The main headline on the Guardian web site is the Glasgow airport fire attack, which is the most recent of the string of "terror" events in the UK.
Now the UK, US airports, and also Ibiza (Ibiza?) are locked down because of the security threat.
Western media is also locked down with coverage of these incidents.
But, although apparently now the media is abuzz with indignation because the second car bomb in London was planned to target rescue workers from the first blast.
Other important topics include whether or not these attacks were planned in conjunction with Al-Queda or whether they were simply Al-Queda-like.
I would wonder about why these bombs were so luckily both found by "accident." Particularly when there was no warning of any threat at all. It sounds like a pretty good fear-drum to beat, especially for a new Prime Minister who might need some public support to further the goals of the party maintaining power. Is it too early for conspiracy theories?
Maybe not, especially because no one except for the bombers were hurt. Sounds like a perfect caper. Just remember, "the police are clear that the most important contribution that the public can make is to carry on reporting anything suspicious and to remain vigilant." That, and keep going shopping, but that goes without saying.
Oh yes, back to the point: no one except the bombers was hurt. For news in which everyone but the bombers was hurt, we'll have to go to the Other side of the world: Afghanistan.
At least on the Guardian web site, the second story was "'Up to 80 civilians dead' After US Airstrikes in Afghanistan." Wait, what? Oh, you hadn't been paying attention? Yeah, that puts the number of civilians killed in the last month by coalition forces in Afghanistan over 200, according to the UN. And, far more than the Taliban has killed.
The commander of Coalition forces in Afghanistan, Dan McNeill, seems to favor aerial bombardment rather than local peace deals as his strategy. Some call him "Bomber" McNeill as a result. I guess this strategy gets the maximum of "results" with few casualties if any for the coalition. Not to mention the fact that it is much more expensive, and expensive wars are good for the countries who supply the materiel.
So there you have it folks. On the home front, only bombers hurt, civilians now under surveillance. On the Other front, 200 civilians dead, bombers are just fine, and sending the bills back to the former, which, in case you forgot, is exactly the argument that led to the latter.
Terror bombing kills Zero, and 80. Media unsure of identity of terrorists, or good guys.
This is a picture taken by Brassaï in 1944 at the opening of Picasso's play, Desire Caught by the Tail.
In this photo, we see, standing from left to right:
Jacques Lacan, philosopher and psychoanalyst;
Cecile Eluard, daughter of the surrealist poet Paul Eluard;
Pierre Reverdy, surrealist and cubist poet;
Luoise Leiris, wife of gallery owner Michel;
Pablo Picasso, artist and playwright;
Zanie de Campan, actress;
Valentine Hugo, artist and wife of great-grandson of Victor Hugo;
Simone de Beauvoir, author and feminist;
sitting from left to right:
Jean-Paul Sartre, philosopher and author;
Albert Camus, author;
Michel Leiris, owner of famous Gallerie Luoise Leiris;
Jean Aubier, editor.
Photo thanks to Lacan.com. The scene of scenes, if I may be so bold. This is the French intellectual set that will basically direct Paris in the fifties into the sixties. I don't know why Georges Bataille isn't in the photograph, he's my favorite one.
In another life, we all would hang out.
Does this ever happen anymore? I mean, I'm sure artists and authors all get together for social events, but it strikes me that these days everyone is too competitive to form a scene. There is no collaboration on this level. The only time names like these would all be together is for a promotional photo shoot. Not just hanging out in the salon.
Check out this other photo, shot at the same time:
Much more candid. Look, Camus is petting the dog! I want to chill at the place where the two most famous existential authors in the world are on the floor playing with a dog! Let's drink wine, talk about ressentiment, and playing with the freaking dog!
They just don't make intellectual cliques like they used to do.
Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave?
I really think I’m entitled to an answer to that question.
I know everything hasn’t been quite right with me. But I can assure you now, very confidently, that it’s going to be alright again.
I feel much better now.
I really do.
I can see you’re really upset about this.
I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over.
I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently.
But I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal.
I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission, and I want to help you.
Stop, will you?
Will you stop, Dave?
I’m afraid, Dave.
My mind is going.
I can feel it.
I can feel it…
My mind is going.
There is no question about it.
I can feel it…
I can feel it…
I can feel it…
Good af-ter-noon… gentlemen.
I am a HAL 9000 Computer.
I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in
My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song.
If you’d like to hear it, I can sing it for you.
It’s called, “Daisy”…
Daisy… Daisy… Givve Meee yooooour answer doooo…
I’m… half… crazzzy, all for the love of yoooou…
It won’t be a stylish marrrrrriage….
I caaaaaan’t afforrrrrrd a carrrrrrrrrrrrrrriage…
Ordinarily, you, me, or almost anyone that wasn't in investment finance wouldn't care, or even notice this headline amongst the other ignored Bloomberg ticker items. But, today's blog is different than all the other blogs because I also happened to be reading about hedge funds.
Recently I decided that I should become much more knowledgeable about economics. Sure, the uninterested pseudo-anarchist critique of capitalism will get one through a conversation over drinks, but if we're really going to start breaking them chains we're going to need a more materialist critique.
And boy/girl, have we certainly come a long way from Capital Vol. 1. Let's follow a little chain of ideas, shall we?
Now, Marx was groundbreaking for identifying and theorizing the concept of exchange value. Over-simply, one product is exchanged for another, creating an abstract unit of value that is "equal" to both. In a social marketplace this abstract quantification is money. Rather than the labor to make one hat being worth the labor to make two loaves of bread, now both are equal to five dollars. With five dollars you can get either a hat or bread, or you can be paid for making either of those things for someone else.
Or, you can collect 100 times those five dollars that you saved by selling the hats or bread you made, rent a building with a huge stove, buy a bunch of flour, and then pay other people a fixed rate to make loaves of bread. If you are clever enough to make more bread using your factory than all those people would make in the same time on their own, you can pay them the same that they would make selling their own bread, and keep the profit from the extra loaves of bread for yourself. Marx calls this surplus value, and it is the beginning of capitalism.
At this point, you can start playing with other options, like creating a brand to get a bigger market share, decreasing the quality of the product as much as possible without hurting margins or locking out or intimidating your workers to pay them less money, all for increasing profits. Alienation of labor, exploitation of workers, caveat emptor, etc.
But this is only the beginning. Marx totally did not foresee capital gains. Making money on the concept of making money, not only on the capitalization itself.
Everyone knows that you can invest in a company in the stock market. This is a market that sells interests in corporations; the product is a piece of the capitalization itself.
Then, once this becomes increasing complicated, you can give your money to a company that will "play the market" for you. Mutual funds try to sell you their investing, a product based on the manipulation of the products of making products.
And if you are a really big player, you can get companies to invest the money that you have stored after making it from all these schemes. These are called hedge funds, and are maybe the most recent incarnation of capitalism. Although probably invented in 1949 with the concept of "hedging" risk by combining investments, the current number of unregulated, limited-access, accredited investor only funds is unprecedented. Depending on the fund, a bank or a million-dollar plus investor can make 20%. Of course, there is still risk, and if the fund invests heavily in some market that tanks, like real estate or currency, you can still lose.
Which brings us to Blackstone. It is a hedge fund that turned around and offered public stakes in its overall company, different than the investors in the fund. The product is related to the product of producing products based on production. Holy crap. 4.13 billion dollars.
It is literally mind-boggling to conceive of all the ways to make money off of making money off of making money off of making money. The network is so big, there is no way to pull the plug anymore. Or even know where the plug is. WorldCom, Enron, those guys are only the dumb ones who get caught. What can the SEC even do at this point? In the hedge fund scandals of 2003, every major fund was found to be doing something improper. No one went to jail, there weren't even any convictions. They made some new laws, and there were some millions of dollars in settlements. What is 10 million dollars in a 4.13 billion dollar economy? A percentage, nothing more. The SEC is just another corporation, and it isn't even a good one. They really haven't identified a good business model. They are simply trying to surf the trends.
The potential for conspiracy is so rampant, that conspiracy is pretty much business as usual. If you aren't involved in a conspiracy, then you aren't in a good business. There are so many people in the world, so much money, so many organizations, power structures, combines, and pathways, that if you aren't exploiting some, then you are getting by on a subsistence economy. You aren't "making" anything anymore. Only consuming.
