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Archive for March 9th, 2009

our robots, ourselves

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oooo baby i like how you say holloway road

oooo baby i like how you say "holloway road"

Got a ride to work today in a removal van that I hired to transport all but ten or so of my books that remained at my house to my office at the university. (Long story short: my wife’s office in our house has become, through the magic of paint, a nursery. Half of our bedroom, through the magic of desk moving, has become her new office. The bookshelf in our bedroom that held my books now holds her books. I have no office at home; I have no bookshelf at home. Thus the removal men….)

Halfway there, I started thinking about the fact that GPS units have female voices. They may have both male and female voices, you may be able to choose, but I’ve never heard one with a male voice. This is interesting.

But what is more interesting is what I noticed just after I had this first thought. The removal men who were driving me in incessantly referred to the GPS unit, despite it’s very obviously female voice, as a He not a She. Aye mate, he says that we should turn right at Holloway Road and then make the second left onto Parkhurst Road. I woulda thought he’d send us through Highbury Corner, but he must be thinking, yeah thasit, that you can’t turn right off of Camden Road onto….

I guess the obvious explanation is that, you know, gnomically, men are better with directions than women, therefore, if anthropomorphised, the GPS is male in the minds of my removal guys, even despite the gendering of it’s speech. But one wonders, since perhaps the path of least resistance would be just to call it it, whether at the back of their minds there’s a tiny fictional equation being done, a dim scene half-imagined, in which there’s a little man with a map in the box, a man who knows just where to go, who figures it all out and then whispers it, turn by turn to his little female assistant to deliver verbally with her silkily halting almost real voice….

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 9, 2009 at 9:26 am

Posted in uncanny, Uncategorized

food we got

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Barbara Ehrenreich at Alternet (via icite):

It was also supposed to be a simple matter for the masses to take over or “seize” the physical infrastructure of industrial capitalism–the “means of production”–and start putting it to work for the common good. But much of the means of production has fled overseas–to China, for example, that bastion of authoritarian capitalism. When we look around our increasingly shuttered landscape and survey the ruins of finance capitalism, we see bank upon bank, realty and mortgage companies, title companies, insurance companies, credit-rating agencies and call centers, but not enough enterprises making anything we could actually use, like food or pharmaceuticals.

I don’t have figures on this, but it might surprise Ehrenreich to know that lots and lots of at least food is “manufactured” locally, even in the United States. It’s strange, and I know it throws the “slow food” types into confusion, but I’d venture to guess that seventy percent of what’s on your average American supermarket’s shelf (actually – you’re local co-op may well be worse, though that’s no reason to stop shopping there…*) is produced nearby. The thing is, unlike televisions, cars, and children’s toys, cookies and bread don’t age well, thus they don’t do well on the slow boat from China or Vietnam. Trust me, I know this in all too intimate a way, as I was both a long-term if seasonal employee of a Major American Food Company whose trianglular red logo all of my American readers are familiar with and, um, a close-up observer of the selfsame company’s labor issues – domestic labor issues.

So Ehrenreich is a little bit wrong in an article in which she is mostly right. But it’s OK – this fact should give Americans hope. We could feed ourselves with the bakeries we’ve got, even if we might have to stick with our old TVs for a bit and our kids would be bored with last years toys and we’d look a bit dumpier without the sweatshop-made shirts and trousers…. Lots of things aren’t produced in the USA anymore, but Cheerios we’ll have under socialism, if it were to arrive, if we were to make it happen….

Can you imagine? Socialist fucking Cheerios would taste ten times as…. oaty? **

* One of the few things I liked about the unfortunate place that I lived before I moved to London was the percentage of my spending that took place at establishments that were co-ops. The better part was spent at the lovely food co-op right around the corner from me. We bought stuff for the house and garden at a community owned garden store located in the middle of a shitty part of town likely shittier than any of my British readers have ever seen. I bought my books from a store that was effectively owned by the department where I worked. There was beer and ciggies from the gas stations, that’s true. But twas nice, all of this, and I still drag my canvas bags from the food co-op down to my Tesco to fill with grimly packaged wiltshire ham and pasta here.

** Again not to be promisory. But there’s a huge thing I really need to say about Ruskin and aesthetics and socialism and the idea that fair-trade coffee actually tastes better as the artisinally-made cathedrals looked better to Ruskin than slave-made pyramids. And I will say it, shit – promisory – soon.

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 9, 2009 at 12:19 am

Posted in socialism