Q: How do you turn a duck into a soul singer?

by on March 12, 2011

A: You put it in the microwave until its Bill Withers.

Podcast Bonus: Bill Withers audio interview on The Sound of Young America.

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Public Washrooms: essential ideology (with help from Zizek)

by on March 12, 2011

I must write an essay on the organization of a particular object for one of my Library school courses. The object in question could be anything: grocery store, smartphone, Facebook… We are to show how the way an object is constructed affects the way we interact with it physically and mentally, and also how its organization tells us something about those who constructed it (basic ontology/epistemology). In light of Ottawa recently passing the Bathroom Bill to amend the Human Rights Act and and Criminal Code to ban discrimination based on gender identity, I immediately thought: why not a semiotics of the public washroom from a Queer perspective.

A surprising amount of ink has been spilled about the social codes and physical design of public toilets. I had a queer critique based on Judith Halberstam’s work in mind, but also planned to incorporate York prof Sheila Cavanagh’s recently published Queering Bathrooms: Gender, Sexuality and the Hygienic Imagination. Once I began researching–that is, spending approx 35 minutes using my favourite resources, Google and the UToronto library catalogue–I discovered a veritable poo-poo platter of writings on this most essential of topics: how do we organize public, private spaces?
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Japan’s Nuclear Crisis and The Spectre of Chernobyl

by on March 12, 2011

UPDATE 3: Here is a great summary of the situation for now from the Guardian.  Some germane points, Fukushima 3 almost certainly is in partial meltdown or pre-meltdown.  The only reason you undertake the hideously dangerous venting of gas from the core is if you fear the steam pressure is going to expose your core and you only get such excess steam if you can’t cool the core.  Venting, unless you can get a whole pantload of coolant to the core only makes the situation worse, since you’ve now lowered the total supply of coolant.  Fukushima 1 blew sky high when they vented it.  Venting Fukushima 2 is a desperate measure.  As for government mendacity, it is on display here in all its glorious colors.  What happened at Fukushima 1 may not be a Chernobyl (Disaster level 7) but it sure as hell ain’t no level 4 (TMI was a five).  Definitely at least a  level 6 and if they don’t stabilize the core in Fukushima 1 they’re going to need a new rating system because Fukushima 1 will go China Syndrome and that will be a level, oh, I dunno, 17.  The government ought to be distributing a helluva lot more iodine to kids and evacuating more people.  Finally, for you viewing pleasure, the plant at Onagawa is now in crisis.

Did I say finally, no, I got another thing to say.  The arrogance of industrial engineers never ceases to amaze me.  So note in the Guardian story that the initial quake cut power to the plant but the back up generators worked fine.  These were then knocked out by the tsunami.  So why would you build in a quake and tsunami zone?  Americans should be asking this of the aptly named Diablo Canyon plant.  Said plant is sitting on top of an earthquake fault and has had “cooling events” from an excess of jellyfish in its intake valves.  Again, nuclear energy might be the safest and best source of energy on the planet, but not when you leave its plants construction to nuclear engineers and energy companies.

UPDATE 2: I can’t help but agree with Robert Alverez here (c/o ABC News) that flooding the core with a mixture of boron and sea water is a “Hail Mary pass.”  In fact, it is completely desperate.  Sea water is highly corrosive and reactive to the heavy metals in the atomic stack–which means a real possibility of weakening the metal containment vessel.  This would be f*-ing stupid if they were not worried about an even more catastrophic contingency–the immense amount of Cesium-137 in short-term storage pools that could burn and send huge amounts of radiation into the upper atmosphere.  The next few hours are likely to be critical but the above report, dire as it is, is not giving the full picture of concern.  It mentions the plant’s concrete containment building–the plant does not have a concrete containment building.  The Japanese government did not want to take the time to build them during the 1970s energy crisis.  It has a regular power plant infrastructure which is not designed to contain blasts or massive heat and/or fires.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this Hail Mary pass works or many, many people will be left with only the original Hail Mary–you know, the prayer.

UPDATE: Here is an excellent article at Stratfor assessing the situation.  If it is correct, the shit has hit the fan. Moreover, we are in uncharted waters if containment has been breached to the substrate from the earthquake. Red alert, indeed.

