December 29th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Wobbly in the Shell:

The army of production must be organized, not only for the everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.

Witch House

December 29th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

JWZ on Witch House as an after-tremor of goth:

the current batch of “Witch House” bands, which is a micro-genre that was invented about six minutes ago that seems to be comprised of an odd mix of late-80s goth, shoegaze and trip-hop, as if Love is Colder Than Death were covering Jesus and Mary Chain while the singer from Rosetta Stone tried to rap…it’s just about the only thing that remotely qualifies as “goth” that has come out in the last ten years.

Protected: back in berlin

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Reith rolls in his grave

December 25th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Adam Curtis:

TV now tells you what to feel.

It doesn’t tell you what to think anymore. From EastEnders to reality format shows, you’re on the emotional journey of people – and through the editing, it gently suggests to you what is the agreed form of feeling. “Hugs and Kisses”, I call it.

I nicked that off Mark Ravenhill who wrote a very good piece which said that if you analyse television now it’s a system of guidance – it tells you who is having the Bad Feelings and who is having the Good Feelings. And the person who is having the Bad Feelings is redeemed through a “hugs and kisses” moment at the end. It really is a system not of moral guidance, but of emotional guidance.

Product Red

December 25th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Jesus. This really isn’t a parody:

Product Red, styled as (PRODUCT)RED, is a brand licensed to partner companies such as Nike, American Express (UK), Apple Inc., Starbucks, Converse, Bugaboo, Penguin Classics (UK & International), Gap, Emporio Armani, Hallmark (US) and Dell. It was founded in 2006 by U2 frontman and activist Bono and Bobby Shriver of ONE/DATA to engage the private sector in raising awareness and funds to help eliminate AIDS in Africa


December 25th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Eucatastrophe: Tolkein’s term for the unexpected happy turn at the end of story. I would have imagined, firstly that there would be an existing term for that, and secondly that Tolkein would have known it. Apparently not.

Wikileaks and gated communities

December 23rd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Wikileaks: finally, Sombody Gets It:


The strategy of Wikileaks, as explained in an essay by Julian Assange, is to make the world transparent, so that closed organizations are disabled, and open ones aren’t hurt. But he’s wrong. Actually, a free flow of digital information enables two diametrically opposed patterns:  low-commitment anarchy on the one hand and absolute secrecy married to total ambition on the other.

While many individuals in Wikileaks would probably protest that they don’t personally advocate radical ideas about transparency for everybody but hackers, architecture can force all our hands. This is exactly what happens in current online culture. Either everything is utterly out in the open, like a music file copied a thousand times or a light weight hagiography on Facebook, or it is perfectly protected, like the commercially valuable dossiers on each of us held by Facebook or the files saved for blackmail by Wikileaks.

The Wikileaks method punishes a nation — or any human undertaking — that falls short of absolute, total transparency, which is all human undertakings, but perversely rewards an absolute lack of transparency. Thus an iron-shut government doesn’t have leaks to the site, but a mostly-open government does.

If the political world becomes a mirror of the Internet as we know it today, then the world will be restructured around opaque, digitally delineated power centers surrounded by a sea of chaotic, underachieving openness. Wikileaks is one prototype of a digital power center, but others include hedge funds and social networking sites.


Aphex Twin

December 19th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

[tl;dr: I don’t get Aphex Twin]

This weekend I have been mostly listening guiltily to electronic music. Guiltily, because after 4 years around Berlin I surely ought to either love or hate it. Instead my reaction is puzzlement. Occasional moments of ecstatic comprehension as I find encounter something that moves me. Boredom listening to most of the rest, especially the stompy repetition that seems too dull even to dance along with. And a dull ear which can’t distinguish the two, can’t figure out which genres or properties make for music I like.

Currently listening to Aphex Twin’s drukqs. It communicates largely in a register I don’t understand, mostly avoiding danceable segments or buildup/breakdown.

Still, there’s The track Mt. St Michel is one of the easier to tune into — high-paced tpaping on the beat, and then a bunch of calmer stuff going on in the background.

But it seems nobody else likes/understands this album either, even amidst Aphex Twin fans. Popmatters:

The tunes oscillate between exciting hyperactive beat-happening compositions and tedious exercises in piano practice or can-banging. There seems to be no real content to the album, and the tracks follow no theme or pattern.

[also, I wish I had enough of a technical musical vocabulary to figure out what I’m listening to, and why. Feel horribly handicapped whenever I try to discuss music. Really want a few very old-fashined lessons in musicology]

Celebrity robots, and racist hero/slave polarization

December 19th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Celebrity robots:

One clever trope that Urasawa introduces, which I think is genuinely an original one – not just with respect to the Tezuka original but with respect to the whole genre of robot fiction – is that in this world there are celebrity robots, like Mont Blanc. The humans revere them. And yet the humans continue to treat the mass of ordinary robots as disposable non-persons, despite the fact that it’s not so clear what would separate your old-model cleaning lady robot from noble Mont Blanc. Is it just that the cleaning lady doesn’t write poetry? I think this is good allegory of typical ethnic conflict patterns. The dominant group somewhat assuages its guilt/uncertainty, by raising just a few members of the minority above even the level of the majority, imbuing them with extra authenticity and heroism, and somehow in this way actually cementing the old majority/minority relations in place, rather than challenging them.

December 17th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Child poverty to worsen under coalition, says IFS – Yahoo! News UK

Among all children and working-age individuals, we forecast a rise in relative poverty of about 800,000 and a rise in absolute poverty of about 900,000 between 2010-11 and 2013-14,” said Robert Joyce, author of the IFS report.

December 16th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Over-educated Chinese?

There a glut of Chinese university graduates without meaningful employment in their fields, and these educations were funded by parents who sacrificed their own lives to send those kids to college. Unless that graduate is from a high-ranking school and has family connections, it’s seldom worth the cost these days.

In desperation, Chinese families are now sending their kids to school in the USA, the UK or Europe, in hopes their kids will master Western attitudes and form alliances beyond China. But even those children return home to face the same stigma: the little no-name school they attended in the West is ridiculed as a Wild Grass College. All this was seen in Japan two decades ago.

Remittances as aid

December 16th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Here’s another argument for No Borders. Not sure if it’s a socialist or a neolib one. Work-migration is the most effective form of international aid:

Is there a Secret Weapon for Fighting Poverty? | UN Dispatch


Granted, this then brings us straight into the global outsourcing debate. If somebody cleaning floors in Sydney is bringing money to Indonesia, wouldn’t an exploitative factory in Jakarta be even more effective?And it’s worth remembering that life for gastarbeiter can be pretty shit — see the recent outrage in the Philippines about torture of Filipino nurses in Saudi Arabia.
But…facts, facts, facts.



Remittances as aid

December 15th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Here’s another argument for No Borders. Not sure if it’s a socialist or a neolib one. Work-migration is the most effective form of international aid:

Is there a Secret Weapon for Fighting Poverty? | UN Dispatch


Granted, this then brings us straight into the global outsourcing debate. If somebody cleaning floors in Sydney is bringing money to Indonesia, wouldn’t an exploitative factory in Jakarta be even more effective?And it’s worth remembering that life for gastarbeiter can be pretty shit — see the recent outrage in the Philippines about torture of Filipino nurses in Saudi Arabia.
But…facts, facts, facts.


December 15th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Tim Worstall has a point on education:

It’s not all that long ago (certainly within my adult lifetime) that no degree was required to qualify as either an accountant or solicitor (all a degree did give you, other than that mind widening etc, was a free pass through some of the professional courses/exams), you could go off to work as a trainee and take your professional exams while working (articles in the law, might be the same word in accounting).

I’m slightly biased, in that my ‘profession’ (programming) is one where not having a degree can still be a point of pride.

Not sure about the CT article itself, though. I’m all for utopianism, but I don’t see this variant ever making it anywhere.

December 14th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

This post may be on the David Icke forums (!), but it’s a surprisingly good take on meditation:

The main thing you’ve got to ask yourself is “What happens when I concentrate and how do I set about the conditions to concentrate on concentration.”

When shooting a gun, you concentrate naturally for 5 seconds or so but you need to learn the process which you can do this for much longer. Still…People good at aiming a gun might have better concentration skills than those who meditate simply because they need to concentrate to hit their target. A person meditating doesn’t have that kind of target so they never build up a high degree of meditation in any of their meditations even if they do it 3 hours a day.

