31 January 2007

Brevity: a key to finding one’s own

So in a lot of recent posts, here and elsewhere, it comes down to the defining moments of one's life that — when cross-referenced — will begin to illustrate the driving dispositions in our lives. If forced to widdle down all the "complexities" of one's life, what are the remaining, driving elements. The ones that tie most of your decision-making together by theme?

Have none? Check out the "elevator pitches" as posted on Idea Sandbox for some inspiration. He reviews the opening narration from tv shows such as Star Trek and My Name is Earl:

It can be challenging to boil down what you do into a short blurb… For inspiration, I suggest paying attention to the 30-second narrations at the beginning of TV shows.

At the start of each episode producers deliver the swift backstory and premise of the show. If this was our first viewing, we would understand what makes the show worth attention.

Think about parties or those instances at the bar or meets where you briefly meet someone, and they ask about you. What do you say? Do you stumble for words? Do you define yourself by your job? Blech. I'm not insinuating that it's all about drawing attention to yourself, but it's more than that. It's about refining your observation of yourself in order to communicate with those around you more efficiently. This builds more effective networks in which you can explore. It also allows you to gauge your thoughts, actions, and future decisions against what may, in time, become a fairly accurate portrayal of what sort of human being you want to be.

The power of poetry (and design) is being able to see a context where others can't. Wrapping word around concepts by which you can easily share with others. According to Alan Moore in this video clip, this is also, by definition, one of the jobs of a magician.

Perhaps this is a key to what imbues authenticity, to what defines the gods as higher ideals by which me might devote ourselves. And perhaps this is what eludes so many people, the capability to turn one's analysis on the self in order to create a brief model which can define. This model can be tested against future actions, reduced further over time, and changed. But the further we can extrapolate a poetic model by which we act, the more we know about ourselves.

And the gods we serve.

A visual analogy of this can be seen in Neil Kandalgaonkar's digital art (coincidentally enough, he uses the online handle brevity), who was inspired by the work of Jason Salavon (whom I posted on back in September 2005). In the above image, by Neil, he uses 50 images of the Eiffel Tower, all pictured by different people and then blended together. No matter how abstract, though, in the blur of perceptions is the Tower.

I am sure most of us look within with blurred vision. These are all analogies for things spiritual and subtle, but the more time we cross-referencing ourselves with our environs, the closer we'll get to a more refined picture by way of finding similarities and dismissing the disparate.

EDIT — A lot of my posts are the antithesis to brevity, but I use this blog as an outpouring so that I might peruse it later… and then make more condensed understanding and statements about the more lengthier bits. Anhow, Logic+Emotion has this on Saying More With Less:
I didn't need to read anything else. In one word I understood exactly what it was saying. But even more meaningful was what it wasn't saying. I'm not an eco-activist by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think about the kind of world my boys will live in when I'm gone.

What if we used less words more often?

A single word. It didn't condemn me, or make me feel guilty or defensive. By not saying more it did.

What if we got back to basics and just said what we really meant--instead of using the right kinds of lingo and abbreviations?

What if we left more room for intepretation?

Rent Jesus Camp

I just watched Jesus Camp. May I recommend checking it out? You can watch George talk with the directors on The Hour (from 22 Jan 2007):
A new documentary called 'Jesus Camp,' has been nominated for an Academy award. Richard Roeper — of Ebert and Roeper — called it "one of the most compelling documentaries of the year."

The film is about a camp in Devil's Lake, North Dakota where kids as young as 6 years-old are taught to become dedicated Christian soldiers in "God's army" to "take back America for Christ."

For more on Jesus Camp, go to the documentary site.

Fundamentalist mother’s beliefs lead to son’s suicide

From Talking in Circles:
FSTDS is usually good for a few laughs. I went there expecting to waste some time reading other people’s ignorant comments… and I see this:

“Just recently my son Bobby came out to me. I had been worried for awhile. His teachers said most of his grades were slipping and he seemed depressed and withdrawn.

Bobby said he’d been hiding it for awhile because he was afraid I would reject him. I sat him down and told him that I loved him and that God loved him, but that his salvation was in danger if he did not resist his unnatural tempations. I told him how being gay would mean he would live a shorter life, and that if he couldnt change his orientation he could be celibate like most the ex-gays are. He started crying saying something along the lines of “I knew you wouldnt understand! You’re just like everyone else!” before running to his room and slamming the door.

