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Author Archive: Eamonn Fitzgerald

Ex-pat Irishman keeping an eye on the world from the Bavarian side of the Alps.

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Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story

Wednesday, 12 June, 2019

And it’s a story by Martin Scorsese that will be aired tonight on Netflix. According to the blurb, the film explores “the troubled spirit of America in 1975.” That was the same year, by the way, when Bruce Springsteen’s album Born to Run was released, Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft and Jaws set the standard for Hollywood blockbusters. It was creative, that “troubled” year.


Mailer on the money

Tuesday, 11 June, 2019

A parable from The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing by the late Norman Mailer:

“The story is that Robert Rauschenberg was once given the gift of a pastel from Willem de Kooning. Rauschenberg, with de Kooning’s permission, erased the pastel and then signed it ‘Pastel by de Kooning Erased by Robert Rauschenberg’, after which he sold it. The story bothered me. There was something profound there, but how to get a hold of it? Then it came to me: Rauschenberg was saying that the artist has the same right to print money as the financier: Money is nothing but authority imprinted upon emptiness.”

Willem de Kooning


Summer No. 2

Monday, 10 June, 2019

Because Summer No. 1 isn’t working out that well… so far. This painting, “Summer No. 2”, is by the artist Zhongwen Hu, who divides her time between China and the USA.

Summer No. 2


See Klimt, not #Klimt, in Vienna, not #Vienna

Sunday, 9 June, 2019

With Barcelona and Dubrovnik and Venice groaning under the weight of overtourism, land-locked Vienna has decided to target the dread hashtag, so beloved of hipster tourists. Following the techlash, now comes the #hashtaglash.

“This is an invitation from Vienna — an ideal place for a little bit of digital detox and for creating moments that you, and you alone, can treasure forever. Because Vienna is far more colorful when not seen through the lens of a smartphone camera.”

Vienna


Remembering Paddy Fahey

Saturday, 8 June, 2019

Just getting around now to paying tribute to the East Galway fiddle player and tune composer Paddy Fahey, who died aged 102 years on Friday, 31 May. Fahey didn’t give his compositions names, instead they are simply called “Paddy Fahey’s Jig No.1”, “Paddy Fahey’s Reel No.2”, “Paddy Fahey’s Hornpipe No.3” and so on. He never made a commercial recording, nor did he publish a book of his compositions, but Paddy Fahey’s music, with its beautiful yearning feel, lives on in the playing of Liz and Yvonne Kane.


China most murderous

Friday, 7 June, 2019

When did it first become obvious that China was a totalitarian police state willing to do anything to advance its goals? Between 1958 and 1962 during Chairman Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward is the answer. That forceful transition from an agrarian culture to an industrial society cost millions of Chinese workers their lives. One estimate runs to an astounding 56 million deaths, making Mao the greatest mass murderer of all time. Then came the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which led to persecution, torture and executions. Many more deaths and countless lives ruined were the price paid for this enormous cruelty and then, in 1989, Beijing’s tanks drove over democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in another round of savagery.

Since then China’s communists have become more refined in the control of their subjects. Instead of tanks, they’re using the latest surveillance technology to create “a social credit system.” According to the Washington Post:

“China has a radical plan to influence the behavior of its 1.3 billion people: It wants to grade each of them on aspects of their lives to reflect how good (or bad) a citizen they are. Versions of the so-called social credit system are being tested in a dozen cities with the aim of eventually creating a network that encompasses the whole country. Critics say it’s a heavy-handed, intrusive and sinister way for a one-party state to control the population. Supporters, including many Chinese (at least in one survey), say it’ll make for a more considerate, civilized and law-abiding society.”

How a “more considerate, civilized and law-abiding society” is formed when the population doesn’t share the same values as their overlords can be seen seen (or not seen) in Xinjiang in northwest China. It’s there that the autocrats and apparatchiks lock up the Uighurs without trial. Using images form Google Earth and the European Space Agency, John Sudworth of the BBC has documented this enormous crime against humanity in “China’s hidden camps“. As we stated here on Monday with the first of these postings on China, the “People’s Republic” is a menace to civilization.


How the Party Decided to Shoot Its People

Thursday, 6 June, 2019

“For some time, an extremely small group of people who stubbornly promoted bourgeois liberalization cooperated with foreign hostile forces to call for revising our constitution,” said Peng Zhen, the former chair of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, shortly after the Tiananmen Square massacre. His remarks can be found in The Last Secret: The Final Documents From the June Fourth Crackdown by New Century Press, a Hong Kong-based publisher. “They schemed to change our country’s basic political system and to promote in its place an American-style separation of three powers,” continued Peng Zhen. “They schemed to change our People’s Republic of democratic centralism led by the working class and based on the worker-peasant alliance into a totally westernized state of capitalist dictatorship.”

The speeches collected in The Last Secret show how today’s Chinese leadership continues to the study Tiananmen for guidance when it comes to dealing with reform and dissent. What’s behind the hardline approach being taken by President Xi Jinping today? Fear of another Tiananmen. While many in the West regard the 30-year anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre as part of China’s past, the country’s dictatorship see it as a frightening harbinger of the future. The regime has worked diligently to erase the events of 4 June 1989 from the memories of China’s people, but the Party knows that it must still shoot its people if the tyranny is to continue.

