Friday, April 30, 2010

CNN: Rescuing enslaved girls from brothels

Bangladesh has become the new prostitution slavery capital of the world... And yes, it is bad.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Widget Portrait

Philosophy Island's Racist Queen Rhiannon Dragoone

Not long ago I had long discussions with a friend writing a paper on racism. I pointed him to a series of articles on Kant and racism, and while there was a great deal of heat in the discussions, because he is a tremendous admirer of Kant, it the end I think I persuaded him to see Kant in a different light.

Let me talk about racism directly. Racism is the use of power to enforce a category of race. It is the avoidance of the fabric of racism in the society, because this makes the implicit racism more powerful. This is like many other forms of discrimination, many other forms of oppression: elevating to a high level certain people and their texts, in order to force the direction of the world in particular ways. Kant is one example, he's remembered well, but almost by accident. Kant, the writer, was trying to reimpose God, and other forms of hard category. He feared a material, rationally dominated world, and so he attacked "pure reason" as a way of reasserting pre-rational ideas. It is a thread running through the skeptical philosophers: attack the connection between perception and reality, as a way of reasserting the need for a basis in reality, and of reality.

I face this on a regular basis in the real world, as there are drifting tensions in my own life. Race, and its related bundle of words, are everywhere, and in my part of the world, many of us, me and my friends, come from households that are immigrant to America, and have parents and relatives who have what they call old fashioned ideas, but are basically just bad excuses for the way things always were. I will take one example, a friend of mine is hoping to marry, she is dating a man who is not of the same ethnic background, and is conflicted because her parents don't approve. They don't approve because of the ethnicity.

Her conflict is that she has to pretend to listen, or lose contact with her parents. Visits home become stressful. She hates herself, because she is being a bad daughter in the eyes of her world, and hates herself because marrying is required to be a good daughter, and this is the man she thinks she wants to marry. I listen, because I can not tell her in good faith to not talk to her parents, or to leave the man she loves, and who, as far as I can tell, loves her. This dilemma is not tied up with race necessarily, the conflict between parents wanting to pick, or at least strongly influence, their children's choice of mate is old and comes from money, social standing, religion, nationality, occupation, and who knows what else triggers the disapproval of parents.

So I see this. And I feel it. Get along, or be true to a truth that the checkered colors of skin, or shapes of nose, or whatever else, are random, compared to the qualities of the person.

This is why I find the world I am in so intolerable, it is very clear that there is a craving for race and racism. There is a demand by people who ought to know better to conform. The only thing people can do, is to avoid such groups, because the result is always grief. One of those on Second Life is Philosophy Island, which is a racist organization that actively promotes and protects racism in its ranks, and then makes excuses for it when questioned.

While at a recent meeting on "Philosophy Island" one of the leaders there Rhiannon Dragoone began with her gloss on Kant. I pointed out that a problem with Kant's logic is his racism, she immediately said this was "off topic." As some one with the power to ban, who does ban, this was an exercise of power. However, the question was not off topic, because Kant's theory of race is not separate from his division into perceptions and reality, in that he offers the idea that there are some perceptions which point to an underlying immutable series of principles.

Kant asserts what he calls the categorical imperative as the basis for morality, and the will to morality as being in the person. If racism is immoral, then Kant fails being moral, but if not Kant, who is the perfect example of what Kant says should be a moral human being, then who? If Kant is moral, then racism must be true, since he sets these things as being equal to each other, and a direct result of the same argument that he presents in his critiques.

Then I left. Rhiannon ejected another person for elaborating, and then thanked Sunfire Langer, another leader there, for hurling insults. This from someone who makes a big deal about no personal attacks. Sunfire Langer made excuses in a private IM.

I find this a great deal on Second Life: people setting what they call discussion groups, which are really vehicles for using the petty powers of banning, and the veil of being unknown to the public, as a way of creating their own little egotistical bubble. Philosophy Island is one of these organizations: it is a racist and abusive group of people who present as being reasonable, until their underlying illogic is pointed out. Then they call you an idiot and ban you.

