tom moody

Archive for the ‘around the web’ Category

overcoming "our" disillusionment

Geert Lovink's latest anti-social media rant starts out well with amusing quips:

“Artificial intelligence is not the answer to organized stupidity”—Johan Sjerpstra.
“Please don’t email me unless you’re going to pay me”—Molly Soda.
“Late capitalism is like your love life: it looks a lot less bleak through an Instagram filter”—Laurie Penny.
“Wonder how many people going on about the necessity of free speech and rational debate have blocked and muted trolls?”—Nick Srnicek.
“Post-truth is to digital capitalism what pollution is to fossil capitalism—a by-product of operations”— Evgeny Morozov.
“I have seen the troll army and it is us”—Erin Gün Sirer.

But then Lovink switches to first person plural causing me to vomit on the keyboard:

Our disenchantment with the internet is a fact. Yet again, enlightenment does not bring us liberation but depression. The once fabulous aura that surrounded our beloved apps, blogs, and social media has deflated. Swiping, sharing, and liking have begun to feel like soulless routines, empty gestures. We’ve started to unfriend and unfollow, yet we can’t afford to delete our accounts, as this implies social suicide. If “truth is whatever produces most eyeballs,” as Evgeny Morozov states, a general click strike seems like the only option left. But since this is not happening, we feel trapped and console ourselves with memes.

As the old '60s joke goes, "What do you mean we, kemosabe?" Some people didn't sign up for Facebook in 2007 -- because it smelled like a racket. Some people don't carry surveillance devices in their pockets just because everyone else does. Some people have made a good-faith look for alternatives to swiping and sharing, shy of a "general click strike."

Lovink's article appears in e-flux, which recently tried and failed to acquire the .art domain, speaking of the need for general click strikes. A Facebook for art, controlled by well-intentioned do-gooders, was narrowly avoided.

The rest of Lovink's article discusses positive uses of memes, or something. I haven't read it all. It was hard to get past that first paragraph. Will update if there is anything worth passing along.

- tom moody

June 21st, 2017 at 9:43 am

Posted in around the web, theory

various zappa-related links

A YouTuber's review of Timothy Carey's film The World's Greatest Sinner. Frank Zappa wrote the score in the early '60s when he was a broke unknown and described it as the "worst movie ever made" during his legendary Steve Allen appearance. Career oddball Carey was essentially a performance artist working in the film medium, and enlivened two Kubrick projects, The Killing and Paths of Glory. TCM shows Sinner occasionally but I haven't seen it in its entirety (yet).

Interview with David Walley, who wrote the 1971 Zappa biography No Commercial Potential. Zappa hated the book because it dared to describe his faults, and he badmouthed Walley in interviews. Walley updated it in 1980 at the request of the publisher and updated it again after Zappa's death in 1993. The updates don't continue the "Zappaesque-collage-with-interviews" style of the original text and they have a sadder-but-wiser tone but they merit reading. Walley admired Zappa's music despite reservations about the "darkness" of his vision: "a universe of no hope and putdowns." The interview captures the love-hate spirit.

Walley notes in the interview that Zappa wasn't always the best judge of his own work -- including which older projects needed improvement. Never was this clearer than the disastrous 1984 CD remix of We're Only In It For The Money, where Zappa dubbed in new bass and drum playing to punch up the original sound. This web page goes into exhaustive detail on the changes and Zappa's shifting justifications for them.

I knew the Zappa kids were feuding after mom Gail died. It's interesting to compare this family interview from when she was still alive with this posthumous one. Apparently she didn't prep the kids that they'd be getting unequal shares in the Zappa Family Trust (30% each for Ahmet and Diva, 20% each for Moon and Dweezil). As Kazanian says (admittedly tangentially) in Dario Argento's Inferno: "[T]he only true mystery is that our very lives are governed by dead people." First Zappa by creating a monster creative legacy and then Gail by doling out who profits from it.

- tom moody

June 15th, 2017 at 8:05 pm

Posted in around the web

a purpose for collecting

Robert Nickas, from his essay on the Affidavit website titled "A 12-Step Program for 'Collectors'":

To collect is to draw things towards ourselves over time, to study and learn from them, to see what they elicit, one from another, not to engage in a continuous and expedient dispersal.

Well said. The essay is a collection of Benjamin Franklin wisdom or Tom Paine common sense aimed at flippers of artwork. None of it should need to be said except this is the era of a $2.9 million Peter Doig (a terrible painter) and a $110.5 million Basquiat that, according to Nickas, "may not be among Basquiat’s very best."

