Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Save me from yourself

Recently I've been seeing a lot of variations on the formulation "In order to really solve the global warming problem, we're going to need strong international government intervention."

Which is funny. Because, OK, I understand that the people who say this stuff come from a reflexive position of "Government is always necessary," so simply eliminating the single biggest contributor to and facilitator of the problem doesn't present itself to them as an option. But even in that context, why leap immediately to government intervention rather than government reform like liberals are usually so fond of? Like, passing a law requiring the government to buy carbon credits for all of its predator drones or something, which has the usual advantage of being completely fucking useless.

Also, why do my fingers consistently try to type invertention?

How does this happen?

CNN and their backers are incredibly gifted with cruel juxtaposition. What better way to slate a video clip on the tragic resource situation in Haiti than this Wheat Thins ad:

Also, Dr. Gupta - either stop playing coy or get a fucking clue.


I don't even remotely disagree with the substance of the post in general--of course the guy who stomped on that lady's head is reprehensible (it's not acceptable to do that to anyone for any reason, even MoveOn people), but jesus christ Melissa McEwan what?!?!
Yeah, see, except the police don't arrest people who haven't done anything wrong
You are insane.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

CNN speaks a different language than I do

"No one" apparently means "Nobody white and affluent."

Oh, and if you peer deep into the lower left hand side of the picture above, you'll see yet another case where loads of foreigners died and nobody who reads CNN noticed.

(credit to the Baronette for that last one liner, which was actually way funnier when she said it)

The Can Peel Sessions are amazing

Monday, October 25, 2010

BDR knows it

I got nothing to add:
The central contradictions in this blog's political jibberish is I believe that corporate knows what it's doing, I believe corporate thinks it knows what it's doing but doesn't, believe corporate knows what it wanted but got greedy and fucked up but thinks it can catch its balance, believe corporate knows what it wanted but got greedy and knows all is hopelessly fucked up and is stealing everyfuckingthing down to paperclips while the stealing is good and the parachutes can be readied.

I'm no longer shackled to either/ors: I say all four and and a gazillion other contradictions can all be true by anchor of one constant: corporate always wins.

They changed their plans to serve the president

Obama's gonna be at Buff and Johnnie's house tonight! Why, that's less than five miles from my house! Unfortunately, it's also $7500 to get in and touch the hem of his garment. I'd say I'd crash the party, but then I'd probably either get the FBI in my house or worse, so I'll be honest and admit I'm not doing anything of the sort, if only because I'm not creative enough to come up with a prank worth getting mowed down by the SS for.

The article I linked is a fluff piece about food, which is always preferable to the alternative, fluff pieces about politics. My favorite part is this:
Indeed, there isn’t much glamour harvesting apples at Dame Farm in Johnston or vegetables at one of the city gardens of the Southside Community Land Trust; or raising animals at Lily Rose Farm in Foster, or hand-crafting cheese or chocolate. But now each of these farmers and artisans can boast that their bounty fed a U.S. president.
Ha ha! Because growing boutique luxury food for the little people is such a trifle! Why would you want to do something so trivial as that? I cover food for the Providence Journal!

And then there's the reader comments on the article. For favorites, I'm wavering between this:
Enough of this, send him home hungry.
And this:
I am excited to be picking some herbs for him
Sadly, I think the second one is sincere.

Friday, October 22, 2010

let x=x

questioning the assumption that our lives are equivalent to the products others choose to create is a wonderful impulse. what time we have and give to the demands of the world should be considered.

a problem is when people feel outrage over the inane instead of the miserably absurd. take for example those who are offended by pork-barrel spending. they deem the products - such as a "donkey museum" - to lack equivalence. what they neglect is the alternative: a system that fuels itself upon stripping the lives of others. this creates an endlessly widening rift between the value of one life to another.

this may be the main reason that those in power are promoting the economic strife expressed by those affiliated with the tea party. what is unfortunate is that the basis of that strife comes from a well-reasoned position. as i said before, it questions the value system placed on one's life by another. however, it is ultimately turned on itself and self-reflection is removed. that way it is possible to capitalize on a very emotional impulse with a specific, ethical logic while simultaneously creating an argument that goes against that very logic.

what's more, it lives by the argument.

just to clarify, my use of mo tucker's example isn't to mock her. i'm just little under the influence and felt like riffing off of that last post.


