Sunday, May 31, 2009

On the Media: The Inheritance of Loss

The Inheritance Of Loss
On the Media
Hosts: Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone

It seems like every week a city in America loses its newspaper. We decided to focus on one, Seattle, to find out what happens afterwards. In March, the 146-year-old Seattle Post-Intelligencer shuttered its print edition. We talk to alt-weekly staffers, neighborhood bloggers, online-only reporters, and the editor of the P-I's old rival to find out the shape of Seattle's new media landscape.

To Listen to the Report

Jon Baskin: Death is Not the End - David Foster Wallace's Legacy and His Critics

(This is an excellent essay that has pointed me back to revisiting David Foster Wallace's work.)

Death Is Not the End: David Foster Wallace - His Legacy and his Critics
By Jon Baskin
The Point


The generation of novelists that followed Beckett pursued what may one day be known as a series of incredibly interesting dead ends. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Joyce, Woolf, Stein and Faulkner had developed experimental narrative techniques to explore what they took to be the new facts of human experience. They announced that the fragmented and self-conscious modern subject should be represented by a fragmented and self-conscious prose. Yet by the time Wallace arrived on the scene in the 1980s, writers were turning the techniques developed by the modernists against the idea of the modern subject, as well as most experiences we would conventionally call “human.” For the advanced artists of the 1960s and 70s, alienation was not a subjective experience but a social fact. It was no accident that their hostility to what had formerly been considered the novelist’s chief task—depicting subjective consciousness via the convention of character—had culminated in a “Literature of Exhaustion” charting the imminent death of the novel.

Though he admired John Barth, Don DeLillo and especially Thomas Pynchon, Wallace was critical of what he believed to be two dangerously antiquated aspects of their fiction. Philosophically, he took issue with what had become the habitual postmodern announcement that there were no longer any subjects. Barth, Pynchon, DeLillo—as well as Wallace’s popular contemporaries, Brett Easton Ellis and Mark Leyner—all sought to demonstrate how culture subsumed subjectivity. In place of characters, they presented mechanized or commercially determined automatons. Even the great novels of Pynchon and DeLillo treated subjectivity as at most a product of nostalgia for an epoch past saving. This made for insightful cultural commentary and a fiction so consistently alienating that the alienation itself became familiar. In early interviews and stories, Wallace indicated he would take a different tack. What deserved the novelist’s attention was the persistence of subjectivity, not its extinction. “If you operate, which most of us do, from the premise that there are things about the contemporary U.S. that make it distinctively hard to be a real human being, then maybe half of fiction’s job is to dramatize what it is that makes it tough,” he said in an interview. “The other half is to dramatize the fact that we still ‘are’ human beings, now. Or can be.”

Wallace became the chronicler of a world where it was “tough” to be human, but not impossible. This was the subjective world of his readers, themselves animated by an anxious consciousness of their limitations and contingency. It was an article of faith for him that the educated person still came to serious literature for answers to the desperate questions of existence. If literature’s response was that this person, despite all appearances, no longer existed in any meaningful sense, this was a way of ending a conversation, not starting one. Wallace did not shrink from depicting an inhuman world in his novels, but he returned to the problem of what it felt like to carry on a human life in such a world. This is why it is a mistake to connect his own textual experiments—jump cuts, essayistic digressions, endnotes—with the distancing techniques characteristic of his postmodern predecessors. They are more appropriately linked with Wittgenstein’s language games, deployed to help the author mimic, explore and ultimately expose the confusions of a demographically distinct reader.

Wallace’s second critique was stylistic; rhetorically, too, he believed the advanced writers of his time had fallen into obsolescence. The problem received its clearest expression in the influential 1993 essay-cum-manifesto, “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction.” The thesis of the essay was that a once-subversive postmodern rhetoric predicated on “irony and ridicule” no longer qualified as an appropriate challenge to a culture which had assimilated rebellion, cynicism and irony into its crassest popular forms: game shows, Pepsi ads, Married With Children. It was up to artists, Wallace believed, to offer counsel on questions of judgment, emotion and truth. Most troubling was the possibility that his contemporaries were failing at this task, instead contributing unwittingly to the ruling obsession with hip nihilism, “value-neutral” morality and an essentially ironic response to life’s challenges. The essay concluded with Wallace’s memorable vision of what would count as truly counter-cultural art. In contrast to “the old postmodern insurgents [who] risked the gasp and squeal: shock, disgust, outrage, censorship … the next real literary ‘rebels’… might be artists willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the ‘Oh how banal’.”

While “E Unibus Pluram” inspired an assortment of earnest millennial fiction, (most of it published in McSweeney’s), critics like Michiko Kakutani, A.O. Scott and Walter Kirn would later chastise Wallace from precisely what they considered to be the essay’s point of view. They pointed out that his fiction—including Girl With Curious Hair, the collection of short stories he had published two years prior—contained plenty of irony and cynicism, not to mention a battery of pop references and authorial interruptions. In fact, neither Girl nor any of Wallace’s mature writing was at odds with the argument in “E Unibus Pluram,” which most critics seemed to have stopped reading halfway through. Wallace believed irony and ridicule had to be recognized as regnant, and potentially destructive, American norms. But since American literature “tends to be about U.S. culture and the people who inhabit it,” the contemporary writer had to acknowledge those norms in and through his fiction. Wallace might have wanted to tackle the fundamental questions head-on, like Dostoevsky—he even expressed such a desire in a late essay. The cultured postmodern reader, however, was programmed to tune out forms of address that did not rise to a certain level of self-consciousness or sophistication. It was neither possible nor desirable for contemporary fiction to eschew the ironic entirely, although there might, Wallace hinted, emerge a writer who recognized it as a means rather than an end.

The broader ambition of Wallace’s early stories was to explore how it felt to live in the world of Jeopardy, The David Letterman Show, McDonald’s, The Sot-Weed Factor, Gravity’s Rainbow and White Noise. And how it felt was: lonely. The opening story in Girl takes place on the set of Jeopardy, where one of the producers intones about “these lonely or somehow disturbed people who’ve had only the TV all their lives.” The collection’s concluding novella, “Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way,” concerns three young adults, all consumers of literary fiction, and all incapable of carrying on significant conversations with anyone but themselves. No less “lonely or somehow disturbed” than the TV-watchers, the aspiring intellectuals are the distressed products of what Wallace clearly considered irresponsible or immoral art. One is “fascinated with the misdirecting pose of bloodless abstraction.” Another thinks: “To be a Subject is to be Alone. Trapped. Kept from yourself”; the third that “cynicism and naïveté are mutually exclusive.” For Wallace, these characters are deluded by a false theory—what Wittgenstein would have called a “picture.” According to the theory, the authentic contemporary subject, just like the real artist, sacrifices sincerity and fellow feeling for the deeper truths of abstraction, alienation and cynicism.

The artist cannot afford to be deceived about the nature of his historical moment. Given the dialectic of escapism and conformity that had characterized mid-century popular culture, ironic alienation may have once qualified as an appropriate artistic strategy. The children of what Wallace once called “probably the single most self-absorbed generation since Louis XIV” faced new and opposite “horrors.” Chief among them: “anomie and solipsism and a peculiarly American loneliness: the prospect of dying without once having loved something more than yourself.” Alienation was for these Americans a way of life, not a confrontational art form. The writer for this generation would have to know his readers well enough to detain them with the appropriate challenge. The challenge would also be the therapy. The novel for our times would compel its reader to confront the limitations of his intellectual commitments.


To Read the Whole Essay

Also check out:

Andy Battaglia on David Foster Wallace books

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Open Source: James Carroll - Practicing "Americanist" Catholic

James Carroll: Practicing “Americanist” Catholic
Open Source with Christopher Lydon


“Americanist” — meaning: stamped with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s individualism and universal in-dwelling spirit. Embodied in the Boston priest of JFK’s inaugural, Richard Cardinal Cushing, who was moved by his love of his sister’s Jewish husband, Dick Pearlstein, to bury the old Roman boast that there was “no salvation outside the church.” Jim Carroll’s Americanist piety moves in a zone between, on one hand, our overtly secular national culture and, on the other, the anti-modern, anti-democratic European church tradition that Pope Benedict XVI seems to be reviving.

To Listen/Read

Riki "Garfunkel" Lindhome and Kate "Oates" Micucci: Sex With Ducks

Courtesy of AlterNet

Mark Engler: Science Fiction From Below: Alex Rivera, director of the new film Sleep Dealer, imagines the future of the Global South

Science Fiction From Below: Alex Rivera, director of the new film Sleep Dealer, imagines the future of the Global South.
by Mark Engler


M.E.: How do you describe your film?

