Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gone Fishing

I am going away for a little while. See you when I get back.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

AO On Site – New York: Francesco Vezzoli ‘Sacrilegio’ at Gagosian Gallery 21st Street, opened Saturday, February 5th, running through March 12, 2011

AO On Site – New York: Francesco Vezzoli ‘Sacrilegio’ at Gagosian Gallery 21st Street, opened Saturday, February 5th, running through March 12, 2011: "

Francesco Vezzoli, Jesus Christ Superstar, Light box (2011). Photo by Sei Eun Lee, Art Observed

Francesco Vezzoli holds his first solo exhibition Sacrilegio in New York at the 21st Street Gagosian Gallery through March 12th. Vezzoli has enlarged several Madonna and Child paintings by 15th and 16th century artists Giovanni Bellini, Leonardo da Vinci, Andrea Mantegna, and Sandro Botticelli, reinterpreting them within a contemporary context by replacing the virginal faces with supermodels Claudia Schiffer, Tatjana Patitz, Cindy Crawford, Christie Brinkley, Naomi Campbell, and Kim Alexis.

Francesco Vezzoli, Crying portrait of Kim Alexis as a Renaissance Madonna with Holy Child (after Giovanni Bellini) (2010). Via Gagosian Gallery

More text and images after the jump…

Francesco Vezzoli, Crying Portrait of Cindy Crawford as a Renaissance Madonna with Holy Child (After Andrea Mantegna), (2011). Via Gagosian Gallery

Francesco Vezzoli in front of his work at the Gagosian Gallery, 2011. Via Vogue

Vezzoli worked with architect Annabelle Selldorf to transform the gallery—often referred to as the Cathedral of Contemporary Art—into a Renaissance chapel. They achieved the holy ambiance by dimming the lights and situating a light box depiciting Jesus Christ on the wall opposite the entrance, as a stained glass window would normally be in an actual chapel.

Francesco Vezzoli, Crying Portrait of Naomi Campbell as a Renaissance Madonna with Holy Child (After Cima da Conegliano) (2010). Via Gagosian Gallery

Vezzoli adorned each supermodel with makeup, tattoos, and large oblong tears in needlepoint, the artist’s signature technique. According to the gallery’s press release, the artist chose these supermodels “to point to our society’s worship of figures from the fashion and celebrity industries.” Vezzoli plays with how people today look up to these figures just as Catholics would revere the historical icons and portraits of the Virgin Mary. The artist has reinterpreted the current status of female celebrities and models in today’s society through the most revered female religious icon, the Virgin Mary.

Francesco Vezzoli, Crying Portrait of Christie Brinkley as a Renaissance Madonna with Holy Child (After Giovanni Bellini) (2010). Via Gagosian Gallery

The artist also notes our society’s obsession over materialism and maternity. In an interview with Nowness, the artist said, “Maternity and parenthood seems to be the new Fendi bag. Everybody’s obsessed. Once upon a time the biggest movie star, Elizabeth Taylor, had seven husbands, and now the biggest movie star, Angelina Jolie, has seven kids.” Vezzoli plays with the concept of the maternal role in a separate architectural space, referred to as “the crypt of memory,” by presenting a black and white video “Madonna with Embroidering Child.” Here, the artist recasts Pinturicchio’s Madonna with Writing Child image by featuring his own mother as the Virgin Mary and referencing a little boy as himself.

Hamish Bowles, European Editor for Vogue, at the opening of Francesco Vezzoli’s Sacrilegio at Gagosian Gallery. Via Vogue.

Tim Goossens, curator, and Todd Eberle, photographer, at the opening of Francesco Vezzoli’s Sacrilegio at Gagosian Gallery. Via Vogue.

- S. Lee

Related Links:

Gagosian Gallery [Official Site]

What People are Talking About [Vogue]

Francesco Vezzoli Interview [Nowness]


AO Onsite Auction Results – London: “Looking Closely” Auction at Sotheby’s Brings in £93.5 million ($150.5 million) Against High Estimate of £54 million; Bacon Tryptic is Top Lot, Record Set for Dali

AO Onsite Auction Results – London: “Looking Closely” Auction at Sotheby’s Brings in £93.5 million ($150.5 million) Against High Estimate of £54 million; Bacon Tryptic is Top Lot, Record Set for Dali: "

Francis Bacon, Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud, 1964 (est. £7–9 million, realized £23 million), via

This evening’s Sotheby’s 60-lot auction of works from the collection of Geneva-based collector George Kostalitz brought in an astounding £93.5 million against a high presale estimate of £54 million. All sixty works were sold, and lot after lot exceeded expectations during the most exciting of this week’s auctions. Fetching £23 million against a high estimate of £9 million, Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud was the top lot and is believed to have been bought by Cologne-based dealer Alex Lachmann.

