The Masturbationsstreit Revisited

Alas, the grand judges of the academic world have brought another difficult case to an unceremonious close: the Journal of Qualitative Studies has retracted the article entitled “I am not alone – we are all alone: Using masturbation as an ethnographic method in research on shota subculture in Japan”, of which I have written before here. Far from engaging with the difficult questions of academic integrity, ethical resposibility, social relevance, and the legitimacy of the research method used by the author, the Journal wrapped its decision in a legalistic logic of adherence to its ethics policy.

The Postcommunist Disavowal

In Romania, we cannot talk about the Communist past without what I call the sado-masochistic aesthetic of anti-communism: wallowing in the trauma of the 80’s, and defining ourselves by it. Except for this trauma representing everything negative, the entire historical political experience of Communism, of the previous generation, is thrown away as irrelevant, nostalgic and a step backward in current discourse. But what about the countless traumas since? Should we privilege the trauma of the 80’s over the traumas of transition, of poverty, social collapse, divided families?

Pelosi in Taipei

If the US Republican party suffers from mania, invoking apocalyptic and ecstatic political and religious visions, then the Democrats surely suffer from dementia, acting as if the last 30 years had not happened. Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taipei, surely a provocation to test China’s resolve in this delicate matter, could not have come at a worse moment in the context of the Russo-Ukrainian war. It is as if the US is looking to start a new World War, dragging all of us into something we scarcely imagined possible only 5 years before.


There is a discourse in the post-Trump era revolving around Trumpism that I find substantially lacking in explanatory power. Assertions that it is a kind of “right-wing populism”, “populist Caesarism”, that it is a “cult of strength”, Trump having been supported by people hoping to gain enjoyment by proxy, via the enjoyment of another, or variations of the above. And while there might be some truth to all these, I think they, as Trumpism, are signs of an underlying social issue that affects America most directly, and us in the rest of the world by proxy: our lack of historical sense.

Intimate, Confessive Research or Obscene, Self-Indulgent Drivel? The Case of Karl Andersson

During my as-of-yet brief and relatively uneventful research career, I have come to the conclusion that academia and the real world are separated, as it were, by such vast gulfs of space and time that not even the most eldritch of abominations could cross them without peril. Ideas rarely circulate across this divide, and when they do, they do so in such a bastardised form, that very few “laymen” even have an idea as to what researchers actually do all day.

On Analogue Photography

Last week I had some business in Germany, and I remembered that the DM drugstores there used to sell a small selection of photographic films (the attentive reader might have deduced from previous writings that I am a huge analogue photography fan, and have been so since film photography was still the norm). I rode my bike across the town square, guided by Google Maps, located the store, and sure enough, there it was: a decent selection of films, though much smaller than I remembered a few years ago.

The Neo-Marxist, this Creature of Myth

There are those who would have it that Western Civilisation perish, if their selfish desires were to go unfulfilled. Their personal failures make them hate the system they operate within, the fairest and most rational one the human mind and human hand could create. They are a paradoxical creature of high ambition and low, animal cunning; of high learning and lecherous, base desires. They are an amalgam of different forces, but led by common resentments: they are the Neo-Marxists (and its now-extinct ancestor, the SJWs), these creatures of myth, that are nevertheless nowhere to be found in reality, appearing only to exist in reactionaries' fantasies and projections.

From Doves to Hawks

I must confess that I am at a loss for what to write, even though I feel I must write something. Seems to me I went to sleep on Wednesday, February 23, 2022, after a long day at work, and woke up in a parallel universe. An entirely different scale and nature of problems seem to have arisen, ones I realise I am ill-equipped to be analysing or dealing with. Out are the slow-burn inequities of the pandemic and the jack-booted creep of Fascism; war has come to Europe, and reason is out the window for all involved.

Thoughts on the Ukraine Crisis

Despite its recent failures and the slow, decades-long decline of its power (of which I have written here), the US is still the undisputed world-hegemon – there is no doubt about that. But the decline is visible enough for the competing capitalist powers, chiefly Russia and China, but also many others, to be sensing weakness and constantly probe holes left by decades of failed military adventures, whose point was syphoning taxpayer money into profits for the military-industrial complex rather than gaining meaningful geopolitical leverage.

Outline of a refutation of Neo-Malthusianism

Neo-Malthusianism: from Grand Funk Railroad to Thanos For some time now there has been a troubling resurgence of Malthusian thought in public media. The core argument of Malthusianism is, broadly speaking, that in any given society, the capacity to produce food increases linearly as a function of the land area available for food production, while the population increases geometrically (see Figure 1). After the population increases to a certain maximum point afforded by what came to be known as the carrying capacity of the land area available, scarcity of food will result in famine killing off a proportion of the population until a new equilibrium is found.

Nationalism vs Globalism - A False Dichotomy Part IV

‹ Back to Part III I have written at some length about this subject already, covering some basic thoughts I have on this matter as well as the pre-modern and modern genealogies of Romanian nationalisms and their paradoxes. Parts I, II and III can be accessed here, here, and here. This is Part IV. Last time I asked if we are to choose between a subjectivity based on some kind of ill-defined internationalist, cosmopolitan monoculture emanated by the global capitalist infrastructure of consumption and degrading instant-gratification, or a racialised, religious-mystic, reactionary-collectivist, ressentiment-laden and ascetic idea of exclusionary nationhood.

Nationalism vs. Globalism - A False Dichotomy Part III

‹ Back to Part II I have written at some length about this subject already, covering some basic thoughts I have on this matter as well as the pre-modern and early modern genealogies of Romanian nationalisms and their paradoxes. Parts I and II can be accessed here and here. The final and ongoing “modernising” jolt has been the post-December 1989 period, during which Romania rapidly transitioned from authoritarian state socialism to neoliberal capitalism, becoming fully (rather than by proxy) integrated into the capitalist world system as a semi-peripheral hinterland.

Vote of No Confidence Passes With Historic Number of Votes

Yesterday, the Cîțu government fell with 281 votes for, a historic score for a vote of no confidence in Romania. The former junior partners, USR-PLUS, voted against Cîțu, as did the PSD and AUR. PNL and UDMR (the party of the Hungarian minority, also a PNL junior partner) abstained from voting. As of this writing, Cîțu remains in power as a interim PM, without full powers. The joint-house session was a bizarre spectacle.

Nationalism vs. Globalism - A False Dichotomy Part II

‹ Back to Part I As in numerous other European countries, the quest for a Romanian national identity starts with the 19th century bourgeois state building project. At first only intellectuals and educated people had access to this national identity and in many ways it wash shaped by the character of these early adopters: Enlightenment-inspired figures, clergy, foreign-educated intellectuals, liberal reformists. At this time, the mass of peasants labouring in the fields still saw themselves chiefly in religious (Christian, specifically Orthodox, as opposed to Muslim/Turk or Western/Catholic) and regional terms rather than national ones.

2nd October Protest in University Square: AUR's Base but Not Anyone Else?

As promised, today AUR has organised quite the protest in University Square. Estimates of the number of participants ranged from 1500 to 5000 at 17:00 UTC+3, but apparently a second protest was also taking place a couple of kilometres away in Victoriei Square that I missed. The overall numbers have not yet been reported definitively in the media, as the protest is ongoing as of this writing, but the organising on AUR’s part has paid off as there were quite a few people, although I am inclined to estimate on the lower end of that range, at least where I was.

Behind Every Rise of Fascism Lies the Cutting of a Heating Subsidy

Every year in Bucharest, when early autumn chills can first be felt, there is inevitably a discussion about the supposedly unfair heating subsidy those who live in blocks served by the city’s Communist-era district heating system receive. Arguments include that this is in effect a transfer to the rich (since living in a rickety, roach-infested Commie block built in the 70’s is the pinnacle of wealth, apparently), that it is unequal since other people do not receive the subsidy, that it is in effect an electoral bribe, and so on (it does not occur to those making the argument that, even if so, it was woefully ineffective at keeping Firea in power).

On Knee-jerk Reactions, the Responsibility of Theorists, and Chinese "Anime"

I recently saw a discussion on social media about some film The Young Karl Marx. Seems to be some costume drama about Marx – not really something I would be interested in (I overdosed on Penny Dreadful a couple of years ago, so I would say I am done with the TV-19th century for a while) but interesting nevertheless as it’s been produced by people explicitly wanting to popularise what Marx was actually all about.

