... in imagination

Fierce, savage, and above all, dangerous....

25 May 2008 | 217 words | imagination popular culture tourism islamofobia

Naeem posted a little gem of a text to the nettime mailing list earlier today. it describes the rising popularity of sheik-themed romance novels and begins with one of the best sentences i have read in while:

“It seems that an Arab man can now get on the cover of a romance novel in the United States almost more easily than he can get past airport security: According to the Chicago Tribune, the sales of sheik-themed romance novels have quadrupled in the years since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Up to 20 of these novels per year, with titles like Expecting the Sheikh’s Baby, The Sheikh’s Virgin, and The Sheik and the Bride Who Said No, go through print runs of 100,000 copies or more. Typically, these stories feature a white American or British heroine who travels to a fictional Arab country (messy real-life politics aren’t welcome in the world of romance fiction), becomes involved with an Arab prince through accident and/or circumstance, and ultimately marries him. Some of these sheiks* are polished business magnates, while others hark back to the Valentino-style desert Bedouin of yore. But they all have a few things in common: All of them are rich and powerful, all of them are irresistibly sexy, and all of them are dangerous.”

These remind me of the WTC

05 Apr 2008 | 58 words | imagination food

Found this picture a while back on some russian design website but lost the url so i can’t link to it. these seem to be japanese tetra pack containers for banana juice. extremely beautiful/sweet if you ask me (not sure if they are for real or just a concept).

Update [11-05-08]:Apparently they are by product designer Naoto Fukasawa


18 Feb 2008 | 275 words | cycling imagination new york architecture

Geoff at BLDGBLOG has a post about elevators, which reminds me of the first and only time i have been inside the empire state building: in 2000 during metropoloco one of the checkpoints of during the main race was suite 6172 (or something like that) in the Empire State Building. Never having been in a building with more than 10 floors before i somehow assumed that this meant that the suit would be on the 6th floor (taking a clue from the leading 6 ignoring that the first two characters might indicate the floor number). In the end this meant that i lost a lot of time (most of it spend in elevators):

On an only vaguely related note, meanwhile, I’d be curious to see if you could invert the expected volumetric relationship between stationary floors and moving elevators in a high-rise.

In other words, if elevators usually take up, say, one-twentieth of a building’s internal space, could you flip that ratio and end up with just one stationary floor somewhere hanging out up there inside a labyrinth of elevators?

You have a job interview on that one, lone floor in a half an hour’s time but you can’t find the place. You’re moving from elevator to elevator, going down again and stopping, then stepping across into another lift that takes you up four floors higher than you’d expected to be before you’re going down again, confused. You hear other elevators when you’re not moving, and it’s impossible to locate yourself amidst that system of moving rooms. The only floors you ever exit onto are simply other elevators.

read the rest of his post here

The Power of Nightmares

29 Jan 2008 | 264 words | movies london imagination terrorism security

Just finished watching the BBC documentary (from 2004) ‘the power of nightmares – the rise of the politics of fear‘ by Adam Curtis. This three part mini series compares the rise of the American Neo-Conservative movement and the radical Islamist movement, making comparisons on their origins and noting strong similarities between the two. Curtis argues that the threat of radical Islamism as a massive, sinister organized force of destruction, specifically in the form of al-Qaeda, is in fact a myth perpetrated by politicians in the west in an attempt to unite and inspire their people.

While i generally agree with this analysis, the series has one central weakness. In part three (‘The Shadows in the Cave’) he describes in detail how none of the 600+ people arrested under the post 9/11 UK anti terrorism legislation until 2004 had any connection with Al Qaeda and how none of them was actually arrested for (planning to) carry out terrorist attacks. While this is factually true it sounds quite different when seen from todays perspective as it merely demonstrates that the UK anti-terrorist organizations failed to recognize the activities of the 7/7 bombers before they carried out their attacks.

However i would still argue that Curtis has a point (which is aptly illustrated by the silliness that the UK security forces have demonstrated in the post 7/7 period (see here, here, here & here) and if you have not seen the power of nightmares yet, you would probably want to download it from a torrent tracker near you.

Still of Sayyid Qutb from The power of Nightmares

Imagination of desperation (3): cloned vehicles

27 Jan 2008 | 217 words | border migration imagination branding

Not sure if all of them are used to get persons across the US/mexican border, but ABC news has a little item (‘Fake FedEx trucks, when Drugs absolutely have to get there‘) on what they call ‘cloned vehicles’:

Savvy criminals are using some of the country’s most credible logos, including FedEx, Wal-Mart, DirecTV and the U.S. Border Patrol, to create fake trucks to smuggle drugs, money and illegal aliens across the border, according to a report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Termed “cloned” vehicles, the report also warns that terrorists could use the same fake trucks to gain access to secure areas with hidden weapons.

