Tuesday, December 21, 2010

medium prejudice

books are taken seriously, films are taken seriously, but the medium which exists exactly between the two, with expressive and narrative possibilities unique to its format -- adding the visual dimension to text, and allowing more imaginative freedom than film -- is still considered by so many to be childish and unworthy of attention.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

commonly accepted bullshit

1. "cooked food is easier to digest and generally better for you than raw", this everyone my generation and above knows, and is complete false.

2. "third world" people who move to another country are called "immigrants", but "first world" people who do the same are called "expats". so i guess i was a Chinese immigrant, but now i'm an American expat. i'm going to exchange the 2 terms during usage starting now. i wonder if people will actually correct me after i say "Swedish immigrants" or "Nigerian expats". (or as someone cleverly said on Facebook: "Mexican Expats living in America with non-Mexicans")

3. coming soon

Thursday, August 26, 2010

1961 CIA murder of Congo leader Patrice Lumumba

New evidence in controversy over CIA responsibility for the 1961 assassination of democratically elected Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba. Evidence which more than ever implicates the US and Holland in this murder which had catastrophic consequences for the region which last until today.

from "Padraig (u.s.)":

"Lumumba's death paved the way for the rise to power of Mobutu Sese Seko, an enormously corrupt dictator who spent most of the next 30-odd years exorbitantly enriching himself & his cronies while the majority of Congole...se languished in poverty. Sese Seko, who came to power in a CIA-backed coup, was supported by the U.S. on "anticommunist" grounds. Lumumba wasn't a communist himself, but he was fiercely nationalist and anti-imperialist, bit of a firebrand, a man before his time (like Nelson Mandela in his younger years, kinda). of course in the Cold War terms to the U.S. that made a communist, despite his explicit avowals that he wasn't & that he disliked communism as much as colonialism. anyway Sese Seko's regime was disastrous for the Congo, as he didn't do anything to administrate the country beyond ensuring that he & his could steal as much as they wanted to, so consequently by the time he was finally overthrown the country was a) a simmering pot of ethnic & tribal hatreds & 2) ripe for plunder, with that amazing bounty of resources (hardwood timber & enormous mineral wealth & so on) an inviting target for neighboring countries (Rwanda, Angola, Uganda, a bunch of others) who would back various factions in the endless, multifacteted series of civil wars that continue more or less unabated to present day, as well as foreign multinationals. so in a not too-indirect way you could say that Lumumba's death, and the kinds of policies it was a part of, is largely responsible for the absolute effing mess the Congo is in/has been in for the last twenty years or so. granted there's no way of knowing what Lumumba would've done had he not been assassinated, but one imagines that at the very least it would've been something different. after his murder Sese Seko not only declared Lumumba a national hero but also, in an act of staggeringly shameless irony, attempted to portray himself as Lumumba's successor; Sese Seko was always kinda a master of pretending to be anti-colonial while in reality wedging himself as far up the West's collective ass as he could possibly get. Lumumba's death was also related to the secession of the mineral-rich province of Katanga under another anticommunist strong man, Moise Tshombe, supported by the Belgians (Lumumba was actually murdered in Katanga, almost certainly by Belgian security forces, possibly w/American collusion)."

Stephen R. Weissman

...Intelligence and National Security
Vol. 25, No. 2, 198-222, April 2010


Controversy over alleged CIA responsibility for the 1961 assassination of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba continues to swirl despite a negative finding by the US Senate Church Committee in 1975. A new analysis of declassified and other Church Committee, CIA and State Department documents, memoirs of US and Belgian covert operators, and author interviews with former executive branch and Church Committee officials shows that the CIA Congo Station Chief was an influential participant in the Congo Government's decision to "render" Lumumba to his bitter enemies. Moreover evidence strongly suggests the Station Chief withheld his advance knowledge of Lumumba's fatal transfer from Washington policymakers, who might have blocked it. Flaws in the Church Committee's verdict are traced to CIA delays in providing key cables, staff overreliance on lawyers' methodology, and political pressure to water down original draft conclusions. What happened in Lumumba's case provides insight into the contemporary problem of establishing accountability in US anti-terrorist programs. Current rendition policies are also characterized by ambiguous performance standards for covert operators on the ground and difficulty in pinpointing US responsibility within the intimate relationship between the CIA and foreign government clients. The Church Committee's experience clarifies the conditions for meaningful outside regulation of anti-terrorism operations today.

