Links for Saturday 26th September

Reprogramming a Game By Playing It: an Unbelievable Super Mario Bros 3 Speedrun

So there's this thing where people see who can complete a computer game in the fastest time. This used to be simply about pressing the buttons in the right sequence and was pretty impressive even then, but it looks to have developed even further. This method of playing Mario involves making specific moves that corrupt the memory storage so that a glitch will appear at a specific point and allow you to skip to the end. Because you're playing the original game code it's not a cheat, right? If the puzzle is a manifestation of computer code, this is just part of the puzzle. Right? You don't have to be interested in computer games (I'm totally not) to find this philosophically fascinating. (Kottke)

Surfaces vs Airborne: What We Know Now About Covid-19 Transmission

How we respond to this Coronavirus has evolved from "touch nothing and see no-one" to something thankfully more nuanced. For me the big change has been focussing more on airborne droplets (from heavy breathing and speaking) than infected surfaces, and this roundup of current (Sept 2020) knowledge and advice is a good one to share. In short, wear a mask, don't disinfect your shopping, keep washing your hands to be safe. (Medium)

Solarpunk – Life in the Future Beyond the Rusted Chrome of Yestermorrow

I have been bemused by Solarpunk for a while now, more-so since actively following Jay Springett's work where the term come up a lot. So I was grateful for this extended explanation (essentially a talk transcript with slides) which cleared up a lot of stuff. It's thankfully got nothing to do with Seapunk, which is just a daft aesthetic and some bad music. Solarpunk could best be described as imagining a future we'd like to live in, rather than speculating how we might live in a dystopia. In other words the opposite of Cyberpunk. There's also a lot of Mark Fisher-esque analysis of late-capitalism's mining of nostalgia and actively looking for ways to break beyond that. It's an attempt to solve the problem of not being able to imagine a future these days. And, of course, a shitload more, but that's my understanding of the basics. In short, it turns out to be very relevant to my 1972 Project thinkings. If I was a bit less of a nihilist I could even be a Solarpunk! (thejaymo)

The disruption con: why big tech's favourite buzzword is nonsense

I remember when I first learned that "disruption", the natural-law-style justification for investment-backed tech companies destroying existing industries with maths, was at best bullshit and at worst fundamentally evil. It's a bit like putting on a new pair of glasses and suddenly seeing the world in focus. This teardown has a nice bit of backstory I didn't know. This concept of disruption has its roots in The Communist Manifesto, so who knows? The endless Uber-fication of everything might lead to a socialist world state! Or not. (Guardian)

How to Build a Three-Parent Family

I've often felt that the two-parent family unit, while it can work for some, is not always the best fit. We know "it takes a village", but the nuclear family is always the default. So I found this account of people attempting to separate romantic/sexual attraction from the long-term commitment to parenting, really interesting, especially legal three+ parent adoption. Massive caveat that story takes place in an area of San Francisco with an "alternative parenting community", but as someone who is "always the Uncle, never the Dad" it's a fascinating eyeopener.

How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read

I don't think I've read a whole book in years, but I've skimmed a fuck-tonne and I've never thought this to be a problem. I can't remember most of what I've read anyway. What I get from reading is less specific, more like a cloud of knowledge-stuff in my memory which illuminates and enriches my experience as I move through life. Fuelling that cloud does not necessarily involve reading books cover to cover. So this book (lol) about not reading books looks very interesting. If you don't want to read it (lol) this is a good summary. (Brain Pickings)

Video: American Desert: Breaking Bad & Punishment Park

Maggie May Fish is one of those video essayists who regularly hits it out of the park. She's also been my gateway to the work and ideas of filmmaker Peter Watkins who came up making dramas for the BBC back in the 60s when they incubated radical filmmakers (see also Alan Clarke) but he turned out to be a bit too radical and moved on. His big theory is that of the monoform, which Maggie deals with half way through her excellent Fight Club video. This essay compares Watkins' 1971 film Punishment Park with the tv show Breaking Bad, initially through their use of the American desert and then going much deeper into questions of power and authority. Oh, and she does all this while keeping it light, breezy and fun! (YouTube)

Links for Friday 18th September

Graph of Covid cases in Birmingham, from this analysis of testing data.

A psychoanalytic reading of social media and the death drive

Richard Seymour's The Twittering Machine has moved to the top of my to-read list thanks to this highly entertaining review, best summarised with this quote: "Rather than wondering ponderously if this is 'cancel culture' or whatever, we might ask ourselves: Why the fuck were all these people tweeting? What were they thinking? What were they hoping to accomplish? What was the cost-benefit analysis that led them to think continued participation in social media was a good idea?" (Bookforum)

The battle over dyslexia

I struggled with writing essays in school, barely scraping English GCSEs. Since school I've taught myself to write for zines and blogs using typewriters and computers. School being in the 80s, I was never diagnosed but usually say I'm probably a bit dyslexic, part of my bundle of Autistic traits. So I found this article about whether dyslexia even exists as a diagnosis really interesting, the implication being the teaching methods don't fit the student, rather than the student being "broken" in some way. Worth a read if this affects you. (Guardian)

How big oil misled the public into believing plastic would be recycled

It seems everyone in the waste industry knows most plastic can't be recycled, yet for some reason we assume it can be. Turns out the oil industry has been lobbying for and promoting pointless plastic recycling schemes to distract from the urgent need to reduce our plastic usage. A long and damning expose. (NPR)

It is unclear what rich people are for.

This is a sports article on a sports website about the ownership of a sports team. But the first paragraph is universal. One day our descendants will look back with bemusement at how we allowed a tiny minority of unqualified fools to become stupidly rich. (Defector)

When you browse Instagram and find former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's passport number.

We all kinda know you shouldn't post a photo of your boarding pass online because… reasons? This chap found Tony Abbott's pass and decided to see how much he could hack it. (Mango PDF Zone)

Paul Lansky – Mild und Leise (1973)

Came to my attention because Radiohead sampled a chord progression (45 seconds in) for the track Idioteque, this is a really nice piece of very early computer-generated music composed on an IBM mainframe around the time of my first birthday.

Links for Tuesday 15th September

Irregular collections of internet links for your enjoyment and edification.

The future is fungal: why the 'megascience' of mycology is on the rise

Fab interview with mycologist Merlin Sheldrake which also serves as a nice introduction to the joys and importance of fungus. (Guardian)


How Zeynep Tufekci Keeps Getting the Big Things Right

Tufekci was far ahead of the curve on all the social-tech issues I've been interested in over the years, so when she applied her brain to Covid I immediately paid attention. (NY Times)


The Truth Is Paywalled But The Lies Are Free

Highlighting the awkward fact that you might not be able to read some of the things I link to because of paywalls. I love the Guardian's approach where my subscription means everyone can read it. I was really sad when the Atlantic went paywall. (Current Affairs)


'Impossible Objects' That Reveal a Hidden Power

Trevor Paglan has a new artwork. I like his work – he's one of the few people making work about computational culture that hits the mark. (NY Times)


Michael Sandel: 'The populist backlash has been a revolt against the tyranny of merit'

I find the concept of "meritocracy" fascinating because it seems like a perfectly good thing, to be raised up by merit and hard work, while it disguises all manner of structural inequalities while placing the blame on individuals for not succeeding. This is a nice take-down which focusses on the emphasis given to individualism over collectivism by the left over the last few decades as part of the problem. (Guardian)


Living in a Conspiracy Nation

If you're not up to speed on how the USA is quickly losing the battle against conspiracy theories and reality-denial, this is a good refresher. It's getting scary over there. (Kottke)


Ogmios School of Zen Motoring Ep 3 – Streets Of Rage

Long overdue but very welcome continuation of the best dashcam series.

Photo at top: A laser scan of fungi living within plant roots, with the fungus rendered in red, and the plant in blue by Melvin Sheldrake.