Friday, December 23, 2005
I want to talk up Rufus Wainwright who is just brilliant and for anyone who hasn’t heard him I recommend that you go out and buy “Want One” and “Want Two” immediately. Rufus is the son of the singer songwriter Loudon Wainwright III, and has a stormy relationship with his father which he has chronicled in the song “Dinner at Eight” off the “Want One” album. “Dinner at Eight” is a poignant tale of a father who walks out on his young child, “
“long ago, actually, in the drifting white snow you left me”
and it describes how the child is always trying to get back at the father for that betrayal.
No matter how strong
I'm gonna take you down
With one little stone
I'm gonna break you down
And see what you're worth
What you're really worth to me
But I want to focus on the song “One Man Guy” off the “Poses” album.
You might presume from the title, especially if you knew Rufus was gay, that “One Man Guy” was a tale of male monogamy. I think this is one of the connotations the song is playing with actually, but in fact it was written by his father who is of course straight and the song turns out to be about him.
Cause I'm a one man guy in the morning
Same in the afternoon
One man guy when the sun goes down
I whistle me a one man tune
However, there is a certain killer irony in Rufus covering his father’s song which is a paean to selfishness, especially with the lyric…
People depend on family and friends
And other folks to pull them through
I don't know why I'm a one man guy
Or why I'm a one man show
But these three cubic feet of bone –
and blood and meat are all I love and know
So I see the song as actually being a companion piece to “Dinner at Eight,” in that the son is trying to address the father using the very words that define his selfishness and therefore are also the rationalisation of his betrayal of Rufus. The song therefore is not so much of a homage but an accusation.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Well if you follow the link, you can find out. The drill is the same as before, if you have any comments or questions about the text, please submit them by commenting on this post. I have decided to break the text into chunks, since at 187kb it was becoming a bit unweildy - and some of us still have to use 56k modems! Hopefully the navigation is pretty intuitive so that the only headaches should be with the content - he he.
link: go to the index page here
Meet Lauren Keiser, if you are the webmaster of a guitar tab site he says he wants to put you in jail. Kasner is the president of the Music Publishers' Association (MPA) which represents US sheet music companies and who launched its first large-scale legal campaign against guitar tab sites recently.
Kasner is quoted as saying that he did not just want to shut websites and impose fines, saying if authorities can "throw in some jail time I think we'll be a little more effective".
David Israelite, president of the National Music Publishers' Association, added his concerns. "Unauthorised use of lyrics and tablature deprives the songwriter of the ability to make a living, and is no different than stealing," he said.
Hmmm, this is a difficult area. A Technological shift has made certain protectionist practices somewhat redundant and reaffirmed as basic truth - that all music want to be free! The fact that sheet music publishing is an anachronistic, exploitative and unfair practice does not seem to have crossed Messers Kasner and Isrealite's minds. After we have all heard the story of those fat-cat artists driving around in stretch limos and the poor publishers struggling to feed themselves in one room apartments - yeah right!
The first thing to say about tab sites is that people do not go out and buy the music and copy out the notation. Usually they sit a home with a song and their guitar and work out how to play it from scratch, for the love of it. Then they publish the results of their efforts online as a gesture of pride, as well as offering a helping hand to other musicians. I have to say that I love tab sites, but I often find that the tabs on them are wrong and I have to sit at a piano usually and work out what is happening (mind you that is exactly the same with sheet music, some of which is appallingly notated). But I digress, tab sites are still incredibly useful, since a lot of the hard work has been already done for you.
Now as for the legal implications. I don't know where publishers stand on this, because strictly speaking it is reverse engineering not copying. Reverse engineering is something that computer companies did in the 1980s to copy IMB's largely third party desktop PC. It ushered in the age of the personal computing. What happened was that a project manager (for Compaq say) would get a group of boffins in a room and tell them, "I a need a component that can do such and such, can you design one?" and "voila!" you had a IBM clone in the shops: leaching vast amounts off IMB profits. I would have thought a similar defence could be tried in the case of tab sites, since the songs on them can be considered to be reversed engineered.
For the source story go to the BBC
Here are some completely balanced and impartial comments on this story
Some good tab sites (visit them while you still can) are:
Monday, November 28, 2005
Or so the BBC site proclaimed in the above tagline relating to this article...
"The University of Pavia found a brain chemical was likely to be responsible for the first flush of love… In those who had just started a relationship, levels of a protein called nerve growth factors, which causes tell-tale signs such as sweaty palms and the butterflies, were significantly higher….Of the 39 people who were still in the same new relationship after a year, the levels of NGF had been reduced to normal levels. "
Why do I bring this up? Well I think it is interesting that we frequently see this kind of article in the popular media. if you don't belive me just look at the items on the "see also" section associated with this page on the BBC health site. There is a basic template to this kind of story. The word of a scientist (preferably working in the field of genetics) is presented as the final word on determining a certain type of human behaviour, be it a predeliction to murder, sexual preference of even our capacity to love. It is in the genes we are told. Funny that you never see an article which says, social scientists prove that love is not in the genes. I suppose it is assumed that we all know that already?? But then if that were true it begs the question why we are apparently so interested in hearing that we have no choice in determining who we are.
I wonder, and this is only a
Of course the idea of 'fate' is opposed by that of 'free will' and indeed the very personification of fate sets up a kind of dialectic, which in later cultures to ancient Greece, (I'm thinking especially of the Enlightenment here) created a tension around the idea that life was fated, and a belief that perhaps the fates could be challenged by either one's strength of character or even by technology. It is an irony then that when we have seemingly banished the chimeras of superstition to the nether regions of the subconscious, that they have re-appeared in the very guises of those who were intitially credited with vanquishing them, i.e., the scientists.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
The Guardian has a story about the blood-stained man who graced the cover of the Sun on the day that parliament voted on the 90 day terror laws with the headline 'Tell Tony He's Right'. Well, irony of ironies, this man turns out to be the media studies professor John Tulloch, author of Risk and Everyday life. Not a man you would have thought who would have supported a Draconian curtailment of individual freedom that was Blair's proposed anti-terror laws... and you would have been right.
