Wednesday, 30 May 2012

bootstrap or birthright

For a land built for the most part on immigration, it seems sometimes like an arcane technicality that only natural born United States citizens can hold the office of presidency. I found the Birther hysteria undignified and distracting, although I didn't much appreciate California's bid a few years ago to amend the US Constitution so that a cyborg could become president. Turning the tables a bit, Reuters' examined the birth certificate of another contender in the election, illustrating that though a generation removed, the issue invited controversy and interpretation in the other camp as well. The candidate's father was born in Mexico, and once upon a time, sought the nomination of his political party to vie against Richard Nixon as a more moderate choice. The campaign was short-lived but demanded a definition of what a natural citizen is exactly, his parents both Americans. At the time, most judges and experts agreed with his reading. It does not seem, however, that being born outside of US territory was quite accidental, since religious colonies of dissidents were founded there to protest another very special type of non-traditional marriage that the US federal government was against and the family only, it seems, returned to America because of the Mexican Revolution.

halcyon or build your vocabulary


I suppose proper, soothing words for the most part cannot be easily copy-written, which has lead to an overflowing of creativity and confusing ingenuity with naming commercial pharmaceuticals. The talented and entertaining Whovian and blogger Bob Canada has an amusing list of drug names that could pass as SAT-grade vocabulary words. My favourite is:
Cataflam
interjection.
Something the early Jerry Lewis used to bleat out in his movies. "Oy, Mr. Lady, please stop with the hitting and the hurting and the cataflam!"
 It's funny because I don't know what any of these medicines are. What alternative definitions would you come up with for the products in your life?

pyrrhic victory or yes, we have no bleeding turnips

“Another such victory and I am undone.”

The ethos of the battlefield has, for the most part, been relegated to the invisible and agnostic sphere of finance, which has created an aversion to bloodshed and protracted war-making, since that is not a good climate for business—most business, likely there’s a calculus for acceptable loss and trigger for cutting-off the profits for the infernal machines, but it also tends to overshadow the “retrograde” and black market skirmishes that still go on and the people who take part in these sorties and surprises. The majority of what passes as an economic victory (although industry innovation and what’s now called a come-back or revival, like with Ireland or Iceland and what will happen for the Greek people, is not being entertained with this category of robber-baron success) is little cause for celebration (DE/EN), priced in terms of bankruptcy for the competition, the bleeding dry of stake-holders (shareholders and debtors), loss of jobs and living-standards, and trend-setting easily overturned that’s mere redistribution among the oligarchs. What are deemed key institutions are even sustained after being vanquished at the expense of public treasure. Those who would like to see struggling members of the European currency union quickly dispatched and dismissed unwillingly, rather than risk a sort of economic cold war, are rushing away from triumph. The EU’s proponents and founders could not have anticipated the spread of the economic collapse and that such a crisis would force a sober discussion of policy (how taxation and budgets are drafted) integration and is not using the plight of some members to justify the hegemony of others—rather this experiment in amalgamation, an imperfect union, shows how diminished the whole would be without its constituent parts and that the abridgement of differences is no basis for abandonment or ejection. Though the belligerents of politics and finance are intertwined, there’s principle enough, I hope, within the governments (at the behest of the people and not business or self-interest alone) to make the right decisions and have cause to celebrate.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

faux château

Some might be too quick to savour the irony of the Chinese being victims of counterfeit goods, but I did think it was an interesting reversal to hear that the outrageous popularity of red wine, for its health benefits and cuisine pairing opportunity, especially from certain growers like Château Lafite Rothschild of the Médoc region, has inspired imposters wanting in on the action. In the Chinese market, some vintages can fetch a price of several thousand euros per bottle, and knock-offs are emerging--mostly new wine in old bottles. Wine from this estate have always commanded premium prices, where ever they are sold, however. In the main, the penchant is for the French tradition but wines from elsewhere are becoming popular, too. It would be disappointing and embarrassing for a member of the cult of connoisseurs to fall for such a trick, but the subject of luxury and trendy refinement is a strange thing, especially when the substitute passes muster.

freude oder schadenfreude

Though not everything in the world is being influenced by the state of financial affairs and cultural mores and norms are not always so neatly packaged, a study commissioned by a consulting firm and a liquor distributor is showing that the typical German is having difficulty expressing his or her genetic make-up for joy—something is defective in the bio-chemistry preventing, as it were, the DNA replicating and passing along a capacity for fun and leisure to its messenger RNA. There are stereotypes of the exacting and gloomy German, which might be drawn into sharper focus in the current economic climate where two factions have emerged, like the industrious ant and the lazy grasshopper.  This survey, for what it’s worth, really provided some interesting insights about a growing imbalance between work and play. The lens of parable is an apt analogy, with the Germans are weathering the financial crisis with patrician discipline but also too burdened to enjoy how good they have it—collectively and individually, it seems.

