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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The New Alchemists

The New Alchemists, Dorothy Todd Hénaut, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

This short documentary profiles a community engaged in developing sustainable living methods, including food production and small-scale solar and wind technology, on a farm in Massachusetts in the 1970s. Well before sustainability was a mainstream concern, these prescient innovators attempted to create a vision of a greener, kinder world. "Think small," say the New Alchemists. "Look what thinking big has done."

Monday, May 15, 2017

Oliver Cromwell (A Historical Model for Understanding Donald Trump?)


Oliver Cromwell was a religious fanatic and manic depressive farmer who recovered from his crippling depression and developed a fundamental religious mania as a way of giving meaning to his life. He was a member of the minor gentry in his local area, but conflict followed him constantly, whereby he argued and fought with anyone who did not share his views. He eventually sought the support of God for his beliefs and actions through the Puritan Church. He rose through the ranks of the Parliamentary forces that were fighting the supporters of the King, Charles I. He eventually made himself Lord High Protector of England, Ireland and Wales and then instituted a theocratic system of governance where all festivals and holidays (even Christmas), music, theater, football, pubs and inns were banned. Instead 'Fast Days' each month were introduced where citizens were compelled to fast and pray.

Cromwell believed that women and girls should dress in a proper manner. Make-up was banned. Puritan leaders and soldiers would roam the streets of towns and scrub off any make-up found on unsuspecting women. Too colourful dresses were banned. A Puritan lady wore a long black dress that covered her almost from neck to toes. She wore a white apron and her hair was bunched up behind a white head-dress. Puritan men wore black clothes and short hair.
Cromwell banned Christmas as people would have known it then. By the C17th, Christmas had become a holiday of celebration and enjoyment – especially after the problems caused by the civil war. Cromwell wanted it returned to a religious celebration where people thought about the birth of Jesus rather than ate and drank too much. In London, soldiers were ordered to go round the streets and take, by force if necessary, food being cooked for a Christmas celebration. The smell of a goose being cooked could bring trouble. Traditional Christmas decorations like holly were banned.
Despite all these rules, Cromwell himself was not strict. He enjoyed music, hunting and playing bowls. He even allowed full-scale entertainment at his daughter’s wedding. Life Under Cromwell
Fast forward to 2017 and the resemblances to Donald J. Trump and the conduct of his administration, at least in the popular media from both sides, are startling. This BBC documentary from 2001 looks at the life of Oliver Cromwell (25 April 1599 – 3 September 1658) and in my opinion Old Ironsides would not feel out of place in the present White House, even with his fevered hatred of Catholics and teetotaler lifestyle. The creation of their own power base (Cromwell: New Model Army and the negotiations with its members following the second civil war and the uneasy peace, and the vast array of Right Wing organizations that pledged loyalty to Trump during the campaign of 2016) is another common feature, as well as elevating members of their own families to positions of power. Even the idea that theirs is a mission ordained my God is present in the political lives of both figures as well as an almost schoolboy behavior in times of pressure and stress (Cromwell started a giggling ink fight on the night he was writing the death warrant for Charles I's execution).

In fact it has even been asserted that Trump is a descendant of Cromwell on his mother's side, "Trump, a 12th great-grandchild of Cromwell’s, is connected to his line through his Scottish mother, Mary Anne MacLeod (Irish Central News).

Friday, May 12, 2017

Rumpole and the Confession of Guilt


If you want to learn to write dialogue in English, watch Rumpole. Writing great dialogue is very difficult. I am struggling with even coming close to decent character dialogue. But today I found a lesson in master craft. Sink into the dark recesses of human existence with the glorious writing and acting that is Rumpole of the Bailey (1978-1992). Written by John Mortimer (1923-2009) and delivered by Leo McKern (1920-2002). While many of the values it expresses may come from another social epoch (casual sexism and racism abound), the language and craft of story telling are timeless. The hour-long pilot episode that aired on BBC1 in 1975 introducing the irrepressible Old Bailey defence lawyer, Horace Rumpole. Features specially filmed interview with writer, John Mortimer. Just brilliant. Leon McKern plays Rumpole and he represents a form of acting that is becoming increasingly rare, if not totally endangered from extinction, today.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

"The Stack: Design and Geopolitics in the Age of Planetary-Scale Computing"


Drawing on his book, "The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty" (MIT Press), the theorist Benjamin H. Bratton critically discusses changes in the scale and operation of the global computation infrastructure, identifying the emergence of what he sees as a new kind of political geography. From smart grids, to cloud computing, to mobile software and smart cities, to universal addressing systems, to ubiquitous computing and robotics—these are not unrelated genres of computation but a larger and coherent whole: a planetary-scale megastructure called The Stack, through which we divide up the world into sovereign spaces.

