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inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #26 of 186: Jane Hirshfield (jh) Thu 27 Dec 12 13:12
    
We're only just at the start of this and the conversation has touched
on politics and power, sense of history and forgetting history,
bridges, fashion, social networks, capitalism, elections, civil
society, facebook, information overload. In the old days of Eastern
Europe, a young playwright influenced by a rock band could write
serious (and funny) plays, philosophically informed political thought
pieces, and end up president of a country; art was subversive, and
mattered; it was a way to cut through censorship and to move a culture.
Now we've got little censorship in the extended West except for the
ways that money can drown out other voices. We've got Gangnam Style,
corporations, on one hand, and on the other, worries about violence,
social structures, and climate change. Is there a place for art at the
table, or is that just so 20th century? 

In China, an artist can still be jailed; presumably, people pay
attention, and that's why he's jailed. Bruce, as a writer of science
fiction, do you think you have the power to move the world's rudder? Do
you think any art does?
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #27 of 186: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 27 Dec 12 14:05
    
<jh>: Love the idea of art as trim tab.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trim_tab)
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #28 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 27 Dec 12 14:49
    
I'm quite the Vaclav Havel fan, and I re-read some of his work after
his recent death.  I was thinking, "Well, he was a creature of the Cold
War, this is going to seem quite dated now," but I was startled by its
immediacy and relevancy -- not to Communism, but to contemporary
society.

Americans don't have state-supported censorship, but they do have a
civil cold war, and the factions don't talk to one another at all. 
There's no open debate, there's no discourse.  There's a little bit of
room for debate within the factions but between them, there's nothing. 


The Republican Right lives in absolute terror of MainStreamMedia
tyranny.  They consider every anchor of civilization to be under
relentless attack by idlers, moonbats and feminazis.  If you listen to
'em, and I do, they sound like they're being bathed in acid.  Every day
they nail the doors of ideology more tightly shut.  
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #29 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 27 Dec 12 14:58
    
I lost a favorite uncle this holiday season.  He was elderly and
frail, and he had a good life -- a remarkably jolly character, really,
the life of many a party -- so it's not a tragic loss, but I find that
the grief touches everything I see.

Grief is a worldview all its own.  Grief gives reality a lunar glow. 
It's healthy to be placed in touch with the tragic side of life, the
losses that make life's value so clear.  It's like winter daylight.

My uncle wouldn't want me to be all upset about his passing, and to
tell the truth I'm not "upset," but I am diminished.  Changes in the
state of the world are marked by absences as well as by novelties.  The
year 2013 will be the first year of my life that does not contain my
uncle.

It'll be different.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #30 of 186: David Gans (tnf) Thu 27 Dec 12 16:43
    
My sympathies, Bruce.

Jane asks a great question.  I think part of the problem for artists thes
days is the fragmentation of the culture/market.  My old friend Peter Case
posted on Facebook a while back that he was starting a label, and my first
thugh was, "Pretty soon it's going to be one man, one label."  He wrote back,
"It's like the fall of the Soviet Union: the playing field is completely
level."

That's both good and bad.  It means Peter and I have better access to the
market by virtue of all the amazing tools available to us for making and
marketing our music, but it also means the ceiling has come down so low that
the ability to make a decent living (let alone a fortune) as a musician is
greatly diminished.

The failure of the "music industry" is a natural result of its venality and
greed, compounded by its failure to recognize, acknowledge, and adapt to the
changes brought on my advancving technology.  There might have been a time in
the '70s when I could have made some money witha  hit record or two, but I
would been much more likely to have ended up in dept to the label and not
even owning the rights to my own work.  So I don't mourn the demise of the
labels.  I earned a mlower-middle-five-figure income from my musical en-
deavors this year, and I think I've done better than a lot of people I know
and respect.

Even a successful recording artist or novelist or poet or whatever is
unlikely to penetrate the culture on the level of a Bob Dylan or Francis Ford
Coppola or John Irving.  There are too many media, too many niches, too many
subcultures, each catered to by its own channels.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #31 of 186: Paulina Borsook (loris) Thu 27 Dec 12 18:47
    
hi <bruces> --- not a big general telelologically ambitious question but due
to coincientally reading a lot of 90s fiction about sarajavo --- wondered
how it was doing these days, how you think it's faring in the panoply of
cities, etc
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #32 of 186: J. Eric Townsend (jet) Thu 27 Dec 12 18:49
    
I'm a fan of two musicians who support themselves by running their own
labels for their own music.

