Saturday, June 23, 2007

Aboriginal Affairs

There will be a federal election in Australia around September this year. The media climate in Australia is very political as a result. On Friday the Prime Minister announced a radical plan to combat child abuse on Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. The plan includes taking control of 60 Aboriginal communities, banning alcohol and pornography and compulsory medical examinations for all children under 16 years of age. The plan has ignited quite a debate and it is sure to continue if it come to be implemented. The report that is described as inspiring the Federal action is called Little Children are Precious and is available online HERE.
I feel the problems that will arise from such an approach will outweigh the present horrors. It would be better if those child protection services that are already in place should receive proper funding to deal with their backlog of cases. The community of Katherine in central Australia currently has one child protection Officer who is trained working with four Aboriginal assistants. How they are supposed to deal with the enormous range of problems is unknown. More background HERE.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Australia 2007

I am in Australia for the first time since 2004. Access to internet is patchy so mail is not being checked and blogging not being done. This is nice. Australia is an interesting place with much having changed in my hometown, Toowoomba since I last spent time here in 1999. The economy seems to be booming, but there are many empty shop premises. One quater of those working are working as casual labor. Many new large cars are on the roads, but there are many poor looking people walking the same streets. Diversity seems to have increased with many nationalities and cultures represented everywhere.
Yesterday we visited the state museum and art gallery in Brisbane. Much floor space was devoted to indigenous cultures but they were presented in a very traditionally ethnographic way. Objects in glass cases, videos of traditional dances and food gathering. Vague references to the 'problems' of the past. A large display concerning the 1967 referendum for Aborigitnal and Torres Straight Islander citizenship spoke of preset day inequality but did not go further.
On the streets of Brisbane the influence gained from Australia's proximity to Asia is really present and it makes for a vibrant and interesting street life. Great food, amazing shops and engaging crowds.
Ill try and get some more impressions of Australia 2007 on this blog over the next few weeks but It may have to wait until later as I am busy just being here.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Search The Beat

While it got a negative review at Mashable, I have found SearchtheBeat to actually be a good online music and video search engine. By good I mean that it returns results for the lesser known artists. I like the interface design were videos appear in one embedded column that allows for previews and Mp3s in another. I found videos of very small bands that friends of mine are in performing at very small festivals. The Mp3 search is not so detailed (it can't find files that I know are on the internet archive) but this has probably got something to do with the Google presence in the project. All in all a fun tool and one that will hopefully develop.

500 years of female portraits in western art

500 years of female portraits in western art

Friday, June 08, 2007

We R Gone........

Tomorrow we leave for Australia. Blogging will be sparse but will happen. I hope the summer for the northern readers of this blog is joyful and the winter for the southerners is richly reflective. Hera are some shots from 2004 of where I will be living for the next month, Toowoomba (the town where I was born):

This is actually near Meringandan, where I lived from the age of 12-18.

The currawong or magpie was the terror of my childhood as they attack you if you get to close to their nests in the breeding season. Walking to school I often met with them and ran.

This is Gowrie Mountain on the horizon. There are a number of extinct volcanoes around Toowoomba.

Actually Toowoomba is built in the crater of an ancient extinct volcano.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

RSS to the Rescue

Since I was a teenager I have not liked being told what to do. The fact that it was sensible advice never stopped me from ignoring it and blundering on in my own cloud. Well, I felt a simpatico sensation of such an attitude when I first began using RSS (really simple syndication).It felt like my reading was being directed by my web reader. I am well and truly over that and will like to say; RSS is great (if not essential)!
Here is a guide for those who are yet helped by the RSS wonder: Adam Turner explains syndications and how to organise and get the best out of them. Although Adam fails to mention Feedburner and Bloglines (the ones I use) Newsgator, Google Reader, Gregarius and Netvibes . Here is a more extensive list of RSS.
And here is a video:
RSS in Plain English

Writing Wreading and Working

Busy as....well, very busy. I'm within spitting distance of finishing a rewrite of the chapter on the digital preface and response (Twenty seven pages done and just needs a conclusion). Plus we in HUMlab now own an island...And finally some articles on writing technologies:

Vol. 1.1 May 07


Introductions I and II: Writing and Technologies by Daniel Cordle and Philip Leonard
On Being Written by Technology by Tim Armstrong
Declaration of Ink Dependence by Neil Badmington
In Search of a Technological Criticism by James Brown
Against Textual Idealism by Rob Latham
Postphonetic Writing and New Media by Lydia H. Liu
Not Coding, But Writing by Simon Mills
Écrire - La Technologie: A View from France by Douglas Morrey
Hard Drives…? by Julian Murphet
The Digital Glocalized by Pramod Nayar
The Conceptions and Misconceptions of Writing Technologies by Tatiani G. Rapatzikou
Technology and the Cultural Location of Japan by Kumiko Sato
Writing Technologies in the Renaissance by Jonathan Sawday
The Pixels are on the Interface, But What Do They Mean? by Will Slocombe

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Alchemy in Computer Games

I recently posed the question on these pages about why there is not more adaptation going on between the large body of texts collected under the title alchemy and computer games. Alchemy was/is a very spatial field, lots of transformation and quest type scenarios and so on. Well it appears there has been plenty of adaptation going on. While much of it seems to have little connection with the alchemical texts I have found online the general theme is no doubt present. Look at this from the wikipedia:

In the Castlevania series, the legendary whip, the Vampire Killer is made with alchemy. In Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, the player can collect various metals and elements to combine to make weapons, armour and potions for use by the player.
Alchemy is a major theme in the game Haunting Ground. The player can collect medallions, which can be transformed into explosive or toxic materials that can be thrown at the enemy for self defense.

World of Warcraft, an immersive MMORPG, has a player based trade & profession system including Alchemy and Herbalism, which give the user the ability to make potions that aid or give the user special abilities, such as speed increase, invisibility, restoring health and mana, and stats bonuses. The Alchemy profession also has an operation called Transmute which is used to turn some metals gained from the Mining profession into their next higher neighbors.

Sega's Chakan, Genesis and Game Gear video game (1992). The immortal swordsman collects potions around the elemental planes—each with ingredients of four elements. Chakan has the option of mixing any two potions whether its fire and air, earth and earth, etc. A variety of Alchemic solutions occur healing Chakan, damaging surrounding demons, enhanced abilities in jumping and strength, as well as granting elemental properties of fire, ice, thunder and lightning to Chakan's two swords.
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Fantastic Four comics (ca. 1962–). Villain Diablo is an alchemist.

Darklands, PC game (1992). Alchemy features prominently throughout the game.

Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage video game. Alchemy is featured as a skill.

Verant Interactive's smash hit computer game Everquest (1998-). Shaman characters may learn and train in this skill.

Nintendo's Golden Sun video game (2001). Psynergy is a force that threatens the world, which is connected to many displines: Ki, Chi, Ply, and of course, Alchemy.
Nobuhiro Watsuki, Buso Renkin manga, the title literally means "Arms Alchemy" (2003–2006).

Square Enix's Final Fantasy series features the Alchemist as a job in several games (for example, as a Dresssphere in Final Fantasy X-2). MMORPG Final Fantasy XI also has Alchemy as a crafting skill. Alchemy is used to make various potions and powders, as well as items like fireworks. One item that can be used in certain alchemy recipes is the Philosopher's Stone.

Cristal Chronicles- In this final fantasy game user pick a family job as they start their quest. One of the Jobs is an Alchemist, as an alchemist your family makes you weapon scrolls which are plans to make weapons.

Bethesda Softworks' The Elder Scrolls series prominently features alchemy as a method of creating various potions for use by the player.

Konami's Shadow of Destiny is a cinematic "mystery" videogame where a young man named Eike is given the chance to avoid his own unescapablee death by using an odd, yet simplistic arcane device unsing energy scattered around the world by a frail "artificial" being of unknown gender who calls himself "Homonculus". That being suggests to Eike to go back in time using that device and to thward his own death while trying to find the "Philosopher's stone". The stone is eventually discovered and given to an alchemist living in the past, who uses it to either make the elixir of life in an effort to save his dying wife or to create said "Homonculus", who then grants the alchemist a wish... making him "forever young" but taking his memory as toll. That being wanders the earth lost as "Eike" for centuries until his destiny comes full circle and he is given his chance to make or break his fate by making or not making "Homonculus".

Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb, computer game (2003). A large portion of the game is centered around a castle in Prague formerly owned by an alchemist king.
Ultima Online computer game (1997). Alchemy is one of the player skills and professions.

Zork Nemesis video game (1996).

Secret of Evermore (1995) for the SNES, uses an alchemy combat system where the player mixes ingredients for combat effects, in lieu of typical magic systems.
RuneScape, the massive online mulitplayer game by Jagex, allows a player to turn items into gold with spells once they have achieved a certain mage level. There is also a quest in which a player creates a homunculus, guiding it in the path of magic or logic.

Alchemy is a key plot point and aspect of gameplay in the Playstation 2 RPG, Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana.

In the popular MMORPG Ragnarok Online a playable character class called Alchemist is able to create potions, explosives, simple plant type monsters, and homunculi that fight for them.

In the video game Haunting Ground (2005), alchemy is a large plot point, and the main character is trapped in a castle owned by powerful alchemists and their creations, whom chase her in order to obtain "the Azoth" in one way or another. The stalkers are all clones of a great alchemist from the Middle Ages, and the whole story revolves around enlightenment and purification, rife with symbolism for alchemy in general and what its practitioners believed.

In Square Enix's Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, Alchemy is a trade that a character can learn in the shops.

The Atelier Iris games revolve heavily around alchemy, where spirits of nature (Mana) are used to extract elements from the environment, and transmute them into a variety of items.

In the game Devil May Cry, a character named Dante uses the Philosopher's Stone to enter the underworld.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Doctorow: Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present

Author Cory Doctorow discusses his book "Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present" as part of the Authors@Google series. This event took place Monday, May 21, 2007 at Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA
Cory Doctorow is the co-editor of the boingboing blog, and author of the books Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, Eastern Standard Tribe, and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. A fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Doctorow writes for such publications as Wired, Popular Science, The New York Times and MAKE. In 2000, he won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Writer. (more) (less)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

From Modernism to Postmodernism: American Poetry and Theory in the Twentieth Century

"From Modernism to Postmodernism: American Poetry and Theory in the Twentieth Century" by Jennifer Ashton is a book I have been wanting to write something on for a while. So, Sunday night before another busy week; here is a long rambling rave from off the top of my head.

Ashton's text is a carefully argued but at the same time very broad account of the currents which flow between modernism and postmodernism in American poetry during the 1900s. It is verse written by Americans, not really by those Americans living in America that concerns the text. Of course it is Gertrude Stein that is the pivot in the whole affair. Her The Making of Americans is the text Ashton returns to again and again. The dual concepts existing between the modernist and postmodernist 'missions' could you say in poetry are summarized by Ashton as entity/identity, logic/phenomenology, intention/attention, meaning /affect being the transformation "that has defined the movement from modernism to postmodernism and in the process redefined modernism itself." (222)
If you want to come to a deeper understanding of the exchanges and interdependency between modernism and postmodernism, Ashton's text is excellent. As well I found it to be a learning tool in how to write; clear and simple ideas flow through well constructed paragraphs. It is not only Stein who is dissected in the pages, a fascinating account of the poetry and thought of Laura (Riding) Jackson is juxtaposed against much of what we take for granted in language today. I mean by this the indeterminacy of language; the idea that words mean different things to different people. In fact that is why I first picked up Ashton's text, because it is in many ways a reply and update to one of my favorite critical works on poetry; Marjorie Perloff's The Poetics of Indeterminacy, Rimbaud to Cage (1981). Ashton pays homage to Perloff but at the same time demolishes several of the assumptions that ground her text. Ashton bases much of her critique of Perloff on the mistaking of experience for meaning. This is achieved by examining the L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poets and the ideas Stein expressed in the lectures she gave in the States in the 1930s. The split really starts to become obvious in the 1940s when (Riding) Jackson abandons poetry, seeing language as "the essential moral meeting-ground." From meaning (morality) to effect: experience- was a long way for (Riding) Jackson. But by this time Wallace Stevens was gaining a place in the landscape of American verse and things were changing. Incidentally one of my favorite poems is The Idea of Order at Key West by Stevens. I feel the space of The Idea of Order at Key West, but what it is about that is up to you. Reason or logic had fallen as (Riding) Jackson spent the next 30 years working on a huge polemic on the morality of words. Steven's instead stated that “the truth seems to be that we live in concepts of the imagination before the reason has established them." Stevens' modernism sits close to William Carlos Williams and his wheelbarrow-

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

The image overtakes the logic of the scene and it is the experience that arises out of the reading and not a concrete reality that can be placed in a single moral context. As Ashton reminds us:

"the identity that arises out of the relation between what a thing is at one moment and what it is at another is inevitably a function of what it is to or for is just this interdependance between subjects and objects that makes nature look continuous with consciousness and vice versa." (171)

Stevens breaks into this consiousness and 'slows it down' so to speak, as the points in a scene (he's looking out the window I seem to remember someome speculating) collide in the 8 rhythmic lines. The phenomenon holds our attention and although it means bugger all, we have a meaning to take away from the reading. Its distillation bringing affect. Ashton does not ask for the sanctity of the postmodern to observed, as if the phenomenon of consiousness is going to take us out of it. She is critical of the neurobiology, cognitive science, and neuropsychology direction a certain stream of linguistic research has been taking in recent years (see Lakoff, Fauconnier, Turner et. al.)

