Community not Communism

In this morning’s Oregonian (Wed, 18jul07; D2), there is an article, “Postage-stamp-sized service suits N.J. townsfolk,” that I cannot find on their own website. But, the Newhouse News Service is the source of “Tiny Post Offices Deliver More Than Mail“.

From the article:

“These smaller post offices are important hubs of the community.”

I’m reminded of the row over postal service in Olympia, and the Libertarian-Conservative hatred of any community gathering space. Places where people gather in community seem to be under some kind of reactionary knee-jerk encoded response to a threat of Communism.

We need community. It’s part of what makes it possible for a city or region to be flexible and creative in the face of adaptive challenges, like natural disasters or economic disruption. There has to be space for people to learn about themselves through interaction with others that are not like themselves. Too often, it seems to me, people assume their community is people like them and that anyone not like them in their community is some kind of alien intruder that doesn’t belong. It is our spaces where we gather together that allow us to see and become stronger because of our diversity; not by ignoring or destroying it, but because of that diversity.

I’m pretty sure that I ran into something about this in Place and the Politics of Identity [also], about the tension over postal service offices and community. I’d have to go back to find out, but I recall a discussion in this collection of essays about how social gathering places were being dismantled, and that post offices represented one of the important places where people could gather.

Of course, one merely need to wander in to the downtown or west side post offices in Olympia to realize that these spaces have become store fronts, places of business. These are no longer places where people come even in part to be in community. These are place that one stands around with a number waiting to be serviced as a customer and then get the heck out as fast as possible after.

That book, Place and the Politics of Identity, also has some other very interesting things to say about the waterfront in London that reflect for me on the layers of struggle in Olympia around the nuclear-free zone, the militarization of the port, and the gentrification of downtown. I also found the discussion of “spacialities” to be enlightening in relation to my sense that there are many layers of community in Olympia that exist in the same space but interact as if in different places from each other. I recommend checking that book out.

I think it was through engaging with that book that I also started to think about how it may be that the reaction to community space in American culture is coloured by some kind of learned, internalized fear of anything that suggests Communism. This is something that I haven’t remembered in a while, but deserves some more thought. If it’s true that the general hostility to community space is due to this learned reaction, then that might suggest a way to address that hostility through making a distinction between community and the fear of Communism.

Of course, Communism isn’t the same thing as communism, but maybe that’s something best left for the “advanced” class.

And by footprint, they mean floor plan

I noticed this headline in The Olympian: “Olympia woman shrinks her footprint — to 84 square feet“.

Of course, the author of the headline should have known better, but headlines aren’t always written by the author of the article. However, this person’s footprint is not 84 square feet, but it appears that her floor plan is.

Further, there was a much better article about this in the June/July 2007 South Sound Green Pages [LGT a sad, stale blog], and was written by the owner of the house. That better article also appears directly next to another article about what an ecological footprint actually is. Because, it’s not a floor plan, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, there’s no version of the two articles online that I found when I looked.

However, the South Sound Green Pages articles do offer a now broken link to a page that helps one calculate one’s ecological footprint [instead] and a short film about the little house viewable online.

It’s nice for The Olympian to pick this story up after it ran in another publication, but of course there are a lot of people finding ways to live on little; whether that’s their floor plan or their footprint, whether by choice or necessity. And, the tiny house meme was so long ago. On the other hand, I suppose some coverage is probably better than none, right?

Update @ 17jul07, 10:56am:

I keep thinking about this. For one thing, I find it amusing that the owner of this house is respectable enough for the mainstream to talk about. There’s plenty of people living like this in Olympia, just, apparently, not with as respectable day job. So, that demonstrates the high water mark of socially acceptable minimalism.

The other thing that keeps rattling in my brain is: how is this legal? It must be due to the fact that it’s a mobile trailer. That’s how she’s getting around the need for full plumbing. The reason this is a thing for me is that the Ecovillage in Port Townsend was having trouble with building small houses that weren’t en suite, and there was work needed to convince the city to allow people to live in spaces that had shared plumbing in a central location. So, ironically, the way around this is to have each person in what amounts to a Romani Bardo … making houses mobile is the way to skirt the rules.

Well, that’s only one step away from the people that find themselves living in their cars or campers on the streets of the city. And, what’s amusing to me, in a not really funny way, is that it’s those very car campers that the city can’t say is probably a major target of on street parking reform …

Minimal living then is pinched on both sides …

I know people living in what are officially designated as garden sheds, but are quite nice spaces. But, those people can’t risk talking about their places in the paper.

