Archive for March 1, 2009

lichtfaktor1

I like this idea: graffiti through light by German  Lichtfaktor. How is it done? to get the best results a tripod is needed. The exposure should be around 10-30 sec. or longer if needed. Stay in front of the camera and do your writing with the different light sources. To not overexpose, the camera should be set to about iso100, and the aperture closed as much as possible. If there is still too much light, a nd-filter (neutral density) might be needed. And a useful tip: it is always nice to integrate the surroundings into the picture.

lichtfaktor2

What’s the toolkit  a small collection of flashlights, biking-lights, flashing LED lights, fireworks & torches and even more sophisticated equipment. Lichtfaktor uses three different types: xenon, which creates a warm golden light; LED, which produces a thin precise line; and cold cathode, which gives a thick line. The best results are achieved by experimenting, including using filters and objects that reflect light.

lichtfaktor3

It’s like an act of painting, the difference being though that there are two canvases that are separated, yet inextricably linked: one is spatial, the place of the performer, a sequence of many fleeting points of creation; the other is two-dimensional, the recording camera, the medium that gives structure to those many points of creation by literally lining them up, thus creating the final artwork and preserving it lastingly.

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Very nice concept. It’s not revolutionary and probably has been done before, but when looking at it in the context of graffiti, it seems innovative. it’s all a matter of perspective ;) .


thannualvesawards_smallThis great little shortfilm “PLASTIC – Transformation Sequence” by German born and raised Sandy Widyanata and Australian born Courtney Wise won this year’s Visual Effects Society‘s award for “Outstanding Effects in a Student Project”. Sandy and Courtney are Australian Film Television and Radio School graduates. Sandy wrote and directed the live-action film; Courtney was the co-writer and producer. Both of them used the visual effects applied in the movie to demonstrate the obesession many young women have with having a perfect body.

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Invisible: On Left Non-Existence and Corporate-Managed Democracy

By Street, Paul
Paul Street’s ZSpace Page
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One of the many ways in which the United States’ incipiently totalitarian corporate-managed democracy (see Sheldon Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008])marginalizes popular American resistance to the rule of the rich and powerful few is by making protest and dissent invisible.  Like the many crimes of the American Empire past and present, that resistance is “disappeared” in the humming mists of the reigning business-run political and culture.  It gets sent down George Orwell’s “memory hole” almost the minute it happens.

Large American popular majorities tell pollsters in anonymous privacy that they support egalitarian social and political values.  They back a broad range of progressive, social-democratic programs consistent with those values – universal national health care mandated by the federal government, a rollback of the military budget to meet social needs, a significant reduction of corporate influence over politics, and much more.

But dominant (so-called “mainstream”) U.S. corporate media rarely if ever report any significant part of this progressive public opinion. In my experience, individual Americans are often astonished to learn that their left-leaning policy views are widely held in the U.S

corporate-newsMajority progressive issue and policy beliefs are shockingly unrepresented in the nation’s heavily corporate-crafted and candidate-centered election spectacles.  Political campaigns focus heavily on superficial questions related to business-vetted politicians’ imagery and personal “qualities” rather than on substantive policy issues. Candidates who align themselves with progressive majority sentiments (e.g. Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, and Cynthia McKinney) are pushed to the “unviable” and barely discernible margins by dominant political institutions – the corporate media above all. Thanks to his ill-advised habit of speaking passionately against economic inequality, poverty and corporate rule and for union rights, even the semi-progressive John Edwards was deemed too left for respectful media attention during the last “quadrennial electoral extravaganza” (Noam Chomsky’s evocative term).

Mass protests, marches, and street demonstrations do not fare any better.  They do not receive much attention from a media that floods the people’s ubiquitous Telescreens with such fine, populace-shaming cultural fare as “Deal or No Deal.”

