Monday, January 31, 2005

tag you're it

Prompted by AKMA's understated note about how we, following Orwell, tend to assume that clarity, accuracy, and power of expression are relatively easy to achieve, if only we use a little elbow grease:

Large topic. Some memorable writing appears in the comments sections of various blogs. Free there even from the looser normative constraints of blogging, this writing is often rife with ambiguity, rich in figure, and wide of the genteel deorative mark set by journalistic norms and public affairs bloggers.

That is to say, AKMA is noting a need to work on our communicative skills that is itself complicated by the burden of trying to get at something -- something that is not just a simplistic one-size-fits-all retread -- in language that daily enables this miracle to occur, but not without resistance. Language and community after all rely on universals, and we are and have particulars, but somehow even particulars, to be seen as such, must partake in some way of universals. It is at war with itself.

Throw in complications of medium, genre, audience and we can all feel collectively guilty and challenged. Without some determined effort to say what we mean, the effort of others to intepret is not earned. Some say what is most needed is some shared basis for the labor of interpretation:
...we lack collective narratives that recreate a shared imagination of our condition both in resistance and in liberation - to reforge an interpretive community. Alan Toner via wood s lot
And if the promise of shared information -- the managed liberation of worker knowledge, the formation of collective interests for the common good thanks to networked communication -- encounters a resistance that arises from the very process that is also enabling it: the disgruntlegregation, so to unspeak, of norms? Instead of a forging created by all this talking, blogging, conferencing, a fraying. (I seem to recall a kindred question on pseudopodium back when it was Bellona Times, in other terms, and can't find it.)

AKMA participates in more than one interpretive community, and has written interestingly about interpretation. He and Shelley Powers among others have reservations about tags, which are also supposed to be building the semantic web. The tags issue might be one sliver of how challenging semantic hygiene can be.

I fail to communicate. The trigger for this failure was merely this, cited by Toner:
Language... is the danger of all dangers, because it is that which begins by creating the possibility of a danger. — He cites Holderlin I've added a link.
As I take Orwellian responsibility for my misspeaking, so might I also be advised to probe the slippery theatrics of language, in and out of which all these misspent words slide.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

goodness and mercy

Is this site genuine? It purports to be images of the war uploaded by US troops, offering us a glimpse into their war story, through photos they've taken and uploaded via email: Kaleidescopic and seemingly unedited views of the war in Iraq as seen by some US citizen-participants. Surely newsworthy or worthy of investigation.

It's that pesky problem of images again. Some of the 1,024 offered just don't measure up to US media standards of decorum. There's a full range, from the picturesque, affectionate and jocular to quite a few that no self-respecting US news organ would or could carry. These begin on or about page 52 (you have been warned), and they baffle our ever so civilized sensibilities - not just in what they represent, but through the spirit of the representing, as conveyed via caption and depiction.

The question of the genuineness of the site is important, for if it is what it claims to be, it is a primary source for those far from the war to begin to see it through various soldiers' eyes -- instead of through those of embedded reporters, or ideologues of whatever persuasion -- and to see what lies behind those eyes, glimpsed in an unpolished mirror of the war.

The site, entitled Under Mars, is the sort of thing US media should not be able to ignore if they aspire to the gold ring of credibility. Its existence was noted on blogs a while ago, and reported in the Australian press the other day, and is now being linked by various blogs. It contains photos dated back to 2003. They are not in chronological order, and the names of the photographers are not included.

Under Mars could be what it claims to be: an open wound, offering unembedded fragments of freedom on the march. It could be agitprop. What's beyond question is the need to address this question. US news institutions that ignore it risk having no face left to save.

[Parenthetical afterthought: To me, this is relevant to Jack Shafer's saying "I think most practicing journalists today are as Webby as any blogger you care to name." Shafer sees that US news institutions have access to information. Among other things, he fails to see the elaborate system of rhetorical customs, conventions and constraints that govern not only how sources are used, but whether they can be acknowledged or presented, i.e., "seen." The ongoing debate between blogs and journos has more to do with niceties of decorum than with standards of credibility and truthtelling.]