Necromancy and the nightly news

I happened to be watching the local news while on a trip to Portland, and there was a fearmongering story about the “Zombie Hackers” that take over people’s computers. Almost all of the footage of actual computers showed Apple machines, like an old tangerine iMac and Powerbooks … not, you know, the actual machines that are the problem, namely anything with an operating system from Microsoft on it.

But, it looks like the cover up has begun. When I went to go search out the story in Google using the terms “zombie hackers portland nbc” the first link is to a “Special report: Zombie hackers” posted at 10pm on May 2nd, but the very next day the story is posted in a modified form as “Criminals use “Bots” to hijack PC’s” which removes references to the Zombie Hackers.

Now, what I want to know is why the Powers That Be don’t want us to know about the evil undead Hackers out there? And, moreover, if the hackers are zombies, then I want to have someone thinking to ask who the necromancers are that are raising up these undead with computer skillz.

Instead of covering up this horror, we should all be on alert for the necromancers behind it all!

If it isn’t useful, then what is it good for anyway?

Writers Block Live » Blog Archive » The HD Boycott Begins Now

“Under pressure from Hollywood, they are engineering a complete removal of the concept of fair use. They are setting up systems that will completely control how, when and where you can use content that you buy. Even worse, they can retroactively change the rules!”

Here’s an interesting discussion of the strategy and implications behind the transition to digital content delivery that I’ve mentioned before.

The way that this transition to digital is being used to destroy opportunities to use content in my own time-shifting, room-shifting way, a la Tivo, is a primary reason that I have been avoiding the technologies, such as HDTV, etc …

If the media companies put too many restrictions in the way, I will likely decide to forgo their content entirely and I suspect that many consumers will also realize they are being taken through the doors of a prison with gilt bars. It’s bread & circuses, after all.

Much like the software industry, movies and music will be licensed, never sold, and subject to perpetual restrictions and ever under the threat that what little rights are available will be revoked.

What happens when a studio finds that it needs to make money to satisfy investors? What would stop a studio to issue a new release, say with nominally new features, and revoke use on the previous edition? You think the double dipping of special editions and extended releases is bad now? Just wait until your entertainment library, which is a library of culture, after all, is subject to going dark when someone decides to end-of-life the copies you have.

It’s exactly the disassociation presaged in 1984, where the newspapers are the only record of the past, and they are re-printed with changed content, at the whim of isolated, authoritarian, and hierarchical controllers outside the ability of the public to influence.

Here is a primary reason that the notion that everything should be owned, the marketization and privatization of everything, is a heinously, cataclysmicly mistaken.

The people for John Kriscfalusi; democratized media; sense of virtual place

Via all kinds of stuff, “George Liquor Stories 1“:

“So listen, next step is to get as many more people (not repeat persons, but new people) to comment AND I just found out that the more people who link to me, the better chance I have to get sponsors-and when I do I will make NEW cartoons for you! I have more crap to show you, so as soon as I hit 400 comments…”

John Kriscfalusi, the artist behind Ren & Stimpy, is discovering the power of popularity on the Internet. His blog was linked at Boing Boing on the 15th, and elsewhere on the ‘net, and he’s been surprised by his reception, apparently.

The amount of traffic necessary to make direct marketing between the producer and consumer is significantly less than when there is a oligonomy determining the prices offered to producers and costs to consumers between them and filtering projects out which have significant appeal to the long tail.

This is the spring from which hope flows for the future of popular properties that the media conglomerates do not support, such as Firefly and Dead Like Me, to name only two that have been significant to me recently.

On the cusp, where projects like Rocket Boom meet the public demand and are rewarded, of a new world of media. The print revolution put democratized the transmission of knowledge. The computer democratized publishing. The Internet has been trying very hard to democratize radio, television and cinema. Internet radio failed to survive the legal onslaught of major media, once they awoke to the fight. I wait with baited breathe to see if podcasting will survive being co-opted by major media. Although it is not completely out of the woods yet. It does seem there are new platforms for distribution and creation almost daily. Perhaps the next step will manage some kind of victory.

This pattern of democratization brings to mind the democratization of virtual space, such as the place of MMORPGs in increasingly player-driven games. I’ve been thinking about all the waves that have attempted to provide a topology to the virtual world, and just a little while ago I thought to include the MMORPGs in this. These virtual spaces have routes and sights and crossroads wherein many of the activities of socialization occur, but bound by a geography.

One poll President Bush is winning

Interestingly, as I turned on the TV this morning, the question being asked on Family Feud was: “Who has the biggest ego in America?”

Let us just set aside the fact that it should have been “… in the US?” shall we, for now? This is almost a tabloid wish-list.

