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{Friday, August 29, 2003}

when are the lights coming back on?

Cultural history of the night
Festive and frightening: In history, nocturnal urban darkness was the norm
"During the most recent blackout, many people remarked that there was a strangely "festive" atmosphere as many neighbours and strangers started talking to each other on the streets. "Night tends to be associated with leisure, with freedom, with the release of bonds," notes Professor Keith Walden, who teaches a course on the "history of the night" at Trent University in Peterborough. "It is also associated with things that are hidden and anonymity, so you can do things at night that you might not otherwise do."
Like many cultural historians, Walden believes such modern festive occasions as Halloween are rooted in a tradition of "carnival-esque" celebration in which the normal rules of society are inverted. The carnival-esque is a broad term describing a host of festivals and holidays that flourished in the pre-modern world, where the normal rules of society get turned upside down as everybody wears masks and assumes a new identity."
Jeet Heer

Where were you when the lights went out? - by Ian Brown
"Which one is true: The public, well-lit being that you present to the world by day? Or the private shadow no one can see?
[... ] But even better than being deprived of TV, we're deprived of TV's coverage of the calamity -- no endless loops, no hyperbolic pundit gamma blab. This is maybe the strangest thing of all: For the first time in a long while, a disaster is experienced first-hand by all involved, rather than watched over and over and over again. It's as if a great compulsion has been lifted from millions of voyeur addicts, and they are all pulsing with the freedom of the newly sober.
[... ] In a book called Night as Frontier, a sociologist named Murray Melbin claims that night was one of the last wildernesses to be conquered -- a lawless space that had to be dominated the same way the West was won. According to Mr. Melbin, the first night prowlers were outsiders who felt uneasy in the straight, lit world.
But they were quickly followed by the people they least wanted to see -- businessmen, who saw the unilluminated night as unused productivity. Commercial lighting created night shifts and night life and, before long, the sleepless, restless, man-made, 24-hour world. And with each technological upping of the wattage, natural darkness disappeared exponentially: One gas mantle produced as much light as a dozen candles, a single electric light bulb as much as a hundred. The more darkness is commodified and costed out, the more we secretly long for it, though we may not know that until darkness unexpectedly falls."

Heart of darkness - Barbara Fletcher
"Gorgeous stars, unveiled from light pollution. Pinpricks of light through a velvet canvas: a blacked out downtown sky in the largest city of Canada.
And then, on the way home from our travels, we noticed a small, red star to the southeast, and realized that it was Mars."

Stars Get in Your Eyes - Jennifer Floyd
"I imagined all the people who've never been out away from the city, who've never seen more than the dozen or so stars bright enough to be seen over the glow of the lights. I imagined that in their frustration and confusion and stickiness they looked to the sky in exasperation and saw those beautiful stars. I imagined that moment when they first realized what they were looking at, that glorious spread of the Milky Way ..."

eye weekly - editorial - 'Reaching for the stars'
... the arch of stars is a thing of infinite beauty, what the !Kung people of the Kalahari desert call the "backbone of the night."

The Day the Lights Went Out - darksky.org
"You can actually see the stars in New York City."

Lindsay Robertson - 'Talking to Strangers' - knot.magazine - 18.08.03
"We sat on a jetty and drank wine from a communal glass, dangling our legs over the side and gazing at the eerie dark silhouette of Manhattan across from us. We talked about how we couldn't make this vision appear before us even if we tried, and how sad we were for people who were away from the city that night.
... We listened to the radio and shuddered at the thought of being trapped under the river in a subway car. We were wondering about the still-busy flight path above us when we noticed something: the stars!
... We heard people say this night was like September 11 with all of the closeness and none of the fear, that it was magical, exhilarating, an unexpected gift. What seemed at first like a crisis became the opportunity to break down the boundaries that separate people, to do silly crazy things because all of the usual rules were suspended, and for the love of god, to finally see the stars."

A Look at the Stars - [from Mr. Dowling's Electronic Passport]
"The sky was filled with stars. Beautiful bright stars set off against a black autumn night. It was November 9, 1965, the night of the Great Blackout."

Marshall McLuhan made the following superficially trivial observation:
"... media, by altering the environment, evoke in us their unique ratios of sense perceptions. The extension of any one sense alters the way we think and act - the way we perceive the world. Were the Great Blackout of 1965 to have continued for half a year, there would be no doubt how electric technology shapes, works over, alters - massages - every instant of our lives."
The Medium is the Massage (Penguin, 1967, page 148) - [smart ask]

Now do you get it? [via Where is Raed ?]
Hassan Fattah writes for 'Iraq Today - The Independent Voice of Iraq' - 18.08.2003
The heat radiates off buildings like a hot oven, the humidity turns you into a puddle of sweat. The air is still and you feel like gasping for air. It's impossible to sleep and in the back of your mind, you're wondering whether somebody, anybody, can walk in and rob you. All you keep mumbling is, "when are the lights coming back on?"