Tobias Meyer conducting the “Looking Closely” auction at Sotheby’s London on Thursday evening, photo by Art Observed

more images and story after the jump…

Salvador Dali, Portrait de Paul Éluard, 1929 (est. £3.5–5 million, realized £13.5 million), via

The other major sale of the evening was a Dali portrait of the poet Paul Eluard that smashed the artist record set at Christie’s the previous night. The 1929 Surrealist portrait sold for £13.5 million with fees, more than triple the £4.1 million paid for Dali’s Etude pour ‘Le miel est plus doux que le sang’ on Wednesday night.

Julio González, Personnage Au Carré Blanc No. 1, 1937 (est. £15,000–20,000, realized £73,250), via

A sign of things to come, a Julio González collage that opened the sale managed to achieve a price four times its high estimate in about 60 seconds. Works by the Spanish painter and sculptor were in demand all evening. All five González lots offered exceeded presale estimates, and all but one brought in at least twice the high estimate. A miniature self portrait by Lucian Freud was the sale’s highly anticipated cover lot. It was speedily bid up to £2 million before the hammer went down at £2.9 million (or £3.3 million with fees).

Lucian Freud Self Portrait 1952 (est. £600,000–900,000, realized £3.3 million), via

The results of this week’s Impressionist and Modern sales indicate that this sector of the market may have reached a plateau. The best pieces saw competitive bidding, but buyers are not spending liberally, or at all, for second or third tier works. On the other hand, both auction houses’ secondary auctions, which were boosted by Surrealist and Modern art offerings, outperformed the Impressionist and Modern sales and suggest that next week’s auctions of Post-War and Contemporary Art will be lively affairs. Check back for a preview of these auctions, and stay tuned for onsite results.

-J. Mizrachi

Related Articles:

Sotheby’s “Looking Closely” Results [Sotheby's]

Bacon, Dali works boost bumper Sotheby’s sale [Reuters]

Francis Bacon portrait of Lucian Freud fetches US$37 million in London auction [The Associated Press]

Bacon Bounces Back at Sotheby’s Sale [The Wall Street Journal]

Dali Painting Sells for Artist Record $21.7 Million at Sotheby’s, London [Bloomberg]


Plan the Government-less Internet at Contact

Plan the Government-less Internet at Contact: "

Contact is an unconference organized by Douglas Rushkoff on the subject of building new, government-less Internets. The event will be held in New York City on October 20 2011.

Here’s part of Rushkoff’s explanation of the event:

At the epicenter of CONTACT will be the Bazaar – a free-form marketplace of ideas, demos, haggling, and ad-hoc connections. If you have visited the Akihabara, Tokyo’s ultra-vibrant open-air electronics market, or the under-the-highway open-air jade market of Kowloon, or even the Burning Man festival, you understand the power of combining commerce, physical location, and serendipity. A decidedly unstructured counterpart to the convened meetings, solo provocations, and the MeetUpEverywheres, the Bazaar will bring p2p to life, encouraging introductions, brokering, deal-making, food-tasting, and propositions of every kind. It is where the social, business, political, and spiritual agendas merge into one big human agenda.

Contact will hope to revive the spirit of optimism and infinite possibility of the early cyber-era, folding the edges of this culture back to the middle. Social media has come to be understood as little more than a marketing opportunity. We see it as quite possibly the catalyst for the next stage of human evolution and, at the very least, a way to restore p2p value exchange and decentralized innovation to the realms of culture, commerce and government.

Content was never king. Contact is. Please join us, and find the others.