The report says criminals have been able to easily obtain the necessary vinyl logo markings and signs for $6,000 or less. Authorities say “cosmetically cloned commercial vehicles are not illegal.”

A fake U.S. Border Patrol van was found to be carrying 31 illegal aliens in Casa Grande, Ariz. An alert agent recognized that the “H” in the van’s serial number is a letter used only on U.S. Border Patrol Jeep Wranglers. It should have been a “P.”

Unfortunately the photos provided with the article are of inferior quality so i wont display them here. Check out the fake fedex truck and the fake border patrol truck on the ABCnews website.

Email == artillery

13 Aug 2007 | 576 words | future technology imagination germany

Spend two days at my parents place in east Germany this weekend and yesterday my dad suddenly came up and insisted on reading us a short excerpt from the complete works of Heinrich von Kleist. It is a short note that he wrote in october 1810 as editor of the ‘Berliner Abendblättern’, where it was published under the title ‘Useful Inventions: Concept for a bomb mail system’:

It’s a bit of a far-fetched concept that suggests to address one of the main shortcomings of the then-just-launched telegraph system which, in his words, only allowed for the transmission of ‘short, laconic messages but did not work for sending ‘letters, notes, attachments’. In other words, Kleist wanted to have email instead of SMS and suggested to implement it using ‘mortars and howitzers‘ that would fire shells filled with letters from one station to another, where the shells would be opend, and letters would then either be delivered or, if they where addressed for another station put into a new shell and fired to the next station.

Could not find this particular text in english so here it comes in german (with a rather complicated grammar):

Nützliche Erfindungen: Entwurf einer Bombenpost

Man hat in diesen Tagen, des Verkehrs innerhalb der Grenzen der vier Weltteile, einen elektrischen Telegraphen erfunden; einen Telegraphen, der mit der Schnelligkeit des Gedankens, ich will sagen, in kürzerer Zeit, als irgendein chronometrisches Instrument angeben kann, vermittelst des Elektrophors und des Metalldrahts Nachrichten mitteilt; dergestalt, dass wenn jemand, falls nur sonst die Vorrichtung dazu getroffen wäre, einen guten Freund, den er unter den Antipoden hätte, fragen wollte: ‘wie geht’s dir?’ derselbe, ehe man noch eine Hand umkehrt ohngefähr so als ob er in einem und dem selben Zimmer stünde, antworten könnte: ‘recht gut’. Sofern wir dem Erfinder dieser Post die, auf recht eigentliche Weise, auf Flügeln des Blitzes reitet, die Krone des Verdienstes zugestehen, so hat doch auch diese Fernschreibekunst noch die Unvollkommenheit, dass sie nur, dem Interesse des Kaufmanns wenig erspriesslich, zur Versendung ganz kurzer und lakonischer Nachrichten, nicht aber zur übermachung von Briefen, Berichten, Beilagen und Paketen taugt. Demnach schlagen wir, um auch diese Lücke zu erfüllen, zur Beschleunigung und Vervielfachung der Handeslkommunikationen, wenigstens in den Grenzen der kultivierten Welt, eine Wurf- oder Bombenpost vor; ein Institut, dass sich auf zweckmäßig, innerhalb des Raumes einer Schussweite angelegten Artilleriestationen aus Mörsern oder Haubitzen, hohle, statt des Pulvers mit Briefen angefüllte kugeln, die mann, ohne alle Schwierigkeit mit den Augen verfolgen und wo sie hinfallen, falls es ein Morastgrund ist, wieder auffinden kann, zuwürfe; dergestalt, dass die Kugel, auf jeder Station zuvorderst eröffnet, die respektiven Briefe für jeden Ort herausgenommen, die neuen hineingelegt, dass ganze wieder verschlossen, in einen neuen Mörser geladen und zur nächsten Station weiterspediert werden könnte. den Prospektus des ganzen und die Beschreibung und Auseinandersetzung der Anlagen und Kosten behalten wir einer umständlicheren und weitläufigeren Abhandlung bevor. da man, auf diese weise, wie eine kurze mathematische Berechnung lehrt binnen Zeit eines halben Tages, gegen geringe kosten von Berlin nach Stettin oder Breslau würde schreiben oder respondieren können und mithin, verglichen mit unseren reitenden Posten ein zehnfacher Zeitgewinn entsteht, oder es ebensoviel ist als ob ein Zauberstab, diese Orte der Stadt Berlin zehnmal nähergerückt hätte: so glauben wir für das Bürgerliche sowohl als Handeltreibende Publikum eine Erfindung von dem größesten und entscheidendsten Gewicht, geschickt den Verkehr auf den höchsten Gipfel der Vollkommenheit zu treiben, an den Tag gelegt zu haben.

Berlin den 10ten Oktober 1810

Imagination of desperation (2)

27 Jul 2007 | 65 words | border africa europe imagination migration

Another photo of a car that has been upgraded with seats that enable undocumented migrants to hide in them. This one has been released by the Spanish Guardia Civil (the last one came from the US Immigration and Customs enforcement Service):

According to this article at typicallyspanish.com the pictures where taken at the El Tarajal border crossing between the Spanish enclave of Ceuta and Morocco.

Laptop/USA for Africa/textese/forgotten vegetables/NGOs

There are two articles about the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) in the spring 2007 issue of بدون/bidoun. the second one (‘let them eat laptops’ (p72ff.) – not available online) is a relatively serious email discussion about the merits of the project between a couple of academics. the other article ‘glory‘ by Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina) takes the OPLC project as a starting point for a fascinating exploration into how technology is appropriated. It’s one of the best texts i have read in a long time and starts like this:

I was twelve years old, in a small public school in Nakuru. One day, the whole school was called out of class. Some very blond and very serious people from Sweden had arrived. We were led to the round patch of grass next to the parade ground in front of the school, where the flag was. Next to the flag were two giant drums of cow shit and metal pipes and other unfamiliar accessories. We stood around, heard some burping sounds, and behold, there was light.

This is biogas, the Swedes told us. A fecal matyr. It looks like shit-it is shit-but it has given up its gas for you. With this new fuel you can light your bulbs and cook your food. You will become balanced dieted; if you are industrious perhaps you can run a small biogaspowered posho mill and engage in income generating activities.

We went back to class. Very excited. Heretofore our teachers had threatened us with straightforward visions of failure. Boys would end up shining shoes; girls would end up pregnant.

Now there was a worse thing to be: a user of biogas.

… and ends with this:

There are few useful “development models” for genuinely selfstarting people. I am sure the One Laptop per Child initiative will bring glory to its architects. The IMF will smile. Mr Negroponte will win a prize or two or ten. There will be key successes in Rwanda; in a village in Cambodia; in a small, groundbreaking initiative in Palestine, where Israeli children and Palestinian children will come together to play minesweeper. There will be many laptops in small, perfect, NGO-funded schools for AIDS orphans in Nairobi, and many earnest expatriates working in Sudan will swear by them.

And there will be many laptops in the homes of homeschooling, goattending parents in North Dakota who wear hemp (another wonderproduct for the developing world). They will fall in love with the idea of this frugal, noble laptop, available for a mere $100. Me, I would love to buy one. I would carry it with me on trips to remote Kenyan places, where I seek to find myself and live a simpler, earthier life, for two weeks a year.

In-between these two parts it covers all of the subjects in the title of this post and many more. my favorite part is probably the bit about Kenyan cellphone culture.

A guy called Njoroge has a business in Nairobi’s industrial area called “Lord of the Ringtones.” They digitalize and sell ringtones, 220,000 of them a month. Cellphones are the biggest business in Kenya.

And they are transforming culture, even as they spawn new markets. In Nairobi, a student paper caters to kids from across the city’s high schools; submissions are sent in by text message, with articles written in textesewords broken into their smallest possible lucid components. Every few months or so, rumors circulate, breaking some code or other and giving free airtime or texts. Some people have learned to communicate for free with their regular clients or family by coding their ringing: one ring, I am on my way; two rings, I have picked up the kids; three rings, I love you.

Imagination of desperation (1): Image of the year...

24 Nov 2006 | 67 words | migration border imagination united states mexico

… straight from the US Immigration and Customs enforcement website (o.k with a detour via the the excellent subtopia field guide to military urbanism), the chair guy:

This is the most amazing combination of sheer will, imagination and engineering i have come across in ages (subtopia calls it ‘imagination of desperation’). Makes me hope that this has remained undetected for a while before these pictures were taken…

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: