“A Homogenous, Cancerous, Rhizomatic Junkspace”


Map of the Online Communities by XKCD, 2007. Larger version.

J.G. Ballard one said that his biggest fear was that the future would be boring. He feared the future would be “a vast, conforming suburb of the soul.” The notion, as applied to the Internet, was recently explored in two pieces on the changing face of internet culture.

Both are wonderfully-written, playful and full of insight. The first of these The Death of the Cyberflâneur, an opinion piece penned by Evgeny Morozov for the New York Times.

Thanks to the French poet Charles Baudelaire and the German critic Walter Benjamin, both of whom viewed the flâneur as an emblem of modernity, his figure (and it was predominantly a “he”) is now firmly associated with 19th-century Paris. The flâneur would leisurely stroll through its streets and especially its arcades — those stylish, lively and bustling rows of shops covered by glass roofs — to cultivate what Honoré de Balzac called “the gastronomy of the eye.” … it’s easy to see, then, why cyberflânerie seemed such an appealing notion in the early days of the Web. The idea of exploring cyberspace as virgin territory, not yet colonized by governments and corporations, was romantic; that romanticism was even reflected in the names of early browsers (“Internet Explorer,” “Netscape Navigator”). …

In the second half of the 19th century, Paris was experiencing rapid and profound change. The architectural and city planning reforms advanced by Baron Haussmann during the rule of Napoleon III were particularly consequential: the demolition of small medieval streets, the numbering of buildings for administrative purposes, the establishment of wide, open, transparent boulevards … But if today’s Internet has a Baron Haussmann, it is Facebook. Everything that makes cyberflânerie possible — solitude and individuality, anonymity and opacity, mystery and ambivalence, curiosity and risk-taking — is under assault by that company. It’s easy to blame Facebook’s business model (e.g., the loss of online anonymity allows it to make more money from advertising), but the problem resides much deeper. Facebook seems to believe that the quirky ingredients that make flânerie possible need to go. “We want everything to be social,” Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said on “Charlie Rose” a few months ago.


Updated Map of the Online Communities by XKCD, 2010. Larger version here.

In response, Jesse Darling has penned a brilliant response essay titled Arcades, Mall Rats, and Tumblr Thugs over at The New Inquiry:

Evgeny Morozov writes from Palo Alto, a Californian charter city established by the founding father of Stanford University, at which Morozov is a visiting fellow. Palo Alto, nestled in a dewy corner of Silicon Valley, has been at various times home to Google, Paypal, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard: a prime piece of sun-drenched, Nor-Cal sprawl. Social media is to the Read/Write Web what sprawl is to the metropolis of modernity: a homogenous, cancerous, rhizomatic junkspace that expands exponentially outward on a sludgy wave of strip malls and sponsored links, greed and induced demand. This ruthless modernization produces miles of “junkspace” — a term coined by the architect Rem Koolhaas, who wrote that “more and more, more is more. Junkspace is overripe and undernourishing at the same time, a colossal security blanket that covers the earth in a stranglehold of seduction…

Junkspace is like being condemned to a perpetual Jacuzzi with millions of your best friends. Seemingly an apotheosis, spatially grandiose, the effect of its richness is a terminal hollowness, a vicious parody of ambition that systematically erodes the credibility of building, possibly forever.” Koolhaas was referring to the airport and the strip-mall and the single-zone sprawl, but he could have been talking about Facebook…. If space is a practiced place, then collective navigation produces the commons. Like mall rats flipping tricks in a parking lot, users exhibit a feral fluency in the use (and transgression, as it is reimagined daily) of this common timespace: we tune out the ads and get on with the serious business of flirting, hustling, hanging out and talking shit. We know that this serious business is affective labor which produces capital for the custodians of netspace; indeed, meme culture (including but not limited to YouTube parody, stock photo art, cut-ups and image macros) can be seen as the user asserting a subjectivity that exists and thrives despite (and beyond) her status as targeted marketing demographic. Like the Occupy movement, these activities amount to a kind of politics of the public (virtual) body in (virtual) space. We may never own the means of production as such, but will continue to assert, pervert and subvert the commons anyway: a gesture of post-corporeal territorial pissing which necessitates neither phallus nor spray-can nor html.

The Internet: Serious Business. Well-played.

On a tangentially related note:

Trent Reznor & Erik Satie: Majestic Angst-Bros of Minor Key Minimalism

Editor’s Note: This gem of a submission from writer/proto-ambient scholar/fervent NIN-lover Matt Keefer was discovered several tiers deep during a recent trawl of the Coilhouse slush account. It’s an offbeat and spirited piece, simultaneously comparing and cross-referencing the musical and philosophical kinship inherent between Erik Satie and Trent Reznor, and issuing several preemptive strikes against any and all Would-Be Jaded Hipster Remonstrators. (Also, somehow, on a profound level, it feels like the perfect blog follow-up to that horrifying “Keyboard Cat In Hell” clip Ross just posted). Thank you, Matt. Keep on angstin’ on, comrades.

Trent Reznor is the rightful successor to the great Erik Satie. Don’t let yourself ignore this plain and obvious fact because you are embarrassed of your youth. And no, Trent isn’t disqualified from this lofty inheritance by his perpetual unhappiness. Satie had it just as bad.

In the Spring of 1893, the ever-eccentric Monsieur Erik began a torrid affair with the artist and model Suzanne Valadon. An odd duck in her own right, Madame Valadon kept a goat at her studio to gobble up any of her work that she was unhappy with. After only a single night with Valadon, Erik proposed; the marriage never happened (or if it did, the records of such were later eaten by said goat), but Valadon did move to the room next to Satie’s at the Rue Cortot in Paris. Satie became increasingly obsessed with Valadon, often referring to her as his nanny-goat and filling notebooks with worshipful scrawlings about “her whole being, lovely eyes, gentle hands, and tiny feet.” Indeed, Satie composed his Danses Gothiques as a calmative to restore his composure in the face of the amorous frenzies that Valadon inspired in him. In turn, Valadon painted a portrait of Satie and gifted it to him:


Portrait of Erik Satie by Suzanne Valadon. Who can resist the Pince-Nez? WHO?

Sadly, six months later, the affair ended. One chilly winter evening Valadon vanished, leaving Satie with only his portrait and a broken heart to remember her by. Satie snapped, scrawling in the latter pages of his journals that nothing remained for him “but an icy loneliness that fills the head with emptiness and the heart with sadness.” This is the only intimate relationship that Satie ever had. He would later move to a room in Arcueil and in the 27 years before he drank himself to death, there is no record of anyone visiting his room.

Have you called the White House yet?


Tom the Dancing Bug, via BoingBoing.

Plenty of websites have been reporting/debating/parsing the National Defense Authorization Act controversy for weeks now. In a nutshell, the NDAA contains provisions that have been worded so broadly, they’ll give any future president the power to imprison American citizens and legal residents of the U.S. indefinitely and without trial on the basis of accusation (even without proof) of a “belligerent act”.

Indefinitely. Without trial. This situation is not merely about politics; it’s about our most basic and precious civil rights.

If you can find a minute in the next 24 hours to call (202) 456-1414 to ask President Obama to change his mind, he still has until tomorrow (Dec 26th) to veto the bill.

It’s worth a shot.

[EDIT: Sunday, Dec 25. Apologies, folks. Looks like the office is closed until Tuesday. But, by all means, write a letter (even if it’s too late): http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/write-or-call#write ]

In Defense of H&M’s Fembots

Fashion retailer H&M recently got called out for using computer-generated bodies in their online catalogue.

The company has admitted that the bodies are “completely virtual,” with faces of real models pasted in. “This is a technique that is not new, it is available within the industry today,” said an H&M spokesperson. “The virtual mannequins are used in the same way as we use mannequins in our stores for ladies wear and menswear.”

Bloggers have responded with appropriate criticism. Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation spokesman Helle Vaagland said, “this illustrates very well the sky-high aesthetic demands placed on the female body.” Blogger T.M. Gaouette writes, “I’m confused! If the intention is to just show the items of clothing, then why put real heads on fake bodies? Why not just put a fake head on the fake body? Is the real head needed so that we can relate to the models as human beings? But how is that possible when we are faced with a perfect body to which no one can relate?”

On Facebook, a couple of friends expressed concern that this trend will decrease the number of jobs available to working models. Another issue is the creepiness factor: “Man,” writes Jenna Sauer at Jezebel, “isn’t looking at the four identical bodies with different heads so uncanny?”

