Saturday, December 27, 2008

BOMB Magazine: Roman Signer by Armin Senser

BOMB Magazine: Roman Signer by Armin Senser

Roman Signer has always lived and worked in St. Gallen, in eastern Switzerland. I visited him at his studio recently, where he showed me how sand trickles down from the ceiling onto a violin suspended below and makes music in the process. One could say that while sand is the performer of the piece, Signer is the producer of the musical performance. Signer is known as an explosion artist and a maker of ephemeral sculptures. He is neither an intellectual, nor a craftsman nor a blaster. He is not an action artist, a clown, or a shaman either. Signer has no use for theory: his art is not conceptual, and nor is it minimalist or a land art. To put it simply, Signer just thinks a lot. He thinks for himself and for those beyond; so that the world may lose its ordinariness and reveal itself to us in its splendor.

Signer makes objects very close to our lives, like tables or chairs, relate to earth, wind, fire, and water in unexpected ways. What is true for chemistry—from the combination of basic elements something completely new emerges—is also true for Signer’s artworks. Having turned 70 last May, Signer is thought by many to be Switzerland’s most important artist. In his Swiss-German accent, his answer to that would be a laconic yes, a brief monosyllabic answer that consecrates the transient as the most fertile ground for art.

BOMB Magazine: Everyone Gets Lighter by John Giorno

BOMB Magazine: Everyone Gets Lighter by John Giorno

Marcus Boon Some people are confused by your attitude toward the self. There is this battle that’s been going on for decades between experimental and lyric poets: the lyric poets are supposedly interested in a direct expression of the self, and the experimental poets reject that notion, arguing that poetry is about process and language as a self-constituting entity. Your work doesn’t seem to fit into either of those categories. People ask: Is he talking about himself? Is this actually self-expression? Or is it an experiment, in the sense that something formal is going on?

John Giorno Everything is an expression of my mind: it’s arising in my mind and there’s a self there. I have an ego, and it’s all coming out of that. Modernism and lyric poetry are now both historical eras. T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” is a miraculous poem, though it has all kinds of modernist principles. The idea that poetry has to be without feeling and self and anything personal in it is enough to kill you. When concepts such as these first arose—going back to the tradition of experiments from the Russians in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Italian Futurists to Duchamp—they were filled with enormous feelings. For Duchamp, to make that transition from painting naked women in 1912, to doing what he did took enormous feeling and energy. To now have that be devoid of personal emotions is a trap that people who become bad artists hold onto.

Friday, December 26, 2008

BOMB Magazine: Mike Davis by Lucy Raven

BOMB Magazine: Mike Davis by Lucy Raven:

"MD The border is both a growth industry in its own right and a sector of a vastly larger complex of automated oppression. Together with the D.C. Beltway, San Diego is the principal world center for the development of new technologies of surveillance, identification, data mining, cyber-warfare, and remote-controlled murder. The Jacobs School of Engineering at UCSD provides a publically financed research hub for scores of secretive private firms, mostly in the University City area, including Science Applications International Corporation, the largest purveyors of software to the CIA and the DIA, and General Atomics, which manufactures the notorious Predator. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Border Patrol’s technology development branch is headquartered in downtown San Diego to take advantage of this cornucopia of Orwellian R&D."

The Border Patrol, of course, has long used the San Diego sector to experiment with stealth technology, beginning with the motion detectors and heat sensors that were first developed by the Pentagon in its futile crusade to seal off the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam War. The fantasy now is a transcontinental “virtual border” of advanced sensors and video surveillance integrated in real time with a new communications system for the Border Patrol, patterned after Pentagon paradigms of “network-centric warfare” and “virtual battlespaces.” As proposed expenditures soar into the billions of dollars, the giant military-industrial carnivores have become hungry for shares in this border boom.

...Since most tourists and non-military residents—I suppose beguiled by pandas and wet t-shirts—don’t even register the monumentality of these mega-bases and naval installations, they are unlikely to read the surrealistic fine print. For example, about 50 miles east of San Diego along the border is an obscure naval facility called La Posta Naval Reserve Base. In fact, it is “virtual Afghanistan” where Navy SEALs and probably the elite Marine recon guys train before they go to Afghanistan, because it so strikingly resembles that landscape. Forty or fifty miles northeast of La Posta, still in San Diego County, is the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) facility at Warner Springs where SEALs try to survive in the mountains but are inevitably captured and brutally interrogated. You might have seen the SERE (Florida) sequence in G.I. Jane where Viggo Mortensen beats the shit out of Demi Moore. SERE training has been invoked in the defense of waterboarding and torture, since our commandos and pilots themselves undergo what the Spanish Inquisition used to call “The Question.”

Live here for a while (I grew up in the San Diego backcountry in the ’50s and early ’60s) and you will inevitably have eerie, unexpected encounters with the brave new world that a trillion dollars of recent military expenditures is summoning into being. On hot days I like to run at the harbor with a sea breeze in my face. Frequently, in the mornings, there are dolphins doing Sea World–like stunts in the water; after an encore, they hop aboard the flat back of a Navy fast-boat which roars back to the “marine-mammal weapons facility”—or whatever it is actually called—at Ballast Point. The dolphins, of course, are the advanced descendants of pioneering ancestors domesticated and weaponized in the ’70s. Together with some killer whales and a few sea lions, they are now a routine part of the naval arsenal and were used to penetrate Sadaam’s harbor defenses during both Iraq wars. They are also rumored (most recently by the London Independent) to be efficient underwater assassins with a gunlike device attached to their friendly faces.

The military also operates its own versions of Disneyland. San Clemente Island, just over the horizon, west of the Encinitas surf shops and pickup bars, is one of the Pentagon’s most valuable assets. It’s about 25 miles long and has been bombarded, strafed, and invaded almost daily since the early Second World War. Recently they opened a 21-million-dollar American embassy on San Clemente: smaller than Madonna’s house, but still useful for practice by Marines and SEALs.

More well known perhaps are the stage-set versions of Fallujah and Sadr City. These “urban warfare simulators” include “Yodaville” at the Yuma Marine Corps Air Station just across the Arizona border, and the MGM-quality complexes at 29 Palms and Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert, where Arab immigrants impersonate unruly natives and give young Marines and soldiers an extra jolt of Baudrillardian hyper-reality.

...MD “Peace, prosperity, internationalism.” In Duncan Hunter’s own congressional district. And here are the founders, over here. Ruth Norman. Doesn’t she look adorable?

LR She looks amazing. Is it a painting or a photograph?

MD I think they added a little William Blake to Tesla here.

Unarian 1 Do you want me to light up the star map?

LR Why not?

Unarian 2 Another good photo you could take is of the Voice of Venus, the first Unares book—that’s the one that started the revolution.

MD (to Unarian) Do you live here in El Cajon? I grew up here, 50 years ago.

Unarian 1 I do. I’d read the books for about two and a half years and I came down and met Ruth Norman.

LR Is this space the physical center of Unarius?

Unarian 2 It’s the physical manifestation of the celestial world of Unarius.

Unarian 1 There are seven spiritual planets, teaching centers where scientists, artists, philosophers, and everybody else goes through time periods as they start to progress into a higher awareness of themselves. Nikola Tesla is the head of the scientific plane of Eros. It’s where all of the scientists who have left their mark in the world come from.

Unarian 2 Like many of the famous people of the past. Maybe they don’t consciously remember, but in their sleep or their out-of-body experiences, they gain knowledge. Like Leonardo da Vinci, he got his inspiration when he was taking night classes in one of the…


This is the thing about living in southern California or New York City. Whatever happens in world history, whatever invasion or war, a new stratum of refugees ends up on our shores opening restaurants. Somalis have come to San Diego in large numbers, too. Whatever the tragedy of history, of other people’s defeat or dispossession, we always eat better….

...MD This is Bostonia, or what remains of it: when I was in elementary school it was still a separate hamlet from the rest of El Cajon, with irrigation ditches on the side of Second Street, an 1880s general store, a noxious chicken factory, and a legendary Country-Western honky-tonk. (Indeed, I still recall childhood wonderment at the incredible quantities of puke and blood in front of the Bostonia Ballroom on a Monday morning.) I have some wonderful memories of early friends and especially my first love, but I am also haunted by the dark side of my childhood. As weird as it may sound from an old socialist and long-professed atheist, I actually believe that I have seen the devil or his moral equivalent in El Cajon.

No, I am serious. Like Terrell County in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, El Cajon seems episodically visited by inexplicable violence. Over the years I have led a charmed, unharmed life in various domiciles in West Belfast, the East End of London, and the Bowery. Likewise, I lived for two extended periods in South Central L.A., presumably the only white guy for miles, with only civility and warmth from my neighbors. In my hometown, by contrast, I’ve been shot at, kicked to pieces in the street, and even had someone try to set me afire. Why? Because my residual redneck self tends to stare back at the other bastard. Yesterday and today, that’s sufficient cause for absolute mayhem in El Cajon.


MD Despite my yarning to you, I am more allergic to memoir (especially those that betray family honor or the confidences of old friends and lovers) than poison oak, but I have scouted the idea of a surreal scrapbook, something enigmatic, along the lines of literary flotsam from the Atlantis of the ’50s.

But now let’s look at something that will rate five stars in any Baedeker for born-again Christians: the fundamentalist temple built by the world’s best-selling author.