Shareable: The Evolution Will Be Socialized

See also: 3 Projects to Create a Government-less Internet and 4 More Projects to Create a Government-less Internet


Madeleine Albright - The deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children was worth it for Iraq's non existent WMD's

Madeleine Albright - The deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children was worth it for Iraq's non existent WMD's: "



Tuesday, Feb 8th

New research shows sea lice from salmon farms infect Fraser River sockeye salmon

Sidney, B.C.
- A new study published yesterday in the journal Public Library of Science ONE by researchers from Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, and the Universities of Victoria and Simon Fraser provides the first link between salmon farms and elevated levels of sea lice on juvenile Fraser River sockeye salmon.

The article, Sea Louse Infection of Juvenile Sockeye Salmon in Relation to Marine Salmon Farms on Canada's West Coast, genetically identified 30 distinct stocks of infected Fraser sockeye that pass by open net-pen salmon farms in the Strait of Georgia, including the endangered Cultus Lake stock. The study found that parasitism of Fraser sockeye increased significantly after the juvenile fish passed by fish farms. These same species of lice were found in substantial numbers on the salmon farms.

Not only did juvenile Fraser sockeye host higher lice levels in the Georgia Strait after they passed salmon farms, these fish hosted an order of magnitude more sea lice than Skeena and Nass River sockeye that migrated along the north coast where there are no farms.

'The implications of these infections are not fully clear, but in addition to any direct physical and behavioural impacts on juvenile sockeye, sea lice may also serve as vectors of disease or indicators of other farm-origin pathogens' said Michael Price, lead author.

The data further showed that the differences in infection level for one species of louse in relation to fish farm exposure could not be explained by differences in salinity or temperature.

'Given the high intensities of lice observed on some juveniles in this study-up to 28 lice/fish- there's an urgent need to understand the extent of threat posed by sea lice to juvenile Fraser River sockeye' said Dr. Craig Orr, a co-author of the study.

The study also recorded the highest lice levels on juvenile sockeye near a farmed salmon processing plant in the Georgia Strait, heightening concern for the full potential impact of the salmon farm industry on wild salmon in this region.

Sea lice from salmon farms are likely another stressor for sockeye already subjected to multiple human impacts. Importantly, however, risks to juvenile sockeye from open net-pen salmon farms can be much more easily mitigated than changes to ocean conditions from climate change and ocean acidification. Options already recommended include removal of farm salmon from the migration routes of juvenile sockeye, and transition of salmon farms to closed-containment facilities.

Sea Louse Infection of Juvenile Sockeye Salmon in Relation to Marine Salmon Farms on Canada's West Coast list of authors: Canada's West Coast list of authors:

Michael HH Price1,2, Stan L Proboszcz3, Rick D Routledge4, Allen S Gottesfeld5, Craig Orr3, John D Reynolds4

1 Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada
2 Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Sidney, BC, Canada
3 Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Coquitlam, BC, Canada
4 Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada
5 Skeena Fisheries Commission, Hazelton, BC, Canada

Relevant photos and B-roll available.

To view the study, visit:

For more information contact:
Michael Price
Raincoast Conservation Foundation ( / University of Victoria

Dr. Craig Orr
Watershed Watch Salmon Society ( -member group of the
Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform

Both Raincoast Conservation Foundation and Watershed Watch Salmon Society are part of the Conservation Coalition - a participant group of the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River.

For more environmental releases, visit
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A Kinder, Gentler, Bisexual Great Ape

A Kinder, Gentler, Bisexual Great Ape: "When Dominique Morel arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997, she had no background in animal protection. Nor had she heard of bonobos, one of two great ape species most closely related to humans. But after her first visit to the bonobo sanctuary founded by the Congolese nonprofit Amis de Bonobos du Congo (ABC), Morel fell in love with the peaceful matriarchal creatures. Although they share 98.7 percent of humans' DNA, bonobos have created a society--unlike that of chimps and people--without violence, in which sex is a form of mediation. Morel volunteered weekends as a surrogate mother for the young animals and began helping with the translation of the ABC's newsletter. She has steadily dedicated more of her life to bonobos, securing grants and other funding for Lola Ya Bonobo, the only bonobo sanctuary in the world. Caretakers there protect around 60 bonobos and prepare the animals for release back into the wild. Bonobos are one of the planet's most endangered species; scientists estimate 5,000 to 15,000 bonobos remain. They can be found only in the Congo, where they are thought to have evolved in relative isolation south and east of the Congo River, as chimpanzees evolved north…


pirate torture

pirate torture: ""

40% Of Iowan Republicans Agree: Obama Is A Muslim

40% Of Iowan Republicans Agree: Obama Is A Muslim: "

I bet these people believe the U.S. found WMDs in Iraq, too.