What did I do wrong? I dont want to lose my son, but I fear I already have. I talked it over with his therapist, who had the ludicrous idea that homosexuality was unchangable and that trying to repress could lead to lots of psychological damage (I’ve dropped him and will try to be finding another therapist with more moral beliefs). I wouldnt be surprised if he’s the one who’s feeding my son all the homosexual propaganda about how its ‘ok’ to be gay. That, or how homosexuality has engulfed the media, making it seem ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ and how they were just another oppressed minority. You didnt have to worry about seeing two men making out on tv at my age! I dont want to sound like a fanatic, but Im worried what other effects will come out of this increasingly secular, immoral society obsessed with filth.

Am I too late? Or is it possible to save my son”

I checked the thread this was posted on, and the son later killed himself.

There are very few things that can bring me to hate someone. I understand that everyone has different world views, and that everything they say and do has a reason behind it. I know no one ever intentionally does something they know is wrong, and that there is motivation for even their most despicable actions. I’m against the death penalty, and I believe in giving people a second chance. I know Betty loved her son, and wanted to help him, in her own way.

I can say, after reading this, that I truly hate Betty, the mother of this child. It doesn’t matter to me how devoutly she believed what she was doing and saying was right; it doesn’t matter how much she loved him; it doesn’t matter how bad she feels now that he’s dead. She was a direct cause of his death, and she could have prevented it with a single apology. She deserved to die more than her son did.

But even more than that, I hate fundamentalist Christianity.

From the subsequent forum threads:
I'm so distraught; I can't stop crying! What did I do wrong? Is my son in Hell now for killing himself??

[Aside from obviously supportive posts — albeit largely biased, that gays are unnatural and evil — here are a couple from the user Aineo:]

Betty, you did nothing wrong. We live in an evil world where evil men could care less about people. All they care about is their personal agendas. Gay activists have disseminated one horrible lie after another to get liberals and cheap grace Christians on their side without giving any thought to who is really being hurt; the children.

We serve an awesome God of love who understands what we go through. We will never fully understand His perfect love this side of heaven. I don't believe a loving God is going to judge and condemn a child to hell because of what evil men have done to corrupt his own self-image.

I fully believe you can take comfort from David's words after his son born of Bathsheba died. "He will not return to me, but I will go to him."

But wasnt it my fault for not accepting him? :(

How did you "not accept" your son? Don't buy into the hateful and totally erroneous propaganda coming from the gay activists who blame Christians for every problem in the gay community and every gay teen suicide. This is simply a fallacious argument designed to make parents of gay teens fearful of what a few gay teens do.

He had been upset with me because I told him that being gay was wrong.

Have you ever told your son that other behavior is wrong? If you can answer yes to this question why didn't he suicide because you told him other behavior is wrong?

You are not responsible for what you son did.

Blame gay activists who lie about the psychological roots of homosexuality in some, blame the homophobic idiots who call themselves pastors and the teachers of God's truth, blame our society that has turned homosexuality into a political football, but you don't have to blame yourself.

My mother blamed herself when her youngest son died of AIDS and I have never understood why.

Jeff Han’s multi-touch display

New footage of his famous multi-touch display, displaying all sorts of Minority Report style goodness. Jeff Han is a research scientist for New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

via Information Aesthetics

Datagraphic of global financial activity

I was just mesmerised by this. Money’s so cool. So are globes.
Click the image for the link. Or here.

30 January 2007

Avatars and Their Creators

Alter Ego: Avatars and Their Creators (Amazon.com, .ca, .co.uk) is a cool concept book, presenting the phenomenon of the contemporary avatar-the virtual characters gamers choose and design to engage in 3D worlds online. Portraits of gamers from the United States, Europe, China, and Japan (including leading figures of the gaming world) are paired with digital images of their alter egos, graphically dramatizing the gap between fantasy and reality.

With an introduction by one of digital culture's leading observers, and a glossary of relevant terms, each of the seventy pairs of images are accompanied by detailed gamers' profiles. Sometimes hilarious and always visually exciting, Alter Ego also serves as a guide to the new world of the avatar and is a serious contribution to the debate about the future of society in the digital age.

Robbie Cooper (not pictured) is a photojournalist. Born in London in 1969, his essay about Somalia was awarded the United Kingdom's leading young photographer's prize in 1992 (the Ian Parry scholarship). He now works regularly for magazines including Esquire, GQ, Geo, Liberation, and The Sunday Times Magazine.

Julian Dibbell (not pictured) is a contributing editor of both Wired magazine and the website Feed. Author of My Tiny Life: Crime and Passion in a Virtual World (1999, described as "quite simply the best book written about the dynamics of online life"), he writes regularly for the New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, and TIME magazine on topics such as hackers, online communities, music pirates, and the philosophical questions of the digital age. He lives in South Bend, Indiana.

