This day in 1974 a military coup ended the fascist regime that had dominated Portugal for forty-eight years — the longest duration of a 20th century far-right government anywhere in Europe. The ‘Carnation Revolution’ and the period that followed went on with admirable restraint, given the stakes involved and the Cold War context. Thirty-eight years later, in the face of rampant corruption and economic inequality, some argue the April 25th fell short of its aims (eg. reforming the judicial system or preventing private monopolies) and is still a work in progress. The revolution day’s frontpage in the image proudly states “this newspaper didn’t go through any censorship commitee”, while today press freedom quite often caves to the subtler censorship of corporate pressures. But despite all that, today is a day of celebration.

On a related note, Es.col.a (previously) has been reoccupied today. I hope this time it lasts.

Update 26/04: It didn’t last. Showing that ‘freedom’ and ‘popular initiative’ are only tolerated in their dedicated national holiday, city police again evicted Es.col.a early this morning. And it seems that this time the Mayor’s office ordered the destruction of the building’s plumbing and facilities, furthering the destruction of public property inflicted by those who were elected to protect public interests. But I guess nothing can stand in the way of dogma, so scorched earth it is.

“Occupy Es.col.a — You Can’t Evict an Idea” by Gui Castro Felga.

Today is a bad day to be a citizen of Porto. Heavily armed police forces forcefully evicted Es.col.a (‘School’), a previously abandoned and derelict midtown elementary school that for the last year has been successfully occupied and served as an impromptu community center for the Fontinha neighbourhood, in an old and impoverished part of Porto. Truth be told, I only visited once, and ended up spending a pleasant afternoon in the schoolyard, helping with the sorting and testing of old computers that had been donated, so that a public computer center could be set up. I did enjoy thinking such a thing could exist and work out.

City officials, of course, always maintained such an occupation was illegal, even going as far as making the absurd claim the school was “private City property”. In fact, the legality of the occupation is highly contentious, as it is public property (so it’s not the same as occupying one’s house, at all), and what’s intolerable is City Hall’s claim, which is, in my humble opinion, such a serious misinterpretation of what ‘City property’ means that it should be grounds for immediate resignation (if our beancounter of a president Rui Rio and their lot had any shame, that is). The truth is, City Hall — for eleven years in the hands of right-wing conservatives — just can’t allow a successful community occupation to exist. They just couldn’t handle the recent good press about Es.col.a, as the whole concept of communities making stuff is against the Coalition’s political dogma. They’ll rather leave the School unoccupied and falling to pieces for decades — something certainy speeded up by today’s wanton destruction perpertrated by the police and city firemen (a flourish of Farenheit 451 WTF-ness). Or perhaps they’ll open it once a year, allowing Time Out Magazine or some other brand to throw a lavish party there without having to clean up afterwards — and for that, there will be talk of ‘innovation’ and ‘entrepeneurship’, the same vocabulary so throughly denied whenever poorer people are in charge.

In a decent democracy, City Hall, Police and Fire Brigade officials would resign or be impeached because of their willing destruction of public property. In a liberal kleptocracy, empoverished people who see their safety nets sacrificed every day in the altars of Free Market just try to set themselves on fire.

More updates here.

Misc. links Feb 16th - Apr 4th

The Rise of the Privileged Poor. It’s easy to dismiss some guy on TV complaining about being poor because he lives on a PhD grant as a pretentious, insensitive ignoramus (the powers know well who to pick to be on the news). Still, one can’t ignore the mental, emotional toll of perceived poverty — people get sick, shy away from relationships, postpone raising a family, in a word: people are hurting. Some should mind their complaints and how they might come across to others (there are certainly some to whom the ‘privileged poor’ sound as monstrous as the ultra-rich complaining about infinitesimal amounts of tax), but that doesn’t mean many complaints are any less real or legitimate. Those who tell the poor (either the ‘privileged’ with their Media Studies degrees, or the proletarian with family histories of unemployment and industrial decay) that they did this to themselves via lack of willpower and poor life choices (eg. ‘following their dreams’) are either deluded into thinking they actually achieved something for themselves alone, or are mechanized monsters who fail to appreciate their luck.

Peter Norvig on learning to program — in ten years. Expertise takes time, which is why it is unfortunate that time to develop expertise is so thoroughly unprotected in academia here (the mission of which should be precisely the opposite), as grad students often must go from zero to SWOT analyses and business plans in a semester. Everybody wants geniuses, nobody wants to ‘grow’ them, and then they’ll blame you for not being one (see above).

A transcript of a talk in which Clay Shirky explains why groups are their own worst enemies. Worth a read as Shirky deftly demonstrates groups can’t survive long without a set of regulations and moderation.

A Slate article about the sudden internet-disappearance of the programmer just known as _why. After the article mentions _why’s handle might be an Ayn Rand reference, it’s tempting to speculate his exile was an attempt to act the libertarian fantasy of letting the world going to hell after the ‘geniuses’ leave (or a critique thereof, I’d rather think). The results couldn’t have been more endearing, though: the Ruby developers’ community is fine, and _why’s multiple projects have been restored, debugged and made better. (Despite only having a very rudimentary knowledge of Ruby, I’ve recommended _why’s whimsical work here in the past, eg. Shoes, which seems like a good and fun GUI toolkit to dive into).

David Bordwell on ‘Pandora’s digital box’ and the sobering reality of digital preservation.

Much Ado About Nothing: Why Barry Levinson’s Diner might be one of the most influential movies in film history.

London’s Overthrow by China Miéville. A sprawling essay about the London zeitgeist, and the ongoing apocalypse of its citizens not being able to afford it. Parts of the essay can surely be applied to other cities.

High-definition video files of stock 35mm footage. Might come very handy for some projects.

The Mixtape Lost at Antikythera. Another incredible crypto-historical mixtape + essay by Rob Beschizza. (Previously.)

What is Love? A debate between Wikipedia and Haddaway.

April Fools: Google Maps really looks something today — here I am near the end of a quest for my new office.