Category Archives: unrelated

stuff that is sui generis

Nelson Mandela, Peace and Love

‘Peace and Love’

that old hippy mantra

cynically, we snigger, “peace and love? As if. What have you been smoking, hippy?”

yet in our lifetimes we knew a man who lived Peace and Love Who practiced it. Who more than any of us, could have been expected to be embittered and turn away from both peace and love.  This man died today.

In 1990 I remember him walking out of prison. It was incredible. At this moment we on earth actually witnessed an incredibly rare moment of human greatness. South African white President Frederik de Klerk defied the South African system and its apartheid ideology by freeing Nelson Mandela and legitimizing the ANC. Mandela made it very clear that he would work towards equality and a free South African for all.  By 1994 Mandela was himself President.

It was amazing that between them, two individuals could change history, could change hearts. de Klerk by giving up White Political Privilege – not just for South Africans, but – symbolically – for all of us. Mandela for firmly standing by the idea of freedom and dignity in equality. Two Enlightenment men. Who says individuals cannot shape history?

And as President, and for many years after, until this very day 5.12.2013, Mandela has symbolised the successful struggle for dignity and equality and the meaning of freedom. He has, in short, embodied Peace and Love.

…and yet …

almost a year before the great moment of freedom, in China the “communist” government massacred some thousand or so of its citizens in Tianamen Square. Having this shown its hand to the world they then proceeded to instill their version of state capitalism. It seemed so alien so brutal and so inhuman. I can remember turning my face away from the TV in disgust.

But the world we have made since 1990 is a world shaped more by the spirit of Tianamen Square than by Nelson Mandela. Materialism and greed, toleration of unfreedom and disrespect for human dignity is the order of the day, across the planet. We will now watch the world’s leaders and their venal supporters weep crocodile tears for Nelson Mandela.

…. but …

there is still a sliver of hope. Sometimes the world produces visionaries like Gandhi and Mandela. Sometimes it produces intelligent pragmatists like de Klerk. Sometimes good people can change things. Sometimes Peace and Love stop being platitudes and really happen.

Nelson Mandela RIP 18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013

 

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Here’s an article about Egypt that pretty much puts it all together

I blogged a while back about Egypt, then today I found this great article in the zine Cairo Scene.

http://www.cairoscene.com/ViewArticle.aspx?AId=1554

Egyptian situaiton explained, Cairo Scene 2013

 

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uncanny

2013-07-11 17.22.09

sometimes you’re walking by and you glance and you see something that is just a bit weird, a bit off, and you notice it and you think, “no, it’s not that .. it’s … uhhh…” then you look again and it IS

that’s uncanny

a face that’s not a face, looking at you through a window, just like this.

– passing the back of Southwark Cathedral, London SE1

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slices of life

It is easy to get upset about everything I see around me. From the vampirism of people, sucking what they can with no care or respect for others,  to the corruption of the system. Frankly, it gets me down.

So instead of ranting about that – at least today – I present instead some more poetic slices of life, taken randomly over the last few months.

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Boo!

Boo!

Two (Coast Salish) inhabitants of the Anthropology Museum, Vancouver stick their tongues out at the photographer.

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August 24, 2012 · 11:51 pm

on the cutting edge

just hanging out in the studio today …

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Kenneth Goldsmith: don’t trust the cloud

I’m at home on this rainy day archiving my films and photos and came across this bit of wisdom from Kenneth Goldsmith.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2012/04/why-i-dont-trust-the-cloud/

I am following his advice and backing everything up, to drives, to dvds and some of it to the cloud.

But although I have no plans at all to go to China or any other repressive place where i can’t reach my gmail (and I really mean that!) it has made me think about the gmail. Yeah, it is convenient but I don’t actually own it.  I must not be naive about the Net. As Goldsmith says “Don’t trust the cloud. Use it, enjoy it, exploit it, but don’t believe in it. Or even the web for that matter. Many people assume that the web —and its riches—will always be there waiting for you. It won’t. ”

Goldsmith is one of my favorite people on this earth, the kind of person that allows you to feel faith in humanity. A poet and thinker and the founder of that great gift to mankind, UBUWEB which I blogged about the other day.

and enjoy this too: If It Doesn’t Exist on the Internet, It Doesn’t Exist http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/goldsmith/if_it_doesnt_exist.html

don't trust the cloud!!!

