The Bottlenose, a prototype by Grindhouse Wetware, receives sonar, UV, wi-fi and thermal information and translates it to a magnetic field.
We stand at a strange moment in human history, when lawyers and corporations wage war amongst each other over one question: who owns your body? Off to the side, biohackers—the freaks, geeks, rebels, and punks who do biotechnology experiments in garages and basements—must decide whether to abide by the outcomes.
Maybe you’ve heard about this argument in the context of the Myriad Genetics Supreme Court case; that corporation had patented a part of the natural human genome, the “breast cancer gene.” Some versions of the gene make you more likely to get breast and ovarian cancer. Because Myriad figured out the risk associations, they filed a patent… on the gene itself. In every human. If you checked to see which version of the gene you had, you had to pay them a licensing fee. The court unanimously agreed that Myriad can’t own some part of our genetic heritage, just because they “discovered” it. It’s all very Christopher Columbus (or Eddie Izzard).
In 2012, the court heard another case that may have more immediate ramifications for the average person in a doctor’s office. In Mayo v. Prometheus, a company claimed it owned the rights for you to check how their drug affected your natural metabolite levels and then adjust your dosage accordingly. It wasn’t a special diagnostic test, and doctors already knew how to measure the chemicals in your blood. The question was whether knowing to adjust your dose was patentable. The Supreme Court—also unanimously—nixed the patent.
These decisions threw the world of biomedical patents into chaos. There are likely hundreds of patents affected, but it’s incredibly difficult to figure out which ones. Robert Cook-Deegan is the director of the Institute of Genome Ethics, Law, and Policy at Duke University. “I was just talking to a bunch of patent lawyers, and almost all of them were quite certain what the patent law is, but they don’t agree what it is,” he said, during a conversation about the Myriad and Prometheus cases. “You’ll have one patent lawyer say, this is totally valid. And another patent lawyer will say, no no no, this is invalid. And they’ll have very good case law rationales for why they believe what they believe, and they’re very sure of it.”
These questions are ridiculous to me. How can a company own pieces of my body? And how are they going to track down what I’m doing with it? A company owning humans has ramifications outside the medical realm, especially if—as many experts and excellent science fiction authors claim—our future shines bright with deep knowledge of biology and how to drastically alter it.
Some want that editing process sooner rather than later, and most of them want it in the hands of The People. Biohackers, biopunks, grinders, and DIY biologists have the tangled etymological web that many small but passionate groups of ideologues develop. Let’s call them biohackers for now, because it’s basically encompassing and fun to type. As the name suggests, they are to biotechnology what Hackers 1.0 are to software companies.
The parallels go deeper than naming. When computing began, it was at enormous expense, with the backing of governments, corporations, and universities. Computers were the size of buildings and required experts to use and maintain. Once the technology became pint-sized, people like Steve Wozniak and Bill Gates could fit it in their garages and build a revolution. Companies started making their source code more and more private, while hackers were chopping things up and gluing them together for fun and chaos. Richard Stallman and a few others decided technology was for the people, and pioneered a variety of ways to keep that a possibility. Since then, corporate computer culture and free software/hacker culture have co-existed, entangled but separate, swapping ideas and people like bacteria pass plasmids. And in the middle, technology giants beat on each other for the rights to everything from rounded edges on icons to rectangular phones.
Genetic engineering is also an expensive, unwieldy child of private and public funding. It started off requiring thousands of hours and millions of dollars to do the simplest experiments. With whiplash speed, it’s become something hobbyists can do in their garages—or in the hackerspaces that have rearranged the furniture to make room for community labs.
One subset of biohackers call themselves grinders. They are a group of people turning themselves, slowly but surely, into cyborgs. It was born out of biohack.me, a forum for people wanting live longer, stronger lives through DIY body modifications. For many, the first taste of grinding is inserting a magnet into the tip of their finger, which allows them to feel electromagnetic waves around them—imagine turning a microwave on and physically feeling it, or walking over a manhole cover and feeling the power lines beneath. For legal reasons, grinders can’t use anesthetic for their modifications, and rely on body modification experts to slice open their finger tip, push the flesh around to make a pocket, and slide in a magnet before whipping in a few stitches. READ MORE
I went to laughter yoga the other night, I guess because I live in a big city and sometimes wear stretchy pants in the street and pretty regularly force-feed myself kale.
