Why and How to Leave Facebook
This 16-Year-Old Made an App That Exposes Sellout Politicians
With US politics swimming in so much corporate money that it’s pretty much an oligarchy, it can be hard to keep track of which particular set of lobbyists is trying to milk more cash out of healthcare, fossil fuels and other very important issues from one week to the next.
But thanks to 16-year-old Nick Rubin, keeping track of just how much politicians have sold out has become a lot easier. He created Greenhouse, a new browser plugin which operates under the motto, “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.” The plugin aims “to shine light on a social and industrial disease of today: the undue influence of money in our Congress.” It sounds like a bit of a lofty aim for an app, but it’s actually pretty simple and effective—it provides a break down of a politician’s campaign contributions when that politician’s name comes up in an article. It is currently available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari and is completely free. As you can imagine, reading about how your Member of Congress voted in a recent health bill becomes all the more enlightening if you know how much money the health industry showered him in at the last election.
I spoke to Nick Rubin about the plugin, politics and what he calls the “money stories” behind what you read in the news.
VICE: Hi Nick. So how did you come up with the idea for Greenhouse?
Nick Rubin: Back in seventh grade, I gave a presentation on corporate personhood and ever since then I’ve been really interested in that issue. I think the one problem is that the sources of income for members of congress haven’t been simple and easily accessible when people have needed it. More recently, I’ve been teaching myself how to code and I thought that something like Greenhouse that puts the data at people’s fingertips would be a perfect solution. It really is the intersection of these two passions of mine—coding and politics. I made it after school and on weekends on my computer.
Why the name?
Well, green is the color of money in the US, and house refers to the two houses of Congress [the Senate and House of Representatives]. The name also implies transparency; greenhouses are see through and they are built to help things thrive.
Where did you get the information on the politician’s donations?
It uses the data from the last full election cycle which was 2012. This is simply because it’s just the most complete set of data that we have. But, the browser does provide access to the most up to date 2014 information by just clicking the name of the politician on the top of the window or theOpenSecrets.org link in the popup. So the 2014 data is just one click away.
I’m intending to update the data as a whole later in the election cycle as the 2014 contributions are more complete. These are updates I’m currently working on, as well as thinking of other ways I can expand the tool.
How to Be a Landlord in San Francisco
A fact about Frisco living is that we deal with a predictable litany of questions when we encounter someone from outside our urban womb: “You’re from San Francisco? How are the gays?” Or: “You’re from San Francisco? How are the earthquakes?”
But nowadays, instead, I get: “You’re from San Francisco? How are the evictions?” Evictions are the new earthquakes.
These days, San Francisco’s gonzo housing market is international knowledge. And yet, an unspoken truth about San Francisco housing is that the easiest job in the world is to be a landlord here. On the list of easy jobs, it edges out press secretary for the Secret Service, where the only words you ever get to say are, “That’s classified.”
I would know what an easy job it is because I am a San Francisco landlord. That’s why I started Small Property Owners for Reasonable Control as a PAC of insignificant landlords. We are small landlords (we own four or fewer rental units), and we support tenant protections, rent control, and limits on evictions because, as landlords, we know we’ve got it way too good.
Ten years ago, I bought a house in North Bernal with an in-law unit using a down payment I inherited and a mortgage I shouldn’t have been allowed to get. You know the kind of mortgage that caused the housing bubble and wrecked the world economy? I had one. Then, through no acumen of my own, my neighborhood became the Hottest Real Estate Neighborhood in America™. I got out of my sketchy mortgage and into a low-rate 30-year fixed because my home value rode a wave of appreciation fueled by the relentless power of startup pixie dust and tech VC hot air.
Now, because it is so groovy and desirable and close to the Google (and Apple and Yahoo and Genentech and Facebook) buses, no one I know can afford to live in my neighborhood. So instead of having friends nearby, I get to charge obscenely high rent. I don’t want to charge obscenely high rent. I’d rather have friends.
We Talked to a Dick Pic Expert About Vag Pics
This Guy Spends His Entire Life in Front of a Webcam
Ari Kivikangas spends his entire life in front of a webcam. But unlike most vloggers devoted to sharing their lives with people who couldn’t care less, he doesn’t often do very much; there are no Kid Cudi ukelele covers or desperate pleas for followers, and at no point has he broken into a comedy routine.
