July 31, 2010

71-Year-Old in Wheelchair Robs Bank

Peter Barry Lawrence . . . . made his getaway in his wheelchair, with $2,000 in cash on his lap. He was headed back to his rented room at the nearby San Diego Downtown Lodge . . . police caught up with him five minutes later.

. . . . But that was all part of the plan.

The way Lawrence tells it, Monday’s robbery of a Chase Bank was just a desperate ploy to get back behind bars, where he believes he will receive better medical care than he has been able to obtain on his own.
I suppose some will respond that we need to stop coddling prisoners.

More at The San Diego Union-Tribune (if you liked this post, you might also enjoy this one.)

Rave Toilet

(Thanks, Ben!)

Big Brothers Are Ganging Up on Us

The investment arms of the CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future.

The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”

“The cool thing is, you can actually predict the curve, in many cases,” says company CEO Christopher Ahlberg, a former Swedish Army Ranger with a PhD in computer science.

* * * * *

“We’re right there as it happens,” Ahlberg told [Wired,] as he clicked through a demonstration. “We can assemble actual real-time dossiers on people.”
This is particularly disturbing if you've kept up with this.

PS: Why is Nineteen Eighty-Four not available through Netflix?

July 30, 2010

"What I Learned from the Army": Killology

What I learned from the army about language and dehumanization

It's hard to get people to shoot other people when they aren't in imminent danger. People have the unfortunate habit of seeing other people as fellow humans. They hesitate, they start questioning the ethics of what they are doing. It eats them up and ruins them for battle.

We do two things in basic training to compensate for that. We work on instincts, training people to shoot faster and view their targets as a video game or a measure of our own skill, rather than personalizing them. Silhouettes pop up and down so fast, and they look like people but they are paper with aiming circles printed on them. We start categorizing our targets as not fully human. Colonel Grossman is somewhat of an expert on that [http://www.killology.com].

The other thing we do in basic, in military culture in general, but it's very specifically started in basic training, is we use language to normalize the dehumanization of others and assert our own supremacy. We use slurs against whoever is the enemy de jour, and we do this because normalizing their characterization as lesser than fully human, based on their group identity, is an important step in making violence against them more acceptable.

Haji, the word when it's owned by the people who truly own it, it's nothing offensive. It's people on a pilgrimage. But we use it in the army do identify them as The Other. Commanders understand the importance of Othering the enemy. When Mattis said "It's fun to shoot some people," that wasn't an accident. It's part of normalizing the enjoyment of violence because the people committing that violence need to believe it's normal, in order to stay sane while doing it.

He went on to add: “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” Mattis said. “You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

That's a great statement if you know your men are going to be killing Afghan civilians in the course of their normal business. It uses language to mark them as different because they are muslim, and it marks them as Lesser Than Real Men. They don't have any manhood, so they are lesser than fully human, in the default (male) sense.

It's genius, really, because he can claim it's about defending women even as he's upholding and appealing to male supremacy.

And it's genius because it shows he understands dehumanizing language as a sort of gateway drug to violence without remorse.

(Thanks, noamnety!)

July 29, 2010

David O'Reilly's "Please Say Something"

"[A] 10 minute short . . . contain[ing] 23 episodes of exactly 25 seconds each." O'Reilly's "TAGS: 30 Second Breakneck Heartbreak Uncut Turbodrama. Fatfree Ultraviolent Freezedried Shrinkwrapped Antiballet Timeline Easyopen Modern Unpunctuated Crass Clean Crisp High Definition Subversive Absurd Arrogant Loud Pretentious Sugarcoated Sincere Authentic Stories. Please Say Something, any answer will do." It's brilliant.

Please Say Something by David OReilly.

(Thanks again, Video Association!)

The Bechdel Test

(Thanks, Video Association!)

July 28, 2010

X20+ @ The M.A.C.

(Dallas), Sat., Aug. 7. The second exhibition organized by artist Mary Benedicto under the "X20+" rubric. I'll be presenting a recent video/interactive piece, probably some time after 8:30PM. (The piece at right is not mine, but I like it -- ripped it off the invite; not certain whose it is.)

More info on the exhibition here.

