Presented without further comment: The CIA’s “Timeless Tips for ‘Simple Sabotage'”

Fun

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[source: Timeless Tips for ‘Simple Sabotage’ — Central Intelligence Agency]

FUN BONUS EXERCISE: Read this whole thing, and ask yourself:

Is this more plausible as a CIA guide for resistors trying to drag down fascists in foreign nations, or as a plot to nudge patriotic Americans into suspecting organized labor and broad progressive social movements of actually being enemy saboteurs? 

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#LadyLiberty’sTourchIsAGaslight

F&SF Interviews Dave-o about Witches, Guns, Lawyers, Ohio Militias, etc.

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction interviewed me about my latest horror story, “Whatever Comes After Calcutta.”F&SFNov-Dec2017small

…when I go to sum up the story in a Big Picture way, I end up saying the same thing that I said about that election:

I totally hear where folks—angry, aggrieved, not-gonna-take-it-anymore folks—are coming from, because I totally agree with them:  They are getting screwed.  We just totally disagree on who is screwing them, or what is a sensible way to address that.

This story is about that, in a fundamental way.

I also tell an anecdote about seeing a homeless guy get ejected from a Coney in the mid-1990s, and make mention of Michigan trespassing laws, the sovereign citizen movement, my neighbors from Chennai, and Dave-o’s patented “magpie and junk drawer” speculative-fiction drafting strategy.

The Nov/Dec issue of F&SF is still on newsstands—but only for a few more days. Nab your copy soon!

RECOMMENDED READ: “Angel, Monster, Man” (with props to @sentencebender and @nightmaremag)

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like this (and the audio version—also free on the Nightmare Magazine website—is really good).  

Nominally a horror story, Sam J. Miller’s “Angel, Monster, Man” is, in fact, a really interesting piece of speculative fiction.  Gets me thinking about how frequently fiction that speculates on a disenfranchised group getting power gets slotted into “horror”—and once you start thinking that way, all horror starts to look like a liberation fantasy as seen through the establishment’s eyes: Is Night of the Living Dead more about zombies, or more about the terror experienced by rural whites and the patriarchy when confronted with a competent black man? Is The Exorcist about demon possession or the threat of women’s liberation (see also, Carrie)?  Is Psycho about a “psycho” or about the terrifying prospect of homosexuals no longer shackled by shame/guilt?

Looking for Something to Call Your Reps About? May I suggest Mick Mulvaney?🇺🇸📞

Long story short: Mulvaney the current head of the Office of Management and Budget, and last week the President also made him acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  This is a little odd, since Mulvaney is on the record calling the agency a “joke” that he’d eliminate—but that’s all just talk.  What’s fundamentally rotten is that Mulvaney received roughly half a million dollars in donations from financial organizations that have been fined muy mucho dinero by the CFPB.

I’m not casting aspersions on Mulvaney or claiming he’s done—or would do—anything wrong; I’m sure he’s a great guy, and plausibly has many good ideas that make him highly qualified to filly two essential 120-hour/week gov’t positions.  But just as a thought experiment, say you had a kid in day care, and that day care hired someone who seemed like a fine pick and totally passed the criminal background check, but had also accepted millions of dollars from a group of notorious and powerful pedophiles.  Would this cause you concern?

Anyway, please take a minute and call your reps, and explain that you think there is maybe a moral hazard here.

*Record Scratch* *Freeze Frame* Yup, that's me; you're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation. Lemme tell ya; it all started…
*Record Scratch*
*Freeze Frame*
Yup, that’s me; you’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation. Lemme tell ya; it all started…

“Of Archival Interest Only” (on artists who behave despicably)—UPDATED

I normally would have skipped this (“Vulture—Louis CK Is Done”), because I don’t particularly care for Louis C.K.’s work one way or the other.  But do yourself a favor and give this article read; it’s bigger than this moment, and starts to get its arms around something that we finally need to wrestle down:

When disturbing stories about respected artists come from the distant past, we treat them dispassionately, as just one detail among many. Present tense or near-present tense revelations hit us differently because we share the same world as the artist, breathe the same air, feed the same economy. We think of them as contemporaries, even as people we know. This kind of revelation changes the relationship between the artist and the art, in a way that places an unasked-for, unfair burden on the audience. This is what’s happening culture-wide. And it’s not the fault of people who didn’t report it, or audiences who aren’t sophisticated enough to separate the art from the artist. It’s the fault of the artists for being secret creeps or criminals, and the fault of the system for making it possible for them to act this way for years without being punished.

UPDATE:If you’re the sort of person who uses storytelling to help them understand the world, then this horror story might maybe help you understand Louis CK right now: “Hello, Handsome

How Samsung, Disney, and You Bankrolled North Korea’s Nuclear Program

If you’ve been wondering how North Korea (a nation of 26 million people with 7x the population and ~1/10th the GDP of the Detroit Metro Area) paid for a very fast-moving nuclear and ballistic missile program—SPOILER ALERT!: You paid for it, asshole.

Episode 800: North Korea’s Capitalists

see also:  “We Have Entered the Zone of Maximum Mayhem

The Last Selvedge Denim Mill in the U.S. is Closing #America

The Cone Mills plant in Greensboro, N.C. has been continuously weaving denim since 1905, and is currently the only U.S. plant producing selvedge denim.  They’re calling it quits at the end of this year.

Selvedge” is a specific style of denim produced in broad strips on relatively narrow shuttle looms using a continuous weft such that the edge is automatically finished—i.e., it produces a “self-edged” bolt of fabric that won’t unravel (if you’re looking at denim and the edge of the seam is white with a single thread of color—often red—then you’re looking at selvedge denim).  Because it’s produced in narrower strips on shuttle looms (and usually with un-dyed weft), the fabric has certain characteristics in how it breaks in and ages, both in terms of fit and coloration.  Some folks dig these.  Other folks just dig putting their money where their mouth is, in terms of “Buying American.”  I kinda like to do both, so I’m kinda bummed that Cone Mills is rolling up.  Certainly the generations of weavers in Greensboro are bummed.

By the end of this year, you’ll only be able to get this prototypically American fabric from Japan.  That’s still great selvedge (hell, it’s made on American machines: Japan bought them up in the 1980s when Levi’s et al. made the shift to larger looms), but it’s a bummer that this once uniquely American product is going extinct.

The only upside:  When you see some Stars-and-Bars waving asshole in blue jeans popping off about “foreign manufacturing” next year, you’ll know he’s wearing jeans from Vietnam, and thus can go fuck himself. He didn’t put his money where his mouth was, and subsequently American selvedge denim died.  That’s how economies work. Way to “Make America Great Again,” bro.

Anyway, if you’ve been thinking about getting into high-quality American-made denim, it’s sorta now or never.  Brave Star is my go-to company on this: Incredibly reasonable prices given the quality, nice cuts, excellent craftsmanship, solid customer service, 100% American made: The denim is from N.C., the hardware from KY, the cutting and sewing in California.

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This is a Kinda Rapey Application of Steve Shaw’s “Psychokinetic Touches”

OK, at first blush, this seems like nothing more than a mildly sexist—but still basically harmless—”invisible touches” routine: Magician has a volunteer stand with her eyes closed as she pays super-duper sensitive attention to any physical contact she might perceive.  He then steps well away—way, way too far to have any direct or indirect (e.g., creating a draft, blowing on her, tickling her with threads) contact.  As witnesses watch (confirming that Magician never makes contact), he is able to make the subject believe she’s been touched (in this case, that her boobs have been squeezed)—simply by the power of his psychical abilities!

Tada!

(Here’s another vid of the same dude.  Note that he puts in our heads the notion of an unambiguous boob squeeze, but that his volunteers consistently describe a tap high on the chest.  That gap—between his implication that he’s honking their boobs contrasted to the women’s implication that this is more of a light tap—is the tell.)

Yes, this dude is a creep, and his impinging on women’s time and space and totally leveraging huge cultural forces that oblige them to smile through bullshit like this.

But it’s still basically harmless, right?  I mean, he isn’t actually touching their boobs while they are defenseless and non-consenting, right?  It’s just a trick.

Accept for the thing is, he is for real and with his actual physical flesh-and-blood hands, touching these women’s breasts without their prior consent, and only getting away with it because he’s manipulating the situation owing to an information (and thus power) imbalance.  And, in a move that’s both cheap from a magic performance perspective and indicative of a guilty conscious on the part of an assailant, he mostly cuts from the video the part where he does the touching.

Because he is indeed a fucking creep of the first degree.

Psychokinetic Touches Background

Back in the mid-1990s a guy named Steve Shaw was selling an effect called “Psychokinetic Touches.”  Shaw himself is a really, really interesting guy (as is the pre-Internet—and even current—market in cheaply printed pro-grade performance techniques like these).  Shaw he designed Penn & Teller’s famous bullet catch, although I myself first got wind of him in the 1980s, when I was a kid and he was a teen working with James Randi to fool some ESP researchers; Shaw caught my imagination then because of how straightforward and cunning his techniques were.

None of that is really germane, accept for the fact that if you maybe spend some time googling “Steve Shaw” and “Psychokinetic Touches”, you’ll dig up a blurry PDF of the old comb-bound booklet explaining his technique (which is marked by the straightforward cunning of Shaw’s work).  If you do so, you’ll note that in the introduction to that work Shaw explains his inspiration: a routine from the early 1900s that is the totally obvious inspiration for the YouTube creepers stunt.

I.e., not only is dude a creepy perv, but he’s also an unoriginal creepy perv.  *sighs*

(I myself got acquainted with Shaw’s PK Touches after seeing this bit on Penn & Teller’s Fool Us, which is basically 100% textbook Shaw, and an overall better effect and performance.)

At any rate, here’s an overview of Shaw’s “Psychokinetic Touches” routine:

Effect

The performer selects a volunteer from the audience, and explains that blah-blah psychic blah-blah ghosts blah-blah From Beyond—and for that reason, he is able to physically touch a receptive individual with nothing more than his mind.  He then makes some gestures to “clear the volunteer’s aura” (or whatever) and steps far away.  Now, standing much too far away to conceivably physical reach the volunteer, and in full view of an audience (who can be surrounding the pair on all sides), the performer makes his cooky touch-touch gestures—and low and behold!, the astonished volunteer can confirm that she has been touched(!!!)

Technique

I won’t spoil the whole thing, but SPOILER ALERT!!! [1]: Dude is not a psychic or ghost wrangler or whatever.  Here’s the basic schtick:  The performer gives his little spiel, then has the volunteer close her eyes.  At this stage he explains a few more things—reminding her to be “psychically receptive” and super attentive to even the lightest contact.  He shuts up, does his little “aura cleansing,” and steps away to do his mambo-jahambo magical passes and psychic touching, singling out certain parts of the body (the right shoulder, the left elbow—whatever).  N.B.  Everything he’s done since advising her to be super attentive and receptive has happened in absolute silence.  The next time he speaks is to ask “Have you felt any contact?”  He than has her indicate where that contact was on her body.  Lo and behold, she reports being touched in all the right places.  OMFG!  How did he do it?!  And here comes the spoiler:

HE TOUCHED HER DURING THE “AURA CLEANING.”

From the audience’s perspective, this isn’t part of the trick yet, so they are not being super diligent; he has an easy pass to brush her gently.  But remember, he’s fallen silent and the volunteer’s eyes are closed: She has no frame of reference for what’s going on, and thus from her perspective everything from when he stops talking on is part of the trick.  Her perceptions are temporally out-of-synch with the audiences’, and they have no easy way to rectify that, even after the fact.

Here is a more benign version of PK Touches, and the tell is more obvious. Watch carefully at 1:55: when the performer waves his left hand in front of her face, he surreptitiously taps the back of her left shoulder with his right hand.  This is largely obscured owing to how he’s positioned the volunteer relative to the audience and cameras—blocking Shaw suggests in his PK Touches.  The waving-arms misdirect is also straight out of Shaw’s PK Touch.  (Peter Boie uses Shaw’s exact stage business at 3:13 in the Penn & Teller video I linked up above.)  Once you know what to look for, it’s pretty easy to spot the Creep-o-Perv Magician moving into the “magic passes”(/secret boobie poke) portion of his routine around the 0:34 mark in the video embedded above, when he squares up the girl’s shoulders.

Bad Touches and Bad Jokes

And I’m gonna come correct right here: I don’t know what annoys me more:  A skeevy dude using a decades-old store-bought routine to non-consensually poke girls’ in the bust, or the fact that he has so little respect for his craft that he resorts to cheap “camera tricks” to pull it off.

Naw, I take it back:  What annoys me most is using a third-rate performance of a first-rate effect to make a jokey pantomime of sexual assault in order to cover up the actual sexual assault you just perpetrated, ’cause it so clearly gets to the heart of what enrages me about the “Lighten up; it’s just a joke!” attitude toward minimizing the crazy-making reality of microagressions:  The problem isn’t the stupid joke, but the very real assaults the jokes conceal.

Continue reading “This is a Kinda Rapey Application of Steve Shaw’s “Psychokinetic Touches””

“Smart” Guns Aren’t

This is a really fascinating video for anyone interested in the emergent complexities (and edge/corner-case failures) that inevitably arise when folks start fixing social problem with technology.  It’s absolutely mandatory viewing for anyone who thinks they have a “simple” gun-control/gun-safety solution, especially one that involves “smart gun technology” (SPOILER ALERT: such solutions are not solutions at all).

Just as an aside, it seems a little over-cautious for WIRED to call these “potentially dangerous flaws” in the gun’s design:  The gun can be fired by an unauthorized person in possession of the firearm (using magnets available at any hardware store), and it can also be disabled at a distance by an attacker with some minor soldering skills.  Both of these hacks require very little skill (and not even all that much money) to execute now that the flaw is known.  As such, the gun fails at both things it’s supposed to do (i.e., work in an an emergency and prevent unauthorized folks from making it work).  The existence of these flaws guarantees that large agencies (military, law enforcement, etc.) will never use these unreliable solutions, and thus the price won’t come down due to economies of scale. 

This smart gun is, at best, a novelty—and there is no reason to believe that any of the other early generation technologies will be any better until there is a fundamental change in how these are designed and engineered (e.g., the design needs to be open and companies need to start offering very high bounties for finding hacks, so that guys like the fella in the video have an incentive to buy these things as soon as they hit the market and start tearing them down).