...But neither my wife nor I are good spies. We blurt out the goods at the first opportunity. We were once at the Alamo and one of the tour guides, a daughter of the Texas revolution, came up to us and said, “Welcome to the birthplace of Texas independence. Do you all have any personal connection?” And my wife says, “Oh, I do. My great-great-grandfather, General Juan Amador, helped execute the survivors.” I thought we’d have to get an ambulance for this poor lady.

LR What’s the story there?

MD I am married to Alessandra Moctezuma and she has a very colorful genealogy, like a magical-realist novel, starting with a daughter of the ill-fated Aztec emperor. One of her great uncles was Carlos López Moctezuma, the Jack Palance, all-purpose bad guy of classical Mexican cinema. Another was known as “El Tigre,” and helped suppress (in ways I am reluctant to discuss in detail) the Cristero Rebellion in Jalisco in the late 1920s.

Her dad, who for years broadcast the pioneering modern jazz program on Mexican radio, was fascinated by Edgar Allan Poe and the gothic genre; he directed several now-cult horror films and produced Jodorowsky’s El Topo.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tom Wolfe's 2006 Jefferson Lecture

Tom Wolfe's 2006 Jefferson Lecture

I take that term, the human beast, from my idol, Emile Zola, who published a novel entitled The Human Beast in 1888, just 29 years after Darwin's The Origin of Species broke the stunning news that Homo sapiens--or Homo loquax, as I call him--was not created by God in his own image but was precisely that, a beast, not different in any essential way from snakes with fangs or orangutangs . . . or kangaroos. . . or the fang-proof mongoose. Darwin's doctrine, Evolution, leapt from the pages of a scientific monograph into every level of society in Europe and America with sensational suddenness. It created a sheerly dividing line between the God-fearing bourgeoisie who were appalled, and those people of sweetness and light whose business it was to look down at the bourgeosie from a great height. Today, of course, we call these superior people intellectuals, but intellectual didn't exist as a noun until Clemenceau applied it to Zola and Anatole France in 1896 during the Dreyfus Case. Zola's intellect was as sweetly enlightened as they made them. He was in with the in-crowd. Evenings he spent where the in-crowd went, namely, the Café Guerbois, along with Manet, Cezanne, Whistler, Nadar, and le tout Paris boheme. He took his cues from the in-crowd's views, namely, Academic art was bad, Impressionism was good, and Homo sapiens had descended from the monkeys in the trees. Human beasts? I'll give you human beasts! Zola's aforementioned novel of that name, La Bete Humaine in French, is a story of four murderers, a woman and three men, who work down at track level on the Paris-Le Havre railroad line, each closing in on a different victim, each with a different motive, including the case of a handsome young passenger train engineer with a compulsion . . . to make love to women and then kill them. With that, Zola crowned himself as the first scientific novelist, a "naturalist," to use his term, studying the human fauna.

I love my man Zola. He's my idol. But the whole business exudes irony so rich, you can taste it. It tastes like marzipan. Here we have Darwin and his doctrine that in 1859 rocks Western man's very conception of himself . . . We have the most popular writer in the world in 1888, Zola, who can't wait to bring the doctrine alive on the page . . . We have the next five generations of educated people who have believed and believe to this day that, at bottom, evolution's primal animal urges rule our lives . . . to the point where the fourth greatest pop music hit of 2001, "You and Me, Baby" by the Bloodhound Gang, proclaims, "You and me, baby, we ain't nothing but mammals. / So let's do it like they do on the Dis-cov-ery Channel"--it's rich! rich! rich beyond belief!

...No evolutionist has come up with even an interesting guess as to when speech began, but it was at least 11,000 years ago, which is to say, 9000 B.C. It seems to be the consensus . . . in the notoriously capricious field of evolutionary chronology . . . that 9000 B.C. was about when the human beast began farming, and the beast couldn't have farmed without speech, without being able to say to his son, "Son, this here's seeds. You best be putting 'em in the ground in rows ov'ere like I tell you if you wanna git any ears a corn this summer."

Do forgive me, Emile, but here is the tastiest of all ironies. One of Homo loquax's first creations after he learned to talk was religion. Since The Origin of Species in 1859 the doctrine of Evolution has done more than anything else to put an end to religious faith among educated people in Europe and America; for God is dead. But it was religion, more than any other weapon in Homo loquax's nuclear arsenal, that killed evolution itself 11,000 years ago. To say that evolution explains the nature of modern man is like saying that the Bessemer process of adding carbons to pig iron to make steel explains the nature of the modern skyscraper.

...Weber was well known in academia for his essay "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism," written after he toured the United Sates in 1904. It was the origin of the unfortunately non-Protestant cliché, "the work ethic." He introduced the terms "charisma" and "charismatic" in their current usage; also "bureaucracy," which he characterized as "the routinization of charisma." He coined the term "style of life," which was converted into the compound noun "lifestyle" and put to work as the title of a thousand sections of newspapers across the United States. But what caught my imagination was the single word "status." In a very short, very dense essay called "Class, Status, and Party" he introduced an entirely new concept.

...Within the ranks of the rich, including the "owners of the means of production," there inevitably developed an inner circle known as Society. Such groups always believed themselves to be graced with "status honor," as Weber called it. Status honor existed quite apart from such gross matters as raw wealth and power. Family background, education, manners, dress, cultivation, style of life--these, the ineffable things, were what granted you your exalted place in Society.

Military officer corps are rife with inner circles aloof from the official and all-too-political hierarchy of generals, admirals, and the rest. I went to work on a book called The Right Stuff thinking it would be a story of space exploration. In no time at all, I happened upon something far more fascinating. The astronauts were but part of an invisible, and deadly, competitive pyramid within an inner circle of American military fighter pilots and test pilots, and they were by no means at the apex. I characterized this pyramid as a ziggurat, because it consisted of innumerable and ever more deadly steps a fighter pilot had to climb to reach the top. The competition demanded an uncritical willingness to face danger, to face death, not once but daily, if required, not only in combat but also in the routine performance of his duties--without ever showing fear--in behalf of a noble cause, the protection of his nation. There were more ways to die in a routine takeoff of a supersonic jet fighter of the F-series than most mortals could possibly imagine. At the time, a Navy pilot flying for twenty years, an average career span, stood a 23 percent chance of dying in an accident and a 56 percent chance of having to eject at some point, which meant being shot out of the plane like a human rocket by a charge of dynamite under his seat, smashing into what was known as the "wall" of air outside, which could tear the flesh off your face, and descending by parachute. The figures did not include death or ejection in combat, since they were not considered accidental. According to Korean War lore, a Navy fighter pilot began shouting out over the combat radio network, "I've got a Mig at zero! A Mig at zero! I've got a Mig at zero!" A Mig at zero meant a Soviet supersonic fighter plane was squarely on his tail and could blow him out of the sky at any moment. Another voice, according to legend, broke in and said, "Shut up and die like an aviator." Such "chatter," such useless talk on the radio during combat, was forbidden. The term "aviator" was the final, exquisite touch of status sensitivity. Navy pilots always called themselves aviators. Marine and Air Force fliers were merely pilots. The reward for reaching the top of the ziggurat was not money, not power, not even military rank. The reward was status honor, the reputation of being a warrior with ultimate skill and courage--a word, by the way, strictly taboo among the pilots themselves. The same notion of status honor motivates virtually every police and fire fighting force in the world.

Status groups, Weber contended, are the creators of all new styles of life. In his heyday, the turn of the 19th century, the most stylish new status sphere, no more than 30 years old, was known as la vie boheme, the bohemian life. The bohemians were artists plus the intellectuals and layabouts in their orbit. They did their best to stand bourgeois propriety on its head through rakish dishabille, louder music, more wine, great gouts of it, ostentatious cohabitation, and by flaunting their poverty as a virtue. And why? Because they all came from the bourgeoisie themselves originally and wanted nothing more desperately than to distinguish themselves from it. They seldom mentioned the upper class, Marx's owners of "the means of production." They seldom mentioned Marx's working class, except in sentimental appreciation of the workers' occasional show of rebelliousness. No, as the late Jean-Francois Revel said of mid-20th century French intellectuals, the bohemians' sole object was to separate themselves from the mob, the rabble, which today is known as the middle class.

I thought bohemia had been brought to its apogee in the 1960s, before my very eyes, by the hippies, originally known as acid heads, in reference to the drug LSD, with their Rapunzel hair down to the shoulder blades among the males and great tangled thickets of hair in the armpits of the women, all living in communes. The communes inevitably turned religious thanks to the hallucinations hippies experienced while on LSD and a whole array of other hallucinogens whose names no one can remember. Some head--short for acid head--would end up in the middle of Broadway, one of San Francisco's main drags, sitting cross-legged in the Lotus position, looking about, wide eyes glistening with beatification, shouting, "I'm in the pudding and I've met the manager! I'm in the pudding and I've met the manager!" Seldom had so many gone so far to feel aloof from the middle class.

