Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘culturemonkey

Writing on the Internet

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American Stranger has a new post about the tyranny of writing on the Internet. It goes a long way towards explaining the way I blog, actually:

Writing on the Internet immediately threatens ‘authors’ with their ‘audience’ — the moment one stops thinking of oneself as an isolated performer on stage is when conversation can begin, but doing this requires the abandonment of all concern for developing one’s ‘craft.’

My “writing” is what I do in published articles, stories, and papers—aside from a couple of experiments with culturemonkey, I’ve never been able to think of my blogging as writing. It’s an entirely different, and for me significantly inferior, practice; a hobby, not a vocation.

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March 2, 2009 at 3:59 pm

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Ecuador’s New Constitution Grants Inalienable Rights to Nature

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Art. 1. Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.

Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognitions of rights for nature before the public organisms. The application and interpretation of these rights will follow the related principles established in the Constitution.

With the public ratification of its new constitution last week, Ecuador has for the first time anywhere in history granted inalienable rights to nature. The new constitution also includes strict egalitarian provisions about food production, water access, and protection for indigenous peoples and uncontacted tribes.

As the Guardian link makes clear, this unprecedented act stems in part from Ecuador’s custodianship of the Galápagos Islands and in part from its long history of abuse at the hands of multinational corporations:

The origins of this apparent legal tidal shift lie in Ecuador’s growing disillusionment with foreign multinationals. The country, which contains every South American ecosystem within its borders, which include the Galapagos Islands, has had disastrous collisions with multi-national companies. Many, from banana companies to natural gas extractors, have exploited its natural resources and left little but pollution and poverty in their wake.

Now it is in the grip of a bitter lawsuit against US oil giant Chevron, formerly Texaco, over its alleged dumping of billions of gallons of crude oil and toxic waste waters into the Amazonian jungle over two decades.

It is described as the Amazonian Chernobyl, and 30,000 local people claim that up to 18m tonnes of oil was dumped into unlined pits over two decades, in defiance of international guidelines, and contaminating groundwater over an area of some 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) and leading to a plethora of serious health problems for anyone living in the area. Chevron has denied the allegations. In April, a court-appointed expert announced in a report that, should Chevron lose, it would have to pay up to $16bn (£8.9bn) in damages.

Chevron, which claims its responsibilities were absolved in 1992 when it handed over its operations in Ecuador to the state-owned extraction company, Petroecuador, immediately set about discrediting the report. A verdict on the case is still thought to be a long way off, and Ecuador’s government could face US trade sanctions for its refusal to “kill” the case.

It remains somewhat unclear what this law will mean in practice, especially in the context of a country whose economy is so heavily dependent on petroleum extraction. However things shake out, though, this should be a fascinating test case for protection of the environment outside the failed paradigms of property rights on the one hand and “securitization” on the other.

Here’s the full text of the relevant articles, including an intriguing bit of commentary that suggests a codified right to civil disobedience in defense of the environment: “Public organisms” in Article 1 means the courts and government agencies, i.e., the people of Ecuador would be able to take action to enforce nature rights if the government did not do so.

There’s still more at MeFi. This has received almost no press in the States, but it’s an amazing and very important development, definitely worth keeping your eyes on.

(cross-posted at culturemonkey)

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October 6, 2008 at 4:18 am

Good News for culturemonkeys (All about the 1950s)

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Never say Hollywood can’t learn from its mistakes. The producers have figured out how to please everyone: maintain earnestness regardless of the inherent absurdity of the genre, be ‘topical’ by way of empty allegory, be spectacularly violent, never stop moralizing. Meet these requirements, and a great deal of variety is possible: one has free reign to be jokey or serious, bright or gloomy, undisguisedly sexist, racist, homophobic, or none of the above, ‘critical,’ or ‘wish fulfillment.’ Or all of the above. These labels are simply not the creator’s responsibility. Restore the superhero’s propaganda function, in short, and in so doing prove Sontag’s thesis that “pure camp” is always so for the future and not the present.** The comic book-loving nerds of my generation are now faced with the dubious realization of our pubescent dreams: the nerds have taken over Hollywood, and the responsibility thus falls to the Figure of the Superhero to ‘teach us’ something about the “human condition.”

Good news for culturemonkeys: Ryan has a great post on superhero cinema over there. (And here too.) It’s more or less the definitive post on Dark Knight. But a few quick thoughts. First, I think Acephalous’s attempt to rehabilitate the film from attempts to understand it solely as a “balls-out obvious apolog[y] for the authoritarian, repressive ‘excesses’ of global capitalism” is instructive, and definitely worth reading.