"There could be no more inappropriate image for the Sun to have chosen. The bloodied victim, John Tulloch, feels deep anger with Tony Blair and politicians for the role they played in stirring up the violence that came to London on July 7. But Tulloch also happens to be a university professor in media studies. As the Sun's editors were putting together their front page on Monday night, Tulloch, slowly recovering from his injuries, was hard at work on a book he has just started. The subject? What happens when a professor of media studies, habituated to deconstructing news stories, becomes the subject of the story."
for more on Professor Tulloch's academic career go here and here
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
To celebrate the launch of Google Video, well of me finding it anyway, I bring you a perennial internet favourite the Oregon State Highway Division's nightmare that was the exploding whale. Although this story is absolutely real, I love the combiniation of satire on homespun news reporting and out and out slap-stick (good descriptive actually). This one always went down very well when I worked at Greenpeace by the way.
Now if only I can find a decent copy of 'loving cat.'
I found 'loving cat' here
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
I was eagerly anticipating the release of this one, and I must say it does not disappoint. I particularly love the use of birdsong mixed with Kate's own vocals. Wood pigeons form a chorus intoning that the 'sea and sky are full of honey'. Blackbirds' song mixed with human laughter. It seems that with Kate, metaphorical allusions no longer need to be spoken of; they can be demonstrated - it's just genius really! I was intrigued when I heard Kate Bush's new album was going to be called 'Aerial'. I wondered if it was a nod to Sylvia Plath's elegiac last book of poems - Ariel? Seems not: the dominant emotion in Kate's work is joy. The connection is interesting though, I wonder if Plath served as Bush's educator in the same way that Shopenhauer served as Nietzsche's?
"...for your true nature lies, not concealed deep within you, but immeasurably high above you, or at least above that which you usually take yourself to be. Your true educators and formative teachers reveal to you what the true basic material of your being is, something in itself ineducable and in any case difficult of access, bound and paralysed: your educators can be only your liberators. (UM3:129)"
Implicit in Nietzsche conception of an educator, is the notion that eventually the educator will be ultimately transcended. It is tempting to draw connections between Bush and Plath, so I will! Perhaps by entitling her work 'Aerial', Kate feels confident enough to both acknowledge Plath's influence and transcend it at the same time???
Now a more fatuous remark about Kate Bush's return. Has anyone tried to navigate her website yet? If you fancy your chances go here. It is very beautiful but just a little too controlling (metaphor for Kate?). Anyway, I think Kate needs to consult with Jacob Nielsen as well as with her other artistic muses on future designs!
The text for Shopenhauer as educator can be found here
The Kate Bush fanzine homegound can be found here
Thursday, November 03, 2005
There is a story on the BBC website of a guy paying $100,000 for a virtual space station that he plans to turn into a nightclub. Here is some info on the guy, his name is Jon Jacobs aka NEVERDIE
In October of 2005, Project-Entropia developer Mindark placed into public auction a Virtual Space Resort built upon an Asteroid with a nightclub, multiple hunting areas [hunting areas?!!], a stadium, and a 1000-room hotel. This extraordinary piece of virtual Real Estate with incredible real-cash revenue potential captured the imagination of the gaming community and within only three days, eight serious bidders had emerged. NEVERDIE, who is based in Miami, Florida, watched as hurricane Wilma approached and realized that if the winds took out his power he might lose the auction, so in the early hours of the morning he used the "Buy it Now" auction feature and purchased the Resort outright for the Record sum of $100,000 U.S. dollars. NEVERDIE has officially named the spacre resort Club NEVERDIE and he promises to develop it into the Greatest virtual night club in the Universe
Heady stuff I'm sure you'll agree. However investigating further into project Entropia I get the impression that rather than being the stuff that dreams are made of, it is the stuff that I get spammed about all the time, "you too can be rich... you too can find luurve" which proports to be the stuff that dreams are made of... if you grasp my meaning. Check out the unintentionally hillarious promotional video, in which the PVC clad Sayah King is your virtual guide on a tour of project Entropia. This tour quickly reveals the paucity of the imagination of Entropia's architects, who equate "virtual utopia" with "terrestrial shopping mall."
I also like this oh so inclusive statement on their FAQ:
3.4 Why is not Macintosh or Linux supported?
Project Entropia is built on a graphics engine from NDL which currently requires DirectX from Microsoft to run. There are currently no plans to make PE available on other platforms than the Microsoft compatible PC.
If you have any comments or questions, please submit them in the section below. Note; this is a work in progress and only covers the introduction so far.
link: Heidegger's Being and Time, glossary of terms
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Boing Boing included a link to an extraordinary diet book written by self confessed hacker John Walker.
From a cultural studies perspective, I find this fascinating for what it reveals about the hacker ethos as much as for any weight loss tips it contains. Its gets right to the heart of that systems mindset as well as the hacker desire to control events - "Once you possess the power to circumvent limitations, to control things most people consider immutable, you're liberated from the tyranny of events. You're no longer an observer; you're in command. You've become a hacker"
Walker offers this succinct definition of the Hacker, which is the antithesis of a popular conception of a computer criminal...
The word ``hacker'' and the culture it connotes is too rich to sacrifice on the altar of the evening news. Bob Bickford, computer and video guru, defined the true essence of the hacker as ``Any person who derives joy from discovering ways to circumvent limitations.''
There is also a lot of humour to be found too....
"People who thrive on unscrewing the inscrutable--figuring out how complicated systems work and controlling them--sometimes fail to apply those very techniques to maintaining their own health. How strange to on the one hand excel at your life's work and on the other, XL in girth."
Fascinating stuff, here's the link
Friday, October 28, 2005
BBC are running a vanity piece (interesting though) on the new flock browser, that works according to open source principles of sharing information not just pushing it out.
"What Flock represents is the first coherent attempt to write a web browsing programme where all the interactive elements are part of the programme, not bolt-ons... the way we look at the internet is about to change dramatically. And with the open source movement getting further into the mainstream of business, programmes like Flock have a better chance than ever of shaping the change."
Go to article
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
This is typical actually of the energy and enthusiasm of local people to create something special about living here, If anyone is around in mid Wales next Saturday (I know this is a stretch for most of you) I thoroughly recommend coming to Mach for the lantern parade and fireworks display. This is where locals march through the town carrying home made lanterns, some of which are quite spectacular
Sunday, October 09, 2005
link: Heidegger's Being and Time, an explication and commentary
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Saturday, October 01, 2005
Friday, September 30, 2005
It is great to see that Adam Curtis's remarkable film on the war on terror is online. I am proud to say that I worked on this film and his previous effort, Century of the Self, albeit in a very humble capacity of assisting the edits. If you haven't seen it go to archive.org and enjoy.
The British Kinsey Report
I'm sure this will be widely reported in the blogosphere. A Really interesting BBC article on a British Kinsey style report about the sexual mores of the British people in the 1940s. It seems to echo some of the (im)famous finding of Kinsey himself. I wonder what those on the the political right, who have been steadfastly trying to undermine Kinsey's findings ever since they appeared will make of this?
"The Kinsey Report of 1948 famously lifted the lid on American sexual behaviour. But when a similar study was conducted in Britain the following year, the findings were so outrageous they were suppressed. Only now have they been revealed."
Surveillance is defined as a social technology of power and the traditional approach to surveillance studies has been to understand its central role in the maintenance and reproduction of the social order, But surveillance is also a fantasy of power – the creation of virtual control where supervision may not be a social operation – and to understand what the technology of surveillance is, we have to appreciate the fantasy that drives it (William Bogard: 1996, 8).
The modern bureaucratic state gathers massive amounts of data on its citizens, we are the most surveyed populous in history (ibid., 16).
This recent Guardian article on loyalty reward cards inspired me to dust off some thoughts on surveillance technologies particularly the US government Total Information Awareness Program, which was killed by Congress in 2002 (Dead but not exactly buried, if you know what I mean).
Personally I do not think the surveillance society is altogether a bad thing, but that is a much more complex argument than is outlined here, and it will have to wait for another time. Meanwhile, here are the thoughts…
It can be argued that 9/11 should have undermined rather than strengthened our faith in technology. For on that day the devices that should have kept us safe broke down in the most catastrophic way imaginable. However, the disillusionment that was undoubtedly felt was overwhelmed by a spirit of patriotism, and people's faith in technology quickly reasserted itself. Specifically in what David Lyon called the "guaranteed security myth," where populations feel they can and should be totally protected by technical and military means (Lyon: 2003,46). In terms of the guaranteed security myth, the 9/11 disaster can be seen as a failure of the democratic system not of technology. It came about because the rights of the individual were prioritised above the safety of the society as a whole. This is the failure that the PATRIOT Act and new surveillance technologies aimed to correct.
The Total Information Awareness program or TIA, that was being developed under the auspices of the Pentagon. The aim of TIA was to identify potential terrorists before they strike. In a process known as data mining, vast amounts of data would be searched for patterns that might indicate terrorist activity (CNN, www). To get an idea of how much data could be searched; it was envisioned that the software could analyse "multiple petabytes." One petabyte is so vast that it can hold forty pages of text for every one of the six billion people on Earth (CNN 1, www).
With TIA technology, the government would be able to compile so much information on a person that it could reconstruct her daily life instantaneously. This bares an uncanny resemblance to William Bogard's theory of dataveillance. There would be no need for a detective to trail a suspect, or for CCTV cameras to film them, because the data would simulate their every movement and construct their life in advance of them living it. The government would no longer need to identify potential suspects either, because with total information awareness; everyone would be a suspect.
Defence Under-secretary Pete Aldridge gave the government's view of TIA as a choice that had to be made between liberty and personal safety: "We are in a war on terrorism… we are trying to give our people a sufficient set of tools to track down the terrorists" (CNN, www). In the light of the claims of total information awareness, "sufficient tools" sounds like a remarkable understatement. But critics of the program asked how much freedom Americans must give up in the pursuit of potential terrorists? One of TIA's own researchers admitted that a high number of "false positives" could result from such techniques. A false positive, in this case, means being labelled wrongly as a terrorist, and thanks to the PATRIOT Act, this potentially could result in imprisonment without trial.
One of the effects of 9/11 has been to re-establish the dependency populations feel on their governments to protect them. It is not that society has become fairer, but citizens have become more aware of their dependency on governments. Arguably that dependency has been exploited since the 9/11 attacks and a climate of fear defines much of the political discourse. Ironically in the U.S. it has been staged as a fight for freedom versus tyranny, when in fact many individual freedoms have been taken away.
Bogard, William, The Simulation of Surveillance, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996
CNN, Military intelligence system draws controversy, URL = http://archives.cnn.com/2002/US/11/20/terror.tracking [accessed 10/1/05]
CNN 1, Anti-terror record mining research continues, URL = www.cnn.com/2004/LAW/02/23/terror.privacy.ap [accessed 11/1/05]
Giddens, Anthony, The Consequences of Modernity, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1991
Lithwick, Dahlia and Julia Turner (2003) A Guide to the Patriot Act, URL = http://slate.msn.com/id/2087984/ [accessed 5/1/05]
Lyon, David, Surveillance After September 11, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2003
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
A friend told me this story the other day about John Titor - a time traveller from 2036 who posted on bulletin boards in circa 2000. I have to say that I am not a believer, however I am really interested in the guy who was John Titor, who obviously is very intelligent and interested in speculating about possible future scenarios regarding the way civilisation is heading and has concocted a very successful cultural myth in order to present these ideas to a wider public. The thing about being the "man from the future" is that your words carry a great deal more weight and authority than they would if you were just "a man from the present".