Regular yoga is no longer the cure-all for your out-of-balance, toxins-infested mind-body; the cure-all is laughter yoga. Basically, laughter yoga is the new method for scrubbing out our dirty bodies and changing our brain chemistry and banishing sadness and stress from everyone. Forever.
The idea is that laughing is good for you (science says so, after all), and that pretending to laugh can be just as good for your health and wellbeing as actual laughing. So that’s what you do, in laughter yoga. You pretend—force yourself, even—to laugh. For an hour.
Here is what I learned at laughter yoga. READ MORE
Like a Prayer
Everyone must stand alone
with other loners. The black lace
veils from every other chapel-
goer, all the doves mourning
a boy-star petered out too soon.
Heaven help me slip through
the bars of this brick house
shattered by blue light, glum moon
fidgeting with shadow. The boy’s
black light vision. His sideways
ways of painting wings, crowns,
anointed words and words
backtracked. Track back
a beginning, what the cave muralists
meant. Not the death of the beast
but the brilliant red, the rigid white
of bones. Raise folded hands
and a fur-gilded skull. Crown yourself
with horns, most elegant weapons.
And with slowly going embers
listen to angels’ hushed sighing.
Martyr me with paint, boy. Make it last.
Wesley Rothman's poems have appeared in The Rumpus, Vinyl, Crab Orchard Review, 32 Poems, and elsewhere. He teaches at Emerson College and Suffolk University.
You will find more poems here. You may contact the editor at email@example.com.
Your tolerance for this will be directly related to how much of the Flaming Lips' distinctive, uh, style you can handle over another person's tune, but anyway here is a cover for a Sparklehorse tribute album being put together now.
I now, embarrassingly late in the game, see credit-card debt as a problem for many that is nearly as pernicious as drug and alcohol addiction. This shouldn't be a surprise—there is such a thing as Debtor's Anonymous, and the same cycle of abuse, denial, and inertia that accompanies habitual substance abuse is what drives my credit-card use: "I'll quit drinking (racking up debt) next month, after the holidays are over", "I'll limit myself to five beers (purchases) a week," etc.
Where once my goal was to quit drinking by the time I was 30 (a goal I eventually achieved more or less on time), now my goal is to be free of credit-card debt by the age of 40. I still have trouble believing the first of these goals would be easier to accomplish than the second.
A few years ago, I changed cable providers. While the procedure's been streamlined over the years to where it's relatively painless, a sadistic remnant still remains: The vague installation time window. So one day, AT&T asked me to stay home for a six-hour period on a weekday. Luckily, I'd just quit my job. I had plenty of time to spare.
Most of those early unemployed/"freelance" days took on a consistent pattern: Wake up, throw together a breakfast, sit in front of my computer for five hours trying to find work, grab a sandwich from the nearby bodega, sit online for another five hours, drink three beers, sleep. As any freelance writer can tell you, the job can be lonely. While the political nonsense that comes with a 9-to-5 office gig isn't great for the soul, what those jobs do do is force interactions with actual people. Self-employment does not. Meaning, I had a lot of time to fill, and a desperate need to connect to something. Luckily, someone somewhere recommended giving this New Jersey-based weekly call-in radio show a shot. They said it was the best thing in the world, but also warned that it'd take some time to acquire the correct palate for said humor. As I said, I had plenty of time to spare.
So, by the time the cable guy came, I'd already become accustomed to the odd indescribable rhythms of "The Best Show on WFMU." In fact, I'd become engrossed to the point where I wasn't going to put it on pause just because cultural etiquette recommends I do so in order to give a hired hand proper mental space to work. Fuck that. Instead, as the cable guy circumnavigated my 400-foot studio apartment, he was forced to listen right along. He kept his mouth shut until he was packing up his belongings to do.
"He likes to complain a lot, huh?" he asked, shaking his head on his way out the door.
Tom does indeed.
