CITIES, things I have liked

On dance on film

[pro-player]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMrRF4lHflU[/pro-player]

I am posting this by popular request: because so many people recently wanted to know where to see it, because I showed it to my boyfriend two nights ago (someone who knew not a single thing about dance films) without editorial comment and he said, when it ended, ‘I think this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, of any kind, because I re-watched it recently and had a moment of remembering how art can make one feel entirely quiet on the inside, because I sometimes think that I could do nothing but watch dance films my entire life, because dance film is perhaps my favourite art form, in the whole world.

Dance film has a power to draw me like no other form. I have a self-assembled archive. I watch dance films the way I read novels; out of pleasure, slowly, revisiting favourite passages, skipping to bits I particularly like.

I knew and loved dance film much before I knew how to properly look at a painting, much before I stopped giggling in front of conceptual installations, much before I could get to the end of a poem. It made sense to me straight away, just like dance did.

Continue reading “On dance on film” »

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CITIES, how the world works

Sliced White – notes

1. THE LOOKS

2. THE CULTURE

For a start, there’s its strange appearance. The wheaten tan of the uncrusty crust. The white, resilient sponge. The zombie-like, yeasty odour. The bleached and puffy crumb. And then you taste it. I hadn’t eaten really bad bread for a long time: it sparked whatever bit of my brain looks after Proustian recall. When I was at my dour boarding school, every breaktime the kitchen would send wee lads scurrying round the houses with cheap bread, tubs of margarine and buckets of sugary jam. The hungry teenagers would toast and smear, knock up McCoy’s-and-marg sandwiches, wrap slices round Snickers bars – this was Scotland, after all – and listlessly masticate.

Most people carry a vestigial affection for odd bits of foodie trash: American cheese singles sliming on patties, comforting tins of Warhol Campbell’s, Pringles that whiff of ancient jockstraps. I reckon the same phenomenon explains a persistent affection for cheap bread. The salty hit of a bacon sarnie becomes a taste of home or a hangover: speckled fat seeping into pocked dough, teeth threshing pink pig. Most Americans were reared on Wonderbread which, incidentally, features along with a dozen other brands in Lady Gaga’s video for Telephone. The laval pouch of a toastie has the same appeal for many Brits.

3. THE REASON WHY

The Chorleywood bread process is an industrial process used to lower the cost of bread production. The CBP, or no time method, was developed in 1961 by the British Baking Industries Research Association based at Chorleywood, and is now used to make 80% of the UK’s bread. Compared to the older bulk fermentation process, the CBP is able to use lower protein wheat, and produces bread at a much faster rate, with the disadvantage that the bread requires extra processing to enhance the flavour. The process had an important impact in the United Kingdom, as at the time, few domestic wheat varieties were of sufficient quality to make high quality bread products, and it therefore permitted a much greater proportion of low-protein domestic wheat to be used in the grist.

4. THE CHORLEYWOOD PROCESS

The wheat is milled in high speed steel mills at a high temperature. This smashes apart the starches making it easier for the enzymes and improvers to work on the flour but reducing the nutritional value. This process also makes the flour able to absorb more water. So when you buy an 800g loaf of industrial bread, you pay for a higher water content. In fact nearly half of your industrial loaf is water.

This wheat flour is then mixed with water, soya flour, fat, baking aids, ascorbic acid (designate on packaging as E300) and yeast. The mixing arms rotate at about 400 rpm for around five minutes, transferring energy to the dough.

The reactions created by this violent input of energy, assisted by the ascorbic acid, releases the gluten in the wheat very quickly and produces a stiff dough in a small fraction of the time compared to the traditional proving process used at home and in craft bakeries.

An important part of Chorleywood Process is the use of a hard fat. This works with the gluten to create a stiff dough that will rise very quickly and retain its structure during the baking and cooling of the bread. Until recently hydrogenated fats were used because these contain more stable heavy fat molecules, which give the fat a higher melting point.

