F.act..Frag.m.ents.
28.10.04
  Cultural highlights ....Seems everyones down complaining about politics, complaining about technology, and now winter is coming. Definitely time to do something cultural, Here my recent sources of inspiration:

Music

Music for airports: Brian Eno - From 1979 and still sounding fantastic whilst on the tube. Pioneer.

Evil 7: You can be special too - Check out the track "Crooked" with Def Jux rapper Aesop Rock. Elements of hip-hop, dance and rock all in there somewhere.

Company Flow: Little Jonny in the Hospital - And after hearing the above album, I had to listen to this hip-hop/breaks masterpiece again.

Book:

The Secret Agent: Joseph Conrad - Underground foreign spy networks in London, people blowing themselves up, psychopaths fighting for a cause. Ring any bells?

Film

Repulsion: 60's film about a women losing her mind in South Kensington. A film I can really relate to!!

TV

The Day Today: Oh yes, it may be a few years old, but a recent hmv sale prompted me to buy the videos of the classic news satire . And it is still fantastic to watch. I still chuckle everytime I think about the characters; Brant, the physical cartoonist from the Daily Telegraph, and Jaques Jaques Liverot, providing 24 hour intellectual comment on the incoming news.

Random

If you're in London go and see Bruce Nauman's sound installation in the Tate modern main hall. It's free, it's freeky and it's completely amazing. You walk along and here different voices, that's it.

And whilst your at the Tate modern, pop upstairs and see "Time Zones" an exhibition of modern film/video from around the world. Its not all great (e.g Wolfgang Staehle's live webcam of a castle = shite), but there were two brilliant pieces for me. Fikret Atay super lo-fi film of some Kurdish kids humming next to cash machine, and Fiona Tan super high resolution video installation about a coming of age festival in Japan make it worth the fiver entrance.
 



26.10.04
  RIP John Peel ....Now two of the greatest English men of recent times have died in the last two months. First Cloughie and now John Peel.

A very sad day indeed. Also quite a surprise, as I was only listening to his Radio 1 show recently. He was only 65 and died of a heart attack whilst on holiday in Peru.

I wouldn't credit Peel as being the sole reason for my love of music. But he's certainly a very large factor. A Radio 1 DJ since it started in the 60's, he has the unique standing of never playing a record from a playlist, except by choice. To last that long without compromise, particular in recent decades is a testament to his integrity. If there were more people like him, then we wouldn't be swimming in the crap of overproduced commercial albums.

This is an interview I was reading the other day and I think this quote sums him up.

Recently I got sent a demo tape by a musician called Jawbone, from Detroit. I thought there was some good stuff on it, and so I played it on the show. Afterwards, he was bombarded with emails from the UK and throughout Europe. He hadn't had much exposure in the US - even in Detroit, nobody seemed to know much about him - but his music generated a big reaction. Because it had, he came over to London and played live on the show: it was an extraordinary moment for him, because he'd never even been to this country before and suddenly there he was, live on air. It would be great to see radio taking the chance of giving more people those moments of personal triumph, of being able to perform their music live for radio listeners in so many different places.

It was amazing how he would literally play anything that he liked, no matter how it came to his studio. Personally, he's cost me a fortune in CD's. Some of bands who became popular, but many more who stayed in obscurity: Smog, Sonic Subjunkies (remember that one? What a track!), Yo la Tengo, Stars of the Lid, Psychic Warriors of Ghia, Orbital, Hydroplane, Boards of Canada, ESG.....

Recently Peel's shows have added a new dimension. He was one of the first DJ's to introduce emailing into his show, and the show recently felt like a parnership between him and his listeners. Someone would email requesting a random post-punk album from 1973 he remembered Peel playing many years ago, and Peel (who presented some shows from his home) would get one of his kids to go out to the shed and get it to be played later in the show.

To be honest I think that to commemorate his passing, Radio 1 should remove the playlist from all shows for a week. Its the only fitting tribute.  



23.10.04
  Another public terminal crashes ..... Here's one from the main information board in my home town of Cardiff. Public information at it best!! [found on flickr



21.10.04
  The Power of Nightmares ...If you think about the ratio of the amount of TV people watch, and the amount of useful knowledge they acquire, I suspect that it would be quite low. So I commend to you an outstanding new documentary series on BBC2, The Power of Nightmares. It is an analysis of the political technique of using fear to control the population, and a history of the "war against terror". It is also the first occasion that I've ever had to get a pen and paper mid program to write some notes, which I will summarise here for my own use as well as anyone else.


