by zunguzungu

Fuzzy Dunlop lives:

A California student got a visit from the FBI this week after he found a secret GPS tracking device on his car, and a friend posted photos of it online. The post prompted wide speculation about whether the device was real, whether the young Arab-American was being targeted in a terrorism investigation and what the authorities would do…It took just 48 hours to find out: The device was real, the student was being secretly tracked and the FBI wanted their expensive device back…

An FBI spokesman wouldn’t acknowledge that the device belonged to the agency or that agents appeared at Afifi’s house. “I can’t really tell you much about it, because it’s still an ongoing investigation,” said spokesman Pete Lee, who works in the agency’s San Francisco headquarters.

An interviewwith David Harvey

…there is a joke about Marxists, that they have predicted correctly the last twelve of the last three crises. So you always have to be careful about saying that a contradiction is going to erupt in a crisis or that there’s going to be a final crisis. But what Marxian theory tells us is that there is no such thing as a stable capitalist system. So for instance, when economists from Ben Bernanke to Paul Krugman start talking about the 1990s as the period of “great moderation,” or when they start to say that crisis tendencies have been resolved, from a Marxist perspective you know that is never going to be the case.

As recently as 2004–2005, even before he became chairman of the United States Federal Reserve, Bernanke was talking about the tendencies toward instability as muted and as nothing to worry about. Conventional economists have an understanding of society that is about what they would regard as a tendency toward equilibrium, that when the market is operating properly within the right institutional framework—which includes some degree of regulation of contracts and private property rights—it should produce a condition of equilibrium. So conventional economics is always talking about the tendency toward convergence, toward equilibrium, and that equilibrium is possible provided the right mix of policies and as long as there isn’t anything external that disrupts the whole system. External problems would be so-called natural disasters, wars, geopolitical conflicts, and protectionism. Crisis would then arise because of these external interventions, which take us away from the path to equilibrium, which is always possible. From a Marxist perspective, equilibrium is an unusual condition. There are always forces taking us away that are internal to the dynamics of the system.

We know too much about V.S. Naipaul:

Since the publication of Patrick French’s astonishing and extraordinary authorized biography of Naipaul, The World Is What it Is (2008), all of Naipaul’s work must now be read through the filter of the revelations that French detailed. Such knowledge about the private person is unparalleled in the case of an eminent living writer; Naipaul’s very being is exposed in French’s biography with total, embarrassing candour. We know too much about V. S. Naipaul, now, we have too much information: Naipaul’s work – past, present and future – is irrevocably transformed by the “French Effect”.

The Masque of Africa demonstrates this all too capably. The format is familiar, comparable to the great travel books of the past. Naipaul sets off, ostensibly alone, with an intellectual agenda of sorts, to a country or several countries. He establishes himself and begins to meet people, quizzing them, transcribing the answers to his questions. Simultaneously, his own reactions to the places and people he meets are recorded with unflinching honesty. A corrosive disdain and darkest prognostications inevitably ensue.

However, thanks to Patrick French (and thanks to Naipaul himself who authorized and assisted in the biography) we now know that on his journey he usually isn’t alone, that he travels as comfortably as possible with his wife or a female companion, that he enlists local contacts – usually journalists – to do much of the footwork and round up “interesting people” for him to query and analyse. He doesn’t tend to take notes on the spot but writes up the day’s experiences at night, after the event. Slowly, over months, material is gathered, the book takes shape and then is written with dogged application in some isolated spot – a hotel or his cottage in Wiltshire – often, while she was alive, with the active participation of his wife, Pat.

Artists will be free once they learn how to give up desire:

The sad truth is that almost everything almost every artist tries to earn money will fail. This has nothing to do with the internet, of course. Consider the remarkable statement from Alanis Morissette’s attorney at the Future of Music Conference: 97% of the artists signed to a major label before Napster earned $600 or less a year from it. And these were the lucky lotto winners, the tiny fraction of 1% who made it to a record deal…You know who peddles false hope to naive would-be artists? People who go around implying that but for all those internet pirates, there’d be full creative employment for all of us. That the reason artists earn so little is because our audiences can’t be trusted, that once we get this pesky internet thing solved, there’ll be jam tomorrow for everyone. If you want to damn someone for selling a bill of goods to creative people, go after the DRM vendors with their ridiculous claims about copy-proof files; go after the labels who say that wholesale lawsuits against fans on behalf of artists (where labels get to pocket the winnings) are good business; go after the studios who are suing to make it impossible for anyone to put independent video on the internet without a giant corporate legal budget.

