Untitled Micro-Fiction #1

It is entirely possible that existence may have reached a permanent feedback loop.

The exponential development of the real and the “really” existing solutions to various technical problems are reflected out to recipient consciousnesses which subsequently become reliant, whether they desire or not, on the technical prowess, ascribed to the conditions of their existence.  Thus these reflections too, are reflected, distorted and echoed back into the informational morass.

When a failure occurs within this situation of post-existential hypersensitivity, a quiet panic ensues and more information must be shovelled into the burners, scientific truth must be dispensed with a certain ruthlessness in order to reassure the hypochondrial masses.

A jet engine explodes.

A plane nearly falls from the sky.

We must be reminded of lift, drag, thrust, weight (tacitly of course)

We must be reminded of probability, asymptote, Ρ(A υ B)

If it were attempted to ensconce all our meaning, all our understanding, into a shell and bury it deep in the fiery ruin of some great architectural zenith, to be found later, a thousand years hence by the bastard fruit of dark, anthropogenomic nightmares, clad in hydraulics, artificial oxygenation, a deathly live carcass of organic metal and digital interface.  What then?  What would such a blank and pitiless gaze make of this pathetic relic?

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UK- Israel Relations and Universal Jurisdiction

The suspension of the rather nebulous “strategic dialogue” between the UK and Israeli governments announced last year is predicated upon the most extraordinary attempt to subvert international law, to which the UK government is not only complicit but active.

The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have expressed serious concerns that the principle of universal jurisdiction is being used by Palestinian advocacy groups in the UK to seek the issuing of arrest warrants for members of the Israeli government and military, should they enter Britain.  The foreign secretary has made clear that he seeks to prioritise the “Amendment” and “Correcting” of the principle as applicable in UK law.

The principle often alluded to by state power, judicial process and the like that “if you are innocent you have nothing to fear” from the justice system, appears not to apply here.  The fact that the government sees fit to change Britain’s role in the enforcement of universal jurisdiction solely to protect military and political officials from one country from arrest seems at best illogical and at worst to advertise the UK as a safe haven for war crimes suspects.

The principle of universal jurisdiction should be upheld worldwide, and the idea that a high court judge would not be able to distinguish between an application for an arrest warrant which was genuinely supported by clear evidence and one which was vexatious, is both laughable and insulting.

This leads one to suspect, rightly or wrongly, that the government believes that the current status of universal jurisdiction in the UK courts provides a highly realistic prospect of warrants being issued for certain, high ranking members of the Israeli military and defence establishment should they enter the UK (particularly those directly involved in operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008 and the Israel-Lebanon war of 2006, both of which, subsequent investigations by numerous impartial organisations have revealed, demonstrate prime facie evidence of War Crimes on BOTH SIDES).

To approach international law with the “buffet” mindset that the Foreign Office and Number 10 appear to be doing currently is both disgraceful and unsustainable, and the fact that persons of interest to international war crimes courts are staying away from the UK until the law is altered to benefit them leaves the distinct feeling that they may have something to fear from the hearing of evidence in open court.




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The Retrenchment of the Surveillance State

Alex Deane in the New Statesman points to an interesting element of the wonderfully solipsistic Strategic Defence Review published on Thursday.

He points, quite rightly to the, apparent reversal of the Coalition’s stated aim of rolling back the intrusive surveillance apparatus maintained by the previous government.  A noble and commendable aim one might think.  Except that they are doing precisely the opposite.  The Defence Review retains the previous policy requiring communications providers to collect and retain data about individuals and crucially, to hand it over to the authorities when requested in a continuance of the Intercept Modernisation Programme in all but name.

I wonder if the surveillance state is simply too expensive to roll back and can be subsumed under the “deficit deficit…all in this together…make sacrificies etc…” as well?


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DIY Deficit Reduction

Whilst still absolutely rejecting the shrill right-wing chorus of “deficit discourse” as the only game in town and brutal public spending cuts and enforced austerity (for all but those most responsible for the situation), the Guardian has a nifty little flash “game” which allows you to implement your own spending cuts across Whitehall departments.

Whilst I have a few issues with this, namely that it doesn’t feature a concurrent taxation programme “app” which is vital to any deficit reduction programme and also doesn’t have a comprehensive list of pork barrel and white elephant (woah there, steady with the metaphors) spending projects to cut e.g. Olympics spending, Crossrail etc…

This said though, it’s a great way of showing that these 40% cuts to major departments simply aren’t necessary and nothing but nakedly ideological economic masochism, carried out by a government which has no concept of or respect for the real hardship that their dismantling of public services will engender.

Whilst my own cuts plan does involve some radical proposals: the scrapping of Trident without replacement, phased withdrawal from Afghanistan beginning immediately and a 25% cut in the Cabinet Office budget, with a relatively modest approach involving evenly spread cuts of 10% to selected departments and the regions spread equally, it is quite simple to reach and surpass the Chancellor’s thin air figure of £49billion. Again, this is without taking any tax rises into account at all.

The sanctimonious drivel from the Right gathered around the “there is no alternative” banner must be resisted, if only on the grounds that it simply isn’t true and the destruction of what remains of British society cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.

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War Game

Thanks to Ben C, over at televisiontakenote for this, which I’m reposting below.  This is a film from 1965 which, in a similar manner to Threads some twenty years later, graphically details the likely effects of the outbreak of thermonuclear war on Britain.

The device of the drama-documentary, which has once again risen to prominence in the last decade, is particularly apt for conveying the grim realities of the subject matter.

The other striking element to this film is the ultra-realistic make up and effects used in many of the sequences.  In these days of climate catastrophe, cgi heavy, drama-docs which in striving for the epic appear simply laughable, the BBC would do well to re-acquaint itself with the style of such films as this sobering gem.

Oh, and it should be on the curriculum for all 14-18s.  If the government is committed,  as it claims to be, to both maintaining an “independent nuclear deterrent” and also to revise the schools history to tell the “Glorious tale of Britain“, it could do well to explain to pupils precisely what the consequences of these notions (which still tacitly back up most foreign policy discourses) are for those pesky statistical notions known as human beings by defence planners.

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World Press Photo @ Holyrood

Went along to the exhibition of the World Press Photo winners at the Scottish Parliament (Showing until 28th August).  Fantastic rearticulation of the power, immediacy and relevance of photojournalism in the world today.  So many amazing images which assault, challenge and ultimately inspire the viewer.

There were too many astounding pictures to do justice to in a single post, perhaps more will follow, but the picture below screams Don Delillo, as though his fictional oeuvre has been crystallised in one specific moment in “real” time and space.  Absolutely uncanny resemblance to his writing, mediated in the singularity of the visual text.

Anyone not in Edinburgh can see the gallery of winners here

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The Booker Challenge (part 1): “The Slap”

Marking what many are calling a watershed in Australian fiction, Christos Tsiolkas “The Slap” has garnered awards, critical acclaim and disparagement.  It is, depending on who you listen to, an epic, scathing dissection of the racial and class politics of 21st Century metropolitan Australia or a hateful, misogynist series of rants structured around an implausible premise.

As is usual with such things, I find the truth somewhere in the middle.  Although my criticisms of its sexual politics is more aligned with Melissa Denes in the LRB who points out that it isn’t particularly Tsiolkas treatment of the novel’s female characters which is cause for concern, rather the dull, adolescent, pornographic nature of his sexual prose.

In addition to this, the ethnic smorgasbord with which Tsiolkas is credited with creating in The Slap often feels clumsy, for instance in the character Barry/Bilal, the Aborigine convert to Islam and his white Australian, Hijab wearing wife appear to serve as mere two dimensional cut-outs, put there in an effort by Tsiolkas to prove to himself and his readers that he is aware of the ethnic diversity of Australia outside of the conflicts he has already set up.

However, the Slap’s main problem lies in its almost total lack of a genuinely likeable, empathetic character throughout the whole novel (with the possible exception of Richie, the sexually confused teenager who pops up as the final narrator).  Instead of engaging you with the complexities of what happens when class, ethnicity, traditional and modern values regarding family and discipline collide, what is created instead is a series of narratives articulated characters endowed with varying degrees and shades of selfishness, narcissism, prejudice, ignorance, self-pity and suppressed rage.  If this is indeed, the purpose of the book; to prove that metropolitan, bourgeois Australia contains objectionable, hateful people of all ethnic backgrounds, then it succeeds.  However, if its aim as a novel is to provide a snapshot of the richness and depth, good or bad, of human experience, then it does not.  As an examination of class and cultural politics, it succeeds to a degree, although given this readers distinct lack of empathy for either the “victims” or “perpetrator” of the eponymous action, I cannot escape feeling that a novel may not have been the most appropriate form for this enterprise.

Possibly more to come on this.  Maybe not though.  I have a strong suspicion this will make the short-list, if not win outright.

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