I just, stupidly enough, wasted about 15 minutes trying to figure out what happened with Kanye West. Something he did made even the president of the United States call him a jackass? Hmm. I finally figured it out (amazing how the entertainment media will always assume you know the background, as opposed to real news that is constantly re-explaining everything as if nobody has any more than a 3rd-grade education) and then found a great post by Mike Hale on his New York Times blog where he really summed the whole phenomenon (not just of what Kanye did but more importantly why it's such a big deal) up nicely:
...just the latest manifestation of our addiction to artificial drama, which has grown stronger as the stuff has become more plentiful and cheap, and the shamelessness with which the media now picks at the scabs of any sort of conflict in order to boost ratings.
My friend Ryn brought to my attention a very interesting and worthwhile article about the tendencies for social divisions to be duplicated online, concentrating specifically on the class divisions between MySpace and Facebook.
I think I have some doubts about some of the author's conclusions, but without seeing her actual numbers and methods, having only the anecdotal examples she gave, I can't argue and will give her the benefit of the doubt that her data supports her points. Certainly, I don't doubt and fully believe the most general points, that
1) different social networking communities are populated by different demographics and are self-segregated, somewhat.
2) technology will not automatically solve the separations and prejudices that exist in the "real" world.
The really interesting thing, to me, is that this has been happening for awhile - these kind of debates and debunkings of popular hype about "new media" were going on starting 14 or 15 years ago when the Web first started taking off, with a flood of rhetoric about the "digital 'revolution'" and the liberatory potential of technology. People were questioning this along various lines, including class and race based analyses. I'd recommend a great anthology called
"Resisting the Virtual Life" and a little later there was a great book
called "Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents".
A professor of mine at CalArts told me back in 1996 how excited everyone (well, artists and activists, at least) was in the early 70s about the radical and democratic potential of video, but things didn't really pan out how they hoped, so she was a little skeptical about the same sort of talk regarding the web. Basically people have always been scared of, hopeful for, hyping, and debunking new technologies, probably since the wheel and fire, certainly on into film, TV, radio, home computers, etc. I'm glad that some are bringin' the noise on this round, but it's helpful to remember that it's a continuous loop.... and a continuous fight, to make sure that the pernicious effects of any new technology are minimized and the beneficial ones are amplified and widespread...
Wired Magazine reports that we're all writing more, because of the internet. I've thought about that before. It's quite remarkable, but easy to forget. I've always been someone who writes, not just in school, but for a long time that was rare. Now it's not.
Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn't a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they'd leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.
you really want to clean up the border??? put down the water bottles and grab a shovel and rake...Ive got a ranch in three points that needs serious help...but you dont care about my property do you????
This post is one of those non-personal musings (rants?) about current events, rather than a detailed explication of my recent activities.
What I'm musing about here is Bernie Madoff, after reading something about him and his "victims" in the latest issue of Harper's. (why do I instinctively put "victims" in quotes? Read on...) In this short entry in the Readings section of the magazine, the editors provide a selection of Victim Impact Statements sent to the judge during the sentencing phase of Madoff's trial. This one particularly struck me:
Madoff deserves no better than to live under a bridge in a cardboard box, scavenging for food - the existence to which he has undoubtedly consigned some of his victims.
How could this be? Of course I sympathize with any innocent people and organizations who were cheated by this guy, especially non-profits who were affected. But let's get real: anyone who put all their eggs in one basket sort of, at least somewhat, deserves whatever they get. I mean, c'mon! You gave Madoff ALL your money? Every cent, other than the $1000 you spent on that magnum of champagne you drank the night before he got caught? Did you even give him the Rolex on your wrist?
Everyone with a brain understands that you should diversify your investments. You put something in high risk, high yield ventures but keep some in something solid, like treasury bonds or, hell, maybe you might just want to keep some of it back in an FDIC-insured savings account, for a rainy day? You don't just hand everything you have to some fast-talking guy named Bernie. Even poor people understand this. That's why they have multiple kids.
Or "invest" in friends and family so that you'll have someone who'll take you in on their couch when you lose your home, maybe.
The thing is is that this "impact statement" and all the others elide a certain unspoken truth that very few are talking about, regarding Madoff's scam but also applying to the general financial crash we are all still reeling from: you can't get something for nothing, and if you think you can and you put everything into your something for nothing scheme, then you're a fool. And there have been an awful lot of fools, of various types, getting the other shoe stomping on them.
And if you're rich enough to be investing in the first place, in anything, you're on a level, you're in a class, far above many many people in the world. A huge number of people even in the U.S. make barely enough to stay out of poverty, and in the wider world, the numbers are even grimmer and "investing" means having enough kids so that after half of them die you'll still have enough able bodies to till the fields and take care of you when you're old.
Madoff certainly had no right to steal your money, oh "victim," but where did you get that money in the first place? Was it really yours? What gives you the right to have all that money to invest, when most people in the world struggle every day just to feed their families? You are the beneficiary of a global, millennial ponzi scheme called Late Capitalism, and you're too stupid or in too much denial to know it, and you're now whining because you were too stupid to at least stash a little emergency funds away somewhere safe?
You're on the karma payment plan.
I went to a little party just a few hours ago in a little hidden gem of a beautiful villa right off the main hipster drag of 4th Avenue. All the drunks and college kids never know this place exists. There was a pool and food and drink and a guy recording whatever you wanted to say or sing or play, onto a laptop, and looping it and mixing it with whatever anyone else did before, and then playing it back on the PA. It was a cool little collaborative-interactive touch. and there was poetry and music. I read a portion of "The Invisible Generation" into the microphone over the sound of fingers tapping on a stand-up bass, read the Burroughs essay about tape cut-ups, and how you can change the world with recordings. You can remix reality and make it better or worse, Burroughs was saying.
My friend told me I sounded good, on the recording.
I think it was because that essay is a part of me. It was something I first read around 19 years ago, the first I'd ever heard of William S. Burroughs, and it had a profound effect on me. It's internal, so when I read it aloud, I guess it makes sense that I perform it well, because I believe it, and live it, and have for a long time.
Suprisingly, there were mostly women at this party. Only women used the pool, none of the men. I guess it's too hard to look properly hip when you're in a pool. Also, only 5 of us participated in the audio loop thingie, out of about 30 people. Like I keep observing, interactivity isn't for everyone.
Here's a brief glimpse from the eye of my phone during the event, a brief flash of the at least somewhat sublime, in some way, Tucson summer:
Yesterday as a comment to my previous entry here, my friend Carolyn made a good point about what the holiday is about - the veterans who died in our wars - but the media and our leaders certainly don't limit it to that in their rhetoric. Obama last weekend "called on Americans Saturday to tribute to the nation's veterans and service members" (UPI story) And veterans like our old highschool classmate Jeff Klaessy spent their valuable Facebook-time yesterday reminding everyone to think of their (still living) selves.
Meanwhile we have most people just thinking of the day as another chance to get off from work and drink beer in the park. Which is what most holidays get used for.
I'm sorry about your Uncle, Carolyn. I wish there was truly a day where people really just focused on those who died in wars. I wish every holiday still had its original focus, with laser-like precision. I wish Xmas was still about the winter solstice and not about buying and receiving presents. I also wish there was a holiday to honor all the slaves that this country was built on. And a hundred other holidays to focus on and honor all the other honorable people that have sacrificed or been sacrificed for this country, holidays that people really used for their intended purpose.
But that's not how our messed up society works these days. Culture has become a battleground where people fight over the meanings of things and what people will pay attention too, every moment of every day. And if, on Memorial Day, some feel the need to call attention to WHY some people were sacrificed, well... I don't know. Maybe I just don't get it because I don't have any relatives who died in a war - thankfully. I just really wish that nobody did, and ever will again. But sadly, that's not how our society works either.
I got into a Twitter game/meme/virus yesterday - combining movie titles with common words to make crazy imaginary mashup movies that were pretty funny to think about. My tweets from yesterday show how into this concept I got:
click http://search.twitter.com/search?q=cmtpww to see even more from others...
