Paradise is Diablo Cody's fourth full-length feature film, but her first as both a writer and director, and is perhaps her most gloriously entertaining endeavor to date. The film tells the story of Lamb Mannerheim (played by Julianne Hough), a young girl from a highly religious small town in Montana who has a crisis of faith after she loses her fiancé and is badly burned in a horrific plane crash. Scarred inside and out, she denounces her belief in God in the most spectacular of ways - in front of her parents (Holly Hunter and Nick Offerman), family, friends, neighbors, and entire community - from the pulpit of her local church during a sermon in which she was supposed to announce a substantial gift from her multi-million dollar settlement check. Instead, she takes herself and her windfall off to the Devil's playground, otherwise known as Las Vegas. On a mission to seek out the worldly pleasures she's missed out on, she befriends a lascivious and licentious barman named William (Russell Brand) and his cohort, a nightclub singer named Loray (Octavia Spencer). Though running away from God and the narrow-minded morals of her hometown, Lamb's spiritual journey through Paradise, Nevada (where the Las Vegas Strip technically resides) ultimately helps her find herself. But this is no heavy-handed morality/immorality tale. Thanks to Cody's wonderfully witty script, intelligent observations, and sharp direction, and the comedic talents of her incredible cast, Paradise is enlightening in more ways than one. We caught up with Cody recently to talk about the film.
Morcheeba's lush sound - which is topped off by singer Skye Edwards' velvety soft, soothing and sensual voice - is like a warm bath. It's something you should surrender and sink into.
Coming to the fore in the mid-nineties alongside such artists as Portishead, Tricky and Massive Attack, Morcheeba helped define the trip hop genre with the mellow vibes and downtempo grooves of their seminal 1996 debut, Who Can You Trust. They've always refused to be confined by the tenets of trip hop however, and in the intervening years the UK trio - which is comprised of Edwards and brothers Paul and Ross Godfrey - have transcended the genre they helped create.
Though Morcheeba's music is often supremely relaxing, it's never tired, and their forthcoming studio album, the band's eigth, is no exception. While retaining their unique warm and mellow sound, and delving back into their hip hop roots, the new release, Head Up High, has a subtle yet invigorating upbeat kick - something the band refer to as "Morcheeba with a pulse."
On the eve of a string of North American and European dates, we caught up with Edwards to talk about the new album, which hits stores on October 14th.
"I'm a pop junkie," says Victoria Hesketh a.k.a. Little Boots, whose stated goal is to write the perfect pop song. It could be argued that the British singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist has already done that with the 2009 single "New In Town" from her debut album Hands, but Hesketh modestly insists she has yet to attain that songwriting holy grail.
The word "pop" when describing any artistic medium is often considered to be synonymous with shallow and disposable, but the music Hesketh makes is most definitely not of that ilk. Unlike many who seek popular music success, Hesketh has put in the work and refused to sacrifice her individuality. She's learnt her craft, paid her dues, and stayed true to her somewhat geeky self, and in doing so has created a DIY electro-pop aesthetic all of her own. Rejecting over-polished pop, Hesketh incorporates lo-fi sounds from offbeat gadgets such as the Stylophone and Tenori-on into her well-crafted songs.
It's this down to earth, quirky, and honest approach that resonates with fans, who appreciate that she's never conformed to the pop princess mold - though conversely it's something that no doubt frustrated her first major label Warner Music Group home. Creative differences led to an amicable split after the release of her first album, and now Little Boots is doing her own thing her own way.
Her second album, Nocturnes, which was produced by Mo' Wax co-founder Tim Goldsworthy (now of disco-punk label DFA records), was released via Hesketh's On Repeat Records imprint earlier this year, and a video for the song "Satellite," which she directed, debuted this month.
We caught up with Hesketh by phone as she was preparing for her upcoming US tour, which kicks off in Santa Ana, California this weekend.
Little Boots album Nocturnes, featuring the single "Satellite", is out now. Her US tour kicks of at the Constellation Room in Santa Ana, CA on Sunday, September 22nd, 2013. For more info visit littlebootsmusic.co.uk/.
"There's only one thing worse in society than the poor house and that's the mad house." ~ Adman Ant
Back in the early '80s, Adam Ant was the king of the wild post-punk frontier. Mentored by former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren and his fashion designer partner Vivienne Westwood, the London born art school dropout created a visually vivid world of pirates and dandies which brought color back to the palate of a culturally monotone and economically depressed UK.
Having amassed an avid US fanbase with his music, and after starring in a critically acclaimed West End production of the Joe Orton play Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Ant moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. However the price of fame took its toll. Alongside film and TV roles, he also aquired a stalker, which severely impacted his already fragile peace of mind.
Taking a break from the public eye, Ant moved to Tennessee before returning to London, where an altercation outside a pub thrust him back into the headlines again. Following the incident, Ant pled guilty to a single count of causing an affray. Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 21, Ant received a suspended sentence and court ordered psychiatric care. Unfortunately, due to the relentless nature of the British press, he was forced to pull his life back together under the tabloid glare.
Though his recovery was very public and far from linear - with every setback being exacerbated by its salacious documentation by the less savory contingent of the UK press - Ant is clearly in a much better place these days. He completed a string of dates in the US and Europe in 2012, before releasing his first studio album in 17 years. The intriguingly titled Adam Ant Is The Blueblack Hussar in Marrying The Gunner's Daughter was released on both side of the Atlantic in January of this year.
I caught up with Ant by phone after a rehearsal with his new band The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse to talk about his new album and his upcoming US tour, which kicks off in San Diego on July 17th.
"I know something of the life that this man lives in this film," says Pierce Brosnan, when asked what attracted him to Love Is All You Need. It's without doubt his most personal role to date. He plays a character very different from the cool, calm and collected men of action that dominate his résumé, which includes the title role in the TV series Remington Steele, and leads in movies such as Dante's Peak, The Thomas Crown Affair and The Tailor of Panama, as well as a four-film stint as James Bond, in Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day.
Though still suave and sophisticated, in Love Is All You Need, Brosnan's character Philip is also very vulnerable beneath his expensive suits and default crabby demeanor. Philip is an English businessman isolated by geography in Denmark, and cut off from love due to the untimely and sudden death of his wife. As a coping mechanism, he divorces himself from his emotions and thrusts himself into his work running an international fruit and vegetable import/export empire. However, on the way to his son's wedding at a picturesque but neglected Italian villa, surrounded by orange and lemon groves, that he once shared with his late wife, love literally and metaphorically crashes into Philip's life.
The somewhat chaotic Ida, played with extreme candor and subtlety by Danish actress Tinre Dyrholm, is the last thing Philip wants in his well-ordered and controlled world. But she is everything he needs. They bump into each other when Ida reverses her beat up car into Philip's pristine one in an airport parking lot. As they exchange information, to their mutual horror and embarrassment, they realize they are both en route to the same wedding since Ida is the mother of the bride.
Ida's vulnerabilities are far less well concealed than Philip's. Indeed her wig is knocked off when her car airbag inflates, revealing a scalp left hairless due to the rigors of chemotherapy. But her hair - and a breast - are not the only losses Ida's recently endured. Her husband has also just walked out on her, and into the arms of a younger woman. As a result, Ida is barely able to keep it together as she suffers the weight of Philip's frustration and scorn. But her kindness, dignity, and cheerful spirit in the face of adversity prevail, and ultimately chip away at the stone that surrounds Philip's heart.
Though dealing with the grim realities of breast cancer in an unusually honest way, the film -- which was directed by Academy Award-winning Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier and produced by Vibeke Windeløv, who has worked extensively with Dogme director Lars von Trier -- is very much a celebration of life and love. The two central characters ultimately come to terms with their respective losses, and find a way to move past them, and it's this aspect that resonates deeply with Brosnan's own experience.
The Irish born actor lost his first wife, Cassandra Harris, after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer in 1991. She was just 43. Like Philip, Brosnan eventually allowed himself to love again, and married journalist Keely Shaye Smith after a 7 year courtship in 2001. The couple have now been together for over 19 years and tirelessly campaign to raise awareness and money for environmental causes and women's healthcare issues.
I recently met up with Brosnan at the Regent Beverly Wilshire hotel to talk about Love Is All You Need, which is in theaters now.
Nicole Powers: You must have been at this all day.
Pierce Brosnan: I have actually. All day, all yesterday, all week, but it's good, because the film is a beautiful film.
NP: I was just going to say how beautiful it was. It's a very unusual love story too, because it's not just about the transformative power of love, it's about the transformative power of a little honesty and a lot of kindness.
PB: It is. You're absolutely right in that regard. It is about kindness, it is about affairs of the heart, it's about the humanity of people's lives who are mangled by love or by their own infidelities. It's also about a woman who's dealing with the rigors and the stress of breast cancer and trying to cleave her way through the healing of that, and a man, like myself, who is dormant within his own widowdom. That's the power and the glory of Susanne Bier, she's a really fantastic writer, a fantastic director.
NP: I love the brave choices she made. I mean, there's the traditional Hollywood portrayal of cancer, but she chose not to take that route. There's a particularly powerful bathing scene where you actually see...
PB: Her breast.
NP: And her wound. And that was important, to see that and have that honesty in the portrayal.
PB: Yes. I think it's one of the most gorgeous scenes in the movie. I think it's probably the epicenter of the movie. You see the vulnerability of this magnificent woman played by Trine Dyrholm. You see the joy away from the pain of cancer [as she's] just bathing in these gorgeous waters - naked and abandoned to life. Then he thinks she's drowning, it's very tender and really beautifully done. It was an amazing setting to play the scene out in, and to see Trine do it with such courage and be naked. It's not easy to be naked and have a camera on your as well.
NP: I also think it was a very courageous film for you to take on, because it must have brought back some painful memories from your past.
PB: It was come the day for the memories to go there, to go back to the loss of a wife that you loved, to go back and touch into that space and time and heart. But one does that in many different ways in your work. That's what the job and the art of acting is, to go back to places that you don't necessarily want to go back to and to bring them alive. That's the challenge. And if you have a piece like this that is so supportive for those memories, and you have a director like Susanne Bier, who's directing you through the piece, then you can surrender to it. And you have actors like Trine before you who make you real.
NP: Yes, she's incredible. When you first saw the script what attracted you to it?
PB: Because I could identify with the emblems that were in this character's life. Losing a wife, being a single parent, being a widower, being, not necessarily a workaholic - because I do like to do work. I love working, I love acting, and it's what I do.
NP: And finding love again?
PB: And finding love again, I knew about that. I've got a great girl, a great woman who's my North Star, nineteen years together going down the road. So, you know, I know something of the life that this man lives in this film. It's about faith, new beginnings, all in the celebration of a wedding. Everyone can identify with a wedding. It's the bringing together of two families, it's a bringing together of a man and a woman, a boy and a girl, their love in the eyes of god, so there's all of that ceremony that is timeless, generation after generation. And then the crazy, madcap world within that when they clash and the alcohol flows and the music flows and the resentments come out and people really begin to show themselves.
NP: The whole thing with family is that you have to love them despite their flaws.
PB: Yeah, you do. Because we're all cracked and fractured, that's love and only love really. It's the essence of being human, being kind with whatever you do - writing, painting, being a dentist or being an accountant or whatever - I think it's to be kind, to be loving.
NP: How long did you get to spend in Italy? The location was stunning.
PB: We spent just over a month there. It was amazing. It was just fabulous. Sorrento is a gorgeous part of the Italian coastline.
NP: I went on vacation there. It was the best trip I've ever had in my entire life. And seeing that villa set amongst the orange and lemon groves made me want smell-o-vision, because it must have smelt good.
PB: Oh, it was mighty, it was really, really unbelievable. I had the time of my life. It's a film that I will carry in my heart forever and a day, because of the nature of it. Then that it's there on film, that Morten [Søborg], the DP, captured it in such glorious color. And to wake up every day and go to work and Vibeke [Windeløv], one of the producers on the film, who's a very charismatic lady. She found a villa for me, so I lived in the Villa Tritone, which was down the back streets. Do you remember when you were there, you could go down the back streets of Sorrento, down to the little village, the little bay? Well, as you go down that avenue, just before you get to the Saracens' Gate, if you remember that, where the Saracens came through all those centuries ago, on the right there were green gates, and there was the Villa Tritone. So I stayed in this villa. Vibeke made a deal with the lovely owners, I stayed there, and then consequently all the cast and crew could come in - because they wanted to have James Bond in their house. [laughs] God love 'em! God bless 'em! [Puts on thick Irish accent] I'm just an actor. There you go, let's party guys!
NP: This movie, and Mamma Mia, which is also set in a Mediterranean surrounding and centered around a wedding, made me realize that Europeans know how to eat, drink, and be merry, in a way that...
PB: Americans do, Americans do as well.
NP: But the lushness of the land, and the connection of it to the wine and the produce on the table...
PB:: Well, there is that old worldliness to it - that's what's so beguiling and captivating. These films are like bookends, Mamma Mia and this one. They sit there like bookends on the shelf. Because both are surrounded by the epicenter of a wedding.
NP: Did the locals enjoy the fact that James Bond was staying in their town? Were there any particularly funny moments with the locals while you were in Sorrento?
PB: Erm...Yes, but I can't really talk about the one that comes to mind. [laughs] It involves...Oh no, I couldn't. You'll have to read the memoirs for that one. [laughs]
NP: [laughs] Damn, that's a tease!
PB: It's a tease, isn't it? No, not really, I wondered around and, you know, the locals...I'd get out and about and I'd go to church Sundays, because the churches are everywhere, on every corner, and they're so magnificent and such a celebration of faith. And the food was fantastic. I met a family who had a boat, so some days I'd just go around the coast and down the coast of the Amalfi.
NP: Ah, the Amalfi Coast.
PB: It was just around the corner, literally.
NP: Yeah, I took a bus trip along the coastal cliff road, and the bus was so long and the corners were so sharp it felt like we were going to plunge over the edge at times.
PB: Yeah, best not to look too closely. That opening scene with us in the car, that was all along the Amalfi Coast. I don't know how the hell we managed to do it but we did...But it was an embarrassment of riches.
NP: Well your career's almost been an embarrassment of riches. I mean you got a big break early on when Tennessee Williams handpicked you to be in the UK premiere of his play [The Red Devil Battery Sign], and then you've work with Roman Polanski on The Ghost Writer - is there anyone you feel that you've yet to work with?
PB: Oh, so many, so many.
NP: Who? Put their names out into the universe and see what comes back.
PB: I'd love to work with Ang Lee and David O. Russell, I'd love to work with Robert De Niro, Quentin Tarantino - he wanted to do James Bond.
NP: I could see that actually.
PB: We got so, so polluted one night, he and I. Just absolutely in our cups at the Four Seasons.
NP: That's a nice euphemism. What were you getting "polluted" on?
PB: Apple Martinis.
NP: They're lethal.
PB: Ah, lethal.
NP: Because they're so fruity.
PB: Ah, fruity, we were being very fruity that night, the two of us.
Publicist: [walks through the door and interrupts our conversation to bring the interview to a close] On that fruity note...So sorry
PB: On that fruity note...there we go...
NP: Nooo! Just as I'm getting the story of the night Pierce Brosnan gets drunk on Apple Martinis with Quentin Tarantino - Argh!!!!
"I'm not cynical about clicktivism."
- Cory Doctorow
I was recently fortunate enough to spend some quality time with Cory Doctorow discussing topics related to the plot of Homeland, the thrilling follow up to his contemporary classic novel Little Brother (which serves as a primer on civil rights in the digital age). Our conversation spanned 90 minutes and ran into excess of 17,000 words, so the need for brevity dictated that I had to edit our interview heavily. However, Doctorow has an avid following, and rightly so. Hence I figured those of you that enjoyed the first installment of our interview might appreciate this second bite at the apple.
In the first part, we discussed Burning Man, which is where the action in Homeland kicks off, and the student debt bubble, which serves as a backdrop to the book. In part two, our conversation delves further into the post-Occupy politics of Homeland. In Doctorow's book, our hacktivist hero Marcus Yallow, having been forced out of the education system due to financial pressures, gains a position as a tech guru for an independent political candidate. Our discussion therefore naturally turns to the limitations of two party systems, the potential social media has to transform the political landscape, the pros and cons of clicktivism, and the perils of online activism, which is especially poignant given that Aaron Swartz contributed an afterward to the book.
"Scholarship is inherently not a market activity."
- Cory Doctorow
Cory Doctorow has made me wait almost a year to read Homeland, the much-anticipated sequel to Little Brother, his opus on civil rights and protest in the digital age. With not one but two Doctorow novels, Pirate Cinema and Rapture of the Nerds (which was co-authored with Charles Stross), already on the release schedule for 2012, Homeland has had to loiter in the wings for a 2013 publication date. But the wait has been well worth it. Homeland is a beyond worthy successor to Little Brother.
The highly prophetic novel, which was first published in 2007, is now regarded as a contemporary classic. As such, Little Brother is required reading in many of our more progressive schools, and has even been turned into a "must see" stage play -- hence Homeland has quite a legacy to live up to.
When I last sat down with Doctorow -- for an interview specifically about Little Brother -- on January 4th, 2012, Obama had just signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012 into law. With the stroke of our President's pen, yet another of the central themes of Little Brother -- unlimited military detention without trial -- had become fact rather than fiction.
In Homeland (which Doctorow had finished writing a few days prior to our first meeting), we return to the Little Brother universe a year and a half after the last novel left off. In the intervening months, austerity has choked the life and soul out of America, and our hacktivist hero Marcus Yallow has quit his studies, having been forced out of university by financial pressures and burgeoning student debt.
The action kicks off at Burning Man, where Marcus has an unexpected encounter with his sometime ally Masha, and their nemesis Carrie Johnstone. Masha, who is on the run from just about every law enforcement agency you can name (and a few that you can't), hands Marcus an insurance policy in the form of a key to an encrypted torrent file which contains a treasure drove of highly sensitive data. Her subsequent disappearance prompts Marcus to set up a WikiLeaks-like site, an endeavor which is made all the more complicated by conflicts of interests that arise from his new job as a tech guru for an independent political candidate.
Meanwhile Johnstone has given up her position in the military for a lucrative job in the private sector with a Halliburton type entity that has tentacles embedded in the government, military, and the increasingly lucrative (and corrupt) student loan market. It's therefore no surprise that Johnstone and her corporation, Zyz, are the subject of much of Masha's leaked data, and a cat & mouse game ensues involving lawful interception, rootkits, and drones. It's not all doom and gloom though, and at one point during the breakneck-paced plot, Marcus (and Doctorow vicariously through him) gets to sit down and have a Mini Dungeon adventure with Electronic Frontier Foundation founders John Perry Barlow, John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor, with uber geek Wil Wheaton acting as Dungeon Master.
Having read an advance copy of Homeland, I met up with Doctorow at his North London workspace to question him about it. As I make myself comfortable on his couch and set up my digital recorder on the coffee table next to his well-thumbed copy of the RAND Corporation's 1955 book A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates, the Canadian-born writer and Boing Boing editor does something quintessentially English by offering me a cup of tea. Normally this would be more than acceptable, but having been tempted by the delights of cold-brew coffee -- Marcus' hi-octane beverage of choice which fuels much of Homeland -- I can't help feeling a little disappointed that Doctorow didn't have a batch on the go...
"I believe that we are at the brink of a 1,000 year Dark Age and unless we stand up viscerally and powerfully and with civil disobedience and everything we've got, if we don't start fighting for a different kind of future, then we're not going to have a future."
~ Kalle Lasn, Adbusters
Adbusters co-founder and Occupy Wall Street protagonist Kalle Lasn is hoping his new book, Meme Wars, will ultimately facilitate the occupation of the world's financial institutions, corporations, and governments from within. It's a lofty goal and a long game, but as Lasn so eloquently puts it: "If we don't start fighting for a different kind of future then we're not going to have a future."
Over the course of Meme War's 400+ pages, Lasn challenges students in the economics departments of learning institutions around the globe to rise up, reeducate their professors, and demand they cast aside the failed tenets of orthodox economics. He also sets forth a more holistic curriculum which takes into account the psychological and environmental costs of doing business and redefines the concept of wealth to include mental and ecological health.
We spoke with Lasn, who was born in Estonia but is Vancouver based, by phone.
These days, it's kinda like your computer illiterate granddad is laying down the law on the internet. Only worse. Cause your computer illiterate granddad doesn't have the power to send your ass to jail for longer than most rapists for the crime of clicking on the wrong http link. Which is something the US government is trying to do. Fo' realz. Yep. That.
Case in point. Andrew Alan Escher Auernheimer, a.k.a. @rabite, a.k.a. Weev. He's just been found guilty on one count of not actually hacking anything and one count of having a list of email addresses, even though no one bothered to prove he ever actually had 'em, tho everyone agrees his mate did. Confusing right? You can totally imagine Gramps throwing his hands in the air at this point and saying to hell with this good-for-nothing with two too many silly-ass names - which is pretty much what the US government is doing.
Part of the problem is that the laws Andrew Alan Escher Auernheimer, fuck it, let's just call him Weev, has been found guilty of violating - which came into being under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) - predate Hypertext Transfer Protocol, the first documented version of which, V0.9, was codified in 1991. In light of the fact that we've yet to come up with a fully functioning flux capacitor, as you can imagine, the application of the CFAA on today's internet works about as well as Doc Brown's DeLorean time machine.
"Couldn't it be argued that Weev actually did something good and beneficial for society?"
Wait? Wut? If that's the case, remind me why Grampa Government is trying to throw his ass in jail?
I'm chatting with Jay Leiderman, a chap who knows a thing or three about the law and the internet. He's an elite California State Bar Certified Criminal Law Specialist-grade lawyer who's defended several high profile hacktivist types, including Raynaldo Rivera of LulzSec and Commander X of the Peoples Liberation Front. He also happens to be a Twitter ninja, which is how I got to know him. A quick perusal of his @LeidermanDevine twitter feed will tell you Jay's a rare legit legal animal who clearly gets today's wobbly whirly web, which is why I called him up to discuss Weev's wobbly whirly situation, which is as follows...
On November 20, 2012, in a Newark, NJ court, Weev was convicted of USC 1028, "identity theft" (as in "stealing" a list of email addresses) and USC 1030 "conspiracy to access a computer device without authorization" -- which, according to Jay, is something we technically all do multiple times every day. Given that Weev was singled out of the entirety of America's online population for prosecution, in real terms, it's safe to say what he's actually more guilty of is embarrassing the fuck out of a Fortune 500 company...and the government no likey that.
Let me explain: Back in 2010 when the iPad first came out, Weev's mate figured out that AT&T was doing a sloppy ass job with autofill on an app, and in the course of achieving this great technological feat had publicly published the e-mail addresses and ICC-IDs (the identifiers that match a person to their SIM card in a mobile device) of its entire iPad customer base on the web - with no password, no firewall, no fuck off or die warning, no nothing to protect them. Yep. Really. They were that dumb.
"There's an AT&T web app that had a URL on it with a number at the end, and if you added one to the number you would see the next email address," explains Weev by phone after I tracked his ass down via teh twitters. Obviously there's quicker ways to get kicks online than adding a digit to a URL and hitting return (have you tried Googling Goatse?), so Weeve's ever resourceful mate, Daniel Spitler, created an app called the "iPad 3G Account Slurper" which sucked up well over 100,000 addresses. "My friend just wrote a script to irate though and add one to the number again and again and again," Weeve tells me. "It's not fucking rocket science. It's basic arithmetic. It could have been done manually on any iPad."
So that explains how they "stole" the list of publicly published email addresses, but why might be a better question to ask. "Comment and criticism against large companies which go unchecked in our country," replies Weev, when I ask him. "And making a public spectacle and ridiculing them, which I think frankly makes me the best fucking American in the room. We used to be a country that valued criticism of the powerful, and we haven't really been in the past three decades."
To add context, at the time, Weev and his mate (who copped a plea bargain) were working under the banner of Goatse Security, and as such, their mission in life was to explore gaping holes (I told you to Google Goatse!). AT&T's might not have been the sexiest of holes, but it was gaping and it could be argued that it was in the public interest that Goatse Security rummage around in it.
Among the private email addresses that AT&T were publicly publishing were ones belonging to politicians (New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel), members of the military and multiple government agencies (DARPA, DHS, NSA, FAA and FCC), and high profile media types (Diane Sawyer and New York Times CEO Janet Robinson). Goatse Security could have had much lulz with the list and/or sold it for mucho dinero, an option which the duo allegedly discussed in IRC chats but put aside. Instead, they decided to go to the press to speak truth to power, which was really when the trouble began.
Weev served as Goatse's spokesperson and spin master. It was his job to liaise with the media and present stories in a way that might titillate us lazy-ass scribes. "Hey, look, I just found a list of email addresses on a bunch publicly accessible web pages" might have been accurate, but it wasn't the kind of story that would make copy even on the slowest of news days, so Weev sexed it up a bit. In a press release sent to several news outlets he wrote, "I stole your email," and, like a magician offering to explain a trick, followed it up with, "Let me explain the method of theft."
Because of this hyperbole, Weev essentially convicted himself on the first count of "identity theft." The prosecution spent much of their time with Weeve on the stand discussing his use of the words "stole" and "theft" during cross-examination. I mean, I know it's said that sarcasm is the lowest form of humor, but I didn't know it was illegal! And speaking of the law's humor bind spot, the prosecution also referred to Weev's Encyclopedia Dramatica entry and used that against him, which, given the spoof nature of the site, is tantamount to using a Saturday Night Live skit as legitimate and damning character evidence. I. Kid. You. Not.
At no time did Goatse ever make the list publicly available - AT&T were the only ones doing that. The prosecution never really attempted to prove that Weev possessed the full list of email addresses. What neither side disputes is that Weev tapped the list for a handful of press email contacts (something he would have likely got by calling the media outlets direct anyways), then merely passed on a link to it to a journalist for verification. The journalist in question was Ryan Tate of Gawker. His story ran on June 9th, 2010, and it was because of this that the shit hit the proverbial fan.
"This access would have gone unnoticed if I hadn't gone to the press. If I hadn't informed AT&T's customers," says Weev. "They're not really pissed about the access, they're pissed about the speech attached to the access. God forbid corporations be subject to fair comment and criticism."
Talking of access, the second count Weev was convicted of - "conspiracy to access a computer device without authorization" - is something that should be cause for concern for anyone that has ever clicked on anything on the web. The way this law - which predates all of One Direction and the hyperlinked internet as we know it - is interpreted means that accessing a "protected computer" could get your ass slung in jail. But what is a "protected computer" and how the fuck are you supposed to know when you're accessing one? This is where the law gets interesting. And by interesting, I mean really fucking stupid.
"The definition of protected computer comes from comes from the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986, and in 1986 http hadn't been invented yet," says Weev. "This was a long time ago when servers were things that were only accessible by dial-up that every single one universally had a password for. There wasn't the concept of a public network. At the time, if you were accessing a remote server, and you didn't have permission to be there it's clear that it wasn't public data. But now it's the age of the internet. We click links every day. You've never gotten Google's permission to go to Google, you've never gotten any website's permission that you've visited. It's the universally understood aspect of the web that you can visit a public http server without pre-written authorization. It's a ridiculous notion that you need it. And the prosecutor is using an ancient antiquated definition of a protected system, which is any system that engages in interstate commerce. So essentially, every cell phone, every computer, every public web server is a protected system, and the minute you do something that a website operator doesn't like - if they're rich enough of course, if they're a Fortune 500 company - then they can have you."
That might sound rather dramatic, but Jay, my favorite SG-lovin' lawyer agrees. "Based upon this case, the government's new position is that you are required to be clairvoyant in terms of determining what a protected computer is and what a non protected one is," he tells me. "From now on you have to be a psychic...because if it isn't password protected but it's a 'protected computer' you're potentially going to be found guilty like Weev was."
Thank god there's free tittysprinkles on the internet, because otherwise the risks of clicking on something you shouldn't wouldn't be worth price. As Weev puts it, "The law says every time that you click a link, if the person at the other end has enough money and connections, and they just don't like you, they can have you arbitrarily thrown in jail by declaring your access - after the fact - unauthorized."
But how did we get from "something good and beneficial for society" to "free tittysprinkles"? Well, some might see a very obvious linear connection, but those that don't should consider this; There's a cat and mouse game that goes on between big business and the internet security community, but it's a symbiotic relationship nevertheless. And as consumers who are clueless when it comes to code, we should be grateful to those that are scanning for flaws, and pressuring big corporations to sort their shit out on our behalf.
"Perhaps the greatest lesson of Weev's case is that not only is there no reward for helping these companies patch their holes and fix themselves, indeed now you're going to be facing ten or fifteen years of prison if you do," says Jay. "What's the incentive to make these companies more secure? I mean, you're better off just hacking them now. You're better off just hacking these companies and not telling them. If you get caught essentially you're facing about the same punishment anyway so what's the difference?"
Weev is currently in the process of appealing his conviction. You can donate to help with his legal costs here.
The weekend leading up to Occupy LA's October 1st anniversary featured a packed schedule of activities, which included panel discussions, educational events, and a Really, Really Free Market. In anticipation of the big day, several protesters reoccupied City Hall on the Sunday night, erecting tents on the sidewalk surrounding the now restored South Lawn. Though the LAPD harassed campers under the premise of minor infractions, occupiers ensured they stayed within the bounds of the law and local codes, and were allowed to stay in their temporary encampment overnight. Despite the fact that two arrests were made - after those suspected of "crimes" such as first degree jaywalking and possession of a bike with no light were found to have outstanding warrants - the symbolic victory set a distinctly upbeat tone for Occupy LA's first birthday celebrations, which featured a rally at Pershing Square at noon (were OLA kicked off exactly one year ago), an afternoon of marches and direct actions, and a special evening GA. Though anti-Occupy propaganda and general burnout had taken its toll on numbers, a hardcore group of protesters, who through shared goals have forged strong bonds over the past year, came out to celebrate their numerous tangible achievements and their new American Dream: that another - fairer - world is possible.
[Occu-puppy springs into action on the restored South Lawn of City Hall.]
[Agreed: "Revolt Is All We Have - We Must Overthrow This Corporate Dictatorship."]
[End the Koch party: "Billionaires Your Time Is Up."]