July 27, 2010

Oil, Water, Dispersants, and Booms

"I refuse to acknowledge this as anything like an accident. I think that this is the result of gross negligence. Not just B.P. B.P. operated very sloppily and very recklessly because they could. And they were allowed to do so because of the absolute failure of oversight of the government that's supposed to be our government, protecting us. It turns out that -- you see this sign on almost every commercial vessel in the United States -- you know, if you spilled a couple of gallons of oil, you would be in big trouble. And you have to really wonder who are the laws made for, and who has gotten above the laws. Now there are things that we can do in the future. We could have the kinds of equipment that we would really need. It would not take an awful lot to anticipate that after making 30,000 holes in the sea floor of the Gulf of Mexico looking for oil, oil might start coming out of one of them. And you'd have some idea of what to do. . . .

"But I think we have to understand where this leak really started from. It really started from the destruction of the idea that the government is there because it's our government, meant to protect the larger public interest. So I think that the oil blowout, the bank bailout, the mortgage crisis and all these things are absolutely symptoms of the same cause. We still seem to understand that at least we need the police to protect us from a few bad people. And even though the police can be a little annoying at times -- giving us tickets and stuff like that -- nobody says that we should just get rid of them. But in the entire rest of government right now and for the last at least 30 years, there has been a culture of deregulation that is caused directly by the people who we need to be protected from, buying the government out from under us.

"Now this has been a problem for a very, very long time. You can see that corporations were illegal at the founding of America. And even Thomas Jefferson complained that they were already bidding defiance to the laws of our country. Okay, people who say they're conservative, if they really wanted to be really conservative and really patriotic, they would tell these corporations to go to hell. That's what it would really mean to be conservative. So what we really need to do is regain the idea that it's our government safeguarding our interests and regain a sense of unity and common cause in our country that really has been lost. I think there are signs of hope."


Below is an interview of Wikileaks' founder, Julian Assange, from shortly before Wikileaks' recent publication of "secret" US military docs re- Afgahanistan. First, a condensed version of a few of the speakers' remarks:

JA: . . . . So information that organizations are spending economic effort into concealing, that's a really good signal that when the information gets out, there's a hope of it doing some good. Because the organizations that know it best, that know it from the inside out, are spending work to conceal it. And that's what we've found in practice. And that's what the history of journalism is.

[Interviewer]: But are there risks with that, either to the individuals concerned or indeed to society at large, where leaking can actually have an unintended consequence?

JA: Not that we have seen with anything we have released. I mean, we have a harm immunization policy. We have a way of dealing with information that has sort of personal -- personally identifying information in it. But there are legitimate secrets -- you know, your records with your doctor; that's a legitimate secret. But we deal with whistleblowers that are coming forward that are really sort of well-motivated.

[Interviewer]: So they are well-motivated. And what would you say to, for example, the, you know, the parent of someone -- whose son is out serving the U.S. military, and he says, "You know what, you've put up something that someone had an incentive to put out. It shows a U.S. soldier laughing at people dying. That gives the impression -- has given the impression to millions of people around the world that U.S. soldiers are inhuman people. Actually, they're not. My son isn't. How dare you?" What would you say to that?

JA: Yeah, we do get a lot of that. But remember, the people in Baghdad, the people in Iraq, the people in Afghanistan -- they don't need to see the video; they see it every day. So it's not going to change their opinion. It's not going to change their perception. That's what they see every day. It will change the perception and opinion of the people who are paying for it all. And that's our hope.

* * * * *

[Assange's "core values":] . . . well, capable, generous men do not create victims; they nurture victims.

UPDATE: I don't quite get how the secret US docs re- Afghanistan recently released by Wikileaks tell us nothing that wasn't already a matter of public knowledge, AND at the same time, the release was an irresponsible act likely to endanger hundreds of lives.

July 25, 2010

Those Crazy Mormons

. . . or as one commenter put it: "Whoah. Dream big."

July 24, 2010


Got a gig to review the L. Gaga concert in Dallas. I'll probably also do a post on it/her; but 'til then, here are some vizis. (Sorry for the audio distortion; it was v. loud.)

