Archive - 2012

From The Fountainhead to the Furries: Ten links for fans of Ayn Rand

I channel surfed upon a movie called Ayn Rand and The Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged this evening. Despite the kudos from Dennis Miller, it turns out that it isn’t very good. As usually happens when I’m in front of the TV, I ended up doing some research into the subject from the couch. This quickly led me down a “rabbit hole” of Objectivist weirdness.

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The End: A journey through America’s doomsday obsession

“The End” is a five-part series I wrote for The Verge documenting a diverse group of Americans connected by a common thread — each is here to warn us about the cataclysmic possibilities that the future holds. I was attracted to these people and their stories, as implausible as they might seem, because I think they say something about who we are and the times we live in.

Propaganda 2.0: why Israel and Hamas are fighting a war with rockets and tweets

As I write this, I notice Hamas’ claim that it has shelled “occupied” Tel Aviv. I hear this not from cable news or The New York Times, or from RT America, the Russian government backed twenty-four hour news network that I have streaming on the Roku across the room. Nor do I learn it from CNN, where Anderson Cooper is busting Sen. McCain’s balls for contesting Hillary Clinton’s possible replacement. No, I learn this from Twitter, which isn’t really worth giving much thought to — until you realize that this tweet comes not from a news outlet, but from Hamas. And another tweet, from the Israel Defense Forces, assures me that, in fact, the Hamas rocket never reached Tel Aviv — “#Hamas propaganda is constantly spreading misinformation,” apparently.

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See also: Realtime war: Israeli military liveblogs, tweets attack on Hamas

K-Pop takes America: how South Korea’s music machine is conquering the world

Walking into the DoubleTree Hotel in Irvine, California, the Verge team was greeted by representatives from K-Pop United, a world-wide fan organization. The Los Angeles chapter was apparently quite new, and the three reps (two young women and one young man) seemed really psyched to be there. They told us about the chapter in Las Vegas that holds some sort of big concert or parade or something every year, and about how they arranged to have one cancer stricken member come to Irvine to meet her favorite K-Pop star.

“We’re actually here to do a story on this,” I said.

“On K-Con?” The most vocal of the three asked. She was referring to the K-Pop fan convention being sponsored by Mnet America, a TV network devoted to Korean music and culture.

“Yeah.”

“What for?”

“The Verge,” I said, wondering if she’s heard of it.

“The Verge, cool,” she said. Then she cocked her head to the side, still smiling, and challenged me: “You’re not here to write about Psy, are you?”

I assured her we were not, and she seemed satisfied with the answer. I guess now I’m going to make a liar out of myself.

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Pittsburgh hostage drama plays out on Facebook

Around 8:15 AM, a twenty-something individual walked into CW Breitsman Associates, a benefits administration firm in downtown Pittsburgh. He asked to speak to the owner, Charles Breitsman. As they entered a private office and the door closed behind them, Breitsman told his daughter to call 911. The office soon cleared of everyone but the two men, and for almost six hours the city had a full-blown hostage situation on its hands.

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Matt Stroud, who co-wrote our recent piece on the Republican National Convention for The Verge, has just written a follow-up on the Democratic National Convention.

Read it now on The Verge

Close to the edge: a week on the fringes of the RNC

Co-written with Matt Stroud

In every direction, Jersey barriers: heavy concrete walls used for deflecting cars and, in this case, slowing down human mobs. Just shy of three feet tall and chipped uneven from having been hauled back and forth to various worksites over the years, they’re now being used to establish a perimeter, within which one might choose to legally go and protest the Republican National Convention. In contrast to the rest of the city, which has been swept clean and done up in red, white, and blue in anticipation of the cash influx this event is supposed to provide, the lot we’re in now is a dusty, hot, and muggy mess, a good twenty minutes’ march from anyone of importance. There is no shade, and we’re feeling it — but not nearly as much as the sixty cops in riot gear who just marched into the box. There are also a half dozen protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church. Their signs bear legends like: “Too Late To Pray,” “Ye are of your father the devil,” and of course “God Hates Fags.” One sign features a picture of an Anonymous / Guy Fawkes mask in crosshairs.