Old BBC News article (Oct 2004) on Cooper's earlier exhibit.

via Wonderland

The disfigurines of Justin Novak

The ceramic figurine has historically embodied a mainstream, bourgeois ideology, and for this reason, I have employed it in the presentation of an alternative vision; an ironic anti-figurine, or 'disfigurine'. This subversion of the genre challenges the promotion of conformism manifested in traditional figurines.

In the 'disfigurine' series, physical wounds such as bruises and lacerations serve as metaphors for injury to self-esteem and other psychological harm. Whereas the figurine has historically represented the dominant culture's norms and ideals, the disfigurines aim to expose the damage inflicted by those very same expectations.

The fine line that exists between the “tasteful” and the “grotesque” is precisely the course that I strive to navigate. It is in the haunting tension between the two that seduction and repulsion inhabit the same space, where the very function of “taste” is perhaps suspended, and the politics of these gleaming white aesthetics are laid bare.

Justin Novak

via 1 + 1 = 1

William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition in production

Peter Weir (Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show) is set to direct the film adaptation of William Gibson’s novel. It has been adapted for the screen by Weir and David Arata (Children of Men).

The first of William Gibson’s usually futuristic novels to be set in the present, Pattern Recognition is a masterful snapshot of modern consumer culture and hipster esoterica. Set in London, Tokyo, and Moscow, Pattern Recognition takes the reader on a tour of a global village inhabited by power-hungry marketeers, industrial saboteurs, high-end hackers, Russian mob bosses, Internet fan-boys, techno archeologists, washed-out spies, cultural documentarians, and our heroine Cayce Pollard—a soothsaying “cool hunter” with an allergy to brand names. Set for release in 2008.

Pollard is among a cult-like group of Internet obsessives that strives to find meaning and patterns within a mysterious collection of video moments, merely called “the footage,” let loose onto the Internet by an unknown source. Her hobby and work collide when a megalomaniac client hires her to track down whoever is behind the footage. Cayce’s quest will take her in and out of harm’s way in a high-stakes game that ultimately coincides with her desire to reconcile her father’s disappearance during the September 11 attacks in New York.

Check out an Occulterati interview with Gibson here.

How does lifestyle and fashion relate to mysticism?

Muji (無印良品, Mujirushi Ryōhin) is a Japanese retail company which sells a wide variety of household goods. Muji is distinguished by its design minimalism, emphasis on recycling, avoidance of waste in production and packaging, and no-logo policy. Products range from pens, notebooks, and clothing for men and women to food items and major kitchen appliances. Its primary business includes Café Muji, Meal Muji, Muji Campsite, florist and home furnishing; the company has recently taken steps into housing construction.

Muji is in the process of opening it's first North American stores, both in New York City.

EDIT — Just speaking with my friend Scott in Germany, and this is what he has to say about Muji:

scott says:
muji is a cheap anti-brand
not much better
dE says:
poor quality?
scott says:
anti-brand japanese brand
no lables

I live in a city where Diesel and J. Lindeberg have outsold any other city in North America per capita. Ikea is in every household, but the quality is shite and few are aware of any alternatives. And where people trick themselves out with style, they're often spending way too much for weak branded adaptations of what's already been predefined by others. (Diesel's attempts to define urban attitude and storytelling through their pre-ruined lines is ridiculous.) But people buy this stuff up in droves, as it's been defined to them. Wear Diesel, you belong to the tribe of choice. You may now chase after bimbos and top forty music.

Then are the subcultures — punk, goth, skater (the new jock) — they're all diluted parodies of what was once genuine cultural initiatives. New music, new art, and new modes of thought have been brought to the malls of suburbia. There's absolutely nothing punk about punk.

And those that forego predefined styles, for the most part, lack any sort of substance. But what does that mean? If substance is spiritual in nature, and spirituality is a depth of knowing oneself. Of course, I'll hit up Wikipedia for a notion: involving (as it may) perceived eternal verities regarding humankind's ultimate nature […] Spirituality may involve perceiving life as higher, more complex or more integrated with one's world view; as contrasted with the merely sensual.

  • Style is the world view defined by an élite living out the story of that aesthetic, defining it moment to moment as it happens.

  • Thus, the substance of those with the most integrated world view and involved dialogue with their communities command and affect the subsequent style.

  • Review Aristotle's three steps or "offices" of rhetoric — invention, arrangement, and style — and three different types of rhetorical proof:

    • ethos: how the character and credibility of a speaker influence an audience to consider him to be believable.

    • pathos: the use of emotional appeals to alter the audience's judgment.

    • logos: the use of reasoning, either inductive or deductive, to construct an argument.

  • We may have elements to spread trends by the popularity or respect given by idolaters, how the experience of the styles affect the followers of the trend (socially, inter-personally, and how the individual feels when alone with their chosen styles… or do the styles define their actions?), and by context (i.e., a winter jacket is more useful in winter than that cute blouse you bought over summer… however, we still see a lot of idiots out on Whyte Avenue in their mini-skirts and other sill get-ups in the dead of winter).

Occultism is the study of the inner nature of things, as opposed to the outer characteristics that are studied by science. The inability of science and mathematics to penetrate beyond the relationship between one thing and another in order to explain the "inner nature" of the thing itself, independent of any external causal relationships with other "things" is dealt with in some detail by the German Kantian philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in his treatise entitled The World as Will and Representation, in which he designates this inner nature with the term Will.

The occultist Aleister Crowley likens the approach of conventional science to the process of measuring ten yards with a stick about which we really know nothing but that it is one tenth of the ten yards in question. Every "fact" we hold true of the physical universe is merely an idea stated in relationship to other ideas, and if we try to establish any such "fact" in absolute terms we find it is impossible. If A is defined as BC, where B is DE, C is FG and so onwards the terms of dependency increase exponentially, and we even come to the point where Z is circularly defined in terms of A.

Schopenhauer also points towards this inherently relativistic nature of mathematics and conventional science in his formulation of the 'World as Will'. By defining a thing solely in terms of its external relationships or effects we only find its external, or explicit nature. Occultism, on the other hand, is concerned with the nature of the thing-in-itself. This is often accomplished through direct perceptual awareness, known as mysticism.

Mysticism from the Greek μυστικός (mystikos) "an initiate" (of the Eleusinian Mysteries, μυστήρια (mysteria) meaning "initiation") is the pursuit of achieving communion or identity with, or conscious awareness of, ultimate reality, the divine, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, or insight; and the belief that such experience is an important source of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Traditions may include a belief in the literal existence of realities beyond empirical perception, or a belief that a true human perception of the world transcends logical reasoning or intellectual comprehension. A person delving in these areas may be called a mystic.

In many cases, the purpose of mysticism and mystical disciplines such as meditation is to reach a state of return or re-integration to Godhead. A common theme in mysticism is that the mystic and all of reality are One. The purpose of mystical practices is to achieve that oneness in experience, to transcend limited identity and re-identify with the all that is.

Express oneself and relate one's world view to these three elements: invention, arrangement, and style. Are these the elements of culture? The difference between those that define the living culture and those that have no capacity to avoid the sway of the "mystics"?

  • An invention is an object, process, or technique which displays an element of novelty. An invention may sometimes be based on earlier developments, collaborations or ideas, and the process of invention requires at least the awareness that an existing concept or method can be modified or transformed into an invention. However, some inventions also represent a radical breakthrough in science or technology which extends the boundaries of human knowledge.

    • The classic definitions of innovation include:

      1. the process of making improvements by introducing something new

      2. the act of introducing something new: something newly introduced (The American Heritage Dictionary)

      3. the introduction of something new. (Merriam-Webster Online)

      4. a new idea, method or device. (Merriam-Webster Online)

      5. the successful exploitation of new ideas (Dept of Trade and Industry, UK)

      6. change that creates a new dimension of performance Peter Drucker (Hesselbein, 2002)

    • innovation is typically understood as the introduction of something new and useful, for example introducing new methods, techniques, or practices or new or altered products and services. One emerging approach is to use these other notions as the constituent elements of innovation as an action: Innovation occurs when someone uses an invention - or uses existing tools in a new way - to change how the world works, how people organize themselves, and how they conduct their lives.

  • Form (Lat. forma), in general, refers to the external shape, appearance, configuration of an object, in contrast to the matter or content or substance of which it is composed; thus a speech may contain excellent arguments (the matter may be good), whereas the style, grammar, arrangement (the form) may be bad. "Form is supposed to cover the shape or structure of the work; content its substance, meaning, ideas, or expressive effects."

  • The term fashion usually applies to a prevailing mode of expression, but quite often applies to a personal mode of expression that may or may not apply to all. Inherent in the term is the idea that the mode will change more quickly than the culture as a whole. The terms "fashionable" and "unfashionable" are employed to describe whether someone or something fits in with the current popular mode of expression. The term "fashion" is frequently used in a positive sense, as a synonym for glamour and style. In this sense, fashions are a sort of communal art, through which a culture examines its notions of beauty and goodness. The term "fashion" is also sometimes used in a negative sense, as a synonym for fads, trends, and materialism.

    One of the problems with the grouping of styles into genres is that it is a subjective process that has a lot to do with the individual's personal understanding.

    • Gestalt Therapy is a psychotherapy which focuses on here-and-now experience and personal responsibility. It was co-founded by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman in the 1940s-1950s.

