Snow & Zuck

There’s a WebCam
Hidden in the Toilet

Edward Snowden and Mark Zuckerberg shared a week in the headlines. The whistleblower who exposed the National Security Agency’s dirty secrets has a memoir out. And the Facebook’s inventor was caught on tape expressing fears of a future of greater scrutiny and accountability.
Apart from that, their notoriety, and the fact they were born within a year of each other, they’ve got little in common. One, whose daring act cost him his freedom, is an example of moral clarity, while the other embodies the very disregard for principles driving the ownership class.
The fate of their parallel lives, however, is an imperfect but still fitting metaphor for these times: follow your conscience and face exile and the hounds of the establishment. Use your privilege to generate wealth and soon you’ll get to rub elbows with the rich and the powerful.
Snowden‘s ‘Permanent Record,’ rather than boasting his ‘good guy’ image, as a slayer of sinister state-surveillance agencies, zeroes in on the fractured and the personal. It’s a humble account of surviving the pushback while still honoring ethical and private choices.
The leaked audio of Zuckerberg‘s raging about presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, throws a glare on his shrewd political calculations. As in the 2016 elections, he’s prepping his social media mammoth to play again the role of king’s maker.

TWO WHO REWROTE OUR TIMES
Six years ago this November, they were the focus of a Colltales’ Curtain Raiser, an excerpt of which is adapted and reposted below. To many, Snowden’s woes have somehow anticipated our current reality, where a U.S. president uses the government to go after his political enemies.
Or that Facebook, which Zuck started in 2004 – a decade before the NSA scandal broke – would go on to become more powerful than many nations. After all, free, non-regulated access to private citizen’s data is now as common as using cellphones to track people down.
As in 2014, they’re still frozen together in amber: Snowden in the White House’s hit list, unlikely to receive a fair trial if he ever comes back from Russia to fight for his rights; and Zuckerberg, who along the top 0.01% of the population, controls 80% of all the planet’s resources.

CHANGE THE WORLD OR MAKE A BUCK
‘The Big Brother age has produced its first titans whose duality mirrors the ambiguity and radical change of the way we live now. Born within a year of each other, Snow and Zuck have perhaps unwittingly, defined the times: a reboot of government accountability, or our downgrade to a totalitarian society.
They made their choices and so will we. Zuck’s created FB with one thought on his mind, besides getting dates: get rich. He achieved that by eliminating early collaborators and potential competitors, and swiftly establishing his wraparound, impenetrable hold of a niche market.
He succeeded beyond his most outlandish visions of power by conceiving and enforcing the tenet of his business model: the complete eradication of any notion of personal privacy, except his, and (more)
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Read Also:
* Memberships
* Call Upon You
* Middle Brother

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Nasty People

From Theophrastus to Tyrants & 
Killers, Bad Guys Never Thank Us

On Liberation Day, some Italians chose to praise Mussolini, rather than 74 years without Fascism. It was on those heady days that Eva Braun married and commit suicide with his mentor, Hitler. Even serial killer Ted Bundy had a wife who bored him a child. So what gives?
In ‘Characters,’ Aristotle’s disciple Tyrtamus reveals the appeal of toxic, narcissistic personalities. Although none is a murderer, they and their modern versions are still despicable to most of us. Yet, some long to marry them. Or make them president.
Many ways may frame this line of questioning. One is to explain it with allusions to our thirsty for power, and blood. Another is down the hall, at the corner office, where it says,’Psychology.’ Skip ‘love,’ ‘Masochism,’ and ‘bad luck,’ and pick an inconvenient one: us.
See, none of those monsters would’ve existed if they were not needed. Nature use predators for dirty jobs. Bullies may arguably serve to sharpen our defenses. Nasty people sit at the edge of what’s morally acceptable, and challenge the pious to break the mold. Some do.
Now, humans are given this precious little gift, free will, supposedly to help everyone find their bearings in the great bal masqué of life. There’s much colliding on that dance floor, plenty of jockeying for a better share of the pie, or bite on the carrion.
To become a prey, though, is rarely a choice, and history is littered with doomed attempts to escape the fangs of fate, ready to chew up the juicy meek with a final blow. One the other hand, if the music stops, there’s no need to be a nimble dancer and exit left. Quickly.

GARDEN VARIETY BADIES & THE NEXT OF KIN
In the underworld of repulsive news, psychopaths and bottom feeders are always on the move. Take ‘Pharma bro’ Martin Shkreli, who’s a convicted felon, but not for his most disgusting deed, getting rich while overcharging a vital drug. To the law, securities fraud is worst.
Apparently, he was at it again this week, running a scheme from behind bars. He is unlikely to have the company of any member of the Sackler family, who made billions by selling a drug linked to thousands of deaths by overdose. Unless, of course, they defraud some rich dudes.
And yet one can be almost sure these people have ‘loved ones,’ (more)
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Read Also:
* Out to Get You
* Head & Tails
* Forget Me Not

