Monthly Archives: April 2008

Earth Day Thoughts

Just saw this post from Jamais Cascio, titled “The Earth Will Be Just Fine, Thank You”, which I think sums things up pretty well:

Critics of environmentalism often claim that eco-activists hate humans, that we value the Earth more than we value ourselves. With very few exceptions, nothing could be further from the truth. Environmentalism is fundamentally about making sure that human beings, and human civilization, can continue to thrive on our home planet for centuries, millennia to come. Environmentalism, in its demands for respect for nature, ultimately demands that we respect ourselves.

Out among the flowers

Flowers in NL

A couple shots from yesterday’s bike ride, looping through the flower fields just north of Leiden. Beautiful day, lovely sights, intense colors and smells!

Hyacinths in NL

Views of Gent


Here’s a selection of shots from my wanderings around the Belgian town of Gent.

Gent canal


Gent - Gravensteen

Getting into space

The Man Who Flew

While in Gent last weekend, I came across this book that I couldn’t resist – and it has a timely aspect, being almost exactly the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight into space. (The Russian Gagarin was first to orbit the earth in a launch on April 12, 1961).

Russian Space posters

The book by Boris Groys is part of the Afterall series on single works of art, this one being “The Man Who Flew into Space from his Apartment”, an installation by Ilya Kabakov constructed in 1985. The work consists of a small room, walls covered with Soviet space posters, in which the occupant has installed a slingshot-like apparatus that has apparently sent him right up and out through the roof. The cover shot above shows one half of the room.
Here are some lines from the book that I especially liked:

The only things that distinguishes this undertaking from a strictly scientific experiment is the supreme importance of the right moment. The positive sciences regard time as homogeneous, which by definition means that any experiment is capable of being repeated. The hero of this installation, on the other hand, has to identify the exact moment when certain, otherwise dormant, cosmic energies enter a period of activity. This is the type of science pursued by revolutionaries and artists – it’s a matter of not missing the right moment, of allowing it to propel one into the unknown.

We’ve all felt it – a moment of opportunity opens up, and either we grab it, or we let it go by, and in retrospect see that what was possible at one moment is no longer possible. Is the repeatable in some sense only the most trivial?

"Harsh Interrogation Techniques"


Above is the old castle Gravensteen in Gent, Belgium, which I visited yesterday. It dates back to days we refer to as medieval. For years it was used as a court, and prisoners were kept there. Nowadays it’s a museum of sorts, with rooms of old armor and weapons, massive ‘two-hander’ swords and such things. In another room one can find what we can only refer to as the torture instruments; thumbscrews, various bindings used to put people into ‘stress positions’, etc.

Here’s a shot I took of one old picture in the room.

Gravensteen Torture

This looks to me very similar to what we now call ‘waterboarding’.

Regardless of whether one thinks such techniques are necessary and useful, it seems to me that the Bush Adminstration is playing word games of the worst sort as it refers to its high-level discussions of ‘harsh interrogation techniques’. Torture is an ugly concept, and calling it something else does not make it go away.

Not to say that the current administration is using all the techniques of 500 years ago. Below is a torture that apparently was quite successful at eliciting confessions – a necklace of sharp pins that no one could stand for more than 4 hours.

Gravensteen Torture -necklace

Man’s imagination in coming up with incredible torments seems unfortunately quite vivid.

Some music

Nick Cave - Dig Lazarus Dig

I give a thumbs up for the new “Dig Lazarus Dig” from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.  It’s more rocking than most recent Nick Cave material, apparently loosened up from the Grinderman efforts.

SM & Jicks

Another new one that I like is SM & Jicks “Real Emotional Trash” which is loose and jammy; my favorite track is “Out of Reaches” which actually does seem to have some real emotion attached.

Last but certainly not least, I’ve been digging into some old material from Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, mostly from the 1967-1977 time frame.  Their duets are real good, and Porter himself made some pretty over-the-top records back then!

Porter & Dolly

The picture above is of two record jackets from the late 1960s, as shown in the booklet to a Porter Wagoner collection called “The Rubber Room”, which is a pretty extreme collection of 29 tracks.

Interesting news…

Two quick items that caught my eye lately:

From a March 27 article in the International Herald Tribune on “Berlin’s Art: A melting pot of talents” by Simon Marks, an art gallery owner Thomas Schulte is quoted like so:

Many American visitors tell me that Berlin reminds them of New York during the 70s; not much money, but very sexy.

I hope to get back to Berlin sometime this spring…  last visit was in 2000, where I nearly got trampled trying to get away from the Love Parade!

And on another topic altogether, from a March 31 article in the SF Chronicle entitled “Social gaming picks up momentum” by Ellen Lee, I learned of ‘Friends for Sale’:

San Francisco startup Serious Business, founded by 23-year-old Alexander Le and 24-year-old Siqi Chen, believes that a new genre of games could be mined from tapping into social networks.

In November, the duo created Friends for Sale, now one of Facebook’s most popular games with nearly 700,000 daily players. Users buy, sell and own their friends, as though their friends were pets or stocks. Owners can control their acquisitions, forcing them to do or say things, as well as sell them and turn a profit. Those being bought and sold are also part of the game, going up and down in value.

There’s no telling what those crazy kids will get up to next…