The other day I went to our friendly neighborhood food coop here in Tucson, with a canvas re-usable bag full of used plastic bottles to re-use, for shampoo, conditioner, dish soap, etc. I dutifully weighed the empty bottles at the scale and went over to fill them up, feeling good that I was reducing my usage of nondegradable packaging materials.
But when I got home Greta noted, glancing at the receipt, the prices of the re-usably-contained liquid products: for example, about $4 going on $5 for the shampoo. You can buy a new bottle of shampoo at Trader Joe's for about 3 bucks. The same general story for all those bottles.
So, what incentive is there to re-use those bottles? Just the good fuzzy warm smug glow inside from being a happy smug green consumer? Maybe for some of us with overdeveloped senses of morality and responsibility - and even then, as our wallets get thinner in these dark days, it's harder and harder to be "responsible". Furthermore, for the vast majority of the populace, that will not do even in good times.
The sustainable/green/earth-friendly consumer "movement" will never really get going unless there's more reason to do it than just "do the right thing."
I decided to take a few minutes break from subtitling an interview with a Mexican environmental law professor to read some blogs and I am so blown away by this, this guy who goes by the name Kutiman has made a bunch of wonderful songs and music videos out of unrelated youtube clips, mostly random people practicing their instruments. His work has been re-posted here:
It's absolutely brilliant. and fun! It makes me smile.
Like my friend José said on his blog "The video sequencing is clever and lighthearted, the music tastefully composed and the overall conceit exudes love for humanity.... Much of music is a conversation across space and time, a retracing of other people’s gestures, a palimpsest. Today’s sampling technologies expose those overlays like so much colorful sedimentation."
If I may riff on those ideas - it is truly interesting how positive and light these pieces are. There are some similar projects, like the various "shreds" or like the Evolution Control Committee's "best of default" or whatever it was called, where the ECC went trolling napster for mostly embarrassing stuff that people recorded and accidentally left in their napster share folders, and then made hilarious but kind of mean-spirited ensemble pieces out of them - these were making fun of the sources - but Kutiman seems to rather be celebrating the immense collection of human soul and talent and skill and energy that YouTube is now a sort of repository of. He's taking these people's individual efforts and turning them into some sort of massive global jam band, and the results are beautiful.
It makes me wonder what lies ahead. This may be the beginning of the global hive mind society that some science fiction writers like Vernor Vinge have written about. At some point the interconnected creativity and brainpower of all the millions of humans may become so powerful that what it come up with will be something nobody would be able to understand right now, especially on their own.
That is, if we don't blow ourselves up first.
I'm getting tired of listening to/reading the news lately. The economic crisis is really a bummer. It's like watching a car crash, or a plane crash, but one that takes 6, 12, who knows? how many months to happen. You can see about now the windshield spiderwebbing into a million little fragments, and some of the fragments are starting to bend outward as the passengers' heads start busting through it. The front bumper is crumped and up where the carburator is usually, and you can small gas leaking out somewhere but it hasn't caught fire - yet.
It's really a bummer.
My friend José posted something to his blog that really gives me some hope in these seemingly dark times. Basically it is the idea that people are divided into 2 schools of thought: those who really want you to be scared that if "law and order" and the "institutions" break down, civilization will collapse into a Hobbesean nightmare of everyone for themselves, and then other people who recognize that people are basically good and will band together to help each other and protect each other from harm and mishap when the going gets tough.
Like José says in his post, "print out this brilliant comment... and keep a copy handy at all times given the faddish resurgence of doomsday cults."
It's so easy to panic and be afraid. But hey, let's not, okay?
I just can't get over how perfect this song is for an aging jaded wannabe hipster like myself at this moment in history: "Losing My Edge", by LCD Soundsystem. It's so hilarious and cynical and sad and clever and stinging and brilliant. Just check out some of the lyrics, my fav lines:
I was there in Jamaica during the great sound clashes.
I woke up naked on the beach in Ibiza in 1988.
But I'm losing my edge to better-looking people with better ideas and more talent.
And they're actually really, really nice.
I'm losing my edge.
I heard you have a compilation of every good song ever done by anybody. Every great song by the Beach Boys. All the underground hits. All the Modern Lovers tracks. I heard you have a vinyl of every Niagra record on German import. I heard that you have a white label of every seminal Detroit techno hit - 1985, '86, '87. I heard that you have a CD compilation of every good '60s cut and another box set from the '70s.
I hear you're buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real. You want to make a Yaz record.
I hear that you and your band have sold your guitars and bought turntables.
I hear that you and your band have sold your turntables and bought guitars.
I hear everybody that you know is more relevant than everybody that I know.
Just found out about this new Tucson art blog called TuScene. Interesting. I've been thinking how few people I know in this town are really the "wired" type, that hardly anybody I know or work with creatively has a blog here, other than using Facebook or Myspace (bleah!) and most of my online friends are far away, in SF or PDX or NYC or London or wherever. I've also been thinking some lately how sometimes the Tucson "scene" feels a little small. Compared to some places I've lived I'm a little.... nostalgic. I especially feel this way when I read the "Goings On About Town" pages of The New Yorker... of course nowhere will ever live up to NYC, and noplace should try to, it's just embarrassing when a city does that.
But anyway, maybe that new blog and some other networking efforts will help me feel more "dialed in" to what's going on in this town and more satisfied with it. Ya think?
And I should stop reading that part of the New Yorker. And the Arts pages of the Times.
In other news, a short video of mine will evidently screen at the All Souls Procession Film Fest this week. And they waived the app fee for me.
I read yesterday on Feministing about how Amanda Palmer from the Dresden Dolls was told that shots of her belly had to be edited from a video of hers because she was too fat. What sexist assholes. Even if she was "fat" (click the link, watch the video, and see that she's not, anyway), no record label or employer of any kind has the right to do that. She dropped them and her fans are enraged and posting photos of all their varied bellies to a new site, and rightly so. No woman should ever tolerate such bullshit. Fuck You, Roadrunner Records!
The local rag I love to hate, the Tucson Weekly, issued a "Best of Tucson" award to Dry River, the little group that runs the infoshop down the street from me and that I'm an on-again, off-again member of. The Weekly determined that we are the "best anarchist collective" in town. Here's the entirety of their explanation:
Anarchy may have gone out of style with the passing of St. Joe Strummer, but here in Tucson, there are still a few flying the black flag. What they do is kind of a mystery. We know they take camping trips, practice consensus decision-making and, mainly, facilitate a space called Dry River. Dry River commandeered the Best of Tucson™ title by giving radicals a place to organize, create and share. Like any good anarchist collective, Dry River has a zine library and a free store, and hosts all-ages punk shows and radical film screenings—but it's the free education that caught our eye. They offer classes in English, Spanish and silk-screening; they're also open to new ideas.
Oh well, even snarky publicity is good publicity. heh.
This is from Jenka, an Indymedia activist who sort of splits her time between Portland, DC, and New Orleans...
hurricane gustav is expected to make landfall in a little over eight hours, just west of new orleans, through the native nation of houma. the government has ordered an evacuation, with the national guard stepping in to enforce it. 1.9 million people have apparently gotten out, while tens of thousands continue to be stuck on the highways out of town. 14,000 people without cars were taken out on buses and trains.
FEMA says they have it all figured out, and are doing much better now:
If you listen to their accounts, all is running like a well-oiled
machine, and things are as they should be. They omit the computerized
'ID bracelets' that failed dues to computer glitches on saturday, the
hundreds of people left waiting for buses in jefferson parish, the
hospitals that had to get help from the canadian airforce
because they had been forgotten by FEMA's evacuation plan....3
hospitalized patients died during evacuation. 80 people have been
killed by Gustav in several Caribbean countries. But no one was killed
in Cuba, even though the hurricane went straight across the western
part of the island - that country has evacuation down to an art (the US
won't ask them for advice though, even after Katrina's precedent)
And other big questions remain.
Will the levees hold?