With that in mind, there are a few beautiful and amazing things going on here. First of all, there’s the unintentional modern art: this catalogue has brought us the haunting, Ringu-esque Model Without a Face. Also, this foray into the uncanny valley brings us one step closer to the age of the idoru. With teenage pop idol Aimi Eguchi, whose face is a composite of six different singers, and vocaloids (singing synthesizers) such as pigtailed holographic superstar Hatsune Miku, we’re almost there. And even though H&M’s online catalogue conforms to the same beauty standard as any other big fashion retailer, this technology actually has the potential to subvert the paradigm altogether.

Imagine an online shop where your preferred weight/height/measurements are used to generate 3D models of the bodies that you want to see. Imagine if there was an API for this that could be used across all online clothing stores you visit, so that no matter what site you were looking at, the models appeared the way that you wanted them to. Standardized beauty ideals would become less relevant, because people would have greater control over their exposure to them.

In the short term, it may seem like computer-generated models reinforce a homogenous beauty standard. In the long term, this technology may pave the way towards greater body diversity and inclusiveness.

EDIT: After some wonderful discussion in the comments, I’m appending my responses to the post:

Some of you have pointed out that advertisers aren’t known for championing body diversity. It’s true. Perfume companies hire leggy, angular supermodels to to sell you a lifestyle. Some female-targeted TV commercials begrudgingly include the token African-American women (especially, for some reason, when selling yogurt, cleaning products and tampons), but it’s rare to see them go beyond that. If you read Sociological Images, you know how often advertisers and companies create ads that are super-racist, sexist or classicist even in this day and age.

The reason why I think this has a chance of succeeding is that the advertising and retail branches (or outsourced teams) of a company have totally different goals. The goal of advertising is to make you aware of the brand, and to associate that brand with glamour, mystique, etc. That’s why fashion and editorial models are very tall and have exotic, alien features – Andrej Pejic, Alek Wek, etc. On the other hand, catalog models tend to look “wholesome” and just slightly more attractive than average. Your mileage may vary – the Victoria’s Secret catalog models will look more glamorous than the ones from Gap, and these H&M girls are on the more glamorous side – but generally, catalog models are supposed to be a very standard type of “pretty” that’s not supposed to make people insecure, because they want you to feel happy when you make the purchasing decision. Here are a few models from the Macy’s catalog… I think they’re pretty, but I don’t think that they’re “impossibly” pretty. They look like women I see every day:

Advertising makes people feel insecure, like they’re lacking something, with the implicit message that buying this brand will make them somehow more attractive or fulfilled. But that’s not the goal of a product shot. The goal of the product shot is to make the average consumer feel like the item is right for them. Consider the difference between the Levi Jeans ad campaign and the completely neutral, non-threatening, disembodied product photo on their website:

Calvin Klein Ad:

Calvin Klein Product shot:

It’s true that almost all models presented in catalogs are still uniformly size small. That’s because they are often modeling samples, before the full line of clothing is produced. Samples are manufactured in size small because that’s always been the industry standard. Most of that is for practical reasons: size small clothing is faster and cheaper to produce, because it requires less fabric and time. But with advanced 3D modeling, that convention may go out the window as far as online catalog photos go. (I’m sure it’ll remain as a standard in the fashion world for a long time). There’s already a company called http://fits.me/ that’s working on this. It’s not as advanced as H&M’s one-size-fits-all fitting room interface, but hopefully it’ll evolve in that direction.

H&M doesn’t deserve TOO much praise because they didn’t really step outside the status quo with their use of digital models, but I don’t think they should be criticized, either. Their fake-bodied models were no skinnier than any real models that they would’ve used otherwise. I worry that if the blogosphere crucifies them, and so far that’s what has happened, then other fashion retailers will get discouraged from trying this type of technology in the future because they’ll think that people are just uncomfortable with it, and that it doesn’t test well. Ms. Magazine wrote in an op-ed about this, “Sign here to urge H&M to use real women to model its clothes.” If H&M does that, then it definitely won’t make any lasting change, because they’d just go back to using real Size 2 models. However with digital imaging, we can end up with a catalog that lets you change the size and shape of the clothing, looking something like this, only with more variations:

Transphobia is Tasteless: An Open Letter to Hell Pizza

EDIT: (Mon, Dec 5th, 6:45 NZT) Hell Pizza’s webmaster has just remarked on their Facebook page: “We’ve taken what you and others have said onboard and realised we crossed the line with some of our biggest advocates. We apologise.”  Thank you for taking responsibility, Hell Pizza.

EDIT (Mon, Dec 5th, 6:15 NZT): Hell Pizza Admits “Sense of Humour Failure“. 

