Watch the K Foundation burn a million quid

http://youtu.be/q33LPpx0QsY?t=10m

Watching this video makes me giddy. The world seems to peel back and the ground folds away beneath you, and if you concentrate on it in just the right way, you can step through the portal, temporarily, into a zone or region completely unlike anyplace you’ve ever been or ever will.

Chapter 5 – conclusions.

Why the ‘International Day of Hating Tim Wilson’ is A Bad Idea

I just want to go on record and say that the “International Day of Hating Tim Wilson” event is A Bad Idea. It’s only going to backfire and provide Tim Wilson with more fuel for his unfettered free speech ideological platform.

It will do this because, almost undoubtedly, Wilson will be able to weather any day-long storm of hatred the Left cares to muster, no matter how co-ordinated or prolonged (honestly, a day of harassment? Please! Try being a female game developer and living through a sustained weeks long campaign of harassment). He’ll weather it fine precisely because he is in possession of the very privileges that the marginalised and the under-privileged often do not possess: a robust social support network (that isn’t made up of also ostracised, also contingently employed, underpaid, overworked individuals), with the wealth and ability to ‘tune out’ from (i.e. submit to the opportunity cost of opting out of) social media for a day or two, not to mention the benefit of not even being able to be the target of insults based on a history of marginalisation, oppression, slavery.(1)

Instead, what Wilson will be able to do will be to kick back, switch off his phone and ignore emails for 24 hours and weather the storm. Come Tuesday, Wilson will now have at his disposal a case study that “proves” precisely why racial vilification laws etc aren’t necessary, and just hamper “free speech”, and why all those blacks, women, gays, jews, etc, etc, etc should just toughen up and stick it out just like the courageous Tim Wilson.

The Left is not going to win with hate. Shame, maybe, as I have argued elsewhere – but even then, only some of the time, and importantly only within a context of respect and the offer of reintegration. Wilson should feel ashamed of his horrible ideological alignment with a neoliberal agenda, and the cronyism that it has always fostered (why do you think he was appointed?!). But hate filled shaming is stigmatizing, and works to exclude. Who are we, the disorganised and disarrayed Left, to ostracize Tim Wilson? He’s laughing at us. He’s even attending the event.

Har har. The joke’s on us.

****

(1) Actually I’m really interested in the idea of what, precisely, the event organisers have planned on doing on the day exactly. Sending him mean emails? Calling him “a cracker” to his face? I’m really interested in this point since one of the main organisers is Timothy J Scriven, USyd political maven and notorious “Against Identify Politics” brocialist. I would have thought that some sort of economic strike would have been the order of the day, not some affective release of invective… surely that plays right into their hands?! Where’s the industrial sabotage, Timmy???

Varoufakis on ‘Ponzi Austerity’

With bonus quote about the intervention of the ECB into Greek politics. Technocracy, ho!

Unnoticed by almost everyone, this episode represented a sinister moment when the EU asserted the right of its executive to intervene directly in the democratic process of a member-state. Unelected officials in Brussels concocted a ‘right’ to suspend unilaterally an international and intra-European loan agreement, on the basis of their assessment of which political party was and which was not ‘acceptable’ to form government in a member-state.

Fedora Shaming as Discursive Activism

My first ever published journal paper is out, and I was quite pleased with how it ended up. Here’s the abstract with a link at the end.

This article examines the Tumblr site Fedoras of OK Cupid which emerged in 2012 amidst a growing trend in feminists and other activists online that used shaming as an activist strategy. Fedoras of OK Cupid displays images and excerpts from men who wear fedora hats in their OK Cupid dating profile pictures, often highlighting worrying or even downright dangerous attitudes towards women revealed by their profiles. To understand this practice this article draws on work identifying feminist discursive activism in online communities, to examine the Tumblr site in the context of reintegrative shaming in order to evaluate the practice of deploying shame for activist ends. While shame is often seen as having stigmatising effects, the author of the Fedoras of OK Cupid Tumblr illustrates how the process of reintegrative shaming may work in the context of online activism by offering earnest commentary on negative attitudes while also offering the possibility of social reintegration.

Available in HTML and PDF versions.

Excerpts & commentary on Ian Bogost’s UX talk on ‘fun’

This is the lastest version of a talk that Ian once gave at Macquarie University in 2010 (I think?) talking about some really interesting ideas about what fun actually is, and what we mean and do when we talk about fun. It’s something of a shorthand, a way of telling a story without telling the story, he says.

