December 29, 2011

Rightlessness Creep

Ok, we need a better term. The basic idea is, the fundamental rights recognized by the Founding Fathers, such as the right not to be killed without due process of law, belong to ALL people, not just US citizens; and that when we acquiesce in violations of that right of others, we should expect soon to suffer the same ourselves.

Per WaPo,

[N]o president has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals. . . . CIA and military strikes this fall killed three U.S. citizens . . . . It is a measure of the extent to which the drone campaign has become an awkward open secret in Washington that even those inclined to express misgivings can only allude to a program that, officially, they are not allowed to discuss. . . . Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, described the program with a mixture of awe and concern. Its expansion under Obama was almost inevitable, she said, because of the technology’s growing sophistication. But the pace of its development, she said, makes it hard to predict how it might come to be used.
(More at the link.) A.k.a. "extrajudicial killings" – a fancy name for murder.

December 25, 2011

The Wedding Project

You may have seen an earlier post in which I warned I'd be on hiatius for while in order to work on a big project.

Well, Phase 1 of The Wedding Project was a participatory/performance/screenings event, in which a real wedding occurred (my own).

I made two one-hour videos for the project, one for guests to watch and the other to be projected onto their backs, and I and my sig. other and 80+ friends made or scavenged costumes, props (including 200 wedding veils and more than 650 flat paper flowers) and set decor (including thousands of yards of used videotape), shot lots of video and photos of the event, and threw a big party.

I'm interested in, among other things, the blending of the real and the artificial. In this project, a real marriage between two individuals serves as a metaphor to explore larger historical, sociological, psychological, epistemological, and metaphysical contexts – including the bond that, for better or worse, has in some sense always existed among all of humanity but that now, by virtue of the internet, is becoming much more intense, or at least more quickly and thickly interconnected.

There's a website for the project with a lot more info here, and I've just put some photos of the event here.

I'm now engaged in Phase 2, which means editing the video shot at the event and otherwise mashing up product for an exhibition.

So I'm afraid I need to make myself sparse here again for the next month or two. Thank you for your patience!

December 24, 2011

The Eurozone Crisis

. . . is not about market "discipline," according to Dean Baker:

The people who gave us the eurozone crisis are working around the clock to redefine it in order to profit politically. Their editorials – run as news stories in media outlets everywhere – claim that the euro crisis is a story of profligate governments being reined in by the bond market. This is what is known in economics as a "lie". The eurozone crisis is most definitely not a story of countries with out of control spending getting their comeuppance in the bond market. Prior to the economic collapse in 2008, the only country that had a serious deficit problem was Greece. In the other countries now having trouble financing their debt, the debt to GDP ratio was stable or falling prior; Spain and Ireland were actually running budget surpluses and had debt to GDP ratios that were among the lowest in the OECD. . . . The crisis changed everything. It threw the whole continent into severe recession. This had the effect of causing deficits to explode, since tax revenues plummet when the economy contracts and payments for unemployment benefits and other transfer programmes soar. . . .

* * * * *
People should recognize this process for what it is: class war. The wealthy are using their control of the ECB to dismantle welfare state protections that enjoy enormous public support. This applies not only to government programs like public pensions and healthcare, but also to labour market regulations that protect workers against dismissal without cause. And of course, the longstanding foes of Social Security and Medicare in the US are anxious to twist the facts to use the eurozone crisis to help their class war agenda here. The claim that the countries in Europe are just coming to grips with the reality of modern financial markets is covering up for the class war being waged on workers across the globe. The assertion that this crisis is about market discipline should not appear in a serious newspaper, except on the right side of the opinion page.
More at Al Jazeera. (Dean Baker was among the first observers to identify a US housing bubble in 2002. He was a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and worked as a consultant for the World Bank and the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress, and authored weekly commentaries for the NYT and WaPo.)

UPDATE: Other recent headlines of economic interest:

The Four Companies that Control the 147 Companies that Own Everything (re- the 147 cos., see here).

Iceland is Our Modern Utopia (rejecting a bailout for their banks, the citizens of Iceland took control of their now-resurgent economy).

Germany Builds 2X the Cars & Pays Workers 2X the Wages

Evidence of Market Manipulation in the Financial Crisis

Is Bank of America Holding the US Hostage? (referring to the fact that BoA just moved its derivatives business into its FDIC (i.e. taxpayer) -insured depositary).

Too Big to Stop: Why Big Banks Keep Getting Away with Breaking the Law (the industry has captured the regulators, so the fines are too small to deter).

Love is . . .



Note that one tends to attribute the lead to the tallest, front-center guy; he's got the best, most robotic look.

"All the Other Kids"


A parody; but I'm pretending it just augments the original, 'cuz I think together they constitute more, better:

Johnie on xbox live
fending off the newbs as he's claimin 'bout a screw.
What's missing from this awesome jive?
is the fact the girl's someone that he never really knew.
He tries to be tough in school
but really he crawls home... as he's crying in his drool.
He calls himself impressive guy
when he dresses like his sister and his ego is a lie.

[Chorus x2:]
All you other kids know that you suck (censored), you better run better run.....cause you are done!
All you other kids know that you suck (censored), you better run better run.....back home to your mother!

Out came these two guys
with their pants to their knees like their begging for a breeze.
They don't seem that shy
when in prison it means that they are looking for guy.
While facing probation
they spend their time tagging on a police station.
They think their so cool
when their half way retarded and their nothing but a tool.

[Chorus x2:]
All you other kids know that you suck (censored), you better run better run.....cause you are done!
All you other kids know that you suck (censored), you better run better run.....back home to your mother!
"Original" lyrics (quote marks to be read advisably):
Robert's got a quick hand.
He'll look around the room, he wont tell you his plan.
He's got a rolled cigarette.
Hanging out his mouth, he's a cowboy kid.
Yeah! He found a six-shooter gun.
In his dad's closet, in the box of fun things,
I don't even know what.
But he's coming for you, yeah! He's coming for you!

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you better run, better run, faster than my bullet.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

Daddy works a long day.
He be coming home late, and he's coming home late.
And he's bringing me a surprise.
'Cause dinner's in the kitchen and it's packed in ice.
I've waited for a long time.
Yeah the sleight of my hand is now a quick-pull trigger.
I reason with my cigarette,
Then say, "Your hair's on fire, you must have lost your wits, yeah?"

