An anarchist solution to the banking crisis

An anarchist solution to the banking crisis

Ortega y Gasset wrote that society, like every collective, is a great soulless entity. It is humanity that has been mechanized, almost mineralized.  And that, in a nutshell, is exactly what went wrong with the housing bubble. Continue reading An anarchist solution to the banking crisis

Was Bush good for the rule of Law?

Was Bush good for the rule of Law?

The origins of modern Law stem from the Holy Roman Emperor, who in the 12th century sought a way to define his power for all to see, but without giving the role to the Pope because he feared that that would define the Pope as a greater power. So he declared that the right to define an Emperor’s power belonged only to the Law, which was in the keeping of a community of Masters who studied the principles of reason in an Ivory Tower in Bologna. The Emperor declared these scholars to be independent of his own power. In exchange, they announced that, according to Rationality and the Law, the Emperor was the only true representative of the only true Law, so whatever pleases the Emperor is the Law. And the Pope was left out. Continue reading Was Bush good for the rule of Law?

Candid Camera — Indonesian version

Candid Camera -- Indonesian version

The Indonesian version of Candid Camera recently did two skits back to back that showed the two sides of living here.

In the first skit, fifty men ran down the road and grabbed an unsuspecting stranger walking alone down the street in Jakarta. They picked him up, jiggled him around, carried him for a block, and then put him down. A few of the “victims” tried to fight at first, but all gave in very quickly. Candid Camera Indonesia did this skit five times with five different men. When they were put back down, four out of the five joined the mob and ran amok with it to find new victims, having no idea that it was all a joke. Continue reading Candid Camera — Indonesian version

Gross negligence

Gross negligence

So David Bennett lost his 77lb bag of lizard poop. “To some people it might have been just a bag of lizard shit, but to me it represented seven years of painstaking work searching the rainforest with a team of reformed poachers to find the faeces of one of the world’s largest, rarest and most mysterious lizards.” Continue reading Gross negligence

Obama meets Odd

Obama meets Odd

I saw the types of people who became president of the Harvard Law Review. Sometimes, very late at night, the whole lot would pass by, in and out of whitewashed little Gannet House, on skinny pale legs permanently damaged by a year of subciting — Hieronymous Bosch figurines amputated by Odd Nerdrum. They were not the type of people who knew how to throw a punch. Continue reading Obama meets Odd

Bucket o’ Quotes

I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound; if I can remember any of the damn things.
–Dorothy Parker

Continue reading Bucket o’ Quotes

Ethics, Morals and International Law in EJIL (Oxford)

EJIL 1999


Ethics, Morals and
International Law

Alexander Boldizar* and Outi Korhonen**


In April 1998 a large interdisciplinary conference on ‘The Turn to Ethics’ took place at Harvard University. The conference investigated such phenomena as the recent establish-ment of courses in ethics in numerous academic institutions, the explosion of literature on the subject, and the use of the rhetoric of ethics in public life at large. Our aim in this article is to bring the international legal discipline into contact with this overall phenomenon and to relate the interdisciplinary discussion reflecting on it to international law. To start, we offer a broad sense of the critical views on ethics that enliven the contemporary discussion. We then apply these views to international legal scholarly trends, revisiting formalist, idealist and what we call strategic stances towards international legal work. In the third part, we illustrate in two case studies how legal opinions of the ICJ and of individual judges can be understood in the light of this discussion. In concluding we suggest what a turn to ethics may and may not mean for the international lawyer and how the various ‘turns’ may be negotiated.

Continue reading Ethics, Morals and International Law in EJIL (Oxford)

Ode to ogling

Ode to ogling

Just found out that “more attention to breasts builds long-term bonds through a cocktail of ancient neuropeptides.” And this after years of being told “I’m up here,” after conforming to the weird cultural taboo that said looking at the ocular regions was morally superior to looking at mammary regions.

It has always seemed a weird religious leftover to judge the face as more “me” than other body parts — stunted leftovers from Neoplatonism via the Scholastics and Descartes (basically everyone who twisted philosophy in the service of religion) and all the other mind-body dualists. Sure, the face deserves some attention — it has a higher sensory density than most other body parts. But so do the hands and genitals. Continue reading Ode to ogling

The drawbacks of atheism

The drawbacks of atheism

So far I’ve found three downsides to atheism besides the obvious, if cynical, problems with being on the losing end of Pascal’s wager:

1. Nobody to talk to during sex.

Continue reading The drawbacks of atheism



I’ve counted 14 colonies of ants attacking simultaneously. Tens of thousands have died, but they keep coming. Continue reading Ants!

