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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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The richness of the rain

Tuesday, 14 May, 2019

“I’m a London based photographer specialising in street photography and social documentary photography,” says Joshua K. Jackson. “I’m best known for using a bold palette to help illustrate the vibrancy of life in Central London, whilst also exploring themes of diversity and disparity. My work often enters into abstraction and presents the viewer with an unfamiliar view of a familiar city.”

Jackson’s photos of rain are tactile. One can feel the clouds breaking apart and falling.

Rain


Teenagers: Facebook is only 13, Twitter just 11

Monday, 13 May, 2019

The Istanbul-born writer and academic Zeynep Tufecki has made a name for herself with her analysis of Big Tech and her understanding of its impacts. Last year she wrote in the New York Times that, “YouTube may be one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century.” Now, she’s taken to the pages of Wired to declare, “IT’S THE (DEMOCRACY-POISONING) GOLDEN AGE OF FREE SPEECH.” In her conclusion, she compares the current state of the major social media platforms with the early days of the automobile industry:

“We don’t have to be resigned to the status quo. Facebook is only 13 years old, Twitter 11, and even Google is but 19. At this moment in the evolution of the auto industry, there were still no seat belts, airbags, emission controls, or mandatory crumple zones. The rules and incentive structures underlying how attention and surveillance work on the internet need to change. But in fairness to Facebook and Google and Twitter, while there’s a lot they could do better, the public outcry demanding that they fix all these problems is fundamentally mistaken. There are few solutions to the problems of digital discourse that don’t involve huge trade-offs — and those are not choices for Mark Zuckerberg alone to make. These are deeply political decisions. In the 20th century, the US passed laws that outlawed lead in paint and gasoline, that defined how much privacy a landlord needs to give his tenants, and that determined how much a phone company can surveil its customers. We can decide how we want to handle digital surveillance, attention-channeling, harassment, data collection, and algorithmic decision­making.”

Zeynep Tufecki is a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, and in 2017 Yale University Press published her Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. The book is available to download as a PDF (1.70MB) for free from Twitterandteargas.org.


Venice threatened by rising tide

Sunday, 12 May, 2019

The rising tide of tourism, that is. The current inflow is 25 million tourists a year and this number is projected to reach 38 million by 2025. Still Venice is remarkably resilient. The city has lasted a millennium and what makes it all the more extraordinary is that a lagoon is a temporary natural phenomenon, but the reason Venice’s lagoon hasn’t silted is centuries of careful management, technical innovation and commercial regulation.

The same solutions can be applied to tourism. Take accommodation. Since 2015, Airbnb rentals in Venice have tripled from 2,441 to 8,320, according to Airdna. Eighty percent of those are entire home rentals, many of which are owned by agencies or international investors. With the launch of Fairbnb, a not-for-profit home-sharing site that only accepts resident hosts and stipulates one home per host, an alternative is available.

Nicolò Scibilia says, “Venice is not just a stage set. It is also a city with a resident population, which has productive activities, transportation and services. But how does the ‘Venice system’ work? How do the tides in the lagoon behave? How are the canals formed? And the embankments? What’s under the buildings?” The canals, sewers, buildings and bridges have been designed to cope with an environment that’s constantly challenged by salt water, but Venice survives. It can survive tourism, too.


Until only the mountain remains

Saturday, 11 May, 2019

The birds have vanished into the sky
And now the last cloud drains away
We sit together, the mountain and me,
Until only the mountain remains.

Li Bai (701 – 762)

Mountains


White V

Friday, 10 May, 2019

Here we are at the end of our in-depth look at White, the latest work by Bret Easton Ellis. No reviews of the book were read before we began posting on Monday and none has been read since. Given that the author is less than admiring of what he terms “legacy media”, one expects that the mainstream reviews have not been flattering. But Ellis has taken a lot of criticism in his time and, no doubt, more of it won’t deter him from creating his art or expressing his opinions.