The first excerpt is from his discussion of the murky origins of the term, and its roots in the practise (?) of ‘fools’ (as in, the satirists and court jesters of feudal times). Here’s Bogost on using ‘fun’ to refer to foolery in this sense:

Fun used to mean a particular kind of jocularity or diversion, and one meant for or done by fools, specifically done by fools.

…Imprudence may characterise one aspect of the fool or the jester, or the trickster, but the flipside of that is actually a kind of commitment. And that may sound strange at first, because we normally oppose indiscretion to commitment… But fools can have their own shrewdness, their own way of approaching things. Instead of toeing the line, instead of maintaining the standard way of things, the fool asks, “What else is possible?”… and then actually caries out that other thing that’s possible, even if it’s outlandish.

And the surprise of foolishness arises form this exploration, rather than being witless, from not knowing what you are doing. The fool finds something new in a familiar situation and then shares it with us.

That description really resonated with me, and with much of what I would call my ‘online practise’ in particular. The question ‘What else is possible?’ is an almost irresistible one for me – and it works itself out in lots of foolish ways: by advocating for revolution and overthrow of capitalism (which Brendan Keogh made fun of me for doing just today!), as well as in my trolling and ‘excessive’ practises on social media that Jason Wilson has talked about at the CSAA conference in Nov 2012, sadly the text to that talk has disappeared from the net along with Jason’s site). And there is a kind of ‘commitment’ to these practises that I keep getting in trouble for… like a foolish tweet/meme I made the other day insinuating that I would try and reclaim the term ‘gulag’ as a superlative (a patently foolish idea! but what else is possible? apparently this! look at the RT’s and fave’s. Why is this even possible, this is so bizzare and foolish…). The commitment is a kind of Zizekian ‘Laibach strategy‘ which is, yes, controversial. I worry about the responses I get for these foolish things, and so I should as a responsible fool, they sometimes cause me to lose sleep. But often I do tread the line between fool and witless, because I don’t often know what I’m doing. In a sense, I suppose that I do – I know that I’m tweeting something outlandish, or jeering something sombre or whathaveyou, but… often times I don’t know what I’m doing in a  kind of considered, conscious, or planned out way. I’m finding something new, but not always in a directed way. In a sense, this is perfectly natural since newness can’t always be ‘thought up’ and must be discovered. But there’s a price to pay for this, I think and it’s not always pleasant. Readers might be surprised to know but I am perpetually terrified of shaming myself, of saying something that is actually witless rather than foolish. Perhaps that’s part of the price of having (this kind of) fun?

Anyway, I thought that’s a fairly useful thing to help me (and others perhaps?) conceptualise my ‘work’ or practise or whatever. Fun is really important to me and what I do, clearly. I have a lot of fun with social media. But what actually is the ‘fun’? Here, again, I think Bogost provides a good account of what “fun” actually is, and why. Bizarrely, rather than the typical conception of fun as a byproduct of experience, he conceives of it as a material property of things:

So along with Merry Poppins, we assume that finding the fun is a task that comes from us, rather than from the thing itself, and we just have to encourage or support that activity… That we have to bring something to the table that makes intolerable things tolerable, or we have to somehow cover over those things so as to make the intolerable things tolerable…what if it’s just the opposite. What if we arrive at fun not by expanding the circumstances we are in, in order to make them less wretched… but by actually embracing the wretchedness of the circumstances themselves. What if, in a literal way, fun comes from impoverishment – from wretchedness.

Again, that makes sense to me, and a lot of the ‘fun’ of, a thing like Flafing on Facebook for instance, is from embracing the wretchedness of the whole thing, and as an activist from the impoverishment of trying to fight back against so much degenerate talk (sexism, homophobia, ignorance and bigotry) with more degenerate talk; more noise and fury and confusion and a further running-into-the-ground of the extremism and blurred lines that come with the ubiquity of Poe’s Law. Bogost goes on to talk about fun as engaging with a structure, and accepting the arbitrariness of things:

…when we’re playing a game, the question we ask is not how to overcome that structure, how to reject it and make it something it’s not, but what it feels like to subject ourselves to it… to take it seriously.