Wikipedia has I think the best overview of the Titor phenomenon.
There is also this site, which shows some of the cool graphics from the time travel machine instruction manual that Titor used (very Back to the Future)
Finally, here is some information about Alas Babylon a novel, written in the 1950s, that deals in fascinating detail witht the aftermath of an massive atomic strike on the US, and which is said by his critics to influence Titor's account.
Monday, September 12, 2005
link: Heidegger's Being and Time, an explication and commentary
Saturday, August 13, 2005
From the Guardian today...
It is the ultimate conundrum for vegetarians who think that meat is murder: a revolution in processed food that will see fresh meat grown from animal cells without a single cow, sheep or pig being killed.Gosh what a simple-minded and patronising statement! If they choose to become a vegetarian, a person's reasons can be many, varied and complex. Mine was because I became aware of and was increasingly worried by the seemingly all pervasive industrialisation of the meat industry. The tipping point came while reading an article about genetically enhanced animals being created for food consumption in 1987. The idea that I'm going to start eating meat again, because they are now growing it in a laboratory is patently riduculous. Frankly if I were to start eating meat again, I would buy land and some chickens, feed them organic food and slaughter them myself.
Link: read full text of Guardian article here
Friday, August 12, 2005
Following on from my post about 'otherness' (know your enemy, 13 July 05), I want to highlight some of my findings about the nature of prejudice. As part of an assignment for a module called 'Bent Screens', which looked at the representation of homosexuality in the media, I undertook a survey of people's attitudes to gay kissing. The survey polled some 300 students and what the results indicated was that the vast majority of them were pretty tolerant of scenes of homosexuality in the cinema and on television, however there were a small and vocal minority who were strongly against. For example if you compare people with opinions on either side of this debate, according to the survey, it is five and a half times more likely that the homophobe will have stonger opinions about gay kissing, compared with someone who is supportive of homosexuality.
See the full survey here.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
As part of my recent holiday I spent some time with the woodcraft folk camping at a place called Brithdir Mawr situated in Penbrokeshire in Wales. Brithdir Mawr is a community of like minded people, attempting to live as ecologically as they can. They are also famous for being Britain’s ‘lost tribe’ and Brithdir Mawr has been called “the land that time forgot.” For instance this BBC article from 2001 reports:
"For years they lived in seclusion, until one day the authorities stumbled over Wales's "lost tribe"…It's hard to imagine anyone - let alone a whole community - could disappear for long in modern-day Britain. ..But obscurity was what the people of Brithdir Mawr wished for and obscurity was what they got, for almost five peaceful years…In that time the community, which is tucked away in a corner of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, toiled hard towards its aim of becoming self-sufficient…It's a bitter irony that this drive for autonomy eventually helped betray them to the outside world. Photographs taken by a survey plane revealed a solar panel glinting in the sun… When the park's authorities went to investigate, they were stunned to find a community of about a dozen adults, some with children, living contentedly and quite comfortably off the land… The story went out of a "lost tribe", journalists and TV crews showed up, followed by curious members of the public, and district planners pondered whether to pull down much of the development, which had no planning consent."
This article is perhaps a little hyperbolous and over romanticised. But there is some good news to report and that is, despite many battles, the community is still in existence and has not bee closed down or disbanded. For example the famous roundhouse, which has been threatened with demolition since 2001 is still standing.
I think it is very admirable for anyone to question the received opinions of their society, for instance there is much about our contemporary norms that I actively disagree with; our attitude to manufactured food and growing obesity to pick just one obvious example. The people of Brithdir Mawr are set upon forging their own path and redefining the very conditions of their existence, especially with relation to their impact on the environment. This project is of course a utopian one, and as such is extremely challenging. Progress can be slow when every taken-for-granted assumption needs to be rethought, and disagreements among the community are common and sometimes serious. The guy who showed me round the place, Paul, admitted there had been schisms, especially over the use of technology – and as a result of these the community has divided, with one side embracing sustainable technologies like solar and wind power and the other opting to live without modern technology altogether.
Like I said I find this admirable but also challenging, but I hope that some of the knowledge learned at Brithdir Mawr gets written down or passed on somehow as I think such experiments are important to read about, even if I may stop short of wishing to be such a pioneer myself.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
This is the idea that we will one day be able to integrate computers with human consciousness. Today to access a computer a user has to use a keyboard or perhaps voice recognition software. Human computer interaction would get rid of this intermediate stage. The dream is that a person would literally be able to think commands to a machine, for example retrieve some information from this internet as one recalls a memory. This would mean that what is known today as extra sensory perception ESP will be technologically achievable.
I stress that this is a technology that is very much in its infancy. But imagine the societal implications if it ever became feasible?
Here is a BBC article about a new breakthrough in 'mind reading computers
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Yesterdays post dealt with the film AI. Today I want to look at part of its marketing strategy that spawned a whole new genre of onling gaming known as Alternate Reality Gaming.
Alternate Reality Gaming (also known as beasting, unfiction, or immersive fiction) is an interactive fusion of creative writing, puzzle-solving, and team-building, with a dose of role playing thrown in. It usually takes place on the internet, but can even be played out in the real world as opposed to the computer generated environments. It utilizes several forms of media in order to pass clues to the players, who solve puzzles in order to win pieces of the story being played out. Alternative Reality Gaming is controlled by a person or group of people known as PuppetMasters. These are the authors of the game’s storyline and creators of its puzzles. Many times, the puzzles that must be solved cannot be solved alone. This genre of game almost requires participation in a group or community that works together to win past the more difficult hurdles and thereby advance the story of the game.
The first true Alternate Reality Game was set in the universe of the movie AI but at a time about 40 years after the events of the movie have occurred. Here is the best article I have read about 'the Beast' game and the people who attempted to solve it known as cloudmakers.
Here is a brief history of Alternate Reality Games.
Here is the URL of cloudmakers
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Intriguing BBC article about a Japanese scientist who has created a realistic human looking robot, Repliee Q1. Hey girls get this, “she can flutter her eyelids and move her hands like a human”!!
One of the things Stanley Kubrick wanted to do with the film AI: Artificial intelligence was to create a real robot boy for the lead role of David. He hired the video director Chris Cunningham to create it for him, but the all Cunningham’s efforts failed to be convincing enough. Imagine how uncanny and fascinating the film would have been with an all too human robot in the lead. It would have really underscored the ethical dilemma at its heart, i.e. could you love a machine? This would have meant that the boy would be aged a convincing three to five, not an implausible nine or ten as in the case of Haley Joel Osment, who was great in the role of David, but really too old to be believable. The problem with casting a human child was that the film would either end up being too cute or not cute enough. Well, if you've seen AI, you'll know what I mean.
The BBC article can be found here
Here is the story of what is known about Kubrick's vision of AI from the Kubrick FAQ site
Here is the story on which it is based, Super Toys Last All Summer Long, by Brian Aldiss
Here is a long and detailed interview with Chris Cunningham, in the course of which he discusses working with Kubrick and his impressions of Spielberg's AI
finally a Wired article about the theme of artificial intelligence and Kubrick, the Intelligence Behind AI
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Fearing that all my internet searches were rather mainstream, I resolved to press the random "next blog" button until I found a site that was interesting. What I got of course was just pain weird. So in the grand tradition of cheap British tabloid television, I present the first of a very occasional series of highlights from the stranger side of the blogosphere...
First comes “I was a teenager Fungi from Yuggoth” which despite the title is a Spanish language site. My Spanish isn’t good enough to actually know what is going on here but that’s half the fun isn’t it? For example I can only guess what is happening with this painting:
Second is In my tree . In My tree looks like it is attempting a kind of blog haiku. A typical post consists of an atmospheric picture accompanied by poetic musings. For example...
I ride the wave where it takes me...
I will stare the sun down until my eyes go blind...
Finally, in the name of balance I present Asas D'anjo who combines Athena poster kitsch with naked bodies (actually much more like the output of Athena in its hey day). These images are juxtaposed with poetic musings in Spanish. I confess that I understand very little of what is going on here.
Monday, July 25, 2005
I first discovered the work of William Burroughs in a BBC documentary that was broadcast in the early 1980s, and it was a total revelation. Seems like I was in good company; a lot of the feelings I experienced are articulated by William Gibson, writing in Wired, who penned this interesting history of sampling culture:
“I discovered that Burroughs had incorporated snippets of other writers' texts into his work, an action I knew my teachers would have called plagiarism. [the] "cut-up method," as Burroughs called it, was central to whatever it was he thought he was doing, and that he quite literally believed it to be akin to magic…Some of these borrowings had been lifted from American science fiction of the '40s and '50s, adding a secondary shock of recognition for me… Nothing, in all my experience of literature since, has ever been quite as remarkable for me, and nothing has ever had as strong an effect on my sense of the sheer possibilities of writing… Meanwhile, in the early '70s in Jamaica, King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry… were deconstructing recorded music. Using astonishingly primitive predigital hardware, they created what they called versions. The recombinant nature of their means of production quickly spread to DJs in New York and London… Our culture no longer bothers to use words like appropriation or borrowing to describe those very activities… an endless, recombinant, and fundamentally social process generates countless hours of creative product”
Links for William Burroughs...
Hear Burroughs himself speak about the cut up method, courtesy of BBC four.
Feedback from Watergate to The Garden Of Eden a fascinating and increasingly prescient essay about surveillence culture by William S. Burroughs
Other examples of Burroughs' writing can be found at EHN's Reading List
Wikipedia's entry on sampling
Sunday, July 24, 2005
All the historical debates surrounding capital punishment in the UK have been made somewhat irrelevant this week as the extraordinary circumstances unfolded in London. A man was held down by police and summarily executed on a tube train. The fact that he has turned out to be Jean Charles de Menezes a Brazilian electrician, entirely innocent of any terrorist involvement underscores the terrible flaws in any shoot-to-kill policy. Such a policy is socially destabilising of British society as a whole, fulfulling the terrorists' aims to terrorise people cause hysteria and create conditions for increased conflict. If we are engaged in a war on terror, do you think we could perhaps have less terror not more? On this issue I wholeheartedly agree with the comments from John Rees the National Secretary for the Respect party:
"however horrific the bombings in London on 7th July and however important it is to secure the safety of the public, 'there can be no excuse for the police adopting a shoot to kill policy which guns down innocent people in cold blood. This is precisely the crime for which we hold the terrorists responsible. The police in a democratic society have a duty to act with higher standards. They should be trying to diminish the climate of fear, not add to it."
Sunday, July 17, 2005
I just want to showcase here the MCS website for the Media and Communications Department at the University of Wales Aberystwyth, where I recently completed a B.A. The site is run by Daniel Chandler, who is a very inspiring teacher and whose intelligence and boundless energy is evident in the quality of the work contained therein.
If you haven't come across MSC before I recommend a visit because it is a real gem. Particular highlights for me include the full text of Daniel's Semiotics for Beginners, which is an amazing online resource for anyone interested in discovering what semiotics is about, for example if nothing else check out the glossary of media/cultural studies terms. In addition you will find a great discussion document on technological determinism, which I must confess I am not wholeheartedly in agreement with, and this essay about the constuction of online identities, whihc you can use to critique this site - ha ha!
I hope these few suggestions will encourage some readers to delve deeper, because the site is huge - oh and there are also a few essays by yours truly deposited there.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
A BBC article on Senator Hillary Clinton comments on the sex scene in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas.