On February 15, 2003, I scanned the nation’s leading major network and cable news stations looking for remotely serious coverage of historic mass demonstrations against George W. Bush’s planned criminal invasion of Iraq.  The remarkable pre-war resistance was invisible on my Telescreen as I heard reporters speaking breathlessly about giant crowds of protestors winding through the streets of Manhattan on an alternative radio station I could barely hear through my personal computer. I was reminded of an anecdote the esteemed Left media analyst Robert W. censorshipMcChesney had related during a recent lecture at Northern Illinois University.  McChesney recalled watching CNN in November of 1999, on a day when tens of thousands of people faced off against police batons, horses, and tear gas while marching against corporate globalization and the World Trade organization in Seattle. An activist friend of his was on the phone describing the remarkable events unfolding outside the window of a downtown Seattle hotel room. McChesney turned on his television, hoping to get live images of the historic events only to see that his television had been “turned into a fishbowl” as CNN showed images of the underwater Atlantic in connection with the networks’ continuing obsession with the tragic plane crash (months earlier) of John Kennedy, Jr.

Consistent with the usual pattern, popular demonstrations for peace and justice at the 2008 Democratic and Republican national conventions received no serious coverage.  This absence of attention made it all the much easier for state authorities to repress the demonstrators activists with savage impunity.  (The ruling class communications masters learned well from the “Whole World is Watching” events in Chicago in the summer of 1968: they have not given significant coverage to major party political convention protestors and the police-state attack on  those protestors ever since).

Serious left intellectuals are mostly non-existent in the nation’s official political and media culture. They are beyond the pale of serious attention.  The United States is home to some very serious and strong left thinkers, including McChesney, John Bellamy Foster, Howard Zinn, David Harvey, Giovanni Arrighi, Immanuel Wallerstein, Edward S. Herman, and, last but not at all least, Noam Chomsky, widely understood (around the world) to be the planet’s top thinker. These people are astonishingly absent from the “mainstream” media’s roster of acceptable “expert” commentators on current events. That roster is loaded with a surplus of reactionary mediocrities and hacks like Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, William Bennett, George Will, Patrick Buchanan, Karl Rove, David Brooks, and…the list goes on and on. The nation’s top, actually left intellectuals are essentially banned from even or especially from the national media’s “leftmost” (not saying much) outposts – The New York Times, “public” television and radio, and (according to liberals I know), MSNBC – because they tend to make serious moral criticisms of ruling domestic and imperial institutions, policies, and doctrines.

freespeechI myself (toiling at a far less elevated level than a Chomsky) recently published a heavily researched, carefully argued, and highly readable (and respectful) account of the Barack Obama phenomenon.  The book’s purposefully non-volatile title is simply “Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics” (my initial choices: “Obama Nation” and “The Audacity of Deception”).  While I would expect it to be surpassed in coming months or years, it has for some time been by far and away the best single volume published when it comes to understanding the rise of Obama and his place within U.S. political history and culture.  Still, the notion of this book being taken seriously and treated respectfully in dominant U.S. media is close to absurd for the simple reason that is explicitly framed from well to the officially unthinkable and impossible left of Obama.

Things are different on the other side of the ideological spectrum. While a critical but respectful left author on Obama  cannot be granted media visibility (critical for significant sales), the loony right-wing crackpot Jerome Corsi (who actually ads “Ph.D” after name on his book covers) ran the corporate media table (CNN, FOX “News,” MSNBC, etc.) promoting his ridiculous neo-McCarthyite hit-volume “The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality,” a book that preposterously portrayed Obama as a “far left radical” and “anti-American,” enemy of white people, capitalism, Christianity, and the U.S. military.

The bizarre ranting of Corsi on Obama’s right is granted visibility. Serious book-length criticism from Obama’s left is not. As the sadistic right-wing corporate media thug Bernard Goldberg explained to the right-wing talk show host Milton Rosenburg on Chicago’s WGN radio last weekend (I am writing on Monday, February 23rd), “all of the nation’s left wingers have lined up behind Obama and won’t tolerate any serious criticism of the new administration.” The statement is totally false, of course, but the people, ideas, essays, journals, and Web sites/zines (including Z Magazine, ZNet, CounterPunch, and Black Agenda Report) and books that might disprove it must not be mentioned.  The reality of their presence and being cannot be acknowledged. The notion of Rosenburg (a native Chicagoan) having me on to discuss the reality of the Obama phenomenon (as seen from a radical perspective) and presidency is unimaginable given the reigning totalitarian parameters and the doctrinal requirement of Left non-existence.

