The Humanisation of Crime

At first we had the “globalisation of balkanisation,” when balkan-style failed-state wars became global after September 11.

The modern trend, though, is the “balkanisation of globalisation.”  The failed world order gets divided up by barbed wire into mentally gated communities, due to economic failure, floods of refugees and persistent terrorist attacks.

So the lonely position of the Serbian citizen of the 1990s is becoming universal.  Our leaders from the nineties were  indicted and found guilty in ICTY in The Hague, for committed war crimes, even genocides, but we can now perceive ourselves as universal, everyman figures.  This month Radovan Karadzic, after eight long years of trial, was found guilty and sentenced to 40 years of jail.  When he wasn’t liquidating unarmed prisoners in Bosnia, Karadzic was a colorful, sinister politician, a lousy poet, mad psychiatrist and a hustler new age guru. The only thing archaic about Karadzic today is his personality cult.  Karadzic certainly has more villainous brio than the relatively faceless European and Pakistani youngsters who cruelly exploded kamikaze bombs in civilian crowds in Brussels and Lahore.

Even Karadzic’s defenders seem eager to rob him of his long-sought infamy and give it to someone else. His collaborator Biljana Plavsic, a 90 year old Bosnian Serb who served 20 years in prison and got out on parole, commented: it was actually Bill Clinton who orchestrated the Srebrenica massacre with the Bosnian government.  It was a political deal, the truth will come out. Radovan Karadzic will outlive his sentence and be a free citizen again, just as I am.

Does that mean that I will see Karadzic, just as I see Biljana Plavsic, shopping in my market in  Belgrade downtown.  Will he be interviewed by all press, while rambling about God, justice and evil? Will Bill Clinton himself show up to shop in Belgrade, perhaps as the good-will ambassador of his wife the President?

In Europe the right wing governments are hastily building walls inside Europe so as to protect themselves against internal waves of civilian refugees from uncontrollable failed-state war zones in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan and so on.

In USA the Republicans are bringing dishonour with their polarizing, misogynist candidate Donald Trump, who demands a wall and attacks Mexican migrants, even though Mexican immigration to the US is historically low. This represents an American coming-out of the Mussolini-style “uomo piccolo piccolo”, the aggrieved and faceless man-of-the-street who opens his dirty heart and demands power to beat up the neighbors.  It’s the Balkan recipe of the 1990s, a Milosevic media fantasy of conspiracy theories, mud-slinging, nationalist paranoia and profound, raging victimism, asserting superiority by demanding revenge for slights and a return of greatness.

I used to call this process “The Design of Crime,” because everybody was involved and made guilty: the greedy parties, the irresponsible press, the indifferent citizens.

But today I am calling this meta process the “humanisation of crime,” because it seems so universalized. These politicians, these criminal deeds, this lack of humanity or common sense is part of all of us. It is not an ideological tyranny with the face and a name of an alien dictator, or of The Other.  The poverty, fear and rising discontent is simply everywhere globally, notwithstanding the race, class and sex. It is “failed globe” rather than “failed state,”  a truly international shame and decadence of world disorder.

In Serbia we will have elections soon: the party that used to support war criminals and war crimes, have changed their credo, although not their veteran personnel. They have been in power for some time and are popular, so they will probably win even greater power in a month.  As is customary with them, they are celebrating the anniversary of Serbia being bombed by NATO, which is becoming a kind of odd national holiday.

The fact that this has been so normalized is part of the humanisation of crime. The American people tolerate, and even celebrate, Trump’s naked, vulgar, dirty unspeakable truth and bad habits — they like the way he demolishes the propriety of political discourse with reckless lies, because it seems more human than the robotic rehearsals of the professional political class.   Also very human is the fact that every party, in government or out, celebrates undeclared wars, civilian bombings, drone assassinations, targeted killings and terrorist attacks, whether they are victims, perpetrators, allies, opponents or arming both sides at once.  The terrorists and patriots are the two faces of the same medal.  Vladimir Putin’s covert-action “little green men” can easily be subverters of Ukraine and heroes of Syria, sometimes on the same newspaper page.

We, as a civilisation are finally sitting down to dine with our inner demons: they kill and we eat what they put on the plate.

