This is the Halfman newsletter. Every damn month. Well sort of because it’s technically not June anymore. But for that very reason, it’s coming right at you entirely free of charge. I’m not sure what this is, and you probably aren’t either. That’s all fine. You can subscribe here for free, and unsubscribe there which may cost your life.

If you were one of the diary large slew of unfortunates in the past month who followed the brave and consummate strategy auteur Alex Morris’s recommendation to subscribe to this: my sincerest apologies for the shambles that follows. But glad to have you. Insert some Steve Jobs quote here or something.


I consider a top 10 list an art form as much as Serbs consider swearing. A ton pizda. So do yourself a favour and follow at all consider the June Top 10 your spiritual and cultural authority.

There are times when you think you’ve done fuck all in your life. There are dire, sodden times when you scratch your head, bleary eyed in the morning and wonder about this “purpose” stuff everyone keeps going on about.

I had spent some time a number of years ago working in “digital transformation” (whatever that really means) for the British government. It was actually sort of rewarding and enlightening in a lot of ways that I’m only lately realising. In other ways it was as mind-numbing and frustrating as you can imagine. I might have worked on some things that actually helped people, but probably not as much as the “Report a smell at Walleys Quarry” service without which I’m sure we would see the final and total collapse of British civilisation which sometimes lately looks like it’s already on it’s knees.

Oh, and speaking of computers and being led by donkeys, yup, AI, there again. It’s frigging everywhere, and I’m annoyed as much as you about the whole thing at this point. This terribly deep dive into just why are the alarm bells being sounded by the AI overlords and how something more dangerous is already here. Although it gets a bit lost on the anti-Libertarian rant, it’s a fascinating and very believable examination of what one could construe as neo-feudalism. AI Doesn’t Pose an Existential Risk—but Silicon Valley Does

Every culture with an “identity and set of values worth protecting” will want (or will likely mandate) mass-market Generative AIs and LLMs to preserve their cultural values and prevailing belief system. Currently this is largely framed in terms of the countries where the AI companies are based e.g. US or China, but outside of well resourced nations expect these models to coalesce around shared values.

And this is the thing right, how much do we actually identify with AI? It is entirely based on us, our values and what we think, so it’s not a stretch whatsoever to be Considering AI as Belief System

Jaron Lanier is awesome and his bit on “There Is No A.I.: There are ways of controlling the new technology—but first we have to stop mythologizing it.”. His ideas about Data as Dignity and more thoughts on the safety valves are spot on. Personally, I think it would be great if there were ways of ensuring marking of deepfakes, but it will never happen unless some governmental thing tells us to.

Also, this thread

The second is to try to convince everyone that AI is very, very powerful. So powerful that it could threaten humanity! They want you to think we’ve split the atom again, when in fact they’re using human training data to guess words or pixels or sounds.
If AI threatens humanity, it’s by accelerating existing trends of wealth and income inequality, lack of integrity in information, & exploiting natural resources.

So there.

Enough. Enough. We get it Jim. Anyhow this is the part where I tell you that I, a real life human replete with the flu, disappointment and rock and roll, wrote all of this. Oh and that was a bit longwinded and tedious wasn’t it? Sort of like editing I guess. Which clearly didn’t happen.

Local spotlight

A funny thing has been happening lately here in southish-centralish Europe: Device-enabled tipping social pressure.

Having grown up in the US, and having had a number of low-paid service jobs relying on the guilt of patrons rather than the mega-corp holding company paying a decent or even god-forbid, a living wage, I’m no stranger to the notion of tips.

However, having also lived back and forth to the UK and Europe, and in this particular hunk of it, I’ve gotten really used to the idea where you pay a thing and that’s it. There is no dance of how much of this or that and, oh shit do I feel bad if I don’t give this much because what if they’re in this situation.

Concern for these low-paid service workers manifested itself in the US during the covid pandemic with even more tipping. But it’s gone well beyond that and now you have to tip for things you get yourself. That’s right. I go to the fancy coffee shop, pay and there it is, I need to add a percent, not for them actually bringing me something to where I’m sitting, but because reasons. Lately though over in this bit of Europe, the same is happening. Why?

I think it’s because it’s not a thing necessarily here but that the Point of Sale devices are from the US. Sure, in Central Europe you might round up on a thing, or if it’s really awesome you leave a Euro let’s say, but there is no guilt and ever increasing percents. Now, though there is yet one more mark of US globalised manners encroaching in weird ways elsewhere.

More Cross-Cultural Capitalism Fun

Among other things as of late, I’ve been doing this Expert Evaluator for Innovation Funding thing for the EU and get to read European funding applications. These are basically the opposite of anything I would encounter in the UK’s pale imitation of US eternal optimism with nuggets along the lines of, “It’s quite possible we will run out of money before we finish,” and “the scope is challenging and just might not work.” The utter honesty is beyond admirable. To quote Mobb Deep, they’re stuck on the realness.