One of her more interesting statements was along the lines of,

There's something heroic about the way my fans operate their cameras. So precisely, so intricately, and so proudly. Like Kings writing the history of their people. Its their prolific nature that both creates and procures what will later be perceived as the "kingdom." So, the real truth about Lady Gaga fans, my little monsters, lies in this sentiment: They are the kings. They are the queens. They write the history of the kingdom, and I am something of a devoted Jester. It is in the theory of perception that we have established our bond. Or, the lie, I should say, for which we kill. We are nothing without our image. Without our projection. Without the spiritual hologram of who we perceive ourselves to be, or to become rather, in the future.

When you're lonely, I'll be lonely too. And this is The Fame.
(Text from Gagapedia.)

This statement raises lots of interesting issues for the "reality-based community." For now, here's hoping she acts further to preserve our alleged kingship, which is now threatened by opponents of net neutrality, among other things.

July 21, 2010

"The Second Program" Starts Tomorrow!

As usual, short of hoofing it to multiple venues in NY and LA, this will probably be your best if not only chance to see these exciting new works. Here are the details:

THURS. 7/22, 7:30PM, Dallas Museum of Art, Horchow Auditorium
Brent Green's feature film premieres, Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then (some of you may recall Green's Hadecol Christmas, shown at the 2007 Dallas Video Festival). "The film, which belongs firmly to the American Eccentric School, tells the true story of Leonard Wood, a hardware store clerk in Kentucky who built a crazy-quilt house in the 1970s as a healing machine for his wife, Mary, hoping to save her from cancer. . . . [Green] shot Gravity in stop-motion animation – much of it in his backyard, where he rebuilt Leonard’s house – giving [the film] a dreamlike quality that carries over to the narrative." Q&A with the artist via iChat after the screening; one night only.

SAT., 7/31, 6 - 8:30PM, Conduit Gallery
An exhibition of installations curated by Charles Dee Mitchell opens, featuring work by David Askevold, Jon Gitelson, Matthew Day Jackson, Luke Murphy, Jason Rhoades, Erin Shirreff, and Bill Viola. This exhibition runs through August 28.

SAT., 8/4, 7:30PM, Angelika Dallas
Dallas premiere of Rape of the Sabine Women by Eve Sussman & the Rufus Corporation. Presented by Creative Time at the 2007 Armory Show; shot with a cast of hundreds in Greece and Germany and scored by Jonathan Bepler (Matthew Barney's collaborator). The piece is "a re-interpretation of the Roman myth, updated and set in the idealistic 1960's." One night only; made possible by a donation from Karen Weiner.

SAT., 8/7, 7 - 8:30PM, Conduit Gallery
A program of shorts curated by Bart Weiss: New York Night Scenes by Jem Cohen, Second Nature by Guy Ben-Ner, Vienna In The Desert by Wago Kreider (of The Yes Men), Below Sea Level by Pawel Wojtasik, Happy Am I by Erin Cosgrove, In G.O.D. We Trust by Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung, Afterimage: A Flicker of Life by Kerry Laitala, and My Voice Would Reach You by Meiro Koizumi. (Some of you may recall other works by Cohen, Ben-Ner, Hung, or Koizumi screened at the first The Program or the Dallas Video Festival.) One night only.

WED., 8/18, 7:30PM, Angelika Dallas
Double Take by Johan Grimonprez. Described by the NYT as "the most intellectually agile of this year's films"; it also made John Waters' Top Ten list in Artforum. One night only; made possible by support from Half Price Books, Records, and Magazines.
I've been really excited to see all the Second Program events; but this week I got asked to review Lady GaGa's concert tomorrow night, so unfortunately, I'll have to miss the first screening. (Not that I'm trying to be a music reviewer; but I can't resist this chance to see GaGa live and maybe meet her.)

But I hope to see you at all the other Second Program events!

July 16, 2010

A Few Recent Headlines Re- the Economy

. . . that should have appeared prominently in your local corporate media, but mostly didn't:

Republicans Confirm: $30 Billion for Unemployed Would Bankrupt Us, but We Should Extend $600 Billion in Tax Cuts for the Rich (Paul Krugman, "Redo that VooDoo," NYT).

It's All About the Wages: Economy Would be Fine if Everyone Made Their Fair Share (Robert Reich, Alternet). See also 22 Statistics that Prove the U.S. Middle Class Is Being Systematically Wiped Out (Business Insider).

Corporate Media Abet Banksters' Lie that Corporate Communisim Is Working ("Lies Divide, Truth Unites," Dylan Ratigan, The Big Picture).

Goldman Gets Off with Fine Worth One Week of Its Trading Income and a Small Fraction of the $16 Billion It Paid in Bonuses Last Year ("Wall Street: The Banks Are Still the Boss," The Guardian).

Unequivocal, Real-time Evidence of Illegal Stock Market Manipulation (Karl Denninger, Market Ticker, starting about half-way into the video).

The New Finance Bill: A Mountain of Legislative Paper, a Molehill of Reform (Robert Reich).

(And speaking of market manipulation, I hope you've heard of the gummint's Plunge Protection Team?)

July 13, 2010

The Sandin Analogue Image Processor

In this 1971 video, Dan Sandin gives an overview of his invention, which was part of the early research that resulted in the the EVL Lab.

Based on the hat alone, you know it's gonna be good.

More info at EVL.

Charlotte Moorman Plays Nam June Paik's TV Cello

(1984), from a tv special Paik did for PBS's Good Morning Mr. Orwell; this is some of the more appealing footage I've seen of Moorman playing one of Paik's cellos (don't forget to thank public tv with your donation!)

That's George Plimpton with her, sounding uncomfortable. He should have seen Moorman's performance of TV Bra for Living Sculpture -- or maybe he'd heard about it.

July 3, 2010

And Now for Something Really Important:

Story here.

US Prohibits Photography Within 65 Feet of Spill's Effects

I'm kidding, right? But this isn't per The Onion, but CNN:

As Cooper explains, the rule seems to have no reasonable relation to safety. Guess we didn't realize the "Constitution-Free Zone" extends into surrounding waters.

Meanwhile, the AP just reported US Sec. of State Hillary Clinton's statement last Saturday that "[i]ntolerant governments across the globe are 'slowly crushing' activist and advocacy groups that play an essential role in the development of democracy . . . ." She cited Venezuela et al.; but see my previous post (and you can find the AP's story here.)

July 2, 2010

Nothing to Fear if You've Nothing to Hide?

"American Civil Liberties Union has issued a report chronicling government spying and the detention of groups and individuals 'for doing little more than peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights.'"

"'Our review of these practices has found that Americans have been put under surveillance or harassed by the police just for deciding to organize, march, protest, espouse unusual viewpoints and engage in normal, innocuous behaviors such as writing notes or taking photographs in public,' Michael German, an ACLU attorney and former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, said . . . ." More at Wired.

And people haven't just been surveilled and harassed; they've been pre-emptively prevented from exercising their rights in such a way as to make their views heard.

Here's a tip for the authorities: I hear there might be some felonies going down in some board rooms. And the Gulf.

More Re- the Decline of the Middle Class

Great article at rationalrevolution.

And if you haven't already seen it, don't miss Elizabeth Warren's presentation, here.

UPDATE: Just came across this at Who Rules America (apparently based on a recent paper {here} by Edward N. Wolff at Bard's Levy Economics Institute):

In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2007, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.6% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one's home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.7%.
So far there are only tentative projections -- based on the price of housing and stock in July 2009 -- on the effects of the Great Recession on the wealth distribution. They suggest that average Americans have been hit much harder than wealthy Americans. Edward Wolff, the economist we draw upon the most in this document, concludes that there has been an "astounding" 36.1% drop in the wealth (marketable assets) of the median household since the peak of the housing bubble in 2007. By contrast, the wealth of the top 1% of households dropped by far less: just 11.1%. So as of April 2010, it looks like the wealth distribution is even more unequal than it was in 2007.

B.t.w., happy 4th.

FURTHER UPDATE: Here are 22 statistics from FinanceMyMoney.com that "Prove the Middle Class Is Being Systematically Wiped Out of Existence in America" (via Business Insider).