:: Essays

Re-Enter the Dragon published 13/11/2018

Apart from soccer players, the two biggest sports stars for kids like me in the UK in the early seventies were the boxing heavyweights Muhammad Ali and Henry Cooper—even if they were eclipsed in my schoolboy milieu by the likes of footballer Bobby Moore. I also used to see a teacher at school who was a black belt in karate practice his katas; unfortunately our Christian fundamentalist headmaster who had been in a Japanese prisoner of war camp— and as a result had an aversion to anything from the east—wouldn’t let Mr Beach teach us how to break bricks with our bare hands! As a kid I watched the Batman TV series so it is probable I was exposed to Bruce Lee’s guest appearances as Kato before I learnt he was the ‘king of kung fu’.

An extract from Stewart Home‘s new book on Bruceploitation. Boom!

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Queering the classroom published 07/11/2018

Our years spent in school are those which undoubtedly shape our understanding of the world we live in, and what we learn is integral in informing our thinking and behaviour. But what we learn can be just as important as what we don’t. The absence of queer themes from the classroom, and often the sanitising or policing of sexuality as a topic entirely, directly affects the acceptance of queer people in society. The school curriculum has built an enormous barrier to constructing a system of pedagogical values which promote tolerance and inclusion. As it stands, it only works to deepen the social divisions that we pick up on from an early age, and to disallow queer people from seeing themselves reflected in the content that they engage with in the classroom.

By Elliot Ramsey.

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No One is Bored, Everything is Boring published 06/11/2018

For the most part, we’ve given up any expectation of being surprised by culture — and that goes for “experimental” culture as much as popular culture. Whether it is music that sounds like it could have come out twenty, thirty, forty years ago, Hollywood blockbusters that recycle and reboot concepts, characters and tropes that were exhausted long ago, or the tired gestures of so much contemporary art, the boring is everywhere. It is just that no one is bored — because there is no longer any subject capable of being bored. For boredom is a state of absorption — a state of high absorption, in fact, which is why it is such an oppressive feeling. Boredom consumes our being; we feel we will never escape it. But it is just this capacity for absorption that is now under attack, as a result of the constant dispersal of attention, which is integral to capitalist cyberspace.

An extract from the late Mark Fisher‘s posthumous collection, k-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004 – 2016).

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Ten Elections: A History in Polls published 05/11/2018

In January of 1988, I was in Nicaragua, in Estelí, a pro-Sandinista city. Ostensibly, I was there for an intensive Spanish course, but of course you don’t go to a country at war to learn a language. Estelí was battle-bruised, with bullet holes in the sides of the rough cement buildings, potholed roads, open sewers in the street. There were shortages of food, of toilet paper, of medical supplies. Everyone had stories about the violence that marked the final years of the Somoza dictatorship and the relatives and friends they lost to that violence. The earliest days of the Sandinista revolution seemed a reprieve, a time of relative peace even as the country lay in ruins, but violence spread again as the US provided arms, training, and money to the Contras in the civil war. Reagan is going, the revolution is continuing, read the banner at our language school. We even had a party to celebrate.

By Linda Mannheim.

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Thank you Joan: Thoughts on women’s hardness published

What happens to the body when it churns and churns like a machine? It becomes abstracted. Walter Benjamin wrote a lot about this in the 1920s: the assembly-line menace and the legs of the Tiller Girls. Didion’s prose obviously doesn’t have the same uneasy awareness of impending fascism, a politics which, Benjamin says, follows after perception and reality are untethered in this way, but it’s still a commentary on consciousness and a dissatisfied existence in a decade of social dislocation.

By Emma Christie.

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Workers’ Tales Against the Ghost of Linen Decency published 03/11/2018

In this terrific book Rosen stands in a popular tradition of art that begins and ends in the complaint and rebellion of the common people against the powers that lord it over them. It’s a proletarian tradition looking to images of the just society and one that links up with revolutionary sermons, nursery rhymes, ballads, popular songs and broadsheets from the past with energies detectable in the likes of Yeats and Kipling. Rosen knows his Levellers, like John Lilburne writing  in ‘Vox Plebis’  from the revolutionary times of the 1640’s: ‘ For as God created every man free in Adam: so by nature are all alike freemen born.’

Richard Marshall reviews Workers Tales edited by Michael Rosen.

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Is Neuroscience a Bigger Threat than Artificial Intelligence? published 02/11/2018

IBM’s Jeopardy winning computer Watson is a serious threat, not just to the livelihood of medical diagnosticians, but to other professionals who may find themselves going the way of welders. Besides its economic threat, the advance of AI seems to pose a cultural threat: if physical systems can do what we do without thought to give meaning to their achievements, the conscious human mind will be displaced from its unique role in the universe as a creative, responsible, rational agent.

Alex Rosenberg on why neuroscience is a far greater threat to human distinctiveness than AI will ever be.

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A Year with Wallace Stevens published 20/10/2018

If she or I come dripping in our hair from sleep or not, neither case will disqualify us from longings to burn over the ancient and the revolutionary of our time. How we regard color and motion won’t impede the delicate horror of one’s allegiance to another’s soul. On starry nights or sunny afternoons, I can’t but believe I will be removed from the earth only to live again and already am, and that however many more turns I take reading “Le Monocle de Mon Oncle,” or however many times the tingle in my back, at the sight of her or at the sound of poetry, reminds me to regard living as only a joy, or if hallowed love hoists itself only to get shadowed into an irreal, unkempt creation, no matter then — the globe cannot be so haunted by realities apart from art. We are at home in the parlor of dreams. Felicitations, Mr. Stevens.

By Greg Gerke.

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HowTheLightGetsIn Festival, London 2018 published 14/10/2018

I’m hoping that the organizers will continue to screen out the philosophical bull shitters and poseurs and be a bit more confident in screening out crowd-pulling best-seller acts who have neither a talent nor interest in philosophy. We need to fight for the integrity of the wissenschaftlich seriousness of philosophy and ensure that when we bring the academy out to the public we quality control it and make it simple enough without being simplistic.

Richard Marshall reflects on the HowTheLightGetsIn London festival.

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Beyoncé and the New Gesamtkunstwerk published 01/10/2018

It seems somewhat pointed and particularly timely then to discuss Beyoncé in reference to Wagner, given the previously mentioned critique of western culture, especially the neoclassical artistic tradition explored in ‘Apeshit’. Beyoncé and Jay-Z pose and dance throughout the Louvre, that shrine to western culture, wearing a variety of fashions and styles that are either produced by designers of colour or recall neglected accomplishments of African culture.

Sahanika Ratnayake finds surprising connections between Richard Wagner and Beyoncé.

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