The survey says:

President Bush


Donald Trump


Tom Cruise


Bill Clinton


Paris Hilton


Simon Cowell


In fact, President Bush wins this one by a landslide, with only Donald Trump having more than honorable mention.

On a more serious note, this points out something important to me about President Bush’s actual approval rating. He may be under 50%, but if the other 50% are all over the map then he’s still on solid ground. What matters more is whether the other 50% have some kind of coordinating consensus. Otherwise, it’s just a long tail of fringe notions that do not really pose any opposition to be worried about.

But, there’s another interesting point about this. The first family guessed President Bush, the number one answer, first. Then they were unable to get any other answer. They thought of President Bush and could not think of anyone else with a big ego in the US. That’s something there.

HBO wants its business to be off-limits for customers

Via Ars Technica, “HBO wants its programming to be off-limits for DVRs“:

HBO has joined the fray with a recent FCC filing in which it argues that its programming—and all “Subscription Video On Demand” services—should fall into the category of “Copy Never.” In a broadcast-flagged world, that translate into consumers not being able to record content broadcast by HBO. No TiVo, no VCR, no video capturing on your PC, no nada.

For me this connects with the network neutrality issue through an essential pattern of economic control. This then is further connected to the overall debates over copyright, intellectual property, and the public sphere.

When the content of our discussions are owned then our conversations are owned and there is no longer a public sphere in which culture can occur, develop or survive.

Okay, that’s a long chain of links, but that’s how far we’ve gone down the path. When the government mandates that the spectrum for analog television is returned, and digital content is mandated; then and there we find ourselves collectively moved into a technology which is being bound and gagged as we speak so that we cannot speak and cannot share and cannot think without paying someone for the use of their copyrighted material.

It’s not just about money. This is a fight over a pattern of economic behaviour that has the result of privatizing all collective and public culture.

Copyright is a consession by the public that grants a period of economic exclusivity to the author. It is not an inalienable right. Quite the opposite. Copyright is an easement on the inalienable rights of the public to the public sphere. It is in fact a consession of the right of the public domain in an attempt to compensate authors for their work. It is the inalienable right of the public that is being legislated away.

The eviscerated corpse of the public domain has left the cemetary and is knocking on the door, yelling, “I want my commons back!”

Another cancelled show: Night Stalker

Via Sci Fi Wire, “Night Stalker Gets Staked“:

“ABC has canceled Night Stalker, the second time the network has given the axe to a series about reporter Carl Kolchak and his pursuit of supernatural phenomena, Variety reported.”

Why do all the shows I like get cancelled?

Night Stalker is the most recent. Kitchen Confidential is another. Of course, there’s Firefly. Twin Peaks … and, I remember being disappointed when they cancelled Outworld, an odd little sci-fi show back in the late 80’s. So many lost shows …

When I was a senior in high school, I stopped watching TV, even though I had a TV in my room. TV was just so horrid that I couldn’t stand to waste my time anymore. Broadcast TV is just abominable. Not only do they cancel shows most of the good shows and keep vapid, insipid tripe, but networks make their presentation and schedules as annoying as possible. It is as if they believe they will have my unconditional attention.

The fact is that I will not view whatever they put on the air. I’ve given up TV before, and will do it again. It’s a definite sign that I tend to watch old shows that are re-run. And, most of the new shows are available after a short delay. There’s nothing compelling about seeing a show the day it comes out. I’m already weaned from that through liberal use of DVD and Tivo.

That they put annoying banners at the bottom of my recorded shows, which have recently doubled in size they obscure on screen, and futz with starting times, and randomly screw with new episodes by inserting reruns between … these are all reasons that I find TV more annoying. This is not endearing behaviour, but rather behaviour that is more likely to make the break.

When I had DirecTV, I didn’t bother with any local stations, so the ridiculous chanting from cable that “We’ve got local stations!” is just stupid. Local station are getting gutted by the DVD releases of shows and, now, by the networks releasing shows online. There’s nothing left to syndicate for non-affiliates, and the affiliates are just mindless parrots without merit of their own.

King 5, the local NBC station used to have a sometimes funny sketch comedy show that was on Saturdays next to SNL, but that died a slow and painful death. What other local content is there? Local news? Bah. Local news is a joke. It’s fluff, and mostly non-local content anyway. When it is local content, the majority of that is mindless blather about the weather. The weather here is mild. It’s not that big of a deal nor is it really either a surprise or a show-stopper if it’s not great.

I just can’t bring myself to pay for all the cable channels or DirecTV, and I sure as hell am not willing to pay for digital cable as an add-on expense.