Catholic Pope Francis  washed the feet of Muslim refugees for Easter immediately after ISIS terrorist attacks in Bruxelles, but that was an unusually lucid gesture.  In a twilight like this we must ask ourselves: what has become of our civil, skeptical, secular, scientific society? Where are our poets gone? What do our philosophers think, what do our futurists see? Where is our Cassandra conscience or our Antigone morality? What is our art — because our media stars and fancy gadget designers seem to offer no path to survival.

The basic moral ground seems clear to me: it’s among the world’s horde of sixty million refugees.  These are our fellow moderns who are living bare life, from  scratch. They are the ones “thinking outside the box” because their box is demolished. To become a refugee is really easy, because, trust me, in a balkanized globe that condition is for everybody and anybody.  The breakdown of the moral opera we call normality will change its names and slogans, it can be called terrorism, or call it war, call it global warming,  call it economic crisis, but in human terms it is the humanisation of crime.  As everyday criminals, participants in a spreading evil, we become guilty fugitives within our own lives.

I’ve been on this path longer than some others, so I can see where it goes, but I refuse to lead. The road leads to nowhere, while the  solution is to start  anew with creativity and joy.  We all-too-human criminals are never as good as we imagine we are, but we’re not that bad, either.

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Cuore profugo

Lettera aperta a Sanremo,  a  tutti i musicisti con cuore profugo

Sono un attivista scrittrice serba sono sopravvissuta alle guerre balcaniche parlando con i profughi scrivendo le loro storie ( Sono stata profuga anch’ io .

Le guerre che ammazzano, le guerre che sono fatte in tuo nome, ma  ti scacciano dalla tua casa/paese/vita rendendoti impotente/ invisibile/ esistono da sempre ed in ogni momento . Se non sono a casa tua saranno dall’ altra parte del

mondo. Come per esempio oggi per noi europei. Ci arrivano dall’Africa delle ondate di corpi sulle spiagge mediterranee, ci arrivano morti  soffocati nei camion, e poi quelli piu’ fortunati  arrivano vivi nei treni , in bus, a piedi. Gente come noi che pero’ non parla la nostra lingua e a volte non ha il nostro colore della nostra pelle. Possiamo aiutarli o meno ma non possiamo fare finta di niente!  Non possiamo ignorare le testate dei giornali, le foto tragiche di corpicini piegati su se stessi senza vita, delle navi di zombi dell’ inferno, le code di gente disperata nella fuga verso il nulla, destinazione incerta/ ignota/ insicura/ pericolosa/ sconcertante…

Disperazione, paura, speranza, riso e lacrime, acqua e pane tra la maree di questa gente, senza identità, senza eta’ senza patria, passato o futuro! Li lega solo una certa solidarietà nel tentativo di fuggire la morte e l’ umiliazione. Alla fine del loro viaggio e’ la nostra solidarietà, di dirgli che valeva la pena il loro sforzo disumano, il loro dolore palese , i loro volti spesso impassibili dalla vergogna del proprio destino disumano.

E’ un urlo silenzioso che chiede aiuto, e’ un trauma che non dimenticheranno mai anche se i loro corpi vivranno ancora. Ma e’ un’esperienza che farà a loro capire altri profughi  che saranno in futuro nella loro situazione. E’ un esperienza che alla fine unisce la gente diversa. Una volta che tocchi quel fondo non potrai mai ignorare il fondo stesso e la condizione dis/umana che la vita umana puo’ toccare. Lo stato di profugo ti isola dal ordine del mondo  concepito come  civilta’, civilizzazione, concetto della mente umana, dell’ uomo animale intelligente e emancipato. Diventi una non persona, non entita’, gente di nessuno , nomade senza scelta. Ci sono molti nomi per persone in quelle condizioni: spiazzati, profughi, rifugiati…eufemismi imprecisi per tutto quello che uno si sente.

Pero’ la gente sogna, sempre, non puoi fermare i sogni, l’ inconscio, il desiderio, specialmente nei  giovani. I bambini che ho visto nei campi profughi ridevano e giocavano sotto quel sole spietato , con scarsa acqua nelle bottigliette di plastica nel parco della stazione di Belgrado. Erano siriani, arabi questa volta, ma me li ricordo di altre nazioni in altri posti al mondo! E’ una condizione che spersonalizza, come essere un militare, o un malato. Un anonimita’  da vecchi e bambini.    Si puo’ fermare tutto, ammazzare tutto, ma non la creatività e la gioia. Nemmeno nei campi di concentramento!