But I was wrong. They were not the ones who raised rejection of the middle class to its final, Olympian level. For what were the hippies and their communes compared to the great bohemians of our time in the status sphere known as Hip Hop, with its black rappers and "posses" and groupies, its hordes of hangers-on--and its millions of followers and believers among the youth of America, white and black? The Hip Hop style of life turns bourgeois propriety inside out. It celebrates the status system of the Street, which is to say, the standards of juvenile male street gangs, so-called gangbangers. What matters is masculinity to burn and a disdain of authority. The rappers themselves always put on looks of sullen hostility for photographs. The hippies' clothes of yore look like no more than clown costumes next to the voluminous Hip Hop jeans with the crotch at knee level and the pants legs cascading into great puddles of fabric at the ankles, the T-shirts hanging outside the pants and just short of knee level and as much as a foot below their leather jackets or windbreakers, and the black bandannas known as do-rags around their heads. What were the hippies' LSD routs known as acid tests . . . compared to the Hip Hop stars' status tests that require shooting and assassinating one another periodically? How cool is that? One of my favorite sights in New York is that of a 14- or-15-year-old boy who has just descended from his family's $10 or $12 million apartment and is emerging onto the sidewalks of Park Avenue dressed Hip-Hop head to crotch, walking through a brass-filigreed door held open by a doorman in a uniform that looks like an Austrian army colonel's from 1870.

Not all status groups are either as competitive as capital-S Society's and the military's or as hostile as the bohemians'. Some are comprised of much broader populations from much larger geographic areas. My special favorites are the Good Ol' Boys, as I eventually called them. I happened upon them while working on an article about stock car racing. Good ol' boys are rural Southerners and Midwesterners seldom educated beyond high school or community college, sometimes owners of small farms but more likely working for wages in factories, warehouses, and service companies. They are mainly but by no means exclusively Scots-Irish Protestants in background and are Born Fighting, to use the title of a brilliant recent work of ethnography by James Webb. They have been the backbone of American combat forces ever since the Revolution, including, as it turns out, both armies during the Civil War. They love hunting, they love their guns, and they believe, probably correctly, that the only way to train a boy to kill Homines loquaces in battle someday is to take him hunting to learn to kill animals, starting with rabbits and squirrels and graduating to beasts as big or bigger than Homo loquax, such as the deer and the bear. Good ol' boys look down on social pretension of any sort. They place a premium on common sense and are skeptical of people with theories they don't put to the test themselves.

I offer an illustration provided to me by a gentleman who is in this audience tonight and who witnessed the following: It was the mid-1940s, during the second World War, and a bunch of good ol' boys too old for military service were sitting around in a general store in Scotland County, North Carolina, waiting for a representative of a cattleman's association. They fell to discussing the war.

One of them said, "Seems to me this whole war's on account of one man, Adolph Hitler. 'Stead a sending all these supply ships to England and whatnot and getting'm sunk out in the Atlantic Ocean by U-boats, why don't we just go ov'ere and shoot him?"

"Whatcha mean, 'just go ov'ere and shoot him'?"

"Just go to where he lives and shoot the sonofabitch."

"I 'speck it ain't that easy. He's probably got a wall around his house."

"Maybe he does. But you git me a boat to git me ov'ere and I'll do it myself."


"I'll wait'il it's night time . . . see . . . and then I'll go around to the back of the house and climb the wall and hide behind a tree. I'll stay there all night, and then in the morning, when he comes out in the yard to pee, I'll shoot him."

Quite in addition to the Good Ol' Boy's level of sophistication, that story reveals four things: a disdain for the futility of government and its cumbersome ways of approaching problems, a faith in common sense, reliance on the inner discipline of the individual--and guns.

Even before I left graduate school I had come to the conclusion that virtually all people live by what I think of as a "fiction-absolute." Each individual adopts a set of values which, if truly absolute in the world--so ordained by some almighty force--would make not that individual but his group . . . the best of all possible groups, the best of all inner circles. Politicians, the rich, the celebrated, become mere types. Does this apply to "the intellectuals" also? Oh, yes. . . perfectly, all too perfectly.

...More recently, I returned to Washington and Lee for a conference on the subject of Latin American writing in the United States. The conference soon became a general and much hotter discussion of the current immigration dispute. I had arrived believing that, for example, Mexicans who had gone to the trouble of coming to the United States legally, going through all the prescribed steps, would resent the fact that millions of Mexicans were now coming into the United States illegally across the desert border. I couldn't have been more mistaken. I discovered that everyone who thought of himself as Latin, even people who had been in this country for two and three generations, were wholeheartedly in favor of immediate amnesty and immediate citizenship for all Mexicans who happened now to be in the United States. And this feeling had nothing to do with immigration policy itself, nothing to do with law, nothing to do with politics, for that matter. To them, this was not a debate about immigration. The very existence of the debate itself was to them a besmirching of their fiction-absolute, of their conception of themselves as Latins. Somehow the debate, simply as a debate, cast an aspersion upon all Latins, implying doubt about their fitness to be within the border of such a superior nation.

The same phenomenon, championism, I believe, solves the mystery of something I had been unable to figure out for a very long time, namely, what is it that accounts for the extraordinary emotion of sports fans? What earthly connection do the citizens of New York City think they have to, say, the New York Yankees, whose team includes not one person from the city of New York, which is, in fact, 40 percent Latin American, and an assortment of mercenaries who will play anywhere for the top dollar? How can such a team get such a strong grip on local emotions? Here we see championism in its most elemental form. As far back as the story of David and Goliath in the Bible, the human beast has become excited by those who represent them in what at that stage of history was known as single combat. Before a battle was fought each side would send forth its fighting champion. Goliath, a giant, protected by the most elaborate armor, was so awesome, that at first no one among the Israelites dared confront him. Finally, a young unknown named David volunteered. He turned down King Saul's offer of his own armor as protection and said he preferred to travel light and fast. He proceeded to slay Goliath with a slingshot. At this point, The Philistine army panicked. The defeat of its great champion was seen as a sign from the gods. They fled, the Israelites pursued and slaughtered them. This notion of a surrogate, a champion, who can represent an entire people and give them the exultation of victory when it triumphs and plunge them into depression of defeat when he loses, has persisted for millennia.

Single combat was never pursued as a substitute for actual battle; these contests were always held as an indication of which way the gods were leaning. Nevertheless, both the exultation and the depression were real emotions, curious emotions, on the face of it, entirely aroused by status concerns. The surprising insinuations of status concerns into every area of life must be understood if one is to understand the nature of the human beast. Consider the toxic power of humiliation. Humiliation is a wound inflicted upon the beast's status picture of himself, upon the validity of his standing within the boundaries of his own fiction absolute. Not long ago, in New York, a drug dealer named Pappy Mason was out of prison on parole standing on the sidewalk in front of a bar with a group of his buddies, drinking a beer. A police detective happened to be driving by in an unmarked car and recognized him. He stopped, got out, and said "Mason, you know what stupid is? Stupid is what you're doing right now, drinking in public. You get your ass back in that building--or I'm taking your ass in." Now here was Mason, in front of his buddies. He had a terrible decision to make. Taking his ass in meant taking him to the precinct station and booking him. Drinking on the sidewalk was--a--Mickey Mouse--misdemeanor but it was enough to violate his parole and put him right back in prison. On the other hand, just caving in to some pig of a cop in front of his posse and slinking back into the bar was unthinkable . . .On the other hand, maybe it was thinkable . . .To go back to jail--so he did think . . .slinked back into the bar . . .You did what you had to do, Pappy--but the humiliation! the humiliation! A day passed, two days passed--the humiliation! Day after day it festered . . . festered . . . Eventually he found himself back in prison for an unrelated offense . . .and the same old humiliation . . .slinking back into the bar that night . . .festered . . . Finally, it became too much. He got a message out to one of his boys on the outside: "Go kill a cop." And the guy said, "What cop?" And Mason said, "Any cop." And so three members of his posse drove about . . . looking for a cop, any cop They came upon a young patrolman alone in a police car in front of the house of an immigrant from Guinea who, as it tuned out had been threatened by drug dealers. They had already tried to burn down his house because he had reported their activities to the police. The young cop, named Eddie Byrne, had been assigned to protect him. It was now late at night, quiet, and the three assailants came up behind the car and assassinated the young policeman. It became a cause of public outrage. It had taken the life of a young man, Eddie Byrne. Yes, but the cops . . .they had trashed Pappy Mason's status picture of himself.

That a wound to one's status, not to one's body, not to one's bank account, not to one's general fortunes in life, that such a wound to one's status could have such a severe effect upon the psyche of the human beast, is no minor matter. It means that we have come upon a form of anguish that is somehow primal. Even the most trivial and the most unlikely circumstances can be colored by the beast's constant and unrelenting concern for his own status. Which is to stay, his own standing, his own rank, in the eyes of others and in his own eyes.

It could be anything as minor and trivial as a man in New York in a taxi five, perhaps even ten blocks from his destination, agonizing over what tip he should give the driver. His status verdict would be in the hands of only one person, the driver, someone he would most likely never see again. And yet, the human beast is perfectly capable of devoting the most excrutiating mental energy to such a trifling decision. When I was working on a novel about college life entitled I Am Charlotte Simmons, I kept coming upon situations in which I thought surely other emotions would rule, love, if not love, passion, or if not passion, at least lust. Instead, as elsewhere, status ruled. Undergraduate life today, involves a status system in which sexual activity can be summed up as "Our eyes met, our lips met, our bodies met, and then we were introduced." The attitude young women have toward their own sexual activity, as well as the impression others have of it, has turned 180 degrees in one generation. There was a time when the worst . . . slut . . . for want of a better term . . . maintained a virginal and chaste façade. Today, the most virginal and chaste undergraduate wants to create a façade of sexual experience. One night I was in a college lounge sitting on a sofa that was backed up against a narrow table. Another sofa was backed up likewise on the other side. All at once a voice from the sofa behind me, a boy's voice was saying, "What are you talking about? How could I? We've known each other since before Choate! It would be like incest!" And then I heard the girl say, "Please. Come on. I can't stand the thought of having to do it with somebody I hardly know and can't trust." It turned out that she was beseeching him, her old Platonic friend of years' standing, to please relieve her of her virginity, deflower her. That way she could honestly maintain the proper social stance as an experienced young woman in college.

