Monday, May 20, 2019

Countries of Miracles and How Good is Marguerite Duras?

May '68 and the Prague Spring were political failures which profited us much more than any victory, by virtue of the ideological vacuum they created. Not knowing where we were going, as happened to us in the street those days, but knowing only that we were going, that we were on the move, so to speak, without fear of the consequences and the contradictions - that's what we learnt. [...]

Do you believe in God?

To know that, if there's a divinity, it can only be within us, seeing that there's only emptiness around us, is no help in solving the problem. not believing in God is just one more credo. I doubt whether it' possible not to believe at all. That would be like removing all meaning, all eternity from the great passions of our lives. everything would become an end in itself, with no consequences. Though we can't  rule out the future of humanity being just that, either. [...]
The title [of The Lover] isn't original.
I decided on it after I'd finished the book, as a reaction against all the books with that same title. it isn't a story about love, but about everything in passion that remains suspended and incapable of being named. The entire meaning of the book lies there, in that ellipsis. [...]
Memory, digressions and flashbacks have always been an integral part of the narrative structure of your works.
It's often thought that life is punctuated chronologically by events. In reality, we don't know their significance. It's memory that restores their lost meaning to us. and yet all that remains visible and expressible is often the superfluous, the mere appearances, the surface of our experience. The rest stays inside, obscure, so intense that we can't even speak of it. The more intense things are, the more difficult it becomes for them to surface in their entirety. Working with memory in the classical sense doesn't interest me - it's not about stores of memory that we can dip into for facts, as we like. Moreover, the very act of forgetting is necessary - absolutely. If eighty per cent of what happened to us wasn't repressed, then living would be unbearable. True memory is forgetting, emptiness - the memory that enables us not to succumb to the oppression of recollection and of the blinding pain which, fortunately, we have forgotten.
Citing Flaubert, and with him a large part of the contemporary literary tradition, Jacqueline Risset has spoken of your work as an uninterrupted series of 'books about nothing'. Novels built precisely on nothingness.
To write isn't to tell a story, but to evoke what there is around it; you create around the story, one moment after another. Everything there is, but everything which might also not be or which might be interchangeable - like the events of life. The story and its unreality, or its absence. [...]
The events of our lives are never unique, nor do they succeed one another unambiguously, as we would wish. Multiple and irreducible, they echo infinitely in consciousness; they come and go from our past to the future, spreading like an echo, like circles rippling out in water, constantly exchanging places. [...]
Could you define the actual process of your writing?
It's an incorrigible inspiration that comes to me more or less once a week, then disappears for months. a very ancient injunction - the need to sit oneself down to rite without as yet knowing what. the writing itself attests to this ignorance, to this search for the shadowy place where the entirety of experience is gathered.
For a long time I thought writing was a job of work. I'm now convinced that it's an inner event, a 'non-work' that you accomplish, above all, by emptying yourself out, and allowing what's already self-evident to percolate through. I wouldn't speak so much about economy, form or composition of prose as about balances of opposing forces that have to be identified, classified, contained by language like a musical score. If you don't take that into account, then you do indeed write 'free' books, but writing has nothing to do with that kind of freedom.
So that would be the ultimate reason you write?
What's painful is having to perforate our inner darkness until its primal potency spreads over the whole page, converting what is by nature 'internal into something 'external'. That's why I say that only the mad write absolutely. their memory is a 'holed' memory, addressed totally to the outside world. [...]
I write to be coarsened, to be torn to pieces, and then to lose my importance, to unburden myself - for the text to take my place so that I exist less. There are only two ways I manage to free myself of me: by the idea of suicide and the idea of writing.