Il mio appello e’ di  aiutare questo potenziale di gioia di speranza di fiducia con la gente in Italia: di fare un Sanremo ground/underground nei campi dei profughi con loro e per loro Di coinvolgere musicisti  per fare una serata bella/ felice/ energetica all’Italiana. Io ho fatto musica, un album pacifista (, ho scritto delle canzoni,  vorrei scriverne altre con e per profughi con altri musicisti.  L’ arte e la musica non nascono e non vivono in un laboratorio, in un studio e in una situazione perfetta di pace e benessere. L’arte e la musica appartengono a tutti e specialmente a quelli che hanno qualcosa da dire e condividere ma sono spesso fuori dalla luce della scena ufficiale, fuori dalla gloria prestabilita, dal fasto organizzato.

Faccio appello a tutti coloro che hanno buona volonta’ e cuore profugo perche’ aderiscano e aiutino  il progetto Sanremo ground/ underground come possono e come credono. L’Italia e’ il mio paese di scelta per la sua cultura di vita, per la quotidianita’  allegra, per la tradizione artistica, per la commedia dell’ arte, per l’ arte della commedia,  per l’opera,   il canto lirico,  la canzone …per la gente con cuore profugo.

Molti sono i valori che culliamo per il nostro futuro, quelli di fama, di gloria, di bellezza, di bontà , di felicita, di ricchezza, del benessere ecc…ma il valore più importante del 21 secolo  e’ molto più onesto, semplice, emotivo e terra a terra. Si chiama la solidarietà. E la solidarieta’ e l’unica che ci può salvare tutti  insieme per poi portarci ad’altre promesse  personali!

Jasmina Tesanovic (šanović)


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Apple Bye Bye

my fallen knight

I was clumsy, and I spilled some beer on the keyboard of my Mac Air laptop, bought July 9, 2014.  I immediately  started drying my precious computer, overturning it, and my greedy Mac didn’t gulp all that much beer, but….

I knew that liquid spills can easily kill a laptop.  However, this beer fatality was a first time for me. I realized that only luck has saved me in dozens of my plane trips and train trips, where a few seconds of air bumps or rail vibration might tip a plastic cup and immediately drown a precious machine, the ally and partner in my everyday life.

The Mac Air immediately went dark.  In bitter days to follow I struggled to get it back on its feet from its alcoholic overdose.  But the battery had shorted out and the motherboard was fouled beyond repair.  The screen misbehaved like delirium tremens. Beer is not so fatal to laptops as sugary Coca-Cola, but even pure water can drown delicate microelectronics.

I managed to retrieve my precious files from the faltering hard disk and I migrated promptly to a new Mac Air, the same model, but running the latest version of the OSX operating system.  The machinery was the same, but in the meantime Apple had “upgraded,” or rather transformed, its software.

Normally I am delighted with any new computer: the newer models are always faster, stronger, brighter, more responsive, and so on, as Moore’s Law ruled in my lifetime.  But in confronting the new machine, for the first time in my long computer-using experience, I realized that my experience had not improved at all.  I had spent a lot of money to become worse off than I was.

I am not young, and I know that I am a woman of habit.  I don’t much like the work involved when I change my computers, my favorite websites or my trusted software applications.  I am quite an apt early adopter, but I don’t tackle machines just for the geek thrill of mastering new technology.

I had once been a Toshiba PC user, but I migrated to Apple because of their better design and ease of use. But the design philosophy of Apple has changed now that they are one of the biggest and most profitable corporations in the world.   They now design computers for the sake of a massive client-base, and especially, they design for the needs of their own colossal computational empire.

Because Apple is an empire, it has become imperious.  It dictates terms now, because it knows its word is law.  Every new version of my former darlings, the iPhone and Mac Air, is more bossy, less friendly, less aligned with my interests as a person and crammed with cruel little tricks and traps that suit the interests of Apple and its revenue streams.

In the case of the new Mac Air operating system, all the icons and type-faces have been uniformly pared-down in size.  The Apple designers are looking for some software uniformity in their empire of mobiles, tablets, laptops and desktop machines.  They want consistent performance, more obedience, less trouble.  That makes sense for them, but not for me, because I can scarcely read the screen now.

