Review: Spirits of Place

I’ve just finished reading Spirits of Place, edited by John Reppion, the Daily Grail-published collection of writings on place, narrative, history and spirit. I was not disappointed.

Reppion opened by – among other things – describing an event of the same name he organized earlier in 2016 hosted on the same site as a degraded Neolithic tomb. The event itself raised sacred space in spectacular fashion and is, perhaps, a lesson and charge for the coming year without the participants having known just how stark it feels. As Reppion states, “To create a space that is emphatically ‘anti-racist, anti-fascist, anti-sexist’ on the grounds of so malevolent an enterprise and to fill it with events for young people does seem redemptive. Yet to perform in such a space can never be lighthearted.”

There’s a bit too much to unpack in a proper review – the collection is part essay grouping, part philosophical studies journal, part occult newsletter – but the essays in each case stand proudly for themselves with each raising their own space. Whether it’s Gazelle Amber Valentine talking idenity, Warren Ellis writing on radio signal as bomb blast radius, Maria J. Perez Cuervo illustrating the process of secret, dangerous and necessary libraries growing seemingly of their own magnetism or Vajra Chandrasekera on fascism, nationalism and grief, the contents are topical and fascinating and juggle between dreamily speculative and heartbreakingly eloquent. Chandrasekera’s contribution in particular felt crucial and grounding, setting the tone almost as clearly as Reppion’s introduction:

In our periodic riots, Sinhala mobs in search of Tamil or Muslim people to assault but still unable to identify them on sight (because we all pretty much look the same) would demand that potential targets perform their Sinhala-ness or Buddhist-ness with shibboleths: pronouncing particular words to test for accents, or reciting Buddhist prayers that people of other religions were unlikely to know. For example, the ඉතිපිසෝ, which in a great irony is a recitation of the virtues of the Buddha, probably including suitably incongruous things like kindness and compassion. I say probably even though I know it by heart (I suspect my not-particularly-pious parents insisted on me learning these prayers by memory in anticipation of future riots) because the prayer is in Pali, not Sinhala, and I’ve long since forgotten what the words mean: to me, it’s just a string of sounds that represent thuggish fanaticism.

With my breath fully taken away by lines like:

Grief is a nation, like the dead are a nation. These are the nationalisms I can get behind.

I name only a few here not to suggest they held themselves over the rest, but precisely because I could go on and on about the other writers included and so bore you to death and draw my review out to outlandish and unhelpful proportions.

I do want to single out the piece by Damien Patrick Williams, one of the primary reasons I picked up this book (along with the topic itself and work by luminaries like Ellis and Alan Moore). In addition to being a friend, Williams has been quoted in WIRED magazine and interviewed on the Flashforward and Mindful Cyborg podcasts on the intersection between magic and technology, one of my primary interests. His contribution to this book excelled my expectations as it seamlessly covered biographical explanation, philosophical exploration, virtual space and place, mythology and psychology. He covers two more of my favorite topics, ravens and synchronicities, and pulls apart the phenomenons of my experience masterfully:

But the concept structure of ritual space can be applied to any time or place which, for reasons of mentality and mood, must be set apart. In sociological and trauma studies, we discuss this idea in terms of “safe spaces”; in martial arts, we have the dojo; in magic, the drawing of the circle. In all of these instances, we use words, or a knife, or chalk, or a song, and we carve out something sacred from within the profane, and the 1990s Internet was pretty much a perfect expression of this. The complex protocols to log-in, the aforementioned terminology and conceptual framing, all of it conjured an intentional Otherness of place and mind.

The ever-magical Alan Moore closes out the collection with a fantastic and thoroughly electrifying piece that serves, as Reppion laments not doing with the actual event in April, as a closing ritual for the book. And as many of the other pieces do, spiraling ever outward from Reppion’s convocation, Moore’s entry exists in a sort of trifold space; it covers the past, it applies to the present, and reaches out to the future with a mystical, speculative beckoning:

Everywhere the grind and rumble of epochal gears, the flat stones of Satanic mills as they commence to turn. A creaking at the limits, at the edge of our condition, a raw frontier of our lust and fear and capability.

The topics truly covered across the book are legion; if your interests cover anything around philosophy, place, folklore, magic, immediate urban experience, history and future of politics, this book will absolutely have something for you. My suggestion: seek the book out, raise your own space, read it and proceed from there. It’s easily one of my favorite books of 2016.

Scrape to soothe the rasp, hiss to hide the hum

Emily had been dreaming again. No tears on her pillow this time but the sound of rocket engines still rushed in her ears for a few fleeting moments. Slowly she came into her body, felt it materialize. Slowly the concrete around her became, well, concrete again. The camping mattress underneath felt like it had become concrete during the night as well. Against all inertia and blanket warmth a slow familiar ache in her back convinced her it was time to get up.