A.R.: Sleep Dealer is a science fiction thriller that takes a look at the future from a perspective that we've never seen before in science fiction. We've seen the future of Los Angeles, in Blade Runner. We've seen the future of Washington, D.C., in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report. We've seen London and Chicago. But we've never seen the places where the great majority of humanity actually lives. Those are in the global South. We've never seen Mexico; we've never seen Brazil; we've never seen India. We've never seen that future on film before.

M.E.: Your main character, Memo Cruz, is from rural Mexico, from Oaxaca. In many ways, the village that we see on film is very similar to many poor, remote communities today. It doesn't necessarily look like how we think about the future at all. What was your conception of how economic globalization would affect communities like these?

A.R.: One of the things that fascinates me about the genre is that, explicitly or not, science fiction is always partly about development theory. So when Spielberg shows us Washington, DC with 15-lane traffic flowing all around the city, he's putting forward a certain vision of development.

Sleep Dealer starts in Oaxaca, and to think about the future of Oaxaca, you have to think about how so-called "development" has been happening there and where might it go. And it's not superhighways and skyscrapers. That would be ridiculous. So, in the vision I put forward, most of the landscape remains the same. The buildings look older. Most of the streets still aren't paved. And yet there are these tendrils of technology that have infiltrated the environment. So instead of an old-fashioned TV, there is a high-definition TV. Instead of a calling booth like they have today in Mexican villages, where people call their relatives who are far away, in this future there is a video-calling booth. There's the presence of a North American corporation that has privatized the water and that uses technology to control the water supply. There are remote cameras with guns mounted on them and drones that do surveillance over the area.

The vision of Oaxaca in the future and of the South in the future is a kind of collage, where there are still elements that look ancient, there is still infrastructure that looks older even than it does today, and yet there are little capillaries of high technology that pulse through the environment.

ME: How far into the future did you set the film?

A.R.: I started working on the ideas in Sleep Dealer ten years ago, and at that point I thought I was writing about a future that was forty or fifty years away, or maybe a future that might not ever happen. Over this past decade, though, the world has rapidly caught up with a lot of the fantasy nightmares in the film. That's been an interesting process.

But, you know, a lot of times we use the word "futuristic" to describe things that are kind of explosions of capital, like skyscrapers or futuristic cities. We do not think of a cornfield as futuristic, even though that has as much to do with the future as does the shimmering skyscraper.

To Read the Rest of the Interview

Benjamin Barber: Totalitarian Consumerism and the Death of Citizenship

Totalitarian Consumerism and the Death of Citizenship
Benjamin Barber, president of CivWorld and Professor of Civil Society at the University of Maryland
UChannel (Princeton University)

(Oct 12, 2007 at the Hertie School of Governance)

Benjamin Barber, political theorist and guest professor at the Hertie School of Governance was invited by the Hertie School of Governance (HSoG) and the American Academy to give a special lecture on Oct. 12. Benjamin Barber presented provocative theses from his latest book Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults and Swallow Citizens for the first time to a German audience. Among the 100 listeners were the former president of the German Bundestag Rita Süßmuth and the founder of Transparency International, Peter Eigen.

Barber's lecture at the Hertie School of Governance was based on the theory that citizenship and democracy are being undermined by a global consumer wave. Barber makes the case that Germany and Europe are right behind the US in yielding to this new consumerist totalitarian temptation.

Barber's lecture was followed by a controversial and interesting discussion developed between Barber and the audience, which was continued informally over the course of the evening.

Benjamin Barber is Professor of Civil Society and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, as well as president and director of the international NGO CivWorld, and senior fellow at Demos. An internationally renowned political theorist, Dr. Barber brings an abiding concern for democracy and citizenship to issues of politics, culture and education in America and abroad. He has served as a consultant to various political and civic leaders in the United States and around the world, including Bill Clinton and Roman Herzog. Currently Benjamin Barber is guest professor at the Hertie School of Governance.

Benjamin Barber has published 18 books including Strong Democracy and the international bestselling Jihad vs. McWorld, all of which are also published in German editions.

Barber's honours include a knighthood (Palmes Academiques/Chevalier) from the French Government (2001), the Berlin Prize of the American Academy (2001), and the John Dewey Award (2003). In 2002, he spent a semester as the DaimlerChrysler Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.

To Watch/Listen


Bill Moyer's Crisis in Capitalism; Ben Barber asks "Global Consumer or Global Citizen?"; Naomi Klein's Brilliant History The Shock Doctrine

Truthdig: U.S. Citizens Detained and Deported by Immigration

U.S. Citizens Detained and Deported by Immigration

In its zeal to crack down on illegal immigration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is detaining and deporting American citizens. The Center for Investigative Reporting’s Andrew Becker talks about his investigation into this disturbing trend.

To Listen to the Episode (MP3)

Radio West: Rick Perlstein - Nixonland

Radio West (KUER/The University of Utah)
Host: Doug Fabrizio

The writer Rick Perlstein says that American culture and politics "were forged in blood and fire." In 1964, the Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson won a land-slide victory over Barry Goldwater - an election that seemed to herald America's liberalism. But a mere eight years later, the tides had turned and Republican Richard Nixon held the presidency with a similarly large margin.

To Listen to the Episode

Open Source: Waltz with Bashir (Israel: Ari Folman, 2008) - The Art Director’s Cut at War

“Waltz with Bashir”: the Art Director’s Cut at War
Host: Chris Lydon
Guests: David Polonsky, James Der Derian, Amy Kravitz and Keith Brown.
Open Source

On the one hand, the defamiliarization of animation allows you initially to take some distance from the story. But at some point (I think it has to do with the way that the brain visually assimilates information) the filter or the rational distancing fell by the wayside. I felt like it was almost directly accessing a part of the brain, because after all, the brain, through evolution, processes visual images first in a primal way and then the images go up to the language center, which is actually a much smaller part of our brain.

Watching “Waltz With Bashir,” you almost got into some primal, visual — I am going to call it — the truth center. So I found the film much more disturbing and harder to understand in a kind of removed, intellectual way, than if it had been a straight frame that I am more familiar with, which is documentary film or Hollywood war blockbusters. I think that is why it came back into our nightmares.

We all know what Marx said about the unconsciousness of the past: that it weighs on us like a nightmare. That somehow triggered all kinds of past memories about war in my own family history. So I think it was remarkable how the film was able to achieve that kind of new channeling of a part of the brain that is not normally a part of film watching, film spectating.

James Der Derian in Open Source conversation with David Polonsky at the Watson Institute, April 15, 2009.

To Listen/Read the Conversation

Left Field Cinema: Before the Devil Knows Your Dead (US/UK: Sydney Lumet, 2007)

Before the Devil Knows Your Dead
by Mike Dawson
Left Field Cinema

... to understand Lumet, one must look fifty-years in the past to his first and possibly greatest feature film, 12 Angry Men, this simple classic about a jury member trying to convince the other eleven that the case isn’t as simple as they might assume, during deliberation about the innocence or guilt of a man charged with murder. Based on a stage play and set entirely in the jury room, this is a classic in the truest sense of the word. It is powerful and intense as it deals with the other juror’s prejudices towards the defendant and each other. A remarkable debut which sets Lumet up for his position in this list without ever having to make another film, but he certainly didn’t stop there. Lumet’s talent is retrieving powerful and often naturalistic performances from all of his cast, once quoted as saying “there are no small parts, only small actors” his beliefs in production often centre around this ideal. He does a lot of work, and most of it has faded into obscurity, some of it is mediocre, some films are simply flawed beyond redemption, however for all of his less known works, he still has a significant portion of outstanding films to name, films that any director would burst with pride if they could claim as their own. After 12 Angry Men, the next major work is Fail-Safe a politically relevant story about an American bomber sent to Moscow by mistake, it is a powerful film, and during the climate of the cold war, it was an extremely frightening concept. But like so many film makers, the 1970’s would be his most important decade, like Woody Allen, Lumet is obsessed with his beloved New York and it would be the setting for three of his most important films. Starting with Serpico and the first collaboration with Al Pacino the film is based on a real life story of an honest cop in the NYPD, starting with Serpico being shot and then rewinding to give us the young police officers rise and fall. It is brutal, and honest, doesn’t canonise or demonise the protagonist it paints a balanced picture, and shows the difficulty in remaining honest in a world of corruption. There are no rewards for taking the righteous path, and only punishment for shunning the alternative. Dog Day Afternoon was his second film with Pacino, retaining the intensity, naturalistic performances, and realistic portrayals of heightened situations. Dog Day Afternoon again gives the audience no easy way out of the situation. A very gritty view of 1970’s New York unflinching in its realism. Pacino’s character Sonny, is revealed to be homosexual, and stealing the money from a small bank to pay for his lover to have a sex change. This film was completely ahead of its time, and yet also tapped into a rebellious mindset which was true of the New Yorkers at the time. Lumet often steers clear of non-diagetic sound and it is in Dog Day Afternoon that this is put to its best use, with a film so tense and engaging that not only does the audience not require any music to dictate their emotion, but the audience doesn’t notice its absence until the end credits roll in eerie silence. Network is Lumet’s next masterpiece, an astounding achievement which is more relevant in today’s culture of reality television, and the exploitive nature of the medium which is often overwhelmed by an endemic sense of greed. Cynical and powerful it is a damning condemnation of films sister industry. Some would maintain that Network marks the end of Lumet’s run of classics through the 70’s, but his last great film came a decade later with Running on Empty in 1988 a restrained and powerful film, staring River Phoenix as the son of two fugitives from the FBI, it is sentimental in the best possible way, examining the growing pains of the young man who is not allowed to settle in one place or form any meaningful relationships. Running on Empty isn’t as well known, but is just as worthy of examination. Other later films like 1997’s Night Falls on Manhattan are also worth watching, but nothing to match the sheer power of his earlier work.

