Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Word Nerds: Rhetoric, Pt. 1

Rhetoric, Pt. 1
The Word Nerds

Rhetoric, part 1: Howard Shepherd and Dave Shepherd explore the difference between rhetoric and dialectic. They invoke Plato, Aristotle, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore.

To Listen to the Episode


For oldies having trouble deciphering newbies techno-speak...


To the Best of Our Knowledge: Screen Shots

Screen Shots
To the Best of Our Knowledge (Wisconsin Public Radio)

One day, an IRS auditor named Harold Crick wakes up to discover a voice in his head – a female voice narrating his life. That's the premise of the film, Stranger Than Fiction. In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge, we'll meet the man who wrote the screenplay. Also, the story of Orson Welles and his career after Citizen Kane. What do you do for an encore after you've made what many critics describe as the greatest movie ever made?


Laura Poitras is a Peabody Award-winning documentary film-maker. Her latest effort's been short listed for the Academy Award. It's called "My Country, My Country." Poitras tells Jim Fleming she shoots in cinema verite style and based her film on the actions of an Iranian physician and his family around the recent Iranian election. And we hear clips fro her film. Also, British actor Simon Callow is writing Orson Welles' biography. Volume 2 is called "Hello Americans." Callow tells Steve Paulson about the making and editing of "Citizen Kane" and says Welles seems to have lost interest in his films once he shot them.


Zach Helm wrote the screenplay for "Stranger than Fiction," in which Will Ferrell hears the voice of Emma Thompson apparently narrating his life. Doug Gordon, who often hears voices in his head, prepared this report on Zach Helm and the art of screenwriting.


Jack Sullivan is the author of "Hitchcock's Music." He tells Anne Strainchamps about the partnership between Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Hermann which resulted in some of the greatest film scores ever written. The piece is lavishly illustrated with clips from "Vertigo" and "The Birds" and their scores.

To Listen to the Episode

The Unforeseen (Laura Dunn: USA, 2007)

(Wish List for Lexington: will someone please bring this film to town! Laura Dunn's outstanding student film Subtext of a Yale Education is a central part of my poetics/rhetorics of place.)

The Trailer

(Then I see this... arrrgggghhhhhhh!!!! how come I didn't hear about this showing? I would still like to see it brought back at one of our major theaters!)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Harold Pinter: On Socialism

There exists today widespread propaganda which asserts that socialism is dead. But if to be a socialist is to be a person convinced that the words "the common good" and "social justice" actually mean something; if to be a socialist is to be outraged at the contempt in which millions and millions of people are held by those in power, by "market forces," by international financial institutions; if to be a socialist is to be a person determined to do everything in his or her power to alleviate these unforgivably degraded lives, then socialism can never be dead because these asportations never die.

--Harold Pinter

(Quoted in: Barry, Brian. Why Social Justice Matters. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2005: 1.)

Philosophy Bites: Richard Tuck on Free Riding

Richard Tuck on Free Riding
Philosophy Bites

Why should anyone contribute to a joint enterprise if their contribution is tiny and they can just as easily 'free ride' (i.e. get the benefit without making the sacrifice)? This is known as the 'Free Rider Problem'. Richard Tuck, Professor of Government at Harvard, has a distinctive take on this problem.

To Listen to the Episode

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I've Decided...

(Courtesy of Laura)

I have decided I am working in the wrong major/discipline, I've decided to pull up roots, start a new course of training at this university (I believe it would be worth it to do school all over again--think of the pain I would be easing... I just want my life to mean something ):

A New Profession



Bill Moyers Journal: Mr. Heath Goes to Washington

Bill Moyers Journal and Expose

The broadcast profiles SEATTLE TIMES reporters on the trail of how members of Congress have awarded federal dollars for questionable purposes to companies in local Congressional districts—often to companies whose executives, employees or PACs have made campaign contributions to their legislators.

To Listen to the Report

Anthony Lewis: In Defense of Free Speech

(Anthony Lewis and his interviewer, the actor Peter Coyote, present a fascinating and intelligent discussion of the current presidential administration's assault on free speech, the history of free speech in the USA, and what can be done to protect free speech. This is an essential broadcast!)

In Defense of Free Speech
Peter Coyote Interview Anthony Lewis
Word for Word (American Public Media)

The First Amendment ensures that all Americans have the right to free speech. But Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anthony Lewis says it was only in the 20th century that the Supreme Court began to consistently enforce this basic freedom. Lewis discussed the evolution of free speech and what it means to defend speech we disagree with in a Feb. 5 speech at the Commonwealth Club of California.

To Listen to the Episode

Monday, February 25, 2008

Talk of the Nation: Environmentalists Debate the Promise of Biofuels

Environmentalists Debate the Promise of Biofuels
Talk of the Nation (NPR)

Two recent studies published in the journal Science suggest that growing additional biofuel crops might actually increase the amount of carbon entering the atmosphere, especially if existing forests or grasslands must be cleared for biofuel farming. Do the fuels make sense from an environmental and economic standpoint?

When U.S. politicians talk about biofuels, most of the time they are talking about ethanol made from fermenting corn. However, there are many other types of biofuels, including biodiesel from algae and cellulosic ethanol technology. Experts discuss various approaches to biofuels and the advantages and disadvantages of each.


Daniel Kammen, professor of energy at the Goldman School of Public Policy; co-director of the Berkeley Institute of the Environment; founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley

David Tilman, professor and presidential chair in ecology at the University of Minnesota; director of Cedar Creek Natural History Area

Harrison Dillon, president and chief technical officer, Solazyme, Inc.

Wes Bolsen, chief marketing officer and vice president of business development at Coskata, Inc.

To Listen to the Episode

Juxtaposition of an Image, a Quote and a Song: A Quick Reflection

"The presentation of the self in everyday life in the inner city is a form of theatre where identity is a role and where entropy is high..."

John Clute, in his introduction to [Michael Moorcock's] The Cornelius Chronicles (Source)

What happens when they no longer feel the need to go out into the streets and perform their identity? What happens when their lives are colonized by corporate consumer products designed to make them feel loved and desired without all the mess of becoming involved? What happens when their mind is buzzing with the cultural cacaphony that distracts them from the encroaching entropy?

Michael Benton, drinking coffee in his office 2/25/08 :P

It's the terror of knowing
What the world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming 'Let me out'
Pray tomorrow - gets me higher
Pressure on people - people on streets

Queen "Under Pressure"

Friday, February 22, 2008

On the Media: Congressional Contempt; Haditha Untold

Congressional Contempt; Haditha Untold
Host: Bob Garfield
On the Media

This week House Republicans staged a walk-out to express their outrage at House Democrats for finding the Bush Administration's Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton in contempt of Congress. Bob weighs in as the parties accuse each other of orchestrating media stunts.

