Monthly Archives: February 2008

Trinketized Morality Fable

It is not a matter of essences or of reductions as such, but the pantomime and the morality tale, the melodrama and the anecdote, as ideological tricks and rhetoric, are condensations with a perverse intent. They reduce for sure, but it is their economy that makes all this worthwhile, on all sides. Codification saturates all areas, trinketization abounds – the message is telegraphed and as a cipher works all the more. I would like to think that the music promo is an ideal form of this, perhaps in an unguarded moment we could suggest this was a little like zen, or a haiku (Eisenstein glossed via Rancière 2001/2006:25), in that its illustrative material offers so much more than it has to explicitly portray. But there is also a critical component to assimilate. This is true of the scene of pantomime terror where Aki Nawaz is presented as the suicide rapper in The Guardian, just as much as it is the strategy of Aki’s own intervention in ‘Cookbook DIY’ in so many ways. There are criticalities and complicities in the format. Consider ‘Cookbook DIY’ again: of all the masquerade figures in that clip, we need only note that the figure painting the graffito quotation from John F Kennedy is wearing orange overalls, thus referencing Guantanamo, to launch an entire argument. It is of course heavy-handed and didactic, but this is why it works. Quoting a US president as critique of the US Presidency. For the record, the graffiti reads ‘If we make peaceful revolution impossible, we make violent revolution inevitable’. This slogan comes from an address by Kennedy at the White House on March 12 1962. Since a source for this quote must be offered, here is one that has a certain resonance, and perhaps also illustrates the point about condensation. Martin Luther King speaking at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 on the topic of the war in Vietnam, calls for an end to all bombing and recognition of the National Liberation Front and calling for acts of atonement ‘for our sins and errors in Vietnam':

“In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military ‘advisors’ in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable’. Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken – the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment” (King 1967/2007 [my italics]).

As reported by the Information Clearing House, Time Magazine called King’s speech ‘demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi,’ and the Washington Post declared that King had ‘diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people’, but bringing this forward to contemporary times and the reference Aki makes by way of a simple orange jump suit is all we need for hypocrisy to be utterly skewered. There is no justification for the camps, the torture, the rendition and the interrogations. Condensation makes the ‘defenders of freedom’ [and profit] sweat.

And isn’t that why the clergyman King should be quoted, because the critical irony gets us hot under the collar here, in what Rancière identifies as problematic in Eisenstein’s pantomimes (2001/2006: 27) and also in Bertholt Brecht’s identification of the cynical observer with the engaged critic, where the ‘lessons of dialectical pedagogy’ oscillate with the ‘athleticism of the boxing ring or the mockery of the cabaret’ (Ranciere 2001/2006:30). This is a difficulty with the ‘political’ haiku that infects the knowing critic with an irony that remains toothless without mobilization or party organization, and even Rancière’s SOS call to the ‘Battleship Potemkin’ from the prow of ‘The Titanic’ does not save us. The contradiction pierces the heart of the founding fable of brave egalitarian and free America. Thus, the question:

“what century we live in [that we] derive so much pleasure – our Deleuzes in our pockets – from the love affair upon a sinking ship between a young woman in first class and a young man in third’ (Rancière 2001/2006: 31).

Rancière, Jacques 2001/2006 Film Fables, Oxford: Berg.

More on Cookbook DIY.

Dragnet Goldsmiths

Another Dragnet tonight, this time directly outside Goldsmiths’ award winning Library (lovingly captured in its Lewisham Way facing facade here by my trusty SPV mobile device…)

Transcribed below are brief conversations with the Police, asking the obvious questions, before the dragnet operation ended (they were wrapping their ‘operation’ up when I came by, so there was a sense of ‘shows over, on your way sir’ – which of course I took as an invitation to linger. After all, I am an Oyster Card carrying member of the great London public, innit).


Me: what’s all this then?
Cop A: we are looking for people without tickets, you’d be surprised how many we can arrest in a day.
Me: hmmm, why do you need so many police, isn’t this overpolicing?
Cop A: Most people around here welcome this.
Me: no, no, no, we all think its outrageous. You don’t need to do this, you should go catch some real crooks (corporate types, politicians, the Speaker of the House of Representatives….)


Me: why do you need so many Police to check tickets on one bus?
Cop A: This is a message to people, we are being noticed. You noticed.
Me: Even when just one ticket inspector gets on the bus we notice.