Bludgeoning Buddha

Bludgeoning Buddha

I was at the gym a few days ago, and a man came up to me out of the blue with perhaps the one sentence, of all possible sentences, that I was expecting to hear least: “You look like you’d make a good Buddha.”

A few days later, a different man told me, “You look like you’ve bludgeoned a few people.” It started to make me wonder whether — are the two mutually exclusive?

Continue reading Bludgeoning Buddha

Porters, Rebellion and Regicide

Reprinted from The Globe and Mail (June 2001), where it appeared as Red Flag Rising over Nepal.

Six centuries of smoldering antagonism exploded into flames Saturday nigh, says Canadian writer Alexander Boldizar in Bali.

Continue reading Porters, Rebellion and Regicide

Dinosaurs on the Roof

gmdino150“Ice.” Shiatie Taget’s voice came in faintly, stretched and delayed by its trip from Pond Inlet to the Iridium satellite high above the North Pole, then back to our frostbitten group of polar paleontologists. “From Greenland,” he added.

We were trapped on Nunavut’s Bylot Island by 100 km/h winds, August snow and ever-shifting ice floes. The voice delay made Shiatie, our boatman and eventual rescuer, sound as though he were speaking through jaws stiff from cold. In reality, he was probably only lifting his cheekbones gently in the Inuit version of a shrug, and speaking without moving his lips. A minimum of wasted movement, like lifting eyebrows to say ‘yes,’ smiling ‘hello,’ or crinkling the nose instead of ‘no.’ Shiatie had spent the day locked within the grinding, popping, gurgling ice-cakes in a failed attempt to pick us up. He had floated for hours through Eclipse Sound before managing to break free. But not through.

Continue reading Dinosaurs on the Roof

Earthquake in the Himalayas

Earthquake in the Himalayas: Rebellion and Regicide in Nepal, in Shambhala Sun (March 2002)

Earthquake in the Himalayas: Rebellion and Regicide in Nepal, in Shambhala Sun (March 2002)

Reprinted from Shambhala Sun (March 2002), where it appeared as Earthquake in the Himalayas: Rebellion and Regicide in Nepal

Just a little after nine in the evening on Friday, June 1, 2001, Crown Prince Dipendra, His Majesty the King of Nepal’s oldest son, staggered drunk into the royal dining room, a cap pulled low over his face. He shot one bullet into the ceiling. His family stared at him from the dinner table as he lowered an M-16 and shot his father, King Birendra. He shot him first in the neck and then in the stomach.

Crown Prince Dipendra walked out of the room, then back in. He fired again, shooting family member after family member. He left the room and returned, over and over, each time shooting more wildly.

Dipendra’s mother, Queen Aishwarya, and his younger brother, Prince Nirajan, so far had survived. When Dipendra walked out of the room one last time, into the Royal Garden, Queen Aishwarya followed him. Perhaps she thought she could reason with her son. Prince Nirajan tried to stop her, then followed his mother and interposed his body between hers and Dipendra’s. Dipendra shot and killed them both, then turned the gun on himself.

This is what the press reported about the tragic events, but it is not what Nepali kerosene porters believe. Not then and not now.

Continue reading Earthquake in the Himalayas

Memahami Seni Filippo Sciascia

Reprinted from Harper’s Bazzar (March 2007).

Review of Filippo Sciascia, in Indonesian.

Continue reading Memahami Seni Filippo Sciascia

A proper hamburger

A proper hamburger

My favourite hamburger when I was in law school was called “The Heart Attack” at a little 4-stool dive called The Tasty run by a sour Iraqi man, with oil dripping and spritzing everywhere. But the Iraqi man didn’t have good legs and the burger didn’t have 8,000 calories and I can no longer pretend that The Tasty was the Platonic ideal of the hamburger joint. This man just has everything right, right down to his denigration of lettuce. Not many would remember to denigrate the lettuce. Continue reading A proper hamburger

15 Cemeti Artists

Reprinted from Gaya Art News (June 2008)

Continue reading 15 Cemeti Artists

11 Totems

gayamustica150Reprinted from Gaya Art News (July 2008).

“We must arrive at a dynamic conception of forms, we must face the fact that all human forms are in a constant state of transformation,” Asger Jorn wrote in 1954. “Architecture is always the ultimate achievement of intellectual and artistic evolution. It is the final point in the achievement of any artistic endeavour because the creation of architecture implies the construction of an environment and the establishment of a way of life.”

