We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The force is strong in this one!

Why? Because this is just too damn good…

Volkswagen / The Bark Side from Caviar London on Vimeo.

You are welcome.

The echo-gnomics of Terry Pratchett

Yet in Guards, Guards, a reign of terror begins with attacks on small businesses driven by envy and resentment whipped up by a cynical politician. In later books, a conman redeemed through entrepreneurship becomes the hero who saves the day. It is the rich, human mess of the marketplace, under the rule of law, that his heroes strive to protect. Through Pratchett’s generous gaze we see not only the absurdities of a commercial civilisation, but also its abiding value.

Marc Sidwell

The unadulterated Sir Terry

Animals loose in a car are never a good idea. Goats are generally the worst, but until you realise there’s a tortoise stuck under your brake pedal you’ve never known the meaning of fear, and possibly not the meaning of ‘old age’ either.

– Sir Terry Pratchett, The Unadulterated Cat. Sadly Sir Terry never really got to know the meaning of ‘old age’ himself. I think he did know the meaning of fear when contemplating a particularly cruel death for a writer, but knew even better the meaning of courage. I would link to the famous “embuggerance” statement to illustrate this point but so many other people are doing that right now that it has melted the internet.

When I think of all the people the world would be a better place without…

When I think of all the people the world would be a better place without…

Sir Terry Pratchett was not one of them.

Samizdata quote of the day

Translation? If you’re not left-wing, keep your mouth shut. What’s becoming clear is that under the false premise of making spaces “safe” for minorities, the only people whose safety is really becoming at risk is right-wingers and basically anyone who doesn’t wholly subscribe to the doctrine of political correctness.

Virginia Hale

Face it, this guy is just channelling what 80% of the western world is thinking…

Oh yeah.

NSFW by the way.

Samizdata quote of the day

Crash OverRide Network is not an anti-harassment campaign. It cannot be an anti-harassment campaign as it is run by someone who profits and gains notoriety by openly harassing people online. An anti harassment campaign is one that works to prevent the harassment of everyone, whether you personally like them, whether you disagree with things they have done, or whether they share your political ideals. If Quinn really wished to prevent harassment online, she would stop perpetrating it. I will surely not be the last woman she tries to remove from our industry.

Georgina Young

Of course the BBC, pretty much the worst tech reporters to be found anywhere, fail their due diligence as usual and just report it all at face value.

Happy New Year (again) – courtesy of French TV

Yes, here’s another Happy New Year to everyone, this time from French National Treasure Jean-Paul Belmondo, snapped by me (in amazement at how he looked – I think I last saw him in Borsalino) straight off of French TV (no idea which channel), at or around midnight on Dec 31/Jan 1:

BelmondoHappyNewYear

I thought Belmondo had died several years ago. After seeing him on TV, I still suspect that maybe he did die, and that the museum where they keep all the dead (human) French National Treasures has a highly sophisticated animatronics department.

What the saga of Doctor Who’s missing episodes can tell us about the nature of the state

If you’re not a Doctor Who fan it is probably best to look no further.

→ Continue reading: What the saga of Doctor Who’s missing episodes can tell us about the nature of the state

Caving in to blackmail

One of the lead stories on the UK national news today is a report that a hacking attack on Sony has led to a satirical film at the expense of the brutal regime about North Korea being pulled from Western cinemas:

Sony is canceling The Interview‘s planned theatrical release in response to all major US theater chains deciding not to show the film after attacks were threatened. “In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release,” Sony says in a statement, reprinted by Variety. “We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.”

“We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression.”

The hackers who stole data from Sony threatened attacks on screenings of The Interview yesterday afternoon. In the time since, around half of all movie screens in the US declined to show the film.

Sony’s statement continues: “Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale – all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

It is hard not to see the decision by some cinemas to pull screening of the film as anything other than a dangerous capitulation to threats of violence, although one appreciates that the owners of the cinemas think they have a legitimate issue in protecting staff and audiences. But still, this sort of move is bound to encourage other criminals to target any film, of whatever stripe, that they dislike and wish to close down. A few years ago we had the Danish cartoon episode. So what next, one wonders? I wonder what would happen if someone in the West produced a film taking the piss out of the bare-chested leader of Russia?

Meanwhile, in a weird case of life imitating art, the hackers have also allegedly grabbed an early script of the newest James Bond movie. You almost wonder whether this is clever pre-publicity, but it appears this is not.

