not some reedy solo voice eternally practising the monotonous scales of its ‘feelings’, ‘memories’ and ‘impressions’

April 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Just a few short days ago, it looked like Citigroup was on the ropes. The company’s proposal for redistributing capital back to shareholders was rejected by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Given the global bank’s repeated fiascos – including most recently the theft of around $400 million from its Mexican unit – it is hardly surprising that the Fed has said “no” (and for the second time in three years).

The idea that Citigroup might now or soon have a viable “living will” now seems preposterous. If top management cannot run sensible financial projections (that’s the Fed’s view; see p.7 of the full report), what is the chance that they can lay out a plausible plan to explain how the company, operating in more than 100 countries worldwide, could be wound down through bankruptcy – without any financial assistance from the government? According to the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, failure to submit a viable living will should result in remedial action by the authorities.

Such action has now been taken: CEO Michael Corbat has been named to a top White House job, with responsibility for helping to develop “financial capability for young Americans.”  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Nicholas McLean

There is no better dodge than one’s own character, because no-one believes in it

March 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

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What’s out of sight is out of mind. It’s perhaps not surprising that relatively rare predatory birds like owls are faithful to their sexual partners. After all, if they don’t come into contact with many other owls, any temptation to stray would be easier to resist.

For one species of owl, though, the lure of a different sexual partner can be just a few steps away. The burrowing owls of Argentina have embraced town life, nesting in large numbers in urban areas near cities including Bahía Blanca. While owl nests in rural areas can be separated by as much as 15 kilometres, urban nests may be little more than 10 metres apart. So do urban owls stay faithful, like their country cousins?

Burrowing owls get their name for their tendency to set up home in abandoned mammal burrows – the only owl known to do so. They stand a little over 20 centimetres tall, on a pair of strikingly long legs. Those come in handy during hunts, during which the owls often run down insects and small mammals on foot rather than swooping on them from above.  read more

SCAN: Modern Mechanix

Teen sex education class gatecrashed by rogue snake

March 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

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“Coffee,” Rossini told me, “is an affair of fifteen or twenty days; just the right amount of time, fortunately, to write an opera.” This is true. But the length of time during which one can enjoy the benefits of coffee can be extended.

For a while – for a week or two at most – you can obtain the right amount of stimulation with one, then two cups of coffee brewed from beans that have been crushed with gradually increasing force and infused with hot water.

For another week, by decreasing the amount of water used, by pulverizing the coffee even more finely, and by infusing the grounds with cold water, you can continue to obtain the same cerebral power.

When you have produced the finest grind with the least water possible, you double the dose by drinking two cups at a time; particularly vigorous constitutions can tolerate three cups. In this manner one can continue working for several more days.

Finally, I have discovered a horrible, rather brutal method that I recommend only to men of excessive vigor, men with thick black hair and skin covered with liver spots, men with big square hands and legs shaped like bowling pins. It is a question of using finely pulverized, dense coffee, cold and anhydrous, consumed on an empty stomach. This coffee falls into your stomach, a sack whose velvety interior is lined with tapestries of suckers and papillae. The coffee finds nothing else in the sack, and so it attacks these delicate and voluptuous linings; it acts like a food and demands digestive juices; it wrings and twists the stomach for these juices, appealing as a pythoness appeals to her god; it brutalizes these beautiful stomach linings as a wagon master abuses ponies; the plexus becomes inflamed; sparks shoot all the way up to the brain. From that moment on, everything becomes agitated. Ideas quick-march into motion like battalions of a grand army to its legendary fighting ground, and the battle rages. Memories charge in, bright flags on high; the cavalry of metaphor deploys with a magnificent gallop; the artillery of logic rushes up with clattering wagons and cartridges; on imagination’s orders, sharpshooters sight and fire; forms and shapes and characters rear up; the paper is spread with ink – for the nightly labor begins and ends with torrents of this black water, as a battle opens and concludes with black powder.

I recommended this way of drinking coffee to a friend of mine, who absolutely wanted to finish a job promised for the next day: he thoughthe’d been poisoned and took to his bed, which he guarded like a married man. He was tall, blond, slender and had thinning hair; he apparently had a stomach of papier-mache. There has been, on my part, a failure of observation.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Uta Barth

Strata’s ideal resident is an altogether wealthier breed of pioneering urbanaut

March 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

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More than 400 years after Shakespeare wrote it, we can now say that “Romeo and Juliet” has the wrong name. Perhaps the play should be called “Juliet and Her Nurse,” which isn’t nearly as sexy, or “Romeo and Benvolio,” which has a whole different connotation.

I discovered this by writing a computer program to count how many lines each pair of characters in “Romeo and Juliet” spoke to each other, with the expectation that the lovers in the greatest love story of all time would speak more than any other pair. I wanted Romeo and Juliet to end up together — if they couldn’t in the play, at least they could in my analysis — but the math paid no heed to my desires. Juliet speaks more to her nurse than she does to Romeo; Romeo speaks more to Benvolio than he does to Juliet. Romeo gets a larger share of attention from his friends (Benvolio and Mercutio) and even his enemies (Tybalt) than he does from Juliet; Juliet gets a larger share of attention from her nurse and her mother than she does from Romeo. The two appear together in only five scenes out of 25. We all knew that this wasn’t a play predicated on deep interactions between the two protagonists, but still.

I’m blaming Romeo for this lack of communication. Juliet speaks 155 lines to him, and he speaks only 101 to her. His reticence toward Juliet is particularly inexcusable when you consider that Romeo spends more time talking than anyone else in the play. (He spends only one-sixth of his time in conversation with the supposed love of his life.) One might be tempted to blame this on the nature of the plot; of course the lovers have no chance to converse, kept apart as they are by the loathing of their families! But when I analyzed the script of a modern adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” — “West Side Story” — I found that Tony and Maria interacted more in the script than did any other pair.

All this got me thinking: Do any of Shakespeare’s lovers actually, you know, talk to each other? If Romeo and Juliet don’t, what hope do the rest of them have?  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: DHA

nor dead nor drunk nor stuck with know-all Fate

March 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

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The text itself has been designed not to communicate, to have the look of text but no meaning – but meaning bubbles up through it nonetheless. The 16th-century printer who came up with it got there by mangling Cicero’s ‘De finibus bonorum et malorum’, an exposition of Stoicism, Epicureanism and the Platonism of Antiochus of Ascalon. Though most of the metaphysical subtlety has been wrung out, sense hasn’t completely: the text is haunted, as Derrida might have put it, by the piece of writing it once was.

It begins:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nam hendrerit nisi sed sollicitudin pellentesque. Nunc posuere purus rhoncus pulvinar aliquam. Ut aliquet tristique nisl vitae volutpat. Nulla aliquet porttitor venenatis. Donec a dui et dui fringilla consectetur id nec massa. Aliquam erat volutpat. Sed ut dui ut lacus dictum fermentum vel tincidunt neque. Sed sed lacinia lectus. Duis sit amet sodales felis. Duis nunc eros, mattis at dui ac, convallis semper risus. In adipiscing ultrices tellus, in suscipit massa vehicula eu.

Try translating it and you get some striking effects. Of course a straightforward translation isn’t possible – for one thing, ‘lorem’ isn’t a word, it’s a chopped off bit of ‘dolorem’ – but Jaspreet Singh Boparai, a postgraduate at Cambridge, has come up with the following:

Rrow itself, let it be sorrow; let him love it; let him pursue it, ishing for its acquisitiendum. Because he will ab hold, unless but through concer, and also of those who resist. Now a pure snore disturbeded sum dust. He ejjnoyes, in order that somewon, also with a severe one, unless of life. May a cusstums offficer somewon nothing of a poison-filled. Until, from a twho, twho chaffinch may also pursue it, not even a lump. But as twho, as a tank; a proverb, yeast; or else they tinscribe nor. Yet yet dewlap bed. Twho may be, let him love fellows of a polecat. Now amour, the, twhose being, drunk, yet twhitch and, an enclosed valley’s always a laugh. In acquisitiendum the Furies are Earth; in (he takes up) a lump vehicles bien.  read more

ART: [unattributed]

1888? Whitechapel Murders, Nintendo

March 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

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The Bank of England’s Quarterly Review contains a detailed description of how money creation works in the UK’s fiat money economy…

And it is controversial. It rejects conventional theories of bank lending and money creation (my emphasis):

“The reality of how money is created today differs from the description found in some economics textbooks:

• Rather than banks receiving deposits when households save and then lending them out, bank lending creates deposits.

• In normal times, the central bank does not fix the amount of money in circulation, nor is central bank money ‘multiplied up’ into more loans and deposits.”

