Badass of the Month: Martyl and the Doomsday Clock

The Doomsday Clock first appeared in the June 1947 issue of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a newsletter-turned-journal for the discussion of science and policy related to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The Bulletin included this statement on the inside of the back cover:

When the bomb fell on Hiroshima, it broke a six-year silence which security imposed on the atomic scientists. It also shattered the scientists’ “ivory tower” of detachment from the social and political implications of their discoveries. For the scientists — who had six years to consider the implications of atomic warfare before these implications exploded on a stunned world — recognized that they had a responsibility to see that this force would be used for the benefit and not the destruction of mankind.

One of the greatest works in all of information design, The Doomsday Clock was a brutally visceral symbol of how the world was now (and possibly forever) near to nuclear war. With the hour hand near midnight and the minute hand only seven minutes away, the clock cut through all the rhetoric and hyperbole of nuclear politics with a clear and clinical measurement: This is where we are. This is how close we are to the end of everything. We are seven minutes away.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Cover, June 1947

Two years later, the clock moved forward four minutes after the Soviet Union successfully tested a nuclear weapon. Three minutes to midnight.

We do not advise Americans that doomsday is near and that they can expect atomic bombs to start falling on their heads a month or a year from now; but we think they have reason to be deeply alarmed and to be prepared for grave decisions.

The designer of The Doomsday Clock was Martyl Langsdorf, an accomplished visual artist with a fondness for landscapes. Known to the art world by her first name, by the age of 25 Martyl had sold a painting to George Gershwin at a private showing, painted a now-iconic New Deal mural of African American history, and beat classmate Tennessee Williams in a playwriting contest.

Martyl Langsdorf

Her husband Alexander was a nuclear physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project only a few years earlier. They once took a train through Japan that stopped in Hiroshima, to allow all the passengers to step off the train and spend a moment at the Peace Memorial. He stayed in his seat, crying.

Road Ink, Martyl

The Langsdorfs bought a landmark Paul Schweikher home in 1953 and never moved out, drawing the constant attention of the CIA, FBI, and State Department through their activism for peace.

Martyl died March 26th. She was 96 years old.

Things I Have Been Enjoying Lately, Third in a Series

Front Line Assembly – AirMech

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Front Line Assembly changed my life.

They were the first industrial band I ever heard, way back when a friend gave me a tape of Tactical Neural Implant in 92. I remember putting it in my walkman, hitting play, and listening to Final Impact completely stunned. I had been listening to Guns N’ Roses, Led Zeppelin, and N.W.A — nothing that prepared me at all for what I was hearing. I didn’t know music like that existed. I didn’t even know it was possible to make those kinds of sounds. The same friend clued me in to Delerium, Noise Unit, Intermix, and the rest of the FLA side projects. (Synaesthesia has always been my favourite of those, and their Ephemeral record is one of my desert island disks.)

Tactical Neural Implant was twenty years ago, and FLA’s still releasing albums. They’ve got new blood in the band, and whatever combination of people and equipment it took to make AirMech should probably be flash-frozen and preserved for future generations.

Fair warning: AirMech is completely instrumental. It’s also a video game soundtrack, and not a club record. And, like a lot of FLA records before it, the production is heavily influenced by whatever was blowing up in electronic music when they made it (which in this case is dubstep, so get your haterade ready).

The thing that makes this album amazing isn’t the wubs or the lack of vocals. This album is great because the diversity in the production spans very nearly the entire FLA discography. There are sequences that sound like they could have been taken off of Tactical Neural Implant, next to parts that could have come from lost Delerium or Synaesthesia tapes. There are elements of it that are unmistakably modern, and without any vocals in the mix the electronics shine in a way they aren’t often allowed to.

I don’t know if I’d say that this is FLA’s best record since the classics — I think Artificial Soldier is as good as anything else that got released after Millennium, and it’s hard to compare a heavy club record to a soundtrack — but I’ve been listening to it more than I’ve listened to any other FLA record since the 90s, and I’m not putting it down anytime soon.

If you were ever a fan of FLA’s less aggro material, you should listen to Airmech.

[soundcloud url=”https://soundcloud.com/jeremy-inkel/12-prime-empiricism” params=”” width=” 100%” iframe=”true” /]

[08/30] Of cities in dust

Day 08 – A moment, in great detail:

It was snowing now, light flakes betraying the morning sun’s promise of spring. I took a long moment in the doorway before I joined the crowd, fifty people moving in a hundred directions. To work. From work. To a friend’s home. To pick up the baby. To start a new job. To break up with their lover. To light the fireplace at home.

I feel insulated, now. The crowd protects me from the snow, the snow protects me from seeing anything too far away, and anything too far away doesn’t exist in any meaningful sense anyway.

