APRIL 1999


Kosovo From 2 Sides

Norman Olsen mentioned that is currently re-routing traffic from their domain to The radio component of B92 was recently shut down by the Serbian government. B92's web site is still online. The site includes RealPlayer video clips of the bombing of Belgrade. For more on see The Gossip entry for the 26th of March.

A completely different view of what is going on in Kosovo is provided by

Operation Allied Force will be a lesson to NATO and its future foes. The side that is willing to absorb casualties has a built in advantage over the side that is not. The Serbs structured the battle so that NATO could not avoid risk without switching to largely ineffective tactics. NATO preferred to avoid risk.

By not using their air defenses the Serbs have managed to keep their locations secret. NATO is not willing to lose men or planes over Kosovo.

Stratfor is a commercial information gathering/spying site which utilises the affordances of the web to do what is dubbed as 'open source intelligence' and analysis. Time Magazine's 25th of January article 'Spies Like Us' features Stratfor and its ilk.


Good Friday

Read a rather politically incorrect example text by George Orwell in 'The New Strategy of Style' last night. The piece is entitled 'Marrakech' and was published in 1945. Here's an excerpt:

When you walk through a town like this--two hundred thousand inhabitants, of whom at least twenty thousand own literally nothing except the rags they stand up in--when you see how people live, and still more easily how they die, it is always difficult to believe that you are really walking among human beings. All colonial empires are in reality founded upon that fact. The people have brown faces--besides, there are so many of them! Are they really the same flesh as yourself? Do they even have names? Or are they merely a kind of undifferentiated brown stuff, about as individual as bees or coral insects? They rise out of the earth, they sweat and starve for a few years, and then they sink back into the nameless mounds of the graveyard and nobody notices that they are gone. And even the graves themselves soon fade back into the soil. Sometimes, out for a walk, as you break your way through the prickly pear, you notice that it is rather bumpy underfoot, and only a certain regularity in the bumps tells you that you are walking over skeletons.

The passage evokes Lovelock's Gaia ("we live in the breath and bones of our ancestors"), gardens (Gethsemane), life fast and slow (rocks are but slow life), and the affordances offered by (1) record keeping and (2) modern techniques of information collecting, storage and access. Memory is said to keep 'material' alive beyond death. Given that life is ceaseless change and that death is the cessation of change, will 'ceaseless' but changing memory grant us immortality?

Can life truly be remembered? Or are memories just 'relic sets', making 'invisible the operation that made it possible' as Michel de Certeau writes in 'The Practice of Everyday Life':

The Chorus of Idle Footsteps

Their story begins on ground level, with footsteps. They are myriad, but do not compose a series. They cannot be counted because each unit has a qualitative character: a style of tactile apprehension anal kinesthetic appropriation. Their swarming mass is an innumerable collection of singularities. Their intertwined paths give their shape to spaces. They weave places together. In that respect, pedestrian movements form one of these "real systems whose existence in fact makes up the city." They are not localized; it is rather they that spatialize. They are no more inserted within a container than those Chinese characters speakers sketch out on their hands with their fingertips.

It is true that the operations of walking on can be traced on city maps in such a way as to transcribe their paths (here well-trodden, there very faint) and their trajectories (going this way and not that). But these thick or thin curves only refer, like words, to the absence of what has passed by. Surveys of routes miss what was: the act itself of passing by. The operation of walking, wandering, or "window shopping," that is, the activity of passers- by, is transformed into points that draw a totalizing and reversible line on the map. They allow us to grasp only, a relic set in the nowhen of a surface of projection. Itself visible, it has the effect of making invisible the operation that made it possible. These fixations constitute procedures for forgetting. The trace left behind is substituted for the practice. It exhibits the (voracious) property that the geographical system has of being able to transform action into legibility, but in doing so it causes a way of being in the world to be forgotten.

de Certeau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life. 1974.

So who lives in the present moment? Who manages to 'Be Here Now'?

BTW the OED defines 'brown study' as a 'reverie' or a 'fit of musing, or day dreaming'. Weekley's An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English traces the term to 'gloomy meditations' and suggests comparison to the French offusquer, 'to overshadow, create melancholy absorption, from the Latin fuscus = brown.


Just noticed the (new) interface to Minerva's Media Department Website. Well done! Someone want to tell me who is responsible for this?


Frontier 6

Frontier 6 shipped yesterday. Took me an entire 30 seconds to move Alamut over. Most of the technical advances are on the dynamic server-side architecture, which I'm not planning to use for a while... For the moment the BIG improvement is wrapping outlines. I've been waiting for outlines to wrap since I started using Frontier over a year ago.

Easter Reading

Have you ever read 'The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross' by John Allegro? In this excellent heresy, first published in 1970, Dr. Allegro proposed that Jesus Christ never existed but was simply a code name for the Aminita muscara mushroom. Was Christianity based upon a underground fertility cult? From anyone less than a renowned philologist and Dead Sea Scrolls scholar this would have been considered nonsense--but Allegro was a serious man who did serious research.

Bertrand Russell, 'Why I am not a Christian':

Historically, it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did we do not know anything about Him.

ReligiousTolerance.Org maintains a page entitled: 'Did Jesus Exist?'

Hallo, Hallo...

The phone rings. The machine answers. Hallo, Hallo... Hey, wait a minute... that sounds like Jouke! Calling from France. What? Calling from a phone booth? Why? The ISDN is not connected to the house yet? Yes. Good to hear you. Glad the move went okay (except for the trouble getting the truck through the gate). What? Eaten outside twice already? Yes, I'm sure the house is beautiful. Yes. Yes. Thanks for calling. Goodbye!



Frontier 6 has got me cleaning up Alamut's early html code. When I started doing Alamut I used Frontier's 'twoLevelOutline' renderer for formatting the daily entries and was forced to jump through hoops to create paragraphs of more than 256 characters. I eventually moved to the 'cadillac' renderer to concatenate outline topics but still there was no automatic text wrapping--you had to wrap manually. Well with Frontier 6 life just got better. Looking back after a few hours using it I'm amazed at what I used to do. And I'm amazed at how fast I'm getting used to doing it the new way...

Nature Watching

I've been watching the morning glory seeds that I planted last Monday sprout. The rain has been helping. This morning marks the first sighting of cotyledon (seed leaves).

One of my new peyote cacti has surprised me by flowering. The single pink blossom opens only in direct sunlight, closing at night and refusing to open on a cloudy day like today. Interesting...

Four species of waterfowl sighted in and around the Entrepothaven:

  • A pair of mating Great Crested Grebes (Podiceps cristatus) [Dutch= Fuut]. Is this the same pair as last year?
  • Coot (Fulica atra) [Dutch= Meerkoet]
  • Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) [Dutch= Waterhoen]
  • Grey Heron (Ardea cinera) [Dutch= Reiger]


Another book to be read (Davis is a Canadian ethnobotanist and ex-student of Evans-Schultes):

Davis, Wade. The Rainbow and the Serpent. A Harvard Scientist's Journey into the Secret Societies of Haitian Voodoo, Zombis and Magic. 1985.


Form and Content

I've been thinking about the classic (art) opposition between FORM and CONTENT the last couple of days. If you can say any art topic has 'been worn shiny by other brains' it would be this one. In my own practice I usually see 'ideas' as being significantly more important than form. I would, for example, describe both my own art work and the curriculum at Media-GN as 'idea driven' rather than 'form driven'. Form, for me, is the container, the vessel, the technique, the medium that the 'idea' is cast in. It carries the idea. Not that you can separate the two. I feel that even 'in the head' ideas themselves are material, they cannot be separated from matter. But my normal position is that 'ideas' are superior to 'forms'. Content can follow form, but form usually follows content.

This stance is reversed when I replace the term FORM with PATTERN, a small adjustment, but one which for me throws a whole new light on the subject. What's a pattern? Is it not a form which is instantly recognizable (either consciously or subconsciously)? A reflection of 'deep structures'? Eva Knutz and I were talking about patterns and stories yesterday at Media-GN. Maybe it is the pattern rather than the details of the story which is important. Maybe story telling is the manipulation of a sequence of patterns.

McLuchan described this as 'The Medium is the Message'...

Concerning form and content: I remember reading an article in ArtForum in the early eighties entitled 'Heads it's Form, Tails it's not Content'. This article made a strong impression on me. Yesterday I tried to do a web search to see if I could track it down with no success. This afternoon I sent a mail to ArtForum magazine requesting help:


I'd really appreciate your help. I'm trying to track down an article from the end of the 70's or early 80's that was published in Art Forum entitled:

'Heads it's Form, Tails it's not Content'

I'm not sure who the author was. Is it possible for you to do a search of your database and tell me when it was published and who the author was?

Thank-you very much...

To which I received (10 minutes later) the following reply:

November 1982. The article was written by Thomas McEvilley. Your lucky it was familiar; our database isn't organized by title.


Emily Erikson
Assistant Editor

A web search on McEvilley (who I met once in Middelburg*) turned up a book of his: Art and Discontent: Theory at the Millenium which contains the essay. The UB in Groningen doesn't have the book--but should have the old ArtForum. Eva?

*And heard singing an end to a 'Night Sea Crossing' performance of Marina and Ulay...

More Online Bookstores

Following hot on the heels I've my discoveries of the Amazon UK store, Advanced Book Exchange and Powell's are two more bookstores:

Rijk van Kooij pointed me to Proxis, an Amazon clone in Belgium. The big advantage here is the shipping cost to NL is neglible:

Artext is a online bookstore based in Cambridge Massachusetts specialising in new and out-of-print art books:


Patriotism and the War in Europe

It is day 16 of the NATO airstrikes against Serbia. It was reported that thousands of Serbians gathered on Belgrade's and Novi Sad's remaining bridges last night as human shields against NATO bombs.

1600 GMT ( reports Boris Yeltsin as saying:

I've told NATO, the Americans, the Germans, don't push us towards military action. Otherwise there will be a European war for sure--and possible world war.

Reason for Alarm?

And this is being reported from Reuters:

The Communist speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, Gennady Seleznyov, caused the stir by saying Yeltsin had told him he had ordered a retargeting of Russia's nuclear missiles against NATO countries bombing Yugoslavia.

The Kremlin later formally denied that the president had ordered changes to the nuclear forces' tasks. Seleznyov backtracked, saying his talks with Yeltsin were hypothetical.

Seleznyov had also quoted the president, who is under pressure from a hostile parliament weighing his possible impeachment, as saying he supported Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's request to join the union of Russia and Belarus.

