Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bicycling and Urbanity.

From Boing Boing TV. The following video depicts a July 25th rally where a police officer knocks a cyclist to the ground:

Boing Boing reports, "Although a judge ruled in 2006 that the monthly Critical Mass bicycle rides could proceed without a permit, the NYPD's stance remains somewhat adversarial. Though the city has not been enforcing the controversial parade permit law when it comes to Critical Mass, police have been ticketing cyclists during the ride for such infractions as not having the required lights.

A representative for TIMES UP! tells us that the cyclist in this video was arrested, held for 26 hours, and charged with attempted assault and resisting arrest."

Although I am a bicyclist myself and I am sympathetic to those submitted to arbitrary police harassment and violence, I wonder if the tensions that arise between cyclists and the rest of the urban community (commuters included I suppose) are not symptomatic of some larger shifts going on in urbanism in the United States in general. Certainly, we should connect Critical Mass to a wider and longer tradition of bicycle activism in the city, like the 1960s Dutch movement the White Bicycle Plan which placed free white bicycles around Amsterdam to discourage the city's restructuring for easier automobile commuting, at the same time it also either exemplifies or partakes in the petroleum crisis that encourages the white flight back into city centers and all the boutiquing and negative gentrification attendant with this flight (e.g. any theory by Richard Florida). Moreover, yesterday's National Public Radio broadcast included a story about realtors cashing in on these trends, here.

The following interview with George W. Bush at the Beijing Olympics sets these relationships into an even more interesting relationship. Where Bush discusses being a teenager riding bicycles with the Chinese people and in the background newly produced automobiles rumble through the streets of Beijing--"look at them now!" The bicycle is some sort of communist throw back, or at least an index of a backward economic situation.

As Beijing progresses in its petroleum hungry capitalist development, the US regresses backward into a bicycling and the arms of the "creative class".

Monday, August 18, 2008

I got a dog, named Hollywood

She is a one year-old pittbull mix, and is incredibly sweet. She has some swollen tatas from having given birth and then leaving her puppies in a bus station. Here is a picture of her from the Animal Rescue League website



Here is her official video:

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Iraq Graphic, Time-Based Illustration of Occupation

Click the red button

Although this is an apt illustration of the deluge of blood in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, this image also seems to emerge in tandem from the actual experiences of U.S. soldiers in their aerial "point-click" bombing in this second incursion in Iraq and elsewhere. This piece resonates with Paul Virilio's comments on the new visibilities and blindnesses attendant to modern warfare, in his War & Cinema book.

Reading Capital Volume 1 with David Harvey

This summer a group of fellow graduate students decided to read Karl Marx's Capital Volume 1 together in a weekly reading group. This follows from last summer's illuminating reading of selections from Louis Althusser's works including Lenin & Philosophy, Reading Capital, (the late) Philosophy of the Encounter, and For Marx. We have been reading about a hundred pages a week (approximately 3-6 chapters depending on their length), with significant set-backs due to vacations.

An additional resource emerged with David Harvey, author of the famous The Condition of Postmodernity and most recently A Brief History of Neo-Liberalism internet videos lecturing for a class devoted to the volume here.

The first video does an excellent job introducing readers to the different and competing disciplines at work in Capital--philosophy, classical economic theory, utopian socialist traditions of the moment etc. Additionally, Harvey notes the importance through the videos of the different levels at which Marx is working with capital, e.g. the first chapter on the commodity is not historical (as it seems at first), but traces the logic of the commodity as if it's (and its eventual abstraction into money form) could be temporally separated into distinct historical moments. One of the more interesting aspects that Harvey acknowledges is that Marx's "dissertation" in philosophy was a work on Epicurus, one of the founders of atomist theory. Atomism posited the emergence of the universe as following from the accidental collision of the building blocks (atoms) of solid bodies. This is worth noting for those who see Althusser's later work considering the "encounter" as somehow a break with or tangential to the Marxist tradition. If we want to follow up on these physicalist accounts of history and the development of social groupings or political bodies, considering, what Patricia Clough, calls Marx's "thermodynamic" account of class struggle is paramount (for her this kind of means a move to Deleuze and Foucault).

The third video just on the third chapter of Capital, Harvey emphasizes the importance of money in Marx's system, as not only the height of the development of the commodity, but the logic of the commodity that divorces it from the value of its substance (e.g. gold). Harvey does an excellent job throughout these video's debunking, what I find, to be an excess of cultural studies with its overemphasis (partially due to the Frankfurt School) on the commodity fetish. For him this is something Marx sets up in order to be deconstructed. This line of reasoning would tend to support Althusser's suggestion (in a footnote of "Marxism & Humanism") that the discussion of commodity fetishism and reification so emphasized by Adorno, Horkheimer, etc. is actually a misunderstanding of Marx's purposes in discussing these topics. Although, Harvey works hard to deemphasize the allusive aspects of Marx's, at times, quite literary language, it works to support a general interrogation of certain social/cultural theorists' and practitioners' failure to read past chapter 1. I find his critique amusing, and useful if at times a little vulgar.

Besides being a lucid and analytic explicator of the significance of Capital, Harvey himself is interested in the continuing importance of political-economy in explicating deep social changes under the regime of what he calls "flexible accumulation."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Two Modes of Lollypop

Kalup Linzy and Shaun Leonardo lip sync to the Hunter and Jenkins tune, which was banned from the radio in the 1930s. Even though completed in 2006, it appears, in the present context, as a premature reply to Lil Wayne's 2008 "Lollipop," which despite its catchy track and at times interesting visual effects, largely invests in gratuitous hip-hop video cliches (shots of a huge limo filled with eager ladies, and opening shots in an incredibly expensive hotel) and uses too much vocal vocoder.*

The predominance of voice distorting technologies along with the rise of explicitly 1990s house beats on hip-hop makes me pause at the increasing techno-ification of billboard hip-hop in general. Is this the sign of its imminent death as per the NAS's most recent album? or the increasing emphasis on hook driven singles as opposed to talented lyricism?

*Then again, I have "Lollipop" on my iTunes queue.