The heady dazzle of such language makes some folks just toss their books down, muttering about wacky frogs who have lost their politics. Others get really jazzed, and learn to mimic the lingo, a perhaps unavoidable superficial enthusiasm that critics of D&G point to as proof of their capitulation to nonsense. Forming a more rigorous engagement with this stuff is a difficult enterprise, because the work evades the categories we want to impose on it—"metaphor," "theory," "fake science," "hallucination." Far from copping out, D&G are going for the gold: they want to re-engineer the nature of productive thought and the corresponding activity of bodies. Long ago, they grew sick of a society stuck in the habitual ruts of overcoded Oedipal subjectivity, State forms of organization, and cookie-cutter cut-outs of what a body can do. (Oedipus is one of these ruts, or but so is the micro-fascisms and redundancies that lurk in so many "radicalisms"). D&G introduce productive noise into the system—even and especially the system of theory—and from the inside they sometimes look like babbling loons. But they're loons bearing gifts.
I got responses from both Steven Johnson and Doug Saunders, which was a bit surprising. My previous experience of writers actually replying to letters critical of them was previously limited to a flustered dismissal from some editor at Shift who had managed to ignore all of the points I made in the letter.
But both more or less agreed. Saunders responded to my letter, saying that he had already written an article about the Pentagon's relationship with Hollywood, and that he was taking a different tack this week.
Johnson also seemed to be fairly forthcoming to my points, though in this case I can't even call myself an amateur, so "points" might be a bit strong.
Judge acquits Bush protester, scolds police (via ftrain)
Police testified that Neel was arrested after refusing to enter a fenced area, designated as a free-speech area, during Bush's Labor Day visit to Neville Island, 10 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.
Looks like their still at it with the "free-speech areas". What a strange concept.
Also via ftrain, some great photos of NYC.
Someone posted a really long list of historical US interventions, including "regime changes," terrorism, bombing, etc.. The list doesn't provide very much information about any one incident, but it provides a good view of the scale of US imperialism in general. At the very least, it's a good series of hints for future research questions.
Indymedia turned three on Saturday. From nothing to a global media organization with over 100 local media collectives participating in three years isn't bad. I'm looking forward to seeing what that turns into in the next three years.
If Doug Saunders really wanted to argue that Washington and Hollywood are separate entities ("Hollywood. America. More than ever, they aren't the same," Saturday Nov. 23), it's surprising that he didn't at least mention the cozy relationship between movie studios and the Pentagon. According to mainstream news sources (ABC, BBC, USA Today), the Pentagon subsidizes Hollywood's war movies, and in exchange, gets to "negotiate" changes to the scripts and plot of these movies. It doesn't take too much imagination to see that movies, as a result, are much more likely to be pro-USA in significant ways.
A straightforward Google search confirms the worst of it and more, though most mainstream coverage simply notes that this (age old) team-up is likely to produce "better movies".
Of course, once the Pentagon has access to the set and scripts, it seems obvious that studios will simply nix scripts that aren't likely to be Pentagon-approved. So we get more Pearl Harbour and less Full Metal Jacket and Platoon. It seems obvious that--if the subsidies are substantial enough--the influence could easily spill over into other movies, mostly through hollywood execs' desire to not piss off the Pentagon. But then again, there is no reason to believe that the Pentagon won't be so bold as to drop hints about non-war movies anyway. What have they got to lose?
Late night Palindrome madness!
(s, send a me mo' r&d nil apt h'gin, et al)
Dog Sees Ada, a 300 word palindrome masterpiece (it makes sense, mostly!)
And of course, the world's longest palindrome, which most certainly does not make sense.
A quick selection:
Ah, Satan, dog-deifier! (Oh who reified God, Natasha?)
A relic, Odin! I'm a mini, docile Ra!
Age, irony, Noriega.
A Santa deified at NASA.
Embargos are macabre. Sad Nell, listen O! not to no nets--I'll lend a Serb a camera so grab me!
Sex-aware era waxes.
T. Eliot, top bard, notes putrid tang emanating, is sad. I'd assign it a name: gnat dirt upset on drab pot-toilet.
Won't lovers revolt now?
We few erase cares, Al; laser aces are we few.
Yo, Bottoms up! (U.S. motto, boy.)
"Ram O Hamas, Osamah, Omar!"
Darin Barney (the author of Prometheus Wired: The Hope for Democracy in the Age of Network Technology) gave a great talk on campus yesterday. He talked about Canada's long, unmatched tradition of democratic participation and public consultation in government decisions about communications technologies, starting with telephone service at the turn of the century, and the creation of the CBC.
He then talked about the public consultation regarding regulation of the internet. The committee in charge of that consultation, as it turns out, was dominated by corporate execs. The committee (along with the Liberal govn't) categorically determined that in all cases, the market would provide the best distribution of communications infrastructure. At the end of the fairly short talk, he concluded that if there is diminished or eliminated democratic control over the implementation of technology, then the outlook for the democratic potential of the use of these technologies was the more grim for it.
During questions, I pressed him on what could be done about this, and he came out with a fiery exhortation to a "long march through the institutions," from national governments to the WTO, to render them democratically accountable. The sad bit is that it will take decades of hard work and sacrifice if any progress is to be made at all.
Barney's look at the policy around communications technology was very David Noble-esque, exposing ideology in practice, so I'm psyched to look at some of his other stuff, as much as it's good to know that there are young intellectuals out there doing the intellectual legwork for social change. I also asked him for an interview, and he sounded enthusiastic, so that may also be in the works.
A related article: Internet Illusions, a NYRB review of several books on the net and politics, including Barney's, by James Fallows.
The Age: Spielberg plans Tintin movie
I want it to be good, but mostly, I fear the end result.
Unwittingly, I ended up writing a fairly long response to Stephen Johnson's response to a review of Pinker's "Blank Slate". Which was still comfortable, because responding to a response to a review of a response to "left intellectuals" is probably the highest level I can aspire to at this point in terms of contributing to a debate about evolutionary psychology. Mostly, it's fun stuff.
Microsoft announced wireless displays that allow access to a pc from several hundred feet away. This is what I was hoping Apple would announce when they came out with the new iMacs. I can't say I'd mind being able to read web sites away from my desk without a laptop.
According to this Register article, the only Microsoft products that are profitable are Windows and Office. Every other area is losing money. I'm trying not to imagine what could be possible if those hundreds of millions in losses were put towards something generally useful or interesting (as opposed to future MS dominance).
An old article on open source biology.
There is no question whatsoever that Wall Street perceives education as the successor to health care as the major target for investment. It's for that reason that they talk about EMOs (educational matienance organizations) as the analog to HMOs. As all Americans know, any analog to HMOs will be a disaster. The intentions are clear and, indeed, explicit, but I don't accept the future that they propose. And so I don't use the language of "trends." The future will be what we decide we want it to be, which is why I spend as much time as I do fighting these agendas and trying to forge a different one.
A Talking History interview with Noble (realaudio, scroll down).
A Democracy Now! show with David Noble as a guest (realaudio, scroll down).
"Quite. It's funny, I'm assailed in one way or another -- in jest or not -- every day on this issue. I don't say e-mail is horrible: I just say 'no, thank you.' I don't want to play the game. The game is supposed to be that there's a choice: 'this is technology, this is a tool, you can use it or not.' Well, that's not true. The peer pressure is enormous. The employment pressure is enormous.
"When I came to Harvey Mudd and they said 'here's your e-mail address,' I said 'thanks but no thanks. I don't do e-mail.' And they didn't understand what I was saying. It was almost incomprehensible to them.
"It's a decision I make based upon my experience: I find that I don't want to be accessible, especially to my boss. Most workers spend a lot of their efforts trying to avoid being accessible to their boss; that's a very important part of working. The idea that someone can e-mail me and say, 'I e-mailed you an hour ago and I haven't heard from you' is appalling. Now they say, 'where's Dave?' And that's the way I want it!
"By not having e-mail, I have a tremendous filter, so that people who want to get in touch with me have to go through the arduous labour of, like, dialling a telephone or writing me a letter, and that filters out a lot of stuff. And I think we all desperately need filters. You don't spend your time answering e-mail because you don't have e-mail. You don't spend your time going to meetings because no one ever tells you about them. It's a real virtue!
"Yet how is it that I'm the one sounding these alarms? I just was talking to some guy yesterday: there's a conference and I'm supposed to be there, and I said 'I can't' and he said, 'but the whole conference is about you!' What is all this about? I'm the guy who's not online! How come I'm the guy with all the information? Funny, isn't it? During the strike at York we had a daily bulletin and I was writing all the exposés, all the information. Why was it me, when everyone else has all this information at their fingertips?
"It's very interesting. And I think that information is not what it's about. You've got to know what your questions are.
Two RoboCop bits:
Take a close look at the track record of this company, and you'll see that we've gambled in markets traditionally regarded as non-profit--hospitals, prisons, space exploration. I say good business is where you find it. --Richard Jones, VP at Omni Consumer Products---
Criminal 1: We're robbing banks, but we never get to keep the money.
Criminal 2: It takes money to make money--we steal the money to buy the coke to sell the coke to make even more money. It's capital investment, man.
Criminal 1: Yeah, but why bother making money when we can just steal it?
Criminal 2: No better way to steal money than free enterprise.
I just saw RoboCop for the first time. Despite the gratuitous, truly gruesome violence, it has some very interesting social commentary as scathing parody of corporate culture, which overlaps generously with organized crime. I keep forgetting that the corporate dystopia was a fairly common setting in 80's movies (Blade Runner being the other full-scale example).
But if you look at dystopic visions today, they're watered down, and the corporations that profit from crime and have taken over public services are strangely absent. In RoboCop, Omni Consumer Products (OCP) prides itself on corporatizing things "traditionally thought of as non-profit," like Police and Hospitals. Looking at Spielberg's Minority Report, we would be led to believe that in 20 years, the corrupt people in positions of power are going to be... mayors? Instead of Back to the Future, it's forward to some idealized-yet-mildly-disconcerting past of the 1950s.
Setting aside for the moment that mayors and politicians are not the ones really in power in the present, it's a little disconcerting that in the 80s, corporate control was a concern that showed up in mainstream culture, but now that the same corporate control is actually showing, pop culture goes out of its way to avoid these concerns. The worst thing about corporatization in Minority Report is the constant in-your-face marketing. Is this really the only real concern we can come up with about where we're heading? RoboCop, flawed though it is, effortlessly shows this not to be the case... fifteen years ago. From the movies I've seen, this trend seems to be fairly inclusive. 80s movies (which I've been watching a lot of lately) tend to comment directly on institutional issues, whereas 90s movies project these concerns onto individuals or ignore them altogether.
What brought all this to mind was, oddly enough, something that Stephen Henighan said when I interviewed him last week about novels and how they reflect and define the concerns of the day:
I think literature is extremely influential in shaping our view of ourselves as a nation. However, what worries me in the present situation is that a lot of the literature that has become very popular portrays a rather nostalgic view of our nation. There's very little that engages in an interesting way with the present. This has fortified or enhanced a certain tendency in Canadian life at the moment to turn our eyes away from the present and avoid a lot of the difficult issues we have, like "do we integrate our military with the states," or "do we sign Kyoto," and meanwhile we're all reading Alistair Macleod or Ann-Marie Macdonald about some misty Cape Breton of many years ago. In a way, the popularity of those novels actually goes along with our general reluctance to confront the present.
The following is an unedited transcript of an interview I conducted with Stephen Henighan on Wednesday, Nov 6, 2002.
Stephen Henighan is the author of When Words Deny the World: The reshaping of Canadian writing, a book of essays about Canadian literature, in addition to two other books of criticism and several novels and short stories. He currently teaches Spanish at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada.
Edited portions of this interview will appear in the Argosy, the independent student journal of Mount Allison University, as well as on Monkeyfist.com. I'll add links when they are available. Though I was careful to record the words as they were spoken, this text may contain errors or erroneous quotations.
Jacques Ellul might be described as an anarchist, philosopher of technology, and christian. An interesting guy, in any case.
Ellul's Anarchy from a Christian Standpoint is fun.
Apparently, the first amendment now only applies in designated "first amendement zones". This would be funny if it were in a darkly comic novel about the near future. (via daily churn)
Looks like the newspaper of record is at it again with the chronic under-estimates of protest turnouts. The estimates in the newspapers listed by google range from 350,000 to "over half a million". Some keep it vague by saying "hundreds of thousands" or "tens of thousands", but the Times is the only one saying 100,000. Still, it's better that they covered it all. When 350 to 500,000 people came out to an anti-war protest in London, the Times ignored it in favour of a story on British education bureaucracy.
I got a ringneck dove today. That's not her in the photo, but she definitely has the same air of alertness and curiosity. She (I haven't thought of a good name yet) is constantly looking around.
With Republicans in the driver's seat after Tuesday's elections, tech firms can expect a sympathetic ear on a wide range of issues from free trade to taxes to stock options, lobbyists said, while Bush administration officials will likely face less scrutiny over efforts to relax media and telecommunications regulations.
Kendall's Hacking Food has been on a roll lately, and with content that's a bit more lighthearted than the usual Monkeyfist fare. A good thing in these dark days.
(Part of an ongoing series of collages about the history of science.)
Counterpunch: The Pentagon Plan to Provoke Terrorist Attacks
According to a classified document prepared for Rumsfeld by his Defense Science Board, the new organization--the "Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG)"--will carry out secret missions designed to "stimulate reactions" among terrorist groups, provoking them into committing violent acts which would then expose them to "counterattack" by U.S. forces.
In other words--and let's say this plainly, clearly and soberly, so that no one can mistake the intention of Rumsfeld's plan--the United States government is planning to use "cover and deception" and secret military operations to provoke murderous terrorist attacks on innocent people. Let's say it again: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and the other members of the unelected regime in Washington plan to deliberately foment the murder of innocent people--your family, your friends, your lovers, you--in order to further their geopolitical ambitions.
From now on, nothing surprises me;
or: Conspiracy theorists are now redundant;
or: How can we engage in political parody after 9-11?