What has planetary-scale computation done to our geopolitical realities? It takes different forms at different scales—from energy and mineral sourcing and subterranean cloud infrastructure to urban software and massive universal addressing systems; from interfaces drawn by the augmentation of the hand and eye to users identified by self—quantification and the arrival of legions of sensors, algorithms, and robots. Together, how do these distort and deform modern political geographies and produce new territories in their own image?

In The Stack, Benjamin Bratton proposes that these different genres of computation—smart grids, cloud platforms, mobile apps, smart cities, the Internet of Things, automation—can be seen not as so many species evolving on their own, but as forming a coherent whole: an accidental megastructure called The Stack that is both a computational apparatus and a new governing architecture. We are inside The Stack and it is inside of us.

In an account that is both theoretical and technical, drawing on political philosophy, architectural theory, and software studies, Bratton explores six layers of The Stack: Earth, Cloud, City, Address, Interface, User. Each is mapped on its own terms and understood as a component within the larger whole built from hard and soft systems intermingling—not only computational forms but also social, human, and physical forces. This model, informed by the logic of the multilayered structure of protocol “stacks,” in which network technologies operate within a modular and vertical order, offers a comprehensive image of our emerging infrastructure and a platform for its ongoing reinvention.

The Stack is an interdisciplinary design brief for a new geopolitics that works with and for planetary-scale computation. Interweaving the continental, urban, and perceptual scales, it shows how we can better build, dwell within, communicate with, and govern our worlds.

Benjamin Bratton Public Lecture October 29, 2014

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Genesis P-Orridge about Control, Fear, Drugs, Unity, Love


Genesis P-Orridge speaking on our addiction to control and how to change it. Interview was recorded in Tbilisi, Georgia 26 October 2016. Stockholm Show of Psychic TV 26 May 2017.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

William S. Burroughs -THE FINAL ACADEMY DOCUMENTS 1962-63







These are a series of remixes of tape and film experiments made by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin in Paris and London in 1962-63.

The Final Academy was a 1982 tour in Britain, organized by David Dawson, Roger Ely and Genesis P-Orridge. The project was based on, featuring works of and was inspired by William S Burroughs. The Final Academy Documents is a DVD of edited highlights from the tour, including Burroughs's public appearance in 1982 and reading from his work at Manchester's Haçienda club, a performance by John Giorno and includes the experimental film collaborations with Anthony Balch, Brion Gysin, and others - Towers Open Fire and Ghosts at No. 9.

Track 1 from 16mm film - a "cut up" by P.T.V. from their archives.
Tracks 3 to 7 video taped on October 4, 1982 in The Haçienda, Manchester. Shot, edited and produced by Ikon.

Also included are previews of other DVD releases by Dead Kennedys, Divine, Johnny Cash, Johnny Thunders, Nico and the "Groupies" documentary.

From the end credits:

Ikon and P.T.V. wish to thank the following..
James Grauerholz
Rita Jarvis
Savoy Books
Howard and Mike (Hacienda)
Tony Martin (lights)
OZ P.A. (Sound)

All material on both sections used with kind permission of Brion Gysin, John Giorno and William S. Burroughs

© Ikon F.C.L./P.T.V. 1984

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Arctic Methane Emergency and Ecological Economics


"We are negotiating a deal between life on earth and the wellbeing of all and money"

Global warming is causing CO2 levels to hit 400 ppm, a level humans have never seen. Droughts are spreading and Miami is reporting that the ocean is backing.

Stuart Scott is the Founder and President of Transition University.  A dedicated, life-long lover of Nature, Stuart was the first environmentalist stockbroker on Wall Street in the late 1970s, representing the financial community at US Department of Energy hearings on the fledgling alternative energy industry, and matters of pollution control and corporate social responsibility.

Stuart is currently making presentations to audiences around the world on the impacts of climate change and counter measures to this most serious challenge that humanity has ever faced. He attempts to minimize his own ‘carbon footprint’ in any way possible, including the purchase of carbon offsets for his travel, a ‘second-tier’ but important piece of the de-carbonization puzzle.

The unwavering message Stuart presents is the critical need for immediate action at all levels. Globally we have strayed too far into a condition of ‘overshoot’ in stressing the ecological systems of our home planet. The solutions he offers to address our ecological problems range from personal through political to societal, both easy and difficult to implement, and often thought-provoking, innovative, and unusual. Our challenge is nothing short of rethinking and reorganizing the way we live on Earth.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels could rise by more than three feet by the end of this century. The United States Army Corps of Engineers projects that they could rise by as much as five feet; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts up to six and a half feet. Many geologists are looking at the possibility of a ten-to-thirty-foot range by the end of the century,

Our inability to abandoned a culture in which happiness, status and a sense of achievement are based solely on consumption is going to destroy civilization. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Dongas Tribe in the Summer of 1996


The Dongas Movie was shot at Brian's Field & Sherborne in Dorset. This video was created by a German Television production company and expresses a desire for a sustainable life on Planet Earth. The people who participated are Collin & Jo & Tansy, Liz & Soren, Brian, Tegwyn & Elkana, Sam(antha) & Joya & Tom, Sarah, Vicky, Laugh, Gipsey John and the people of Sherborne.

The Dongas Tribe was a collection of road protesters and travellers in England, noted for their occupation of Twyford Down outside Winchester, Hampshire. The name Dongas comes from the Matabele word for "gully", given by Winchester locals to the deep drovers' tracks on Twyford Down.

John Vidal, writing in The Guardian in 2012, said of The Dongas that "the 15-20 urban youths who camped out to try to defend Twyford Down in 1992 are recognised to have fired up British environmental protest and kickstarted a major shift in green attitudes in both government and the public."

The Twyford Down protest was a protest against the M3 motorway extension which destroyed some rich ecological sites, one of the very few habitats of the Chalkhill Blue butterfly and six species of rare orchid, and ancient monuments there (SSSI and Scheduled Ancient Monument).

Following "Yellow Wednesday", when hordes of police and security guards invaded the camp to bulldoze the area, the Dongas Tribe left Twyford Down for Bramdean Common. Earth First!, who had been heavily involved in the setting up and support of the camp and actions, continued the protests and restarted a camp in Plague Pits Valley.

They constituted about twenty people. Some of the tribe maintained involvement in various subsequent road protests (Solsbury Hill, North Wales, Newbury bypass), but gradually morphed into a semi-nomadic "tribe", traveling the South West of England on foot, squatting various hill-forts and putting on seasonal gatherings in an attempt to reawaken a sense of connectedness with the land. The last of the nomadic Dongas were travelling in Cornwall until the end of 1999, after which some moved to France to continue their nomadic lifestyle.

The cutting at Twyford Down, during construction of the M3 motorway in 1994. Some of the 'original Dongas' (as they became called) of the mid 1990s were musicians who made a living by busking, sometimes using traditional music from Brittany.

The first child born in the Dongas tribe, to Rosie Lambert, was named May Brigit "Donga" Lambert and was born on 1 May 1994, Beltane and May Day.

An archive of recordings from The Dongas Tribe can be heard and downloaded from here.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Coleridge: One of the Greatest Biographies of the Century - Darker Reflections (1999)


Samuel Taylor Coleridge (/ˈkoʊləˌrɪdʒ/; 21 October 1772 – 25 July 1834) was an English poet, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He wrote the poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, as well as the major prose work Biographia Literaria. His critical work, especially on Shakespeare, was highly influential, and he helped introduce German idealist philosophy to English-speaking culture. Coleridge coined many familiar words and phrases, including suspension of disbelief. He was a major influence on Emerson and American transcendentalism.

Throughout his adult life Coleridge had crippling bouts of anxiety and depression; it has been speculated that he had bipolar disorder, which had not been defined during his lifetime. He was physically unhealthy, which may have stemmed from a bout of rheumatic fever and other childhood illnesses. He was treated for these conditions with laudanum, which fostered a lifelong opium addiction.