Second, Ryan writes that we are currently experiencing the”repetition-as-farce of the ’50s”—but this doesn’t strike me as a new phenomenon. Isn’t it more the case that postwar American culture is perpetually returning to the ’50s as a site of degrading, doomed unity?

This is to say that Jameson’s claim that WWII is the moment of highest American nostalgia par excellence is, I think, fundamentally correct, with the revision that it’s more the period from Dec. 1941 to August 29, 1949, the day the Russians exploded their first atomic bomb. The ’50s are the memory of “the good ’40s” combined with and juxtaposed against the reality of 8/29/49—they are the dawning but perpetually unfinished recognition of how it all will go / is going / has already gone wrong. In other words, the ’50s themselves were a repetition-as-farce the first time around of the ideologically unacceptable, apocalyptic shock at the end of the previous decade—and we find ourselves going back to the ’50s for answers whenever we get shocked again.

That’s why, when 1973 is the year of disaster for American capitalism, Happy Days premieres in January 1974.

Bad News for culturemonkeys

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Bad news for culturemonkeys: Around half of the world’s primate species are at risk of extinction. Even the recent surprise discovery of a kind of hidden Gorilla City of more than 125,000 western lowland gorillas—more than primatologists believed were alive—can make me feel better about this.

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August 7, 2008 at 1:35 pm

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Wordle

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One of my students showed me Wordle the other day, and it’s already one of my favorite Internet widgets. Steamboats Are Ruining Everything has a fun Wordle of Moby-Dick (click to enlarge):

While I of course prefer a Wordle of some of my own writing at culturemonkey:

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July 5, 2008 at 2:06 am

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Day 2

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Day 2.

* Firefox 3 has been released.

* In the last few days I’ve noticed a number of people fantasizing that John McCain might drop out of the race before the Republican Convention. It’s not impossible, but it’s definitely not likely, no matter how poor a match for Obama McCain keeps turning out to be.

* Ryan has thoughts on Danny Boyle’s Sunshine at culturemonkey.

* Battlestar Galactica concept art from Ralph McQuarrie, whose Star Wars ceoncept art I’ve linked to previously. Via Cynical-C, who also has the hard proof demonstrating why humans are doomed.

Written by gerrycanavan

June 17, 2008 at 11:46 pm

Good Ecology and Bad: Wired Magazine on Ecology

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Two from Ryan: ‘Nukes not so clean or green’ and Wired Magazine’s hippies-suck special on ecology. The latter actually dovetails fairly nicely with the ecology post I put up on culturemonkey last night, both as a striking example of the sorts of myopic conclusions you’re driven towards when you only think inside capitalist markets and as a nice lead-in to the (forthcoming) second half of the series, which will deal with ecology as a program for the conservation of nature vs. ecology as a program for the regulation of nature.

But mostly the Wired issue stands as a noteworthy testament to what happens when you allow an unholy trinity of technopositivity, kneejerk know-it-all contrarianism, and fierce resentment of hippies to drive your coverage: even your good insights get drowned in smarm.

Given the above priorities, Wired is forced down a peculiar chain of reasoning:

1. There are multiple environmental crises in progress.
2. Climate change is the most immediate of these.
3. Therefore in all matters we should ignore any and all considerations but the most short-term carbon calculus, no matter what the consequences will be with regard to the other crises.

This probably makes a lot of sense if you’re marketing a magazine to nerds who like being right and who hate any criticism of technocapitalism, especially when it comes from dirty hippies—but it doesn’t make any sense as a basis for environmental policy.

* Priuses are stupid because used cars still exist!
* Nuclear power has no relevant drawbacks whatsoever!
* Same with Frankenfoods!
* If you define the scope of the environmental crisis incredibly specifically you can conclude old-growth forests harm the environment!
* Same with organic agriculture!
* We’re screwed no matter what we do, and anyway, don’t people like it a little hotter?

Color me unimpressed.

This from the last link will probably serve as the intro for the zizecology 2 post:

In his 1992 best seller, Earth in the Balance, Al Gore derided adaptation as “a kind of laziness, an arrogant faith in our ability to react in time to save our own skin.” Better to take Stewart Brand’s advice from the opening page of the original Whole Earth Catalog: “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.” We’re in charge here. Let’s get to work.