1. The Palestine Papers

    I know, it’s not exactly a slow news day.  Jack LeLanne died after all.  You’d think, though, that they could fit in word of the leak of 1,600 documents relating to Israel-Palestinian Authority negotiations somewhere in between the State of the Union address (Haven’t read the transcript yet but I imagine that he used to words ‘America’ ‘prosper’ and ‘create jobs’ a few times somewhere in there. Just guessing.) and Egypt starting to rip at the seams (Though many news minutes might be needed to explain to viewers that despite having pyramids and mummies, Egypt is realer than both Narnia and Middle Earth).

    Take a look.  Al Jazeera’s West Bank office has already been smashed up a bit by protesters angry at the black eye this is giving the P.A.  Of course, some of those protesters just might have been policemen working overtime.

    While I’ve only taken the quickest of looks through thus far, the story these leaked documents seem to tell is the Palestinian Authority offering unprecedented concessions of territory and being met with even greater demands by Israel. There’s also further evidence of coordination between P.A.  and Israeli militaries in conducting operations against other Palestinian factions, something previously suggested in leaked U.S. diplomatic cables.

    So what are these “Palestinian Papers”?  From al Jazeera’s FAQ:

    What are the Palestine Papers?

    The Palestine Papers are the largest leak of confidential files in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a cache of more than 1,600 documents encompassing the most recent decade of negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.  They are an unprecedented window into Israeli, PA, US, European, and Arab relations and reveal a wealth of information about how the parties negotiate behind closed doors.

    Taken in total, the Palestine Papers instigate a broader conversation on such issues as whether a two state endgame is achievable and desirable and whether international and US-led processes to reach that goal have only deepened Israeli occupation.

    There are 1,684 total documents, including

    • 275 sets of meeting minutes;
    • 690 internal e-mails;
    • 153 reports and studies;
    • 134 sets of talking points and prep notes for meetings;
    • 64 draft agreements;
    • 54 maps, charts and graphs;
    • and 51 “non-papers.”

    Taking a look around at the rest of the world’s media, it becomes readily apparent how much bigger of an issue this is for everywhere but the U.S.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled techno-idealism and H.P. Lovecraft gossip

  2. First UFO related Wikileaks?

    Skip the introduction and go straight to Afterposten’s alleged cable leak

    In a December 3 article of The Guardian, Julian Assange answered readers questions. To one question on UFOs he answered:

    Many weirdos email us about UFOs or how they discovered that they were the anti-christ whilst talking with their ex-wife at a garden party over a pot-plant. However, as yet they have not satisfied two of our publishing rules.
    1) that the documents not be self-authored;
    2) that they be original.
    However, it is worth noting that in yet-to-be-published parts of the cablegate archive there are indeed references to UFOs.

    So realistically speaking some cables may mention UFOs, but its unlikely any claim direct contact with extraterrestrials, disclosure, or anything beyond UFOs simply being Unidentified Flying Objects.

    There some interesting gems in the Wikileaks cables such as Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi parties hard like Andrew WK, Saudi King urged chips for GitMo inmates, and an elderly dentists escape from Iran on horseback. This is all the equivalent of international high school rumors, nothing damning or unexpected.

    So what of the UFO cables? Alan Boyle of MSNBC writes:

    And what about the pending WikiLeaks disclosure? Well, several countries — including Britain,CanadaFrance and New Zealand — have been releasing their UFO files over the past few years, so it wouldn’t be surprising if U.S. diplomats cabled back some of the inside scoop about those files as they were coming to light.

    Hell, we even know one UFO sighting caused Winston Churchill to issue a coverup.

    Afterposten claims to have the first UFO related Wikileaks.

    In an alleged cable from December 21 2007:

    BKGB Chairman Yuriy Zhadobin on why his organization no longer
    investigates paranormal phenomena:
    Unlike during the USSR, the department is not engaged in studying paranormal phenomena. [Back then,] we had greater means and opportunities which we could spend on anything and everything. Today the situation is different. Then, when society was excited by something, it entered our sphere of interest. But when it comes to healers, UFOs and such, we just can´t deal with them any more.


    This cable isn’t in Wikileak’s list of December 2007 cables, so its authenticity is questioned. Its banality is not. We’ve known for sometime that both the US and USSR dabbled in free wheeling experiments of the psychic and paranormal. We also know with the end of the Cold War there isn’t the money or interest in this stuff.

    Even if this cable is legitimate, its nothing new. Move along, nothing to see.

  3. NASA to Hold News Conference on “Astrobiology Finding”

    Graffiti on an advertisement spotted this week at Morgan Avenue Subway in Brooklyn suggesting this is the year.

    We’ve covered alien disclosure in November 29, 2009 and UFO disclosure October 13, 2010. Nothing has happened on those days. No, balloons in Chelsea New York does not count as a UFO sighting. The objects were identified. This is damn interesting though. NASA is calling the press to deliver a recent discovery in astrobiology, aka the study of aliens and ETs. Sentient or not.

    Though rumors always circulate, as Google’s spike in “alien disclosure” shows for the end of 2009 and (so far) 2010 nothing results.

    So what is NASA going to say this week?

    From NASA’s Press Release Archive:

    NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.

    Wozers. Before anyone jumps to fantastic conclusions, it’s unlikely they are going to say “Hey, here’s the guys we caught at Roswell. We gave them a shot and they are alright guys once you get pass the whole giant-head-and-giant-black-eye-thing.” Or anything like that.

    There’s been some recent traction that our own galactic backyard might have alien life, life we may have come from. Saturn’s Moon Rhea has an oxygen-rich atmosphere, Mars is mysteriously producing methane, and undiscovered life even in our own stratosphere.

    There may be life out there that we just never noticed. It may not be sentient and calling us, but maybe it’s there. If they announce the recent finding is life at all. It’s easy to invent fantasy, hard to invent banality. Could be something so much as a more efficient way for probes to detect life. Or just a new committee to investigate the possibility of extra terrestrial life. Which is still fantastic.

    Either way, this is one press conference that perked my interest more than any turtleneck wearing CEO’s unveiling of an iProduct.

  4. 9 Eyes: Google As Pathos Reservoir

    I usually try to avoid straight up reblogging off of Dangerous Minds, seeing as how our tastes align so much that I’d be doing it daily.  But today they sent me off towards 9eyes, a tumblog that collects Google Streetview shots, in all their weirdness, pain and moments of sublime pathos.

    Beyond how common it is to spy hooligans flipping the bird, streetwalkers streetwalking and people of all ages hitting the pavement, there’s something great about the selections that suggest a grander story.  Stolen moments that would otherwise dissolve into the ether, now immortalized, hinting at a greater depth.  Someone should do an illustrated edition of short stories with one Streetview shot per.

    Give yourself 10 minutes and browse through it all over at 9eyes.

  5. Kinect Cracked, Hands Wave and Craft Infinite Architecture

    ofxKinect 3D draw 001 from Memo Akten on Vimeo.

    A man stands in a room waving his hands, artfully guiding the movements of gigantic machines on Mars.  Three days ago, they switched on, churning up the red iron-rich soil atop a carefully chosen seam of permafrost. On a six minute lag, the machines translate his motions into building unreal works of architecture, built for no one and only viewed from remote camera, on the ground and orbiting hundreds of miles overhead.

    In a week, when the story breaks and the world has seen the walls and plazas and walkways rising from the alien desert, he’s built a sprawling city that is equal parts Las Vegas and ancient Babylon.

    Again, I ask you to consider the Sci-Fi Now possibilities of linking embryonic technologies to express both the creativity and the darkness in the human soul.  With a bounty, they’ve cracked the Kinect and people like the gentleman above are already drawing in air, creating and manipulating 3-D space.  What happens when we re-translate those motions back into the physical?  When the stroke of the hand through air is replicated by the machine arm?  Or draws a structure that an extruder then pours onto the earth in quick-set concrete?  The mania our species shows for creating monuments is coming to the individual, along with the carbon, scrap and waste that comes with such an activity.

    The supervillian of the future will have his Kinect hooked to Structure Synth, feeding into UAV construction equipment, writing his symphony upon the earth in the shape of algorithmically generated strip malls, linked in chains that choke the shattered landscape.   Or, as I recall the view from the plane’s window as I flew into Chicago-Midway, did that already happen?

  6. City of Seattle’s $5000 Ley Line Map

    Map of Ley Lines in SeattleEver hear of Ley Lines? Alfred Watkins, an amateur archaeologist, noted that several places of interest seemed to follow a straight line. Naturally there’s many reasons for that: paths from flood plains, established routes, and plain pareidolia— or the human interest in seeking patterns at all times. Watkins was convinced ley lines were a genuine force in Britain’s landmarks and the cosmos. A source of energy that, as often happens in psuedoscience, only the ancients knew existed.

    The real success of ley lines as an idea occurred after Watkins death in the budding New Age movement of the 1960’s. Ley lines were the perfect New Age cocktail of middle school level science, mysticism, and reverence for the “noble savages.” The idea of magnetic mystical energy was a powerful and captivating idea to some audiences.

    The idea is not generally accepted. The city of Seattle though through the Seattle Arts Commission– not science mind you– had a map comissioned in 1987. Which can be yours from the artists Geo Group for $5,000 or roughly $9,300 today. It is still housed at the North Service Center of the Seattle City Light company.

    A brief video showing some of the “Power Centers” in Seattle.

  7. Free Land: Land Rush Continues, Minus the Rush

    Sick of paying rent?  Of course you are.  Every time I write that stupid monthly check I take a moment to reflect on how it seems that every square inch of this earth is owned and occupied by someone or something that had the luck to show up years before I ever got around to trying to live somewhere.  Rare is the place where you can lay down without paying a toll, and…

    OK, I’ll skip the hobo monologue and get to the juicy bit:

    FREE FRIGGIN’ LAND!  You heard me.  There are still places in the US that have land for the asking.  Vurbly did a nice little roundup of six places in the U.S.–in Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, and Maine–that are offering free land to people and companies interested in relocating to their town.  While in the back of my mind, I’m thinking that these must be economically struggling areas, battling the inevitable flight of human capital when local industry goes bust, these communities sure do paint a rosy picture.

    Marquette, Kansas woos you like:

    The community of Marquette, Kansas is offering free building lots to interested families who are looking for an extraordinary small town, in the heart of America, to call home. The building lots are located in the Westridge Addition development on the west edge of town with beautiful, open views of the evening sunset and wide-open rolling fields. The Westridge addition has become home to both retired people and young families from right here in Kansas and across the United States. They have all come together to enjoy the friendly, affordable, relaxed, safe and peaceful lifestyle that this small, centrally-located Kansas town offers. A lifestyle where neighbors know neighbors and parents feel comfortable letting kids play outside, take a bike ride and walk to school. We offer you not only a free building lot, but the chance to join these residents in enjoying this exceptional lifestyle.

    Don’t get it twisted, though.  Each and every one of these offers comes with a catch.  Some want you to bring a business to town that will employ locals, others just want you to build on your free lot along a set of building guidelines.  Abandon your dreams of stringing up barbed wire and digging up sod for a prairie homestead.  Or at least find a different venue.

    If rules aren’t your thing, may I suggest the perennially popular option of squatting?  Living in abandoned structures has its charms and adventures as well as a history dating back to the very dawn of raising structures to live in.  Here’s a nice and thorough UK-centric primer for the prospective squatter.  For those of us in the States, the San Francisco Tenant’s Union has a bit of a primer here.

    image by Flickr user davedehetre

  8. Andy Weir’s Short Story “The Egg”

    Briliant short story by Andy Weir: “The Egg“. Highly worth checking out.

    I’ve always been opposed to the Cartesian fueled afterlife that dominates Western society. The Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno once asked a peasant if he believed it was possible there is a God– but no afterlife. The peasant responded “Then wherefore God?” It’s comforting feeling I suppose that there is somewhere else to go when the engines power down, but a dangerous one. A comforting feeling that brings out the most vile aspects of humanity in fear, war, violence, and domination.

    So when a story about the afterlife doesn’t leave a bitter taste in my mouth, it has to be good. I’m damn impressed.

    The Egg” by Andy Weir is just that. I would say its better than any of the short stories in the recent cult-classic Sum: Forty Tales of the Afterlife by David Eagleman.

    Also worth noting is “The Martian” his ongoing saga of an astronaut stranded on Mars and (so far) cleverly survives.