"As the US Army Corps of Engineers and local authorities rushed to
shore up levees on the vulnerable West Bank of New Orleans, which
largely escaped Katrina???s punch, officials made no promises that
up-armored levees would hold. Of particular concern is the Harvey Canal
in Jefferson Parish, widely seen as a weak point in the system. In
fact, only about one-third of the city???s $12 billion new levee system
has been completed. With storm-surge projections of up to 20 feet and
many levees at eight feet, overtopping seems likely if the storm holds
"Leading experts from the U.S. and the Netherlands say the [levee]
system is riddled with flaws. They say that even a weaker storm than
Katrina could breach the levees if it hit this season." - from an
article in early august...
Where are they taking people, and what is the plan to get them back
home? After forcing people to leave after Katrina, many were prevented
from returning for 18 months, two years....far from the 'few days' they
What about the prisoners?
The prison officials at Orleans Parish Prison, if you remember, simply
left the prison during Katrina. Prisoners drowned in their cells, and
were abandoned for days in cells filled with water.
http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2005/09/22/usdom11773.htm Now, a
desperate call has been made by prisoner support groups in the region
to contact the sheriff and make sure that prisoners are evacuated too:
And what about those who can't, or won't (hey - you might be reluctant,
too, if it took you 18 months to get back home last time) evacuate?
"Those who stay will encounter a skeleton crew of law-enforcement
officers who will treat anybody on the street as a suspicious person,
says Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish. The idea is to
guarantee that property will be protected against looters ??? a main
reason so many residents decided to ride out Katrina. 'If you stay,'
Mr. Broussard warns, 'this will be no Mayberry.' 'We've learned from
our mistakes,' says New Orleans Police Officer B. Francois. 'And this
time, if we arrest someone, theyre not going to the local jail.
Theyre getting on a bus to Angola,' the infamous rural prison farm."
"Residents wonder whether by being vigilant -- or hysterical, depending
on one's perspective -- officials are putting themselves in a position
to be able to say 'I told you so' if anyone stays behind. This time
around, Mayor Nagin and all disaster-response spokespeople are making
it clear that if you stay behind and are stranded on your roof waving a
flag made from a bedsheet, it is you who will be held accountable, not
them. Many who are riding out the storm feel that's the motive behind
Nagin's emphatic plea during a press conference Saturday for citizens
to flee 'the mother of all storms,' and 'get their butts out of New
The law-and-order model that caused so much pain after Katrina is going
to be in force, and even more so, this time around.
Again, as during Katrina, many of those unable to evacuate are elderly
(according to a friend of mine in New Orleans now)
I am in touch with Common Ground Relief, the group I worked with in
2005, formed after Katrina and still going strong. Some have evacuated
to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and some are hunkered down in New Orleans.
If you want to help, or check for updates, check
You can follow the progress of the storm here:
Although we have yet to pick our copy up from the post office, I just read about the cover of the new issue of the New Yorker and the ensuing controversy over it. It's amazing that anybody smart enough to read the New Yorker would not get the joke, and speaks to an old problem that an old friend of mine and I used to joke about and call the "Irony Deficiency" of our nation.
This particular instance of this condition made me realize a possible fundamental cause - the fact that our society is so diverse, so factionalized, and so polarized and full of hate and adversarial relations, that irony is almost impossible on a mass scale - why do I say that? because when you have a population in which some people truly believe what others consider are outlandish jokes, those jokes start to backfire if they spread into the realm of the believers.
Those who would normally laugh at such a joke are on such hair-triggers to defend against the attacks of the believers that they no longer have a sense of humor. The fact is that there are some people who are so naive, hateful, deluded, and/or stupid that they really think that Michelle Obama is a violent radical militant and Barrack is a muslim terrorist. That's just how wide, how separated by chasms of clashing belief and values, the spectrum of "political" dialogue, spectrum of opinion about what is real and true, has become in this country.
And who should be surprised, when there are some people that watch 6 hours of television a night, including FOX News, and others that never watch TV at all and spend those hours reading Noam Chomsky, Harpers, or the New Yorker (and/or the latest Crimethinc publication)? When there are some that listen to Merle Haggard and pump their fists earnestly when he sings "and I'd surely stand up, next to you" or whatever, in that stupid-ass song about the first Gulf War, and yet there are others, like me, who bike around town with songs like this stuck in our heads, a Cop Shoot Cop track from that same era:
It's okay to kill in the name of democracy
And dictators are swell if they like the smell of American money
It's making me sick, I want no part of it
Stop waving that flag
All you idiots bought right into it
And who's left holding the bag?
Surprise, surprise. Surprise, surprise.
The government lies.
I happened upon an article in Wired, I think it might be last month's coverstory(?), about how working with huge amounts of data (their big buzzword they keep repeating is Petabytes) and clusters of computers to crunch the data with statistical methods have qualitatively changed the way science will be done. The lead is basically "the end of the scientific method."
Of course the comments on the page after the article are full of people arguing and protesting that of course the writer is wrong and of course he knows nothing about science and this isn't fundamentally changing science.... blah blah blah.
The article is actually interesting, a bit, but it's mostly hype, and the conclusion that's most important is that Wired magazine is still up to the same old tricks: throw a bunch of smoke and mirrors up around a certain pop-tech idea and watch as all the outraged and/or excited geeks scurry around buying copies of the magazine and/or hitting the web site. It doesn't matter what's true, as long as it sells.
It's the same way with most papers and magazines, like the local arts/culture rag here in Tucson, the Tucson Weekly. Full of bullshit written by either imbeciles or racists (or both), spewing hate, nonsense, borderline softcore porn, and/or silliness that the editors may or may not agree with - but it doesn't matter because the outrage inflates circulation, which inflates advertiser revenue. I'm so sick of it but what to do? A letter to the editor would just be proof that one more chump reads the paper. Ka-ching! In fact, you probably shouldn't click on those links in this paragraph. doh!
This is a scary little video by Vishal Agarwala about Facebook and all the private information they collect and who they might be giving it to. There's a text article that cites sources of the information in the video.
Of course, ironically, I'm using YouTube, a company with a lot of the same scariness, to embed the video...
I'm getting increasingly tired of people using the name "Turtle Island" without, in my view, really understanding it. Activists, new agers, poets, etc have been using it to be another name for the North American continent, in an effort to get away from using names invented by the white colonizers, ever since Gary Snyder published a book of poetry by that name. I guess it's somewhat debatable, but here's my point: the idea comes from the common Native American cosmovision that all the world is perched on the back of a giant turtle. One might argue that it refers to just this continent because they weren't aware of any other continents, but if there were there would be Deer Island and Whale Island and whatever else besides Turtle Island. But the point is that it's a cosmological, not geographic, worldview - they believed this continent was the entire world, was all there was for humans and other animals to live on. Therefore, I think you're really being too specific if you refer to North America as "Turtle Island." The whole world is Turtle Island.
I admit that it is ambiguous though. Here's part of a version of the myth:
Nanaboozhoo took the piece of Earth from Muskrat's paw. Just then, the turtle swam forward and said, "Use my back to bear the weight of this piece of Earth. With the help of Kitchi-Manitou, we can make a new Earth." Nanaboozhoo put the piece of Earth on the turtle's back. Suddenly, the wind blew from each of the Four Directions, The tiny piece of Earth on the turtle's back began to grow. It grew and grew and grew until it formed a mi-ni-si', or island in the water. The island grew larger and larger, but still the turtle bore the weight of the Earth on his back. Nanaboozhoo and the animals all sang and danced in a widening circle on the growing island. After a while, the Four Winds ceased to blow and the waters became still. A huge island sat in the middle of the water
So, is it "a new Earth", or is it just "an island" that is part of the Earth? Maybe a European, over-rational mind just can't make sense of it.
The New York Times has a great op-ed about treatment of women and how little attention presidential candidates give to it.
If there was ever a story that deserved more coverage by the news media, it’s the dark persistence of misogyny in America. Sexism in its myriad destructive forms permeates nearly every aspect of American life. For many men, it’s the true national pastime, much bigger than baseball or football.
