Tuesday Jan 12, 2010

Food Envy - a short silent comedy

This weekend I went to a birthday party in Berlin, where one of the guests presented this very short (5 min) Laurel and Hardy style movie he shot on super 8 film a couple of years ago with his friends. I convinced him to put it up on youtube. Here it is for your enjoyment:

As it happens the day before I had been discussing the relation between jealousy and envy, two emotions that are often confused. The Wikipedia article on Envy, confirms the widespread nature of this misunderstanding. Whereas envy is an emotion relating two or more people and an object, jealousy involves three people and a shifting relationship between them. In this film the object of envy is the food, and this film very clearly illustrates what envy is. We all remember such episodes from our childhood I bet. It would be fun to do a film like this on jealousy, and all the other emotions...

Saturday Jan 09, 2010

Mr Security: patrolling public spaces

Mr Security is a brilliant piece of performance art exploring with seriousness and humor the fast encroaching surveillance society growing in our midst and in our souls. The product of their work consists in realistically crafted PDF security marketing material (in German and English), in which they describes the team's security performances, which consist in watching public spaces and documenting the reactions to it.

A very telling example is the very short surveillance of the street around the American Embassy in Berlin. After taking a few pictures of the street a few police officers arrive. The dialog is noted as:

Excuse me, please put your camera away. Hello young man, did you hear me?
Hello. Do you have some identification?
PO 1
Why are you taking pictures of us here?
I'm observing
PO 1
The street.
PO 1
For Security.
PO 1
Oh!? Where are you from?
Private security service.
PO 1
Where are you from? Your badge doesn’t help us at all. Where are you from?
What do you mean, where am I from?
PO 1
Well, where from? A security service? Who?
Here, Mister Security!
PO 2
Young man, please take your hands out of your pockets! I feel happier that way. What security company do you work for?
Mister Security, private security service!
PO 2
Yes, and your area of operation is the American embassy, or what?
Private security reinforcement.
PO 2
PO 1
For what? For who?
For public safety.
PO 2
Who hired you?
The public itself!
PO 1
Oh! Let’s get this straight, it’s not entirely clear what you’re saying here. Let me tell you what I think. I don’t buy this private security service story – look at your shoes. They look like my last pair of work shoes, to be honest. I don’t believe you’d be dressed like that if you were working for the public.
There’s not that much money in the private sector anymore!
PO 1
Well, I’d have thought your employer would provide you with what you need.
I have to see to my clothes myself.
PO 1
No, really, this is not okay!... What’s on your film? What kind of a camera is that?
It’s not switched on. It’s a digital camera, but as you can see, it’s not turned on, look – nothing!
PO 1
Okay! Well I do want to get clearance here. We’ll have to inform the sector. And I’m going to ask you to wait so that we can be sure about your identity. You can stand under the shelter here, that way you’ll stay dry. This’ll take a few minutes.
PO 2
Are you a one-man business?
Well, it’s not that big yet – but I’m trying to grow.
PO 2
How did you get this commission and who gave it to you? What assignment are you working on?
I am not at liberty to say!
PO 2
Oh, you’re not at liberty to say?!
I think it’d be a good thing if there were more surveillance.
PO 2
You do?
You need reinforcements here. It’s not enough that you’re here with just three people on this side.
PO 2
Oh! And where do you see the security problem?
Yes, well you could have twenty well-prepared guys come and run right past you here!
PO 2
Right, and what do you want to do about that, if I may ask? Perhaps we could exchange some ideas?
Yes, that’s exactly the issue. We’re working for several embassies right now. We’re revising the security concept, which we’ll then introduce personally.
PO 2
Right! Great! And the private sector will deal with it then?
Exactly! It’s cheap and effective!

You can read about the continuation of this conversation, and others involving a number of different actors (including anti-fascist demonstrators, for example) in their PDF.

