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Zero Squared #50: Enjoyment (It's a Trap!)
January 05, 2016 09:15 PM PST
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Alfie Bown is editor of Everyday Analysis, a blog and book series with Zer0 Books. He’s an assistant professor in Hong Kong and he writes on critical theory and comedy. His first stand-alone book with Zero Books Enjoying It: Candy Crush and Capitalism was published on December 11th this year, and the back of the jacket copy for the first book describes it this way. Using a range of ‘case studies’ from Critical Theory to Candy Crush, ‘Gangnam Style’ to Game of Thrones and Football Manager to Hieronymus Bosch, this book argues that we need to rethink our enjoyment. Simultaneous with this appearance on Zero Squared, Alfie Bown is also a guest on the always enlightening C-Realm podcast where he holds up well under KMO’s scrutiny. In this episode you’ll hear excerpts from a conversation with Harold Bloom, a reading of Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming.” You’ll hear clips of the music of Super Mario Brothers, an 8bit version of Philip Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi, and Schoenberg. You’ll also find a bit of a lecture on Adorno’s “Culture Industry” from the youtube star Kevin McNeilly, Cyriak’s meow mix, and What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? from the Ukulele Teacher.
Zero Squared: A New Year’s Special
January 02, 2016 10:47 AM PST
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This special January 2nd, 2016 episode of Zero Squared explores why Critical Theorists deploy the word "problematic" and what they are REALLY saying when they talk about your fave. Clips in this episode/collage include KMO from the C-Realm, John Berger, The Wireless Philosopher on the Problem of Perception, Michel Foucault Beyond Good and Evil (1993), music from the Truman Show, Laci Green, Tori the Queer, Evan Edinger, Noam Chomsky, Robin Williams, and clips the film A Day in the Afterlive of Philip K Dick. Here's an excerpt from the collage: What’s problematic in today’s Critical Theory? That is, what is it that motivates the critical theorist to call something “problematic?” According to the Philosophy dictionary online (that’s www.philosophy-dictionary dot org) something is a “problematic judgement” when it involves “the consciousness of the mere possibility” or, when it does not contain the consciousness of actuality or necessity. To clarify, something is a problematic judgement, when it is subjective. In Hegel’s Science of Logic he labels the problematic as “assertoric.” This just means that it is an assertion given by a particular subject. Hegel’s logic is quite complicated, but the claim here is that when one asserts something, like “twerking is bad” one is asserting more than a particular fact about one’s own subjective experience. One is also making a claim about a universal notion. To make this clearer still, something is problematic or problematized when it can seen to be self-generated and thereby self-interested rather than objective or necessary. Again, the problem in the term “problematic” is the subjectivity of experience. A claim is problematic when its relationship to a universal notion or an objective fact has not been determined. We might wonder then why it is that so many people use the term “problematic” a bit differently.
Zero Squared 49: Against Capitalist Education
December 23, 2015 08:57 PM PST
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Nadim Bakhshov is a member of the museum of thought collective, an imaginal archaeology group specialising in unearthing historical conceptual artefacts and founded a radical post-conceptual art movement with the Argentine pataphysician Kurt César. His book Against Capitalist Education is out from Zero Books right now. The book is written as a philosophical dialogue. The book argues that the education system is being crushed by the demands of capitalism and, in turn, is crushing those who pass through it.

Friedrich Faust, author of Gone With the Crowd blurbed the book this way, “A fundamental challenge to those who argue the humanities have no place in brave new world dominated by the technocrats.”

In this episode you’ll hear a bit of music from a little movie called Star Wars, an excerpt from the youtube video featuring Dr. Bart van Heerikhuizen from the University of Amsterdam as he explains the ideas Émile Durkheim as well as some clips about Jediism, and music from the Awesome8bit.

Zero Squared #48.5: Yasin Kakande's Full Interview
December 16, 2015 08:56 PM PST
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On Sunday we uploaded an interview with Yasin Kakande wherein we stepped in and offered paraphrased narration because we thought that the audio quality of his side of the conversation made it difficult to follow. However, having listened to the conversation with earbuds we find Kakande’s answers comes through clearly and this week we're uploading the full conversation, a conversations we’d shortened because of the time required to edit in the narration.