Few artists have devoted as much energy as Nino Mustica to this sort of research into the evolving power of transformations. Though his roots are solidly within painting – and, if you had to choose one aspect, within the emotive impact of colour – Mustica’s natural sensibility is one of constant change, constant growth, constant evolution. He is a painter, but without the limitations of canvas or delineations between sign, gesture, colour, material – or volume.

Continue reading 11 Totems

Yellow, But Not The Sun (Gaya Art News)

Reprinted from Gaya Art News (October 2008).

Review of Michelle Swayne’s show, Yellow, But Not The Sun.

Continue reading Yellow, But Not The Sun (Gaya Art News)

Sisi Puitik Pada Seni Rupa Michelle Swayne

Reprinted from Suardi Magazine (October 2007).

In Indonesian, pseudonymous.

Continue reading Sisi Puitik Pada Seni Rupa Michelle Swayne

From Tennesse to Indonesia

Balayem, Michelle Swayne, acrylic on canvas, 2004

Balayem, Michelle Swayne, acrylic on canvas, 2004

Tom Wolfe, in The Painted Word, joked that “art has become completely literary: the paintings and other works exist only to illustrate the text.” In her exhibition at Gaya Art Space, titled Yellow, But Not The Sun, New York artist Michelle Swayne subtly undermines the forces described by Wolfe. Through poetic titles that themselves read like paintings, a solid grounding in both conceptual and academic art, and most of all through the ineffable touch of the art itself — uncannily ambiguous work filled with tonal angularities and tensions — Swayne reclaims enough space for the viewer to see her paintings and sculptures as visual objects married to visual ideas, resistant to easy textual parsing.

But her decision to give up her studio in Williamsburg, New York ¾ an area with the world’s highest concentration of artists ¾ to live in Bali and paint alongside rice farmers (her studio is literally open to a ricefield on one side) is, in part, a reflection of those forces. And she is not the only artist to trade New York for Bali: the painter Ashley Bickerton once lived two blocks away in Williamsburg.

Discussing Matisse and Picasso, Swayne once wrote that there are two kinds of artists — those who are filled up and pour out and those who gather and re-negotiate; those who blindly go to discover and those who specify what is found. Swayne works more in a quiet “pulling” mode than the analytic “poising” mode, and she has found something in Indonesia that New York lacks.

Continue reading From Tennesse to Indonesia

Indonesian Art and the Primordial Androgyne


Ugo Untoro, Swimmer, oil on canvas, 98x78cm, 2001

“The best things cannot be told, the second best are misunderstood. After that comes civilized conversation; after that, mass indoctrination; after that, intercultural exchange.” — Joseph Campbell

On the 62nd anniversary of Indonesian independence, I sat, hungry and a little impatient to see the work, listening to a series of speakers introducing an exhibit of Modern Indonesian Masters. The oddest name on the roster, ex ante, was the former Balinese Chief of Police and current head of the narcotics department of the Indonesian police, Made Mangku Pastika. I expected a moral lecture on how art is a way to develop character and fight drugs, or something similar. I did not expect Mr. Mangku Pastika to completely change the way I viewed art in Indonesia.

The essence of his speech was that there are three levels of humanity: at the lowest level are those people who understand only logic, good and bad, right and wrong; at the middle level are artists who create meaning; and at the highest level are artists whose work reaches into the spiritual dimension.

This was disorienting: the act of placing spiritual art at the highest level is the sort of rhetorical flourish that would be possible from any art lover in the West – though an art-loving policeman would already be unusual – but no western cop would ever describe people who “only” understood right and wrong at the bottom of anything. This was no flourish.

There is a two-thousand-year-old story by Ashvagosha about Buddha’s life that describes how Buddha searched for the point where the world didn’t spin like a wheel but stayed steady as the centrepoint of an axle. He found this (psychological) omphalos on the eastern side of a Bodhi tree. There, he was attacked by Mara, the lord of illusion. Mara first sent what both Freud and Jung would much later identify as the two primary motivations of all human behaviour – pleasure and fear. When neither of these worked, Mara ordered Buddha, with the voice of authority, to return to the law and order of society and religion. The Buddha, who had dissolved in his mind the concept of self, ignored Mara. He had moved past the created world, past all dualities, to moksa, the release from delusion. The earth shook with delight, and all the deities and demons and creatures of the world, including Mara, came to celebrate.

And here was the former Chief of Police recognizing, in a way that was so natural as to be almost careless, that pleasure, fear, and obedience (or in Hindu terms, the trivarga of kama, artha and dharma) are all obstacles to this fourth and final goal. The true line of all great work, the only proper space for the creating self, are between these three and moksa. Several of the Balinese speakers who followed echoes this theme.

