Five Movements To Watch Out For in Science Fiction

ChinaMievilleChina Mieville in Omnivoracious:

v) Salvagepunk

As Steampunk wheezes and clanks exhausted into the buffers, dragging an increasingly huge load of books behind it, the hunt for the next great somethingpunk is over. The orgy of para-Victoriana has been impressively tenacious, but it has its limits, and rather than yet another reclamation of an earlier mode of production–steam, dust, stone, diesel–the punk aesthetic of DIY, cobbling-together, contrariness, discordance and disrespect for the past will go meta. It will investigate not imaginary branchline points in a timeline (an understandable if rather plaintive discomfort with the idea that such a line was actually teleological, and ended with this bloody mess) but history itself as always-already a bricolage, and what we do about that. Though this might look like apocalypse fiction, it will in fact be not about any implied catastrophe, but about scobbing together of culture from the refuse (and implying that all culture is and always has been so scobbed). An art of making-do, tool-use and ingenuity. A fiction infused with a militant amnesiac uninterest about cultural memes’ origins and ‘pure’ ‘original’ ‘purposes’ – which chimeras its adherents will derisively and polysemically render ‘pUr(e)poses’ – this will be literature that celebrates reclamation, and/but forgets that prefix ‘re-‘: so, clamation fiction, ignoring the fact that ruins are ruined, were ever anything else.

If Benjamin warns that history is a buffeted angel staring at a giant pile of debris, Salvagepunk ignores the angel and roots around in the debris looking for a car to hotwire.

Salvagepunk is the most developed of these schools so far: its bards and theorists already exist, and have brilliantly started the job of delineating its contours, and making notes for a manifesto. More than any other of these incipient movements, it will have a recent history of precursors on which to draw, Salvagepunk avant la lettre. These influences include the Mad Max films, The Bed Sitting Room, Charles Platt’s Garbage World, Steptoe and Son and the entire musical history of sampling, at all.

Anti-Semitism in Chávez’s Venezuela

800px-Hugo_Chavez_in_Brazil-1861Claudio Lomnitz and Rafael Sánchez in Boston Review:

On January 30, 2009 fifteen heavily armed men stormed the Tiferet Israel synagogue in the Mariperez neighborhood of Caracas. They held down two guards, robbed the premises, and desecrated the temple, throwing the Torah and other religious paraphernalia to the floor and painting graffiti on the walls: “Out, Death to All”; “Damned Israel, Death”; “666” with a drawing of the devil; “Out Jews”; “We don’t want you, assassins”; a star of David, an equal sign, and a swastika.

The event, though shocking, was neither isolated nor unprecedented. Over the past four years, Venezuela has witnessed alarming signs of state-directed anti-Semitism, including a 2005 Christmas declaration by President Hugo Chávez himself: “The World has enough for everybody, but some minorities, the descendants of the same people that crucified Christ, and of those that expelled Bolívar from here and in their own way crucified him. . . . have taken control of the riches of the world.”

In late 2004 the police stormed Hebraica, a Jewish social, educational, and sports center, ostensibly to search for guns and explosives. No weapons were found. But finding them may never have been the purpose of the raid: it coincided with the beginning of Hugo Chávez’s official visit to Tehran. Thus, Sammy Eppel, director of the Human Rights Commission of the Venezuelan B’nai B’rith, poignantly interpreted the event: “Chávez was showing Iran: ‘This is how I deal with my Jews.’”