Thursday, January 27, 2005


they're coming

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

evolving modes

We know comment spam. But did I miss a step, or is this a new thing? Blog spam? Spamblog? SpmoG? More (apparently from same "source") here and here and here and here, here, here, and many more.

Like ennui, spam is a wondrous teacher.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Dave, meet John L. Hess

Now if the Times could accept a Republican in 1973, it could certainly accept a blogger in 2005. Someone who operates a blog now, and has for some time, and (key point) continues to blog on his or her own terms while writing regularly for the Times. This would be a big door-opener between the cultures, and would accrue enormously to the benefit of the Times, and probably to the blogosphere (maybe not). But I would support it, assuming they chose a blogger with integrity, inteligence, an idealist who never moves inside the Beltway, whose feet stay firmly planted with the people.
Dave, the Times did have an employee who had his own blog, a blogger with integrity, intelligence, all them nine yards. His name was John L. Hess. The only thing: he started his blog long after leaving the Times. He also wrote a book: My Times: A Memoir of Dissent, which won praise for offering an unflinching look at the charms, mysteries and bureaucratic torpor of the institution. For a taste, here's a short piece he wrote after the Howell Raines exit, which was prompted by the Jason Blair fiasco. Here's a brief review of My Times.

As I mentioned, John Hess had a blog. It would have been interesting to hear what he had to say about Harvcredblogcon, but we won't read it any time soon. He died Friday, Jan. 21, just as the con was getting underway. He was 87. You can get all the news that's fit to print about his death here. Until the moneywall eats it.

Dave, your fond vision of a synthesis of institutional media and blogging seems, well, synthetic. I could be wrong, but I'll wager John L. Hess will sooner blog again than we hear a voice remotely like his speaking freely, openly, at will within the Times' leaden precincts.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Re: Credibility

like she said

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Election Mystery Solved

According to the Center for Positive Aging Web site, an estimated 30,000 individuals have dementia in Southwest Florida, just a small piece of the more than 370,000 in all of Florida.
That would just about do it.

Friday, January 21, 2005

metaphoric bushizz

Scott Rosenberg on Bush's Inaugural words:
This speech wasn't just soaring rhetoric. It was a lighter-than-air burst of helium verbiage -- lofty language untethered from the perplexing world we occupy and from the messy events of the last four years, sentences floating off into an empyrean of millennial vagaries.
The commentators...mentioned the "irony" of President Bush using the words "freedom" and "liberty" dozens of times in his address while the city was under such tight constriction. But this has gone past way irony now into total cognitive dissonant breakdown. ...As the columnist that Mannion reprints says, What's on display in Washington today isn't strength, it's fear. Fear the White House wants every American to share, so that they won't mind--will accept--endless rows of men in visored helmets and boots.
It was a holocaust of meaning in a seersucker suit.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

credibility calisthenics

David Weinberger has asked some good questions about news practices in advance of the Hahvad conference on Blogging, Journalism, & Credibility.

In the same spirit, here are a few additional questions a group of journalists, bloggers and other thoughtful people might constructively consider in a sort of panel game show mode:
1. Which company enjoys more credibility right now: Microsoft or Google? Why?

2. How much of the nightly news of Friday, Jan. 20th was devoted to the Inauguration of President Bush? How much - in terms of percentage of news reporting time - should it have been given?

3. What was the biggest news story of Jan. 20th, 2004? Why? Is "bigger" the same as "most important"? How so or not so?

4. Which of these sources would you trust more on the issue of labor in the US: a) The New York Times, b) Michael Moore, c) The Simpsons? Why?

5. How do genre constraints influence news coverage? What got left out of upbeat celebratory flagwaving coverage on Jan. 20th, 2004?