They don't live in SF, Manhattan, or any other expensive place. One
lives in a cheap part of Arizona and the other lives (I think) outside
of Edinborough in a cheap place.

On the other hand, they sell music globally and don't pay a cut to an
agent or a record label.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #33 of 186: David Gans (tnf) Thu 27 Dec 12 19:11
    
Right!  I know quite a few musicians who relocated to places where the cost
of living is manageable.  Access to the Internet and an airport (or an
Interstate Highway) are all they really need.

(PS sorry for not proofreading my post!)
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #34 of 186: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 27 Dec 12 20:08
    
Two good questions:

Jeff: "Do we double down on where we're at, or do we stay
location-light, burrow our roots into the net, and go where the wind
takes us?"

Jane: "...do you think you have the power to move the world's rudder?
Do you think any art does?"

A relevant data point: there are 7 billion people on the planet;
that's a 7x increase since 1800, and it's doubled since 1970. So it's
not just that we have fragmentation, an exploding number of channels,
etc. We have massive increase in the number of humans, in the number of
voices, the number of artists, musicians, journalists, engineers,
cooks, bottle washers, etc. 

Jeff: I think it's a good time to take root and build - build
sustainably, that is. We can't afford a lifestyle that spends too many
resources, given the inevitable competitive pressure as populations
grow faster than the resources to support 'em.

Jane: I think it was easier for one artist to make a difference when
there were fewer people, and fewer of them making art. And, for that
matter, fewer rudders to nudge.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #35 of 186: Roland Legrand (roland) Thu 27 Dec 12 20:13
    
So in these times aspiring journalists run their own individual media
outlets, musicians their individual labels, authors their own
publishing house etc. It sounds all wonderful and creative, and it is,
but at the same time the pressure on people to succeed, to stay
creative and awesome year after year is relentless. Their loved ones
may pass away or get in distress, it doesn't matter for the market in
which we're all supposed to compete on a very individual level (which
includes even those still working at corporations - they're supposed to
be 'intrapreneurs'). 
Therapists tell me about the increasing damage they see every day,
caused by this increasing pressure to perform. The middle class is
falling apart under the pressure of globalisation, technology and
extreme competition. Should we not take this into account when
discussing phenomena such as the Tea Party or outbreaks of mindless
violence? 
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #36 of 186: Brian Dear (brian) Thu 27 Dec 12 20:48
    <scribbled by brian Wed 20 Mar 13 18:19>
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #37 of 186: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Thu 27 Dec 12 22:02
    
Any recommendations for Bollywood films?
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #38 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 28 Dec 12 00:16
    
Come 2013, I think it's time for people in and around the "music
industry" to stop blaming themselves, and thinking their situation is
somehow special.  Whatever happens to musicians will eventually happen
to everybody.

Nobody was or is really much better at "digital transition" than
musicians were and are.  If you're superb at digitalization, that's no
great solution either. You just have to auto-disrupt and re-invent
yourself over and over and over again.

It's pretty awful to be a musician and have no possibility of health
insurance (as Jaron Lanier keeps pointing out), but you could have been
a Nokia engineer.  You'd have been blindsided even harder and faster,
and you wouldn't even have had the girls and the weed.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #39 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 28 Dec 12 00:29
    
Well @loris , Sarajevo has been around a long time, and it seems to be
making its way in the world, but of all the former-Yugoslav countries,
Bosnia-Herzegovina is definitely the worst.  That area is not a
nation.  It's a frozen conflict. It's been frozen a long time, but it's
never worked like its Dayton creators fondly imagined it would.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #40 of 186: (Jeff Kramer) O o . o O (jeffk) Fri 28 Dec 12 04:01
    
<jonl> and I are both lucky to live in Austin, which lessens the argument to
stay light and move to a better, more connected place. Things are pretty
good here, drought and state government not included. <bruces> notes at the
beginning of the thread about moods brought on by different locales has a
lot of merit, though. I know I feel very different walking the streets of a
new city, soaking the place in through the soles of my feet. Hemingway
wouldn't have been Hemingway if he'd stayed in Chicago, <joi> wouldn't be
able to do what he does if he spent all his time in Boston, and I know my
trips to Mexico gave me a useful insight into how other countries
incorporate the web and social media. The Internet is great for access to
cultural trends, and may wipe away some vestiges of earlier times like Third
Culture Kids, but sometimes it's like reading a food blog versus going to a
restaurant. You're experiencing the thing, but not in the same way.