She limped to the bathroom with the tenderness of intense sleep.

At least there’s still hot water, she thought. One of the few comforts of her building compared to others around the country. Others might have not had the entire rest of the staff abscond but damn it she could still take a civilized shower.

She turned the water on to let it warm up and took a few spare moments to look at herself in the mirror. Tired eyes framed by faded pink hair, roots showing through, undershave grown out. She had wanted to do something about her hair for months but she couldn’t risk the trip to town. Not any more. Maybe a care package would come soon. She had listed pink dye under essentials, only partly expecting to be taken seriously, but hoping someone would come through. Those packages, though. They had been coming less and less frequently. It contributed to her feeling that the whole clandestine enterprise was expiring with a whimper and it was probably time to wrap things up.

That line of thinking always felt like a mood trap but as she looked around she couldn’t deny the multivariate truth of it. Less external support, more equipment problems, hell even the bathroom needed a good cleaning. She slipped as she felt the place slip, somehow out of time and consequence into its own experimental bubble. She needed to clean the bathroom but she recognized for the hundredth time that she needed to pull the trigger on her data even more.

After the shower she sat down to check her email and found one precisely to that effect. Sergio pestering her for a final go-ahead despite being the original Principal Investigator at her site and also being the first to flee. The fucking audacity bothered her as much as the nagging concern that he’d make her effort as much his when the time came for credit. But the packages he sent helped, and the occassional pep talks. She archived the email rather than responding to it just to let him stew a little more. It took three tries while the network connection flickered. One more failing piece of shit equipment. Lovely.

The near-silence only served to let her brood more and to let her analytical side pick apart the hum from the next room. Always noisy, the combined thrum of computation and exhaust fans had developed a noticeable rasp recently. Probably not unfixable especially given her comp sci chops. But that depended on replacement parts and those were harder and harder to come by. They hadn’t planned for extended isolation. They had barely planned for anything. But that rasp increasingly felt like her throat and her mood, felt like the slightly threadbare clothes on her frame, felt like the discordant protests of undyed hairs and a body that hadn’t danced at a nightclub in eighteen months. She didn’t want to own the rasp yet.

So she put on music; the new Nine Inch Nails, the only good thing that had come out of 2016. The scrape to soothe the rasp, the hiss to quiet the hum. Code waited for her as it had every day for the past few years. Code sat coiled in its box at the propulsion lab, then the oceanographic fellowship, and finally the Midwest Computing Cluster. It sat coiled waiting to flex; waiting to be let out; waiting to strike. And it responded to the harmonics of her snake-charmer keytaps. Just not always in the way she expected. She dove into the code.

Numerical models lay in wait as she worked her magic, repeating her mantra at the beginning: I’ll show you snowballs in congress, you dumb motherfuckers. Cold fingers jumped across the keyboard arrhythmically. A flurry, a pause for thought, a blizzard. Then rumbling back through with a logical plowblade to clean up the mess. She banged away and hit her own runner’s high stopping only to think or sip rapidly cooling coffee. Work continued straight through lunch without a thought for it until the eventual trip to the bathroom (hello, caffeine) and only then she felt the rumble of hunger.

She set the data to run and wandered into the small, cluttered kitchen to make a sandwich. Made a mental note to do some of the dishes she often neflected as the only person there. And studiously ignored the aged refrigerator as its compressor labored. Only the coolant pump for the GPU cluster sounded worse.

Chewing unenthusiastically, she put a language lesson on speaker. German. Which she’d need assuming she made it out. French may have been smarter for general communication – it had encountered a renaissance of sorts across continents as English fell out of favor – but the Germans were doing more science, and science she was.

After the lesson she answered a few emails. One from her father that mentioned grandkids for the third time in a row. Reading the news soured quickly. She browsed old data. And got up the will to clean the bathroom, ignoring the fact that the model had probably finished.

Scrubbing the toilet she thought for maybe the thousandth time about the NOAA bureaucrat that saved her, saved them all. Cabinet pushed against the door, moving from server to server wiping their data, especially their facilities data, while federal agents pounded and demanded access. First the transition team request for the names of government climate scientists. Then the president’s demands. Then the agents. They would’ve had every observation and computation site in the world. So he exfiltrated as much data as he could and then rushed from cage to cage with a handful of thumb drives and instructions printed off the internet. DBAN became a tool of the resistance.

After that no one could quite piece together where all the sites were. They tried but legal documents had been, well, misplaced. Each site had a networked generator installed on a DHS grant but imagine how quickly computer science-savvy lab rats de-networked them. Then government threats, please, bribes. Some worked. Some didn’t. Some sites got raided and some sites remained to moulder along with their staff.

