Friday, September 19, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

9/18: Where Were You?

I was having a dump and there was this huge explosion.

Nobody killed. Not even the pilot. What a rubbish crash.

And yet the most exciting thing to happen in Bettystown since the dinosaurs in Funtasia.

Daddy, What's a Scab?

New York magazine explains the Miners' Strike for its readers on the occasion of Billy Elliot's arrival on Broadway.

Friday, September 12, 2008

It's Friday. Let's Boogie!

Jeffrey Lewis - Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Drop Debord (and Marx). Keep Castoriadis

The provisional conclusion of this 1999 essay from the Situ-influenced crew at NotBored; just popped for me up on Google alerts. How considerate.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What the . . . ?

An eclectic bunch of books has passed across my transom (to pinch a Spinal Tap line) in recent weeks, and you deserve the benefit of my unfounded opinions just by virtue of having dropped by (well done, you!), even if it just means I manage to warn you off a couple of these:

Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life, by Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb.

By all accounts there’s a definite division among Anglo-American biologists over the significance attached to the role of genes in evolution. In the U.K. there’s still a very strong attachment to Dawkins’s selfish gene theory to the exclusion of any alternative, whereas in the States, whether out of jealousy or good science, they regard themselves as having progressed much further; recent findings in epigenetics and molecular biology undermine the entire selfish gene argument without undermining the very important, nay, central, role that genes play in evolution. Jablonka and Lamb call themselves Lamarckists (and explain why they don’t put that self-description in quotation marks even though the theory they advance is not strictly speaking Lamarckism) because they argue that the evidence points to a role for acquired characteristics in natural selection. How seriously we should take their claims I am not equipped to judge—the extent of my reading in this area stretches to Dawkins, Gabriel Dover, Lynn Margulis, and Brian Goodwin but no further—but this book is easy enough to understand in spite of the sometimes daunting terminology or complexity of argument, so there should be no misunderstanding their argument. If you read slowly and re-read sentences, as I had to, you eventually get their meaning. I was more taken by the sections on genetic and epigenetic evolution than the subsequent chapters on behavioural and symbolic evolution, not because they were any the less readable but simply because I bought the book for what it had to say about the new modern synthesis in biology. Worth checking out if that’s your bag.

Dandy in the Underworld, by Sebastian Horsley.

I bought this book against my better judgement, having mocked the risible Sebastian elsewhere (see here and here, for instance). Perhaps it was guilt. Perhaps not. Either way, the debt is paid in full. It appears that Horsley has never recovered from the horror of discovering that he is no different from anyone else (quite a shock for the scion of a dairy empire), and this book constitutes an account of his efforts to render himself distinctive and individual. Sadly, his efforts appear to consist in plagiarizing others rather than developing a style of his own: Quentin Crisp, Marc Bolan, Oscar Wilde. There is some amusing second-rate wordplay here and there, but seeing as Horsley clearly believes that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, I think we’ve already said too much.

Generation Kill, by Evan Wright.

This book piqued my interest because a new TV series in the States is based on it and previews in the U.S. media have been impressive. I can only hope the series is no more than loosely based on the book. Despite the blurb, this is definitively NOT war reporting on a par with Michael Herr’s Dispatches. On the contrary. This book exemplifies everything that is bad and wrong about embedding journalists with troops. Impartiality, objectivity, and journalistic integrity and ethics disappear from the get-go. We are treated to a trip to Iraq with professional killers in a volunteer army who shoot almost everything that moves and then we are expected to empathize with them when they express moral reservations about their mission or entertain feelings of guilt for having shot children or other innocent civilians. I don't even recall Wright talking to any Iraqis in the entire book. With the exception of the translator, and he hardly counts. Wright doesn't even seem to think there's any potential conflict of interest or moral dilemma arising when one of the soldiers in his Humvee passes him a machine gun, saying something along the lines of, “you didn’t think you were just going to share our chow and water, did you?” Execrable.

The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation, by Jacques Rancière.

A reader of C&S recommended this to me ages ago, but I struggled to find it at a price I was willing to pay. Ironically enough, I found that the French Amazon site has several copies available in English for less than those on the British Amazon site. Even more ironically, when I boasted about this to someone very dear to this blog, he pointed out that there is a free download of the text online here. Bugger.

This is a slight book, at 176 pages, but worth a look at for the story it tells of French schoolteacher Joseph Jacotot, whose discovery that teachers don’t need to know anything in order to teach threatened the entire education system in 18th-century France. Required to teach Flemish students who knew no French while he knew no Flemish, Jacotot arrived at the idea of giving the students copies on Fenelon’s Telemachus, one in French and one in Flemish, and instructed them to learn French by a process of inference, comparing the two texts. The results of this exercise resulted in students producing essays in French exemplary for their turn of phrase, correctness of grammar, and all round general excellence in the newly acquired language. From this discovery, Jacotot developed and expanded a system of education according to which fathers without education would be able to teach their children, in spite of not knowing what they were teaching, an approach that, if successful, constituted an explicit threat to the state education system. The discovery also resulted in Jacotot's emancipatory pedagogy, one of the principles of which is that all human beings are endowed with equal intelligence. It seems apposite to quote Wilde at this juncture, does it not?: “Man is born ignorant. It is education that makes him stupid.”

The second half of the book is devoted to an account of the (ultimately successful) efforts to suppress Jacotot’s teaching system, but as Jacotot himself pointed out, while the system itself might be quashed, intellectual emancipation cannot be, since the human mind will always teach itself.

Quite so.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Mad Men

How comforting and reassuring it is to discover that one of the formative influences of my childhood is still around to learn modern kids the importantcy of stupidness.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Friday. Boogie, if you want to.

The Undertones - Here Comes The Summer

Thursday, September 04, 2008

I'm Dallas Til I Die

Meet the members of the Inferno, FC Dallas's ultras.

Where Were You? (Non-Mekons Content)

A meme pinched from Norm, too much fun to pass up.

Princess Diana's Death—31st August 1997

Bayview Drive, Killiney. Watching TV at about 2 in the morning after a good night of heavy drinking when the news started coming through. Stayed up for an hour or two just to make sure she was dead.

Margaret Thatcher's Resignation—22nd November 1990

Walking through Altrincham Town Centre. A billboard outside the amusement arcade/coffee shop on the way up to the market was splashed with the news "Thatcher Resigns" where normally it declared "Coffee and Scones, £1.50." Altrincham was the sort of place where Thatcher's resignation would have been considered a disaster of Dunkirk-type proportions, and I think the owners felt they were passing on terrible news. I spent the rest of the day floating on air.

Attack on the Twin Towers—11th September 2001

At work. Someone rigged up a TV in the conference room after news of the first plane, but without an aerial the picture was fuzzy. The responses, understandable given the confused reports we were receiving at the time, ranged from "Wow!" to "What does it mean?" to "Fuck me."

England's World Cup Semi-Final against Germany—4th July 1990

I can only have been in one place: The Faulkner's Arms. With Griff, Mart, Cakes, Geoff, and the rest of our crew. That World Cup represents halcyon days of lazy warm summer evenings, great footie, many, many pints of bitter, and our Mart running out onto the high street shouting "Plattttttyyyyyyy!!!!!!!" every time the then Villa captain scored.

President Kennedy's Assassination—22nd November 1963

I'd hazard a guess that I was in my cot. I was around, but the earliest memory I have is from a year or so later, hiding behind the settee when the midwife came to visit my mom because she was pregnant with our Mart. That said, in November 1963 I'd have been 18 months old, so I was probably out playing footie somewhere. There are photos of me at that age kicking a ball in Cannon Hill Park, so it's a distinct possibility. Or I was in the pub.

I'm going to nominate my fellow Counagoites and add two more items:

The Death of Franco—20th November 1975

Spain wins the European Footie Championships—29th June 2008

When I was waiting in the bar, Where were you?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Wot! No Punk Band?

The Hideout's 12th Annual Block Party, September 20th and 21st.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Do Stuff

Make zine provides instructions for projects using technology

A profile in Publishers Weekly of Faythe Levine, author of Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design.
Early childhood experiences with crafting eventually led Levine to an unlikely place: Seattle's underground punk scene in the early '90s, where nearly everyone she was involved with engaged in making stuff-music, T-shirts, zines. “This was my first exposure to teenagers' and young adults creating a community around living a DIY lifestyle,”, says Levine.

. . .

When she heard about an alternative crafts fair happening in Chicago in 2003, she figured she might as well check it out. That fair just happened to be the first-ever Renegade Craft Fair, which has since expanded to Brooklyn and San Francisco and developed a reputation as one of the country's best crafts events. It was here that Levine linked up with the DIY community that had been burgeoning in pockets around the country.

Or, of course, you could just blog, which doesn't quite have the same rebel aesthetic as punk, but at least it isn't as petty bourgeois as setting up your own publishing or record company.