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29 AUGUST 2017

On the Passage of a few People through a Rather Brief Moment in Time: The Situationist International 1956-1972

"The Situationist International (SI) was an international organization of social revolutionaries, the exclusive membership of which was made up of avant-garde artists, intellectuals, and political theorists, active from its formation in 1957 to its dissolution in 1972.

The intellectual foundations of the Situationist International were derived primarily from anti-authoritarian Marxism and the avant-garde art movements of the early 20th century, particularly Dada and Surrealism. Overall, situationist theory represented an attempt to synthesize this diverse field of theoretical disciplines into a modern and comprehensive critique of mid-20th century advanced capitalism. The situationists recognized that capitalism had changed since Marx's formative writings, but maintained that his analysis of the capitalist mode of production remained fundamentally correct; they rearticulated and expanded upon several classical Marxist concepts, such as his theory of alienation. In their expanded interpretation of Marxist theory, the situationists asserted that the misery of social alienation and commodity fetishism were no longer limited to the fundamental components of capitalist society, but had now in advanced capitalism spread themselves to every aspect of life and culture. They resolutely rejected the idea that advanced capitalism's apparent successes—such as technological advancement, increased income, and increased leisure—could ever outweigh the social dysfunction and degradation of everyday life that it simultaneously inflicted.

Essential to situationist theory was the concept of the spectacle, a unified critique of advanced capitalism of which a primary concern was the progressively increasing tendency towards the expression and mediation of social relations through objects. The situationists believed that the shift from individual expression through directly lived experiences, or the first-hand fulfillment of authentic desires, to individual expression by proxy through the exchange or consumption of commodities, or passive second-hand alienation, inflicted significant and far-reaching damage to the quality of human life for both individuals and society. Another important concept of situationist theory was the primary means of counteracting the spectacle; the construction of situations, moments of life deliberately constructed for the purpose of reawakening and pursuing authentic desires, experiencing the feeling of life and adventure, and the liberation of everyday life.

When the Situationist International was first formed, it had a predominantly artistic focus; emphasis was placed on concepts like unitary urbanism and psychogeography. Gradually, however, that focus shifted more towards revolutionary and political theory. The Situationist International reached the apex of its creative output and influence in 1967 and 1968, with the former marking the publication of the two most significant texts of the situationist movement, The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord and The Revolution of Everyday Life by Raoul Vaneigem. The expressed writing and political theory of the two aforementioned texts, along with other situationist publications, proved greatly influential in shaping the ideas behind the May 1968 insurrections in France; quotes, phrases, and slogans from situationist texts and publications were ubiquitous on posters and graffiti throughout France during the uprisings."

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TAGS

195719721989 • advanced capitalism • anti-authoritarianart movement • authentic desires • avant-garde art • Branka Bogdanov • capitalist societycommodity fetishism • commodity spectacle • consumer societyconsumerism • consumption of commodities • Dadadegradationdetournement • directly lived experiences • documentary filmearly 20th centuryeveryday life • exchange of commodities • expression and mediation of social relations through objects • feeling of adventure • feeling of life • first-hand fulfillment of authentic desires • graffiti • Greil Marcus • Guy Debord • individual expression by proxy • Jamie Reid • liberation of everyday life • Malcolm Mac Laren • Marxism • Marxist concepts • Marxist theory • May 1968 • means of production • mid-20th century advanced capitalism • mode of production • moments of life • political theorists • political theorypsychogeography • Raoul Vaneigem • reawakening • revolutionary theory • second-hand alienation • Situationist International • situationist movement • situationist theory • situations • slogan • social alienation • social dysfunction • social relations • social revolutionaries • Society of the Spectacle (Guy Debord)spectaclesurrealism • The Revolution of Everyday Life (1967) • theory of alienation • Thomas Levine • UbuWeb • unified critique • unitary urbanism • video documentary

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
09 JANUARY 2013

Roberto Busa and the Invention of the Machine-Generated Concord

"This is a story from early in the technological revolution, when the application was out searching for the hardware, from a time before the Internet, a time before the PC, before the chip, before the mainframe. From a time even before programming itself.

Tasman's 1957 prophecy was no shot in the dark. His view of the future was a projection from his recent past. Thomas J. Watson, Sr. had assigned him in 1949 to be IBM liaison and support person for a young Jesuit's daring project to produce an index to the complete writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. First, Tasman's thesis, as subsequent history turned out, was a huge understatement; and second, it essentially defines the first large invention of Father Roberto Busa, S. J., namely, to look at 'tools developed primarily for science and commerce' and to see other uses for them. As will be seen, this was a case of fortune favoring the prepared mind. Redirecting scholarship, he essentially invented the machine–generated concordance, the first of which he had published in 1951.

Father Busa, of course, is best known as the producer of the landmark 56–volume Index Thomisticus. As he began this work in 1946, and produced a sample proof–of–concept, machine–generated concordance in 1951, his professional life spans the entire computing chapter in the history of scholarship. Emphasis in this article will be on the early steps."

(Thomas Nelson Winter, January 1999)

Published in The Classical Bulletin 75:1 (1999), pp. 3–20. Copyright © 1999 Bolchazy–Carducci Publishers, Inc.

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TAGS

1946194919511957 • analytical indexes • automatically analysing • automatically indexing • computing • concordance • concordances • Dead Sea Scrolls • electronic data processing machine • fortune favouring the prepared mind • history of computinghistory of scholarshipIBM • IBM 705 • Index Thomisticus • indexing • International Business Machines Corporation • literary data processing • machine-generated concordance • Paul Tasman • printed works • proof of concept • prophecy • punch cardspunched-card system • rapid compilation • Roberto Busa • science and commerce • St Thomas Aquinas • Summa Theologica of St Thomas Aquinas • technological revolution • Thomas Nelson Winter • Thomas Watson • tools developed for science and commerce

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
12 MARCH 2012

Wild Strawberries: expressionistic and Freudian dream sequences

"There are other Expressionist and certainly Freudian dream sequences in the picture, almost always with the old man appearing in them as his present self. And some of these, largely because so many have badly copied, now look a little self–conscious– arty even. But the film's ability to engage the emotions makes it notable for more than just technique.

One of the prime reasons is what can only be described as the transcendent performance of Victor Sjostrom as Professor Borg. Sjostrom was the great Swedish silent–era director, who died aged 80, not long after the film was completed and whose The Phantom Carriage had so influenced Bergman. It was he who made the final scene one of the most serene of all Bergman's endings. 'Sjostrom's face shone', said the director. 'It emanated light – a reflection of a different reality, hitherto absent. His whole appearance was soft and gentle, his glance joyful and tender. It was like a miracle'.

Later, Bergman admitted that the character of Borg was an attempt to justify himself to his own parents, but that Sjostrom had taken his text, made it his own and invested it with Sjostrom's often painful experiences. It is still, however, chiefly concerned with forgiveness between parents and children and the lost possibilities of youth."

(Derek Malcolm, 10 June 1999)

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1957 • carriage • clockcoffincorpsedeathdreamdream sequenceexpressionism • expressionist • expressionisticfilmfilm-maker • forgiveness • Freudian • hearse • in the mindIngmar Bergman • lamppost • lucid dreaming • Lund • medical scientist • mysteriousnightmareold manpainful experiencesphantompsychology • redemption • silent-era • somnambulistStockholmSwedishSwedish filmmaker • Victor Sjostrom • visual metaphorvisual spectaclewheelWild Strawberries (1957)

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
14 FEBRUARY 2012

A is for Atom: atomic giants released from within the atom's heart

"Although the 'Atoms for Peace' campaign was formally launched in 1957, corporate America began to promote peaceful uses of atomic energy as early as the first few months after Hiroshima. A Is For Atom, an artifact of this effort, takes this highly loaded and threatening issue straight to the public in an attempt to 'humanize' the figure of the atom.

A Is For Atom speaks of five atomic 'giants' which 'man has released from within the atom's heart': the warrior and destroyer, the farmer, the healer, the engineer and the research worker. Each is pictured as a majestic, shimmering outline figure towering over the earth. 'But all are within man's power – subject to his command,' says the narrator reassuringly, and our future depends 'on man's wisdom, on his firmness in the use of that power.'

General Electric, a long–time manufacturer of electric appliances, power generation plants, and nuclear weapon components, is staking a claim here, asserting their interest in managing and exploiting this new and bewildering technology. Its pitch: this is powerful, frightening, near–apocalyptic technology, but managed with firmness, it can be profitable and promising. This 'Trust us with the control of technology, and we'll give you progress without end' pitch resembles what we've seen in films like General Motors' To New Horizons (on the Ephemeral Films disc). But the automobile, of course, wasn't a weapon of mass destruction.

In its first two years of release, A Is For Atom was seen by over seven million people in this version and a shortened ten–minute theatrical cut. In 1953 it won first prizes in both the Columbus (Ohio) and Turin (Italy) Film Festivals, the Freedoms Foundation Award, an 'oscar' from the Cleveland Film Festival, and a Merit Award from Scholastic Teacher. In 1954 it won first prize in the Stamford Film Festival, a Golden Reel Award from the American Film Assembly, and a second Grand Award from the Venice Film Festival. The film was remade in the mid–sixties and is still available for rental.

Like other John Sutherland films, A Is For Atom presents a portentious message in a visually delightful and often self–deprecating manner. 'Element Town' and its quirky inhabitants, including hyped–up Radium and somnolent Lead, is unforgettable, and the animated chain reaction manages to avoid any suggestion of nuclear fear."

(Internet Archive)

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19572D • A is for Atom • animated presentationanimationapocalypticatomatomic energy • atomic giants • Atoms for Peace • automobilechain reactioncorporate America • destroyer • eduction campaign • electric appliances • electricity • electricty • Element Town • engineer • Ephemeral Films • farmer • future • General Electric • General Motorsgiant • healer • Hiroshima • humanise • Internet Archive • John Sutherland • lead • mass destructionnew horizonsnuclear fearnuclear weapon • portentious • power • power generation • progresspropaganda • radium • science • Sutherland Productions • technologytrusturaniumvisual representations of scientific concepts • visually delightful • warrior

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
12 FEBRUARY 2012

John Sturges: Gunfight at the O. K. Corral

"John Sturges is a rather curious case in Hollywood history: a director responsible for a trio of extremely famous films, films whose titles have all but entered the language (Gunfight at the OK Corral, The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape) but with whose own name only specialists are conversant."

(The Independent, 24 August 1992)

Fig.1 Intro to "Gunfight at the O. K. Corral" by John Sturges starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. Soundtrack "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral", lyrics by Ned Washington, music by Dimitri Tiomkin, performed by Frankie Laine: Ok corral ok corral; there the outlaw band make their final stand; ok corral; oh my dearest one must die; lay down my gun or take the chance of losing you forever; duty calls; my backs against the wall; have you no kind word to say; before i ride away; away; Your love your love; i need; your love; Keep the flame let it burn; until i return; from the gunfight at ok corral; if the lord is my friend; we'll meet at the end; Of the gunfight at ok corral; gunfight at ok corral; Boot hill Boot hill; so cold so still; There they lay side by side; the killers that died; in the gunfight at ok corral; ok corral; gunfight at ok corral.

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TAGS

1910 • 19571992anonymityapprenticeship • Boot Hill • Burt Lancaster • classic western • corral • Dimitri Tiomkin • feature filmfilmfilm directorfilm studiesfilms • Frankie Laine • good company man • gunfight • Gunfight at the OK Corral • gunfighterHollywood • honour • honourable • John Sturges • Kirk Douglas • Leonard Maltin • masculinity • movie director • Ned Washington • obituarypassed away • prolific career • recognition • RKO • salarymanscreenplayscript • studio man • studio system • The Great Escape • The Magnificent Sevenwestern film genre

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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