5.28.2003

Underbrush

Bush signed a bill yesterday extending the national debt. The press and cameras were not invited. Today he is set to sign the tax cut bill. The press and cameras are invited to note and celebrate the event. Maybe if we didn't have chickenshit fawning news organizations drinking the Bush administration Kool Aid, we'd have a better informed populace...

5.19.2003

5.06.2003

Pynchon on Orwell

New introduction to 1984.

Doublethink also lies behind the names of the superministries which run things in Oceania - the Ministry of Peace wages war, the Ministry of Truth tells lies, the Ministry of Love tortures and eventually kills anybody whom it deems a threat. If this seems unreasonably perverse, recall that in the present-day United States, few have any problem with a war-making apparatus named "the department of defence," any more than we have saying "department of justice" with a straight face, despite well-documented abuses of human and constitutional rights by its most formidable arm, the FBI. Our nominally free news media are required to present "balanced" coverage, in which every "truth" is immediately neutered by an equal and opposite one. Every day public opinion is the target of rewritten history, official amnesia and outright lying, all of which is benevolently termed "spin," as if it were no more harmful than a ride on a merry-go-round. We know better than what they tell us, yet hope otherwise. We believe and doubt at the same time - it seems a condition of political thought in a modern superstate to be permanently of at least two minds on most issues. Needless to say, this is of inestimable use to those in power who wish to remain there, preferably forever.


4.29.2003

Ludderati Weblog

Langdon Winner, a genuine member of the Ludderati, now has a weblog: Technopolis.

Described as:
Technopolis, a weblog by Langdon Winner, offers occasional reflections on historical,
philosophical, and contemporary questions that involve the perplexing intersection of
human ends and means. Not a minute-to-minute news blog, it includes stories, poems,
personal observations, and scholarly references posted every now and then, but at least
every two weeks.

4.25.2003

Oversway The World

Here's a poem by Wendell Berry (from "A Timbered Choir") written during our
previous Gulf War, but timely and true also for today... - Ned)

1991 - I

The year begins with war.
Our bombs fall day and night,
Hour after hour, by death
Abroad appeasing wrath,
Folly, and greed at home.
Upon our giddy tower
We'd oversway the world.
Our hate comes down to kill
Those whom we do not see.
For we have given up
Our sight to those in power
And to machines, and now
Are blind to all the world.
This is a nation where
No lovely thing can last.
We trample, gouge, and blast;
The people leave the land;
The land flows to the sea.
Fine men and women die,
The fine old houses fall,
The fine old trees come down:
Highway and shopping mall
Still guarantee the right
And liberty to be
A peaceful murderer,
A murderous worshipper,
A slender glutton, or
A healthy whore. Forgiving
No enemy, forgiven
By none, we live the death
Of liberty, become
What we have feared to be.

4.15.2003

Early Days of a Better Nation

Ken MacLeod's blog.
My views on the war:

I opposed it before it started and will continue to do so even if WMD are found and/or the
US and UK troops are welcomed into Baghdad by cheering crowds. WMD and the iniquitous and
unpopular nature of the Ba'athist regime (which I've opposed as long as I've been
politically active, i.e. since 1976) are not the real issues in the war. The real issues
are the attempt to set up a regime which is compliant with the US; that is, to secure US
control over the second largest oil reserves in the world, and to have forces in place for
when the welcome day when the House of Saud is in Switzerland or on the lamp-posts of
Riyadh. Control of oil, and strategic interest: that's what it's about, and that's
imperialism.

4.02.2003

Wartime Luddite

TECHSPLOITATION: Wartime Luddite
By Annalee Newitz, AlterNet
March 25, 2003
Children of Dune made me wish we had no thinking machines in our battles.
If we have to make war, it would be better for us to fight like Luddites. It's too easy to
unplug our ethics when machines target our enemies for us. Having to see the enemy,
to realize that he or she is human, is profoundly important. It reminds us that every war
is a battle against ourselves: a struggle against human horrors. Placing our bodies in
combat reminds us -- soldiers and comrades of soldiers alike -- that war is a sacrifice.



