March 30, 2004
I had a few artistically inclined Canadians visiting me last week, and they graciously allowed me to tag along visiting art galleries in Glasgow. I'm really excited by the work of a Scottish artist named Andy Goldsworthy, who collaborates with nature to make his creations. You can watch a little movie of him at work, or check out photos of some of his art. There's also supposedly a great documentary about him called Rivers and Tides, which I have yet to see.
Posted by matt at 02:32 PM
March 25, 2004
I just spent a long but satisfying week putting together and presenting a lecture called "The Story of Selling Out." I tried to trace the roots and development of the idea of "selling out" in popular music from the 1920s through the 1950s.
As a reward for my toil, I spoiled myself by finally buying a copy of Garageband (a piece of music recording software for my Mac laptop). I've been playing with it all morning: it's basically a "recording for dummies" type program, and I was surprised by its annoying limitations and even more surprised by some of its very high-end features. One thing's for sure: it's very fun to use, and already more than worth the 35$ Canadian I paid for it.
I plan to put the program through its paces by writing and recording some original material on it. If the songs turn out to be half-decent, then maybe I'll post them on the net for you folks to hear and tell me what you think...
Posted by matt at 01:51 PM
March 16, 2004
I've been a fan of the poet Saul Williams ever since I saw the brilliant movie Slam. Haven't thought about him recently, though, until I came across an MP3 speech of his called "Pledge of Resistance" which you can download for free here.
Posted by matt at 04:31 PM
March 11, 2004
Another talented artist
Wow, it's been a banner week for friends putting their art up on the web. My friend Max Liboiron has a few pieces in a new exhibition called "This is for Real: War and the Contemporary Audience," taking place in Stony Brook, New York. One of her two exhibit pieces is featured above.
You can read Max's comments on the piece or visit the exhibit website.
Posted by matt at 03:33 PM
March 10, 2004
A very talented woman
Sometimes I marvel at how lucky to have friends who inspire me with their creativity and talents. One such friend is Sylvia Nickerson, an artist currently living in Halifax. And I am happy to announce that now you too can check out her great art on her brand new website.
As a starting point, I recommend checking out her Flower Knives. And if you're living in Halifax, you can see them displayed in an exhibition at the Khyber Club!
Posted by matt at 04:09 PM
March 08, 2004
Scientist 'gagged' by No 10 after warning of global warming threat
Sorry to keep harping on the climate change stuff, but I find this kind of news really gets me going:
The Independent: Downing Street tried to muzzle the Government's top scientific adviser after he warned that global warming was a more serious threat than international terrorism.
Ivan Rogers, Mr Blair's principal private secretary, told Sir David King, the Prime Minister's chief scientist, to limit his contact with the media after he made outspoken comments about President George Bush's policy on climate change.
In January, Sir David wrote a scathing article in the American journal Science attacking Washington for failing to take climate change seriously. "In my view, climate change is the most severe problem we are facing today, more serious even than the threat of terrorism," he wrote.
Support for Sir David's view came yesterday from Hans Blix, the former United Nations chief weapons inspector, who said the environment was at least as important a threat as global terrorism. He told BBC1's Breakfast with Frost: "I think we still overestimate the danger of terror. There are other things that are of equal, if not greater, magnitude, like the environmental global risks."
Since Sir David's article in Science was published, No 10 has tried to limit the damage to Anglo-American relations by reining in the Prime Minister's chief scientist.
In a leaked memo, Mr Rogers ordered Sir David - a Cambridge University chemist who offers independent advice to ministers - to decline any interview requests from British and American newspapers and BBC Radio 4's Today .
"To accept such bids runs the risk of turning the debate into a sterile argument about whether or not climate change is a greater risk," Mr Rogers said in the memo, which was sent to Sir David's office in February. "This sort of discussion does not help us achieve our wider policy aims ahead of our G8 presidency [next year]." The move will be seized on by critics of Mr Blair's stance over the Iraq war as further evidence that he is too subservient to the Bush administration. It will also be seen as an attempt to bolster the Prime Minister's case for pre-emptive strikes to combat the threat of international terrorism, which he outlined in a speech on Friday.
Sir David, who is highly regarded by Mr Blair, has been primed with a list of 136 mock questions that the media could ask if they were able to get access to him, and the suggested answers he should be prepared to give. One question asks: "How do the number of deaths caused by climate change and terrorism compare?" The stated answer that Sir David is expected to give says: "The value of any comparison would be highly questionable - we are talking about threats that are intrinsically different."
If Sir David were to find himself pushed to decide whether terrorism or climate change was the greater threat, he was supposed to answer: "Both are serious and immediate problems for the world today." But this was not what Sir David said on the Today programme on 9 January when the Science article was published.
Asked to explain how he had come to the conclusion that global warming was more serious than terrorism, Sir David replied that his equation was "based on the number of fatalities that have already occurred" - implying that global warming has already killed more people than terrorism.