Mr Security presented his work in detail at the 26th Chaos Computer Congress "Here be Dragons" in Berlin on 27 December 2009. There he revealed how the camera's sound had in fact continued to function during the whole conversation. What does not appear in this PDF is his later experience going to the US, where he received a stipend at a New York art institute. On appearance of the FBI to the studio he was promptly ejected by his artist colleagues who clearly lacked the courage (see my recent article on "After Virtue") to support him. Not that surprising perhaps given the extraordinary high amount of people in US jails, with 3.2% under direct police surveillance at any one time.

Can one still have a democracy in such an atmosphere of fear? If yes, then for how long?

Friday Jun 19, 2009

Nobody is responsible

Peter Sloterdijk animates a program on the major German Television Station ZDF, entitled the Philosophical Quartet. The latest program of his, which could be translated as Risk and Responsibility: the art of being Nobody is very much worth watching (if you speak german). Sloterdijk starts off the program by reminding us of the ancient story of Ulysses and the Cyclops. In order to free himself from the blood thirsty monster, Ulysses boldly plunged a red hot stake into the sleeping monsters only eye who screaming in pain and rage asked who it was who had done that. Ulyses answered that his name was "Nobody". As the cyclops friends then arrived alerted by the screams of their fellow, and asked him who had done this deed to him, that they could avenge him, they received the answer Nobody. Thinking therefore that the Gods had done that to him, and that he was thus responsible for his deeds, they left him to die in his pain.

This story is used as a spring board by the quartet - the 2 philosohpers and 2 guests: Beatrice Weder Di Mauro swiss economist member of the German 5 wise men board of economic affairs, and novelist Bodo Kirchhoff - to look into the question that nobody seems to be to blame, or accepts the blame, for the massive financial meltdown that saw more money evaporate in a year than all the biggest robberies of all time piled one next to the other over the whole course of humanities history. Clearly something went wrong. Something needs to change, some things need to stop, some to die... The point is well made that the bankers that gave themselves such huge salaries on account that they were responsible for the huge benefits they made, seem to have lost all sense of responsibilty in the crisis. What then is it that needs changing? What criteria should be set in to avoid such errors in the future? One proposal - perhaps a very harsh one for all attempts at mergers - is that you should never allow a system to grow to such a level that it cannot fail, or better: never allow a system to grow so that when it is time to ask for responsibility for a crisis, the only answer can be Nobody.

Peter Sloterdijk, radical cure to twitter

Do you feel like you are in a binary discussion on some topic, that goes back and forth with no apparent progress? Do you feel you have gotten so involved in a micro topic, that you feel that you may be missing the big picture? Is perhaps the phantasy of such a big picture you have taken as your background, itself the cause of the problem you are dealing with? Do you find yourself preaching that God is dead, or not? Are you preaching? Why?

Peter Sloterdijk, one of the most famous contemporary German philosopher, is known to write very large books that span over all domains of human activity from philosophy to history, to technology, aesthetics, biology, religion and economics, in a passionate, often humorous, sometimes jolting way, linking these in a fluid narrative that flows healthily through the barriers of all academic disciplines. Sloterdijk diffuses dualisms through fluid depth of analysis, carefully linking both sides of a debate in such a way that they can be seen to be part of the same surface reflecting a third party that had not yet been seen, the real topic of the discussion perhaps, of which he goes on to draw the history and evolution.

So in his latest book "Du mußt dein Leben ändern" ("You must change your life"), which I have nearly finished reading here in Vienna, Sloterdijk starts off with the a beautiful poem by Rilke of the same title (english translation with german original here ) where Rilke describes what could be called a religious call for transformation whilst looking at an ancient Greek stone torso of Apollo he had come across in the Louvre museum in Paris. The undeniable reality of this upward sentiment of transformation, is what Sloterdijk then goes on to describe the history of throughout his book, linking it to the exercises that Olympic athletes of our times to always further push back the boundaries of what humanity is capable of, which he then traces back to the budhist philosophers and their spiritual exercises, the ancient greek schools of thought, and the exercises the early Christians followed to break through the barriers of death, by for example entering the Roman circus' to be devoured calmly by Lions. This pursuit of transcendental improvement can then be found to have moved from the monasteries of the middle ages into the artisans workshops where the practices of meditation were put to use in the building of the Protestant work ethic...

