Category: slag

pouring slow and amber like chocolate bees

hunched, spinal crook, throbbing at moments, docile at others. typing challenge when the very atoms show increased laziness to maintain consciousness, let alone manage logical transactions and transcriptions. hard smooth granite props up the weight of my sagging uppers, arms and shoulders putting heat to the spine so it keeps my skull from sliding down onto the plastic keyboard, a dull smack with alphanumeric dents left in my cheek and forehead. all i hear are tribal drums, the steel hammering of subway trains over worn shiny metal tracks, a voice echoes, a woman with a foreign tongue, reflected through the terminal, cold aquatic robotic, even. recorded line controller. directing the steel eels running the tracks through the hive of concrete, steel warrens a thousand feet high seared with the hypersaw buzzing of monstrous cicadas, giant beetles and fell craven insects, a messy web of streets and lines hastily gathered over burnt wood and broken feudalism, through great fire and the greatest of all fires, an earthly sun that made the windows shine like heaven before shatterring, before god fell to earth clutching a gun. then a second of shiva’s world destroyers dropped and revealed itself to the city before the sun itself finally fell in shock, tears running from its old weary eyes. you cannot hide in sunlight. a feral sense like getting slapped with an eel two days past your last meal, even chocolate bees can’t turn me on because the world is round, love is red love is blue, she is water, he is fire, prophets of armagideon, manipulators, persuaders, war pigs for profit, energy barons grabbing lands, wall st gambling sucks up profits, we eat the losses. it’s all too much and caribou barbie will take us away and install her racist cadre of warrior hockey dads dressed in bad flannels and moose furs. pause. breathe. blue sky above alaska round midnight, wolves release high yelps along the hillside across from the icy river running down to sea. the hunt is on. there’s oil in that ice deep down coring to the earth to draw out the deepest blood, the thickest plasmids. love is all love is you. the wind is high setting the trees dancing. that refinery flash from the venting tower at night caught in the thermals thrown off by the combustions below. up rise the demons. marching off to war. this hive will buzz tonight. we will fight the icy river, those oily fires. can’t you see? demons standing tall and dark, hands and faces smeared in crude, black and smoky balrogs stalking the deserts of antiquity, walking through the cradle, spewing fire and ash across history itself. the tigris, euphrates, mesopotamia. oh you rivers oh you waters run. come bear witness to the Whore of Babylon! if i had my way i’d tear the building down. demon days i say. the hive is buzzing. a message is coming. keep your ear down to the ground. we’re sending probes to the sun, inspecting the heliosphere, talking to sunspots, bathing in that sweet sweet solar wind. dig. thats how we roll. our kind goes to the source. we speak with the stars. we break up through the gravity well with giant explosives strapped to our backs, sneering at the world below, rocket to the moon, got my glock and ipod for the jagged trip up through strato and out to geosynch with L5. they been expecting us and we are ready. got a big-ass knife and a dripping spliff. razors down my forearms and silica gel lifting my floats. zero g muthafucker. its just a myriad of stars. Which one will it be? just a myriad of fucking stars. like little glowing amber orbs, summer lightbugs alit in the heavens, floating buzzing gathering a thousand chocolate bees pouring so slow and ambered in constellatory arcs trailing dusted pollen across the very firmament. cover me. in my sleep. darling please.

Remodel Almost Done, Still Mobile

Moved in but still stepping over contractors. No DSL, no sinks or cooking (hopefully this will be done tonight). No blogging but mostly daily Twittering from mobile. Hoping to get office and studio up and running in the next week. Back to work Monday, quest for new job continues. Will be back online more soon. Might even have enough space in my head to start writing again…

Drifting Between Homes

Brain is not working. Fighting low-level stomach flu in a hotel. Moved entire life into the garage last week. Now drifting with girlfriend until we can move into the remodel on Tues. Job interviews next week. Carpet install tomorrow morn. Inhaled too much paint fumes yesterday. Did I mention that brain is not working?

Our CEO’s, Their Foreign Agents

Pundits and electioneers like to play up the notion that American-born industries have some great allegiance to the United States, and that de-regulating their actions will yield more jobs and greater economic gains for the whole country. Those that believe this are holding on to antiquated nostalgia that no longer has any real basis in reality. The simple observable fact is that business is predicated on self-preservation and growth, unbounded by borders, allegiances, or ideologies. Furthermore, the notion that democracy is somehow critical to successful economics is not born out by the actions of most corporate entities. What’s important is a diversity of ideologies and socioeconomic conditions that can be leveraged against one another in order to produce needs and market opportunities.