Recently bad publicity about hydrogenated fats, in particular their implication as a key contributor to heart disease, has created a switch to fractionated fats. These are created from the processing of ordinary vegetable oils to remove the heaviest fatty compounds, usually by cooling the oil to make the heavy fats crystallise. They therefore have the same properties as hydrogenated fats, and may possibly cause similar health problems. Often, when a manufacturer states they no longer use hydrogenated fats, it’s likely that they are using fractionated fats instead.

After mixing the dough is poured in bulk and left for a few minutes before processing into tins, or onto trays, where it is left to prove for up to a hour (again, perhaps a half of the time of that used traditionally).

The Chorleywood bread making process uses two or three times the usual amount of yeast compared to traditionally made bread. The extra yeast creates a large volume of gas and in the process a spongy loaf. The proving dough may also be put under a low pressure vacuum to make it rise much faster than if it were at ambient air pressure.

To help the fats bond to the wet flours, emulsifiers are also added to the mix (usually E471 or E472e). In addition a small amount of vinegar is added as a preservative. Finally your industrial bread with its high water content is an ideal breeding ground for moulds, so it is often dosed with an anti-fungal compound.

Primarily because of the milling process, the vitamin content is lower than that of traditional stoneground flour. Accordingly, by law, vitamins are added to the dough mixture to compensate.

5. WHAT WE TEACH OUR CHILDREN

6. THE ADDITIVES

CBP processes may include the following additives, but these additives are not limited to CBP:

  • Fat in the form of palm fat or oils, to soften the dough and bread and create a finer cell structure.
  • Salt allows yeast to grow while reducing competitive bacterial growth, and affects the flavour.
  • Esters of monoglycerides and diglycerides act as emulsifiers and anti-staling agents.
  • Calcium propionate inhibits mould.
  • Enzymatically active soy flour contains lipoxygenase enzyme that creates whiter crumb.
  • Azodicarbonamide is a flour oxidizer, banned in EU, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, but permitted in the US.
  • Ascorbic acid is the most common dough oxidising agent used in the EU, mainly for wholemeal and whole grain breads.
  • Gluten provides texture. Added gluten augments the low gluten levels of cheap low-protein wheat.
  • Starch enzymes and protein enzymes are used to rapidly break down wheat starches to sugars to feed the yeast and to “mellow” the gluten to allow for reduced mechanical mixing times. Enzymes are also engineered to survive baking temperatures and great variations in pH to impart antistaling and softening qualities to the finished products.

In many countries, enzymes and several other “improvers” are not required to be listed on ingredient labels, as they are considered to be consumed in the baking process.).

7. QUALITY

Commercial bread making is held to strict government guidelines regarding food production. Further, consumer preferences compel bread producers to maintain a high quality standard of appearance, texture, and flavor. Therefore, quality checks are performed at each step of the production process. Producers employ a variety of taste tests, chemical analyses, and visual observation to ensure quality.

Moisture content is particularly critical. A ratio of 12 to 14% is ideal for the prevention of bacteria growth. However, freshly baked breads have a moisture content as high as 40%. Therefore it is imperative that the bakery plants be kept scrupulously clean. The use of fungicides and ultraviolet light are two popular practices.

8. THE HEALTH CONCERNS

8A. COELIAC DISEASE/ GLUTEN INTOLERANCE
The reactions created by the violent input of energy [of machine-kneading dough at very high speed], assisted by the ascorbic acid, release the gluten in the wheat very quickly and produces a stiff dough in a small fraction of the time compared to the traditional proving process used at home and in craft bakeries. This part of the process is being linked by some people to the increase in Coeliac disease, a serious gluten intolerance.

8B. SEVERAL FORMS OF BOWEL DISEASE
The Chorleywood bread making process uses two or three times the usual amount of yeast compared to traditionally made bread. This large increase in the amount of yeast we consume in our bread is being cited as one possible cause for the growth of yeast intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome and thrush (candidiasis / Candida albicans) disorders over the past few decades.