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Robbers Like Us

The (Bad) Cons That Men Do
& One Hell of a Clever Woman

They say what creates a thief is opportunity. But most con men would beg to differ. If you let a seasoned pro tell you what it takes to be a successful robber, soon he’ll sound like a piano virtuoso, an operatic tenor, a commanding maestro. Better keep an eye on your wallet.
In reality, for every Ronald Biggs, who, along with 14 others, stole from a train almost $70 million in today’s dollars in 1963, and spent the best of his life in Rio, there are a hundred Andrew Toothmans, who broke into a Kentucky store and came out naked, covered in peanut butter.
And for every Parachute Jumper, the unknown daredevil who jumped off a night flight over the frigid wilderness of the Pacific Northwest in 1971, with a cool $200 thousand in his pocket, there are hundreds of João Pedro dos Santos, who tried to open a banking account in Brazil using an ID on his name with a picture of actor Jack Nicholson.
But there are very few Sarah Jane Cochrane-Ramseys out there (and down under), we’re sure. The Australian woman became an instant legend, managing to turn the tables in the well-known brotherhood of Nigerian scammers, by swindling one out of $30,000.
Fact is, in all crafts, there are highly-skillful artists and ridiculously inept blunderers who’d do everybody a favor switching professions. Point taken. But if you resort at robbing people for a living, but keep failing at it so spectacularly, a simple change of trade may not be enough to get you anywhere.
It’s another story for those who succeed. Even when they’ve never heard of Victor Lustig and his 10 Commandments for Con Artists, those are the ones who show a particular streak of sociopathology as to make them both Continue reading

Ways to Go

Freeze it or Reconstruct the Face:
Dressing Dead Bodies With Fungi

The death of Robert Ettinger, founder of cryonics, and Frank Bender, forensic sculptor extraordinaire, within a few days of each other last week, somehow encapsulates two radically different views of our longing for permanence far beyond our natural expiration dates.
Their obits also extrapolate two curious takes on how we should dispose our earthly remains, when that date does come: put a speed on the organic matter that will feed on the body, or simply burn it and stuff its ashes in lethal bullets. Your choice.
THE BIG (COLD) SLEEP
Ettinger, who died on July 23 at 92, a physics teacher, lived his life as a scientist and sci-fi writer. But with his 1962 book, The Prospect of Immortality, he laid down the basic tenets of cryonics, the radical concept of freezing the body after death, so it can be revived by yet unknown medical techniques of the future.
He went on to found and lead the Cryonics Institute and the Immortalist Society, and became the movement’s most visible figure. That did not prevent his ideas, and the ethical debate over the procedures to make it all possible, from taking a life of their own, completely independent from him, and mostly close to public derision.
His scientific training may have been instrumental in insulating him to it Continue reading

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Wanna Disappear?
Create a Deception

Most people have thought about it at least once. Some desperately needed and had help achieving it. Others, not so much. The desire and/or need to disappear from the face of the earth is often a serious possibility to consider for some of us.
As in, I wish I could just vanish right now. Or, what if I’d drop everything and move to, say, Africa, and started anew, absolutely unknown to anyone I meet? (oblivious to those left behind, too). And then there’s, of course, those whose deeds were of the criminal kind; collaborating with authorities Continue reading

Missouri Cipher

The Mysterious Notes
in McCormicks’s Pocket

Here’s a nice, old fashioned murder mystery, to go along with your Sunday toast and coffee.
When the throat-slashed body of Rick McCormick was found in June of 1999, in a cornfield off Highway 367, near St. Louis, very little was known about the man.
The police file says that the high-school dropout was born in Missouri in 1958, was unmarried but had fathered four children, and had a statutory rape conviction in his record. At the time of his death, he was also unemployed, living with his mother off his disability checks.
Coming to think of it, it’s remarkable how a police file can be stuffed with minutia Continue reading

Dr. Winston O’Boogie

It’s Johnny’s Birthday,
Would You Care to Join Us? (*)

* John Lennon would’ve been 70 Saturday and New York – where his widow Yoko Ono and son Sean live, and where he was assassinated in 1980 – led the celebrations, along with his birth city Liverpool. Screenings, shows, exhibitions, the relaunching of his and the couple’s albums, and a variety of events marked the former Beatle’s life and times around the world.
Yoko herself went to Reykjavik, Iceland, to perform with the Plastic Ono Band at a peace concert and, as she’s been doing for some time every Oct. 9, light the Imagine Peace Tower ceremony. And pretty much every Beatle fan and Lennon’s relative turned the day into a special occasion one way or another.
* Media coverage in almost every tongue known to man has reached saturation levels and, with all the above plus analysis, interviews, articles, critical portrayals and adulatory tributes going on in the past few weeks, there’s no need to add anything else, except to share something short, exclusive and, most likely, obvious.
What were you doing when you heard that John Lennon had been shot?
By now, few doubt that this was one of those events powerful enough to disrupt the fabric of the plausible reality and immediately bend it, wrapping everything else around it.
Some memories turned quickly into oblivion, while others got a hold of all recollections of that moment when, suddenly, there was a world without John Lennon out there.
* Our band had a busy week ahead. Before Continue reading