The Cruelty of Supply Chains

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“The electronics industry is really a chemical-waste-handling industry,” says Ted Smith, founder of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, in Sue William’s documentary Death by Design. The processes involved in etching printed circuit boards (PCBs) – manufacturing individual components, soldering them into place – for even the most mundane of electronic products, require a multitude of acids, solvents and metals. These must be handled and disposed of with care for the sake of the people manning the production lines as well as the wider environment.

– Thomas Thwaites reviews Sue William’s documentary, Death by Design that explores the cruelty of supply chains. Something to consider whenever you buy anything electronic.

The Utopian Factory

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How to Live

This is a short documentary about the building of a creative co-working space for designers and what’s interesting is that the design collective in charge of building it, built a tiny factory to produce all the ornamentation and items needed to fill up the space. They used a single material, an industrial clay extruder and kiln.

What’s interesting?
Obviously, the co-design bit and the single factory thing. But then, in the video they tie up their efforts to a larger theme of trying to reclaim the factory as a utopian space as opposed to the dystopian miserable worker assembly line image we have of factory work today. They reference William Morris’s text where he imagines what that kind of utopian space would be like.

Slow Factory

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How to Live / Words

I randomly came across this tiny clothing brand and their about page had a note from its founder that I love enough to repost here:

I come from a land of chaos: Beirut, Lebanon. Ever since I was a child, we moved around, traveling from Beirut to Paris to Montreal. Throughout it all, the stars always guided our travels and imagining space became a way to ground me. Because while I never had a traditional definition of home, I always felt comforted by the constant presence of the stars.

That’s why I started Slow Factory. I learned a lot from working with the open-knowledge, open-
source movement and how it allowed people to connect with one another. Inspired by NASA’s open data images of satellites and telescopes and by collaborating with other artists, our images of our World and our Universe were created to be a reminder of how we can find beauty and connection in the cosmos.

Now that I’ve made a home in New York, the bright city lights make it harder to see the stars.

But if I can help people feel a little more connected with our cosmic silk prints, I will be happy knowing that I’ve made a small impact in a really big way.


The product of European repression

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Some condensed history that puts the two countries, Israel and Iran, into context:

Iran and European Jewry were both treated horribly in the 19th and 20th centuries by the major European imperial countries. Obviously, proportionally Jews suffered much more than Iranians did; about a third of Jews were murdered in the Nazi genocide. But Iran also suffered significant loss of human life and property. Tsarist Russia fought two wars with it in the early nineteenth century, and annexed from it substantial territory. Britain and Russia forbade Iran from constructing a railroad in the late 19th century, robbing it of a key tool of economic advance; that probably killed a lot of Iranians if you think about its implications. The British and the Russians opposed the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-1911 and helped make sure Iranians did not get liberty and a rule of law. Britain backed the rise of the Pahlevi dictatorship in the 1920s, if it did not in fact simply impose it. The US overthrew the elected government of Iran in 1953 because it had nationalized the oil industry and imposed the megalomaniacal Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on that country.

Ultimately Iranians, outraged at constant interference in their domestic affairs, overthrew the shah and instituted a revolutionary regime based on indigenous Iranian culture, especially religious culture. Although the Jewish response to the European genocide against Jews was not immediately religious (most Zionists were secular), over time religion has come to play a bigger and bigger part in Israeli life. In a sense, Israel and Iran are both reactions against European nationalism and imperialism, though Israel has now allied with the West, whereas Iran continues to oppose many Western policies.

The conflict between Israel and Iran is in part driven by their history with European repression. Israelis, mauled by European “Aryan” nationalism and its mass murder of Jews, do not want an enemy state like Iran to be in a position even to think about constructing a nuclear weapon. Iranians, oppressed by imperialism to the point where they couldn’t have a railroad until the 1920s, are damned if they are going nowadays to let someone else dictate to them how they make electricity.


