Monday, March 15, 2010

Hoarders: The Bleak Transformation of Wealth

"It's all necessary.  It's all good."

I don't get cable at my place in Iowa, but several times a year, when I make my way south to Texas to visit my parents, I get to dip into the flow.  A show that I've now seen quite a bit of is A&E's Hoarders - and last night, a copycat show called Hoarding, which is functionally indistinguishable. The very fact that there's a copycat show is a testament to the amazing draw of these shows' central figures, people with a profound compulsion to accumulate stuff to the point that it interferes with their ability to live safely and sanely in their homes.  There's something here that speaks to the fundamentals of the way we live now, and I think it is this: where poverty was once defined by lack, the condition is now flipped.  It is the poor with yards and houses full of stuff, aimless and sprawling, while the wealthy live in empty space, moving through the air unencumbered.  Continued . . .

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Only Just Returned – Jameson on Postmodernism at Iowa

Edit: Finally got this reposted.  Feel free to rehost and let me know.  Jameson at Iowa, MP3.  And if you can help me figure out how to get a free rapidshare account, let me know, I absolutely can't figure it out.

I just got back from the Ida Beam Visiting Professor Public Lecture, delivered by Fredric Jameson.  I’ve seen a number of lectures by brand-name intellectuals over the years at Iowa, and some of them, it must be said, have been really phoned in.  While I can’t say Jameson was some sort of impassioned attack dog, his talk was extremely useful, progressive, and thought-provoking.  A couple of topics in particular caught my ear, as Jameson commented on the internal contradictions of anti-essentialism, and on the transformative effects of communication technology on finance, particularly in the realm of finance.  Given some controversy I’ve been involved in over the last few weeks here at Iowa, I think it’s also worth delving into the question of Jameson’s accessibility (spoiler: I think he was in many respects a great model for clarity combined with seriousness).

Saturday, March 6, 2010

New (ish) Teriyaki Boyz - Free DL

This is mostly a remix tape, but might be of interest for fans of Japanese pop in general - there's some really interesting collaborations here, with everyone from Tinnie Punx (a group featuring Ito Seiko, who some think of as the first Japanese rapper) to Towa Tei to . . . Michael Watts and DJ Shadow?  Worth checking.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cyworld, Mixi and Facebook: The Fragmented Social Media Landscape

I just got through having a fascinating conversation with a Korean friend of mine, full of little tidbits too awesome not to share.  I mentioned one of the frustrating aspects of my time in Japan - being unable to join Mixi, Japan's most popular social networking site.  You see, Mixi (at least as recently as two years ago) required a mobile number to verify users' identity.  But because of rules partly justified as anti-terrorism initiatives, it's extremely difficult for foreigners who aren't permanent residents to get cell phones in their own names, leaving myself and many others to rent mobiles from third party resellers like Piccell Wireless (who I endorse - just don't download anything, data costs are brutal).  But since the phone is officially registered to the company and not the renter, it can't be used to verify a Mixi account.  I lost contact with a lot of people because I couldn't set up a Mixi account.

My friend noted that in Korea there is, if anything, a more restrictive regime on popular social networking sites like Cyworld.