      The objective of Gestalt Therapy, in addition to helping the client overcome symptoms, is to enable the her-him to become more fully and creatively alive and to be free from the blocks and unfinished issues which may diminish optimum satisfaction, fulfillment, and growth. Thus, it falls in the category of humanistic psychotherapies.

      Gestalt therapy (GT) has its roots in psychoanalysis. It was part of a continuum moving from the early work of Freud, to the later Freudian ego analysis, to Wilhelm Reich and his notion of character armor. To this was added the insights of academic gestalt psychology about perception, gestalt formation and the tendency of organisms to complete the incomplete gestalt, to form "wholes" in experience.

      There were additional influences from existentialism, particularly the I-thou relationship as it applies to therapy, and the notion of personal choice and responsibility.

Related article: Spirituality and Japanese Design Practise.
Related post: Fashion is contemporary mask magic.

AIGA’s United Nations consultative NGO status

The AIGA is an organisation I have great respect for. Aside from the following tidbit, they've also launched Design for Democracy:
Design for Democracy increases civic participation by making the experience clearer, more understandable, easier to accomplish and more trustworthy.

Design and social research professionals collaborate to enable compelling, efficient and trust-building experiences between government and the governed.

Follow this link to read the contributions of AIGA members to the American discussion on ballot design.

And from today’s AIGA Communiqué:
As previously reported, AIGA has received consultative non-governmental organization (NGO) status. The principal advantage of this status is to offer AIGA a chance to demonstrate that designers, as thoughtful, creative and resourceful professionals also have a place as citizens who can lead solutions in civil society. AIGA will be given an opportunity to comment on global issues being discussed in the United Nations and its subsidiary organizations. Most of these issues will fall in the social, economic, educational and cultural arenas.

This effort is seen as a critical contribution to several AIGA goals: to demonstrate the value of design thinking by doing valuable things; increase the global perspective of the profession; undertake socially responsible initiatives; and offer opportunities for designers to be viewed as leaders. AIGA will follow and comment on, as appropriate, the following committee agendas: aging, human rights, health, status of women, education, family, development, health and communications, HIV/AIDS, human settlements, indigenous cultures, mental health, narcotics and substance abuse, population and development, social development and sustainable development.

When an issue in any one of these areas comes up for consideration and where the design profession has a particular non-partisan point of view (e.g., the need for human-centered design solutions or the opportunity for clear and accessible information design to communicate across cultures), AIGA will submit succinct comments (usually not more the 500 words) or become involved in a conference proceeding. The AIGA board has authorized the filing of non-partisan comments that are consistent with design’s potential to advance the Millennium Development Goals of the UN or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In some cases, special task forces of members will be assembled to craft a response.

Some of the conferences or forums that AIGA, under this status, has been invited to participate in recently are: Roundtable on international environmental governance, Geneva; Forum on Health, Geneva; Challenges faced by the humanitarian relief community, Geneva; Africa Civil Society Forum, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; World Social Forum, Nairobi, Kenya; Internet Governance Forum, Geneva. AIGA would be represented at a conference only if we were prepared to be active or submit papers; in those cases, AIGA could be represented by a staff member, board member or an interested member from the design community at large. One forum that AIGA will seek to be represented in regularly is the World Summit on the Information Society.

28 January 2007

“If you have nothing to lose, you can only win”

Reading over Architectures of Control, I came across this very decent quote that I want to expound on over the course of this year with some of my own thoughts. From Karel Donk:
Today’s world, and indeed for a very very long time now, is structured in such a way where people are directed, if not forced, to become dependent. Dependent on the system, or dependent on others. When you do enough research, you will find that this is all by design. I won’t go into details in this post, but certainly will in the future. For now it’s enough to note that this is by design. The reason why things are set up in this way is of course to be able to control people and limit their freedoms. When people depend on you, you can manipulate them into behaving the way you want. Because they depend on you, they have little choice but to go along with anything you say because they fear losing what they get from you. By definition if someone depends on someone else, or something else, that person has something to lose.

Related post: You are the only enemy you will ever have.

Beautiful translation, from autistic to English

This is a fairly long video (8:35), and the opening 5 minutes in her language (which, as someone on YouTube says, sounds like Sigur Rós) may fascinate you or weird you out, but hang on until 5:20 when she starts her translation. Another excerpt:

"Far from being purposeless, the way that I move is an ongoing response to what is going around me. Ironically, the way that I move when responding to everything around me is described as being in a world of my own. Whereas if I interact with a much more limited set of responses and only react to a much more limited part of my surroundings, people claim that I am opening up to true interaction with the world."

Her YouTube index of films is here. Her personal site is here.

This is a point where decades of chomskian linguistics research might be useful: if it's a genuine language it will have to reflect the universal grammar structure. When that has been identified start mapping it to a semantic representation.

