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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.