Category Archives: En Memoriam

Digital Culture Killed My Dog

anonymous-16114-400x250This week, aaronJacob and I examine the state of the digital world, wondering whether our state of technological growth is a good thing or a bad thing, much the same, or if that growth is perhaps a little overstated. Is it making us mentally unstable? Does it help us escape or confirm our biases? Does new technology annihilate old modalities? We’ll spend our electronically-scored time delving into as many aspects of our collective computer culture and online ouvre as we can in two hours, everything from viral videomemes and remix art to pitched copyright battles and very real cyberwars, piracy and hacktivism to censorship and surveillance. Not to mention the insidious, darkest corners of the web; conspiracy, violence, cyberbullies, trolls,  and even hauntings.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-01-19: Digital Culture Killed My Dog by The Stranger on Mixcloud

PLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Galaxee Trance
Katamari on the Swing – We Love Katamari Soundtrack
my favorite james taylor song – (8BitPeoples) yuppster
Hard Reset – Eats Tapes
Gimme the Mermaid – Negativland
Circumlocution – The Quiet American
Human After All (Alter Ego Remix) – Daft Punk
Scratch Bass – Lamb
Slow This Bird Down – Boards Of Canada
Verbal (Prefuse 73 Dipped Escalade mix) – Amon Tobin
Roboshuffle – Kid Koala
Spread Teamer – Yip-Yip
Super Mario Bros. Dirty Mix OC ReMix – A Scholar & A Physician
Spy vs Spy II (Drunk n’ Basement Mix) – 8-Bit Weapon
Lavender Town – Pokemon
Clocktown Backwards – Majora’s Mask
Wood Man Theme – Mega Man 2
Town (Day) – Castlevania 2
Hydrocity Zone Act 1 – Sonic the Hedgehog 3
no more memory – cyriak
Return of the God – Dreadnots
A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld – The Orb
CHange FRom ONe FOrm TO ANother – The Royal You
Upgrade (A Brymar College Course) – Deltron
Sattellite Surfer – F/i

January 18 marks an online holiday: Internet Freedom Day, or#InternetFreedomDay. The day a massive online protest successfully defeated the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA). But as the EFF points out, we must remain ever-vigilant against such threats:

  • Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership
  • Demand Patent Reform
  • Reform Draconian Computer Crime Law
  • Protect Cell Phone Location Data
  • Stop new Internet Surveillance Laws

We recognize the value of fair use when artists are free to express their creative, political and social statements by repurposing and remixing such classics:

Whatever new aesthetic form our digital art takes, such as data moshing or augmented reality. Heck, there is even value to preserving the nature of piracy in some regard.

So while our leaders are trying to convince us that foreign entities and idealistic individuals are to blame for the viruses and espionage around the globe, but in reality our own massively overpowered governments are spying and prying into our personal affairs, unleashing damage and persecuting the free every day.

In response to a FOIA request, the FBI sent the ACLU of empty and redacted pages (PDF), providing zero insight into what this policy actually is. The FBI says that information is “private (privileged) and confidential.”

“The Justice Department’s unfortunate decision leaves Americans with no clear understanding of when we will be subjected to tracking—possibly for months at a time—or whether the government will first get a warrant” ~Catherine Crump, an ACLU staff attorney

All this while human rights monitors document the rise in surveillance and censorship technology being exported from America to other (arguably) more repressive nations.

Human rights monitors have documented the use of US-manufactured Internet surveillance and censorship gear in 21 countries, some with checkered human rights policies such as Syria, China, and Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan, Bahrain, China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, and Venezuela. Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. The technology isn’t subject to US State Department export restrictions except to countries such as Syria, Iran, and North Korea (all on an embargo list).

So while we idly worry about threats to our online privacy, diligent crusaders and information liberators are actively targeted by government prosecutors.

Reddit co-founder and internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz tragically committed suicide on January 11, 2013. He had been arrested and charged back in 2009 for having downloaded a massive cache of documents from JSTOR., and was facing up to 13 felony counts, 50 years in prison, and millions of dollars in fines. MIT and JSTOR had already settled over the ‘Terms of Use’ breach, but prosecutors only dropped the charges after his death.