The American Prospect has an illuminating article highlighting how the drive to profit often undermines the goals of both the U.S. and democracy itself. What makes this particular research interesting is that it documents many of the cases where CEO’s have brokered deals directly with authoritarian regimes at the expense of our own founding laws and ideals, both building up our global competitors while undermining our domestic interests.

From Our CEOs, Their Foreign Agents:

The CEOs of global companies often prefer to do business with authoritarian regimes; they can get faster decisions than they can in democracies. But these CEOs also find that they must be more responsive to the desires of the authoritarian regimes than to those of the democracies. Where there are conflicting national interests, the global CEOs are likely to line up on the side of the authoritarians and even to become lobbyists for them within the democracies.

The key problem is the asymmetry of governmental power over corporations in democratic and authoritarian regimes. In Washington, a CEO of a major corporation is an important political player who makes big PAC donations, maintains legions of lawyers and lobbyists, files lawsuits against the government, writes legislation, and influences regulatory decisions. In Beijing, Riyadh, or Moscow, however, the same CEO is a supplicant. He doesn’t file lawsuits against these governments; indeed, he needs to maintain favor and keep the bureaucrats and party operatives happy.

Moreover, he will use his influence in Washington to do what is necessary to curry favor in authoritarian capitals. This is why the Business Round Table and U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been telling the Congress not to worry about China’s currency-management policies that put U.S.-based producers at a disadvantage. Many in the global business community have effectively become lobbyists for the autocrats.

RAND Determines War on Terror to be Bad Strategy

Though I expect the Mil-Biz complex will stick to their guns and continue to seek profit in their outmoded antipattern. Really, all sorts of convenient short-term economic and social engineering results are gained by popularizing a global spectre to relentlessly pursue but never quite catch. So much of global industry is far more invested in ongoing treatment of symptoms rather than finding cures and wiping out their business models. Nevertheless, it’s a positive sign when our most trusted defense analysts are standing up against such opportunistic and maladaptive.
From the RAND Report:

Abstract

How do terrorist groups end? The evidence since 1968 indicates that terrorist groups rarely cease to exist as a result of winning or losing a military campaign. Rather, most groups end because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies or because they join the political process. This suggests that the United States should pursue a counterterrorism strategy against al Qa’ida that emphasizes policing and intelligence gathering rather than a “war on terrorism” approach that relies heavily on military force.

The Big Picture – Jamai Cascio

Jamai Cascio, co-founder of WorldChanging.com, has a great overview of the next 30+ years and the realities of our onrushing energy collapse. A lot of what he says resonates with my own sense of things. Much of my thought lately has been towards the deployment of local stabilizing systems and the the counter-imperative to our headless globalization. Really, we as a species are at a very sobering point in our history when all of the great modern systems we’ve taken for granted are being called into question. Is our world sustainable? Will innovation and collaboration win of ideaology and greed?

Over the next forty years, we’ll see a small but measurable dieback of human population, due to starvation, disease, and war (one local nuclear war in South Asia or Middle East, scaring the hell out of everyone about nukes for another couple of generations). Much of the death will be in the advanced developing nations, such as China and India. There will be pretty significant economic slowdowns globally, and US/EU/Japan will see significant unrest. Border closings between the developed and the developing nations will likely spike, probably along with brushfire skirmishes.

The post-industrial world will see a burst of localization and “made by hand” production, but even at its worst it is more reminiscent of World War II-era restrictions than of a Mad Max-style apocalypse. In much of the developed world, limitations serve as a driver for innovation, both social and technological. It’s not a comfortable period, by any means, but the Chinese experience and the aftermath of the Middle East/South Asian nuclear exchange sobers everybody up.

Imperial overreach, economic crises, and the various global environmental and resource threats put an end to American dominance, but nobody else can step up as global hegemon. Europe is trying to deal with its own social and environmental problems, while China is struggling to avoid full-on collapse. The result isn’t so much isolationism as distractionism — the potential global players are all far too distracted by their own problems to do much overseas.

[See also this post about resilient communities by Alex Steffen for a good link roundup (I'm not really in line with his notion that localism is not enough... i think it's the best place to start).]

Fractured Reality Through Augmentation?

If we’re heading towards a time when the average person is looking at the world through augmented reality overlays – mobile camera readers, HUD glasses, implants superimposing datas on the “real world” – how much of reality will still be shared? Will the building I see be the same as those around me? Will reality itself begin to fragment into inumerable niche channels? Is it already? What will this do to our sense of self & space? Is this any different than the existing degree of sub-genre-fication that divides our cultures through class & affiliation? How do local communities find strength amidst a rising tide of non-local belonging?