[in film footage taken after Lumumba's capture, available on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGnGFaJqmzU] "a tall dark man in his 30s with a small beard and mustache and open collared white shirt sits in the back of an army truck, his... hands bound behind him. One of the numerous non-American soldiers around him brutally pulls his hair to raise his face to the cameras; another gratuitously tightens his bonds, causing him to grimace in pain. ... The young Commander watches his men abusing the prisoner, smiling occasionally. The CIA - a strong backer of the Commander - had been trying to kill or capture the 'target' for months. Recently, the CIA Station Chief had met with security officials to make sure the right roads were blocked and troops alerted. According to the CIA Director, the prisoner's background was 'harrowing' and 'his actions indicate that he is insane'. Within weeks of this incident, the authorities decided to transfer the prisoner to another government - one that had threatened to kill him. They immediately informed the local CIA Station Chief of their plan. Three days later, the prisoner and two colleagues were hustled onto a plane bound for enemy territory. Savagely beaten throughout the flight, the prisoners were taken away after landing and never seen again."

thanks to Sufi and Padraig (u.s.)

Russia in color, 100 years ago

more here

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Zhaoist Manifesto


"The boundaries of objects are vague - and that goes for us too... Describing the world in terms of discrete objects is a useful fiction." - Kees van Deemter

Well worn cliche or not, everything is connected. Borders and separation, in the spheres of physics, of politics, of "race", as it is of culture, are illusions fostered by narrow and fearful minds, often purposefully fabricated by those who seek control and to benefit from alienation, antagonism, and the suffering of millions.

Today our conceptions of the cultures of the world, of their history and relationships to each other, is sadly still under heavy influence of 18th and 19th century revisionist versions of history. During those colonialist times in the United States, education reform initiated by the wealthy elite of powerful industrialists applied sweeping changes across university campuses, teaching a fundamental and intrinsic divide between "East" and "West", painting the former as largely superstitious, backwards, repressive, and the later progressive, modern, liberal. While in Europe racist German and English scholars began erasing the African and Asian foundational influence of classical Greece out of history, replaced by an absurd Euro-centric story of the "Cradle of Western Civilization" developing more or less autonomously, with the only outside influence from "Northern Tribes", separate from much older and more advanced civilizations in close physical proximity. The dissemination of this fictional dichotomy between the "occident" and "orient" has always been politically motivated: it furthers the aims of the ruling class, provides a necessary ideological backdrop for colonial and neo-colonial agendas, and is still instrumental in world affairs today (the structural basis for "the war on terror" as related to the demonization of Islam).

But there is no essential divide between "East" and "West", their relationship being more like parent and child. And when it comes to music, the inter-relatedness of all cultures and the character of their specific relationships can be perhaps even more easily understood. For instance if one looks at the history of the guitar, one finds that it was descendent of the Oud, the first record of which appears in ancient Mesopotamia during the Acadian period (2359-2159 BC). The Romans around 40 AD made a version of it called the Cithara, which spread to the Vikings in Europe; and later Gypsies living in Islamic Spain created the modern guitar based on that. And if one traces the history of 20th Century North American pop and dance music, a crude and very abbreviated but basically sound genealogy describes a line going back to Disco, to Soul, to Funk, to Motown, to Gospel, to Blues, to Jazz, to work songs of the slaves, and indeed, to Africa.

Continuities are everywhere one chooses to look: the Balkans are connected to Israel to Iraq to Spain to Egypt to Morrocco to Mali to the Congo to Haiti to Cuba to Colombia to NYC. Yet there is still this prevalent vantage point that "World Music" is indeed somehow fundamentally different from "Western Music", and it is still shocking to some that non-Western sounds are making such a ripple in 2010 (the success of artists such as Omar Suleyman, and a new wave of indie musicians citing non-western influence). As if Rock and Roll itself wasn't African American, and less directly, African in origin. As if Led Zeppelin wasn't heavily influenced by Turkish music, or the Rolling Stones by Morroccan traditions, the Beatles by Indian Classical, Can and (early) Kraftwerk by East Asian sensibilities and African percussion, Debussey and John Cage by Indonesian Gamelan, Steve Reich and Georgy Ligetti by African polyrhythms, etc, etc, etc. Forward thinking and ground breaking modern music in the "west" has always taken cues from much older non-western sources (similar to the way modern visual art owes much to pre-modern, so called "primitive" forms).


“Those piles of ruins which you see in that narrow valley watered by the Nile, are the remains of opulent cities, the pride of the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia. There a people, now forgotten, discovered while others were yet barbarians, the elements of the arts and sciences.” - Count Volney

Humans have surely forgotten much more than we know today, with the ravage of time, after countless wars, destructions of entire cultures, libraries burnt down. By the same token, ancient musical traditions contain forms which are more advanced, more inventive, more structurally challenging, more revolutionary in every sense of the word, than any "futuristic" electronic dance music today. And in terms of the expansion of minds or shaking of booties, the bits and pieces passed down to us, remnants of sound traditions reaching back to ancient times, often embody methods far superior to what you might find in today's dance clubs. One man sitting on the island of Madagascar, singing over an insistent rhythmic melody plucked out of a one string instrument contains more ingenuity, more innovation, more raw power, more soul, more fire, than anything produced in the last 30 years.

