Book reviews for Processed World #33.

Good Sense & the Faithless by Michelle T. Clinton, 1994, West End Press, P.O.Box 27334, NM 87125, $9.95, 100 pages, paperback.

Clinton’s second book after “High Blood/Pressure.”

Language stiff, like swollen, sensitive with black or purple blood. Lines straight to the touch. Not pastel soft, pastoral ambiance of university seminars where the patio opens out on the lawn. Where the voices are modulated by well-fed bodies leaning back into the chairs. Not the closeted reflection of the inner self far from the intense concertina wire tangle of urban life, what Adrienne Rich calls, “the issues. The issues are our lives.”

This is the 2nd time in as many years that the National Guard has been sent to L.A., the 3rd time in 2 years the Republican governor had to declare Southern California a disaster area. Freeway overpasses are lying down on freeways, apartment buildings and parking garages collapsed, dawn to dusk curfew and the water undrinkable after this earthquake. Last time it was fires, most of them arson, raging through rich people’s hilly chapparal neighborhoods, and before that the riots they call the L.A. Uprising. This environment is the immediate subtext connected to each line break of “Good Sense & the Faithless,” it informs everything between the lines. What is implied in the white space of each page is how this city is man-made, the existences we live here not to be blamed on economies that are so unlucky (again and again), not to blame God’s substance abuse problem (again and again), nor momentary lapses (again, again) of the general good humor in the system.

In the white light on these pages knuckle-hard truths shine into angles of decline of urban life in America, into corners at the back of the mind which are always there, out of sight of the media and its lying camera eye. Poetic truths envisioned through passionate/compassionate contemplation/reflection of the actual. True incidents. The real. Beginning like:

In the fifties my momma got caught

in the back of a musty pontiac

w/ her legs in a catholic koan

she wanted to do it & did

but got caught by a hard man

a missed period & me

soft bones & white spittle

me & my waste all over my momma’s hands

As a child she dreamt of nursing

in white stockings w/ stiff cap

part of the colored elite rising in the am. 1954

my mother the only colored speck

in st. teresa’s school of nursing

first negress capped & pinned

after she finished nine months

she dropped out

when i dropped in her life

(“The Emergence of Barren Women”), or:

my clit as your hard candy/ my mouth’s everywhere you want/

every opening slush/ like snow cones/ like i’ll be your

bicycle/ i’ll be nasty if you want/ i grew these titties

i watched the black circle spread their weight/ do it like some

body bad/ somebody greedy/ we can hide under the dark/

or stake me in the open/

(“Sex and the Mother Wound”), or:

That night i smoothed the hair of my lover w/ my palms, w/ my fingers in his mouth,

sleep was a numb dream spun w/ sharp, geometric shapes & hard, dark colors. And

that first breath of the morning was cold as the harsh part of city living.

(a piece of “Blood is a Bright Color & Tears are clear”).

You can see how the verbs, their brittle English sounds, impact each line with motion. Imbue fragmented desire with a spin. A torque on the worked and reworked imagery, the directly transcribed diction of feminist images. Peeled off like bubblegum tattoos, rubbed on, spit on or smeared with anxiety, fear or (not solitude so much as) loneliness, torn a little, put back into place. Each line is not constructed with the ennobling artifice of prettified long academic or religious words. Her abstractions are others, artistic, personal, political. Clinton likes to stick with the compound grammar of her African American upbringing. Given the class structure of our society that too of course implies the taste of streets.

Her unstinting focus on the relationship of sex to gender, class, everyday living (or perceived reality thereof), go to the psychological wound of our survival in L.A., locus for urban disaster(s) of our time. Against the distancing of gentrified adjective/noun phraseology which would proffer some kind of individualist nostalgia for the exotic Third World/other or for the aestheticization of personal confession or for a glamorization of death & despair, Clinton gives us instead a collective dialect of African American grammar, the popular idiom, mixed with street politics:

The 17th boyfriend had a hook dick

the 25th boyfriend liked the color purple & karl marx

the 37th boyfriend could fuck good & that’s all

boyfriends 45, 72 & 67 were good as guns in a street situation

boyfriends 85 & 95 gave up beaucoup cash

I tell them about all the lunatics in the city

“The Hundredth Boyfriend”

