:: Notes from Somewhere Bizarre ::

A Journal of Cultural Contamination by Ashley Benigno
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:: Wednesday, May 29, 2002 ::

Finished reading "Galactic Pot Healer". I hadn't read any Philip K. Dick in quite some time. Good to remember his dry style of writing - sterile backdrops against which ideas run amok. So much more of a philosopher (a little crazed perhaps, in synch with his schizophrenic times) than a writer somehow, despite his vast pulp production. Definitely a great artist of the last century, a paranoid seer.

And funny to find the sci-fi visions of yesteryear among us today. At the start of this novel (published in 1969), an unemployed artisan sits in his cubicle playing a game with a crew of dole buddies scattered around the globe. The game consisting of feeding the name of books, films, and other cultural artifacts into computer translation programmes, and then retranslating back into the original - a game found on british radio these days, where listeners dial in to guess what song title the babelfish remix refers to. Also a foretelling of viagra when a radio playing in the book's narrative broadcasts an ad for "Hardovax will turn disappointment into joy..."

On a totally different note, also finished the breezy, eighties pop-flavoured first novel by Matteo B. Bianchi "Generations of love"
:: ashleyb Wednesday, May 29, 2002 [+] ::
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:: Sunday, May 26, 2002 ::
As I sign in to access the offices of a multimedia company in the west end of London, the guard looks at me writing and starts to tell me how he has noticed a much higher percentage of left-handed people in the capital than elsewhere in Britain. "It's the creativity", this empiricist says as way of explanation, and beams a smile. I feel sad as I always do when I see intelligence flicker in the eyes of a security guard, and forget to ask him if he uses his left or his right.
:: ashleyb Sunday, May 26, 2002 [+] ::
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:: Monday, May 20, 2002 ::
The future is now: Is it possible to make artificial fingers that fool fingerprint systems? According to Japanese researcher Tsutomu Matsumoto, yes - and easily too. A fascinating case study.
:: ashleyb Monday, May 20, 2002 [+] ::
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:: Sunday, May 19, 2002 ::
Never mind Action Man, in times of war, get your military-correct toys here.
:: ashleyb Sunday, May 19, 2002 [+] ::
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Flamenco-flavoured remix of Manu Chao's "La Chinita".
:: ashleyb Sunday, May 19, 2002 [+] ::
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:: Saturday, May 18, 2002 ::
As I trawl for second-hand books, I overhear an animated conversation between two volunteers working in a charity shop. On the walls pictures of Eastern European children and printed words of woe. On the shelf above them, gypsy craft is on sale. The volunteers are two elderly women. Their hair is white, but their talk is dark. "...six kids, a council house and they don't even work". I missed the ethnic group under attack. Could have been any of the many (immigrants). The other could not agree more, in a discourse made common across the European Union. And then there is wonder that the extreme right extends its base.
:: ashleyb Saturday, May 18, 2002 [+] ::
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:: Friday, May 17, 2002 ::
Hailed as "the world's first transgenic virtual pet game", the public beta version of Metapet was released a couple of days ago. The tag line reading: Are you ready to manage the worker of the future? Unfortunately, my bio-economy tamagotchi worker quit at the end of his first day and subsequently died of a speed overdose. What can I say?
:: ashleyb Friday, May 17, 2002 [+] ::
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As the US media tread lightly around president Bush after releasing the news that he had received warnings prior to September 11 that al-Qaida planned to hijack US planes, a visit to the Canadian-based independent media group Centre for Research on Globalisation makes for some thought-provoking reads.
:: ashleyb Friday, May 17, 2002 [+] ::
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The notion of 'somewhere bizarre' first came to me as marixxx and I sat in the back of a compact jeep being driven by a cousin I had not seen in many years through the streets of Sydney with his MTV presenter girlfriend sitting next to him and he spoke without stopping about life, people, places in the city, in australia and everything was 'bizarre'. While not a word I particularly use, that night it seemed to capture perfectly a feeling often found in the global ghetto. It has since stuck somehow. My cousin had booked us in to L'otel, a funky and glamorous little hotel. We were on a speeded up emigration process that lasted 40 days, like Jesus' time in the desert, before we headed back to Europe. But that's another story...

Along similar conceptual lines, Mondo Bizzarro has recently opened an exhibition featuring the work of Walter Bortolossi. Mixing pop culture icons, film stars and company logos with elements from past culture and mythologies, the paintings provide material for political and philosophical musings, through a breezy and brazen use of colour and a fluid juxtaposition of imagery.

:: ashleyb Friday, May 17, 2002 [+] ::
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:: Thursday, May 16, 2002 ::
Been catching up on Underground Diary. It used to be a near daily read when I was commuting across London, travelling on tube and train. Its clipped sentences capture the rhythm of carriages running the lines and circles of the transport network stuffed with people as metaphors for isolated pods thinking thoughts of anxiety, madness, violence, sex, shopping and inanity. The narrating voice at times reminiscent of Patrick Bateman, but more cultured. The text littered with unexpected poetry.
:: ashleyb Thursday, May 16, 2002 [+] ::
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:: Wednesday, May 15, 2002 ::
Hatten Baby!!!! a true masterpiece of the web.
:: ashleyb Wednesday, May 15, 2002 [+] ::
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:: Tuesday, May 14, 2002 ::
"If they send me down (to prison), I'll take english lessons", says a guy, looking confused by the form he is filling in, down a local government office in Ilford. A television in a corner. Above it, information blinks in red LED dots. In front of me a woman with an enormous front tooth. Reading Empire I wait my turn.

The grey of the sky in the corner of my eye. I drift into reverie and dream of being on the road with marixxx. Florida most likely. Hiding out in neon-lit motels having endless sex. Dressing up as drag queen divas and surfing gay bars and strip joints.

"The rule is, if you miss your number you go back to the end of the queue", a security guard says to an old man. Motels are implictly sexy. For some they are a fetish.
:: ashleyb Tuesday, May 14, 2002 [+] ::
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As the Queen tours the country celebrating the golden jubilee of her tourist icon status, that other great British tradition - her bedfellow on london postcard racks - Punk, sees a series of tributes in the capital. The NFT is featuring Never Mind the Jubilee, while punk art gets a showing at the Centre of Attention.
:: ashleyb Tuesday, May 14, 2002 [+] ::
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Burnt at the stake as a heretic, Giordano Bruno believed melancholia provided a key to better understanding.
:: ashleyb Tuesday, May 14, 2002 [+] ::
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According to a shocking statistic on Adbusters half of all North Americans will visit a mental health professional or be prescribed a psychoactive drug. The issues of mental health and chemical treatement are explored in prozacspotlight, which highlights, among other things, the controversies surrounding the family of drugs known as the SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and their links to suicidal tendencies, in addition to the marriages of convenience between medical research and big business. A random quote: "The eagle leans close to my ear. "Crazy is working 70 hours a week at a job you can't stand," he says."

While not denying mental illness, we should not forget the ideological and political use made of madness. Just one example out of many: it wasnt until 1973 that the trustees of the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexuality from the list of officially recognised mental disorders (and continued to appear in certain text books throughout the eighties as "ego-dystonic homosexuality").

One of the images on the Adbusters report says that sadness is unamerican. We must remain productive. The customer service smile must be induced at all costs. In a world that feeds on fear and anxiety, it would seem insane not to fall prey to depression at times. Oh well, have a nice day.
:: ashleyb Tuesday, May 14, 2002 [+] ::
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:: Sunday, May 12, 2002 ::
During a leisurely online stroll this sunday afternoon, I come across the work of a dear friend of mine on a japanese site - it's a small web, to paraphrase Steven Wright, but I wouldn't like to code it.