Kakande is a former journalist for the newspaper the National out of Dubai, a news producer for City 7 TV in Dubai, and a former reporter and assistant editor for the Bahrain Tribune. His book Slave States is out from Zero Books this month. It is an exposé of the Kafala system.

Kafala is a sponsorship system used to monitor migrant workers in the Gulf Arab Region. Kafala requires that a migrant worker’s employer acts as his or her sponsor. It puts the employer in charge of most aspects of a migrant workers life. The human rights organization Amnesty International has documented many human rights abuses by Kafala employers. At a FIFA hearing in July of this year, AIUSA Advocacy Director Sunjeev Bery testified against Kafala. He reported that “The Kafala sponsorship system is a recipe for worker abuse.” The concern was raised in regards to the migrant workers preparing for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Bery said that “As a first step, Qatar must abolish the inherently abusive policies that give employers the power to decide whether a worker can leave the country or take another job.”

Zero Squared #47: Imperialism or Security
December 02, 2015 06:07 PM PST
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Margaret Kimberley has been an editor and Senior Columnist of Black Agenda Report since its inception in 2006. Her work has also appeared on sites such as Alternet and Counterpunch and in publications such as The Dallas Morning News and The Chicago Defender. She is a regular guest on radio talk shows and has appeared on Al Jazeera English, Russia Today, the Real News Network and GRITtv, and this week she’s on Zero Squared to discuss the aftermath of the Parisian terrorist attacks.

During the podcast I ask why Russia can’t be or doesn’t want to be a member of NATO. There is, as per usual, a specific historical answer to that question that neither of us raise. Specifically, while a partnership between Russia and NATO was established after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, NATO decided to suspend co-operation with Russia in response to the conflict in the Ukraine. Relations between NATO and Russia had been strained since the Russia/Georgian conflict in 2008. What it comes down to is a conflict over how far the European Union should extend and which nations should join. This much is obvious, really, but it bears being said directly here at the outset.

In this episode you’ll hear a clip from Mizzou student protests, Negativland’s hit song Guns, Colin Powell’s comments on the conflict between Russia and Georgia, and an excerpt from Negativland’s 1980 album titled, what else, Negativland.

Zero Squared #46: Political Determinism
November 25, 2015 10:42 AM PST
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C Derick Varn is a poet, teacher, and theorist. He currently lives in Cairo, Egypt and has previously taught in South Korea and Northern Mexico. He is a lecturer in English Literature, Composition, and Intercultural communication. Even though I have never met in him in person I consider Varn to be, at this point, an old friend. He is a reader at Zero Books and a regular guest on the Zero Squared podcast.

This week we return to discussing Russell Jacoby's Dialectic of Defeat and end up discussing the problem of “political determinism.” Political determinism is the one sided idea that political will rather than economic necessity shapes the world.

An easy way to understand what political determinism is to consider conspiracy theories, or more accurately the conspiracy theory of history. From the perspective of the deep conspiracy theorist, history is determined by willful acts. There is no such thing as an accident. All plans work out as they are envisioned. If there are poor people in the world it is because somebody, somewhere, wants it that way. The radical alternative to this conspiracy theory version of history is one that admits for unintended, but not acausal, consequences.

If you're a regular listener to this podcast I have two requests for you. The first is to ask you to check out Zero Books new youtube channel. Just search for Zero Books at youtube to find it. Also, if you like this little show you might leave a review at iTunes. If you like the press take a look at our website. Zero Books has six new titles coming in December: Slave States, The Space of Writing, Drone Apocalypse, Against Capitalist Education, Enjoying It: Candy Crush and Capitalism, and Positive Realism. These books make great Holiday gifts for the grad student or communist in the family. Okay, so that was three requests.

In this episode you'll hear from Mister Speedy Delivery, Mister Rogers, a Walmart factory worker, a clip from Sam Cooke's hit “Chain Gang” and Dan Lett's “Green Sharpie.”