We are in a tucked-away industrial expanse, sweating our asses off, while a couple hundred Anarchist and Occupy protesters dance provocatively and scream at the “God Hates Fags” creeps, to no real effect. This is definitely not the tightly scripted and “on message” Republican National Convention that we expected when we flew to Tampa.

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Beyond lies the wub: a history of dubstep

The atmosphere of Belvedere’s, a dive bar on Butler Street in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood — with its stage and pool tables and little in the way of ambiance — was completely transformed by the bass. It reminded me of a water jet cutter. Taking water and streaming it at such a high rate that it could slice into steel and marble? Genius. In the same way, the sound system was taking these records that, all together might not add up to much — a drum pattern and a bassline, some sound effects — and pushing them out at such a volume as to consume all the empty space in the room. I imagined that it might be transforming the molecules in the very air that surrounded me.

Under the right conditions, this is dubstep. The product of a handful of DJs and producers driven to forge a new sound, it is comprised of elements familiar to the London underground — drum and bass, two-step garage, hip-hop, for starters — yet it is still somehow very exciting, very different. Initially the sole province of tiny clubs and pirate radio stations, the last few years have seen a radical evolution of this mutant dance music genre, spurred on every bit as much by the internet as by the devotion of its fans.

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“Beyond lies the wub” dubstep mix

Soundtrack to a story I wrote called “Beyond lies the wub: the strange history of dubstep.”

  • Super Sharp Shooter White Label (1999)
  • Oxide and Neutrino: Bound 4 Da Reload (Casualty). EastWest (1999)
  • E.S Dubs: Standard Hoodlum Issue (Zed Bias Mix 1). Social Circles (1999)
  • Horsepower Productions: Gorgon Sound. Tempa (2000)
  • Skream: Midnight Request Line. Tempa (2005)
  • P. Dutty and Pinch: War Dub. Tectonic (2005)
  • Pinch: Qawwali. Planet Mu (2006)
  • Benga: 26 Basslines. Tempa (2008)
  • Chase & Status: Eastern Jam. RAM Records (2008)
  • Snoop Dogg: Snoop Dogg Millionaire. Terrorhythm Recordings (2009)
  • Skrillex and The Doors: Breakn’ A Sweat. Big Beat (2011)
  • Joker & Ginz: Purple City. Kapsize (2009)
  • Rusko: Cockney Thug. Sub Soldiers (2009)
  • Genetix: Hangin’. Z Audio (2010)
  • Dieselboy, Mark Instinct, Bare: Murder Machine. Subhuman (2011)
  • Bare: Enemies. Subhuman (2012)
  • Flux Pavilion: Daydreamer (Extended version). Warner Music UK Ltd. (2012)

When animals attract: Inside Anthrocon, the Furry utopia

If you’ve been mercifully cut off from the more absurd aspects of internet culture since, well, the dawn of the world wide web, you might wonder what Anthrocon is exactly. First, you have to be acquainted with furry fandom. A “furry,” in their lingo, is an anthropomorphic animal: Bugs Bunny, for example. He contains the characteristics of a rabbit — the tail, the ears, the buck teeth — as well as those of a human. He walks upright, and he presumably has vocal cords that allow him to speak English. Kids love this shit. And sometimes kids grow into adults that love this shit, as well. And some of them don’t just love the funny animals, as they’re known. They want to become funny animals, and they purchase several-thousand-dollar fursuits to make their transformation into an anthropomorphic beast feel a little more real. These people, the fans of funny half-human / half-animals who spend so much time buying comics, creating artwork, and developing full-scale animal personas, or “fursonas,” are known as furries. Their biggest in real life meet and greet is Anthrocon, which takes place annually in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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