This live mix of language encouraged Harvey Kubernick’s Freeway Records and New Alliance Records to record Clinton’s widely admired “spoken word” performances for distribution. It is, doubtless, an art form that some will find “vulgar” (i.e. too democratic or too anti-academic). They may look to the postmodern (in vain, I think) for rumors of war, for popular response to street heat, for secretly coded mumbling for salvation of their ass in somebody’s New Age. Clinton herself acknowledges the influence of Ntozake Shange, a seminal figure pioneering forms where feminism & text, black dialect & theater create new inner space, cultural dialogues. Following the text are notes which summarize the history of these poems as performance pieces, mostly at Beyond Baroque and Highways Performance Space, two of the main venues for hybrid drama and art in L.A.. In so far as her work also reflects these new trends in popularizing new democratic poetics, “Good Sense & the Faithless” is also a text of new forms. There’s a cutting edge here, not linguistic reaction.

“Good Sense & the Faithless” manifests individual bravery in the face of collective disaster, the everyday realities of L.A.; everywhere smoke fills the air, guys with automatic rifles rushing around after dark. No retreat into a myth of self. Or obfuscations of frenetic artifice. A black belt in shorin ryu karate, Clinton demonstrates a combat poetics unafraid of social responsibility and personal pain (“Sensei Maria’s Story,” “Poem in Gratitude for San Kyu”). Like the discipline of martial arts, her craft serves. My guess is no avant-garde advances in fear, afraid of discipline, responsibility, pain. “Translate This Fuck Face,” “Guidelines for Brothers: How to Heal Rape,” “Giving Up the Near-Sighted Ghost/In Praise of the Multi-cultural” and other poems of “Good Sense & the Faithless” defy hard facts of massive alienation, abuse and violence with their own bitter sharpness. Clinton accepts the challenge of devastated public places & urban spaces inside us and beyond, her singular voice raised up.

-- Sesshu Foster

The Most Radical Gesture: The Situationist International In A Postmodern Age

Sadie Plant (1992, Routledge; 226 pages; Notes; Bibliography; Name Index; Subject Index; ISBN 0-415-06222-5) $16.95

"...[F]or PO-CHU-I there is no difference between didacticism and amusement, no wonder we find that learning, practiced as the quick purchase of knowledge for resale purposes, arouses displeasure. Literature, in didactic as in other works, manages to enhance our enjoyment of life. It sharpens the senses and transforms even pain into pleasure." Bertolt Brecht (Journals 1934-1955)

This century is closing on a bad deal: The new German is an American. The new Ugly American is a German. Beautiful symmetry! The first resistance to the rise of the far right has ever been the task of an enlightened minority: The one-eyed man leading the blind. The problem is to restore at least partial political vision to those who suffer from our current socio-economic system yet do not have the tools to articulate either their dissatisfaction or the possible remedies.

Here to help is a book which retraces the history of the radical fringe movements which sprung up in Europe from the horrid experience of WWI (and its antecedents) and continued through the century. The Most Radical Gesture starts with DADA*, concerned with what we would call déconstruction* today. deconstruction of language, thought processes, images, art, literature, etc...Next, this book takes us on a magical history tour of surrealism, structuralism and finally the Situationist International which is the core of the book, both because of its roots in the preceding movements and its influences on postmodernism.

Visit the Provos in Amsterdam and their descendants, the Kabouters, in the Orange Free State! A quick detour through Poland (its elves), Italy (its autonomists) and Britain (its “Arrest those Santa Clauses” & more) will bring you back to France and ‘68 preluding the ‘70s and ‘80s development of the postmodernist French philosophers. Street theater tactics were so successful in the ‘60s that even humorless maoists used them. All shared this shock quality designed to get the casual observer shaken from the perception that the “reality” we endure is the only possible one.

