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The weblog description is a misquotation from Steve Aylett's Indicted to a Party: What to Do, Who to Blame.
 
The weblog title links to the "No Country Redirect" version, for whatever that might be worth.
February 24, 2013
Cultural Capital



... as exemplified by the difference between hipsters and nerds. Via Sociological Images.


Belief System

But what happened to Chaco? It lasted a couple of hundred years and then it was abandoned. There was no manmade environmental catastrophe at Chaco. There was, however, an environmental catastrophe. In fact it was a great drought lasting from 50 to 75 years, about 1130AD to 1180AD. So Chaco was abandoned. People who used to come to Chaco built Chaco-like structures.

What failed at Chaco then? What collapsed? Well, what failed was their belief system. And Pueblo Indians who tell their story today, increasingly to archaeologists who, as a change from their own past, listen to Pueblo Indians talk about their own history...these Pueblo Indians relate how in their past people fell away from the gods, describing Chaco, and thus they abandoned Chaco. In other words, the ritual centralisation which is very foreign to Pueblo Indians today was regarded as an experiment that failed.

After Chaco, new settlements arose, some in imitation of Chaco, but around 1300BC a vast change in the belief system occurred in the south-west. So what failed at Chaco was not only their agricultural system which couldn't survive this big drought, but the belief system that the gods were supposed to make it rain, for example, also failed and a new religious system arose with new material symbols which we can archaeologically identify and securely date, and which have still meaning today to people who live in the south-west.
Norman Yoffee on Questioning Collapse. See also, also.


Safe Hands

Except for those few stones that have been destroyed, every diamond that has been found and cut into a jewel still exists today and is literally in the public's hands. Some hundred million women wear diamonds, while millions of others keep them in safe-deposit boxes or strongboxes as family heirlooms. It is conservatively estimated that the public holds more than 500 million carats of gem diamonds, which is more than fifty times the number of gem diamonds produced by the diamond cartel in any given year. Since the quantity of diamonds needed for engagement rings and other jewelry each year is satisfied by the production from the world's mines, this half-billion-carat supply of diamonds must be prevented from ever being put on the market. The moment a significant portion of the public begins selling diamonds from this inventory, the price of diamonds cannot be sustained. For the diamond invention to survive, the public must be inhibited from ever parting with its diamonds.

In developing a strategy for De Beers in 1953, N. W. Ayer said: "In our opinion old diamonds are in 'safe hands' only when widely dispersed and held by individuals as cherished possessions valued far above their market price." As far as De Beers and N. W. Ayer were concerned, "safe hands" belonged to those women psychologically conditioned never to sell their diamonds. This conditioning could not be attained solely by placing advertisements in magazines. The diamond-holding public, which includes people who inherit diamonds, had to remain convinced that diamonds retained their monetary value. If it saw price fluctuations in the diamond market and attempted to dispose of diamonds to take advantage of changing prices, the retail market would become chaotic. It was therefore essential that De Beers maintain at least the illusion of price stability.
- Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?, via Slate.


Reserve

To guarantee their soundness, all major banks are required to keep a certain amount of reserve cash at the Fed. In years past, that money didn't earn interest, for the logical reason that banks shouldn't get paid to stay solvent. But in 2006 – arguing that banks were losing profits on cash parked at the Fed – regulators agreed to make small interest payments on the money. The move wasn't set to go into effect until 2011, but when the crash hit, a section was written into TARP that launched the interest payments in October 2008.

In theory, there should never be much money in such reserve accounts, because any halfway-competent bank could make far more money lending the cash out than parking it at the Fed, where it earns a measly quarter of a percent. In August 2008, before the bailout began, there were just $2 billion in excess reserves at the Fed. But by that October, the number had ballooned to $267 billion – and by January 2009, it had grown to $843 billion. That means there was suddenly more money sitting uselessly in Fed accounts than Congress had approved for either the TARP bailout or the much-loathed Obama stimulus. Instead of lending their new cash to struggling homeowners and small businesses, as Summers had promised, the banks were literally sitting on it.

Today, excess reserves at the Fed total an astonishing $1.4 trillion."The money is just doing nothing," says Nomi Prins, a former Goldman executive who has spent years monitoring the distribution of bailout money.
- Secrets and Lies of the Bailout


Ear Wax

“It was one of those refractory cases,” Goldberg told me recently. “The doctors had tried everything: several types of antibiotics, antifungal drops, the works. That was standard practice, and we were proud of ourselves for doing it.” ... He spoke almost wistfully, as if recalling an antiquated practice, like bloodletting. Despite repeated treatments, the man’s ear had not improved. But on this day he walked into the clinic with a smile, and Goldberg soon saw why: the ear looked great. “I have not felt this well in years,’’ the patient said. “Do you want to know what I did?” The doctor assumed that one of the drugs had finally found its mark. “I took some wax out of my good ear and put it into my bad ear, and in a few days I was fine,” the patient said.

“I thought he was nuts,’’ Goldberg told me. He never gave the encounter another thought—until a couple of years ago, when he began to investigate the causes of those common ear infections. Goldberg explained that earwax contains many bacterial species and that antibiotics might have destroyed one or more in his bad ear. “It was actually something like a eureka moment,’’ he said, chuckling. “I realized that this patient was the perfect experiment: a good ear and a bad ear separated by a head. That guy wasn’t crazy; he was right. Clearly, he had something protecting one ear that he then transferred to the other ear. Drugs didn’t cure him. He cured himself.”
- Germs Are Us


February 17, 2013
Reach



Tonight Rage is being programmed by Margaret and David, and they played the above, the James Cameron directed video for "Reach" by Martini Ranch, a new wave band featuring Bill Paxton. The video stars Paxton, Kathryn Bigelow, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Paul Reiser, Judge Reinhold and Bud Cort, among many others.


February 13, 2013
Mise en Abyme



...is the phrase you're looking for.


February 03, 2013
Epidemic

The Seattle Windshield Pitting Epidemic provides the best-documented case of a switch in the mass perception of reality. In April 1954 the police received numerous reports of “pits and dings” that appeared in car windshields in Bellingham, Washington. The pitting spread in waves from town to town, heading for Seattle. It reached the city as expected, provoking thousands of emergency calls from panic-stricken citizens. And then it suddenly stopped—or, as some claimed, drifted out to sea. What had happened? Apparently people began to look for the first time at their windshields instead of through them, but why they did so, en masse, remains a mystery.
Robert Darnton in the NYRB. The rest of the article is about some 18th century giant killer wolf, for some reason.


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