I hate making people register for the NYT site so I'm cutting and pasting the whole thing, below...
Politics and Misogyny
By BOB HERBERT
Published: January 15, 2008
With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s win in New Hampshire, gender issues are suddenly in the news. Where has everybody been?
If there was ever a story that deserved more coverage by the news media, it’s the dark persistence of misogyny in America. Sexism in its myriad destructive forms permeates nearly every aspect of American life. For many men, it’s the true national pastime, much bigger than baseball or football.
Little attention is being paid to the toll that misogyny takes on society in general, and women and girls in particular.
Its forms are limitless. Hard-core pornography is a multibillion-dollar business, having spread far beyond the stereotyped raincoat crowd to anyone with a laptop and a password. Crowds of crazed photographers risk life and limb to get shots of Paris Hilton or Britney Spears without their underwear. At New York Jets home games, men regularly gather at Gate D to urge female fans to expose themselves.
In its grimmest aspects, misogyny manifests itself in hideous violence — from brutal beatings and rape to outright torture and murder. Fifteen months ago, a gunman invaded an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania, separated the girls from the boys, and then shot 10 of the girls, killing five.
The cable news channels revel in stories about women (almost always young and attractive) who come to a gruesome end at the hands of violent men. The stories seldom, if ever, raise the issue of misogyny, which permeates not just the crimes themselves, but the coverage as well.
The latest of these obsessively covered stories concerned a pregnant marine, Maria Frances Lauterbach, who had complained to authorities that she had been raped by a fellow marine. Her body was found last week buried in a backyard fire pit in North Carolina.
It just so happens that the Democratic presidential candidates are campaigning this week in the misogyny capital of America: Nevada. It’s a perfect place to bring up the way women are viewed and treated in this society, but don’t hold your breath. Presidential wannabes are hardly in the habit of insulting the locals.
Prostitution is legal in much of Nevada and heavily promoted even where it’s not. In Las Vegas, where prostitution is illegal but flourishes nevertheless, Mayor Oscar Goodman has said that creating a series of legal, “magnificent” brothels would be a great development tool for his city.
The fundamental problem in all of this is that women and girls are dehumanized, opening the floodgates to every kind of mistreatment. “Once you dehumanize somebody, everything else is possible,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of the women’s advocacy group Equality Now.
A grotesque exercise in the dehumanization of women is carried out routinely at Sheri’s Ranch, a legal brothel about an hour’s ride outside of Vegas. There the women have to respond like Pavlov’s dog to an electronic bell that might ring at any hour of the day or night. At the sound of the bell, the prostitutes have five minutes to get to an assembly area where they line up, virtually naked, and submit to a humiliating inspection by any prospective customer who has happened to drop by.
If you don’t think this is an issue worthy of a presidential campaign, consider the scandalous way that women are treated in the military and the fact that the winner of this election will become the commander in chief.
The sexual mistreatment of women in the military is widespread. The Defense Department financed a study in 2003 of female veterans seeking health assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Nearly a third of those surveyed said they had been the victim of a rape or attempted rape during their service.
The Associated Press reported in 2006 that more than 80 military recruiters had been disciplined over the course of a year because of sexual misconduct with young women and girls who had considered joining the military.
There continue to be widespread complaints from women about rape and other forms of sexual attacks in the military, and about a culture that tends to protect the attackers.
To what extent are the candidates of either party concerned about these matters? Do they have any sense of how extensive and debilitating the mistreatment of women and girls really is?
We’ve become so used to the disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous and even violent treatment of women that we hardly notice it. Staggering amounts of violence are unleashed against women and girls every day. Fashionable ads in mainstream publications play off of that violence, exploiting themes of death and dismemberment, female submissiveness and child pornography.
If we’ve opened the door to the issue of sexism in the presidential campaign, then let’s have at it. It’s a big and important issue that deserves much more than lip service.
I was listening several days ago to a short program on KXCI, a weekly feature called "Growing Native with Petey Mesquitey". Petey is the real deal, a unique talent in residence at KXCI, the local community radio station. Every 5-minute or so episode of his show he tells a brief story about some experience he had recently out in the outdoors and what plants or animals he encountered. It might be discussing his trek out to find a christmas tree, or the blooming of some special flower, or finding some strange bug. I've listened to him several times, and even attended a live appearance he did in town, though I've not followed him obsessively or anything.
But last week I realized what makes him so unique: he's a combination of 3 characteristics that no one else I've encountered in the field (of nature writing) really brings together:
1) He obviously knows his subject. He can name the latin names of every organism he comes across, and talks extensively about the details of its appearance, behavior, life cycle, etc.
2) Despite this extensive knowledge, he is REALLY EXCITED and intrigued about everything he talks about and does, and has a deep emotional and spiritual connection to nature.
3) He's happy and optimistic about it all.
This is pretty exceptional. Many writers and thinkers about nature know the science, but are cold and clinical about nature. Others have this (occasionally wackadoo) spiritual link going on but they don't know the details, the science. And some even have both of these but they look at it all through a dark lens of "it's all going away and doomed, isn't that sad. we're fucked." Charles Bowden or Ed Abbey are good examples of the latter. They know their stuff, they feel it too, but where they go with it is pessimistic and negative.
Petey, though, somehow avoids that trap and just exalts in the beauty and simple pleasures of the outdoors.
I think this kind of take on things is really really important. People must know the threats, but they also must be inspired to simple enjoy. Otherwise, the only response can be to throw up one's hands in hopelessness.
We returned from our 5-day trip to Portland with a video projector and DVD player courtesy of Free Geek, which gave it as a hardware grant to Dry River Radical Resource Center here in Tucson. We got it back via the plane fine and used it at the space for the first night of the Dry River 2-year birthday celebration. The event was attended pretty well and got good advance press in both the Arizona Daily Star and the Tucson Weekly, although I'm not sure if the good attendance was because of that or because there's a zillion bands playing and that brought in all their fans.
We premiered my just-finished documentary about Dry River first, and after a few more bands played we showed a short video about Free Geek and the rough cut of a doc about squats in Spain that my compa Lotus is working on. Later, at midnight, John Carpenter's "They Live" was shown as well, but O and I were too tired from our day of travelling to make it till then. The party went on and we went to bed.
Later this morning the festivities continue with brunch and more bands and stuff. Yay. Happy Birthday, Dry River, this is also roughly the anniversary of my move to Tucson. It's been a good 2 years.
So I was looking at the tour schedule of a band I recently really fell for last year and then again recently called Pony Pants. In fact I shot footage of them playing at Dry River a couple weeks ago and I just edited together a video of them today.
But anyway they list a show tomorrow they're playing in "Moline, Iowa", which is really Moline, Illinois, the city across the Mississippi from my home town, Davenport, Iowa (the mistake is to be expected, it's a group of 4 cities divided by the river, known as "Quad Cities, USA"). They're playing at "The Meth Lab" with a band called "Meth and Goats" - so I google that and find their page and they fucking rock, too!
Pony Pants is from West Philly so, yeah, whatever, you'd expect awesome culture from a big city like that, but Moline? **NOTHING** like this was going on there when I was a kid - at least that I knew of... though of course I was a total nerd when i was growing up and wouldn't have known about a punk house party if it was next door to my place, and my parents wouldn't have let me go anyway
(I remember when, a high school senior, a friend loaned me a Cure tape and told me it was punk, and I believed it for at least a year - i'd never heard of punk before...).
But anyway, yeah, Meth and Goats, they're pretty cool. They remind me a bit of Jesus Lizard.
This video presentation about a new image manipulation technology called "seam carving" is really disturbing to me. changing real pictures of real places and people just so you can have a certain sized image?
The motivation or "problem" implied at the beginning of the video just goes to show, like I've noticed all my life so many times, how form always seems to get prioritized over content. that some designer wants a photo to dynamically resize so that their silly page layout always looks nice and is willing to sacrifice truth for it makes me shiver. and they're willing to let a computer decide what is important in an image!? yikes. What if it's important to me that the bear was that far away from her cubs? What if I want to know that I'm looking at what the landscape really looks like, not some artificially distorted fantasy?
Good article by Naomi Klein is on Alternet about the SPP protests and authorities videotaping protesters supposedly so that the leaders being petitioned can see the protesters from a safe distance.
Like contestants on a reality TV show, protesters at the SPP were invited to vent into video cameras, their rants to be beamed to protest-trons inside the summit enclave. It was security state as infotainment
I'm still working on uploading all the good photos from my trip to Europe, but I'm getting closer. The other day I finally finished a set of photos of street art and other interesting street scenes in Berlin. That city is just full of amazing art and politics scrawled, sprayed, and glued all over walls and signs. So I definitely shot a lot of snaps of it. Enjoy...
Via the Indymedia video listserv I just found a very interesting essay called "What the MySpace generation should know about working for free"
...labor has become performance, the act of being a speaker within communication systems. To paraphrase the old saying: The greatest trick that capital ever pulled was convincing the world that labor didn't exist. Labor today, is a 'casualized' and often distributed immaterial activity.
The mere presence of Tara and her friends on MySpace creates value. Surely, the generated monetary value varies; highly popular clips like the treadmill video on YouTube generated over ten million views, while others receive little attention. The quantity of small acts of labor makes YouTube profitable for Google.
Can a convincing teen-friendly version of this essay be concocted? What would kids say to this, even if it was in an easy to read, fun, non-academic tone? Would they just say "so what"? As the text goes on to say,
...I'd argue for the need of an awareness of servitude. This awareness has not been socialized among the most fervent participants of the sociable web: American teens. Despite misleading statistics, most 'MySpacesters' are young and live in the United States. Their upbringing did not instill an awareness of their embrace of market-based behavior  (5) . The fact that one person lives off another’s labor is natural to them.
But we must. "Sociable Web Media make people easier to use but we can’t let them (and them in us) get the best of us."
NY Times article about how multitasking is not a very good idea, and you should avoid interruptions and distractions. (via philo's blog) It also says young people are actually worse at multitasking than older folks.
“We are under the impression that we have this brain that can do more than it often can,” says one researcher.
duh. Yes. Buddhists have been teaching this for about 4 millenia. And I multitask or attempt to a lot but also fight it a lot. But of course this talk of focusing and not letting yourself be distracted from the task at hand takes on a dark cast when in the context of business efficiency. The article mentions that we have yet to have our Frederick Taylor of the information age. Y'know, the guy that worked on turning factory workers into scientifically optimized mechanized cogs? Oh I can't wait for his modern equivalent. yay.
I always remember the J.G. Ballard story "Chronopolis", in which a wise man in a future world where clocks are outlawed tells the hero, "Once someone measures how long it takes you to do something, they can try to make you do it faster."
I've had it, I just unsubbed from their newsletter because of this. so dumb.
Men may be from Mars and women from Venus but who wants to vacation on either planet? According to Kayak travel data, women are from the beach and men are from the golf course, which can put a crook into planning the family getaway. Who says the sexes always have to agree? Sometimes you just gotta grab a few girls and go.
Reminds me of an interesting and sort of disturbing article I just read in Bust magazine about female sex tourism that seemed to be saying it was okay when the male variety is not. It made me realize again how far Bust and "post-feminism" have come. I remember when Bust was a pretty radical little Riotgrrlish zine, the first issue about 20 pages xeroxed and stapled in one corner and mailed to me for review in my little zine, Synergy, about 14 years ago. Now it's just more lifestyle porn.
A lot of people who are good friends tend to dress and coiff themselves the same. Amazing still to me, but it's just the way it is. Nevertheless, it's often really hilarious. Of course the most ridiculous and obvious example are the tourist couples that you see wearing matching tourist outfits, like identical "San Francisco" t-shirts and identical sweatpants. Or the bikenazi couples that wear the same flashy lycra biking bodysuits.
Another such phenomenon that I've been noticing a lot lately, maybe because a lot of them have been coming through town lately on the way to and from South by Southwest, is the group of guys that are obviously all in a band. It's so funny, I have never been wrong when I say the above question to a group of dudes walking into a cafe or something. I don't even neccesarily need to see them al piling out of rental van. Not like it's a uniform, per se, like the early Beatles or something, no. It's just, a look. And it's not to say that all musicians look the same - it's totally a function of what kind of band they're in. This morning I saw a group of tousle-haired, mopey-dopey dorkboys and I was like, yup, emo band from the northwest. Last night at Hotel Congress I ran into a few matching hippy-dreaded-tiedyed kids and it turned out they were in Icy Core of Jupiter, a band from Phoenix that plays sort of freaked-out Stoogesesque psychedelic punk-garage jams.
They were on their way to Dry River to play a show and I gave them directions. Saw them later at the show. Their appearance definitely matched each other and their music in some kind of metaphporical way, although when the bass player sprayed chocolate syrup all over his bare chest during one song, the other members did not follow suit. That would have been truly too much. :-)
I'm feeling really overwhelmed. million things i want to do, said i would do, or feel like i should be doing.
just found this thing called Twitter. it's like a tiny tiny mini micro nano blog. you just type one line describing what you're doing right now. people can follow that like a blog or follow all their friends.
it's kinda neat and maybe i'll keep using it, but i cant help thinking.... the easier it is to "twitter" (what a great name), isn't that just making it easier to not get anything REAL done? if i spend 5 seconds every 120 seconds submitting something to twitter, that adds up and means i dont have that time to do something more meaninful and longterm.... kind of like when you try to get work done while sitting in a cafe with a bunch of chatty friends. not gonna happen.
I guess that's the kind of mood i'm in...
other stuff: an "unconference" in san diego that protests O'Reilly's insanely expensive conferences; a film about Michale Moore and hard it was to make a movie about him and how inaccessibile he is; I lost a great essay I wrote about 5 years ago about "Freebles", it's digital dust now, i guess...; i really should blog about a bunch of Juarez-related links and news but i don't have time.... or do i? argh.
Amazingly, this was the subject line of a piece of spam I recieved today. I've been marvelling at how one could almost take up reading spam folder subject lines instead of reading headlines and get a decent overview of the news, since this is a side effect of recent spammer strategy, it seems. Now you can also get your Onion-esque fake news from spam too.
Like cowbird eggs placed in the nests of other birds, there are many other examples of this kind of simulacra that seem to fulfill a function in life but are really largely just taking up space and fooling us. Writing software can seem like creativity, going to meetings can seem like a social life, but these are empty calories. There's no time like the present to keep remembering that.
This is an entry about capitalism. But, I have to provide some background: So, I've been really into this great travel website called Kayak for the last couple months. It's basically a super-search engine for airfares. you put in where you want to go & when and it searches hundreds of airlines and other travel sites to find the best fares. And the best feature is the email alerts where it sends a message every day or week with the best fares under your certain price for your certain date range. Really useful.
However, this is about something really unuseful, unless you count relieving consumers of their cash useful. Which I guess it is if we want to keep the ol' economy pumpin', eh? So, ok, nevermind.
