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The Unbundling of Jobs

Wednesday, 22 August, 2018

“In the mass economy, each job used to be a bundle. With that job came money, health care, a pension, provable solvency to purchase a house and a car, the promise of stability and constant enrichment, and more. Each worker accepted a ‘bargain’: division of labour in exchange for a ‘bundle’ of benefits and security. Work wasn’t necessarily fulfilling and interesting. But the bargain made the relative alienation perfectly acceptable.”

So begins The Unbundling of Jobs and What it Means for the Future of Work by Laetitia Vitaud at Medium. She believes that the “bargain” is ending and the “bundle” is being undone, but a brighter future beckons thanks to what she calls the “digital transition” that’s happening right now. Those who “hunger for more autonomy, flexibility and purpose” will be at the forefront of adopting “new work models”, and these workers, “freelancers, in particular” will be “in a position to negotiate a new ‘bundle’, one where work comes with self-fulfillment and autonomy,” claims Vitaud.

This may be true for an elite, but those who have been unbundled and unbargained will face new overlords intent on devising ever more repressive forms of bondage. In the past, serfs would pay dues (in the form of work) to the manor in exchange for using part of the lord’s land to produce their own food. If the microserfs of the future ever get around to reading history, they’ll find the Middle Ages oddly familiar.


Socialism with an inhuman face

Tuesday, 21 August, 2018

Declaring itself the salvation of mankind, the ideology of Marx, Lenin and Stalin once ruled one-third of the world’s population. The authority of socialism appeared indisputable; the inevitably of communism looked assured. But the ideologues ignored the old warning: “The kingdoms of men shall all pass away.”

In 1968, the Soviet Union and its allies celebrated their crushing of the “Prague Spring” with a huge military display in the city that was home to a short-lived attempt to break free from communism. Twenty-one years after this photo was taken, the “Evil Empire” collapsed and was cast into the dustbin of history.

Crushing the Prague Spring

History: The Prague Spring was a phase of political liberalization in Communist Czechoslovakia. It began on 5 January 1968 and continued until 21 August when the Soviet Union and other members of the Warsaw Pact invaded the country to suppress the “socialism-with-a-human-face” reforms initiated by Alexander Dubcek.


The future revealed at PRIMER EU

Monday, 20 August, 2018

“The Futures Are Made. But How, Where And By Whom?” That’s the working title of PRIMER EU, a “conference dedicated to… bringing together the leading minds in futures design thinking and doing.” It takes place in Helsinki on 10 and 11 September and going by the list of speakers and their topics, the future is here but it’s not evenly distributed.

Appropriately, the morning keynote, titled ” All Future Everything”, will be delivered by a futurist, Monika Bielskyte, and she’ll be followed by Nicolas Nova and Fabien Girardin, the European half of the Near Future Laboratory. They’ll talk about “Design Fiction in the Fake News Era.” Topical, that.

Next up is Johanna Schmeer, an artist and designer from Berlin. Her talk has a prize-winning title: “Xenodesignerly ways of knowing.” Another designer, Noteh Krauss, from San Francisco, will be talking about “Future Making: Politics and Aesthetics in Kazakhstan.” It’s all about the “histories, politics, design fictions, and mythologies” of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s futuristic capital, Astana. By the way, he’s been president of Kazakhstan since the office was created in 1990 and he intends to keep it that way.

Simone Rebaudengo is a designer based in Shanghai and he’s going to talk about YEAST, a future food laboratory that “imagines products and companies that will improve living through food and technology.” And then it’ll be time for supper, but before the knives and forks come out, Scott Smith of Changeist will round off the talking with a public discussion about “trust in futures practices.” Futurism increasingly affects strategic innovation and policymaking and it’s good to debate it’s validity. Is it reliable. Or is it charlatanism?

It’s a cliché to quote William Gibson in these situations, but here goes: “The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.”


All Ireland Hurling Final: Galway vs. Limerick

Sunday, 19 August, 2018

It’s Sunday, 19 August, and 82,000 hurling fans, including family and friends, will trek today to Croke Park in Dublin to watch this year’s All Ireland Final between Galway and Limerick. It should be a wonderful occasion and the hope here is that, when “all doing is done”, as the poet Desmond O’Grady put it, Limerick will win its first title since 1973.

BREAKING: Limerick 3-16 Galway 2-18. Up Limerick, All Ireland Hurling Champions 2018!