To Read the Rest of the Analysis

Friday, May 29, 2009

Scott Tobias: Team America: World Police (USA: Trey Parker and Matt Stone, 2004)

Team America: World Police
by Scott Tobias
A.V. Club

“Freedom isn’t free / No, there’s a hefty fucking fee.” —Team America: World Police


So what have you got in 2004, when Parker and Stone made the bold/crazy decision to make a feature film populated almost entirely by marionettes? You’ve got an America that had squandered vast reserves of global sympathy after 9/11, tackled terrorism with chest-thumping unilateralism, and allowed the likes of Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay to vulgarize history with a little movie called Pearl Harbor. You’ve also got crusading celebrity peaceniks, networks of evildoers seeking weapons of mass destruction, and a ronery North Korean dictator craving attention from other nations like a petulant 10-year-old. Throw all those ingredients in the pot, and you get the lumpy stew that is Team America: World Police, a catch-as-catch-can satire in the Parker/Stone tradition—meaning it’s cutting, politically incorrect, juvenile in ways both sublime and stupid, and sometimes misguided and genuinely risible. One major plus: The songs are great enough to hold the whole shambling operation together.

The first thing that stands out about Team America is the look of the film, pilfered from the “Supermarionation” of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s mid-’60s British TV show Thunderbirds. What’s particularly striking—and what tends to go unrecognized due to the natural awkwardness of puppetry with visible strings—is how beautiful the film looks, particularly in light of the deliberate shoddiness of Parker/Stone collaborations past. The photographer, Bill Pope, was just coming off the Matrix trilogy, and through his lens, the lovingly detailed environments come off like the greatest toy playsets a child could imagine. Sets like Paris, with its lush diorama of the city in miniature, or Kim Jong Il’s palace, with its ornate monuments to the diabolical narcissist himself, are gorgeous to behold, even though Parker and Stone seem intent on blowing up every last one of them. The marionettes also allow them to do for live-action what they get away with more easily in animation: demonstrate a deeply cynical, grossly oversimplified worldview by reducing characters to the most basic stereotypes. When you’re dealing with flesh-and-blood actors, people tend to call you on stuff like that.

Say this for Team America, though: The first 30 minutes or so are virtually non-stop brilliance, connecting the country’s “America, Fuck Yeah!” heavy-handedness to the garish spectacle of a Bruckheimer production. The late director Robert Altman got in some trouble after 9/11 for blaming Hollywood’s violent exports in part for inspiring such an attack, but while that claim seems tenuous, there’s a disturbing association between the destruction we present as entertainment and the destruction we reap and sow around the world. In the early going, Team America plays out like the self-conscious movie version of the War On Terror: Whenever the conspicuous Osama bin Laden look-alikes are onscreen, we hear the mournful Middle Eastern music cues of every terrorist-themed action movie of the past decade; before an all-American hero strikes down an enemy fighter, she’s ready with a canned one-liner (“Hey, terrorist: Terrorize this!”); and no famous monument or landmark is safe from demolition.

Parker and Stone make hay out of what Robert McNamara, in The Fog Of War, talked about as the perils of a disproportional response. Instead of doing scalpel-worthy work by disrupting terrorist networks, the shock-and-awe of the American military comes down like a club. In the opening sequence in Paris, the elite unit known as Team America takes down a handful of terrorists (“You in the robe, put down the weapon of mass destruction!”), but their errant missiles also lay waste to the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre. Then later, when they copter into a crowded bazaar in Egypt—where the pyramids and the Sphinx will also see damage—they land square on top of a merchant’s stand. “Fear not, Muslim friends,” they say. “We’re here to find terrorists.” And probably make a few as well.

Between the freewheeling digs at American solipsism (title card: “Paris, France; 3635 miles east of America”), the base language about why we’re at war (“They’re called terrorists, Gary, and they hate everything about you”), and inspired potshots at the musical Rent, Team America gets around to telling something resembling a story—cobbled together, of course, from bits and pieces of Bruckheimer movies past, especially Top Gun and Armageddon. The naïve hero is blue-eyed Gary, recruited from Broadway for the acting skills Team America needs to infiltrate a terrorist network. Even after meeting a crack unit of patriots—like former Nebraska all-star quarterback Joe, or Chris, “the best martial artist Detroit has to offer”—Gary is reluctant to answer the call to service.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Shotgun and Paintbrush -- Acker interviews Burroughs

Shotgun and Paintbrush: Acker interviews Burroughs
by David Forbes

Here is one of the holy grails of interviews, with visionary writer Kathy Acker quizzing the legendary William Burroughs.

They talk about many things: Word as Virus, Scientology, Jesus and the legion of apocryphal stories that followed Burroughs around like carrion crows. This took place in the late ’80s, and both had less than a decade to live, passing away within a few months of each other in 1997. We will not see their like again.

A particularly telling moment, at least to my eyes, comes early on when Burroughs talks about the power of “shotgun” methods — the cut-up method in writing or a spray blast in painting — that introduce a random factor. Yet at the same time, they don’t take away the importance of “careful brushwork.”

To read the Rest of the Interview and To Watch the Interview

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Han Shan: The Video Shell Oil Desperately Doesn't Want You to See


KEXP: Music That Matters

One of my favorite music podcasts these days is Seattle radio station KEXP's Music That Matters Podcast... I'll link their blog (which archives infrequently and not always effectively), so I recommend you get it through a podcast subscriber to make sure you get all of the shows as they are released and, if the mood strikes you, you can burn a copy for repeat listening.

The two shows I listened to tonight (and burned):

John Richards hosts Music That Fucking Matters Vol. 30, the first in a series of podcasts featuring music that John would like to share with listeners, but cannot play due to FCC regulation against profanity on the airwaves.
1. Slam Suzanne - I Like To Say Fuck
2. Brazilian Girls - Sexy Asshole
3. Darc Mind - I'm Ill
4. Thom Yorke - Black Swan
5. A.R.E. Weapons - Fuck You Pay Me
6. Thee Emergency - Get It Up
7. The Gits - Here's To Your Fuck
8. Partman Parthorse - Don't Fuck With the Horse
9. Moto - I Hate My Fucking Job
10. The Trucks - Titties
11. The Grates - Inside/Outside
12. The Heavy Hearts - Spit When You Say My Name
13. Viva Voce - We Do Not Fuck Around

Cheryl Waters picks up the pace as she gathers her favorite songs that have come out recently, including a bunch of locals acts like Telekinesis and The Ironclads, blistering tracks from Elliott Brood and Chuck Prophet, and upbeat tunes from BrakesBrakesBrakes, The Thermals, Obits, and more!

1. Neko Case - People Got a Lotta Nerve
2. The Ironclads - Step to the Sea
3. Navigator vs. Navigator - Old Time Radio
4. White Rabbits - Percussion Gun
5. Phoenix - Lisztomania
6. Man Plus - 911
7. Elliott Brood - Fingers and Tongues
8. BrakesBrakesBrakes - Crush On You
9. Telekinesis - Great Lakes
10. Harlem Shakes - Sunlight
11. The Thermals - Now We Can See
12. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Cold Spring
13. Dan Deacon - Paddling Ghost
14. Obits - Pine On
15. Handsome Furs - I'm Confused
16. Parts and Labor - Nowheres Nigh
17. Buraka Som Sistema - Sound of Kuduro feat. DJ Znobia, M.I.A., Puto Prata
18. Chuck Prophet - A Woman's Voice (LIVE ON KEXP)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kevin Kelly: The New Socialism - Global Collectivist Society Is Coming Online

The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society Is Coming Online
by Kevin Kelly

Bill Gates once derided open source advocates with the worst epithet a capitalist can muster. These folks, he said, were a "new modern-day sort of communists," a malevolent force bent on destroying the monopolistic incentive that helps support the American dream. Gates was wrong: Open source zealots are more likely to be libertarians than commie pinkos. Yet there is some truth to his allegation. The frantic global rush to connect everyone to everyone, all the time, is quietly giving rise to a revised version of socialism.