Stand around a bit, watch the slow process of a lad get a caution for riding his bicycle on the footpath:

Cop B: why are you riding on the footpath, its against the law.
Bikeboy: Its getting dark and my light is broken
… [some meaningless blather, bikeboy rides off]
Cop C to Cop B: They’ll make up anything round here.

I asked another cop who was in charge:

Me: who is the ranking officer?
Cop D: why, do you need something?
Me: I want to make a complaint?
Cop D: Why?
Me: I think this is overpolicing
Cop D: People think this is the free bus (the 436 aka the free bus).

Next to him, a female cop:

Cop E: You could talk to the sergeant.
Me: Him there?
Cop E: Yes, but he is busy now.
[time passes]
Me: He’s not that busy now?
Cope E: Just tap him on the shoulder.
Me: Surely that’s more your style than mine.

I meet the ranking officer:

Me: This is over-policing, how do I make a complaint?
Cop F: Where do you live?
Me: Why do you want to know?
Cop F: You can complain to the duty officer at your local station,
Me: Don’t you think this is overpolicing?
Cop F: Most people don’t think so.
Me: I disagree. Most people here probably don’t think this is a good thing.
Cop F: You are entitled to disagree.
Me: Not for long it seems [gesturing to the 25 uniformed cops hovering around the bus]

And so yet another micro moment of the creeping fascism of contemporary Englan’ passes at 6.05PM on a monday night on Lewisham Way. The University is filled with people who have a keen sense of history, but the putrid stench of 1933 was in the air.

Yup, again and again.

Manifesto for Thought-crimes.

Be ‘a’ creative,
even for autonomy,
for enhancement capability,
for institutionalization.
They say everything is new,
(out with the old)
but everything is contract
(same old same old)
Be energized,
Optimism of the will,
White noise.
This transmutation of meaning, as meaninglessness.
it speaks for itself, not to be theorized away.
quasi practical implication application,
web 3.0 (crash)
experiment (non-ordering, non hierarchical, non sequential)
organic, temporary, embodied, zoned,
A precinct model (polis, police).
vague qualmings about the Banksyification of art (street reblandings)
programmatic augmentation (but what programme?)
bios bios bios, oi oi oi
Art is yet again the opiate of the pseudo-intellect.
There are days when I am lost in the welter of words having unmoored themselves from the quay, instead of floating off to the horizon, they have sunk, or been scuppered. What I would rather see are pirate raids undoing these secure and buttressed fortresses of fear. There is so much horizon to explore, why cower in the bunker? Lock the captain in the brig, the scurvy swabs take the helm…

Thought Crime, its a joy.

(pic, Nation Records – come hear Aki Nawaz and others on Tuesday 26 February, at “Thought Crime – from the Lyrical Terrorist to Beenie Man” (Manifesto Club Night)- venue: Corbet Place Bar, 15 Hanbury St, London E1 6QR £5. Details here).

Space Money

Given the current fiscal crisis and the nationalization of Northern Rock (and personally, our surprisingly pleasant treatment at the CO-OP Bank where we have shifted our accounts, this guide to alien cash exchange, while not exactly ‘Marxist’, is a handy starter:

“Don’t get ripped off by unscrupulous intergalactic exchange bureaus! Consult our guide to alien money, including exchange rates with the U.S. dollar. Click through for a listing of currencies from Dune, Red Dwarf, Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and others.”

See the guide here.

sonic youth

Sound today
Are you sound today
are you sound today
Sound today
Are you sound today
These things don’t happen

I dream…

I’m not speaking
do you read me?

Torture Taxi

I like the fact that Trever Paglen and A.C.Thompson write in such a clear forthright style in their book “Torture Taxi: On the trail of the CIA’s rendition flights” (2006 Melville House New Jersey). Classified as ‘current affairs/military history’, I think this is compulsory reading for so many reasons. Not least of all the way a much maligned nerdy pastime – planespotting, noting registration numbers of aircraft at airports – is itself rendered a powerful research strategy and builds a dossier (another loaded word, as indeed is ‘loaded’) on CIA flights, crimes and deceit. The tone throughout is carefully modulated, and all the more effective for that. It is the best book I have read in a while, and not only for gems like this, where our authors talk of:

“dozens of cases in which the CIA had kidnapped the ‘wrong’ person, or had kidnapped someone under distressingly low standards of evidence: One of those ‘erroneous renditions’ turned out to be a college professor who had given an Al-Qaeda member a bad grade (the professor’s name was presumably given to the CIA by the disgruntled former student [fn ref to Chicago Tribune of July 31, 2006]). About a dozen of these men have ended up in Guantanamo Bay” (Paglen/Thompson 2006:169)

Though the standards of evidence for the above are equally thin – how do we check if this student was an Al-Qaeda ‘member’ (as opposed to say, a member of Facebook or some other dodgy spectral org?), how do we know the grading was not indeed biased, what happened to both student and Prof? – the anecdote is nonetheless not unbelievable given our own local security errors(!) in regard of cases like the ‘Lyrical Terrorist’, Forest Gate and Stockwell tube.