For those who speak German here is a very interesting interview of him in October of last year on a Swiss television channel talking about the financial meltdown that occurred.

(Thanks to Michael Zeltner for the link on his very interesting blog. More parts here).

And here, for the French speaking of you here is an interview with Elisabeth Levy where they discuss modern media, rumours, and more.

For english speakers here is a talk on Reality Peter Sloterdijk gave a last year before the opening of the large swiss nuclear collider, which I think made the news. (The sounds is not very good, but the points he makes are serious and funny simultaneously):

Wednesday May 20, 2009

You are a Terrorist!

Every country in Europe seems to be on the verge of introducing extremely powerful legislation for state monitoring of the internet, bringing us a lot closer to the dystopia described in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty Four. Under the guise of laws to help combat terrorism or pedophilia - emotional subjects that immediately get everybody's unthinking assent - massive powers are to be given to the state, which could very easily be misused. As internauts we all need to make it our duty to follow very closely these debates, and participate actively in them, if we do not want to find ourselves waking up one morning in a world that is the exact opposite of what we have been dreaming of.


In Germany a new Data Retention law passed already it seems in 2008, allows the state (quote)

to trace who has contacted whom via telephone, mobile phone or e-mail for a period of six months. In the case of mobile calls or text messages via mobile phone, the user's location is also logged. Anonymising services will be prohibited as of 2009.

To increase awareness of this law Alexander Lehmann put together this excellent presentation, with English subtitles, Du bist Terrorist!:

Du bist Terrorist (You are a Terrorist) english subtitles from lexela on Vimeo.


The passage of the hadopi law in France, will create a strong incentive for citizens to place state built snooper software on each their computers in order to make it possible to defend themselves against accusations of copyright infringement. But that is nothing compared to the incredibly broad powers the state wishes to give itself with Loppsi 2 law (detailed article in Le Monde, and Ars Technica) which would give the president the power to insert spyware onto users computers (which could record anything being done of course), create a very large database of people's activities, help link information from various databases, and much more... The recent case of the sacking of the web site director of the once national, now private, TF1 television channel for having communicated his doubts on Hadopi privately to his Member of Parliament - as reported on Slashdot recently - does not give one much faith in the way privacy is being handled currently by the government.

The United Kingdom

In the UK the Home Secretary Jaqui Smith had proposed to create a database dubbed Big Brother to log every single activity of every one of it's citizens - in order of course to root out the very 21 century crimes of pedophilia and terrorism (did the IRA not operate before the internet? Are pedophile rings something that only emerged with the internet, or is it that they just became more visible?). She had to pull back somewhat from the initial proposal, and now wishes all that information still to be tracked, but only to be kept on the service provider's databases as reported by the Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Independent...


So are we now all suspected terrorists, pornographers, pedophiles, murderers, subversives, ... that the governments must know all about us? We may have voted for the current government and have complete faith in their use of these tools. But what when the opposition comes in, and takes hold of those same powers? Will we be as comfortable then? The excellent 2006 film The Lives of Others shows just how intrusive the East German state was on its own citizens during the cold war - and that with the very limited tools they had available. With modern computing tools, that type of spy operation could be done at much much lower cost and so perhaps even be viable for the state.

If you feel things just can't go this wrong, then I would also recommend watching Julie Taymor's adaptation of Shakespear's Titus Andronicus. It really is important to realize that things can go badly, very very badly wrong. Ignoring a problem, not taking responsibilities in fighting them will lead to disaster, as the current economic crisis - predicted years before it occurred, but without any action being taken - should have amply proven by now. Sadly for people who predict danger, if people do act on the danger and avoid it, nobody may even notice how close to danger they really were. So our actions may remain unsung. But at least we may put some chances on our side not to wake up in a new form of dictatorship, worse than any ever dreamed of by our those who helped forge our democracies.

Thursday Apr 30, 2009

The anti-privacy/liberty law named Hadopi

The Hadopi law(en) being voted now in France, constitutes an incredible attack on Freedom of expression and Privacy. It is fascinating to see how a law that gives the state an easy route to invade people's every digital thought is being pushed through, and will very likely be accepted by the French parliament on Monday May 4, 2009.