Reviving anarchism

December 14th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

 Henry Farrell on two semi-academic books on the history of anarchism:

the “Wrong Address” theory of nationalism, under which History was supposed to confer group consciousness and solidarity upon Class, yet somehow ended up delivering it to Nationality instead

This loose network Anderson describes was genuinely global. Its participants were comfortable speaking several different languages. Indeed (and this is Anderson’s key argument), both 19th-century anarchists and nationalists always spoke to a world audience. They were caught within a world system that had been created by corrupt European powers that were now losing influence and control. Both anarchists and nationalists sought to break this system up. When they acted, they were acutely aware that they were being observed by audiences both foreign and domestic. They acted precisely so that the whole world would take note.

The Art of Not Being Governed fits together nicely with its predecessor, Seeing Like a State, as a landmark work of early 21st-century social science. The two books have complementary arguments; The Art of Not Being Governed might equally well have been titled The People States Can’t See. It is, first and foremost, a history of escape from the state, chronicling the stories of the various peoples who have fled to highlands, swamps and archipelagos where the state cannot easily reach them. Scott’s particular object of study is “Zomia”, the mountain marches of Southeast Asia that stretch from southern China down to Laos and northern Thailand, taking in parts of Burma and eastern India. Scott calls Zomia a “shatter zone” that has actively resisted incorporation into the various states around it and served as a refuge for peoples fleeing those states.

December 14th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

There are a few reasons why I’ve not seen much German television. One is that I’ve avoided TV since childhood. Another is that, until the past 6 months, I’ve not lived anywhere with a shared television. A third is that in-person recommendations of what to watch in Germany have never been able to keep up with the deluge of English-languag recommendations constantly coming in through livejournal, facebook and the like.

So, when I do encounter German TV, there’s space for me to be pleasantly surprised. So it was with the satire programme Xtra3. Came across it because Chris was channel-hopping, then quickly realised it’s top-notch satire with a political edge I can sympathise with. This snippet (via karohemd) is particularly great, following up on the ludicrous terror alerts and so on:

loose ends

December 13th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Alexander Shulgin has had a stroke. Shulgin introduced ecstacy to the world, discovered hundreds of psychedelic and other drugs. i.e. he massively improved the world, but in a way that he couldn’t easily monetize without winding up in jail. He’s poor, ill and in the US — thus having trouble paying his medical bill. Donations accepted here, Erowid also has a collection for archiving his papers.

Fantastic tombstone (warning: may contain communism)

Vodafone choose the wrong moment to play with twitter. Makes me wonder: what is the sensible thing for an unpopular company to do with an online public? Just hide?

At some level many companies have to make a choice: try to be popular, or just hunker down and rake in the cash. If the rich-but-repulsive strategy now has the added cost of being laughed off the internet, that’s probably a good thing. I guess.

Old, but I missed it first time round: the EU told the Netherlands it had too much public housing, and had to get rid of it.

EU limits social housing in the Netherlands

December 13th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

How did I miss this? Oh, right, because our eyes collectively glaze over at the mention of anything from Brussels, regardless of how much it affects our world.

Thirty three per cent of housing stock in the Netherlands is owned by bodies that receive state funding. In 2005, the commission – the executive body of the EU – argued having more than 30 per cent of homes belonging to the social housing sector seemed ‘disproportionate’.

It expressed doubt about the compatibility of the Dutch social housing support systems with the European competition rules, and suggested that it could be a possible ‘manifest error’.


French pessimism about the crisis yet to come

December 13th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

70% of French believe the worst of the crisis is yet to come:

Lorsque l’institut Ipsos leur demande s’ils pensent “que le gros de la crise est derrière nous”, ils sont ainsi 70 % à répondre au contraire que “le gros de la crise reste encore à venir”.

This despite recent business figures which are positive, if not quite so good as in Germany. What’s going on?

  • Everybody believes governments are making up the figures, even when they aren’t
  • It’s going well for business, but not for people — the crisis has become a concentration/acceleration of the existing patterns of inequality.
  • ‘man in the street’ experiences of recession — unemployment in particular — lag behind the state of business, which in turn lags behind financial markets. This is why the crisis began as a financial crisis: at first it seemed phony-war-like, something happening only in meaningless figures
  • People are using optimism/pessimism to make a political point. e.g. the left are exaggerating the crisis, as a means to criticize Sarkozy

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