The Null Device


A blogger named John finds a stack of 1960s-vintage womens' magazines, blogs about them being a depressing insight into how people coped with suburban isolation in the days before personal blogs/World of Warcraft/MySpace:

Some time ago at a yard sale I came across a pile of magazines called "Woman's Household". At first glance they just looked like your run of the mill woman's recipe and crafts magazine, but with each one I picked up I was stunned; I had never seen such despair wrapped up in so much yarn. The woman running the sale, gave them all to me for a dollar, saying "Take them all, they are just going in the garbage." I knew I'd do something with them someday, I guess this blog is it.
"Woman's Household" was a monthly crafts publication which sold for 25 cents an issue. Their slogan was "Meet Other Friendly Woman Just Like You". The key phrase being 'just like you'; middle aged women isolated in small towns across America. Every month readers were encouraged to participate in the writing of the articles, such as My Pet Peeve, or Words I Live By, My Diet or just to write a poem about Christ or their cat.
My favorite section is Missing Persons Corner. Here people ask for help in finding a long, long lost friend or relative. Usually the description of the person is vague at best, i.e., liked to drive cars; five foot five, last seen in Pensacola Florida. The most amazing thing is that they even have a section for people found.
Then again, would the suburban housewives who read these magazines in the 1960s have felt the kind of despair and isolation that John describes, or is our perception of this as depressing an artefact of us living in a far faster-moving and more stimulus-rich world? I suspect that the boredom may be subjective; whether or not the social isolation of living in the suburbs would have been objectively distressing could be a different question.

(via Boing Boing) artefacts culture hell suburbia tedium 0

Security researchers dissect a Russian spam botnet; it turns out that these things are getting alarmingly sophisticated:

Once a Windows machine is infected, it becomes a peer in a peer-to-peer botnet controlled by a central server. If the control server is disabled by botnet hunters, the spammer simply has to control a single peer to retain control of all the bots and send instructions on the location of a new control server.
Stewart said about 20 small investment and financial news sites have been breached for the express purpose of downloading user databases with e-mail addresses matched to names and other site registration data. On the bot herder's control server, Stewart found a MySQL database dump of e-mail addresses associated with an online shop. "They're breaking into sites that are somewhat related to the stock market and stealing e-mail address from those databases. The thinking is, if they get an e-mail address for someone reading stock market and investment news, that's a perfect target for these penny stock scams," Stewart said in an interview with eWEEK.
The SpamThru spammer also controls lists of millions of e-mail addresses harvested from the hard drives of computers already in the botnet. "This gives the spammer the ability to reach individuals who have never published their e-mail address online or given it to anyone other than personal contacts," Stewart explained.
Stewart discovered that the image files in the templates are modified with every e-mail message sent, allowing the spammer to change the width and height. The image-based spam also includes random pixels at the bottom, specifically to defeat anti-spam technologies that reject mail based on a static image.
The botnet is theoretically capable of sending a billion emails each day, with each having multiple recipients. And the total volume of spam has increased by 500% in the past 3 months.

(via /.) crime security spam 0

I just got a spam email containing no attached images, no advertising pitches, no URLs, and indeed nothing but four letters and two digits, rendered as ASCII-art, entirely out of digits, a little like:

  3822  63748   90678  64826  109067      058   09405
 09  40 53  26 90      86  30 94           05       38
 47  07 10985  11      34  53 84059        76   96534
 961179 64  23 36      64  57 63           53  22
 42  52 12659   82391  26911  126422  75  2307 8174775
(This is an impression; the actual digits and the represented text were changed.)

What could this be? Is it some online version of graffiti tagging, calculated to be as obnoxiously intrusive as the real-world equivalent? Secret al-Qaeda messages to sleeper agents? A brand-building campaign for some product? Or something else altogether?

spam 4

The U.S. government has eliminated hunger in America. Thanks to a recent change in terminology, 35 million formerly hungry Americans now merely have "very low food security".

(via bengraham) newspeak orwellian politics usa 0

This looks like a potentially interesting film:

"Heartbroken by a break-up with his girlfriend Desiree, twentysomething Zia (Almost Famous' Patrick Fugit) kills himself - only to wake up in the afterlife: a purgatory populated exclusively by other suicides, where the jukeboxes only play Joy Division and Nirvana, all the colours seem desaturated, and life is more or less the same as back in the real world - 'just a little worse'. Learning that his beloved ex has also taken her life, he hooks up with a Russian misfit (whose final moments, seen in flashback, provide one of the film's funniest scenes), and a moody Goth hitchhiker (Shannyn Sossamon), and sets off in a battered station wagon to find her; the resulting road-trip - including a scene-stealing cameo by Tom Waits - forms the basis of this ruefully funny road movie."
And there's an IMDB entry here.

(via Mind Hacks) film media suicide 1