The work in question is for this month's online cover of Shift, featuring a new installment in the collaboration between Simon Pike, as grandmaster flash animator, and the cartoon world of Pete Fowler. Met Simon during the academically surreal days spent at the HRC. Remember him disappearing in a Fiat 500 one winter night in Rome. Worked on our first multimedia project together. Can see him talking art and Lacan in front of a Stella with his blood brother John Bunker who - as I always say - has a brilliant name.
:: ashleyb Sunday, May 12, 2002 [+] ::
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:: Saturday, May 11, 2002 ::
Finished reading "Prometheus: "The Life of Balzac" by Andre' Maurois. I am always fascinated by the prolific, just as I am by debt-ridden artists, and Balzac was both. The guy just wrote and wrote and wrote, finishing off short stories in a night and novels in the space of weeks. Like many of the greatest writers, his inspiration was driven by the need to make money. "Everything about me must breathe opulence, luxury, the wealth of the successful artist...", he once said as he avoided his creditors.
:: ashleyb Saturday, May 11, 2002 [+] ::
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:: Thursday, May 09, 2002 ::
Thinking of marixxx dressed in a electric blue saree, looking stunningly beautiful one summer afternoon at the villaggio globale in rome
:: ashleyb Thursday, May 09, 2002 [+] ::
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India as a nodal point again: hacktivism meets net.art in Mythic Hybrid by Prema Murthy. With a Google-like interface the work denounces the atrocious working conditions endured by women workers in indian e-factories through a mix of links to info sites, quotes from the workers and video loops, with corporate audio loops as voiceover. Also by Murthy, and worth checking out, is Bindigirl .
:: ashleyb Thursday, May 09, 2002 [+] ::
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:: Tuesday, May 07, 2002 ::
Global paranoia through the eyes of CCTV - a web project by the French net artist Reynald Drouhin.
:: ashleyb Tuesday, May 07, 2002 [+] ::
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There hasn't been much in the media about the massacres, the systematic killings that have been going on in the Indian state of Gujarat recently. With all the attention focused on Palestine and Afghanistan, some news just slips out of sight, like the war in Chechnya.

News of the violence in Gujarat has reached me mainly through postings on Nettime. While an excellent essay by Arundhati Roy provides both an angry and alarming take on these recent events. A random quote: "Genocides can become the subject of opinion polls and massacres can have marketing campaigns".

Roy's article is well worth reading, raising as it does questions regarding the current state of democracy, nationalism, a new rise in fascism. Questions that do not remain contained to the state of Gujarat, or to India, but involve us all.

It was sickening to read the opening paragraph. The sheer inhumanity of mob violence.

I remember an evening I spent in the town mentioned, Baroda. I remember buying some street kids an ice-cream and then a couple of young men offering to take me to the best ice-cream parlour in town. The streets teeming with people, vibrant with life. Beyond its vast oceans of poverty, a country generous in its hospitality. I felt at home standing against a car, talking the warm night away. I could have easily been in the south of Italy.

The south is metaphysical after all. It shares common dreams. Be it if you are from Bari or Baroda. The south is, nothing more. Like when you drive south from LA towards San Diego, and there is never any sign that tells you Mexico, or Tijuana, or whatever is not far. All the signs say is "THE SOUTH".

:: ashleyb Tuesday, May 07, 2002 [+] ::
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:: Sunday, May 05, 2002 ::
Will the burqa be next? Maybe re-interpreted by Tommy Hilfiger or Calvin Klein, of course. Designed in the US and made in Samoa, upon presidential request. After not wanting to put a cap on greenhouse emissions, Bush doesn't want the young to wear condoms and calls for an end to sex lessons.
:: ashleyb Sunday, May 05, 2002 [+] ::
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:: Friday, May 03, 2002 ::
An article Le Pen by Julian Barnes in today's Guardian makes for a good read over a morning coffee. a book read a couple of days ago made for a very eerie feeling when thinking of the extreme right raising its ugly, pig ignorant head in France these days.

Published back in 1996, Marie Darrieussecq's "Pig Tales" is a brilliantly lean novel, dripping with succulent food for thought. It is a postmodern fable that reclaims Kafka in its depiction of a young woman that turns into a pig, with a dreamy dash of Sade for good measure, mixed in to a dystopian framework. As she transmogrifies, the sexual and political perversions that make up the backdrop are never clearly stated - the horror residing in what is left unsaid. Or said with few razor-sharp words.

And a beautiful last line: "when I crane my neck towards the moon, it's to show, once again, a human face".
:: ashleyb Friday, May 03, 2002 [+] ::
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:: Wednesday, May 01, 2002 ::
I do not hear them call. marixxx and eva maria stand beautiful, waiting outside in the street.
:: ashleyb Wednesday, May 01, 2002 [+] ::
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May Day 2002. The International Workers' Day. Strange concept really, strange celebration. Makes me think of tanks rolling through Moscow on parade, on black and white television, as a child. My grandfather telling me how he had never spent a day unemployed.

An email from a friend earlier today tells me how he was Fed-exed his notice of redundancy. Another casualty of an old economy having drunken sex with new technologies. Unprotected.

From indymedia UK I learn that the cyclists of critical mass are out across the city. From my window on the borders of east london, the sun is streaming through clearer than any media.


:: ashleyb Wednesday, May 01, 2002 [+] ::
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