Parliamentary Maneuverings

The maneuvers of the French parliament here take some work to understand. A few weeks ago Hadopi was rejected in the Assembly by 21 votes against, 15 for. For an Assembly containing well over 300 deputies, and for a law of such importance, it may seem odd that so few people were part of the discussion. The best understanding I have of this is that President Sarkozy, has made this a very personal issue, having promised to a lot of big media friends, with which he is very close, to put in place a system to break the problem of "piracy" on the internet. Anyone in the majority who may have been tepidly against the law, may not have wished making such a powerful enemy. Others may have thought the law was a done deal given the backing. And sadly I think most of the deputies don't really understand the issue at all, as reveled by this video asking deputies what p2p is.

The Anti-Piracy law

Having lost the first vote, Sarkozi ordered his troops together to make his majority in parliament felt by having them massively vote for the law. The problem is that the majority voting now have very little understanding of the technical issues in front of them. Their view of the issue is the one a large part of the French population have: this is simply an issue of being for or against the Pirates; being for or against the artists. "Piracy is theft" is the simplifying drumbeat which organises their thoughts.

Coming to the defence of artists is of course a very noble thing to do. I myself try to stay as clean as possible in that regard, favoring works that are clearly licensed openly. Most work I publish under very free licences, that make it close to impossible to pirate my work. This article for example is published under a Creativce Commons attribution licence. In any case I find it much easier to buy or rent DVDs than to search for content that may be broken on some other p2p network.

What the best way to defend artists is, and how to find ways of rewarding their work is a complex issue. For the past 50 years people have mostly accepted electronic work to be freely available via the radio or the television -- if interspersed with advertising. I don't want to look into this problem here. For some good ideas one should read and listen to Lawrence Lessig speak on the issue of copyright and the future of the network, or the French economist Jaques Attali write about 10 steps to solve this problem.

The Anti-Privacy/Liberty Law

However noble the issue of saving artists is, the real problem is how this law intends to go about doing what it set out to do. And if one looks at it this way, one soon gets a bad feeling of having entered a Orwellian 1984 like world! (See the public letter "Sci-Fi Against Hadopi") The law is not just anti-piracy, it is also anti-privacy, anti-freedom of expression, anti-freedom of all sorts. It is like a super DDT, a chemical that gets rid of all insects, but is so powerful that it also starts killing humans too.

The Hadopi law (pdf) will enable a newly established administrative higher authority to receive ip addresses from content owners, and ask telecommunication companies to reveal the owners of that ip address, to whom they will send 2 warning e-mails, telling them that something illegal is being downloaded or uploaded from their network, and asking them to secure this network. It seems that this warning will not even mention the work that is thought to have been illegally transmitted. After the third postal warning the internet connection will be cut off. At that point the citizen whose connection will be cut off, will be placed on a black list, making it impossible for him to seek any other telephone connection. As it will be extremly difficult for him to defend himself, he will then have to accept putting a yet undefined piece of software on his network that will snoop everything he is doing. One motion required this software to also sniff the email communications [ I am not absolutely clear this went through though.]

So in short, private companies will be able to anonymously denounce French citizens, leading their internet connection to be cut off, and then forcing them to install snooping software on their network to prove their innocence! If this is not an extreem invasion of privacy I do not know what is.

To help citizens who want to stay legal find their way around the internet, the Hadopi institution will distribute special labels for clean content. Good citizens will be safe if they don't stray too far from officially approved sites. If this is not an attack on freedom of information I don't know what is!

Where is the resistance?

So over the past few weeks as my concern grew I tried discussing this with a number of people. My initial thought was that an issue such as this would not get through in a country that demonstrates on nearly every issue that comes up. What stunned me was the silence, or the lack of interest in these issues by most people. It is instructive in my view to look at various types of responses I got.