The Situationist International (SI), seeking to establish a serious critique of the société du spectacle*, disliked a lot of these radical gestures:

“The ‘revolution for the hell of it’ attitude of the American Yippies, the counter-cultures of play power, happenings, be-ins, and drop-outs were all haughtily rejected on the grounds that they left themselves open to recuperation and the miserable totality of soci- ety untouched.” (pg 91)

They were also very critical of the Provos who were so successful as to end up with seats in Parliament. Talk about recuperation! All of these movements disbanded because of the realization that détournement* could be and is practiced by the state as well. For most people, revolution is equivalent to innovation, at best, (as in washing machines) and doesn’t evoke its eighteenth century roots any longer. Logos and praxis*...

* see Glossary 1

The SI lasted from 1957 to 1969. They disbanded under the pressure of internal strife and dissension, leading to the exclusion of many members, some of whom were soon to be feted in New York and the West Coast as expounders of postmodernism. I’d love to have the “Question Man” ask people on the street what constitutes postmodernism: only one answer per customer, please!

Sadie Plant includes an excellent review of the political philosophies of Guattari, Deleuze, Foucault and Lyotard (who was soon to change his colors). Her discussion of Beaudrillard and Debord is invaluable. She uses Debord’s critique of Beaudrillard to great advantage. Beaudrillard’s language is purposely opaque and few of us have the patience (in French or English) to wade through his turgid prose only to discover that he has little to say. What shines clearly is that Beaudrillard is a turncoat and like many French intellectuals before him, he has found a comfortable niche in which to suckle at the tit of state. You have to understand that sometimes bad weeds root in good ground. It’s not surprising that some of these weeds are indigestible:

“Postmodernity comes equipped with a refusal to countenance the possibilities of social transformation....Talk of revolution becomes embarrassing and the suggestion that histo- ry has ended is embraced with open relief. Situationist desires for a “rise in the pleasure of living” have become the dreams of another age and no longer have anything to say to us.” (pg 185)

Sadie Plant expounds on a complex subject in a clear, concise and comprehensive manner, covering even our small corner of space-time:

“One of Vaneigem’s later books {after The Revolution of Everyday Life*} continued this line of attack with calls for industrial sabotage as a first step to the development of councils and self-management, and workplace rebellion of the “go on, phone in sick” variety since advocated by groups such as Processed World, for whom tactics of confu- sion and theft serve both to enliven work and undermine the logic of labour.” (pg 90)

DADA, the surrealists, structuralists and SI were all dedicated to the exposition of the despair and futility of daily life. The media and all sorts of people blithely use the adjective “postmodern”; One wonders to what end? Postmodernism is a negative and treacherous branching which is so far gone on futility that it has abdicated its power to show the absurd. It claims instead that it is absurd to resist the absurdism of the société du spectacle*. Mirrors within mirrors: Postmodernism claims to have abolished history and gives rise to “revisionist” views of various holocausts, and believes itself to have gone one better than the structuralist and situationist critical thought! Using precepts held by these consecutive movements that protest itself is open to recuperation, they proclaim that, since this is the case, we might as well sit on our hands and await the millennium. Time to give up our chiliastic* ambitions.


Sadie Plant's historical retrospective and analysis is vital to an understanding of intellectual movements that go beyond mere fads. Indeed, intellectuals have been too easily manipulated by class interest over the centuries. By abdicating the power of imagination to work towards a genuine democracy (economic equality for all, boys & girls), they have broken with a century-long comic protest, yet pretend to be derived from this honored (Marxist, Groucho faction) tradition. A useful and fun read. Highly recommended as a travel guide to past and future protests.

— by Petra Leuz

* Glossary *

Chiliastic: lasting a thousand years, as in Hitler’s third reich or Jesus Christ’s reign of error which is just about 2000 years old as you probably know. Be nice to lexicographers, buy a dictionary. Check out millenary, not yet the Mad Hatter’s task. So many words, so little time.

DADA: also spelled dada, DaDa, Dada. An important tenet of dada was la dérive, the opposite of routine action: one goes out walking aimlessly and experiences the spontaneous small pleasures the world affordeth. This is preferred to walking to a boring and mostly meaningless job. Dada poets delighted in recitals of meaningless poetry: Abracadabra. Oompah, oompah! Since language had gotten people in such trouble, it needed to be reconstructed. In that, they foreshadowed the Structuralists. Their influence extended to painting and literature and philosophy. Much good it has done us... The same fights have to be won again and again, at great cost to individual fulfillment, and sometimes life.