combsRecently I’ve been reading John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff’s important book The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences (New York: Monthly Review, 2009).  This volume is comprised of essays Foster and Magdoff published on the emerging crisis of U.S. capitalism between May 2006 and December of last year. Reviewing these essays during the current epic economic collapse (a finance-triggered breakdown for which renowned global investor George Soros sees “no sign that we are anywhere near the bottom”), it becomes clear that Foster and Magdoff were in possession of knowledge and a paradigm that enabled them to predict not just a cyclical credit crunch but “a major financial meltdown of a kind that the system can much less easily absorb” (as they put it in November of 2006).   Their warnings and analysis were invisible and unheard in the broader political and intellectual culture for a starkly simple reason: their analysis is derived from the radical anti-capitalist Kark Marx and from subsequent Marxist and other radical economists Paul Sweezy, Paul Baran, Michael Kalecki, Alvin Hansen, and Hyman Minsky.

Two weeks ago, the leading weekly U.S. magazine Newsweek actually published a cover story titled “We are All Socialists Now.”  By “socialism,” the corporate magazine appeared to mean any sort of escalated government intervention in the U.S. economy. There were two things missing from this remarkable Newsweek story:

  1. Any remotely accurate understanding of socialism as it is grasped and advanced by its modern-day adherents: democratic workers’ and peoples’ control of economic and political life in the interests of social use, equality, and the common good instead of private gain and social hierarchy. As Lance Selfa, a Marxist author, notes at the end of his recent and officially invisible (in the broader political culture) historical analysis of the Democratic Party, “in a socialist society, workers would take control of the factories and offices.  The repressive apparatuses of the state – from prisons to the military would be brought under democratic control and then abolished.”
  2. Discussion with a single solitary living U.S socialist to get his or her take on whether or not the U.S. has now suddenly and miraculously embraced a socialist world view and program.  Such a person could easily be found but actual living socialists must remain offstage since they are and their ideals – shared to no small degree (as only a tiny percentage of Americans are permitted to know) by great historical personalities like Albert Einstein (author of a brilliant essay titled “Why Socialism” in the first issue of the Marxist journal Monthly Review), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Helen Keller – are officially invisible under the reigning corporate-Orwellian rules.

corpliesI will return in a future commentary to a closer examination of Newsweek’s fascinating “We Are All Socialists Now” claim.  In the meantime, I, an officially invisible American, leave you, dear reader, with the definition of capitalism in the second (1979) and unabridged edition of Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary.  Please note that it contains ample room for significant government intervention and that it contains no reference to the “democracy” and “freedom” with which is routinely and falsely conflated in “mainstream” U.S. media and political discourse: “the economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution, as land, factories, railroads, etc., are privately owned and operated for profit, originally under fully competitive conditions: it has been generally characterized by a tendency toward concentration of wealth and, its latter phase, by the growth of great corporations, increased government controls, etc.”

Paul Street (paulstreet99@yahoo.com) is a veteran radical historian in Iowa City, IA.  Street’s books include Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004); Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007); Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York: Routledge, 2005); and Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, September 2008), which can be ordered here.

Asher Moses, The Age

The Sneaky Sound System trio, from left, Daimon Downey, Connie Mitchell, and Angus McDonald.The Sneaky Sound System trio, from left, Daimon Downey, Connie Mitchell, and Angus McDonald.
Photo: Quentin Jones

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The chief songwriter and producer of Australian dance music group Sneaky Sound System says digital music piracy isn’t a major problem for popular artists because the vast majority of earnings come from playing live shows.

sneakysoundsystemAngus McDonald made the comments at a launch event for Nokia’s Comes With Music bundles. From next month the package will give people unlimited free music downloads from the Nokia Music Store for 12 or 18 months when they buy a Nokia phone.

Music industry figures attending the event hope the new all-you-can-eat subscription model will lead to a significant drop in music piracy. The wish is that people will have less need to go to illegal sources if they have an unlimited subscription to a legal service.

“This model certainly has the potential to be a significant new revenue stream for our members,” said Richard Mallet, director of recorded music services at APRA/AMCOS, which collects licence fees and royalties on behalf of the music industry.