Svenska grupp

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

If You Close The Door...

Moe Tucker, drummer for the Velvet Underground and solo musician, was recently interviewed at a Tea Party rally (2:40). Following its worldwide delivery, there was a backlash against Tucker from some of her fans. Based off of a ten second clip, people were saying inane shit like "the dream is dead" and acting as though this indicated some kind of mental lapse on her part. (I mean, what was the dream you people think she embodied? She didn't embody the lyrical content of the VU nor did she want to really take part in their scene.)

I try to reserve any criticism on members of the Tea Party until I know a bit more about their reasoning.* After seeing the original interview, I figured I would wait to hear more from Tucker. Well, The Riverfront Times just published an interview with her following the video release. In it, she discusses her viewpoints and talks about how she came to embrace the Tea Party. She makes some pretty wonderful points, but seems to - sadly - miss the mark on a lot of fundamental issues. Here are a few thoughts I had as I went through it:

"My philosophy was and is all politicians are liars, bums and cheats."

"I'm against a government that will not defend our borders; and on and on and on." If it isn't clear why I disagree, understand that I am not in favor of nations as they often reek havoc on this world and stand in the way of life.

Agree, but with some reservations which I go into after:
"I'm stunned that so many people who call themselves liberal yet are completely intolerant. I thought liberals loved everyone: the poor, the immigrant, the gays, the handicapped, the minorities, dogs, cats, all eye colors, all hair colors! Peace, love, bull! Curious they have no tolerance whatsoever for anyone who doesn't think exactly as they do. You disagree and you're immediately called a fool, a Nazi, a racist. That's pretty f'd up!!I would never judge someone based on their political views. Their honesty, integrity, kindness to others, generosity? Yes. Politics? No!"

The fact that kindness and generosity are in no way present in the defense of national borders. While I agree that the direct actions people take in life are very important, established support of a system which produces an unparalleled deal of harm is a huge issue. Can a person be judged for not stopping that system? No, because, really, how is that to be achieved by a single person? Can a person be judged for endorsing something that renders their values meaningless? Maybe not judged, but they at least shouldn't be delusional about it in thinking that the such contradictory principles can exist in harmony.

And the misguided:
"I started listening to what Obama was promising and started wondering how the hell will this utopian dream land be paid for? For those who actually believe that their taxes won't go up in order to pay for all this insanity: good luck!"

Why it's misguided:
Pretty obvious that Obama isn't gonna make a utopian dream land and she knows that. So why more extensively concerned with the ends being achieved with that money? Instead of being angry at pork-barrel spending, be outraged that your money is going to the devastation of life. Think of it this way: would you rather have your money go towards death or a "donkey museum"? I know what I'd pick!

But really there's no need for people to get so upset about this. To feel as though the image of someone they knew, which has been acquired through a body of work, has been defaced by some horrific impostor. Mo Tucker is who she is whether or not you agree with her.

So, Mo, the answer is still yes.

* My sense of the Tea Party is that they have a healthy distrust of power, but can be fairly misguided. Many seem to limit the definition of power to government figures in favor of spending. Not to mention that their often self-centered concern can easily be seen as the privileged fearing that they might experience disadvantage. (Tucker does point out that she grew up very poor, as I am sure many of Tea Party supporters did. So I am not suggesting that all members of the Tea Party share this trait. It does, however, manifest among many of its figures either overtly or as an undercurrent.)

And speaking of whole stupid things

First Banksy, now Ratzi. And here I thought The Simpsons was, at this point, irrelevant.

I actually think the Banksy thing is the dumber of the two.

Dodged a bullet

I'm so glad I was away for the big anarchinterblog tizzy prompted by FB's post on Stop Me Before I Vote Again (which I guess I'll link to for posterity). It's not that I'm not up for a big discussion on whether or not anarchists are all dumbo-heads, as FB asserted (my answer: we're not, but then I'm biased); on the contrary, as Squigglylines pointed out, it's really weird that a lot of people's reaction seemed to be "Why are mommy and daddy fighting?" and "why would two people want to spend time exchanging ideas with one another?"