That’s his first selling point. The second is that Ari—or “Cyberman”, as he’s called his Ustream show—claims to be online 24/7, except for brief gaps when he’s picking up his epilepsy medicine or, as he told me in an email, when he’s “getting some pussy (not often) or masturbating!”
What Ari does is called “life-casting”, which should be pretty self-explanatory, but basically involves live-streaming every single thing you do, like a self-enforced Truman Show with a fraction of the viewers. There’s something kind of fascinating about that; it takes a very specific type of confidence to not a give a shit about strangers watching you sleep.
So to find out a little more about his life online, I Skyped with Ari from his home in Finland.
VICE: Hi Ari. So when did you start livestreaming your life?
Ari Kivikangas: I started about four years ago. I was stuck at home for three months and had a lot of time on my hands but nothing to do, so I started doing this. I’m epileptic and I don’t work any more, so I’m always at home.
And you’ve spent all of your time online throughout those four years?
Yes, I’m online 24/7.
Have you always been quite an open person? Because letting people into your life to this extent seems like a pretty big step to take.
It’s a very big step, yeah, because I say exactly what I’m thinking at all times. I also tell everyone pretty much everything about my own personal history—not everything, but most things.
Give me a sample.
For example, I told my audience that I gave a man a blowjob. I’m bisexual. He came to see me, so I gave him a blowjob.
No, not on webcam. I’ve masturbated on webcam before, though.
No, just once, a year ago. That wasn’t cool; it was really stupid. People were not cool about it.
Why do think that is?
I had a really negative reaction to it, but I don’t care about what they say any more—I have a choice as to when I masturbate.
Do you ever go offline?
Only when I’m picking up my medication or when I masturbate, but I can do that in other ways, like in my trousers.
Ken Kesey’s Son Is Using Kickstarter to Plan a Sequel to His Dad’s Legendary, Acid-Fueled Bus Trip
In 1964, Ken Kesey—intrepid psychedelic traveler and author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—piled into a multicolored school bus with his friends and a bunch of drugs and drove from La Honda, California, to New York City for Cuckoo’s Nest'sBroadway premiere. The gaggle of proto-hippies traveling with Kesey were dubbed the “Merry Pranksters,” and their goal was to freak the fuck out of Middle America and document the whole thing for a feature-length film.
The movie they wanted to make never quite came to fruition, but the trip, and the Pranksters’ subsequent LSD antics, were cemented in history in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book,Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic Prankster adventure, and Kesey’s son, Zane, is looking to raise $27,500 to take the Pranksters’ psychedelic trip all over again. The original 1939 Harvester bus—named “Furthur”—is currently rusting in a swamp behind the Kesey Farm in Oregon, but Zane has a new one, and it’s even more decked-out than the original. If you want to get on the bus, you can donate $200 or more to be considered for the trip. And if you were off the bus in the first place, as Kesey once said, then it won’t make a damn.
If the Kickstarter hits its goal the new bus with its new Pranksters will be swinging through America later this summer. I called up Zane to learn a little more about the trip.
VICE: Hey, Zane. How long has the Kickstarter campaign been going on?
Zane Kesey: Like three weeks. We’re around halfway to our goal and have a week left.
Do you already know who will be onboard?
There have been 20 or 30 applications sent in. If you donate $200, we’ll give you a bunch of cool Prankster stuff—but you also get to apply to ride on the trip with us, be part of the movie that we’re making, and become a Merry Prankster. Even if we don’t choose you, we’ll still send you a Merry Prankster laminate. It will get you on the bus whenever we go parading through your town.
I know you haven’t planned the whole journey out yet, but are any stops lined up?
We’re going cross-country and hitting a few really good festivals along the way. Lockn’ Festival in Virginia is a big one. Furthur, the Grateful Dead side project that is named after the bus, is playing.
We’ll be at their only concert this year, at the final Allman Brothers concert, and then atPhases of the Moon Festival in Illinois. Then we’ll head to this art festival called Great North up in Maine, which has the best artists from across the country. We’re hoping they will paint on the bus.