Shades of Green: Reflections on the Olympics

Shades of Green: Reflections on the Olympics: "
Shades of Green: Reflections on the Olympics

Despite the enormous enthusiasm that accompanied Canada's 2010 Winter Olympic Games a year ago - the crescendo of competition and the excited crowds that transformed Vancouver and Whistler into a festival celebrating the aspiration of 'Swifter, Higher, Stronger' - something about the whole event felt contrived, artificial and remotely hollow.

Maybe it was the momentary loss of perspective. The Games, after all, are an homage to humanity, a self-congratulatory ritual honouring the abilities of nature's most noble creature - the same embodied pinnacle of perfection that is causing environmental havoc on the planet these days. Sliding ever faster down mountains or skating ever more athletically on ice are hardly the preoccupations that will extricate us from the global mess we are creating for ourselves and the other life trying to inhabit this most rare and beautiful Earth.

Beneath the facade of professed accomplishment - the contrived drama of winning and losing, the excited theatre of tragedy and victory - lies a hidden insecurity, a shaken confidence, an inkling of profound fallibility, a lurking doubt that perhaps all our speed and stature and strength is little more than empty bravado. Do we need more confidence? Do we want a more inflated opinion of ourselves? In the great scheme of things, do we deserve an enhanced sense of our own grandiosity? Surely, given the difficulties into which we are manoeuvring our planet's biosphere, we need more humility, more modesty, a more proportioned sense of who we are and how we belong in a living ecosystem that is - to our presently reckoning - unique in the universe. Celebrating at the altar of ourselves seems too self-congratulatory for comfort.

An explanation for this doubt and insecurity may lie in our dawning realization that we must somehow reform how we perceive and conduct ourselves on this planet. Despite our evident affluence, many of the structures supporting our material wealth seem increasingly precarious. Government finances almost everywhere are debt-stressed and shaky. Basic monetary policies and financial institutions seem insecure. Global climate change and general environmental deterioration erode the basis for optimism. Ocean acidification, species loss, energy challenges, soil erosion, resource depletion and uncounted varieties of pollution loom as ominously intractable threats. Fearing systemic failure, some thinkers are now questioning the very foundations of our modern civilization. Religion does not escape such scrutiny.

This may explain the recent arrival of numerous books on atheism. The explanation that they are to counter the impact of fundamentalism in both Christianity and Islam may be too superficial. A deeper and broader foreboding may be motivating their appearance.

In a poignant review of such books on atheism, Daniel Baird examines the arguments of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Michel Onfray to find a secular and rational replacement for religion ('God's Slow Death',The Walrus, April, 2007). The implicit substance of all these arguments is that the current paradigm that governs our thinking and behaviour is not viable. Belief has coupled with our human character to undermine the logical pragmatism we need to negotiate our way through a world that is becoming increasingly precarious.

Baird's essay ends with the account of a theologian, a 'raised and educated Mennonite' who 'spent thirty years of his career attempting to resolve the apparent conflict between science and religion.' And the end result? He lost his faith. 'But I still have a Christian body,' he said. 'My lifestyle is still the same as it was before.' Then Baird asked him, 'Do you think it's possible that we simply can't bear to see life and the world as it really is?' And the theologian replied, 'Yes.'

This 'yes' shakes not only the foundations of religion but it sends tremors through almost everything else we do and believe. It suggests that we invent systems, build institutions, form organizations, construct dogmas and concoct entertainments all as tactics of avoidance. They are all merely useful social distractions that allow us to avoid a stark confrontation with the raw reality of our biological dispensability.

This is the place where religion and the Olympics intersect as a common practice. Both are beliefs intended to elevate our status, one concerned with the spiritual and transcendent, the other with the personal and communal. And both are in conflict with the environmental realities now confronting us. How are we to legitimately celebrate ourselves when an objective assessment of the planet suggests that our vaunted human attributes are responsible for an escalating, global, ecological crisis?

Whenever and wherever we celebrate ourselves, perhaps we should pause for a moment of doubt and reappraisal. Did the Olympics reform us? Are we any different now that the Olympics are over and the glow of tribal euphoria has faded? Perhaps we should temper the hysterics of self-congratulation with the same perspective offered by atheists. Elevating ourselves with beliefs or gold medals will do nothing for the sobering environmental problems we must confront. Maybe we should restrain our celebrating until 'Swifter, Higher, Stronger' becomes 'Smarter, Brighter, Wiser'.