No, that's not why I'm glad I missed it. I'm glad because my god was it a whole lot of goofiness as it actually played out--and the goofiness was unavoidable from the start.

The Baronette recently took a class (don't ask me why) that involved a lot of discussion of political and social issues. The majority of her classmates fell along the itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot conservative/liberal axis that the majority of people in the US place themselves on. The Baronette, naturally, does not. One of her continual frustrations in discussion was that she had to constantly explain, and re-explain, every aspect of her views, from the ground up, starting from first principles (like, say, why we should be skeptical of power), every time she wanted to say anything. Whereas everyone else could just say "as a Democrat/Republican/conservative/liberal, I think..." and everyone, agree or disagree, would at least have a basic grasp on the thought process that led to the statement.

And even with all the explaining and explaining and explaining, she still had to get used to constant misunderstandings, mostly of the "you criticized a Republican so you must be in favor of the Democrats" type (or vice versa). Often, clarifying and clarifying and clarifying got too exhausting, and she would just have to give up on being understood.

But at least the people she was talking with had an excuse: these were ideas they simply had never been exposed to before. Their positions on the conservative/liberal spectrum weren't entirely of their own making--they weren't lucky enough to even partially escape the pervasive ideological conditioning we all go through from early childhood.

All of which is my roundabout way of saying that FB coming along with his "anarchism [is] a silly, juvenile sort of rhetorical posture...I'm admittedly not very familiar with the corpus of anarchist thought" is just the kind of irritating, ignorant imbecility that, coming from someone explicitly outside of the limited conservative/liberal axis, seems specifically designed to be provocative, not of constructive discussion, or even of usefully impassioned argument, but rather of bitter pointlessness. And, shockingly, that's pretty much exactly what he got, despite the best efforts of others to make more of it. So really, I'm just glad I missed the whole stupid thing.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cabin Fever

We're going off to a little place in the woods for the weekend with a group of other attractive twenty-somethings of our generation, so the blog may be a bit quiet and unresponsive for a bit. But go right ahead and yak at us if you want--assuming we don't get attacked by a knife-wielding maniac or shave our leg skin off, we'll be yakking back at you on Monday.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Important terror news

The Brooklyn Bridge apparently was shut down for a while today because there were flashlights on it.

Opting out

The plot of William Gibson's latest, Zero History, is driven by a "secret brand" of clothes called Gabriel Hounds (after one of those crazy things that happens when local religious traditions get overlaid with trappings of invading Christianity). Gabriel Hounds doesn't advertise, doesn't seem to care if people know about it, except perhaps insofar as it may prefer that people don't. More importantly, it very deliberately is made not to be tied to the "style" of any given time, and, as one character who knows a bit about the Hounds explains, they don't have seasons in the traditional sense of the fashion world:
When they remake the jackets, if they ever do, they'll be exactly the same, cut from exactly the same pattern. The fabric might be different, but only an otaku could tell....It's about atemporality. About opting out of the industrialization of novelty.
The Baronette picked up the September issue of Wire and I've been slowly picking through it. The cover story is called "Retro-Activity," and is made up of a bunch of shorter stories about different ways that contemporary musicians or music scenes are using the music of the past, not simply as revivalism, but in creatively interesting ways. In the first section, Nick Richardson writes about the new coldwave and minimal synth scenes as a "radical revivalism," arguing that their
retro-resistance is more ideological. They resist the mass media's belief in novelty-as-quality, resist the forced "progress" of neo-liberal capitalism--where "progress" means a drive for efficiency at the expense of human interaction. So their material does sound new, even if its sound isn't new. That is to say, it's the sound of something it wasn't before: a radical dissent that's as much a product of its time as Marquis De Sade [one of the original post-punk era coldwave bands] were of theirs. A stubborn stride backwards in a culture driven forwards at the end of a whip.
I'm not personally familiar with any of the new music Richardson's discussing, and not much more familiar with the original batch from the end of the 70s and beginning of the 80s, but regardless of whether I would agree with the assessment were I better acquainted with the material, it appears that there is Something In The Air.