They are victims of their own success in another way (not just as beneficiaries of the chaos) too, being spoiled for choice, and the obligation to take up any one of a number of pleasurable pursuits is ringing hollow as a weird and funny (uncomfortably accurate observations, some) sort jealousy comes into effect: jealous of the Joneses, one’s neighbours, as etiquette and appearances dictate, but also being unable to embrace the stylings of Club Med. This is not universally true, of course, and there are plenty of exceptions and recent moments of pride and of joy, suggesting that we’ve simply gotten to be forgetful and misguided and hopefully not naturally dour, but it is worth noting how people rate (and whether they considered their grumpiness—or happiness unique or abnormal beforehand) themselves and how they look from another perspective.

Monday, 28 May 2012

papercraft

Some weeks ago it was suggested that the United States will expand (turn inward) its vigourous disinformation and propaganda operations to help sway domestic opinion. There mere hint of more government sanctioned red-herrings diluting journalism—especially when the mainstream and most hard-hittingest comes pre-fabricated in the forms of internet research, stock-photographs and sponsored articles (take the case of the on-going tumult of confusion in Syria, for example)—has met the requirement and served up a hopeless dose of distrust without doing anything further. To bring the level of skepticism this high effectively negates the public’s ability to rally around any cause (or any health-conscious person or stock-market croupier for that matter), since one is not just looking at stance, ideology and motivation with a suspicious eye, which was always advisable, but now has cause also to doubt the veracity of the movement itself. It is as if Anonymous or any protest group is not just prone to infiltration but could be nothing more than a strawman of stuffed-ballots and a colossal toolbox of popular sentiment. To bait the public with such hoaxes is the censoring of the word gullible from the dictionary but puts conspiracy into everything once there is no way of verifying trustworthy sources.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

geisterstädte

Der Spiegel’s English-language stories section reports on an exhibition in Berlin about contemporary ghost-towns and the deliberate choices and accidents of history that are creating the phenomenon.

One nearly abandoned town featured in the museum’s profiles is Centralia in Pennsylvania, which became depopulated due to trash burning on this day in 1962 that got out of control and spread to a network of underground shafts of a disused coal mine. The area became unlivable (and restricted due to concerns over health and safety) and the fire is still smoldering. The coincidence of the timing between the anniversary and the opening of the exhibit caught my attention initially, and I found that although authentic ghost towns are relatively rare and Centralia unique, eternal coal dust fires are not, and there is one to visit just outside of Dudweiler (DE/EN) in the Saarland that has been stoked since early Baroque times. The town’s fate inspired the horror film Silent Hill and has held attention and the imagination over the past half a century. The exhibition explores what piques this fascination for the recently abandoned, decommissioned and maybe these mementos mori forces one to contemplate how long our presence can linger in a place without us.

torch song

Protests and boycotts are always of a selective nature. Parallel to the threats by some European countries to sit-out the Euro 2012 final matches to be held in the Ukraine over the host’s treatment of its former prime-minister (apparently having had selectively made an example out of her perceived violation of public-trust) and even propose the games be held in another venue, like Germany or Poland, holding the Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan was not without controversy.

Just as it is a valid question whether a soccer tournament ought to be treated as a political football or is a matter for personal and private convictions or international attention on other issues is not out-competed by the competition, many groups wondered if Baku was the right host with a poor record of human rights, including allegations of a rash of attacks against journalists that went uninvestigated and the forced removal of residents from the location where the auditorium was built for the show. Confrontations were subdued ahead of the gala, whose tradition began nearly sixty years ago as a way to test cross-compatibilities of different national broadcasters and native systems across Europe in a live event. And although the show is meant to be apolitical and some regard the whole affair as something square and un-hip (though probably very much the opposite), it still relevant and demonstrates compatibilities and cultural interpretations (which are sometimes translated with considerable license) with a review of distinct ballads and reinventions of pop songs. Though protests and boycotts did not materialize, the producers made me happy (in addition to fun performances by the Babushkas, the Iranian Reindeer, a reprise of the Irish twins and others) because they did not avoid the subject of human-rights and justice in televised profiles of the host country and presented it as a challenge. Because of the spirit of the Eurovision, I think, unlike with other grand extravaganzas, Azerbaijan won’t be forgotten with only the fancy band shell to remind them once how they were once the focus of a critical and concerned eye.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

not to scale



Before going on vacation or otherwise leaving your house to a care-taker, it would be helpful to provide your neighbours or your house-sitter a floor plan or layout of your pad for orientation purposes and to more easily find all your house-plants, the fire extinguisher in an emergency, et cetera. One can even be very detailed with the symbols and legend, communicating a specific watering-schedule, although I suppose most trusted care-takers could figure it out on their own. Making a domestic map for whatever purpose (a scavenger hunt, a serious housekeeper regiment, an escape route or just getting to know better one's topology) from memory and then comparing it to the actual dimensions and sharp corners and inventories of furniture is an interesting exercise, to see how well one sees through the walls recreated and can place things within them.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

bottle of red, bottle of white


We’re no connoisseurs just yet but with the heat of the summer descending on us and for want of something lighter and with a bit less of a wallop, but we are enjoying discovering white wine as well, instead of just the usual spectrum of reds. That white wine does not seem as strong is a bit counterintuitive to me and I suppose one must consider all the chemistry to appreciate the different notes.

Of course there are red grapes and white grapes but some whites are produced from the same variety as a reds, just with the skin and the gradient of alcohol content is not always a factor—sort of like teas, in all colours, coming from the same tea tree, only harvested, dried and prepared different ways. Another distinction that white wine has earned, either in fact or possibly by association, is that some vintages contain traces of the element lithium. In various concentrations, all soil has lithium in it, so it would stand to reason that a red wine cultivated on a neighbouring vineyard would also have a natural dose of lithium, which some count as another benefit of wine, acting in small amounts as a mood-stabilizer and generally lifting spirits and apparently promoting civility. Consider the wine producing places of the world. Maybe it has something to do with the fruit expressed, however, since it seems that many (but not all) foods are white or light coloured: rice, grains, asparagus, bananas, cucumbers, cabbage and cauliflower. Maybe it’s more an elective affinity having to do with the theory of colours. A man-made tonic, bright, effervescing and an anti-cola, 7-Up was introduced in the 1930s as “Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda.” Later, the lithium was removed from the recipe but the formula was re-branded “seven-up” as an homage to the atomic mass of the element and for its elevating effects.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

chinese fire-drill

Cornered with prospects of more market bubbles (a dot-com bust redux of 1999 and 2008 after a less than stellar performance of a networking platform that’s only, but, not merely, the sum of its user-generated antics), aspersions are quick to be cast out, like so many throwing-stars and there are the usual targets, scapegoats.

Revelations that, after several years of negotiations, the Chinese central bank has been afforded direct access to the Federal Reserve’s treasuries auctions without having to go through a middle man, a Wall Street bank, to complete the transaction—bidding on, buying US debt, have raised headline indignation. While it is a fact that no other bank, domestic or foreign reserve bank, has this special privilege and everyone else must use a Wall Street intermediary and that does raise some suspicion in itself (especially in light of another revelation involving military contracts and knock-off computing components), it does seem like a false-flag diversion to first question why buying up American liabilities is facilitated for China and deflates the underlying premises: even the transactions between the Federal Reserve and government agencies are brokered by major investment banks, charging a commission, and perhaps other institutions ought to wonder about the special privilege that these select middlemen have. Are the bankers of Wall Street less than trustworthy? Should the US manufacturing Would more public disclosure of any country’s debt-buying activities (mediated through a bank) cue market volatility or keep prices low for the bidding pool of a closed-auction? Should such a pyramid-scheme be any country’s or institution’s primary means of staying afloat, no matter what nation is buying? Looking for engineered snares and backdoors, regardless of who’s the trigger and who’s the trapper, and cyber-warfare is healthy and circumspect paranoia, but overshadows more basic questions that should be asked of America’s penchant for off-shoring—its defense and its public obligations.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

unkraut bleibt unkraut or a fist full of flowers

There is a German tongue-twister that goes, Blaukraut bleibt Blaukraut und Brautkleid bleibt Brautkleid—that is, red cabbage stays red cabbage and a wedding dress stays a wedding dress.
I don’t find it so much of a challenge to enunciate but believe it has philosophical value, especially as a tongue-twister which is not. Unkräuter are weeds (not herbs) and belongs to a funny class of German words with Unwetter (storms, bad weather), Unding (an anti-thing, something impossible or unbelievable), Unart (not disciplined, a bad habit), Unverstandnis (a misunderstanding) and Unwort (a contrived nonce word). After getting some flowers for the balcony, quite by accident and not even in view of the home improvement/garden store where we found the geraniums, I spied this advertisement for a much decorated and controversial brand of weed-killer. Germany has roundly rejected the other toxic vertical monopolies of this agribusiness concern, at least publically, pressuring their genetically modified foodstuffs into exile and not subscribing to the patented plantation-style farming programme (a modular scheme where gardeners and farmers are obligated to buy all the precisely formulated extras—from seeds to fertilizer to insecticides), and I don’t know anyone here who would go to the time and expense of forgoing getting one’s hands dirty and doing a little gardening and maybe even tolerating the spare weed.  I was happy to see that this billboard’s location was not an affront, and was relegated to an alley by a casino and a discount store, like an advertisement for cigarettes.

svegliarsi

The latest earthquake that has devastated the northern Italian regions of Emilia and Romagna is a spiraling nightmare for the people of that area, whose realizations, the rugged landscape of disaster are quick to manifest after the initial shock and immediate loss. Not only are families dealing with bodily injury, lost lives and being displaced from their homes, they are also facing the loss of their livelihoods moment by moment as factories remain closed—so too shops, hotels and resorts, and the damage done to many historic landmarks is not just a blow potentially for the tourism industry but these fortresses and churches are a font of community, pride and character. Local producers might see a huge batch of ripening cheeses go to waste, unable to reach the aging rooms. As residents survey the rubble and struggle to get their immediate affairs in order, there are the sombre declarations that there is no money to rebuild. Cushion-less financial rigour is easily buckled by nature’s unreckoned discipline, and one cannot hope to promote recovery and growth by allowing any one community to wither. I hope these towns and villages are able to recuperate and save their historic and cultural treasures and not suffer alone, and as a result, that governments on all levels not connive to come up with exit or ejection strategies, assigning blame, but rather, in response to this tragedy, come up with ways to assist, which is really the meaning of union.

Monday, 21 May 2012

sock puppet or propagaИda

Bundled and buried within the US omnibus defense bill is a rather unassuming rider that would overturn protections for the American public from being subjected to disinformation campaigns by the government and the military. Proponents of this language argue that past measures, which came into force after World War II and a bit ahead of the Red Scare, makes for ineffective diplomatic correspondence in demanding a measure of accuracy in message and reporting, and the success of propaganda used on terrorists in foreign lands is too promising and ought not to be squandered on domestic audiences. I suppose now it might be even more of a challenger to discern the hype from the distraction and truth, half-true from the total fabrication.

canary in a coal mine

It is not as if we have all collectively woken up in some bizarro-universe that’s suddenly, jarringly ruled by the friction, influence and speed of money, not the viscosity or ingenuity of wealth.


It was a gradual process, of course, and financial collapses have happened for eons, speculating on war, religion, tea, whale oil, opium and even tulips (Tulpen), and the systemic development has transformed money from a store of wealth into an instrument, a fishing-lure or a decoy that’s tossed into the wilds with hopes to bait more. Maybe one day in the future the indebtedness of petty kingdoms, petroleum, gold, and industry stability will seem just as anodyne and antiquated, insofar as economic indicators go. This newly established energia has not only created a casino atmosphere with high-stakes and lighting fast reversals of fortune, it has also invited unthinkable mingling of tools and vessels and self-regulation, where the office of the banker and bursar are one and the same.
A sufficiently sophisticated economy will certainly grow to incorporate a service and servicing sector, but the enforcement of a regulatory framework should not be totally outstripped either: mingling and forced fraternization ought not be tolerated—building and loans should not be trying to ensnare savers with investment opportunities (not tempted to cover losses and reduce risks by mixing funds), likewise, perhaps automobile manufacturers should not be boasting a banking and loan division that justifies its own sales, nor should the central banks that set monetary policy be governed and influenced by executives (of their familiars) of the private financial institutions they are trying to buoy up (with public funds). There is no threshold beyond which an institution is too big to fail, but rather it is measured, I think, to the extent that it estranges people and resources from their purpose, and the insistence of maintaining such a status ensures corporate welfare, reduces liability for loss over (encouraged) precarious behavior, placates clients and limits scrutiny and regulation.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

six degrees, sechs grad

Researchers at the University of Heidelberg extrapolating from the native nosiness of plug-ins and sharing short-cuts have mapped out a shadow network of a-social students, predicting connections with a fair degree of accuracy. A match rate of forty percent, as the New Scientist article reports, may not sound so revealing but I am sure it can be a little disconcertingly prying and people are shunted as terrorists and put on no-fly lists for more tenuous and specious reasons, never mind the targeted advertising.