The law cannot be implemented view

A lot of people are convinced that this law cannot be implemented. It is too crazy to be workable. Let us hope and pray that it is! The previous DADVSI law wich had set punishments of €300 000 and 3 years in prison, was so extreemly overwhelmingly powerful, that it indeed was not useable.

But that argument is very dangerous. The DADVSI may not yet have been used, but it may one day be. It is certainly what is spurring the current law, Hadopi, which comparatively seems innocuously kind. It only will ask you to install snooping software on your network. And since it is big brother the State asking this, and most people have no idea of what this implies, a lot of people may very well be frightened into accepting this. In any case it does not matter if it is not immediately applicable. It need only slowly with time work itself into people's lives. If enough people have this working, even if it is widely bypassed, then you can bet that in 10 years time, a movement will start where people who do have this installed will complain that some of their fellow citizens don't have it, and so push for harsher laws, perhaps going so far as to install this automatically on all networks.

We can bypass it

A lot of technically savvy people have convinced themselves they can bypass this easily.

So what if they do? The law need only frighten the majority into behaving a certain way. With time, and with the majority on their side, they can add other laws to make the undesirable behavior a lot more difficult. For example for those who think that anonymising software is going to be an easy way out, then they should look at the next law on the table: Llopsi which will give the State the power to block any IP address they need to. Now perhaps a good use case for Llopsi will be large anonymiser services.

Not fighting a law because one decides one will not follow it, is a very selfish and short term way of thinking. Sadly it seems to have grown in a large portion of the population that allowed itself to be tagged as Pirates. And for that selfishness we will all pay (yes, this is not just a French phenomenon, it seems to be a globally orchestrated movement - see for example blackout europe.)

It will be blocked by the constitution

It may be. But then it may not be. In any case it is extreemly worrying that a law should have to go so far as to require blocking by the constitution. Remember how Lawrence Lessig's attempt to get the Supreme court to change the provisions on copyright? It failed.

It will be blocked by the European Union

The EU is a Union of States, where the states have an overwhelming power. The EU does not have an army and cannot enforce much. France has the "cultural exception" it can use quite easily, and it may also be that similar problems are brewing in the rest of europe. Don't count on the EU. The parliament have done a great job there, but they don't have the final say, and they can be pressured. They have just watered down the telecom bill for example. The EU is not the USA.

The people will rise

This is unlikely given what I have seen. Many people don't yet really feel the power of the internet. They work with the internet via the expensive and limited cell phone networks, if at all. For them the Internet is cool, but not essential. Furthermore traditional media are still extremely powerful, and they can direct the message the way they wish. If they were not so powerful, laws such as this would not ever be able to go so far. I don't watch enough television to be able to tell if both sides of the debate here have been aired equally. My guess is not. [ Update: the major French television channel TF1 - the first french TV channel to be created, now privatised - was found to have sacked the head of their innovation center, for having sent privately a critical message on Hadopi to his Member of Parliament as reported by Libération. Thereby confirming the suspicion that other sides of this debate are not getting equal airing time]

But in the long term the people may very well rise. If the law were applied equally and without discrimination then businesses may very well be the first to rise up -- and leave. Later as the internet does become more and more part of every day life, the people themselves may rise. Most likely the younger generation will feel most strongly the difference between what is being asked and what is reasonable. They may feel these new chains most forcefully. Mass movements though are worrying, because when masses move, they can end up being very difficult to control, and can easily go the wrong direction.

All in all I think it would be much better for people in France to call their deputies before the law passes and urge them to change their mind, than to wait and fight this out on the streets.


There are a number of ways people can get their voice heard. One is the twitition petition. But I don't like the way it requires your password. Better I think to add the string JVoteContreHadopi to a blog post or tweet of yours. After a little time the vote should appear on this Google query where the votes can be counted. (We did this for when voting for Java 6 on OSX leopard.)