The final chapter is titled “these days” and it serves as the crescendo for what’s been building since the very first page with its dig at helicopter parents and their snowflake offspring. In “these days”, Ellis shines a bright light on the derangement that began in the USA and Europe on 9 November 2016 when the candidate of the liberal elites was not elected president. He learns that a friend of his has been shunned because he’d talked positively about President Trump on social media and this prompts the question: “Was this really all it took?” The chapter is filled with quotable paragraphs. Here’s one:

“Like me, my friend accepted all ideologies and opinions, even those diametrically opposed to his own, and we noted how many of our friends were living in a bubble, still reeling over the ‘unfairness’ of the election and the perceived evil of the Trump administration, and couldn’t bear to consider a different view — that is, to stand in someone else’s shoes. This was why it seemed to many of us in that summer that the Left was morphing into something it had never been in my lifetime: a morally superior, intolerant and authoritarian party that was out of touch and lacked any coherent ideology beyond its blanket refusal to credit an election in which someone they didn’t approve of had, at least legally, technically, won the White House. The Left had become a rage machine burning itself up: a melting blue bubble dissolving in on itself.”

We’ll return to White another day because Bret Easton Ellis’ views on “the toxic dead-end of identity politics” deserve a post or more. White is a timely book and a welcome antidote to the madness that has gripped the elites and their sycophantic transcriptionists in the media.

White


White IV

Thursday, 9 May, 2019

The way Bret Easton Ellis sees it, what “Generation Wuss” really wants is to be admired. White Only positive feedback, please. No negativity, please. But what’s going to happen to conversation and culture if this becomes the norm? Generation Wuss, by the way, comprises the hyper-sensitive Millennials who have grown up with the internet. As soon as they’re criticized, “they seem to collapse into a shame spiral and the person criticizing them is automatically labelled a hater, a contrarian, a troll.” Because their parents have tried to shield them from the dark side of life, they’ve created a generation “that appears to be super confident and positive about things but when the least bit of darkness enters into their realm they become paralyzed and unable to process it.” In White, Ellis claims that all this has led to an epidemic of self-victimization. Snippet:

“If you’re a Caucasian adult who can’t read Shakespeare or Melville or Toni Morrison because it might trigger something harmful and such texts could damage your hope to define yourself through your victimization, then you need to see a doctor, get into immersion therapy or take some meds. If you feel you’re experiencing ‘micro-aggressions’ when someone asks you where you are from or ‘Can you help me with my math?’ or offers a ‘God bless you’ after a sneeze, or a drunken guy tries to grope you at a Christmas party, or some douche purposefully brushes against you at a valet stand in order to cop a feel, or someone merely insulted you, or the candidate you voted for wasn’t elected, or someone correctly identifies you by your gender, and you consider this a missive societal dis, and it’s triggering you and you need a safe space, then you need to seek professional help. If you’re afflicted by these traumas that occurred years ago, and that is still a part of you years later, then you probably are still sick and in need of treatment. But victimizing oneself is like a drug — it feels so delicious, you get so much attention from people, it does in fact define you, making you feel alive and even important while showing off your supposed wounds, no matter how minor, so people can lick them. Don’t they taste so good?”

Tomorrow, here, our final post about White. It’s all about the hangover psychosis of the liberal identity-obsessed elites. Guess what triggered them? Hint: 8 November 2016.


White III

Wednesday, 8 May, 2019

“I’ve been involved with actors since I was a child, in close proximity from elementary school and high school into adulthood, both professionally and a few times romantically.” Thus begins Bret Easton Ellis his analysis of the acting trade in White, his latest book. Acting is a hard life, says Ellis, because actors want us to want them. That’s why they live in fear because if we don’t like them they won’t get roles and this fear of rejection is at the heart of their neuroses. None of us likes criticism but actors dread it because criticism “means the next job, the next flirtation, maybe the career-changing payday might not happen.” Then social media came along.

White “A long time ago in the faraway era of Empire, actors could protect their carefully designed and enigmatic selves more easily and completely than is possible now, when we all live in the digital land of social media where our phones candidly capture moments that used to be private and our unbidden thoughts can be typed up in a line or two on Twitter. Some actors have become more hidden, less likely to go public with their opinions, likes and dislikes — because who knows where the next job’s coming from? Others have become more vocal, stridently voicing their righteousness, but signalling one’s social-justice virtue isn’t necessarily the same as being honest — it can also be a pose…

… But most of us now lead lives on social media that are more performance based than we ever could have imagined even a decade ago, and thanks to this burgeoning cult of likability, in a sense, we’ve all become actors. We’ve had to rethink the means with which to express our feelings and thoughts and ideas and opinions in the void created by a corporate culture that is forever trying to silence us by sucking up everything human and contradictory and real with its assigned rule book on how to behave. We seem to have entered precariously into a kind of totalitarianism that actually abhors free speech and punishes people for revealing their true selves. In other words: the actor’s dream.”