Gibson's story is about the attempt to turn the methods of the Hounds to the advantage of the global capital machine, which is appropriate considering that the figure driving the action of all three of his latest novels, the hilariously-named advertising magnate Hubertus Bigend, is explicitly--and excellently--portrayed as turning the methods and theories of the Situationist International to this same advantage (which is in itself perhaps the greatest, and most despicable, example of détournement imaginable). In fact, a constant theme throughout the books--and possibly their entire Deeper Meaning--is that, regardless of your relationship with this machine (both as personified in Bigend and in its myriad other forms), regardless of the relationship you desire to have with it, you are always benefiting it. Even if you come up with what seems like a foolproof method of defying it, of fighting against it, you're still complicit, and it will simply find a way to twist your methods to its needs. That Gibson is, to all appearances, merely ambivalent to all this (when surely the only sane reaction, on becoming aware of it, is Lovecraftian horror), ends up actually adding to the impact of the books for me: they show all this in action, they show how it all works, and still they can't find a way to just straight-up condemn it.

I doubt that either Nick Richardson or the members of the scene he writes about are naive enough to not realize all of this. And, for the moment, their system seems to be working, at least on a minuscule level. It's not a revolution, but it is resistance.

I have my doubts about the specifics--a revival of a specific period will always have a flavor of "going back to before it all went wrong and starting over," and in this way I think perhaps the atemporality of the Hounds is more effective (though of course there it's still just another way of pushing consumer goods). And the music of the post-punk era, in addition to being aesthetically appealing to me, also has the very strong virtue of having happened right on the cusp of the Thatcher/Reagan era. But while Thatcher and Reagan are among the best examples of what's wrong with everything in this world of ours, I worry that a revival of this era can send the erroneous message that they were the cause or the beginning of it. Though on the other hand perhaps we could see this more as a revival of resistance to the wrongs that they exemplified, a resistance that went wrong the first time.

Regardless, though, I'm getting caught up in the specifics of an example, when I meant to be examining the broader concept. I'm not sure I have much more to say about it. But: resistance to novelty as resistance to capitalism. Nice. Like it. That's all.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

500th Post

And I'm going to use it to point out that the world's most adorably chubby bird is awkwardly flapping around my backyard right now. How's that for more substantial posting, huh?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Just a quick bit of trivia

More substantial posting tomorrow, probably.

A couple weeks ago the stupid gawker sci-fi blog io9 that I read despite how dumb it is posted an interview with Steve Vogt, the astronomer whose team discovered that awesomely earth-like planet 20 light years away. He insists that this planet must have life on it, which is fairly unscientific of him but I tend to agree, because I love the idea of life on other planets, no matter what, and because it just seems so probable to me; after all, we have pretty decent suggestions of life, past or present, occurring on a pretty large number of bodies just in our solar system alone, so this rocky planet right in the "habitable" zone of its star seems like a good candidate, you know?

Anyway, Vogt was talking about his reasons for being so sure that there's life on this planet, and he described things in a way that had never really presented itself to me before, and I liked it, so here it is:
[T]he universe is a vast place and most of it is totally unavailable for life as we know it. There are two things in the universe you can't get around: Temperature and gravity. So if you are in interstellar space you're at 2.7 degrees kelvin. Your atoms are hardly vibrating and you're not going to be alive. Life as we know it can't survive. So you have to be near a star. That's good, but stars have gravity and you can fall into them. Your only hope is to be near a star but not falling into it – you need an orbit. And that's magical. That's where you can have enough warmth, but not turn into a cloud of plasma because you've fallen into the star. So when you have a planet in orbit and it's the right size and in the right orbit [like Zarmina], it's a very special place. There are many planets like that but we didn't know that [until our discovery].

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Customer service, part three of now I'm thinking maybe even four

Part one was mainly about how a company's customers come to hate the company's workers, a hatred overriding their shared class interests.