After some diligent online research from people other than Apple, I came up with a work-around that allows me to get on with my life: I change the Mac Air’s screen resolution.  Unfortunately this means that Apple’s imperious applications tend to fall right off the edge of the re-sized screen, and there is no warning that large parts of the software’s screen real-estate have become invisible to me.

If you dig around in Apple’s preferences, you find all kinds of “accessibility” settings for zoom displays, voice-overs, speech commands and so on.  If I were really severely disabled, I would likely be grateful for these special-service niches in the Apple empire, but the truth is that this Apple “personal” computer is no longer personal to me.  It’s Apple’s computer.

I might not notice these slightly fascist tendencies if I were sharp-sighted, fit, properly trained to the modern OS and also young and therefore unable to personally remember a looser, more democratic regime of computational life.  But I will never be a marathon runner, and it seems odd that a computer technology is confronting us with biological handicaps just for the sake of consistent software design.

The user-centric approach was supposed to realize that nobody is perfect, we all are unique, we think differently and so forth, but the world’s richest commercial empire can no longer afford that idealism, somehow.  Our personal differences, functional, legitimate and social, have to meet Apple’s needs on Apple’s terms.

I got philosophical when this sudden imperial discrimination struck me personally.  Isn’t this a political result of my own engagement in following Apple products so trustingly, for so long?   We may not love the general policies of modern computing, but what else is out there in the 2010s world of computer-industry consolidation?  At least, if you pay Apple’s premium for Apple design, you do get more design than you get from Microsoft, Google and other laptop manufacturers.  It’s not design created in your interest or for your convenience, but there certainly is plenty of it.

My disappointment with my new Apple machine hit me like an unrequited love.  I felt unwanted in the empire of the perfect Apple clients; it was disconcerting, a sea-change in a relationship, like a thoughtful boyfriend who has become an aging CEO, and now thinks he can order you around. I felt like a fool for failing to realize that corporate ambition had always been biting Apple.  Sure, once, in our youth, we were all creative visionaries together; but now Apple was a colossal global conglomerate, while I was one among millions of busy typists in the planetary secretary pool.

But that role didn’t suit me, so I decided to rebel.  All my hidden resentments came boiling up.  I found that I too, shared increasingly famous discontents with Apple’s behaviors.  Alarming digital rights management, ferocious demands for passwords and credit cards,  automatic fill-in of mailing addresses that don’t work and create embarrassments, an Apple cloud eager to suck up every stray scrap of my data, strange incompatible formats to lock me in, new senselessly expensive plugs that Apple forces me to buy as well as cheaper, far more useful plugs that Apple slyly removes, and so on, blah blah blah.

But the general rule is that an empire is dictatorial.  Apple is not a federation, much less a democracy or some movement of bright-eyed geek hippies.  They are narrowly judgmental, full of public impositions that suit their own palace intrigues,  frustrating their subjects  instead of gratifying, educating, and sharing the world with their peers.

It is obvious, and I will not live in denial anymore.  I understand how the relationship got this bad, and  can see my complicity in it, but this situation will not do, and this too will pass.  I am not Apple, but Apple itself knew how to strike back in guerrilla fashion, and what they did to IBM can be done to them.  If they want to become General Computation — replacing General Motors and General Electric — then the ground game of resistance is just as obvious as their temporary success.

I can remember when computers were inadequate, clumsy, unpopular, geeky, devoid of cachet and huge ad budgets. I survived wars and I saw Communism crumble, so why should I passively succumb to my everyday commodities?  Why transform a necessity into a vice?  Why make “think different” into “think different, like us, or else”?  Why make “information wants to be free” into “information about you wants to be free to us”?   Why follow a globalised world of internet possibilities in a spiraling descent into (mentally) gated communities of one-percenter secured paranoia?  Non passaran!

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Munich Maker Band

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My Mother Today Would Have Been 89

veraMy Mother from My Life Without Me

Where was I when it all started? In the hospital, some fifty years ago, but not in the delivery ward, where most children get their umbilical cords cut.  No, I was in the cancer ward, where my mother worked.  She was a cancer ward pediatrician, and that night, the 7th of March, after a long game of cards with her friends, she went to work on her night shift.