Deconstruction: the critical examination of language, ideas and political “realities”. Taking things apart the better to view their inner works.

Détournement: practiced by Billboard artists. Take a message and, subtly (or not) turn it to your advantage. Render the works transparent.

Logos: The Word, a theological concept borrowed from the Greeks by the Christians, then by the Cartesians. Go figure... The rational reason for all existence. Ha!

Praxis: Best understood by marxists as the unity of theory and practice. Means “to do” in Greek. Practice, custom.

Société du spectacle: Originally the title of Guy Debord’s 1967 book. “...dry and uninspiring, with the only hints of situationist provocation and extravagance appearing in the wealth of italicized enthusiasm and the stolen goods it collects.” (page 8). Vaneigem’s The Revolution of Everyday Life was published the same year. Here’s Sadie Plant’s take on it: “Vaneigem’s rejection of the spectacle was a moral, poetic, erotic, and almost spiritual refusal to co-operate with the demands of commodity exchange.It unleashed witty and compelling tirades against the myths and sacrifices of consumer society, asserting a radical subjectivity which could fire pleasures, spontaneity, and creativity at the all-encompassing equivalence and emptiness of modern life.” (page 8) Vaneigem took a vacation from Paris in May 1968.

Rooted in marxist socio-economic analysis, the spectacular society is the core situationist concept which describes the alienation of people watching life rather than living it.

Guy Debord committed suicide on November 30, 1994, RIP. He was a founder of the SI. In ‘67, the SI predicted that revolution was no longer feasible Commune-style in a modern society. Then came ‘68... The Communards lasted longer but the soixante-huitards suffered less loss of life and limb. Sanity however...

The Great Julian Pete Scandal

There's something about Los Angeles ... something about the hot house of warm weather and avarice in which the most amazing endeavors flourish. Although there are many tales about the city of Lost Angels, one that still has repercussions half a century later is the subject of a new book. "The Great Los Angeles Swindle" (Jules Tygiel, 1994 Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN 0-19-505489-X) dissects an enterprise called the Julian Petroleum Company.

The story starts with a Canadian, C.C. Julian (Courtney Chauncey; you can see why he always went by "C.C."), who formed a company to drill for oil in the Santa Fe Springs field in Los Angeles in 1922. Recent discoveries of oil in or near the city had fueled enormous speculation. While most oil fields had been in remote areas and had about one well per four acres, these finds were in areas already subdivided for housing. Rapid buying and selling of these lots spiraled the apparent values skyward and invited many con men and swindlers to take advantage of the fevered atmosphere. Julian, who had speculated in land in Canada's expanding western provinces and later worked as a "roughneck" (an oil field worker), saw great potential.

So C.C. borrowed money and started his wells. He also offered part of his company to the public. Julian proved to be an expert at understanding (and answering) the fears of small investors. He used an unorthodox scheme, selling “units” in a "common law trust," promoting this as preferable to the alledgedly unscrupulous world of stocks. He pioneered new marketing methods by taking out newspaper advertisements which he himself wrote in a "home-spun" style, full of folksy sayings, and pitched towards people suspicious of big monopolies and corporations. They emphasized the "scarcity" of the offer ("Only Four More Days!"), adding to its appeal, while promising great returns on investments. As assurance that he wasn’t one of the "Big Boys" or a crook, he touted the offer as a risky venture: "Widows and Orphans, This Is No Investment for You!" proclaimed one ad. He succeeded in extracting hundreds of thousands of dollars from many people, both rich and poor. Julian immediately started new ventures on much the same basis, even before his first wells had revealed their worth.

His Julian #1 well started a copious flow of oil in March, 1923. Julian, not unlike other small oil outfits, immediately made plans to unseat Standard Oil, still a monolithic monopoly controlled by the Rockefellers. In May Julian incorporated the Julian Petroleum Company in Delaware with 200,000 shares of preferred stock worth fifty dollars each, plus 200,000 shares of common stock that had no formal value. In June he announced that half of the stock would be sold with an initial price of $50.