Part two was mainly about the reverse: how the workers come to hate the customers, overriding yadda yadda.

This part will be about how worker turns on worker at the same company. I don't think I have a coherent essay in me about this, so some numbered points will follow. This is also gonna be shorter than the other parts. While I'm predicting the future, early next year President Obama will announce that he has been in communication with extraterrestrials; by the end of the year, alien technology will have cured all human illness and ushered in a new era of peace lasting three millennia. During this time, however, the Firefox spellchecker will not yet have learned how to spell Obama, millennia, or, for that matter, Rhode Island.

For the present, here are some things I want to say.

1. Corporations like keep staffing to a bare minimum. In every customer service job I've ever worked, this means that regular staffing on a regular day is just enough to sustain near-crisis levels without slipping into actual-crisis. Of course, this means that when someone takes time off, you get crises. And since people tend to think in terms of immediate causes rather than underlying systems, you get workers resenting other workers for taking time off. This effect is even stronger when only certain people have the training or authorization to do certain required tasks.

2. There is a strong cultural taboo against telling anyone how much you make, or asking how much other people make. In many workplaces, there is official policy backing it up--in my job, discussing pay is a firing offense. Most people seem to think that this is good, that pay should be just as private as, say, masturbatory fantasies. This is weird. The fact that I make x amount per hour (and I won't be specific here because I'm a slave who's lucky to be owned) is not some sort of fact about me; it's a fact about where my employer's desire to retain employees rather than train new ones intersects with their desire to wring as much profit out of each employee as possible (and, of course, where each of these intersects with the availability of other employment).

Concealing this fact is of course useful to the company. If I don't know how much the people I work with make, I don't know if there is significant inequality between me and them: do different jobs make unreasonably different amounts? Do different people (say, men and women) doing the same job get different pay? Not knowing the extent of the inequality makes organizing to combat it more difficult, and keeps each of us isolated, focused on #3.

3. And #3 is the competition for raises and promotions that workplaces encourage. In an environment of peers who feel no solidarity, all working at pay scales that are typically near-sustenance level for the lifestyle we've been raised to think of as necessary (and which the constructed environments we live in to a large extent require), in which there are limited opportunities to improve those pay scales, this competition can easily become consuming. We all must strive constantly to be the best worker we can be (from the company's perspective), so that at those times when raises or promotions are available, we'll have a record that reflects well on us (from the company's perspective). Often this striving takes the form of monitoring our coworkers for our employer's benefit. And in the specific case--say, one higher paying job opens up, the company is hiring internally, and there are ten people who want the job--we will do anything we can to benefit ourselves, which typically includes something that is detrimental to others. Then, should one person be successful, the others who are unsuccessful will resent that person--he or she got something they deserved. This resentment is of course misplaced (it is not the worker but the employer that has created this situation), but it is easily understandable, and hard to avoid, especially for those not in a habit of examining systemic issues, as I mentioned in #1.

So the customer hates the worker, the worker hates the customer, and the workers hate each other. The company, above all of them, is relatively unscathed.

If there's a part four, it'll be examining all of this at work in a video of an incident at a Target store--it was the video that inspired all these essays. Fans of bloggy novelty will want to skip it, as the video was posted all the way back in July. Who could have predicted back then that I'd still be on about this?

PS Ha ha, I guess it wasn't shorter. Whoops! My other predictions are still accurate.

Happy 70th, John

Some of the best use of overlays (or double exposure or whatever) this side of Kenneth Anger, if you ask me.

This live version of "Cold Turkey" is great, as is the whole Plastic Ono Band Live Jam disc, which I think exists as its own album but which I have as the second disc of Sometime in New York City.

I'm very unreasonable about John and Yoko. If you say anything mean about either of them, I will hate you. You can go ahead and think mean things about them if you want, but keep 'em to your damn self.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Wonder Unlike Any Other...

All considered, I'm not sure you could call the 50 second mark a "punchline", but it is a delightful bonus to this Malaysian treasure.

I'm promising myself that this'll be the last of these for a little while

...but come on now, he was asking for it with this one.

Matt Yglesias has, apparently inadvertently, revealed the core principle guiding his thought process:
It makes perfect sense, of course, when you think about it for a minute. But in general I hadn’t.
Emphasis mine, everybody.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Behavioral conditioning

While I was away, JRB wrote a great little post linking to a great little post by Adspar, who seems to have a great little blog that I'm gonna start reading now that I know it exists.

Adspar wrote:
It occurs to me now that years and years of taking orders from authority figures really fucked up my ability to manage my time, and to direct my efforts towards goals of my own choosing. Whenever I had time to myself, I just wanted to do nothing, perhaps because I was accustomed to goal-directed activity being unpleasant. And it was unpleasant partially because I wasn't the one setting the goals. I suppose these repeated periods where I squandered my time were when I rejected being an agent for someone else's goals, but was incompetent at setting my own and executing on them.
Huh. Sounds familiar. Actually (and there's some me me me blah blah-ing coming up here) I've been mega struggling with this recently. I have all kinds of things I want to do for myself and for the people I know and who live near me. Making music, writing (on this here blog and also the fiction I keep telling myself I write), reading more, learning to cook, getting in shape physically. Getting involved in local culture. Getting involved in local activism.

And I have plenty of time to do all of it. I'm extremely lucky, in a relative sense, in having a part-time job that provides me with just enough to live on, so four days out of the week are mine in their entirety, which most people can't say. And yet I hardly do anything. More often, I sit around all day thinking about the things I want to do, and then go and laugh at the stupid thing digby just said or whatever. Finally it's getting to the point where I can't stand it anymore, where I need to change it. I think I'm starting to turn it around--that's in part what my week-long break was about--but it is hard for me, way harder than it has any sensible right to be.

JRB wrote:
Politically speaking, we need to live but we also need to live as ourselves, in which case we take on double-work: the work of contributing toward that which earns us income, and the work of contributing toward ourselves.

Consumerism tells us to relax when we aren't working as required by its needs. Our work is done as producers; now we must consume! But as our friend suggests, that investment leaves nothing extra for ourselves.
It's funny. I wrote a while back about how our culture conditions us from childhood to be unable to see certain obvious truths, and that some of us, due to the luck (or chance, more accurately) of our own specific lives, manage to overcome that conditioning, or avoid it altogether. I tentatively included myself in that "some of us." I still think I belong in that category--though I am always open to argument on that if anyone feels it's necessary, and I should clarify that "category" is a misleading word and it's more of a spectrum, and a process, but now my parenthetical is getting way too long--but only now am I realizing that whatever quirks of my life led to that independence of thought also seem to have led to a near-complete lack of independence of action. The conditioning of my thoughts didn't take, but the conditioning of my behavior did.

They'll fuck ya one way or the other.

I've been in a very particular mood recently

I listened to Cocteau Twins' Treasure twice in a row yesterday, and now this morning this sounds to me like the best song ever made:

Slowdive - Miranda

Though every other song on the album is also a strong contender for the title.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Another slow pitch

Yglesias (and don't go clicking the link to read the rest, cuz this is all there is):
According to my calculation, if we were to cut America’s $663.8 billion defense budget by 1%, that would free up enough funds to double the budget of the FBI. Doesn’t it seem like that would probably, on net, reduce the risk of Americans dying in a terrorist attack? And in the meantime we might catch some more bank robbers or other banal threats to public safety.
I'm all for cutting the "defense" budget, of course, but this post came only slightly more than a week after the mass FBI raids of anti-war activists and really just in general diverting military spending to law enforcement is such a goddamn reprehensible bit of shittery. Why not cut military spending by 1% and give it to me? We'll be just as safe from "terrorists" and maybe I'll even use it in ways that would end up reducing some of those "banal threats to public safety." Which, incidentally, jackass.

PS If you're robbing a bank, and you're successful, more power to you. That's fucking God's work there.

UPDATE: Al takes over where I left off.

Taking it slow

Imagine traveling in a time machine back to, say, 1850, giving the first person you see a Tootsie Pop, and telling them that the outside tastes like fruit and the inside tastes like chocolate.