A VERY BIG PIECE OF PAPER

“The Okhrana, the secret police of the GPU, is reported to have invented a filing system in which every suspect was noted on a large card in the center of which his name was surrounded by a red circle; his political friends were designated by smaller red circles and his nonpolitical acquaintances by green ones; […]

IS THIS SPIRITUAL WARFARE?

IMAGE: STANDING STONES (detail) by Catherine Forsayeth A former colleague gets in touch. He and his wife have been teaching at an international school in Kuala Lumpur for the last ten years or so. Now they have been told that if they will not comply with the school’s vaccination policy, they will be let go […]

THE SUCKER BRIGADES

“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” These words are from a brief but memorable conversation the journalist Ron Suskind had with Karl Rove, the chief political adviser and Machiavellian ‘teacher of tricks’ to the Bush dynasty. Rove was senior adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff during the George […]

[Aleph], Mem, Tav

“Legends of the golem, usually sourced as an archetype in Kabbalah, are actually found in Talmud, but may stem from the same magical traditions. According to these stories, sometimes presented as cautionary tales, a rabbi could create a crude, humanoid being, in a travesty of God’s creation. These monsters had no will or intelligence of their […]

DOPPELGÄNGER STORIES

Doppelgänger stories came into fashion during the Industrial Revolution, as an archetype in Gothic horror. The term was coined by Jean Paul in his novel Siebenkäs in 1796, and came of age in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Die Doppelgänger (1821). Edgar Allan Poe’s William Wilson was published in 1839. Later, in 1886, we get Dr Jekyll and Mr […]

GOOGLE EARTH, PEPSI MOON

MAPS, MODELS AND SYNTHETIC WORLDS ∆ It was 2551 BE (2008 in the Western calendar), and I was teaching at a school in Bangkok.  I wasn’t enjoying it much. A top-dollar international school, but behind the slick PR it was an educational mess. Eight forty-minute periods in a day, and class sizes way too big. […]

THE DEATH OF GOD

‘Never resist a sentence you like,’ wrote Baudrillard in Cool Memories (1990), and his incandescent style overflows with irresistible sentences. If you interrogate them, however — which is perhaps to ‘misread’ Baudrillard — you find that his beautiful paradoxes mask assumptions and transitions which must be explicit in a valid argument.  Take, for example, the […]

PASSENGERS

TELEVISION, STARS, AND THE SADNESS OF ASTRONAUTS “We set out to explore the moon and instead discovered the Earth.” — William Anders, Apollo 8 astronaut. Television — or at least, the image dissection technology at the core of it —was invented by Philo T Farnsworth II in 1927, but it did not bring him much […]

BAUDRILLARD IN BRABANT

THE MURDEROUS CAPACITY OF IMAGES In Simulacra and Simulation — 1981 — Baudrillard was announcing, not predicting, the ‘death of the real’. He ironically reveres Disneyland, which he says ‘is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding […]