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News 02.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 02.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 02.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 02.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 02.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

We’ll come to the homegrown terrorists he foiled and the race war they tried to foment. To the journalists he saved from assassination and the synagogue marked for carnage in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. To the gun-rights march on the steps of a state capitol, where they planned to pick off cops and rallygoers. There’s time enough to valorize the work of Scott B., an undercover fed who breached far-right death squads and squashed their national web of terror cells. (Scott requested that his surname not be used for the sake of his family’s safety.) Last summer, when he retired at 50 from the FBI, Scott left the bureau as one of the most storied agents since Joe Pistone, the real-life Donnie Brasco. For two-plus decades, he cracked landmark cases and won every laurel they give to undercovers. Months out of the game, though, he can’t stop brooding over the threat he left behind. He knows better than anyone that it’s later than we think, and that each day brings us closer to the next 9/11 — this one launched by our own children.

But first, we need to talk about the ram. Because that ram — actually, a terrified goat with diarrhea — died for all our sins of the past four centuries.

It is Halloween evening 2019, and Scott — undercover coordinator for the FBI and special agent dispatched to its Joint Terrorism Task Force — is shivering in three layers, including tactical gear, in the pitch-black woods of northern Georgia. He has infiltrated a domestic-terror group called the Base, posing as a former skinhead who calls himself PaleHorse and is expert in hand-to-hand combat. Scott and 11 Base members are walking an unmarked path to a clearing above a creek bed. He doesn’t know most of the men he’s with; they’ve come from far distances to this encampment on a farm for a four-day training block on guerrilla warfare. Five of them traveled from Northeast states with assault rifles and armor in their car trunks. Another, a young psycho who calls himself ZoomGnat, has been up for two days straight on Adderall and Red Bull and has driven from Texas without stopping. None of them call one another by their given names, only their noms de guerre: Pestilence, PunishSnake, BigSiege, etc. Several are ex-military with munitions training and the wherewithal to take out power stations. Others are self-taught tactical freaks who shoot and move as nimbly as paratroopers. The internet will teach you anything these days, including how to start a race war in three steps.

Read the rest of this article at: RollingStone

Non-fungible tokens have sprung onto our feeds recently, claiming to be the next big thing. But is this an online populist uprising or just an environmentally destructive fad?

Something strange is happening in the world of online art. A lot of people are getting unusually excited by cartoon images of apes, cats, penguins, robots, skeletons, anime warriors, aliens and ghosts. There’s also a lot of chatter about these things making people a fortune and disrupting traditional art markets.

This is a product of a relatively new phenomenon in which digital art is connected by virtual deeds of ownership called NFTs (non-fungible tokens). NFTs are unique units of digital data that are stored on blockchains. Blockchains are decentralised digital ledgers that keep track of transactions and are used to underpin cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. I know that that’s a lot of jargon underpinning something that often just looks like a picture of a robot smoking a spliff, but there’s a lot of money wrapped up in this.

Digital artists always struggled to get a foothold in the art market because, unlike someone who produces oil paintings, they had no unique original to sell. The news that you could now, at least in theory, monetise digital art has spawned a speculative boom. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey sold an NFT of his first tweet for nearly $3 million (€2.7 million). Celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Eminem and Grimes have auctioned off NFTs for silly amounts of money. A high point came in May last year when an artwork by the digital artist Beeple (Mike Winkelmann) sold for more than $69 million (€61 million). Called Everydays: The first 5000 Days, it was a compilation of all the artworks Winkelmann had created on a daily basis for his Everyday series.

Read the rest of this article at: The Irish Times

News 02.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Last fall, hoping to draw weary crowds back to the multiplex, AMC Theatres enlisted Nicole Kidman in what it dubbed “the biggest advertising campaign any theatre chain has ever made.” Solemn to the point of absurdity, the ad finds Kidman extolling the cinema as a temple of catharsis, where we go “to laugh, to cry, to care. Because we need that, all of us.” At the movies, she says, trying to emote through features stiffened by cosmetic work, we are “not just entertained, but somehow reborn together.” But there is no “together”: Kidman sits alone, flanked by empty rows of leatherette seats and lit by the flicker of Jurassic World. Here, she tells us, “our heroes feel like the best part of us,” and “heartbreak feels good.”

As Kidman mused on the transformative power of the cinema, did her thoughts alight, however briefly, on Nicolas Cage? It’s possible. They co-starred in Trespass, a home-invasion thriller derided as one of 2011’s worst movies, and, ironically, one of the first marquee-name films to be released on streaming services at the same time it debuted in theaters: a harbinger of the silver screen’s decline. Or maybe she remembered a moment in 2013, when she and Cage received top honors at Tianxia Yingcai Cultural Media Co.’s Huading Awards, appearing personally in Macau to accept their Best Global Actor and Actress trophies—heralding the rise of a Chinese box office that altered Hollywood. More than anything, Cage should have come to mind because he embodies the tradition that Kidman and AMC both aspire to, at least in theory. If moviegoing is an act of ritual purgation, Cage must be its high priest, his performances a kind of ecstatic self-flagellation through which we’re cleansed—or, to use Kidman’s term, reborn.

As befits a Best Global Actor, Cage has, for forty years onscreen, delivered performances of such furious spectacle that they transcend the humanity they represent. To see him react is to wonder if you’ve ever really felt, or could feel, anything so deeply, and if you’d want to. Anger? He sells it by the avalanche. Watch in Matchstick Men as he butts in line at the pharmacy. His “inner trembling,” as Roger Ebert called it, turns to outright spasms as he faces down a man who dares to question him: “Have you ever been dragged to the sidewalk and beaten until you—pissed—blood?!” Passion? Look no further than Wild at Heart, where, reminiscing in a smoky barroom, Cage caresses his chin and says, “Man, I had a boner with a capital O.” Sadness? See him in Vampire’s Kiss, hands clasped, face pursed, wailing that most literal of lachrymose words: “Boo-hoo! Boo-hoo!” Yes, this is why we go to the movies, to see a grown man disfigured by emotion and emotion disfigured by a grown man. Cage has played many a hero, and if, as Kidman maintains, such heroes “feel like the best part of us,” we have some soul-searching to do. Can it be that this blubbering, boorish caricature is among the better angels of our nature?

Read the rest of this article at: Harper’s Magazine

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News 02.02.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The CEO of Tumblr—a social platform that was once worth more than $1 billion, and in its time was among the internet’s most popular and talked-about cultural spaces—quietly worked his last day on January 21. The company has not explained Jeff D’Onofrio’s departure, nor even referenced it publicly; I learned about it incidentally, several weeks after speaking with him, in a “wanted to let you know” email from a company spokesperson. Five days after that, Matt Mullenweg, whose company, Automattic, now owns Tumblr, emailed me to say that he wasn’t planning to “make a big deal out of it” in deference to D’Onofrio’s “privacy and safety.” He did not elaborate.

The news (and the refusal to present it as news) is sort of sad, sort of odd, and maybe ominous. Tumblr, launched 15 years ago this month, once had a reputation that was as big and confusing as that of Texas or Taylor Swift: It wasn’t just a blogging platform, but a staging ground for an array of political movements, the birthplace of all manner of digital aesthetics, and the site of freaky in-groups, niche conspiracy theories, community meltdowns, and one very famous grave-robbing scandal. At various points during the platform’s reign of online influence—from roughly 2010 to 2015—the phrase Tumblr user served as a proud identity marker, or something like a slur. Today, it’s an archaism.

According to data provided by the analytics company Similarweb, visits to Tumblr’s website and mobile apps declined more than 40 percent from October 2018 to October 2021, while the number of unique visitors dropped 17.5 percent. Tumblr no longer has its place on the list of internet spaces—Instagram, TikTok, Discord—that seem most responsible for driving internet culture and shaping the sensibilities of the up-and-coming generation. The site has been sold and sold again, shedding clout through both the natural aging process for social-media platforms and an unnatural run of tragic corporate mismanagement. (Also: It has seemingly never figured out how to make money.)

“We’re redoubling our efforts to make Tumblr awesome,” Mullenweg assured me via email last week. “I’ll be working with the Tumblr teams directly to fill in the gaps in the meantime, and launch an internal and external search for new leaders including a new CEO for Tumblr.” Yet this latest upheaval lends some urgency to a provocative question: If Tumblr disappeared from the internet tomorrow, how would it be eulogized? The site was once the anti-Facebook—a thriving, less exploitative avenue for social media—as well as a bulwark in the culture wars, fending off the irony-addled lunatics of 4chan and offering a different, weirder route for the “extremely online” mind. It laid the very foundation for life online as we know it—and, at times, suggested a much better way forward. Now even the once-devoted talk about it as if it’s already gone.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.