Let's Hope Fukishima Nuclear Power Plant Does Not Look Like This

The explosion at Fukishima Power Plant is not good news for a country staggering under the immensity of Thursday’s quake.  Reports are unclear as to the cause of the massive explosion and authorities are arguing that it has not lead to any increase of atmospheric radioactivity but if the explosion was related to hydrogen buildup (which seems likely) than the core is compromised.  Happy talk of how the metal containment vessel has not suffered structural damage should be dismissed at this time–the vessel is hardly the main issue.  Fukishima has likely suffered at least a partial meltdown and if its in full meltdown than we all have to worry about the “China Syndrome”–the core reaching 2000 degrees C and melting down to the water table (explosions and massive releases of radiation are then hypothesized to result).  The fact that authorities are considering handing out iodine as a prophylactic is not a good sign–they are expecting a large release of radioactive gas.

Nuclear energy has recently returned from its pariah-like status following the Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl’ disasters, as governments look for a magic bullet to handle $100+ a barrel oil. (The Obama Administration is a big supporter of nuclear energy–calling on Congress to approve $54 billion in loan guarantees for new plants [Why? The technology is too expensive and risky even with the industry’s waivers on liability to attract private capital]).  Unfortunately, Fukishima indicates why this technology is a dum-dum, not a magic, bullet.  Too complex, too sensitive and too given to catastrophic consequences when systems fail (either from endogamous or exogamous circumstances).

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Easybake Killer Android

by on March 12, 2011

Based on two recent technological advances, here’s a simple recipe for an undetectable robot death machine.

– Take one part ever-more-realistic-looking human simulacrum.

– Mix in a dollop of cellular circuitry.

Genetically modified cells can be made to communicate with each other as if they were electronic circuits. Using yeast cells, a group of researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, has taken a groundbreaking step towards being able to build complex systems in the future where the body’s own cells help to keep us healthy. The study was presented recently in an article in the scientific journal Nature.

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Bite-Sized Eraserhead

by on March 11, 2011

I haven’t had much success convincing people that there ought to be a remake of Eraserhead, or that it ought to be in 3D, or that it should star Glen Beck. Sadly, that concept is likely to remain a dream. My hearty thanks, therefore, to Lee Hardcastle for this 60 second retelling of David Lynch’s unparalleled mind-bender. No Beck, no chicken hemorrhage spraying out of the screen – but I can watch it 60 times in an hour!

This film was shortlisted for the Jameson Empire Awards 2011, the top twenty 1-minute remakes are there for viewing.

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Republicans–The New Bolsheviks

by on March 11, 2011

The Republican Plan for those Needing Social Services

So, the other day when I posted a query as to whether we could refer to radical Republican plans to strip unions of their rights and suppress local democracy as fascism yet.  Seems, at least in New Hampshire, I got the wrong totalitarianism.  State Senator Martin Harty (R–of course), responded to a constituent’s request to protect mental health services that “the world is too populated” and it contains “too many defective people.”  Standard eugenics bullshit here, but then Hardy got down right Cult of Personality with a nostalgia for the Gulag:

Harty confirmed to the Monitor that he made the comments to Omand. […]

Omand says Harty then stated, “I wish we had a Siberia so we could ship them all off to freeze to death and die and clean up the population.” Omand said Harty appeared to be serious. After Omand responded that his idea sounded like what Adolf Hitler did in World War II, Omand said Harty responded, “Hitler did something right, and I agree with (it).”

What’s even more amazing is this guy is 90 years old, i.e., a nonegenerian.  He should have a certain vivid memory for the excesses of Stalinism, especially since as a man of the Right he presumably did not have facetious leftist excuses at the ready (“To make an omelette, you have to crack some eggs.”)

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Lego Moloko-Plus

by on March 11, 2011

Down at the Korova

There is a bunch of iconic movie scenes in Lego over at Bored Panda. Since Kubrick is fairly popular here at the PS, I grabbed these two. Now we’ve got both friends and playmates.

Double playdate (forever)

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Whither Japan Tsunami

by on March 11, 2011

Released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this graphic depicts the predicted maximum computed tsunami amplitude in cm over a 24-hour period. See an enlarged version.

