has imposed free market orthodoxy, and opened the world to financial pillage, under the watchful aegis of American arms. It only made sense that the first attempt to recreate a global revolutionary movement, the Global Justice Movement that peaked between 1998 and 2003, was effectively a rebellion against the rule of that very planetary bureaucracy.

Future Stop

In retrospect, though, I think that later historians will conclude that the legacy of the sixties revolution was deeper than we now imagine, and that the triumph of capitalist markets and their various planetary administrators and enforcers—which seemed so epochal and permanent in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991—was, in fact, far shallower.

I’ll take an obvious example. One often hears that antiwar protests in the late sixties and early seventies were ultimately failures, since they did not appreciably speed up the U.S. withdrawal from Indochina. But afterward, those controlling U.S. foreign policy were so anxious about being met with similar popular unrest—and even more, with unrest within the military itself, which was genuinely falling apart by the early seventies—that they refused to commit U.S. forces to any major ground conflict for almost thirty years. It took 9/11, an attack that led to thousands of civilian deaths on U.S. soil, to fully overcome the notorious “Vietnam syndrome”—and even then, the war planners made an almost obsessive effort to ensure the wars were effectively protest-proof. Propaganda was incessant, the media was brought on board, experts provided exact calculations on body bag counts (how many U.S. casualties it would take to stir mass opposition), and the rules of engagement were carefully written to keep the count below that.

The problem was that since those rules of engagement ensured that thousands of women, children, and old people would end up “collateral damage” in order to minimize deaths and injuries to U.S. soldiers, this meant that in Iraq and Afghanistan, intense hatred for the occupying forces would pretty much guarantee that the United States couldn’t obtain its military objectives. And remarkably, the war planners seemed to be aware of this. It didn’t matter. They considered it far more important to prevent effective opposition at home than to actually win the war. It’s as if American forces in Iraq were ultimately defeated by the ghost of Abbie Hoffman.

Clearly, an antiwar movement in the sixties that is still tying the hands of U.S. military planners in 2012 can hardly be considered a failure. But it raises an intriguing question: What happens when the creation of that sense of failure, of the complete ineffectiveness of political action against the system, becomes the chief objective of those in power?


Is it possible that this preemptive attitude toward social movements, the designing of wars and trade summits in such a way that preventing effective opposition is considered more of a priority than the success of the war or summit itself, really reflects a more general principle? What if those currently running the system, most of whom witnessed the unrest of the sixties firsthand as impressionable youngsters, are—consciously or unconsciously (and I suspect it’s more conscious than not)—obsessed by the prospect of revolutionary social movements once again challenging prevailing common sense?The thought first occurred to me when participating in the IMF actions in Washington, D.C., in 2002. Coming on the heels of 9/11, we were relatively few and ineffective, the number of police overwhelming. There was no sense that we could succeed in shutting down the meetings. Most of us left feeling vaguely depressed. It was only a few days later, when I talked to someone who had friends attending the meetings, that I learned we had in fact shut them down: the police had introduced such stringent security measures, canceling half the events, that most of the actual meetings had been carried out online. In other words, the government had decided it was more important for protesters to walk away feeling like failures than for the IMF meetings to take place. If you think about it, they afforded protesters extraordinary importance.

It would explain a lot. In most of the world, the last thirty years has come to be known as the age of neoliberalism—one dominated by a revival of the long-since-abandoned nineteenth-century creed that held that free markets and human freedom in general were ultimately the same thing. Neoliberalism has always been wracked by a central paradox. It declares that economic imperatives are to take priority over all others. Politics itself is just a matter of creating the conditions for growing the economy by allowing the magic of the marketplace to do its work. All other hopes and dreams—of equality, of security—are to be sacrificed for the primary goal of economic productivity. But global economic performance over the last thirty years has been decidedly mediocre. With one or two spectacular exceptions (notably China, which significantly ignored most neoliberal prescriptions), growth rates have been far below what they were in the days of the old-fashioned, state-directed, welfare-state-oriented capitalism of the fifties, sixties, and even seventies. By its own standards, then, the project was already a colossal failure even before the 2008 collapse.

If, on the other hand, we stop taking world leaders at their word and instead think of neoliberalism as a political project, it suddenly looks spectacularly effective. The politicians, CEOs, trade bureaucrats, and so forth who regularly meet at summits like Davos or the G20 may have done a miserable job in creating a world capitalist economy that meets the needs of a majority of the world’s inhabitants (let alone produces hope, happiness, security, or meaning), but they have succeeded magnificently in convincing the world that capitalism—and not just capitalism, but exactly the financialized, semifeudal capitalism we happen to have right now—is the only viable economic system. If you think about it, this is a remarkable accomplishment.

Debt cancellation would make the perfect revolutionary demand.

How did they pull it off? The preemptive attitude toward social movements is clearly a part of it; under no conditions can alternatives, or anyone proposing alternatives, be seen to experience success. This helps explain the almost unimaginable investment in “security systems” of one sort or another: the fact that the United States, which lacks any major rival, spends more on its military and intelligence than it did during the Cold War, along with the almost dazzling accumulation of private security agencies, intelligence agencies, militarized police, guards, and mercenaries. Then there are the propaganda organs, including a massive media industry that did not even exist before the sixties, celebrating police. Mostly these systems do not so much attack dissidents directly as contribute to a pervasive climate of fear, jingoistic conformity, life insecurity, and simple despair that makes any thought of changing the world seem an idle fantasy. Yet these security systems are also extremely expensive. Some economists estimate that a quarter of the American population is now engaged in “guard labor” of one sort or another—defending property, supervising work, or otherwise keeping their fellow Americans in line. Economically, most of this disciplinary apparatus is pure deadweight.

In fact, most of the economic innovations of the last thirty years make more sense politically than economically. Eliminating guaranteed life employment for precarious contracts doesn’t really create a more effective workforce, but it is extraordinarily effective in destroying unions and otherwise depoliticizing labor. The same can be said of endlessly increasing working hours. No one has much time for political activity if they’re working sixty-hour weeks.

It does often seem that, whenever there is a choice between one option that makes capitalism seem the only possible economic system, and another that would actually make capitalism a more viable economic system, neoliberalism means always choosing the former. The combined result is a relentless campaign against the human imagination. Or, to be more precise: imagination, desire, individual creativity, all those things that were to be liberated in the last great world revolution, were to be contained strictly in the domain of consumerism, or perhaps in the virtual realities of the Internet. In all other realms they were to be strictly banished. We are talking about the murdering of dreams, the imposition of an apparatus of hopelessness, designed to squelch any sense of an alternative future. Yet as a result of putting virtually all their efforts in one political basket, we are left in the bizarre situation of watching the capitalist system crumbling before our very eyes, at just the moment everyone had finally concluded no other system would be possible.

Work It Out, Slow It Down

Normally, when you challenge the conventional wisdom—that the current economic and political system is the only possible one—the first reaction you are likely to get is a demand for a detailed architectural blueprint of how an alternative system would work, down to the nature of its financial instruments, energy supplies, and policies of sewer maintenance. Next, you are likely to be asked for a detailed program of how this system will be brought into existence. Historically, this is ridiculous. When has social change ever happened according to someone’s blueprint? It’s not as if a small circle of visionaries in Renaissance Florence conceived of something they called “capitalism,” figured out the details of how the stock exchange and factories would someday work, and then put in place a program to bring their visions into reality. In fact, the idea is so absurd we might well ask ourselves how it ever occurred to us to imagine this is how change happens to begin.

This is not to say there’s anything wrong with utopian visions. Or even blueprints. They just need to be kept in their place. The theorist Michael Albert has worked out a detailed plan for how a modern economy could run without money on a democratic, participatory basis. I think this is an important achievement—not because I think that exact model could ever be instituted, in exactly the form in which he describes it, but because it makes it impossible to say that such a thing is inconceivable. Still, such models can be only thought experiments. We cannot really conceive of the problems that will arise when we start trying to build a free society. What now seem likely to be the thorniest problems might not be problems at all; others that never even occurred to us might prove devilishly difficult. There are innumerable X-factors.

The most obvious is technology. This is the reason it’s so absurd to imagine activists in Renaissance Italy coming up with a model for a stock exchange and factories—what happened was based on all sorts of technologies that they couldn’t have anticipated, but which in part only emerged because society began to move in the direction that it did. This might explain, for instance, why so many of the more compelling visions of an anarchist society have been produced by science fiction writers (Ursula K. Le Guin, Starhawk, Kim Stanley Robinson). In fiction, you are at least admitting the technological aspect is guesswork.

Myself, I am less interested in deciding what sort of economic system we should have in a free society than in creating the means by which people can make such decisions for themselves. What might a revolution in common sense actually look like? I don’t know, but I can think of any number of pieces of conventional wisdom that surely need challenging if we are to create any sort of viable free society. I’ve already explored one—the nature of money and debt—in some detail in a recent book. I even suggested a debt jubilee, a general cancellation, in part just to bring home that money is really just a human product, a set of promises, that by its nature can always be renegotiated.


What would remain is the kind of work only human beings will ever be able to do: those forms of caring and helping labor that are at the very center of the crisis that brought about Occupy Wall Street to begin with. What would happen if we stopped acting as if the primordial form of work is laboring at a production line, or wheat field, or iron foundry, or even in an office cubicle, and instead started from a mother, a teacher, or a caregiver? We might be forced to conclude that the real business of human life is not contributing toward something called “the economy” (a concept that didn’t even exist three hundred years ago), but the fact that we are all, and have always been, projects of mutual creation.Labor, similarly, should be renegotiated. Submitting oneself to labor discipline—supervision, control, even the self-control of the ambitious self-employed—does not make one a better person. In most really important ways, it probably makes one worse. To undergo it is a misfortune that at best is sometimes necessary. Yet it’s only when we reject the idea that such labor is virtuous in itself that we can start to ask what is virtuous about labor. To which the answer is obvious. Labor is virtuous if it helps others. A renegotiated definition of productivity should make it easier to reimagine the very nature of what work is, since, among other things, it will mean that technological development will be redirected less toward creating ever more consumer products and ever more disciplined labor, and more toward eliminating those forms of labor entirely.

It’s as if American forces in Iraq were ultimately defeated by the ghost of Abbie Hoffman.

At the moment, probably the most pressing need is simply to slow down the engines of productivity. This might seem a strange thing to say—our knee-jerk reaction to every crisis is to assume the solution is for everyone to work even more, though of course, this kind of reaction is really precisely the problem—but if you consider the overall state of the world, the conclusion becomes obvious. We seem to be facing two insoluble problems. On the one hand, we have witnessed an endless series of global debt crises, which have grown only more and more severe since the seventies, to the point where the overall burden of debt—sovereign, municipal, corporate, personal—is obviously unsustainable. On the other, we have an ecological crisis, a galloping process of climate change that is threatening to throw the entire planet into drought, floods, chaos, starvation, and war. The two might seem unrelated. But ultimately they are the same. What is debt, after all, but the promise of future productivity? Saying that global debt levels keep rising is simply another way of saying that, as a collectivity, human beings are promising each other to produce an even greater volume of goods and services in the future than they are creating now. But even current levels are clearly unsustainable. They are precisely what’s destroying the planet, at an ever-increasing pace.

Even those running the system are reluctantly beginning to conclude that some kind of mass debt cancellation—some kind of jubilee—is inevitable. The real political struggle is going to be over the form that it takes. Well, isn’t the obvious thing to address both problems simultaneously? Why not a planetary debt cancellation, as broad as practically possible, followed by a mass reduction in working hours: a four-hour day, perhaps, or a guaranteed five-month vacation? This might not only save the planet but also (since it’s not like everyone would just be sitting around in their newfound hours of freedom) begin to change our basic conceptions of what value-creating labor might actually be.

Occupy was surely right not to make demands, but if I were to have to formulate one, that would be it. After all, this would be an attack on the dominant ideology at its very strongest points. The morality of debt and the morality of work are the most powerful ideological weapons in the hands of those running the current system. That’s why they cling to them even as they are effectively destroying everything else. It’s also why debt cancellation would make the perfect revolutionary demand.

All this might still seem very distant. At the moment, the planet might seem poised more for a series of unprecedented catastrophes than for the kind of broad moral and political transformation that would open the way to such a world. But if we are going to have any chance of heading off those catastrophes, we’re going to have to change our accustomed ways of thinking. And as the events of 2011 reveal, the age of revolutions is by no means over. The human imagination stubbornly refuses to die. And the moment any significant number of people simultaneously shake off the shackles that have been placed on that collective imagination, even our most deeply inculcated assumptions about what is and is not politically possible have been known to crumble overnight.

04 Aug 01:30

RIP I'm Sorry


I look forward to what replaces Yelling Bird.

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

I am tired of Yelling Bird comics so there will be NO MORE OF THEM, goodbye you shitty bird

04 Aug 00:59

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Food Waste (HBO)



Producers, sellers, and consumers waste tons of food. John Oliver discusses the shocking amount of food we don’t eat. Connect with Last Week Tonight online.....
03 Aug 23:08

Listen/purchase: ARCHIVIST by Archivist Interesting record. 


This is a pretty solid record, I reckon. It's a concept album, where-in a sole conscious survivor of humanity's ruination of the Earth documents the escape of a tiny handful of people (in stasis or cryo-sleep or what have you) on a ship to someplace else. It's post-rocky, heavy, while still being dreamy and melodic, with some shouty-not-quite-black vocals.

Listen/purchase: ARCHIVIST by Archivist

Interesting record. 

03 Aug 15:25

Passing the Torch

by Ian

An age-old question.

Passing the Torch

03 Aug 02:22

(via Morphine - At Your Service (CD 1) (Full Album) - YouTube)


Something I need to pick up. If you're not familiar with this band, well, check it out. So tremendous.