Form and Content II

Oh boy...

Looking for something to read last night I sought out my worn copy of McLuhan's 'Understand Media: the Extensions of Man' and took it upstairs to bed. I opened it up and began reading chapter 24: Games. Half way through I found this:

The form of any game is of first importance. Game theory, like information theory, has ignored this aspect of game and information movement. Both theories have dealt with the information content of systems, and have observed the 'noise' and 'deception' factors that divert data. This is like approaching a painting or a musical composition from the point of view of its content. In other words, it is guaranteed to miss the central structural core of the experience. For as it is the pattern of a game that gives it relevance to our inner lives and not who is playing nor the outcome of the game, so it is with information movement. The selection of our human senses employed makes all the difference say between photo and telegraph. In the arts the particular mix of our senses in the medium employed is all-important. The ostensible program content is a lulling distraction needed to enable the structural form to get through the barriers of conscious attention.

The ostensible program content is a lulling distraction needed to enable the structural form to get through the barriers of conscious attention.


How You Doing - Marshall McLuhan?

The surfer goddess showed me a great art portal (updated daily!): AND a great news portal (updated every 15 minutes):

All right! The good godess showed me another one (this time a science and technology portal):

I LOVE the classified look of these pages!

Cui Bono?

This year's Charles Simonyi Lecture was delivered by the philosopher Daniel Dennett at Oxford University on the 17th of February and is entitled 'The Evolution of Culture'.

Dennett's lecture strongly resembles (and extends) Dawkin's 1989 essay 'Universal Parasitism and the Co-Evolution of Extended Phenotypes' (mentioned here on 24.03.99) by examing cultural phenomena from a 'cui bono?' (or who benefits?) stance. In 'The Evolution of Culture' the replicator is the meme and the meme's phenotype or 'survival machine' is the cultural expression. An extraordinary worldview shift can be achieved if you look at culture from the meme's perspective or what Dennett calls 'the meme's eye view'.

'The Evolution of Culture' archived at Edge:

'Universal Parasitism and the Co-Evolution of Extended Phenotypes' archived:

The Global Village vs. Pitcairn Island

Read this morning that Pitcairn Island, the island in the South Pacific where the H.M.S. Bounty mutineers landed in 1790 and hid for 18 years, will possibly get an airstrip sometime at the beginning on the next century and thus end the extraordinary isolation of the 57 current residents (Pitcairn, a British colony, is situated 1,339 miles southeast of Tahiti).

Notes for visitors to Pitcairn Island: Access is by container ship. There is no scheduled service other than for northbound ships nominated to stop 3 times a year. Power is provided by a diesel generator and is available for four hours every evening and two hours every morning. Communication is by satellite (during the evening). Mail takes approximately 3 months. The store is open 3 times a week for a few hours. There are no hotels or guest houses on the island. Sometimes you've got to wait several weeks to find a boat willing to pick you up when you want to leave...

Notes for Visitors:

Pitcairn Island Website:

Geneology of the Colony:

Live and Learn II

Individuals learn. Groups learn. Machines learn. Environments learn. Individuals teach. Groups teach. Machines teach. Environments teach. All the time, everywhere and at all levels of complexity.

Honeyguide pointed me to a very strange story of teaching hatchery raised conches (a marine mollusk, think: slug, think: snail) to avoid lobsters prior to their re-introducing into the waters off the Florida Keys:

Scientists last summer came up with a way to train the young conchs by placing a sacrificial conch in a cage with a lobster, then surrounding the cage with juvenile conchs.

"The poor conch was decimated while his buddies watched. They heard the screams and smelled the blood," Glazer said. After about a week of that, the tiny conchs learned to bury themselves, he said. Scientists also discovered the best size to seed the conchs. "If we release them any bigger than 3 inches they just sit on the surface and play stupid. They are snails after all," Glazer said.

Timing is also crucial. The lobster population is lowest in the fall after a full season of harvesting. A full moon brings out their predators so the lobsters tend to stay hidden. So the scientists will do the conch seeding during a fall full moon.

Prognosis: As the level of our culture and acts of 'nuture' (including the provision of shelter) continues to evolve MORE AND MORE of our time will be spent teaching and learning...

And NASA is using genetic programming to teach and breed new spacecraft (Darwinian spacecraft design):

Cross reference this note on conch learning with: Live and Learn I on 28.03.99.


Today's phrase for pondering: 'Art is a lie which reveals the truth'. I suspect it was a painter who said this (Picasso?). Art doesn't have to lie. Sculpture can tell the truth.

Saving Smallpox

The opening paragraph of a current ABC News story:

Should the last known samples of the smallpox virus be destroyed? Should the killer microbes be preserved for medical research? Or, should the vials of virus be locked away in case a future enemy develops it into a biological weapon?

This is the dilemma for scientists, policy makers, and military advisors in the U.S. Except for samples of the variola virus stored in laboratories, smallpox appears to have been eradicated from the surface of the earth, the last outbreak being in Somalia on the 26th of October 1977. The World Health Assembly decided in May 1996 that on 31st of June 1999 these final stocks should be destroyed, resulting in what has been described as 'the first deliberate elimination of a biological species from this planet'.