He soon ran afoul of Edward Daugherty, the California Corporation Commissioner. This was a newly established office (1913) which was created to control fraudulent promoters. In October of 1922 Daugherty started regulating companies selling "units" (which the promoters claimed exempted them from his jurisdiction); a flurry of court actions and new legislation supporting Daugherty followed, and Julian Pete was crippled financially. An apparent loophole led to a quick train trip to Las Vegas and a sale of stock from the company to C.C. himself. On June 28th he sold some $200,000 worth of stock. On the 29th Daugherty shut down trading, suspended C.C.'s brokerage license, seized the company's books, and had C.C. arrested. After paying the $3,000 bail in cash, C.C. continued business by borrowing money (solicited by ads in papers) and finally in late July obtained permission to sell 100,000 shares of stock if he himself resigned from the corporation. He did so, but retained the common stock that gave him a controlling vote (neither fact was revealed publicly). By going on with plans for a refinery, C.C. was able to present himself at a champion of the under-dogs against both an implacable bureaucracy and the oil monopoly.

The birth of the company was indeed an omen of its future trajectory. After linking up with a Texan shyster named S.C. Lewis, Julian incorporated to create an oil refining company, The Julian Petroleum Company (or "Julian Pete" as it was known popularly). Lewis soon took control of Julian Pete. Among other strategies he applied was the hiring of the FBI accountant investigating the company. (Special Accountant Miller found no problems with the company.)

While C.C. Julian tried his hand at a mining venture in Death Valley (which ultimately failed), Lewis was busy selling stock. So busy, in fact, that the limit on shares was overlooked. Within a few months (Feb. 1925) there were some 159,000 in circulation (more than 50% over the legal limit). Money was borrowed to keep their burgeoning empire (or was it just a ponzi scheme?) afloat. Director Cecil B. DeMille was one of the more prominent investors seeking the 20% return. Another device became known as "The Banker's Pools," after the participants in the first of these, which collected a million dollars from such luminaries as film mogul Louis B. Mayer, Motley Flint of the Pacific Southwest bank, businessman and arch-conservative Better America Foundation president Harry M. Haldeman (grandfather of Watergate's H.R. Haldeman), and a number of notables from financial circles in Los Angeles. This and successive pools paid about 19% interest, much of which came from selling illicit shares of stock. (It also violated state usury laws, which was soon to be an issue.) By April 1927 they had sold or distributed some 3,614% of the company. (Shades of "The Producers"!)

Julian Pete acquired new enemies along the way, including radio-evangelist and anti-Semite Robert Shuler (whose son continues the family tradition on TV), and some newspapers. Eventually the financial pressure from untainted banks, combined with inquiries from state and federal authorities cracked the "bubble factory" and its ever-inflating stock. When Julian Pete collapsed amidst lurid headlines, the reverberations brought down quite a few politicians, tarnished some of the most illustrious businessmen in the city, financially maimed (and, in at least one case, literally!) many small investors, and ruined several banks and brokerage houses. The city District Attorney, Asa Keyes, was sent to jail. Reverend Shuler went to jail on a contempt charge, and a few small-fry investors were also dispatched to the clink. The principal defendants (Julian and Lewis) checked themselves into federal prison to avoid civil trials. In 1930 Frank Keaton, who had lost money on Julian Pete, expressed his hatred for the "banking crowd" by shooting Motley Flint (one of the arrangers of the "$1 Million Pool") in a Los Angeles courtroom. When police searched Keaton they found ten cents; in the pockets of the corpse they found $63,000 in cash. There was yet more scandal to come, including a double murder to which a former deputy DA and politician confessed ("Handsome Dave" Clark lost his race for judge during the trial, but still garnered 60,000 votes).

The scandal changed the state's banking industry for ever, influenced state law and helped alter the political face of Los Angeles and southern California by reinforcing the powers of the regulators and more liberal reformers. San Francisco’s Bank of America was also a real winner, for the scandal broke several banks in the southland (some of which were ultimately acquired by BofA) and changed the laws that had kept the northern bank to a very limited business in the LA region.

This is a meticulously researched history of a fascinating period in LA's growth. It illustrates a flourishing ecology of oil, money, showmanship, anti-Semitism, boosterism and politics. Get this book!

--Primitivo Morales

Coming Soon to a Computer Near You!


