by jebni on December 16, 2006
I can’t find my ancient copy of Battlestar Galactica 2: The Cylon Death Machine, and it hurts. Of course, because I’m such a fan of the current series, it doesn’t seem likely that a novelisation of the original, cheesy Battlestar Galactica would have a place in my heart, right? I mean, my brother got me Fredric Jameson’s Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions for my birthday — I couldn’t possibly like this kind of trash, which barely passes for “real” science fiction, right? But I was a big fan of the original Galactica, for two reasons:
While it was undoubtedly drab in comparison to Star Wars, Galactica was shown frequently enough on TV to simply work its way, on a rhythmic level, into my playground fantasies when I was seven years old. And it’s not as if I hadn’t found “finer” sf, either — I was also reading Isaac Asimov’s robot stories at the time.
By fleshing out all the aspects of the show that were atrophying under the family-oriented network TV regime of the day, the novelisations made Galactica seem so much better than it really was. Like many media tie-ins, Robert Thurston’s first couple of Galactica novelisations were based on the original scripts, and written several months before shooting. In Galactica‘s case, this meant Cylons that weren’t clumsy walking toasters who couldn’t shoot straight (a last-minute change dictated by the network), but murderous lizards who (according to Thurston) thought bitchy thoughts about their superior officers, waited impatiently for promotions, and were driven crazy by the itches that developed under all that heavy armour!
Writing about my loss of The Cylon Death Machine is particularly poignant for me because the event is so recursive. From what I can remember, the novel’s narrative was interspersed with extracts from Commander Adama’s personal log — The Adama Journals — in which he muses about all sorts of seemingly random and inconsequential shit in the middle of the tactical emergencies of the time. Adama’s log is, of course, very bloggy. In this log, he finds the time to mourn how so much Caprican culture was destroyed in the apocalyptic Cylon attack on the Colonies. But rather than honour high culture, Adama chooses to remember pulpy kids’ science fiction: his own favourite childhood book was called something like Sharkey the Star Rover, and featured the insterstellar wanderings of an orphan human boy, Sharkey, and his best friend, an alien blob called — of all things — Jameson. Adama requests of a search of all the archives in the fleet, but alas, the book is lost forever. Just as I’m not quite sure whether I remember this book correctly, Adama wonders if his memory of Sharkey The Star Rover is accurate. Sharkey loves his alien friend Jameson, who receives much racist abuse from other humans. And yet Sharkey also wishes Jameson were a real boy, instead of a blob, so that he could hold him, and thus physically express his love.
I miss The Cylon Death Machine, and thus, Sharkey The Star Rover.
by jebni on November 10, 2006
I’m completely overwhelmed by the rhetorical skills of American PhD students — actually, by the rhetorical skills of everyone who’s not an Australian humanities postgrad, which seems to be the worst possible combination of institutionalised incapacities to explain anything. Add my own personal disjuncture between talking and writing, and I’m scared shitless of presenting at conferences. Writing’s hard enough as it is for me, but it’s a fucking cakewalk compared to speaking — whenever I open my mouth in front of more than two people, my capacity for thought suddenly ends. This is why I’m reading my paper tomorrow, instead of using notes as I’d planned. Which is why I’m now writing my paper, the night before. :)
by jebni on November 2, 2006
Am I the only one who’s intrigued and yet absolutely terrified that the slogan for Microsoft’s forthcoming “iPod killer” music player, the Zune, is “WELCOME TO THE SOCIAL”? I can’t help reading it as a general theoretical category — “the social”. The new Zune commercials are calculated to avoid an Apple-style fetishisation of the physical object or its campaign packaging, and instead present everyday, popular-musical social life as the commodity — hanging out randomly at picnics where dogs lick you, and where someone’s set up a set of turntables in a gazebo, etc. This kind of calculation feels really creepy — and I used to work in advertising. WELCOME TO SUBJECTIFICATION. The extra-diegetic dissonance of the musical genres in the ads is interesting, too — the soundtrack of each commercial seems oddly out of place. It’s either quite a clever take on what it’s like to live in headphone-world, or rank stupidity.