Cafés in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, art schools across the West, places that artists congregate, are full of conversations about what is art, the role of art, and so on. Each artist will give you a different answer. Was it possible that here there was a consensus? I wondered whether I’d just been given a key to understanding a fundamental distinction between eastern and western art.

Continue reading Indonesian Art and the Primordial Androgyne

Yellow, But Not The Sun (C-Arts)

Reprinted from C-Arts Magazine (November 2007)

It's hard to leave when you're so soft, Michelle Swayne, moving shadow image (2007)

Tom Wolfe, in The Painted Word, joked that “art has become completely literary: the paintings and other works exist only to illustrate the text.” In her exhibition at Gaya Art Space, titled Yellow,

But Not The Sun, Michelle Swayne subtly undermines the forces described by Wolfe. Through poetic titles that themselves read like paintings, a solid grounding in both conceptual and academic art, and most of all through the ineffable touch of the art itself uncannily ambiguous work filled with tonal angularities and tensions Swayne reclaims enough space for the viewer to see her paintings and sculptures as visual objects married to visual ideas, resistant to easy textual parsing.


Continue reading Yellow, But Not The Sun (C-Arts)

Made Wianta: Sharp

wianta-sharp-faceReprinted from Gaya Art News (December 2007).

The demiurge turns demoniac to rip, slit, and slash the thin veneer of civilized society with which we dull ourselves into submission. He’ll stab, shear, cleave, rend, gash, chop, wound, jab, prick and amputate — slicing and cutting to make us whole again. Alive.

In Sharp, he fucks us with fifty pierced phalluses, he cuts us into strips and eat us. Vomits and bites us again, to pierce our imbecile parents, legal hypocrisies, and slave-morality religions — all the scaffolding we’ve erected to make ourselves flaccid, drained of strength. This is our safety: a tired vagina, a tired anus, sewed up by our daughter to keep the polluted seed inside. Sent home in tears. Something sharp is necessary.

The demon has a hard on. He has fifty hanging from the wall, each pierced by a cockring. Named, one for each of his friends — mine will be named Aleko (Alex + kontol) — because his violence is care. Love in death. Killing, power, strength. These were once life. We grabbed the intestines and sometimes disgorged them onto the floor. Now we have perusal and market analysis.

Like the old kings who sliced themselves to bits in ritualized regicides to revive the land, the demon does to the viewer what his razors and pins and swords do to the canvas. Cut, mangle, destroy, and make, in the end and almost by happenstance, beautiful.

Continue reading Made Wianta: Sharp

Michelle Swayne — Magnet Bali (text only)

Reprinted from Harper’s Bazaar (December 2007)

Tom Wolfe, dalam bukunya The Painted Word (Lukisan Kata), berkelakar bahwa “seni kini menjadi begitu literer: lukisan maupun karya seni lainnya muncul hanya sebagai ilustrasi dari teks saja.” Michelle Swayne, seorang seniwati dari New York, dalam pamerannya yang bertajuk Yellow, But Not The Sun (Kuning, Tetapi Bukan Matahari) di Gaya Art Space, Sayan-Ubud secara halus melemahkan kekuatan dari pernyataan Wolfe. Melalui judul-judul puitis yang secara menyendiri bisa terbaca sebagai lukisan, dengan latar belakang solid pada seni konseptual dan akademis, dan terutama berkat sentuhan dari seni yang sulit dibahasakan itu sendiri-karya-karya ambigu aneh penuh nuansa kekakuan dan ketegangan-Swayne mengklaim kembali cukup ruang bagi pemirsa lukisan dan patungnya, hasil perkawinan obyek dengan ide visual yang resisten terhadap telaah tekstual.

Continue reading Michelle Swayne — Magnet Bali (text only)

Michelle Swayne: Magnet Bali (Harper’s Bazaar)

Reprinted from Harper’s Bazaar (Christmas edition, December 2007).

Full version with images.

Continue reading Michelle Swayne: Magnet Bali (Harper’s Bazaar)

Art and Automobile: BMW’s Art Cars

Art and Automobile: BMW's Art Cars, in C-Arts Magazine (March 2008)

Art and Automobile: BMW's Art Cars, in C-Arts Magazine (March 2008)

If there were such a thing as an object history of the world, the 20th century would be represented by the automobile. What an Arthurian knight had in horse, armor and sword, a modern male has in his Mustang, his Ferrari or his Hummer. Sir Lancelot drives a Ford GT40, Sir Gawain a Porsche 917. Arthur himself would probably ride a Maserati, a Rolls, or a BMW painted by Andy Warhol (more on that later). Its narrative arc could come from the movie Vanishing Point-a man alone on the open road, eventually chased by police until, inevitably, he runs his Dodge Challenger into a roadblock of bulldozers.

From countercultural challenge through its co-option into a symbol of status and social power, an aid in mating rituals and a source of traffic tickets, the automobile has remained the ultimate fetish, filled with special powers beyond its own utility.

Continue reading Art and Automobile: BMW’s Art Cars

Asia Unbound: New York’s Asian Contemporary Art Week

Asia Contemporary Art Week, in C-Arts Magazine (May 2008)

Asia Contemporary Art Week, in C-Arts Magazine (May 2008)

Reprinted from C-Arts Magazine (May 2008)

During the week of March 15 to 24, 2008, New York’s fifth Asian Contemporary Art Week (ACAW) brought together forty-six New York City museums and galleries in sixty special events-exhibitions, screenings, and conversations-featuring over a hundred artists from every corner of Asia.

Melissa Chiu, museum director of the Asia Society, a major fiscal sponsor of ACAW that itself holds roughly two contemporary exhibitions per year, noted that “Since the first Asian Contemporary Art Week held in 2002, there has been a dramatic increase in awareness of Asian contemporary art and we like to believe this initiative has contributed.” In fact, from Turkey to Taiwan, Israel to Indonesia, the availability of Asian art to New York viewers has exploded to such an extent that choosing which shows to attend becomes a curatorial experience: just on Thursday, March 20th, between 6PM and 8PM, twenty participating galleries held openings.

Running from gallery to gallery, it quickly became clear that the idea of “Asian contemporary art” is as resistant to essentialization as the idea of “Western contemporary art.” Though New York City still boasts itself the centre of the art world, the art itself, whatever its geographic origin, has become a collection of peripheries.

Continue reading Asia Unbound: New York’s Asian Contemporary Art Week

The Other Shoe

The Other Shoe, in C-Arts Magazine (May 2008)

The Other Shoe, in C-Arts Magazine (May 2008)

Reprinted from C-Arts Magazine (May 2008)

“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.” –Oscar Wilde

Art fairs can be exhausting. Not just city-sized biennales like Venice, but even those that try to limit themselves to a couple of piers, like the New York Armory show. When I wandered those two art-filled piers, I dressed for comfort: sneakers and a VIP pass, so I could go sit in the VIP room, put my feet up and have a drink.

I’d never been in a room with quite that many gallery directors, art directors, and other art middlemen. They were beautiful. They wore the latest styles from Milan, from Paris, from that magical place with heroin-addict skinniness, bulk discounts on the color black, and eyes so sensitive they require sunglasses indoors. Except for me in my worn-out Nikes, everyone looked like they’d just walked off a catwalk, swinging hair and thin molto Italo ties, networking while appearing merely to lounge loosely.

Continue reading The Other Shoe

Synthetic Times: Media Art Now

Reprinted from C-Arts Magazine (July 2008)

Synthetic Times: Media Art Now, in C-Arts Magazine (July 2008)

Synthetic Times: Media Art Now, in C-Arts Magazine (July 2008)

formula-pdf– Dr. Ray Kurzweil

The future started fifty years ago, when mathematician John von Neumann noticed that the geometrically accelerating pace of technological progress “gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs as we know them could not continue.”

The most famous futurist living today, Dr. Ray Kurzweil, transformed von Neumann’s insight into a mathematical predictor that has, so far, correctly foreseen by over a decade specific things like the internet explosion, handheld reading devices for the blind (predicted down to the exact year), and the year a computer would be crowned chess champion (he was off by one year).

Now he is predicting that by the early 2030s, we’ll have “eliminated the heart, lungs, red and white blood cells, platelets, pancreas, thyroid and all the hormone-producing organs, kidneys, bladder, liver, lower esophagus, stomach, small intestines, large intestines, and bowel. What we have left at this point is the skeleton, skin, sex organs, sensory organs, mouth and upper esophagus, and brain.” The eliminated parts will be replaced by nanobots. In the meantime, medical technology will start to correct some of the biological causes of aging, further increasing our lifespan, hopefully long enough to reach the “third bridge,” where computers become powerful enough to download our personalities. At this point, the singularity, we become pure information. Keep a backup copy in case of crashes, and you can live forever.

Continue reading Synthetic Times: Media Art Now