8C. ‘POSSIBLE CANCER’
But there were also the additives. Quite a few of them, in fact. Potassium bromate (now banned in the EU as a possible cancer producer), azodicarbonamide (also banned), L-cysteine hydrochloride, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate and so on — the list was long.

TO avoid too many frightening chemical names, bread labels were allowed to group the nasties under bland headings such as ‘flour treatment agent’ and ’emulsifier’.

Some additives were belatedly banned (including the bleaching of flour with chlorine gas in 1999), but new ones filled the gap and, if anything, the list is longer today than 30 years ago. The additives were derived from substances that would never normally form part of the human diet. But we were reassured they were safe — until, that is, scientists told us they weren’t.

8D. GUT INFLAMMATION RELATED TO THE TYPE OF WHEAT USED
After World War II, plant breeders developed hybrid strains of wheat that delivered higher yields with intensive applications of artificial nitrogen, herbicides and pesticides.
While aggressively seeking bigger yields and more proteins that form the stretchy gluten in bread dough, wheat breeders reduced the density of vital minerals and vitamins in the grain.

Consequently, modern hybrid wheats are 30 to 40 per cent poorer in minerals such as iron, zinc and magnesium than strains from 40 years ago. And if each mouthful of bread contains less to nourish us, we naturally tend to eat more. A clue to rising levels of obesity, perhaps?

It gets worse. Farmers boost yields and protein levels by putting sulphur and nitrogen on the wheat late in its growth. And recent research has revealed the resulting flour has nearly doubled the bits of wheat protein known as omega-gliadins that are known to trigger certain inflammatory reactions in the gut of sensitive people – notably a condition called Wheat-Dependent Exercise-Induced Anaphylaxis. This didn’t exist 20 years ago.

9. THE OVERALL VALUE WHEN CONSIDERING THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS

“It is a process we invented and we should be very proud of it,” says Gordon Polson, of the British Federation of Bakers. “UK bread is around the cheapest in the world.”

One disturbing possibility is that modern farming and industrial baking produce bread that more and more people cannot and should not eat.

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CITIES, how the world works

Gail Dines: Visible or Invisible (being a young woman)

At a lecture I was giving at a large West Coast university in the spring of 2008, the female students talked extensively about how much they preferred to have a completely waxed pubic area as it made them feel “clean,” “hot,” and “well groomed.” As they excitedly insisted that they themselves chose to have a Brazilian wax, one student let slip that her boyfriend had complained when she decided to give up on waxing. Then there was silence. I asked the student to say more about her boyfriend’s preferences and how she felt about his criticism. After she spoke, other students joined in, only now the conversation took a very different turn. The excitement in the room gave way to a subdued discussion of how some boyfriends had even refused to have sex with nonwaxed girlfriends, saying they “looked gross.” One student told the group that her boyfriend bought her a waxing kit for Valentine’s Day, while yet another sent out an e-mail to his friends joking about his girlfriend’s “hairy beaver.” No, she did not break up with his; she got waxed instead. Continue reading “Gail Dines: Visible or Invisible (being a young woman)” »

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CITIES, poetics of life, theatre

Vertical multiculturalism

You have to be the most humourless disco sceptic not to like this Turkish gem:

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Clã – Competência Para Amar:

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Against horizontal multiculturalism – by which we intend a socio-cultural activity oriented towards minorities, or a decorative employment of mainly non-European expressive cultures (Brook, Barba, Mnouchkine), a moussaka which tries to convince us, with a bit of Indian make-up, majestic Japanese costumes and roars of two to three dark-skinned actors, that it is engaging with the rest of the world. But the methods of composition and employment of these piled up sensations/sensationalisms are still intact in their Westernness. In contrast to this – let’s say it calmly – colonial approach, artists of the so-called vertical multiculturalism, working on the transects of different cultures, struggling to break through the simultaneity of different cultural identities with a sort of schizoanalytical approach, are building a unique, innovative art. Such an actor manages to hold, within his mental habitus, multiple different archaic combinations and ways of being while his body emanates the gestic essence of modern theatre, which gives a vertiginous dimension to the internal, ritual element. The same can be said for the above-described directorial interventions.