There is much good info in the book: on Air America, other covert CIA ops worldwide, and the banality of evil that are front companies, homeland security and international surveillance/kidnapping/assassination. As an example of people’s inquiry, the book is impressive, and all the more necessary in the face of approved fascism. To not engage such investigation and intervention is complicity. Who’d have thought this could be a revolutionary slogan: ‘Planespotters of the world Unite!”

Up up and away… and now a word from our sponsors:

“According to The Washington Post, ‘extraordinary rendition’, or the US’s practice of kidnapping suspects, flying them to an undisclosed location in a third-world country, and torturing them to force a confession about their role in terrorism, is ‘the largest CIA covert action program since the height of the Cold War.’ In a daring first-person investigation, AC Thompson and Trevor Paglen expose the torture apparatus of the CIA, revealing both the workings of its top-secret-and officially-denied extraordinary rendition transport system and the clandestine ‘black sites’ where terror suspects are held. It is a story that takes them around the country and around the world: by following CIA planes from the Nevada desert to Ireland, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, and by using FAA data, corporate records, and Army aircraft documents, they uncover an international program involving corrupt domestic politicos, civilian aircraft operators, and the highest levels of government. Torture Taxi is the first in-depth look into a startling and disturbing new truth about the role of torture in the ‘war on terror’.”

photogenic coppers in Malaysia Scandal

SUARAM reports:

“Ginie Lim Arrested, All Three Detainees Remanded for 3 DaysFollowing the arrest of Tian Chua and Jalaluddin Abdul Manap yesterday, 15 February 2008 after a submission of memorandum to the King calling for a Royal Commission on electoral system reform, another political activist Ginie Lim with the People’s Justice Party was arrested last night at the Brickfields police station during her visit to Tian Chua and Jalaluddin Abdul Manap who was under detention.

In the Brickfields police station, Ginie Lim was arrested when she took picture of the investigating officer, Inspector Hidayak who ordered several police officers using force to carry away Tian Chua who resisted to be sent into police lockup at about 10.00pm. Inspector Hidayak alleged Ginie Lim of obstructing in the duty of police officers.

Tian Chua and Jalauddin Abdul Manap were sent to lock up cells in Pantai police station while Ginie Lim was sent to lock-up cell in Travers police station, Kuala Lumpur last night.

This morning, the three detainess were brought to the Magistrate’s Court by the police for a 4-day remand application. The police argued that the remand orders for Tian Chua and Jalaluddin were needed to conduct further investigation on others who were involved in the alleged illegal assembly. As for Ginie Lim, the police alleged that taking photographs in the police compound is an offence. However, counsel Gurmit Singh that represented the three detainees argued that the remand application for Tian Chua and Jalaluddin were unjustifiable as the police had completed investigation by taking statement from the two detainees. As for the case of Ginie Lim, Gurmit Singh argued if taking photograph in police station is an offence, the police should just charge Ginie Lim and release her on bail. However, it was dissapointing that the Magistrate decided to grant the police a 3-day remand order on the three detainees. The detainees will be held until 18 February 2007.

On 18 February 2008, the police may apply for release the detainees or apply for further remand order and press charges against the detainees.

Clearly, this is an absolute abuse of powers by the police and deprived the detainees of precious personal liberty unneccesarily and unreasonably. We call on all to continue to call and write to the Brickfields police station and the Inspector General of Police to protest against the abuse of powers and demand for the immediate and unconditional release of the three detainees.”

Bougainville calling!

Here below is a little bit of madness from our friends in Bourgainville – or rather from the people at the National Business Review, so of course its mad, even if it turns out to be true. Call me.

[I am adding this pic I ripped out of a newspaper in Germany in 1997 because I just love the caption, which is wrongheaded in so many ways - but also references catapults, which I agree is a stone age way of thinking for a telecommunications company - sheesh - was this designed just to rile us up with its cod primitivism?]