[UPDATE -- Gizmodo's caustic take:
almost every Zune commercial has folk-y indie rock going on, with white/hispanic kids breakdancing. It's as if the dancing is cool enough, but they don't want to offend the middle of the country with angry black music.]
Of course, if joining a WiFi network on a Windows laptop is anything to go by, I’m expecting the wireless social music-networking aspect of the Zune — the technical basis of the “social” in question — to go as well as Bluetoothing your vCard to another phone did two years ago. Ooops, my batteries just ran out. Or oops, I have to restart.
Meanwhile, Steve Jobs’ response — if you want to share music with someone, “just take one of your earbuds out and put it in her ear” — elegantly cuts through the bullshit, and yet has a predictably phallocentric subtext. Just Put It In Her Ear, indeed; he begins abstractly with the idea of Microsoft’s fiddly, music-sharing technical hoopla, but by the end of the sentence, the hypothetical recipient has suddenly been gendered and given a definite article: “By the time you’ve gone through all that, the girl’s got up and left!” Jobs is no doubt referring to the generic girl that nerds like Bill Gates couldn’t pull at school. Taken in context with one of Apple’s latest commercials (in which a PC-produced home-movie is represented as a hairy guy in drag who can’t compete with the much more convincing femininity of supermodel Gisele Bündchen, who appears as the product of Apple’s iMovie) this fantasy of the girl as the recipient of your musical manhood is kind of stunning.
by jebni on October 30, 2006
Soon I’m off to Chicago for the Dialogue Under Occupation conference. How exciting! But what’s scaring me the most is that it’s 3°C there right now. Ouch. Anyway, here’s the abstract of what I’ll be presenting:
‘The Earth is Closing in On Us’: models of everyday and extraordinary political worlds in weblogs from Palestine and Iraq
We went to sleep to the rattling of our windows and invasive pounding and after-echo of the shells. We sleep as they fall. We pray fajir, and they fall again. We wake, and they are still falling. When they are closer, when they fall in Shija’iya east of Gaza City, they make my stomach drop. And I want to hide, but I don’t know where.
The Earth is Closing in on Us.
So writes Laila El-Haddad, a prominent Palestinian blogger living in Gaza. In this paper, I explore how weblogs’ intimate and often mundane inscriptions of everyday life can contribute to a mobile and transgressively “invocationary” kind of political discourse, especially when placed in the context of occupied, contested or traumatic territories. Its registers invoke everything from geopolitical commentary to the interstitially micropolitical experiences of occupation and contestation — plus the unlikely disjunctures that can interrupt both. In Baghdad, young girl publishes a constant stream of photographs of cute kittens, occasionally interspersed with reports of bombs exploding down the road. Another Iraqi blogger deals with annoying electricity problems and the terror of raids on her house by the US military. Back in Gaza, Laila El-Haddad’s blog revolves around the experience of raising her young son Yousuf, documenting how the Israel’s occupation and continuing military incursions into Gaza seep into the most intimate or seemingly trivial aspects of life, from changing nappies to buying bread and spices, or getting her son to sleep.
In this lived/media context, the divisions between macropolitics and that which has been relegated to the domestic sphere begin to totter and decompose, suggesting a traumatic political subjectivity that is topologically uncertain, in an ambivalently productive way. The blogging of “geopolitical trauma” can also be read as fundamentally concerned with space, from bloggers’ routine descriptions of endless checkpoints and blockages, to their frequent allegorical modelling of “the world” as a figure that is revealed in moments of crisis — a figure with which an ethico-political relationship is demanded by circumstances. This paper explores, then, the ways in which this ethical relationship unfolds under occupation, and what possibilities it provides.