The New Bucharest Runs Into Old Trouble

Nicusor Dan, the current mayor of Bucharest, won his post in 2020 as an independent candidate in a landslide election, promising sweeping changes. Declaring that “together we will build the New Bucharest” [1], he ran against establishment figures [2] and all sorts of loons [3] alike, in a bizarre comedy of errors [4] that saw some of the strangest political strategies I have ever seen being deployed in the interest of conquering one of Romania’s few genuine economic powerhouses – and, with it, gain power over its appropriately-massive budget, a budget Dan argued (not without merit, I would add) would be enough to fix the issues that have not been addressed except superficially in the post-1989 era.

The Fall of Kabul and the Hegemon in Decline

During the long 20th century, the US went from upstart challenger to unquestioned hegemon, then to a victim of its own success. The tipping point towards decline occurred, not coincidentally, precisely in Afghanistan: in setting off the bear trap that ultimately proved to be successful in ensnaring the USSR, the US created the spectre of militant Islam that has haunted it ever since. It is this very spectre that has been becoming actualised in the space of the last few decades, in ever more monstrous forms: 9/11, the endless insurgencies in the Middle East, the rise of ISIS, and now, the resurgence of the Taliban.

Mute (2018)

Needless to say, I am quite a fan of Duncan Jones' earlier work. Apart from the classics such as 2001, Alien, or The Thing, there was at the end of the 2000s and the beginning of the 2010s a string of thought-provoking, insightful and painstakingly-crafted SF films that, while not reaching the level of these more established works, pushed for exploring new frontiers in their respective niches. These, more than anything else, formed my tastes in films and books – films such as District 9, Sunshine and Primer, that functioned both as conceptual SF pieces and as drama.

Nationalism vs. Globalism - A False Dichotomy Part I

To Part II › It is the early 2020s and the world is literally on fire. At the same time the political establishments in much of the West and its semiperipheral vassals in the post-Communist East are powerless to act and seem genuinely incapable to understand their own predicament, even though they only narrowly survived the so-called “right-populist” onslaught of the mid-to-late 2010s, even that only because of the pandemic. That force is far from finished and I am certain the future crises will lend it a helping hand to grab power; but the centre takes no heed and acts as if it won.

Belgian Rambo

About a month ago there surfaced news of a certain Belgian military officer by the name of Jurgen Conings having gone AWOL after stealing an impressive arsenal of weapons from his unit and disappearing in the woods of northeastern Belgium [1], becoming known in the media as the “Belgian Rambo”, after the main character of the 1982 American action film “First Blood”. Apparently long-known to have had neo-Fascist sympathies, he seems to have finally went over the edge and, before leaving, he wrote a letter explaining his intention to engage in political violence against those responsible for lockdown restrictions, measures with which he disagreed.

Update June 2021

Summer has arrived in Bucharest, and I am back. Due to some other commitments I have not had the time to read, write or do much of anything recently. A lot of things happened in the meantime – the Israel-Palestine conflict flared up again, revealing once more the true militaristic and colonial face of the “shining democracy” of the State of Israel, and the Minsk regime has pulled quite a remarkable reverse-DB Cooper stunt, abducting a journalist from a plane under false pretenses.

On the Government Doing Enough About Climate Change

I am not sure about how this works in other countries, but here, we are getting closer to the term finals period. This is the time when if you are even remotely involved in academia as a student or a professor, you will get loads and loads of questionnaires from students doing research for their term papers or dissertation projects, and sure enough I got a bunch of them myself. I really enjoy seeing that most of the research done both by undergraduate and graduate students is focused on issues actually relevant to our current predicament(s), but then again, identifying the problem is but one step.

Bitcoin - Limitations and Contradictions (Part III)

‹ Back to Part II Does Bitcoin, and more broadly, crypto deliver on its promise to abolish centralised control of money and put it into the hands of the people? Well, in certain respects, it takes a step towards that goal, but as always, the devil’s in the details. Scalability and centralisation One technical issue is that as initially conceived, Bitcoin is not very scalable (remember the distinction between fully-connected nodes and light nodes).

The Expanse

During the first few months of 2021, a second semi-lockdown was instaurated where I live due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Bad weather outside, curfews and all, I had some more time inside on my hands to indulge my guilty pleasures, including watch some shows. The Expanse is one of those long-form TV dramas that seem to scratch my itch for SF in just the right way, a show that never ceases to amaze me in that as far as it goes, it is collated almost exclusively from TV sci-fi melodrama cliches a la Stargate SG-1 or Battlestar Galactica (the early-2000s one), but without the occasional high concept SF episode of the former or the mythical-religious pretensions of the latter.