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you better run, better run, faster than my bullet.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you better run, better run, faster than my bullet.
(Run, Run, Run, Run. Run, Run. R-Run, Run, Run. R-Run. R-Run, Run, Run. R-Run. Run, Run. Run, Run. Run, Run, Run.)
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you better run, better run, outrun my gun.
[Etc.]

December 23, 2011

Report #3 from P.2: A "Pearl" Greater than the Sum of its Parts

Another of my favorite components of P.2 New Orleans was the satellite show curated by John Otte, "Constant Abrasive Irritation Produces the Pearl: A Disease of the Oyster" - Lenny Bruce.

The setting for the show is The Pearl, a residence-speakeasy-restaurant-exhibition space further described by Eric Bookhardt at The Gambit as "a 200-year-old farm house posing as a nondescript Bywater residence. It has served as a private salon and performance hall for owner Jay Poggi (aka MC Trachiotomy) and his friends for more than 20 years . . . . "

Otte found The Pearl packed with what looks like the most intriguing detritus from numerous lifetimes. He decided to work with the existing stuff, rather than against it; the results are magical. As he writes in his curatorial statement, "[s]culptures and two-dimensional works are strategically placed to interact with already existing assemblages and vignettes. . . . Videos are ceiling-mounted, wall-mounted, projected, and embedded throughout the space in a nod to the vast proliferation of tv screens and video projections currently found in many public spaces . . . . "

The show includes work by AdrinAdrina & Elliott Coon, Jonathan Bouknight, Susannah Bridges Burley w/ Katie Tabor, John Curry, Dawn DeDeaux, Lee Deigaard, Courtney Egan, Margaret Evangeline, Fereydoon Family, Jessica Goldfinch, Dave Greber, Brian Guidry, Sally Heller, Ingridmwangiroberthutter, Kathleen Loe, Aristides Logothetis, Jennifer Odem, John Otte w/ Jeff Dahlgren, Anastasia Pelias, Kim Phillips, Michele Schuff, Gary Stephan, Paige Valente, and Delona Wardlaw.

The work is highly eclectic; hence, at least in part, the show's title, which might apply to any "pearls" of art resulting from social or other disturbances, or to any art that seeks to disturb.

While most of the disturbances in the show merit attention on their own, I realized there were a few I might normally have felt less than thrilled with (for reasons having to do with, among other things, how some video art doesn't seem to exploit the medium's potential sufficiently to justify the kind of sustained attention the medium tends to demand from viewers [which, as a video art maker, I find frustrating insofar as it turns people off to the medium]) – but as installed, most of the pieces were thrilling; and nearly all benefit from their encystment among objects that, old and odd as they were, made the "art" more luminous.

By thoughtfully utilizing Poggi's curated detritus (which itself draws from the output of numerous intentional and perhaps unintentional artists), Otte's taken curation-as-art-practice to the next level.

(I enjoyed using my secret weapon {camera flash} to unveil some of the mysteries supporting Otte's construct; and confirmed that The Pearl's contents emulate the larger world's in that, the more you see, the greater the mystery as well as the meaning. But they were extra-fun to discover, via the occasion provided by the videos and by overcoming the darkness required to show them.)

I sent Otte some questions and have incorporated his answers about particular works into an online gallery of visuals from the show, here, and below are his answers to a couple of more general questions:

C: Some of the pieces seemed to me greatly enhanced by their physical locations and contextual elements, e.g. Susannah Bridges Burley's, Brian Guidry's, and Dave Greber's (in a building entrance, on the floor). I'd be curious to know which if any of those aspects they'd include if the work were shown in a completely different setting.

Otte: You would have to ask the artists that question. It would be great to know what they retain from this show, and end up using from this experience. I suspect many will continue to show these and similar pieces in the future as discreet autonomous pieces.

Most of Dave Greber's videos employ wonderfully heavy frames that relate to paintings as well as windows. I originally cut out a plywood "window" frame for Dave's piece: Join Us Today as it was initially shown on a very nice Samsung 24" flat screen tv. In fact, it was first displayed lying in a nearby wood pile. However, the concentrated humidity in the air of New Orleans and the horizontal positioning ended up destroying the flat screen tv after about a month's time. I had an understanding with Dave that the piece would probably change form during the course of the show due to its precarious installation. I also let him know that I would immediately inform him of any necessary changes, and get his O.K. before proceeding with the changes. And, I can tell you that with each artist, I carefully considered a multitude of aspects with regard to content and context as well as micro and macro scales. I am constantly considering the meanings that result from various placements and media arrangements. In fact, that's a major driver behind this exhibition. I feel that the white-walled detached gallery/museum experience seems so played-out at this point. I believe that 21st Century viewers require many other things to inform our experience of art these days. Very few artworks have any resonance for me when isolated from everything else. Let's take the Renaissance for example - just think of the massive artistic egos of those such as Michelangelo and Raphael. Yet, they were (seemingly) enthralled by the chance to include their own masterpieces among the art, architecture and music of countless other artists, artisans, musicians and architects. Regardless, that was just the way things were done then.

I certainly believe the element of sound plays a crucial role here, especially in the interaction among the works of Brian Guidry, Dave Greber and Anastasia Pelias - they all have interpenetrating soundtracks which add up to one grand composition according to my aural perception. It is also exciting to visually apprehend various combinations of the videos from different vantage points.

C: I get the idea of art resulting from and functioning as an irritant in the oyster of life, and these works generally seem to question important aspects of the way society operates; but there are arguable exceptions, such as Courtney Egan's or Dawn DeDeaux's pieces, and the work otherwise seemed pretty eclectic. I'd be interested if you could share any further thoughts about how and why you selected the works included.

Otte: On one hand, the artworks are the 'pearls' that I've extracted from the oyster (the world). On the other hand, they are like punctuation marks in the larger composition of The Pearl - they serve as contrast elements to the rest of the space, images and accretions of objects.