Yes, we're reminded here of Mark Dion's 1989 work, 'The Survival of the Cutest' that consisted of a number of plushy stuffed animals in a wheelbarrow. (

Notice the reason for hesitation is not 'deeply ecological' (think: Arne Naess see:The Shallow and the Deep), but military. Rumor has it that the Russians have a couple more laboratory 'reservoirs' of smallpox than they are letting on. Up til now the only two reservoirs known to the World Health Organization were the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta Georgia and the Institute for Virus Preparations in Moscow. The fear of course, is that we (the good guys) destroy ours while they (the bad guys) still have theres. Trust and verify as Ronald Reagan said. Trouble is, the presence of a virus collection is virtually impossible to detect...

Historically, smallpox has already had a lot of service as a biological weapon. Both accidental:

Unknown in the New World, smallpox was introduced by Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors. It decimated the local population and was instrumental in the fall of the empires of the Aztecs and the Incas. When the Spanish arrived in 1518, Mexico had about 25 million inhabitants; by 1620, this number had diminished to 1.6 million.

And conscious:

The devastating effect of smallpox gave rise to one of the first examples of biological warfare. In a letter written to Colonel Henry Bouquet in 1763, Sir Jeffrey Amherst, commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, suggested grinding the scabs of smallpox pustules into blankets that were to be distributed among disaffected tribes of Indians.

Smallpox URL's:

The ABC news story

A history of smallpox:

A little virology:

This Morning's Info War (Info War I)

(from an article in the LA Times)

Serbian television:

  • Facilities: The capital's once independent Studio B and other state-run outlets. Independent stations have been shut down.
  • Content: Around-the-clock programming attacking President Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.
  • Sample clip: NATO planes flying in combat formation alter their positions to form the shape of the Nazi swastika. Huge red letters then appear, reading: "Stop bombing!"

NATO television:

  • Facilities: A EC-130J Hercules, with a crew of 11, flying day or night and transmitting in AM, FM and standard TV frequencies.
  • Content: NATO's version of events, including maps and pictures, with a focus on the events in Kosovo and "ethnic cleansing".
  • Sample clip: NATO insignia and woman's voice-over in Serbo-Croatian: "If only you knew what ethnic cleansing campaign was going on down there (in Kosovo), you would be stunned."

Apocalyptic Pessimism

Hakim Bey speaks out against art which celebrates apocalyptic pessimism in his essay, 'Against the Reproduction of Death'. Quoted here on 27.03.98.

Hmm... I wonder what Mr. Bey thinks about the preservation of smallpox or the work of Andres Serrano? Or would think about my own work with cancer or Mark Wilson's interest in (the call of) 'the extreme'?


5:00 AM. It is a lovely-blustery-rainy morning. April showers bring May flowers.

Went to Amsterdam yesterday afternoon to help Loes prepare for a talk she is going to give tomorrow on her thesis, 'Automated Information Distribution for Groups on the Internet'. After her presentation, she'll be graduating!

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

The Body

Between practice sessions, a few moments at 'The Book Exchange' turned up a used copy of Bateson's 'Steps to an Ecology of Mind' which I bought. Incredible that 'Steps' and 'Mind and Nature' are still out of print. I also bought a copy of Jared Diamond's 'Guns, Germs and Steel' which contains quite a few references to smallpox:

"Other germs take matters into their own hands, figuratively speaking. They modify the anatomy or habits of their host in such a way as to accelerate their transmission. From our perspective, the open genital sores caused by venereal diseases like syphilis are a vile indignity. From the microbes point of view, however, they're just a useful device to enlist a host's help in innoculating microbes into a body cavity of a new host. The skin lesions caused by smallpox similarly spread microbes by direct or indirect body contact (occasionally very indirect, as when U.S. whites bent on wiping out "belligerent" Native Americans sent them gifts of blankets previously used by smallpox patients."

Let's drink a toast to the health of the body, a changing population of genes that at any moment consists of both the inherited and the hosted (nucleic genes, mitochondrial genes, viral genes, bacterial genes). Let's drink at toast to the body as a dynamic system, an ecosystem, an environment, a society. Why not call it nature? Let's drink a toast to the body as nature. Let's drink a toast to the body as a survival machine built and inhabited by all those genes in order to find their way into the next generation...

The Mind

So much for this morning's drinking song in honor of the body. What about the mind? Next verse, same as the first. Here's a passage from Mr. Bateson's introduction to 'Steps to an Ecology of Mind' (introduction written in 1971):

"The title of this book of collected essays and lectures is intended precisely to define its contents. The essays, spread over thirty-five years, combine to propose a new way of thinking about ideas and about those aggregates of ideas which I call 'minds'. This way of thinking I call the 'ecology of mind', or the ecology of ideas. It is a science which does not yet exist as an organized body of theory or knowledge.

"But the definition of an 'idea' which the essays combine to propose is much wider and more formal than is conventional. The essays must speak for themselves, but here at the beginning let me state my belief that such matters as the bilateral symmetry of an animal, the patterned arrangement of leaves in a plant, the escalation of an armaments race, the process of courtship, the nature of play, the grammar of a sentence, the mystery of biological evolution, and the contemporary crises in man's relationship to his environment, can only be understood in terms of such an ecology of ideas as I propose.

"The questions which the book raises are ecological: How do ideas interact? Is there some sort of natural selection which determines the survival of some ideas and the extinction or death of others? What sort of economics limits the multiplicity of ideas in a given region of the mind? What are the necessary conditions for the stability (or the survival) of such a system or sub-system?"