If that's not possible it's not a language.

And from her blog:
I did that video “In My Language” that I posted recently. I’ve gotten some interesting responses.

Several people said their autistic children (and one non-autistic sibling) wanted to watch it over and over again. One of them had a son who never hums at all, but hummed the tune from the video all day after he watched it. Others hummed along too. The parents described their children’s reactions as interested, mesmerized, and transfixed.

This is a common reaction between autistic people, I’ve noticed. We do have ways of communicating with things around us that are mutually comprehensible for many of us (not all of us, and not all the same things are comprehensible, there seem to be groupings in that regard). Our interests and our reactions are not random, purposeless, or useless, and are certainly not ugly things to be hidden away or trained out of.

via MetaFilter

Sweden, first country with official embassy in Second Life

There are reports today that Sweden plans to open the first officially sanctioned embassy inside Second Life. Embassy officials won't be issuing visas or passports there, but they may just be wear rainbow codpieces when they offer you a Cyberian Angel Exotic Massage.

Link to Notes from Sweden blog post, here's a news article: Link.

via Boing Boing

27 January 2007

Albertans pay for Falun Gong body parts

I seriously don’t know why the Chinese government hate Falun Gong (and Tibet) so bloody much. Perhaps we should put them in a room with a room full of suburban Sunday Christians. But take some rich cowboys from Alberta to reap the benefits. Yay, Alberta! From Religion News Blog à la the Edmonton Sun:
An unknown number of wealthy Albertans have travelled to China to buy vital organs harvested from executed devotees of the outlawed Falun Gong movement, says former Edmonton MP David Kilgour.

And he wants the crimes against humanity to stop.

“There’s no doubt people are going from Edmonton and Calgary to China to get new kidneys or new livers,” Kilgour told the Sun yesterday.

He said many of the organs sell for up to $70,000.

“Only foreigners in places like Alberta can afford to pay for them.”

Kilgour, former secretary of state for the Asia-Pacific region, says he has travelled to more than 30 countries while investigating allegations that an underground network of Chinese surgeons, nurses and hospital administration staff are harvesting organs for sale.

“We call it a form of inhumanity,” he said.

Kilgour co-wrote a report on the alleged atrocities last summer with Winnipeg human rights lawyer David Matas.

The two, who spoke at a U of A forum last night on China’s illicit organ harvesting and transplant tourism industry, are set to release a revised report next week in Ottawa.

The new report reveals “a lot more proof” that this practice, which began about mid-2001, is still going on, Kilgour said.

The former Liberal cabinet minister said Albertans need to know that if they’re going to China for an organ transplant, the chances are the organ was taken from a Falun Gong practitioner who was jailed for his or her beliefs.

“These are not executed criminals,” Kilgour said.

Meanwhile, local devotees of Falun Gong are awaiting the results of a judicial review.

Yesterday, Matas and colleague Shirish Chotalia contested a Crown prosecutor’s decision to not proceed with charges against a group of Chinese diplomats.

The lawyers contend anti-Falun Gong booklets distributed in June 2004 by the Chinese consulate in Calgary constituted hate propaganda.

A written decision is expected within the next few months.

Edmonton Sun, via CNEWS, Canada
Jan. 26, 2007
Cary Castagna

David Lynch interview

Interviewed by Andy Battaglia

David Lynch is a unique filmmaker, and one of the most elusive artists in any field. He created his own strange, at times unutterable, language of film in a directorial career that started with 1977's Eraserhead and expanded to include The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart, The Straight Story, Lost Highway, and Mulholland Dr. He redefined what network TV might be capable of weathering with his series Twin Peaks. He put together a personal website full of art and video of him reading weather reports from outside his California house. Lynch's latest offering is Inland Empire, a bracing film that revisits Mulholland Dr.'s metaphysical math and carries it out a few extra decimal places. It was shot on digital video and has thus far been self-distributed — two distinctions that Lynch has described as profound changes to his method. The A.V. Club drank cappuccino and talked in rounds with Lynch when he was in New York for Inland Empire's première.

Read the interview here.
Thanks to Scott in Vancouver for the link.

EDIT — I forgot to mention, for those interested and long-awaiting, that Twin Peaks Season Two is being released to DVD on 3 April 2007! Finally. (Amazon.com or .ca.) Sorry Europe, no info on your territory as of this update.

Woman’s face visible from space

In southern Alberta, near Medicine Hat, this is available in the extremely hilly terrain. Check out the Google Maps.

Just an example of how we see what we're familiar with, what makes sense to us, even if it's just chance development by nature. However, I don't know that for sure. It may be the soul of some faerie queen who once ruled that region of Alberta and Saskatchewan, forever enshrined for her glory and beauty by the resident fauns and nymphs before mankind stopped believing in them and their existence faded from memory.