Two Films, Two Books: Stalker and Annihilation (Part I)

X Marks the Spot Just finished reading the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer and I have to say, there is a quite a number of things to unpack. Probably controversially, I would say the first book, Annihilation, is by some margin the strongest in the series by virtue of its purity of purpose – building tension and atmosphere to accompany a slow descent into the mysterious Area X. In many ways, Area X is the main character of the series, and it comes out of a rich tradition of the SF trope of the Zone of Alienation, a deserted area where normal laws of nature no longer apply.

Thoughts on Christian fundamentalism and inflexible thinking

While I have been an agnostic for as long as I remember, I have always been fascinated by religion. Not just in an anthropological or philosophical sense either – I was fascincated by its contents, its high ideals, its immense buildings, the wonderful art it has produced, its pretenses to universality – but also the little things: the reverend’s vestments, his subtle change of accent during the sermon, our cacophonous unison chanting during service that, through some miracle only possible in God’s house, could still somehow be recognised as a grand hymn.

Hashing (Part I.5)

‹ Back to Public Key Cryptography In the previous article we have discussed the basics of public key cryptography and I wanted to continue with an introduction into the way it is used in most cryptocurrencies, using Bitcoin as an example. While doing research on the subject, however, it occurred to me that there is an important concept we have not covered at all, namely hashing. For cryptocurrencies this concept is vital, as hashes are one of the basic elements underlying blockchain technology.

Public Key Cryptography - a very short introduction (Part I)

To Part I.5 › Intro to Cryptography Cryptography (a word that can be interpreted from the Greek as “hidden writing” or “secret writing”) is the science and art of encoding, transmitting and decoding secret messages over an insecure channel. This is done so that only the sender and the intended receiver can understand what is being communicated, and third parties cannot eavesdrop, even if they manage to somehow intercept the message.

Bitcoin in Practice (Part II)

‹ Back to Part I Technical considerations Bitcoin is called a cryptocurrency because the network on which it runs relies on public key cryptography, a technique that allows people and systems to communicate securely over a public, insecure channel such as the Internet. In the future I will come up with a more thorough explanation of public key cryptography, and what its possibilities and limitations are, but for now a simplified model of how Bitcoin works is probably enough to understand its basic operations (Edit: You can read Part I of my intro to public key cryptography here).

Bitcoin as Idea (Part I)

Crypto in general, and Bitcoin in particular used to be quite the hot topic in the tech community back in around 2016-2017, at least from what I could gauge at the time in online circles and in and around the tech hubs of Bucharest. However, I remember at the time having the distinct impression that such enthusiasm was mostly restricted to Bitcoin as a novel financial instrument, a perspective sometimes crossing into treating it as a kind of for-real, totally-legit get-rich-quick (trust the tech, bro!

The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury

The night came down around them, and there were stars. But Timothy couldn’t find Earth. It had already set. – The Martian Chronicles, p. 240 Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles is a melancholy book, in a way reminiscent of the great tradition of the Western. It is a tale of dusty, empty plains, haunted by deep time and the ghosts of the past, slowly becoming the birthplace of a new world.

Conspiracy theories and dogmatism

Perhaps it is tempting to sneer at anti-intellectual conspiracy peddling as fundamentally stupid, but it does present a genuinely interesting epistemological problem in addition to the practical ones of how to approach someone who literally lives in a different world from you. Maybe the attraction to dogmatic thinking is a measure of tiredness with postmodernity, in which micro-“grand narratives” are constantly shifted, morphed, spliced then discarded (think of stuff like self-help, motivational speakers or “financial education” on the socially-accepted end, Western Buddhism, New Age and Richard Dawkins-esque cultish Atheism somewhere in the middle, and conspiracy theories and the like on the extreme end).


Welcome to the place among the blocks. Blocks of flats, blocks of text, blocks of code? In 1989, most of Eastern Europe has passed through an apocalyptic rebirth that shattered the fragile equilibrium of the post-war 20th century. Some proclaimed the end of history, others the end of ideology. The December Revolution is our founding myth – Ceaușescu our hated, dethroned czar. It all happened more than 30 years ago, but it still shapes our discourse, imagination and even our urban geography – thus the blocks from the title, referring to the huge prefab panel apartment buildings that dominate our cityscapes.


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