Just kidding. What I'm talking about is how capitalists, or 'the market', are constantly seeping into every possible crevice and nook of life, like vomit that gets into the cracks between tiles in your bathroom when you puke and miss the toilet. The example I have today is an email from Kayak, exhorting everyone to go on a trip: for chocolate. They proceed to provide a list of exotic or not-so-exotic destinations with no reasons listed to go other than their relation to chocolate: Belgium, New York, Hershey Pennsylvania, Oaxaca... ("No discussion of chocolate is complete without mentioning a trip to Mexico where it all began. ")
...Ignoring of course the brutal colonial history of Belgium's chocolate supremacy or the current human rights abuses taking place in Oaxaca, and other such bothersome facts, and I will skip over the details of these too for now, because what I'm talking about is how ridiculous it is to try to sell someone a flight to Oaxaca or Pennsylvania or Brussels for chocolate. But hey, it's Valentine's Day coming up and you're supposed to eat chocolate and why not be really cool and buy an $800 plane ticket instead of an $8 box of chocolate? Every little excuse will be tried by marketeers, because as Dennis the Menace once said, "All I need is one sucker." (image: Dennis behind a lemonade stand, sign announcing: lemonade, $10 a glass)
While the greenhouse gases choke the planet to death we're being told to blow our "disposable income" to jet around the globe with no more excuse for it than looking for cacao products and their traces, in the form of museums and theme parks. And meanwhile there are hundreds of millions who will never, ever, ever be able to afford to set foot on a plane, who in fact will never leave the tiny circle of land around the village they were born in, unless it's to migrate (rather than starve), to the nearest metropolis to work in a factory assembling plastic gadgets for gringos to buy at Wal-Mart...
thanx but no thanx, Kayak.com.
In the society of the spectacle, "Spectators do not find what they desire: they desire what they find." - Guy Debord
(Don't get me wrong, since this is the first time in a few years that I've been seeing someone at this time of year, I will probably ask that someone to do something special with me in honor of the fabricated holiday. But we won't be flying to Brussels.)
So, I won't name names but I'm in this local consensus-based collective and I don't know if I should be in it anymore. Just about every week, at every weekly meeting, we have some argument about one thing or another and I'm pretty much always on the one side and everyone else is on the other and I always end up saying "well, I still disagree but I stand aside." I do this because it's never something important enough to block, and yet I always feel like I've given up on some matter of minor principle. Minor, but still a principle, something I firmly believe. And so, the question is, if this keeps happening week after week, does that mean I should leave the collective? I can't leave right away because we're in the middle of doing a lot of work on a big project. And I don't want to leave at all because it's really a subject that is important to me and the collective is responding to the subject in ways I believe in. But it just feels really bothersome and lonely to always always be alone on the other side of a debate every single week. Maybe it's not a sign that the collective is wrong for me but is just my problem and I should talk to my therapist about it. I dunno.
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were neccessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?--Alexander Solzhenitsyn
I read this within the first 5 minutes of waking up this morning and I was immediately struck by how powerful and perfect an idea it is, and it has proven to be absolutely completely the single overarching uniting idea of this whole day.
(Well, except for the part of the day when I was hacking SQL and PHP code in order to enable website users to enter into a relationship with VJs.)
Oh man, I just have to vent - it really annoys me when announcements of a work meeting are delivered only via an iCal file sent by email as an attachment, with nothing else in the email. no time, no explanation of what the meeting is about or why we need it or what the agenda is. And then you click the attachment and iCal wont let you see the information, just the time, unless you accept the invitation, but if the time is bad and you decline, then you never see any other information. Argh. whatever happened to good old text? just a "hey, let's conference call at 4 on tuesday about the contract?" and then i'll reach over and grab my organizer and a pen and write "4pm - work meeting" on tuesday. is that so hard? Argh.
Did I mention I'm sick?
I just read a really wonderful essay in the January issue of Harper's, called "Army of Altruists," by David Graeber. It deftly links a tapestry of related topics: why Republicans won in '04, why they represent the working class, why working class people join the Army and why they hate intellectuals and even why some people have children. His thesis is basically that "Americans" (estadounidenses) are really all about wanting to be altruists, rather than all about ego and self-interest like the common wisdom and most economists say.
I was particularly struck, in a personal way, by this passage:
How many youthful idealists throughout history have managed to finally come to terms with a world based on selfishness and greed the moment they start a family? If one were to assume altruism were the primary human motivation, this would make perfect sense: The only way they can convince themselves to abandon their desire to do right by the world as a whole is to substitute an even more powerful desire to do right by their children.This is an extremely important and resonant idea to me, especially since I have never wanted and have resolved to never have children.
Graeber goes on to explain in detail how ego and self-interest come out of markets, which historically have always spawned organized religions that extol the opposite: selflessness, charity, and a belief that material things aren't important. This explains, he says, how the U.S. can be the most materialistic and market-driven country in the world but also one of the most religious. But in our society, the poor are now precluded from the sort of priveleged life that enables people to have altruistic careers like human rights lawyers or professional activists. And so they join the Army, which takes care of them and gives them something noble to believe in that they're doing, and makes their life an adventure (which is what i always say i'm after, too).
This is important stuff. I wish it were online. Find this issue and read this.
If you're ever in the Quad Cities, USA (so-called because it consists of 2 cities on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River and 2 on the Iowa side) and you need a little bit of big city culture, in the form of a comfortable coffeeshop with internet and good espresso drinks, I highly recommend where I'm sitting right now, Dewey's Cafe in the Bettendorf Public Library.
For a place like Bettendorf this place is pretty cool. There's even a young goth guy barista who was really excited about being able to make a mocha that was "for here" and not to go. I was beginning to lose hope, after first going to a pizza place that also advertised itself as an "internet cafe", but had a really weak wireless signal and didn't serve espresso, although they had arty drawings of mochas and lattes (labelled) on the wals. Huh?
This all seems really snobby, perhaps, and I recognize that. However, this is the first time I've jonesed for this kind of thing in the last 2 weeks of being back here in Iowa. And, well, sometimes it's the simple pleasures of cosmopolitan life that can do a lot for my mood. I need ever little mood-booster I can get these days, actually.
Godfuckingdammit I hatehatehate how every time I put up photos on Flickr, any shot that has a woman in it gets at LEAST about 1/3 more views than ones that don't, and often twice as many views or more. So fucking predictable. C'mon, you stupid horny internet photo dweebs. Get a fucking life. God dammit.
I'm back from a long weekend in Portland, for the wedding of 2 friends. It was a wonderful ceremony, a fun reception, and a great time hanging out with Portland friends, and it was nice introducing Jessica (who came along) to those friends, and showing her cool stuff in town and nearby. I will have photos online soon.
So now I've returned to the heat and the back-to-school rush of Tucson. Oh. My. Gawd. College kids seem so materialistic and unaware now. I don't know if this is my age, or whether things have changed, or whether this particular campus is just particularly full of shallow frat boys, ROTCers, and "sorostitutes," but it just really annoys me, and it's annoying to have enjoyed the wonderful quiet of summer here and then all of sudden swarms of chattering rich kids are choking the streets and coffeehouses, chanting the mantra "hi how was your summer?" to each other.
I'm glad i'm now going to be living quite far from campus now.
And I just have to ask: can someone tell me why, even if you're a ditzy sorority girl, you'd want to wear pink short-shorts with the name of your college emblazoned across your butt cheeks? Pink? (Can anyone say "baboon in heat"?)
I absolutely cannot believe how like a soap opera this little activist community/scene is here in Tucson. It frankly just infuriates and disgusts me. There are these busybodies that make it their business to stick their judgmental noses into other people's business when they have no right to do that at all. It's like other small, insular communities, I guess, like some little rural farm town. Lots of gossiping and moralizing and semisecret recriminations, evil looks at the supposed transgressor as if they wear a scarlet letter. And just downright infantile, immature behavior. When was the last time you've heard of a grown adult couple, children in tow, running, not just even walking, but literally running out of a party when someone that one of them perceives to have harmed their relationship also arrives there? I mean, is this real, or some film set, and I wasn't given the script? WTF?!?
It actually maybe would make a pretty interesting movie. And I do mean movie, not film, if you know what I mean.
I wish I could write in detail with all the names and exactly what has been going on. Maybe someday I will. But I certainly never wanted to be part of it, even though now I certainly am. I remember 6 months ago when i first started becoming aware of it, being so glad I was not in it. So glad I had not acted on any impulses that would embroil me in this cesspool of jealousy and dysfunction. Now I sort of have, I guess, and I am in it. I wish I could write a huge exposé about this in the Tucson Weekly, - without hurting the people that I care for - to expose the fucked up, dysfunctional interpersonal relations that are rampant in this little subculture of cactus-huggers, anarchists, and freaks.