6. If the venue of this conference were suddenly transported to a bowling alley or tittie bar in Jersey City, would the snap judgments you've made about your fellow conferees change? How? Why or why not? Have you read Blink?

7. News professionals: Which is more important to your corporation: to tell a community what of significance is going on in the world, or to grow an audience with disposable income for client-advertisers?

8. Should a reporter/news worker own stock in his own newspaper company or corporate holding company? Should he or she be barred from participation in ownership profits?

9. What sorts of case studies would constructively help comparative discussions of blogs and mainstream media when they address similar terrain? If you carefully compare, say, the Iraq-based blogs of people like Christopher Allbritton, American Soldier, or Salam Pax with the professional journalism of embedded reporters, what are your observations?

10. The web offers the opportunity for news organizations to share public access to primary source documents. Why is this not done more frequently? Why, in fact, do major media rarely link to anything outside their own web presence?

11. What view of the public value and social utility of your news product is implied by putting it behind a moneywall after initial free access?

12. What epistemological aim is served by the persistent manufacture of anxiety? What dramaturgical purpose? What cash flow purpose?


Heel. Heil. Hole. ὕλη.

everyone loves a pageant

Some anti-Bushites took vacations to get away from the inaugural hoopla while others flocked to Washington to give the president a symbolic snub. They planned to turn their backs on the president as his motorcade rolls down Pennsylvania Avenue. ABC.
Whatever else people think of Mr. Bush, they agree he has Big Ideas. Bold Ideas. In your face Ideas. Ideas without information or thought, perhaps, but Ideas. Where are the ideas among his less than enthusiastic subjects? Vacation as an expression of protest. Hmm. And if the Motorcade were to view tens of thousands of drawers dropping along the route: A sea of moons. If everyone lit up, singing "Hail to the Weed." Rhythmic epileptic seizures. Massive heart attacks. Waves of barf. Visuals. Fox would cover.

::Later:: Foxblocker via thisonesplace.

Monday, January 17, 2005

blind pass

This recent exchange between James Surowiecki and Malcolm Gladwell on Slate vis a vis their recent books has much to offer.

As both agree, they come at the question of the authority of deliberative expertise from different places, but they share the glory in undermining our confidence in the authority of cognitive mastery.

It's a little surprising that they seem to exchange blind spots along the way. Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds is essentially about the limits on an individual's powers to grasp objective data. That is, any single judgment is, according to his argument, more blind than an aggregate of individual judgments formed independently about the same data. Somehow a collective -- which must be distinguished sharply from a group, which has already developed its groupness through discussions leading to jointly preferring certain assumptions and factors over others -- tends to be less blind, more open to more kinds of information, enabling its individual judgments' errors to offset each other, leading to greater accuracy. (Sorry this is infinitely less elegantly stated than Surowiecki's expression of it, but I don't have his book at hand to refer to.)

That is to say, Surowiecki is talking about augmenting our powers of judgment in cases where judgment is necessary because computation is not possible. We might need more than one small brain to help understand unfamiliar modes and manners of newfangled terrorists, but we don't need more than one person to tell us that 2 + 2 = 4. What this also means is that Surowiecki is for the most part not talking about modes of action. He is not arguing that there would be a better result if 10 randomly chosen fans all tried to skate better than Michelle Kwan - especially if they all had to use the same pair of skates at the same time! His book documents how we might form more reliable judgments through aggregation, not perform more successful feats of prowess.

On the other hand, Gladwell's argument in Blink points more toward the sort of total intuitional instantaneity that informs the performer who can do what the normal human cannot do. It is about action, feats of unusual derring-do successfully carried out. It is also about how people can fail to see how certain seemingly fair judgments have been biased by determinations made before they even began to judge -- his story, for example, of orchestral auditions in which the percentage of women hired rose after judges were blocked from viewing whether the auditioners were male or female. We can all relate to instances in which conclusions were foregone long before the alleged process of investigation got underway. E.g., "blind" dates.