The leaked memo came to light after a computer disk was discovered by an American freelance journalist, Mike Martin, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle, where Sir David gave a lecture.
"The disk was lying on the top of a computer in the press room and I popped it into the machine to see what was on it," said Mr Martin, whose own article is published on the ScienceNow website, an online service operated by Science.
Mr Rogers' memo, written a few days before the Seattle conference, was aimed at limiting his exposure to questions from US and British media. While in Seattle, Sir David sat on a panel of scientists at one carefully stage-managed press conference, but his press office said he was too busy to give interviews afterwards to journalists.
Lucy Brunt-Jenner, Sir David's press officer, said she could not comment on internal government documents but said it would be wrong to suggest that Sir David was in any way muzzled. "Sir David had a press conference and he was available to the media at three times," Ms Brunt-Jenner said.
But Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrats' environment spokesman, said: "It's a clear attempt by the Prime Minister to keep Sir David quiet. The Government's chief scientist is the nation's chief scientist and I'd expect him to say what he thinks."
Posted by matt at 05:12 PM
March 05, 2004
Super Size Me
Here's another film to watch out for. "Super Size Me" won the best documentary award at this year's Sundance film festival, and caused such a stir that McDonald's announced it would abandon its Super Size menu by the end of this year:
Film Threat: Americans are fat. Two out of three Americans are overweight or obese, but where does personal responsibility end and corporate responsibility take over? On the heels of two teenage girls suing McDonald’s for making them obese, director Morgan Spurlock sets out to discover what has made people in our country so fat. The result is “Super Size Me,” a hilarious and often terrifying look at the effects of fast food on the human body.
Spurlock decided to conduct an experiment in which he would subject himself to a diet of nothing but McDonald’s fast food for a month. He only allowed himself to eat what was available over the counter at the restaurant (including water), he couldn’t super size unless asked (he ended up being asked 9 times all told), he had to eat every item on the McDonald’s menu at least once, and he had to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. Throughout his descent into the maelstrom of crappy food, he visited doctors and health professionals to track his decline in health.
Posted by matt at 03:07 PM
March 02, 2004
Climate Change Will Destroy Us, Says Pentagon
This is the bleakest bit of news I've heard in a long time. Bleaker (for me) than the goings on in Haiti. I've had environmentalist friends telling me about the threat of climate change for years, but somehow I continued to assume that I could be aware of it and still live my life without constantly worrying. It was just one more of those complicated problems that made me feel powerless and ineffective. Nothing new there. But I also secretly believed that if there was an environmental threat so real that it would actually destroy the planet in my lifetime, surely all the experts and governments and world leaders would be doing something to avoid the destruction of the human race. Apparently not.
The Observer: A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.
The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents. 'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.'
The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defence is a priority.
Climate change 'should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern', say the authors, Peter Schwartz, CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of the California-based Global Business Network. An imminent scenario of catastrophic climate change is 'plausible and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately', they conclude. As early as next year widespread flooding by a rise in sea levels will create major upheaval for millions.
Last week the Bush administration came under heavy fire from a large body of respected scientists who claimed that it cherry-picked science to suit its policy agenda and suppressed studies that it did not like. Jeremy Symons, a former whistleblower at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said that suppression of the report for four months was a further example of the White House trying to bury the threat of climate change.
Bob Watson, chief scientist for the World Bank and former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, added that the Pentagon's dire warnings could no longer be ignored. 'Can Bush ignore the Pentagon? It's going be hard to blow off this sort of document. Its hugely embarrassing. After all, Bush's single highest priority is national defence. The Pentagon is no wacko, liberal group, generally speaking it is conservative. If climate change is a threat to national security and the economy, then he has to act. There are two groups the Bush Administration tend to listen to, the oil lobby and the Pentagon,' added Watson.
Already, according to Randall and Schwartz, the planet is carrying a higher population than it can sustain. By 2020 'catastrophic' shortages of water and energy supply will become increasingly harder to overcome, plunging the planet into war. Randall told The Observer that the potential ramifications of rapid climate change would create global chaos. 'This is depressing stuff,' he said. 'It is a national security threat that is unique because there is no enemy to point your guns at and we have no control over the threat.' Randall added that it was already possibly too late to prevent a disaster happening.
So dramatic are the report's scenarios, Watson said, that they may prove vital in the US elections. Democratic frontrunner John Kerry is known to accept climate change as a real problem. Scientists disillusioned with Bush's stance are threatening to make sure Kerry uses the Pentagon report in his campaign.
Let's hope that climate change does become the dominant issue in this year's elections, but - call me a cynic - I suspect that it won't. I also have to admit that this is the kind of news story that makes me seriously question the point of spending my energy on a project as frivolous as a PhD about music and culture. The only problem is, I don't what else I could that would make any difference - if someone wants to offer me room and board in exchange for quitting school and devoting myself to rocking the system, I might just be up for it.
Posted by matt at 03:31 PM