 

 

 

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don’t rock the boat (race)

Every year since 1829 England’s two oldest, richest and most revered universities hold a boat race on the River Thames in London. Oxford vs Cambridge, two boats (not sure what kind of boats exactly) and two teams of rowers.

Now Cambridge and Oxford are, as I said, the richest, best endowed, most independent and most ancient institutions of higher learning in England. I’ve never been to either, and have never applied or intended to go to either, though I did briefly have a job at Oxford at one point. As such they have become the focus of much query and have rather become victims of the latest phase of the class wars that have engulfed England since – well at least since the Peasant’s Revolt in 1381 probably. * (you know, I pulled that date out of my head and it was right! The things you remember from Mediaeval Studies class!)

It’s a fact, and not really a nice fact, that both these top of the line varsities now take the vast majority of their students from the wealthiest sector of the population: the privately-educated. By that I mean people coming to university from private high schools that cost absolutely hugely enormous amounts of money to go there. The ratio of kids graduating from these kind of school is about 18% of the total high school graduate population which is about right given the ratio of people in the country that can afford it (of course the actual number is less, as some of them are not residents but foreign kids just being educated in England.)

Now,  I am the first one to support private education. I think that there is a place for public education and a place for private education, especially the specialised kind, and I support private higher education in particular. I think that to denigrate the privately-schooled as “toffs” is so reductionist it marks you as a bigot. In any case, most kids have no say in their education. I was an exception: I categorically refused the private Catholic girl’s school and enrolled myself in a very experimental Summerhill-type, albeit state-run, establishment from which I graduated and went on to a very well-regarded Canadian university. The point is that the local state school, in a well-to-do area, was not doing the job for me for a variety of reasons and so I left (so did my brother, to a different state school.)

However in England today the private high school system is so eyewateringly expensive, and the routes into them beyond being rich are so limited, and the rewards for attending them are so great, that it has become perceived to be a problem by many who are worried about the state of the nation and the general malaise. An ever narrower and narrower group of people are increasingly in charge of the government, the law, the media, the financial services and public policy. People educated together at a few schools and one of two universities are running everything, it seems. This may not be entirely true, but many perceive it to be true, so it is damaging. Damaging because it is unaddressed in any coherent way, and the bad feeling seethes under the surface, creating distrust that turns easily to hatred.

Yesterday, an acquaintance of mine made an intervention into Oxford vs Cambridge boat race. [ http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/apr/08/protester-halts-boat-race?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487 ] He announced on twitter and on his blog that it was an intervention to protest the elitism of the Boat race and the attitudes and people who support it.

Ben Jennings at the Guardian 9.04.12

I suppose it was a kind of Situationist “disruption.” Instead of the classic placard-waving protest the “disrupter” simply disrupts the event itself, non-violently. Nobody is harmed, but people are prevented from enjoying whatever it was they were there for in the first place. I witnessed a fascinating one years ago: a group went into the middle of a busy Toronto intersection and laid out a picnic which they proceeded to enjoy, stopping the traffic until the police came and chased them away.

My first reaction was to laugh, because I could not care a fig about the boat race. So what? I didn’t think it was a very coherent protest, though. It could not even have been any fun: the Thames is cold and dirty as well as dangerous. Swimming between oars is even more dangerous. What was he thinking? I shrugged.

Then suddenly, the deluge. The Internet was full, I mean full, of the most horrific and vile and largely unrepeatable excoriation of this man. He was attacked for being privately educated (therefore not meant to have an opinion on ‘elitism’?) for being Australian, for being a faux-class warrior, for putting the rowers in danger (though surely, if anyone would be injured it would have been him). He was attacked over and over again for these crimes. Not a single news report gave any nanosecond to considering the crux of what we was actually trying to say with the protest. What was he trying to say? Is it worth discussing?

Then he had the sick psychopathic violent fantasies of a nation rained down upon his head. “The only shame is that one of the rowers’ blades didn’t take this idiot’s head off! He is a cretin and a misguided moron.” (in a national newspaper website) Well that’s one way of saying “I don’t agree with your position and I think you handled it wrongly.” How about, on Twitter “I wish you had been smashed in your smug ugly face with an oar and permanently disfigured you f**king waste of space.” There’s more of this all over the wretched Net but I wont repeat it..

Look, we’re talking about a guy who disrupted a boat race. He didn’t bomb a school full of kids. He didn’t plunder the financial savings of millions leaving them to penury and privation. He didn’t cancel elections or commit electoral fraud. He didn’t claim a position of power then use it to enrich himself and his friends raping the country’ wealth in the process. You, all that stuff that happens EVERY DAY. Nor did he rape anyone, kill anyone or maim anyone.

That’s when I started to think about what he might have been trying to say. I looked at his blog. He was talking about the state of the nation:

the state of exception with Olympics, the wholesale removal of countless civil rights, the project to create fear and suspicion of others, the transfer of our money into the vaults of a handful of corporations, the ongoing wars, the pomp and ceremony for unelected official anniversaries, the amazingly high unemployment, the devastation to public services such as health and education, the isolation of education due to high fees, the entangled corrupt relationship between the media, police and politicians, the racism, the increasing misogyny, the forced labour in supermarkets, the spying on our emails, skype calls, the control of food production and distribution and the reductions of tax burdens for the richest …

(link here]

Nobody can say that dreadful stories about all of the above abuses have not graced the pages of the national and local press, and been sprayed out of the airwaves, so frequently  in the last few years.  Every day we have some new story detailing a new corruption, a new abuse, a new dereliction of duty, a new rip-off.  But then we move on to the next one and then the next – we don’t see them as being connected. We don’t see any process. We don’t see who is in charge of it, and why and especially HOW.

I don’t necessarily agree with the protester’s analysis. I’d have to look into it more, and I shall. But I find it really chilling that more people seem to be upset, really genuinely angry and upset, by the disruption to the boat race to than to any of the above. One of the rowers, a Rhodes Scholar, tweeted how wretched the protester is, noting “I will not and have not taken the time to peruse his writings so I don’t know what they’re about.” Er, ok –  that’s a good position to take for a doctoral candidate. Enquiring mind, and all.

Instead it’s become a personal attack on a man who rightly or wrongly came up with a way of making a point about stuff we should most definitely be talking about. And wishing him death and violence. And bizarrely, it’s become about whether or not you can be “of the left” if you went to this or that school or uni.

So where are we now? Probably nowhere, really

By this time next week everyone will have forgotten this weekend’s group hate, the Australiam “toff” who spoilt a boat race.

But when are we going to talk about what was behind it?

.

* 1381, Now, that ended in tears and betrayal, a bitter memory.

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a lens around town

Recently I got into the fun apps that allow you to turn your bad camera-phone pics into facsimiles of bad analogue photos. I do have some bad analogue photos kicking around the house but I cannot be bothered to scan those … does  it makes sense to make more of them digitally for no good reason … ?

some of them are kind of interesting

I mean, what IS the ideal way to photograph a discarded toilet seat anyway?

line of washing

And then there is the whole category of dreadful phone pics you take of YOURSELF  while holding the ergonomically- wretched phone backward and trying to guess the focal point …

Yes, deliberately taking a bad photo and making it a whole lot worse. Such larks.

Nan Goldin, an artist I much admire, said this recently:

Everyone takes photos; now even phones can. The whole issue of digital is so depressing to me; my process is gone. There were all kinds of unknown things that could come out in a photograph, things you didn’t know were there until you saw it; now it’s all so flat.

[http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/jul/24/photograph-nan-goldin-best-shots]

Nan also advised against becoming a photographic artist, since there is no longer anything special about it. I’m not sure that is true but it is definitely true that there are way too many images out there.

Photography is something I have done within a diverse art practice, for many years, but I never “became” a photographer.  It’s true that the mystery has gone now, and the ease of snap-snappity makes me lazy.

I called this post “a lens around town” the irony being that the phone – cam doesn’t really have a lens as such.

found image, E6 process colour slide, scanned with Silverfast. To me this is more beautiful than anything.

So I kind of dont want to make any more pictures but to work with those that already exist, somehow.

ps: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/poll/2011/jul/27/digital-photography-nan-goldin?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

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juxtapose

have you ever noticed how sometimes newspapers juxtapose their photos next to headlines or ads that not only have nothing to do with the photo but even actively subverts it?  I’m a connoisseur of such fortuitious things. But to be honest i rarely keep them i just enjoy the moment and move on. In this case though,  I  just had to get the paper in order to photograph the front page.

extreme juxtaposition

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