There is plenty more quake and tsunami video at The Daily What.

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10.4 x 10: Interview with Milwaukee Poet Mike Hauser

by on March 11, 2011

1) To start, can you say a little about when and how you came to writing poetry and when you began to identify as a poet?

Writing was something I always thought I was good at, so I wrote in High School– mostly record reviews because I wanted to be a rock critic, poems, short gruesome Oedipal narratives etc. Two poets I really got into while I was at UW-Washington County were Allen Ginsberg and Federico Garcia Lorca. I had a friend who encouraged me to enroll at UW-Milwaukee. There, I discovered Golda Meir Library and read The Sonnets by Ted Berrigan and I was off. Along the way, I met two people name Zack Pieper and Robert Thomas who also wanted to be poets, and we were kind of poets together. All of this happened “along the way”. And I’m leaving a lot out.

2) Most of the contemporary poets I admire work from somewhere within the yawning chasm that separates slam and spoken word on the one hand and the poetry of the academy on the other. Was it, or has it been, difficult for you to find and participate in a community or scene, or was there always infrastructure in place for you to tap into in Milwaukee? (Is Milwaukee a good place for poets and poetry?)

The yawning chasm is always where the action is! Or where it could be, if you want to make some action. To me, slam/spoken word has always resembled dramatic monologues or stand-up comedy. And I love stand-up comedy by the way. Milwaukee has a scene that is small, but intense. I’ve always said that’s kind of like Voltron, assembling and disassembling at will. Milwaukee is not a literary organism abounding with famous mythical characters, competing milieus, and antagonisms, like New York or San Fransisco. Poets in the midwest are maybe a bit more prone to that whole isolationist thing of “I’m alone in my cabin with my vision”. I find social formations and collectivity really interesting in poetry and I do find that there’s a close community of writers here. Unlike Charles Bukowski, I don’t think most poets are sniveling assholes. I feel pretty good even after a bad poetry reading. Sometimes happier that it ended than having been at it. I do feel like it’s important for me personally to support poetry in Milwaukee, and one way I do that is through curating the Salacious Banter Reading Series.

3) How crucial is appropriation, Google searches, and such, to your poetics?

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Faith cures

by on March 10, 2011

Further to the PS articles about the placebo effect (here and here) is this nice little graphic.  What I found interesting was the price and packaging making a difference, which explains: the pretentious oenophiles, swirling and sniffing and spitting their wines and thinking the same wine tastes better if it’s in a nicer bottle and costs more; the ads for spurious Spanish fly and viagra that work on men without dictionaries (spurious is such a ten-dollar word and this is only five bucks. score!); fancy sport supplements (though I swear with that HMB powder I could do one more rep at 95% max); Chinese medicine.

But if anyone has some ersatz EPO and D-Bol they wish to sell me…

via The World’s Best Ever.

Gong Show: Exploring metal sound with Karen Stackpole

by on March 10, 2011

Musician and oud maestro Derek Monypeny tips me (and now you) to the sonic wonders of Karen Stackpole‘s obsession with the metallic music of the gong. Listen to a collaboration between Stackpole and Die Elektrischen from Machine Shop here. And watch below as she “illuminates the science, history, and construction of gongs, tam-tams, and metallophones”; beneath that, a look in on the composition process of the aforementioned experimental gong/electronics duo Machine Shop.


Nature versus Nurture

by on March 10, 2011

China is frequently railed against for its corruption; eg. the senior rail official who embezzled more than a hundred million. Corruption is common and I have seen it – in a nightclub the police arrived and waited until the foreign manager gave them a paper bag – and not secondhand – the ‘red envelopes’ my factory-owning friends say they pay to local officials. It’s not acknowledged but everyone knows.

But the type of corruption that is going on in the US is of another sort – it’s far more insidious. It’s of an ideological sort. If the more common type of corruption of taking kickbacks and other types of payment like sex are, say, mosquitoes, sucking blood on the surface, the kind of corruption that Abe Sauer at the Awl is reporting on is more a virus -a sci-fi virus that doesn’t simply kill the host, it converts the host to a malevolent shadow of itself bent on eliminating everything. Maybe this explains the explosion of zombie films.

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