Cartesian panic - and its consequences - [SCR 2003, August, No. 1]
"In November 1619, for reasons that may or may not have been purely scientific, a 23-year-old Frenchman secluded himself in a heated room in the Swabian town of Ulm. The epiphany he experienced there has arguably set the agenda for all the psychological sciences since then. Specifically, his stated fear that an evil spirit could deceive him about everything except his experience of a core of subjectivity has had massive consequences. It has cleaved body and mind; self and other; person and physical environment. The violence with which all outside the self became merely res extensa gives pause. Can it be the case that Descartes, totally alone in Germany, had a panic attack that we are still recovering from?"
Sean O'Nuallain

Shia hope assassinated - BBC News - 29.08.03
Ayatollah Mohammad Baqr al-Hakim, who spent 23 years in exile, was one of Iraq's best-known Shia Muslim figures.
"The ayatollah, himself, advocated a modern Islamic state that rejects religious extremism and is independent of foreign powers in Iraq. He also said he favoured free elections for the country."

Reuters reports - Iraq Mosque Bomb Kills 75, Including Shi'ite Leader
Some supporters of the slain Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, 63, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), blamed Saddam loyalists.
But some commentators pointed to bitter faction-fighting among Iraq's long-repressed Shi'ite majority that has raged in Najaf since the end of the war.
Hakim was for many the leading Shi'ite figure in Iraq and his cooperation with the U.S.-led administration through its Governing Council was seen as crucial to U.S. efforts to stabilize the country and install democratic rule.
"There is a very serious chance that what we are entering here is a Shi'ite civil war akin to what happened in Iran in 1979-80 with rival factions jockeying for power," said Ali Ansari, an expert on Iran at Britain's Durham University.

Iraqi Clerics Unite in Rare Alliance (Anthony Shadid - washingtonpost.com) 17.08.03
"A popular Sunni Muslim cleric has provided grass-roots and financial support to a leading anti-American Shiite cleric ...
The extent of the cooperation remains unclear between Ahmed Kubeisi, a Sunni cleric from a prominent clan in western Iraq, and Moqtada Sadr, the 30-year-old son of a revered Shiite ayatollah assassinated in 1999. But ideologically and practically, it represents a convergence of interests between the two figures ...
U.S. officials declined to say where the money was coming from, but the Iraqi official said he believed it came from private individuals in the Persian Gulf, whose conservative, Sunni Muslim states have viewed with anxiety the prospect of a Shiite-dominated government in neighboring Iraq. By supporting the most radical Shiite elements, he said, they hope to prevent a united Shiite front in the contest for postwar power.
U.S. and Iraqi officials offered different assessments of how Sadr's group may have spent the money."
[via Shi'a Pundit]

Shiite Clerics Clashing Over How to Reshape Iraq - writes Neil MacFarquhar (NY Times)
Najaf, Iraq, August 25, 2003
"The clerics who hold sway over Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority are locked in a violent power struggle pitting the older, established ayatollahs counseling patience with the occupation against a younger, more militant faction itching to found an Islamic state.
The militants are suspected of carrying out a series of attacks, including one over the weekend, engineered to eliminate or at least unsettle Najaf's religious scholars just as Shiites feel their moment has come. The bloodshed started in April with the murder of a prominent young cleric, Abdel Majid al-Khoei, inside the city's most holy shrine."

A Guide to Iraq's Shiite Clerics by Ed Finn and Avi Zenilman - (Slate)
[Moktada] Al-Sadr opposes the U.S. presence in Iraq and wants the country to be an "Islamic nation." However, instead of fighting the American presence head-on, al-Sadr and his followers have been quietly and quickly aggregating power throughout Iraq, hoping to gain so much control that they cannot be ignored. Although he has urged his followers not to "shed blood" while protesting the U.S. presence, his tone is anything but conciliatory; in a speech witnessed by a New York Times reporter, al-Sadr said, "Anyone supported by the United States is cursed by us."

Militants kill Kurd police chief - BBC News - 29.08.03
Kurdish officials in Iraq say their deputy chief of security in the north-eastern province of Sulaymaniyah has been shot dead by Islamic militant group Ansar al-Islam.