I could go on but it is getting late. Anyway, I recomend From Modernism to Postmodernism: American Poetry and Theory in the Twentieth Century..that's enough.
Well, one more thing actually. I woke up at 4am this morning due to my son deciding it was time to get up (he's 18 months old) so during out time together in the early hours we put a poem together. Here it is: Alchemy

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Women the Periphery and Protest

From June 6-8 in Heiligendamm on the northern coast of Germany the G8 will meet. It is expected 100 000 activists, demonstrators, NGO workers, and revolutionaries will be on site as well. For the past few months "a 7.5 mile long, 2.5-metre (8ft) high steel fence topped with barbed wire, video monitors and sensors to detect movement" has been built around the conference site. The fence materials weigh 500 tonnes. Many of the activists attending the alternative G8 will be women. In fact the role of women in radical political action is often forgotten by our collective media memories or translated into a sensational account of demon women who lack the proper maternal graces (e.g. the removal of Ulrike Meinhof's brain after her suicide to determine her "slide into terror, while Che Guevara becomes a T-shirt icon).
Emilio Quadrelli has written a paper entitled Grassroots Political Militants: Banlieusards and Politics that examines through interviews and media comparisons the structures and discourses at work around the mass uprisings in the Paris peripheries in October-November 2005:

What happened last autumn in the French peripheries was quickly dismissed as an apolitical event of which the dynamics should be sought variously in resurgent community sectarianism, in ethnic-religious-cultural identification, in criminality, or in the senseless and desperate gestures of victims of the social exclusion, urban decay and socio-cultural privation typical of metropolitan peripheries. These versions deprived the events of all political significance. My work in the field during a series of stays in the French capital, one in the midst of the émeutes, would seem to reveal something different

What is revealed in Quadrelli's study is the central role of women in the uprising. The marginal of the marginal it seems, the women of the banlieues have to deal with the sexist objectification that is all around them (especially if they break with community norms) and the economic exploitation that accompanies contract and temping work:

Everybody knows what temp agencies are. They regulate access to the labour market on a temporary basis and on conditions that favour companies. They are also organisations of blackmail and social control by police and unions, because if you’re someone who organises the struggle and the conflict in the workplace or in any case someone who steps out of line, you’re thrown out, and you can be sure it will be very hard for you to get another contract. You end up among the undesirables and you don’t work again. The agencies are the main weapons used by capitalism to make workers harmless. Apart from the agencies there were also quite a few businesses, ones that use illegal or semi-forced labour exclusively, that went up in flames. There are quite a few of these which mostly exploit female labour, through piece-work done on domestic premises. Or, in other not infrequent cases, adapting for work warehouses and basements where women work almost under concentration camp conditions, with no safety, no ventilation, with shifts of never less than 10 hours, under the control of physically violent and arrogant bosses.

These are not hysterical women who have lost touch with themselves. In fact reading Quadrelli's study I am struck by the intelligence and insight displayed by the interview subjects when all we get on TV regarding the banlieues is the disadvantage and hopelessness of the inhabitants. This is result of misinformation at the government level according to Quadrelli:

For various ultimately converging reasons, much of the truth of the origin of the French conflagrations was conveniently hidden at the moment they appeared. It was hidden by the government, which in reality, thanks to the information obtained through the security forces, soon had a substantially realistic picture of the context in which the events were determined, but for obvious reasons preferred not to reveal it.[22] The media were largely unaware of the truth at the time, reduced to reliance on government bulletins.[23] Many intellectuals ignored the truth or interpreted it badly, simply because it was not known to them.[24] In some way they all eventually backed up power’s version of truth.

With the G8 upon us we are again faced with a periphery-center arrangement. A sort of banlieues on a global scale. The fence around the meeting attempts to keep the periphery as the periphery and the center secure to allow for discussion and, presumably, agreement. But exclusion is never a long term political solution. There will be breeches of the barriers and many of those who get through will be women.

Women in protest is the title of a photo series I collected of women taking politically motivated collective action. It was actually not so easy to find images of activist women using Google. I used other search engines (Picsearch and Image View) to fine these.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Because its Friday Downloads

What a week. Busy here on the blog, busy in my space, busy in my head. Some downloads for the weekend:

What to do in a Zombie Attack (1950)
Download a series of 1950 short films on how to survive a Zombie Holocaust (remixed from public domain).

Autonomous Battleship Collective Presents June 17th, 2006, Unitarian Meetinghouse, Amherst, MA featuring Feathers, Espers, Brightblack Morning Light, James Blackshaw, Jesse Sparhawk (Mp3 of the entire concert)
I have been listening to Brightblack Morning Light's latest and it really does slow down time.

The Vishnu Purana Vol-I (1864)
The Vishnu Purana is a primary sacred text of the Vaishnava branch of Hinduism, which today probably has more adherents than any other. It is one of the canonical Puranas, a branch of post-Vedic sacred literature which was first committed to writing during the first millennium of the common era. Like most of the other Puranas, this is a complete narrative from the creation of the current universe to its destruction. The chronology describes periods as long as a hundred trillion (1014) years! It includes extensive sections on the genealogy of the legendary kings, heroes and demigods of ancient India, including those from the epics, the Mahabharata and Ramayana. There are fascinating descriptions of ancient Hindu cosmology and geography. Of general interest is a collection of stories about the boyhood adventures of Krishna and Rama, whom the Vaishnavas believe to be avatars of Vishnu. There are also references to Buddhism and Jainism, which help establish the date of composition of the work.

The True Benjamin Franklin (1903)
Author: Fisher, Sydney George, 1856-1927
Published: 1903

Krozier and the Generator: Tranceformer 2 LP Set
Australia 1981
This is a treat that is difficult to explain. When I was 18 (1987) and starting out as a record collector the older weirdos in the community would speak in hushed tones about "Krozier". I never heard the music (or even saw a copy of any the records) but I got the idea that "Krozier" was the real deal. Here is what Head Heritage says on the subject:

Krozier’ was Geoff Crozier, demented psychedelic magician/performance artist from Seymour in Victoria, Australia; ‘the Generator’ refers to his musical accompaniment at this stage in his life, the group Rainbow Generator, who had previously released obscure albums of their own. Crozier was a unique character, part Arthur Brown, part Robert Calvert, part Alice Cooper (though without really singing in a conventional sense, or wearing leather jackets), part shaman, part trickster god and court jester, who appeared both on stage and in rehearsal or recording in face make-up and full outlandish regalia, living his life purely to explore and express, and to blow his own mind as well as the audience’s, and put them back together again to make something new and unexpected. Although not really a singer of much talent, the content of his words – often more recited dramatically or comedically, rather than sung as such – was sometimes puzzling, sometimes enlightening, sometimes funny, and always engaging and strange. He was both a stage magician/illusionist and a ritual magician/shaman, using multi-media performance and improvisation as the method and propulsion for his own anarchic vision of unhinged exploration, with each gig or recording session being a spontaneous ceremonial ritual to see how far out he could take it all and still be there once it was over.....
By January 1981 this grouping had recorded more than 2 LP’s worth of experimental musical performances, both in their own temporary studio set-ups and live with some overdubs added later by Mow, but in May of that year Crozier died at home in an accident whilst practicing illusory self-hanging. A very sad loss, though fortunately Mow persevered to release a selection of the recordings as a double LP by Krozier & the Generator – ‘Tranceformer’ – a few years later. [The label web site lists it incorrectly as a 1980 release. Maybe they meant when it was recorded, as the album was not put together and released until after Crozier’s death in 1981

Stan Brakhage: The Test of Time (MP3) A series of 20 half-hour long radio broadcasts by Brakhage recorded at KAIR, Univeristy of Colorado in 1982.
Includes long passages of Brakhage musing on subjects such as film, poetry, theater, and other arts. Includes music, lectures, readings, and sound pieces by Edgar Varèse, Peter Kubelka, Kenneth Patchen, Charles Ives, Kurt Schwitters, Robert Duncan, Ed Dorn, Glenn Gould, James Joyce, Virgil Thomson, Gertrude Stein, Olivier Messiaen, Louis Zukofsky, William Faulkner, Charles Olson, Henry Cowell and many others.

Steampunk Magazine #2 is online and free to download (as is #1 still)
Before the age of homogenization and micro-machinery, before the tyrannous efficiency of internal combustion and the domestication of electricity, lived beautiful, monstrous machines that lived and breathed and exploded unexpectedly at inconvenient moments. It was a time where art and craft were united, where unique wonders were invented and forgotten, and punks roamed the streets, living in squats and fighting against despotic governance through wit, will and wile.
Even if we had to make it all up.

Australian Literary Blogs

My homeland Australia is not just all crocs and poisonous spiders. We write and read books as well. In fact we have some rather good authors. To keep you up to date with the worlds of Australian Literature, here are 7 blogs about words that are worked down under:


Reeling and Writhing

A Fugative Phenomenon

The Burnt Ones


Reading Matters

Happy Antipodean