There is no doubting the fact that the widespread availability of sexually explicit and graphically violent video games makes the challenge of parenting much harder.Ironically I think a lot of children's sexual knowledge increased after the scandal with Hillary's husband and its intimate details being played out in the subsequent impeachment hearing. But why does knowledge of sex make parenting harder? Speaking personally, having copious amounts of ad-breaks for crap expensive toys during children's programmes, or placing sweets at child height at supermarket checkouts make parenting a lot more hard than knowledge of sex, or does Hillary still like to tell Chelsea that babies are delivered by a stork?
The BBC is too prudish to pubish a link that shows what all the fuss is about, but Fleshbot has no such qualms and are far whittier about it too.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
"This is the nightmare scenario that nobody in British society wanted to face… the massive nationwide investigation into the London bombings is one now focused on suspected British suicide bombers who believe their faith justifies their actions... In the hours after the bombings, faith leaders, senior police chiefs and ministers, launched an action plan prepared for an attack on British soil. That plan focuses on keeping communities together by very publicly differentiating between British Muslims and those who would seek to use a faith to justify atrocities. The strategy relied to some extent on the public seeing terrorism as a "foreign" threat"
This BBC analysis of the London bombings deals implicitly with the concept of otherness. What is interesting about this article is the way that representational strategies for otherness are being re-forged in the light of the news that British citizens are probably responsible for the bombings. What this article appears to be doing is twofold.
First, it is outlining in a common-sensical way the notion that psychologically speaking it is easier to externalise a enemy as some foreign ‘other’, rather than accept that the enemy might be ‘one of us’. With this revelation the tone of the article becomes more anxious – national cohesion itself it apparently under threat. Now it should be noted here that nowhere does the article seek to question or denaturalise assumptions about otherness, but rather to bolster them for what seems like propaganda purposes. I make this remark because of the way the BBC as a public service broadcaster has historically positioned itself as the promotor if not the instigator of a cohesive sense of national identity, to act in the words of Stephen Whittle, its controller of editorial policy, as the ‘social glue’ bonding the nation together. (This also ties in with Daniel Hallin’s notion of the sphere of consensus which I delt with in the previous post).
Second, the article itself is ironically part of this inevitable othering of the young men who blew themselves up in London last Thursday. The point is that the notion of otherness is essentially fluid, and in this respect is never constrained by notions of national identity, gender, religion etc. For example, take the case of the Cambridge four Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, Donald Maclean and ‘Kim’ Philby. There could not be a more establishment group of people, but that did not stop them being represented as ‘the other’ in the form of the enemy within. (Indeed why else would we have the word ‘traitor’ in our language!) My point here is that the suicide bombers in London will become ‘the other’ no matter what their national origins.
More Links about otherness
1/ A lucid discussion of the concept of the other in relation to representations in advertising can be found here
2/ Otherness in the context of hatred of muslims. An article about Edward Said's Orientalism
"The depictions of "the Arab" as irrational, menacing, untrustworthy, anti-Western, dishonest, and--perhaps most importantly--prototypical, are ideas into which Orientalist scholarship has evolved."3/ Visual representations of the otherness of anti-semitism can be found here.
I would reject the notion that there is any such thing as impartial reporting and suggest rather that it is dangerously complacent to pretend that our broadcast news is fair and balanced. The reason for this becomes clear if impartiality is conceptualised using categories formulated by Daniel Hallin. Hallin argues that journalistic commitments to objectivity have always been compartmentalised within certain paradigms, or spheres as he calls them (Schudson 2002, 40).
In the sphere of legitimate controversy, journalists seek conscientiously to be balanced and objective. For example in the reporting of a industrial dispute they might have a debate between representatives of both sides of the conflict. But there is also a sphere of consensus, in which journalists feel free to invoke a generalised "we", and take for granted the shared values and shared assumptions of their society (ibid.). For example, in the aftermath of 9/11, no news editor demanded a quote from someone saying that it was acceptable to fly aeroplanes into buildings, because no one expected reporters to take an objective view of terrorists (ibid., 39).
The problem is that, while there maybe some justification in adopting a policy of social cohesion in atrocities like 9/11, in more politically motivated events like the War in Iraq, the sphere of consensus means that impartiality is sacrificed for nakedly ideological reasons. Journalists reject neutrality when they are convinced that national security is at risk, if a terrorist attack is deemed an ‘act of war,’ rather than a crime, then journalists will willingly withhold or temper their reports (Ibid, 41).
Section 3.3 of the UK Broadcasting Act states, that in dealing with major matters of controversy (such as events of national importance), licensees must ensure that justice is done, to a full range of significant views and perspectives during the period in which the controversy is active.
Now given that 47% of the British population were against the war in Iraq, and that a significant proportion of these believed the war was being fought over oil, one would have thought that these views might have been represented by our so called impartial media.
An explanation for their absence is again provided by Daniel Hallin. He points to a third sphere, the sphere of deviance where journalists also depart from the standard norms of impartiality, and feel authorised to treat as marginal or ridiculous, individuals who fall outside that range (Schudson 2002 41). In other word from the point of view of the UK news media, anyone who argued that waging war on Iraq was motivated by oil was an marginal extremist. A general point to be made here is that in the aftermath of war, when it is too late to do anything about it, there is much hand-wringing and mea culpa from the broadcast media. The truth will out as the cliche goes, as the Glasgow media Group noted in their assessment of the coverage of the 1991 Gulf war.
"In the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war BBC news reporter John Simpson referred to a most noticeable gap in television's saturation coverage of the war: the human casualties, tens of thousands of them, [and] the brutal effect the war had on millions of others ...we didn't see so much of that." (Philo, & McLaughlin www)
The problem therefore for democracy, is that the time when the need for impartial reporting is greatest and most urgent, is precisely the time when impartiality is most absent from our screens.