As above--so below. Or should that be the other way around?


Loes finally received her masters degree in Artificial Intelligence today. I thought the presentation of her thesis and her exam at the University of Amsterdam went very well but she, ever the self-doubter (and super-strong-willed-perfectionist), wasn't so pleased with her performance. Whatever she thinks, I'm incredibly proud of her! Damn it, she has done well!


It's snowing in Rotterdam (5:54 AM CET).

Bent Out of Shape

DO YOU USE WINDOWS? Yesterday morning I checked Alamut from Loes' pc and was mortified to see what '95 + Netscape does to my precious layout if the font size is set too large and there is a too long URL in my main table... Don't really know what to do about this. No more explicit URL's? Switch to CSS?

Alamut is History

I received the following mail last night from my old friend Norman Olsen who's been lurking Alamut from his own attention bastion in North Vancouver. He's spot on about the Whole Earth people, you could EASILY produce an argument that the Co-Evolution Quarterly and the Whole Earth Review and catalogues 'produced the seed that sprouted the web' (Norman's a gardener). And lest we forget, the WELL (the Whole Earth 'Lectronic 'Link) was an important model for today's virtual ontogroups and communities...

Retro? Hell! What goes around, comes around. And each time around we pay more attention to it. It's called 'deep inventory', and like ocean currents, it circulates. Bateson was wise. So was McLuhan and Dawkins. So was Korzybski.

Isaac Newton knew it. He said, 'We stand on the shoulders of giants..."

Think about this: Newtonian physics would dictate that giants can't hold giants on their shoulders--just lighter folk...

Norman said:

Hi Paul,

>Is your ADSL service connected?

Yes it is. Sposed to be getting 4Mb/sec. downloads, but haven't seen that yet. Seems remote servers or Web in general are gummy. OTOH it's fastmoving and already I'm used to speed and of course feeling impatience when connections are not instantaneous. Probably need a better mantra rather than a better modem.

Speaking of which, your reading, references, and links seem to be pretty retro these days. Sort of "Get back, get baack, get back to where you belong... etc." Reminds me of my Whole Earth Catalog days. I think an interesting case could be made that the WEC was the flowering of print-based info distribution and thus produced the seed which sprouted as the Web. Probably same people; certainly they were invoking this form, if not inventing it. Its format was such that you could surf it, finding interests that were never fathomed a few minutes before. A sudden desire or even need to study say, topology in order to better understand pottery. The reviews not unlike a web page, with an array of editorial comments and insertions that were in some way like links.

In summer of '69 communards, who had gone to Berkley to a Black Panther conference, returned with this huge book and I was never the same. From Black Power to Shit (methane) Power! A switch from power over to power to.

And Stewart Brand was an early champion of Bateson (whose stuff I never did read, but thought I should).

Particularly liked yr query about Sacred Mushroom & Cross (law or advertising firm?). Have always thought about re-reading and have no idea where my copy went. Probably foisted it on some reluctant friend in one of those feverish enthusiasms fueled by more profane intoxicants that I used to enjoy so well. And unloved, ignored and unread it probably sits on a bookshelf that I haven't seen in twenty years. Fabulous and fantastical piece of analysis that would be worth a follow-up. A chunk of my friends have got borned again and I feel I can only indulge them politely, while musing on this little piece of heresy.

You seem quite lighthearted these days on Alamut. Fun to read and BTW thanx for various portal links. Best I've seen. Do you use Copernic as a (meta)search engine? I downloaded it the other night and briefly played and it looks great.


More Info War (Info War II)

A news report...


After returning from Yugoslavia on 14 April, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told journalists that a possible intervention of NATO ground troops in Yugoslavia will have a negative impact primarily on the U.S., ITAR-TASS reported on 15 April. "When thousands of coffins come to the U.S., the public opinion in this country will change within a day," Lukashenka said. Citing Yugoslav sources, Lukashenka said he "has been surprised by the fact that thousands of NATO soldiers are deserting," ITAR-TASS reported. "They pay $500 and are transferred to the border with Romania, where they change their clothes and escape," the agency quoted him as saying. Lukashenka stressed that Yugoslavia's losses in equipment are virtually nil. "All the artillery, all the tanks [and] even aircraft are standing on the roads. The Yugoslavs have saved everything," he said.

...and a eyewitness account of the news by Dr. Dina Iordanova of the Centre for Mass Communication Research at the University of Leicester (posted to the McLuhan mailing list)...

I do not have the time to write much about my experiences from last week. But briefly -- I had the chance to spend a few days in Slovenia and watch Serbian TV while there. I would try to very briefly describe for you what I saw, as I felt privileged to have the chance to watch the only broadcaster from within the country. RTS only broadcasts news, all the time, with brief musical interludes. The structure of the news is identical every time around, as if you watch CNN's headline news or any other round-the-clock news broadcast. The first several items are on President Milosevic (sitting in his favorite chair) accepting foreign delegations. One is left with the impression that the world is lining up to be received in Belgrade. Second set of items is reports on the NATO bombings and recent damage, of people's gatherings on bridges and on people's life in basements. Third set of items is information on demonstrations against the NATO aggression taking place all over the world. One is left with the impression that the whole world is united in demonstrating their support for Serbia. Thus the report on suffering which comes in the middle is framed in an interesting way -- first comes the fatherly figure of Milosevic, the caretaker; and at the end comes the powerful message of the international public opinion which is soon to have its impact and change things.

