MonthDecember 2009

Nina Hagen writing a book on Jesus

German punk pioneer and scandal queen Nina Hagen is writing a book about Jesus, she said on her website Thursday. […]

“Nina tells how she, at an early age in an atheist environment, came upon a forbidden but fascinating being named God. She takes the reader with her on a wild road movie in which she has demonic experiences in an Indian ashram.

“On the way, she looked love, drugs and death in the eye. But above all, she encountered God.”

AFP: German hell-raiser Nina Hagen pens Jesus book

(via Religion News)

Forget 2012: Why Mexicans Are Wary of 2010

Forget 2012. As far as many Mexicans are concerned, the ancient Mayas were being generous: the sky’s actually going to fall next year. Why? Because it’s 2010, Mexico’s bicentennial, and Mexican history has an eerie way of repeating itself. Mexico’s 1910 centennial, after all, saw the start of the bloody, decade-long Mexican Revolution, which killed more than a million people. And that cataclysm was precisely a century after the start of Mexico’s bloody, decade-long War of Independence in 1810.

You get the picture. As a result, there’s been no shortage of talk lately about possible unrest, especially in the form of armed rebel groups, erupting south of the border in 2010. But is there really a basis for concern? None as apparent as the popular grievances that existed in 1809 or 1909. But this is still Mexico; and while Spanish colonizers no longer oppress the country, and dictators like Porfirio Diaz aren’t brutalizing campesinos, the country nonetheless is reeling from the worst criminal violence in its history and one of its hardest economic slumps. “We are very near a social crisis,” JosÉ Narro, the director of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City, said recently. “The conditions are there.”

Time: Bicentennial Anxiety: Why Mexicans Are Wary of 2010

(Thanks James K!)

Inquiry fails to find single trafficker who forced anybody into prostitution

Note that this article does not deny the existence of sex trafficking, it does question how common it is.

The UK’s biggest ever investigation of sex trafficking failed to find a single person who had forced anybody into prostitution in spite of hundreds of raids on sex workers in a six-month campaign by government departments, specialist agencies and every police force in the country.

The failure has been disclosed by a Guardian investigation which also suggests that the scale of and nature of sex trafficking into the UK has been exaggerated by politicians and media.

Current and former ministers have claimed that thousands of women have been imported into the UK and forced to work as sex slaves, but most of these statements were either based on distortions of quoted sources or fabrications without any source at all. […]

There were just five men who were convicted of importing women and forcing them to work as prostitutes. These genuinely were traffickers, but none of them was detected by Pentameter, although its investigations are still continuing.

Two of them — Zhen Xu and Fei Zhang — had been in custody since March 2007, a clear seven months before Pentameter started work in October 2007.

The other three, Ali Arslan, Edward Facuna and Roman Pacan, were arrested and charged as a result of an operation which began when a female victim went to police in April 2006, well over a year before Pentameter Two began, although the arrests were made while Pentameter was running.

Guardian: Inquiry fails to find single trafficker who forced anybody into prostitution

Via Dr. Petra, who has commentary here.

Oregon profs plan giant robotic space cockroach warriors

Human traitors in Oregon are planning the construction of fearsome robot cockroaches physically superior to mankind.

“Cockroaches are incredible,” says John Schmitt, a prof at Oregon State uni. “They can run fast, turn on a dime, move easily over rough terrain, and react to perturbations faster than a nerve impulse can travel.”

Schmitt and his colleagues plan to build cockroach-like but much larger machines to be employed in “difficult jobs, such as military operations, law enforcement or space exploration”.

The spacegoing robowarrior roaches would have huge advantages over today’s vaguely humanoid or quadruped walker robots, according to Schmitt.

The Register: Oregon profs plan giant robotic space cockroach warriors

(via Steven Walling)

Three of Scientology’s elite parishioners keep faith, but leave the church

They advanced to the Church of Scientology’s highest spiritual level, to “Operating Thetan VIII,” a vaunted realm said to endow extraordinary powers of perception and force of will.

But Geir Isene of Norway and Americans Mary Jo Leavitt and Sherry Katz recently announced they were leaving the church, citing strong disagreements with its management practices.

Isene left first, a decision that emboldened Leavitt, who inspired Katz. Such departures are rare among the church’s elite group of OT VIIIs, who are held up as role models in Scientology. The three each told the St. Petersburg Times that they had spent decades and hundreds of thousands of dollars to reach the church’s spiritual pinnacle.

All three stressed their ongoing belief in Scientology and say they remain grateful for how it helped them. Yet they took to the Internet — an act strongly discouraged by church leaders, who decry public airing of problems — to share their reasons for leaving. They said they hoped it would resonate within the Scientology community.

St. Petersburg Times: Three of Scientology’s elite parishioners keep faith, but leave the church

(via Religion News)

Alan Moore interview at Wired

Interview is here.

Reactions to a few things:

There is a particular line I remember from The Sopranos where I think Tony Soprano says, “There are only two businesses that are recession-proof. There are certain elements of the entertainment industry, and this thing of ours”

I’m surprised that Moore watched the Sopranos, but it further confirms my thesis that television is the new cinema.

Where comics are starting to score heavily is in the documentary approach. People are starting to tell coherent stories that are autobiographical or documentary comics dealing with a particular situation. There has been a heartening surge of those, and they are largely coming from outside the comics industry. The comics industry, meanwhile, seems to be going down the tubes, as far as I can see. And it’s largely their own fault, that they did not embrace change heartily enough, that they didn’t have any new ideas, that they didn’t have a clue.