The record labels and songwriters are the main losers from piracy and plummeting CD sales but the artists who perform the songs are not as badly affected as the lion’s share of their revenue comes from live shows and merchandise sales.

In fact, some groups have said piracy could be beneficial as it allowed more people to experience their music and hence created a larger fan base.

“From an artist’s perspective … the labels probably don’t want to hear this, but our main income stream, and certainly most of our pleasure, comes from playing to lots and lots of people,” McDonald said.

Piracy was an issue for Sneaky Sound System but they still sold 200,000 physical copies of their self-titled debut album. McDonald said people had a perception that music was “either very cheap or free” but initiatives such as Comes With Music should entice more people into legal channels, “fingers crossed”.

Comes With Music bundles will be in stores from March 20. Initially only one Nokia phone model will be available – the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, which is the handset maker’s first touch-screen device.

Those looking for a one-year subscription to the music store will pay $979 for the phone, while 18 months can be had for $1109. More than 4 million songs are available and Nokia said this would increase to 10 million in the coming months.

The subscription can be renewed only by buying a new Nokia phone that supports Comes With Music. New models will be launched this year including the Nokia 5130 XpressMusic, which debuts in April and is pitched at budget-conscious consumers.

Users can download as many songs as they like and tracks do not disappear once the subscription lapses. However, all tracks are protected by Windows Media piracy locks so they can only be played on the Nokia phone and one dedicated PC.

Songs can be downloaded directly to the phone or via a PC. Most people should use the latter method as downloading directly to the phone incurs data costs from the mobile carrier.

Gavin Parry, head of sales for Sony Music Australia, said digital music sales only represented 20 per cent of the market and most of those sales were generated by one dominant player, Apple’s iTunes.

With physical CD sales dropping at a faster rate than the growth in digital sales, Parry said he was hopeful the new Comes With Music all-you-can-eat model would arrest the shift towards illegal download sites.

“At the end of the day, we’re fighting free,” he said.

But also read:

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Web censorship plan heads towards a dead end

Asher Moses, The Age

The Government’s plan to introduce mandatory internet censorship has effectively been scuttled, following an independent senator’s decision to join the Greens and Opposition in blocking any legislation required to get the scheme started.

australiacensorshipThe Opposition’s communications spokesman Nick Minchin has this week obtained independent legal advice saying that if the Government is to pursue a mandatory filtering regime “legislation of some sort will almost certainly be required”.

Senator Nick Xenophon previously indicated he may support a filter that blocks online gambling websites but in a phone interview today he withdrew all support, saying “the more evidence that’s come out, the more questions there are on this”.

The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has consistently ignored advice from a host of technical experts saying the filters would slow the internet, block legitimate sites, be easily bypassed and fall short of capturing all of the nasty content available online.

Despite this, he is pushing ahead with trials of the scheme using six ISPs – Primus, Tech 2U, Webshield, OMNIconnect, Netforce and Highway 1.

But even the trials have been heavily discredited, with experts saying the lack of involvement from the three largest ISPs, Telstra, Optus and iiNet, means the trials will not provide much useful data on the effects of internet filtering in the real-world.

Senator Conroy originally pitched the filters as a way to block child porn but – as ISPs, technical experts and many web users feared – the targets have been broadened significantly since then.

ACMA’s secret blacklist, which will form the basis of the mandatory censorship regime, contains 1370 sites, only 674 of which relate to depictions of children under 18. A significant portion – 506 sites – would be classified R18+ and X18+, which is legal to view but would be blocked for everyone under the proposal.

censor1This week Senator Conroy said there was “a very strong case for blocking” other legal content that has been “refused classification”. According to the classification code, this includes sites depicting drug use, crime, sex, cruelty, violence or “revolting and abhorrent phenomena” that “offend against the standards of morality”.

And last month, ACMA added an anti-abortion website to its blacklist because it showed photographs of what appears to be aborted foetuses. The Government has said it was considering expanding the blacklist to 10,000 sites and beyond.

Xenophon said instead of implementing a blanket mandatory censorship regime the Government should instead put the money towards educating parents on how to supervise their kids online and tackling “pedophiles through cracking open those peer-to-peer groups”.