As for his use of language, Bataille's greatness lies in his way of 'not writing' while still writing.
The Lover, The Malady of Death and Emily L. are difficult books, where the text advances by ellipses, silences and innuendo. An almost amatory collusion between text and reader is needed that's able to go beyond mere understanding of the sentences in themselves. 
Q. Your characters lie beyond all typologies or objective descriptions. They're beings disconnected from any reality, contingency or definition. Engimatic , hovering between madness and normality, screaming and silence,  they emerge suddenly on the scene without any of that inevitability and necessity that normally underpin the classic mechanisms of fiction. A form of ceremonial, something ritualistic pervades their actions and the unremitting flow of their speech. But there is no defined psychological framework for the individual character.
A. The hero of the traditional, Balzacian novel posses an identity that's all his own, a smooth unassailable identity pre-established by the narrator. But human beings are just bundles of disconnected drives and literature should render them as such. 
I lay hold of [my characters] at this unfinished stage of their construction and deconstruction, because what interests me is the study of the cracks, of the unfillable blanks that emerge between word and action, of the residues to be found between what's said and what remains unsaid.
With the result that the reader will never be able to identify with them, contrary to what is usually done, by yielding to a surface psychologism. But the words my characters speak - like the words all characters speak, perhaps - conceals their essence more than it reveals it. All they try to say and think is merely the attempt to muffle their own true voices.
Q. what are the differences between your activity as a writer and as a film-maker?
By its 'external' nature - being a collective work, a way of being in life, with other people - film doesn't have that urgency, that obsession that there is in writing. It might be said that the film distances the author from her work, whereas writing, woven out of silences and absences, throws her irremediably inside it. No one is as alone as a writer. 
I've often made films to escape that frightening, interminable, unhappy work. And yet I've always wanted more than anything else to write. 
Why, in your opinion, do people begin drinking?
Alcohol transfigures the ghosts of loneliness. It replaces the 'other' who isn't there. it stops up the holes that have opened up in us at some point, long ago.
 And I’m not writing for MEdia Dragon ....
Thomas Bernhard, interviewed
And I’m not writing for dorks who need descriptions of everything, right? ‘There’s some grass growing there, over there is an orange tree that carries oranges, and the oranges are initially green, and then they turn yellow, and eventually they receive an orange colour’. Well, I always have the feeling, whenever I’m writing, that I am in a certain place, and everyone knows anyway where that is, and I spare myself the necessity of all that. That way, I give the people leeway – right? But the people who describe all that – right? – ‘They enter through the door, then she meets Doctor Uebermichl, and he’s got a briefcase, and it’s a Pierre Cardin briefcase, and inside the briefcase there are seven files from the company Soandso. And then he’s even wearing a hat with a black band, and towards the rear it is tied together in a bow’. All that is uninteresting, but that is what most of the writing industry is made of. Because people cannot think in big acts and large steps, but can only take extremely tiny small-bourgeois, conclusive mini-steps. That’s horrible! Well, describing nature is nonsense anyway, because everyone knows it, right? That’s stupid, right? Everybody who’s been in the countryside or in a garden knows what’s going on there. Consequently you don’t need to describe that. The only interesting thing is what’s happening in the countryside or in the garden, right? ‘Omit’, they say, right? But nowadays it’s modern again that you … you know, every little thing is being included, right? Sixty pages have already gone by before someone has even left through the front door or the garden gate. And that’s even uneconomic, right? And constantly people are going crazy because the poet has no imagination and no idea how the story should go on.
 Marguerite Duras, interviewed 