Thanks to Geekologie for the map link!

EDIT — This fellow went out to the actual site to take a few pics. Link.

25 January 2007

Identity 2.0 presentation by Dick Hardt

OSCON 2005 Keynote – Identity 2.0
Dick Hardt | Founder & CEO, Sxip Identity

Watch Dick deliver a compelling and dynamic introduction on Identity 2.0 and how the concept of digital identity is evolving.

“Dick Hardt is brilliant. Watch (and copy) the style. Learn tons from the substance.”
—Lawrence Lessig

“Really captures the complexities of participating in an online world and how identity is at the center of the Web experience.”
—Dan Farber

“A barn-burner of a presentation. I loved this.”
—Cory Doctorow

“I watched it twice, and greatly enjoyed it both times.”
—Jon Udell

Ten Things to Ponder for 2007

My mother forwarded me this email:
10. Life is sexually transmitted.

9. Good health is merely the slowest rate at which one can die.

8. Men have two emotions: Hungry and Horny. If you see him without an erection, make him a sandwich.

7. Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach a person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks.

6. Some people are like a slinky... not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

5. Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in the hospital dying of nothing.

4. All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.

3. Why does a slight tax increase cost you two hundred dollars, and a substantial tax cut saves you thirty cents?

2. In the 60's, people took LSD to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.


We know exactly where one cow with mad-cow-disease is located among the millions and millions of cows in America, but we haven't a clue as to where thousands of Illegal immigrants and Terrorists are located.
Maybe we should put the Department of Agriculture in charge of immigration.

23 January 2007

43,000 Americans a year will die

Check out D.C. Simpson's I Drew This.
James, these are for you, buddy.

22 January 2007

Occulterati #7: Technocculterati

Occulterati #7: Technocculterati
Klint Finley and Don Eglinski join us to celebrate the anniversary of Technoccult, sacrifice live chickens.

Duration :: 00:28:36
Download :: MP3 (32.730MB)
Hosts :: Brenden Simpson, Wu

powered by ODEO

“Volume,” by United Visual Artists

V&A and PlayStation present Volume, created by United Visual Artists and onepointsix as part of the PlayStation Season.

A luminous interactive installation has transformed the V&A’s John Madejski Garden this winter. Volume is a sculpture of light and sound, an array of light columns positioned dramatically in the centre of the garden.

Volume responds spectacularly to human movement, creating a series of audio-visual experiences. Step inside and see your actions at play with the energy fields throughout the space, triggering a brilliant display of light and sound.

United Visual Artists' approach combines three disciplines: art direction, production design and software engineering. Our philosophy is to tightly integrate these elements to deliver real-time, immersive and responsive experiences.

We work equally with LED, traditional lighting and projection technologies as sculptural elements; our bespoke software approach allows us to use existing technologies in new and unusual ways.

We aim to work on a diverse and expanding range of projects, drawn from the commercial and non-commercial arenas, and to collaborate with a wide range of artists and companies.

Please check www.uva.co.uk for past projects & news.

How easily others affect our perception (of sexy-yum)

This BPS Research Digest post shows that context affects how attractive we find others before we even know them:
It seems beauty isn’t all in the eye of the beholder after all. Researchers have shown women rate a man as more attractive after they’ve seen another woman smiling at him. By contrast, being a jealous bunch, male observers rate a man as less attractive after they’ve seen a woman smiling at him.

Benedict Jones and colleagues at Aberdeen University’s Face Research Laboratory first asked 28 women and 28 men to rate the attractiveness of several pairs of male faces. Next they were shown the same pairs again, except this time one face in each pair was shown with a woman’s face staring at it from the side, either with a smiling or neutral expression. When the participants then rated the male faces for a second time, their ratings had changed for those male faces that had been stared at by a woman.

Female participants rated a male face as more attractive after it had been stared at by a smiling woman, but less attractive if a woman with a neutral expression had stared at it. By contrast, the male participants showed the opposite pattern, tending to rate a male face as less attractive after they’d seen a smiling woman looking at it.

The researchers said this shows our preference for a man’s face is affected by social cues we pick up from how other people look at him. Apparently a similar phenomenon occurs in the animal kingdom — for example female zebra finches prefer a male who they’ve previously seen paired with another female.

This reflects the fourth rule of seduction purported by Robert Greene in his Art of Seduction (which I've sumarised here for ease of reference):
Appear to be an Object of Desire
Create Triangles

Few are drawn to the person whom others avoid or neglect; people gather around those who have already attracted interest. We want what other people want. To draw your victims closer and make them hungry to possess you, you must create an aura of desirability — of being wanted and courted by many. It will become a point of vanity for them to be the preferred object of your attention, to win you away from a crowd of admirers. Manufacture the illusion of popularity by surrounding yourself with members of the opposite sex — friends, former lovers, present suitors. Create triangles that stimulate rivalry and raise your value. Build a reputation that precedes you: if many have succumbed to your charms, there must be a reason.