There is no mention of Kosovo in the news (unless it is for some bombings there), and there is no mention of refugees or Kosovar. They do not exist.


The Very Large and the Very Small

It has come to my attention that over the last months, two new species of bacteria have been 'discovered'. One very, very large and the other very, very small.

Illus. 1 Illus. 2

Illustration 1: Thiomargarita namibiensis photographed next to a fruit fly.
Illustration 2: Nanobe spores.

The large one is called Thiomargarita namibiensis (the sulpher pearl of Namibia). It is 100 times larger than the previous bacterial record holder, so large in fact, that it is visible to the naked eye. Thiomargarita is an extremophile found in the sediments of Walvis Bay, Namibia.

The existence of the small one is still controversial. Termed nanobacteria or nanobes, these bacteria would be, if accepted as life forms,the smallest bacteria known, a full 10% smaller than the smallest previously known bacteria. Critics argue that biological cells could not exist so small and that the structures thus are not 'life' but formed by geological processes. An Australian scientist, however, has evidence that the 'forms' in question are producing spores...

Think: Lovelock's Gaia. Think: Cairns-Smith's thoughts on mineral life forms and 'genetic take over'.

BBC article onThiomargarita namibiensis.
BBC article on nanobes.

Repeat Until...

Yesterday was a wasted day, a burnt-out day, a depressed day. Horrible. It's the Groningen toll. I wish it weren't so but it is.

What can I do about this? I'm reminded of the Bandler and Grinder quote from Frogs into Princes (1979) which I first cited on 24.2.99:

We have noticed this peculiar trait about human beings. If they find something they can do that doesn't work, they do it again.

Am I being stubborn? Or just plain fucking stupid?


Rotterdam marathon today.

Saw 'Wag the Dog' last night. Funny film (and very topical at the moment given operation Allied Force) but I was somewhat disappointed. 'Interface', a book by Stephen Bury, is also about 'spinning' a presidential campaign, but a million times better IMHO...

Deep Inventory

Looking to expand my collection of folk singers, I've finally found a 'new' singer which I really like. Rented 'Way to Blue, an introduction to Nick Drake' yesterday from the CD library. Nick Drake recorded 3 albums from 1969-1972 and then died of an overdose of anti-depressants. His gentle music is brilliantly focused and sweet.

Info War III

It looks like both sides are making pretty heavy use of the 'soldier's deserting' story. See Friday's note, 'Info War II' (16.04.99) and the following report from

Albanian radio has reported that leaflets probably dropped by NATO planes were found in the border areas on Friday morning. The leaflets, found in the areas between Has and Krume, said in Serbian, "Announcement to the armed forces of Yugoslavia. More than 13,000 soldiers have left the ranks of the Yugoslav Army, refusing to accomplish Milosevic's illegal orders in his war against civilians in Kosovo." They also said, "Stay in Kosovo and leave your bones there or abandon your unit and the military equipment, and go away from Kosovo as soon as possible. If you decide to stay, NATO will attack incessantly from all sides. You choose you own path. NATO."


Nova Scotia Dream House

I spent yesterday afternoon perusing Novia Scotian real estate online. It seems much cheaper than real estate on the west coast (at least much cheaper than the prices around Vancouver). This house has just come on the market on the 'South Shore' (1 hour drive from Halifax). It's 6 years old, on 3.32 acres and has 562 feet oceanfront. It has floor heating, and a 2 story guest cottage/workshop. The price is not bad: $ 244,000 CAN or Hfl. 348,000. Even the address sounds right: 122 Oxner Brook Rd, West Dublin, Novia Scotia.

Now if only it had ADSL or cable service...

Difference Is Mankind's Greatest Engine

But I'm still convinced that difference is mankind's greatest engine and that a 'healthy respect' towards 'the other' is better than either 'tolerance' or 'acceptance' in the long run. (06.09.98)

Beauty and the Sublime

Follow up on last Saturday's (17.04.99) 'bacteria' entry:

'The Very Large and the Very Small' was one of the themes that I wanted to explore last January with the participants of the masterclass of the Rotterdam Film Festival. Upon hearing me state this, one of the other 'masters', the USC film theorist Marsha Kinder, provided me with an incredible idea, namely that our appreciation of beauty is connected with our appreciation of the very small and our experience of the sublime is connected to our appreciation of the very large.

According to Kinder, the beautiful and the sublime express opposite ends of the pleasure principle--the perception of beauty being a sadistic experience and the perception of the sublime being a masochistic experience. Think about it. It all boils down to the pleasure possible through the agency of human understanding and control. Something 'very small' is overseeable and comprehensible, precious and exquisite. On the other hand, something 'very large' is overwhelming and incomprehensible, inspiring awe. The simplicity and perfect symmetry of a diamond is beautiful (and sadistic), contemplation of the internet is sublime (and masochistic).

Think: Grace Slick and her song 'White Rabbit' (one pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small...) Think: Charles Eames and his study of human scale called the 'Powers of Ten'.

See: The Sublime pages of George Landow's Victorian Web and his page on: Ruskin's Theories of the Sublime and Picturesque.