Prosecutors allege that Swartz downloaded the articles because he intended to distribute them for free online, though Swartz was arrested before any articles were made public. He had often spoken publicly about the importance of making academic research freely available. His actions were criminalized under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), an act was designed to prosecute hackers.

JSTOR did acknowledge it was “deeply saddened” by the Swartz tragedy.

“The case is one that we ourselves had regretted being drawn into from the outset, since JSTOR’s mission is to foster widespread access to the world’s body of scholarly knowledge,” the organization wrote in an unsigned, undated statement. “At the same time, as one of the largest archives of scholarly literature in the world, we must be careful stewards of the information entrusted to us by the owners and creators of that content. To that end, Aaron returned the data he had in his possession and JSTOR settled any civil claims we might have had against him in June 2011.”

Law professor Lawrence Lessig, a friend and mentor to Swartz, wrote a post called “Prosecutor as Bully”:

The question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a “felon.” For in the 18 months of negotiations, that was what he was not willing to accept, and so that was the reason he was facing a million dollar trial in April — his wealth bled dry, yet unable to appeal openly to us for the financial help he needed to fund his defense, at least without risking the ire of a district court judge. And so as wrong and misguided and fucking sad as this is, I get how the prospect of this fight, defenseless, made it make sense to this brilliant but troubled boy to end it.

Fifty years in jail, charges our government. Somehow, we need to get beyond the “I’m right so I’m right to nuke you” ethics that dominates our time. That begins with one word: Shame.

They don’t prosecute Wall Street for destroying the world’s economy, they don’t prosecute HSBC for laundering billions for the drug cartels and terrorists, and they don’t prosecute war criminals. But they’ll prosecute Aaron Swartz, Bradley Manning and other activists.

Some Senators are demanding answers:

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introducedAaron’s law,” which would reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that was used to prosecute Swartz. Another member of the House Judiciary Committee, Darrell Issa (R-CA), said he wanted to investigate the actions of the US Attorney who authorized the prosecution, Carmen Ortiz of Massachusetts.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) sent a letter this morning to Attorney General Eric Holder, suggesting the case against Swartz may have been retaliation for prior investigations of Swartz, or his use of FOIA.

But US Attorney Carmen Ortiz released a statement defending her prosecution of Aaron Swartz, calling it an ‘appropriate handling of the case’, even though many are claiming that it may have prompted the 26-year-old’s suicide.

“At no time did this office ever seek – or ever tell Mr. Swartz’s attorneys that it intended to see – maximum penalties under the law,” Ortiz said. She claims she would have recommended that the judge offer a deal that came with six-month prison sentence in a low-security setting.

Elliot Peters, Swartz’s lawyer, said that prosecutors planned to argue for a seven to eight year prison sentence if their client had rejected the six-month offer.

So while Zoe Lofgren’s terrific changes are a good start, the EFF vowed to continue Aaron’s work and ‘attack‘ the obsolete, vague, and abused computer and communications laws:

EFF vows to continue his work to open up closed and entrenched systems that prevent ordinary people from having access to the world’s knowledge, especially the knowledge created with our tax dollars… to attack the computer crime laws that were so horribly misused in the prosecution of Aaron.

First, [to] ensure that when a user breaks a private contract like a terms of service or other contractual obligation or duty, the government can’t charge them criminally under the CFAA or wire fraud law—two statutes the Justice Department used against Aaron.

The second set of changes ensures that no criminal liability can attach to people who simply want to exercise their right to navigate online without wearing a digital nametag. It ensures that changing a device ID or IP address cannot by itself be the basis of a CFAA or wire fraud conviction.

Meanwhile, a group of online archivists released the “Aaron Swartz Memorial JSTOR Liberator.” The initiative is a JavaScript-based bookmarklet that lets Internet users “liberate” an article, already in the public domain, from the online academic archive JSTOR. This is in the hope that free knowledge can be taken from behind academic paywalls and put into the public domain, to liberate information and do to publishing what has already been done to other forms of media.