3.14.2003

Irony

It's what's hot.

Extreme ironing.

3.11.2003

Pass/Fail America

Learning to Be Stupid in the Culture of Cash
March 8, 2003
By Luciana Bohne

An opinon piece about those giant engines of orthodoxy, higher education in America...
...Let me put it succinctly: I don't think serious education is possible in America. Anything
you touch in the annals of knowledge is a foe of this system of commerce and profit, run
amok. The only education that can be permitted is if it acculturates to the status quo, as
happens in the expensive schools, or if it produces people to police and enforce the status
quo, as in the state school where I teach. Significantly, at my school, which is a third-tier
university, servicing working-class, first-generation college graduates who enter lower-echelon
jobs in the civil service, education, or middle management, the favored academic concentrations
are communications, criminal justice, and social work--basically how to mystify, cage, and
control the masses...
But do the Keebler elves rise up?

3.05.2003

We'll have none of that here...

Man arrested for 'peace' T-shirt

And the man is a lawyer.

From CNN.com.

3.03.2003

WENDELL BERRY

A Citizen's Response to the National Security Strategy of the United States of America
...The idea of a government acting alone in preemptive war is inherently undemocratic,
for it does not require or even permit the president to obtain the consent of the governed.
As a policy, this new strategy depends on the acquiescence of a public kept fearful and
ignorant, subject to manipulation by the executive power, and on the compliance of an
intimidated and office dependent legislature. To the extent that a government is secret,
it cannot be democratic or its people free...

2.26.2003

The Last American Man

A great book by Elizabeth Gilbert about a Thoreau-like, Davy-fucking Crockett man, Eustace Conway, whose dogma eats his karma...

A Conway quote from the book (from a presentation to high schoolers):

I live ... in nature, where everything is connected, circular. The seasons are circular.
The planet is circular, and so is its passage around the sun. The course of water over the
earth is circular, coming down from the sky and circulating through the world to spread life
and then evaporating up again. I live in a circular teepee and I build my fire in a circle,
and when my loved ones visit me, we sit in a circle and talk. The life cycles of plants and
animals are circular. I live outside where I can see this. The ancient people understood
that our world is a circle, but we modern people have lost sight of that. I don't live
inside buildings, because buildings are dead places where nothing grows, where water doesn't
flow, and where life stops. I don't want to live in a dead place. People say that I don't
live in the real world, but it's modern Americans who live in a fake world, because they have
stepped outside the natural circle of life...

...Do people live in circles today? No. They live in boxes. They wake up every morning in
the box of their bedroom because a box next to them started making beeping noises to tell them
it was time to get up. They eat their breakfast out of a box and then they throw that box
away into another box. Then they leave the box where they live and get inot a box with wheels
and drive to work, which is just another big box broken up into lots of little cubicle boxes
where a bunch of people spend their days sitting and staring at the computer boxes in front
of them. When the day is over, everyone gets into the box with wheels again and goes home to
their house boxes and spends the evening staring at their television boxes for entertainment.
They get their music from a box, they get their food from a box, and they keep their clothing
in a box, they live their lives in a box! Does that sound like anyone you know?..

[By now the kids are laughing and applauding.]

...Break out of the box! ...You don't have to live like this because people tell you it's the
only way. You're not handcuffed to your culture! This is
not the way humanity lived
for thousands and thousands of years and it is
not the only way you can live today!

More information on Conway from the Turtle Island web site.

2.25.2003

Robota Trailer

"Robota", kind of a "Night of the Living Dead" movie,
but with never-dead machines in place of the zombie folk...

Pesky bots.