–Gordana Vnuk, Pogled iznutra

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CITIES, how the world works

Review: Africa

“There are four big problems that emerge from aid. One is the obvious one: the corruption, the fact that you’re giving somebody something for free, no strings attached. The second problem is aid dependency, which is the whole notion that you create a society heavily burdened and laden with bureaucracy, which is very inefficient and essentially kills off the entrepreneurial culture. The third problem has to do with this economic term called ‘Dutch disease’, although they usually call it the oil curse. It actually applies to aid as well, where you have these large inflows of capital which really kill off the export sector. Then finally, disenfranchising the middle class; governments become beholden or responsible to report to donors and they don’t have any obligation to report to the domestic citizenry.
 ”
-Dambisa Moyo in The Africa Report

“In addition it was clear how little say not only the citizens have, but the governments have. You hardly ever saw participation from domestic policymakers in designing and discussing what was, essentially, our future – Africa’s future. I mean, there are so many classic examples of people’s lives essentially being shaped and designed by policy that’s not domestically constructed.” She cites the donor who refused to give any aid unless an entirely new town be built in Zambia, despite the government’s protests that they would be left holding the baby, as indeed happened; or George Bush’s requirement that two-thirds of the $15bn he was giving to fight Aids had to go to pro-abstinence programmes, and none could go to any establishment that provided abortions. ”
The Guardian interviews Dambisa Moyo

Partly, of course, it’s about power, and purse-strings; partly, she believes, it’s a PR issue, “there are many well-spoken, smart African leaders who should be on the global stage”; very largely, given that so far not many are, it’s a case of who gets to do the talking, and increasingly, it is people like Bob Geldof and Bono, the most visible representatives of what she calls, in a thrillingly withering manner, “glamour aid”. “There are African policymakers who are charged with the responsibility of creating policy, and implementing policy. That’s their job. Long, long lines of people have stood in the sun to vote for a president who is effectively impotent because of donors or because glamour aid has decided to speak on behalf of a continent. How would British people feel if tomorrow Michael Jackson started telling them how they should get out of the housing crisis? Or if Amy Winehouse started to give the US government advice about the credit crunch? And was listened to? I think they would be perturbed, and worried. I mean, they’ve completely disenfranchised the very people we’ve actually elected!”
The Guardian interviews Dambisa Moyo

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CITIES, how the world works

3xQuestion (rather less rhetorical than they may seem)

1. 1994

The New York Times had an article on the front page asking: why isn’t there class conflict, why aren’t all these people recognizing they have class interests that are being betrayed, lethally betrayed, by Big Business, and why now do people blame government instead of blaming business, and why is the boss never really seen as being the enemy and is rather being seen as a fellow victim? The article laid out in political and sociological terms how much the Right has won and how much the elimination, not even so much of the Soviet system as an alternative – because it never really has been an alternative for us – but of an ideological space marked “alternative”, how the elimination of that has absolutely forced people into simply accepting as a given all the things that are contrary to their own self-interest. You won’t blame the boss because blaming the boss means developing a critique of capitalism as a system and, of course, we all know now that capitalism is the only conceivable system. Look at the destruction of the trade unions, the idea that everybody is downscaling and everybody is being put out of work. No one is getting angry at these corporations anymore because it is simply assumed they will maximize profits at the expense of human beings, and that this is the way that it has to be.
– Tony Kushner interviewed by Carl Weber

2. 2006

How did we get [to the war on terror]? The best place to look for the answer is not in the days after the attacks, but in the years before. Examining the cultural mood of the late ’90s allows us to separate the natural reaction to a national trauma from any underlying predispositions. During that period, the country was in the grip of a strange, prolonged obsession with World War II and the generation that had fought it.