Hell Pizza is an international food chain that started here in Wellington, New Zealand in 1996. They’ve since expanded within NZ and brought stores to the UK, Australia, Ireland, Canada and Korea. They’re no strangers to controversy. Entirely depending on your perspective, they’ve made some really shocking dick moves in the past, and pulled off some  darkly satisfying campaigns as well.

But the following “Misfortune Cookie” stunt seems especially mean-spirited, even for them:


Photo by Tamsyn Clemerson

Tamsyn Clemerson uploaded the above picture to Teh Book ov Face earlier this weekend. She has since confirmed to me in email, and to NZ NEWSWIRE, that this is a “Misfortune Cookie” she ordered from the Hell Pizza franchise:

I bought [it] on the 26th of November. I just got around to opening the last one last night, 2 December, and that was the “misfortune” that I received. I resized the photo to post it online, but aside from that have not manipulated it at all. I still have the original packaging and the misfortune, though not the cookie as I ate it because it was delicious. Please spread this as much as possible, Hell Pizza need to know that this sort of thing is not okay.

I’ve since made some calls to Hell Pizza. Two days ago, I spoke at length with a Strathmore shop manager, as well as their Wellington division marketing manager. Both employees denied knowing anything about that particular message. The latter, a very professional and lovely fellow named Jason, assured me he’d look into it, and we should keep in touch. Today, he was able to confirm that yes, this is a product Hell Pizza sells, which was signed off on by their marketing department. Apparently, they’re already getting a lot of complaints about it. And they should. Jason tells me Hell Pizza is working on an official press statement which should be out shortly. I’ll update here when it does.

I’m hardly a humorless hardnose. But for many reasons, the thoughtlessness of a product like this, especially placed in context, really fucks me off. So here’s my open letter to Hell Pizza. If, like me, you’re weary of seeing at-risk minorities be treated as the butts of hateful “jokes” (and then often further insulted by “it’s just meant to be funny; lighten up” backlash reactions) please feel free share this letter, and to join me in boycotting irresponsible franchises who stoop to this level of pandering cruelty.

Dear Hell Pizza (NZ),

If you check your Strathmore location’s online order logs, you’ll see that I’ve spent several hundred dollars on your food over the past couple of years. I love it. I love YOU!  I love how yummy your many dishes are. I love that you take chances. I love that you root for underdogs and outcasts. I love your creativity. I love that you hire inked up, pierced up people with funny-colored hair. I love that you’re so irreverent and cheeky, poking fun at overbearing religious traditions and obnoxious public figures. (Granted, those Hitler and “Brownies” billboards were bullshit, but you took ‘em down after enough people said “oh HELLS no”, and all was forgiven.)

Which makes this letter a bummer to write: I can’t buy your food anymore.

Occupy Everywhere: The West Coast

My tour has kept me from spending as much time at the Occupations as I would have liked, so some of these observations were made in brief visits. Writing this piece took me a long time because, as a fan girl of the revolution, I was uncomfortable with my negative feelings towards the occupations – especially in light of such horrendous police brutality in Oakland, CA. But I also believe that opposing opinions, dissent and criticism are very necessary for the movement, and that supporters should not be afraid to voice their concerns and observations.


Photo by Margaret Killjoy.

Oakland

My own visit to Occupy Oakland was brief and pre-dated all the police violence, but it had a lot going for it, a racially diverse crowd, the OWS standards of kitchen, library, and medical tent, its own police, and a feeling of community. Oakland is a city that needs all the forward, peaceful momentum it can get. Oakland is also a very progressive Occupation, pushing for radical actions such as the general strike on November 2nd, and for the peaceful occupation of foreclosed and abandoned properties in Oakland. Those are both brave initiatives. The occupation of foreclosed properties being especially dangerous, not only because of the police force but because Oakland can be a very dangerous city regardless of the police.

Occupy Oakland Reportage, Part II.

