The future of occulture: Key 23

Key 23, a new occulture group blog from Mad Ghoul, Sauceruney, Wes, Mindwarp, LVX23 and me, launched today. From Michael’s history of the project:

What is Key 23? Key 23 comes from author Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles graphic novel. Originally termed Key 17, and then remonikered with the 23 later in the series, Key 23 is a chemical substance that forces the person under its influence to confuse words with the concepts that they represent, ultimately leading to a blurry line between reality and the written word.
That is our attempt here: to blur consensus reality with the concepts and ideas that you’ll be reading about and we’ve assembled a team like no other to accomplish this task.

As a result of my involvement in this project, Technoccult will be in for a big change. But not until after I get back from Austin.

Superheros and the City

Guardian book review of Matters of Gravity:

His final chapter is the best: a reading of superheroes in their various urban environments that is studded with lovely aper├žus. Bukatman draws an analogy between the 1811 imposition of Manhattan’s grid street system and the rectilinear layout of traditional comic strips which was subsequently exploded and dissolved for artistic effect. The strange fact that superheroes always live in big cities persuades him that the liberating sight of Superman flying, Spider-Man swinging or Batman leaping through the skylines is again an attempt to domesticate the dehumanised concrete sprawl. Superman, Bukatman says, “represented, in 1938, a kind of Corbusierian ideal. Superman has X-ray vision: walls become permeable, transparent. Through his benign, controlled authority, Superman renders the city open, modernist and democratic; he furthers a sense that Le Corbusier described in 1925, namely, that ‘Everything is known to us’.”

(via City of Sound)

On job training and the economy

Wow. What I meant to be just a quick response ended up being a rant.
I have mixed feelings about thisAlterNet excerpt from Jim Hightower’s new book
Hightower emphasizes that the largest number of job gains between now and 2010 are in unskilled, low paying fields. He doesn’t note that most of the jobs lost to date, and most of the jobs that will be lost during the same period are also low skilled jobs.
This is one of the major problems: people are coming out of relatively high paying but low skill jobs to low paying low skill jobs.
This problem is compounded by the wage drop due to wages increasing at a slower pace than inflation.
This is a big problem, and it’s leading to new labor unions. And part of the solution will most likely involve higher minimum wages.
What irks me is that Hightower implies that job training won’t be important, especially since as far as Hightower’s concerned, the economy’s problem is the lack of high tech jobs. In the excerpt Hightower cites the BLS’ 30 Occupations Adding the Most Jobs by 2010 report. Perhaps Tower is working from a different list from the one I found, but the list I found has registered nurses, postsecondary teachers, retail salespersons, and customer service representatives above “Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food.” At any rate, he’s right that over 2/3 the jobs on the list require minimal skills. [update: I think I must be looking at a different one from him, because the one I’m looking at goes to 2012 not 2010]
But he ignores the fastest growing jobs. More than 2/3s of the jobs on this list require specialized training. Almost all of them are in technology, health care, or education. And, depending how you count, about 2/3s of them can’t be offshored. At least one of these jobs, nursing, is already surfering from major shortages. So, the problems: people need to be able to afford to take the time off to train or re-train for these positions, pay for the training when necessary, people need to be motivated to re-train rather than wait around for jobs that will never come back, and there needs to be funding for the jobs once people are trained. So there needs to be money for health care, education, and social service programs. This money can come from taxes on corporations who off-shore mass amounts of employment services.
One thing that needs to happen is that public education needs to better prepare students for a constantly changing labor market. Remember, public education was designed to prepare an elite group of students for college and the rest for factory work (President Woodrow Wilson: “We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forego the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.”). Schools seem to set people up for failure. The school system does not provide students with the confidence and basic learning skills to adapt to changing demands. Even the “go to college” mantra repeated in high schools is detrimental: it gives students the idea that all they have to do is go to college and everything will be fine, and it damages the confidence of students who don’t go to college or think they aren’t smart enough.
Welfare and social services don’t do any better with adults, and college and universities could be greatly improved to enhance students ability to cope with the job market.
Anyway, I could ramble more about this, but I don’t have time. I’d also like to talk about starting new businesses and stuff. Some other time, I guess.

Oracle To Add R&D Centers In China

Multinational companies are increasingly shifting sophisticated functions such as research and marketing to China, which is eager to cast off its image as a mere shop floor. (via Slashdot)
From the Slashdot comments:

The real protectionism is in “IP” laws. Restrictive licensing prevents people from actually rating Oracle’s databases so comparison is impossible. Worse, I can’t compete against Oracle if they get a bunch of bogus software patents. It is only that kind of government protection that makes the logistic headaches of outsourcing possible. In a free economy, most of the current big dumb companies would have been toppled by smaller smarter competition long ago.
As it is, the big dumb companies survive and feed off each other. The average American worker continues to suffer M$ desktops, mergers and layoffs while their overpaid executives pad their salaries with bonuses from all the money they have “saved” by eliminating their competition, auction proceeds and offshoring. The whole thing is a crock and represents the end of a long corporate looting spree.
The “service” economy was a lie. The US will quickly become a backwater if it fails to make things other people want. Some people were dumb enough to think that we could simply provide the world with “brains”. The definition of “brains” is swiftly being reduced to ownership of ideas that citizens of other countries are increasingly having.

Remember a couple months ago when I linked to this? I don’t think our outsourced corporate jobs are going to be replaced by corporate “creative jobs” (as argued here). We need to focus on education, health care, social services, and small business. I need to write a larger post about this.

Excellent interview with RU Sirius

Best interview I’ve read with RU in a long time. I know from experience he’s a sort of difficult interview subject. Not that he isn’t forthcoming, but I think he’s a bit sick of talking about all the same things. This guy had some good questions and got some good stuff out of him.

R.U. Sirius is kind of a pseudo-occult name that I took up in the mid 1980s, when I was doing ludicrous magic with the magazine High Frontiers, trying to bring about a psychedelic renaissance. High Frontiers eventually became Mondo 2000, and R.U. Sirius developed as a character also, I’m not quite sure, in the mid-90s R.U. Sirius became a combination of Marquis De Sade and a raver. […]
In terms of social engineering, I think that, you know, you think of yourself as being in a story, and life will start to have the kind of dynamics that you would have if you were in a story, rather than if you were part of some dire laborious mechanism, you know…

Better Propaganda: R.U. Sirius Interview
(via New World Disorder)

Kids dangle from meat hooks for fun

Everyone needs a hobby:

Lieutenant Tom Brazil of the Coast Guard told the Key West Citizen newspaper that a young man, who also had hooks embedded in his heavily pierced and tattooed skin, assured him the group was “just enjoying the afternoon.”
A Coast Guard spokeswoman in Miami said the group had clearly done this before and intended to post photos of themselves on a Web site dedicated to “body modification” — the ritualistic piercing of the body.

Yahoo News: Kids dangle from meat hooks for fun.