So play turns out not to be an act of diversion, but the work of working a system, or working with it, of interacting with the bits of logic that make it up. And fun is not the effect, it’s not the enjoyment that’s released by the interaction, it’s a kind of nickname for the feeling of operating it. Particularly of operating it in a way we haven’t done before…

I have long had, in the back of my mind at least, the vague notion of fun-as-novelty, I certainly prize that in the games I play and the experiences I have, and Bogost’s account is remarkably amenable to that. But here’s his remarkable conclusion that is a bit otherworldly:

So play is a material property of certain objects like steering columns and language and games. And fun is this sensual quality that emanates from it, when you kind of pet it, when you touch it in just the right way. Fun is like an admiration for the absurd arbitrariness of things. It’s a name for the feeling of deliberately operating a constrained system.

To illustrate that concept, he finishes with the story of Isner and Mahout’s truly epic 2010 tennis final, which went on for three days in a perpetual deadlock. He describes the situation thusly:

Isner and Mahout were there, they contributed to that outcome, they were implicated in it. But they didn’t exactly make it, they didn’t fashion it. And yet neither did the Victorian designers of modern game of lawn tennis, rather Isner and Mahout found something in tennis that nobody had ever found before. Something was preserved in it, sort of durable, even as it was incredibly fragile, it was like finding a fossil at Pompeii. And they coaxed tennis, slowly over 150 years almost, to give up this secret. Because they and those who came before treated it with such ridiculous, absurd respect that the game finally couldn’t help but release this secret. And that’s what fun looks like at its best, when the whole world watches an abstraction give up its secrets.

Fantastic BBC interview with Kanye West

This is just part 1 of 4, I haven’t watched the rest yet.

West talks about being a black artist, in fact the biggest black artist, and encountering the ceilings and barriers that the likes of Michael Jackson didn’t manage to break down thirty years ago. It’s a passionate, and powerful talk. Here’s an excerpt, but the whole thing is well worth watching:

“They classify my motivational speeches as like rants and this, like ‘Why’s he saying that? Why’s he doing that, blah blah blah.’ Well I’ve reached a point in my life when my Truman Show boat has hit the painting. I have got to a point that Michael Jackson did not break down. I have reached the glass ceiling, as a creative person; as a celebrity. …and I’ve been at it for ten years, and I look around and say wait a second, there is no one around here in this space that looks like me… and if they are, they’re quiet as FUCK.”

My favourite moments from the preview of SELFIES

I read the preview of SELFIES that is readable online. The bit that made me laugh out loud hardest:

I take a black krink pen out of the inside pocket of my denim jacket and make my mark on the bathroom wall. I write SHE SHE. That’s been my tag ever since I moved back to the city. Fuck. I hate people who call it the city. I watch the ink dry and wonder why I do this. I used to know, or at least pretend to know, but now  it’s just a habit. I take out my cell phone and snap a photo of my  tag. Another dumb habit.

“WHAT THE FUCK YOU DOING IN THERE, JERKING OFF?!”

I am alarmed to realize that the crappy shoe dude never left the
room. He’s standing outside the stall. I am confused.

“I know what you just did, man. I can smell the ink,” he says,  quieter this time.

“I’m jerking off,” I say and suddenly he hoists himself up and
peeks over the wall.

“WHAT THE FUCK?!” I stutter. I’m not very good at being aggressive. Also, it’s difficult to sound tough with your pants  around your ankles. He lets himself fall back down.

“You don’t even have a boner, you flaccid fucking liar. Who the  fuck pretends to jerk off at the library?”

This is so weird.

“This is so weird,” I say, “Please go away.”

“No.”

I’m kind of freaking out. This dude is pretty young. I don’t think he’s really mad about the tag, but I guess he might snitch if he’s an asshole. I would rather not get into trouble for tagging again. I am old now. That would be pathetic.

I’ve read this passage several times over now, and each time I have giggled at the pure perfection of telling a strangely aggressive person in the library bathroom to “Please go away”. I suspect it’s entirely a coincidence, but the line is the same as the tag from the fantastic Sexpigeon tumblr that Steve Swift introduced me to a long time ago now. The same aesthetic is present in both, though. Something strange and weirdly confected but in a way that is kind of true to life. Or truer to life, like a Werner Herzog film full of all its little invented lies that collectively add up to more truth than capital-T truth would ever tell.

Anyway, this little anecdote is exactly the kind of thing that is so fucked up and perfect (which happens to be a running theme of the stories in SELFIES) that it either actually happened, or was an amalgamation of several real things that happened. Whatever the case, it has the ring of truth – and hilarity – about it. Even if it were entirely invented  by the author, Robert Duncan Gray, it remains just really good vignetting (which is another feature of the short stories in the preview).

Another excerpt, from the short story ‘HAZEL’ by Hazel Cummings:

in the blink of an eye you are twenty-four and you’re working temp jobs, answering phones, inputting data, and no one is fucking you, and the emptiness you feel in your vagina seems to stretch up into your stomach and then into your chest and you feel like a shell of a person, like a mannequin or a scarecrow or a deflated fuck doll left out by the dumpster.

you start writing again after a year and a half of ignoring the urge, fiction this time, but you show no one, convinced that you never had a lick of talent to begin with, writing just for you.

you meet a guy, but when he takes you home his dick doesn’t
work and he blames you and you agree with him.
one of the offices that you’ve been temping at offers to hire you on as an actual employee, and you accept the gig even though you’d rather jump off a bridge.
you work five days a week, 9 to 6, with a forty-five minute
commute on the bart each way.

you drink a lot, alone, and watch things on the internet, and take quizzes (omg you fucking love quizzes, love knowing which muppet you are and which mad man and which simpson character and which types of men you should avoid and which sex and the city girl you are most like in the bedroom). you get a facebook, and a tumblr, and almost instantly you find a whole network of people who claim to be poets and authors, except just like you they are talentless, but unlike you they don’t seem to know it, or they pretend not to know it, an entire community of naked people claiming to be dressed in the finest of fabrics, all of them pretending that posting things on facebook is the same thing as being published. there is a part of you that sees how empty it all is, a part that recognizes the futility of this thing they call “alt lit”, but you find that you like the lies that the kids tell each other, and you decide that you want to be a part of it.

The spectre of autobiography hangs over the whole collection – how much of an autobiography are each of these stories, really? How much is actual (the emotion described by each is utterly felt, at least by me, the reader and I suspect also by the authors) and how much is an idealised what if? The stories inter-relate in (so far) slight ways, but it seems like something of a fairly massive undertaking to line up seven authors to co-create something like this, which makes the project seem more speculative – what if this online community wasn’t just a Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter thing, and what if we all did live in the same city (i actually haven’t checked but I would bet the authors do not all live in SF) – would anything be different? It seems to speak to a yearning for community and connection in the (quote-unquote) real world… while also (at least in the case of HAZEL presenting as an explicit critique of the practises of ALT.LIT (which I have also made here on this blog and in MEAT CONFETTI vol1).  There is also no gesture to the political dimension to cohabitation and proximity, as in the #occupy movement and the direct democracy struggles of 2011-12. But ALT.LIT is rarely, if ever, explicitly political and the refusal to acknowledge the politics of their own refusal to be political seems to be the cause of a lot of grief within and without the community (HAZEL gets towards some of this; expresses the aimlessness of directing critique at the ungrateful – what is a critic but one who truly cares enough to criticize?). HAZEL gets real pointed right as it switches from second person to first, in the kind of stylistic gymnastics that most writers could never dream of pulling off mid-article:

except, of course, this isn’t you. this desperate person, this failed poet, this unloved daughter, this woman filled with hate. there is no you, only me. i was the one who was 18 and then 22 and then 24, and now i’m even older, like 25 and a half or something, and my whole existence takes place on the internet, because as much as i hate it i just can’t look away

Apparently it’s going to be a proper novel. This teaser is kinda good, though certainly a few of the authors are stronger and their voice stands out more than others. Some of the other stories have the feeling of trying a little too hard to find meaning in ennui, which is slightly safer, less interesting. But even these tend not to wear out their welcome, whether the format and collaboration can survive book-length treatment will be interesting to see.

SELFIES the pdf preview is free and NSFW for both images and words.

Angel Haze on women in hip-hop

Only just discovered Angel Haze like pretty much right this second but I already really, really like her, and her music – check out the amazing clip for ‘Werkin Girls’ above. The thing that really impressed me, however, was a little section from another video in which she discusses growing up in a cult, and hearing music for the first time at age 16. Crazy stuff. Her comment is about women in hip-hop:

‘I have a specific problem, especially with women in hip-hop, because they don’t… not they, but certain people don’t know how to market women without pitting them against each other. Like they’ll sign you and say, “She’s your competition, what are you gonna do to beat her?”‘

Also great, following that she talks about how a certain conflict between her and Azealia Banks was less a “beef” and more about ‘just two people deciding they don’t really like each other.’ Which is a remarkably mature way to describe it, by the sound of things.

I’ve also been madly diggin Kilo Kish’s stuff lately, having downloaded her first (free) album Homeshcooled a while back but only really getting into it recently. She’s also got a new album out, K+ which is even better.