I'm so mad I almost just want to move again, run screaming to the airport and flee. Actually, in about 2 weeks I will be leaving, for a month, and I think that will be very healthy.
Your hip slick little gadget is made in a sweatshop like everything else...
Godammit I'm so surprised at how many places are closed today. Not a single fucking bike shop is open today because of Memorial Day. WTF? Fuck remembering the dead veterans. How about remembering all the fucking rich white elite men who DIDN'T die, who got rich off of all this country's wars for the last 250 years, sending the poor men off to die and then making a fucking holiday about them, as if that makes up for it?
As you can see, I'm in a foul mood. My bike has a flat and there's no where to get a freaking innertube. I'm really fucking sick of how often I get flats in this town, too, even with all the precautions of thorn-proof tires, tire liners, etc etc. I'm really sick of my bike too, and all the things wrong with it and the money I don't have to fix it because I'm still waiting on corporate america to send me a fucking check even after working for a whole month for them.
I was just at a show to see this really great band from Phoenix called Peachcake. I first saw them like 15 months ago here in Tucson and totally loved them. They're sort of this electroclash band but totally unpretentious and dorky. The guys in the band are all these nerdy college-age guys who just don't care if they look silly, and hence their stage presence is just comletely infectious and fun. They had one guy in a mexican wrestling mask and no shirt just dancing and setting off fireworks. The singer was wearing pajamas and a cat-in-the-hat hat and those joke giant sunglasses, and another guy had a keytar with a wireless hookup so he could run all over the venue playing. I just love artists who basically are saying with their work, we don't give a fuck if you think we're cool, we're going to have fun and get you to have fun.
I tried to get Jessica to go along, and she wanted to, but she had to work. I ran into Loren and Jeremiah at the show, which was at Solar Culture, a pretty cool gallery and performance space which I wish had more shows. Sadly, the next couple bands after Peachcake bored me, they were like a totally different vibe that I wasn't in the mood for, this sort of sad indie emo cello/guitar/keyboards music. Who booked Peachcake with these shoegazers? Anyway, I left early, after getting all hyped by the blippy electroclash I just couldn't handle that other stuff.
According to Rob Bresny's Free Will Astrology horoscope for libras for this week, today is special:
Espertantina, a town in Brazil, celebrates May 9 as Orgasm Day. As much as I'd love to import this enlightened holiday to my home country of America, it might be difficult in the foreseeable future. Why? Because religious fundamentalists have been spreading their infectious mental disease, seducing people into mistrusting their bodies' natural urges. Meanwhile, the advertising and entertainment industries try to sell us on the glamour of being in a chronic state of titillation without satisfaction. I'm calling on you Libras to do what you can to resist these cultural trends. The astrological omens say this is an auspicious time for you to seek out, cultivate, and honor your own orgasms.
A nice little video about humans and what's wrong with them. I guess it's been going around the net quite a lot, so, sorry if you've already seen it. i'm not perfect. I'm just a monkey.
This is an observation about Tucsonans and climate-induced culture, and a comparison with the same for Portlanders, and some related personal stuff too.
It's been a long time since I've lived somewhere with such a transitory population. It's really really weird. All winter I'd been watching all the crusty punks and traveller kids as well as the grey-haired snowbirds, all drifting into town to take refuge from the bitter claws of winter. And in fact, wasn't I here for that reason? Yes, except for the fact that I moved here "for good." I had no plan to wrap up my bindle and hop a freight back out come springtime. I wanted to make Tucson my home.
It's only mid-april and it's getting into the 80s. As summer creeps nearer like a heat mirage far off down a highway, more and more people are talking about their plans for the summer. Their desparate or not-so-desparate schemes to escape the heat are percolating through the social circles, as well as plans of others who will be left behind to carry on in what sounds, to my novice mind, like an empty shell of a city. Art and culture organizations, even activist organizations like the Tucson Peace Center, simply shut down, stop publishing, stop scheduling events. It feels.... fickle, to me... but what do I know, being so new to town?
Of course for other activists it's the busiest time, when the border crossing deaths start spiking.
It all seems like a cliff or a wall, a giant ominous deadline made of weather. Since I don't know fully what to expect, I don't feel it as strongly as some, but it feels very similar to how Portland feels in the fall to me. Instead of the start of the 9-month, chilly, rainy season, it's the start of a 5-month blast of heat. The difference is that in Portland, no one except a few malcontents like myself really seem to mind. People just appear to be resigned to it. Here, I feel like there is an underlying zeitgeist akin to rats leaving a sinking ship. Get out, before the heat comes! It's SO STRANGE.
This ominous cliff is perhaps taller and darker to me for personal reasons too: the woman I've been starting something with is going to be gone the whole month of July. And who knows what will happen then. She made it clear that she wants to be free to meet someone else, some hypothetical other romance that might happen during her planned July adventure. Which is fine with me. But it puts another odd sort of deadline in my life. No, deadline isn't the right word; perhaps: expiration date. perhaps. And that's weird. I've never had a relationship like that.
But anyway, I figured out why it's this way, these 2 cultures. People don't come to Portland for the climate. They come in spite of it. The kind of people who come to Portland and stay are the people who can handle it. Some may grumble a bit, but for the most part the climate has selected people who don't care. They drink a lot of coffee and beer, hunker down in their nests and breed, or make art, or work, and they get by. I will never understand those people (even those in Portland who are really good friends), just like I don't understand people who live in Alaska. But they exist, and I guess it's lucky they do.
On the other hand, the kind of people that come to Tucson are just the opposite. They come because of climate. And the kind of people who will come for climate, will go for climate. Of course. Tucson is the perfect migrant community, in more ways than one. Tucson is one of the few places in this country where it's wonderful in the winter while almost everywhere else sucks. And, it's one of the few places where in the summer, according to some, it sucks and almost everywhere else is wonderful.
I've never lived anywhere like that, except maybe Austin - for one summer. Some friends who came to visit said it was intolerably hot there in August, but I didn't think it was too much worse than summer where I grew up, in Iowa. And I've always said that I much prefer extreme heat to extreme cold. So, part of me just wants to live through it, at least once, and see what it's like. And really enjoy the deserted desert quiet of the emptied-out city.
However, I also have the travelling itch, and I sort of miss Portland and have been wanting to go back there for at least a couple weeks when it's nice there, and also maybe do a brief west-coast tour with my film.
So I may compromise. No big exodus away for any huge length of time. Just a few weeks in July. Then come back in time to experience the famous monsoons, and see what else happens.
I just wondered to myself, about that cliff: the question is, am I rushing toward it from the bottom, to slam into the wall, or coming toward the edge from the top, to soar off and fall? mixed metaphors of limited utility. But thinking this way makes me realize I shouldn't be thinking this way; So fatalistic, so filled with dread. That's bad. One should live each day in that day, acknowledging the fragile temporality of life but not letting the future chew into the present. Enjoy the moment. Maybe this is what Burroughs meant when he wrote, "If you cut into the present, the future will leak out."
An interesting article about Kurdish gasoline smugglers in Iraq and the popularity of reggaetón there.
It would be a stretch to say that the enthusiasm for Gasolina has to do with its subject matter, especially when considering its aggressive rhythm and near-pornographic video. But Daddy Yankee's signature track is a sexually-explicit ode to what gasolina can provide - and here "gasoline" can mean, as Sasha Frere-Jones [says] in the New Yorker, speed, rum, semen or gasoline - and that, of course, is unadulterated pleasure. And at the moment, as Iraq disintegrates, the Kurds are betting quite heavily on what gasoline can do for them.
Mi amigo Patrick provides a little slice of life, describing his commute through Caracas and musings about class and neighborhoods. Muy interesante.
Happy International Women's Day! I just found a website that has a global register of IWD events. So go find what's happening where you are.
A friend in Italy says on his blog that the holiday is a much bigger deal in Europe than in the U.S.