Surowiecki's theme is about the hole in our minds qua mind: We with our isolated views miss things that multiple views often don't miss, at least as much. Gladwell is talking about the normal cognitive distortions that come between what we think we are doing and our ability to do it, and about the rare individuals who surehandedly make the right move when thinking too much or even at all would only mislead them.

Surowiecki is working on hunches played in the face of limitations of view - the something that one doesn't see that the Other may see. This is the stake claimed by the swarming, correcting mode of blogging, and its remote border is the ultimate Limitation that separates us from that which is not us. Gladwell on the other hand is talking about illusions that baffle us because we "know" we did not put them there. This is the realm of dream, of mythmaking, of "backstage" mechanisms that seem to always anticipate and direct what we think we know about what we think we see. It is also the mode of overconfident authorities.

So perhaps it "fits" that they arrive at a place in their conversation where each sees the other's book as complementing his own. This could be the case to a degree, but it also seems not the case insofar as two different kinds of knowledges are in play: in one, the self can be corrected by the other; in the other, the self can only realize its aim by outwitting itself.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

our Mussolini

...under Fascism the middle class took over and identified itself with the power of the State. We cannot foresee the political forms of the future, but in a middle-class country like Italy, where middle-class ideology has infected the masses of workers in the city, it is probable, alas, that the new institutions arising after Fascism, through either gradual evolution or violence, no matter how extreme and revolutionary they may be in appearance, will maintain the same ideology under different forms and create a new State equally far removed from real life, equally idolatrous and abstract, a perpetuation under new slogans and new flags of the worst features of the eternal tendency toward Fascism. Unless there is a peasant revolution we shall never have a true Italian revolution, for the two are identical. Christ Stopped at Eboli
If one is a chronological literalist, the first question would then have to be, Ok, so where was the USian formation of Fascism that has produced the exploitative middle-class ideology we detect in corporate USia, the RIAA, economics of efficiencies, Jaysusian adorers of the status quo, insurance ideologists, advertising modalities, NPR music programmers, real estate pilgrims, pharmaceutical breakfasters, evangelical commodities traders, newspaper publishers, admirers of CNN, soccer SUVistas, churchlady advocates of genocide and transgendered rightwing enterpreneurs?

This would set off a predicable series of hugger-mugger surveys of the academically handicapped diachronic artifact which carries the soubriquet: American History. Theories and candidates would vie for the place of honor - it was Taft who ushered in the middle class! ad naus.

Another possibility holds that the middle class was already given all the necessary tools in the Constitution. Still, the aggressive affirmation of its ideology should at least betray itself in history in the form of some State-determining manifestation.

E.g., the one we have now. So long as we do not think of history as a merely linear series of events, howsoever justified in remembrance, but rather consider that causes can follow effects, as well as precede them, that, indeed, as Benjamin and others have noted, the future can be what is shaping the past, it's possible to argue that Mr. Bush and his incestuous Goonsquad are shoring up USian middle-class protectionism with every breath they take. This administration was necessitated by the gawdfearing millionaires whom it both affirms and metaleptically heralds.

Social security, State security, Secure Security in an insecure World - the haves have, the Lord provides, or doesn't, works in mysterious ways, HE.

The rich are beyond help. It's the poor that must be pulverized before, during and after the State, under the guise of moderating its meddlesomesness, maximizes its expropriative powers of exception, and after the middle class reaches hegemonic consumptive bliss, otherwise known as capital in its purest form, free from the tedious spectacle of labor laboriously laboring.

What is suburbia, if not the Edenic figleaf that disregards any representation of the world of labor?

::(later):: An excerpt from Agamben's book, State of Exception (U.Chic) can be found here (thanks Dean).

Friday, January 14, 2005

schizzy delay

Monophysitism (from the Greek monos meaning 'one' and physis meaning 'nature') is the christological position that Christ has only one nature, as opposed to the Chalcedonian position which holds that Christ has two natures, one divine and one human.