And the article has a nice twist at the end on tourism, which I think will be my way in to writing about the islands once again (for the Canadian CASCA conference in May perhaps):

Pacific Periscope:

By Dev Nadkarni

Phones worth their weight in gold

The autonomous Bougainville government is close to striking a deal with a Korean company that will bring a reliable telephone network to this remote island territory off the coast of Papua New Guinea.

Years of strife and violence in its bid to break away from PNG have left the territory without much of a cash economy. Bougainville, though, is rich in minerals and the government has decided to leverage that natural wealth to pay for the new telephone system: It is proposing to give the Korean-owned Airlink rights to mine gold in exchange for phones.

Airlink and the Bougainville Executive Council have been negotiating extensively and a deal will likely be signed in the next few weeks – though details on the extent of the network and the mining licences to compensate for it are sketchy at this stage.

The autonomous government believes the new telecommunication system will help Bougainville exploit its huge tourism potential – particularly in the WW-II nostalgia sector – in the years to come”

Kon Ichikawa

A place maker for a future review of Kon Ichikawa’s great funny poignant anti-imperialist film “A Billionaire”, as soon as I find a copy.

We screened a series of his films at Goldsmiths two years back. The big famous ones are deservedly praised, but A Billionaire was just great – especially the student who built her own atom bomb upstairs in her flat.

The pic shown here is from “Tokyo Olympiad”.

Kon Ichikawa 1915-2008.

yo ho ho and a bottle of rum

So I searched out the lyrics of this song that I wanted to use as a send off for a pirate mate (gone sailing someplace) and I am somewhat astonished at the lyrics – the bit about the captains daughter seems particularly problematic, but, well, pirates eh (Yellowbeard, for example). Then I discovered the second version explication which made it seem better as the daughter was a metaphoric one (see the asterix below version two). But still the bit about being chucked into the back of a paddy wagon – now that I know is unpleasant, and I reckon would not have been acceptable in any shape or form, no matter how twisted the circumstances, to our much beloved departed comrade.

A ration of rum all round in honour of Paul Hendrich.

Version one:
“Drunken Sailor”

What do you do with a drunken sailor,
What do you do with a drunken sailor,
What do you do with a drunken sailor,
Earl-eye in the morning!


Way hay and up she rises
Way hay and up she rises
Way hay and up she rises
Earl-eye in the morning

Shave his belly with a rusty razor,
Shave his belly with a rusty razor,
Shave his belly with a rusty razor,
Earl-eye in the morning!


Put him in the hold with the Captain’s daughter,
Put him in the hold with the Captain’s daughter,
Put him in the hold with the Captain’s daughter,
Earl-eye in the morning!


What do you do with a drunken sailor,
What do you do with a drunken sailor,
What do you do with a drunken sailor,
Earl-eye in the morning!


Put him the back of the paddy wagon,
Put him the back of the paddy wagon,
Put him the back of the paddy wagon,
Earl-eye in the morning!


Throw him in the lock-up ’til he’s sober,
Throw him in the lock-up ’til he’s sober,
Throw him in the lock-up ’til he’s sober,
Earl-eye in the morning!


Version Two:

What’ll we do with a drunken sailor,
What’ll we do with a drunken sailor,
What’ll we do with a drunken sailor,
Earl-aye in the morning?

Way hay and up she rises
Patent blocks o’ diff’rent sizes,
Way hay and up she rises
Earl-aye in the morning

1. Sling him in the long boat till he’s sober,
2. Keep him there and make ‘im bale ‘er.
3. Pull out the plug and wet him all over,
4. Take ‘im and shake ‘im, try an’ wake ‘im.
5. Trice him up in a runnin’ bowline.
6. Give ‘im a taste of the bosun’s rope-end.
7. Give ‘im a dose of salt and water.
8. Stick on ‘is back a mustard plaster.
9. Shave his belly with a rusty razor.
10. Send him up the crow’s nest till he falls down,
11. Tie him to the taffrail when she’s yardarm under,
12. Put him in the scuppers with a hose-pipe on him.
13. Soak ‘im in oil till he sprouts flippers.
14. Put him in the guard room till he’s sober.
15. Put him in bed with the captain’s daughter*).
16. Take the Baby and call it Bo’sun.
17. Turn him over and drive him windward.
18. Put him in the scuffs until the horse bites on him.
19. Heave him by the leg and with a rung console him.
20. That’s what we’ll do with the drunken sailor.

*) A relative of the cat-o-nine-tails

Now check here for the bottle of rum lyrics.


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