For Kevin Falcon, Next Stop Premier? (in Opinion)

For Kevin Falcon, Next Stop Premier? (in Opinion): "
Business backs him, even though he oversaw a massive jump in debt. So what are his odds?"

Henry Rollins: The Column! Rollins on How The Doors, the Velvet Underground and The Stooges Beat the Sophomore Slump

Henry Rollins: The Column! Rollins on How The Doors, the Velvet Underground and The Stooges Beat the Sophomore Slump: "

[The one and only Henry Rollins contributes a weekly column and far-reaching reportage to the music section of the LA Weekly. Look for your weekly Henry Rollins fix right here on West Coast Sound...

Continue reading "Henry Rollins: The Column! Rollins on How The Doors, the Velvet Underground and The Stooges Beat the Sophomore Slump" >"




Arnold Schwarzenegger is my favorite actor of all time. Christian Bale? Brad Pitt? Jean Claude Van Damme? Nah. What other male lead acting today can pull off action, comedy and drama roles, trick the people of California into electing him governor and lay serious claim to being the world’s most muscular man? Recently, though, an alarming revelation has been thrust upon me by our favorite lawyer, Giovanni Di Stefano AKA ‘The Devil’s Advocate’, who claims Arnie is in some way connected to the disappearance of Lord Lucan and the murder of the Lucan family’s nanny, Sandra Rivett.

Sounds like madness, but Giovanni’s my boy so I wanted to hear him out. He sent me an email documenting a conversation he had with a police officer who was working on the case.

The ex-cop agrees with the consensus version of events up to a point. Lord Lucan was a hereditary Labour peer in the 70s whose cushy existence was continually undermined by huge gambling debts. When these debts lead his wife Veronica to kick him out of the family home in 1974, a custody battle for three children ensued, but Lucan needed to sell off the house in order to pay back the money he owed.

What happened next is disputed by police, witnesses and conspiracy theorists. Veronica Lucan turned up at a local pub covered in blood, claiming that her husband had killed Sandra Rivett and then tried to murder her too. By the time the police arrived at the family home, however, Lord Lucan had disappeared, and since that day no one’s been able to track him down, despite numerous unconfirmed sightings in places like South Africa and New Zealand.

Never a man to blindly go along with other people’s versions of the truth, Giovanni claims that it was actually Arnold Schwarzenegger who slew Sandra Rivett. Apparently Arnie spent several years in London working on his physique as part of his body-building training: juggling double-decker buses, boxing the beast of Bodmin, climbing Big Ben, you know, muscle stuff. To make a bit of extra cash while in town, he worked as a goon for London debt collectors who needed scary-looking guys to intimidate gamblers into coughing up.

Lucan’s well-documented debt problems meant that they both moved in the same circles, and Lucan–well-connected with an unnamed US senator–offered to help Schwarzenegger get the Green Card he needed to move to the States. According to Giovanni’s police source, Arnie was hired by Lucan to kill his wife so that he could sell the house and get his kids back. Obviously the plan went awry. Apparently Arnie mistook Sandra Rivett for Lady Lucan and bashed the nanny out of existence with the iron bar he used to scare gambling addicts.

Lucan realised the mistake and tried to finish the job, but his weaker frame meant his wife survived and escaped to the pub.

After playing along with Lucan’s escape plan, Arnie killed Lucan and buried his corpse, creating a mystery that’s stumped authorities for four decades.

After hearing the cop’s story, Giovanni sent Schwarzenegger a frank letter asking whether he had or had not killed Lord Lucan and his family nanny. A reply of “No comment” came back, and when Giovanni wrote to police asking if Arnie was an official suspect in the case, they said they would “Neither confirm or deny the accusation”. Weird huh?

If you want to read what the police officer told Giovanni in full, go here. It’ll blow your mind.



TSD: Princess Margaret, royal (1930 – 2002)

TSD: Princess Margaret, royal (1930 – 2002): "In later life, Margaret’s alleged lovers included David Niven, Mick Jagger, Australian cricketer Keith Miller and one-time drug dealer to Led Zeppelin John Bindon."

Trevor Blake: Review, Surviving in Prison

Trevor Blake: Review, Surviving in Prison: "

Harold S. Long

Surviving in Prison

Port Townsend, Washington: Loompanics Unlimited, 1990

Surviving in Prison is a record of one man’s experiences in prison, offered as a guide for physical survival in a system designed to break and control lives.

The book describes prison from conviction to incarceration to the hole. It describes the inhumanity of prisons, the humiliation and the petty rules that demand exaggerated penalties for violation. The factual nature of the writing, presented without evaluation in the knowledge that the horrors of prison speak for themselves, are so descriptive that one feels the shutting off of light and hope as they are systematically removed from the author.

This book is of great utility to anyone who believes they might end up in prison for any reason, or who is a supporter of prisoners’ rights. It is far outside the arena of “political correctness.” Prisons do not make such subtle distinctions in their oppression and the author does not either. This book proves most completely that there is no life in prison, only survival, and the insight the author has to survival in prison is of unique value.

from OVO 11 CONTROL (September 1991)


Trevor Blake: Review, The Idle Warriors

Trevor Blake: Review, The Idle Warriors: "

Kerry W. Thornley

The Idle Warriors

Atlanta: IllumiNet Press 1991

Written between 1959 and 1961, The Idle Warriors is the story of a troop of Marines in the Far East getting laid, pulling pranks, eating and talking about life. It’s a story similar to any number of films and books from that time both in style and content. But there are two significant qualities in this book that set it apart from, say a Bowery Boys film (which is what it reminds me of the most).

First, it is written by Kerry Thornley. I’ve been reading Kerry’s work since 1979 and have always found him insightful and interesting. I also consider him a friend and it’s always good to see a friend make it.

Second, one of the characters in the novel, Johnny Shelburn, is based on a friend Kerry had in the Marines named Lee Harvey Oswald. In his introduction Kerry said he was trying to explain why Lee defected to the USSR. In hindsight he said he failed, and I agree. But the book is still a sort of eerie novelty, like the appearance of Fidel Castro as an extra in a Busby Berkeley film. Kerry’s introduction by itself makes the book well worth reading.

from OVO 11 CONTROL (September 1991)

see also OVO 17 The Dreadlock Recollections (January 2007)


Harper Government Makes Partisan Appointment to CBC Board, CRTC

Harper Government Makes Partisan Appointment to CBC Board, CRTC: "

Tories deny plans to control CRTC

By Mark Kennedy for the Ottawa Citizen

The Harper government is under fire for trying to take control of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) by making a partisan appointment to the senior ranks of the regulatory agency. But the government continued with the same pattern by also appointing someone with a political background to the board of the CBC/Radio Canada.

read more


Memorials to our Missing Women

Memorials to our Missing Women: "

Megaphone has a look at the festive and solemn names of Missing Women created in flowers.


Rousseau, Nasser and the Egyptian revolution

Rousseau, Nasser and the Egyptian revolution: "

In watching the live streaming coverage of the Egyptian revolution on Aljazeera I am awe-struck by the incredible humanity of what is unfolding in that country. I imagine Jean Jacques Rousseau wandering amongst the throngs of people and being equally amazed and delighted. For the character of this uprising, this outpouring of frustration and joy, of kindness and determination, of compassion and hope and community is more Rousseau than it is Mohammed or Marx.

The image of an old man with a long white beard racing his horse across Liberation Square yelling at the top of his lungs “I am free! I am Free! I am free!” – hardly able to comprehend that he was able to do so without fear of bring beaten or worse, is for me the most enduring image of the incredible events taking place in Egypt.

The revolution has greeters. On Tuesday as people streamed into the square in the tens of thousands, organizers actually greeted each one: “Welcome, welcome…” All the people who pundits would have three weeks ago assured as would never revolt are there in the square: incredible numbers of women, secular and otherwise; old people; middle class people – and upper class people like a former member of the board of one of Egypt’s biggest banks.

Rousseau proclaimed that morality was not a societal construct, but rather innate, an outgrowth of our instinctive resistance to passively witnessing suffering and injustice, out of which comes the emotions of compassion and empathy. If Tahrir Square is the evidence, then Rousseau was right. And he would have been totally at home.

The revolution is one of those phenomena that cannot be predicted. It smashes stereotypes embedded in the consciousness of the West over decades. That stereotype of poor, desperate, ignorant, grasping third world people is a convenient construct for the US and Canada for they form the foundation of our justification of keeping vicious dictatorships in power.

The Egyptian ruling elite not only adopts these same stereotypes but also fervently believe them for the similar reasons: their theft of the resources of their countries also depends on this notion, for it is the ideology of oppression, if we see ideology as that which gives meaning to power.

But that stereotype is, thanks to the revolution being continuously televised, is utterly dead. The incredible poetry of the people in the streets describing their feelings, the almost universal articulateness of the men and women expressing their views is awe-inspiring. And humbling. I cannot imagine a Canadian (American?) crowd offering so many poets, philosophers and historians in spontaneous response to reporters’ questions. (Leave aside for the moment the fact that I can’t imagine a million Canadians in any square.)

The humanity of the people giving this explosion of democratic sentiment its character is hard to credit, from a people who have been brutalized, robbed, humiliated, jailed and tortured. Yet there it was in the first words spoken by Wael Ghonim, head of Google’s Middle East operations after being released from jail. He was held, constantly blindfolded, for 12 days before finally being released.

But Ghonim was incredibly measured in his response to this crime – and he called it a crime – and his humanity, I think, was at the root of the huge resurgence of the numbers of protesters. Over 100,000 people have now signed onto a Facebook page declaring that he speaks for them.

But he would make no such claim: “I am not a hero. I only used the keyboard; the real heroes are the ones on the ground.”

He continued:

“This is not the time to settle scores. Although I have people I want to settle scores with myself. This is not the time to split the pie and enforce ideologies.

…Inside I met [State Security] people who loved Egypt but their methods and mine are not the same. I pay these guys’ salaries from my taxes, I have the right to ask the ministers where my money is going, this is our country.

“I believe that if things get better those (good state security people) will serve Egypt well.”

This compassion for, of all people, the dreaded security police, seems not to have come from a place of naïveté or weakness but just the opposite: from a place of strength that derived from the hope and joy of witnessing the unity in the square. Listening to Ghonim you really get the feeling that the revolution will succeed.

The humanity demonstrated by the protesters also helps explain why the global reaction to the violence against them was so universal and so powerful: this revolution has been absolutely peaceful since day one – respectful of people and property and the army. The violence was that much more grotesque because of it.

In order to curry favour with this new hero of the day, the newly appointed General Secretary of the ruling NDP party, reformist Hossam Badrawi, actually drove Ghonim home. But Ghonim was not fooled or persuaded: “I told him I will go in the car …but without an NDP logo. I told them we don’t want any NDP logo on the streets. … I told him I don’t want to see the logo of the NDP ever again.”

As Mid East exert Eric Margolis points out, there are hints here, too, of what was called Nasserism in the 1950s and 1960s, after Gamal Abdel Nasser, the most loved and progressive leader Egypt ever had. Nasser’s philosophy combined Arab nationalism and a pan-Arab ideology, and embraced a form of socialism. He was also a key figure in the non-aligned movement of developing countries. While it is too early to tell what direction the movement will take, the central role played by skyrocketing food prices, the grotesque divisions between rich and poor and Mubarak’s alleged $70 billion bilked from his own people, suggests that both nationalism and class will define the movement – and how it spreads to other countries. But what captures the imagination for the moment is the humanity and compassion of the people changing the face of the Middle East before our eyes.


Government transparency doesn't matter without accountability

Government transparency doesn't matter without accountability: "My latest Guardian column is 'Government data like crime maps is not enough - there needs to be action,' and it looks at two recent data-crunching apps for UK policing: first, the crime-maps that tell you what the crime's like in your neighbourhood, and second, Sukey, an app that helps protesters evade police 'kettling' -- an inhumane form of arbitrary detention practiced by police.

When the citizenry need to build apps to protect themselves from unlawful detention by the police, it's not surprising that a new application that allows you to go down to your local police station and ask them to do something about some newly transparent crime statistic is greeted with indifference or jeers. If you can't trust the police not to detain your children on a freezing road for hours, why would you believe that you could have a productive dialogue about how they should be deploying their resources?

After all: tuition fee rises are a complete reversal of a critical Lib Dem pledge; mass NHS redundancies for nurses and other frontline workers are a complete reversal of a critical Tory pledge. When you've voted for a party that promises one thing and does the opposite, no amount of data about how rotten things are will inspire you to join a 'big society' that works with the state to accomplish its aims.