This experiment is not reproducing the tactics of the prominent social networks, but is rather a rhetorical exercise to demonstrate how it can be done. Having recently tried to be forgotten (though I only managed to deactivate my moribund account, not delete it), I find the persistence of memory to be the most disturbing. I still get barrages of emails, and if I am viewing a site with an invitation to endorse or ingratiate myself over said networking site, I am invited, by name, to re-animate my account. One should tread carefully, and perhaps the lesson is that one should maintain a healthy and vibrant fake social life, in order to ensure that the internet is not making the wrong assumptions about what one likes or dislikes or who one is friends with.

clair-obscur

A few days ago, we visited a castle ruin positioned high on a promontory. It was really interesting besides, I thought, how the intact and the missing architectural elements channeled light and shadow over this sightseeing playground with a commanding view of the surrounding Rhön region below.

The portals in the galleries and arcades were fitted out with these sleek red wooden shutters and doors (looking especially modern scaling the high, heavy wall of windows), and it seemed that this setting would make a very nice and authentic venue for banquet or for a party.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

ozymandias or call for submissions

I suppose that the nature of public art and installations has changed significantly, given the volume lent to the voice of praise and criticism and that the failure or success of icons—landmarks, anchors, can be instantly and broadly adjudicated.

While looking at some of the new monuments being readied for London and reading about the generally negative reception regarding this legacy of eye-sores, I was thinking how public artwork has changed as well through corporate sponsorship: stadia, libraries, towers and parks still can bear the marks of megalomaniacal egos for something colossal and enduring but unlike the pyramids, temples and theatres (or even military parades), the public is estranged from the selection and even the building process. Sometimes, it seems too, that there’s not enough space, patience or time to contain these grand aspirations (though the lasting inheritance becomes the accompanying security presence in many cases) and to impress with equally indulgent sums of money, so volunteering or competing to host high-profile events can placate the collective need for awe and something akin to respect. The hosts and underwriters do well with these elite and exclusive congresses, grabbing the public’s attention without regard for their lack of involvement, displaced and without the option to protest or participate. London’s becoming a fine example of this shilling and pandering, but so are other places too, in grand and imperial style, like the US eagerly agreeing to entertain the world’s leadership in a succession of conferences, the G8 and NATO summits, closely followed by the Bilderberg Group’s (DE/EN) meeting.

Friday, 18 May 2012

jubilee or augean stables

Setting a bad example is sometimes just a pedantic argument. Negative encouragement, I think, is probably not worse than market-contagion.

Wouldn’t it have been easier, foregoing a lot of pantomime and drama, and less costly in terms of make-believe wealth and real livelihoods to have simply forgiven Greek sovereign-debt plus given the country some seed-money to start over and written the expense off as sunk-costs? To force out any member of the Euro Zone against their will is counter to the spirit of integration that the EU represents, but also is the insistence on inclusion, when it comes with too high a tribute, with a list of impossible sacrifices and challenges that read in short-form like the Twelve Labours of Hercules. Just as Greece (and now the outgoing French government, who are sure to be in good company) have been accused of underestimating their financial standing and potential severity of the problems, rankling turmoil could have been staunched and discounted by now, instead of dragging out the whole affair. Integration also means the acceptance of common-losses, and though the solution, after the can has been kicked down the road for quite a piece and the problems have swelled, will be universally disliked, they can still be absorbed by the economy of the union. Lenders and debtors conspired to exacerbate these conditions until they came undeniably into our range of vision. Off-putting the developing urgency of some markets makes for an unflattering reflection of our own delay-tactics and the messy regrets over not quashing a trend while it was still emergent and manageable.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

serfdom or golden thread

The purported tax-avoidance scheme of one internet entrepreneur has once again set the brain-trust of the United States of America into over-drive and grand-standing with a retaliatory plan to glean taxes from individuals who choose expatriation. Already the US is a soured thug in terms of tax treaties, demanding its cut from citizens worldwide, regardless of their place of residence and regardless of whether the targeted income was earned with the help from the homeland, made travel a distasteful affair beyond even beyond its borders, place the burden of reporting on foreign banks so as to make them wary about dealing with Americans abroad.
The proposed law would seek to repatriate tax revenues, impose withholdings and an exit-fee—in addition to barring these individuals from returning to the States. Plenty to do at the Hotel California. I am sure that this bill, should it come to pass and much worse is being done, will not affect cosmopolitan billionaires (the timing of this whole casus belli seems pretty tacky but it is unclear whether the media or the government is rightly understanding the motives and no individual ought to have to defend his or her reasons, especially political ones, for making such a choice), those brazenly berthing their fortunes off-shore or corporations that hide behind a string of nationalities, but for the average citizen, it demands that he or she would face undue hardships should they choose to immigrate. America’s bastions are not only uninviting to immigration, the gate-guards are saying that one cannot leave either. It sounds suspiciously like the policies of Soviet Russia whose restrictions on movement presented many with the difficult decision to remain or flee forever. Despite the reactionary nature of this proposal, I wonder if there was ever much difference between the two super-powers—especially within the self-styled framework of a monopolar world.