The story of Haditha is one of a massacre of Iraqi civilians at the hands of American Marines, a low point among low points of the War in Iraq. That was the first draft. However, two of the Marines are about to face Courts Martial. And the defense will try to prove that while the results were horrifying, Marines acted within the rules of engagement. OTM talks with the director of Frontline's new special.

To Listen to the Episode

Thursday, February 21, 2008

This American Life: The Super

(One of my favorite episodes)

The Super
This American Life (Chicago Public Radio)

In 1980's New York City, rent is rising: it seems out of control, and residents struggle to keep up. So Jack Hitt help organize tenants, and threatens a rent strike. This does not go over so well with his building super, who, as it turns out, is a very dangerous man. This and other stories of the mysterious hold supers have on their buildings, or their buildings have on them.

Host Ira Glass visits an Upper East Side building in Manhattan where Peter Roach has been the super for about ten years. Peter has a small apartment in the building, and sole access to a large courtyard—the kind of courtyard most New Yorkers would kill for. But for complicated reasons, Peter never, ever uses it. (3-1/2 minutes)

Act One. The Super Always Rings Twice.

Reporter Jack Hitt tells the story of how he helped organize tenants and threaten a rent strike in a New York City building back in the 1980s. Before long, Bob, the building super, became his enemy. The situation got pretty ugly. Mobster ugly. Bob began to brag about how important he was in his native Brazil, how he could kill a person and be immune from prosecution. It was only many years later that Jack found out how dangerous Bob really was. (21 minutes)

Act Two. Super Duper.

Josh Bearman's favorite story was told to him by his super. It involved these elements: a gas station, a beautiful woman, an orchid, a snowman, Indonesia, and a check for $30,000. But when Josh decided to try and publish the story in a magazine, it changed everything. (12-1/2 minutes)

Song: "Blue Orchid," White Stripes

Act Three. Please Re-Lease Me.

A man we're calling "Dennis" inherits his father's job as a landlord of a big apartment building. His dad had warned him that bad tenants could drive even a good man to become heartless, but Dennis vowed that would never happen to him. He's tested on this point when he tries to help a couple that falls behind in their rent. He sets up a payment plan for them, teaches them how to make a budget, helps them with their personal problems. For six years, he stops himself from kicking them out. (17-1/2 minutes)

Song: "Working on a Building," Elvis Presley

To Listen to the Episode

Fresh Air: Oppression and Abortion in Mungiu's '4 Months'

Oppression and Abortion in Mungiu's '4 Months'
Host: Terry Gross
Fresh Air (NPR)

In 1966, Romanian dictator Nicolai Ceausescu sought to boost his nation's population by criminalizing abortion, declaring, "The fetus is the property of the entire society... anyone who avoids having children is a deserter who abandons the laws of national continuity."

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, a new film by director Cristian Mungiu, explores the ramifications of Ceausescu's ban two decades later; it's 1987 and two college women negotiate Bucharest's gloomy, paranoid black market in an effort to secure an abortion.

New York Times critic Manohla Dargis calls the film, which won the top prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival, "ferocious, unsentimental, often brilliantly directed."

We'll talk to Mungiu about his experiences growing up under a totalitarian regime and his inspiration for 4 Months.

To Listen to the Interview

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pixies: U-Mass

The coolest song ever about a university:

Jake Gibb's Peace Studies Lecture on Aspects of Military Culture

(I create these, for the students, to supplement the lectures in our team-taught, interdisciplinary Peace Studies course.)

"Masters of War" by Pearl Jam

Supplement to today's lecture:

Cultural Hegemony (I mentioned this concept in my section--glad to see it mentioned again)

Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman an author on the "psychology of killing" has called violent video games "murder simulators"

James W. Loewen (author of Lies My History Teacher Told Me)

Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States is very important and is now available online (although you should really think about getting your own copy ;) This has been put up by the website History is a Weapon and they have a very useful list of recommended history books along the lines of Zinn's

Also since we were discussing public education role in reproducing the cultural hegemony (in this case a militaristic one), I found a good guide to the History of Education

Jake discussed the militarization of common speech and I remembered an archive I collected for students called "The Language of the War on Terror"

Then Jake discussed "war toys" as an aspect of military culture and that reminded me of the culture jamming of the Barbie Liberation Front and the later Barbie Disinformation Organization and here is the group @tmark that funded this and other cultural jamming projects

I knew that the Boy Scouts were a frontrunner in programming for the military mindset, but was shocked by the words of the Little League Pledge (what does it have to do with playing ball?) and here is the BS Oath My favorite is this Boy Scout Law "I keep my body and mind fit and clean."

... kind of vague...

Dion Dennis has a lot to say about the dangers of these types of vague moralizing in his essay "Priming the Pump of War" More from Dennis is available at C-Theory and his website

Just a free-floating association of an excellent Atlantic Monthly article on the "creation" of the Unabomber's paranoid mindset (where was it developed):

Harvard and the Making of the Unabomber (of course those of you that have read Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine" will be familiar with this form of psychological abuse)

which then reminded me of the journal Race Traitor's article on the making of Timothy McVeigh's militaristic mindset:

The Life and Death of Timothy McVeigh (click on "new" on the left)

What is Groupthink? (communication theory)

Asymmetric Warfare

Pondering it all with Rush's "Trees"

Thinking Allowed: Cultures of Apocalypse

Thinking Allowed (BBC)
Host: Laurie Taylor

A CNN Poll found that 20% of Americans – nearly 60 million people - believe the Apocalypse will take place in their lifetime. In his new book Have a Nice Doomsday: Why Millions of Americans Are Looking Forward to the End of the World, Nicholas Guyatt claims that the growing constituency of Apocalyptic Christians have influenced American Foreign Policy, particularly in the Middle East; and also suggests that we should worry because the ‘end of days’ is not something they wish to avoid, but something they positively welcome.

Laurie Taylor is joined by Nicholas Guyatt and religious commentator Martin Palmer to debate the issue.

To Listen to the Episode

Onnesha Roychoudhuri: Michael Pollan Debunks Food Myths

Michael Pollan Debunks Food Myths
By Onnesha Roychoudhuri

The human digestive tract has about the same number of neurons as the spinal column. What are they there for? The final word isn't in yet, but Michael Pollan thinks their existence suggests that digestion may be more than the rather mundane process of breaking down food into chemicals. And, keeping those numerous digestive neurons in mind, Pollan's new book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto entreaties us to follow our knowledgeable guts when it comes to figuring out what to eat.

Nutrition science and the food industry have been changing their minds about what Americans should eat for years. Low fat, no fat, low carb, high protein. In In Defense of Food, Pollan argues that all of these fixations amount to a uniquely American disease: orthorexia -- an unhealthy obsession with eating. And as statistics on diabetes and obesity can attest, obsessing doesn't seem to be getting us anywhere. Pollan takes the reader on a journey through the science of food and reveals how it is that we've ignored our guts and followed the ever-changing tune of food science. At once a scathing indictment of the food industry, and a call for a return to real food, Pollan's latest book reveals how Americans have been dangerously misled into adopting "low fat" as a fundamental food mantra, and how most of the products on our supermarket shelves should be called "imitation."

Pollan recently sat down with AlterNet to explain why cooking from scratch has become a subversive act, and to tell us things our guts probably already knew.


OR: You write that, "Foods that lie to our senses are one of the most challenging features of the Western diet." This is in a discussion of the "imitation food rule" -- can you talk about his?

MP: That was another red-letter day in the rise of nutritionism. Basically, the Food and Drug Administration was started in 1938 with the Food and Drug Act and as part of that was this rule that basically held that there are certain traditional foods that everyone knows like bread and pasta and yogurt and sour cream and if you're going to fundamentally change their identity by substituting one nutrient for another, you had to call them imitations. If you look at the ingredients of something like no-fat sour cream, you will find all sorts of things that have nothing to do with sour cream. You will find carrageenan and guar gum. These are parts of seaweed and beans. These are all substitutes for the fat in sour cream. It is not sour cream, and the law used to require you to say as much, but in 1973, the FDA -- without going to Congress -- simply repealed the imitation rule.

They did it at the behest of organizations like the American Heart Association, who thought that this would be a good thing. That the imitation rule was standing in the way of reengineering the food supply to make it contain less fat. Because no one would buy products called "imitation sour cream." Would you buy imitation pasta? No. But "low-carb pasta" might sound more appealing.

Throwing out the imitation rule essentially allowed the food companies to do what they wanted with things like yogurt or sour cream -- fundamentally change the identities of food without having to disclose it. We've moved from real foods like sour cream to edible food-like substances like low-fat sour cream that I refuse to call food. I think we should restore the imitation rule. We still have it for certain products.

So for example, if you want to sell chocolate, you have to use cocoa butter as the fat in the chocolate. But now there's a move to get that changed. The Hershey's Co. has petitioned the government to change the standard of identity of chocolate so that you could use corn oil or soy oil, which would be cheaper. Fortunately, Mars, Inc. is holding out to let chocolate be chocolate. But this is why I felt I needed to write a defense of food. Food is under assault by industry and nutrition science, who think they can improve on the foods we've had for hundreds of thousands of years. My contention is, they can't.

OR: It was interesting that the FDA, and not Congress, repealed this. What's the legality of that?

MP: I think they were acting without authority. This happens more than you may think. It happened with the organic rules. The original legislation in 1990 that began the process that led to organic certification said that you could use no synthetics in organic processed food. It was very clear-cut. But the industry, when they started writing these rules said, we need these synthetics, we can't possibly make all this wonderfully organic junk food without certain synthetic ingredients.

So the USDA's organic standards board just went ahead and created a list of the law of synthetics. This was completely extralegal. Then this blueberry farmer from Maine sued and he won. Then the industry went to Congress and got them to change the law. It would be wonderful if some enterprising public interest lawyer decided to sue to restore the imitation rule. My guess is Kraft, General Mills, Frito Lay and Pepsi-Cola would all go to Congress, and some very obscure provision would be attached to a very obscure spending bill, and we'd be back where we are today.

To Read the Rest of the Interview

Remember Always

The power of your voice on so many levels

(Imagine the time when you were silent because you worried about your standing)

Who cares........

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Surfrider Foundation: TJ Marshall, of Surfrider’s South Florida Chapter

(Although I grew up on the San Diego coastline, I rarely see the Ocean that I love, so I truly enjoy listening to the podcasts of the environmental activist group Surfrider Foundation. They are also an inspirational example of localized activism that has increased their impact through formation of a larger coalition of communities that share the same concerns.)

Surfrider Foundation USA
Surfrider Foundation Podcasts
Surfrider Foundation South Florida
Host: Jim Moriarty

TJ Marshall, of Surfrider’s South Florida Chapter, at Joe Allen in Miami Beach, FL.
Action-central in Miami is TJ Marshall’s roving car; packed with development blueprints he is watchdogging, a 6-something thruster to nab that ephemeral swell and a sticker on the rear window reading "Surfing is not a crime". TJ is "on it" in so many ways, figuring out how to cobble together ad-hoc enviro strategies in midst of beach high rises. Maybe we should call him TJ MacGyver.

To Listen to this Episode

Monday, February 18, 2008

Philip K. Dick: How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later

(Courtesy of The Deoxyribonucleic Hyperdimension)

How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later
by Philip K. Dick, 1978

Well, I will tell you what interests me, what I consider important. I can't claim to be an authority on anything, but I can honestly say that certain matters absolutely fascinate me, and that I write about them all the time. The two basic topics which fascinate me are "What is reality?" and "What constitutes the authentic human being?" Over the twenty-seven years in which I have published novels and stories I have investigated these two interrelated topics over and over again. I consider them important topics. What are we? What is it which surrounds us, that we call the not-me, or the empirical or phenomenal world?


In 1951, when I sold my first story, I had no idea that such fundamental issues could be pursued in the science fiction field. I began to pursue them unconsciously. My first story had to do with a dog who imagined that the garbagemen who came every Friday morning were stealing valuable food which the family had carefully stored away in a safe metal container. Every day, members of the family carried out paper sacks of nice ripe food, stuffed them into the metal container, shut the lid tightly—and when the container was full, these dreadful-looking creatures came and stole everything but the can.

Finally, in the story, the dog begins to imagine that someday the garbagemen will eat the people in the house, as well as stealing their food. Of course, the dog is wrong about this. We all know that garbagemen do not eat people. But the dog's extrapolation was in a sense logical—given the facts at his disposal. The story was about a real dog, and I used to watch him and try to get inside his head and imagine how he saw the world. Certainly, I decided, that dog sees the world quite differently than I do, or any humans do. And then I began to think, Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world, a world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. And that led me wonder, If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn't we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe, it's as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can't explain his to us, and we can't explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too diffrently, there occurs a breakdown of communication... and there is the real illness.


It was always my hope, in writing novels and stories which asked the question "What is reality?", to someday get an answer. This was the hope of most of my readers, too. Years passed. I wrote over thirty novels and over a hundred stories, and still I could not figure out what was real. One day a girl college student in Canada asked me to define reality for her, for a paper she was writing for her philosophy class. She wanted a one-sentence answer. I thought about it and finally said, "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." That's all I could come up with. That was back in 1972. Since then I haven't been able to define reality any more lucidly.

But the problem is a real one, not a mere intellectual game. Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups—and the electronic hardware exists by which to deliver these pseudo-worlds right into the heads of the reader, the viewer, the listener. Sometimes when I watch my eleven-year-old daughter watch TV, I wonder what she is being taught. The problem of miscuing; consider that. A TV program produced for adults is viewed by a small child. Half of what is said and done in the TV drama is probably misunderstood by the child. Maybe it's all misunderstood. And the thing is, Just how authentic is the information anyhow, even if the child correctly understood it? What is the relationship between the average TV situation comedy to reality? What about the cop shows? Cars are continually swerving out of control, crashing, and catching fire. The police are always good and they always win. Do not ignore that point: The police always win. What a lesson that is. You should not fight authority, and even if you do, you will lose. The message here is, Be passive. And—cooperate. If Officer Baretta asks you for information, give it to him, because Officer Beratta is a good man and to be trusted. He loves you, and you should love him.

So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing. It is my job to create universes, as the basis of one novel after another. And I have to build them in such a way that they do not fall apart two days later. Or at least that is what my editors hope. However, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. Do not believe—and I am dead serious when I say this—do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new.


The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words. George Orwell made this clear in his novel 1984. But another way to control the minds of people is to control their perceptions. If you can get them to see the world as you do, they will think as you do. Comprehension follows perception. How do you get them to see the reality you see? After all, it is only one reality out of many. Images are a basic constituent: pictures. This is why the power of TV to influence young minds is so staggeringly vast. Words and pictures are synchronized. The possibility of total control of the viewer exists, especially the young viewer. TV viewing is a kind of sleep-learning. An EEG of a person watching TV shows that after about half an hour the brain decides that nothing is happening, and it goes into a hypnoidal twilight state, emitting alpha waves. This is because there is such little eye motion. In addition, much of the information is graphic and therefore passes into the right hemisphere of the brain, rather than being processed by the left, where the conscious personality is located. Recent experiments indicate that much of what we see on the TV screen is received on a subliminal basis. We only imagine that we consciously see what is there. The bulk of the messages elude our attention; literally, after a few hours of TV watching, we do not know what we have seen. Our memories are spurious, like our memories of dreams; the blank are filled in retrospectively. And falsified. We have participated unknowingly in the creation of a spurious reality, and then we have obligingly fed it to ourselves. We have colluded in our own doom.

And—and I say this as a professional fiction writer—the producers, scriptwriters, and directors who create these video/audio worlds do not know how much of their content is true. In other words, they are victims of their own product, along with us. Speaking for myself, I do not know how much of my writing is true, or which parts (if any) are true. This is a potentially lethal situation. We have fiction mimicking truth, and truth mimicking fiction. We have a dangerous overlap, a dangerous blur. And in all probability it is not deliberate. In fact, that is part of the problem. You cannot legislate an author into correctly labelling his product, like a can of pudding whose ingredients are listed on the label... you cannot compel him to declare what part is true and what isn't if he himself does not know.


If any of you have read my novel Ubik, you know that the mysterious entity or mind or force called Ubik starts out as a series of cheap and vulgar commercials and winds up saying:

I am Ubik. Before the universe was I am. I made the suns. I made the worlds. I created the lives and the places they inhabit; I move them here, I put them there. They go as I say, they do as I tell them. I am the word and my name is never spoken, the name which no one knows. I am called Ubik but that is not my name. I am. I shall always be.

It is obvious from this who and what Ubik is; it specifically says that it is the word, which is to say, the Logos. In the German translation, there is one of the most wonderful lapses of correct understanding that I have ever come across; God help us if the man who translated my novel Ubik into German were to do a translation from the koine Greek into German of the New Testament. He did all right until he got to the sentence "I am the word." That puzzled him. What can the author mean by that? he must have asked himself, obviously never having come across the Logos doctrine. So he did as good a job of translation as possible. In the German edition, the Absolute Entity which made the suns, made the worlds, created the lives and the places they inhabit, says of itself:

I am the brand name.

Had he translated the Gospel according to Saint John, I suppose it would have come out as:

When all things began, the brand name already was. The brand name dwelt with God, and what God was, the brand name was.


Such is the fate of an author who hoped to include theological themes in his writing. "The brand name, then, was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be; no single thing was created without him." So it goes with noble ambitions. Let's hope God has a sense of humor.

Or should I say, Let's hope the brand name has a sense of humor.

Link to Read the Entire Speech

Sunday, February 17, 2008

In Our Time: The Social Contract

In Our Time (BBC)
Host: Melvyn Bragg

"Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains."

Thus begins Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s great work of political philosophy, The Social Contract. Rousseau was trying to understand why a man would give up his natural freedoms and bind himself to the rule of a prince or a government. It is among the oldest questions in political philosophy, but it flourished particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries as France and Britain were racked by civil strife and revolution – what another great social contract thinker, Thomas Hobbes, might call the war of all against all.


Melissa Lane, Senior University Lecturer in History at Cambridge University

Susan James, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London

Karen O’Brien, Professor of English Literature at the University of Warwick

To Listen to the Episode, Research More and Read Listener Comments

Also check out (where the image came from):

The Social Contract in America: Reality or Myth?

Documentary Archive: Fading Traditions

Fading Traditions
Documentary Archive (BBC)

Part One
The Moroccan halakis' dying art of story-telling

Part Two
Will Georgia lose its 7000-year old wine producing tradition?

Part Three
Temple prostitutes - the clash of ancient and modern culture in India

To Listen to the Shows

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Common Sense with Dan Carlin: Crazy Alien Mutant Whigs

Crazy Alien Mutant Whigs
Common Sense with Dan Carlin

To paraphrase Archie Bunker; Dan may be crazy, but he makes a lot of sense. In this show he talks about the year 1979, the responsibilities of a Great Power, behavioral freedom and health care.

Show Notes

1. “Extremism is its own enemy” (Local headline) by Gary Anderson for the Washington Post, January 16, 2008.

2. “Fighting terrorism with terrorists” by Joshua Kurlantzick for the Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2008.

3. "Study says Bush misled public before Iraq war” by Douglass Daniel, the Associated Press, January 23, 2008.

To Listen to the Episode

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New York Times: Because They Said So

"Because They Said So"
2/10/08 Editorial
New York Times

Even by the dismal standards of what passes for a national debate on intelligence and civil liberties, last week was a really bad week.

The Senate debated a bill that would make needed updates to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — while needlessly expanding the president’s ability to spy on Americans without a warrant and covering up the unlawful spying that President Bush ordered after 9/11.

The Democrat who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, John Rockefeller of West Virginia, led the way in killing amendments that would have strengthened requirements for warrants and raised the possibility of at least some accountability for past wrongdoing. Republicans declaimed about protecting America from terrorists — as if anyone was arguing the opposite — and had little to say about protecting Americans’ rights.

We saw a ray of hope when the head of the Central Intelligence Agency conceded — finally — that waterboarding was probably illegal. But his boss, the director of national intelligence, insisted it was legal when done to real bad guys. And Vice President Dick Cheney — surprise! — made it clear that President Bush would authorize waterboarding whenever he wanted.

The Catch-22 metaphor is seriously overused, but consider this: Attorney General Michael Mukasey told Congress there would be no criminal investigation into waterboarding. He said the Justice Department decided waterboarding was legal (remember the torture memo?) and told the C.I.A. that.

So, according to Mukaseyan logic, the Justice Department cannot investigate those who may have committed torture, because the Justice Department said it was O.K. and Justice cannot be expected to investigate itself.

As it was with torture, so it was with wiretaps.

To Read the Rest of the Editorial

National Coalition Against Censorship: "A Presumption in Favor of Secrecy"

"A Presumption in Favor of Secrecy"
National Coalition Against Censorship

A flourishing “marketplace of ideas” is one of the great goals of the First Amendment. It is jeopardized today by an environment of government secrecy that denies the public and even lawmakers access to information necessary to make sound decisions.

The trend to keep the public in the dark was first signaled by the 2001 “Ashcroft memo,” which reversed a long-standing “presumption in favor of disclosure” of information about government activities, absent a sound legal basis for secrecy.

Before adjourning for the holidays, Congress passed the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National (“OPEN”) Government Act of 2007, a suite of minor reforms to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Sadly, a clause that would have overturned the “presumption in favor of secrecy” was removed from the bill at the last minute.

Since 2001, government secrecy has been the default position, and disclosure the exception to the rule. As documented in a 2004 report, Secrecy in the Bush Administration, issued by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), this policy has been implemented through Executive Orders, increased classification of documents, and “denial through delay.” As a result, Congress has been unable to exercise its oversight function fully, and, in some cases, public debate, judicial review, and legislative action have been foreclosed.

Without question, some information must be safeguarded in the interest of national security. Nevertheless, review by courts or legislators is essential to ensure that national security is not invoked unnecessarily, or merely to keep potentially incriminating or embarrassing conduct under wraps. Some recent revelations justify public skepticism.

Take the administration's covert surveillance program, for instance. It was first disclosed to the public in late 2005 by The New York Times (in a story that was held, unpublished, for over a year at the government's behest) that the National Security Agency was using wiretaps without court-issued warrants, bypassing the requirements of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and threatening the constitutional rights of Americans.

To Read the Entire Hyperlinked Report

George Carlin: "It's Called the American Dream Because You Have to Be Asleep To Believe It"

Carlin, "There's a reason education sucks and it'll never get any better, because the owners of this country don't want it better."

[This video] clip ... is tough, gruff George Carlin routine from his stand up special, "This Life is Worth Losing." He starts out slamming America's education system and moves on to how the corporations and business interests have Americans "by the balls." Carlin says the people that run this country want nothing more than "obedient workers" and now they want our social security money and retirement. "It's a big club and you and I aren't in it," says Carlin. Check out the video to your right for more harsh but funny truths.

Watch the Video Clip

The Danger of Unemployed Graduates

(Courtesy of Open Democracy

There is no more dangerous a political animal than the unemployed or disappointed graduate
Anatol Lieven

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day: Songs of Love and Loathing

(Boycott this corporate holiday. There is nothing like "obligatory" signification of one's love!)

So Your Tiny Black Heart Is Broken
By Stephen Thompson

For those who are boycotting this holiday set of songs should get you in the mood ;)

Where Do Our Income Taxes Go?

(Courtesy of Claire)

Friends Committee on National Legislation

PDF Poster:

Where Do Our Income Taxes Go?

Saul Williams: "Sermon on the Mount of Inevitable Progression of Saul to Saul" and "Wake Up Show"

"Sermon on the Mount of Inevitable Progression of Saul to Saul"

"Wake Up Show"

"Pledge of Resistance" (music by DJ Spooky)

To the Best of Our Knowledge: The Politics of Audacity

The Politics of Audacity
To the Best of Our Knowledge (Wisonsin Public Radio)

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. It depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is. From Bold declarations to bald-faced lies. In this hour of To The Best Of Our Knowledge, the audacity of American politics. How did we get from Thomas Jefferson to William Jefferson Clinton in a little over 200 years? And, where are we headed?


NPR's Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr talks with Steve Paulson about the audacity of today's politicians. Schorr thinks the only hope is an alert corps of journalists. Schorr's latest book is "Come to Think of It: Notes on the Turn of the Millennium." And we revisit Donald Rumsfeld on the subject of Weapons of Mass Destruction.


We revisit President Reagan's threat to fire air traffic controllers in 1981. Also, Rachel Boynton is director of the documentary film "Our Brand is Crisis." She talks with Steve Paulson about her film which follows the efforts of an American political consulting firm which became involved in the Bolivian presidential election. And, we revisit President George Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. Also, Jean Edward Smith is the author of "FDR," and tells Jim Fleming about Franklin Roosevelt's Supreme Court-packing scandal of 1937.


Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine and is the author of "Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire." He talks with Anne Strainchamps about political audacity, voter memory and the scandalous behavior of some defense contractors in Iraq. Also, we hear Archibald MacLeish's poem "The End of the World."

To Listen to the Program

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bluegrass Community and Technical College Sustainability Speaker Series

(Free and open to the public!!!)

All presentations will be in the Oswald Building Auditorium, on the campus of Bluegrass Community and Technical College, in Lexington, KY.

More information will be coming out soon, but just to give you a heads up, we have the following talks scheduled:

• March 25, 6:30-7:45: Jim Embry from Sustainable Cities Network, to talk about Lexington’s community gardens

• April 8, 6:30-7:45: John Walker, UK Biologist, to talk about the WWII Victory Gardens in Lexington

• April 14, 6:30-7:45: Mac Stone, Kentucky Department of Agriculture Manager, to talk about the positive impact on Kentucky farms of the tobacco settlement money

• April 17, 6:30-7:45: Aloma Dew, Sierra Club, to talk about eating as a moral act (food ethics)

• April 22, 6:30-7:45: Garrett Grady, UK Geography Graduate Student, to talk about the political ecology of seeds

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Henry Jenkins: Recut, Reframe, Recycle: An Interview with Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi

(Of interest to media activists, independent filmmakers and curious citizens)

Confessions of an Aca-Fan
Henry Jenkins

As I was getting ready to head out to the conference, I conducted an interview for the blog with media scholar Pat Aufderheide (of the Center for Social Media) and Law Professor Peter Jaszi, both from American University. I've long been interested in the work Pat and Peter have been doing promoting fair use in relation to a range of different communities of practice -- including documentary filmmakers, media literacy instructors, and producers of online video content. We featured some of the work they were doing through the Media in Transition conference at MIT last year. You can hear a podcast of that discussion online. I wanted to check in with them because in the past few months, they've issued several major new studies on the impact of copyright confusion on our culture, work which is setting the stage for efforts to identify "best practices" and to negotiate "acceptable use" standards to broaden the protections afforded those of us who are tying to integrate media production activities into our classrooms or who are involved in mashing up content as a form of expressive practice. Today, I am running the first installment of this exchange.

Recut, Reframe, Recycle: An Interview with Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi (Part One)

Recut, Reframe, Recycle: An Interview with Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi (Part Two)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Michael Benton: Films Viewed in January 2008

Films Viewed in January 2008

After Words: Susan Faludi author of "The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America"

Susan Faludi author of "The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America" - 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
Interviewed by: Marie Arana
After Words

Pulitzer prize winning journalist Susan Faludi contends that following the attacks of September 11 the U.S. psychological reaction was defined by the assignment of regressive gender roles. In "The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America" Ms. Faludi argues that the American cultural and political landscape became imbued with exaggerated images of brave men and dependent women. Susan Faludi discusses her book with Marie Arana, editor of the Washington Post's Book World. Ms. Faludi is a finalist for the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.

To Listen to the Episode

Dr. Zoltan Grossman: A Century of U.S. Military Interventions

(Courtesy of Claire Glasscock)

by Dr. Zoltan Grossman (Faculty member in Geography and Native American Studies, The Evergreen State College)

Check it Out Here

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Gadfly

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

gadfly \GAD-flye\ noun

1 : any of various flies (as a horsefly, botfly, or warble fly) that bite or annoy livestock

*2 : a person who stimulates or annoys especially by persistent criticism
Example sentence:

Robert, the self-appointed gadfly of the local paper, would write a scathing letter to the editor whenever he felt the news coverage had been inadequate or inaccurate.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Matthew Rothschild: You Have No Rights-Stories of America In An Age of Repression

"I'm very liberal and sometimes my friends say I'm giving them some kind of paranoid, nutty stuff, and I agree, but then the FBI show up."
—Marc Schultz, reported to the FBI for reading an article called "Weapons of Mass Stupidity: Fox News hits a new lowest common denominator" while he stood in line at a coffee shop

In West Virginia, Renee Jensen put up a yard sign saying "Mr. Bush: You're Fired." She's questioned by the Secret Service. In Alabama, Lynne Gobbell put a Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker on her car. She's fired from her job. In Vermont, Tom Treece had his high school students write essays and make posters either defending or criticizing the Iraq War. After midnight, the police entered his classroom and took photos of the student artwork.

The heated debates about the Patriot Act, about extensive registration and arrest programs for immigrants, and about domestic spying by the FBI, Pentagon, and National Security Agency have all been front-page news. But less understood are the effects of ramped-up national security policies on ordinary people across the country.

In this hard-to-put-down book, Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine, shows that post-9/11 America has entered a repressive age. Through dozens of engrossing and disturbing individual stories, You Have No Rights makes clear that America is now a country that is both less safe and less free.

From You Have No Rights: Near Albany, New York, Stephen Downs went to a mall with his son Roger, and the two of them bought shirts in a T-shirt shop. Downs put his shirt on, went to eat in the food court—and was arrested. The T-shirt's message? "Peace on Earth."

Elizabeth DiNovella: Amy Goodman Interview

Amy Goodman Interview
By Elizabeth DiNovella
The Progressive

Amy Goodman is one of the leading journalists of our time. -She is executive producer and host of Democracy Now, a daily, independent radio and television news program broadcast on 650 stations around the world.

“I’ve always been surprised that people say it’s a hopeful program because we deal with such difficult subjects,” she says. “But I think it’s hopeful because of the people we interview. They are both the analysts and those that are doing something about it, wherever they might be.”

Many people, including myself, have relied upon Amy Goodman’s reporting on the Bush Administration. She’s the left hook to the rightwing Administration’s assault on our civil liberties. She doesn’t flinch from tough topics like torture, and she interviews people other media neglect, such as Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah, a Yemeni national who was a victim of the CIA rendition program. She scrums with the likes of Lou Dobbs. And her coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq goes beyond retired generals and Beltway pundits. Unlike other news programs, anti-war voices get their say on Democracy Now.

She has a missionary zeal and calls journalism “a sacred responsibility.” Goodman started out as a volunteer at WBAI, the Pacifica radio station in New York City. She went on to become WBAI’s news director. She launched Democracy Now as a radio show on the Pacifica network in 1996 and eventually it evolved into a television program.

She’s done her share of international reporting, too. In 1991, Indonesian soldiers beat her bloody and fractured the skull of Allan Nairn in East Timor as they followed a memorial procession. She and Nairn survived the Santa Cruz massacre, though 270 Timorese were killed. Goodman and Nairn were thrown out of the country and produced Massacre: The Story of East Timor, a documentary about the Indonesian and American involvement in the Southeast Asian nation. They won numerous awards for their reporting, including the Robert F. Kennedy Prize for International Reporting, the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award, the Armstrong Award, the Radio/Television News Directors Award, as well as awards from the Associated Press, United Press International, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. She returned to East Timor for live coverage in 2002 when the nation gained its independence.

In 1998, she and then-Democracy Now producer Jeremy Scahill traveled to Nigeria and documented the collusion between Chevron Oil company and the Nigerian Navy’s killing of two local environmental activists and other human rights abuses. Drilling & Killing won George Polk and Project Censored awards.