[Link] Hallin discusses some of these themes in relation to the Vietnam War discussed in his book the ‘Uncensored War’ here.
Schudson, Michael (2002), 'What's Unusual about Covering Politics as Usual', Journalism After September 11, Barbie Zelizer and Stuart Allen (Editors) London: Routledge
Friday, July 08, 2005
Ian McEwan wrote a perceptive article about the events yesterday in London:
"The machinery of state, a great Leviathan, certain of its authority, moved with balletic coordination. Those rehearsals for a multiple terrorist attack underground were paying off. In fact, now the disaster was upon us, it had an air of weary inevitability, and it looked familiar, as though it had happened long ago. In the drizzle and dim light, the police lines, the emergency vehicles, the silent passers by appeared as though in an old newsreel film in black and white. The news of the successful Olympic bid was more surprising than this. How could we have forgotten that this was always going to happen?"He also wrote one of the best immediate reactions to the WTC attacks:
"Yesterday afternoon, for a dreamlike, immeasurable period, the appearance was of total war, and of the world's mightiest empire in ruins. That sense of denial which accompanies all catastrophes kept nagging away: this surely isn't happening. I'll blink and it will be gone. Like millions, perhaps billions around the world, we knew we were living through a time that we would never be able to forget. We also knew, though it was too soon to wonder how or why, that the world would never be the same. We knew only that it would be worse."
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Thank you for applying for the postgraduate studentship in the Department of Theatre Film and Television at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.
Unfortunately you have not been awarded a scholarship, but you have been placed on our reserve list (3rd reserve). In the event of one of the scholarships becoming available before the end of August we will contact you again.
Although you have not been awarded a scholarship in this round, we would encourage you to establish contact with the department, with a view to developing your project for applications to the next round of grant awards offered by the university, the Department and the AHRB. If you wish to do this, please ring..."
I learnt yesterday that my bid for funding for my PhD has been unsucessful. The implications of this is that it is unlikely that I will be able to embark on it because it is not possible to fund myself. It is too early as yet to predict a definite outcome, as to what this means - something may come up to change matters - but the news has obviously put somewhat of a crimp in my plans. I am not going to get too depressed about this, (when one door closes another one opens and all that) and I think I will continue to read Being and Time and offer my comments here, if only because I like the intellectual stimulation of the challenge.
Ok after getting a bit depressed about this and pondering my options, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing I would rather do than a PhD. Thanks to the support of my wife Rachel, some unexpected work and some compensation due for being in a car crash a few years ago, I can now continue with the PhD.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Here are some uncanny night-time images taken by my brother Richard. Richard took most of these images in the middle of the night. There is no trickery here, just a very long exposure. What is interesting about them is they illustrate the limitations of the human eye with respect to seeing in the dark, because the colours present in the day-time do not actually disappear into muted grey, that is merely an effect of human night-vision.
News.com in Austrialia reported that scientists have managed to 're-animate' dogs after several hours of clinical death by pumping a saline solution into their veins at a few degrees above zero. A less tabliod approach to the story can be found at pulmonaryreviews.com
This from the BBC. Researchers speculate that time travel can occur within a kind of feedback loop where backwards movement is possible, but something is actually acting to prevent any backward movement from changing the present.
Another from the BBC. Computer scientists in the US are developing a system which would allow people to "teleport" a solid 3D recreation of themselves over the internet.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
bbc.co.uk: The UK government's school computing agency, Becta, has said schools could save costs by switching to what is known as open source software…
Parrs Wood High School has more than 2,000 students and more than 200 staff…
Software licences cost Parrs Wood about £30,000 each year, less than half the cost if no OSS were deployed…
Because OSS runs well on old hardware, computers from the old school and cast-offs from local businesses could be deployed in ICT rooms and other classrooms, requiring little additional capital expenditure. Go to article
Guardian unlimited: Starring Tom Cruise, Spielberg's version of the War of the Worlds is out this week. This article that addresses both the perennial and contemporary themes touched upon by Well’s tale of alien invasion:
"Young, sappy cultures devise myths about creation. Cosmos… We are too far from those fresh origins to take such -stories seriously: our urgent concern is to understand how the world will end…Go to article
In 1898, society prepared to confront a fin-de-siècle that seemed likely, as a witty nihilist puts it in a play by Oscar Wilde, to be the fin du monde. Man had recently killed off God; having destroyed its creator, could our species expect to survive much longer? Anticipating that terminus, HG Wells wrote an apocalyptic romance about it, The War of the Worlds…
Our frail blue planet is overrun by mechanised conquerors from a world which is red, bellicose, unmerciful. Wells considered this outcome to be just and logical. European empires, enslaving or exterminating new worlds elsewhere on our globe, had been equally remorseless. His novel reminded Europeans that their tenure of power was insecure."
I summit this post as a little proglomena to discussing some of my reading for my PhD, especially Heidegger...
I want to outline my position regarding epistemology. I have just completed a BA in media and communication and the issue of 'what is real' was a major theme throughout my three years of study. There are of course several competing theories answering the question what is real.
Firstly naive realism:
This asserts that the real world is out there to be discovered or named by human beings. A criticism of naive realism is that it attributes objects with intensions, how for instance can a rock 'tell' us what it is.
This approach at its most extreme contests that reality is a construction of the human mind. Although in a softened form it Kant be found for example in Kant's assertion that humans create the structure of the world a priori before the world is revealed to them. The main criticism of this approach is a common-sensical one. for example it is said that Samuel Johnson refuted Berkely's idealism by kicking a stone - "there," said Johnson, "I have just refuted Berkely's hypothesis."
This approach contends that reality is a mix of environmental factors (naive realism) ordered by social conventions (idealism). For instance the Linguist and co-founder of semiotics Ferdinand de Saussure asserted that language creates the meaning of reality. This - it is a bit of both - approach seems more plausible that either naive realism or idealism, however there problem as I see it is very much bound up with representation systems, which downplays the fact that reality has a very palpable immediate component.
This is why I find the epistemology of the American pragmatist philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, especially his notion of the fundamantal categories of firstness, secondness and thirdness. For me Peirce really nailed the problem of epistemology, but the power of his analysis is really yet to be fully appreciated. For example, if you read Heidegger's Being and Time, bearing in mind Peirce's categories there are less problems in picturing what Heidegger has in mind. Heidegger to my mind never completely successfully addresses the difficulty of communicating pre-representational systems through the language of philosophy. Peirce I think can be particularly helpful in this respect because he developed an approach which can describe the kind of mental paradigm shifts Heidegger is calling for his readers to attempt in order for them to understand Dasein.
Links to my work in this area
For more on a structuralist take on representation this see this essay, which offers an account of Saussure's semiotic.
and my undergraduate dissertation that discusses Peirce in Chapter 5 and more on my particular epistemological position.
Thursday, June 30, 2005
Here's some articles that introduced me to the "long tail" concept:
1/ Lessons from Silicon Valley
“The 20th Century mass production world was about dozens of markets of millions of people. The 21st Century is all about millions of markets of dozens of people.”
BBC Radio 4 and World Service Presenter Peter Day talks to Joe Kraus, one of the inventors of the excite search engine. Go to article
2/ The Long Tail By Chris Anderson
"For too long we've been suffering the tyranny of lowest-common-denominator fare, subjected to brain-dead summer blockbusters and manufactured pop. Why? Economics. Many of our assumptions about popular taste are actually artifacts of poor supply-and-demand matching - a market response to inefficient distribution….retailers will carry only content that can generate sufficient demand to earn its keep… An average record store needs to sell at least two copies of a CD per year to make it worth carrying; that's the rent for a half inch of shelf space…. With no shelf space to pay for and, in the case of purely digital services like iTunes, no manufacturing costs and hardly any distribution fees, a miss sold is just another sale, with the same margins as a hit. A hit and a miss are on equal economic footing, both just entries in a database called up on demand, both equally worthy of being carried. Suddenly, popularity no longer has a monopoly on profitability… Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon's book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. Consider the implication: If the Amazon statistics are any guide, the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are…
This is the long tail. Go to article
Synthetic knowledge is based on the distinction the philosopher Immanuel Kant made between two types of knowledge.
Kant claimed that in judgements, there were only two possible relations of a subject to its predicate. The first is analytical, where the predicate belongs to the subject, and the second is synthetic, where the predicate lies totally outside of the subject. Only synthetic judgements add new material to our conception of the subject (Kant: 1993, 35). In this sense we can view traditional cultures are being analytic and modern cultures as being synthetic, because technology itself can be seen as this new additive material. This is all bound up with my PhD proposal.
Kant, Immanuel (1993), Critique of Pure Reason, J. M. D. Meiklejohn (trans.) London: Everyman
This is my first post in the blog world. It came about because of the convergence of three things.
The first is my interest in the open source model for doing things. Not just programming but anything. For example wikipedia, the internet encyclopaedia that allows users to edit its content, thereby creating a collaborative effort, which is greater than the sum of its parts.
The second is my interest in sustainability issues as another model for new ways of doing things. This does not have to be a luddite model of environmentalism, the idea is to use technology to bring about a sustainable future.
The third was re-reading Arthur C. Clarke's childhood's End to my son. In the chapter, the golden age, Clarke sets out his utopian view of the future, not conflicts or wars, no crime, total surveillance, an unlimited supply of consumer goods, secularism etc etc..
It's not that I agree with Clarke's ideals, what struck me when reading this was just how much the modernist paradigm of consumerism and industrialism (which Clarke was very much embedded in) is shifting, at least in terms of how society, technology and existence are conceived of.
Essentially what I am saying is that we already know now what the future will look like. And it will be a profound a shift as that between the agrarian age and the industrial age. For example I imagine that the concept of manufacturing anything for a single use will seem very alien to our descendents. What I am talking here is a paradigm shift. This suggest not the reworking of old knowledge, but the ongoing analysis of totally new knowledge. Hence the title of this blog.
What do I mean by new knowledge?
Well for example, read this article on sustainability. This article is polemical in tone and prompts more questions than it answers, but the important point is that I don't thing that we would have even be able to formulate such a polemic even five years ago.
What do I hope to do here?
This is my attempt at open source living. It is an experiment to open up certain parts of my life for others to browse critique and even alter if they want to. This 'opening up' is not in the sense of confessionals or a celebrity-style access to personal secrets. I do not want to live my life as an open book, but I do see the value in opening up those aspects which are in a sense public anyway.
These are some of the things I am interested in and which I want to make open source:
1/ I am about to embark on a PhD on immersive media
2/ I write songs
3/ I already curate a few websites on Stanley Kubrick
1/ What I want to do is share the research process of the PhD. I.e., post reports of what I am doing at every stage of the process. This work cannot obviously be a collective effort since ultimately I will have to be judged on my efforts as a individual scholar. But I hope to promote the collaborative aspect of academic study to its full capacity by offering an online diary of the writing of a PhD.
2/ I intend to make my songs available, complete with lyrics and guitar chords. I.e., an attempt at as open source songs.
3/ I'm very proud of the visual-memory sites, two of which I inherited from other people. The Kubrick Site from Geoffrey Alexander and Stanley Kubrick 1928-1999 from a guy who wished to remain anonymous. But they did most of the work on these sites, therefore these sites will largely remain as they are, as a much visited and appreciated resource on Stanley Kubrick. However I am toying with adding new sections about Kubrick scholarship, which I hope will use the open source model. I think that the Kubrick FAQ would especially benefit from open sourcing as it is was conceived through alt.movies.kubrick as a nascent form of open sourcing anyway.
That enough for now.
Any suggestions are of course welcome.