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an aural noise

word salad: Dara is a project created by Gregory Berlov (Russia), also known as an organizer of several music festivals in the art camp Meduza on the Black Sea coast. The music of Berezhno is an excellent blend of Slavic melodies and electronic rhythms of groovy drum-n-bass, lively trip-hop, and enchanting ambient soundscapes. In his music, Gregory experiments a lot in mixing genres and in sound design production. He also created a recording studio called Hitin in which Gregory records guest vocals and ethnic music artists.

The tracks of Berezhno are made based on improvised live music sessions recorded in Bali (Indonesia) and in Meduza art camp (Abrau Peninsula, Russia), and therefore the tracks sound as if performed live. Gregory says that the album is a call to stay true to one’s roots. The music of Berezhno invites listeners to immerse into the culture of their ancestors, listen to ancient whispers, gain the wisdom of all people and tribes unity.

Turn on Berezhno by Dara and Microcosmos Records, and feel the vibe of high-energy drum-n-bass blended with native Slavic ethnical music.

some of the things I read in antisocial isolation

Star Forts Are Military History, and the Base of Some Strange Conspiracy Theories

Examining why these ubiquitous, obsolete fortifications carry an air of mystery.

A 17th-century engraving depicts a star fort coming under siege. Embiggenable.

ON AN UNSEASONABLY COLD DAY in late March, I took a nearly empty ferry to Governor’s Island in New York Harbor. The sun was shining, but a brutal, frigid wind meant it was hardly a day for a picnic, a popular reason to visit the island in the summer. I disembarked onto a nearly deserted island, one that would have been utterly quiet if not for the near-constant sound of private helicopters taking off from and landing on the lower tip of Manhattan. I was there to see the star-shaped Fort Jay, a coastal defense built between 1794 and 1806, one of a series of fortifications that once protected the city and its harbor, and recently recast as a historic monument and spot for summer recreation. It’s notable for its striking structure—a kind of five-pointed star, a shape that has led to its inclusion in a strange conspiracy theory about the nature of the past and humanity itself.

The evolution of European-style fortresses from square with rounded turrets at the corners to pointed bastions like the ones on Fort Jay was a result of simple geometry and technological progress. While the traditional structures could easily be defended by archers, those same turrets created blind spots for cannons, which could not be maneuvered as easily or fired directly downward from the top of a battlement. The pointed bastions solved this problem by eliminating blind spots: Cannons could be placed at the wide end of a bastion, and pointed down along the long line of the adjacent walls to defend against armies attacking from any direction.

I first began thinking seriously about bastion forts after reading W.G. Sebald’s final novel, Austerlitz (you’re welcome). The book centers around the eponymous architecture critic, Jacques Austerlitz, who explains to the protagonist early on that “it is often our mightiest projects that most obviously betray the degree of our insecurity.” Describing the evolution of bastion forts throughout Europe, Austerlitz describes how they betray a “fundamentally wrong-headed idea: the notion that by designing an ideal trace with blunt bastions and ravelins projecting well beyond it, allowing the cannon of the fortress to cover the entire operational area outside the walls, you could make a city as secure as anything in the world can ever be.”

Like many historic defense structures, Fort Jay is now obsolete, sitting on an island more popular as a picnic destination.

“No one today,” he continues, “has the faintest idea of the boundless amount of theoretical writings on the building of fortifications, of the fantastical nature of the geometric, trigonometric, and logistical calculations they record, of the inflated excesses of the professional vocabulary of fortification and siegecraft, no one now understands its simplest terms, escarpe and courtine, faussebraie, réduit, and glacis, yet even from our present standpoint we can see that towards the end of the seventeenth century the star-shaped dodecagon behind trenches had finally crystallized, out of the various available systems, as the preferred ground plan.” Fort Jay has only five points—a much-simplified version of the plan Austerlitz describes—but Fort Wood, just across the harbor on what was then called Beldoe’s Island, has a full 11 points. It was completed around the same time as Fort Jay, but it has since been converted into the base of the Statue of Liberty.

In the age of cancel culture, shaming can be healthy for online communities – a political scientist explains when and how

Public shaming can help uphold online community norms.