Epic is the "hip" place to hang and take an espresso in Tucson. It's often too hip for me, but sometimes I go. And the demographics are actually more varied than the "hipster" moniker implies. It's a really popular place with lots of people, but the vibe is definitely leaning toward the overly-cool idle class. If I went there regularly I could probably make a whole blog just about the strange things I overhear there.
Today was one of the exceptions to the demographic but a great example of the surreal conversations I accidentally eavesdrop on all the time. I'm sitting there now and as I walked in I overheard the following: "...sounds like you need to have a rottweiler loose on the property." I look over and it's a grizzled old guy in overalls talking on a cellphone and smoking a cigar. He's wearing a black baseball cap that says "Get The Fuck Away From Me."
Apropo my conversation with someone recently about the new Battlestar Galactica series (I can't remember who I was talking to): I just saw in the bathroom at Epic, every hipster's favorite coffeehouse in Tucson, the following graffito: "Adama is a cylon."
If you don't watch the show, I'll explain: Commander Adama is the military leader of the fleet that comprises the last surviving humans, after the Cylons devastated all the human planets. The Cylons can make androids that are almost indistinguishable from humans, which provides a lot of the suspense and intrigue of the show. Who's a cylon, who's not?
An article in the journal Neuron (I love that name) reports that a study found that when people cooperate, a part of their brain associated with pleasure is stimulated. They don't know why humans evolved to be this way, but now they know why it feels good to help each other out and work together.
Of course everybody geeky enough and who cares enough about privacy concerns (related to both government and corporate breaches thereof) has been following the Google story of the feds asking for their logs. I've been in an extended discussion with a friend about that, about Google's ethics, and about what most people do or don't want from or know about or believe about Google and privacy and security.
He just pointed me to a blog that pointed to a story in the Register that reports that 77% of Google users don't know that Google "records personal data."
In this discourse i think a lot depends on the meaning of "personal data." To be fair, the quote above is from the headline, but the actual article, written by the every-snarky but tech-savvy Andrew Orlowski, uses the phrase "Google records and stores information that may identify them" (emphasis mine). Recording an ip address and a history of searches isn't neccesarily going to lead to a person, as in a name, and an address to send the stormtroopers to. you'd need the cooperation of someone's ISP to physically find them; and with dynamic IPs, which is how most people get online, i think, it might be hard for even an ISP to say which of their subscribers did what when.
Bad news for homeland security, better news for google and the datamining industry, who can say 'we don't really have data that's THAT personal.'
José and I got into this because he wants Google to get to know him better and help him buy stuff. To me, right now, that means targeted marketing based on past data of a user. But I don't know if that sort of thing will ever be smart enough to not be creepy and mostly wrong. at least not before we have AIs that will also go out and do our browsing for us and autofilter all ads if we so desire.
For instance when i go to Amazon and see their list of books i should be interested in based on everything i've bought and reviewed and searched on before, and it's just comical. Here's an hilarious example. because i once purchased "How to Read Donald Duck" by Ariel Dorfman from Amazon, they think I would want to also buy "Master the TOEFL 2006"!
Rather than datamining our past i'd rather have computers get better at guessing our present. I would rather see research go into better language-parsing and comprehension software for searching, so that the promise of that old site "Ask Jeeves" becomes realized. so we could type regular sentences into Google and it would find exactly what we want.
As for shopping - more and more i am reminded of something Guy Debord once said - I thought it was in "Comments on the Society of the Spectacle" but now I'm not sure, I can't find it - "Spectators [people living in the society of the spectacle] do not find what they desire: they desire what they find."
Our whole economy depends on a "push" rather than a "pull" - being told we need or want stuff we may have never even heard of before, instead of being empowered to really understand what we want and go out and find it. "Growth" depends on people thinking up new stuff to get people to buy that, for most cases, they did fine without for years, or in many cases thousands of years.
The Apple iPod is a perfect example that I've been thinking of for a long time. It's the scam of the decade, Apple selling 14 million iPods a year; somehow they pushed into people's heads that they need to spend $100-300 on what's basically a Walkman. Remember when everyone just had Walkman tape players that were about $25? Was the public clamoring for a way to carry around their entire music collection in their pocket all the time? Were they clamoring for a sleek, trendy design for such a device? No. And of course you can go further and further back but I won't go off the deep end right now.
So when will "growth" mean bringing truly needed things - like food, clothing, clean water and medicine - to people who don't have them? Is there a way to make our economy run on that, instead of on decadent luxuries?
Since moving into the house where I live now, I've been reading the Wall Street Journal every morning, because my housemate, the MBA student, subscribes. A lot of people on the left have an irrational disrespect and scorn for the journal, but I've known the value of the WSJ ever since, 6 years ago, I started sharing an office with South to the Future, who made it their business to carefully study the style and format of the paper in order to write clever and very believable satires about current and possible developments in society.
The key and the value of reading it is to know that the journal covers everything that is interesting or important to businesspeople. If one remembers that they have that angle then you can learn a lot - plus, they just have very intelligent and varied stories, and they are largely written in a way that doesn't assume stupidity on the part of the reader like most newspapers, sometimes to a fault - the daily news summary column on the center front page often refers to leaders and celebrities only by their last name, with no title or any other explanation. So if you don't know who 'Morales' or 'Mofaz' are, you're sort of out of luck, at least till you turn to the full article inside (if there is one).
It's unfortunate, and telling, that there's no freebie web version of the WSJ. So I can't link to the very interesting article in Saturday's issue about "The Penelopiad," Margaret Atwood's new book that tells the story of Homer's Odyssey from the point of view of Ulysses' wife. (But I can link to other coverage of the same.)
Nor can I link to the fascinating analysis of Europe's slow-growth economy in today's edition, which makes a comparison with the recovering U.S. economy and basically draws the conclusion (and pay attention here, this is important), that the EU economy is not growing as fast because Continental Europeans (unlike brits or yankees) do not like to go into debt, and in fact there are banking rules that make it harder to do so than in the U.S. So, in both places corporations are outsourcing to cheap labor in the 3rd world and hence not raising wages for workers, but in the U.S. workers got around that by simply borrowing more money, mainly via remortgaging their houses, so they could keep going to the mall and buying big-screen TVs and other shit. (Which begs the question, of course, how long can that last?)
Of course the WSJ phrases it a little differently, but it's definitely a source of some interesting information, especially when you keep reminding yourself, "ah, so this is what capitalists want to know about. I wonder what they'll do with this?"
About a week ago I read a piece on Rhino Records' site that I found via Philo's blog. The piece is about MySpace and how addictive it is, and its title is "Confessions of a Validation Junkie." The author doesn't go far toward explaining the title explicitly. He mostly just talks about the ridiculous time sink that MySpace is, and proving he's hip and knows lots of current youth slang, he's not about explaining why people do it; but they obviously do it for validation, if not for the slim chance that they'll hook up with their next significant other or favorite band, I guess. (my favorite part of the article is when he mentions the bands that have hundreds of "friends" on myspace, but no one comes to their shows because they're all... on myspace! heh.) It seems people relish keeping score, having an actual numerical measurement of their supposed social worth they can look up any time and work on, relatively risk-free.
Anyway, I have realized that there's another extreme example of validation addiction on Flickr. More and more I've been noticing people who post a photo (or all their photos) to literally dozens of pools. It's insane. Why do they do this? Obviously to get as much notice as possible. Flickr has become an eyeball market of high intensity.
It's weird, because for me, Flickr is just an easy place to upload photos and share them with friends and family, and maybe interact with a few select other people who share some narrowly focused interest that I have. I belong to about 12 groups, like "Indymedia" and "Talking Back to Ads" and "Public Space and Its Discontents." But some people post to more groups than I've ever even looked at, much less joined. And it takes TIME to post to that many groups!
It's remarkable to me that so many people crave the attention of strangers so badly - and for so little. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'd love for every single human on the earth to see my film about Juarez, but I really don't see the worth of posting a photo of your cat, or yet another sunset, to 39 Flickr groups, other than to stroke your own ego.
There are some damaged, needy people out there. Is the Internet helping?