Category Archives: Aside

current readings on myth & cultural imaginaries:

Spheres – Volume I: Bubbles (Peter Sloterdijk, 2011)

Political Theology: Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (Paul W. Kahn, 2011)

On The Modern Cult of the Factish Gods (Bruno Latour, 2010)

Myth, Matriarchy and Modernity: Johann Jacob Bachofen in German Culture 1860-1945 (Peter Davis, 2010)

Gyges, drones, invisibility, impunity

In classical mythology Gyges was a shepherd who discovered a magical ring that could make him invisible.  Armed with his new power, Gyges eventually killed the king, married the queen and seized the throne.  ‘Invisibility’, [Grégoire] Chamayou notes, ‘conferred upon him a kind of invulnerability.’  In Plato’s Republic the story is used to ask searching questions about virtue and justice: what happens to morality, to virtue, if it becomes possible to evade responsibility for one’s actions?

The dilemma is no longer confined to the realm of story-telling or philosophical speculation, Chamayou argues, because the thought-experiment has been realised through the political technology of the drone.  The modern answer to Plato’s question is now all too clear: invisibility produces not only invulnerability but also impunity.

via geographical imaginations | war, space and security. August 8, 2013

apotheosis of the ‘Reaper’

usaf_mq_9_reaper_2013_USMilitarypatch.com

In the sixteenth century, [Grégoire Chamayou says,] the iconography of Death often portrayed a soldier fighting a skeleton – most famously in Holbein’s Dance of Death – in a struggle that was always pointless because Death mocked his adversary and always triumphed in the end.   The imagery has now been appropriated in this unofficial patch produced for Reaper crews, where the soldier now assumes the position of Death itself (and becomes synonymous with the MQ-9 Reaper); the slogan – which is in fact a parody of “That others may live”, used as a patch by the USAF’s Pararescue teams  – gives Chamayou the title for his chapter.

via geographical imaginations | war, space and security. August 8, 2013

intangibles: Chengdu 2013

“…acknowledge the central role that knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe play in maintaining sustainable ecosystems and biodiversity and in helping communities to ensure food security and health; and encourage establishing sound and effective safeguarding mechanisms […] addressing appropriately the relationship between transmission and innovation and between safeguarding and commercial use.”

via Meeting review: Chengdu International Conference on Intangible Cultural Heritage | Traditional Knowledge Bulletin.

‘pastures of heaven’: the fate of the Altai

On a warm summer’s day twenty-four centuries ago, a noblewoman of the

Altai "Princess of Ukok" tattoo design
Altai “Princess of Ukok” tattoo design

nomadic Pazyryk tribe was buried in a large ancient burial tomb, or kurgan, on the Ukok Plateau — now a region of the Russian Altai that borders China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. Mummified with herbs, bark and marten fur, she was placed in an oversized sarcophagus hewn from a single larch log. [….]

Altai people feel that to restore the order of things, the Princess Kadyn must be returned to her rightful place on the Ukok Plateau…. [A] UNESCO-Ghent team quickly sketched out what they fear is in store for the Altai’s frozen tombs.

via Maria and the Ukok Princess: Climate change and the fate of the Altai – OurWorld 2.0 | OurWorld 2.0.

honey bee collapse

Apis mellifera—the honey bee, native to Europe, Africa and Western Asia—is disappearing around the world. Signs of decline also appear now in the eastern honey bee, Apis cerana.

We know what is killing the bees. Worldwide Bee Colony Collapse is not as big a mystery as the chemical companies claim. […] The causes of collapse merge and synthesize, but we know that humanity is the perpetrator, and that the most prominent causes appear to be pesticides and habitat loss.

via Worldwide Honey Bee Collapse: A Lesson in Ecology | NationofChange.

Regarding his DNI Statement of June 6, 2012, are we to take Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper at his word? After all, if the “unauthorized disclosure” published by the Guardian and the Washington Post “risks important protections for the security of Americans,” Clapper’s syntax could be taken to imply that such protections are the risk that worries him, less so any threats against them…