Communist memory “hotting up” again

Felix Dzherhinsky

In 2002, Charles Maier published an article widely referred to in subsequent debates about historical memory in Europe.[2] He draws a distinction between the “hot” memory of fascist crimes, which still has not faded, and the relatively short-lived, “cold” communist memory, which unavoidably becomes dispassionate with the passing of time. Indeed, while the Holocaust remains the symbol of absolute evil in human history, the horrors of the GULAG and of Stalinist terror, despite being publicly condemned Europe-wide after the collapse of the Soviet empire, have not received comparable institutional recognition (e.g. museums, educational programmes, victim compensation). Convincing as Maier’s argument is, evidence has emerged in recent years that necessitates a revision of his thesis, at least the second part of it. After fifteen years of successful transition, culminating in the accession to the EU, it seemed that the accounts of the eastern European countries with the past had finally been closed. Yet what we observe today is that communist memory is “hotting up” again in eastern Europe. Bear in mind the “decommunization” campaign of the Kaczynskis in Poland, where the Institute of National Memory has been turned into an instrument of domestic politics; recall the controversies and political fights about communist memory in Hungary (where in September 2006 rightwing demonstrators staged a “re-run” of the anti-Soviet 1956 revolution); or look at the current conflict around the statue of the Soviet soldier in Tallinn, which caught the attention of both the European and the Russian public and has since even become an issue in EU-Russian relations.

more from Tatiana Zhurzhenko at Eurozine here.

The Swedish dream is no more


The Swedes are coming. As Europe lurches to the right amid financial and climate meltdown, a horde of cool-headed Nordic warriors are riding to the rescue. Sweden’s EU presidency from 1 July will be greeted as a breath of fresh air after the Czech leadership, what with the latter’s antics on climate change and arousal chez Berlusconi. What the EU needs is a whiff of sense and reason. And who better to provide it than the social-minded, climate-conscious Swedes? Sweden still sets hearts racing across Europe. The “Swedish model” might bring up thoughts of a nubile blonde rather than a strong social state, but it is in the latter incarnation that my home country stirs the passions of left-leaning Europeans. Whatever Sweden does must be right, or so reason progressive politicians and Guardian journalists – not to mention scores of Swedes. But beyond this blue-eyed vision lurks a darker reality. Sweden’s conservative coalition government has stood still as the financial crisis has engulfed the country. Jobs, social services and healthcare are eroding. The Sweden Democrats – the equivalent of the BNP – are on the rise. The social state is failing. The Swedish dream is no more.

more from Ruben Andersson at The Guardian here.

sex and banality


King of kitsch, Jeff Koons, comes to the Serpentine Gallery this summer with his first ever solo British show. Work by the American artist, who will be exhibiting his Popeye series at the Serpentine, ‘creates a world beyond taste’ according to the Guardian’s Jonathan Jones. Preview highlights from the exhibition (which runs from 2 July until 13 September 2009), before it opens to the public

more from The Guardian here.

Tuesday Poem

Jack Kerouac

And when you showed me Brooklyn Bridge
in the morning
Ah God,

And the people slipping on ice in the street
two different people
came over, goin to work,
so earnest and tryful,
clutching their pitiful
morning Daily News
slip on the ice & fall
both inside 5 minutes
I cried and cried

That’s when you taught me tears, Ah
God in the morning,
Ah Thee

And me leaning on the lamppost wiping
nobody’s know I cried
or woulda cared anyway
but O I saw my father
and my grandmother’s mother
and the long lines of chairs
and tear-sitters and dead,
Ah me, I knew God You
had better plans than that

So whatever plan you have for me
Splitter of majesty
Make it short
Make it snappy
and bring me home to Eternal Mother

At your service anyway,
(and until)

from: Kerouac – Pomes All Sizes; City Lights Books, 1992

How we survived Iraq

From The Telegraph:

Patrick-hennessey_1433262c For much of his time in Iraq, the big decision of Patrick Hennessey's day was what to read. While guarding Iraqi detainees, he and young officer friends would lounge around sunbathing in boxer shorts, holding impromptu seminars on the relative merits of The Iliad over Catch 22. When the idealistic Balliol English graduate defied his parents to join the Grenadier Guards, he expected adventure and was disappointed to find it mostly within the covers of books. After he was shifted to Baghdad, that changed: quiz nights alternated with terrifying patrol duties.

Then, in 2007, he was sent to Helmand province where the action was relentless. In one 48-hour push up the Sangin Valley, his team of six, without Afghan support, had to take control of 80 compounds. By the end of the tour, his company of 36 had lost 12 “blokes” – one killed, the rest injured – and three of the six officers had been sent home. Hennessey, one of the youngest captains in the Army, was the only platoon commander left. With each new empty bed in the room, each friend helicoptered out hooked up to a morphine drip, his introspections shifted from the relative merits of Homer and Heller to why he simultaneously longed for and dreaded danger. “Is fighting sexually charged because it is the greatest affirmation of being alive?” asks Hennessey, now a 26-year-old law student in a civvy suit.