I’ll let you know you how it goes. My brother was born in Chicago, but I’ve never been, so it’ll be interesting to engage with that familial, prosthetic memory. My brother’s a freak — he started speaking in sentences when he was 12 months old. And apparently he used to greet the janitor at their apartment block with “hi, man”. Incidentally: you know, it’s good having people in your family that just get where you’re coming from. For example, for my birthday this month, my brother got me Fredric Jameson’s Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions.
by jebni on October 25, 2006
Don’t cha wish your boyfriend was hot like me
Don’t cha wish your boyfriend was a freak like me
Don’t cha, don’t cha
This is a couple of weeks overdue: the best pop vocal performance I’ve seen this year was these guys, Ben and Jonny, doing a version of the Pussycat Dolls’ “Don’t Cha” at the TAG event in Parramatta. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a fun, carefree expression of male sensuality on stage. Sure, the chorus for “Don’t Cha” was originally lifted from Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Swass”, which went “Don’t cha wish your boyfriend was swass like me?”, but really, when a couple of guys do a take on a recent hit that goes, “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?” and keep the “hot”, it’s daring and…hott. It totally eclipsed anything you’d find on Idol lately.
by jebni on October 25, 2006
I’ve actually been blogging lately — not here, but at Three Way Street, “a group blog that explores how people remember, engage with and remake their environments in creative, everyday ways.”
It’s an off-the-cuff collaboration with some of the folks from the Community Museum Project whom I met in Hong Kong, plus some others you might know, like Jean from creativity/machine. It’s mainly a vehicle for to sharing observations amongst ourselves, towards the possibility of organising some kind of event/exhibition dealing with the aesthetico-political aspects of everyday life “environmental” creativity — from material visual cultures of the city to online spaces, etc.
While it’s a low key experiment, I do want to avoid Three Way Street being just a dump for our own random online link-trawling. We need your help: if you’re wandering the city, the countryside or cyberspace and come across something cool that people are doing — adapting existing infrastructures and technologies to weird ends, making great street art, disrupting capitalist urbanism, embedding protest into the rhythms of their everyday social performances, whatever — please let me know. Photos are extra cool!
Of course, if you’re actually working on a project that’s connected to the politics of everyday creativity, that’s way cool too. Howard, King, Pak-Chai and Phoebe from the Community Museum Project will hopefully be reworking some of their material from their book-in-progress about people’s matter-of-fact (re)designs of the tools they use. Lena and I will be contributing stuff about our Tracer projects — particularly the digital oral-historical mapping project we began in Hong Kong — and then there’s everything that’s been happening at ICE, like the TAG project.
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This doesn’t mean I’ve packed it in here, by any means, although I don’t think I have much to say at the moment. Jon has asked for my take on the latest developments in Battlestar Galactica, but to be honest, I don’t have much to add beyond the stuff that’s already out there.
by jebni on September 15, 2006
However did I miss this?
by jebni on September 9, 2006
I kinda painted myself into a corner with this blog — there’s been such a backlog of interesting stuff (which I haven’t been in the mood to write about) that I seriously considered giving the whole thing up earlier this week. So perhaps a change of pace is in order.
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I’ve lately been in the throes of a total Veronica Mars addiction, and am geeky enough to be thoroughly enjoying the prominence that Mac OS X enjoys in the show, down to the girl called “Mac” who has arguments at school about why she prefers OS X over Ubuntu — a couple of years before that rivalry became truly prominent in the blogosphere.
My dream job: doing all the on-screen design for Veronica Mars. Mmmm…
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I noticed that NeoOffice 2.0 beta 3 is out, so I gave it a whirl and am suitably impressed — it’s a workable OpenOffice port for the Mac that feels native enough. Now, I follow these things because I help with Mac administration at a community Mac lab that has been trying to get away with not buying Microsoft Office; I’d never actually use NeoOffice myself. Why not? Because the whole classical office suite paradigm is completely irrelevant to me.
I might have touched on my preference for lightweight tools over office bloatware a couple of years ago when I was looking for alternatives to Microsoft Word, but now I don’t even use a word processor that much. For writing, I’m using the latest beta of Scrivener, which emphatically isn’t a word processor (in the contemporary sense) — it’s more closely related to apps like Ulysses, which doesn’t even display italics, let alone fancy formatting. Being a blogger and advocate of structural standards, I’m familiar with using different kinds of plain-text markup syntax for writing, but I’m also a typographic nerd with an occasional hankering to see properly rendered italics, so this is where Scrivener comes in — it’s another minimalist, distraction-free, full-screen capable writing app, but with rich text support.