The cash rewards to the public for turning in climate labs changed things, of course. No more trips to town just in case the locals remembered who they were. And no more pay. And figuring out how to keep the power on in the labs.

And why.

She knew why. Earth was her favorite place and she wanted kids to have a better one, or at least know what a shitty hand their elders had dealt them. And she didn’t even like kids.

Emily scrubbed and imagined that middle manager and his USB drives, defying armed agents, a president, a cabinet worth more than the bottom third of American households. It would’ve been cold in the server room. The cabinet was wedged between the door and a pillar and the feds didn’t think to kill the power. And so there had been just enough time.

A brief flight of fancy had her thinking about one of the men behind it standing in an East German courtyard nearly thirty years previous. The young KGB officer had brandished a pistol to keep an angry crowd at bay so that Secret Police files could be destroyed before the crowd got their hands on them. Data then, data now. Angry crowds. A future in the balance.

Holding that crowd off had made the spy’s career. The NOAA guy, on the other hand, ended up in prison.

The final crash of the door coming down. The rush of thick bodies and the shout of indignant authority. The click of handcuffs chilled by the air of the server room.

And then, well, Emily Wong and her climate science team had been on their own.

It’ll be nice to dye my hair again, she thought. And buy some comics books.

She stopped ignoring the completed model run and looked it over. Waves of unreality washed over her as she reviewed data she already knew. She watched the room from outside herself, disconnected. The data was thorough. The model was groundbreaking. She could string it out a while longer. Surely a new package would come soon.

She sent the email that faceless internet people were waiting for. Not the data of course. That would go later and unintercepted if everything went to plan. Every border, even digital ones – especially digital ones – acted more as intelligent and sinister membranes now, analysing what lay at the surface and keeping most of it in or out.

The email was surely intercepted. Luckily it consisted of a donut order. The order was received. She wondered if a package would arrive soon. Then she started packing.

The courier arrived the next day in a car slightly more dated than her student loans. Older, she realized. No integrated GPS, no satellite radio, no smart system. He brought donuts which she scoffed at. He brought fresh coffee that she blessed him for.

“Don’t knock the donuts,” he said. “Know what we used to call those in the station? Power rings.”

She stiffened. A cop. He read her and raised his hands nonthreateningly.

“Sorry. Just trying to banter. Long gone from the force, but we aren’t all bad.” She nodded. It had gone too far now anyway. She traded the hard drive for the donut box.

“Where does it go from here? I guess I shouldn’t ask.”

“Nah, you can ask. I just can’t tell.” He smiled at her and raised the hard drive before slipping it into a black canvas messenger bag. “Thanks for this, doc.”

She wanted to tell him what was on it. She said nothing. She couldn’t bring herself to tell him what it suggested, what might be coming. Not with the rollbacks, the broken accords, the new government and its partnerships. She desperately needed someone to talk it over with that didn’t see it in numbers and code, but she said nothing.

The courier left. She enjoyed a donut – sweet and moist and perhaps indeed a power ring – before getting into her own aging car and heading north.

The data, she knew, would make its way north too. Through some complex chain of handoffs and pirate microwave transmissions from abandoned and decrepit offshore broadcasters. North to exile, refugee status like her. A country Americans had once fled to in order to avoid being drafted. And yet the data headed north to be drafted in its own kind of conflict, nearly of its own intention.

Emily thought about visiting her parents on the way. It wouldn’t be riskier than anything she had done already. She wiped powdered sugar on the steering wheel and queued up the CD changer to her road trip tunes. Her data would find its own way home.

On Cabinets, On Trying and On Rules

There’s an old-ish bit of political apocrypha about Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior: that he was a born-again Christian and explicitly believed that conservation of any type was unnecessary because the Second Coming was imminent. And that Reagan appointed him specifically for that fact. Secretary of the Interior is responsible for all federal lands – some 20% of US land – and especially conservation thereof.

Now, I never saw it proved, which is why I refer to it as apocrypha, but it’s always used as a warning about presidential appointments. And it’s always been mocked whenever it’s come up, in some ways rightfully. But suddenly we have an administration that is literally going beyond that, outdoing a mad, old evangelical and making appointments that aren’t just opposed to their agencies but utterly antithetical.

Let’s examine that for a moment. His cabinet now includes: three Goldman Sachs alums despite a keystone of his candidacy being criticism of Goldman Sachs; two generals known for outlandish conspiracy theories; a Secretary of Labor who is staunchly anti-labor; a Secretary of the Interior who intends to sell off federal land; a Secretary of Education that decimated the Michigan educational system even further; an EPA director who is suing the EPA; a Small Business Administration director who was an entertainment executive and couldn’t even get elected in her own state; an Attorney General hostile to just about every vulnerable segment of our society; and the best one, a Secretary of State who has possibly the best relationship with Vladimir Putin of any American, and whose company is eager to allow through a $300 million deal with Rosneft which was halted under Obama’s sanctions after Russia INVADED ANOTHER COUNTRY. That’s not to mention the complete lack of response from Trump’s side about what looks to be significant Russian interference in our election, Trump bashing the CIA and actively protecting Putin, and one of his top advisors having illegally served as a top Russian lobbyist for years.