I think this is a little too pessimistic, but maybe that’s because I live in Portland and when I think of the comics industry I think of Floating World and The Stumptown Comics Festival and stuff. On the other hand, the only ongoing series I’m currently reading is the documentary series Reich.

would like to think that in our present time, not just in comics but in almost every form of the arts, I think that creative expression is within the reach of more people that it ever has been. Now, that is not to say that there are more people with something to say than there ever have been before. But I would like to see a situation where people finally got fed up with celebrity culture. Where people started this great democratic process in the arts where more and more people were just producing individually according to their own wants or needs.

This, on the other hand, is far too optimistic.

On the subject of writing an opera with the Gorillaz (previously mentioned here):

Well, that is a bit premature. We were having talks, but it was much too early to be talking about it. It got onto a website and then it went all over the place and got incredibly inflated. There’s a possibility of us working together on a project, but it wouldn’t be for a long, long time. But they are hopefully going to be doing something for Dodgem Logic’s third issue. And we’ve got some other fine people lined up for the future.

Consider this a correction.

Staging the Nation’s Rebirth: the Politics and Aesthetics of Performance in the Context of Fascist Studies

How are we to characterise the core myth of generic fascism which results from the fusion of a revolutionary project with anti-liberal but populist nationalism? It can be expressed in a single binomial term, albeit an initially cryptic one: `palingenetic ultra-nationalism’. `Palingenetic’ refers to the myth of `rebirth’ or
`regeneration’ (the literal meaning of `palingenesis’ in Greek). Clearly, the triumph of a new life over decadence and decay, the imminent rebirth from literal or figurative death, is a theme so universal within manifestations of the human religious, artistic, emotional and social imagination throughout history that it is in itself inadequate to define a political ideology. For example, the faith in the possibility of regeneration
from a present condition perceived as played out or no longer tolerable, is arguably the affective driving force behind all revolutionary ideologies, be they communist, anarchist, or `dark green’ (or even liberal, as a study of the speeches of the leading French Revolutionaries such as Saint-Juste or Robespierre shows2). The adjective `palingenetic’ first acquires a definitional function when it is combined with the historically quite recent and culture-specific phenomenon of `nationalism’, and only when this takes a radically anti-liberal stance to become ultra-nationalism.

Fascism thus emerges when populist ultra-nationalism combines with the myth of a radical crusade against decadence and for renewal in every sphere of national life. The result is an ideology which operates as a mythic force celebrating the unity and sovereignty of the whole people in a specifically anti-liberal, and anti-Marxist sense. It is also anti-conservative, for, even when the mythic values of the nation’s history or prehistory are celebrated, as in German völkisch thought, the stress is on living out `eternal’ values in a new society. The hall-mark of the fascist mentality is the sense of living at the watershed between two ages and of being engaged in the front-line of the battle to overcome degeneration through the creation of a rejuvenated national community, an event presaged by the appearance of a new `man’ embodying the qualities of the redeemed nation.

Staging the Nation’s Rebirth: the Politics and Aesthetics of Performance in the Context of Fascist Studies (PDF)

Brian Eno, Peter Schmidt, and Cybernetics

Cybernetic Serendipity Poster

Schmidt served as the music adviser to curator Jasia Reichardt for the landmark exhibition “Cybernetic Serendipity” at London’s ICA in 1968, and his selection of computer music for the ICA show proved extraordinarily prescient. Schmidt had long been intrigued by electronic music, systems, and their connections to the visual arts. “Cybernetic Serendipity” showcased pathbreaking work by hundreds of artists, including John Cage, Nam June Paik, and Jean Tinguely, and was a huge success for Reichardt and the ICA, drawing somewhere between 45,000 and 60,000 viewers and foreshadowing multiple major trends on the interfaces between art and technology. “Cybernetic Serendipity” also galvanized the interest in systems-based art. “The very notion of having a system in relation to making paintings is often anathema to those who value the mysterious and the intuitive, the free and the expressionistic, in art,” wrote Reichardt in 1968. “Systems, nevertheless, dispense neither with intuition nor mystery. Intuition is instrumental in the design of the system and mystery always remains in the final result.”

Rhizome: Brian Eno, Peter Schmidt, and Cybernetics

The art of Tom Gauld

end level boss

noisy alphabet

Tom Gauld’s web site

(via Jorn’s shared items)

Are humans organisms or living ecosystems?

the emerging science of human-microbe symbiosis has an even greater implication. “Human beings are not really individuals; they’re communities of organisms,” says McFall-Ngai. It’s not just that our bodies serve as a habitat for other organisms; it’s also that we function with them as a collective. As the profound interrelationship between humans and microbes becomes more apparent, the distinction between host and hosted has become both less clear and less important?—?together we operate as a constantly evolving man-microbe kibbutz. Which raises a startling implication: If being Homo sapiens through and through implied a certain authority over our corporeal selves, we are now forced to relinquish some of that control to our inner-dwelling microbes. Ironically, the human ingenuity that drives us to understand more about ourselves is revealing that we’re much less “human” than we once thought.

Seed: The Body Politic

(Thanks Social Fiction)

See also:

The BacterioSphere

Networks, Bacteria, and the Illusion of Control

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