May 31st, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

I’m surprised nobody else has mentioned this: LJ are paying attention to complaints.
non-graphic, non-sexualized nudity is no longer considered a violation of our default userpic policy….Our policy on Non-Photographic Images of Minors is being removed.

Better still danah boyd is heading off to do serious research into LJ and self-harm. So they might manage to set policy based on evidence, rather than flailing round in a panic.

This leaves me even more of a danah boyd fanboy than before. I didn’t think that was possible.

May 29th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

The Nazis called homosexuality sexual bolshevism. Stalin called it the fascist perversion. This has all the makings of an OKCupid quiz: what political philosophy is your sex life? Are furries primitivists, and swingers syndicalists?
And what about sexual bolshevism? It might sound good, but we know it’ll deteriorate into being screwed by the Vanguard for the sake of Mother Russia. Besides, hedonism in one country is doomed. No, comrades, the true path is with the sexual mensheviks. Victory to the hedonist international!

Squatting, Cambridge and Berlin

May 29th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Cambridge: squatters take over the empty building earmarked by Tesco for a new supermarket on Mill Road. They tidy up the place, start tango classes and roller-derby sessions. They get on well with at least some of the neighbours, and even the Evening News is sympathetic. Police pop in, check no criminal law is being broken, and leave again. Everyone drinks a lot of tea.

Berlin: Leftist groups call action days for autonomous spaces. On Tuesday, 200 people force their way into an empty building. The police are there within 3 hours, and from then on everybody knows the script….The squatters set off fireworks and throw bottles at the cops. The police blowtorch their way in and clear the building. That night radicals run riot through the city, torching a dozen cars.

I think I prefer the Cambridge version.

ETA: The odd thing is that Berlin’s squats do act as social centres, in a way I’ve almost never seen in the UK. The art exhibition I mentioned a few posts ago? That’s in a building squatted 37 years ago. Other squatted buildings function as art galleries, concert venues, and general social spaces. Admittedly they cater disproportionately (but by no means exclusively) to the young, poor and dredlocked, and their legal status has generally been normalized over the years – but, despite appearances to the contrary, the berlin squatter scene isn’t just angry punks looking for trouble.

watch the pantomime

May 28th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

So, the LJ advisory board elections. Has anybody come across a decent, neutral(ish) comparison of the candidates? I really don’t want to plough through 20-odd manifestos myself…

BTW: I realise several of you are voting for deathboy, but (a) I only know him by reputation, and (b) (more importantly) I don’t like popularity-contest voting.

Today’s other discovery: putting your cash for the next fortnight into a book for safe-keeping is a really bad idea if you then decide to tidy up your bookshelf.

Art I shouldn’t like, but do

May 19th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

My art-ramble on Saturday got distracted by generalities, so I didn’t get round to what I initially wanted to do: write about one of the more interesting exhibitions I saw recently.

Cut for length and incoherence. Also contains feminism, guilt, Virginia Woolf, and dubiously-defended anti-capitalism

In which Dan tries to stop dismissing so much art

May 17th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

I spent yesterday evening walking up and down Brunnenstrasse, the street that many of Berlin’s tiny one-room art galleries have collectively settled on as home. Every Friday evening they simultaneously open their doors, bring out the booze, shove a DJ in the corner (optional), and show off their latest display for the wandering crowds. It’s a perfect example of culture being dictated by economics: none of the galleries are large enough to justify a visit in themselves – but darting between a dozen of them there’s certain to be something worthwhile.

So some Fridays I trot down there with the rest [*]. And…I spend a lot of the time trying to figure out why so much of the art leaves me cold. Partly, yes, it’s Sturgeon’s Law. But much of it is due to my own horribly narrow taste in art – and that’s something I can probably change, or at least understand. So I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what that taste is, and what scope there is to squeeze it out into other areas.

There’s one class of art that almost always appeals to me. I guess I take my art as I take my politics: gradually built up from the details, the overall interpretations multiple and provisional, rough guides to a landscape just this side of chaos. That means I’m a sucker for a certain subset of surrealism, and that among the Old Masters I go for the paintings full of convoluted, ambiguous classical and religious symbolism. Above all it means I love complex drawings, projections of multi-dimensional mental fantasies that don’t fit neatly onto paper. Better still when they’re in colourful paint. Then seeing the painting becomes something close my stereotype of an acid trip [**]: filling my mind with more fantasies and more layers of meaning than it can cope with [***]

I’ve mentioned before my love of Alexander Rodin, who is a perfect example of this: he seems to have some kind of synaesthesic SF epic trapped within his head. More mundane is Norman Sandler, whose latest work I saw yesterday: fragments of cityscapes and household objects, layered over each other, full of rubbish and cryptic text and what look like tea-stains (was this planned, or did he just knock over a cup? We may never know: the drawings are none the worse for their brown stains, but nor are they noticeably improved by them). It doesn’t have visual impact or the imaginative complexity of Rodin, but there’s enough in it to set me dreaming.
Stuff I dislike is more predictable, so deserves to go under a cut

‘borrowing’ words

May 17th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

When people talk about languages ‘borrowing’ words, they generally mean copying.

Are there any cases of actual borrowing? i.e. Language B copies a word from Language B. The word evolves inside Language B, and then A copies it back with the new meaning. Bonus points if the word vanishes from Language A once B takes it, or from Language B once A takes it back.

There must be a lot of these French -> English -> French. Right now, all I can think of is boeuf/beef/rosbif.

Yes, I’m sure Google or Wikipedia could find me a list of thousands of the things. Asking you lot is more fun.

OED

May 11th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Subscribing to the OED online costs £195/year. Does anybody actually pay that? Wouldn’t they make far more cash if they took it down to £20 or so, the price that people like me (language-obsessed, not millionaires) would pay?

The first volume of the OED was published in 1888. Surely that means it’s out of copyright by now? And if so, why hasn’t Project Gutenberg got at it?

What do those of you outside of universities use instead of the OED?

Edit scans are online at the Internet Archive. How fantastic is that? Now, if I can just find a way of shunting them into a usable format…

*plots*

The main export is furious political thought

May 10th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Nobody except me will like this rant by Nataša Velikonja, but I’m going to post it anyway:

Europe is boring. Boring for its self-sufficiency, among its own boundaries; Europe is a jail of virtual affluence and credit standard in which migrants without asylum, lesbians without lovers, intellectuals without mass media, and the homeless without comrades are wandering around. Europe is boring for its “white” conviction that it is better than the others, as it is supposedly the cradle of education, culture and literature. It is boring in its perpetual ecstasy with its fat kisses and broken glass on our lips. It is boring with its perpetual integration, which is being swallowed as a sacrificed young body, while images of hatred, slaughter and genocide are whirling in its eyes. Europe is boring because of its ritualized oblivion and ritualized machines of desire that never stop their craving.

Incidentally, why are there so many excellent Slovenian writers/activists/theorists these days? Is it just that when your main export is Slavoj Zizek, you at least have somebody interesting to kick against? Or that small nations have to synthesize foreign culture, not having enough local production to be tediously inward-looking? Or just the result of decades buffeted by Tito, Austrian Social Democracy, and Italian radical theorists?

May 6th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Fantastic review of a Sanskrit play:

They were also believed to break the five basic prohibitions of renunciates: liquor, meat, fish, parched grain, and getting it on. Often.
So the stereotype was of creepy horny drunk carnivorous beggars covered in human ash, accompanied by hott chick acolytes, carrying around someone’s skull, asking you for money.
I think they used to squat in Tompkins Square Park.

[via the sainted Cosma Shalizi]

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