I agree it would be a selfish use of resources to globe-hop for purely
personal enjoyment. The only way it helps society is if you're giving
something back. While we may not all be journalists or novelists, the ideas
and code we produce are enriched by the places we've been and communities
we've had face time with. Maybe with all the location-specific stuff that's
happening, like charter cities in central America, health care technology in
the Bay Area and concentrated new aesthetic art scenes in London, maybe
there will be great value in having people with skills and insight and
experience who can be mobile and help grow and spread these things.

Maybe that's just naturally what some people do, though, so maybe the
question is moot. If you're inclined to be mobile and go where the fires
are, you'll do that, and the fact that you're that kind of person will
inform the contribution you make.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #41 of 186: Rob Myers (robmyers) Fri 28 Dec 12 06:51
    
> I hear some rumors -- and I believe them -- that Greeks are fleeing
the EU and starting businesses in Belgrade.

That's an interesting historical reversal. I know Serbs who once fled
Belgrade to work in Greece.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #42 of 186: J. Eric Townsend (jet) Fri 28 Dec 12 07:26
    
(<roland> also describes working at a lot of places in the bay area and
why I'm not sorry I left. )
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #43 of 186: Paulina Borsook (loris) Fri 28 Dec 12 07:58
    
[more tangent] --- too bad about sarajevo, as my understanding was that it
had always been previous the most cosmopolitan city in the balkan, most like
a world capital. so, sorry to hear. what i have read about it most recently
is that still, all the jobs are with the ngos or the gray/black economy.

but carry on with the big picture talk...
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #44 of 186: David Gans (tnf) Fri 28 Dec 12 08:50
    

<34> great post, Jon.  The expanding population puts a strain on everything,
including our compassion.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #45 of 186: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Fri 28 Dec 12 10:03
    
>The middle class is falling apart under the pressure of
globalisation, >technology and extreme competition. Should we not take
this into >account when discussing phenomena such as the Tea Party or
outbreaks >of mindless violence? 

But which middle class are we talking about--the middle class of the
United States, of Europe, or of emerging economies like China?
Honestly, I think what we're seeing in the United States and Europe
should serve as a warning for people in the emerging economies. Control
your financial elites, or they will ruin you. 
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #46 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 28 Dec 12 11:28
    
@bslesins, you shouldn't have gotten me started on recommending
Bollywood movies.

It depends on what you want from the experience.  Bollywood flicks are
definitely an acquired taste.  I'm not really a cinema guy myself, so
I watch them like a global media analyst -- "Hey look, this Tollywood
studio has hired a New Zealand production firm!  And they got Amitabh
Bachchan's daughter-in-law to do the female lead!"  Only farangi
Bolly-geeks have that kind of fierce enthusiam.

Most foreign people who want to dabble in Indian movies want to see
something that's all really, truly Indian, so for that purpose, you
can't beat the original Rekha version of "Umrao Jaan" from 1981.  A
great date movie.  It's all about a lovely and sweet-tempered
19th-century Indian girl who is kidnapped and forced into gold-spangled
courtesanship with some really handsome and dashing clients.  The
soundtrack is great, the costumes are awesome, the diva Rekha is in
absolute top form here.  It's one of the great Indian movies about
being Indian.  If you're not somehow moved by this movie, Indian cinema
is not for you.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umrao_Jaan

That being as it may, Umrao Jaan never made a fraction of the cash
from the big-budget India pop rubbish of 2012.  Indian films have never
made this much money, or had this much crowd response, ever.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Bollywood_films_of_2012

"Umrao Jaan" of 1981 is a film that most any film critic would have to
respect for its formal qualities, but scarcely any of these 2012 hits
are much "good."   They're professionally made Indian action films,
comedies, and romances, made with bigger budgets, more lavish
production values and more technical skill than any previous ones.  If
you want a taste of that, go sit through "Dhoom 1, 2, 3," or "Dabangg 1
& 2," or maybe "Jab Tak Hai Jaan" if you like dancing.

"Gangs of Wasseypur" and "Shanghai" are two indie art films where
energetic Indian cinema intellectuals are being very "cinema" and very
"committed."  I'm hugely interested in those new Indian art-cinema
guys, I dig them totally and dote on all their doings.  They're
auteurs, they're not the mainstream; intellectuals like 'em, they're
not a big deal.