Sunday Nov 30, 2008

Independent Artists in Paris, 2008

On Saturday I went to "Salon des Artistes Independants" in the Grand Palais in Paris. In a huge space one could find a mish mash of paintings and sculptures from thousands of artists. The majority I did not find interesting at all. But that may just reflect on me more that on the artists. The ones that caught my eye as I walked quickly through the vast corridors of this space I took pictures of, and put them on flickr. So here are my favorites:

In another section of the Grand Palais they were simultaneously holding a retrospective of the works of Emil Nolde (wikipedia), a painter whose work was inspired by Vincent Van Gogh and who was member of the german expressionist group "Die Brucke". The color of the Emil Nolde's pictures is as strong as Van Gogh's. Irreproducible. If you are in Paris, go and see the exhibition.

Thursday Sep 11, 2008

whispering stars: "Henry Story, splashdown successful"

newspaper article from a german speaking newspaper

My Viennese cousins pointed me to this article from Die Krone the largest selling Austrian news paper.

Minnie Driver, 38, just became a mother. The child is healthy boy of 5kg, named Henry Story. The Actress is still quiet about the name of the Father. "He will look after the child, even though I will not marry him, but everyone is happy", said Driver.
Did those physicist already do that experiment in Switzerland that could bring about a black hole?

Thursday Aug 28, 2008

picture of my blog

picture from wordle.net

Wordle is a fun little Java applet that analyses your blog and builds any number of beautiful word clouds from the content. It has started a movement I think.

Just a pity that one cannot embed the applet in one's own web page. That would make it dynamic and a lot more interesting. Perhaps that will come. At present it seems the author is not sure what the IBM lawyers have decided.

This is somewhat similar to the graphic app I mentioned previously though with somewhat more content, clearly. Long term readers of my blog may find the picture of my blog to not be such a good reflection of my interests though. Statistic analysis of words does not get you that far.

Monday Aug 25, 2008

The interpretation of fairy tales

Over the holidays I accidentally picked up a book by Marie-Louise von Franz, "The interpretation of fairy tales", and could not put it down until I reached the last page. I then ordered five other book of hers. If you have ever found fairy tales interesting but puzzling, you don't know how much you have missed. Seen from Marie-Louise's perspective, one of the closest students of Carl Gustav Jung, each of these are nuggets of deep knowledge of the human soul. Here is my translation of the first paragraph of my French translation of "The feminine in Fairy tales":

At the origin, and until approximately the XVIIth century, fairy tales were not so much meant for children as for the adult population. This situation was kept alive in the rural areas where until a relatively recently, story tellers would animate traditional vigils. Progressively though the development of the rational current and its refusal of the irrational, led these tales to be seen as just absurd old woman's stories, just good enough to amuse the children.

My guess is that a lot of this still holds true today, though a lot of her thoughts must have been integrated in one way or another by now. Once one starts learning to read fairy tales like this - though I keep being surprised at how deep her reading goes, and it will not be an easy task to get even close to it - one can start seeing how this can be applied to other arts such as film. I recently saw Jim Jarmush's "Dead Man" which is full of such interesting symbolism for example.

Monday Feb 25, 2008

Semantic Bar Camp London and Flue

Last Saturday early early morning I took the train to London to go to the weekend Semantic Bar Camp that was held at Imperial College, in the computer science department I studied in. I arrived, late, because I had missed the train in Paris by one minute, and so missed getting an overview of the event. On arrival I was asked to put my name down for a presentation and stick the paper on the board on the first empty slot available. 15 minutes later I improvised a talk on Linked Data. I did not realize that there were a lot of microformats people in the audience with little semantic web experience, so I did not take care enough to lay some important foundations, and show how microformats information should be able to work well with information in an RDF database [1]. I demonstrated the Beatnik Address Book and gave an overview of why this was now filling a really important gap, enabling distributed social networks, a topic on which I have written a lot recently. It inspired Dan Brickley who has been working on SPARQL over XMPP to give me some code and show how this could be integrated into Beatnik... It seems pretty easy to do. What would the use case be though...