Technical experts have said the filters proposed by the Government would do nothing to block child porn being transferred on encrypted peer-to-peer networks.

“I’m very skeptical that the Government is going down the best path on this,” said Xenophon.

“I commend their intentions but I think the implementation of this could almost be counter-productive and I think the money could be better spent.”

The policy has attracted opposition from online consumers, lobby groups, ISPs, network administrators, some children’s welfare groups, the Opposition, the Greens, NSW Young Labor and even the conservative Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, who famously tried to censor the chef Gordon Ramsay’s swearing on television.

net-censor-lesson

This week, a national telephone poll of 1100 people, conducted by Galaxy and commissioned by online activist group GetUp, found that only 5 per cent of Australians want ISPs to be responsible for protecting children online and only 4 per cent want Government to have this responsibility.

A recent survey by Netspace of 10,000 of the ISP’s customers found 61 per cent strongly opposed mandatory internet filtering with only 6.3 per cent strongly agreeing with the policy.

An expert report, handed to the Government last February but kept secret until December after it was uncovered by the Herald, concluded the proposed scheme was fundamentally flawed.

Even Labor has previously opposed ISP-level internet filtering when the Howard Government raised it as a method for protecting kids online.

“Unfortunately, such a short memory regarding the debate in 1999 about internet content has led the coalition to already offer support for greater censorship by actively considering proposals for unworkable, quick fixes that involve filtering the internet at the ISP level,” Labor Senator Kate Lundy said in 2003.

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If MySpace were a country …

Posted: March 1, 2009 in society
Tags: ,

There’s no space quite like MySpace

Leesha McKenny, The Sun Herald
March 1, 2009

myspacesurveyIF MYSPACE were a country, its language would be English, its food would be fast and its marijuana legal.

These are the findings of the social networking site’s first census, based on a survey of 2000 of the 2.4 million Australians who have signed up in its first five years.

MySpace has 125 million users worldwide. If it were a nation, it would be the world’s 11th largest – only 2 million people behind Japan and streets ahead of Australia’s 22.6 million.

This virtual nation would have elected Barack Obama as its head of state, with 25 per cent of the vote (beating Robin Hood with 10 per cent) – even though only half those polled thought voting should be compulsory.

The survey also painted a picture of what daily life in MySpace might be like.

Citizens would relax at the end of their gruelling six-hour-day, four-day weeks at one of the country’s many 24-hour bars – perhaps while watching the national sport (soccer) or indulging in the national dish (takeaway).

The biggest national holiday would be Christmas (86 per cent), even though most considered MySpace a secular state (12 per cent of the population identify as Jedi).

But don’t be quick to dismiss the results as pure fantasy.

MySpace.com Australia’s vice-president, Rebekah Horne, said the site had changed the way people around the world socialised and consumed content and culture.

“Having a MySpace account is as common as the number of Australian households that own a dog,” she said.

Janey Bulleid, 27, said MySpace was a chance to present yourself a little differently to how you would in the real world, including by redesigning or “pimping” your page, loading it with photos and music and otherwise shamelessly “putting your best foot forward”.

But Ms Bulleid admitted she would probably be a citizen of Facebook – her mum lives there.

“I think Facebook would be a bit more level-headed than MySpace as a country,” she said. “I’d love to go to MySpace on my [holidays].”

IF MYSPAVE WERE A COUNTRY IT WOULD …

  • Have bars that stayed open 24 hours
  • Have Christianity as a major religion (voted by 34 per cent), with 21 per cent atheist and 12 per cent Jedi
  • Have an “eye for an eye” system of justice (voted by 53 per cent)
  • Have a standard working day that starts at 11am and finished at 5pm (voted by 49 per cent)
  • Have 29 per cent of its citizens voting green, 29 per cent Labor/Democrat, 10 per cent Liberal/Republican and 3 per cent Communist
  • Have no laws against Marijuana use (voted by 53 per cent)
  • Have a population in which 13 per cent of people identified as bisexual
  • Use solar powers as the major energy source (voted by 44 per cent)

Based on a MySpace survey of 2000 Australian users

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Sol Trujillo’s departure

Posted: March 1, 2009 in creativity, humour
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sol-trujillo

Alan Moir cartoon