... in popular culture

Santa muerte / Swine flu

06 May 2009 | 85 words | fashion religion popular culture mexico pandemic

The always entertaining big picture has an edition with pictures from the non-event of the century: ‘the 2009 swine flue outbreak‘. i particularly like this picture depicting ‘a woman, wearing a face mask as a precaution against swine flu who holds a skeletal figure representing the folk saint Santa Muerte during a ceremony in Mexico City:

Bonus: check out this picture with a woman wearing a face-mask & a megadeath t-shirt at the same time. i would doubt that she is aware of the irony…

Ups and Downs in english

The English translation of the Ups and Downs report on the Economic and cultural effects of file sharing on music, film and games is out [thanks Natali!]. You can download the 130 page report written by a research consortium formed by TNO, SEO & IvIRon the IVIR website [pdf].

I have mentioned the report (commissioned by the ministry of Economic Affairs, the Justice Department and the ministry of Education Culture and Science here before [first thoughts, popular science edition] and as far as i am concerned it is well worth the read… [thanks Natali!]

Digitofagia: net_cultura 1.0

Yesterday evening i found an envelope copy of the book Digitofagia – net_cultura1.0 by Ricardo Rosas and Giseli Vasconcelos on the stairs to my apartment (thanks for the relay Geert!). This book has been in the making for more than 4 years and i had more or less accepted that i would never see it in print). The idea for this book cam up in the context of the Waag-Sarai Exchange platform in late 2004/early 2005. The book collects a number of articles and assays that discuss the – very lively – netculture/hactivism scene in Brazil at that time. It is the outcome of a number of discussions we had with people around the projects midiatactica and metareciclagem around that time.

Realizing this book was one of the more complicated things i have contributed to over time (transferring money to Brazil is a real nightmare) and when we were ready to go to print we learned that Ricardo who had spend an enormous amount of energy chasing authors and finding a publisher had passed away. The book was finally published late last year in Brazil (by Radical Livros) and although i cant read Portuguese i am happy that it is finally available:

The book is published under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share alike license. A pdf version (missing a page in memory of Ricardo that was added later) can be downloaded here (the book cover here).

Arabic m (م)

25 Nov 2008 | 135 words | amsterdam food popular culture

So the dutch have this tradition of giving each other big chocolate letters with their initials for for sinterklaas. both the celebration of sinterklaas and these chocolate letters are fairly important elements of dutch national identity. as i have mentioned here before last years el hema exhibition by mediamatic did a fairly good job at undermining/reinforcing that whole concept. one little part of that (the one willem was most proud of) were a couple of hand-made (and thus not for sale) arabic script chocolate letters.

Now – a little bit more than a year later – it seems that a commercial manufacturer has taken up the hint:

Arabic letter m (م) chocolate letter on sale at Marqt on Overtoom in Amsterdam

Makes me wonder if they ever realized that they put the م upside down…

Santa Muerte == San la Muerte

19 Aug 2008 | 131 words | religion dead people migration popular culture

Reading trough my dead migrants rss feeds i ran into a new blog post about san la muerte today. this time it is a short blog post about the Santa Muerte cult that is thriving in Mexico and among Mexican migrants (this is why the blog post got caught in my ‘dead migrants’ filter) in the US. From what i can tell it does look like the Mexican version of this cult is much less intresting (but more ceremonial) than the variant existing in Argentina and Paraguay that i wrote about back in 2006. Time magazine also has a photo essay with 15 Santa Muerte pictures from Mexico:

the blog post in question somewhat unconvincingly links the cult to a number of themes prevailent in chinese folk culture and japanese manga.

Ōmiya Keirin

09 Aug 2008 | 470 words | japan cycling popular culture photos

So on my last day in Japan i ventured out to see a Keirin race somewhere on the finges of the Tokyo metropolis (big thanks to Fumi for figuring this out for me). Apparently Keirin has made it to become an olympic discipline a while ago, which is kind of interesting insofar that keirin in not really a sport but a form of gambling. it is like horse racing but then the horses are substituted with bicycles and since bicycles do not move by themselves the jockeys (not the similarities in headgear and outfit) have to do the pedalling. so in essence you can place bets on humans and then watch them race against each other.

The race format (at least on thursday in Ōmiya) is fairly straightforward: 4 laps on a concrete race track, the first three of them behind a pacer and when the bell rings for the final lap the 9 riders battle it out between them (sometimes using elbows). you can either place bets on first second third combinations or you can place bets on fist and second combinations.

