Chomsky says…

“Generally speaking, it seems fair to say that the richer the intellectual substance of the field, the less concern there is for credentials, and the greater is the concern for content” (1979)

MC Hammer gets political…

I have contradictory views about MC Hammer.  Being a lover of Hip-Hop, I found his pop-hop far too cheesy at the time and still do, at least when I’m not overcome by nostalgia.  On the other hand I respect the very open way in which he discusses his faith in a popular music culture that doesn’t deal very well with issues of meaning and honesty.

His blog is here and well worth a look.  Interestingly, he has recorded an anti-war track and posted the video up online – check it out by scrolling down his posts or by watching the youtube video below:

I’m more than willing to suspend my pop-hop cynycism for a rapper who is prepared to take on pro-war popular culture in the US.   I’m not sure whether that would translate into buying a re-release of ‘Please Hammer don’t hurt ’em!’ , but I’d support this single with my cash.

American arms company may run next UK census

As the government extends its belief in the market and strives to reduce public spending at all costs, it is contracting out the job of running the next UK census in 2011.

There are two companies that have been shortlisted to run the census.  One of them is US firm Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest arms manufacturing company.  They also carry out intelligence and surveillance work and are proud of their ability to combine information from a range of data sources around the world.  Obviously, being a US military company, they have all kinds of links to ongoing US overseas wars and actions, overt and covert.

The same company won the contract for the last Canadian census.  A nationwide campaign failed to stop them from carrying out the survey, but it did win the victory of ensuring that only government civil servants, and not private contractors, could handle the data that the census produced.

You can sign a petition here on the 10 Downing Street website to protest against this state of affairs.  For more information go here to read about a campaign on this issue and here to see Lockheed Martin’s website.

Pilgrimage Guantanamo

A friend of ours is planning to walk from Rochester to Canterbury cathedral, in order to raise awareness and funds for Reprive.  Reprive is Clive Stafford Smith’s charity, which offers free legal representation to prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and also on Death Row in the US. 

You can go to our friend’s blog here to find out the details of what she is planning to do and when, and also to get a link to her online, secure sponsor form.

Ring Road Aesthetics

In my hometown of Ashford, Kent at the moment there is a big public art program running alongside the redevelopment of the town centre.   This has attracted the kind of small-town criticism that I assume it was partly designed to provoke and has involved a number of interesting artists, doing all kinds of things that you can read about here. The Daily Mail newspaper did try run a story on the project, but luckily that fizzled out before they had a chance to develop a ‘political correctness gone mad’ or Princess Di angle.

Whilst the vast majority of the criticisms levelled against this scheme have been along the lines of ‘why spend the money on art when you could spend it on schools / hospitals/ bus stops / arresting young people’, there has been very little public engagement with the content or quality of the art involved.  These pictures are of  a building that has been covered in paper (perhaps a little derivative in 2007?) and then made into a giant canvas for graffiti artists.  In principle, I think this was a great idea.  It is in a prominent location on the town’s ring road and opposite the train station.  Potentially it offered a ‘way in’ to the scheme for lots of young people and was participatory in nature – all these things go in it’s favour.  My problem with this is that the final product is so bad.  Given a wall this size, why turn it into a giant tag?  There are plenty of artists out there working in this style who are producing work that is about more than its creator (have a look at this as a high-profile example) and that respond in a more meaningful way to the building and its environment.  It is definitely a wonderful thing to have art in the public realm in a place like Ashford, where aesthetic considerations have always been way down the planning and development list, but the fact that is its public shouldn’t be an excuse for a lack of discussion based on judgements of quality.

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Public Art - Ashford Ring Road 2