You must understand that my late Mom was a historical communist, one of those who risked her life when she was seventeen for ideals of justice and truth.  An activist pediatrician she chose to work at the toughest places, with dying children alone in the ward without their own parents.  My mother was all they had, and she loved them more than herself.

She even loved them more than my own little self, who, in her eyes, lacked the stark appeal of a dying creature whom she could save.  On the contrary, I was big, healthy and plump.  She called me spoiled, and furthermore, denounced the rest of her rich family as “kulaks.”  The original kulak was my  grandfather, a gentleman father of six  who, as an ignorant first-generation  capitalist,  invested his money in the first bank founded in Serbia.  The bank failed immediately because  the owner ran off to London with the loot (an evergreen characteristic of Serbian banking system).

Then my mother, the failed banker’s youngest daughter,  set fire to her library as a political act. Luckily the rest of  the house stayed intact, remaining the family’s last grand possession after decades of depredation by Serbian swindlers, German occupiers, Russian liberators and the communist regime.

My pretty little mother, convinced of her ideological merits,  implemented them in radical deeds. She married her husband, my father, the moment she set eyes on him.   He was a Communist, clean and hard working: dating and love was  for sissies.

The ambitious young couple had no time to waste.  My mother was obliged to complete her medical studies, so her husband used to heave both her and her medical textbooks on top of a cupboard, a towering structure where she could not climb down alone.  He was ahead of her in his studies, which was why he got to freely pace the floor of their small student dorm.  She always admired him for this decisive act.

My mother, small and dainty and dressed in her worker’s clothes, was hugely pregnant as she passed her last exams. The professor quizzed her on infanticide. She didn’t blink, she answered with her usual precision  and melodic absolute pitch. He bowed at her in admiration, offering her his hand as a sign of respect. But when she stood he blushed in deep embarrassment:

– My comrade colleague, but you are pregnant!

– My comrade professor, my mother answered promptly,  the fact that I am a woman does not make me less a colleague.

She worked throughout her pregnancy.  From her first months she vomited incessantly, finally dosing herself with American imperialist pills to stop the nausea.  I still  wonder if those hazardous pills made me the way I am: the dissident traitor writing this book.

She may have miscounted the weeks and months, for, after the night’s card game, she felt a sudden and violent pain in her uterus.

She screamed for help, and the comrade-colleagues  diagnosed her.

– The delivery is underway…

– No way, she started scolding  them, no way, it is too early…

They  examined her.

– Your baby is indeed on her way and she is  arriving upside down, ready to jump on her feet.

At that news my mother lost control and every facade of comrade bravery.  She started screaming that she would not survive the shame and pain, and demanded  a caesarean delivery. Too late: the wrong headed baby was kicking her way out.  In order to calm her down, the comrades doctors lied to her (another common method between comrades), telling her that they were preparing the room for her operation. In the meantime I managed to   abandon her body.  They took me from the cancer ward and put me two flights upstairs in the delivery ward.

The next day my mother returned to her senses.  Small as she was, my mother had huge milky breasts.   I can still remember pumping them and playing with them, but I had to earn a right to them, and that was not simple.

In those days in that country, newborns were densely swaddled, much like nuns and bread loaves.  My mom received her identical white loaf, she examined the wrapping professionally and the bacterial aspect of the cotton… She then glanced at the baby and   looked severely at the nurse:

-Comrade nurse, this baby is not mine.

The comrade nurse glared back at her even more severely.  Maternity ward nurses in communist regimes were emergency workers, like firemen.  They called all women “Mothers”, screaming, scolding and barking orders at them so that the women never had a moment to relax and experience postpartum depression.

– Comrade doctor, said the nurse,  this is the baby you’ve got and you are going to feed it.

My mother stubbornly snatched the baby and unwrapped her little hand to check the bracelet around her wrist. The bracelet was there, it had her own name on it…

– There you go, triumphantly and defiantly said the comrade nurse.

But wow, once  the hand was unwrapped the rest of the swaddling went.

– Comrade nurse…this infant is a boy…I was told I had a girl.

The nurse wrapped the baby back in a businesslike manner, not much upset, and said,

– Couldn’t you feed it anyway while I find yours?