The pining for the glory days of the Good War has now been largely forgotten, but to sift through the cultural detritus of that era is to discover a deep longing for the kind of epic struggle the War on Terror would later provide. The standard view of 9/11 is that it “changed everything.” But in its rhetoric and symbolism, the WWII nostalgia laid the conceptual groundwork for what was to come—the strange brew of nationalism, militarism and maudlin sentimentality that constitutes post-9/11 culture.
– Christopher Hayes, The Good War on Terror: How the Greatest Generation helped pave the road to Baghdad

3. yesterday

Nick Dave’s new book The Death of Bunny Munro, about a man who sits in a hotel room and masturbates fantasizing about vaginas (what elese?, you sort of wonder), is due for release in Australia in August. This is the cover. If I knew whether I think it’s problematic or not, it would mean I have found answers to many questions troubling me these days. I haven’t, so I don’t.

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CITIES, how the world works

Quick note to David: listen to the crackle

Ali Fathollah-Nejad: You just mentioned your article in Die Zeit. I’d like to move on to the situation in the media. There was all the fuss about the Rütli School.[6] I think you’ve contributed a great deal to the debate through your publications, but I still have the feeling that in the media in general there’s a certain atmosphere of inertia. I get the feeling that not a lot is changing. What’s your view?

Feridun Zaimoglu: I’ve given hundreds of readings in schools, mostly in Hauptschulen and in youth clubs. So these experiences are the basis for my views. One thing is that the three-tier school system is also subdivided according to ethnicity. There are the failures – who aren’t failures at all; dammit, I very nearly ended up in a special school. It’s true – I was that close to landing up there! Your typical Turk is generally seen as a PISA [7] failure and a playground yobbo. That stereotype exists. There’s a male problem going on, a problem with boys. This crap about male honour. If what that amounts to is some nasty coward who goes and shoots his sister, what do we do with him? There’s no straightforward answer to that. It’s different from case to case. You’ve got to look at it carefully, talk to people. I’m not surprised – the notion of a dominant German culture, a Leitkultur, the cartoon controversy, then Necla Kelek,[8] Seyran Ates,[9] and now there’s open season on all male, Muslim, immigrant adolescents. That’s why I say to people “Wakey wakey!” Did they think the class society no longer exists, or what? It still exists, and will continue to exist. And the ethnic factor is how the ruling class wants to look at it. It’s as simple as that. And anyone who comes along with their neoliberal crap, who stops thinking politically and starts looking at things ethnically, is behaving just like the ruling classes – and that includes the media and its movers and shakers. They talk about school and then they lay into the teachers. Yes – but if you thought politically, you would look at what is being done in schools. What funding has been slashed? What’s left in the pot? What’s happening on a day-to-day basis? That’s one thing. But the other thing is then also to say: “You know, guys, your honour, you can stick it up your immigrant arses. Your fucking male honour!” What is that? That is a crime. Those people are criminals. That’s how it needs to be discussed. The rightwingers always step in and say “Hey, they come from a different cultural background.” True, we mustn’t trivialize things that come from this different cultural sphere either. That would be idiotic. But nor should people play the white man by coming along as a feminist activist and to a certain extent shooting down these kids, then talking about religion and making their ethnic background the topic of discussion. These people are the white man’s little women. And these little women come and go and come and go. Here you might see the label “feminism”, there it’s “a particularly self-assured Green”, or whatever all these opportunists are called. You look at all that, but you must never stop looking at it politically. The political viewpoint rocks!

AF-N: But politics is only possible through participation. Yet in our society there aren’t that many people with a non-German background who take part in public discourse.

FZ: That’s changing.

AF-N: But it can only be changed through education?

FZ: It can be changed above all by means of the German language. For the sake of the children’s future we shouldn’t moan about German being compulsory. That’s yet another piece of ethno-nonsense. And then all these Turkish spokesmen come along, and these lefty liberals, all these jokers, and they tell us “Oh, but we can’t ask that of the children.” You twits! How much do you earn in a month? You’ve got it made. What is participation? Involvement starts from early childhood. When my parents couldn’t go through my homework with me at primary school, what are we supposed to say about that? That’s a built-in disadvantage right from the off. Yeah, so what? Did I cry? Did I hell! I fell for Petra at school and wanted to impress her. I wanted to stand out a bit by using classy German. You can’t say “Oi, mate!” to a woman! So what sources of motivation do people have? Politics is all well and good, but when the political class ignores the human situation, it gets detached and loses touch with reality. You’ve always got to look at what’s going on at the bottom!