The features Scrivener does have are fantastic: concatenated editing of multiple, arbitrary fragments, the sexiest full-screen mode ever, integrated outlining, version control, etc. It suits a methodology of growing stuff from fragments, in an environment that’s somehow both lush (making writing a pleasure) and austere (without too many bells and whistles, thus encouraging focus). I don’t think I can do it justice, so if you use a Mac and do a lot of writing, download the latest beta and give it a go.
by jebni on September 8, 2006
Breaking radio silence to note the passing of Peter Brock, the racing legend known for his bizarre links to psychoanalytic Marxism. Yep, I’m talking about the “Energy Polariser” used in his modified Holdens, which apparently ran on Wilhelm Reich‘s “orgone energy” — the subject of Kate Bush’s “Cloudbusting”. (Yeah, and it’s the same Wilhelm Reich who wrote The Mass Psychology of Fascism.) We love ya, Brockie.
by jebni on August 15, 2006
I’ve always been a bit sceptical about my own relationship to Arabness as a vicarious “proxy ethnicity” — I’ve recently written long, soul-searching emails to various friends about this issue, and it’s always been funny when H introduces me to people as “my cousin,” to various double-takes. But I really am her cousin, and she’s mine — this is very important to me. And I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: in these times, being far away from our friends and family from Sydney’s Lebanese communities has been really distressing. I miss being a part of this palpable web of solidarity.
What relationship do these intimate solidarities have to more programmatic kinds of solidarity — the kinds you find expressed in political pronouncements? My ambivalent position of feeling both inside and outside a community presents me with my own small opportunity to unpack some possibilities: for a start, it’d be a terrible mistake to simply map the surface of deeply felt affiliations and practices of care (i.e. the apparent operations of “being part of a Lebanese community”, whether by birth or association) onto a supposedly “organic”, unitary representation of “the Lebanese community” on one level, and Lebanon’s national interests and its authoritative representation by particular groups on another. (Networks of care impode into niche-market structural narcissism, which in turn implodes into reactive nationalism.) This would be as ludicrous as reifying the complex way “family” has been important to me in this current crisis as an enthusiasm for “the family” and patriarchy.
Both of these reifying slippages are celebrated by totalising revivals of “anti-imperialism” as national(ist) resistance — the former in an explicit fashion, and the latter as both allegory and as the actual, patriarchal Law of the Politburos-in-waiting of various political cults. But those same slippages can just as easily happen in reverse when one opposes national interests and “the family” — it’s always easy to slide over the multiplicitous cultural practices that might be reified as those “things” when those “things” are of dubious value. And of course, it’s possible to mix it all up, as the ulimate in hypocrisy: before their current, international pandering to certain religious leaderships, Cliffites and other Leninoids were voting against allowing Muslim women to speak at anti-war rallies in Sydney, and branding brown people who spoke the word “Allah” in public as “fundamentalist hijackers”. The orientation changes, but the style of totalisation remains the same.
Meanwhile, the moralism of those with a vicarious investment in Third World nationalism reminds me of Michael Haneke’s film Caché, which I saw the other night. It’s quite riveting, and insistently attempts to puncture the comfortable world of bourgeois liberalism by rubbing its face in the gutter of France’s postcolonial abbatoir — a white literati family are “terrorised” by Lost Highway-style tapes of stalkery video surveillance that herald a repressed narrative related to the Algerian War of Independence. But after a while I realised that Caché is actually an appalling film, because by assuming a shared bourgeois liberalism with which one can empathise, and investing in a vicarious fantasy of “gritty reality”, it reinforces the very things it purportedly critiques. In fact, it actually unconsciously replays some of the most appalling Zionist apologetics, in which Arabs are only capable of “terrorising us with our guilt and their own victimhood”. This is what happens when you overinvest in reactive moralism as an anti-imperialist strategy: you continue to instrumentalise the big Other.