There’s been a lot of intense stuff goin’ down in Oakland, California this week. In this post, Myles Boisen shares two more installments of his ongoing documentation and  assessments of #OO with us: “SHUT DOWN”, which was written on November 3rd, 2011, after tens of thousands of protesters marched to the Port of Oakland, and “WHAT NEXT?”,  which was sent out early this morning.  -Mer

SHUT DOWN

Port of Oakland SHUT DOWN
Wells Fargo SHUT DOWN
Bank of America SHUT DOWN
CitiBank SHUT DOWN
Comerica Bank SHUT DOWN
Chase Bank SHUT DOWN
Union Bank SHUT DOWN
Bank of the West SHUT DOWN
Nara Bank SHUT DOWN
T-Mobile SHUT DOWN
Burger King SHUT DOWN
Walgreen’s SHUT DOWN

Highlights of the Oakland general strike:

10 a.m. As I start reading news feeds I see Angela Davis is addressing the early morning crowd at 14th and Broadway. Unconfirmed rumors come and go that the Port of Oakland is already closed, with possible wildcat strike action and trucks unable to get through.

12 p.m. I arrive at Oscar Grant Plaza. On the way over radio coverage on KPFA-FM says that Wells Fargo bank is already shut down. People are streaming continuously toward downtown on foot and on bicycles. The crowd at 14th and Broadway is estimated at 5,000 or more. With friends I tour the area, photographing banks and corporate businesses that have shut their doors due to the strike. The crowd is made up of elders, working people, union representatives, teachers, religious leaders, and schoolchildren present with their parents.

By the BART station we meet Ethel, a senior citizen who is gathering signatures on a petition to end the death penalty in California. One member of our party – Phil, a well-read anarcho-syndicalist – has recently moved to Alameda County, and Ethel suggests that he can go to City Hall to get the requisite voter registration papers. Could City Hall possibly be open today? We go on a mission to find out.

Occupy Oakland

Our OWS correspondent, Kim Boekbinder, has sent Myles Boisen‘s own reportage our way. Myles, an Oakland-based musician and photographer, was one of thousands of citizens attending the downtown OWS protest there this week. Here are two separate collections of writing and imagery from him in one go– the first written/compiled after the worldwide headline-grabbing events of the 25th, and the second completed early this morning, PST. Feel free to repost/distribute any text or photos. Thank you, Myles! Kim’s next installment of “Occupy Everywhere” will be along shortly as well.  –Mer


All photography in this post is by Myles Boisen, and was shot in downtown Oakland, CA between October 25th and 27th.

A Taste of Tear Gas (10/25/11)

I first noticed the constant whine of helicopters at about 4 pm today. Checking the news, I learned that the Occupy Oakland camp in downtown Oakland had been cleared by police in the middle of the night, and a series of afternoon protests had been called in the nearby area. With plans in place to go downtown later that night, I searched the internet with a mix of curiosity and anxiety for news of what was happening.

A flurry of twitter messages at the www.occupyoakland.org site detailed a few non-violent marches snaking throughout the downtown area, all headed for the disputed encampment that had become known in recent weeks as “Oscar Grant Park”. An Oakland teacher’s brigade led the march. As phrases like “unlawful assembly” “tear gas” and “bring gas masks” began popping up in OWS feeds, I knew I had to head downtown – camera in hand – to see for myself.

Before heading out, I followed a link on the www.occupyoakland.org site that encouraged me to send an email to the office of mayor Jean Quan. In this missive I identified myself as a business owner, renter, and taxpayer in Oakland, as well as someone who supports the Occupy movement, and now regrets voting for our popular first-term mayor. I also pointed out that concerns about sanitation at the Occupy camp could have been efficiently and affordably dealt by allotting a few city resources, rather than calling out the costly full-scale police assault we are currently witnessing. Protests can also be directed to the OPD and Oakland City council members by phone or email through easily accessed municipal websites. Now would be a very good time to make your feelings known, via the internet or by showing up in Oakland to add your voice and support.

Walking by foot down a mostly deserted Broadway through downtown, there were no broken windows, no smashed cars, not even a single broken bottle. Wisps of smoke from a smoldering garbage can fire were the only evidence of anything close to a “riot”, at least until I arrived at 14th and Broadway to see the line of police and sheriffs in full riot gear, lined up behind barricades to prevent the re-taking of Oscar Grant Park.

Occupy Everywhere: Political Carnival

This installment of Kim Boekbinder’s ongoing Occupy Everywhere series is supplemented by our longtime chum, photographer Neil Girling. Neil recently traveled from California to New York to document various aspects of the Occupation there. Check out his Flickrstream for dozens more OWS/NYC pictures. ~Mer


All photos and photo captions for this post © Neil Girling.

I’m sitting on a wall in the South West corner of Liberty Plaza, across from a solar energy truck and a CNN van, listening to snippets of conversations as people pass me by.