Sunfire said not to take them seriously, and that is the best advice I can give. Don't get sucked into them, or give them credit for being anything except what they are.

I promised when writing this blog, that I would stay away from explanations of the bigger picture, and focus only on what I see and what I know. I do not know what drives people to these kinds of categorical evils, but I see them, and wish I could do more than push words into the ether.

You.Upstairs. Bedroom. Now.

Yes, that is really what a man said to a 15 year old autistic girl.

tall aspect

I think I need to take some portrait aspect portraits of avatars.

Virtual Land Law?

Interesting. Potentially anyway.

Killing the Past

I spent some days, almost a year ago, writing about forgery and Errol Morris' posts. Morris is obsessed with the acceptable limits of recreation, because he uses it in his documentaries. He is proposing a truth in his films, or that his films are ways of getting at what actually happened. Thus he is always concerned with what kind of recreation, or dramatization is "real." Is it acceptable to re-arrange cannonballs? What makes a painting "real," or "original?"

These questions concern me in my own world, because in art we are trying to draw a line, a line that plumbs a depth. Remember to plumb is to tie a lead weight to a string. We get the word plumbing from the same place. That line is from what we see, to the thing itself, the work or text, and back to the hand that made them. From the hand, to the mind that moved the hand. That is why we worry about who did what, because we are trying to find the pattern that made Rembrandt's hand, his, or anyone else. What makes a great artist, is that they have a certain way with moving from the inner well of self, through the hand, to the result. We want to feel that process in reverse, and so, become in some way, part of it.

In painting, there is a sharp and harsh dividing line for Western paintings, as I wrote of before, that line, is Prussian Blue. Prussic acid has a complex chemistry, even today we do not completely understand its total workings. But what it did, along its successors in chemical pigments, was not only change the painter, and the paintings, but our eyes. We are used to vivid colors, we are used to blue. The era after the discovery of artificial blues, is rich in them. Before? Blue was difficult and expensive, and so it was the center piece of the composition.

That is why forgers of paintings before that line, who worked after it, are often tripped up by Prussian Blue. There are other important lines for other important pigments of course, such as zinc white, but the bluing of our eyes, is the most dramatic. This is part, of the aesthetic of capital, which is, I will argue, a fundamental part of capital-ism. Capital aesthetic is the preference for the products of technology, or other means of improving the production of labor, or reduction of scarcity. We like the substitute of being conscious of production, for the activities of labor, or ownership.

Let me start with an obvious forgery, and show why it is acceptable, only because we are conditioned to see it that way. Here is the image. On the left, a forgery, on the right, the original. The use of a vastly blue background is acceptable to us, because we have seen it in historical pictures, and in our own time. But in its time, that much blue, floridly splashed across the back, is out of place. It would have been very expensive, and therefore would have been used not merely as a background, but as the sky, or other symbol. It might as well have been gilt in gold. We have seen the productions of paintings for the rich, and assume blue was normal, because it is normal to us. But in its moment, such a portrait could not have afforded that much blue, and if the patron could have, he would have wanted an artistic statement.

We see blue. They saw a great deal of money.

Even when the artist gets the use of blue in quantity correct, the cost of Prussic Acid, is just too sweet to ignore.

As I wrote in the long series of essays, one of the great forgeries of Prussic Blue, is not in paint, but in the claims that the holocaust could not have happened, because the gas chambers are not stained with the tell tale cyanide color. The reason for this, as I also explained, is that the places where there is staining used reagent that gives cyanide a more pungent smell. It is meant to warn people, because by the time an individual smells the tell tale bitter almond, it is often too late. But the Zyklon B used for the gas chambers, had no such reagent, and the reagent acts as a binding catalyst for the formation of prussic acid in the presence of iron. The claim is false, because in the delousing stations, where everyone could admit the use of poison to kill insects, they used the ordinary chemical, with safety reagent in it. In the death chambers, the Nazi's did not.