This attitude or philosophy is also perhaps illustrated well by when I was asked once to describe the difference between the US, the UK and Europe. I think it roughly follows as such: In the US when you’re a kid they tell you you can be president. In the UK they tell you you can be a rich banker. In Europe you’re told you can maybe one day own a modest but successful pipe company.

I went to San Francisco, Lake Tahoe and Oakland for a mix of work and pleasure. The funny thing is SF specifically being nothing what I thought it would be like. There were no robots making lattes or anti-gravity boards whisking you to a venture capital pitch. Instead there’s either the playground for the ultra-rich or homeless encampments absolutely everywhere. It was shocking to say the least, but the crazy thing is that I slept so well being surrounded by this utter destitution. Now I’m back safe in the bosom of European social systems and I can’t sleep now. This probably means something really bad about me.

Pretty sure no venture capital going on here
A bear outside of where they filmed an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians in Lake Tahoe
I love this more than anything. The moment where the winners of the Seriously Fuck It Award dropped the mic.

I’m endlessly fascinated with Saudi Arabia, especially with the breakneck speed of change happening there. If you are even vaguely, you should read this.

The Short Story Explosion

Somehow there is some new fiction sorts of things. In an effort to save you even more time in your life, time you could then spend forwarding this newsletter to anyone you meet today, each of these is about a minute or less to read. You’re welcome.

The Mis-Gendered Wait-a-Bot

Goth Renovations Ltd

Hesh Life

If you were wondering which underrated Sabbath album you should be listening to today, you need to get on Ronnie James Dio’s debut with “Heaven & Hell” basically yesterday. Sure, hits like “Neon Knights” can level mountains and raise the dead, everyone knows that, but there are total gems throughout like “Wishing Well” and Dio’s decidedly post-Ozzie operatic flourishes take you on a magic ride in “Die Young.” Or something.

Best pizza description this month from Hesher’s Pizza Oakland and their Hesh Law Pizza of course.

We’re laying down the law with garlic, onion, basil, pepperoni, sausage, kalamata olives, mushrooms, and serrano peppers to crush all enemies and reign supreme over all supremes. Let us know if you want habanero peppers on there. We ‘ll sub’em for the serranos, polecat.

In other hesh news, there is of course now a “An illustrated children’s book about a medieval hedgehog that brings heavy metal into the world.”

Rabbit holes

So sure, there are various links between underground scenes and religion, and I’ve seen it all from Krish Conscious punk hardcore to Orthodox Jewish rap, but this is a first, an Eastern Orthodox Heavy Music Zine. The original guitarist for Sleep become an eastern rite monk and did a zine.

Death to the World seriously takes the cake and have been diving way deep into the (literal) iconography, strangely black metal reminiscent aesthetic mixed with inescapable digs at the perceived failure of not just western secularism but “Protestant punk.” Had no idea they had beef as well.

Hot Vexology Chat

I love flags. I went to a talk and even got my friend to be my wingman to go to talk to the amateur vexologist giving the talk on tricolour flags. It’s bad. And now that I just typed that sort of embarrassing.

I live in and have family from a relatively new country. One in fact recently 32 years old. Our flag could be about a 100 times better, but that is another issue and likely some design work that needs to happen on my end considering how much I think about it. It’s shit. There are however, a lot of other ones that are worse.

But having a country’s flag with an outline of itself on their flag? I’m looking at you Cyprus and Kosovo, who could clearly benefit from someone like me to sort them out, you could have spent a bit more time on this.

I can imagine the conversation now.

“Okay, right, stars, blue. Done.”

“I don’t know man, just needs something else, you know some zing.”

“Well, we’re a country now, right? Like a country has a shape…”

“I like where this is going…”

“Whereas before you know, we didn’t have our own shape…”

“Do it man, keep it going…”

And so on.

If you were wondering about awesome flags they should have been looking to for inspiration, look here obviously,

Map of the month

We win.

Jim’s Vulnerability Corner

My journey is a journey like any other. Incomplete and wanting yet I know most of you think of it as perfectly formed, like a newborn or a brand new iPhone. The fact of the matter is it isn’t always so. Sometimes the sandwich just doesn’t turn out right. Sorry.

Super Serious Forwards


I love House Industries now for decades. Their design acumen and sheer volume of beautiful work is legion. However, one of their fonts is the harbinger of gentrification?

If you were wondering what life is like where it don’t belong, you can read about Astrophysics and stale beer: What life is like working at the South Pole.

German stereotypes abound about Hasslehoff and shockingly not well thought out deepfakes for cash in One startup’s pivot-full journey to finding a lucrative use for GenAI.


It’s late. Reasons. Ride. Shoot straight. Speak the truth.

Local cavers bring it.