But "complaining" isn't the right word for what Tom Scharpling does. "Griping" or "grumpiness" isn't either. He's more of a cheerful tour guide into the dark places, the anger that bubbles in us, the nebulous feeling that something just isn't right. There's a certain innate ability few have that allows them to complain while still being hilarious. It's a gift they're born with. Tom is one of them.
"The Best Show" ends its 13-plus year run on Tuesday. I first learned Tom was putting an end to it—and, as anyone with experience listening to something obsessively knows, calling hosts by their first name despite never having met them is S.O.P.—through the medium that most news is broken these days: Twitter. Reading a mention of the show's end sent a cold rush of blood to my face. Moments before, I was about to start playing the latest episode—my routine is to listen to new episodes Friday afternoon—but now, I hesitated. It was no longer just a part of my life. Now, it was finite. It was ending. The episode I was about to start would be the beginning of the end.
Which is to say, writing a piece about the show's place in history, its relevance to the culture of comedy, its unique brilliance and proof of the lasting quality of call-in radio, especially in an era where even your barber has a podcast, is best saved for others. Frankly, I'm a bit too close to the subject matter, the wound's still so fresh. So, instead, I enlisted a handful of superfans and FOTs (Friends of Tom) to help out.
Here are their tributes. READ MORE
David Koechner has, by our rough estimate, starred in approximately a bazillion different television shows and movies. The versatile comedic actor who got his start in the Chicago improv scene is best known for his roles as Todd Packer in The Office and Champ Kind in Anchorman – two hilarious, yet very distinct types of chauvinistic jerks – but you’re just as likely to recognize him from any number of sketch shows, sitcoms, cartoons, and 3D killer piranha films from the mid-‘90s on.
This year has proved as busy as ever for Koechner. In addition to once again donning Champ’s cowboy hat for the much-anticipated Anchorman sequel, he’s also receiving early buzz for his decidedly dark turn in the pitch black comedy Cheap Thrills and is gearing up for a national standup tour.
Before he set out for Anchorman 2’s promotional media blitz, I had the chance to talk to David Koechner over the phone about the sequel fans have spent the last decade asking him about, his impressive work ethic, and what he’s learned from his recent move into the realm of standup comedy. READ MORE
If Edith Piaf were alive today she would be touring the country singing this song and only this song each night live for four hours straight before shooting a perfectly-formed arc of spit out at the front row and then storming off the stage. Also Maria Callas. It's THAT REAL. [Via]
Over the next week for a sponsored project on behalf of Byliner, The Billfold's Mike Dang and our publisher John Shankman will be selecting stories from the Byliner platform and chatting about them.
Mike: Hey John, how are things?
Things are excellent.
I'M PLUGGED IN
I gotta tell you too– I wasn't feeling all that plugged in, but there's nothing like a great read while listening to some sweet tunes to suck you into the web.
ALL PERIPHERAL DEVICES: GO
What've you been reading?
John: Well, it was a short essay, but every sentence packed a punch. And it spanned decades extremely well.
I actually dove into it because of the title without looking at the author's name and within the first couple of paragraphs I was thinking to myself, I wonder who wrote this.
Mike: Haha, really?
the story is a reflection on the author's time in the peace corps in the sixties
he was one of first peace corps members to go abroad. he went because he was looking for experiences outside of his home to discover more about life. The name of the story is The Lesson of My Life which is no little declaration and why, i suppose, i was attracted to it– i needed to know the lesson of life
Mike: Hmm! I don't know who the author is. Who did it end up being?
John: the author is Paul Theroux
Mike: Ahhh. Travel writer.
Mike: Also related to Justin Theroux I think? READ MORE
Forrest Richard Betts turns 70 today. "Ramblin' Man" is one of those songs we have all heard too many times to have any kind of valid opinion on (I have finally come around, but I can see the thinking behind all the other opinions, although in the end what does it matter? Dickey Betts don't care what you think and we are all gonna wind up in the ground regardless of our postion on "Ramblin' Man" anyway.)—"No matter how you feel about the song 'Ramblin' Man,' remember that nobody else is interested and someday you will die" is a good approximation of my philosophy of life at this point; if you are interested in following my teachings please drop me a line at our general address—but this here is probably unfamiliar enough to some of you that you can listen to it without a ton of distaste, if that is indeed how you listen to "Ramblin' Man," which I should once again point out in no way changes the fact that death lurks around each corner waiting for the perfect moment to pop out and snatch you up into its dark and terminal embrace. Anyway, happy birthday Dickey Betts!