Zero Squared #45: Psychology or Progress?
November 19, 2015 11:39 AM PST
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Ashley Frawley is the author of the Semiotics of Happiness from Bloomsbury, a Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at Swansea University, and a reader for Zero Books. She recently debated Zero Books author Mark Fisher on the subject of the importance of personal psychology to left organizing and spoke about the immigration crisis at the Battle of Ideas. Topics covered in our conversation include the pessimism of the left, revitalizing the Enlightenment, and left-wing attitudes towards Islam. The back of the jacket copy from her first book includes the following paragraph: Emerging from the analysis is the observation that, while apparently positive and light-hearted, the concern with happiness implicitly affirms a 'vulnerability' model of human functioning, encourages a morality of low expectations, and in spite of the radical language used to describe it, is ultimately conservative and ideally suited to an era of 'no alternative' (to capitalism). In this episode you’ll hear a collage of pop music from 1970-2010 that took me three hours to assemble to what I must admit might be a less than fully realized result, the Tinkler's “The Future is Not as Good as it Used to Be,” Charles Manson's advice on how to get out a tough stain, Dan Lett's “Gravy,” and a bunch of other noise and clips.
Zero Squared #44: COINTELPRO and American Maoism in the 60s
November 11, 2015 07:20 PM PST
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Aaron Leonard is a writer and historian. He is a regular contributor to Truthout, Rabble.ca, the History News Network, PhysicsWorld, and Canadian Dimension magazine. His book Heavy Radicals was published by Zero Books in February of this year and he returns to the podcast to talk about COINTELPRO and American Maoism.

Joshua Moufawad-Paul reviewed the book in Marx & Philosophy Review of Books this way: Leonard and Gallagher’s historiography reads as a grand political tragedy: it is the story of an organization that, despite significant state interference, temporarily became the primary force of revolution in the United States, and then, also despite state interference, imploded and became a marginal grouplet. Apprehending this tragedy should provide the contemporary left with several useful lessons. Joshua Moufawad-Paul, Marx & Philosophy Review of Books

In this episode you’ll hear a cut up of a documentary on Mao, a songified speech from Bob Avakian, and Andrew Kliman and Raya Dunayevskaya explaining the negation of the negation. Right now you’re listening to the March of the Volunteers but in just a moment you’ll be listening to Aaron Leonard and I discuss the history of some heavy radicals.

Zero Squared #41: Echo
October 21, 2015 11:32 AM PDT
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Fiamma Montezemolo is both a Cultural Anthropologist (PhD University Orientale of Naples) and an artist (MFA San Francisco Art Institute). She has taught for many years in Mexico, Italy and USA and she is currently teaching at the California College of the Arts. Her film Echo will be exhibited at an event organized by the Zero Books author Mike Watson entitled The Elephant in the Room?: Talk and Screenings on Social Inequality, Meritocracy and Art' and slated to occur some time in December. Echo is set in the border between Mexico and USA and it is an ethnographic research on the after life and “echoes” of 9 art works that have been part of the two-decade old public art event called inSite. It highlights the procedures of intrusion at work in such a site as the US-Mexico border as well as the now canonical deployment of the emblematic figure of fieldwork. It teaches us that intrusion is an ontological dimension of intervention, at once anthropological, curatorial, and artistic. By revisiting the scenes of these curatorial and artistic interventions, “echo” emerges both as a concept and a practice that assembles the futures of art works beyond its expected ruins and remains.  In this episode you’ll hear some excerpts from Laurie Anderson, an explanation of the liberatory potential of nonracist “racist” jokes from Slavoj Zizek, an excerpt from the audiobook “Tales from Ovid” read by Ted Hughes, Steve Reich's Clapping Music, and Steve Reich's Drumming.
Zero Squared #35: Nuclear Power and Climate Change
September 09, 2015 01:25 PM PDT
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Leigh Phillips is a science writer and EU affairs journalist. His writing has appeared in Nature, the Guardian, Scientific American, and the Daily Telegraph and this week we continue our conversation about his book Austerity Ecology and the Collapse Porn Addicts  which is coming from Zero Books in October. According to Phillips: modernity is not the cause of climate change and the wider biocrisis, rather it's the solution. There is no uncorrupted nature to return to and instead of shutting down and retreating into the brush we need to rethink and revise the basis for our own development. In combative and puckish style, science journalist Leigh Phillips marshals evidence from climate science, ecology, paleoanthropology, agronomy, microbiology, psychology, history, the philosophy of mathematics, and heterodox economics to argue that progressives must rediscover their historic, Promethean ambitions and counter this reactionary neo-Malthusian ideology that not only retards human flourishing, but won't save the planet anyway. In this episode you’ll hear from Tim and Eric, Charles Manson, National Lampoon, Doctor Roger Summons, the youtube star Walter Jahn, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. You'll also hear music of Dan Lett.

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