At that moment, the search for myself conclusively began. I have never had any certainty that I am who they claim I am.  No one has ever done a blood test or DNA test, and in those days the locals went physically searching, seeking clues like detectives: who worked  the shift last night, who carried the baby, where?   Finally they found the personage that is now writing, being breast-fed by a gypsy woman who had delivered her fourth child the same night my mother gave birth.

The comrade nurse said to the woman:

– Woman, this baby is not yours.

The gypsy mother angrily replied:

– I love all my children and even if I am poor nobody will take them from me!

The nurse undid the baby wrap and there I was, nude as only a girl can be.

– You had a son, you silly woman, said the nurse. The gypsy mother backed down with some sadness and yet relief… girls are far harder to bring up.

– Let me feed her first, look how hungry she is.

And she did it. My first milk was a milk from a gypsy whose name I never knew and which was not meant for me but for her son, my milk brother.

Many times I have asked myself, is he dead or alive?  A gypsy’s life is often brief. Did he ever go to school?  — gypsies in Belgrade at the time scarcely allowed their children to go. Was he handsome, was he miserable, did he have children of his own? Did he beg in the streets as a child and collect rubbish as a man, beautiful as only gypsies  can be in orange dashing suits of the garbage men?  Am I risking incest?

Today as I walk the streets of Belgrade I look at the men of my age who could be gypsies, and I think of him.  I am an only child, so, thanks to that first meal of my life, he was my only relative. It seems I enjoyed it so much that even the comrade nurse didn’t complain.  Although my mother never admitted it to me, my gypsy milk brother sucked my mother’s sweet odorous milk.   It was some kind of rape, she confessed to her best friend.  The nurse made her do it.

I fantasized about my milk brother.  In school I always sat beside a gypsy boy during classes.  When I grew up to be a young woman, I started  dancing with the gypsies, singing in those mysterious and segregated places where only gypsies were admitted.   Though I was blonde, they would let me in (besides, where my mother comes from, the gypsies were all blonde).  One of them said: if only you were not so blonde I would marry you, since you sure can dance and sing and make money. (Maybe he was my milk brother!).