But as Swartz’s and other “hacktivist” cases demonstrate, you don’t necessarily have to be a hacker to be viewed as one under federal law. Are activists like Swartz committing civil disobedience, or online crimes?

  • Publishing Documents – Accessing and downloading documents from private servers or behind paywalls with the intent of making them publicly available.
  • Distributed Denial of Service  – Some web activists have pressed for DDoS to be legalized as a form of protest, claiming that disrupting web traffic by occupying a server is the same as clogging streets when staging a sit-in. A petition started on the White House’s “We the People” site a few days before Swartz’s death has garnered more than 5,000 signatures.

“Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) is not any form of hacking in any way. It is the equivalent of repeatedly hitting the refresh button on a webpage. It is, in that way, no different than any ‘occupy’ protest.”

  • Doxing – Doxing involves finding and publishing a target’s personal or corporate information.
  • Website Defacement

As we’ve seen, hackers can be a lot more benefit than harm, and the internet, if it is to be the most democratizing system on the planet, must allow for radical transparency of information. Even if you disagree with much of it, or find the bulk of it stupid or offensive. Reactionary censorship and oppression are never righteous, or even permanently effective, solutions.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-01-19: Digital Culture Killed My Dog by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

“whether we know it or not, all of us are being influenced by the net. The machines have changed everything in our lives. As you know, if you use the internet, there is a tremendous evil available at your fingertips. Do not- DO NOT allow the machines to take control over your lives. Don’t do that.”

~Bill O’Reilly

“the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes.”

~Ted Stevens

Warren Zevon Tribute

PLAYLIST
Edvard Grieg – In The Hall Of The Mountain King
Warren Zevon – Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner
Igor Stravinsky – Danse Sacrale
Warren Zevon – Jesus Mentioned
Warren Zevon – Let Nothing Come Between You
Warren Zevon – Lawyers Guns and Money
Stranglers – GOLDEN BROWN
Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy
Warren Zevon – Werewolves Of London
Warren Zevon – Nighttime in the Switching Yard
Warren Zevon – Veracruz
Turtles – Outside Chance
Warren Zevon – Monkey Wash, Donkey Rinse
Warren Zevon – Mutineer
Billy Bob Thornton – The Wind
The Pixies – Life’ll Kill Ya
Kim Fowley – Strangers in the Sky
Everly Brothers – Wake Up Little Suzie
Fleetwood Mac – DREAMS
Warren Zevon – Don’t Let Us Get Sick
Warren Zevon – I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
Warren Zevon – KNOCKIN’ ON HEAVEN’S DOOR
Hindu Love Gods – Raspberry Beret
Warren Zevon – My Shit’s Fucked Up

After our brief coverage of the week’s political and international travesties, The Stranger is joined by old friend Dreadlok to memorialize the great singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, on the anniversary of his passing. Enjoy every sandwich, story, madcap character and gleefully mournful song as we learn all about this musical icon with you.

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

The Way it Was

7/17/09

Blood running in streets around the world, media pundits flying off the hooks of the chains of the hinges of the wheels of their rockers, perhaps no public option, dark sorcery abounds in the night, and perhaps the last bastion of journalistic integrity is dead at 92. Though retired, his passing represents the hacking rattle of the end of media… the way it was.

For though I would defend the human race at the gates of hell, (or failing that, severe cynicism)* humankind is, after all, only human, and shall remain as such until better ones can be built. Which is itself a narrowing prospect as healthcare reform circles the drain.