I was directed to a number of the artists by Anastasia Pelias, who seemed to have a very good idea about what I wanted to do as a curator, and who ultimately turned out to be a very reliable source for me. In the end, I had to really ride the dynamics of the system already extant at The Pearl. The Pearl suggested so many possibilities and offered so many opportunities for a wide spectrum of visual and aural experiences that I knew I wanted only to add to the mix rather than take away from it too much. Well, mostly . . . I found that simply clearing paths for viewers to get from one place to another really seemed to help a lot. And, the act of "carving away" some of the chaotic messes only seemed to enhance other chaotic messes! Before installing the show, I spent a lot of time in the backyard pruning and 'defining' the plants, deciding which outgrowths to keep and which to get rid of. Sometimes it was really hard to decide which sets of weeds were interesting and which were not. When this difficulty persisted, I simply left them alone.

The decision to work primarily with video offered the opportunity for as much life as possible to continue on unabated at The Pearl. The videos, as much as possible, stay out of the way - not entirely, but a lot of the time. Of course, all of this technology is so precarious and vulnerable and dependent upon electricity. And, by the way, I must admit my indebtedness to technology - I am also a DJ. So, I'm often confronted with the question: what happens when the power goes out? Well, the answer is I'm TOTALLY F*CKED with all this dependency on technology! I absolutely admire the emphasis in this town of singing and playing and doing things with non-electric instruments and whatever's at hand. I love the use of candles, etc. I love oil paint and marble. I love it all, really. I just feel the need to constantly recognize the precariousness of all life at the dawn of this New Millennium, and especially with regard to this show. Call it a 'diseased' state if you will. Yet, in the end, it's probably no more diseased than at any other period.

Finally, I would have to say that I am most proud of the fact that this sprawling amorphous exhibition is just so . . . expansive. It is a spectrum of experiences, leading one down many different paths and potential paths only to turn back on itself. Many aspects of this exhibition are so stupid (in my mind) and silly beyond comprehension. I really feel this way. In fact, I must include my own stupidity in so much of it. In my opinion, only a few (and certainly not my) pieces contain moments of 'High Art' brilliance, and everything else is somewhere caught in between. But, that's really the point of this show. It's all stuff that's potentially interesting . . . and not. It's like a great big wonderful party where lots and lots of people are invited. Everyone's babbling away, but only some have 'important' things to say. Yet, who knows? What's important, in the end, can only be decided individually. I guess you had to be there . . .
[* substituted by moi.]

As for substantive themes in evidence at The Pearl and elsewhere in P.2, artists seemed concerned with issues having to do with social and economic justice, the corporatization of humanity and humanization of corporations, the power of p.r., social systems and interactions, the environment and our seemingly attenuating relationship to it, and our place in an ever-expanding universe, among other things.

Explorations of time, history, and real and virtual space were also much in view.

I was struck in particular by the prevalence in P.2 video of images of the ebb and flow of wind and water, and leaves' wavery shadows or reflections in water or elsewhere, e.g. in works by Dawn Dedeaux, Otte & Dahlgren, Jonas Dahlberg (see visuals starting here) and Pawel Wojtasik (see visuals starting here).

Of course, the water thing certainly makes sense in the wake (pardon the multiple pun) of Katrina; but I commented last year on the prevalence of the same motifs among NYFF "Avant Garde" films. By the fourth time you see it, it starts to feel clichéd; by the eighth, you're wondering about collective compulsion (by which I mainly mean that artists may as usual be being among the first to recognize that we're about ready to do some important work on something).

These videos are of course about various things, and perhaps it's a bit of a leap, but esp. in the context of other elements present in the works, the waving, bobbing imagery seems suggestive to me of such aspects of time and history as rhythm, periodicity, tides, drift, wavelength, arc length, etc., and perhaps even a sort of fractal view of time – video is, after all, esp. amenable to the exploration of issues relating to time.

Back in 2008, I tried unsuccessfully to talk my co-curators of The Program into considering a focus on time and/or history, which seemed to me prevalent concerns in work we'd seen.

My thoughts on the subject remain far from fully-formed – hey, ditto physicists' – but why wouldn't we be collectively obsessed with time? Among other accelerating developments, technology has increased our power over time a thousand-fold – while further enslaving us to the project of mastering it – and now holds out the prospect of virtual immortality. Why wouldn't we be obsessed both with our histories and the systems through which they're preserved or re-written, as we hurtle into the future carrying individual and collective pasts at once exploding in volume yet evidenced by physical relics that remain fragile and by virtual archives ever more easily deleted or revised with a few keystrokes?

This is the third of three reports from Prospect.2 New Orleans; for the others, click on the "Prospect.2" label below this post. Prospect.2 runs through January 29, with the exhibition at The Pearl open on Saturdays and Sundays only, from 5 - 9pm, at 639 Desire.

Below is a video by Susannah Bridges Burley about the show at The Pearl:

December 20, 2011

happy happy

(Photo by ?; gif-ized by moi.)

December 19, 2011

Holiday Shopping

. . . within my range, at Click Mort: "I see my work as nothing more than reconfiguring two useless pieces of cultural debris into one piece of useless cultural debris." (Thanks, Ben!)

UPDATE: I just realized, Click Mort's work is included in the Divine exhibition at the Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, TX, through Feb. 5.

December 18, 2011

Occupying the Golden Calf

From Raw Story:

WASHINGTON — About 20 “Occupy DC” protesters took their anti-corporate demonstration to the corridors of the US Congress, toting a “golden calf” made from papier-mache to symbolize lawmakers’ subservience to moneyed interests.

The protest, said the group’s leader Jeremy John, aimed to call attention to the “the worship of money,” by the US legislature.
The second photo is from dixiegrrrrl, who says, " . . . the first thing the [NYC] cops did was protect this:")

Yesterday, 50 OWS-er's were arrested in Manhattan as they attempted to occupy land owned by Trinity Church (inthesetimes.com).

One of those arrested, who happens to be bishop in the church, noted, "[t]his is a church, not a corporation. They own one-third of the property south of Canal Street" (YouTube). Another protester explained, "[w]e're just trying to say that this country has gone in the wrong direction, and we need spaces that we can control and can decide our future in, and that's what this is about" (CBS).

More on yesterday's events here.

December 16, 2011

Report #2 from P.2: DeDeaux, CAC, Calle, NOMA, O'Grady, the Old Mint, & Wojtasik

As in Prospect.1, the works included in Prospect.2 were scattered among venues all over New Orleans, this time some 20 of them.