A cabinet worth over $11 billion – more than 4x the net worth of Obama’s and THIRTY TIMES the net worth of Bush II’s latter cabinet. A real cabinet of the people. Congratulations on it.

There’s a term of art in finance called IBGYBG – “I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone” – that signifies a deal that’s profitable in the short term (especially for the negotiators) which all involved parties know will sour in some way but by the time it does the people negotiating it will have retired or moved on. It’s quite literally a financial mechanism of short-sightedness and it defined many of the mortgage and securitization deals that led directly to the 2008 financial crisis. “By the time these mortgagees default to the point that the investment is toast we’ll be gone.” Trump’s cabinet both codifies and transcends IBGYBG thinking. In a decade we went from “I’ll Be Gone/You’ll Be Gone” shortsightedness to “Eh, We can afford good bunkers, let’s run it into the dirt.”

I keep hearing “at least Trump’s trying!” Let’s see what Trump has been “trying” this week: has he even taken any intelligence briefings? No. He spent his time on twitter attacking a small labor union representative. He went to the Army-Navy game (and sat with Ollie North, of course). He revealed a scheme to charge $35 for a “Trump Inaugural Membership Card.” He reaffirmed his stake in a reality TV show. And held another self-congratulation rally.

The transition of Turkey’s political landscape over the last several years and in particular this year shocked analysts and commentators with its speed and severity. Erdogan went from Washington DC darling to troublesome pariah to tolerated dictator relatively fast as these things go – especially that last step. I fear the change in America’s political landscape will be no less severe and possibly just as fast, if not exactly commensurate. If you want to know why I’m feeling more extreme lately and speaking in more extreme ways realize I’m reacting to a two-party system in which one party has decided that rules no longer matter and winning is the most important thing, a cabinet full of paranoid generals and people looking to strip resources off the country for profit, a precarious technological landscape which empowers the state more than it empowers individuals and the trajectory of a disrupted country ruled by a strongman who favors mass purges.

That all leads to a single conclusion for me above all others: it is no longer in anyone’s interests to continue playing by the rules.

Aleister & Adolf: Great, Thoughtful, Quick

A few days ago I picked up the new graphic novel from Douglas Rushkoff and Michael Avon Oeming, “Aleister & Adolf.” I’m more familiar with Rushkoff through his reporting and expansion of ideas through nonfiction – first the excellent Program or be Programmed, and now as I read through the interesting Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus. Rushkoff has a tendency to explore the immediate and farther-reaching implications of not just technology but the way we utilize and integrate it. I had no idea, and was frankly quite excited, to see him work through an interest in sigil magic. Grant Morrison’s introduction sets the tone for the rest of the book – especially given his own sigil work – and it proceeds accordingly.

Aleister & Adolf’s premise is this (more or less): amidst World War II, a skeptical American soldier is sent to England to meet the great occultist Aleister Crowley. Crowley fancies himself locked in direct magical combat with Adolf Hitler (a not-outlandish premise as anyone who watches the “History” channel surely knows by this point). From there it gets deep into the practice and practicalities of sigil magic in the race to save Europe.

The protagonist is straight-laced but not without a history of his own. You’d expect him to be militantly opposed and disbelieving but as the book continues he follows a different path. It’s in both repeating the blueprints of our parents and trying to transcend their results that we often find ourselves – and so does Roberts.

Rushkoff’s treatment of Crowley is interesting to me – a stern man of ideas, perhaps a bit more disciplined than the man himself but not without reason. Crowley feels like a condensation of the real man for the sake of moving the story along swiftly, as does Daphne, the female support character. The pacing feels off. The book feels rushed. But it still manages to lay out some decent philosophical groundwork that comes close to rivaling, say, Grant Morisson’s Nameless.

Aleister & Adolf does have its satisfying moments. It’s an interesting and curious reframing of Crowley, World War II and some more modern elements. It doesn’t sew itself up neatly but surely does leave me wanting to know more about what happens after. I want to know more of Hugh and how he continues to manifest his change. How it and the knowledge affect him and change his approach to a life he already seems thoroughly displeased with. Maybe even a deeper treatment of corporations and occultism as well as Hugh’s client in particular.

While it felt a bit condensed Aleister & Adolf was a great and quick story that kept me entertained and left me hoping it continues in some deeper fashion. Job well done, I’d say.