Pretty much any Aamir Khan film is gonna be okay.  Anything directed
by Karan Johar is gonna be a well-crafted crowd-pleaser.  Farah Khan is
a female director whose movies are extremely funny if you know enough
about the Bollywood tradition to get her in-jokes.

I'm more interested in the industry itself than I am with the movies
per se.  Thanks to Twitter I'm closer to that Bollyworld than I ever
was.  It's like an allegiance to any other overcrowded soap opera -- if
you get emotionally invested enough in the goings-on, it doesn't much
matter that it isn't actually drama.  It's a soap.  But it's a soap on
an Indo-Global scale.

Oh, and if you like science fiction, watch "Endhiran the Robot." 
Every colleague who watches this Tamil sci-fi movie is mind-blown by
it.  You think I'm kidding here.   Go try it, I dare you.
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #47 of 186: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 28 Dec 12 11:45
    
I find it disquieting when people want art to make a whole lot of
difference.  When Vaclav Havel went into politics he stopped being an
artist.  He just wrote speeches.  He was an okay president because he
was moral and honest, but as a head of state, Havel was never very
effective.  He never assembled a working coalition of the nation's
power players in his court.  He was an artist, he didn't have a proper
panoply of heavy-duty lieutenants from industry, the military and so
on.

You really want music to change the world?  Okay, the wife of the new
Chinese premier is a career musician.   Peng Liyuan.  She's got plenty
of clout, she's a Red Empress, a dragon lady.  She's a real-deal
musician, she's on TV, she's pretty, she's popular, she can sing. 
She's got the rank of an army general.   She's gonna change your world
a lot.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1081646/chinas-peng-liyuan-first-lady-s
tar-power
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #48 of 186: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 28 Dec 12 17:47
    
In the Mondo 2000 conference here on the WELL, back in the 90s, I
started a topic called "does art transform consciousness." Everybody
had an answer and nobody had an answer. (Okay, that's glib, and I
should admit I don't really remember much about that conversation.)

I see art everywhere. Halfway through our road trip to New Orleans
today, we stopped at the Vermillionville in Lafayette for lunch:
http://www.bayouvermiliondistrict.org/

"The Vermilionville Living History Museum & Folklife Park is an
operating unit within Bayou Vermilion District created to preserve and
represent Acadian, Creole, and Native American cultures within the
region. It provides Lafayette residents and visitors from all over the
world a wonderful opportunity to view a lifestyle as it occured during
a time period spanning from 1765 to 1890. Vermilionville is the largest
physical representation of Acadian and Creole culture in the world.
The park sits on a beautiful tree-covered 23-acre site on the banks of
the Bayou Vermilion in the heart of Lafayette, providing a place for
music, food expression, cultural exchange, historic architecture and
much more."

There was a driving rainstorm, so we didn't get to revisit the park,
but we'd been there before. It's a bunch of older houses with artifacts
from a different time, we've visited others like this; you probably
have, too. Quote from a novel called _The Go-Between_ is relevant here:
"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."

Historical artifacts can step us into another culture, and art can
step us into another consciousness, another aesthetic, another lens on
the world. When and whether it changes us is a complex question, we
could probably talk about that and nothing else for the next two weeks.
The answer is probably somewhere between "maybe" and "sometimes." 

Henry Miller said "one has to pass beyond the sphere and influence of
art. Art is only a means to life, to a life more abundant."
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #49 of 186: (Jeff Kramer) O o . o O (jeffk) Fri 28 Dec 12 18:30
    
I wonder how long it'll be before they're scanning those historical
artifacts in and printing copies on demand in the gift shop.

Bruce linked to the text of a keynote Aaron Cope gave at the New Zealand
National Digital Forum.  I've been evangelizing it to everyone who will
listen, and in that vein I'll drop a link here.  Read it, it's excellent.

<http://www.aaronland.info/weblog/2012/12/01/coffee-and-wifi/#timepixels>
  
inkwell.vue.459 : State of the World 2013: Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky
permalink #50 of 186: (Jeff Kramer) O o . o O (jeffk) Fri 28 Dec 12 18:32
    
Oh snap, and now I see that there's a video of it as well:

<http://webcast.gigtv.com.au/Mediasite/Catalog/catalogs/NDF/?state=oR6Djn2zk8fM
sqLA10LF>

(All the way at the bottom.)
  

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