4 rounds of 400m or so may not seem like much but if you consider that this spectacle takes place in early afternoon in august in an open air stadium (with 35 degrees celsius and more in the shadows), then you got to admire these riders for even making it to the finish (plus this makes those american track cyclists who arrived in peking wearing face masks look like complete sissies)

Not that anybody in the public really cares about the riders, for the public they are just the numbers that they wear on their brightly colored jerseys. Most of the gamblers dont even care enough to actually watch the race, instead they stay in a giant air conditioned hall where they can chovienenltly place their bets and watch – without much display of emotion – the race results on overhead screens.

The gamblers are a strangely interesting mix, especially when contrasted with the teenager and salarymen dominated insanity of central Tokyo: 99% male (i think i saw three women that did not work at the racetrack), at any given point in time half of them have a cigarette in their mouth and literally nobody carries a mobile-phone. The whole place felt like some kind of retired male working class heaven complete with 100yen entry fee, an endless supply of cold green tea from machines, cheap and good (at least the teppanyaki) food and the promise of placing a winning bet and going home rich. From that point of view Keirin makes much more sense than that other japanese ‘gambling’ obsession Pachinko (which is simply insane and completely lacks the social interaction taking place around the keirin track).

More pictures in this set on my flickr account.

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.”

Infrastructural claims to fame

I think i bought my last CD (‘Original Pirate Material‘ by the Streets) in 2002 only to rip it to my computer and then to leave it in a train running along the river rhine from Cologne towards Karlsruhe (in the hope that someone else would find it and enjoy it). I have not bought a music CD ever since (with the exception of a couple of baile funk CDs in Rio de Janeiro in 2006, but these don’t count because they were burned on demand by the sellers).

As everybody who hasn’t spend the last couple of years under a rock or in Gunatanamo Bay will know, CDs are not exactly selling well anymore. This is not only evident from the sales figures from 2007 (another 20 percent drop in volume) but also from this little gem of a story (‘Robbie Williams CDs will be used to pave roads in china‘) from BLDGblog:

EMI has announced that “unsold copies” of Rudebox, by British pop star Robbie Williams, “will soon be used to resurface Chinese roads.” More than a million copies of the CD “will be crushed and sent to the country to be recycled,” we read, where they “will be used in street lighting and road surfacing projects.” […] In any case, does all this imply some strange new infrastructural claim to fame? “You know that CD they used to pave the King’s Road?” a man asks you, putting his coffee down as if to emphasize the point. He crosses his arms. “I played bass on that.”

Guess those CDs won’t make it very far beyond the year 2008…

Steal this Film - Part 2

The second installment of Steal This Film has just been released. you can download it in 4 different resolutions) here and Torrentfreak has an interview with Jamie. By now i have seen it it numerous times (in different stages of production) and i will probably watch it again just for the sake of it (i am downloading the HD version right now).

Now it does not really matter if i watch it again or not but this movie is essential viewing for all those out there who still believe that file-sharing, and distributed communication and growing up in an age without scarcity (when it comes to media) does not constitute a fundamental break when it comes to cultural (re-) production:

These are strange times indeed. While they continue to command so much attention in the mainstream media, the ‘battles’ between old and new modes of distribution, between the pirate and the institution of copyright, seem to many of us already lost and won. We know who the victors are. Why then say any more?

Because waves of repression continue to come: lawsuits are still levied against innocent people; arrests are still made on flimsy pretexts, in order to terrify and confuse; harsh laws are still enacted against filesharing, taking their place in the gradual erosion of our privacy and the bolstering of the surveillance state. All of this is intended to destroy or delay inexorable changes in what it means to create and exchange our creations. If STEAL THIS FILM II proves at all useful in bringing new people into the leagues of those now prepared to think ‘after intellectual property’, think creatively about the future of distribution, production and creativity, we have achieved our main goal. [from the STFII website]

Oh, and if you have not yet seen Steal this Film I yet you can download it here

The boom bikes of N.Y.C

30 Nov 2007 | 73 words | cycling popular culture new york urbanism music

The New York Times runs an article with fantastic photos about a bunch of teenagers in Queens that build ‘Bicycles That Carry Powerful Beats, and Even a Rider or Two. One of the is being quoted saying: “People say, it’s the next best thing to having a system in a car”. But it’s better because you don’t even have to roll down the windows. I could not agree more with that…

[via boingboing]

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: