DAY 46

June 14th, 2013 § 0 comments

Some concern that Prism whistleblower Edward Snowden is in Hong Kong and may face an extradition demand from the U. S. Government . It seems that fear of political persecution is getting increasingly weak as a way of claiming refugee status under the 1951 Convention – the cases I recall mainly involved gays (afraid of homophobia), Methodists (in Iran, afraid of Methophobia), or Somalis (just afraid). So who will decide, between little Hong Kong, huge China and Uncle Sam? I find myself recalling those old pillars of the HK judiciary – in Jane Gardam’s recently completed fictional trilogy -



Old Filth (‘Failed in London, Try Hong Kong’) Feathers, and his adulterous opposite number Veneering. It’s a pity neither is still on the colony’s bench to pass the death sentence for an obviously capital offence. ‘Lawyers, I suppose, were children once,’ says Gardam wryly; although we of the psychoanalytic faith know that they remain children into old age, acting out their infantile traumas in neurotic courtroom savagery.

And talking of recent fiction, which I suppose we were, brings me to an article on the ever fascinating subject of RFID tags, those smart little chips which encode information about you and broadcast it all over. Think Oyster cards, which log where you’ve been and when; or Nectar cards, which will – well, here’s a story of their doings:

‘On the morning of his 60th birthday, the first birthday card which Mick Dillon opened was from his local Sainsburys store. It congratulated him on reaching this ripe old age and invited him back into the store to collect a free bottle of his favourite Shiraz. Anybody who has ever used a ‘Nectar’ card will therefore understand exactly what we are talking about. Mick Dillon was being biopolitically ‘secured’ as a customer.’ (Article by the said Dillon on biopolitics, Foucault, RFID tags et al. in Rev. Intl. Stud. 2008. Find it for yourself.)

Anyway, to end this digression, I learned from an article by my colleague Katherine Hayles – the link is to the abstract, but maybe you’re clever enough to get the text: a) that RFID tags are a central plot mechanism in the penultimate of the six nested sections in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, ‘An Orison of Sonmi-451′. (You remember it now, no? It’s the one where the workers are Fabricants and the rulers are Corpocracy.) b) that the title Cloud Atlas was taken by Mitchell from a piano composition by Toshi Ichiyanagi, well-known Japanese composer who was Yoko Ono’s first husband. You should be able to win any trivia competition with those cards in your deck. The better RFID encodings (harder to hack) are based on elliptic curves, I’m told – designed by people who used to be involved in solving Fermat’s Last Theorem. Now it’s done, they’re reduced to working as a sort of theoretical security guard.

Moving on to music, poetry and nepotism: one Sam Hodgkin sent me an Iranian-style poem the other day. Did he have it in Farsi, I asked; he said no, but he had translated Lou Reed’s ‘Who Loves the Sun’ into Farsi, and then back into English. The result is truly impressive:



عاشقِ خرشید کیست

گل اگر پرورد چیست

کارِ شمس این هیچ نیست

چون دلم را سوختی

باد را کی عاشق است

کی نصیمش کرده مست

باد را فکرم ببست

چون دلم را سوختی

کی ز باران شاد شد

گر چمن ایجاد شد

آب هم بر باد شد

چون دلم را سوختی

Who is in love with the sun?

What does it matter if it nurtures roses?

The sun’s business? This is nothing,

Since you scorched my heart.


Who is in love with the wind?

Whom has its zephyr intoxicated?

My thought is closed to the wind,

Since you scorched my heart.


Who is gladdened by the wind?

Even if a meadow’s been created,

The (rain)water’s been borne off by the wind,

Since you scorched my heart.

‘You scorched my heart’! Eat your heart out, Lou Reed. Immediately the Velvet Underground takes on an air of Oriental mystery, a nightmare underground rollercoaster through Tehran recalling the taxi ride in Abbas Kiarostiami’s Ten

Ten It only remains, following Goethe’s Hafiz translations, to translate the Farsi into German and set it to music, not by Lou Reed, but by Schubert. Where on the cloud atlas might we not end up?


A late note: I am beginning to get ‘user registrations’ for the site at the rate of 2 per day. Although this hardly qualifies as ‘viral’, we know that a single spark can start a prairie fire. Spread the word, users! (What word?) X

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