All rhythm certainly comes from Africa, as the drum itself was invented somewhere around Kenya tens of thousands of years ago. But African music is much more than drumming, for example the various Kora traditions weaving complex melodic structures that would make Bach dizzy. To be more precise, in much of African music one finds an un-differentiated oneness of rhythm and melody, never divorced from each other by over analytical minds. Examples of this can be found in Soukous guitar playing, the various Mbira (thumb piano) musics scattered through out the continent, and the "Shangaan Electro" phenomena which is all the hype right now, itself only the latest expression of age old tradition.

What we have seen in the last few centuries is a return to rhythm, after being largely divided from it for many centuries under the European Classical establishment, which reduced its importance and saw it as "primitive" and "plebean", emblematic of music of savages and the underclass. But in the melting pot of the Americas, a traumatic confrontation between European and African traditions became probably the most important source of innovation in the past mellenium, forming the seeds of the myriad kinds of musical styles we know today.

The only way to move things forward is to look back upon the treasures of our collective past. It is indeed this re-entry of indigenous musical heritage, fused with urban bass culture, this combination of ancestral musical ideas and modern sound, which is now giving rise to irresistible next level dance music on every continent. Crucial new scenes thrive and vital new styles are born in almost every corner of the world, challenging and displacing the centralized hegemonic culture manufacturing machine which attempts to fill the world with its vacuous regurgitation. But despite the spread of information technologies, there is a pointed lack of communication between musical communities of the world today, and many scenes remain relatively isolated and insular, inaccessible to their potential global audience who hunger after new sounds. For instance Kwaito, the South African House/Hiphop hybrid style based on traditional Zulu music, flourished for 2 decades within the townships while being virtually unknown outside, and only recently began to make waves in the world at large.

3. the Responsibility of DJs

"who cares? it's just music!" - anonymous

Economic, political, and other arbitrary factors entirely other than artistic merit often determine which music rises to global prominence, and which is relegated to obscurity and silence outside of it's region. As Alan Lomax put it half a century ago (i paraphrase): "mass media broadcasts the voice of the privileged, while often times more deserving, more beautiful voices in poverty stricken places remain unheard." Thus djs in these neo-colonialst times, as cultural workers whose particular role affords them direct access to audiences, must be aware of the many levels of inequity in the world, and do his/her job with this awareness in mind.

Of course, above all other concerns, djs must rock the party. We must create unforgettable experiences on the dance floor, and fascilitate that most important (no, it is not frivolous at all!) of social functions: the celebration of life despite its hardships. But there is more than 1 way to mash up the dance, and djs do not have to pander to the charts or appeal to lowest common denominators to please a crowd.

Djs can both entertain and educate the audience. They can transcend the here and now, go beyond or destroy the status quo, if they choose to. Music is never "just music", but always an expression of social reality. I would love to see the world around us and the situation we are in to inform more dj sets, which make site specific references and conceptual links, infusing the musical experience with many levels of meaning. A good Dj should do in depth research into her/his chosen styles, its history and lineage as related to other styles, find and make unexpected connections.

In this day and age, many members of society and especially other artists still view the DJ as a clown-ish, superficial, unsophisticated and unimportant character, who exists solely to entertain drunk idiots. If all other reasons fail, this might be motivation enough to start taking ourselves and what we do more seriously.

Friday, June 04, 2010


A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in
spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis
of all human morality. - John F. Kennedy

and another, congruent definition, is the giving of one's life to a higher cause.

and we should note here that perhaps more clearly, perfectly, and undoubtedly than any other, the Suicide Bomber exemplifies both.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Art is...

Art is what people make for non-utilitarian purposes, which become more than the sum of its parts, and possessive of multiple layers of meaning, to which the viewer may return a thousand times, each walking away with a new experience.

- Zhao

Art is artificial and absurd. From a religion attendent it has become a religion surogate, and unlike religion it is a psychologocial side effect within a sense and meaning seeking creature in a sense lacking world. So it just creates its artificial universes of meaning. Thats it and it is phantastic and fascinating.

- Carsten Heisterkamp

ok your turn :)

Friday, May 07, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

War and the Noble Savage

i would start with the slide cast linked to below, as it is a good overview of the book and its key points -- a look at both the history of the notion of the "noble savage" as well as analysis of recent theories concerning them and pre-civilization.

