John Berger – The Primitive and the Professional Quote

“The distinction between profession and craft is at first difficult to make, yet it is of great importance.  The craftsman survives so long as the standards for judging his work are shared by different classes.  The professional appears when it is necessary for the craftsman to leave his class and ’emigrate’ to the ruling class, whose standards of judgement [sic] are different.”

John Berger, “The Primitive and the Professional,” New Society 1976 (reprinted in About Looking).

Yoko Ono – Feeling the Space

Feeling the Space

Yoko Ono / Plastic Ono Band & Something DifferentFeeling the Space Apple SW-3412 (1973)


Yoko Ono’s 1973 album Feeling the Space tends to be relegated to the dustbin of history.  But why?  This is one of her most “mainstream” pop/rock recordings, relying on a lot of fairly conventional rock-ish genre devices.  There is even a faint hint of the ironic/unironic use of kitsch that propelled the Brazilian tropicalistas starting in the late 1960s.  Frequently derided by audiences opposed to her basic artistic purposes, often under the blanket criticism of her alleged lack of talent, Ono actually had formal musical training as a child.  She proves here — for anyone needing such confirmation — that she can sing conventionally and on pitch.  Though by singing in a second language, her Japanese accent lends her vocals a warbly, primitivist quality.  The lyrics reflect the heyday of second-wave feminism during which the album was recorded.  I happen to find this an immanently listenable album that deserves credit for reaching out beyond the confines of frequently elitist avant-garde practices and into popular forms.  John Berger, in “The Primitive and the Professional,” New Society 1976 (reprinted in About Looking), said:

“the ‘clumsiness’ of primitive art is the precondition of its eloquence.  What it is saying could never be said with any ready-made skills.  For what it is saying was never meant, according to the cultural class system, to be said.”

Ono complicates the primitive vs. professional dichotomy by combining a sense of the primitive with erudite theory and overtly popular forms executed with conventional precision.  While few individual songs here stand out like a “hit single”, except perhaps “Women Power,” it is very refreshing to hear music drawing from eclectic genres performed so consistently competently, paired with lyrics that evidence an intelligent moral center.  While no “lost classic”, Feeling the Space exhibits many of the same strengths that are also overlooked in CAN‘s albums Flowmotion and CAN from later in the decade, as well as critically applauded features of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson‘s recordings from the early/mid 70s.

Bruce Lerro – Big Brother Facebook

Link to an article by Bruce Lerro:

“Big Brother Facebook: Drawing Down the Iron Curtain on Yankeedom”

 

Bonus links: “RYM Shitheads” (describes how another, less popular web site has taken a very similar approach) and “The Limits of the Web in an Age of Communicative Capitalism” and “Why ‘Russian Meddling” Is a Trojan Horse” Quote and “Democrats and the Crisis of Legitimacy” and “Technology Giants Hold Censorship Meeting With US Intelligence Agencies”

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim (2013)

Warner Bros.

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Main Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba, Charlie Day


First, a brief summary of the plot of Pacific Rim.  Aliens have genetically engineered kaiju (Godzilla-like monsters) that they send to Earth through an intergalactic portal (the “Breach”) that opens at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, in order to destroy human civilization and eventually conquer the planet.  Humanoid robots called jaegers are built to fight the kaiju.  The kaiju become larger and appear more frequently over time.  Eventually, humans realize the aliens’ plans and figure out a way to detonate a nuclear bomb in the portal in order to collapse it, saving humans from the aliens.  Most of the film revolves around amazing special effects used to create action-packed fight scenes between robots and monsters.  But what is most interesting — to me at least — is the backdrop against which the robots and monsters fights take place.

Impotence of government – The film’s plot is heavily dependent on a view of the impotence of government.  The first kaiju attack is described (but barely shown on screen) as having taken convention military forces six days to win, leaving extensive devastation.  The idea that the government is unable to act to stop the kaiju is a theme carried throughout the film.  The jaegers are created as an official (multi-)government program, but after one jaeger is severely damaged in a battle with a kaiju, world governments disband the program and instead build protective walls (the jaeger program is then carried on by some sort of independent [private] organization whose funding and organizational structure is never explained).  The walls turn out to be easily breached.  In response, world governments take no action whatsoever.  In other words, governments throw up their hands and apparently decide that the kaiju should win!

Individualism – Most of the film dwells on individual action, and valorizes the motif of “great individuals”.  The jaeger pilots are all hot-shot “cowboys”, just like, say, Tom Cruise‘s “Maverick” pilot character in the film Top Gun (1986).  As governmental impotence provides no response to the kaiju threat, the fate of humanity is left in the hands of these “cowboys”.  Although there are many individuals that take part in the jaeger program, the film presents them less as a team than as an ad hoc assemblage of individuals.  This stands in marked contrast to Shin Godzilla (2016), which responds to a similar program of governmental impotence with an explicitly team-based response.  And, of course, the film pays almost no attention to collateral damage to civilians.  In a way, all this reflects filmmaker David Lynch‘s comments about how President Donald Trump — even if Trump fails to do a good job himself — creates an aura of disruptive greatness that reveals the ineffectual nature of opposition politicians who can’t get anything done.

Destructive industrial growth – The film never entertains any notion of peaceful negotiations with the aliens sending the kaiju through the Breach, some kind of barricade right at the outlet of the Breach, or even permanent depopulation/dispersion of large urban coastal cities.  Humanity focuses instead on building giant robots — their humanoid configuration serving no clear purpose — and a coastal wall — which is so obviously inadequate to the task and so burdensome to normal human activities.  There is a casual acceptance of industrial growth, and not any palpable concern about its consequences or any alternatives.

The film as a whole is strangely entertaining.  That is partly due to the special effects and extensive use of action scenes, but also due to the preposterously comical interactions between the characters, not a single one of which is realistic.

Erwin Chemerinsky – Arbitration Agreements Ruling Is a Significant Loss for Workers

Link to an article by Erwin Chemerinsky:

“Arbitration Agreements Ruling Is a Significant Loss for Workers”

 

Chemerinsky’s article is well-reasoned, though it should be emphasized that all judges on the U.S. supreme court are pro-capitalist and pro-business, differing only in degree about how many restrictions can be imposed on business.

 

Bonus links: “Stop Calling It an Arbitration Agreement—Employers Are Forcing Workers to Give Up Their Rights” and “Grand Theft Paycheck: The Large Corporations Shortchanging Their Workers’ Wages” and …And the Poor Get Prison

Cultural Detritus, Reviews, and Commentary