Watch! As they perform their evil deeds!
Thrill! To the crimes committed!
Gasp! At their rationalizations!

Diabolical intruders are pounding at the gates of all computers, employing techniques both primitive and hyper-tech (and even occult) in their unslaked thirst for other people's information. This is the prevailing media image of "hackers" -- those ne'er-do-wells who trespass (jaywalk?) on the "Information Highway."®

If you'd like a more realistic view of computer hackers, and how they practice their arcane arts, I'd like to recommend a book to you. Namely, "Secrets of a Super Hacker" (Dennis Fiery, Loompanics Unlimited, POB 1197, Port Townsend WA., 88368; ISBN 1-55950-106-5, 1994; $19.95; 205 pages) by “The Knightmare” provides a good look at the basic tools -- both ideological and technical -- of a hacker.

In the modern world secrets are still protected by walls and metal locks, but now there are also electronic safeguards as well. Most of the modern bureaucratic state and much of the corporate world could not function without information -- electronic dossiers, reports, balance sheets, inventories, etc.. Indeed, the very systems that are basic to electronic communication are themselves dependent upon information (e.g. billing data, links between systems and protocols for exchanging information, switching and routing information). All of this data is protected by several layers of security -- ignorance (if no one knows the information exists nobody will look for it), walls and locks, access codes, passwords and so on.

Inevitably this mountain of data attracts interest -- some of it not sanctioned by the owners of said information. There are many reasons why people try to get into such computer systems -- revenge, corporate/governmental espionage, theft of services or goods, investigations by agencies or individuals, as well as the old stand-by, curiosity. And as the cliché tells us, curiosity killed the felix domesticus. (Curiosity is currently either a misdemeanor or a felony, butnot yet a capital offense.) The popular media image of the hacker as vicious kaot and wrecker is one definition of that curiosity, but there are others. In the introduction to “Secrets,” Gareth Branwyn sketches the various popular images of the hacker (Independent Scientist, Cowboy, Terrorist, Hero, etc.) and how they do -- and don't -- fit reality. After this short discourse, The Knightmare takes us into the hacker's world.

The first section, "Before The Hack," covers a lot of the basics including the motivations of hackers. There is a serviceable introduction to the basics of computers for neophytes, and a brief history of hacking from the early days of the "Youth International Party Line" (YIPL) and *phrack* up to the present. He then shows some basic methods for researching a target, ranging from the standard perusal of garbage ("dumpster-diving") to more technical methods of trying to read damaged and discarded floppy disks. (People worried about government agents obtaining data from disks might pay heed to this section.) The Knightmare discusses the basics of passwords and computer accounts, and some of the different schemes used to try to protect computer systems. Some appendices have related material on common default accounts (an account on a computer is basically an identity on that machine which allows for certain levels of access) and two lengthy lists of common passwords.

The best chapters are on the most reliable methods of gaining access to computers -- "social engineering." Although some information can be gleaned from public sources and documentation, much that is of interest to the unauthorized interloper is not openly publicized. Social engineering is the term applied to the gentle art of coaxing such tidbits out of their possessors. This is probably the most successful strategy for gaining entry, and The Knightmare does a good job of explaining how to persuade people you've never met to tell you things about their computers and/or companies; he even provides some simple role-playing scenarios for practice. The basic idea is simple: make the person you are talking with believe that you are a legitimate user of the system. Being able to mention people and procedures that are known helps establish a familiarity as well as authenticating you. Although many companies try to remind employees not to hand out any information to people that they don't know, the course of daily business in a large company often involves taking others (even unknown people) at face value. As with more ordinary computer security measures (strict permissions about who can run which programs, or see data, etc.), the tighter the guard, the more constraining it is. If it becomes too much of a restraint, people will begin to circumvent the security measures so they can get their jobs done; this can leave the company less well protected than it was in the first place. With the more obvious security holes in computers plugged, this technique continues to strike fear into the hearts of computer security people everywhere.

