May 192014
 
Tesla'sPigeon

Nikola Tesla, towards the end of his life, fell in love with a white female pigeon and spent over $2000 USD building a device that could support/heal her broken leg and wing.

Early in 1977, after a year or more of abnormal weather throughout the northern hemisphere, it was revealed that Canada, since July 1976, had been receiving almost daily a series of strange and immensely powerful signals which were emanating from the USSR. These abnormal transmissions, it was suggested, were of such gargantuan intensity that they were disrupting the whole weather pattern of North America. What could be the purpose of such extravagant transmissions? They interfered considerably with marine communications to such an extent that both the British and the United States governments sent protests to the Soviet authorities. Using three monitoring stations, the government of Canada attempted to locate the source of the transmissions. Finally they tracked down the source to Riga, the former capital of Latvia, and a formal protest was made. Some time later, the USSR admitted that experiments with high-frequency radio bands had been conducted. Shortly afterwards, the massive ‘blanket’ transmissions ceased, and they were replaced by short bursts lasting only 20 to 30 seconds a day. But that was not the end of the affair. At ten o‘clock in the morning of December 24th Montreal time, the receiving station on Prince Edward Island suddenly received a powerful signal originating several thousand miles to the east. Then, about an hour later, the same signal, but at a higher intensity, was detected, from the opposite direction.

Continue reading »

Apr 272014
 
Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892)

OF late years the name of Walt Whitman has been a good deal bandied about in books and magazines. It has become familiar both in good and ill repute. His works have been largely bespattered with praise by his admirers, and cruelly mauled and mangled by irreverent enemies. Now, whether his poetry is good or bad as poetry, is a matter that may admit of a difference of opinion without alienating those who differ. We could not keep the peace with a man who should put forward claims to taste and yet depreciate the choruses in “Samson Agonistes”; but I think we may shake hands with one who sees no more in Walt Whitman’s volume, from a literary point of view, than a farrago of incompetent essays in a wrong direction. That may not be at all our own opinion. We may think that, when a work contains so many unforgettable phrases, it cannot be altogether devoid of literary merit. We may even see passages of a high poetry here and there among its eccentric contents. But when all is said, Walt Whitman is neither a Milton nor a Shakespeare; to appreciate his works is not a condition necessary to salvation; and I would not disinherit a son upon the question, nor even think much the worse of a critic, for I should always have an idea what he meant.

Continue reading »

Apr 172014
 
PortHuronStatement

The Port Huron Statement: the 1962 manifesto that launched the activist movement Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).

The American New Left was a protest-oriented movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In its early, developmental stage New Left theories evolved primarily from the trial-and-error experiences of its most dynamic constituent groups and individuals. It was, essentially, a response by liberal activists and dissident leftists to the cataclysmic widening of the gulf between the theory and practice of traditional Marxism in the mid-1950s.

The New Left began life in the mid 1950s as a reformist movement fertilised by an increased consciousness of racism, the threat of nuclear war and, later, America’s aggressive role in the Vietnam War. By the early 1960s the most dynamic elements in the movement had become disillusioned by the inability or unwillingness of the liberal democratic state to acknowledge let alone resolve the pressing moral issues of the day, particularly that of racism in the South. It quickly developed a much more revolutionary critique of the totality of ways in which consumer capitalism and the bureaucratic states of both East and West frustrated human needs and capacities. From a reformist opposition to racism in the South and war in Southeast Asia a revolutionary stance emerged of opposition to racism in general, to imperialism in all its forms and to sexism both in society at large and within the movement itself. Those who adopted this position viewed the whole mass of problems bred by an industrial society — alienation, ecological threats to the environment, poverty, hierarchy, competition, etc. — as being impossible to solve within either capitalism or bureaucratic communism.

Continue reading »

Apr 152014
 

militia

MercenaryUntil the end of the eighteenth century one of the most important developments in warfare, apart from the invention of gunpowder and the adoption of firearms, had ‘been the superseding of feudal military organisation by professional, mercenary, troops’. By the end of the fifteenth century the diffused feudal nobility of Europe had discovered, to their cost, that professional soldiers, who fought for pay alone and were personally loyal to the sovereign, were far more reliable than the hastily recruited and poorly trained and motivated feudal armies they relied on. These ‘professional’ or centrally controlled ‘royal’ armies could, moreover, be sent to keep order at home or wage war abroad with little fear of external factors affecting morale or their fighting qualities. Relatively free, therefore, from popular or subordinate influences, the sovereigns of Europe could wage wars with limited resources for limited objectives and negotiate peace on a compromise basis when those objectives were either attained or appeared unobtainable.