“I’ve been waiting my whole life for something like this to happen” is the thing I hear the most.

“This is so much nicer than a protest.”

“This is the real America.”

“This is leverage.”

The weather is beautiful and the park is full of people, jam-packed today; it’s too many to be comfortable, but the growth of the movement is amazing. Tourists and hippies are all together: arguing, dancing, taking pictures of each other.


An estimated 3,000 showed up at Zuccotti Park at 6am Friday morning (10/14/2011) to defend the occupation against the intended eviction by NYPD.

Everybody is talking to everybody else here, and they are not always agreeing.

Next to me, a woman from Armenia explains that poverty is the fault of the people who are poor. Not only that, but people who are poor are poor by choice; they want to be poor. The man she is talking to has large hoops in his stretched ears, he holds a sign that says, “Fuck: money, war, police brutality…”


Protester, Times Square (10/15/2011).

The drum circle is jubilant and loud. Attractive and dirty young people lounge on plastic-wrapped mattresses, smoking hand rolled cigarettes. There are lots of funny haircuts and piercings. Some of the people sleeping here look like they’d be sleeping on the street anyway.

Occupy Wall Street is a political carnival, a free-for-all of information, misinformation, good times, protest, and personal political expression. The drum circle never stops, not even for the General Assembly. It’s annoying and frustrating to some organizers. But it’s not any louder than NYC is at any time – subways, hovering helicopters, sirens, jackhammers, traffic.


Guy Fawkes-masked protester. October 14, 2011.

There are people here trying to end capitalism, people who want to end Columbus Day, people who want to end meat-eating, war, or the war on drugs. There are artists and musicians, politicians and writers; there are mini-celebrities looking to enhance their image, activists looking to garner support for their own objectives, hippies just getting high on the revolutionary life. Everybody is trying to co-opt the movement, for fun or profit or cool factor or political gain.  But Occupy Wall Street shrugs them all off: all of the celebrities, all of the politicians, even the free-loving, drum-circling, dreadlocked occupiers.

While Occupy Wall Street embraces the spectacle it has become, it is also not letting the spectacle undermine its status as a powerful agent of change.

Yulia Tymoshenko Sentenced to 7 Years Behind Bars

NO!!!

After losing the presidential election last year, Ukranian prime Yulia Tymoshenko was ousted from the government when her long-time opponent Viktor Yanukovich came to power. Today, she was sentenced to seven years in prison over a gas deal that she signed with Russia in 2009. Tymoshenko is accused of abusing power while serving as prime minister by authorizing imports of Russian gas at elevated prices without government approval. The Guardian reports:

Ukraine shut the book on its flirtation with democracy and European integration on Tuesday when it sentenced former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to seven years in prison in a trial widely seen as a political witch-hunt.

Yulia Tymoshenko is many things to many people. A brief rundown of Coilhouse’s Tymoshenko-stalking over the years:

  • Is Ukraine prime minister secretly a goth? (An exhaustive analysis of Tymoshenko’s dramatic, neo-Victorian sense of fashion)
  • Exquisite Tymoshenko Doll Helps Orphans (In which I beg the Coilhouse community to buy me a $53K Tymoshenko porcelain fashion doll and further dissect her penchant for black lace and leg-o-mutton sleeves)
  • Asgarda – The legend of a mountain-dwelling tribe of paramilitary Amazons who have built a up a cult around Yulia Tymoshenko

Tiger-owning, motorcycling-stradding Yulia Tymoshenko is also an anime and manga character in Japan, the subject of bizarre fan art and a beloved cosplay character. Her sentencing has been the subject of a topless protest by self-described “bitches of democracy” activist group FEMEN (in typical self-contradictory FEMEN fashion, Lady Yu was also the subject of a mocking striptease/protest some months before).

I don’t pretend to know enough about Ukraine’s politics to say whether she’s corrupt or not. If FEMEN is to be believed, the entire trial is “a squabble between two criminal gangs [being presented] as a battle between good and evil.” That’s usually the way these things go.

Even if that’s the truth, I don’t want Lady Yu to go to jail. I want her to continue being one of the most powerful and fabulous women in the world, to wear crinolines with jet-black diamonds and a matching lace-embroidered jet pack, for her to make Ukraine the first nation to colonize Mars, to deploy android copies of herself, and to conduct international diplomacy while riding a dinosaur. Because I believe in this:

FREE YULIA!

[via Daniel]