Even before I had left graduate school I had begun to wonder if somewhere in the brain there might be a center that interpreted incoming data and gave the human beast the feeling he was improving its status, merely maintaining its status, or suffering the grave wound of humiliation.

I turned to the literature of the physiology of the brain for the answer, only to discover that Sigmund Freud had stopped the physical study of the brain cold for 40 years. Freud had been so persuasive, had so convinced the scientific community and the academic community in general that he had found the final answers to mental disturbance in his theories of the id, the ego, the superego, and the Oedipal drama within the family, that it was rather pointless to go through the tedious, laborious business of determining what synapses, what dendrites, what circuits in the brain accounted for what one already knew anyway. The physical study of the brain didn't resume until 1969, thanks to the work of a Spanish physician and brain physiologist named Jose Delgado. Delgado was somewhat well-known already because of a striking and very public experiment he had conducted in a bull ring in Madrid. Delgado was experimenting with stereotaxic needle implants and other painless ways to reach regions of the brains of animals and eventually, as it turned out, humans. He was so sure that he had found specific regions of the brain that created specific reactions within animals that he had come into the bull ring possessing only a small radio transmitter and had allowed himself to be charged by a one and a half ton bull tormented into a state of rage by picadors. The bull charged. Delgado stood there, motionless. The bull finally reached the critical point where it would be useless for anyone, even a toreador, to flee. Delgado pressed a button on the radio transmitter--and the bull came to a shuddering halt within feet of the scientist, and then turned and trotted off in the other direction. Delgado had also run tests of sensory deprivation on healthy young college students. He put them in sensory deprivation chambers that were absolutely soundless. The temperature was set so that the human body would detect neither heat nor cold. The room was well-lit, but the subject wore translucent goggles and could perceive light but he could make out no details. The subject wore special gloves that reduced the tactile sense to a minimum. Within hours, not days, the subjects, these healthy young people, would begin hallucinating, losing their minds. To Delgado, this was proof of his proposition that the human mind is in fact not the possession of the individual but more of a town square into which anyone can come, into which any animal can come, into which even vegetation can come. And what the human beast thinks is his mind is in fact--and these were Delgado's words--a "transitory combination of elements borrowed from the environment."

...Delgado stressed the role of culture. Culture referred to those things in human life that could not exist without speech, whether culture in the sense of the arts or culture in the sense of the manners and mores of a society. Delgado insisted that the brain and its genetic history and evolution was simply the substratum upon which culture wrought its effects. He did not know the precise neural path. After all, he was re-opening a field that had been dormant for 40 years. But just last year, barely 6 months ago, three neurobiologists may very well have discovered the answer, in a study of African cichlid fish published in an article entitled, "Rapid behavioral and genomic responses to social opportunity" in the journal PLoS Biology. Russell Fernald of Stanford, his former associate Sabrina Burmeister, now at the University of North Carolina, and Erich Jarvis of Duke studied the behavior of the fish in a laboratory tank. In the tank was an obviously dominant male and his subjects, male and female. The others were gray in color but the dominant male had swelled up within a skin of lurid stripes and was the only male who had access to the females. They then removed the dominant male in the dark of night. When light returned, another male, just as gray as before, noticed the absence of the ruler, whereupon he swelled up with a skin of lurid colors, and his gonads immediately grew to eight times their previous size, and now he had exclusive access to the females. The three neurobiologists determined that a purely social situation, a status situation, had caused changes in the brain of the newly-dominant male at the cellular and molecular level, set off by a gene, known as egr-1, located in the anterior preoptic area. They had established that a change in social status had caused a change in the brain. It was the opposite of the situation envisioned by Neo-Darwinists neuroscientists who assume is that the genetic inheritance triggers changes in status.

As recently as the year 1000, Neo-Darwinists might argue, the entire world was divided into warriors and slaves or virtual slaves, aside from a few highly skilled artisans organized into guilds. Not only that, when the warriors couldn't find a real war to fight, they fought each other with blunted swords and spears in tournaments. At the conclusion of a tournament, ordinary religious restrictions on sexual behavior were suspended long enough for the winners to help themselves to as many young women as they cared to. The young women were there expressly for that purpose. This reward, which is so similar to that of dominant males among the non-human beasts, endures symbolically to this day in the form of pretty little cheerleaders with short skirts and their underpants showing.

But such comparisons collapse when the human beasts' third class is taken into account. This is the clergy, the priests and the prophets. Here in the 21st century, it is impossible to comprehend the power that the clergy had 1000 years ago. In the year 1082, Pope Urban II gave a speech on a platform in a field in France in which he exhorted all the knights of Europe--of Christendom--to go to the Middle East and take back Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Saracens, referring to the ruling Arabic Muslims. Immediately the Crusades began. Later, cynics would maintain that the Crusaders had gone to the Middle East only to bring back the booty that was eventually theirs. In fact, the warriors hadn't the faintest idea of what they would find. They were obeying the command of their Holy Father, the Pope. Until well into the Middle Ages the German Empire continued to call itself the Holy Roman Empire.

Book One, first verse, of the Book of John in the New Testament says cryptically: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This has baffled Biblical scholars, but I interpret it as follows: Until there was speech, the human beast could have no religion, and consequently no God. In the beginning was the Word. Speech gave the beast its first ability to ask questions, and undoubtedly one of the first expressed his sudden but insatiable anxiety as to how he got here and what this agonizing struggle called life is all about. To this day, the beast needs, can't live without, some explanation as the basis of whatever status he may think he possesses. For that reason, extraordinary individuals have been able to change history with their words alone, without the assistance of followers, money, or politicians. Their names are Jesus, John Calvin, Mohammed, Marx, Freud--and Darwin. And this, rather than any theory, is what makes Darwin the monumental figure that he is. The human beast does not require that the explanation offer hope. He will believe whatever is convincing. Jesus offered great hope: The last shall be first and the meek shall inherit the earth. Calvin offered less. Mohammed, more and less. Marx, even more than Jesus: The meek will take over the earth now! Freud offered more sex. Darwin offered nothing at all. Each, however, has left an enduring influence. Jesus is the underpinning of both Marxism and political correctness in American universities. There was a 72-year field experiment in Marxism, which failed badly. But Marx's idea of one class dominating another may remain with us forever. In medical terms, Freud is now considered a quack. But his notion of sex as an energy like the steam in a boiler, which must be released in an orderly fashion or the boiler will blow up, remains with us, too. At this very moment, as we gather here in the Warner Theatre, you can be sure that there are literally millions of loin spasms and hip-joint convulsions that are taking place at this very instant throughout the world that would not be occurring were it not for the power of the words of Sigmund Freud. Today, Charles Darwin still reigns, but his most fervent followers, American neuroscientists, are deeply concerned about this irritating matter of culture, the product of speech. Led by the British neuroscientist Richard Dawkins, they currently propose that culture is the product of "memes" or "culturegens", which operate like genes and produce culture. There is a problem, however. Genes exist, but memes don't. The concept of memes is like the concept of Jack Frost ten centuries ago. Jack Frost was believed to be an actual, living, albeit invisible, creature who went about in the winter freezing fingertips and making the ground too hard to plow. Noam Chomsky has presented another problem. He maintains that there is no sign that speech evolved from any form of life lower than man. It's not that there is a missing link, he says. It's that there is absolutely nothing in any other animal to link up with. It becomes difficult for Neo-Darwinists to continue to say that structures consisting only of words are not real and durable. What accounts for the fact, to choose but one example, that Islam has directed the lives and behavior of literally billions of people since the eighth century?

Princeton anthropologist Clifford Geertz has written, "There is no such thing as a human nature independent of culture. Men without culture would not even be the clever savages of Lord of the Flies."

Now, at last, may we begin the proper study of homo loquax?

Democracy Now! | Republican IT Specialist Dies in Plane Crash

Democracy Now! | Republican IT Specialist Dies in Plane Crash

AMY GOODMAN: Alright, well, we had you on right before the election, because that’s when Mike Connell was being deposed. This news that came out of his death in a plane crash on Friday night, talk about what you understand has happened.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, I cannot assert with perfect confidence that this was no accident, but I will say that the circumstances are so suspicious and so convenient for Rove and the White House that I think we’re obliged to investigate this thing very, very thoroughly. And that means, first of all, taking a close look at some of the stories that were immediately circulated to account for what happened, that it was bad weather. That was the line they used when Wellstone’s plane went down. There had been bad weather, but it had passed two hours before. And this comes from a woman at the airport information desk in Akron. We’re told that his plane was running out of gas, which is a little bit odd for a highly experienced pilot like Connell, but apparently, when the plane went down, there was an explosion, a fireball that actually charred and pocked some of the house fronts in the neighborhood. People can go online and see the footage that news crews took. But beyond the, you know, dubiousness of the official story, we have to take a close look at—and a serious look at all the charges that Connell was set to make.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, he had asked the Attorney General Mukasey for protective custody, because of threats to him and his wife?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: He reported threats to his lawyer, Cliff Arnebeck, and Arnebeck—also, Velvet Revolution heard from tipsters, as well, tipsters who also claimed that Connell’s life was at risk. Stephen Spoonamore, the whistleblower who was the first—who was the one to name Connell in the first place, also had an ear to the inside. He’s also very connected. And all these people were saying Rove is making threats, the White House is very worried about this case.