So there were two parallel stories, which begin to merge closely:
---

--1. Radical Islam

They start with Sayyd Qutb, an Egyptian who in the 50's, who on returning to Egypt from America became concerned with the slow dilution of Egyptian religious culture by the Westernised values. He joined a political group, the muslim brotherhood which tried to support politicians with similar views in power. They initially supported the incoming president Gamal Abd an-Nasser, but on seeing his close partnership with the Americans they rebelled against him.

Eventually Qutb ended up being jailed for his political work, and during this time he was tortured by Egyptian guards who had been trained by the CIA. In jail he also developed his theories about "Jahiliyya". The philosophies' basis is that individual ideas of prosperity and individualism brought about by western culture are a corrupting disease that destroy society and have to be stopped. The leaders are ripe for assassination because they are themselves "infected by this disease". Eventually in 1966 Qutb was executed by the Egyptians, but his writings, mostly written during his time in prison have lived on.

People such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, the mentor of Bin Laden, and groups such as Islamic Jihad, fighting against secular enemies, extended the philosophies beyond just the evil of the leaders, to all muslims who agreed with status quo. They were also infected by the disease of western society and hence, they were expendable.

--2. Straussian and the Neo-cons

This starts with Leo Strauss who was a political philosopher during the mid 1900's. I won't detail the philosophies here, but in a nutshell, it is about the rejection of the modernist agenda and an appreciation of the dangers of modern Western thought. Well....that might not be an accurate representation, but that's how it became to be interpreted.

So, in the 70's the "Straussians" seemed to be a loose collection of people in Washington with a conservative outlook, who agreed on the potential dangers of individualism in society and the need for an encompassing goal to unite the populace. Come 75: Nixon, Kissenger, Vietnam, Watergate and suddenly they had an opportunity. Wolfovitz and Rumsfeld found themselves in power.

The program focuses on Rumsfelds conviction, in disagreement with President Ford, about the dangers of Russian to America at the time, his underlying "Straussian" philosophies being an influence to his beliefs. The CIA disagreed with him about Russia, but Rumsfeld managed to get an inquiry into the issue, which was headed up by a team of Straussians, called Team B. It resulted in a report that exaggerated the danger of the Russia to the US. An example used in the program, is of the Russians not having any "Acoustic Measurement" devices on their subs, so Team B concluded that they must have newer and more dangerous secret weapons. Was this their genuine belief or just a tool to increase their control and exert their philosophies in government?

The Strausians campaigned together behind their growing influence and one of their members was Reagan. They supported him in his campaign for president, the first real campaign to use the religious vote. Reagan campaigned partly on a ticket of the moral degeneration of society due to the liberals, and how the religious had to vote to take back that power. In the program they described the religous right vote as being effectively "the troops for the neo-cons" at the time.

In power the neo-cons again tried to increasingly demonstrate the threats of Russia, but this time in a new way. The new idea was that most of the flashpoints in the world at the time, Ireland, PLO, Baader Meinhof, Afganistan etc were being financed by the Russians. The CIA again disageed, but a secret policy of eradicating this new threat from the Russian was agreed by Reagan.


--And so part 1 ends
-----


Very important and very insightful stuff. Wierd though how the Islamists and the neo-cons are using virtually the same philosophys in their respective parts of the world. Certainly something that made me jump out my chair that I hadn't thought about before.

This is exactly what you'd expect from director Adam Curtis who's previous documentary on the BBC was the equally enlightening "Century of the Self", which described the history of the Freuds and their massive influence of modernism.
 



17.10.04
  Have you heard the one about Toys R Us and Iraq? ....Naomi Klein has written an important article in the guardian today. Just when you thought the iraqis couldn't get more impoverished. Now they've got to pay money to KFC, toys R us and pepsi.

You couldn't make it up. 



  newspaper double speak ....Well, I'm not usually one for shouting about the junk that you get from the tabloids in the UK, it just provokes them more. But there was particularly bad piece in the Sun today, which I happened to pick up when I was travelling on the tube. Its not archived online thankfully at the moment, but its a nasty piece written by Clarkson.

He trying to be his normal provocative self, by trying to put down the myth of multiculturalism and political correctness in the context of a number of recent shootings in the UK, but he's overstepped the mark this time.

"Spare us from these multi-cultural killers"

This is the title...What a start. You couldn't write "spare us from these black killers" because that's blatantly racist so he's gone for multicultural instead to disguise the fact

"we have seen Sol Cambell playing for England but where's the multi-culturalism in that? He doesn't lope about at the back in a fug of cannabis smoke, with a big picture of Haile Selasse on the back of his shirt"

Well here he's either implying that anyone who believes in multiculturalism is a pot smoker or he could be saying that most black people smoke pot???

"you have the NHS which we're told wouldn't function without Indian doctors or Nigerian nurses. True, but they don't bring their culture to our hospitals. They don't try and cure ear ache with the bark of the jojoba tree"

This is an absolutely discraceful line. Clarkson is implying that the inherent culture for these countries is some type of voodoo or tribal medicine. This is completely untrue as anyone who has been to these countries will know. So he is using a blatently untrue fact to belittle whole culture or race. I would say this line certainly comes within this definition of racism

"Its multi-culturalism that this week alone has seen a 14-year old girl killed and a toddler hospitalised"

Here comes the doublespeak again. Its like a code language multi culturalism, political correctness, asylum seekers. If you hide an article behind this language you can effectively write anything you like and know one will care

"You can bring your exotic food and your work ethic. You can bring your religion and you clothes. But if its not too much bother, we'd rather you left your tendancy to shoot people with disrespect in the back strrets of Kingston"

mmm...what else is there to say....
 



14.10.04
  Beyond the post-it note ....Whilst doing some work on a closely related project recently, I've hit on the beginnings of a possible great social platform based around collage. I guess the first step is something like this . The work i'm doing is kind of related and if i can just shoehorn the project the right way, I could be a conversion to flash away from a new supercharged social platform...(at the moment its just wishful thinking) 



  Fuji Water ....Another fascinating post from Ethan Zuckerman today. He noticed in Harvard, that a popular brand of water was from Fuji. Cue some quick calculations and coming up with the fact that it cost roughly 100% more to transport water by road across a few hundered miles in the US as it does several thousand miles on a ship... 



9.10.04
  Takedown ....Reports say that the FBI have taken down Indymedia's servers in the UK, in very strange circumstances.

The real question I have about this raids is, how the hell did the FBI get the rights to raid a place in England. The statement says "It is unclear to Indymedia how and why a server that is outside the US jurisdiction can be seized by US authorities". We also hear from their ISP, "Rackspace stated that "they cannot provide Indymedia with any information regarding the order". This is astonishing, in its desregard for the legal process and in its arrogance. It also reads very close to Kafka's "The trial"

This is not the first time indymedia has been raided. During the Genoa anti-capitalist protests, the Italian police raided the servers in Italy and also recently in America before the Republican convention. In fact Indymedia, knowing that they are at risk from being raided, wisely ensure that their log files do not log user IP addresses so that when the FBI comes in they cannot glean such information.

Indymedia was first thing that got me interested in the radical capabilities of online media. In particular I started reading the open news wire, which in its early days was a radical and interesting source of news. It always guaranteed a fantastic range of stories from different parts of the world written by people seeing situations first hand:

- Coca Karma is a great example, a long story that reads like Michael Mann's film "the insider" about a guy who got slightly conned by Coca cola and ended up getting dragged into the most astonishing legal wierdness

- This story is another one that I am still curious about, CAFR. I personally can't believe this is completely true. It is such an utterly astonishing story that I cannot believe it could just be swept under the carpet to the extent that the only coverage is from a few "nuts" on the web, but its still makes interesting reading.

- And in the Israeli attack on the Jenin refugee camp in Palestine, a few years ago. Reporting from the Palestine point of view was almost singly sourced from "open source" reports, mostly from indymedia posters because journalist couldn't get in. (There were some mainstream articles about this but i can't find any online)

Over time the open newswire became popular because of its sucess, and became a magnet for too many people with extreme views trying to shout each other out. That's not to say there aren't any decent articles on there now, its just that there are better sources to get independent news from. Glancing back at the newswire again now, perhaps I should start to read it again on occasion. Most commendably, its structure has helped it embrace the ongoing battles for national independece from the WTO, lead by Charvez and Lula. Hence the mass of spanish grassroots articles posted are growing, which is excellent (if disappointing because I can't understand them)

Update: Timeline
+0 days: Apearance on all the blogs that count: slashdot, techdirt etc
+1 day: Eff gets involved
+2 days: Apparent some dodgy Euro legal agreements allows other countries to take stuff from the uk
+3 days: Time it took for the first major media to take interest (and only breifly)
+5 days: Hard drives returned (suspected ghost copies made)
+? days: Still no one knows why the stuff was taken 



5.10.04
  Guns II ...This story could be massive.

Lessig had a link temporarily on his blog which he has taken off presumably because he wants to find the best way to harness the argument, but from my reading around it I think it is something like this.