Errata: Megacity Fighting, EU Citizenship, Georgia v. DHS, South Korea,

Military Contingencies in Megacities and Sub-Megacities – “After elucidating the nature of urbanization and developing a typology in terms of smart, fragile, and feral cities, we give consideration to the kinds of contingencies that the U.S. military, especially the Army, needs to think about and prepare for. Understanding the city as a complex system or organism is critical and provides the basis for changes in intelligence, recruitment, training, equipment, operations, and tactics.” – I’m reading this later today.

EU negotiators will offer Brits an individual opt-in to remain EU citizens, chief negotiator confirms – As @ManMadeMoon said, “Step 1 to a new, non-geographical nationhood! This is getting really interesting.”

Georgia Secretary of State aggressively confronting DHS over a “penetration of [Georgia’s] firewall.”

Finally seeing a bill to impeach the South Korean president (this whole saga is fascinating to me).

From the International Spectator, the world’s most frequent flight paths.

NASA finally has its own Giphy page.

Via Karen James: “Hey neuroscientists & neuroscience-inspired artists, check out this pattern around a rock in a pond in @AcadiaNPS as it begins to freeze.”

And finally, via ars technica: Millions exposed to malvertising that hid attack code in banner pixels – “The malicious script is concealed in the alpha channel that defines the transparency of pixels, making it extremely difficult for even sharp-eyed ad networks to detect. After verifying that the targeted browser isn’t running in a virtual machine or connected to other types of security software often used to detect attacks, the script redirects the browser to a site that hosts three exploits for now-patched Adobe Flash vulnerabilities.”

DIY Combat Drones

Popular Mechanics highlighted a few stories in the world of DIY weapons lately that’re worth looking at. Sort of a mashup, but to distill down: an ISIS workshop in Mosul was found with a number of DIY weaponized drones. This follows a February find of a workshop in Ramadi complete with vehicles constructed of plywood and styrofoam. The Mosul site included a peculiar model that looked to be a fixed-wing drone with attached quadrotor and PM speculated that it was either a mothership kind of design or for dropping boobytrapped quadrotors.

I’m left wondering if it was some sad attempt to create a fixed wing/VTOL hybrid, able to elevate vertically without runway or human launch but then take advantage of fixed-wing speed and stability like a Harrier.

Another part of the Popular Mechanics story was from Syria, where a refugee camp was hit by miniature guided bombs that appeared to be at least partially 3D-printed. They lacked engines but did apparently have working servos to operate fins and provide mid-course correction or at least stabilization, reportedly dropped from drones. I’ve been expecting sophisticated 3D-printed ordnance from insurgencies for a while but assumed they’d be in rocket form – perhaps it’s just easier to drop from above and guide in than launch and propel, plus the launch site has a better chance of staying undetected. The problem with assuming these latter are insurgent bombs though – aside from the fact that the Syrian regime is happy to kill refugees at their leisure – is that the height you’d need to drop them from to allow for any kind of vertical guidance is considerable, higher than the typical quadrotor. ISIS obviously has fixed wing dronecraft but the level of sophistication involved has me wondering.

Given the previous evolution I talked about involving ipad accelerometers to aim mortars in Syria and Raspberry Pi-powered missile launchers in Ukraine, when we were barely producing single-shot 3D printed firearms a decade ago, we’re likely to see more innovation in this area and to terrible effect.

Report Approved: A Story

Note: AnticiPol is a real thing, and works along the lines of what’s described here (though the DOJ doesn’t certify policing augmentations, yet). UbiquiPol is entirely made up but plausible given current technology. Behavior analysis programs exist, though they’re entirely prone to false positives and carry wickedly inherent bias. Investigational databases exist currently. Automatic querying and cross-referencing of multiple databases already exists. Shopping malls use MAC tracking already, for god’s sake.

We’re less than a year out from this.

The following is a brief summary of events that occurred on July 22, 2017.

At approximately 1455 hours I was directed by Sergeant Michael Wesley to deviate from my traditionally assigned patrol area and conduct a combination foot/vehicle patrol an area around Snow Ridge Park identified by AnticiPol as particularly at-risk for property crime during my shift. AnticiPol is a private software package that analyzes past crime statistics and area features and compiles a list of locations where crimes may be reasonably expected to occur at certain times. The Snow Ridge Police Department utilized AnticiPol successfully for over a year and it is certified by the Department of Justice as a verified Policing Augmentation Tool.

As my patrol began at 1500 hours I proceeded to the defined zone and parked my cruiser on Main Street. I then initiated foot patrol southbound on Main Street, intending to take a right on Cutlass Way approximately 575 feet south of my police cruiser. I would then take another right on Elm Ave, continue northbound to Poplar Street and then eastbound back to Main Street. Each of these streets is a public way in the city of Snow Ridge. This prospective patrol route was established by AnticiPol to also keep me within signal range of my cruiser so that body camera video and audio could be relayed back to the UbiquiPol servers for automatic recording, analysis and feedback.

The AnticiPol report generated for my shift indicated the high likelihood of property crime in this specific area between 1500 and 1900 hours, to wit vandalism. The Main Street/Elm Ave area is known to me as an area in which vandalism has occurred repeatedly over the last six months. It has largely consisted of the spraypainting or “tagging” of various names and political statements on businesses in the area, causing damage to their buildings and profitability. With the benefit of AnticiPol’s report I therefore began specifically looking for subjects committing, or about to commit, vandalism.

In preparation for casual encounters with the populace I activated my UbiquiPol body camera and initiated my patrol. I then had approximately four casual encounters with citizens on Main Street. Utilizing my training and experience as a law enforcement officer I evaluated each person according to my general impression of the typical spraypaint vandal. I did not find any suspect meeting the likely criteria. UbiquiPol similarly performed evaluations according to its own programming which, after attending an 8 hour class on its operation, is known to me. UbiquiPol transmits images via a repeated radio system in the cruiser to UP servers in the state of Nevada. UP computers analyze the video and audio and provide feedback to the Mobile Data Terminal Tablet each officer carries on patrol. The UP feedback includes the result of facial recognition and cross-references a number of databases, including that of the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), Board of Probation (BOP), investigational databases such as the Investigational Information Relay System (IIRS), our local police department files, and those databases of UbiquiPol’s corporate partners. It then returns information ranging from an individual’s driving and criminal records to investigational entries on the IIRS network to corporate intelligence shared by UP. In addition the UP data is analyzed according to UP’s own algorithms for anomalous material. According to metrics established by UP if anything suspicious is detected an alert is sent to a Wireless Investigational Notification System wrapped around my left wrist, and the WINS unit vibrates.

A corresponding profile on each individual was transmitted to my MDTT and available for reading. I reached Cutlass Way and reviewed the material before continuing after being satisfied no person encountered fit the profile of a property criminal.

Approximately 75 feet westbound on Cutlass Way the WINS unit vibrated and alerted me to suspicious material – in this case, an individual approximately 50 feet further westbound and walking away from me had a backpack slung over one shoulder. WINS advised that subjects prone to PROPERTY CRIME – VANDALISM – SPRAYPAINTING/TAGGING often use such bags to transport spraypaint cans and other contraband. WINS further advised that the individual in question had been looking eastbound when I reached the intersection of Main Street and Cutlass Way and had immediately turned and begun proceeding away from me, an action classified as FURTIVE MOVEMENT – AVOIDANCE. Due to the subject’s furtive movement WINS did not capture a clear image of their face and was consequently unable to provide a complete profile. According to department procedure, upon the notification of elements of suspicion, I used the WINS unit to request patrol guidance. The WINS unit advised as follows: “SUSPICION INDEX 0.7 – INITIATE CONTACT LVL III.” According to my training I knew this to mean that, having been computed higher than 0.5, this individual’s Suspicion Index along with my own training and experience combined to provide reasonable suspicious that he had committed, was committing or was about to commit the crime of vandalism.

I initiated contact with the unknown subject by calling to them. The party paused mid step but did not turn around. I called again and requested they come over to me. The WINS unit provided feedback that their servers considered this pause to be FURTIVE and may indicate criminal consciousness of a previous crime and/or intent to commit a crime by way of fleeing from a lawful officer. The subject turned to face me and appeared to be a white male with close cut brown hair, approximately 19 years of age, approximately 5 feet 8 inches. He wore blue jeans and a grey hooded sweatshirt or “hoodie.”

The subject approached me and I requested his name. The subject replied “None of your business.” I stated I was a police officer and he was required to provide his name at this time. The subject replied “I haven’t done anything, you don’t need my name.” At or around this time the WINS unit vibrated to notify me of new information. I requested the subject stand still and kept him in view while retrieving my MDTT. UbiquiPol had processed the party’s face according to procedure and run several pre-programmed database queries.

The subject in front of me was positively identified as DAVIES, MARK (see attached face sheet and supplementals). The MDTT first provided his Registry of Motor Vehicles driver’s license photo from the state of Colorado and through visual inspection I found the subject and DAVIES to be the same person. As this investigation did not involve vehicle issues I skipped past the RMV section. The Board of Probation data stated that DAVIES had three recorded arrests, two for trespassing and one for disorderly conduct, all closed. The Investigational Information Relay System provided several investigational notes entered by other law enforcement agencies. They provided general information on DAVIES, addresses, known associates and specific intelligence. DAVIES is known to two other law enforcement agencies in the state of Colorado to be an active member of several political organizations on record as instigating civil disturbances, impeding the free movement of traffic, and property damage. Finally, UP corporate partners provided similar intelligence on DAVIES as well as current and suspected cell phone numbers, MAC addresses of known or suspected devices, email addresses, intermittent GPS data and other information. UPCORP data indicated that DAVIES possessed one of the suspected devices and had left the wi-fi active, broadcasting a MAC known to him or his immediate surroundings, further confirming that the subject was indeed DAVIES.