Continue reading »

Nov 012013
 

aldous-huxleyTHAT MEN DO NOT LEARN VERY MUCH FROM THE LESSONS OF HISTORY is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach. Si vis pacem, the Romans liked to say, para bellum – if you want peace prepare for war. For the last few thousand years the rulers of all the world’s empires, kingdoms and republics have acted upon this maxim — with the result, as Professor Sorokin has laboriously shown, that every civilized nation has spent about half of every century of its existence waging war with its neighbors. But has mankind learned this lesson of history? The answer is emphatically in the negative. Si vis pacem, para bellum still is the watchword of every sovereign state, with the possible exception of Monaco. Again, what happens when economic power is concentrated in a few hands? History’s answer to that question is that, whatever else it may be, that which happens is most certainly not democracy. But while politicians everywhere proclaim the virtues of democracy (even the totalitarian states are People’s Republics), advancing technology is everywhere allowed and even encouraged to work for the concentration of economic power. Small-scale operators in agriculture and industry are progressively eliminated, and in their place advancing technology installs an oligarchy of giant concerns, owned and operated either by private corporations and their managers, or by the state and its bureaucrats.

Continue reading »

Aug 132012
 

The British Council and the Edinburgh Writers Conference

On a recent Sunday the Herald had a twenty page full colour supplement in association with the Scottish Tourist Board. Stories from the land that inspired Disney Pixar’s Brave. That’s us. The land “Where Legends Come to Life”. People wonder why we get irritated occasionally. It isn’t to do with the movie itself. I havent even seen it. The storyline involves loveable indigenous aristocrats, which is familiar: the kind of shite favoured by Scottish politicians, cuddly comedians and cuddly actors, cuddly rockstar rebels, millionaire sportstars and, of course, the cuddly ruling elite. This particular movie has a royal daughter hero rather than a royal son, which appeals to some as a blow for female emancipation, apparently.

Continue reading »

Mar 292012
 

James Kelman — On Self-Determination

In an article for the US magazine NY Arts, Glaswegian writer James Kelman nails his colours to the mast with regard to the current debate on Scottish Independence:

‘In an American journal I read a prominent English writer was described as ‘very British’. What can it mean to be ‘very British’? Could I be described in this way? Can my work be described as ‘very British’? No, not by people in Britain, or by those with a thorough knowledge of the situation. The controlling interest in ‘Britishness’ is ‘Englishness’. This ‘Englishness’ is perceived as Anglo-Saxon. It is more clearly an assertion of the values of upper-class England, and their validity despite all and in defiance of all.

Power is a function of its privileged ruling elite. To be properly ‘British’ is to submit to English hierarchy and to recognise, affirm and assert the glory of its value system. This is achieved domestically on a daily basis within ‘British’ education and cultural institutions. Those who oppose this supremacist ideology are criticised for not being properly British, condemned as unpatriotic. Those Scottish, Welsh or Irish people who oppose this supremacist ideology are condemned as anti-English. The ‘British way’ is sold at home and abroad as a thing of beauty, a self-sufficient entity that comes complete with its own ethical system, sturdy and robust, guaranteed to outlast all others.

Continue reading »

Jan 052012
 

Peter Kropotkin

ANARCHISM is a creed inspired and ridden by paradox, and thus, while its advocates theoretically reject tradition, they are nevertheless very much concerned with the ancestry of their doctrine. This concern springs from the belief that anarchism is a manifestation of natural human urges, and that it is the tendency to create authoritarian institutions which is the transient aberration. If one accepts this view, then anarchism cannot merely be a phenomenon of the present; the aspect of it we perceive in history is merely one metamorphosis of an element constant in society. It is to tracing this constant but elusive element that anarchist historians, such as Peter Kropotkin, Max Nettlau, and Rudolf Rocker, have largely devoted themselves.

The family tree which these writers have cultivated so carefully is indeed a magnificent growth, and in the shade of its branches one encounters some astonishing forefathers. Kropotkin was perhaps the most extreme of all the anarchist genealogists, for he sought the real origin of his creed not among individual thinkers, but among the anonymous mass of the folk. ‘Anarchism,’ he declared, ‘originated among the people, and it will preserve its vitality and creative force so long only as it remains a movement of the people.’

In Modern Science and Anarchism this belief is elaborated in historical terms. ‘From all times,’ Kropotkin claims in this book, ‘two currents of thought and action have been in conflict in the midst of human societies.’ These are, on the one hand, the ‘mutual aid’ tendency, exemplified in tribal custom, village communities, medieval guilds, and, in fact, all institutions ‘developed and worked out, not by legislation, but by the creative spirit of the masses’, and, on the other hand, the authoritarian current, beginning with the ‘magi, shamans, wizards, rain-makers, oracles, and priests’ and continuing to include the recorders of laws and the ‘chiefs of military bands’. ‘It is evident,’ Kropotkin concluded dogmatically, ‘that anarchy represents the first of these two currents. … We can therefore say that from all times there have been anarchists and statists.’ Elsewhere Kropotkin conjectures that the roots of anarchism, must be found in ‘the remotest Stone-age antiquity’, and from this highly personal view of prehistory he goes on through all the gamut of rebellious movements to the early English trade unions, reaching the eventual conclusion that ‘these are the main popular anarchist currents which we know of in history’. MODERN SCIENCE AND ANARCHISM

Continue reading »

Oct 032011
 

See ChristieBooks Films
Parts 1 and 2 of Spain at War, a 30-part documentary series produced by Spanish TV in 1986. The films contains many rare and difficult to find images
1) Decline of a regime 2) The Republic: reform and reaction

Sep 092011
 
Le Frisson des Vampires

Surrealism in the Service of the Fantastic (click to read full article)

‘What dyed-in-the-wool cinephiles have always stupidly misinterpreted as amateurism, nonchalance or ineptitude on Rollin’s part (his disregard for linearity and logic, the influence of theatricality and pataphysics on his thoughts about directing, his well-meaning curiosity for erotic deviancy, his passion for the melodramatic) comes fully into its own as an aesthetic and, may we say, ideological option […] We are transported simultaneously into a Clovis Trouille painting or a Gaston Leroux novel, into a Max Ernst collage and a Grand Guignol play, into the gaudy cover of some old Fantômas and an episode from a silent serial, into The Castle of Otranto and the cavern of The Phantom in Bengal. Swimming against the tide of pyrotechnics in movies that confuse car chases and action, conventions and daring innovations, and digital trickery and mise en scène, Jean Rollin steers us back towards cinema. Genuine cinema, the sort that can make us shudder and cry, the sort that can leave us walking on air.’

Jean-Pierre Bouyxou, “La Fiancée de Dracula,” foreword to Pascal Françaix’s Jean Rollin, cinéaste écrivain (Paris: Éditions Films ABC, 2002)

No man is a prophet in his own land, or so the saying goes. This certainly holds true for Jean Rollin, a filmmaker vilified right from the outset by French movie critics.[1] As for British and American movie-lovers, they look upon him as a “master of fantasy cinema.”[2] When all is said and done, why the French are so down on him remains relatively obscure. As Bouyxou stresses, the reasons for such lack of understanding are doubtless to be sought in the profusion of literary, pictorial and filmic references freely employed in Rollin’s productions; but also, and primarily, in a “defensive,” conformist line of thought. Most often, this failure to understand uses laughter as an outlet in the movie theatre, a laughter usually triggered by the resort to the kind of overblown eroticism that pervades Jean Rollin’s films. Curvaceous young women strolling naked through graveyards elicit chuckling on account of the seeming anachronism of their appearances, but above all because of the sensual power they hint at. Female subjects relate to an innocence mingled with perversion, a reminder to some that the director made X-rated movies during the 1970s[3] and which in their eyes justifies assigning – rather crudely – the exclusive label of pornography to Rollin’s entire fantastic output. While the director admittedly likes filming the beauty of the female form in its simplest get-up (that is, with no get-up at all), this aspect assumes significance in a more complex whole that encompasses location, space, colour, subject, etc. These aspects all add up to a singular aesthetic which has earned Rollin an auteur status that is recognised and feted abroad. A major and singular filmmaker, as Laurent Akin states in the Dictionnaire du cinéma populaire des origines à nos jours, Rollin “can lay claim to being one of the rare poets of French cinema.”[4]

Continue reading »