Having heard all this, Arnebeck contacted Mukasey, he contacted Nancy Rogers, who is the Ohio Attorney General, and he wrote a letter to the court, telling all of them that “This man should be in protective custody. He is an important witness in a RICO case. Please do something to look after him.” And they didn’t respond to this.

AMY GOODMAN: So, explain what this case is all about and exactly what Mike Connell has been doing over these last years. What does it mean to be Karl Rove’s IT guru?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, the lawyers in the case refer to him as a high-IQ Forrest Gump, by which they mean that he seems to have been present at the scene of every dubious election of the last eight years. We’re talking about Florida in 2000. We’re talking about Ohio in 2004. We’re talking about Alabama in 2002. He seems to have been involved in the theft of Don Siegelman’s re-election for governor. There’s some evidence that links him with the Saxby Chambliss-Max Cleland Senate race in Georgia in 2002. To be Karl Rove’s IT guru seems to have meant basically setting it up so that votes could be electronically shaved to the disadvantage of the Democrats and the advantage of Republicans.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, “electronically shaved”? I mean, you’ve got all these precincts all over Ohio. They’re counting up their votes. What does he have to do with this?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, specifically, there’s a computer architecture setup called “Man in the Middle," which involves shunting the election returns from, you know, the state in question—in this case, Ohio—shunting them to a separate computer elsewhere. All of the election returns in Ohio in 2004 went from the Secretary of State’s website—this is Ken Blackwell—to a separate computer in a basement in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which was under the control of another private company called SMARTech.

So we have now two private companies: GovTech Solutions, which is Connell’s company, SMARTech, which is run by a guy named [Jeff] Averbeck. And the company—the third private company that managed the voting tabulators in Ohio was called Triad. All three of these companies worked closely together on election night in Ohio in 2004. It turns out that the state’s own IT person was sent home at 9:00 p.m. They said, “Go ahead. Go home. We’ll take care of this.” So that this trio of highly partisan and, let me add, Christianist companies basically took over the whole—

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, “Christianist”?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, they’re radical theocratic activists, particularly—particularly Triad and SMARTech. You know, they are fervently anti-choice.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Mike Connell was, in fact—many said that’s what motivated him through all of this, his fierce anti-abortion stance.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: He told—Connell told Spoonamore that one of the primary reasons why he helped Bush-Cheney steal elections was to save the babies. I do think, though, that we have to draw a distinction between Connell, on the one hand, and the Averbeck and the Rapp family, on the other hand, because Connell was far less ferocious in his political views. He was an ardent anti-abortionist, it’s true, but he wasn’t quite as hardcore as the others. And in fact, you know, he was a little bit alienated from the others, and that’s one of the reasons why he was inclined to talk, and so on.

But the fact is, to answer your question, that on election night in 2004, it had been Connell, with these other two companies working with him, who had managed the computer setup, enabling Ken Blackwell to study the maps of precincts and voter turnout very carefully and figure out how many votes they need. By shunting the data to Chattanooga, they kind of slowed down the data stream.

AMY GOODMAN: Wasn’t Karl Rove’s email also there in Chattanooga on some of these servers?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Yes, yes. The same servers were used to host a whole bunch of highly partisan websites. And also, indeed, Karl Rove’s emails were on that server, too.

AMY GOODMAN: That have gone missing.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: That have gone missing. Incidentally, Stephen Spoonamore, again, the whistleblower who’s the one who named Connell, has told us—and I’ve seen his own contemporary notes—

AMY GOODMAN: And explain again who he was. Why was he in a position to whistleblow?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Stephen Spoonamore is a conservative Republican, a former McCain supporter and a very prominent expert at the detection of computer fraud. He’s the star witness in the Ohio lawsuit, right, in which Connell was involved. He has done extensive work of this kind, involving computer security, and had therefore worked with Connell, knew Connell personally and knew a lot of the people who were involved in the sort of cyber-security end of the Bush operation.

Despite his conservatism—or I suppose some would say because of it—he’s a man of principle—I mean, believes in the Constitution. He believes elections should be honest. He’s the one who came forward and named Connell.

And I have seen his notes of a conversation in which Connell asked Spoonamore how one would go about destroying White House emails. To this, Spoonamore said, “This conversation is over. You’re asking me to do something illegal.” But clearly, clearly—this is the important point—Mike Connell was up past his eyeballs in the most sensitive and explosive aspects of this crime family that, you know, has been masquerading as a political party.

...But the point is—I can’t stress this strongly enough—we’re dealing not just with a shocking accident, if that’s what it was, and a convenient one. We’re dealing not even just with a particular lawsuit that, you know, really requires vigorous promotion. The important point here is that this is all about our elections. That’s what this is about. This is about democratic self-government.

The fact that Obama won so handily has caused a lot of us to sit back and relax. There’s been a lot of popping of champagne corks and people drawing the conclusion that the system must work, because our guy won. Well, this is not a sports event. This is self-government.

In fact, the evidence strongly suggests—and we haven’t had a chance to talk about this since Election Day—that Obama probably won by twice as many votes as we think. Probably a good seven million votes for Obama were undone through vote suppression and fraud, because the stuff was extensive and pervasive, in places where you wouldn’t expect it.

The Illinois Ballot Integrity Project was monitoring the vote in DuPage County, right next door to Obama’s, you know, backyard, Cook County. And two of them, in only two precincts on Election Day, saw with their own eyes 350 voters show up, only to be turned away, told, “You’re not registered,” people who were registered, who voted in the primary. All but one of these people was black. That’s in Illinois.

People at the Election Defense Alliance have discovered, from sifting through the numbers, an eleven-point red shift in New Hampshire. That means that there’s a discrepancy in Obama’s disfavor, primarily through use of the optical scan machines, an eleven-point discrepancy in the Republicans’ favor, OK?

You start to combine this with all the vote suppression, all the disenfranchisement, all the vote machine flipping that went on in this election, you realize, OK, Obama won, but millions of Americans, most of them African American and students, you know, were not able to participate in any civic sense, ironically, a lot of the same people, you know, who would have been disenfranchised and were disenfranchised before the civil rights movement. So the fact that a black president was elected, while cause for jubilation, see, ought not to take place at the expense of a whole lot of our fellow citizens who seem to have been disenfranchised on racial grounds. My point is very simply this: We’ve got to get past the victory of Obama and look seriously at what our election system is like, or else, I promise you, see, the setup that was put in place in this last election, in 2004 and in 2000, OK, will still be there in 2010, still be there in 2012. So we’ve got to take steps to do something about it now.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Take Back the Land

Take Back the Land:

from the Take Back the Land website:


Many organizations across the US have taken on the good fight against gentrification. Considering the current housing market collapse, however, is gentrification still the same force it was a few years ago?

Due to the drastic change in the economic outlook, the fact is that the economic cycle of gentrification is over and, therefore, organizations and individuals geared to fight it must re-examine material conditions and re-tool their efforts.

Take Back the Land, a project of the Center for Pan-African Development, propositions that Gentrification is Dead. We urge you to read this piece and discuss it with your organizations.


Democracy Now! | Take Back the Land: Miami Grassroots Group Moves Struggling Families into Vacant Homes

Democracy Now! | Take Back the Land: Miami Grassroots Group Moves Struggling Families into Vacant Homes: "One grassroots group in Miami called Take Back the Land has launched a campaign to help some of the victims of the foreclosure crisis. The group, led by activist Max Rameau, has been helping homeless families illegally move into vacant homes that have been foreclosed. Two years ago, Rameau helped build the Umoja Village Shantytown that housed hundreds of homeless men and women. He is the author of the book Take Back the Land: Land Gentrification and the Umoja Village Shantytown."

MAX RAMEAU: Well, we haven’t had a whole lot of reaction. Up until last week, there was really no reaction at all. And, of course, people were aware of what we were doing when we started this in October of 2007. We did so very openly and very publicly, and we had a big feature in the local newspaper about it, so that it wasn’t like we were keeping this secret or anything, and our activities were very well known.

However, last weekend, one of the homes that we moved a family in, this family identified themselves publicly and has done media and did not conceal their identity at all. The police chief of the city of Miami did send over two officers last week to check on the house and to look around in order to advance his own investigation of what was happening, and we had to respond to questions about what was going on.

But I will say that I think the crisis is at such a level right now that I don’t think there’s going to be a whole lot of public appetite for the police doing a widespread crackdown on this kind of thing, given the fact that there are a whole lot of people who need homes, there’s a whole lot of empty homes, and there’s a whole lot of money that’s being shoveled over to the banks. So the banks have all this money, and they don’t even have to give up the homes. They get both the money and the homes. So I think that the police are being used as a tool for the banks so that the banks can keep these places vacant and cash in on them a little bit later. I don’t think there’s going to be a whole lot of public sympathy for that position.

AMY GOODMAN: What has been the response overall? The press? The authorities? And how many people have you found homes for?

MAX RAMEAU: Well, the authorities, we haven’t had much response from at all, except for that one incident last week, which, you know, didn’t amount to anything but a fact-finding mission.

The general public has been very responsive to it. Obviously, we go and we talk to the neighbors before we move people into these homes, because we’re not only trying to improve the lives of these individuals, we also want to improve our communities, the communities that, you know, I live in and that we live in. So we feel that having the neighbors a part of the process is a very important part of this campaign. And the general public, I think, supports it, because they recognize that there is a real crisis here, and these houses are not doing anything good.

I think what’s happening is we’re having a—approaching a real clash between two rights, or at least perceived rights. One is the right of human beings to have housing, and the other is the right of corporations to make a profit. And there’s a clash going on between these two rights, or perceived rights, and the society is starting to work out which one it thinks is the most important right. And we are asserting that the right of human beings to housing supersedes the right of corporations to make a profit. And I think people are starting to come to that same conclusion.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon

The Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon

Following Watson, a book (Keyes 1982), a newsletter article (Brain/Mind Bulletin 1982), and a film (Hartley 1983) have each been created with the title "The Hundredth Monkey." In addition we find a journal article entitled "The 'Hundredth Monkey' and Humanity's Quest for Survival" (Stein 1983) and an article called "The Quantum Monkey" in a popular magazine (Science Digest 1981. Each relies on Watson as the sole source of information on the remarkable and supernatural behavior of primates.
The monkeys referred to are indeed remarkable. They are Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata), which line in wild troops on several islands in Japan. They have been under observation for years. During 1952 and 1953 the primatologists began "provisioning" the troops - providing them with such foods as sweet potatoes and wheat. The food was left in open areas, often on beaches. As a result of this new economy, the monkeys developed several innovative forms of behavior. One of these was invented in 1953 by an 18-month-old female that the observers named "Imo." Imo was a member of the troop on Koshima island. She discovered that sand and grit could be removed from the sweet potatoes by washing them in a stream or in the ocean. Imo's playmates and her mother learned this trick from Imo, and it soon spread to other members of the troop. Unlike most food customs, this innovation was learned by older monkeys from younger ones. In most other matters the children learn from their parents. The potato-washing habit spread gradually, according to Watson, up until 1958. but in the fall on 1958 a remarkable event occurred on Koshima. This event formed the basis of the "Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon."

9 Is Not 11 :

9 Is Not 11 :

a compelling response to the Mumbai attacks by Arundhati Roy...

There is a fierce, unforgiving fault line that runs through the contemporary discourse on terrorism. On one side (let's call it Side A) are those who see terrorism, especially 'Islamist' terrorism, as a hateful, insane scourge that spins on its own axis, in its own orbit and has nothing to do with the world around it, nothing to do with history, geography or economics. Therefore, Side A says, to try and place it in a political context, or even try to understand it, amounts to justifying it and is a crime in itself.

Side B believes that though nothing can ever excuse or justify terrorism, it exists in a particular time, place and political context, and to refuse to see that will only aggravate the problem and put more and more people in harm's way. Which is a crime in itself.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

U B U W E B - Film & Video: Orson Welles - The One Man Band

U B U W E B - Film & Video: Orson Welles - The One Man Band: "ORSON WELLES: THE ONE-MAN BAND"

wow -- this little film has the best intro i've seen, anywhere, in a while.

from Wikipedia and Tom Wolfe: fiction-absolute

The concept of fiction-absolute exists firstly within the context of anthropology, secondarily within the study of group psychology also known as tribalism.

It is a term invented and defined by Tom Wolfe as being the propaganda that each tribe (i.e. social group) defines and uses to explain why that group is the best of all groups and its people the best people. The term itself indicates that it is absolutist in that it defines in stark terms why members should prefer that tribe, and necessarily fictional because it is propaganda. The fiction-absolute is essentially a tribe's core propaganda, and most intolerant.

The fiction-absolute not only necessitates a harsh view of other groups, but also unaffiliated people and, of course, individualists.

The fiction-absolute is the system of lies and truths from which can spring other intolerance, but also collective action.

Examples of collective action that supposedly derive from the fiction-absolute:

* Manifest Destiny
* British Colonialism
* Secession and formation of the Confederate States of America
* the Nazi concept of Lebensraum

The founding principle of a fiction-absolute need not, however, be a falsehood.

from Wikipedia and Tom Wolfe: fiction-absolute

The concept of fiction-absolute exists firstly within the context of anthropology, secondarily within the study of group psychology also known as tribalism.

It is a term invented and defined by Tom Wolfe as being the propaganda that each tribe (i.e. social group) defines and uses to explain why that group is the best of all groups and its people the best people. The term itself indicates that it is absolutist in that it defines in stark terms why members should prefer that tribe, and necessarily fictional because it is propaganda. The fiction-absolute is essentially a tribe's core propaganda, and most intolerant.

The fiction-absolute not only necessitates a harsh view of other groups, but also unaffiliated people and, of course, individualists.

The fiction-absolute is the system of lies and truths from which can spring other intolerance, but also collective action.

Examples of collective action that supposedly derive from the fiction-absolute:

* Manifest Destiny
* British Colonialism
* Secession and formation of the Confederate States of America
* the Nazi concept of Lebensraum

The founding principle of a fiction-absolute need not, however, be a falsehood.

Fiction-absolute - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fiction-absolute - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:


"The concept of fiction-absolute exists firstly within the context of anthropology, secondarily within the study of group psychology also known as tribalism.

It is a term invented and defined by Tom Wolfe as being the propaganda that each tribe (i.e. social group) defines and uses to explain why that group is the best of all groups and its people the best people. The term itself indicates that it is absolutist in that it defines in stark terms why members should prefer that tribe, and necessarily fictional because it is propaganda. The fiction-absolute is essentially a tribe's core propaganda, and most intolerant.

The fiction-absolute not only necessitates a harsh view of other groups, but also unaffiliated people and, of course, individualists.

The fiction-absolute is the system of lies and truths from which can spring other intolerance, but also collective action.

Examples of collective action that supposedly derive from the fiction-absolute:

* Manifest Destiny
* British Colonialism
* Secession and formation of the Confederate States of America
* the Nazi concept of Lebensraum

The founding principle of a fiction-absolute need not, however, be a falsehood."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Op-Ed Columnist - Lost in the Crowd -

Op-Ed Columnist - Lost in the Crowd -

I don't understand exactly how David Brooks went, in my mind, from being a repulsive conservative apologist to an intriguingly moderate centrist. I'm less sure how any moderate centrist can be remotely intriguing. Nonetheless, this is interesting.

Gladwell’s noncontroversial claim is that some people have more opportunities than other people. Bill Gates was lucky to go to a great private school with its own computer at the dawn of the information revolution. Gladwell’s more interesting claim is that social forces largely explain why some people work harder when presented with those opportunities.

Chinese people work hard because they grew up in a culture built around rice farming. Tending a rice paddy required working up to 3,000 hours a year, and it left a cultural legacy that prizes industriousness. Many upper-middle-class American kids are raised in an atmosphere of “concerted cultivation,” which inculcates a fanatical devotion to meritocratic striving.

...As usual, Gladwell intelligently captures a larger tendency of thought — the growing appreciation of the power of cultural patterns, social contagions, memes. His book is being received by reviewers as a call to action for the Obama age. It could lead policy makers to finally reject policies built on the assumption that people are coldly rational utility-maximizing individuals. It could cause them to focus more on policies that foster relationships, social bonds and cultures of achievement.

Yet, I can’t help but feel that Gladwell and others who share his emphasis are getting swept away by the coolness of the new discoveries. They’ve lost sight of the point at which the influence of social forces ends and the influence of the self-initiating individual begins.

Most successful people begin with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so. They were often showered by good fortune, but relied at crucial moments upon achievements of individual will.

Most successful people also have a phenomenal ability to consciously focus their attention. We know from experiments with subjects as diverse as obsessive-compulsive disorder sufferers and Buddhist monks that people who can self-consciously focus attention have the power to rewire their brains.

Control of attention is the ultimate individual power. People who can do that are not prisoners of the stimuli around them. They can choose from the patterns in the world and lengthen their time horizons. This individual power leads to others. It leads to self-control, the ability to formulate strategies in order to resist impulses. If forced to choose, we would all rather our children be poor with self-control than rich without it.

It leads to resilience, the ability to persevere with an idea even when all the influences in the world say it can’t be done. A common story among entrepreneurs is that people told them they were too stupid to do something, and they set out to prove the jerks wrong.

It leads to creativity. Individuals who can focus attention have the ability to hold a subject or problem in their mind long enough to see it anew.

Gladwell’s social determinism is a useful corrective to the Homo economicus view of human nature. It’s also pleasantly egalitarian. The less successful are not less worthy, they’re just less lucky. But it slights the centrality of individual character and individual creativity. And it doesn’t fully explain the genuine greatness of humanity’s outliers. As the classical philosophers understood, examples of individual greatness inspire achievement more reliably than any other form of education. If Gladwell can reduce William Shakespeare to a mere product of social forces, I’ll buy 25 more copies of “Outliers” and give them away in Times Square.

Findings - Tips From the Potlatch, Where Giving Knows No Slump -

Findings - Tips From the Potlatch, Where Giving Knows No Slump -

“Furthermore such is my pride that I will kill on this fire my copper Dandalayu, which is groaning in my house. You all know how much I paid for it. I bought it for 4,000 blankets. Now I will break it in order to vanquish my rival. I will make my house a fighting place for you, my tribe.” Today, though, potlatch scholars say that those extravagant copper fights were a historical anomaly caused by the arrival of white fur traders, which upended the Indians’ social structure and created a class of nouveau riche leaders vying for prestige.

...Turnabout is fair play. There’s no reason to spend precious time and money shopping for the aunt who surprised you last year with the programmable breadmaker. It’s still in the box. Rewrap it and give it back to her.

Returning a gift was done routinely in the old potlatches; the donors didn’t object as long as it was accompanied by an interest payment that might be 100 percent per year.

“In the old days, if a chief gave away 200 blankets to another chief, the next year or when the other chief next held his potlatch it was likely he’d get back 400 blankets or more,” says Andrea Sanborn, the director of the U’mista Cultural Center in Alert Bay, which houses the collection of potlatch regalia seized in the 1921 raid. “But today it is not expected that it be double anymore.”

So there’s certainly no need to buy Auntie a second breadmaker. A book of Amish bread recipes would do fine.

Don’t forget your enemies. “A lot of attention has been paid to the competitive side of the old potlatches, but they also helped people avoid conflicts,” says Aldona Jonaitis, an anthropologist at the University of Alaska. “Besides strengthening the bonds within a family, potlatching enabled people to establish bonds and obligations with potential enemies outside the family.” Today, with families becoming smaller and more dispersed, giving gifts to outsiders — even ones you don’t like — is a better self-preservation strategy than ever.

Share the wealth. The missionaries who railed against the potlatch didn’t understand its larger social function. In return for recognizing the greatness of the host chief, the low-status guests were given food and gifts without any expectation of repayment. It might be seen as a successful example of “trickle-down economics,” says Aaron Glass, a potlatch scholar at the American Museum of Natural History.

“Even though the elite chiefs controlled the fishing grounds and the trade networks,” Dr. Glass says, “the potlatch functioned to make sure everyone had enough fish and that the excess trading wealth was redistributed to the entire community.” In hard times that function is especially important, so remember the neediest this year.

Ignore the Scrooges. For more than a century, the potlatchers in Chief Cranmer’s family have been rebuffing their critics with a simple explanation. “Outsiders may think we’re dumb for giving away our money when everyone else is trying to save, but we do it because we feel good,” Chief Cranmer says. “After you give away everything and are pretty broke, you’re supposed to be happy.” And he swears that’s just how he felt after his last potlatch.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Prior: Renzo Martens

A Prior

W]hat art does is help you reformulate concepts, ideas and beliefs and to become conscious of things, not in a visceral way alone, but in a cognitive way….[7] Perhaps Martens’ objective could be to formulate a mediation, to create a means through which to see reality, to understand and interpret it.


Emerging from the first of our two lengthy conversations was an artist with a decisive point of departure: making use of the same strategy as his ‘fellow’ photographers and journalists, Martens refers to his film as a tautology. “As the producer of the film, you are always implicated. You are always involved. Many filmmakers and photographers try to cover this up.” According to Martens, declaring your own position is the ultimate prerequisite for opening up an external reality. Moreover, on the part of the filmmaker, exposing or not exposing one’s own position is often tied up with an economic implication. As a result, the position of the photographer or filmmaker in this context can only be recognized when it is lucrative. For example, in presenting help by a relief worker, the latter (usually a white man or woman) is put in the image, but where exploitation is being presented as the subject matter, you never see a white person in the image. Martens refers to Tillim, the white South African whose photographs were shown at Documenta, and how Tillim ensures that there is never a white journalist to be seen in any of his photographs, even if, at the events he photographed, he was surrounded not only by hordes of black protesters, but also by hordes of white photographers. According to Martens, this is only because Tillim wants to sketch the situation as an external reality, with which the future buyer of the work has or wants no real relationship. The person who purchases or sees the work will see the African situation as an outsider, certainly not as someone who is in fact involved with it, let alone contributing to its perpetuation.

Martens moreover has clear doubts about the potential of showing the suffering and pain of others in images, and to support his thinking, he refers, among others, to Susan Sontag. As Martens puts it, Susan Sontag described it well in her book, Regarding the Pain of Others. It is, in fact, impossible to visualize suffering. “It seems too simple to elect sympathy (as a feeling generated by photographs). The imaginary proximity to the suffering inflicted on others that is granted by images suggests a link between the faraway sufferers – seen close-up on the television screen – and the privileged viewer that is simply untrue, that is yet once more a mystification of our real relations to power. So far as we feel sympathy, we feel we are not accomplices to what caused the suffering. Our sympathy proclaims our innocence as well as our impotence. To that extent it can be (for all good intentions) an impertinent – if not inappropriate – response. To set aside the sympathy we extend to others beset by war and murderous politics for a reflection on how our privileges are located on the same maps as their suffering, and may – in ways we might prefer not to imagine –be linked to their suffering, as the wealth of some may imply the destitution of others, is a task for which the painful, stirring images supply only an initial spark.”[8] In other words, Martens agrees with Sontag that the pain and suffering of others is in fact impossible to depict.

...The segment on the art gallery is interesting. In it, the gallery is exhibiting ‘artistic’ photographs of workers in appalling conditions. They seem virtual slaves. Taken by the wife of the manager of the plantation where the workers were being exploited like slaves, the photographs are being sold for $600 apiece at an opening at a local gallery, to buyers who include the plantation owner himself. In this scene, Martens’ investigation reaches a climax. Concurrently, it is here that cynicism also reaches its apex – not Martens’ cynicism, but that of the exploiter and the Westerner with the clear conscience, aware of no wrongdoing whatsoever. Almost equally repulsive, or in any case hard to digest – on Christmas Eve – is a scene in which a few local men, on Martens’ own instructions, take photographs of malnourished and literally dying toddlers. They emphatically tell their fellow villagers how they will pay nothing for their photographs, cannot give them anything at all, cannot be of any possible use to them and will themselves only earn a penny from the commercialization of their poverty. These are horrible situations, and it is at moments like these that I suddenly look at what I am seeing with different eyes. I feel very involved and responsible for what is happening, and I understand that Martens here reaches his goal.

Martens compares his tactics with those of a satirical tradition, as he tells me about A Modest Proposal,[9] the satirical pamphlet published by Jonathan Swift in 1729, describing how parents should best serve their children to be eaten at fancy London dinner tables, rather than let them be a burden to themselves or to the state. At the time, the pamphlet was dismissed as satanic and immoral, but its intention was to open people’s eyes to the misery prevailing in Ireland in the eighteenth century. With this comparison, Martens sees his position as a filmmaker as deviating from that of ordinary reporters because he brings himself into the image while showing what is happening. By making a film about its own broader parameters, elements that are normally obscured become obvious and visible. In this way, one’s sense of involvement also becomes far greater.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

H. M., an Unforgettable Amnesiac, Dies at 82 - Obituary (Obit) -

H. M., an Unforgettable Amnesiac, Dies at 82 - Obituary (Obit) -

On Tuesday evening at 5:05, Henry Gustav Molaison — known worldwide only as H. M., to protect his privacy — died of respiratory failure at a nursing home in Windsor Locks, Conn. His death was confirmed by Suzanne Corkin, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who had worked closely with him for decades. Henry Molaison was 82.


H. M. could recount childhood scenes: Hiking the Mohawk Trail. A road trip with his parents. Target shooting in the woods near his house.

“Gist memories, we call them,” Dr. Corkin said. “He had the memories, but he couldn’t place them in time exactly; he couldn’t give you a narrative.”

He was nonetheless a self-conscious presence, as open to a good joke and as sensitive as anyone in the room. Once, a researcher visiting with Dr. Milner and H. M. turned to her and remarked how interesting a case this patient was.

“H. M. was standing right there,” Dr. Milner said, “and he kind of colored — blushed, you know — and mumbled how he didn’t think he was that interesting, and moved away.”


In the last years of his life, Mr. Molaison was, as always, open to visits from researchers, and Dr. Corkin said she checked on his health weekly. She also arranged for one last research program. On Tuesday, hours after Mr. Molaison’s death, scientists worked through the night taking exhaustive M.R.I. scans of his brain, data that will help tease apart precisely which areas of his temporal lobes were still intact and which were damaged, and how this pattern related to his memory.

Dr. Corkin arranged, too, to have his brain preserved for future study, in the same spirit that Einstein’s was, as an irreplaceable artifact of scientific history.

“He was like a family member,” said Dr. Corkin, who is at work on a book on H. M., titled “A Lifetime Without Memory.” “You’d think it would be impossible to have a relationship with someone who didn’t recognize you, but I did.”

In his way, Mr. Molaison did know his frequent visitor, she added: “He thought he knew me from high school.”

Henry Gustav Molaison, born on Feb. 26, 1926, left no survivors. He left a legacy in science that cannot be erased.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Strangers May Cheer You Up, Study Says -

Strangers May Cheer You Up, Study Says -

How happy you are may depend on how happy your friends’ friends’ friends are, even if you don’t know them at all.

And a cheery next-door neighbor has more effect on your happiness than your spouse’s mood.

So says a new study that followed a large group of people for 20 years — happiness is more contagious than previously thought.

“Your happiness depends not just on your choices and actions, but also on the choices and actions of people you don’t even know who are one, two and three degrees removed from you,” said Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, a physician and social scientist at Harvard Medical School and an author of the study, to be published Friday in BMJ, a British journal. “There’s kind of an emotional quiet riot that occurs and takes on a life of its own, that people themselves may be unaware of. Emotions have a collective existence — they are not just an individual phenomenon.”

In fact, said his co-author, James H. Fowler, an associate professor of political science at University of California, San Diego, their research found that “if your friend’s friend’s friend becomes happy, that has a bigger impact on you being happy than putting an extra $5,000 in your pocket.”