At this time the dispatcher informed me over the radio earpiece that they received a call on a past vandalism approximately a block away. OurBank (Snow Ridge Branch) manager HOLMES, SKYLER called to report finding obscene graffiti on the side of the building. The graffiti consisted of “FORECLOSE THIS” with an image of a hand with middle finger extended. See witness statement from HOLMES, S as well as supplementals 911 recording and digital image attached to this report.

I pressed a button on the MDTT requesting a second officer with the flow of traffic/non-emergency and replaced the MDTT on my belt. Subject DAVIES shifted his feet – it is unknown at this time whether he was uncomfortable standing in place or preparing to unlawfully flee – and I observed an audible clinking sound from the backpack slung over one shoulder. Through knowledge and experience that sound reasonably appeared to be the sound of several metal/plastic cans rubbing against each other, such as cans of spraypaint. I observed DAVIES tense up and stare at me. DAVIES became angry and demanded to know if he was being arrested. I stated he was being interacted with in the process of an investigation. DAVIES requested the presence of his attorney. I stated we do not invite attorneys to participate in field interactions. DAVIES then told me to “fuck off with your fascist bullshit.” DAVIES continued to tense up in a manner familiar to me through training and experience that he was about to unlawfully flee or assault me. It was at this time for both our safety I assisted DAVIES to the ground in order to prevent him from fleeing or attacking me. DAVIES stayed on the ground until Officer Wilcock arrived.

I requested Officer Wilcock take over primary control of DAVIES and he did so. I retrieved my MDTT to enter elements in the Interaction Report for DAVIES, most of which backfill automatically. I also entered the reported OurBank vandalism as possibly associated. Ubiquipol alerted me that the MAC address for DAVIES cellphone had been within 25 feet of OurBank – Snow Ridge Branch for approximately six minutes around the time of the crime.

I asked DAVIES if he had just vandalized OurBank. DAVIES again repeated “fuck off” and requested access to an attorney. I asked what was in his backpack. DAVIES stated he did not give consent for any search. Given the sum of all information at hand including DAVIES’ furtive movements and attempted evasion, his records and being placed at the scene of the crime probable cause was established to search DAVIES backpack. This search was also conducted for the safety of all at the scene, and according to Snow Ridge Police Department guidelines. I unzipped the backpack and observed several cans of what appeared to be spraypraint, tape, and several heavy pieces of cardboard that appeared to be stencils.

DAVIES was read his rights and placed under arrest at that time for property crime, to wit: vandalism, as well as disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He was transported in a marked cruiser directly to court for a magistrate hearing.

Officer Blake Summerhill
Snow Ridge Police Department
07/04/2017

Report approved by:
Sergeant Timothy Carson
Snow Ridge Police Department
07/09/2017

Supplementals available:
Face sheet: DAVIES, MARC
AnticiPol predictive report
HOLMES, SKYLER witness statement
HOLMES, SKYLER 911 call recording
Photographs: vandalized property, arrestee’s property
MACTRACK Community Protection Monitoring Report, Snow Ridge Park area 07/04/17
Booking report and photograph: DAVIES, MARC
Supplemental report: Officer Wilcox, John

Note: AnticiPol predictive algorithms, IIRS and UPCORP data are proprietary and unavailable for evidence review per their respective rightsholders and/or the Colorado Revised Statutes.

Review: Normal, by Warren Ellis

Out of the twenty-four books I have read so far in 2016 Warren Ellis’ novel Normal is easily my favorite. This isn’t surprising given that I’m on record as a card-carrying member of the Cult of Ellis. He’s directly or tangentially referenced in more than a few posts here and I’m not exaggerating when I admit he’s been an intellectual model of mine for years, ever since Crooked Little Vein. What’s surprising is how fresh and new Normal is amidst both his previous body of work and fiction in general.

Normal follows foresight strategist Adam Dearden through his intake at Normal Head, a psychiatric facility that caters to a very specific clientele: those who have spent too long looking into the future. This includes both civil futurists and their shadow-siblings working for military or intelligence taskmasters. Referenced on the cover as well as throughout the book, one of the few pervasive ideas is abyss gaze: as a futurist you spend so long looking into the abyss that the abyss looks back into you. Every patient at Normal Head is brilliant, and every patient is broken.