Lost Labor

LOST LABOR: Images of Vanished American Workers 1900-1980 is a selection of 155 photographs
excerpted from a collection of more than 1100 company histories, pamphlets, and technical
brochures documenting America's business and corporate industrial history This collection
has been assembled over the last 20 years and many of the titles are rare and difficult to
find. Since the images document factories, machinery, and jobs that no longer exist, LOST
LABOR provides an unusual visual and historical record of work in 20th century America.
The term "lost labor" can derive from the effects of mechanization, computer automation,
technological advances, or through the consequences of corporate takeovers, downsizing and
globalization. In many cases, these meanings can and do overlap.

Found via the always amazing Wood_s_lot.

2.04.2003

Rage Against the De-Machinist

What is suprising about reviews of Nicol Fox's new book is the contempt it provokes in reviewers....

1.30.2003

Them

They are out there...

From TLR

From 1999 to 2002, I was the editor/publisher of an online publication called "The Luddite Reader," a site that reviewed luddite
(or luddish) books, movies, and music. Here is a book review from that collection.

The Telling by Ursula K. Leguin.

Globalism is destructive of indigenous cultures. The dominant monoculture (us) supplants all cultures we encounter. An older example
would be how the aborigines have been treated (and continue to be treated) in Australia, or how we have marginalized our own Native
American population. In this, Le Guin's most recent (and final?) novel of her Hainish series, this problem is presented in the form of a
planetary parable, where a new technoculture, Aka, a tightly-controlled capitalist government know as the Corporation, considers all
citizens to be pure "producer-consumers."

The Aka is systematically destroying all vestiges of the ancient ways: "The Time of Cleansing" is the phrase (with obvious parallels
to China's Cultural Revolution) used to describe this era. Libraries and books are destroyed, the old language and calligraphy are
outlawed, and natives caught trying to keep any part of the past alive are punished and then re-educated.

Le Guin's protagonist, Sutty, is an ethnographer sent from earth by the Ekumen to study the culture of the planet, but during her
60 year space journey the "cleansing" takes place and she is left to study an illicit remnanct of the culture that is known among
the people as "the Telling." The Telling appears to be a blending of religion and knowledge-keeping, a faith in narrative and respect
for what has been known and the passing along of wisdom. The Aka culture is a faith in the new and in technology.

Sutty observes the change thusly:

   From a great consensual social patter within which each individual sought physical and spiritual satisfaction, they
   had made it a great hierarch in which each individual served the indefinite growth of the society's material wealth and
   complexity. From an active homeostatic balance they had turned it to an active forward-thrusting imbalance... The
   difference...was between somebody sitting thinking after a good meal and somebody running furiously to catch the bus.

   (a wonderfully luddish observation.)

The Telling is more of a thought-problem than a story. Some readers may find its ending unsatisfying. In some ways, it's the obverse of
Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," river journey and all. Also, if you have ever wondered what it would be like to live among the Book People
of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, this is it.

Off

Go.

1.14.2003

Mr. Kurt, He Said:

Interesting Kurt Vonnegut interview:

   Well, technology has fucked us up in many ways. What I’ve said about the computer
   revolution is that it’s allowed white collar criminals to do what the Mob would have
   loved to do -- put a pawn shop and a loan shark in every home!

Word Watch: Inforamus

    The new breed of digital illiterati exhibit a complete misunderstanding or indifference to
   the distinction between subscription and free online information as well as a chilling
   aversion to reading books. These "scholars" waste untold hours fruitlessly but insistently
   looking through thousands of Alta Vista search results, vainly hoping against hope that
   somehow all the right answers will tumble forth.

   The research for a typical undergrad paper nowadays seems to consist of two hours of
   fruitless WWW browsing followed by a reluctant visit to the library. During this visit, one
   poorly formatted query is submitted to a full-text periodical database, the first five
   full-text articles on the results list of 800 hits are downloaded, and then it's Miller
   time.

