[forgot to put a title before]

“Saving the Net” by Doc Searls
Good essay on the need for reframing the terms regarding copyright and fighting to preserve the (our) internet as it is and not how broadcast media companies would have it be–a uni-directional, one-to-many broadcast medium like television, as opposed to the multi-directional, many-to-many medium that the internet currently is.

It’s important to elect folks who understand this. Who will stand up for preserving what the internet is.

A book that was almost entirely beyond me

The Fragile Absolute: Or, Why is the Christian Legacy Worth Fighting For? by Slavoj Zizek

I’ve no idea what I’m doing reading books like this. I think that I picked the book up on some whim because of Roger’s mentioning of it a couple of weeks ago. Hell, I don’t even begin to understand most modern philosophy and this guy’s talking about Hegel, Freud, Lacan, Foucault (among countless others that I had never heard of). This book mostly left me in the dust, with the feeling that I had as a child when adults would speak around me and I felt like I *wanted* to understand what they were talking about, but the words just skipped over my head. (Now that I am an adult, of course, I find this sort of amusing.) Similarly, this book danced and skipped over my head, occasionally hooking down to leave some small residue inside my brain.

Some residues that I can recollect:
1) Art = Art because of some, erm, void (Void?) that the Art fills. (True Art being the noumenous Art, which inspires.) But without the void it isn’t art. Modernist art (and all art) being an attemt to define the void which makes something art. But the least Art-things are the “beautiful” objects which are produced by capitalism. Hence, the use of trash (literally) to create Art, to describe (or define, in terms of sketching its outlines) that frame of the void.

2) Drinking Diet Coca-Cola is drinking the essence of nothingness (its 0 nutrional value) and is a perfect symbol of the all-consuming (ever-consuming?) nature of capitalism. (For reasons that I can’t quite recreate.) This seems like a ridiculous thing to remember.

3) Regarding Pagan, Jewish, Christian thought: (this is the crux of the entire book; if I don’t get this, I’ve totally flummoxed the whole reading of the book) Fuck. I think I’ve flummoxed it. It almost made perfect sense when I finished the book last night. But I can’t seem to recreate it. Maybe I’ll try again later.

I have no idea if Zizek actually has good arguments for what he says. It certainly seems well-reasoned, but the reasoning is so far above my head that I can’t quite grasp it. For a marxist, atheist, lacanian writer, he makes the excellent point (I think) that fundamentalist Christians betray the true radical (revolutionary?) nature of Christianity [the rejection of those definitions (nationalism, tribalism, classism, sexism, historicism) which create tensions and hatreds between people] by re-creating the old adherence to the Law (definitional states) that pre-dated Christ.

There’s this fellow (don’t know his name, but I think of him as squuby) who wrote this thing about atheism, agnosticism, etc. I like what he has to say. I’m not an agnostic and I’m not atheist. Actually, I don’t really know how to define what I am. It might depend on what kind of socks I’m wearing (day to day sort of thing). Having been raised in some kind of Pentecostal thing, I’m definitely not THERE either, but I’m not able to easily just dismiss that totally either, the way some people seem to do. I mean to say, it’s easy to dismiss something about which you have no experience or, especially, have no desire to experience.

However, it’s another thing entirely to dismiss something that you HAVE experienced or desire to experience again. If you have perceived to have experienced something “real”, does it matter if it is “real” or not?

At any rate, I find myself in a very strange position. So what else is new…

Book read

The Open Conspiracy by H. G. Wells (you can read it online here)

I first read about this book here on incunabula and it sparked my curiosity enough to check the book out at the library. (It’s easier to read entire books on my busride than sitting at a computer either at work or at home.) You could try to buy the book here (powells) or here (amazon). Good luck. You’ll need it. [Insert rant about how nicely the internet fills the void of out-of-print books and how ridiculous current copyright legislation is…]

I don’t know how I felt about this book. The basic premise of the book follows from it’s central tenets: 1) Organized religion doesn’t effectively harness the ‘religious tendency’ (read selfless service to others) in post-religious moderns;
2) There needs to be a new ‘religion’ to fill the void;
3) This new ‘religion’ will be devoted to establishing a post-national world organization devoted to ensuring that the world over has adequate supplies of basic necessities (food, water, medicine, etc.) and working to limit the growth of population generally;
4) And which this, post-national organization, would eventually come to replace the outmoded and destructive nation state, with all of its dated and traditionalistic patriotic and nationalistic excesses.

It’s a grand vision, but the thing seemed a bit… mushy to me. I wish it hadn’t. I sort of wanted it to be more robust and specific, but like most grand visions it suffered under the weight of its own conclusions. Namely, how to get from here to there.

His ideas about the need for changes in the institutions of education, I think, are spot on.

wink those flying esperantos

that’s one fractious and hungry caterwauler… and all this time the heat’s been beating down upon the head. or maybe just attacking all the pores, or just remember that heat shimmer…

but here’s a strangeness: thrice yesters, i’m caterwailing into the phonical, or somesuch, and i’m feeling those sound trendricals sailing away. or maybe i’m hearing that. after an evning of feeling slow death, tiny death and waking in dark. yammering in to the phoncicle, words pulling out of the head, and yelping at some of the weariness axing through the joints and sinews and thinking: work better, you little powerhouses, you mitochondrials!

for some dark shape swings into view (or am i making this up?) and smites me, and clenching seizes up my arm, the muscles tied together in some mad purpose and i’m thinking what strange deviltry is this? even as some short breath escapes. and i’m thanking some deep thoughts that i’m not responsible for anything of any import at all, because how quickly would i fail and all the morps creep to fumbles.

sleep came later. though not much later.


The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics by Richard Davenport Hines

I just finished reading this book last night. It took me a long time to get through. (I especially got bogged down in the chapter on League of Nations drugs resolutions.) The incredible cornucopia of detailed anecdotes and statistics in this book paints an incredibly complicated picture, which I feel could probably be summarized as follows:

The more illegal and punitive anti-drugs laws become, the riskier it becomes to traffick those drugs. This risk results, due to basic supply-demand market forces, in a huge increase in the profitability of these drugs, which in turn greatly rewards those who would choose to traffick in those drugs in spite of those risks. The US has been following this disastrous drugs policy for nearly a hundred years and, because of this nation’s international clout, has entangled the rest of the world (especially Latin America) in its drugs law enforcement adventures. Though it isn’t nearly as sexy, politically, to support the decriminalization of drugs and the treatment of addicts as patients, the historical record would seem to support that as the far more effective option in dealing with the drug addiction problem.

Information about the author: Richard Davenport-Hines is the recipient of the Wolfson Prize for History and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He writes for The New York Times, The Times Literary Supplement, The Sunday Times, and The Independent. He lives in London.

For those of you who prefer it: *