A collective spasm of high-level excuse-making

September 30th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

I am, like Art Goldhammer somewhat baffled by the French government treating the Roman Polanski as a matter of artistic freedom, rather than rape. There aren’t many situations in which I’m on the side of Law and Order, but this must be one of them.

Making lists for fun and profit

September 29th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

This, to my utter surprise, is not just usable but something I’m honest-to-God likely to use. Wonders will never cease.

September 27th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Looks like there’s a new squat just outside Paris. Wouldn’t count on it lasting more than a few days, but you never know.

Meanwhile I’m sat at home, already in bed (it’s only 8:30), feeling uncertain and oddly morose. My life currently has a lot of moving parts, and I’m not entirely sure I have them all lined up. Alternatively, it could just be lack of sleep.

Do Anything

September 25th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Warren Ellis has lately been writing a great series of articles, off in some dingy corner of the Net that I’d never otherwise have found. He seems to be working out some need to be the wise elder, reciting the tribal history of comics to a circle of youngsters. Mostly done in staccato, telegraphically-condensed fragments, with the disembodied head of Jack Kirby occasionally chipping in from beyond the grave.
Most lately on the long history of comics — or their marketers — trying to escape scorn by using just about any term other than comic. ‘Graphic novel’, obviously, but also its aborted kid sister ‘visual novel’. Then there’s Original English Manga, which has its own precursor in ‘UKBD’, a British attempt to assimilate the style of francophone Bandes Dessinées.

September 24th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

I feel a little sorry for the Porguese parliament. Elections are coming up on Sunday, and I’m struggling to find a single article about them in the French or British press. The German media, on the other hand, is giving them a fair bit of attention. Why the difference in interest? I have not hte faintest idea. German elections are happening on the same day — but if anything, I would have expected that to divert attention away from Portugal. Mysterious.

[I fully expect that some other European country is holding elections this week, and I haven’t heard anything about it]


September 24th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Am I just noticing films more at the moment, or are there a lot of good new films floating around? I’m thinking of the following — none of which I’ve seen, all of which I want to see.

  • District 9 — political commentary in the form of Science Fiction. i.e. what written SF has always been about, but with a budget.
  • Neuilly sa mère, a comedy about the class divide in Parisian suburbs
  • Inglorious basterds. The only WWII film I have any desire to watch

Momus in Paris

September 24th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

I seem to finally be running into a fair number of interesting places in Paris. So last night I finally saw Momus, the (currently Berlin-based) writer/singer, reading from the French edition of his new ‘Book of Jokes‘. The venue, La Société de Curiosités, is a comfortable looking one-room space. It’s run as a private club, which I think is basically a legal hack so you’re allowed to smoke there.

Poetry slams in Paris

September 23rd, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Tonight I finally made it to the weekly French-language poetry slam at Culture Rapide in Belleville. Impressed. Very impressed. Aware that my being impressed counts somewhat less given the difficulty I had in following some of the French poetry.

Of everything I’ve seen in my 2+ months in Paris, this was the first event that really impressed me, that made me want to stay in town just to remain in its orbit.

Why did it take me so long to end up there? The same place also hosts a regular English-language slam, which I visited soon after I arrived. It wasn’t actually bad — just somewhat insipid, more like a poetry reading than the slams I’d come to love in Berlin. So I wasn’t inspired to visit its French sister, at least not before August came and put everything interesting in Paris under wraps.

Accidental outing on facebook

September 21st, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Both important and unsurprising: your friendship network reveals your sexuality, with a pretty high accuracy.

Using data from the social network Facebook, they made a striking discovery: just by looking at a person’s online friends, they could predict whether the person was gay. They did this with a software program that looked at the gender and sexuality of a person’s friends and, using statistical analysis, made a prediction.

While George’s work (among others) goes much, much further in pulling down illusions of privacy in networks. But sometimes we need the simple stuff to hammer home the basic point that it’s more-or-less impossible to make your connections public, and still have any real form of anonymity.

[admittedly the first form, at least, is doing little more than mechanizing what happens socially in any case]

September 20th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Segolene Royal’s new website has received plenty of much-deserved mockery in France, but not nearly enough from the rest of the world. Go, admire the purple!


September 20th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Just back from a film/discussion about a violence and arrests at a demonstration in Paris last March. I was somewhat underwhelmed by the film itself: riot-porn shot in black and white, with the sound turned way down. i.e. making itself look arty without using a great deal of art.

The discussion that followed, though, was excellent. Sylvain George, who shot the film, led it, with enthusiastic comments from a small audience consisting in large part of people who had taken place in the protest. Despite being too confused and tongue-tied to contribute to it myself, I was cheered up to find some fervent opinions being expressed for once.

My main reason for going, though, was an excuse to visit the arts centre 104. It’s much larger and more obviously government-funded than I’d imagined*. It reminds me a little of the Tate Modern: a massive, deliberately under-utilised space, a painfully clean industrial conversion. By the look of 104, I imagine it’s a former rail station or similar. Like a lot of places in Paris, it initially rubbed me up the wrong way by being too clean, too expensive-looking. But the programme of events is impressive, they’re mostly free or reasonably priced, and it seems to be providing space for artists to work rtaher than just strut. I’d feel considerably more at home there if it had a decent covering of grime, but that’s just my personal neuroses making themselves known.

* Actually, I suspect I’d confused it with somewhere else, such as a more self-organized atelier, but I can’t disentangle my memories. Such is the problem of using numbers as names.

September 20th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Troy Kennedy Martin died last week. Not a name I knew — but I had repeatedly heard tell of Edge of Darkness, an impressively well-regarded BBC series from the 80s, which he wrote. So I settled down to watch it. So far (2 episodes in), I’m pretty impressed. Some irritating artefacts of its era — the slow pace, the constant drinking — but the plot is fascinating. More later, maybe.

September 19th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

This is a good case of why I’m occasionally uncomfortable with novels of ideas. Calvino’s summary of logic vs. empiricism is neat — but this is something I can read argued much more closely in textbooks and journal articles. Without the plot, what’s the point.

[I’m aware that, between this and the last post, I seem to be arguing that thrillers are the only books worth reading. Maybe I should follow that…]


September 19th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

A few weeks ago, I tried reading the first of the Twilight books. I fully expected to loathe it, and there are plenty of good reasons to do so. But there’s something addictive about its fixation on a Mary Sue — it becomes much more appealing than any non-cardboard characters would be.

In short, I enjoyed it. Had I been a neurotic teenager, it would probably have spoken more directly to me [as a neurotic twenty-something, the distance is generally a little too great].

But then, I also approved of the Da Vinci Code.

September 16th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Penny Red starts her column in the morning star. Notable mainly for looking back to the 80s as a heyday of counter-culture. Given enough time, all things start to look good.

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September 7th, 2009 § Enter your password to view comments. § permalink

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Videos to listen to

September 4th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Things I’ve been listening to:

  • Bruce Sterling on Augmented Reality [50m] — not much shocking content, by his Sterling’s standards, but pleasantly upbeat
  • Lots of TED Talks. I’ve been unexpectedly disappointed by most of the recent ones. Possibly, as with OReilly conferences, my expectations are now so high that reality can only disappoint. Also, as John Robb speculates, corporate/financial backing may have steered them away from decent thinking on this year’s Collapse Of Capitalism. [or perhaps, since we’re currently in a hype-bubble of financial apocalypse, treating this as Just Another Recession is the forward-looking thing to do


September 4th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

After grumbling for ages about the lack of a usable interface to the out-of-copyright first edition of the OED, I’ve finally got round to putting together the most basic imaginable interface to the djvu files from archive.org. It ain’t much, but it’s better than paying $200/year for the official version.

Beyond the reality-based community

September 3rd, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

The Yorkshire Ranter:

I occasionally make the point that after the Left invented post-modernism, the Right operationalised it and rolled it out as a coherent political-media-aesthetic package. If your politics depends on disagreeing with objective reality, and persuading people to vote against their interests, there is a huge opportunity in the realisation that it’s possible to have multiple competing truths. Setting the limits of debate, and controlling the language in which it is carried out, is a valid and proven strategy for power.

Similarly it’s not entirely bogus to link the collapse of the centre-left today to the collapse of the far left in the 90s (which in turn came about from the collapse of the USSR). Eurocommunists, as well as being useful idiots for the Kremlin, were crucially also outriders for the social democrats. The Trots may have been loathed by the moderates, and may have lost them numerous elections one way or another, but they also forced them to confront serious issues. Here’s hoping the pirates, the greens, and the non-party activists can fulfill the same purpose today.

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