Its all about the INDUCE act in the US. Well, Lessig has spotted a simple but powerful fact. The law will mean that the companies that run the P2P service or produce new technologies will have to ensure that their customers are not infringing any copyrights and that they are responsible for any illegal actions of their customers. Now replace "infringing" with "killing", "P2P technology" with "guns" and perhaps it is not too hard to imagine that INDUCE might become a way to hold gun companies responsible for shootings.

This would certainly be a good thing, but the NRA and the gun control lobby will not like it. Anyone for a few pounds on Charles Heston and Lessig fighting together against INDUCE, it sounds almost unbelievable, but maybe its possible!!!

 



  Guns I ....Hmmm, I haven't heard any big guns and weapons news stories recently, but I think theres a few bubbling under the surface.

Firstly I spotted this (curtesy of oneworld). It seems that the "code of conduct" for ethical weapons control which is operated in Europe is being circumvented by a bunch of countries/companies so that they can make profit, through supplying questionable regimes with weapons or by supplying governments with weapons to help supress their own people.

Lets not make a bones about it. Anyone who has been abroad to any country with a troubled past or present will know that guns are out of control and a massive problem. If you live in these states, you can easily arm your rebel group if you have a few quid and the right contacts. To put it quite simply, in these countries it is often easier and more productive to fight wars using weapons, than get around the negotiating table. And its always seems plain that although some of these guns come from illegal racketing, the gun companies at the best turn a blind eye and at the worst are complicit in underhand dealings. The report describes examples where gun companies/governments have worked in a range of underhand ways to make sales. They tend to use the old trick of exporting parts of guns to countries with less restrictive laws, only to reassemble them to sell on. Alternatively they simply take weapon to pieces and then sell the bits to the questionable countries, bypassing the laws.

Lets face it, it would be better to reduce the weapons trade beyond just a few "dodgy countries", the number of innocent deaths worldwide from people having guns is unbelievable. But at the very least this is the first step to sensible gun distribution in the world.

In Britain any calls to reduce the selling of weapons abroad is countered with the "Bae" argument, an argument that is often repeated by the discredited UK commercial/government department, weapons "company" BAe systems. It goes something like this. "Well, if we don't sell these weapons, then the economy will be dented with hundreds of jobs lost, and another country will just come in and sell the weapons anyway". This is a flimsy excuse, and does not stand up to any rational thought. It effectively equates a job in a local economy with a life in a far away country. In short, we should stop thinking from the "little britain" viewpoint when it comes to weapons and lives. Maybe another company won't take their place. Maybe it will push the prices of weapons up so to make them more scarce, and even if someone else sells the weapons instead, we'll just chase them down instead.

A change to the EU code of conduct, is the clear way forward here. There's currently an attempt to try to tighten the laws, but according to the report "NGOs say that there does not appear to be the political will to implement the changes needed to make a difference". This basically means that at the moment public pressure is low, but the pressure from weapons company against the laws is high and hence the changes won't go thorough. As with these things, the only way to change this is to campaign, pester your MP etc and get some pressure going to resolve this disgrace.





 



3.10.04
  City of Men ....Not having digital TV, I get to miss out on loads of interesting and good things. Over the weekend though I was in a house with a digital box and managed to catch City of Men on BBC4.

This is a Brazilian TV series which uses the same director and characters as the excellent and sucessful film "City of God", about kids in the slums of Rio.

I was impressed with the program, not quite as good as the film, but still with vibrant digital camera techniques and amazing editing. Also worth mentioning really raw, genuine acting from the actors, who are mostly just kids pulled out of the slums.

After seeing the crap opening titles, I was worried that this would be a really poor low budget TV version, but I think keeping the directors and characters helped the continuity. Recommended 





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