The Obvious has an expiration date

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Graffiti Artist Shepard Fairey on how the obvious is the never-ending source of inspiration because it always has to be reinvented:

He sees much of his work through the lens of activism and spreading a subversive message that will change the way people look at the spin and influence of government and corporate structures. Fairey cites George Orwell and his call for intelligent people to restate the obvious as a guiding inspiration.

“The manipulation that happens to people, that much of activism is about combating, happens because people have become numb to the obvious and it’s allowed people to have a specific agenda to sort of get around the obvious,” Fairey said.


Kanye, Don’t Clap.

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How to Live

Kanye on his relationship with the late CSM tutor, Louise Wilson:

“I went to Louise Wilson’s memorial, the greatest fashion instructor of all time, and I’m talking about of all timers,” he told Lowe. “So Louise Wilson was the baddest professor of all time of any fashion school ever, notorious for not letting people stop at a seven or eight, pushing people to a 12.”

West lists Wilson’s proteges – Phoebe Philo, Alexander McQueen, Alber Elbaz, Christopher Kane – as designers who pushed themselves to a 12. But the professor also gave him some life advice.

“The last time I saw her, we had a dinner at Hakkasan which is my favorite restaurant in London,” he tells Lowe. “I think she knew she was going to pass and she just wanted to give me some words of advice going forward. She was asking me about my daughter, my wife, and she said, ‘So many students, they don’t give it their all, and the problem is, as soon as they do anything halfway good when they’re two years old, three years old, their parents clap.’ And she just looked at me and she said, ‘Kanye, don’t clap.’


Postscript to a Legacy

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How to Live

The Nissan Z240.

The NY Times ran an obituary today about a man who was responsible for single handedly and right at the bottom of the article was a tiny little detail that I could identify with:

Perhaps the greatest boost Mr. Katayama gave the 240Z was its very name, which Nissan had intended only as a working model number. In the late 1960s, when the car was first introduced in Japan, a Nissan executive, enamored of a certain Lerner and Loewe musical, named it the Fairlady Z.

When the first shipment of Fairlady Zs arrived in the United States, Mr. Katayama, judging the sobriquet horrifyingly effete for the American market, stripped the nameplate off each car with his own hands.


History through Art

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From an interview with Stanley Kubrick’s Life long producer, Jan Harlan:

What do you know about the 18th century? You know it through films, writers, painters, composers, and architects. Without the artists, we would be completely ignorant. You can study kings and wars and territories, but the first thing you discover about a certain period in time is always through the artist. I wouldn’t know anything without Dickens and Austen.


The improvised radio show

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How to Live

Mohmmed Fahmy, the egyptian-canadian journalist, who was among the three Al Jazeera journalists imprisoned by Egypt (links) spoke out about how they created a makeshift radio show as a way of coping with their imprisonment:

After the first month, Fahmy was transferred to a new section of the prison where he shared a cell with Greste and Baher. The other prisoners in this cellblock were all senior leaders in the deposed Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Morsi. “We were moved to an area called ‘the shoebox.’ There were about 15 other people in adjacent cells. Our own cell was small. [Baher and Greste] had a bunk and I had a separate bed. We only got one hour outside our cell every day, but because we were together, we were really able to support each other.”

Along with his imprisoned colleagues, Fahmy said he ran an improvised nightly “radio show” by yelling through the bars of his cell to other prisoners in the same block. “Every night we did something called ‘The Al-Jazeera Live Show,’ like a news program. We’d take it really seriously and spend the whole day planning it. We talked about politics, had interviews, recited poetry. We were interviewing the other inmates from their cells, because these were Morsi’s former ministers imprisoned all around us.”

At one point the show went “off air” for three days after officers in charge of the cellblock ordered them to stop. “We stopped, but the Brotherhood guys were really defiant and said, ‘We’ll do the show.’ They didn’t do a very good job, but they kept it going, and a few days later we resumed doing it, too. (link)”