Monthly Archives: June 2006

on the Khmer account

Liz Berg posts five charming bits of Cambodian pop on WFMU’ Beware of the Blog

In Siem Reap, Cambodia, I terrorized a few teenage girls working in a music store with my silly questions about old film stars, what’s on the radio, what’s underground, rock music, hip-hop, dance music, rap, and traditional tunes. They giggled at me nonstop as I tried to ask if this CD was better than that one, and made them repeat an artist’s name about 30 times so I could at least get a phonetic spelling down. I scored tons of great old film tunes, and took home a CD full of MP3s that the clerks recommended, so that I could really know what the Cambodian kids were into.

Two fragments (each about 0:20) to give you the idea.

bumpersticker: Keep Your Laws Off My Ursprache

I mentioned BLDGBLOG a few days ago, pointing to a quotation from Mike Davis, and today’s entry on BLDGBLOG quotes John McPhee (another of my read-everything-he-writes authors) and includes an aerial image of the monster copper mine at Bingham Canyon UT. There’s a pointer to The Center for Land Use Interpretation, and their Land Use Database will eat a few hours of your day.

Co-incidentally, I happened (thanks to Beyond the Beyond) upon a provocative new piece in Edge by Jaron Lanier: DIGITAL MAOISM: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism. A few snippets, to tantalize:

…My point here is not to argue about the existence of Metaphysical entities, but just to emphasize how premature and dangerous it is to lower the expectations we hold for individual human intellects.

The beauty of the Internet is that it connects people. The value is in the other people. If we start to believe the Internet itself is an entity that has something to say, we’re devaluing those people and making ourselves into idiots…

…it’s easy to be loved as a blogger. All you have to do is play to the crowd. Or you can flame the crowd to get attention. Nothing is wrong with either of those activities. What I think of as real writing, however, writing meant to last, is something else. It involves articulating a perspective that is not just reactive to yesterday’s moves in a conversation…

…It’s safer to be the aggregator of the collective. You get to include all sorts of material without committing to anything. You can be superficially interesting without having to worry about the possibility of being wrong…

… The reason the collective can be valuable is precisely that its peaks of intelligence and stupidity are not the same as the ones usually displayed by individuals. Both kinds of intelligence are essential…

…The hive mind should be thought of as a tool. Empowering the collective does not empower individuals — just the reverse is true. There can be useful feedback loops set up between individuals and the hive mind, but the hive mind is too chaotic to be fed back into itself.

Quite a lot to chew on, and simultaneously I’m rereading Joan Didion’s Slouching Toward Bethlehem and reliving my own mid-1960s perceptions of How Things Are, and listening to Lila Downs’ La Cantina (see a video of La Cumbia del Mole, from her Web site… and there’s this too). A heady brew on a rainy Sunday morning.

If you don’t read anything else today

…read this from Stephen Downes. It distills a lot of my raggedy thoughts on ‘teaching’ into a potent draught. Many memorable bits, but I wish I’d said this one:

I gave up arguing during my abortive PhD, when I realized that there was no point to argumentation. I have since then tried to live what I believe, and when people would ask, to explain why I believed it. This allowed me a certain detachment, because it didn’t matter whether they agreed with me, what mattered is that my explanation was true and honest and forthright.


Christopher Lydon’s ever-more-indispensable Open Source did a program on The Globalization of Hip-Hop that surely whets my taste for the genre. Try this excerpt [1:50] for piquancy…

I’ve never given much mental houseroom to Hip-Hop, and never listened carefully enough to get beyond the strutting and misogyny. Hmmm. Blues has plenty of strut and mis, and I’ve spent lotsa time on its variants. Time for a rethink…

The comment threads on Open Source often amplify the audio in useful ways. Consider this, from
Rushay Booysen, for its content and its expressive flavor:

mos def hip hop started from parties but it also had a serious undertone behind that partying lyrics was also messages lately hip hop has become more concerned bout the bling about what u have on ya wrist and if u see the effects of that on kids right here in south africa u would go this shit is massive. i was just tellin my friend if he noticed the amount of brothers round the way thats been gettin gold fronts who do we have to thank for that mr hip hop himself.its just crazy how the similiar sort of commercialism is influenced by american conglomorates all round the world it all evolves from economics man music has become more politicks then actuall musical art
(one of a number of comments)

Gibsonian take on S/N

I have a lifelong habit of bing[e]ing on authors, reading everything if I’ve found some unique voice in something they’ve written, and then rereading the especially choice bits again and again. William Gibson has been one of those authors for more than 20 years, and this fragment from William Gibson’s blog is pretty tantalizing and suggests that he’s still at it:

Organized religion, he saw, back in the day, had been purely a signal-to-noise proposition, at once the medium and the message, a one-channel universe. For Europe, that channel was Christian, and broadcasting from Rome, but nothing could be broadcast faster than a man could travel on horseback. There was a hierarchy in place, and a highly organized methodology of top-down signal-dissemination, but the time lag enforced by tech-lack imposed a near-disastrous ratio, the noise of heresy constantly threatening to overwhelm the signal.