Galway and Limerick

Desmond O’Grady was born in Limerick in 1935. He moved to Paris in the 1950s, where he worked in the Shakespeare and Company bookshop. He earned his MA and PhD from Harvard University and appeared in the 1960 Fellini film, La Dolce Vita, playing the role of an Irish poet. During the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, while teaching in Rome, he was European editor of The Transatlantic Review.

A Song Of Limerick Town

We, in the fishblue hours
Of clockstrike early morning;
Sleep in the househuddled doors
Of our eyes, love in our yawning;

Stole through the sailorless streets
Of the still, caught-cuddling town,
Where seabedded fishing fleet sleeps
Fast in the arms of ‘Down

Anchors, all hands ashore.
And now, here with the bulk
Of our talk from the hours before,
Here with the sulking hulks

Of ships, when no bells fore
Or aft will bang in the ears
Of morning and the town clock
Hoarsely churns its gears.

We are made one. I
With the man of the Limerick town
And you with the Shannon stream;
Made one till all doing is done.

Desmond O’Grady (1935 – 2014)


JG Ballard and rage of the Angelas

Saturday, 18 August, 2018

In his latter days and in his final works, the great JG Ballard, who died in April 2009, focussed on how bored (and boring) materialism and media have made people. It’s not surprising, Ballard said, that the educated would do things like take to the streets in favour of dictators, support terror groups, denounce freedom and join crazed movements. And wasn’t he the prophet! Ballard lampooned all this brilliantly in Millennium People. Here, the narrator has infiltrated a middle-class “Antifa” group and attends a protest against a cat show in London with Angela, a revolutionary:

Angela stared across the road with narrowed eyes and all a suburbanite’s capacity for moral outrage. Walking around the exhibition two hours earlier, I was impressed by her unswerving commitment to the welfare of these luxurious pets. The protest rallies I had recently attended against globalisation, nuclear power and the World Bank were violent but well thought out. By contrast, this demonstration seemed endearingly Quixotic in its detachment from reality. I tried to point this out to Angela as we strolled along the line of cages.

“Angela, they look so happy. They’re wonderfully cared for. We’re trying to rescue them from heaven.”

Angela never varied her step. “How do you know?”

“Just watch them.” We stopped in front of a row of Abyssinians so deeply immersed in the luxury of being themselves that they barely noticed the admiring crowds. “They’re not exactly unhappy. They’d be prowling around, trying to get out of the cages.”

“They’re drugged.” Angela’s brows knotted. “No living creature should be caged. This isn’t a cat show, it’s a concentration camp.”

“Still, they are rather gorgeous.

“They’re bred for death, not life. The rest of the litter are drowned at birth. It’s a vicious eugenic experiment, the sort of thing Dr. Mengele got up to.”

Satire is our only defence against the Angelas of this world. What a tragedy JG Ballard is not with us now to write about the scourge of “identity politics.”


The Italian Puzzle

Friday, 17 August, 2018

The decision by the Lega Serie A to postpone Sunday’s planned games between Sampdoria and Fiorentina and AC Milan and Genoa is fitting. The Ponte Morandi was the main way to drive through the city and countless football fans have used it in the six decades since it was built. Football, which offers entertaining distraction in troubled times, cannot, this time, escape from the shadow of the collapsed bridge, and only its prompt restoration or replacement will satisfy Genoa now.

The contradictions that Italy presents to the world are bewildering. On the one hand, we have the tragic crumbling of a bridge completed in 1967 and, on the other, the Colosseum, which was built 1,938 years, ago continues to stand and astonish. Videographer Kirill Neiezhmakov from Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine explores the Italian puzzle in “Milan in Motion”. As he says: “With massive urban sprawl and a reputation for being the cold Lombard capital, Milan doesn’t feel like a quintessentially Italian metropolis, with settlers from all over the country making their home here, visitors will find all of Italy in one city.”


Madonna at 60: Take A Bow

Thursday, 16 August, 2018

Take a Bow is a track from Madonna’s sixth studio album, Bedtime Stories (1994), and the story of the song’s video says so much about Madonna (Happy 60th Birthday today!) and her impact on the worlds of music, fashion and culture.

The clip was directed by Michael Haussman and filmed in Ronda in southern Spain. Madonna arrived in the city in November 1994 with a team of 60 people and wanted to shoot at its most famous bullring, the Plaza de Toros de Ronda. Her request was rejected by the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda, however, who considered it a desecration of the arena, since her name was associated with provocative sexual imagery. The refusal was unpopular because many in the city believed the video would be of great PR value.

Eventually, money changed hands and a permit was obtained to shoot inside the palace of the Marquis of Salvatierra and at the Plaza de Toros de Ronda, where matador Emilio Muñoz performed alongside three fighting bulls. Madonna wore a fitted suit by John Galliano, and other designers who provided accessories included Donatella Versace and then then-unknown shoemaker Christian Louboutin.


Happy Pattern Day!

Wednesday, 15 August, 2018

The “drawing in” of the hay was a typical activity around the Pattern Day and a trip to the meadow on the horse-drawn “float” was a really big adventure. On board (right to left): Madeleine, Jacqueline, Helen, Mary, Eamonn and Michael John. Head and shoulders above us all is Father, in his prime.

On the float

Background: Ireland has thousands of “holy” or “blessed” wells. These ancient water sources were attributed mystical powers in pagan times and the related customs and beliefs were incorporated by Christianity when it arrived on the island some 1,600 years ago. The converts assigned a “patron saint” to each well and thus began the custom of the “Pattern Day” (from the pronunciation of the Irish Pátrún, “patron”). The “Pattern Day”, then, is the feast day of a parish’s patron saint and entails a pilgrimage to the sacred well and the saying of specific prayers in a certain sequence. Bottles are filled with the “miraculous” water, which is often applied to wounds or sprinkled on children, visitors, travellers and animals for their well-being.

Ethnologists describe patterns as “community generated festivals”. In 1810, Crofton-Croker counted up to 15,000 people at the Pattern of St. Declan, which is still held annually on the 24th of July in Ardmore, County Waterford. This tradition of vernacular religious practice and the carnivalesque continues in Ballylanders, County Limerick, where the 15th of August, the Feast of the Assumption, is the local Pattern Day.


Remembering Naipaul

Tuesday, 14 August, 2018

The novelist VS Naipaul, who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2001, died on Saturday evening in London. He was born in Trinidad in 1932, wrote more than 30 books including a genuine masterpiece, A House for Mr Biswas. He also fell out with the American travel writer Paul Theroux, who he had mentored, after Theroux discovered a book he had given Naipaul in a second-hand bookshop. After a bitter 15-year feud, they reunited and, paying tribute to Naipaul on Sunday, Theroux said: “He never wrote falsely. He was a scourge of anyone who used a cliché or an un-thought out sentence.”

Back in mid-August 16 years ago, Rainy Day went along one evening to hear Naipaul speak. Here’s what we posted the day after, 13 August 2002:

Honoured guest in Munich’s Literaturhaus last night was VS Naipaul, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Literature. Now 70, he says his contribution to letters is drawing to a close. Maybe two more books and that’s it. Quality, not quantity, however, is the measure of the man’s work and what a career he has had. His fiction remains definitive of the post-colonial experience and his fact, primarily travel writing, is without parallel because it describes not just places and people but the history and politics that have made them what they are.

From The New York Review of Books here’s part of Ian Buruma’s review of Naipaul’s magnificent Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples:

Why Islam? Why did Naipaul feel the urge to return to the Muslim believers? He offers some reasons. Peoples converted to Islam, he says, become part of the Arab story; they reject their own histories, turn away from nearly everything that is theirs. As a result, he writes, people “develop fantasies about who and what they are; and in the Islam of converted countries there is an element of neurosis and nihilism. These countries can easily be set on the boil.” There is another, more sweeping reason. Conversion, Naipaul argues, “can be seen as a kind of crossover from old beliefs, earth religions, the cults of rulers and local deities, to the revealed religions — Christianity and Islam principally — with their larger philosophical and humanitarian and social concerns.” The crossover to Islam, which still goes on, is “like a cultural big bang, the steady grinding down of the old world.”

Buruma is in splendid form here, and he continues: “There are many hints of this parallel with communism in Naipaul’s own account. During his first visit to Tehran, in 1979, he looks at the booksellers and cassette-sellers on Revolution Avenue, near the university. He sees books on the Persian revolution. He sees cassette tapes of Khomeini’s speeches, and those of other ayatollahs. And he sees piles of English translations of Marx and Lenin. As he observes: ‘One revolution appeared to flow into the other.'”

Beyond Belief The similarities do go back further than the recent Islamic upheavals. In the Prologue to Beyond Belief, Naipaul writes that the revealed religions (like Marxism) are more concerned with large humanitarian and social problems than the old beliefs. That is why so many Indians converted to Islam in the past, without having to be forced: Islam, with its egalitarian ethos, seemed the perfect way out for low-caste Hindus, who felt oppressed by the old beliefs. Naipaul doesn’t make a point of this, even though he gives a chilling description of the continuation of Hindu caste prejudices under the Islamic surface of contemporary Pakistan.

Communism, too, has (or had) Meccas far removed from most converts—in Moscow or Beijing. And communism is a notorious wrecker of the past: history is a mere collection of dustbins along the way to Utopia. In his section on Indonesia, Naipaul makes a very interesting comparison between nineteenth- century Sumatran pilgrims to Mecca and colonial students sent abroad in the twentieth century. The pilgrims returned from Arabia under the influence of Wa-habi fundamentalism and were ‘determined to erase local errors, all the customs and ceremonies and earth reverences that carried the taint of the religions that had gone on before….’ This is precisely what the most monstrous tyrants did in our own time, in the name of communism. Pol Pot wanted to remake Cambodia in the image of hazy visions picked up from revolutionary circles in Paris (not perhaps a Mecca of world communism, but at least a major shrine).”

Rest In Peace Sir Vidia. “The only lies for which we are truly punished are those we tell ourselves.” — VS Naipaul, In a Free State.


Bos Taurus bossing

Monday, 13 August, 2018

The genus of wild and domestic cattle is called Bos, from the Latin bōs: cow, ox, bull. Arguably, the best known Bos Taurus breed is the black Angus from Scotland.

Bos Taurus

The Black Angus Bull

Out there in the paddock I hear the black bull
He never stops bellowing when the moon is full
I wonder does the moon affect him in some strange way
For I’ve never heard him bellow in the light of the day
The full moon does affect people ’tis said
It has an unsettling effect in the head
And if a mental weakness in humans the full moon can find
Why not it too affect the animal kind
He has his herd of cows with him yet I do wonder why
He bellows all night when the moon’s in the sky
During the hours of day he is always so quiet
And I’ve never heard him bellow on a dark night
But he never stops bellowing when the moon is full
Out there in the paddock the black Angus bull.

Francis Duggan


Bret Easton Ellis on annoying liberals

Sunday, 12 August, 2018

The American fiction writer Bret Easton Ellis is best known for books such Less Than Zero, The Rules Of Attraction and American Psycho. The latter assured notoriety and brought with it the prosperity that allows Ellis to enjoy a “fuck you” attitude of speaking his mind without being terrified of the PC mob. A week ago, he spoke to Rolling Stone about politics and other stuff. Snippet:

Q: You tweeted that you were done discussing politics with liberals at dinner. Is it because everyone plays the role of knee-jerk shock and outrage?

A: Completely. I live with a Trump-hating, millennial socialist. I am not, as my boyfriend will tell everyone, political. I’m interested in the theater of it, how each side plays the game, and how the media has morphed with it. I have never seen liberals be more annoying than they are now. These last few weeks really were a flipping point for me, with the depression over the Supreme Court and the way the detention centers were being spun by the liberal media. It’s obviously a game. Here’s Rachel Maddow crying on TV, and pictures of Trump detention centers. My stepfather, who is a Polish Jew, had his entire family wiped out when he was an infant. Throwing around words like Nazi, Gestapo and comparisons to Weimar Germany is like, “Really guys? You’re going there?” I’ve had enough. I think there’s a reason why the #WalkAway movement is getting it’s ten seconds of fame, because there’s a real reaction toward the stridency of how Democrats are expressing their disappointment. It’s turning a lot of people off.

Q: As a gay man, what if your right to marry is suddenly taken away? Doesn’t that anger you on a primal level?

A: That is suggesting that I believe in identity politics, and that I vote with my penis. It’s suggesting that immigration, the economy and other policies matter so much less than whether I can marry a man. It’s not something that I worry about, or is on my mind. That’s the problem with identity politics, and it’s what got Hillary into trouble. If you have a vagina, you had to vote for Hillary. This has seeped into a bedrock credo among a lot of people, and you’ve gotta step back. People are not one-issue voters. I am not going to vote as a gay man, and I don’t think the idea of us not being allowed to marry is going to happen. Pence has his issues, but Trump is not an anti-gay president in any way, shape or form. I also have gay friends who support and voted for Trump, based on certain policies. It’s not just about being gay and being able to marry.

So true. If you want more, check out The Bret Easton Ellis Podcast. It discuses film, television, music, pop culture and, now and again, politics.