I duck into a coffee shop for caffeine and quiet reading. I’ve spent so many hours of my life here, but it’s somehow different now, and there isn’t a flicker of recognition in the faces of anyone who looks up. I’m still insulated by the snow, by feeling like you’ve come home and found some other family watching your TV and eating off your plates.

I make my order and open the book to page one. It’s a beautiful place to be — fresh coffee, crisp pages, a new story in a familiar setting.

Toronto.

[06/30] Of leetness

Day 06 – Your hobbies, in great detail:

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what separates a hobby from something more serious. Is DJing a hobby? Baking? Gaming? Hacking? Fucking?

If you spend a few hours a week on something, is that a hobby? What if you’re passionate about it, if it consumes you and you spend all your waking moments in pursuit of it? Is it still a hobby then?

I’ve got a thousand records or so, but I wouldn’t consider it a hobby. I’m not a record collector. I’m just someone who loves music, and records are a very enjoyable means to an end.

I don’t paint miniatures or collect stamps. I write music, take photographs now and then, play video games, go through a lot of books, listen to a lot of music, and have a lot of things to say about copyright.

I’ve been doing the online journal thing for fifteen years or so, and on the rare occasion write other things too. I used to develop and teach web design and computer security classes (and I think I was Canada’s first Certified Ethical Hacker instructor), and spend waaaaay too much time on Wikipedia.

Do those count?

Postscript: According to Harris Interactive, these are the 25 most popular hobbies and leisure activities in the US:

  1. Reading
  2. TV watching
  3. Spending time with family/kids
  4. Computer activities
  5. Going to movies
  6. Fishing
  7. Gardening
  8. Walking
  9. Playing team sports
  10. Exercise (aerobics, weights)
  11. Golf
  12. Church/church activities
  13. Listening to music
  14. Watching sporting events
  15. Shopping
  16. Socializing with friends/neighbors
  17. Traveling
  18. Playing music
  19. Entertaining
  20. Renting movies
  21. Eating out/dining out
  22. Hunting
  23. Crafts (unspecified)
  24. Swimming
  25. Camping

[05/30] Of hearts and guts and heinlein

Day 05 – Your definition of love, in great detail:

Love is when you put your all chips next to someone else’s and bet double-or-nothing.

“Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it… It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk everything, you risk even more.”

– Erica Jong

It means being willing to do the hard, difficult things that are necessary to smooth the road ahead; to tackle the things that neither of you are good at. Anyone can be loving while things are easy. It’s how you treat someone else when things are hard that is important.

It’s about being genuinely invested in someone else’s happiness, not just in how they relate to your own happiness. Helping them do things that you don’t benefit from, that don’t make you look good, that aren’t a comment on your relationship.

Love is not never having to say you’re sorry, it’s making a safe space for your loved ones to make mistakes in.

[03/30] Of apple trees and Newton’s law

Day 03 – Your parents, in great detail:

This is the kind of post that gets people in trouble. So a word of warning: If you’re the kind of person who stops reading something when people write “trigger warning”, if you’re related to me, or if you are ever likely to interact with me on a professional level, you should probably stop reading.

My father was a simple man.

Rather than trying to describe him, I will instead just copy and paste a few actual real-life headlines that might come up if you were to hypothetically search a comprehensive media database for his name, in no particular order:

  • Aylmer man to be tried for first-degree murder
  • Witness says arson accused was ‘crazy’
  • Four of seven men charged in Hull killing to be tried in Montreal
  • Hull bar operator sues police
  • Two found not guilty of arson conspiracy in Commercial Tavern fire
  • 2 get life terms for torture death
  • Bar gets liquor licence back; Judge rules Hull business’s rights violated
  • “King of Coke” busted in undercover sting operation

…and just for kicks, here’s an excerpt from one of the articles, slightly edited to protect the guilty:

He is known in the region for sit-up marathons to raise money for charity. But he also has a lengthy criminal record, including drug possession, plotting to traffic cocaine, obstruction of justice in a murder at the bar and failure to register a firearm. At liquor board hearings last year, RCMP Sgt. Paul Theriault testified that he was the head of a vast drug-trafficking organization tied to cities in Canada and northern United States.

Over a 3 1/2-year period, police said they intervened 63 times at the basement bar in Hull. Sixty people were charged with various crimes. Some of the complaints range from refusing to evacuate the bar after an anonymous bomb threat in 1988, to packing in 280 patrons though fire regulations allow only 187.

One woman was beaten at the bar after refusing advances from two pimps who wanted her to prostitute for them. Another woman had a broken glass ground into her face after refusing a man’s sexual advances.

