Just back from a film/discussion about a violence and arrests at a demonstration in Paris last March. I was somewhat underwhelmed by the film itself: riot-porn shot in black and white, with the sound turned way down. i.e. making itself look arty without using a great deal of art.

The discussion that followed, though, was excellent. Sylvain George, who shot the film, led it, with enthusiastic comments from a small audience consisting in large part of people who had taken place in the protest. Despite being too confused and tongue-tied to contribute to it myself, I was cheered up to find some fervent opinions being expressed for once.

My main reason for going, though, was an excuse to visit the arts centre 104. It’s much larger and more obviously government-funded than I’d imagined*. It reminds me a little of the Tate Modern: a massive, deliberately under-utilised space, a painfully clean industrial conversion. By the look of 104, I imagine it’s a former rail station or similar. Like a lot of places in Paris, it initially rubbed me up the wrong way by being too clean, too expensive-looking. But the programme of events is impressive, they’re mostly free or reasonably priced, and it seems to be providing space for artists to work rtaher than just strut. I’d feel considerably more at home there if it had a decent covering of grime, but that’s just my personal neuroses making themselves known.

* Actually, I suspect I’d confused it with somewhere else, such as a more self-organized atelier, but I can’t disentangle my memories. Such is the problem of using numbers as names.


Segolene Royal’s new website has received plenty of much-deserved mockery in France, but not nearly enough from the rest of the world. Go, admire the purple!


A few weeks ago, I tried reading the first of the Twilight books. I fully expected to loathe it, and there are plenty of good reasons to do so. But there’s something addictive about its fixation on a Mary Sue — it becomes much more appealing than any non-cardboard characters would be.

In short, I enjoyed it. Had I been a neurotic teenager, it would probably have spoken more directly to me [as a neurotic twenty-something, the distance is generally a little too great].

But then, I also approved of the Da Vinci Code.


This is a good case of why I’m occasionally uncomfortable with novels of ideas. Calvino’s summary of logic vs. empiricism is neat — but this is something I can read argued much more closely in textbooks and journal articles. Without the plot, what’s the point.

[I’m aware that, between this and the last post, I seem to be arguing that thrillers are the only books worth reading. Maybe I should follow that…]


Penny Red starts her column in the morning star. Notable mainly for looking back to the 80s as a heyday of counter-culture. Given enough time, all things start to look good.




for ages about the lack of a usable interface to the out-of-copyright first edition of the OED, I’ve finally got round to putting together the most basic imaginable


to the djvu files from archive.org. It ain’t much, but it’s better than paying $200/year for the official version.

Videos to listen to

Things I’ve been listening to:

  • Bruce Sterling on Augmented Reality [50m] — not much shocking content, by his Sterling’s standards, but pleasantly upbeat
  • Lots of TED Talks. I’ve been unexpectedly disappointed by most of the recent ones. Possibly, as with OReilly conferences, my expectations are now so high that reality can only disappoint. Also, as John Robb speculates, corporate/financial backing may have steered them away from decent thinking on this year’s Collapse Of Capitalism. [or perhaps, since we’re currently in a hype-bubble of financial apocalypse, treating this as Just Another Recession


    the forward-looking thing to do

Beyond the reality-based community

The Yorkshire Ranter:

I occasionally make the point that after the Left invented post-modernism, the Right operationalised it and rolled it out as a coherent political-media-aesthetic package. If your politics depends on disagreeing with objective reality, and persuading people to vote against their interests, there is a huge opportunity in the realisation that it’s possible to have multiple competing truths. Setting the limits of debate, and controlling the language in which it is carried out, is a valid and proven strategy for power.

Similarly it’s not entirely bogus to link the collapse of the centre-left today to the collapse of the far left in the 90s (which in turn came about from the collapse of the USSR). Eurocommunists, as well as being useful idiots for the Kremlin, were crucially also outriders for the social democrats. The Trots may have been loathed by the moderates, and may have lost them numerous elections one way or another, but they also forced them to confront serious issues. Here’s hoping the pirates, the greens, and the non-party activists can fulfill the same purpose today.