The Knightmare also looks at the more difficult -- and more useful -- technique of "reverse social engineering," in which you persuade your target to call you when they develop a problem with their system. Examples might include posting business cards with your "company" name and phone number, perhaps along with a (possibly forged) note recommending your services. Because they call you, they are much more likely to entrust you with information they might otherwise balk at handing out (such as passwords). Of course, if they never have a problem they won't call, so this technique requires either great patience or active intervention. He has a list of five general categories of such non-permanent sabotage (e.g. setting obscure switches on a terminal or modem to keep it from working normally; changing certain parameters that most users don't know about, or installing lots of (non-destructive) programs into the computer's memory so it slows down or won't run other programs). This is paired with a warning -- in keeping with the hacker ethic of not doing damage to a computer -- that these measures mustn't be truly harmful. As with its cousin, reverse social engineering strikes at the trust and confidence co-workers have for each other.

He also discusses more traditional methods of computer intrusion, including guessing passwords (what are the subject's interests, etc.) and brute force approaches to getting passwords. He discusses several methods of purloining accounts, such as those issued by computer science classes to enrolled students. Although often limited in what they can do, they can provide a starting point for a more determined attempt at getting the hacker's grail -- the password for the "root" or "superuser" account which allows one unlimited control over the machine's operations. Other chapters discuss the use of programs ("Trojan horses") which deceive the innocent user into parting with his/her account name and passwords. Although there are many variants, they all involve presenting a screen which looks exactly the screen a user usually sees when logging onto a computer; hopefully any differences in behavior will not be noted, or won't be noticed until it's too late. Such methods can be used in both public (bulletin board systems -- BBSs -- or computers for general use in a school or company) and private computers. There's also a section on setting up a fake BBS that collects passwords from known persons. This depends on a known foible of computer users -- they tend to use the same password on all the computer systems they work with. Hence, if one of these people has an account on a computer that the hacker is interested in, the chance that the password will work on both machines is quite high. BBSs are targets of hacking as well. Among other tidbits to be gleaned might be the spoor of other hackers, either through finding their tools on site (such as a Trojan horse) or by finding underground BBSs for/by hackers. He makes some good points of etiquette on such boards. He also has some points about running one's own BBS.

Another chapter covers the basics of what to do while inside a site (or a computer) and copious hints on ways of getting out of limited user accounts into more interesting sections of a computer. A good starting point is to learn the basic commands for that type of computer and to exploit known problems with certain types of software. He keeps these sections moving by not burdening the reader with lots of jargon or technical procedures, which keeps these sections moving. The tradeoff is that he doesn't usually give concrete examples. (This is mitigated by a list of common commands for major operating systems in an appendix.) There is an interesting section on getting purloined information from where it’s captured to your own machine. For instance, when a Trojan horse is employed, it collects account names and passwords. You could just send it by electronic mail to yourself (assuming that the target machine can communicate with other computers), but this is similar to breaking into an office, photocopying documents, putting them in an envelope and leaving it the office's outgoing mail; great if it works, but if anybody notices you've given away your identity. Several different approaches are outlined, including hiding or disguising files, transmitting short messages one bit at a time and other tricks of the trade.

An entire section of the book is about how not to get caught even if you are detected. There are tips on using portable computers (almost mandatory for the modern hacker), a discussion of the types of laws that apply to hacking (ranging from trespass to larceny to criminal conspiracy) and his version of the hacker ethic (never harm or alter any computer system, don't profit unfairly, inform system managers about their vulnerabilities, etc.). He gives an example of himself at work, having been invited by the director of a library to try to hack the new computer system. He illustrates how the various techniques shown in the book help him to break into the system, and how his actions reflected his ethics.

There are some omissions -- The Knightmare doesn't discuss sophisticated systems, such as the network of computer networks known as The Internet, or such arcane approaches to hacking as using devices called "sniffers" which show data as it is transmitted, nor does he consider more sophisticated protection schemes used to verify that both parties are in fact who they purport to be. He does a good job on the basics (which are probably more than your average computer security type would like you to know). It's unlikely that law enforcement people will be amused/diverted by any claim of ethics by hackers, nor are all hackers likely to share such beliefs. Still, The Knightmare may help to de-demonize the mythical hacker, and wise people up to the biggest vulnerability in any system -- its users.

3½ . Recommended reading for the curious, the wanna-bes, the watchdogs, and all who want to know about the real activities of a hacker.

--Primitivo Morales