   While we may deplore such practices, or smirk at them, the dangerous reality is that a new
   class of information consumer has arisen ... The inforamus is someone doing bad searches
   with an inadequate search engine in a morass of disorganized, incomplete, and sometimes
   inaccurate information, and who is perfectly happy with the results. If, as the library
   literature suggests, trained reference librarians answer questions correctly only half the
   time, how do you think the inforamus is doing?


            -- David Majka, American Libraries, June/July 2001

Found via Wood_s_lot pointer to David Bratman's site.

12.31.2002

Ellen Ullman in Harpers

Harpers magazine has been very good lately. If you missed the October 2002
issue, you missed an excellent article on "post human" programming by the
wonderfully lucid Ellen Ullman:

   Over the years, as I listened to the engineering give-and-take over the question of
   artificial life forms, I kept coming up against something obdurate inside myself, some
   stubborn resistance to the definition of "life" that was being promulgated, It
   seemed to me too reductive of what we are, too mechanistic. Even if I count not quite
   get myself to believe in God or the soul or the Tao or some other metaphor for the
   ineffable spark of life, still, as I sat there high in the balcony of the Stanford
   lecture hall, listening to the cyberneticists' claims to be on the path toward the
   creation of a sentient being, I found myself muttering, No, that's not right, we're
   not just mechanisms, you're missing something. There's something more, something
   more. But then I had to ask myself: What else could there be?


Netfuture commentary on the article.
Noted: Epicurian Simplicity

A thoughtful, if indulgent work by a genuine member of the Ludderati:

Epicurian Simplicity by Stephanie Mills

   Although my aim in this book is to advocate material simplicity more by attraction
   than by exhortation, through sharing the mingled pleasures of this kind of living,
   I'd be remiss in not saying that in and of itself, simple living won't solve the
   dreadful problems besetting the biosphere. There's something dangerously oxymoronic
   when simple living becomes a theme of slick magazines. Simple living needs to affect
   more than the household's discretionary budget.

   ...Simplicity and freedom are much allied. The pleasure freely derived from food
   and water, from companionship and countryside or city life, from good work and lives
   well lived, has been severed, privatized, tarted up, and sold back to us through
   mass media whose business is to advertize affluence. and whose vocabulary consists
   of vulgar sensationalism and cheap sentiment. Now we are slaves to the cash economy
   and buy our enjoyment.

Okay, but who's going to tell Superman?

Requiem for the Pay Phone

12.19.2002

The Rise of The Machines

Terminator 3 trailer.

She's a bad blonde and she's after John Conner.

Woo.

12.12.2002

Healthy Opinion

Start spreading the news:

   Please, when you give this European letter to Democrats all over, remember that I helped
   give America finally that obvious goal of universal health care!


Link via BookNotes.


12.11.2002

Jimmy Carter

Nobel Acceptance Speech

   Ladies and gentlemen:

   War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil,
   never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's
   children.

   The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and
   prejudices. God gives us the capacity for choice. We can choose to alleviate suffering. We
   can choose to work together for peace. We can make these changes - and we must.

   Thank you.


From Salon.

12.06.2002

Big Money Is Not Free Speech

From a 12/6 Commentary in the Christian Science Monitor:

   The new law is like a city noise ordinance. It will help all to be heard in Washington,
   and not just those who can pay to make a very loud noise to needy politicians. Money
   corrupts, and absolute freedom to buy favors corrupts absolutely.


Hear, hear.

12.05.2002

12.04.2002

A continuation of Reflections on Sustainability...

   The term "Sustainable Growth" is an oxymoron...

   ...Twelfth Law: ( Eric Sevareid's Law ); The chief cause of problems is solutions. ( Sevareid 1970 )

      This law should be a central part of higher education, especially in engineering...


Albert Bartlett on the "Marginalization of Malthus"

12.02.2002

Luddite Christmas Gift Idea

Looking for that special something for the luddite on your Christmas
list? Look no further...

The Luddites of Detroit, a folk/acoustic band has a new CD:

   "Cafe Believe" (2002)

Large, loud, and Ludd.