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Ada Lovelace

UnknownWho is Ada?
   Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, is no longer who she once was, 200 years ago. Time changes all famous people, especially cult personalities.  Ada has become a modern icon for the digitizing world of science and literature.
    For women, so commonly invisible in their daily lives, the path to fame is, as a rule, transgressing rules. Whenever visible, they are mostly notorious. In reading history we can scarcely see what famous women actually did with their lives.  It is their misdeed, or some failure to perform, that we can generally see.
    This applies especially to heroines and celebrities: women placed on a pedestal have a hard time climbing off it to relate their actual experience.   Invisibility is a woman’s permanent condition, a method of survival, a gender’s way of life: like in the Purloined Letter story by Edgar Allan Poe, a hidden message is concealed by its very display.
     Ada is our heritage souvenir, 200 years after her birthday. She is heavier than a gold medal, more mysterious than Nefertiti, a thought experimenter whose fantasy calculations have transformed the world like the work of Einstein. General computation is a stark reality, a revolutionary insight which took its own time to arrive after its conception by a woman.
    Who else would think up such an unlikely thing, other than Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the poet Byron? It’s the proper work of a poet to give names to the unseen things in the world.  And yet, living as a woman of science is not so easy as conceiving, thinking, writing, calculating, publishing.  In those 200 years — or 36 years less, since Ada died young — the role of women in science has become more complex, not simpler.
     In Ada’s day, women, when rarely accepted into the narrow circles of scientific societies, were accepted as popularizers, as teachers, as sympathetic advocates. Women of science were legitimated in that sociable way, intuitive, visionary and romantic, but were still superfluous in the serious male work of science and progress.  A female propagandist can only be a source of wary respect when she becomes dangerous politically.
    In our own time, I see Adas every day, in my life in technology art. I have outlived Ada, so I see what professional life is like for women who live in, or are placed on the fringes of, technology.  Talented, geeky, bright, yet held back by the structures of a boys’ camaraderie when it comes to technological products: boys and their toys.
    These talented women, as geekettes, as crazed women, as eccentric females, prefer to stay back, to conceal themselves, if they cannot perform in their own way, to their own ends.  They do not know how to bargain with their creativity in the mainstreams of science or art. Their ideas are still intuitive and visionary, as Ada’s ideas were, when compared to the engineering plans of her colleague Charles Babbage.
    Babbage was her good friend and they had a successful collaboration. They complemented each other and yet today, his work holds little mystery, while hers still does. Because there are yardsticks for measuring his scientific output — he tried to build a costly machine for a government, and he failed — but no yardstick for hers. She is in the domain of courtly fantasy for male authors, and a matter of hope and trust for women scientists.
    Feminists  analyze Ada’s famously absent father and her strongly biased mother, her constrained and yet  peaceful private life as wife and mother. Her sexual life which ended in uterine fatal sickness: so feminine, so incurable, even today. Her uterus exploded from too much mathematics! Her contemporary misogynist doctor allegedly claimed that of her illness, and certainly it was common enough at that time to think that scientific knowledge was too much for female frailty to bear.
    She bled to her death at the same age as her father, Lord Byron, who was bled to his death by incompetent doctors while struck with fever in Greece. Only, Lord Byron was courting his own death by fighting a foolish war, as an aggressive proud bossy male, while obedient Ada bore her children while diligently doing her calculus.
    How did Ada escape her father’s shadow, his scandalous absence from her life, her mother’s clutching, overbearing presence?  Through rigid lessons of hard science and flights of creative fantasy.  Through computation: an endless perspective of thinking, creating, coding! A programmable machine that weaves numbers, with an intelligence that was artificial because it was a woman’s intelligence.
    People like to indulge themselves in quarreling over the proper division of intellectual spoils between Lovelace, Babbage, Menabrea and others.  The truth is that the Difference Engine was an abject failure, the Analytical Engine could not succeed even though Ada bravely offered to finance the machine.  So her great idea of general-purpose computation remained dormant for many decades.  Many women enter science only to find frustration.  “A serious injustice and a scandalous waste of talent,” as Máire Geoghagan-Quinn, the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, recently said about the stifled role of European women in science, innovation and research.
    If Ada had never existed, we would have had to invent her, but she did exist, and it’s her modern myth as a digital heroine that we have invented.   Certainly she was never “digital” even for a moment, but we are still standing on the shoulders of this attractively gowned and vivacious Victorian society hostess.
     If Ada were alive today, I would certainly invite her to visit our “Internet of Women Things” group. IoWomenT is a recent attempt related to Casa Jasmina, a smart home of the future in Turin.  I’m sure that the Countess of Lovelace would be quite helpful to an open-source effort, since she always was a friend to scientific enlightenment, and never one to rudely quarrel over worldly reputation or commercial advantage.
     One of our goals is to create at least one connected smart IoT “Thing” from a woman’s point of view. Some thing that has never existed, something that women need, dream about and yet have never managed to technically manufacture. The open source Maker movement should certainly be capable of this: An Ada IoT object.
     But what is it, what could it be?  A sentimental memento? 3 d printed sculpture of her brain (Babbage’s brain was pickled, and is still available)?  A analog brass computer-generated piece of music, because Ada doted on music?  How could we, as modern women, act in her  spirit, and not as the myth would have it?
     Many things impress me about the mysterious Countess of Lovelace (who probably wouldn’t much like our impertinence in always calling her “Ada”). Her father, George Gordon, Lord Byron, I love in my own way (because I had a father story too). Also her feminist struggle with her authoritarian, invasive mother (same here again).  People dwell on her arranged marriage and her supposed lovers (I don’t trust the gossip).  Almost every woman can relate some similar problems and that’s fine, nobody is perfect, not even an aristocratic woman scientist.
     What excites me about Ada is her lateral way of thinking, deducing, calculating. Because that imaginative freedom, the cognitive leaps to a good conclusion, are obvious from her surviving letters and notes.  This is just what society still needs today from women.  We never have enough of it: female genius rising from the cradle of constraint.
      So I would invite her ladyship, the countess and scientist, to our IoWT workshop. Dressed contemporarily, to the extent she could manage (after all she is 143 years older than us, and given to corsets) she could participate in our open source CasaJasmina brainstorming, where we honk like geese in the fog. Listening politely, till she stands up screaming in her ladylike manner: I’ve got it! I know what we need to do!
     Then she tells us her vision… And we just make it!
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Nefertiti was in Austin

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