Between 1810 and 1820, Coleridge gave a series of lectures in London and Bristol – those on Shakespeare renewed interest in the playwright as a model for contemporary writers. Much of Coleridge's reputation as a literary critic is founded on the lectures that he undertook in the winter of 1810–11, which were sponsored by the Philosophical Institution and given at Scot's Corporation Hall off Fetter Lane, Fleet Street. These lectures were heralded in the prospectus as "A Course of Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton, in Illustration of the Principles of Poetry." Coleridge's ill-health, opium-addiction problems, and somewhat unstable personality meant that all his lectures were plagued with problems of delays and a general irregularity of quality from one lecture to the next. As a result of these factors, Coleridge often failed to prepare anything but the loosest set of notes for his lectures and regularly entered into extremely long digressions which his audiences found difficult to follow. However, it was the lecture on Hamlet given on 2 January 1812 that was considered the best and has influenced Hamlet studies ever since. Before Coleridge, Hamlet was often denigrated and belittled by critics from Voltaire to Dr. Johnson. Coleridge rescued the play's reputation, and his thoughts on it are often still published as supplements to the text.

In August 1814, Coleridge was approached by Lord Byron's publisher, John Murray, about the possibility of translating Goethe's classic Faust (1808). Coleridge was regarded by many as the greatest living writer on the demonic and he accepted the commission, only to abandon work on it after six weeks. Until recently, scholars were in agreement that Coleridge never returned to the project, despite Goethe's own belief in the 1820s that he had in fact completed a long translation of the work. In September 2007, Oxford University Press sparked a heated scholarly controversy by publishing an English translation of Goethe's work that purported to be Coleridge's long-lost masterpiece (the text in question first appeared anonymously in 1821).

In April 1816, Coleridge, with his addiction worsening, his spirits depressed, and his family alienated, took residence in the Highgate homes, then just north of London, of the physician James Gillman, first at South Grove and later at the nearby The Grove. It is unclear whether his growing use of opium (and the brandy in which it was dissolved) was a symptom or a cause of his growing depression. Gillman was partially successful in controlling the poet's addiction. Coleridge remained in Highgate for the rest of his life, and the house became a place of literary pilgrimage for writers including Carlyle and Emerson.

In Gillman's home, Coleridge finished his major prose work, the Biographia Literaria (mostly drafted in 1815, and finished in 1817), a volume composed of 23 chapters of autobiographical notes and dissertations on various subjects, including some incisive literary theory and criticism. He composed a considerable amount of poetry, of variable quality. He published other writings while he was living at the Gillman homes, notably the Lay Sermons of 1816 and 1817, Sibylline Leaves (1817), Hush (1820), Aids to Reflection (1825), and On the Constitution of the Church and State (1830). He also produced essays published shortly after his death, such as Essay on Faith (1838) and Confessions Of An Inquiring Spirit (1840). A number of his followers were central to the Oxford Movement, and his religious writings profoundly shaped Anglicanism in the mid nineteenth century.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Benjamin Smoke (2000)


"I have this bad habit of punishing myself when things are going bad cause I don't think they are going bad enough" - Benjamin Smoke

Benjamin Smoke (born Robert Dickerson) was an American singer-songwriter who fronted the Atlanta, Georgia bands Smoke and the Opal Foxx Quartet. He was noted for being a radical, gay rock 'n' roll performer. He died on January 29, 1999 due to liver failure caused by Hepatitis C at age 39. He performed his final concert in Atlanta, Georgia on New Year's Eve, 1998.

Benjamin was a known character in the underground scene in 1980s Atlanta and participated in a number of Atlanta music experiments such as Easturn Stars, Monroe is Naked Again, Freedom Puff, Blade Emotion, and the Opal Foxx Quartet (which often had up to 12 members). His bands played in such venues as 688, Celebrity Club, Pillowtex, Destroy All Music Festival, among others. For the band, Smoke donned the stage name "Miss Opal Foxx".

During this time his vocals received media attention and Tom Waits comparisons arose. His voice has since been described as "resembling the roar of a wounded lion". After some of the musicians of the group died, the band Smoke was conceived in 1992 with members Bill Taft, Brian Halloran, and Todd Butler. Coleman Lewis and Tim Campion later joined the band, followed by Will Fratesi.

Smoke was renowned for his on-stage banter, never shying away from provoking his viewers, "for a faggot, do I have a rockin' band or what?" Benjamin was an amphetamine addict and he also had AIDS, though he claimed "HIV is not a death sentence". AIDS brought him closer to his mother, though he eventually lost his life due to Hepatitis C.