11.30.2002

Word Watch Alert

"Immobot" from MIT Technology Review

My early car ownership included an immobile, a car that ran infrequently and
also not very well. In fact, it was a dirt colored '63 Pontiac Bonnimmobile,
with a 454 cubic inch anchor...

Later in life, I think I worked for an immobot or two, or were they idibots?

11.26.2002

Walk (and drive) the talk...

From the Christian Science Monitor: Proud, patriotic & green

   As war with Iraq edges closer, conserving oil and resources has become the new mantra of
   flag-waving Americans, who argue that true security will come only when the US stanches
   the flow of foreign oil.


11.21.2002

Ice 9

From the Christian Science Monitor:
Promise and pitfalls in quest to create new life-form
Scientists announce a federally funded bid to create a new living organism.
By Mark Sappenfield | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The life forms we already have need tending, but let's endanger the whole world instead.
Orwell, by George

LA Times COMMENTARY: George Bush's Big Brother
Orwell would recognize the plan to monitor citizens using databases.
By Jonathan Turley

   In some ways, Poindexter is the perfect Orwellian figure for the perfect Orwellian project.
   As a man convicted of falsifying and destroying information, he will now be put in charge
   of gathering information on every citizen. To add insult to injury, the citizens will fund the
   very system that will reduce their lives to a transparent fishbowl.

   What is most astonishing is the utter lack of public debate over this project.

   Over the last year, the public has yielded large tracts of constitutional territory that
   had been jealously guarded for generations. Now we face the ultimate act of acquiescence
   in the face of government demands.


The new Information economy.

Found via Boing-Boing.


Footsoldier in the ideology wars

Kranky Katherine Kersten

Response to a Kersten column on the lack of diversity (conservatism) on university campuses...

   Do you think Katherine Kersten, with the power and security her party now feels, will ever
   object to following a president who deserted from the armed forces in time of war, and who
   pretends to be a patriot today?


So, let me get this straight: overwhelmingly democratic liberal arts faculty members are
dangerous in the cookie factory of vocational training frenzy that constitutes the modern
American university? What are they doing? Spinning Plato left?

Hmn.

11.19.2002

Excess Tech

Why marketers push excess tech

Look what the '90s tech boom hath wrought: Ovens that act like refrigerators, phones that
turn into televisions, and lawnmowers designed to move at your speed.

By Noel C. Paul | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

   ...come face-to-face with what has quickly become a key trait of consumer products in America:
   excess tech. From big household appliances to handheld devices, manufacturers are cramming
   common products with new technologies that most consumers will never tap.

   "A lot of it has to do with competition," says Stephen Gates, spokesman for the Consumer Electronics
   Association. "That's why you see things like a sofa that's also a breadmaker."


Bet you didn't know about the washy talkey...

11.17.2002

Is That For Me?

Why the polls got the pols wrong...

Arianna Huffington puffs in Salon: Down with polls, up with democracy!

   In truth, the problem isn't with us, dear voters -- or even with you, dear nonvoters. The
   problem is with the pollsters' inability to account for an increasingly uncooperative public.
   Thanks to cell phones, answering machines, caller I.D., a surfeit of polls, and a growing
   distaste for telephonic intrusions into our homes, it's getting harder and harder for pollsters
   to find Americans willing to answer their questions. Twenty years ago, polling response
   rates were over 60 percent; now they are closer to 30 percent -- and in some cases even lower.
   It's pretty tough to get an accurate reading of the public's opinion when the most frequent
   response you receive is a "click" followed by a dial tone.


We're not in now...

11.15.2002

Whoa! (Technology Acceleration)

from the Stanford Business Review:

Who's In Control Here?

   Organizations, especially for-profit organizations, now play a curiously
   dual role in promoting the unfettered acceleration of technology. They
   are technology’s most powerful driver and also its hogtied prisoner. That
   combination generates more and more acceleration, with potentially disastrous
   downside effects.