Normal is a locked-room mystery. A patient goes missing on Dearden’s very first night. It’s also a psychological exploration not just about academia but ourselves – what the world does to those who gaze at it and how we cope. In the very first scene LOLcats are featured prominently and serve as an escapist technique. But the patient in that case has no internet access, and no cats – that absence forcing her to more directly confront what brought her to Normal. The novel’s rife with self-deception and false dichotomies, both of which are eventually called out. But there’s also a basic and unflinching recognition of the importance and necessity of the work that futurists do.

Ellis excels at weaponizing typical imagery – the specter-like figure lurking on the edge of the forest, the isolation of the setting – with advanced futurism the likes of JG Ballard (who himself wrote a missing-asylum-patient short story that casts Normal’s conclusion in an interesting light). Ellis also brings darkly intelligent humor such as the opening scene with the LOLcats, a wildly frenetic and joyful and chaotic asylum-wide reckoning, the overwhelming desire to be medicated and the ridiculous things done to cope with abyss gaze. He’s also got the balls to make an economist (Clough) a primary truth-teller in the story, though he acknowledges this irony later through the madly bright figure of Colegrave.

Normal pulls down a theme common in Ellis’s work that manifests in different ways: progress through transgression. It could be macro-scale societal progress through transgressing bodily norms. Or as in this case the micro-scale violation of crossing from the civil forecaster to mil/intel strategist side of the cafeteria pushing the story forward, letting the dog finally see the rabbit. It’s never a neat process and often results in whatever group is involved dissolving into a bunch of howling, shit-throwing monkeys but things do move forward.

Normal is at once a darkly amusing locked-room mystery and a deeper statement on the often destabilizing, quixotic nature of doing the right work and still getting blown over by it and having to catch your breath in whatever way you can. It draws on Ellis’ incredibly well-read and cross-disciplined nature. And both his instant, defensive pessimism and his beliefs and hopes about people.

I can’t recommend it any more highly. At 150 pages it’s a quick and well-paced story with a lot of technology and character fluidly unpacked and laid bare.

Pirate Utopia: A Quick Review

Just finished Bruce Sterling’s new novel Pirate Utopia and it ended up being more than expected. I went into it naively expecting a post-modern, pre-millennium cyberpunkish politics romp. I instead received an absurdist realism novel, an alternative history constantly balancing romantic ideals, their execution and its evolution. It’s a book rich with surreal exaggeration and fantasy but using that to explore the more realistic and bleak practicalities of anarchism, communism and fascism – and democracy.

Pirate Utopia drops us into the Regency of Carnaro, the spontaneous self-government of the state of Fiume after it rejected Italy’s delivery of Fiume to Yugoslavia after World War I. Largely featuring Pirate Engineer Lorenzo Secondari it also introduces a maniacal manufacturist in the personage of Frau Pfiffer, a combat ace turned second-in-command the Ace of Hearts, all operating under the leadership of poet-statesman Gabriele d’Annunzio – otherwise known as the Prophet.

Secondari’s a fascinating protagonist to be sure. He’s presented as previously dead but now alive and self-charged with the mission of moving ownership from those that possess to those that make. He’s a stubborn, spontaneous anarchist maker of a sort though distinctly different from the type you’d see today. There’s no mention of his distributing either model or means – he doesn’t seem the type to upload notes, designs, schematics etc for the world to create his designs for themselves. His utopia is necessarily personalized and he can’t seem to conceive of one outside himself.

Ideals and actions are presented alongside each other constantly and both shift across the course of the story in interesting ways, as a sad exposition on how these things typically progress when people act as they do. It’s not a gradually sliding progress bar so much as Sterling slipping the characters and their organizations along the slippery, evolving surface of a self-justifying Moebius strip of power and violence. It’s hard to tell how or where one side became the other. A seamless transition in which all eyes are still on dragging the future towards them by way of the gravity of their personalities, but they’ve had time to polish their boots now and they’re the ones in control of the artillery on the hill.

The exception to this is Maria Pfiffer, Frau Pfiffer’s daughter and a favorite of Secondari. She’s an unnatural, shining, extrasystemic object – beautiful and consumptive, unprepared for spectacle, an unconcerned alien amidst clandestine conversations despite her polyglot intelligence.

Sterling also manages to sideline two historical devils in amusing ways. But the Moebius strip politics continue according to the realistic streak in Pirate Utopia: absent those two devils, others rise accordingly.

Pirate Utopia’s a short, fun read that doesn’t alternate between stark and wacky but manages to hold their continuing tension in exquisite and exacting fashion. It also comes with a great and timely introduction by Warren Ellis that came out before the election but seems spot-on after, and some supplemental materials at the end that explored Sterling’s writing of the book. This latter appealed directly to the process voyeur in me and I’d love to see it in more works.

Pirate Utopia: Highly Recommended Reading.