There were a number of very interesting talks over the weekend. Daniel Lewis collected a few of the blogs covering the event. Ian Davis presented the work he has been leading on Open Data Licences (pic). Yves Raimond and his team presented some interesting work on semantics and music and an advanced inferencing engine based on SWI Prolog called Henry (picture). Tom Shelley from the Economist got us all asking questions on the pros and cons of personal knowledge in a short presentation (picture). The more information is known on us the better services can be offered, but also what are the risks? Is this not a reason one may end up needing agent technology: ie one may prefer programs to move rather than data to move? Georgi Kobilarov gave a nice overview of the very useful Linked Data project DBPedia (picture)...

All during the weekend I felt very tired which I put down for a while to the trip from Paris. On Monday morning as my condition had gotten much worse it became clear that that I had caught a virus. For two days I could hardly get out of bed, struck by a vicious flue, which has only just left me today. On Friday I was too tired to do any thinking work, so I went to see the Du Champ, Man Ray and Picabia exhibition at the Tate Modern, where you can see Du Champ's irreverent rendition of the Mona Lisa - below the picture are written the letters "L.H.O.O.Q" which if pronounced speedily enough sounds like "Elle a chaud au cul".


  1. All I need is some XSLT or Xquery transform to turn microformatted html into RDF (any well known format will do). Mind you, at a later microformat talks it turns out that this may not be quite so easy, as it seems that that the microformat community has not yet agreed on a clear grammar...


The talk I gave is now available online as "Building Secure, Open and Distributed Social Network Applications".

Sunday Sep 30, 2007

A Glass Cage in New York

Joseph Holmes takes some absolutely stunning photos of New York. One a day. All licenced under a generous Creative Commons licence. Check it out.

For absolute pleasure browse his photos by listening to Glass Cage - Music for Piano by Philip Glass and John Cage.

Sunday Sep 09, 2007

Language is a Virus

That is key to understanding the development of the Semantic Web. Open the door and listen to this classic 1986 song by Laurie Anderson, "Language is a Virus" (lyrics):

VIDEO CLIP -- you may be using a browser that does not display the flash shockwave content. You can test this by trying to view it directly on youtube. If you can watch other videos there with this browser, then let me know, it may be that the link is dead. Thanks.

Then if you wish to explore this in more detail you can read the philosophical papers of Ruth G. Millikan.

authentic paranoid fantasies

On 1 July 1936 Salvador Dali gave a fantastic presentation at the New Burlington Galleries in London. He arrived carrying a billiard queue in one hand , accompanied by 2 large dogs and determined to present his talk "Authentic Paranoid Fantasies" in a diving suite.

I read this story a year ago in Berlin whilst browsing the philosophy section of a large bookstore. On page 156 of "Spheres III: Foam", Peter Sloterdijk - a famous contemporary German philosopher, who now teaches in Vienna - quotes the following passage from Dali's Memoirs "Comment on Devient Dali", which in turn I have translated for your enjoyment below:

I had determined to give a talk during the exhibition in a diving suite as a representation of the subconscious. I was placed in the armor and even fitted with heavy lead shoes, making it completely impossible for me to move my legs. I had to be carried onto the stage. Then they placed the helmet on my head and screwed it tightly shut. I started my talk behind the thick glass in front of a microphone that clearly could not record anything. Nevertheless my mimicry fascinated the public. Soon though I ran out of air, my face turned red, then blue, and my eyes turned upwards. Clearly they had forgotten to provide me with access to air, and I was close to asphyxiation. I signaled to my friends through desperate gestures that my situation was becoming critical. One of them ran for some scissors and tried without success to puncture the costume; another one tried to unscrew the helmet, and as that did not succeed he started banging on the screws with a hammer... Two men tried to tear off the helmet and a third one continued whacking the metal so hard that I nearly lost consciousness.
On the stage one could only see a mass of wildly moving hands, from which I emerged now and again like a dismembered puppet, and my helmet sounded like a gong. The public applauded heavily to this successful Daliesque melodrama, which in their eyes clearly represented how consciousness was trying to communicate with the unconscious. I though nearly died during this triumph. As they finally ripped off my helmet I was as white as Jesus as he returned after his forty days of fasting from the desert.

Thursday Aug 30, 2007

Gun for Sale

Only used once.

Contact Christian Faure.




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