Bristol academic cracks Voynich code, solving century-old mystery of medieval text

Style is ... all rhythm. Once you get that, you can't use the wrong words. But on the other hand here I am sitting after half the morning, crammed with ideas and visions ... and can't dislodge them, for lack of the right rhythm. Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A slight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it; and in writing ... one has to recapture this, and set this working (which has noting apparently to do with words) and then, as it breaks and tumbles in the mind, it makes words to fit it.
Woolf to Sackville-West, 1926

Library of Congress – “This free-to-use set features images of cats found in the Library’s collections. Staff “experts” contributed their favorite photos, posters & illustrations. Enjoy! Browse more content that is free to use and reuse.”

Report: Dark Data Plagues Federal Organizations

NextGov: “While government leaders across the globe are excited about the unleashing artificial intelligence in their organizations, most are struggling with deploying it for their missions because they can’t wrangle their data, a new study suggests. In asurvey released this week, Splunk and TRUE Global Intelligence polled 1,365 global business managers and IT leaders across seven countries. The research indicates that the majority of organizations’ data is “dark,” or unquantified, untapped and usually generated by systems, devices or interactions. AI runs on data and yet few organizations seem to be able to tap into its value—or even find it.
“Neglected by business and IT managers, dark data is an underused asset that demands a more sophisticated approach to how organizations collect, manage and analyze information,” the report said. “Yet respondents also voiced hesitance about diving in.” A third of respondents said more than 75% of their organizations’ data is dark and only one in every nine people reports that less than a quarter of their organizations’ data is dark. Many of the global respondents said a lack of interest from their leadership makes it hard to recover dark data. Another 60% also said more than half of their organizations’ data is not captured and “much of it is not even understood to exist.”… 

Bristol academic cracks Voynich code, solving century-old mystery of medieval text “A University of Bristol academic has succeeded where countless cryptographers, linguistics scholars and computer programs have failed—by cracking the code of the ‘world’s most mysterious text’, the Voynich manuscript. Although the purpose and meaning of the manuscript had eluded scholars for over a century, it took Research Associate Dr. Gerard Cheshire two weeks, using a combination of lateral thinking and ingenuity, to identify the language and writing system of the famously inscrutable document. In his peer-reviewed paper, The Language and Writing System of MS408 (Voynich) Explained, published in the journal Romance Studies, Cheshire describes how he successfully deciphered the manuscript’s codex and, at the same time, revealed the only known example of proto-Romance language. “I experienced a series of ‘eureka’ moments whilst deciphering the code, followed by a sense of disbelief and excitement when I realised the magnitude of the achievement, both in terms of its linguistic importance and the revelations about the origin and content of the manuscript…”

Or not – via Lisa Fagin Davis  @lisafdavis – Executive Director, Medieval Academy of America; paleographer, codicologist, manuscript blogger. “Sorry, folks, “proto-Romance language” is not a thing. This is just more aspirational, circular, self-fulfilling nonsense.”

The 2019 Ranking Digital Rights Corporate Accountability Index is now online

“Microsoft has unseated Google at the top of the 2019 RDR Corporate Accountability Index. Telefónica outpaced Vodafone among telecommunications companies. Yet despite progress, most companies still leave users in the dark about key policies and practices affecting privacy and freedom of expression, according to the 2019 Ranking Digital Rights Corporate Accountability Index, released today.
The 2019 RDR Index evaluated 24 of the world’s most powerful internet, mobile ecosystem, and telecommunications companies on their disclosed commitments, policies, and practices affecting users’ freedom of expression and privacy, including governance and oversight mechanisms. Research showed that in the past year a majority of companies improved and clarified policies affecting users’ privacy—a trend that appears to be driven by new data protection regulations in the EU and elsewhere. But even the leading companies fell short in key areas. Few scored higher than 50 percent, failing to even meet basic transparency standards, leaving users across the globe in the dark about how their personal information is collected and protected—and even profited from.
Companies evaluated by the 2019 RDR Index collectively provide products and services used by more than half of the world’s 4.3 billion internet users, thus providing a snapshot of the extent to which users’ rights are protected and respected across the globe. The RDR Index methodology sets minimum standards for what companies should disclose about their rules and processes for enforcing them, data privacy and security policies and practices, and how they handle government demands to remove or block content, to shut down internet services, or to access user information and communications…” 

The 2019 Fortune 500 List: The Prize of Size

From industry dominating mergers to legacy second-acts, the world’s highest-revenue-generating companies make moves that reverberate. – Consider this fact:Just 500 companies—the ones on this year’s ­Fortune 500 list, to be precise—produced enough revenue last year to equal two-thirds of the entire economic output of the United States. Think about that a minute: just 500 companies. These same American businesses sold an astounding $13.7 trillion worth of goods and services, a record sum whether you measure it in nominal dollars or adjusted for inflation. But focus in on the numbers and you’ll discover something yet more remarkable: that just a tenth of these companies account for nearly half (48%) of that total revenue. Sharpen your microscope a bit more, and you’ll see that profits among the group are more concentrated still—with a mere 40 companies responsible for 52% of the combined earnings. Twenty-seven of these household names earned at least $10 billion in their most recent fiscal year. Six, moreover, are as rich as mighty nations, with at least $1 trillion in assets on their balance sheets. 