Tomorrow here, Generation Wuss and the widespread epidemic of self-victimization.


White II

Tuesday, 7 May, 2019

“As a 1970s kid there were no helicopter parents: you navigated the world more or less on your own, an exploration unaided by parental authority.” So writes Bret Easton Ellis about growing up in California’s San Fernando Valley in his latest book, White. It was a different place and a different time. The children and their parents were different, too, and “not at all like parents today who document their children’s every move on Facebook and pose them on Instagram and urge them into safe spaces and demand only positivity while apparently trying to shelter them from everything. If you came of age in the 1970s this was most definitely not your childhood. The world wasn’t about kids yet.”

White The young Ellis roamed the Californian streets, sometimes with friends, sometimes on his own, and he spent a lot of time in cinemas watching movies that had not been made for children. Horror films fascinated him, and he quickly became acquainted with fear, blood, sex, death, pain and loss. Nobody held his hand and he felt quite educated and entertained thanks to Brian De Palma, Diana Rigg and Vincent Price. The directors, the actors and their films said this is how the world works: “you win some, you lose some, this is life.” It was all part of growing up.

“The movies reflected the overall disappointment of adulthood and life itself — disappointments I had already witnessed in my parents’ failing marriage, my father’s alcoholism and my own youthful unhappiness and alienation, which I dealt with and kept processing on my own. The horror movies made in the ’70s didn’t have rules and often lacked the reassuring backstory that explained the evil away or turned it into a postmodern meta-joke. Why did the killer stalk the sorority girls in Black Christmas? Why was Regan possessed in The Exorcist? Why was the shark cruising around Amity? Where did Carrie White’s powers come from? There were no answers, just as there were no concrete connect-the-dots justifications of daily life’s randomness: shit happens, deal with it, stop whining, take your medicine, grow the fuck up. If I often wished the world were a different place, I also knew — the horror movies helped reinforce this — that it never would be, a realization that in turn led me to a mode of acceptance. Horror smoothed the transition from the supposed innocence of childhood to the unsurprising disillusionment of adulthood, and it also served to refine my sense of irony.”

Tomorrow, here, Ellis looks at what happens when actors, with their hunger to seduce and control and be liked, are exposed to criticism on social media.


White I

Monday, 6 May, 2019

Our posts this week will be devoted to White, the latest book by Bret Easton Ellis, the author of Less Than Zero, American Psycho and Lunar Park, to mention just three of his best-selling novels. Talking about the act of writing was something he always avoided, Ellis says in White, “because part of the process was still mysterious to readers, with a kind of secret glamour that added to the excitement with which books were once received, whether negatively or positively.” White is not a novel, however, “because novels don’t engage with the public on that level anymore.”

Ellis says he’d “wistfully noted the overall lack of enthusiasm for the big American literary novels” back in the autumn of 2012, but he felt it wasn’t worth worrying about. “It’s only a fact, just as the notion of the great American studio movie or the great American band had become a smaller, narrower idea.” Then, he hits his stride. Snippet:

“Everything has been degraded by what the sensory overload and the supposed freedom-of-choice-technology has brought to us, and, in short, by the democratization of the arts. I started feeling the need to work my way through this transition — to move from the analog world in which I used to write and publish novels into the digital world we live in now (through podcasting, creating a web series, engaging on social media) even though I never thought there was any correlation between the two.”

Tomorrow, here, Ellis on the value of growing up in world where there were no helicopter parents versus today’s world where children refuse “to grow the fuck up.”

White


Born on 5 May 1919: Séamus Ennis

Sunday, 5 May, 2019

It was Liam O’Flynn who summed up the music of his friend and mentor Séamus Ennis best: “His taste was impeccable. He never aimed to impress by showing off; restraint and elegance were the hallmarks of his piping.”


Pulp Fiction

Sunday, 5 May, 2019

Todd Alcott is a screenwriter and graphic artist. He describes his creative work as Cultural Mashups and Midcentury Madness. Note: Maggie’s Farm is a song written by Bob Dylan and recorded on 15 January 1965. It was released on the album Bringing It All Back Home on 22 March of that year.

Maggie's Farm