And as in P.1, the work was first-rate. There was substantially less of it this time (but still far more than I could see in three days, although I found the amount of empty space at the CAC rather striking); and what there was seemed heavily weighted toward U.S.-based and esp. local artists – presumably mainly because of the reported financial difficulties.

That said, some of my favorite works were made by New Orleans-based artists.

I especially enjoyed: (1) the Music Box (see my previous post here); (2) the exhibition organized by John Otte at The Pearl (more on that soon); (3) Dawn DeDeaux's The Goddess Fortuna and Her Dunces in an Effort to Make Sense of It All (2011) (see visuals starting here), based on John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces and located in and around one of the French Quarter's oldest courtyard mansions; (4) Jonas Dahlberg's single-channel video, Macbeth (2010) (see here and visuals starting here; according to a 2011 source, Dahlberg makes his work using architectural models; I found it impossible to tell if that were the case in this piece); and (5) the documentation of Lorraine O'Grady's 1983 relational performance (yeah, it's been going on at least that long), Art Is . . . .

The first photo in this post captures a moment in O'Grady's performance (courtesy of Alexander Gray Associates, New York, NY). It's somewhat misleading, in that, as I understand, the performers were mostly using the golden frames to make the onlookers into "art," not just themselves. There was also a big parade float with a giant golden frame, which made art out of large chunks of the whole scene.

The second photo shows William Eggleston's Untitled (From The Seventies: Volume Two), circa 1970's (courtesy Cheim & Read, New York) (more visuals of Eggleston's works in the biennial start here).

The third shows Paweł Wojtasik's Below Sea Level (Uncle Lionel Batiste and Benny Jones in Front of Benny’s FEMA Trailer) (2009-2011) (image from the biennial press kit); the photo relates to a ca. 360º-surround installation by the artist showing various scenes from contemporary New Orleans (see visuals starting here).

More pics and vidis of works by various artists here (including some from Good Children Gallery – I'm not sure this show was officially part of P.2, but it included works by several P.2 artists).

I unfortunately could not be in New Orleans to see performances by two of my favorite new media artists, William Pope.L (see also my post here) and R. Luke DeBois (see also my post here). And although the truck used in William Pope.L's performance was still on exhibit, disappointingly, the "magic lantern" slide show that was supposed to take up its back panel wasn't working. You can find video interviews with Pope.L and DuBois about their projects at nola.com.

As you might expect, I found the video art most exciting. There was a fair amount, and I liked a lot of it; but I expect to include more discussion of the video art in a forthcoming post on the exhibition at The Pearl.

Prospect.2 runs through January 29. The hours, generally, are Wed. - Sun., 11am - 4pm.

This is the second of three reports from Prospect.2 New Orleans; for the others, click on the "Prospect.2" label below this post.

UPDATE: If you clicked through my visuals at the link above, you may have noticed those of Robert Tannen's installation, Art by Committee, starting here. In this piece, visitors were invited to contribute to murals being painted on huge swaths of fabric hung on the interior walls of the Art House on the Levee, which swaths were replaced whenever full so as to make space for more contributions. I just got word that the resulting murals will be exhibited at Ideal Auto Repair Warehouse, 422 Girod St. in New Orleans, opening Sat., Jan. 14, 6 - 9PM. Let me know if you spot my contribution.


December 14, 2011

Report #1 from Prospect.2 New Orleans: The Music Box

Prospect New Orleans is an international art biennial founded and directed by Dan Cameron, former Sr. Curator of the New Museum and Director of the New Orleans CAC. Cameron conceived the event as a way to help bring visitors back to the city after Katrina.

Prospect.1 in 2008 was more or less spectacular (see posts here); Prospect.2 was delayed a year for lack of funding and is smaller but still worth the trip.

The Music Box, A Shantytown Sound Laboratory: 
Phase one of Dithyrambalina is a local, "satellite" project and is not to be missed. Unfortunately, I couldn't get in for the season's last concert, but the artists were kind enough to let me visit the next day; more pics and vidis here.

The project began when the New Orleans Airlift acquired a barely-standing, late 18th century Creole cottage, which promptly fell to the ground. The group asked artist Swoon to take a look. For some time she'd been dreaming of a musical house; so the artists decided to use the remains of the cottage to create a collection of experimental shanties that could serve as prototypes for instrumentalities in a larger house they hope to build.

Audio recordings of shantytown concerts are available here.

The Music Box was curated by Delaney Martin with assistance from Swoon and Theo Eliezer and was created by those and other artists including Taylor Lee Shepherd, Jayme Kalal, Quintron, Taylor Kuffner/Zemi17, Ross Harmon, Ben Mortimer, Nick Yulman, Angeliska Polacheck & Colin McIntyre, Ranjit Bhatnagar, Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels, Elizabeth Shannon, Ratty Scurvics, Rainger Pinney & Jonah Emerson-Bell, Micah Learned, Aaron Kellner, Andrew Schrock, Jade Brandt, and Myrtle Von Damitz III.

Last in this post below is a really nice vidi by grossymmetric about The Music Box. Nola.com also has a good video interview with Swoon about the project. More info on the project here.

Prospect.2 New Orleans runs through January 29, 2012.

Two more posts on the biennial to come.


December 5, 2011

Must See: Occupy Melbourne

On Wall Street, Some Insiders Express Quiet Outrage

From the NYT: "Last week, I had a conversation with a man who runs his own trading firm. In the process of fuming about competition from Goldman Sachs, he said with resignation and exasperation: 'The fact that they were bailed out and can borrow for free — it’s pretty sickening.'

"Though the sentiment is commonplace these days, I later found myself thinking about his outrage. Here is someone who is in the thick of the business, trading every day, and he is being sickened by the inequities and corruption on Wall Street and utterly persuaded that nothing has changed in the years since the financial crisis of 2008.

"Then I realized something odd: I have conversations like this as a matter of routine. I can’t go a week without speaking to a hedge fund manager or analyst or even a banker who registers somewhere on the Wall Street Derangement Scale.

* * * * *

"Mr. Mayo is particularly outraged over compensation for bank executives. Excessive compensation 'sends a signal that you take what you get and take it however you can,' he told me. 'That sends another signal to outsiders that the system is rigged. I truly wish the protestors didn’t have a leg to stand on, but the unfortunate truth is that they do.'" (Emphasis supplied.)

From Chris Hedges,"The historian Crane Brinton, in his book Anatomy of a Revolution, laid out the common route to revolution. The preconditions for successful revolution, Brinton argued, are discontent that affects nearly all social classes, widespread feelings of entrapment and despair, unfulfilled expectations, a unified solidarity in opposition to a tiny power elite, a refusal by scholars and thinkers to continue to defend the actions of the ruling class, an inability of government to respond to the basic needs of citizens, a steady loss of will within the power elite itself and defections from the inner circle, a crippling isolation that leaves the power elite without any allies or outside support and, finally, a financial crisis. Our corporate elite, as far as Brinton was concerned, has amply fulfilled these preconditions. But it is Brinton’s next observation that is most worth remembering. Revolutions always begin, he wrote, by making impossible demands that if the government met would mean the end of the old configurations of power. The second stage, the one we have entered now, is the unsuccessful attempt by the power elite to quell the unrest and discontent through physical acts of repression."

(The image above left is a 1912 cartoon about the then-proposed Federal Reserve Act. The image right is the UC Davis Occupy General Assembly the day after protesters there were gassed.)

December 4, 2011

Relational Aesthetics per Hennessy Youngman

I've been thinkin' about going to art school, but maybe all I need is Hennessy.

"WHAT UP INTERNET. THIS YA BOY HENNESSY YOUNGMAN, AND TODAY I WANTED TO MOVE BACK INTO THEORY A LITTLE BIT AND INTRODUCE AND EXPLAIN THIS THING CALLED RELATIONAL AESTHETICS TO YA'LL. U KNOW I LOVE YOU INTERNET, AND AM JUST TRYING TO ENWISEN YOU TO THESE IMPORTANT CONCEPTS THAT BE SCULPTING THE INTELLECTUAL FRAMEWORK OF YOUR WORLD. LET'S GO!"

December 3, 2011

Update on Media Ownership

Thanks to Frugal Dad for this updated chart. (For an even bigger version, click on the image to see it in a separate page, then click on it again.)

The bright spot has, of course, been the internet; but the 1% is fast closing in on controlling that as well (click on the "media consolidation" label for a bit more info on that, and assume that things have gotten worse since those posts).

UPDATE: Some additional charts re- media ownership at freepress.net, also, I believe, fairly recent.

Media Consolidation Infographic

Speaking of Systemic Problems . . . (for Those New to "Corporate Psychopathy")

As the Boston Globe reported in a blurb on a paper by Babiak, P. et al., “Corporate Psychopathy: Talking the Walk,” Behavioral Sciences & the Law (March/April 2010), "[o]ne of the authors of [a recent] study was hired by companies to evaluate managers . . . for a management development program. It turns out that these managers scored higher on measures of psychopathy than the overall population, and some who had very high scores were candidates for, or held, senior positions. In general, managers with higher scores were seen as better communicators, better strategic thinkers, and more creative. However, they were also seen as having poor management style, not being team players, and delivering poor performance. But, apparently, this didn’t prevent some of them from being seen as having leadership potential. The authors conclude that 'the very skills that make the psychopath so unpleasant (and sometimes abusive) in society can facilitate a career in business even in the face of negative performance ratings.'”

Fast Company has an excellent article with more info.

November 29, 2011

Why the Economy Does Not Have to Be a Zero Sum Game

Who's saying it does? I've heard the claim attributed to Occupiers, but I personally haven't seen or heard any Occupiers make it.

In fact, I'd argue it's the 1% who've acted as if they believe the economy's a zero-sum game – and in so doing, have made it so.

Here are a couple of factors to think about (from my essay, Ten Things You Need to Know About the Infowar, which as far as I can tell no one has read, but they should, 'cuz as far as I can tell, it's still the case that hardly anyone else has put some of this stuff together):

8. Greater transparency maximizes efficiency and profits for a group as a whole, but individuals within the group profit most when they're not transparent while others in the group are.

There's a fascinating piece, "The Transparency Paradox," at colayer, regarding what I've called [Julian] Assange's theory of "the cost of tightened secrecy to organizational I.Q.," or as Volatility puts it more succinctly (more under Thing No. 9 below), his "secrecy tax." The author at colayer says studies show that, while greater transparency maximizes efficiency and profits for a group as a whole, individuals within the group profit most when they're not transparent while others in the group are.

General transparency means that everyone has more useful info to work with, and can work together efficiently to solve problems and create wealth for all; the group benefits from the "wisdom of the crowd," as James Surowiecki would put it, or as Assange might say, the computational power of the system as a whole is maximized.

(Image right from "The Transparency Paradox," at colayer.)

And, colayer points out, the internet and other technologies now available have greatly reduced the cost of transparency.

But when you're negotiating, you have an advantage if you know what cards the other parties are holding but they're ignorant of yours.

I'd like again to emphasize again the importance of the dimension of time, which Assange has also written about, in his 2006 essay for counterpunch, "Of Potholes and Foresight." To put part of his point in other words, a stitch in time often saves nine, and transparency makes that kind of foresight possible, which otherwise tends to give way to political pressures to allocate resources in more near-sighted ways. Recall Wikileaks' logo (an hourglass). Or as someone else said, making a related but somewhat different point, " . . . Napoleon . . . said that it wasn't necessary to completely suppress the news; it was sufficient to delay the news until it no longer mattered." (attributed by PRWatch to Martin A. Lee & Norman Solomon, Unreliable Sources: A Guide to Detecting Bias in News Media (New York: Lyle Stuart, 1991), P. xvii; I hope the internet adopts Assange's "scientific journalism" and becomes better sourced, as well as more complete, soon).

* * * * *

9. So long as a system as a whole remains mostly transparent, it's a more-than-zero-sum game; but where transparency has sufficiently deteriorated, the competition among "players" devolves into a race to see who can loot the most the fastest, even if valuable resources (including personnel) are wasted in the process.

Re- the big, "systems" picture, there's a great article at Volatility on "racketeering":

According to Joseph Tainter’s theory of imperial collapse, as societies become more complex, they must expend an ever greater portion of the energy they have available simply on maintaining their complexity. Although social and technological advances may achieve profitable returns for awhile, once a certain level of complexity is reached, diminishing returns set in. Eventually, at the late imperial stage, the complexity of the power structure, the military infrastructure, the bureaucracies, all the rents involved in maintaining an ever more bloated parasite class, their luxuries, the police state required to extract these rents and keep the productive people down, and the growing losses due to the response of the oppressed producers, everything from poor quality work to strikes to emigration or secession to rebellion, reaches a point where the system can only cannibalize itself and eventually collapse.

Julian Assange’s theory of the secrecy tax he’s trying to impose through Wikileaks is one example of these diminishing returns on imperial complexity. All the indications are that Wikileaks has been successful in this.

* * * * *
This is a welter of parasites battening on the same host. They’re in a zero sum game, not only against the people, but among themselves. Each has an interest in just exploiting the host, not killing it. But together they are killing it and therefore themselves. It’s clear none is capable of organizing or regulating the others. The federal government isn’t capable of doing it. If one big bank tried to do it, it would be subverted by the others. Each racket, from highest to lowest, is going to maximize its bloodsucking until there’s no blood left.

I would argue that "complexity" is often associated with a lack of transparency. And I would argue that size matters greatly, since it's difficult for a large system to function without some kind of internal division of responsibilities, and that means complexity. One of the main respects in which both size and complexity matter has to do with the fact that they make it more difficult to keep track of what different individuals or agencies within the organization are doing and hold them accountable. In particular, those at the top of the hierarchy become less accountable to those along the bottom.

Again, theoretically, so long as the system as a whole remains mostly transparent, it's not a zero-sum game (or at least, its productivity growth would be subject only to such physical limits as peak oil or climate change), because problem-solving and general efficiency are maximized by pervasive info-sharing, plus everyone's equally incentivized. The system as a whole is greater than any one individual within it or even than the sum of its "parts."

(Still from Falls (2008).)

In contrast, where transparency has sufficiently deteriorated, workers become less productive, both because of reduced info-sharing and because they're disincentivized – i.e., those not sharing info are still incentivized to continue to exploit the others, but once those who are being exploited figure out what's going on, they're discouraged from sharing and working hard just to enrich the exploiters. At this point, the competition devolves from who can produce the most of the best, into who can loot the most the fastest. If anything, non-transparency should tend to result in something even worse than a zero-sum game, since not only are opportunities for growth wasted, but even resources already in existence may be at least partially wasted, since each actor is motivated to grab what it can even at the cost of spoiling portions of the remainder for possible use by others.
(As Julian Assange has observed, corrupt governments (and, I expect, other organizations) are inevitably secretive because their efforts to exploit people and interfere with their liberties tend to inspire resistance – see "State and Terrorist Conspiracies" and "Conspiracy as Governance" (2006) and Assange's post on his site, IQ.org, "Sun 31 Dec 2006 : The non linear effects of leaks on unjust systems of governance".)

November 26, 2011

All Student General Strike Monday, November 28

November 28th – In solidarity with UC Davis, UC Berkeley, CUNY schools and all students who are defending their right to protest against rising tuition costs and out-of-control student debt. We ask you to STRIKE! No work, no school – please join together in a central area of your choosing and stand up against the VIOLENCE and SUPPRESSION that is happening in our schools.

Please abide by the Pledge of Non-Violence to participate in the student strike:

We are an open, participatory, democratic, horizontal, peaceful, and nonviolent movement.

We are not a leaderless movement, we are a movement of leaders.

As a nonviolent movement, we have agreed to refrain from violence against any person, from carrying weapons, and from destruction of property.

We reject violence, including property destruction, because we recognize that it undermines popular support and discourages the broadest possible participation among the 99%.

We believe nonviolence promotes unity, strength of message, and an environment in which everyone’s voice might be heard.

We affirm that it is the personal responsibility of every individual participant in our movement to promote and maintain nonviolent discipline and to intervene to prevent violent action by anyone in our movement.
Register your college here.

November 25, 2011

How to Stand Up for Your 1st Amendment Rights

Watch the video below to see how one videographer stood up to illegal intimidation by NYPD police:



Per Gizmodo, police in at least three states have taken the position that citizens have no right to record police without the latter's prior consent, based on laws that prohibit wire-tapping without the consent of all parties recorded.

I believe most legal scholars disagree. The ACLU has published an excellent summary of what it views as your Constitutional rights to videotape and photograph police in public places, here.

Know your rights, and use 'em or lose 'em.

November 24, 2011

Matt Taibbi on Principles and Pepperspray

Another brilliant piece by Taibbi in one of the last bastions of journalism still standing in the U.S., Rolling Stone; here's a taste:

[W]hen we abandoned our principles in order to use force against terrorists and drug dealers, the answer to the question, What are we defending? started to change.

The original answer, ostensibly, was, "We are defending the peaceful and law-abiding citizens of the United States, their principles, and everything America stands for."

Then after a while it became, "We’re defending the current population of the country, but we can’t defend the principles so much anymore, because they weigh us down in the fight against a ruthless enemy who must be stopped at all costs."

Then finally it became this: “We are defending ourselves, against the citizens who insist on keeping their rights and their principles.”
More here. (Image by √oхέƒx™).

UPDATE: Re- our eroded rights, Wired just posted 9 reasons for tinfoil millinery, including: warrantless wiretapping; warrantless GPS tracking; warrantless location tracking of your cell; fake cell interception towers; the 100-mi. wide, Constitution-free zone along US borders; the
"6 mos. and it's the Goverment's" rule; the ironically-named Patriot Act; Government malware; and the known unknowns about what else the gummint's doing (remember, "warrantless" means they do it whenever they like, for reasons good, non-existent, or bad). Details here.

The Difference Between the 2008 Bank Crisis & the S&L Crisis of the '80's

. . . as explained by William K. Black. You've got to see this.


November 23, 2011

Jobs Americans Aren't Willing to Do



(Thanks, Ben!) Don't miss the last segment starting ca. 5:30 min.

November 22, 2011

NYPD Rendition of "Wikileaks Truck"

The “WikiLeaks Top Secret Mobile Information Collection Unit” has no actual affiliation with Wikileaks; its owner, artist/activist/prankster Clark Stoeckley, just wanted to raise awareness about WL. But the truck had become something of an OWS mascot, when on Nov. 17, police impounded it – except the truck never made it to the pound.

Stoeckley was arrested for "Obstructing Governmental Administration" after he declined to allow them to search the truck without a warrant. All charges against him have now been dropped; but the truck is missing, and police say they have no record of it. More at Gawker and Animal.

In a recent interview, Stoeckler discoursed:

[W]hen the Secret Service pulled me over and searched the truck, they asked what would be the first thing they saw when we opened the back. I told them “records”. Their eyes lit up and they and they asked “What kind of records?” My reply was “Mostly classic rock, some R&B and folk.” The door goes up, and the first thing they saw was boxes of 33 rpm vinyl records. . . .

[Asked whether he'd been hit on because of his attractive vehicle,] It is not a Ferrari or a Porsche. I attract a lot of conspiracy theorists, but they are usually older men who need a bath, and they want to talk my ear off. Some of them actually think I work for Wikileaks and they wish they had something to leak. No I have not gotten hit on by anyone because of the truck. It is a former U-Haul truck with 200,000 miles. Luckily my girlfriend has a car.

More at Wikileaks-Movie.com.

UPDATE: The Wikileaks Truck was recovered and is now for sale on e-bay – apparently Stoeckley needs funds (update via Gawker).

November 21, 2011

Citigroup's 2006 Declaration of "Plutonomy"

Per Bill Moyers (see vidi below), the term was coined by Citgroup in 2005 to refer to "an economic system where the privileged few make sure the rich get richer, with government on their side."

The following spring, Citigroup issued a memo to their wealthy investors in which they actually stated flat out that favorable treatment by governments had allowed the "plutonomists" to take an increasing share of income and wealth over the last 20 years and that the top 10%, esp. the top 1%, have benefitted disproportionately at the relative expense of labor. See for yourself :

(Thanks, Ben!)

November 20, 2011

A Useful Summary of Recent Police Violence Against Protesters in the US

. . . is available on Alternet (with visuals).

Great Signs from Today's Gov. Scott Walker Recall Rally in WI

More photos here.

Per the Brookfield Patch, 25,000 to 30,000 showed up at the rally, and organizers say they've collected more than 105,000 signatures on recall petitions.

The Day After the Pepper-Spraying at U.C. Davis

Another one I've got to re-blog. As Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing put it,

I thought I wouldn't see a more dramatic video than the ones yesterday of the pepper-spraying of students by police at UC Davis [see video of the spraying, here]. I was wrong.

In the video [below in this post] UC Davis students [silently] confront Chancellor Linda Katehi just one day after the incident. It's hard to tell exactly how many of them are present, but there they are, a huge crowd. They're seated in the same . . . position [on the ground, with crossed legs and linked arms] their fellow students were [in] yesterday just before Lt. John Pike pulled out a can of pepper-spray and pulled the trigger.



From lhfang86, the guy who shot the video:
A press conference, scheduled for 2:00pm between the UC Davis Chancellor and police on campus, did not end at 2:30. Instead, a mass of Occupy Davis students and sympathizers mobilized outside, demanding to have their voice heard. After some initial confusion, UC Chancellor Linda Katehi refused to leave the building, attempting to give the media the impression that the students were somehow holding her hostage. A group of highly organized students formed large gap for the chancellor to leave. They chanted “we are peaceful” and “just walk home,” but nothing changed for several hours. Eventually student representatives convinced the chancellor to leave after telling their fellow students to sit down and lock arms.

November 19, 2011

As Ye Reap . . .

From the Yes Men:

Massive 24-hour DRUM CIRCLE and JAM SESSION party starting tomorrow, Sunday at 2pm, outside Mayor Bloomberg's personal townhouse: 17 East 79th Street.

Tie-dye, didgeridoo, hackeysack welcome! No shirt, no shoes, no problem! And if you don't have talent, don't worry: FREE DRUM LESSONS offered! Also on offer: collaborative drumming with the police!

Even though this is a 24-hour drum circle, don't be late! The mayor loves evictions. Who knows what'll happen? In any case, there'll be an afterparty in world-famous Central Park right afterwards.

Please spread this announcement (www.yeslab.org/drumcircle) as far and fast as you can!

I.M.H.O. (re- OWS & Wikileaks),

. . . Wikileaks has played a key role in drawing the veil from people's eyes around the world about what their governments have been doing to them at the behest of the 1%.

I think a lot of people knew in their hearts that things weren't right; but in country after country, WL disclosed the indisputable proof: what authorities themselves were telling each other about what they were doing.

I believe Assange escalated disclosure at the time and in the manner he did because the 1% is progressing rapidly in their efforts to gain effective control over the internet. If he'd waited much longer, it might have been too late.

(Image upper right from Al Jazeera via worldbank.org, shot in Tahrir Square; image right from OregonLive, shot on N17 in Portland. For more re- Assange's and others' thinking about the infowar, see Ten Things You Need to Know About the Infowar.)

FOIA Request for Info on Nationwide Crackdown on OWS

One observer has suggested that the real reason for the crackdown on the Occupy camps was that "[t]he camps were the beginnings of a community . . . the community needed for a culture of resistance." Highly ironic if, as seems likely (see, e.g., here and here), the Obama's administration was instrumental in coordinating the crackdown.

Civil liberties groups have filed a FOIA request for info: "'The severe crackdown on the occupation movement appears to be part of a national strategy to crush the movement,' said Mara Veheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice and the co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild’s National Mass Defense Committee. 'This multi-jurisdictional coordination shows that the crackdown is supremely political.'" More at Common Dreams.

What Happened to the OWS-er's Property

When the NYPD evicted the OWS-er's camp from Liberty Square (f.k.a. Zuccotti Park), the property was reportedly tossed into garbage trucks and dump trucks; but the reality may be worse. Motherboard suggests the laptops look like they were attacked with a baseball bat (but not, one imagines, before their contents had been downloaded; note the label scrawled on the blue laptop). (More info and pics at Motherboard.)

(Yes, any deliberate destruction of property or unreasonable search of the laptops would be, like the NYPD's defiance of the court order to allow the OWS-er's back into the park, against the law.)

Fairey's ReMixed "Hope"; Occuprint

Click on the image for a larger version, or go to Fairey's site.

In related news, here's a site for posters re- the OWS movement.

"Pepper Spray" Video

I usually avoid re-blogging what's been on other popular sites, but this remarkable document is not to be missed (by terrydatiger) – it's worth watching the whole thing, though events unfold gradually. The incident occurred in connection with the eviction of OWS campers at UC Davis.

One of the students sprayed was still coughing up blood 45 min. later (see Bicycle Barricade). It's been speculated that the unnecessary spraying was done in an effort to incite a riot.

UPDATE: Excellent interview with one of the pepper-sprayed students on BoingBoing.

FURTHER UPDATE: Peter Kim has created an excellent graphic showing just how dangerous pepperspray is, here.

Learning Curve (Egyptians Respond to OWS Offer of Election Monitors)

"Why . . . should our elections be any cause for celebration, when even in the best of all possible worlds they will be just another supposedly 'representative' body ruling in the interest of the 1% over the remaining 99% of us? This new Egyptian parliament will have effectively no powers whatsoever, and—as many of us see it—its election is just a means of legitimating the ruling junta’s seizure of the revolutionary process. Is this something you wish to monitor?

"We have, all of us around the world, been learning new ways to represent ourselves, to speak, to live our politics directly and immediately, and in Egypt we did not set out to the streets in revolution simply to gain a parliament. Our struggle—which we think we share with you—is greater and grander than a neatly functioning parliamentary democracy; we demanded the fall of the regime, we demanded dignity, freedom and social justice, and we are still fighting for these goals. We do not see elections of a puppet parliament as the means to achieve them.

"But even though the idea of election monitoring doesn’t really do it for us, we want your solidarity, we want your support and your visits. We want to know you, talk with you, learn one another’s lessons, compare strategies and share plans for the future. . . . "

More at jadaliyya.com (thanks, Noah!)

November 18, 2011

And now for something really important:



Now I know where Minnie Mouse got her fashion sense.

Occupy London Takes Over Empty Bank; Occupy Dallas Evicted

Per their website:

Occupy London has taken over a huge abandoned office block in the borough of Hackney belonging to the investment bank UBS, in a move it describes as a "public repossession."

* * * * *
The multimillion pound complex, which has been empty for several years, is the group’s third space and its first building, adding to its two camps at St Paul’s Courtyard – near the London Stock Exchange in the heart of the City – and at Finsbury Square . . . .

The group say the space will be reopened on Saturday morning as the "Bank of Ideas." . . . An events programme is being lined up, including talks from Palestinian activists, comedy from Josie Long and a session led by trader Alessio Rastani, who sent shockwaves through the media following a provocative interview on the Eurozone crisis. . . .

Sarah Layler of Occupy London added: "The Bank of Ideas will host a full events programme where people will be able to trade in creativity rather than cash. We will also make space available for those that have lost their nurseries, community centres and youth clubs to savage Government spending cuts."
More at the link; see also The Guardian.

Meanwhile, notwithstanding that Dallas Occupiers had allegedly reached an agreement with City officials that their camp could remain behind City Hall until mid-December, a force including a SWAT team and mounted police evicted them at 11:45PM Wed. night on 15 minutes' notice, apparently on orders by the City Manager. (Photo by Justin Terveen, from The Dallas Observer.)

The eviction was allegedly based on escalating problems in the camp; but I visited the camp twice and found it clean and orderly, and no actual crime has been cited other than an assault that took place during a scuffle between two camp members at another location, the perpetrator of which vanished some time ago. More here.

November 17, 2011

Occupy California Circumvents Prohibition Against Raising Tents

. . . by floating them. (Image from @abc7newsBayArea.)

A Murmuration of Starlings

Context for the emerging OWS movement.

Homeland Security Coordinated 18-City Crackdown on OWS Camps

Per Washington's Blog, quoting Wonkette:

Remember when people were freaking out over the Patriot Act and Homeland Security and all this other conveniently ready-to-go post-9/11 police state stuff, because it would obviously be just a matter of time before the whole apparatus was turned against non-Muslim Americans when they started getting complain-y about the social injustice and economic injustice and income inequality and endless recession and permanent unemployment? That day is now . . . .
Additional info and sources at Washington's Blog.

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald agrees, "the U.S. has para-militarized its police forces is precisely to control this type of domestic unrest" (at Salon.com).

Another N17 Projection, Visible from Brooklyn Bridge:

Photo from This Is The Right One (thanks!) (Click on the image for a larger version.) Per the UK Guardian:

A massive projection is being displayed on the Verizon building . . . . In a series of shots it reads, "We are the 99%, Look around, you are a part of a global uprising...We are unstoppable, another world is possible...We are a cry from the heart of the world...It is the beginning of the beginning." The projection then goes on to display the names of occupations around the country in rapid-fire succession with the final name reading, "Occupy Earth." With a chorus of honking cars in the background, the crowd erupts in cheers and reads the display in unison as they pass."
UPDATE: Good interview with creator of the projection here.

Estimated 36,000 OWS-er's Converge in New York

The November 17 march began at Liberty Square (f.k.a. Zuccotti Park); proceeded to Union Square where it picked up striking NYU and other students; and then to Foley Square, where it picked up the unions. From there, they proceeded to Brooklyn Bridge.

The police presence has been massive, but they seem to have limited themselves mainly to trying to split up and divert the marchers.

Bloomberg reportedly stated he only expected 1,000 people. Maybe he just meant cops.

Best coverage today has been via TheOther99 on ustream – that's their Channel 1 (w/ Tim Pool); Channel 2 is here (w/ Henry James Ferry {sp?}) – two guys with cell phones, leaving the corp. media in the dust. (Support TheOther99 here!)

The first two window grabs are from the stream from Union Square earlier today.

The third is from near Brooklyn Bridge, at 7:04PM Eastern time; projected onto the building wall is, "99%." The fourth is from the pedestrian way on the bridge (where the cars below were honking their support).

Today was the second monthly anniversary of the beginning of OWS.

PS: Tim Pool has a documentary project, "The Occumentary," that will probably be worth checking out.

PPS: More, "real" photos here.