For more information, check out:
Jones, B.C., DeBruine, L.M., Little, A.C., Burriss, R.P. & Feinburg, D.R. (2007). Social transmission of face preferences among humans. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, published online (open access).

It’s just a word

Of course it's just a word. Just. It has more than a dozen iterations listed on Dictionary.com but the use I refer to is in its most limiting sense. It came up in a movie I saw this evening. It was used a just few times, but always the same: "She's just a child… It's just a woman… It's just the wind."

Working in the service industry, years ago I had a manager that once told me to never refer to anything we served as just this or just that. Never make the customer feel guilty for not buying something pricier, such as, "Would you like a glass of wine or just some water?"

It is a word that kills magic.

To most adults, magic is just silly, just figments of our imagination, just plain stupid.

Though they'd never buy a retort like, It just is!

“Tower of Incompatibabel”

Pixel artist eBoy has posted a new graphic entitled "Tower of Incompatibabel" (link) that very neatly makes the connection between DRM and proprietary formats and the dystopia that followed the fall of the Tower of Babel.

I was just writing about the problem of language, understanding, and Babel recently on Technoccult: "From Xibalba to Babel, it’s conceptual vacation time!" As has been said before, history repeats itself in one manner or another. We're wont to repeat it all over. From the peoples of Mesopotamia or the Mayan Quiché people (see linked post) to the modern struggles for proprietary digital rights management (DRM) systems. The struggle for control creates contexts which justify the ownership and we can't move ahead to work on unraveling the grander mysteries of ourselves and our world.

(Speaking of which, Ubuntu is releasing Ubuntu Studio for you open source creative media types out there!)

via Boing Boing à la Architectures of Control in Design

“I Love Life”

From Wednesday Spaghetti:
The "Taking A Moment To Pause and Take Stock in Life" post made us do just that. Dan's words were incredibly touching and raised a lot of questions about what we're all doing in life, and the reasons for it too. It reminded us of a recent work that popped up in Dublin overnight. It's a beautiful piece done by our dear friends at BLuE bRIckS over the holiday season.

via the Wooster Collective

19 January 2007

My favourite discovered quotes of 2006

Ercan Akyol, Turkish caricaturist, Bak issue #5:
It is important that art is produced, but it also has to be consumed. The dynamics of producers and consumers is the motor of art.

Daniel Goleman:
The range of what we think and do
is limited by what we fail to notice.
And because we fail to notice
that we fail to notice
there is little we can do
to change
until we notice
how failing to notice
shapes our thoughts and deeds.

C. G. Jung:
In neither case should they be taken literally, for they are not to be understood semiotically, as signs for definite things, but as symbols. A symbol is an indefinite expression with many meanings, pointing to something not easily defined and therefore not fully known. But the sign always has a fixed meaning, because it is a conventional abbreviation for, or a commonly accepted indication of, something known. The symbol therefore has a large number of analogous variants, and the more of these variants it has at its disposal, the more complete and clear-cut will be the image it projects of its object.

Gerald Schueler, "Chaos and the Psychological Symbolism of the Tarot":
Jung differentiated a sign from a symbol. A true symbol can never be fully explained, while a sign can be fully explained insofar as the conscious ego is concerned. Symbols themselves are archetypal, and they are expressed verbally in terms of signs. We can say, then, that a sign is an individual's interpretation of an archetypal symbol.

James Harvey Robinson:
Most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do.

Robin Robertson, "Number as Archetype":
Time after time, we have seen how ideas gestate over a long period of time, then emerge whole, seemingly out of nowhere. But, of course, they do not really appear out of nowhere; they develop out of sight in the unconscious, only to emerge in the consciousness of a small number of supremely gifted individuals whose minds are flexible enough to stretch and include strange new concepts.

Robert Anton Wilson:
Every fact of science was once Damned. Every invention was considered impossible. Every discovery was a nervous shock to some orthodoxy. Every artistic innovation was denounced as fraud and folly. The entire web of culture and "progress," everything on earth that is man-made and not given to us by nature, is the concrete manifestation of some man's refusal to bow to Authority. We would own no more, know no more, and be no more than the first apelike hominids if it were not for the rebellious, the recalcitrant, and the intransigent. As Oscar Wilde truly said, "Disobedience was man's Original Virtue."

Alchemical Studies, Vol 13, para. 335 (pp. 265):
One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

PS — I'm back…