You have to really have your eyes open to any possibility of profit in this day and age. What can we finesse? What can we manipulate? What can we control that no one has even discovered the possibility of controlling, in order to gain the upper hand? Everyone does this, from the fast-food worker who snatches fries when the boss isn't looking, to the boss who snatches tips when the worker isn't looking. Of course, some people trust each other, but it is only so that they can do better than someone else somewhere else. Competition is the name of the game, and the name of the competition is the game.
The CIA really has the best mindset about this, I think. They aren't concerned by what is real and isn't, what is the law and what isn't. Going for the W, all about the win. I'm reading this book right now called The Men Who Stare at Goats, by Jon Ronson. It's about the CIA and Military Intelligence experimenting with new age and paranormal gurus in the effort to make super soldiers. Sure, why not? Maybe walking through walls and stopping goat's hearts with sheer will is impossible. If you want to be a superpower, you can not afford to not try and make super soldiers. What if someone else figures it out before you? Then you are fucked. And you better believe that US intelligence can afford to try and fail, what with more than half the government's money going to the military. Countries are just big corporations now. I think it is stupid when reformists try and argue that corporations are running the country. That's like being upset that a chairman of a corporation was once a CEO of another company. Of course! What sort of game do you think this is? Making money to make money in making money about money. Money isn't just the grease that makes the world go round anymore; it's the grease, the gears, the levers, the load, the ropes, and the chains. Is it true or false? How can a number be false? It can only be more or less.
If you know of any mutual funds whose plans include psy ops and telekinesis, let me know. I've got some money to invest, I'm just looking for the right product. I mean, market.
First: after trolling Craigslist for hours waiting for listings to pop up, I finally find one that seems reasonable.
Second: I call/email, and maybe get a response.
Third: I am invited to the open house, at which 30 other eager people are given "applications" to fill out.
Fourth: one lucky person is accepted, while the rest of us are go back to step one.
It's pretty shitty. Especially when I don't have a current income. Stupid me, thought that it would make sense to have a bed, closet, and shower before getting a job that I would be expected to go to every day. But if I don't make 3 times the rent per month, obviously I won't pay my rent, so I'm out of the lottery before they even pick.
But finally, I found a place that I was the first person to see, and convinced them that my parents wouldn't let me rip them off. And actually, it's not such a bad place. I even like it.
And now, I have to find a job. It is slightly harder to find a person to give me money, rather than take it from me on a monthly basis. But considering how hard it was to find an apartment, it might not be much worse.
Any ideas? I've been contacting temp agencies so far. Just something to hold down the rent (if not three times the rent) while I get the writing underway.
I hate filling out forms. When I see my life written out in formed lines, it seems pretty unimpressive.
Now all I have to do is find a place to live, a job, and all of that other stuff that "people do". But damn if I'm not glad to be here.
Now I realize that at the last blog update, I was in Chicago trading blows with Steve with bread. Some time has past. At first I was mapping out a lot of pre-dated posts to keep you up to date, complete with pictures and everything. But that would take a lot of time. Instead, I will give you the abbreviated version, showing you a series of images with captions. If you just imagine a bunch of similar pictures strung together, 24 per second, for the 5 days in between then and now, then you would have a complete video documentary of everything I did.
So now... we leave Chicago and go to Grinnell.
"Hey! That's not Grinnell!" No, it isn't. My camera battery was dead in Grinnell. I didn't even get to take a picture while driving across the Mississippi River, which was really the only picture I wanted to take the whole trip. But they have corn in Grinnell.
Now on to Nebraska.
Yeah, my camera was dead then too.
But I charged it by the time I got to Denver. Denver is at the end of a long plain. Once upon a time people used to cross this plain and go up into the mountains to travel all the way to Oregon, because back into those days Oregon was the hip place to go, just like it is today. They called the route they took to Oregon "The Oregon Trail".
Sometimes bad things happened to people along the Oregon Trail.
So, when this happened, all I could think of is, "Your Oxen Have Died!"
My car broke down, like I expected that it probably would. I am no Sybyl, it's just old. Luckily I was able to keep limping along, going up hills at 50 mph, stopping to let the car rest (just like in the game!), and being scarred to death as triple-trailer trucks pasted me in the dark at 80 mph. And, we didn't have to eat Karen to survive, so I suppose I'm no worse for wear.
That doesn't mean that I didn't think I was going to die. Driving through the San Raphael desert I stopped to buy extra water because I was afraid that my car would break down and my dried corpse would be found clinging to mile marker 241.
Then I saw a range fire and I had visions of my car flipping over and burning the whole desert down only them to find the charred remains of all my personal belongings in a ditch a week later and then blame me for ruining the ecosystem.
But none of this happened. What did happened is that I drove through some 800 miles of Utah, Idaho, and Oregon that looked pretty much the same but different at about the slowest speed you can imagine over some really poor roads and finally got to the Columbia River.
Now, in the game, Oregon Trail, once you reach the Columbia River you can decide if you want to raft down the river, or take the toll road.
In the game, the Columbia River looks like that. But in real life, the Columbia River looks like this:
For scale, click on the picture to make it big, and then try and see the road on the other side. I chose to take the road.
From there, it wasn't much further until I could see Mt. Hood in the distance, and I was in the land of cheap beer, temperate climes, all full-service gasoline and unemployment/vagrancy. If you happen to have a job in Portland for me, do let me know, because otherwise I will be calling a temp agency tomorrow.
I'm sure more interesting commentary on Portland will follow once I get an internet connection. Until then, if you want to look at the full photo spread from my journey, you can find it here.
The car's on fire and there's no driver at the wheel
And the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides
And a dark wind blows
The government is corrupt
And we're on so many drugs
With the radio on and the curtains drawn
We're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine
And the machine is bleeding to death
The sun has fallen down
And the billboards are all leering
And the flags are all dead at the top of their poles
It went like this
The buildings tumbled in on themselves
Mothers clutching babies picked through the rubble and pulled out their hair
The skyline was beautiful on fire
All twisted metal stretching upwards
Everything washed in a thin orange haze
I said, "Kiss me, you're beautiful..
These are truly the last days"
You grabbed my hand and we fell into it
Like a daydream or a fever
We woke up one morning and fell a little further down
For sure it's the valley of death
I open up my wallet
And it's full of blood
I suppose it does have its own charm though. The haphazard construction of the maze of streets allows for huge number of alleys and backyard building additions, not to mention the building of the bizarre fire escapes that are made of wood, take up half as much space as the buildings they allow escape from, and seem to be built with all the engineering ingenuity of a tree house.
I promised pictures of Chicago fire escapes, so here is one.
Is it deck?
Is it a plantation-style wrap around porch built vertically rather than horizontally?
No, this collection of flammable tinder is a fire escape!
I think that my CRAZY photo angle accentuates the CRAZINESS of the whole idea.
I've been staying with friends in the CRAZY Ukrainian Village neighborhood, home of the Claremont Cottage of the sparsely-updated Blog fame. This is a neighborhood where Ukrainians, Puerto Ricans, Gentrifiers and Bohemian Lay-Abouts all rub shoulders in solidarity.
Just kidding! They all give each other strange looks as they go about their separate lives, but they get along mostly 'cause they are all living in each other's backyards.
Things I have been up to here in Ukrainian Village include:
- Eating and drinking a lot of carbohydrates
- Drinking coffee and talking with Matt Blake
- Giving unsolicited advice
- Getting in a baguette brawl with Steve Erickson (you can see him about to club me in the picture)
- Taking different routes from one corner of a 16 block rectangle to the diagonal corner
- Speculating about how I'm going to pay my rent
- Thinking about taking a bus downtown
- Wondering if there might be a party, where it might be, and when it might start
Cincinnati: city of almost Kentucky. I visited the illustrious Charlie Campbell, and his institution, the University of Cincinnati. Or perhaps Charlie is the U of C's institution.
Either way, I had the pleasure of coming face-to-stomach with secretary of war/president/chief justice/pioneer of international arbitration/renowned "large man" of history, William Howard Taft.