type case or alphabet city

Artist Hong Seon Jang has constructed several breath-taking model urban skylines from salvaged letterpress dies. More of this vintage typography turned topology can also be found featured on the estimable Colossal, an art and design blog boasting an array of fresh and interesting discoveries. These industrial dreamscapes remind me of the metropolis of the sci-fi film-noir classic, Dark City (DE/EN).

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

kitchenware revolution

While much of the world’s attention was focused on the hopeful inauguration of Barack Obama in the United States, many missed the culminating moments of the protests in Iceland against the recklessness and corruption of their former government, clanging pots and pans and marching on the Alþingi by the thousands.
The Icelandic people had already accepted enough deprivation in witnessing a significant percentage of the national treasure evaporate and many of their young people, without prospects for their futures, migrate to other countries, but were unwilling to suffer further austerity over private debts with public money. Though an investigative commission found wrong-doing and fraud on the part of borrowers and lenders and in government oversight was inchoate in the bulk of transactions and several plebiscites rejected repayment, the governments of Britain and the Netherlands (the major blowhards behind Iceland’s economic bubble) are threatening to take the country to the EU court over failure to make good on these loans. This movement of 2009, which previsions if not fathers others, is a template for the international Occupy rallies and demonstrates that people are not at the mercy of banking thugs. Iceland is still recovering but its reputation and demeanor does not seem diminished, nor its prospects for success, and real change is being affected by the infusion of ordinary members of the public—independent and with no political affiliations—into public policy and the parliament. The reversal of political orientation and the need to prevent the same financial backsliding drafted all citizens to revise their constitution. In light of current events and the amnesia of novelty and panic, we should look to Iceland’s stand.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

farmageddon, pharmageddon

Just because there is the gloomy, heavy drapery of bankers’ crises and the pummeling occasion of planters’ style democracy obscuring the next assault that’s waiting in the wings, we would be faithfully remiss to lose sight of what could come. Bread—or cake—is of course the honey-pot, the next investment opportunity aggressively peddled, of bread and circuses, and I believe it is not so kooky or implausible to imagine that the present chaos is apt disguise for a handful of companies that are merging farms and pharmaceuticals to make local governments fold and adopt measures that have become prevalent elsewhere.

Despite some damage done to the repute of the environmental movement, many places have not faltered on agricultural and ecological policies, opposing genetically modified crops, most immature subsidies and expedient practices, like turning wholly to raising corn for ethanol or abandoning time-tested methods like crop-rotation. An unnatural experimental harvest could certainly (with the promise of money) supplant native legacy. I fear, with decreasing chances to profit on human gullibility, the focus could turn more to human suffering (hunger-management, erosion, deforestation), edging out local and sustainable operations that have knitted together the countryside with demands not easily refused or maintained, fields infiltrated with habit-forming, patented yields. Such invasive creations come from the same laboratories that have made certain invented disorders a cause-celeb and conveniently manufacture the medicines to treat such ailments, creating dependency with an army of co-conspirators.

golden parachute

Why is it that financial institutions seem to be the last ones to suffer and made to accept the blame in moments of crisis? Of course, numerous banks are being battered by outside appraisers, but that affects the clients that have graciously allowed the banks to hold their money—or not just hold it, in many cases, but rather do something risky and maybe a bit evil, subversive with it too—but restructured or commandeered, the money-managers are not allowed to lose, while credit, savings and mortgages for the public flitter away or are leveraged with insurmountable interest rates to guard against instability.
Of course, these imbalances are compounded in business and government as well, in the forms of lost capital, revenue and social-services. If any other utility—and again that’s all that any bank is, like the electric company or Reading Railroad—business enterprise or government failed as consistently and unapologetically to deliver, they would be rightfully remediated or dismissed.
The same financial institutions that are bringing the euro to the brink, like giant babies in some blameless but willfully destructive playpen, are admitting to nothing, nor being held with any responsibility by their host governments that created the framework for them to raise amazing wealth. I don’t think there is any extraordinary conspiracy behind the governments of the European Union trying to cobble together a fragile fiscal pact four years after certain inevitabilities became apparent (other than the anodyne corruption of politics and wealth). 
Delay and unchecked speculation, however, has only afforded the chance for bankers—not the cleverest or most creative lot—to huddle in their war-rooms and quietly, only eking out panic in controlled doses—prepare to re-tabulate the score, drafting the new financial order while economic ministers obliged with a believable cover, again deflecting blame and becoming the saving champions of the markets.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

dramaturgy

There has been an awful back-draft lashing European politics and markets, sparked by the exercise of public prerogatives that seemingly did not follow the right plan.