So, maybe, the Tivo was a gap-stop that prolonged the life of TV past the point when I stopped being willing to have the networks dictate my life. Now, it’s just not the benefit it was. There just isn’t enough good TV on that I feel I need to watch it broadcast. Why not wait for it on DVD, or just skip it completely. Was Tivo mere my patch, to help me quit?

I’ve mostly given up on going to the movies. Unless there’s a really compelling reason to go, that the movie is somehow going to be so much better on a larger screen … hardly a reason to call them “The Large” screen anymore since they really aren’t … I wait for movies to come to DVD or don’t bother anymore.

So, ultimately, DVD is now my primary source of choice for movies and TV shows. So why not just cancel everything except for Netflix? No, really. Why not? It would have been nice if Netflix and Tivo had gotten the download feature to work. Turns out that’s the reason I finally got a Netflix account in the first place, but it’s a feature they aren’t going to be able to really offer because, at least they say, the studios have exclusive relationships with networks to offer movies, so can’t offer them for download, even protected in some fashion.

Maybe it’s time to go cold turkey?

Republic Dogs

Via Boing Boing, Plato’s Republic meets Reservoir Dogs

I don’t know. It’s either really, really funny … or there’s something wrong with me.

“Socrates: Maybe I should frame my theory a bit more emphatically. [Drawing his gun.]”

Oh, there’s more, but I’d end up quoting the whole thing, so restraint will be my theory of justice … today.

This is like the re-writes of Troy from a few months ago.

Every capitalist is a critic …

Via, “Florida Wal-Mart Pulls Newspaper, Wants Journalist Fired“:

“kathleen writes: ‘Florida’s Pensacola News Journal will no longer be sold at the local Wal-Mart. Editor Randy Hammer noted: ‘Some managers at Wal-Mart didn’t appreciate a column Mark O’Brien wrote in June 2005 for the Pensacola News Journal about the downside of the cheap prices that Sam Walton’s empire has brought to America… The Wal-Mart manager said he and his stores couldn’t tolerate a newspaper that would print the opinions of someone who was as mean and negative as Mark O’Brien… and he wanted the newspaper to get its racks off Wal-Mart lots. But he also said that if I fired Mark, we could talk about continuing to sell the newspaper at his stores.

The article itself, available here, points out that communities are forced to pay for Wal-Mart health care via taxes because employees are unable to pay. This is an externality that Wal-Mart has managed to transfer to the public. Because that cost is delayed and distant from the price tag on the goods in the store, the public generally fails to recognize that these are connected.

homepage and the dialectic between honesty vs truth

Last night, I watched “homepage” which is an interesting documentary about the early culture that surrounded the web, the revolutionary fanaticism, and a bit about its demise.

However, there was a part that had me thinking about some stuff from my own past, actually previous to all the events of the movie.

honesty vs. truthfulness is an interesting topic. If one accepts that they are not identical, one wonders how much truth is necessary for complete honesty, and if it’s possible to have truth without honesty. Is truth communicated by the non-present presenter still honesty, when not professed? As the better part of valour is restraint, is that also the better part of honesty in regards to the truth?

I’ve suspected that moderation in all things is a guiding principle. Not that it means moderation in _all_ things, but rather _moderation_ in all things. The difference being that it’s not necessary to partake of everything in moderation, but rather to be moderate in all things in which one partakes.

I had written a bit on this topic.

Strong Drink, 1993 (c) j g bell

it is a strong drink
to drown adultery in drunkenness
it is a stronger drink
to face my lover’s face with honesty
stronger than fidelity
it is an even stronger drink
to drink to my own weakness

it is a great grief to me
to weakly write myself
into my father part
it is a greater grief to me
to strongly write my lover
into my mother part
it is the greatest grief to me
to wholly write my past
into my future past

there is no art in drink
there is no salvation in sorrow
there is no love in lies
there is no love in lies
there is no love in lies

I’ve learned my sorrow from my father
I’ve learned myself from my sorrow
I’ve learned to lie from myself
I’ve learned myself from my lie

there is no love in lies
but honesty ruins love with revealed lies
there is no love in lies
but justice ruins love with concealed lies
there is no love in lies

there is no salvation in sorrow
but somehow sorrow saves lovers from future pain
there is no salvation in sorrow
but somehow suffering saves me from future pain
there is no salvation in sorrow

there is no art to drink
but drink can remind me to forget
there is no art to drink
but drink can force me to sleep
there is no art to drink

it is a strong drink
to drown adultery in drunkenness
it is a stronger drink
to face my lover’s face with honesty
stronger than fidelity
it is an even stronger drink
to drink to my own weakness
my honesty stronger than the lie
will ruin my love and with this in mind
I will tell the truth in time