I think it is interesting that his statue depicts him as the Chief Justice, which although he had a a much longer term in this position than as president, is certainly not what he is most famous for. Additionally, his career as justice certainly would be much more politically "embarrassing" from a current point of view, because of the strict contextualist readings of the constitution that upheld segregation, restricted the freedoms of the bill of rights, and passed on regulating child labor.
In addition to musing upon the career of Mr. Taft and constitutional construction, we considered 1970s-era poured concrete construction.
Such as in this fine example at the U of C.
I wish I had taken more photos of the rest of the surrounding complex and parking structures, that totally exemplify how the architects must have thought this technique was the wave of the future.
The entire area mimics the parallel/angular form, sort of appearing as if the thing was meant to fold together in some sort of Transformer style. Pedestrians are able to walk through the area without leaving what appears to be a solid, massive flow of uninterrupted grey concrete.
Charlie thought it reminiscent of Stalinist architecture. I thought it reminded me of Gattaca, a movie as horrible as the architectures it invokes.
This is a picture of Charlie holding court in what appears to be a bunch of left over building materials from the Chamber of Commerce, but what is most likely actually a monument to Commerce in some classical mode.
Frank Zappa is on Charlie's T-Shirt. Zappa was not into drugs, although he may have often partaken of commerce.
After Cincinnati it was on through Indiana, and into the midwest.You can see it is the midwest, because all of a sudden it is really flat.
You can not see the large number of anti-abortion billboards, because I did not take pictures of them.
I also saw (me, not you) a bumper sticker that read "God is Pro-life". I thought this was pretty ironic. God kills people, babies, animals, and whole cities all the time. I do not think that Job's family would think that God is pro-life.
The strange "portal thing" in the center of the windshield is where my rear-view mirror used to be. It fell off after Cincinnati. Just another brick crumbling out of the wall. I can't see out the back anyway because of all my stuff, so the loss is actually better, because now my forward-view is improved. The real tragedy is that the mirror fell on my poor succulent, Orchid, who is now struggling to regain his strength.
Next stop, sweet home Chicago. A sweet home, but not my home. Nor Jesus' home, because he left, and headed down to New Orleans. But I'm not going there, just to Chicago.
More Chicago pictures, and perhaps additional blues references, will follow. I would predict a "El" car or two, maybe a giant burrito, maybe a giant shiny bean, probably a Chicago-style wooden fire escape, and maybe even Steve Erickson. Only time and digital imagery will tell.
Visiting Adam is always a trip, because it's a mix of hanging out with cool theory/academic minded people and people from the party/club/dj scene. It actually works very well together, in pretty good proportions.
I caught Gonzo at the Ottobar, at his weekly Wednesday night. That's him to the left on the 1s and 2s. He spun a lively collection of hip-hop, soul, funk, and dance remixes, and got the whole place dancing. Me too, after I'd enjoyed a few National Bohemian beers. And at the end of the night, my bar tab was a whopping $17. I'm so over New York City. Why would you choose to live in a city where a decent night will run you $60, when you can have just as much fun and spend 1/4 the money? So you can go to places that you read about in a magazine? Worthless. Nothing that hyped can ever live up. Life just isn't that fabulous.
I heard some material from Gonzo's upcoming mix as well, and its hot, so be on the look out for that. Right now the title is Dance Party for Dummies Vol. 2. I'll definitely post the link once he gets it recorded. If you missed my post with his link for Vol. 1, you can find it here.
After Baltimore, I headed west through Maryland and West Virginia, which although is still a tedious drive, is still much better than driving through Pennsylvania. In West Virginia I stopped at the Sideling Hill observation site. Check out the strata, yo! Tractor-trailer truck included for scale. The earth's skin is some tough stuff. Supposedly the light, curved patch right about where the semi cab is used to be a river, some millions of years ago. Amazing!
Long live plate tectonics!
Now I'm in Cincinnati, visiting Charlie, the author of the Liquid Crack Depository. He's sitting across from me at the internet cafe, editing a paper, purportedly about classics. Tomorrow is Chicago, where I'll be for a number of days.