Communal aspects of digital culture run deep and wide. Wikipedia is just one remarkable example of an emerging collectivism—and not just Wikipedia but wikiness at large. Ward Cunningham, who invented the first collaborative Web page in 1994, tracks nearly 150 wiki engines today, each powering myriad sites. Wetpaint, launched just three years ago, hosts more than 1 million communal efforts. Widespread adoption of the share-friendly Creative Commons alternative copyright license and the rise of ubiquitous file-sharing are two more steps in this shift. Mushrooming collaborative sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, the Hype Machine, and Twine have added weight to this great upheaval. Nearly every day another startup proudly heralds a new way to harness community action. These developments suggest a steady move toward a sort of socialism uniquely tuned for a networked world.

We're not talking about your grandfather's socialism. In fact, there is a long list of past movements this new socialism is not. It is not class warfare. It is not anti-American; indeed, digital socialism may be the newest American innovation. While old-school socialism was an arm of the state, digital socialism is socialism without the state. This new brand of socialism currently operates in the realm of culture and economics, rather than government—for now.

The type of communism with which Gates hoped to tar the creators of Linux was born in an era of enforced borders, centralized communications, and top-heavy industrial processes. Those constraints gave rise to a type of collective ownership that replaced the brilliant chaos of a free market with scientific five-year plans devised by an all-powerful politburo. This political operating system failed, to put it mildly. However, unlike those older strains of red-flag socialism, the new socialism runs over a borderless Internet, through a tightly integrated global economy. It is designed to heighten individual autonomy and thwart centralization. It is decentralization extreme.

Instead of gathering on collective farms, we gather in collective worlds. Instead of state factories, we have desktop factories connected to virtual co-ops. Instead of sharing drill bits, picks, and shovels, we share apps, scripts, and APIs. Instead of faceless politburos, we have faceless meritocracies, where the only thing that matters is getting things done. Instead of national production, we have peer production. Instead of government rations and subsidies, we have a bounty of free goods.

I recognize that the word socialism is bound to make many readers twitch. It carries tremendous cultural baggage, as do the related terms communal, communitarian, and collective. I use socialism because technically it is the best word to indicate a range of technologies that rely for their power on social interactions. Broadly, collective action is what Web sites and Net-connected apps generate when they harness input from the global audience. Of course, there's rhetorical danger in lumping so many types of organization under such an inflammatory heading. But there are no unsoiled terms available, so we might as well redeem this one.

When masses of people who own the means of production work toward a common goal and share their products in common, when they contribute labor without wages and enjoy the fruits free of charge, it's not unreasonable to call that socialism.

In the late '90s, activist, provocateur, and aging hippy John Barlow began calling this drift, somewhat tongue in cheek, "dot-communism." He defined it as a "workforce composed entirely of free agents," a decentralized gift or barter economy where there is no property and where technological architecture defines the political space. He was right on the virtual money. But there is one way in which socialism is the wrong word for what is happening: It is not an ideology. It demands no rigid creed. Rather, it is a spectrum of attitudes, techniques, and tools that promote collaboration, sharing, aggregation, coordination, ad hocracy, and a host of other newly enabled types of social cooperation. It is a design frontier and a particularly fertile space for innovation.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Matt Zoller Seitz: Vulcan - The Soul of Spock

(I saw the new Star Trek film last night and I think it is a good reboot. I'm sure purists are upset about this move, but hey, really, after the various alter reality narratives in this multi-textual, multi-modal franchise, it makes sense to me. Seitz, in anticipation of the new film, gives us this in-depth character analysis of one of my favorite fictional characters.)

Vulcan: The Soul of Spock
by Matt Zoller Seitz
The L Magazine


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Obnubilate





: becloud, obscure

Example Sentence

"The essays include a significant amount of digression and extra commentary, all of which tends to obnubilate the author's main point."


The meaning of "obnubilate" becomes clearer when you know that its ancestors are the Latin terms "ob-" (meaning "in the way") and "nubes" ("cloud"). It's a high-flown sounding word, which may be why it often turns up in texts by and about politicians. In fact, when the U.S. Constitution was up for ratification, 18th-century Pennsylvania statesman James Wilson used it to calm fears that the president would have too much power: "Our first executive magistrate is not obnubilated behind the mysterious obscurity of counsellors. . . . He is the dignified, but accountable magistrate of a free and great people."

Jordan Flaherty: How 2-Cent Uses Media as Weapon -- New Orleans for Sale

How 2-Cent Uses Media as Weapon: New Orleans for Sale

The video grabs your attention immediately. Young people in the Lower Ninth Ward hold up signs that read: “looter,” “we’re still here,” and “America did this.” Amid empty lots and damaged houses, poet Nik Richard delivers this message: “Hurricane Katrina was the biggest national disaster to hit American soil, and nearly two years later, this area is still devastated. But you know what? We made sure we preserved it strictly for your tourism. For about $75, you can take one of these many tour buses.”

Tourists drive by and people with cameras gawk. Richard looks directly at the camera and says, “It looks like there’s more money to be paid in devastation than regeneration. If y’all keep paying your money to see it, should we rebuild it?”

The short film New Orleans For Sale, which has garnered several awards, was made by 2-Cent Entertainment, a group of young Black media makers in New Orleans. The group, which currently has 10 members, made New Orleans for Sale to convey the frustration felt by many New Orleanians as the city has become a national spectacle and a backdrop for countless national politicians, while the aid the city needs to rebuild still hasn’t arrived. In 2008, the film won several awards including an NAACP image award in a competition, called Film Your Issue, which featured a high-powered jury with the likes of news anchor Tom Brokaw and media executives from MTV Networks, Lionsgate Entertainment and USA Today.

But for 2-Cent, the praise of the corporate media is beside the point. The collective's target audience is their community. Working at the intersection of art and justice, as well as entertainment and enlightenment, 2-Cent has attracted a wide and growing audience. In New Orleans, they’ve also collaborated with the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund, produced shows on local television and radio stations, and created mix CDs and scores of short videos. Beyond creating inspiring programming, 2-Cent members also seek to pass their skills onto the next generation, and have taught and presented their work and in New Orleans high schools and colleges.

“Huey Newton said the young people always inherit the revolution,” says Brandan “B-Mike” Odums, 2-Cent’s founder. “And that’s what 2-Cent is, it’s how our generation responded to that call.”

Positive Images

The collective formed in 2004, when Odums gathered a group of friends (most of them fellow students at the University of New Orleans) to produce a TV show with a message.

“A lot of TV promotes a monolithic way of thinking, saying there’s only one way to be, or promoting ignorance as cool,” says Odums. “We say it’s hot to stand up for yourself and speak for yourself.”

The group was still newly formed when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, and in the aftermath of the storm, with 2-Cent members spread across the United States, they nearly disbanded. “Katrina made us realize that this is what we want,” says Odums. “We’d done two episodes before the storm. Everybody was scattered. Katrina forced us to make the decision.”

The collective briefly relocated together to Atlanta, then made the decision together to return to New Orleans.

Kevin Griffin, another of the founding members of 2-Cent, joined because he shares Odum’s desire to change the images and messages delivered to today’s youth. “We were seeing the images that BET and others were putting out,” Griffin says. “And we wanted to do something different, more positive.”

Griffin is not just a media activist; he is also one of the leaders of a citywide movement spearheaded by the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, an organization whose mission is to close the Youth Studies Center, the city’s youth prison. The group has led campaigns to shut down other youth prisons around the state including the notorious youth prison in Tallulah, Louisiana, and they are also working to create more options for young people beyond jail.

To Read the Rest of the Article

Landmark Trial Set to Begin Over Shell’s Role in 1995 Execution of Nigerian Human Rights Activist Ken Saro-Wiwa; “The True Cost of Chevron"

Shell on Trial: Landmark Trial Set to Begin Over Shell’s Role in 1995 Execution of Nigerian Human Rights Activist Ken Saro-Wiwa
Democracy Now
Host: Amy Goodman

A landmark trial against oil giant Royal Dutch Shell’s alleged involvement in human rights violations in the Niger Delta begins this Wednesday in a federal court in New York. Fourteen years after the widely condemned execution of the acclaimed Nigerian writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, the court will hear allegations that Shell was complicit in his torture and execution.