The researchers analyzed information on the happiness of 4,739 people and their connections with several thousand others — spouses, relatives, close friends, neighbors and co-workers — from 1983 to 2003.

“It’s extremely important and interesting work,” said Daniel Kahneman, an emeritus psychologist and Nobel laureate at Princeton, who was not involved in the study.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

mom and Wagner

from my mom:

imogen cunningham, the photographer says, "being devoted to one's work is much like hearing a great wagnerian opera with one's soul open." i so very agree.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Senegal's Traditional Wrestling Evolves

Senegal's Traditional Wrestling Evolves:

In New Senegal, No Holds Barred
Migration Changes Face of Ancient Sport

By Emily Wax

"DAKAR, Senegal -- In his dark, concrete room in a congested Dakar neighborhood, Lamine Mane, a professional wrestler, and several friends huddled over a bundle of faded photographs.

The frayed stack of old pictures showed some of the traditional wrestlers who generations ago performed on the soft green grass in villages across West Africa. On those family-filled evenings, peasant children would drop their mundane chores to watch their fathers achieve glory in a five-minute match.

There were no headlocks. No hitting. No biting. At the end of the match, a team of wise elders announced the winner. Women sang praises to the loser to heal his disappointment, then everyone feasted on succulent goat and rice.

In the village where Mane grew up, 500 miles south of Dakar, only single men were allowed to wrestle, as a ritual of courtship. Girls with neatly braided hair sashayed around the ring, flirting with potential suitors. The wrestlers were believed to have mystic powers, and they served as the community's private military.

But today, any man who trains and finds a manager can wrestle. Competitors punch and bite, and some end up in the hospital. They want to win cash and contracts for fast-food endorsements, not roasted goat. No one sings to the loser. Romance happens at dance clubs, not at the ring.
The movement of people from rural areas to cities is changing elements of culture from birth to burial rites, dating to divorce, and even one of West Africa's oldest traditions and most popular sports.

"In the village, the wrestlers were representing the community. Now we've left the soil, found the city, and it's all about the individual," said Abdoul Wahid Kane, a professor of sports sociology at the National Higher Institute for Popular Education and Sport at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar. "The changes in wrestling represent the changes in African society. Yet sometimes I wonder: How modern, how individualistic, do we really want to become?"
Mane stood out for his determination. But he continued hanging out with a crowd of wild, jobless boys who drank at discos and roared around the city on mopeds. One day, Mane crashed and ended up with a sprained shoulder and a missing tooth. The next day, in the hospital, he dreamed he was dying alone in a ditch, with only his moped at his side.

"In the dream, my ancestors said to me, 'What is your destiny? You are just 18, and you are spoiling your opportunities,' " he recalled.

His older brother, a mid-level boxer with bulging arms, had found meaning in his life through training for the sport. "There is something so good in my brother," said Boubaccar Mane, 34. "I thought L.A. could really make it as a wrestler, so I led him that way."
In a sandy lot at a school in the neighborhood, Mane and 30 other hard-bodied wrestlers work out with 90 minutes of sprints, leg bends, squats and sit-ups. Their dark faces become covered with dust as they lock bodies and try to pin each other to the ground.

Boys from the neighborhood watch practice from the concrete veranda around the school, sometimes imitating the wrestlers' movements.

"Living in the city, you can't just rest and live on the ancestors' land like before," said Mane, panting after practice. "Where you start out shouldn't be where you end. I know that. But the pressure is there. It's not just fun and romance. This is survival in the big city. This means something."
Before the match, the wrestlers and their inner circle strutted around outside the ring, performing a four-row line dance. Each man lifted a foot and stomped it down, then shimmied forward in time with the drumming. Fans whooped and danced in the stands, holding up signs for their favorites.

Senegalese are avid sports fans in general. A strong fitness culture makes joggers a common site on the streets of Dakar. In the homeland of international star El Hadji Diouf, soccer matches draw crowds to every television.

But wrestling is 'more interesting than soccer, because it's ours,' said Ousseynou Diakhate, a 22-year-old wrestler in the northern Senegalese town of Louga, who has been fighting professionally for three years.

Even in the provinces, wrestlers make up to $400 per match, but Diakhate insists they don't do it for profit. 'It's the traditions that nourish us,' he said. 'But if we make some money from it, all the better.'

The origins of this national sport lie in the rhythms of village life.

'If the harvest is good, young men come together to measure their strength, and girls watch to see who they want to marry,' said Youssou Mbargane Mbaye, wrestling historian and head of an association of traditional praise singers."

The pomp and pageantry of traditional wrestling is nearly as important as the fight itself. Wrestlers and their entourages dance wildly around the ring to the beat of drums and traditional flutes, while women chant songs of heroism and strength. The beginning of the fight is signaled when one wrestler places a drum in the middle of the ring, and the challenger overturns it.
Each fight is preceded by days of spiritual preparation. Marabouts, leaders of mystical Muslim brotherhoods, fashion amulets and talismans for the fighters. These tokens can include Quranic verses, plant derivatives or goat bones for fighters to bite as they step into the ring.

Mbaye said that in Dakar, however, the focus is increasingly on money. Cash prizes began to be offered in the 1960s, replacing the traditional offering of a sack of rice or a cow. Since then the purses have grown.

The dynamics of wrestling in Dakar also changed with the introduction of a new set of rules that allow wrestlers to punch each other.

"It's a foreign element. It comes from boxing," said Mbaye, who said that the more violent the game is, the more paying spectators it draws. "Now the only thing the young men care about is the amount of money they make."

Yakhya Diop Ndoye, a 14-year-old spectator at a Dakar match, says he wrestles at home with his friends in the traditional style without hitting but that he dreams of becoming a professional athlete who can bloody his opponent with impunity.

"When they hit each other, they get more money," he said.

He and his friends hoot excitedly as two fighters exchange blows in the ring.
However, even in Dakar, where promoters spend up to $400,000 to organize big fights, Sunday evening wrestling still reflects its rural roots. Praise singers are always on hand to spin oral histories around fighters and invited guests, and as celebrity athletes grow wealthier, the spiritualism surrounding the match becomes more pronounced.

Mbaye explained that fighters now buy much more powerful magic than they ever could in the village.

Senegal elevates traditional wrestling beyond indigenous culture

Senegal elevates traditional wrestling beyond indigenous culture

Like other sports, Senegal's traditional wrestling has undergone a drastic revolution, such that the Gueyes, feared fighters in their days in the 1970s, are drowned in nostalgia today as the new generation of wrestlers smile all the way to the bank with mega bucks, from a sport that was previously played for leisure but provided little or no financial returns to the combatants.

The sport has seen a massive infusion of modernity in Senegal, especially in officiating, with a complete group of uniformed umpires, a panel of judges and the introduction of body punching to enliven the drab grab/hold techniques.

The wrestlers are still attired in the old tradition of loincloth, fully exposing their muscles with the waist and arms bedecked with an assortment of "gris-gris" charms.

But despite all the efforts at modernisation, traditional wrestling a la Senegal, still retains its mystic, with a massive dose of razzmatazz, while the marabouts still occupy a privileged position in the magical preparations to ensure victory for their wards.

Since the average fight lasts less than 10 minutes, the wrestlers and their griots (praise singers), bodyguards and supporters often over-dramatise the pre-match up, which in some cases lasts up to two hours, including the time for opening supporting bouts, to ensure that the paying crowd has value for money.

The typical preparation for a bout ranges from the enchanting to the bizarre, involving various rituals, including digging up the ground and "bathing" the wrestlers with liquid concoctions.

The 35,000-strong crowd at the Leopold Senghor Stadium in Dakar included Senegalese First Lady Viviene Wade.

The importance of the wrestling bout was not lost on her husband President Abdoulaye Wade, who made it a point to extend his best wishes to the two wrestlers in his New Year message to the nation.

To also underscore the gripping passion of the sport, national media reports on the fight displaced the president's annual goodwill message to the nation, occupying the front pages of all the private journals the following day.

If the fight was spectacular, the build-up was emotive with corporate Senegal led by the mobile phone company Alize, deploying every arsenal to maximise advertisement revenue.

The fight organisers, Action 2000, said the contest cost a whopping 240 million CFA francs (about 680,000 dollars) to stage, and the national frenzy was such that half way into the bout, the stadium's gates were swung open to allow in thousands of fans massed outside the venue.

The actual bout was over in under seven minutes but extended pre-fight dramas were a sight to behold and more than compensated for the short duration of the main bill.

Tyson, who had once lost his title to another tough fighter, Serigne Dia, alias "Bombardier," was floored by the hard-punching Yekini.

The city of Dakar, with three million inhabitants, came to a virtual standstill during the electrifying moments of the fight, with citizens who were unable to go to the stadium, glued to their television sets either at home or around shops and open spaces with mounted TV sets to watch live broadcast of the match.

The gate fee ranged between 1,000 CFA and 15,000 CFA francs (from two to 7.5 dollars), but despite allowing thousands in free, Petit Mbaye, the chief executive officer of Action 2000, said his organisation raked in a net profit of 28 million CFA Francs (about 56,000 dollars).

A victorious Yekini pocketed 65 million CFA francs or 130,000 dollars, while Tyson got 60 million CFA francs (about 125,000 dollars).

Even by African standards and for a country with a national minimum wage of 40,000 CFA francs (about 80 dollars) a month, the Yekini-Tyson thriller was not only a national record, but has taken traditional wrestling to new heights.