More here.

When Money Buys Happiness

John Tierney in The New York Times:

Maybe consumers – especially the ones reading this blog – aren’t so irrational after all. In my Findings column, I describe how the patrons of a restaurant in Israel turned out to be surprisingly immune to the experimental manipulations of behavioral economists. And now there’s more evidence of sensible shopping behavior from an informal (and unscientific) survey of Lab readers. It was conducted in connection with an earlier column about Geoffrey Miller’s new book, “Spent: Sex, Evolution and Consumer Behavior.” Dr. Miller issued an open invitation to readers to try this exercise:

List the ten most expensive things (products, services or experiences) that you have ever paid for (including houses, cars, university degrees, marriage ceremonies, divorce settlements and taxes). Then, list the ten items that you have ever bought that gave you the most happiness. Count how many items appear on both lists.

More than 200 readers responded. Dr. Miller, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico, has read the answers carefully and says he’s impressed with Lab readers’ “good insights, self-revelations and vigorous debate.” He has picked out some of the distinctive answers and identified five overall trends. Here’s Dr. Miller’s analysis, starting with some of the most notable expenditures by Lab readers:

On the “most expensive” lists, the most distinctive items were:

• “Drugs”
• “Psychotherapy”
• “A week at a mental hospital”
• “Wine cellar filled, then emptied. Repeat.”

On the “happiness” lists, the most distinctive items were:

• Thrift store shopping
• Eyeglasses
• Liposuction
• Pilot’s license
• Social club dues, memberships
• Beach house rentals
• Yoga retreat
• Adoption of child
• $25 plain gold wedding band that lasted through a 46-year marriage
• Coffeemaker with auto settings for waking up to fresh coffee
• “Shack in the woods”
• “Studio apartment in Paris”
• “Upgrade to business class on international flights”
• “Girlfriend”
• “Weekend delivery of NY Times”
• “Tire swing”
• “Spleefs” (marijuana)
• “Ant colony”

More here.

The Owls: Multi-Use Area by Elizabeth Bradfield

Multi-Use Area

By Elizabeth Bradfield

Would the day on the hay flats—
sun slight through clouds, grasses
just starting again from last year’s
grasses, geese and cranes bugling
over the marsh—have been better
without the old tires, the gutted couch
in a pullout, a moose slumped alongside,
meat taken but the head still attached?

I can close my eyes to the pop bottles,
booze bottles, and orange skeet shells
in the parking lot, along the river. Walk
past them. I can pretend my own steps
through the marsh convey a different
presence. But I can’t close my ears.
There, a white-fronted goose, there
a pintail, willow branches cracking

underfoot, F-14s from the base. And there, again,
the shotgun blast and whoop which I can’t
edit out, which I probably shouldn’t.
It stops when I walk into view. I stop
and stare across the flats through my
binoculars, thinking asshole. And of course
someone’s staring back at me
over a truck bed, thinking asshole.


Elizabeth Bradfield is the author of the books Interpretive Work (Arktoi) and the forthcoming Approaching Ice (Persea). She plasters the streets with collaborations published by Broadsided Press and works as a naturalist. “Multi-Use” was originally published in Interpretive Work (Arktoi/Red Hen Press, 2008), winner of the Audre Lord Award from the Publishing Triangle and shortlisted for the Lambda Literary Award.

Read (or listen to) more of Elizabeth Bradfield's poems here >>


The Owls is a literary kind of site devoted mostly to collaborative writing projects. Poems, stories, and essays from The Owls appear on 3QD as a periodical feature.

The Owls site currently hosts a photostream by Frederick Schroeder, “Night Drive,” and “Screen Grabs,” an occasional column-by-Twitter-feed on movies by Ben Walters. Work by Jim Gavin, Morgan Meis, Amy Groshek, and Jill McDonough has appeared on the site in recent weeks as part of a project called “Stamps” that features writing about places. The Stamps project will continue this summer with a new post each week on The Owls site.

You may receive updates about writing projects at The Owls here at 3QD, via feed, or by putting the word “subscribe” in the subject heading of an email to owlsmag[at]gmail[dot]com.

The Humanists: Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep (1977)


by Colin Marshall

It's easy to see Killer of Sheep as a social tract, a cinematic essay on the boredom and hopelessness of black families in crumbling, industrial 1970s Watts — a bit too easy. Though Burnett's best-known film — and for 30 of the last 32 years, a seldom-seen one — provides a window of unparalleled clarity and style into its time and place, to read it as an elaborate argument about the entrapment of the urban black working class is to choose the most convenient but least interesting interpretation. The unambitious film writer can simply parse the images of the title character's endless sheep-skinning toil in the abattoir that employs him as metaphors for the lives of he and his wife, children and friends — grim, desensitizing and doomed — and call it a day. “And thus we see,” it's easy to imagine such a (likely non-American) critic pronouncing, “the poor forced into deadening oblivion, as lambs to the slaughter, by the callous society that surrounds them.”

Were that truly the extent of the movie's depth, you wouldn't be reading about it here. The “statement film” probably has its place — he admitted, wearily — though fictional cinema has always been a remarkably ineffective forum in which to make an argument, allowing the filmmaker to spread the sheen of truth, at least within their picture's world, on any old flight of fancy. Even documentary film lacks a firm barrier between sound reasoning and unhinged agitprop; it's no accident that the best members of the genre simply observe, casting off the nonsensical obligation to push a thesis. Charles Burnett seems, on some level, to have known this when he made Killer of Sheep, a latter-latter-day piece of neorealism with the aesthetic stylization of that subgenre and the unstaged feel of a nonfiction film.

Given that Burnett originally shot it as his UCLA film school thesis without intent to distribute or even publicly screen, it's all the more impressive to reflect on what the film does — or, to put it more precisely, to reflect on what the film doesn't do. It's a common filmmaker's temptation, especially among the young ones and those embedded in a film school environment, to peddle their own worldview and grind the axe through subtle — or, more often, hilariously yet unintentionally unsubtle — tricks of framing and causality. Either Burnett eschews this practice or performs it so well as to go undetected, though my money's on the former. While their efforts may often end in vain, he never for one moment appears to strip his characters of their agency; at no point do they come off as puppets carrying out a preordained design of modern struggle and malaise.

Read more »

Monday Poem

As the Minute Clicks
Jim Culleny

A new night
(as they always are)
and cool —unlike June
in Jersey when I was green
but June anyway

anyway it comes
it’s June
it’s June
regardless of you

June then
June now
in mid-late evening
8:30 by the clock
—the night dark

in the window the sky
glows grey behind
silhouettes of trees

slate-skin clouds
which if seen from a jet
would billow bright
in the light of the torch
that makes us tick

while underneath on
cloud-muffled earth what
makes us tick is a phantom
flame we imagine

we imagine it hints it’s here
right now in June

Brandenburg Concertos
from the other room

fountain water falling
nearby from a stone frog’s lips

cat darting
car passing

makes you wonder how
you’re doing as the minute

Stamp Your Feet. Hard.


Amelia Vega dancing at Bar Cardamomo, Madrid. All photos courtesy of Randolyn Zinn.

Randolyn Zinn

The way she moves

her slender waist

pleases the eyes

and the soul.

Abu l-Hajjaj ibn ‘Utba, 13th c., Sevilla

You go scattering,

as you walk,

roses and lilies.

traditional flamenco Alegrias lyric

In Spain earlier this year, researching a collection of poems I am writing, it occurred to me that my quest to find flamenco puro might be as romantically ill conceived as clambering through the back woods of the Southern United States in search of the blues. A fool’s errand, because both flamenco and the blues share at least one common fate — professional integration into their respective cultures.

Before my trip, I had visions of coming upon a late night impromptu scene of music and dance in some smoky room in an Andalucían town, aficionados yelling their appreciative ¡olés! (the first syllable is pronounced ah for reasons I’ll get into later). In fact, I did stay up late watching all manner of flamenco performances in very smoky rooms to learn that the art has become somewhat of a career path, enjoying renewed interest today from artists and audiences not necessarily born in the Andalucían province of its ancestral beginnings. And the pure flamenco I had fantasized about finding proved elusive.

In the Beginning, Complexity Not Simplicity

Even though the word “flamenco” elicits a variety of images and sounds, perhaps cliché — dark-eyed women in long ruffled dresses clicking castanets and drilling the floor with rapid heelwork, a man hunched over his guitar plying its strings in the plaintive voicings of the ancient Phrygian scale — the art bears closer scrutiny. Born of strife between Christian, Jew, Gypsy and Muslim, whose ancient shared anguish is mirrored by the challenges of our own era, flamenco is one of the world’s first multi-cultural art forms.

Read more »

Stonewall’s 40th Eye on the Prize, and the Prez Blinks

by Michael Blim

ScreenHunter_02 Jun. 29 10.14 The bus Thursday night was late. I slumped back onto the bench as the four-hour trip to New York had just gotten longer. As I settled in, I noticed a young kid waiting too. He had a Sesame Street character sticking out of his pink backpack, and he wore pink tennis and a rainbow-colored belt. On the back pocket of his jeans was written “God loves gays.” He might have been eighteen.

Flaunt it, baby, flaunt it, I thought. There’s still a very good chance you’ll get to New York in one piece. We’re almost normal now.

Four and a half hours later, the bus came bounding off the Williamsburg Bridge into Chinatown. It was one o’clock by the time I transferred at West 4th Street. The C train was no longer running, the A train was stopping at Jay Street, and lovely shuttle buses were offered from thereon. As I boarded the train to Brooklyn, a bunch of drunken young revelers hopped on. They were a mess of plastered and tinted hair, and a few were prettily painted. Kids of several hues once more with rainbows, and these too were all right with the world.

Finally the shock of recognition hit: the Stonewall 40th Anniversary was coming up Monday, and New York’s big Pride parade was on Sunday.

I had been oblivious. On the long bus ride, I had been reading the U.S. Justice Department’s June 11 brief supporting dismissal of a suit challenging the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The motion to dismiss will be held this upcoming August 3.

I had been steaming. By the time the A train reached Brooklyn, it was as if I had the taste of Mexican mole negro, the bitter chocolate sauce, in my mouth. Yes, we were free, to which the rainbow kids could testify. But we had not secured our rights. And American society and we had fallen far short of liberation.

The Justice Department brief says it all. The Obama Justice Department brief says it all. I add the adjective “Obama” because even though Andrew Sullivan has noted that the brief’s author W. Scott Simpson is a Bush appointee and part of a trial team that defended the Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003, Tony West, the Obama-appointed Assistant Attorney General, signed off on the brief. No one has yet called it a mistake.

The brief seeks dismissal of a suit by Andrew Smelt and Christopher Hammer alleging that their constitutional rights are violated by the provisions of DOMA that established for the first time in American history that marriage in the federal system of laws consists of a union between a man and a woman.

The brief is an exercise in deceit and disingenuousness. DOMA merely “codifies” tradition, Justice argues, even if the republic had survived without a federal definition of marriage for over 200 years, and even though marriage is a state and not a federal matter. DOMA, Justice avers, doesn’t prohibit same-sex couples from marrying: it just prevents same sex couples from any claim to benefits based on marriage, and it protects other states from having to provide benefits to same sex marriage partners who leave same sex marriage states and move to states without same-sex marriage.

Read more »

Wall Street’s Toxic Message: American Capitalism and the 3rd World

Third-world-debt-0907-01Joseph Stiglitz in Vanity Fair:

Among critics of American-style capitalism in the Third World, the way that America has responded to the current economic crisis has been the last straw. During the East Asia crisis, just a decade ago, America and the I.M.F. demanded that the affected countries cut their deficits by cutting back expenditures—even if, as in Thailand, this contributed to a resurgence of the aids epidemic, or even if, as in Indonesia, this meant curtailing food subsidies for the starving. America and the I.M.F. forced countries to raise interest rates, in some cases to more than 50 percent. They lectured Indonesia about being tough on its banks—and demanded that the government not bail them out. What a terrible precedent this would set, they said, and what a terrible intervention in the Swiss-clock mechanisms of the free market.

The contrast between the handling of the East Asia crisis and the American crisis is stark and has not gone unnoticed. To pull America out of the hole, we are now witnessing massive increases in spending and massive deficits, even as interest rates have been brought down to zero. Banks are being bailed out right and left. Some of the same officials in Washington who dealt with the East Asia crisis are now managing the response to the American crisis. Why, people in the Third World ask, is the United States administering different medicine to itself?

Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God

WrightreligionDan Cryer in the Boston Globe:

As a bold formulator he’s also a lightning rod for controversy. “The Evolution of God,’’ which explores permutations in our concepts of the deity, will please neither hard-core atheists nor fundamentalists of any faith. It’s too open to theism for the former, too rooted in scientific rationalism for the latter.

Wright assumes from the outset that religions change. And the most trustworthy means of explaining why is to trust “the facts on the ground’’ – that is, the economic-social-political context. In the final analysis, he emerges as an optimistic materialist. For he concludes that change will eventually tilt toward a more benign global religious environment. Now before you can shout “9/11’’ or “jihad,’’ listen to his argument.

The author traces the growth of gods from the animism of hunter-gatherers (where spirits rule over natural phenomena) to the polytheism of chiefdoms and ancient states (where multiple gods govern every aspect of life). These gods are hardly paragons of right living; they are capricious and often cruel. Over millennia, these models give way to a hierarchy of gods, with a powerful sovereign in charge, and, later yet, to monolatry, in which a city-state or nation bows to a single god considered superior to all others.

Most of the book, however, is devoted to the evolution of God concepts within more familiar precincts of monotheism: the Hebrew and Christian Bibles and the Koran. In the archeology and textual criticism of modern scholars, which Wright cites, these scriptures seldom appear in chronological order. Read in the proper sequence, however, they reveal a record of change.

Are humans cruel to be kind?

John Whitfield in New Scientist:

ScreenHunter_01 Jun. 28 18.36 Around the time of the G20 summit in London on 2 April, the streets of cities across the world were filled with people protesting against the excesses of the banking bosses, among other things. Chances are you agreed with the sentiment. Chances are too that if you had been asked to put your hand in your pocket to fund a campaign to seize their bonuses, even if you wouldn't see any of the money, you'd have been sorely tempted.

If so, congratulations: you have just confounded classical economics, which says that no rational person should ever reduce their own income just to slash someone else's. And yet that's exactly what we do. Classical economics, it turns out, is a pretty terrible predictor of how we actually behave.

But why do we inflict pain for no gain? On the face of it, it is rather a perverse way of going about things. Does spitefulness stem from an affronted sense of fairness? Or something altogether darker: envy, lust for revenge – or perhaps even pure sadism?

It might be all those things. Economists, anthropologists and evolutionary biologists have been teasing out how, used judiciously, spiteful behaviour can be one of our best weapons in maintaining a fair and ordered society. But intentions that are noble in one situation can be malicious in another – making spite a weapon that can all too easily backfire.

More here.

Sunday Poem

Slightly Tearful
Mark Halliday

Slightly tearful I get reading Henry King's “Exequy”
in the coffee shop imagining for three seconds what it would be
to outlive my dear Jill

but only slightly briefly tearful because it's a coffee shop after all
and because I do re-realize as usual that the tears would be
largely for me

and the beauty of my devotion
and that in a long blue shadow behind a sweetly hypothetical sorrow
there waits the possibility—

the probability by and by that far more expensive tears will need to be shed
in anyone's life as in mine, so to save for that day seems wise;

accordingly it occurs to me that when I teach the “Exequy”
I'd better not read it aloud in class
because I'd get tearful

even before Henry King exclaims in a sudden parenthesis
that his dead wife was for him a world, his little world;
it's good for the professor to care

but the students sense that when the prof gets weepy
it's not good teaching; a serious frugality of tears
should be our study amid the hasting years.