MonthJuly 2011

Sacrifice and Submission: Game of Thrones and the Aesthetics of Fascism

Triumph of the Will
Triumph of the Will, 1934

star wars
Star Wars, 1977

This essay supposedly has spoilers up through the most recent Game of Thrones book, but the first page or so of the essay sets the ground work for fascist aesthetics and is quite interesting. I’ve only read the prelude to the first novel, and haven’t seen any of the show, but I don’t think anything was spoiled in the first few paragraphs.

The essay opens with a nice long quote from Susan Sontag:

It is generally thought that National Socialism stands only for brutishness and terror. But this is not true. National Socialism—more broadly, fascism—also stands for an ideal or rather ideals that are persistent today under the other banners: the ideal of life as art, the cult of beauty, the fetishism of courage, the dissolution of alienation in ecstatic feelings of community; the repudiation of the intellect; the family of man (under the parenthood of leaders). These ideals are vivid and moving to many people, and it is dishonest as well as tautological to say that one is affected by Triumph of the Will and Olympia only because they were made by a filmmaker of genius. Riefenstahl’s films are still effective because, among other reasons, their longings are still felt, because their content is a romantic ideal to which many continue to be attached…

And unlike Michael Moorcock’s famous rant about fascism and fantasy, the author of this essay writes:

Let’s just get this out of the way. I am not calling George R. R. Martin, or any of the other authors discussed in this post, a Nazi. Nor am I calling them Blackshirts, nor connecting them with any other historical group of totalitarian assholes. The aesthetic principles I’m discussing here are neither the result of fascism nor indicative of fascism, they just take advantage of the same emotional circuitry that fascism takes advantage of. These are not politicized aesthetics, rather, fascism is aestheticized politics. It’s not quite accurate to claim that aesthetic similarities don’t imply any ideological similarities at all, but that’s a lot closer to the truth than the other way around.

Over Thinking It: Game of Thrones and the Aesthetics of Fascism

(via Wes)

See also: Staging the Nation’s Rebirth: the Politics and Aesthetics of Performance in the Context of Fascist Studies

Alan Moore Talks League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1969 and More

Alan Moore

In a lengthy interview at Wired, Alan Moore talks about the latest installment of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the 60s, The Prisoner, his novel Jerusalem and more:

So my perspective upon that era has changed. You can find that in bits of the dialogue, such as when Mina Murray tries a bit too hard to embrace the ’60s. As she, Allan Quatermain and Orlando make their way to the Hyde Park festival, she says that they are all looking to the future and being incredibly progressive. And Orlando, who’s been around a lot longer than Mina, points out that no, they’re not. They’re just nostalgic for their own childhoods. Which, looking back, was a big part of the ’60s. It was reflected in a lot of the haunted nursery rhymes of that period, especially in the music of Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett.

So my actual feelings about the ’60s are that, yes, of course we had limitations. We talked a lot of shit, and we didn’t have the muscle to back it up. For the most part, we had good intentions. However, we were not able to implement those intentions. And when the state started to take us seriously and initiated countermeasures, the majority of us folded like bitches. Not all of us, but a good number. We weren’t up for the struggle that had sounded so great in our manifestos.

Moore mentioned again his multimedia project, which is indeed the project with Mitch Jenkins:

It’s getting out of hand in the best possible way, and might be expressed in any number of media, and across platforms. So we’re going to start shooting that in August, so expect a release date before the end of the year at which point I’ll be able to tell you much more about it.

Wired: Alan Moore Takes League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to the ’60s

Also: Moore’s magazine Dodgem Logic is going to be an online-only publication moving forward.

DARPA Looks to “Counteract” Propaganda in Social Networks

Egyptian bloggers

The Pentagon is asking scientists to figure out how to detect and counter propaganda on social media networks in the aftermath of Arab uprisings driven by Twitter and Facebook.

The US military’s high-tech research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has put out a request for experts to look at “a new science of social networks” that would attempt to get ahead of the curve of events unfolding on new media.

The program’s goal was to track “purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation” in social networks and to pursue “counter messaging of detected adversary influence operations,” according to DARPA’s request for proposals issued on July 14.

Physorg: Pentagon looks to social media as new battlefield

See also:

The Air Force’s “persona management” project and its blog comment propaganda project.

Cass Sunstein’s “cognitive infiltration” proposal.

Direct-To-Consumer Genetic Tests May Wildly Overestimate Your Risk of Disease

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests give inaccurate predictions of disease risks and many European geneticists believe that some of them should be banned, the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics heard May 31.