I do enjoy The Awl’s little chats with itself:

SFJ: Let’s compare “The West Wing” and “The Wire.”

NVC: I’d love to!

SFJ: Sorkin talk makes everybody feel smart and makes the shitty world look OK because making money and being an asshole is fine as long as a deserving nerd wins. This appeals to nerds and anybody who fancies themselves as SMARTS. Further, he goes in hard on lexis—the act of delivering words—and lets the characters walk you through everything that would either be the job of a) acting or b) the audience using their heads. It is a way to load middlebrow content into totally fun speed talk that saves many people some hard work while feeling highbrow, because only smart people can talk that quickly. It’s like associating athletic skill with height, de jure.

SFJ: Think of how many Sorkin characters are sort of Flat Erics who talk, rapidly describing every idea that could have been acted out. The advantage is you can cram a lot of action into one episode. The downside is a weird, Aspergersy sameness to every project. Actors become court stenographers in reverse, spitting out Sorkinese and then stepping aside to let the next block of text barrel through.

NVC: Agreed.

SFJ: “The Wire,” on the other hand, doesn’t mind alienating you. It eliminates spoken exposition (lexis) in favor of mimesis. This is an entire world, it is full, and you had better take notes if you want to keep up. You have to WORK. People who don’t look like you may be in charge for a minute, maybe for a long time, and nobody has the moral high ground.


Marc Bousquet on schools without administrators: (via)

A funny thing is happening in the United States. Across the country, headless schools are opening. One opens this fall in Detroit: the teachers’ terms of employment are still governed by their union’s contract with Detroit Public Schools, but they will administer themselves on a democratic, cooperative basis.  In just the past couple of years, schools run by teacher cooperatives have opened in Madison, Denver, Chicago, Boston, and New York.  Milwaukee has 13 teacher-run schools…Over the next few years, dozens–perhaps hundreds–of similar schools will open in Los Angeles:  teachers will have control over curriculum, work rules and every facet of academic policy. In every school, councils of students, teachers, and parents provide active, intellectual leadership.  Every school has a student-, community- and teacher- centered system of governance imagined from the ground up by faculty and citizen co-proposers. They will all have at least one principal administrator, so they have not amputated the head, only shrunken it.  Nonetheless it is clear that community leaders, students and teachers will hire, evaluate and severely circumscribe the authority of their (usually) solitary administrator  in a self-conscious, explicitly distributed system of leadership…It is hard to overstate the radicalism of this spreading front of action. Teachers, supported by their unions, in partnership with students and parents, are taking back the schools—literally hijacking mechanisms designed by politicians to hand schools to religious, ideological, and capitalist control. Their intention is clear: permanent occupation of the schools, a full, rich inhabitation.

Zizek’s “How to Read Lacan”:

Lacan started his “return to Freud” with the linguistic reading of the entire psychoanalytic edifice, encapsulated by what is perhaps his single best known formula: “the unconscious is structured as a language.” The predominant perception of the unconscious is that it is the domain of irrational drives, something opposed to the rational conscious self. For Lacan, this notion of the unconscious belongs to the Romantic Lebensphilosophie (philosophy of life) and has nothing to do with Freud. The Freudian unconscious caused such a scandal not because of the claim that the rational self is subordinated to the much vaster domain of blind irrational instincts, but because it demonstrated how the unconscious itself obeys its own grammar and logic – the unconscious talks and thinks. The unconscious is not the reservoir of wild drives that has to be conquered by the ego, but the site where a traumatic truth speaks. Therein resides Lacan’s version of Freud’s motto wo es war, soll ich werden (where it was, I shall become): not “the ego should conquer the id”, the site of the unconscious drives, but “I should dare to approach the site of my truth”. What awaits me “there” is not a deep Truth I have to identify with, but an unbearable truth I have to learn to live with.

Dan Cohen on romanticism in the internet age:

Friedrich Nietzsche would have hated Twitter and Wikipedia even more than organized religion. The great champion of the individual will rising above the sheepish masses would have shuddered at what the Internet has given us in the last decade, when the Web became exponentially more social and collaborative. One can only imagine Nietzsche’s fury at a method called “crowdsourcing” and a Web browser called Flock. I suppose every age has its debate about the individual versus the collective, with associated concerns about the place of genius and expertise, but I suspect we are heading into a decade of especially heightened sensitivity over this tension.