This too, is aesthetic of capital. We learn to recognize early the hand of production, because it is important to know. Why do people fake bought cakes as home made? I remember it happening several times in my childhood. The first time, I stared at the chocolate cake, twin to the one a family friend had brought over the day before. I had gotten sick on the icing, taking a finger through it and licking it. I remembered the impossibly neat icing, and thought it odd. The next day, shopping with my mother, I knew why. The cake was made by machine, and the family friend had lied about buying it.

The death chambers of the Nazi's are acts of capital. They worked in their grisly work, because the people who built them knew how a factory of death should work, because they knew how a factory should work. They knew how to bring in inputs, and move them through a process, and dispose of the bodies. It was this factory of death aesthetic that made it possible to kill so many, so quickly, and without real understanding by the outside world. In contrast, the Japanese attack on Nanjing, with its massacre and atrocities, used capital to kill, but it was capital as consumption. Nanjing was not a death factory, but instead, a killing field. People used capital, but they did not make capital.

I think this contrast, this guilt, is what drives the making of a film about John Rabe a member of the Nazi Party in China, living in Nanjing, who saved hundreds of thousands of people, by organizing safe zones, and delaying the massacre of civilians. In a sense this is an attempt to counter the image of all Germans as being complicit in atrocities, it is also a contrast of how in one place the humanity remains, while at home, it did not.

The forger kills the past, he substitutes a faked artifact, creating confusion backwards, to the hand, the mind, the moment of the mind. And it is that inner pattern that we seek to hold, and in some sense copy. The forgery is then any attempt to distort the pattern of the past: to disclaim that past. All forgeries play, then, on our sympathies, and therefore, on our differences with the past. The past as someone wished it could be, or wanted it to be. The same forgeries that worked to perfection in one place, are embarrassing in others.

The role of Rabe then, can be either a balance, an accent of color in the darkness of the history of Nazi-ism, or it can be an attempt to wash it, to paint over that history. How we look at it, and how it is presented, is as important as the content of the film itself. It is one thing to show a Nazi businessman engaging in humanity for those he can see, while being part of a vast machine. There is a conflict in aesthetic: he cannot bear to watch being made, the tissues of his own empire.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Giggle snort giggle

Human Centipede, movie which is as clear a toilet porn play in horror as you are ever going to see, got pulled from the apple trailers site. I made the big mistake of watching this trailer.

It just shows that most western horror these days, is people who could not make it in porn.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Image Throttling?

I have heard from others that there is some kind of image throttling going on in viewers other than 2.0, a very misnamed term. I talked to someone who looked at what is going on and he said that yes, there is definitely some kind of throttling going on in the 1.x viewers, probably to reduce bandwidth costs. The new viewer is not open source, perhaps, he speculated because this is required to protect web based content. His belief is that LL has to get its bandwidth bills down, and that the new architecture does that, and the older ones are just being throttled.

I am not sure of this, but I have heard similar things from several technologically inclined people. I would be happy to be wrong, but suspect that if anything the situation is worse and that LL is deliberately trying to cripple old viewers.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Linden Lab to Users: Go away, we like our PG Porn

My experience with abuse reports is... they rarely get listened to. Now I know why:

Chiyo Linden: (Saved Thu Apr 8 06:01:46 2010) Please stop spamming Abuse Reports. One a day is more than sufficient.

This was in response to several abuse reports associated with a PG orgy area. Clearly, Linden Labs view is they don't do anything to enforce their own rules, and they get very annoyed when people document that the rules are being violated.

I think LL is trying to set a new low for unresponsive hostile customer service.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Your husband, and not his porn, is ruining your marriage.

Over at Salon they are chattering about the old porn/romance novel debate. It started with this anonymous story about porn being blamed for destroying a marriage.

Hmmm. Yes... ummmmm.

Please grow up people? Porn, romance novels, fashion, shopping, sports, and most techno-gadgets all come from the same place. It is a place that we try and reach, where the world is more the way our feelings would want it to be. We try and reify that sense, or consume the reification of others. We want to make the evanescent fantasy moment, real before our eyes and senses. In its rarified form, it is art, literature. In its more pragmatic form it is life. In its tawdry form, it's porn, the celebration of being able to consume on camera. I've done a lot of porn, and the one question that men always want to have answered is "do you feel it? does it get you off?" They are always looking for a woman who reifies their cravings, because, honestly they want the craving without having to work, the mango that just falls from the tree.

However to blame the creation for the urges of creating it, or less still to blame the creation for the urge to consume the creation, is getting it backwards. The National Review Online's anonymous gets it so wrong... her husband, and she in all probability, ruined their marriage. Porn was just the fixation, the compression, of what was missing: visual appeal, sexual freedom, and a release from all the realities of a marriage with five children.

It is not that the pain of loss is not real, and it isn't that anyone should have much, if any, sympathy for a man who shares in creating five children, makes promises of forever, and then runs out. I certainly don't. He'll find the make up peels, the boobs sag, and probably his new porn girl will find he has moved on. If anything the post is an excellent argument for garnishing wages for child support, not about porn, because there are millions of stories of a man running out, and they don't all revolve around porn, but they all revolve around the man running out.

Recently I experienced a break up, where the guy was sort of making noises about marriage, but in reality, he didn't really consider it. Many of my friends spent their twenties with boy friends who were just not going to get married to the first girl they met. I'm sure there are big picture problems that are contributing to what, from here, seems like an epidemic. But as far back as we read human literature, there are stories of a man chasing and catching a woman, getting her pregnant, and then running on to the next woman. It's classic mythology. In some stories he runs, and in others, he gets caught in one way or another. So if the people of forever ago antiquity saw this, it's a pretty good wager to say that it will be with us for a while yet.

So the whole whose porn is worse is missing the reality: Mr. Anonymous is an awful human being with not a shred of decency. Mrs. Anonymous, if she looks at herself, will probably see some imperfections that contributed to this sorry situation. What Mr. Anonymous' excuse to himself for running out is totally beside the point. It could have been an African American girl with a round ass, it could have been a blond boy, it could have been a slinky thing with fishnets, it could have been anything. Reading between the lines, it seems like he had checked out of the marriage a while ago, and was simply waiting for his chance to leave.

If there is a discussion worth having here, it is why we spend sooo much time in this society talking about marriage, supposedly celebrating permanent monogamy, celebrating child rearing, and do so little, both as a collective and as individuals, to make it all work. Fantasy is neither constructive nor destructive, in itself, it is how we seek that concrete version of it that is constructive or destructive. It wasn't the porn that lured an otherwise good Mr. Anonymous into the arms of a bimbo, it was that he was always looking to get there. Mrs. Anonymous, if she wants someone to blame, should ask herself why Mr. Anonymous disappeared off into pornland, and the answer is probably in part her own actions and the way she treated her husband. I say this, because taking responsibility is crucial, and she can not do that, even in the after light. Instead, she turns it into a talking point in someone else's ideological crusade. An activity that others seem happy to help her with.

So I write this simple ending: I feel Mrs. Anonymous' hurt, because it is a hurt that almost every woman knows, the promise of forever and ever broken for a hand full of flesh. But don't blame the camera, or the pictures, or the society, for what is your story. Pick up, protect your children, and yourself. And, if you are motivated to political activism, then be motivated to make it so that men will stop treating marriage like a bank, which they rob and then try and make a break when they have looted everything of value.

You have five children Mrs. Anonymous, and a porn crusade has nothing to do with them. Think of your children first, you are all they have.