War & the Noble Savage
A Critical Inquiry into Recent Accounts of Violence amongst Uncivilized Peoples

people who have taken an interest in the recent "declining levels of violence through history charts" may find this especially interesting.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Interim Camp by the Field

a nice abstract ambient film about glacial formations to go with the cold winter. via Human Resources.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Spiritualism and Capitalism

i recognize value in, and actively try to learn from both the teachings of spiritual disciplines as well as critical theory. But i find deeply troubling things in both camps: in Spiritualism apolitical disavowal, and in Theory an inability to see the world outside of materialist terms, to recognize "deeper essences of reality".

For this post i will focus on my problems with the New Spiritualism very popular amongst upwardly mobile yuppies all over the world, and especially in Southern California.

Someone who might as well as be the woman in the photo above once explained the massive suffering in Africa in terms of "these people paying for things they did wrong in past lives".

As if colonialism, post-colonial exploitation and current global economic interests, of which we are all complicit, have nothing to do with the genocidal violence taking place right now.

Needless to say i was shocked and deeply disturbed.

ignorant, irresponsible, and morally reprehensible views like this is almost enough for me to turn away from this whole "Spiritual" thing entirely. And even when i realize that this particular statement is only one extremely stunted, naive, and abhorrent viewpoint, it does reflect an over all perniciously apolitical modus operandi of the New Spiritualism.

No good can come from easy absolution of responsibility, release of guilt, by absurd denial or willful ignorance of the consequences of our actions in the real world.

No good can come from discounting, ignoring, and dismissing the massive influence of social forces on how we perceive the world and what we think about ourselves.

No good can come from complete disavowal of Capitalism as the organizational model we exist within, which shapes us and our individual subjectivity.

No good can come from pretending that deep structural biases do not exist in our consciousness, and ideological conditioning do not heavily everything we think and do.

Critique of Spiritualism often runs along the lines of all this health and self improvement working perfectly with Capitalism (especially with some "Spiritual" groups outright teaching get-rich-quick schemes), and i have to agree. (however i have no interest in denying a spiritual essence deeper than Capitalism, deeper than even genotypes... although how accessible it is while under so many layers of coding and conditioning is up for debate)

Buddhism has been co-opted many times before by dominant ideology -- for example enlightened Zen priests supporting the rise of militarism and fascism in late 19th Century Japan, and later actively condoning extreme cruelty and violence during WW2.

And I see today the same kind of dangerous co-optation of Spiritual teachings and the power which they contain by Capitalism and its omnipresent and invisible ideology.

It is a good sign when the discipline in question embodies the political convictions of dominant ideology, espouses propaganda, repeats party lines, provides rationalization for its agenda, eases consciences, absolves guilt, and paves a smooth road for despicable action.

The pro-fascism Zen Buddhist majority in Japan not only justified genocidal slaughter but actively promoted murder on a mass scale, often using poetic, spiritual language.

They spoke eloquently of "the sword which gives life", and of the purifying and cleansing power of violence. The structural support of militarized hierarchy had accompanied the Bushido code for several centuries before the 19th century, and only had to be modified slightly to fit the rise of new Fascism: the life of the soldier is nothing compared to that of the master, and thus the life of the enemy is much less than nothing -- and so Buddhist teachings went to encourage gruesome torture, mass rape, forcing fathers to kill children, bayonet practice on young men.

Today i see the same thing happening.

Spiritual groups exalting selfishness and greed are the most obvious examples. You know the ones which teach that wealth is not only a right, but a virtue.

But in general, while the new spiritualism pay lip service to "the interconnectedness of all things", they willfully ignore pandemic suffering on a mass scale which are a part of the political economic system they exist in -- systems based on injustice, exploitation, and slavery.

Today's systematic violence is several steps farther removed than before, but it is no less cruel, and not happening on any smaller scale, than what took place during WW2. the disastrous consequences of our lavish and wasteful lifestyle are unknown to, and unfelt by us. The chain of causality is largely hidden, but just because we are disconnected with events in areas remote to us, does not mean they are any less directly caused by us.

And while the new spiritualism pay lip service to "peace", "love", and "compassion", they do nothing to raise awareness of things such as the Genocide in the Congo taking place as i type. In fact, most of them probably don't even know about it, or even care.

Instead, people continue to make each other feel good with incense, yoga, and slogans like "the Universe is Pure Love". Reassuring each other that all is well, and that nothing can destroy eternal peace and harmony. And the 12 year old child soldiers in Uganda? Well don't think about them. They are just paying for wrongs in their past lives.

So while i respect and want to learn much more from various spiritual teachings, and want to practice some of the disciplines, i also see that a LARGE part of the New Spiritualism is entirely co-opted by Capitalism, and is as sinister and despicable as the pro-fascist Zen Buddhism of 100 years ago.


Zen at War ~ Daizen Victoria and Daizen Victoria
Weatherhill; February 1998 ISBN-10: 0834804050