El Sistema in Venezuela probably is not that much harsher than most musical education

The moon is blue, so I shall defend a socialist prestige cultural project. East Germany had its shotputters, the USSR its grand masters of chess, Venezuela has “El Sistema” – a much lauded system of musical education. Now, however, there is a discordant note:

Author exposes ‘tyranny’ behind musical miracle for poor children

Over 40 years, El Sistema, Venezuela’s music education system, has given a million children the opportunity to play in an orchestra, enriching, they say, the lives of youngsters from the barrios.

Its methods have been emulated in 60 countries, notably Scotland, where a Sistema-style operation was pioneered on a tough housing estate in Stirling with support from the classical violinist Nicola Benedetti.

The mood music has changed, however, with the publication of El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth, by Geoffrey Baker.
Aghast at the book’s claims of corruption, mismanagement and nepotism within Venezuela, a Conservative politician has questioned whether El Sistema should extend its reach any further. Yesterday, Alex Johnstone, MSP for North East Scotland, said that plans for a Sistema orchestra in Dundee must be halted while the claims are investigated.

“This book gives the impression that the system is much more authoritarian and intolerant than some were letting on,” said Mr Johnstone. “Not so much a new idea, as back to the Victorian habits of teaching piano by rapping them across the knuckles.”

Corruption, mismanagement and nepotism in a socialist show project would astound me only by their absence. But authoritarianism is the norm when teaching children to play musical instruments the world over, and has been since forever. The exception is the namby-pamby modern Western middle classes, and not all of them. The common opinion of that portion of mankind that gives music lessons or pays for them is that you won’t be going anywhere until you have done your quota of scales, sweetums, and if your name is Wei or Xiuying, these days that quota is likely to be big.

Do not misunderstand me. I like namby pamby. I’ve been uncomfortable with compulsion in education for decades now, and if not convinced that it can be dispensed with altogether for the very youngest children, am certainly convinced that it can be phased out at a far younger age than most people think. In most contexts I am convinced that education without force is immeasurably better education.

But how do you get them to practise – or don’t you? Given that it takes unfailing hours of daily practice to make a great player, and that for most instruments the great players invariably start young, would the price of freeing children from the slavery of music practice be no more great classical musicians? If so, would it be worth it?

The silence of Shia LaBeouf

What to make of this?

Shia LaBeouf: I was raped during performance art project

In an interview with Dazed, the actor says that a woman ‘whipped my legs for ten minutes and then stripped my clothing and proceeded to rape me’ during his silent performance art work #IAMSORRY

My question “what to make of this?” is a real one. There is a whole slew of issues involved in this story, ranging from the double standard surrounding female-on-male rape (or allegations of rape), to the extent to which silence can be taken to be consent (particularly the absence of any appeal to bystanders when they were present), and including issues of fairness to the woman accused of rape and to the spectators implicitly accused of indifference to it, and the propriety of staging such an event “starring” a person whom all sides admit has mental issues, which leads us to the politically-charged question of how far one should question the testimony of one who is or may be mentally incapable . . .

Frustratingly, the Guardian story gives much more detail on LaBeouf’s philosophy of art than on what actually happened. A follow-up story quotes his collaborators in the art project as saying they “put a stop to it” as soon as they became aware of it. No mention is made of force being used; apparently she did stop when told to.

So why didn’t Mr LaBeouf say a word to stop her himself? As far as I can make out his reason was because the point of his performance was that he should sit still and not react. On its own, “I could not object because it would have spoiled my artwork” appears ridiculous. Yet people do sometimes freeze when subjected to sexual assault in a public place; it is a common reaction when women are groped on trains, for instance. Then again, what might the woman say in her own defence if these charges were put to her? Was not the whole point of this famous artwork that Mr LaBeouf consented to being humiliated? What did the spectators think was going on? If, as seems to have been the case, his artistic collaborators held that this was something to which a stop should be put, why was no attempt made to arrest the woman? In general I reject the blanket assumption that a person initiating sexual activity must obtain explicit and ongoing verbal assent before continuing. Such an assumption would only apply to creatures not human; the vast majority of all voluntary sexual intercourse takes place without anything remotely resembling such a procedure. But the vast majority of all sexual intercourse does not take place between strangers in public during performance art.

My bewilderment is genuine. All serious comments are welcome, and I would not be surprised to see serious disagreement among the comments. I do not expect to delete remotely as high a proportion of comments as the Guardian moderators did to the comments to the account in the link, but will not hesitate to delete any of which I disapprove.