Eclipse: the anti-war review
Alexander's Gas & Oil Connections could be a useful site for understanding things from the point of view of the oil industry in the future.
In the NYTimes, Tom Friedman argues that oil is what keeps theocratic regimes in power, and that the US should reduce its reliance on foreign oil by not using so much of it.
Which was the first and only real Arab democracy? Lebanon. Which Arab country had no oil? Lebanon. Which is the first Arab oil state to turn itself into a constitutional monarchy? Bahrain. Which is the first Arab oil state to run out of oil? Bahrain.
My understanding of Mid-East history is not as good as it should be, but wasn't Iran (the subject of Friedman's article) a democracy back in the 50's? According to Richard Cummings,
the Shah was on the Peacock throne thanks to Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA station chief in Teheran, who engineered the coup that deposed Prime Minister Mohamed Mossadegh, who had headed a secular, fledgling democracy that had the temerity to nationalize the oil fields that, up to that point, had been exploited by BP. Having sued in the World Court and lost, the UK turned to its ally, Uncle Sam, to get the oil fields back. Rent-a-Mobs appeared, the CIA paid off the military, and Mossadegh fled in his pajamas. Once in power, the Shah stifled all dissent, using the notorious SAVAK, his intelligence service, to torture his political opponents, all under the watchful and approving eye of the United States government.
That, of course, ultimately led to Ayatollah Khomeini taking power, and the Brits lost their control of the oil fields anyway. Iran was then a threat to the Middle East, so the US supported Saddam Hussein, giving him money and chemical weapons to keep Iran at bay. (We kept selling him chemical weapons, even after he used them "against his own people", as has been repeated ad nauseum.)
While I don't see any problem with Friedman's conclusion that we should learn to use less oil, it seems that anyone who wants to speak intelligently about the source of fundamentalism should at least acknowledge all the times that the US has explicitly funded and supported it.
If the US had supported Iranian democracy instead of undermining it (or not given Saddam chemical weapons, or not funded the muhajideen, or not supported the Taliban, or the repressive Saudi regime, or given billions of dollars worth of arms to Israel...) things might be quite a bit different.
In fact, there might be a lot more democracy in the Middle East than there is now. The US is officially not interested in supporting democratic movements in other countries, but an Iranian democracy might have provided the inspiration and support needed for things to be a fair bit better. But since the US is still not interested in supporting democratic movements within these countries, and is committed to undermining them when democracy conflicts with its interests, things are, quite simply, worse than they could be.
For anyone who doubts Simmons' account above, here's (then Secretary of State) Madeleine Albright in a speech on Iran-US relations:
In 1953, the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran's popular prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh. The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons, but the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development and it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.
Moreover, during the next quarter century, the United States and the West gave sustained backing to the Shah's regime. Although it did much to develop the country economically, the Shah's government also brutally repressed political dissent.
As President Clinton has said, the United States must bear its fair share of responsibility for the problems that have arisen in U.S.-Iranian relations. Even in more recent years, aspects of U.S. policy toward Iraq during its conflict with Iran appear now to have been regrettably shortsighted, especially in light of our subsequent experiences with Saddam Hussein.
TheNewForum.ca is a column-turned-weblog by Montreal journalist J. Milloy which contains a few good, informed rants about Canadian media.
Despite their marketing claims to the contrary, The National Post is not a national newspaper. The Globe and Mail is not a national newspaper. Until Canada has a newspaper published, in some strange way, in both national languages, as available in Montreal as it is in Toronto -- you try finding a Post or a Globe (or a Gaz) outside the usual anglo main drags -- we do not have a national newspaper. I'm not a big fan of the hoary theory of Canada as a partnership of two languages, "two nations warring in a single breast," yadda yadda, but in this, at least, it's clear: We've only got one national media institution.
Since I remain under the influence of Stephen Henighan, I might add something about a "national newspaper" that isn't utterly Toronto-centric in its coverage and opinions.
In other news, canada.indymedia.org is nowhere near ready for prime time, but there are a lot of interesting ways that it could expand by linking to other sources of independent media (community radio stations, student newspapers, independent weeklies...). The local features newswire on the right is already an interesting cross-section of local indymedia coverage.
Two new Monkeyfist pieces by Kendall Clark:
As for guilt-free reveling in carnivorous gustatory pursuits, I'm screwed. About three years ago I read and was convinced by the ethical arguments about meat-eating, primarily Peter Singer's. I eat accordingly.
But I am a weak, weak man.
David Horowitz: 100,000 Communists March On Washington To Give Aid and Comfort to Saddam Hussein
WTF? Horowitz lost his mind quite a while ago, but then again, it doesn't matter how nuts you are if you can get millions for running a think tank that spews nonsense in the ideologically correct general direction.
At least he got the crowd estimate right.