Hyperconnectivity begets hypermimesis begets hyperempowerment – Mark Pesce

From Mark Pesce’s recent presentation at Personal Democracy Forum 2008::

Hyperpolitics: American Style
It is as though we have all been shoved into the same room, a post-modern Panopticon, where everyone watches everyone else, can speak with everyone else, can work with everyone else. We can send out a call to “find the others,” for any cause, and watch in wonder as millions raise their hands. Any fringe (noble or diabolical) multiplied across three and a half billion adds up to substantial numbers. Amplified by the Human Network, the bonds of affinity have delivered us over to a new kind of mob rule.

…These newly disproportionate returns on the investment in altruism now trump the ‘virtue of selfishness.’

…Sharing is the threat. Not just a threat. It is the whole of the thing.

A photo snapped on my mobile becomes instantaneously and pervasively visible. No wonder she’s nervous: in my simple, honest and entirely human act of sharing, it becomes immediately apparent that any pretensions to control, or limitation, or the exercise of power have already collapsed into shell-shocked impotence.

Ireland Rejects EU Lisbon Treaty for Good Reasons They May Not be Aware of

I don’t know a lot about the politics within the EU or about the details of whey Ireland has rejected the Lisbon Treaty. I do know the treaty addresses the appointment of a president of the EU and a new definition of how funds will be distributed, and that support for the treaty was encouraged by the booming business class in Ireland but was ultimately shot down by the voters who, I suspect, are not overtly thinking about the dangers the modern world presents to wider distribution.

Given the trending inability of large states to manage resources effectively and provide for their citizenry, as well as the ascending power of the market and it’s own profit-driven dismissal of the common good, it’s becoming increasingly important for regional communities to reclaim control over their land, power, agriculture, and other vested interests. The economic web of globalization is proving itself to be exceptionally open to disruptions, as current crises spinning off spiking oil prices illustrate. In this case, high oil prices translate to high food & goods costs, higher energy prices, high infrastructure costs, and flagging state economies as a result. These factors in turn encourage business to trim costs by laying off employees, which raises unemployment, feeding both the burden of welfare on the state and the deterioration of urban communities from decreasing state support and increasing crime. In all likelihood, barring any major technological interventions, this trend will continue.

So now more than ever the state is being challenged and undermined by both corporate and insurgent guerrilla interests (as explored in John Robb’s work) while the reliability of increasingly distributed and vulnerable infrastructure nets is flagging, all in the face of rising costs and diminishing supply of the fundamental substrate of our entire civilization: energy. As states hollow out and over-extend into resource struggles, local communities must pick up the slack and build their own support infrastructures capable of keeping the lights on and the water flowing.

In this context, the desire of Irish voters to retain greater control over their lives and their country is very wise indeed.

Astroturfing (def)

Tip ‘o the hat to James Clark at Endless Wormhole!

Astroturfing:

Astroturfing in American English is a neologism for formal public relations campaigns in politics and advertising which seek to create the impression of being spontaneous, grassroots behavior, hence the reference to the artificial grass AstroTurf.

The goal of such a campaign is to disguise the efforts of a political or commercial entity as an independent public reaction to some political entity—a politician, political group, product, service or event. Astroturfers attempt to orchestrate the actions of apparently diverse and geographically distributed individuals, by both overt (“outreach”, “awareness”, etc.) and covert (disinformation) means. Astroturfing may be undertaken by anything from an individual pushing one’s own personal agenda through to highly organized professional groups with financial backing from large corporations, non-profits, or activist organizations.

The Religion of Nutritionism and the Soul of a Carrot

“Eat food, mostly plants, not too much,”

I’ve been working to alter my food habits and generally be more aware of the sustainability and resource impact of products I buy. In a nutshell, I’m trying to eat foods that are grown locally and in-season. Along this path a friend of mine gave me a copy of Michael Pollard’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemna” (buy it from your local bookstore), which examines the practices of global agri-business and how it impacts our health, the health of our environment, and the quality of our foods. It’s really fascinating and paints a highly monetized and extremely un-sustainable picture of global agriculture. Of specific interest, Pollard goes into great detail about the inordinate value and consumption of just a few corn species monohybrids. Our food economy is based in cheap overproduction of corn, fed by petroleum, then downstreamed to feedlots and bionegineered to just about every type of food imaginable. In some sense, Safeway and McDonald’s are little more than corn outlets. Indeed, his examination suggests that corn is a far more adapted and successful species than our own.