So get your decoder rings and headsets tuned for another installment of the Stranger in a Strange

PLAYLIST
Nero and the Gladiators – In the Hall of the Mountain King
Underground Sunshine – Mr. Soul
Natacha Atlas – I Put a Spell on You
The Beatles – I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Gong – New Age Transformation Try: No Nore Sages
Del Shannon – Runaway
Nina Simone – Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
Queen – Flash’s Theme
Ajijia Myrayebe – Cohet
The Pixies – Levitate Me
Les McCann – Go On And Cry
John Lee Hooker/Santana – Chill Out (Things Gonna Change)
The Shadows – F.B.I./Apache
Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band – I’m The Urban Spaceman
Gorillaz – Monkey Racket
Common/Honey Cone – Innocent Til Proven Guilty (Testify)
Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force – Looking For The Perfect Beat
Harry Chapin – 30,000 Pounds of Bananas (LIVE)

Stranger in a Strange Land 2009-07-18: The Way it Was by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

*as if all that wasn’t cynical enough, it seems there are nuclear weapons pointed at beautiful foggy San Francisco, according to http://nukeometer.com. Enjoy your weekend!

It was the blurst of times!?

It’s while staring for endless hours upon the unsettling toothy grin and singular crazy eye of Joel Osteen that I find myself thinking.. “I wish I had some jetpants.”

I need an apartment. Who’da thunk I’da needed a place to, like, permanente live? Whodey?

Rest in Peace, Joe Nuxhall. I hope I remember our secret handshake when I get up to heaven. Oh, who am I kidding. I’m not going to heaven. It’s made of marshmallows and they don’t want me there because they want me to be sad. Who fucking needs them, anywise? Forget ’em, Joe. You’re better’n them, anyhow. I’ll meet you on a neutral astral plane and we can give our play-by-play commentary of the Apocalyptic war between heaven-and-hell whilst discussing our favorite iced cremes and those down-home JTM stekes now on sale at your local Kroger-brand-Kroger-store.

If you’re not Joe and/or you’re not in heaven then don’t read that last part. It… it’s personal.

I’m talkin’ to YOU Norman Mailer.

There has to be something better for me to do on this internets!!

There has to be some spectacular modern device of philosophical discourse or quantum metaphysical achievement or socio-political action, but all I can find are webcomics and whiny blogs. Shit. The military didn’t just invent the internet for cute kitten photos and porn. Or did they? Shit.

I hope this net neutrality thing is over with soon so that the Illuminati could just take the internet away from us.

BESIDES:
-Clean the SPAM out of my email accounts
-Read Coast-to-Coast news
-Check out bad work on Deviantart
-Read archived Diesel Sweeties/Penny-Arcade/PvP/Scary-Go-Round/Joe and Monkey/Ctrl+Alt+Del
-Read Binary Culture/Dilbert Blog(s)
-Watch sickanimation.com
-Cruise for jobs I’m probably not going to take
-Download ebooks
-Update my Netflix queue for the thousandth time
-Filter my Amazon recommendations
-Listen to Margaritaville Radio
-Look up weird shit on Ebay and/or Craiglist (but Craigslist can be scary)
-See how far I can fly that lil’ helicopter through the tunnels
-Fill out quizillas
-Watch RedvsBlue
-Randomly search wikipedia/h2g2
-Tamper with wikipedia/h2g2
-Get the eerie feeling that I’m forgetting to do something important while I’m on the internet
-Watch old MTV cartoons and trailers for coming videogames on youtube
-Create fake people on Myspace
-Argue with real people on Myspace
-Try to get kicked off of Myspace
-Try to get un-kicked off of Deviantart
-Play pointless games and animations on Newgrounds/Ebaum’s/Albinoblacksheep
-Find horrific photos on Snopes
-Collect horrific photos in my photobucket
-Eventually make my way over to bored.com
-Ugh. I don’t even want to look at Homestar Runner
-Woah, I still have a Xanga?!?
-Post in my Livejournal

I wish Kurt Vonnegut was still alive.

So it goes.

If she had been a human it wouldn’t have played out that way.

But she wasn’t a human. She was a cat. And as such there were only two options.

Growing up, I would tease her in one of two ways. When she was little, in fact, too little to be from her mother, I used to call her Little Baby Notallowed because she would find her way into dangerous or damaging situations. This nickname lasted well into our college years, but faded over time as she mellowed out, as did I. The other way I would tease her would be to ask, in a mocking voice, ‘when she was going to grow up?’ ‘When was she going to be all big like the rest of us?’ ‘When was she going to be people?’

I’m angry. I’m angry at everybody. I know how stupid it is to be angry and yet I couldn’t help busting my fists against a shower wall just angry at everybody, from those who really hate to the people who genuinely try to help. Except I don’t want any help. I’m a miserable fuck-up and if I can’t take care of my own life when its so dreadfully simple compared to the problems other people have, then how in fuck’s sake am I supposed to have someone dependent on me.

So I called off work today. I didn’t say why I was calling off work because some would make it a fucking competition. ‘Oh, your cat died? Big deal, my grandfather died.’ Yeah. Except it’s not a competition. And if it was it would be a pretty morbid one.

You want to know what happens when you die? You die cold and alone. Even if you’re in a warm place in the arms of the only person you truly love and they give you something that lets you drift peacefully off to heavenly slumber… you die cold… and you die alone. Because the only person in your head at that final moment it you. And your body temperature drops almost right away. You die. Cold. And alone.

And she was my best friend. Yeah. So it’s lame that my best friend was a cat. But you know what’s even more pathetic? The reason that she was my best friend. Because around that damned cat I didn’t have to be anybody but myself. She knew everything about me from the noises I make when I wake up to all the lies and secrets that everyone has so that their social persona is slightly different than the one inside their head. I didn’t need that buffer, I guess in part because cats can’t talk, or because, intellectually, we all know that she’s still a dumb animal, or perhaps I sincerely didn’t care if I was embarrassed or lost face, because we were so close. She knew what I was feeling often before I did, when I needed consoling, and I tried to do my best to reciprocate. Somehow, we understood each other on variant levels of reality that shouldn’t seem possible. And it was the most meaningful relationship I’ve ever had with anyone. Which is sad.

It was my job to protect her from the physical fears of the world; burglars, prowlers, and big mean dogs. It was her job to protect me from real or imagined spiritual harm; ghouls, boogeymen, and night terrors. Nitwit leftover fears from childhood, I’m sure, but in the course of our friendship I can honestly recount all of my nightmares on the fingers of one hand. And we all have those fears. We all have them buried back in our subconscious and, real or imagined, need someone to uphold the law. Well she did her job. And I failed in mine.

As I held her and stroked her fur, behind her ears and under her chin because she was always more like a puppy than a cat in those respects, I sang ‘Take it Easy’ by the Eagles because it was the only song I could think to. And when I couldn’t sing it any longer I whistled it. And then I told her that ‘she was finally done growing up.’ ‘She was all big now.’ ‘She was one of the big persons.’ And in a funny way, it’s true. She’s the same now as every human being ever ends up.

Then I said to no one in particular, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

I take it back

THIS may be the last post I write on the computer in the Hudson Digital Television Studio.

I’m very sad, in a sort of internalized way, about all this. So maybe I should externalize a bit for my health. I wasn’t ever particularly close to Jim Hudson, least not as much as some video-hungry corporate American students, or the other faculty, but we had a friendly acquaintance and hung out a few times off school grounds. I was working on a final final final project just now down the hall when it struck me, something he said to the effect that I’d never really learn anything important in this school, or from him. That the best classroom was the real world, the industry, the machines of life, and that any advice anybody gives you can’t prepare you for the hard knocks. It was probably the most important thing I’ve ever learned, at least from him. Another reason I respected Jim so much (aside from the fact that he wanted you to call him by his first name, as many of the teachers here do) was that he told me my work was shit. He told me my work was shit respectfully, like a colleague would, and said that he knew I could do better. He also always had a general disdain for the way administrations, bureaucrats and systems never worked, and would readily tel you how he felt about the impractical, opportunistic edifice that was AIP. I miss him.

And now I’m looking at the TV studio named in his honor, (though I’m sure the tour guides claim that the ‘H’D stands for High Def), and I’m thinking about the many times this place has changed. And the many ways I’ve changed. I’ve got some very fond memories of this room alone. Some very fond memories. Some that can’t be told here lest a future employer or perhaps AIP faculty see it. Well, I’ll always remember.

And even if I don’t, I’m looking at it NOW. And that’s perhaps good enough.