E.g. Eutychianism. Then Monothelitism and Monoenergism. But Chalcedonianism. As opposed to Apollinarism or Miaphysitism. The Henotikon failed, alas. Docetists had support, yet opposed by Arians, and even semi-Docetists failed to field a consensus among Adoptionists and Psilanthropists. Acephali thrive, nonetheless, with or without Mongus or Mingus.

Dem daze waren't like some daze now.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Yet another annual round of public Visions from the captains of technomania, Messers Gates and Jobs in particular. What transformative power: a smaller iPod. Do users pay, say, $.099 per downloaded bunch o bits? Are the songs shorter, more like jingles?

And Gates, harping on his nervous system, nervously, waiting for it just once to actually work, while cyborg teens around the globe fill his house with virii beyond measure. And that two foot experience. That's just human

Neither will bring the next next big thing: a cloth, size of a handkerchief, into which we speak, from which we retrieve, without needing to reboot. Need someone's address? Ask it. What were the exact words of the Roe vs. Wade ruling? Ask it. What's Dave's podcast today?

Get your answer vocalized, or imaged on the cloth. Riot of moops talking into their hankies. Some nervous system. You'll see.

Monday, January 10, 2005


The conference on credibility coming to Harvard in a short time seems to be finding little credibility with bloggers, if early comments on the participants list can be believed.

Anyone pondering the question of credibility could do worse than spend, say, 20 minutes a day meditating upon this, the way Aristotle contemplates the bust of Homer in Rembrandt's image.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

FEMA addresses emergency

Suddenly, long after the November election, the hot topic here in Florida is that FEMA, the federal agency responsible for vital restoration and aid after last summer's hurricanes, has apparently mismanaged delivery of emergency funds.

For example, it gave Miami-Dade nearly $30 million in "relief," failing to notice that winds did not blow there even once. Meanwhile, hard-hit but poor counties in the middle of the state have received far less.

A FEMA scandal: Wonders never cease.

I had hinted at such. But now it's clear that FEMA is addressing a real emergency: Miami-Dade could have cost George the election - with all Jeb's support, he only got 47% there. If this isn't a disaster area to be managed, what is?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

reclamation of language unearthed by the recent tsunami

Based on the reports we are receiving, Nicobarese who are most modern have lost the most in Car Nicobar and Nancowry group of islands. Very few of them sensed the incoming Tsunami. But the Shompens and Sentinelese who took some direct hit, lost little because of their remote viewing capabilities. They moved to higher grounds before.

According to some of the tribal leaders, earth communicates to them. And this time they could see it coming in their remote viewing periscopes.
Neither this article from India Daily nor this chatter offers any further information on these periscopes. Proof that they do not exist can be found in the fact that none are for sale on eBay.

The thrust of the India Daily story conforms to our general western belief that "primitive" peoples are more in touch with the Magna Mater than less primitive peoples. Western periscopes don't predict template shifts, e.g., etc..

But what chance is there that our Office of Homeland Security might explore how earth communicates to the Shompens, Sentinelese, et al? What would be the tax upon our shared reality, knowledge, reason, certitude, tax base, to re-learn this language?

Entrepreneurially, an import biz to shop the periscopes on eBay might be the thing.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

salubrious emetic

In a post entitled "Finally," AKMA applies a sense of emergence to the notion of truth within a community:
such a firm conscience will leave little room for the unexpected, and (to belabor a point) “unexpectedness” constitutes one of the touchstone features by which we recognize emergent phenomena.
But what would Rush do?

Sunday, January 02, 2005

many heads: good broth

According to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the number of licensed real estate brokers increased from 196,132 in 2003 to 228,645 in the past year in Florida. The number of real estate appraisers increased at even faster rate, from 9,500 to 12,909. SH_T.

flamingo heads