  • [6] The Rütli School is a Hauptschule (secondary modern) in Neukölln, Berlin. In 2006, the school’s headteacher, unable to control the violence in her school, made an appeal for help to the Berlin Senate. This led to a debate about the school system in Germany, violence in schools and the integration of the children of immigrants.
  • [7] Programme for International Student Assessment
  • [8] Germany’s foremost critic of the treatment of women in Islam, also present at the Islam conference.
  • [9] A Turkish lawyer and women’s rights activist, she gave up practising in 2006 following threats from legal opponents.

from You’ve got to swing your hips! A conversation with Feridun Zaimoglu

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CITIES, poetics of life

Jamaica Kincaid on travellers

The thing you have always suspected about yourself the minute you become a tourist is true: A tourist is an ugly human being. You are not an ugly person all the time; you are not an ugly person ordinarily; you are not an ugly person day to day. From day to day, you are a nice person. From day to day, all the people who are supposed to love you on the whole do. From day to day, as you walk down a busy street in the large and modern and prosperous city in which you work and live, dismayed, puzzled (a cliche, but only a cliche can explain you) at how alone you feel in this crowd, how awful it is to go unnoticed, how awful it is to go unloved, even as you are surrounded by more people than you could possibly get to know in a lifetime that lasted for millenia, and then out of the corner of your eye you see someone looking at you and absolute pleasure is written all over that person’s face, and then you realise that you are not as revolting a presence as you think you are (for that look just told you so). And so, ordinarily, you are a nice person, an attractive person, a person capable of drawing to yourself the affection of other people (people just like you), a person at home in your own skin (sort of; I mean, in a way; I mean, your dismay and puzzlement are natural to you, because people like you just seem to be like that, and so many of the things people like you find admirable about yourselves – the things you think about, the things you think really define you – seem rooted in these feelings): a person at home in your own house (and all its nice house things), with its nice back watd (and its nice back-yard things), at home on your street, your church, in community activities, your job, at home with your family, your relatives, your friends – you are a whole person. But one day, when you are sitting somewhere, alone in that crowd, and that awful feeling of displacedness comes over you, and really, as an ordinary person you are not well equipped to look too far inward and set yourself aright, because being ordinary is already so taxing, and being ordinary takes all you have out of you, and though the words “I must get away” do not actually pass across your lips, you make a leap from being that nice blob just sitting like a boob in your amniotic sac of the modern experience to being a person visiting heaps of death and ruin and feeling alive and inspired at the sight of it; to being a person lying on some faraway beach, your stilled body stinking and glistening in the sand, looking like something first forgotten, then remembered, then not important enough to go back for; to being a person marvelling at the harmony (ordinarily, what you would say is the backwardness) and the union these other people (and they are other people) have with nature.

Jamaica Kincaid: A Small Place

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CITIES, spatial poetics

Contemplating Hell

Contemplating Hell by Bertolt Brecht
Contemplating Hell, as I once heard it,
My brother Shelley found it to be a place
Much like the city of London. I,
Who do not live in London, but in Los Angeles,
Find, contemplating Hell, that is
Must be even more like Los Angeles.

Also in Hell,
I do not doubt it, there exist these opulent gardens
With flowers as large as trees, wilting, of course,
Very quickly, if they are not watered with very expensive water. And fruit markets
With great leaps of fruit, which nonetheless

Possess neither scent nor taste. And endless trains of autos,
Lighter than their own shadows, swifter than
Foolish thoughts, shimmering vehicles, in which
Rosy people, coming from nowhere, go nowhere.
And houses, designed for happiness, standing empty,
Even when inhabited.

Even the houses in Hell are not all ugly.
But concern about being thrown into the street
Consumes the inhabitants of the villas no less
Than the inhabitants of the barracks.

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