In “light” of the PIPA/SOPA protests. Found here.
Archive for the ‘democracy’ Category
Prompted by uberfrau, I’m posting an old poem. It’s pretty free-verse-y and actually has a latent political undertone (at least that’s what I remember about writing it), making offhand reference to the American bombing of Libya in 1986, an event which marked a fairly early point in the “war on terrorism.” Yes, I’m old(er). Think of this as a poetic ode to the post-modern longue durée. Poem is about fifteen years young.
Rusted metal drums of poison chemical soup
sit in the hot Mediterranean sun.
Waves of heat
up from the twisted streets of the casbah.
The barnacle ridden hull of a cargo ship
in the ancient port of Tripoli.
In a dream of another time
he can hear
of a distant engine.
Something stirs in his mind
“or is it now”
Well, OK. It was conceived as a tropism…Whatever the hell that is…
N.B. Re-post seemed oddly relevant (if not grimly prescient) given the “progression” from El Dorado Canyon to Odyssey Dawn. The later is, at least, somewhat Homeric in awareness. Apropos given the likely tragic nature of “current foreign policy initiatives” in Libya…
Across the luster of the desert & into the polychrome hills, hairless & ochre violet dun & umber, at the top of a dessicate blue valley travelers find an artificial oasis, a fortified castle in saracenic style enclosing a hidden garden.
As guests of the Old Man of the Mountain Hassan-i Sabbah they climb rock-cut steps to the castle. Here the Day of Resurrection has already come & gone — those within live outside profane Time, which they hold at bay with daggers & poisons.
Behind crenellations & slit-windowed towers scholars & fedayeen wake in narrow monolithic cells. Star-maps, astrolabes, alembics & retorts, piles of open books in a shaft of morning sunlight — an unsheathed scimitar.
Each of those who enter the realm of the Imam-of-one’s-own-being becomes a sultan of inverted revelation, a monarch of abrogation & apostasy. In a central chamber scalloped with light and hung with tapestried arabesques they lean on bolsters & smoke long chibouks of hashish scented with opium & amber.
For them the hierarchy of being has compacted to a dimensionless punctum of the real — for them the chains of Law have been broken — they end their fasting with wine. For them the outside of everything is its inside, its true face shines through direct. But the garden gates are camouflaged with terrorism, mirrors, rumors of assassination, trope l’oeil, legends.
Pomegranate, mulberry, persimmon, the erotic melancholy of cypresses, membrane-pink shirazi roses, braziers of meccan aloes & benzoin, stiff shafts of ottoman tulips, carpets spread like make-believe gardens on actual lawns — a pavilion set with a mosaic of calligrammes — a willow, a stream with watercress — a fountain crystalled underneath with geometry — the metaphysical scandal of bathing odalisques, of wet brown cupbearers hide-&-seeking in the foliage — ‘water, greenery, beautiful faces.’
By night Hassan-i Sabbah like a civilized wolf in a turban stretches out on a parapet above the garden & glares at the sky, conning the asterisms of heresy in the mindless cool desert air. True, in this myth some aspirant disciples may be ordered to fling themselves off the ramparts into the black — but also true that some of them will learn to fly like sorcerers.
The emblem of Alamut holds in the mind, a mandal or magic circle lost to history but embedded or imprinted in consciousness. The Old Man flits like a ghost into tents of kings & bedrooms of theologians, past all locks & guards with forgotten moslem/ninja techniques, leaves behind bad dreams, stilettos on pillows, puissant bribes.
The attar of his propaganda seeps into the criminal dreams of ontological anarchism, the heraldry of our obsessions displays the luminous black outlaw banners of the Assassins…all of them pretenders to the throne of an Imaginal Egypt, and occult space/light continuum consumed by still-unimagined liberties.”
Hakim Bey, T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism (Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 2003 ), 13-14.
The 50th anniversary of an auspicious speech, Eisenhower’s heavy, heady farewell to the American people. Perhaps even a farewell to a certain vision of the country. A last gasp of Jeffersonian agrarian idealism…And now, we live in a world of Orwellian War waged by ancient technocrats. The “problem” Eisenhower here outlines is so embedded in the US economy as to have become indispensable. But in an age of Baudrillardian hyper-war, it behooves us to remind ourselves of other destinies…
The word “metro” subtly implies a cosmopolitan panache all sub-ways inherently lack. Sub-ways, rather, are the stark, artificially lit entrails of contemporary civilization. Exactly as unsettling as a florescent Barium-lined GI tract, sub-ways lay bare the dark, cthonian realities of modern life…
Sadly, their regular users can’t help mutating into Morlock-esque form. The subterranean democratic esprit of rush hour commutes gives way to the odd, indigent (sometime immigrant) underclasses, peppered with a dash of doomed despair or the boldly bizarre. And yet it all remains somehow lifeless; a discordian setpiece.
There is an ominousness in the stale, stifling air of the sub-way. The tunnels leading out around corners to a dark netherworld — an uncharted space. The trains seem like candy-coated cybernetic Caterpillars, their strange sounds announcing an emergence that never…Becomes. Everywhere there is a buzzing ozone tang you can taste and feel, reminding of the cold, mechanical energies at work.
And dirt — dusty, crusty and musty miasmas that encrust this eternal no-space. No rationalist would deny their utility, but quick is he to forget the cost in spirit and soul of all…Sub-ways.
From an old cyberpunk (do cyberpunks get old?), Bruce Sterling, over on his lovely Beyond the Beyond under the Wired banner. Those guys at Fort Meade up to their usual wacky ways.
Well, not really, but close enough.
An unbelievably packed house in the Leacock Building this evening as people stood in the back of the large hall and even sat in the aisles for a chance to hear perhaps the world’s leading skeptic and pseudoscience investigator, James Randi. While Randi never defined pseudoscience, per se, he certainly brought to bear a number of examples of outright charlatanism he’s encountered in what’s been a long and star-studded career. The talk began with a media highlight reel of Randi’s more well-documented encounters with fraud. Interesting.
Like an old gnomish Charles Darwin, Randi came up to the lectern and started to talk into a hand-held microphone. He began with some discussion of fame and celebrity, sharing an anecdote about comparing the sizes of the asteroids that were named for him and Arthur C. Clarke (his is bigger). But he quickly switched the focus to his stock and trade — illusions and conjuring. He reminded us all how easy it was to deceive people, and perhaps more importantly, how easy it was to allow people to deceive themselves. He pulled the “microphone” down from his face and there was still the sound of his amplified voice — a trick! The microphone was actually a beard trimmer (which he could certainly have used…). His glasses? Just plain rims without lenses…
This was a perfect preamble to his main point. Magicians may deceive using a wide array of methods, but they’re always telling you when they are deceiving. Not so with pseudoscience. Like a zealous consumer advocate of the most critical sort, he discussed a wide range of products and ideas whose popularity was undeniable that were, for lack of a better term, so many bottles of snake oil. Perhaps most disturbing was the “bomb-dowser”, the ADE 561, that is currently being used in Iraq, at significant cost to various governments. The BBC had a piece earlier this year on how useless these devices actually are…
He followed this with an involved discussion of faith healers and other evangelical miracle workers, showing great footage from the old Tonight Show of a debunking attempt involving Reverend Peter Popoff. Randi showed how Popoff used techniques, like plying the audience for information before the show, that have been used in shady tent revivals forever, noting, sadly, that despite a wide audience for his revelations about Popoff and his ministry, the business is a greater success than ever…
One of his pet peeves is homeopathy. In going over the whole process of distillation involved in Hahnemann’s practice, one can’t help but agree with him (with the caveat that’s it’s not the process of homeopathy itself that’s interesting, but the theories around it and the belief people have in it…). Again, in making his final point about homeopathic remedies, now widespread in drugstores everywhere, Randi returned to the position of democratic skeptic — buyer beware. Ask questions and don’t be too easily led to believe anything. Be critical! He finished with another old spot from the Tonight Show where he performed “psychic surgery”, debunking elements of this practice, still quite popular in the Philippines. Here’s a similar video…Warning, it’s a bit bloody.
And there you have it! The Amazing Randy, fascinating man with a fascinating worldview. For those who would like to challenge it, Randi’s foundation has long offered a 1,000,000 dollar boon to anyone who can demonstrate proof of psychic phenomena or the validity of any psudoscientific idea. Whatever that means…
What more fascinating and perceptive perspective do you want on the state and transformation (I won’t say decline…) of civilization than a street-level bookseller in New York City. Makes you wonder where we have come to and where we are going. Not in any positive-negative normative judgmental way, just wonder…
By way of the NYT.