Bill Burroughs applied…

‘Words of advice for young people’ is the refrain William Burroughs stamped on the album ‘Spare-ass Annie’ by the Disposable Heroes of Hip-Hoprisy. I cannot aspire to Uncle Bill’s lofty heights, but was very pleased to be asked to ‘spare just a few minutes’ by a year 9 secondary school student to comment on what I look for in applications to study with us at Goldsmiths. Great topic for the school magazine he is writing for. While the applications we get are for PhD, since we do not have undergraduates in CCS, I think the wider (wilder?) things I look for are relevant at all levels (our applications go through several drafts of a research proposal and that is more important than the actual application form at this level, I think perhaps the personal statement in UG applications is the relevant place to show some of the below…). Anyway, for what its worth, here are a couple of answers to a couple of the questions I’ve just sent (as our interviewer pointed out, these will be presented as my views alone and not necessarily those of Goldsmiths) – [I hope its of use Natty]:

… Q3: What do you look for in an application?
We look for someone who has prepared well, who has an idea of what they are getting into, and approaches this with a sense of enthusiasm, curiosity and adventure. Higher education should be something that ‘changes the way you think’ and to be open to that – and critical of stale thinking – is really what grabs my attention in a student. Of course some good marks and some experience (extra-curricular activities, interest in politics, media or travel etc) are also appealing, but the most exciting students will convey a sense of a rampant curiosity, and an inquisitive intelligence. This can come through in so many ways: in a creative bit of writing, in a fascination for a particular artistic form of expression, film perhaps, or in psychoanalysis, or even in history or math, and then it could perhaps appear in an unexpected juxtaposition of two different areas. One of the best proposals for research I saw recently mixed a plan to do research into the history of propaganda with the study of abstract poetry. I thought that might produce new and interesting angles for cultural studies. Another mix that surprised was a proposed research into neuropsychology and artistic imagery – of the brain. How do we draw, map, imagine the architecture of that mess of stuff inside our skulls.

Q4: What makes for a good application- what would you advise year 13 students to think about when filling in a form?

I look for the ways the applicant has told us something about themselves in a way that has some verve, some sort of hard to name spark/mix of honesty, enthusiasm, creativity. It is of course hard to choose between the many capable applicants, so I look for someone with either, or especially both, a streak of creativity and a streak that I’d call a critical attitude to the world. Someone who is able to think critically about everything – without just having a winge – might make a very capable student.

Oh, and someone who reads. I mean, loves to read. To read and write. And to talk about books. To talk about writing – to care about writing as a craft, as a critical craft. And perhaps someone who might even help start up and write for a journal or magazine in their school. Three cheers for that part then.

I wonder if good bowling averages might also help with a Goldsmiths application, since we have a college cricket team in need of a spinner.

Hope some of this is useful for you. I have to crack on with some other friday night work – actually, I am going to watch the US presidential debate which should be on in about an hour – video streaming permitting…



PS. And if I was going to suggest any reading – Marx on education might not be a bad place to start. See the piece ‘Text message: what does Marx have to say about Jamie Oliver style school lunches?’


Writing to Kiwi who is doing great work on Snoop and presenting soon in Oldenberg… Thinking about all the Celebrity literature that has emerged, and is pretty tame, in the last few years… Alongside the minor cults of celebrity in regard to popstars, what can be gleaned from the self-critical internal documents of the communist parties who had to deal with the aftermath of the great personality cults of Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh and Kim Il Sung? Without wanting to repeat the attacks on these guys and so line up with anti-communism, nor to particularly endorse the deification of these figures (who were/are more important than as mere models for statues, t-shirts or badges), there is surely something of interest here in these greater personality cults and the ways they had to be managed by really existing communist states (or former communist states). Might not the personality cult open up the various texts on celebrity in a unexpected/interesting way? And could we have a kind of deStalinization process for Kylie? Ah, for that matter, its not just communists who had such personality cults is it – is there a need for a denazification process for Madonna? A Nuremburg trial for the Rolling Stones and their sell-out to VW etc…?

Burn Burn Photocopier

A guardedly polite letter from Lisa to the Reprographics Department of Goldies regarding our efforts to rid ourselves of the now Suicidal Copier, first mentioned here:

Acquiring a new photocopier has really been a ridiculously lengthy and frustrating process. It feels as though the main thing we have all worked on for most of 2008 has been a) pushing to get a new machine b) getting it working and c) getting rid of the old one. And we are still not there.