To be sure, numerous papers from many eminent researchers and august institutions (including the Fed, the IMF, the ECB and the Bank for International Settlements) have cast doubt upon conventional theory as an adequate explanation of money creation in a modern fiat money system. But to my knowledge this is the first time that a central bank has presented an explanation of money creation that so comprehensively departs from conventional orthodoxy…

It is of course difficult for mainstream economists to accept that the theory they have believed and taught for so many years – and upon which many models of the economy depend – is simply inadequate.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Katie West

We will not enter into space as employees of an astronautic administration or as “volunteers” of a state project, but as masters without slaves reviewing their domains: the entire universe pillaged for the workers councils

March 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

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The annals of Black Metal are fraught with violence,” intone Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind at the beginning of their 1998 history Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground, “exploding in both self-administered suicidal shotgun blasts and cold-blooded, knife-blade murders. The number of deaths incurred worldwide is hard to calculate, but the frenzied nature of the killings bestows them with an unmistakable essence. As merciless as the murders have been, the ongoing campaign of church arsons adds psychological terror and religious intimidation to the list of Black Metal’s arsenal.”

This extraordinary passage raises troubling questions for music criticism, such as: Aren’t suicidal shotgun blasts self-administered by definition? Isn’t murder always merciless? What is the “list” of an “arsenal”? And most important: Why is this bullshit all the average music fan knows about black metal?

Well, I suppose Satanism, arson, and murder are sort of attention-grabbing. And it wasn’t so long ago that I didn’t know Fenriz from a hole in the northern sky myself. My metal acumen extended to AC/DC, the first few Sabbath records, a little Slayer, and Appetite for Destruction. I was begging the local record store clerk to let me buy his advance copy of the new Pavement CD. Black metal seemed to be trying too hard—WE ARE SO EVIL, FOR REAL—while indie rock could barely get out of bed, which was more my speed.

But at some point, indie began to seem overly safe and insular. The world doesn’t need another article about how boring indie rock is, so I’ll just skip to the part where I heard Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger [sic] for the first time. Then I’ll skip to the next day, when I heard it for the 10th time. Soon Emperor and Bathory and Immortal and other early black-metal bands began to infest my apartment with their brambly logos. Metal gave me a new lease on rock ‘n’ roll, and it was black metal that set the paperwork in motion. Brothers and sisters, I am here to testify that pale, sickly beings once created a beautiful racket under the Scandinavian moon.

I often find myself called upon to explain the difference between black metal and death metal (usually to people like my sister who have just asked me to turn down the wrong one).  read more

ART: [unknown]

Repressive forces don’t stop people expressing themselves but rather force them to express themselves

March 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Leningrad: The 900 Days (Sergio Leone)
Inspired by the “invasion theme” of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony and influenced by Times journalist Harrison Salisbury’s book The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad, it was the story of doomed love between a cynical American newsreel cameraman and a young Soviet girl against the epic background of the siege. Leone: “Think of Gone with the Wind.” The director imagined Robert De Niro in the lead, with music by Ennio Morricone, and shooting in the USSR. It was delayed indefinitely by Leone’s inability to commit his many ideas to paper and Soviet producers’ reluctance to grant permission.

Libra (Phil Joanou)
Based on Don DeLillo’s speculative novel about the life of Lee Harvey Oswald and the events leading to JFK’s assassination. Gary Oldman was to star.

The Lifted Spear (Akira Kurosawa)
Like Kagemusha, Spear would have climaxed with a grand battle involving the 16th-century warlord Nobunaga Oda. Due to wartime shortages no horses were available for the crucial scene, and the project was subsequently abandoned.

The Lily of the Valley (Max Ophüls)
Adaptation of the 1835 Balzac novel about an intense but chaste love between a man and a woman.

The Living Room (Michael Powell)
Adaptation of Graham Greene’s play set in Fifties London about a mysterious house, its occupants, and a love affair that turns tragic. Rex Harrison was to star.

The Lodger (Lino Brocka)
Written by Nick Joaquin.

The Loves of d’Annunzio and Duse (Orson Welles)
Welles wrote this screenplay for Greta Garbo (to play Eleonora Duse) and Charlie Chaplin (Gabriele d’Annunzio) and described the project as a story about two crazy monsters in a state of degenerate hyper-romanticism, with a ridiculous and theatrical passion. Neither Chaplin nor Garbo wanted to do it.  read more

ART: Horyon Lee

US Advises Allies Not to Border Russia

March 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

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The first map on the left shows the most common European surnames by country.  read more

ART: Kitagawa Utamaro

But one day, chugging along, I noticed an old lady slowly walk toward me. I had plenty of time to stop and swerve around her; instead I ran into her and she fell

February 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Luke and I were looking at Hieronymus Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights and discovered, much to our amusement, music written upon the posterior of one of the many tortured denizens of the rightmost panel of the painting which is intended to represent Hell. I decided to transcribe it into modern notation, assuming the second line of the staff is C, as is common for chants of this era.

so yes this is LITERALLY the 600-years-old butt song from hell  listen

PHOTOGRAPH: Annemarieke van Drimmelen