Iraq holy city blast kills scores - BBC News - 29.08.03
About 80 people have been killed by a car bomb in the holy city of Najaf - among them leading Shia Muslim politician Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim.
BBC Middle Eastern affairs analyst Roger Hardy says that although critical of the Americans, the 63-year-old ayatollah was ready to work with them - a decision that earned him the hostility of more radical Shia factions.

Attack points to unholy alliance - Roger Hardy, BBC Middle East analyst, writes:
" ... it is also possible that a tactical alliance is emerging between Saddam Hussein loyalists and Islamic militants who have entered Iraq over the last few months.
Since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, the Shia have been split over whether to co-operate with the US-led administration.
The leading ayatollahs are critical of the Americans but ready to co-operate with them.
This is the view of two of the main Shia groups - the Daawa Party and Ayatollah Hakim's group, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri).
This approach has been strongly criticised by a group led by a radical young Shia figure, Muqtada al-Sadr."

The Sadrist Movement - Middle East Intelligence Bulletin (July 2003) - Mahan Abedin writes:
"The Sadrists' chief strength is the legacy of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr's martyrdom - this is what enables Muqtada al-Sadr to draw tens of thousands of people into the streets at a moment's notice. When Sadr mistook a recent military deployment near his house for American preparations to arrest him, he even managed to mobilize 10,000 demonstrators in Najaf (many, if not most, of whom traveled from Sadr City to put on the show of strength).
However, while Muqtada al-Sadr is undoubtedly charismatic, the inexperienced leader has needlessly antagonized other Shiite groups in his speeches, particularly SCIRI. In early May, he was quoted as saying that SCIRI head Ayatollah Mohammed Sayed al-Hakim "betrayed the people of Basra and the south when he urged them to fight [in the 1991 intifada against Saddam], and didn't come in to help them, causing the intifada to fail."
The Sadrists have recently sought to mend relations with Iran. Pictures of the late Ayatollah Khomeini have been allowed to proliferate in Sadr City and pro-Iranian figures in the movement have been given positions of authority.
Muqtada al-Sadr visited Iran to attend events commemorating the fourteenth anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini's death on June 4 and spent a week meeting with top Iranian officials, including Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the head of the judiciary, Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi. He was also reported to have met secretly with Qasim Suleimani, the commander of the Qods Brigade (a special external department within IRGC intelligence)."

Make Iran a friend, not a foe - by Cameron Kamran - Salon.com - 12.02.02
"Perhaps most intriguing of all is the fact that there are no clear-cut battle lines in this war between conservatives and reformers in Iran. Many of the most outspoken reformists are also respected members of the conservative religious establishment. This is a telling measure of how much Iran has evolved since the days of the revolution and how infected with change even the Iranian clerical groups have become. Take Ayatollah Hosein-Ali Montazeri, for instance. In the early years after the revolution, Montazeri was Khomeini's heir apparent and one of the architects of Islamic rule. He preached global Islamic revolution and was a conduit for funds to terrorist groups around the world. Today, Montazeri is one of the fiercest opponents of the ruling clerics, openly criticizing their autocratic rule and personally attacking the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, himself."

Iran diplomat refused bail - BBC News - 29.08.03
An Iranian ex-diplomat has again been remanded in custody in London over a terror attack which killed 85 people in Argentina.
Hade Soleimanpour, 47, is wanted by the Argentine government to face charges that he helped plan the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires - the country's worst ever terror attack.

Monsters Were Due on Maple Street - Nick Gillespie - Reason Online - 15.08.03
"It's hard to know all the reasons for the different responses to the '77 and '03 blackouts (one of the great parlor games in New York after the '77 blackout was figuring out why people had acted so much worse than they did during the great '65 blackout). But one of the reasons ..."

US crime hits 30-year low - BBC News - 25.08.03
Crime in the United States fell last year to the lowest level since records started being compiled 30 years ago, the US Justice Department has said.
About 23 million violent and property crimes were reported in 2002, compared with some 44 million in 1973, according to the annual survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The decline was seen in every category of crime measured by the department.
Attorney General John Ashcroft attributed the drop to the work of police and prosecutors.
But some crime experts say tougher prison sentences and the building of additional prisons are more likely explanations.

Blackout sparks worries for relatives farther south - Tallahassee Democrat - 16.08.03
"Despite some initial fears, the blackout created some unusual moments for Robinson and her neighbors. She said for the first time in memory she was able to see stars in the night sky from the city. With air conditioners off, she and others spent the evening outside by candlelight."