Jason Segel is going to play David Foster Wallace in some biopic that stems from David Lipsky's road trip biography. (A movie that will be shown on the Sundance channel once in 2016.) Some people are upset! How will we all move on?
Hard to imagine Jason Segel playing someone quite as brilliant as DFW.
— Matthew Gilbert (@MatthewGilbert) December 12, 2013
Jason Segel is playing David Foster Wallace in an upcoming biopic. Seriously? Was Franco not available?
— Charlie Kaufman Bio (@dalexanderchild) December 12, 2013
Look on the bright side: Segel is better than Franco.
— Jason Diamond (@imjasondiamond) December 12, 2013
this dfw doppleganger exists and you're really going to cast Jason Segel? http://t.co/UBhsK0lmTu
— Elizabeth Lopatto (@mslopatto) December 12, 2013
To be fair, Segel as DFW creates nice tonal consistency for the letter-writing Rainn-Wilson-as-Franzen cameo you know you want
— Nitsuh Abebe ንፁህ አበበ (@ntabebe) December 12, 2013
I love David Foster Wallace and I love Jason Segel but nope nope nope nope nope nope
— Jordan Ellenberg (@JSEllenberg) December 12, 2013
I discovered news of Paul Walker's passing the way we all discover celebrity deaths these days. My friend Rick had posted a filtered picture of a candlelit vigil with the description, “Here’s a shitty photo of the impromptu Paul Walker memorial service at the house that, apparently, the first Fast & Furious movie was shot at in Echo Park. It was weird.” He added a hashtag: #RIPPaulWalker.
My first thought was, “Aww man, Paul Walker was so hot. He’s dead?” Paul Walker! The apex of high school goy fantasies, the chiseled matinee prince of my 90s adolescence. The non-Dawson in “Varsity Blues.” The only man ever who could get away with wearing frosted tips and still look hot.
My second thought was, “Uh, that’s my block."
Just then, I heard the tremulous roars of eight be-spoilered cars outside my home as a caravan of souped-up cars pulled up, double parked, and started taking pictures outside my neighbor’s house. This continued for the next 48 hours. Indeed, it was weird.
I now live next door to the unofficial Paul Walker memorial, an impromptu shrine dedicated by a smattering of car enthusiasts and mega Fast and Furious fans looking for a place to mourn the loss of their favorite actor.
Yes. Paul Walker was very hot. Again, he pulled off frosted tips with a suaveness that Guy Fieri could only dream of. And, according to the public outpouring of love from his famous friends on Twitter, he had a reputation of being a chill, sweet, and incredibly generous guy. It may not have been so obvious in life that he had a massive following—not to me at least. But Paul Walker is adored.
“He was like this generation’s Steve McQueen. He was the Wayne Gretzky of cars,” said Jacqueline, a visiting emotional Fast fan with a thick French accent and an effusive passion about the deceased. She'd trekked to this nouveau mecca with her two sons.
To me, Walker's most memorable role was as a high school doucher who bet on the Pygmalionization-potential of the town dweeb and then tried to date rape her at prom. To be fair, I have not seen most of the films Paul Walker made in the last decade. I got through exactly 43% of the original Fast & Furious before dial-flipping away one lazy summer day. Now this is something I cannot admit near my home.
The location next door provided all the exteriors—and some interiors—for the home of Vin Diesel’s Fast character, and out back it has some kind of badass garage. It’s a sweet craftsman with a killer view of the downtown L.A. skyline. Now its front sidewalk is lined with prayer candles, teddy bears, a balloon, signs, flowers, and even a picture of the last photo Instagrammed of Paul Walker, supposedly just thirty minutes before his death. READ MORE