The above video is of Pollard’s recent talk at Google where he addresses the solutions to the problems posed by “Dilemna”.

Militarized Robotic Biomimics Coming Soon

In a disturbing-but-not-surprising move, the U.S. military is contracting the development of small robotic biomimics for field deployment. Equipped with sensors and networked relays these robocritters will likely end up scurrying through apartment complexes at home and abroad, ala Minority Report. Expect swarming behaviors, social intelligence, and networked biometrics.

Everybody freeze for the spiders…

British defence giant BAE Systems is creating a series of tiny electronic spiders, insects and snakes that could become the eyes and ears of soldiers on the battlefield, helping to save thousands of lives [ed note: the video shows bugs being used to target a building for rocket attack].

Prototypes could be on the front line by the end of the year, scuttling into potential danger areas such as booby-trapped buildings or enemy hideouts to relay images back to troops safely positioned nearby.

Soldiers will carry the robots into combat and use a small tracked vehicle to transport them closer to their targets.

Then they would swarm into the building and relay images back to the soldiers’ hand-held or wrist-mounted computers, warning them of any threats inside.

BAE Systems has just signed a £19million contract to develop the robots for the US Army.

Roger Waters votes Obama

This weekend’s Coachella music festival found ex-Floydist, Roger Waters, banging out a full Dark Side to the massive crowds. Of special note, and in classic fashion, a large pig was deployed condemning US warmongering and offering a not-so-subtle solution (click through link for vid):

But Waters’ biggest prop was an inflatable pig the size of a school bus that emerged while he played a version of “Pigs” from 1977′s capitalism critique, “Animals.”

The pig, which was led above the crowd from lines held on the ground, displayed the words “Don’t be led to the slaughter” and a cartoon of Uncle Sam wielding two bloody cleavers. The other side read “Fear builds walls.”

The underside of the pig simply read “Obama” with a checked ballot box alongside.

Society of the Spectacle

From the intro to Guy Debord’s situationist manifesto, The Society of the Spectacle:

1
In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.

2
The images detached from every aspect of life fuse in a common stream in which the unity of this life can no longer be reestablished. Reality considered partially unfolds, in its own general unity, as a pseudo-world apart, an object of mere contemplation. The specialization of images of the world is completed in the world of the autonomous image, where the liar has lied to himself. The spectacle in general, as the concrete inversion of life, is the autonomous movement of the non-living.

3
The spectacle presents itself simultaneously as all of society, as part of society, and as instrument of unification. As a part of society it is specifically the sector which concentrates all gazing and all consciousness. Due to the very fact that this sector is separate, it is the common ground of the deceived gaze and of false consciousness, and the unification it achieves is nothing but an official language of generalized separation.

4
The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.

Slow Food and Carrot Mob

Here are a couple of interesting projects/movements I just ran across. These are both great examples of how people can organize and use their collective power to modify industry.

Slow Food is a movement designed to counter fast food and hi-impact susperscaling of food production. SciFi futurist Bruce Sterling has a great write-up of Slow Food in Metropolis. From the article:

Its criteria are strict: (a) Is the product nonglobalized or, better yet, inherently nonglobalizable? (b) Is it artisanally made (so there’s no possibility of any industrial economies of scale)? (c) Is it high-quality (the consumer “wow” factor)? (d) Is it sustainably produced? (Not only is this politically pleasing, but it swiftly eliminates competition from most multinationals.) (e) Is this product likely to disappear from the planet otherwise? (Biodiversity must be served!)

Carrot Mob is another democratizing and locally-empowering group that “organizes consumers to make purchases, rewarding companies who make environmentally friendly choices”. From their website:

On Saturday, March 29th, at 1pm, come to K & D Market… and buy whatever you want. Buy a lot. We’re going to be tracking everyone’s purchases and then calculating how much revenue we brought to the store. K & D has committed to spending 22% of all the revenue we bring in on energy-saving measures identified by an SF Energy Watch audit, in order to make their store more environmentally friendly! This was the result of a bidding war, which they won, prevailing as the store most committed to environmental improvement among its competitors.

This movement of group financial empowerment is going to see a lot of traction as communities (local and networked) leverage mobile and social tools to become more organized around shared interests. FWIW, Andrea and I were discussing how groups might gather funds under political/ecological/social platforms that candidates could then pledge for (IE democratizing PAC’s). See also Larry Lessig’s newest reform project Change Congress.