The old machine is still sitting right in the middle of our only communal space. It is induction week. We are trying to welcome new students to the Centre. Could you please confirm when – this week – it will be moved?

The new machine works for basic copying but has still not been networked. We cannot print or scan from it, nor even submit a meter reading. The new machine was justified financially on the basis that we it would perform multiple functions. You told me we needed to use it for office printing. We have had it quite some time and have not been able to do that. I am extremely concerned that the small number of copies we have actually been able to use the machine for will work out to be inordinately expensive at this low-level useage. We have also had no staff raining beyond the engineer on the day of delivery showing me how to make a basic copy. The engineer set up folder on the L:/ drive for documents from the printer to be sent, but networking has not taken place and none of us are set up to use any of its more sophisticated printing/scanning functions.

I do understand that you, like all of us, are very busy. Even so, this has been going on for ages. Most of our correspondence to you is simply ignored. If you can give me the relevant contact details to make a) the removal and b) networking happen, we will be pleased to see to it ourselves [see pic – ed]. Otherwise, please let me have firm dates for these small jobs to be completed.


[we will send it to the place where all Terminators must go]

Raja Petra Kamaruddin given two-year ISA detention order

Detention without trial, the Internal Security Act raises its very ugly head again in Malaysia. 


ISA Updates: 23 September 2008

Raja Petra Kamaruddin, editor of the popular political blog, Malaysia Today, today (23 September 2008) received a two-year detention order under Section 8(1) of the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA). The detention order was signed by Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar. Section 8(1) of the ISA states, “If the Minister is satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary with a view of preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof […], he may make an order directing that a person be detained for any period not exceeding two years.”

According to Raja Petra’s lawyers, he will be sent to the Kamunting Detention Centre in Perak, where he will be detained for a period of two years from today.

Under the ISA, this two-year detention order can be renewed by the Home Minister indefinitely. No clear explanation or details were given the nature of the threat or national security risks. In fact, under the ISA, the Home Minister has no obligation to disclose to the public or the courts the details of the detention or release. This clearly shows that the draconian ISA constitutes gross abuse of power by the authorities.

Raja Petra’s lawyers have also filed a writ of habeas corpus at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, in a bid to release him from his detention.


Raja Petra Kamaruddin was arrested on 12 September 2008, under Section 73(1) of the ISA for allegedly being a threat to security, peace and public order. He is alleged to have posted articles deemed seditious and that also belittle Islam.

Two other individuals – journalist Tan Hoon Cheng and member of Parliament Teresa Kok – were arrested on the same day as Raja Petra’s arrest. The two were subsequently released – Tan on 13 September 2008, while Kok on 19 September 2008.

On 16 September 2008, ISA detainee Raja Petra Kamaruddin, the editor of Malaysia Today, was allowed to see his wife and two children at the Bukit Aman police headquarters.

According to Raja Petra’s wife Marina Abdullah, Raja Petra spoke very softly and looked weak, pale and lost much weight. Raja Petra complained to her that he was suffering from lack of sleep because the night before, he was harassed on an hourly basis by officers who recorded statements from him. He said he was never physically abused, but was mentally abused. Marina said that his blood sugar level had dropped. She also added that her husband suffers from heart artery blockages and is on medication.

Raja Petra’s lawyers filed a habeas corpus application at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on 16 September 2008, seeking his immediate release.

Detention without trial under the ISA a serious human rights violation

The ISA provides for ‘preventive detention’ without trial for an indefinite period. It violates fundamental rights such as the right to trial, the right to legal counsel, the right to defend oneself in open court and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. It goes against the principles of justice and undermines the rule of law.

Dead technology

We’ve been trying for nearly three months to get the Reprographics section of Goldsmiths to remove a huge outmoded (and non-functioning) Xerox machine from the middle of our main office in CCS. Literally dozens of emails, visits, imploring calls and no joy. Today we arc up the campaign by sending them this letter:

Dear Reprographics:

Infidels. This is a Ransom Note.

We have your polluting bourgeois heathen capitalist running dog of a photocopier and will torture it mercilessly unless you arrange an immediate hostage exchange.

We attach a recent photograph as proof this infidel is in our possession. If you ever want to see it again, act quickly. We start cutting off its parts at sunrise.

– the CCS office space liberation committee (M-L – 17th September faction).

[Never let it be said that we concern ourselves with trivia. But I mean, for the love of Xog]