Tag: society

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The Virtual Wave Engulfs Planet Earth

Upon the strange occasion of meeting with some people from out of town two days in a row, I realized the extent to which my social interactions have migrated to the Internet. Here we were, in the 3D

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The Republican Party as Flying Saucer Cult

Watching the Republicans flail around in psychotic convulsions at the CPAC finally seemed to have convinced some Americans of what I have observed for most of my life, namely that the GOP is the party of the criminally insane.  The recent bile-spewings of Rush Limbaugh and Alan Keyes, are nothing new.  It is rather sick to watch, though, as if we are viewing the inside workings of a really lunatic fringe cult, played out live on national t.v. There are more than a few sociological parallels to the cult that figures in the book I just finished, _Imaginary Friends_ (1967), by Alison Lurie.

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Soviet Pop Dirvishes: Ensemble Birch

On BoingBoing there is a link to this “hypnotic folk dance,” which only one commentator identified correctly as Nadia Nadezhdin’s ensemble Birch founded in 1948.  (Thanks, Terry di Paolo!)  However, it is worth pointing out that the name of this particular piece, Прялица, means “spinning jenny,”  as in spinning of thread for weaving cloth.  This should be obvious from the motions of the performers as they sit and twist the braids of the thread, and is reinforced by the threads strung over the stage, and the camera angles taken through the skein of strings.   If you watch closely, you will also note that the patterns of the rotating group (when viewed from above) actually resembles different aspects of the spinning wheel, a technology that was much closer to the ordinary Soviet citizen of the 50s (when this dance was most likely performed). Other internal evidence to date this piece can be seen in the fascinating crowd scenes at the end of the performance.   The giant klieg lights have fine molded vents and precision external gears.  It’s rather difficult to guess at a date of manufacture, but they clearly look like post WWII, pre 1970s objects.  But the image of these technical workers at the controls of great lights is a wonderful tribute to the socialist realism of the original futurists, a pure homage to Rodchenko, if you ask me!

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Charles Moore - The Right Stuff

Born in Alabama, the photographer Charles Moore closely followed the civil rights movement with his camera and an open mind. It’s been said that the photos taken by this former Marine helped shape

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Super-organism of the human hive

The topic of Skinner’s rural-urban continuum came up in a staff meeting today, where my colleague Sumeeta referred us to a recent column by Steven Strogatz in the NYTimes. The idea is along the lin

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Ecocities = More Bicyle, Less Car

When I am able to blank out the last thirty five years, during which I have continuously despised and fought against the automobile (even when I owned one myself…yes, I’m talking about that rattling death-trap of a 1967 Ford Falcon!), when I can forget all that, it does my heart good to hear people talking about Ecocities. Richard Register has a decent column in Foreign Policy in Focus this week, advocating for more sustainable cities built around better transit systems and less automobile traffic. His points are well taken and straightforward, building upon his books on the subject (from 2001 and 2006): Switch to a pedestrian and transit-oriented infrastructure, built around compact centers designed for pedestrians and transit; Roll back sprawl development while vigorously restoring nature and agriculture; Integrate renewable energy systems while using non-toxic materials and technologies and promoting recycling. Which he follows immediately by pointing out the major obstacles to achieving this dream: A major difficulty in moving toward ecocities is that cars have influenced urban design for 100 years. Many of us caught in this infrastructure find it extremely difficult to get around in anything but the car. The distances are just too great for bicycles, the densities just too low to allow efficient, affordable transit.

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Big Hair In Romania

There is something strangely futuristic about the fashions of the 2009 Estetika and Wellness Fair, held this week in Bucharest, Romania. A set of photos is floating around, depicting the weird loops

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Chicken Little Protein: Space Merchants Radio Play

One of the great satirical classics of Science Fiction is surely “Space Merchants,” by Fred Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth, which skewers the American traditions of corporate greed, deceptive advertising, and the treatment of consumers as stooges, suckers, retarded fools, and miserable cattle. The story accomplishes this in a slick, almost effortless Science Fiction setting, which is fast-paced and chock full of sadistic irony. It’s important to remember the context of American society at the time of publication — 1953 — when the Cold War was in full swing, and the complete subservience to the Capitalist credo was not only the mood of the times, but was enforced by psychological warfare, not the least of which were accusations, blacklists, and finally the foaming-mouthed lunacy of McCarthyism.

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R. Crumb Ink At Mass Art

Ran over to Mass Art Paine Gallery (how apropos!) to see the R. Crumb Underground exhibit, which was written up recently in the Phoenix and the Globe. This exhibit kicked off two years ago at the Yerba Buena Center of the Arts, and has been making the rounds from city to city, and finally seems to have drifted into Boston on a Greyhound bus, clutching an old leather bag of 78s and sinsemilla buds.