Towards a politicisation of Hello Kitty: a first look what's involved :-)

I Have No Mouth but I Must Scream – The New Inquiry:
"Why doesn’t Hello Kitty have a mouth? Is its absence more than an expedient, minimalist design choice? And does her lack of a mouth necessarily translate into the absence of a voice, as the arguments tend to go? The first Hello Kitty product, after all, was a coin purse with HELLO printed in block capitals over an image of Kitty; her name is her form, and it is speech.

Most political engagements with Hello Kitty have taken the mouthlessness issue as their impetus. They generally, through subversion or perversion, ironize Hello Kitty’s apparent inability to speak, suggesting her lack of expression is being upheld as a model, particularly for the young Asian girls who form Hello Kitty’s immediate target audience. A woman’s value, this particular feminine feline’s lack of mouth seems to say, is contingent on her voicelessness."
What I find interesting is that the whole corpus of modern Literary Theory & cultural studies etc. is normally applied to works of high literature etc. As I understand it, once, applying theory to "contemporary" cultural artifacts was seen as avant-guarde and radical. Now, one could argue that it is these artifacts that need more thought than ever applied to them.


How we ignore the long-term effects of violence on children, adults and our communities

“I See Everything Through This Tragedy” | The Interrupters | FRONTLINE | PBS
"At 10:45 on the night of March 13, 2009, Rodney Orange waited for his 14-year-old grandson, Gregory Robinson, to arrive home. Gregory had been at a high school basketball game, and as the car he rode in pulled up outside the house, Mr. Orange heard the sound of semi-automatic weapons. He remembers two distinct sounds of gunfire, suggesting there were two shooters. More than 50 shots were fired. He rushed to the car. Gregory had been sitting in the backseat and had thrown his body on top of his two younger cousins, one five years old, the other nine months. He saved their lives. Gregory was shot in the back."
The site for the film mentioned, is here: The Interrupters.


How to Read a Poem, by Terry Eagleton

I thought this book would be good to read since I knew very little about poetry; in many ways I still do, but I think I've been made more aware of the nature of poetry itself.

One might think this would be a rather simple book - I did, not knowing that Eagleton is a literary theorist and critic of some stature. The book is actually about modern literary theory applied to poetry, and is pretty densely packed. Given what I now know of Eagleton, it's not surprising that there's a fair dollop of politics too. This seems reasonable if one believes as he seems to, that all culture is political and all politics is cultural. Now and again his Marxist-Christian colours show through rather vividly, and this is no bad thing.

The book, for all it's intellectual heft, is very well-written and has a wonderfully discursive, conversational lilt to it. It was a real pleasure to read, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in enriching their reading experience.

The Islamist, by Ed Husain

I read this book having thought a long time ago "that sounds interesting", and it was. What strikes me is how modern the roots of Islamic extremism are compared to traditional Islam as practised for hundreds of years in many different cultures.

The book is essentially a circular, growing-up narrative of rejections and turning-aways, first from traditional Islam, then from modern fundamentalism, following the murder of a student; and then a turning back to traditional Islam again.

Husain now works at the CFR in New York on Middle-Eastern studies.

Does globalisation make it harder for us to avoid confronting the moral consequences of our lifestyles?

rc3.org - Our moral complicity in China’s working conditions:
"Lately, working conditions in Chinese factories that produce consumer electronics that we all use and love have gotten a lot of press. Mike Daisey has been touring and presenting a one man show, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, on this subject. Portions of it were recently aired on This American Life. Perhaps not coincidentally, the New York TImes published an exposé on Foxconn last month that looked into the poor pay, unlawfully long hours, and dangerous work conditions at the company’s factories.

I’ve been following the subsequent debate. Tech pundit and Apple fan David Pogue responds with what is largely a straw-man filled argument about the price of electronics doubling and the fact that all companies use these factories, not just Apple. Mike Daisey responds ably.

I want to talk about two aspects of it, though. One is the scope of the problem, and the other is the fairness of singling Apple out. As the article points out, Apple is not the only electronics company that manufactures its products in China. Almost everyone does. And of course, we’re only talking about electronics manufacturers. What are working conditions like at Chinese tire factories? Or toy factories? Or the factories where they make buttons for shirts? The story is the same across industry in China, if not worse."

Debt: the first 5000 years: two reviews

The book comes highly recommended, and there are two reviews, one in Guernica and one in The New Inquiry, both of which are apparently very well-written.


A reminder that todays capitalism has lost its mission:

Hudson: The Neo-Rentier Economy:
"What is called “capitalism” is best understood as a series of stages. Industrial Capitalism has given way to Finance Capitalism, which in turn has passed through Pension-Fund Capitalism since the 1950s, and a U.S.-centered Monetary Imperialism since 1971 when fiat dollar creation (mainly to finance U.S. global military spending) became the world’s monetary base. Fiat dollar credit made possible the Bubble Economy after 1980, and its sub-stage of Casino Capitalism. These were economically radioactive decay stages that resolved into Debt Deflation after 2008 and now are settling into a leaden Debt Peonage and the austerity of Neo-Serfdom."