“Cancel culture” has a bad reputation. There is growing anxiety over this practice of publicly shaming people online for violating social norms ranging from inappropriate jokes to controversial business practices.

Online shaming can be a wildly disproportionate response that violates the privacy of the shamed while offering them no good way to defend themselves. These consequences lead some critics to claim that online shaming creates a “hate storm” that destroys lives and reputations, leaves targets with “permanent digital baggage” and threatens the fundamental right to publicly express yourself in a democracy. As a result, some scholars have declared that online shaming is a “moral wrong and social ill.”

But is online public shaming necessarily negative? I’m a political scientist who studies the relationship between digital technologies and democracy. In my research, I show how public shaming can be a valuable tool for democratic accountability. However, it is more likely to provide these positive effects within a clearly defined community whose members have many overlapping connections.

When shaming helps

Public shaming is a “horizontal” form of social sanctioning, in which people hold one another responsible for violating social norms, rather than appealing to higher authorities to do so. This makes it especially useful in democratic societies, as well as in cases where the shamers face power imbalances or lack access to formal authorities that could hold the shamed accountable.

Explaining the Republican Party’s Popularity as Simply as I Can

Manufacturing disillusionment, exploiting racism.

Progressives have been struggling to understand the unwavering support for Donald Trump ever since his election in 2016, but Trump is just the most glaring example of the Republican party’s puzzling popularity among white working class voters.

The Democratic party has long considered itself to be the party of the working class, due to its consistent support for labor unions and pro-labor policies. The Republican party has consistently undercut unions, from Reagan firing air traffic controllers on strike to the spread of “Right to Work” legislation in Republican-controlled states. Democratic leaders can’t understand, then, why so many working class voters have shifted toward Republicans in the past eight or so years, knee-capping the Obama coalition that seemed to promise many more electoral victories.

It’s not that complicated. Republicans made themselves the anti-government party and then destroyed faith in government. While doing so, they exploited the underlying racism of American society.

Economics don’t explain the working class Republican vote
Liberals tend to explain the shift of white working class voters through economics or “kitchen table issues.” After Trump’s election, journalists, pundits, and progressives thought that the white working class voted for Trump because of neo-liberal policies. Free trade fueled globalization and the off-shoring of blue collar manufacturing jobs. The working class voted for the change promised by Obama, but Obama didn’t deliver. So, they turned to the outsider Trump to get things done for them.

Yet Republican presidents have a terrible record on the economy.

5 Deaths That Make You Say, ‘Well, He Was Asking For It’

Here’s the story of a trophy hunter who got crushed to death by a dead elephant

When someone brings about their own downfall, people sometimes say they were hoisted by their own petard. We avoid using that expression ourselves because what exactly is a “petard” anyway? That sounds like a fancy name for a butt.

If you’re curious, a petard was a type of bomb dating to 16th-century France. So, if someone’s hoisted by their own petard, that means they blew themselves sky-high with their own bomb. Also, the word petard is derived from the French word for farting, so we weren’t so wrong in thinking the phrase was all about butts. Some people, in dying, really do hoist themselves by their own petards. Basically, they fart themselves to death.

5. The YouTube Demonstration of How Bullets Can’t Go Through Books

Monalisa Perez had a YouTube channel, where she did what the channel called “pranks.” Like so many prank channels, these weren’t pranks; they were scripted gags, and the butt of the gag was generally channel co-host Pedro Ruiz, her boyfriend. In time, Ruiz’s ambitions grew, and in 2017, he asked Perez to help him launch his own channel. The first video would consist of her shooting him with a Desert Eagle from an arm’s length away. It’d be fine, he figured, because he’d hold a hardcover book up to shield himself.

You won’t be shocked to learn the full video of what followed is no longer available, but we do have footage of the first part of the stunt:

The full video showed Perez expressing reluctance to go through with it all. This, along with Ruiz’s own recorded instructions, convinced authorities not to charge her with murder for shooting this man to death on camera. She did plea to second-degree manslaughter for the accidental killing. As for Ruiz, he will sadly never get to fulfill the promise he made with some of his last words: “Every week, I’m gonna be bringing you guys new videos!”

No birdsong, no water in the creek, no beating wings: how a haven for nature fell silent

As the soundscape of the natural world began to disappear over 30 years, one man was listening and recording it all
Read more: World faces ‘deathly silence’ of nature as wildlife disappears, warn experts

Sugarloaf Ridge state park in Sonoma county, California, where Bernie Krause began recording nature more than 30 years ago. Embiggenable.

The tale starts 30 years ago, when Bernie Krause made his first audio clip in Sugarloaf Ridge state park, 20 minutes’ drive from his house near San Francisco. He chose a spot near an old bigleaf maple. Many people loved this place: there was a creek and a scattering of picnic benches nearby.

As a soundscape recordist, Krause had travelled around the world listening to the planet. But in 1993 he turned his attention to what was happening on his doorstep. In his first recording, a stream of chortles, peeps and squeaks erupt from the animals that lived in the rich, scrubby habitat. His sensitive microphones captured the sounds of the creek, creatures rustling through undergrowth, and the songs of the spotted towhee, orange-crowned warbler, house wren and mourning dove.

Back then, Krause never thought of this as a form of data-gathering. He began recording ecosystem sounds simply because he found them beautiful and relaxing. Krause has ADHD and found no medication would work: “The only thing that relieved the anxiety was being out there and just listening to the soundscapes,” he says.

Bernie Krause ‘out there and listening to the soundscapes’ in Sugarloaf Ridge state park.

Krause began recording natural environments because the sounds helped his ADHD symptoms.

Inadvertently, he had begun to gather a rich trove of data. Over the next three decades he would return each April to the spot at the bigleaf maple, set his recorder down and wait to hear what it would reveal.

But in April last year, Krause played back his recording and was greeted with something he had not heard before: total silence. The recorder had run for its usual hour, but picked up no birdsong, no rush of water over stones, no beating wings. “I’ve got an hour of material with nothing, at the high point of spring,” says Krause. “What’s happening here is just a small indication of what’s happening almost everywhere on an even larger scale.”

CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

Here’s me commentary on that mint footage from National Geographic, as part of a penguin doco coming in 2025 they reckon.

Today Maru&Hana sleep in sync. And Miri meows, wanting to get into my pocket as soon as possible.

Ed. 今日、マル&ハナは同期して眠ります。 そして、ミリは、できるだけ早く私のポケットに入りたいと思っています。


‘Eat the future, pay with your face’: my dystopian trip to an AI burger joint

If the experience of robot-served fast-food dining is any indication, the future of sex robots is going to be very unpleasant.

Flippy, a robot with the ability to cook burgers and fries. Embiggenable.

On 1 April, the same day California’s new $20 hourly minimum wage for fast-food workers went into effect, a new restaurant opened in north-east Los Angeles that was conspicuously light on human staff.

CaliExpress by Flippy claims to be the world’s first fully autonomous restaurant, using a system of AI-powered robots to churn out fast-food burgers and fries. A small number of humans are still required to push the buttons on the machines and assemble the burgers and toppings, but the companies involved tout that using their technology could cut labor costs, perhaps dramatically. “Eat the future,” they offer.

I visited CaliExpress last week to find out what an all-American lunch served with a side of existential dread tastes like. When I entered the restaurant, located near Caltech university in Pasadena, I was greeted with giant posters advertising the “frying AI robot marvel”, but few actual customers. Most of the people inside were other journalists. A television crew hovered over the grill machine.

The space was decorated with early prototypes of robot arms, as well as a riff on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, with a human hand reaching out not to the hand of God, but to a robot claw holding french fries.

I placed my order at a self-serve screen, where my robot-made cheeseburger and fries cost $15 plus tax. A sign urged me to “pay with my face”, offering me $10 to enroll with a company called PopID to link my face to my credit or debit card. “Pay with just a smile!” it urged. I did not.

Ed. More tomorrow? Possibly. Probably. Maybe. Likely, if I find nothing more barely uninteresting at all to do.

Ed., etc. I didn’t have time to do this today.


Assimilation Complete