Interfaces to the Sublime - Mark Pesce
"The dark being of the enlightenment is the body. It's that which the Cartesian nature would transcend to become wholly being without body. Yet, the further we travel in our technological development, the more we understand that the body has a transcendental nature which is absolutely vital to the being of man; you can not discard it, any more than you can discard the brain. We are not growing out of the body; we're finding out how to live within it. Like Oroboros, the snake who consumes his own tail, we reach out for the essence of the spiritual and come back firmly grasping our own flesh.
This flesh is the ground for a new articulation of the sacred."

Starry, starry night 70 sextillion, study says - Allison M. Heinrichs
"There are approximately 70 sextillion - that's 7 followed by 22 zeros - stars in the known universe, a team led by Australian astronomer Simon Driver announced ... at the 25th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in Sydney, Australia.
That means there are more stars in the sky than there are grains of sand in every beach and desert on Earth."

Light Pollution - not a new problem for astronomers
"I got my first look at a really dark night sky when I was just four years old - it was in 1944 during the second World War. At that time, cities had a night time blackout imposed upon them. There was no street lighting, no advertising lighting and even the buses and the few cars moving on the roads had their headlights reduced to narrow slits. In consequence, the night sky was so dark that the Milky Way could be seen even from London! It must have created quite an impression on me because less than a decade was to pass before I built my first telescope. During that decade however, the rot had already began to set in and by the time I was ready to take a closer look at the night sky, the Milky Way was no longer visible and at least two stellar magnitudes were lost to view.
I began to think seriously about the effects of light pollution recently, because I was asked to submit evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee which is currently considering the threat imposed to the study of astronomy by this insidious menace. It was pointed out that the night sky is in fact a Site of Special Scientific Interest (an S.S.S.I.), which has at present no legislation to protect it.
Recalling the wartime blackout, reminded me that it was only due to such a blackout imposed on the city of Los Angeles, that the American astronomer Walter Baade was able to make the observations that were to totally alter our conception of the Universe."
Doug Daniels

alex wright - rivers and tides
In Goldsworthy's world, stone turns to liquid, leaves become fabric, vines act like threads, ice is bathed in light ("the power that brings it to life is also the power that destroys it"). Rivers are more than just bodies of water: they are vessels of soil, rocks, trees, silt, water and wind.
The best of Goldsworthy's work seems to evoke a kind of transcendent annihilation. "I think we misread the landscape when we think of it as pastoral and pretty," he says. "There's a darker side to it."

The Dark Cat: Arthur Putnam and a Fragment of Night
"Arthur Putnam's Puma on Guard suggests several readings centering on life and death."
Alexander Nemerov

Disenchanted Night
"The newer the culture is," writes the German journalist and historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch, "the more it fears nightfall." [Amazon.co.uk - Review]

Gaston Bachelard writes: "We live in an age of administered light."
Cited in 'Dust: A History of the Small and Invisible' by Joseph A. Amato in the
Journal of Mundane Behaviour 1.3 (October 2000) [pdf]

This may not stiffen the lizards but is doctor slang on the wane?
The inventive language created by doctors the world over to insult their patients - or each other - is in danger of becoming extinct. [via Follow Me Here: fair and balanced]

"Modern man has lost the option of silence. Try halting your sub-vocal speech. Try to achieve even ten seconds of inner silence. You will encounter a resisting organism that forces you to talk. That organism is the word."
William Burroughs - 'The Ticket that Exploded'

Language Encounters - Kenneth Goldsmith
"As soon as I discovered the Internet, my book began to write itself. Typing was no longer necessary, just copying and pasting. Instead of editing, we now massage our texts."

'You're twisting my melon man' - William Clark

"Antiphanes said humorously that in a certain city words congealed with the cold the moment they were spoken, and later, as they thawed out, people heard in the summer what they had said to one another in the winter ... "
Douglas Kahn - 'Noise Water Meat' - (MIT Press, 1999, page 204)

"If every word spoken daily in New York City were somehow to materialize as a snowflake, each day there would be a blizzard." Kenneth Goldsmith

Original Technology

"Thus considered, what a strange chaos is this wide atmosphere we breathe! Every atom, impressed with good and with ill, retains at once the motions which philosophers and sages have imparted to it, mixed and combined in ten thousand ways with all that is worthless and base. The air itself is one vast library, on whose pages are for ever written all that man has ever said or woman whispered. There, in their mutable but unerring characters, mixed with the earliest, as well as with the latest sighs of morality, stand for ever recorded, vows unredeemed, promises unfulfilled, perpetuating in the united movements of each particle, the testimony of man's changeful will."
Charles Babbage - Ninth Bridgewater Treatise - 1837

posted by Andrew 8/29/2003 04:44:00 PM