Tomorrow here, China, not Russia, is the biggest threat.

The Last Secret


Facial feature discovery for ethnicity recognition

Wednesday, 5 June, 2019

“The salient facial feature discovery is one of the important research tasks in ethnical group face recognition. In this paper, we first construct an ethnical group face dataset including Chinese Uyghur, Tibetan, and Korean.” So begins the abstract of a Chinese AI research paper on using facial features for identifying ethnic groups. The authors are Cunrui Wang, Qingling Zhang, Wanquan Liu, Yu Liu and Lixin Miao. The paper is available in the Wiley Online Library and it’s titled “Facial feature discovery for ethinicity [sic] recognition.”

The human rights implications of this should be obvious to everyone. The other thing that’s worth mentioning is that machine learning is out of the bottle and, while it can be used to do good, it can be used for evil purposes, too. If it’s going to be used to do evil, the most likely place for this to happen right now is China.

Tomorrow here, The Last Secret: The Final Documents From the June Fourth Crackdown.

Facial feature discovery for ethnicity recognition


Tank Man still haunts China’s dictators

Tuesday, 4 June, 2019

On this day in 1989, the so-called Chinese People’s Liberation Army slaughtered at least 2,000 peaceful protesters in and around Tiananmen Square. The most iconic photo of the 1989 events was taken on 5 June, the day after the carnage: A lone man stands before an array of battle tanks in Tiananmen Square. He carries two shopping bags. After the leading tank stopped, the man climbed aboard and spoke with the soldiers. He was eventually pulled back into the crowd and disappeared. The Chinese government claims it has never found him. Everyone else believe he is in an unmarked grave.

Tank Man has become the defining image of China’s Tiananmen Square protests. An individual standing in the way of mass oppression. Beijing now forbids discussing the massacre and wishes to erase Tank Man from history, but he lives on in memory.

Tomorrow here, China’s work on facial feature discovery for ethnicity recognition.

Tank Man


The China Menace

Monday, 3 June, 2019

Our posts this week will be devoted to China, a nation that has made authoritarianism terrifyingly efficient. One of the ways in which it has managed this feat is through the theft of Western intellectual property. Example: Huawei. Its name translates as “Accomplish for China,” and Huawei will do whatever China orders. China is Huawei and Huawei is China, in other words. But Huawei is not unique in this regard because no Chinese company is independent.

Founded in 1987. Huawei claims to be “employee-owned,” but it could not have become the world’s largest manufacturer of telecommunications network equipment and the second-largest maker of smartphones on its own. Allegations of theft have followed Huawei from its earliest days. Cisco Systems was one of its first targets. It sued Huawei in 2003 for the theft of source code for routers. The two companies settled in 2004, but they were back in the news in 2012 when Cisco disclosed that Huawei had copied source code, help screens and manuals.

The sheer shamelessness of Huawei’s thievery is breath-taking. Earlier this year, unsealed indictments handed down by a grand jury in the Western District of the State of Washington against two Huawei affiliates documented 10 Federal crimes relating to the theft of the intellectual property of T-Mobile. In the most brazen act of all, Huawei employees surreptitiously dismembered Tappy, a T-Mobile robot, and walked away with its arm.

Tomorrow here, Tank Man. The photo that China wants to erase from memory.

The China Menace


Leopards at Knole

Sunday, 2 June, 2019

Vita Sackville-West, the English poet, novelist and garden designer, died on this day in 1962, aged 70. Her home, the magnificent Knole House, located within a 1,000-acre estate in Kent, was given to Thomas Sackville by Queen Elizabeth I in the sixteenth century, and Vita was born there in 1892, the only child of cousins Lionel Edward Sackville-West and Victoria Sackville-West.

Vita’s mother, who was raised in a Parisian convent, was the illegitimate daughter of Lionel Sackville-West and a Spanish dancer, Josefa de Oliva, known as Pepita. Pepita’s mother was an acrobat who had married a barber, and Vita inherited some of this adventurousness. Her most famous intrigue was with Virginia Woolf, who celebrated their relationship in the novel Orlando. What Vita Sackville-West did not inherit, however, was Knole. The English aristocratic custom of the day was followed by the Sackville-West family, preventing Vita from inheriting her beloved home on the death of her father, a source of life-long bitterness to the poet. The estate followed the title and was bequeathed instead by her father to his nephew Charles.

Leopards at Knole

Leopards on the gable-ends,
Leopards on the painted stair,
Stiff the blazoned shield they bear,
Or and gules, a bend of vair,
Leopards on the gable-ends,
Leopards everywhere.

Guard and vigil in the night
While the ancient house is sleeping
They three hundred years are keeping,
Nightly from their stations leaping,
Shadows black in moonlight bright,
Roof to gable creeping.

Rigid when the day returns,
Up aloft in sun or rain
Leopards at their posts again
Watch the shifting pageant’s train;
And their jewelled colour burns
In the window-pane.

Often on the painted stair,
As I passed abstractedly,
Velvet footsteps, two and three,
Padded gravely after me.
– There was nothing, nothing there,
Nothing there to see.

Vita Sackville-West (1892 – 1962)

Vita Sackville-West