All this angst and run-away conclusions are more than a little bit off-putting, since by demonstrating and maintaining a plurality within the framework of one currency, no borders—and even the framework itself might not be the essential part, worth preserving at the expense of its constituents—people, the public, politicians and the press (as opposed to dogmatists, demagogues and the media who are practiced dramaturges, re-characterizing the whole affair and dictating how people ought to think, wither and tremble) are talking above the general din about policy compatibilities and tenable directions. I think the counter argument that the pot has no right to criticize the kettle until it solves its own issues can be abused and is a childish way for preempting a discussion: the EU did not appreciate the irony of America’s economic chiding, coming in a variety of forms.
Nothing was ventured, as a result, about the structural differences, maintaining a plurality in both super-states but one noticeably without mechanisms for intervention. The US Federal government is not telling the States, like Texas, that do not levy an individual income tax on its residents to do so or accuse some localities of providing too many incentives. Maybe, however, it will come to that and we still maybe unwilling to learn from one another, since economic problems can always be masked behind a glossier façade of potential for profit and assigning blame is easier than accepting change. A crisis is always driven by under-estimates (willful or unintentional) that cannot hope to keep enthusiasm in check.

bottle of wine, fruit of the vine

If one looks at this label a-scant (especially after a glass or two from the bottle), it seems to read vinetards, instead of the word for a plantation for the cultivation of grapes (Weinberg). That really sounds like an insult, and I think that one would no longer fancy himself a connoisseur of fine wine after being called that, nor does it seem a particularly favourable endorsement for having bought said bottle of wine, which was actually quite good.

happy mothers' day



To all Mothers, everywhere--and especially ours.










Thursday, 10 May 2012

idle hands and the devil's workshop

While clearing out some neglected filing cabinets at work, I came across a packet of educational materials, first noticing the awesome hand drawn mimeotype symbols, but then I read the short essay and realized that hysteria, fear-mongering and urban legends about Satanic Cults in the 1980s is no different from the phenomena of terrorism and security—except that fretful parents did not need the constant drone of government to reinforce fears and were able to sustain worry over whether their children were in a cult or were going to be abducted or sacrificed. It was also a scary and weird time, and enough horrible things go on without being fixated on nebulous threats that never surfaced—just like now.
Cults (the essay's title), which takes a very scientific and exhaustive approach to the topic begins: “This is a sensitive subject. One of the ideals this country is founded on is freedom of religion. Satanism is a recognized religion.” What other recognized religions could be substituted nowadays? This anonymous study is worth reading in the grainy typewritten original with the tone of an after-school special, and the lists of suspicious activities and warning signs become a modern allegory for the recommended reactions and misgivings of terrorists-hunters and holy-rollers.

portal or long night of the museum

Over the weekend, we took advantage of the extended operating hours of Saxony’s cultural attractions and visited a few neat exhibits. One monu- mentally huge gallery housed in a gasometer, a gas bell, formerly used for the urban storage of natural case, was dizzying in scale and gawking up at the lattice ceiling high overhead reminded me of that V’Ger machine entity from Star Trek: The Motion Picture—who kept a holographic menagerie of the sights it encountered, projecting down a whole virtual reality cascade.

The immersive experience of the visual panorama was of course the chief draw, but being inside industrially giant and industrially unfamiliar, unreachable architecture was extra-ordinary as well. Sometimes the installation, the frame can be nearly as dazzling as the contents.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

a town called bad karma or unicorn chaser

Reflecting on Victory in Europe Day, the instruments of surrender signed and witnessed late in the night of the 8th of May and hence Victory Day in Russia and Eastern Europe due to the time difference, and the commemoration of the formation of the predecessor to the European Union that followed barely a scant decade later, is a bit diminished for being subjected to the current filters of disloyalty and disunion.

Forging a united Europe should not be without flexibility and forgiveness, nor at the expense of individual dignities. The conception was not perfect and neither are the realities and incom-patibilities of day-to-day operations, but I thought that we were moving beyond that frame of mind, no more entrapment and petty skirmishes and no more convenient amnesia. To compare the manufactured crises of economics to the untold tragedies of war is petty and cause for offence, but—though politics and popular sentiment can be moved greatly by either upheaval—despite anger and irreversible damage done in the war, the victors did not retaliate. Though defeated Germany could have been broken utterly and completely by demands for reparations (like after the First War—which albeit, did not turn out so well; I sometimes call our fair village by that name, not because its not a nice place but since it has an exceedingly common name and earned the stand-out designation of Bad [Spa, stand-out among its similarly named peers, that is] only just after it was one of the first towns to acknowledge and congratulate Adolf Hitler on his coup d’etat, Machtergreifung), its people were allowed to rebuild and recover.
Germany certainly has done many great things to recuperate and to contribute to peaceable formation of the European Union but has not done so without outside support and a stable substrate. This contrary and exclusive thinking that sees no growing imbalance in Europe’s social priorities is not a very appropriate way to regard the day, and it reminds me of the forgetfulness of some of the better-off of America’s campaigners (followed by a loyal base of supporters) who’d now begrudge a nation and a system that created the environment that fostered and protected their success its dues. A little gratitude can urge anyone towards improvement.  Please now allow the Eurocorn to chase away the negativity in this dark post.

chirality

With travel season approaching, many will be using rental vehicles to bridge the gaps in their vacation plans or tour about the countryside. It can turn into quite a frustration queuing up to fill up one’s unfamiliar car and realize that one is not sure if the tank is on the left or the right side. I’ve wondered what manufacturing conventions govern the distribution of gas-tank configuration and are some popular makes at a disadvantage—chiral is a term for a sort of chemical-handedness, the way molecules twist towards the right or towards the left. Most modern cars, models that one is likely to get at the rental shops, however, do have a very subtle tell in the instrument panel: the little flag by the pump symbol points towards the side the gas tank is on.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

beeswax

Over on the inestimable site Boing Boing, Hannah Nordhaus presents a very circumspect and sad essay about the fact that our honey bees are still dying all over the world and the cause(s) remain a mystery. Against the deadly seriousness of the grave prospect of a collapse of agricultural system that works and that we work in, a spate of triumphant and heroic headlines appeared, declaring the mystery solved. I have the impression that I did notice a few more errant bees this year than the year before, but maybe I was subscribing to the same journalistic deadlines and public attention span (the same sort of reporting that relegates Fukushima to the distance past), because beekeepers know that their numbers are still in decline. Hives do not only die dramatically, and by hook or by crook, there are several suspects but the evidence is unclear on how to remedy this disturbing situation. Could it be pesticides, monoculture crops, killer bees, climate change, electro-smog from cellular telephone masts, genetically modified plants or a parasite that’s easy to implicate? This is a development we can ill-afford to be complacent about, dismissing a problem because it is no longer on the press-horizon.

kαταναλωτισμός or conspicuous consumption

While it is premature and insulting to suggest that Greece, failing to form a definitive coalition government after its legislative elections that were themselves held in the framework of a caretaker government ingratiated as a condition of the first bailout package, will flagrantly choose to not uphold its obligations—attracting no clear majority though like-mindedness abounds—it does beg the question at what cost default. Greece is already in hock for the better part of a generation just keeping current on payments to service its rescue packages, with acutely less to show for it in the end: the dictates of creditors and angel-investors are superseding public services and the cultivation of a jobs market. Prophets of doom are probably not exaggerating when the say that Greece will suffer an extended period of massive poverty if they are forced to default (there is not much choice left in the matter) and quit the euro, but such consequences are temporary, surely less than the terms of the loan, and the Greeks could begin clawing their way back right away. Such a precedent, though, would be dread to see, dread to hear for other countries on the economic ledge and the minders of the EU—a cue for Spain, Ireland, Iceland, Portugal, Belgium and Italy, another nation imposed with a caretaker government, to consider doing the same.
I venture that the biggest fear behind the potential for contagion and strict monitoring of Greek conduct lies in not the potential for poverty but rather that it is a renegade category of poverty. Consumption continues at a pace, regardless of financial standing, so long as there is credit and interminable refinancing. Trade partners can still sell their exports and settle payments with a common currency in understood and agreeable terms, but once those conditions disappear and a country is unable to afford imports, established trade routes break down and there’s a turning inward and countries become more self-sufficient, relying on native products and developing local manufacturing (even if not as immediately efficient and technically advanced), perhaps even getting accustomed to getting by with less. Stronger economies would not be sustained without broader markets for the export of their expertise, and their sterling credit.