To Watch/Listen/Read

Antonia Juhasz on “The True Cost of Chevron: An Alternative Annual Report”
Democracy Now
Host: Amy Goodman

Now Chevron’s annual report reports that 2008 was the company’s most profitable year in history. Just ahead of Chevron’s shareholder meeting, a new report released today tells shareholders more about the hidden and underreported costs of these profits. The alternative annual report is called “The True Cost of Chevron.” It brings together stories from communities across the world—Angola, Burma, Canada, Chad, Cameroon, Ecuador, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the Philippines and the United States—all directly affected by and in struggle against Chevron’s operations. We speak to the report’s author and James Craig, media adviser for Latin America for Chevron.

To Watch/Listen/Read

Democracy Now: Conservative Historian Andrew Bacevich Warns Against Obama’s Escalation of War in Afghanistan and Intensifying Use of Air Power ...

Conservative Historian Andrew Bacevich Warns Against Obama’s Escalation of War in Afghanistan and Intensifying Use of Air Power in Region
Democracy Now (May 11, 2009)
Host: Amy Goodman

Less than a week after US air strikes killed over a hundred Afghan civilians, President Obama’s top security adviser, General James Jones, said Sunday that the US will continue its strikes in Afghanistan, despite sharp criticism about rising civilian casualties from Afghan President Hamid Karzai. We speak to Boston University professor and retired military colonel Andrew Bacevich about why Obama’s plans in Afghanistan and Pakistan are counterproductive.

Andrew Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University. He’s a conservative historian and a Vietnam War veteran who spent twenty-three years serving in the US Army before he retired as a colonel. He is the author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War and, most recently, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, which is just out in paperback.

To Watch/Listen/Read

Flobots: Rise

Politics of Culture: Barrack 18

Barrack 18
Politics of Culture (KCRW: Santa Monica College)

During World War II, some one hundred Jewish prisoners counterfeited cash for the Third Reich, despite the knowledge that they would be killed when their work was done. Barrack 18 is the true story of these prisoners and the counterfeited currency that was used by the Nazis to pay for German spies during World War II. Produced exclusively for KCRW by Jon Kalish.

To Listen to the Episode

Monday, May 25, 2009

Honoring Our Veterans on Memorial Day: We Must Repair Our Social Compact with Our Troops

(The constant stream of recruiters from the various branches of the military at my college fail to provide these statistics. What I never see reported is that this is a continuing example of worker exploitation and this should be a major labor issue. Courtesy of AlterNet)

Honoring Our Veterans on Memorial Day: We Must Repair Our Social Compact with Our Troops
Center for American Progress


Who are our veterans?

Approximately 25 million veterans are currently living in the United States.

More than 1.8 million U.S. troops have been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq since October 2001.

Approximately 37 million Americans are dependents (spouses and dependent children) of living veterans or survivors of deceased veterans. This represents about 20 percent of the U.S. population.
Mental health problems

338,000 or almost one in five Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are experiencing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, or major depression as of January 2009.

Yet only 53 percent suffering from PTSD or major depression have seen a physician or mental health provider.

357,000 or about one in five Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have experienced a traumatic brain injury as of January 2009.

Yet only 46 percent who experienced a mild traumatic brain injury were screened for a concussion.

Less than half of veterans who suffer from psychological and neurological injuries are receiving sufficient treatment.

Every day, five U.S. soldiers try to kill themselves. Before the Iraq war began, that figure was less than one suicide attempt a day.

At least 7,400 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been treated at a Veterans Administration hospital for drug addiction, and at least 27,000 have been diagnosed with “nondependent use of drugs.”

VA hospitals have diagnosed 16,200 new veterans with alcohol dependence syndrome.

2,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have so far received help from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ homeless outreach program.

154,000 veterans were homeless on any given night in 2007, and 300,000 were homeless at some point during that year.

One-third of homeless Americans are veterans, even though only one-tenth of all adults are veterans.

11 percent of homeless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are women, and 23 percent of the women in the VA’s homelessness programs have young children.
The housing crisis

8 percent of service members spend more than half of their income on housing.

Foreclosure rates in military towns were increasing at four times the national average in last year.
Unemployment and low wages

Over 8 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were unemployed in 2007, which at the time was two percentage points higher than the rest of the adult population.

61 percent of employers in a 2007 survey said they don’t have “a complete understanding of the qualifications ex-service-members offer.”

More than 75 percent of veterans report “an inability to effectively translate their military skills to civilian terms.”

Service members who have recently returned home earn almost $10,000 less per year on average than other college-educated adults.


To Read the Entire Report and Access More Resources

Open Source with Christopher Lydon: Angles on Empire with Catherine Lutz and James Der Derian

Angles on Empire: Book Week at Brown
Open Source with Christopher Lydon

We’re taking two fresh measures here of the United States as military colossus — in two new books from the Watson Institute this spring. Two common points here: you won’t forget these perspectives once you’ve taken in the view; and you won’t see them anytime soon on page one of the New York Times. One is about our military real estate: 900-plus US military bases around the world — many of them toxic, more and more of them under local protest. The other is about the cultural process of war: the technology, media, narrative story line, TV and digital graphics of military power into the 21st Century. The anthropologist Catherine Lutz edited The Bases of Empire: The Global Struggle Against U.S. Military Posts. Political theorist James Der Derian wrote Virtuous War: Mapping the Military-Industrial Media-Entertainment Network.

To Listen to the Conversation and to Access More Resources

Bookworm: Jonathan Carroll -- The Ghost in Love (2008)

Jonathan Carroll -- The Ghost in Love
Bookworm (KCRW: Santa Monica College)
Host: Michael Silverblatt

Although he would never want us to say so, Jonathan Carroll's novels are like metaphysical self-help books for the supernaturally inclined. In this conversation, he talks about life, death, and the difference between them—and other much more joyful subjects.

To Listen to the Interview and Read an Excerpt from the Book

Left Field Cinema: World Cinema Masterpiece -- L'Atalante (France: Jean Vigo, 1934)

World Cinema Masterpiece: L'Atalante
by Mike Dawson
Left Field Cinema

Much has been written and spoken about this film in the many decades since Jean Vigo’s short but fruitful career came to an abrupt end. A French director who’s complete cannon of work includes three short films and one feature all made in the 1930’s. Given the quality of this work, had the man lived beyond his twenty-nine years he would have quite possibly delivered a substantial number of films which we would have come to consider classics. The cynic amongst us might argue that Vigo’s status is in fact due to his untimely death not in spite of it, and had tuberculosis not taken him, then he wouldn’t be remembered in such a rose tinted light. For the cynics there is simply one thing left to do – watch L’Atalante. Any debate as to the films value is rendered null and void, whether you enjoy the film or not its qualities are difficult to deny.

The film is a lyrical and romantic story of a pair of young newly weds, Juliette and Jean who immediately after marrying begin to settle into their new life aboard a working boat heading to Paris by the canal. Jean is the skipper, and under him are two deck hands Jules and Le Camelot. All four live together on the relatively small, and claustrophobic boat which is filled with not only themselves but the crews belongings including the vast collection of traveling memorabilia which Jules has acquired from the many nations he has visited. Problems emerge quickly as each of the occupants become irritated with the other, and the heartfelt stability of the newly weds begins to crumble as the couple squabble and bicker over petty issues and a lack of personal space. Juliette soon comes under the spell of a Parisian peddler, who attempts to court her affections, given the difficulties of the marriage his maneuvers are effective and she soon leaves Jean in search of a more exciting and tolerable existence away from the reclusive squallier she’s been calling home.

The story is fairly simple; its execution is where the films reputation stems from. Firstly it is exceptionally honest with its charmingly simple characters. Neither Jean or Juliette are completely to blame for the disintegration of their relationship, and equally neither of them are completely innocent. There is also something tender and natural about Vigo’s direction, even in the films most heightened sections like a brief bar room brawl are played relatively naturalistically for the time. A surprise comes later when the film very briefly and subtly merges realism and surrealism, the beautiful and touching moment is set up by the films romantic notion that you can see the one you love when you put your head in water and open your eyes, Juliette tells Jean that this is how she knew she’d marry him, because she saw him in the water. Later after Juliette has left him Jean in a moment of despair drops himself off the barge and into the murky canal waters below, whilst under he sees the ghostly figure of his estranged wife and decides to resurface. There is something endlessly watchable about L’Atalante, it is riddled with beautifully simple moments which warm the heart, be it Juliette’s amusement at a ghastly puppet Jules has acquired in his travels, or a man pretending that a tattoo of a face his smoking a cigarette, using his navel as a mouth, or just simply the energy with which everyone moves around the boat, or the humour in their superficial conflicts. It also presents the differences between country and city living in a subtle and not manipulative manner as Juliette wanders the metropolitan that are both unfamiliar and frightening to her sheltered existence.