She is a rock star at places like WORT-FM, the community radio station in Madison, Wisconsin, which broadcasts her program weekdays. WORT is one of the many small stations Goodman visits and lends support to. “Independent media has been the hope for the last few years,” she says.

Reporting runs in the family. With her brother David, she has co-authored two books, Static and Exception to the Rulers. She somehow finds the time to write a weekly syndicated newspaper column.

I met up with Goodman in mid-December in New York City. It was 7 p.m. when I arrived at a locally owned cafe in Hell’s Kitchen. Goodman was in a meeting with her producers.

At fifty, she still dresses like she’s in radio. Wearing black jeans and black sweater, her brown hair showing shades of gray, she lacks the power suits and shiny mane sported by most television anchors.

She ordered a cup of coffee, a chocolate biscotti, and a plate of fruit. She told me she is a procrastinator. If it were up to me, she says, I would put things off until tomorrow. But with the show, when the tape rolls, and the countdown begins, you have to start.

Question: Talking to people who are the target of U.S. foreign policy is a hallmark of your show. How did that happen?

Amy Goodman: We have a special responsibility as American journalists. We live in the most powerful country on Earth. Yet there is probably a level of ignorance about our effect in the rest of the world because the media doesn’t bring it to us. It’s much more difficult for people at the target end to forget, to be oblivious, because they are right there living it every day. We have a responsibility here to understand what it feels like, because we are the ones who are creating that situation, whether we like it or not.

We’re constantly hearing from the small circle of pundits in Washington who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us, and getting it so wrong. Every network is the same. Unfortunately, sometimes public broadcasting sounds the same way.

The United States has the potential to have tremendous power for good. Right now, it just doesn’t have that position. But there are many, many people who make up a pro-democracy movement in this country, just like in other countries, people who really do deeply care. If we want to be safer here, we have to extend those voices to the rest of the world. That’s going to increase our national security.

To Read the Rest of the Interview

Matthew Rothschild: FBI Deputizes Private Contractors With Extraordinary Powers, Including 'Shoot to Kill'

(Courtesy of AlterNet)

FBI Deputizes Private Contractors With Extraordinary Powers, Including 'Shoot to Kill'
By Matthew Rothschild
The Progressive and

The FBI has a new set of eyes and ears, and they're being told to protect their infrastructure at any cost. They can even kill without repercussion.

Today, more than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does—and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials. In return, they provide information to the government, which alarms the ACLU. But there may be more to it than that. One business executive, who showed me his InfraGard card, told me they have permission to “shoot to kill” in the event of martial law.
InfraGard is “a child of the FBI,” says Michael Hershman, the chairman of the advisory board of the InfraGard National Members Alliance and CEO of the Fairfax Group, an international consulting firm.

InfraGard started in Cleveland back in 1996, when the private sector there cooperated with the FBI to investigate cyber threats.

“Then the FBI cloned it,” says Phyllis Schneck, chairman of the board of directors of the InfraGard National Members Alliance, and the prime mover behind the growth of InfraGard over the last several years.

InfraGard itself is still an FBI operation, with FBI agents in each state overseeing the local InfraGard chapters. (There are now eighty-six of them.) The alliance is a nonprofit organization of private sector InfraGard members.

“We are the owners, operators, and experts of our critical infrastructure, from the CEO of a large company in agriculture or high finance to the guy who turns the valve at the water utility,” says Schneck, who by day is the vice president of research integration at Secure Computing.

“At its most basic level, InfraGard is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the private sector,” the InfraGard website states. “InfraGard chapters are geographically linked with FBI Field Office territories.”

In November 2001, InfraGard had around 1,700 members. As of late January, InfraGard had 23,682 members, according to its website,, which adds that “350 of our nation’s Fortune 500 have a representative in InfraGard.”

To join, each person must be sponsored by “an existing InfraGard member, chapter, or partner organization.” The FBI then vets the applicant. On the application form, prospective members are asked which aspect of the critical infrastructure their organization deals with. These include: agriculture, banking and finance, the chemical industry, defense, energy, food, information and telecommunications, law enforcement, public health, and transportation.

FBI Director Robert Mueller addressed an InfraGard convention on August 9, 2005. At that time, the group had less than half as many members as it does today. “To date, there are more than 11,000 members of InfraGard,” he said. “From our perspective that amounts to 11,000 contacts . . . and 11,000 partners in our mission to protect America.” He added a little later, “Those of you in the private sector are the first line of defense.”

He urged InfraGard members to contact the FBI if they “note suspicious activity or an unusual event.” And he said they could sic the FBI on “disgruntled employees who will use knowledge gained on the job against their employers.”

In an interview with InfraGard after the conference, which is featured prominently on the InfraGard members’ website, Mueller says: “It’s a great program.”

The ACLU is not so sanguine.

“There is evidence that InfraGard may be closer to a corporate TIPS program, turning private-sector corporations—some of which may be in a position to observe the activities of millions of individual customers—into surrogate eyes and ears for the FBI,” the ACLU warned in its August 2004 report The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: How the American Government Is Conscripting Businesses and Individuals in the Construction of a Surveillance Society.

InfraGard is not readily accessible to the general public. Its communications with the FBI and Homeland Security are beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act under the “trade secrets” exemption, its website says. And any conversation with the public or the media is supposed to be carefully rehearsed

To Read the Rest of the Report

Context Creates Meaning: The Art of the Film Trailer

(My favorite example was a cowboy I met on my brother's farm out in Eastern Oregon who, when he found out I was a film studies professor, complained about being misled by the trailer for Brokeback Mountain. He thought it was going to be a traditional Western tale and didn't figure it out until about 20 minutes into the film. Have you ever felt you were misled by a film trailer? I once picked up the film "Happiness" to bring back for a friend who was suffering after a break-up. It was advertised as a "comedy" and was in the comedy section of the DVD store! Totally inappropriate for that situation.)


Scary Mary Poppins

Zombie West Side Story

And so wrong, but so good:

Toy Story Requiem

Glengary Glen Ross Romance

Sleepless in Seattle Horror

Courtesy of Alex Needham and his readers


To end this list. I must add my alltime favorite film trailer (it helps that it is easily one of my top ten films). I remember sitting in the front row of the opening night for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and this trailer was shown and I was very intrigued, I knew I had to see it, even though I had no idea what the film was about:

Can You Guess the Film Trailer

and of course, even this masterpiece of a trailer, has been recut

and recut

and again

To the Best of Our Knowledge: To Sprawl or Not To Sprawl

To the Best of Our Knowledge
Host: Steve Paulson
"To Sprawl or Not To Sprawl"

Subdivisions. Industrial Parks. Strip Malls. Gridlock. Sprawl is socially unequal, environmentally irresponsible, and aesthetically ugly. Right? In this hour of To the Best Of Our Knowledge, we'll look at the costs and – YES – the benefits of suburban sprawl. Because maybe, just maybe, sprawl is a good thing.


Joel Hirschhorn is the author of "Sprawl Kills: How Blandburbs. Steal Your Time, Health and Money." He obviously thinks urban sprawl is a terrible idea and tells Steve Paulson all the reasons why.


Robert Bruegmann makes the case for the opposite point of view in his book "Sprawl: A History." He says societies have always grown and ours looks the way it does because suburbs represent the way Americans like to live.

Also, urban sprawl is a staggering problem in China as a result of the on-going Chinese industrial revolution. Photographer Edward Burtynsky traveled to China to document its "Manufactured Landscapes," and film-maker Jennifer Baichwal documented his trip in her film of the same name. Baichwal talks with Steve Paulson about the scale of China's ecological problems and the beauty of Burtynsky's images.


Novelist Tom Perrotta reads from "Little Children" and "The Abstinence Teacher," and talks with Anne Strainchamps about life in the suburbs, where everything is nice, and nobody wants a pedophile to move into the neighborhood.

To Listen to the Episode

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Charles Baudelaire: Be Drunk; Kim Rush: The Frosting Window/Mirror of Literature

Be Drunk

Always be drunk.
That's it!
The great imperative!
In order not to feel
Time's horrid fardel
bruise your shoulders,
grinding you into the earth,
Get drunk and stay that way.
On what?
On wine, poetry, virtue, whatever.
But get drunk.
And if you sometimes happen to wake up
on the porches of a palace,
in the green grass of a ditch,
in the dismal loneliness of your own room,
your drunkenness gone or disappearing,
ask the wind,
the wave,
the star,
the bird,
the clock,
ask everything that flees,
everything that groans
or rolls
or sings,
everything that speaks,
ask what time it is;
and the wind,
the wave,
the star,
the bird,
the clock
will answer you:
"Time to get drunk!
Don't be martyred slaves of Time,
Get drunk!
Stay drunk!
On wine, virtue, poetry, whatever!"

--Charles Baudelaire

Now read Kim Rush's commentary on the poem:

The Frosting Window/Mirror of Literature

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Best Book of 2007; Books Finished in January

Best Book of 2007:

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

A very important road map of the rise and beliefs of our current world order.

Books Finished in January:

The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent. (ed. James Morrow and Kathryn Morrow: USA 2007, Tor Books) 4 stars

A good collection of short stories for those seeking to expand their science fiction reading beyond the english language field. It is obvious that the Morrows are passionate about bringing these authors to a new readership and I commend their efforts in this case. I will use this collection as a guide to increase my international literary experiences. Now, lets hope this is a success, and we can soon see similar collections of authors from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, etc…

Kafka on the Shore (Haruki Murakami: Japan 2002/US 2005, Vintage International) 4 stars

My third Murakami book. It builds steam slowly with its twin narratives, dropping clues, playing with communication genres (government reports, interviews and straight narratives), and slowly introducing magical realist elements (talking cats, doppelganger ghosts, labyrinths/dark-forests, bizarre elementals, philosophical discussions of time and identity). Once the hook was set, though, I settled in and enjoyed the ride. No doubt this book will reverberate in my consciousness for awhile. The character Nakata is one of my all-time favorites.

The Cassini Division (Ken MacLeod: UK 1998/US 1999, Tor Books) 4 stars

I could not put this book down and hungrily devoured it in a few days. MacLeod has an interesting background for a SF writer, BS in Zoology, researcher in Bio-mechanics, MA in philosophy and computer-analyst/programmer. He demonstrates all of these interests in this fast-paced space-faring sociological and political adventure. The story easily hooked me because the main character, Ellen May Ngewthu, is an agent of an anarcho-socialist society and is in a race/struggle against both post-human and anarcho-capitalist societies/worlds. In addition to its space opera feel, the book evokes reflections on sexual, economic, and political relations, while, most importantly, forcing us to think about the nature of “humanity” through the struggles of post-human entities. I’m still wrestling with the political implications of this book, especially the ultimate decisions made by the crew of Ellen’s ship The Terrible Beauty. MacLeod is another example of the innovative Scottish new wave of Science Fiction/Fantasy writers.

The No-Nonsense Guide to Global Media (Peter Steven: London 2003, New Internationalist/Verso) 3 stars
Introduction for the uninitiated. Lots of facts, but very dry and boring.

In Our Time: Socrates

(With apologies to Starrider who despises Socrates :)

Host: Melvin Bragg
In Our Time (BBC)

Of all the names in ancient philosophy, Socrates is one to conjure with. Born in 469 BC into the golden age of the city of Athens, his impact is so profound that all the thinkers who went before are simply known as pre-Socratic.

In person Socrates was deliberately irritating, he was funny and he was rude; he didn’t like democracy very much and spent quite a lot of time in shoe shops. He claimed he was on a mission from God to educate his fellow Athenians but has left us nothing in his own hand because he refused to write anything down.


Angie Hobbs, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Warwick University

David Sedley, Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy at Cambridge University

Paul Millett, Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Cambridge

Listen to the Discussion

In Our Time: The Court of Rudolph II

Host: Melvin Bragg
In Our Time (BBC)

In 1606 the Archdukes of Vienna declared:

“His majesty is interested only in wizards, alchemists, Kabbalists and the like, sparing no expense to find all kinds of treasures, learn secrets and use scandalous ways of harming his enemies…He also has a whole library of magic books. He strives all the time to eliminate God completely so that he may in future serve a different master.”

The subject of this coruscating attack was the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II, and his court at Prague. Rudolf had filled Prague with the wonders of the age – the great paintings of Italy were carried over the Alps, intricate automatons constructed, maps and models of the heavens unfurled and engineered. But Rudolf’s greatest possessions were people - the astronomers Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe, the magus John Dee and the philosopher Giordano Bruno had all found their way to his city. Far from the devilish inquisitor of the archdukes’ imaginations, Rudolf patronised a powerhouse of Renaissance ideas.


Peter Forshaw, Postdoctoral Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London and an Honorary Fellow of the University of Exeter

Howard Hotson, Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Oxford

Adam Mosley, Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Wales, Swansea

To Listen to the Discussion