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05 OCTOBER 2014

The Man with the Beautiful Eyes: life lessons in childhood

"Charles Bukowski was a creature of perplexity and paradox, oscillating between romantic pessimism and luminous wisdom on the meaning of life, propelled by an outrageous daily routine. His expressive poems explored everything from the myths of creativity to his 'friendly advice' to young men.

In 1999, British animator Jonathan Hodgson and illustrator Jonny Hannah teamed up on a breathtaking animated adaptation of Bukowski's 1992 poem 'the man with the beautiful eyes' from his final and arguably best poetry collection, The Last Night of the Earth Poems."

(Maria Popova, Brain Pickings)

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199219992D animationabandoned houseallegoryanimatorbamboo • beautiful eyes • Brain Pickings (blog) • bright eyes • Charles Bukowski • childhood imagination • cigar • fearfear of the unknownfish pond • goldfish • hand-drawn animationhand-painted stop motion animationillustrative styleillustrator • Jonathan Bairstow • Jonathan Hodgson • Jonny Hannah • life lessons • Louis Schendler • meaning of life • Peter Blegvad • poempoetpoetry • romantic pessimism • Sherbet (production company) • strong and beautiful • Tarzan • The Last Night of the Earth Poems (Charles Bukowski) • The Man with the Beautiful Eyes (1992) • underlying order • unsettling fear • whisky

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
12 MAY 2013

With Enough Data, the Numbers Speak for Themselves...

"Not a chance. The promoters of big data would like us to believe that behind the lines of code and vast databases lie objective and universal insights into patterns of human behavior, be it consumer spending, criminal or terrorist acts, healthy habits, or employee productivity. But many big–data evangelists avoid taking a hard look at the weaknesses. Numbers can't speak for themselves, and data sets –– no matter their scale –– are still objects of human design. The tools of big–data science, such as the Apache Hadoop software framework, do not immunize us from skews, gaps, and faulty assumptions. Those factors are particularly significant when big data tries to reflect the social world we live in, yet we can often be fooled into thinking that the results are somehow more objective than human opinions. Biases and blind spots exist in big data as much as they do in individual perceptions and experiences. Yet there is a problematic belief that bigger data is always better data and that correlation is as good as causation."

(Kate Crawford, 12 May 2013, Foreign Policy)

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Apache Hadoop • biasbig data • big-data science • blind spot • causal relationshipscausationcodecomputer utopianism • consumer spending • criminal actscyberspacedata abstractiondata analysisdata collection and analysisdataset • Foreign Policy (magazine) • globalisationhealthy habitsimplicit informationimplicit meaningInternetinternet utopianism • looking at the numbers • network ecologynetworked society • objects of human design • patterns of human behaviourpatterns of meaningquantified measurementreliability and validityscientific ideas • security intelligence • social world • terrorist acts • Twitterunderlying order • universal insights • universal methoduniversal rationality

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
31 MAY 2011

Adam Curtis: the network ecology myth

"The new series, called All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace, takes complicated ideas and turns them into entertainment by the use of the vertigo–inducing intellectual leaps, choppy archive material and disorienting music with which all Curtis fans are familiar. The central idea leads Curtis on a journey, taking in the chilling über–individualist novelist Ayn Rand, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan, the 'new economy', hippy communes, Silicon Valley, ecology, Richard Dawkins, the wars in Congo, the lonely suicide in a London squat of the mathematical genius who invented the selfish gene theory, and the computer model of the eating habits of the pronghorn antelope.

You can see why Zoe Williams once wrote that, while watching one of Curtis's programmes, 'I kept thinking the dog was sitting on the remote. ...'

Now he has moved on to machines, but it starts with nature. 'In the 1960s, an idea penetrated deep into the public imagination that nature is a self–regulating ecosystem, there is a natural order,' Curtis says. 'The trouble is, it's not true–as many ecologists have shown, nature is never stable, it's always changing. But the idea took root and spread wider–people started to believe there is an underlying order to the entire world, to how society is structured. Everything became part of a system, like a computer; no more hierarchies, freedom for all, no class, no nation states.' What the series shows is how this idea spread into the heart of the modern world, from internet utopianism and dreams of democracy without leaders to visions of a new kind of stable global capitalism run by computers. But we have paid a price for this: without realising it we, and our leaders, have given up the old progressive dreams of changing the world and instead become like managers–seeing ourselves as components in a system, and believing our duty is to help that system balance itself. Indeed, Curtis says, 'The underlying aim of the series is to make people aware that this has happened–and to try to recapture the optimistic potential of politics to change the world.'

The counterculture of the 1960s, the Californian hippies, took up the idea of the network society because they were disillusioned with politics and believed this alternative way of ordering the world was based on some natural order. So they formed communes that were non–hierarchical and self–regulating, disdaining politics and rejecting alliances. (Many of these hippy dropouts later took these ideas mainstream: they became the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who decided that computers could liberate everyone and save the world.)...

He draws a parallel with those 1970s communes. 'The experiments with them all failed, and quickly. What tore them apart was the very thing that was supposed to have been banished: power. Some people were more free than others – strong personalities dominated the weak, but the rules didn't allow any organised opposition to the suppression because that would be politics.' As in the commune, so in the world: 'These are the limitations of the self–organising system: it cannot deal with politics and power. And now we're all disillusioned with politics, and this machine–organising principle has risen up to be the ideology of our age.'"

(Katharine Viner, 6 May 2011, Guardian)

Episode 1: 'All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace: Love and Power', First broadcast BBC Two, 9:00PM Mon, 23 May 2011
Episode 2: 'All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace: The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts', First broadcast BBC Two, 9:00PM Mon, 30 May 2011
Episode 3: 'All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace: The Monkey In The Machine and the Machine in the Monkey', First broadcast BBC Two, 9:00PM Mon, 06 June 2011

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1960s1970sabstract modelabstractionAdam Curtis • Alan Greenspan • All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace • archive footageAyn RandBBC2Bill MurrayblogsCarmen Hermosillochange • commune • computer model • computer utopianism • confessional memoirs • control societyconvergencecounterculturecultural expressioncyberspacedemocracydigital cultureecologyemotions become commodified • Esther Rantzen • evolution • expressions of power • Facebookfreedom • Georgia • global capitalism • hierarchical structures • hierarchies • hierarchy • hippy communes • hippy dropouts • hyper-consumerismideologyideology of the timeindividualisminternet utopianism • Kyrgyzstan • Loren Carpenter • machines • Mayfair Set • mercantilist economy • modern world • natural order • network ecologynetworked societynetworksnon-hierarchical • non-hierarchical societies • orderingPongpopular culture • punchdrunk • reflexive modernisationRichard Dawkinsscientific ideasself-organising systemself-regulating • self-regulating ecosystem • selfish gene theory • Silicon Valleysocial experimentssocial mediasocialist realismsociety • Soviet realism • stability • stable order • Stakhanovites • structuresystems theorytechnology convergencetelevision documentary • TUC • TwitterUkraineunderlying orderunstable • Westminster • White House • Zoe Williams

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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