To Read the Rest of the Commentary

To Listen to the Commentary

Politics of Culture: The State of Human Rights in Russia

The State of Human Rights in Russia
Politics of Culture (KCRW: Santa Monica College)
Host: Ruth Seymour

Following the executions of several journalists and a human rights lawyer, what's going on in Russia?


* Oleg Kalugin: Retired Chief of Foreign Counterintelligence, KGB
* Steven Eke: Russian Affairs analyst, BBC
* Eugene Levin: President, Russian-language Panorama Media Group

To Listen to the Conversations

PhD Comics: The Economic Meltdown

(Courtesy of Laura Webb)

PhD Comics


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Growing Food Talks: Tuesdays at 7PM

(From John Walker)

If you are interested in growing food, join us for a weekly discussion.
Share your ideas and ask questions.

Every Tuesday, starting June 2nd
7:00-8:00 p.m.

Village Branch Library
2185 Versailles Road, Lexington KY 40504

Democracy Now: A Look Back at the Church Committee’s Investigation into CIA, FBI Misuse of Power

Flashback: A Look Back at the Church Committee’s Investigation into CIA, FBI Misuse of Power
Democracy Now
Host: Amy Goodman

We take a look at one of the most famous special Senate investigations of government misconduct. In the mid-1970s, a US Senate committee chaired by Democratic Senator Frank Church of Idaho conducted a massive investigation of the CIA and FBI’s misuse of power at home and abroad. The multi-year investigation examined domestic spying, the CIA’s attempts to assassinate foreign leaders, the FBI and CIA’s efforts to infiltrate and disrupt leftist organizations, and more. We speak with Sen. Frank Church’s widow, Bethine Church, and Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr., who served as chief counsel to the Church Committee.

To Listen to the Conversation

PhD Comics: Science News Cycle

PhD Comics

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Caroline Ruddle: What Lies Beneath? Distinguishing Humans from Skinjobs

What Lies Beneath? Distinguishing Humans from Skinjobs
by Caroline Ruddle
Open Court Books' Pop Philosophy Podcasts

To Listen to the Episode (MP3)

Bob Black: The Abolition of Work and Other Essays

The Abolition of Work and Other Essays
By Bob Black
Hosted by Inspiracy

No one should ever work.

Work is the source of nearly all the misery in the world. Almost any evil you’d care to name comes from working or from living in a world designed for work. In order to stop suffering, we have to stop working.

That doesn’t mean we have to stop doing things. It does mean creating a new way of life based on play; in other words, a ludic revolution. By “play” I mean also festivity, creativity, conviviality, commensality, and maybe even art. There is more to play than child’s play, as worthy as that is. I call for a collective adventure in generalized joy and freely interdependent exuberance. Play isn’t passive. Doubtless we all need a lot more time for sheer sloth and slack than we ever enjoy now, regardless of income or occupation, but once recovered from employment-induced exhaustion nearly all of us want to act.

The ludic life is totally incompatible with existing reality. So much the worse for “reality,” the gravity hole that sucks the vitality from the little in life that still distinguishes it from mere survival. Curiously — or maybe not — all the old ideologies are conservative because they believe in work. Some of them, like Marxism and most brands of anarchism, believe in work all the more fiercely because they believe in so little else.

Liberals say we should end employment discrimination. I say we should end employment. Conservatives support right-to-work laws. Following Karl Marx’s wayward son-in-law Paul Lafargue I support the right to be lazy. Leftists favor full employment. Like the surrealists — except that I’m not kidding — I favor full unemployment. Trotskyists agitate for permanent revolution. I agitate for permanent revelry. But if all the ideologues (as they do) advocate work — and not only because they plan to make other people do theirs — they are strangely reluctant to say so. They will carry on endlessly about wages, hours, working conditions, exploitation, productivity, profitability. They’ll gladly talk about anything but work itself. These experts who offer to do our thinking for us rarely share their conclusions about work, for all its saliency in the lives of all of us. Among themselves they quibble over the details. Unions and management agree that we ought to sell the time of our lives in exchange for survival, although they haggle over the price. Marxists think we should be bossed by bureaucrats. Libertarians think we should be bossed by businessmen. Feminists don’t care which form bossing takes so long as the bosses are women. Clearly these ideology-mongers have serious differences over how to divvy up the spoils of power. Just as clearly, none of them have any objection to power as such and all of them want to keep us working.

You may be wondering if I’m joking or serious. I’m joking and serious. To be ludic is not to be ludicrous. Play doesn’t have to be frivolous, although frivolity isn’t triviality; very often we ought to take frivolity seriously. I’d like life to be a game — but a game with high stakes. I want to play for keeps.

The alternative to work isn’t just idleness. To be ludic is not to be quaaludic. As much as I treasure the pleasure of torpor, it’s never more rewarding than when it punctuates other pleasures and pastimes. Nor am I promoting the managed time-disciplined safety-valve called “leisure;” far from it. Leisure is nonwork for the sake of work. Leisure is time spent recovering from work and in the frenzied but hopeless attempt to forget about work. Many people return from vacations so beat that they look forward to returning to work so they can rest up. The main difference between work and leisure is that at work at least you get paid for your alienation and enervation.

I am not playing definitional games with anybody. When I say I want to abolish work, I mean just what I say, but I want to say what I mean by defining my terms in non-idiosyncratic ways. My minimum definition of work is forced labor, that is, compulsory production. Both elements are essential. Work is production enforced by economic or political means, by the carrot or the stick. (The carrot is just the stick by other means.) But not all creation is work. Work is never done for its own sake, it’s done on account of some product or output that the worker (or, more often, somebody else) gets out of it. This is what work necessarily is. To define it is to despise it. But work is usually even worse than its definition decrees. The dynamic of domination intrinsic to work tends over time toward elaboration. In advanced work-riddled societies, including all industrial societies whether capitalist or “communist,” work invariably acquires other attributes which accentuate its obnoxiousness.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Laura Viers: Galaxies

Lenny Bruce: Comedians, Learn From the Master

Was working on satire for a cultural studies course and of the videos I could access online this is the one that hit me the hardest... thanks to TheBigHo111:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Youtube Removes George Carlin Critiques of the American Education System

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

--George Carlin

Slightly North of Center Takes on The Prison System!

Slightly North of Center takes on THE PRISON SYSTEM

Thursdays, 6:00 PM, Al’s Bar
late spring talks with and by the community

Price of Admission: Caring

May 21: Johnathan Hampton on Addressing a Broken System through

Songwriter Wes Houp performs after the talk

May 28: Brian Rich on Ana Romero and Death Prisons for the Innocent

June 4: Chuck Fields on Pot, Prisons, and the War on Drugs in Kentucky

June 11: Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) and Neighborhood Residents on Voting Rights for Former Felons

Democracy Now: Howard Zinn -- “I Wish Obama Would Listen to MLK”

Howard Zinn: “I Wish Obama Would Listen to MLK”
Democracy Now

Legendary historian Howard Zinn joins us to talk about war, torture and the teaching of history. Zinn says Obama had Obama heeded the lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he wouldn’t be escalating US attacks abroad and increasing the size of the US military budget. We also play excerpts of the forthcoming documentary, The People Speak, featuring dramatic readings based on Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States and Voices of a People’s History of the United States.

To Listen to the Conversation

Democracy Now: Doctors, Nurses and Activists Arrested Again for Protesting Exclusion of Single-Payer Advocates at Senate Hearing on Healthcare

Baucus’s Raucous Caucus: Doctors, Nurses and Activists Arrested Again for Protesting Exclusion of Single-Payer Advocates at Senate Hearing on Healthcare
Democracy Now
Host: Amy Goodman

Advocates of single-payer universal healthcare—the system favored by most Americans—continue to protest their exclusion from discussions on healthcare reform. On Tuesday, five doctors, nurses and single-payer advocates were arrested at a Senate Finance Committee hearing, bringing the total number of arrests in less than a week to thirteen. We speak with two of those arrested: Single Payer Action founder Russell Mokhiber and Dr. Margaret Flowers of Physicians for a National Health Program.

To Listen to the Conversation

Sunday, May 17, 2009

World Cinema Foundation: The First Four Films

Martin Scorsese introduces The World Cinema Foundation's new restoration Project which is being jointly hosted by The Auteurs. They are busy restoring lost World Cinema classics and they have the first four finished and online for viewing (for free!). The first four films are Dry Summer (Turkey: Metin Erksan, 1964); Touki Bouki (Senegal: Djibril Diop Mambéty, 1973); Transes (Morocco: Ahamed El Maanouni, 1981); and The Housemaid (South Korea: Ki-young Kim, 1960):

The First Four Films

Friday, May 15, 2009

Francine Prose: Books and Circuses - The Politics of Literary Scapegoating

Books and circuses: The politics of literary scapegoating
By Francine Prose


On nearly every occasion when I’ve been invited to speak about both fiction and nonfiction writing, someone has asked my opinion of the scandalous disclosure that James Frey had fabricated sections of his memoir, A Million Little Pieces. I reply that I’m puzzled that people seem more upset by a lie about how long a writer spent in rehab than a lie about whether Saddam Hussein had access to weapons of mass destruction. Inevitably, nervous laughter ripples through the room.

