April 25, 2009


Category: Uncategorized — Biella @ 7:43 pm

anthropologist, originally uploaded by the biella.

So for years and years and years I assumed this photo was taken by a good friend of mine (and we sill think it may be) but we can’t totally verify if it is his as he lost all his old photos after a server hack-in.

Do you recognize this photo? Do you have photos from this Free Dmitry protest (August 2008, in front of the San Francisco Prosecutors office) that would share for an academic publication on this topic???


What We Know So Far

Category: Academic,Aesthetics,Events — Biella @ 6:45 am

So, when I like something, I tend to yap about it for weeks and weeks. Take Icelandic Yogurt, for example. After re-discovering it a month ago, I went on a mini-binge (not a mega as it is too expensive) and spread the word to anyone who would listen. The stuff, especially with fun flavors like ginger and orange, just made my morning.

Another fine fine thing out there is the performance group What We Know So Far who give performance-based lectures that mix intellectual insight with artistic flair. They put us regular academics to shame who are a bit more staid, to put it mildly. After seeing them a few weeks ago at the 3rd Ward, I snagged them to give a version of their A-mazing talk on Memes in my class and am organizing a much larger event at NYU for the fall of 2009.

This is a sort of long winded way of announcing their up and coming show on April 27th the Hannah Complex, which entertains, among other topics, the nature of common sense: “Can there be more than one common sense?” they ask on their site.

And I can’t wait to hear the answer as this is a recurrent topic that anthropologists like to entertain. And in fact one of my favorite essays to teach is on this topic, Clifford Geertz “Common Sense as Cultural System,” a short excerpt which I found here and below is his thesis in a nutshell:

There are a number of reasons why treating common sense as a relatively organized body of considered thought, rather than just what anyone clothed and in his right mind knows, should lead on to some useful conclusions; but perhaps the most important is that it is an inherent characteristic of common-sense thought precisely to deny this and to affirm that its tenets are immediate deliverances of experience, not deliberated reflections upon it. Knowing that rain wets and that one ought to come in out of it, or that fire burns and one ought not to play with it (to stick to our own culture for the moment) are conflated into comprising one large realm of the given and undeniable, a catalog of in-the-grain-of-nature realities so peremptory as to force themselves upon any mind sufficiently unclouded to receive them. Yet this is clearly not so. No one, or no one functioning very well, doubts that rain wets; but there may be some people around who question the proposition that one ought to come in out of it, holding that it is good for one’s character to brave the elements—hatlessness is next to godliness. And the attractions of playing with fire often, with some people usually, override the full recognition of the pain that will result. Religion rests its case on revelation, science on method, ideology on moral passion; but common sense rests its on the assertion that it is not a case at all, just life in a nutshell. The world is its authority.

Wikipedia Art

Category: IP Law,Politics — Biella @ 5:15 am

This is a website kick started by artists who are collecting performance pieces critical of (and perhaps also commenting on) this pretty famous site, who is unhappy that the art project incorporates their name into their webpage. Here is some more official commentary from the EFF who is supporting the artists.

April 23, 2009

World Copyright Day

Category: Uncategorized — Biella @ 6:47 pm

Is today?!$

Viral Videos

Category: Humor,Internet,Memes — Biella @ 11:46 am

I am sure many have seen this video pirates. drugs. gay marriage and I think it speaks for itself. But I have to say, this video caught be off guard early this morning when I am first exposed to the day’s viral videos, memes, and other savory and unsavory delights. Though I have been consuming and digesting this stuff for awhile now, I am still amazed by the craziness, creativity, outrageousness (often offense) that circulates every day, without fail, on the internets.

Most of the stuff, even if pretty low brow can be said to be artistic in one classical sense of art: ”l’art pour l’art”, with the aesthetics being focused on some combination of shock, irony, and humor.

But how about the political activists? They are not dipping into this genre enough and it’s high time they use start using these tactics/viral videos to shock/shame their opponents, using the sugar coating of humor and raw audacity to spread their message.

April 21, 2009

They keep on coming

There are two topics that seem to receive a steady stream of comments on this blog. My entry on Edmonton garners a smattering of comments every few months, usually giving E-town a huge thumbs down. The other entry concerns my tribulations with BCBS and here I receive a steady stream of sad stories all of which point to the horrors caused by some branch of BCBS such as my least favorite one Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ.