Meanwhile, Sukey's authors cleverly included a facility in their app that allows the police to communicate with demonstrators who are using it - an architecture for dialogue, built right in at the code level. If this was a 'big society', then the police would be using that channel to come to some accommodation with protestors that acknowledged the fundamental right to peaceful protest. But the radio silence to date tells us exactly why the crime map will serve no purpose: what good is it to know how your taxes are spent if you don't believe that anyone will listen when you complain?

Government data like crime maps is not enough - there needs to be action

(Image: A lot of yellow : TSG Police Line : Student Protests - Parliament Square, Westminster 2010, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from bobaliciouslondon's photostream)


Archaeologists love Google Earth

Archaeologists love Google Earth: "Google Earth continues to play a big part in the future of archaeology. Archaeologists have used the program to cheaply scan the Amazon for ancient cities. More recently, a researcher in Australia used Google Earth to spot almost 2000 potential archaeological sites in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. Cool stuff! And much less expensive than doing the same thing with lasers or buying satellite time.


Geez Pete's list of "Top 50 Essential Non-Fiction Books for Weirdos"

Geez Pete's list of "Top 50 Essential Non-Fiction Books for Weirdos": " Images Prometheus-Rising-1561840564-L

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Inspired by the Modern Library's 'Top 100' list, botchick over at the Geez Pete blog took a crack at listing his picks for the 'Top 50 Essential Non-Fiction Books for Weirdos.' Now, of course this is a 'fool's errand,' as she says, and the word 'weirdo' is made of an infinite number of pocket subcultures, but it's still a list of mostly really great, inspiring, or at minimum, provocative, books (not that I've read them all). Next, Geez is planning to tackle fiction for weirdos. Here are a few of my faves from her non-fiction list:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson: Looking over my list, my husband asked, “Isn’t that almost fiction?” Good point! But reporting on events through the filter of copious drugging and a sizable helping of paranoia is still technically reporting in my book. Hunter’s world view is one of the backbones of modern counter-cultural thought. Start here, and maybe try his vicious lone wolf takedown obit of Nixon, too.

Just Kids by Patti Smith: Yet another book about a world long lost to our modern times. Smith tells the story of coming to New York, meeting her lifelong friend Robert Mapplethorpe, and living the happy-but-skint life of artists in the big city. While reading, be sure to consider that today you can get a $50 cheeseburger in Manhattan without looking very hard.

Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil : I don’t care how historic or high-minded any artistic movement is, it’s going to be full of sniping and backstabbing and petty jealousies. We’re all human, and that’s just part of the fun. Kudos to McNeil for getting all these stories about hairy nights hanging out in front of CBGBs on paper, before many of the principals were lost.

Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson: If that book cover isn’t enough to convince you to check this out, what is? Robert Anton Wilson (RAW to his fans and followers) was an icon of brain-altering philosophies, and his writing has lost zero of its power over time. The headline here is that Prometheus Rising is about meta-programming your own mind. The subheads are many. You’ll feel altered.

Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century by Greil Marcus : Marcus tackles what should be an impossible task — taking anarchic artistic and social movements throughout roughly a century of history, and tying them together into a narrative thread that leads straight through punk rock and pop culture — and pulls it off. And it’s entertaining to boot.

Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York by Luc Sante: Scorsese’s mostly horrendous Gangs of New York dabbled in the nefarious history of lower Manhattan, but Sante goes for the full narrative, from the Civil War straight through the first couple decades of the 1900s. Learn what the crooks, prostitutes, swindlers, junkies, grifters and their various known associates were doing for “fun.”

'The Top 50 Essential Non-Fiction Books for Weirdos' (Thanks, Heather Sparks!)


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bomber names ex-CIA operative in 1990s Cuba hotel bombings

Bomber names ex-CIA operative in 1990s Cuba hotel bombings: "A Salvadoran man jailed in Cuba in connection with a string of 1990s hotel bombings says he told a US prosecutor that he got explosives and money directly from a former CIA operative now on trial in Texas.


Saudis have inflated oil reserves by 40%: Cables

Saudis have inflated oil reserves by 40%: Cables: "The US fears that Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude oil exporter, may not have enough reserves to prevent an oil price spike, American diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks said.