Thursday, December 22, 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016

"They've Got Nowhere to Go"

While New Labour's chief ideologues promoted the idea that class divisions were no longer relevant – part of the 'old ways of working and doing things', in Tony Blair's words – working class people of all races were feeling the sharp end of the New Labour project. Inequality of income, which had soared under Margaret Thatcher, continued to rise. In 2004, well before the financial crash, real wages stagnated for the bottom half of earners and fell for the bottom third. Disguised by the availability of cheap credit, social mobility had in fact stalled. The aspirations of many were increasingly out of reach.

Plentiful immigration, which grew further after 2004, when eight former Eastern Bloc countries joined the EU, was only one factor in keeping wages low – a 'flexible' labour market, where employers were much freer to hire and fire than elsewhere in Europe, was the broader picture – but fears about immigration were hyped by right-wing newspapers and pressure groups such as Migration Watch. Perception mattered: by the end of the New Labour era, only 18 percent saw immigration as a problem in their area, but 76 percent saw it as a national problem.

In 2009, Gordon Brown's attempt to deal with growing discontent as the economy turned sour was a disastrous speech in which he promised 'British jobs for British workers' – a slogan that could have come straight out of a far-right propaganda handbook, and one that was thrown back in his face in 2009 by oil refiners workers in Lincolnshire, who staged wildcat strikes in protest at their wages and conditions being undercut by several hundred European contract workers. Even this ham-fisted attempt to address the issue was too late. During New Labour's pomp, Hain told me, few at the top were willing to listen. Blair, along with his closest allies, simply did not see a problem. According to Hain, his warning in 1999 was met with a complacent response. 'Peter Mandelson said to me, "your preoccupation with the working-class vote is wrong. They've got nowhere to go."'
- Daniel Trilling, Bloody Nasty People: The Rise of Britain's Far Right (2012)

Amongst people who have utterly given up on the future, political movements don’t need to promise any desirable and realistic change. If anything, they are more comforting and trustworthy if predicated on the notion that the future is beyond rescue, for that chimes more closely with people’s private experiences.
- Will Davis, "Thoughts on the Sociology of Brexit" (2016)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Barely Audible Intimations of His Own Murder

In 1929 the writer Evelyn Waugh came to Crete on a cruise "to admire the barbarities of Minoan culture". In the Herakleion Museum "except for one or two examples of animal sculpture", he wrote, "I found nothing to suggest any genuine aesthetic feeling at all". On the merits of Minoan painting he was perspicaciously uncertain, "since only a few square inches of the vast area exposed to our consideration are earlier than the last 20 years". In the restorations, he detects "a somewhat inappropriate predilection for covers of Vogue". At Knossos, he continues, "I do not think that it can only be imagination and the recollection of a bloodthirsty mythology which makes something fearful and malignant of the cramped galleries and stunted alleys...these rooms that are mere blind passages at the end of sunless staircases". As for the throne "here an aging despot might crouch and have borne to him, along the walls of a whispering gallery, barely audible intimations of his own murder" (Waugh 1930: 136-7).
- Gerald Cadogan, 'The Minoan Distance': The impact of Knossos upon the twentieth century (2004)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Highlights From A Subtitling Failure

Netflix UK recently encountered an error in which the BBC nature documentary Planet Earth went out with the subtitles from the Aziz Ansari Live at Madison Square Garden show. Some of the resultant highlights:

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

We Can't Stop Here, This Is Snake Country!

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Fieldwalking survey has its own charms, and its own perils.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Monday, June 20, 2016

Top Bantz With The Ya̧nomamö

The Ya̧nomamö will do almost anything for honey, one of the most prized delicacies in their own diet. One of my cynical onlookers—the fellow who had earlier watched me eating frankfurters—immediately recognized the honey and knew that I would not share the tiny precious bottle. It would be futile to even ask. Instead, he glared at me and queried icily, “Shaki! What kind of animal semen are you pouring onto your food and eating?” His question had the desired effect and my meal ended.
 - Napoleon Chagnon, Ya̧nomamö: The Fierce People (1968)

If things had worked out differently, that guy could've been a Vine superstar.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Hard Boiled Athenians

In the absence of a public prosecutor, it was up to private individuals to take one another to court, and they would rarely do so unless they were motivated by personal hostility. Demosthenes was once charged with desertion by a group of his enemies, but the case never came to court. One of his prosecutors had allegedly been bought off, and was later found dead – brutally murdered and mutilated by a madman who, by some strange coincidence, had once been a friend of Demosthenes'.
Hans van Wees discusses Demosthenes 21.103 and Aeschines 2.148 in Greek Warfare: Myths and realities (2004).

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Poststructuralists in Foxholes #1

The first in an occasional series.

Baudrillard Was Here
"Baudrillard Was Here", painted on an abandoned bunker at Bnaider, Kuwait (Artist: Alia Farid).

Monday, March 14, 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Theme From "Burn Warehouse Burn"

We want to free this land from its smelly gangrene of professors, archaeologists, ciceroni and antiquarians. For too long has Italy been a dealer in second-hand clothes. We mean to free her from the numberless museums that cover her like so many graveyards.

Museums: cemeteries!… Identical, surely, in the sinister promiscuity of so many bodies unknown to one another. Museums: public dormitories where one lies forever beside hated or unknown beings. Museums: absurd abattoirs of painters and sculptors ferociously slaughtering each other with color-blows and line-blows, the length of the fought-over walls!

That one should make an annual pilgrimage, just as one goes to the graveyard on All Souls’ Day—that I grant. That once a year one should leave a floral tribute beneath the Gioconda, I grant you that… But I don’t admit that our sorrows, our fragile courage, our morbid restlessness should be given a daily conducted tour through the museums. Why poison ourselves? Why rot?

And what is there to see in an old picture except the laborious contortions of an artist throwing himself against the barriers that thwart his desire to express his dream completely?… Admiring an old picture is the same as pouring our sensibility into a funerary urn instead of hurtling it far off, in violent spasms of action and creation.

Do you, then, wish to waste all your best powers in this eternal and futile worship of the past, from which you emerge fatally exhausted, shrunken, beaten down?

In truth I tell you that daily visits to museums, libraries, and academies (cemeteries of empty exertion, Calvaries of crucified dreams, registries of aborted beginnings!) are, for artists, as damaging as the prolonged supervision by parents of certain young people drunk with their talent and their ambitious wills. When the future is barred to them, the admirable past may be a solace for the ills of the moribund, the sickly, the prisoner… But we want no part of it, the past, we the young and strong Futurists!

So let them come, the gay incendiaries with charred fingers! Here they are! Here they are!… Come on! Set fire to the library shelves! Turn aside the canals to flood the museums!… Oh, the joy of seeing the glorious old canvases bobbing adrift on those waters, discolored and shredded!… Take up your pickaxes, your axes and hammers and wreck, wreck the venerable cities, pitilessly!
- Filippo Marinetti, The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism (1909)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Writing Cheques You Can't Cash

An extract from LaVoy Finicum's self-published novel Only By Blood and Suffering (2015):
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Video footage from Tuesday of LaVoy Finicum against two members of the Oregon State Police:

Monday, January 11, 2016

I Had To Phone Someone So I Picked On You

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When I was about 8 or 9 I saw David Bowie on TV, it was the Top of the Pops performance of "Starman", and it must have been on a clip show of some sort. I was blown away, although I wasn't into music at the time, and wouldn't be until 1995.

It seems like a long way from there to here.