Along with the comment posted above, I got this one asking me to reveal the email address of the PR director of BCBS NJ. In the past I advised folks to google it to find it. But I just tried and it is actually a bit harder to find and I wonder if I should post to one of the many press releases that exist on the web with this information?

I hope thats some with some sort of time and lots of anger (toward BCBS) to start a website specifically geared toward and against BCBS. Call it Blue Cross No Shield (I think I actually own that and am pretty proud of the name) or something of that nature and throw up some blog and post horror stories in the style of the consumerist. There will be no shortage of them, especially if the blog is national in scope.

Get a mailing list going and start a fax campaign among many others. Share contact information about public relations directors and Other People in Power, tips and advice on fighting them, and perhaps even move to the next level of organizing.

I am not sure writing this here will do anything to inspire other and I would love to do this sort of rabble rousing as I get immense pleasure from doing so. But I simply am in the red when it comes to time. But I hope that some of the folks that have posted comments on this blog take the initiative to start a larger campaign (or someone can point me to an exisitng one).

update: Now that I think of it, The Consumerist should really take up this cause and devote a section JUST to health insurance. They are already a brand name of sorts with lots of eyeballs on the site, everyday.

Pirate Bay Defendants Convicted

Category: Piracy — Biella @ 6:05 pm

Alan Toner has written an overview of the Pirate Bay convictions. Well worth a read if you are interested in these developments. And of course, anon can’t stay away from a good party so they are making some of their own waves as well.

Wintercamp Videos

Category: Academic,Events,Politics — Biella @ 4:57 am

A little over a month ago, I went to Amsterdam to participate in Wintercamp, an event that brought together various networked groups, from free software projects to human rights groups. We spent a chunk of time interviewing participants from these groups about the nature of organizing (and unorganizing ) and the high quality videos are now up. If you are interested in either learning about the groups there or in more meta issues (about the growth, life, rebirth, and at times death of networked organizations), these videos may be an interesting watch.

April 20, 2009

Medieval Communication

Category: Academic — Biella @ 2:18 pm

Doesn’t this class look great??

Department of History



Professor Brigitte M. Bedos-Rezak

Medieval circumstances presented multiple challenges to media, mobility, and communication. Cultivators were bound to the land and monks to their monasteries; pilgrims traveled to holy places, crusaders and warriors invaded and then settled foreign lands, rulers and nobles were frequently itinerant. Literacy was largely limited to Latin, and possessed principally by churchmen and nuns so the transmission of ideas occurred mainly through the spoken vernacular word, and by means of gestures, images, and the manipulation of symbolic objects (thus, for instance, the relics of saints were carried to distant lands to collect alms, to recover possessions appropriated by nobles, or to aid in battle).

While seas, rivers, ports, networks of roads provided with rest houses, ferries and bridges, were generally available, routes and means of transportation selected differed markedly according to the traveler’s status and the journey’s purpose. Christianity stimulated pilgrimages, missions to convert the heathen, and crusades. Marriage took brides to foreign courts where they served as cultural ambassadors. Medieval kings and great nobles were continually on the road, changing their abode every two or three days. Lesser officials and messengers traveled on government business. Knights sought out tourneys and distant wars to advance their fortunes and reputations. Merchants and carriers transported goods to regional fairs, and engaged in international trade. Minstrels, jongleurs, and troubadours traveled to gain patronage and to extend their repertoire, spreading news and influencing the reputations of warriors, heroes, and kings. Students too journeyed extensively from place to place in order to sit at the feet of famous masters; some wandering scholars came to be known as Goliards. Artists were invited to decorate manuscripts and architects to erect buildings.
The pursuit of favorable opinion became an essential feature in the process of state-building during the Middle Ages. Those who challenged traditional norms also came to rely on the efficiency of communicative systems to expand their ranks with adherents. Through the use of propaganda, medieval society experimented with such forms and methods of communication as symbols, stereotypes, and slogans, thus elaborating features of communication which, however modified, are still in use today.

A name

Category: Humor — Biella @ 2:05 pm

An oldie but goodie. I certainly enjoy watching students squirm their way into naming me.