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the psychopathic corporation

The threepart Canadian documentary 'The Corporation' asks the interesting question: if corporations are considered legal persons, what kind of personality do they have?

The Corporation

It signals widespread (Anglo-Saxon) corporate behavior including:

  • indifference to the possibility of punishment;
  • disregard for the consequences of their actions;
  • lack of empathy for the suffering of others;

And proceeds, DSM-IV in hand, to diagnose corporations as essentially psychopathic.

Corporations are required by law to elevate their own interests above those of others, making them prone to prey upon and exploit others without regard for legal rules or moral limits.

Featuring such well-known critical voices as Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore and others, 'The Corporation' provides ample food for thought. It has a companion piece in the book 'The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power'.

Image from The Corporation

The downside is that the film is better in its diagnosis than in its proposed cure of the patient. Especially when it views the recent trend of corporate social responsibility as "most often [serving] to mask the corporation's true character, not to change it."

stern decorations

On the last day of SAIL Amsterdam '05, finally got to see some of the many tall ships. There is some confusion about the name of the Dutch East Indies Company replica ship the 'Prins Willim', or rather 'Prins Willem'.

Prins Willim

Legend has it that, back in 1651, the wood sculptor doing the elaborate stern decorations ran out of space with the name and decided to use an i instead of an e, as it's shorter and sounds about the same either way. That's what they call oldfashioned craftwork.

And so the replica builders in the 1980s faithfully repeated the mistake...

film title art

Nice feature by Not Coming to a Theater Near You on the famous film titles and sequences designed by Saul Bass, including many Hitchcock and Scorsese films.

@ www.notcoming.com/saulbass

Vertigo title by Saul Bass


Today we are witnessing the triumphs of a hyperdemocracy in which the mass acts directly, outside the law, imposing its aspirations and its desires by means of material pressure. It is a false interpretation of the new situation to say that the mass has grown tired of politics and handed over the exercise of it to specialised persons. Quite the contrary. That was what happened previously; that was democracy. The mass took it for granted that after all, in spite of their defects and weaknesses, the minorities understood a little more of public problems than it did itself. Now, on the other hand, the mass believes that it has the right to impose and to give force of law to notions born in the café. I doubt wether there have been other periods of history in which the multitude has come to govern more directly than in our own. That is why I speak of hyperdemocracy.

-- José Ortega y Gasset ("The Revolt of the Masses", 1930)

pandora's box

'Primer' is one of those mindf*cks that will leave you a) completely cold, or b) wanting to watch it again, now. This film is along the lines of 'Pi', 'Memento' or 'Donnie Darko', but infinitely more frustrating because the clues are oh so subtle...


The premise is straightforward enough: two suburban techies invent what appears to be a time machine and start experimenting with it. From there the story grows hyperbolically more complex, as the characters (and their doubles, triples?) start "reverse engineering the present" and getting into all the philosophical paradoxes associated with time travel. At one point the narrator concedes: "The permutations were endless."

So, I won't even pretend to be able to explain the whole plot -- if that's even possible. The internet discussions are still far from settling on even a definite timeline of events. (Examples of timeline theories: here and here.)

But aside from all the who-did-what-when questions, more interesting is seeing the characters struggle with something they don't understand, something that is "unknowable." This is best shown in the little things, like one of the characters asking:

Man, are you hungry? I haven't eaten since later this afternoon.

Or, more ominously, when one character's ear suddenly starts bleeding, or when they talk about their handwriting inexplicably deteriorating. Is it the machine?

They don't know. They can't know. 'Primer' is unknowable.