In fact, I couldn’t be more serious. Each time, I find myself wondering: Why isn’t the audience talking to one another, and to me, about how, for the past eight years, our government has deceived us about matters of huge consequence—the war in Iraq, the economy, the environment, Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, real estate foreclosures, poverty, unemployment, the handling of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy? The list of falsehoods—and attendant tragedies—goes on. And our response is to tar and feather James Frey and Margaret Seltzer rather than Bush and Cheney, Rumsfeld and Gonzales.

Is the steady barrage of Big Lies so terrifying and numbing that Americans can only respond to the Small Lies? Compare the frenzy of self-analysis and self-castigation with which the publishing industry responded to news of the fabricators to the relatively restrained reaction of our government when faced with the demands of its own citizens: thoughtful publishers of false memoirs have offered to refund the two-figure expenditures of irate consumers—an option currently unavailable to American taxpayers who have been defrauded of billions.

Meanwhile, the pulping machines into which Ms. Seltzer’s publishers pitched her faux-memoir have been fueled by the more unsavory aspects of celebrity culture. Readers of reviews or literary blogs have observed the intensity with which authors are simultaneously admired and despised as liars by profession. It’s something like the ambivalence that sports fans appear to feel about the athletes whose understandable reluctance to tell the world they’ve been shooting up with steroids has been denounced as a threat to the morals of the nation’s youth.

Americans have difficult lives right now. Mortgages have exploded, kids are in Iraq. Who could blame anyone for wanting a good laugh and a satisfying shake of the head over the public shaming of an Eliot Spitzer, or, for that matter, a James Frey or a Margaret Seltzer?

Perhaps I should have explained all this to the young editor who sat beside me at a dinner party, and who—when I claimed I didn’t really care if the writer’s name was Jones or Seltzer, or if her memoir was true—reacted as if I’d said I didn’t care if Chinese-made pharmaceuticals were contaminated with poison. I almost told him, “It’s only a book,” but I thought that would have sounded strange, coming from a writer.

To Read the Entire Review Essay

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Susanne Gannon: Writing into the Space of the 'Other'

“How can I tell this woman’s story? What right do I have to enter a space that is not mine? What are the politics, the ethics, of imagining a life and giving voice to a character who does not exist?”

--(Gannon, 2005, 625)

Writing into the Space of the 'Other'
by Susanne Gannon


Laurel Richardson, in the new edition of the famous Handbook of Qualitative Inquiry (Denzin and Lincoln, 2006) argues that we will be more present, honest and engaged in research if we begin writing from our selves. I suggest otherwise in this paper. I argue that it is writing into the imaginative space of the Other that might make us more present in the world and more engaged. When I write myself from myself I am limited by my gender, my sexuality, my ethnicity, my nationality, and all the elements of my particular peculiar history. From some angles, this seems alarmingly consistent with the individualized imagination of neoliberal corporatism. In attempting to write into the space of the Other, I work at imagining the range of possible fictions that might open if I were more than just the me here writing this to you.

The rigorous exercise of the imagination opens up the possibility of tentatively accessing subject positions that do not match our own embodied experience, creating other possibilities and discursive positionings that provide momentary but powerful fictions of how the world is and how it might become. Traces of these fictions stay with us, enrich our positions, give us some grounds for action, perhaps even some grounds for hope. Such hope might emerge as an impetus for political change, as a troubling of binaries that construct us/ them, me/ you, as an expansion of the imaginary, or as a disruption of the power structures that order processes of subjectification. The rhetorical staging of fiction brings in the unthinkable via emotions, bodies and senses that are harder to grasp in more conventionally academic rhetoric and craft. Writing is a relational act. Readers, writers and characters engage and interact, fall in and out of love with one another. Playwright and literary theorist Hélène Cixous talks of “the infinite domain of the human subject” (1994, xvii) where writing is "the passageway, the entrance, the exit, the dwelling place of the Other in me - the other that I am and am not, that I don’t know how to be, but that I feel passing, that makes me live- that tears me apart, disturbs me, changes me" (1986, 85-86). Writing changes me, she says.

Adriana Cavarero (2000) suggests that it is storytelling in particular that changes us; the desire for narrative, specifically the desire to be narrated by another, is what brings us into being, what creates us as human subjects. Judith Butler, influenced somewhat by Cavarero in her recent work, Precarious Life (2004), argues that our humanity and our intelligibility as human subjects are reciprocal, reliant on the recognition of ourselves by an Other. Both Cavarero and Butler take up a relational view of human subjectification. Both have written explicitly about the Other and his/her relation to the subject. The individualist doctrines of enlightenment/ modernist philosophy and psychology recognise human subjects as having the quality of interiority. In contrast, from their feminist and poststructural perspectives, Cavarero (2000) and Butler (2004) make relationality the very condition of subjectification. The ontological status of the who, says Cavarero, is wholly external: “exposed, relational, altruistic” (2000, 89). She elaborates that we become individual subjects not because we are free of others, singular, unique and capable of self analysis and reflexivity, but because our recognition of ourselves as unique is realised through and thus contingent on relations with others. Thus the human subject, and the processes of subjectification as a speaking and writing subject, are marked by exteriority, by an orientation towards those outside ourselves. Both claim an interest in materiality, in corporeality. Butler invokes the figure of “the face” and the notion of an “address” that calls one into an ethical relation, a relation of responsibility towards the Other (2004, 90-91). Cavarero brings the body – and love - to the scene of the story where “the beat of body language and the language of storytelling” together form “a secret rhythm” (2000, 109).

Roland Barthes predicted long ago that literature and science would collapse into one another, that the only difference between them is that “literature has not said what it knows” like Science, but “it has written it” (1989, 10). Cavarero, looking back to Plato, reminds us that poetry and philosophy have been at war since their beginnings. Poetry, Cavarero says, including narrative and storytelling in its scope, is the “art that appeals to the passions… that stages human fragility, inducing the spectators to participate in it and share in its emotions” (2000, 95). Philosophy, in contrast, is a “realm of pure thought” where human plurality, singularity and materiality are superfluous (96). Philosophy is the “art of definition” (73). Similarly, through its own technologies of truth-telling, sociology is interested in the “what” of human subjects – in “the qualities, the character, the roles, the outlooks” (73) that can be generalised, in the “representation of the universal” (50). In contrast, literature – narrative in particular - is interested in the “who” of human subjects, in the life story that persists through time, that offers a “unique unity” (72), a story that can be told by another. Theoretically, Cavarero suggests that this is a key distinction. Problems with the slippery concept of identity emerge, she suggests, from confusion of the “what” – that is, the generalisable, multiple and infinitely mutable qualities of human subjects - with the “who” – that is, the one who is born at a particular time and place and dies at a particular time and place, and who is continually exposed and exhibiting a particular self, a self “that cannot be transcended” (73). Her project is, in part, though without abandoning the insights of poststructuralism, to recover the uniqueness of the human subject, and of her story. Storytelling, she says, like love, addresses the “uniqueness of the who [who] always has a face, a voice, a gaze, a body, and a sex” (109), a “who” who is “concrete and insubstitutable” (73).

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Laurel Richardson: Styles of Writing Reflect Historically Shifting Domination of Particular Schools or Paradigms

Producing “things” always involves value—what to produce, what to name the productions, and what the relationship between the producers and the named things will be. Writing “things” is no exception. No textual staging is ever innocent. Styles of writing are neither fixed nor neutral but reflect historically shifting domination of particular schools or paradigms.

--Richardson, Laurel. 1994 ‘Writing a Method of Inquiry’ in Denzin, Norman, K., and Lincoln Yvonne, S., (eds.) Handbook of Qualitative Research, Sage, Thousand Oaks California pp.516-529.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Guiyu, Largest E-Waste Site on Earth

(Courtesy of Laura Webb)

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Heather L. LaMarre, Kristen D. Landreville and Michael A. Beam: The Irony of Satire

(This is an important study for of the problems of "communication" and the importance of audience awareness/perception in the production of textual meaning and how readers/viewers interactively create meaning in tandem with the creators. As the documentary filmmaker Errol Morris states: "Believing is seeing and not the other way around." From the report below: "Biased Message Processing" is now my term for the day :)

The Irony of Satire: Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in The Colbert Report
Heather L. LaMarre, Kristen D. Landreville and Michael A. Beam
International Journal of Press Politics 14.1 (April 2009)

This study investigated biased message processing of political satire in The Colbert
Report and the influence of political ideology on perceptions of Stephen Colbert. Results indicate that political ideology influences biased processing of ambiguous political messages and source in late-night comedy. Using data from an experiment (N = 332), we found that individual-level political ideology significantly predicted perceptions of Colbert’s political ideology. Additionally, there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism. Finally, a post hoc analysis revealed that perceptions of Colbert’s political opinions fully mediated the relationship between political ideology and individual-level opinion.

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The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Amy Goodman
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorGay Marriage

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History: Addicted to Bondage

Show 26 - Addicted to Bondage
Dan Carlin's Hardcore History

Is slavery a natural feature of human societies? Dan looks at this timeless, evil institution and wonders if we have made as much progress freeing ourselves from its influence as we think we have.

1.“Slavery: A World History” by Milton Meltzer
2.“The Private Mary Chestnut : The Unpublished Civil War Diaries” by Mary Chestnut
3.“History in Quotations: Reflecting 5000 Years of World History” by M.J. Cohen, John S. Major, and Simon Schama
4.“The Confessions of Nat Turner: and Related Documents” by Nat Turner
5.“Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich” by William L. Shirer
6.“The Gulag Archipelago Volume 1: An Experiment in Literary Investigation” (P.S.) by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

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Mikhail Bakhtin: Open-Ended Dialogue

... authentic human life is the open- ended dialogue. Life by its very nature is dialogic. To live means to participate in dialogue: to ask questions, to heed, to respond, to agree, and so forth. In this dialogue a person participates wholly and throughout his whole life: with his eyes, lips, hands, soul, spirit, with his whole body and deeds. He invests his entire self in discourse, and this discourse enters into the dialogic fabric of human life, into the world symposium.

Mikhail Bakhtin

Monday, May 11, 2009

H. Bruce Franklin: Star Trek in the Vietnam Era

Star Trek in the Vietnam Era
by H. Bruce Franklin
Science Fiction Studies

The original Star Trek series was conceived, produced, and broadcast during one of the most profound crises in the history of the United States, a crisis from which we have by no means recovered. Those thirty-three months when the series was first broadcast—between September 1966 and June 1969— were in fact one of the most excruciating periods in American history. In the midst of a disastrous war, virtual warfare in the nation’s own cities, ever-increasing crime, inflation and debt, campus rebellions, and profound challenges to hallowed cultural values and gender roles, Star Trek assumed a future when Earth has become an infinitely prosperous, harmonious world without war and social conflict, a future in which the aptly-named starship U.S.S. Enterprise itself embodied an ordered, self-contained society capable of making traditional American values and images triumphant in the farthest reaches of the universe.

Looming over the mind of every thinking American, the Vietnam War threatened to tear the nation asunder. Indeed, even today the very mention of Vietnam raises the emotional temperature and brings out deep divisions in American society. As a matrix for Star Trek, the war lurked in the background of the serial. The utopian 23rd-century future assumed in Star Trek—never envisioned—is presented as a sequel to the Vietnam epoch, just as the universe of the starship Enterprise is presented as an alternative to the actual world of viewers in the America of the 1960s.

Star Trek was one of the first dramatic series to confront the Vietnam War. Fearful of losing viewers or advertisers, television networks were reluctant to allow disturbing or controversial issues into shows designed for entertainment. So following its usual gambit for dealing with contemporary issues, Star Trek parabolically displaced the Vietnam War in time and space.

The serial was conceived just as the war was becoming an openly American affair. To begin to understand Star Trek in the Vietnam era, highlight and juxtapose a few dates. In early November of 1963, Ngo Dinh Diem, who had been installed by the United States in 1954 as the puppet dictator of South Vietnam, was overthrown and assassinated by a cabal of his generals, whose efforts were coordinated by U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge. Although President John F. Kennedy had authorized the coup, he was shocked by the assassination of Diem, for Kennedy’s own family had been instrumental in selecting Diem to serve as the U.S. proxy. At this time there were between 16,000 and 21,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam, officially designated as "advisers." Deprived of a figurehead like Diem, the United States now had two possible courses of action: withdrawal or a full-scale U.S. war. There is no evidence that Kennedy was considering the latter course. But three weeks later, President Kennedy himself was assassinated. Within four days of his inauguration, President Lyndon Baines Johnson issued National Security Action Memorandum 273, an ambitious plan for covertly attacking North Vietnam in order to provoke retaliation and thus legitimize an overt U.S. war, all to be cloaked under what he referred to as "plausibility of denial."

Four months later, in March of 1964, Gene Roddenberry submitted the first printed outline for Star Trek, an "action-adventure science fiction" designed "to keep even the most imaginative stories within the general audience’s frame of reference."2 In August, the Johnson Administration, pretending that U.S. ships had been attacked by North Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin, ordered "retaliatory" bombing of North Vietnam and received from Congress the "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution," a blank check authorization for full-scale U.S. war in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, Johnson was in the process of winning a landslide victory over Barry Goldwater on the basis of his promise, made over and over again, that "I shall never send American boys to Asia to do the job that Asian boys should do." In February 1965 Roddenberry delivered the intended pilot episode for Star Trek, "The Cage," which was rejected. The same month, Lyndon Johnson, a few weeks after being inaugurated as the elected President, began full-scale bombing of North Vietnam, followed swiftly by dispatch of the first openly acknowledged U.S. combat divisions to Vietnam.

By the time the first Star Trek episode was broadcast in September 1966, the United States was fully engaged in a war that was devastating Indochina and beginning to tear America apart. By the time the final Star Trek episode was aired in June 1969, the war seemed endless, hopeless, and catastrophic. Four episodes that were broadcast between the spring of 1967 and January 1969, the most crucial period in the war and for America, relate directly to the war. Taken as a sequence, these four episodes dramatize a startling and painful transformation in the war’s impact on both the series and the nation.

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Counterspin: Glenn Greenwald on torture, Rose Aguilar on tent cities

Glenn Greenwald on torture, Rose Aguilar on tent cities
Counterspin (FAIR)

While it’s pretty clear that Bush-era torture occurred, and that U.S. and international treaties oblige the U.S. to investigate, the hot media discussion centers not on when investigations will begin, but on whether President Barack Obama—not the Justice Department—thinks they should go forward. We’ll talk to Glenn Greenwald of about the torture story.

Also ... Media are flocking to so-called tent cities to try and put a human face on the recession and housing crisis. That sounds laudable, but are the media getting the story wrong? We'll talk to journalist Rose Aguilar about that.

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Creative Screenwriting: Steven Wright on Eastern Promises (United Kingdom/Canada/USA: David Cronenberg, 2007)

Steven Knight - Eastern Promises Q&A
Creative Screenwriting

Senior Editor Jeff Goldsmith interviews screenwriter Steven Knight about Eastern Promises

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Weekly Signals: Erna Paris author of The Sun Climbs Slow: Justice in the Age of Imperial America

Erna Paris author of The Sun Climbs Slow: Justice in the Age of Imperial America — an investigation of the story and individuals behind America’s refusal to acknowledge international law and an inquiry into the urgent role of international criminal justice.
Weekly Signals (Irvine, CA)
Host: Nathan Callahan and Mike Kaspar

At the end of the twentieth century, two extraordinary events took place. The first was the end of the Cold War, which left the world with a single empire that dominated global affairs with a ready fist. The second event was the birth of the International Criminal Court–the first permanent tribunal of its kind. The ICC prosecutes crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. Its mandate is to confront impunity and demand accountability for the worst crimes known.
But on March 11, 2003, when the new court was inaugurated in a moving ceremony, one country was conspicuously missing from the celebrations. The government of the United States had made it clear that the International Criminal Court was not consistent with American goals and values.

The Sun Climbs Slow grapples with an emerging dilemma of the twenty-first century: the tension between unchallenged political power and the rule of international law.

Erna Paris is the winner of ten national and international writing awards, including a gold medal from the National Magazine Awards Foundation. She is the author of seven books of literary non-fiction, including The End of Days: A Story of Tolerance, Tyranny and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain, which won the 1996 Canadian Jewish Book Award for History.

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Watching Theology: A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater, 2006)

A Scanner Darkly (2006)
Watching Theology

Whether or not there's a huge government/corporate conspiracy to take over every liberty – to enslave and control us – there's always time to think about reality. Fortunately, in Philip K. Dick's and Richard Linklater's vision of the near future, we're provided with ample examples of how one might go about losing his or her identity. And though drugs are a huge part of that, they're not the whole story. On this episode, we look through the lens of the scanner, trying to find clues on how to distinguish between illusion and reality – between Bob, Fred and Bruce.

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