Recursive Info War (Info War IV)

The NRC, a Dutch newspaper, reports today that 'Wag the Dog' is currently playing to full houses in Belgrade. What a weird thought.


Hyperfocal Marxians

Been reading Bateson's 1935 article entitled 'Cultural Contact and Schismogenesis'. It's not that easy to read, only after a couple times through it do I begin to get (some of) the ideas. Sometimes the language seems unnecessarily formal, at other times it's plain delightful:

The Marxian historians have given us a picture of the economic aspect of complementary schismogenesis in Western Europe. It is likely, however, that themselves have been influenced unduly by the schismogenesis which they studied and have therefore been prompted into exaggeration.

BTW: 'Cultural Contact and Schismogenesis' provides two different (dynamical) taxonomies, respectively of contact and schismogenesis (differentiation). Stay tuned for a page of notes addressing these behaviors.

Form and Content III

Warning! The terms (word/maps) 'form' and 'content' are extremely tyrannical, as words they seize and rule despotically the minds of those that use them. And they become even more dangerous when used in conjunction, as in: 'Form vs. Content'. So be careful.

Thanks to Eva Knutz, one of our MFA students, I got a copy of McEvilley's 'Heads its Form, Tails its not Content' last week. McEvilley's essay, originally published in ArtForum in 1982, is a critique of the doctrine of the superiority of form over content as espoused by Clement Greenburg and the rest of the abstract expressionist cum formalist theoretical camp (the AECFTC). McEvilley essentially argues that Greenburg et al. are wrong, that form is content.

Confession: I read 'Heads its Form, Tails its not Content' in the early '80's and had completely forgotten what it was about. Only the title stayed with me, as a referent, as a pointer to an interesting discussion of the issue. When I mentioned it on the 8th of this month, (08.04.99), I was assuming it to be an affirmation of my present belief that everything is pattern and form. That is: content is form. There is no content other than pattern and form. YMMV.

Multiculturalism without People

'Multiculturalism without People' was the title of a letter published by a school teacher in the June 1997 edition of the online journal, NetFuture.

"A minister once told me about the Missionary Syndrome. This is when members of a congregation are willing to empty their pockets to aid the unknown hapless people who live at least 1000 miles away, but won't lift a finger to help the down-and-outs in their own community (who they know all too well)..."

"Here we had been exchanging ideas about cultures with students on the other side of the planet for months, and it had never dawned on these students to merely turn their heads 90 degrees and talk to students from Bosnia, Somalia, the Sudan, Russia, Mexico, the Czech Republic, and half a dozen other nations. The disassociation unnerved me. What does it mean when a group of students are eager (these were all volunteers) to relate to students all over the world via the 'Net, but show no interest at all in talking face-to-face with young people who grew up in some of those very same places?..."

"It's hard to believe it is the human dimensions of communication that drive this kind of activity. I think for most of us it is our infatuation with the exotic opportunities afforded by the technology, its awesome ability to compress space and time, that drives multicultural (and most other educational) activities on the 'Net. But we ought to recognize that it is also the school structure that contributes to this easy willingness to seek out abstract relationships rather than in-the-flesh ones...

Some thoughts on this:

  1. Another expression for 'multiculturalism without people' would be 'clean multiculturalism'. Think: clean vs. messy. Think: 'clean' warfare.

  2. Yet another expression for this would be 'multiculturalism in the abstract'.

  3. OTOH, cultural differences (and multiculturalism) ARE abstractions.

  4. How about a combination (cocktail) of xenophilia (love of the exotic) and misanthropy? Yes sir. I'm totally guilty of that one...

  5. Being there, even through the agency of an electronic pulse, is more exciting and interesting for us than 'the other' being here. Can we attribute this to our (male) desire to impregnate 'the other' with ourselves, rather than having 'the other' impregnate us?


So Little Time, So Much To Do

I worked well into the wee hours last night developing a Frontier template to publish a 'compleat' catalog of the sculpture that I've being doing for the last 14 years. I'm not satisfied with it yet, and as I must still digitize a lot of slides and photographs, I expect it will be a while before you see it here on Alamut.

Another pressing Alamut task is the 'Wageningen - St(*)boretum correspondence' which I've promised Trudy van Riemsdijk to prepare and publish. This correspondence took place between Mike Tyler, davidkremers, Jouke Kleerebezem and myself between 1997 and 1998. It consists of over 500 email messages which need to be edited, threaded, and generally cleaned up. I've been looking at using cascading style sheets to keep the whole thing manageable.

The 'Rest' of the Day

... I'll be offline. Tons-of-stuff-to-do. I've got a mountain of errands and phone calls awaiting my attention this morning. This afternoon I'm off to a symposium at the Paviljoens in Almere. Entitled 'The Experience of Public Space', the symposium has been organized by Esther Agricola as part of the 'Private Room Public Space' exhibition in which I'm currently taking part. This evening I'll visit Bruno Felix and Femke Wolting for dinner.


This week Honeyguide pointed to a Washington Post article (external link) discussing the effect of the immune system on our emotions. While it is generally acknowledged that our psychological state influences the effectiveness of our immune system*, there is new evidence that our immunological state reciprocally effects our psychological and emotional states. Interesting news for allergy sufferers...

*See: Martin, Paul. The Sickening Mind, brain, behaviour, immunity and disease. 1997.

Form and Content IV

This in from Jouke:

...And let me know what you think. Form-and-Content wise. (who really opened my eyes on that age-old subject is Witold Gombrowicz, to him form is creation, but in its extremities, against life; the artist being the only one to be so surprised by form´s ambiguity that he takes it damn seriously and spends his life battling it, forming, creating.

I do not do any justice to Gombrowicz´s sophisticated ideas on form. Read his diaries or the excellent talks with Dominique de Roux (in Dutch published with Atheneum, ´Gesprekken met Witold Gombrowicz´, in 1970, ISBN 90 253 3024 x.

I suppose form can be mapped to materiality and content mapped to spirit or meaning. But as far as I'm concerned form is simply pattern. We communicate through pattern not through content. So what's the content for? As McLuhan put it, the content is...

... a lulling distraction needed to enable the structural form to get through the barriers of conscious attention.


No update today. Busy bookkeeping and cleaning up around the office. Sigh...


T'was Brillig

and the slively toves,
did gyre and gimble in the wabe...

So THAT was what that helipcopter was doing, flying over my house late Sunday evening. I stayed at home all day yesterday so was quite surprised when Loes called last night to tell me that Feijenoord (football) supporters had rioted in the center of Rotterdam Sunday after the championship celebrations. (Championship? I didn't even know that they had won anything...)

Checking the online editions of the Dutch newspapers this morning, I see that the 'fans' were good for widespread looting and plundering, for between 5 and 10 million guilders damage and that a few shot at the police, who shot back...

Interestingly, the police (727 strong!) say that the riot was planned a priori and then coordinated while in progress by GSM telephone.


Life During Wartime Chat. For a blow by blow, minute to minute email 'commentary' on what is happening on the ground in Yugoslavia click here (external link).

15:48 CELJE - 4 idiots are flying towards you, they are not very high up (ca 3000-4000m). GOOD LUCK, Yugoslavia!!!

20:17 LJUBLJANA - planes are flying over again, they are terribly loud and there are many of them. One more thing: Slovenian TV news, correspondent from Skopje, confirms shooting down of the fascist's plane 40km from Skopje. Bravo PVO. HOLD OUT, YUGOSLAVIA, DON`T LET THEM CONQUER YOU.

01:03 From New Belgrade, block 61, I see a big fire in the direction of Banovo Brdo and Kosutnjak. I cannot determine what it is.

01:19 STIP (eastern Macedonia) - The monsters are flying high up over Stip. I cannot determine their direction. Take care Yugoslavia, I love you!


I've been reading Bateson today, trying to understand the dynamics of what he calls 'schismogenesis', which can be defined as a situation in which 'oppositions are dialectically heightened until the system breaks down'. Bateson saw schismogenesis as an inherent tendency in all human interaction/interactivity (even to the point of considering 'falling in love' as schismogenesis with 'the signs reversed').


Slashdot has just pointed to a new palm pilot shorthand which is vaunted as being several times faster than graffiti. Good! I've been frustrated by the speed of graffiti, which can nowhere equal the speed and pleasure of touch typing on my powerbook G3's scissor-action keyboard. Quikwriting has been developed by someone at NYU's media research lab (external link).


More Realtime War Chat

left: Jasper Johns. Target with four faces. 1955.

right: Target logo from 1999.

The messages posted at last night for the four minutes between: 22:40 - 22:44.


22:40 PVO fighting vehemently around Belgrade.

22:40 Avala has just been hit and PVO is still thundering!

22:40 They are flying over Subotica towards south. They are making more noise than before.

22:40 A couple of planes flew over Nis. We haven`t heard any activity of the planes or PVO, but since then we have no programs of RTS and PINK.

22:41 Strong detonations heard in Pancevo, planes heard, we still don`t know what it is...

22:43 The tower on Avala is gone!!!!!!!!!!!!

22:44 Terrible noise of planes above Zrenjanin, I`m afraid Novi Sad will be their target again. Take care...

Legend: PVO = Serbian air defence. RTS = Serbian state television. Alvala = transmission tower.

And here's the messages posted this morning covering the 28 minutes between: 04:24 - 04:52.

04:24 BEOGRAD - it has calmed down. The damages are tremendous. It is hard to estimate because of the smoke. It looks like the worst is in Knez Milos Street and Sarajevska, a lot of rubble, bricks, shaterred glass. The windows are broken on every building... there are casualties and injured, the firemen and others retreated, because another attack strike is expected... The breathing is almost impossible, there are indications that the criminals used missiles with the depleted uranuim in this attack...

04:25 Confirmation for the location at Crveni Krst, just near the Milica Pasic elementary school, a missile struck a residential area. It looks like a bar and a restaurant, just near the car service, unfortunately casualties are likely.

04:35 To hell with the rain. It barely sprinkled and it stopped. At least it's cloudy. RTS is back on the air in Nis. The rains starts again. For the Nislians and others who can watch this channel on TV Belle Amie is "the brave heart"... associative huh?... f**k the rains stops again. Hold on!!!

04:52 A friend who lives at the corner of Cerska and Vardarska (Cubura) sent the following message. At the time of attack we were talking on the phone:
There is no more Vardarska. Report to The corner of Maruliceva and Vardarska and Maksima Gorkog and Maruliceva. We pulled one woman from the rubble. A man was thrown out from a house with a broken arm.

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