- tom moody

June 6th, 2017 at 5:48 am

i see a dead candidate

As blogger/Village Voice columnist Roy Edroso has noted, the National Review is rarely funny.
But with Hillary Clinton suddenly back in the media every day after her failed campaign, serving up a cornucopia of self-justification, we'll have to take our laughs where we can find them:

Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t merely in a state of denial. She has become Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense. Politically speaking, she is dead, but she doesn’t know it. Her staffers are so many Haley Joel Osments — too kind (and too attached to their salaries) to tell her that her career is over. She doesn’t need briefings. She doesn’t need to do interviews. She doesn’t need to write the book she is writing (after so many indigestible volumes, why bother with one more?). She doesn’t need to stake out a politically nuanced position on James Comey’s firing or scramble to get out in front of the Resistance parade. She lost two exceedingly winnable presidential campaigns in Hindenburgian fashion. There is no demand for her to run again and there is nothing left for her except to receive whatever ceremonial honors and sinecures may come her way. She has been handed her political retirement papers by the American people. She’s done. (Kyle Smith)

If only. She's not Bruce Willis but Michael Myers in Halloween, endlessly resurrecting no matter how many times Jamie Lee Curtis stabs him.

- tom moody

June 1st, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Posted in around the web

bad leftwing humor, clickbait, and/or articles with the phrase "in the age of Trump" in the headline

The websites I followed in the Bush/Obama years are struggling for the right tone to deal with Trump.

Many just use his name and image for clickbait, to get outraged liberal juices flowing. Professor Juan Cole's Informed Comment site currently has the T-word in 14 out of 40 headlines on its front page. This isn't necessarily cynical but it is mindless.

These earnest lefties confuse cause and effect: The disease is oligarchy, Trump an egregious symptom.

He's also a walking caricature. That's one reason cyber-commentator Lauren Weinstein's attempt at a meme, Trump the Thug (at NATO headquarters), falls flat.

Thug isn't the right word -- clown maybe. Trump did in fact play a narcissistic boss on TV.

Weinstein's GIF misses the clueless unintended satire of the fake-gladhanding-turned-camera-conscious-posing on display in that clip. As macho swagger goes, it's preferable to Hillary Clinton's attempts to talk like a gunslinger -- at least it's funny.

The US system posed a grotesque set of candidate choices in the 2016 election. To personify this failure in one strutting buffoon is ultimately lazy.

- tom moody

May 26th, 2017 at 4:26 pm

Posted in around the web

RIP Steven Stokes

Belated RIP to Steven Stokes, an electronic musician who ran Record Gallery in Dallas during the bleak Reagan Years, before moving to Seattle in 1989. (He ultimately wound up in Portland). His record-store-plus-art-gallery was an oasis of "downtown" culture in Dallas's dystopian sprawl of malls, sports stadiums, topless bars, and Baptist churches. Eventually even Stokes had had too much of it: "Nothing's ever going to happen here," he told me just before he moved. I kind of liked the negative inspiration but moved to NYC a few years later (which now has 7/11s and K-Marts).
A boingboing BBS post features reminiscences by a then-teenager from suburban Arlington, TX, who made pilgrimages into Dallas to visit Steve's store on Greenville Avenue.
I lived a few blocks away and bought many vinyl records, a few cassettes, and a painting there. Talking to Steve about music was always enjoyable.
The boingboing piece links to Mark Zuckerberg's crayon scribble site for teens and seniors, which has more info and a "Steven D. Stokes and the Record Gallery" page.

- tom moody

May 26th, 2017 at 10:04 am

Posted in around the web

him bomb good

Some choice bits from Antiwar.com's Justin Raimondo on our deranged commentary class (edited slightly for the post-Snowden landscape):

[T]he minute [Trump] starts bombing foreigners he’s suddenly not so bad after all. Over at the Washington Post, David Ignatius ... says he’s “becoming a credible foreign policy leader.” Ruth Marcus opines that we’re witnessing “the normalization of Donald Trump.” Finally, she enthuses, “rationality is dawning” on the forty-fifth President! Among the liberal elite, the hosannas were well nigh universal.

And

Fareed Zakaria’s joy over the bombing seemed to indicate that, for him, it was practically an erotic experience. And this weird bloodlust wasn’t limited to the liberal precincts of the commentariat – far from it. When we dropped the MOAB on Afghanistan, Kimberly Guilfoyle practically had an orgasm over at Fox News. Sitting there in her low cut red dress, her breasts heaving with passion, her lips parted, and an ecstatic smile plastered on her heavily made-up face, she hailed the bombing as if it were the climax – so to speak – of a pornographic movie: “America is back!” Oh, yeeeesssss!!!!

Just to keep some balance here, Fareed Zakaria's breasts were also heaving.

- tom moody

April 19th, 2017 at 10:05 am

Posted in around the web

around the web

Ex-Billmon commenter-turned-blogger "b." at Moon of Alabama offers detailed, generally plausible counter-narratives to the media's insidious fictions of the moment. One such popular trope is "North Koreans are so cra-a-a-azy." Perhaps, b. suggests, the threat of imminent invasion from the South, egged on by you-know-who (us), forces the North to commit so much labor to the military that they are starving for lack of farm hands. Having a credible nuclear deterrent allows them to build their civilian economy, in particular, food production. That's not so crazy.

Clintonite crazies (speaking of crazies) have been huffing and HuffPo-ing about Steve Bannon as the next Goebbels, pumping this Breitbart amateur up to superpowered levels of Machiavellian skill. Ian Welsh suggests some of Bannon's nativist schtick wasn't such a bad thing, and with him out, the neocons and neolibs are rushing in: "He was the guy, along with Trump on the campaign trail, who wanted the Muslim ban, aye. But he also favored rewriting trade deals, hitting China on manufacturing (it is true that China no longer keeps its currency low, but they did for ages and gutted US manufacturing), bringing those jobs back to America, improving relations with Russia, and, oh yeah, not getting involved in stupid Middle Eastern wars other than fighting ISIS."

Benjamin Studebaker has a Political Strategy for a Better Europe that sounds wrong to me: "In this way we can partner the integrationist and protectionist lefts together -- by pairing a genuine threat of exit in the periphery with a strong push for federalism in the core, we can split the neoliberals off from the right nationalists in the core countries and force them into making concessions. What the left needs is a good cop, bad cop routine, where the British, French, Dutch, and German leftists are the good cops and the Greek, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese leftists are the bad cops." You'll have to read the whole post to make sense of that excerpt but surely he has this backward: his "bad cops" have everything to lose by acting up; it's leftists in the fat and sassy countries who should be causing trouble (and making alliances with nativists, even) to thwart the globalist leeches.

- tom moody

April 18th, 2017 at 11:37 am

Posted in around the web

livejournal update

Science fiction author Charles Stross has a private Livejournal site he uses for testing fiction -- or did:

I started out on Livejournal because, back in the day, it inherited a bunch of folks from SFFNet when SFFNet curled up and sort-of died; SFFNet in turn inherited the users of the Delphi SF forum from bulletin board days. It's all about the people, as usual, and Livejournal for many years was a social network hub for SF/F fans and authors. But Livejournal gradually lost out to Facebook in the anglophone world, just like MySpace. Unlike MySpace, LJ survived by becoming the social network of choice in Russia: a few years ago LJ was sold to a Russian company, and has gradually become a 90% Russophone social site with a weird bag of western SF fans still lurking in the moldering wreckage of what was once a thriving social networking system. There were periodic upsets because any major Russian political event would seemingly draw distributed denial of service attacks; a lot of people left, either decamping to Facebook, or to smaller specialized social hubs—the founders of Livejournal released their software under an open source license, and some folks are successfully running small-scale LJ servers with their own distinct communities.

I probably stuck with LJ for too long, because back in the day I paid for a perpetual premium account—unlimited access and no ads: the urge to get one's money's worth out of something you've paid for is hard to resist. But the rot has finally gone too far. This Tuesday Livejournal pushed out a revision to their terms of service that emphasize the service runs under Russian law, and specifically requires compliance with Russian law on minors -- which makes any discussion of "sexual deviancy" (aka LGBT issues) illegal or at least a violation of the ToS.

So I'm currently migrating my entire Livejournal presence to Dreamwidth, a service set up by some of LJ's original founders that focuses on providing a Livejournal-like set of services for creative types (and, significantly, is not subject to Russian law because it's not based in Russia).

Curious what effect this "Russian law" will have on Thomas Disch's LJ (still extant since he died but in memorial status). Possibly Stross is being alarmist and just looking for a reason to bail -- I haven't done any research to confirm his legal interpretation.

- tom moody

April 7th, 2017 at 7:41 am

chicken little for real

When lab-grown meat was first announced a few years ago, science fiction fan Paul Krugman (whose economic theories in support of the Clintons have also been called science fictional) mentioned the "Chicken Little" episode in Pohl & Kornbluth's book The Space Merchants. That was P&K's name for a monstrous mound of non-sentient chicken flesh, filling a small underground cavern, flensed off in strips to feed the populace. The meat Krugman was comparing to it was pork, or perhaps nu-pork, but last week the feat was achieved in San Francisco startup-land with actual chicken, or nu-chicken. (hat tip m.po)

Since the source is Business Insider they don't call it Frankenfood, but rather a form of venture-capital-funded disruption. If brainless meat ever becomes economical, the idea is, its various purveyors will do to chicken farmers what Uber does to cab drivers. Or, as BI puts it:

They're all hoping to disrupt America's $200 billion meat industry (and $48 billion poultry industry), by offering foods that mimic meat but are more environmentally friendly.

The details are pretty disgusting, even if you aren't excited by a food that is "eerily similar" to real meat (BI's telling phrase):

...lab-grown meat still requires fetal serum, which comes from unborn calves and chicks, to start the cultivation process. Memphis Meats told The Wall Street Journal in 2016 that it expects to replace the serum with something plant-based soon.

Right, sure. It's the nu-ethics: Disrupting baby cows is bad, disrupting family farmers is OK.

- tom moody

March 22nd, 2017 at 7:45 pm

Posted in around the web