Although the predictive ability of the DTC tests in the study was moderate for all diseases, both companies assigned an increased risk to a substantial part of the group. Yet the risk of disease in this group was often not substantially higher than the risk in the rest of the population studied. For AMD, the disease with the highest predictive ability, both companies assumed that the risk in the population was around 8%. Of all subjects designated as having an increased risk, 16% using the 23andMe risk estimations and 19% using deCODEme’s estimations would develop AMD, compared to the 4% found in the rest of the population studied. [...]

“deCODEme predicted risks higher than 100% for five out of the eight diseases,” Ms Kalf will say. “This in itself should be enough to raise considerable concern about the accuracy of these predictions — a risk can never be higher than 100%. In the case of AMD one in every 200 individuals in the group would have received a predicted risk of higher than 100%, suggesting that they would definitely develop the disease.”

Science Daily: Direct-To-Consumer Genetic Tests Neither Accurate in Their Predictions nor Beneficial to Individuals, Study Suggests

(via Edward Borasky)

Oh well, at least we’ll always have palm reading.

Jail Time for Gardening in Canada

Becker Farm

Grist is calling this a trend, but doesn’t it take three times to make a trend?

Hey, remember the woman threatened with 93 days in jail for growing a garden in her front yard? She could have a cellmate! Dirk Becker of Lantzville, British Columbia turned his scraped-dry gravel pit of a property into a thriving organic farm, so of course he’s facing six months of jail time. Why? Well, the thing is, this farm was full of DIRT. You can’t have dirt in a yard! It’s unsanitary.

The Beckers were cited under Lantzville’s “unsightly premises” bylaw, for having piles of dirt and manure on the property. As the Beckers wryly point out, the letter came on the same day that 8,000 compost bins were distributed to residents in their region. So, to recap: Gravel pit: not unsightly. Beautiful farm with dirt in it: unsightly. Fertilizer in bin in kitchen: civic responsibility. Fertilizer actually out fertilizing: filth!

As it turns out, Lantzville has a bylaw that residentially zoned plots can’t grow food at all — even the no-dirt kind! — whether or not they’re farming commercially. The Beckers’ 2.5-acre property is zoned as residential, so they essentially are not allowed to eat anything that comes out of their garden. Ah, local government, always improving lives.

Grist: Jail time for gardening: Now officially a trend

The Neuroscience of Depression – And What to Do About It

Meditation

Math for Primates co-host Nick Horton wrote a personal post on how he manages his depression. Here’s a bit on the neuroscience of depression:

The Prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain that deals with (among other things) the regulation of mood states. If it is atrophied, then your ability to deal with these tasks gets downgraded. This becomes particularly problematic given that without the prefrontal cortex running at full speed, you can’t dampen the negative emotions generated by the Amygdala. The amygdala is that part of your brain that deals with Fight or Flight responses. It is your brains Fear Factory. To add fuel to the fire, in depressed people the amygdala tends to be overactive.

Think of the Amygdala and the prefrontal cortex as the brains Yin and Yang. You need both to be strong and healthy to have a strong healthy brain that is in balance. Depressed folk ain’t in balance. Generally, the prefrontal cortex is responsible for saying, “Hey, Amygdala, I got your message. We’re cool here. No need to freak out, dude!” But, when your brain is broke (like mine), you can be flooded with negative emotional responses that can result in despair and overwhelming helplessness.

The Iron Samurai: Managing Depression With Weightlifting? Or, How You Feel Is A Lie

I found this part interesting as well:

Depression is so debilitating precisely because of the trick your mind plays on you. It tricks you into believing that how you feel is valid. This sparks a downward spiral of sadness that makes life impossible. The more you play into its tricks, the harder it gets to drag yourself out of it.

It gave me an idea. People of above average intelligent are known to be prone to depression, right? Could it be because smart people are better at finding reasons to be depressed, locking themselves into this downward spiral? Could people of average or less intelligence be better at talking themselves out of being depressed? I’m not sure how to test this hypothesis.

Opening Lines for Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84

1Q84

The opening lines, as translated by Jay Rubin, of Haruki Murakami’s forthcoming (in the U.S. anyway) novel 1Q84 have been published. I won’t reproduce them here unless this link below goes bad..

The Millions: Exclusive: The First Lines of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84

(via Matt Staggs)

Fox News Trying to Confuse Viewers Into Thinking News of the World Was the Victim of Hacking

I haven’t had much to say about the News International hacking scandal. But I’m really interested in how other News Corp owned media are covering it. The Wall Street Journal is burying it, for example.

But Fox News is taking a more aggressive approach. Boing Boing’s Rob Beschizza points out a Fox and Friends appearance by PR rep (though as far as I can tell, not a PR rep for News Corp?) Bob Dilenschneider. Dilenschneider’s spin is unbelievable (emphasis mine):

Bob: The NOTW is a hacking scandal, it can’t be denied. But the real issue is, why are so many people piling on at this point? We know it’s a hacking scandal, shouldn’t we get beyond it and deal with the issue of hacking? Citicorp has been hacked into, Bank of America has been hacked into, American Express has been hacked into, insurance companies have been hacked into, we’ve got a serious hacking problem in this country, and the government’s obviously been hacked into, 24,000 files. So we’ve got to figure out a way to deal with this hacking problem.
Host: The company has come forward to say that it happened a long time ago, at a tabloid, in London, someone did something really bad and the company reacted. They closed the newspaper, all those people got fired, even though 99 percent of them didn’t do anything.

Bob: And if I’m not mistaken. Murdoch, who owns it, has apologized, but for some reason, the public and the media going over this, again and again.

Host: The piling on!

Bob: It’s a little bit too much. The bigger issue is really hacking and how we as the public going to protect our privacy and deal with it. I would also say, by the way, Citigroup, great bank. Bank of America, great bank. Are they getting the same attention for hacking that took place less than a year ago, that News Corp is getting today.

[They recap other news; China, martians, debt default, etc.]

Host: … We’re teetering on default, and what to they do? They’re talking about this.

Bob: … and we’re dealing with something that happened in London over a decade ago. I don’t quite understand it.

What Dilenschneider seems to be doing is trying to confuse the issue in the minds of Fox’s viewership, many of whom may not be familiar with what the scandal actually entails. Dilenschneider seems to be trying to trick the viewers into thinking that News of the World was the victim of hacking instead of the perpetrator.

Whatever Happened to Prussian Blue?

Lamb and Lynx Gaede of Prussian Blue

Prussian Blue was a pop duo consisting of 13 year old twins Lamb and Lynx Gaede. Their lyrics contained racist and white nationalist themes, which attracted international media attention. I feel bad about piling on to the media spectacle, but this this an interesting story. I always felt bad for these two, who were clearly being used by adults to push certain messages. I’m glad they’re moving on with their lives.

Now 19, they both still speak in a disarmingly girlish singsong. Their message, however, was not always so sweet. In 2006, the sisters, who formed the band at the suggestion of White Nationalist leader William Pierce, drew international notoriety with songs like “Hate for Hate: Lamb Near the Lane,” a dreamy folksong cowritten by Lamb and the late David Lane, a member of the violent terrorist splinter cell The Order, who was then serving 190 years in prison for his involvement in the murder of Jewish talk show host Alan Berg in 1984 (he and Lamb were pen pals).

Prussian Blue was never a presence on the pop charts and only played small venues. But for a brief time in the mid-2000s, Lamb and Lynx were seemingly everywhere — “the new face of hate,” as one news program put it. They appeared on “Primetime Live” and in a number of other media oulets, including GQ (where I profiled them in 2006).

The Daily: Former Nazi teeny boppers are singing a new tune

Here’s Gell’s above mentioned 2006 profile of the sisters for GQ.

Why Are Anti-Psychotics the Most Common Prescription Drugs in America?

Has America become a nation of psychotics? You would certainly think so, based on the explosion in the use of antipsychotic medications. In 2008, with over $14 billion in sales, antipsychotics became the single top-selling therapeutic class of prescription drugs in the United States, surpassing drugs used to treat high cholesterol and acid reflux.

Once upon a time, antipsychotics were reserved for a relatively small number of patients with hard-core psychiatric diagnoses – primarily schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – to treat such symptoms as delusions, hallucinations, or formal thought disorder. Today, it seems, everyone is taking antipsychotics. Parents are told that their unruly kids are in fact bipolar, and in need of anti-psychotics, while old people with dementia are dosed, in large numbers, with drugs once reserved largely for schizophrenics. Americans with symptoms ranging from chronic depression to anxiety to insomnia are now being prescribed anti-psychotics at rates that seem to indicate a national mass psychosis. [...]

What’s especially troubling about the over-prescription of the new antipsychotics is its prevalence among the very young and the very old – vulnerable groups who often do not make their own choices when it comes to what medications they take. Investigations into antipsychotic use suggests that their purpose, in these cases, may be to subdue and tranquilize rather than to treat any genuine psychosis.

Al Jazeera: Mass psychosis in the US

(via Mindhacks)

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