Each year, it seems, America’s biggest companies look more and more like a set of matryoshka dolls; companies that a generation ago would have been seen as corporate titans now appear as if they could be swallowed up as midday snacks by the real behemoths. That’s one of the takeaways from this year’s Fortune 500 ranking—the 65th running of the list: The big are getting bigger, and the rich are getting richer. And, as Erika Fry explores in an opening essay, there are a host of reasons why—from the rise of corporate ecosystems, to the increasing competitive need for scale, to the power-concentrating effect of data and information technology…” 

The Fortune 500 Has More Female CEOs Than Ever Before “In the latest Fortune 500 list, published Thursday, you’ll find a new record: As of June 1, 33 of the companies on the ranking of highest-grossing firms will be led by female CEOs for the first time ever. To be sure, that sum represents a disproportionately small share of the group as a whole; just 6.6%. But it also marks a considerable jump from last year’s total of 24, or 4.8%…” 

Wired – “…The Soviets ended up evacuating 300,000 people from nearly 2,000 square miles around the plant. The bulk of that area is now called the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, and the old power plant is now encased in a giant concrete sarcophagus. But what happened to the Exclusion Zone after everyone left is the subject of disagreement in the scientific community. For decades, research in the area said that plant and animal life had been denuded, and the life that remained was mutated, sick. Newer research says otherwise—that plants have regrown, and animal life is even more diverse than before the accident. The Exclusion Zone hasn’t been rewilded so much as de-humaned, more unmanned in folly than anything Lady Macbeth ever worried about. It’s a living experiment in what the world will be like after humans are gone, having left utter devastation in our wake…”

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The expert who predicted Trump, Brexit - and Scott Morrison

The political victory of Adolf Hitler in 1933 meant the personal defeat of Stefan Zweig. With fascism in the saddle, Zweig’s books were banned in Germany and Austria and often burned by fascist youth; he lost his house in Salzburg and with it much of his collection of rare literary and musical manuscripts and artifacts (he owned, among other notable items, Beethoven’s desk and Goethe’s pen); and his first marriage collapsed. Zweig was an internationalist by instinct and political philosophy—that is, a believer in the compatibility of all nations—but Hitler’s Germany put paid to that dream. On the attack throughout Europe, Germany, a nation to which, Zweig said, “good order had always seemed more important than liberty and justice,” had turned Stefan Zweig from a contented cosmopolitan into a woeful exile. “It is over,” Zweig wrote in his diary, “Europe finished. Our world destroyed. Now we are truly homeless.”
… Stefan Zweig, European Man by Joseph Epstein | Articles | First Things

Pollsters 95 per cent unsure how they got it wrong

Peter FitzSimons
Peter FitzSimons
Early in the night all the exit polls seemed to indicate a thumping Labor win, but those who remembered the 2016 US election urged caution.

The expert who predicted Trump, Brexit - and Scott Morrison

The expert who predicted Trump, Brexit - and Scott Morrison

With polling and betting markets missing the mark, experts are increasingly turning to social media to judge voter sentiment on a larger scale.


'Unhealthy culture' in Labor in NSW after two damaging election losses in two months

Time to stop polling and start listening: Why we got the election result so wrong

Time to stop polling and start listening: Why we got the election result so wrong

A leading social researcher admits she got it wrong. So did many others, including in the Coalition. What do we learn from it?

NSW Labor needs to be completely rebuilt

Alexandra Smith

Alexandra Smith