Brilliantly mad science: Focus fusion

September 27, 2008

Eric Lerner presents a potential energy source for the future: the neighborhood fusion reactor. While the technical side might be challenging the concept is fascinating.

Capitalism never existed…

September 25, 2008

Manuel DeLanda explains why the standard leftist ideas about capitalism from Marx are basically illusionary and lays out a realist interpretation of how market economies function, and why economies of scale, specifically, present a serious problem for the aspirations of democratic societies.

“Everything, just about, that is bad about large businesses is from military origin.”

Militainment, Inc.

September 9, 2008

Militainment, Inc. is a documentary film about the militarization of American popular culture, narrated by Roger Stahl.

The film consists of nine parts:

Spectacle 1:50
War assimilated into entertainment landscape.  Pentagon cooperation with Hollywood as well as the music industry.  The “war movie” exemplified in spectacular PR events such as Jessica Lynch case and the felling of the Saddam Statue in 2003.

Clean War 15:50
History of efforts to rid war of death.  Clean war as necessary for war’s consumption.  Various linguistic and image strategies for cleaning up war.

Technofetishism 28:36
Religious veneration of war machines.  Various modes of turning weapons into objects of beauty.  Imbuing high-tech weapons with an inherent morality.

Demonization 40:35
Saddam Hussein as case study.  History of U.S.-Saddam relations.  Reducing war to two characters, good and evil.  Political analogies for Iraq War.  Personally demonizing Saddam Hussein, and how these patterns fit other conflicts.

Reality TV 58:08
Explosion of war-themed reality television between 2000-2006.  Ways that the embedded reporting system mimicked reality TV genre.

Sports 1:18:40
Ways that war is woven with sports in both language and image.  Sports enters journalistic war coverage as a prominent motif.

Toys 1:27:29
The growth of a toy industry that resembles a “merchandised” Iraq war movie.  Toys entering journalistic coverage of war.

Video Games 1:33:25
Pentagon training simulators that have become commercial successes.  War journalism resembling video games.  Games “catching up with” the television war.

Dissent 1:46:22
Modes by which dissent is both trivialized and criminalized in dominant news coverage.

(rogerstahl.info)

Clay Shirky: TV as cognitive surplus

September 8, 2008

Clay Shirky talks about how television for the last 50 years has served as a massive cognitive surplus which we are only beginning to tap with web 2.0 and user generated content. Part 1:

Part 2

Manuel DeLanda Explains Gilles Deleuze

September 7, 2008

Mexican ‘street’ philosopher Manuel DeLanda lectures on the philosophy of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, mostly by way of scientific concepts, but with wide implications for both artist and philosophers. Interesting for academicians and laymen alike, DeLandas explanations of the complexities of both Deleuze’s philosophy as well as the science behind it are expressed in an everyday language without, however, dumbing down the conceptual vistas.

The Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze 2006, Part 1/8:

2/8, 3/8, 4/8, 5/8, 6/8, 7/8, 8/8

The Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze 2007, Part 1/5:

2/5, 3/5, 4/5 and 5/5

Materialism, Experience and Philosophy 2008, Part 1/12:

2/12, 3/12, 4/12, 5/12, 6/12, 7/12, 8/12, 9/12, 10/12, 11/12, 12/12

Derren Brown: This is Your Brain on Television

September 7, 2008

Derren Brown mixes ‘magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship’ in an attempt to make brains somersault at the receiving end of the television screen. Adept at card tricks, sleight of hand, hypnotic suggestion, amazing feats of memory, as well as an all around charming fellow, he takes advantages of logical blind spots and cognitive loopholes in the human brain, making the impossible seem possible. Thus, he turns off the sun, teaches passers-by to read each other’s minds, brings back the dead, and converts atheists to Christianity by a mere touch, just to name a very few of his tv show exploits. Besides making your head reel, this type of television just might make you turn off the screen and re-examine the way reality gets constructed in the interplay between perception, the brain and language.

In this clip he demonstrates the ancient mnemotechnique of the memory palace as a method for winning a blackckjack game:

Adam Curtis: Cognitive Deterrorization

February 9, 2008

Adam Curtis claims he doesn’t make documentaries but journalism. Even so his three BBC-produced series offer political analysis in the form of film:

What I do is modern political journalism. So much political journalism is moribund because it simply tries to follow power down the traditional circuits. Power today is travelling much less in the political sphere and much more in the culture generally; in the management culture, in mathematics, in genetics, in science, in psychology. Power deals with people much more directly now. (Link)

Using extensive archive footage and narrating the films himself, Adam Curtis is a Foucault on film, tracing the genealogy of power and knowledge through its twists and turns in the intimate dance of science and politics, with much the same inspiration: “The real basis of my films is that Nietzsche’s ideas have shaped the world we live in, but in totally unpredictable ways.” (Link)

Century of the Self
Traces the political and economic history of psychoanalysis. The main character is Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays, inventor of the concept of public relations and, in this, probably the most influential political thinker of the twentieth century.

Part 1:

Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

The Power of Nightmares (archive.org)
Tells the parallel stories of the rise, geopolitical convergence and later confrontation of neo-conservatism and radical islamism. Exorcising a ghost haunting current discourses of national security, it is a must see for a sobering account of the geopolitical imagination of the early 21st century.

The Trap
Subtitled “What Happened to our Idea of Freedom?” this series center entirely around the modern concept(s) of freedom and its perturbations in the hands of scientists, philosophers and politicians from the fifties and onwards. Of Curtis’ video essays, this is the broadest in scope and with as broad implications of its conclusions.

Part 1:

Part 2 and Part 3

You can find interviews with Adam Curtis here and here. The following is his latest production: a short spot on the status of modern TV journalism:

Amen Brother

February 8, 2008

A mini-documentary by V. Vale Nate Harrison on the cultural history of the “Amen Break”, cornerstone of jungle ragga and ubiquitous in modern post-sampler music. This video/essay questions the culture-political assumptions of increasingly sphinctered copyrestrictions. Thanks to Roy Christopher for bringing it to attention.