He’s a fairly entitled fellow, having grown up in a castle in Turkey on a street that bears his family’s name (which has since been taken over by the Turkish government, and turned into a museum and movie set).

He’s also the reason my mother and I moved around so much when I was young; we had to stay one step ahead of him and his friends. The most time I ever spent with the man was when he kidnapped me as a child, I think, but the details are hazy. I did make an attempt to get to know him during my early teenage years, where he made his only positive contribution to my life: full access to a nightclub, dj gear, and a night of the week to do what I wanted with.

Sometime around this period we were made aware by the RCMP that my family and I had been under 24/7 police surveillance for years (sorry about that, Josh), and could expect to be under periodic surveillance pretty much forever (sorry about that, everyone I’ve ever lived with). It is also around this time I learned that, even if you’re guilty of a crime, if the police don’t like you they will just plain make shit up and and try to fuck you as hard as they can.

I haven’t seen him in years. He used to make a point of showing up outside my office if I started a new job, or calling me at other people’s houses when I was travelling (sorry about that, Amanda), but I think he’s lost interest. Last I heard, he married a Russian girl my age and is settling down somewhere. (If you want to know where, just look for the city that has the most carbombings of white Jeep Grand Cherokees with gold runners.)

Mother.

I feel less comfortable telling her story, mostly because there are a lot of fresh wounds there. But I’ll try to describe her, at least briefly:

She spent time in Mount Cashel’s sister orphanage, taught me how to put on lipstick and eyeshadow, saved my ass when I was buying hot computers for the mob and a deal went bad, tried to pay one of my friends to sleep with me, would slap me if she ever saw me riding a bike that wasn’t a Harley, made a lot of terrible decisions, always did everything in her power to keep me safe as a child, and was so adversarial that I left home before I was old enough to collect student welfare.

..

What’s tomorrow’s meme topic? “What you ate today, in great detail”?

Man I am looking forward to that.

[02/30] Of beginnings and endings

Day 02 – Your first love, in great detail:

It was 1998, I had just turned nineteen, and her name was Amanda. She had come with a friend to a birthday weekend cottage trip, and I think I started to fall for her when I realized she knew all the samples on The Prodigy Experience. We stayed up all night together on the beach, and it wasn’t long after that before we said ‘I love you’.

We spent a summer together doing all the things young people in love do, and then she moved to Peace River. Between long love letters and a week-long Christmas visit (via a 3-day Greyhound ride), we kept up a long-distance relationship for six months or so before it ended.

When I was a teenager, I used to lie like it was going out of style. It didn’t matter what. Big lies, small lies, brilliant lies, stupid lies. I lied if I liked you, I lied if I didn’t like you, I lied if the sun came out from behind a cloud, whatever. So when I realized that Amanda was The One, I wanted to make the foundation of our relationship an honest one. I told her about all the big, small, brilliant and stupid lies I had told her and all of our mutual friends. And, unsurprisingly (although quite surprisingly at the time) she said she couldn’t trust me and that was the end of that.

Looking over my old (unpublished) website archives, I found this Valentine’s Day entry from 1999:

“Good night, Jairus.” she said through tears, and I knew we wouldn’t speak again, not the way two people in love do.

There was a click, and the line went dead. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be, I thought. There was supposed to be a happily-ever-after, or at the very least a horribly cliched breakup, something I could write about in my diary.

But there wasn’t. There was only the dull hum of the line, and me standing in the kitchen, feeling very, very much alone.

I mostly remember being stunned; I didn’t quite get how being honest with someone could mean that they wouldn’t trust you anymore.

Everything changed after that. I realized that if The Person Who Loves Me Most couldn’t handle being close to me, then I was likely doing something wrong. I wrote an open letter to my friends, letting them know that I had lied to all of them, each and every one.

The fallout was exactly as bad as you might think it would be. Some people didn’t care. Some people forgave me, but we were never really close after. Some people never spoke to me again. Some people screamed at me until they cried.

Years later, I rebuilt a friendship with Amanda. There were a lot of mea culpas, a lot of tentative steps to figure out if as adults we were interested in opening up again after caring so much about each other as teenagers. We spent time together on the rare occasions we were in the same city, dropped little notes to each other in tough times, talked about old friends and old stories.

Then, a few months ago, I said to her that rainbow parties are myth and moral panic and it was crazy to be worried about the dangers they pose to her unborn child, and she de-friended me on Facebook.

So that’s nice.

[01/30] Content Creation Meme, first in a series

Day 01 – Introduction:

I’m Jairus. I’m 31 years old, male, and I live in the city I was born in; Ottawa, Canada.

I work as the Web Communications Coordinator for a Crown Corporation, a stone’s throw from Parliament Hill. I’m trying to cut down on the amount of groups/classes/etc that I identify as, but my Twitter bio claims that I am a DJ, hacker, electronic musician, designer, and copyright nerd. Things I am not include: white, straight, vanilla, liberal/conservative, religious, or good with money.

I don’t remember much of my childhood, which is probably for the best. I have a lot of siblings, but grew up with my mother, and my brother Josh. (My younger brother named Josh, that is. I also have an older brother named Josh. It’s complicated.) As a teenager I was very good at hacking, stealing, telling stories, being homeless, making friends, lying, and Quake. I moved to Toronto with my then-girlfriend (Jessica) and then-roommate (Venk) shortly after I got a job and a home, and spent a few years there alternately making crazy dot-com money and surviving on a bag of unwashed rice and other people’s leftovers.

After coming back to Ottawa and spending most of my 20s living and loving with the multi-talented DJ Leslie and a rotating cast of friends, foes, and family, I struck out on my own last year, and now live alone in Chinatown with two feral kittens, three video game systems, and four single-purpose kitchen appliances. I’m madly in love with the beautiful Audra Williams, and try to avoid having Facebook describe any of my other relationships as ‘complicated’.

I’ve just returned from a 5-week tour of the United States and Canada (playing the final show tomorrow at Zaphods, where I’ve DJed with Leslie for nearly a decade), and am really looking forward to figuring out what it is I want to do next.

Continue reading

Tragedy (For Us): California Dreamin

Das Bunker, Los Angeles. Some kind of crazy rivethead mecca, the likes of which I thought were all but extinct.

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We rolled into LA in the early afternoon, and spent a few hours decompressing at Rev John’s, where we were joined both by his lovable italian greyhounds, and by the darling Audra Williams, who flew out to join us on the road for a week.

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John’s hospitality was above and beyond. We all walked away happy, fed, and with a lot of Das Bunker merch. Plus, the show was killer. The place was packed, people were cheering, and it took a full five minutes to make it from the stage to the merch booth after my set was over. Yann, of course, fucked shit up old-school.

A quick jaunt to San Francisco later, we were at the Retox Lounge.

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We were worried about this show, as SF crowds are fickle and cruel creatures; but it was a smash success. Nearly everyone there told us “I don’t normally come out to this venue, but…”, and the dancefloor was moving all night.

We spent a few days off in SF (graciously hosted by Coolio and Sharon) where Scott and Yann got to relax, and Audra and I got to explore the city.

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SF is one of those places that reminds me just how small Ottawa really is. Places like 826 Valencia could never survive at home, and institutions like City Lights would never have been able to do what they did. There aren’t enough people, there isn’t any support from the city itself, and it’s nearly impossible to build sustained support for any kind of artistic enterprise.

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But I digress.

We left California for Portland, which – if i may sound like an asshole – I had no idea was so cool. Austin is the only other city in the states where I’ve seen so many amazing, indie businesses and arts/crafts.

We played at The Fez Ballroom, which is a beautiful concert hall. After a dozen converted gallery spaces and cramped clubs, it was a breath of fresh air. Scott’s opening set had people cheering from the middle of the first song on, and while it was a great show for all three of us, he kicked the shit out of Yann and I both in crowd reaction and merch sales, which is pretty awesome.

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(We also got to check out Derek’s store before we left. Verdict: Fantastic, not enough Ad·ver·sary.)

Seattle was next, where we were hosted by the lovely Jeri, who was gracious and generous, and made sure everything we needed was taken care of.

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The show itself was quiet, but a good time. We had the next day off, and Audra and I took a ferry over to Vachon where we spent a night at her friend Heather’s idyllic country home. Hot tubs make for great stress relievers after two weeks in a car, incidentally.

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One surprisingly painless border crossing later, and we were in Vancouver for the Zombie A-Go-Go. There was a line outside the door when doors opened, and by the time I was on stage the club was packed full of (remarkably well-costumed) zombies. Zombie cops, zombie flapper girls, zombie gangsters, zombie groupies, zombie fairies (what?), zombie movie stars. Zombies zombies zombies.

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Everyone was a bit worried that the crowd wasn’t going to dig the music, since so many of the people were at the club as part of the zombie walk, but it was easily one of the most enthusiastic dancefloors of the entire tour to date.

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We grabbed a quick bite to eat after the doors closed, and then it was right back in the car to make it to Edmonton for the next show. The crowd there was small, but seemed to be comprised entirely of electronic musicians who were all listening, if you know what I mean.

Audra left back to Ottawa the next morning, and after a long and emotionally numbing day at the West Edmonton Mall, we got in the car at 5am to head off to Winnipeg for yesterday’s show.

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Stay tuned!

Tragedy (For Us): Going Down

DC.

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Baltimore was fantastic. Soundcheck was a total clusterfuck, but after we got everything working, it kept working well. They had a four-projector video wall and some very talented VJs who worked very hard to make us look like we were a nightclub from the future.

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Worms of The Earth opened, which was great. Last time I saw him play was a year or two ago in Quebec City, and while I don’t remember a shirtless finale then, it worked well for Baltimore. The club was packed by the time we went on stage, and it was a killer show. The best of the tour so far, for sure.

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Next: New Orleans.

I had thought I was prepared for what the city was going to look like. Not at all. I don’t know what it looked like right after Katrina, but it’s still a disaster zone today. Families living on traffic medians, block after block looking like it has been bombed out. We were only there for an evening, but the city broke my heart.

The show itself took place in a house turned fucked-up voodoo house turned art gallery turned concert venue. The owner drove a white hearse covered in skulls and marked front-to-back with sigils. There were altars in every corner of every room, bones and offerings to appease or antagonize the loas, and a couple nine year old kids running around playing hide and seek.

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The sound system they had was completely unprepared for the kind of horrible noises we wanted to make, but they picked up a new system and brought it in for us within an hour or two, and then we were ready to roll.

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After leaving NOLA, we spent two nights driving through Texas, with pit stops in Austin and El Paso. We made a pilgrimage to The Jackalope, ate some amazing Mexican food, but with over ten hours of driving a day, there wasn’t much room for sight seeing.

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We arrived in Arizona yesterday. I have never, ever felt heat like the heat here. It was 46c when we arrived in Phoenix that afternoon, and it was 43c when we got back to the hotel that night after the show.

Yann and Scott were both loopy and twitchy from the heat, but I’d love to spend an entire summer down here.

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The club we played at had an incredible system, but we were competing with Rasputina down the street (and, elsewhere, Weird Al!) and the attendance was the lowest on the tour so far. The people that were there were enthusiastic, though. I’d rather have a dozen people watching and cheering than two dozen talking over the music. I’m looking at you, Boston.

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Yesterday was Los Angeles. Stay Tuned!

Tour Diary of The Future

I’m writing this as we drive out of NYC, onwards to Baltimore and beyond. We’re four shows in so far, and we’re about to hit a heavy stretch of driving in the next few days.

We started out in Montreal, where we had a killer show at Saphir. People were screaming, sound was fantastic, and a lot of friends (including the lovely Audra!) were there to support us.

The Setup

The next day we headed to Quebec City, where our hosts treated us like kings with an amazing burger barbeque, and let us clutter up their lovely home with all of our crap. The show was solid; not as many people were there as the promoter had hoped, but the room was still packed full of enthusiastic people, and we sold a lot of merch.

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We went back to Montreal for a few days to regroup and prepare for the rest of the tour. (The great thing about having two shows so close to home with a few days off after is that you get to see all the holes in your planning, and you get a chance to fix them.

There was a lot of ass-busting work, but there was also a chance to spend some time with new, amazing people. It was a great way to spend our last few days in Canada.

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So, after a lot of tetris magic packing all our stuff, and an uneventful-yet-incredibly-time-consuming stop at the border to process our artist visas, we were in the US, never to return.

With that said, probably we’ll return to Canada in a few weeks.

We played Boston on Wednesday and New York on Thursday.

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The Boston crew did a really great job turning a wood-panelled bar into an awesome looking electronic venue, but the crowd didn’t really turn out for it. And most of the crowd that did spent their time talking loudly over the bands. We lost money on the show for sure. We did, however, get to see some old friends, pick up a lot of new merch, and high-five each other a lot for actually making it into the US legally.

New York is always a fun place to be. The promoter put us up in a hotel in SoHo, bought us delicious pizza, and even had stagehands for moving all of our shit up and down two flights of stairs.

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The show itself was great, if a bit weird. All of my/Yann’s industrial scene New York friends who said they were going to be there never materialized (except you, Lenny – you’re a hero), but all the invited non-industrial scene people showed.

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The opening act had a really tough time. They played a lot of unstructured noisescape stuff, mixed with some really heavy broken beat tracks, and the crowd was not into it at all (which especially sucks since the promoter pushed back the start times by an hour so people would get a chance to see them). They had some great sounds but it was clearly not what anyone was expecting.

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I played both heavier and dancier than I have so far on the tour, and the crowd responded really fucking well to it. It was a fun set to play, trying to find a balance between something that the tough-crowd industrial crew would enjoy, and something that wasn’t going to alienate people who weren’t wearing all black.

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My sister was in attendance (bless her hip-hop heart),  and she told me that someone who was dancing to my set leaned over and said “this guy is just so FIERCE!” – made my fucking night.

Sadly, due to the show start time getting pushed back, by the time Yann was on stage to work his Iszoloscope magic, at least half the people who had were there for the end of my set had left. People were still dancing and really into it, but there weren’t nearly as many bodies.

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After the show, Yann, Scott and I went out for a bite of food with my sister, who took us to an awesome little diner where the other patrons provided much entertainment.

We took it easy today, and spent the day wandering around Manhattan. Some time in Central Park, some time to explore the aircraft-carrier-turned-museum U.S.S. Intrepid, and some time to eat at a crazy awesome Italian place (with no sign out front) that a sassy black beat cop recommended to us.

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…and now, Baltimore bound!

Tragedy (For Me) – First in a Series

Tour Diary, day negative three. We play our first show in Montreal on Friday. Paperwork is in hand, merch is being shipped to Boston for us to collect on our 3rd show (sorry, Montreal and Quebec City), and aside from feeling like hell from fighting off a flu, everything’s great.

I’ve got a kickass new live rig:

…and some amazing designs for all my merch (courtesy of graphic designer extraordinaire Robert Nixon):

Lace up your combats and order your earplugs, we’re just about ready to roll.

I love my job (first in a series)

This is a list of near-mint records that my boss just gave me:

  • Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead (!), 1979-1983, The Sky’s Gone Out
  • Blondie – Autoamerican
  • Gang of Four – Entertainment!, I Love A Man in a Uniform, Solid Gold, The Yellow EP
  • Joy Division – Atmosphere, Closer, Substance
  • Love and Rockets – Ball of Confusion, Express, Love and Rockets, Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven
  • Minor Threat – Out of Step
  • Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper – Root Hog Or Die
  • New Order – State of the Nation, Subculture, Substance, Technique, The Perfect Kiss
  • Pere Ubu – The Tenement Year
  • Public Image Ltd. – Album
  • Simple Minds – Sister Feelings Call
  • Siouxsie and The Banshees – Cities in Dust
  • Skids – Days in Europa
  • Squeeze – Babylon and on
  • Talk Talk – It’s My Life
  • Talking Heads – Wild Wild Life
  • The B-52s – The B-52s
  • The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry, Concert (Live), Standing on a Beach
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain – Automatic, Darklands
  • The March Violets – Walk Into The Sun
  • The Mission – Carved in sand
  • The Screaming Blue Messiahs – Gun-Shy
  • The Sugar Cubes – Life’s Too Good
  • NME C86

(They were sitting in a milk crate on my chair when I got in this morning!)

Badass of the Month (First in a series)

On this first day of the Octomonth (birthstone: opal; flower: calendula), I would like to introduce you to Hedy Lamarr, the first (of many) BADASS OF THE MONTH(s):

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“Any girl can be glamorous. All she has to do is stand still and look stupid.”

Hedy was a successful actress as a young teenager, but her big breaththrough came in the controversial Bohemian (as in, from Bohemia) film, Ecstasy. It was 1933, and people were excited and outraged about a skinny dipping scene; the most outstanding thing about this movie, however, is that it was the first studio film to have a sex scene in it — and the first to depict a female orgasm.

The movie is special not just for its prurient content (and it should be said, the camera never leaves the actors’ faces when things get heavy), but for being an powerful study of a young woman’s sexual empowerment. It was released a year before the Hays Code crackdown began, and so there’s no moral play at work. No virgin/whore complex to feed, no pretense that women live identically sexless lives, who only acquiesce to their husbands after shopping trips (while thinking about their kitchen duties the entire time).

Ecstasy

After Ecstasy’s release, Hedy married an controlling Austro-fascist arms manufacturer thirty years her senior who forbade her from making movies. He would take her with him to his business meetings (where military technology and highly technical problems were debated), and force her to entertain at his parties (which Mussolini often attended).

In 1937, after having enough of his crap (and after being forced by her husband to sleep with Hitler to get an arms contract), Hedy dressed up for a ‘party’, drugged her husband, and left Austria (with all of her magnificently expensive jewelry).

Over the next 10 years she made close to twenty films, had two children, and developed a backstage reputation as a voracious bisexual (second only to her sometimes-lover, Marlon Brando). In her time, she was reportedly involved with Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Johnny Carson, Howard Huges, Errol Flynn, JFK, and even Charlie Chaplin.

“I don’t think that anyone would call me a lesbian, it’s just that I seem to be the type that other women get queer ideas about.”

More importantly, however, she also did this.

U.S. Patent #2292387

U.S. Patent #2292387

That is the design drawing for her 1942 invention of Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum communication, upon which all WiFi, CDMA cell networks, and countless other technologies rely. It went like this: Radio controlled torpedoes are more accurate than ‘dumb’ torpedoes, but it’s easy to jam the frequency that the torpedo control channel is on. By rapidly changing the frequency that the control channel was transmitted on, you prevent the adversary from jamming your signals.

Working with experimental composer George Anthiel (who once composed a symphony that required 16 player pianos), she placed a modified piano roll in the torpedo and the controller plane, allowing them to switch frequencies in sync with each other. Unfortunately, it was nearly two decades later before her the importance and potential of her invention was realized. The Navy of the time did not take seriously a device invented by a woman that ran on musical equipment, and suggested to Hedy that she could best support the war effort elsewhere. She did, once raising $7,000,000 in a single event where she sold kisses for fifty grand each. (When honored by the EFF in 1997 for her contribution of spread spectrum technology, she was quoted as saying “It’s about time.”)

Her later years were noteworthy for her lavish parties, five husbands, two shoplifting arrests, a star on Hollywood’s walk of fame, and a Boeing recruitment ad featuring her as a woman of science, with no mention of her film career.

So, here’s to you, Hedy Lamarr. You kicked ass, you took names, you did what you wanted, who you wanted, when you wanted, and you changed the world.

Hedy Lamarr

“Jack Kennedy always said to me, Hedy, get involved. That’s the secret of life. Try everything. Join everything. Meet everybody. “

Things wrong with America’s criminal justice system: Second in a series.

Today’s subject: Joe Arpaio!

If you’re lucky enough not to live in AZ, you might not know about Joe Arpaio. He’s the Maricopa County Sheriff signed a promise to serve only one term when he was elected in 1992. He’s still the Sheriff. When it comes to drug warriors, this guy doesn’t mess around. He’s got a self-propelled howitzer with “Sheriff Arpaio’s War on Drugs” painted on it, with some tasteful lightning bolts added for effect.

From a New Yorker profile of Sheriff Joe (pdf):

Arpaio ordered small, heavily publicized deprivations. He banned cigarettes from his jails. Skin magazines. Movies. Coffee. Hot lunches. Salt and pepper–Arpaio estimated that he saved taxpayers thirty thousand dollars a year by removing salt and pepper. Meals were cut to two a day, and Arpaio got the cost down, he says, to thirty cents per meal. “It costs more to feed dogs than it does the inmates,” he told me. Jail, Arpaio likes to say, is not a spa– it’s punishment. He wants inmated whose keenest wish is never to get locked up again. He limits their television, he told me, to the Weather Channel, C-Span, and, just to aggravate their hunger, the Food Network. For a while, he showed them Newt Gingrich speeches. “They hated him,” he said cheerfully. Why the Weather Channel, a British reporter once asked. “So these morons will know how hot it’s going to be while they are working on my chain gangs.”

Arpaio wasn’t kidding about chain gangs. Foreign television reporters couldn’t get enough footage of his inmates shuffling through the desert. New ideas for the humiliation of people in custody–whom the Sheriff calls, with pervasive disgust, “criminals,” although most are actually awaiting trial, not convicted of any crime–kept occurring to him. He put his inmates in black-and-white striped uniforms. The shock value of these retro prisoner outifts was powerful and complex. There was comedy, nostalgia, dehumanization, even a whiff of something annihilationist. He created female chain gangs, “the first in the history of the world,” and, eventualy, juvenile chain gangs.

Joe Arpaio is directly and personally responsible for stillbirths and miscarriages; and the deaths, brain damage, and severe injuries of newborn babies. Women who go into labor while in his jail aren’t allowed to hold or even see their babies after they’re born, even the ones who survive.

Arpaio has a reality show on Fox called “Smile You’re Under Arrest.” The premise of the show is to use big-breasted women and promises of a $300 prize to get people with nonviolent warrants to show up at a nightclub taken over by Joe for this purpose, and filled with paid actors and undercover cops (all at county expense). Then they have to participate- on national television- in either a fashion show or a dancing contest. Joe hides behind a curtain or under a covered table during all this; and after the fashion show or dancing contest is over, he jumps out and arrests them. Meanwhile over 40,000 felony warrants, many of them for rape or murder, go unserved and the homicide rate has jumped 167%. I’m not making this shit up.

He’ll kill your dog and burn your house down if you get in his way (while simultaneously crushing your neighbor’s car with an armored personnel carrier).

He’s got that tent jail in the desert, where you have to wear old-timey striped uniforms with pink underwear, eat substandard food, and work on chain gangs but at least he provides rebar for you (pdf) to make it easier for to beat other inmates to half to death. If you don’t want to read the pdf, the gist of it he got fined over $600,000 because the rebar had been used as weapons before, and he still chose not to secure them from the inmates. The judge said “…among other things, the Sheriff and his deputies had actual knowledge that prisoners used rebar tent stakes and tent poles as weapons and did nothing to prevent it.” Furthermore, “the Sheriff admitted knowing about, and in fact intentionally designing, some conditions at Tent City that created a substantial risk of inmate violence.

Your tent-mates are the least of your worries, however. Joe will beat you death even if you’re blind (and destroy evidence in a cover-up attempt), although to be fair to Joe he really only beat that guy partway to death- he only died after being left unattended in a cell for 6 days from the perforated intestine and broken neck he got from the beating- last time he gets picked up for shoplifting.

Don’t count on a wheelchair earning you any sympathy from America’s Toughest Sheriff, either. If you go to jail as a paraplegic on a 1-gram marijuana possession charge and ask for a catheter to piss in, you might just leave as a quadruplegic after you get a 6-hour ride in a restraint chair followed by a guard breaking your neck.

Hey, at least the chair ride didn’t kill him like it killed Scott Norberg, right? Well, it might not have been the chair- it could have been the stun guns or the towel shoved in his mouth. Joe Arpaio personally conducted an investigation of that incident and “surprisingly” found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the officers involved. The lawsuit found differently to the tune of $8 million, possibly because he got caught destroying evidence again. A man of principle, Joe publicly addressed Norberg’s family and stated that he essentially got what he deserved because he was a drug addict and besides only bad people are in jail anyway.

Mentally-handicapped? Too bad, you might get killed in the chair too- on a loitering charge.

Hope you don’t have diabetes, cause you might not get insulin even if you go and die on him, like Deborah did.

Yeah, Joe sure does love him some wrongful-death lawsuits, combined with all of his other suits, he’s a defendant in almost fifteen hundred cases- if they all come to settlement, Maricopa taxpayers could pay up to $50 million.

Criticizing him in the newspapers or on the Web might get you locked up.

Smokin Joe and his deputies work hard outside of jail too, what with all the racial profiling and immigration crackdowns; so you know they play hard too- nothing takes the edge off like getting a happy ending from a hooker while on the clock. Oh, it was a “sting,” and sure, 60 of the 70 cases got thrown out due to that gross misconduct, but hey, got to break some eggs you know.

My next Arpaio fun fact really stretches the imagination. He staged his own assassination attempt, involving blowing up his personal $70,000 armored vehicle with a pipe bomb. He created an elaborate sting culminating in a televised arrest of the “assassin,” who was quickly released when courts saw that he had been entrapped and most of the plot was in fact fabricated by Arpaio.

But what would Joe be without a sidekick? Meet Andy Thomas, Joe’s District Attorney who took a break from editing his own Wikipedia entry to prosecute a 16-year old boy (seeking a *ninety year* sentence- without parole) for showing a Playboy to some of his classmates. Oh, he was arrested in an early morning tactical raid and his family held at gunpoint; the family would go on to spend over $250,000 in legal fees and even when the child porn charges were thrown out he *still* tried to get the boy listed as a sex offender. Andy’s other adventures include spending $2 million of taxpayer money on TV commercials about himself. Not campaign commercials, just pointless self-promotion commercials. He had a “crime-prevention book” published, which was also largely self-promotion and included portraits of himself in it. Looking at his wiki entry now, there are some curious edits which weren’t there the last time I checked, so maybe he’s had some down time lately to brush it up.

Let’s hear Joe in his own words-

“I put women on chain gangs, and I’ll be putting juveniles on chain gangs in a month or two… they like being on chain gangs.” “I spend $0.40 day on inmates, and $1.50 on dogs, the dogs get air conditioning.”

Arpaio's War on Drugs

(Most of this post is courtesy of SA’s HidingFromGoro. )

Things I have been enjoying lately: Second in a series.

Left 4 Dead.

This just might be the best co-op game I’ve ever played. 4 players versus insane zombies, running from building to building, fucking shit up proper. From the Shacknews Review:

It’s actually very easy to quantify just how replayable Left 4 Dead is, in the same way that one can identify an infectious disease.

Because that’s what playing Left 4 Dead for the first time feels like–the beginning of a terrible affliction. We played the game for two straight days at Valve, only occasionally surfacing for a gasp of fresh snacks. We played so much Left 4 Dead that it made us all physically ill. We came home thoroughly infected, bed-ridden and moaning like the undead.

And the most common phrase going around our chat channel? “I wish I could play more right now.”

L4D Grafitti

It really is that much fun.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be on Xbox Live.